The San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park includes an interactive story for kids


Ask long-time county residents where to begin to learn about the hands-on history of our city and county and many will recommend the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park just south of Lodi (so than the Haggin Museum in Stockton’s Victory Park).

At Micke Grove Park, spread over 18 shaded acres, the San Joaquin Historical Museum features exhibits about our Native American ancestors, early pioneers and settlers like Captain Charles Weber, founder of Stockton and our first farmer, and many other innovators in agriculture.

I phoned ahead and arranged a tour with Jack Jacobs, one of the museum’s 80 expert guides, and met him on a sunny Friday morning. The park and the many buildings of the museum house exhibitions and agricultural equipment that will delight young and old.

Dry bean crops have been saved from root rot with innovative tools like this John Deere Bedshaper.

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Thinking of families with young children, I asked Jack, a four-year-old guide, what the highlights are for 10-15 year olds, based on their feedback and his experience.

Jack said, “Pretty much every kid loves the Tractor Building.” He suggested scheduling the upcoming spectacular Tractor Fest on Saturday, October 15.

He added, “Most have fun with the old Calaveras school as they discover how formal education once was in the 1860s and 1870s. Children who are interested in Native American history find the Native American exhibits in the Erickson Building are very interesting, and the talking bench depicting stories told by Native Americans is most intriguing.

An Indiana tractor, one of approximately 30 tractors in the Tractor Building.

Our first stop was the Erickson Building, first wandering the Native American exhibit and thoughtful discussion bench with stories featuring the Miwok and Yokut speaking nations who have cared for this area for millennia. Next stop, the ‘Prairie Schooner’ wagon, built to carry 1,000 pounds of food and gear on the long journey to California; just down the hall, Captain Charles Weber exhibits with reconstructed pieces in period fashion.

As we toured the recreated Captain Weber rooms, Jack recognized old-school amenities like chamber pots under the bed, as well as his daughter Julia Weber’s buggy on display. Later we would also take a walk around the Julia Weber House, built for the Weber daughter on Weber Point, then moved in 1901 to a new location on the Calaveras River, then just a few years ago to the grounds of the San Joaquin Historical Society.

Captain Weber Cottage is the oldest house in the county.

As I passed the old Calaveras School building, I noted the health of the robust Flame Tokay grape vineyard, Jack noting that it is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Museum maintenance manager Rigo Ruiz dropped by and shared the extra care they’ve given to the vineyard over the past year, noting that they hope their grapes will win a prize in the local competition. I surreptitiously tasted one — delicious!

We visited the Cortopassi-Avensino building dedicated in 2010 as a temple of agricultural invention and creativity. It features several dozen exhibits on crops such as dried beans, which became a staple in the region more than 100 years ago but suffered from root rot. The invention of new tools made it possible to plant beans not 4 inches deep, but as little as ½ inch deep, eliminating root rot and bringing even more profit to farmers who could plant two crops per season.

The Julia Weber house has been painstakingly restored to its original color and condition.

We ended our tour with a leisurely, cool ride through the Sunshine Trail and stopped at several shady spots as a mountain stream meanders through coast redwoods, mountain pines, and valley oaks. Stop to sit and listen to the ‘talking benches’ share John Muir’s thoughtful words on reflections of the Sierra Nevada, words of 1841 Bidwell Party members share the adventures of the first American settlers to cross the Sierra and the Traditional members of the Yokuts tribe share the story of the creation of the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada.

On the trail, Jack pointed out a small covered bridge, built using the same construction techniques as the Knights Ferry Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi at 380 feet, circa 1863. It was once located in San Joaquin County on the old Stockton-Sonora Highway before the county line was realigned, placing it in present-day Stanislaus County. (Take a day trip to charming Knights Ferry Park to visit the Old Bridge, the remains of an old mill, and the charming little town of Knights Ferry. The Stanislaus River also offers tubing and swimming options.)

Visitor Gary Pierce and docent Jack Jacobs make a nice stop at one of the chat benches.

Had we had more time, we could have visited many other museum buildings, featuring early American settlers who emigrated to build families, farms and communities here, inventors and entrepreneurs such as Benjamin Holt and RG LeTourneau, who launched international companies.

Other exhibits showcase the thousands of immigrants who built dykes in the delta, worked our fields and brought new energy and ideas for agriculture or innovators like Stephens Brothers Boats, who built over 1,000 runabouts and workboats that have crisscrossed the delta for many years. . And let the children have fun in the tractor building or in the building with huge earth-moving machines!

The Historical Society traces a county tradition of innovation, ingenuity and creativity and will whet visitors’ appetite for more. Museum guides are happy to share more ideas and suggestions.

More historical landmarks:

A 26ft Stephens dual cockpit runabout.

If you are going to

What: San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum

Where: Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday

Information: (209) 953-3460;

Contact Tim at [email protected] Bon voyage in the West!

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