“This is one of the finest wagon, buggy and carriage collections in California! 29 restored wagons!” Rogers explained as he poses by the original Angels/Vallecito/Murphys Stage!
Simply driving by, one cannot perceive just how large the museum complex is! In fact, the Angels Camp Museum is comprised of four separate buildings, teeming with artifacts and overflowing with Mother Lode history! A huge barn contains mining artifacts, while another is a “garage” for 29 antique carriages! The main building, easily visible from the street, is crammed with fascinating antiques and relics – and even has a mini theatre where folks can watch “Jump”, the official “Frogumentary” about Angels Camp’s Frog Jump Jubilee! Curator Bob Rogers recently took this reporter on a two-hour tour of the museum; and one word can describe the place: Incredible! “A lot of people don’t realize it, but this property is part of the Angels Mine!” Rogers revealed. “The claim goes back to the 1850’s! The reason Angels Camp was such a center of hard-rock (gold imbedded quartz ore) mining – and there were nine mines between Bret Harte High School and Angels Creek – is because the three veins of Mother Lode came together here! We have two of them under this property!
Bob Rogers (left) is joined by “Miner Jim” Fletcher – who is showing off his “find”: a large chunk of pyrite (fool’s gold)! “We have a gold-panning here at the museum, and there IS real gold here!” Rogers assures.
The Mother Lode is the most complex geological area in the world and there are 200 miles of mining tunnels and shafts under Angels Camp” Rogers exclaimed, while also discussing the gold-mining exploits of the Henry Angel, James Carson and Dan and John Murphy! “We also have one of the largest and most diverse collections of mining equipment that exists in the Mother Lode!” Rogers stated with pride, adding “I’ve seen visitors to our museum spend as much as an entire day here!” There are videos and vintage photographs ready to view, and lots of artifacts displayed that reflect early pioneer life – including fixtures from the original post office in Angels Camp, and typewriters; the type that Mark Twain, himself, would have used! “And we have one of the finest patent medicine bottle collections! It’s just amazing! It rivals the Smithsonian!” Rogers opined. Indeed, there is a lot to see at the museum!
Just two of the many fascinating relics in the museum: An early telephone operator’s switchboard used in Angels Camp, and an 1800’s slot machine! “Gambling was rampant through this area, even up until the 50s!” Rogers noted.
The Angels Camp Museum started in 1851, and under Roger’s oversight, continues to expand magnificently! “We’re going to build an1850s mining camp in the back! We’ve got three acres, that’s what’s interesting!” Rogers exclaimed. “Incidentally, we also own the old Altaville School, up the street – which is the oldest surviving schoolhouse in California!” He noted, adding that they are working on a new Mark Twain exhibit! The Angels Camp Museum is located at 753 South Main Street, (right across from Rodz Grille), and is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is a very modest $4 (and worth every penny!) Children 6 -16 pay only a dollar! This museum could very well be the “crown jewel of the Mother Lode”! Check it out sometime!