Friday, May 1, 2015

May-June 2015


Administrator’s Notes 

by Ralph Gibson

It’s been a very busy spring so far. Living History is in full swing, we are in the midst of a mini volunteer training session and building improvements are nearly completed at the Auburn Depot – site of The Gold Rush Museum. In fact, by the time you read this, nearly all the work will have been completed. It looks like we’ll be able to start installing exhibits as early as May 12th. Once we complete the indoor panning stream and add five essential exhibits, we’ll have a soft opening (Friday through Sunday 10:30 am to 4:00 pm). We hope to get to this stage by the last week of June. Once we are finished with all the exhibits, we’ll have a grand opening – probably in late summer or early fall.


Work will commence soon on the building that will house our DeWitt History Museum. Building upgrades are expected to be completed August 1st. We will plan a special sneak-peek at the museum on September 2nd to commemorate VJ Day with temporary exhibits and exhibit sketches showing what the museum will look like. Please stay tuned for more information!

Finally, the Heritage Trail is sneaking up fast! This year’s event will be August 15th & 16th so please mark your calendars!

The Dutch Flat Hotel is...For Sale

The Dutch Flat Hotel is for sale and the history community is hoping that a buyer with an interest in preserving the historic integrity of the building can be attracted. When the building was for sale in the early 1990s, the Golden Drift Historical Society raised money in an effort to purchase it. They didn’t reach their goal, but they did raise a lot of money that went into museum improvements.

We don’t usually allow this kind of free space in our newsletter, but this is a call to anyone who might know someone who would be both interested in buying the Dutch Flat Hotel and preserving the historic integrity of the building. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and we’d hate to see this vaulted Gold Rush era building lose that status.   -Ralph Gibson


Once Dutch Flat was one of the richest gold mining towns in the state and was an important stagecoach stop, which is why it’s a registered California Historic Landmark. Today, this quiet community has a small population of permanent residents who choose to live here for the slower pace of life.

At the heart of this historic community is the Dutch Flat Hotel and Event Center. The first floor of this 3-story, gold country bed and breakfast was built in 1852, and it operated as a hotel until it was abandoned in the 1970s. It didn’t lose its charm, however, and the current owners, Sussy and Tom, were inspired to buy and renovate the hotel in 2004.

Modern convenience now meets historical accuracy in the Dutch Flat Hotel. All new electrical wiring, plumbing, septic tank, water fixtures, heating system, pillowtop mattresses and support beams make this Old West hotel feel like home -- plus it’s now ADA compliant. The wooden floors are original, as are all other elements that could be salvaged. The hotel’s decor brings together the rough, Old West feel with the softer Victorian touch. Every corner of the building features antiques and period art prints.

The tourism industry has recovered from its previous dip, and the Dutch Flat Hotel is poised to take advantage of that. Three ski resorts and the city of Auburn are within 30 minutes driving distance, adding meaning to the hotel’s slogan “Long ago, but not so far away.” The current owners are relocating, so this turnkey business is currently for sale, ready for a new owner.  See www.1852DutchFlatHotel.com for more details on the sale of this historic icon.

Artifact Highlight

by Kasia Woroniecka 

Summer vacations are near and many of you will dust off your suitcases and bags, double check carry-on allowances and locate your passports. The leather suitcase from our collection has been to many exotic and faraway places as evident by the travel stickers attached to its leather surface. It belonged to John Carroll Nicholls, son of John Nicholls, the senior member of the banking firm of W. & P. Nicholls in Dutch Flat. John Carroll, a graduate of University of California, became a mining engineer. He worked in Korea, and then joined the International Nickel Co. in Ontario, Canada. His father accompanied him on some of the trips. Sacramento Union reported on September 30th, 1910 that John and his son were in Auburn, on their way to Alaska, having recently returned from the gold mines of Africa. One of the stickers on the suitcase is from the Durban railway station in South Africa. There is also a sticker from the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg, Germany. This five star hotel opened in 1909. In 1997 parts of the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies were filmed there. Another sticker is from Shepherd’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. The Shepherd’s Hotel was one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. It was built in the early 1840s, burned down in 1952 and rebuilt in 1957. Some of the notable guests included Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence. There is also a sticker from the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, Australia. It was built in 1854 and serviced miners during the Australian gold rush. Prince Charles and Princess Diana stayed there during their visit to Australia in 1983. Happy travels!

