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Ask Me: Irwin Addicott had illustrious education career

Irwin O. Addicott
Irwin O. Addicott

I am the principal at Irwin O. Addicott Elementary School and I was wondering if you could provide us with some background on our school’s namesake.

Katrina Pleshe, Fresno

A: According to a biography of Irwin O. Addicott apparently provided by his wife, Astrid, when he died, Addicott was a “well-known California educator” and vice president emeritus of Fresno State.

Social Security death records show that Addicott was born in 1899. He was 89 when he died on Oct. 29, 1988.

Addicott graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1922. He received two advanced degrees from Pacific School of Religion and a doctorate in education from Stanford University.

Addicott was principal at several Fresno elementary schools between 1928 and 1939. During that time he also served as director of curriculum and instruction for the Fresno school district.

He joined the University of Denver faculty in 1939 and returned to the Fresno school district in 1944. He was appointed associate superintendent of the district in 1948.

He joined the staff of then-Fresno State College as a professor of education in 1950, when the college was still located on the current Fresno City College campus. Addicott became the vice president of the college in 1958 while it was transitioning to its new campus at Shaw and Cedar avenues. He returned to full-time teaching in 1964 and retired two years later.

In addition to Fresno State, Addicott taught at Stanford, UC Berkeley, the University of Texas, Mills College and Western Washington State College. He also authored several publications on education.

Addicott was a member of First Congregational Church in Fresno, where he served as a lay minister. He belonged to several professional and community groups, including the Fresno Downtown Lions Club.

Addicott School was named for him in 1972. He later compiled a history of how Fresno schools were named, including many for local pioneers. In 1980, Addicott told The Bee, “The past is the foundation of the present. If it hadn’t been for these people giving of themselves, our school district wouldn’t be what it is today.”

But Addicott was self-deprecating about a school having been named in his honor. “They just ran out of names,” he said. “They were very generous.”

We live on Normal Avenue across from Fresno City College and have been told that our house was once owned by a man named Moyers who operated a local stage line. Can you tell us about Mr. Moyers and his stage line?

Gunnar and Cheryl Jensen, Fresno

A: Thurman Devine Moyers was born in Goin, Tenn. in about 1893 and came to the San Joaquin Valley in 1913. He settled in Dinuba and started Moyers Stage Line about two years later.

“I had an old Model T and started a jitney service in Sanger,” Moyers told The Bee in 1955 when he retired. “For several months I carried passengers between there and Fresno and anyplace else they wanted to go. Made money at it, too.”

Jitney was slang for a nickel, and bus routes that charged a nickel fare became known as jitneys.

The book “Fresno County in the 20th Century” calls Moyers Stage Line the largest and longest-running stage line in Fresno.

The Bee story said that at one time Moyers served most of the Valley and part of the coast. Between 1915 and 1939, Moyers drove about 250 miles a day, seven days a week.

In 1917 Moyers bought out the Clovis Line and later expanded his routes to include Firebaugh, Mendota, Los Banos, Tracy and Gilroy.

According to The Bee, Moyers later “purchased a line which ran from Fresno to Bass Lake by way of the old Central Camp, then the booming, bustling headquarters of the Sugar Pine Lumber Co.” The line was abandoned in 1936.

“Moyers said he could see (World War II) coming on,” The Bee said, “so he made application to the Public Utilities Commission for a bus franchise between Fresno and Clovis by way of Hammer Field and got it.”

At the height of his career, Moyers operated 42 buses. When he retired in June 1955, Moyers transferred his business to son Baysel Moyers of Fresno. Moyers and his wife, Gilma, also had two daughters.

He and his wife were living in the home you now own when he retired at age 62. “From here on out I’m going to do some plain and fancy resting,” Moyers said.

I’ve been doing some family tree research for my wife, whose father Firman Church died in 1968. His great-grandfather, also named Firman Church, died in 1899 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery. I found several other Church names buried there, including Moses Church, and was wondering if there is any connection between Moses Church and the elder Firman Church?

Michael Pope, Fresno

A: It’s not surprising that you saw many Church surnames in Mountain View Cemetery, since Fresno pioneer Moses Joshua Church donated 80 acres for the cemetery in 1885. He was buried there when he died in 1900.

The elder Firman Church of your family was born in Illinois in 1825. He was a practicing attorney in Chicago and in Indiana, where he served in the state Legislature before coming to Los Angeles in 1885. He moved to Fresno, where he served as district attorney for four years. During two of those years he also was chairman of Fresno’s city trustees, the equivalent to being mayor.

A connection between the two families is uncertain, although they did have some things in common. Firman Church and Moses Church, who was born in New York in 1819, were close in age and both moved to Fresno between 1870 and 1885. Some sources suggest that Firman Church might have been from New York instead of Illinois.

That’s as far as local records go. To investigate further it would be necessary to discover the names of their fathers to trace the family lineage.

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.