About the Yosemite Historical Club
The express purpose of the YHC is to provide current members access to historical information about Yosemite and the Sierras and to encourage new interest in Yosemite’s history through lectures, field trips and newsletters; and to encourage the preservation of Yosemite history through protection of its artifacts, memorabilia, historical documents and lore. In short: to Collect and Protect.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Yosemite Historical Club (YHC) is a private club that has been steadily growing since its humble beginnings in October, 1991. The founders were a group of enthusiasts with close ties to that incomparable place known as Yosemite.
A hand full of individuals (6 or 8) who were a part of a post card club decided to break from the card group and focus their energies on Yosemite and its gateway communities’ history. The late Mikki Haney offered direction by opening her home in Mariposa for the first meeting. A hand-written flier sent to “Yosemite Collectors” announced that on October 27th , 1991 there would be an “afternoon of fun, discussing, comparing and perhaps trading Yosemite items.” The Yosemite Collectors Club, as it was initially called, was born! Some of the early members collected Yosemite memorabilia while others were simply fascinated by Yosemite’s colorful history.
Ads in the local newspaper and fliers posted around town (Mariposa) did not net the results hoped for. In fact, no one responded! The original 6 or 8 members remained undaunted however and eventually the word spread. The big boon came when Yosemite Park Ranger and club member Dean Shenk secured a mention of the new organization in the widely circulated Yosemite Association newsletter; that plug produced numerous inquires and members. The club was off and running.
By 1992 quarterly field trips were being conducted in January, April, July and October. To avoid inclement weather January’s gathering, it was decided, would be conducted indoors and provide club members with the opportunity to display and trade their Yosemite treasures. The meeting also proved valuable for socializing as well as to present informative lectures. It also afforded the Club an opportunity to conduct some official business thereby allowing members to participate in the Club’s development. The January meeting (held each year in the Lush Meadows, Mariposa club house) remains an important function of the YHC.
In 1996 it became necessary to begin producing a newsletter (Yosemite Collector and Historical Quarterly) to keep the growing membership abreast of meetings and to help educate them between gatherings.
And finally, as with any growing organization, inevitable expenses arose so a small annual membership fee was implemented to cover newsletter costs and related club expenses.
The YHC is based in Mariposa, California less than 50 miles from Yosemite National Park. Most of the original founders and many of the subsequent members call Mariposa Home.
Club membership has expanded to what, in the beginning, seemed unlikely. Patience and innovative “marketing” paid off though and has resulted in a quality membership with integrity. YHC is more than a social club with passing interests; YHC members are dedicated to the serious preservation of Sierra/Yosemite history. Our past often shapes the future and without the understanding of how we got here it sometimes becomes difficult to navigate through tomorrow.
It’s worth mentioning (for those who are wondering) YHC has always been an a-political group. As a group we do not rally for or against particular “causes and issues.” Some individual members are more opinionated than others and are quite welcome to express their views. Occasionally controversial issues do come to the table when it is a part of historical interest.
The membership has grown to well over 150 with members in 9 states and 18 California towns other than Mariposa. As mentioned, the membership list includes many present and ex-employees of both the old and new concessionaire and NPS. Some, whose parents were employees, grew up in the park and others who simply visited frequently over the years developed a life-long love for Yosemite. Some eight published authors have joined our ranks, all of which have written books directly about Yosemite or on the history of the surrounding Sierras. While the Gold Rush of the 1850’s was certainly the nexus for establishing many Sierra communities, in large part, Yosemite is what has kept the charming towns alive and well.
Members come from a vast range of occupations including doctors, teachers, businessmen and women, firemen, foresters, musicians, photographers and historians and many of us, just plain ‘ol family folk who take pride in our respective towns and the most beautiful place on earth -- the place early settlers simply called “Paradise.”
By conducting presentations and interpretive programs we become students of the vast historical information that is available and thereby enables us to help protect historic facts.
The historical aspect of the club comes in the form of field trips to historic sites within the Sierras including Mariposa, Madera and Tuolumne counties. Tour leaders are generally selected from among members who have knowledge about a particular site. Using trip folders, given to each in attendance, the members are supplied with photos, fact sheets and maps of the site(s). The tours take members to often un-trailed sites and ruins. Most times excerpts are read from historical writings and news articles about the site. Typically members will pack lunches to enjoy at the point of interest. All in all it is a relaxing and wonderful time for each member.
For most members, collecting Yosemite memorabilia provides a more tangible way to preserve Yosemite’s past. Collections are of course optional. Many member collectors got their start with family photos and objects acquired from family members who worked in Yosemite. Others among us are more “serious collectors” who spend small fortunes on memorabilia. Some “specialize” in certain items i.e. YVRR or Curry Village or Ahwahnee, while others (the more obsessed) will take home the imprinted paper napkin from a Yosemite hamburger stand. Whatever your level of interest YHC is the world’s best club for anything Yosemite/Sierra Nevada’s. Hopefully an obvious point, YHC does not in anyway condone the unlawful acquisition of “collectables.”
The YHC newsletter [Yosemite Collector and Historical Quarterly] is an important part of what we do. For many years the YC&HQ was lovingly produced with a typewriter and a copy machine by club President Mikki Haney until her passing in April of 2003. Many members miss her hand-written notes on each issue. After her passing however the task fell to Club co-founder Ray Warren who is aided by club member Paul Hall in production (Halfdome Designs). Employing more “modern” technology the publication has evolved into a color, 12-page, 8.5 x 11 glossy format, with a press-run of 500-1000 copies.
The content is still just as informative with a continued emphasis on information about major events in the area, the lesser-known but interesting aspects of Yosemite and vicinity, and other new features such as member profiles, classifieds and advertising.
For the first time the otherwise private newsletter is being offered to the public via many shops and lobbies in Mariposa.
Improvements for YHC members presently on the table include membership cards, which will allow for discounts at retail outlets inside and outside in the Park.
Given time the YHC could accomplish many interesting tasks and projects. For example we could provide interesting presentations for local schools and private groups; Produce tourist related tracts that help generate interest in Yosemite history; Conduct public meetings, fundraisers, sponsorships of local events and even establish retail outlets in gateway communities. Anything is possible… in the future. It’s really just a matter of interest and financial prowess.
For now however, the future of YHC simply rests in the development of new membership. There are two classes of member; the “employee” and “visitor/enthusiast” Certainly there will never be a shortage of history to doom the club! Only lack of human interest can get in our way.
The current membership is very unique and special since currently many of the members are able to recall personal experiences from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70, 80s etc. This treasured group is not going to be with us forever. New generations who are interested in the preservation of Yosemite are necessary and therefore a major objective.
The Internet is a wonderful tool for locating the visitor/enthusiast and more importantly, helping to create new visitors and enthusiasts!
The creation and development of the YHC website is crucial to our future. This unique site features the world’s first and ONLY Virtual Yosemite Museum which we are using to foster an appreciation of those early pioneers who nurtured, developed, promoted and preserved one of God’s most magnificent creations; not just for their own gain but for future generations, in other words, for us! We now strive to return the favor for forthcoming generations.
The future holds many possibilities for YHC but most importantly, our goal is to just keep the history alive.