Arlie Edward Mitchell, 89, thought to be the last living Barlow Road tollgate keeper, dies June 1. (1976)
Mitchell died in Gresham after an extended illness. Services were held Monday with internment at Lincoln Memorial Park.
In his later years Mitchell was well known for his recollections of operating the Barlow tollgate. He was present in 1970 when the tollgate near Rhododendron was dedicated.
He recalled that it was his duty during his period as a gatekeeper from 1906 to 1908 to keep track of the people, animals and wagons that passed through the gate.
That included counting sheep, flocks of them brought across the Barlow’s route over Mt. Hood. Mitchell recalled one flock of sheep that numbered about 3000.
He liked to tell the story of the Indian woman so fat that she got stuck in the small gate. Everyone had a good laugh including her Indian companions who teased her before helping her out of her predicament.
Mitchell was born Dec. 6, 1886, the son of Stephen and Ellen Mitchell, on a farm near Sandy.
He attended a public school two miles from his home and went to work at an early age in sawmills and logging camps. For several seasons he worked with Lige Coalman as a guide on Mt Hood.
He was widely known as a builder. In 1908 he helped build the first grade and high school in Sandy and the Odd Fellows Hall. Years later he helped build Smith’s Garage and did some work on the Masonic Hall.
He spent four years in the Forest Service building and maintaining telephone lines. He traveled by saddle horse with a pack horse to carry his tools, tent and personal belongings, cooking his meals over a campfire.
Mitchell joined the Navy in 1917 eventually making 16 crossings from New York to Europe. He served in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France and remembered the great cheering for “The Yanks” on Armistice Day in Belfast.
Mitchell served aboard the captured German vessel, “Emporator”, which was pressed into service as a troop ship and transport. Eventually he was transferred to a destroyer travelling through the Panama Canal.
He was fond of telling about a week’s stop in Mexico where he swapped an old pair of dungarees for a bunch of bananas.
Following his discharge. from the Navy Mitchell worked on bridges at Zigzag River znc Sill Creek. He buillt many summer homes including his own.
In 1928 he married Anna Ringness. A few years later he drew a homestead in Tule Lake, Calif., where the couple lived a year building a house and farm home for his brother, Harry, who survives him. Also surviving is another brother, John, of Sandy.
after “proving up” the homestead the Mitchells moved back to the Faubion area on Mt. Hood. He became treasurer of the Faubion Summer Home Association and held office for at least 35 years. He also served several times as a director of the Welches School Board.
Mitchell is survived by his wife, Anna, Rhododendron; a son, Edward; a daughter, Ellen and four grandchildren.
Intro: This is a story that was transcribed from the retelling by Victor H. White in 1972 of a story from the life of Mount Hood legend, Elijah “Lige” Coalman. In 1972 Victor H. White took transcripts of Lige Coalman’s life as they were recorded by Lige himself. He also had the opportunity to interview Lige to help fill in some blanks. In his own words; “I re-wrote Lige Coalman’s own manuscript, condensed it, re-phrased it, and edited it. I shortened it and omitted repetitious and non-essential material. I did not add, change or exaggerate anything.”
The following story is one of the stories that Victor White left from the book, but felt that it was worthy of retelling in a subsequent publication. The story really does exemplify just how wild and primitive the area from Sandy to Mount Hood really was.
Snow Saga of Lige Coalman
Adventure, danger and unusual happenings along the old Oregon Trail west of The Dalles to Portland were limited neither to the early days before 1860 nor to the fork of the trail that used the Columbia River as a highway.
Westward from The Dalles, the overland route of the wagin-driving immigrants turned first south, then westward south of Mount Hood over Barlow Pass. This route across the Cascades became a toll road with specific charges for each wagon, horseman, cow or sheep which used it and, because of existing government land use laws at the time, there was one man who did something in that locality no one else ever attempted before or since. His name was Dr. Herbert C. Miller, then Dean of the Northwest, Dental College located in East Portland. Doctor Miller established a large farm at Clackamas Meadows directly at the summit of the Cascade Range, some fifteen miles south of the toll road, where snow might fall ten, twelve or fifteen feet deep and there was no access save a mountain trail impassable for several months except on snowshoes.
