We leave Fowler and head to Laton for Page 21. Laton? Really? Isn’t that a little small, a little far? Well yes it is, and then again, no it isn’t.
Laton, CA is roughly 23 miles south-east of Fresno. Laton’s first post office opened in 1900 – right about the same time as our little pamphlet here. The name honors Charles A. Laton, who owned the Rancho Laguna de Tache Mexican land grant.
They describe it as the youngest town on the map. No doubt it was a small town then but like most in the area they could see it’s potential with the two transcontinental railroad lines going through it and sitting alongside the Kings River.
They don’t mention the town’s population in our pamphlet but we can say that the Census in 2010 had Laton at just 1,824. We did find that a few years later they had a population of 60.
As for that original land grant, according to https://latoncalifornia.org/the-land-grant.html this was 1844. There was a little scruffle over land rights in 1861 before it was settled and C.S. Lillis took control. He owned and managed the Grant for several years, using it as a cattle range. He made his headquarters at the Grant House, a magnificent old building about two miles west of Laton, and but a short distance from Lillis Station.
TROUBLE IN THE VALLEY
Interestingly enough, upon acquiring the Laguna grant, C.S. Lillis discovered that the residents living north of the Grant had a tradition of obtaining their winter supply of wood from the river area. To deter this practice, Lillis initiated the construction of a fence along the northern border of the Grant. However, the locals openly resisted this move, feeling angered by the sudden change. Accustomed to receiving their wood without charge, they found it “challenging” to abandon their ways. Despite the opposition, Lillis persisted in completing the fence, deploying his men with arms and instructions to accomplish the task at all costs. Eventually, the fence was completed and effectively discouraged the people from accessing the wood without paying for it.
In 1892, the new owners, the Laguna Lands Limited, a corporation made up of English and American interests, came into possession of the Grant. About 10,000 acres outside of the original boundaries had been added. This company placed the land on sale May 1, 1899, under the management of Nares and Saunders. That same year the town of Laton was started with a land office, a store and a hotel.
1903, there were big changes for the town. In January, the first hardware store, the Laton Square Deal Hardware Store, opened. Then on May 1, the first rural mail was delivered by Mr. F. VanFossen. That same year, Sunset Telephone Company strung wires between Hanford and Fresno and Laton now had telephone service. The switchboard was in Spike’s Store.
In 1904, electricity was installed in Laton and that same year the elementary students were moved from the school in Kingston to Laton. The following year, talks were started regarding the building of a high school for the area. After deciding on a plan, finding the land and hiring a contractor, contruction was started in 1906 and completed the following year. In 1908, Laton High School saw it’s first graduating class of seniors.
The best part of researching this post has to be what we found at the end of the article.
Thanks Woody! A+!
Don’t worry Clovis – we’ll get to you next!