Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Homestead Heritage

[We are going to be featuring some blog posts about homesteading in the next few months. If your family homesteaded in the upper reaches of Lake Chelan, and you have pictures, journals or stories that you would like to share, we would be very receptive to sharing those treasures.]
McGregor Mountain viewed from the river at the Stanley place - originally homesteaded by Billy McGregor

The Stanley Place
by Bucky Gans [originally printed in the Stehekin Choice newspaper; edition August/September 1993]

Where the name of McGregor Mountain originated
Approximately five miles upvalley from the head of the lake lies one of the more desirable homestead sites in the Stehekin Valley, with level, fertile land, not heavily timbered and abundant water available from the Stehekin River. The first man to cast eyes on this site as a possible abode built himself a cabin, dug about half a mile of irrigation ditch, and planted a garden. This would-be homesteader was named Billy McGregor, and although he disappeared from the scene in 1901, his name lives on in the mountain which dominates the view at the head of the lake and which mightily overshadowed his modest homesite.

An updated map shows a 73.5 acre plot designated as the “McGregor Flats” Ranger Station, indicating the irrigation ditch and site of Billy McGregor's cabin. In 1906, Jake M. Richardson of Chelan filed on 79.14 acres, including a portion of the old Ranger Station site, which had been downsized to ten acres, thus releasing 63 acres for settlement. A metes and bounds survey by E.O. (Jack) Blankenship dated August 26, 1913, shows the area thus filed on.

A New Beginning for a Young Family
But Jake Richardson also relinquished this site, and on September 3, 1914, Robert A. Stanley, of Tenino, Thurston County, Washington, made homestead entry 013412 for List NO. 6-1129 (H.E. Survey No. 233) in sections 8, 9, and 16 of T. 33n, R17EWM, in the area known then and now as McGregor Flats. What brought him to the valley is now unclear – possibly work at Lesh's Sawmill. At any rate, he and his family moved onto the land in late November of 1914. A “shack” (his terminology) was built that fall, and a proper house in 1915 – described as 1½ (or 2) stories, of logs, with 5 rooms and a root cellar, 2 doors, 6 windows. The family consisted of Mr. Stanley, his wife, Nellie McKay Stanley, and three children aged 5 and under. Two more children were born during their time on the land, the youngest being 4 years old in 1921.

Homesteading's Requirements
Homesteading was not an easy proposition, but over the next six years improvements were added-- a 26' x 30' barn (they had several head of livestock, a couple of horses, one or more sheep), a wagon bridge over “McGregor Creek” (which still runs rampant through the area during high water and is actually a branch of the Stehekin River), two irrigation dams, two ditches, 12 acres fenced with 3 strands of wire, several acres cleared, and 5½ acres under cultivation. Bear in mind that this was done with hand or horse drawn implements – no chain saws or tractors for the Stanleys!
Present owner in front of the old school on the Stanley homestead
Some Hardships of Homesteading
In order to earn a little money for the necessities of homestead life, Robert Stanley periodically left the land and sought work elsewhere, leaving his family to look after things at home. Fron June 1 to September 1, 1915, he was absent working for wages. From the fall of 1916, to May 1, 1917, the whole family moved to Stehekin  [meaning from up valley they moved down the road to the lower valley] where he cut wood and the older children attended school. He was absent from the claim November 1, 1017, to April 1, 1918, and again from January 1, to April 1 1920 working in lumber camps on the coast. 
In the early 1900's, winter in a primitive cabin with 5 children, and a husband working out of the valley, was not for the faint of heart.
Mrs. Stanley and the children remained on the claim. Their nearest neighbors were the Courtneys, who lived across the river. Hugh Courtney cut a tree to fall across the river to provide access between the two places, but Mrs. Stanley was afraid to cross it, even though Hugh put up a hand rail. Mrs. Courtney would go over now and then to pay a visit and verify that things were all right – and reportedly from home she could hear Mrs. Stanley yelling at her children or the livestock or life in general, so was reassured that all was proceeding normally.

