The view of Mount Saint Helens from the summit of Mount Adams on July 4, 1976.
On the 200th anniversary of our country’s birth my cousin Dale and I joined one of the last mass climbs of Mount Adams in south-central Washington. I left from work on the Friday afternoon, drove to Yakima to pick him up, and we went to a campground outside Trout Lake to spend the night. Of course the excitement and the noise of all the other campers kept us awake all night. I don’t remember getting any sleep at all.
We were rousted out for the climb around 3:00 in the morning. We received some orientation and instructions and lined up to begin the climb. One of the instructions was to stay in line and not to pass those ahead of us. We were young and strong. Many of those ahead of us were neither, so the temptation to violate that rule was strong.
We reached tree-line just before dawn, and that morning provided one of the most spectacular views I will ever see. We watched the ghostly pale peak of Mount Saint Helens emerge from the night, turning raspberry pink, then dazzling white. Before it erupted, Saint Helens was nearly perfectly symmetrical. As we strapped on our crampons and struggled to keep our places in line, we watched Mount Saint Helens in the distance, a graceful and beautiful mountain that later proved to be powerful and dangerous. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Disaster, Family History, Geology, History, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mountaineering, Natural Disaster, Othello, Railroads, Volcano, Washington
Tagged Bicentennial, Concertina Blowout, Eastern Washington, Everett, Family History, Geology, Graphic Artist, History, Ice Axe, Milwaukee Road, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Nature, Othello, Seattle, Spokane, State Patrol, Stevens Pass, Taunton, Washington, Wheatstone English Concertina, Whitworth College, Yakima
The Vernita Ferry approaches the north bank of the Columbia River in this 1959 photograph from the State Archives.
A nice snowball fight at Christmas could be a welcome break after a year in the desert.
To reach the Glenwood Market you sometimes had to park in the roadway and scramble over a mountain of snow.
The Danielson house in Glenwood stood south of town. It burned down several years ago.
The old school at Glenwood provided years of education before it was replaced by the more modern facilities local children attend.
The reasons for my father’s decision to abandon the Danielson Ranch on Crab Creek have never been entirely clear to me. I remember that when I asked him about it, he was very close lipped. Myself, I was ready to get away from the Central Washington weather by the time I went to college. No more of these sweltering iron-colored skies for months on end, Enough of these months of boringly gorgeous sunsets and clear nights so starry you could hike the hills without a flashlight even when there was no moon. My father lived in Glenwood long enough to marry and have children, but he moved back to Othello to take advantage of irrigation water from the Columbia Basin Project in the early 1950s.
I’m sure I’ll revisit the reasoning behind my father’s choice another time. But it’s the holiday season, and for me that always brings to mind my grandparents and their old home in the Glenwood valley of Klickitat County. These were the only grandparents I knew, since my father’s folks had both passed on by the time I could crawl. My mother’s parents seemed incredibly ancient from the very beginning, as if they were the living remnants of the rich family history they represented. And if I have any explanation for this urge to write down these stories, it probably ought to be blamed on my Grandfather Herman, who labored over his antique typewriter, one-eyed, pecking out the letters one by one and filling up pages of uneven type that eventually became several volumes of local and family history about life in Klickitat County. Recognizing his skills as a story teller and nurturing my own taste for history, I made it a point to find time to ask him questions whenever we visited, and I was richly rewarded with personal stories and the outlines of a family’s fortunes on the Washington frontier. I’ll be passing some of this on in later articles. I regret that I didn’t inherit more than a few of his marvelous old photographs, so I won’t be able to post clear copies of them to illustrate his tales. Most of the photographs I am publishing came from my father’s collection and were probably his own.
My favorite Christmases as a boy were those we had at Glenwood. Our home place outside Othello might get heavy frosts and the occasional dusting of snow, but Glenwood seemed like it always had a white Christmas. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Family History, Glenwood, History, Irrigation, Native Americans, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Bickelton, Central Washington, Christmas, Cold War, Columbia Basin Project, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Desert, Eastern Washington, Family, Ford, Glenwood, Goldendale, Hanford Reservation, Highway 24, Highway 241, Highway 26, History, Irrigation, Klickitat County, McGee Ranch, Native Americans, Nature, Othello, Rattlesnake Ridge, Saddle Mountain, Satus Pass, Silver Dollar Cafe, Sunnyside, Vernita ferry, Washington, Yakima, Yamhill County Company
An unidentified traveller in an unidentified location. As the age of the motor car increased demand for petroleum, the industry looked for resources throughout Washington, including in the Columbia Basin.
