Margaret Darling Hackett Newell Henderson

Margaret Henderson

In the book, Building the Columbia River Highway, I devote one very short chapter to Margaret Henderson. I wish I knew more about her, as everything I read seems to describe a woman of exceptional courage and fortitude. I recently learned a bit more from her great-granddaughter, Judy Devasier.

Mrs. Henderson’s father was Henry L. Darling, (Darling is an English name) of Portland, OR. Mr. Darling was a homesteader in what is now called Sunnyside in Southeast Portland. He brought his family to Portland, OR in the early 1850s from Searsport, Maine. He was prominent in the woodworking trade, doing finish work on ships, buildings and homes.

Margaret’s mother was Hulda J. Deardorff. A family tree of the Deardorffs, among the Mrs. Henderson’s personal papers, revealed some family history; indicating that the members moved to America from Holland in 1754. The Deardorff family descended from the Harshberger family, according to the family tree. Hulda Deardorff married Henry L. Darling. They had five children, although only four names are given: Katherine Francis, Elizabeth Margaret (born 09-12-1872 near Mr. Scott in Portland), Charles L., and William H. The children were educated in Portland schools.
As a child Margaret was noted in the census report in 1880 as Bessie Darling. Interestingly, her name was given as Elizabeth Margaret Darling in some sources, and Margaret Elizabeth Darling in others.

Margaret married Harry A. Hackett, of Portland, OR (born: 11-1-1854) at the age of 15, in 1887. Mr. Hackett had come to Portland in 1871, where he was identified with early steam boat operations – specifically with the Jefferson and Stark Street ferries. Mr. Hackett and his young wife, Margaret, lived in Portland, Oregon for two years where they had two children, Henry N. and Lavine (Vina or Vine) Winifred.

Some sources say her husband left her and moved to the Hood River area where he retired from steamboat and ferry business and bought an orchard. Other sources say that she and her husband (both) moved to Hood River in 1891 or ‘92.

After Harry A. Hackett and Elisabeth Margaret were divorced (date not available), Mr. Hackett married Emma, a widow, and they had three children: Theodore A., Hattie A., and Mary Emma. Mr. Hackett died in his home in Hood River at the age of 81.

In the 1895 directory, Mrs. Bessie Hackett in Portland, Oregon was living in a boarding house on Holliday Ave. By 1903, there is a Mrs. Bessie Newell (the name of her second husband) living on the Ainsworth Block. And in 1904, she lived on Union Avenue, working as a clerk at Locke and Gullette.
After a time at Meier & Frank, Mrs. Henderson started her restaurant career operating the Chanticleer Inn, owned by the Morgan family, which opened in 1911. She went on to operate Falls Chalet beginning in June, 1912, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Moffett of Latourell. Falls Chalet burned to the ground a year later. In very short order, the building of Crown Point Chalet was begun.

The Crown Point Chalet was located on the hillside above the Vista House. Her father did the woodwork in the private apartment in the Crown Point Chalet for his daughter.

Crown Point Chalet, distance

Crown Point Chalet viewed from the Columbia River Highway near Vista House

The chalet held both a beautiful dining area and lodging for Margaret’s family and some of the girls who worked for her.

Crown Point Chalet, close-up

Margaret’s daughter, Lavina (Vina or Vine) Winifred Hackett, married James Edward Holden of Portland, OR. They had two sons; Beryl Roland and Edward Leland (Lee). Lavina was born in 1891 and died in 1966. She helped her mother at the Crown Point Chalet, mostly on weekends. LaVina and her husband, lived in house on Alberta Street in Portland Oregon until 1923 when they purchased land and built a home in Lake Oswego, Oregon. They planted an orchard of walnut trees.

Mrs. Henderson’s son, Henry N. Hackett, married Mildred Metcalf. They had three children; Mell M, Helen Margaret Nelson, and Russell Allen Hackett. Henry worked as an engineer and as personal director of the state Oregon Highway Department and did reconnaissance surveys on the lower Columbia River Highway from Portland to Astoria. He passed away at age 53 in 1942.

Margaret has a number of descendants, some of whom still live in the area – and some of whom may not even realize they are descended from this lovely lady!

You can learn more of Margaret Henderson and the others involved in the construction of the Columbia River Highway in the book.

