From humble beginnings more than 30 years ago, a dream has become a reality. The Mineral King Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986, has built a new home in which to house artifacts, documents, photographs, and so much more that relate to the fascinating, sometimes tumultuous, history of the Mineral King valley.
Mineral King is located 25 miles and 90 minutes from Highway 198 in Three Rivers via the windy, narrow, sometimes hair-raising Mineral King Road. The road is open from the Memorial Day weekend into October. It is closed nine miles up during the winter months.
From geologic formations to indigenous peoples, mining to summer recreation, U.S. Forest Service to National Park Service, lumber industry to cattle-grazing and stock-packing, national game refuge to Walt Disney’s ski resort to John Krebs Wilderness, Mineral King has an abundance of stories to tell. And the history of Three Rivers and Mineral King is intertwined and has been for 150 years.
The first road through Three Rivers led to Mineral King. Three Rivers was a way station and stage stop for the miners and prospectors, lumbermen, stockmen, and others who were searching for riches or to simply eke out a living in the alpine valley. From here, it could take another arduous two days of travel to reach this high-country destination.
The new Mineral King Room will tell the tale of prehistoric occupation, the discovery of Mineral King by pioneer settlers, the road-building, the mining, the cabins, the trails, the dams, the Disney era, and how the area became a part of Sequoia National Park. Mineral King’s historic structures and sites include mines and mills from the 1870s, a road constructed in 1879, lumbering sites (ca. 1870-1890), Mt. Whitney Power Company dams (1904-1906), and the cabins, which date from 1895 to the 1950s.
Today, the Mineral King area includes several historic cabin communities, including Silver City and Cabin Cove. Most of the structures date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The settlements as a whole are referred to as the “Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District,” which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
The Mineral King Preservation Society, in partnership with the Three Rivers Historical Society, will perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting that will officially mark the opening of the new Mineral King Room at the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
“It has long been a desire of the Preservation Society board to be able to have all the artifacts in one location and to have a room for displays,” wrote Stuart Hendricks, MKPS president, to the membership.
Private donors made the construction of the building and its subsequent upkeep and maintenance possible. Local contractors worked at reduced rates. Many others have donated their expertise, time, and labor, as well as historical collections.
The Mineral King Room will house both permanent and revolving displays. It will be managed by volunteers in conjunction with the Mineral King Preservation Society.
“Mineral King holds a living community that preserves the history of several prehistoric and historic cultures through a string of federal administrations that has regulated the small area in the last 160 years,” explained Louise Jackson of Three Rivers, MKPS member and curator/coordinator of the Mineral King Room. “Come join us for some wonderful stories, some true, some questionable, at the opening ceremonies of the Mineral King Preservation Society’s Mineral King Room.”
All are invited to participate in this next chapter of Mineral King’s history on Sunday, Jan. 22. Sunday’s gala opening of the Mineral King Room at the Three Rivers Historical Museum (42268 Sierra Drive) will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. The ribbon-cutting will take place at 1:15 p.m.