N.P. Ry.

History of the Discovery of Stampede Pass

By Virgil G. Bogue

Northern Pacific Railway Company
Valuation Department
Below I will give some particulars relating to exploration of Green River, and Stampede Pass in the winter of 1881.
About January 1 of 1881, I received instructions from Colonel Isaac W. Smith to explore Tacoma Pass, which had been discovered by J.T. Sheets in the Autumn previous, and the range to the north of that pass to some point, which would cover all possible passes, that might lead out of the Green River in that direction. In the Autumn previous, four cabins had been built by a party under Colonel Smith's direction in suitable localities, between Thorpe's Prairie, subsequently known as Supply Camp, and a point four or five miles west of Tacoma Pass. A party of three or four men, well supplied with provisions, had been left at Thorpe's Prairie during the winter, with instructions to be ready for any orders they might receive. When we left Tacoma, therefore, to begin the exploration, orders were sent to these men to cross the range, and build a fifth cabin as far down Green River as practicable, and to try to meet the party exploring from the West.
We left Tacoma without any delay and went to McClintock's situated on the divide between White River and Green River (near Enumclaw). From McClintock's we were obliged to cut a trail through the brush and fallen logs. Our first camp at McClintock's was January 17, 1881. We worked steadily at the trail, moving camp frequently, and camped on Green River at a point 500 to 1,000 feet east of the present second crossing of that stream on January 26, 1881. Our camp on Green River was Camp No. 5.
We continued our work on the trail, arriving and camping at Camp No. 7 on February 8, 1881, on Green River at the mouth of a stream which we subsequently called Canoe Creek, because we tried to make a canoe there and failed. The snow on our arrival, was about two feet deep and crusted over. We found that the pack trains could go no farther, and that it was quite impracticable to cut out a trail. We concluded therefore, to take to the sleds with which we had been provided, packing on men's backs, in steep places where the sleds could not be used. The party was supplied with snow shoes; but it was not always practicable to use them.
With pack-trains bringing supplies to the shed at Canoe Creek, and sleds, etc., beyond, the party kept on, arriving at Camp No. 10 on February 19. At this place we were obliged to remain four days, owing to a rain storm which flooded all the streams in the river to such an extent that they were practically impassable. the morning of February 24 we got under way again, and shortly after leaving camp, saw a large eagle soaring above our heads, and from this circumstance named the camp we had left ''Eagle Gorge.''
On March 2, we reached Camp No. 13 on Green River, not far about the mouthy of what was subsequently known as Smay Creek, (near Maywood) [Smay Creek forms the western boundary of what in 1911 became Elmer G. Morgan's Nagrom]. the labor and exposure of the party since leaving Canoe Creek as well as before had somewhat discouraged some of the men, and I determined to push on from this point with a small party of three or four, without any outfit but provisions for a few days, with the hope of finding the cabin, which the party at Thorpe's Prairie had been instructed to build as above described.
[p. 1]
Giving the men who remained behind orders to spend their time in getting provisions up to their camp from Canoe Creek, until they should hear from me, I started on my trip on the morning of March 3, my companions being Joe Wilson, Indian Peter and Indian Charley.
Our first camp, which I called Camp No. 14, continuing the camp numbers brought from below, was on a hill not far above [Green River] Hot Springs. Our next camp, No. 15, was on a gravel bar in what we afterward called Sunday Creek, because we did a great deal of work near Lester along that creek on the Sabbath. On the night following February 5 our Camp No. 16 was at the foot of the ridge in the angle formed by Camp Creek and Sunday Creek (near Borup). We had, therefore, passed entirely by the cabin, which we afterward found located on Green River about one mile above the mouth of Sunday Creek. Our course having been on the north bank of Green River, we had naturally followed Sunday Creek, not having seen any other large stream[s], owing to the heavy growth of timber.
The day of our arrival at Camp No. 16, we found that our Indian companions were not of much use, and were consuming the provisions, so we went them back to the main body of men with instructions to get more provisions and follow in our foot-steps. We remained at Camp No. 16 until the morning of February 9, exploring the streams and ridges in that locality, hoping to find some trace of the cabin, or of the men who were to meet us. While we were camped there, Joe Wilson started back toward the main camp and met the Indians who were bringing more provisions. He sent the Indians back, and brought what provisions they had himself, so that we left Camp No. 16 on the morning of February 9 feeling pretty well. We had then concluded that the cabin we were looking for was on some other branch of Green River, and we proceeded down Sunday Creek, looking as well as we could for the mouth of some other large stream. This we found without much difficulty, and shortly afterward we came upon signs and blazed upon trees, that indicated the presence of white men. When we finally found the cabin, the men were not in but had evidently left it several days before. We shortly found their trail, and followed it across the mountain. arriving at Tacoma Pass in a snow storm, March 9, at 5:45 P.M., the Aneroid Barometer, which I carried marking an elevation of 3,760 feet. We continued across the Pass, arriving at what was known as Cabin No. 3 on Cabin Creek, near the mouth of Coal Creek, after dark. The following day we went to Thorpe's Prairie, where we found our friends. From that point I sent a messenger back across the mountains, who went over our trail in four days to Tacoma.
In order to get well rested, we remained at Thorpe's Prairie from March 10 until the morning of March 14. We then left for Tacoma Pass. During the 14th, 15th, and 16th, we explored Cabin Creek, Tacoma Pass, and the pass immediately north of it, called Sheet's Pass.
On the morning of March 16, we left Cabin No. 3, where we had been camped for our explorations in the vicinity of Tacoma Pass, to go along the range toward the north. We traveled on snow shoes, the men packing such provisions as we had. The snow was from seven to 30 or more feet deep. We followed up the main stream of Cabin Creek climbing to a point about 600 feet east of the range on the evening of the 16th, where we camped until morning. In the morning we climbed to the summit and followed the ridge to a high butte, which is south of, and overlooks Camp Creek and the headwaters of Sunday Creek. here one of the men stumbled and fell down a steep slope, plunging in the snow.
[p. 2]
As his snow shoe was the cause of the fall, we named the mountain Snow Shoe Butte. That night we camped lower down on the ridge between the butte and Stampede Pass.
The next day we tried to find the pass, which had clearly seen from the butte. The course of the range for a long distance was southeasterly, apparently tending in the direction of Yakima River. This deceived us as to our course, and we went back upon it several times, hoping to find a ridge leading to the north, which we presumed would be in the main divide. this search finally proving useless we camped on the night of March 18, at nearly the same place we had on the night of the 17th. The weather on the 18th was cold and the mountain tops covered with a cold fog, which was sometimes a snow storm.
On the morning of the 19th we broke came at about 8:30 A.M. The weather was fine, not a cloud in the sky. We had finally concluded that we must stick to the ridge we were on, and we pushed forward, and had such good luck that at 10:10 A.M. we arrived at the pass, the Aneroid barometer marking the elevation of 3,495 feet. Andy Drury, one of the men, remarked as we looked down upon the slopes of Sunday Creek and Green River, that it was the prettiest pass in the mountains. We remained only a few moments, and then continued our way north, discovering in the course of that and the succeeding day, three other passes. From the most northerly pass, which we found to be on the last pass leading out from the north toward any tributary of Green River, we explored a stream leading into Lake Kitchelos (now Kechelus). We arrived at Lake Kitchelos at 5:15 P.M. on March 21 and the next day at Cabin No. 1, which still stands near the mouth of Cabin Creek. The following day took us to Thorpe's Prairie.
By this time, more provisions had commenced to arrived from Ellensburg, for use in making surveys. As we were then familiar with the country, these provisions were sent through to Tacoma Pass as fast as they arrived, on sleds and on men's backs. We accumulated enough provisions there to commence the surveys on April 1. The party of men, which I had left on Green River near Smay Creek having then arrived the surveys were commenced, and were prosecuted during the season with a large force, several lines being run from Tacoma Pass and from Stampede Pass. All passes to the north of Stampede Pass were also examined, and sufficient instrumental surveys made to determine their character, with the result that Stampede Pass was finally selected as the most available one in the range. Besides myself, the following named men were in the party which explored the range from Tacoma Pass, north and which discovered Stampede Pass: James Gregg, Andy Drury and Matthew Champion. Gregg was the cook.

