“Let’s Talk Clovis” – Stephen H. Cole, father of Clovis M. Cole

By Peg Bos | Clovis Museum

We are sharing information from of the biography of Stephen H. Cole (printed 1891) in the “Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kern, California” by the Lewis Publishing Company in Chicago.

Cole (German ancestry) was born in Hamilton County, Ohio on July 17, 1838 (died May 27, 1909) to Adam and Elizabeth Cole. In 1840, the family moved to Switzerland County, Indiana. Stephen left school at the age of 15 to begin a successful farming career.

After reading the popular book: “California for Health, Pleasure and Residence” by Charles Nordhoff, Stephen was convinced he should move to California. He sold his Indiana property and relocated in 1873 on 320 acres of government land in the Red Banks area. He became successful in fruit and grain farming.

The Red Banks School District was organized on August 2, 1874. An 1891 Atlas map indicated the school was on the northeast corner of Sierra and Dockery (land owned by Clovis M. Cole). Red Banks was one of the seven elementary schools that united to create the Clovis Union High School District (1899).

Stephen’s first marriage to Clarissa Hageman (Indiana) produced four children: Clovis M. Cole, Mrs. Carrie Cole Owens and Adrian Cole. A daughter Luella Cole died in infancy. Clovis (1856-1939) was described: “Is the largest grain farmer of the county … this young man inherits the energetic qualities of his father, and has attained his present position in life through his own efforts.”

There were no children from Stephen’s second marriage to Mary Margaret Warfield (Indiana). His third marriage to Maggie J. Griffin (Ohio) produced six children: Orrell A., Robert W., Eva B., Alice L, Charles Chester and Mary Augusta.

Stephen moved to Fresno in 1880 and entered the real estate market. He formed the Cole, Chittenden (nephew F.M. Chittenden) & Cole (Brother J.A. Cole) firm. The firm dissolved in 1888 and Stephen continued his duties as Notary Public. He became known for his energetic/dedicated service to Fresno. When J.H. Hamilton resigned from the Municipal Board of Fresno in January 1889, Stephen was unanimously appointed to fill that position.

During the election of April 1889, the City was divided into wards and Stephen represented the second ward. He chaired the Street and Finance Committee with distinction: “It may safely be said that no municipality has ever gotten a more thorough and satisfactory return for its money.”

The Board was reorganized on April 20, 1891 and Stephen was elected president of the City Council. He appointed himself to continue to chair the Street and Finance Committee. He was active in the organization of the Fresno County Board of Trade.

“In his various capacities as an official and as an interested private citizen, Mr. Cole has been a great practical benefit to this community, and his earnest, honest personal conversation with visitors to the city has resulted in many very desirable acquisitions to the citizenship of Fresno city and county.”

It was also recorded: “In his entire lifetime, he has never been a principal in a lawsuit; and during the whole time of his connection with the local government of Fresno, the city has never been sued. He has always favored the consideration of all just rights of individuals as well as corporations whenever there has been any occasion for friction or clashing of interests.”

“He has also been a liberal contributor toward new enterprises, among the latest of these being the mountain railroad; and in his capacity as Mayor of Fresno he took prominent part in the ceremonies attending the commencement of work on that road July 4, 1891.”

Clovis M. Cole and his wife Elizabeth Cole sold ($4,000 gold coin, a square acre of land) to Marcus Pollasky (President of the San Joaquin Valley Railroad) for the right of way. The legal document (displayed at the Museum) was dated December 10, 1891. The depot was named Clovis. The name was retained when the City of Clovis incorporated on February 27, 1912.

The Cole family provided us a rich heritage.