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.
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.
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 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.
Timberline Lodge ‘s first Winter was a rocky one business wise.
“From W. P. Gray
Two months after its dedication by President Roosevelt, Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, Oregon, $650,000 structure built with WPA money, was picketed by skiers who demanded immediate opening of the lodge’s sanitary facilities to skiers. No operator has been found for the massive Alpine hostelry, and “keep out” signs bar all doors. A corporation of Portland business men is reportedly forming to open the lodge. The picketing skier above is Ken Soult.”
James Harlow’s journal entry and photos. Saturday and Sunday, September 19-20, 1931 James Harlow, Curtis Ijames, Cecil Morris, Everett Darr, Dr. Bowles and Ole Lien.
Ole came for awhile at noon, and we made definite plans for the climb up Mt. Hood over this weekend. Then I packed up and went over to Ole’s where we were to meet the fellows from Camas with whom we were going up. They were due at 7:30 but didn’t show up by 9:00 so we made arrangements to go up with Everett Darr and two of his friends. They came by after us by 10:30 and we started by 11:00 PM. Ole and I rode in the rumble seat. Everett’s two friends were Cecil Morris and a fellow named Bowles, a doctor. The car, a Chevrolet Coupe, belonged to Cecil Morris. We were at Government Camp by 12:45 AM Sunday. We didn’t stop at the hotel as Raffertys had gone to bed.
It was very foggy from Laurel Hill to Timberline but was mostly clear at Timberline with a 38-degree temperature. The mountain showed up white with a fresh coat of snow. We started on the climb about 3:00 AM with a fellow from Portland, Curtis Ijames by name, making a party of six.
We ran into snow a half mile above Timberline, and put on crampons half way to Triangle Moraine. The snow was well frozen and we hardly sunk in. There was a very heavy west wind and clouds were rapidly blowing across the mountian. The summit was obscured by the first streak of dawn. On Triangle Moraine there was probably an average of fourteen inches of snow piled into drifts, sometimes four or five feet deep. When the sun came up, we saw some beautiful cloud effects, the most wonderful colors I have ever seen.
When we got to Packs Rocks, we were in the fog and the wind tried its best to blow us off into White River Glacier. Upon reaching the first hot rocks, the wind was so hard we could barely move. At times, we just lay down in the snow and anchored ourselves with our ice axes. It wasn’t bad going up on the Crater Rocks drift until we got on the top of it. Then the wind was so bad it took us ten minutes to go 100 feet. The snow was soft, making the going hard. It was foggy most of the time and ice froze on our clothes. It took us quite a while to go the last 1000 feet because of soft snow.
It cleared up before we got to the top of the Summit Ridge. We looked down on a sea of clouds below 8,000 or 9,000 feet on the south and west and scattered clouds on the north and east. Fleecy strings of fog were blowing across the summit with tremendous velocity. And the gusty wind was so strong as to be dangerous. The rocks were ice-covered and the going was very treacherous. The last 200 feet over to the cabin was terrible.
We finally got to the cabin and went in, as the door was unlocked. It was very cold and the fire we lit in the kerosene stove did little to warm things up. We had arrived at the cabin about 11:30, and stayed about an hour. The shack swayed, creaked, and groaned crazily in that wind. The noise was terrific. Leaving about 12:30, we got down the chute okay but got lost in the fog below Triangle Moraine. The snow had softened and made the going very tiresome in the three and four foot drifts.
We finally got on the right path and got down to Timberline by 4:00 PM. Everett, trying to crank Cecil’s car, which started hard, punctured the radiator. We got it started down the road and he could coast nearly all the way to Rhododendron. Ole and I rode into Portland with Curtis Ijames in his Model T Ford delivery. We stopped at Government Camp and got a bite to eat at Rafferty’s so home by 7:30 PM, thus ending a great trip.
James Harlow’s Mount Hood Climb 1931 Journal entry and photos courtesy of Anne Trussell (Harlow), Sacramento, Ca.