There was then a roadhouse at Government Camp which was also, then as now, the jumping-off place for the start up Mount Hood by the way of Timberline where the ski lodge is today. This accommodation was a mile or so north of where the original Oregon Trail had passed.
On one particular December night in 1914, four men, one woman and two children, the entire winter population of Government Camp, were all sleeping peacefully in the hostelry building when Lige Coalman was awakened by a noise that sounded like something scratching and clawing at the door and moaning or shouting feebly. There was nine feet of snow on the ground and the temperature was near zero.
Lige Coalman was thirty-three at the time and perhaps the most capable and experienced mountain man in all Oregon. Those with him in the building, besides his wife and his two children, were a foster brother, Roy Mitchell, and an old timer from Oklahoma named Lundy.
Lige got out of bed and went to the door. His movement and the continued unfamiliar pounding at the door roused the others. Lige opened the door and a man’s body that had balanced against it, fell into the room. This man’s head was completely bound and covered with a wool muffler, although he had evidently arranged a slit for his eyes as he had beaten his way through the storm and finally fallen against the roadhouse door at almost the exact moment of complete exhaustion.
Coalman dragged him forward, closed the door and called to his wife and the others, “Get a fire going; this man’s nearly frozen.”
But warmth already had the fellow able to half sit up and he was desperately trying to explain, “Man, woman and baby… two miles… in snow… will freeze…” He pointed shakily down the mountain in the direction of Rhododendron and Portland.
As soon as the muffler was off the man’s head, Lige Coalman recognized Doctor Miller, Dean of the dental college, who owned the farm at Clackamas Lake. Lige also personally knew the man, woman and one-year-old child who were down the road in danger of freezing. They were the Andrews Family, who had been helping to run the butcher shop in Sandy, Oregon, about 30 miles to the west and below heavy snows.
The three men got miller into a bed with warm blankets over him. Mrs. Coalman had hot chocolate in brief moments and got busy massaging circulation into Miller’s frosted limbs. Mitchell and Lundy immediately bundled up and started for a frozen location known in the summer as Big Mud Hole on the Laurel Creek Road. Lige spent a few moments helping his wife feed and partially restore Doctor Mille’s circulation, then followed the other men down the mountain.
In the early 1900’s tuberculosis was perhaps the most common cause of death in the Northwest among both Indians and whites. It was commonly believed that a high, dry, clean atmosphere was imperative to recovery. Thousands of persons went to Arizona for possible cure but limited finances made this pilgrimage merely a mirage of hope for the wealthy. Nearer to home, high and, if possible, dry hills were often specifically chosen for tuberculosis hospitals and sanitariums. It had come to Doctor Miller’s attention that a particular spot in the Cascade Range at Clackamas Lake seemed to have definite benefits of nature that could serve both as a means of profit and as a boon to mankind as a site for a tuberculosis sanitarium because it was true then as it is now that Clackamas Meadows, situated at the very top of the Cascades, enjoyed a prevailing easterly wind almost as uniformly as the summit of Mount Hood has a never-changing southwesterly wind.
This dry wind swirls air from Eastern Oregon into the high Cascades as happens in no other spot of those mountains. But unlike the southwest wind on Hood, the Clackamas wind does shift in winter to bring in heavy snows from the west.
Doctor Miller’s problem arose from the fact that Clackamas Meadows was within the boundaries of the Mt Hood National Forest which was withdrawn from homestead entry unless proven to be adapted to agriculture. It was this agricultural adaptability that Doctor Miller proceeded to prove in order to claim ownership and build a sanitarium.
