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Stories of the San Joaquin

The San Joaquin Valley is the most productive and technologically-advanced farming region in the world. Who are the men and women who transformed the valley? What are the stories behind the tribes, crops and machines that drained the valley's lakes and irrigated its desert, and turned the San Joaquin into a singular American landscape?

This project will attempt to tell those stories using a wide range of primary materials including photographs, oral histories and other documents.

"Stories of the San Joaquin" is a collaborative project between the UC Merced Library and other divisions at UC Merced.

The library is developing a digital museum that will feature not only the collections below, but artifacts and oral histories from outside communities and independent researchers.


Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel Papers (physical and digital)

Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel was born in 1918 in Stroud, Oklahoma, and moved with her family to the Central Valley of California in 1936 as part of the Dust Bowl migration. She lived in the Central Valley, primarily in Tulare, for the remainder of her life.  Known as an “Okie Folk poet,” she is the author more than 15 collections of poetry and prose, most dealing with aspects of life in the Central Valley.  She was the subject of a film documentary by Chris Simon titled, “Down an Old Road: the Poetic Life of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel.”  She died April 13, 2007.

This collection includes personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, diaries, photographs, newspaper clippings and audio-visual materials documenting the life and career of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel.  Also included are publications containing poetry by Wilma McDaniel and select publications from her personal library.  The audio-visual materials include interviews and scenes of Wilma McDaniel reading her poetry. 

View the Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel Collection Finding Aid at the Online Archive of California.

View the Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel Collection online at Calisphere.


McLean Collection (physical and digital)

In 1849, Hosea Dudley, ancestor of Walter Doyle McLean, sailed around Cape Hope in his journey from Boston to San Francisco. He later settled in the Coulterville area near what is now Yosemite National Park. Dudley Ranch became a stagecoach stop for travelers visiting the Yosemite Valley and surrounding region. The family collection includes a register of guests with the signatures of John Muir and Thomas Edison; journals; Miwok Indian baskets; mining nuggets; and other Gold Rush era artifacts.

View this collection online at Calisphere.


Angels Camp Museum (digital)

This collection contains multiple personal correspondences and other materials for the Inks family of Calaveras County between the years 1869 and 1889.  Letters contain personal sentiment and hopes for the family, most notably James Inks and his close family.

View this collection online at Calisphere.


Merced Mugbook (digital)

This is a partial book of mugshots, physical descriptions and sentencing history for inmates of California state prisons. Included are a handwritten list of the sheriffs of Merced County, California from 1855 to 1957 and an obituary for Sheriff Samuel Counts Cornell of Merced County, California.

View this item online at Calisphere.


World War II Japanese-American Temporary Detention Center Newsletters (digital)

While Executive Order 9066 called for the forced internment of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States, there was no existing infrastructure in place for these Japanese-Americans to go. The eventual detention centers were not yet completed, or were not yet in a condition to house the vast numbers of internees needing shelter. Given this, the United States military established temporary detention centers across California, as well as centers in Arizona and Oregon, to act as stop-over locations until the larger detention centers were habitable. There were six such temporary detention centers (otherwise known as “Assembly Centers”) constructed in the San Joaquin Valley—Fresno, Merced, Pinedale, Stockton, Tulare and Turlock.

This collection features the internee-produced newsletters for the temporary detention centers of Merced, Pinedale, Stockton, Tulare and Turlock.

View this collection online at Calisphere.


Merced Army Flying School (digital)

The Merced Army Flying School is one of the former names of the Castle Air Force Base, now the site of the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center in Atwater, CA. This book, originally published during World War II, gives a glimpse into the daily life of this former Air Force training center.

View this item online at Calisphere.


Henry O. Nightingale Diaries (digital)

These are the diaries of British immigrant, abolitionist, and Civil War veteran, Henry Oliver Nightingale. Of particular note is the firsthand account of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

View this collection online at Calisphere.