Museum exhibit is loaded with California history, but with a Cupertino twist – The Mercury News

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The Cupertino Historical Society and Museum may be small, but its newest exhibit covers a lot of ground when it comes to the history of California.

“Eureka! Native Americans, Explorers and Innovators” opened this month at the Quinlan Community Center and gives a wide snapshot of California history with a Cupertino twist.

Visitors can walk the museum in a counterclockwise chronological circle and view small installations packed with artifacts. It begins with the Native Americans who first called the area home and ends with a juxtaposed map of old Cupertino family properties overlaid with modern points of interest like the Apple Park “spaceship” campus.

In between, visitors can gaze upon Ohlone tools, arrowheads, period clothing, saddles, spurs and tools of the Gold Rush. There are informational panels about the Anza Expedition and California under Spanish/Mexican rule.

The centerpiece of the museum is a juvenile stuffed bear as a homage to the state flag, the Bear Flag Revolt and the many brown and black bears that once inhabited the area. According to the museum, the last grizzly bear in California was shot and killed in 1922 in Tulare County.

“Evidently, grizzlies were so numerous, there were thousands and thousands of them,” said local historian Gail Fretwell-Hugger.

Fretwell-Hugger said she went on a “bear hunt” to find someone who could loan the museum a stuffed bear. She was lucky enough to snag one from friends who own the Barn Owl gift shop in Saratoga.

Visitors can also gaze upon a bear skin rug, bear traps and bear fur gloves on loan from History San Jose. There’s also information about the brutal Spanish “blood sport” of bull and bear fights.

A small exhibit introduces Capt. Elisha Stephens, the man who brought the first wagons over the snow-covered Sierra Truckee Pass without casualties. He settled near what is today McCellan Ranch and Blackberry Farm. An important figure in Cupertino history, he was the first American to homestead on the west side of the Santa Clara Valley. He’s the namesake (though spelled incorrectly) of the Stevens Creek. Stephens was also known for snacking on the numerous rattlesnakes that inhabited his property. The museum includes his personal recipe.

One wonders what the eccentric Stephens would think of the current tech-fueled pace of development in Cupertino as according to the exhibit, Stephens’ sold his homestead because his nearest neighbor was a mile away. That was too close for him, and he declared the area was getting “too darn civilized.”

Out in the hallways of the Quinlan Center, visitors can see recent student art contest entries depicting famous people, moments, and places in California history like Yosemite, the Gold Rush, Steve Jobs, the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland and Hollywood. There are also informational posters and a map showing which families used to own which parcels along and near what are now Cupertino’s major streets.

Eureka! was designed with the recent Fall Festival in mind, which was held earlier this month on the anniversary of California’s admission into the union. California became the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850.

“It was suggested we try and do something that fit in with that,” said local historian Donna Austin.

The historical society is teaming up with the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce to put on a networking mixer and opening reception on Oct. 11, 5:30-7 p.m. The event is free, but an RSVP is required by Oct. 9 to 408-973-1495 or ragini@cupertinohistoricalsociety.org.

The Cupertino Historical Society is located at 10185 N.Stelling Road. It is open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4p.m. However, museum staff suggests calling ahead first at 408-973-1495.



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