Madera County Historical Society
In 1893, State Senator George Goucher (shown above) and Assemblyman George W. Mordecai each introduced a bill to create Madera County in their respective houses of the legislature.
“Yell like Devils.” This was the strategy adopted 125 years ago by Maderans who attended that pivotal meeting in Fresno, which set in motion the movement to create Madera County.
Separation from Fresno County by the folks living north of the San Joaquin River had been simmering for years, but in January 1893, they put it on the front burner. In an attempt to gauge public sentiment on the issue, the three state legislators who represented Fresno County, Senator George Goucher, Assemblyman Jacobsen, and Assemblyman George W. Mordecai, called for a meeting in Fresno’s Kutner Hall. It was set for Saturday, January 28, and the next day the headlines in the Fresno Expositor characterized the gathering as a “A Howling Time.” What follows is what that paper reported.
“Nearly 200 Maderans arrived in Fresno on the Central Pacific Railway coaches between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. The Fresnans were in their homes having dinner. The Maderans, tired of waiting, entered Kutner Hall and by 7:30 had elected their own Miles Wallace as meeting chairman. They were headed by E.H. Cox, Return Roberts, John Griffin, and H.C. Daulton, and they took the front seats with determination bristling.”
“Senator Goucher and Assemblymen Jacobsen and Mordecai, for whom the meeting was called, listened and watched until Senator Goucher said he was in favor of division. Assemblyman Mordecai joined Senator Goucher in his feelings, but Assemblyman Jacobsen dissented.”
“The divisionist movement was likened to marriage, divorce, and to the parable of the prodigal son. Said H.C. Daulton, ‘We have two daily papers in Madera, and we simply ask you to let us go in peace. We want a divorce from you, and we don’t want you to pay alimony. With your $40 million of assessable property, the taxes have ranged from $1.30 to $1.80 on the $100, and we, with our $7 million, will take care of ourselves. We will not be overtaxed if we are cut off.’”
“Thomas E. Hughes said, ‘Let the mossbacks of Fresno take care of the south side of the river.’”
In describing the voting on various motions put forth that night, the Expositor declared, “The Madera people yelled louder and longer. When they voted in the negative upon any question, each man would yell ‘No’ 40 times. Finally the voting came to the question of whether the northern part of the county should be divided. It was to be a standing vote. All of the Fresno people, except a few, had to stand anyway because there were no chairs, they being appropriated by the Madera people. The secretary pretended that he counted, but he did not count. No man could count the surging mass. The secretary said there were 365 affirmative votes standing. When the negative vote was called, he said he counted 65.”
“After the meeting was over, Thomas E. Hughes mounted the stand and tore down from the wall a flag or streamer, which had been nailed there. It contained the words, ‘From Fresno to Monterey.’ As he tore it down, he said, ‘We have no more need of this’”
As a result of that tumultuous meeting 125 years ago this month, George Washington Mordecai introduced a bill in the California Assembly to create Madera County. He was followed by George Goucher with a similar bill in the State Senate, and on March 11, 1893, the Legislature passed the enabling acts calling for an election to declare Madera a separate county. It appointed a commission to handle the election, which took place on May 16, 1893.
When the votes were counted, there were 1,179 tallies in favor of separating Madera County from Fresno County and 368 against division. On May 20, the State officially declared the existence of Madera County.
As an interesting side note, in that same election, the voters had to choose the county seat. Two sites were on the ballot: the City of Madera and the proposed townsite of Minaret, which lay somewhere between Raymond and Oakhurst. The non-existent site had been laid out by an ambitious subdivider who planned two square blocks for the courthouse overlooking the San Joaquin Valley. Madera won by a vote of 1,065 to 567.
The voters in that May 1893 election also chose the county’s first supervisors: David P. Fowler, District one; Henry Clay Daulton, District Two; J. Myer, District Three; W.B. Aiken, District Four; and J.E. Chapin, District Five.
The new board chose Daulton as its first Chairman. He died in a mysterious buggy accident five months later.
So from that noisy, shouting start in Kutner Hall, Maderans had their way and formed their own county. The newly elected officials settled down to the more routine tasks of setting up their own government and preparing for their first full year of operation.
And here we are, 125 years later, preparing to carry on by building on that foundation that was laid a century and a quarter ago.
Happy New Year, Madera County.