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As It Was: Attempt Fails to Name Mountain after William Steel

An article in the Medford Mail Tribune 100 years ago said a group of 19 climbers known as the “Grizzlies” attempted to name a Siskiyou mountain “Steel” in honor of William Gladstone Steel of Medford, Ore.

When a present-day reader asked where it was, the Medford Mail Tribune said it appeared to be the same mountain as Anderson Butte above Talent, Ore., at 4,997 feet elevation.

The century-old story said the Grizzlies chiseled Steel’s name in a rock near the mountain’s summit.  The present-day newspaper said the group failed to follow through by registering the name with the U.S. Board of Geographic names.

Steel is often referred to as “the father of Crater Lake Park” for his backing of national park status.  He also was the park’s second superintendent.

The Mail Tribune noted, “But, never fear, there remains a geographic memorial to Mr. Steel, … in Steel Bay, situated on the north shore of Crater Lake.”

The newspaper said that when he died in 1934, Steel was buried in Medford’s Siskiyou Memorial Park wearing his National Park Service uniform.

Sources: "Since You Asked: Steel Mountain Remains Only in History." Mail Tribune, 29 June 2017 [Medford, Ore.] , local ed.; "Mail Tribune 100: Grizzlies Name Mountain After Will G. Steel." Mail Tribune, 2 June 1917 [Medford, Ore.].

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.