A Strong and Hearty Woman 
Nellie Stanley seems to have been a rather rough and tough individual, talkative in the extreme, and loud. Leota Patterson Yocum who taught school in the McGregor flats school (built on land leased by the Stanleys for as long as it was used for a school), in 1920 and 1921, later wrote: I remember her riding their tall, white horse at gallop, her wide-brimmed hat turned back in the wind, her skirts flapping and she hanging on to the saddle for dear life. She'd wave her hand and shout at me, as I'd scramble quickly to the side of the road out of the was as she passed, her words trailing unintelligibly behind her. But I had many conversations with her. These were one-sided conversations. How she loved to talk, and she could go on interminably, never giving one time to answer. A not at the appropriate spot was all that was necessary.” And my grandmother, May Buckner, told of hearing Nellie Stanley approaching one day, and of her (May's) flight to hide in the cellar until she departed. Nellie seems to have been a bit too rough for my proper, genteel Baptist grandmother? However, once in the cellar, May had no way of determining when Mrs. Stanley had departed, and thus was prisoner for many minutes of her own rather un-neighborly action.

They Persevered in the Face of Challenges
But Nellie Stanley was equal to all that fate threw her way, and that took the unfortunate form of Robert Stanley's bout with terminal cancer. In June, 1920, he underwent an operation for cancer of the bladder in a Tacoma hospital. It was at this time that he was making his final proof on the homestead in order to obtain his patent (title). His testimony was taken before the Clerk of Pierce County in Tacoma on June 19, 1920, while the testimony of his two witnesses, Barney Zell and Lew Weaver, was taken in Waterville on the same date. Mr. Stanley returned to the valley late in the summer, ad continued in residence through the winter, but in the spring while the road was still blocked with snow, it was necessary to move him out to Wenatchee where medical attention was at hand. The neighbors constructed a special sled to transport him and assisted in getting the family the five miles to the boat landing. Accorkding to Leota Yocum, a niece from Chicago came out to help care for the school-age children for at least a time.

"Proving Up"
Meanwhile, the homestead title did not appear, and as Robert Stanely's conditon worsened so did his condern for the land title. On August 2, the Chelan County Auditor, A.V. Shepard, wrote the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., inquiring as to the status of the patent. In a letter to the Waterville Land Office, dated August 23, 1921, the Assistant Comissioner of the Department of the Interior stated:

The Wheels of Bureaucracy 
“This office is in receipt of a letter from the Acting Forester, Forest Service, dated February 17, 1921, in which he states that on July 1, 1920, the district forester at Portland, Oregon, advised your office 'that from an examination made of the land covered by this entry it was found that only 5 ½ acres had been cultivated; that unless the entryman secured a reduction of the area of cultivation the Forest Service would be obliged to protest the final proof. (Ten acres was necessary to meet the requirements.) The Forest Service has heard nothing further about this matter.'” While proof is unsatisfactory as to cultivation, it appears, however, that the claimant has otherwise shown his good faith … in view of which you will advise him that he will be allowed 30 days to file an affidavit, corroborated by two of the proof witnesses stating why he failed to cultivate the required area each year . . . “

A Recounting of Work completed
Affidavits he wants? Affidavits he gets!!! First from Robert A. Stanley deposing “that he has been in ill health for the past four years; that for the last year and a half he has been bedfast, and at this time is almost entirely helpless with a cancer; that for the past two years affiant has been unable to do any work, ad for two years prior to that could do very little; that the development work on said ranch was on by affiant's wife, Nellie Stanley . . . That the only property affiant and his wife have is the said property with some personal property . . . That affiant did all he could possibly do . . . and that his wife did grubbing, slashing and other work . . . “ Nellie McKay Stanley deposed all of the above, adding “That affiant and her husband were unable financially to employ any help in development work on said homestead, and for that reason, since Robert A. Stanly was stricken with cancer, affiant has cut down trees, sawing and splitting them up, and has raised crops, commencing work as early as four and five o'clock in the morning and working until ten and eleven o'clock at night in order to develop the homestead and to support herself, her husband and family . . . That affiant worked like a slave until compelled to leave (to care for her husband in Wenatchee) . . . That affiant was there day in and day out, never leaving and drudged and slaved to assist in making a living . . .”
the "old school" on the Stanley Homestead - still standing today

