December: Winter in Oregon


January   February   March   April   May   June   July   August  September  October  November

Want to learn about Oregon History every day? Like The OE Facebook and Twitter pages to see our daily history posts. 
fb   twitter


A Christmas Song

By Charles Erskine Scott Wood


Now let us make a joyful feast

to light the going year,

Our table bright with garlands dressed

And fat with goodly cheer.

Whatever be the storm without,

‘Twill summer be within

And song and jest and laughing shout

Shall raise a merry din.

            Merry, Merry Christmas!

            Merry, Merry Christmas!

How good it is to be

            Possessed of Charity!

            Merry, Merry, Very Merry,

            Merry, Merry Christmas!


Poem published in The Pacific Monthly, January 1911, frontispiece. Note on “To Our Readers” page:



“A Christmas Song, by Charles Erskine Scott Wood, is another of those long poems which THE PACIFIC MONTHLY is said to be unusually ‘daring’ in offering its readers. This might have been thought more appropriate for the December number, but as the January number is always out before Christmas, it seems to us that a Christmas poem is infinitely more timely than a month earlier, when the December number, following the fashions set by magazine competition, appears about November 15.”


C.E.S. Wood
by Tim Barnes


Charles Erskine Scott Wood was a gifted public speaker and a talented, versatile writer of poetry, fiction, drama, satire, essay, articles, and occasional verse. Between 1904 and 1911, he wrote for The Pacific Monthly, a popular Portland magazine, publishing poems, stories, articles, book reviews, features, and a column called "Impressions." The books of his politically charged Christmas verse are beautiful examples of fine press printing.


The crystal fill with sunny wine,

Uplift it high above!

This is the day the Man divine

Taught all the world to love.

Begone pale Grief, let life be sweet,

And none be sick or sad.

Why do these shiver in the street?

And hunger, illy clad?

            Merry, Merry Christmas!

            Merry, Merry Christmas!

            All men are earthly brothers,

            The criminals and others.

            Merry, Merry Very Merry


            Merry, Merry Christmas!





pacific monthly


Eric A. Kimmel
by Ulrich Hardt

Eric A. Kimmel is Oregon’s most prolific writer of children’s and young adult books, with more than 120 books published and over half of them in print in 2015. He has been called “Oregon’s teller of tales” and is known for his adaptations and retellings of folktales, especially Yiddish tales. His books have won praise from young readers and reviewers alike and have received state and national awards. Kimmel’s books celebrate legends and myths, wonders and miracles, and Jewish holidays. The Jewish folk hero Hershel, who is known for his ability to make arrogant and pompous people look foolish through witty retorts and funny sayings, appears in a number of his books. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (1989) won a Caldecott Honor award.


Tucker Sno-Cat®
by Edwin Battistella

 When Emmitt Tucker was a young boy in northwest Jackson County, he walked to school in the deep snow, just like his schoolmates. What was different about Tucker is that he did something about it. He developed several snow vehicles based on a spiral-drive that corkscrewed through the snow, and by 1938 he came up with a revolutionary design that allowed the pontoons to float on the snow, surrounded by a steel track. He had a prototype built, which he successfully launched at Crater Lake in the winter of 1941. Within a few years, he was demonstrating the snow machine on a 600-mile, midwinter trek from Mount Shasta to Mount Hood, traveling over snow-buried trails and logging roads. Perhaps the most famous test of Tucker's snow machines was by the English explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs, whose team used four of them in the first overland crossing of Antarctica in 1958.

  tucker sno cat


Ivan Hathaway Jones
by Tom Nash

Hathaway Jones was proud to be Oregon's biggest liar. While others occasionally made the claim, no other Oregon storyteller captured the public imagination like Jones did. Even though Jones rarely traveled beyond the Rogue River, his tales have appeared in books, oral histories, Works Progress Administration files, Web sites, and folk festivals. In college classrooms, around campfires, and on barstools, people continue to tell Hathaway Jones stories, including "The Year of the Big Snow," as repeated by Nancy Wilson Ross:

One winter snow started early on the Rogue and came down so fast that Hathaway, hunting in the hills, couldn't walk out to his cabin and had to sit down and slide from the hilltop to the river bank. On the way down he lost his watch, which was a real pity, as he had intended timing the slide. Next summer he was up hunting in the hills again and sat down under a tree to rest. He became aware of a ticking sound near him, which he finally located up the tree under which he was resting. He got up, climbed the tree, and there sure enough was his watch, still going. That was how he knew how deep the snow had been that winter. He had climbed sixty feet up that tree.

