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Fresno Settlement Timeline

    Join us here for a look back at a few of the dozens of Native Peoples and Immigrants who are bound together in the variegated tapestry we call Fresno County.

    Our indigenous population likely arrived sometime between 50,000 and 7,000 years ago. If one asks them, they will say, “We have been here forever.” They settled throughout the region, establishing sixty-three tribes, known collectively as Yokuts, and lived in villages along the rivers and streams of the foothills and the Valley. They were related by blood and language.
    Each tribe had its own name and was presided over by a chief. There was also a sub chief, and an official called the winatun, a secretary of state of sorts, who transacted business between the chief and sub chiefs of the tribes. Each village had specific boundaries within which the inhabitants hunted, fished and gathered food.
    The task of the men was to hunt for game or for fish. The women were the gatherers who searched out berries, insects, bird’s eggs, and acorns, the dietary staple. 
    With the exception of the Chowchilla Tribe to the north, the Yokuts were a peaceful people—their biggest threat was the grizzly bear who was known to come down to the Valley floor. For the most part, they lived in a paradise that was theirs until the white man came. 


1806 - First recorded contact between the Yokuts and Spanish soldiers.
1851 - Various Yokuts tribes sign treaty with United States government, obtaining forms of support in exchange for land; treaty later rejected by the Senate.
1859 - Fresno River Reservation, major Yokuts settlement, disbanded. 
1900 - (circa) Table Mountain Rancheria first established to help Native American families in the area around Friant. 
1992 - Table Mountain Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe of Native American people from the Chukchansi band of Yokuts and the Monache (Mono) tribe, opens near Lake Millerton. The Rancheria grounds occupy 61 acres in Fresno County, California.

    “Long ago” and “forever” were words used by Indian Elders when speaking of Mono history. 
    Long ago, before the foreigners arrived and began parceling out the ancestral land of the Native People, the Mono Indian Tribe was one entity. After California was “discovered” and surveyed, the Mono Indians found themselves in Mariposa, Fresno, and Madera counties. They existed on the fringes, trying to survive on remote plots of mountainous, rocky land. The 160 Indian allotment acres of granite rock did not make good farmland. Sixteen head of cattle each did not create “cattle barons.” To survive this new reality, the Mono Indians had to leave their allotted land and work as farm laborers and ranch hands.
    The Mono are still here in Fresno County. They have survived disease and removal from ancestral lands. Some Mono are recognized by the State and Federal governments; others are not. The Mono affiliate themselves with the recognized Rancherias at Big Sandy in Auberry, Cold Springs, Table Mountain in Friant, all of which are in Fresno County, and the North Fork Mono in Madera County. There are also Mono Indians in the Dunlap area.

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1904 – Mono children sent to Sherman Indian School, a boarding school for non-reservation Native American children, in Riverside, California.
1909 – Big Sandy Rancheria created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Mono, and also the Auberry Indian Mission, initiated by Reverend W.C. Cook, of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society; both remain fixtures of the Fresno County foothills.
1910 – Federal Act of June 25, 1910 – Landless Native Americans living in the forest reserve could apply for Indian Allotment land.
1924 – By an Act of Congress, all native born, non-citizen Native Americans became citizens of the United States.
1928 – U.S. Department of Interior orders birth and death certificates be obtained for all Native Americans. This was followed by the first Census of California Indians.


