A Living History performance at Fort Walla Walla Museum brings history to life with reenactors portraying real people from the area's past.
The Living History Company at Fort Walla Walla Museum is in its 20th year and planning another full season for 2018. Organized in 1998 by Walla Walla City Council member Barbara Clark and her husband Dan, the company has grown from about a dozen authentic characters out of 1800s Walla Walla to over fifty. The goal of the company is to bring to life the exhibits at the museum with live presentations every week from April through October, telling visitors dramatic stories about the lives of a variety of Walla Wallans and the issues of their day, and allowing visitors to question the characters about their lives and times.
This year’s schedule continues the company’s tradition of 2 pm presentations every Sunday from April through October, and also on Saturdays from June through August.
Click on the scheduled performances posted below for more information. Performances are subject to change.
As a graduate of the Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary in 1855, Peasley Chamberlain received his first assignment to pastor First Congregational Church in Portland, Oregon Territory. He and his new wife, Alice, left New York on their wedding day for Portland.
Although the church grew from 23 to 150 members during his first year as pastor, it didn’t take long for Rev. Chamberlain to take his virulent vilification of secret societies and the Roman Catholic Church to extremes. Things deteriorated to the point that in 1862 he was dismissed as pastor.
Within two years, Chamberlain had settled in Walla Walla, such a debauched place that Chamberlain decided to establish a church here, one that would also provide schooling for the young children. With his own money, he erected a small building at Second and Rose that was dedicated as First Congregational Church in November 1864.
The Chamberlains sustained themselves primarily through the school they operated in the church building. Chamberlain was instrumental in advocating moving Whitman Seminary, the precursor to Whitman College, from Waiilatpu to Walla Walla. He was appointed as the first principal in 1866 when the seminary opened in its new building at Boyer and Park. He continued to preach at First Congregational Church until 1879 and died in 1889. He was never successful in growing the church he established here due to his extreme beliefs, but over the ensuing years First Congregational Church has assumed an important role in Walla Walla.
Reverend Peasley Chamberlain is portrayed by Steve Wilen.
Members of the public interested in attending should get in touch with their local Living History or Walla Walla Historic Auto Club member for an invitation to this event. This will help our offsite coordinator with a final head count.
This cemetery tour is free, courtesy of the Walla Walla Historic Auto Club. Guests will need to provide their own transportation. Details to be announced.
In 1853, William Hurst Rockfellow was the wagon master of a wagon train headed to southern Oregon near the present day city of Talent. He came north during the Gold Rush days in eastern Walla Walla County and operated the Rockfellow & Co. Pony Express, which ran between Walla Walla and the Boise Gold Basin in Idaho. While working as a prospector in Oregon, he, his brother Albert, and three other Jackson County, Oregon friends discovered the famous Rockfellow ledge of gold, now known as the Virtue Mine. He and his partners set up their stamp mill to extract the ore on Powder River, and eventually Baker City grew up around it. Meanwhile, William’s wife operated a boarding house in Walla Walla. One of his daughters, Alice, married Harvey Meacham, who owned the Meacham toll road that ran between Idaho and Oregon and a hotel near the summit of the Blue Mountains between La Grande and Pendleton, Oregon.
William Rockfellow is portrayed by his great grandson, Dick Phillips.
Local viticulturist/winemaker/master distiller Rusty Figgins portrays his maternal grandfather, Francesco Antonio “Frank” Leonetti, during Columbus Day weekend. The performance will take place at 2 pm in the Pioneer Village, and an educational, interpretive tour of the small vineyard will immediately follow.
Born 1880 in Serra Pedace, Cosenza Province in the Calabria region of southern Italy, Leonetti immigrated to Walla Walla in 1901, when he was twenty-one. He married Rose Fazzari in 1905. A truck gardener, Leonetti made room in his vegetable fields for an acre of Black Prince grapes, from which he made wine for family use.
The destruction of Leonetti’s beloved vines in the infamous ‘Black Frost’ of 1955 is said to have broken his heart and is believed to have contributed to his death shortly thereafter. Frank Leonetti’s passion inspired his descendants to grow grapes and make wine commercially. His namesake winery, Leonetti Cellar, is notable for creating fine wine for the past forty years. Figgins as Frank Leonetti explains the history of viticulture in the Walla Walla Valley and the Italian-American contribution to area grape cultivation and winemaking.
Planted under Figgins’ direction in 1995, Fort Walla Walla Museum’s vineyard features Black Prince grapevines of the kind grown by Frank Leonetti. The Black Prince variety, brought here by train from a plant nursery in Sacramento, California, was discovered by Figgins to be genetically identical to Cinsault, a variety that is prominent in the southern Rhône and Provence in France. Black Prince grapevines are known for their ability to withstand hot, dry climates, and are known for use as both a table and wine grape. Black Prince produces light- to medium-bodied red and rosé wines, and as Cinsault, has enjoyed a renaissance in the Walla Walla Valley, where plantings have increased owing in large part to Figgins’ influence and the industry’s interest in Rhône Valley grape varieties.
The vineyard at Fort Walla Walla is one of the Museum's horticultural displays in support of its Italian Farmstead exhibit in the pioneer village. Unlike most modern grapevines that are trained laterally on wire trellises, the museum's Black Prince employ a method common in the 1800s where a free-standing vine is head-trained, that is, grown on a single, vertical stake. Pruning the grapevines in the form of an open basket or goblet allows more sunlight to penetrate and promote the ripening of the grapes. In recent years, students of Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology & Viticulture program have pruned the vines.
Catholic missionary Eugene Casimir Chirouse traveled from his native France to Oregon Territory with four missionary oblates and arrived at Fort Walla Walla on October 5, 1847—only a month before the killings at the Whitman Mission. The Catholic fathers and missionaries were now called upon to be peacemakers.
Chirouse was ordained at Hudson's Bay Company Fort Walla Walla on January 2, 1848, the first Catholic ordination in what would become the state of Washington.
In 1853, Fr. Chirouse founded the St. Rose of the Cayouse mission at the mouth of Yellowhawk Creek, where Governor Isaac Stevens met him on his way from the east through the Walla Walla Valley to assume his duties in Olympia. Chirouse was also present at the Walla Walla Treaty Council of 1855 conducted by Stevens.
At the end of 1856, during the Indian Wars, he was transferred to the Puget Sound area, where he lived and worked for most of the rest of his life, dying in British Columbia in 1892.
Eugene Chirouse is portrayed by Jean-Paul Grimaud.
Richard Bogle was born in Jamaica in 1835 where his parents were slaves. When he was 12 years old, he stowed away on a ship to New York during an anti-slavery campaign, and traveled to Oregon with a wagon train at age 16. When he was 22, he opened a restaurant and barbershop in Deadwood, California, where he also did some gold mining. On January 1, 1863, the day the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln, Bogle married America Waldo. The couple moved to Walla Walla, where he opened a fashionable barber shop. They had eight children and owned a 200-acre farm near Dixie.
Richard Bogle is portrayed by Earl Gooding Jr.
Perspective is a significant reason behind the study of history and the existence of museums. Knowing what the past gave to the present and how people of the past dealt with problems is critical to making informed decisions about the future. Join our full Living History company as they present “A 19th Century Party! Looking Forward from the Past.” This is the last Living History performance of the season.
Living History's 2018 schedule is sponsored by an anonymous donor.