The first white man in the area that is now Colville was David Thompson, who came in 1811 to explore the Columbia River for the Northwest Fur Company.  A few months later a water route was opened from Astoria up the Columbia through Canadian waters, and overland to the Great Lakes or Hudson Bay.  During that first year, nearly 11,000 pounds of furs were reported shipped to the fur markets of London from the Colville area.

In 1825, Fort Colville, named for Lord Andrew Colville, a London governor of Hudson's Bay Company, was built at Kettle Falls, a few miles west of Colville.  The fort functioned as the center of trade in the Northwest.  A large farm supplied wheat, oats, barley, corn and potatoes to sustain the personnel at the fort.  (Today, both the fort and farm sites are under water, covered by Lake Roosevelt, a part of the Coulee Dam National Recreation Area.)

By 1840, the Hudson's Bay trading post was processing 18,000 furs a year.  When the boundary of the northwest was drawn at the 49th parallel in 1846 and the territory of Washington was established in 1853, Hudson's Bay Company, being a British company, withdrew from Fort Colville and moved to Canada.  The War Department in 1859 ordered a military post built just northeast of the present townsite.  The post was called Harney's Depot at first, then Fort Colville.  Four companies of the United States Infantry were stationed there.  (This second Fort Colville, located at different places at different times, sometimes confuses visitors.)

The town of Colville was founded in 1882 when Fort Colville was abandoned.  The first school, a hand-hewn log building, built shortly after the founding of the town is presently located at the Keller Historical Center within the city limits.


The days of the Westward movement, potbellied stoves, and slate boards, are long gone.  Yet, their memories live on, along with the rest of Stevens County's rich history, at the Keller Heritage Center in Colville.  Located at 700 N. Wynne, the center is the home of the Stevens County Historical Society Museum.  The Keller House, a machinery museum, Colville's first schoolhouse, a home-stead  cabin, and a Forest Service fire lookout are among the many buildings on display on over seven acres of a pristine park-like setting.

The museum houses a very extensive collection of native American artifacts of tribes from all parts of the nation as well as all local tribes.  The rest of the building is filled with remnants of days gone by and contains several well-organized displays of life as it was in the younger years of Stevens County.

An extensive gun display is exhibited in one area of the museum. There are also numerous display cases depicting the progress of the local lumber and fur trading industries, schools, missions, agriculture and pioneer life.

Also included in various displays are discussions of local history, dating from the 1811 visit of David Thompson to the area through the era of both Fort Colville and Pinkney City to the present day.

Indians and the Hudson Bay Co. also played a large role in the county's early history, and they are included, along with several prominent pioneers and "founding fathers," in exhibits throughout the museum.

A display of an early-day general store is one of the highlights of the museum.  Here one can see the large variety of items once sold in just one store.  Many of the items are marked with the enviously low prices of the time, including a domestic sewing machine for $11.90, 68 cent waffle irons, beef roast for 18 cents a pound, and Western Style Ladies sidesaddles for $12.45.

The Picture Gallery has a fine photo display, including many old photos of buildings, towns, families, and agriculture, mining, and lumbering areas.

The museum was opened in June of 1976 by members of the Stevens County Historical Society, who still run it today.

A new addition to the geological exhibit is a display of 25 samples of ash from different areas around the state, gathered after Mt. St. Helens' eruption in 1980.  Also exhibited are artifacts dating back several thousand years up to the 1800's when the white man came to the area.

Adjacent to the museum is one of Stevens county's early one-room schoolhouses, completely equipped as it was when operating.


The Keller House was constructed by a Colville contractor, Mr. D.H. Kimple, for J.H. "Harry" Young in 1910.  Young had come to Colville in 1885 from Spokane where he had operated a stage line from Spokane to Fort Spokane.

Louis G. Keller married Young's widow, Anna, in 1915.  They resided in the beautiful home built by Young and soon became noted for their gracious entertaining.  Lou Keller was from a wealthy Cincinnati family, and came to Colville in 1907 and opened a hardware business with his brother William, and L. Stannus.

Located in the Rickey building, Stannus-Keller Hardware became one of the most flourishing enterprises in Northeast Washington.  In addition to being a prominent merchant, Keller became a leading figure in the growth of Colville as a commercial center of the Northeast.  He was instrumental in forming the Colville Chamber of Commerce, and in 1910 he became its first president.

From 1923 to 1944 Keller was the sole owner and operator of Keller's Hardware.  He retired and sold out to Louis Strauss, owner of Barman's Dry Goods, in 1944.

Keller's civic-minded generosity has survived him.  In his will he bequeathed his estate to the City of Colville to be used for historical purposes and for the benefit of the public. Under the guidance of the Stevens County Historical Society, the Keller Historical Park has expanded its service to the public.

The house is presently occupied by a curator who takes care of and shows the house to visitors.  Those wishing to tour inside the house must do so by appointment only, from 1-4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

The Keller House is a fine example of fashionable and elegant early 20th century architecture.

It was the home of two of Colville's early civic and business leaders, John J. Young (1854-1914) and Louis G. Keller (1881-1966), prominent among the small group of people whose dedication and foresight turned the frontier mining town of Colville into a thriving commercial center.

Elegant House

The spacious, bungalow-style house is an excellent example of the Craftsman Movement in the design of its interior decorations.  The Craftsman Movement, which became popular in the 20th century, was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century.

The house exists today unaltered and in exceptionally good condition, due to the excellent care taken by the previous owners and to the ongoing maintenance and restoration being done by the Stevens County Historical Society.  Visitors to the Keller Estate will enjoy the interior of the house, which contains many distinctive and noteworthy features.  Some of the original furniture is displayed in the dining room and the guest bedroom upstairs as well as some original wallpaper.  The Society replaced some wallpaper in keeping with the style of the home.  For the most part, the interior decoration is original and unaltered.

The City of Colville owns the Keller House, and the property site of the Stevens County Museum, which has a 99 yr. lease on the property commencing on July 1, 1975.  By agreement, the complete facility is operated and managed by the Stevens County Historical Society.  The facility is funded by donations, grants and the City of Colville.

Historic Plaque Recipients Self-Guided Tour Book

Stevens County Historical Society

List of Area Historic Places

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In partnership with its citizens, businesses and service organizations, the City of Colville will facilitate a forward-looking, people-friendly community that champions our community’s diversity and respects the individual.