70th Anniversary of Billy Graham’s Central Valley Crusade

An impressive anniversary is coming up in November in the Central Valley.

 Photo-ad – This is what one of the advertisements for the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade looked like in the Modesto Bee. Photo from the Modesto Bee.

Photo-ad – This is what one of the advertisements for the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade looked like in the Modesto Bee. Photo from the Modesto Bee.

October 24 will mark the seventieth anniversary of the Billy Graham Modesto Crusade.

More importantly, that anniversary will note the creation of the guiding principles the Graham organization wrote during their daytime breaks from that two-week Crusade.  

The principles were called the Modesto Manifesto.

An advertisement that ran in the October 23 1948 issue of the Modesto Bee called the event the Canvas Cathedral.  There was a reference to the huge tent that was put up in a field near the corner of Burney and La Loma Streets.

Today, Burney is still called a street and La Loma is now referred to as an avenue.

At the time, local Christian ministers were asked by the Graham organization to help fill that tent for the first night.  

They were assured that if the first night was successful, the rest of the crusade attendance would take care of itself.

For two weeks, an estimated nightly crowd of two-thousand came to the Canvas Cathedral.  The Modesto Crusade was deemed a success, and it would help propel Billy Graham to other venues including the Los Angeles event held one year later.

 Billy Graham, who died at the age of 99 on February 21, 2018, wrote dozens of books including Personal Thoughts of a Public Man. Photo from the book cover.

Billy Graham, who died at the age of 99 on February 21, 2018, wrote dozens of books including Personal Thoughts of a Public Man. Photo from the book cover.

The rest of the story is now in the history books.  Billy Graham traveled all over the world for the next six decades.  

He embraced television, wrote dozens of books, and was considered the “nation’s pastor” by the next eleven presidents.

But it’s the Modesto Manifesto that makes this incredible story of the life of Billy Graham so meaningful to many in the Central Valley.

I’ve written about the Manifesto on a few occasions since 2008 when I came across an article commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Modesto Crusade.

Modesto was a crucial stop in the fledgling period of the Graham ministry.  The evangelist had his eyes on Los Angeles, but wanted every event leading up to the planned 1949 L.A. crusade to continue building momentum.  

His close friend and associate Cliff Barrows came from Ceres, Stanislaus County. Barrows suggested the Modesto stop hoping that his connections with the local faith communities would come through to help make it a success.

While hundreds upon hundreds of people attended the nightly crusade, Billy and his team took advantage of the daytime hours to critically analyze the ministry and the potential problems that could sidetrack an evangelist.

Graham’s close associate was Ceres native Cliff Barrows.  

Barrows, who met Billy while on his honeymoon in Wisconsin, spoke to me in 2010 for a book I wrote about the Central Valley.  We discussed the Modesto Manifesto.

Barrows told me the group was directed by Billy to identify potential pitfalls for the organization, and later decide together on a strategy to avoid these pitfalls.

While the crowds came to experience the Crusade at night, during the day Graham and his top three associates George Beverly Shea, Grady Wilson, and Barrows worked and prayed on the issue.

“The book Elmer Gantry (by Sinclair Lewis) was popular at the time,” he said in 2010.  “It did not put evangelists in a positive light. Billy asked the three of us to think about the pitfalls that other evangelists had encountered.  We each went back to our motel rooms and reconvened the next day to learn that our lists were very similar.”

In the 1966 book, Crusades, published by the Billy Graham organization, the official account of the meetings indicate the men had come up with about fifteen potential pitfalls ranging from finances to infidelity.

What emerged from those daily meetings with the Graham team was a list of four guiding principles.  They are:

  • Accountability-transparency in reporting finances and Crusade attendance

  • Purity-specifically addressing sexual immorality.  This led to a directive that no one working for the Graham organization be allowed to have a closed door meeting with someone from the opposite sex.

  • Integrity-no criticism of local churches or local pastors

  • Humility-no seeking out “exaggerated publicity” for the crusade events

It’s believed Cliff Barrows gave the principles the name Modesto Manifesto.  

