Major General Wesley Merritt’s Album

The Museum regularly receives phone calls from potential donors who have artifacts they would like to contribute to the Museum. Earlier this fall, we received a phone call from Carolyn A. in Woodland, Washington who had a scrapbook of pictures of Snoqualmie Falls and the power plant. She wanted to know if we would be interested, which of course we were. But it wasn’t until it arrived that we realized how significant it was. Not only does it have amazing photographs in it, the album originally belonged to a figure of international importance.

The album, titled Snoqualmie Falls in Harness, Souvenir of the Visit of the Commercial Club of Chicago’s, was a memento of their March 21, 1901 tour of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Plant. In the lower right corner it named the owner of the book, Major General Wesley A. Merritt.

Major General Wesley A. Merritt was born in New York in 1836 and graduated from West Point in 1860 when he began his long US military career assigned in Utah to the US 2nd Dragoons. As the Civil War broke out in 1862, he quickly began working his way up to Brigadier General by the end of June 1863. After the war he reverted to Lt Colonel were he served in the Indian Wars on the US western frontier through 1882 in various engagements against Native Americans whose homelands he was stationed to occupy including against the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Ute. In 1882 he was made Superintendent of West Point where he served until he was promoted to Brigadier General in 1887 and then Major General in 1895. During the Spanish-American War he was sent to the Philippines, becoming first US Military Commander of the Philippines before being sent to France to help negotiate the 1898 Treaty of Paris. In 1900, he retired from the US Army. He died in 1910 in Virginia. We believe that after his retirement that Wesley Merritt joined the commercial club tour. But do not know the exact circumstances that brought him the Valley. In 2015, Merritt was portrayed by Greg Dorris in the Filipino film Heneral Luna.

Major General Wesley Merritt from Yorkville Enquirer newspaper article, June 11, 1898.

The album was created in 1901, after the 1898 construction of the original power plant but before the 1910 construction of plant 2. The album captures the Snoqualmie Falls, which is a sacred site to the Snoqualmie Tribe, both before and after the large rock (referred to by some as Chief Seattle’s Rock) at the top was blown off. It also provides several clear images of the shoreline opposite the power plant (where the Salish Lodge now is) before major logging, the construction of the tunnel for plant 2, the construction of the farm and later the Snoqualmie Falls Lodge, allowing for a better visual understanding of the original landscape. The album also shows interior images of some of the buildings like the transformer house that are not normally seen and images of the transmission lines and associated buildings to get power from Snoqualmie to Seattle. In the back are also some images of around Western Washington, that very much depict the logging, fishing and shipping trade at the time.

Below is the album for your review. Let us know if there are any details in it that are particularly meaningful to you.

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