Historic Hood River
Johnson’s Point? Coon Place? Shushula? MHRR Tunnel?
Jim and I are still working on the old mystery of exactly where was the location of T. L. Eliot’s home “Shushula.” We know it was located somewhere in the Heights between “Eliot Park” (Indian Creek basin east of 12th Street) to Eliot Drive. He owned the entire parcel. We’ve seen photos and blueprints of the home, which burned down, we’ve seen this reference to the fishing hole being below the house, and now I found this image which is apparently the same spot. The same hand noted on the reverse, in faded fountain pen ink, “Johnson’s Point below Coon’s place, where Sam and papa fished all this summer.” A modern pencil note adds, “In T.L. Eliot file: “Papa” may have been Eliot.”
We know from Delia Coon’s obituary she lived in a ranch on the west bank of the Hood River close to town. We know from this 1896 Glacier article that Johnson’s point was near the confluence of Indian Creek and the Hood River. Modern USGS maps show a Johnson’s Spring which feeds a creek which empties into the Hood River just downstream from the power station, but there are really two points of land which push into the Hood River which are candidates for Johnson’s Point.
As is almost always the case researching one mystery raises several more. I came upon this 1905 article about the Mount Hood Railroad boring a tunnel through Johnson’s Point. This led me to find this article describing the planned grade of the railroad just before they started construction. It says the railroad would cross the river at the power plant, then enter a 200 foot tunnel through Johnson’s point, before proceeding to climb up the hill.
Remember the current power station was constructed in 1922-23, so they must be referring to the one Horatio Davidson was constructing in 1905, just as they were building the railroad. We don’t know exactly where that power station was located, but suspect it was in the same general area as the current power station. Now we all know the Mount Hood Railroad doesn’t go through any tunnels, so either the tunnel was removed at a later date for unknown reasons, or they abandoned the tunnel during construction for unknown reasons. I haven’t been able to find an account of either event.
So last Friday Jim and I poked around the lower reaches of the Hood River looking to verify the location of this fishing hole which was labeled in 1898 as “Johnson’s Point” and indicated to be below Shushula. It seems like a reasonable but not 100% match with the spot where the Powerdale pipeline crosses the Hood River. I’ll try to add a photo soon. The rocky promontory has changed a bit, but the rock is super crumbly and a lot has happened at this spot in 125 years– from building two bridges and two pipelines, to numerous winter floods, to numerous folks climbing all over it. I’m reasonably comfortable saying this is the spot in our two photos of the fishing hole below Shushula and Coon’s place. It also seems reasonable they would have at least considered a short tunnel for the railroad at that spot where the land pushes right up against the river. If there’s an abandoned tunnel there it’s well-covered in undergrowth, or perhaps they blasted away the Johnson’s Point tunnel at a later date and used the material for railroad or pipeline construction.
Shushula? My best guess is that it was perched on the bluff just south of where Indian Creek enters the Hood River. Jim’s guess is it was a little south of there, on the bluff just north of the end of Eliot Road. We’ve got many more photos of this stretch of the river, since everyone from Horatio Davidson to Max Moore to Alva Day documented the details of their power plant operations, and we have a few additional pictures of Shushula with a small amount of background visible. Or perhaps there is more information hidden in county records, or some old map I haven’t yet seen. Perhaps we’ll find some definitive evidence for its location.
I’m now more interested in the railroad tunnel. The good news is that the likely locations are now owned by the Columbia Land Trust. The bad news is they are covered with poison oak and blackberry. If you poke around in the brush or the newspapers or county records and find something, be sure to let us know! More likely you’ll uncover an even more enticing mystery to add to our list of unsolved HHR mysteries.
Tags: 1890s, Coon, Eliot, Johnsons Point, Mt Hood Railroad, Shushula, tunnel
Arthur, do you think that the Lidar mapping would show the presence of a tunnel?
Dale, I think you're on the right track, but rather than looking for the presence of a tunnel, I'd suggest looking for the absence of one. We may very well find that the LIDAR shows a manmade cut that could have been started as a tunnel. Perhaps the engineers realized that the rock was not suited for this and decided to blast a cut instead?
Great idea, LIDAR may be able to refine the search area and reduce poison oak exposure.
LIDAR was used in my community to locate the log slip of a now non-existing lumber mill. Fascinating stuff.
Was the Mt Hood Railroad ever electric? A December 31, 1905 article in the Oregonian says it doesn't know much about the almost completed railroad, scheduled to go into operation in early 1906. The article says it will eventually be electric and a dam has been built by the company to produce this electricity.
Dreamers talked about an “electric road” early on but the MHRR was never electric.