In the 1980s, a group of Big Oak Flat/Groveland area residents who loved the colorful history of their area and feared it might be lost, decided they needed to do something to assure that history was passed on to future generations. They formed the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society (STCHS) in 1987, "for the express purpose of recording, preserving, protecting and making available for the public benefit the total history of our area.“ The founders were intent on including not only the social history of the area but also its rich natural history.
Members of the newly formed STCHS organization decided that a museum was needed for this purpose and dedicated their energies to making this dream a reality - a huge undertaking in a tiny town of less than 2000 full-time residents. After finding that all the old buildings that might be used for the museum were too small or needed major structural work, they decided to build a museum "from scratch.“
STCHS members recognized the need for a new library and they suggested that a Tuolumne County branch library be located in their proposed museum building - a double benefit for the town. Groveland Community Services District (the water company) had the perfect piece of property on Rt. 120 right next to the town park. It wasn't easy, but an agreement was finally reached.
Raising the money for such a project would only be possible with a lot of dedication, hard work, planning and heartfelt commitment. It was achieved by grants from the Sonora Area Foundation; fund raising projects such as concerts, picnics, book sales, dinners, speakers and plays; monetary donations from businesses and local residents; donations of architectural designs, physical labor, equipment and materials, and legal advice; and memorials. Amazingly, Charles Heath, known as "Charlie-the-Can-Man," and his community volunteer crew collected roughly$50,000 worth of aluminum cans to give to the cause.
The red line on a large wooden thermometer which was placed on the property to show the financial progress toward the ultimate goal, climbed higher and higher. By the time the project was finished close to a million dollars had been committed and spent - all without state or federal funding.
A ground breaking ceremony and celebration took place on November 17, 1999 and the museum building was completed in October of 2000. It was officially opened in May, 2001.
After the successful Museum opening in 2001, STCHS has to continued to work in historical preservation right up to 2020. More information on those two decades of community involvement is available at Keeping History Alive 2001 - 2020.