Historic The Dalles, Oregon
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Umatilla House, Handley and Sinnott Proprietors

 

The Dalles in 1858
The Dalles in a lithograph from 1858. The Umatilla House is the largest building to the left. Image courtesy of the Wasco County Pioneers Association, #WCPA-20-8.

The Umatilla House

The Umatilla House in The Dalles, Oregon was known as the “best hotel west of Minneapolis and north of San Francisco.” At the time the town was known also known as Dalles City, or "The Landing."

The Umatilla House was located on the Northeast corner of First (then called "Main") and Union streets in The Dalles, Oregon. The site is most recently occupied by the riverfront Lewis & Clark Festival Center which opened Sept. 2012.

Documented ownership of the land where the Umatilla House was located began when Winson D. Bigalow filed a claim on Nov. 22, 1853 with the then surveyor general of Oregon, a notification of his claim to a donation of 320 acres of land under the land donation act of congress of Sept. 27, 1850, in which the boundaries of said claim were as follows: "Beginning at a point on the south bank of the Columbia river, at a point where William C. Laughlin's west line intersects the Columbia river, running thence south 32° 30' west, 105 chains; thence east 32 chains; thence north 52 chains; thence west 15 chains; thence north 34 degrees 50 minutes east to the place of beginning; containing 520 acres." These notes were recorded in the land-office at Oregon City, Oct. 6, 1852. [36]

A lawsuit resulted, questioning whether Bigalow could lawfully claim this land, which had been a part of the Fort Dalles Military reservation, as a donation claim, and whether he had a legal right to settle the land. It was established that no authority was issued by the then secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, for locating a specific fort at the Dalles site and the establishment of a "military reservation ten miles square" was not made in accordance with any authority competent to select land for a military post. [36]
      The establishment of such a station required a special order under the authority of the president of the United States, and such an order must be promulgated by his authority. That order had not been established. The order for a military post "to be established on Oregon route" had been vague as to specific location, and the order of Col. Loring to Maj. S.S. Tucker "in the establishing of the military post at the Dalles of the Columbia river, make a military reservation of ten miles square," does not appear to have been made in accordance with any authority competent to select land for a military post; and the subsequent order of the then secretary of war, Jefferson Davis, dated May 13, 1854, indicated that none had been given, although he recognized the fact that a reservation of 10 miles square had been made for military purposes at the Dalles of the Columbia and that possession of such tract was claimed by the military authorities to the exclusion of persons claiming parts thereof. The inference to be drawn from the proofs in the case is that the military authorities located a site at the Dalles of the Columbia for a military post; that they entered into occupation of it with the expectation that a tract or parcel of land would ultimately be selected by the president of the United States at that point for such purpose. [36]
      That order from the president to establish a military reservation of ten square miles was never issued. Thus the military failed to officially define and fix their military reservation limits until Sept. 22, 1859 at which time the limit of the reserve was reduced to one mile square. Bigalow's claim was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court. [36]

Bigalow sold the property to Orlando Humason, who in turn sold several properties to Henry Perry Isaacs on January 5, 1866, for one dollar. The land under the Umatilla House was designated as "Lot 8, Block 2." [37]
Sources agree on one thing, that the Umatilla House was built in 1857. A.J. Nixon's name was associated with the building in 1858, when a lithograph was made, illustrating businesses in The Dalles. [39]
     According to Elizabeth Laughlin Lord in "Reminiscences of Eastern Oregon" page 139 - "... I think the Nixon brothers built the Umatilla House in 1857, and I think H. P. Isaacs bought it and sold it to Handley and Sinnott. I think the Graves family were the only ones running the house before Handley and Sinnott bought it in 1860."

In the 1860 census, A.J. Nixon was listed as a carpenter and at one point owned $3,000 in property in The Dalles. Graves was listed as a hotel operator, but declared no real estate listed. However he did show $2,000 in monies. [40]

The Umatilla Hotel 1858
Umatilla Hotel from a lithograph from 1858.
Caption listed A.J. Nixon as proprietor. #WCPA-16-53

In 1858 the Umatilla House, under A. J. Nixon, prop., was the city's leading hotel. From an old resident we learn that in 1858 there were the following business houses at The Dalles: Umatilla House, A.J. Nixon; Cushing Hotel and store; Restaurant and lodging house, N.H. Gates; Wasco Hotel, A.H. Curtiss; Bradford & Company's steamboat office; grocery, W.D. Bigelow; Mount Hood saloon, B.F. McCormack; saddle and harness shop, Powell & Company; saloon, Trevitt & Cowne; grocery store, James McAuliff; assay office, W.C. Moody; drug store, P. Craig; general merchandise, H.P. Isaacs; warehouse, R.R. Thompson & Company; cigar store, J. Juker; bakery, W.L. DeMoss. [30]

The hotel was acquired by Henry Perry Isaacs some time in 1861 after he and his wife, Lucie (daughter of Col. James Fulton) moved back to The Dalles from Philadelphia. Isaacs was an entrepreneur, and owned many properties, including a general merchandise store, where he sold goods to men outfitting themselves for the gold mines in Idaho, Colville, and eastern Oregon. Isaacs eventually moved to Walla Walla, Washington Territory, where he established a flour mill, leaving A. J. Nixon as proprietor. [33]

The discovery of gold in 1861 in eastern Oregon and Idaho was the making of The Dalles, and the Umatilla House was in the thick of it. On the south bank of the Columbia River, it had a strategic location, for the steamboat landing was at the back door. It was the first place passengers headed for when they disembarked. When the railroad came through, the tracks were laid in front of the front door.

The hotel became the meeting place for anyone passing through the area. It was a stage, boat and rail stop and a meeting and social gathering place for everyone in the community. Business transactions took place there, with heavy negotiating and trading on wool prices and clips.

In 1862, the hotel was crowded with gold seekers, miners, farmers, ranchers, soldiers, cowboys, honeymooners, freighters, politicians, emigrants, and travelers awaiting transportation to eastern Oregon. So much freight was sent inland, that the Oregon Steam Navigation Co. built the Celilo Portage Railroad from The Dalles. Travelers came to The Dalles by steamboat, rode by stage to Celilo, and continued their journey again by steamboat at Celilo. Freighters, with their large rumbling wagons, driving their 10-horse "jerk-line" caravans, left the Dalles for the "upper" country loaded with freight for Lewiston and Boise, Idaho, and Walla Walla in Washington Territory. Miners and prospectors from Canyon City and Colville made it their outfitting headquarters. Cow punchers and sheepmen, their range war forgotten for the moment, lived together in harmony while in town. [28]

MESSERS. SINNOTT AND HANDLEY

Nicholas Sinnott
Nicholas Sinnott
Courtesey of Wasco County Pioneers Association
WCPA 29-20

Both Daniel Handley and Nicholas Byrne Sinnott were immigrants from Ireland, having emigrated to the United States from their native country as young men during the great potato famine. They both possessed a high degree of the spirit of hospitality.
     Handley was a painter by trade, while Sinnott was a hotel clerk. Sinnott had been a hotel clerk at the Planters hotel in Peoria, Illinois, while Handley's father in Ireland had run a small tavern.
     Stories say the men traveled on the same ship around the horn by way of Panama, but remained unacquainted until they met in Portland, Oregon.

