The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, WA., June 7, 1934, page 1
94 YEAR OLD FRED GERLING VISITS SIX CEMETERIES TO HONOR OLD-TIME FRIENDS
Captain Fred W. Gerling, 94, accompanied by his son,
Ernest Gerling, of Portland, was in Oregon City Memorial day and stopped
for a short visit with an old friend, Robert Ballou, 612 Jackson street.
Captain Gerling is probably the oldest surviving master navigator of early
day steamboating on the upper Columbia river. He also resided at Oregon City
75 years ago and worked in a sawmill here.
He was born in Germany June 21, 1840. When a lad of 15 he came to the United States, two years in advance of his parents. He worked in the Wisconsin lumber mills for four years at 50 cents per day. In 1859 he came to Oregon City by way of the Isthmus of Panama, as the results of letters received from friends in Clackamas county telling him of the much higher wages paid here for sawmill work.
About 10 months after he came he dropped sawmilling and began work on the Willamette river boats as a deck hand. In 1861 he joined the Idaho gold rush, but came back to Oregon City soon after, with empty pockets. In 1862 he went to The Dalles and again engaged in river steamboating. Four years he was a first made on the upper river steamers. From 1866 to 1875 he was a wharfinger in charge of freight handling at the Big Eddy dock above Celilo Falls.
While journeying up and down the river, the hilly country on the Washington shore in Klickitat county attracted him. In 1875 he invested his savings in a stock ranch on Rock Creek near what is now Fountain station on the S.P.& S. railway. In 1881 a hard winter found him $800 worse off than nothing. He then moved to the Goodnoe Hills country a few miles further down the Columbia and took up a homestead. He established what in later years became one of the largest and best paying stock and grain ranches in the upper Columbia river basin. During a fruit land boom in 1910 he sold out his holdings and moved to Portland, where he has since resided in his retirement as his Montavilla home.
Captain Gerling became a member of the local I.O.O.F. lodge soon after he came to Oregon and still retains his membership in the order. He is perhaps entitled to the honor of being the oldest Odd Fellow in the northwest, both in point of age and time of membership. Captain Gerling is still active for a man of his advanced age. His hearing is impaired, but he can still read a newspaper without glasses. He came here Memorial day to decorated the graves of old time friends and relatives. In doing this, he visited five cemeteries in Portland and Clackamas county. - Oregon City Enterprise.
The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, WA., April 4, 1935, page 1
Includes portrait, which title follows:
FRED W. GERLING Mr. Gerling is an adult pioneer of Klickitat county, and is also the No. One man on the Sentinel subscription list, having taken the paper ever since its first issue in 1879. Mr. Ballou has written two articles touching on Mr. Gerling's experience in early days, the first of which appears in this issue.
FRED W. GERLING, 95, TELLS OF EARLY DAY EXPERIENCES
Another Ballou Story
Many Interesting Occurrences Recalled In The Early Days Of The Northwest By Mr. Gerling
(All Rights Reserved)
Tales of pioneer days are now being given a fair share
of attention by desk editors of Northwest dailies. Much material from the
pages of history is being reproduced with a blinking star and moonlight glow
literary effect, by staff writers. The creaking and jolting of dead axle
canvas covered wagons, drawn by plodding oxen, can almost be heard.
This article and the one to follow is from an interview with Fred W. Gerling in his Portland home by Van Ballou, who assists his blind invalid father, Robert Ballou in his literary work.
Some of the events that Captain Gerling mentions are outstanding in the pages of early day history about Portland and Oregon City. At the time he arrived in Portland the population was not much larger than Goldendale now has. At a recent meeting of the Lang Syne society in Portland the oldest living pioneers were honored guests. The oldest pioneer present was George H. Hines, 91.
In presenting this story to our readers we feel that we are offering a narrative of pioneer events by the sole survivor, to witness many of the stirring events in the period of northwest history mentioned.
On the local end Klickitat county, we feel that if Captain Gerling's pioneership is dated back to the time he was loading wood on upper river steamboats at Columbus (Maryhill) in 1862, he is the only surviving person who was an adult pioneer in the early settlement of Klickitat county.
As an early settler in the Goodnoe Hills section, when the country was breaking through the frontier crust, he was a highly respected citizen, a successful farmer, active in civic, political and fraternal life.
He has been a reader of the Sentinel ever since the paper was established by Judge Ralph O. (Oregon) Dunbar and associates in 1879. When Captain Gerling moved to Portland in 1907, the first thing he did was to send his new address to the Sentinel office.
The photo of Captain Gerling with this story is from a commercial cut obtained especially by the Sentinel. - The Editor.
When a sturdy German emigrant lad of fifteen crossed
a gang plank from an ocean liner at Ellis Island in 1855, he knew nothing
of the stirring activity and sights that a new world held for him.
This emigrant lad is now Captain Fred W. Gerling, 95, retired, who resides at 8005 South East Clay St., Portland, Oregon. His activity has included pioneer sawmilling, early day steamboating on the Willamette and Columbia rivers and life as a pathfinder stockmen and farmer during the early settlement of Klickitat county, Washington. The son of a farmer, he was born in the state of Westpralia, Kingdom of Prussia, June 21, 1840. He attended the public schools in Germany until he acquired all of the education deemed necessary for a farmer lad. Prospects for an ambitious lad in his native land were not very bright at the time. By German law the oldest son acquired nearly all property amassed by his parents. Apprenticeship to a tradescraft meant many long years of drudgery. Also there was compulsory military service to be considered. Active service was required from 17 to 24, reserve service 24 to 35, from 35 to 45, home service, and other limited military service extended to a fifty year age limit. To quote Captain Gerling's own words, "If a boy stayed there until he was 17 he was stuck to be a soldier the rest of his life. That's all there was to it." The only outlet was America. Many German emigrants had already gone there to seek homes. Most of these sent back glowing accounts, which proved an attraction for many German boys. Despite the fact that the German Imperial government was very strict with their youth about military duty, they were not adverse to seeing young German blood go to the United States. Passports were issued freely to boys under 17.
Another German lad, about the same age, made the journey with him. From New York City, they went at once to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, where they had friends and relatives. The Gerling lad at once got a job in the lath mill for a monthly wage of four dollars. His chum, named Vondehee, had an elder brother who had made his way to the Oregon country two or three years before. As soon as this brother learned they were in America, he commenced writing and wanted them to come to Oregon. Neither conceived any desire to leave Wisconsin until three years later when a sweetheart of the Vondehee boy, already in Oregon, came from Germany to be his bride. She was met in New York City by the Gerling boy's chum, who accompanied her to Clackamas county, Oregon. When his chum arrived in Oregon he at once commenced writing letters, urging the Gerling lad to follow. He did not pay much attention at first, because he had been advanced to a job as sawyer in a lumber mill and was earning sixteen dollars a month, so he thought he was getting along very well in Wisconsin. One day he got a letter telling that sawyers were paid six dollars per day in Oregon sawmills and that jobs were plentiful. He was soon on his way to Oregon from New York City via the Isthmus of Panama and San Francisco route. Captain Gerling will now take up the story.
"I landed in Portland, on a steamer from San Francisco, July 9, 1859. Portland was then a mud hole. Oregon City was the biggest place in Oregon. The town was all down on the river bank under the bluff. What is now the main residential part of Oregon City, on the hills back of the river, was a dense fir forest. My friends lived about six miles out of town on the Molalla road. After visiting with them awhile I got a job in the sawmill of W.W. Bock. A little dinky mill three quarters of a mile past the wagon bridge over the Clackamas river. Most of the lumber we made was for apple boxes. I got the six dollars a day my friend had told me about. This mill shutdown in the early fall. Mr. Bock gave me a recommendation to the Pennoyer sawmills in Portland, on the Willamette river between Madison and Morrison streets. When I got there I found the mill yard was fenced with 16 foot bridge planks. The office was on Front street. The manager told me that their sawyer was going to quit and that the wages were eight dollars a day. I told him I would take the job. He says, 'Go out in the mill and see what you think of it.' This sounded funny to me, as I thought a sawmill was a sawmill and did not see why a fellow had to look it over before he took a job. I went in and there were a lot of prisoners with a ball and chain on their legs, working. I went to the sawyer and asked him why he wanted to quit. He says, 'The work is alright, but hell, I wouldn't stay here another month for three times eight dollars a day.' I stayed about half an hour, then went to the office and told the manager I didn't want the job, that I would probably get in the penitentiary soon enough, without hiring out to one."
"I went back to Oregon City and started to work as a
deck hand on the steamboats that they were trying to run on the Willamette
river. They didn't have much water in the upper river. The boats ran aground
alot in the shallow places. In 1860 a fellow built a boat that he said would
run on heavy dew. This boat didn't run in the summertime. She didn't pay
because they had very little freight on the trip up. I worked on this boat
about two months. The last trip I made she got stuck on a bar at the mouth
of the Clackamas river near Oregon City. The captain tried to jump her over.
A rigging to 'jump' a boat over a bar or gravel bed was fixed by lashing
crossed spars under the bow and raising the front end with the windlass.
The engines worked several hours, without moving her. The captain ordered
their rigging aboard and told me and another deck hand named 'Long' Locy,
to wade out into the river with pike poles looking for deeper water. We waded
clear across the river and back to the boat without finding any deeper water.
The boat worked off of the bar and floated that evening. They then tied her
"In the fall of 1860 I went on a steamer called the Elk. I made three or four trips on this boat to Eugene."
"One trip on the run back to Oregon City we took on a cargo of wheat at Wheatland. It was raining and we all got wet. When we started out again the mate and crew all got inside on the freight deck where the boiler was. We were near a place called Davidson's landing, across the river from Dayton, when we heard the whistle blow. The mate says, 'I don't know of anything to pick up here, the Yamhill boat takes off everything below the Yamhill river. The rules were that all hands had to go to the foreward bow deck when the whistle blew for a landing. When we got there the purser was standing by the gang plank with a cargo full of canary birds he wanted to put off at Davidson's Landing. The boat turned around to land upstream and we had headway enough so the bow struck the bank, but before she got there she was blowed up. From the front of the boat to the engine room everything blew out. It looks to me as if it were sawed off. There were no ladies aboard. There was a bunch of four or five men playing cards in the passenger cabin when the boiler exploded. They were all sitting out in the open looking as unconcerned as if nothing had happened. Of course everything was done so quick we didn't get scared either. The purser either fell or jumped into the river with his cage of canary birds. The pilot was blown straight up in the air. It seemed to me like he went up a hundred feet high. He came down on what had been the tin roofed hurricane deck, which was floating in the river. He struck on his head and shoulder. He was not hurt much, only laid up for a couple of weeks. The small boat was not hurt at all. We lowered it and pulled around the stern, to get the pilot and purser. Three or four dressed hogs was hanging on the side of the boat. One of the boys wanted to get these hogs before we got the men. The cook was frying something on his stove when it was blown into the river. He was hurt pretty bad. He seemed to be about half crazy. He run around with a frying pan in his hand, trying to jump overboard. He kept talking about wanting a cook stove that would not blow up. He and another fellow took him down to Chompoeg to the doctor. He got all right in about three weeks. When she blew up we were all looking out toward a hill, about as high as Mt. Tabor. Something struck my year and burned it. When we got back to Davidson's Landing with the pilot and purser, we got to talking about the noise. All of us said it did not make any noise. Over at Dayton, fourteen miles away they heard it. A man by the name of Davidson, for whom the landing was called, had a kind of scow steamboat. The people in Dayton thought this had blown up and all came over. Captain Calkin was a master of the boat. When the next boat came along he took us all down to Canemah."
