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Placer Sentinel

Celebrate Pioneer Day in Coloma

Nov 04, 2021 12:00AM ● By By Gary Zavoral, Sutter Health

More than two-dozen interactive exhibits and activities will be organized into two "tent towns" at the main thoroughfare into Coloma. Photo: Sutter Health

Celebrate Pioneer Day in Coloma [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

COLOMA, CA (MPG) - A California Pioneer History Day highlighting the contributions of groups traditionally underrepresented in California’s history will be held 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma.

The family-friendly event, which features many hands-on activities for both children and adults on pioneer life, will include historic exhibits and demonstrations from the Chinese Friends of the Railroad; Gold Rush Jewish Community; the Black peacetime military unit, the Buffalo Soldiers; the Mewuk Nisenan Native American Tribes; the Japanese Wakamatsu Farm; and the Mormon Battalion, six of whose members were with James Marshall in Coloma when he discovered gold.

“There are many groups and individuals who were instrumental in the settling and building up of California, but their stories are rarely told,” said Dennis Holland, president of the California Pioneer Heritage Foundation, which co-sponsors the event. “Telling this history at the site of the gold discovery is appropriate, as that ignited the greatest rush for riches in the world and created this wonderful melting pot of people representing nearly every race and religion settling in California. That made it the most diverse state in the nation, and it still is today.”

During this year’s California Pioneer History Day, more than two-dozen interactive exhibits and activities organized into two “tent towns” will straddle Highway 49, the main thoroughfare into Coloma. At a station organized by Rancho Cordova participants, children and others will be able to make candles just like they did in the 1800s.  

The free event features historic reenactments and displays, a parade with descendants of early California pioneers, musical entertainment, and various activities for families and children, including a cannon that shoots candy, free wagon rides, pioneer games and children’s crafts.

Historic displays will demonstrate how the pioneers met their needs and how they traveled, cooked and laundered their clothes. Visitors can try their skills making bricks, candles, toys, dolls and other crafts, quilting, and even cooking a biscuit on a stick over a campfire. Old-time photos with pioneer garb will also be available.

There will also be several historic reenactments featuring mountain men, frontier justice, an authentic medicine man mixing formularies of the day, and others portraying famous historical figures. A unit in period uniforms will reenact the safety precautions taken as they fire a replica of the cannon purchased from Capt. John Sutter in 1848. The Pony Express will also recreate a mail hand-off, and free wagon rides will be available.

The parade featuring descendants of early pioneers and other historic groups will start at 10 a.m., followed by an opening ceremony with guest speaker Rep. Tom McClintock, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives whose 4th district includes Coloma and what is referred to as the Gold Country.

This is the fourth California Pioneer History Day, which is sponsored by the California Pioneer Heritage Foundation and organized by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Northern California. Besides the Mormon Battalion, which came to California as a U.S. military unit to fight in the Mexican-American War, other members of the Church of Jesus Christ who were in California before the Gold Rush included those from the Ship Brooklyn, who fled religious persecution in the East by ship and landed in present-day San Francisco in 1846. The Latter-day Saints helped found cities, build schools, start farms, print newspapers and spark the Gold Rush. Some of their history will be told during the California Pioneer History Day.

“There are many who have sacrificed greatly to build this state into a place of beauty and security for those who live here,” said Carl B. Cook, a general authority in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose great-grandfather was in the Mormon Battalion. “It’s my great desire to honor those who went before our generation for their sacrifices, dedication and foresight. … They saw opportunity where others saw hardship, and I think they set a pattern for us today to do hard things and to do things that would bless our posterity.”

Among those groups in California’s history that isn’t well-known are the Japanese pioneers, whose story will be told by the nearby Wakamatsu Farm.

“Few realize that the first Japanese immigrants to the United States settled in Placerville during 1869 and established the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony just two miles from the site where gold was discovered in Coloma,” said Michelle Lobach of the American River Conservancy, which now owns and manages the farm. “Landmark Wakamatsu Farm is the site of the first Japanese colony in America. It is also the site of the first birthright Japanese American and the resting place of Okei-san, the first Japanese woman and immigrant buried on American soil. The Conservancy is honored to share Wakamatsu Farm’s important heritage during the California Pioneer History Day.”

The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma features a museum and visitors center, a replica of John Sutter’s sawmill where gold was discovered in 1848 and many other buildings that recreate the town of Coloma during the Gold Rush.

While the event is free, the state parking fee is $10, which includes free admission to the park’s Gold Discovery Museum. Food concessions will be available, or attendees can bring their own lunch. Visitors can dress in period clothing, which adds to the fun but is optional.

For more information, call the Gold Discovery park museum at (530) 622-3470.

Day’s events

  • 9 a.m. — Interactive booths open (main information area)
  • 9:30 a.m. — Parade line-up. Anyone can join, but it’s especially open to families who are descendants of early settlers of California, and march behind a banner called California Pioneer Descendent. Families can print their family name on a hand sign (provided at booth) and march in memory of their ancestors who came to California. Meet at the information booth next to the museum. Early pioneer time period attire is optional.
  • 10 a.m. — Parade begins (main information area)
  • 10:20 a.m. — Opening ceremony/flag posting/muskets salute/cannon firing (main stage). VIP introduction and recognitions (main stage)
  • 11 a.m., 12:30 & 2 p.m. — Candy cannon firing (west of main museum — Upper Tent Town)
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Entertainment (main stage)
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Free wagon rides (Lower Tent Town, east of Highway 49)
  • 11:30 a.m., 1:30 & 2:30 p.m. — Cannon and musket firing and Pony Express hand-off (Lower Tent Town)
  • 3 p.m. — Event and interactive booths close


Day’s activities
Upper Tent Town (west of Highway 49)

Bear Flag Revolt; Brick making; California/Oregon Trails; Candle making; Family history; Gold Rush Jewish contributions; Information booth; Main stage entertainment; Medical services; Native Daughters of Golden West; Olde Tyme photos; Pioneer doll making/laundress; Pioneer toys; Rope making; Sacred Indian Grinding Rock; Ship Brooklyn; United States-China Railroad Friendship Assoc; Valley of the Great Salt Lake; Youth Enlistment March


Lower Tent Town (east of Highway 49)

Biscuit making; Buffalo Soldiers; Dutch oven cooking; Frontier justice; Frontier medicine; Frontier music & square dancing; Gold discovery; Gold Rush trains; Horse & wagon rides; Information booth; Mormon Battalion; Mountain Men; Pioneer discovery at Gridley; Pony Express





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