Pioneer Woman’s Grave

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“The Barlow Cutoff” by William Henry Jackson (1930)

One of the loneliest landmarks in WyEast Country is approaching the century mark, and while the years have not been kind, it’s a spot that deserves to be preserved. The place is the Pioneer Woman’s Grave, located along a long-bypassed section of the original Mount Hood Loop Highway.

Roadbuilders discovered the grave in 1924 while building the original loop road. The grave was marked by an old wagon tongue and the remains of a woman were buried in a makeshift box built from wagon sideboards. Based on oral histories from Barlow Road tollgate operators, some historians believe this woman was survived by her husband and two young children, who continued on to the Willamette Valley after burying her here in the mid-1840s.

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The Pioneer Woman’s Grave is just off OR 35 where a surviving section of the original Mount Hood Loop Highway heads off into the forest

The grave is located just east of the busy US 26/OR 35 interchange, where a small, brown sign along modern OR 35 points to the historic site along a scenic and surprisingly well-preserved section of the original highway route. Today, the site is underwhelming, to say the least. The grave is marked by a haphazard pile of stones on the shoulder of the old road, and “graced” with all manner of ephemera left by visitors.

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Pioneer Woman’s Grave in 2020

Several years ago, the Forest Service installed a new interpretive sign broadly describing the origins of the grave, but without much cultural context or detail. The sign is mounted in a heavy timber frame that gives a nod to a much larger, carved version built here in the 1930s.

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Relatively new Forest Service interpretive sign at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave

A brass plaque near the grave was placed here by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a non-profit organization that maintains historic markers around Oregon (and the country). The original plaque was installed on the grave, itself. The current plaque was moved to a boulder a few feet from the grave in 1982.

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D.A.R. plaque at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave

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D.A.R. plaque at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave

Beyond the signs and plaques, the Pioneer Woman’s Grave historic site can only be described as rundown and shabby. The set of timber steps that climb a low berm that fronts the site is rotting away. Foot traffic has largely bypassed the crude steps and trampled whatever vegetation was once growing along the berm.

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Crumbling wood steps at the grave memorial

The wood cross on the Pioneer Woman’s Grave is long gone, and the remaining pile of rocks doesn’t exactly inspire reverence and respect. The few who might notice the nearby dedication plaque and interpretive sign learn that this is a grave site, but the overall scene is haphazard and kind of sad.

Remembrances… or Disrespect?

In recent years, “offerings” left by visitors have escalated at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave. They range from flowers and sentimental toys to a few religious tokens left in earnest. But mostly, the memorial has become cacophony of random tchotchkes that have little to do with the site or respect for the human remains that lie beneath the stones. To give a sense of the scene, here’s recent sampling of these offerings from a few weeks ago:

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Flowers, fir cones and a plastic robot…

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…Teddy bear…

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…cross pendant…

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…rubber ducky…

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…superhero metal CDs…

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…Liberace tapes…

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…bubble gum and taco sauce…

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…Minions, ammunition and COVID masks…

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…and a severed jumper cable clamp.

If the original intent of this roadside monument was to honor nameless migrants who perished along Oregon Trail, then today’s version has lost its way. The Pioneer Woman’s Grave deserves better, and even some modest improvements would bring needed dignity to the site. More about that in a moment, but first, there is inspiration to be gained from other historic burial sites along the Oregon Trail.

Remembering the dead along the Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail was a dangerous, often deadly trip for white migrants crossing into the West, with an estimated 1 in 10 dying along the way. Most were buried where they died, and their surviving families simply continued their push westward. Many of these graves are now preserved and celebrated as part of our traditional view of white settlement of the West. 

In the early 1970s, one of these graves along a branch of the Oregon Trail, just east of Casper, Wyoming, was uncovered while a rancher was building a new road. Anthropology students from Casper College exhumed the remains and discovered this to be the burial place of 1852 pioneer Quintina Snodderly. 