"I got scared of steamboating and went to work in a flour mill, owned by a man named Chapman, on an island above the falls at Oregon City. It was a water power mill, with a mill race from the river. When the fall rains came the river began to rise very fast. Driftwood and logs had piled up around the island and along the Oregon City side for years. This debris was piled up four or five feet high over about four acres, and made another dam in the river. There was a bridge from the mainland to the island about halfway between Oregon City and Canemah. I was packing flour in the mill. The water was rising a foot an hour. I had a bunk in the flour warehouse on the island. About four o'clock in the afternoon the water got in the wheel and they had to shut down. I went out on the bridge to look at the water. While I was standing there a big drifting fir tree struck the top of the bridge. I went back to the mill and told them I would not sleep on the island that night. I tried to get the rest of them to move off, but they wouldn't. I went to a hotel on Water street in Oregon City, called the Oregon House and got a room. About five o'clock the next morning somebody woke me up and said the bridge was gone and Chapman wanted me to get a boat to take them off. I tried to get the ferry but couldn't. There was a steamer tied up at Canemah. I went there to get a rowboat off it. It was raining so hard that the water was running out of the top of my rubber boots when I got to Canemah. The captain of the steamer was gone with the rowboat. I had to wait two hours before I got it. I got a dray and had the boat hauled to the place where the bridge had been. When I got back, some of the people in Oregon City had gone and took the ferryman's boat, against his orders. It was only about 300 feet across to the island but the water was very swift. The boats had to be rowed over against the current at an angle. I was so soaking wet that the men there would not let me go over with the boats. Both boats got across about the same time, after a hard pull. They got back with Mr. Chapman and his other men all right. Along about noon I was helping move out Warner and others that lived and had stores next to the river in Oregon City. This store of Mr. Warner, a brick building, is still standing in the town. The warehouse was eight or ten feet lower than the Warner store. We moved all the merchandise into the brick building. We piled it all up on the counters. The water came within two inches of it. The Oregon House hotel and other buildings right on the river bank washed away. Most people stayed up all night, expecting everything in the town to go. At two o'clock in the morning the big drift jam brook loose. It took out the Chapman mill on the island, a machine shop and foundry and another flour mill, owned by a man named Harvey, that were standing on the bank in line with the main channel of the flood. Everything was flooded up to Main street. The basement of the stores on Main street were full of water and merchants moved their goods. After the flood I stopped at the Mainstreet House, run by a man named Moss. The flour warehouse of the Chapman mill had 1800 sacks of flour in it. It floated down to Sauvies island, 8 miles below Portland. He had the flour hauled back to Portland by steamboat. The flour had all been soaked with water. When it dried there was a crust around the outside from a quarter to half an inch thick like cement, but the flour inside that was good. He got me and another fellow to come to Portland and sift it. Out of the 1800 sacks that went through the flood we got between 1400 and 1500 sacks of good flour. Before the flood flour had been selling around three dollars and fifty cents per sack. So many flour mills were washed out that it made flour so scarce that he got eleven dollars per sack for all the flour we sifted."
CHANGE OF SCENERY
"After I got through with the flour shifting job I went to Celilo to work on the upper river steamboats. There was a lot of excitement about a gold strike in Idaho. People were coming from all directions. I got the gold fever. I quit steamboating for awhile and went to Florence, Idaho to hunt for gold. This was in 1862. I was in an Idaho about four months. Did a lot of walking, between four hundred and five hundred miles. I had a fellow that I had worked with on a steamboat for a partner. We prospected around Florence for a couple of weeks. The camp was rich, but the good ground was all taken up. Finally we made a deal with some men to work some claims they had at Elk City. There were five of us in the deal. If the claims paid six dollars a day per man, we were to pay them three hundred dollars. We first spent three weeks digging a ditch to get water for our sluice boxes. The first week we only cleaned up one dollar seventy-five cents to each man, besides, we had to buy our own grub and groceries were high in a mining camp those days. Only one of five in our bunch knew anything about mining. He said the next week we might get ten dollars to the man. We run along for a couple of months. The most we made was three fifty a day. It cost this much to live, so me and another fellow, who lived at Walla Walla, quit. He sold out for a cayuse and I got a pistol for my share in the contract."
"We used to go to Elk City every Sunday to buy groceries
and get our picks sharpened. Just about a week before I sold out there was
a lot of excitement. A gambler shot and killed a blacksmith in a row over
a card game. Another man had been shot by a gambler not long before, the
same way. The town was on top of the hill and the mines were all around below.
The people in the town arrested the gambler and guarded him with rifles while
they sent runners to all the camps with word to have all the miners in town
at nine o'clock the next morning. We all went to Elk City. A man, who had
been a judge somewhere, and a couple of lawyers talked to the crowd. The
judge suggested that they all get the necessary officials and have a regular
trial with a jury. This man was elected judge. It took them about half an
hour to get the court organized. While the trial was going on a bunch of
miners was hammering and sawing, building a scaffold to hang the gambler.
People kept going up and looking at the rope. Some of them handled the noose
knot, fixed by somebody who had helped hang people before. It was thought
afterwards that another gambler, who knew all about fancy knots, changed
the noose so it would come loose when they started to hang the accused. Just
about four hours after the trial started, they hung the gambler, but the
rope slipped off his neck and he just dropped down on the ground. His neck
was skinned and and he was kind of shook up, but he got all right after his
friends gave him two or three drinks of whiskey. His friends wanted the crowd
to turn him loose. The judge suggested he be given one hour to leave town.
They held another election and voted to let him go."
