This portrait of Wild Goose Bill was published in the Spokane Chronicle in 1934 and was based on an image discovered in the offices of Wilbur’s local paper.
On the 25th of January, 1895, two men rode a freight wagon along a frozen road leading out of the town of Wilbur. The heavy wheels smashed through frozen puddles and left deep ruts in three feet of snow. Clouds of steam ghosted behind the men and the horse, suspended in the still air. A ceiling of oyster-colored cloud sealed the sky, stained by the weak glow of a sun powerless to penetrate. Few words were uttered, and the men’s faces were set in anger or determination.
It was age pursuing youth that led to this moment, a timeless theme played out this time in the fading days of the American west. One man was realizing that the days ahead featured nothing but old age, that the world no longer saw him as strong and powerful. His dreams of a young wife had been shattered. His days of legend were behind him. On this day the final act of his legendary life was to be played out.
Samuel Wilbur Condit was born in New Jersey, but followed the lure of gold to California. Even as a teenager he was smart enough to recognize that the real money in a gold rush would be found in supplying miners with the goods they needed. Continue reading
Posted in Atrocities, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Conflicts, Crab Creek, Death, Ferries, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Trails, Washington, Wilbur
Tagged Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Eastern Washington, Gunplay, History, Murder, Native Americans, Railroads, Spokane, Washington, Wllbur
The remains of Oscar Danielson’s irrigation pipes lead to his fields and ditches from the site of the Danielson dam.
In a previous post I published a photograph of swimmers perched on the top rail of the irrigation dam Oscar Danielson built to draw water out of the community canal. This canal redirected some of the flow from Crab Creek towards a number of farms or orchards west of the watercourse. Around 1920 Oscar purchased surplus wire-wrapped wooden water pipes from the city of Seattle to tap into the canal, pumping water from the reservoir behind his wooden dam. His single-stroke gas engine is still hidden in the weeds near the ranch he later occupied on the banks of Lower Crab Creek.
Oscar Danielson mows hay in a field watered by the pipes leading from the Danielson dam. The photograph is probably from the latter half of the 1920s.
The swimmers were part of a larger crowd gathered at the dam for a Fourth of July celebration. It was a custom amongst the farmers and ranchers Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Celebration, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Disaster, Family History, Farming, Fourth of July, Genealogy and Family History, Geology, Grant County, History, Irrigation, Native Americans, Natural Disaster, Washington
Tagged A. J. Splawn, Celebrations, Central Washington, Chief Moses, Crab Creek, Culture, Eastern Washington, Education, Family History, Farming, Highway 26, History, Irrigation, Kamiakin, Low Gap, Moses Lake, Native Americans, Nature, Oscar Danielson, Photography, Saddle Mountain, Scablands, Seattle, Washington State
Sam Hutchinson looms over another man, possibly Hugh Dunlop in this photograph from an unidentified historical archive.
When my brothers were old enough to drive it wasn’t uncommon for several of us to pile into a car and head out into the Potholes to fish, swim or hike. We liked swimming in a certain hole in Hayes Creek. A favorite fishing spot was Hutchinson Lake, where red basalt cliffs rimmed the cool greenish waters. Even at that age, my father had told me plenty of stories about the Hutchinson brothers. My imagination placed old Sam Hutchinson on those clifftops, dressed in a black lawman’s cutaway coat and a flat-rimmed hat. Taller than seven feet, he once rode over those hills and lived in a cabin not far from where the lake is found.
Perhaps it was this image that inspired me to wander while my brother fished for those big trout that rarely got caught. I trudged out into the brush north of the lake looking for anything that might have been dropped by old Sam and he rode out one day. I found crushed and rusty tin cans, flaking apart. There were the remains of wire fencing smashed into the earth. Bits of purpled glass sparkled at me through the cheat grass. Then I found a rut. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Hiking, History, Native Americans, Soldiers, Trails, Transportation, Washington
Tagged Artifacts, Cariboo Trail, Central Washington, Central Washington University, Chelan, Chief Moses, Coconuts, Crab Creek, DeLorme, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Fishing, Fort Okanagan, Fort Vancouver, Hawaii, Hiking, History, Horses, Hudsons Bay Company, Hugh Dunlop, Hutchinson Lake, Indians, Native Americans, Nature, Potholes, Roads, Rock Creek, Sam Hutchinson, Sandwich Islands, Spokane, The Dalles, Trails, Washington, Wenatchee
The wreck of the Cora Blake lies beneath the shallow waters of this Lake Whatcom bay.
