We’re on to Page 11 in this fascinating pamphlet from 1900. This page discusses Fresno County’s Honey Bees, Cattle , Sheep, Hogs, Electric Power, Electric Railroads (what?) and the Railroad Service, that we know was instrumental in determining where Fresno was to be built.
The Honey Bee
We know just how important the bee is to pollinating the crops but the section is speaking more about the production of honey. They suggest a small farmer could add $2,500 to his annual income from just honey production. So what, you say? In today’s dollars that’s a whopping $88,k!
Cattle, Sheep and Hogs
Cattle were discussed in earlier pages so they kind of gloss over this topic. We know Sheep ranching in other states actually started wars between Cattle Ranchers and the Sheep Ranchers. Google “Sheep Wars”. Differences in water, types of feed, and types of herding contributed to the conflicts there, but did they occur here?
Electricity in Fresno? We did some digging… The company was first organized as the San Joaquin Electric Company on April 1, 1895! They constructed hydroelectric San Joaquin Powerhouse No. 1, located 37 miles from Fresno on Willow Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. They also happened to be in competition with Fresno Gas and Electric Company. Wikipedia says that “Fresno Gas and Electric used riparian claims filed on water upstream from San Joaquin Electric Company’s intake flume to divert water away from the company’s powerhouse through a mile-long ditch. Combined with several years of drought, this diversion of water forced San Joaquin Electric into bankruptcy in 1899.” Sometimes business was savage back then too!
They declared bankruptcy a year before this pamphlet was published but apparently bondholders, trying to protect their investment, financed the 1901 construction of what would become the hydraulic fill Crane Valley Dam and the reservoir of Bass Lake which continued the water supply.
With ample electric power available, naturally it was easiest to start an electric rail car system downtown and expand from there. While they refer to them as Railroads in the pamphlet we would probably call them Trolleys today. Most major cities had a trolley system in place at this time, displacing much of the horse and buggy traffic. Many euro cities never got rid of them and they continue today!
The Railroad Service
They mention no fewer than 8 lines of railroad at the time and make specific note of the transcontinental Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads. We learned of the importance of these when they were discussing how our orange crop could beat the Florida orange crop by a few weeks in the eastern market and thereby earn a higher price. You can’t do that unless you have easy access to transcontinental railroads.
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