In the early days the Welches Hotel wasn’t the only resort in the Salmon River Valley in the foothills of Mount Hood, Oregon. About a mile past the Welch’s place, at the end of the road, was Tawney’s Mountain Home. Situated along the Salmon River with vast stretches of wilderness surrounding it, Tawney’s Hotel was an outdoor vacation destination from 1910 to 1945.
The hotel was built on a portion of the old Walkley family homestead south of Welches. The Walkley’s didn’t operate a hotel, but they kept boarders in their home. John Maulding and his wife bought the property in 1906, which included 100 acres and the Walkley home. The home was remodeled and enlarged using the homestead house for the dining room, with an addition for lodging, turning it into what was known as the Maulding’s Hotel.
In 1909 Francis H. Tawney and his wife Henriett leased the property and in 1910 they purchased it and started improvements to the hotel. In 1913 a fire burned a large portion of the old hotel building. A new two story addition was quickly built and new hotel was ready for guests in 1914.
Tawney’s Hotel was a large building with 15 guest rooms. Because the hotel was so popular, they erected tent cabins on the grounds outside to accommodate more guests. As you entered the building you came into a huge living area with a large rock fireplace. There was a large staircase leading to the upper floor where the guest rooms were located. Adjoining the living room was a huge dining room with its own fireplace and a large dining table. There was only one indoor bathroom, with commode and a bathtub. It was located off the dining room. It was said that you practically needed a reservation if you wanted to use it.
Back then a week’s stay cost $10, including meals. Mrs. Tawney, with the help of Emily, the wife of their only son Clyde, cooked for the guests. She served the meals Family Style with full platters of chicken, roast beef, and steak. She always had jams, fresh bread, pies, and canned foods available. She made large sugar cookies for the children, but it was common for the adults to raid the cookie jar.
Keeping the hotel supplied with food could be challenging during busy times. There could be up to 150 people there to enjoy a Sunday dinner. In addition to the food that they supplied themselves some staples and canned goods were delivered once a week from Portland. There was also a butcher wagon who would make daily deliveries from Sandy to the hotels and cabin residents during the summer. He would arrive and open the doors to the insulated wagon to show different cuts of beef and lamb packed in ice.
The Tawney’s kept their own animals, including cows, pigs, and chickens. They had horses for guests to ride and a pair of donkeys for the children. Frequently Mr. Tawney would take a party of people on a wagon trip to Government Camp to pick huckleberries and have a picnic lunch.
They had a garden, an apple orchard and had berries for pies. They also used wild game and trout from the river and local creeks, sometimes supplied by the guests. The Salmon River was located nearby and provided lots of swimming and fishing. In 1910, B. Trenkman, C.J. Cook, and L. Therleson made a 1.5-hour trip up to Camp Creek for fishing. The three men came back with 286 trout. It was said to be one of the best meals at the Tawney Hotel.
Nell Howe, a longtime resident, remembered on summer days the most wonderful food. She said, “In the summertime the tables in the dining room were full for every meal and sometimes people were waiting their turn.” When guests looked back, they remember their fun summer memories of swimming in the river, fishing, helping with the chores, and enjoying the food.
The hotel closed its doors in 1945, most likely due to the loss of business and the scarcity and cost of goods during World War II. The Tawney’s were in their later years by this time and the work involved in running a business like that was in their past. Mr. Tawney passed away in 1947 and soon after Mrs. Tawney moved to Portland with her daughter and son-in-law. She lived until 1959.
Sometime in the late 1950’s the old Tawney’s Mountain Home collapsed under the load of a heavy snowstorm. The property sold and the new owner demolished what was left of the old building leaving the two stone fireplaces as the only evidence of the good old days of Tawney’s Mountain Home and a significant part of the history of Welches Oregon.
Arlie Edward Mitchell, 89, thought to be the last living Barlow Road tollgate keeper, dies June 1. (1976)
Mitchell died in Gresham after an extended illness. Services were held Monday with internment at Lincoln Memorial Park.
In his later years Mitchell was well known for his recollections of operating the Barlow tollgate. He was present in 1970 when the tollgate near Rhododendron was dedicated.
