Restoration society shares local history
ST. IGNATIUS — History came alive during the spring open house rendezvous at Fort Connah on Saturday.
People walked around the fort to experience what it might have been like 160 years ago. Many dressed up in buckskins and other clothing items in style at that time. Laurence Walchuk brought his Belgian draft horses to the event to give people a wagon ride down to the cabins. Bill and Paula Wright set up an old wagon from the 1800s and served a chuck wagon style lunch. Several teepees were also put up.
Donna Peck sat spinning wool wearing her yellow bonnet and a long dress. She had several skeins of wool soaking up color in jars filled with natural things from flowers to bark. Marigolds created a soft orange.
Kyla Tomlin, 14, tried her hand at shooting a long bow at a target. A natural with the bow, Tomlin admitted it wasn’t her first time at the shooting range. She recently won first place in her age group for the National Archery in the Schools competition. She said it was interesting to try out a style of bow used in the past.
According to document, Angus McDonald finished the fort in 1847 for the Hudson’s Bay Company as a trading post. It consisted of several small log buildings where people would travel to trade things like dried buffalo meat, furs, pemmican, saddle blankets, rawhide cords, and many other goods.
Born in Scotland, McDonald traveled to the area to manage the fort. He married a Nez Perce woman named Catherine, and the couple had several children.
During the rendezvous, several of McDonald’s descendants spoke about the fort. “This building was almost ready to collapse when the Fort Connah Restoration Society took over,” Joe McDonald said. “They raised the money to refurbish and restore it.”
Joe has served as the Fort Connah Restoration Society president for several years, but he is turning that job over to another one of Angus’s descendants - Al Williams. Williams said the group is already planning next year’s open house.
He said the restoration society has improved the fort every year to make it look like it did when it was first built. He added that the group plans to continue improvement projects including adding more gravel to the road and access to the cemetery where Angus is buried.
Joe said Angus loved the bagpipes and Indian drums. He told dozens of people at the event a story he had been told about his great great-grandfather playing his pipes while riding through camp on horseback. “The Indians would laugh: they had never seen anything like that,” he said.
The pipes and the drums were both played at the open house to honor Angus. Dick Bratton and Johnny Hamilton dressed in traditional kilts while playing the pipes. The Buckshot drum group also played several songs.