December talk: ‘Free Boy: Escape from Slavery on the Puget Sound Underground Railroad”

Join author Lorraine McConaghy at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, for an illustrated overview of the research for her book Free Boy and for a discussion of the people, events and ideas raised in the book.

Free Boy is the dual biography of Charles Mitchell, the enslaved boy who fled from Olympia in 1860, and his master James Tilton, Washington Territory’s surveyor general. In his flight from Olympia to Victoria, fugitive slave Mitchell was discovered on board the steamer Eliza Anderson at Seattle, by a U.S. Army squad from Fort Steilacoom hunting for Army deserters.

Dr. Lorraine McConaghy is a public historian who has devoted her professional life to researching and teaching Pacific Northwest history in a museum setting. She completed her doctorate in United States urban history at the University of Washington in 1993. She joined the staff of Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry in 1997 as the museum’s public historian and remained at MOHAI for more than twenty years. She is the author of Warship Under Sail, Free Boy:  A True Story of Slave and Master, New Land North of the Columbia, and a forthcoming history of metropolitan Seattle. McConaghy has continued to teach at the University of Washington and through Humanities Washington, and received many awards, including national recognition from the National Council on Public History, the Oral History Association, and the Association for State and Local History. In Washington, she has been awarded the Robert Gray medal, the highest honor given by the Washington State Historical Society.

Members of the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. Individual memberships are $15 to $20.  To become a member visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/.  

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region.  Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. 

The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is: Sharing and preserving the first U.S. Army post in Puget Sound with guests. Our association acknowledges the complex history of the Fort and its role in the colonization of the area. We are actively working to incorporate the diverse perspectives and experiences of all individuals and communities who interacted with the Fort.

For more information, visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org.  

Life over the laundry kettles, the life of a frontier Army laundress

Book review from our journal: Where the Mashel Meets the Nisqually, The Mashel Massacre of 1856

Fort Steilacoom museum reopens after being closed due to pandemic

Come see us! Historic Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood will reopen at least one weekend a month this summer so visitors can walk through and tour four buildings that witnessed key events in the early U.S. settlement of Washington Territory.

Fort Steilacoom is a history museum where guests of all ages can explore military life of enlisted soldiers, officers, the families of soldiers, civilians that worked for the garrison and those that visited from the community. Soldiers from the fort went on to serve in the U.S. Civil War.

The three cottages and interpretive center that remain from the original complex will be open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, starting June 6; or, in case the first Sunday is a holiday, the second Sunday of the month. The exact dates are June 6, July 11, Aug. 1, Sept. 12, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7, 2021.

There are some changes because of the pandemic. The museum will have more volunteers and tour guides than usual to keep groups small, and visitors will be required to register in advance so the museum can keep capacity at safe levels. People can sign up and pre-pay for tours at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tour-the-four-buildings-of-historic-fort-steilacoom-tickets-152800511443

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington and securing United States interests in the region. 

From the U.S. Army’s arrival in 1849 until its departure in 1868, many soldiers and civilians brought the post to life with their daily tasks and calls to duty. As you tour the four remaining buildings, museum interpreters will help you connect with those that came before us and their everyday lives

For more information, visit http://www.historicfortsteilacoom.org, call 253-756-3928,  or connect with the fort at https://www.facebook.com/HistoricFortSteilacoom

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at:

9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498

June Talk: The Pig War of 1859

July Talk: The myth of the M1855 rifle musket: Weapons of the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858

Join us for a member’s speaker series at 2 p.m. PST on Sunday, July 18, 2021 as Chris Fischer talks about the weapons of the 1858 Coeur d’Alene War in Washington Territory.

For years, historians believed the success of the Army during the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858 came from the use of the new model 1855 Springfield Rifle Musket. The leader of the campaign, Colonel George Wright, even credited the weaponry with military success.

Chris Fischer, public historian who has spent years researching the antebellum period of history, will address our members on this topic. This presentation will include a quick synopsis of why the Coeur d’Alene campaign was undertaken, its relationship to the Yakima War, and a brief synopsis of the arms used in the early part of the 1850’s. Finally, Fischer will discuss how the failures of the Yakima War were corrected during the follow up Coeur d’Alene War and how the new weapons contributed to success. This campaign resulted in the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plain.

By way of context: Our association acknowledges the complex history of the Fort and its role in the colonization of the area. We are actively working to incorporate the diverse perspectives and experiences of all individuals and communities who interacted with the Fort.

