Old Mission, one man’s dream
In the quiet Washington State town of Cashmere is a rather special place, the realisation of one man’s dream. The pioneer village, known as Old Mission, brings together a collection of around twenty historic buildings assembled from the surrounding area. It and the attached museum owe their existence to the way that man’s dying wish inspired a town.
We were welcomed by an enthusiastic and friendly volunteer who took time to explain the collections to us and how the museum was founded. That story of the museum’s founding is told on its website. The account has been shortened since our visit; the extract below is as I read it at the time:
‘In 1955 Willis Carey had a dream, and he had cancer, and it was going to be a race to see which won.
During his lifetime he amassed a personal collection of Native American artifacts, historical relics, antiques and curios that were famous throughout Central Washington. As his cancer progressed, he lamented to friends there was no place to house his treasures after his death. The word spread among the local businessmen and the Chamber of Commerce, led by John McDonald, began exploring the possibilities of building a local public museum for the Carey artifacts.
On a late summer day the committee visited the terminally ill Willis Carey at his home to acquaint him with the proposal. McDonald later reported that “tears of joy streamed down Carey’s face” when he realized his collection might be preserved for the people of Cashmere. He immediately called for paper and pen and on the spot, signed over his entire treasure. He died the next day.
Nearly 30 years after Carey’s dream was realized another addition was opened, the Russell Congdon wing with its collection obtained from archaeological sites on the Mid-Columbia. It has been called the most significant collection in the world. During the same time, a small village of original pioneer cabins was growing below the museum, preserving the rich heritage of the pioneer’s contribution to the valley.’
We started our visit in Old Mission itself. The collection includes log cabins, a general store, small hotel, mission church, school house and more. You can’t go inside but can look into each through the doorways to see that all have been furnished with genuine artefacts from their era.
Here are some of my favourites, with descriptions taken from the free leaflet we were given along with our tickets.
The General Store was originally built as a home by Archie Smith, in 1846.
Inside it is crammed with all the items a pioneer family might need to buy; including linens, foodstuffs, kitchen and farm equipment and more.
The Horan log cabin was built in 1872 by Samuel C. Miller, the first permanent settler in the Wenatchee Valley, on his homestead. In 1898 it was the birthplace of Congressman Walt Horan, the Horan family having bought it in 1896. The Horan family provided all these antique furnishings.
The Buckhorn Saloon (on the left) was built as a cabin in 1886 on Badger Mountain, north of Wenatchee (a few miles east of Cashmere. It has been adapted to serve as Old Mission’s saloon. The Post Office (on the right) dates from 1872. It was originally a trading post in the city of Wenatchee, operated by the same Samuel C. Miller who built the Horan Cabin. It later became a post office.
The Mission Hotel was built as a cabin in 1898 but has been fitted out as a typical late 19th century hotel.
You can go into the corridor to see several rooms opening off it, including this, the dining room.
The Weythman Cabin was built in 1891 by Jim Weythman as an addition to his log cabin, to honour his new bride, Elizabeth; unlike most of the structures here it is not built of logs but of boards battened onto a frame.
The Richardson Cabin was built in 1888 with logs cut at Horse Lake above Wenatchee. It was home to a large family; the Richardsons had twelve children!
This one room schoolhouse, dating from the 1880s, was the first in the Cashmere Valley. The volunteer in the museum told us that for the last week of the school year the local fourth graders are taught in this school house; many of them wear historical costume for the classes. What a great idea!
The St. Francis Xavier Mission is the only non-original structure here; it’s a replica of an 1873 mission church which burned down. This modern copy was built by volunteers from the local St. Francis Catholic Church.
This little stretch of railroad is named the John McDonald Railroad, after the man who led the plan to build the museum.
It has a 1922 Great Northern Caboose as well as a number of buildings. These include a ticket office and various pieces of railroad equipment.
In addition to the buildings I have described above there are several other cabins; a jail and sheriff’s office; millinery shop, saddle shop and blacksmith: plus a mine portal and assay office.
We had the village to ourselves. Maybe the heat had kept some people away or maybe it’s never busy on a weekday? I really enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere of this pretty setting. That is, apart from when one of the sprinklers that were watering the grass caught me unawares while taking a photo and I let out a yelp!
