MEET HISTORIC FIGURES OF FRESNO COUNTY - Mary Jane McKenzie Hoxie, Fresno's First Teacher

ABOUT FRESNO CITY'S FIRST TEACHER

 

Mrs. Mary J. Hoxie was Fresno City's first school teacher beginning in Fresno in 1873. She was a life-long resident of this region and was widely known as an educational and social leader in the early days of Fresno. She owned a considerable property here. She was the widow of John C. Hoxie, a pioneer rancher and mine operator.

In the later years of her life when her health began to fail she moved from an apartment house she had built and operated on Stanislaus Street to the home of Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Winchell, her friends since childhood, at 1009 Echo Street. 

Mrs. Hoxie was born as Mary J. McKenzie December 21, 1855, at Fort Miller, a pioneer military settlement on the upper San Joaquin River, where her father, James McKenzie, had been sent as an Indian fighter in 1854. Her mother was Ann Brennan whose honeymoon trip with McKenzie was the journey west with the army detachment to Fort Miller.

The Scottish-Irish family lived at Fort Miller until 1861 when they located upon a stock ranch a few miles above it. There McKenzie died and the widow returned to the fort with the children. She later married Judge Charles A. Hart, the first judge of Fresno County.

Mary McKenzie attended the first school conducted in Fresno County at the E.C. Winchell home at the fort in 1860. When she was 18 years old she was called at the new town of Fresno as its first school teacher.

Three school trustees had been elected here and one of them, B.S. Booker, offered the upper floor of his store at Tulare and H Street for a classroom. Miss McKenzie, having been graduated the year before from the San Jose Normal School, she was brought from Fort Miller to teach the first class of fifteen pupils.

The school lasted only three months, having been conducted by private subscription to meet the state requirement of a three-month term before it could be recognized as a public school. 

At the end of the initial term, the school idea was dropped for over a year and Miss McKenzie was married at the fort on December 18,1873 to John C. Hoxie.

Hoxie, a native of England, came to California as a boy of 10 in 1858 and five years later was raising stock near Millerton, the first seat of Fresno County. By the time of his marriage he owned several thousand acres of land.

After the election in March, 1874, making Fresno the county seat, Mr. and Mrs. Hoxie moved to Fresno, where he bought a block at Calaveras Street and K Street now Van Ness Avenue. He turned to the mining business in his 50s and was engaged in that activity until his death, November 21, 1918.

Mrs. Hoxie took a prominent part in the women’s activities of Fresno for many years. She was one of the organizers of the Catholic Church here. She was a charter member and president for four years of the Leisure Hour club, which she helped organize at the turn of the 20th Century for literary study.

After John Hoxie sold his property at Calaveras and K Street, they moved to the block at Stanislaus and L Street where Mrs. Hoxie lived for many years. The old Hoxie home at the corner has been removed, but an apartment house they built in the block still is occupied.

Mrs. Hoxie was a sister of William H. McKenzie and Edward P. McKenzie and a half-sister of the Truman Hart, an early Mayor of Fresno.

Source Credit: The Fresno Bee, Saturday, November 16, 1936. Pages 1a & 2a.

TIMELINE FOR MARY JANE MCKENZIE HOXIE

1855: Born in California at Fort Miller

1857: Brother, William H. McKenzie born

1860: Attended first school at Millerton

  • Taught by Mrs. Hoxie (future mother in law)

 

1861: Brother, Edward P. McKenzie born

1863: Father, James McKenzie dies

  • Moves back to Fort Miller from McKenzie ranch with mother and siblings

 

1865: Mother marries Charles A. Hart

1866: Brother, Truman G. Hart born

1872: Graduates from San Jose Normal School and teaches in small private school in Fresno

  • Gives her claim of “Fresno’s first teacher”

  • After school closes, moves back to Millerton

 

1873: Marries John C. Hoxie at Millerton

  • Only taught for the equivalent of a semester, total at age 17

 

1874: Moves to Fresno

  • Owns block between Calaveras and K streets (Van Ness)

  • First home was what became known as the Short Home, after it was sold to Frank Short

 

1880: Census

  • Lives in Fresno with husband, John C Hoxie; He is a miner, she keeps house

1903-1905: President of Leisure Club

  • During this time, William, Truman, and John partner in mining business —Truman and William mostly investors, John serves as director, superintendent, and manager

  • Tungsten mine?

 

1918: Husband, John C. Hoxie dies (November 21)

  • Succumbed to complications from heat stroke suffered the previous June

 

1919: Founding member of the Fresno City and County Historical Society

1930s: Lived with Winchell family

  • Ill last few years of her life

 

1935: Dies of heart attack

Died at Hart residence—home of widowed sister-in law (wife of Truman) at 80 y.o

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