History of Fresno County, Vol. 1 – Paul E. Vandor
The editor and publisher of these volumes, which include not less than several hundred biographies spread across the six books, presents them confidently as a verified and authoritative history of the county – the result of conscientious labor in original research , and of information imparted by pioneers and their descendants , entered upon originally as a pastime and without thought of publication of the collated material. It essays to present county and city historical data that had lasting bearing on the times, but which with many of the picturesque incidents were ignored or overlooked in the publications that have gone before; and lastly it is an endeavor also to fill in the hiatus of the years from 1882 through the first World War, to bring to date the tale of the development and growth of a county which, from a small beginning with a rough and uncouth mining population and hardy pioneers, has become one of the richest, politically best governed and industrially typical of a great state. Incredible as their development and growth have been, through successive industrial epochs, the mind cannot grasp the future of State and County, now that the twin Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys have reached the zenith of development and production. Today Fresno County is a leading contributor to California’s greater riches, enhanced production, and to the unmeasured happiness and prosperity of its citizens. Fresno is one of the state’s centers. A remarkable past will be eclipsed by a more wonderful future – it is manifest destiny. This is volume one out of six.
History of Fresno County, Vol. 1.
Excerpt from the text:
“And it all availed nothing.”
Little effect on the substantial new conditions after the American conquest had all the impotent efforts to block manifest destiny during the three quarters of a century of the Spaniard and the Mexican, with the heroic work of the padres in their missionary and civilizing labors. The quoted phrase epitomizes in fitting epitaph the passing of the Spanish rule in California (1769-1828) with its ten vice-regal governors, of the Mexican rule (1822-46) with its thirteen governors, and incidentally the end of the efforts of the padres, at times arising almost to the sublimity of martyrdom, to convert the Indian and introduce an effete civilization.
The two periods cast over the early history of California a glamor of romance and the picturesque but added little or nothing to the real and materialistic. No effort in Upper California at colonization was made for a little more than two and one-half centuries after Juan R. Cabrillo’s voyage in 1542-3 exploring the coast line, half a century before the discovery of Massachusetts bay, nor for more than 160 years after Sebastian Viscaino’s, in November and December, 1602, when he set foot in the harbors of San Diego and Monterey.
To prevent Russian encroachment southward from Fort Ross and Bodega bay and to convert the Indians, successive land and sea expeditions sent out from Mexico eventually established a chain of twenty-one military and religious establishments located at intervals of a day’s journey by horse along or near the coast.
The first of these was founded by Padre Junipero Serra in July, 1769, and the last in August, 1823, as one of two north of the Bay of San Francisco, blunderingly located by Caspar de Portola in a search for Monterey Bay, but ignorant to the last that he had given the world one of its three greatest harbors. San Francisco Bay was long after its discovery mapped as Sir Francis Drake’s Bay and was so shown in Colton’s Atlas, published as late as 1855 for use in the public schools. In the very early history of California, Serra, the simple friar, was the greatest pioneer, the first civilizer of the western coast, the very heart and soul of the spiritual conquest, and he it was who “lifted California from the unread pages of geological history and placed it on the modern map.”
Upper California’s physical geography was imperfectly known until after American explorers and scientists investigated. Little attention was paid this subject further than to learn something generally of the country on the ocean border from San Diego to Fort Ross. This was a forty to fifty miles-wide strip comprising the white settlements concerning which anything was known with accurate particularity. So also as regards the boundaries. Not until the Americans seized Oregon was it that they, and not the English under claim of the Francis Drake (1579) and George Vancouver (1791-94) discoveries, were dealt with in settling the northern boundary dispute. The eastern line question was not determined until the entire country came into the possession of the United States after the war with Mexico. Even then the segregation was by the Americans themselves with California’s admission into the union in September, 1850. Down to the American conquest, the Californians occupied only a negligible portion of the interior, yet while knowing nothing of the country east of the Sierras, save by report, they asserted claim to the land as far eastward as Salt Lake.
The coast mission sites were located with reference to sea harbors at San Diego, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and San Francisco, while the others on the Camino del Rey (King’s Highway), connecting them all, were selected with special regard to water for irrigation. California’s climate was similar in general to that of Mexico and the solicitude of the padres was ever to choose well-watered sites in fertile valleys for their establishments. Their judgment of sites was admirable. Settlements along the camino manifested no tendency to spread from the coast. The interior was so inaccessible and appeared so dry and inhospitable. The fathers discouraged mining — in short there was no inducement to explore the interior, while the isolation tended to self-support and the development of a quiet pastoral life.
Barter there was none, except in hides and tallow with the periodical New England traders, and hence cattle raising became the industry. Geographic considerations determined the location of the settlements and the occupation of their founders. The seaports and valleys would probably otherwise have received most of the new comers, until they came to appreciate the necessity for irrigation, when they would gradually have spread to the interior. The search for gold in turn headed them from the agricultural districts into the gulches and canyons of the Sierras, and so with the great stampede, mining camps and towns .sprang like mushrooms in the Sierra foothill belt. Locations were controlled by convenience to some rich bar or stream, often in narrow gulch or on steep mountain slope, rarely with regard to farming prospects or future lines of travel, activity or centers of population, accounting for the desertion of so many of them with the later changed conditions.
The Spaniards extended the exploration of California with exasperating slowness during the half century and more that they were in undisturbed possession. After Juan B. de Anza’s time, in 1774, most of the information concerning the interior was gathered in the search for sites for a projected interior parallel line of missions, or lay punitive military expeditions pursuing runaway neophytes.
