Who Was E. Henry Wemme?

Well, it seems that it’s been long enough between posts, that I should at least post the articles that I have written for the Mt Hood Magazine. If you haven’t been to the web site, please take a minute and give it a peak.

The first article is about Wemme, Oregon and the town’s namesake, E. Henry Wemme.

I hope that you enjoy the article.


Wemme, Oregon, the place with an odd name. Is it “Weemy” or “Wemmy”? How in the world did it get its name?

Wemme, pronounced “Wemmy”, is easily overlooked as folks drive past on the highway either to or from their stay at Mount Hood and its Villages. With the highway being four lanes and nearly as straight as an arrow, it hardly indicates how our road to Mount Hood used to be. And, as a matter of fact, the name itself is very much related to the growth of the highway that bypasses it.

Auto, Mount Hood, LoopThe story of the Village of Wemme must start with the establishment of the Barlow Road and its development into a toll road and a two way track from its original westerly Oregon Trail route. In the later part of the 19th century, the Barlow Road, established in 1845 by Oregon Trail immigrant Samuel Barlow, was the route to Mount Hood’s south side and its recreational possibilities for the early Portland area adventurers. The road was a private toll road and, throughout its years,  was held by several different companies. It went into many different levels of repair and disrepair over the years.

In 1912, Portland businessman and early automobile enthusiast, E. Henry Wemme purchased the old road for $5,400. Mr. Wemme is considered Oregon’s first motorist as he purchased the first automobile in Oregon, an 1899 Stanley Steamer. He owned a tent and awning business during the Alaskan gold rush, and became very wealthy supplying tents to the miners.

In 1915, after spending $25,000 on the much needed improvements, he eliminated the toll and opened the road to free travel. Upon his death in 1917, the road was willed to Wemme’s attorney, George W. Joseph, and it was held in trust until it was accepted by the Oregon Highway Commission in 1919 to be developed into the Mount Hood Loop Highway that we enjoy today.

Arrah Wanna LodgeBack in its heyday, Wemme was separated from the other local communities by the wooded, winding, rutted unpaved road. Pavement, modern automobiles and rapid travel had yet to come into existence, which made each village its own separate community. It was only after the widening of the road into a modern highway and the loss of the slow paced country road that the local communities started losing their separate identities.

Many aren’t aware that in 1977 Welches came very close to being called Wemme.  The old Wemme post office building was to be closed and replaced with a new modern facility that had been built further east and down the road to Welches. At the time Welches had no post office. A local resident, Bill White, understanding that the new post office was not in Wemme, wrote letters and petitioned the postal service to name the new post office Welches. His efforts were successful and the community of Welches retained its identity and its name.

Today, almost as soon as you enter Wemme, you’re leaving Wemme and headed to Welches. Don’t blink, you might miss it, and because of the terrific businesses and restaurants that are located there today, you will be missing much.

 

Mount Hood Loop Highway

Mount Hood Loop Highway

I’ve lived on the old Columbia River Highway in Bridal Veil, and currently live along the course of the Barlow Trail in Brightwood. My love of the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood, and my interest in their history has driven my research into the story of both routes and the development of the Mount Hood Loop Highway. Mount Hood is the only glacial peak with a road that completely circles it allowing access to the peak from every direction. It’s a fun day when I can relax and go for a drive the Mount Hood Loop Highway.

Wagon at Government CampBefore the immigrants from the East came to settle here the native people had well beaten trails that led from the Columbia River, located to the north, and from the Willamette Valley to the west. The trails led to the hills on the southwest side of the mountain where they would come to hunt, fish, gather berries and harvest medicinal plants.

In the early days of the Oregon Trail the “Great River of The West, the Columbia River, was used by the immigrants on their surge west. Many families rafted what was left of their earthly belongings, and in many cases what was left of their families, down the perilous river route through cascading rapids and laborious portages to the Willamette Valley in search of the “Land of Milk and Honey”. Because of this migration, the initial establishment of the overland roads by and large carried traffic from east to west following game and native trails, the primary route being over the southern shoulder of Mount Hood.

Sam Barlow and Joel Palmer arrived in charge of separate wagon trains at The Dalles in September of 1845 and found a shortage of everything, and a long wait for the dicey trip down the river. They both felt that the prospect of staying in The Dalles until a guide could be secured was more than their patience or their budget could endure. Considering the fare charged by the River Guides and the expensive prices for supplies at The Dalles, and the fact that the trip was not just a leisurely float downstream, a land route around Mount Hood sounded like a good idea. Hearing of Sam Barlow’s plan to cross the southern shoulder of Mount Hood, Joel Palmer decided to follow him with his own wagon train, overtaking them soon after.

Moving south along the Deschutes and up the White River they burned and slashed their way to the south shoulder of Mount Hood before succumbing to the arduous labor and the oncoming winter weather which required them to stash their wagons and head in the most expedient way to Fosters Farm and on to Oregon City, with the weaker ones of the party riding their tired stock. December of that same year found Samuel Barlow petitioning the territorial government for a permit to operate a toll road over the path that he and his companions traveled the previous October.

In time several routes were pushed through the Columbia River gorge to the valley, including supply/trade and cattle trails as well as a Military road. By the 1880’s railroads were running through, and of course in 1913 the first paved road was built through in the form of the Scenic Columbia River Highway, of which much has been written.