    One of the first African Americans to set foot in what would become Fresno County arrived before California was a state. Jacob Dodson was a servant of John C. Fremont. His name is listed on the roster of the California Battalion, so he played his part in the Mexican War of 1846-1847 and, as such, helped bring statehood to California.
    Fresno County’s African American community history begins with the Gold Rush. The 1850 census of Mariposa lists three African American families. Another census, two years later, lists 57 African American men and two women in foothill mining camps stretching from Mariposa to what would become Fresno County. Some of these people were runaway slaves, but, since California had come into the Union as a free state, they all were counted as United States citizens.
    In 1853, Gabriel Bibbard Moore arrived at the Upper Kings River area on the Akers wagon train. Two men in that party, Richard and William Glenn, brought Moore with them. Moore became an important stockman in the Centerville area. 
Businessman Ira McCray brought the first
African American residents to Millerton--Jane and Tom Dermon. Jane served as a maid and Tom as a cook and manager in McCray’s Hotel. Later, Jane left McCray’s employ and began her own business in her home next to the hotel. She took in washing and prepared baked delicacies and Southern style meals, which she sold from her home. She also tended the sick and was a much-loved member of the Millerton community.
    After 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad began to create towns on the valley floor, other African American setters arrived. The family of Jordan, Simeon and Isaac Young was among the first to reach Fresno County. Others arrived---many settling in the Fowler and Bowles communities. 
    By 1882, there were enough African American families in Fresno to found a church, the Carter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, who had their first gathering at a home on F Street. The congregation met in several locations until building its first church in 1891. In 1888, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which would become the Second Baptist Church, was organized.
    Many years later, in 1967, the Carter Memorial Church became the first to sponsor local federal housing programs. The Kearney-Cooley Plaza development grew out of its work. 

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1827 - Peter Ranne, a member of Jedediah Smith's fur-trading party and becomes the first African American to set foot in what became Fresno County.
1853 – Gabriel Bibbard Moore, first African American to become permanent resident of Fresno County.
1880s - Julia Bell and her husband arrive in Fowler. After saving money for a train ticket, she brings her brother Jordan Young to join her; Reuben Wysinger and his wife also decide to make Fowler home and begin growing peaches; among the first African American settlers in Bowles were Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Eason.
1882 - Carter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, first African American congregation forms in Fresno.
1912 – William Bigby becomes the first African American graduate of Fresno High School.
1931 – Jesse and Beatrice Cooley open the first African American mortuary in Fresno County.
1944 – Cecil Hinton arrives in Fresno. His life was spent doing community service. The Cecil Hinton Center was named in his memory.
1953 - Fresno's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed.
1967 - Lester and Pauline Kimber found the Fresno Advocate, first newspaper to service the African American population of Central California
1969 - Elma Phyllis Sterling is first Black person appointed to the Fresno City Council. Daughter Cynthia Ann follows in her mother’s historic footsteps in 2003 by being the first African American woman elected to the City Council.

African Americans

    People of Mexican origin have dominated Fresno County’s Hispanic population, although there are those from other parts of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, including from Puerto Rico, Cuba and countries of Central America.
    After 1848, the former Mexican province of Alta California became part of the United States, and the original Spanish-speaking settlers (californios), along with immigrants from Mexico were among the tens of thousands who thronged the Gold Rush. As gold became scarce and prejudice pushed Spanish-speaking miners out of the Mother Lode region, Mexicans no doubt drifted into what is now Fresno County seeking work, although the majority returned to Mexico or to the state’s coastal areas.
    The major growth of Fresno County’s Mexican-origin population came later due to the conjunction of a series of historical events that formed the basis for the contemporary importance of the county’s large Latino community. The entry of the railroads into the Valley, beginnings of irrigated agriculture, and soaring demand for the county’s farm products produced an increasing need for workers. Restrictive immigration measures of the late 19th and early 20th century lessened drastically the easy availability of Asian and European immigrant laborers, creating opportunities for Mexicans to fill the expanding desire for Valley workers, especially for agriculturally related jobs. Hardship and dislocation in Mexico in that era, generated particularly by the Mexican revolution (1910-1917) and the so-called Cristero rebellion (1926-1929) contributed to the onset of a migratory flow that would continue to the present day.
   Since the early 1900s, Fresno County’s Mexican-origin population has grown exponentially, spawning over time a thriving community, punctuated by the emergence of distinguished civic leaders, businessmen and women, professionals, and many other stories of success despite the presence of economic and social adversities. In that time, members of Fresno area’s Latino community have served the county and the country with distinction, whether as members of the nation’s armed forces or elected officials as well as in countless other ways through local government, public service and community-based organizations.