Thus in 1804 Padre Martin crossed the range to the Tulares, which he appears to have explored as far as the Kings River. Gov. Jose J. de Arrillaga (March 1800-July 1814), an enterprising soldier and a more zealous religionist than any of his predecessors, planned in 1806, a more extensive exploration of the interior than any before undertaken. A party was sent out from each of the four presidios. The one from Santa Barbara headed direct across the range via Santa Inez to the neighborhood of Buena Vista and Kern lakes and passing eastward re-explored at least part of the region that Padre Garces visited thirty years before. It returned via Mission San Gabriel, reporting the Indians well-disposed but only one available mission site.
In September, 1806, Ensign Gabriel Moraga, great Indian fighter and the most enterprising of the soldier explorers of his day, left Mission San Juan Bautista with a party of fifteen, crossed direct to the San Joaquin River which he had named nu an earlier visit, striking the river near the northern line of Fresno County. Turning north, he discovered and named the Mariposa River and he found what he regarded as a fairly good site near the present city of Merced. Continuing north, he crossed three other rivers which he named, and then came upon the Tuolumne tribe of Indians — the first recorded mention of them.
At a large stream which some previous expedition possibly commanded by him had named, Moraga turned back on October 4, dividing his party by sending one section along the eastern side of the valley and skirting the Sierra foothills, while the other wended its way further westward. At any rate Moraga observed the entire valley to its southern limit more thoroughly than it had ever before come under human scrutiny. As the result of these expeditions. President Tapis, who had succeeded Lasmen as head of the missions, reported four or five good sites discovered, but that a new presidio would have to be provided to protect them.
In 1807 Moraga made another journey to the San Joaquin Valley with a party of seventy-five, going as far as the foothills of the Sierras, and in 1810 two more. On the first he started out from the Mission San Jose and returned via San Juan Bautista: on the other he revisited the Merced country in quest of runaways, captured thirty and brought back a few hostiles.
The accompanying padres said that they found the Indians generally tractable and well disposed. In the Tulare country many children were presented for baptism, but as no assurance was forthcoming that they would be reared in the faith the padres declined to administer the sacrament. They baptized however many old and sick people, who were in immediate danger of death, and remained with some of these until the end.
Moraga is admittedly foremost in the early exploration visits to the interior of California, but there is one other — Padre Francisco Garces — to share honors for an intrepid undertaking. By this time eight missions had been founded, three more projected along the coast and Padre Serra had had his heart’s desire gratified in the mission at San Francisco dedicated to St. Francis, patron saint of his priestly order. Padre Garces was of the Portola first land expedition from Sonora in Mexico to Monterey in California in 1774, and one of the most remarkable of missionary explorers of the southwest. He was located at a frontier mission near the Apache country border, exposed to all the dangers from those daring marauders. He was left behind at Yuma “to teach religion” to the Indians until Anza’s return from his second land expedition, in 1775-76, with settlers from the Colorado with which to found the San Francisco mission.
Without following up the itinerary, suffice it to say that, when ready in February to begin one of the longest and most dangerous journeys undertaken by him, it was with the hope of opening another route north of that which Anza had trailed across the inhospitable desert and more direct from the Colorado to the Mission of San Luis Obispo, or as far north as Monterey, if fortune favored.
On this journey he discovered the Mojave River at its sink and reached San Gabriel mission in March, crossing the San Bernardino mountains. In the Tulare valley he came upon Indians differing from any before met with in that they lived in enclosed camps, each family in its own house, walled, tule roofed and with nightly guard stationed at each house. These Indians aided him to cross the Kern River near the present site of Bakersfield. A five days northward journey brought him to White River, where, having no more presents for distribution and being dependent upon strange tribes for food, he turned back reluctantly, having reached the latitude of Tulare Lake, though he did not behold it as he was probably not far from the base of the mountains and much farther east.
To paraphrase Z. S. Eldredge’s History of California: He was now in that great interior valley toward which the gold hunters of the world turned so eagerly three-quarters of a century later. Lightly concealed in the beds of the mountain streams farther north, lay more gold than Cortez had wrung from Mexico or Pizarro from Peru . . . and succeeding generations would find in the soil of the valley itself a far more permanent source of wealth. He had opened the way thither alone, unhelped by a single fellow being of his kind or kindred, he had explored it, braving the unknown dangers of the wilderness, the heat and thirst of the desert, the rush of mountain torrents, the ferocity of wild beasts, and the treachery of savages. He had reduced himself so nearly to the level of the savage that he was able to live as he lived, feed as he fed, on the vilest food, sleeping as he slept, in his filthy and vermin haunted camps, and exposing his life constantly to his treacherous impulses. And it all availed nothing!
On rejoining his Indian companions who had refused to proceed farther with him among the unknown tribes, Garces set out by return route more to the east than the one by which he had come. He probably crossed the mountains at the Tehachapi pass, following the present day route of the Southern Pacific railroad to the neighborhood of Mojave, and thence made direct for the Colorado and Yuma country and following the Gila arrived at San Xavier del Bac in September.
In this long tour he was accompanied only by Indians, his one associate companion, Estavan Tarabel, a runaway San Gabriel mission neophyte, who had proven a failure as a guide on Anza’s first Sonora-Monterey overland expedition. The Indians acted as interpreters but when they failed him Garces had recourse to the sign language. To arouse interest in his story of religion he exhibited his pictorial banner. He also relied upon his compass which never failed to interest and delight the Indian, and his cross, rosary and missal. In his rewritten diary, he furnished much information which should have been of moment to the authorities, “but it was not for the reason that they did not use it.”