ASK ME: Thomas Avenue home not Dr. Rowell's Fresno abode

FresnoJuly 27, 2013 

This home at 224 E. Thomas Ave in Fresno was rumored to be the residence of Dr. Chester Rowell, but apparently never was. It was built in 1911 fro Elliot W. Lindsay, superintendent of schools.

JOHN WALKER — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

Question: My grandmother lived across the street from 224 E. Thomas Ave., which was said to have once been the home of Dr. Chester Rowell. Is this true?

— John English, Fresno


Dr. Chester Rowell apparently never lived on Thomas Avenue. According to Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. maps, the house at 224 E. Thomas was built in 1911 for Elliot W. Lindsay, Fresno County superintendent of schools from 1907-19.

According to "Vintage Fresno" by Edwin M. Eaton, Rowell lived at K (later Van Ness) and Tulare streets at least from 1881. The Eaton family lived next door.

Rowell apparently moved to 1238 O St. in 1912 when construction of the Rowell-Chandler Building began on the site of his home. Rowell died in April of that year and his namesake office building was completed in 1913.

Rowell was Fresno's second doctor. He also founded The Fresno Morning Republican newspaper in 1876, served three terms as a state senator and was a regent of the University of California. He was mayor of Fresno when he died.

His nephew and namesake, Chester H. Rowell, apparently also never lived on Thomas Avenue. Editor of The Republican, Rowell lived with his uncle for a time in the late 1880s — the home was across the street from the newspaper office — but was living at 269 Forthcamp Ave. the year his uncle died. Forthcamp was renamed Fulton Street.

Question: Firebaugh, which marks its centennial in 2014, has a newspaper, the Firebaugh-Mendota Journal, but did the town have any other newspapers in its history?

— Sandy B. Duke, Firebaugh


Several newspapers have been published in Firebaugh's more recent history. According to "Fresno County in the 20th Century," the earliest newspaper in the area was the Mendota Bulletin, which opened and closed in 1940.

The Firebaugh Post published briefly before World War II. After the war, several other newspapers had short runs. The Firebaugh News and The Firebaugh Journal both began in 1947; The News lasted until 1953. The Firebaugh Bulletin started in 1948 but closed the next year.

The West Side Shopping Guide and Firebaugh-Mendota Shopper both started in 1984.

Also that year, the Firebaugh Journal expanded to cover the Mendota area, becoming the Firebaugh-Mendota Journal, said Mark Kilen, editor of Kerwest Newspapers. Kilen said he doesn't know of any papers publishing in the Firebaugh area before 1940.

According to volume three of Catherine M. Rehart's "Legends and Legacies," Firebaugh is named for Andrew Firebaugh, who opened a trading post and ferry service across the San Joaquin River in the 1850s.

In 1856, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved Firebaugh's request to build a toll road over the mountains to the coast. The road roughly followed the trail Yokut Indians used when crossing a pass to trade with coastal Ohlone Indians, meeting at a spot near where Casa de Fruta stands today. Firebaugh named the pass after Francisco Pacheco, whose family owned a vast ranch that included the pass.

Question: I've seen orange fences around many trees in a construction zone on Highway 99, and have seen similar fences at other road constructions areas for years. Why are they there?

— Larry Meacham, Fresno


Orange netting-style fencing has been used as a safety barrier at construction sites for more than 20 years, according to one industry source. The fencing also is used at ski resorts and other locations.

Caltrans spokeswoman Tami Conrado said the orange fencing is often used at its road work sites.

"During this time of year it is very common and primarily found around the base of trees on our projects. These trees contain nests of birds that are environmentally protected," she said.

At the Highway 99 project, the fencing protects trees that hold nests of the Swainson's hawk, which is a threatened species in California, Conrado said.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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