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Rotary club nearing 100

Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society

The First National Bank, shown here, was an early meeting place of Madera’s Rotary Club, which is preparing to celebrate its centennial.


Ten years ago, members of the Noon Rotary club celebrated the club’s 90th birthday. Members and guests filled the dining room at the Madera Municipal Golf Course, and their pride in their history was abundantly evident. It brought to mind two other milestones in the history of Rotary International in Madera. The first was 1922, when Madera’s first Rotary club was organized, and the second was when the Rotarians celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1947.

Madera’s Rotarians were organized in May 1922 in the office of attorney Sherwood Green and began meeting in the Mace Hotel on the corner of Yosemite Avenue and E Streets. The operators of the hotel’s restaurant served the club during its meetings, and Virginia Short, a music teacher at Madera High, served as its first song director.

From the hotel, the Rotarians moved to a residence on Second and C Streets, which later became the home of Dr. and Mrs. G.G. Hawkins. Then when the First National Bank was completed, the Rotary Club met in the basement of that building. After that, it moved to the Aragon Hotel when it replaced the Alta Hotel, which burned in 1931.

The founding President of the Madera Rotary Club was fruit shipper, Dell B. Harris, who was then followed by rancher, J.W. Schmitz. Other members of Madera’s first Rotary Club were Harry Barnes, engineer; E.E. Bozeman, bicycle shop owner; R.W. Brown, contractor; Howard Clark, publisher of the Madera Tribune; Lloyd Chamberlain, dry goods merchant; A.E. Christiana, hardware store owner; H.M. Davis, insurance agent; Dr. R.R. Dearborn, physician; Charles Eyman, electrician; John M. Franchi, store owner; Sherwood Green, attorney; H.G. Johnson, banker; Bernard Le Mohn, title company; W.C. Maloy, attorney; A.J. Manasse, store manager; E.E. Nelson, life insurance; A.L. Scott, farmer; H.W. Schuman, automobile sales; Charles G. Storie, real estate, and W.C. Tighe, department store.

Over the years, Madera’s Rotary Club increased in numbers and importance. In its birth year, it had barely been noticed in the local paper. By 1947, however, that had all changed. The Madera Tribune carried a banner headline: “25th BIRTHDAY OF MADERA ROTARY.”

Cornelius (Corky) Nobel was the president, and H. Clay Daulton II was the president-elect. Past president J.W. Schmitz recalled the days when Madera was trying to secure a Rotary club. Schmitz told how the Madera Lions were organized first in Madera, just ahead of the Rotarians.

“I wanted Rotary here,” Schmitz said. “and I kept up the fight until we got it.” Schmitz said at the time, the population limit was the problem, but finally they overcame that difficulty, and the Fresno Rotary backed the Madera group, and they got their charter.

“Our efforts and our success in forming a Rotary club in Madera and keeping it going this quarter of a century is something of which we can all be proud,” Schmitz told the Tribune on May 19, 1947.

On its 25th birthday, Madera’s Rotary club had grown from its original 22 members to 61. Of its charter members, Howard Clark, John Franchi, Sherwood Green, E.E. Nelson, and J.W. Schmitz remained with the club. They had been joined by such well known local leaders as Nello Barsotti, Guy Crow, Craig Cunningham, Keith Daulton, H. Clay Daulton II, Allen Harkins, Ross Kinney, Roy Lyon, Clarence McCumber, John McNally, Cornelius Noble, Frank Oberti, Elmer Rau, Loren Rigby, William Rogers, Irvine Schnoor, Bill Seabury, and Earl Yocum.

Such was the esteem with which the Rotarians were held that Madera Mayor John B. Gordon issued the following proclamation”

“WHEREAS, 1947 marks the 42nd anniversary of the founding of Rotary International; and,

WHEREAS, May 1947 marks the 25th anniversary of the chartering of the Rotary Club of Madera; and,

WHEREAS, Rotary International, founded in 1905, in Chicago by the recently lamented Paul P. Harris, has grown in 42 years to a world-wide movement of 6,000 clubs made up of 300,000 men in 75 countries and geographical areas; and,

WHEREAS, the Rotary Club of Madera has been a potent force in the civic and community life of our city and always has had in its membership men who were and are willing to give of their time and talent to make this a better community in which to live, thus exemplifying the Rotary motto, ‘Service above Self;’

Therefore, I, John B. Gordon, Mayor of the City of Madera, do hereby proclaim this week, beginning Monday, May 19 and ending Sunday, May 25 as Rotary Anniversary Week in this city, and I hereby call upon industrialists, businessmen, civic organizations, churches, schools, and citizens generally to recognize the coveted place that the Rotary Club of Madera has earned in our community and the force for peace and brotherhood that Rotary International is exerting in the world at large.”

Rotary International has had a presence in Madera for 100 years and is still going strong. Its membership now includes women, a move that has injected energy and creativity into its ranks.

As Madera’s Rotarians move toward their centennial, Coate Tales wishes them well. This writer is looking forward to joining them in that celebration too.

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