George Simpson’s Wheat

Are you interested in the history of food? Hudson’s Bay Company Governor Sir George Simpson introduced winter wheat to the Columbia District in the 1820s. He gave seed to the forts and told them to grow food or go hungry.  The seed was a soft white variety descended from an ancient Celtic landrace that was widely raised in the British Isles and northwestern Europe.  A single sample was found over a century ago in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, just thirty miles from the historic HBC’s frontier grain depot at Champoeg.  Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun grew this wheat on his farm a few miles east of Frenchtown. Richard and Lois Scheuerman of Palouse Heritage Grains over in Richland have been working to bring back this historic seed, and they’ve shared fifteen pounds with us.

We’re going to plant a patch of HBC wheat at Frenchtown, and with some luck and a lot of help, maybe harvest a few handfuls in 2024. If you’d like to get involved with this project, let us know at frenchtownhistoricfoundation@gmail.com.

In Praise of Volunteers

TWO groups of volunteers have been out to the site this fall to help clean up. The goats did the heavy lifting on the weeds, but they aren’t so good at picking up trash or cleaning around the shelter. It turns out humans are much better at that sort of thing. So shout out to College Place High School and Walla Walla University student volunteers — you’re the best!

The Goat Report

This year, Petty Family Goats let us have a nursing herd, and so there were some seriously cute goat picture opportunities. The goats did their best work yet for us — cleared the weeds, didn’t damage the bunch grass, knocked down the fuel load around the structures. This year we also knew to fence them away from the trails. (last year we might have accidentally discovered that goats like to make wallows in gravel paths, and poop all over everything, because, they’re, well… goats. )

Thanks to our donors, the Adopt-a-Goat campaign raised over a thousand dollars for this project! That’s half the money needed to pay for this year’s caprine* buffet.  We see you, Lynn, Carolyn, Jack, Tamera, Debora, Matt, Debbie, Melissa, Martha, Susan, Lou, Helen, Jackie, Kathryn, and we are grateful.

If you want to be associated with these excellent humans, (or if you want to support environmentally friendly land management practices), you can make a donation here. And if you want to see a video of goats coming running when Duane brings over an extra load of Russian thistle, head on over to Facebook!

  • bovine = cows, porcine = pigs, equine = horses… and caprine = goats!  Aren’t you glad you read all the way to the end? 🙂

100 Horses: An Equine History in Bead Work

Plateau bead work from the Fred L. Mitchell Collection 

September 2 – December 1, 2023 at Tamástslikt Cultural Institute

Appaloosa with birds. Contour-Beaded Bag, c. 1900. On loan from the Fred L. Mitchell Collection.

There’s a treat happening right now at Tamástslikt Cultural Institute — an exhibit of Plateau beadwork from the Fred L. Mitchell Collection around the theme of horses. There are pieces on loan from Maryhill Museum as well, and additional pieces loaned by local Tribal members and Tamástslikt Cultural Institute permanent collections. Horse-themed basketry rounds out the exhibit.

So many beads. Vests, gauntlets, bags, horse collars, and more. Some people were marveling at the sheer number of beads, but I couldn’t help but think about the hours of skill and attention. Beading was historically women’s work in Plateau societies. That exhibit alone is the fruit of thousands of hours of attention and conversation.

Melton has taken a brilliantly minimalist approach to the display, mounting most of the pieces on the wall behind a floating piece of plexiglass, allowing the visitor to get extremely close to the object. Gauntlets and vests are more traditionally displayed, in freestanding cases. You don’t want to miss this one.

Beaded Gauntlets. c. 1930.

Donated by Florence Burnette Pieper

Are you related to Frenchtown?

The Frenchtown Historical Foundation is hosting a genealogy consult at Long Shadows tasting room on Wednesday, July 26th from 4-6 pm.

Anyone who has tried to research their family history knows how a few small connections can add up to a much bigger picture. Genealogical research is a big part of how we try to understand Frenchtown history, whether it’s as a descendant or as a history buff.

If you’d like to find out if you are related to the earliest settlers of the area, Frenchtown or otherwise, you should drop in and chat. Several of our board members have spent hundreds of hours looking at census records and parish records and surfing through ancestry, and they’ll be on hand to help.

We’ll have census records and other printouts, a research consultant with a computer hooked up to Ancestry.com, and the Harriett Munnick Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest to look through.

Thanks to our host Long Shadows, charcuterie boards and snacks will be provided, and glass pours will be available for purchase.

For best results, RSVP with your questions, or at least with a grandparent’s name and birthdate at frenchtownhistoricfoundation@gmail.com.

Judy Fortney as Suzanne Cayuse

June 3, 2023 at the Frenchtown Site
Suzanne Cayuse hasn’t visited the Frenchtown site since before the pandemic. Join us on June 3 at 10:00 am to hear her great granddaughter, Judith Fortney, tell the story of her life. Hear Suzanne’s story and see documents and artifacts, visit the cemetery and discover the Prince’s cabin.  
Judy Fortney as Suzanne Cayuse
A History minute: Suzanne Cayuse  (c.1824-1876)
Suzanne (right) and daughter Catherine

Suzanne was born in Oregon territory around 1824. Little is known about her including her original Indian name, other than that she was a full-blooded Cayuse woman. She married French-Canadian Mathieu Dauphin (c.1816-1867) in 1840. Mathieu was born in St. Louis, Missouri when it was still a mostly French fur trade town, and travelled to Frenchtown in 1838 with several trappers.
Between 1842 and 1861 Suzanne and Mathieu had eight children and lived in at least four different places — Fort Hall, Utah Territory, the California gold fields in the Yuba River area, Marion County and then the adjacent Wasco County, and finally Frenchtown, where their last two children were born.