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1850s - Gold Rush attracts thousands of Mexicans, Chileans and Peruvians, as well the original Spanish-speaking californios to the Valley, including environs of today’s Fresno County.
1872 - Central Pacific Railroad construction draws workers from various ethnic and immigrant groups, including Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking men, some settle in Fresno County.
1880s - Onset of irrigated agriculture leads to growing demand for workers; many come from Mexico. 
1890s-1900s - Railway connections between U.S. and Mexico eases ability of Mexicans to migrate northward to Fresno County and elsewhere in California.
1907-1908 - Anti-Japanese legislation continues trend against further immigration from Asia that boosts Fresno County employment prospects for Mexicans.
1910-1917 - Mexican revolution of 1910 makes refugees of thousands; hundreds settle in Fresno County; World War I boosts farm labor demand.
1920s - Growth and permanence mark Mexican communities, organizations, societies and businesses throughout the Valley.
1930s - During Depression, sons and daughters of earlier immigrants come of age, leading to formation of a “Pan American Club” in Fresno; farm labor struggles take place.
1948 - Azteca Theater, showing Spanish-language films, opens in Fresno.
1960s - A decade of change leads to political mobilization of the Latino community, including establishment of the United Farm Workers in 1965 and the work of Cesar Chavez and his followers will galvanize Hispanics. 


    Henry Clay Daulton and Jonathan Rea, by 1853, were raising sheep between the Fresno and Chowchilla rivers. In the Big Dry Creek area, David Cowan Sample, William Walter Shipp, Thomas J. Hall, Richard Freeman, J. W. Potter, and L. P. Clark all were engaged in sheep raising. In 1865, William Helm built the first house on the Fresno County plains so he could be near his flocks of 22,000 sheep. John A. Patterson and Moses J. Church raised sheep near Centerville. Frank Dusy of Selma grazed his flocks on the fledgling grass of Fresno’s Courthouse Park. By the mid-1880s, the Kreyenhagen brothers were raising about 10,000 head of sheep near Coalinga. 
Although sheep were raised as a source of meat, once ranchers realized that the county’s plains and mountain meadows could sustain large-scale operations, the focus changed. With the first importation, in 1867, of French and Spanish Merinos noted for their wool, the production of wool quickly became a flourishing enterprise. 
   A large number of Basques, who had left the Pyrenees Mountains and immigrated to Argentina where they raised sheep in the Rio de la Plata, heard the call of the Gold Rush and came to California. Vast sheep ranches on the West Side required their knowledge and skill. 
    Basque hotels provided sheepherders with a place to live between jobs, an employment agency, a place to socialize, and get health care. Some of Fresno’s Basque hotels were the Pyrenees, Europa, Capital, Yturri, Victoria, Santa Fe, and the Basque Hotel. Today, only the Santa Fe and the Basque Hotel remain. 

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1850 – First Basques come to the Valley.
1857 - Pioneer sheepman William Coolidge becomes the first person to settle in the Selma area, to be followed by Frank Dusy eight years later.
1868 - Six years after establishing his sheep ranch near Laton, William T. Cole digs a diversion ditch known as Cole Slough that becomes a new primary channel for the Kings River.
1869 - Moses Church, in the direction of A.Y. Easterby, begins his experiments with sheep raising, wheat cultivation and irrigation on the east side of the county.
1977 - The Fresno Basque Club formed.


    The first Chinese people to arrive in what is now Fresno County were gold miners and merchants. They came south from other Sierra mining camps and arrived at Millerton in 1849 or 1850. Several established businesses. On December 31, 1867, a group of Millerton businessmen met and forced the Chinese out of Millerton. They relocated nearer Fort Miller, about a mile away. 
    Chinese helped build the Central Pacific Railroad, which reached Fresno in April 1872. The railroad continued south but later many of its Chinese workers returned to Fresno. Chinese also joined the migration from Millerton. Ah Kit, a blacksmith, was in that group and built a Fresno shop on I (Broadway) Street. Two other Chinese businessmen-built stores nearby. 
    A town meeting was called. Pledges were made to not sell land east of the railroad tracks to Chinese. The Chinese businessmen moved west of the tracks, beginning Fresno’s Chinatown.
    Tong Duck, also known as Sam Chee, made a business out of moving property of many Millerton citizens to Fresno. Lew Yick relocated his butcher shop from Millerton and later built a building in the 900 block of G Street that housed the Bow On Tong Association and its Kong Chow joss house. Tong Sing and Tong Duck, who headed the Sam Yup Company, built a joss house on China Alley in 1889. Laundry owner Hi Loy Wong, had a brick G Street building and taught Confucianism. 
    Chinatown had color and mystique that other areas of Fresno lacked. Narrow China Alley between F, G, Inyo and Tulare streets had rooflines extending over walkways. Windows had long vertical iron bars and metal shutters. China Alley was quiet by day but at night came alive. Shop windows were filled with silk kimonos, jade, and teakwood. Bow Tsee Hong had an herbalist shop at 1018 China Alley. Opium dens and gambling parlors dotted Chinatown, managing to stay just outside of the law. 
    Through the World War I years, Chinatown continued to be a community apart. Then many of its residents either began to return to China or their children became assimilated into the greater Fresno community. Other nationalities had begun to move into west Fresno by the early 20th century. California’s second largest Chinatown became a mosaic of many cultures. 