Thank Goodness for Neighbors
In addition, affidavits were sent from Mrs. J.M. Jack, one of the officers engaged in distributing charity in Wenatchee, verifying Mr. Stanley's condition and the family's destitution and dependency on charity for food and clothing, and that the homstead constituted all that they had; from Frank E. Beatty, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Wenatchee, deposing the same thing; from Drs. C. Gilchrist and A.E. Gerhardt, deposing all of the above as well as the rapidly approaching end of Mr. Stanley's life; from the County Auditor and one County Commissioner, the former having gone to Stehekin to examine the homestead and talk with the neighbors and secure their signatures on an affidavit swearing to the honesty, industriousness, and good faith of the Stanleys and from the neighbors, attesting to the above and describing the improvements on the homestead. This affidavit was signed by Bernard Zell, Lewis M. Weaver, Dan Devore, W. V. Buckner, O.J. Hart, Alfard D. Bowen, H.L. Courtney, H.S. Buckner, Althea Rice, Lydia George, and Myrtle Merritt – a pretty good representation of valley residents at that time.

One additional affidavit was sent a few days later from Dr. Frank K. Culp, saying that Robert Stanley died on September 9, 1921.

The Forest Service was thoroughly convinced that the niceties of the law had been satisfied. The patent was granted, dated October 8, 1921.

So far as this writer has been able to determine, Nellie Stanley moved her personal belongings (and her children) to Wentachee and never lived on the homestead again. The land was sold for taxes probably sometime in the thirties; it was owned by Guy Imus at one time and later by Sam Tollber, who subdivided it. Some of the land is still privately owned.

a family that owns a part of the original McGregor/Stanley homestead

In 1923 a marriage license was issued to Nellie Stanley and Nels C. Nelson. The family is thought to have remained in the Wenatchee-Chelan area for a number of years and there may be descendants among the readership of this paper. If so, please let us know the rest of the story.  

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ernie Gibson: Hero to Lost Hikers

Ernie Gibson: Hero to Lost Hikers

By Charles Hillinger
The Los Angeles Times
January 27, 1982

CHELAN, Wash. – When the weather is bad and Ernie Gibson is flying his plane, he puts aside his pipe and takes to whistling. He whistles a lot this time of year.

Gibson, 64, has been a bush pilot in Washington’s Cascade wilderness for 37 years. The floatplane skipper is a hero to hundreds of youngsters and adults in one of the most rugged slices of the Pacific Northwest.
In bad storms, he chases lightning strikes to pinpoint fires for the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. He flies injured and lost hikers out of the mountains.
Since 1945, Ernie Gibson has been Chelan Airways, the tiny airline of two floatplanes that buzz back and forth over 55-mile-long, one-mile wide Lake Chelan between Chelan and Stehekin.
The airline boasts a three-passenger Cessna 185 and a seven-passenger DeHaviland Beaver. Gibson chooses which plane he will fly by the number of passengers waiting to make a trip.
“I’m a coward,” the handsome six-foot pilot joked. “I never leave the runway.”
He flies low over the deep blue-green glacier lake, lighting up his pipe after he’s airborne and puffing away until he touches down again on the water.
Gibson figures he has bade at least 25,000 round trips up and down the lake.
He wears duck waders each trip. At Stehekin, he ties the airplane to a float. But at Chelan, he climbs out of the cockpit and wades through the shallow water, pulling the plane up a ramp.
“It’s like a horse,” he said, blue eyes sparkling. “I have to tie it up.”
For him, each flight is unique. “The mountains are always different. The lake is always different. Noting is ever the same.”
In years past, Gibson flew miners in and out of mining camps that were scattered along the lakeshore until the late 1950s. Now, he flies mostly homeowners and visitors to remote Stehekin and the Lake Chelan National Recreation area at the northern tip of Lake Chelan.

 Normally, he flies only in the daytime. But during emergencies, Gibson will fly at any hour, in all kinds of weather.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Glimpses of the Past

Alfred Downing writes about seeking refuge in John Horton's cabin when a forest fire raged through the valley during the summer of 1889.

