The area now known as Fresno County was the traditional homeland of Yokuts and Mono peoples, and was later settled by Spaniards during a search for suitable mission sites. In 1846, this area became part of the United States as a result of the Mexican War.
The settling of Fresno County was not without its conflicts, land disputes, and other natural disasters. Floods caused immeasurable damage elsewhere and fires also plagued the settlers of Fresno County. In 1882, the greatest of the early day fires wiped out an entire block of the city of Fresno, and was followed by another devastating blaze in 1883.
At the same time residents brought irrigation, electricity, and extensive agriculture to the area. Moses Church developed the first canals, called "Church Ditches," for irrigation. These canals allowed extensive cultivation of wheat. Francis Eisen, leader of the wine industry in Fresno County, also began the raisin industry in 1875, when he accidentally let some of his grapes dry on the vine. A.Y. Easterby and Clovis Cole (aka the "Wheat King of the Nation") developed extensive grain and cattle ranches. These and other citizens laid the groundwork for the cultivation of Fresno County – now one of the nation's leading agricultural regions. In more recent times cotton became a major crop in Fresno and the southern San Joaquin Valley, but recent drought and lower demand have lessened cotton's importance to the local economy.
The discovery of oil in the western part of the county, near the town of Coalinga at the foot of the Coast Ranges, brought about an economic boom in the 1900s (decade), even though the field itself was known at least as early as the 1860s. By 1910, Coalinga Oil Field, the largest field in Fresno County, was the most richly productive oil field in California; a dramatic oil gusher in 1909, the biggest in California up until that time, was an event of sufficient excitement to cause the Los Angeles Stock Exchange to close for a day so that its members could come by train to view it. The Coalinga field continues to produce oil, and is currently the eighth-largest field in the state.
More than thirty structures in Fresno County are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Fresno Water Tower, which once held over 250,000 US gallons (950 m3) of water for the city of Fresno, the Meux Home, and Kearney Mansion Museum.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 6,011 square miles (15,570 km2), of which 5,958 square miles (15,430 km2) is land and 53 square miles (140 km2) (0.9%) is water.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Fresno County had a population of 930,450. The racial makeup of Fresno County was 515,145 (55.4%) White, 49,523 (5.3%) African American, 15,649 (1.7%) Native American, 89,357 (9.6%) Asian (3.3% Hmong, 1.7% Asian Indian, 1.0% Filipino, 0.8% Laotian, 0.6% Chinese, 0.5% Japanese, 0.5% Cambodian, 0.3% Vietnamese, 0.2% Korean, 0.1% Pakistani, 0.1% Thai), 1,405 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 217,085 (23.3%) from other races, and 42,286 (4.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 468,070 persons (50.3%). 46.0% of Fresno County's population is of Mexican descent; 0.7% of its residents are Salvadoran, and 0.3% of its residents are Puerto Rican.
There were 252,940 households, out of which 41.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 15.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.2% were non-families. 20.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.09 and the average family size was 3.59.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 32.1% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 100.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $34,725, and the median income for a family was $38,455. Males had a median income of $33,375 versus $26,501 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,495. About 17.6% of families and 22.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.7% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.
Fresno County is also known for having the highest rate of chlamydia in the state. In 2006 it had 545.2 cases per 100,000 people, compared with the statewide average of 363.5.
The Government of Fresno County is defined and authorized under the California Constitution, law, and the Charter of the County of Fresno. Much of the Government of California is in practice the responsibility of county governments, such as the Government of Fresno County. The County government provides countywide services such as elections and voter registration, law enforcement, jails, vital records, property records, tax collection, public health, and social services. In addition the County serves as the local government for all unincorporated areas.
The County government is composed of the elected five-member Board of Supervisors, several other elected offices including the , District Attorney, Assessor-Recorder, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector, and Clerk/Registrar of Voters, and numerous county departments and entities under the supervision of the County Administrator. As of February 2018 the members of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors are:
Brian Pacheco, District 1
Steve Brandau, District 2
Sal Quintero, District 3,
Buddy Mendes, District 4
Nathan Magsig, District 5
The Fresno County Sheriff provides court protection, jail administration, and coroner services for all of Fresno County and its population of approximately of 994,400 residents. They operate the Fresno County Jail in downtown Fresno. The sheriff's provide police patrol and detective services for the unincorporated areas of the county which encompasses approximately 250,000 residents, or 25% of the county's total population. The Sheriff also provides law enforcement services by contract with the municipality of San Joaquin, population 4100.
Municipal police departments in the county are: Fresno, population 500,000; Clovis, 110,000; Sanger, 25,000; Reedley, 24,000;
Selma, 23,000; Coalinga, 17,000; Kerman, 14,000; Kingsburg, 12,000; Huron, 7,000; Firebaugh, 8,500; Fowler, 6,500.
According to the California Secretary of State, in October 2012 there were 410,188 registered voters in Fresno County. 158,267 (38.6%) were registered Republican, 164,663 (40.1%) were registered Democratic, 19,841 (4.8%) are registered with other political parties, and 67,417 (16.4%) declined to state a political party. Republicans have a plurality or majority of voter roll registration in the cities of Clovis, Coalinga, Kingsburg, Reedley, and the unincorporated areas. The other cities and towns have Democratic pluralities or majorities.
From Fresno County's incorporation in 1856, it voted Democratic in every election until the 1904 election in California, when President Theodore Roosevelt stood for re-election. Fresno County backed Roosevelt over his Democratic opponent Alton B. Parker. This did not immediately change the county's voting tendencies, however. It supported southern Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the elections of 1912 and 1916.
Fresno County was generally Republican from the onset of the "roaring 1920s" until the Great Depression, when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt forged the New Deal Coalition that benefitted the agrarian county. From 1932 till 1976 the county consistently voted Democratic, barring Richard Nixon's landslide victory over former Senator George McGovern (D-SD) in the 1972 Presidential Election.
With former President Jimmy Carter's defeat by former President Reagan, Fresno became a GOP-leaning swing county: it barely favored Reagan's successor former President Bush and voted Democratic for Bill Clinton only in his 1992 presidential bid. Republicans won elections in Fresno County by increasing margins from 1996 to 2004, but when the GOP lost ground with Hispanic voters after 2004, the county swung Democratic, voting twice for Barack Obama, and then for Hillary Clinton in 2016, although the last time the Democratic nominee won with an absolute majority of the vote remains the 1964 election.
Presidential election results
Fresno County vote by party in presidential elections
Fresno tends to remain socially conservative while being more moderate on economic issues, which can be seen in Fresno's support for socially conservative proposition amendments but occasionally voting for a Democratic Presidential Candidate if economic times are poor such as former President Bill Clinton's victory over incumbent former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and President Barack Obama over Senator John McCain in 2008.
California Health Sciences University is a private university established in 2012. It currently offers a College of Pharmacy and College of Osteopathic Medicine and is committed to health sciences research and improving the access and delivery of quality health care in the San Joaquin Valley.