An information circular published by State Geologist Raymond Lasmanis in 1983 declares that Washington’s first gas and oil resources were spotted on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula as oil seeps in the sea cliffs and mud cones spouting natural gas. That was in 1881. With more than 16,000 feet of basalt flows covering potential petroleum deposits in the Columbia Basin, nobody was really expecting to locate anything there. It was farmland that appeared to be most valuable in that area, and that meant water would have to be supplied.
The early 1900s saw some pretty heroic efforts to bring water to what could become productive farmland. Canals were the favorite projects, luring money from investors from far afield. But in 1913 the Conservative Land Investment Company of Spokane began drilling a well for water on the north slopes of Rattlesnake Ridge. They had reached a depth of just over 700 feet when, to their dismay, it wasn’t water that erupted from their hole, but natural gas. They had no way to accurately measure it, so estimates of the flow rate range from 70,000 to as much as 500,000 cubic feet per day, forced out with a pressure of up to 7 pounds per square inch. You might think they would have tried to contain the flow, but instead the gas from that well and several others in the area was simply vented into the air until 1929. By the time commercial production was attempted, the pressure rate had dropped to around 2 pounds per square inch. Even so, over the next dozen years or so, the Rattlesnake Hills wells produced around 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas until it was shut down in 1941 when the Hanford Reservation was created.
With the Rattlesnake Hills field in production, investors began scouting for similar opportunities. Wildcat operations formed to exploit untouched gas fields hidden beneath the basalt.
Donny Boy Number 1 was drilled into the northeast flank of Frenchman Hill, from 1935-1939. The site is near the west end of O'Sullivan Dam. Photograph by Bror Gustaf Norberg.
People’s Gas & Oil Development Company was one of these wildcat enterprises. W. Gale Mathews of Ephrata was hired to run point in acquiring mineral leases. According to a 1974 letter from Floyd Harris, a local old-timer who witnessed the entire process, land owners on the eastern end of Frenchman Hill were offered ten cents an acre and one twelfth of the all oil found in a well drilled on their property. I had to wonder whether Harris was correct in specifying one twelfth of all the oil, since there weren’t many indications that any oil would ever be found in this region. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Frenchman Hill, Geology, History, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Columbia Basin, Donny Boy Number One, Eastern Washington, Ephrata, Exploration, Frenchman Hill, Geology, George Drumheller, Hanford Reservation, Highway 26, History, Irrigation, Natural Gas, O'Sullivan Dam, Oil, Olympic Peninsula, Othello, Rattlesnake Ridge, Saddle Mountain, San Francisco, USGS, Walla Walla, Washington, Washington State, Wenatchee World, Yakima
The railroad tracks at Corfu, looking west. The photograph probably dates from around 1934
I did a Google search for Ben Hutchinson recently, and found out that he’s a sports figure of some repute in Europe. This must be a mistake, or I’m way out of touch with sports…which, come to think of it, I am! The man I’m thinking of passed on years ago.
I was a small boy when I first heard about Ben Hutchinson. My family liked to pile into a pickup or a station wagon and take a drive down what we called the Old Corfu Road, or in grandiose moments, the Old Corfu Highway. Along the way we would pass by the rear of the old Danielson Ranch near the banks of Crab Creek. My dad’s abandoned Model T truck was visible as a hunk of rusted machinery sticking up out of the sagebrush. Continue reading
Posted in Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Education, Family History, Genealogy and Family History, History, Saddle Mountain, Washington
Tagged Adams County, Ben Hutchinson, Big Bend Country, British Columbia, California, Cape Horn, Columbia Plateau, Corfu, Cow Creek, Crab Creek, Dakotas, Douglas County, Ephrata, Fort Colville, Fraser River, George Lucas, Grant County, Grant County Historical Society, Hutchinson Lake, Illinois, Iowa, Kamloops, Kansas, Las Vegas, Lind, Marengo, Moses Lake, Mullan Road, Native Americans, New Mexico, Nez Perces, Northern Idaho, Oakesdale, Old Corfu Highway, Oregon, Oregon Trail, Paha, Palouse, Panama, Pleasant Valley Cemetery, R. J. Neergaard, Railroads, Ritzville, Robert M. Hutchinson, Saddle Mountain, Sam Hutchinson, San Francisco, San Jose, Sheep Springs, Spokane, St. Louis's College, St. Mary's College, Sunnyside, Victoria, Walla Walla, Washington, Yakima, Yakima County
Lower Crab Creek provided water. In Eastern Washington, that was a godsend. Temperatures on the Columbia Plateau routinely soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summertime, and rain is scarce. Cleaning irrigation ditches with a shovel west of Othello as a boy, many were the prayers I sent for even one scanty cloud to shield me from the overbearing sun.
