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Volunteers preserve local history

Blue Mountain Heritage Society continues to honor the past


Lane Gwinn

The 1900 Smith Hollow Country School was moved from its home in Smith Hollow to its current location on Front Street where it serves as a museum. During it's time the Smith Hollow School, which served grades one through eight, was considered one of the best-built and best-equipped schools in the county. According to the Blue Mountain Heritage Society website, students ranged in age from 6 to 20 years old. Teacher pay, at $90 to $114 a month, was among the highest in the county.

DAYTON-"It's really amazing how much has been done with just volunteers. We have a really committed group of people working together to preserve our local history," said Blue Mountain Heritage Society (BMHS) President Paula Moiso.

Since the BMHS was officially formed in 2004, the all-volunteer group has been hard at work educating the public about the rich and diverse history and resources of southeastern Washington through three heritage museums including the Palus Museum, the Smith Hollow Country Schoolhouse and the Dodge Quarantine Cabin, along with the Sacajawea Statue.

The Society also collects and maintains information about the area's inhabitants. Moiso said a compilation of interviews of people in the community who attended small schools or served in the war has been a worthwhile process that has been going on for years.

Mosio said the interviews, recorded by Randy and Terry James, are often shown at the BMHS annual dinner and Groundhog Dinner fundraiser. She said she is hopeful that the Society will be able to have some video interviews playing in this year's fair booth.

"There have been a few interviews that we were able to give to the family after a loved one has passed away. It has been very rewarding in that respect," Mosio said.

Volunteer Liz Carson has spent more than 20 years compiling The Columbia County Family History Collection, consisting of more than 125 three-ring binders packed with news clippings, documents and family information.

BMHS volunteers also serve as museum docents and perform all the work of maintaining the grounds and facilities.

The most recent accomplishment was the addition of an underground sprinkler system at the Smith Hollow Country Schoolhouse Museum. A grant from the Warren Foundation provided funds to install the system that will allow for consistent, short cycles of watering needed to grow the types of grasses that were present at the original school location. BHMS board member George Gagnon took the lead with help from Roz Edwards, Dallas Dickinson, Mike McQuary, John Hutchens, Alan Huwe and Randy James.

Another recent undertaking was moving a patriotic display from the schoolhouse to the Palus Museum, located on Main Street, across from the Main Street Veteran's Memorial. The display includes a collection of items, including uniforms, medals and news clippings, from local veterans who have served the nation from the Spanish-American War to the Vietnam War.

Information on pioneer families, veterans, and school district records has been copied, scanned and digitized and is available to view at the Smith Hollow Country Schoolhouse and on the BMHS website.

The Society is funded largely through memberships, donations and grants. Anyone interested in local history is encouraged to become a member. Meetings are held the second Thursday of each month in the Delany Room at 9 a.m. and the public is welcome.

"Like many other small towns, we have an aging volunteer base and are always looking for more helpers. We need younger, stronger people," Mosio said.

Stop in and Visit

Blue Mountain Hertiage Society Museums are open

from 1-4 p.m. on Fri.-Sat through November

Palus Museum, 426 E. Main

Smith Hollow Country Schoolhouse, 113 Front Street

Dodge Quarantine Cabin, 113 Front Street

Arduous Journey Sacajawea sculpture, Corner of 1st and Commercial streets


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