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Sheriff saw Berenda coming

Photo courtesy of the Mariscotti Family Archives

The Berenda Market in 1913.


When Fresno County Sheriff Leroy Dennis chose not to run for reelection in 1872, he decided to move to a little spot in the north end of the county where the Southern Pacific Railroad had just built a freight depot. Dennis was certain that a town would grow up around the depot, and he wanted to be there when the boom came. Little did he know that in 20 years, the little village he envisioned would one day be a major transportation link for the new county of Madera. 

Prior to the coming of the railroad and Dennis’ arrival, there had been no towns on the Valley floor of what is now Madera County. When the tracks reached a nice level spot a few miles north of the Fresno River, on March 5, 1872, the railroad installed a 20,000-gallon wooden water tank for its steam locomotives, and behold, a town site was born. They named it Berendo, the Spanish name for antelope, because of the herds of the quadrupeds that loped across the countryside. Later, the name was changed from Berendo (male antelope) to Berenda (female antelope).

Just as he had planned, Dennis was there to get things going right from the start. The enterprising former sheriff played the leading role in the growth of Berenda. Sensing that the railroad would trigger the development of modern farm life, he prepared to provide the essential supplies and services that would be needed. Dennis built the first store and hotel in the area — they would serve as the basis for Berenda’s early beginnings. 


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