Placer County Historical Society News

 By Michael Otten,

Immediate Past President

Please welcome Walt Wilson as the new president of the Placer County Historical Society. After a decade plus it is time to pass the reins to a fellow multitasker. His term began May 1.

Whether it is planes, trains, teaching, history, trivia, church or other activities, Wilson pitches in with enthusiasm and aplomb. He is one of those consummate do-it-yourselfers.

When Wilson isn’t volunteering, you might find him substitute teaching or in his office at the Auburn City Airport handling operations.

Wilson and his wife, Bonnie, a pediatric nurse, came to Placer County in the late 1970s after purchasing four acres in Christian Valley. He eventually spent some 17 years building his own home. He took classes at Sierra College to learn how, enabling him to do most of it from the plans to the foundation, framing, wiring and plumbing. He said the county tired of annually renewing his building permit that inspectors gave him a 20-item list to quickly complete before finally signing off in 2003. Twelve years later, Walt still says he’s not done. He can’t remember when they moved in, but it was an April 1 after spending four years living in a trailer.

His longest ongoing volunteer gig goes back 35 years with the Friends of Auburn Library and their Wednesday-Saturday monthly book sales to help fund the library. Wilson said they have come a long way since 1980 when books were kept in the closet and sold in the library community room.

Walt was a key figure in building a book sale annex and later a 12 by 32 storage and office.

Other particulars:

Plane stuff: Commercial pilots license, instrument and multi-engine ratings; manager for Riley Air Service at China Airport 1961-2; owned and piloted a Piper Cherokee 235 for 15 years, visiting most of California’s airports, volunteered for the Auburn Aviation Association 15 years, served on the Airport Advisory Committee for eight, going back to when Nick Willick was Auburn City Manager. Train stuff: Switchman, conductor, engineer, assistant trainmaster for Southern Pacific during a 40 year career; currently vice president of Placer Sierra Railroad Heritage Society, chronicler of the 1972 Antelope war ammunition explosions.

History stuff: Has collection of some 3,000 history books, from local to state to national and some international, active in Colfax and Placer Historical societies and a new member of the Conference of California Historical Societies.

Other: West Covina High class of 1959, bachelor of arts in history and math, CSU Los Angeles; US Navy Reserve, 1963-1968, called to active duty in Vietnam for 18-month stint as Radarman 2nd Class, served last 8 years as head usher at Pioneer United Methodist Church, father, grandfather.

 Trivial: Walt, life member Dean Prigmore and Michael Otten as the Rusty Wranglers two-time winners of the Placer County AAUW Trivia Bee didn’t three-peat this year.

Walt can do it.

--otten@ssctv.net

New PCHS Officers for 2015-16

Walt Wilson on May 1 succeeded Michael Otten as president of the 115-year-old Placer County Historical Society.

Other officers elected at the annual meeting in April are: George Lay, 1st vice president; Addah Owens, 2nd VP (programs); Melanie Barton, secretary; Al Stoll, treasurer: Michael Otten, immediate PP.

Board members (Two-Year Terms, 2015-16 to 2016-17): Mike Holmes, Jean Allender, Karen Bleuel, John Knox. (Carry over elected Board Members--2014-15 to 2015-2016 term--with additional year remaining): Sherri Schackner, Penny Watson, Karri Samson).

Nominating Committee: Betty Samson, chair, Karri Samson, Susan Hubbard, Sherri Schackner.

 

Placer County Historical Society Dinner Meeting

By Addah Owens, Vice President 


When: June 4th

Time: 6:30 Dinner, 7:30 Program

Where: Auburn Veterans Hall 100 East St, Auburn

Cost: $15 per person

Menu: Barbecue Chicken and Ribs, Potato and Green Salad, Tom Stout’s Award-Winning Special Beans, Rolls, Dessert and Coffee.

