Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 11/What I Know of Dr. McLoughlin and How I Know It
WHAT I KNOW OF DR. McLOUGHLIN AND HOW I KNOW IT
By John Minto.
To the Trustees of the McLoughlin School at Oregon City, Oregon:
The writer crossed the plains and mountains from Missouri to Oregon in 1844, with Americans and as an American. I was under a verbal engagement to assist one of the leading family men to Oregon with his family and effects, but as we neared Ft. Hall on the Snake river, I realized that my labor could not expedite the movement of the train, and that the food I would consume might be seriously needed by the women and children before reaching western Oregon (as indeed it was), and obtained my employer's consent to join two other young men who were leaving their families for a similar reason, and push on ahead.
With 15 pounds of pemmican, a saddle horse and rifle each, we left our train at Ft. Hall, an estimated 800 miles from Oregon City, as the trail then was, and in a few hours were joined by three other young men who were leaving Col. N. Ford's train for the same reason we were leaving Gilliam's. They were without provisions and one of them on foot. This made six consumers of the little provisions we had, but before night we killed three young sage grouse—the only ones we saw on the trip.
On the third day, when we were out of anything to eat, we met an Hudson's Bay messenger acting as guide to a Catholic priest who was on his way to join another whom I had seen at Ft. Hall. This guide was a man in style and build closely resembling Kit Carson, whom I saw and observed closely at Ft. Bridger; a man easy to tell your wants to. At all events, we quickly let this cheerful Canadian Frenchman know our condition and he did not change his manner, as he said, "We have only a few salmon skins left, but we'll divide with you, as I think we can make Ft. Hall in two days." And as he talked he was opening the pack and counting, and remarked, "Here is a dozen; we can do with six. I will give you six and that will stead you to Salmon Falls, where fish is abundant and cheap now." Then seeing our hesitancy about accepting provisions without making compensation, he added. "Say no more, gentlemen, I have been in your case many times — and we must travel." This, I was to learn, was a reflection of the spirit of Dr. McLoughlin's treatment of the immigrants to Oregon during 1843-4, the reproof for which caused him to resign a position of princely power and surrender a salary of $12,000 per annum.
The writer was to advance 300 miles farther into the Oregon country before hearing the name of Dr. McLoughlin, and to wait sixty-five years to learn that the quiet priest whom he met at Goose Creek on the Oregon trail, in care of a messenger selected by Dr. McLoughlin, was Father DeSmet, the first, and so far as he knows, the only member of the Society of Jesus he has ever seen. He has learned, further, that Father DeSmet had just returned from Belgium, whither he had gone under the urgent advice and assistance of Dr. McLoughlin in 1842, to collect help and means.
An interesting sketch in the Oregon Historial Quarterly for September, 1909, entitled "Father DeSmet in the Oregon Country," by Rev. Edwin V.O'Hara, enables the writer to name the priest whom he met at Goose Creek as Father DeSmet, then on his way to strengthen the missions he had planted along the upper Columbia in 1840-42.
After parting with this illustration of the far-reaching wave of Dr. McLoughlin's influence, we soon came within sound of a cry, "Swap salmon, six?" (Trade for salmon, friend?). A large fresh fish held up taught us the meaning. Luckily I had bought a gross of fish hooks in St. Louis, little used till now, when we found them easy barter for fish from the natives until we got to Grand Ronde. At Fort Boise, we mustered enough silver money to purchase 20 pounds of Oregon flour, but a duck at Willow Springs, a prairie chicken while descending the hill into the Grand Ronde valley and a ruffled grouse at the foot of it, a cotton tail rabbit on Burnt river and a few pounds of buffalo pemmican was all the meat we tasted between the 17th of September and the nth of October, when we met General M. M. McCarver on the Umatilla, about a day's ride from where Pendleton now is.
We had met Major James Waters, Wm. C. Dement and —— Rice, from Oregon City, in the Grand Ronde, and on their invitation stopped to camp with them. We had put our birds to cook with some rice given us by our Oregon friends when a cavalcade of Indan women returning from their camas flats with their horses loaded with the fresh-dug edibles, stopped to inspect us. We began by signs to ask if they had any food to barter and found they had several cakes of camas bread, not unlike the Scotch "bannock," made of barley meal. (This suggests that the name "Bannock" may have been given the Indians of the Boise valley from their custom of making camas and kouse roots and pounded choke cherry and haw seeds into sun-baked cakes like "bannocks.") They readily traded us all the bread they had for fish hooks.
