Journalism in Fresno has its roots in John William Ferguson’s Fresno Expositor, which was founded about the same time as the young city.
Ferguson was born March 4, 1848, on a Louisiana tobacco plantation, and came to California during the Gold Rush with his family when he was 4.
In his late teens, he published the Truckee Tribune.
In 1870, seeking a dryer climate for his declining health, he moved to Millerton, then the seat of Fresno County, and with partner Charles Heaton, began publishing the Expositor.
The first edition rolled off the press — housed in a stable — on April 27, 1870. It was pro-Democrat, as befitted a town with Southern leanings at the time.
The Expositor wasn’t the county’s first newspaper, but it was the first that endured. The Fresno Times, published in Millerton in 1865, lasted only several weeks.
A devastating flood hit Millerton in the winter of 1867, wiping out most of the town. Millerton was rebuilt, but residents worried it would happen again.
In 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad built a line through the Valley with a stop called Fresno Station, they saw a chance to move to a safer place.
By 1874, the county seat was moved from Millerton to Fresno Station, 25 miles south. Ferguson followed suit, setting up shop on J Street (now Fulton) and Tulare streets in the fledgling town, buying four lots.
In 1881, he left the small wood building and built a one story brick structure down the block at 1027/31 J Street. In 1888, he added a second story, enlarging the Expositor to 7,500-square-foot.
The newspaper became the largest in the Valley by 1890, and had become a major voice in the city of Fresno but faced competition, mainly from the Fresno Morning Republican.
The Expositor celebrated its 20th anniversary with a downtown parade in 1890. In 1895, after suffering a stroke, Ferguson sold the Expositor, which shut down Sept. 1, 1898.