Moving forward while looking back |

Moving forward while looking back

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

The Truckee Donner Historical Society is gearing up for Christmas at the Cabin, an annual holiday bash for society members and the public.

And members of the latter group are encouraged to attend to help keep the 37-year effort going strong.

The Truckee Donner Historical Society was started in 1968 by a group of like-minded Truckee residents dedicated to preserving and sharing local history. Since that time, the historical society has grown to include more than 280 members, more than 100 of which are Truckee residents.

“We tend to get more interest from second homeowners who want to learn more and get involved,” said museum curator Chelsea Walterscheid. “But we are always looking for new members and volunteers. I can’t stress that enough. You don’t have to be an expert to be involved.

“I think people fear that they don’t know enough, but that doesn’t matter because you learn as you go.”

In an effort to expand their own knowledge and to better provide the community with the deepest and most accurate information possible, one dozen diligent society members have taken on the task of digitizing archived photographs, researching more than 100 years of local newspapers, and organizing an overwhelming amount of data.

In the summer, historical walks are led by research historian and society President Gordon Richards.

Other than photos and documents, the society also maintains a number of local historical sites and attractions, including the Old Jail Museum, which was used to house criminals from 1875 to 1964.

Located on Jibboom Street, the jail currently serves as the town museum, and is operated by volunteers and open on summer weekends.

The society also maintains the Schaffer family grave site, which contains the remains of a half dozen members of the pioneer family. George Schaffer was considered the father of early Truckee, and he built one of the first sawmills, the first water system and the first wagon road to Lake Tahoe.

Because the society receives no government funding, it runs primarily off of membership dues. As an additional source of revenue, the society sells historical photos and books on local Truckee history, which are available at the society’s Christmas party or through the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce.

People who attend Christmas at the Cabin can check out what the society has been up to and can purchase historical literature and photographs for the holidays.

To learn more about the society or to download a membership application, visit the Truckee Donner Historical Society at

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