43 A. Superintendents

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987


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CHAPTER TEN: Administration Of Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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Since the inception of the National Park Service, Crater Lake National Park has been served by some nineteen superintendents, each of whom has played a role in the growth and development of the reservation. As the persons in immediate charge of the day-to-day operations of the park, the superintendents have had a major impact on its management, administrative policy, design and construction of facilities, and protection of resources.

William G. Steel resigned as park superintendent on November 20, 1916, to become U.S. Commissioner for the reservation. While the circumstances surrounding his resignation are not well documented, it is clear that he and NPS Director Mather had personal differences that would soon become highly-publicized. Steel had close personal and financial ties with Alfred L. Parkhurst, president of the Crater Lake Company a firm that Mather became increasingly interested in replacing as park concessioner in his zeal to provide quality accommodations and facilities for park visitors. It is also probable that Democrats, following the reelection of Woodrow Wilson to a second term as President of the United States, were interested in replacing Steel, a life-long Republican.

Steel was replaced as superintendent by H. E. Momyer who had been the first park ranger to be hired at Crater Lake some years before. Apparently, Mather named Momyer to serve as acting superintendent until a permanent superintendent could be found. Momyer served in this capacity for less than a year, covering the period from November 22, 1916, to August 1, 1917. [1] In 1924, several years after leaving the park staff to establish a Klamath Falls branch office of the World Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut, Momyer described his experiences:

I was appointed as Ranger in August 1907, I think, was the first Ranger, resigning [sic] in 1920, was appointed as Acting Supt when Mr Steel was appointed [sic] Commissioner [sic] Nov 24 1916, and served until Mr Sparrow was appointed July 25 1917.

During that time I was notified to send reports to Mr G.E. Goodwin, and think I sent one report to him but as he never was in the Park, and I never received [sic] any orders from him, never considered that he was Supt in any thing only name, as all mail came to me, part of the time addressed as Acting Supt, and part as Ranger in Charge, there was nothing particular happened during my administration, just regular routine business, so do not suppose I will figure very high in the Roll of Fame. . . . [2]

Alex Sparrow was the first full-time superintendent at Crater Lake to be appointed by Mather. His dates of services extended from August 2, 1917, to February 15, 1923. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Sparrow was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, having served both in Cuba and the Philippines. Prior to his superintendency, Sparrow settled in the Rogue River Valley and established a farming operation. During the summers of the four years before he became superintendent, he served as an engineer in the park road construction program under the direction of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. In 1916 he served briefly with Brigadier General John J. Pershing during the Mexico border campaign. While serving as superintendent at Crater Lake, Sparrow was named acting superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park from April 19 to May 28, 1919. After leaving the Park Service he became a Jackson County judge with offices in Medford. [3]

Charles Goff Thomson became park superintendent on February 15, 1923, and served for six years until February 15, 1929, when he was transferred to the superintendency of Yosemite National Park, a position he held until March 22, 1937. After graduating from Cornell University in 1907, he was appointed to the veterinary corps in the Philippines under the Department of Agriculture. Two years later he was appointed superintendent of the government serum laboratory. In 1911 he joined General Pershing, who was then civil governor of Mindanao, with the assignment of eliminating the outbreak of a lethal disease menacing the supply of work animals in the province. From July 1914 to April 1917 he served as assistant director of prisons in the Philippines, in which position he had executive control of 46 institutions with some 8,400 prisoners.

After returning to the United States in 1917, he joined the armed forces, being commissioned a captain in the remount service. He organized and commanded the remount depots at Camp Gordon, Georgia, and Camp Dix, New Jersey, before being promoted to major and assigned overseas. He advanced to lieutenant colonel in command of 2,600 officers and men at Lux, France, where he handled 76,000 horses and mules for the First and Third Armies of the Allied Powers. On July 19, 1919, he was cited for “exceptionally meritorious and conspicuous services as commanding officer, United States troops, at Lux, France.”

Thomson joined the National Park Service as superintendent of Crater Lake National Park. In December 1923, nine months after taking office, he declared that “the park service is the best in the world and that he expects to die in it.”

