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Front St.Trails Section - Clovis Free PressBack St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press
July 28, 2000
Tarpey Station Reopens
Tarnished Memories Remain
By Amy Williams, Staff Writer

Volunteer, Bryan Hubbard of The Window Doctor prepares Tarpey Station for a celebration barbecue to honor the past and those who donated their services and time in the Clovis Historical Society restoration project. [ Clovis Free Press Photo]

OLD TOWN - It was in the Summer of 1891 and horse drawn scrapers smoothed the way as men unloaded strong Cedar railroad timber and carefully laid them on the ground near the corner of what is now Clovis & 4th Streets.
      Men and horses were in a hurry to build a railway track between the Southern Pacific Co. tracks in South Fresno and a rail-switch located near the San Joaquin River a few miles North of the Clovis townsite. The Southern Pacific Co. was under fire in Tulare County and was very unpopular throughout Central California. A new private railroad seemed like a good idea to most people in California.
      A young 25 year old stranger who said his name was Clovis M. Cole and who coincidentally had $160,000 in banknotes arrived here and quickly bought up 40,0000 thousand acres of dry barren land. He planted it mostly in wheat and waited. At about the same time another stranger arrived on the scene. By fate or design the two newcomers would soon be in league with each other.
      The new man said his name was Marcus Pollasky and that he owned a company that was starting up a venture called, The San Joaquin Valley Railroad. He was looking for investors to purchase stock in the venture that he said would cross the Sierra Nevada mountains east of Clovis and supposedly connect with the High Sierra community of Truckee.
As Tarpey Depot  looked on Opening Day in 1891!    Local residents were dubious but soon became excited about the prospect of opening the area up to direct access to profitable business trade with the East Coast. Many eagerly invested their life savings and mortgaged their property to invest in Pollasky's company. As a show of what he said was his good faith in Pollasky, Clovis Cole quickly donated more than a thousand acres of right-of-way to Pollasky in exchange for the construction of a three room depot to be constructed adjacent to a townsite Cole had conveniently prepared in advance. The Pollasky-Cole project impressed investors as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco. The timing was perfect and thousands of investors bought into the project.
      The new track was laid through Cole's Tarpey Ranch wheat fields, vineyards, orchards, pastures, and over much barren ground. Here and there all along the 26 mile route, carpenters would be building storage sheds, loading platforms, and depot buildings that Cole and Pollasky said were to accommodate the East Coast public who would ride the train to the San Joaquin Valley to bring prosperity to Clovis Cole's new town and profit to Pollasky's stock holders.
   The Fresno Republican Newspaper carried promotional coverage of opening of the Tarpey Depot on Nov. 25, 1891 paid for by Pollasky, "An invitation has been sent to all subscribers of the Guarantee Fund, whether they are those who could and did give $5000 or those who were able to give only a small portion of that amount." Over 3000 investors attended and were treated to a "free" ride to the site of the celebration on a railroad flatcar. Pollasky and his wife paid cash for a beautiful mansion house he had constructed on Tulare Street in Fresno. It looked like the Pollasky's were going to become leading citizens and his investors would be made suddenly wealthy.
      Appearances are sometimes deceiving. Investors became curious as to why Pollasky's railroad was using tools and equipment clearly marked with the name and logo of the hated Southern Pacific Co.
Pollasky claimed he had rented the questionable equipment from SP. By the following following year the picture was becoming murkey.
Before Spring, the Pollasky's and the San Joaquin Valley Railroad Co. were in Federal Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco where the Court awarded the Southern Pacific Co. with a judgment against Pollasky's railroad for $468,072. Worse yet, SP was then appointed Receiver.
Portal to the past.      By Summer the Court ordered an auction on the front steps of the Fresno County Court house for June 13, 1893. The personal property, all buildings, rights-of-way, track, and depot structures and the San Joaquin Valley Railroad Franchise were sold to the one and only bidder, the Southern Pacific Co. In a special edition of The Fresno Republican Newspaper a report of the sale listed assets as follows, "The franchise was sold for $50, which was fully all that it was worth, considering the crookedness of its line of track and pedigree. The personal property was sold for $1,000 and the railroad and realty for $485,950....This closes out this by-play at railroad building and dissipates all hopes of reaching the timber belt by that route for some time to come." Residents were never to see Pollasky nor their money again. Clovis Cole died in 1939.

       [Editor's Note: This week, the only remaining depot of three such buildings has just been refurbished under the direction of the Clovis Historical Society's Restoration Committee. The restored building located at Clovis Ave. and 4th Streets will open for public inspection Tuesday August. 1, 2000. The San Joaquin Valley Railroad  began construction on July 4, 1891 and ended near Friant  on January 20, 1892.
    The railroad was built in part, it was said at the time, to replace the Fresno Flume Irrigation Company's log flume that was 42 miles long. It started at a site now under Shaver Dam, elevation 5275 feet, and traveled 42 miles into the valley, dropping 4900 feet in elevation. The flume ended on the south side of Fifth Street, east of Clovis Avenue.
     This is now home to the Clovis Rodeo Grounds and Clark Intermediate School. There was a need for workers, and the town of Clovis began to grow around the Clovis L umber Co. Barn adjacent to what is now the Clovis Free Press Executive Office at 754 3rd. Street, Clovis. The flume and lumber company shutdown in 1914, but Clovis kept on growing.
     For your free Historic Railroad Screensaver or for more detailed information about the organization and history of the San Joaquin Valley Railroad Company   from 2/5/1868 to 8/22/1870 -- See the historical Transcontinental Railroad Early History mentioning the San Joaquin Valley Railroad, published by of the U.S. Dept. of Interior in 1883. Also see a compact collection of old railroad maps and The Library of Congress' collection of early railroad bibliographies.
    Several embarrassing revelations in the late nineteenth century provided powerful evidence for those who believed that the Southern Pacific Railroad had corrupted local & state politics. Two of the most notorious events focussed on the top leaders of the SP company.
     David Colton was the confidential manager of the railroad's political interests in California. Following Colton's death in 1878, his widow sued the Big Four for cheating her out of part of her inheritance.
     During the trial, she introduced hundreds of letters & other documents signed by her late husband and railroad officials. The letters laid bare the illegal conspiracies of railroad's executives to influence elections, reelections, and votes of members of the California Legislature.
     Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford, became involved in a public feud in the early 1890s. Huntington publicly denounced Stanford for using large amounts of railroad money to secure Stanford's election as a United States senator.
     Stanford's private secretary later published a series of letters that implicated Stanford in the wholesale corruption of national, state, and local officials by the railroad.
     There is also a comprehensive Directory of Worldwide Railroad sites online! For an excellent series see the Impact of the Railroad Acts. ]

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