Bernhard Museum 3rd Grade Living History Tour

The Bernhard Museum Complex consists of three historic structures. George Bishop and John Long constructed the main building in 1851 and operated it as the ‘Travelers Rest’ inn. The inn transitioned from a business to a private residence in 1858. Eliza Caruthers bought the home and land in 1864 after George Bishop lost the property in a public auction. Caruthers lived in the home until 1868 when it was purchased by Bernhard Bernhard.

Bernhard emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania and later moved to St. Louis, Missouri. After hearing of the gold discovery, he traveled via the Isthmus of Panama to Placer County in 1852. Like many other gold seekers, he turned to a profession other than gold mining. He acquired a teaming business, transporting goods.

His wife Rosa joined him in Auburn a few years later.

After purchasing the estate in 1868 Bernhard established himself as a fruit grower. Apples, pears and figs were among the many different fruits grown there. He also utilized an existing vineyard on the property to make wine and brandy. Half of the vineyard produced table grapes. He built a stone wine cellar in 1874 and added a processing building in 1881.

Grandson George Barkhaus lived in the house until his death in 1956.

Carriage Barn Interior

The present carriage barn was added in the 1990s to house wagons and carriages owned by the Museums and the Native Sons of the Golden West.

The Bernhard home can be interpreted through a variety of themes. As the site of our third grade Living History Program, we like to focus on the experience of children on the 19th century farm. View the pictures and descriptions of each room below to learn about the Museum and the role of children on the farm. Compare how the house and the objects inside are similar or different from what we use today. This can be fun for third graders or adults alike!

The Parlor

The parlor may appear similar to your “living room,” but it was a formal space for guests. Visitors were entertained in this room, and during the Victorian period, a parlor decorated with items from nature was very fashionable.

How do you decorate with nature? People used fabrics embroidered with flowers, wallpaper with plants, landscape paintings, animal statues, seashells, and taxidermy. Popular during the 19th century, taxidermy is stuffing and preserving dead animals. Have you ever seen taxidermy?

Lots of taxidermy

The family would also use this room to display their finest trinkets and souvenirs.

This was not a room for children to play in. Children may be invited to sit quietly for guests or provide music, but they would most likely be forbidden from the room aside from cleaning.

The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.

Queen Victoria

This period is known for the Industrial Revolution and vast social changes.

The Bedroom

The Bernhard home was originally built in 1851 as the Traveler’s Rest. In the downstairs bedroom of the Museum you can see the original wooden floors from the hotel period. Imagine walking where miners walked during the Gold Rush! This is also a room where you can imagine the realities of living in a home without running water or electricity. Without these modern conveniences, more chores were necessary for simple tasks. Washing up or using the bathroom was not as easy as walking to the bathroom.

Washing up

Children would be expected to fetch water from the pump to fill each person’s water basin. This was used as a sink.

Pumping water
Pitcher and Basin

Children would also be expected to empty the chamber pots (a porcelain pot kept under the bed for nighttime toilet needs). Without a bathroom in the house, there were two options for a toilet: the outhouse (outside) or the chamber pot (inside).

What is a chamber pot? These pots were often a medium sized, porcelain pot with a lid, that was kept under the bed. Before indoor plumbing, the outhouse was the primary toilet. But if it was the middle of the night or if a person could not get to the outhouse, the chamber pot was kept under the bed for easy access.

The Nursery

While fetching water and emptying chamber pots were important morning chores, there was always more to do. Children, from the age of 5 and up, worked together to perform a variety of work on the farm.

Older siblings might first attend to their youngest brothers and sisters. Once everyone was ready for the day, beds would need to be made, floors swept, animals cared for, food prepared, dishes washed, and any number of other tasks depending on whether it was harvest season, or time for school.

After work on the farm was completed, or students returned from school, many of the same chores would need to be completed again.

The Kitchen

While the farm produced fruits, vegetables, and livestock to provide income, the farmer also raised a garden to provide food for the family. Children were expected to help maintain the garden, before gathering its bounty for the kitchen, and assisting in preparing meals.

Feeding the chickens
Plowing furrows for planting crops

A typical chore was churning butter. Many farm families harvested fruits and vegetables, slaughtered livestock, and prepared breads and other baked goods. Butter was not bought at a store but made at home. After milking the cow, the milk would sit in a shallow pan until the cream rose to the top. The cream was collected, put into a churn, and agitated with a paddle until the yellow fat – which makes up the butter – separated from the buttermilk.

Girl churning butter

The butter was pressed into a wooden mold, and the buttermilk saved for baking or cooking.

Butter mold

The kitchen at the Bernhard Museum may look different than your kitchen at home, but a variety of the appliances are the same – just a very early version! The stove was wood burning, requiring a constant supply of wood and careful attention.

Gathering wood for the stove

An ice box predates the refrigerator. Built out of wood, insulation, and tin, this cabinet kept food cool.


A sink is hidden under a tin countertop, but with no running water, children would need to fetch water to wash the dishes.

Dry sink

A wood burning stove in summer? You can imagine how hot it would get with a fire burning in the middle of summer with no air conditioning. Most families had a “summer kitchen,” an outbuilding with a stove, to keep the house cooler.

The Dining Room

Compare this table to where and how you eat dinner. Do you have a room or table just for meals? Do you use glass plates and metal silverware? What kind of napkins do you use?

Everything on this table is meant to be reused. The plates and silverware would be washed, dried, put away, and polished. The napkins are fabric and would be used every day. At the end of the week, they would all be washed.

The butter dish, condiment jars, pickle castor, and sugar bowl would also need to be washed and polished. Lastly, the tablecloth would need to be cleaned and ironed. Children were expected to sit quietly at the table, eat, and practice good manners. At the end of the meal, they would be responsible for helping with washing up.

Have you ever seen a pickle castor?

Fresh fruit and vegetables were not always available, even though vitamins and nutrients were always necessary. By pickling extra vegetables from the garden, they could be enjoyed throughout the winter.

The Sitting Room

At the end of a long day on the farm, a child could expect time to relax. Unlike the formal and highly decorated parlor, the sitting room allowed the family a space to visit with one another. Musical instruments, books, and other items offered entertainment. Smaller projects like cross- stitch and sewing might also be completed in the sitting room.

Despite the number of chores children had to complete, there was still time for play. Many toys on the farm were hand-made, like button-spinners, dolls, and wooden figures. Other items, like the stereoscope, were purchased.

A stereoscope

The “Virtual Reality” headset of the 19th century, the stereoscope held a card with two nearly identical photographs.

When the eyepiece was held up to the face, the pictures appeared as one, three-dimensional image.

To learn more about daily activities on a 19th century farm, check out our activity pages on the student resources page.