Rollie Schmitten’s history of early Lake Wenatchee reminds us of the power of community
Rollie Schmitten has written a terrific history of the early years of Lake Wenatchee that recounts stories of the Native Americans who lived in the area as well as the early white families who settled there and scratched out a life.
Rollie, the fourth-generation great grandson of the founder of the Schmitten Lumber Company, is a native of Cashmere. He and his wife Barbara live on Lake Wenatchee. Schmitten Lumber got its start with the purchase of timberland in the Lake Wenatchee area.
It took Rollie four years to piece together the stories and photographs for Lake Wenatchee Early History. Colville tribal elder Moses George was was instrumental in helping Rollie understand the P’squosa history in that valley.
Rollie shared history of the Wenatchi/P’squosa Tribe and their relationship to the Lake Wenatchee area.
He recounts the Wenatchi Tribal massacre by soldiers in the Upper White River as told by Colville Tribal historian Moses George, and the unfulfilled 1855 Treaty requirement to establish a 36 square mile Wenatchi Tribal Reservation at the Tribal fishing site (Wenatshapam) where the Icicle and Wenatchee Rivers meet.
Rollie tells the story of the valley’s first four families — Blankenship, Barnard, Bates and Brown — as well as chronicling other families instrumental in that area, including the Paton and Dickenson families. There are terrific photographs and wonderful stories about the folks who scratched a living and made life work in the valley.
Rollie’s book underscores the value and necessity of community — a value that has in recent years taken a back seat to individualism in our society. You cannot help but notice in the stories Rollie relates that people worked together and helped each other. When people needed help, neighbors pitched without a second thought.
Folks who are newer to our region might not be aware of Rollie’s exceptional life of public service. Here’s a short primer on his background. After graduating from WSU, he served as a captain in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. He worked for his family lumber company, then went on to serve on Cashmere City Council, Chelan County Port District and the state legislature.
He was the state director of Fisheries, then regional director of the National Marine Fisheries Service and later was appoint as National Director for Marine Fisheries where he worked for three presidents.
Thanks, Rollie, for all you do to make this region and this country a better place. At the moment, Schmitten’s book can be purchased at Midway Grocery and Plain Hardware, plus A Book for All Seasons in Leavenworth and Ridgeline Design in Wenatchee. Once other bookstores and the museums open up, he’ll be looking to add more locations.
If you are interested in the history of this area, this book is essential.