Tribal elders tell us the Pend d’Oreille once gathered to dig camas on the native prairie now occupied by the Gordon Ranch. Thus, the early history of the upper Swan Valley is entwined with the oral and written history of its first homestead and ranch in this book by the Upper Swan Valley Historical Society Publication Committee and The Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee.
The Gordon Ranch has served as a “gathering place” for generations, from the time Indians freely traversed the valley, through the homestead era of the Holland and Gordon families, and even now, as the Koessler family and others seek the perfect venue to come together.
Like all good history books, The Gathering Place is well researched and has an extensive index. Here I sought the pages that spoke about my grandmother, Gretchen (Hilda Marie) Stadler, cook for the Koesslers from the dude ranch days to the early 1950s, when Tony and Jimmy Koessler were moving into their middle school and high school years. Naturally, I started my reading there.
Yes, my grandmother was the “Salty Old Lady” that Lena Wolff describes, and she was the reason that I spent summers in the early ’50s riding horses all over the ranch, trotting up to Lindbergh Lake, across the Underwood Ranch, to Holland Lake, and Condon with those Koessler boys. It was a place, a time and people – especially Sheila Koessler and my grandmother – who helped shape who I became. As I read the book, I realized that this special place and its inhabitants impacted many others and the valley itself.
The book is divided into 21 chapters and includes a bibliography, index and timeline, making it both a highly interesting read from start to finish and a valuable reference book. Each chapter is a chronicle unto itself, richly filled with narrative, including excerpts from interviews, letters, documents, maps, and photos.
The order of the chapters loosely follows a time line, with titles such as The Gordons, The Swan Massacre: A Brief History, Bud and Lena Wolff, The Jette Family, and Enduring Connections.
The collective authorship of The Gathering Place ensures that everyone connected with the Gordon Ranch over the years and the history of the upper Swan Valley will find much to enjoy here. How fitting to dedicate the book “to all who have gathered at the Gordon Ranch throughout the ages.”
The book may be ordered online from the Upper Swan Valley Historical Society.
– Theodora Lambson