Steel Mountain remains only in history
Regarding the Mail Tribune 100 story of June 3, is there still a mountain in Jackson County named after William Steel?
— Larry S., Jacksonville
The short answer, Larry, is no, there is no mountain with that official name. Now for the rest of the story:
In your email, Larry, you included a copy of a Mail Tribune story from 100 years ago that detailed the climb of "a party of 19, including Grizzlies ... (who) climbed to the top of the Siskiyou peaks for the purpose of naming the mountain 'Steel' in honor of Mr. William Gladstone Steel of Medford."
The Mr. Steel in question is considered "the father of Crater Lake Park," after he spent years lobbying and fighting for national park status for Crater Lake. He served as the park's second superintendent and is credited for preserving many of the natural resources of Crater Lake National Park.
Steel was born in 1854, died Nov. 21, 1934, and was buried in Medford's Siskiyou Memorial Park wearing his National Park Service uniform, according to a short biography posted at www.craterlakeinstitute.com.
The group referenced in the Mail Tribune story had good intentions in honoring Steel, but apparently weren't big on follow-through. There is no reference in any list we could find of a Steel Mountain anywhere in Oregon (although Steel himself wrote a book titled "The Mountains of Oregon"). It appears the mountain referenced in the long-ago story is what is now know as Anderson Butte — the original story referred to a peak that was 5,001 feet in elevation and "up Anderson's creek." Anderson Butte, west of Talent, is now listed at 4,997 feet.
So while the group chiseled Steel's name in a rock near the top of the mountain, they did not make it official by registering the name with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a federal agency created in 1890. These days, efforts to name, or rename, a geographic feature in Oregon must first pass through the Oregon Geographic Names Board, which passes on its recommendations to the U.S. board.
But, never fear, there remains a geographic memorial to Mr. Steel, who was also a co-founder of the Mazamas climbing club (thus the name Mount Mazama for the mountain that blew its top to create Crater Lake). He is memorialized in the Steel Bay, situated on the north shore of Crater Lake.
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