Precious family heirlooms, mining and farm equipment, old photographs and bits of local history continue to steadily be donated to the museum, not only by local residents, but from people around the globe who send the items “home,” allowing for fresh and expanded exhibits that are updated each January.
While the museum appears to be a single “old” building from the outside, once inside, visitors can tell that two distinct buildings, each with its own, unique history, house the various exhibits. The entrance to the museum is within a remnant of the Coulterville Hotel. The earliest legal descrption of this building is dated 1863. It was a private rock walled residence until the 1890s when Percy Davis leased it and added two wooden stories, turning it into the hotel, only to have them burn down in the third great Coulterville fire in 1899. The adjacent Wells Fargo brick structure was built in 1856, originally housing both the local Wells Fargo office as well as McCarthy’s General Store. Nelson Cody, brother of Buffalo Bill Cody, was an agent here in the 1870’s and served as the area’s postmaster.
An additional structure in the rear houses a variety of old wagons, mining and farm equipment. Adjacent to the museum is “Whistling Billy”, an eight-ton Porter Locomotive that was shipped around the Horn and brought to Coulterville by mule team to bring gold ore from the Mary Harrison Mine four miles to the “forty-Stamper” mill. The locomotive stands under the town’s Hanging Tree, from which the likes of Leon Ruiz was hung in 1856 for robbing and killing two Chinese miners.
The museum is staffed by volunteer docents. Pre-arranged guided tours are available for groups. Visitors may also take a self-guided tour.