In 1862, Nicholas and his brother Patrick Sinnott had leased the old Columbia Hotel in Portland. Their cousin, Catherine "Kate" Byrne, worked for them. It's uncertain just when, or how, Daniel Handley became involved, but stories say he, too, was one of the proprietors of the Columbia Hotel. The hotel was closed after it was decided the land was more valuable if used for other purposes. Patrick B. Sinnott eventually became the United States Indian agent at Grande Ronde Agency, Ore. from April 1, 1872 to December 24, 1885. [4] [7]

They went to the gold diggings along Salmon river together and returned, reaching The Dalles in September of 1863. At the time, Nicholas Sinnott was 31 and Daniel Handley was 33. Sinnott and his brother Patrick had spent time at the Salmon River gold mines in Northern Idaho. When Sinnott came down from the mines he stayed overnight at the old Umatilla hotel. He complained to the proprietor, Mr. Newman, that the bed-bugs had driven him out of his room and that he had taken his blankets and slept in the hall to get away from them. Mr. Newman listened patiently to the tale of woe and when it was concluded remarked, "If you think you can run this house any better than I am doing, you had better take it." "All right," said the Colonel. "What are your terms?" An offer being made that the Colonel thought reasonable. He accepted it and although he had but $40, he closed the bargain and took possession. [4]

There they leased the Umatilla House from Mr. H.P. Isaacs, who yearned to retire. [20]

On Sept. 14, 1863 Nicholas Byrne Sinnott took charge of the Umatilla House at First and Union. The young man was quick to see that the country would soon develop. Sinnott saw the possibilities of a first-class hotel, with thousands of people passing up and down the river to the gold fields of the "Inland Empire", each stopping over at The Dalles.

Sinnott still owned the furniture from the Columbia Hotel and had it shipped up, taking Daniel Handley into partnership with him. (The date was given as Sept. 17, 1863 in Handley's obituary.)
The time Daniel Handley and Sinnott's cousin, Catherine "Kate" Byrne, spent working together in Portland had blossomed into romance, and in 1863 Handley married Kate.

Daniel Handley
Daniel Handley
Courtesey of Wasco County Pioneers Association
#WCPA 29-16

When Sinnott and Handley took over the Umatilla House there were less than a thousand people living in the town, but there was always a large population, coming and going. The hotel under the new management soon took the lead and became the headquarters for the merchants and miners who in those days comprised the traveling public. [4] A good hotel at The Dalles steamboat landing was a gold mine.

The sale of the Umatilla House was completed when H.P. Isaacs and his wife signed a quit-claim deed, handing the ownership of the hotel over to Handley and Sinnott for $5000. The deed filed for record May 14, 1867 at 10 minutes past 5 o'clock p.m. [33]

People began to refer to Nicholas B. Sinnott as "Colonel, and Daniel Handley as "Major." The titles of both these men were purely honorary, because they were both well-liked members of the community. This was a custom of pioneer times. Both men were Irish and knew how to “jolly” the public.
     Their efforts were noted in the Dalles' April 20, 1866 Times-Mountaineer. "Improvement— Messrs. Handley & Sinnott have made some handsome improvements to the Umatilla House this Spring, in order to accommodate the wants of the traveling public, but during the past week they have capped the climax by the addition of ten beautifully finished rooms, in that part of the building formerly occupied as a cigar store and tailor shop. The enterprise displayed by those gentlemen in fitting up the Umatilla House to its present state of comfort is certainly commendable, for which they deserve and receive a fair share of public support."

OF STAGECOACHES AND STEAMERS

The discovery of gold, in Eastern Oregon and Idaho boosted The Dalles into its heyday. The steamers from Portland ran at full capacity with passengers to The Dalles. The streets were full of pack trains, stages and wagons heading for the mines.

The enormous steamboat traffic on the Columbia river was transferred at The Dalles; from that point freight teams departed for their heavy trips into the interior of the country as far distant as Yakima and Ellensburg, in Washington Territory; Prineville and Canyon City, Oregon.
     North of the hotel on the riverside was "the Incline," so named because steamers could stop almost at the door of the Umatilla House at high water. [24]
     In the days before the railroads, the Umatilla House was the place from which departed the stage coaches for all points in Eastern and central Oregon and Eastern Washington, Idaho and Utah. Stage lines left the Umatilla house for Canyon City and Yakima. [13]

Before the Union Pacific line was built, The Dalles-Celilo portage trains left from the Umatilla House. When the railroad came, the railroad track passed directly in front of the Umatilla and the trains stopped there for passengers to eat their meals. There were no dining cars at the time. Train schedules were made to arrive at the eating stations at meal time. The proprietors donated a ticket office and baggage room to the O.R. & N. company, and all passenger trains stopped there. [13] When the trains stopped before the Umatilla house platform, either Handley or Sinnott would be on the platform ringing a large brass hand bell and urging the passengers to accept the hospitality of the hotel. Handley would keep pointing to the front door with his thumb, jerking his hand over his shoulder while swinging the gong.

CENTER OF POLITICS

The Umatilla House was a rendezvous of political parties, conventions holding sessions a week at a time both day and night. The political future of Wasco County was built up and carried through in this hotel.
     Col. N.B. Sinnott was a staunch "black" republican and Major Handley was a "dyed-in-the-wool democrat." (This was back in the days when republicans were liberals and democrats were conservatives.) They took an active interest in state and local politics. At that time there were few republicans in the county. Sinnott attended party county and state conventions and exerted great influence during the campaigns in Wasco county but did not seek office. He was an authority on the political situation in the state and in forecasting election results and acts of congress. It was there that his son, Nicholas J. Sinnott spent his boyhood and got his political training. As an adult, Nicholas J. Sinnott became an Oregon Congressman.
     At one time when two factions in the county were striving for supremacy, a gentleman from Dufur was delegated by one party to ask the Colonel about certain political turns which were to occur. The Colonel was noted for his ability to prophecy coming events of this nature. The delegate stayed at the Umatilla House for three days in an effort to wrest from the Colonel certain details. When his stay had terminated and the gentleman was on his way home, someone asked him how he made out with the Colonel. He replied, "I guess I made out fine. The Colonel found out everything I knew but I didn't find out anything I wanted to know." This showed conclusively the manner of man the Colonel was, and his ability to juggle conversation and his political strength.

FLOODS AND FIRE

Flood of 1898
Flood of 1898, Fort Dalles Museum collection #D2588-4.

The year of 1862 was known as the "hard winter," when snow fell to a depth of three feet and laid on all winter from Christmas until spring. When the snow began to melt the river flooded. Front and Second streets and even third were submerged, the highest stage being 48 feet and 10 inches above water mark. The second "flood year" in The Dalles was 1866. [The Dalles Chronicle, Sept. 16, 1926]

Again in 1871 another "flood" year occurred, in which considerable damage was done to the business district. This was the year of the first disastrous fire, which broke out August 17, 1871 near the Globe Hotel (where the French Bank was later built). Fully half of the town was swept out of existence, and a number of citizens were left practically penniless, yet the town soon regained itself and merchants and mechanics were again on their feet.

On June 23, 1876 the Columbia river once again flooded. At 4 o'clock a.m., the river was 51 feet three inches above low water mark. Following this instructive episode the business houses, when before the flood had been on Front, were rebuilt on Second street, and the latter thoroughfare became the principal street.

