LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER

by

June English



 
HOME

FRESNO COUNTY

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Colonel Olney and his men garrisoned Fort Miller until October 9, 1864. Captain Loring and Lieutenant Hepburn commanded the next company that increased the number of men at the fort. Two more companies occupied the fort until November 30, 1865. Thus, my source infers that four companies of cavalry occupied Fort Miller during part of the Civil War. The fort was then given into the custody of Clark Hoxie who had been elected County Supervisor in 1858 and whose sons had attended the first school at the fort. John C. Hoxie was to marry Mary Jane McKenzie there some years later.


In 1866, Olney returned and auctioned off the buildings at the fort. They were purchased for a small amount by Judge Charles Hart and so began the historic Fort Miller Ranch.


In 1878, a government survey was made of this area and Judge Hart was able to obtain title to the land as well as thousands of acres that he had purchased. In his will dated October 19, 1907, William H. McKenzie, son of Sgt. and Mrs. Ann Brennan McKenzie Hart and who now owned the ranch, stated that the estate was not to be broken up and sold without the permission of all his heirs. In the 1930's when title to some of the land of the Fort Miller Ranch was to be transferred to the government for the construction of Friant Dam and the water storage behind it, this will was called into force by members of the family and there were legal complications which were finally settled.


Richard H. Daly came to Mariposa in 1850 and within a short time he became District Attorney and then County Judge of Mariposa County. He moved to Millerton just before Fresno became a county in 1856 and was one of its organizers. Several years prior to their move to Fresno Station in 1874, the Daly family lived in the Colonel's house at the fort. A daughter was born to them there on December 15, 1872, but no name was given in the reference. He died shortly after their move to Fresno at the age of 56. Katherine Daly, his youngest daughter, died in 1969 in her 90's. Without verification, I believe she was the one who was born at Fort Miller.


Dr. Lewis Leach married the divorced wife of Charles Converse on October 15, 1873 at the Fort Miller Ranch. Dr. Leach's part is well known to anyone who had read about the exciting events of our gold rush days. His early arrival in the county and participation in the Mariposa Indian War and subsequent partnership with James Savage reads like a novel. He was a gifted man in business as well as medicine. After his partnership with Savage was dissolved by Savage's murder, he continued in business successfully. For many years he held a ranch on the Fresno River and never lost his interest in gold mining. He practiced medicine at the fort and there, too, began another "first"—the County Hospital, with Dr. Leach in charge. He had been the County Physician from 1860, and in 1874 he had moved his patients to the new county seat. He became Superintendent of the County Hospital in Fresno and continued in that position as well as his private practice. He resigned in 1893, succeeded by Dr. W. T. Maupin.


An interesting sidelight as to the unreliability of our history books is that Vandor's History of Fresno County states Dr. Leach married Mrs. Converse in 1865. Their wedding notice was published in the 1873 Expositor.


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