Gateway to Yosemite
Exact Center of California
Madera Biographies: HENSLEY
Click photos to enlarge
Margaret Hensley, wife of J. M. Hensley
(also reported to be Etta Sayer)
T. J. Hensley and granddaughter
Margaret Hensley, sister of Andrew
William (Bill) Hensley
W. D. Hensley and Family
HENSLEY, JOHN M.
John M. Hensley, Sheriff of Fresno County, was born in Cass County, Missouri, in 1850. His father, J. J. Hensley, was engaged in agricultural pursuits in Missouri. He came to California in 1853 and followed the varied fortunes of the miner in Calaveras County until 1858, when he moved to Tulare County, and in the following year entered the stock business, in which he is still engages.
John M. was educated in the public schools of Fresno County. In 1870 he engaged in the sheep business for an interest in the flock. In this he was prosperous and became the owner of 7,000 sheep, but during the dry year of 1877 he lost them nearly all. He disposed of those he had left, came to Fresno and was variously employed for several years. He secured a road contract between Buchanan and Coarse Gold Gulch, and was at work on the road for two years. In the fall of 1884 he was elected Constable of First township at Madera, and was re-elected in 1886. In 1888 he was elected county Sheriff, and moved to Fresno, being re-elected to this office in the fall of 1890. He has faithfully performed the duties of his office and given entire satisfaction to all concerned.
Mr. Hensley was married at Woodville, Tulare County, in 1877, to Miss Harriet R. Monroe, and has a family of five children. He is a member of Madera Lodge, I.O.O.F., and of Madera Lodge, K. of P., being a charter member of both lodges.
Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of
Fresno, Tulare, and Kern, California, (Chicago: Lewis, 1892), page
This is the story of the family of John Murray Hensley,
my grandfather, son of John J. and Martha Murray Hensley. John J.
and Martha’s family settled along the Fresno River in an area now covered
by Hensley Lake.
Representative Bob Mathias played an important role in the naming of Hensley Lake for the Hensley family. It was while Loy and Maude Scott Cook, after their retirements, were on a trip, including to Washington D. C., that they visited Bob Mathias at his office. This visit verified the recommendation to the Corps of Engineers the builder of the dam and lake,
that the Hensley family be honored. Loy Cook was a nephew of H. E. Cook.
John M. spent his early years in Calaveras County. In 1859 he accompanied the John J. family, his parents, to Tulare County and in 1861 moved with them to the Fresno area.
While grazing sheep in Woodville, Tulare County, John M. met and married Harriet Rebecca Monroe, a member of a very well known family. They had five children, Etta Mae, Walter J., Ervin Wesley, Arthur Monroe and Rea Alvin. Rea was named after their friends, the Jonathan Reas.
John M. took an active part in Democratic politics and was elected Sheriff of Fresno County from 1888 to 1892, serving the two terms. Madera County was still part of Fresno County at the time.
The bandits, Sontag and Evans were captured during his terms. Recently, a Fresno historian told me that John M. played a role in the formation of Madera County. He later served as Superintendent of the Madera County Hospital. He passed away with a heart condition in 1925. My grandmother continued living in their home on North B Street in Madera until
her passing in 1940.
Etta Mae Hensley, a graduate of San Jose State Normal College, married Albarnus Logan Sayre, known as A. L. Sayre. A. L. Sayre, Sr., of New York City, came to California in the 1880’s and for an investment purchased eight hundred and four acres of very fertile land one mile southeast of Madera. It was known as “Sierra Rancho” and later the “Sayre Ranch." A. L. Sr. divided his time between New York City and California until his death in 1887. Upon the death of his father A. L. Jr., came to California to take charge of Sierra Rancho. He brought primeval land under cultivation with grape vineyards and orchards of deciduous fruit trees. The balance of the farm was in cereals and alfalfa. There was a dairy herd with Friesian-Holstein cattle and a creamery operated by steam power. He increased the value of the ranch by installing irrigation ditches and a pumping plant that was the equal of any other such plant in the state at that time.
In 1898 the California Raisin Growers Association was organized and in the early 1900’s A. L. held various offices in the organization. Sayre’s sister Julia Sayre, who never married lived n Fresno. Julia was very active in the Y.W.C.A. She passed away in 1935.
A.L. and Etta had two sons. A. Logan and Donald Monroe. In 1917 when the boys were still young, A. L. passed away. A manager was hired to supervise the operation of the ranch. Later on, Logan and Don took over some of the responsibilities with a great deal handled with leasing agreements. Donald married Marjoria Hall of Oregon. They met in Cannes, France. They lived in a house on the south side of the ranch and operated a hog farm. They had twins, Donald M. Jr. and Julia Jean. Donald Jr. married Christina Amberg of Germany and they had one son also named Donald. Julia married Will De La Grange of Madera and they had three children, Lance, Susan and Robert.
Since growing up during the long depression I must mention the caring support my grandparents on both sides and Etta Sayre gave to Barbara and me. Not having any girls of her own Aunt Etta delighted in buying us clothes and costume jewelry. On her many train trips to San Francisco she always returned with gifts for us. She was a very generous person and was always helping people in need. During the late 1920’s she had a large swimming pool built on the ranch. We spent many hot days in the pool along with Caroline, Mrs. Brooks Mordecai and her daughters.
For a few years Aunt Etta rented cottages in the summer at Seabright, near Santa Cruz, for my Grandmother Hensley. Of course, my sister Barbara and I were always included. We were in our early teens by then. We went swimming in the ocean and enjoyed the amusements at the Santa Cruz Board Walk. The Tarpey family, friends of Aunt Etta, had a summer home at Seabright, and I recall swimming with the Tarpey children. I think this is the same family Tarpey Village and Tarpey Station are named for.