"I and the fellow with the cayuse left on foot for Lewiston about a week afterwards. We got there about six hours after the last boat of the season had left. We led the cayuse packed with our blankets and groceries and hoofed it out of the country. The other fellow stopped at Walla Walla and gave me the cayuse and outfit to go on to Wallula. When I got there I was broke, tired and out of grub. I knew a saloon keeper in Wallula by the name of Ned Barnes. I borrowed enough money from him to get back to Oregon City, as I wanted to rest up and have a visit before I went back to work on the upper river steamboats. When I went into my friend's saloon he was talking to the gambler they tried to hang in Elk City. I called Mr. Barnes aside and asked him if he knew the fellow. He said he had known the gambler in California. I then told him what happened in Elk City. He said, 'Well we don't want a customer like that hanging around Wallula. I'll tell him a bunch of miners from Elk City are here looking for him.' The gambler left Wallula just as fast as he had gotten out of Elk City and I never saw him again."
The next story will be about Captain Gerling's experiences in early day steamboating on upper Columbia river between Celilo and Lewiston, 1862-1875, with an account of his activity as a pioneer stockmen and farmer in Klickitat county.
The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, WA., May 2, 1935, page 1
FRED W. GERLING CONTINUES STORY OF PIONEER DAYS
Goodnoe Hills Is Home
Varied Experiences Of Prosperity And Adversity; Sells Farm To Syndicate For Almond Orchards
By Robert Ballou
The first article told about the arrival of Captain Fred
W. Gerling, early day settler of the Goodnoe Hills district of Klickitat
county, in the United States at the age of 15, as a German emigrant boy.
This occurred in 1855, six years before the Civil War. For four years he
worked in lumber mills near Two Rivers, Wisconsin, for wages varying from
$4 to $16 per month. In 1859 he came to Oregon. For two years he engaged
in sawmilling, steamboating on the Willamette river and working in a flour
mill at Oregon City. This experience included being on a steambowhen the
boiler exploded and narrowly escaping being drowned when a flour mill in
which he was working was washed away in a flood. This article will tell of
his experiences in early day steamboating on the upper Columbia river and
life on the Klickitat frontier. Captain Gerling will now take up the story.
"In 1862 I decided to try and get a job steamboating on the upper Columbia river, above Celilo. I first went to the Deschutes. I got a job right away as a deckhand. Boats were built and freight loaded first at the Deschutes. Not long after I got there they built a dock at Celilo, about four miles below. With the exception of a few months I was gone to Idaho looking for gold, I worked on the boats from Celilo to Walulla and Lewiston for about three years. I had learned about all there was to know about steamboating on the Willamette river and it was not long before I got to be a deck mate. The boats that I ran on were the Okanogan, Spray, Nez Perce Chief, Tenino, Yakima and Webfoot. In 1864 the dock foreman at Celilo started up the river in a row boat with some orders the company had sent from Portland to the captains of some boats tied up at the Deschutes. His boat got caught in the big whirlpool below Hell Gate, caused where two currents met coming around Miller Island. His skiff was swept over the falls and he was drowned. I applied for the job of dock master at Celilo and got it. Steamboat business on the upper Columbia river was booming in those days. Before the railroads came it was the only way people had to get stuff in and out of the country. I handled all the freight that came over the Celilo portage dock for more than ten years, after I got the job as a dockmaster. The boats were owned by the Oregon Steam Navigation Co., of Portland. J.C. Ainsworth was general manager of the company and bossed everything from the building of the boats to the amount of wood they were allowed to burn on a trip. Judge Fred W. Wilson, of The Dalles, has told everything about the way Captain Ainsworth ran the business and the money he made for the company, in a story he called 'Lure of the River', published in the Oregon History book. The first boats run on the upper river got wood at Columbus in Klickitat county. The first year I run on the river we got wood at Columbus, but when the company put more and bigger boats on the river the people at Columbus could not supply all that was needed. I think the first pine wood hauled to Columbus was cut from a scattered batch of bull pine timber on the north slope of Juniper mountain, back of where the town of Cliffs now is. After this timber run out they hauled it from the woods in the Simcoe mountains back of Goldendale. When the company saw they could not get enough pine wood at Columbus they cut fir would at Wind River in Skamania county. The wood came down from the hills two miles in a chute and would light on a small dock then slide over into the wood scows. The loaded wood scows were towed by the steamboats up to The Dalles end of the Celilo portage. This wood from Wind River had to be handled five times before it got in a fire box under a boiler."
"It was hard to say just how much wood it took to get a boat from Celilo to Lewiston and back. This depended on a lot of things, stage of water, draught of boat and amount of load, but we usually took on enough wood at Celilo and Columbus to get as back. If this could not be done with a boat the company did not keep her on the run. I remember one boat that only made two trips. I was on her first trip. She was a great big boat called the Webfoot. She was built at Celilo in 1864 to run in high water season between Celilo and Lewiston. We put on 60 cords of fir wood at Celilo. The captain and everybody thought it would be enough. We only got up the Snake river about halfway between Walulla and Lewiston when we run out of wood. Some settlers at Two Canyon had cut some willow pole wood to try and sell it to the boats. It was not much good for steam, but a steamboat without steam is like a Ford without gas and we had to have it. The woodcutters saw the fix we were in and held the captain up for $16 a cord. He bought 35 accords. We burned most of this getting to Lewiston and had to drift most of the way back to Columbus. The captain sent word to the company in Portland that it would not pay to run the Webfoot. The company sent word back to try her another trip. The second trip was just about the same as the first. The company then sent word to put her in the bone yard right away. Her engines and boiler were taken out. The hull was towed to Walulla, to serve as a wharf boat."
