San Joaquin County has become an agrarian powerhouse because of strong people and sturdy, ingenious machines.
Both are evoked at the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi.
The museum is a compound of exhibition halls, historic buildings, a vineyard, and a gift shop arrayed on 18 acres. This is an ideal destination for locals and visitors alike. The museum has a mix of long-standing displays, such as the one-room Calaveras School built in 1866, and updated programs and exhibits, including classic car shows and gardening seminars.
There’s an abundance of tools and machines, reflecting the ingenuity of the early settlers and farmers. The Rosen Building houses a unique collection of wheeled and tracked tractors, many manufactured by Holt and other local companies.
“I tell visitors we are the best-kept secret in San Joaquin County,” said Julie Blood, corrections manager.
The museum includes exhibits on the culture of the Miwok and Yokuts tribes, with plans underway to substantially expand the Native American exhibits in coming months. The expansion is made possible through a grant of nearly $500,000 that embraces themes of water, population growth and migration.
This is a must-see area destination, in part because it is so clean, pleasant and well-maintained, and in part because of the variety of exhibits and experiences available. It is possible to float through the museum and glean the highlights in an hour or 90 minutes. But it’s also a place, with so many exhibits, buildings and machines, that may magnetize your interest for many hours.
The museum is a marvel of versatility. Families can roam the grounds, the kids can hop on a real Caterpillar tractor, and everyone can enjoy a picnic in the lawn and garden areas. For the harder-core history buff, there are many layers of information on agrarian machinery, Native Americans of the region, vintage furnishings and dwellings. The Gerald D. Kennedy reference library includes materials, from assessor’s records to photos and genealogical files, available to researchers from the high school level on up.
Exhibits shed light on pioneers such as the Weber family. Several exhibits reflect the Micke family, benefactors who provided land for the park where the museum is located. A cottage once belonging to Stockton founder Charles Weber is on display during the museum’s popular Festival of Lights the first weekend of December.