Members of the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. Individual memberships are $15 to $20. To become a member visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/.

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region. Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all
donations are tax deductible. The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is: Sharing and
preserving the first U.S. Army Post in the Puget Sound Region with guests.

May Talk: From Schuylkill Arsenal to Fort Steilacoom: U.S. Army Clothing & Equipage

Join us for a member’s speaker series at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 16, 2021, as Ephriam D. Dickson III talks about Schuylkill Arsenal clothing and  equipping the soldiers of Fort Steilacoom in Washington Territory.

As the mission of the U.S. Army shifted from the war with Mexico in 1848 back to the newly expanded western frontier, its logistical system  struggled with new challenges. The Quartermaster Department, which  provided clothing and equipage for all enlisted soldiers through Schuylkill  Arsenal near Philadelphia, worked to update designs but it took years for  these new patterns to reach remote frontier garrisons such as Fort Steilacoom located in today’s City of Lakewood, Washington.

picture of Mr. DicksonEphriam D. Dickson III is the chief curator at Yosemite National Park. He served as the curator at the Fort Douglas Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah, and more recently as the Deputy Chief of Field  Museums at the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Members of the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. Individual memberships are $15 to $20. To become a member visit  https://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/.

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its  establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American  interest in the region. Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is sharing andpreserving the first U.S. Army Post in Puget Sound with guests.

For more information, visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org.

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at: 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498

Fort Steilacoom hosts April talk about Mountain Artillery in the Pacific Northwest

Join us for a member’s speaker series 2pm on Sunday, April 25, 2021 as Colonel (Retired) Paul R. Rosewitz, a military historian, discusses the artillery used by the regular army stationed at Fort Steilacoom and around the American West.  

Paul Rowewitz photo
Military Historian Col. (Ret.) Paul Rosewitz

As the U.S. Army sought to standardize its System of Land Artillery in the 1830s, the Army quickly realized Mountain Artillery should be included in the inventory as it moved ever westward and over the various mountain ranges of the expanding United States. Col. Rosewitz will explain the development and employment of U.S. Mountain Artillery from its French origins and how its use quickly transformed from traditional mountain warfare to employment in a variety of environments in all the major conflicts from the 1830s to the 1870s and its final phased retirement in the 1890s.

Members will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. To become a member for a reasonable donation, visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/

Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region.  Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.  The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is: Sharing and preserving the first U.S. Army Post in the Puget Sound Region with area guests.

The photo of the firing Howitzer is from our sister U.S. fort, Fort Vancouver.

July Talk: The Myth of the M1855 Rifle Musket: Weapons of the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858

Three talks focus on Women’s History Month in March

The lives of 19th Century women in the Pacific Northwest will be celebrated in March as Historic Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood marks Women’s History Month.

The programs on three consecutive Saturdays, March 13, 20 and 27, focus on

  • The role of the laundress at military posts such as Fort Steilacoom, the first official U.S. presence in Puget Sound.
  • The day-to-day lives of women. 
  • The lives of women who could be found in Pierce County in 1850.

There is a charge for the virtual programs; the fort’s privately managed four buildings are 165 years old and require considerable care so all support is much appreciated. 

All events start at 2pm:

March 13:  Airing Your Dirty Laundry

Historical Interpreter and Museum Professional Peggy Barchi presents “Airing Your Dirty Laundry.” Learn about the daily grind that army laundresses endured and the skills it took to be one. Get your ticket here. 

March 20: In Her Shoes: Tracing the Footsteps of Pierce County Women in the mid-1800s

Public Historian Claire Keller-Scholz presents “In Her Shoes: Tracing the Footsteps of Pierce County Women in the mid-1800s.” Learn about the women and girls who lived on the Puget womenSound around 1850. Get your ticket here. 

March 27: Women’s Work in Washington Territory

Tacoma Historical Society’s Curator, Elizabeth Korsmo, presents “Women’s Work in Washington Territory.” Learn about the day-to-day lives of women in the 1850’s to 1860’s. Get your ticket here. 

Fort Steilacoom played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its construction in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington Territory and securing American interest in the region. 

The mission of the nonprofit Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is to share and preserve the first U.S. Army post in Puget Sound. The four surviving buildings are currently closed to tours but reopening is expected this spring.

For more information, visit https://historicfortsteilacoom.org.

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498