There is a lot of history in the Mountain Area and Elijah File not only captures it, he is making it.
As the youngest docent at the Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park, File, 13, leads tours through the site for elementary schools and adult tourists alike - and he’s been doing it since he began docent training at ten years old.
Fresno Flats is a group of restored original buildings from the 1800s where visitors can see what life was like during that time period.
Don Ashton, President of the Sierra Historic Sites Association, says File is invaluable to their mission, ‘saving the past for the future,’ and is moved by File’s role in sharing it.
“When we have our school tours, the children on the tours are fascinated to see one of their own in such a leadership position helping them understand what life was like before Facebook and cell phones.” Ashton continues, “there’s no value in saving the past unless you can share it and this is why we are blessed to have Elijah as one of our docents”
With a passion for history File set out to find something that would be a hands-on learning experience and appeal to his curiosity about life before modernity.
“I like history because I can learn about how different life was without electricity, running water and all the appliances we have today. I wanted to become a docent because it sounded exciting to have a new experience where I could make it fun to learn history and actually be able to see and touch what I am learning,” says File.
File’s areas of expertise at the Flats are the blacksmith shop, the jail, and the printing press and witnessing his interest and enthusiasm at work is impressive.
As he pilots groups through the blacksmith shop, he pulls out every tool and explains it’s importance to the group.
In the shop he shares the value of nails in the heyday of the Flats. He marvels at the times when pioneers would burn down their homes before they moved onward, in order to collect the nails. According to File, blacksmiths were hard to come-by in the late 1800s and lumber was plentiful making the nail more valuable then the home itself.
In front of the printing press, File discusses why it was essential to the growing population of the Flats. Fresno city was a days carriage ride away and most things of importance were heard down in the Valley. Locals needed access to the news and the press was the modern vehicle to bring it to them.
At the jail, File addresses how Fresno Flats changed its named to Oakhurst. According to File, Fresno Flats was known for an infamous bank robber that was never convicted. This bank robber took a wife from out of town. After they married she began to hear rumors about her husband and her new community. In hope to save face beyond the township, and unknown to it populates, she petitioned the government to change it’s name. The town was crowned Oakhurst, and its citizens found out when the post office dawned its new name.
File’s mother Ann, a teacher, encourages and supports File’s docent work because it is a perfect fit for his independent nature, ambition, curiosity and love for learning.
“I think it is very important for children to have opportunities to learn outside of a textbook and classroom setting and I seek opportunities for children to see new places, experience new situations, and play an active role in the community,” says Ann.
Despite his adult like responsibilities and impressive intelligence, File still enjoys age appropriate fun and it shows when asked about his most memorable experience at the Flats.
“My favorite memory at Fresno Flats is when I slipped and fell down the hill into the creek behind the log cabin... it was fun.”
As for aspirations for his future File says, “I don’t know what my permanent career should be, but I would love to, at some point, help people enjoy history in other diverse time periods and places.”