Q: What are the pipes sticking up at the corner of Van Ness Boulevard and Brown Avenue?
Dennis Hart, Fresno
A: According to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Denny Boyles, the pipes are among several “vent pipes for a gas service vault located underground” in Fresno and two other Valley cities.
“We did upgrades to our system to enable us to monitor our lines remotely and in real time,” he said. “The vent pipes are a designed safety measure for the vaults to prohibit natural gas from accumulating in the vaults in the unlikely event of a leak or unplanned release.” The upgrades were done within the past two years.
There are 10 more vent pipes either already installed or scheduled to be installed this year, according to Boyles. Of those, seven are in Fresno, two in Selma and one in Fowler.
Q: There appears to be a small cemetery with a mausoleum on Glendale Avenue near Highway 41 just north of Lemoore. I pass by it frequently. Can you find out its history?
Chris McCullough, Madera
A: The small cemetery with an imposing mausoleum near Lemoore was established in the late 1800s by the Daniel Rhoads family, who were Kings County pioneers.
The cemetery is about a quarter-mile from the famous El Adobe de los Robles Ranchos (House of the Oaks Ranch) built by Rhoads for his family in about 1856. The house “is recognized as the second-oldest building in the Central Valley,” according to Fresno Bee photographer John Walker, who wrote about the adobe in a 2012 Historical Perspectives column.
During his life Rhoads was a gold miner, cattleman, rancher and banker. He also was one of the first rescuers to reach the ill-fated Donner Party, settlers whose wagon train became stranded in the snowy Sierra. During the Rhoads family’s five-month trip by wagon train to California in 1846, they were invited to join the Donner party but declined, a decision that likely saved their lives. Nearly half of the Donner party died.
A Kings County pioneer buried in family plot near Lemoore was one of the first rescuers to reach stranded Donner Party
Rhoads had a cattle ranch near Gilroy by the mid-1850s, but due to a drought “he drove his stock over Pacheco Pass and acquired ‘swamp and overflow’ lands near the Kings River,” according to one family history. In 1857, Rhoads’ brother-in-law Justin Esrey, who also was raising cattle in the area, wrote home to the family in Missouri, “There is scarcely any settlement here but a great deal of stock. It is good grass country and well adapted to raising stock and fit for nothing else.”
According to Rhoads family letters, Rhoads’ wife, Amanda, and their children stayed on the Gilroy-area ranch while the adobe was being built so the children could attend school, known as the Rhoads School. Amanda Rhoads and the children moved into their new home in 1860.
One Rhoads family history, in describing construction of the house, says, “A cemetery was started, near the adobe.” The account doesn’t give the year the cemetery was begun, but it could have been between 1856 and 1860. However, another historical source says the cemetery was established in 1882 when the Rhoadses’ daughter, Sarah Rhoads Phillips, died at age 35. She was the first person buried in the family plot. Six more family members were buried there over the next 10 years, the history notes.
Daniel and Amanda Rhoads moved to San Francisco for his health, and he took a job at a bank. He died in San Francisco in 1895. He and Amanda, who died in 1906, are buried in the mausoleum.
Today there are about 21 graves in the family cemetery and mausoleum, including Daniel’s brother William B. Rhoads (1898), his sister Mary Elizabeth Rhoads Pierce (1899) and Amanda’s brother Justin Esrey (1900). One family history says there also could be other unmarked graves in the family plot.
The Rhoads cemetery was restored by the Lower Kings River Historical Society in 2002 and is now under the management of the Lemoore Cemetery District.
Another family plot on Glendale Avenue near Lemoore is the Taylor Family Cemetery that contains 22 gravesites, including one headstone engraved with only “Grandma Hughes” with no dates of birth or death. The earliest burial was of Melisa J. Taylor, who was born in 1866 and died in 1903. This cemetery is also managed by the Lemoore Cemetery District.
More about: After the answer to a question about the Carriage House restaurant was published on April 8, Phil Garo of Fresno said his father, John Garo, once owned the property when the restaurant was Wilkie’s. Phil and his wife, Elaine, managed the restaurant when they were first married, but he doesn’t recall how long his father owned it. John Garo was an early-day Fresno cabinetmaker and contractor, according to his granddaughter, Kim Garo of Fresno.
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.