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Stone Woman of Crater Lake No Longer Mystery


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The Fresno Bee

Sacramento Bureau
Fresno, California
October 24, 1923

Carving That Baffled Party From Bay Was Work of Dr. Earl R. Bush

The Mysterious Woman in stone, the strangely sculptured boulder near Crater Lake is a mystery no longer and all save one of the numerous conjectures advanced by members of the recent expedition which investigated the carving are wrong.

It is not a petrified human body nor the lava filled cavity that resulted when the body of a woman enveloped in mud, distinguished, according to the ingenious theory of Samuel Hubbard, curator of archaeology in the Oakland Museum.

It is the work of human hands, to be exact, the hands of Dr. Earl H. Bush, of the United States public health service.

This was revealed when George S. Nickerson, Sacramento engineer and former resident of the Klamath district, unearthed a copy of the Crater Lake edition of the year book of the Mazama Club of Oregon of which he is a member, which contains the true account of the mysterious carving.

In 1917, Dr. Bush was in Crater Lake on a health trip. Being possessed of some ability as a stone mason he did some work in connection with the erection of Crater Lake Lodge and while camped at Government Camp, a little over a mile and a half from the lake rim, he conceived the idea of carving the figure of the woman upon the face of a huge lava boulder.

Dropped in October, 1917

The Winter season came on and the work was never finished, and remains as Dr. Bush left it in October of 1917.

In a letter to Anne Shannon Monroe, reproduced in the Mazama Year Book, Dr. Bush tells of his work as follows:

"Since you were the first one to discuss the merits of the statue it seems no more than right "that you should likewise solve the mystery by receiving an official account of the details surrounding its accomplishment.

"The statue as it is to-day was conceived and executed between October 4th and 19th, 1917. It took as many hours of labor each day as my right arm would tolerate. Unfortunately, I was compelled to leave it uncompleted, as a longer stay in the mountains would have been hazardous.

Tribute to the Forest

"This statue represents any offering to the forest, my interpretation of its awful stillness and repose, its beauty, fascination and unseen life. A deep love of this virgin wilderness has fastened itself upon me and remains to-day.

"It seemed that I must leave something behind. It it arouses thought in those who see it, I shall be amply repaid. I shall be satisfied to leave my feeble attempt at sculptural expression alone and unmarked for those who may happen to see it and who may find food for thought along the illness it arouses in them individually.

"It would be sacrilege to assign a title and decorate it with a brass plate."

At the time Dr. Bush was at work he was camped at the headquarters of William G. Steel, now United States commissioner for Crater Lake National Park and the man who conceived the idea of the park and successfully urged it before congress.

Steel is a close, personal friend of Nickerson and the whole story of the woman in stone is verified by him so that there can be no question of its origin as a work of the public health official.

Held Work Of A Rodin

The stone woman of Crater Lake which has gained fame as the "Silent Woman of the Cascades," is a carving of the figure of a woman with her head resting upon her arms as if asleep. A San Francisco artist who viewed it recently is quoted as declaring it the work of a second Rodin.

The figure is well proportioned and was chiseled in almost full relief on a large piece of hard lava of which there are considerable quantities in the vicinity. It is located 1.7 miles from Crater Lake Lodge, at the rim of the lake, and within the national park boundaries.

Its real origin cam to light last year when the Mazama Club of Oregon, an organization similar to the Sierra Club of California held its annual encampment at Crater Lake. Representatives of the club conducted an investigation at that time, which revealed the true identity of the sculptor of the figure as Dr. Bush of the federal health service.

The present address of Dr. Bush is not known, but he is believed to be in the East.

Expedition Was Baffled

Recently representatives of the Southern Pacific Company, which is now active in the vicinity, secured a photograph of the form, and the fact of its existence was revealed generally for the first time.

Expedition Studies Discovery

To see what definite information could be obtained on the ground, a party was organized recently in San Francisco and a trip made to Crater Lake. In the expedition were Samuel Hubbard, curator of archaeology in the Oakland Museum; Geoffrey Holt, the San Francisco artist; R. E. Kelly of the Southern Pacific Company, and Robert H. Wilson of the editorial staff of the San Francisco Examiner.

After some difficulty the location of the mysterious woman in stone was ascertained. The party was told that no one in that region was able to throw any light on the origin of the carving. It was evidently not the work of the Indians that roamed through the forests in the past for the vicinity of Crater Lake was avoided by them with a superstitious dread.

The nature of the rock and its isolation made the suggestion that it might be the work of some wandering erratic sculptor seem foolish and it appeared to the investigators as more probable that it was a petrified woman.

Hubbard's Explanation

Propounding a plausible theory Hubbard said:

"Let us see, if we cannot reconstruct a bit of history that might conform to these conditions. Suppose a woman of prehistoric race were fleeing from the eruption of the volcano above. She throws herself into a hollow of the rock and buries her face in her arms to escape the smoke and fumes. She was suffocated in that posture.

"A flow of volcanic mud come down and enveloped her-not hot enough to destroy the body, but soft enough to completely envelop it. This mud quickly solidified, and then the body of the woman disintegrated, leaving a perfect mould. The mould may have stayed there for many years until there was another eruption, which poured down fresh volcanic mud. This found its way into the mould and there solidified into the figure of the woman as we see it now."








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