Mail Check to: PCHS, c/o Betty Samson, 8780 Baxter Grade Road, Auburn, CA 95603

Program: Gene E. Bigler, Ph.D., a Stockton historian and retired diplomat, will give a PowerPoint presentation on “The Golden Horse and the California-Panama Gold Rush Connection.”   Gene Bigler says his fascination with the Gold Rush is due in part to the fact one of his ancestors was Henry William Bigler of the Mormon Battalion who worked with James Marshall at John Sutter’s Coloma sawmill. It was Henry Bigler’s detailed diaries that helped fix the famous gold discovery date as Jan. 24, 1848.

Do not bring alcohol. County directives prohibit it and we can't get liability coverage.

 

Gold Rush Museum Update:

By Jason Adair 

We’re busy out at the museum exhibit shop. Eagerly anticipating the finishing of the depot building, we’re building a bunch of stuff to go in it. Here’s a sneak peak at what we’re working on. 

video
video



In addition to exhibits, we’re also working on a gold rush card game called Strike it Rich! that will be posted on Kickstarter for funding/purchase soon.
 


Calendar of Events

Click on calendar to enlarge

Placer County Historical Organizations


Colfax Area Historical Society
Chris Miller (530) 346-8599

Donner Summit Historical  Society
Bill Oudegeest, (209) 606-6859

Foresthill Divide Historical Society
Sandy Simester, (530) 367-3535

Fruitvale School Hall Community Association
Lyndell Grey, (916) 645-3517

Historical Advisory Board
Glenn Vineyard, (916) 747-1961 

Old Town Auburn Preservation Society
Lynn Carpenter, (530) 885-1252

Lincoln Highway Association
Bob Dieterich,

Lincoln Area Archives Museum
Elizabeth Jansen , (916) 645-3800

Joss House Museum and Chinese History Center
Richard Yue, (530) 346-7121

Loomis Basin Historical Society
Karen Clifford, (916) 663-3871

Roseville Fire Museum
Jim Giblin, JGiblin@roseville.ca.us
rosevillefiremuseum.org

Maidu Museum & Historic Site
Glenie Strome, (916) 782-3299

Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor #59
Dave Allen, (530) 878-2878

Golden Drift Historical Society
Jim Ricker, (530) 389-8344

Newcastle Portuguese Hall Association
Aileen Gage

Placer County Historical Society
Walt Wilson, (530) 878-6640

Placer County Museums Docent Guild
Tom Innes, (530) 888-8969

Rocklin Historical Society
Barbara Chapman, (916) 415-0153

Roseville Historical Society
Phoebe Astill, (916) 773-3003

North Lake Tahoe Historical Society
Rebecca Phipps, (530) 583-1762

Placer County Genealogical Society, 
Toni Rosasco, (530) 888-8036

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

March-April 2015

 

Administrator’s Notes 

by Ralph Gibson

As some of you may have heard, we changed the name of the Gold Country Museum to The Gold Rush Museum. We are building a new museum in the historic Auburn Depot and we thought this fresh start deserved a fresh name. If any of you had the opportunity to walk through the old Gold Country Museum before we closed you may recognize some of the displays in our new museum once they are installed. We are keeping some the same, making changes to others, and will add brand new exhibits as well. We wanted to cover all aspects of the Gold Rush and our old museum had some glaring omissions.

One new exhibit will interpret the effects of the Gold Rush on local American Indians, both the Maidu and the Washoe. This exhibit will help us address a significant curriculum standard for many grade levels.

Another new exhibit will focus on the issue of slavery. California was admitted to the Union as a Free State as part of the 1850 Compromise. Though no Slave State was added to the Union as part of the compromise, the South received something they had wanted for a very long time; the Fugitive Slave Act. Further, some southern men immigrated to California with their slaves in tow. Though their numbers were never that great, they were here in Placer County.

