Since our inception in 1919, the mission of the Fresno County Historical Society has been to engage, inform and educate the public through the collection, preservation and interpretation of the stories, images and resources of our unique region in order to better understand our past and help shape our future.
Soon after the United States entered World War I, the California State Council of Defense realized that future generations would wish to look back and understand California's part in the war. As a result, in October 1918, the Council established a War History Committee in each California county. The Fresno County Committee was led by Charles McLane, future President of Fresno State. He was joined by Frank Homan, Emory Ratcliffe, Sarah McCardle, John A. Nowell and Ben R. Walker. These six were tasked with preserving all material of historical value relating to the local war effort which could be gleaned from “commonplace material, or may be had though conversation and correspondence.”
As the Fresno County War History Committee proceeded to collect records, biographies and photographs of local soldiers, it became apparent that a permanent organization needed to be formed to preserve historical material. In December 1918, the committee moved to initiate the formation of the Fresno County Historical Society. Under the leadership of Ben R. Walker, the Society was formally inaugurated on March 22, 1919. The purpose of the Society was to collect and preserve all written or other records and materials of historical value to Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley.
The early founders also knew the importance of preserving the region’s story through its architecture and landscape. They were the first advocates of historic preservation in the region and began their work by placing markers at historic sites. Their scope expanded to include saving an early piece of Central California’s architectural history, the Blockhouse of Fort Miller, built in 1851. Later, they led the effort to save and then open to the public the last pieces of agricultural pioneer M. Theo Kearney’s 19th-century estate - his Superintendent’s Lodge, its out-buildings as well as the 230-acre estate grounds that surround them.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Martin Ilic, Chairman
Chris Woolf, Vice Chair
John Chandler, Treasurer
Sayre Miller, Secretary &
Immediate Past President
* In Memory