This item comes from the collection of Robert A. Robey, NP Ry., Retired. Bob Robey started on the Tacoma Division's South End just before World War Two, and save for a short stint in the Army helping to rebuild the Philippines, most of his railroading career was spent maintaining the sections of the NP. He was promoted to jobs on the East End, working at Dilworth, East Grand Forks, and Jamestown, before heading up the track team at Big Pasco during the middle 'fifties. Returning home to western Washington in 1960, he became Roadmaster Auburn, in charge of trackage on the hill for the incredibly long tenure of 12 years, moving on only after merger. A visit to his home today will reveal framed aerial photographs of a long ago Tell Tale covering the construction of the Pasco hump and bowl tracks.
This typed manuscript on legal paper was passed on to him by an unnamed friend in the NP's Engineering Department in St. Paul, Minn. My suspicion is that it's likely to have been copied by the NP at some later date from original notes by Bogue himself.
Virgil Bogue, remembered as the discoverer of Stampede Pass, came to the NP from work in the wilderness of South America, left the NP for bigger works--a short stint as the UP's Chief Engineer, harbor and river improvement work throughout the West, and his last unfinished job, drawing up plans for the re-sculpting the city of Seattle in the voter-defeated Greater Seattle Plan of 1916.
Bogue was just one of a huge cast of characters involved with the construction and reconstruction of Stampede Pass, a list which includes NP engineering staff General Adna Anderson, W.T. Chalk, Andrew Gibson, Herbert S. Huson, J.Q. Jamieson, John W. Kendrick, Thomas and William T. Kennedy, Edwin H. McHenry, W.T. Sheets, and Isaac W. Smith among others.
Lesser known to us today, but important actors on the local scene in their day were early Washington State political leaders L.C. Smith of Enumclaw and George Cotterill of Seattle, as well as William Pierce Bonney, present at the stampede and future head of the Washington State Historical Society.

Author: John A. Phillips, III. Title: History of the Discovery of Stampede Pass. URL: pw2.netcom.com/~whstlpnk/bogue.html.

© August 21, 2000