The first year of operation of the railroad coincided with the beginnings of a deep national economic decline.Farmers were unable to get profitable return on their crops, banks and railroads failed nationwide.At the same time that the railroad was being planned, a group of Michigan lumbermen began acquiring thousands of acres of timber in the Sierra Nevada about 75 miles northeast of Fresno. Williams, in partnership with Michigan railroad speculator Marcus Pollasky, the SJVRR began construction in Fresno on July 4, 1891, and reached the farmlands of Clovis Cole and George Owen by October of that year.Fresno civil engineer Ingvart Tielman mapped the townsite on behalf of Pollasky on December 29, 1891.The city of Clovis began as a freight stop along the San Joaquin Valley Railroad. The Clovis station, after which the town was named, was positioned on the Owen side of the track.Organized on January 15, 1890, by Fresno businessmen Thomas E. Cole and Owen later sold land to Marcus Pollasky for development of a townsite.The original townsite featured streets named for the officers and principal investors of the railroad: (Benjamin) Woodworth, (Marcus) Pollasky, Fulton (Berry), (Thomas) Hughes, (Gerald) Osmun, and (O. The townsite, named Clovis by Pollasky, was laid out on what was originally Owen's land.
The railroad agreed to establish a station on the west side of the tracks and to call it "Clovis".
The railroad purchased right-of-way from both farmers, half from each – the east side from Cole and the west side from Owen – and ran tracks up the borderline between the two properties.