As I said in my last blog post, I am excited to share with you the history of our old farm. We have been blessed to call "Past Blessings Farm" our home for the past three and a half years. We are only the 5th owners of this 115 year old home . . . with the second owners living here for nearly 50 years.
Our home was built in 1898, but the history of this land actually begins over 50 years earlier. In 1850 the United States Congress passed the Donation Act, which enabled single men to claim 160 acres and a married couple to claim 320 acres in Northwest territories. This area was slower than many Northwest areas to have settlers take advantage of the donation act because of the Indian population. While the Spokane Indians were known to be peaceful and friendly, there was some fear that if a large settlement of white people suddenly settled here, conflict could break out.
In 1863 Baptiste Peone, a member of the Upper Spokane Tribe, was baptized as a Catholic. In 1865 Father Joseph Cataldo visited him and his tribe and encouraged Peone to start a church here. In 1867 a crudely erected church was built. It was called St. Michael's and was used for many years as a mission for the Spokane Indians. There was quite a division amongst the tribe, however, with Chief Spokane Garry calling it "treason" for Indians to take up the Catholic faith. Chief Garry was a practicing Protestant.
|The original St. Michael's mission|
which was later replaced by a larger church,
school and nunnery further up the hill.
This division amongst the Indians eventually became a matter of government involvement. President Grant issued what was called a "Peace Policy." This new order divided the Indians into two factions based upon religious preference. The Protestants were sent to the present Spokane Indians reservation. The Catholics were asked to choose between joining the Coeur d'Alene reservation or the Flathead reservation. Chief Garry, and a handful of his followers, refused to go a reservation and lived out the last of their life on the edge of the city, in poverty.
|Chief Spokane Garry of the Spokane Indians|
Over the Years. St. Michael's mission was rebuilt and evolved from a mission to a large church, nunnery, and school called Mt. St. Michael's. This facility is still going strong to this day and we have a lovely view of this old church and it's grounds from our farm.
|This is the present day Mt. St. Michael's . . . |
we can see the backside of it from our farm.
In 1879 the first settlers came to Orchard Prairie . . . a handful of men. This area was covered with lush grasslands, huge pine and fir trees and wild Indian ponies by the hundreds grazed contentedly. The soil was rich and black and the lower portions of the area were filled with creeks and springs. Cougars, bear, wolves, deer, coyotes, rabbits, grouse, pheasants and elk provided ample hunting opportunities for these new settlers. Only one woman accompanied these early settlers . . . Mrs. Margaret Doak, the wife of Thomas Doak. Doak Road is still one of the roads leading to Orchard Prairie today.
|The first non-Indian settlers came to Orchard Prairie in 1879|
With new reservations now established, and a small pox epidemic in 1885, the Indian population decreased dramatically. Settlers came and began settling the land and planting orchards in the fertile soil. The few Indians that did remain lived peacefully amongst their white neighbors. Unlike most of the northwest Indian tribes, that were known for their hunting skills, the Spokane Indians were very knowledgeable in agriculture and lived peacefully amongst the settlers, all sharing the same dreams and goals, as farmers.
In 1883 the Peone Schoolhouse was built. For those of you in the Spokane area, it was at the southeast corner of Peone and Bruce roads. This was down a steep hill from Orchard Prairie and at least a two mile walk for the young children. The first year, the school had 15 students and regardless of the snow, hills or distance, the children were always anxious to attend.
In 1894, as the area built up, a need for a school on Orchard Prairie became evident and a new school was built. That sweet little schoolhouse still stands a few blocks down the road from us and is still in use today. It is one of the oldest . . . and smallest . . . school districts in Washington State.
|Orchard Prairie School . . . I love this sweet old schoolhouse|
just a few blocks down the street from us. It is still in use today.
As the settlers began to fill the land in Orchard Prairie and nearby Peone, most did not want to attend the Indian Mission, St. Michael's. In 1879 religious services were held at the home of Tom and Margaret Doak. It soon was declared a Methodist congregation and in 1901 a new church, directly across the street from the Peone School, was built. Services continued here until 1939, at which time this building became the Peone Grange Hall. This Grange hall is now closed and the building is used as private home . . . in fact, I go to some wonderful antique sales put on by the owner of this great old landmark! The Peone school has long since been torn down and is now wheat fields.
In 1899, the Congregational Church was organized and they began meeting in the Orchard Prairie schoolhouse. In 1910 they erected a church on Bigelow Gulch Rd. It became the Central Grange in 1929 and is still in operation as a grange today. This old grange has fond memories for me . . . in the early days of my business, I put on several antique shows . . . called "Past Blessings Antique Show" at this sweet old grange.
|Originally the Congregational Church, |
this building has served as the Central Grange since 1929
and is still actively used today.
During this time, many farms were built. Many settlers had brought fruit trees with them and these were planted. Wheat and oats were also planted, along with potatoes, turnips, and carrots . . . Ah, carrots . . . now comes the history of our little farm.
|The headstone of our home's original owner, Andrew Perry Dye,|
who fought in the Civil War prior to coming as a settler to Orchard Prairie.
