HISTORIC STRUCTURES REPORT
HUMES RANCH CABIN
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Preservation Maintenance Specialist
May 30, 2005
TABLE OF CONTENTS
SIGNIFICANCE OF SITE
The Humes Ranch Cabin now celebrates a hundred years of survival. On February 17, 1905 Will
Humes and his brother Grant and cousin Ward Sanders moved into the newly constructed cabin.
Those three shared the ranch for some ten years until Grant became the sole occupant until
his death in 1934. Herb and Lois Crisler made it their home from 1941-1951. It has since been
unoccupied. The Humes Ranch Cabin was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in
1977 and it is the responsibility of the National Park Service to maintain and preserve it to
as near to original condition as possible.
During the Humes occupancy the structure evolved with several additions and alterations.
Likewise, more changes occurred during the Crisler years. The Humes Ranch homestead became
a complex with several outbuildings, including two barns of pole and shake construction.
Other improvements to the property included cleared land for crops and pasture for horses
and cattle. Old fruit trees remain standing in front of the cabin. In 1958 the Student
Conservation Program made further alterations during a large "clean-up" of the ranch. Major
restorative work was done by the Olympic National Park trail crew staff in 1970. Other repairs
were made by the park staff in the 1980's and in the 1990's.
The Humes Cabin is significant for its association with early settlement in this rugged part
of the peninsula. It represents a distinct method and type of design and construction: log,
shake and pole architecture. It was the home of Grant Humes for nearly thirty years and he
is credited with participating in the packing, guiding, and in the first group ascent of
Mount Olympus. Over the years he led hundreds of people to the Olympic interior through his
guide and packing service. The Humes Cabin is one of the few remaining intact homestead
residences on the peninsula and is the oldest extant homestead cabin in Olympic National
The Humes Cabin also served as the seasonal residence of Herb and Lois Crisler from 1941 to
1951. The cabin possesses special significance for its association with the lives of these
two individuals who through film and writing encouraged both the conservation and the
recreational development of Olympic National Park.
HISTORY OF EXPLORATION AND SETTLEMENT
The Elwha River and its tributaries reach deep into the heart of the Olympic Mountains. The
Elwha River extends farther inland than most major Olympic Peninsula rivers, and its
watershed takes in 175 thousand acres. Notable early exploring expeditions led by Lt.
Joseph O'Neil in 1885 and James Christie in 1889-1890, found the Elwha Valley a natural
pathway into the Olympic interior.
Pioneer settlement in the upper reaches of the Elwha River Valley, as in other interior
peninsula valleys, did not occur until the late 1880's. The S'Klallam Indians, whose villages
were primarily centered along the coastline, ventured into the interior, but when the area
was formally explored in 1885 by Lt. Joseph O'Neil and his U.S. Army expedition, no permanent
occupancy was discovered along the middle reaches of the Elwha River.
By the late 1880's, however, two Norwegian immigrant brothers, Henry S. and Jake Hansen, were
living in the upper Elwha Valley. Soon after abandoning their original plan to claim land
farther up the river, they settled on plots near the confluence of Indian Creek and the Elwha.
Henry Hansen selected a small clearing on the south side of Indian Creek that had been takenup
by an earlier settler. Near the mouth of the Little River, William MacDonald built a cabin on
the east bank of the Elwha River. In 1889 Warriner Smith built a cabin just beyond the
MacDonald claim, near the mouth of Madison Creek
In the winter of 1889-1890, the Seattle Press Expedition, led by James Christie, enjoyed
MacDonald's hospitality as the "Press Party" navigated their way up the Elwha. Members of the
expedition described MacDonald's cabin and clearing as the "outpost of civilization." William
MacDonald shortly afterward (1891) became the first postmaster in the upper Elwha, and the
hollowed-out cedar stump which served as the original "McDonald" post office was a local
landmark for many years.