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Quintina Snodderly grave today (WyomingHistory.org)

For many years, the Quintina Snodderly story was a mystery until owners of the ranch tracked down a descendent living in Scio, Oregon. We know from her skeletal remains that she was likely crushed under a wagon wheel, perhaps stumbling or falling while walking aside a wagon. Most who arrived on the Oregon Trail walked much of the way to reduce the burden for ox teams pulling heavy wagons.

Quintina’s surviving husband Jacob and their eight children made it to Scio, in the mid-Willamette Valley of the Oregon Territory, by the fall of 1852. Jacob died in 1889 at the age of 78, thirty years after Oregon became a state in 1859, and is buried in Scio.

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Newly restored Quintina Snodderly grave as it appeared in 1987 (findagrave.com)

The Oregon-California Trail Association took the lead in reburying Quintina Snodderly’s remains in 1987, covering the grave with cobbles that replicated typical burials along the trail in the mid-1800s and surrounding the grave site with a wooden corral fence (above) to help preserve it. An interpretive marker (below) describes Quintina Snodderly’s journey and story.

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Quintina Snodderly plaque placed by the Oregon-California Trails Association (findagrave.com)

Not far from the Snodderly grave in the North Platte valley of Wyoming are the twin graves of Martin Ringo and J.P. Parker, who also died along the Oregon Trail. Parker was from Iowa and died in 1860, though nothing else is known about him. Martin Ringo died tragically from a self-inflicted shotgun injury that was graphically described in newspaper accounts of the day:

“Just after daylight on the morning of July 30, 1864 Mr. Ringo stepped out… of the wagon, as I suppose, for the purpose of looking around to see if Indians were in sight and his shotgun went off accidentally in his own hands, the load entering at his right eye and coming out at the top of his head. At the report of his gun I saw his hat blown up 20 feet in the air and his brains were scattered in all directions. I never saw a more heartrending sight, and to see the distress and agony of his wife and children was painful in the extreme. Mr. Ringo’s death cast a gloom over the whole company… He was buried near the place he was shot in as decent a manner as was possible with the facilities on the plains” (Liberty Missouri Tribune, 1864)

Martin Ringo’s legacy played out after his death when his grieving widow Mary pushed forward, eventually raising their children in California’s Central Valley. Their oldest son John, who was 14 years old when his father was killed, brought infamy to the respected family name. He emerged as an outlaw and gunfighter in Arizona, the man known as Johnny Ringo who was killed near Tombstone, Arizona. His murder is unsolved, but speculation has included a revenge killing by either Doc Holliday or Wyatt Earp, notoriety that Martin Ringo couldn’t have imagined for his son!

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The J.P. Parker and Martin Ringo graves near Casper, Wyoming (WyomingHistory.org)

Like the Snodderly grave, the Ringo-Parker graves are located on private ranch land, but have been preserved with a simple metal rail fence and marked with an interpretive marker placed by the Oregon-California Trails Association.

The Pioneer Woman’s grave was discovered during construction of the original Mount Hood Loop Highway in 1924, and were later placed under a cobble grave by road workers, much as Oregon Trail migrants buried their dead along the trail. A small cross was added to the grave (below). This soon became a popular stop for motorists along the new loop highway.

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First restoration of the Pioneer Woman’s Grave along the (then unpaved) Mount Hood Loop Highway in the early 1930s

According to the Forest Service, the restored Pioneer Woman’s Grave was formally dedicated in 1931 by Forest Supervisor Thomas Sherrard and members of the Portland Progressive Club. Based on the photo of the ceremony (below), the site wasn’t improved for visitors at the time, simply marked as a gravesite.

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Dedication of the restored Pioneer Woman’s Grave in 1931 (USFS)

In 1936, the DAR added a plaque to the grave, and shortly thereafter, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) craftsmen working with the Forest Service placed a large interpretive sign there that would stand for many years.

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1930s view of the Pioneer Woman’s Grave with the large, carved Forest Service sign added to the site. Note the original DAR plaque installed on the grave, itself.

