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Huron is a small town in Fresno Countymarker, Californiamarker, in the United Statesmarker. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 6,306. During the harvest season, the population swells to over 15,000 people due to the influx of migrant farm workers. Huron is located east-northeast of Coalingamarker, at an elevation of 374 feet (114 m).

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.3 square miles (3.5 km²), all of it land.

History

The community of Huron was founded in 1888 as a water stop along the Union Pacific Railroad’s western route, approximately 15 miles northeast of Coalinga. One of the first structures in the community was the Huron Post Office which operated from 1877 to 1883 and then from 1886 to the present. Huron became a boomtown in the early 1900’s and has grown steadily ever since. The 1945 rape and murder of 17 month old Josephine Yanez shocked the community and received national attention. Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputies quickly arrested a 25 year old farm worker, Paul Gutierrez, who readily admitted to the crime while intoxicated and under the influence of Marijuana. Gutierrez was tried and later executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber on December 1, 1950. This gruesome homicide (and violent reputation of Huron’s community members) prompted the city to both incorporate and establish a police department simultaneously in 1951.

This tiny farm labor community has been repeatedly referred to one of the most violent cities in California in several national newspaper articles. The most shocking and controversial article appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in 1996 titled, “The Meanest City in California.” The extensive article, written by Richard Steven Street Ph.D, was the result of his repeated and extended visits to the community. One of America’s preeminent labor historians, (who also teaches at Yale University) Richard Street continues to make frequent visits to Huron and documents his visits with stunning articles and photography.

Historical Significance

Huron Central Hotel in 1898.
Joseph Mouren and his family were largely responsible for the expansion of the community of Huron in the late 1800s and fueled the city's growth into the 20th century by investment. Mouren Drive was named after Joseph Mouren, who is considered by many to be one of the city's founding fathers. In the early 1900s, Huron became one of the largest producers of wool in the nation.

Huron Central Hotel in 2001.


The Mouren family built the Central Hotel at 16808 10th Street in 1888 along with a livery stable, blacksmiths shop and water tower. The Central Hotel burned in 1919 and was rebuilt on the original location. The business was sub-leased by the Mouren family to three Basque gentlemen; Jean Baptiste-Batz, Pierre Larronde and Jean Atchemendy. The three formed a partnership and ran the hotel until the 1930s, when the great depression forced them out of business. The Mouren family continued to use the Central Hotel for document storage for a number of years, but the dilapidated building was eventually condemned in the 1980s.

The Central Hotel stood at the corner of 10th and 'M' Streets until it was destroyed by a mysterious fire on July 4, 2008. At the time of the fire, the Central Hotel was the oldest, all-wood structure in the county of Fresno. A bundle of envelopes, containing canceled checks from Mouren Farms, stamped & postmarked in 1922, a glass bottle and a red 'SIMONS' brick from the north fireplace chimney are all that remain of the historic hotel. These items are now in the collection of Huron Police Sergeant Robert Herndon. In 2008, the owner of the property donated the unburned remains of the Central Hotel Water Tank to the city. Plans are currently underway to restore the tank and mount it to a stand in front of Huron City Hall.

Legend of Bandit Joaquin Murrieta

Joaquin Murrieta drawing by Nahl, 1851.
There have long been rumors and legends that suggested the notorious bandit Joaquin Murrieta hid from authorities in the community of Huron. In 2004, a local Huron resident gave a lengthy account of how his grandfather harbored Murrieta at their home in Huron. This article was published in the Fresno Bee. While this yarn makes for interesting reading, it can be quickly disproven with historical facts.

Joaquin Murrieta was known to frequent an area of rural Fresno county in the 1850s where the community of Huron would later be established. However, based on maps of this area produced during the time of Murrieta's escapades, there were no houses or settlements in the vicinity of present day Huron. On July 25, 1853, a posse of California State Rangers, led by Captain Harry Love, engaged Murrieta and a group of armed gunmen near the present day intersection of State Routes 33 and 198, near Arroyo de Cantua. Murrieta and Manuel Garcia (aka Three-Fingered Jack) were killed in the exchange. The Rangers severed Garcia's hand and Murrieta's head as proof of their deaths and preserved them in jars of brandy. The jars were displayed in Mariposa County, Stockton, and San Francisco, and later traveled throughout California. Spectators could pay $1 see the remains of the famous California banditos.

