W.F. Arant – Crater Lake’s first superintendent
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
May 13, 2002
By LEE JUILLERAT
CRATER LAKE — Everyone who visits Crater Lake National Park and enters from the south entrance station has driven toward the lake and seen a sign alongside a bridge that, maps tell, crosses Goodbye Creek.
These days the remaining sign reads, “Goodbye Picnic Area.” For many years another sign announced, “Goodbye Bridge.”
The namings stem from the bitterest battle ever waged at Crater Lake. It took place in 1913 when the park’s first superintendent, William Franklin Arant of Klamath Falls, usually known as W.F. or Frank, was forcibly removed from the park.
Arant had served as superintendent after it was created on May 22, 1902. When Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was elected president it was believed that Arant, a Republican, was marked for replacement.
Klamath County residents, strongly Democratic, wanted and expected a Democratic replacement. No matter what party, they believed Arant’s successor should come from Klamath County because the entire park was then within county boundaries.
“Aside from the fact that he is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican,” one newspaper wrote about Arant, “the people of this county have no objection to him.”
William Steel, known as the “Father of Crater Lake,” wanted the job. Like Arant he was Republican, but — most irritating of all to Klamath County people — he lived in Portland and had that city’s support and the backing of others, including the vocal Medford press.
Campaigning was active. Wires to congressmen, visits aimed at rallying support in Oregon cities and campaigns by friendly newspapers and chambers of commerce were frequent until June 1913, when Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane announced Steel’s appointment.
“Our People Do Not Like Appointment Of Steel For Crater Lake,” the June 12 Klamath Falls newspaper headlined. “New Appointee Declared To Have Shown Animosity Toward Klamath Falls,” another headline insisted, while yet a third declared, “Is Believed He Will Cater To People Of Rogue River And Portland.”
Controversy spiraled. Arant ignored a letter from Lane asking for his resignation and insisted he would remain on the job. In a letter to Lane, Arant said his job was under civil service and not subject to dismissal without reason.
While Arant remained firm, Steel was appointed and began his trip to Crater Lake to take over as superintendent.
Arant hired J.H. Carnahan, a Klamath Falls lawyer, and enlisted Klamath County support while Steel, in turn, fired his own salvo of charges.
“This statement is childish and untrue,” Steel told his followers in Medford of Arant’s civil service claims.
Recharging his own forces and firing his own salvo, Arant told the Klamath Falls Northwestern newspaper, “I intend to stay at the park all summer.”
“Mr. Arant is a bigger chump than his friends supposed,” the June 30 Medford newspaper declared. “Mr. Steel’s appointment was made only after the collapse of a most malicious and venomous campaign of perjury instigated against him by the Klamath Development Co. … which seeks to make Crater Lake the tail of its Pelican Bay kite.”
Lane telegraphed Arant to inform him that he was removed from office but, as a July 4 headline declared, “Arant Sticks To Guns At Crater Lake Park.”
Steel arrived at Crater Lake on July 1 and stayed at other park accommodations. The superintendent’s office remained occupied by Arant.
Confusion continued with notice that, although Arant was subject to civil service classification, the Civil Service Commission had no power to challenge Lane. Arant promised not to move until the question was settled by the courts. (In 1919 the dispute eventually reached the Supreme Court, which declined to rule on Arant’s complaint.)
“Arant And Steel Live In Proximity But Are Not At All Cordial,” a July 10 paper said. The story noted each man “served notice on the park postmaster not to deliver mail to the superintendent of the park and as a consequence the orders of the interior department are not delivered.”
Curiosity intensified when in mid-July, U.S. Marshal Leslie M. Scott arrived in Medford en route to Crater Lake. The purpose for Scott’s visit was undisclosed. That mystery was uncovered a few days later.
“Arant, Ejected From Park Buildings By Force, Stays On The Job,” headlines announced July 21.
After trying to persuade Arant to leave, Scott set a deadline. Arant, however, refused. Later accounts said that Arant told Scott, “I would like to see somebody try and remove me from my own house.”
“However,” the story continued, “in less than one minute he (Arant) was passed through two doors and landed in the front yard. He returned immediately and was again ejected without ceremony but with dispatch.”
Arant later returned with friends, forced is way back into his office and, four more times, was ejected.
Arant, his wife and his brother continued to camp at the park while Steel moved into the superintendent’s office. The Arants were granted permission to remain “until the bridge upon which the Arants have been working on is completed,” a newspaper said.
Feelings remained high. In late July headlines and stories told of a fight between Arant and A.L. Parkhurst of Crater Lake Development Co., that “ended when the latter (Parkhurst) struck the former superintendent over the head with a wrench, inflicting a serious scalp wound.”
Parkhurst, stories said, claimed “self-defense while Arant declares it was assault with attempt to kill.”
On July 31, Arant left.
“Ousted, but defiant to the last, W.F. Arant pulled out of the Crater Lake National Park Sunday morning taking his goods and chattels with him in wagons and heading for Klamath Falls,” a newspaper reported.
Through August headlines still declared, “Arant Unable To Comprehend Loss Of Office,” “Arant Still Fights For Steel’s Post.”
After Steel took office, several park sites were renamed. Arant had given his name to many of the park’s prominent locations. His name remains only at Arant Point, a 6,815-foot-high dome rising 565 feet above the surrounding country.
But the bridge Arant and his family spent their final park days working on was given the name it’s kept ever since, “Goodbye.”
Arant and his family moved from Crater Lake to Klamath Falls, where they lived until moving to Ashland. He died in November 1927. His wife, Emma, died in 1937. Both are buried in the Linkville Cemetery in Klamath Falls.
Steel resigned as superintendent in 1916 and was named park commissioner, a post he held until his October 1934 death in Medford.