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1930s postcard with the sign text replaced and reversed for easier reading!

The DAR has marked another “unknown” Oregon pioneer grave to the west, the Pioneer Child Grave in Multnomah County. This historic grave also survived highway builders, albeit on an epic scale compared to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave. In 1849 a family traveling the Columbia Gorge route of the Oregon Trail camped at a spring near today’s Wilkes School on their final push to Oregon City. That night, their 11-year-old daughter died, apparently after a long illness. She was buried there in the next day in a makeshift coffin and her parents moved on to Oregon City, never returning.

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The current location of the Pioneer Child’s grave memorial is at the corner of NE 169th and Wilkes Avenue in Gresham. 

The story of the Pioneer Child later caught the imagination of students at the original Wilkes School, located near the grave, and they took it upon themselves to build a picket fence around the site and tend to the grave. In 1949, the construction of the original Banfield Freeway threatened the grave, and a former student of Wilkes School began a campaign to mark the grave with a memorial to protect it from future freeway widening. Finally, in 1955 a large boulder brought in by the Union Pacific Railroad was placed at the grave and a bronze plaque describing the site history was installed and dedicated.

In 1989 a freeway widening project once again threatened the grave and memorial. The DAR worked with highway engineers to relocated the Pioneer Child memorial to the south side of the widened Banfield Freeway, at what is now the corner of 149th and Wilkes Road. The original grave site is also marked by a plaque set in concrete along the Union Pacific Railroad, on the opposite side of the freeway from the memorial and inaccessible to the public.

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The Daughters of the American Revolution placed this plaque on the Pioneer Child grave when the first Banfield Freeway was constructed in the early 1950s

Over the years volunteers have periodically tended to the grave, though the location in front of the freeway maintenance gate and adjacent, massive freeway sound wall still seems precarious. The monument is directly across from the modern Wilkes School, and perhaps someday the school grounds might make for a more respectful and protected location.

Telling the whole story

Romanticized scenes showing Indians and white migrants in peaceful interaction continue the myth that white settlement of Indian lands was a “manifest destiny”.

In recent years, our traditional view of the Oregon Trail has continued to evolve as white Americans have begun to acknowledge the role of white settlement in the West as a major contributor to the broader genocide of Native Americans who had lived here for millennia. For their part, Indians living along the migration route were largely friendly and helpful to white settlers. This, despite the threat the steady stream of migrants posed to their way of life and how white mythology portrayed “hostile Indians” in our history and arts. In fact, more Indians than whites were killed in trail conflicts between the migrants and the native peoples whose lands the Oregon Trail invaded.

This larger story deserves more attention as we continue to curate the history of the Oregon Trail along its route, not just the story of the white migrants who traveled it. Some newer interpretive signs have begun to acknowledge that white American myths celebrating the western migration completely ignore the devastating toll and continued trauma that genocide has wrought upon Native Americans. We still have a long way to go in our society reckoning. A simple start would be to include an Indian perspective at every site where more than a simple grave marker exists. 

What could the future hold for the Pioneer Woman?

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1940s visitor and the massive Pioneer Woman’s Grave sign that was installed in the 1930s

Despite the somewhat new interpretive sign, the Pioneer Woman’s Grave on Mount Hood has become a sad and disrespectful eyesore. So, what could be done to improve it and pay more appropriate respect to the history of the site? The other Oregon Trail graves described in this article provide some working examples of how the site might be restored. 

But the Pioneer Woman’s Grave is different, since it lies along the final stretch of the migration route to Oregon. That these pioneers came close to their dream of reaching the Willamette Valley, only to fall short by a few days is especially poignant. Does a pile of rocks convey that cruel fate? Not really. But what about a more formal marker?

