William McBean 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. McBean continued to reside in Walla Walla and was active in assisting various Catholic institutions until his death in 1892.

Several items owned by McBean, including a mule-ear chair and brand, are currently on display in the special exhibit Fantastic Finds: Treasures from the Archives.