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Small museum looms large in pioneer history
by Janet Van Vleet
of The Bakersfield Californian

Tucked into a single room at the end of a strip mall, The Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society might just get overlooked by most people.

Don't make that mistake.

Given the number of artifacts, photos and information per square foot, this little spot in Frazier Park, at the corner of Lockwood Valley and Cuddy Valley roads behind the Mini Mart, gives visitors a full-museum experience in a pint-sized place.

Run by the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society members, the museum contains a variety of objects belonging to early pioneers, as well as a wealth of historic photographs of the area, including the Ridge Route, at no cost to visitors.

As the eye wanders from floor to ceiling you're likely to see bear traps, varieties of barbed wire, antiquated pot scrubbers, Indian artifacts, brightly colored rugs designed and hand-hooked by Florence Cuddy, a member of one the first families to settle in the area, and a corn cob dryer that looks like anything but.

"We're getting crowded," says Elaine Richer, a RRCMH volunteer at the museum. "In the future, we'd like to expand, but we don't have any plans right now.

" The RRCMH was established in 1995, during the centennial celebration of Lebec. The membership roster has grown from 68 to 320. The RRCMH's mission is to collect and preserve the history of the mountain area north of Castaic and south of Bakersfield along the historic Ridge Route.

Photos of the old hotels and gas stations along the route cover the walls of the museum. Black-and-white and colorized images show not only the way it was, but the way engineers and architects imagined it would look when completed.

Research done by society members covers a variety of locations, including Frazier Park, Lake of the Woods, Lockwood Valley, Neenach, Gorman, Quail Lake, Fort Tejon, Lebec, Ozena and Camp Schiedeck.

The museum also sells a number of different publications. One in particular, "Chronology for the Greater Frazier Mountain Area," by Bonnie Ketterl Kane, covers the territory from 1,000 B.C. to the present.

The museum contains fascinating little tidbits of information. The town of Neenach was named after the Danish community of Neena, Wis., where some of the settlers lived before coming to California.

Then there's the lost Los Padres gold mine. At least two different prospectors stumbled into civilization claiming to have found the mine then promptly died before revealing its location.

Ketterl Kane started studying the region years ago, said Richer. Ketterl Kane collected artifacts and photographs, along with the stories from surviving members of the pioneering families.

It may be small, but for anyone interested in history, or for students writing about the area, this Mighty Mouse of a museum is a must.

The museum hours are noon to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

The museum has a new address which is 3515 Park Dr. Frazier Park. From I-5, take the Frazier Park exit and head west on Frazier Mountain Park Rd. until you reach a 4-way stop with a flashing red signal (approximately 4 miles). Turn left and proceed to the end of the street. Turn left. The museum is directly behind the Post Office.

For more information on the museum, call 245-7747.

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