The Mascot


Copied from "Fields of Flowers and Forests of Firs" published on

The MASCOT, 1890-1911. Quoting from the Marine History "the stern wheel steamer MASCOT, length 132 feet, beam 24 feet and depth of hold 5 feet and 5 inches with engines 15 x60 inches, was constructed at Portland for the Lewis and Lake River trade where she has been steadily employed since completion. John Bonser was Master until 1893 and was succeeded by Al. W. Gray (Mrs. Carl Johnson's father). For the past few years she has been owned by Jacob Kamm." Another source says that Kamm bought her from Isaac Thomas and Olin Hosford. I, and others I have talked to, th9ought Kamm built her and the fact that a group of Woodland farmers bought the TOLEDO in 1891 and put her on as an opposition boat to Kamm's boat, the MASCOT, shows that Kamm owned and ran the MASCOT on Lew River in 1891. Mrs. Carl Johnson remembers that their family moved to Woodland in 1891 to be near the home port of the MASCOT on which her father was Captain. He was Kamm's brother-in-law and worked on Kamm's boats. With this evidence I will assume that Kamm put the MASCOT on the Lews and Lake runs in 1890.

The MASCOT was the finest boat ever put on the Lewis River run. She was fast, had elegant quarters on the passenger deck and was queen of the Lewis River steamboats. In her 21 years on Lewis River she exerted a great influence on the fortunes of the Lewis River people. She was the first boat to establish a daily, except Sunday, round trip service to Portland, leaving Woodland at 5: a.m. and returning usually about 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. On Sundays when water permitted and when there was freight to move the MASCOT ran to Etna. Carlton Conrad remembers that she made a trip up to Harvey's mill at Shirt Tail Canyon. I remember five of her Captains: Al W. Gray, James Lee, Archie (Scottie) McNiel, William (Billy) A. Davis and John (Johnny) H. Bonser. Burt Moerck, Allen Harrison and Ted Blackmore and Engineers Alf Andrews, Harr's father. The MASCOT sank at Pekin in 1808, was raised and rebuilt 32 feet longer and burned at Pekin three years later. Many a time we Hayes kids would hike down to Woodland to get aboard the MASCOT for a ride up to Etna and back. Mr. Moerck never charged us any fares and we looked ahead to these trips, and many times exciting things happened to and from Etna, such as the time the MASCOT, going up stream, hung up on a hidden bar in the middle of the river. Captain Lee thought that hew could pull the boat on over by taking a hawser ashore in a rowboat and fastening it to a stump ahead. This was done and with four men on the Capstan and the rest of the crew and passengers heaving onanother line fastened to the stump, pulled her free. Then there was the time when the MASCOT heading down stream from Etna with a load of potatoes, stuck her nose into the middle of the Russel Riffle just below the Dufur place. Those riffles were swift and when the stern started swinging around and struck the bank we wondered what would happen and quite a lot did happen. From the crash it made me think the boat was wrecked. The potatoes on starboard side tumbled over on the floor and tilted the boat over to port and she hung here. All I remember after that was that we kids scrabbled over the wheel house to shore and went home, but somehow the MASCOT got free and I believe made her run to Portland the next day. Then there was the time when the MASCOT, knowing there was a load of freight available at Etna, got up steam about midnight and without lights and noise headed for Etna. At that time, 1895 or 96 the steamer H.C. GRADY was running from our place at Hayes, now the Grieger place, to Portland making a one way trip per day, and the MASCOT knew that she too had her eye on the Etna freight. The MASCOT crept quietly by the GRADY which was tied up but the eagle eye of the watchman spotted her and gave the alarm. All hands aroused and they stoked the furnace, got up steam and gave chase. It looked hopeless but luck was with the GRADY. The MASCOT got stuck some place up the river and the GRADY beat her to Etna and got the freight.

The Vancouver "Independent", December 8, 1904 says, "The Kamm Co. (Lewis River Transportation Co.) service has been the poorest that ever ran on this river since the SWALLOW and HYDRA ran on it. If you know what side your bread is buttered on and have any sympathy for your neighbors, patronize the opposition boat LEONA at the foot of Oak Street Portland. If the people don't patronize it they ought to be compelled to walk to Ridgefield to the Railroad if they go at all."

May Earl Bryant came to Woodland from Portland on the MASCOT with his bride of a year, in 1906 to establish a pharmacy which he has operated ever since, and now has a son, Walter, and Walter's daughter, Grace, as assistants. He tells me the UNDINE took over the MASCOT'S run in 1908 when the latter was rebuild into a longer boat and that the LURLINE made excursion trips for several years to Woodland Park just across from the old bridge, during the June high water periods.

