by Lee S. Thomas
Memories……sometimes I chuckle, sometimes I grind my teeth over the stupidity of man, including myself. Sometimes my eyes fill with tears. I have no artistic ability although my father was a good artist. Perhaps I should say I have no ability, period! But I DO enjoy writing in spite of the fact that I can’t spell and have only the vaguest idea of sentence construction, punctuation and composition as a whole. Like the poor dumb ox, all I can do is try.
I may as well begin at the beginning of my memories away back there in Coketown, Pennsylvania, where Dad ran a little store in a coke-iron town. Ma, my older sister Edna, baby Lena and I lived in the housekeeping rooms at the back. I was four or perhaps only three years old and have only a few distinct memories of that time and place. I remember slipping behind the counter and helping myself to a big orange package of my favorite chewing gum called Black Jack. As Dad approached I attempted to conceal the whole thing ( wrapper and all ) in my mouth. I can see him yet as he laughed and pried the gob out of my mouth and picked off the wrapper, giving me part of the gum…. Along with a lecture on the rights and wrongs of life. Then there is a memory of playing under a maple tree among the fallen leaves, seeing Edna and other children fix them together with bits of twigs for hats and wreaths. Sometime that fall ( when the weather was cold ) we all walked to a high place one night after dark and looked down at long rows of Coke Irons. There were flaming fires and huge dim shapes and moving men in flickering firelight—something like Dante’s idea of hell. Then I think the Coke Irons began to shut down for an indefinite length of time so Dad sold the store.
My next memories are of the five acre place on Whittaker Creek. That five acre piece was off my Grandfather Whittaker’s farm near Canoe Camp, Tioga County. It seems they had built or were building a new district school house so Dad bought the old one. He moved it onto a new stone foundation and remodeled it for a dwelling house in which we lived some three years or so. My only brother, Dell, was born here. As I remember it we lived in the old school house while the basement was being dug and the great thick stone walls were being built for foundations. I remember how the house creaked and crackled as it was slid along on skids by horse-power applied to a wooden capstan or windless. I even remember the carpenter who did the work – Silas Cleveland. He was an old crank, I thought, but I suppose I was underfoot like an eager puppy. Yet I never forgave him for making me drop some nice little blocks of wood he had sawed off!
Dad taught school but spent all his spare time doing Crayon Portrait work for he was quite a free-hand artist. He did that crayon portrait work in Pennsylvania and New York State and later in Illinois and Iowa in those days before photographic enlargements, in the days of tintype and large hand-painted crayon portraits. No doubt I could find old black and white work of his in many Pennsylvania and New York state attics. I have one example of his work at this time, the "Cat Picture" I’ve had framed.
In those times, children started to school at any age from three on up. I remember one husky little tyke ( one of the Dewey family, I think ) who learned that he could wrestle me down. He could not talk very plainly yet…. Couldn’t sound his L’s. So he would say "Ee "es "wasso"." Then he would roll and pummel me, for I’m afraid I was a frail lad. To explain my being unable to "wasso" this much younger urchin, I will say that my folks had "gone west" to Oregon when I was a 3 or 4 months old baby in the spring of 1884. I had both whooping cough and typhoid that year at The Dalles, Oregon. Mother also nearly died of that dreaded killer, typhoid. There was no immunization in those days – you tooo calomel and castor oil, burned with fever for weeks if you didn’t die sooner. After about a year and a half at the Dalles and Hood River, Dad decided that his wife would soon die of homesickness, so we went back to Pennsylvania. My own memories soon took form in the East.
I think one of my first memories of life on the five acres was the muddy flood of weter that covered our cornfield as the creek broke all high water records following the hard winter of 1888. That winter has been talked and written about ever since. The flood gouged out two great holes in our little cornfield and I remember catching bull frogs there later on with a fish pole and hook. At least I think I caught some….. perhaps I just watched Dad. Anyway, I remember eating the fried frogs legs and also catching fish in the creek below our cornfield.
Memories pour in on me as I think of those hillside fields and woods along Whittaker Creek where my great grandfather settled so long ago. There was a sudden summer storm that caught me halfway between the schoolhouse and home. How those wind and rain blasts buffeted me until Dad ran up behind me and picked me up. He had been watching me from the school house window. Jagged lightening and crashing thunder, drenching sheets of rain, and great thrusting blasts of wind scattered chicken coops, drowned chicks, and disheveled and distracted the hens. My little brown dog cowered in the entry. Those Eastern thunder storms are no joke!
