A Brief History of Kerman, California

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The city of Kerman is located in the Central Valley (San Joauquin Valley) of California approximately 15 miles west of the city of Fresno and 15 miles south of the city of Madera at the intersection of Whitesbridge Road (Highway 180) and Madera Avenue (Highway 145). 
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  Decimal Deg:Min:Sec
Latitude 36.73 36 44' 4" N
Longitude -120.06 120 3' 34" W
Elevation: 216 feet above sea level.

The information below is currently in the process of being updated, verified & digested: 

Around 1891, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company constructed a new line between Tracy and Fresno. A watering tank and pump on that line was the beginning of Kerman, which was christened Collis in honor of the President of the road, Collis P. Huntington. The first inhabitant, the caretaker of the pump and tank, kept the tank full of water for the thirsty engines with their long and lumbering trains. After some months, he resigned his job, not because of the work, he said, but because it was too lonesome and he was tired of being a hermit. He said he never saw anyone but the train crews and they were always in too big a hurry to carry on a conversation. 

As a speculative venture, the old and very rich Bank of California purchased a huge tract of land in every County of California. The arid, barren land around Kerman seemed to be a good venture, so that happened to be the allotment for Fresno County. 

After the death of its promoter, the bank became insolvent and its property was liquidated. The property here attracted the attention of two Los Angeles capitalists, William G. Kerckoff and Jacob Mansar, who saw a chance to purchase a plentiful water supply from the newly constructed Enterprise Canal, which had its source in the Kings River. The men combined the first three letters of each of their names and christined the area "Kerman." 
Incorporated in 1946 with a current population of 9,500. Originally, in the late 1800's Kerman was called "Collis" in honor of The Southern Pacific Railroad President at that time, Collis P. Huntington. The Southern Pacific Railroad Line was built through Kerman around 1891 and trains still run through the City today. 

The name change to Kerman came about in 1910 when two Los Angeles capitalists, William G. Kerckhoff and Jacob Manson, purchased a large tract of land in Kerman from the insolvent, Bank of California. With a water supply and electrical power being brought to the area the town quickly grew. Today, Kerman remains predominantly agricultural, but is reaching out to industry through the development of an industrial park and development of strong business ties through joining with other westside cities in the I-5 Corridor. 

The City of Kerman grew by 57% between the 1990 & 2000 census. This established Kerman as having the greatest population, percentage growth in Fresno County.  


The Valley's Legends and Legacies III

 By Cathrine Morrison Rehart
  Page 243

The site of Kerman was first established by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company as a way station with a pump and watering tank in 1891. The site was originally named Collis in honor of the president of the railroad Collis P. Huntington. It was at this site in 1892 that the famous Sontag and Evans gang held up the San Francisco-Los Angeles passenger train, one of the last train robberies in the country and perhaps the most historical event tooccur in Kerman.

Settlement and cultivation of the Kerman area began and continued through the turn of the century as irrigation projects brought water to the area, primarily from the Kings River, to the south. In 1900, William G. Kerckhoff and Jacob Mansar purchased some 3,027 acres of land from the Bank of California. These men formed the Fresno Irrigated Farms Company. In 1906, Collis was renamed Kerman from the men's names Kerckhoff and Mansar. At this time, the Company began promoting land sales near Kerman across
the country. The Company also filed the original townsite subdivision map with Fresno County, establishing the street grid encompassed by California Avenue, "G" Street, First Street and Ninth Street.

By 1914 Kerman had an estimated population of 400 persons surrounded by 29,000 acres of producing crop land. The Kerman Creamery was producing about 1,600 pounds of butter daily. In 1921, Madera Avenue was paved from the Southern Pacific railroad tracks north to the San Joaquin River and streetlights were installed from the tracks toWhitesbridge Road. By 1936 development of Kerckhoff Park had begun.

Oil and gas exploration was being conducted several miles south of town and in 1941 culminated with (at the time) the development of the largest gas well in the state. In 1946, the residents of Kerman voted to incorporate, and the City of Kerman was born, with a population of 1,050 residents. In the 1950's new subdivisions began to develop,expanding the urban area outward from the original townsite.


Early in the 1890s the Southern Pacific Railroad Company built a rail line from Tracy to Fresno. About 12 miles due west of downtown Fresno, a watering tank and pump were located on that rail line. A caretaker was put in charge, keeping the tank filled so there would always be plenty of water for the train engines, but his job was so lonely that after a few months he quit. In 1894, a post office was established at the site. It was named Collis for Collis P. Huntington, the president of the railroad. The bank of California purchased a large tracts of land as a speculative venture. The promoter of the project died, the bank became insolvent, and the property was liquidated. Two capitalist from Los Angeles, William G. Kerckhoff and Jacob Mansar, bought the land, which included the town site. The newly built Enterprise Canal nearby offered excellent opportunities for a colony development, and many people were attracted to the new town. In 1906, the town was renamed Kerman -- a name that used the first three letters of the surnames of the two developers.

The new town began to grow. By 1910, Kerman's telephone service had forty-three subscribers. It had a volunteer fire department, a branch library, and the large Kerman Creamery Company. By the 1920s Kerman was an agricultural paradise, popularly known as “The Home of the Thompson Seedless Grape.” Ranches in the area also produced alfalfa, peaches, figs, nuts, berries, vegetables, and honey. At the end of World War II, Kerman's population had reached one thousand. On July 2nd, 1946, the town of Kerman was incorporated.

Today, Kerman boasts a population of 7,400 people. Three of the major employers are the Kerman Unified School District, the Kerman Telephone Company, and the Kerman Municipal Government. It also has several major businesses: Pacific Coast Packaging, Sun Empire Foods, Schaad Family Almonds, Bianchi Winery, Mariani Raisin Company, KBC Trading and Processing Company, and Helena Chemical Company. It is still an agricultural center for grapes, cotton, almonds, and alfalfa. From its beginnings as the tiny road stop of Collis, the city of Kerman has grown to play an important role in the economy of our Central Valley.

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Last Updated:  5/21/2013