--excerpt from “A Trip to Lake Chelan” by Alfred Downing; written in 1889

“We reached the head of the lake after dark, at the point where its main tributary flows in with great force.  This is the Stehekin river, which heads in the main Cascade range, about forty miles to the westward and near the Skagit pass. We disembarked the next morning with our pack pony which we had taken up on the boat with us, and it was our intention to make our way by trail to the Skagit pass, the boat, with other passengers, returning to the foot of the lake next day.  Our plans, however, were frustrated by the extensive forest fires which we encountered in the Stehekin canyon, five miles from our starting point, the hot ashes and burning logs so badly injuring the hoofs and fetlocks of the pack pony, and making it exceedingly tropical for ourselves as well, that we returned to the mouth of the river.  

At this point a settler named Horton has built a cabin and leads the life of a hermit mountaineer.  On returning to this cabin we attended to the suffering pony by besmearing his hoofs and legs with grease and bandaging them, not only to exclude the air, but to prevent the yellow jackets or wasps, which were there in swarms, from annoying the affected limbs. By evening the fire which we had encountered in the morning had swept down to near the cabin, and only by the greatest exertions, and by ourselves burning a space around it, was it saved.  We were all compelled to spread our blankets that night on a sand island at the mouth of the river in order to be secure from the burning trees.  Fanned by a strong northwest wind, the fire ran up both sides of the canyon to the very summits of the mountains with the speed of a hurricane, accompanied by terrific crackling and roaring.  

It was a grand, but fearful spectacle, as we lay on the sand bar on the night of August 2nd, watching the immense sheets of lurid flame licking up everything in their path as they followed along the shore of the lake, from the water's edge to the very summit, making a veritable mountain of fire.  At frequent intervals huge rocks loosened by the great heat went tumbling down the precipitous mountain sides with a crashing noise and plunged into the lake below, throwing up great columns of water, red tinted in the glare of the burning forest.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Special Artist, A Special Visit: Kerry Siderius Captures Stehekin

Kerry's amazing talent captures a favorite sight along the Lakeshore in Stehekin

Kerry Siderius' enthusiasm for life shines brightly through her masterful, watercolor works. A huge fan of her North Central Washington homelands, her happiness bubbles over into her works that feature everything from wine country grapes to Saddlerock Mountain of Wenatchee, from Cashmere farmhouses to the tiniest of chipmunks. 

It is easy to see why Kerry's watercolor and oil artwork is loved and recognized by many with growing popularity. Her ability to capture true life detail with uncanny accuracy while playing with enchanting color creates a style that is….. captivating!

Kerry’s special gift of artistry joins with her love of this region, bringing bright life to scenes such as the stark and beautiful Columbia River country, vineyards, luscious wine grapes (that look as if could pick them off the picture), cliffs and granite, and apple orchards through the seasons.  Kerry immerses herself in the country she loves, including a special trip to Stehekin once a year:  

“It's become our annual tradition to take the Lady (of the Lake) up to Moore Point then hike the remaining 7 miles to Stehekin on Mother's Day. The Lupine are in full bloom usually. We break it up in two days camping at Flick Creek that first night. Henry, who's 18 now has caught our dinner every time! We love it!" says Kerry of her trip up the Lakeshore Trail.

Lady of the Lake, Field's Point by Kerry Siderius

Kerry and her son, Luke, biking in Stehekin

In her true style of enthusiasm for the natural beauty and people that define this region, Kerry has captured the spirit of beloved sights  in Stehekin from her Mother’s Day visit.  When asked if we could share her Stehekin watercolor paintings on our blog, Kerry Siderius gave us an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and added, “I am flattered!”

Kerry, WE are flattered that you said yes!

Kerry beautifully captures detail at "The Garden"

Giving us a peak into her love of place, family and painting, Kerry generously shares the 
following short bio:

“I grew up in Bridgeport. We had an apple orchard. We're a family of six, 2 girls, 2 boys, our parents are John and Jan Little who own Rio Vista winery in Chelan. They've been married 54 years.
I had an ideal childhood. We all worked together in the orchard as a family. I didn't much like it then, but now I really love those memories. My sister and I had horses and we went to a lot of horse shows. Our brothers had dirt bikes and did a lot of hunting and fishing. 
Happily, we all live right around here now, and all our kids are close with their cousins. It’s fantastic!

At my parents winery, it's really a family affair! My niece does the weddings and much more, my brother is a winemaker with my dad, and my mom does all the flowers and landscaping. The winery is my gallery! 