We will also have an exhibit interpreting the singers, comedians, dancers and acting troupes that entertained the gold hungry Argonauts. Archives researcher John Knox has compiled a huge binder of entertainers and performances throughout the 1850s in the Auburn area. Knox discovered that famous thespian Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, performed in Auburn in 1856.

https://twitter.com/PlacerMuseumsThe Gold Rush Museum has endured many delays and it has become a trial of patience for us all. But we still hope to have a soft opening later in the spring with a grand opening in the summer. Be sure to check our Facebook page for updates.
facebook.com/placercountymuseums 
You can also follow us on Twitter (@placermuseums) where we will regularly tweet photos of our progress.


Colonel Walter Scott Davis 

by Kasia Woroniecka

Two artifacts from our collection, a soldier’s cape and a kepi, are part of the Civil War exhibit now on display in the Treasury at the historic courthouse in Auburn. They belonged to Colonel Davis - Who was he? And what was his experience in the war?

Walter Scott Davis was born on July 15, 1837 in Milton, MA. He graduated from Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall college preparatory school in 1854. He enlisted in the Union Army on August 10, 1861 as a Second Lieutenant. He was 24 years old. He was commissioned into F Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. The 22nd Massachusetts was organized by Senator Henry Wilson (future Vice-President during the Ulysses Grant administration) and was therefore known as "Henry Wilson's Regiment." The regiment saw its first action during the Siege of Yorktown in April 1862.

Affected by the horrors of war Walter wrote his mother from Camp Winfield Scott in Pennsylvania on April 19, 1862:

“O Mother, you know nothing of the sufferings of these people about here. The agriculture is at a standstill, and what makes it look more sad is to see the trees in full bloom and the season passing for the seed to be sown.” (…) Before you receive this I think the great battle will have commenced, probably it will be the largest ever fought on this continent and whoever lives to see it ended will have a sad story to tell. Do not be anxious dear Mother about me, if I fall it will be in good and glorious cause and there will be no one suffering for bread on account of it. The time (although it be a hundred years) is not far distant when we shall all meet in heaven. I am proud to fight on the same field that Washington and our forefathers fought on. I should not want to live in this country if it was not free and if all at home feel the same why should I not be willing to lose my life that they should be happy.” 

Walter Davis was promoted to First Lieutenant on June 28, 1862. He was wounded on July 1, 1862 at the battle of Malvern Hill near Richmond, VA. Also known as the Battle of Poindexter's Farm, it involved over fifty thousand soldiers from each side, hundreds of pieces of artillery and three gunboats. The battle was part of the Peninsula Campaign's Seven Days Battles. Walter wrote his mother on July 6, 1862:

“It would be impossible for me to give you full accounts of all that I have been through with. Pen cannot describe the scenes I have been eye witness to and wish if it could it would be wrong for me to relate them to the loved ones at home. You have troubles enough of your own and I will not burden you with more.” (…) I was slightly wounded by a shell, but that is not worth speaking of, when I was surrounded by danger for eight days. I have had many a narrow escapes but I am still safe, thanks God.” 

Walter Davis was promoted to Captain on October 18, 1862. He was appointed aide de camp to General J. H. Martindale and aide de camp to General James Barnes in 1862. He wrote his mother from camp near Falmouth, VA on November 26, 1862:

“It seems to me impossible for the people at home (in the north) to realize the extent in which this unhallowed rebellion is steeping our country in blood and draping our households in mourning. It may be that all our sufferings are blessing in disguise intended by the Father of Mercies for our ultimate good.” 

As the war raged on Walter wrote in an undated latter:

 “I am now commencing my third winter in the service; how little we at first supposed the war would last so long, but I can see the advantages now that at first little supposed would be advantages. Thousands upon thousands of men are just getting their eyes opened; they wonder why this institution of slavery has been allowed to live so long when they and just such men before them have done all in their power to support it. This war is costing us an immense sum of money, but what is that. It is better to be in debt than be a murderer.” 

Walter Davis was promoted to Major in 1864 “for gallant services at the battle of Jericho Ford, VA” and became a Lieutenant Colonel in September 1864 “for gallant services at the battle of Peebles’s Farm, VA.”

