The Whitman Centennial, Incorporated - Part 3

 

Accordingly, on January 28, 1937, Russell C. Ewing, Regional Historian, Region IV, investigated the mission grounds and agreed with Hagen's earlier conclusions that the monument boundaries should be widened to include the grave site and memorial shaft owned by the Walla Walla Trust Foundation. [62] Inclusion of this property combined with additional expansion of the mission boundary westward and northward "would provide a somewhat more appropriate setting for the mission site and . . . would lend itself admirably to the historic development of the area." [63] said Ewing. However, neither the National Park Service nor the Whitman Centennial, Inc., was in a position to purchase additional property and legal obstacles hindered their efforts to secure the eight acres held in trust by the Walla Walla Trust Foundation. This property was established as a perpetual trust with the public as beneficiary. According to West, "It appears that it is impossible to secure a title to the monument ground, for no one has a legal right to petition the superior court to dissolve the trust." [64] When Branch Spalding, Acting Assistant Director of the National Park Service, notified Regional Historian Ewing that boundary extensions were doubtful, Ewing reluctantly submitted two alternative boundary proposals, neither of which mentioned the Trust Foundation's eight acres. [65] Despite the boundary difficulties, Assistant Director Spalding was not yet prepared to exclude this property from the national monument. He rejected West's request that the monument embrace only those holdings of the Whitman Centennial, Inc., and insisted on incorporating the additional eight acres:

[The Walla Walla Trust Foundation property] is a vital element in the entire project and we do not see how the monument can be established unless the Foundation is willing to relinquish their title to the Federal Government . . . . It is suggested that you proceed with negotiations for that property. [66]

Upon Spalding's insistence, the Whitman Centennial, Inc., began the lengthy and difficult process of clearing title to this property. Cameron Sherwood took responsibility for the project which took three years to complete.

During the intervening three years, the National Park Service continued to plan for the monument's master plan, historical and archeological research, and new entrance road. In contrast, the Whitman Centennial's contribution was limited, as West's 1938 letter to Marvin M. Richardson indicates:

It would have been practically useless to have said anything more back at the National Park Service, in view of the fact that Cameron Sherwood has not quieted the title on the balance of the land to be embraced within the boundaries of the National Park. Until this is done, there is nothing further that we can do. [67]

 

Last updated: March 1, 2015

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