Starvation Creek
by Nancy Moller

From December 16, 1884, to January 6, 1885, snow trapped a Pacific Express passenger train on a trestle west of Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge. With 148 passengers aboard, the train failed in its first attempt to reach Portland. On an attempt the next day, it joined with a train from Umatilla, two trains from the Northern Pacific, two from the Short Line, and the ORN locals. The three-engine Pacific Express traveled about two miles beyond Viento when it ran into a twenty-five-foot-deep snowslide. When workers finally broke through the last snowslide at Oneonta Falls three weeks later, on January 6, the Pacific Express, along with several trains that had been waiting in The Dalles, chugged down the tracks, now with over four hundred passengers and crew members aboard. The passengers who swarmed into the brightly lit ticket office at the Ash Street Station in Portland had been cold and hungry during their weeks of being snowbound, but no one had starved, died, or been lost. The little stream near the place where they were trapped was originally called Starveout Creek; it later became Starvation Creek. The area is now the Starvation Creek State Park.

  starvation creek


Glaciers in Oregon
by Andrew G. Fountain

There are about 463 glaciers or perennial snowfields in Oregon (35 of them named), covering an area of about 42.5 square kilometers. They can be found in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon and along the crest of the Cascade Range from Mount Hood south to Mount Thielson. The fundamental requirement for a glacier is that more snow accumulates in winter than melts away in summer, so glaciers can exist in relatively warm environments where annual average air temperatures are above freezing as long as enough winter snow accumulates to survive the summer.

By definition, a glacier is composed of perennial snow or ice, and it moves. One indication of movement is the existence of crevasses, the gaping cracks that develop in the ice. Differential movement of the ice causes tension, and if the tension exceeds the strength of the ice, then it cracks and forms crevasses. Another indication of movement is scratches on the bedrock that once covered the glacier. These scratches, known as striations, are caused by ice dragging rocks over the bedrock, much like sandpaper over wood. Eliot Glacier on Mount Hood is Oregon’s largest glacier, covering about 1.6 square kilometers in 2004. Collier Glacier, the largest glacier on the Three Sisters, is named after George H. Collier, a University of Oregon professor who climbed the Sisters in 1880. The glacier measured about 0.65 square kilometers in 1994, having lost 64 percent of its area and retreating 1,500 meters since 1910.

Two-Bits, the World War II Lookout Dog
by Jeff LaLande

During the early years of World War II, the Army Air Corps took over a number of U.S. Forest Service fire-lookout facilities on the Pacific Coast as part of its Aircraft Warning Service, which had observers scan the western skies for enemy aircraft. Among those lookouts was the 6,497-foot-high Whisky Peak in the Rogue River National Forest.

The lookout building, a 14-by-14-foot structure perched on the summit next to a near-vertical 600-foot drop to Low Gap Creek, was winter quarters for Two-Bits, a persistent fox terrier, his owner Bill Zeigler, and another Aircraft Warning Service man. Their task at Whisky Peak, which is in a rugged and remote portion of southeastern Josephine County, was to use a crank telephone to report if they saw or heard any aircraft. Forest Service crews on skis delivered food and other supplies to the pair every two weeks.



hart mt  

Hart Mountain CCC Camp
by Lee Juillerat

Civilian Conservation Corps crews at Camp Hart Mountain, about forty miles northeast of Lakeview, helped develop the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 21, 1936. The men at the camp, which  operated from October 1937 until July 1941, improved the road and strung telephone lines to the nearby town of Plush and, later, to the refuge headquarters. They built a garage for vehicles at the refuge headquarters, erected fabricated buildings, and constructed a road from the camp to refuge headquarters. Winters were hard, and reports describe flu outbreaks and storms—for example, five inches of snow on December 23-24, 1937; a temperature of minus 3 degrees on December 28-29; and two inches of rain between January 1 and January 8, 1938. The men traveled to Lakeview for a “large Christmas dinner,” but they spent a good deal of time “keeping the stoves going.”