I wonder if those Pennsylvania farmers still wash their sheep before the Spring shearing? There were 2 wooden buckets of homemade soft soap, and the washing was done in a pool at the creek on a warm day. Barking dogs, happy boys, reluctant sheep, and half – naked men laughing and splashing are the sights and sounds I remember. My laughing Uncle Link was there that first washing day. He and Aunt Jane had been married young ( at sixteen or so ) and by this time they had three children that I remember.- Ray, Libbie, and Rurry ( Short for Ruhannah ). It’s a good thing they started young and enjoyed life as they went – for he was accidentally killed while still a young man.
I wish I could make you see the many funny things that we laughed at. There was the thin old farmer who showed his hired man how to bore down a hole for a driven fence post. He chugged and shook and pounded until I am sure his teeth clattered. The wind clutched at his snapping coat tails while the hired man stood grumpily aside and scowled. "Hired men" only received $10 a month, plus food, in those days. They worked twelve to sixteen hours a day. So I don’t blame him for scowling. Wages were low and working hours were long for farmers and their wives as well as their hired help. But food was plentiful – put up in pantry and smokehouse and sinks and root-and-apple holes, and in barrels of maple sugar and syrup and butter, and apple and plum butter. There were barrels, firkins, tubs, corn cribs, wheat bins bulging with grain. The great hay mow was a wonderful place on stormy days. These rocky hillside farms were bursting out at the seams with life. I myself am a bit of life that popped out – popped out three thousand miles to live and to die ( as no doubt I will ) in the Oregon Country.
There was the old log Whittaker house that had been built and lived in so long ago. The upper floor was a treasure house with spinning wheels hardly cooled yet from the days of "home clothing". Besides discarded home-made furniture there were also things stored there that were still used in special seasons – sap buckets, sap spikes, shoulder yokes and stirring paddles, and hog hoods and gamble sticks. On the ground floor was a "fanning mill" for cleaning grain for seed or for food. Wooden "flails" hung on wooden pegs. This process of thrashing wheat by hand with a flail is something I’ve watched many times, both in Pennsylvania and in the new state of Washington after we went west the second time in January, 1891. A flail was a four foot wooden handle about like a hoe handle – with a shorter, heavier length of round stick tied on with a rawhide thong. The wheat was just beat out on a smooth barn floor with a whirling beating action that started the sweat and sharpened the appetite. Then there was also hog killing time with its outside fires and huge kettle for heating water and rendering the lard. The squeals, the shouts, the blood, and the smells I recollect with we kids into everything.
This was Grandpa’s farm as I remember it. The house was big and white. A big black stove stood in the kitchen but there was always a fire with a kettle or two in the big old fireplace. I remember the bread or cold pancakes with butter and honey that Grandmother used to fix for me between meals. Bread, pies and cookies were from the brick "baking oven beside the fireplace. We ate a meal there at Grandpa’s – on Sundays I suppose and special occasions like Thanksgiving. But as I remember it, that old kitchen never seemed crowded. One of my Mother’s brothers ( Nelson, his wife and three or four children lived there with Grandpa and Grandma. Everyone worked. There was no dashing to shops for a bit of food as mealtime approached. They were all gathering and storing food almost year round. Butchering time was after the weather got good and freezing cold – usually before Christmas. For weeks there was cutting and rendering and curing. Then there was Maple Sugar and syrup to make when the "sap started" in February or March. Always there was the stock to tend and feed, and manure to haul to the frozen fields. Drudgery??? No, I don’t think so. The big red and white ox team with their polished horns tipped with big brass balls were "made to order" for some of this work. This might be a huge load of steaming manure from the barns, or a load of wood logs from the timber. A sled-load of barrels full of maple sap gathered from the hillsides being dragged slowly but safely to the "Sugar-house" where smoke curled up from the chimney night and day as the great pans bubbled and steamed. Possibly this sugar making was not all fun – but in my memories it was! There was the time Johnnie Whittaker, one of Uncle Barney’s boys, threw a ball of partly cooled "wax" to the rabbit hound "Old Scrag". He snatched it up of course, burying his teeth in the warm sticky mass. Then we all had screaming hysterics as he rolled and pawed in the snow. It wasn’t really hot enough to burn so it wasn’t TOO cruel.
