History of Fresno County, Vol. 3 – 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 three out of six.
History of Fresno County, Vol. 3.
Excerpt from the text:
J. W. BEALL.
A sturdy pioneer and his good wife, whose descent from two signers of the immortal Declaration of Independence gives them a unique association with some of the most interesting chapters of American history, are Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Beall, who reside in Laton and own a fine large ranch near Riverdale. Mr. Beall, who was a bosom friend of M. J. Church, Fresno County’s pioneer ditch-builder, has for years been interested in irrigation and conservation, and has won an enviable distinction for his part in some of the greatest projects for the betterment of Central California.
Born in Ripley County, Ind., six miles east of Versailles, on September 14, 1849, Mr. Beall grew up in the days when there was no railway there. His father, John T. Beall, was born on the same farm, and the grandfather, Zephaniah Beall, took up the 160 acres of land from the Government. It was then covered with heavy timber, and he had to do a lot of chopping to get a clearing large enough for his house and yard. Aurora, Ind., was then the main trading-place and the principal steamboat-landing in that locality: and there our subject went as a boy, and saw for the first time a steamboat, long before he ever saw a railroad train. His mother was Elizabeth Hallowell Hancock, a direct descendant of old John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His father had married and died, at the age of seventy-four, on the land on which he was born; and there his wife outlived him five years. The parents had eleven children, and nine of them they reared to maturity. J. W. is the third in the order of birth, and second son that gladdened the good folks’ hearts.
Educated mostly at the district schools, and then only for three or four months each winter, but later becoming a student at Moore’s Hill College, J. W. Beall became a teacher himself, by hard private study, and from his twenty-second year taught school for several seasons. In August, 1874, however, his enterprising spirit had brought him to California, where he first stopped at San Francisco. Then he went for a couple of months to San Joaquin County, and after that for two months to Tulare County. There he took up and preempted 160 acres of land and lived for a couple of years. He saw Fresno for the first time in November of 1874, and returned here to live in 1876.
After a year at Fairview, where he was married, Mr. Beall came, in 1877, to the M. J. Church colony, then known as the Temperance Colony. He immediately identified himself with the most important interests there, and with Judge Munn and M. J. Church served on the Board of Trustees for the district. Later he became a director in the M. J. Church Canal Company, and in that office, as in his school trusteeship, he worked to advance the permanent interests of the community. The school house was early constructed, and in a couple of years the colony had been so enlarged that the school became large, too. Through his progressive participation in irrigation work in Fresno. Mr. Beall formed personal relations not only with Mr. Church, but with the late George S. Manuel, and I. Teilman, the well-known irrigation engineer of Fresno.
Mr. Beall is particularly interested in the Murphy Slough Association, and at one time owned one-third of the stock and was a director in the association, and also owned 680 acres, right where Riverdale now stands. He sold out most of his interest, however, except the water-rights to 280 acres of land, which he owns and which is located six miles from Riverdale. He is now a director in the Conservation District which plans to build the projected Pine Flat Reservoir, which is the largest project of its kind ever undertaken in Fresno County, if not in the state. Mr. Beall is an experienced orchardist and vineyardist, as well as alfalfa -grower; he prefers to grow alfalfa and has put his entire 280 acres into alfalfa.
For fifteen years Mr. Beall farmed grain in Fresno County. He lived in the Church, or Temperance Colony, and rented land on the outside, putting from 100 to 200 acres each year into wheat and barley. But while yet in the grain growing business, he experimented with raisin vineyards. There was then no market, however, for raisins, which sold at from one to one and a half cents a pound. This made that industry unprofitable at the start. Nevertheless, he remained in the Temperance Colony until the great boom year of 1887. Two years before this, he went to Fresno and bought the Arlington Heights quarter section, and in three years he sold it again. In both places he farmed for several years. He bought the 160 acres in Arlington Heights for $50 per acre, and sold the land at an advance of $75 per acre over the purchase price. Since then Mr. Beall has both bought and sold many different pieces of land, and has been very successful in real estate deals. His method has been to buy land in large tracts and to sell in smaller parcels, after it had been improved. He bought, for example, 680 acres where the town of Riverdale now stands, and sold the same again in eighty-acre tracts, the buyers still further subdividing the property and disposing of it in lots. He bought the Mills College Tract of 2,000 acres, put water on it, and sold it to L. A. Nares, or rather the Summit Lake Investment Company, in which he was interested. For a year or over, he maintained a real estate office in Fresno, and bought and sold many tracts of suburban property.
The year 1893 brought him disaster but, happy to relate, no such misfortune that he could not in time recover. During the wide panic, he and many others went to the wall through the great financial crash: and instead of being worth about $40,000, he was not only worth nothing, but was in debt besides. He started anew, and in time paid off all that he owed, even to one hundred cents on the dollar.
