Frenchtown
Photo courtesy of Fort Walla Walla Museum.

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Ever wonder what Walla Walla was like in the 19th century? To celebrate International Archaeology Day, local historian Sam Pambrun will lead a tour of Frenchtown Historic Site to connect participants with the region's storied past. Once a mixed community of French-Canadian and indigenous inhabitants, the 27-acre Frenchtown was established near the Walla Walla River around 1824 and includes the site of the 1855 Battle of Walla Walla between settlers and members of the Walla Walla, Cayuse, Palouse and Yakama tribes. Pambrun, a retired school administrator and descendant of Frenchtown fur traders, has written and presented extensively about the area. He also served on the Frenchtown Historical Foundation's board of directors for eight years.

Part of the Archaeological Institute of America lecture series, the free field trip will depart from the First Congregational Church parking lot at 10 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 14, and last two to three hours. No prior registration is required. Pambrun answered a few questions in advance of the trip.  

Why should we have a working knowledge of local history?  

1) The history of the Walla Walla Valley is in layers, cultures, events and perspectives; [it's] fun to compare to today. 2) The political leadership of the Walla Walla Valley has changed many times over the last 150 years. What's next? 3) The Hudson's Bay Company brought grape seeds to the Pacific Northwest in 1826. Nice that we're finally making use of that legacy.  

What little-known events have had an impact on the history of the Walla Walla Valley?  

1) Religious wars between Protestants and Catholics [are one example]. 2) French used to be the language of choice in the Walla Walla Valley. 3) The new American settlers in the Walla Walla Valley pressured French-Canadian half-breeds to leave the valley; most went to the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  

How can we learn more about the history of the Walla Walla Valley?   

1) Join the Frenchtown Historical Foundation, Fort Walla Walla Museum and Walla Walla 2020. 2) Do research [at] Penrose Library, Walla Walla Public Library [and the] Frenchtown website. 3) History is written by the winners; ask questions about everything you read; sometimes the application of logic will open doors to understanding.  

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