History is defined as “a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.” When it comes to local history, the Education Committee enjoys telling and retelling the many stories of people and places of Boundary County.
Museum Outreach to County Schools
Here in Boundary County, the Museum offers a variety of programs for 4th graders from around the county. Fourth graders were selected by the Historical Society as fourth grade is when the Idaho history curriculum is taught in our schools.
One of these is the Edward L. Bonner story, the source of our wonderful city’s name. Dottie Gray, Howard Kent, Dave Gray and Sue Kemmis, members of the Museum Education Committee, visit the local schools, Valley View, Naples and Mt. Hall, as well as the Home School Co-op, Cornerstone School, McCormick School, Mountain View Mennonite School, Kootenai Valley Mennonite School and Classical Conversations. Artifacts and photographs from the Museum’s collection are used to bring to life the story of 22 year old Edward L. Bonner and how he came to Boundary County.
Imagine being a 22 year old from New York in 1861 embarking on a journey by ship through the Panama Canal, and then overland from San Francisco to The Dalles and finally stopping in Walla Walla. From there he ventured north in anticipation of making his fortune during the gold rush to Wildhorse Creek, Canada, arriving in the Kootenai Valley and starting a ferry service in a little spot along the Kootenai River which eventually became his namesake.
Among the artifacts chosen are a gold pan, traps, furs, mining tools, mercantile inventory and an “authentic” 1863 map of the inland northwest. To the excitement of the young people, they learn the history behind the town’s name and they also learn that not all history is recorded accurately.
Upon leaving the schools, the Committee give each of the students a copy of the 1863 map, and The Faces of History, a small book containing images of the portraits painted by Bette Myers that hang in Portrait Hall at the Museum.
Partnership with Kootenai Tribe of Idaho
With the aid of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, who graciously provide funds for educational programs, the Museum is able to provide busing for the Boundary County School District 4th Graders to visit the Museum during the month of May. Dottie and Dave Gray, Howard Kent, Audrey Schenck, Buelah Patterson, David Koon and Sue Kemmis and other volunteers guide the young people through the Museum telling interesting tales about the White Caribou, Miz May Hawkins, Dr. Ezra Esher Fry, the Kootenai Tribe and, of course the Kootenai Kid. The fourth graders enjoy the exhibits and recite “Hickory Dickory Dock” in search of the elusive white mouse.
The Committee’s goal is to provide interesting and fun historical stories of Boundary County, so the children will develop an appreciation of this beautiful place we call home.
Idaho Day at the Museum
The Idaho Legislature, in 2015, established an official Idaho Day to be observed each year on March 4 to commemorate the creation of Idaho by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The Idaho Statehouse and many communities around the state present programs.
And so, since this time the Historical Society and Museum has held an event for the fourth graders on, or near March 4th, at Portrait Hall in recognition of Idaho Day.
Oh, What a Dig!
In small groups, (with a cadre of Museum volunteers as leaders who were having as much fun as the kids!), the students constructed a grid over their “dig sites” using rulers and string. They labeled the axes to give common language to each sextant of the site. They imagined themselves as homesteaders to this new territory and prepared to clear their land. But, oh look! There is something sticking out of the dirt and gravel. Their challenge was to discover what artifacts might be waiting to be uncovered, and to do so carefully so as not to damage the treasures that await them. Plastic spoons, toothpicks, and paint brushes were transformed into tools needed by budding junior archaeologists. The location of each find was drawn and labeled on the group’s paper grid before continuing to expose all the treasures in the dig sites.
Each site contained at least one real artifact from the Museum’s collection: stone scrapers, stone axes, stone fish weights, and even some trade beads. They discovered other clues to plants and animals that may have been here at the time: huckleberries, morel mushrooms, rose hips, sweet grass, snail shells, bones, leather strips, feathers, and deer hair. The children easily identified the Kootenai Tribe as the first inhabitants of the land, and these artifacts would have been a part of their lives and culture.
Following the enthusiastic and successful dig, Curator Sue Kemmis, led the groups in a debriefing “show and share” discussion of what can be learned about people and places from the artifacts left behind. The children were eager to share what they had found and what they had learned. After a brief clean-up, each student was treated to an Idaho shaped cookie, with a special star marking the location of Bonners Ferry, baked by the Museum volunteers, before boarding their buses back to school.
New Ideas for 2019
“My Town Idaho”
With the 2019 theme being “My Town Idaho,” the Museum held a history walk in downtown Bonners Ferry. Forth grade students visited various buildings along Main Street, hearing colorful stories of the businesses that existed one-hundred years ago. Cameo appearances by some of our towns past proprietors added a theatrical touch to the walk.
Following the walk, the students returned to the Museum’s Portrait hall, to illustrate their favorite story or building. Their illustrations will be on display at the Museum for the Spring months.