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Museum Honors Yosemite Connection
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Pictured, a museum patron enjoys the new exhibit at the Cowboy Museum, The Tales of the Yosemite Back Country, Mather Saddle & Pack Station, which has been operated by the Barnes family since 1929. The exhibit, which was a year in the making, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act and officially opened Wednesday, Jan. 29. Photo By Kim Van Meter

The Oakdale Cowboy Museum was filled with people Wednesday, Jan. 29 as the crowd came for the official opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, “The Tales of the Yosemite Back Country, Mather Saddle & Pack Station, operated by the Barnes Family since 1929” in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act.

The exhibit, created through the painstaking effort of curator volunteers, Twainhart Hill and Sharon Getchel, honors Oakdale’s connection to Yosemite through the Mather Saddle and Pack Station, which has been operated by the Barnes family since 1929.

The Grant Act, signed by President Lincoln in June of 1864, was created for the protection of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. These two special places, both what is now Yosemite National Park, were the first resources in the world set aside for preservation – planting the seed for the national park idea.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate Jay Barnes’ world that has connected so many people to Yosemite?” Executive Director Christie Camarillo shared when discussing ideas for the next exhibit. “Anytime you create a new exhibit, it draws new people to the museum. We always try to embrace the cowboy spirit and this is a different kind of western heritage.”

The exhibit shared the history and stories of 85 years of packing and trail riding in the Yosemite back country with the Barnes family. In 1929, Joe Barnes established the Mather Saddle and Pack Station. He raised his family during the summer months at the pack station with everyone participating in the operation of the business. Jay, his son, learned the family business with a hands-on approach, and with the help of his wife, Liz, sons, other family members and several wranglers, Jay continues the family business.

For his part, Jay Barnes was humbled by the display and the show of people for the grand opening.

“It’s pretty nice,” he said, giving each person a warm cowboy welcome as they walked in. “We’ve been doing this all our life. I wasn’t sure what they were looking for when they came asking. There are so many facets to what we do but those museum gals were pretty happy to have so much to work with.”

Hill and Getchel combed through hundreds of archival photos searching for the right images for the exhibit and the end result wowed visitors.

“We lost ourselves in hours of research and photos,” Hill said. “Every Monday throughout the summer was spent on the exhibit.”

Although labor-intensive, the volunteers were happy to do it. This represents Hill and Getchel’s seventh exhibit creation and each one gets better than the last but they are particularly proud of this one.

“It was a total collaboration with the family and they were just wonderful,” Getchel said. “We really wanted it to be representative of their family and everything they do.”

More information is available on the website at

For more information on the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, visit the website at