He built a ;og dwelling, barn and other outbuildings, all strongly constructed with roofs that could uphold the possible fifteen feet of winter snow. He plowed several acres of meadow, dug drainage ditches, planted a family orchard and arranged a garden plot. Then he brought in a team of horses, milk cows, pigs and chickens. He truly established what amounted to a Siberian or Canadian home-site. He even went to the extent of panting the meadow to wheat, oats and barley and a variety of timothy which he actually did import from Siberia. A young German named Meyers, with two of his cousins, was employed to run this farm as caretaker during the winter season, when they also picked up several hundred dollars additional income by trapping fur bearing fox, lynx, pine marten and wolverine. Their traps also yielded beaver, otter and mink along the Clackamas River.
Several winters of this, however, had proven enough for the three young Germans. When Meyers was offered a job by the city street car company in Portland, all three farm workers asked Doctor Martin to relieve them and this was why the arrangement had been made to hire the butcher’s helper and his family from Sandy.
That night about midnight, Mitchell and Lundy found the butcher, with his wife and baby, crouched around a fir twig fire they had managed to start on the snow. Partially sheltered by a toboggan loaded with household goods and personal effect, they were nevertheless in critical condition. The baby, having been best protected by the mother, was the only one not suffering frostbite by the time Lige Coalman arrived and they were then able to complete their trip back to Government Camp where they arrived at daybreak. It took four days of warmth, rest and food before they party dared venture on. Then, with Lige Coalman and Mitchell accompanying Miller and his new employees, the party of five adults and the baby undertook the remaining fifteen or sixteen miles of snowshoe and toboggan travel toward Clackamas Meadows.
The strenuous first day of struggle through glaresnow, sometimes ice-encrusted, brought them up about fourteen hundred feet of elevation by noon. They had pulled the toboggan to Frog Lake by two o’clock and Mrs. Andrews and the baby were able to ride the remaining two miles of slight downgrade to an old cabin on Clear Lake by early evening.
Part of the cabin roof had caved in. All but the baby fell to work, using boards as shovels. Thus they cleared the snow from the part of the frozen bare ground, which was still roofed. They felled a dry cedar snag with an axe from the sleigh, got a fire going and then cut fir boughs, which were partially dried to make a mattress, upon which their complete exhaustion enabled them to sleep intermittently for a few hours before dawn.
By 6 a.m. a new wind started snow sifting down on the weary sleepers. By 7:30 they had finished the breakfast they had planned and, after running into a new snow storm at nine, they pressed in and won the relaxing comfort of the snug Miller log house by noon.
Lige Coalman and Mitchell planned to bring the three farmer caretakers back to Government Camp in a fast one day sprint. Before noon, however, one of the Germans, who thought that he had fully recovered from a recent bout with the flu, began suffering a relapse. Before nightfall, he was running a high fever and had to be placed on a toboggan with additional blankets and medicine. By the end of the second day, the sick man was brought to Government Camp suffering high fever and delirium. His life was nip and tuck for almost a week and it was the middle of February before he had recovered sufficiently to go on in to Portland.
Indeed, the hazards and hardships of winter travel in all of the Oregon Trail Country through the Cascade Mountains in 1914 had changed little in sixty or seventy years. Although a doctor was available in Sandy, the means of hisd getting to a sick man at Government Camp through ten feet of snow was hardly a practical undertaking. Even today a sudden snow storm can close the modern highway for indefinite periods while the most modern equipment struggles around the clock to keep things moving between Barlow Pass and Sandy. This can happen most any time from November 1st until the middle of March or even later.
For some twenty miles eastward from Barlow Pass modern man seems to find no use for any kind of highway at all and only a toilsome dirt roadway marks a course for a few intrepid tourists and fisherman who venture for pleasure down Barlow Creek up which the early immigrants struggles to reach the rich agricultural promise of the Willamette Valley and the new world trade center of Portland.
The History of Government Camp Oregon, on the south side of Mount Hood.
Government Camp is located on the south face of Mount Hood at 4000 feet in elevation. By tradition Government Camp is a “ski town”. Even before the ski resorts people used to make their way to Mount Hood in the Winter to snowshoe and ski in the winter and hike in the Summer. Government Camp is home to the famous Timberline Lodge. Timberline Lodge was built during the Great Depression as a WPA Works Progress Administration project and is an Historic Monument and national treasure.
