Fresno has grown rapidly since its inception, but in the latter half of the 19th century, it still remained in many ways a typical frontier town. Saloons could be found on every corner, but the first church was not established until 1876. It was not until 1872 that the city itself was founded because of the arrival of the the Central Pacific Railroad. After the town burned down several times and was hit by a massive flood the citizens were convinced that a centralized city government was necessary. On Oct. 12, 1885, Fresno was incorporated. Since then, the mayor and council members serve a maximum of two four-year terms. Moses Church developed the first canals, called "church ditches," for irrigation. These canals transformed the barren desert of Fresno County into rich soil, thus enabling extensive wheat farming in Fresno County.
Historical evidence of human presence in the Fresno area dates back at least 8000 years. Before the first Forty-Niners came to the area during the gold rush, the Yokuts people were the sole inhabitants of the area. The white settlers named it after the spanish word for 'ash tree' because of the abundance of mountain ash trees. The city of Fresno occupies a land area of 256.7 sq km (99.1 sq mi) and had a population of 354,202 for the 1990 census but now the figure is closer to the half-million mark. It is linked to northern and southern California by State Highway 99, which passes along the city’s western border. Highway 41 connects Fresno with the central coast and with Yosemite National Park.
Not only is Fresno County the raisin-producing capital of the world, it produces more agricultural products than any other county in the United States. Frances Eisen, father of the wine industry in Fresno county, began the raisin industry in 1875 when he accidentally let some of his grapes dry on the vine. Fresno and the surrounding area produce about 60 percent of the world’s raisins and about 90 percent of the raisins sold on the U.S. market. Local farmers produce more than 250 different crops, including cotton, grapes, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, oranges, and nectarines that combine to be worth $3 billion per year. The region’s Mediterranean climate, which includes a warm dry season, and a cool damp season, contributes to Fresno’s agricultural bounty.
The first lumber mill was built in 1852 and was followed throughout the 1800s by 23 others. Flumes, some measuring more than 50 miles in length, were built by lumber companies to transport the logs from the mills in the mountains to the Valley floor. Rumor has it, with my grandfather at its source, that adventurous kids would make a habit of riding in the flumes, though they were in constant danger of being felled by a massive tree. Gold, petroleum and copper also were discovered in Fresno County in the 1800s, and the western part of the county became well known for its oil and coal production.
Local Points of Interest
To date more than 30 structures in Fresno County are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Fresno Water Tower
Southern Pacific Depot
Farmer's Market (along Fresno Street side of Courthouse Park)
Because of its long history, Fresno has a diverse mix of victorian, spanish, mexican and modern art.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum
Fresno Art Museum
Meux Home Museum
Kearney Mansion Museum
Besides a water park, Fresno boasts the state's 3rd largest zoo and offers numerous amusement parks. Roeding Park offers about a dozen funspots alone.
Japanese Tea Garden
Chaffee Zoological Gardens
StoryBook Land / Playland
The Great Outdoors
Many national and state parks are within an hours drive and offer hunting, fishing, boating, back-packing, and skiing.
Yosemite National Park
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Huntington, Shaver and Edison Lake
San Joaquin River
The state school is known for its engineering program and the local airport transports up to a million people per day.
California State University, Fresno
Fresno Yosemite International Airport