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Object Spotlight — Special Guest Post by Ann Catt!

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

After a brief blog hiatus over the holidays, we are back with a wonderful guest post from the recently retired and much beloved Ann Catt!  Ann’s knowledge of Latah County is encyclopedic, and no subject demonstrates that fact better than the family history of Carol Ryrie Brink, a famous local author and resident.  Last year LCHS acquired the wedding chest belonging to Ms. Brink’s grandmother, and we knew that no one could tell the story of that object better than our former curator.  Enjoy!

This fall LCHS received the “wedding chest” that had belonged to Caroline Woodhouse Watkins, wife of early Moscow doctor Wm. Woodbury Watkins and grandmother of well known author Carol Ryrie Brink.

The chest was made for Caroline by her father John Vipond Woodhouse in Wisconsin. It came to Moscow with her in 1887. This chest remained in the family eventually being with Tom and June Armour of Lewiston, ID. Tom was the son of Caroline and William Watkins daughter Winifred and her husband Will.

I received a letter about twelve years ago at the historical society from Mrs. Armour. She wanted us to know that when the time came the family wanted the chest to be here and that she had made arrangements for that to happen. What a treasure!! I had looked forward to this donation for all these years. After I retired last June, Dulce had news from Mrs. Armour that she was moving to the East Coast to be closer to her own son. Dulce graciously asked me to talk to Mrs. Armour, who by the way is over 100 years old. What a wonderful visit I had with this true lady whose personal history is as fascinating as that of her locally famous in-laws. In her easy relaxed way she told stories of “Gran, Carol and Aunt Elsie”.

Caroline Watkins was the model for Carol Brink’s Newberry Award winning book, Caddie Woodlawn as well as the character of Ann Hawkins in the novel Buffalo Coat. 

Caddie Woodlawn’s wedding chest as Mrs. Armour called it is now at home at LCHS. Stop by and visit this marvelous piece of our history.

Following are some places in Moscow you might like to see that are connected to the Watkins family. Please remember, these are now private residences not open to the public.

310 South Van Buren: Home built by Henrietta Watkins Ryrie built after the death of her husband Alexander Ryrie. These are Carol Ryrie Brinks parents.

316 – 320 South Van Buren: Site of the original home of Dr. and Mrs. Watkins. The original home is now gone and has been replaced.

315 South Polk: Home where Mrs. Watkins and her daughter Elsie lived later on. Carol lived with her Gran and Aunt after the death of her parents left her an orphan by age eight. Mrs. Watkins lived here until her death in 1940.

You might also enjoy visiting Old Block 7 of the Moscow Cemetery to visit the graves of many members of the Watkins family (yes, Caddie Woodlawn is buried in our own Moscow Cemetery) as well as other well known local historic residents.

A word of Caution. Be careful, you may become addicted to Latah County History.

Caddie Woodlawn and Buffalo Coat and other Carol Ryrie Brink books are available for sale at both the Latah County Historical Society Annex and the McConnell Mansion Museum.

— Ann Catt, happily retired former curator, LCHS

Thank you Ann, for sharing your knowledge with us all!

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