Colville has a fascinating history starting with the Native Americans who lived near the Columbia River and fished for salmon. Explorers from Europe and the newly formed countries of Canada and the United States explored rivers and mountains and drew up maps of the area as early as 1811. After all the dust settled, Colville was declared the seat of Stevens County and a regional center just south of the British Columbia, Canada, border.
Stevens County had been designated as a Preserve America Community. In 2008, First Lady Laura Bush, honorary chair of Preserve America, announced this designation. Preserve America is a Presidential Administration initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the initiative include a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past, strengthened regional identities and local pride. They also increase local participation in preserving the country’s cultural and natural heritage assets and support for the economic vitality of our communities. Information on all aspects of this initiative can be found at www.preserveamerica.gov.
Colville founders developed a “civic plaza” (the only one known of its kind in the state of Washington), which includes the Stevens County Courthouse, Colville City Hall, Colville Public Library and Colville Post Office on four corners in the geographical center of the city. National Historical Register buildings, along with other buildings and private homes, make up the Historic Building Tour, a creation of the Colville Historic Preservation Committee.
The Stevens County Historical Society (SCHS) volunteers operate the Keller Heritage Center daily in May from 1 to 4 pm and in June, July and August from 10 am to 4 pm. To arrange a special tour, call (509) 684-5968. The grounds are located on 700 N. Wynne Street just two blocks north at the Safeway stoplight. The SCHS operates a research and reference library full of historic documents, history and photographs. It’s open Wednesday by appointment. For more information go to www.stevenscountyhistoricalsociety.org.
The Keller Heritage Center is just one of numerous museums in the area that belong to The Heritage Network, an organization dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of historical items pertaining to the “Old” Stevens County Area. More than 20 area museums and historical centers participate with the Heritage Network. Visit www.theheritagenetwork.org to see all the museums in the area.
The Northeast Washington Genealogy Society has materials in the Colville Public Library, Keller Heritage Center and Stevens County Courthouse. The Society will help folks looking for ancestors in Stevens County. Visit www.newgs.org if you are looking for a lost ancestor.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates a family History Center in Colville and is part of the network of genealogy libraries that are open to the public Tuesday to Thursday. Call (509) 684-6642 for more information.