As visitors stroll through the Museum, it’s difficult to predict which displays will grab their attention. Everyone reacts differently. They will pass by some, pause at a few, and linger at others. But there is one display that stops visitors in their tracks, compelling them to stop and examine it. It is a striking photo of a young girl, her face centered in the frame. She is staring right through the camera, looking at something beyond.
The photo is old, older than black-and-white. It is sepia-toned. The kind you see in Ken Burns documentaries about the 1800s. The plaque next to the photo says it was taken in the 1880s, and the girl in the photo, she was born in 1872. That makes the photo one of the oldest in the Museum’s collection. The plaque says the girl’s name is Alice Borst, and she was born in the Snoqualmie Valley. In 1872, she was born before hospitals existed in the Valley. Before the cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend existed. Before trains, electricity, and cars had reached the Valley. She was born before the modern era of the Snoqualmie Valley.
Alice lived at an amazing moment in time. She witnessed the transition from one age to another. We live today in the same Valley as Alice, but the Valley that Alice was born into no longer exists. When she was born, the Snoqualmie Prairie, the traditional farm land of the Snoqualmie Tribe, filled the Valley. She witnessed the land sold to the Hop Ranch and transformed into one of the world’s largest hop farms. Dominating the Valley, it was a phenomenal agricultural achievement that relied completely on manual labor. Every fall, she saw a thousand people come together to harvest the crop at a time when the total Valley residents numbered only a few hundred. People would come from as far away as Haida Gwaii and the Fraser River Valley to help the Ranch with the harvest.
And these people travelled to the Valley without cars or railroads. In the Valley that Alice was born into there were no train depots, no railroad tracks, no highways, and no powerlines. Yet, in her lifetime, all of these made their way to the Valley. She witnessed the arrival of trains, roads, cars, and electricity. Eventually, she would have even been able to see a plane fly over her Valley.
Her life bridged two significant eras, and her memories paint a picture of a Valley that is difficult to even image now. She was able to recall wolves in the Valley and knew the last person in the Valley to witness a fatal wolf attack.
How do we know what Alice knew of the wolf attack or anything else involving her Valley. That is exactly why your Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum exists. Knowing Alice and her Valley is what the Museum does. The Museum passionately dedicates itself to acquiring and discovering and authenticating this knowledge. We check, double-check, cross-check constantly to drive toward accuracy and authenticity.
And we intend to keep on acquiring, discovering, authenticating, and refining this knowledge for the next generations of the Valley. One hundred years from now, the people of the 22nd century will want to know what you know and what you saw in your Valley. And to ensure the long-term future of the Museum, the Board has started the process of Strategic Planning, hiring Glick Davis & Associates to advise and guide us through the end-to-end process of a long-term plan. This will require several months of work by the Board, which begins this month. I am eager to share the results with you later this year.
That photo of Alice, where she is staring beyond the camera. Those piercing eyes are staring into a future where the Museum continues to protect and preserve the facts and artifacts of the Valleys that no longer exist.
To the Snoqualmie Tribe, thank you for the generous grant to cover the costs of maintaining and repairing the Museum and its farm shed. We sleep better knowing the a solid roof and walls are protecting the Museum’s artifacts!
To the ArtsFund and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation , thank you for the generous grant to allow us establish a Strategic Plan. By helping us preserve history, you have made an excellent investment in the future!
To the Rotary Club, thank you for the generous grant to cover the costs of the Museum’s exterior exhibit panels. With the exterior panels containing historical photos, you have made the Museum more accessible!
To the City of North Bend, thank you for your generous support of the Museum through your stewardship of the Gardiner-Weeks Memorial Park, the sustaining support to help cover some of the costs to operate the Museum and the covering the costs of the replacement of our sewer line.
-Kevin Burrows, Board President