History site

The new website, CalaverasHistory.org, combines histories of local places and topics with historical government publications, maps and photos.

In the past, reading up on local history has often required a visit to a library, a museum or the county archives.

But residents of Calaveras County can now access a wealth of information online from the comforts of their living rooms.

The Calaveras Heritage Council (CHC), a nonprofit that was founded in 1976 to manage the county archives, recently launched a new website that combines histories of local places and topics with historical government publications, maps and photos. Most of the histories come from reports compiled by local historian Judith Marvin and local archaeologist Julia Costello, with 35 years of work through their company, Foothill Resources, which produces studies on important resources prior to development projects that may affect them, as necessitated by state and federal laws.

Both Marvin and Costello are on the board of directors of the CHC, along with Tad Follendorf, Shannon Van Zant and Maureen Elliot.

The project is an upgrade of an older website, which launched in 2007. At that time, the economy was thriving and many development projects were underway in the county. It was the hope that companies employing the services of Foothill Resources would contribute small fees to have the historical materials from their reports published to the website. However, the economy fell into a severe recession shortly afterward, and the site saw few updates for many years.

In 2017, the old platform was badly in need of an upgrade. Sloane Dell’Orto, the builder of the original site, directed the CHC to a new website host, Streamline.

Since then, old material has been transferred, new material has been steadily added and total content has doubled. The new site is much more user-friendly, allowing members of the CHC to add and edit material themselves without having to work through a technician, and much more content is still to come.

“Our intent is to have easily accessible, accurate information,” Costello said. “In our modern world, research is done online, and county residents – or folks interested in county history – deserve to have this

at their fingertips.”

Costello said that her favorite part of the new site is a collection of historical maps.

“I love the large maps that we can post: the 1904 county map, and the township maps of communities,” she said. “These can be zoomed in on and studied for roads, ranches, ditches and other historic locations. These previously have been difficult to access without going to an archive, and now can be downloaded and used at home.”

While Costello enjoys many aspects of local history, she finds the Gold Rush and immigrant experiences the most interesting.

“(I’m interested in) how folks came from all over the world, adapted to this new home, and their descendants often still live here,” she said. “The prehistoric period is also fascinating – some of the oldest sites in California are in Calaveras County, and our Mi-Wuk people are still active in their communities. And the mining technologies fascinate me. And the history of ranching is integral to the fabric of our past and present.”

Costello said she believes people would be surprised by how similar people of the past were to their counterparts today.

“People in the past were people just like us,” she said. “With simpler technologies – and perhaps different languages and upbringings – but they had the same range of human attributes: generous, selfish, clever, brave, afraid, humorous, wicked … Our lives are not as different as we might suspect.”

Local residents have much to gain from looking at the past, Costello said.

“Familiarity with your surroundings leads to greater understanding and attachment,” she said. “We are part of a continuum of human habitation on this landscape; respect for both our past and future is important. And it makes driving or walking around our county much more fun.”

Costello said that studying history has forever changed the way she sees the county.

“I can see stories in every road, bridge and abandoned homesite,” she said. “The landscape comes alive.”

The new website can be found at CalaverasHistory.org.

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Reporter

Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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