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Preserving history

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There is a small cabin on a grassy hill above the tree line near the Mission Mountains, but not too near, close to a highway that didn’t exist when it was built in the 1800s, and it usually stays quiet. 

“When people see this lonesome building out in the field, I’d like them to appreciate it as a historical site,” said Joe McDonald. His great grandfather Angus McDonald, a Scottish man, helped develop the place into a thriving Hudson’s Bay Trading Post known as Fort Connah, where furs were traded and eventually shipped to England.

And over the weekend, the gates were unlocked so folks could go back in time and pretend it was still open. People wore period clothing like long dresses and buckskin pants, a badger skin was stretched out under the sun on a frame, muzzle loaders were fired to salute the flag, and the original cabin was full of old fashioned goods.

People often wonder why the fort was built up on the hill. Joe explained that Angus originally wanted to build the trading post in another location.

“He was going to build it near the creek but was told unfriendly tribes might hide in the brush and kill him,” Joe said. 

Angus married a Nez Perce woman named Catherine Baptiste and they had several children. A teepee was set up in her honor during the weekend where kids made cornhusk dolls and played old fashioned games.

The Fort Connah Restoration Society organized the weekend rendezvous in an effort to share history with the public, and Chris Poloynis, executive director, explained that George Knapp started the society before he died.

“He wanted to restore this place to what it was like originally,” he said. “I built a corral, blacksmith shop and a sawmill. We’d eventually like to make this event into a living history. Today, we’ve got some of that. We’ve even got a trolley pulled by two Belgian horses.”

Restoration Society Board Member Tracie McDonald helped people make beaded earrings during the event.

“We come out here dressed in era clothing to preserve history,” she said.

Russell Stone wore a black top hat during the event, and Barbra Stone had on a long buckskin dress. They’ve attended the event every year for the past few years. 

“The first time they had this hardly anyone came, but it’s getting bigger every year,” Russell said of the dozens of people at the event.

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