Sierra Tel rep. along with Mariposa Museum and History Center docents and volunteers outside the museum holding their 2018 Sierra Telephone Phonebook
Local historian, Tom Phillips, provided the photos and text for the article on the History of the Mariposa Museum and History Center.
Debbie Peters said to watch your mailboxes in January 2018 for your copy of the 2018 Sierra Telephone Phonebook.
Front Row: Jeri Meisenheimer, Roberta Phillips, Janine Clark, Sylvia Emery, Ruth Sellers, Mariposa Museum and History Center President, Mike Wenrich, Tom Phillips.
Back Row: Sierra Tel Special Projects Manager, Debbie Peters, Dale Meisenheimer, Dick Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Kim Sullivan, Ed Drechsler, Skip Skyrud
History of the Mariposa Museum and History Center
In the spring of 1957, 175 community members met to establish the Mariposa County Historical Society. The idea for a museum and history center had been conceived three years earlier, in 1954, and now the newly formed Historical Society set out to bring the project to life. The old Masonic building on Sixth Street was selected as a fitting location, and Louise Hudson was named curator. A dedication ceremony was held on October 19, 1958, and the Mariposa Museum and History Center was born. Founding directors of the Historical Society were Superior Court Judge Thomas Coakley, Flora Wise, Walter D. McLean, Harry Odgers, Helen Wagner, N.D. Chamberlain, Alta Castagnetto, Thomas McSwain, Marguerite Campbell, Ruth Massey, John Fullum, Douglas Hubbard, Vera Preston, Roy McDonnell, and Thomas B. Price. Horace Meyers was membership chair.
In 1967, after a need for more fire-resistant accommodations was identified, Judge Coakley announced during the Historical Society’s 10th Anniversary celebration that $25,000 had been anonymously donated for this purpose. The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors soon followed with another $25,000 donation and, in July 1969, Judge Coakley donated the property that would become the site of the Mariposa County Library and History Center.
Plans for the new building hit a snag, however, when construction bids came in higher than expected. The community of Mariposa rallied around the project. Hundreds of volunteers lent a hand, including Boy Scouts who helped clear the site, and on May 23, 1971, 600 people gathered for a dedication ceremony. The Mariposa Museum and History Center has since been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as one of the best small museums in America, and is home to exhibits depicting local history that includes the California Gold Rush and Native American heritage. One of the most requested demonstrations is the operation of a working 5-stamp mill from the Golden Key Mine in the Whitlock Mining District. More than a century old, the mill was donated by Harry Odgers and John Fullum. An Arrastra (primitive mill) from the Ortega Mine on Guadalupe Mountain, as well as steam boilers, water cannons and the remains of a 10-stamp mill from the Sweetwater Mine in the Jerseydale area can also be seen on the grounds.
A bell that adorned the church patio of the Mariposa Presbyterian Church in the 1930s also stands proudly at the history center. The bell was sold to a church in San Francisco when Everett Bagby converted the Presbyterian Church to offices in 1939. In 1952 it was donated to San Francisco’s Society of California Pioneers, where it remained until 1967, when Judge Coakley arranged for its loan to the history center. The bell was donated to the center in 1998.
Native American heritage is richly represented in an indoor area that previously housed the county library. Other popular exhibits include the Counts Residence – the nineteenth-century home of two generations of Mariposa County Treasurers, George and Samuel Counts – as well as the original Mariposa Gazette building constructed in 1854 as a Knights of Temperance Hall before serving as a saloon and, finally, home to the local newspaper. Visitors may also tour working blacksmith and broom-making shops, and a carriage house.
None of this would be possible without the generous support of Board members, docents, volunteers, and patrons. For more information on the history center, visit mariposamuseum.com.
Cover of the 2018 Sierra Telephone Phonebook