He recalled that it was his duty during his period as a gatekeeper from 1906 to 1908 to keep track of the people, animals and wagons that passed through the gate.
That included counting sheep, flocks of them brought across the Barlow’s route over Mt. Hood. Mitchell recalled one flock of sheep that numbered about 3000.
He liked to tell the story of the Indian woman so fat that she got stuck in the small gate. Everyone had a good laugh including her Indian companions who teased her before helping her out of her predicament.
Mitchell was born Dec. 6, 1886, the son of Stephen and Ellen Mitchell, on a farm near Sandy.
He attended a public school two miles from his home and went to work at an early age in sawmills and logging camps. For several seasons he worked with Lige Coalman as a guide on Mt Hood.
He was widely known as a builder. In 1908 he helped build the first grade and high school in Sandy and the Odd Fellows Hall. Years later he helped build Smith’s Garage and did some work on the Masonic Hall.
He spent four years in the Forest Service building and maintaining telephone lines. He traveled by saddle horse with a pack horse to carry his tools, tent and personal belongings, cooking his meals over a campfire.
Mitchell joined the Navy in 1917 eventually making 16 crossings from New York to Europe. He served in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France and remembered the great cheering for “The Yanks” on Armistice Day in Belfast.
Mitchell served aboard the captured German vessel, “Emporator”, which was pressed into service as a troop ship and transport. Eventually he was transferred to a destroyer travelling through the Panama Canal.
He was fond of telling about a week’s stop in Mexico where he swapped an old pair of dungarees for a bunch of bananas.
Following his discharge. from the Navy Mitchell worked on bridges at Zigzag River znc Sill Creek. He buillt many summer homes including his own.
In 1928 he married Anna Ringness. A few years later he drew a homestead in Tule Lake, Calif., where the couple lived a year building a house and farm home for his brother, Harry, who survives him. Also surviving is another brother, John, of Sandy.
after “proving up” the homestead the Mitchells moved back to the Faubion area on Mt. Hood. He became treasurer of the Faubion Summer Home Association and held office for at least 35 years. He also served several times as a director of the Welches School Board.
Mitchell is survived by his wife, Anna, Rhododendron; a son, Edward; a daughter, Ellen and four grandchildren.
George Pinner built most of the stone fireplace through the Mount Hood corridor during the 1920’s and 1930’s, many for Henry Steiner’s cabins. He was known for his shaped arched facing of solid stone and his use of convex mortar coving. George Pinner didn’t use round river run but, instead, would split and shape the stones to fit together, typically with a keystone in the center of the arch. George Pinner also carved the stone curbing for the White House in Washington DC.
George Pinner lived in the little settlement of Faubion situated between the towns of Zigzag and Rhododendron. He built his home out of solid stone. His home is still there and is located on what is now Faubion Loop Road.
It’s funny how certain situations can go in a full circle. Even old postcards sent on the other side of the world over 100 years ago can find their way back to their origin. I collect old photos and old photo postcards, especially those with historical significance to the towns and the area that surrounds Mount Hood.
In my searches I found a card on the Internet located in Germany that was from Marmot Oregon, written by Adolf Aschoff and sent to a nephew in Germany. I bought the card and in our conversation I asked if there were any more. The seller told me that he had bought one card in a shop in town but would go back to see if there were more. I ended up buying six cards in all. Every one written in old German language in Adolf Aschoff’s meticulous longhand penmanship. The writing is so small one almost needs a magnifying glass to read it.
Because I do not speak or read German I asked friends if anyone could help. My friend Bill White said that his German friend, who lives in Germany, might be able to help. I scanned the messages and then emailed them to Bill who forwarded them to his friend.
Some time passed and Bill forwarded six MS Word Documents to me with the messages typed in German as well as their translation in English. I was so excited and grateful.
Adolf was from Celle Germany. He settled in Marmot in 1883 and built Mount Hood’s first resort, Aschoff’s Mountain Home. He was known for his cheerful and enthusiastic demeanor. He was the prefect host who catered to and entertained his guests and everyone who talked about him described him as cheerful and energetic, but these correspondence paint a more intimate picture of Adolf. Life for him was not easy and had a lot of worry, stress and heartbreak. For more information about Adolf and the town of Marmot you can read about it at this link. CLICK HERE
Below are the photos and their messages.