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1844 – First Chinese immigrants, two men and a woman servant, arrived in California.
1850 – Gold Rush brought hundreds of Chinese to the mining camps of the Sierra; Chinese miners and businessmen arrive at Rootville (Millerton).
1856– Soon after the founding of Fresno County, suspicious whites exile Millerton's Chinese population to an area outside of town.
1872 – Chinese begin to move from Millerton to Fresno; Fresno (Railroad) Station and its Chinatown are founded almost simultaneously; the latter was almost necessary as many railroad crew members were Chinese.
1884 – Chinese Baptist Mission was founded in West Fresno—it will become the First Chinese Baptist Church.
1938 – St. Genevieve’s Chinese Catholic Church is built at C and Tulare streets. It is the smallest Roman Catholic parish in the world.
1961- A new building, designed by architect Allen Lew, which houses the Confucius Church, the Chinese School of Confucius, and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association is completed at Water Avenue and Tulare Street.
1994– Chinatown Revitalization Inc. is formed in Fresno to help spur economic and cultural growth in the area and save its historic buildings.


    Fresno County had appeal as a new home for families of Scandinavian heritage. It began in the mid-1870s when Danes, Norwegians and Swedes accounted for many of those settling in William S. Chapman’s Central California Colony (south of Fresno) and continued, particularly by those originally from Denmark and Sweden, in Scandinavian Colony, established by Henry Voorman in 1878 south of the present California State University, Fresno campus’ site. 
    By the mid-1890s, Danes were rapidly becoming a predominate ethnic group around Selma, leading to establishment of Danish Lutheran churches, one of which, Pella, survives in Selma. There were also Danish settlements around Easton, Del Rey, Parlier, Fresno and Reedley. A Finnish colony was established near Reedley in 1904.
    Perhaps best known was the Swedish community in and around Kingsburg which had its beginnings in 1886, promoted by Andrew Erikson. Within a year, Kingsburg’s Swedes had founded the valley’s first Lutheran church. By 1921, it was reported that 94 percent of the local population was of Swedish descent. In June 1924, a small program by ladies of Concordia Lutheran Church led to the annual Kingsburg Swedish Festival. Since the mid-1960s, Kingsburg’s “Swedish Village” has encouraged Swedish motifs. 

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1875 - Scandinavians help settle Central California Colony.
1878 - Scandinavian Colony established near Fresno.
1886 - Swedes begin settling in Kingsburg.
1893-94 - Danish settlement around Selma, Del Rey, Parlier, Easton under way.
1904 - Finnish colony established near Reedley.