Robert Lee Ringer: Still Tooting His Own Horn (or Ringing His Own Bell)

In 1914, Robert Ringer lived in Portland. But his roots were in Saxony—an area of Germany bordering Poland and Czechoslovakia. In about 1760 two young men from Saxony sailed for the New World to seek their fortunes. Ship-wrecked in Nova Scotia, one of the two settled there under the name of Ringer—probably a variation of his original name. He married, raised a family, and blended his German name with the English blood of those who lived there before him.

One of his descendants, Robert L. Ringer, recorded what he knew of his ancestors for the sake of younger generations.

Robert was born in about 1881, and his family moved to Chicago when he was a boy. Robert’s father, although he’d had only six months of schooling, operated a large ice business with 40 men and 22 wagons under him. Within six months of Robert’s expected graduation from high school, the family moved to Idaho—where there was no formal education to be had in their area. During his growing up and young adult years, Robert had worked at any job available to him—office boy, farm hand, window washer, scrubber of floors.

During his second year in Idaho he attended an academy in the town of Weiser, near the Oregon border. After graduating, Robert was happy to attend Whitman College (in Walla Walla, Washington) for five years. He probably wasn’t so happy about the knee injury he sustained while there (in a football game) which bothered him in later life. Upon graduation, Ringer went to work for the Spokane Spokesman Review.

Eventually Ringer left the newspaper business and moved to Portland to enter a new field—contracting. He did cement work, and his name, Robert L. Ringer, can be seen on many of the sidewalks around Portland.

By the time the Columbia River Highway was under construction, Ringer bid on several specialty projects and got them. One location that almost pleaded for a bridge was Multnomah Falls.

At an earlier date (probably 1883) a timber bowstring truss bridge crossed the chasm between the upper and lower falls (the site of the present bridge’s location). But it was no longer in existence in 1914. It had vanished, although no one seems to know when or how.


One of the most photographed bridges in America, the Benson Bridge was almost an afterthought to the highway. As the story goes, Samuel Lancaster, locating engineer for the highway, mentioned to Simon Benson, wealthy supporter of the highway project, that a footbridge above the second plunge of the waterfall would set it off beautifully. Benson asked how much such a bridge would cost. Lancaster did a bit of figuring and named a price. Benson wrote a check on the spot. Perhaps it happened exactly like that, but even if it didn’t, it makes a good story.

Karl P. Bilner designed the bridge, similar in style to the Shepperd’s Dell Bridge. The Pacific Bridge Company won the contract, and in 1914, Ringer, who had just finished work on the 500-foot Crown Point Viaduct, was sub-contracted to do the cement work on the little footbridge.

The contract was very specific about every little detail of the work–excavation, concrete composition, reinforcing material, pouring time and conditions, drying time and conditions, finishing process. Nothing was left to chance.

Ringer and his men had to crawl up the unstable, nearly vertical hillside on hands and knees to begin the work, and then construct a temporary wooden trussed arch bridge from which to suspend the forms for the reinforced concrete—the building material of choice. Materials were hoisted up to the site on trolleys by an arrangement of pulleys and horses.


     Ringer tells this story about the bridge project:

“One day when the job was nearly completed, Mr. Benson Jr. (Amos S. Benson) visited us; and I asked him if it would be all right if I put my name on the bridge in the concrete as is done on famous projects. He readily gave assent. But, when the bridge was completed, Mr. Benson, some friends, and the engineer of the Pacific Bridge Co. visited the site and we had a general jollification and everybody was happy except the bridge company engineer. The company representative concealed his wrath from the guests, but he was furious to see my name on the bridge. After all, I was only a sub-contractor.”

Ringer, who had not yet been paid for his work, considered it in his best interest to hide the offending letters. So he agreed to cover them over. But he wasn’t concerned enough about the problem to come up with a permanent solution. Instead, he smeared the offending letters with a coat of clay—which does not adhere permanently to cement. After two years, the weather had all but disposed of the clay, and the name, Robert L. Ringer, still adorns the deck of the Benson Footbridge at Multnomah Falls.

Ringer 2

Much thanks to Lisa Gabel, Robert Ringer’s great-granddaughter, for sharing his autobiographical notes with me!

The Death of Celilo

Celilo Falls. For those not familiar with this place, Celilo is pronounced Suh LIE low. It is the name given to a magnificent section of the Columbia River just above The Dalles. (Again, for the uninitiated, that’s pronounced The DALZ and is a french word meaning cobble stones or paving blocks – which accurately describes the bed of the Columbia River at this location.)

