MARIPOSA -- Residents here are reeling from Friday's armed robbery of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, which resulted in the theft of about $2 million in gold and precious gems.
No one was hurt during the heist, but perpetrators threatened museum staff with weapons, according to park officials.
"I'm horrified, absolutely horrified," said Mary Gentry, a Mariposa resident who just recently visited the museum. "It's a loss of things that can't be replaced and it's rude effrontery."
Local resident Mike Quinn said he heard about the robbery by word of mouth after seeing a large number of local law enforcement on Friday afternoon heading to the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, where the museum is located.
"It's a terrible thing to happen here. That was all special stuff. It took some brazen boys to walk in there like that, whoever they were."
Officials are taking an inventory to establish exactly what was stolen from the museum.
Several of the collection's larger pieces of gold reportedly were taken. It was unclear if the Fricot nugget was part of the heist. At 201 Troy ounces, or 13 pounds, it is the largest intact mass of crystalline gold from the Gold Rush era.
"I was shocked to see that something like that happened here," said Mike Aday, who recently moved with his wife from Dallas, where he worked as an assistant museum curator. "We've only been here a week. I'm shocked and very disappointed. A lot of times, those things can't be recovered and they certainly can't be replaced."
Marilyn Johnson, owner of Our Country Home gift shop in Mariposa, said she was surprised to hear the news.
"Usually things like that don't happen here," she said. "This is just a regular little small town."
"I'm really sad about it," she added. "It's valuable as far as history goes. We lost a part of the history of this particular area."
The collection dates to 1881 when it first went on display at the San Francisco Ferry Building. In 1983, the collection was moved to Mariposa. In 1991, the state Department of Parks and Recreation took over responsibility for the historical gems and minerals from the state Department of Conservation.
The museum has gone through some tough times recently. For months, local officials thought the museum, which is part of the state parks system, would have to be closed because of budget cuts.
The museum closure was tabled after the Legislature approved additional funding for all state parks. That came in response to the discovery of about $54 million of previously unaccounted for state parks money.