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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

Digging through Local History

for a Sense of Place


by Eva Gayle Six

A comfortable sense of place is one of the world's blessings. Part of that sense comes from interactions with the human community. Part of it comes from an awareness of natural surroundings and from living so as not to harm those surroundings. Part of it comes from having some space—a home—that suits one's needs and brings privacy and comfort.

Another whole level of richness is added when the history of that place reveals itself. Among the treasures of later years is the time to pursue one's curiosities. We might start with "What was this view like 100 years ago?" "Who lived on my place before I did?" "What was life like for the homesteaders in this valley?" "How did the Indians live before we were here?"

Pursuing the history of one's place is a step beyond the popular hobby of genealogy. It's fun to trace one's family back to Ohio and then to Maryland and then to England or wherever. For some of us it's even more fun to trace the history of one's physical surroundings.

It may surprise you to know that Pend Oreille County has a wealth of preserved information to help you in your diggings. The first place to start is the Pend Oreille County Historical Society Museum at Newport. Artifacts of Pend Oreille County fill two buildings and an extensive outdoor area. A first-rate archive is maintained by Faith McClenny with help from Winnie Sundseth and Alice Warner. There are old records, pioneer writings, letters, published works on our area, and a delicious file of photographs that can capture you for hours. The archive is staffed on Wednesdays year round, and Faith will help you find a file that will help you know more about your own immediate place. File headings include "Logging," "Businesses," “Family and place names”, "Agriculture, "Mines," "Transportation," and on and on. If you can bring a healthy imagination to the museum, you'll have more fun than you knew was possible

In the north end of the county, which can seem so far from Newport, sources are growing. The Tiger Museum led by Lee Stark is building a collection. The Metalines branch of the County Library has a nice uncatalogued set of local history including photographs.

To enrich your own sense of place, find out more about it. As you learn to know its roots, you'll love it even more.

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