Short of the Ten Commandments, the Manifesto was likely the first time a religious organization publicly stated their operating guidelines.

Billy Graham died in February 2018 at the age of 99.  His son Franklin, who is also a minister, visited Turlock later in the year for a prayer convocation event.

Cliff Barrows died in 2016.  At the time of his death, I wrote an appreciation piece that was published in the Modesto Bee.  

In that essay, I recalled how interested Barrows seemed to be in what was going on in his native region.  As we prepared for the taped telephone interview for my book 9 from 99, he wanted me to know that he still thought fondly of the Central Valley.

 The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded with $5,000 of the proceeds from the 1948 Billy Graham Modesto Crusade. Photo: Modesto Gospel Mission

The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded with $5,000 of the proceeds from the 1948 Billy Graham Modesto Crusade. Photo: Modesto Gospel Mission

The only memento of the 1948 Graham Modesto Crusade is an anti-poverty organization.  

The Modesto Gospel Mission was founded using five-thousand dollars from local share of the 1948 Central Valley event.  The Mission continues to feed hundreds of homeless every week and provides over fifty-thousand bed nights to those in need.

The Mission recently celebrated its seventieth anniversary with a gala fundraising event at the Doubletree Hotel in Modesto.  It continues to serve the community.

So it appears that the Modesto Manifesto tenet dealing with accountability was put into action immediately following the 1948 Crusade.  

That gift of $5,000 has come back many times in the form of meals for the hungry, bed nights for those needing a place to stay in the community, and hope for those who may have lost hope.

Billy Graham and his team of associates would be very proud.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

He’s working on a new book about his first years working in television news.

Mammoths and a giant orange stand- A “marriage of terms”

A fund-raising effort has been going on just south of the Merced County border to restore the giant orange juice stand that once stood off highway 99 at Fairmead.

 A vintage photograph of the locally famous Fairmead Orange Stand on Highway 99.  The stand closed about ten years ago. Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

A vintage photograph of the locally famous Fairmead Orange Stand on Highway 99.  The stand closed about ten years ago. Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

There was a time back in the 1950s and 60s when giant orange refreshment stands were a common site on California roads.

Oranges were a much bigger piece of California agriculture back in those days. 

The stands sold orange juice and other drinks along with hamburgers and hot dogs to people traveling throughout the state. 

Over time, orange juice was frequently replaced by soft drinks and milkshakes as consumer tastes shifted.

The orange stands were places where a motorist could stop, use the facilities, and enjoy a hamburger and an orange flavored beverage outdoors in the California sun.  

Families could rest at picnic tables under the outdoor canopy and watch the traffic pass by.

The stands disappeared as air conditioning and highway expansion became commonplace. 

 This is what the people restoring the giant orange stand are facing with the project.  The stand is not in great shape now, but will be brought back to its former presence.  Photo by Steve Newvine

This is what the people restoring the giant orange stand are facing with the project.  The stand is not in great shape now, but will be brought back to its former presence.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The last orange stand in the state was in Fairmead, Madera County. 

It closed a decade ago.  The stand was moved to storage in the City of Chowchilla.  Six years ago,   it was sold so that the non-profit organization that runs the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County could help organize an effort to restore it.

Enter the three Rotary clubs in Madera and Chowchilla who adopted this restoration project. 

The clubs have raised over $15,000 so far and continue to solicit funds through a Go Fund Me campaign and other efforts.  

Additional donations are coming in as well in a separate campaign being run by the Fossil Discovery Center.

Little by little, the restoration project is moving forward.

 The restoration project is a collaboration project among the Madera Sunrise Rotary, Chowchilla Rotary, and Madera Rotary clubs.  Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

The restoration project is a collaboration project among the Madera Sunrise Rotary, Chowchilla Rotary, and Madera Rotary clubs.  Photo: GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

“This was the vision of the late Lori Pond, a member of our board and a passionate supporter of the Center and of local history,” says Fossil Center director Michele Pecina.  “She made the appeal to the City of Chowchilla to acquire the orange stand.”

