LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER
The Last Residents
Eugene G. Davis, a son of William H. Davis and grandson of Dr. T. O. Ellis of whom I have written before, leased the Fort Miller Ranch in 1908. He married Mattie Kelsey, a teacher at the old Letcher School. They planted about 30 acres of grain and ran stock on the Ranch until about 1918 or 1919. The fort buildings were still standing and they used them as dwellings and out-buildings. Nearly all were still in good condition. Gene Davis' son, Kelsey and his wife, Marie live in Fresno at this time, both descendants of early county pioneers.
Charlie Green was the last lessee and then the land was sold to the government. In 1944, the historic spot was covered with the water of the San Joaquin River and is now Lake Millerton.
A Few More Reminiscences
Many of the events in the story occurred over a hundred years ago. The next time you have an opportunity to go boating on Lake Millerton, add these memories to your mental picture when you ride over the spot where Fort Miller once stood.
The river current flows closer to the Madera County side of the lake and there stood the fort, the site selected for its convenience to the trees needed to build it and so close to the river that it was never deemed necessary to dig wells for the inhabitants of the fort. Water wagons lumbered many times a day down to the river to supply sweet cold mountain water for the men and the flowers planted in the terrace in front of the hospital. Pack trains passed slowly carrying supplies to the upriver mines. A blue-clad guard is watching the sobering fellow soldier carrying a huge sack of sand back and forth until he has sweated out the liquor he had imbibed at the "deadfall" upstream or in the saloons of Millerton. A great hole was being dug out by another guarded man and he knew that he would have to refill the hole before he would work out the punishment he had received. Ox-drawn freight wagons came slowly up the military road and brought new replacements and supplies from Benicia on the shores of San Francisco Bay. Distant shots could be heard as the men practiced their marksmanship at the rifle range against the hillside southeast of the fort; and when the fort was not occupied by the military, the sounds of children at play echoed from the buildings and the stone and adobe walls.
Now, there is nothing left to show that this place ever existed. It is as much a part of the past as were the grizzly bears that once fished for salmon on the bank of the river near Fort Miller.
Pioneer Cemeteries of Millerton, Fort Miller, and Fresno
The historian and genealogist find nothing morbid in a pioneer cemetery. Walking through and reading the names and data on the monuments in our pioneers' resting places is comparable to searching a census record or an index of pioneers in a library or archive. To a searcher who is familiar with the history of an area, it is an excellent source of information. The vital statistics may not be found anywhere else. Sometimes, there are cemeteries that no longer exist, nor does a record of the people buried there. The sites may have been plowed up by unfeeling neighbors or caretakers; or, as is the case of one of Fresno County's earliest cemeteries, it may have been destroyed by natural causes.
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