Fort Dalles Museum and The Umatilla House

A few weeks ago, Captain Cavedweller and I travelled to The Dalles, Oregon, and connected with my cousin and his lovely wife for a weekend of laughs, great food, and touring museums.

One of the places we visited was the Fort Dalles Museum. 

The museum is located in what was once the Surgeon’s Quarters of Fort Dalles. The building is the only remaining officer’s quarters of the 1856 Fort Dalles military complex.

It also happens to be one of Oregon’s oldest history museums, opening in 1905. A group of civic-minded pioneer women were instrumental in saving the building at the turn of the century.  Through an act of Congress, it became the property of the Oregon Historical Society who then authorized the women of the “Old Fort Dalles Historical Society” to open it as a museum in 1905.

Inside, the building is very well maintained and it feels like you’ve stepped back in time.

There were many historical pieces and even a large collection of schoolwork from children around the time of the museum’s opening.

Upstairs, there were several displays that caught my interest, like one of horseshoes.


And this one ,that showed a bonnet worn by Mrs. Phoebe Gregory Betts when she attended the Ford Theater the night President Lincoln was shot.

The bonnet was so well preserved, you had to wonder if she’d kept it as a reminder of what happened at the theater.

For those of you who have read my Grass Valley Brides stories, you’ll remember the Umatilla House was a place the women stayed when they traveled to Oregon. (And if you haven’t read them yet, I hope you’ll check out the book. It is such a fun set of three connected wholesome romances!)

Anyway, the museum had a lovely display all about the Umatilla House.

As you can see in the photo, it was located right on the banks of the Columbia River.

The museum had the hotel’s original key rack.

And the hotel’s list of 19 rules and regulations.

They also had info about the Umatilla House “bus” that transported guests.

It was just so fun to see all the details about the Umatilla House – and imagine my characters there.

Outside, the museum had buildings with old vehicles (from buggies to vintage cars), and across the street is the old Anderson Homestead that was interesting to tour. The house is a Swedish log homestead built in 1895.

From the museum’s website, it states, “Lewis Anderson, a Swedish immigrant, built this house in 1895 on Pleasant Ridge, 25 miles southwest of The Dalles. Its hand-hewn logs, mostly tamarack and some pine, came from areas farther up the ridge. The house was the social center of Pleasant Ridge in the late 1800s. There are three buildings that make up the Anderson Homestead; the log house, the granary, and the barn. The granary was a home before it was used for storing grain. The barn was the largest building on the homestead. The construction, with its careful fittings and the use of wood pegs in corners and at other intervals, reflects a high order of craftsmanship. The Anderson house was lived in until the 1950s. It was left vacant until the Wasco County-City of The Dalles Museum commission acquired the house in 1971, moved it to The Dalles, and restored it to original condition, largely through community volunteer efforts. The Anderson Homestead is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The Anderson Homestead is located just across the street from the Fort Dalles Museum Surgeon’s Quarters. Tours are provided by the staff of Fort Dalles Museum. You may tour the Anderson Homestead with a paid admission to Fort Dalles Museum.”

Also outside, was a sweet black and white cat that decided we were his friends. My cousin’s wife stopped to pet him as he lounged on a chair on the porch of the Surgeon’s Quarters. The cat followed us to the buildings that housed the vehicles, where my cousin sat outside petting the cat. It even trailed us across the street to the Anderson Homestead. CC ended up carrying our feline friend back to the museum, because we were afraid he might get hit by a car racing back across the street. The friendly cat just added to an already wonderful experience.

If you are ever in The Dalles, I highly recommend dropping by Fort Dalles Museum for a fascinating glimpse back in history!



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4 Responses

  1. I am 89 years old (2023) and I love everything history. My husband (who passed away in January 2023) and I spent many months during our lifetime together traveling 49 of the 50 states. Yet it seems we still missed this spot, although we had been in Oregon several times and even had an old friend living there at one time. Most of our traveling was in some sort of camping from sleeping in the car to trailering and tent camping. (Not my favorite.) I so miss our adventures but time marches on so I can only relive them through the books my favorite authors write. Thank you for continuing my travels via my armchair. However, you are causing me to miss a lot of sleep. (I just can’t put them down until I know what happens.)
    You have inspired me to personally write several small books for my young great grandchildren. They are stories about my childhood. I want them to have ideas and visions of a different world from which they are growing up in.

    1. Oh, Barbara! I love that you are writing down stories for your great-grandchildren. What a precious gift to them! Those are stories they will cherish forever.
      And that is so neat you and your husband did so much traveling. It sounds like you had many wonderful adventures!
      Wishing you more armchair travels that take you to wonderful places!
      All my best,

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