The First American Woman to Descend to the Waters of Crater Lake

Crater Lake, photo by Carl Moline circa 1960

Crater Lake, photo by Carl Moline circa 1960

Annie Creek and Annie Spring in Klamath County were named in 1865 for Anna “Annie” Gaines, granddaughter of Samuel K. and Susannah Lee Barlow.

Annie, later Mrs. Augustus Schwatka, and Mrs. O. T. Brown were the first white women to descend to the waters of Crater Lake. Annie died young, leaving her husband, who was employed by the Salem Statesman, and two children, one only a few days old. The following tribute written upon her death gives a lyric sense of her great adventure.

(From the Salem Statesman)

In Memory of Mrs. A. C. Schwatka.

As I stood yesterday by the open grave of Mrs. Annie C. Schwatka, formerly Miss Annie Gaines, the circumstances connected with my first acquaintance with her at Fort Klamath, in 1865, recurred vividly to my mind.

Major W. V. Rinehart was then in command of Fort Klamath, and Miss Gaines, being a sister to Mrs. Rinehart, constituted one of the Major’s family. In that then wild land she was a great favorite, having commended herself to every one by her intelligence and vivacity, and by her kind and generous spirit. She had a very high appreciation of the beautiful in nature, and was consequently an enthusiastic admirer of Klamath landscapes. She was an expert on horseback, and was seen almost daily riding over the grassy plains and among the evergreen groves of Klamath land, and no obstacle seemed too great for her to overcome when seeking to indulge her passion for adventure.

During the summer of 1865, she was one of a party which visited our greatest mountain wonder, Crater Lake, and climbed down a thousand feet of almost vertical wall to the lake shore, being one of the first ladies who ever accomplished this arduous undertaking. One of the tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake, rising within a half-mile of the summit of the rim of Crater Lake, flows gently, for a few miles, across grassy glades and among green trees, and then plunges into a narrow canon with almost vertical walls of columnar basalt. Standing upon the brink of the yawning chasm, and looking down at the frothing cascades and the beautiful stream, seeming like a silver thread, five hundred feet below, with the mighty pillars on either side covered with the rust of ages, the scene is one of particular grandeur; and yet, a descent among those lofty columns amid the hemlock trees which grow in the fissures of the rock, to the rippling cascades and pools of clear, cold water below and wondrous work of the Master Architect, will ever bear the name of “Annie’s Creek,” in remembrance of the adventurous explorer.

Among the pleasant reminiscences of the long ago, I also recall a local excursion on Klamath Lake with Major Rinehart and some others, in which Miss Gaines was, as usual, the most enthusiastic and adventurous of our party. While on the lake we spent some time drifting among the green islands, to one of which, lying away out in the center of the lake, covered with gigantic cane-grass and bordered with green willows, we gave her name.

After a year or so spent at Fort Klamath, Annie came with Major Rinehart’s family to Salem, where she entered the Academy of the Sacred Heart, and remained there until she completed her education, after which she became the wife of our friend, Mr. A. C. Schwatka, and the mother of two children, the youngest of which is only a few days old. Her home was always one of the most pleasant in Salem, and ever gave proof of her love of the true and the beautiful in its adornments.

But Annie has gone from among us. The bright and pleasant friend, the enthusiastic lover of art and nature, the gentle wife and loving mother, sleeps the sleep that knows no waking this side of the pearly gates of a better land.

O.C.A. Salem, February 7, 1976

Mrs. Annie Schwatka, a lady well known and highly respected, died at her residence in Salem, on the morning of the 5th inst. She leaves an infant but a few days old.

Published in the New Northwest, February 11, 1876