QES students from Bette Burney’s class receive a personalized tour of the 1878 Coburn-Variel home from a volunteer in period attire. Photo by Roni Java

Pioneer experiences come to life for students at Living History Days

QES fourth grader Tara O’Brien learns to make beef jerky like a Plumas County pioneer at Living History Days. Photo by Cary Dingel

Fourth graders from four elementary schools in Plumas County engaged in fun, active learning during “Living History Days,” May 28-30 hosted by the Plumas County Museum in downtown Quincy.

More than 150 students from Indian Valley Elementary, the Plumas Charter School, C. Roy Carmichael and Quincy Elementary participated in the popular education event. A past participant, Chester Elementary did not join in this year.

Living History Days is a volunteer-run program that works to instill a passion for history and thirst for knowledge in children, helping students experience and connect with their gold rush studies. Due to the hands-on nature of the lessons, children are better able to connect with what they are learning, making them active participants in their own education.

Scott Lawson, executive director of the museum, which has hosted Living History Days every spring since 1997, talked about the benefits of hands-on history lessons transferring down from generation to generation.


“When they grow up, they tell us they love it when their own kids go through the program too,” he said.

Lawson is a local historian. He added that teaching children about

real people from the past, what they did and how they lived in their local area — maybe even someone who was a lot like them — can make young students aspire to follow in their footsteps.

“The best thing is that many students remember this as one of their favorite field trips and lots of kids come back later to visit the museum,” he said.

The two dozen costumed volunteers, coordinators and workers at the museum who bring Living History Days to life enjoy fostering a love of learning in their young visitors. The volunteers do this by recreating a pioneer setting and engagingly demonstrating it to the children.

In fact, after some instructions, they immediately put the students to work hauling water, mixing up beef jerky marinade or dipping candles, to name a few pioneer tasks covered at the event.


The museum itself is an embodiment of the sentiments and aspirations for Living History Days because it shows the live, touchable history of our place right here in Plumas County.

As it does every year, the event featured several stations where children tried their hands at everyday tasks and activities performed by pioneers in the 1800s.

Some activities included panning for gold, making jerky, doing laundry by hand, candle making, baking biscuits and making lemonade.

Across the street at the historic Hall home on Bradley Street, the fourth graders learned the art of sewing buttons on colorful cloth and making rag dolls. Nearby, baskets were haphazardly arranged full of antique clothes children could wear if they didn’t bring any. Kids were also taken on a tour of the 1878 Coburn-Variel home that is part of the museum’s grounds.

QES students Jeremiah Nickerson, left, and Adison Marin try their hands at panning for gold with help from a Living History Days volunteer. Photo by Cary Dingel

What makes Living History Days fun for the students is learning why people from the 19th century did these tasks and how they compare to activities children do today.


Dressed in historic attire, each volunteer plays a part. Flinda France, president of the Plumas-Sierra Cattlewomen’s Association, played Annie Oakley and explained the colorful story of the Wild West woman. She elaborated on the fables about Oakley, saying not all of the tales about her are true, but stated that yes, Annie was able to shoot from horseback.

A lot of people helped make Living History Days possible. Lawson extended thanks and appreciation to all of the volunteers.

In addition, special thanks go to teacher Lindsay Vert from the Plumas Unified School District who coordinated all of the trips. Vert said about five years ago, budget cuts impacted the program. At the time, she had a fourth grader of her own and valued the trip experience, so she decided to step forward to coordinate it. We’re glad she did!

Living History Days Volunteers

The Plumas County Museum, local teachers, families and students wish to thank the many dedicated volunteers who brought Plumas County’s pioneer experiences to life for fourth graders at the Living History Days event this year.


Cathy Beach

Samantha Busselen

Kathy Felker

Terry Gallagher

Tim Gallagher

Janet Garmen

Bob Hiss

Jefferson Johnson

Scott Koegh

Rilee McAdams

John McMorrow

Ray Nichol

Sally Nichol

Dave Pearson

Helen Roberti

Denise Russell

Cherilyn Schwartz

Cherry Shipp

Adrienne Stenson

Elsa Thomas

Jerry Thomas

Cecille Wielputz

Virginia Windle

Janeane Wolcott