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The North Fork History Group

Gathering, Preserving and Sharing the History of a Mountain Community

The North Fork History Group (NFHG) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization incorporated in 2002 by community members who saw a need to preserve what was eroding away in the mountains, hills and forests. They began gathering, preserving and sharing the history of North Fork and the surrounding communities with interpretation for, and education of students, community members, and visitors as their main purpose.

By Michael Olwyler, Vice President NFHG

 America has a short history, but it’s rich, intriguing and fun to learn about. North Fork and the surrounding mountain communities have plenty of it. While the Num (Mono people) have been here…well, forever…white man’s history has influenced the people, environment and culture of the area only since the beginning of the 19th century.

The North Fork History Group (NFHG) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization incorporated in 2002 by community members who saw a NorthFork Downtown Tree Stitchedneed to preserve what was eroding away in the mountains, hills and forests. They began gathering, preserving and sharing the history of North Fork and the surrounding communities with interpretation for, and education of students, community members, and visitors as their main purpose.

But, the group has a longer and active history. The NFHG began in the early 1990’s with members meeting at each other’s homes for potlucks to discuss what history articles or photographs they had gathered since they last met. In 1993, the Group produced a Museum Day at the North Fork Elementary School as an educational event for the community. Thirty-three exhibitors participated showing artifacts pertaining to logging, mining, ranching, the Forest Service, and Native American culture. John Hawksworth’s built-to-scale models of early sawmills and Forest Service building were displayed. Demonstrations of shake-making and antique engines and farm equipment rounded out the multi-faceted event, which was viewed by over 600 spectators.

The Group helped re-establish the “Exact Center of California” 7.25 miles from downtown North Fork. The determined site was cleared and a monument was placed for visitors searching for the center of the state. Founding members George and Connie DeSilva designed a hat with a logo depicting the “Exact Center of California,” which even today is available at various businesses in North Fork.
Exact Center of California Marker

In 2000, 2002, and 2008 the History Group produced one-hour history videos (Volumes I, II and III) that are available at Bass Fork Minit Mart, North Fork Hardware, and Sierra Video.

Each October the NFHG participates in the community’s Fall Festival event through a presentation that depicts historical aspects of the area and which is displayed at the Boy Scout Building next to Town Hall. They have created a model of North Fork’s main street with a series of pictures stretching back to the 1910s; produced historical interpretive displays with text and photographs of the logging industry, mining, farming and ranching, and of the Forest Service; and cooperated with King’s Vintage Clothing Museum in Oakhurst to present historical clothing of the 1930s and 1940s. The 20th Fall Festival will take place on Oct. 6 in 2012, so plan to come and learn more about the history of where you live!

Besides the Fall Festival, the group participates at other events such as Earth Day, the Logger’s Jamboree, and the Christmas Bazaar, as well as making presentations to other community groups and organizations.

In 2012, the NFHG began collaboration with the North Fork Community Development Council (CDC) proposing boundaries to preserve communal areas for the enhancement and use by the community at the old Mill Site. The NFHG entered into a memorandum of agreement with the CDC related to the preservation of the remaining two saws at the Mill Site, and has recently identified the boundaries required to create a History Park.

SierraNF Headquarters NorthFork1936The group’s ongoing projects include gathering photographs of people and landscapes of the area; creating a new history video, to be completed by the end of 2012; and continuing the Elders’ Gatherings for older members of the community to share their knowledge and experience of history through stories and photographs.

The North Fork History Group is a nonprofit organization, so any donations you make are tax deductible. If you have photographs, artifacts or factual accounts of the North Fork mountain area that you would like to contribute, as originals or as copies of originals, or if you need additional information, contact Ginny Smith at 559-877-4807. Copies of photos will be scanned and returned promptly.

Through the generosity of the community, the North Fork History Group will continue to gather, preserve, and share the history of our dynamic community. Learn and contribute to your history!

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