Mount Howard receives National Natural Landmark designation

Mount Howard was named after Gen. Oliver Otis Howard.

The first person to come into the Josephy Library where I work and ask about the naming of Mount Howard was someone born and raised here. He’d just read a book on the Nez Perce War, and, realizing that it was Gen. Oliver Otis Howard who delivered the ultimatum to Chief Joseph — you and your people have 30 days to leave — he wondered why Howard had a mountain named after him. Ironically, a mountain almost directly across Wallowa Lake from Chief Joseph Mountain. Since that time, others have asked.

Although I had thought about the two mountains looking at each other, I had not thought about their naming. I picked up the library’s copy of “Oregon Geographic Names” to find that the mountain had once been called “Signal Peak,” and had been renamed by the Oregon Geographic Names Board in 1925, at the suggestion of J. Neilson Barry, of Portland, Oregon. Barry had also suggested the naming of Bonneville Mountain, which had previously been “Middle Mountain.” The third mountain that sits on the right as we look south from the town of Joseph, we know as Mount Joseph. Officially, it is Chief Joseph Mountain, also renamed in 1925, although not at Barry’s suggestion. It was formerly known as “Tunnel Mountain,” or “Point Joseph.”

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Rich Wandschneider is the director of the Josephy Library of Western History and Culture.

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