Thomson s avocation was free-lance writing. Among his published works were two books based on his experiences in the Philippines: Terry: A Tale of the Hill People(1921) and Time Is A Gentleman (1923). He also wrote short fiction pieces for such periodicals as Pictorial Review, Country Gentlemen, and Munsey and outdoor articles forField and Stream and Scenic America. [4]

Succeeding Thomson as superintendent was Elbert C. Solinsky who served from February 15, 1929, to September 1, 1934. Solinsky was born in the mountains of California and his childhood was spent in an environment of lumbering and mining around Mokelumne Hill, a small mining town on the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas. He attended Berkeley High School and the University of California where he studied mining engineering and played football for two years. In 1915 he was employed at Yosemite National Park, supervising all timber operations in the park and serving as representative of the government’s interests on the Hetch Hetchy water and power project. As assistant to the Yosemite superintendent from 1926-29, he supervised protection and control of the park forests and maintenance and development of roads, trails, and park facilities. [5]

Prior to offering Solinsky the position at Crater Lake, NPS Director Horace M. Albright described the type of person needed as superintendent of the park in a memorandum to Secretary of the Interior Roy 0. West. He stated:

The position of the Crater Lake Park Superintendent carries a salary of $5,800, less $300 for quarters. The position is very important because it is the only executive position in the park. There is no assistant superintendent and no resident engineer. Unless a National Park Service man is promoted to the position from another park, there can be no assurance that the work will be done satisfactorily, particularly the first year. Mr. Solinsky can do this.

The park is located on the summit of the Cascade Mountains. The snowfall is very deep. It is a terrific task to open the roads and trails even by the first of July. The superintendent should have experience in snow removal, repair and upkeep of roads and trails, and must be capable of selecting good men and holding them. He should also have experience in overhauling equipment, purchasing and handling Government supplies and materials and using them efficiently and economically. [6]

Albright believed that Solinsky was the best qualified candidate for the position. On February 7, 1929, the director congratulated the new superintendent on his appointment:

This position comes to you because it was believed by the Washington Officers of the Service and by the Secretary that it would be in the interest of the Service to promote you from your present position to the grade of Superintendent. Your work at Yosemite Park as a forester, and later as Assistant to the Superintendent, has demonstrated that you have executive ability of a very high order and I have no doubt of your success at Crater Lake.

You understand, of course, that the responsibilities of the position are heavy. In the State of Oregon you will be the representative of the National Park Service and the personal spokesman of the Director. It will be necessary for you to exercise at all times the utmost tact and good judgment and every official act must be in harmony with National Park Service policies.

We shall expect you to make public contacts throughout the State. We shall expect you to identify yourself with such organizations in Medford as are open to you, and we hope that as a personal matter you will want to use your official position and your home to make friends for the National Park Service and for the Department of the Interior. We know that in Yosemite it was the disposition of Mrs. Solinsky and yourself to work along these lines and you did so with consummate success. I have no doubt that your personality and the hospitality of your home were taken into consideration, with your executive ability, in judging your qualifications for the Crater Lake superintendency. [7]

Solinsky was dismissed as superintendent on August 30, 1934, after an investigation by the Division of Investigation created by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes disclosed misappropriation of funds and irregularities in park accounts. After Solinsky’s dismissal David H. Canfield, who had been the chief ranger at Crater Lake since May 1931, became acting park superintendent on September 1, 1934. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, he had joined the National Park Service as a park ranger at Mesa Verde National Park in 1929, later becoming acting chief ranger. On December 15, 1934, Canfield was appointed superintendent at Crater Lake, thus becoming the youngest park superintendent in the United States. As a result of his talents he was recognized in the America’s Young Men’s Who’s Who. Canfield served as superintendent until August 1, 1937, when he left to become superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, a position he held until April 16, 1943. [8]

