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Fresno County is a county located in the Central Valleymarker of the U.S. state of Californiamarker, south of Stocktonmarker and north of Bakersfieldmarker. As of 2008, it is the tenth most populous county in California with an estimated population of 931,098, and the sixth largest in size with an area of 6,017.4 square miles. The county seat is Fresnomarker. in 2009 Fresno was named the fifth largest city in California.


The area now known as Fresno County, once a semiarid steppe, was discovered by Spaniards during a search for suitable mission sites. In 1846, this area became the property of the United States as a result of the Mexican War.

Fresno County was formed in 1856 from parts of Mariposamarker, Mercedmarker and Tularemarker counties. Parts of Fresno County's territory were given to Mono Countymarker in 1861 and to Madera Countymarker in 1893. The original county seat was placed in Millerton.

The county is named after Fresno Creek. Fresno in Spanish signifies "ash tree" and it was due to the abundance of mountain ash or ash trees in the county that it received its name.

The settling of Fresno County was not without its conflicts, land disputes, and natural disasters. Floods caused immeasurable damage to the Millerton area so much so that the county seat was moved to Fresno and the little town never fully recovered. Fires also plagued the settlers of Fresno County. In 1882, the greatest of the early day fires wiped out an entire block of the city of Fresno, and was followed by another devastating blaze in 1883.

At the same time residents brought irrigation, electricity, and extensive agriculture to the area. Moses Church developed the first canals, called "Church Ditches," for irrigation. These canals transformed the barren desert of Fresno County into rich soil, thus enabling extensive wheat farming in Fresno County. Frances Eisen, leader of the wine industry in Fresno County, also began the raisin industry in 1875, when he accidentally let some of his grapes dry on the vine. A.Y. Easterby and Clovis Cole (aka the "Wheat King of the Nation") developed extensive grain and cattle ranches. These and other citizens laid the groundwork for the cultivation of Fresno County - now the nation's leading agricultural region.

The discovery of oil in the western part of the county, near the town of Coalingamarker at the foot of the Coast Ranges, brought about an economic boom in the first decade of the 20th century, even though the field itself was known at least as early as the 1860s. By 1910, Coalinga Oil Field, the largest field in Fresno County, was the most richly productive oil field in California; a dramatic oil gusher in 1909, the biggest in California up until that time, was an event of sufficient excitement to cause the Los Angeles Stock Exchange to close for a day so that its members could come by train to view it. The Coalinga field continues to produce oil, and is currently the eighth-largest field in the state.

To date, over thirty structures in Fresno County are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Fresno Water Tower, which once held over 250,000 US gallons (950 m³) of water for the city of Fresno, the Meux Home, and Kearney Mansion Museum.


Presidential elections results
Year GOP DEM Others
2008 48.2% 130,841 50.3% 136,490 2.0% 4,173
2004 57.4% 141,988 41.7% 103,154 0.9% 2,321
2000 53.1% 117,342 43.1% 95,059 3.8% 8,434
1996 47.4% 98,813 45.3% 94,448 7.3% 15,132
1992 40.7% 89,137 42.2% 92,418 17.2% 37,606
1988 49.9% 92,635 48.8% 94,835 1.3% 2,400
1984 54.3% 104,757 44.7% 86,315 1.0% 1,864
1980 51.1% 82,515 40.4% 65,254 8.4% 13,617
1976 48.1% 72,533 49.7% 74,958 2.2% 3,314
1972 50.4% 79,051 46.4% 72,682 3.2% 4,986
1968 43.6% 59,901 47.4% 65,153 9.0% 12,342
1964 34.3% 46,792 65.6% 89,375 0.1% 141
1960 44.3% 57,930 55.2% 72,164 0.5% 608
1956 43.3% 51,611 56.44% 67,234 0.2% 270
1952 48.95% 54,626 50.30% 56,135 0.8% 837

Fresno County is a Republican-leaning county, voting for President George W. Bush by over 55% of the vote in 2004, although it remains closer in Senatorial races and voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

The cities of Clovismarker, Coalingamarker, Kingsburgmarker, and Reedleymarker voted overwhelmingly for President George W. Bush. Fowlermarker, Fresnomarker, Kermanmarker, and Selmamarker did so by much lesser margins and remain GOP-leaning "swing" cities in the county. Huronmarker, Mendotamarker, Orange Covemarker, Parliermarker, and San Joaquinmarker voted overwhelmingly for Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Firebaughmarker and Sangermarker did so by smaller margins and compose the Democratic-leaning "swing" cities in the county.

According to the California Secretary of State, as of April, 2008, there are 350,369 registered voters in Fresno County. 140,507 (40.1%) are registered Democratic, 151,370 (43.2%) are registered Republican, 13,708 (3.9%) are registered with other political parties, and 44,784 (12.8%) declined to state a political party. Republicans have a plurality or majority of voter roll registration in the cities of Clovis, Coalinga, Kingsburg, Reedley, and the unincorporated areas. The other cities and towns have Democratic pluralities or majorities.

