Walla Walla's past comes to life for sesquicentennial

A quintet of historical figures showed up for Wednesday's Council meeting.


WALLA WALLA -- A madam, a road builder, a stage coach driver, a council member and a mayor -- all instrumental figures from the city's founding days -- were brought back to life Wednesday by the Fort Walla Walla Museum Living History Company.

The historical figures were resurrected to commemorate the city's sesquicentennial celebration, which occurred Wednesday and was commemorated at the City Council meeting.

"It is a great honor to be here on the 150th anniversary to this day of the granting by the Washington Territorial Legislature of the Walla Walla municipal charter," historical character actor Dan Clark said while playing Walla Walla's first mayor, E.B. Whitman.

The other character actors included Council members John Abbott, played by Rod Hahn, and William Phillips, played by Dick Phillips, William's great-grandson.

Abbott, a stagecoach business owner, was one of the city's first council members. But a thriving stagecoach business that transported customers on the newly constructed Mullan Road left him with too little time for his Council duties, so Phillips was appointed instead.

As for the Mullan Road, Lt. John Mullan, played by Ron Klicker, began construction on it July 1, 1859, with 100 civilians and 100 soldiers. The road was completed in 1862, and provided a link between Fort Walla Walla and Fort Benton, Mont.

The fifth and final character actor from Walla Walla's past was a madam, Josephine Wolfe, who operated one of the first bordellos in the Valley.

Wolfe was played by Lois Hahn, who said, "My businesses have given entertainment to miners, to soldiers to road builders, and to a few Council members through the years."

Other 1862 achievements noted by the character actors included the area's first public school, the purchase of the first fire engine and the creation of the first firefighting company.

Other sesquicentennial commemorative events are planned for later this year, including historical tours, Clark said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

Road To History

Once again, motorists will ride the Mullan Road and know about it.

On Wednesday, City Council unanimously voted to place historical markers along 13th Avenue, which was once known as the Mullan Road.

Called the first wagon road across the Rockies, the road connected Fort Benton, Mont., to Fort Walla Walla, which was near the Columbia River in the Wallula area.

The markers will be brown with white lettering, and a road history site will be at 13th Avenue and Abadie Street.


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