Feeling optimistic Walter wrote his father on September 27, 1864:

“We all feel now that the war is nearly at an end and I am as certain of success as I am that I shall die.” 

He would have to wait seven more months before the war ended in May of 1865.

After the war Walter Davis was involved in wholesale leather and wool business. He married Ellen S. R. Larkin of Boston in 1871. They moved to California in 1875 and for the next four years grew oranges in Anaheim. They lost their entire crop after a bad freeze and decided to move the family to Auburn in 1879. Ellen went ahead of the family and purchased 20 acres with a hard finished house in Auburn. They finished the shingle style home in 1889 and called it El Toyon. Walter also bought the Mammoth Bar Mine near the American River confluence and the mine proved a success. Walter Scott Davis died of heart failure in 1908 in Auburn. He was cremated and buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.


 Artist Highlight: Diane Bell 

 by Gary Day

 Rocklin artist Diane Bell creates contemporary works flavored with the memories and artifacts of her family’s granite mining history. Bell lives on Winding Lane, close to several long-abandoned quarry pits, most of them in weedy fields near Downtown Rocklin. She works with materials gleaned from the landscape: pieces of quarry shed roofing and siding, rusty metal and other scraps of an industry that slowly died here during the twentieth century. “I like to contemplate the mystery and history of the metal and old wood which I pick up from around the abandoned granite quarry sites near my home.” she said. “I combine paint, bees wax, wire and nails to create assemblage pieces that can be hung on the wall.”

Bell said that she loves sorting through her collection of found materials, adding and removing things, nailing and painting and just experimenting. “Most of my work is mixed media and I am currently exploring work in encaustic and cold wax with oil. I’ve created assemblage pieces by combining the wax with rusted metal and other found material.” she said.

Bell is the granddaughter of Matt Ruhkala who emigrated from Finland in 1889 and established the Union Granite Company which controlled four of Rocklin’s 62 quarries during the twentieth century. One of the four is now under the westbound lanes of highway 80. Bell’s father Ben Ruhkala was one of four brothers among Matt’s eleven children who operated the Capital Quarry, now called Big Gun, from 1933 until 1977.

The City of Rocklin owns Big Gun now. The property is off limits but a spectacular view is available from the second floor exterior stairwell of the Rocklin City Office building.

Bell named one of her new pieces “Message from a Quarryman” in memory of her dad.

“My art has evolved from years of studying with inspirational teachers at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and several northern Californian colleges and workshops around the country.” she said. Her work is in collections throughout the United States and also in Finland, India and France.

Bell will be on hand to display several pieces of her work on February 28 and March 1, from 1 pm until 4 pm both days, at the Rocklin History Museum, 3895 Rocklin Road. Admission is free.

Website: dianeruhkalabell.com


Placer County Historical Society News President’s Message 

by Michael Otten

Yeah, I know the days of a two-bit meal and the nickel beer with an all-you- can-eat buffet are among the stories from the so-called good old days.

So, as your president, it is my duty to inform you that the cost of dinners will be $15 starting April 2 with our annual meeting and election of officers. The tab is still a bargain when you consider the price increases at stores and restaurants.

Also, if you have prepaid, or made a reservation and cancel after the Sunday prior to the dinner, you will be responsible for payment. The caterer must be paid based on the count we have as of the Sunday prior to the dinner. The Society tries to keep the costs down to break-even. The costs include set up, clean up and various incidentals, including providing dinner for the speaker and guest.

Our membership chair Barbara Burdick reminds me you can save on postage to pay your dues at the April 2 meeting for the coming year. Our dues, the foundation of any organization, are still as low as $10 a year. They keep us going in carrying out our mission of supporting and preserving local history.

Who was Placer County’s first sheriff? 

If you said John Pole, Robert B. Buchanan or Samuel C. Astin, you’re right.

When California became a state in 1850, there was no Placer County. Our toothpaste tube shaped county wasn’t created until 1851, being carved out of two of the state’s original counties: Sutter and Yuba.

