The history of Three Rivers is fascinating and intriguing with an eclectic cast of characters. So a quarter century ago, a group of proactive citizens set about creating an organization that would collect and preserve these stories from the past.
That organization, today well known as the Three Rivers Historical Society, never realized during its early days that it would one day itself be making history. But what started in 1991 with a small group dedicated to documenting Three Rivers’s past has evolved into a plethora of burgeoning accomplishments, including an attractive museum overflowing with artifacts and memorabilia, an annex highlighting the history of Mineral King, and an adjacent property with a historic Three Rivers home nearing completion of its restoration and a couple more proposed structures currently on the drafting table.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, the Three Rivers Historical Society will celebrate all of this and more at its Silver Anniversary party. It was 25 years ago this month that the group received its charter from the State of California.
For the past quarter century, the all-volunteer group has dedicated itself to the preservation of the local past so that future generations will understand the people, places, and events of this legendary place.
Looking back— In March 1991, the first board of directors of the Three Rivers Historical Society was appointed, consisting of John Holden, president; Barbara Crain, vice president; Mary Bronzan, secretary; and Verna Curtis, treasurer. Several other Three Rivers folks also stepped forward to assist: Ester and Maile Peck, Peggy O’Neil, Helen Savage, Thelma Crain, Stan Pavlou, Rita Pena, and Trudy Schuckert.
Meetings began being held monthly at the Three Rivers Arts Center. The group began heralding the good news of the Three Rivers Historical Society and members joined. Dues were originally $10 for individuals; life memberships were $100.
Three months after the group’s first meeting, there were 43 charter memberships and four lifetime memberships. Today, the group’s total membership is 155.
Present-day board of directors are: Tom Marshall, president (at the helm since 2008); Nancy Brunson, vice president; Dody Marshall, treasurer-secretary; Susan Wolff, docent coordinator; and directors Gaynor McKee, Rusty Crain, Pat Crain, Bob Burke, Shivon Lavely, Jackie Tuttle, and Kim Kauling.
Join the club— A Three Rivers Historical Society membership financially assists the organization in collecting, archiving, and researching local history, as well as supports and funds site development, property acquisition, and other major projects. Over the years, there have been several major benefactors, including some substantial bequests, and these have allowed for the dreams to be big and the projects to move forward.
Members actually get to see their dollars at work in tangible ways. They also receive a quarterly newsletter via email, invitations to special events, and a discount in the Museum gift shop. Dues these days are $25, individual; $40, family; $50, business; and $500, life.
Join the party— The TRHS 25th anniversary celebration is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Three Rivers Historical Museum, 42268 Sierra Drive. Sip some wine and sample the refreshments while partaking in the silent and live auctions that, of course, support the future endeavors of the Historical Society. Open for public viewing will be the newly restored Bequette House and the new Mineral King Room.
Three Rivers Historical Society: Major milestones
1991— In February, a public meeting was held to scope the interest in a new historical society. In December, TRHS received its state charter.
1992— First newsletter published with Sophie Britten as editor. TRHS began assisting in the organization of the annual spring reunions of Woodlake High School’s Class of 1924.
1994— Bob and Janine Chilcott purchased the Bequette property (adjacent to the present-day museum) to hold for TRHS. State grant funds were awarded for development of a rest area and visitor center but later rescinded so the property was sold to a private party.
1996— TRHS opened an office at 41837 Sierra Drive in Three Rivers.
1997— Membership reached 127.
1998— TRHS installed a plaque at Three Rivers Union School in honor of the contributions of Fred and Rena (Alles) Ogilvie.
1999— TRHS purchased the Gallery 198 property (present-day museum).
2000— October marked the grand opening of the Three Rivers Historical Museum. In December, TRHS held its first Appraisal Fair.
2001— In cooperation with the Arts Alliance of Three Rivers, a gift shop celebrating local artists opened at the Museum.
2001— With funding from the Three Rivers Lions Club and the assistance of local volunteers, the Paul Bunyan statue was returned to Three Rivers from Porterville and installed along Highway 198 at the Museum.
2006— A permanent display of Mineral King artifacts was established.
2006— In June, a joint effort between TRHS and the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce resulted in the Museum becoming a visitor center for travelers, open seven days a week.
2006— In November, the first Living History Day was held.
2007— TRHS acquired the Peck home and resold it.
2008— TRHS logo was created.
2009— In July, the first Hot Dog Festival was held.
2010— In December, the first Community Caroling event was held.
2011— The Native American Days educational series for area fourth-graders was established.
2012— Chan Wilcox purchased the Bequette property from a foreclosure sale, then sold it to TRHS for the purchase price.
2012— First Author’s Reception was held highlighting local authors and their books.
2013— TRHS website unveiled (www.3rmuseum.org).
2015— Construction began on the Mineral King Room annex. The interpretive Heritage Trail was constructed.
2016— Restoration continues on the Bequette House and should be completed in December. The home will include some original furnishings and other period pieces.
2017 and beyond— In January, the Mineral King Room will celebrate its grand opening. Future plans also include developing the property around the Bequette House to include gardens; a barn to house larger artifacts; a replica of the Bahwell Saloon, which was extant on the property from 1895 to 1919; and — should Three Rivers dare dream? — on-site public restrooms.
—Excerpted in part from a timeline compiled by Tom Marshall, TRHS president