Old Scrag… that old beagle hound was a character! He sucked every egg he could find, but he was such a good rabbit hound that he got away with it! I imagine he finally died of old age. He was bow-legged and crooked tailed. His floppy ears dragged in the snow as he lumbered along a rabbit track. That slow clumsy way of running a track was what made this beagle a good rabbit dog. You see, the rabbit would have such a lot of fun playing along ahead of his clumsy pursuer that he would circle around within range of the hunter’s muzzle loader. Buck-loading shotguns were still rather new and scarce but Dad bought one. He late got a double barrel and a 45-70 Winchester repeating rifle before we went west in 1891.
After "Sugaries" were over, and the manure piles all hauled out, the oxen might get a little rest. Grandfather’s farm also had work horses and driving horses but for some work they still preferred the oxen. The equipment for working oxen is so simple – they just needed a homemade maple or oak yoke with hickory bows, and a big iron ring dangling from the center. Then with a length of chain they were ready to hook to a log or stone boat or either separated or pair of bobs for bogging or manure hauling. There was no harness, no stiff or muddy lines to handle – just "Gee Buck"…. "get in there, Spot", "you blankety-blank such and so", No! No! They didn’t swear. They just recited a bit of poetry occasionally and it is astonishing what a couple of fourteen-hundred pound steers can move.
As the Spring moved along there was plowing and seeding to be done, gardens to plant, hens to set, and new calves to break to bucket feeding. And the geese to pick. Lord! Lord! I almost forgot the geese. Picking the live geese was a woman’s job. I remember seeing my little old 95 pound grandmother with a huge white goose clamped under her arm. The goose had a woman’s long black stocking pulled over it’s head. Those great white geese were so stately and proud before they were picked. .. and they were so disgruntled and disheveled afterwards! Some had been through this spring picking many times but they always reacted to it to their goosely limit. Everybody, even the hired man slept on feather beds on top of straw ticks. Wonderful cold-weather beds they were too! What matter if the air in the bedroom was 10 below and a child’s breath rolled up like steam. Those feather beds and wool filled comforts were warm.
One thing that I must describe in detail is the dog power churn in use on grandfather’s farm at this time. Daily use I believe, for they made and sold considerable butter. A white building (probably a dairy room I suppose) was connected by a covered walk to the kitchen porch. Next to this building (outside) was a high frame carrying two wooden rollers or wooden shafting on which they had put a leather and wood-slat endless-circle tread-mill, on which a huge dog trotted to turn the upper roller and wooden shaft. This extended through the wall to a pitman-head and walking-beam that operated the vertical up and down action of a big church dasher in a wooden churn. The women skimmed the cream from setting pails or pans, and when they were ready for churning they whistled for the old dog. He hopped up on the steeply sloping tread mill and started trotting stolidly along on the spinning belt. They had been using this homemade device for many years and it really worked fine. Of course, there was no electricity in those days, at least on the farm. In fact, I first saw electric lights later in Portland in June of 1891. Back in grandfather’s big white house they used coal oil lamps and home made tallow candles for lights. With the candles still considered most safe, as actually they were, for kerosene in those days contained much of the volatile elements we now call gasoline and naphthalene, so those coal oil lamps were really dangerous. At about this same time too, some farmers in the neighborhood were using larger treadmills to gnash grain by mounting two large farm horses to power a new fangled thrasher. I believe I remember seeing this outfit in operation, but whether mother’s brothers owned it or not escapes my memory.
Peter Whittaker came to this place with his bride (Ruth Lounsberry) sometime after they were married in 1816. They later raised thirteen children, with their second child (Seth) becoming my grandfather. I well remember Grandpa as a big bearded old man who used a cane and walked with a decided limp. He had not worked for years when I came along, but he could still drive his trotting horse to Mansfield on Saturdays, where there was some mighty horseracing done. He married my grandmother Ruhannah Robinson, on August 29, 1840, and they eventually had eleven children, of whom my mother was eighth. Those rocky Pennsylvania hillsides were bursting with life.
These Pennsylvania hills had been heavily timbered. Those first home-makers did "a power of work" before they got even a bag of corn to make into home ground meal or treated with ash lye to make homemade hominy. My mother used to tell us of the time when her father was a young boy and carried corn forty miles on a horse to a water-powered mill. Fire was still made by flint and steel then, and even I remember carrying a fire start from Grandpa’s house to ours because ours had gone out.