Donald Sayre passed away in 1948. After Aunt Etta died in 1952 Logan married Marjorie Sayre. At that time a portion of the ranch at the corner of Avenue 13 and Madera Avenue was sold for a housing development. Later the southern part was sold to Fred Russell. A few years later Logan and Margie sold the rest of the Sayre Ranch and built a new home at New Brighten Beach near Santa Cruz. They both passed away in the late 1970’s.
Walter Hensley and Olive Jewel Hensley had one daughter Helen who resides at Wish I Ah Lodge near Auberry. In 1900 Walter was a tourist guide for the Kenny Coffman Co. in Yosemite Valley. They dismantled a very small automobile and carried it to Glacier Point where they reassembled and placed it on Overhanging Rock and it is a prized family photo. Walter worked for the San Joaquin Light and Power Company later Pacific Gas and Electric Company, at Kerckhoff Power House for many years. His job at one time was patrolling the power lines riding horse back. He and his family spent his retirement years living in one of his mother’s homes at 225 North B Street. An apartment house is now at this location.
Ervin Hensley lived in Arizona and passed away at an early age with tuberculosis.
E. M. Capurro employed Arthur Monroe Hensley. He was the owner of the Madera Water and Power Company. It was sold in 1907 to the San Joaquin Light and Power then later purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
In time Arthur became Fresno District Foreman, a position he held until he retired. He married Dora Montgomery Roquet from Modesto, California who was employed in a Madera department store. Her husband and friends called her Peggy. She was a member of Eastern Star and the Progressive Woman’s Club of Fresno. I had the pleasure of looking after her needs during her last remaining years. She was a real lady.
My father, Rea Alvin, was the youngest and he married my mother Rosa Maybell Cook. There were two children, myself, Rosabel Harriet, the oldest, and Barbara Etta. Around the time of Barbara’s arrival there was a very popular book named “The Winning of Barbara Worth”. My Hensley grandparents owned two houses located at 221 and 225 in the second block of North B Street. We lived in 221 and my grandparents at 225. In the early days my parents Rosa and Rae had an electrical store on Yosemite Avenue near the theatre. Years later Rea worked at Nobles Meat Company and mother worked as a bookkeeper for West G. Smith in the Brammer building.
During the many summers I, Rosabell, went camping with my Cook grandparents in Yosemite Valley. I met and married Dale Thomas, an employee of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley. We spent five wonderful years there. I worked in Moore’s Ship Yards during World War II. Dale was in the navy aboard the carrier Lexington. I returned to Madera toward the end of the war, and went to work in the office of the Arakelian Mission Bell, Petri and Allied Grape Growers Wineries. Dale was a Madera Postman until his sudden death in 1954. In 1955 I married Richard Brown known as Dick, an employee of Pacific Gas and Electric Company and moved to Fresno where I still reside. Dick passed away in 1987.
Barbara married Kyrle Murray of Raymond. They met in Yosemite Valley where they were both employed at the time. Kyrle’s mother was a sister of Jock Rea. Kyrle worked in the office of the Oberti Company later becoming office manager. He was taken with a sudden heart attack in 1966. Barbara was secretary to John Boyle, a Madera Attorney, for many years. Cancer took Barbara a few years later. Their only child was Karyl Rea who married Earle Dix, whose family lived in North Fork. Karyl recently retired from Fink and Scopp Furniture, and Earle is employed by Community Hospitals of Fresno as a construction manager.
Living my younger years on North B Street in Madera I remember some of our neighbors, a Mrs. Payne, the Doctors Butin, the Pedras family, the Pachecos, and the Jock Rea family who later moved to Central Avenue. I remember Jimmy and Johnny teasing my sister Barbara and spending many hours playing croquet with Bob Dearing at his home across the street. Merit and Pearl Skaggs Patterson also live in our block with their son Max.
Our neighbors in the third block of North B Street were the Fred Barcrofts, the Preciados and Ricci families. There was also West and Stella Smith and their children Carol, Wesley, Betty and Walter. They later moved cross the Fresno River but remained life long friends.
There are memories of spending hot summer days at the local swimming pool where we had season tickets. We had Red Cross swimming lessons. Pop Peterson was in charge of the swimming pool. Dick and Walter Brown were also daily swimmers. There are also memories of walking to school with Vivian Johnson Wiegand and Dorothy McClellan Rea, both well remembered by so many in Madera. I also recall attending burials of Hensley relatives at the Hensley Cemetery on a hill near the family home along the Fresno River. They were later, moved to a new location when Hensley Lake was formed. I remember Uncle Abe, my grandfather’s brother. He was the last member of the family to live in the home near the Fresno River. He occasionally came to town spending the night with my grandparents.
I graduated from Madera High with the Class of 1931 and 4-C’s Business College. Vivian Johnson Wiegand was the valedictorian of our 1931 class. Barbara was secretary to Mr. Hempil at the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company until it closed. She graduated from Madera High with the class of 1932.
There are two more memories. Around 1927 or 1928 Cab Calloway and his orchestra played a one-night engagement at the Madera Theatre? It was a great thrill for me to be there. My dad, Rea Hensley, was an electrician and I remember him installing a Delco System, which generated electricity, at the Daulton Ranch. This furnished lights for the family homes. Power lines had not been built to that area at that time. That would have been around the 1920's.