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Smith Brothers' Chronological History of Crater Lake National Park

 

   

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May 2


Isaac Skeeters, Jacksonville, Oregon merchant, proposes to John Wesley Hillman, that he finance an expedition of 11 men to go search for the Lost Cabin gold Mine. Hillman has some money with  him left over from gold mining in northern California. Skeeters becomes the guide for the party. The idea of getting up an expedition to look for the famous Lost Cabin mine came to Skeeters, (born 1825), while he was waiting on several California customers in his mercantile store in Jacksonville. He overheard one member of a group of California miners discussing the Lost Mine, and that this gentleman knew of certain landmarks, and if he could locate them, then the group would become rich men. The group had been drinking and were rather loose of tongue. Isaac hastily contacted J.W. Hillman who provided the money for the “Oregonian” expedition. Skeeters, Hillman and the nine others set out secretly following the eleven Californians. Eventually the two groups joined forces after playing hide and seek for several days, and after becoming hopelessly lost in the process.


Story from Lu Wells, 209 Hillside, Klamath Falls, Oregon, great grand daughter of I. Skeeters. Collected 1984)Isaac Skeeters, while serving customers from California in his mercantile store in Jacksonville, one day overheard that they were leaving the next morning in search of the Lost Cabin Gold mine. Group had been drinking and talked quite loose. Isaac decided to get a party up to follow. Approached Hilman since he had money from mining in N. Cal. Asked him to finance the trip. They followed from a distance until they joined the group. After party split up, one Californian stayed with the small group of Oregonians, including Hilman, Klippel and Skeeters. Skeeters’ family claims that the reason Hilman received more credit than is due him is because Hilman donated money to Steel and the Park. Steel approached the family seeking information about Isaac. “Since the family didn’t have any money to donate to Steel, the information was passed over. Isaac’s parents: Abraham and Margaret Skeeters. Born in Hardin Co., Kansas. Was married in Indiana. Left with his wife and child and headed West. The family was scared out by Indians and the Plague and returned East. Isaac remarried without first divorcing.


June


Isaac Skeeters, packer and guide for the discovery party, often told this story about his Crater Lake trip: “At camp one evening we made plans for the following day. Early in the morning, each of us agreed to take a different direction for hunting, as we were low on food. I started out for the higher ridges, and it was agreed that should any of us become lost, we would signal the others with rifle shots. In ascending the higher ground, I encountered snow to a depth of 12 inches which made walking slow and difficult. When suddenly a snow white deer stepped right in front of me, near enough that I could see that it had pink eyes. Instinctively I raised my rifle to shoot, but was held spellbound by the beauty and unusual color of the animal and I decided just to observe and admire it. The deer gave one mighty leap and was gone. Then realizing that it was getting dark, I found a white-fir tree, with low hanging branches where the ground was barren and made a fireplace with twigs and bark. I used the flint and the powder from my powder horn when suddenly the flame ran down into the powder horn and caused it to explode. The flash burned my eyebrows and eyelashes and all the front of my hair. There I was with no fire, no gunpowder, but I did have one shot in my rifle. I began to realize that I was lost. I spent the night applying snow to my burned face and forehead. Then at daybreak I started out again. I was surprised when I discovered that I had circled the white fire, for when I came back to my tracks of the night before I found moccasin tracks right behind my own. I always thought that if had I killed the white deer that the Indian who followed me would have killed me, for I had been told that the Indians held a superstition for the white deer. I shot my rifle and my friends answered some miles down the canyon where I joined them.” 

June 12


John Wesley Hillman and a party of prospectors from Jacksonville discover Crater Lake. The Hillman-Skeeters party of 11 Oregonians had followed the group of 11 Californians from a discreet distance. The miners soon discovered the Oregonians on their trail. As rations on both sides began to dwindle, Hillman approached the other camp, proposing that since they were lost and looking for the same thing, they should join forces. A truce was declared and both groups began to search together.
When their provisions finally ran out, the prospectors found themselves at the head waters of the Rogue River. Seven of them rode ahead seeking game for food. John Wesley Hillman, Henry Klippel and Isaac Skeeters soon found themselves riding up a long, sloping mountain when the group suddenly saw a large body of water spread out below them . Hillman exclaimed that the blue was the bluest he had seen, so Skeeters suggested that they name it “Deep Blue Lake”. They wrote the name on a piece of notebook paper, along with their names, and placed the note on a stick.


June 13


The prospectors encounter a party of Indians who deny any knowledge of the Lake’s existence. The group later learns from a medicine man that the Lake is sacred and death would come to any any Indian who gazed upon it. Starvation soon drives the miners down the mountain and back to Jacksonville. They report their discovery, but since gold and Indians were uppermost in the minds of the settlers, their discovery is soon forgotten.

 

 

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