The Hood River County Sun, Hood River, OR, January 30, 1948, page 8


     "The people who settled Hood River valley were the most persistent, hard-headed people that God ever put breathe into."
     Those are the words of "Eph" Winans whose 86 years to make him dean among early settlers in Hood River valley, and for whom he acts as spokesman.
     "Hood River valley was the hardest place to homestead that you find," Winans says. "It cost $150 to $200 an acre to grub off farm land by hand, and any one of us could have gone to the wheat country and been on our feet in three years -- but we hung on."
     When asked why the early settlers chose to clear and stay in the valley rather than flee to the flat-lands, he said, "I don't know why -- except for one thing. It was the most beautiful valley God ever created and still is."
     Winans first came to Hood River on July 17, 1886. He was born in Kansas and spent most of his childhood in Illinois. After living in Illinois, he moved to Colorado were two of his brothers were mining engineers. He was there the year Colorado became a state.
     In 1887, after living in Portland, he came back to Hood River for good. The Natural Ice Co. of Portland sent him up here to cut ice, which was once 14 inches thick near the Jaymar mill area. As many as 5,000 tons of ice a year were shipped out of Hood River in these pre-refrigeration days.
     "Every winter until 1897 there was plenty of vice," Winans recall. "So you can say that there has been a definite change of climate."
     Needless to say, the city of Hood River wasn't much of a place in those early days. "When I first came to Hood River there were 11 dwellings, two stores -- the E.L. Smith and John H. Middleton stores -- and a blacksmith shop. The post office was in operation with Geo. T. Prather as postmaster. I think he got around $25 for being postmaster and was the village barber on this side - the first barber in Hood River.
     During his busy life time, Winans spent ten years fishing on the Columbia. "The fish all weighed over 25 pounds and you got two cents a pound for them," he recalls.
     Winans' only advice to those who would like to live to a ripe old age is ""Choose parents who lived to a ripe old age." His father, a friend of the Audubon for whom the nature society is named, lived to be 100 and his mother reached the 90's.
     Even having a good wife won't help much, because Winans has been a bachelor all his life. His only remaining relatives are four nephews living near Winans station at Dee: Ross, Paul, Audubon and Lineus Winans.
     The Lage, Mohr and Lenz families were here in those days, he recalls, and Mrs. Olive English, another of the oldest remaining settlers, he has known since she was a girl.
     Winans was always interested in the Indians and knows as many legends as anyone in the valley. Here is one he learned from many Indian friend: "Spelei, or the Coyote, was the Indian God and keeper of the world. He did miraculous things for Indians. One of the customs of the Indians in the early days was to put their old people on the edge of villages to die since they were no longer useful.
     "They supplied them with food and clothing and then let nature take its course. Once there were two old women put out to die, with only a small supply of food. An old man came along and asked them for food. They said, "We have little but we will share with you."
     "After eating, the old Indian threw off his tattered blankets and revealed himself as Spelei, the Coyote. He restored them their youth and they returned to the village. Never again did the tribe cast out their old people. Rather, they were held in esteem."
     In 1887 Winans helped cut stone for the Cascade Locks lock, said at that time to be the third best piece of masonry work in the world. Commanding officer under whom he worked was Lt. B.M. Young, son of Brigham Young, later became a Major general.
     Although the aging in body, Eph Winans remains alert and retentive of mind. His friends wish him many more birthdays before he, too, merge into the history he helped to create in the valley he loves.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer