Thanks to some careful research by ODOT historian Robert Hadlow we now know this image and the series it comes from represent to very earliest moments of Columbia River Highway construction in Hood River county. Mr. Hadlow recognized Oregon Governor Oswald West as one of the "supervisors" and recognizing the site as Shellrock Mountain, and was able to unite this image with this Oregonian article from May 24, 1912:
CONVICTS START NEW ROAD
Work on Columbia River Highway Is Begun by Prison Labor
WYETH, Or., May 23.-(Special.)- An agreement having been reached with the O.-W. R.&N. Company as to the right of way with the exception of the location at one point, where solid cliffs overhang the railroad, the 15 convicts at Camp Benson broke ground at 1 o'clock this afternoon on the Columbia River Highway. This is the first work ever done in Hood River County by convicts.County Commissioner G. A. McCurdy and County Engineer Murray Kay met Governor West at Camp Benson this morning and were present when the first stones were turned on the initial work of the scenic route.
Mr. Kay will supervise the work to be done by the convict laborers, the crew of which will immediately be increased to 25 men. The Governor and county officials who were accompanied by W. L. Clark and Ernest J. Bloom, of Hood River, lunched at the convict camp. They spent a part of the afternoon inspecting the stretch of the Columbia road that is being constructed by the Wyeth road district.
The series of images show the group of dignitaries in various positions observing the men working and posing with tools.
About right. 7 supervisors. 7 workers.
Buzz on 22nd May 2013 @ 7:05am
Cool Hand Luke?
Dan on 22nd May 2013 @ 7:16am
The closest convict looks like he has some age on him and a bad back. He would probably like to be scratching his head, like that foreman, and wondering what he did to deserve this.
But, he does have new suspenders!
Interesting photo Arthur and we don't have to solve it.
l.e. on 22nd May 2013 @ 7:31am
Jill Stanford on 22nd May 2013 @ 8:34am
Looks like one "supervisor" is on his tablet, 'nother on his cell phone...
spinsur on 22nd May 2013 @ 9:07am
Two supervisors on far end possibly more concerned about lunch break.
Buzz on 22nd May 2013 @ 9:14am
Why are there so many telegraph/telephone lines?
Would that be the narrows area of the Columbia?
RALPH on 22nd May 2013 @ 9:38am
Ralph, across from the Bonneville slide, the original Bridge of the Gods, near where Lewis and Clark still found snags on the Oregon side of the river from the wall of water from the slide, if that's the Narrows you're referring to . About milepost 56 of the freeway, if that helps. Shellrock on the Oregon side, across from Dog and Wind mountains on the Washington side.
spinsur on 22nd May 2013 @ 10:06am
Good thing you have the article, or I would have thought it was a union job for sure. Interesting that the convicts aren't wearing any type of convict looking clothes. Plus they have some nasty looking pitchforks in their hands, and the officials are unarmed.
Lesa on 22nd May 2013 @ 10:51am
Concerning the number of telephone/telegraph wires-- in this era one only one conversation could be carried per wire. If we're seeing all the wires between Portland and Hood River, that's not many circuits at all.
Arthur on 22nd May 2013 @ 11:52am
Does anyone know of any places where parts of the "convict road" are still visible?
Bill Seaton on 22nd May 2013 @ 3:07pm
Well, they're working on the base of what is the Columbia River Highway, and besides the pieces we're familiar with, (eastside loops, Rowena loops, Cascade/Oak, Forest Lane) there are many little sections, especially along the couple of miles either way of this photo. Next drive down the freeway, look into the woods, and one cane see the twenty foot wide flat road bed snaking along, in and out under the freeway. There's also a section of rockwork going up the side of Shellrock, that is a road base, though not the CRH.
spinsur on 22nd May 2013 @ 3:28pm
I would guess that the set of lower poles on the water side of the railroad are for railroad purposes, and the two sets of higher poles are non-rail related.
Buzz, these guys are doing a publicity visit....not supervising. Bet there is a guy off camera armed with some sort of "argument decider".
Arlen Sheldrake on 22nd May 2013 @ 5:57pm
My comments were meant to be tongue-in-cheek satire based on the caption under the photo. But, if I were a politician, I wouldn't want this photo used for publicity.
Buzz on 22nd May 2013 @ 7:27pm
There was the prior "convict road" built long before there was a Columbia River Highway. It used to be visible in little sections way up about half way on Shell Rock. Next time I am a passanger and not driving I shall make an effort to see if any portion of it is still visible.
charlott on 23rd May 2013 @ 7:24am
I cannot find it now, but I seem to recall reading that the telephone lines were not in place until closer to 1915 in this area. So these are most likely telegraph lines. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)
Chase on 23rd May 2013 @ 9:53am
I don't have the United Telephone company history handy, but Hood River streets were lined with telephone lines by about 1900, and there was a published phone directory at least as early as 1905. I don't know about "long distance" lines through the Gorge.
Arthur on 23rd May 2013 @ 10:43am
Correct! The Oregonian from September 14, 1893 states that the first telephone lines through the Gorge were in place. I think my 1915 date was the year the cupola cabin atop Mt. Hood had a telephone line in place.
Chase on 23rd May 2013 @ 7:36pm