I find on my maps that Whittaker Creek lay at an elevation of about eleven hundred feet. Now that does not seem very high to me as I am used to our high western mountains and plateaus. But the water that splashed down Whittaker Creek traveled a long way to reach Chesapeake Bay and the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean. It flowed north and west into Tioga River, then north yet across the New York state line to join the Chimuna. From there it went east and south across the state line again to join the beautiful Susquehanna. Thereafter it flowed south across Penn’s woods to the Chesapeake Bay and the stormy Atlantic.
Apparently the worst of the Indian troubles were over before Peter and Ruth Whittaker came to Whittaker Creek. But the people there in my day still talked about the fighting in the Wyoming Valley Massacre (east of there) in July of 1778, and of the killings and burning along the Mohawk in New York State all during Revolutionary days. By the way, I notice a small town named Lounsberry on the Susquehanna in Tioga County, New York. It’s just some fifty or sixty miles east or our Whittaker Creek. No doubt there is some connection here between my great grandmother’s family and this town in places so near each other in adjoining states. The name Tioga I understand to be the name of an Indian tribe. It is also given to the highest highway pass in California’s Sierras at 10,000 feet. I wonder why? Did someone from Tioga County in New York or Pennsylvania have something to do with the opening of this wagon road? The long grade up the eastern side of this pass is called the Leevining Grade. I wonder if this Leevining or Lee Vining came from Tioga County? By the way, I was born in the town of Tioga, Pennsylvania, on February 5, 1884.
It is interesting to me to think of land values. William Penn attracted
settlers from England and Europe by offering land at forty shillings per
one hundred acres, with the obligation on the buyer to pay and additional
one shilling per year for each one hundred acres. I am not sure, but I
think this "quit rent tax" went to the Crown. At least it was customary
as a token of the Crown’s supreme sovereignty. Land was cheap sure, but
damned hard to clear! And shillings and pounds were mighty hard to come
by! Land continued to be very cheap, "dirt cheap" by our present standards,
well up into my own lifetime. At the time my grandfather Whittaker’s estate
was probated after his death in March 1898, the land was appraised at $25
an Acre. This of course, included the big white house, the old log house
full of relics, the big barns and stone fences and pasture fields that
were the result of nearly a hundred years of work by the industrious and
numerous Whittaker family.. So far as I know, it may not be worth much
more in the market today. I am used to Pacific coast values, even more
specifically to California values, and speculators all over the world know
To get back to childhood memories, there are many winter scenes in these memories of mine. I remember trailing after the older children along a rabbit’s track across a snow white field, and finally digging the rabbit out of a stone fence. I can hear the squeal and the splattering of blood on the stones and snow, as a big by dashed out the rabbit’s life on the old wall. Then there was the frozen Creek that gurgled down from one frozen part to the next. There was a very limited amount of coasting for me but the older children reveled in it. I remember Dad took me over the hill to Covington on a bright red sled. As we coasted back down we took a spill, tearing a hole in a sack of flour we were bringing home. Spilled flour was a tragedy on a schoolmaster’s salary of $25. A month! .
On a radio program yesterday I heard an old man talk about joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1883, he must be nearly 100 years old. That brought back memories of seeing Cody and his buckskin-clad riders, Indians, horses, and buffalo at the Tioga County Fairgrounds in Mansfield in the summer of 1890. My Dad held me up, I remember, so I could watch a buckskin –shirted rifleman shoot an apple off a young and very pretty squaw’s head. I could have been no more than six years old, but I remember perfectly well those lumbering buffaloes and those wonderful red horsemen, the Comanchees. They were bare-back and naked except for a rawhide thong, with another thong looped over the horse’s lower jaw. They were the finest horsemen in the world ( at that time or at any other time )! They could hang to the side of a running horse and stretch a powerful bow, sending arrows under their horse’s neck with a whistling power that looked wicked. I am quite sure I remember seeing Wild Bill Hickock there that day, a tall dark man in a long black coat with two heavy Colts swinging from his hips. Buffalo Bill Cody I also remember well from seeing him at the Dalles, Oregon, in 1902. At that time he had a wonderful show, in fact it was at its best about then.
In Mansfield I also saw a balloon ascension. I remember Dad saying as we watched the balloonist parachute to earth, that "someday men will fly". It amazes me that there can be a man living today who rode one of those charging sweating horses that hot day in Mansfield when I was six years old. Of course, I am only 64 now, so he could have been thirty then and 94 now. Perhaps some men deserve to live longer than others. At least they do.