I have one of the most beautiful commutes in the country, I’m pretty sure. My drive is around fifteen miles long, winding through precipitous hills clad in dark and overgrown forests of hemlock, Douglas fir and Bigleaf Maple. Most of the route follows the south shore of Lake Whatcom on a road that is thinly traveled. The drive I make is a relatively recent road, though.
Since American settlers first visited this lake in the mid-1800s, boats were the favored mode of transportation. Native Americans taught the earliest settlers how to build shovel-nosed canoes made of a single hollowed-out cedar log. Row boats followed, then sailboats. The first of the steam-powered boats was launched in the late 1800s, and it contributed its muscle to burgeoning industries of coal-mining and the lumber trade.
By the early 1900s several steamboats traveled the twelve-mile length of Lake Whatcom, visiting docks of settlers and nascent communities along the way. Other steamboats dragged barges loaded with coal or with train cars loaded with coal. Still others nudged rafts of huge logs toward several lumber and shake mills that dotted the perimeter of the north end of the lake. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Bellingham, Computer, Disaster, Education, History, Lake Whatcom, Native Americans, Search Engine, Steamboats, Transportation, Travel, Washington
Tagged Bellingham, Bellingham Bay, Bloedel-Donovan Park, Blue Canyon, Bried, Canoes, Cedar, Coal Mining, Commuting, Cora Blake, Douglas Fir, Education, Elsinore, Fire, Geneva, Google Earth, Hemlock, History, Lake Whatcom, Lumber, Marguerite, Mike Anderson, Native Americans, Nature, Park, Sailboats, Settlers, Shipwreck, Shipyards, Silver Beach, Steamboats, Strawberry Bay, Strawberry Point, Trains, Transportation, Washington State
A soldier of Custer’s regiment uses his Springfield carbine as a club. Source of this painting is not known.
When you grow up in desert heat, at least when video games and television have yet to proliferate, one of the joys of childhood is playing with the garden hose. Personally, I enjoyed digging rivers and lakes into the earth of the wire enclosure where our chickens roamed. I remember the amazement of unearthing a living frog that had burrowed into the ground for hibernation, and that had narrowly avoided the blade of my shovel.
One of my maxims about the desert landscape around Saddle Mountain is that this earth is honest. When people pass through, the traces they make remain to be read by those who come after them. As I think back on the traces we’ve discovered on our farm alone, it amazes me that so much history is written in its sand and dust.
In the early 1960s my father hooked his tractor to a battered old machine he called the rototiller. He was in the process of rooting sagebrush out of a new field, and this machine would completely destroy the plants that grew there naturally. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Columbia Basin, Conflicts, Crab Creek, Death, Education, Family History, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Speculative History, Treasure, Washington
Tagged Arrowheads, Art, Atlatl, Badger, Bunchgrass, Campbell's soup, Central Washington, Chickens, Chinese workers, Clovis points, Coin, College, Culture, Deer, Desert, Ducks, East Wenatchee, Eastern Washington, Ecosystems, Education, Environment, Family History, Farm, Frogs, Garden hose, George Armstrong Custer, Gunsmith, Hibernation, History, Hunters, Irrigation, Jackrabbit, Little Big Horn, Livestock, Lynx, Merrybelle, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Nature, Oliver tractor, Othello, Pheasants, Projectile points, Railroads, Rototiller, Saddle Mountain, Sagebrush, Soldiers, Springfield carbine, Television, Tractor, Treasure, U.S. Springfield trapdoor, Video games, Walt Danielson, Washington, Weapons
A two-horse-power ferry provided passage across the Columbia River at White Bluffs.
Drive down any freeway in the state, and you’ll see the same dull gray pavement, with tarry black repairs. The roads look the same on both sides of the mountains and whether they are on dry land or bridges. We’ve come to take these roads and bridges for granted, to the point where we can estimate to within minutes just how long a trip ought to take. But it wasn’t always so.
