April 8, 1863: Fresno City
[Today] we came on to Fresno City1—only eighteen miles, but there was no other stopping place for forty miles, so we had to stop. The country had been growing more and more desolate. We had left the trees behind at Hill’s, except occasional willows along the sloughs, and this day, for sixteen miles we rode over a plain of absolute desolation. The vegetation that had grown up last year, the wet year, was dead, and this year none has started. Sometimes no living thing cheered the eye, nothing in sight alive for miles. We crossed the slough ten miles above Firebaugh’s, where there is a ferry, and a solitary shanty stands, the only house for the eighteen miles. We then struck across the plain in the direction of Fresno City, without track or guide, and at last that place loomed up.
Fresno “City” consists of one large house, very dilapidated, one small ditto, one barn, one small dilapidated and empty warehouse, and a corral. It is surrounded by swamps, now covered with rushes, the green of which was cheering to the eye after the desolation through which we had passed. These swamps extend southeast to Tulare Lake. We got into the place after much difficulty, but our animals had to content themselves with eating the coarse rushes that grew on the edges of the swamp. The cattle and horses that live on this look well.
1Not the City of Fresno, which was founded in 1872. Fresno City was about 30 miles west of present-day Fresno.