Alder Creek is a little town half way between Sandy and Welches Oregon on today’s Highway 26.
Samuel Welch left Virginia at the age of 19 and travelled to Oregon via the old Oregon Trail in 1842. He settled first in Brush Prairie Washington but soon claimed land near Orient, east of the Gresham.
On February 20, 1865 Sam married Francis Culbertson and his son William “Billy” Welch was born on December 24, 1866. In 1882 Sam and his son Billy each took donation land claims of 160 acres apiece and homesteaded in the Salmon River Valley near Mount Hood, eventually expanding their holdings to around 1,000 acres. Sam farmed his land and inn 1893 he and Billy started the first resort in the area, which was a campground for travelers and vacationers. He was known as Uncle Sam to his friends.
Samuel died in 1898 and Billy continued the operation. Their land is where The Resort at The Mountain now lies.
Here’s a photo of the first Welches Oregon pioneer homesteaders. This is probably one of the earliest photos of the Welches area, certainly of the early residents and is an important piece of Welches Oregon history.
Front row from left – Billy Welch and Firmer Walkley. Standing from the left – August Hornecker, Sam Welch, John Copper and Ira Welch.
Photographed at the Walkley homestead near the junction of Welches Road and Bridge Street. The Walkley homestead was where Tawney’s Mountain Home was located. Tawney’s was built in 1909 and was a destination for many visitors to the area until 1949 when it was closed. The old hotel finally fell into the ground and was demolished sometime around 1955.
The Brightwood Museum and Novelty Shop. Many locals who remember this place in its heyday still call this the Snake Pit. In its lifetime it was several things, including a church and a home. The building was constructed by renowned Mount Hood cabin builder Henry Steiner as a roadside tourist souvenir shop along the way to Mount Hood. This was his last log structure project. At one point it was even a reptile garden.
Back before cars were developed into the high speed vehicles of today, and Highway 26 was blasted into straight line four lane route that allowed everyone to move at speeds in excess of 55 miles per hour, a trip to Mount Hood was more of an easier pace. Post World War II was a time when families took to the highways on days off and vacations to camp and to recreate. The tourist industry was a big deal, with roadhouses and unique roadside attractions. Many people called these places “tourist traps”.
In our area here on the south side of Mount Hood there were several businesses that provided both lodging and meals. A couple of the tourist traps that were here, included this business, the Brightwood Museum and Novelty Shop, the Swiss Gardens and the Mt Hood Indian Pageant.
This old building is a cultural treasure to our area but sadly it’s falling into ruins. You can still see this old structure at the intersection of Bridge Street and Brightwood Loop Road in the parking lot of the Brightwood store.
100 Years of Rhododendron Oregon and Mount Hood Tourism
I produced a video to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the little Mount Hood village of Rhododendron Oregon. It’s a collection that consists of photos that I’ve collected through the years and have added to my collection. There are a couple that are in the video that are copies of photos from the Welch Family as well as the family of Dr Ivan Wooley.
Welches Oregon before tourists
Back before Welches Oregon became a destination it was a ranch, Samuel Welch and his son Billy homesteaded adjoining 160 acre sections of the Salmon River Valley on the southern side of Mount Hood. In 1889 Samuel had passed and Billy slowly converted the ranch to a resort with a hotel and facilities for campers, hikers, hunters and fishermen. In time even a golf course was developed from Billy’s pasture.
This is a great old photo of the ranch before it became a resort. In it you can see what is now Welches Road. On the left side is the pasture and the old barn. On the right side of the road is the Welch home which would become the hotel and more barns and outbuildings.
It’s fun to look back into the past and compare this area to what it is today.
Mrs M.E. Henderson’s Crown Point Chalet
The Crown Point Chalet was one of the premier roadhouses along the Historic Columbia River Highway back in the day. And the indefatigable Mrs M. E. Henderson was a key player in the early days of hospitality along the old road.