On October 27, 1878, a fire originated in Corumis' saddler shop on Second street, burning Wingate's store and residences and all the property between Federal and Washington streets below Fourth, including the original Umatilla House building. Fire was a continuous danger in The Dalles in those days, since there was no adequate water system nor water with which to fight fires. The dry climate and strong winds increased the fire danger.
     When the old Umatilla House was burning, it made a roaring big fire. Charley Durbin had just rode in from his horse ranch at Antelope, and in the crowd across the street watching the blaze he found Colonel Sinnott just roaring with laughter, and plum full of hilarious halloos. "What's the provocation for all the hilarity, Colonel?" asked Charley. "What is there to laugh at when you see your own big building burning up? What in the hell's the use?" Colonel Sinnott slapped Charley on the back and said, "The bugs, Charley, the bugs! For years I've been fighting those damn bedbugs, but they refused to "clatawa" or be killed off! Now we've got them! No bugs can still bite after coming through as hot a fire as this is. And lucky it is there are no fire escapes for them to come down hand over hand. Hooray! Hooray!" [20]

Handley & Sinnott immediately began to rebuild the hotel. Business was good, and they had almost completely paid for the new building, but before the hotel was finished or all the furniture was moved in, another fire swept that part of the city on May 21, 1879. Within three hours, with winds whipping the flames into fury, the greater portion of the business district in The Dalles was laid to ash.

Once more the Umatilla House was a pile of smoking ashes and nearly everything the firm owned was destroyed, entailing a loss of $35,000 or $40,000, with no insurance
     The embers had hardly cooled before the plans for a new building were being prepared, but the fire had left Sinnott and Handley almost penniless. They had spent $75,000 and borrowed all they could, and the local merchants would give them no more credit.
     Hearing of their misfortune, Corbitt & McClay of Portland, a wholesale grocery, offered to stake them to merchandise and hardware.
     Chew Kee, the Chinese cook, loaned them $18,000. Dr. Shackleford, an old time army doctor, loaned them $15,000. Vanlibber, the only milk man in town, loaned them between $10,000 and $15,000. The Oregon Furniture company refinanced the order and it all had to come around the Horn, which took about a year to get the furniture. Oregon Lumber company furnished the lumber without cash.
     A large part of the money to rebuild the Umatilla House came from the railroad men. At the time, there was no bank in The Dalles and the railroaders kept their money in the large, fireproof safe at the hotel, drawing on it as they needed it. Some of it was in rolls of gold dollars. The hotel men asked the railroaders if they could use their money to rebuild, and they all agreed.
     Sinnott and Handley then mortgaged their homes and built the last and fanciest Umatilla House, at a cost of $91,000. A large crew of carpenters completed the building in about 4 months. The third Umatilla House opened for business Oct. 25, 1879. Sinnott said they opened up the door and borrowed $5,000 from French & Co. bank to make change.
     Within three years they didn't owe a cent, so business was good.
     A year after the fire, on May 20, 1880, The Dalles Chronicle reported " Handley & Sinnott have erected the new Umatilla House, a solid three-story wooden building. 95x120, containing 130 sleeping rooms, with large and commodious billiard room, office, sample rooms, dining hall and kitchen, with store-rooms and wood yard, a basement, in all accommodation for 400 guests."
     The newspaper reported: Messrs. Handley & Sinnott deserve special notice for their pluck and enterprise. Scarcely had the smoke died away, when preparations were made for another and better building, which was fitted up with every modern convenience, and occupied as a hotel on the 25th of October, 1879. This house has twenty suits of rooms, fitted up with walnut and ash furniture, together with a stove in each suit. There are 140 rooms in all, including five large ones, especially adapted for commercial travelers, having shelving and every necessary convenience. Connected with the hotel is the finest billiard hall on the North Pacific coast, and containing four Brunswick & Balke tables. [3]

     The summer of 1880 another flood inundated The Dalles. Heavy winter snows and a cold spring were followed by a sudden rise in temperatures in July. For two weeks the snow-melt laden waters of the Columbia lapped the front portion of the town, and drove business back to other streets. The Times-Mountaineer reported June 29, 1880: " Friday, June 25, the water began to raise, and kept gradually creeping over the surface of the town. On that evening it commenced to crawl over the street between the post office and the new Umatilla house. Sunday night was an anxious night to all on Front street. The Columbia had become a torrent, and to look across, with the miniature white caps, it appeared like a raging inland sea. The dull roar and tumble of the Dalles could be heard and sounded like Niagara. To add to the dreariness of this, the waves of a swollen, angry river were washing and beating into spray at the doors of the occupants on Front street. Another hour might see them submerged.
     Messrs. Handley & Sinnott were determined to stand at their post and at 11 o'clock Sunday night, when the water of the river was up to the floor of the Umatilla house, we inquired of them whether they would move: "No," they said, "we shall have a false floor raised about two or three feet and try to weather it through."
     By July 2, 1880, the water reached 48 feet 7½ inches above low water mark. This was the highest point gained during the flood of this year. July 6, 1880, the Times-Mountaineer said: The present week will be known in The Dalles as "flood week." For eight or ten days a great portion of the business part of our city has been submerged. For nearly a week all business houses on Front Street have been removed to other parts of our city and that active thoroughfare has been covered by a sheet of water.
     The sight on Front street at that hour was dismal in the extreme. The water covered the entire length of the street from Washington to Union...we have great faith in the resuscitating power of our city. If she could raise, Phoenix-like, from the conflagration of 1879, she can raise herself from the loss by the flood of 1880.

OF A GENEROUS NATURE

     Neither Handley nor Sinnott ever sued or dunned a debtor or sued a man for an unpaid bill. A man's word was as good as a deed in those days they often took in the stranger who was sick and broke, and just as often the stranger, now a friend, paid in full when his health was restored.
      Many a miner spent the winter at the Umatilla house, leaving in the spring with a large bill unpaid and the remark, "See you in the fall." Most of these "grubstakes" were repaid. [13]
     Their generosity was repaid in their time of need. Stories tell of, in the early days, a Hebrew peddler arrived in The Dalles with his pack. He was exhausted from his long tramp, and failure to dispose of his goods soon left him penniless, sick and hungry. He appealed to Colonel Sinnott, who took him in. When he was ready to depart he offered the Colonel all the money he had, about six dollars, in part payment of his account of about twenty dollars. Sinnott refused it and sent him away. A few weeks later, having been more fortunate, the peddler remitted the amount in full and the Jew passed out of the Colonel’s thoughts. Two days after the fire that almost wiped The Dalles out of existence in 1891, Colonel Sinnott received a message from New York stating. “Wait for letter,” signed “Blumenthal.” With impatience the Colonel waited for the arrival of the letter, which came in due time. It stated that the writer had read in the press dispatches of The Dalles fire and presumed that the hotel burned was the Umatilla House. If so, the writer desired the Colonel to apply to him for what money he needed and to use six figures if necessary. The letter went on to state that the writer was the Hebrew peddler whom the Colonel had assisted. He had worked himself up to the head of an extensive manufacturing enterprise. It was said that Sinnott and Handley wept upon reading his telegram. Sinnott replied that his hotel had not been burned and that he was not financially distressed. Mr. Blumenthal then replied that he stood ready to assist him at any time, and that he would give any sum that he might need.’ [9]

When Judd Fish purchased an interest in the hotel in 1892, he found a bundle of I.O.U.s dating back to 1879, amounting to more than $16,000, none of them ever paid. The "accounts" ran from a few cents to $900, and represented men in every walk of life. Fish recalled that when he entered the business, he opened the safe and found it full of currency. Upon inquiring, he found that the money belonged to Mr. Sinnott. He asked that the money be counted before he took over the clerical work, and it was revealed that there was more than $13,000 in currency in the safe. It is little wonder that the bandit Tracy once planned to rob the Umatilla house. [13]

The New Umatilla House
The New Umatilla House, as illustrated on the hotel's stationery dated 1891.