Adolf Aschoff’s Letters To Home
Marmot, Oregon, July 16, 1908
My dear Otto!
It always goes on in business, from early in the morning to late in the evening. A lot of annoyance and little joy is my experience. Again I just lost a beautiful horse, my wife thought a lot about the (poor) animal. She called it hers. We have a lot of rain and it is quite cold and then we have very deep paths again – everything seems to go wrong, even in nature.
On the other side (of the postcard) you can see our house. No. 1 is my wife, No. 2 is a maid. I keep my two year old German stallion.
Best regards. Your old (friend) Adolf Aschoff
Marmot, Ore. March 22, 1910 6 am
We are desperately awaiting a sign of life of you from the old homeland with every incoming mail – and from day to day – week to week etc. I am trying to find the time and opportunity to write to you. I have not been well for quite some time now – I suffer headaches – melancholy etc. I wish I could sell us – had a great offer but my wife wasn´t please. If I don´t try to visit Germany soon – I will probably never see it again. Both of our sons, Ernst and Henry, are now fathers of two strong boys. – We had an awful time with our three daughters in the last year – all three of them had major operations in the hospital, and now our Emma is back at the hospital and is being operated again.
On the other side (front side) you see Gustav, our youngest son on a foal, as he was riding it for the first time, he is 15 years old.
Please, write to me very soon. Have a happy Easter wishes you your uncle Adolf Aschoff
Marmot, Ore. July 19, 1910
Your endearing letter has been received. Your letter has doubled the desire to see you and the beloved old homeland – I know I would be welcome at your home and if you knew me better, you would know that a westerner does not cause any inconvenience – We have loads of trouble, loads of work – with the hay harvest and everything adds together – The salary for the workers is very high – chef (lady) $70.00 per M, house maid $20-25.00, day laborers $2.50 – $4-5 per day. I don´t know how this is going to end. All workers only want to work 8 hours – but we are usually working 18 hours a day – will write as soon as I have a few minutes to myself
Best wishes from all of us, Your uncle Adolf Aschoff
Marmot, Ore. February 25, 1911
My dearest Otto,
I hope you have received the newspaper “The Oregonian”, I am sending you the same one, so you can get an idea of the growth of the American cities. As we arrived in Oregon, Portland was about the size of Celle – now Portland has more than 230,000 citizens. We are well, except for Otto, who has been in the hospital for months. Best wishes to you and your dear family.
Your uncle Adolf Aschoff.
PS: I will try to write you a letter soon.
Marmot, Ore. 6/13/1912
My dear Otto,
I haven´t heard anything from you for quite some time now, I try to receive a sign of life, “an answer” to this postcard. I am sending you a newspaper with this letter and I send more if you are interested.
Various accidents have again happened to our family. Our daughter Marie is very sick – our son Ernst has fallen of a …?…. post and our son Otto has chopped himself in the leg. Due to the incautiousness of a stranger I have been thrown of my carriage and I suffer pain in my right arm and shoulder. More work than ever, I wish we could sell us, it is getting to much for my wife and me – from 5 am to 11 pm day to day we slave away (like ox) without a break. Dear Otto, I hope you and your loved ones are well and at good health.
The most sincere wishes from all of us to you and your dear family.
Your uncle Adolf Aschoff
Marmot, Ore. January 30, 1913 – To: Mrs. Adele Aschoff
My dear friends,
Marmot shows a different picture these days than on the other side of this card. The snow has started to melt, but it will take a long time until the last traces will be gone.
Our dear daughter Marie is still very sick, it is better on some days and then she suffers bad seizures.
Your Adolf Aschoff
Marmot, Ore. Nov. 19. 1916
My dear Adele, (Mrs. Adele Aschoff)
Thank you very much for your wishes – I am very happy that our dear Otto is still healthy and I hope that he soon will be back with his loved ones well and brisk. Please send him my best regards. I haven´t received anything from Eugen in the last months – newspapers etc. No news have arrived since February from you as well as Eugen. My son Karl has broken his arm when he started (? “up-winded”) an automobile – my wife is very sick again. Please write back to me even if it´s only a few lines.