In May of 1845 the United States appropriated $75,500.000 to mount and equip an army regiment to establish posts along the Oregon Trail. It was later decided to divert the effort to the Mexican war. In 1849 Lieutenant William Frost brought an immense wagon train through from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 429 wagons, drawn by 1716 mules arrived at Fort Dalles with 250 tons of freight. A part of this contingent traveled by boat to Vancouver, as planned. While the rest were waiting for available boats, someone up high in command decided to send the remainder up and over the Barlow Road to Oregon City. Mules, in poor condition, were pulling heavily overloaded wagons. Many literally starved on the trek over the Barlow Road. As usual, it was late in the fall, with winter threatening. About 45 wagons had to be abandoned, before the train descended Laurel Hill. For many years the vicinity was known as “the government camp on Still Creek”. Later, capitalizing of the names indicated that the title Government Camp had gained full acceptance. An actual community was not developed until the advent of O.C. Yocum, Francis C. Little, and William G. Steel, all of whom filed for homestead rights. Some travelers used Summit Meadow. Mount Hood, A Complete History, Jack Grauer
Yocum platted parts of his claim in blocks and named the North/South streets 1st, 2nd and 3rd. He spelled his name on the East/West streets, Yule, Olive, Church, Union and Montgomery. The plat was called Pompeii. He later called his town Government Camp and tried to establish a Post Office with that name but the government objected to the two-word name. So he changed it to Pompeii and was granted a post office with that name. But the name of Government Camp Oregon had stuck and the post office was eventually changed to Government Camp.
OC Yocum built the Mountain View House hotel in 1899, and Lige Coalman bought it in 1910. Lige built the Government Camp Hotel the next year. He sold his hotels and the both burned in 1933.
George Calverly built a café at the East end of town and his wife operated it. Everett Sickler and Albert Krieg built the Battle Axe Inn in 1924. It burned on November 7, 1950. Charlie Hill built and ran Hills Place across from the Battle Axe Inn from 1932 until it burned in 1969. The Rafferty’s built and ran a hotel next to the Battle Axe Inn. It changed hands and names, the Tyrolean Lodge and the Mountain View, several times before it burned down in 1954.
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.
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.
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.
This is an old privately made Real Photo Postcard of a crew of three friends taking a break from hiking or climbing on Mount Hood.
The writing on the front reads: “Crater Rock Mt Hood – Steaming Rocks – August 22nd, 1906”. Climbing Mount Hood has always been a popular sport with tourists over the last 100 years. Although Crater Rock is not the summit of the mountain it’s a healthy hike above Timberline to get to that location.
This photo was taken in the summertime when climbing Mount Hood is the most dangerous so it’s most likely that this group didn’t make it to the top.
Oliver C. Yocum, Mount Hood Photographer – I love Mount Hood, history and photography, and when I can bring all three together in one place I’m happy. Loyal readers of my blog may remember the article that I wrote about Jennie Welch and her photography and its importance to the history of Welches and the Mount Hood area. Before Jennie Welch took her first photo another Mount Hood icon, Oliver C. Yocum, was bringing cutting edge photography technology that would eventually allow consumers, such as Jennie, an easier method to create their own photos to the Pacific Northwest.
Oliver C. Yocum, known to everyone as “OC”, came to Oregon in a wagon on the old Oregon Trail as a five year old child with his parents in 1847 and by the time that his life ended became a legend indelibly etched into the history of Mount Hood. His family settled in Yamhill County where he spent his childhood working on the family farm and odd jobs in between. By the time he was 17 he had worked as a clerk in the family hotel in Lafayette, was an apprentice saddlemaker, a builder and in his spare time studied law. In time he struck out on his own. He loved Shakespearean novels and travelled mining camps with a troupe reenacting the plays on a portable stage for the miners.
He eventually made it back to Lafayette where he met Ann Robertson, herself an Oregon Trail immigrant who travelled to Oregon as a two year old, and they were married. OC did some building, cabinet making and grain buying before the couple moved to Portland in 1881 where OC became a photograph printer and eventually a professional photographer.