Pioneer cemeteries on both side of the Cascades include many white migrants who traveled the trail, and drawing from the period style of these cemeteries could be an appropriate way to bring more dignity to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave that a heap of stones. Fine examples exist in a pair of cemeteries located in the lonely Kingsley district, just off the original Barlow Road route, on the east side of Mount Hood (and featured in this recent article on Desert Mounds). These historic cemeteries are filled with pioneer graves, most in the Victorian-style of the mid-1800s. Many include wrought-iron fences to mark family plots, as seen in this example from the upper cemetery in Kingsley (below).

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The Upper Kingsley Cemetery in the desert country east of Mount Hood lies along the Barlow Road and has many graves dating to the mid-to-late 1800s. This cemetery provides inspiration for period-specific grave fencing and monuments that could be appropriate for the Pioneer Woman’s grave.

Creating a fenced, mini-cemetery could be a historically accurate way to protect the Pioneer Woman’s Grave from foot traffic and bring a sense of dignity to the site. For example, the decapitated obelisk monument (perhaps it once had a cross on top?) shown below is also in the upper Kingsley Cemetery, and dates to the late 1800s. A monument like this could also provide a non-religious model for more formally marking the Pioneer Woman’s Grave in a period-specific manner. 

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This century-old monument in the Upper Kingsley Cemetery lost its top, but could still be a model for a new marker at a rededicated Pioneer Woman’s Grave.

While these treatments would depart from the crude graves that were built along the Oregon Trail, they do represent what pioneers would have placed upon these graves if they’d had the means — and how they marked graves of the era in the pioneer settlements they created along the trail and in the Willamette Valley.

Other details at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave need attention, too. The crude timber steps placed in the road embankment don’t do justice to the site, nor do they help visitors. Most simply walk up the dirt slope. A low stone retaining wall with more substantial steps and a ramp would be a welcome addition in a site makeover.

A real missed opportunity at the current site is the proximity to one of the best-preserved sections of the original Barlow Road, located just a few yards from the Pioneer Woman’s Grave, where the trail fords a fork of the Salmon River. This could make for an excellent interpretive trail, perhaps built to be accessible so that visitors with limited mobility or using mobility devices could experience traveling in the path of pioneer wagons.

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Deep ruts left by pioneer wagons are plainly visible just a few yards from the Pioneer Woman’s Grave and could be incorporated into the interpretive experience (Photo by John Sparks and OregonHikers.org)

Perhaps most importantly, the site needs context about the native people whose trails the Barlow Road borrowed as it was blazed over the shoulder of Mount Hood by Sam Barlow. Today’s tribes continue to fish and gather berries and other foods and plant materials from the forest, as they have for millennia. This is just one story from an Indian perspective that could be told as part of providing cultural context and acknowledging the ultimate cost of white migration to native peoples at the Pioneer Woman’s Grave.

How to Visit?

Though our forests are currently closed by fires, you can walk a section of the original wagon route from Barlow Road to the Pioneer Woman’s Grave describe in this Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry. And you can always simply stop by the grave by following the old highway segment west from the Barlow Pass trailhead or following signs on OR 35 just past the US 26 junction.

Alva Day and the Lost Lake Highway

Timeless classic: 1920s Postcard view of Mount Hood from Lost Lake

Timeless classic: 1920s Postcard view of Mount Hood from Lost Lake

The Hood River History blog recently featured a series that caught my eye: a local family packing up their car for a camping trip to Lost Lake. The images were from a series captured in the 1939s and early 40s by Alva Luman Day, a local photographer whose legacy as a figure in Mount Hood history is only now beginning to emerge.

As happens with most history research, digging a bit deeper into the story of Alva Day’s camping trips to Lost Lake revealed more than a few surprises. This article is the story of how the modern-day highway to Lost Lake came to be, and how the life of Alva Day is intertwined in this story.

Alva Luman Day

Alva Day was born in 1887 in Colorado and moved to Oregon by the early 1900s. Day married Io Stewart in 1908, and they gave birth to their son Carroll Stewart Day in July 1910. Sometime after arriving in Oregon, Alva spent time in Alaska, though it is unclear whether his wife and young son traveled with him. But by 1918, he was back in Hood River to stay, working for Pacific Power and Light until he retired in the 1940s.

