Crater National Forest > Rogue River National Forest 36S-4E-14
July 1910: "Forest Assistant Foster with his crew of cruisers climbed to the summit of Mt. Pitt - otherwise known as Mt. McLaughlin - Sunday, July 10. The day was hot but not on the mountain. The air was clear and a good view was obtained, except toward the Rogue River Valley, where it is smoky. No forest fores in Applegate or Ashland part of the forest. Two of the party came down by sliding on the snow - and came out alive at that! The ascent was made from Four Mile Lake." (The Crater Ranger)
1916: "Mount McLoughlin has been considered as a lookout. This peak, the highest on the Crater National Forest, is 9,760 feet in height according to the U.S. Geological Survey; and from its summit a large part of the Crater National Forest is visible in clear weather. The success of the Mount Hood station suggested the possibility of the use off Mount McLoughlin as a lookout. A few very serious considerations, however, diminish the attractiveness of the project. The snow lies so deep on the mountain that it would be probably not safe to attempt the ascent, even without a load, before the first of July. In 1915 it was noticed there were several days in late September, before the first fall rain, when fog hung over the top of the mountain all day and through this fog an observer could not have seen. During the most critical period of the fire season, when if ever a lookout would be needed, the mountain was useless. During these days all the other lower peaks in the neighborhood were free of fog. The ascent is very steep, the last thousand feet being almost precipitous, along a narrow ridge and many great blocks of lava. All equipment and all fuel would have to be packed on men's backs. I do not think a man could live on the summit unsheltered except during the warmer hours of sunlight during milder days. The cold is so intense and the wind so strong as to be unendurable. This is my opinion, based on observation of the peak in all weathers. The protection of a closed house would be essential even in mid summer. Nothing but a steel or stone house could stand, and the cost of construction when everything must be packed up the mountain on men's backs would be excessive. Once established and housed, the observer would require the almost constant attendance of an assistant to pack fuel and supplies up the mountain. He himself could not attend to this, for it would take him practically all his time. The mountain is the lava cone or plug of a volcano that has been eroded away. This lava is a reddish color from the presence of iron. It is often been noticed that lightning is attracted to the mountain. In case of a lightning storm the observer would be in imminent danger of his life and since the entire mountain is mineralized could hardly get to a safe place. It is not believed that Mount McLoughlin can supersede other lookouts, or even any other one. It would be but an additional station; and in view of the difficulties and expense of a lookout on this peak, it does not seem a practicable proposition." (The Fire Lookout System on the Crater National Forest, Harold D. Foster, 1916)
May 7, 1917: "An allotment has just been received by the forest service for the purpose of constructing three lookout houses, one each on Windy Peak, Rustler Peak and Mt. McLoughlin, or Mt. Pitt as it is erroneously named by many. Some difficulty is expected in getting the lumber to the top of Mt McLoughlin. It is proposed to construct a trail suitable for burro travel to the very top of the peak, and the lumber will then be packed on the backs of these little animals. It is proposed to build a telephone line to the top of Mt. McLoughlin. This mountain is a new lookout station which, when the house becomes constructed, it is proposed to use instead of Robinson Butte. It is estimated that the observer on Mt. McLoughlin can see fires for a radius of 75 miles from the top." (Ashland Tidings)
June 30, 1917: "District Forester George H. Cecil, of Portland, has just placed an order with the Mill-Made Construction company, of Portland, for ready-cut material for three standard lookout houses to be erected at the summits of Mt. McLaughlin, Diamond Peak and Rustler Peak, on the Crater national forest, in July. These houses are twelve feet square, with a cupola six feet square. Both cupola and main part of the building have windows running all the way around. The lower part of the house is the lookout man's living quarters, while the cupola contains the Osborne fire finder, maps and other lookout equipment. The success in quickly discovering forest fires from lookouts stationed on Mount Hood and other high peaks has turned the attention of foresters to this form of fire protection work. Besides the three houses to be erected on the Crater forest this season, lookout houses will also on several other prominent peaks in Oregon and Washington." (Medford Sun)
July 13, 1917: "The forest service is rushing the three fire-lookouts on Windy Peak, Mt. McLaughlin and Rustler Butte, so that there is no delay in preparations for fire fighting. The fire-lookout houses, knocked down, have been shipped from Portland. Ten government mules will be needed to transport the houses to the peaks." (Medford Sun)
September 8, 1917: "The forest service has located a station on the top of Mount ( ? ), with E.W. Smith in charge. When the house is finished Mrs. Smith will go, too. They will be nearer heaven than falls to the lot of ordinary mortals." (Medford Sun)
1917: "Here I've been now six weeks working, helping build a lookout house For the forest service lookout, to help save the fearful loss From the fires that burn the timber. Tho I'm sometimes lonely here Still I love this grand old mountain and will always hold it dear. They may call it Mt. McLaughlin, but twill always be Mt. Pitt To the people who live near and look with pride and awe at it." (Poem by Ernest Smith while building the lookout house)
September 19, 1917: "The Signal station of Mt. McLoughlin is nearing completion, and Sunday at 2 o'clock p.m. Ernest W. Smith pulled off the first signal stunt, tho the distance from Butte Falls to the station is over 20 miles, every movement could be plainly seen with the naked eye." (Mail Tribune)
September 19, 1917: "E.W. Smith lets us know that 9,000 feet altitude has not altogether removed him from the common walks of life. He flashes his light upon us from the top of Mt. Pitt to let us know he still thinks of us." (Medford Sun)
October 2, 1917: "The federal forest service completed Windy Peak lookout station yesterday, the Mt. Pitt station will be completed today and Rustler Peak station will be completed Thursday. This work will increase the already high efficiency of the federal fire fighting service in southern Oregon. All the lumber for the lookout stations was shipped in ready to be put in place and to get to the tops of the lookout stations special trails had to be built and the lumber taken up by pack train." (Medford Mail Tribune)
August 8, 1925: "Mount McLoughlin, although used for the past several years, is not satisfactory as a lookout point. A few weeks ago I was on this mountain and found that I was unable to see the east side of Klamath Lake sufficiently clear to determine a fire or its location. I judge from this experience that quite frequently, and especially in the forenoon when the sun is in the east, it is very difficult to locate a fire on your district from the top of this mountain. I believe that the unsatisfactory service is caused by the height of the peak rather than any fault of the man himself. In looking down on the country the impression is of looking into a dark well. For the coming season our recommendation will be for the use either Devils Peak or Mount Pelican, either of which I believe will render you better service." (Letter to J.A. Howarth, Klamath Agency, from Hugh Rankin, Crater National Forest)
September 3, 1925: "I have your letter of August 8, 1925, regarding lookout on Mount Pitt. Since that time, i.e., on August 13, we received at 8:33 a.m. two reports of fires that we did not find that day or since. Much time was lost and expense incurred searching for these fires. Your Mr. Brown was in September 1 stating plans for removing the lookout to another peak next summer and I suggested that it would be a convenience to us if this lookout were on a telephone wire that terminated in the Fort Klamath switchboard. There are four switching points and five lines to talk through between this agency and Mount Pitt." (Letter to H. Rankin, Crater National Forest, from J.A. Howarth, Klamath Agency)
September 17, 1926: "Because of an electrical storm which put all telephone wires out of commission at Crater National Forest Headquarters, the fire lookout station on the summit of Mt. McLaughlin has been closed fir the season." (The Times, Florence, Oregon)
October 9, 1927: "The sociable hermit of Mount McLaughlin, who holds no grudge against civilization, but simply prefers his own company to that of others, is moving closer to the populated areas he has scorned for five years. In 1922 a man with a full beard, and long, black hair, clad in loose fitting blouse and a lower garment resembling track pants, came to Rogue river valley. He was J.F.G. Cone, his tattoo marks proclaim that he had once been a sailor and he said he had served in the French navy. He has never left Jackson county since that time, yet no one knows more about him. For five years, Cone has lived in the summer among lightning bolts on top of stormy Mount McLaughlin, a government forest fire lookout. In the winters, he acted as watchman for summer cabins at Lake on the Woods. He has now bought a tract of land in Pheonix, near Medford, and plans to move all his earthly goods--consisting of innumerable books, even less clothing than the modern stenographer wears and a set of laboratory test tubes. Cone, who on occasion has claimed, to be a Basque or an Arab, is not averse to an audience. Much of his time has been spent reading and he delights to talk of science, or of his theories of the ideal way to live. He is a vegetarian and refuses to kill even mosquitoes. Tennis shoes and two pieces of clothing are his regular year-around garb. His body is lean and tanned. His age he professes not to know, but he appears to be no more than, 35. Unlike the general run of hermits, Cone has no autographed pictures to sell and he avoids the camera." (The Sunday Oregonian)
