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Stonyford Museum offers trip back to boomtown days
It's hard to imagine Stonyford as a boom town.
Harder still is to imagine its old buildings being moved there from its original site on Stony Creek on the back of horse-draw rollers.
But Stonyford's colorful 121-year history and artifacts from times gone are now on display at the new Stonyford Museum, which opened to the public on Sunday.
Elk Creek, which was once part of Colusa County, is also included.
"Coming into the museum is like a journey into the past," said Joyce Bond, who donated her historical knowledge and many family artifacts to the museum.
A pioneer kitchen, photographs, Native American artifacts, historical information and local military history are just a few exhibits that interested the dozens of visitors who attended the Sunday's opening.
"A museum is something everyone has wanted for a long time," said Peg Arnold, of Willows, whose grandfather Harold Walkup was an early Stonyford rancher. "I can't think of better place than in the old town hall."
The original Stonyford Town Hall was build in 1899, and served for many years as a gathering spot for town meetings, dances, wedding and theatrical performances.
The old hall was restored with $120,000 from Colusa County Supervisor Gary Evans' District 4 share of Proposition 40 park bond money.
"This has been a dream of ours," said Barbara Leach, president of the Stonyford Community Hall Association. "Without Supervisor Evans' support, we could never have done this."
Leach said once restoration of the building got underway, workers encountered numerous problems and damage that, had it gone undetected several more years, the historic building would have been lost entirely.
Among its exhibits, the new museum has artifacts — including arrowheads — from the Pomo Indians, who lived in the foothills of Lake and Colusa counties.
A collection of early 20th century Native American baskets were donated by former resident Nan Garlin, who had acquired them from a descendant.
"The baskets were made by Germaine and Oscar McDaniel in the early 1900s," said 82-year-old Garlin. "Oscar was a character. He was more than a character — he was a lovely man."
The museum is also in possession of an original curtain that was used on the Town Hall stage in the early 20th century.
"The painting on the curtain of 'The lady on the Lake' was painted by George Bradley in 1912," Bond said. "On the back of the curtain are drawings and signatures listing some of the movies and shows that graced the stage. It is our dream to have the curtain restored so it too can be displayed."
Bond said Bradley was a relative of the Evans family.
A small section of the museum is dedicated to Stonyford's military sailors and soldiers, including two killed in action in World War II.
Herbert Calcaterra, son of Gladys Stites, received the Silver Star posthumously for gallantry during battle while aboard the USS Pompano (submarine) on Sept. 4, 1942.
Calcaterra, who attended Indian Valley Elementary School and Maxwell High School, continued to man his gun during battle from an exposed site until he was fatally wounded.
Calcaterra, who was 22-year-old when he died, was buried at sea.
The Pompano was later lost in enemy waters in the Pacific, killing all 76 men aboard.
The U.S. destroyer Calcaterra, commissioned on Nov. 17, 1943, was named in the Stonyford man's honor. The ship served the US Navy until 1973.
Joseph Martinez, son of Joe Martinez of Stonyford, was killed April 23, 1945, while operating a machine gun in battle with the 6th Marine Division in Okinawa.
He enlisted before graduating from Maxwell High School, and was posthumously awarded his diploma.
Martinez, known as "Little Joe," was 18-years-old when he died. He was buried in Okinawa, but his body was later returned to the US for burial at the National Cemetery in San Bruno.
"It is very important to remember those who served and died in the military," said Colusa County Historical Researcher John Morton, who provided historical information to the museum. "It is part of our history in Colusa County. We have veterans that served in the war of 1812, the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. Many came here and became farmers."
The museum also has a model of the B-17 flown in World War II by Ralph Jensen of Stonyford.
Jensen was shot down over Germany, captured and spent 19 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft.
His widow, Shirley Jensen, said her husband would be proud that his and the other men's service is recognized in the museum.
"It's a wonderful museum," Jensen said.
Some of the museum's many photographs include the making of the East Park Dam and Reservoir and historic buildings, such as the old Smithville Hotel, which was build in 1890.
Smithville was situated on Stony Creek, and was named after John L. Smith.
The original town was home to the three-story hotel, a lively stable, saloon and a grist mill.
C. Stilwell, a promoter who had been backing a boom in Sutter, moved the town to its present site and changed the name to Stonyford.
Many of the buildings were moved as they stood, while others were torn down and rebuilt.
Stilwell, it is said, paid for the move.
The old Smithville Hotel, and the store which was operated by W. J. King and Ragain, were pulled from their original location on rollers. Business was continued as usual while the moving process was underway, according to county records, but fire destroyed the hotel less than two years later.
By the turn of the 20th century, nearly 5,000 people lived in the area.
"It's hard to imagine, but Stonyford use to be a big city," said Frank Pendell, whose grandfather George Stocking moved to Stonyford in the 1950s. "Before Shasta Dam was built, the valley flooded every year, so people lived up here."
People also flocked to the area to enjoy the mineral springs, Pendell said.
Drinking and bathing in water from the springs was believed to combat rheumatism, skin diseases and digestive problems, which were very common in the late 1800's.
Stonyford also had a booming logging industry and was home to blacksmiths and restaurateurs.
Leach said the Stonyford Museum will be open to the public on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. Admission is free.
The cost of upkeep, future exhibits and restorations will be funded entirely by donations and membership into the Stonyford Museum Society.
"The museum is a wonderful addition to our town," Leach said. "In order to preserve history, you have to have a place to store it."
Visitors Sunday said the museum showcased what a wonderful close-knit community Stonyford has been for more than 100 years.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 458-2121 or email@example.com.