Ask Me

How did an old-style key marking county’s centennial wind up on the coast?

Rich and Tracy Smith with their Fresno County centennial key. Rich found it at a flea market in Santa Cruz, cast with Fresno County 1856 1956.
Rich and Tracy Smith with their Fresno County centennial key. Rich found it at a flea market in Santa Cruz, cast with Fresno County 1856 1956.

Q: At a flea market in Santa Cruz, my wife and I came across a large brass key with the inscription “Fresno County 1856-1956.” It appears a bottom piece is missing, but we were intrigued and bought it for $5. We assume it was ceremonial or used as a presentation piece. What is its history?

Rich Smith, Clovis

A: From the inscription on the key it would appear that it is connected to Fresno County’s centennial celebration in 1956, but that has been difficult to verify.

The 1956 centennial celebration was held from April 19 to April 22. The highlight was the dedication of the restored courthouse at Millerton, the county’s original seat. The courthouse was moved to high ground with the construction of Friant Dam. A re-enactment of a Pony Express ride from Fresno to Friant was held.

The other main event was a massive parade through downtown Fresno with cowboy actor William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame as grand marshal.

Other events included the coronation of Miss Century of Progress, Helen Zorrilla of Selma, and the county’s Pioneer Queen, Sade Elizabeth Smith of Fresno.

The four-day celebration also included an open house and tea at the Kearney Mansion, judging the “whiskerino” contest to see which men had grown the best beards, a women’s costume and hat contest, a “panoramic pageant” about Fresno County history, hayrides, dances, concerts, baseball games, a rose show and a motorboat regatta on Millerton Lake.

In 2014, Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas presented a ceremonial Key to the County to the Waterford Foundation, one of the local charities founded by Fresno’s Assemi family, owners of Granville Homes. But Borgeas has no information about other previous key presentations, said Sandra Seely, his chief of staff.

So, readers, if you have any information or recollections about this centennial key, please share them.

Q: I know there is a Fresno, Texas, and I wonder if other areas have the Fresno moniker.

Ray F. Ensher, Fresno

A: In addition to our fair city, there are at least four other places named Fresno in the United States.

Fresno, Texas, the largest “other” Fresno, is located on Farm Road 521 south of Houston, according to the Handbook of Texas.

The town was named by a settler from our city in the early 1800s. The town had a post office by 1910 and by 1914 had a telephone connection, a general store and a hardware store, the handbook says. The population was 32.

The population had fallen to 10 by 1933 and there was only one business. But within three years there was a paved highway through the town, with three rows of homes on either side, and a railroad connection.

By 1946, there were 100 people living in Fresno, Texas, and the population level stayed about the same through the 1960s. The town grew during the 1970s and 1980s, fueled by the growth of Houston. By 2010 the population was just over 19,000.

Fresno, Ohio, is a population area that recorded a population of 140 in the 2010 census. It is in Coshocton County on State Route 93 between West Lafayette and Baltic, Ohio.

While the town is unincorporated, it has a post office and its own zip code – 43824. There is also a gas station and a carry-out restaurant. One photo shows “the former” two-story elementary school.

Ohio’s Fresno was originally named Jacktown, but residents later voted to rename it Avondale. A post office was opened in 1875. The town was renamed Fresno in 1905.

Fresno, Arkansas, is listed as a township of Cane Creek southeast of Pine Bluff, but the U.S. Census Bureau has no population figures for the rural area that consists of a few buildings at an intersection.

The Fresno Dam is on the Milk River, 14 miles west of Havre, Montana. The dam was completed in 1939 to provide irrigation water and flood control, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Fresno Reservoir behind the dam is a boating and fishing recreation area with tent and trailer camping and a boat launch.

There are several other cities named Fresno around the world: six in Mexico, two in Spain and one in Colombia.

More about: After a question about local mini-marts was published on Oct. 22, John Miller of Fresno wrote to share his memories of another location.

“My family lived west of Fresno and Gettysburg all through the 1960s,” Miller wrote. “There was a drive-through mart on Gettysburg east of Blackstone during that time. It was across from the old Fresno Ag (Hardware) store.

“If I remember correctly, it had a circular driveway and a big fiberglass cow in front, like the one out on Belmont east of town,” Miller said. “I only remember it being called the Co-op. I think it had dairy items, juice and stuff, but also candy and gum, which was my main interest as a kid.”

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays 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.