Located in the historic town of Coulterville, this intimate museum offers visitors a glimpse of the life and times of early California, from the early 1800’s through the boom days of the 1849 gold rush.
Local residents, many third and forth generation descendants of the original miners, ranchers and shopkeepers that settled the area, established the NMCHC in 1976 as a 501c3 charitable organization, securing the land, buildings, exhibits and financial support to open the Museum to the public in 1980.
Precious family heirlooms, 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 Coulter Hotel, which was originally built as a three story structure by Sam Coulter in 1850.
Burning down in 1859, it was not rebuilt until the 1890’s only to burn down once again in the great fire of 1899. The adjacent brick structure was built in 1856, originally housing the Wells Fargo office as well as McCarthy’s 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.