Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Wahkiakum history

When the river froze over

One of the coldest winters recalled by Island folks was in January 1930. It had been real cold for a few weeks, and on January 15 the Columbia River froze up. There was lots of snow on the ground and the river ice was from 6 to 18 inches deep.

The county communities were isolated for two weeks. Farmers cream cans all filled, no mail came through, unless someone risked his life to get across the river. Groceries ran short in the stores, kerosene and gas were running short.

A 9-year old girl, June McGilvray of Longview was on the Island visiting her grandparents, Ed Rasmussens. She became ill and for 5 days, the little girl was really sick. Medical aid was not available.

The phone system was still in operation, and a call to the Portland, Oregonian, with a plea for help, brought immediate response.

The Oregonian chartered a biplane on skis. They also called the medical association, and within a short time, Tex Rankin flying the plane had Dr. Ernest L. Boylen with him headed for Puget Island.

Darkness fell as these men arrived, but the Islanders had brought fuel and set bonfires to mark the field. The biplane landed safely on the snow.

Dr. Boylen rushed to June’s where he stayed the night giving medical help, until he felt June was out of danger. Then he called on others who were very ill or injured.

Island folks were busy too, falling trees to enlarge their airfield. On January 24, 1930, Rankin made a solo lift off safely, landed again so the doctor could board the plane, and these angels of mercy were headed for home.

Rankin and others flew in with supplies and The Oregonians. Bundles of papers were dropped on the school field at Cathlamet.

Fleishman Yeast Co. men from Longview packed in a 100 pounds of yeast to Cathlamet for bread and brew.

Finally the boats began moving and supplies were brought in, Captain Al Babbidge on the “Elfin”, “Rose” the lighthouse tender, and the “Northland”, a Coast Guard cutter, were some of the first to dock at the Island at Olsen’s dock that was located near the large electric tower on West Puget Island down river from the Stanley Tholo home.

Article provided by Kari Kandoll

Wahkiakum County Historical Society


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