played by Rich Monacelli
The first Fort Walla Walla was built near today’s Wallula and became one of the earliest Pacific Northwest outposts for trading furs and other items with the local Indian people. The fort was built in 1818 by the Northwest Trading Company, which soon merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The structure was so sturdy that its first factor called it the "Gibraltar of the Northwest." That structure lasted only 10 years, however, before being destroyed by fire. A second fort built on the same site also succumbed to fire by the time William McBean came on the scene as factor of the third post. Visitors can see images of the early trading post in a new exhibit in the Soldiers & Indian People Gallery in the Entry Hall.
McBean, of British and Indian parentage, was born in Canada about 1807 and came to the Walla Walla region in 1846. He became chief factor in charge of the Hudson’s Bay Company fort at the time of the Whitman Massacre in 1847. He left Fort Walla Walla in 1855 during the Indian wars and later returned to the region with his Indian wife and children. At the time the region’s first Catholic priests were ordained in a ceremony at the fort, McBean’s wife offered one of her dresses to an Oblate when a shortage of albs became apparent. McBean continued to reside in Walla Walla and was active in assisting various Catholic institutions until his death in 1872.
McBean offers myriad factual detail on his times and the people and cultures with whom he lived, sharing with his audience many examples of fur trade items including pelts, beadwork, axes, bowls, pottery, clothing, and smoking pipes. McBean paints a colorful picture of his life, giving visitors a very real experience of the Walla Walla region in the middle 1800s.
Fort Walla Walla Museum is on Myra Road in Fort Walla Walla Park. Museum hours are 10 am – 5 pm daily, March through October, and 10 am – 4 pm, November 1 through the end of February. Admission is free to members and children under 6, $3 for children ages 6-12, $7 for seniors 62 and older and students, and $8 general admission. For more information, contact Fort Walla Walla Museum at (509) 525-7703 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.