Fruitland: Peaches and Prayers

     Fruitland was home to settler Sterling Price in the 1880’s, but the Post Office was not formed until 1886. Moses C. Peltier named the town ‘Fruitland’ because he thought there was fertile soil there that would be good for growing fruit. Peltier built a store and established a Post Office, soon more settlers moved in to the newly formed town. Edward Sullivan owned a store and a hotel for many years. The community held a meeting on the Steele farm and they discussed how and where to build a community church. Daniel House and family traded onions, potatoes, beef and half a barrel of vinegar for lumber to build a church. The House family and the Sewell Family hauled the lumber over rough roads and after a huge community effort the first service was held in the new building in 1896. The Houses were early missionaries and also visited the sick, cared for the dying and conducted funerals.

     Fruitland did prove to be good farming country and many families farmed and raised cattle or pigs. They herded them to market in Spokane. Others made a living selling goods to the miners in Cedar Canyon and soldiers stationed at Fort Spokane. Some people even made a profession out of stealing cattle. Charlie Allen lived on a farm that specialized in stealing cattle called "Robber’s Roost". In 1892 two sheriffs came to arrest the thieves. One sheriff was shot and Charlie Allen was shot as well.

     The woods were filled with mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, skunks and rattle snakes. The pioneers were always protecting their chickens and other animals from various attacks by predators. Many Native American passed through Fruitland gathering berries, trapping animals for furs and having dances. Fruitland gradually declined in population, but the church still holds regular services. (Pioneers of the Columbia 1998.)



Memories of the First People

     Annie (House) Steele wrote down her memories of being a pioneer’s daughter. Here are a few stories of her first contacts with Native children. "One evening we saw a light coming, pitch kindlings on fire for a lantern, it was some half-breeds. They came and opened the door and walked in. We talked awhile, then father began playing on his accordion. We girls began to sing gospel hymns. Those children had never heard the word of God or Jesus or Lord, only in swearing. They could not understand why we would swear as they thought we were. I made chums with those girls, one had been to school a little and the others had not. They had never seen a cookstove, (they cooked on a fireplace or campfire), lamp or a book. None knew when their birthdays were, just so many snows old…Those girls knew all the flowers’ names and what each one was used for as a medicine.

     They all had log cabins, no floors—but still they had their wigwams near the house. I was inside one once. This one was about 18 feet across. It was in a circle that went to a peak in the top, with the top open for the smoke to escape. (All Indians loved beauty.) There were lovely colored rocks arranged for a fireplace, on a flat rock was a dutch oven. That is a flat bottom iron kettle with an iron lid. They do their cooking in them and heat them to bake their bread. There were 4 generations in this one. So they had their beds in the ground all around the edge of the tent. Their bedding was a few red blankets, the remainder of the bedding was wild animal hides. They were tanned with the hair on, soft like a blanket. There were bear, mountain lion, deer and many other. They then placed them near their beds over night. The Indians tan hides with the hair off and make gloves for trade. They make very pretty designs with different color beads on the gloves. Also they make many of their clothes from tanned deer hides." (Annie (House) Steele, letter 1958)