In early February 1890, the Press party members pushed on from MacDonald's and made themselves
at home on Smith's Madison Creek claim while they waited for clear weather before continuing
their trek. Proceeding slowly up the Elwha River on a faint old trail, the party encountered
one other evidence of white habitation on the riverthe clearing and unoccupied cabin of
Dr. A.B. Lull about 100 yards from the Elwha River somewhere near the mouth of Griff Creek.
In the winter of 1890, Dr. Lull's clearing and cabin were apparently the last pioneer outpost
on the upper Elwha. Days later they passed through a broader part of the river valley and
hearing strange indiscernible noises concluded that they were hearing geysers and dubbed the
place Geyser Valley. Marking their distinctive three-chop-blazes on some of the trees along
their route, they moved on, continuing their search for a route through the mountains to
Immediately after the Press Expedition completed their explorations, their blazed route
became the foundation of the subsequent Elwha River trail. In the early 1890s, more pioneers
trekked up that trail and settled in the upper Elwha. Claims were made on both sides of the
The Homestead Act of 1862 saw its finale in a last burst of activity in the isolated, harsh
environment now substantially contained in Olympic National Park. Pioneers coming to the
rain-drenched mountainous interior of the Olympic Peninsula were essentially taking
leftovers-the prime lowlands had already being claimed. It was during this period that
Will Humes and others established their homesteads in the area of the Elwha known as Geyser
Valley. William Anderson was the first, establishing a place on the west side of the river
accessing it by horse bridge over the head of Rica Canyon. He built a cabin and large barn,
and cleared the requisite acreage for his stock. He had a subsistence living from his
ranch and from hunting, occupying the ranch for some fifteen years. Next to follow in the
mid-1890's was a couple who were immigrants from Germany. Ernst and Meta Krause established
house, barn, garden, and orchard across the river from Anderson. A few years later the
Krauses lost control of a slash fire losing some of their homestead buildings. Discouraged
with the loss, they moved away.
In late 1897 three easterners arrived in Port Angeles: two brothers, Will and Martin Humes,
and their cousin, Ward Sanders. From upstate New York, they came from a family that had
farmed, harvested maple sugar, and guided and packed hunting parties in the Adirondack
Mountains. Their purpose, however, was not to farm but to mine for gold either on the Olympic
Peninsula or possibly in Alaska. However, all three were impressed by the abundance of deer,
elk, and fish in and around the Elwha. Will wrote to their family that there was abundant
good pasture land and that if he found a suitable site, he would settle down in the sheep
business (Evans 1983, 79). By March 1898 Martin, Will, and Ward had taken up claims on the
upper Elwha. Letters were sent home to New York describing in great detail hunting expeditions
undertaken on the wooded slopes of the Elwha River. An avid hunter and lover of the outdoors,
a third Humes brother was attracted to the Elwha country. In December 1899 Grant Humes came
to the Elwha Valley, enjoyed the pioneer life for a year and a half, went back to New York,
then returned to the Elwha in December, 1904.
On February 17, 1905 Grant and Ward helped Will move into his newly built cabin. All three
lived there together, clearing land and adding outbuildings. Hunting for elk, deer, and
cougar continued as a major sport, subsistence, and cash-producing activity. They also went
"outside" and made money by logging, clearing land and working at odd jobs for other
homesteaders. But they were becoming involved in packing and guiding. In 1907 their business
received a real boost when they contracted to pack and guide the newly formed Seattle
Mountaineers on the club's first annual outing. Their destination was the unclimbed summit of
Mount Olympus-the highest peak in the Olympic Mountains. For several months the Humeses were
engaged in building a trail to the headwaters of the Elwha and then packing supplies for the
huge group. By 1911, a telephone line to the Humes Ranch cinched their business and confirmed
their reputation as a well known packing and guiding business. Their clients included
mountaineers, hunters, and fishermen from the north Olympic Peninsula and from the Puget
Sound area. They also contracted to supply rangers and trail crews in the surrounding Olympic
One of Grant's first tasks was to divert the creek that flowed below the cabin. He climbed
the hillside out back and built a dam and ditch, re-channeling the creek so as to pass toward
the cabin. He then added an elevated log flume with its drop point adjacent to the cabin,
perfect for easily filling a bucket. The creek volume dropped soon after, so a secondary
ditch was built across the hillside to the west to capture an additional stream. The
ditching is visible yet today.
