William McBean was born in Canada around 1807 and came to the Walla Walla region in 1846. He became chief factor in charge of the Hudson’s Bay Company fort at the time of the Whitman Massacre in 1847. He left Fort Walla Walla in 1855 during the Indian wars and later returned to the region with his Indian wife and children. McBean continued to reside in Walla Walla and was active in assisting various Catholic institutions until his death in 1872.
Several items owned by McBean, including a chair and brand, can be seen in the museum's current special exhibit, Fantastic Finds: Treasures from the Archives.