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Pioneer merchant left his mark

The Gordon and Manasse Building on North Yosemite Avenue housed one of Madera’s pioneer business establishments that survived well into the 20th century. Tighe’s Department Store is remembered by many of Madera’s residents today. (Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society)


William Tighe had passed away! That news spread quickly from one person to another on a Wednesday morning 66 years ago. The date was April 13, 1950, and one of Madera’s first merchants to hang out his sign on Yosemite Avenue had died at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco. With his demise the town lost one of the most picturesque figures from its past.

Anecdotes by the volume have been written about this early resident. Bill grew up with Madera. He helped make Madera. Now he belongs to the long list of sturdy pioneers who left their mark on this community and became a piece of its colorful history.

Bill was born in Oakland on January 5, 1868, just as the nation was licking its wounds from the Civil War. He attended the Oakland Grammar School, and that was to be the only formal education he ever received. At the age of 13, he went to work in a men’s store and soon acquitted himself most admirably in the field of business. But he was never quite satisfied. Bill had a speculative streak in him. He wanted something more out of life that clerking in a clothing store for someone else. That’s when he heard about Madera.

In those days, business news traveled swiftly, and it soon became widely known that Madera was to have a new lumber company. The Madera Flume and Trading Company, which had taken over from the bankrupt California Lumber Company, was itself about to be reborn in the form of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. Bill reasoned, quite correctly, that where optimism existed, so did opportunity; therefore, he headed for Madera...

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