Lives of area settlers retold at Fort Walla Walla Museum

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WALLA WALLA — Local educator Jean-Paul Grimaud will portray Frenchtown pioneer Louis Tellier at 2 p.m. Saturday at Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Road.

A French-Canadian, Tellier and his family were among the earliest settlers of the Walla Walla Valley, arriving in 1834. Tellier worked with the Hudson’s Bay Fur Co. before becoming a millwright for Marcus Whitman at his newly established mission.

Tellier will speak of the unrest between local Indians and emigrants, and the subsequent Battle of Frenchtown, also known as the Battle of Walla Walla, which brought an end to Indian control of the Walla Walla Valley.

The Frenchtown Historic Site, roughly located between College Place and Touchet, came into existence in 2010, established by the Frenchtown Historical Foundation. The interpretive park includes walking trails on some of the 27 acres of land where the fighting took place in 1855.

Then, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Grimaud will play Father Eugene Chirouse, a Catholic missionary.

Chirouse was born in May 1821 in Bourge-de-Peage, France.

He began his novitiate with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and was chosen as one of five Oblates to travel from France to the 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 the Whitman Massacre.

The Indian population in Oregon Territory then numbered about 110,000 people with approximately 6,000 believed to be Catholics.

It was a perilous time. On Nov. 29, 1847, Marcus Whitman, his wife, Narcissa Prentiss Whitman along with 12 other people, were killed by members of the Cayuse tribe. A number of other people were taken as prisoners.

Amid 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 of albs became apparent.

Five hours after the ordination, 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 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 Gov. Isaac Stevens met him on his way 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.

Performances begin at 2 p.m. in the pioneer settlement at Fort Walla Walla Museum. Visitors are encouraged to question the Living History re-enactors about their lives and times.

The Museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.

Admission is free to Fort Walla Walla Museum members, eligible service personnel and their families through the Blue Star Museums program, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute’s Inwai Circle cardholders, enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and all children under 6.

Admission is $3 for ages 6-12; $6 for age 62 and up and students; $7 for adults.

For more information, call 509-525-7703, or email info@fortwallawallamuseum.org.

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