Lemoore Began To Prosper in Late 19th Century With the Coming of the Railroad

Description of the Lemoore business community in the state’s 1888 Business Directory

“She has a fine flouring mill, several large general merchandising establishments, grain warehouses, aggregating a capacity of between seven and eight thousand tons, a fine new school house, two churches, and a full accomplishment of business houses of all kinds.”

The City of Lemoore was like many small communities in the latter part of the 19th Century, where horse and buggy and the railroad dominated the country – particularly in the far west. Such was the case with Lemoore, a small town with no name at the time, which in 1874 began to prosper after the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad decided to lay tracks in the spring of 1877.

Lemoore’s Post office was approved in 1875 and a small group of businesses sprang up near Postmaster Benjamin Hamlin’s drug store and dentist office just, above of what was to be become “Bush Street” and “Lemoore Avenue.” The extent of this little business district included George Skaggs’ blacksmith shop, a harness shop owned and operated by Henry Mapes, a blacksmith shop belonging to Moses Bush and George Rendell, and in due time Grandville Follett opened a small general store.

The coming of the railroad in the spring of 1877 was such a draw that most of the businesses packed up and move a few blocks north to set up shop in the new town plotted by the railroad. In those days having a business as close to the tracks as possible was the desired place to be. The Southern Pacific officials, after plotting their new town, crowned it “Lemoore” after the existing post office.

With the railroad came people, and of course people needed merchandise, seed to plant crops, lumber to build homes, pots to cook in, and much more. Businesses sprouted and soon Lemoore began to resemble a real town.

Just three years later in, 1880, a statewide business directory lists M. H. Lovelace as the town’s constable, L. M. Lovelace as the town’s physician, surgeon and coroner, W.F. Fowler held the office of Justice of the Peace and three attorneys had hung their shingles: W.A. Gray, J. Jr. Jacobs and C.C. Merriam. C.W. Copeland had succeeded our first Post Master Benjamin Hamlin and the post office was now located in Copeland’s Grocery and Fancy Goods Store. Copeland would serve as postmaster from March 1878 to July of 1882 and again from December 1882 to August 1886. James Dickenson was the Southern Pacific Rail Road and Western Union Telegraph agent and L. Gilroy had the Wells Fargo & Company office in his general merchandise store.

In addition to L. Gilroy’s store, Hite and Sweetland ran a grocery store as well. Sweetland was the son-in-law of Lavern Lee Moore and came here with his wife Laura and the Moore’s in 1875-76. In latter years Sweetland was also in the merchandizing business with his brother-in-law Joel Fox. The Moore family and friends contributed greatly to the local business establishments as Moore’s daughter, Mrs. J.H. Fox also owned a Millinery store. G.W. Follett, also a friend of Moore’s operated a combined general store and saloon and sold sewing machines.

Most of the building construction in the 1880s consisted of wood frame and clapboard houses. Lemoore had three carpenters at the time: S.G. Brewster, R.C. Davidson, who also was an upholsterer, and the partnership of Clinton and Finley who also built cabinets and served as undertakers.

G.N. Furnish was the proprietor of the town’s hotel the Park House. Lemoore had its share of saloons and they were operated by Furnish and Lee, Oscar Beaver, and Albert Schlickeiser.

Lemoore was also graced with Reverend Thomas Cheivers of the M E Church, Reverend E. F. Featherston who shepherded the M.E. South Church, and Reverend G. W. Scott of the Baptist Church.

The Heinlen Family ran a meat market, lumberyard, warehouse, and local insurance agency. Our doctor, L. L. Moore is listed as a farmer, and Mrs. S. A. Sanborn had a Millinery and dress-making shop. Mr. M. Disney, a local photographer operated a local photography business. One has to wonder if he might be a relative of the famous Disney – Walt. There were also livery and feed stables, flower milling, a banking exchange, barbers, a stove store, and a few more blacksmith’s shops.

By 1888 the business district of Lemoore was described as having a:

“full accomplishment of business houses of all kinds.” In another short eight years Lemoore’s business district had grew substantially as the population of Lemoore and the surrounding area mushroomed.

The Park House was described as having “first-class accommodations.” The J. R. Heinlen Stock and Grain Company had operations in both Lemoore and Hanford, and R. Scally, who operated a livery, feed and stable would soon open “Scally’s General Merchandising Store, which was described as an early Wal-Mart. By 1888 the legendary Brownstone’s set up shop in Lemoore providing nearly a 100 years of fine memories for the young and old alike. The Brownstone home still stands on the north side of “F” street as a memory of the family who gave so much enjoyment.

We also find Aaron Mooney whose profession changed from gunsmith in 1880 to merchant in 1888. It wasn’t long after that Aaron would add undertaker/mortician to his list of skills. In 1880 there were 46 business and individuals in the state directory and just eight years later the list had grown to over 326 of which almost 200 listed their vocation as Farmer. Lemoore was certainly on its way.