Alapoleno and his gold pan

Joaquin Murrieta — legends about him are legion — and so conflicting are these stories of his life that it has often been asserted that there were as many as five outlaws by that name. Whatever the truth behind the lore, one curious anecdote has escaped the history books. William Henderson, the man who fired […]

Robbery in Berenda

The Vignolo Hotel in Berenda, just a few miles north of Madera, was a major stagecoach stop. It was also the scene of a bold robbery in 1901.

It was late in February when Leonard Hammond walked into the saloon of the Vignolo Hotel in Berenda. The spacious, two-story building was full and running over. The rooms were all occupied and the bartender was having a time keeping up with the requests for libations. Business in Berenda had been brisk throughout 1901; the […]

Madera almost died in infancy

The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber company was the economic force that brought Madera into the 20th century after the town almost died in its infancy in the 19th century. By the time the Great Depression shut down its mills in 1933, agriculture had emerged to give Madera the strength it needed to survive.

Although the search for precious metals brought the first pioneers to what is now Madera County, that quest does not account for the establishment of civilization in this area. More than picks and shovels were needed to lay a foundation here. It was the lumber industry that gave the local economy its first permanent base. […]

How did Madera High School come to be?

The upper floor of Westside School on Sixth Street served as home for Madera High School until 1903.

The crowd gathered at the Athletic Hall on Yosemite Avenue for Madera High School’s commencement exercise in June 1903. Folks had to climb the stairs to the second floor that night, as they had for the past six years, but this would be the last time. Madera was going to have a new high school […]

Lumber flume meant work and fun

not just lumber

During the 33-year existence of the flume, which gave birth to Madera, more than one billion feet of lumber, floated down the big trough from the mountains toward the mill near where Millview School now stands. Built in 1876, by the California Lumber Company, the V-flume followed along mountainsides, through steep canyons, and often had […]

Richard Nixon, Madera, and the ‘Checkers Speech’

Congressman Richard Nixon is seen here campaigning from a station wagon parked on Yosemite Avenue in 1950. He came back to Madera two years later to campaign for Vice President.

Thursday, Sept. 18, 1952, was a big day for both Senator Richard M. Nixon and the City of Madera. It was a presidential election year, and California’s junior senator had been chosen by General Dwight David Eisenhower to be his running mate in the race for the White House. Everybody was giving the Republican ticket […]

President Grant got a surprise in Madera

Photographer: Lester J Letson Taken: December 5, 2010 Caption: Madera Marker Additional Description: Dedicated to both the County of Madera and the City of Madera. Submitted: February 5, 2012, by Lester J Letson of Fresno, California.

As the little town of Madera was growing up in the 19th century, several important politicians visited here. Presidents, former Presidents, and would-be Presidents met at Captain Mace’s hotel on the corner of E and Yosemite Avenue to begin a journey that would take them to the Big Trees and beyond. One of these was […]

Madera’s first murder case

picture of Constable Herman Glas

In May of 1893, Madera County was carved out of Fresno County, and immediately the newspapers south of the San Joaquin River began a campaign of gloomy prognostications, the most serious of which was the prediction that lawlessness would reign supreme in the fledgling burg of Madera. By the end of summer, however, it was […]

Looking back at Old Timers Day

Picture of the 1931 Old Timers Day Parade

Every community has something that makes it unique. Some towns boast of a particular industry; others point to some nearby natural attraction, while in many cases an annual event will help to provide identity for a city. As an example of this latter category, one could cite the Chowchilla Stampede, Coarsegold Rodeo, and Oakhurst’s “Peddler’s […]

Can anyone really replace Ed Gwartney?

picture of Ed Gwartney

Ed was a self-described product of the “Okie” migration who never earned a high school diploma but became a pathfinder of new trails in the teaching of history. He was the founder of the James Monroe Children’s Museum and he has left it to others to build on his passion that created the unique educational […]

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