Bagpipes Coming to Borst Park Thanks to Friendship Between Local History Buffs

Beverly York: Free Concert to Be Performed Aug. 7 at Borst Home Museum


If Beverly York was suddenly transported to the 1870s, her hobbies would not reveal her as a time traveler, though her bagpipe playing might draw some attention.

But the rest of York’s list of favorite activities can all be traced back to her love of history: sewing, reading old hymnals, growing potatoes and teaching folks about pioneers.

Her interest in the subject originates from her days attending Tenino High School.

“I became an Oregon Trail (Days) princess in the year of our Lord, 1974. So that’s been a few decades ago. And I didn’t do it because I was a beauty queen, I just did it because somebody said, ‘you could represent your town well.’ And I went, ‘I like that,’” York said.

Representing her town and its history is something York shares with her friend, Jean Bluhm, author of “The Mary Borst Story,” a book focused on the Centralian figure who occupied the big white house in Fort Borst Park before the city acquired it in 1921. Bluhm also plays Mary Borst in living history reenactments. It is fitting that she first met York at the historic Claquato Church in 2006.

Years ago, Bluhm announced she would begin working toward the construction of a replica pioneer church near the Borst Home Museum. She’d volunteered as a docent at the historic home since 1985, according to a column in The Chronicle by Julie McDonald.

Her experience there, combined with her faith, made her the right candidate to organize the creation of the building. The project would come to require over 16 sponsors, hours of labor, multiple fundraisers, intervention by the City of Centralia, years of 86-year-old Bluhm’s life and the support of a community.

On Sept. 18, the replica church will have a grand opening and celebration to thank donors. Like Claquato, the church will be rented out to by the city for weddings and other venues.

To celebrate the near completion of the project in the meantime, Bluhm asked York to host a bagpipe concert at the museum with her band, the Olympia Highlanders Bagpipes and Drum Corps, a group that will celebrate its 50-year anniversary next year.

The concert will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Borst Home Museum and will be free to anyone.

York has been a member of the band for 17 years. Because of her Scottish heritage (an attribute she shares with Mary Borst), it seemed yet another way to connect with her love of history.

“I really love it,” York said. “I always just love the sound of them.”

And for the program on Aug. 7, each piece has been chosen by York for connection to Scottish history. York will also elaborate on those histories during the performance in brief speeches between songs.

Most of the pieces are already part of her repertoire, thanks to her collection of old hymnals.

“Everybody else goes and buys lattes. I go and buy stuff that has to do with history,” York said.

She said as much as she loves to learn about the past, she loves to share her knowledge with others even more, including her 9-year-old granddaughter who is very fond of the Borst museum’s one-room schoolhouse. Her band also gives lessons to anyone who wants to try playing the bagpipes on Thursday nights at the South Union Grange hall on Tilley Road in Tumwater.

“The goal is to get people out and think outside the box,” York said.