I always knew I would be an artist, I've never even thought I would do anything else. I was always drawing as a child. 
Old Stehekin School, Kerry Siderius watercolor
My husband and I moved to Texas shortly after we married and I was hired in the prestigious Design District in Dallas as their watercolor artist in a very exclusive gallery called Beaux Arts. It was like boot camp for an artist. Working there taught me so many things about what's pleasing to designers,(interior decorators), and sometimes adhering to a very strict palette.  
"When we got pregnant with Henry, who's now 18, I immediately wanted to move home to be near grandma, grandpa and all the cousins that were starting to be born! We moved back and it was like Dorothy waking up over the rainbow! I had missed Washington SO much and I hadn't even realized it! It was like suddenly everything was in color! Those "ugly" brown mountains with sage brush and the occasional pine tree looked like heaven to me."

" I couldn't get enough. I put Henry in a backpack and took my camera and my brushes and started painting our beautiful area, that I hadn't really noticed before."

"Now I have over 300 paintings of Chelan, Wenatchee, Stehekin, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Crescent Bar to Tonasket and everywhere in between. I had to move away to appreciate it.  I could never live anywhere else. My husband and I bought our dream house in Cashmere. It's an 108 year old farmhouse out in the middle of a pear orchard with a little creek running through it. Life is good!"

Thank you, Kerry, for bringing your joy and enthusiasm for this country to life with your talent and paintbrush, AND for sharing your special paintings of Stehekin!
Leaning Cedar, Stehekin River, by Kerry Siderius

To contact Kerry Siderius and view more samples of her many outstanding paintings that literally take you on a tour through this beautiful region, visit the following websites:

Or call Kerry at:  509-860-4708.

Kerry adds: “I have originals and prints of all sizes and prices and also paint on commission from your photo, specializing in landscapes and pets!”

Thank you, Kerry! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Beyond Words - Living Close to Nature

Stehekin Heritage online:

Living Close to Nature

            The primary joy of living in Stehekin, for me, is the closeness to nature in all its glory and power. The longer I live here, the more varied becomes my personal inventory of pleasures. A few of these are:

            a cluster of mergansers flying like arrows, low, up the river

a blue heron standing ankle- deep in the creek, a freshly caught trout dangling from its bill

golden eagles skirmishing fifty feet from our home

twin bear cubs peering curiously around the fir tree that they cling to like koalas

the lithe saunter of a cougar along the creek- bank, the tip of its long tail curled in a question mark

splashes of blue lupine, paintbrush, white dogwood and trillium

small jewels of calypso orchid, and ominous- appearing ginger blossoms

the clean, swift river, in all seasons

aromatic, sticky leaf caps from cottonwoods, brought in on the fuzzy bloomers and feet of our cats

the cyclical aspects of life- seasonal, yearly, a lifetime- strongly affect our existence and experience here. 

The key to surviving here is that one must be able to cope with nearly all of the work, or emergencies, that the isolation forces upon you. You learn many skills you may not have imagined you’d need. And it is wise to be very careful about safety and health, as a sound body is required for successful coping.

A major lesson I’ve learned is that big jobs as well as  small can be accomplished by taking them one small step at a time until the work is done: woodpiles to be moved, firewood to be chopped; garden beds to be dug, planted, tended, harvested, cleaned up; food to be processed and bread baked; quilt tops to be pieced and quilted; snow to be shoveled, snowfall after snowfall- and on and on.

Another intriguing aspect of Stehekin life is how individuals and families move in and out of the community. The lifestyle suits many for only short periods – as a breather, perhaps. Some make the valley their permanent home; other, a retirement location as long as they can cope.

With so few people living here, community participation becomes important. We grow through serving as officers and participants in organizations like the school board and the community council, plan entertainments and activities for the whole age range in the community, and depend upon each other for support of all kinds. Yet we also have the opportunity to live very private lives, even in such a small valley.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Stehekin: Glimpses of the Past

Stehekin: Glimpses of the Past A Collection of Early Writings

Compiled By Carol M. Stone

Stehekin Heritage reprinted Carol's book and will offer it for sale on our website in the near future. If you want to know about Stehekin's early history, this is a book you'll want to read. We will also publish various excerpts on this blog.


