Samuel Welch left Virginia at the age of 19 and traveled to Oregon via the old Oregon Trail in 1842. He travelled down the Columbia River and portaged around Celilo Falls. 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 took donation land claims of 160 acres each and homesteaded in the Salmon River Valley near Mount Hood, eventually expanding their holdings to around 1,000 acres. Sam farmed his land and in 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.
And how it became a town and a tourist destination
In 1882, before Welches Oregon became a destination, it was a family homestead ranch. Samuel Welch, an emigrant from Virginia, homesteaded in the valley in 1882. His son William, as well as Edward Kopper, Billy’s first wife’s father, homesteaded in the valley in 1889.
Samuel “Uncle Sam” Welch and his son William “Billy” Welch homesteaded adjoining 160-acre sections of the Salmon River Valley on the southwestern foothills of Mount Hood. Samuel Welch’s deed was signed by Benjamin Harrison on April 19, 1889, and was recorded in the Clackamas County Courthouse on April 27, 1893. The deed to Billy Welch’s place was signed by President William McKinley, June 11, 1897, and was recorded August 23, 1898.
Samuel and Billy bought up other homesteads in the valley until they owned approximately 1000 acres covering the whole valley floor from Walkley’s homestead on the south to “Dutch Fred’s” Homestead to the north (Near present Fairway Av) and extending up the slopes of Hunchback Mountain to the east and Huckleberry Mountain to the west.
The ranch had pastures, corrals, and barns for livestock, including a herd of dairy cows, a few head of beef cattle, some sheep, and several pigs. It had an apple orchard and a large vegetable garden. Also available were an abundance of fish in the river and creeks and hills covered with deer and elk. There were stables and a blacksmith shop. As time passed it became a stop for stages and then motorized coaches that carried passengers along the old road to Mount Hood.
In 1889 Samuel died and deeded his property to Billy. Billy’s first wife, Mamie Kopper Welch, died in 1902. Tourists used to come to the valley in the summer to camp. In 1905 Clinton Kern and a Mr. Wren leased the property and opened it as a hotel resort, which they operated until 1909. The old dance hall was razed, and a large dining hall was erected behind the hotel near the banks of the Salmon River.
To compensate for the loss of the dance hall Billy enlarged his store, which he maintained control of, and added a room in back with a pool table and a second story that was used as a dance hall. It had an east facing balcony where perspiring dancers could get fresh air and, especially on a moonlit night, a view across the pasture toward Hunchback Mountain.
In April 1911 Billy Welch and Jennie Faubion were married. Jennie’s family homesteaded the little settlement of Faubion, just a couplie of miles east of Welches. Together they ran the resort, the store, post office and the dance hall above the store.
In 1905 the Welches post office was established. It was named Welches because the postal service didn’t allow apostrophes in a town name. Billy Welch served as the postmaster from 1905 until 1940. After Billy’s death in 1942 Jennie Welch carried on the responsibilities of postmaster until 1960 when she retired. After Jennie retired the Welches post office was closed and moved to Wemme where it served the community for 17 years when a new post office was built in Welches.
Back then community bonfires, taffy pulls and roasting marshmallows on long sticks were popular. The children were sent out to drag back wood for the fire, which the adults would pile, wigwam style, in piles over 10 feet tall. Campers would sit around the fire and sing songs. Sometimes the festivities were helped along with a little “fortified cider”. The children enjoyed singing “old standards” such as the folk song “Ninety-Nine Blue Bottles,” which was first published in 1910. (Similar to 99 Bottles of Beer). There were several good story tellers that would entrance the folks around the fire with fascinating stories. They would usually end the evening.
And then there were the dances. There were dances in the dance hall every Saturday night. Back then most everyone would come to the dances. Parents of small children would bring blankets and tuck the little ones in the corners of the hall. Billy Welch and one or more other local fiddlers would provide the music. Billy, with his eyes half closed, would pump out “old tunes with a lively beat” while dancers shook the building as they whirled and danced two-steps, schottisches, and the Paul Jones, interspersed with an occasion square dance and a waltz to allow the dancers to catch their breaths.
The valley was becoming a popular spot for summer vacations. In 1910 Tawney’s Hotel, about a mile south of the Welches Ranch at the end of the road, was entertaining guests. Other lodges were being built including the Arrah Wanna Lodge, about a mile down the Salmon River and the Rhododendron Inn in Rhododendron.
Billy slowly converted the ranch to an outdoor vacation resort with a hotel and facilities for campers, hikers, hunters, anglers, and their families. Tent cabins were added when there were no longer enough rooms to meet the demand for lodging. Campers were arranged throughout the area around the hotel and along the Salmon River.
Billy allowed people to camp along the Salmon River, with many of the people returning each year to the same camp spots. After a while Billy subdivided a portion of his property to allow those people to purchase their plot of land. Most of the people built small family cabins and the era of vacation cabins began.
