Museum a hidden treasure

Gold Rush mining, railroad artifacts kept in Dutch Flat
By: Frank Rodasky
-A +A
Just off Highway 80, it’s easy to miss the town of Dutch Flat, but it’s even easier to miss the Golden Drift Museum. The museum, one of the few public buildings on the short stretch of Main Street, is partially hidden by trees in its front yard. Inside, the tiny Victorian house showcases a wide selection of artifacts dating back to California’s Gold Rush days in Gold Run, Dutch Flat, Alta, Towle and Baxter. The collection features mining and railroad artifacts, Native American projectile points, and rarities like a top hat and woman’s bonnet, both made of tin. A wide range of photographs and information gathered in binders detail the area’s first settlers and Chinese immigrants, many who came to find gold. An interactive model demonstrates hydraulic mining, complete with water from a spigot. “The Golden Drift Historical Society is for the preservation of the history, and to educate people about the history of this general area,” said Society President Doug Ferrier, a resident of Dutch Flat for 35 years. “But we try to keep this as informal as possible. Some people don’t realize we’re here, some don’t realize the information we have. It’s a slow process, building up visitation and use, but every year has been getting better.” For many history buffs, nothing tells a story like a map. The Golden Drift Museum has several, with one showing veins of gold found in the area. “A lot of effort went into this by a lot of people.” Ferrier said. “People who don’t have the time to do something still have donated artifacts and money.” Jean Binder, one of the Historical Society’s 190 members and a Dutch Flat resident for 40 years, has been active with the group for almost 20 years. “I believe in community activity,” she said. In 1986, the house was sold to the Historical Society by the town’s Ladies Society for $1, with the stipulation it would be used as a museum. Local families donated artifacts and photos, and members of the Historical Society took on the responsibility of operating the museum. A few years later, the museum was again sold for $1 to Placer County, which took responsibility for the maintenance, while the Historical Society continued to operate the museum. Ferrier is unsure of what the future holds for simple little museums like the Golden Drift. “The older generation is dying off,” he said. “Is the younger generation going to take over? I don’t know. The first generation of people that grew up here in Dutch Flat had a very strong passion for the town. When they moved away in the 1880s and 90s because there was no work because of an economic downturn, they still kept their passion for the town. They even had a reunion in Oakland, where most of the people moved for work. The second generation kept a lot of that, too. By the time you get to the third or fourth generation, a lot of that’s dissipated.” In the interim, Ferrier and other members of the Historical Society are committed to passing on the communities’ rich history. “My hobby is the history of the area,” he said. “Some of the society are members of long time families that have lived in the area. Some are people who have just moved to the area who have an interest in the history. Like every organization, you can always use more volunteers, but so far we’ve been pretty lucky. We have a good group of people that assist us.” Open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. during the summer months, it is only open on weekends during the rest of the year. Admission is free; however, volunteers, donations and fundraisers are welcome. A benefit for the museum is being planned for Sept. 13. “An Evening in Napoli” will feature opera, live music and an Italian dinner. To schedule a group tour of the Dutch Flat museum, call the Golden Drift Historical Society at 389-2126.