 

THE NEW UMATILLA HOUSE

     When the third and final Umatilla House opened for business Oct. 25, 1879, it was a luxury hotel. The new Umatilla House was a 3-story structure with 126 rooms, two baths (an imposing ratio for the time and place) plus a toilet in the basement. The dining room was enormous. [19] and could seat 250 in the dining room and 200 in the bar. It featured a large lobby and a broad veranda on the front and west side of the building. The second floor gallery overlooked the Columbia. The main entrance led into an elegant lobby with walls covered in brocade and gilt, a magnificent glass chandelier overhead and custom carved furnishings. [24]
     The Dalles Times-Mountaineer reported April 27, 1880 that the new Umatilla House increased its capacity by building a new wing on the east end of the hotel, giving them accommodations for four hundred guests and the claim of being the largest hotel north of San Francisco.[5]
     The West Shore magazine of July 1880 stated the Umatilla House was a 100 X 120 building which cost $35,000. It had a 30 X 40 office; a dining room 50 X 90; a ladies room 24 foot square and had 123 rooms. It was rebuilt Oct. 25, 1879.

BUSINESS WAS BOOMING

Umatilla House Dining Room.
Umatilla House Dining Room.
#WCPA-29-15.

     The hotel did an immense business. It employed as many as 16 waiters and 12 cooks and the dining room seated as many as 250 people without moving a chair. The house fed as many as 1600 people at meal times.
     Handley was a hefty man, weighing over 300 pounds, and it was said he was he was a liberal patron of his own table.
      At meal times he dragged a special made-to-order chair that fit his bulk to the door of the dining room and acted as cashier.
The price of meals were two bits (25¢) and four bits (50¢), depending upon whether you sat at the commercial table or at the table for the general public which meant farm hands, mule skinners, bull whackers, prospectors, miners, brakemen, homesteaders. If you wanted to sit with the gamblers, drummers and politicians you paid four bits and had an orange or banana while the two-bitters had to get along with an apple pie. Meals and a room were $1 a day or $20 a month. To traveling men, or "drummers", meals were 50 cents and $2 for room and board.
     Dalles railroaders generally paid $20 a month for room and board (1882). The guests ranged from bankers to bums and many miners came down to spend the winter every year, at the old hotel, as likewise did sheep and cattleman.
     They served 500 meals a day in the dining room. Chew Kee was the head cook and he could keep 200 orders in his head, as fast as waiters could bark them at him, and never mix an order up! He had helpers who could do just as good. There was 12 cooks employed in the Umatilla House kitchen and 16 waiters served 600 meals a day.
     When the railroads came through, they fed five trains of people a day. At the time, there were no diners on the trains. The trains all stopped for meals for 20 minutes to allow their passengers to eat. Five trains a day; 150 people to each train. Either Handley or Sinnott would meet all trains outside ringing a big brass bell to indicate dinner was being served. When the Philippine war was on, they fed 5,000 meals a day to troops.[6]
     Once a large delegation of 800 people from Chicago filled the place to capacity.
     The dining room was converted into a ball room important social events. Dozens of balls, including the Fireman’s ball, were held in the dining room and hundreds of weddings were celebrated in the ladies’ parlor. For many years it was considered “the thing” for the bride and groom to meet at the Umatilla House to be married and then celebrate the event with a wedding breakfast or luncheon, followed by a trip on the boat to Portland for a wedding journey.

THE FLOW OF GOLD

Umatilla House Lobby
Umatilla House Lobby.
#WCPA-29-7

     For 18 years the Umatilla House did a land office business, its bar room making even more money than the rent from the rooms or the profit from the meals.
      The hotel took in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sinnott kept $13,000.00 in the safe at one time. It was said there were poker games when there would be $10,000 on the table at one time. A roulette wheel graced the billiard room.
      It was the bank for the railroaders and steam boat men where they came for their pay rolled in gold coins and placed in the safe with the name of each man on the roll.
      The majority of guests patronizing the Umatilla House were stock, mining, railroad and steamboat men. Scattered among them were military men from camps and forts, and the usual number of adventurers, gamblers and hard characters.
      Ed. D. Wood, chief special agent for the Union Pacific, reported to the Oregonian, "I have seen poker games there when there would be $10,000 on the table at one time. It was the place from which departed the stage coaches for all points in eastern and central Oregon and eastern Washington, Idaho and Utah. That was before the days of the railroad. I lived there with Nick Sinnott and his brother Roger for several years. It was a great place to become acquainted and learn what was going on in the country east of the mountains. [22]
     Surprisingly, the Umatilla was singularly free of brawls. Only one shooting scrape there is clearly on record. Charlie Mitzdorf, a bartender, was killed by a bad man, Cunningham, who he tried to throw out. [20]

LUXURIOUS ACCOMMODATIONS

     A broad veranda shaded the front. One entered the Umatilla House on First street into the spacious office with its heavily carved black walnut counter. The keyboard with its two carved ducks and goat's head hung on the wall behind the counter. On the black walnut desk was the large slate with space marked for 120 rooms. Behind the counter was the ponderous safe bearing the name of the house and the proprietors, while in a huge chair (made to order) sat "Major" Handley and greeted each guest as if the guest had come to remain all winter.

     The doors to the right led to the bar — the drinking capacity of whose patrons would have made the temperance societies of New England pale with wonderment. In the rear of the bar room were billiard and card tables. Those who remember when soldiers, stockmen and settlers crowded the Umatilla house state that as many as 200 men at one time were often seen in the bar room. The Umatilla house barroom made even more money than the rent from the rooms or the profit from the meals. [2]

Twin Virgins detail from backbar
Detail from the Twin Virgins backbar, now located at the Portage Grill in The Dalles.
Susan Buce photo

     A dual set of mahogany and rosewood back bars graced the Umatilla House. Known as the "Twin Virgins," the back bar was designed and hand carved in Milan, Italy, circa 1879 and then transported by ship across the Atlantic Ocean and up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri, where the W. L. Louis company completed the woodwork for the back bar. Upon completion, the back bar was sent by sailing ship around Cape Horn to it's final destination in Oregon. The 21,000 mile journey through treacherous waters took nine months to complete. Once in Oregon waters, the bar was transferred to a stern wheeler for it's trip up the Columbia River. [35]
     It had been purchased for and was installed in the "new" Umatilla House. In the book, Stern Wheelers Up the Columbia, Randall Mills says of the Umatilla House and the back bar, "When the passenger entered the lobby, he was confronted by the handsomest counter and most elegant key rack in the state."
The billiard parlors in the northwest corner contained four Brunswick and Balke tables.[27]
      The doors to the left led to the dining room which had a seating capacity of 200. Famous salmon steaks were served here and fruits and vegetables from the rich gardens of Wasco county farms. Gilded chandeliers bearing kerosene lamps hung from the ceiling and Tom, the China boy, was kept busy from sunrise until sunset keeping the lamps clean and shining. On festive nights the dining room was cleared and used as a ballroom, and many were the gay parties held there during all seasons.
     On the second floor was the "ladies parlor," not a large room, but elegant for the eighties. It was carpeted in bright Brussels and furnished with heavily upholstered chairs. A mirror with ornamental golden frame happily greeted each incoming feminine guest. A square piano bearing the name J.P. Hale & company, New York, stood in one corner. On the walls were oil paintings of mountain scenery and one of a woman on horseback, wearing a habit of modern tent-like proportions. The parlor of the Umatilla house has been the setting for many weddings. Happy young couples came from all directions to be married under the glittering lights and before the golden framed mirror, and if the weather was fair and the steamers running on schedule the event was topped off by a sail down the great river to Portland.
     The Umatilla house and its genial hosts, Handley and Sinnott, were known throughout the northwest states. Cowboys, railroad magnates or honeymooners were treated to the best that Oregon afforded. Meals were 25 and 50 cents each... The household furnishings were first-class. A receipt, still in possession of Judd Fish of The Dalles, shows a bill for $9000 worth of furniture which included many pieces of walnut and marble slabs.
For many years the Umatilla house was the chief center of life in The Dalles. Before the railroad came all stages left the tavern, and after the establishment of the rail period all trains stopped at the office door.
Many people still remember the Umatilla hack which accommodated 26 people and cost $1,600. It was built by A.G. Wintermeier, a well-known wagonmaker who died in this city December 24, 1920. This hack brought passengers and baggage from the ferry landing and did a lively business on nights when balls and weddings were on wing at the hostelry.
     In 1891 Daniel Handley died and in 1892 Judd Fish purchased the hotel. Mr. Fish has in his possession today about $10,000 worth of unpaid notes which were left by Handley....[17]

