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Madera Biographies: PRECIADO

Ignacio Preciado

The Preciado Family


    Quoting from a copy of The Madera "Old Timers" Home Coming Publication, dated October 26, 1935: "The story and history of the PRECIADO Family, one of the oldest and well-known pioneer families of California and Madera County, California, reads like a saga of a motion picture epic of pioneer days".
    The Family History starts in 1830, when Ygnacio Sr. was born until 1987 when Lita, the last living child of Ygnacio passed away. Here is a little bit about the Preciado Family:
    Ygnacio Preciado and three brothers came to California in 1848. (The family can be traced back to Madrid, Spain.) He was born in Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora, Mexico, July 31, 1830. In 1949, the little adobe cabin where he was born was still standing. He and his brothers heard of the discovery of gold in California, and having heard stories all their young lives from their parents about a city called "El Dorado" where the streets were paved with gold and which the early Spanish explorers had failed to find, the boys were convinced that this was the long sought gold of the conquistadors.
    In 1849, Ygnacio, age 19, and his brothers started their long trek, on horseback, over the mountains and across deserts. Though they encountered many hardships and risked attacks by marauding Apaches, they finally reached San Francisco. They received help from Yuma Indians in crossing the Colorado River. They paid the Indians by giving them the carcasses of any of the ponies or mules that drowned while fording the river. When the Preciado's reached San Francisco, there was little there but a squatter’s camp of tents. They pitched their tent in what is today known as the Mission District. They remained there long enough to earn sufficient funds to go on to the gold fields of Calaveras County.
    For 19 years, Ygnacio lived in and around Calaveras County, mining, running a restaurant and hotel (made of tents), when he decided, as many had, that the gold at the end of the rainbow was not there. True, he struck gold at times but the best claims had already been staked out. Young Preciado gave up searching for gold and turned his interests toward farming and teaming, and settling in San Andreas, the county seat of Calaveras County, California.
    It was there that Ygnacio met Miss Adelaida Moriega. Her story is equally interesting. She was born in Robinson's Ferry in 1852. She was a beautiful and very popular senorita, a descendant of the famous Moraga family. She had many suitors; FACT: One of her suitors was none other than Joaquin Murrietta. The story is told that on an occasion, at a dance, the daring bandit dropped a cache of jewels in Adelaida's lap and disappeared, before a posse arrived to pick up his trail. The jewels were of course handed over to the proper authorities. Shortly after this episode, in 1867, Ygnacio and Adelaida were married. (Adelaida had a sister, Charolita, who was married to Victor Gottschalk, one of California's well known Superior Judges.)
    Mr. Preciado had several opportunities to make money in the mining fields but never quite made it. He was offered, in 1854, a partnership in the Meanes (?) Mine in Jackson, Calaveras County. He waited a week, and someone else beat him to it. This mine produced millions in gold. Preciado went to San Francisco in 1855, opened a hotel, (made of canvas) on the present site of the Chronicle Building. He had a chance to buy the whole block for $150, but at the time, the backwash of the bay was a handicap. The value of that block in 1936 was well a million dollars.
    After Ygnacio returned to Calaveras County, he made his home there until 1871, when he heard of a mining boom in Inyo County. He took his family to Lone Pine and continued to mine. On April 12, 1872, there was an earthquake, causing many deaths and much loss of property. Albert, their first child, was almost buried in the debris of falling adobe.
    When the mining boom was over, Ygnacio and his family of six children returned to San Andreas, where they remained until 1883. This family had a most trying experience when returning, because they moved in the middle of the winter. Crossing the mountains was no easy task; the roads were etched on the sides of the mountains, just barely wide enough for a team and wagon. A severe storm overtook them---a real blizzard--and for the better part of two days they were completely isolated from the rest of the world. Supplies ran low and it was bitterly cold. A family, a few miles below, came to their rescue. Otherwise they would have perished.
    The Preciado family were happy in San Andreas, but by this time, they began thinking of their old home in Mexico. Ygnacio, his family, now seven children, and his brothers set out on the long journey to Mexico. They traveled in a spring wagon, the three older children on horseback.