Like many Indian wives of French-Canadian men, Suzanne converted to Catholicism, and all her children were baptized and confirmed. Mathieu stood as godfather for the baptism of the Cayuse Five, who were executed in connection with the 1847 Whitman Mission incident. Mathieu also served as interpreter and witness at the 1855 Treaty Council of Walla Walla.
Mathieu died in 1867. In 1870, the title of their homestead went to Suzanne, who was listed as “Suzanne Dofa, widow of Mathieu Dofa.” Although widows could inherit homestead claims, Suzanne would normally have been excluded as a full-blooded Cayuse woman, suggesting that the Land Office  in Vancouver was not aware of her race.

Suzanne lived on the land in Frenchtown until her death on June 17, 1876, and was buried in St. Rose Cemetery. Her children married into the Gagnon, Woodward, Pambrun, and Bonifer Frenchtown families. Several of the Dauphin children (now Duffy) received allotments on the Umatilla Reservation.

Where did the beaver go ?

The beaver were the first natural resource to be claimed by European expansion. Without beaver, the fur traders would never have come to the Columbia district. Without fur traders, Frenchtown would never have happened. 

Between 1818 and 1848, the United States and Britain claimed joint custody of Oregon Country. In 1821 the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) of London bought out the North West Company of Montreal and was granted a monopoly to the North American British fur trade. The new HBC decided to effectively strip-mine the Snake River watershed of beaver to discourage the Americans from claiming the territory. HBC officials called for sustainable trapping of beaver in the north, and aggressive trapping in areas most likely to fall claim to the United States.

Americans practiced similarly competitive trapping in the region–Ogden’s HBC journals tell of changing paths to avoid rivers already emptied by American camps. In 1823-1824 the Snake Country Expedition yielded 4,500 beaver; ten years later, the annual yield for the same area was only 665.

“If properly managed no question exists that [the Snake Country] would yield handsome profits as we have convincing proof that the country is a rich preserve of Beaver and which for political reasons we should endeavor to destroy as fast as possible.”George Simpson, Fur Trade and Empire; George Simpson’s Journal, ed. Frederick Merk (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931), 46.

…as we cannot expect to have a more Southern boundary than the Columbia in any Treaty with the Americans (altho’ we are entitled to it from occupancy) it will be very desirable that the hunters should get as much out of the Snake Country as possible for the next few years.” HBC Governor and Committee, London, to John D. Cameron, July 22, 1824.

“From the Country we explored this year we obtained only 100 Beaver not from the want of Streams but there were none and the privations we endured were great, however we have the satisfaction to know that the South side of the South branch of the Columbia [the Snake river] has been examined and now ascertained to be destitute of Beaver.”Ogden to Governor Simpson, Burnt River 1 July 1826

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Want to attend a meeting ? 

Hey, did you know that the bylaws of the Frenchtown Historical Foundation require that we publically advertise our meeting dates? Me neither! 

However, this seems like a great idea. Interested parties are invited to join us at the Fort Walla Walla conference room on Saturday, March 25, 2023 at 1:30 pm. 

MARCH 16, 2024 : The French Saloon Men of Walla Walla

Our event in November had to be canceled, but the French Saloon Men are back, and it’s going to be even better than before. Join us for light appetizers and wine and some high-alcohol history at Three Rivers Winery on Saturday, March 16, 2024 at 6 pm to hear Sarah Hurlburt and Susan Monahan dish the dirt — er, dig up some history. Tickets are 65$ each and may be purchased online or (if you’d like to avoid the credit card fees) by mailing a check to Frenchtown Historical Foundation, PO Box 1224, Walla Walla WA 99362. Get your tickets now — it’s going to be a fun party.

In 1905 Walla Walla had 13,000 people and over thirty saloons. Saloons were regulated; no women allowed (except for prostitutes), no gambling (except for all the time) and no liquor sales on Sunday (except for… well, you get the idea.) More than half of these establishments were located on Main street between 3rd and 5th, and the biggest one of all was the Louvre Hotel, owned by a Frenchman named Seraphin “Frank” Davin and a Swiss named Xavier Michellod.  

Sanborn fire map of Main street Walla Walla from 2nd Ave to 5th Ave in 1905. Pink indicates brick buildings; purple squares are saloons.

Two doors down, the Eureka saloon was owned by Swiss Lucien Genevay and French Canadian Joe La Fortune. Around the corner, Joe Charrier’s Frog saloon kept the glasses full. The very shady Mottet brothers (yep, also French) had their fingers in the pie as well.

We’ll have some tantalizing documents floating around to browse, and a silent auction of historical memorabilia to raise money for the Frenchtown historical Foundation.

JULY 23, 10-12 am: Prince’s Cabin Open House

Have you ever peered through the windows of the Prince’s Cabin, wishing you could go inside? Now’s your chance! Frenchtown board members will be on hand to talk about the cabin restoration process and the history of trade and technology in the region.

July is hot in Walla Walla — bring a hat and water, or borrow one of our shade parasols to walk up to the cemetery after!