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July 21, 2015 > Tri-Cities historical societies voting on merger

Tri-Cities historical societies voting on merger

By Jessica Noel Chapin

Will Durant, an American writer and historian, once said, ÒMost of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.Ó In todayÕs culture of instant messages, constant Facebook news feeds, and ever-changing trends, what place does history hold? I donÕt mean your browser history. Real history is the story of humankindÑour story.

The story of Fremont, California, begins long before the explorer John Charles Fremont arrived on the scene. First there were the native peoples. Then came the Spanish missionaries. Finally, gold was discovered and everyone headed west. Cities sprouted up as people from all around the world settled throughout California. The San Francisco Bay Area was an especially desirable location, and continues to be to this day.

Who were all of these people who faced hardship, lost loved ones, and fought to make a new life in this unfamiliar land? What were their stories? What legacy did they leave behind? And how can we pass this on to future generations? These are the kinds of questions that fuel the passion of local historical societies.

The Tri-City area has several historical societies: the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation, the Museum of Local History Guild, and the Washington Township Historical Society. Each group has its own niche in the region. The Mission Peak Heritage Foundation was founded in 1962 and is primarily responsible for the preservation of the Shinn Historical Park and Arboretum. They give tours, hold special events throughout the year, and share the history of the Shinn family with visitors. The Washington Township Historical Society partners with the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation to maintain the Museum of Local History, located in the old Mission District firehouse at 190 Anza Street, across from Ohlone College.

Lately, the leadership among the groups has thinned a little. Many board members serve more than one society. Members of one society are often members of the other societies as well. For these reasons, and because there is Òpower in unity and power in numbers,Ó it makes sense for the separate groups to merge into one historical society representing the Tri-City area.

Each group has met and discussed the pros and cons of a merger, and the overwhelming majority favor unification of the individual historical societies. Joan Serafino, President of the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation, says, ÒIf we combine, we will join forces with members and staff. WeÕll have more clout.Ó With a unified historical society, the group would have a greater voice in the Tri-Cities. Another benefit is that the city of Fremont has offered land at the California Nursery for the potential new society to build a 9,000 square foot museum, which is much better suited to this sizable region. The society would have to raise the funds to build the museum, but the gift of the land is a significant gesture on the part of the city.

The decision to merge came about in the fall of 2014. Lila Bringhurst, Vice President of the Museum of Local History Guild, is credited with suggesting the merger. The proposed merger is still in the works at this time. The three societies continue to hold separate meetings while the new bylaws are being drawn up. Once the bylaws have been approved, each group will put the merger to a vote. The tentative name for the new organization is The Historical Society of Fremont, Newark, and Union City.

On Monday, July 27, the Washington Township Historical Society will be holding its bimonthly meeting at the Museum of Local History. Frank Borghi, Jr., one of the presidents of the Alameda County Water District, was scheduled to speak, but is unfortunately facing some health issues. In his place, Jim Griffin will be the guest speaker. Griffin descends from Timothy Rix, an early settler of Fremont.

The preservation of local history is vital in passing on our story to future generations. The face of Fremont and the surrounding area is changing rapidly. By participating in historical societies, we can save a piece of our treasured past as an inheritance for those who come after us.

Washington Township Historical Society Meeting
Monday, Jul 27
7:15 p.m.
Museum of Local History
190 Anza St, Fremont
(510) 552-4839
Open to All
Membership: $10/year

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