The Sinkiuse Indians who lived there before me probably shared my distaste for the relentless sun. But they didn’t have the benefit of a well of cold water I could retire to, an air conditioner that cooled the house when I took a break. They were stuck with the weather the way it was: hot in the summertime, cold in the winter. They took a more basic approach to living on the Columbia Plateau: they stuck close to water, or if that weren’t possible, they found the shortest route from one water hole to the next.
Over centuries of migration and travel, humans developed routes that guided them along the most direct lines of travel from one pool or stream of potable water to the next. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Books, Columbia Basin, Computer, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Horses, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Washington, World War II
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Archaeology, Astor Company, Ben Hutchinson, Beverly, Bridge, British Columbia, Bunchgrass, Burke Museum, Canada, Cariboo Trail, Celilo Falls, Central Washington, Cheat Grass, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Chinese, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Columbia Plateau, Columbia River, Colville Reservation, Corfu, Corfu Slide, Corfu Switchback, Cow Creek, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Culture, Desert, Eastern Washington, Ellensburg, Environment, Family, Family History, Ferry, Frenchman Hill, Grand Coulee, Highway 26, History, Horses, Hutchinson's Hill, Ice Age, Ice Cave, Immigration, Indians, Kamiakin, Low Gap, Manashtash Ridge, Milwaukee Road, Missoula Flood, Model T, Moses Lake, Mount Adams, Nature, Nez Perce, Okanogan, Oregon, Othello, Perkins Murders, Plateau Indians, Quincy, Railroads, Ranchers, Rattlesnake Springs, Ross Cox, Rustlers, Saddle Gap, Saddle Mountain, Sagebrush, Sam Hutchinson, Seattle, Second World War, Sheriff, Similkameen, Sinkiuse, Taunton, Trails, Vantage, Wahluke, Wanapum, Warden, Washington, Washington State, Washington State Archives, Wenatchee, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima River
Out of the blue, a distant relative, who happens to be a neighbor of mine, provided another image of life on the homestead in Glenwood, Washington. It came in the form of a picture postcard with a message scrawled on it, mailed to my great uncle Robert Kuhnhausen in 1909. The image shows workers in a field of hay, raking the cut grass into mounds amongst the stumps of the former forest. In the background Mount Adams looms, ever present in the Glenwood valley.It wasn’t until I had scanned the image that I was able to inspect the figures in the field. In the foreground is an obviously female worker, clad in overalls and a white cap. Since the card was sent to Robert, the eldest in the family, and the handwritten inscription declares this to be the Her[man] Kuhnhausen Farm, I inspected this person carefully. I am firmly convinced that this is Rosa Kuhnhausen, my great aunt, and the great-great-grandmother of the relative who gave me the photograph. Rosa led a full life, and by that I mean a long and painful one, but she carried with her a practical philosophy that has inspired me through the recent painful adversity in my own family’s life. She died when she was 106 years old, three months after meeting my daughter who was named after her. My daughter died at age 10, two years ago.
Making hay in the Glenwood Valley of Washington State in 1909. Mount Adams fills the skyline to the west. The worker in front appears to be Rosa Kuhnhausen.
Posted in Family History, Genealogy and Family History, Glenwood, History, Native Americans, Washington
Tagged Camping, Culture, Dogs, Eastern Washington, Family, Family History, Geology, Glenwood, History, Marriage, Mount Adams, Native Americans, Piper Cub, Rodeo, Washington, Washington State, William O. Douglas, Yakima
My son investigates the sandstone banks that have weathered out of the basalt cliffs on Saddle Mountain.
Rust coats the rails where electric trolleys once pulled passenger trains along Saddle Mountain.
My son enters the upper end of Column Crevice on Saddle Mountain.
This sportive predator was dashing to and fro across the ridge for quite a while.
It’s difficult to capture the scale of this landscape.
As the rest of the mountainside slumped into the flood, this point seems to have resisted.