Photography, back in the old days, was a messy and complicated procedure. It required a glass photo plate to be prepared with chemicals, exposed and developed all within a 15 minute period of time and required a portable darkroom in the form of a tent if you were taking photos in the outdoors. This form of photography was called wet plate photography. But in 1871 a process called dry plate was invented and by 1879 factories were being made to manufacture glass dry plates. Oliver Yocum was the first person in Oregon and, perhaps, the Pacific Northwest to manufacture dry plates. Dry plates were portable and able to expose the photo quicker allowing for hand held photos and were able to be stored for a time after the photo was made before it needed to be developed. This allowed more people to be able to enjoy photography and even though the cameras were still rather bulky, they allowed folks to carry their cameras into the outdoors.
In 1883 Oliver C. Yocum climbed Mount Hood for the first time. During the trip he carried a large 8” x 10” wooden camera and all of it’s accessories weighing close to 50 pounds. It was on this trip that the first photos taken on the summit of Mount Hood were made. It was also on this trip that Yocum fell in love with the countryside on the south side of Mount Hood.
For several seasons Yocum did photography in Portland during the Winter and came to Government Camp in the Summer. He took every opportunity to climb the mountain. In 1887 he was a member of the party that illuminated the summit and was one of the founding members of the Portland climbing club, the Mazamas, in 1894. He guided people to the top of Mount Hood until he turned 67 years old.
In his quest to spend time outdoors in clean air, due to “pulmonary problems” caused by smoky air in Portland, and no doubt the chemicals from the photography process, he changed his occupation to surveyor and in 1890 Yocum moved to Mount Hood, homesteaded, operated a sawmill and started guiding people to the top of Mount Hood. In 1900 he built the first hotel in the town that was named Government Camp.
Oliver lived on Mount Hood until 1911 when he sold most of his holdings in Government Camp and moved back to Portland where he decided to study dentistry and accepted a position at the North Pacific Dental College. He was 69 years old at that point and had sold most of the business to the soon to become legendary Lige Coalman, including the hotel.
OC lived a long and varied life and will forever be associated with the history of Mount Hood, but will also be a part of Mount Hood’s photographic history. OC died in 1928 and was followed into eternity by his wife Ann two years later. Although his legacy rarely mentions his contributions to photography, his name will be preserved in some of the geographic locations on and around Mount Hood. Yocum Ridge, a very challenging ridge on the southeastern side of the mountain was named for him as well as the picturesque waterfall on Camp Creek, Yocum Falls.
Steven Mitchell was legend on Mount Hood in his times, as well as his son Arlie, who was the last tollgate keeper at the Rhododendron Tollgate of the old Barlow Trail Road. Lige Coalman, who was raised by Steven, was also a legendary mountain man on Mount Hood in his own right.
Steven Mitchell – Portland Oregonian Sept 12 1920
“Steve Mitchell – Husband of the Hills
Man of the mountains
Whose Life Near Mount Hood Is a Story Book of Many Treasures
By Earl C. Brownlee
For 60 years Steve Mitchell, husband of the hills, has been fleeing, terrified, from civilization.
Yet the dreaded ogre as pacing at his heels again, debauching the icy waters of his streams of melted snow, defacing the majesty of his brilliant autumn hills, slaughtering the game that gave him his meat and heaping its insults upon injuries suffered at its hands.
The dusty road before his cabin door, an artery that helped to carve from the wilderness of woods, is leading multitudes of folk through the most wonderfully romantic section of the land of the last frontier.
And from end to end of the timber bordered highway of delightful vistas there is nothing or no one so romantic as Steve himself; Steve Mitchell, as old as the mountains he loves so well-the last of a sterling generation of brave men who revered the quiet grandeur of the hills above all other things.
Far from the paths of man’s progress Steve Mitchell many years ago sought the realm of heart’s desire. To achieve his goal this man of the mountains first cut his way as a workman over what became, by dint of labors like his, Portland’s Hawthorne avenue. With the street completed, civilization advanced and Steve Mitchell fled to far places again, cutting roadways as he went, into dark forests the circled Mount Hood.
