Our Guest Speaker today was Dr. William “Bill” White who has lived in our community for over forty years. Bill joined the Sierra Madre Medical Group as a partner practicing general medicine in 1963 and a staff member at the Methodist Hospital. He became Chief of Staff there in 1984 and is now retired from practice. Dr. White has got to be one of the most knowledgeable people around about the Mt. Wilson Trail and its history.
Back in 1889 one of the most difficult pack trains was planned for the trip to Mt. Wilson. It would be to transport the first telescope there, a load estimated at 1200 lbs. It turns out that when they received the telescope at the beginning of the trail for packaging in crates it weighed in at 3700 lbs. It was such an arduous journey on the narrow trail that at times where they encountered a sharp angle they had to drill and blast out a rock to widen it before they could proceed. When they were within two miles of the summit a sudden snowstorm dropped a foot of snow and the men had to abandoned their packs and wait a week at the Halfway House, a small wooden cabin built for shelter along the way. They had to wait for the snow to melt before going further. The entire trip took a total of six weeks to deliver the telescope. Dr. White said that is what made Sierra Madre famous and people poured in to the area to book a trip up the mountain to see the telescope.
A few men built camps to house campers along the trail. One built by Peter Steil called Steil Camp. Mr. Steil owned a drinking establishment in the Pasadena area during the prohibition era and he was frowned upon by many city staff for the alcohol he sold. Another developed a camp named the Strain Camp after A.J. Strain, the builder. Unfortunately to get to the Strain Camp one had to walk through he Steil Camp so Mr. Steil put up a fence to block the trail. When it went to court in Pasadena the judge ruled a $1.00 fine and opened the trail to all people.
The telescope was moved years later to Peru, where Harvard was building an observatory and is now at the Boyden Observatory in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
What a great historic moment Dr. White shared with us. This is simply fascinating!
Thank you Dr. White.