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 21st year and planning another full season for 2019. 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.
The first Adventist missionaries arrived in California in the late 1860s. The Adventist message spread to the Walla Walla Valley, with several converts living here by 1873. That same year, the first Adventist church was organized in the city. These Adventist pioneers will talk about their Walla Walla history and more.
Nelson G. Blalock was born in 1836. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1861 and worked as a surgeon during the Civil War. In 1873 he traveled by wagon from Illinois to Walla Walla, eventually becoming a family doctor here. In 53 years of practice he delivered 6,000 babies. He was involved in many other projects, including installing the first telephones in the state, establishing two large orchards, and pioneering arid land wheat farming.
Nelson Blalock is portrayed by Don Weaver.
William McBean, Hudson’s Bay Company trader will tell the story of David Thompson, a famed British-Canadian fur trader, surveyor, and map-maker.
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.
Come see a traditional leather working demonstration in front of the harness shop. Lee McKewen will be hand stitching holsters using his stitching horse. He will be demonstrating various leather working techniques like hand stitching, riveting and cutting straps.
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.
Pioneer missionaries Cushing and Myra Eells arrived in the Valley in 1838. They settled among the Spokane Indians until the tragedy at the Whitman's mission in 1847, when they moved to the Willamette Valley.
They returned to the Walla Walla Valley at the close of the Indian wars in 1859 to reclaim the mission grounds at Waiilatpu, the Whitman Mission site. There, Cushing decided to found an educational institution, the Whitman Seminary. In 1883 it became Whitman College as a result of the Eells efforts that continued throughout their lives.
Reverend Eells is portrayed by Whitman College professor Rogers Miles.
Join us to meet Washington Territory's first governor Isaac Stevens, who served from 1853 to 1857. Stevens was a very controversial figure during his lifetime as well as after. According to one historian, Kent Richards, “Isaac Stevens was most often the center of activity, providing leadership, spewing out orders and ideas, or creating controversy. He was a man either loved or hated.”
During his tenure as territorial governor, he believed that he could successfully quell the problems between the white settlers and the Indian people by negotiating treaties. The Treaties of 1855 with the Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, Walla Walla and Cayuse Indians were negotiated in Walla Walla. These treaties established many important rights for Indian people and helped them maintain their traditions and culture. In addition they led to the territory outside of reservations being populated by white settlers from the eastern part of the United States.
Governor Stevens is portrayed by Ron Klicker.
The Pacific Northwest Living Historians (PNLH) will demonstrate the tools and skills employed by the explorers of the epic Lewis and Clark expedition during this two-day special event.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, and to seek the best route to the Pacific Ocean through what we now call the Pacific Northwest. During their voyage of 1804 – 1806, they led the Corps of Northwestern Discovery overland from St. Louis, Missouri, to the mouth of the Columbia River and back again. With no means for resupply, the Corps (a U.S. Army unit of 31 men accompanied by Sacagawea and her infant child, Jean Baptiste) needed to use a diverse combination of skills, along with the right tools, in order to survive.
Dressed in clothing of the style and materials worn by the members of the Corps in 1805-1806, PNLH interpreters will demonstrate and discuss many of those tools and skills, such as handling flintlock firearms, fire starting with flint and steel, camp cooking, making clothing from leather, and making canoe paddles.
Visitors will also learn the history and stories of the Lewis and Clark expedition: the native people that they met, the unfamiliar territory they traveled and mapped, and the strange new animals and plants they discovered.
The program will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, August 10 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 11.
Carpenter, photographer, merchant, lawman, express messenger, steamship company agent, merchants’ agent, surveyor, road builder, politician, government employee, miner. Lewis H. Day worked at all these occupations during his time in the Northwest between 1850 and 1877. While operating a photography business in Walla Walla for only a short time, he made a significant impact on the area in other ways. Join us as we journey through this quarter century of Northwest history with on of the early movers and shakers of the area.
Lewis Henry Day is portrayed by Al Cummins.