    Armenia may be nearly halfway around the world from the San Joaquin Valley, but, for thousands of Americans of Armenian descent, Fresno County has been home for generations. Along the way, Armenians became leaders in agriculture and business, and their Fresno culture served as topics for some of America’s greatest 20th century literature.
    It began with an Armenian merchant, Hagop Seropian, who had settled in Massachusetts but found the winters too harsh. In 1881, Seropian moved west to Fresno with his half-brothers, George and John. They found the climate and region to be similar to what they had known in Armenia. The Seropians turned out to be effective promoters. They wrote glowing accounts of the San Joaquin Valley and Fresno County to Armenian communities in New England and the home country.
The Seropians began as grocers and then became packers of dried fruit. Their packing house was the first to ship oranges and figs to Eastern markets and set the stage for the major Armenian role in Fresno County grape, raisin and tree fruit growing and packing that would follow.
    Numbers of Armenians grew slowly but steadily until they swelled locally as a result of the Genocide of 1914-15. Many went into farming, but others became professional fixtures in business and services. For generations, Fresno County’s Armenian community was closely knit and subjected to degrees of discrimination. That changed in the years after World War II, even as the numbers of those of Armenian descent grew as a result of immigration from the Soviet Union and moves across the U.S. by Armenian-Americans from the East Coast to California. 
    For those Armenians involved in farming, the goal was nearly always to achieve land ownership. By 1930, Armenians owned 40 percent of Fresno County’s raisin-producing acreage and had become pioneers in melon and fig production. 
Of equal importance was the social stamp impressed by Armenians on Fresno County’s culture. “Armenian Town” on the southeastern side of downtown Fresno was a colorful neighborhood and, ultimately, a fertile field in which the writings of author William Saroyan took root and flourished. Some of the county’s most historic churches were established by the Armenian community. Armenian communities became well established in Fowler, Selma, Kingsburg, Parlier, Del Rey and Reedley. 

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1881 – First Armenians arrive in Fresno County.
1897 – First Armenian Presbyterian Church constructed in Fresno.
1900 – Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church built. Church burns in 1914 and is rebuilt in a new location in the heart of "Little Armenia."
1901 – Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church developed.
1902 – Kaghakatsi (meaning Citizen) newspaper founded, renamed Nor Or (meaning
New Day) in 1923. 
1957 – California Courier, California's first English-language Armenian newspaper, founded in Fresno.
1976 – Armenian Community School of Fresno founded.
1977 – Armenian Studies Program established at Fresno State.

    As with the rest of the United States, Fresno County’s major influx of Italians began toward the end of the nineteenth century. Overpopulation and lack of economic opportunities throughout the country caused them to look elsewhere for homes. Almost all of them came from the rural southern regions, so it was natural for them to find the farm and vineyard prospects of the county most attractive. 
    A substantial number of them came from a hamlet called Maschito in the province of Potenza, where the major annual celebration is a festival in honor of St. Elia; that custom was carried over to Fresno and remains the “big day” of the local Italian American community. While the earliest immigrants focused on agricultural pursuits, and some remain deeply involved in them (such as the winemaking Nonini family), local Italians were fast to branch into other enterprises as well: Oscar Spano and John Bonadelle became noted residential and commercial developers, the Caglia family branched into industrial and real estate operations, and the Di Cicco family came to dominate the local Italian restaurant scene. 
    Let it also be remembered that the community produced Caldecott-award winning author Leo Politi, for whom the Fresno County Public Library named one of its branches in 1974.

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ca. 1885 - Dominic Imperatrice and Joseph ("Steve") Spano become the first Italians to settle in Fresno County.
1906 - Antonio Faretta opens his beer garden in West Fresno; goes on to become one of Fresno's best-known and longest-operating restaurants.
1932 - The Dante Club is established by the Fresno Italian community; remains one of the area's most popular social organizations.
1935 - John B. Cella purchases the Santa Lucia Winery, south of Fresno, renaming it Roma, and within five years turns it into the world's largest operation of its kind.
1976 - Attorney Edward Fanucchi establishes Italian vice-consulate in Fresno, in recognition of the county's large Italian population and its trade ties to the country.