Celilo Falls

The magnificent Celilo Falls in all its glory

Celilo is an ancient fishing site, a place where Native Americans from many tribes gathered annually, not only for the catching and drying of salmon which were “so thick you could walk across the river on their backs,” but also for the camaraderie, games, dancing, and other cultural events. The site was considered to be as old as time, itself, and, as is often the case, was expected to exist the same as it “always” had been, into the future, forever.

Celilo Falls

Native fishermen netting salmon from strategically placed, family-owned platforms

Celilo Falls

Whitewater fishing!

Enter the US Army Corps of Engineers. It wasn’t really their fault. It’s just that … things happened. We had a depression. The country was looking for ways to put men back to work. And at the same time, people, always looking to improve their lot, clamored for various inventions designed to make life easier – many of which would be operated by means of electricity.

Celilo Falls

Secure footing was a must in these dangerous waters! Fishermen used sand for traction on the boards of their platforms.

A dam across the Columbia seemed a reasonable way to to accomplish both these goals. At least to some people it seamed reasonable. Without going into all the repercussions, the fact is the government determined to dam the Columbia at a place called Bonneville (highest point at which the effect of the Pacific tide could be seen), and from there, progress upriver, damming it at various convenient places to control possible flooding and produce electricity.

Celilo Falls after destruction

The “beauty” of electricity

A dam was constructed at The Dalles, and in 1957, the gates were closed. Only about 10 miles upriver, Celilo was flooded.

Yes, the Northwest has cheap electricity. Yes, flooding is no longer a major problem on the Columbia.


Celilo Falls after destruction

Nothing but a riffle and a memory

Celilo is gone. Forever. Even if the dams on the river were removed, Celilo would never be the same. Some of the most prominent rocks were blasted before the gates of the dam were closed, so they would not be a problem for boats navigating the area.

In only a few more years – as man counts time – those who remember Celilo will be gone also. Let’s remember while we can!

Celilo Falls

Much thanks to Gayle Denman who shared her grandmother’s photos for this post! Here is her description of her grandma:

Gramma’s name was Margaret (Carlile) (Porter) Kupetz. Born in Brush Prairie, Washington, December 21, 1897. Died June 1, 1986. Her family were all loggers and moonshiners!

She grew up on a homestead at Walton, Oregon and moved to Portland in 1933 after her first husband passed away. A few years later she married Michael Kupetz . During WWII she worked in the Portland shipyards. After the war she was active in the Portland Garden Club, Peninsula Chapter, and the Portland Photographic Society, serving as president for a time.

She loved flowers and photography, traveled extensively in the US and Canada always bringing back boxes of slides for her presentations. She also was a hunter and could track, shoot and dress a deer as well as anyone.

Finally Honored

About 25 miles east of Portland’s heart, travelers along Interstate 84 may happen to glance up to the south and see an isolated, octagonal, stone building perched on the bluff over seven hundred feet in the air. It’s a magnificent sight, and to the uninformed, a huge curiosity. The Building is called Vista House, and the land it occupies is now
known as Crown Point.

065 (3)

Vista House, sitting atop the bluff known in the early days as Thor’s Heights. After the installation of lamps around the outside edge of the road, the name Crown Point came into use.

Back in 1913, even before receiving the go-ahead from the Multnomah County commissioners, Samuel Lancaster’s artistic mind had already created the basic path the Columbia River Highway would follow. Although many details remained to be worked out, he knew his scenic highway needed to flow by certain beauty spots along its length. He intended for the road to be a necklace linking precious jewels such as Multnomah Falls, St. Peter’s Dome, and Oneonta Gorge. One of the very special places Lancaster intended to include–in spite of its near inaccessibility–was called Thor’s Heights. (Thor is pronounced “TOR” in the Norwegian fashion.)

There were a couple of problems. In addition to building a highway along the side of a cliff just to reach the bluff, Lancaster also needed to then descend six hundred feet to the next “jewel,” Latourell Falls, in only a mile and a half, as the crow flies. Pretty tricky! But this was only an engineering problem, and Lancaster was the country’s foremost engineer at the time. He could handle it.

The other difficulty he faced was the fact that Thor’s Heights did not belong to him, and did not belong to Multnomah County. It was the property of Lorens Lund, a Norwegian immigrant, and Osmon Royal. Lancaster approached these men with the suggestion that they (not sell, but) donate some of their land for the good of all, to be used as a highway through the Gorge of the Columbia.