Intro: This is a story that was transcribed from the retelling by Victor H. White in 1972 of a story from the life of Mount Hood legend, Elijah “Lige” Coalman. In 1972 Victor H. White took transcripts of Lige Coalman’s life as they were recorded by Lige himself. He also had the opportunity to interview Lige to help fill in some blanks. In his own words; “I re-wrote Lige Coalman’s own manuscript, condensed it, re-phrased it, and edited it. I shortened it and omitted repetitious and non-essential material. I did not add, change or exaggerate anything.”
The following story is one of the stories that Victor White left from the book, but felt that it was worthy of retelling in a subsequent publication. The story really does exemplify just how wild and primitive the area from Sandy to Mount Hood really was.
Snow Saga of Lige Coalman
Adventure, danger and unusual happenings along the old Oregon Trail west of The Dalles to Portland were limited neither to the early days before 1860 nor to the fork of the trail that used the Columbia River as a highway.
Westward from The Dalles, the overland route of the wagin-driving immigrants turned first south, then westward south of Mount Hood over Barlow Pass. This route across the Cascades became a toll road with specific charges for each wagon, horseman, cow or sheep which used it and, because of existing government land use laws at the time, there was one man who did something in that locality no one else ever attempted before or since. His name was Dr. Herbert C. Miller, then Dean of the Northwest, Dental College located in East Portland. Doctor Miller established a large farm at Clackamas Meadows directly at the summit of the Cascade Range, some fifteen miles south of the toll road, where snow might fall ten, twelve or fifteen feet deep and there was no access save a mountain trail impassable for several months except on snowshoes.
There was then a roadhouse at Government Camp which was also, then as now, the jumping-off place for the start up Mount Hood by the way of Timberline where the ski lodge is today. This accommodation was a mile or so north of where the original Oregon Trail had passed.
On one particular December night in 1914, four men, one woman and two children, the entire winter population of Government Camp, were all sleeping peacefully in the hostelry building when Lige Coalman was awakened by a noise that sounded like something scratching and clawing at the door and moaning or shouting feebly. There was nine feet of snow on the ground and the temperature was near zero.
Lige Coalman was thirty-three at the time and perhaps the most capable and experienced mountain man in all Oregon. Those with him in the building, besides his wife and his two children, were a foster brother, Roy Mitchell, and an old timer from Oklahoma named Lundy.
Lige got out of bed and went to the door. His movement and the continued unfamiliar pounding at the door roused the others. Lige opened the door and a man’s body that had balanced against it, fell into the room. This man’s head was completely bound and covered with a wool muffler, although he had evidently arranged a slit for his eyes as he had beaten his way through the storm and finally fallen against the roadhouse door at almost the exact moment of complete exhaustion.
Coalman dragged him forward, closed the door and called to his wife and the others, “Get a fire going; this man’s nearly frozen.”
But warmth already had the fellow able to half sit up and he was desperately trying to explain, “Man, woman and baby… two miles… in snow… will freeze…” He pointed shakily down the mountain in the direction of Rhododendron and Portland.
As soon as the muffler was off the man’s head, Lige Coalman recognized Doctor Miller, Dean of the dental college, who owned the farm at Clackamas Lake. Lige also personally knew the man, woman and one-year-old child who were down the road in danger of freezing. They were the Andrews Family, who had been helping to run the butcher shop in Sandy, Oregon, about 30 miles to the west and below heavy snows.
The three men got miller into a bed with warm blankets over him. Mrs. Coalman had hot chocolate in brief moments and got busy massaging circulation into Miller’s frosted limbs. Mitchell and Lundy immediately bundled up and started for a frozen location known in the summer as Big Mud Hole on the Laurel Creek Road. Lige spent a few moments helping his wife feed and partially restore Doctor Mille’s circulation, then followed the other men down the mountain.
