Museums can give you much more than just a peek at the past; they can transport you into another era and bring the past alive.
The Okanogan County Historical Society is committed to preserving the past and bringing it alive for visitors to North Central Washington. With museums and regional exhibits, visitors to Okanogan Country can experience history in person.
Methow Valley Region
In the Methow Valley Region, take advantage of free admission at the Shafer Museum in Winthrop to wander through outdoor exhibits, early day cabin, and displays of artifacts used by early settlers, miners, and ranchers in the Methow Valley.
Heart of the Okanogan Region
The Okanogan County Historical Museum and Firehall Museum Complex feature a replica of an old west town from the early 1900's with an old-fashioned main street display, an old settlers cabin, the original town gazebo, a display of the apple industry history, and a research center. The Firehall in the complex was rebuilt from the original plans. You can still see the original fountain/water trough, early 1918-era fire trucks, and old fire suppression devices. The Okanogan Historical Society maintains a network of signs throughout the county to identify and describe some of the many historic sites and points of interest. To find these snapshots of the past, check with the Historical Society for their locations.
Near the entrance of Conconully State Park is a replica of the first county courthouse. Its sod roof and supporting architecture is typical of many ranch cabins from the early years of white settlement in the Okanogan. In 1889 Conconully, a beacon for prospectors all over the west, was the county seat. Learn more at the Conconully Museum, which focuses on the area as it was at the turn of the century and features everyday living including mining and ranching
One of the most inspiring stories of the Okanogan is that of Frank Matsura. During the “flowering” of Japan - the opening of its borders in the late 1800’s - Frank Matsura, a member of the upper class Shogunate, immigrated to Washington State. He arrived in Conconully in 1903 as a cook’s helper, moved to Okanogan in 1907, and soon became a beloved member of the community and world-renowned photographer. His funeral in 1913 drew more than 300 American Indian and white mourners. His photographs are a significant legacy both artistically and historically. Artistically, he was an evocative photographer who had the ability to put people at ease. He frequently traveled to the Colville Reservation to socialize with American Indian friends. His photographs of American Indians are remarkable for the un-contrived and relaxed glimpse he gives of their way of life. As the frontier days ended, Matsura recorded with his camera the historical transition. The Okanogan Independent wrote, “He was always on the job. Whenever anything happened Frank was there with his camera to record the event.” The Okanogan County Historical Society houses half of Matsura’s original collection of photographs and a replica of his studio
North Okanogan Region
The Okanogan Borderlands Museum in Oroville hosts a special exhibit of Native American, Mining, and Railroad artifacts every year. They also sponsor the annual Heritage Days & Miner's Rally event in August which features an art show, antique trucks, farmers market, and Native American dancers & drummers. Absorb some of the rich history of the Region at the old Train Depot Museum or the McDonald log cabin Customs House at the Okanogan Borderlands Historical Museum.
Tonasket Elementary School has a map of the old one-room, sod roof, schoolhouses that can still be found across the county.
Fifteen miles east of Oroville is the former boomtown of Old Molson. The Old Molson Ghost Town Museum has full-scale buildings, farming and mining equipment on five acres. A quarter mile north is the Molson School Museum, a 1914 brick building with 4 floor displays, a restored classroom, the original school library, and wonderful displays of hand tools, household artifacts and photographs from days gone by. A tea room is open in the schoolhouse from June through August.
Curlew, in the Northeastern corner of Okanogan Country, is home to three sites on the National Register of Historic Places: the Curlew School, Curlew Bridge, and Ansorge Hotel. Walk into a time portal back to 1936 - the fully restored 100-year-old Ansorge Hotel retains most of its original furnishings.
Republic has a turn-of-the-century look and a heritage based on mining and logging. The Republic Historical Center features a collection of historical photos and exhibits that depict the area history and the oldest structure in Republic, the Kaufman Cabin. Republic’s merry-go-round has fully restored hand carved horses built by the famous Armitage Herschell Spillman Company and is one of only 150 left in the U.S. This merry-go-round has been a tradition at the Ferry County fair on Labor Day weekend since 1958.
Visit the Stonerose Interpretive Fossil Center for a historic walking tour guide to the murals around Republic. Scientists from all over the world and schoolchildren from all over the northwest travel to the Stonerose Interpretive Center and Eocene Fossil Site to study beautifully preserved fossils. Fifty million years ago the area currently occupied by the City of Republic was part of an ancient lake. That lakebed hardened into shale and preserved (fossilized) the plants, insects and fish that drifted to the lake bottom.
Malo has an Antique Truck and Car Museum with a 1925 Howard Cooper, one of four ever built, and a 1926 Yellow Knight, one of only three known to still exist! The museum is home to many other antique cars and historic farm equipment, along with a recreated blacksmith shop.
Columbia River Region
The Colville Tribal Museum located in Coulee Dam features many historical displays of early Indian settlements and their lifestyles. Created with artifacts collected and donated by the Colville Confederated Tribes, Colville Tribal Museum tells the story of a people who lived along the lakes and the Columbia River in the Coulee Corridor region. Discover murals, photography, artifacts, and a fascinating diorama depicting traditional salmon fishing.
Ives Landing, which later became known as Pateros, was established around 1896 by its founder, Lee Ives. In 1900 Charles E. Nosler, a Spanish American War veteran, acquired most of the town site. He renamed it Pateros after a village built largely on stilts he had known in the Philippines. The city was later incorporated in 1913. Learn about the development of the region and view the breath taking scenery at the Pateros Museum.