    While traveling toward Mexico, they heard of the rich farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. They finally reached the then thriving little town of Borden, located about two miles south of Madera. The children all came down with the measles (Ygnacio had just recovered from Pneumonia before leaving San Andreas) so they remained in Borden. Mr. Preciado began working for Mr. Healy, the father of Dr. John Healy, an early Doctor in Madera. Ygnacio worked in the grain harvest, was paid $1.50 per day. He became closely associated with Ned Manasse and Dr. Chester Rowell, the latter a well known citizen of Fresno, California.
    The Preciado's remained in Borden for sometime, in fact, three of their children were born there---Ben, Abraham, and Ida. Mr. Preciado became interested in the opportunities that Madera, now a growing little town, offered, so packed up, and moved to Madera. They moved their two-story home also. [it is still setting until this day in 1999, now a single story structure owned by one of Ygnacio's grandsons. The property also has three smaller dwelling in back that are now used as rentals.] The address is 309 North "B" street. Madera seemed destined to become the permanent home of the Preciado's.
    Mr. Preciado was a very successful farmer and as the boys grew up, they started on their own. At one time the family operated eight ranches. The Preciado's installed the first pumping plant in Madera. The Preciado speak so highly of their father and mother. They described them as wise in judgement, loving, but with a certain inner firmness that all 12 children understood and respected.
    Ygnacio Preciado Sr. passed away in 1919 at the age of 89. Mrs. Preciado passes away in 1943 at the age of 91. Thus ends the story of these two who endured so many hardships and difficulties together, but in spite of it all, kept their family together, gave all of the children educational opportunities, preparing them for useful lives in the town of Madera.
    Albert Preciado was the first son of Ygnacio and Adelaida Moreiga, born in Calavaras County, California in 1867. Since Albert was the oldest, (he was 16 years old when they came to Borden), he was the first to launch out in business. For many years he was an agent for the Singer Sewing Machine Co., traveling in the mountain area and out into the rural areas of Madera, and at one time, had a store in Madera, selling and repairing the machines. Albert also had an agency for the New Your Life Insurance Company for many years. He married and had three children: Ernest, Ramona and Robert.
    Rudolph, the second son of Ygnacio and Adelaida was born in Lone Pine on January 6, 1869. He was a farmer for most of his life, but he was also an early day merchant, in Madera, having a fruit and vegetable store in the late 1880's, called "The Cash Fruit Store". Later this store became the C. F. Preciado Co. Stationers, and Lunch Fountain. Rudolph farmed the Ripperdan District, raising principally grapes (Which the San Joaquin valley is famous for), and peaches. Rudolph had two sons: Rudolph Jr and Anselmo. He passed away in 1956 at the age of 87.
    Rudolph started a baseball team, the Eagles, that was later called the Madera Coyotes.
    Gnacio Jr. was born in Lone pine and experienced the earthquake Mentioned on Ygnacio's story. Then, in 1906, he experienced a second earthquake, this one in San Francisco. At the time Ygnacio and Y.V. (as many called him), had four barber shops, in San Francisco. All were destroyed, and out of the $20,000 insurance claim, he realized $300. He returned to San Francisco in 1915 and had two more barber shops in the Grand Hotel. Later he had barbershops in Madera, one on the main street, Yosemite Avenue. This was fine Barber shop and many old timers recall it. Later Y. V. had a Barbershop in the Hotel Aragon. He was the first to rent space in the Hotel. Ygnacio Jr. passed away on February 8, 1962.
    While all twelve children of Ygnacio and Adelaida Preciado had artistic ability, perhaps none of them had the talent for painting that Alexander or (Alex) had. Alex was also born in Lone Pine. Even in 1936 in the old home place, there were several of his paintings, hung on the walls. He painted one of a little newsboy that has special appeal to the viewer. It is framed in very old wood, colors in the picture and frame blending in beautifully. His painting of his Father, when he was a very old man, you might call a masterpiece. A very large painting by Alex is hanging the foyer of the Madera County Museum. It is of the Famous Raymond Granite Quarry in 1893 and was donated to the museum by the Preciado family. Alex passed away in 1948.
    Lucy was the first girl of the family and was born in Lone Pine, California also. Lucy worked with her sisters in their Millinery Store. Lucy and Thomas had two children; Thomas Jr. and Carlos. Lucy passed away in 1926. She was the first of the Preciado children to die.
    Many in Madera well remember Carmelita as a teacher at the Pershing School. She was the children's friend, always looking out for those in need of understanding and protection. Her knowledge of English and Spanish enabled her to be of special help with the little Mexican children who could not speak or understand English. Carmelita also worked in the millinery Store owned by the Sisters; Ida, Lita and Lucy. Often she was to be seen working in the stationery store, too. She was the first Telephone operator in Madera. She gave many years of her life to teaching, then retired, remaining in the old home until her death in 1949. She was 72 years old.
