The San Joaquin County Historical Museum tells stories that shaped the region

If you’re asking county folks where to start to learn about the practical history of our city and county, the vast majority will recommend the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum at Micke Grove Park, just south of Lodi. There you will find, spread over 18 shaded acres, exhibits about our American Indian ancestors, and early pioneers and settlers like Captain Charles Weber, founder of Stockton and our first farmer, as well as many other innovators in agriculture.

I realized I hadn’t visited since before the pandemic, so I called and arranged for a tour led by Docent Jack Jacobs. Jacobs took me on a two-hour guided tour of the many museum buildings focused on the history of agriculture, including the wonderful Cortopassi / Avansino building, showcasing the county’s many innovators in agriculture, who have done such creative work to harness the unique combination of water in our region. , soil and climate.

Jacobs noted, and Executive Director Phillip Merlo will also point out, that the goal of the Historical Society is to preserve the rich history of our county and to share many compelling stories that have shaped the community. The stories feature the Miwok and Yokuts speaking nations who have cared for this region for millennia, and Weber, who had a vision to develop Stockton as a center of transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture.

The museum features the first American settlers who emigrated to found families, farms, and communities here; inventors and entrepreneurs such as Benjamin Holt and RG LeTourneau, who started international companies; thousands of immigrants, who built dikes in the delta, worked hard in our fields and brought new energy and ideas to agriculture.

Other nearby attractions:

Summer fun: Pixie Woods, Children’s Museum and a host of other summer activities for kids!

Town by the bay: San Francisco Tour by Ferry, Foot, Streetcar, and Cable Car

Travel by car: In search of Native American history in San Joaquin County and the Central Valley

I never cease to be amazed by the multiple exhibition buildings of the museum filled with historic tractors, agricultural and road-building tools and technological wonders of the farmers of our county. The enormous Holt Side-hill Harvester, manufactured by Holt Brothers of Stockton in the early 1900s that allowed grain harvesting on slopes of up to 40 degrees, opened the granaries in the Sierra foothills, to the is from our county. The almost as large UC Blackwelder Tomato Harvester was designed to move through vast fields of tomatoes, pick the entire plant, shake the tomatoes off the vine and sort them by size, then transfer them to a pulled gondola by a following tractor.

Our visit was also to Captain Charles Weber’s cottage, where Docent Jacobs noted that the fine redwood used in this building (dating to 1848, making it the oldest surviving house in the county) was harvested from the Santa Cruz Mountains, shipped by railcar to the port of Redwood City, then by boat to Stockton. The cottage was Weber’s first home; he enlarged it with a large two-story adobe, and the cottage became his kitchen. Nearby, the Julia Weber House, built by Weber’s daughter, is wonderfully preserved as the house was in the 1890s. Both historic gems include many Weber family artifacts and furnishings and are open for walking tours.

Later, I asked Merlo what was the news of the last 18 months? Said Merlo, “New? You will find a new exhibit on Stephens Brothers boats and boating and recreational exhibits in the recent history of San Joaquin County. The 26-foot Stephens double-cockpit runabout, the Florence M II, used cutting-edge woodworking technology and was state of the art when it was built in 1926 on the Stockton waterfront.

He added: “News is an exhibition of the Basque people featuring Javier Ybanez and the impact of these first settlers in our county. The Tree and Vine building has been updated, illustrating the historic process of planting, growing and harvesting grapes, such an important part of our agricultural heritage. We’re especially proud of Places and Faces of San Joaquin, a new exhibit showcasing important sites and people in the county’s history, complete with a photo collage to get visitors thinking about the places they visit across the county and question their thinking about these places. in our history.

I asked Merlo what he would recommend for parents of young or pre-teen children. He noted, “We’ve done a lot of updates to the Native People’s Gallery, with updated and fresh stories to better fit into K-12 education.” The discussion bench, which is part of this exhibit, has the most intriguing historical narrative, told by members of local tribes.

I found similar unique stories during a beautiful hike on the forest walk in the museum’s redwoods, with discussion benches for families or the elderly to sit and contemplate. Hear thoughtful words from John Muir on Reflections of the Sierra Nevada, lyrics from 1841 Bidwell band members share the adventures of the first American settlers to cross the Sierra, and traditional members of the Yokut tribe share the story of the creation of the Range coast and the Sierra Nevada.

The Historical Society traces a county tradition of innovation, ingenuity and creativity and will whet visitors’ appetites for more. Museum guides are happy to share more information and suggestions for follow-up.

For more information: The San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum is located in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi; (209) 953-3460, sanjoaquinhistory.org. The museum is open from Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact Tim Viall at tvall@msn.com. Have a good trip to the West!


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Patrick F. Williams

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