There he found his glorious freedom and there he has remained, while time has etched its wrinkles on his face and has woven a mantle of white for his brow.
Meanwhile, he has reared and sacrificed to man’s estate four splendid sons and two accomplished daughters, among whom are those who have forsaken the ways of their grizzled father and have found success in the hated city.
“Confounded thunder buses” roll by his forest-bound home in ceaseless numbers nowadays as Steve Mitchell peers peacefully into the future for a spot where the profits and pleasures of men cannot be encroached.
In the ‘60s Steve Mitchell looked into the west from his home in Iowa. He kept faith with the vision and from a point near Cleveland, Ohio, he started the pilgrimage.
“And I’ve been tinkering aling ever since,” he says, as he declares he has other distances to gain.
Briefly, his tinkering was centered in mines of gold in California, but in 1866 he came to Oregon. He helped build streets through the timber and then built roads to and through Sandy to the mountains.
About the man and his life many tales are told, but none more truthfully nor well then Steve can tell them. There’s the story of his gold claim to entrance the mountain novice.
It is said that far back on the Salmon River, concealed for nearly half a century against the prying eyes of friends and enemy, Mitchell has a gold mine.. There, the story has it, he chips great nuggets from a rocky wall whenever he’s in need of funds and brings them to the counting house. The claim is a priceless treasure, we are told, that would yield the cost of every comfort if its owner chose.
“Bah!” Steve Mitchell will exclaim if you inquire into the story. “There are more lies in these hills than there wever were cougars.
“Liars, thunder buses and a new kind of man-animal with a whooping sort of holler are the torments of civilization. There’s too much civilization in the world. “If you write articles tell about these man-animals who have come into the hills to pollute God’s creeks by washing their unworthy feet in them and tearing the quiet night with their whooping hollering. They’re ornery-worse than a cougar, and a couple of ‘em aint very far away.”
Folks don’t know the mountains, Steve Mitchell says, and can’t love their dim trails and rocky peaks as he does. Wedded to their wonders, Mitchell has learned their lore as the schoolboy learns from books; in them he has built his home and in them he will find his grave.
In the interim, though, there has been a lifetime of marvelous days, attended with thrills at times, yet always mandatory in their hold upon the heart of this fine fellow.
Steve was bent over a kitchen stove, when by inquisitiveness born of long acquaintance, he was interrupted, and his story elicited by many questions. Upon the stove a frying pan, containing a stewing portion of carrots, simmered as Steve jammed more firewood into the blaze that was heating his dinner.
He hauled forth a shaggy, yet sadly worn pipe for himself and from his seat on the end of a wood box, fanned romance by his talk.
Nineteen fording places in the river back of Steve Mitchell’s cabin mark the old Barlow trail, pathway of the pioneers who first crossed the Cascades around the base of Mount Hood. Mitchell can point out each ford and can tell of the days when he trod the still fresh trail of those empire builders who preceded him.
He will show from his front door the vast, timbered hill where, within his mountain lifetime, has grown a forest. When Mitchell selected his mountainous home there was no sign of woods save the blackened bulk of great trees destroyed by an ancient fire.
He has seen those hills yield heavy timber, where, within the scope of his own memory, there was but a charred reminder of a once deep forest. Over their denuded slopes he has watched by the hour while his dogs ran deer that he might have food, he lolled in their shade times unnumbered as he hauled from their roaring streams great trout to appease the mountaineer’s keen appetite. He has tracked the bear to favorite berry fields and his gun has brought the mountain lion hurtling from his tree.
He has held communion with the lords of nature’s great open spaces, and he has studies their secrets until they are his lexicon-his primer and his Bible.
From it all he has learned both hospitality and hate. He hates civilization; yet he is hospitable to a degree unlimited.
As he spread his Sunday dinner a demand to partake with him declined, he proferred (sic) a piece of his “bachelor pie” that would bring envy to the most dainty housewife. Its flaky crust enough to belittle a salaried chef, the pie he had manufactured, with filling of raisins, was a delicious morsel the he insisted must be followed by a generous slab of light loaf cake he had just drawn from the oven.