Richard L. Kohnstamm
by Sarah Munro

Richard L. Kohnstamm was the president and area operator of Timberline Lodge and Ski Area from 1955 until 1992, when he turned the position over to his son Jeff. The lodge, built in 1936-1937 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration and furnished with art and furniture commissioned under the Federal Art Project, had opened to the public in 1938 but was closed in 1955, when the electricity was shut off for nonpayment of the bill. Kohnstamm was enamored of the building and applied to the U.S. Forest Service, which administers the lodge, to be Timberline’s new operator. He formed R.L.K. and Company and set about developing the lodge and ski area—a labor of love to which he devoted his life. Upon Kohnstamm's death in April 2006, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer memorialized him before the House of Representatives as "a visionary leader who conceived and then for half a century led the Kohnstamm family crusade to restore the jewel that is Timberline Lodge." Congress designated a 126-acre parcel of land above the Palmer ski lift as the Richard L. Kohnstamm Memorial Wilderness Area, to recognize the balance between wild and developed areas in the national public lands system and to create a tribute to "the man who saved Timberline Lodge."


Margery Hoffman Smith
by Sarah Munro

Margery Hoffman Smith was called the “grande dame of arts and crafts” for her work as interior designer of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. As assistant state director of the Federal Art Project, she was in charge of the handcrafted furnishings that were made for the lodge, and she worked with the woodworking and metal shops to design and execute furniture and wrought-iron furnishings for the interior. Under her supervision, seamstresses on the Women’s and Professional Project created hand-appliquéd draperies, hand-woven upholstery and draperies, and hand-hooked rugs for the public areas and guestrooms. She also commissioned or selected oil paintings, watercolors, hand-colored lithographs, opus sectile glass murals, and carved linoleum murals to decorate the lodge.

At Timberline, she told the Oregonian, “Carpenters became cabinet makers, blacksmiths became art metal workers and sewing women wound up expert drapery makers.…We made furniture from scrap iron, wood and rawhide.…The building dictated the style–overscaled and related to the great, snow-capped mountain.”

kohnstamm   timberline

trask toll road  

Trask Toll Road
by John Barnes

The Trask River Wagon Toll Road may have given travelers “the most awful ride in the world”—a description taken from a passenger's account written for McMinneville’s Telephone-Register in 1889. For nearly forty years, from 1874 until 1917, the 45-mile-long, steep, narrow route over Oregon‘s Coast Range served as the transportation link and mail route for the community of Tillamook. It was a two-day trip for passengers on the North Yamhill and Tillamook Stage Line (a one-way ticket cost five dollars). Train service from Portland brought passengers into North Yamhill, where they caught the stage to Fairdale and spent the night. The stage departed at six in the morning and arrived in Tillamook at four in the afternoon. The trip from Tillamook included an overnight stay at the Trask House, a hotel situated at the bottom of the ascent over the mountains, with a scheduled arrival in North Yamhill at two in the afternoon. 

Mount Hood
by Jon Bell

The snow on Mount Hood—averaging between 300 and 500 inches annually—is wetter and heavier than at other well-known ski areas in the West, but the high elevation, especially at Timberline, gives Mount Hood what is likely the longest ski season in North America. Five skiing and snowboarding resorts operate on Mount Hood: Summit Ski Area, Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort, Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, and Mt. Hood Skibowl. Olympic ski and snowboard teams from around the world train at the Timberline ski area during the summer, and a ski and snowboard summer camp scene has developed on the southern side of the mountain since the 1980s. Historic structures on Mount Hood include Timberline Lodge, Silcox Hut, Cloud Cap Inn, and a handful of stone shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The stone shelters are located along Timberline Trail, a forty-one-mile hiking trail that encircles the mountain.

  mt hood


Steens Mountain
by Jeff LaLande

Rising to an elevation of 9,733 feet, Steens Mountain is the highest point in southeastern Oregon. It looms like a massive basalt island, with its summit over 5,000 feet above the Alvord Desert to the east. Because of its variety of elevation zones and its topographical diversity—the result of heavy glacial carving during the Ice Age—Steens Mountain has many wildlife habitats and vegetation communities, from sagebrush steppe and juniper woodland at the lower elevations, to groves of quaking aspen at mid-elevations and mountain mahogany near the summit, to hardy subalpine perennials at the rocky crest.