In the early 1900’s tuberculosis was perhaps the most common cause of death in the Northwest among both Indians and whites. It was commonly believed that a high, dry, clean atmosphere was imperative to recovery. Thousands of persons went to Arizona for possible cure but limited finances made this pilgrimage merely a mirage of hope for the wealthy. Nearer to home, high and, if possible, dry hills were often specifically chosen for tuberculosis hospitals and sanitariums. It had come to Doctor Miller’s attention that a particular spot in the Cascade Range at Clackamas Lake seemed to have definite benefits of nature that could serve both as a means of profit and as a boon to mankind as a site for a tuberculosis sanitarium because it was true then as it is now that Clackamas Meadows, situated at the very top of the Cascades, enjoyed a prevailing easterly wind almost as uniformly as the summit of Mount Hood has a never-changing southwesterly wind.
This dry wind swirls air from Eastern Oregon into the high Cascades as happens in no other spot of those mountains. But unlike the southwest wind on Hood, the Clackamas wind does shift in winter to bring in heavy snows from the west.
Doctor Miller’s problem arose from the fact that Clackamas Meadows was within the boundaries of the Mt Hood National Forest which was withdrawn from homestead entry unless proven to be adapted to agriculture. It was this agricultural adaptability that Doctor Miller proceeded to prove in order to claim ownership and build a sanitarium.
He built a ;og dwelling, barn and other outbuildings, all strongly constructed with roofs that could uphold the possible fifteen feet of winter snow. He plowed several acres of meadow, dug drainage ditches, planted a family orchard and arranged a garden plot. Then he brought in a team of horses, milk cows, pigs and chickens. He truly established what amounted to a Siberian or Canadian home-site. He even went to the extent of panting the meadow to wheat, oats and barley and a variety of timothy which he actually did import from Siberia. A young German named Meyers, with two of his cousins, was employed to run this farm as caretaker during the winter season, when they also picked up several hundred dollars additional income by trapping fur bearing fox, lynx, pine marten and wolverine. Their traps also yielded beaver, otter and mink along the Clackamas River.
Several winters of this, however, had proven enough for the three young Germans. When Meyers was offered a job by the city street car company in Portland, all three farm workers asked Doctor Martin to relieve them and this was why the arrangement had been made to hire the butcher’s helper and his family from Sandy.
That night about midnight, Mitchell and Lundy found the butcher, with his wife and baby, crouched around a fir twig fire they had managed to start on the snow. Partially sheltered by a toboggan loaded with household goods and personal effect, they were nevertheless in critical condition. The baby, having been best protected by the mother, was the only one not suffering frostbite by the time Lige Coalman arrived and they were then able to complete their trip back to Government Camp where they arrived at daybreak. It took four days of warmth, rest and food before they party dared venture on. Then, with Lige Coalman and Mitchell accompanying Miller and his new employees, the party of five adults and the baby undertook the remaining fifteen or sixteen miles of snowshoe and toboggan travel toward Clackamas Meadows.
The strenuous first day of struggle through glaresnow, sometimes ice-encrusted, brought them up about fourteen hundred feet of elevation by noon. They had pulled the toboggan to Frog Lake by two o’clock and Mrs. Andrews and the baby were able to ride the remaining two miles of slight downgrade to an old cabin on Clear Lake by early evening.
Part of the cabin roof had caved in. All but the baby fell to work, using boards as shovels. Thus they cleared the snow from the part of the frozen bare ground, which was still roofed. They felled a dry cedar snag with an axe from the sleigh, got a fire going and then cut fir boughs, which were partially dried to make a mattress, upon which their complete exhaustion enabled them to sleep intermittently for a few hours before dawn.
By 6 a.m. a new wind started snow sifting down on the weary sleepers. By 7:30 they had finished the breakfast they had planned and, after running into a new snow storm at nine, they pressed in and won the relaxing comfort of the snug Miller log house by noon.
Lige Coalman and Mitchell planned to bring the three farmer caretakers back to Government Camp in a fast one day sprint. Before noon, however, one of the Germans, who thought that he had fully recovered from a recent bout with the flu, began suffering a relapse. Before nightfall, he was running a high fever and had to be placed on a toboggan with additional blankets and medicine. By the end of the second day, the sick man was brought to Government Camp suffering high fever and delirium. His life was nip and tuck for almost a week and it was the middle of February before he had recovered sufficiently to go on in to Portland.
