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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.

Pend Oreille County Historical Society

by Evelyn Reed & Bill Piper

The story of pioneers and early settlement of Pend Oreille County is a fascinating one, told by members of the Pend Oreille Historical Society and vividly displayed in exhibits in the Museum in Newport. The predecessor to this group, the Pioneer Historical Society, started in 1924 with membership limited to the earliest pioneer families--those who settled here no later than 1900. That group also considered families settling 30 or more miles from a railroad up to 1902 to be pioneers and allowed them to join too.

The present Pend Oreille Historical Society has no such membership restrictions--anyone with an interest in the history of this area is encouraged to become involved. This group got its start after the death of early historian Charles Barker. Mr. Barker arrived here in 1907, working on Pend Oreille River steamboats until the railroad made its appearance downriver in 1910, putting the steamboats out of business. With a lifelong interest in local history, Barker wrote many accounts of early pioneer life. When he died in 1966, his family in Indiana offered his papers to any organization in Pend Oreille County that would like to have them. The Pend Oreille Historical Society quickly formed to provide a place for Barker's papers and "anything else of historic value," with Franklin Billings appointed as the first chair.

Until 1978, the Society was without a home, but that year they voted to purchase the Milwaukee Depot building in Newport and held the first meeting there that fall. The museum opened in 1979. Since then many purchases and donations have expanded the collection of artifacts, and displays now spread through six buildings at the museum site including the Stuart Bradley Memorial Building finished in 1994. Highlights include a logging camp bunkhouse, a railroad history display lodged in a caboose, old farm and logging machinery, mannequins and displays of early fashions and household items, old maps, newspapers and other memorabilia of early settlement days. Pend Oreille County Fairgoers can view the 1926 Linsdey House and exhibits at the Cusick Fairgrounds.

The Pend Oreille County Historical Museum is open in 2002 from May 17th to September 30th. It is located at 402 S. Washington Avenue in Newport by the “Big Wheel” display. The hours are Sunday through Friday, 10- 4, and Saturday 9-4 with admission by donation. The gift shop includes yearly issues of the Big Smoke publication with detailed interviews and stories of Pend Oreille County history.

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