A History Of The Festival

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Introduction To The Festival

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Where did it all come from?

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Samuel Welch

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The Big House

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Village of Salmon

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The Early 1900's

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Rebirth in 1985

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Today's Purpose

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The Festival in the year 2000

Introduction

The Cascade Geographic Society's 17th Annual Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days (August 2001)  celebrates the best of The Mountain. It is a family-oriented festival filled with history, music, multiculturalism, education, great food and a whole lot more (including plenty of Huckleberries). 

This yearís Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days will help celebrate the first attempted [but failed] crossing of Mount Hoodís southern flank 156 years ago, and the 155th Anniversary of the opening of the first toll road over the Cascade Mountain Range. With a toll of $5 per wagon, this overland route was fashioned out of an ancient Indian trail and served as an overland route for emigrants not having the $50 per wagon fee to raft their wagon down the Columbia River. 

The Festival celebrates the history and natural resources associated with Mount Hood and the Oregon Trail. Itís a time for young and old, people from all walks of life, to come together for the festivities. 

"Festivals such as this is one are ideal because people can enjoy themselves while appreciating those very special things that Nature provides us, along with the history that goes with the natural landscapes," explains Michael P. Jones of the Cascade Geographic Society. "You canít help but to take a good look at what all we have here in Oregon and the Northwest and know that weíre very lucky." 

"Holding this celebration on Mount Hood is ideal since this Mountain is the symbol of Oregon and the Cascadian representative of the Northwest. Where else could you really celebrate our natural, historical, and cultural resources with so many people from different walks of life and age groups?"

Where did it all come from?

The Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days began sometime in the late 1880's or early 1890's, although most folks who are still alive from those days can't seem to agree on a specific date. 

However, it is highly probable and generally thought that this Festival actually came into existence about the same time the Welches Hotel first opened, which was the Summer of 1890. Thus it can be said it is actually a reincarnation of an earlier celebration  of the opening of the Welches Hotel in the quaint little Village of Welches. 

The hotel, known as the "Big House" was operated by 1840's Oregon Trail emigrant Samuel Welch, who was also the trading post operator, and founder of this frontier settlement along the Salmon River. He was known to resemble the character of Uncle Sam. 

Samuel Welch

Samuel Welch, an Oregon Trail pioneer of the 1840's, is credited with planting the "seeds" of the tourism movement on Mt. Hood. While crossing the Blue Mountains, he first caught sight of Oregon's highest mountain, an 11,235 foot snow-clad Peak, and had a dream about establishing a resort on that beautiful Mountain. And, during those early times when Samuel "rolled up his sleeves" and began working towards that dream, the Mt. Hood Huckleberry Festival (as it was simply known back in those early days) came into existence.

Samuel was a Pennsylvania-born emigrant, who crossed the Oregon Trail with his brother in a Prairie Schooner. (A Prairie Schooner was a small, modified farm wagon that was literally an oblong box on wheels -- approximately four feet wide by ten to fifteen feet long, with the sideboards rising up about two feet high.) 

Samuel resided first in Oregon City and then Washougal, Washington, and, still later, the Orient area just east of Gresham, all before he moved up to Mt. Hood in 1880 with his sixteen year old son, Billy.

After Samuel had relocated to Mount Hood, he and his teenage son operated a trading post at the mouth of the Zig Zag River near where it joined the Sandy River. This small log and split-cedar structure, was a former Hudson's Bay Company trading post or outpost that had been abandoned when the British settled the Oregon issue with the Americans and relocated their operations to what is now known as Canada.

During this period, Samuel began homesteading the lower Welches Valley where he first constructed a two-story farmhouse for his family, and then fashioned the land at the threshold of the rugged Salmon River Canyon into a ranch. Here, he brought in cattle which he pastured in what is now the golf course at "The Resort At The Mountain". Occasionally, he would even bring in a herd of Wild Horses which he broke and would sell in Portland.

The Big House

In 1889, Samuel began enlarging his family home, which he called the Big House, into a hotel. By July 1st when all threats of snows in the lower elevations of Mount Hood had finally subsided, marking the beginning of the Summer tourist season, the Welches Hotel opened its doors to its first guests.

To celebrate the opening of the Welches Hotel, Samuel and his son Billy decided to organize a Festival. However, this was not just to call attention to their new hotel, but also to a special bounty that drew the people to Mount Hood: Huckleberries. Thus, the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival was born.