Thinking of the dust and heat of that day at the Fairgrounds makes me remember other summer days. There is one clear picture of Edna and I with Uncle Jim’s boys, Lou and Fred, in some woods on a side hill where we hunted wintergreen. There may have been berries or perhaps we just chewed the aromatic green leaves. Lou Whittaker was just about Edna’s age, but he died suddenly a couple of years after our family "went west" again in 91. Uncle Jim I remember as a very quiet but pleasant man. His place was down the creek about halfway to Canoe Camp, I think.
During the three years or so that we lived on Whittaker Creek, Dad put all of the money he could spare into our house. He personally painted it with three coats of white until it fairly glinted in the winter sunshine that winter of 90-91. However, sometime after Christmas the house burned to the ground, ( or rather to its stone-foundation wall ) It was a Sunday, I believe for I know we had all spent the day at Uncle Barney’s place just down the road a piece. Along towards evening when we talked of going home, we were persuaded to stay for the evening. Dad and Uncle Barney’s sons, Johnny and Frank, were to walk up to our house to feed our cow and chickens, and to bring back dad’s guitar so he could sing in the evening. He loved to sing! I must have begged to go along too because I did get to. As it was very cold, with a foot or so of snow on the ground, Dad built up a good fire in the kitchen stove and made me sit beside it while he milked the cow and fed the chickens. I don’t know if either of the young men stayed in the house with me or not. But after the chores were finished, Dad took his guitar in a green flannel bag and we all started walking back down the well-packed road, talking and laughing. I suppose I was just listening and trying to match steps with the three men. Anyhow, Aunt Jane ( Uncle Links wife from up the road ) came screaming up behind us shouting to dad that his house was on fire. Sure enough, as we looked back smoke was pouring up from the gable ends. Dad threw his precious guitar over into a snow bank and all three of them ran back towards the house, leaving me standing in the snow, confused and frightened I’m sure. Aunt Jane was driving one horse with a two-wheeled road cart and she tried to get me into it but the horse was excited and she gave it up. She drove away down the road screaming FIRE!
My sister, Edna, told me later that she was the first one to reach me. She took me back to Uncle Barney’s while all the grown-ups raced to the fire. The rest of the night is a blank to me, all I can remember was a last look back to where huge billows of flame and smoke poured up in the still cold winter evening. I have said that our house burned while there was snow on the ground. Perhaps I am wrong about that, for in that case Aunt Jane should have had a cutter instead of a road cart. Yet I have a clear memory of that cart with its narrow seat and the high wooden wheels while Aunt Jane clutched my arm as my short legs reached up for the little steel step on the axle. I even remember that the horse was a bright Bay and he surged ahead and back in the excitement of the moment until she dropped my arm and left me in the road, crying, I suppose.
I have no clear memory of where we lived from that time on until we
left again for Oregon in the last days of January. I don’t know how much
of their personal goods the men were able to save from the fire that evening.
I just know that we took West a trunk and two huge wooden boxes with rope
handles. Mother’s Singer Sewing Machine was in one of these, but whether
this had been saved from the fire or was bought later I couldn’t say. The
one framed picture of my Dad’s hand work that I still have was on exhibit
at Mansfield at the time the house burned. It won a prize there, a blue
ribbon I believe. Fortunately, Dad was enough of a business man to have
insurance on the house, which was unusual in those days. It was on this
insurance money that we went West.
Mother’s health was better now. Also two of her sisters were in the west. Aunt Kate was near The Dalles and Aunt Celia was on the North Fork of the Lewis River in Cowlitz Co., Washington. Washington Territory was what it was still called by most people, for it had reached statehood only about a year earlier. Aunt Celia was Mother’s youngest sister, tenth in a family of eleven as you may remember. My laughing Uncle Link was the youngest Whittaker. Aunt Celia had visited us in the remodeled schoolhouse home in the summer of 1890, I think, or possibly a year earlier than that. Her first child was a boy, I remember, and she went west after her visit to join her husband Charley Frasier, who was already settled on a "squatter’s claim" in Washington. I remember I fell don our front steps while she was there, breaking out a front tooth, which I suppose was already loose. Mother’s older sister, Aunt Kate Phelps, had gone west years before. In fact she had gone west by wagon train over the Oregon Trail but I do not have the date. She was the second child in Grandmother’s large family.
