Explore Placer County’s Colorful History on the Heritage Trail

Explore Placer County’s vibrant, challenging and colorful history Aug. 6 and 7, 2011, when 18 local museums offer free admission to all visitors as part of the fourth annual Heritage Trail Museum Tour. Artifacts in the museums, which stretch from historic Roseville and Rocklin through Penryn, Auburn, Foresthill, Colfax, Dutch Flat, Boreal Mountain Resort, Donner Summit and North Lake Tahoe, tell stories of hardship, courage and triumph.

Snowshoe racing in the Sierra.
Once home to a thriving Native American culture, Placer County also played a major role in the California Gold Rush, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad through the high Sierra and later, planting orchards which provided high quality fruit to the East Coast.

“Heritage Trail is an adventure that celebrates this region’s remarkable past and its role today,” said Placer County Museum Administrator Melanie Barton who is chairing the event. “It is an outstanding opportunity to bring local history to life for your family.”

For example, visitors to the Placer County Museum in Auburn can see the dingy granite quarters where jailed women spent cold nights, and speak with “Alma Bell,” a historical figure, who was incarcerated for killing her boyfriend 100 years ago. The historic sheriff’s office is also open. Both are located in the century-old Placer County Historic Courthouse, a visible landmark from Interstate 80.

Visitors to the Rocklin History Museum can see Transcontinental Rail memorabilia and visit what’s left of the original roundhouse. Rocklin was a major mining center for granite used for memorials and buildings. Roy Ruhkala, whose family came to Rocklin in 1889 and owned the Union Granite Company, will demonstrate how to split granite blocks.

Guests at the Western Ski Sport Museum at Boreal Ridge can see the wooden skis dating from 1853 when gold miners on 14-foot “longboards” raced at 80 MPH down perilous slopes for sport, as well as photos and memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

Visitors to the Roseville Telephone Museum can try out 60-year-old telephone equipment — the Strowger Step-by-Step Switch — which first allowed phone users to dial directly for a local call — rather than having an operator place the call. Lights and sounds allow visitors to actually see the circuit connecting. This SureWest exhibit also features an extensive collection of antique telephones and memorabilia.

Each of the 18 museums has something special to offer visitors. Complete Trail Guides are available now online at theheritagetrailblogspot.com and will be available at all museums in mid-July.

Other museums on the Heritage Trail are:

Auburn: Bernhard and Gold Country Museums, Benton Welty Schoolroom, Joss House Chinese Museum, Gold Country Medical History Museum;

Roseville: Maidu Museum & Historic Site, Historical Society Carnegie Museum, Roseville Telephone Museum;

Penryn: Griffith Quarry Museum in Penryn;

Foresthill: Forest Hill Divide Museum;

Colfax Area Heritage Museum;

Dutch Flat: Golden Drift Museum;

Soda Springs: Donner Summit Historical Society Museum;

Tahoe City: Gatekeeper’s Museum, Watson Cabin.

Admission is free in all locations although donations are accepted and appreciated.

Visitors who prefer not to drive may be interested in riding one of the chartered buses which are available for a $10 ticket. On Sat., Aug. 6, the bus tour “Discover the Mountains,” will depart the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn at 8:45, visiting the SkiSport Museum at Boreal, the Gold Drift Museum in Dutch Flat, the Colfax Area Heritage Museum, the Forest Hill Divide Museum in Foresthill, and returning to the Fairgrounds by 4:30 PM.

On Sunday, Aug. 7, the “Explore the Valley” tour leaves the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn at 9:30 AM to visit the Rocklin Historical Society, the Maidu Museum, Roseville’s Carnegie Museum, the Roseville Telephone Museum and Griffith Quarry Park in Penryn before returning to the Fairgrounds by 4:15.

Reservations are required. Call 530-889-6500 to make one.

Sponsors of the event include Capital Public Radio, SureWest, Native Sons of the Golden West Auburn Parlor #59, and the County of Placer.

Additional information is available here: http://www.placer.ca.gov/Departments/Facility/Museums.aspx.

Placer Museums or by calling 530-889-6500 during regular business hours.