Truckee Donner Historical Society saves Sierra Sun’s history

Sara Jackson / Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The Sierra Sun archives were almost lost to history until the Truckee Donner Historical Society stepped in to save them.  

The Sierra Sun moved into its offices at 1231 Deerfield Drive in late 2014 in the Pioneer Commerce Center where they remained until that office closed in 2019. They moved to a smaller office space and would not be able to take the books full of their archives with them when they moved to their new location at 10266 Truckee Airport Rd.  If the Sierra Sun volumes were not moved to the new location, they would simply be discarded.    

It was decided that the 182 bound volumes of the Sierra Sun, starting in 1933, and continuing to at least 2015, needed to go through the process of being digitized, so they could be archived. 

Heidi Sproat, Webmaster, Image, and Map Collections for, praises Truckee Donner Historical Society president and curator Greg Zirbel for being at the right place at the right time, and for being a big help in the process of getting the Sierra Sun’s volumes digitized. 

Provided/Truckee Donner Historical Society

“With the exception of two individuals, all indexing was done by Truckee Donner Historical Society volunteers.  There was no way we could do all the indexing metadata prep work for California-Revealed (CA-R) with just us volunteers.  We were squeezed for time as it was, but we got the grant in on time, and it was successful,” adds Sproat. 

“I was the physical guy.  I’m checking them in and out of the jail cell at the Truckee Jail Museum, delivering them to others’ houses, where they would catalog five albums at a time.  Then we had a couple that were just the ones that were integrating all these single catalogs into one big catalog that we would send in for our final submission to California-Revealed,” explains Zirbel. 

In order to be considered as a contender for the limited California-Revealed grant monies in 2021, TDHS applied for the grant that would be used for the digitization effort.  They were fortunate to be selected to get 10 years’ worth of Sierra Sun’s digitized. 

California-Revealed granted the Truckee Donner Historical Society with a second grant last year. 

“All bound volumes are currently catalogued into 46 fields in an Excel spreadsheet for every single issue.  The first round of cataloguing was 86, 854 pages.  On July 24 of last year, we submitted 3,100 issues in the first round, and this year was another 1,566 issues of metadata that we prepared and submitted for the second round,” says Zirbel. 

Archives saved by the historical society.
Provided/Truckee Donner Historical Society

In December of last year, Zirbel delivered the first 10 albums, from 1933-1944, down to the California State Library, next to the state capital. 

When asked about the process of taking the original pages and archiving them, Zirbel had this to say, “They take that, and they put it on microfilm.  Then they’re going to de-bound the books and scan them digitally, so they’ll be word searchable.  Then they will send them back to be bound.  Now we need to purchase the acid free boxes and stuff to store them in.  Right now, they will all live mostly in the number one high security cell in the jail, in the old Truckee Jail Museum, where they’re nice and safe.” 

Since these digitized volumes are now word searchable, they will be available at California-Revealed, and maybe Library of Congress and other sites. 

However, there are ten or so albums missing from the collection.  They are the years ’34, ’45, ’47, ’48, ’63, ’67, ’68, ’69, and ’81.   

Along with the missing albums, there were many articles about events and issues that the Truckee Donner Historical Society had been searching for, but until they got the Sierra Sun volumes, they could not locate the other articles on topics such as the development of the hospital, the town of Truckee, airport, roadways, incorporation, building and activities of the Truckee Veterans Hall, the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, the August 1960 Donner Ridge Fire, the 100th commemoration of the Donner Party, World War II era stories of service and sacrifice, the flooding in 1997, and so much more. 

TDHS asks that if anybody knows where those volumes are, the Truckee Donner Historical Society would love to have them back so they can get them scanned and filed with the rest of the collection, for everybody to share. 

Because there is no other newspaper record available of the happenings in Truckee and the immediate area, reviewing these volumes provided a window into learning about various issues confronting Truckee over the years. 

The Sierra Sun has been in publication in Truckee since 1869, and was formerly known as the Truckee Sun. The Sierra Sun is one of the oldest newspapers in California, with roots going back to the gold rush era of the 1860s.  The newspaper made its debut as the Truckee Tribune in 1869, published by N.W. Ferguson.   E.B. Boust was the first editor. 

At least four publishers of the paper served in the state legislature, and at least two editors were shot to death while on the job. 

In 1936, Walter Barrett purchased the paper, and owned the Sierra Sun until March 21, 1967, when he sold it to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Inc.  In 1980, the Sierra Sun became property of Mount Rose Publishing Company, a corporation headed at the time by Philip Swift of Swift Newspapers Inc. in Carson City, Nevada. It is now owned by Ogden Publications.

Until 2003, the Sierra Sun had been a weekly newspaper, it then expanded in 2003 to a twice-weekly publication.  In 2006, it began publishing daily, for five days.  But, in 2009, the Sierra Sun went back to being once a week publication.  

As of right now, the Sierra Sun is published on Fridays.  It has a circulation of 6,200 people, covering North Lake Tahoe (from the west shore to Incline Village), Truckee, Donner Summit, and all of the communities in between. 

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