Perhaps surprisingly, or perhaps in keeping with their nature, both men agreed and donated one of the most striking and weather-beaten bits of property along the length of the highway. And Samuel Lancaster put his road there.

Move ahead to 2014. A lady in Washington state, Julianna Guy, contacted Oregon Parks employee, Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, hoping something could be done to honor her ancestor, Osmon Royal, for his generous gift.


A date was set (Sunday, July 27, 2014) and descendants of the Lund and Royal families gathered at Vista House for a ceremony honoring the two men (and others) for their gift of land over a hundred years ago.

Nick, Tony, Dee Dee

Nick, Tony, and Dee Dee Jones. Tony and Nick are descended from Lorens Lund.

Lund-Royal group

Lund and Royal descendants gathered at Vista House to honor the two men who donated the property for the Columbia River Highway and this spectacular “comfort station” constructed 1916 – 1918.


Today we know Thor’s Heights as Crown Point. And the building–intended originally as a mere “comfort station”–is Vista House, one of Oregon’s most visited and admired sites.

Vista House photoThank you Lorens Lund and Osmon Royal!

Those Beautiful Arched Railings

Several months ago I shared about the dry masonry retaining walls along the Columbia River Highway. Here is a bit more about the work done by the Italian stonemasons.

You may already know of the famed Italian stonemasons who worked on the Columbia River Highway. Or if not, you can read about them in the book, Building the Columbia River Highway: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done. The art of masonry did not die with those men of a hundred years ago. Stonemasons continue today using the same kind of hand tools to shape various types of rock as needed and create works of art.

Here are some of the traditional tools used by stonemasons:



In the face of ongoing technology, masons continue today much as they have for centuries, because sometimes, there’s just no substitute for doing it the old way.

One of the most iconic sights along the Historic Columbia River Highway is the arched stone railings. But did you know – those railings are not all the same. The arches vary in width and curve, and the type of stone used in each location. After all, why haul in new rock, when perfectly good rock is to be had right on the site?

Each of the early stonemasons built according to his fancy (using of course the mathematical and spacial skills he’d learned as an apprentice) and used the rock nearest his location. It’s all volcanic – but some is smooth with sharp, angled edges, some is irregular and rounded. Some has tiny holes in it (vesicular basalt); while some seems impermeable. And each type of rock assembles differently.

These stones have been sawed rather than broken

These stones have been sawed rather than broken

Broken stones fitted tightly together without mortar

Broken stones fitted tightly together without mortar

This rubble wall needs mortar to hold together well

This rubble wall needs mortar to hold together well

Many years after the construction of the original Columbia River Highway, rock masons were still at work maintaining, upgrading, or creating new rock works in conjunction with the highway. The rock stairways and paths at Horsetail Falls are an especially beautiful and functional display of this added rock work..

Here is a picture of a newer arched railing located on the south side of the highway between Multnomah Falls and Oneonta Gorge.


Quirky! Artistic! And very unlike other arched railings along the highway! I like this one. It shows not just a repetition of the older arch theme, but also the artist’s interpretation of it. This mason has kept the tradition by giving his creation a bit of his heart, his vision – which is exactly what those early Italians did.

The highway has always been – right from the start – not only a way to get from one place to another. It is an artistic experience – pretty much every inch of it!

What in the Sam Hill … ?

Sam Hill. There was a real person by that name–at least two, actually–but both of them postdated the expression by a hundred years or more. Even so, the question “What in the Sam Hill … ?” was more than appropriate to describe the elder Sam’s ideas and activities. You’ll read a bit about him in Building the Columbia River Highway, but, as with many of the subjects in the book, he could be a study in himself. In fact, he has been. John Tuhy wrote a great biography of Sam Hill in 1983 and called it, “Sam Hill: Prince of Castle Nowhere.” And others have written books about some of Sam’s “lady friends.”

Sam's "chateau"

This photo shows Sam’s “chateau” on the north side of the Columbia River, about 100 miles above Portland. It is now a museum of history and art–and of Sam Hill, himself.

 Sam Hill also had a house built for himself in Seattle. He hired twenty of the best among a group of Italian masons he’d found doing stone work near the Massachusetts estate he had purchased a few years prior. He offered them the same pay they were earning ($2/day) but with board included, brought them west, and told them to take their time and do good work.

