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American Flags

History of the History of MMHC 

Part 1

In 1954, when the first mention of starting a Historical Society was first uttered, Walter F. Lorey, of Bear Valley, sent a substantial sum to Thomas B. Price, Superintendent of Schools, to help get it started.  The process was slow at first, and it was not until May of 1956, when action was taken.  At the request of the County Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club Civic Improvement Committee, and many citizens, hundreds of letters were sent to Mariposans who, in the past, displayed an interest in persevering the history.  The letter stated “It may be later than we think, but IT’S NO TOO LATE”.

     On April 14 1957, a meeting was set to establish the Mariposa County Historical Society.  Speaking at the meeting was: Dr. Aubey Neasham, Historian of California Division of Beaches and Parks; Thomas Price, County Superintendent of Schools; Archie Stevenot, Director of Calaveras County Historical and Douglass Hubbard, Yosemite National Park Chief Naturalist.  One hundred and seventy-five people attended the meeting in which temporary directors were chosen.

          The temporary directors were: Superior Judge Thomas Coakley, Mrs. Flora Wise and Walter D. McLean of Coulterville, Harry Odgers, Mrs. Helen Wagner and N.D. Chamberlain, Midpines:  Mrs. Alta Castagnetto, Thomas McSwain, Mrs. Marguerite Campbell, Mrs. Ruth Massey and John Fulham, Mariposa; Douglas Hubbard, Yosemite National Park; Mrs. Vera Preston of White Rock district, Roy McDonnell, Hornitos and Thomas B. Price, Cathey’s Valley.

     Horace Meyers was appointed as membership chairmen and a drive for membership began.  By August more than 300 members had signed up with a goal of 500 set.  The First Life Member was Mrs. Walter Lorey, (Walter Lorey passed away in late 1957) followed by, Mary Curry Tresidder, Mrs. Clay Daulton, Mrs. J.H. Stephens, Chris Mills, Thomas McSwain, Thomas Coakley, Mr. and Mrs. Max Hirsh, Myrtle Schlageter, Temple Schlageter, Dr. Raymond Wood, Walter Starr, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Huffman, Lucy Butler, Horace Meyer, Alice Meagher Glazier, Frank Salazar, Frank Ewing, Grace Ewing, The Karl Poledner Family, Mariposa Chapter of the Western Mining Council and Azuba McIntyre.

     The first Mariposa Sentinel was presented on December 1, 1957.  It listed the 1957-58 Mariposa County Historical Society as:


Thomas Coakley    President

Thomas R. McSwain       Vice President

Walter D. McLean Vice President

Ruth B. Massey     Secretary and Editor of the Mariposa Sentinel

Perle A. Barnes      Treasurer


Thomas Coakley, Mariposa

Harry Odgers,        Colorado

Helen Wanger, Midpines

Thomas McSwain, Mariposa

Newell Chamberlain, Midpines

O.C. Gray, Mariposa

Philip Martell, Mariposa

James Depauli, Coulterville

Walter McLean, Greeley Hill

Thomas Price, Cathey’s Valley

Ruth Massey, Mariposa

John Fulham, Colorado

Horace Meyer, Cathey’s Valley

Henry Kowitz, Hornitos

George Radanovich, Mariposa

     In April of 1958, the Masonic building in Mariposa was chosen to house exhibits of Mariposa County history.    Muriel Neavin and Louise Hudson, local artists, with the assistance of Naturalist Doug Hubbard of Yosemite, provided plans and drawings for the interior of the lower floor of the Masonic building.  Volunteer carpenters and craftsmen were enlisted to make it all happen.   Donations of items depicting various communities of Mariposa between the 1850-1875 were requested.

      The History Center was open to the public in August, but October 19, 1958 was chosen as the date for the dedication of the History Center.  Louise Hudson was chosen as the curator for the Mariposa Historical Center.  Between August and December of 1958 over 2,200 people visited the History Center.  The Masonic building remained the home of the Mariposa Historical Society until 1971.            (Part Two of the story will be in the next Sentinel)

History of the History Center Part 2

     The Mason’s Building made a good home for the History Center, but as the collection began to grow, the need for a fire-proof building became apparent.

On October 19, 1967, during the Mariposa Historical Society’s 10th Anniversary, Judge Coakley announced that $25,000 dollars had been anonymously donated for that purpose.  The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors also donated $25,000 to the cause and the Historical Society donated another $1,000.  Coakley estimated that a total of $75,000 to $100,000 would be needed to build a new center that would have adequate space for the collection and parking.  The search for a place to build and funds to build began. 

     By January of 1969, three sites were suggested; 

  1.  Firehouse site at the corner of 7th and Bullion St.

  2. Gabe Wilson’s property on 9th Street

  3. The lot next to the County building on Hwy 140 and 8th Street.

After discussion these sites were disqualified due to size and location.

In July of 1969, Judge Coakley decided to donate his property on Jessie Street, providing that Jessie Street could be abandoned by the County.After much discussion with the property owners on Jessie Street the site was approved.

Now came the fund raising.The Van Ness Ranch donated a quarter horse that was raffled off and won by Roy McDonnell of Hornitos.The Rauch Family donated an Amphicar and small adobe bricks were sold with each chance to win.The Sierra Telephone Company finally won the Amphicar in the drawing.Bids for the construction were solicited and the Imberi Construction Company came in with the best bid.Unfortunately it was still higher than expected.After much negation it was determined that the Imberi would do the construction, but much of the work will be provided by the community.