My grandfather first climbed to the cliffs on Saddle Mountain in the 1920s. He was not the first visitor to a high ledge where soft sandstone is sandwiched between layers of black basalt. Names were carved into the soft rock, dated, gouged deeper on subsequent visits. My father, whose first visit to the cliffs must have been when he was a youngster in the 1920s, introduced the site to his children. Our first visits were made by motor vehicles. Rough trails still exist that can be followed by a truck with high suspension…not that I recommend the method of access. You miss so much when you’re trapped in metal.
My favorite route to the cliffs followed the Milwaukee Road tracks for a mile or so, then veered up the fenceline separating private cultivated land from the BLM sections. After you leave the railroad tracks you start a relentless climb, like going on foot up a mile-long stairway. First you traverse massive slopes of yellow clay, silt that precipitated out of the flood when the waters struck the mountain, slowed and diverted to the east and the west. These banks are composed of countless thin layers. In some places you can find petrified bones, usually blackened vertebrae of fish or small animals. We also found turtle shells and I keep a broken bison bone in my classroom, orange and yellow and imperfectly petrified. Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Family History, Hiking, History, Ice Age flood, Native Americans, Natural Disaster, Philosophy, Railroads, Saddle Mountain, Science, Speculative History
Tagged Andrew Jackson Splawn, Anthropology, Ben Hutchinson, Bison, British Columbia, Canada, Cariboo, Cavalry, Chief Joseph, Chief Moses, Columbia River, Corfu, Coyote, Coyote Rapids, Crab Creek, Crab Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Custer, Desert, Eastern Washington, Education, Environment, Family, Family History, Flood, Fort Okanaga, Fossils, Frenchman Hill, Geology, Golden Eagle, Hanford Reservation, History, Hudsons Bay Company, Ice Age, Ka-Mi-Akin, Low Gap, Milwaukee Road, Native Americans, Nature, Nez Perce, Oregon, Petrified Wood, Railroads, Rattlesnake Springs, Saddle Mountain, Sam Hutchinson, Sincayuse Indians, Smyrna, Taunton, Trails, Trident Missiles, Wagon Roads, Wanapum Dam, Washington, Washington State, White Bluffs, World War II, Yakima, Yakima County, Yakima Firing Range
This article is full of mistaken assumptions, a lesson waiting for recovery beneath the ice of ignorance. For instance, I always assumed that Stevens Pass was named by good old George McClellan, as if he took time out from his trout fishing ever to really explore ways to get across the Cascades when Washington Territory’s first governor (and railroad route scout), Isaac Stevens, ordered him into them hills to locate a pass for a railroad to use. (By the way, if you’re interested in what the fishing was like around Yakima in the 1850s, McClellan’s journal will tell you. McClellan never got far. He glanced at the frowning cliffs above the Tieton River and turned around, reporting that a pass didn’t exist.) I started the article by claiming that a plaque memorialized the Reverend James M. Thomson in the basement Scout Room of St. James Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, Washington. But in a fact checking expedition this weekend, I discovered that I was mistaken: no such plaque exists. Now, I wonder why.
A grainy portrait of Reverend James M. Thomson was found in the 1909 history of the local Presbyterian Synod.
James Thomson was not a Boy Scout, and the Stevens for whom the pass was named was a railroad surveyor working for entrepreneur James J. Hill, whose Great Northern Railroad fearlessly scraped out a series of switchbacks on the faces of seemingly impassible peaks. A bit of fear might have been in order. Continue reading
Posted in Bellingham, History, Natural Disaster, Railroads, Washington, World War I
Tagged Alaska, Avalanche, Belfast, Bellingham, Bodies, Brownsville, Cascade Mountains, Church, Clearbrook, Disaster, Dogsled, Dorothy Koert, Education, Everett, Fairhaven, Fish Lake, Gary Krist, George McClellan, Great Northern Railroad, History, Irish, Isaac Stevens, James H. O'Neill, James J. Hill, Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Lookout, Marcus Whitman, Mary McLeod, Missionary, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Oregon, Passengers, Presbyterian, Queen Anne Hill, Reverend James A. Laurie Jr., Reverend James M. Thomson, Reverend James Wilson, Rome, Ruby Hult, Sauk, Seattle, Skagway, Snow, St. James Presbyterian Church, Stevens Pass, Tall Timbers Ranch, Thunder, Tieton River, Trout, Tunnel, Tye, University of Washington, Washington, Washington Territory, Wellington, World War I, Wreckage, Yakima