“And now,” he jocularly said, “you can stay overnight if it rains real hard.”
“Folks from the towns are taking all the fish from the creeks are we’d have a mess for breakfast too. No, ‘planted’ fish do not restock the streams. Does a hen lay all her eggs in one day, once she gets started? Neither do fish, if they’re left to their natural means, and scientific methods can’t change nature’s way.
“The same civilization that has ‘fished out’ the streams has frightened the few remaining animals back into the mountains, where these confounded thunder buses can’t chug and sputter and roar their dusty way through night and day.
“Between thunder buses and these man-animals down the road one can’t even sleep anymore.
“Civilization is coming too close and I’m about to move back with the deer and the bear and the fish. There are no neighbors there to let their people starve on their doorstep. There is no whopping holler at midnight, but the call of the mountain winds and the cougar’s cry.”
Steve Mitchell’s comfortable little cabin sits beside the road 10 miles west of Government camp, and for many miles around there is hardly a foot of ground that this main of the mountains has not trod and whose charms he has not sought.
He is known to the folk who live in the hills, but to those who come from “civilized” places his is but one of the modest homes that may be found in the wilderness.
His, though, is a home in every sense, for he lives in it in summer and winter, through snow and sunshine. Only upon “occasions” does he venture from his mountain haven and such occasions are all to frequent if they occur more than once in a decade. The sturdy sons who remain in the family drop in now and then to visit with their father or to spend an idle day under his roof. But his wife who saw his early happiness in the hills has been called to “civilization.” She lives at Sandy, where, Steve declares, he has no business. Two splendid daughters hold worthy positions in centers of “civilization”.
Three sons remain of the four reared in the Mitchell family. Lige Coalman, famous Mount Hood guide and forest ranger, whose knowledge of the timbered wilds founded on training at Steve Mitchell’s hands, was reared as a son by this mountaineer and his wife. But Coalman, too, has quit the mountains for the profits of a farm.
When the world war opened the four stalwart Mitchell boys, each loyally attentive to their father and each a convert to the nature-loving, out-of-doors creed of their forebear, were prepared with strong bodies, capable hands and a will for the fray. Mountaineers, each of them, the four enlisted for service. Two were members of the marine corp, one chose navy and the fourth wore an army uniform. The first three were overseas fighting men. Arlie, a strapping young chap wonderfully versed in mountain lore, made 11 round trips over the Atlantic as a member of the nation’s naval forces and did eight months of shore duty overseas, where he visited almost every important city on the continent and in the British Isles.
“I hadn’t been out of the mountains much before,” he says, “and I never want to be again.
The sons who were marines, members of the mow historic fifth regiment, were also initiated to the ultra-modern delights of the world’s capitals, but they gleefully returned to the mountains of their childhood and resumed to their work in the forests.
One of these, a boy respected by every mountaineer who met him, fought through all the hot campaigns in which the American marines mouled war history in France, before he returned to the wooded, romantic land of his choice.
Again in the mountains, held fast by their appeal, this youth, just a year ago, gave his life to the protection of his playground when fire swept through the forest almost within sight of his father’s cabin.
With the same strength and courage that he fought his battle overseas, Steve’s son fought the blaze that would denude his homeland. Nor did he care a whit for the danger that surrounded him when a great fir, rocked upon its fire gnawed base, crashed down upon him.
That was an “occasion,” a day of sorrow for Steve Mitchell. He was drawn to the city-hated Portland-to hear the funeral dirge. And he vows he will never return.
The lonesome trails of the mysterious mountains have felt the footfall of Steve Mitchell. He will not profane the joys the hills have given him by the belated association with the world beyond his forest bound home. “
Roadhouses on The Mt Hood Loop – The Wistaria Farm Inn
The Wistaria Farm Inn, near Cherryville Oregon east of Sandy on the old Mount Hood Loop Highway (Highway 26 today), was only one of the many roadhouses located on the Mount Hood Loop Highway popular during the motor age. Continue reading The Wistaria Farm Inn