Alva Day clamming in Ketchikan - 1917 (Source: Hood River History)

Alva Day clamming in Ketchikan – 1917 (Source: Hood River History)

The above photo from Hood River History shows a young Alva Day during his Alaska years, posing for his camera during a clam dig near Ketchikan in 1917. He was just shy of 30 years old in this photo, and about to make his permanent move to Oregon.

Alva Day was a skilled and prolific photographer. The History Museum of Hood River has more than a thousand of Day’s images in their collection. The Lost Lake series is typical of his photos, too. He had an eye for detail and composition, but with a journalist’s instinct for storytelling. He often added his own, handwritten notes to the back of his prints, gradually building a rich historic legacy that we are just beginning to appreciate today.

1920s postcard view of Lost Lake from nearby Raker Point

1920s postcard view of Lost Lake from nearby Raker Point

Alva Day’s family trips to Lost Lake by automobile were a relatively new phenomenon in the 1930s. A rough wagon road had been constructed in 1905, but soon fell into disrepair, and was never passable to automobiles. The new Lost Lake Highway had only been completed in the early 20s and was still unpaved when the Day family made their camping treks. In fact, most of the public lands around Mount Hood were still roadless at the time, as commercial logging (and its roads) would not emerge a major focus of the U.S. Forest Service until the 1950s.

Construction of the Lost Lake Highway began in 1919, spurred by construction of the new Mount Hood Loop Highway, and the excitement over the recently completed Columbia River Highway. The Lost Lake Highway was conceived as a joint venture between the U.S. Forest Service and Hood River County, climbing 14 miles from the company mill town of Dee to the lake. Roughly two-thirds the road was on county land, and the upper third inside the Oregon (later renamed Mount Hood) National Forest boundary.

Lost Lake is prominent on this 1920s map of the Mount Hood Loop (Source: The Oregonian)

Lost Lake is prominent on this 1920s map of the Mount Hood Loop (Source: The Oregonian)

The project got off to a rough start, and endured many setbacks and delays over four years of construction. From the beginning, there were worker shortages, with District Ranger Warren Cooper making trips to Hood River in September 1919 in search of men willing to join the effort:

“We are going to have the road finished for motor traffic by next summer if we can get help. We need ten men now” said Cooper at the time. But by November of that year, snow shut down road construction until the following spring of 1920.

By mid-summer of 1920, Forest Supervisor Thomas H. Sherrard had 12 workers pushing forward on the National Forest portion of the project in order to complete the final two miles to the lake. By September of that year, the Oregonian reported the construction to be “progressing fast” with the “gem of the Cascades to be open to auto travel next year.”

Hood River photographer Fred Donnerberg captured this image of the road under construction in the summer of 1920 (note the boxes of explosives in the background) (source: Hood River History)

Hood River photographer Fred Donnerberg captured this image of the road under construction in the summer of 1920 (note the boxes of explosives in the background) (source: Hood River History)

Still more delays followed, with the “finished” road rough and still impassable to most cars by the end of 1921. With the route largely in place, a gravel surface would be added in the summer of 1922, finally making it a truly durable “highway” for auto travel. The Oregonian reported the completion of the clearing and grading phase in the fall of 1921 as follows:

“When the last charge of TNT was exploded, removing the last barrier of boulders and a giant fir stump, members of the 20-man forestry crew paused on the lake’s edge and gave a huzza that echoed and re-echoed through the forest. Then they cleared away the debris, the new road was open, and one of the gems of the Oregon National Forest was made accessible to motorists of the Hood River Valley, or their visitors from Portland, over the Columbia River Highway.

“The forestry crew broke camp today, closing the new dirt grade with a barricade of felled trees as they left the district… It is planned that the new grade of approximately five miles shall be surfaced with crushed rock next summer… The cost of grading the stretch, which penetrates a district of magnificent firs and cedars, was about $18,000.”

