Bringing the Past

to the Present

Whitman County Historical Society

PO Box 67

Colfax, WA 99111

509-397-2555

Projects

Lost Apple Project

 

     David Benscoter, a retired FBI and IRS Criminal Division agent, has ties to Pullman, having graduated from Pullman High and WSU, heads the Lost Apple Project. He became interested in apples after a Chattaroy, Washington, neighbor asked for help with the old trees on her property. Since then David has been on the lookout for apple varieties that have become extinct. His investigative nature led him to search for the origin of these heirloom trees throughout the Palouse and solicit to become associated with the Whitman County Historical Society.

      In 2016 WCHS partnered with Benscoter and the Lost Apple Project (LAP) in their mission to identify and preserve heritage apple trees and orchards in the Inland Empire. It is the goal of the LAP volunteers to identify and map apple trees and orchards planted prior to 1920 in eastern Washington State. LAP volunteers seek to work with land owners to encourage the preservation of these trees. 

     The LAP aims to search for a specific list of apple varieties that were known to have been grown in this area and are now considered extinct or lost. When lost varieties are rediscovered, steps will be taken to propagate the trees and make them available again to the public. 

     Benscoter's searches took him to the lower slopes of Steptoe Butte, on the former homestead property of Robert E. Burns. Burns and his wife Mecie began farming in 1888. It was on this land that the couple farmed, raised their family, and planted a huge orchard of fruit trees. The family hit hard times following the economic crash of 1893 and they finally lost their farm. Benscoter has found other promising sites for heritage apples. A local legend, James “Cashup” Davis, who built a short lived hotel on top of Steptoe Butte in the late 1800’s, also planted hundreds of apple trees on the butte. In nearby Oakesdale, banker and horticulturist, Edwin H. Hanford built a spacious three-story Victorian home on his 480-acre property in the late 1890s. He was a pioneer in agricultural experimentation and diversification. By 1901, he had one of the area's largest producing orchards and nurseries. The Hanford orchards and Hanford nurseries encompassed at least 220 acres. In 1900, the orchards included approximately 50 varieties of prunes, 60 varieties of pears, 4 varieties of cane fruits, 3 species of nut trees, and 145 varieties of apples.

     Part of the Burns orchard and the entire Davis orchard are included in land recently purchased by two couples who recognized the importance of preserving one of the largest and last known portions of native Palouse prairie. Ray and Joan Folwell, Pullman, together with Kent and Elaine Bassett, Bellevue, teamed their resources to acquire 437 acres surrounding the base of Steptoe Butte when it came up for auction in October, 2016. Most of the original Palouse prairie has been plowed for farming, leaving only small pockets of native vegetation in gullies or steep hillsides. It is the hope of the Folwell's and Bassetts to save this land in its native state.

Grafting and Purchasing

     In 2017 a total of 200 apple varieties were sent to experts in Oregon for testing, resulting in five new re-discovered apples and many considered heirloom types. Since 2016 four lost (thought to be extinct) apple varieties from the Palouse have been located and identified: Nero, Arkansas Beauty, Dickinson, and McAfee. The Fall Jeneting, located in Colfax, became the second known re-discovery of this variety. Additionally four other lost apples from locations in Washington and Idaho have been re-discovered through the efforts of LAP. 

     We were fortunate that many newspapers (including the New York Times), websites, and TV and radio stations ran stories about the rediscoveries. In addition, Dave Benscoter told the story of why so many lost apple varieties are believed to still exist in our region to seven civic and community groups in the past year. Two grafting classes as well as a scion (grafting wood) exchange were held in eastern Washington and organized by the Lost Apple Project. Fifty-five people received training on how to graft apple and other fruit trees.

     In 2017 the LAP sold nearly 100 apple trees, including 80 once lost varieties, to the people of eastern Washington. This year there will be a limited number of once lost trees available for sale. If you would like to purchase a tree email Dave Benscoter at dbens23@gmail.com. Also, if you purchased a tree in 2017 and it did not survive, please contact Dave and he will make sure you get a replacement tree. The cost is $25.00 to general public and $20 to WCHS members. These trees are on M111 rootstock which can grow to twenty feet. 

All proceeds help to fund further apple research and the WCHS.

VIDEOS

Greg Druffel, a WCHS member from Colton, WA has been organizing image and video resources from his family and community collections to share. Here are a few videos from his collection on YouTube.

For more information, write to Greg Druffel: gregory@inlandnet.com

RENDER ONE PIG

     The Whitman County Historical Society needs your generous contributions of recipes, food related stories and images for a book about food grown and prepared on the Palouse from the 1860s to the 1960s.

Please send us your contributions of recipes you remember, food related stories and pictures. If you have menus or details of meals cooked for large gatherings like picnics, farm crews, wakes and early weddings please share them with us. One of our main objectives is to show the original recipe and an update of early recipes to be acceptable for modern dietary needs addressing a healthy diet.

Read more about the project > 

Send recipes, stories and pictures via e-mail to Monika: syntos@pullman.com

Or mail to: 

Monika Kriebel

P.O. Box 361

Garfield, WA 99130

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Pullman Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Project

The WCHS Board of Directors voted to purchase the Northern Pacific depot in Pullman at their March 2018 meeting. Financing was made possible through a loan from an anonymous donor. The depot endeavor will be organized as a standalone project under the umbrella of the Society with the aim of paying off the loan as soon as possible. The Board appointed Kathy Meyer and Linda Hackbarth to co-chair a steering committee of Pullman volunteers to make plans for the use of the building and eventual fund raising efforts.

 

Meetings called in April and May attracted over forty residents who express an interest in voicing opinions about the future of the depot. Some sub-committees were organized and finally a new name immerged. The group decided to call the old Pufferbelly Depot, a name penned by the previous owner Dan Antoni, the Pullman Depot Heritage Center.

 

One of the first tasks has been to investigate the removal of three rail cars which have deteriorated and block the front of the historic building which dates back to 1917. The Inland Northwest Rail Museum plans to move the locomotive to Reardon. Two passenger cars are being advertised as free to anyone who will move them at their expense. The committee is also contacting companies who could cut up the cars and scrap the metal.

 

The group contracted with WSU’s Rural Communities Design Initiative (RCDI) to assist in the visioning process. Seventeen Pullman residents met with the design team for their first workshop in July. Many options for the building and grounds were discussed but the committee is focused on developing a “heritage center” which will celebrate the history of Pullman, its people and businesses, its agricultural vitality, and its tie to the university – all through a link to the railroads which fostered its development. The group is committed to creating a facility which will attract people of all ages to return for multiple visits and be a true asset to downtown Pullman.

 

Keep an eye on the changes as they occur and be ready to donate generously when the time arrives.

 

For more information contact:

 

Kathy Meyer               klemeyer@gmail.com                           509-334-9089

Linda Hackbarth         lindahackbarth39@gmail.com            208-627-3460

Current Photo of the Depot

Depot in 1920's