The first vacation cabin south of the Welches Hotel was put there by the Kaderly family. Mr. Kaderly arranged with Billy to move Uncle Sam’s original homestead cabin to a location about 300 feet south of Billy’s home. Except for the hand-hewn foundation and stringers, the whole cabin was constructed of all hand split cedar. In time more cabins were constructed by other families to the south of the hotel facing the meadow along the road toward the Walkley place.
In about 1885 Sam sold 5 acres to Mr. and Mrs. John Roberts of Gresham. They built a cabin on the property. Their son Ed helped Billy in the Welches Store for several years. In 1903 Ed married Dora Owens and in 1910 they built their home on the original Roberts property. In 1913 Ed opened a small photo and candy shop that developed into Roberts Country Store. It was located not far south of the Welches Hotel. Ed died March 29, 1963, at the age of 84.
In 1928, Mr. Ralph Waale leased the Welch pasture with an option to buy. They constructed a nine-hole golf course and operated it until 1939, when they relinquished it to the Welch’s. Billy and Jennie continued operation until 1942, when Billy Welch died. It went through several owners before it was sold to Mr. Eugene Bowman.
CLICK HERE to read more about the development of the Mt Hood Golf Course, Rippling River and the Resort on The Mountain.
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.
The old lodge fell into disrepair and was demolished sometime in the early 1950’s.
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.
Multnomah Falls History – The Bridge Over the Falls – Multnomah Falls is a two tiered waterfall located in the scenic Columbia River Gorge just east of the city of Portland. It was formed about 15,000 years ago as a result of the cataclysmic Missoula Floods, a series of massive floods that scoured out the Columbia River Gorge. It has a total height of 620 feet, with the upper falls being 542 feet and the lower segment being 69 feet. It’s the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States, fourth largest if seasonal falls are included.
Falls was named according to a legend of the local native Multnomah people that
tells the story of how a beautiful maiden sacrificed herself to save the tribe
from a plague by throwing herself from the top of a cliff. The tribe was saved
and a creek formed at the top of the cliff creating Multnomah Falls.
From 1884 until World War II the ORNCo Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company operated a train stop at Multnomah Falls. It was around this time that the “bow string truss” bridge across Multnomah Creek, at the same location as the present Benson Bridge, was built. Somewhere around 1891 the bridge was reinforced but by 1899 the bridge was gone, most likely decayed and washed into the creek.
1915 a lot was happening in the gorge. Tourism was increasing on the steam
powered sternwheelers and train excursions but would soon be replaced by
automobile traffic on the soon to be completed, and now historic, Columbia
River Highway. With this tourism comes the need for hiking trails. Many of the established
trails were being improved and new ones were being made. One in particular was
recommended by Samuel Lancaster to the Progressive Business Men’s Club of
Portland to build a trail from the base of Multnomah Falls to the top of Larch
Mountain to the south and the source of Multnomah Creek.
The club raised money and with donations from Portland businessman Simon Benson and his son Amos worked with the US Forest Service to establish the trail and a fire lookout on Larch Mountain. Simon Benson then hired Italian stonemasons to construct a bridge to allow access to the trail for visitors to the falls. The bridge is named Simon Benson Bridge in his honor.
That same year Benson donated 1,400 acres of land, including the land where Multnomah Falls is located to the city of Portland. Subsequently the ORNCo donated the land at the base of the falls, where their train station was located, to the city in agreement that a lodge would be built there the same year. The stone Multnomah Falls Lodge’s construction was commissioned that year and the lodge was completed in 1925.
The historic Columbia River Highway was completed and dedicated in 1917 allowing Portlanders to easily take a bus or drive an automobile through the gorge while stopping at it’s amazing waterfalls, especially Multnomah Falls. The Benson Bridge is still used today and provides breathtaking views of the falls up close and personal. It has become a part of Multnomah Fall’s history.
The filming of an Oregon Silent Movie on Mount Hood
I have come across an interesting series of photographs recently that document the filming of an early Oregon Silent Movie filmed on Mount Hood. The photos show a crew of photographers and actors that appear to be reenacting a mining scene. There appears to be a wooden sluice set up, men with shovels as well as a scene with men with rifles who appear to be defending their claim.
The scene that shows Government Camp gives some indication of the age of the photos. Dr Kelly’s cabin is clearly seen as well as the old Timberline Climbers Cabin which was located very near the future location of Timberline Lodge. This would place the event near what I found to be the best possible chance to be a documented filming of a movie around Mount Hood. A silent movie filmed in 1917 called “A Nugget in The Rough”.
The subject of this movie seems to be about gold miners. There seems to be a scene with gold panners with a sluice filmed on the slopes of Mount Hood. There’s also a scene where it appears that the miners are protecting their claim with rifles. After I acquired the photos I found out there were other scenes to this set that appear to have been filmed in Portland at a constructed set with a primitive town, log buildings etc. The town scenes appear to depict the activities of miners when they’re in town to spending their earnings, including saloon scenes and a group of “painted ladies”.
I thought that these photos would be great to own, but now that I have acquired them I’m a bit saddened that the group was broken up and separated. These are historically significant images depicting very early movie making in Oregon. Perhaps one of the first Oregon Silent Movie films made in Oregon.