News and Events

Third Volume of “Our Story” Announced: Submissions Invited

The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude has announced an upcoming third volume to “Our Story,” the collection of first-person histories that celebrates local families and their ancestors’ lives in the Cottonwood, Keuterville, Greencreek, Ferdinand, and Salmon River areas.

The first two volumes are now in their third printing and the books’ success has inspired a third volume. “The response has been overwhelming,” says Debra Graham, a Museum staff member. “People are excited about it because it is about them.”

Submissions are now being accepted for the third volume. The main criteria for submitted articles is that the family should have roots in the Cottonwood, Keuterville, Greencreek, Ferdinand, or Salmon River areas. Submissions can be up to 1,000 words and can include up to three images. Please submit on a disk or email to Shirley Gehring at [email protected] or Historical Museum, 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, ID, 83522. Submissions must be received by July 1, 2017. Any questions may be directed to Shirley at 208-962-2053.

The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude's mission is to preserve the rich heritage of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Camas Prairie, Snake River, Salmon River and surrounding areas.



17th Annual Fall Lecture Series

These events, held on Thursdays during the month of October, provide insights into the history of our region and presentations on topics of interest to the local public. Lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m. A Q&A session with the presenters follows the lectures. Light refreshments are provided. With the exception of the October 20 event, the lectures are held in the Johanna Room at Spirit Center at the Monastery of St. Gertrude located at 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, Idaho.


October 6, 2016 7:00 P.M.
Marc Entze: “Camas Prairie Railroad”

railroadMarc A. Entze has a Ph.D. in Public History from Washington State University and his research focuses on railroad abandonment and rural communities. This presentation on the history of the Camas Prairie Railroad includes the life of its first photographer, Lillian Bell, and illustrates how the railroad was able to outlast most other similar rail lines in the United States. Dr. Entze serves on the board of directors for the Union Pacific Historical Society and edits the society’s quarterly journal The Streamliner, is a historical consultant to several firms, and teaches history at Lewis-Clark State College.


October 13, 2016 7:00 P.M.
Ivar Nelson and Patricia Hart, “The CCC in Idaho: Building Our State/Supporting People in Hard Times”

In the late 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), built the Ski Round House on “Baldy,” several Sun Valley ski runs, Ketchum Ranger Station, campgrounds, and various roads. They were part of the most popular and longest lived of the New Deal programs initiated by the Roosevelt administration to mitigate the impact of the Great Depression. In all, 86,775 men worked for the CCC in Idaho during the 10 years from 1933 – 1942. Authors and scholars Ivar Nelson and Patricia Hart will explore how the CCC brought vitality to Idaho’s economy and society.


October 20, 2016 3:00 and 7:00 P.M.
Keith Petersen and Sr. Mary Marge Goeckner: “History of the Benedictine Sisters of Idaho” with special tour of new Museum exhibit (event takes place in the Historical Museum)

The Benedictine sisters have had a significant impact on the region. They arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1882 from Sarnen, Switzerland, and founded their motherhouse in Cottonwood, Idaho, in 1909. Along the way, they founded 14 schools and two hospitals. Their varied ministries continue today in Cottonwood and beyond. Join former Idaho State Historian Keith Petersen and Assistant Prioress Sister Mary Marge Goeckner for a guided tour of the sisters’ story as depicted in the new Museum exhibit he helped create.


October 27, 2016 7:00 P.M.
Doug and Phyllis Tims: Merciless Eden -- A History of Campbell’s Ferry Ranch

First settled in 1897, Campbell’s Ferry Ranch is located on the Main Salmon River surrounded by the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Residents Doug and Phyllis Tims have written Merciless Eden, a history of the homestead and pioneers that includes Frances Zaunmiller Wisner. The book explores the changing views on the area’s natural resources. Doug Tims has a twenty-seven-year career in outfitting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Selway Rivers and serves in leadership of state and national outfitting organizations. Phyllis Tims is retired Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Associate Vice-President for the Arts at the University of Utah. Phyllis often leads visitors on tours of the homestead, telling stories of the lives of Ferry pioneers.



ihcSponsored by the Idaho Humanities Council, Vic & Shirley Gehring, and White Rock Consulting. For more information about these events contact the Historical Museum at 208-962-2054 or [email protected]




Historical Museum at St. Gertrude receives state’s highest museum award


PHOTO  Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, founder of the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude and historian for whom Idaho’s most prestigious museum award is named.

The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude received the 2010 Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for Outstanding Service. The Award was presented at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood on December 16th.

Awarded annually by the Idaho Humanities Council, Idaho State Historical Society, and Idaho Heritage Trust, the Sister Alfreda recognition includes a $10,000 award to be used by the winning museum to continue its educational efforts. This is the third year for the Award.

