P. B. Van Trump

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Photo of P. B. Van Trump taken approximately 1909.

Philemon Beecher Van Trump (1839–1916), also known as P. B. Van Trump, was an American pioneering mountaineer and writer who lived in the state of Washington. He is best known for the first ascent of Mount Rainier in 1870.[1][2]

Van Trump was born in Lancaster, Ohio on December 18, 1838. His father, Philadelph Van Trump, and his maternal grandfather, Philemon Beecher, represented Ohio districts in the US House of Representatives.[3] He was educated at Kenyon College and the New York University. In 1867 he moved to Washington Territory as the private secretary to Marshall F. Moore, the seventh governor of the territory. Moore was Van Trump's brother-in-law.[4]

Van Trump first saw Mount Rainier in August, 1867, and later remembered:

That first true vision of the mountain, revealing so much of its glorious beauty and grandeur, its mighty and sublime form filling up nearly all of the field of direct vision, swelling up from the plain and out of the green forest till its lofty triple summit towered immeasurably above the picturesque foothills, the westering sun flooding with golden light and softening tints its lofty summit, rugged sides and far-sweeping flanks – all this impressed me so indescribably, enthused me so thoroughly, that I then and there vowed, almost with fervency, that I would some day stand upon its glorious summit, if that feat were possible to human effort and endurance.[4]

Van Trump and General Hazard Stevens made the first documented successful climb of Mount Rainier on August 17, 1870. They climbed the mountain via the Gibraltar route. He climbed the mountain at least five other times.[1][4][5][6]

Van Trump guided John Muir to the summit of Mount Rainier in 1888. Muir describes this climb in a chapter of his book Steep Trails.[7] Muir and Van Trump kept in touch after the climb.

Van Trump joined the Sierra Club in 1893 making him one of their first members outside California. He later served on the Sierra Club committee that campaigned for the creation of Mount Rainier National Park.[1] After his wife, Cynthia, died in 1907, Van Trump took a position greeting tourists at a summer tent camp at Indian Henry's Hunting Ground at Mt Rainier. He served briefly as a seasonal ranger and spent winters with the Longmire family. Failing health caused him to relocate to New York in 1915 to spend his final days with relatives.[8] He died on December 27, 1916 and was interred at the Kattellville Cemetery, Broome County, New York.[9] Van Trump had a son, H. S. Van Trump, and a daughter, Christine Louise Van Trump (died January 1907).[3]

The Stevens Van Trump Historic Monument along the Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park was erected to commemorate the historic first ascent of the mountain. Van Trump Park (an alpine meadow), Van Trump Creek and Van Trump Glacier, all in the national park, are named after him. Christine Falls were named for his daughter, Christine.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Philemon Van Trump". Sierra Club. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  2. ^ "Philemon B. Van Trump holding walking stick, ca. 1909". University of Washington Libraries Digital Collection. University of Washington. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  3. ^ a b Snowden, Clinton A. (1911). History of Washington: The Rise and Progress of an American State. New York: Century History Company. pp. 280–282. 
  4. ^ a b c Haines, Aubrey L. (1999) [1962]. Mountain fever : historic conquests of Rainier. Original publisher: Oregon Historical Society; Republished by University of Washington. ISBN 0-295-97847-3. 
  5. ^ "Stevens and Van Trump". Mount Rainier Nature Notes, Vol. VIII, No. 3. Mount Rainier National Park, National Park Service. March 1930. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  6. ^ "Chronology of Climbs of Mt. Rainier". Tacoma Public Library. 2002. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  7. ^ Muir, John (May 1918). "Chapter XX: An Ascent of Mount Rainier". In William Frederic Badè. Steep Trails. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. LCC F594.M95. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  8. ^ Aubrey L Haines, Mountain Fever: Historic Conquests of Rainier UW Press, 1999, 203-04.
  9. ^ "Descendants of John Beecher 1594-1637" online at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=AHN&db=billjim&id=I15958, accessed 27 November 2010
  10. ^ "Chronology of Climbs on Mt. Rainier". Tacoma Public Library. Retrieved 2017-11-25.