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The Stage Route Tour

Ever wonder about the history of eastern Madera County? This area is simply rich with wonderful stories by and about the “characters” and events that made up that history.

The Coarsegold Historical Society has produced two volumes that relate the early pioneer history, As We Were Told, Vols. I & 2. The first volume is full of 102 stories by individuals and families telling their histories back to the 1800s. It was published in the 1990s. The second volume, published in 2009, has some of these stories, plus a short book, articles, etc.

About three years ago the historical society went one step further: a six-hour bus tour that covers the area encompassing Coarsegold, Raymond/Knowles, Ahwahnee and Oakhurst (old Fresno Flats). The guides are a delight, both having lived in this area all their lives—they have lots to tell.

A visit to the Hills Pride Inn with a root beer and a little old time history from the proprietor is simply an inspiring start to the tour. The Hills Pride Inn in Knowles holds the second oldest liquor license in California. The establishment has been in business serving the granite quarry workers and locals for many, many years.

The Raymond Museum takes the visitor back through many, many years, when the trains used to bring their passengers to Raymond. From there they boarded the open stages and headed north to Yosemite. This “Stage Route Tour” covers part of that old road—Road 600—up to Hwy 49. Many are the stories told about the happenings along the road and the old town of Grub Gulch, a sizeable mining town in its day. Today the area has a granite marker and a cemetery.

The Wassama Roundhouse, an Indian ceremonial building and area is the place for a lunch stop. Here lunch is served (included in the tour price) and the history of the Roundhouse and meaning of several Indian artifacts are explained. Sometimes, Indian ceremonial dances may be taking place.

Fresno Flats was the name of the town of Oakhurst before 1912. The tour visits the street of the old town and we point out the beautifully restored 1898 Christ Church, now known as the “Little Church on the Hill” as the building has been moved and totally restored.

Up the hill to Coarsegold, with a history of the town, the Coarsegold Market. Its been in continuous business since the mid 1850s—the oldest continuously-run business in Madera County! Back to the Coarsegold Museum, from where we started, to enjoy the museum and a very special dessert and tea or coffee.

Long day with probably more history than the visitor ever wanted to know! Hopefully, this 60 mile tour is an inspiration to learn more and research more. The area is truly alive with fascinating stories.

For information on the coming October 20th tour, call Ken Rawlings, 559-658-8631. There just might be a vacant seat. Tour price is $35 for members; $40 for non-members.

Kay Good

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