The Hood River News-Letter, Hood River, OR., September 29, 1906, page 13

(By D.A. Turner)

     In August 1861 the writer first set foot in Hood River valley. We landed from the steamer near where the present boat landing is located. Our companion was Wm. Odell. After looking over the valley we decided to settle on the East Side and bought out a man by the name of Butler who had located on a 160 now known as Odell, Nathan Benson, N. Coe, James Benson, A.C. Phelps, and a Mr. Ives, who settled the Woodworth place, made up the settlers of the West Side at that time.
     In March 1861 P. Neal and his son-in-law moved from The Dalles and began the construction of the sawmill on Neal creek, the contractors being Hardin Corun & Sons. We settled here the fall before the hard winter that tried the souls of we early settlers. I expect to write a remembrances of that winter later on, just now I think it will be of more interest to tell of the values of the lands here at that time.
     The Odell place had been taken up by a Mr. Whiting and Mr. Butler. Whiting starved out and left the country. Another family settled on the Ehrck place, who also starved out and had to leave. Mr. Butler, however, lived through the winter of '60-61 by taking advantage of a party of bear hunters who came down from The Dalles and killed a quite a number of bears. After they had killed the bears Butler told them they had better leave them as he would need them. This is the story they told us and there being a number of cans of bear grease left when we purchased the double log cabin, we were confirmed in the belief of the story as told us.
     In the writer, in 1864 bought out the claim of Wm. Moss giving him $200 for it. The prices for which it had been sold before had been a shotgun or a cayuse horse. The land now owned by Chris Detham, O. Vanderbilt, and others, was at that time our favorite hunting ground for deer and other game.
     Davis Divers and family came from the Clackamas in the spring of 1862, the first settler along Hood River. From then on for a term of years families came and went. Many, after looking over the country would leave disgusted, declaring that the whole country was only fit for a summer resort for the Indians.
     Very often people wonder why the early settlers are not very wealthy when such wonderful opportunities were presented in the early settlement of the valley. The conditions then and now are quite different. People here at the present day can hardly realize the environments of the early settler. Apples were grown, it is true, and of most excellent quality, but the market was very limited. They could have been sold for a fair price in Eastern Oregon at the mines, but the cost of transportation and the facilities for it precluded the idea.
     If our citizens were confronted for a week with the regulations which obtained with the transportation companies in those days, there would be an insurrection. The Dalles was our nearest place to trade. We could go by boat when we could get the captain to land for us. If he did not see fit to land one day, we would have to come back the next, or take the other alternative, go by pack horse trail over the mountains. When we did go by boat it cost us $2.50 per package for our freight. As these $2.50 bills was a scarce article, we most frequently went the trail. I wonder how much money our present enterprising valley orchardists would make if they had to pack all their fruit and eggs and other products to The Dalles to market over a rough trial. I believe if they were reduced to this they would do as so many of the early settlers did, leave for good.
     This trail was cut by the Hudson Bay company trappers on their way to and from Oregon City, passing over the Cascade mountains near Lost Lake. At an early day an effort made to cut a road through from Oregon City to The Dalles, and it was opened up a part of the way over the Sandy, but the project was dropped.
     The first bridge across Hood River was constructed by Hardin Corum & Sons. The timbers were hued out near the Kennedy Canyon and the bridge was built about eighty feet below the present steel bridge. This gave us of the East Side some relief. Soon after, however, the high water of the Columbia took away the western approach to the bridge, which left the main span for us to cross upon, but were obliged to climb up and down a ladder on the west end. We had to make these trips every time we wanted our mail, as there were no free rural deliveries in those days.
     The hunting was the one redeeming feature in those days. These hunts were about all the pleasant events to remember. There were plenty of deer, bear, elk and small game, and strawberries. Of the strawberries the hills were covered and the Indians came from The Dalles in crowds to gather them. After all these difficulties, all these privations, and inconveniences; after the struggles and trials of forty-five of our seventy summers in this valley, we are glad that we are here in the land of the big red apple and the luscious strawberry, and we feel a certain sort of pride to be numbered among the people who stayed with Hood River from her early days through it all until she has triumph so gloriously.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer