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The year was 1943. The war was raging in Europe and in the Pacific. Many of Fresno's sons and fathers had left to fight for their country. It was a time of fear, hope, loneliness, and struggle yet the country was united in the cause of freedom.
For three Fresno families, August 19, 1943, was a day of pride in their sons' dedication to serve their country. On this day, as it did on many days for other Fresno men, the Fresno Bee published an account of their achievements.
Kenneth�T. Craycroft, a member of one of Fresno's early families and formerly the general manager of Craycroft Brick Company, had been called to active duty in the United States Army in 1940. He quickly rose through the ranks and, in January of 1943, was appointed provost marshal of the Southern California sector. On August 5, 1943, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Gordon�P. Davis, who had been working with his father in the cattle business after graduating from Fresno State College, had spent his first year of service in the armored field artillery branch of the United States Army. He received his promotion to first lieutenant.
Another Fresno man, Milo Popovich, had trained as a pilot and earned his license under the civilian pilot training program. Popovich, a graduate of Hastings Law School in San Francisco and a special legal investigator for the district attorney's office, received greetings in the mail from Uncle Sam ordering him to report to the Presidio of Monterey on August 30, 1943. Here he was to finish the qualifications needed for Army civilian pilot service. It was reported that, after his final examinations, he would be assigned for duty.
The list of Fresno's men who served in World War II was long indeed. As they left to serve their country, their family's hearts were fearful, yet filled with pride. Their dedication and service is another rich legacy for this community as the tales of our valley unfold.
A Mountain Journey on an April Day
As the traveler leaves Fresno and journeys east on Highway 180, he leaves the bustling urban environment behind and finds himself slipping into a more tranquil scene. Soon, lovely old trees line the two-lane road and the traveler realizes he has reached Centerville. The historic Odd Fellows building on his left reminds him that this is one of the oldest towns in the Central Valley the scene of more than one encounter between canal builder Moses Church and cattleman Yank Hazelton's men. The road curves and the traveler drives over a bridge, with the waters of the Kings River churning and rushing noisily beneath. The road dips slightly as the traveler reaches Minkler. Soon, the tall eucalyptus trees are replaced by citrus groves. The traveler begins his ascent into the foothills.
The climb into the mountains is steep, but affords breathtaking views. The traveler stops at the first overlook so he can look back over the valley. He can see Campbell Mountain in the distance. In early April, white popcorn flowers, golden poppies and yellow fiddleneck carpet the hillsides. Blue lupine, growing in thickets, dots the landscape, cascading among the crevices in the rocks. From this vantage point, our valley still seems like a world untouched by man. Proceeding on his journey, the traveler wends his way upward. He passes through the community of Squaw Valley, so named because of a footprint. It seems that near this settlement there is a depression in a granite rock that looks as if it were made by a woman's moccasin. The footprint carries the Indian name of Wootona, which means woman's foot. The footprint points into this small valley nestled in the hills, thus indicating that this area is woman's land. According to legend, if anyone puts his foot into this print, he will die.
Continuing upward, the road curves, following the outline of the mountains. Signs along the highway point the way to Wonder Valley and Dunlap. Pausing for a few minutes at Clingan's Junction for a cup of coffee, the traveler then starts his trip once more, crossing into Tulare County and heading into the Sequoia National Forest and the entrance to the Kings Canyon National Park.
Two Historic Pillars
Just when it seemed as if nothing else could have survived from the old town of Millerton, a driving trip through Selma proved that premise wrong. A turn in the road takes the traveler to the corner of Mill and Keith streets. There, beside the steps of one of Selma's oldest houses, sit two granite pillars.
The house was built in the 1880s and is an example of Eastlake architecture. It was constructed by an Englishman with the surname of Sheets. It was later purchased by Frank Dusy, a pioneer cattle and sheep man. It was in this house that he died in 1898.
Sometime between 1874, when the county seat was moved from Millerton to Fresno, and his death, Dusy brought the two granite pillars to Selma. They had graced Fresno County's first courthouse at Millerton. Why he brought them is a mystery, but, perhaps, he just wanted to preserve them. Legend says that his reasons were sentimental ones.
