The Whitman Centennial, Incorporated - Part 2

 

Two months later, in time for the August 13-16 centennial celebration, the Whitman Centennial, Inc., raised the $10,000 with which to purchase the mission property. On September 29, 1936, J. C. and Della Fentress deeded the 37.21 acres to the corporation. Thus, in 1936 the 37-acre "mission tract" belonged to the Whitman Centennial, Inc., while the eight-acre "monument tract" (comprising the grave and shaft) still belonged to the Walla Walla Trust Foundation (see map, Appendix C). Walla Walla citizens' generous contributions not only enabled the Whitman Centennial, Inc., to purchase the mission property but to raise an additional $822.46. [54] The achievement did not belong to the Whitman Centennial, Inc., alone, but to the entire city.

Overall, the Whitman Centennial, Inc., enjoyed great support. From the beginning, members of the National Park Service favored the Whitman National Monument project and cooperated with Herbert West and the Whitman Centennial, Inc. Yet, why was the National Park Service interested in the Whitman Mission? Hagen of the Historic Sites and Buildings Branch believed Waiilatpu had advantages that made it a good prospect for a national monument:

If the assumption that historic sites possess educational and historic values derived partly through the stimulative or inspirational power of their physical features and their historical associations is correct, then the possibilities of this site would have to be ranked among the best of those in the region . . . . It combines the features of a historic site, a shrine and a memorial. Furthermore, the controversy over the "Whitman Legend" and the connection of the site with the Oregon Trail have given it a widespread publicity that will invite both historian and laymen to the national monument. [55]

From a historical, social and political standpoint, Russell C. Ewing, Regional Historian, Region IV, considered this project to be of national importance. [56] Clearly, the National Park Service was interested in the mission for both its historic and memorial qualities. Yet, the National Park Service's ability to act on that interest was due, in part, to the 1933 reorganization of its system.

Prior to 1933, the government placed relatively little priority on the acquisition of historic sites. Of about 77 national monuments established between 1906-1933, only 17 were historical and 16 were prehistoric significance. [57] An important reorganization occurred in 1933 when the National Park Service became responsible for nearly all Federally-owned parks and monuments. Labor and funds from President Roosevelt's newly-organized Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Project Administration enabled the Service to carry out a program of preservation, restoration, planning, and interpretation of historical areas. [58] Historical technicians, such as Hagen, were hired to "analyze the historical qualities" [59] of areas, the Branch of Historic Sites was established and the Historic Sites Act passed in 1935. The reorganization had a tremendous impact on the scope of the National Park System. Of the permanent additions to the National Park System between 1933-1963, 14 were natural, 13 were recreational, and 66 were historical. [60] Five historical areas joined the System in 1936, none of which were then "national historic sites". Thus, when members of the Whitman Centennial, Inc., were ready to establish a monument, a new national policy enabled the National Park Service to meet their needs.

 

On November 27, 1936, Herbert West informed Arthur E. Demaray, Acting Director of the National Park Service, that the Whitman Centennial, Inc., was prepared to convey the Whitman Mission property to the U. S. Government. In response, Mr. Demaray outlined the following procedure:

We desire to have a representative make an investigation of the area and submit recommendations as to what the boundaries should be. When these boundaries are determined . . . you may prepare the necessary deeds and abstracts of title with a view to conveying the lands to the United States. [61]

 

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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