Question: I grew up in Minkler and was always told that our home was what remained of the two-story boarding house for the stagecoach stop. There was an old wooden shop that was the blacksmith’s home and work space. Next to that was a huge oak tree that I was told was the second-tallest oak tree in California. The tree fell during a storm in the 1970s. Is there any truth to all this or is it just family lore?
— Kathy Hamlin, Clovis
Answer: It’s difficult to confirm the story about the oak tree, but there is information on the boarding house and blacksmith shop.
To begin with, Minkler was founded by Charles Ozro Minkler. A native of Iowa, Minkler came to California in the late 1870s. He was a pioneer rancher who raised cattle and horses and grew grain.
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In the early 1890s Minkler bought land along the Kings River and established a town. According to a 1996 Sanger Herald story, Minkler built a house, general store, saloon and blacksmith shop and leased the businesses to Bob Simpson of Reedley.
Minkler’s grandson, Charles Orville Minkler, said the tiny town at first took its name from saloon owner Simpson. “Thirsty lumbermen said, ‘Let’s go down to Bob’s place and have a few beers,’ ” he told the Herald. “Soon the town was called Bobtown until the coming of the railroad, in about 1908, when it was officially changed to Minkler.”
The Santa Fe Railway ran a branch line through Minkler for trains hauling freight, passengers and mail. The line was abandoned in the 1970s. The Minkler depot was moved to Annadale and Reed avenues, where it was converted into a house that later burned down.
Minkler’s great-grandson, Charles Dalton Minkler, said Charles Ozro Minkler also built a two-story, nine-room hotel that likely was the same building referred to as a boarding house. It had a saloon attached.
At some point the hotel and saloon were heavily damaged by fire and torn down. Undamaged lumber from the building was used to build a house on at least a portion of the original foundation, according to Charles D. Minkler and longtime resident Mary Novack.
Charles Ozro Minkler’s store was rebuilt in 1920 on the spot of the original store. The old-fashioned mercantile has had only four operators since: Minkler’s son, William Orville Minkler, Grace Russell, Sylvia Ashcraft and her daughter, Novack, who runs the store today.
Q: What is the history of the Manning Gardens Convalescent Hospital? Was it a school at one time?
— Carolyn Aldama, Clovis
A: The Manning Gardens Convalescent Hospital was founded in 1962 in the converted Bowles Elementary School at 2113 Manning Ave. near Cedar Avenue.
The facility was operated by Manning Gardens, Inc., headed by Jacob Kizirian, according to a Fresno Bee story. The former school was remodeled into a 31-bed hospital at a cost of about $100,000. A 29-bed addition was built for about $250,000 in 1964.
In 1972, the hospital opened a $353,000 expansion at Fresno and A streets, which increased the facility’s capacity to 80 beds. The expansion was funded with $35,300 from the Fresno West Development Co., a $100,000 Small Business Administration loan and a $217,700 loan from Security Pacific Bank, The Bee said.
The original Manning Gardens hospital is still in business today, with 59 beds for short- and long-term care, according to the facility’s website.
More about: After an answer to a question about Big Brothers-Big Sisters in Fresno was published on Sept. 27, Robert Trombetta of Fresno wrote to share more details about the local organization’s founding.
Key people involved in starting the local chapter were Norman “Bill” Booth, Carmen Eanni, John Shehady, Doug Calhoun and Jim Aldredge, Trombetta said.
“Our program was the second in the United States to become Big Brothers-Big Sisters,” he said. “The program now stretches from Madera to Bakersfield as Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Central California.”
The program has matched more than 10,000 adult volunteers with boys and girls needing mentors since its beginning, he said.
“Bill Booth and I started the first City-County All Star Basketball game as a benefit for Big Brothers-Big Sisters,” Trombetta said.