Forum Index > Pacific NW History > A. H. Sylvester's fatal accident in 1944
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tomastaylor
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tomastaylor
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 2:54 pm 
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I was googling for info on Panther Creek (the one near Mt. David) and one of the search results was a snippet from the book, Adventure in the Northwest, by Edson Dow. The snippet was tempting enough that I ordered the book from the King County Library. I found the book really interesting because it centered on the area between Lake Chelan, Lake Wenatchee, and the Alpine Lakes in the 1950's. From the viewpoint of this book, most of the people exploring the mountains and trails went by horseback.

The most interesting chapter was on A. H. Sylvester and the end of the chapter contained the story of his death:

"In September, 1944, he decided to take some old friends into his favorite area. So he invited Jack Scaman, Sr., president of the Wenatchee Federal Savings and Loan Association, and D. A. Shiner, his long-time friend and attorney, to accompany him on the trip. Also accompanying the party was Ansel Scaman, Jack's son.

"The weather was nice when they left the road on the trail up Chiwaukum Creek. Each had a saddle horse and they also had two pack horses in the outfit. They spent the first night at Lake Chiwaukum and enjoyed camp while the horses grazed on the mountain grasses.

"The next morning they were saddled early, lash ropes were tied down and they proceeded up through the beautiful valley towards Larch Lake. They switch-backed up the meadow, following the trail marked by stones piled on other stones through the knee-high pasture. They swung through Ewing Basin and looked clown on the mine workings at the foot of the cliff on (he other side of the canyon. The tunnels, tailings from the tunnel and evidence of the mining was'still visible from the early mine activities started back in the 1800's. They left this area and went on up to beautiful Larch lake. Larch Lake is a crystal clear lake nestled in the cliff hundreds of feet higher than Lake Chiwaukum. After several switchbacks on the granite talus slope and it steep climb, they passed Cup Lake. Cup Lake, nestled in the cliffs of the 7,000-foot-high area, is frozen over most of the year. From then on the trail was real rough.

"They still climbed up through the crags of Dead-horse Pass. Suddenly, one of the packhorses slipped, and end over end it went, down to the depths below. The horse was killed instantly and it was some time before they started out again. The party passed on the side hill below Lake Grace in the headwaters of the Wildhorse and were ready for camp at Lake Mary. Lake Mary is a small, high mountain lake, under 8,000-foot Snowgrass Mountain.

"On the steep switchback trail that traverses the saw-tooth ridge between Lakes Mary and Florence, they paused just over the hogback. From the air the steep ridge appears impassable. It was only from hard work in ages past that a passable trail was made at this point. .lust after crossing the ridge, with a beautiful view of lake Florence below, Mr. Sylvester paused and was pointing out Snowgrass Mountain to D. A. Shiner.

"He was now leading a pack horse by a lead rope. The lead rope to the Pack horse was thrown around the horn, and the reins of Mr. Sylvester's horse were knotted over the neck of the horse. As the horses bunched up so that the group could talk better, the lead rope caught tinder the tail of Sylvester's horse.

"They were in trouble. Sylvester's horse went off the trail bucking. The lead rope would not come free because of its position on the horn and Mr. Sylvester was caught in the saddle, his leg being pinned down with the lead rope. As his horse lost his footing and Sylvester's horse and pack horse went over into the jagged rock-slide area below, it was impossible for him to fall free and he was caught under the horse with the animal still kicking. There was no question that he was severely injured. Ansel Scaman and D. A. Shiner took care of Mr. Sylvester, wrapping him up and keeping him warm while Jack Scaman, an excellent rider, swung back over into the Wildhorse area and went on do White Pine Creek to the road for help.

"Immediately crews were organized to bring the injured man out and Dr. R. S. "Dick" Mitchell accompanied the rescue squad in. They took the shorter route up Icicle Creek and Frosty Pass to the scene of the accident. Doctor Mitchell, an excellent horseman, received the telephone call at 10:30 that evening and immediately left for the Icicle. They took off at 2 a.m. and arrived at the scene of the accident at 8:30 that morning.

"One of the west side snowstorms rolled over the Cascades and swept in on them with sleet and snow. Relays were set up by the Forest Service to carry Mr. Sylvester out on a stretcher. Deputy Sheriff Bill Humphreys and others kept coming in to relieve the exhausted stretcher carriers as the party slowly moved out. The organization of the Forest Service paid off and as soon as one team wore out, another would take its place.

"Ansel left to go out on White Pine Creek to meet his dad who was coming in that way. He became lost in the snowstorm several times only to again find a blaze and start on working out the trail.

"Jack had turned back, thinking that Ansel would come out with the rest of them because of the severity of the snowstorm. When Ansel finally broke out to the road below, his dad was surprised to see him and there was one relieved boy.

"September 14, 1944, North Central Washington lost one of its leading citizens when Mr. Sylvester failed to rally from the injuries.

"When a rider is in the Ladies Pass area, he not only admires the beauty of scenery, but his thoughts are also focused on the production and life dedication given to the mountains by A. H. "Hal" Sylvester."


I looked on Topo maps to trace this route and see where the accident took place. I see no marked trail from Larch Lake to Cup Lake. The terrain looks very steep. Even more so, there's no marked trail from Cup Lake over Dead Horse Pass. That looks super steep for climbers, let alone men on horses. For those that have hiked in that area, would it have really been possible to ride from Cup Lake up over Dead Horse Pass?

It's too bad that Sylvester died in such an accident after spending nearly his whole life traveling in the mountains.
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Backpacker Joe
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 3:04 pm 
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Good Lord.  Someone took horses up to Cup from Larch and then up to bloody Dead horse Pass?  Jesus Christ.  I realize horses were used a lot more back then but crap.  Horses have no business up here?  Its no wonder two of them peeled off.  That's crap irresponsible.   down.gif

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MLHSN
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 3:08 pm 
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Thanks for the snippet from the book.  It sounded interesting so I mail-ordered it through the library.

