Madera will have an important anniversary this fall. It was 120 years ago that the first lots of the proposed village were put on the auction market and the future Madera County seat had its beginning. Madera's birth certificate was printed in the October 11, 1876 issue of the Fresno Expositor. It read, in part: "The new town of Madera laid out by the California Lumber Company in this county (then Fresno County) at the point where the company's flume intersects the railroad has been graced with the name of Madera-the Spanish term for lumber. It promises to be quite a flourishing town and the demand for its lots is great. Within a few weeks the paper's reporter was astounded by the progress. From the sands of the Fresno Plains, a town had arisen where formerly only the jackrabbits and antelope played. One of the first buildings was Captain Mace's Saloon, 24 feet by 56 feet, on Yosemite Avenue. Soon afterward it was transformed into a first rate hotel. Next door was another saloon and across the Southern Pacific tracks, a "public house." Within two months, the residents of Madera were thinking about the education of their youth and on March 21, 1877, the decision was made to build a 50 foot by 30 foot school building on two acres of land that was to be fenced and planted with numerous shade trees. Upon completion of the school, plans were made for the first church. By April, 1877, it was reported that C.H. Evans had built a handsome veranda in front of his saloon and planned to cover it with an awning. Meanwhile, Dr. Brown had purchased Standford's Saloon, poured out the whiskey and fitted up the building as a drug store. The same issue of the newspaper noted that a drove of antelope crossed the railroad tracks near town. In 1896, Madera became the county seat of newly created Madera County. During the same year construction on a new courthouse, jail, zoo, and county park began. Madera soon moved into the 20th century and continued to grow with the main part of town being three blocks long. Until paving in 1912, those three blocks and the rest of the wide main street named Yosemite Avenue were chuckholed and billowing with dust in the summer, thick with mud miring wagons to their axles in winter. The only relief from the dirt were several lengths of wooden sidewalks. Several grocery stores including Rosenthal-Kutner, at the corner of Yosemite and E Street, sold general merchandise; everything from a pocket handkerchief to a harness as well as groceries. Others were Franchi's Grocery, Rochdale, Wehrman-Meilike, Moore-Plate, Petty's and Friedburger and Harder. Lacy Robertson's Saloon at the corner of D and Yosemite had a swinging door on the corner. Depending on which report is read, it was one of 14... or 21 or 23...saloons on Yosemite Avenue. There were two banks on the same block, First National on one end and the Commercial Bank on the other end of the 200 block. Other businesses included several Chinese restaurants, Mugler's Harness Shop, several blacksmiths, McCabes Rooming House, Curtin's Livery Stable, which took up a quarter block, and Brammer's Shoe Store. Preciado's where Wells Fargo Bank is today, was a family store. Sporting goods, newspapers, millinery and stationery were available and ice cream. It was also where most Maderans gathered to listen to national radio broadcasts of important happenings such as elections, prize fights, baseball games and horse racing. Next door was the large Tighe-Breyfogle Company, a department store with yardage, shoes and men's and women's clothing. Hunter's Drugstore was the cool spot to be in the summer heat. They had ceiling fans over the front door and inside, ice cream. Mace's Yosemite Hotel, the largest in town, catered to the railroad passengers who spent the night before traveling on to Yosemite Valley. Others were the Southern Hotel on North B Street and Barsotti's advertised meals for 25 cents. The arrival of passenger trains usually attracted a large number of people watching to see who got off and who was getting on. There was a skating rink on the second floor of a South D Street building which swayed when it had a crowd in it. It was the home of the Madera Polo team which became the State Champion Roller Polo Team of California Such was downtown Madera through the first two decades of the century and now we look toward the first decade of a new century, with these few remaining years of the 1900's a period in which more "history" will be created, then described in some future period. It's all just a matter of time!

Courtesy of Alan Brown, Madera Historical Society

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