Located at 1820 Rocky Road in Portola, California, the Jim Beckwourth Museum is a log cabin that, according to the City of Portola website, was “constructed of ‘V’ notched logs of the typed used in the area where Beckwourth grew up.”
James P. Beckwourth (1798 – 1866/1867), as cited by The Beckwourth Website, was “an African American who played a major role in the early exploration and settlement of the American West. Although there were people of many races and nationalities on the frontier, Beckwourth was the only African American who recorded his life story, and his adventures took him from the everglades of Florida to the Pacific Ocean and from southern Canada to northern Mexico.”
According to the Chamber Organizer website, this cabin is “one of the earliest buildings related to African American history in California, and also the last remaining building in this State that was built by the early mountain men.” Aside from being a mountaineer, Beckwourth worked in various capacities throughout his colorful life. These roles include wrangler, courier, wagon master, gambler, entrepreneur, author, rancher, trapper, fur trader and scout.
However, he is perhaps best known for his 1850 establishment of Beckwourth Pass, a low-elevation pass through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was here, in what would become the Sierra Valley, that he built his ranch, and this hotel and trading post.
The following year, he developed “Beckwourth Trail”. Originally an Indigenous American path through the range, this trail began near Pyramid Lake, included the pass named after him and ended in Marysville. It helped thousands of gold-hunters, settlers and travelers avoid numerous natural dangers and removed approximately one hundred and fifty miles from their journey!
The Beckwourth Website best describes the vast contributions of the African American frontiersman. As it champions the incredible legend, “… to discover the truth of what life was like for the fur trappers of the 1820s, the Crow Indians of the 1830s, the pioneers of the Southwest in the 1840s, or the gold miners of California in the 1850s, you can find no better source than the life of Jim Beckwourth.”
Well-preserved and maintained, the Jim Beckwourth Museum is an 1850s cabin that is considered to be the third that Beckwourth built in the Sierra Valley. It, similar to other posts that he developed, was used as a trading post; however, this site was also used as a hotel. As shared by the Chamber Organizer website, this cabin of James Beckwourth, according to oral history, was “built by him. It was relocated from its original site nearby in 1985.”
The admission is free and though it is open to the public, it is open by appointment only.
You may contact the Jim Beckwourth Museum via website or email. This is strongly suggested due to hours and days available for tour are contingent upon various factors, including national health statuses and weather conditions.