Charles Tung, a leader of the local Chinese community, was born in San Francisco and moved to Walla Walla in 1880. Fluent in both English and Chinese, Tung often acted as a translator for many local Chinese people. His stories of life in Walla Walla as a Chinese merchant are fascinating. Walla Walla was like many communities in the United States of the late 1800s that placed numerous restrictions on its Chinese population. Tung’s accounts are filled with a perspective from those difficult days.
Tung owned the Kwong Chung Sing Company, importing Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea to Walla Walla. He acted as secretary-treasurer of the Chinese operated Pacific Enterprise Corporation that built a two-story structure at Fifth and Rose Streets in 1911.
In 1930, Tung departed the United States for China to enroll his daughter in Chinese schools and did not return until 1939 because of the war in that country. While in China, he operated a bank in Canton province.
Charles Tung is portrayed by fifth generation Walla Wallan Galen Tom.
Meet Grace Isaacs, Walla Walla's early local leader, suffragist and all around go-getter. She organized the Women's Park Club whose campaign financed our Pioneer Park. (If you have questions about who actually designed the park, Grace can set you straight. It might not be who you think.) Wondering about the history of women's suffrage in Walla Walla? Grace will tell you about that time Susan B. Anthony visited here and was refused a place to stay the night. Grace will look back and recount the early goings on at the Women's Reading Club and the Art Club. She was a world traveler and will share some of her experiences with you. She'll have business advice for you too, since she was also an entrepreneur. Get the lowdown from Grace Isaacs, one of Walla Walla's most interesting women.
Grace Isaacs is portrayed by Susan Monahan.
Mrs. Miner, Walla Walla’s first schoolteacher, opened a private school in a store building on Main Street in the winter of 1861-62. She was then given a certificate, and on June 16, 1862 began the first public school classes in Walla Walla. She was described as “a lovely, cultured woman, who had the finest house plants in town.”
Sarah Miner is portrayed by Emily Cairns.
In 1862 Mrs. Whitman came to Walla Walla to join her husband E.B. Whitman, who had been recently elected as the city’s first mayor. She was born in Portland, Maine, in 1828, the daughter of a lawyer, and was educated in the Boston area where she met her future husband. The couple married and had two sons. In 1850 Mr. Whitman traveled west to seek his fortune in the California gold fields. Mrs. Whitman remained in Boston to raise her children until E. B. had chosen a new location for the family. After 12 years, the couple reunited in Walla Walla where they were active in civic affairs and resided for the rest of their lives. Mrs. Whitman will share music of her time with Museum visitors.
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.
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.
William B. Phillips came to Walla Walla in 1860 and brought his family up from Salem Oregon in 1861. He opened a tin and stove shop on Main Street as well as Walla Walla’s first foundry. After a series of disastrous fires, he was appointed Fire Marshall and reorganized the fire department. Williams will be talking about early events and happenings in Walla Walla’s formative years.
William Phillips is portrayed by his great-grandson, Dick Phillips.
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.
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.
William Tye is an assistant conductor working for Dorsey Baker's Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad. Tye 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 Tye would have operated. The Blue Mountain is the last existing narrow-gauge engine from Dorsey Baker's WW&CRR. If weather permits, William Tye will show visitors the components of the train and describe the missing pieces that would have allowed the train to operate.
William Tye is portrayed by Gary Lentz.
As another year passes, our Living History Company will end the 2019 season with their annual 19th Century Party.
This year, a number of performers will take you on a chronological journey from the days of the fur trade and early exploration of this region through the influx of emigrant pioneers heading West along the Oregon Trail, through the boomtown years of 1860s Walla Walla and beyond.
Each performer will help create a timeline that will put the region’s history in perspective.
The festivities will commence at 2 pm in the Museum’s Grand Hall, and will mark the end of the 2019 Living History season. Refreshments will be served.
Living History's 2019 schedule is generously sponsored by an anonymous donor.