From Fresno County's inception in 1849 with the State of California, Fresno County was consistently and often strongly voting Democratic in every election up until the 1904 election in which President Theodore Roosevelt was elected. This marked the first time that Fresno County voted for a Republican Presidential Candidate. Fresno County accordingly backed incumbent President Roosevelt's re-election bid over his Democratic opponent William Jennings Bryan. However in the 1912 election which was a three way split between Theodore Roosevelt (who ran on a Progressive ticket), William Howard Taft (the Republican nominee) and Woodrow Wilson (the Democratic nominee, who would eventually go onto become elected President, Fresno County chose to closely elect Woodrow Wilson to the Presidency. Fresno County voted to re-elect President Woodrow Wilson for a second term in the 1916 Presidential Election.

Fresno County was generally Republican from the onset of the "roaring 1920s" until the Great Depression, when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt forged the New Deal Coalition that the agrarian county identified with. This led to a cycle of elections from 1932 till 1976 in which the county consistently voted Democratic, barring Richard Nixon's landslide victory over former Senator George McGovern (D-SD) in the 1972 Presidential Election.

Since former President Jimmy Carter's defeat by former President Reagan, Fresno became a GOP-leaning swing county which barely voted for Reagan's successor former President Bush and only voting Democratic for Bill Clinton in his 1992 presidential bid. Republicans have won elections in Fresno County by increasing margins since 1996, and widely view it and the rest of the Central Valley as one of their strongholds in largely Democratic California.

In the United States House of Representatives, parts of California's 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st congressional districts are in Fresno County. The 18th and 20th districts are held by conservative Democrats Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa respectively. The 19th and 21st districts are held by Republicans George Radanovich and Devin Nunes respectively.

In the State Assembly, parts of the 29th, 30th, and 31st districts are in Fresno County. The 29th district is held by Republican Michael Villines, while the 30th and 31st districts are held by Democrats Nicole Parra and Juan Arambula respectively. In the State Senate, parts of the 14th and 16th districts are in Fresno County. The 14th district is held by Republican Dave Cogdill and the 16th district is held by Democrat Dean Florez.

Fresno tends to remain socially conservative while being more moderate on economic issues, which can be seen in Fresno's support for socially conservative proposition amendments but occasionally voting for a Democratic Presidential Candidate if economic times are poor such as former President Bill Clinton's victory over incumbent former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and President Barack Obama over Senator John McCain in 2008.

On Nov. 4, 2008 Fresno County voted 68.7 % for Proposition 8 which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 6,017 square miles (15,585 km²), of which, 5,963 square miles (15,443 km²) of it is land and 55 square miles (142 km²) of it (0.91%) is water.

Major watercourses are the San Joaquin, Kings River, Delta-Mendota Canalmarker, Big Creek, Friant Kern Canalmarker, Helm Canalmarker and Madera Canalmarker. It is bordered on the west by the Coast Range and on the east by the Sierra Nevada. It is the center of a large agricultural area, known as the most agriculturally rich county in the United Statesmarker. The county withdrew 3.7 billion gallons of fresh water per day in 2000, more than any other county in the United States.

Fresno was actually named after two particular ash trees that grew near the town of Minkler on the Kings River. One of the trees is still alive and standing.

Cities and towns

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Transportation infrastructure

Major highways



Commercial service

General Aviation

Public Transportation



Agriculture is the primary industry in Fresno County. Ag production totaled $5.3 billion in 2007, making it the number one agricultural county in the nation.[12168] Major crops and livestocks include:

Companies based in Fresno County

Major employers in Fresno County





As of the census of 2000, there were 799,407 people, 252,940 households, and 186,669 families residing in the county. The population density was 134 people per square mile (52/km²). There were 270,767 housing units at an average density of 45 per square mile (18/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 54.30% White, 5.30% Black or African American, 1.60% Native American, 8.05% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 25.90% from other races, and 4.73% from two or more races. 43.99% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 7.5% were of German ancestry according to Census 2000. 59.3% spoke English, 31.5% Spanish and 3.1% Hmong as their first language.

There were 252,940 households out of which 41.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.50% were married couples living together, 15.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.20% were non-families. 20.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.09 and the average family size was 3.59.

In the county the population was spread out with 32.10% under the age of 18, 11.10% from 18 to 24, 28.50% from 25 to 44, 18.50% from 45 to 64, and 9.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 100.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,725, and the median income for a family was $38,455. Males had a median income of $33,375 versus $26,501 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,495. About 17.60% of families and 22.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.70% of those under age 18 and 9.90% of those age 65 or over.

Fresno County is also known for having the highest rate of chlamydia in the state, which in in 2006 545.2 cases per 100,000 people, compared with the statewide average of 363.5.

Notable locations

See also

External links and references


  1. California Department of Finance, "Table E-1: Population Estimates for Cities, Counties and the State with Annual Percent Change — January 1, 2007 and 2008," Sacramento, 2008.
  2. History of the Coalinga area
  3. California Department of Conservation, Oil and Gas Statistics, Annual Report, December 31, 2006, p. 66-67 (2-3 in PDF file)

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