Easton Series Adventures by  Donna Dolf

Fresno Fun Facts

​​​While writing the fourth volume of the Easton Series, Easton Blossoms​, I researched the history of Easton and Fresno. I shared my research in tweet size facts throughout 2017. Here are the many facts I uncovered for Easton, Fresno, Fresno County and California:


The first explorers never considered settling in what is now Fresno. They considered the San Joaquin Valley uninhabitable. The Central Pacific Railroad workers laid out the town of Fresno. The first station was built on what is now downtown Fresno. Dutch explorers settled Fresno in the 1860s; Fresno still was not considered a town until the railroad came through the San Joaquin Valley. Fresno was different from other California cities; it did not get its start with the 1848 gold rush. When the gold slowed, the San Joaquin Valley was used to graze cattle. The railroad named the first station “Fresno Station” after the grove of ash trees along the river. Fresno means white ash in Spanish.


The town of Millerton was the first county seat of Fresno County. It was moved to Fresno so the town could have access to the railroad. Fresno's first general store was a tent pitched next to Fresno Station, the recent site of the old Greyhound station. Dutch, Italian, French and Swiss immigrants put roots down in the Valley and planted vineyards.


The City of Fresno was incorporated in 1885 and grew. Fresno was a rough town in a barren countryside. Irrigation and grape growing bought prosperity.   Water was brought into the Valley by train. A restaurant owner dug the first well by hand with a pick, crowbar and a shovel. After the first well, the same man dug out a 40 ft pool under the Valley's hardpan and opened a cellar bar under his hotel. Fresno’s first cooling center. 


A Scottish blacksmith settled in Fresno and was the inventor of the “Fresno Scrapper,” an early horse-drawn bulldozer. The Fresno Scrapper was used by the US Army in WWI on the European front. It was used to dig the Panama Canal and sold worldwide.


Fresno County is the number 1 agricultural county in the nation. Crops include raisins, figs, nuts, melons, grains, rice and vegetables.


The United Kingdom was the first to issue official ID’s during WWI. The first California driver’s license was issued in 1913.


Gold was found by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California on January 24, 1848, the start of the California Gold Rush. The Gold Rush lasted from 1848 to 1855. 300,000 people traveled from the east and -other nations to “make it rich.” The gold seekers were called the “forty-niners.” They traveled by ship and covered wagon. The forty-niners  were also called “Argonauts”; they traveled mostly by sea around the tip of South America, taking 5 to 8 months to reach San Francisco. Gold seekers were Americans as well as from Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia. At first, the forty-niners found gold nuggets on the ground and they picked them up. Gold was taken from streams and rivers by panning. When panning didn’t produce any more gold, mining companies were formed.


San Francisco became a boomtown. It increased in population from 200 in 1846 to over 36,000 by 1852. Hundreds of ships were abandoned in San Francisco; ship crews rushed off to “get rich” panning for gold. The abandoned ships were turned into warehouses, stores, hotels and even a jail. Road and towns were built in California during the gold rush. California became a state in 1850. Gold was first discovered in the mountains north of Los Angeles in 1842; Sutter’s discovery in 1848 eclipsed the smaller find in Los Angeles.


California is called the “Golden State” not because of the gold rush, but because of its golden grasses in the summer.


Millerton Lake was created by a dam across the San Joaquin River in 1944. The first courthouse in the valley was built in 1867. Millerton Courthouse still stands at Mariner’s Point at Millerton Lake. Camp Barbour, where the peace treaty was signed ending the Mariposa Indian war in 1851, is now at the bottom of Millerton Lake. Millerton Lake is a state park. You can boat, hike, bicycle, fish and camp. Pack up that picnic basket and let’s get cool at the lake!​ Millerton Lake is the winter home for the bald eagles after they migrate over 1600 miles from Canada. Millerton Lake is home to many birds and mammals including golden eagles, waterfowl, deer, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions. Many smaller animals can be found at Millerton Lake including foxes, badgers, skunks, raccoons, opossums, rabbits and squirrels. Many trees grow in the hills around Millerton lake including blue oak, live oak, gray pine, manzanita and chaparral. Chaparral is vegetation consisting chiefly of tangled shrubs and thorny bushes.


Fresno Chaffee Zoo began as the Roeding Park Zoo in 1907. The first animals were unwanted pets. The zoo has had many names: Roeding Park Zoo, Fresno Zoo, Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno and currently Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s most famous resident, an elephant was purchased by donations from the Fresno Rotary and school children in 1949. A name-the-elephant contest was held and “Nosey” was the winning name. Beloved Nosey the elephant passed away in 1993 at the age of 47. Ross Laird’s Winged Wonders Bird Show began in 1992. Hippos have always been a favorite. Fresno’s last Hippo named Bulgy died in 2005. Plans are underway to bring Hippos back to Fresno.


Washington Union High School in Easton, CA was founded in 1892 and is the oldest high school in Fresno County.


The Fresno Police Dept. earned National Accreditation in 2005 and has maintained it since. Fresno is only 1 of 16 accredited police depts. in California.


Fresno is located in the middle of California-south of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles.  An ash tree is on the City of Fresno’s flag. Fresno means ash tree in Spanish. Fresno’s population includes more than 100 different nationalities. Fresno County is 6,011 square miles in size. Fresno is the fifth largest city in California and is the County seat. Fresno County is near the center of the San Joaquin Valley.