Looks like an interesting read.
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509
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 5:09 pm 
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Backpacker Joe wrote:
Good Lord.  Someone took horses up to Cup from Larch and then up to bloody Dead horse Pass?  Jesus Christ.  I realize horses were used a lot more back then but crap.  Horses have no business up here?  Its no wonder two of them peeled off.  That's crap irresponsible.   :down:

Being a hiker and not a horse person.  There were two rides where I wondered what the hell I was doing on top of a horse.  The ground was so steep that I was afraid to get off the horse and lead.

Going uphill on a horse was ok.  Going downhill was just absolutely terrifying!!

A good horse person can get to some rather interesting places.  I would just rather walk there.

The interesting part is that when the stuff hit the fan...they were just talking and not moving!!
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polarbear
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 5:24 pm 
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Thanks for the article!  Is A. H. Sylvester the same as that of Sylvester Lake?

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tomastaylor
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PostFri Nov 28, 2008 5:32 pm 
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Yep. A. H. Sylvester was the Wenatchee National Forest's first supervisor in the early 1900's. According to this article, "Sylvester named more than 1,000 geologic features in the first half of the twentieth century." (http://www.wta.org/magazine/1167.pdf) For example, he named the trio Mt. David, Mt. Jonathan, and Mt. Saul. He also named all the Poet Mountains. He named lots of lakes as well (for instance, Lake Alice after his wife and Lake Margaret after his daughter).
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Gil
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PostSun Nov 30, 2008 11:12 pm 
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Backpacker Joe wrote:
Good Lord.  Someone took horses up to Cup from Larch and then up to bloody Dead horse Pass?  Jesus Christ.  I realize horses were used a lot more back then but crap.  Horses have no business up here?  Its no wonder two of them peeled off.  That's crap irresponsible.   down.gif

Horses died at Dead Horse Pass?

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Mike Collins
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PostMon Dec 01, 2008 5:21 am 
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polarbear wrote:
Thanks for the article!  Is A. H. Sylvester the same as that of Sylvester Lake?

Friends initially requested the USFS to rename Snowgrass Mtn for Sylvester but the request was denied.  Sylvester Lake was the alternate idea. I came across the letters and replies while researching at the Suzzallo Library. They are housed in the Special Collections section.
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ree
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ree
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PostMon Dec 01, 2008 6:37 am 
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tomastaylor wrote:
. For those that have hiked in that area, would it have really been possible to ride from Cup Lake up over Dead Horse Pass?

Kleet and I did that hike two summers ago.

From Larch to Cup, the bootpath dips in and out of visibility.  It goes through meadow to talus.  I could see a horse making it.

From Cup to Deadhorse Pass, it was extremely steep.  Chossy loose rock and gravel for a big part of it...  I wouldn't want to be on a horse getting up there.  I remember having to crawl on that one.

I noticed the story described the valley between Chiwaukum and Larch as "beautiful."  Yes.  That is very true. up.gif

Thanks for posting that.
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Grannyhiker
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PostMon Dec 29, 2008 6:19 pm 
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Tying a loop in the end of a horse's lead rope to hang over the saddle horn of the leading horse used to be quite common.  It also led to quite a few serious accidents, such as Sylvester's.

A close friend of my mother was dragged to death when such a loop caught on her foot as she mounted her horse after opening and closing a gate.  She was leading a range-raised (i.e., basically wild) horse that was just barely halter broken.  The horse ran for miles and there wasn't much of her left to pick up.  This happened in the summer of 1947.  Immediately afterward, everyone in the area (NE Utah) removed loops from the ends of all lead ropes.

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509
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PostThu Jan 29, 2009 7:02 am 
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For those of you that want to meet the man in person.  You opportunity is Feb. 7th.  I wouldn't ask any questions about horses.

Nine local actors will portray people from the Wenatchee area’s past, appearing in costume and giving brief monologues as their characters. Visitors will be invited to talk with and ask question of the actors.

“Our goal is to provide factual information about our region’s history in an entertaining way,” said Michelle Loudon, WVMCC education coordinator. “By engaging with a specific character, visitors will have a personal experience that will help them remember the person’s role in our history and the culture that surrounded him or her.”

Four actors will appear at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center and five at the Museum of the Columbia. Guests are encouraged to visit both museums to meet all nine characters.

The actors and their characters at WVMCC will be:

* Rod Molzahn as the owner of Wenatchee’s first store and post office, Sam Miller.

* Denny McMillin as the first forest supervisor of the Wenatchee National Forest, Hal Sylvester.

* Audrey Seymour as Mourning Dove, a member of the Colville tribe and the first published female Native American novelist.

* Sue Lawson as Mamie Blair France, a member of the second family to settle in Wenatchee.

Appearing at the Museum of the Columbia will be:

* Bill Layman, portraying Chelan County PUD Commissioner and General Manager Kirby Billingsley.

* Andrew Munro as telephone lineman and co-founder of Wenatchee’s first power company, Morgan Mohler.

* Jack and Nadine Pusel as Deak and Lucy Brown, early Monitor pioneers and parents of the first white child born in the Wenatchee Valley.

* Kathy Smithson as Washington’s first female secretary of state, Belle Culp Reeves.

Images of the actors in character are available in the PUD’s Media Room photo gallery.

The Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center is located at 127 S. Mission St. in Wenatchee. The Museum of the Columbia is located at Rocky Reach Visitor Center, seven
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Jake
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PostThu Jan 29, 2009 9:58 am 
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Thanks 509. I wasn't aware of the Museum of the Columbia at Rocky Reach.
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