LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER

by

June English



 
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FRESNO COUNTY

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The railroad arrived at the spot that became the town of Fresno in 1872. Fresno Station became the new county seat in 1874. From the beginning of the settlement on the railroad a cemetery was a necessity. The first cemetery of any record was owned by William McKenzie, whose father was James McKenzie, a sargeant at the fort. It was located near Tulare and First Streets and established in 1873. There were many unhappy relatives who complained about this burying ground because when it rained the site became a lake. In 1876, this cemetery was abandoned and the bodies removed to a location which is now the alley between C and D Streets and Kern and Inyo on the west side of town.


There was another cemetery located at what is now the corner of M and Calaveras Streets. There were nine burials there and when the Mountain View Cemetery was established in 1885, these were reburied there.


The cemetery on the west side of Fresno soon became so crowded as the population of the town grew that after three years it became necessary to purchase land at the end of Fresno Street where it joins Church Avenue. This was also privately owned. This ground was too high and it seemed impossible to get water to it. Moses Church, who developed the irrigation system that brought water to Fresno, constructed a ditch along what is now known as Tehama Street. The water was raised with a wheel so it could flow into the cemetery. There was litigation over the payment of the ditch and the intended water did not arrive. Feelings in the community were as hot as when the older McKenzie ground was flooded.


In April of 1885, Moses Church gave 80 acres of ground to various churches and fraternal organizations and it was known as the Mountain View Cemetery. This tract on West Belmont had no water until 1908 when the Oddfellows put in a system and arranged for sale of water to the rest of the plot holders. In 1909, the Mountain View Cemetery Association was formed. The sexton ran the whole thing and charged at his discretion and kept the money for himself Perhaps that is why burials that are known to be there cannot be found today.


Prior to 1912, the Chinese Six Companies buried their dead in a cemetery near McKinley and Palm. About every ten years, they would exhume their dead and send the remains back to China. In 1912, they purchased 5 acres on Hughes Avenue and reburied those that had not been sent back home.


Before 1902, the Japanese had their own cemetery on the west side, but today this location is not known. Then the bodies were reburied in Mountain View, and they named the site the Nippon Cemetery.


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