Indeed, the hazards and hardships of winter travel in all of the Oregon Trail Country through the Cascade Mountains in 1914 had changed little in sixty or seventy years. Although a doctor was available in Sandy, the means of hisd getting to a sick man at Government Camp through ten feet of snow was hardly a practical undertaking. Even today a sudden snow storm can close the modern highway for indefinite periods while the most modern equipment struggles around the clock to keep things moving between Barlow Pass and Sandy. This can happen most any time from November 1st until the middle of March or even later.
For some twenty miles eastward from Barlow Pass modern man seems to find no use for any kind of highway at all and only a toilsome dirt roadway marks a course for a few intrepid tourists and fisherman who venture for pleasure down Barlow Creek up which the early immigrants struggles to reach the rich agricultural promise of the Willamette Valley and the new world trade center of Portland.
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.
When one thinks of Mount Hood they don’t usually think of crime, especially such severe crime as murder, but there’s one story that is a part of Mount Hood’s past that should be told. The first murder on Mount Hood.
The Oregon Trail had been active for about 40 years, with the Barlow Road becoming the main route to the Willamette Valley. The Barlow Road was a toll road with toll gates placed on the route to gather toll from the travelers. One toll gate keeper will be remembered as an integral part of Mount Hood’s cultural history.
Perry Vickers was one of the first residents of the south side of Mount Hood, an area that today includes the little ski town of Government Camp. He was well liked by everyone in the area especially those who were passing over the south side of Mount Hood on the Barlow Road road in their wagons. He had squatters rights at Summit Meadow, a natural clearing at the top of the pass as the road began to descend the west slope of Mount Hood and the last stretch before arriving at their destination in the Willamette Valley from points east. He built the first travelers accommodations in the area when he built the Summit House in Summit Meadow. He had a corralled field for grazing the stock as well as a series of buildings including a lodge, a store and barns.
During his time on Mount Hood Portland grew exponentially with the new settlers that poured into the Oregon country. A trend was to return to the mountain that held so many challenges to them and their families during the immigration to recreate. Perry Vickers was Mount Hood’s first climbing guide. Hiking and climbing the peak was very popular at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was an enthusiastic promoter of early visitation and recreation on Mount Hood. He even created a tradition of illuminating the mountain by carrying fuel for a large fire near what is now known as Illumination Rock. He is attributed with being the first person to spend a night on the top of Mount Hood.
Perry Vickers was described as a dreamer and a poet. The Oregon Historical Society has some of his verses of sunrises and sunsets and of his beloved mountain. He didn’t start out his residence in Oregon on quite a solid footing. His early days here are said to have been troublesome. Perry Vickers arrived in Vancouver Washington in 1865. As he was looking for work he fell into the company of three other young strangers in a seemingly similar situation. As it turned out their situation was somewhat different than his.
As he was in the company of his three new friends military officers from Fort Vancouver arrested the group and charged them with horse theft, quite a serious crime back then. They were held for about two months as they awaited trial, each wearing what was referred to as an “Oregon Boot”, a seven pound iron clevis that was worn on an ankle to impede any progress of escape similar to a steel ball and chain.
As they were arrested together, held together in the same cell, and although unsure of the guilt of his cellmates, he was sure that he would be found guilty by association. He felt that he needed to escape. Their cell was made of wood and so in time the method was created for the break out. Several 2″x4″ wooden window bars were removed and the group escaped into the night. Once Vickers was away he separated from his undesirable companions as he heard activity indicating that their escape had been discovered. Still weighted down by his Oregon Boot, he stumbled his way away from the fort toward the Columbia River. The sounds of those in pursuit became louder and he soon found himself about to be surrounded as he stood on the bank of the river.
His ankle was becoming chaffed and and painful and he tried for a moment to find a way to pry off the iron implement around his ankle. As the sounds of pursuit became louder he knew that he had only one choice, to attempt to swim the mile wide and swift Columbia River. It’s not sure how he learned to swim, but he indeed made it to the other side still carrying the weight of his seven pound clevis attached to his ankle.
