Grass Valley, Calif. – Historian Gage McKinney will teach Cornish history and culture for the Osher Life Long Learning (OLLI) program at Sierra College on four Tuesdays, October 4 through 25, at 1:00 – 2:30 pm.

The class will explain who the Cornish are and why they came to Nevada County in the industrial era. Students will learn how the forces of geology, geography and culture propelled these people from a Celtic land to become a dominant force in mining regions around the world and especially in California’s Gold Country.

“At one time Grass Valley was dominated and Nevada City influenced by sizeable populations of Cornish immigrants,” McKinney said. “People called them ‘Cousin Jacks,’ which was a slur until Cornish people adopted the expression themselves.”

 Historian Gage McKinney
Historian Gage McKinney

“We’ll talk about serious history,” McKinney said, “but we’ll have fun, too. We’ll consider, for example, the surprisingly good insights about the Cornish in the long-running British sitcom Doc Martin.

McKinney has presented this class to large audiences in recent years. “The Cornish put down deep roots in our region,” he said, “and I hope everyone will understand and share their culture.”

McKinney studied under the late Dr. F. L. Harris, director of the University of Exeter’s extension program in Cornwall and founder of the Institute of Cornish Studies. McKinney was made a Cornish bard in 1998.

McKinney has written several books on the Cornish including When Miners Sang, a study of the folk music and culture continued today by the Grass Valley Carol Choir and Grass Valley Male Voice Choir. He lives in Grass Valley.

To enroll in the class, or see other OLLI offerings, visit or call 916-781-6290. OLLI at Sierra College is designed for lifelong learners who are eager to explore traditional and new areas of knowledge.

About Sierra College

Sierra College District is rising to the needs of our community. Sierra College serves 3200 square miles of Northern CA with campuses in Roseville, Rocklin, Grass Valley, and Truckee. With approximately 125 degree and certificate programs, Sierra College is ranked first in Northern California (Sacramento north) for transfers to four year Universities, offers career/technical training, and classes for upgrading job skills. Sierra graduates can be found in businesses and industries throughout the region. More information at