In the day and age of quick trips to the store for a gallon of milk as well as refrigeration to preserve the milk we sometimes forget that our ancestors didn’t have those conveniences.
Billy Welch was a resort proprietor. He ran the Welch’s Ranch in a way as to include most supplies that the visitors, hotel guests, cabin dwellers as well as campers might need during their stay. He had a dance hall, restaurant, post office, was a notary public and operated a store, much like convenience stores of today, that had everything from candy for the kids to food for meals as well as other items of necessity.
In its early stages Billy’s store had no refrigeration. In lieu of coolers or or ice chests he had a cold shed down at the Salmon River where he had diverted the cold water from the river through the shed. It kept the shed chilled and things such as jars of milk could be preserved by sitting in the cold water bath.
To purchase your milk you would buy aluminum tokens at the store and then, as you needed milk, you would go to the cold shed and drop your token in the can and take your jar of cold milk. Billy had two denominations. One pint and one quart. On one side it read WELCH’S RANCH. On the other it read GOOD FOR 1 PINT or GOOD FOR 1 QUART.
Today these Welch’s Ranch Tokens are quite scarce.
A View from The Roof of Cloud Cap Inn – Circa 1900.
Cloud Cap Inn was built in 1889 and opened August 6th of the same year. It was built by William Ladd, a Portland banker and C.E.S. Wood a Portland attorney. It was Woods wife, Nannie, who named the hotel.
Prior to building the Inn they bought the road and created the Mt. Hood Stage Co. The road needed improvements before building could begin. Chinese laborers were employed in the project. A stretch of road referred to as “China Fill” was a 22-precent grade and was a challenge to the early automobiles attempting the trip. The original road didn’t follow today’s road. As you drive up to the Inn you can still see the old road intersect the new occasionally. It ran along the ridge between Evans Creek and Crystal Springs Creek.
The same architectural firm that designed Cloud Cap Inn designed the Forestry Building for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905. All of the logs came from around the building site. Cables were used to hold the building down during high winds. Wind did end up blowing down one of the original chimneys in the early 1900’s. Water was supplied to the Inn from Tilly Jane Creek, 1200 feet away.
Business was slow in the beginning. The Inn closed down in 1890 and Ladd and Wood turned over operation of the Inn to James Langille’s wife, Sarah, nick named Tansana, in 1891. Sarah ran Cloud Cap at a much simpler level and was able to operate at a profit. Her two son’s Will and Doug worked at the Inn as mountain guides.
A tradition was started where when a person made a summit ascent they were allowed to take their personal business card and thumbtack it to the ceiling. This was done by putting the tack through the card and backing it up with a silver dollar and throwing it up to the ceiling.
In 1894 Ladd brought telephone wire and equipment to install a phone system at the Inn. Will Langille installed the equipment and ran the wire.
Will left Oregon to join the Alaskan gold rush. Doug stayed on as guide until 1900 when he joined the U.S. Geological Survey. Sarah’s nephew, Horace Mecklem came to help out after her son’s left. Sarah then hired two European guides until 1903. Mark Weygant went to work for Sarah in 1904 and worked for her for several years. Sarah retired from operating the Inn successfully in 1907 and turned operation over to Horace Mecklem and his wife Olive.
The first automobile driven to Cloud Cap arrived in 1907. It was a one cylinder Cadillac. After the trip Mecklem used a Pierce Arrow as a stage from Hood River to the Inn, but the auto could only go to the China Fill, but it cut down the time from Hood River from 8 hours to 3.
Dorsey Smith assumed the operation of the Inn around 1910(?). Homer Rogers, who ran a lodge in Parkdale, bought the Inn in 1919 from Ladd for $5,000. And a long-term contract from the Forest Service was made.
In 1925 the government was planning the Mount Hood Loop Highway and considering building a newer and bigger inn, similar to Rainier’s Paradise Hotel. They pressured Rodgers to make improvements to the road or lose his permit. Homer ended up selling the Inn to a group of people headed by J.C. Ainsworth. They hired Dorsey Smith to operate the Inn until a new one was built.
The plans for a new Grand Lodge didn’t bring the funds needed by private investors. Enthusiasm for the project was briefly renewed when the Mt. Hood committee came up with plans for a tramway to the summit of Mount Hood. But opposition from the Mazama climbing club and groups concerned with the environmental affects and safety killed that project too.
In 1927 Dorsey Smith turned the Inn’s operation over to Noyes Tyrell, who operated the very successful Tyrell’s Tavern near Bonneville. He ran it until 1932 when it stood empty for about a year.
Boyd French Sr. leased it around 1934 until the war caused it to close its operation. The Mt. Hood Road and Wagon Company sold the Inn in 1942 to the Forest Service for $2,000. Dorsey Smith was the representative in the transaction, ending his long association with Cloud Cap. Boyd Smith used the Inn as a part time residence until after the war. Attempts to operate the Inn failed after that and in 1950 the Forest Service was considering tearing down the Inn, as it had fallen into disrepair.
The Crag Rats, a Hood River based climbing club, after a struggle with the government, secured permission to use the Inn as a clubhouse and a base for their snow surveys. The Crag Rats went to work repairing the old building and
maintain it to this day. In 1974 Cloud Cap Inn and Vista House were placed, by the state, on the list of historic places.
Cloud Cap Inn is accessible by car via a rough dirt road when it’s not closed due to snow. Hiking trails and camping are available in the area as well as majestic views of Mount Hood from the timber line at 6000′, the same elevation as Timberline Lodge on the opposite side of the mountain.
Here’s a great early view of the old Welches Ranch at Welches Oregon.
This view is after Sam had gone. You can see the store, post office, the dance hall and the white canvas tourist tents lined up along the road to the left of the Welch home. Billy’s cow pasture, which is now the golf course at the resort, is at the left side while his orchard can be seen on the right side of the photo.
When this photo was taken there was only a sign out at the Barlow Road, where the modern shopping center is presently located, directing people to turn south and drive to Welches Ranch one mile away.
Here’s a happy group of hikers exploring Columbia River Gorge Gorge around 1910 becoming a part of the Oneonta Gorge History . This slot canyon within the Columbia River Gorge and on the scenic Historic Columbia River Highway has been a popular location to explore for a very long time. Today on a hot Summer day it can be elbow to elbow with people.
Today there’s a log pile to negotiate and a stretch of water that can be chest to chin deep to make your way into the little canyon, but there’s an amazing waterfall at the end as a reward for the trek.
Ford Times August 1958 – To Mount Hood Through Oregon’s Lolo Pass
Here’s a great story from 1958 about driving through Lolo Pass Road back when it first opened. It tells about how, after it was determined that the area was not a part of the Bull Run Lake watershed, the road was built in 1955 opened to the public from Spring until Fall for fantastic views of Mount Hood’s west side.
Here’s a rare view of Oneonta Bluff and the old railway bed prior to the
construction of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Once construction of the road took place the construction of the tunnel allowed automobile passage through the basalt promontory. In time increased traffic and larger cars and trucks necessitated the relocation of the railroad and the highway to allow the cars to bypass the tunnel altogether. The tunnel was filled in 1948.
Covered up and virtually forgotten, many people would stand on the old bridge that seemed to direct traffic directly into a solid rock wall.
In 2009, as a part of the restoration of the remaining segments of the old road, the tunnel was excavated and restored, including the wooden cribbing and rock facades.
Today the old tunnel is a pedestrian passage and witness to the old Columbia River’s history.
“Booming Business – Tiny Brightwood post office will soon be upgraded in status, and position of officer in charge will be changing to postmaster. Kay Hudon, who’s now officer in charge, is applying for the new job.”