EARLY EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK: 1885-1893
As a sixteen-year-old farm boy in southeastern Kansas William Gladstone Steel (a biographical sketch of the early career of Steel may be found in Appendix A), who would later be known as the "Father of Crater Lake National Park," dreamed of visiting the lake, his curiosity being stimulated in 1870 by having read newspaper accounts of its discovery and scenic grandeur. In 1872 he moved to Oregon with his family, but it was not until 1885 that he managed to reach the lake. Accompanied by a friend, J.M. Breck, Steel took the Oregon & California Railroad to Medford, where he caught a stagecoach to Fort Klamath. The two travelers met Captain Clarence E. Dutton, then on leave from the U.S. Army for detached duty with the U.S. Geological Survey. Dutton was in charge of a small military party escorting Joseph LeConte, a geologist from the University of California, on a tour of the Pacific Coast mountains to examine volcanic phenomena. Steel would later find both Dutton and LeConte to be sympathetic allies in his campaign to preserve Crater Lake as a national park.
Steel, in company with Breck, Dutton, and LeConte, walked the 20 miles to the lake from Fort Klamath, arriving at the rim on August 15. In an article published in the March 1886 issue of The West Shore, a literary magazine in Portland, Steel described his feelings and reactions as he viewed the lake for the first time:
Steel's party had brought a canvas-bottomed canoe from Portland, in which they paddled over to Wizard Island for a short exploration. After staying in the area for several days they left with a determination to preserve the lake and its environs from private exploitation.
Upon returning home from their visit to Crater Lake, Steel and Breck began a campaign to establish a national park at Crater Lake. Breck wrote a letter describing the lake and its beauty which was reprinted in regional newspapers. During the fall Steel sent some 1,000 circular letters at his own expense to virtually all the large newspapers in the United States, asking the editors to support the idea of a national park encompassing Crater Lake. He also wrote to every newspaper editor and postmaster in Oregon, urging them to circulate petitions addressed to President Grover Cleveland, requesting that such a park be established. 
The petitions circulated by Steel were signed by some 120 citizens of Oregon, including political, business, religious, and civic leaders. The two leading signatures were those of Congressman Binger Hermann and Governor Z.F. Moody. The signatures were consolidated into one petition which was forwarded to President Grover Cleveland on December 21, 1885. It read in part:
The land requested for the park incorporated a 12- by 30-mile area, including Diamond Peak and Mount Thielson.
The campaign by Steel led in part to a petition submitted by the Oregon state legislature to Congress in January 1886, requesting passage of an act setting aside Crater Lake and 4-1/2 townships of land surrounding it as a national park. The petition urged that a law be enacted
Similar memorials were forwarded to Congress by the Portland Board of Trade, Portland City Council, and various town and county councils throughout Oregon.
In response to the petition Oregon Senators John H. Mitchell and Joseph N. Dolph and Representative Binger Hermann were persuaded to seek favorable concurrence in the matter. Steel went to Washington himself and met with Secretary of the Interior Lucius Q. C. Lamar and President Grover Cleveland, convincing them that a mandatory first step should be the withdrawal from the public domain of five townships of land surrounding and including Crater Lake. Impressed by Steel's sincerity Secretary Lamar on January 30 recommended to President Cleveland "the temporary withdrawal from settlement or sale under the laws of the United States of the tract of land, surveyed and unsurveyed, comprising what is or would be townships twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one south, in ranges five and six east of the Willamette meridian in the State of Oregon." The withdrawal was recommended in "view of pending legislation looking to the creation of a public park, from the lands of the United States, surrounding and including Crater Lake." The following day (February 1) Cleveland issued an executive order to that effect, and the Commissioner of the General Land Office was instructed to inform "the Register and Receiver of the proper land office by telegraph" of the order. 
Earlier on January 18, 1886, Senator Dolph introduced a bill (S. 1111) providing for establishment of a park or reserve that would include both Crater Lake and Diamond Lake. The bill would "set apart from the public domain in the State of Oregon, as a public park for the benefit of the people of the United States, townships twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, and thirty-one, in ranges five and six, east of the Willamette meridian . . . within the limits of which is Crater Lake. . . ."
