Question: Who made the sculptures at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo?
-- Karen Westerlund, Clovis
Answer: A list of all the sculptures at the Chaffee Zoo and the artists who made them is being compiled by the zoo staff, zoo spokeswoman Terri Mejorado said.
Author Jean Chaffee of Fresno, who was married to the zoo's first director, the late Dr. Paul Chaffee, provided information about some of the sculptures and artists.
Chaffee said her husband "always used local artists" to create art for the zoo. Several of the pieces were made by famed local artists Margaret Hudson, Stan Bitters and the late Clement Renzi.
Hudson made two three-piece sculptures of a rhinoceros and a hippopotamus that look like the animals are submerged in the ground. The statuary is the right height for children to sit and climb on, Chaffee said.
Among Bitters' work are a sculpture of snakes, a tortoise and a Komodo dragon in front of the reptile house and several clay pots placed around the zoo.
Among Renzi's work are a statue of a boy and girl and a large arch decorated with an elephant in relief.
A bronze statue of a baby elephant by artist Tom Tischler of Texas was unveiled in July 1993 at a birthday party for Nosey, the zoo's first elephant. Born in Thailand, Nosey was purchased in 1949 for $3,500 with money raised in a coin drive by Fresno schoolchildren. Nosey died in October 1993.
Chaffee, who has written seven children's books about the zoo's animals, commissioned three wooden benches for the zoo, carved by Roy Greggains to look like the hippo, lion and orangutan in her books.
Q: What is the history of the Harry Balfe Ranch? My father and an uncle worked on the ranch in the early 1940s.
-- Eddie Hernandez, Fresno
A: New York businessman Harry Balfe bought about 800 acres on Herndon Avenue near McCall Avenue east of Clovis from the Roeding family in 1919. Balfe retired in 1920 and by 1927, the ranch was "one of the showplaces of the county," according to The Bee.
In 1928, Balfe and his wife, May, hosted 40 guests at a "Wild West show," where "flanneled men took to the fence at the approach of snorting animals," a Bee story said.
In 1939, Balfe sold the ranch to "motion picture actor" Victor McLaglen for a price in excess of $250,000, according to news reports. By then, the ranch included a seven-room ranch house, five guest houses, an office, stables, a blacksmith shop, bunkhouse, foreman's cottage, a one-quarter-mile race track for Balfe's thoroughbred horses and a museum that housed Balfe's extensive collection of Indian, Western and military artifacts. Balfe had planted vineyards and thousands of peach, apricot, almond and orange trees.
Shortly after selling the ranch, the Balfes moved to La Jolla, where Balfe died in 1944 at age 82. May Balfe died in 1951 in New York. She was 82.
McLaglen sold the ranch to William Bizieff in 1950, who in turn sold it to J.G. Indart in 1953.
Q: Is Stone Corral -- site of the shootout between a posse and train robbers John Sontag and Chris Evans -- accessible to the public?
-- S.J. Davidian, Fresno
A: In the late 1800s, John Sontag and Chris Evans ran a livery stable in Modesto, but after it burned down they started robbing trains in Pixley, Goshen, Ceres, Kerman and Earlimart, according to "California Desperadoes" by Fresno author Bill Secrest Sr.
On June 11, 1893, a posse ambushed Sontag and Evans at Stone Corral east of Visalia. Evans was wounded but escaped. The next morning, the posse found Sontag badly wounded and barely alive. He was taken to Visalia, where he died on July 3.
Stone Corral is "at best tricky to spot," said self-described Tulare County history buff Terry Ommen. The corral built of natural rock at the base of Stokes Mountain northeast of Yettem dates from the early 1800s, Ommen said.
Ommen believes Stone Corral is located on private land. He hiked from a fire road and through orange groves to find the corral in about 2003, but said he has heard from other visitors since that access has been blocked.
Sontag is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Fresno.
After Evans escaped from Stone Corral, he was captured and convicted in November 1893 of killing a Texas Ranger and a sheriff the year before.
According to Secrest, while awaiting transfer to prison, Evans escaped from the Fresno County Jail, but was recaptured and taken to Folsom state prison to serve a life sentence. He was pardoned in 1911 and died in Portland, Ore., in 1917.