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Daulton had the last word

Madera County Historical Society Henry Clay Daulton, shown here, was honored in a special ceremony at his grave in Arbor Vitae. One of the speakers was his great great grandson, Henry Clay Daulton III.


On Tuesday, a special event took place at Arbor Vitae Cemetery. Sixty students joined the Madera County Board of Supervisors to celebrate the county’s 125th anniversary and to honor Henry Clay Daulton, the chairman of our first Board of Supervisors.

The young people from Madera South High School told how Daulton led the fight to create Madera County, and they presented a choral tribute to the man.

Among those who attended the event were several Daulton descendants, including his great-great grandson, Henry Clay Daulton III, a Madera County rancher and agricultural leader, who spoke to the audience.

Clay began by remarking that he felt a “little disconcerted” standing in front of a tombstone that had his name on it. If that was true, it didn’t show. What did show, however, was Clay’s understanding of an issue with which his ancestor had wrestled and is still looming over the landscape today.

What follows are the words of Henry Clay Daulton III as he stood in front of the monument of Henry Clay Daulton I.

“As one of the 8 descendants Madera’s founding father here today, I sometimes try to imagine what he’d think if he were able to see what has evolved since his demise.

“Based on his life’s experiences, I think he might have pointed out the one, real, overwhelming challenge facing the county right now is exactly the same as he faced at about the time of his death in 1893.

“He grew things. He grew sheep and cattle to feed people. He helped grow a local mining industry that, in turn, helped build a nation’s wealth and made possible it’s electrification.

“That mining industry continued to expand right up to this day, if you acknowledge groundwater is a mined mineral. But the legacy of mineral-based expansion is about to change — drastically. Madera’s copper and gold mines began playing out at about the time of Madera’s founder’s death, resulting in the demise of the roaring towns of Grub Gulch and Buchannan — two towns of 3,000 or 4,000 people each. Gone!

“We’ve done much the same with our over-used groundwater. Since his leadership, arguably, I’m sure, we passively opted not to fight for what should have been our San Joaquin River’s water. Will copper and gold’s economic history be predictive — 125 years later — of a declining economic future for Madera. That’s what we’re on track for.

“Without more surface water, Madera will wither along with its crops. Saving water by the almost token browning of lawns and the certainly not token culling of 50 percent or more of its total irrigated farmland is not the answer and is socially unacceptable.

“Through the use of logic and common sense, it appears Madera’s founder was a nimble and successful fighter for the betterment of ALL of Madera County’s citizens.

“That same common sense would now dictate that, for Madera to remain as viable and dynamic as its creators imagined and has been until now, significant surface water supplies must be acquired to replace 100 years of aquifer over-drafting. But, to be clear, I’m sure he’d see that we need more surface water and not, simply, more regulations.

“Yes, I think if he were awakened today he would quickly seek a return to his repose.

“Did he unwittingly create an ultimately self-defeating monster, or did he lay the foundation for a highly successful venture? With SIGMA, or more importantly its implementation, we’re on the cusp of finding out.

“To 2018’s Madera County Supervisors: It’s in your hands; you certainly have your challenges ahead.”

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