It turns out that Alva Day had an important role in the completion of the Lost Lake Highway, too. He was an avid sportsman, and secretary of the Hood River Game Protection Association at the time, one in a series of prominent roles he played over his life advocating for hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation.

Alva Day (left) overseeing the release of hatchery fry in 1933 (source: Hood River History)

Alva Day (left) overseeing the release of hatchery fry in 1933 (source: Hood River History)

The game association was a strong advocate for the project, promoting the idea and leading critical local fund-raising efforts for the county portion of the project in 1919 and 1920 to keep construction on track.

By the mid-1920s, thousands of cars were streaming up the dusty, gravel road to Lost Lake, and Alva Day was undoubtedly among the visitors. Responding to this instant popularity, the Forest Service gave the green light to several summer cabins and a small resort in the years that followed, and later constructed the beautiful campground we know today. Lost Lake was now a major tourism destination, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each year to its postcard shoreline views of Mount Hood, framed by ancient cedars.

Day Family Trips to Lost Lake

Alva Day’s involvement in the conception and completion of the Lost Lake Highway adds new meaning to the series of photos he captured on family outings to Lost Lake in the 1930s and 40s. He loved the lake, and according to Hood River History accounts, made these annual camping excursions every summer.

The Day family ready to go camping in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

The Day family ready to go camping in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

The Hood River History series of Lost Lake images begins with the above photo, captured in front of the Day family home in Hood River at 420 June Street. According to the Hood River History blog discussion, the house still stands. Note the hefty trailer behind the car — as subsequent photos in the series show, this is industrial camping!

A closer view of the Day family (Source: Hood River History)

A closer view of the Day family (Source: Hood River History)

Looking at the first image in a bit more detail, we see Alva Day on the left and Io Day on the right. The Hood River History blog discussion speculates that the two young women were the Day’s daughters (Helen and Emma) and the older man next to Io Day was her father. However, I wasn’t able to confirm this in any formal records.

Instead, official records show that Alva and Io Day had just one child, their son Carroll. Carroll married a Helen Colby in 1931, so the “Helen” speculated in this photo could be his wife. Sadly, Helen (Colby) Day died just nine years later, in 1947 (Carroll Day married again in 1948 to Aline Andrew, and both lived into the 1990s).

Snow at the lake? Not unusual in early summer  (Source: Hood River History)

Snow at the lake? Not unusual in early summer (Source: Hood River History)

The next image in the Hood River History series is from an earlier trip, taken in 1933, but I’ve included it here because it wouldn’t have been unusual for early summer campers to encounter snowdrifts on the way to Lost Lake. On this earlier trip, it’s possible that Alva Day (on the left) and Io (center) were simply heading up for some early summer fishing, and not on a camping trip.

The Hood River History blog clearly identifies the man on the left in both of the previous photos as Alva Day, which raises a question: did he shoot these as self-portraits using a timer, or was someone else behind the camera? More on that in a moment…

Is this Alva and Io Day’s daughter-in-law? (Source: Hood River History)

Is this Alva and Io Day’s daughter-in-law? (Source: Hood River History)

A closer look at the 1933 photo clearly shows Io Day to be the same person as that pictured in the 1938 camping trip series. But the young woman next to her in the 1933 photo (above) also seems to be the same person standing near the stove (below) in this detailed look at the next photo in the series, captured in 1938:

Helen (Colby) Day five years later? (Source: Hood River History)

Helen (Colby) Day five years later? (Source: Hood River History)

The similarity between these images, and lack of documentation on Alva and Io Day having more than one child leads me to speculate that we’re looking at Helen (Colby) Day, first wife of Alva and Io’s son Carroll. There is no birth date available for Helen (Colby) Day, but assuming she was roughly Carroll Day’s age, they would both have been in their mid-20s when these images were captured.