According to local media accounts from that time, the Foundation paid $2,050 to the City of Chowchilla for the stand. The City got some storage space back.  

The Foundation got the centerpiece of a new era for the Fossil Center.

A 2012 story on the Sierra News Online site, Lori spoke of requests to Caltrans to rename the road between highway 99 and the Center entrance to Mammoth Parkway, and the reserving of the web address MammothOrange.com for future use.

The Fossil Center was founded in the years following the discovery of Columbia Mammoth bones at the Fairmead landfill in 1993.  The San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation was formed shortly after the discovery.   The Foundation received official non-profit status in 2001.  The organization oversaw the building of the Fossil Center.  

Today more than ten thousand people, mostly school-aged children coming for field trips, visit the Center.

  This is the inside of the former Fairmead Orange Stand.  It’s very clear that the team working on this restoration have a big job on their hands.  Photo: Steve Newvine

 This is the inside of the former Fairmead Orange Stand.  It’s very clear that the team working on this restoration have a big job on their hands.  Photo: Steve Newvine

It’s fair to ask what is the connection is between the Fossil Discovery Center and the restoration of the giant orange stand.

Michele, who spells her first name with just one “L”, can explain that connection.  

“This will be a marriage of terms.  The Mammoth Orange Stand will sit at the site near where the Columbia Mammoth bones were found right here in Fairmead.”

The Fossil Discovery Center is located off the Avenue 21-and- a- half exit in Fairmead west of highway 99. From the Center’s location, the visitor can see the Fairmead landfill where the Columbia Mammoth bones were first discovered.

 Center director Michele Pecina shows the round work that has already started for the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Center director Michele Pecina shows the round work that has already started for the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Building permits have been acquired, and ground work is already underway.  It is hoped the stand will be ready for use in 2019.  Once the restoration is complete, the Orange stand will be a permanent exhibit.

Michele says, “Food events will be celebrated during the opening and year round.”

Initially, the stand will be used for private food events with the Center considering whether it makes sense to turn it into a regular refreshment stop for visitors.  The Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center will offer an exciting new opportunity for the region.

All these goals will come in time according to Michele. 

“We will eventually move to have the state consider designating the stand as a historical landmark.”

The Fairmead Orange Stand was the last of the California big orange stands to close.    

If all goes as planned, the Mammoth Orange Stand at the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla will be the first one to come back in service.

With that eventual opening day coming up in about a year, one might work up a thirst for a cold cup of orange soda over ice or some other beverage.

It’s possible too that one might get a chance to relive a sentimental moment from the past.  The restoration may help one return to a simpler time when a stop at a roadside orange stand was commonplace in California.  

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He has written California Back Roads- Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine.  It is available at Lulu.com.

A column about the Fossil Discovery Center will be published on MercedCountyEvents.com in the near future.

To learn more about the Fossil Discovery Center, go to www.maderamammoths.org

To consider supporting the fund drive to restore the Mammoth Orange Stand, go to GoFundMe.com/mammothorange

A Three-Dollar Tour at the Mission at San Juan Bautista

Being relatively new to the state, it did not take long to learn about the Spanish Missions that mark California along the historic route known as Camino Real.  

One of those stops Camino Real is San Juan Bautista in San Benito County bordering Merced County.

 The bell in front of San Juan Bautista along Camino Real, translated as Royal Highway.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The bell in front of San Juan Bautista along Camino Real, translated as Royal Highway.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The history of California’s Spanish Missions begins in the late 1700s when a Spanish Franciscan Catholic priest was dispatched to the region to convert the people of the area.  

This Mission continues to serve the area with weekend Masses, and daily services.

There’s more to this history than just the establishment of a Mission, and thanks to dedicated volunteers and generous donors, parts of that history are being preserved.

 The grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista in San Benito County in California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista in San Benito County in California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The effort included an archaeological dig that uncovered remnants from the period of time when the Mission was started.  

The effort continues with a three-dollar tour of the Mission’s main building where volunteer docents help interpret this active piece of California history.

The Mission has displays of a dining room and parlor that recall what life might have been like for people living in the region in the 1800s.  