     The Umatilla House was lighted by kerosene burning chandelier lamps hung from the ceilings. Old Tom, the veteran Chinese housekeeper, kept them shined and filled. There were lamps in every room and lobby, the bar and dining rooms each had a huge stove.
     Three huge heating stoves took full 4-foot wood, one each in the bar, dining rooms and lobby. The smaller stoves in each of the 114 rooms had to have shorter wood put in the woodbox by old Tom and his Chinese helpers. A patented metal container around the stovepipes of the big stoves furnished the hot water. [13]
      Venison, wild goose, Royal Chinook salmon were some of the specialties of the Umatilla House. They had a butcher shop the largest in town to prepare steaks, roasts, fish and fowl in for the kitchen. They used $600 worth of meat a month. Enormous quantities of beef, ham and bacon were bought; they stocked 4 ton of hams and bacon at a time and several hundred dozen eggs were in the store rooms, entire garden crops were bargained for the dining room. The hotel took all the garden produce Charles Denton and other local gardeners including the Chinese could raise for their kitchen. Their supply room was as big as a grocery store.
     Under the railing of the sidewalk down a steep bank and under the hotel was the basement. Ice was brought in by horseback from the ice caves on Mt. Adams. The hotel had ice cut on the river during the winter and stored it under the building and at the rear in sawdust filled rooms. When the water was rising, August Buchler came down with his team about 2 o'clock, May 30, 1894, to take some of the ice back to the Buchler brewery and thus save it. By 6 o'clock the water was up to the level of the sidewalk and the attempt had to be abandoned. [13]
Prices in those days were moderate. Wood was $2.50 a cord. Flour was $2.5 a barrel. Salmon were from 10 cents to 25 cents each. Chickens $2.50 a dozen. Fruit came at 25 cents a box, bacon 10 cents a pound, beef from 8 to 15 cents a pound and butter 20 cents.
     The basement had a huge storeroom for liquors and cigars, guarded by 2 huge brass padlocks as large as saucers. The Amber cocktails were famous. This was an insidious drink which slid down with smoothness, but 2 cocktails were sufficient to make the imbiber feel like a millionaire.
     The cellar at times held as much as 2500 gallons of whiskey. Major Handley and Tom Kelly, the bartender, would go down to the basement and open a 100 gallon barrel of hundred-proof whiskey. They would put in a gallon of glycerin and four gallons of water. During the process, they would continue to taste the whiskey to see if it was “right.” Generally, by the time it was “right”, Handley and Tom would be flat on the floor. As this was a daily occurrence, Sinnott would send someone down in the basement just before meals and train time to wake Handley. Sinnott drank very little, putting a few spoonfuls of whiskey in a glass of water when he imbibed.

The Stag at Bay
The Stag at Bay by Edwin Landseer
Landseer's illustration of The Stag at Bay was popular in the 1860s. This 1865 engraving, highlighted in charcoal and chalk, was purchased by Fred Wetle just prior to the Umatilla House being demolished. Wetle also purchased two rocking chairs from the Umatilla House. They were moved to a hunting cabin in Eastern Oregon that Wetle shared with Roy Johnson, Cecil Byers, and Dick Brace. The painting, along with the chairs, were stolen in the 1990's during a break-in. The location of this copy of The Stag At Bay is now unknown.

      Genuine birdseye maple could be found in the woodwork, a gold framed mirror stood in the corner of a room that Judd Fish said must have cost hundreds at the time of purchase.
     Paintings once graced the walls, of Mt. Hood, the Columbia River and the Elk Standing at Bay and of the lady on horseback wearing the voluminous riding breeches.
     A huge roll of leather upholstery that once surrounded a pillar in the lobby and provided a back rest for an equally luxurious leather cushion.
      The chairs used on the veranda at the Umatilla House are now at Fort Dalles Museum. The two chairs are often on the porch of the fort, in addition to those hanging on the wall in the vehicle shed. [20]
     The keyboard of walnut, with its carved goat's head and pendent mallard ducks is now located at Fort Dalles Museum. The wood and carving style is similar to the "twin virgins" backbar.

     Other businesses operated within the walls of the Umatilla. The ticket and baggage office for the O.R. & N. railroad, general stage office for Canyon City, Prineville and Goldendale were in the building. In later years the Western Union Telegraph office was located there, as well as a barber shop, even a gift shop. [27]

I. C. "Ed" Nicholsen, was the steward in 1869, his brother the night clerk. An immigrant from Germany, he came to The Dalles in 1867 from New York state. Nicholsen later opened a book and stationery store that is still in operation in 2013, now under the name of "Klindt's Booksellers."

GUESTS

Umatilla House Keyboard
Umatilla House key board, with carved ducks on the corners and carved goat's head in the center. Now part of the Fort Dalles Museum collection.

An immense register lay open on the front desk and from time to time signatures of famous men were written there. [20] Guests included men of every type, from bankers to bums. Col. Sinnott endeavored to be at the desk on the arrival of all stages, boats and trains to welcome the incoming guests with true "western hospitality." The good colonel was known far and wide for his remarkable ability for impressing the appearance of people upon his memory, so that even years afterwards, should he meet the guest again he could recall the name of the person and where and when he had met them!
Sinnott and Handley were the hosts for many notables. World travelers and other distinguished visitors included Lord Litchfield of England, Mark Twain, Thomas Alva Edison and his wife, and George Francis Train, who’s motto was ‘Round the World in 80 Days, a feat which he accomplished in days when travel was not as easy. After Train's name on the register was the notation "Walked across the Columbia river on the backs of the salmon," in reference to Sinnott's stock story with which he greeted the unwary traveler. [13].
Renowned fighters, John L. Sullivan and James Corbett, stopped there on different occasions. Sullivan was a typical rough-neck, insulting and abusing everybody in his reach as he swaggered through the bar room. "Pompadour Jim" Corbett was more the polished gentleman, and hundreds of Dalles people peered through the window as he ate in the dining room at 10 o'clock of a summer morning. [13]
The old registers of the Umatilla House were a veritable "who's who" of Oregon and the west, including Rev. Thomas Condon, abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, George H. Williams, Dr. McLaughlin, Delazon Smith, Governor George L. Woods, Senator John H. Mitchell, Sim Reed, Captain Ainsworth, R.R. Thompson, and John Gates.
From the veranda of the Umatilla house Malcolm Moody made his first speech after being nominated for congress. From the same veranda, Grant, Villard and Sherman spoke to Dalles people. [13]. President Hayes and later, President Harrison were greeted there by citizens. [4]
Henry Villard, the big railroad man of his time stayed at the Umatilla about '82 that the railroad came to The Dalles. There was a big celebration of the event at the time. He made a speech from the Umatilla Hotel veranda upon the completion of the first trans-continental railroad, the Northern Pacific, in 1883. [20]
On the register of Umatilla House were the names of many army officers and other distinguished men, among whom were General U.S. Grant, who found shelter inside its doors while yet a lieutenant. Years after when he had twice been honored with the highest position within the gift of the people, he stood within its portal to grasp the hands of citizens who came to welcome him. [4]. General W.T. Sherman, General Thomas and General Hancock, and General O.O. Howard also were guests.
During the Bannock Indian war of 1878 General O. O. Howard, who was in command, was often a guest at the Umatilla House and to him “Colonel” Sinnott suggested the feasibility of mounting guns on the river beats above Celilo. As a result of his suggestion the steamer Spokane was armored so as to patrol the river and prevented the Indians from crossing. They were obliged to retreat and the war then came to a close.
President Harrison made a speech in front of the Umatilla house. Vice-President Schuyler Colfax and President Hayes were guests.
One of the Umatilla House guest book registers is now part of the collections at both Fort Dalles Museum and another is at the Original Wasco County Courthouse.
Many of the old registers met a strange fate. They were sold some years ago to a local drug store for filing prescription slips, and over the signatures of such famous men as noted above are pasted thousands of formulas to cure tummy-aches and toothaches. [13].