Will Forbes tells of a near swamping he and Indian Joe Hollingsworth had on one of these raids between the MASCOT and GRADY for freight at Etna warehouse. The steamers were neck and neck as they reached the mouth of Cedar Creek. The warehouse was around the rock point just above. Will and Indian Joe were crossing the river in their skiff and got caught in between the two steamers. Will was only 13 or 14 and Joe was at the oars. Will yelled "Pull". Joe said "Me no pull". then Will grabbed a paddle and said "You pull or I'll hit you over the head with this paddle". Joe pulled.

Will tells of another time when these same boats were approaching Etna neck and neck. Will's father, Jim Forbes, always maintained a ferry with over head cable with one end attached to a windlass for lowering when steamboats passed. This time the boats were in such a hurry that they didn't give Jim enough time to let the cable down. They ran into it but it didn't snap. They back away so the cable could be lowered and got a good calling down by Jim for their carelessness. One of Bill Englert's barber shop yarns is to the effect that the MASCOT on an errand of mercy over the bottom lands during the 1894 flood, passed through a corn patch. The cook, seeing those luscious roasting ears, reached out over the gunnel and plucked a mess. Other boats helping the farmers out in their plight during the 1894 flood were the LENA, EGALITE, BISMARK and ELWOOD. The EGALITE towed scow loads of rock down Davidson Avenue to farm houses on the low lands to weight them down. Earl Allen says the UNDINE and LURLINE also helped in removing cattle from t he bottoms.

I'm sorry I was unable to contact Earl sooner. He just arrived the other day from California where he spent the winter and I was not aware of his return until the first installment of this article had gone to press. Earl probably knows as much about the steamboats on the Lewis, Willamette and Columbia Rivers as any one else, having worked on them from deck-hand to Captain, for nearly twenty years.

The MASCOTS run was strenuous. She left Woodland at 5:00 A.M., touched at Bratton's Landing if flagged to take on Clark County traffic there was no bridge then and Clark County farmers would meet the boat there. The next stop was at the Forks or Pekin to meet the little LENA or EGALITE with La Center traffic. Then she went up to Ridgefield on Lake River, then a few mud landings, then to Morgan's Landing on Sauvie's Island and on to Portland arriving at 11:00 A.M. She left on her homeward trip at 3:00 P.M. arriving at Woodland nine or ten P.M. and sometimes later. There was only one crew and the deckhands had to catch up on their sleep between stops enroute. When water was too low the MASCOT tied up at Pekin. The passengers were taken on to Woodland by stage driven by Sam Conrad and sometimes by his son Carlton. Sam had a sense of humor and when the passenger list included eligible maidens and bachelors, knowing where the chuck holes were, (he) would speed up the horses when approaching the big ones to get a laugh out of the antics of the girls screeching and grabbing hold of the nearest thing at hand, this story was told me by an old timer.

While attending Portland High School, 1901-1904, I had planned to take the MASCOT to Woodland to spend the Christmas holidays there and at Hayes. As I hurried to the dock at the foot of Taylor Street she was just pulling in the gang plank and was a little to far out to jump aboard. I yelled but the Captain wouldn't come back. Well that meant a lot to me. There was no other way to get to Woodland except by Caples Landing and the LURLINE leaving at seven P.M. would land me there about midnight with no way to get over to Woodland except to walk. By inquiry I found that the MASCOT was to make a landing in Northwest Portland so I hopped a streetcar and go as near the landing place as possible, then struck out with a bag in hand. I spotted the MASCOT already landed with the stern lying along side a raft of logs. I didn't know how long she would remain there so I took the surest if not the conventional way and struck out across the logs and climbed up on the guard rail by the wheel house and trailed along to safety. The Purser thought I had taken too much chance but took my fare and I sat down to read "Lorna Doone", my English Class assignment.

The TOLEDO, 1891. In 1891 some farmers, being dissatisfied with the freight rates charged by Kamm, formed the Woodland Navigation Company and bought the steamer TOLEDO from the Kellogg Co. on the Cowlitz and put her on the same run as the MASCOT'S as an opposition boat with...........................................................Billy Davis as Captain. These men were James Copeland, John Robinson, Charley Specht, Henry Houghton, (Charlie's father) George Bratton, Charley Specht, Henry Houghton, (Charlie's father), George Bratton, C.A. Soney and Barney, a sailor who lived with the Bratton's. The price war was on. Kamm always kept his rates lower than the TOLEDO'S until he was carrying the passengers free of charge. I suppose freight rates were reduced accordingly. The people wanted to patronize the local company's boat but the free fare was a great temptation and they road and shipped on the MASCOT and the local company had to quit. They sold the TOLEDO and lost heavily on the venture. Kamm then put his rates back up high enough that with is other boats the LURLINE, the UNDINE and other boats on the Columbia River runs amassed a fortune.