"While I was still in Wisconsin my father came from Germany to look the country over. He did not like it in the United States and went back home. In 1871 I got a six months leave of absence from the company and went to Germany for a visit with my folks. I had already made up my mind that I would become a citizen of the United States. I declared my intentions and got my first papers before I left, so they could not hook me for military service in Germany. On my way back to Celilo I stopped at Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and married Mary Mohle. Her sister worked in a restaurant at Chicago. She wanted to come to Oregon with us, but had no money. We came back on the Union and Central Pacific railroad. It was the first year that passenger trains ran through to the coast. A ticket cost $118. My sister-in-law was so anxious to come with us that she asked me to loan her the money, with the understanding that she would pay me back as soon as she got work in Oregon. I was running kind of shy on cash. I counted my money and found that I had just about enough to get us all there, so I bought her at ticket. We made the trip all right until we got to San Francisco. Here, we ran aground. The steamer we were going to take to Portland was ten days behind her schedule. It cost us $9 a day to stay at the hotel where we stopped. I did not know how we would get our hotel bill paid. I had joined the Odd Fellows lodge in Oregon City in 1862 and was well acquainted with many people in Oregon City. I went to the man that owned the hotel and asked him to telegraph to A.J. Appleson, secretary of the flour milling company in Oregon City and tell him that I wanted $150. I got the money four hours afterwards. He told the hotelkeeper that if I wanted any more to let him know.
"When I got back on the job as a dockmaster at Celilo the company was still building new boats, for the upper river run. The New Tenino, built to take the place of one of the first boats the company had, was launched that year. The country in many parts of the upper Columbia river basin were beginning to be settled up fast. When I was traveling up and down the river on the boats I sort of like the looks of the hills in Klickitat county, between Columbus and Rock Creek. Most of the people from Klickitat, that were dressed up and seemed to have plenty of money who traveled on the boats, was in the cattle business. When the hills got green in the spring they were covered with thousands of cattle, scattered about from the flats on the river to the top. During slack periods with my dock work, I made several trips over into the Klickitat country and looked the place over. I had made up my mind at first that I would go back to Clackamas county and locate, as soon as I earned money enough at Celilo to buy a place. After sizing things up in Klickitat county I decided that I could make money out of the cattle business and get a stake quicker that way. In 1875 I quit the river, bought a small bunch of cattle and located on Rock Creek, a few miles up the canyon, from what is now Fountain station on the Spokane, Portland & Seattle railway. I selected this place because I thought it was the best sheltered place for stock in the winter time I could find."
"When I moved on Rock Creek I didn't think anybody lived there but a few Indians. They were peaceable and harmless. I soon found out that the canyon was inhabited by plenty of rattlesnakes. I have read stories about places in the west were rattlesnakes were thick, but I doubt if there were any more of them anywhere than I saw on Rock Creek when I first went there. It is against an Indian's religion to kill a rattlesnake. The rock slides and crevices in the bluffs made a fine place for them to den up in the winter time. The Indians say that when you kill a rattlesnake all the rest of the rattlesnakes in the country know it and are mad at you. I made it a point to kill everyone I could. I cut and trimmed some oak clubs and always carried one with me, when I was out riding around. I came very near getting hit several times before I got wise as to how to keep my eye peeled for them. I remember once I was out hunting hogs. The rattlers came down off of the hills to get water about six or seven o'clock in the evening. I saw one crawling into a bunch of bushes near a trail. I got off my horse and poked into the bushes with my club. He did not make any noise. The next thing I knew I heard him buzz right behind me. I jumped clear over the top of the bushes, but went back and got him. I learned afterward that I should have known he was not in the bushes when he did not rattle, when I poked in them with my club. Some people will tell you that a rattlesnake will always give a warning before he bites, but I want to tell anybody that has never been around them that a rattler is ready to sock his fangs into you when he rings his buzzer. After I got a bunch of hogs the rattlesnakes were not so thick. The hogs killed lots of them and ate them. I don't know how many rattlesnakes I killed, but it must have been a round 1000."
A BIG MISTAKE
"In 1881, five years after I moved to Rock Creek, I took a band of 2600 range sheep to run on shares. The winner of 1881-82 was a hard one and killed everything, almost. There were five big cattle outfits in Klickitat county then. They lost 85% to 95% of their stock. Sheepman lost about 80% of their flocks, I came out in the spring with a little over 500 sheep, out of the band of 2600 I had taken on shares. I took a pencil and a piece of wrapping paper and figured out that I was $300 worse off than nothing. Before this hard winter the cattleman had kept people out of the country, by telling them it was good for nothing but stock grazing. Afterward the country began to fill up fast with homesteaders and they started raising wheat. I had been looking the country over carefully while I was riding around looking after my stock. A few people had farmed down along the Columbia river from Rock Creek. They seemed to be making it all right. A long, lanky cattleman named "Chance" Goodnoe had a place on the first bench from the river near what is now Towal station on the railroad. He always had a fine garden and had set out a fruit orchard, which was growing fine. Between his place and Rock Creek there was some higher bench land flats, between the big hills and bluffs along the river. This place became known as the Goodnoe Hills. I had learned to farm when I was a boy in Germany. I had to do something and decided to try farming there."
"In 1882 I took what cows and hogs I had left and went
to live on a homestead in the Goodnoe Hills. When the Northern Pacific railroad
was built the government gave them a land grant of every odd section within
limits that took in the Goodnoe Hills. Several of us were notified of the
land and were to get it from the railroad company for $2.50 per acre. Soon
afterward the company went broke. The government took every other odd section
away from them and tried to take it all back. There was a big lawsuit about
it. We went ahead plowing, fencing and farming the land. Some said we would
never get the land. We finally got the land from the government for $1.25
per acre. I made a living farming right from the start. The land was good
for wheat raising. I raised some big crops of fine milling wheat. It was
a long time before wheat got worth enough to make any money to splurge on.
