Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/517

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481
CORRESPONDENCE.

CORRESPONDENCE.



EARLY TRANSCONTINENTAL EXPLORATIONS.

To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

SIR: Judge Daly's address to the American Geographical Society, in the May number of The Popular Science Monthly, it appears to me, might lead the reader to infer that little was known, before General Fremont's journey, of our country between the Mississippi and Pacific. And a like opinion seems to have been entertained when he was a candidate for President, for it was then said that he was the discoverer of the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains; whereas it had been long known and used by explorers before 1832, ten years before his journey, when I passed that way to Oregon, some account of which can be seen in a letter from me to Prof. Amos Eaton, of Troy, published in Silliman's Journal in 1833 or 1834, and a communication from myself to the same in 1835. But, as this may look a little egotistical, I will speak of those who traversed those regions earlier, but by no means to detract from the deserved honor due to those later explorers named by the judge in his address, one of whom, Lieutenant Gunnison, I knew well, as this place was for a time his home, as it is still of his family; and as they were the first to explore the wide country from the Mississippi to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark, and their companions, should be the first mentioned, for, till their exploration, it was indeed a terra incognita. Sent out by the Government in 1806, after its purchase as a part of Louisiana, it took them more than two years to perform the journey, crossing the mountains by very difficult routes, the more feasible ones, the South Pass and others, being of after-discovery. Well do I recollect in my childhood hearing one of their number, a Mr. Ordway, describe their journey, and how the bad Indians followed them for a number of days to restore some articles they had accidentally left. Lewis and Clark's journey was before the day of what is called the modern sciences, for to them, geologically, the grand basaltic columns on the Columbia were "high black rocks." Then, in 1810, came Mr. Astor's grand enterprise of establishing the fur-business on the Columbia. He not only sent a vessel round by sea with men and supplies, but sent a party, headed by Mr. Ramsay Crooks, across the country to meet them. He met so many obstacles, especially among the mountains and cañons along the lower Lewis River, that he did not reach Astoria till the second year. The next year, to bring an express from there to Mr. Astor, a Mr. Robert Stewart, late of Detroit, crossed the mountains and plains with only half a dozen men. But Astor was cut short in his business in Oregon, for in 1812 a party of the British Northwestern Company crossed the mountains and descended the Columbia, carrying the news to Astoria of the war, and that a warship was on the way to take their fort. So Astor's agents there sold out to them his interest, and those British traders, afterward consolidated with and known as the Hudson Bay Company, even after the boundary-line was settled beyond the mountains, controlled the fur-trade from the Pacific to the Atlantic in British America, and down the coast to California, and knew every corner of it to the Arctic Ocean, wherever the beaver clipped a twig or swam its mountain-streams. General Ashley, and other American fur-traders, early also carried the trade to the mountains, and became as well acquainted with them on our side, if we except that wondrous cañon-region lately so ably explored by Powell and others. Mr. Sublelle, with whom and his trappers we in 1832 traveled, had then made his seventh annual journey to the mountains, and we left the State of Missouri on the deep-worn Santa Fé trail, over which trade was carried on to that place; leaving which, and crossing the Kansas River, between that and the Platte we overtook Major Bonneville, traveling with wagons to the mountains, where he passed the winter, and of whom,