The bill further provided that the land was to be
The park or reserve would be under the custody of the Secretary of the Interior whose duty it would be
It would be unlawful for anyone to establish settlements or residence in the reserve or to engage in mining, lumbering, or other private enterprise. Violation of the provisions of the act would be punishable by a fine of $1,000, imprisonment of not more than one year, and liability for all damages arising from any destruction of timber or other property. Anyone participating in cutting or removing timber from the reserve would be required to "pay a fine of triple the value of the logs or timber at the place of delivery thereof, and shall be imprisoned not exceeding twelve months." The President would be empowered to employ the military to execute the provisions of the bill. 
A similar bill (H.R. 5075) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Hermann on February 1, 1886. This bill contained language similar to that of S. 1111, but expressly stated that the public park or reserve was designed "for the protection and preservation of the game, fish, timber, natural wonders, and curiosities therein, and the said reserve to be known as the Crater Lake National Park."
The house bill also stated that the
Both bills were assigned to the committees on public lands of their respective houses and quickly encountered considerable opposition because of strong lobbying efforts by private speculators and lumber, sheep, and ranching interests. Other forces that worked against passage of the bills included the prevailing belief in Congress that Oregon should protect its own lakes without federal help and questions as to whether there were significant funds to provide proper police protection for such a park.
While the bills were under consideration by the congressional committees, the Oregon state legislature, Portland and Albany city councils, and Portland Board of Trade submitted memorials and petitions to Congress in support of the proposed legislation. National periodicals endorsed the bills by printing articles on the scenic and scientific wonders of Crater Lake. One such article by Clarence E. Dutton appeared in the February 26, 1886, issue of Science under the title, "Crater Lake, Oregon, A Proposed National Reservation." Among his observations Dutton noted:
Despite these efforts, however, opposition to the bills was overwhelming and they were never reported. 
Meanwhile, Steel continued his efforts to involve the federal government in Crater Lake's future. In July 1886 he persuaded John Wesley Powell, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, to send a party headed by Dutton to the area to make a thorough examination by surveying and sounding the lake. Steel was appointed to prepare the boats and equipment to be used in the sounding process and to help in carrying out other scientific studies of the lake. 
On December 12, 1887, Senator Dolph introduced a bill (S. 16) similar to the one he had submitted the previous year. Senator Preston B. Plumb of Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Public Lands to which the bill was referred, accordingly solicited the views of various conservationists on the merits of the bill. One of those contacted was Powell. In his lengthy analytical response Powell provided observations on the unique scenic qualities of the proposed park and made a series of boundary extension proposals:
Despite the recommendations of Powell and other conservationists, S. 16 again encountered opposition in the Committee on Public Lands, generated primarily by Oregon ranching and sheepherding interests. It was "reported adversely and indefinitely postponed" on February 6, 1888. 
With the rejection of his bill Senator Dolph on February 14 wrote to Steel concerning the virtual impossibility of getting Congress to approve legislation for a national park at Crater Lake. He observed:
Dolph went on to say that in view of the political realities he had introduced a bill (S. 1817) on February 1, providing that the land surrounding Crater Lake be given to Oregon in trust for a state park. In this regard he noted:
The state park bill, which was opposed by Steel because he felt that Oregon would be unable to afford proper maintenance and protection for the park, provided for a public park upon certain conditions to be met by Oregon. The state legislature was to accept the grant from the federal government within three years. The land was to be held "for public use as a public park and place of public resort and forest reserve and shall be inalienable by the State of Oregon for all time." Oregon was prohibited from permitting the cutting or removal of timber from the park except for the construction of roadways and buildings for visitor accommodation and for fire wood usage on the reservation. Leases not exceeding fifteen years would be granted for hotels and other visitor services, the income derived from such leases to be spent for the preservation and improvement of the reservation and the construction of roads and access routes. 
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Public Lands which reported it with amendments on February 6, 1888. The Senate passed the measure with amendments on March 21, and it was sent to the House of Representatives. The bill received no further consideration after encountering opposition in the House Committee on Public Lands. 