From August 1, 1937 to March 14, 1952, Ernest P. Leavitt served as park superintendent, the longest tenure of any person in that position. Born in San Francisco, California, in 1885 he worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1907 to 1910. In the latter year he began his Park Service career as a clerk at Yosemite National Park, later becoming an administrative assistant to the superintendent and ultimately assistant superintendent from 1918 to 1930. Thereafter, he served in successive superintendencies at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1931-33), Mesa Verde National Park (1933-35), and Lassen Volcanic National Park (1935-37). While at Lassen a gas explosion destroyed the superintendent’s residence, severely injuring Leavitt and killing his wife. After his recovery Leavitt was transferred to Crater Lake. He retired from the Park Service in 1952 and Leavitt lived in the Medford area until his death in 1961. [9]

John P. Wosky served as park superintendent from March 30, 1952, to November 1, 1953. During the mid-1920s he served as field landscape architect at Crater Lake. From 1928 to 1933 he was the resident landscape architect in Yosemite National Park, where he became assistant superintendent in 1934. After leaving Crater Lake he became superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, serving there from 1953 to 1959. Thereafter, he was named Chief of Operations for the Western Regional Office in San Francisco. [10]

Fred T. Johnston was the superintendent at Crater Lake from November 1, 1953, to August 28, 1954. During 1942-43 he had been acting regional director of the Region One Office in Richmond. Prior to coming to Crater Lake he was superintendent at Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1952-53. From 1959 to 1965 he served as superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. [11]

Thomas J. Williams was superintendent at Crater Lake from August 28, 1954, to October 3, 1959. This was his first superintendency. [12]

Otto M. Brown became park superintendent on October 3, 1959, and served in that capacity until April 1, 1961. Prior to the Crater Lake assignment, his first superintendency, he was chief ranger at Yellowstone National Park. He retired in 1961 after more than 33 years of federal service. [13]

W. Ward Yeager was superintendent at Crater Lake from April 1, 1961, to April 11, 1964. Yeager began his Park Service career in 1928 as a ranger at Yellowstone National Park. Subsequently, he had tours of duty as a park ranger at Lassen Volcanic National Park, chief ranger at Kings Canyon and Mount Rainier national parks; assistant forester and assistant superintendent at Mesa Verde National Park; assistant superintendent at Lake Mead National Recreation Area; associate forester in the NPS Region Three Office at Santa Fe, New Mexico; and assistant superintendent at Grand Teton National Park. He retired from federal service in 1964. [14]

Richard A. Nelson served as superintendent of Crater Lake from May 10, 1964, to April 22, 1965. This was his first superintendency, although prior to his appointment he was assistant superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. [15]

J. Leonard Volz was park superintendent from June 28, 1965, to April 9, 1967. Later he would serve as regional director of the Southeast Regional Office in Richmond from 1968 to 1970 and the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha from 1970 to 1975. [16]

Donald M. Spalding served as park superintendent from April 23, 1967, to June 23, 1969. Prior to his Crater Lake assignment he was superintendent of Effigy Mounds National Monument (1962-64) and Platt National Park (1964-67). On July 1, 1969, he became general superintendent of the Klamath Falls Group, a new “mini-regional” office established to administer Crater Lake and Lava Beds and Oregon Caves national monuments. Subsequently, he served as superintendent of Buffalo National River (1972-76) and Death Valley National Monument (1976-78), and Chief, Office of Operations Evaluation of the Western Regional Office (1979-83). [17]

Einar L. Johnson was superintendent of Crater Lake from July 12, 1970, to August 19, 1973. This was his first superintendency. [18]

Richard H. Sims served as park superintendent from October 28, 1973, to September 13, 1975. Prior to his Crater Lake assignment he was park management assistant at Oregon Caves National Monument (1971-73). Later he would be superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park from 1979 to 1986. [19]

Frank J. Betts was the Crater Lake superintendent from September 14, 1975, to August 26, 1978. Subsequently, he served as superintendent of Denali National Park from 1978 to 1980. [20]

James S. Rouse was park superintendent at Crater Lake from August 27, 1978, to February 12, 1984. This was his first superintendency. He is now Assistant Superintendent at North Cascades National Park Service Complex. [21]

Robert E. Benton has served as superintendent at Crater Lake from April 16, 1984, to the present. Prior to his Crater Lake assignment he served as superintendent of Colorado National Monument (1972-80) and Bryce Canyon National Park (1980-84). [22]