CASCADIA STORY

by

Mona Hyer Waibel

All photos are from the personal collection of Mona Hyer Waibel.  Use of them for commercial purposes is prohibited without her permission.

 

        Cascadia has long been a fine place to visit on summer days, and it’s also been a good community to live in for many years, though it once had more residents than it does today. 

Over the years, there have been several interesting places to visit in Cascadia, including a health resort, a fine hotel, healing mineral springs, swimming holes, the Indian cave, beautiful waterfalls and a covered bridge. These all have made Cascadia an appealing spot to live and visit.

      On the way across the Cascade Mountain Range, early travelers by horseback or wagon needed housing for the night and, of course, shelter and feed for their horses. It took one day to travel from Sweet Home to Cascadia, and another long day to reach the popular Mountain House. The location of the Mountain House changed through the years, but it was a popular stop for decades for travelers over the Santiam Pass – whether by horse-drawn wagons or by automobiles.

      It was in 1895 that my two grandparents met. Grandmother Lettie Thompson taught during the school year and in summers she worked at the Mountain House cooking for travelers.  My grandfather, Andrew Jackson Daugherty, was herding sheep over the pass and stopped at Mountain House for dinner and to spend the night.  He must have been very smitten with Lettie; they married within the year.

      Later, as Cascadia State Park was developed, more attractions became available to explore. Stagecoach passengers came to rest overnight at the Geisendorfer Hotel and drink from the healing mineral waters. Cascadia became known as a resort where people could visit to regain their health. My family arrived in Oregon in 1882 and soon began taking trips in their wagon to Cascadia soda springs for picnics and to sample the famous mineral springs. A sign was erected touting the medicinal value of drinking the smelly water. The sign claimed that stomach ulcers, and gout in the big toe were all cured with the soda springs drink.

      After the South Santiam highway was improved to allow automobiles access to Cascadia, thousands of visitors spent weekends and vacations enjoying the beauty of the resort.  They drank from the mineral springs, carrying away jugs full of the water.  A bottle-capping machine for a time bottled the mineral water, which was sold in the hotel. Fresh Santiam River trout was a featured course on the evening dinner menu, along with Cascadia Ranch beefsteak and mouth-watering pies.

My great-grandparents, the John Thompson family, filled their jugs with the mineral water and took them home to drink and to make their pancakes and breads, too. Through the years, thousands enjoyed coming to the Cascadia Park before it became a state park for picnics, camping and sampling of the soda water. Our church, the Evangelical United Brethren, held many Sunday school picnics there.

      Let’s back up a few years.  Travelers needed a way to cross the Santiam Pass from Cascadia to Central Oregon. The Cascade Wagon Road idea was first developed by Andrew Wiley, who found the passageway. The Cascade Wagon Road construction began in 1863, and its completion was eagerly anticipated by Willamette Valley citizens.  Wagons carrying passengers, freight wagons and, of course, riders on horseback celebrated the road’s completion in 1868. What a change it brought to the valley and especially Sweet Home and Cascadia. It was still quite a long journey to travel across to communities on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range. Later, our family rode by wagon many times, visiting some of the family that settled in the Madras area.  It was a rough several nights camping trip, and meals needed to be prepared on the road. It was not a luxury vacation for these early settlers.

      Travelers were charged a toll to use the rough wagon road.  John Gilliland was the first tollgate keeper west of the summit.  Jake Nye followed, and son Marvin Nye (Marvie, as he was known) followed Jake. The first gate was located in Foster, then moved to Wiley Creek out of Foster; then to Cascadia, and finally to White City, near Cascadia.  People resented paying the toll charge and tried tricking the gate keeper by distraction. Marvin Nye was successful in developing fire protection service for safety and preservation of our valuable timber holdings in the Willamette National Forest. Please notice the mural near our Fire Station, of Marvin Nye and the fire crew.

     

       Ernest Billings ran a stagecoach from Albany, through Lebanon, into Sweet Home and then to Cascadia, ending at Soda Springs. There was not much need for stagecoach travel when most of the settlers had their own wagons. Coaches often got stuck in the mud more than traveling to their sites, but Ernest Billings made a good living with this coach.
 

     Many milestones brought change. The Cascadia Ranger Station, located at the intersection of Short Bridge and Santiam Highway (Highway 20) opened in 1930, with Ranger Roy Blake in charge. The 43 miles of the Santiam Highway between Albany and Cascadia opened up the whole area for travel.  In 1939, the highway connected the Willamette Valley to eastern Oregon.

    Twenty-three years of efforts by locals brought about the completion of Cascadia State Park in 1941.  The park became a popular place to camp and picnic in the summertime. I remember well going to the park as a child, with my grandmother, Lettie Sankey.  She would park her big Packard car in the parking lot and then off my brothers and I would run down the sloped steep path to where the soda water was waiting.  There were two tall, rusty, metal pumps that we could prime and pump to fill the ladle hanging on the side of the pump.

     Everyone used the same metal ladle and it never disappeared. Later, the area was covered with cement and the pumps were replaced with concrete lids to cover the soda wells. We just moved the lids and carried our own cups to dip into the fizzy soda water. The minerals stained areas of the concrete to a yellow rusty look.   We drank deeply and filled our cup over and over until we could hold no more.  Later, a sign was erected that read “water contaminated and unfit for human consumption.” I have been told the water is OK, but the state quit letting people drink it.

      Campsites and trails were developed in the park as well as ball fields. Huge parking areas were available for all the cars. A cable was placed across the road into the park’s picnic area until the park was open for the season. But the park was always open for a hike.  A popular trail led visitors to tall waterfalls, cascading cool waters that sprayed hikers. Once in a while, trees would fall across the path and we had to climb over the trees.

