The site of Kerman was first established by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company as a way station with a pump and watering tank in 1891. The site was originally named Collis in honor of the president of the railroad Collis P. Huntington. It was at this site in 1892 that the famous Sontag and Evans gang held up the San Francisco-Los Angeles passenger train, one of the last train robberies in the country and perhaps the most historical event to occur in Kerman.
Settlement and cultivation of the Kerman area began and continued through the turn of the century as irrigation projects brought water to the area, primarily from the Kings River, to the south. In 1900, William G. Kerckhoff and Jacob Mansar purchased some 3,027 acres of land from the Bank of California. These men formed the Fresno Irrigated Farms Company.
In 1906, Collis was renamed Kerman from the men's names Kerckhoff and Mansar. At this time, the Company began promoting land sales near Kerman across the country. The Company also filed the original townsite subdivision map with Fresno County, establishing the street grid encompassed by California Avenue, "G" Street, First Street and Ninth Street.
By 1914 Kerman had an estimated population of 400 persons surrounded by 29,000 acres of producing crop land. The Kerman Creamery was producing about 1,600 pounds of butter daily. In 1921, Madera Avenue was paved from the Southern Pacific railroad tracks north to the San Joaquin River and streetlights were installed from the tracks to Whitesbridge Road. By 1936 development of Kerckhoff Park had begun.
Oil and gas exploration was being conducted several miles south of town and in 1941 culminated with (at the time) the development of the largest gas well in the state.
In 1946, the residents of Kerman voted to incorporate, and the City of Kerman was born, with a population of 1,050 residents. Kerman remains predominantly agricultural, but is reaching out to industry through the development of an industrial park and development of strong business.