Chowchilla is a city in Madera County, California, United States. Chowchilla is located 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Madera, at an elevation of 240 feet (73 m). It is a principal city of the Madera–Chowchilla Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 11,127 at the 2000 census. (This number does not include inmates at Central California Women's Facility and Valley State Prison for Women, which are located just outside of the city.) As of 2009, the population is about 19,051 (this includes the inmates at the Central California Women's Facility and State Prison for Women). Chowchilla continues to grow as there are new housing developments.
The name "Chowchilla" is derived from the Native American tribe of Chauchila (the spelling is inconsistent in reference guides) Yokut Indians which once lived in the area. The name itself evidently translates as "Murderers" and is apparently a reference to the warlike nature of the Chauchila tribe. The Chauchila Indians were inadvertently responsible for the first white men "discovering" Yosemite Valley, which occurred when the Chauchila Indians were being pursued by a band of whites. References to the Indian tribe still abound in Chowchilla, and the town's high school still retains the moniker of "Redskins" as their local mascot.
The first post office at Chowchilla opened in 1912. Chowchilla incorporated in 1923.
Chowchilla was launched into national headlines on July 15, 1976 when an entire school bus of children was kidnapped. Twenty-six children and the adult bus driver were taken from the bus, which the kidnappers eventually concealed under brush in a wash, and driven around in two vans for 11 hours before being forced, one by one, to climb into a hole in the ground which contained a moving van which had been buried in a quarry in Livermore, California. By stacking the 14 mattresses that were in the van on top of each other part-time bus driver Ed Ray, a local farmer, and some of the older children were able to reach the opening at the top of the truck that they originally entered through, but was now covered with a metal lid and weighed down. They were eventually able to wedge the lid open by propping it up with a stick and then Ray was able to move what held the lid down which turned out to be two 100 pound industrial batteries. Ray and the boys were able to remove the rest of the debris blocking them from the ground's surface. After 16 hours underground they emerged in the middle of the night and walked to a nearby guard shack at the entrance to the quarry. The guard alerted the authorities and all the victims were pronounced to be in good condition and returned home to find that mass media had descended on the town. Ray was able to remember the license plate of one van while under hypnosis and this led to the capture of the kidnappers as they attempted to flee to Canada. A rough draft of a ransom note was found at the house of the owner of the quarry; the owner's son, Frederick Woods, and two friends, Richard and James Schoenfeld, were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. The ordeal was dramatized in the 1993 ABC-TV movie They've Taken Our Children: The Chowchilla Kidnapping (shown in the UK as Vanished Without a Trace) starring Karl Malden, which is sometimes shown on the Biography Channel. Interviews with many of the children, now adults, including Mike and bus driver Ray were broadcast on MSNBC Dark Heart Iron Hand.
After the children were recovered, it was observed that some circumstances of the abduction corresponded to details in "The Day the Children Vanished", a story written by Hugh Pentecost that had been published in the 1969 fiction anthology Alfred Hitchcock's Daring Detectives. A copy of this book was in the Chowchilla public library; police theorized that this was the source of the real-life kidnappers' inspiration.
After being denied parole 20 times, one of the three kidnappers, Richard Schoenfeld, was deemed suitable for parole by the California Board on Parole Hearings on October 30, 2008. However Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can modify the board's decision.
James Schoenfeld has been denied parole 16 times. Frederick Woods was denied parole for the 12th time on January 5, 2009 and will be eligibile again in 3 years.
Chowchilla is located at.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.1 square miles (18.4 km²), all of it land.
The climate of Chowchilla is Mediterranean. Chowchilla receives an average of about 12 inches of precipitation per year. The wettest months are January, February, and March with March being the wettest. Chowchilla has dry, hot summers, and mild to cool, rainy winters. Chowchilla experiences frequent fog from November to March and overcast days are common, especially in January. In 2005, Chowchilla had 20 consecutive cloudy, rainy days. There are days with moderate to heavy rain during the winter months. In January, the high temperature may drop as low as 45°F (9°C). During the summer, when there is usually no rain, the temperature may reach as high as 110°F (43°C).
There are two school districts in Chowchilla. The Chowchilla School District and The Chowchilla Union High School District.
School Districts in Chowchilla Chowchilla Union High School Serves Grades 9-12
Chowchilla School District Serves Grades K-8. Schools in the Chowchilla School District Stephens School, Fuller School, Ronald Reagan School, Fairmead School, Wilson School
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,127 people, 2,562 households, and 1,908 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,567.4 people per square mile (605.1/km²). There were 2,711 housing units at an average density of 381.9/sq mi (147.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 63.46% White, 10.26% Black or African American, 2.60% Native American, 1.32% Asian, 0.26% Pacific Islander, 16.16% from other races, and 5.94% from two or more races. 28.20% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,562 households out of which 40.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.3% were married couples living together, 13.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.5% were non-families. 21.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.94 and the average family size was 3.42.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 42.8% from 25 to 44, 16.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 51.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 39.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,729, and the median income for a family was $35,741. Males had a median income of $32,306 versus $20,538 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,927. About 16.5% of families and 19.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.1% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.
In the state legislature Chowchilla is located in the 14th Senate District, represented by Republican Dave Cogdill, and in the 25th Assembly District, represented by Republican Tom Berryhill. Federally, Chowchilla is located in California's 19th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +10 and is represented by Republican George Radanovich.