After they offed the Astorians, the Hudsons Bay Company established routes that provided for the safe distribution of trade goods and transportation of furs gathered over an entire year. In auspicious places, the English built forts to store the furs that came from far north in what is now British Columbia, and from the Snake River country and Montana. Continue reading
Posted in Bridges, Cars, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Ferries, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Transportation, Travel, Washington, White Bluffs
Tagged Big Eddy, Bridges, Central Washington, Columbia River, Culture, Eastern Washington, Education, Ferries, Ferry, Hanford, Hanford Reservation, Highways, History, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Photography, Puget Sound, Railroads, Vantage, Vernita, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs
I have to open this post with an apology for the long absence. A combination of circumstances has me hopping every which way, leaving me little time for writing. I’ll share some of it another time, like the process of restoring a log cabin on the Sauk River of Washington State. Other stuff I’ll leave to your imagination. Just remember I’m a teacher and the end of the school year just passed!
Since one of my subjects is Social Studies and my fifth graders study the foundation of our country, it seems appropriate to observe Independence Day from a family history perspective.
Born in Tidewater Virginia (his ancestors built St. Anne’s Episcopal Church near Tappahannock), Jesse apprenticed to become a wheelwright. In pre-revolutionary Virginia there was a wave of heartfelt religion, a rebellion against the official Anglican church. Jesse felt persuaded to become an exhorter in the Baptist faith. He was the first of my ancestors to migrate out of Virginia (we’d been there since 1619), moving to the hills of North Carolina. Still a young man, he traveled back and forth between Continue reading
Posted in Conflicts, Family History, History, Native Americans, Revolutionary War
Tagged Anglicans, Baptists, Bourbon, Cemetery, Cumberland Gap, Elijah Craig, Elizabeth Watts, Family History, History, Holston, Indiana, Indiana Territory, Jesse Vawter, Kentucky, Log cabin, Madison Indiana, Marriage, Military, Native Americans, North Carolina, Ohio River, Orange County Virginia, Religion, Revolutionary War, Sauk River, Tappahannock Virginia, Virginia, Washington, Whiskey, Wirt Indiana
The meteor explosion over Russia and the unrelated but equally awe-inspiring near miss of the earth by a huge asteroid remind us of the inevitability of space objects colliding with the earth. Disaster movies are a popular genre: one of the favorite video clips in my fifth grade science classroom is one animating the ancient collision between Earth and the planet Thea (but the throbbing, powerful new-age soundtrack clearly contributes to that popularity).
A journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian published a link to a Google map with data for every known meteor strike on Earth, from 2,300 BCE to the present. He erroneously credits the US Meteorological Society for the data…I’m sure it happens all the time. The link actually takes you to the US Meteoritical Society, where I wasn’t able to locate the same map, but there was a ton of information about meteors.
Ellis Hughes and his son pose on the heavy cart they constructed to move the fifteen and a half ton meteorite three quarters of a mile to their own land.
My favorite meteor has got to be the legendary Willamette Meteorite. At 32,000 pounds and composed mostly of iron, with a little nickel, cobalt and phosphorus, this ten-foot long, six-and-a-half foot wide, and four-and-a-quarter foot deep glob of metal balances a heat-polished oval exterior with deeply eroded chambers. But its girth isn’t the big draw. Continue reading
Posted in Astronomy, Bellingham, Education, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Saddle Mountain, Science
Tagged American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), artifact, Canada, Central Washington, Columbia Plateau, Cordilleran Ice Sheet, Earth, Ellis Hughes, explosion, Google, Grande Ronde Tribe, Help End Willamette Meteor Absence Committee (HEWMAC), hematite, History, Ice Age, Impact Earth!, Iowa, Judge C. J. Wolverton, Lake Oswego, Lewis & Clark Exposition, Lime Kiln Park, Macovich Collection, Meteor, meteorite, Missoula Flood, Mrs. William E. Dodge, Myth, NAGPRA, Native Americans, Nature, New York City, North America, Oregon, Oregon Iron and Steel Company, Palouse River, Portland, Purdue University, Representative Les AuCoin, Russia, Sacred, San Juan Island, Senator Bob Packwood, Shrine, Supreme Court of Oregon, The Guardian, Thea, US Meteoritical Society, Vancouver, Washington, West Linn, Willamette Meteorite, Willamette Valley, William S. Ladd