LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER

by

June English



 
HOME

FRESNO COUNTY

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James McKenzie and Hugh Carroll had their wives and children in quarters of their own. Life was generally good for the enlisted men because for the most part they had competent officers. The men were not the usual bored and angry soldiers found on the frontier.


The officers had their own mess and their quarters were comfortable with furniture brought by boat from the Bay area. Special foods, imported wines and easy duty made life agreeable for all.


Even the guardhouse was commodious by other standards. Until Colonel Burrough built his infamous jail in Millerton in 1857, the guardhouse held civilian prisoners as there was no other place to keep them. After the final evacuation and the sale of the fort buildings in 1866, the guardhouse was sold to Jefferson M. Shannon, who moved it to a spot halfway between the fort and Millerton and he may have used it as a butcher shop for his hogs. His best customers were the Chinese who by that time had been forced out of Millerton. W. W. Hill, a county official, lived there with his family until his death on February 3, 1874. Later it was destroyed by fire, perhaps in 1877 when the Chinese houses burned.


The army withdrew from Fort Miller on September 10, 1856, the same year that Fresno became a county. Theodore C. Stallo, county officer, confectioner, keeper of a house of ill fame and seller of alcohol to the Indians was placed in charge of the federal reservation. After serving his term as County Surveyor, he took up residence in the Commissary in 1859.


1856 to 1874

Whether with Stallo's permission or not, families and businessmen began to move into the various buildings. Shelterless newcomers took refuge until land was taken up and cabins were built. Sargeant James McKenzie and his family lived there until his discharge in 1859 and soon they moved to the ranch above the fort.


George Greierson opened a store at the fort in 1856. He may have been there sooner, but the county business license records begin in 1856. He was there but one year. After his business in Millerton was destroyed in the flood of 1867, he and his family returned to Denmark.


In 1859 E. C. and Laura Alsip Winchell moved into the large adobe house in the fort and a short time later to the hospital on the bench of land above the fort. In this home their second son, Ledyard Frink Winchell was born on November 30, 1859. And here, in the dining room of the Winchell home in the fort hospital was held the first public school in county history. The teacher was young Rebecca M. Baley, daughter of Judge Gillum and Permelia Baley, newly arrived from Missouri. She received 75 dollars a month for a three-month period. School opened on Monday, March 19, 1860. The pupils were John C. Hoxie, Sewall F. Hoxie, Ellen Baley, Charles Baley, John Parker, Mary Parker, Jane Richards, Allen Stroud, Arza Stroud, Nevada Clark and brother (1860 Census - Nevada and Stephen Brown living in home of Lewlett and Mary Clark) and Lilibourne A. Winchell, elder son of Judge and Mrs. Winchell who became one of Fresno County's foremost historians. The Baley family were at this time residents of the fort until their move to Bailey Flat in what is now Madera County in 1861.


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