Pole was Yuba’s first elected sheriff and Buchanan was Sutter’s first. Placer’s first officially elected sheriff was Samuel C. Astin (1851-55). I understand that Buchanan’s middle name was Bloomer. Could that be the source of the name “Bloomer” Cut on the Central Pacific Railroad route through Auburn?

To get a feel for what an early sheriff looked like, visit the sheriff’s office of Elmer Gum in the historic Placer County Courthouse, where our program vice president, Addah Owens, serves as a historically-dressed docent at the Placer County Museum.

Addah is arranging for a special program on the history of the sheriff’s office for our April 2 dinner. So make sure you reserve a seat by calling 885-5074.

Auburn City Historian April McDonald is busy working on reprinting and updating a children’s coloring book of historic area buildings. The plan is to give these free to visitors at our museums during the Heritage Trail Aug. 15-16 and to make them available at the Placer County Visitors’ Bureau (California Welcome Center).

Thus we are looking for cosponsors and advertisers to help defray the cost of printing. If you can help please contact the City Historian or myself. Be a colorful part of history.

For as little as $10 you can join or provide a gift membership in the society. See the application at placercountyhistoricalsociety.org
--otten@ssctv.net


Placer County Historical Dinner Meeting 

by Addah Owens, Vice President

When: April 2nd

 Time: 6:30 Dinner, 7:30 Program

Where: Auburn Veterans Hall 100 East St, Auburn

 Cost: $15 per person

 Menu: Baked Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Seasonable Vegetables, Salad, Rolls, Desert.

Mail Check to: PCHS, c/o Betty Samson, 8780 Baxter Grade Road, Auburn, CA 95603

Program: To be announced.

DO NOT BRING ALCOHOL. County directives prohibit it and we can't get liability coverage.

According to a new board resolution, beginning with the April meeting the cost for dinners will be $15. Note: if you send a check or have otherwise agreed to attend and cancel after the Sunday prior to the dinner you will be responsible for payment. The caterer must be paid after the count is called in.


Calendar

Click to Enlarge

 

Placer County Historical Organizations 

Colfax Area Historical Society
Helen Wayland, (530) 346-7040
colfaxhistory.org

Donner Summit Historical Society
Bill Oudegeest, (209) 606-6859
donnersummithistoricalsociety.org

Foresthill Divide Historical Society

Sandy Simester, (530) 367-3535
foresthillhistory.org

Fruitvale School Hall Community Association
Lyndell Grey, (916) 645-3517

Golden Drift Historical Society
Jim Ricker, (530) 389-8344

Historical Advisory Board
Glenn Vineyard, (916) 747-1961

Old Town Auburn Preservation Society
Lynn Carpenter, (530) 885-1252

Lincoln Highway Association
Bob Dieterich, bobd@iname.com or
lincolnhwy.org

Lincoln Area Archives Museum
Elizabeth Jansen, (916) 645-3800
laamca.org

Joss House Museum and Chinese History Center

Richard Yue, (530) 346-7121

Loomis Basin Historical Society
Karen Clifford, (916) 663-3871
ppgn.com/loomishistorical.html

Roseville Fire Museum
Shari -Tasler, (916) 538-1809
rosevillefiremuseum.org

Maidu Museum & Historic Site
Glenie Strome, (916) 782-3299
roseville.ca.us/indianmuseum

Native Sons of the Golden West, Parlor #59
Dave Allen, (530) 878-2878
dsallen59@sbcglobal.net

Newcastle Portuguese Hall Association

Aileen Gage, (530) 885-911

Placer County Historical Society
Michael Otten, (530) 888-7837
placercountyhistoricalsociety.org

Placer County Museums Docent Guild
Tom Innes, (530) 888-8969

Rocklin Historical Society
Jean Sippola, (916) 652-1034
rocklinhistory.org

Roseville Historical Society

Phoebe Astill, (916) 773-3003
rosevillehistorical.org

North Lake Tahoe Historical Society
Rebeca Phipps, (530) 583-1762
northtahoemuseums.org

Placer County Genealogical Society,
Toni Rosasco, (530) 888-8036
pcgenes.com