HIGH SOCIETY

Some people made their entrance into the world at the Umatilla House. On Nov. 8, 1865 a baby daughter was born to the wife of E.W. Reynolds, Nov. 10, 1865.
Some people made their exit from the Umatilla. Feb. 23, 1866, The daughter of Prof. L.L. Rowland, aged 2 years, died at the Umatilla House Feb. 22, 1866.
Sadly, one other child's death deeply impacted the owners of the Umatilla. The newspaper published May 11, 1867 reported, "Lizzie Handly, infant daughter of Daniel & Catherine Handley, departed this life on Tuesday morning at 11 o'clock, May 7th, 1867. She was born on Monday, Nov. 16th, 1863."
Her grave is marked, "Elizabeth, daughter of D. & C. Handley, died May 7, 1867, aged 3 y's, 6 M's & 21 D's. "God took thee in his mercy, A lamb untasked, untried" [14]
On June 21, 1887 a British banquet was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria. Fifty Wasco County citizens of English birth or descent paid $2.50 a plate plus $2.50 cover charge for an 11 course banquet with light wines. If the food in any way failed to justify the price, the responses to the toasts that evening made up for it, one to Queen Victoria; one to the president of the united States and eleven other toasts. [31]

[Birth & Death Extracts from The Dalles, Oregon [Wasco County) Newspapers 1865-69]

TALL TALES AND FISHY STORIES

“Colonel” Sinnott was one of the best known hotel men in the northwest and came in contact with many celebrities, among whom was George Francis Train, of Tacoma. This noted writer he regaled with a tale that during the season salmon were so plentiful in the Columbia that one could walk across the river on their backs. Another of the “Colonel’s” fish stories was an account of a run of salmon so large that the fish got jammed in the narrows of the Columbia four miles east of The Dalles, where the river is less than two hundred feet wide. Here the fish died from suffocation, like so many sheep.
The dead fish clogged up the river until the weight of the accumulated water broke the dam and the dead fish were washed down the river and lined its banks from The Dalles to Hood River. That summer the “Colonel” said, “The farmers for thirty miles back from the river drove their hogs to the Columbia, where they fed on the dead salmon.” “Don't you know,” he said, “it took ten generations of breeding to breed out of the descendants of those hogs the pink eye, pink flesh and the salmon taste.”
Another of “Colonel” Sinnott's famous fish stories took the form of rhyme. The “big fish” was a hump-back salmon, the first one known to be caught near The Dalles. The salmon, unlike the ordinary type, had a large, rounding hump just back of its head, and while not near as large as ordinary, created a topic for considerable conversation. The first of its species caught was brought to the Colonel at the Umatilla House. The Colonel, believing the fish of sufficient interest, displayed it in the front of the building.
Linas Hubbard, who at that time was working for O.D. Taylor, an old time Baptist preacher and founder of Granddalles, came down to the hotel to take a picture of the fish. Thinking he could have a bit more fun from his work, by bringing the fish more prominently displayed in the foreground. A first picture was taken of the Colonel, who was not an expert in photography, standing several feet to the rear of the post, with John Mitchell, which of course made the fish look very large. A second picture was taken of the Colonel standing with John Mitchell several feet in front of the post, which made the fish look very small.

Some rhyming wagster penned the following doggerel lines on the pictures:

“Colonel” Sinnott went a-fishing not very long ago,
And caught a fish that looked like this,
—At least he told them so.
He invited all his neighbors to come and take a look
And sent for D. C. Herrin to have its picture took.
The fame of the Colonel's fish spread throughout the town,
It brought the folks from many miles around;
But when the crowd had assembled,
The Colonel's fish, it looked like this.
The Colonel said—My! How it has dwindled!

Sinnott often recounted how the Columbia River was often so full with salmon that it was possible to walk across the river on their backs. He also said they crowded each other out on the banks of the river, died, and decomposed. Wild hogs came down out of the hill and ate them. It took 3 generations to get the taste out of the hog meat so it was fit to eat.

They would buy several hundred dozen eggs packed in oatmeal in the fall. Once Sinnott & Handley bought 300 dozen eggs and stored them away, and when Chew Kee went to use them, he found they were all hardboiled. They sold to fish by Matt Peasley; they exchanged practical jokes. Judd took a display egg to the bartender, Tom Kelly. He broke it open, saw it was fresh. He bought the eggs for 4 cents a dozen and hauled them 50 miles. Chew Kee, the Chinese chef, tried to crack it open on the fry pan and it bounced away and rolled across the floor. “Don’t you know what is the matter with this egg, Chew?” “No, me no sabbee.” Boss put egg on a meat block and whacked it in two parts with a butcher knife. “That goggled eyed yap boiled those eggs. He did it to get even with me for a gag I once pulled on him.”

FLOODING

In 1894, severe weather and flooding struck the entire west coast, and The Dalles was no exception. On June 2, 1894 The Dalles Chronicle reported, "The floods are not confined to the Columbia, but have extended all over the coast. The Fraser is higher than ever known, while the Sacramento and streams of Southern California are raging. Three persons were drowned in the streets of Los Angeles. In Colorado every stream is a torrent."

usinesses were forced to move from Main Street (now First Street) back, to Second or Third Street. The Dalles Chronicle stated, " At noon First Street was out of sight, being under water from Mill Creek to the grade at the East End. The water measured three inches higher at noon than at 6 o’clock this morning. This morning the water had taken possession of Third street from Court west... Down by the U.P. the tops of the coal cars are just visible... Every available team in town and many from the country are at work moving goods and household effects...The Umatilla house put in another false floor last night, which is its limit for the lower story. Should the rise continue the range will be moved up stairs, and business kept on just the same. Judd Fish says he is in it to stay as long as the roof is dry.... An iron pot floated up the street to our office door this morning, which convinced us it was time to move. Iron pots floating up stream indicate extremely high water... The man with the longest legs now wears the broadest smile, because it is further from his body to the street..."