It did not cost much to farm those days. We helped each other during harvest
and wheat hauling time. I raised nearly everything we needed to eat in our
garden and always had plenty of livestock around. I didn't buy anything much
out of the grocery store, except sugar, tea and coffee. When the boats quit
running on the river after the railroad was built in Oregon in 1884 we had
to ship our wheat to The Dalles and Portland on freight trains. We ferried
it across the river with a sailing scow at the mouth of Rock Creek to a station
that was then called Quinns. I had told about wood for steamboats from Wind
River being handled five times. We had to handle our wheat sacks six times
before we got them in the freight cars at Quinns. Sacks from the old steam
thrashing rigs generally averaged about 140 pounds, but we got so we could
handle them just as easy as a juggler handles Indian clubs. When wheat got
about around 60¢ to 80¢ per bushel there was good money raising
it, with crops that run from 40 to 50 bushels per acre. Some of my land that
ran out to the bluff on the river was hard to farm, because a crop was liable
to blow out of the ground during the windy season. Some farmers with land
like this on the Oregon side used to keep a hay rack filled with barn manure
and a team harnessed, so they could stop a blow before it got started, by
spreading manure over it. I thought I had enough without doing this, so I
plowed my land in strips, where the wind got a clean sweep at it."
"When Jim Hill started to build a railroad down the north bank of the Columbia river, Cook & Co., Portland real estate men come up and got some of the land. They took it to Corvallis, Ore., to be tested. The Corvallis college said it was good for raising almonds. They came right out and bought all the land they could. There were six of us had more than 1000 acres each. The others, all old-timers, were W.A. Imrie, A.B. (Tone) Cortway, Jim Beeks, and the Chamberlin boys, Bert and Bill. Jim Beeks planted the first big watermelon patch in the Goodnoe Hills. My daughter Oma, and her husband, Lincoln Huot, now raises watermelons on a farm that was once part of the place owned by "Chance" Goodnoe. Cook & Co. offered a plan of surveying our land into five and ten acre tracts, and they would sell it at $100 per acre. We were to get $60 and they $40. I had 1120 acres. Some of it was good wheat land. Some was in side hill pasture and some was just sand, rocks and sunshine. I told them they could have my place for $35,000. They took me up. I was paid half down and the rest in five years. My place was not cut up into tracts. Shull & Co., Portland wheat buyers, got it. I want to say here that I know some people have said that Cook & Co. were a bunch of crooks, but they paid me up just as they were agreed and I think they were good honest man. I sold out in a 1907 and came to Portland, where I have lived ever since."
"I had a public office once, but got kicked out of it before I could get on the job. After I got settled in the Goodnoe Hills the county commissioners appointed me on an election board for our precinct. I guess somebody in the court house got to checking over names with W.R. Dunbar, the man in Goldendale who made out all the papers for U.S. land. They sent me word that I did not even have a right to vote and could not hold a public office. It turned out that there were a lot of people in the same fix. After the election ten of us went to Yakima together and took out our final citizenship papers before a U.S. court. I don't remember the name of the judge."
"In 1887 they started an Odd Fellows lodge in Goldendale. They wanted me to withdraw from the Oregon City lodge and be a charter member at Goldendale. I did not do it, for I intended to go back to Oregon City and live, if I made a fizzle of farming in the Goodnoe Hills. When I saw I was going to make it all right I transferred my membership to Alimus large, No. 15, at Goldendale. In 1927 the Goldendale lodge presented me with a 65 year veteran's jewel. At the time it was the fourth one to be presented by the Grand Lodge of Washington."
Mrs. Mary (Mohle) Gerling passed away in Portland, Nov. 1, 1917. In addition to a daughter, Mrs. Oma Huot, Goodnoe Hills, Wash., Captain Gerling has three sons: Ernest and Ed Gerling, Portland; and Bill Gerling, Boise, Idaho.
The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., July 3, 1933, page 4
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
Fred Gerling lives at the corner of East 80th and Clay
street. He has lived in Oregon since the days when Oregon was the territory.
When I interviewed him recently he said:
" I came to the United States when I was 15 years old. I was born in Prussia, June 21, 1840. I worked in a sawmill in Wisconsin from 1855 till 1858. I came by way of the Isthmus of Panama to Oregon City. I went to work for W.W. Buck, who had come from Ohio in 1845, but who was born in New York in 1804. In Ohio he had been a saddle and harness-maker. He owned a little sawmill on the Clackamas and he paid me $30 a month and keep to work in his mill. That fall, when his mill shut down he gave me a letter to a sawmill man in Portland.
I came to Portland, and was surprised to see the sawmill man with a high fence around it. The man at the gate let me in and I gave my letter to the superintendent. I noticed that the men working in the mill were dragging balls and chains from their legs. I couldn't think what sort of proposition I was running into. The superintendent told me they were paying the head sawyer $8 a day. I said to him, 'What's the idea of putting balls and chain on the men who are at work here?' He said, 'Well, if we didn't, they might leave,' I said, 'Isn't a man allowed to leave if he wants to?' He shook his head and said, "No, they can't leave here till their term is up. They are all convicts.' I said, 'Well, if this is a penitentiary, I sure won't want a job here.' And I quit before I started and I have never been in the pen since.
