Ask Me

Abandoned cemetery south of Selma dates from 1870s

Shielded from the road by large oleander bushes, next to a vineyard, is the vaulted grave of George B. Otis, a founder of Selma, 1844-1916, and his wife, Elizabeth R. Otis, 1851-1920, and a stone marker for Albert J. Otis, 1872-1947, at the old overgrown Odd Fellows Cemetery in Selma, south of Mountain View Avenue, on the east side of Van Horn Avenue.
Shielded from the road by large oleander bushes, next to a vineyard, is the vaulted grave of George B. Otis, a founder of Selma, 1844-1916, and his wife, Elizabeth R. Otis, 1851-1920, and a stone marker for Albert J. Otis, 1872-1947, at the old overgrown Odd Fellows Cemetery in Selma, south of Mountain View Avenue, on the east side of Van Horn Avenue. jwalker@fresnobee.com

Q: I’m looking for any information on the demise of the Odd Fellows Cemetery south of Selma. The only markers there are for the family of a Selma founder. What happened to the rest?

Gary Alexander, Selma

A: The small abandoned burial ground on Van Horn Avenue south of Mountain View Avenue outside of Selma was begun in 1870 by the local chapter of the Woodmen of the World fraternal benefit society. In 1890 the cemetery was taken over by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternal order.

According to one source, George B. Otis (1844-1918), his wife Elizabeth R. Otis (1851-1920), their son, Albert J. Otis (1872-1947), and a Sydney E. Rosson, (1863-1893), are the only graves remaining at the small cemetery. It’s not clear when the last burial was held there.

Fragile and dusty record books kept by the Selma Cemetery District indicate that a new Odd Fellows cemetery was begun at Floral and Thompson avenues in Selma around 1900, the earliest date that burials were recorded there. The cemetery was later renamed West Selma Cemetery, located a block west of the main cemetery.

Some of the old cemetery records were discovered in a storage building when it was being torn down, according to Sandi Miller, general manager of the district. The record books are difficult to decipher because of their condition. Some of the handwritten entries are badly faded.

The Selma Cemetery District was founded in 1926. At some point before that year most of the bodies were moved from the original Odd Fellows cemetery, Miller said, although it’s not clear how many other burials were conducted at the original Odd Fellows cemetery or exactly when the bodies were moved.

Miller noted that Albert Otis died in 1947, long after the small cemetery is believed to have been abandoned. His parents’ headstone is a large slab bearing both their names, but Albert Otis’ marker is mounted on a large rock that rests beside the slab. In addition to his name and dates, the marker says “I come.”

A 1919 biography of George Buell Otis by local historian and author Paul Vandor says Otis was born in Vermont and came to California with his parents and siblings in 1856. He came to Fresno County in 1876.

Otis and three other pioneers – E.J. Whitson, Monroe Snyder and E.H. Tucker – laid out the original portion of Selma. Otis was a farmer, raisin packer and real estate agent and was instrumental in founding the Selma Union High School District and the Selma Carnegie Library.

Vandor notes that the Selma IOOF chapter conducted a short service for Otis at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Q: What is the history of the Pierre restaurant? I remember their hamburgers as a kid.

Toni A. Carmona, Fresno

A: Pierre’s Drive In at 3232 N. West Ave. at Shields Avenue, was owned by Edmond J. Raiche. Before opening the restaurant in 1959, Raiche was a salesman for Borden’s Ice Cream Co.

The Polk city directories spell the restaurant as Pierre’s Drive In, but Fresno city directories list the name as Pierre’s Drive Inn.

In 1973, Bee columnist Woody Laughnan said of Pierre’s: “Want to go French with your hamburger? Pierre’s French Burger on North West Avenue offers one. It is on a locally-baked French roll. What makes it French? Well, according to Pierre, the secret is in the dressing. And he says the ingredients in the dressing are secret.”

In 1976 Pierre’s moved to 4793 E. McKinley Ave. and is listed as Pierre’s French Burgers in the city directory, although Laughnan’s column seems to suggest an earlier name change.

Pierre’s was at the new location just one year. The Miyuki Teriyaki House took over the McKinley address in 1977.

Raiche died in 2010. Before going into the restaurant business he and his wife, Voline, who died in 1994, were professional skaters with the original Ice Capades show for 20 years. The couple settled in Fresno in the 1950s.

Q: Why are some streets in Fresno’s older parts – notably Wilson and Roosevelt avenues – made of concrete and not asphalt?

Dennis Hart, Clovis

A: The first street in the United States to be paved with concrete was Court Avenue in downtown Bellfontaine, Ohio, in 1893. Early concrete streets in Fresno appear to date from the early 1920s, according to Brian Russell, public works manager for the city of Fresno.

“There are a few locations in Fresno where concrete pavements were used for street construction,” Russell said. “Roosevelt from Belmont to McKinley, Wilson south of Olive, one block of Terrace from Palm to Harrison and Fresno Street north of Olive are a few that some may recognize.”

All of these locations are in older areas of Fresno, Russell said. “Roosevelt and Wilson run parallel one block apart, so the decision to use concrete may have been related.” City records show that Roosevelt was paved in 1922.

The material is referred to as Portland Cement Concrete, or PCC, but is no longer used on Fresno streets, Russell said. Cement pavements are more expensive and time-consuming to build but last longer and require less maintenance, he said. The material is better suited to wet and harsh climates.

“Asphalt, on the other hand, costs less, is faster to construct, is flexible and performs well in Fresno’s climate,” Russell said. But, he said, it needs ongoing maintenance and doesn’t last as long as concrete.

The first known use of asphalt was in Babylon in about 615 B.C. It was used in England in the 1700s and in the United States by the 1860s, according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association.

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

  Comments