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Taking You Back in History

You want to build a what?

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum

In the 1980s a group of like-minded Big Oak Flat - Groveland area citizens began to form. Those in the group valued the colorful history of Southern Tuolumne County and its Gold Rush era appearance. They feared these might be lost as its early citizens and old buildings disappeared one by one. In 1987 they officially formed the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS), a 501(C) 3, "for the express purpose of recording, preserving, protecting and making available for the public benefit the total history of our area". An enthusiastic membership drive began with the whole community invited to many fun and historically informative events. This rallied local business sponsors and a fast-growing membership of more than 250 by Feb. 1988.

STCHS leaders quickly decided that a museum would help them fulfill their goals. They hoped this museum would provide local citizens and visitors with an understanding and appreciation of the area that would enhance their attitudes toward it. They dedicated their energies to making this dream a reality - a huge undertaking in a tiny area with only about 2000 full-time residents.

To assess what existed in the area, a historic sites survey of buildings along the Big Oak Flat - Groveland Route 120 corridor was undertaken and completed by August 1988. Upon finding that all the historic buildings that might be used for a museum were too small, needed major structural work, or were unavailable, they decided to build a museum "from scratch".

STCHS leaders also recognized the need to move the Groveland Library out of the musty and sometimes flooded basement of the Community Hall where it was then housed. They suggested that a Tuolumne County branch library be located in their proposed museum building - making it a double benefit for the town. It brought the added support of library goers and Friends of the Groveland Library (FOGL) for the project.

But where and how would STCHS get the land for this plan? And how does a newly formed organization in a small foothill town pay for such a huge project? That’s coming up next.

Visit the Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum Friday, Saturday, or Sunday from 10 am - 2pm. 18990 Highway 120, Groveland.

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