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A gem of a collection now on view - Fallbrook Historical Society opens the Bud Francis and Parke McLean Rocks and Minerals Collection

A new collection of rocks and minerals opened at a local museum on Dec. 12. One would automatically think this collection would be at the Gem and Mineral Society’s museum, but it is the newest addition to the Fallbrook Historical Society’s museum at Rocky Crest and Hill streets (The entrance is on Hill Street.).

Just as Fallbrook is hidden away in the hills, the Historical Society’s home is tucked away at the south end of town, on a corner lot housing the museum, the “Barn,” and the Pittenger House. The society has 269 members, about 25 of whom act as docents for the museum, which is open on Thursdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

One of the docents on duty when I visited the museum was Ginny Grossman, daughter of Bud and Margaret Francis, the original owners of half of the museum’s new collection. She took me down to the Bud Francis and Parke McLean Collection of Rocks and Minerals, which is fittingly located under the museum in a converted storage room.

Grossman told me that her father, Francis, started collecting rocks while operating his tractor/backhoe business which uncovered many specimens. To learn about the interesting rocks he was finding, Francis took classes in gemology and eventually learned how to cut gemstones to make jewelry with them.

Also on display at the museum are colorful miniature minerals from around the world that Margaret Francis collected. The couple won many ribbons at the Del Mar Fair (now the San Diego County Fair) with their collections which their daughter has donated to the museum.

The other half of the museum’s collection, donated by Don and Marian McLean, was the work of Don’s parents, Parke and Bertha McLean, who had a large showroom for their collection. Their specimens include slab agates, crystals and mineral oddities.

While many of the items in the collection were found in other states and countries, there are several from this area including tourmaline from Pala and smoky quartz crystals from Fallbrook. All of the rocks and minerals are arranged neatly, mostly in glass cases with small spot lights. Some of the tools used in rock-hounding are also on exhibit.

For anyone not interested in the geologic history of the Fallbrook area, the main floor of the museum holds many examples of what life was like here in the past. From a grinding stone used by local Native Americans, to the town’s first fire horse cart (bought in 1927) and a loom used to teach weaving at Fallbrook High School in the 1930’s, to the model railroad running around old-time Fallbrook in miniature, glimpses into the past are found everywhere you look.

While the farm equipment exhibits in the Barn are still being developed, a visit to the Pittenger House next door to the museum is a must for history buffs. Built in 1895, the house was the home of Civil War veteran William Pittenger, who was presented with one of the first Medals of Honor. After his discharge from the Union Army, Pittenger became a Methodist minister, eventually moving to Fallbrook in 1893.

The house is furnished with vintage furniture pieces, including a wood burning stove in the kitchen next to an icebox, a player piano and an Edison phonograph in the living room and many other donated items including old-fashion bedding, clothing and children’s toys in the home’s only bedroom. Modern renovations include a bathroom and a storage closet which eventually replaced the chamber pot and hooks on the wall.

New members and/or donations of items for the museum are always welcome. For more information, go to or call (760) 723-4125. Monetary donations, which are much appreciated, can be mailed to Fallbrook Historical Society, P.O. Box 1375, Fallbrook, CA 92088-1702.

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