Once across the river he came across a small farm where he was able to find some tools to remove the iron device. He found an old wagon wheel wrench that he used as a hammer and a bolt to use as a punch to remove the pin that held it together. The next morning he came across some wood cutters who fed him and gave him directions to Powell Valley where his brother lived. Once there his brother gave him clothes and supplies and advised him to head to Eastern Oregon by way of the Barlow Road and seek work until things cooled down for him.
As he headed east he came across Stephen Coalman, the one who was in charge of maintaining the old Barlow Road. He told Vickers that he would be hiring help to clear the road after the Winter storm’s damage. That June he went to work for Coalman, and developed a lifelong friendship. Stephen Coalman and his son Elijah “Lige” Coalman became legendary on Mount Hood for their many adventures. Stephen Coalman had said that through time Vickers proved that his character was not one of a horse thief and was convinced that Vickers was a victim of circumstances.
That June the crew set up camp at Summit Meadow and Vickers took time to explore the area from there to the timberline level of Mount Hood. Thrilled by his hikes he swore that he would climb to the top of the mountain.
Vickers took the job of gatekeeper on the eastern entrance to the old road, away from the chance of being recognized as a fugitive. In time his friend Stephen Coleman persuaded him to return to the west side of Mount Hood, assuring him that if need be he would secure legal services to defend the horse stealing charges if necessary.
No charges were ever brought against Vickers, but in his trips to the west side he fell in love with the area, especially the area around the summit meadows right under the looming view of the south side of Mount Hood. He envisioned a business. One that would help travelers as they passed through. He filed for a squatter’s claim at Summit Meadow and went to work on the buildings there between his work on the old toll road.
By 1866 work on the Summit House was underway. It was a large building, 20x20x32 feet with a huge fireplace at one end and sleeping quarters upstairs and spacious cooking arrangements. He built all of the furniture from natural materials. In the Spring of 1868 he opened up the Summit House as soon as the snow melted and the road was cleared. He provided food for travelers as well as their livestock, spaces for camping and in many cases insisting in having folks in for a meal.
An enduring story is told of a day when a group of wagons came to Summit Meadow in 1882. A baby boy from one of the parties, the Barclay family, was ill and died at the meadow. Vickers granted permission for the baby to be buried at the meadow. The little graveyard and headstone are still there today.
For many years Vickers resided at Summit Meadows and helped countless travelers that passed by and hundreds of people to the top of the mountain, until one day in August of 1893 when a man named Steele, a farm hand near the Columbia Slough, stole his employers shotgun and headed east. Not many more details are known, but the Multnomah County Sheriff was called and two men were deputized, one being the owner of the stolen gun a man named Roarke, and sent after Steele.
The deputies reached Eagle Creek and had to have their Multnomah County warrant re-issued in Clackamas County, where they learned that Steele had traded the shotgun for a Sharps rifle.They reached the town of Sandy where the weather turned bad. They stayed only long enough to buy a bottle of whiskey and then they went on their way. The two men reached the town of Salmon, near the present town of Brightwood where they met local resident John McIntyre who owned a trading post there. It was then that one of the deputies decided to return home as he became ill. At that time John McIntyre was deputized and the two men proceeded to travel east toward Summit Meadow.
Once the men reached Summit Meadow and Perry Vickers’ Summit House, Vickers advised them that Steele had stayed there the night before and he had judged him to be an unsavory character and said that he knew nothing of the gun theft. He also told them that he had mentioned that he was going to camp at White River, further to the north and east from where they were. Because the deputies had drank some of their whiskey Vickers told them that he would advise them to get some sleep and to proceed in the daytime. He also thought that they would be at a disadvantage in the dark. Roarke insisted that they push on into the night. Vickers told them that they would eat and then he would go with them after Steele.
With Vickers deputized the men mounted their horses and, because of his familiarity of the area, Vickers took the lead. The group made it to the White River Trading Post which was operated by a man named Gray and his family. It was there beyond the buildings that the men spotted a camp fire. They figured that it was Steele. Being concerned for the condition of his companions, and because he was equipped with a set of Colt Revolvers, Vickers volunteered to proceed toward the fire while the other two stood back to provide back up in case of trouble.
