Ask Me

Hayes brothers’ history woven into Madera cotton industry

The Hayes Ranch made headlines in the Madera Tribune.
The Hayes Ranch made headlines in the Madera Tribune.

Q: I’m looking for information about the Hayes brothers’ ranch. This is where my grandparents lived and worked when they arrived in the Central Valley and settled in Madera County.

Craig Serrano, Madera

A: Ben H. Hayes and his younger brother Eugene were cotton growers in Madera County in the early to mid-1900s who played important roles in local and statewide agriculture.

The brothers were born in Monrovia in Los Angeles County, Ben in 1890 and Eugene in 1895. Ben Hayes came to Madera County in 1912. Seven years later Ben and Eugene, along with their brothers Frank and Edward, became partners in the cotton-growing venture.

Ben and Eugene farmed in the Ripperdan area, according to Madera Tribune stories in the late 1930s and early 1940s. They became prominent cotton growers and also grew grapes, almonds and other crops.

Ben Hayes served on several agricultural commissions. He was president of the Agriculture Labor Bureau at the time of his death and was past president of Calcot, the California Cotton Council and the Madera Co-op Gin. The hall at the Madera County Farm Bureau is named for him.

Ben Hayes served in the Army Air Corps during World War I. He died in 1960 at the age of 70. His address was listed as 6239 Road 30½ in the Ripperdan area.

Eugene Hayes was a graduate of Stanford University and was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I. He helped to start the agriculture department at Fresno State and served on the department’s advisory council for many years.

He was a delegate to the National Cotton Council and was chairman of the cotton department of the California Farm Bureau for 19 years. He also served on the Western Cotton Growers board and with the California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors.

More about – After an answer was published on April 22 about a Fresno house built partially underground by local architect Gene Zellmer and his wife, Barbara, the home’s current owner John Nelson of Clovis wrote to update its history.

Nelson said his son, Dale Nelson, once lived down the block from the house northeast of Fresno State. John Nelson noticed the house for sale on a website and bought it in 2010.

“I wasn’t impressed, but my son liked it, so I wanted to buy it,” he said, recounting their conversation: “My son said, ‘It’s unique.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s unique – it’s weird.’”

Windows along the sides of the original first story, built in 1966, had been taken out at some point, Nelson said. He did some repairs to the kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms upstairs, added by the Zellmers in 1974. There is a bathroom and kitchen downstairs in the original house. Dale Nelson lives downstairs and rents out the upstairs unit.

When the house was built, its underground construction kept the first story cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which is still the home’s best quality, John Nelson said.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions 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.