    Although many Japanese came to Fresno County around 1900 as farm or railroad workers, a number chose to open businesses such as gas stations, garages, restaurants, grocery stores, and shops to meet the special needs of the Japanese. They formed commercial and social organizations based on where they had lived in Japan. There were community competitions in judo, sumo, kendo, and baseball, as well as picnics.
    Until 1942, the Christ United Methodist Church (est. 1893), Fresno Buddhist Church (est. 1901), and Japanese Congregational Church (est. 1908) were located within a block of each other and were the center of neighborhood life in Fresno. They sponsored youth activities such as boy scouts, Japanese language schools and cultural programs.
    When the Japanese Americans were interned during WWII, the churches ceased to operate. During the war, the Congregational Church building was sold due to repeated acts of vandalism. When hostilities ended, former internees attended services with the Christ United Methodist Church until they purchased their own building. In 1990, the Japanese Congregational Church and Christ United Methodist Church merged to form the Japanese United Christian Church.
    After the war, less than half of the Japanese Americans from Fresno County returned. Those that did come back found that they were able to get jobs that were previously not available to them. Their reputation as good citizens were enhanced by the outstanding record of the Japanese Americans fighting for the USA during WWII.
    Since their arrival in the area, the Japanese have been a significant source of agricultural production in the Valley. Japanese Americans have developed a number of new fruit varieties like Harry Hiraoka’s “Hiraoka Flame” peach in the 1950s and more recently, Jim Ito’s, “Red Jim” variety of nectarine. Today, farmers are recognizing the importance of Kay Hiyama’s “dried-on-vine” method of raisin growing. The Nisei Farmers League, organized in 1971 under the leadership of Harry Kubo, fought to maintain the economic viability of the small farm.
    Today, fewer young Japanese Americans are farming. Most have chosen other career fields such as education, medicine, law and other service industries. The change in the Valley has been a fertile source of material for poet, Lawson Inada and writer, Mas Masumoto. 

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1885 - First Japanese comes to Fresno County - Tachiyu Sasashima journeys to Easton to manage the 160-acre ranch of an American engineer.
1901 - Okonogi Hospital established in Fresno by Dr. Bunkuro Okonogi, this was likely the first Japanese hospital in California. 
1913 - Webb-Hartley Law (Alien Land Law) passed preventing "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning or acquiring land. This was aimed at Asians as they were the group that was “ineligible for citizenship.”
1923 - American Loyalty League, a Japanese American civil rights organization, organizes. Was the forerunner to the Japanese American Citizens League.
1924 - Japanese Exclusion Law stops further immigration from Japan. The Johnson-Reid Act barred further immigration from Japan. From 1924 until 1952, there was no immigration from Japan.
1942 - West Coast Japanese interned in 10 camps throughout the United States. On November 3, 1942, the last of the ethnic Japanese from Fresno transfer from the Fresno Assembly Center (Fairgrounds) to Jerome, Arkansas. 
1943 - The army begins recruiting Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland. The following year, the draft was reinstated for Japanese Americans, including those being held in concentration camps.
1945 - Ethnic Japanese allowed to return to the West Coast January 2, 1945.
1952 - McCarren-Walter Act allows Immigrant Japanese to become naturalized citizens for the first time. Many Japanese in their 60s and 70s seized this opportunity to join their children as American citizens.

Volga Germans

    In 1763, a group of people left Germany to settle in Russia because Empress Catherine the Great promised them religious liberty, free land, exemption from military service, and a degree of local self-government. They found the land was undeveloped and plagued by marauding Tartar tribes. However, they turned it into a rich agricultural area and founded villages. They kept their German traditions and did not intermarry. After Catherine’s death, Tsar Alexander I kept the pledges Catherine had made, but the next two tsars, Alexander II, and Alexander III, began to take away some of their privileges. 
    As the situation deteriorated, the German colonists began to leave. Many came to America to settle in the Mid-West. One group, hearing about the agriculturally rich Fresno area, came west. On June 19, 1887, thirty-one men, women, and children arrived at the Southern Pacific Depot in Fresno. Their brightly colored costumes and clean appearance made an impression on those who saw them. Three German businessmen, Mr. Zumkeller, Mr. Green and Mr. Goldstein, met them, helped them find food, lodgings, and work. Shortly after their arrival, an outbreak of measles killed seven of the children. Dr. Chester Rowell provided medical help and befriended them.
    They found jobs in agriculture and in various businesses. They saved their money and, eventually, were able to purchase farmland or buy homes. Most of the Volga Germans settled south of California Avenue in an area that became known as “Rooshin Town” or “German Town.” They built the Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church, which became the centerpiece of their neighborhood. The areas of farming, government, education, and business have all benefited from their participation. 

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1763 – German colonists settle in the Volga River area of Russia.
1887 – First group of Volga German settlers arrive in Fresno.
1892 – The Lutheran Cross Church is organized.
1895 – The first church building is erected in “Rooshin Town.”
1912 – Biola, the location of another major German settlement, is founded.
1914 – The larger, second Lutheran Cross Church is built at F and San Diego streets.
1947-1948 – Church building is moved to Los Angeles and E streets.
1969 – New Free Evangelical Lutheran Cross Church is dedicated on North Palm Avenue.
1971 – American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum and Library opens.
1976 – First Oktoberfest, called Heritage Day, held.