A wider view of the campsite scene (below) shows the rest of the family, and the impressive array of gear that filled up that trailer behind the family car! You can see still more detail on the original Historic Hood River image, but some of the intriguing highlights include the cook stove, wooden table, what appears to be a wood pantry or food box, and of course a canvas tent in the background.

Sharp-eyed viewers of this photo in the Hood River History blog also spotted bratwurst in one of the frying pans, a pile of discarded tin cans behind the stove (did they pack them out?) and a swimsuit and towels hanging to dry on the clothes line. Alva’s boat is tied up at the lakeshore, just beyond the table.

Camping in style at Lost Lake in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

Camping in style at Lost Lake in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

In this wider view, Alva Day is seated to the left, and next to him a young man that I will speculate is Carroll Day. The woman toward the back is clearly Io Day, with another unidentified young woman seated next to her. If the young man in the above photo is, indeed, Carroll Day, then I will also speculate that he was behind the camera in the previous two images, as well.

The next camping image is actually from 1941, but also fits the theme. In this view, Io Day is relaxing at the base of a large cedar tree, looking quite comfortable and content. On this outing, the wood stove is still there, and a wood picnic table has appeared. Were these provided by the Forest Service? Most interesting, of course, is the portable radio sitting on the table:

Io Day relaxing at Lost Lake in 1941 (Source: Hood River History)

Io Day relaxing at Lost Lake in 1941 (Source: Hood River History)

A closer look (below) shows the radio in a bit more detail — likely a portable “farm radio” of the era, designed to run on batteries at a time when many rural areas were still without electricity, but within reach of radio broadcasts. Could they pick up Portland broadcasts at Lost Lake? Or possibly KODL 1440 in The Dalles, which began broadcasting in 1940?

Is Io listening to The Whistler? (Source: Hood River History)

Is Io listening to The Whistler? (Source: Hood River History)

Whatever the station, they would have been listening to popular suspense programs of the day like “The Whistler” and “The Shadow”, made all the more spooky by firelight in the middle of the forest!

Next in the series is another image from the 1938 outing that shows Alva Day in his unique paddleboat. The unidentified women from the previous campsite image is steering the boat and Alva is cranking the paddles. Mount Hood rises in the hazy background in this scene:

Alva Day’s boat at Lost Lake in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

Alva Day’s boat at Lost Lake in 1938 (Source: Hood River History)

A closer look at the boat (below) shows the crank mechanism Alva is using to turn the paddles — an ingenious, if odd design!

A two man paddleboat? (Source: Hood River History)

A two man paddleboat? (Source: Hood River History)

The cedar branch in the upper corner shows this image was taken from shore — perhaps by Carroll Day… or Io? Setting up a timed self-portrait for this view would have been quite a feat, even for Alva Day.

Alva’s Lost Lake bounty (Source: Hood River History)

Alva’s Lost Lake bounty (Source: Hood River History)

The final image (above) in the Historic Hood River series shows Alva Day’s sportsman side: an even dozen trout, presumably caught while camping at Lost Lake. A fitting finale to the Lost Lake camping series!

Alva Day’s Legacy

Alva Day’s role in the creation of the Lost Lake Highway is a mostly forgotten part of his legacy. But his roles in advocating for wildlife and in photographing the unfolding history of the Hood River region are only now being rediscovered and appreciated.
For more than three decades, Alva Day was a local leader for wildlife conservation in Hood River, and later was active in the formation of the Oregon Wildlife Federation and the Western Federated Sportsmen. During this period, he was also a contributor to The Oregon Sportsman, the monthly journal of the Oregon Game Commission.

It’s easy to forget how dire the need for wildlife conservation was at the time, and especially the role that hunters and fishermen played in the movement. For a century, the developing Northwest been dumping raw sewage into its rivers, filling the air with smoke, clearing the forests, scouring mountain streams with logging “splash dam” floods and overharvesting many species of game and fish. While we are still struggling to restore our native habitats and wildlife in our time, we have come a long way, already, thanks to the pioneering efforts of people like Alva Day.

