The Yokuts were the original inhabitants of the area. They traded goods along the coast and with other Native American tribes until being driven out of the area in the early 1800s.
The California Gold Rush brought the first settlers here in the early 1850s and Fresno County was founded in 1856. The town didn’t arrive until later, as various settlements in the valley came and went thanks to frequent flooding of the San Joaquin River.
It wasn’t until Anthony Easterbybought land alongside the river and had it irrigated in 1871 that anybody could make the land in the area yield. Moses J. Church was responsible for the irrigation canal, who went on to form the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company.
The irrigation channels allowed water from the San Joaquin River up the valley to keep the fields moist and fertile. This innovation was the single element that secure the future of Fresno as a city. The business of agriculture allowed further investment in the city, the railroad and workers to move in. Without which, Fresno would probably not exist today.
The railroad arrived in 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad put a station near Easterby’s farm. The station soon spawned a store and new arrivals to the town now called Fresno. Fresno was incorporated in 1885.
The city survived various fires throughout the late 19th century and grew steadily, thanks to irrigation and the railroad. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the city began to expand proper, with the city’s first synagogue being built in 1909.
The synagogue was to serve one of Fresno’s many diverse communities. Other cultures settled their own areas and became known as Little Armenia, German Town, Little Italy, and Chinatown. Each serving their respective residents, except Chinatown, which was mainly inhabited by Japanese immigrants.
The latter part of the 20th century continued steady growth, expansion of the city and the surrounding farmland. Agriculture remained the predominant industry in the city, as it is today. The combination of extended periods of sunshine, healthy rainfall and the benefits of being in a valley makes for strong healthy crop yields.
One notable event for Fresno was when Bank of America launched a new product in the city called BankAmericard. This new product was the first credit card and was eventually spun off into its own company and called Visa.
The history of Fresno is built around the land and hard work. We all benefit from the efforts of our forebears, and we are no different.