In June 1831, Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader John Work recorded that the mountain was “covered with snow,” and because of this early description it appeared on some early maps as the Snow Mountains

Jesse Applegate
by Susan Badger Doyle

Jesse Applegate, an influential early Oregon resettler, is most remembered for his leadership role in establishing the Applegate Trail. He, his brother Lindsay, and other residents wanted to find an easier and safer wagon route to the Willamette Valley, and in late June 1846 they joined an exploring and road-building party that sought to open a southern route. Jesse Applegate was elected captain of the party, which explored a route that branched off from the California Trail and headed north from the Humboldt River through Nevada and northern California. When the group reached the California Trail along the Humboldt River in northwestern Nevada, Applegate traveled 350 miles east to Fort Hall where he arrived in August and promoted the new route. In 1846, over two hundred people in about a hundred wagons followed Applegate's advice and turned onto the new trail. The result was a catastrophe. The route was not cleared or well marked, the terrain and road conditions were treacherous, Indians harassed the trains, and heavy rain and snow started unusually early in the season. Most of the emigrants reached the Willamette Valley by December, although some did not arrive until the next spring in spite of concerted rescue efforts. In addition to immense losses in property and animals, at least a dozen emigrants died.


lewis and clark

Lewis and Clark Expedition
by William Lang

In the spring of 1806, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition learned that snow blocked their passage over the Bitterroot Mountains, so they spent more than a month with the Nez Perce, developing the strongest relationship with Natives during the entire Expedition. Part of that relationship was the result of Clark’s ministering to illnesses among the Nez Perce with his medicine kit. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had been at Camp Choppunish along the Clearwater River in present-day Idaho for nearly a month in early June 1806, waiting for snow high on Lolo Pass to melt. Clark recorded in his journal on June 8:

“One of those Indians [Nez Perce] informed us that we could not cross the mountains until the full of the next moon, or about 1st of July. If we attempted it Sooner our horses would be three days without eating, on top of the Mountns. This information is disagreeable to us, in as much as it admits of Some doubt, as to the time most proper for us to Set out.”



colter   fort clatsop

John Colter
by Jeff Lalande

John Colter was a member of the Corps of Discovery, commanded by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804-1806. He was among the majority of the party that, while huddled at stormy Station Camp on the north bank of the Columbia River in late 1805, voted in favor of wintering on the Oregon side of the river rather than return to drier country upstream. While the rest of the expedition camped in relative dryness at Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Colter and several other men spent much of the rainy Oregon winter about twenty miles distant at present-day Seaside, boiling gallons of seawater to produce sufficient salt for curing elk meat. Later that winter, Colter was one of the hunters who kept Fort Clatsop supplied with elk. He was also among the small group that on January 8, 1806, accompanied Captain Clark south from the salt camp to see “that monstrous fish," a whale that had washed up near present-day Cannon Beach. It was the farthest southern point in Oregon that the expedition would travel.


Fort Clatsop
by Kelly Cannon-Miller

In November 1805, eighteen months after leaving Camp Wood, Illinois, at the mouth of the Missouri River, the Lewis and Clark Expedition reached Cape Disappointment in present-day Washington State and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Inclement weather quickly ended their joy in seeing the ocean. With winter approaching, the entire party, including Sacagawea and York, voted to scout locations for an encampment on the south side of the Columbia, where they could find shelter and game. They chose a spot two miles up the present-day Lewis and Clark River, a site that offered access to a freshwater spring and shelter from the harsh weather. It was also close to the river and the coast, where they could establish a salt works and keep watch for trade ships. Construction of the fort began on December 9, and the Corps moved in on Christmas Day. The fort, located in the homeland of the Clatsop people, was the first American military structure built west of the Rocky Mountains. 


Astor Expedition
by Larry Morris

The Astor Expedition was a grand, two-pronged mission that attempted to establish a worldwide trading network centered at present-day Astoria. In 1810, John Jacob Astor sent two expeditions representing his Pacific Fur Company to establish a fur post at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astor chose partner Wilson Price Hunt, who had no experience in wilderness travel, to lead an overland group to the West Coast. They descended the Snake River in canoes in October, but soon lost one man and several boatloads of goods in the raging water. With winter coming on in late October, the men abandoned the river just east of present-day Twin Falls, Idaho, and continued on foot. On the verge of starvation, they split and reunited into various groups, with eleven men making their way into present-day northern Idaho and enduring the brutal winter with help from Nez Perce Indians, who fed them and sold them canoes. That group arrived at Astoria by way of the Snake and Columbia Rivers in January 1812. In February, Hunt and thirty-three others reached Fort Astoria after taking a route north of present-day Ontario. Two others arrived in May and seven more in the fall. 

