Question: When I flew over Table Mountain over 20 years ago it looked like an ancient lava flow. A few years later when I climbed Pin Cushion Mountain with my two daughters we found volcanic material at the top. What is the history of Table Mountain? Was there an ancient volcano nearby?
— Woodrow Nichols, Fresno
Answer: Table Mountain is indeed an ancient lava flow “about 10 million years old,” according to John Wakabayashi, associate professor of geology at California State University, Fresno.
The creation of Table Mountain began when lava from a volcano far to the east filled the ancestral San Joaquin River canyon, he said. After the Sierra Nevada range was pushed up, soil erosion left the ancient, flat lava bed higher than the surrounding area.
“It’s inverted topography,” Wakabayashi said.
An article in the December 2012 newsletter of the Sierra Foothill Conservancy said the lava flow came from a volcano in Nevada.
“That’s likely, but it’s not confirmed. It was at least east of the Sierra Nevada,” maybe around Mono Lake or north and east of there, Wakabayashi said.
Little Table Mountain near Madera is not part of the same lava flow that formed Table Mountain, geologists agree. Other more extensive table mountain formations exist in California near Sonora and Oroville.
Q: As a newcomer to Clovis, I’m interested in Owens Mountain Parkway. Is there an Owens Mountain and if so, where is it located?
— S.J. Davidian, Clovis
A: Owens Mountain, east of Clovis, is named for pioneer ranchers Charles and Carrie Cole Owen, according to late historian and author Catherine M. Rehart.
Owens Mountain Parkway was named by the Clovis City Council on June 4, 2012. The street runs parallel to Highway 168 between Temperance and DeWolf avenues.
Charles Owen’s father, George W. Owen, was born in Cincinnati in the first half of the 1800s and farmed in Ohio, Illinois and Nebraska before coming to California with his wife, Eleanor, and their seven children in 1862. He farmed in Northern California until 1876, when he bought land near the Fresno County foothills and raised cattle. He died in 1880.
Charles Owen married Carrie Cole, sister of Clovis Cole, for whom the city of Clovis is named. The couple grew wheat and raised racehorses. His brother, Richard Owen, was an expert in racehorses and the two became partners, raising livestock and thoroughbreds.
Charles Owen’s ranch at Minnewawa and Nees avenues included a racetrack. According to Rehart, one of Owen’s racehorses, Flush of Gold, set the world’s record in the mile two years in a row.
Charles and Carrie Owen retired in 1902 and bought an ornate Queen Anne-style house at 2631 E. Washington Ave. in Fresno. He was killed in a train crash on Dec. 20, 1902, less than a year after they moved in. “Tragically, he was returning from a business trip to San Francisco to attend the Christmas wedding of his daughter,” Rehart wrote.
Today the Owens’ former home is on Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources.
Q: My grandfather Edward R. Casner Sr. owned Casner Drug stores in a couple of different locations on Fulton Street. It seems to me that there were tunnels connecting basements of the buildings along Fulton. Am I mistaken?
— Dianne Hanzlicek, Fresno
A: There seems to be no evidence of tunnels under Fulton Street businesses, although some tunnels did exist in the downtown area.
“If there are tunnels connecting Fulton Street buildings, that is news to me,” said Karana Hattersley-Drayton, historic preservation project manager for the city of Fresno.
But there is evidence of other tunnels in downtown.
“I understand that there is a tunnel connecting Black’s to the old Gottschalks, in order to move merchandise,” Hattersley-Drayton said. The tunnel was under Inyo Street between the department store and Black’s Market, which housed Gottschalks’ interior design department.
“There was a small utility corridor underneath Tulare Street that connected Pacific Seeded Raisin Co. to one of its many other buildings,” Hattersley-Drayton said. “I have been told that there was, or is, a tunnel under P Street south of City Hall that connected a meat-packing building on the east side to one across the street, long gone now.”
And there are the legendary tunnels and connected basements under Chinatown south of the downtown area.
Casner owned four drug stores downtown, the first from 1906 to 1948 at Van Ness Avenue and Mariposa Street. The other stores were on the southwest corner of Fulton and Fresno streets from 1918 to 1928, Fulton and Merced streets from 1928 to 1938 and on the northwest corner of Fulton and Fresno — known as “Casner Corner” — from 1938 to 1965. By 1967 there were Casner Drug stores at Shaw and Blackstone, Shaw and Clovis and Cedar and Shields avenues.
More about: In the Feb. 22 column, a historical source supplied incorrect information about when the Clovis Sanitorium closed. It closed in 1960, not 1959.