Vickers rode toward the campfire that would make the two horsemen barely visible in the background and confirmed that it was indeed Steele. Steele was aroused as Vickers approached and appeared to come forward to talk. Vickers went to dismount his horse and as he was in a helpless position Steele picked up the Sharps rifle and shot Vickers in the stomach. As he fell from the horse he grabbed one of his revolvers but didn’t get off a shot before Steele disappeared into the darkness of the night. Vickers emptied his revolvers into the night, thought that he hit Steele but this was never proven.
Cornelius Gray heard the gunshots from his trading post, grabbed his rifle and came running. Two other men who were at the trading post as well as the two deputies got to Vickers who was on the ground in agonizing pain and mortally wounded. They took Vickers inside Gray’s home.
Vickers claimed that he saw his companions come toward him, but not until after they drew away during the gunshots. The men claimed that their horses bolted from the shots. As he lay there he confronted the two men, say that they were too experienced with guns and horses to believe them and that he claimed them to be cowards, this account being from Cornelius Gray.
A rider was sent to get Stephen Coalman, Vickers best friend, but Vickers knew that he didn’t have much time. Vickers said that he had some laudanum at his place and that he had killed the pain in a lot of other people and he said that no one will be able to help him much. Vickers died before his friend could return.
Many of the locals from the era helped with his burial. Samuel Welch and Stephen Mitchell split the boards for his coffin. Oliver Yocum, the man who established the town of Government Camp officiated the ceremony. Perry Vickers was laid to rest in the little graveyard next to the baby Barclay, as were his last wishes. Their headstones can still be seen today at the west side of the meadow.
Stephen Coalman kept Vickers’ blood stained coveralls for years after with hope that they may be used as evidence to convict Steele of Vickers’ murder. A couple of years later a horse thief was hanged in eastern Oregon that claimed that he had killed a man in the Cascade Mountains. It was assumed that this was Steele. Not long after that Stephen Coalman burned Vickers coveralls, closing a chapter of an era on Mount Hood, and the case of Mount Hood’s first murder.
Below is an article that I wrote for the Villages of Mt Hood about my friend Bill White.
I’ve known Bill for quite some time now and have gotten to know him quite well. He and I both have many common interests, mostly the love of local Mount Hood history. This is the second article the I’ve written for this webzine. I do hope to write more.
Humans have been interested in preserving their legacy since the dawn of time, and that want for the preservation of their legacy may have been a major reason for the development of written language. In recording history, a first hand account is always the best source. Most of those that hold the historically valuable information are our senior citizens, many of which discount their role in the stories, thus keeping the story from being told.
That’s where the next generation must assume the responsibility of searching out these people and begging such stories to be told. In my research of our local history, I have become acquainted with a long time Brightwood resident that has had the foresight to recognize his role as a record keeper of our local Mt Hood History. He has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become close to, and visit with many local legends that are no longer around The Mountain.
William H White, “Bill”, and his family have owned a home in Brightwood for almost 40 years. His interest in local history was keen while Jenny Welch, who was married to Billy Welch, whose family the village of Welches was named for, was still spry. He was able to get to know Arlie Mitchell, who was the last tollgate keeper at the Rhododendron tollgate of the old Barlow Road as well as folks like Harry Abernathy, who when he and “his bride” first came to Welches, camped out at the spot that the Hoodland Shopping Center sits today. As past president of the Friends of Timberline, among other civic activities that he’s been involved with, he has been in association with many other notable figures who have shared their memories with him.
Bill has kept all of this information handy for historical work involving many projects and events. The Mt Hood area’s history has found a bridge in Bill White, a bridge between the generation that settled the Villages of Mt Hood, and those of us who enjoy learning as a benefit of the fruits of their labor.
Bill and his wife Barbara, are retired now and live in Brightwood full time. Bill spends much of his time sorting and filing the historical information that he has collected through the years. Bill won’t accept it, but he really is the Villages of Mt Hood Official Historian, and we owe him a debt of gratitude.