WHEN I FIRST saw this juxtaposition of “Then” images, I had to smile. It’s tough enough to get a large group to pose pleasantly for just one photo. But here is a pair, taken before and after a 1904 reunion. Why two? Doubtless some turned up later and wanted to be represented, and someone wisely reckoned that pasting together both shots would please everyone concerned.

These days, with renewed urgency over ensuring equal standing and justice for all, it’s difficult for any pursuit — particularly an exclusive club — to achieve universal harmony.

Enter the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, the state’s oldest history organization, which first gathered in 1871 and incorporated on Dec. 5, 1895.

That date points to a 125th anniversary, which the members plan to celebrate with an online talk and toast at 1 p.m., Dec. 5, with a focus on their artifact-filled Washington Pioneer Hall, built from brick in 1910 on the site of an earlier wooden hall, in Madison Park along the western shore of Lake Washington.


The word “pioneer,” common in historical conversation, statuary and sites (Pioneer Square. anyone?), denotes someone who discovers a new place or founds something.


One person’s pioneer, of course, can be another’s oppressor — which, as association members know, was exactly the case in the settling of our state in the 19th century.

The association focuses its three-story hall on families whom its voting members can trace to ancestors living in Washington or Oregon territories before Washington statehood on Nov. 11, 1889. Those lacking such roots can join as nonvoters.

Inside the hall is a forest of exhibits, early furniture, framed photos and an extensive genealogical library. Prominent in the entry, a portrait of Chief Seattle hangs near a replica of a wooden chair that the city namesake used in later years on his Suquamish porch.

Over time, a few voting members with Native American ties have joined. Teresa Summers, with 9% lineage to the Yakama Nation, has edited the association newsletter. Her membership “means I can help honor all my ancestors,” she says. The late Norman Perkins, association president in the mid-1980s, traced his roots to Chief Seattle.

Pioneer Hall, says Junius Rochester, past president, “acts as a kind of viewpoint from today backwards, and I think students — adults, too — should be reminded that our roots are important.”

That’s an inclusive “our,” even when some of those roots turn up later.