"I went back to Oregon City and got a job working for A.J. Chapman who was running a flour mill there. I worked there for nine months and then landed a job steamboating. I got a job as a deck hand on a small stern wheel steamer called the Elk. This boat was built by Captain Chris Sweitzer, F.X. Matthieu, George Pease and John Marshall. They built her for the Yamhill river business. Captain George Jerome was the skipper, Bill Smith was engineer and Bas Miller was pilot. We ran on the upper Willamette clear up to Springfield when the river was high, at other times running to Salem and Albany. I had only been working on her a few months when she blew up. We were at Davidson's Landing, a mile below the mouth of the Yamhill. I don't know what made the boiler explode. The inspector said there was no water in the boiler and that cold water had been turned in, but the crown sheet wasn't burned, which goes to prove that there must have been some water in the boiler. The whole forward deck back to the ladies' cabin was blown up in the air. Captain Jerome claimed that he was blown 60 feet above the river, but I guess there was no way to figure the exact distance he went up in the air. But it was pretty high. Bas Miller, the pilot, was also blown up in the air, and when he came back from his flight he lit on his head and shoulder on the deck. He was laid up for a month. Dr. J.A. Cardwell of Portland and Barryman Jennings of Oregon City were in the cabin just over the boiler. They were sitting by the stove, which was shattered by the explosion, but neither of the men was hurt. The cook was burned and seem to be out of his head. Another man and myself were sent to Champoeg, where there was a doctor. The cook was sure loco, for he told the doctor that the stove he was cooking on had blown up in his face and burned him. We finally convinced him that it was the boiler that had blown up and not the stove. I had had all the steamboating I wanted; so I went back to Oregon City and went to work in the flour mill again."
The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., July 5, 1933, page 10
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
Although Fred Gerling, who lives at East 80th and Clay
streets, is 93 years old, he is hale and hearty, has not lost his sense of
humor, and his memory is as good as it ever was. When I interviewed to him
recently he said:
"The big flood of 1861-62 washed the island mill down the Willamette, so I was out of a job. A man named Hurley had come from Idaho to get firebrick. He was an assayer and wanted to put in a firebrick oven and start an assay office at Lewiston. He persuaded me and four other men at Oregon City to go with him up the Columbia and up the Snake river to Lewiston. We bought a 20-foot boat in which Hurley loaded his firebrick and in which we put our provisions and outfit. I was the only one of the number who knew anything about boating. I had been a deckhand on the Elk when it blew up near the mouth of the Yamhill river, and I had had considerable experience in rowing a boat at Oregon City, while working in the island mill.
"We went down the Willamette camping just above Vancouver the first night. Next morning we started up in the Columbia river, but had not gone far when a man on the bank bailed us. We put in to shore and he said, 'I killed a man last night. I don't know what to do about it.' I said to him, 'We don't want to get mixed up in the matter nor be held as witnesses; we are headed for Lewiston. If I was you I would go down to Vancouver, hunt up the sheriff and tell him all about it.' We learned later that he did so, was tried, and the jury decided that he killed the man in self-defense.
"We put up a sail and with a favoring wind got to the Cascades safely, though our boat was loaded almost to the water's edge. There was an eddy at the Cascades near the wharf-boat. A man on the wharf-boat called out to us to pull for all we were worth or we would be swamped. We just made it in time. Hurley had claimed to know how to sail a boat, but his knowledge was theoretical, and not practical; so at The Dalles we sold the boat and shipped our stuff on the steamer to Lewiston. We hoofed it to Deschutes, where we caught the Tenino for Lewiston. The boats on the river in 1862 made money hand over fist. The Colonel Wright, Tenino, Okanogan and Cascadilla were regular mints."
* * *
Right here is a good place to interject a brief note. On May 13, 1862, the records show that the Tenino took in on one trip from passengers and freight $10,945. On another trip in this same month the receipts on the Tenino for freight, passenger tickets, meals and berths were over $18,000. This does not include the income from the bar.
* * *
"We paid $30 apiece for our tickets from Deschutes to
Lewiston," said Mr. Gerling. "This was about the middle of March, 1862. Hurley
stopped at Lewiston and started his assay office while the rest of us hired
our stuff packed to Mountain Home on the road to Florence. We hoofed it to
Lanwai, crossed Camas prairie, went on to Salmon river and thence to Mountain
Home. We packed our stuff from Mountain Home in to Florence - about 30 miles.
The first four miles was a stiff climb. It took us two days to pack our staff
in. We carried 90-pound racks. When we started out the first morning there
was a big husky Frenchman who weighed over 200 pounds and who was a professional
packer. He carried in 200 pounds each trip and made that 30 miles in one
day. He got 80 cents a pound for packing. On this trip he carried an anvil
weighing 184 pounds. He made the trip in one day. When he got to Lewiston
he went into the the saloon, bellied up to the bar, ordered a drink of whiskey,
downed the whiskey and fell to the floor. When they picked him up he was
dead as a doornail. The doctor said that carrying the 184-pound anvil and
not being able to distribute his weight had injured him internally.
"My partners and I took up a claim on Baboon creek. The claims were so rich that they cleaned up twice a day. The claims there averaged $150 to $200 per day to the man. Claims had to be rich, for everything you bought was a dollar a pound; that is, nothing was less than a dollar a pound on account of the 80-cents-a-pound rate for packing it in."
The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., July 6, 1933, page 10
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
Once a while I run across old-time prospectors who were
at Florence, Idaho, during its palmy days. Fred Gerling, who is now 93 years
old old and who lives at East 80th and Clay streets, went to Florence in
the spring of 1862 and mined on Baboon creek. Rich dirt was discovered at
Florence in the fall of 1861. From then until February prospectors flocked
into the new digging. Heavy snows then blocked the trails. By February supplies
were almost exhausted. Flour was selling at $2 a pound. Men were living on
soup made of flour and fir buds. The snow lay on the ground from 7 to 10
feet deep. The first pack train to get through after the trails were blocked
did not arrive until May 1, though men on snow shoes brought in supplies
from Mountain Home, charging 40 to 80 cents a pound for packing them in.
"Late in the fall a miners' meeting was called and the men who had no means and who were short of the provisions were ordered to leave the camp. Some went to Walla Walla and others wintered at Lewiston," said Fred Gerling when I interviewed him recently. "When scurvy got bad, two men went out from Florence on snow shoes and bought all of the potatoes in Lewiston that they could carry and brought them to Florence, where they sold at $5 a pound.