    Greeks began arriving in Fresno as the 20th century began. They were mostly young, single men with dreams and aspirations. Later, wives and brides-to-be began arriving from Greece. By 1910, a little Greek business district was flourishing on Fresno’s west side. Establishment of a Greek Orthodox Church was desired.
    The forty-five member Greek community organized on May 9, 1923. Anastasios K. Pinoris, a local clothing merchant, was its first president. On November 27, 1923, the local communicants celebrated their first Divine Liturgy at the Armenian Apostolic church. The Rev. Father Michael Mandillas became the first priest on August 14, 1924. Two months later, a small white stucco church was opened at 740 Fresno Street. It was utilized until 1955 when Saint George’s opened a new church at 2219 North Orchard Avenue. 
Early in 1937, young people of Saint George’s formed the initial Greek Church choir in California. The first Greek school began in 1938 and, with a salary of $95.00 per month, Peter Rellos was selected its teacher. Parents were very eager to have their children learn to read and write in their mother tongue and contributed $1.00 for each child or $1.50 for two children per month.
    Since that time, both the Greek Community and its Church have grown precipitously as has the annual Greek Food Festival. St. George Greek Orthodox Church has become one of the most ethnically diverse congregations in the Valley. From one generation to another there have always been devout parishioners who have kept the torch of the faith burning, who have been true to the pioneer spirit of the small resolute group of Greek Orthodox Christians who arrived more than a century ago.

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1892 - George Papageorge becomes first Greek to settle in the county; eventually opens candy store on Fresno's Mariposa Street.
1905 - First large wave of Greek immigration arrives in Fresno County; most who arrive become involved in the restaurant, coffee house, and ranching businesses.
1923 - Fresno's St. George Greek Orthodox Church is founded on Fresno Street; subsequently moves to its present location on Orchard Avenue.
1926 – Greek community women form the “Athena Society.” Through the years this active group works ceaselessly for the spiritual and financial betterment of the Greek Community.
1927 - Chapters of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) and the GAPA (Greek American Progressive Association) were established.
1960 - St. George Greek Orthodox Church Food Festival inaugurated and becomes one of Fresno's pre-eminent community events.

    The first Portuguese in Fresno County managed large sheep ranches from the 1870s to the 1890s. Familiar with rural agriculture, and possessing little formal education and mechanical skills, the business was an ideal way for them to establish a foothold. As they became successful, word spread to their home country—particularly the poverty-stricken Azorean islands of Terceira and Sao Jorge. Fresno County’s sheep industry was waning, but the new wave of immigrants turned to dairying—first as hired help, then as tenant farmers and then landowners.
    By 1910, there were small Portuguese dairy farms near Selma, Riverdale, Kerman, Caruthers and Tranquillity, also became areas of Portuguese settlement. Successful Riverdale dairy operations, especially those of the Borba, Coelho, Mendes and Rodrigues families, lured later generations of Azorean immigrants, who came from the 1950s until 1980. The Portuguese became the dominant force in their industry; today, they own more than half the dairy farms in Fresno County.
    Well-known for their expansive community halls, annual Holy Ghost festivals and other large-scale events, the Portuguese continue as a cohesive element of Fresno County’s population. Their reach extends to diversified corporate farming and politics: Jim Costa has represented the area, in the California State Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives, for more than a quarter-century.

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1900 – First wave of immigration from Azores begins. 
1924 – Large Santissima Trindade Portuguese hall, a longtime community landmark, built in Riverdale.
1939 – Selma Portuguese-American Association formed.
1958 – Second wave of immigration from Azores begins.
1983 – New Portuguese Hall erected in Selma.


