LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER

by

June English



 
HOME

FRESNO COUNTY

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The Fresno River Indian Reservation was established after the Mariposa Indian War in 1851 and Hart was the wagon master for the reservation, but soon he opened a law office in Millerton. Fresno County was formed later in 1856 and Hart became the first county judge. After his term in office, he again opened his law office. There is a record showing that he lived for a time on the Fresno River in 1862.


After the Civil War, the buildings of Fort Miller were auctioned and Judge Hart bought them and made a comfortable home in one of the adobe buildings. Here was born his son, Truman Hart, who later became a mayor of Fresno. Later, he homesteaded the land of the military reservation and at one time it was estimated he owned 12,000 acres of what is now the bottom of Millerton Lake and the surrounding foothills.


The time came when Judge Hart, his wife, three stepchildren and his own son were the only residents of what had been the focal point of county life for 18 years. He owned the brick houses of the Chinese miners and gardeners who had stayed in Millerton when the county seat was moved. The brick houses were destroyed in a fire in 1877 and there is no record that Judge Hart rebuilt them as he planned to.


The incidents of this man's life would fill pages of a book. He was an educated man who left the comfort and security of an eastern home to venture west to find gold. He did find everything a man could wish for and descendants prospered and played their role in the creation of development of this great and wealthy county.


The story of Joe Folsom is in complete contrast to the stability and wealth of the Harts and the McKenzies. Somewhere in one of the old Fresno cemeteries, and most probably the Mountain View, is the unmarked, unknown grave of Joe Folsom.


Folsom was born in Mississippi in 1820. There is not a record of his father's name, but he must have been a man of means as he educated his half-Cherokee Indian son at the University of Tennessee. (Someday, an inquiry to that old house of learning may disclose his background.) He was a member of a government survey party that mapped the Indian Territory to the Colorado in 1845. He lived an adventurous life on the frontier, and in 1851 he was listed as a government hunter on the Fresno Indian Reservation. As the years went by, he worked at many things: mining, shoemaking, barkeeping and saloon owner, farming and hunting. He never stayed long in one place and there is no indication that he ever married. Mountain men frequently formed an attachment with the local Indian women, but there are no Folsoms among the descendants of the many mixed matings and marriages that occurred here. Children of these associations always took the name of the father, especially among the Yokuts and Monos of this area.


By the early 1880's, Joe Folsom was a man alone, a mountain man living with too many people about. His old friend, Judge Hart, allowed him to live in the old Millerton Courthouse. He lived there until illness forced him to the county hospital, and cared for by another old friend, Dr. Lewis Leach, he died. He was buried in a narrow unmarked grave, and today the only people who ever heard of him are the historians and researchers who have seen glimpses of his life in the old records.


The End

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