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As It Was: Alex Sparrow Becomes Crater Lake Superintendent in 1917

The first superintendent to serve full-time at Crater Lake National Park, Alex Sparrow, took the job in 1917.  He had been a U.S. Army engineer for 24 years and the park overseer of road construction for five years.
While riding horseback in the park, he met and fell in love with Ruth Clemens, who lived in Medford with her two daughters.  She had come to the park seeking a peaceful refuge, and their mutual interest in horses brought Clemens and Sparrow together.  They married in 1922.

After they left on their honeymoon, the Medford Elks Lodge noted on its bulletin board, “The Sparrows Have Flown.”

Shortly after his marriage, Sparrow resigned as Crater Lake superintendent to live on a farm on the Rogue River with his new family, but he served in county government until his death in 1932.

While at Crater Lake, Sparrow took photographs documenting road and trail construction at the lake as well as personal snapshots taken while acting as tour guide for friends and official visitors at the lake. 

The Sparrow family donated his collection of more than 1,400 images to the Southern Oregon Historical Society.


Sources: Alley, William. "The Photographic Legacy of Alex Sparrow." Southern Oregon Heritage Today, vol. 4, no. 5, May 2002, pp. 8-12. "Superintendents - Alex Sparrow, 1917-1923." Craterlakeinstitute.com, Crater Lake Institute. Accessed 9 Aug. 2019. Path: Alex Sparrow Crater Lake Superintendent.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.