 The Church at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Church at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Church inside the Mission functions like any other Catholic Church with regular Mass offered daily.  

Two nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement live on site. A priest is assigned to the Church to celebrate Mass and serve the community of San Juan Bautista.  

According to a Wikipedia entry, the community of San Juan Bautista had a population of 1,862 in the 2010 US Census.

 Parts of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, were filmed on the grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Parts of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, were filmed on the grounds of the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Scenes from the movie Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Jimmy Stewart were filmed at the Mission.  

The movie includes many sequences filmed on location in California: including the Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, San Francisco, and San Juan Bautista.  

The bell tower in the movie is much higher than the real tower at the Mission, but Hitchcock took care of that detail through the use of a model bell tower, and some studio re-creation of what a taller structure might look like.  

There is a small public display about the on-location filming of Vertigo at the Mission.

 Courtyard at the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Courtyard at the Mission at San Juan Bautista.  Photo by Steve Newvine

There are lots of flowers and trees in the courtyard at the Mission.  Many are drought resistant and ideal for the climate.

As with most museums and similar attractions, this tour begins and ends with a gift shop.  

For this trip, I took about fifty digital photographs, purchased a refrigerator magnet, and spent three dollars on admission.  

I walked away with a greater appreciation for early California/Spanish influenced architecture.

Not bad for a three-dollar tour.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced and travels throughout the state looking for new stories to share.

 His latest book is California Back Roads- Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine. It is available at Lulu.com

A Journey of a Lifetime Cycling Through Merced

Francois Hennebert is a bicyclist from France who takes his recreational activities seriously.  

 Francois Hennebert is a long way from his native France, but he’s enjoying California and the western states as he travels from Mexico to Canada on his bicycle.  Photo: Steve Newvine

Francois Hennebert is a long way from his native France, but he’s enjoying California and the western states as he travels from Mexico to Canada on his bicycle.  Photo: Steve Newvine

François has cycled all over the globe and is currently on a four-month, twenty-five hundred mile journey that started in Guadalupe, Mexico in March and is expected to end in Vancouver, British Columbia in July.

 François enjoyed his repair pit stop at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

François enjoyed his repair pit stop at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

One way to get from Mexico to Canada is to cycle through the Golden State.    The trip has already taken him through the desert of Death Valley and to the high peaks at Yosemite National Park.

He encountered a tire and wheel problem while in Yosemite, so he sought out the help of a professional.

 Francois inspects the tire that was damaged on his bicycle.  His tire and wheel were fixed at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced and he was on his way after a couple of hours.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

Francois inspects the tire that was damaged on his bicycle.  His tire and wheel were fixed at Kevin’s Bikes in Merced and he was on his way after a couple of hours.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

His bicycle wear and tear problem led him to Kevin’s Bikes in the Save Mart Plaza at Olive and G Streets in Merced.

For the better part of an afternoon in the week before Memorial Day, Francois watched as the staff at Kevin’s Bikes repaired the wheel and got the bike back in tip-top shape.

The staff at Kevin’s Bikes understood the problem and knew immediately what needed to be done.  While the staff worked on the bike, Francois kept everyone entertained with his stories and his personality.

I would have missed the story entirely had I not run into an associate who was leaving the shop with his own repaired bike.  As he relayed the story to me, I was hooked. I went inside to meet Francois Hennebert.

 Francois Hennebert estimates he has put over forty-five thousand miles on his bicycle.  His current trip from Mexico to Canada will add another twenty-five hundred miles, and probably many more miles as he takes various detours to see the western United States.  He’s shown here with Kevin from Kevin’s Bikes. Photo: Steve Newvine

Francois Hennebert estimates he has put over forty-five thousand miles on his bicycle.  His current trip from Mexico to Canada will add another twenty-five hundred miles, and probably many more miles as he takes various detours to see the western United States.  He’s shown here with Kevin from Kevin’s Bikes. Photo: Steve Newvine

He spoke hardly any English, but he was able to understand some of my questions.  He wrote his name on the paper I was using to make notes. He also provided a web address where he maintains a site dedicated to telling the stories of his worldwide bicycling adventures.