A year or two later, the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival was relocated to the Old Village of Salmon. This quaint frontier settlement was located just west of what is now the Village of Brightwood on a segment of the Oregon Trail that later became part of the Mount Hood Loop Highway.

Samuel decided the most ideal place for the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival was on the west bank of the Salmon River. He and other settlers believed that it was destined to become a boom town for Mount Hood due to its rapid growth from an Oregon Trail campsite to a village that was now boasting its own voting precinct, hotel, and saloon.

Village of Salmon

The Village of Salmon was a tiny, crude settlement that remarkably was fashioned out of an original campsite that had been utilized by those who were traversing over the Oregon Trail. These early-day travelers had been seeking an overland route into the Willamette Valley for the final leg of their 2,000-plus mile journey by traveling over Mount Hood's rugged southern flank on an ancient Native American path that became known as the Barlow Trail. This was an alternative to rafting the final miles down the Columbia River.

At this particular location on Mount Hood, situated just west of today's Village of Brightwood on the banks of the Salmon River near where it merges with the Sandy River, emigrants "forded" the Rivers and continued on to the "New Eden" (the Willamette Valley) which lay farther to the west. However, some of the "overlanders" took a liking to this place, and eventually returned to set down their roots.

Unfortunately this historic site, which consisted of  a cluster of frontier homes, a saloon, hotel, post office and even voting precinct, did not survive the onslaught of the coming years. The future, as some old-timers have reminisced, did not have a place for this pioneer village that grew up along a segment of the Oregon Trail on Mount Hood.

Eventually , as the Village of Salmon began to fade into history, the focus of the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival came to rest in Brightwood. There, the owners of the McIntyre Store, located where the Brightwood Country Store is today, took the celebration under their wings and promoted it locally. 

The Early 1900's

A Huckleberry Queen was added and an official parade was instituted as part of the festivities, with a big Huckleberry Pancake Feed. With the main road from Portland running past the business, everyone who walked through their doors learned about the Festival and its up-coming events.

Tourists were drawn to the event although it was a long and difficult drive to Mount Hood. Still, the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival remained relatively small, in spite of the support and glowing endorsements from local Mountain residents and tourists from the city who took pride in not only that delicious wild bounty known as the Huckleberry, but also the area's scenic beauty and rich history.

Finally, in the 1930's, the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival reign regrettably came to an end. During the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, the McIntyre family and other folks did not see too much to celebrate because of the "hard times" that plagued the Mountain and the rest of the Nation. Gradually, without fanfare, the Festival silently died.

Rebirth in 1985

In 1984, a group of Mount Hood residents came together to discuss the rich heritage of the Mountain that was being lost to the passage of time. So the historic Festival was resurrected under the blessing of Lutie Welch Bailey, the granddaughter of Samuel Welch, and her husband Hallard who had at one time worked as the Superintendent of the Barlow Trail on the Clackamas County portion.

Thus in 1985, approximately fifty-five years after the difficult reign of the Great Depression claimed the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival as one of its victims, a handful of Mount Hood residents pooled their energy and brought the celebration back into existence. They combined it with a new proposed event -- known as the "Barlow Trail Days" -- to bring attention to the wealth of history associated with that Old Oregon Trail, and the segments which still had survived and endured the passage of time.

Today's Purpose

Recognizing the need to educate the public, the sponsors of the revitalized Huckleberry Festival organized activities that would be fun and informative, with the goal of providing free opportunities for all to enjoy. This was the purpose of the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days.

The Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days has grown into a family-oriented event which continues to expand and attract people from all over Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. Each year the number of participants grows. Although in relative infancy, interest continues to build. The celebration's events are truly unique, educational, fun, and, for the most part, free to the public.

The Festival in the year 2000

In 2000, the Mount Hood Huckleberry Festival & Barlow Trail Days is celebrating its 16th year. Now situated at Mt. Hood Village, 65000 East U.S. Highway 26 near the Village of Brightwood, it continues to celebrate Huckleberries, as well as other bounties of Nature, not to mention our rich Native American and Oregon Trail history.

This year the tradition of our history and our natural resources continues. The festivities mark the 16th annual event under the sponsorship of the Cascade Geographic Society, ever since it was resurrected back in 1984. The Festival is still undergoing changes and is transitioning into something for future generations, but, still retaining the heritage of our past.

For further information, please write: Cascade Geographic Society, P.O. Box 398, Rhododendron, Oregon 97049. 

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