    After the family returned to San Andreas in around 1878-80, Charles F. their seventh child was born. He was Madera County Tax Collector for several years, elected in 1902, at the age of 22. He organized and managed the Madera Coyote baseball team, which won the Championship in California in the amateur league. He had extensive farming interests also. In 1897, Charles established the Preciado Company, known as the C.F. Preciado Stationery and Fountain Lunch. This was the only store of its kind in Madera for several years and was a popular meeting place for young and old alike. Children came there for their School supplies, and Arbor Nook was part of the store where young people gathered for food, dancing, and good fellowship. This store was located on the main street of the town of Madera. Ida and Lita worked at the Fountain, Ben and Henry, with Charles on the book and stationery side. Ben could be seen painting signs and chalking up scoreboard tallies.
    There was seldom a celebration in Madera that was not held in front of the store. For years Madera rallied upon the billboards of Preciado’s for the National Baseball scores and election returns. Charles passed away in 1941.
    Ida was associated with her sisters in the Millinary store, working in the stationery section and soda section. She was also cashier for Henry and Ben at the Rex Theater. She married Jack Clark. They had no children. Ida passed away in 1943
    Notes about Ben are included with Henry. Of the twelve children, Abram or Abe, was the only on that lived away from Madera for any length of time. He spent 40 years away before he came back to Madera to live again. He studied law at Stanford University, at Berkley, but did not practice; instead he decided to follow newspaper reporting and writing. He was first connected with the Seattle News as editor, then during World War I, and only 24, he was sent to Chile by President Wilson to act as Head of the United States Bureau of Information. Later he was president and general manager of Select Features Syndicate in New York. He continued to write, publishing two books on United States Trade Relations. When he returned to Madera to live, he published a weekly newspaper called the Madera Citizen, for two years, 1950-51. Abram passed away April 5, 1951 at the age of 74. His wife Bonnie moved to Fresno, California and was outstanding in Symphonic work for many years.
    Audelita (Lita) worked in the millinery store, the fountain, and ran a candy store, the latter located in the Rex Theater. It was called the Rex Milkmaid. She was the 11th child of Ygnacio and Adelaida Preciado, and was born in Madera. Later she married George Whitney. Lita was the last survivor of the original Preciado family. Lita died January 25, 1987 at the age of 100.
    When you think of Henry, the youngest of the family of twelve children, you also think of Ben, the eighth child, because they did so many things together. You associate them with community affairs, politics, visiting dignitaries, and the theater. One incident in particular that Ben and Henry will be remembered for is the promotion of the movie career of a Madera boy, "Spec" O'Donnell. They took him under their wings and proceeded in helping him to attain a special place in the movie world. "Spec" appeared in many movies as a character actor, but his greatest role was in 1925 with Mary Pickford in "Little Annie Rooney".
    Ben and Henry were also instrumental in starting another Madera boy on his way to recognition, Tony Romano, who became well known as a singer and member of Al Pearce's Gang, a well know singing group at the time.
    Ben and Henry worked with Fox Theater Organizations and finally opened the Rex Theater, first on "C" street, Madera and later on East Yosemite Avenue's main street. Henry said their reason for the name "Rex" was that it was the shortest word they could think of in order to save on the cost of a neon sign. He started the Ponderosa Pines Theater in 1946. It was originally an outdoor theater with wooden benches, with the stars shinning overhead. In the spring of 1948, with the help of his son Thomas, the Ponderosa Pines Theater at Bass Lake, a permanent structure was constructed.
    Henry opened the El Rio Drive-in Theater, in the city of Madera, also in 1948. Henry was active in its day to day running with his two children Tom and daughter Mary Pat. Tom's two boys also worked at the Drive-in Theater after school and on weekends.
    Henry was a man who took charge of any situation all of his life, so when three young men attempted to rob the Drive-in theater late one night in September of 1972, Henry at age 80 attempted to take their gun away from one of the robbers. Henry was fatally wounded and died instantly. His wife and son continued running the theater until 1974 when it was sold.
    Henry will be remembered by many for his Great generosity to the neighborhood children. While running the Rex Theater until it was sold in 1957, and the drive-in theater until his tragic death, he was always popular with the young children. If some didn't have the funds to enter, they were always welcomed by Henry and seated to watch the movies free. Everyone in town remembers Henry's Kindness and his love for others.

From the Madera County Historian, January 1968. Used by permission of Tom and Alaine Preciado.

   CHARLES F. PRECIADO.   During the nineteenth century a Castilian representative of an ancient family of Spain crossed the ocean to America and settled n the western part of Mexico, where he acquired large mining interests in Sonora.  His son Y. Preciado was born at Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, and at the age of eighteen years, during the excitement caused by the discovery of gold in California, crossed the desert in 1848 and was one of the first to try his luck in the placer mines of San Andreas, Calaveras County.  Not meeting with the fortune he had hoped for, he sought other occupations and drifted in to the stock business in Inyo County where he was living at the time of the earthquake.

  Some years afterward he returned to Calaveras County, thence removed to Madera County, from there went to Fresno County, and in 1879 settled on a farm near Borden, Madera County, where he spent the remainder of his active years.  Upon retiring from agricultural labors he came to Madera, where he now makes his home.  Not only among people of his own nationality resident here, but among Americans as well, he is held in high esteem as an honorable citizen and one of the very oldest surviving settlers of California.  After coming to this state he married Adilda Moraga, who was born in Calaveras County, and is a daughter of the late Carlos Moraga, a Spaniard who was attracted to the country by the discovery of gold.

   In the family of Y. and Adilda Preciado there are twelve children, namely:  Albert E., who represents the Singer Sewing Machine Company in Madera, Rudolph R., who is a partner of his brother, the subject of this narrative, Ygnacio V., who follows the barber’s trade in Madera; Alexander F., an artist living in Madera; Mrs. Lucy Cosgrove, of Madera; Carmelita, who is engaged in the millinery business in Madera; Charles F., also of Madera, Ida, who clerks for her brothers in their store in Madera; Benjamin W., who is a partner of his two brothers in the book and stationery business; Abram, Lita and Henry, who reside with their parents.  It is somewhat unusual that all of the members of so large a family are all still living and all remain in the town where their parents are passing their advanced years.

   The seventh in order of birth among the twelve children was Charles F. Preciado, who was born at San Andreas, October 24, 1878, and passed the years of youth in Borden and Madera, alternating work on the home farm in summer with attendance at the common schools in the winter months.  When seventeen years of age he laid the foundation of his present business by forming a partnership with his brother, Rudolph R., and opening a fruit, confectionery and cigar store Yosemite Avenue, Madera in 1895.  The two had a combined capital of $17.  Naturally their beginning was a very humble one.  A hole in the wall, 4x8 feet in dimensions, sufficed to hold their stock of goods.  In a year they had outgrown those humble quarters and by 1898 they had leased the entire store.  The firm of C. F. Preciado & Co. was beginning to be recognized as a growing one. Since then they have steadily pushed their way to a position among the successful businessmen of their town.  They feel a just pride in the fact that no bookstore in the entire county is larger or more complete than theirs.  A full supply of county school books is kept on hand, also the latest and most popular novels, a varied assortment of stationery, novelty good for holiday sale, cigars of the best brands, confectionery, etc.  In addition, the brothers are the exclusive agents in Madera for the San Francisco and other important daily papers.  To meet the demands of their growing business, it was recently deemed advisable to build a gallery around the first floor, thus giving them practically two stories.

  Reared in the Democratic faith, politically Charles F. Preciado has always been a pronounced believer in the principles of the party.  When he reached the age of twenty-one years he was appointed secretary of the Democratic county central committee and held the position for two terms.  In 1902, as the Democratic candidate, he was elected county tax collector by a majority of one hundred and fifty, and in January of 1903 took the oath of office for a term of four years. While giving his attention to official work, his brothers maintain a close supervision over the business, thus relieving him of much detail work.  He is a member of the Madera Chamber of Commerce and a contributor to movements for the benefit of the town.  Included in his fraternal relations are associations with the Knight of Pythias, Woodmen of the World and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, in which he is past Master Workman.  On the organization of Madera Parlor No. 130, N. S. G. W., he became a charter member and at this writing acts as president of the local body, besides which in 1892 he was honored with the office of deputy grand president of this district.

Guinn, J. M., History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the San Joaquin Valley, California, (Chicago: Chapman Publishing, 1905), page 522.

Transcribed by Harriet Sturk.

Last update: October 17, 2012
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