Nature Notes

Vol. XII July, 1934 No. 7

Historical Highlights


James Longmire, previous to his discovery of the springs and the staking of a mineral claim near the present village of Longmire, had built a trail from his ranch at Yelm to Bear Prairie in 1861. From a point on this path into the wilderness he now constructed the first trail to his claim in 1884 - one year after he first saw the area which was destined to be the headquarters of Mt. Rainier National Park. During the same year he built the first buildings at this place for the purpose of housing himself and his family during the early days of development. Later - in the summers of 1890-91, with the help of his sons and grandsons as well as several Indians who were hired for the purpose, he built the first road to this point as well as a small log hotel. This hotel is interesting by contrast to the structures of the present day. It was 20 x 30 feet in size and had two stories - the lower floor serving as the "lobby" and the upper possessing five small rooms. Later, as the demand necessitated, additions were made to the original structure but today the only original structure of this settlement in what is now the park is the cabin built in 1888 by Elcaine Longmire which stands on the Trail of the Shadows, a few moments walk from the Museum. The old Longmire Hotel was destroyed in 1920 to make way for more modern developments.

The first visitors to the region - attracted by the mineral springs - went forth again proclaiming the great beauty of the mountain and its surrounding country. No doubt it was their acclamations that had a lot to do with centering local and, later, national interest on this area for the first move to make the mountain a national park was in 1894 when Senator Watson Squire introduced a bill into Congress calling for the creation of the "Washington National Park". In 1889 this move bore fruit and, with the exception of the name and boundary changes which were different from the original bill, Senator Watson's dream came true. On March 2, 1899 President McKinley signed the bill which created our fifth national park.

sketch of Old Longmire Hotel
Old Longmire Hotel - Longmire
Mount Rainier National Park.

Being created as a national park however did not provide for the protection or administration of the area and so the local forest supervisor - Mr. G. F. Allen - with headquarters at Orting was given the additional responsibility of protecting the newely created park. Mr. Allen was supervisor of the Rainier National Forest (since combined with the Snoqualmie and Columbia National Forests) which completely surrounded the park area. Under his jurisdiction Wm. McCullough, a forest ranger made patrols into the Longmire-Paradise section until 1907, being the first men to undertake participation in the protection of this park.

As the need for development became apparent the army engineer corps was drafted to survey two routes for contemplated roads to "the mountain". Lieut. John Zug supervised a survey from the east side of the Cascades to a point in the vicinity of Ohanopecosh Park and Eugene Ricksecker was entrusted with a similar responsibility from the west. Zug's route was never put under construction but, due to the efforts of Representative Cushman who succeeded in getting an appropriation of $240,000 Rickseckers's road was begun in 1906. This was the beginning of our present Paradise Valley highway and the first car to enter this region was in August 1912, through the general public was not permitted this privelege until later.

Previous to the survey and construction of the Paradise Highway the need for some sort of accomodation in the higher parks became apparent and for several years, late in the 90's, Major Skinner operated a tent camp known as "Camp of the Clouds" on the east shoulder of Alta Vista in the region now known as Paradise Park. He abandoned this venture after a few years when gold was discovered in the Yukon, and John Reese took on the project - constructing his tent camp on what is now known as Theosophy Ridge, just below Alta Vista. This camp was, until 1916, the only accomodation offered the public at Paradise. Paradise Inn was built at that time and the park entered a new ear. (C.F.B.)

Reese's 'Camp of the Clouds'
Reese's "Camp of the Clouds"
on Theosophy Ridge - Paradise.

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