Madera South High graduates and current UC Irvine students Silvia Navarro Hernandez, left, and Jennifer Martinez are doing research for a water story at Madera South High during their spring break.
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune - Madera South High graduates and current UC Irvine students Silvia Navarro Hernandez, left, and Jennifer Martinez are doing research for a water story at Madera South High during their spring break.

Students find a historic gold mine in Madera

Two Madera South High School alumna came back home Wednesday to take advantage of some of the resources of the new Madera Method Archive and Special Collections being built by MUSD in the library of their alma mater.

Jennifer Martinez and Silvia Navarro Hernandez, who graduated from MSHS in 2015, are now seniors at UC Irvine. They are on spring break and are using their time to work on an independent research project they are conducting as part of the graduation requirements of the university.

Martinez and Navarro Hernandez are searching for the story of California farm labor in general and Madera County farm labor in particular. As a foundation for their research, they are looking into the history of local agriculture, which includes a heavy emphasis on the story of water in the Valley. Both of the co-eds come from families who earned their living in the fields of Madera County.

After a fruitful visit, Wednesday to the California Room in the Madera County Library, Martinez and Navarro Hernandez knocked on the door of Madera South and were escorted to the Madera Method Archive room.

There they found the holdings of the collection to be rich with the material — both primary and secondary — that will benefit their research.

The duo struck pay dirt immediately with the huge California Water Atlas, which had been donated to the archive, and they were delighted to find newspaper accounts of the beginnings of the Madera Irrigation District in the Madera Mercury on microfilm.

When the university students return to Irvine, they will continue to benefit from the Madera Method collections. They will be assisted by MSHS students who will mine the Madera Method Archive for material relevant to local agriculture and send it to Martinez and Navarro Hernandez.

The Madera Method Archive and Special Collections represent a commitment by Madera Unified to make it possible for students to conduct their own authentic, historical research from primary sources. The ever-expanding collection of original documents and artifacts that have been gathered to facilitate Madera Method projects at the high school level will be introduced to the community in a special ceremony later this year.

Prominent among its manuscript diaries and letters are the Mordecai family papers that have been gathered from libraries and archives in Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi. Also included are the gold rush diary of William P. Huff and rare records of Major James Savage from his trading post on the Fresno River.

The Archive also has a large microfilm collection of newspapers that include the Monterey Star, California’s first newspaper, published in 1846.

Using its microfilm scanner, Madera Method students will be able to research history from the pages of, not only the Monterey paper, but newspapers from San Francisco, Fresno, and Madera. The microfilm collection also includes the New York Times from 1851 through 1867, allowing students to follow the entire Civil War day by day as if they were living at that time.

Especially helpful for researching local history are the microfilm rolls containing the Fresno Expositor (1870-1899) and the Fresno Republican (1876-1899).

The Madera Method Archive microfilm collection also includes various census reports and the Civil War diary of Fredrick J. Quant who served with the famous California 100.

The Madera Method Archive collection is presently being digitized for an online website, allowing students from all over to access historical sources in their classrooms or at home.

Originally published in the Madera Tribune, March 30, 2019

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