      Over the years, campsites have been installed for overnight stays, along with flush toilets and, eventually, showers.  It was a grand place to spend a thrifty family vacation, and Cascadia Park was usually filled through summer. Picnic tables placed around many scenic spots are often used by groups and families too.  It’s all still there, but currently the park needs repair.

      Another mile-long trail along the banks of Santiam River ended at the overhang of ancient petroglyphs left from when Indians camped here long ago. It was not truly a cave, but an actual overhanging ledge that concealed and protected Indian writings. The markings of Indians hunting and gathering food were scratched into the wall, as are petroglyph bear tracks. Artifacts have been found dating back 8,000 years. According to my husband Bob, who has researched this area, willow leaf points, barbed and notched points, drills, scrapers, and knives have also been discovered. Our two children said they could hear Indian drums of children who’d lived there.  It was an interesting family adventure, not a hike to take in rainy seasons, but great in warm summer months.

      Hill Timber owns the land containing the Indian rock shelter and an agreement has made it available for park explorers. Hopefully, the Indian Cave will eventually become part of the park.

Visitors came to see covered bridges all around the Willamette Valley, which were built to protect bridge timbers from elements so they lasted many years. Hardy visitors actually jumped from the Short Bridge into the swimming holes below.  Don’t try that today – the water is mostly shallow.   There are nice places to swim, though just follow the trails along the river side.

In the early ’70s, Cascadia Park was in peril.  A proposed dam was planned for the South Santiam River approximately two miles east of Foster.  Its prime purpose would be flood control and added recreational benefits. Much of the state park would have been lost, as Highway 20 would be partially under water. The Corps of Engineers didn’t plan to hold public hearings on the matter. Not good, thought many locals!  In 1971 President Nixon endorsed the project – he hoped citizens would support the rock-fill dam.

      Amos Horner feared his Cascadia Lumber Company mill would need to be moved. Employees were concerned for their jobs. Storms of protest came from Linn County residents and eventually the Cascadia Dam project died.

       Back in town, Cascadia School, built in 1940, had two elementary classrooms, a gymnasium and kitchen. Students went to Sweet Home for high school. There was no bus service in the beginning and many students stayed in Sweet Home through the week and rode in with the newspaper carrier on Monday mornings. Adella Gabriel was Cascadia postmistress on Cascadia Drive, and no one in her family drove or owned a car. If the newspaper man didn’t take them to town, the Gabriels didn’t have fresh groceries. Two of the Gabriel boys, Bill and Gerry stayed in town at the Bryant-Hyer homestead all week to attend Sweet Home High School.

      According to Jean Horner Burger, attending Cascadia School was a school child’s whole world. During her early years there, 120 students were enrolled, in two classes combined in one room; four rooms for eight years of students.  Later, after the completion of Green Peter Dam, the school shrunk to about 60 children.

      The long drive in winter conditions was difficult for teachers and not many teachers applied, even though Cascadia was the richest district in the local area. They had the finest gym, a trampoline, parallel bars and fine principals teaching.  Gil Little was principal for several years, with Don Hopkins serving as the final principal. In 1965 the school district unified, and eventually Cascadia School closed because of a decrease in students. Jean then went to Foster school, where Sam Cairnes was principal. Other students remaining locally who attended Cascadia include Jim and Larry Gourley, Mike Rice, Bob Pinster, Betty Stokes, Freida Noah, and Lynn Totman.

      The unused school building became a rehabilitation site for Indians needing help with alcohol consumption – the isolation contributed to patients’ treatment.  Sweat lodges built from fresh-peeled logs housed unusual activities. Several times we Waibels were invited to join an Indian feast, bonfires, of corn roasting over coals, with spicy sausages on sticks. Indian chants with drums were entertaining. Today, the remodeled old school building has an attachment, the Cascadia U.S. Post Office.

      Amos Horner, mentioned above, was a creative, unforgettable man. In the beginning of his career, he welded together a portable sawmill, hauling it into the forests.  His business kept growing as the demand for more lumber increased.  He once paid workers in silver dollars and watched them flow into our community; another time it was $2 bills. The cash registers of stores, the churches’ collection plates, the taverns etc. all felt the impact of what Horner’s mill provided in salaries.  During 1970’s gasoline shortage, Amos bought a gas station to ensure his workers had fuel. The TOMCO mill, (the name stood for “Try Once More Company”), worked well for years.  Later, Triple T Studs in Cascadia provided many jobs as the Stock family, with Mike Horner, kept the Cascadia mill going.  Triple T Studs (“Try the Third Time”) sadly closed in August 2006.   Both Amos and Dorma Horner died in 2000. Amos made many contributions to Cascadia and the Sweet Home area.

      During the 1960’s and ’70’s, Cascadia changed, becoming our own Greenwich Village.  Non-traditional residents were attracted to the beautiful private areas, especially Cascadia Drive and Dobbins Creek Road.  Unusual buildings were constructed, not by building code but by being hidden. Geodesic homes and solar energy buildings were sprinkled along undeveloped roads. These groups of new citizens were “green” before the term was known. One local gent grew an interesting crop in old school buses buried under the ground.  A police raid found a sophisticated operation, with grow lights, electricity, and fans circulating air to the plants.

     Yes, Cascadia survived many changes and it has continued to be an extraordinary place to live and visit.

My name is Stephenie Flora. Thanks for stopping by. Return to [ Home Page ] All [ Comments and Inquiries ] are welcome.