The ground surface is so nearly level that you have no sense of contour. . . . It is not a former lake, although in large part it is a former swamp. Geology characteristically repeats itself around the world and down through time, but---with the possible exceptions of the Chilean Longitudinal Valley and the Dalbandin Trough in Pakistan---the Great Central Valley of California has no counterpart on this planet.

~ John McPhee, Assembling California

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Our Beginnings

  • <b>Title:</b> The 1912 Old Settlers' Reunion at Fort Miller brought together pioneers who made history in Fresno County's early days during the 1850s and 1860s at Millerton and Fort MIller.  <br/><b>Caption:</b> Many of the pioneers pictured here were charter members of the Fresno County Historical Society when our organization was founded in 1919.<br/>

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, and he was joined by Frank Homan, Emory Ratcliffe, Sarah McCardle, John A. Nowell and Ben R. Walker. They 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 the 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 work 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 piece 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.

Last Updated Friday, November 15, 2019 - 12:49 AM.