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Taking You Back in History

Making a Dream a Reality

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum

How did a small organization in a tiny town obtain the land and pay for the construction of a museum/library building? It was only possible with a lot of dedication, hard work, planning and the heartfelt belief that it COULD be done … and “it took a village.”

STCHS (Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society) fundraising events over ten years plus were many and varied - concerts, plays, film festivals, tours, hikes, picnics, dinners, and speakers. In 1996, STCHS established a mini-museum downtown to spark interest and began to learn the skills needed to fill and manage a museum. Pleas went out from STCHS to civic, commercial and social organizations and they lined up to assist. Monetary support came in from businesses, coin-pot collections, bequests, memorial funds, and donations from local citizens and visitors passing through. Professionals agreed to donate their services such as fund-raising expertise, architectural designs, and legal advice. Local contractors and builders offered some of the needed equipment, materials and man-hours.

Other groups and businesses held special events earmarking their earnings for the Building Fund; profits from '49er Festivals were given. Reprint rights and sales of books and art works were gifted; Friends of the Groveland Library (FOGL) gave the profits from their book sales. Notable were Rotary's truck auction and PML's lot auction benefiting the project. "Charlie-the-Can-Man" Heath's lengthy aluminum can collection grew from five collection barrels in town to sixty, placed from Yosemite to Moccasin. A volunteer crew eventually collected, crushed and redeemed approximately $50,000 worth of aluminum. The can collection allowed everyone in the community to play part in building the museum and library.

GCSD had the perfect piece of property designated in 1992 for a museum in the town park. Negotiations and permitting with the county and GCSD were lengthy and complicated but an agreement was eventually reached to obtain this land in January of 1999.

The red line on a large wooden thermometer on the property showing the progress toward the first financial goal of $300,000, climbed higher and higher and the goal also climbed, eventually to $700,000. By the time pledges were called in and the project was completed, nearly a million dollars had been committed and spent with no state or federal funding.

A ground-breaking ceremony and celebration took place on November 17, 1999, the museum was completed in October 2000 and was officially opened in May, 2001 with a huge community celebration. The county branch library benefits the whole community. The Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum continues to be staffed and maintained by STCHS, without state or federal funding to this day, by an entirely volunteer group of dedicated and caring individuals. What an amazing success story!

Editor: There are many ways to participate in, preserve, and share the rich history of our community. Become a volunteer, a docent, a member, and/or supporter of this precious self-funded local resource. Learn more at


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