Let’s Talk Clovis: William Temple Cole’s Family of 10 daughters

By Peg Bos, Clovis Museum

William Temple Cole was born in Missouri on August 2, 1825. He was a descendant and namesake of a companion of Daniel Boone the famous pioneer explorer and frontiersman. William was known for his physical stature, strength and endurance. It is believed that he never met his superior in wrestling and he amazed many by his ability to lift 500 pounds.

William was a remarkable walker and runner. It is said he out ran a stage many times and could walk from Auburn to Sacramento, about fifty miles, in one day. He was a volunteer in the 1846 Mexican War and by age twenty-one he was a trader among the Indians in Kansas. It is believed that he and Kit Carson were escorting travelers from Salt Lake City to California at the same time.

He joined the “California gold rush” and landed in San Francisco on August 10, 1849.

He made his way to the Yuba River where he mined until a severe illness forced him to seek other opportunities. He settled two miles from Sacramento and entered the stock business and also furnished steamers (boats) with wood. He was prosperous until the floods of 1849 and 1850.

William continued in the stock business and married Miss Jane Sweany on January 12, 1854. They moved to Fresno County in 1860. Their first home was on the Kings River bottom land. The catastrophic 1862 and the 1867-1868 floods damaged their home and ranch land.

The family moved to River Bend just below Centerville. Their new home was the first brick house built in Fresno County. They raised sheep on their large land holdings between Kingsburg and Fresno. William dug an irrigation ditch on the Kings River that is still called the Cole Slough.

Sally was their first child. For the next 20 years Jane Cole would birth nine additional daughters. Each child was born two years part. William longed for a son and named his eighth daughter William Grace Cole.

In 1876 the family moved to Academy (10 miles north of Clovis on highway 168) to provide their daughters with a quality education at the Academy school that had been founded in 1872 at the Big Dry Creek area. The family would worship at the 1868 Methodist Episcopal Church south that was adjacent to the school.

All 10 daughters would marry men from the pioneer families of Sample, Birkhead, Stroud, Estill, Bell, Shafer, Hogue, Hoskins, Heiskell and Blasingame. At his death William Cole, 1825-1907, owned 3,000 acres of grazing and wheat land near Academy. Jane Cole, 1830-1927, would move to Clovis in 1910. Their descendants are still successful ranchers and civic leaders in Clovis.