Gateway to Yosemite
Exact Center of California
Madera Biographies: CONN
A Pioneer From Canada and Daughter Jane Conn Albonico
My grandfather, Robert Conn came from Canada and settled in Inyo, County, California. There in 1893 he met and married my grandmother Caroline McArthur. Her family had migrated from Toule, Utah to Shingle Springs, California and then to Laws in Inyo, County. Like most people of their time who wanted to own their own land, they homesteaded in Laws where they broke and raised horses.
Before radio and television became an ever-present diversion for children, and after my grandmother Caroline would entertain us with stories of her childhood. Her stories were about the many places she had lived and her journey to Madera where they established their final homestead and purchased more land. This ranch is located at 32211 Avenue 11. Story telling was an art form carried down through the pioneer days, and she had learned this art as a child. All her many grandchildren considered her a great storyteller. When we were growing up in the 1940's many of the children in town went to the Madera theatre for the Saturday matinee, when cowboys and westerns were the rage. So grandmother's stories were timely and fascinating. Imagine you own grandparents, and great grandparents, the stars of western sagas. She told us of traveling in covered wagons, about Indians, snakes, coyotes, wildcats, and mountain lions, even about their favorite horses, and extraordinarily smart dogs. Her sources were never-ending. She had many wild animals for pets and could hunt and fish as well as her brothers. I guess this was a way of teaching us girls in the family that we were not less capable than the boys. Later her daughter, my aunt Jane Conn Albonico took over the story telling. One, about the family's journey to Madera was last told in 1966; I am re-telling it here from a story she told.
AUNT JANE (CONN) ALBONICO'S story about the family's journey to Madera.
"I was born on January 1, 1884 in Laws, a thriving community near Bishop, Inyo County, California, where my mother and father, Caroline and Robert Conn, were homesteading on the banks of the then lush and beautiful Owens River. Laws, was a stop in the Southern Pacific Narrow Gage Railroad.
When I was not quite four years old and my brother, Bill not quite two, my parents brought us in a covered wagon pulled by four horses, from Laws across the Green Horn Pass to Visalia and then to Fresno, Borden, and at last, Trigo, Madera County, California. My father also brought his twenty-four head of prize horses, three ranch hands on horseback, and our Shepherd dog, "Old Puppy", who helped drive the stock. One mare had a colt. My father tied her to the back of our wagon; her colt and the other horses followed her along. At days end, we would stop near a stream to water and feed the stock, and my mother would prepare our meals over a campfire.
One incident along the way amused me. The old mare pulled a sack from the back of the wagon and shook it. Out tumbled the coffee pot and other cooking ware, over the side of the road and down a steep ravine. One of the ranch hands, "Crazy Louie," slid down the bank after them, and I remember laughing to see him climb up then slide back down the sandy, steep bank. Being only four, I didn't see the danger in it, and we had to have the cooking ware. We couldn't just borrow from the neighbors or run to the store for new ones. We were out on the trail in the wilderness. We didn't have packaged food. You had to cook the food and had to have pans to do it in.
Another fond memory enroute was my father lifting me up to let me ride on one of the horses he was leading down the stream to water.
Shortly after our arrival in Madera, (Fresno County at the time) my second brother, John, was born, and our family settled on the original 80-acre homestead. My father worked the homestead as well as hiring out with his teams of horses to plow neighboring farms.
I have many memories of and have seen many changes and much progress in Madera County since those early days. One of the pro-Madera County electioneers stopped by our home and talked with my father. He was invited in, introduced to the family, and proudly shown my little brother Bob who was but a few days old. A short time after this my father read in the paper an account in which this electioneer told of his visit and commented that baby bother Bob was very much in favor of the Madera split from Fresno County.
Seven other brothers and sisters were born here on the homestead. They are Robert Roy, who married Verna Hack and later moved to Coalinga, Archie Ben, who married Rose Byrnes, Margaret Helen, who married Walter Boring, James Arthur, who married Genevieve Barcroft, (my parents), Rose Lenore, who married Loren Lowe, Fredrich, never married, and Mary Alice, who Married Dick Farlinger, later moving to Oakhurst."
Jane Conn Albonico lived in Madera from 1887, until her death. She returned to the old homestead, in 1926 when her husband Philip Albonico purchased it from her brothers.
Supplied by Harriet Sturk.
Last update: December 29, 2000
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