“But what do you do up here all winter?” Every Stehekin resident has probably been asked that question many times over. There is, of course, no shortage of things to do in Stehekin in one's spare time; the excellent mail-order library service helps fill any gaps, but for most there are few gaps.

A project which whetted my interest shortly after moving to Stehekin and subsequently filled my days, winter and summer, has been that of researching and collecting written material for the National Park Service's interpretive library. Most of my efforts on the project have been devoted to historical writings about Lake Chelan and the Stehekin area. This has included books, or segments of books, magazine and journal articles, and newspaper articles. Though I have barely scratched the surface, enough material has turned up that it seemed to be time to share some of what has been found. Incidentally, everything included in this book has not been “found” by me. Other people's bibliographies have helped, and once word gets around that such a collection is under way, people are very helpful about passing on references or articles they are familiar with.

The list of publications has grown, and continues to grow. The length of the bibliography at the back of the book gives an idea of the numerous writings there are, and this list is far from complete. Most newspaper articles, for instance, are not included in the list, nor are most of the reports prepared before the area was made a National Park.

Stehekin is unique (along with other scenic areas) in that much has been written about it because of its scenic setting, its isolation and remoteness, and its appeal to the sportsman—hunter, fisherman, hiker, or mountain climber. Community life as such, however, has not been the subject of much writing, though the continued remoteness of the area in this day of speedy and available transportation does make the area good “copy,” and the number of newspaper and magazine articles, even television shows, seems to be increasing.

The time span for recorded history of the Stehekin area is short—barely more than 100 years as of this writing. The number of people involved in the history is also not great; the number of year-round residents in the Stehekin Valley has probably never exceeded 100, even in the heyday of the mining explorations, and usually it has been much less. Tourism (and mining in the early days) brings in many more on a temporary basis, of course, but the names of those passing through are not likely to be recorded in history.

This book is not meant to be a history of Stehekin. The content is much too limited to be considered a complete chronological presentation. However, the reader will probably acquire (or renew, in the case of the old-timers already familiar with the valley) a sense of history—perhaps even an appetite for further research. Since the National Park Service has been in the valley, with its emphasis on historical interpretation (as well as natural history, recreation, etc.), there has been an increased interest in the past. The Buckner ranch, for instance, with its preserved buildings, farm machinery, irrigation system, etc., is part of the interpretive program each summer, with Park rangers leading walking tours around the ranch. For those who are interested in the past—in the development of the community, and the attitudes of outsiders toward the developing community—these early writings should be of interest.

People's activities change over the years, man-made landmarks change, leisure pursuits change. But the geographic features—the mountains, rivers, even, the flora and fauna change very little. Thanks to our government's actions in preserving the Stehekin Valley, first as a National Forest, and finally as a National Park and National Recreation Area, those features should still be the same for future generations to enjoy. Finding that the same bed of wildflowers which bloom every year today was blooming almost 100 years ago gives ones a sense of eternal preservation; perhaps the world will go on, in spite of man's intervention. And man will continue to enjoy the scenic wonders of the world, of which the Stehekin Valley is still one of the top contenders. The early writers were too flowery in their descriptions, but they certainly appreciated what they saw when they visited the Stehekin Valley.

As in the preparation of most books, thee have been many involved whose assistance should be acknowledged. Gay Robertson, for instance, did all the final typing, making the copy “camera ready.” Her accuracy, patience with the poor copy she had to work with, and her excellent suggestions are most appreciated; without her there would be no book.

The Pacific Northwest Collection at the University of Washington Library was the source of most of the periodicals in which the articles for the book were found. The Photography Collection, also at the University of Washington Library, yielded the Lindsley photographs used in the book. Cindy Stammen prepared the drawing for the cover. My sister, Jean Larson, demonstrated unlimited tolerance while I pecked away on the typewriter. The National Park Service personnel at Stehekin have been most helpful and supportive in the project. 

Finally, but most important of all, the early writers contributed the bulk of the book. By drawing their contributions together, within one cover, it is hoped that Stehekin's past will come alive and help us enjoy the present, and preserve what we can for the future. 

– Carol M. Stone