The Award is named for Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, who founded the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in the 1930s. Sister Alfreda, one of Idaho’s outstanding historians, sought to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts from Idaho County and the surrounding area to better educate the public. “A museum is a bridge which links the present with the past,” she said. It is her vision of Idaho museums as exciting, interactive, and educational institutions that the Award seeks to recognize by honoring one outstanding Idaho museum each year.

“It comes at a good time,” says Museum Director Lyle Wirtanen, “we will move forward in using the funds in a constructive manner to promote programming.”

The Bonner County Historical Museum in Sandpoint received the first Award in 2008, and the South Bannock County Historical Center in Lava Hot Springs won in 2009. “It is most appropriate that this year the Sister Alfreda Award will be ‘going home,’” noted Rick Ardinger, Executive Director of the Idaho Humanities Council. “The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude continues to carry on the legacy of Sister Alfreda in its outstanding effort to preserve Idaho history and make it accessible to the public.”

“The Idaho State Historical Society seeks to lead the state in preserving and sharing our history,” said Executive Director Janet Gallimore. “We greatly appreciate the professional collaboration of many partners throughout the state who work to preserve Idaho’s rich history on a daily basis. The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude exemplifies the finest quality work being undertaken in the state. It is an honor for us to recognize their outstanding efforts.”

While the Heritage Trust, Humanities Council, and State Historical Society collaborate on many projects, this is their only joint award. “Idaho’s museums are caretakers of the stories, artifacts, photographs, records, and memorabilia that remind us of who we have been and help to guide us to where we want to be,” stated Gaetha Pace, Executive Director of the Idaho Heritage Trust. “It is most appropriate that our three agencies recognize the important work being done by Idaho’s museums. And the Museum at St. Gertrude serves as an inspiration to others in Idaho and beyond.”


Local and state officials honor the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude

December 18, 2010


PHOTO Idaho State Historian Keith Peterson talks about the legacy of Sister Alfreda Elsensohn.

Representatives from the Idaho State Historical Society, the Idaho Humanities Council and Idaho Heritage Trust gathered at the Monastery on Thursday, December 16 to present the Historical Museum with the 2010 Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for Outstanding Service. Also among those gathered were Idaho County Commissioner Jim Rehder and Cottonwood Mayor Denis Duman.

Gathering in the Mother Johanna room at Spirit Center, Idaho State Historian Keith Peterson opened the ceremony. He explained how the three organizations came together to create this award that honors museums as keepers of Idaho’s culture. He thanked the Monastery for allowing them to name the award after Idaho historian and Museum founder Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, and said, “Now in its third year, it seems very appropriate to bring the award home.”

Gaitha Pace, Executive Director of Idaho Heritage Trust, thanked the Sisters for creating such a peaceful place and then spoke about the remarkable endurance of small museums. “These places bore witness to our lives,” she said. “They help people know from their youth that they are not alone and their ancestors are standing by.”

Earl Bennett, a trustee of the Idaho State Historical Society, spoke about the importance of stories. “If you don’t have stories to go with the artifacts, you don’t have a museum,” he said. “What a magnificent job you have done.”

Then Chris Riggs of the Idaho Humanities Council presented Museum Director Lyle Wirtanen with a check. Lyle then spoke about the contributions of the Sisters, the gratitude the Museum holds for the award and the goals that the $10,000 award will allow the Museum to achieve. With Lyle retiring as director at the end of the year, many of the speakers took the opportunity to honor his work. “Lyle has brought the Museum to a significant new level of professionalism,” said Keith Peterson. 

Prioress Sister Clarissa Goeckner, in her address, said that Sister Alfreda “would be so impressed that the Museum, through its educational and cultural events gives a strong invitation to enter into conversations that will bring about reconciliation, healing and peace. I am referring to the ‘Diplomacy, Sovereignty and Spirituality Symposium’ with the Nez Perce tribe and the three annual conferences of history of the Chinese in Idaho…This award and recognition will only encourage us to continue in the direction of making connections, linking present with the past and giving service.”

Then Associate Museum Director Sister Mary Marge Goeckner recalled how the Museum began in an attic, then moved to the basement and eventually to its present building, that was built through the vision of the Sisters. She explained how Sister Alfreda worked with her students to build the collection and teach them about where they lived. “She would still challenge all of us,” said Sister Mary Marge. “She was a woman ahead of her time.”



raspberryRaspberry Festival

Raspberry Festival is our biggest annual fundraiser that attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year who come to eat, play and shop for unique, handmade crafts and gifts. The day event features fun activities for the whole family including a pancake breakfast, gourmet hamburgers, raspberry shortcake, jam and products, an Arts & Crafts Fair, live music, a Kids' Carnival, Quilt Show, hand-crafting demos, a Fun Run & Walk, Chapel tours, Museum visits and more. Learn more at the festival website.