In 1912 a Mr. & Mrs. A.R. Morgan built the Chanticleer Inn on a promontory just east of Corbett, with an incredible view to the east of the scenic Columbia River Gorge, the Chanticleer Inn became a popular destination for Portland’s affluent on their forays into the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Managed by Mrs. M. E. (Margaret) “Bidy” Henderson the inn became known for its hospitality and its delicious meals. By the following year the new Columbia River Highway was being pushed through the Gorge. Mrs. Henderson left the Chanticleer Inn to start her own venture at Latourell Falls. She named it The Falls Chalet. She enjoyed great success at this beautiful road house with a spectacular view of the falls, but within a year it was destroyed by a fire.
Leaving Latourell and returning to the vicinity of the Chanticleer Inn she acquired a site on a promontory of land that would soon be the site of the Vista House, and a very popular stopping point for automobile tourists. It was here she decided to build The Crown Point Chalet.
The Inn had a commanding view situated above and to the south of Crown Point.
The Crown Point Chalet opened for business in May of 1915. For over ten years Margaret enjoyed great success. But with the Depression looming and Mrs. Henderson’s health fading she sold the Chalet in 1927. Moving to Portland she started a very small dining room on Alder St. The Depression was the final blow and she went bankrupt. Her health worsened and in April of 1930 she passed away at the age of 58.
Mrs. Henderson contributed greatly in the promotion and the successful completion of the Columbia River Highway.
Cal Calvert and His Airplane
During the early days of photography, before it was common for the average person to own a camera, a studio photography session with a group of friends or the family was a popular indulgence, and in many cases a once in a lifetime luxury. In 1910 the consumer camera had only been available for about ten years.
At the time being a photographer could be quite lucrative but there was some stiff competition for business. Photographers had to be creative to come up with ways to make money. Rarely did one sit in his studio and wait for people to line up for portraits. Many photographers would travel to scenic locations to photograph local scenery to apply to postcards made available to tourists. Some would knock on doors of farms and homes in rural areas asking if the family would like to have their photo taken as a means to supplement their incomes. Many folks took advantage of these offers and would order several copies of the photos and would request postcards to be sent to friends and family far away.
At the time postcards were a very popular way to communicate. Phones weren’t in every home so a quick phone call was out of the question in many cases. Automobiles were primitive and typically owned by the more affluent and roads were still more primitive so hopping in the car for a quick trip wasn’t practical. Letters were saved for more lengthy and formal communication, but postcards were cheap, quick and easy way to send a quick greeting via mail. Having a photo of yourself with family or friends, the homestead or even the family horse on front of a postcard was a bonus.
There was one photographer from Portland Oregon who was especially creative in how he would entice customers to pose for their portraits at his studio. His name was Charles “Cal” Calvert and he specialized in fast postcard photos. He advertised himself as “Cal Calvert the 10 Minute Post Card Man”. While it was common for photographers to have a decorated backdrop for their clients to pose in front of, in Portland most all had one with a view of the city with Mount Hood in the distance, Cal Calvert went the extra mile with his fanciful, if not airworthy rendition of a aeroplane with cockpits for his clients to sit inside of while being portrayed as flying effortlessly over the city of Portland… complete with Mount hood on the skyline.
Cal Calvert had several backdrops that folks could choose from, probably the most popular was a conservative wood and ivy arbor but by far the most whimsical was the aeroplane in which you hardly saw a serious face, which was more typical of the era on more formal photos.
I’ve included an assortment of photo postcards that I’ve acquired through time. The best part to me are the faces of the people in the photos. I’ve also included several other photos that have backdrops from other unidentified Portland photographers from that era that include Mount Hood, just because I love Mount Hood. Most include either an airplane or a car, both symbols of status and owned only by a few.
A lot has come and gone along the old Mt Hood Loop Highway, the name given for the route that started in Portland and followed old Highway 30 along the Historic Columbia River Highway to Hood River then along the present Highway 35 south from Hood River to Government Camp and the back to Portland via Highway 26, the route of the original Barlow Trail and the Mt Hood Highway. Of course it could be travelled in either direction, but either way the route would take one completely around Mount Hood. It’s still a very popular “Sunday drive” for those wanting to get away and see some scenery.
