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Madera’s leaders in its 25th year

Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society

Dr. Dow Ransom, shown here circa 1940, was only 19 when Madera reached its 25th birthday in 1900.


Every fledgling community has its makers and shakers — those who stand out from the crowd — and Madera is no exception. As one surveys the United States Census Report of 1900, its pillars of society leap from the pages. What follows is a partial list of some of those prominent pioneers. The list is not complete but is useful for examining a slice of the leaders who were living in Madera when it reached its 25th year.**

William Breyfogle, 62, was a partner with William Tighe in a pioneer mercantile operation. Their department store, located on Yosemite, was one of Madera’s most successful businesses. Breyfogle was also the local superintendent of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company’s mill operation.

Bernard McCluskey, 49, was a saloonkeeper in 1900. A few years later he became a Madera law officer and was the first local lawman to be killed in the line of duty.

William C. Ring, 43, was the Madera County Recorder.

William Conley, 33, was Madera County Superior Court Judge. Conley played a prominent role in separating Madera County from Fresno County.

Ygnacio Preciado, 68, came to California from Hermosillo, Mexico during the gold rush with two brothers. He married Adelaide Noriega and with his family moved to Borden and then to Madera at 312 North B Street. The Preciado family was highly respected by all segments of Madera’s pioneer population.

William B. Thurman, 31, was the third Sheriff of Madera County. He and his family lived on North C Street. Thurman gave up law enforcement in 1901, to enter into business with J.W. Watkins. They operated the Thurman-Watkins Sash and Door Factory.

Albert Byars, 27, was an early Madera physician who appears to be in high demand. In nearly every extreme emergency, Dr. Byars was on the scene.

Return Roberts, 59, came to Madera from San Jose to head the Madera Flume and Trading company which acquired the assets of the bankrupt California Lumber Company. Roberts built a beautiful residence on North C Street in Madera and later became president of the Commercial Bank of Madera.

Herman Brammer, 34, came to Madera in the 1890s and purchased an empty lot in the middle of D and C Streets on the north side of Yosemite Avenue. There he erected a small, single story frame building from which he conducted Madera’s first shoe business. There must have been a living quarters in the rear of the building, because it was there that his son William was born in 1896. Brammer later tore the frame building down and built a three story brick building on the same site. It still stands today.

Edward E. Vincent, 46, was the publisher of the Madera Mercury. He also helped organize Madera’s first fire department in 1885.

William H. Larew, 45, was a prominent pioneer attorney in Madera.

John Francis Daulton, 38, was the fifth son of Henry Clay Daulton and Mary Jane Hildreth Daulton. Although he was a rancher, in 1900 Daulton and his family, which included his sons Raynor and Henry Clay II, were living in Madera. Later they moved back out to the Daulton Ranch where they built the house in which Henry Clay Daulton III and his wife, Dusty, now live.

John Barnett and his wife Eliza moved to Madera from Mariposa and opened a meat market on Yosemite Avenue. They built a beautiful home on Yosemite Avenue and B Street, which was later moved to First and G Streets. Living with John and Eliza was their son, John H. Barnett, who was 21 in 1900. He would one day become one of Madera County’s most colorful sheriffs.

Jacob Cramer, 57, was the constable.

Robert L. Hargrove, 32, was a prominent attorney.

William Mace, 32, and Russell Mace, 29, sons of Captain Russel Perry Mace and his wife Jennie Cunningham Gilmore Mace, were operating Mace’s Yosemite Hotel under a partnership arrangement.

Eugene Reid, 29, was an early Madera physician. He lived with his wife, Lois, who was 24.

Dow H. Ransom, 19, was living with his 77 year-old mother. He would one day become a prominent Madera physician.

Richard Curtis Jay, 47, was a pillar of Madera society at the turn of the century. Originally occupied in the furniture business, Jay turned to making caskets and ultimately to embalming. He was an early coroner, public administrator and civic booster. Music was at one time his vocation and avocation. He was the inspiration behind the creation of Madera’s first community band.

Robert R. Fowler, 29, was the Madera County District Attorney in 1900.

Ezra Bethards, 44, was a well driller. He later built Madera’s first shopping center and named it Bethards Square.

William Tighe, 31, came to Madera in 1891. When he hopped off the train at the local depot, he had all of his earthly belongings with him, plus a couple of dollars in his pocket. Before he even had his first meal in Madera, he went looking for a job. Tighe found employment in a merchandise store, and by the time that Madera County was created, William Tighe owned a store of his own. By 1900 he had taken in a partner William Breyfogle, and the establishment advertised itself as Tighe and Breyfogle

Charles Eubanks, 33, was the first County Clerk of Madera County.

Mary Estelle Bagnelle, 31, was the county’s second County Schools Superintendent. She lived with her mother and brothers.

John Noble, 35, operated a pioneer meat market.

William King Heiskell, in 1900 was living with John Noble. He and Agnes Daulton, daughter of Henry Clay Daulton were married at Shepherd’s Home, the Daulton home place. During the Alaska gold rush, Heiskell took off in search of his fortune, leaving his wife and children, one of which was Lucille who later married Frank Desmond and became a prominent Madera educator.

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** Note: The list above was drawn from the U.S. census of 1900. Unfortunately, the original document is damaged making it impossible to read the entire manuscript. Some names have been lost from the enumeration forever and thus do not appear in this chapter.

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