To him, Oregon was dear

Crater Lakeís Sinnott Memorial was dedicated July 16, 1931, in memory of a proud Oregonian, Nicholas Sinnott.

Nick Sinnott is long gone, but his memory lives strong.

Perched on Victor Rock, a cliff some 50 feet below the rim of Crater Lake, sits Sinnott Memorial, dedicated to a man who loved Oregon and was proud to say it as often as he could.

If you go

The stone steps down to Sinnott Memorial are across from the Rim Village on the edge of Crater Lake. The memorial offers an observation deck for a unique view of the lake, and a museum room, carved into the cliff, displaying the lake's history.

Be sure to see the dedication plaque and the portrait of Nicholas Sinnott that was added to the memorial in 1932.

During his 14 years in Congress, no one's words were more elegant than those coming from the mouth of this "large, slow-moving thinker."

"I wish that I could take you out into my country," he said in a speech to the House of Rep-resentatives.

"Southward, Crater Lake, cauldron-like and circular," he said. "To the scientist, a mighty volcano collapsed upon itself. To the poet, the sea of silence, a lake of mystery."

Nicholas John Sinnott was an Oregon native, born in December of 1870 along the Columbia River in The Dalles. He knew Indians because his father was an Indian agent, and he met real pioneers and the stockmen who frequented the Umatilla House, his father's famous hotel.

After graduating from the local schools he was off to Indiana and the Golden Dome of Notre Dame. He was an all-around athlete and football star and came home with a bunch of gold medals to prove it.

But it was his interest in theatrics that eventually led him to his oratorical renown.

When the university presented Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Nick insisted on taking the part of Cassius.

"The way in which he rendered one of the most difficult parts," wrote a reviewer, "showed that he is possessed of considerable histrionic power as a delineator of Shakespearean characters."

After graduation in 1892, Sinnott returned home to study law and was admitted to the Oregon Bar in 1895.

He was elected to the State Senate in 1908 and served in that body until elected U.S. representative from Oregon's 2nd Congressional District. He rose to chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, giving him authority over the 11 Western states — the states where most of the country's public lands lie.

Sinnott had a strong hand in the original bill requiring the federal government to return 50 percent of timber-sale receipts to Western counties.

In 1928, after serving through seven consecutive congressional terms, President Coolidge appointed Sinnott judge of the United States Court of Claims, in Washington, D.C.

Less than a year later, July 20, 1929, he died after suffering his second heart attack in two weeks.

In May of 1930, Crater Lake Superintendant Elbert Solinsky announced that Congress had authorized $10,000 to build a memorial to "Nick Sinnott, ardent friend of Crater Lake."

Constructed of native stone, 1,000 feet above the azure water, the observation lookout and museum was dedicated July 16, 1931. The large delegation of national, state and local officials included Will Steel, known as the "Father of Crater Lake" for his early efforts to have the lake designated a national park.

"It is good to consider that the Nick Sinnott we knew so well," wrote a reporter, "is not forgotten of his generation, and that others who come after will know that here, too, was one to whom Oregon was dear."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.


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