Some present day residents of Huron have speculated that it was actually Murrieta's nephew, Thomas Rodundo Procopio, that frequented Huron in its early days. However, Procopio is said to have been executed by firing squad in Mexico for murder in 1882, 6 years before Huron was founded.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 6,306 people, 1,378 households, and 1,208 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,704.4 people per square mile (1,817.0/km²). There were 1,414 housing units at an average density of 1,054.9/sq mi (407.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 20.36% White, 0.32% Black or African American, 0.98% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 74.77% from other races, and 3.04% from two or more races. 98.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The greatest percentage of farmland surrounding Huron is devoted to the production of lettuce, onions and tomatoes. During the harvest season, it is not uncommon for the population of the city to swell to over 15,000 people. The city has had 5 violent gang related homicides since 2003.

There were 1,378 households out of which 64.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.9% were married couples living together, 18.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 12.3% were non-families. 7.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.45 and the average family size was 4.44.

In the city the population was spread out with 39.1% under the age of 18, 13.8% from 18 to 24, 30.2% from 25 to 44, 12.7% from 45 to 64, and 4.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 125.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 131.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,609, and the median income for a family was $23,939. Males had a median income of $21,656 versus $16,442 for females. The per capita income for the city was $9,425. About 38.3% of families and 39.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 48.4% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.

Schools

Huron Middle School, shown circa 2007.


The city of Huron is within the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District. The schools in Huron are the Huron Elementry School(Grades K-5), The Huron Middle School(Grades 6-8)and Chestnut High Continuation School. High school students generally attend Coalinga High School is offered to those students who attend grades 9th through 12th. Huron also has a community pre-school and Fresno County EOC Headstart Programs.

Huron Police Department

The city of Huron currently funds its own police department, which it has done since the early 1950's. In June of 1987, the city closed its police department due to lack of liability insurance, contracting with the Fresno County Sheriff for police services. However, the violent nature of the community's criminal element forced the city to re-establish its police department on October 21, 1987 with David DeLeon serving as the agency's first police chief following the 1987 closure. The city has maintained its police department exclusively since that time. The current police administration consist of a police chief, one lieutenant, three sergeants, three K-9 units, one gang officer assigned to the Fresno County Sheriff's M.A.G.E.C. unit and 15 patrol officers. The agency has a large contingency of 10 reserve officers, which supplement full-time police staff during special events.

Recently, Officer Richard Saldivar was recognized by M.A.D.D. in April 2009, for an unprecedented 52 DUI arrests in a calendar year. The Huron Police Department is on the fore front of the battle to detect and arrest impaired drivers, working actively as a sub-station for Coalinga Area CHP units. The Huron Police Department knows firsthand the tragedy that is associated with drunk driving. On July 12, 1976, the Huron Police Department lost Officer John Palacios when he was struck by a drunk driver on Highway 269 just north of Highway 198. This section of S.R. 269 has been recently renamed the John Palacios Memorial Highway in his honor.

On September 2nd, 2009, Sergeant Robert Herndon, a 10 year veteran of the Huron Police Department, was promoted simultaneously to Lieutenant and Interim Chief of Police, effectively replacing Frank Steenport who is now the Chief of Police in Orange Cove, California. The two Fresno County law enforcement agencies continue work in close partnership with each other.

Huron Police Department, shown circa 2008



Notable sites

Notable Locations in Huron include Keenan Community Center, The Huron Police Officer John Palacios Memorial Community Center, and the Huron Branch of the Coalinga-Huron Library. Chesnut Park features an Olympic size swimming pool that is open to the public in the spring and summer months. Huron has one branch of Westamerica Bank.

Water Shutoff Controversy

In July 2009, action by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation to protect threatened fish stopped irrigation pumping to parts of the California Central Valleymarker causing canals leading into Huron and the surrounding areas and the farms that rely on them to dry up. Unemployment has reached over 40% as farms dried up. Governor Schwarzenegger stated the Federal action is putting the fish "above the needs of millions of Californians." The issue received coverage on the Hannity program from Fox News broadcasting from Huron. Comedian Paul Rodriguez acted as a celebrity spokesperson criticizing the action as his mother owns a farm in the area.

References




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