"Dear Charlie" Letters
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"Dear Charlie" Letters: Recording The Everyday Life Of A Young 1854 Gold Miner
That the County of Mariposa had a love affair with its California gold rush past became obvious in 1954 when the County Courthouse and the Mariposa Gazette celebrated their 100th anniversary together. The entire county participated in a country-style birthday party. During the dances and barbecues, parades and exhibits, family heirlooms were admired and stories of great-great-grandparents were exchanged.
This aura of history stirred the blood of local historians, and led to the formation of the Mariposa County Historical Society. Before long members of the community, old-timers and new-comers, were involved in development of a History Center located in the old Masonic Hall, where memorabilia and family histories were housed. As the collection grew, Mariposans joined forces again to help create a more permanent Center.
That new building was a large, expensive project for a county that boasted one small small town, several villages and miles of foothill scenery. However, thanks to strong leadership, enthusiasm, creative fundraising, hard work, and dedicated volunteering, the venture was a satisfying success.
The Center is home to many generous gifts, among them a packet of letters worth much more than its weight in gold! Written by Horace Snow from his Mariposa digging in 1854 to his friend Charlie Fitz back home in Massachusetts, he described the mining camps with clarity and humor. He told it all as he saw it and experienced it: from shipwreck-to gold panning hints- to his battle with the yeast in his homemade bread.
Because of their special humanness, the letters have been used throughout the museum as a guide to lead visitors back to another time. Excerpts from the letters are a part of almost every exhibit...because Horace had something to say about almost every subject. Visitors to the Center expressed their wishes to read more of the "Dear Charlie" letters. So Horace Snow has now been published-something that would have pleased him mightily.
Mariposa County Historical Center's designer, Muriel Neavin, called the Center "our homemade museum." Thanks to the efforts of an unbelievable number of people who worked with them, Mrs. Neavin and founder Judge Thomas Coakley, in the name of Mariposa County Historical Society, were recipients of two coveted Awards of Merit from the Conference of California Historical Societies.
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