We then had a quick look round the museum, appreciating its coolness (it was a very hot day) and the clear way it was set out. We were most interested in the pictographs displayed and the objects relating to the Native American way of life in this region.
There are also paintings by local artists; artefacts from the pioneer days; archaeological finds (tools, jewellery and household objects); dioramas showing local fauna and other scenes; and much more. You could easily spend an hour here in addition to the time you take to walk round the outdoor buildings.
I was prompted by the fascinating posts of several other bloggers recently, notably The Eternal Traveller‘s posts about Miles Historical Village in Queensland and Suzanne of Cats and Trails and Garden Tails post about Nevada City, to share this excellent museum with you all.
I visited Cashmere in 2017
How nicely preserved is this little piece of history, and so touching that the donor of artifacts died the next day after the deal was done. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Ruth 😊 Yes, I found that touching too.
What a quirky, interesting story. Not on te usual tourist trail, as is to be expected with you!
Well, we do the usual tourist things too, but we do also like to find the quirky sights 🙂 Thanks Margaret!
Terri Webster Schrandt
What a great story, Sarah! I’m always excited to read your accounts of your visit to Washington state (now my home state), along with Susanne’s from Cats and Tails and Garden Tales who lives near the coast. The Wenatchee area is a 3-hour drive from us and this looks like a neat place to stop and see. Your images are gorgeous!
This is definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area Terri, although I’m not sure there’s enough to see to justify a three hour drive just for this 😆 I hope you’re settling down well in WA – I found it an incredibly beautiful state!
Terri Webster Schrandt
It would a place to visit on the way to Leavenworth (the Bavarian town). We love our state 🙂
We stopped in Leavenworth too but it was probably the place in WA we liked least tbh. We’d planned to have morning coffee there but we could only get parking for 20 minutes so we just had a quick look around and left. Having visited the real Germany so many times, and Austria, this just felt like a weird Disney-esque pastiche 🙄
But we got a good cup of espresso at a large farm shop complex in the valley and had a little walk and picnic at Peshatin Pinnacles State Park before visiting Cashmere, so it was a great day overall. We’d driven up from Yakima (loved the drive through the Yakima Canyon!) and ended the day at Chelan, all in gorgeous sunshine!
Terri Webster Schrandt
It’s fun to read this because I know these places you visited in Washington, Sarah! My hubby has visited Germany and Austria several times, so I know what you mean about Leavenworth. If you ever make your way back to Washington you’ll have to visit us in Spokane 😁
We tend not to go back to places but if ever we do let’s meet up for sure!
the eternal traveller
Our favourite type of museum to visit, full of living history. This one looks fabulous and how lovely to know that Mr Carey’s dream was fulfilled. Thanks for including my post in your links. 🙂
Thank you 😊 After reading your recent posts about Miles I feel sure you would love it here, although I believe it’s rather smaller.
the eternal traveller
Sarah, you might enjoy seeing this post too. Sovereign Hill is the best living history museum in Australia. It’s located in Ballarat Victoria, Mr ET’s hometown. https://theeternaltraveller.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/gold-fever/
You were right, it’s just my sort of place!
It must have been a lot of fun browsing through that fascinating collection. Isn’t it a good job that we have a history of eccentric people with unusual hobbies – without them, the world would be devoid of a lot of fascinating collections and offbeat museums, and would be a much poorer place for it!
Absolutely! I have a particular enthusiasm for these ‘one person’s pet project’ museums and collections and the US seems to be particularly rich in them 🙂
Wonderful pictures, Sarah! I had forgotten how cool the Pioneer Village is! We often visit the Wenatchee area but only stopped by this treasure in nearby Cashmere once before years ago. Thanks for the reminder, we’ll have to stop by on our next trip east of the mountains!
Thank you Susanne. We were so glad we’d stopped off here, it was a lovely visit 🙂 I’ll be interested to see photos if you take any on a future visit, to see if it’s changed at all. I would doubt it however, unless of course they’ve added more buildings!
And thanks for the shoutout, too! I’m happy that we bloggers inspire one another! 🙂 🙂