Albert Graves Wishon II Scholarship
Albert Graves Wishon II was my uncle and died about 1919 at age nine. To introduce Albert (which was the name his mother called him), I need to introduce more of the family. His namesake grandfather, Albert Graves Wishon (usually called A.G.), and grandmother, Henrietta Emory Wishon, both grew up in Coppege, Missouri. After A.G.’s education at the Rolla School of Mines, A.G. and Henrietta married in the mid 1880s and moved to Oregon. In the summer of 1889, A.G. took a train to California getting off in Tulare, as he had heard California was the land of great opportunity. For the next few years, he did work in bookkeeping, insurance and real estate in Tulare. In the mid-1890s, it was the dawn of the commercial use of electricity nationally and internationally. A.G. was among the first in the San Joaquin Valley to realize the potential for developing hydroelectric power from the Sierra Rivers. Prior to this, water was used by the valley farmers for irrigation through the rivers and canals. In the following decades A.G. and others also pioneered the use of pumps in the valley to irrigate, using water from the underground aquifer.
About 1895, A.G. persuaded some moneyed people in Tulare and Visalia to construct a power plant on the Kaweah River. During the construction, the technology was developing so quickly that A.G. felt the approved plan should be stopped and revised to a much larger scale. Soon after the plant was finished (at the smaller scale), A.G., who had been the General Manager during the construction, was terminated by the new power company on the Kaweah River.
A.G. had some water rights on the Tule River, and around 1902, went to Los Angeles to meet with A.C. Balch and W.G. Kerckoff who were working with Henry Huntington, nephew and principal heir of Collis Huntington, one of the Big Four with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker. Balch and Kerkoff offered A.G. the job of General Manager of San Joaquin Light and Power Company in Fresno. They had control of the company after the bonds used to build the Crane Valley (now Bass Lake) power project went into default.
For the next 30 years, until the merger with PG&E, A.G. (and his second son Emory Wishon, my namesake and my grandfather) starting with one power plant, built the electric and gas power system of San Joaquin Light & Power to thirty power plants serving the San Joaquin Valley extending from Merced to Bakersfield and from the Sierra to the coast. In 1928, the company built the ten-story San Joaquin Light & Power Building at 1401 Fulton Street, Fresno, the tallest building between San Francisco and Los Angeles at the time.
Henrietta and Emory Wishon named their first child Albert Graves Wishon II, after Emory’s father. When he died of Tuberculosis at age nine, the family provided the money which would have provided for Albert II’s education to Fresno State, for the benefit of its students.
In Fresno, near McLane High School, is an elementary school named for A.G. Wishon. Wishon Avenue in North Fresno is named after A.G.’s son, Emory. Following Emory’s 20 years of service as the Executive Vice President of PG&E in San Francisco, the company named a reservoir and dam on the Kings River after him.
I am a fourth-generation central valley resident, as is my wife, Sydney Bragg Wishon, who was born in Fowler and attended Fresno State.
Please enjoy your college experience at Fresno State, and know that the family of Albert Graves Wishon II is grateful for the opportunity to be able to contribute to your education.
A. Emory Wishon III