August 2, 1928: "The Crater National forest lookout telephoned from his station near the top of Mount McLaughlin, 9,700 feet high, that a 61-mile gale which blew across the mountain last night lowered the temperature to 32 degrees at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday evening, and to 31 degrees at seven this morning." (The Oregon Statesman)
December 14, 1928: "We would like to get the lookout on Mt. Pitt to watch very closely in the vicinity of the Boutan mill for unusual smokes. This country and the country just east of the Boutan mill is very bad for fire." (Letter to Supervisor, Crater National Forest, from L.D. Arnold, Klamath Agency)
July 30, 1929: "One of the most spectacular of lookouts is J.F.G. Cone, pronounced KO-NAY, who is stationed on Mt. Pitt. He is one of the keenest eyed men in the service, being the first to spot a disastrous fire in the Fandango unit of the Modoc National Forest, miles away, over in California. Although of unusual intelligence, Cone is freakish in his dress, assuming a garb that makes him look something an Assyrian. Wearing bright yellow clothing of thin lined material in all kinds of weather, his wardrobe includes a Tam-O-Shanter cap, shirt, and trousers that stop well above his bare knees. He has no other covering except socks and tennis shoes. Thus attired, Cone looks like a Shell Oil station ducking through crowds he attracts more attention than all other shoppers put together. But after you stop him for conversation, you will discover one of the most pleasant-spoken, well-informed men you have been privileged to meet. Cone says that electrical storms are frequent up where he sojourns from May to September and occasionally the terrific bolts burn out his telephone and demolish the wire for a distance of a mile or more. During some of the disturbances, the lookout says, he has sat in his cabin and watched rocks blown to smithereens as some ambitious charge tried its hand at rock crushing, and the resultant crack of thunder is deafening, he adds. In the hot month of August when people in the lowlands are sitting on cakes of ice and fanning themselves with dustpans in order to keep cool, Cone says he will enjoy a fine blizzard at his summer home on Mt. Pitt. Terrific winds and blinding snows with the thermometer at freezing duplicates the January holocausts in North Dakota, at a time when summer in the valleys is at its heights, concluded the lookout, who early in September takes down his shingle and moves back into town again for winter." (Klamath Herald)
September 23, 1929: "J.F.G. Cone, the lookout at the ranger station of Crater National Forest, high up on Mt. McLoughlin arrived in the city last evening. Having quit there for the season. Because weather conditions at that high elevation, 9490 feet, at this time of year with heavy clouds, cold, fog, sleet and hail storms ruin the visibility of the ranger on duty. Cone had been on duty as the McLoughlin lookout since the middle of last June." (Medford Mail Tribune)
July 22, 1930: "Assistant Supervisor N.C. White and Ranger E.J. Rogers spent yesterday at Mt. McLaughlin selecting a location for the new lookout station there. It became known today that because of its unsafe condition, the base beneath having been steadily slipping away, the lookout building has not been in use this year, 9493 feet up Mt. McLaughlin, the lookout stationed there, E.E. Cottman, having his headquarters in a tent nearby, and that Mr. Cottman came into the city last evening and resigned his position both because of an injury to one of his eyes yesterday and the serious illness of his mother in Washington state. His place will be filled as soon as possible by an experienced lookout. It has been quite cold and windy high up on McLaughlin's summit for some time past. It seems that J.F. Cone, the eccentrically garbed and minded individual who has been the Mt. McLaughlin lookout for the past eight years, refused to take that position this year because of the dangerous condition of the lookout building, and is now holding a similar position with the Cleveland National Forest in extreme southern California, next to the Mexican border. The lookout building on Mt. McLaughlin for some time past has been anchored to a huge rock to keep it from slipping down the mountain. Work of preparing a solid concrete base for the new lookout building will be undertaken as soon as possible, and the ready made structure transported to the high elevation and securely moored to the base." (Medford Mail Tribune)
1930: Ernest Smith finished the fire season as lookout on Mt. McLaughlin, replacing E. Cottman, who was forced to resign because of an eye injury.