    Founded by Guru Nanak in the latter 15th century, the Sikh religion stresses chanting and remembering God’s name; earning an honest living; and sharing with others. Its believers have mostly resided in the Punjab area of India but unsettled and often tense political conditions have caused millions of them to immigrate elsewhere. One such locale has been Fresno County, where the Sikhs have been able to continue one of their key traditional occupations—farming. A few arrived in the early days of the 20th century, but this migration became noticeably larger following World War II, and became a torrent in the 1980s when homeland oppression sent thousands into exile. Most Sikhs, expectably, settled in the county’s rural areas, and became well-established around Kerman, Caruthers and Selma. During that time, the first of their seven temples began opening in the Fresno area. Some now service the spiritual needs of several hundred families, and the grand edifice of Gurdwara Gur Nanak Parkash (visible from Freeway 99) has become one of Fresno County’s newest landmarks. Many Sikhs have taken leadership roles in business and local community life, and some have been elected to city councils and other boards.

1946 – Although Sikhs were already living in Fresno County. following the end of World War II, larger numbers of Sikhs begin to settle in the west-central portions of Fresno County (principally Kerman, Caruthers and Selma), many becoming farmers.
1984 - A second wave of Sikhs begins immigrating to Fresno County, in the wake of tensions in India.
1988 - First Sikh temple (Gurdwara Sahib) opens in Fresno.
1992 - Awaaz-E-Watan, first Punjabi-language television program in Central California, is launched.
1999 - Jakara progressive youth movement founded by Fresno-area Sikhs.


     To understand why the Hmong came to Fresno, one needs to understand their tumultuous history. The Hmong lived in tightly knit groups in the hills of Laos, who were organized by the French to fight the growing communist movements in Vietnam and Laos, starting in the 1950s. When the United States replaced the French as the dominant military might in the region, the Hmong were recruited secretly by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to fight communists and Vietnamese soldiers. The Hmong and their covert advisers served as the U.S. presence in the area.
     When the Hmong were not fighting, they farmed on mountain slopes, growing rice and vegetables. The Hmong lived a highly organized, regimented existence, which was one reason they made good soldiers. However, this is also the reason why they have not adjusted to being split up and settled wherever sponsors were found for them in the United States. Other cultural differences have made their adjustment difficult. They also had no written language until recent time when missionaries developed a script. Many Hmong, particularly the older generations, are illiterate in Hmong and English.
     The first Hmong family arrived in Fresno County in 1979. Since there were no coordinated social services, this family survived on farming. Because the Central Valley is rich in agriculture, more Hmong moved to Fresno. Soon the Valley was looking far better than the harsh realities of Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Orange County.
     In 1985, Lao Family Community of Fresno (LFC), a non-profit organization, was established to service the growing Hmong population. The purpose of LFC was to empower Southeast Asian refugees with the knowledge and skills to make positive changes in their transition to a new country. Also in 1985, the first Hmong-owned grocery store was opened to serve the community. 
     At the start of a new millennium, many Hmong Americans are still farming. However, most have chosen other careers such as education, medicine, law and other service industries. Today, the Hmong community is thriving with doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, professors and other professionals in Fresno County. They continue to excel in business. In 2002, Dr. Tony Vang, a professor at California State University, Fresno became the first Hmong elected to the Board of Trustees at Fresno Unified School District. In 2006, Blong Xiong became not only the first Hmong, but the first Asian-American, to be elected to the City of Fresno, City Council. We look forward to the contributions of our next generation as they continue to enrich the diverse culture in Fresno County.

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1979 - First Hmong family arrives in Fresno County and thrives by farming. 
1982 - Massive secondary migration of Hmong to Fresno County for farming. Also, the first Hmong owned grocery store was established.
1985 - 15,000 Hmong in Fresno County; Lao Family Community of Fresno established and began providing social services to Hmong and Laotian refugees.
1986 - First Hmong owned church in Fresno County, the Hmong Christian Missionary Alliance Church, opens.
1991 - Fresno Center for New Americans established.
1992 - First Hmong owned supermarket in Fresno County opens.
1999 - Hmong International New Year Foundation, Inc. established.
2002 - Dr. Tony Vang, first Hmong elected to Board of Trustees, Fresno Unified School District, Area No. 4.
2004 - Last Hmong migration from Wat Tham Krabok, Thailand to Fresno; 2004 – 2006, the last wave of Hmong refugees begins arriving in Fresno County.
2006 - Blong Xiong, first Hmong and Asian-American elected to City of Fresno, City Council, District 1.

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