In 2008, Francois and a group of one-hundred people cycled from Paris to Beijing China.  That trip took one-hundred, forty days with all but twenty of those days spent on a bike seat.  

That trip is five-thousand, one-hundred miles (or eight-thousand, two-hundred kilometers).

In 2010, he bicycled in South America.  That trip started in Buena Aires, Argentina.  

Anyone who understands French can read about it at his website velo.hennebert.fz  

 Francois at the Great Wall of China during his 2008 trip with one-hundred other bicyclists that took them from Paris to Beijing.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

Francois at the Great Wall of China during his 2008 trip with one-hundred other bicyclists that took them from Paris to Beijing.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

The Mexico to Canada trip has been a dream come true for Francois, who is seventy-two years old.  So far, he has seen the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Yosemite National Park.

During these trips, he tries not to bike every day.  If he’s on schedule, he’ll take time to enjoy the vistas, meet people, and rest.  

Usually, he camps in a small tent. He lives his bicycling life on the road with backpacks and saddlebags carrying all he needs.  He’s prepared for just about any emergency. A highway map is with him at all times.

  This is the luggage Francois carries with him on his bike as he travels all over the globe.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

 This is the luggage Francois carries with him on his bike as he travels all over the globe.  Photo: Steve Newvine.

Whether it was the universal language of bicyclists, or just the common decency of being a good neighbor, anyone who stopped in Kevin’s Bikes that spring afternoon enjoyed the company of Merced’s international visitor.  

Francois guesses that he’s put about seventy-three thousand kilometers (or forty-five thousand miles) on his bicycle.  

With all those miles, repairs are just part of what most cyclists expect as they put their bikes through some of the toughest tests imaginable.  

 This is Francois’ bike loaded with his travel bags.  This picture was taken from a South American journey in 2010.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

This is Francois’ bike loaded with his travel bags.  This picture was taken from a South American journey in 2010.  Photo: velo.hennebert.fz

Upon arrival later in the year in Vancouver, Francois will fly back to France and get to work on planning his next bicycling adventure.

“Thailand and Laos,” he told me when I finally phrased the question about his future travels in a way he could understand.   

And after a slight pause, and a smile, he was quick to add, “Maybe.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book California Back Roads is available at Lulu.com

Merced Falls- A Ghost Town with a Great Story

There was a time from the late 1800s until the early 1940s when the town of Merced Falls in northern Merced County was a center of commercial activity.

   The Yosemite Lumber Company employed 1,000 workers in the early part of the 1900s.  Photo from: Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

 The Yosemite Lumber Company employed 1,000 workers in the early part of the 1900s.  Photo from: Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

The gold rush created dozens of towns for the thousands of workers and families that would come to the Sierra Mountains and other western locations.  

Merced Falls was born of the gold rush but continued to flourish thanks to the need for lumber and an abundance of tourists.

At its peak, Merced Falls had a large lumber mill that employed one-thousand workers.  There was plenty of housing, a store, movie house, and a school.

A railroad served the logging industry and provided passenger service to take people to Yosemite National Park.

Like a lot of these booming areas in California in the early 1900s, times changed.  

Automobiles became more common reducing the need for railroad travel. Once the lumber mill closed in 1942, it was only a matter of time before Merced Falls became a ghost town.

  This railroad serviced the Merced Lumber Company as well as tourists interested in seeing Yosemite National Park.  Photo: Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

This railroad serviced the Merced Lumber Company as well as tourists interested in seeing Yosemite National Park.  Photo: Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

Thanks to an exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum, we can explore dozens of restored photographs depicting life in Merced Falls during those boom years.  We can see how a typical worker slept and lived in a company bunkhouse.

We can understand the reasons why this focal point of commerce in Merced County declined and left only a few visual reminders from that era.

The exhibit is made possible by the County Courthouse Museum, the UC Merced Library, and some individuals who loaned their family photographs and technical expertise.  The Society and the Library co-present the exhibit entitled Yosemite Lumber Company, Merced Falls.

