Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tourism during the War against Vandals and Looters of Historical Sites


Many of us have ancestors who lived in now-abandoned rural towns that have since become part of national forest or BLM lands. Most family history researchers are motivated by curiosity and there are few activities providing a greater sense of discovery than visiting the old family homeland. But if your ancestral hometown is a Gold Rush era ghost town, finding it has gotten a bit more difficult.

During the past decade vandalism and looting of rural historic sites have skyrocketed. In response, the Forest Service and BLM have reportedly installed battery-powered surveillance cameras in certain high-value locations. But for most places, the strategy has been to make them more difficult to find. To that end they removed signs intended to guide the tourist through the confusing network of logging and fire roads found in the Sierra back country. For example, the sign pictured below has been removed.
A sign located in the middle of my Gold Rush ancestors’ stomping
ground (photo taken in 1989). The sign has since been removed.
The best solution is to go on a group tour sponsored by a local historical society, genealogy society or museum. A more expensive option is to hire a local guide recommended by those organizations. It is not a matter of just getting to the town site. You want to know what was where. And if you’re lucky, one of the identified building ruins or locations pertains to your ancestors. When I was on a group tour to some northern Sierra County ghost towns the guide pointed out two house sites owned by my ancestors. In this case there was no luck involved since I previously purchased the tour guide’s book containing a town map identifying those homes. The guide took note of what everyone was looking for and made an effort on each person’s behalf.

Tour group to northern Sierra County ghost towns led by guide Jann E. Garvis
(holding the sign). The photo was taken in 2009 at the town site of St. Louis.
Submitted and posted by Richard Hanson

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