40 for 40: Stevens County
Colville Indian Agency

By Holly Chaimberlainprevious story | next story | all stories

Major John Sims, Acting Indian Agent, oversaw the construction of a log cabin at what became Chewelah to serve as the Colville Indian Agency in c. 1870. Tribes served from this location included Wenatchi, Spokane, Chelan, and Kalispel. The cabin, built with mortise and tenon joints rather than nails, continued in this role until 1885, when Agency operations were relocated to Fort Spokane. Sims and his wife, Lucy remained living in the cabin, and also homesteaded the site. The Dr. S.P. McPherson family purchased the cabin in 1902, and descendants owned it for more than 100 years. With long-term stewardship in mind, the family donated the rare Territorial Period cabin in 2010 to the Stevens County Historical Society (SCHS), which hopes to use it to interpret the Indian Agency period.

Unfortunately, when the repair process began to return the rustic building to its original configuration and open it for public use, unanticipated structural problems were revealed and increased fundraising was required for stabilization. Needs included a foundation, work on roof and floor, and replacement of sill logs. To help draw broad attention to the preservation of the cabin, the Washington Trust partnered with the SCHS in 2013 to place it on the Most Endangered Historic Properties list.

Fundraising continues, but rehabilitation work is proceeding on the National Register-listed building. In the years since its Most Endangered listing, archaeological work has been completed and later additions and interior changes have been removed. This spring and into the summer, the cabin was raised up and a foundation poured underneath. Work is still planned on the chimneys and roof, and interpretation. The Washington Trust ran a cover story in our special archaeology issue of Trust News in October 2015 about the archeological components of the project, and the article also gave a great summary of the upcoming project phases.

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights one of our most popular programs, the Most Endangered Historic Properties List, and shows just how much need there is for advocacy across the state. If you would like to support this program and spur more positive outcomes for Washington's historic resources, please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust to support the advocacy work we do through our Most Endangered Program. Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

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