     Dale Hudson volunteered to survey the site. The ground was leveled with the help of Greenamyers’ tractor operated by Ed Greenamyers and Jake Wills. Volunteers from Little Church in the Hills, St. Joseph’s Church, School Teachers, Indian Tribal Council, and F. F. A. helped with construction.  The Boy Scouts came in and helped clean up the site.  Murial Neavin took charge of designing the interior layout and surrounding grounds of the Museum.  Louise Hudson, the first Curator, help with the planting along with Carl Seaman with Casey Shupe,  J.L. Spriggs and Raymond Clark.  Hundreds of people helped build the Library-History Center.

March 7, 1970, was the day of ground breaking for the Library and History Center.Six hundred people came to witness the dedication.People who had ancestral roots in the county prior to 1870 were encouraged to come and bring your family, a written account of your history in Mariposa, and a shovel to take part in the ground breaking.

On May 23, 1971, The Dedication of Library-History Center took place.Over six hundred people were on hand for the celebration.The grounds around the History Center were still under construction and the displays inside were still being put up, but the building was ready to go.The total cost including all the volunteer labors was sent at $206,373.00


The Outside Grounds of the History Center 

     The outside grounds  of the History Center were designed by Murial Neavin, assisted by Louise Hudson.  The creation of a drought resistant  garden was one of the goals of the design.    Many of the shrubs and plants are native to this area. Carl Seaman supervised the work in the garden.  With the help of Charlie Morse, Gene Muller, Casey Shupe,  J.L. Spriggs and Raymond Clark the garden took shape. 

      The Chinese Rock Wall that surrounds the patio area was donated by Clyde and Adrian Quick.    In 1972, the Mount Bullion C.Y. A. crew  brought the wall from the Quick Ranch at Pea Ridge to the History Center.

     The Presbyterian Church Bell, that originally adorned the patio and now stands proudly in front of the History Center, came from Presbyterian Church in Mariposa.  The Presbyterian Church originally stood on Bullion Street where Freeman and Seaman Surveying is now located.   In 1939 Everett Bagby rebuilt the church into an office building and the bell was sold to a church in San Francisco where it remained for years.  In 1952 the church closed and Nathan Bower donated the bell to the Society of  California Pioneers in San Francisco.  In 1967, Judge Coakley signed an agreement for it to be on loan to Mariposa History Center.  In 1998 the bell was donated permanently to the History Center after the death of Nathan Bower.  

      The Arrastra was donated by the Dr. Shannon Family.  It came from the Ortega Mine area on Guadalupe Mountain.  It was installed by Harry Odgers and Jim Hibpshman of the Western Mining Council.  

The Western Mining Council also erected the 5-stamp mill.  The 5-stamp mill came from the Golden Key Mine in the Whitlock Mining District.  The  stamp mill is over one hundred years old.  It was donated by John Fullum and Harry Odgers.  The operation of the 5-stamp mill is still one of the most requested demonstrations at the Museum.

     On the island between the parking lot and the highway are two wagons.  The log wagon  was donated by Frank Scott.    The Scott Family used the wagon in the Jerseydale/Triangle Area.

 The Log Wagon was rebuilt by Neil Stinson and Scott Pinkerton.  The  Freight Wagon was donated by the Merced County Fairgrounds in 1974.  It was hauled to the museum by Vic Hall.  Also on the island are a number of  pieces of mining equipment, which include steam boilers, water cannons and the remains of the 10-stamp mill from the Sweetwater Mine.   One of the next projects of the History Center is to rebuild the 10-stamp mill for display. 

     Two of the most predominate displays at the History Center are the Count’s House and the Gazette Building.  The Count’s house was constructed in 1863 as the home of George Counts who was the treasurer for Mariposa County for 28 years.  The building was moved to the Museum in 1993.  Also arriving in 1993 was the  Gazette Building.  The old Gazette building was originally the Temperance Hall and a Saloon that was located near the Courthouse.  In 1866 the Gazette office was moved into the building.  In 1948 the old building was moved to the fairgrounds as the John L. Dexter Museum where it stood until 1993 when it was moved to the History Center.

     In 1973, the Santa Cruz Holy Cross Church was moved to the History Center.  It was donated by the Diocese of Fresno with the permission of Miss Angie Solari, last resident of Indian Gulch.  The Church was built in 1885, and in one of the saddest events of the History Center was destroyed by a grass fire that was started near the Mariposa Creek on July 24, 1980.       

The rear of the History Center was first designed as an Indian Village,  much like the ones you may find in Yosemite or the higher elevations of the County. It was put together by volunteers from the Indian Tribal Council.  When space for an archival vault was needed, the Indian displays were moved inside to a area once occupied by the County Library.  Other displays were moved to a more prominent spot in front of the museum.

     The archival vault was constructed in 2002 with funds provided from the Uebner Family, Yosemite Bank, Mariposa County and  a host of people throughout the County. 

     The Mariposa Museum and History Center continues to evolve with each new generation of Volunteers and Board Members.  Presently new mining exhibits are in the progress of being built.  A blacksmith shop,  a broom making shop and a carriage house have been built for the display of Mariposa history.  Tours and demonstrations are routinely done by History Center Volunteers and thousands of visitors and students come to the Mariposa Museum and History Center yearly.  All of this would not be possible, but for the help and support of the docents, volunteers and the public.  This History Center and Museum has come a long way since 1957 and the future of our past is bright with new discoveries being made each day. 


Thank You For Your Continued Support.

MMHC History 

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