|Coalinga, formerly known as Coaling
Station A, Coalingo, and Coalinga
Station, is a city in Fresno County,
Coalinga is located 52 miles
southwest of Fresno,
at an elevation of 673 feet.
|All rights reserved.
To Contact Us:
265 W. Elm Avenue
Phone: (559) 935-2948
Fax: (559) 935-1458
|The Boom Town That Lived
A Brief History of Coalinga by Bill Howell (edited to fit page)
Located in Fresno County, Coalinga is one of the few cities that began as a mining town, and survived. Oil
provided the community with over 100 years of relative prosperity, but it was the discovery of coal that
inspired the name, Coalinga, when laid out by Southern Pacific Railroad engineers in 1891. Legend has it
during those days; there were three coaling stations: “A”, “B” and “C”. The name Coalinga is derived from
mixing “Coaling” with Station “A”, with the “A” meaning to arrive.
In 1889 the Coalinga Post Office was established and in 1891, the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased 160
acres of homestead owned by M.L. Curtis establishing the present site of Coalinga. By 1910, Coalinga was
the third largest shipping point for the railroad in California, with nearly all the tonnage connected to oil
A handful of local citizens began the process of incorporation, which was completed in April of 1906 and in
1909, the Coalinga Chamber of Commerce was organized. April 16, 1910, there was plenty to “crow” about
as the Coalinga oil field was reported as the largest in California because earlier in September 1909, the
Silver Tip well, just one-half mile from the city limits. It blew as the greatest gusher known in California at
that time. This caused enough excitement that the Los Angeles Stock Exchange closed, so that its members
could come to Coalinga on a special excursion. Coalinga’s oil field produced men and companies who were
to become some of the giants of the industry, one being R.C. Baker, the founder of Baker Oil Tools. (His
original buildings still in Coalinga, are now the home of the R.C. Baker Memorial Museum, one of the
outstanding small museums in the state, focusing on oil, the geology of the area and all phases of pioneer
Grammar schools came with the earliest settlers in the area and the first high school was built in 1910. The
first graduation class, was held in 1912 with three members. In 1913, the women of Coalinga promoted a
library district receiving a Carnegie grant valued at $14,000. The building was erected in 1916. In 1918,
Coalinga veterans of the “World War” began organizing a local veteran’s organization. This idea spread
until it reached statewide interest. When veterans met in 1919 to establish the American Legion, Coalinga
was designated Post number 2 in California. Post-number 1 in San Francisco gave their support to later
designate Coalinga as “Mother Post” of California. This patriotic spirit has never faded. From World War I
through the latest military involvements, Coalinga men and women have served their country honorably.
Coalinga College was established in 1932. Later renamed West Hills Community College serving students
from Coalinga, Mendota, Firebaugh, Lemoore, Avenal and Huron.
In 1933, the Junior Chamber of Commerce hosted an impromptu racing of various wild reptiles later known
as the “annual running of the “Horned Toads”. It later became known as the Annual Horned Toad Derby. The
only years missed since 1933 of the racing of the toads: were the war years, 1942-1945 and 1983, due to
the Coalinga earthquake. The Horned Toad was adopted by the High School as its mascot in 1938.
The biggest test for the existence of the city came on May 2, 1983, when Coalinga experienced the 6.7
earthquake that leveled a significant portion of the business district. Residents realized that the oil was not
going to last forever and the earthquake was the catalyst that inspired the City to look for new economic
opportunities. It was successful having the State Department of Corrections locate a major prison facility in
the Pleasant Valley in 1991, Coalinga State Hospital in 2006, a 40-acre industrial park adjacent to the city. In
addition there is an $8 million airport facility and in 1998, the residents approved a bond issue for a new $14
million hospital, the Coalinga Regional Medical Center, with the latest in medicine technology. Since 1983, the
Coalinga Huron Parks and Recreation District has expanded its facilities, constructing a community center,
fitness center and a senior citizen’s center. Also in cooperation with the City of Coalinga a new skate park
has been built, and several parks promoting soccer, basketball, walking trails and even an outdoor
amphitheater have emerged. City Streets and sidewalks, and new businesses continue to add to the
independent spirit of this, mid-state city along the I-5 corridor.