The ranch was ten miles by trail to the nearest road. Thus, with their pack train they packed
tons of cumbersome equipment to equip the homestead. This included: the parts for a farm
wagon, harrow, plow, and a mowing machine, as well as a giant stump pulling winch, wood
stoves, and a drag saw. By 1915 they had cleared many acres of land, blasting, winching and
finally burning the stumps. The resulting big pasture on the lower bench by the river boasted
a large barn. To tie their cabin and small pasture to the barn and big pasture below, they
built a short wagon road. They built a small barn adjacent to the cabin which served as tack
room and sleeping quarters. Wall tents on permanent platforms were erected near the cabin to
accommodate clients and guests. Tucked into the hillside by the log flume was a root house.
The stove-pipe in the cabin was replaced with a cinder block chimney fit into the wall between
the kitchen and cabin. An orchard was established on the upper cabin bench.
Will left for New York in 1915 perhaps in response to their father's declining health. Upon
the death of their father in 1916, Will took over the family farm and never returned to the
Olympic Mountains other than to visit. By 1916, Ward had left as well. Grant Humes remained
at the ranch, pursuing a life of farming, hunting, packing, and guiding. Humes augmented his
supply of hay from the field near his cabin with grass sown and harvested on the old Anderson
ranch. Each year Grant harvested a variety of vegetables from his garden. He and his hound,
Byng, often hunted for cougar and bobcat. Grant trapped as well to collect additional
bounties as well as hides. In the late 1920's Grant constructed two recreational cabins for
long-time clients: Judge Fred Remann's cabin, "Elk Lick Lodge" near the Lost River and Henry
Botten's cabin near Godkin Creek. Both cabins survive yet today.
A half mile uphill from the Humes Ranch was the Geyser House which was established soon after
the Humeses arrived in the valley. It was built by the eccentric beekeeper, Dok Ludden, who
served as a trailside innkeeper in this equally eccentric house. He created a self-sufficient
life with a garden, orchard, a few chickens and his bees providing all of his needs. He did
offer a variety of services to mountain travelers-rooms, haircuts, rootbeer, honey, and
stereoscopic photographs. These were advertised in bold face on the cabin wall as well as on
handbills tacked to trees along the trail. Although the Humes brothers helped him get
established in the early 1900's he and Grant were estranged for many years. Upon Ludden's
death in 1927, the Geyser House found a new resident-E.O. Michaels, also known as "Cougar Mike"
for his hunting prowess. Michaels also packed and did trail maintenance for the U.S. Forest
Service, and helped Grant with ranch projects. Around 1930, Michaels and Jay Gormley built a
small log cabin just across the meadow from the Geyser House. Cougar Mike and his hounds
moved to the cabin and occupied it through the 1930's. Michael's Cabin stands empty today.
The Geyser House was razed by the Student Conservation Program under the direction of the
National Park Service in 1958.
Humesville was the nickname of the semi-permanent camp that developed at the south end of
the ranch on the bank of Idaho Creek. This was a Forest Service camp with large canvas wall
tents, a small pasture, and a telephone box. Rangers based their patrols from there. This
camp lived on into the late 1930's serving the crews constructing the Long Ridge trail and
the log bridge that spanned the Elwha canyon nearby.
So, Grant Humes had neighbors of sorts and some long-tem guests-Will and his wife, Grace,
returning for months; their nephew, Lyman Humes arrived in 1919 and stayed for better than a
year, helping with the ranch and packing. In the early 1930's, Grant suffered failing health.
He shifted back and forth from the ranch to the hospital, still packing and hiking, still
struggling to stay up the Elwha. Finally, at age 61, he died in a Port Angeles hospital. The
Humes era came to a close in April of 1934.
The Humes Ranch was sold to Art and Rhea Shelleberger, who had the roadside resort, Waumila
Lodge, near the Elwha Ranger Station. They used the ranch as a supplemental summer base for
their trail riding and horse packing operations. By 1941 it was sold to a timber company.
But for the most part the Humes Cabin was unoccupied until 1941 when Herb and Lois Crisler
arrived to take up their new "mountain life". A native of Georgia, Herb Crisler first arrived
on the Olympic Peninsula in 1919 as a recruit with the Spruce Division of the U.S. Army.
After his service he stayed in Port Angeles, where he became enamored with the Olympic
mountain wilds. He operated a commercial photography business but spent his free time
hunting, hiking, and taking photographs up in the mountains. After an unsuccessful business
venture in Seattle in the late 1920's, Crisler returned to the Olympic Mountains in 1930 to
make his epic survival trek across the range - with no food and armed only with a movie
camera. This widely publicized stunt became the first of several Crisler exploits that
brought widespread attention to the beauty and recreational potential of the wild Olympic
Mountains. On Pearl Harbor Day, 1941, Herb married Lois Brown, a University of Washington
English instructor. They immediately departed for the newly leased Humes Ranch and were
moved in by Christmas. Within several years Herb and Lois carved out a career in wildlife
photography. Based out of the Humes Ranch, they made extended summer hiking expeditions
into the mountains of the newly created Olympic National Park, capturing the scenery and
wildlife on movie film. Editing took place in the fall. They then traveled the country on a
film lecture circuit, showing their films in grange halls, churches, schools and civic
centers. They shared the beauties of the Olympic National Park with hundreds of audiences
throughout the nation, building friendships for the National Parks.
Spring would find them back at Humes Ranch in time to spade and re-plant their extensive
garden. The Crislers erected six simple shelters and numerous caches out in the heart of the
mountains - the Bailey Range - to facilitate their filming trips. Back at the Humes Ranch,
they took on maintenance of the aging structure. They re-roofed the cabin and rebuilt the
front porch-reconfiguring the simple shed roof into the hipped roof seen for years to come.
Herb removed the ceiling and ceiling joists from the cabin. To accommodate their many
visitors Herb built a simple shed lean-to for folks to throw out their sleeping bags. Later,
Herb also built an Adirondack-style log shelter to serve as guest quarters. It was perched
on a promontory five hundred feet east of the cabin on the hillside overlooking the big
meadow below. This provided a great vantage for viewing the elk herds that frequented the
ranch. To protect the large garden area in front of the cabin, fences were built, and later
a greenhouse with a cement foundation was installed. One of their last ranch projects
undertaken was the development of a hydro plant so that film editing could be done at the
ranch. Herb used a small tractor to haul wire-wrapped wood-staved pipe to the ranch. He
hired off-duty rangers and trails workers to help with the transport. The pipe was to be used
as penstock and was stock-piled in the barn. But the venture never came to fruition. Years
later after both the Crislers and the barn were gone, the pipe stood stacked in the lower
pasture. In 1969 it was burned and now the only remnant of the hydro-power scheme is a wild
pile of wire in the northeast corner of the pasture. The Crisler's famed adventures were
chronicled by Lois in her weekly newspaper column, "Olympic Trail Talks". She also wrote of
their colorful life in magazine articles. At various times when the Olympic wilderness
appeared threatened, Lois proved to be an ardent and articulate supporter. In 1951 the
Crislers finally succeeded in selling some of their film stock to Disney Studios to be used
in the True Life Adventure series of short feature films. "The Olympic Elk" was the resulting
film. It was subsequently used in visitor programs at Olympic National Park for decades to
come. They also secured a filming contract with Disney and after having made the Humes
Ranch their home for ten years they moved away. They filmed the caribou migration in the
Arctic and the lives of bighorn sheep in Colorado. And Colorado became the new home for
them and their newly adopted wolf pups. Lois wrote of these adventures as well, in her
best selling books,
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ERA
In the years following the Crislers' departure, the Humes Ranch was purchased by the National
Park Service. The ranch was well over fifty years old and was falling into serious disrepair.