"We prospected around Florence but found all of the good claims were taken. We met some prospectors at Florence who knew us and they told us they had left their claim at Elk City. They said their claim had a good cabin and was equipped with sluice-boxes and that we could have their claim for $200 if we found it would pay is $6 a day to the man and if it didn't pay that much we wouldn't have to pay anything for it. Elk City was on the north branch of the Clearwater and we figured it would take us about four days to hoof it from Florence to Elk City. We found the claim just as they represented it. We cut a ditch across the flat, into which we turned the water so we could get at the creek bottom. It took us two weeks of hard work to dig our canal. We worked as hard as we could, but found we couldn't make over $4.50 a day to the man. The Wells-Fargo express man told us when the last boat was to leave Lewiston, so Bill Raddan, a cobbler, and myself traded our interest in the claim to the other two men. They had no money, so Raddan took a cayuse for his interest and I took a pistol for my interest. Raddan and I struck out afoot for Lewiston. He would ride a mile or so on the cayuse, tie it up and strike out ahead. I would come along, mount the cayuse, ride for a mile after I had overtake Raddan, and then tie up and strike out and let him repeat the process. We had been 'riding and tying' for about a day and a half. Just as I came to where Bill had tied the cayuse for me to take my turn riding I saw a man untying the horse. I pulled out my pistol and hollered at him, but before I could get a shot he had dodged back into the brush. I rode on to where my partner was walking up the trail and told him we would have to stop riding and tying if he didn't want his cayuse stolen. So we walked the rest of the 80 miles to Lewiston.
"We got in at 11 o'clock a.m. and found that the last boat for Portland had left at 4 o'clock that morning. We struck out afoot from Lewiston and hoofed it to Walla Walla. Raddan decided to winter at Walla Walla. He loaned me his cayuse to ride to Wallula, where I figured on catching the boat. I sent back his horse to Walla Walla and when the Tenino pulled in I found the captain of the Tenino was the same man I had worked for before. He was kind of peeved when I had quit before. I said, 'Captain, I want to work my way down the river. I'm going to God's country.' That's what the miners called the Willamette valley. He said, 'I'll take you down as far as Celilo.' At Celilo I said, 'I don't know any of the captains on the middle or lower river. I want you to stake me to $10.' He said, 'I have staked a lot of busted prospectors, but you're an old river men, so I'll take a chance on you.' I sent the money back to him as soon as I got to Portland.
"I wintered at Oregon City and next spring I went back to the upper river and worked on the Tenino, running from Deschutes to Lewiston when the Snake was high, and at other times from Deschutes to Wallula. Later I became foreman of a warehouse at Celilo, where I worked till 1871, when I went back to Germany to visit my folks."
The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., July 7, 1933, page 6
IMPRESSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE JOURNAL MAN
By Fred Lockley
Fred Gerling worked in the warehouse at some Milo 60
years or more ago. When I interviewed him recently at his home at East 80th
and Clay streets he said:
"I was working in a Celilo warehouse in 1871 when the foreman of the warehouse was drowned. The agent who came up there to check up on the accounts said, 'From now on, you are foreman.' I had been wanting for a long time to go back to Germany to visit my folks, so I told him I would make a trip to Germany and when I came back I would hold down the foreman's place. After visiting my folks in Germany I came back to the United States. I stopped in Wisconsin and in August, 1871, was married there to Miss Mary Mohle. My wife's sister worked in Chicago. She wanted to come west, so I bought tickets for myself, my wife and my wife's sister, and we came on the train to San Francisco. The tickets cost $118 each. From San Francisco we came by boat to Portland and then up the Columbia by river boat to Celilo, where I took over my job as foreman of the warehouse.
"I found that they had been having trouble in the warehouse and in some way the whiskey and tobacco stored there kept disappearing. I soon put a stop to this, however, and continued as foreman there until 1875, when I resigned and went to Rock Creek, 23 miles east of Goldendale, Wash., and started a stock ranch.
"In the fall of 1880 I took a band of 2623 sheep on shares from Mr. Davis of Harrisburg. The hard winter of 1880-81 put me out of business, for next spring, when I should have had normally, with the increase, around 5000 sheep, I had less than 500, lambs and all. I quit the stock business and went to the Goodnoe hills, in Klickitat county, took up a homestead and bought a quarter section of railroad land at $1.25 an acre and sowed wheat. I was one of the first wheat farmers in the Goodnoe hills. I farmed there till 1907.
"My wife's father, William Mohle, had come to Portland in 1872 and bought a place on which the suburb of Montavilla is built. He ran a dairy farm here. Later he sold his place and the real estate men cut the farm up.
"I stayed on my Goodnoe hills wheat ranch until 1907 and then came to Portland. I was 93 years old on June 21. I can't work as hard as I used to, but my memory is as good as ever. When you live to 93 you find that most of the people you knew when you were a boy are no longer here."
The Oregon Journal, Portland, OR., September 9, 1935, page 20
GERLING - Fred W. Gerling, aged 95 years, late of 8005 SE Clay; beloved father of Edward and Ernest Gerling of Portland, W.W. Gerling of Boise, Idaho, and Mrs. Lincoln Hout of Goodnoe Hills, Wash.; also survived by 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held Monday, Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. at the chapel of Jacobson Co., SE Foster road at 91st ave. Interment Lincoln Memorial Park. Goldendale papers please copy.
The Klickitat County News, Goldendale, WA., September 12, 1935, page 12
OLD TIMER DIES; HAS RELATIVES IN HILLS
Fred W. Gerling, 95, Passes at Home in Portland; Report Says
Fred W. Gerling, father of Mrs. Lincoln Huot of Goodnoe
Hills, and well known in Klickitat county, having pioneered in the territory,
passed away this week after a prolonged illness. He died at his home where
he has spent the past 10 years.
Mr. Gerling came to the United States from Germany at the age of 15 and spent the remainder of his life in the northwest. He was well known in this particular territory, having resided for many years at Goodnoe Hills. Services are being held in Portland.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer