Orange Cove mayor proclaims city’s centennial

Orange Cove city, library staff reflect on community as the city council proclaims the 100th anniversary of the small farming town

Welcome to Orange Cove sign as seen from the south sidewalk along Park Blvd. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published September 19, 2023  • 
10:30 am

ORANGE COVE – The Orange Cove City Council celebrated 100 years of its small Central Valley town with a proclamation at the council meeting on Sept. 13. 

According to the proclamation, Orange Cove was founded in 1923 and incorporated as a city in 1948; however, other sources, including the city’s website, state that Orange Cove’s founding occurred in 1914. The town was founded by Elmer Sheridan and named for the citrus farming the land showed potential for. 

“I, Mayor Diana Guerra Silva and the council members hereby proudly announce and proclaim that we take pride in all of Orange Cove’s accomplishments this first century and are pleased to spend the year honoring and celebrating the legacy of Orange Cove while beginning the City’s next 100 years,” the proclamation said.

The discrepancy between the two founding years has not been confirmed as of report. However, the proclamation from the city council meeting recognized that the 100th anniversary is not possible “without dedicated, hard-working public servants in both staff and city council members.”

Orange Cove Interim City Manager Daniel Parra said the best thing about Orange Cove is the people who make up the community. Orange Cove residents “will do whatever they can to give you a hand; that’s who these folks are,” Parra said. 

“It’s the people, the way they get together and help one another,” Parra said. “Let’s say Christmas for example … every child in town is given a gift.”

City staff will also frequently receive food from community members that is “just to say thank you,” Parra said.

Orange Cove is one of the smaller incorporated cities in Fresno County. According to the 2020 Census, it has a population of 9,649, the majority of which is Hispanic. The majority of the city’s population is also very young; most residents are younger than 45 years old and the median age is 24.

Wendy Klemin, a library assistant II at the Orange Cove library branch, said in a written statement to the Times that she has worked at the library for seven years and enjoys the community very much, especially the children she gets to interact with.

Klemin described Orange Cove as a small farming community where education is an important priority for everyone. She said she loves getting to interact with the families who come into the library and that there is a lot of love shown by parents with their children.

“Literacy is a foundation of success, and when parents bring their kids to the library, they are showing a value for literacy,” Klemin said.

Orange Cove’s farming history contributes to its uniqueness as a community, Klemin said.

“It is an old town, and part of a very important agricultural area,” she said.

According to the book an “Early Orange Cove History” by Edwina Wade, Elmer Sheridan first planted oranges on his land in 1912 “in the area that was to become the Orange Cove district.”

Sheridan and others formed the Orosi Orange Land Company and bought 6,000 acres of land, which they later sold off into smaller tracts to families interested in farming in the area. The location became known for its oranges because it was a largely frost-free area.

In January 1913, the Dinuba Sentinel ran a story stating that a new town named either Sheridan or Orange Cove would be coming to the Central Valley in the near future, according to Wade’s book. The news story said Sheridan’s friends wanted the town named after him, but Sheridan himself thought Orange Cove was a better name. 

Orange Cove came to be founded as a town through land owned by the Orosi Orange Land Company that was set aside for the town. In January 1914, the land was leveled and “Operation Orange Cove had begun,” according to Wade. 

By the end of 1914, development of Orange Cove had progressed and Wade said “Orange Cove residents were becoming not only proud of their town, but proud of themselves as well.” 

During early development of the town, the groundwater levels dropped drastically and water was hard to come by, causing many families to leave; however, the state’s Central Valley Project brought the Friant-Kern Canal to the area in the late 1940s and Orange Cove began “again a new era of prosperity,” Wade said. 

Regardless of the official founding date for Orange Cove, its residents have always been proud of their community.

The proclamation recognized that mentality in Orange Cove and stated that the town “has seen a great deal of growth and improvements in its 100 years of existence and looks forward to another 100 years of the same growth and improvement.” 

To learn more about the early history of Orange Cove, Edwina Wade’s book is available to look through — but not check out — at the Orange Cove branch library.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter