The City of Fresno (the “Raisin Capital”) was founded in 1872 by the Central Pacific Railroad Company after a Director for the company found a lush and green wheat field in the middle of barren, dry, and uninviting sand plains on a scouting trip in 1871. He considered this to be the perfect place to build a railway station and a new town.
The Central California Colony was eventually set up in 1875 at a location slightly south of what we now know as Fresno. This model settlement led to a range of developments all across the San Joaquin Valley. The land in the valley was divided into parcels of 20 to 40 acres and a system of irrigation canals was installed which resulted in great boulevards of eucalyptus, palms. or some other drought-resistant vegetation and trees.
The City of Fresno became the seat of Fresno County in 1874 and the city was incorporated in 1885. In 1890, the number of residents was already exceeding 10,000 population and in 1892, the first streetcars could be seen which made the development of the suburbs followed possible and soon enough, the area’s population grew considerably.
In 1903, all across Fresno County, there were almost 50 separate settlements that attracted skilled farming families from Europe (mostly from Scandinavia) and from all across the US.
From the early years on, the Fresno area has seen an ethnic mix of Scandinavian farmers and Asian (predominantly Chinese) railroad workers that were later joined by East European Germans, Armenians, and Japanese. Later, in the early 20th century, a large Hispanic workers population followed suit and at the moment, we can see over 70 ethnic groups present in the Fresno metropolitan area.
Fresno County is famous for its agricultural produce and has ranked first in the nation for a long period of time for agricultural production. The area is known for its quality products and annual sales exceed $3 billion. The region’s major crops are including almonds, grapes, peaches, nectarines, and cotton.
Notable Fresco citizens (Fresnans) include actor and politician Carlos Alan Autry Jr. who was also a player in the National Football League when he went under the name of Carlos Brown, artist Maynard Dixon, actress and singer Audra McDonald, astronaut Barbara Morgan, and author William Saroyan.
Today, Fresno is a California’s fifth city by population (over half a million), the largest inland city of the state, and the most populous city across California’s Great Central Valley. If you want to learn something about the state of education in California, read this post.
California’s Great Central Valley
California’s Central Valley belongs to the world’s most fertile areas and counts no less than 15 million acres of land. The area is around 450 miles in length and between 40 and 60 miles wide. Fresno County is situated right in the heart of this very fertile Great Central Valley and the area is America’s most productive region when it comes to agricultural production.
The area that we now know as Central Valley was actually created and shaped more than a hundred million years way back when huge granite masses rose above California’s earth to form the Sierra Nevada. As glaciers were moving over the mountainous land, they carved out massive channels that later became rivers that that, over time, brought much sediment to the area that became the fertile valley as we know it. Read also this Fresco City College post.
Early trappers and explorers were already describing miles of wetlands, native grasses, bourgeoning rivers, and a large body of fresh water (Lake Tulare), in fact, the largest freshwater basin west of the Mississippi. California’s Central Valley is now what initially and at first sight, no one expected, not the Spaniards in the early 1700s, not the Mexicans and Americans, and also not the Europeans and Asians in the early 1800s.
The Central Valley region is surrounded by mountains at all sides. To the east is the Sierra Nevada, to the west we find the Coastal range, if we go north, we will get to the Cascades Mountains, and to the south Tehachapis. There is hardly any region in the world of a size like here where you’ll find a similar diversity of altitude, surface, soil, humidity, and vegetation.
For more information, check out the website of the Fresno Historical Society (7160 W. Kearney Boulevard, Fresno, CA 93706, Phone: (559) 441-0862