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.
The 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.
Back 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.
Villages of Mt Hood Post Offices
The Villages of Mt Hood Post Offices
What gives a town, or in this case a village, its identity? In most cases it’s the establishment of a post office. Many feel that the establishment of a post office is truly that which makes a settlement a town or a village. The case is no different here on The Mountain, as each of our villages have been identified in that very same way. That identity still exists in places that no longer have a post office, such as Zigzag, Wemme and Faubion.
One might think that Welches, being the center of attention in our area, would have been the first post office to be established here, but it was actually the roots of the present day Brightwood post office that makes that claim. Samuel Welch, a local pioneer and Welches namesake’s first venture in the area was a hotel and general store in what was then called Salmon, Oregon, with a post office being established in 1891. His hotel was located near the present west end of Brightwood Loop near the Salmon River, and it wasn’t until 1910 that the name Brightwood was adopted. At that point in time it was located inside of McIntyre’s General Store near its present location. The Brightwood Post Office was discontinued in 1914 but reestablished in 1925.
The next in line as one travels east was Wemme. Named for E. Henry Wemme, the benefactor of the old Barlow Road, its post office was established in 1916. Wemme was discontinued upon the establishment of the new Welches post office in 1977.
The Welches post office was established at the Welch’s Ranch in June of 1905 with Linny Kern as the postmaster. Billy Welch succeeded Kern as postmaster in 1910 and served until 1940 when his wife Jennie took over. Jennie, for years the local matriarch, served until 1960 when the Welches post office was closed. The Welches post office was re-established in 1977. The original plan, at that time, was to move the Wemme post office into a new building on Welches Road, thus threatening to re-name Welches to Wemme. Because of the local outcry the postal service changed their plans and named the new post office Welches, thus insuring the perpetuation of its true identity.
In 1909, a post office was established in the little town of Rowe. Named for Henry S. Rowe, an ex-mayor of Portland who built the old Rhododendron Inn, the post office was located in Dad Miller’s store. The Rowe post office name was changed to Zigzag in 1917.
The Zigzag post office existed as its own entity until 1964 when it became a rural delivery station for the Rhododendron post office. Although the mail was sorted at Rhododendron, the mail was postmarked “Zigzag Rur St”. The Zigzag post office closed for good in 1974.
The Rhododendron post office was established in 1920 and is still operating today.
The Faubion post office, which was located in the old Cedarwood Store on what is now Faubion Loop operated from 1924 to 1932 and was operated by William Faubion, Jennie Welch’s father.
Please take some time to send a postcard to friends or relatives. Our postmasters on The Mountain are all friendly down to earth folks that would love to have you drop in. They will also remind you that they need your business to continue their existence.