Five historic local figures to be portrayed at Fort Walla Walla Museum


Father Eugene Chirouse and four Seventh-day Adventist pioneers will be the historical reenactments this weekend at Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Way.

The reenactments will be in the Pioneer Village on the lower level, or in the Grand Hall if the weather is inclement.

Father Eugene Casimir Chirouse will be portrayed at 2 p.m. Saturday by Walla Walla University faculty member Jean-Paul Grimaud, who with his family left France to live in Walla Walla.

Chirouse was born in May 1821 in Bourge-de-Peage, France. He began his novitiate with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and was chosen as one of five Missionary Oblates to travel from France to Oregon Territory.

In May, 1847, the Oblates set forth on the 2,000-mile journey from Westport, Kan., to Walla Walla, following the Oregon Trail.

After an arduous trip, they arrived at Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Walla Walla along the Columbia River only a month before what became known as the Whitman Massacre. The Indian population in Oregon Territory then was about 110,000 persons, with about 6,000 believed to be Catholics.

It was a perilous time. On Nov. 29, 1847, Dr. Marcus Whitman, wife Narcissa Prentiss Whitman and 12 others were killed by members of the Cayuse tribe, and a number of others were taken prisoner.

Amidst the turmoil, Chirouse was ordained on Jan. 2, 1848, the first ordination in what is now Washington state.

At the time of the ceremony, the Indian wife of post trader William McBean offered one of her dresses to an oblate when a shortage robes became apparent.

After the ordination, Father Chirouse returned to his work at the Mission of St. Rose by the Yakima River.

During the 1850s, settlers began populating the Walla Walla area, and Father Chirouse ministered to the Catholics. Among the arrivals to the territory were miners and soldiers, many of whom were suspicious of the priests' closeness to the tribes.

On the other hand, Indians suspected that the priests and new settlers were allies. The priests attempted to be the bridging peacemakers.

In 1853, Chirouse founded the St. Rose of the Cayouse mission at the mouth of Yellowhawk Creek, where he met Gov. Isaac Stevens, en route 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.

Four pillars of Seventh-day Adventism in the Walla Walla Valley will appear in the Museum's pioneer village at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Caroline Maxson Wood came to the area by wagon train in 1859 with her husband J. Franklin Wood, her parents Stephen and Lois Maxson and her three siblings, settling in the Russell Creek area.

Stephen Maxson later brought the first piano to the valley via Cape Horn for Caroline, who became a teacher in Walla Walla schools and eventually the music instructor at Walla Walla College.

Her husband served as superintendent of the Walla Walla school district and was one of the first Adventist evangelists in the area. Caroline Maxson Wood is portrayed by Gladys Wentland.

Augusta Moorhouse helped found churches in the Walla Walla Valley in the 1870s.

Mrs. Moorhouse, portrayed by College Place resident Cleo Forgey, emigrated from Germany at the age of 9. In 1861, she and her husband came to the Valley from Iowa with their eight children, as part of the Morgan wagon train, and settled by Birch Creek.

She was completely dedicated to her religion, and was most instrumental in founding the first Adventist church in the area, at Fourth Avenue and Birch Street in 1874 in Walla Walla.

A small-scale model of that church will be displayed at Sunday's performance.

Her son, Major Lee Moorhouse was a famed photographer of Indians and the West, was lieutenant colonel in the Bannock War, and also was mayor of Pendleton and served as Indian agent at the Umatilla Reservation.

William Nichols, presented by retired Walla Walla University professor Gordon Hare, was born near Montreal in 1838, then baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist in Iowa about 1861. He came west on a wagon train in 1862 and in California, where he met and married Sarah Spence.

There he met the James Wood family who had left Walla Walla to avoid a neighbor trying to convert them to Adventism.

However, James Wood later converted to Seventh-day Adventism, and convinced the Nichols family to return with him to the Walla Walla Valley. Both families settled in Milton, where Nichols prospered as a farmer and helped plat the town.

Nichols was prominent in establishing Milton Academy which began classes in 1888, the closed when Walla Walla College opened in 1892.

Nichols' son George served as the second business manager of the college. His son Dorcey operated the College Place post office, as well as William Nichols & Son General Merchandise, a dry goods and grocery store.

Aaron Miller, another pioneer Seventh-day Adventist, was also a strong leader in the development of Milton Academy.

Miller was born in 1829 to parents who had come from Germany.

He came west to California in 1850 for the gold rush, but was not impressed with the behavior of miners and returned to Missouri. There he met his wife, Samaria, and they returned to California.

This time the family settled in the town of Windsor, where they met the William Nichols family. Miller converted to the Adventist religion and followed Nichols to this area, where he set up a nursery in Milton.

In the late 1800s his business was the largest nursery west of the Mississippi.

Miller is portrayed by Bob Bohlman, retired teacher and IRS employee.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free to members and children younger than 6; $3 for children 6 through 12; $6 for students and seniors 62 and older; and $7 for adults. For more information, call 509-525-7703.


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