Soak up local heritage at Colfax Museum

Trip back in time
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
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The Heritage Trail tour of Placer County museums coming up Aug. 6 and 7 is a great way to learn about the area’s rich history. Those who can’t make it to next weekend’s event can visit the Colfax Area Heritage Museum throughout the year. The museum will be open for the tour next weekend, but it’s also open from 10:30 to 3:30 p.m. daily, except holidays. The two people most responsible for bringing Colfax’s museum to fruition are Helen Wayland and Gertrude Paul, both founding members of the Colfax Area Historical Society. The society was organized July 22, 1985 and the work of charter members and volunteers in conducting research, collecting artifacts, photographs and other historic materials, and in preserving oral and written histories, enabled the creation of the Colfax Area Heritage Museum. “Gertrude is a very important part of the museum,” Wayland said. “She started hoping and dreaming of this when the society was first started.” Wayland said her husband, Dick, remembers seeing Paul in a 4th of July parade, pushing a wheelbarrow. “It was promoting the historical society and her goal of getting a museum in Colfax,” Wayland said. Paul’s preservation of Colfax’s history is evident throughout the city. She spearheaded the historical society’s placement of 15 bronze plaques marking the history of the buildings. She also discovered a collection of more than 7,500 glass negatives by Grace Hubley, a commercial photographer who lived in Colfax and had studios in San Francisco and Sacramento in the early 1900s. The negatives belong to the historical society. A grand opening and dedication of the museum took place in November 2005 during the Founders Day celebration, in the partially restored Colfax Passenger Depot. “I was very happy (when the museum opened) because we worked a long time to find a place to have a museum,” Paul said. Most of the display cases in the museum are from the Colfax Pharmacy, which the Waylands owned and operated until its closure in 1995. The artifacts in the museum were given by the residents of Colfax, said Wayland, who estimates 75 percent of the museum’s artifacts were donated by Gertrude Paul. “The kitchen and tools are from the Paul family,” she said. “The homemade tools are works of art.” The Wayland family donation includes a very complete display of pharmacy items. “We have a huge display (of pharmaceutical artifacts) in the museum dating back to 1870,” Wayland said. Paul said that while it’s “very rewarding” to see her donations displayed at the museum, she’d like to see a list or more prominent “recognition given to the people, the families and organizations that have given things.” It’s something the museum needs to do, the nonagenarian said, for the people of Colfax. Wayland said the museum welcomes additional donations from the community. “It’s tax deductible on the value of the gift,” she said. “We’ve gotten things from the Del Carlos, the Bertollis. We’ve gotten from families all over town. We have a lot of things by railroad people who just love coming into that depot.” Wayland said that during the tour she will highlight the Nisenan tribe that had settlements in Colfax where Main Street is now located and near McDonald’s, as well as the Indian cemetery. “We have baskets and we have the stones, some pictures … things they made for their children, and arrowheads. That’s what I’m going to talk about … the people who lived here when the 49ers came,” Wayland said. Also a major part of Colfax’s heritage is the railroad, represented in the museum through artifacts such as rails and spikes and an extensive collection of photographs. “That’s why we exist,” Wayland said. The museum itself is located in the renovated Colfax Passenger Depot, which not only houses the museum and the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce office but also serves as an Amtrak station. -------------------------- HERITAGE TRAIL MUSEUM TOUR What: Free, self-guided tour of 18 Placer County museums, from Roseville to Tahoe When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 6 and 7 Chartered bus tour option: Visit Colfax, Dutch Flat, Foresthill and Boreal museums on Saturday, or Penryn, Rocklin and Roseville museums on Sunday. Fee is $10 each day; reservations are required at 889-6500. Trail guide: