Every time I drive past the old Borden Chinese cemetery on Avenue 12, I think of Man Wah Chan. He was buried there in 1890, but it took a while for his dust to settle peacefully.
Man Wah came to this area seeking gold and was able to survive those turbulent days on Finegold Creek and Coarsegold Gulch. When the placer mining in the foothills gave out, he moved to the upper Fresno River to operate a trading post. Endowed with unusual business acumen, the Chinese merchant established himself financially with his merchandising.
In 1872, the Southern Pacific laid its tracks south through the San Joaquin Valley, creating scores of fledgling railroad towns in its wake. When Leland Stanford founded Borden near what is now Avenue 12 and Highway 99, Man Wah decided it was time to leave the foothills and give the flatlands a try. He opened a dry goods store in Borden from whence he served the growing Anglo and Chinese population.
Many of the early pioneers of the area became the recipients of his goodwill as he extended credit to a number of farmers in the area. During the severe drought of 1877, it was reported that more than a few owed their continued operation to him...