  The intersection where Merced Falls Road begins going north was once a thriving business center.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The intersection where Merced Falls Road begins going north was once a thriving business center.  Photo by Steve Newvine

As great as the exhibit is with its photographs, artifacts, and skilled docents explaining some of the finer details, to truly experience what was Merced Falls one should actually travel to the site of that former company town.

It is relatively easy to get to the major intersection of Merced Falls.  Taking highway 59 or Merced’s G Street to the community of Snelling, Merced Falls Road runs east just as one is leaving town.  

About four miles from that intersection, the road takes a sharp northern turn toward the Mariposa County line. That intersection where the sharp northern turn happens is approximately the center of the former Merced Falls.

  The plaque placed at the site of Merced Falls by the group E Clampus Vitus, Estanislao Chapter No. 58.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The plaque placed at the site of Merced Falls by the group E Clampus Vitus, Estanislao Chapter No. 58.  Photo by Steve Newvine

There’s a plaque marking the site.  The group E Clampus Vitus placed the marker there in 1970.  It reads in part: The flour and woolen mills were built in 1854 and 1867.  

The town was destroyed by fire in August 1895. Yosemite Lumber Co. had a large mill here from 1912 until 1943.

Heading up the first incline in these foothills, the Mariposa County line is less than a half-mile away.  Commerce flourished when Merced Falls was in its heyday, but there is very little left to show.

  Some foundations and these structures are all that remain of the once busy community of Merced Falls. Photo by Steve Newvine

Some foundations and these structures are all that remain of the once busy community of Merced Falls. Photo by Steve Newvine

Heading south down the incline to the intersection near the Hornitos Bridge, the remains of a couple of buildings can be spotted from the road.  Fencing prevents the curious from getting too close to the structures.

As the exhibit explains, there were flour mills, wool mills, and even a stage-coach stop in the community in the late 1800s.  These mills burned. In 1912, the Yosemite Lumber Company started operations in Merced Falls.

  Loggers with a really big tree that would eventually be cut at the sawmills of Yosemite Lumber Company.  From Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

Loggers with a really big tree that would eventually be cut at the sawmills of Yosemite Lumber Company.  From Merced Lumber Company, Merced Falls exhibit at the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

Back in those days, lumberjacks would deliver thousands upon thousands of logs that came from the higher elevations including El Portal.  A rail line, as well as the Merced River, kept busy moving the logs from the forests to the mill.

Some UC Merced students have been busy studying the area and some of the artifacts that have been contributed to the Museum’s effort to tell the story of Merced Falls and the Yosemite Lumber Company.

Being out in the open countryside looking at the remaining structures can get the imagination going.  What was it like back then when this area was an active and thriving community? What factors contributed to the decline of Merced Falls’ commercial backbone?  

What would Merced County look like today had the Yosemite Lumber Company either continued operation or a new business had moved in to replace it when YLC closed?

  The Merced County Courthouse Museum has created this display that suggests what a worker in a Yosemite Lumber Company bunkhouse might have had.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Merced County Courthouse Museum has created this display that suggests what a worker in a Yosemite Lumber Company bunkhouse might have had.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The general story is clear:  Merced Falls was a gold rush boom town that continued to thrive through the mid -1900s thanks to the Yosemite Lumber Company, the Merced River, and a rail line.  

There are likely many reasons why it could not survive longer. Some point to the automobile. Some point to the shift in the population centers of the San Joaquin Valley as well as the Bay Area.  

There are, no doubt many reasons.

Thanks to the efforts of the Merced County Courthouse Museum, UC Merced, and some key individuals who wanted the history of Merced Falls to be preserved, more answers are now available for future generations to study and appreciate.  

They are on a journey to learn more.

All it takes to be part of that journey is to take a short drive away from the City of Merced to see what remains of this historic site.

 

The Merced County Courthouse Museum is open Wednesday-Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm

An interactive map of the Merced Falls area as it once was will soon be available on ArcGIS.com

 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  His book California Back Roads is available at Lulu.com