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Volcanoes and History
Cascade Range Volcanoes - "Volcanoes and History"

B.F. Alley and J.P. Munro-Frasier

1842 Eruption of Mount St. Helens, as told by Rev. J.L. Parrish to Samuel A. Clarke, in an 1885 issue of The Morning Oregonian, plus early 1800s Mount Hood
(Published in 1885)

Excerpt from:
"History of Clarke County, Washington Territory: compiled from the most authentic sources: also biographical sketches of its pioneers and prominent citizens", by B.F. Alley and J.P. Munro-Fraser, published in Portland, Oregon, 1885.

Eruption of Mount St. Helens, November 22, 1842
Reference to two eruptions of Mount Hood, early 1800s
   [p.274-75]     That these mountains have not forgotten the demon buried in their hearts, we quote from S.A. Clarke, in the Oregonian, the following description of an eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1842:

"We occasionally hear of eruptions from some of our great mountains, and I have twice during a third of a century seen dense black smoke pour forth from a crater on the southeast side of Mt. Hood, two-thirds up its face. Those who have ascended the mountain say that an old crater exists there, and that the stones are always hot and sulphurous heat comes out. President Powell, of the University of Washington Territory, at Seattle, confirms it. Rev. J.L. Parrish lately gave me a vivid account of an eruption of Mt. St. Helens, that occurred November 22, 1842. On that day a meeting of some important committee of the Methodist mission was held at the old mission then situated on French Prairie, eight or ten miles north of Salem. There was present Rev. Jason Lee, Dr. Babcock, Rev. Gustavus Hines and himself. He went out of doors for a moment, and looking north noticed a wonderful phenomenon. Where Mt. St. Helens should have been there was only clouds of smoke and steam. The base was of very black smoke that spread out for an immense distance, involving all the northern horizon; above it grew lighter in color, culminating in vast columns and wreaths of white steam, that penetrated the zenith.

"The mountain seemed to belch forth great masses of smoke and vapor. White puffs of steam rose like columns of scroll work to the very mid-heavens, constantly changing and assuming new forms upon the sky. Vast quantities of organic matter were erupted; ashes and rocks were thrown out with tremendous force, but no noise was heard at that distance. Strata of color lay on the horizon, varying from inky blackness to white puffs of steam that assumed a thousand fantastic shapes. Lava ran into the near branches of the Cowlitz, perhaps five miles away, that heated the water, and killed many fish -- so old settlers on that river said. Mr. Parrish saw it from the high prairie south of Gervais, not much less than seventy-five miles away. Flames were seen for a long time issuing from a crater on the south side of the mountain, two-thirds of the way up. He was at Clatsop in 1843, and saw fires burning there.

"The vision was so wondrous and sublime that he stood spell-bound and enthralled. After a moment he called out to the others that Mt. St. Helens was in a state of eruption, but they laughed at him until they finally came out to see, and were equally impressed. All stood wonder-struck while in the north the tremendous phenomenon was unfolded. There was scarce a breath of wind, and what there was came from the south. The day was clear and beautiful, and the vision was perfect in its appearance. The clouds of steam were rolling up in great masses, wreathing as smoke from a pipe does, but on an enormous scale. They saw no fire then, but ashes fell all over the country from The Dalles to the Pacific ocean. They were half an inch deep at The Dalles. The ashes went north also, but not south, as the wind was from that direction. The next day the wonderful vision had disappeared. The day before it occurred St. Helens stood a perfect pyramid of white from base to apex. The winter storms had robed it anew; but the day after the eruption it stood there a jet-black pyramid. The smoke, ashes and debris that fell had covered the snow with inky blackness. This of itself was something wonderful, and never was seen before or since to the memory of man."

Digital version of "History of Clarke County, Washington Territory" was found at the
Washington State Secretary of State Website Historical Archives (2007).


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