San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley form the Great Central Valley. In 1850, California was divided into 27 counties. In 2017, there are 58 counties. The Great Central Valley is the most agriculturally productive valley in the United States. The Great Central Valley is California’s heartland.


One of Fresno County’s top agricultural products is turkeys. Gobble, gobble! Grapes, cotton, tomatoes, cattle and calves, and turkeys are produced by 7,500 farms on 1.9 million acres in Fresno County.


The eastside of Fresno County is home to an active livestock and dairy industry. Milk anyone? Fresno County’s dairy industry produces millions of dollars of products a year. There are five major breeds of dairy cows in Fresno: Holstein, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, Guernseys and Ayrshires. Holstein dairy cows are the well-known black and white cows. They originated from the Netherlands. Jersey dairy cows are fawn-colored and came from the British Channel Island of Jersey. Brown Swiss dairy cows are the oldest cow breed and originated from Switzerland. Guernsey dairy cows are light fawn to red with white markings. They are from the British Channel Island of Guernsey. Ayrshires dairy cows have red and white markings and are from Scotland.


San Joaquin Valley is often referred to as the great “Garden of the Sun” because of its agricultural. 99 percent of all raisins come from the Fresno County.


Almost every road to and from Fresno has grape vines growing along the road. Fresno is known as the Raisin Capital. The raisin industry was started accidentally in Fresno; grapes were mistakenly dried on the vines.

Fresno’s climate is considered moderate with warm summers and mild winters. Fresno has a unique foggy condition in the winter months known as “Tule Fog.” 90% of the world’s almonds are grown in the Central Valley. The Central Valley is the size of the state of West Virginia and is 450 miles long. Fresno is close to the Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

Christmas Tree Lane started in 1920. Today, over 140 homes display lights on Van Ness Blvd. Take a ride and see the fantasy starting 12/2/17. Head to Old Town Clovis for the Children’s Electric Christmas Parade on 12/2/17. Fresno’s 87th Annual Christmas Parade starts at 11:00 am on Sat. 12/3 at the corner of Chuckchansi Park and H St.

Love the zoo? Starting 11/24 visit the winter wonderland and enjoy the miles of holiday lights at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, and Santa too! Love a good musical? Don’t miss “An Irish Christmas” and the “Nutcracker” playing at the Saroyan Theatre on 11/25-26, 12/9-10/17. The City of Clovis Christmas Tree Lighting is on 12/4 at Clovis City Hall. “A Christmas Carol” is playing at the 2nd Space Theatre on selected days in November and December. Enjoy “A Christmas Story” at Rocker Rocka’s Dinner Theatre in Nov. and Dec. There is nothing better than a fresh cut Christmas Tree. Kay Kringle’s Christmas Tree Farm opens on 11/28. 8805 CA-41 in Fresno. Have breakfast with Santa at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo on 12/2/17.

The City of Fresno burned down several times and was flooded out in the 1880s. The first Christmas tree in America was not a tree at all, but a wooden pyramid covered with evergreen branches and decorated with candles around 1740. Tinsel was invented in Germany around 1610 and was originally made of silver stretched into thin wafer strips until it was replaced by plastic in the 1950s. Hessian troops brought the custom of Christmas trees to America during the War of Independence. President Calvin Coolidge lit the first national American Christmas tree on the White House lawn in 1923. The National Christmas Tree has been lit every year since 1923. Christmas trees were decorated with apples, nuts and other foods when introduced in Germany. An angel or star was placed on top of the Christmas tree to represent the archangel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem from the nativity. Aluminum Christmas trees become popular in the 1960s. The Christmas tree “skirt” was originally placed under the tree to catch the wax drippings from the candles. Americans love their Christmas trees. Between 33 and 36 million Christmas trees are produced just in America each year. Charles Dickins wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. Have you seen “A Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart yet this year? A Wonderful Life was produced in 1946.

Fresno County’s Blossom Trail begins in February and runs through March. The Blossom Trail is a self-guided tour in Fresno County including the cities of Fresno, Sanger, Kingsburg, Reedley, Orange Cove, Selman and Fowler. Peaches, nectarine, plums, apricots, almonds and citrus trees bloom along the Blossom Trail. On a good day the foothills of the Sierra can be seen along the trial.

There are 31 historic sites in Fresno including the Old Fresno Water Tower, the Tower Theatre and the Forestiere Underground Gardens. The Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill is a National Historic Landmark. Who knew? Fulton Mall was nominated in 2008 to the National Register of Historic Places. Fulton Mall property owners voted not to list Fulton Mall on the National Register. Fulton Mall was a six-block pedestrian mall dedicated in Fresno in 1964. Fulton Mall was originally called J Street and was renamed after Fulton G Berry’s death in 1910. Traffic will be reintroduced onto Fulton Mall in 2017.

The Fresno County Public Library was founded in 1910. The Fresno County Public Library has 34 branches. Miss Sarah E McCardle was the first County Librarian. The Central Library in downtown Fresno opened in 1959 and serves as the headquarters for the Fresno County Public Library. The Fresno County Public Library has over 1.1 million books. The Fresno County Public Library houses books, ebooks, music, movies, magazines and newspapers.

Manchester Center opened in 1955 and is currently being remodeled. Fashion Fair Mall opened in 1970. River Park opened in 1996 and consists of The Marketplace, The Shops at River Park and the Chick-Fil-A and In-N-Out Burger shopping center.​