UPDATE: SOLD OUT. Enjoy an affordable family event for Dec. 11, 2021: Christmas at Fort Steilacoom 1863

Dec. 5 update: Tickets for this event have sold out except for a few individual slots. No tickets will be available at the door. Please considering visiting us on the first Sunday of a month, where you can learn about Washington Territory’s history and heritage. Get tickets here. 

Original post follows:

Join us at Historic Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11,  2021, as living historians re-enact the Christmas of 1863, highlighting how the holiday season might have been celebrated in these buildings nearly 160 years ago.

Re-enactors will gather in candlelight to talk, sing, dance and dine as our predecessors did in these buildings nearly 160 years ago. Visitors from 2021 will walk past the scenes and witness them as if they are spirits from the future. 

1863 is remembered as being in the middle of the U.S. Civil War, which had ramifications in Washington Territory. However, Christmas at Fort Steilacoom was a period of celebration and enjoyment as men, women and children hosted and participated in social gatherings, exchanged gifts and communed with others.

Visitors must wear masks in compliance with state guidelines. Tickets are $5 for an adult and $3 for youth. A family of up to two adults and four youth pays $10. Because this event is a fundraiser to support maintenance of the aging buildings, discounts are not offered. Volunteers who come in direct contact will also wear masks, Living historians performing at the event will follow state performance guidelines allowing them to un-mask if appropriate vaccination and/or negative test
results are provided.

Because of space limitations with the pandemic, tickets should be purchased in advance through Eventbrite.  Tickets may be purchased at the door, but availability is not guaranteed. You can check the Fort’s Facebook page to learn if the event is sold out. 

Fort Steilacoom, the first U.S. Army post to be located in Puget Sound, is on the grounds of Western State Hospital at 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, 98498. GPS and map software often direct people to Fort Steilacoom Park; to reach the historic Port, be sure to type in the street address.

About Fort Steilacoom

Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization. Fort Steilacoom is managed entirely by volunteers. There are no paid staff. Members of the association support the fort through donations and receive a newsletter three times a year about Pacific Northwest history. Marketing outreach is supported by a grant from the City of Lakewood’s lodging tax fund.

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 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 U.S. settlers to Washington and securing American interests in the region.  The Fort 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 http://www.historicfortsteilacoom.org

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