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.
Perhaps the most commonly recognized evergreen in the northwest is the Douglas fir. Have you ever wondered where it got its name?
Wilderness botanist David Douglas was responsible for hundreds of discoveries and descriptions of our native Northwestern trees, shrubs, and plants.
Douglas came to the Pacific Northwest by ship from England in 1825. His explorations for the Royal Horticultural Society were carefully recorded in his journals. He describes his interactions with local Native Americans, encounters with animals, and the arduous and difficult acquisition of plant seeds and specimens. He also describes the landscapes before the effects of European settlement, giving insight into the world as it was here in the Northwest nearly 200 years ago. From 1825 to 1827 he traveled thousands of miles through Washington, Idaho, and Oregon by foot, horse, and canoe. Here he spent his time collecting seeds, preserving specimens, taking notes, and carefully packaging his discoveries for return to England.
David Douglas is portrayed by Gary Lentz.
Andrew Pambrun was born at Cumberland House near the mouth of the Sasketchewan River in 1821. He attended school at Fort Vancouver in 1832 and then at Red River School in Manitoba where he stayed and taught for six years. Andrew returned to Oregon in 1850 and later worked for Hudson's Bay Co. at Fort Walla Walla. From 1855 to 1858 he served as an aide to territorial governor Isaac Stevens and was of great service during the negotiation of the Treaties of 1855. Pambrun continued to live in the Walla Walla area until his death.
Andrew is portrayed by his great grandson, Sam Pambrun, local historian, teacher and past president of the Umatilla Historical Society. The Pambrun family has lived in this area continuously since the 1830s.
Robert E. Young was born in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina in 1849, in place called Mars Hill. Along with the many Irish who immigrated to America during the 1800s, Robert Young went to work on the railroads that linked America into one nation.
After working in the Southwest, Robert and his family came to the Northwest with the railroads. He eventually found a job as a conductor on the Interurban Line of the Walla Walla Valley Traction Company, an electric railroad that connected Walla Walla with Milton and Freewater, where Robert Young's son-in-law planted his orchards after returning from the Spanish American War.
Robert Young is portrayed by his great-grandson, David Higgins.
William Tie is an assistant conductor working for Dorsey Baker's Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad. Tie will be talking about his job working on the locomotives, how these narrow- gauge steam engines ran, and how they were configured (have you ever heard of a platform of dogs being used in place of a cow catcher?). He will also give some history on the local railroad, how it was brilliantly financed by Dr. Baker and what it took to bring the railroad to Walla Walla. He'll also describe how the track itself was constructed and explain exactly what "rawhide railroad" is referring to, clearing up some myths and legends that surround Dr. Baker's famous enterprise.
During their visit, guests can see one of the locomotives William Tie would have operated. The Blue Mountain is the last existing narrow-gauge engine from Dorsey Baker's WW&CRR. If weather permits, William Tie will show visitors the components of the train and describe the missing pieces that would have allowed the train to operate.
William Tie is portrayed by Gary Lentz.
Caroline Maxson Wood came to the Walla Walla Valley by wagon train in 1859 with her husband, J. Franklin Wood, her parents, Stephen and Lois Maxson, and her three siblings. They settled in the Russell Creek area. Stephen Maxson later brought the first piano to the valley via Cape Horn for his daughter, who became a teacher in the Walla Walla schools and eventually a music teacher at Walla Walla College. Her husband served as superintendent of the Walla Walla school district and was one of the first Seventh-day Adventist evangelists in the area. Caroline Wood is portrayed by Gladys Wentland.
Augusta Moorehouse was a native of Wurtenberg, Germany, who emigrated to the U.S. at the age of nine. In 1861 she, her husband, and eight children came to the Walla Walla region as part of the Morgan wagon train, settling on Birch Creek. She was a pioneer Seventh-day Adventist settler in the Walla Walla valley and was instrumental in founding the first Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater Adventist churches. Her son, Major Lee Moorehouse, was a famed photographer of the West, a Lt. Colonel in the Bannock War, and served as mayor of Pendleton and Indian Agent at the Umatilla Reservation. Augusta Moorehouse is portrayed by Cleo Forgey,
Ellen White is said to have experienced many visions. She will tell visitors about some of them and how they were accepted by the people back in her time. White was in the area for a camp meeting in 1879. Eight different miniatures will help illustrate the Seventh Day Adventist story and include a covered wagon representing the way Woods and Moorehouse arrived in the Walla Walla Valley, a store from that time period, the camp meeting scene, and the first Seventh-day Adventist church in the Northwest, which happens to be located in Walla Walla. Ellen White is portrayed by Sandra Ehrhardt.
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.
Born in Pedace, Cosenza in the Calabria region of southern Italy, Leonetti emigrated to Walla Walla in 1901 when he was twenty-one. 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 his vines in the infamous Black Frost of 1955 “broke his heart” and contributed to his death shortly thereafter. The Leonetti Winery, however, has continued with a reputation of creating exclusive wines found in the finest restaurants. Francesco Leonetti’s example inspired his grandson, Berle “Rusty” Figgins Jr., with Cave B Winery in Quincy, and his brother Garym, co-founder with his wife Nancy at Leonetti Cellars in Walla Walla, to pursue winemaking careers. Rusty as Francesco Leonetti explains the history of viticulture in the Walla Walla Valley and the Italian-American contribution to area grape cultivation.
Planted under Figgins’ direction in 1995, Fort Walla Walla Museum’s vineyard features Black Prince (“Cinsault”) grapes of the kind grown by Francesco Leonetti. The vineyard is one of the Museum's horticultural displays in support of its Italian Farmstead in the pioneer village. Black Prince grapes are known for their ability to withstand hot, dry climates. Unlike most vines in this region that are trained laterally on wire trellises, the Museum's Black Prince grapes employ a method common in the 1800s known as head-trained, where a vine is grown on a single, vertical stake. Pruning the grape vines to create an open basket allows more sunlight to penetrate and promote the ripening of the grapes.
Francesco Leonetti is portrayed by his grandson and noted winemaker, Berle Figgins Jr.
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.