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Fresno County celebrates 150 years

California had only been a state for six years when the times of moving out west were in a great uproar. Fresno County was birthed in 1856 as part of the neighboring counties of both Madera and San Benito.

Located on the banks of what are know called the San Joaquin and Kings River, Fresno County proved to be a desired place for both U.S and immigrants settlers alike.

Settlers came by wagon trains and stagecoaches in the mid 1850s while others arrived by train after service became available in 1872.

Although the county, at times, resembles a dry desert place, the beauty that surrounds it today cannot compare to the great splendor it was 150 years ago. Because of the vast rapid growth of both population and buildings, the once untouched countryside now portrays an unending array of construction.

?Having a family that has been in Fresno or many years is neat,? Katrina Stevenson, ?06, said. ?That is why it is interesting to me to see what it would look like without all the buildings and different things that disturb the county.?

Animals such as antelope, wild elk, owls and woodpeckers roamed the vast landscape and clear blue skies of the San Joaquin Valley. Trees such as willow, oak, and ash tree covered the higher elevations while poppies, goldenrods and lupine can be seen across the valley?s floor.

?I think I would have enjoyed how Fresno was a long time ago,? Larissa Hansley, ?09, said. ?I love spending time in the country and wide open spaces so I know I would have loved to see how Fresno was before.?

Though each part of the landscape held a significant roll to the beauty of the county, the ash tree holds the key to Fresno?s name. In Spanish Fresno means ?ash tree? and due its immense quantity no other word seemed more perfect.

By 1860 Fresno County had grown to a population of 4,304 whites, 305 Chinese and 3,294 Indians equaling a total of 7,903 assorted neighbors. The varied back rounds of each individual formed Fresno?s melting pot from the beginning.

Throughout the summer and most of the fall Fresno will be celebrating its sesquicentennial year with events of many kinds.

For those living near school or in the North Fresno area, a new exhibit will open at the Coke Hallowell Center for River Studies on May 7 at the 11605 Old Friant Road location. “Remembering the River: Millerton on the San Joaquin exhibit will feature artifacts, photographs and documents exploring the history of Millerton in the 1850s-1860s and will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 A.M.-3 P.M.

In April, Madera teacher, Bill Coate, led his annual 11-day wagon trek through the cities of Fresno County which gave 300 students an opportunity to experience a living history of pioneer life. Coate also visited campus on Feb. 17 and spoke during history classes. For more information on Coate’s visit, go to the Feb. 24 online article, “Channel 26 writer visits history classes” by Kassy Batesole.

Upcoming events include a mid-June concert at Kearney Park sponsored by Fresno County that will portray the traditional concerts the county once had; a Sesquicentennial Parade in downtown Fresno on Sept. 30; and The Big Fresno Fair will house large-scale exhibits related to the sesquicentennial theme during its Oct. 4-15 run.

For more information about other upcoming events or Fresno’s history, go online at For Amtrak’s reservations, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or go online to

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