Chris Klug
by Kerry Eggers

Of the many Winter Olympics success stories from the Pacific Northwest, one of the most compelling is that of Chris Klug from Bend. In 2002, he won the bronze medal in Giant Slalom in snowboarding and became the first organ transplant recipient in history to win an Olympic medal. Klug, who grew up in the shadow of Mount Bachelor in central Oregon, began competitive snowboard racing at the age of eleven and by his junior year at Mountain View High School was on the World Cup circuit full time. In 1991, he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare degenerative bile duct condition. Nevertheless, he continued to compete at a world-class level through the 1990s, winning the U.S. Open slalom in 1997 and the International Ski Federation World Cup at Grachen, Switzerland, in 1998. That same year, while on the wait list for a life-saving liver transplant, he finished sixth in the Olympic Games at Nagano, Japan.


Portland Rosebuds
by Shawn Daley

The Rosebuds, Portland’s first professional ice hockey team, was the first United States-based franchise to compete for the Stanley Cup. A member of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, the Rosebuds began as the New Westminster (B.C.) Royals and moved to Portland in 1914 in pursuit of a bigger arena. They played their home games at the Ice Hippodrome, located between Northwest 20th and Northwest Marshall. After a mediocre first season that saw the team finish out of the playoffs, the Rosebuds won the PCHA title the next year. In that era, the competition for the Stanley Cup pitted the PCHA champion against the National Hockey Association champion. In 1916, the NHA champion was the Montreal Canadiens, who had yet to win any of their record twenty-four cup championships. The rules aided their cause, however, as the best of five series was to be played entirely in one locale—a cost-cutting maneuver that made the NHA representative the only home team. That meant that the Rosebuds had to make the cross-continent trek to play in front of a hostile Montreal crowd for each contest. Montreal won the series.



Hjalmar Hvam
by William Lang

Skiing enthusiasts in Portland just before World War II knew the name Hjalmar Hvam as readily as most people recognize the names of professional athletes. Inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1967, Hvam was the dominant downhill and cross-country ski racer in the Pacific Northwest during the 1930s. He was also the inventor of the world’s first workable safety ski binding. During the 1930s, no one in the region could match Hvam’s racing success. He also recorded what may have been the first ski descent of Mount Hood from the summit in 1931. In 1932, he won the cross-country, jumping, and Nordic combined national skiing title at Lake Tahoe. By 1934, Hvam had taken up downhill skiing and had perfected his slalom racing technique, winning his first major race at the Oregon Slalom Championships. Two years later, he won the Silver Skis downhill race on Mount Rainier, one of twelve races he won in 1936-1937, including stunning first-place finishes at the Mount Baker meet in slalom, giant slalom, cross country, and jumping events. By 1936, Hvam had become such a skiing icon in the Pacific Northwest that he decided to open a ski shop in Government Camp with his wife Vera and business partner Ole Langerud. A skiing accident in 1937, however, became the pivotal event in his life and led to his revolutionary invention.

The Grotto
by Sean Arnold

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, also known as The Grotto, is a sixty-two-acre Roman Catholic sanctuary dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus. Located in northeast Portland, The Grotto, which opened in 1924, attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually. As a center of religion, culture, and natural beauty, the Sanctuary features over a hundred statues and paths around gardens, ponds, and groves of evergreens. The Grotto was developed on land purchased in 1923 from the Union Pacific Railroad by a Servite priest, Father Ambrose Mayer, for $48,000. Pope Pius XI blessed the project in a letter, and the first mass, led by Alexander Christie, archbishop of Portland, was held on May 29, 1924. 

The Sanctuary hosts a number of events each year, including the Christmas Festival of Lights in November and December. As the largest Christmas choral program in the world, the festival presents 150 performances by regional choirs, over 500,000 lights, an animal petting zoo, puppet shows, and outdoor caroling. Nearly a thousand community volunteers help make the event possible. 


hoot owls