The LCHS Archives
“Our Very Own Time Machine”
By Barbara Coyner
As the editor of Preservation Moscow, the annual newsletter for the Moscow Historic Preservation Commission, I certainly know the value of the archives at the Latah County Historical Society. After the Commission members select a local historical theme as its focus, I get to do the research for the annual newspaper insert released each fall. Automatically the quest for photos and content leads me to the LCHS collection, with curator Zach Wnek often serving as the tour guide. Knowledge of the collection is paramount, because LCHS houses a huge array of personal journals, oral histories, photos and other pieces of the area’s history. It is easy to get side-tracked while delving into one particular theme.
Just to illustrate the value of the LCHS collections, award-winning New York Times author Timothy Egan dug up a lot of his information for his book The Big Burn from the very same archives I use. His blockbuster best seller on the famous 1910 fire mined much background information from local oral histories and journals. A favorite topic in Egan’s book was the riveting story of Ione “Pinkie” Adair, the spunky young woman who homesteaded near Avery and barely escaped the raging fire. Adair and her family once lived in the McConnell Mansion. Other writers, authors and researchers, not to mention dozens of family historians, also comb LCHS resources for their own treasures. And school kids routinely get field trips to learn more about the history of Latah County.
Living in Latah County for 34 years, I’ve learned the unique history of the company town of Potlatch, and the huge array of country western greats like Johnny Cash, George Jones and Dolly Parton who performed at the area dance hall known as Riverside. Serving for years on the Latah County Historic Preservation Commission and writing community news introduced me to history from other outlying towns, as well. The infamous bank robbery at Troy, the rich mining history of the HooDoos, the English royalty that settled Bovill, the wild and woolly times in Potlatch Lumber Company’s logging camps, the castle at Juliaetta...the list is endless. Such snippets of history are documented at the LCHS archives through newspaper articles, photos and journals.
The country seat of Moscow has its share of good stories. Known in its early days as Paradise and Hog Heaven, Moscow saw the footprints of area tribes, miners, ambitious business people and politicians, along with university founders. If you ever read Caddy Woodlawn to your children, then maybe you knew that author Carol Ryrie Brink was from Moscow. Her tragic background is chronicled in the archives, as well as Moscow’s curious mail order religion known as Psychiana. These are just a few of the treasures that I find at the LCHS archives.
Because the collection at LCHS always adds new chapters to its holdings, this place will remain a destination and prime source for my research and writing. The ride through the decades in the well-cared-for “time machine” is never dull!