The west was primitive enough, God knows, subsequent to our second migration in 91. My hat is still off to those who plodded all those hundreds of miles from the Missouri to the Columbia before the steel rails were laid. Aunt Kate and Uncle Walt Phelps lived in Hood River first, then The Dalles, and much later in California. She is buried in Berkley. Now that I have leisure in my old age, I read modern, medieval and ancient history, and often think how fortunate is my own generation to have been born in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the New World of the western hemisphere.
Back to Whittaker Creek, where the summer flow was just about right for children’s small legs. Up on the side hill, let’s see, that would be south of the Creek, there was a road running lengthwise the hill. Somewhere along there lived the woman with the vicious dog. I remember Edna dragging me hastily past the open gate in the picket fence. And I think I can remember something about a kid being bitten. The clap-clap of rapid hoof beats, the grind of steel tired wheels of cart or carriage, and the whirling dust was all part of summer days along those dirt roads. Still there was little danger to playing children. I can still feel the warm dust of the wheel ruts squirting up between my toes as I ran along after the older kids. Thimble berries and wild roses grew along the rock fences, and a wild daisy "brown-eyed Susan’s covered the pasture and hay fields. I have brought this story up to the burning of our house, collecting the insurance money and our trip to Oregon by train, yet still I go back to those Pennsylvania scenes! It is hardly reasonable, for I have never gone back to visit there.
Of the trip west I only remember a few things clearly. Mostly it is a confused "dream-like" time of crowded, uncomfortable sleeping or catch-as-catch-can, eating. We traveled by what was called the "Emigrant Car". Where cooking was done by families on a coal burning stove at one end and everyone slept in their seats as best they could. I remember changing cars at Buffalo, with a long walk across endless side tracks in the railroad yards. And I also remember Dad getting us up to the windows to see a stream in Iowa where he had fished as a boy, the Wapsipinicon. Then I remember the Bad Lands of Dakota, and the foaming white falls at Spokane. We arrive at Uncle Walt’s and Aunt Kate’s place near the Dalles on the day following my seventh birthday. So that date is firmly set in my mind, February 6, 1891. I was still a very small boy for my age. Uncle Walt picked me off the train steps, laughed and said I wasn’t fit for coyote bait. That’s a sample of western humor that I didn’t enjoy very much!
Dad had been in love with the Hood River Valley ever since we had spent the summer of 85 there when I was a baby just learning to walk. At least I would have been over a year old. Now that we were back on the Columbia, he intended to go there and perhaps teach school again as he had in 85. Uncle Walt and Aunt Kate were living at Rufus, a railroad stop east above The Dalles. Of course we had stopped there to see the "kin folks". They had a store in a two story wooden building with living quarters in rooms at the back and upstairs too, as I remember it. I believe we lived there with them while Dad taught a three month term of school in a little white shell of a schoolhouse back towards the bluff. The only reason for the existence of Rufus was a long wheat warehouse beside the railroad track. There was just the wide blue Columbia River rolling merrily along, the barren grass hills of Washington Territory to the north, and a ragged line of hill and bluff close by to the south. A more God-forsaken windswept, sandblasted spot could hardly be found in all the millions of square miles of the great wide open west. But Uncle Walt claimed to have inside information that HERE would be the hub of a spur railroad going to the south to tap the Oregon wheat country. He was mistaken! When a spur was finally built it connected with the main line at Briggs, just a few miles west.
I can remember the children who made up that spring one-room school. my older sister Edna, myself, Aunt Kate’s two youngest daughters Kate and Grace, a brother and sister named Fowler, a daughter of one of Aunt Kate’s older sons Cora Phelps, and three boys and one girl of the Wallace family. I believe Mr. Wallace and Mr. Fowler looked after the car loading ( wheat ) at the warehouse. There was also another small store run by a man named Spear. What a place! Rattlesnakes and sandstorms by day, and coyotes yapping at night. The railroad had already put an end to steam boating above The Dalles, so the great river was deserted. Only the rattle and shriek of occasional trains broke the silence.
Uncle Walt convinced Dad that land values in Hood River were clear out of his reach. Dad finally went down alone to Portland and Vancouver, then up the Lewis River to where mother’s younger sister, Celia lived with her husband, Charley Frasier. They and his father with a single brother Billie lived in a one-room log cabin, or possibly it was two rooms. Again it was the attraction of "kin-folks" that was the deciding factor. So after Dad came back, we all went on down to Portland by train to begin a new home in Washington State.
This next chapter has been written about in a story titled "Growing
up with a farm boy in Chelatchie, 1891 to 1902". The Autobiography of Lee
Thomas, who arrived in Clark County at age 7.