Royal Anzley "Roy" Cutler was born in Minnesota in 1889. His parents moved for a short while to primitive lands in Pueblo, Colorado. But his mother became very ill in the harsh conditions of this rough environment and they returned to Minnesota a couple of years later. In 1893, the country was hit with a severe depression. Roy's father, Milon tried to make ends meet by farming potatoes. Finally, in 1902, desiring a chance to buy farmland that could prove prosperous, Milon and his wife Lizzy moved Roy and their other children, Inez, Mary, Truman and Elsie to a little white clapboard house a few blocks away from our farmhouse. This house was torn down in the 1960s.
Roy was 13 when they arrived at Orchard Prairie. Besides helping his Dad farm, he enjoyed camping, attending Orchard Prairie School and playing baseball on the "Prairie Boys" baseball team. In 1913, he married the petite Phoebe Curryer, whose family had come from Garden City, Minnesota in 1898. They rented various farms in the area until they were able to buy their farm in 1920. This farm is what my family and I now lovingly refer to as "Past Blessings Farm."
By now, Roy had been farming for several years and he spent a great deal of effort developing a coreless carrot. "Cutler's Royal A Carrots" were a household word in the northwest during this time. Phoebe, was a tiny woman who was was famed throughout the area for her incredible baking and cooking skills. She became well known for her amazing carrot cakes and carrot puddings. I am told several women on Orchard Prairie still have these recipes and I am hoping to get a copy of them soon! At one point, Roy employed as many as 52 men during carrot season. The Cutler's remained on this property until the mid 1960's. Royal Cutler passed away in 1969 and Phoebe in 1985. I am told Roy had a great love of flowers and had amazing flower beds. When we moved in here, most of these beds had been overtaken with grass and weeds and we are slowly bringing them back to their former glory. I think this would please Roy.
When I stand baking in my kitchen, I think of the countless hours Phoebe spent making wonderful dinners and treats for her family and friends and I feel honored to be able to continue to share in this pastime. A couple of years ago, a woman in her 70's came to one of my sales and began telling me of wonderful days she spent as a little girl under the tutelage of Phoebe Cutler learning to make carrot cake, bake bread and other delights. She said Phoebe was a tiny woman with a big heart and an even bigger smile. It makes me happy to think of the love and kindness that went on under this very roof . . . if only these walls could talk!
The little farmhouse is small . . . but it has also had an addition since the Cutlers lived here. They raised 6 children here and showed that living simply is a thing of beauty. It is said that each child chose a place for their belongings. It might have been a cupboard or shelf. When we first moved in, one of the pantry cupboards in the kitchen had a closet rod in it. Prior to reading the history of the Cutlers, I thought that was odd. Now, I realize I had simply come upon one of the little ""chosen places" of a Cutler child.
I have a couple of "carrot decor" items in my kitchen as a way of paying homage to the rich heritage of our old farm. And, this next week, as I go on a retreat in McCall, Idaho, where we are able to work on not only quilt projects but really any creative project we want, I am planning to make a large sign for the old carriage house that will read "Cutler's Royal "A" Carrots". His grandson still resides just a couple blocks down the road and I am sure he would approve us paying remembrance to a life well lived here at Past Blessings Farm.
As we continue on here at Past Blessings Farm, I am driven to do well . . . to live a life that is pleasing. Phoebe was known to help others throughout the community and was said to have happily taught many young women how to cook. She worked hard helping her husband run a successful business and happily fed over 50 men a day during the peek of the carrot season. She was one of the original founders of the Orchard Prairie Homemaker's Club . . . a club that existed until only a couple years ago. This club helped teach the younger women skills of being farm wives, they put on community fund raisers and took on projects to help with the Orchard Prairie school or the community. They planted perennial borders around many of the farms and even helped with installing water systems and modernizing kitchens throughout the farm community. I so wish I could have been a part of this group early on. I had just a small glimpse into it before it dissolved. I wrote about it a couple of years ago here in a blog post entitled, "Becoming Betty Crocker."
Royal was a hard working entrepreneur who kept striving to make his carrots better and better. He embraced beauty and strived to make his home a colorful master piece through his love of flowers and gardening. When I trim my ancient old lilacs or dig in the dirt of my flower beds, I wonder about the time he spent with his hands in the dirt . . . were these times of reflection for him? Did he too feel nearer to God and to nature, just by communing with the earth as he planted and cared for his garden?
I want to show myself worthy . . . to pass on the work ethics that always lived on this old farm, to value and care for what is and always has been and to add new beauty and possibilities for it's future. While it is no longer a carrot farm, the land is still rich and produces a beautiful harvest of wheat each year. The old barn was traded for a new shop, but creativity and hard work still abound within it's walls. We love our family as Royal and Phoebe loved their family. We love our neighbors. We love the beauty of our surroundings. And, as I am sure Royal and Phoebe did many times, we give thanks to God above for bringing us to this beautiful farm. We love Orchard Prairie and, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home . . . here at Past Blessings Farm.