By Melissa Wynn
[media-credit id=4 align=”alignnone” width=”225″][/media-credit]Not long ago, I overheard two of my teens talking about what they thought life must have been like here in the mountains back in the “olden days”. I could tell that a trip to the Indian Valley Museum in Taylorsville was in order. There was so much they were overlooking.
As luck would have it, we made our visit on the same day as a group of elementary school students that were having an interactive guided tour. We joined one of the four student groups and my kids learned much more than if we had toured on our own. The amazing collection of artifacts at Indian Valley Museum led us through a hands on journey which rendered the historical saga of beautiful Indian Valley and beyond.
In the first room we toured, my daughter, Cassie, was immediately drawn to all things girlie. The antique dolls became even more fascinating to her as our tour guide explained that children of the pioneer days rarely owned more than one toy. Next to widen Cassie’s eyes, was the extensive collection of vintage clothing. Two deep blue silk wedding dresses in a glass case had her wishing for a chance to try one on. Of course this was not allowed, but we were all allowed to try on many of the frilly, lacey, netted or flowered ladies hats in the collection. Who doesn’t love old hats? I was tickled by the look on Cassie’s face when she learned that the bulky ladies pantaloons were not long johns for winter, but everyday underwear. She was sure they were pajamas. Too funny!
My son, Chris, rolled his eyes at his sister and made a bee line for the tools. When we first arrived at the Indian Valley Museum, we spent several minutes outside so he could investigate the many pieces of historical farm equipment. He always wonders what makes things go. As we wandered indoors, he was drawn to the railroad memorabilia and read everything on the walls pertaining to trains. It wasn’t long before he was understanding what an accomplishment it was to access our area before roads and cars. The evidence of traveling adventures into the unknown and shooting your own supper, were hanging on the walls and laying in display cases. I watched him come to realize that there was much more work than adventure. Indian Valley Museum displays plenty of adventure however and I could see Chris day dreaming of being the shooter himself, as we learned the story of Oscar, a rouge bear killed by Joe Cooke in 1913. Several photos and the head of Oscar whisked the boy right back to the day of the hunt. Real man stuff!
Our tour of the Maidu Indian room gave us all great insight to the first native inhabitants of the pristine Indian Valley. We are all lovers of arrow heads and the collection here has many perfect examples of Maidu flinting talents. Authentic bow and arrows are also on display. My favorite in this room, were the baby boards used for carrying the baby while the Maidu women hunted and gathered. My favorite baby board was made of willow and was tied in a way that left the bottom with a sharp point. I learned that the purpose of the pointed end was to drive it into the ground, enabling the mother to prop her baby in a reclining position against the trunk of a tree. Amazing! The Maidu were also master basket weavers and many fine examples fill the display cases in this smallest of Indian Valley Museum rooms.
Being the daughter of a gold miner, my favorite room was easily the room of rocks, minerals and gems. We toured this room with Francis Musser. He is quite a character and a master stone carver. Several of his carvings are on display, along with the hundreds of stones including my favorite, the huge chunk of glittering iron pyrite or fools gold.
There is so much to see and learn at this outstanding museum, that I can’t even begin to share it all. You must just go and see for yourself. Indian Valley Museum is open 1-4 pm on weekends, or by appoinment by calling (530) 284-7785 from Memorial Day through the last week in October. There are some great preview pictures on their website – indianvalley.net. Please visit Francis, his wife and the gang in Taylorville, Ca at 4288 Cemetery Road and bask in the history of Indian Valley.