July 23, 1930: "New forest lookout stations are being erected on four peaks in the Crater national forest this month, forest officials announce. The buildings which arrive here ready made from service headquarters in Portland." One of these buildings is to be placed on Mt. McLaughlin. (Morning Oregonian)
1931: The new lookout house on the summit of Mt. McLaughlin was completed.
June 11, 1933: "James Radcliffe, Medford, has been appointed to the post of lookout on Mt. McLaughlin and will take up duties about July 1, according to an announcement made by Norman C. White, assistant forest supervisor. The lookout was first occupied in 1918. When a glass ribbed lumber house 12x12 feet, topped by a cupola 6x6 feet was erected. All the material for the building was trucked from Medford to Klamath Falls, and then packed over a 12-mile trail by Dee Wright, government packer. No piece of timber for the entire building was over eight feet in length. In 1930 terrific storms and tons of ice so weakened the structure that it was necessary to replace the building, continuous action of the elements had undermined the cliff on the northeast side of the peak on which the house rested. The new house, slightly larger, rests on a cement and stone foundation three feet through at the base and 14 feet in height. Long steel rods buried in the foundation serve as braces and steel cables keep the house rigid against storms. Twenty-three windows circle the building and the latest lightning protectors have been installed. For three months Radcliffe will not leave his post. From 6:30 AM until 6:30 PM he will check over his area every 15 minutes. His mail and supplies will be delivered twice a month by the District Ranger or a packer." (The Klamath News)
July 21, 1933: Panorama photos were taken by Lester Moe and Robert Snyder.
1935: "Mt. McLaughlin, highest peak in southern Oregon, is unoccupied this year for the first fire season in several years. No reason for the change was made by Hugh Ritter, District Ranger." (source lost)
1936: The lookout was abandoned in favor of lower points such as Robinson Butte.
August 4, 1948: "A group of nine Camp Fire Girl hikers from Camp Ester Applegate at Lake of the Woods reached the summit of MT. McLaughlin Thursday, July 29 after five hours and 45 minutes of hiking. Led by Mrs. Larry French who has led seven groups up the mountain, the hike was novel in that it was the first of her groups where the entire party reached the abandoned ranger station at the summit." (Herald and News)
December 1952: "The lookout building on Mt. McLoughlin, 9,000-foot peak east of Medford, will probably be torn down by forest service officials, according to the Medford Mail Tribune. The building has not been in use as a lookout for the past 18 years and is in such a state of disrepair that it is feared it will fall on someone who might seek shelter there. The lookout was abandoned because of its being such a distance from the timber that the fire finder was not effective." (The Forest Log)
1955: The lookout was destroyed. Vandalism and misuse of the lookout was the reason for the destruction of the building, related by Robert French, a member of the crew sent to the summit to push the structure over the side of the peak.
May 11, 1958: "At one time, Cone conceived an idea for preventing forest fires caused by lightning during a thunderstorm. He constructed a large system of antennas and wires with hopes of drawing off all the electrical charge in the air within a large radius of Mt. McLaughlin. The first time this plan was tested, it back-fired. All of Cone's equipment was destroyed by a nearly - direct lightning strike. A frightened and speechless Cone appeared at the Lake of the Woods ranger station following the storm and refused to return to his station. Ansil Pearce finished the season as lookout." (Herald and News)