Go See Do: Folsom’s Pioneer Village

gold rush

The famous misquote from Dr. M. F. Stephenson in 1849

Hey mamas,

Over the weekend the family and I were lucky enough to catch Folsom’s Pioneer Village during open hours.  This awesome facility is operated by the Folsom Historical Society and runs on donations and volunteers so it’s hours vary per season and volunteer availability (please drop some money in the box!).  You can call [(916) 985-2707] to check hours.  You can also set up a group guided tour for up to 45 people for 1-3 hours with docents dressed in period clothing.  (Contact Melissa at education@folsomhistorymuseum.org)  Anyway, we did our own self-guided tour.  I recommend this version for a 2yo, but my daughter could have done an hour long tour.


When we arrived we saw a volunteer working in the Folsom Forge, their blacksmith shop.  He was there to clean the shop that day, but he talked with us about what he does and exactly how he does it.  It was super educational!  He said that the fire gets up to 2200 degrees and he doesn’t wear gloves when he is working with the steal!  He prefers bare hands and long tongs.  He makes custom orders.  While we were there, he was working on a heart-shaped bell for wedding decor.  He let Lyla feel the different materials he was working with.  My husband hung with her and got to experience what it must have been like for a blacksmith in the pioneer days.


This young man was getting antsy, so we checked out the different gold cradles and rocker boxes used in the Gold Rush Days to separate the soil and rocks from the sand that had the gold in it.  Both kids were super interested in those particular things.  Thankfully they are all labeled and have an explanation of what each machine was used for.  Perfect for kids with a lot of questions!  They offer a pamphlet that has a ton more information and tells you all about what they have to offer.


The kids loved to look into and explore the decks of the Settlers Cabin.  It is staged with furnishing from the pioneer days.  We were explaining to the kids that most of the miners lived in tents, not actual homes like this one.  “Camping!”, they said excitedly.


This working wagon wheel was a hit!  They took turns and then argued about that, then spun it as fast as they could. This thing has been around for about 120 years, but I wasn’t sure it could survive my Rinos….


This was what we all loved the most!  Panning for gold!  Bev (pictured above) is one of the docents and she was so helpful and super nice.  She told us that the green pans are better to catch the gold than the blue pans or the black pans.  They have deeper riffs (the step like forms on one side of the pan) and they have a line that runs up, alongside the riffs from the base of the pan to the edge.  That line keeps the gold in the pan instead of falling back into the water.


First, you grab a pan, preferably green, and a trowel and put a few shovels full of sand and rock into your pan.  Make sure you dig deep for a better possibility of getting “gold”.  Bev explained that it’s actually pyrite or fools gold.  It’s much lighter than gold, so it comes to the top of your pan a little easier.  Real gold would have been under all the sand in the Gold Rush Days.


After an expert lesson from Bev on how to be your own “shaker box”, we STRUCK GOLD!  Check out that nugget!  See, I told you it was an expert lesson.


This really got everybody excited to find more gold!  The blacksmith we were talking to earlier came over and showed Lyla a shortcut trick with that mesh basket you can see above.


Because we got so lucky to find so much gold, we left an extra donation.  Check out that loot!

There is so much to see at Folsom’s Pioneer Village.  From the forge, gold panning, all the old machines and tractors, a train car, the settler’s cabin, a windmill, the Old Folsom Mine, to the hand water pump.  The village is located in the heart of Old Folsom on Sutter Street.  Make a day of it!  They have a picnic area so you can bring a lunch from home or get take-out from any of the great restaurants in Old Folsom.

This was a great outting that really helped my kids learn that we are who we are today because of the innovations and the people who were here before us.  We saw the giant old windmill and we talked about how that led to the innovation of the large, modern white ones we see on the hillside when we are driving to the bay area.  There was a vintage “mower” among the old machines.  It was huge and was pulled by a mule.  We joked about how hard that would be to mow the lawn at our house.  Comparing these old versions to the new versions we see and use today really helped bring home the importance of history.

Try to plan a family outting this week that will teach your kids about the past.  For us it was the Gold Rush Days, what will it be for you?




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