Let’s Talk Clovis: The Cadwallader Family

John Hollister Cadwallader. (Clovis Museum)

John Hollister Cadwallader was born in Pleasant Grove, Iowa on Feb. 8, 1863, to David and Albina Cawallader. His father was a contractor/builder who also farmed acreage near Pleasant Grove.

John’s mother Albina was widowed with two young children, John being the eldest at age 2, in 1865. She remained on their farm for five years and taught school to support her family during that time.

In April 1873, Albina and her two children traveled to California with her father, Edwin Howison. Albina married Steve Hamilton, who was a successful rancher and civic leader who served two terms as Fresno County supervisor. Education was a focal point of the new family.

Young John attended two colony schools, Mississippi, and Red Bank. Mississippi was established May 4, 1969 and was located on the ranch of J.M. Heiskell. The school closed in 1903 and Heiskell moved the building to 304 Harvard in Clovis. The historic school is now a residence.

Red Bank District was organized on Aug. 3, 1874, near the area of Herndon and Del Rey avenues. It is believed the school’s name was selected for the presence of the reddish clay soil in the area. The 1891 Official Historical Atlas Map of Fresno indicates a second school was located on the northeast corner of Sierra and Dockery avenues. The land was owned by Clovis M. Cole. Clovis’ father Stephen Cole had homesteaded there on 320 acres in 1872.

Families taught their children a strict work ethic at an early age. John benefited from his stepfather’s knowledge of ranching. He began working on grain ranches and learned the skill of managing the big teams required for harvesting. He was a friendly man that was known by families from the San Joaquin River to the Kings River.

In 1880, at the age of 17, John began leasing land and harvesting grain. He continued that operation for 20 years.

In 1899, he purchased 40 acres in the center of the Garfield District. He expanded his farm to 180 acres and named it Garfield Vineyard. He planted muscats, figs and peaches. He was active in the California Associated Raisin Company, the California Peach Growers Inc., and the California Fig Growers Association. He was also an organizer of the Clovis Farmers Union that was eventually purchased by California Associated Raisin Company.

He was an active civic leader. He served from 1900-1922 on the Clovis Union High School District and served as clerk on the Garfield Elementary school district from 1907 to 1915.

John was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Clovis that was established 1897 on east side of Woodworth Ave between 5th & 6th and was involved with the construction of the new 1912 church on the northwest corner of Fifth and DeWitt. The Clovis Masonic Lodge #417 purchased the vacant church building in 1930 and is still located there. 

In 1905, he founded and became president of the Farmer’s Telephone System headquartered in Clovis. He was a director of the First National Bank of Clovis that was founded in May 1912. The bank was located on the southwest corner of Pollasky and Fifth. The original building remains a vital part of Old Town.

John married Miss Bette Heiskell on Oct. 5, 1885, at the Academy Church. The couple welcomed son Tom. Bette died, and in 1895, John married Anne Ambrosia. They had two children: Maude graduated from Clovis High, became a teacher and principal of Nees Colony School. Ward graduated from Clovis High and received his D.D.S. from the University of California.

The Cadwalladers left us a rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.