Lumber, sheep, and ranching interests continued to oppose a public park of any kind at Crater Lake. To counter this opposition in 1890 Steel wrote a book entitled The Mountains of Oregon, copies of which he mailed to President Benjamin Harrison and members of his cabinet and Congress. The work was designed to publicize his interests in preserving the natural resources, scenic beauty, and early history of the state. Steel observed that the Jacksonville and Fort Klamath military road passed within three miles of the lake. The "road to the very walls of it (the lake)" was "an exceptionally good one for a mountainous country, while in near proximity may be found remarkably fine camping grounds." The Crater Lake vicinity abounded in "great numbers of deer, bear and panther." His work with the 1886 Geological Survey expedition had afforded him "a pleasure unsurpassed" in all his "mountain experience." Accordingly, Steel once again issued a clarion call to unite conservationists and members of the scientific community in the effort to have Crater Lake set aside as a public park or forest reserve.  Senator Dolph introduced state park bills (S. 67, December 4, 1889; S. 625, December 14, 1891; and S. 69, August 8, 1893) virtually identical to S. 1817 in each of the next three congresses. In discussing these bills the only questions raised in Congress concerned the extent to which money received from leases in the park would be used for building roads. Dolph promised that the money would be used for roads to make the park accessible. To prove his sincerity on the issue he introduced two bills (S. 2888, April 11, 1892, and S. 72, August 8, 1893) that provided for $50,000 to survey and construct a wagon road from Gold Hill Station in Jackson County to Crater Lake. While the road bills were never reported, the state park bills were all reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Public Lands and passed the Senate. Each bill, however, encountered opposition and died in the House Committee on Public Lands. On January 18, 1892, Congressman Hermann introduced a bill (H.R. 3966) similar to H.R. 5075 which he had submitted in February 1886, but it suffered a fate like those of the Senate bills. 
Biographical Sketch Of Early Career Of William Gladstone Steel: 1854-1893
William Gladstone Steel was born in Stafford, Ohio, on September 7, 1854. His father William Steel was born in Biggar, Scotland, on August 26, 1809, and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1817. The family first settled near Winchester, Virginia, but soon moved to Monroe County, Ohio. From 1830 until the Civil War Steel was a leader in the "Underground Railroad" in southeastern Ohio. It is reported that the slaveholders of Virginia offered $5,000 for his head at one point and that he offered to bring it to them if the money were placed in responsible hands. He acquired a fortune as a merchant, but lost it in 1844. As a leading abolitionist in southeastern Ohio, Steel was a Liberty Party candidate for the House of Representatives in the early 1840s, and in 1844 he circulated in eastern Ohio a petition, whose signers agreed to vote for Henry Clay if he would emancipate his one slave. By virtue of holding the balance of power, the Liberty Party played an important part in the presidential election that year, when it was responsible for the defeat of Clay.
The mother of William G. Steel (Elizabeth Lowry) was a native of Virginia. Her ancestors were among the early Dutch colonial settlers of Pennsylvania.
As a youth William G. Steel attended a district school five miles from his home in Ohio. During the 1860s his family moved to southeastern Kansas. When his family moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1872, he attended a high school for eighteen months. After leaving school he was apprenticed to Smith Brothers, iron manufacturers, to learn the trade of pattern making. He worked in that capacity for three years and then engaged in newspaper work. In the fall of 1879 he moved to Albany and established the Albany Herald for the purpose of carrying the county for the Republican Party. The effort proved unsuccessful, and in 1880 he sold the paper and returned to Portland, where he and his brother David began publication of the Resources of Oregon and Washington. The enterprise was supported by Henry Villard, a prominent financier who reorganized the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1881 and oversaw the completion of its route from Lake Superior to Portland two years later. The publication was discontinued upon Villard's financial collapse soon thereafter. Steel then secured a position as substitute letter carrier in Portland and was promoted to the position of superintendent which he filled until Grover Cleveland became president in 1885. He next engaged in the real estate business, and in 1891 the firm of Wilbur & Steel was formed. Two years earlier Steel and C. Heald projected a railroad from Drain in Douglas County to the mouth of the Umpqua River and Coos Bay.
H.K. Hines, An Illustrated History of the State of Oregon (Chicago, 1893), pp. 588-89, and A. Cooper Allen, "The Guardian of Crater Lake," Sunset Magazine, LVI (May, 1926), 51-52.
Last Updated: 13-Aug-2010