Alva Day with his Pacific Power company car in 1929 (Source: Hood River History)

Alva Day with his Pacific Power company car in 1929 (Source: Hood River History)

Alva Day’s photographic story of the Hood River area is perhaps his greatest contribution, and in time, is likely to be his most enduring legacy. The History Museum has hundreds of his prints in their collection, documenting everything from simple scenes of daily life to historic events, like the June 1927 flood that ravaged the town of Arlington, or the shameful day in May 1942, when hundreds Japanese Americans from the Hood River Valley were loaded onto trains and sent to World War II internment camps

This Hood River History blog project is now in the process of scanning many of Alva Day’s images, and using the blog to build an oral history for each image. This work allows all of us to have a window into the past and contribute to the continued documentation of our region’s history.

A Trip to Idlewild Cemetery

The Idlewild Cemetery in Hood River was established in 1894, and with more than 7,000 graves, is a treasure trove of local history. You can find Alva Day’s family here, too.

Idlewild Cemetery (source: findagrave.com)

Idlewild Cemetery (source: findagrave.com)

Alva and Io Day were both born in 1887, and both died in 1955, after nearly 47 years of marriage. Io died in early January of that year, and Alva Day followed on November 15, 1955. Both are buried at the Idlewild, along with their son Carroll Day, whose ashes joined the family plot at the age of 81 in January 1991. Carroll’s second wife, Aline Day, died in 1995, and her ashes were also placed with Carroll and his parents at Idlewild.

Alva and Io Day and son Carroll and his wife Aline are at rest in the same plot (source: findagrave.com)

Alva and Io Day and son Carroll and his wife Aline are at rest in the same plot (source: findagrave.com)

Alva Day’s parents, Emma and Charles Eugene Day, are buried at Idlewild Cemetery, too. Emma Day died in 1905 and Charles Day on May 17, 1908 — the same year that Alva and Io Day were married.

Alva Day’s parents Charles Eugene and Emma Day are also buried at Idlewild Cemetery (source: findagrave.com)

Alva Day’s parents Charles Eugene and Emma Day are also buried at Idlewild Cemetery (source: findagrave.com)

You can visit the Day family plot in Block 9, Lot 24. Idlewild Cemetery is on Tucker Road at Brookside Drive, and though located on a commercial strip, the back of the cemetery abuts orchards, so it makes for a pleasant and interesting afternoon of exploring.
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Postscript: Supporting Hood River History

Over the past couple of years, the History Museum of Hood River County has issued a series of terrific images in their Historic Hood River blog series. The history blog comes to us through the generous work of volunteers Arthur Babitz, Bill Pattison and Sally Donovan, and we are truly indebted to their efforts.

By creating this online archive of historic photos, the museum is providing an invaluable resource, free to the public. If you love history and the Mount Hood region, consider supporting the museum for their efforts. While the modest $5 museum admission fee helps support the museum, consider becoming a member to help provide ongoing support for their fine work as stewards of Hood River history.

The History Museum of Hood River County (source: History Museum)

The History Museum of Hood River County (source: History Museum)

The History Museum graciously granted permission to showcase the images included in this article, and I’m hopeful it will send a few visitors and donations in their direction.

The museum is now open after a year or major renovations. You can find it on East Port Marina Drive, accessed via Exit 64 on Interstate-84. The museum is located on the banks of the Hood River, near the prominent suspension footbridge visible from the freeway, and well worth the visit!
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Postscript: More on Alva Day from Hood River History

Arthur Babitz writes to say: “We actually have 2500 of his images, indicating an annual summer trip to Lost Lake for much of his adult life. There is an extended series showing construction of the bridge near the lodge building. He also participated in and photographed the Legion climbs of Mt. Hood for many years. We have hundreds of images he shot on those climbs. You’ll be seeing many more of them on the HHR blog.”

Thanks for all your fine work in bringing the Day photos back to life, Arthur!