By 1957 the barn was showing some collapse and the roofs of the cabin and outbuildings were
leaking. To deal with this and other nearby problems a clean-up plan was developed. In the
summer of 1958, the newly founded Student Conservation Program recruited thirty high school
boys who volunteered to work at Olympic National Park. Broken into two works groups, they
each spent the better part of three weeks based at Humes Ranch. In addition to trail work
elsewhere in Geyser Valley, they embarked on a large general cleanup of the ranch. They built
an eight by eight by fourteen foot garbage pit several hundred feet southwest of the Humes
cabin and planked over its top. They converted the Crisler greenhouse to a two-hole latrine,
re-established the log flume to the cabin, and cut firewood for camp and visitor use. The
boys razed Ludden's Geyser House, recycling some of its poles into building materials at the
Humes Ranch. Fencing and the large Humes barn were razed as well. One group built a new
plank sidewalk around the main cabin, and repaired the foundation, floor and porches. They
also converted the small barn adjoining the cabin into a twenty-person bunkhouse and repaired
the roofs with new and re-used shakes. The wagon and large farm machinery were hauled up
from the barn to the cabin area. A museum was created and the tools and equipment were
labeled and put on display in the renovated wood shed. During the general cleanup, "many
papers of possible historical importance were salvaged". Piles of debris-fencing, furnishings,
old roofing etc. were piled out front and were later burned. (Dolstad, 1960)
Another decade passed and the unoccupied cabin again showed signs of disrepair. A National
Park Service resource study proposal, OLY-H-1, called for the rehabilitation of the Humes
Cabin (Levy, 1968; Koue, 1969). The report proposed that the cabin be used as an interpretive
exhibit of homestead life. The reports also recommended that the cabin, kitchen and porches
be restored. Missing and decayed elements would be replaced and the building leveled up.
Doors with locks were to be installed and sash without glass be reinstalled, with meshed
hardware cloth covering them. The small barn adjoining the cabin would be repaired as well.
The public would be allowed to peer through the windows but not to enter the cabin. A special
project crew was hired onto the Trail Crew at Olympic National Park in 1970 (Port Angeles
Evening News, August 14, 1970). John Scott, an 84 year-old retired carpenter led a crew of
several young men in the restoration of the Humes cabin. The crew proceeded to raze the small
barn and the front porch of the cabin. Logs were obtained upslope from the cabin and these
were used to replace-in-kind the decayed logs in the cabin. Likewise saplings were found
nearby to replace the smaller rotted members of the cabin. A doorway that existed in the
north wall of the cabin giving access to the small barn was closed up. The adjoining drip
edges of the small barn and cabin had created the wet conditions that contributed to the
rotting of this wall. Today a remnant of that doorway shows as a mid-span splice of three
logs: three short logs are original; all the remaining logs in that wall were replaced. The
cinder block chimney was removed from the east cabin wall and that cutout space was
subsequently closed in with splices of new and old logs. The cabin was re-roofed and the
front porch rebuilt. Doors and locks were installed and mesh hardware cloth was installed
over the replacement window sash. The floors were repaired (Vail, Personal Interview, 2002)
(Swenson, Personal Communication, 2002).
In the past century this cabin has been through two occupancies and two major restorations.
Over the last decade the cabin has again seriously deteriorated. As a structure that is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places it represents a valuable cultural
resource. The National Park Service is responsible for its maintenance and a structural
assessment was deemed necessary. A major part of the assessment was to determine what
elements remain of the original Humes structure. An historical investigation was necessary
to discover the different occupancies, changes and repairs. Photographs from the Humes
family collections, the Crislers, and others were referenced. Grant Humes' diaries and letters
from the Humes brothers and from Lois Crisler were also reviewed. Reports were studied,
including the Dolstad Thesis on SCP work, and the Humes Structures Reports of 1968 and 1969.
National Park Service staff memberspast and present -- were interviewed as well. With this
background it became possible to make an informed inspection of the structure. A field
inspection was conducted of the cabin and surrounding landscape. In March of 2005 the
National Park Service completed this survey and assessment in preparation for another
round of major restorative work at the Humes Ranch National Historic Site.