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Treasure trove of history

San Joaquin County Historical Society Museum

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Treasure trove of history

Inside the historic one-room Calaveras School, Mistress Peters, an actual certified teacher, provides instruction to third-grade students of Stockton Collegiate School during a recent visit.


POSTED February 24, 2012 8:53 p.m.

LODI – Students of Maria Brown’s third-grade class at Stockton Collegiate International School got a sample of a classroom setting during much simpler times.

Thanks to the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum, they sat in the old school desks inside the original Calavares School, using writing implements of the day – try a piece chalk on to a slate board and quills into an inkwell, according to museum docent-in-training Dianne Drieve – and saluting the flag while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance that dated back to 1884.

The teacher known as Mistress Peters rang the hand-held school bell to gather students after recess. What’s more, everyone came dressed as if it were again early 20th Century.

“We watched TV shows such as ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and looked at books on what youngsters wore during pioneer days,” said Brown, who first got word on the museum’s Valley Days and Pioneer School Days – this is an award-winning living history educational program offered to San Joaquin county third-, fourth- and fifth- graders – from her mentor John Piasecki.

“My students loved it,” she added. “They got also played games (pick-up sticks and jump rope) and pumped their own water.”

The educational program, more importantly, fulfilled a part of the charter school curriculum, Brown said.

She enjoyed her previous visits to the museum at Micke Grove Regional Park.

The self-guided tour includes the one-room Calaveras School built in 1866 near the intersection of Eight Mile Road and Highway 88.

The museum provides history of California’s heartland. Native tribes such as Miwoks and Yokuts were among the earliest settlers.

Perhaps the most famous was Capt. Charles M. Weber, who was once a business partner of William Gulnac.

The latter was the owner of a large tract of land in San Joaquin Valley. In 1845, Gulnac transferred this 48,747-acre parcel also known as El Campo de los Franceses to Weber for “179 pesos, one hundred in silver and seventy-nine in goods.”

Two years later, Weber settled on the land with “20 trappers and hunters, 4,000 cattle and 200 horses.”

He referred to this settlement as “Tuleburg” for its abundance of tule reeds. Weber formally named it after Commodore Robert F. Stockton, who promised yet failed at helping him secure the title for Campos de los Franceses.

The story on Weber and his family along with the Native Americans who once inhabited this region can be found inside the Erickson Building.

The first stop on the tour is the little red Museum Mercantile, offering gifts, books and snacks. Admission fees can also be paid there.

A few feet away is the clamshell dredge bucket once used to deepen the channel of the San Joaquin River and form levees in the Delta.

The Delta Building offers the largest collections of hand and foot-powered tools.

The Micke Building showcases a wide variety of wagons and carriages along with exhibits on dairy farming, general farming and construction of wooden wheels.

The Tree and Vine Building features nuts, fruits, and grapes grown in San Joaquin County. The Flame Tokay grapevines and the orange Pacific Fruit Express can be seen just outside these doors.

The Agricultural Equipment Center and the Brown-Jones Building provide displays of “land-leveling and earth-moving equipment.”

The Rosen Building has a great collection of wheeled and tracked tractors.

The McNeilly Building consists of small engines and equipment coupled with small trucks, toys and model tractors.

On a nice day, the Sunshine Trail proved to be more than pleasant surprise on this visit to the museum.

Small wooden covered bridges, waterfalls, and native plants from the coastal Redwoods, through the Coast Range, foothills, Sierra Nevada and the San Joaquin Valley can be found along the trail. Included are 12 audio messages to assists the visually impaired.

The trail also provides a glimpse at Capt. Weber’s cottage once located on the Stockton Channel in what’s now downtown.

This white cottage was built by Weber in 1847.

Further down the way is Julia Weber’s house. She was the only daughter of Capt. Weber and his wife, Helen Murphy Weber.

The house was built in 1892 in the area of the Calaveras River at Hammer Lane and restored in 1901. The then 109-year-old structure was relocated to the museum property of Micke Grove in 2001.

“People often visit Micke Grove for the zoo, (Japanese) tea garden, and the (Fun Town) amusement park,” said docent Elsa Bate. “I’m not sure if they know about the museum.”

— Vince Rembulat
Staff reporter

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