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Fresno Flats lost out to Oakhurst

For The Madera Tribune

Oakhurst was once Fresno Flats, which is shown here circa 1880.


John Robert Nichols has been given credit for being the first Anglo settler in the Fresno Flats area, arriving there in 1858. Located near the head of the Fresno River, White Ash trees abounded. Since most mountain meadows were known as flats, the spot became known as Fresno Flats, drawing upon the Spanish word for Ash trees, but it wouldn’t carry that name forever. 

Over the next few years, Nichols was joined by other settlers; those who were interested in starting a permanent settlement as opposed to the fly-by-night mining camps that proliferated in the mountains at that time. Soon they were raising hogs, sheep, and planting orchards at Fresno Flats. Within a short time, the lumber industry would give the fledgling village a jump-start, and then tourism would take over to lay the permanent foundations for what it was to become one day.

This is not to say gold was never important to the economy of the area. By 1880, one of the best-developed quartz mines in the area, the Enterprise Mine, was located near Fresno Flats. In that year, the operation employed 40 men and produced gold ore worth between $7,000 to $8,000 every month. This factor notwithstanding, lumber, stockraising, and tourism remained the economic mainstay of Fresno Flats. 

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