Hill told a reporter from the Seattle Daily Times, “There is nothing unusual about my house. I wanted to make it a plain substantial affair … two stories high with servants’ quarters and a garage in the basement and a subbasement—and a roof garden.” In truth, it was a monstrosity.

This is how Hill described the house to Fred Lockley, newspaper columnist and collector of Pacific Northwest stories:

The House stands on the edge of a deep ravine and I had to build a wall 65 feet high, 10 feet wide at the base, reinforced with 90 pound steel rails. I had to build my lot before I started to build the house. … I went out to an old coal mine and they sold me for almost noghing a huge cable. I put 90 pound steel rails upright, wrapped this cable around the rails from bottom to top, and then poured the concrete, so that if a burglar wants to come he would have to chisel through the thick concrete wall, cut the cable and then cut the 90 pound rails. … I wanted to buy six inch steel girders, but the man from whom I wanted to buy them had some 24 inch plate steel girders that he wanted to get rid of, and which he gave me at the price of six inch girders.

My home is 52 feet square. In the whole house you will not find a crack, a knot, or a blemish in any of the beam ceilings or the woodwork.

Giant girders supported the roof, on top of which was an eight inch layer of cement composition and then

… five applications of pitch and tar paper alternating, each one-half inch in thickness. That is covered with a two inch layer of cement composition and surmounted with an application of boiled linseed oil. Above this are … a one inch layer of mastic read lead; three inches of agricultural drain tile; four inches of clay, filled and tamped; eight inches of soil; four inches of loam; and on top of that the sod for the roof garden. (Tuhy, 104)

Not exactly what would be called “nothing unusual about my house.” One might reasonably ask what drives a man to build such a thing? Whatever it is, it defined Sam Hill’s life in so many ways. Because he was a man who thought BIG, he was very instrumental in bringing the Columbia River Highway to reality.

Sam Hill stood alone. He had friends–many of them. But he was a man so out of the ordinary he was in a class by himself.

In death, as in life, he was a man alone. His ashes are buried near Stonehenge (a full size replica of England’s famed antiquity) in the wide open spaces of Eastern Washington.


Blame it on the Pig!

It shouldn’t have been a problem. After all, that’s what pigs did naturally. But when this particular pig did what came naturally, the outcome was NOT good!

The five men pictured below were some of the best-known of those who made the Columbia River Highway a reality. The one in the middle is John Yeon. (His son by the same name became a Portland architect, but this man, the father, played a huge role in the highway’s formation.)


You’ll read more about him in the book, but here’s a story that had to be cut in the interest of keeping the word count within the publisher’s limits.

Yeon was a logger – one of the foremost in the Pacific Northwest. He was a “boots on the ground” sort of boss who worked alongside his men in any and every capacity from bull-whacker to cook to sawyer. He led by example, and in the interest of making that example a good one, he controlled his temper when lesser men would have yielded to passion.

But the day of the pig incident was one of those rare occasions when John Yeon lost it.

Yeon believed in spending whatever money was required to buy the best in the way of supplies, finding that lesser priced goods were usually of inferior quality and cost more in the end. So he bought the very best machine oil. On a particular day, the salesman stopped by to see how his product was doing for Yeon.

After the noon dinner with his men, Yeon took the salesman (“Oil & Grease” Huson) outside to see the shed constructed for the oil barrels, and the method of mounting the barrels for easy access.

Apparently, while the men were at dinner, a pig had wandered into the shed. (Pigs were kept at the camp to be slaughtered when needed for meat.) When the wind blew the door closed, the pig was trapped.

Pigs like to scratch their backs, and the taps on the barrels of oil were at just the right height for scratching. So the pig did the natural thing—and accidentally opened the taps, allowing gallons and gallons of the most expensive oil available to flow out onto the ground—and onto the pig! When John Yeon and the salesman discovered the very oily pig, Yeon was furious! The salesman, trying hard not to laugh, watched as the pig made its slippery way back to its piglets. He was probably thinking of the inevitable result of the tiny pigs nursing from their very oily mother!

Yeon, who had just lost almost his entire supply of machine oil, barely held his temper. He marched angrily into the woods and hollered back to the salesman, “Duplicate that order and get it down on the first boat!”

While John Yeon vented his anger in the woods, the salesman and loggers just laughed. And “Oil & Grease” wrote up a new order.

And the pig? We can only imagine!