Things have changed through the years – Cars are faster and roads are better. Today one can take the drive and only stop for a quick lunch before they arrive back at home again all within a day, but there once was a time when folks would take the trip on the old Mt hood Loop and take a week long vacation to do it. During those times there were many more stops to be had along the way that were tourist draws such as restaurants, lodges, roadhouses and recreational activities. There were even more camping options back then.
Much of this activity took place prior to World War II but the boom happened soon after the end of the war. Post World War II saw more people able to afford cars and free time and the roads and automobiles were improved. At that time a lot of soldiers were back home from the war and were looking to start a future for them and their families. Some built attractions along the old Loop Highway to try to pull these tourists in and extract some of their money in exchange for entertainment, lodging or meals. One such short lived attraction that sprung up was the Mt Hood Indian Pageant in Brightwood about 15 miles east of Sandy Oregon.
In 1947 one such soldier named Max Gilroy and his wife Virginia had the idea to set up a fort and to recruit Indians from Umatilla to come and setup an encampment and show tourists the ways of the Native American. Max and Virginia were very much interested in Native American history and tradition.
He and his wife Virginia, with help from friends, including Umatilla Indians that they knew, put all that they had into building the Mt Hood Indian Pageant that included a post constructed Fort Barlow. They advertised “Pageant Performances Daily” and to “Bring your camera”. The fort touted the sale of Indian curios a pioneer restaurant, saddle horse rides and playground and picnic grounds.
There was a grand performance daily where one could observe the Umatilla Indians as they presented “a view of their aboriginal life prior to the coming of the white man”. During the performance an “indian brave” would come back to camp, wounded by an enemy tribe spurring the encampment to prepare for war. In time the victorious warrior would “return to camp with prisoner” and a “scalp dance” ensued.
Once peace was restored to the encampment the Indian girls would would dance, a young couple would marry in a ceremony and the chiefs would smoke a peace pipe. Then “with the coming of the white man, the Indians move west in their tragic quest for the freedom they loved so well”. Tourists would watch as if attending a play.
I can’t find evidence that the Mt Hood Indian Pageant lasted more than a season, maybe two. No evidence of the old fort exists today. The location is nothing more than a level piece of land that now contains more modern homes along what is now Brightwood Loop Road, just west of the town of Welches.
If not for a few photographs and postcards, and an advertising flyer or two, this place would be forgotten.
Buster Brown at Paris Fair in Hood River – Here’s an antique postcard depicting a crowd that had gathered in the street in downtown Hood River, Oregon. They’ve assembled in front of the popular clothing store Paris Fair. Paris Fair was a popular clothing store that was in business in Hood River for 80 years until it closed in 1988.
Buster Brown was a cartoon that was created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault. The comic centered around a young boy who appeared to be conservative and well behaved but was actually a mischievous prankster and his pet dog Tige. Think of Calvin and Hobbs but with Calvin dressed in a yellow Little Lord Fauntleroy suit and Hobbs willing to bite if he felt it needed. The comic strip was very popular back then and the Brown Shoe Company saw potential in using the character as the mascot for a line of childrens shoes.
Soon after the Brown Shoe Company adopted their new mascot, signing a licensing agreement with Outcault at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, they created a campaign where Buster Brown and his dog Tige would make public appearance at shoe stores around the country. They would use Little People to act the part of Buster Brown. Young and old would come to these events to see Buster Brown, and many pair of shoes were sold. It was so successful that Buster Brown shoes have been popular beyond extent of the life and popularity of the cartoon character Buster Brown and are still a popular brand of children’s shoe today.
The Paris Fair Department Store advertised and promoted the event in the Hood River Glacier Newspaper and by the look of the size of the crowd it was a successful event. You can see people, young and old, pouring out into the streets in front of Paris Fair showing, even back then, how celebrity endorsements sell shoes.