Historic Hood River
Every year or so I am working on a mystery that forces me to dig out old maps. A while back I started trying to overlay my key historic maps so I could easily compare them. This is harder than it might seem. Scans of maps aren’t always to scale because paper stretches and scanners have some inherent distortion. Maps are prepared to different projections, which makes a difference even at the scale of the Hood River Valley. And most importantly, maps are only as good as the underlying survey material and the skills of the mapmaker. They don’t always get it right. All this means aligning historic and modern maps is very hard, but it’s still one of the best ways to find the location of historic sites.
Today we’ll look back at the mystery of exactly where the Belmont Planer mill (“Planer Mill No. 1”) of the Stanley Smith Lumber Company was located. You’ll remember we have some photographs of this mill with its enormous log deck. We talked quite a bit about its possible location in this post showing the mill in 1906. Based on this 1911 Hood River County map I believed it to be across Country Club Road from the Hood River Saddle Club, but that never sat well with me. I couldn’t square the 1906 mill view with the terrain, and couldn’t figure out where the flume would have gone at that site. While that 1911 map shows the flume paths and mill locations, I’ve found enough other errors to believe this map was more focused on promoting real estate than carefully locating features.
Years ago the county surveyor shared a hand drawn 1913 “Road Map of Hood River County.” It was on a very large piece of “tracing cloth” which meant it was hard to scan well. It wrinkled and distorted, but I did my best– then put aside the scans and forgot about them, depending instead on the colorful but less accurate 1911 map.
I pulled out the old scans of the Surveyor’s map while working on a mystery on the east side of the county. The word “planer” caught my eye from the opposite side of the map. It was in the “wrong” spot– rather than near the intersection of Belmont Street and Country Club Road, it was at the NW corner of the intersection of Post Canyon Road and Country Club Road. I believe this site matches the 1906 image much better. It falls off to the north and west as seen in that image and it’s much easier to see the flume passing through there given its course along the drainage of Phelps Creek. I also give more credence to a surveyor in pinning down a location.
I’ve shared the 1913 “surveyor’s” Road Map, a 1913 map of the Oregon National Forest, the 1911 Hood River County Map from the Commercial Club, and the county’s official 2014 map, all aligned reasonably well. To orient yourself, look for the “33” section mark on the Surveyor’s map at top (left side). There’s a bend in Post Canyon Road just to the right, and at the intersection with Country Club Road you’ll see a very small triangle and the word “planer”. If you shift your eyes down to the National Forest map, you’ll see Phelps Creek running past that spot, and a line with hatching marking the flume route from Greenpoint down to Ruthton. Follow the flume north and you’ll also see a mark for the Ruthton Mill (Stanley Smith Planer Mill No. 2) down by the railroad. Then shift your eyes down to the colorful 1911 map, with the planer mill a half mile south on Country Club Rd. And finally the 2014 map, with no mills or flumes at all.
Enjoy trying to line up these maps in your head. Do any of you have surveying training? I’d like to know how to read all those little circle on the “Surveyor’s Map” that say things like “ICJ 102” or “ACJ 126”.