Transplanted history buff highlights Murphys

March 06, 2003 12:00 am

By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

The quaint village of Murphys seems to have stood still in time, evidenced by its limestone rubble and clapboard buildings standing side by side along Main Street, its weatherworn horse drawn buggy waiting in front of the hotel, the park's gazebo and free flowing creek.

But it took Margot Pratt, a petite, stylish transplant from Southern California, to bring that picturesque history to life for visitors and locals alike.

When she and her husband, John, moved to Murphys in 1997, she "absolutely fell in love with this fabulous place with all this history."

Having been a docent for eight years at the Gene Autry Museum of Western History in Los Angeles, she wondered why there was no walking tour of this living museum of the Gold Rush.

The president of Murphys Business Association suggested Pratt start a walking tour herself.

She did.

But first, she learned more about the town than most people who had lived in it for years.

Combing through the past

She searched the county archives in San Andreas, interviewed a parade of old timers who had known Murphys for nearly a century, collected photographs and documents, and walked the streets again and again.

After six months, she began to assemble the script for her tour, designing it around the buildings, the homes and the people who built the town, as well as the Gold Rush history she saw everywhere around her.

"I just knew the tour had to move," she said. "I walked it many times myself to make sure I could do it in an hour."

Her plan was to begin at the Old Timers Museum, tour Main Street, stop at the E Clampus Vitus Wall of Comparative Ovations, Murphys Park and various significant homes, all the while explaining about people's lives and contributions to the town.

The Old Timers Museum, built in 1856, is a limestone rubble building with iron shutters and 2-foot-thick walls, was once a Wells Fargo Station. Today, it is one of the most famous buildings in town, having survived many town fires.