Preserve America Community:
Stevens County, Washington
Stevens County, Washington, (population 40,000), located in the northeastern part of the state, was named for the Washington Territory’s first governor. The community was originally a fishing and cultural center for the Sinixt Tribes.
The Hudson Bay Company founded the first European community in 1825 near the river at Fort Colville as its primary shipping outpost west of the Mississippi. Mineral resources attracted Americans and Asians in the 1850s and within a few years, the county was one of the Northwest’s three top producers of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc.
As part of Washington Territory in 1863, Stevens County represented an enormous area covering what are now 13 counties of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana. The current boundaries of the county were established in 1911.
In 1938, Grand Coulee Dam became the largest dam in the world, backing up the Columbia River across the western side of Stevens County. This event changed the culture and economy of the county forever, as prime agricultural and fishing grounds, the main transportation route, and a number of communities were exchanged for electric power, irrigation, flood control, and recreation. Today, the economy of Stevens County is based on forest products, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and public services.
The Stevens County Historical Society is based in the Keller Heritage Center, which comprises the Craftsman-style Keller House, built in 1910; the General History Museum and Park, with exhibits dating to the early 1800s; the 1950s Graves Mountain Lookout Tower; and Pioneer Village, which features a machinery museum, blacksmith shop, mining display, trapper’s cabin, and an 1880s schoolhouse.
Other historical attractions in Stevens County include the Kettle Falls Interpretive Center, the 1929 Old Schoolhouse in Loon Lake, and the Chewelah Museum.
For more than 90 years, the Spokane Tribal Pow Wow has been held in Wellpinit, a small town in the southern part of the county. The pow wow is one of the largest in the nation, drawing Native American dancers and their families from many tribes around the country.
For more information
Stevens County: www.co.stevens.wa.us
Stevens County Historical Society: www.stevenscountyhistoricalsociety.org
Posted March 24, 2009