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Gold mine museum celebrated its 'new digs' Saturday

The Bohemia Gold Mining Museum celebrated its new location in Cottage Grove with a community celebration Saturday afternoon. Photo by Samantha Smargiassi.

The Bohemia Gold Mining Museum celebrated its new location in Cottage Grove with a community celebration Saturday afternoon.

The grand reopening, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., gave community members an opportunity to see the museum's new, more expansive home in the old Boots and Sandals Square Dance Barn, 308 S. 10th St., and experience the rich history of their area. The free event included music, a raffle, and food.

Nancy Pepiot, a member of the Bohemia Mine Owners Association, said she hopes the past will not be forgotten.

“This museum means everything,” Pepiot said. “Some people here have no idea of their history.”

Museum collections include mining equipment to mining artifacts and rock samples to photographs and paintings to historical murals.

Museum director Sara Smith said the museum serves as a reminder of Cottage Grove’s roots in mining. She said the museum is dedicated to mine owner and historian Guy Leabo, who operated several area mines and donated many antique mining tools to the museum.

“He was involved in a lot of the historic preservation and keeping the stories alive,” Smith said.

Leabo was a member of the Bohemia Mine Owners Association and knew the history and stories of the mines, which he then passed on to people like Smith.

“It’s a part of our history. Our heritage," Smith said. "It’s important to preserve that."

Mine owner Bruce Stewart said gold was discovered in 1863 in the Bohemia Mining District, located 35 miles east of Cottage Grove. He said two men were on the run when one of them killed a deer. While cleaning his knife in a creek, he noticed glitter in the water, which turned out to be gold.

“It was the boost Cottage Grove needed to be top of the line, a center of commerce,” Stewart said. “The mining was pretty big for a long time and got Cottage Grove settled.”

The museum first opened in 2003 and moved locations to accommodate its expansion and popularity.

Starting February 2017, the museum will be open Thursdays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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