During the flood of 1897 The Dalles Weekly Chronicle ran an article Saturday, May 22, 1897, titled "All About A Cat; Steward Wilson of the Umatilla House Saves His Pet." The Umatilla House boasts of a small family of cats which make their home in the big basement. Among these are several regular pets, and among the latter is a big white one that is the particular favorite of Steward Wilson. The rising waters here interfered considerably with the home arrangements of the felines, causing them to seek quarters on beams and sills, where they are cramped for room. Yesterday Wilson heard one of the family crying most mournfully, and fearing his pet might be in danger he proceeded to examine into the matter. He went on the lower back porch and leaning over the railing tried to see where the complaining cat was. He couldn't see, although he could hear her, so he leaned just a little further over, but in vain. Then he let out another link in his system and stretched his neck to his utmost limit. He thought he could catch a glimpse of her, but was not sure, so he uncoupled another inch, which was just half an inch too much. Slowly his heels started skyward, while his frantic hands grabbed vainly after some saving hold. His agonized face told a story of mental activity too vivid and heartrendering for us to attempt to transcribe, and then the attraction of gravitation began to work, and with one convulsive wiggle, the descending Wilson struck the water head on and disappeared from view. Mr. Brooks, who was examining the gauge in the river a short distance above, was almost paralyzed with astonishment when he noted that the river had risen .3 in as many seconds, and was just preparing to strike out for the bluff when Wilson came to the surface spouting water like a young whale. Wilson had a long apron on, which got tangled around his legs, but he swam around the corner of the building and made a successful landing at the foot of Union street. As he came dripping up the incline with the big white apron clinging to him, he looked like a short-haired mermaid. The cat escaped. [23]

ALL THINGS COME TO AN END

Major Daniel Handley lived in room 11 and died there November 19, 1891. He was a very large man, requiring an appropriately sized coffin. An extra-size coffin was taken to the room for the major, and it was tipped on its side to get it through the door. Coming out, it was of course impossible to tip the coffin on its side, and the door jamb had to be removed.
After Handley's death, Judd Fish entered a partnership with his father-in-law in 1892, becoming a co-owner of the hotel. Colonel Sinnott remained an active, vigorous man for some time. The Umatilla served as the ticket office for the O.R. & N. Railroad, the agent for all stage lines, and provided access to the Western Union telegraph and long distance telephone. Fish had full control of the business end of the hotel for 15 years. Fish put in steam heat, electric lights, and call bells. Rates were $1.00, $1.50, and $2.00 per day, with baths an added 50¢. After the flood of 1894 he removed the veranda in 1895.
Col. Sinnott died in 1897.
Changes were not lost on the public. The Dalles Daily Chronicle reported Sept. 29, 1897, "The Umatilla House office is being changed so that old-timers feel lost on entering it. the counter has been moved up to the front, the big safe placed in the corner of the bar-room, the door between it and the office being removed and everything else is moved as systematically as a woman changes the bedstead and furniture in a bedroom when she has nothing else to do. [26]
The glory of the Umatilla house declined with the coming of the telephone. From that time on it was not necessary to communicate with a friend through meeting him at the Umatilla house — one could call him over the telephone. [13]
Changed conditions, the coming of the Pullman car and the diner, steamboats competed against trains that weren't hampered by the rapids at The Dalles, all impacted the Umatilla House. Businesses, tired of coping with seasonal floodwaters, moved from Main street to Second Street. Stagecoaches were replaced by automobiles. The Umatilla House slipped into neglect.

Fish sold it to Thomas N. Crofton in 1906. The Sunday Oregonian reported Dec. 16, 1906, "With the transfer of this hotel by Sinnott & Fish is dropped the firm name which was about the last link that connected the old hostelry with what might appropriately be termed the age of romance in Oregon." [7]
After Fish sold the Umatilla House he tried grain farming, managed a hotel in Pendleton, Oregon and later The Dalles Hotel. He served the town as councilman, treasurer, water commissioner, mayor and recorder. His grandson remembered him as a "witty, outgoing man with a talent for storytelling and cartooning.[24]
In 1909 the Hotel Dalles was opened and the Umatilla House became only a historic memory.
The Umatilla House continued to decline, dwindling down until it was only a reminder of the days that it once was, when its fame was nation-wide and The Dalles was the "biggest little city in the west."
Tom Crofton kept it open until 1919. [20]
The Dalles Chronicle reported May 1, 1924, " The old Umatilla House, landmark of the early days of Wasco county and known from Nome to San Francisco as a palatial hostelry of that time, may be sold under the sheriff's hammer in satisfaction of a tax lien by Wasco County. Under the name of Thomas Crofton, present owner of the building and site, the description of that property is given in a decree in foreclosure of tax liens, signed this morning by Judge Fred W. Wilson in the circuit court."
The old building was traded by Tom Crofton for a beautiful home in San Diego. The Californian made the trade without seeing the old hotel. When he did, he decided to raze it and salvage such material as he could. [22]

Umatilla House Bus
The Umatilla House bus is now located
at Fort Dalles Museum.

     An article in The Dalles Chronicle, June 17, 1927 said "Even in rooms where the plaster is falling from the walls, and where debris litters the floor, one may catch glimpses of formal splendor. Genuine birdseye maple may be found in the woodwork of one room. A wonderful gold framed mirror that must have reflected the images of many noted beauties of the time stands in one corner of this room. This mirror, which must have cost hundreds of dollars even in those days of low prices, was purchased this week by a local man for $5. Other relics of a bygone day were purchased for presentation to the historical society. Stored indiscriminately in the large room at the north of the building are paintings that once graced the walls, and a huge roll of leather upholstery that once surrounded a pillar in the lobby, and provided a back rest for an equally luxurious leather cushion, where many a weary traveler probably rested. [21]
     The Umatilla house was ordered torn down on June 26, 1929 by its owner, B.H. Salisbury. and now no trace of it remains except the odd pieces of its costly furnishings purchased here and there by those who valued their historic significance or their beautiful workmanship.
      Fort Dalles Museum now possesses the old keyboard, a chair, a register, and the old Umatilla House Bus was used every year in the Legion Frolics parade was built by August Wintermier of The Dalles at a cost of $1600. It's now a part of the Fort Dalles Museum antique vehicle collection and can be seen in the annual Fort Dalles Days parade. [2]
      The chairs used on the veranda at the Umatilla House are now at Fort Dalles Museum. The two chairs are often on the porch of the fort, in addition to those hanging on the wall in the vehicle shed. [20]
     The dual "Twin Virgins" back bars were salvaged from the building and over the years moved several times from one site to the next. One remains in The Dalles at the Portage Grill lounge, the other is located in the Oxbow Coffee House & Restaurant in Prairie City, Oregon.

An article published in The Dalles Chronicle July 3, 1929 reported: Razing of Umatilla House now under way. Lumber 50 years old is well preserved; all furniture out.
     The work of wrecking the historic old Umatilla house is proceeding at a satisfactory rate, according to George Segers, who is in charge of the job.
     All furniture, including beds, curtains, dressers and commodes has been moved from the upper floors to the hotel lobby and dining room, and will be sold soon.
All of the windows of the upper floors have been removed and are stored in the lobby awaiting sale, while the crews today began tearing out door and window casings, mouldings, waiscoting and plaster on the third floor.
      An inspection this morning showed the red cedar finish lumber in the building to be well preserved, the casings in most cases having the appearance of new lumber except for the nail holes.
     Dimension lumber in the walls shows no sign of age, while the lath might have been one year old instead of fifty, it was declared.
      On a number of pieces of the finish lumber the address "H. & S., The Dalles," (Handley and Sinnott) on the inner side is as fresh today as when the lumber was first received in 1879 for the reconstruction of the new building which had burned when but partly completed. [15]

