Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Historical Events to Remember...reprinted from the 2009 Guidebook

Article and pictures copyright by Mike Barnhart.  

"As the chickens were busy gobbling up the pancakes and oatmeal on the porch table and dad was running around like a wild man, your mom was making her entry into the world in a small log cabin at the end of Company Creek road”. This was how my uncle Laurence Courtney remembered the day. At eight years old, Laurence was the oldest of the four children, Laurence, Curt, June and Ray born to Hugh and Mamie. Below is the full story of that morning."
By Mike Barnhart

Grandma Courtney (Mamie Moore) and Mike's
sister Mary  Barnhart 1942
Shortly after my grand parents, Hugh and Mamie Courtney acquired the old McComb homestead at the end of Company Creek Road, my mother June was born in their small log cabin. The year was 1918 and, as the story goes, there were problems with the delivery so, not having anyone around who knew anything about delivering babies, Laurence went up the road to get OP Maxwell. Mac had cows and had helped deliver many calves. They figured he would be better than nothing. Laurence crossed the river on the trolley and ran the two miles on up to Maxwells. By the time they got back Mrs. Merritt was there. She was a midwife and had everything under control though Mom still was not born. By this time it was early morning.  Granddad cooked up breakfast for everyone and set it out on the table on the front porch.  About this time, Mom decided to enter the scene. So while everyone was running around with great excitement the chickens decided to have a little of their own and were all on the table making short work of the pancake breakfast! As Laurence recalled, “pandemonium was at a pretty high level for awhile”.

        That day marked the beginning of my connection to the Stehekin Valley but we need to back up another 104 years to 1814 when white men first started coming to the valley. It was that year that Alexander Ross of the Northwest Fur Company arrived and had hopes of finding and establishing a route between Fort Okanogan and Puget Sound via Cascade Pass. Travel was so difficult that he eventually turned back and abandoned the idea. It wasn’t until the 1880s that another official expedition explored the valley, this time by the U.S. Army. 

          Trappers and prospectors began moving into the area and in 1882 Lt. Henry Pierce brought a
small party of men from Ft. Colville, over Purple Pass and down into the valley. His primary goal was to gain knowledge about the area and the Indian encampment at the head of the lake. With the help of an old prospector and a Native American guide, he successfully found a route across the pass and down to the coastal region but a road was never built.

Rouses Camp (Basin Creek)
With the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the Horseshoe Basin and Cascade Pass areas; and the lucrative fur trade, miners and trappers began pouring into the area. In 1889, scheduled steamboat service to Stehekin began. At this same time, two large hotels were built at the upper end of the lake: The Moore Hotel at Moore Point and the Field Hotel at the mouth of the Stehekin River. A large mining settlement was also established at Bridge Creek, 16 miles up the Stehekin River. Mr. Henry Freeland Buckner operated a hotel there and supervised mining operations for a number of years up in the basin. The ore was rich enough to keep investors interested but getting it to market proved to be too much. The severe winters and avalanche conditions were a formidable obstacle. In the 1940s, money and interest began to fizzle out. Then a huge avalanche roared down Basin Creek and completely wiped out the main base camp at what is now Basin Creek Campground.

Trost Cabin, North Fork of Bridge Creek
 Another attraction to hardy souls was homesteading. In the late 1880s, the Homesteading Act opened up lands and soon log cabins were showing up throughout the valley. Henry Buckner’s brother, Van obtained a tract of land that would become the Buckner Orchard. Hugh and Mamie Moore Courtney homesteaded at the end of Company Creek road. Descendants of these two families still own land and live in the valley. There were others: John Horton, O.P. Maxwell, Bill Buzzard, Dan Devore, Lewis Weaver and Frank Lesh just to name a few. Hard work was a way of life. These rugged individuals carved out an existence with their hands, clearing land, building homes, trapping and raising large gardens.

        With more families moving to Stehekin, the need for a school became apparent. Since there were children all the way from Moore Point, seven miles down lake, to Stehekin, classes were held in several locations during those early years. Eventually a school was built near the Field Hotel and Daisy Weaver was one of the first teachers.
Steamer Stehekin loading wood
                In 1927 a concrete dam was built at the lower end of the lake to help control flooding and provide
electric power. Its completion raised the lake 21 feet causing the removal of the Moore and Field hotels. The Moore Hotel was later rebuilt on higher ground but the materials from the Field were salvaged and used to build the Golden West Lodge and what was known as the ‘white house’,  a rooming house at the  present Stehekin landing site. A new road was built along the end of the lake and down to Purple Point where the passenger boats would now dock instead of at the Field Hotel.

Stehekin School near  Field Hotel.
Teacher Daisy Weaver in the doorway, Olive Field to her left.
During the 1930s, the tourist trade started to pick up and several new businesses were established to cater to visitors needs. Rainbow Lodge, where the new school is today, had an open-air bus service from the landing to Rainbow Falls. Lunch at the lodge and the return bus trip was included in the package, all for one dollar. There was a store, coffee shop and post office at the landing as well as sleeping cabins, rooms and the Golden West Lodge. By this time, gas and diesel engines were powering the passenger boats offering faster service to the head of the lake. Hiking in the Cascades had become fashionable and tourists would often come for several weeks at a time, learning about the culture of the valley and hiking the many trails.

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