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Ask Me: KKG sorority's first house was on Fulton Street in Fresno

Question: I'm helping my daughter-in-law research the history of Kappa Kappa Gamma's local chapter for its 60th anniversary. Where was the first chapter house located?

-- Kathi Gulley, Riverdale

Answer: The first house occupied by Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority's local Delta Gamma chapter was at 269 N. Fulton St. at the southwest corner with Mildreda Avenue. The house was not far from Fresno State College, located on what is now the Fresno City College campus.

The two-story Craftsman-type house, which is no longer standing, had a porch extension in the front. The second story extended above the porch. In a 1957 photo a key-shaped sign can be seen hanging from the porch.

A Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map shows the Burnett Sanitarium, an early Fresno hospital, just north of the house. Fresno city directories first list the sorority house at that address in 1957, noting that Julia H. Hays was the sorority's housemother.

City directories show the house was vacant in 1955-56. The Sanborn maps and city directories do not list an earlier location for the Delta Kappa sorority, forerunner of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

The sorority began in 1917 when six women students formed Da Kappo as an off-campus club, an undated Fresno Bee story said. The club changed its name to Delta Kappa in 1918 when it was recognized by the college as an official Greek letter organization, making it the college's oldest sorority.

A 1954 Fresno Bee story says Fresno State's Delta Kappa sorority was granted a chapter in the national Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority that June. The sorority's Delta Omega chapter was formed in the fall.

An undated Fresno Bee story about the opening of the new national chapter in fall 1957 said Kappa Kappa Gamma projects included "raising funds to furnish eye glasses for needy children in the Fresno schools."

"Social activities of the active chapter include the White Christmas formal and a Mother's Day tea," the story noted.

Q: On the east side of Highway 99 north of Earlimart I've seen a "Welcome to Freemanville" sign. Was there a town called Freemanville at one time?

-- Jim Sherman, Fresno

A: The hamlet of Freemanville, also known as Teviston, is about two miles south of Pixley, north of Earlimart.

Fresno Bee columnist Woody Laughnan told the story of the area in 1974. At the time about 40 people lived there in "simple wood-frame houses and shanties," he said. There were dirt streets, an old water tower and the closed Freemanville Grocery.

Teviston originally was an all-black settlement started by James F. and Otie Freeman in the 1930s, Laughnan said. In about 1940 -- another source says 1938 -- the Freemans bought 10 acres of land there for $1,500 and the settlement became known popularly as Freemanville.

"The first year we lived in a tent," Otie Freeman told Laughnan in 1974. "I cooked and washed clothes outside in a tub. We used a eucalyptus stump as a table which I had put a tablecloth over."

James Freeman, who was a preacher and labor contractor, made several trips to Oklahoma and other Midwest states to bring black families to Teviston to work in the Valley's fertile fields. "They lived in tents under eucalyptus trees like us," Otie Freeman said.

She recalled how residents hauled water in barrels from Pixley until "Preacher Freeman got the well down and the tank house built," Laughnan wrote.

Otie Freeman ran the grocery store and her husband held revival meetings and Sunday services in Freemanville and up and down the Valley.

James Freeman died in 1950. Otie Freeman, 82 years old when Laughnan interviewed her, died in 1975.

The 2010 U.S. Census recorded a racially diverse population of about 1,200 people living in Teviston.

Q: What is the history of the brick house at 1622 Clinton Ave.? Was it built with Craycroft Brick Co. bricks?

-- Steve Cleary, Fresno


The house was built in 1950 by Oran B. Hawkins, whose family ran a nearby grocery and feed store for many years.

Hawkins' father, George B. Hawkins, bought a store called the Two Mile House -- named for its location two miles from downtown Fresno -- near what is now Blackstone and McKinley avenues in 1911, according to a 1951 Fresno Bee story.

In 1915 George Hawkins "moved the store back and built a new structure in its place," the story said. He used the old building to store the grain and feed he sold and ran the grocery store in the new building.

Hawkins died in 1921 and his son, Oran K. Hawkins, took over the family business. It was still in operation in 1951, the year the buildings were slated to be torn down to make room for the widening of Blackstone.

"In a few months all that will be left of the buildings will be salvaged bricks and used lumber," the story said. Oran Hawkins moved the business to Blackstone and Clinton avenues. He died in 1968.

The Craycroft Brick Co. was founded in 1887, so the company could have supplied the bricks for Hawkins' store, but no record of that was found. Bricks from the store could not have been used in Oran Hawkins' house, which was constructed a year before the store was demolished.