On July 13, 1929, The Dalles Chronicle reported: Razing of Umatilla House Halted. Temporary injunction signed; Mortgage held in Peril.
     A temporary injunction restraining workmen from doing any further work toward tearing down the Umatilla house was issued in the circuit court today by Judge Fred W. Wilson, following the filing of a motion of restraint by Paul W. Childers.
     In connection with the action for enjoinder, Childers brought suit against Benjamin Salisbury, Mary Dozier and George Segers for $361 alleged due on a note secured by the Umatilla house property. The note was made by T.N. Crofton and wife and assigned to the defendants.
     In his complaint, Childers alleges that he is the holder of the note secured by a mortgage. He alleges that the terms of the mortgage have been broken in that the property is not insured as required and that liens have been allowed to go against the property.
     The liens, which included street and sidewalk assessments, are greater than the value of the real property and in razing the building the holders of the mortgage are being deprived of their security, the document alleges.
     The next move is expected to be made by the defendants, who will come into court with a motion to have the injunction dissolved. In granting the temporary injunction, Judge Wilson indicated that he was in no manner settling the alleged civil suit. Considerable interest was manifested locally in the motion for an injunction. [16]

Source Bibliography

Much of the history given about the Umatilla house has been copied, and repeated over and over the years by people who did not cite their original source documentation. As far as I can tell, primary sources are an article written by George P. Couper, dated Jan. 27, 1929, and an article published in the Oregon Journal Feb. 8, 1925, by Fred Lockley, based on an interview with Judd Fish. The bulk of this article's content seems to have come from one or both of those sources. I have cited source documentation where I can. The rest will have to be filed under the title "Did you hear the one about....?"

Photos: Wasco County Pioneer Association collection courtesy of WCPA and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center www.gorgediscovery.org. For reprints call 541-296-8600.

[1] History of Wasco County, Oregon by Wm. H. McNeal
[2] "Impressions and Observations of the Journal Man", also published as "The Umatilla House" by Fred Lockley, Oregon Journal, Feb. 8, 1925, 22
[3] The resources of Oregon and Washington, Volume 4, Issue 1, p. 73. (Google Books, University of Michigan).
[4] The Dalles Times-Mountaineer, Sept. 14, 1895
[5] The Dalles Times-Mountaineer, April 27, 1880
[6] The Dalles Optimist, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1958 "Elks Lodge Honors Pioneer Member... Johnny Adkins, Early Day Steward at Umatilla House, Enjoys 83rd Birthday"
[7] Oregonian, December 16, 1906
[8] Portland, Oregon, its history and builders, Vol. III, by Joseph Gaston. Chicago-Portland, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911, p. 51-52
[9] Lulu Crandall, The Dalles Chronicle, September 30, 1927.
[10] History of the Columbia River Valley From The Dalles to the Sea, Vol. II, Pages 823-826
[11] http://files.usgwarchives.net/or/wasco/bios/sinnott746gbs.txt
[12] An Illustrated History of Central Oregon, Embracing Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, Crook, Lake and Klamath Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, Spokane, WA., 1905
[13] Umatilla House Ordered Torn Down; Unique Place Claimed, by George P. Couper, The Dalles Daily Chronicle, June 27, 1929, p.1 (Note: the dateline appearing on the front page of this newspaper was a typographical error...it read June 27, 1920. The physical print archives of The Dalles Chronicle show this newspaper bound with other newspapers from 1929 and subsequent pages of this issue, including page 2 which backs the front page, show the 1929 dateline. Typos happen, even in the front page dateline of reputable newspapers. Trust me, I know.)
[14] Grave stone, St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery, The Dalles, Oregon.
[15] Razing of Umatilla House now under way, The Dalles Chronicle, July 3, 1929, page 1
[16] Razing of Umatilla House Halted, The Dalles Chronicle, The July 13, 1929, page 1
[17] Lulu Crandall binders, The Dalles-Wasco County Public Library rare book case, article copy, probably The Dalles Chronicle, date not cited
[18] May sell Old Landmark for Taxes, The Dalles Weekly Chronicle, Thursday May 8, 1924, The Dalles Daily Chronicle May 1, 1924
[19] The Columbia, Stewart Hollbrock, page 120
[20] Umatilla House binder, Fort Dalles Museum. Misc. papers, Source citation unknown.
[21] Umatilla House binder, Fort Dalles Museum. Misc. papers, Source given as The Dalles Chronicle, June 27, 1927.
[22] Umatilla House binder, Fort Dalles Museum. Misc. papers, Source citation given as Oregonian, Jan. 27, 1929.
[23] The Dalles Weekly Chronicle, Saturday, May 22, 1897
[24] Ten Spikes to the Rail, 385 John Roger Twohy, p. 51-52
[25 - undated newspaper article clipping, probably The Dalles Chronicle.]
[26] The Dalles Daily Chronicle reported Sept. 29, 1897
[27] The Wasco Sun, Dalles City Directory, p. 112, (adv. p. 20), 1883
[28] Umatilla House, Famed in Early-Day Oregon, Doomed, newspaper article by S. Gertsman, probably published The Dalles Chronicle (date unknown)
[30] Misc. sources - Much of the history given about the Umatilla house has been copied, and recopied over and over by people who did not cite their source documentation. As far as I can tell, primary sources are an article written by George P. Couper, dated Jan. 27, 1929, an article published in the Oregon Journal by Fred Lockley, based on an interview with Judd Fish.
[31] Umatilla House Inn, Restaurant & Saloon card (former Tapadera Inn)
[32] The West Shore magazine of July 1880, Portland, Ore., said the Umatilla House was a 100x120’ building which cost $35,000. It had a 30x40’ office; a dining room 50x90’; and a ladies room 24 foot square.
[33] Wasco County Courthouse, Deed filed for record May 14, 1867, at 10 min. past 5 o'clock p.m. between H.P. Isaacs and Wife, Lucie, and Handley & Sinnott.
[34] History of Pacific Northwest—Oregon and Washington, p 388)
[35] Portage Grill handout, source cited as Gladys Seufert.
[36] Kelly v. Dalles City, Supreme Court of Oregon, May 28, 1890; published in The Pacific Reporter, Volume 24, July 8-Dec. 4, 1890, St. Paul, West Publishing Co., 1891.
[37] Wasco County Deeds, p. 722
[38] "Reminiscences of Eastern Oregon," Elizabeth Lord Laughlin, page 139.
[39] Wasco County Pioneer Association photo collection, stored at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco History Museum, 5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles, OR 97058, photo collection accession number WCPA 16-53, detail Umatilla Hotel.
[40] U.S. Census, Dalles Precinct, County of Wasco, June 1860.

Plantiff: Rob't Callighan, Defendants: Handley & Sinnott. (p. 21)
[Wasco County, Oregon, Index to Circuit Court Cases, 1854 - 1900, These records are at: the Oregon State Archives, 1005 Broadway N.E., Salem, Oregon 97301. Compiled by Lorna Elliott for the Columbia Gorge Genealogical Society, 722 Court Street, The Dalles, Oregon 97058, 1989]

Number: 347; Date: Mar. 15, 1889; Estate: Handley, John E., (p. 23)
Number: 355; Date: May 11, 1889; Estate: Handley & Sinnott (p. 23)
Number: 384; Date: Dec. 1, 1890, Estate: Handley, Daniel (p. 23)
[Wasco County, Oregon, Probate Records, 1854 - 1948, These records are at: the Oregon State Archives, 1005 Broadway N.E., Salem, Oregon 97301. Compiled by Lorna Elliott for the Columbia Gorge Genealogical Society, 722 Court Street, The Dalles, Oregon 97058, 1989]

 

 

 

 

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