The pillars stand about four feet high and are made up of three parts. The tops and bases are made of granite that came from the quarries at Raymond in Madera County. The center posts are a conglomerate of fossilized seashells that probably came from near Coalinga. At the front and center of each post is a decorative element consisting of four scalloped edges.
The casual visitor to Selma might drive right by this house, noticing only its Victorian elements, so well do these pillars seem rooted to their site. A second glance might give the visitor pause. Perhaps they do seem a little out of sync with their environment. After all, few Victorian homes have granite pillars attached to their front steps. Even if they are a little incongruous, how nice that these elements of our first county courthouse have been preserved. In these times when we are so quick to throw away parts of our history, it is a nice surprise to turn a corner in Selma and see these pieces of history living on.
The Southern MinesFrom 1998 to 2000, we celebrated the sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold in California and the events leading up to statehood. It is important for the citizens of Fresno and Madera counties to remember that, although gold was discovered near Sacramento, the Gold Rush happened here, too.
Before the railroad came down the Central Valley, before the first colony farm was sold by a developer, before the first canal was built to bring water to irrigate crops, before the first heads of cattle were pastured near the foothills, gold was discovered on the San Joaquin River. As early as 1849, it was whispered about that a gold pan and determination could make a man rich in the rivers of what would become Fresno County. Soon the foothill and lower mountain areas were alive with miners trying their luck, living along the rivers and tributaries and in mining camps with such colorful names as Poison Switch, String Town, and Grub Gulch. Many struck it rich. One historian, writing of this period some thirty years later, said that millions of dollars worth of gold was extracted from the foothills of the Fresno area. Gold dust rather than coins became the medium of exchange.
In 1865 a notice was published in the Fresno Times at Millerton listing gold dust rates. Pure San Joaquin River or Bar dust was worth $15.50 an ounce; Fine Gold Gulch, Long Gulch and Cottonwood dust, $14 per ounce; Coarse Gold Gulch dust, $16.60; Big Dry Creek dust, $16.50; Sycamore Creek dust, if free from quicksilver and not mixed with other dust, $17.50; Fresno River dust, taken out above McKeown's store, $15.50; below McKeown's store no price given. The notice was signed by the merchants of Millerton, who also pledged not to accept or pay out anything that did not equal the value of United States gold and silver coins. Without a doubt, it was gold that brought the first real prosperity to the area.
Goodnight Sweet Emma
On May 19, 1983, fourteen ladies arrived at the Tea Room of the Y.W.C.A., housed in the historic Einstein Home. It was a sad day because the Emma Miller Study Club was meeting for the last time.
Who was Emma Miller? She was a woman of keen intelligence who had received her education in the study of the classics and literature. She had a reading knowledge of Greek and Latin, but Shakespeare was her forte. She and her husband settled in Sanger in 1888 and moved to Fresno in 1891. She was the force behind the establishment of the leading women's study clubs in Fresno and nearby towns.
In 1925, Blanche Wagner organized the Emma Miller Study Club in honor of this woman who more than any other person had inspired the women of the new city of Fresno to expand their horizons. The women of this growing frontier town had been consumed with the day-to-day business of caring for their families. Emma Miller inspired them to feed their minds and souls through a study of literature. The club was a fitting tribute to a great lady. The club's membership was limited to twenty-five. Their mission was simple: "The object shall be the general improvement." The motto was also concise. Non Palma Sine Labore (No Victory Without Labor).
For fifty-eight years the members met twice each month to hear speakers, book reviews, and dramatic readings. The members prided themselves on keeping their cultural standards on a par with what Emma Miller would wish. By 1983, the membership had dwindled to a stalwart few, many of whom were unable to attend meetings due to age and illness. Twenty-three names were on the roster but the average attendance had dropped to ten at each meeting and they were not able to attract younger members. It was also harder to obtain good speakers. The decision was made to disband. The only consolation was the feeling that Emma Miller would approve their decision. It would not be fair to the memory of Emma Miller to continue unless her standards could be maintained.
And, so, the final meeting was held in a fitting historical place.