Meantime on the South side of Mt. Hood Sam Barlow’s road was changing too. Nearly put out of business by the gorge routes, the old Barlow road went through many private hands and states of repair and disrepair before it was handed over to the state to be developed into a highway, much along the same route that we drive today along Highway 26.

Welches HotelBy the late 1800’s the immigrants had established their civilization and now many of the next generation wanted to play in the outdoors that their parents fought to survive in fifty years before. Mount Hood is in Portland’s back yard and it beckoned from its position on the horizon visible from most any part of the city, calling them to the mountains. Outdoor sports were very popular then, much like they are today, and many would take the road to the mountain for a guided trip to the summit, or as time went by to the ski slopes in the winter. Summer found them taking wonderful alpine hikes, festooned with breathtaking vistas, fields of wildflowers, creeks and lakes. Fishing and hunting trips were also taken to teaming rivers and the forests abundant with wild game.

Mountain lodges and road houses were established to cater to the tourists, including Welch’s Ranch and Tawny’s Mountain Home as transportation methods and road conditions improved. Horse drawn stages and then auto stages started regular runs from Portland to Mount Hood and back. Many would stop and stay at Welches and others would make the trip to Government Camp where the guides would take them to the top of the mountain.

In 1911 E. Henry Wemme, an automobile enthusiast and Portland businessman, purchased the old road from the Mount Hood & Barlow Road Company with the intentions of improving the route to the mountain and points east for the automobile that was to become the new wave of modern transportation. Two years later he offered the road to the government, who turned down his offer. He died the following year and willed the road to his attorney, who in 1917 presented it to the state who removed the tolls on the road and took over maintenance. By that time there had already been talk of plans for a road that would allow travel completely around Mount Hood.Mount Hood Loop

In 1914 Thomas H. Sherrard, supervisor for the Mount Hood National Forest along with William L. Finley, a naturalist, Rufus Holman, the Multnomah County Commissioner, Leslie Butler and Charles Bell from Hood River and Jacob Kanzler of Portland took a horseback trip around the east side of the mountain much along the route of the present highway 35, which created more interest and faith in the feasibility of a route that would follow the upper Hood River Valley around the east side to the Wapanitia cutoff and the south side road.

Wapanitia Cuttoff

In 1919 a cooperative agreement was signed between the state and the government to build the road. It was started late in the year of 1919, and was completed in late 1924. The first traffic to follow the new road came in the summer of 1925 after the winter snows cleared. The road was only used seasonally until improvements were made and snow removal started in 1967.

And so the Mount Hood Loop Highway was complete. Fred McNeil wrote that at its dedication the Mount Hood Loop road was called “The necklace about the old volcano with Portland as its pendant”. The Loop hasn’t lost much of its allure since then and is travelled often today by folks out for a “Sunday Drive”. It is easily travelled in a day, including stops for pictures of mountain vistas, waterfalls and lunch. If anything has been lost, it’s the lack of awareness of what is being passed unnoticed by those that are “making tracks” and not “smelling the rhodies” while encapsulated in their climate controlled, surround sound equipped cocoons that travel at speeds not thought of by the pioneers that traveled before them.

Model A on Laurel HillDo yourself a favor the next time that you are looking for adventure and take the Mount Hood Loop Highway and please, stop and read an historical marker, or visit a museum. There are many shops and restaurants along the way that are just waiting to be discovered as well. If you’ll leave your cocoon and take a side trip or two and stop and smell the rhodies, maybe you’ll figure out why I love my neighborhood so much. Oh, and wave as you pass Brightwood, it’s right off the highway on a great stretch of the old road.

Click here to see vintage pics from the old Mount Hood Loop Highway from Wemme to Hood River.

Click here for Mount Hood Loop Map

Mount Hood Highway
The Mount Hood Highway No. 26 (see Oregon highways and routes) is the Oregon Department of Transportation’s designation for a 96.74-mile-long (155.69 km)

Mt. Hood Scenic Byway | Mt. Hood Map
Sep 21, 2011 From Hood River, the byway leads south on OR-35 through the broad Hood River Valley along part of the Hood River County Fruit Loop. Fertile …

Climbing Mt. Hood “Back in the day”

Climbing Mt. Hood “Back in the day” – Today I thought that I would post a great story about a typical climb from the 1930’s. I’ve been lucky to have been able to meet many historic figures, or their relatives since I started to pursue my interest in learning the history of Mt. Hood.

This story was forwarded to me through a conversation that I had with Anne Trussell (Harlow) from Sacramento, Ca. Anne is James Harlow’s daughter.

I hope that you enjoy this story.

Gary =0)

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.
James Harlow Mt Hood Summit
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.
James Harlow - MtHoodSummit House
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.

James Harlow - Hiking Back Down Mt Hood

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.

Battle Axe Inn, Government Camp, Oregon

The Battle Axe Inn, in Government Camp was for many years the hub for much of the activity on Mt. Hood’s South side. Many mountain rescues were headquartered from the old inn, as well as community gatherings and parties. Many a cold and tired skier found warmth and rest in front of its grand rock fireplace. Continue reading Battle Axe Inn, Government Camp, Oregon