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