In January, 1877, Mr. Beall was married to Miss Martha A. Hutchings, a native of Iowa who came to California in 1861, having crossed the plains with her parents, traveling by ox team. They settled at Stockton, and there she grew up and attended school. Her parents had a large farm eight miles northeast of Stockton, and from there she came, a young lady, to Fresno County in 1868, settling in Fairview, east of the Temperance Colony. The parents were William and Eliza (Cameron) Hutchings, and among her direct forebears was George Wythe, another signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Camerons were old settlers at Harrisburg, Pa., and Mrs. Beall’s grandfather, William Cameron, was an own cousin of Senator Cameron of Pennsylvania. The Hutchings were from Indiana, and Grandmother Hutchings was a Sawtelle, and her mother was a DeMaurice of French origin, and among the early settlers at Old Vicennes, Ind. The Hutchings were of English blood. The Camerons were Scotch, and Grandmother Cameron was a St. John of England, descended from the good King John. Mrs. Beall has no recollections of Iowa, but she does remember the old ox team. These associations of Mr. and Mrs. Beall with the signers of the Declaration of Independence are of particular interest since John Hancock was the first to sign, as the famous document shows, and George Wythe the last.
Mr. and Mrs. Beall have reared three adopted children, although two others died while little. Mrs. E. P. Blanchard of Laton died in 1911 and left one son, Laurence Eduard Blanchard, whom they are now rearing. Mrs. Beall is very active in the Red Cross work and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and did what she could to promote the liberty loans, as did also Mr. Beall. Both Mr. and Mrs. Beall have been consistent Christians, and they use neither coffee, hog-products, nor liquor; and they are strong advocates of temperance. Mr. Beall is an ardent Seventh Day Adventist, as was his partner, M. J. Church: while Mrs. Beall is a member of the United Brethren Church. She helped to build the church at Laguna. Mr. Beall and Mr. Church were on the building committee, bought the lots upon which their church is located, and deeded the property to that congregation.
JOHN WILLIAM SHARER.
An enterprising and progressive viticulturist, and an authority on the laying out of fine vineyards and kindred lands, and a business man who, having early in life declared himself for the walk of a consistent Christian, has endeavored in his spare time to promote the cause of holiness and has never swerved from his allegiance to the Christian Church, is John William Sharer, who was born near Pittsfield, Pike County, Ill., on January 23, 1869, the son of Peter and Elizabeth (Johnson) Sharer, natives respectively of Pennsylvania and Ohio. His father was a pioneer farmer in Pike County, and after the death of his wife, he retired from active work and spent his last days in Fresno County, where he died in 1906, at the home of his son, ‘M. M. Sharer, and in his eighty-fourth year.
John William Sharer’s schooling was limited, as he was compelled to lay aside his books when he was only sixteen years old; and he had both the advantage and the disadvantage of growing up in the country districts until he was eighteen years of age. Having a brother living in Fresno County, Cal., he came west in the “boom” year of 1887, and began to work for Steve Hamilton. In the middle of October he joined the threshing crew on Governor Edmiston’s place, and put in there two seasons. He early worked for Charles H. Boucher, and also spent some three years in the employ of other people in and about Clovis: and, at the end of the first three years in Fresno, he made a visit home.
In 1890 or 1891, Mr. Sharer rented one-half of the Tarpey lands, which he farmed to grain. About the same time, he took hold of some ranch acreage in the Red Bank section which he ran for many years; then he secured the Elvira section, which he had for five years, and then he quit farming altogether. During the years 1890 to 1894, when the Enterprise Colony was coming to the fore, he and his brother set out the first piece of vineyard in the Colony, the place he now owns. He also farmed grain land up to 1899. This he did, that while improving his vineyard, he might keep up the running expenses. He found it profitable, besides, in the fall of the year, to haul lumber from the mountains for the building of many of the homes in and around Clovis.
In 1896 Mr. Sharer located on the home place, a tract of twenty acres, then only partly improved, but which his industry has expanded into 100 acres, while he has witnessed the growth of this entire section. He installed a pumping plant, and a first-class water system for irrigating the land. At the time when he came to this section of the county, there was no thought of using the land for any other purpose than that of grain farming and stock-raising, and for some time thereafter he could tell the name of each family living between Lane’s Bridge and Centerville. It was necessary to get the entire Garfield, Jefferson and Red Bank districts in order to have enough people for a Thanksgiving festival dinner. After a while, viticulture demanded a share of attention, and Mr. Sharer is proud of his part in vineyard development.