Next morning where the trail took the Blue Mountains we found ourselves surrounded by a party of Indians, all men but one—a girl of 18, perhaps, mounted on as fine a steed as I have ever seen carry the name of Arabia. She kept beside an elderly man who seemed proud of her, and neither offered to trade. Indeed the men seemed only to make believe, one with a quart of peas, another with shelled corn. They were evidently inspecting us. The rest of the boys, seeing this, called to me to mount, but, still looking at the fine-looking father and daughter, I said: "There's the only Indian girl I have seen that approaches my idea of how Pocahontas looked, and she never was on such a splendid horse. I'm going to give her a salute before we take the hill," and drawing a pistol of the old style dueling type, and looking at the father, who was intently watching me, I fired into the air, bowing to him and then to my comrades, who cheered. The Indians looked at me closely, the father quietly smiled, and we hurriedly waved good-bye and breasted the steep trail. My folly, and it certainly was folly, was soon paid for. Two of the Indians dashed up behind me and motioned me to stop, not stopping themselves until they were abreast me. Then one began to sign that he wanted to give me a better horse to cross the mountains on. He showed me that he knew by a mark I had not observed, that my horse was old and would die in crossing the mountains, and that he would give me a younger, stronger horse for the old one and the pistol to boot; he got his trade and I got the poorer horse by the full worth of the boot.
We camped about half way across the Blue Mountains, where the Grand Ronde forms a narrow but beautiful valley; there we found a party of our train who had left us at the Missouri River, and an Indian family whom I have learned to have been that of Esticus, Dr. Whitman's friend, who had piloted the trains of 1843 through that way. As the noises of evening ceased, the hymn with which they closed the day seemed to me the sweetest vocal music I had ever heard. Of course I understood that much of its charm and mellowness came from the mountains surrounding. The singing of that hymn had much the same effect on the emigrant camp as it had on me, apparently, for there was little noise there afterward. In the morning the captain showed that he had not forgotten the harmony of sweet sounds, and himself tried a yodel to waken his sleeping camp; as that ceased the morning hymn of the Indian family arose. It was different, probably from the cooler, less expansive air of the morning. Chief Esticus showed that he was there for a purpose, for he led the way, marking the trail very plainly with the band of horses he had. We on horseback passed him and found no difficulty in following the wagon marks of 1843 to the west edge of the timber of the Blue Mountains where at last we gazed apparently across the grand valley of the "River of the West" to Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker. Ah, what a glorious sight it was.
In Oregon—That was what I felt as I looked across the upper valley of the Columbia. I passed my twenty-second birthday as one of a party of six, without a particle of food among us and our means of barter with the natives getting very low. We passed the trail to Whitman's and thereby missed seeing Whitman and his noble wife—the first home-builders of the conquering race in Oregon.
When we got to the Umatilla a single Indian came to us with about 20 pounds of potatoes, which he offered to us for a shirt. The proposition suited, but we had few spare shirts; one of the party had, however, a good, clean, checked shirt which he had not worn on the trip; the young man eagerly made the exchange and went with it toward the brush, out of which two young women emerged and examined his purchase. The one we supposed was his wife held it up and perceiving that it showed wear on the shoulders began to jeer at him for being a bad trader. We had mounted to ride on, but they rode in among us demanding the return of the potatoes; but we needed food and believing that the garment was ample pay, said no. The man who had made the trade attempted to take the sack but threw it on the ground and looked into the muzzle of a gun before he concluded that a trade was a trade. Next morning a couple of horses were missing and a party of Indians came to our camp offering to find them for a blanket; we made them understand that we were acquainted with their methods of getting clothing and did not pay for lost horses that way. We were delayed about an hour and met General M. M. McCarver near the mouth of the Umatilla. He was that far east with a liberal supply of provisions for his family whom he expected to meet on the way. Mr. Daniel Holman was with him and an old Indian from The Dalles, the owner of the six horses the party had. This man was evidently distrustful of the local Indians in regard to horses, and he had need to be, for the fishing villages were gathering points for the hunting mountain tribes, so that the wail for the dead and the gambler's tom-tom were common and monotonous sounds. When he learned that our provisions were low the General said, that he left his grain in the shock for lack of sheds to store it, and that if on our arrival, we would assist him in building we were welcome to the supplies he had brought.
General McCarver was at this time speaker of the house of the American Provisional Government, and few men could tell us more about public affairs, especially in regard to the assistance Dr. McLoughlin freely gave the American emigrants. Three of us, S. B. Crockett, Daniel Clark and myself, had already determined to return to the Dalles to assist our friends to western Oregon, and finding the General so warm in his praise of the doctor's course in lending boats to help the families down the great river, we asked him if he could and would aid us in getting the use of a boat; he said he would gladly write to the Doctor, and did. In fact, McCarver and Burnett had laid off lots for sale on the west bank of the Willamette, calling the town Linnton, and had led the way in cutting a passable wagon road to the extreme northern point of Tualatin Plains. This was already being used by the Red River settlers who had been induced by Sir George Simpson, Governor of the H. B. Co., to leave the Selkirk settlement in 1 841, and who, finding the open land about Nisqually gravelly and sterile, had already opened farms and were harvesting crops on the Tualatin plains nearest to Ft. Vancouver. Dr. McLoughlin was so much in sympathy with these people that he exchanged lots in Oregon City for lots in Linnton with Burnett and McCarver. If the papers of the H. B. Co. are ever opened to historical gleaners, I believe it will be found that the chief cause of the coolness between the Governor of the H. B. Co. and the Chief Factor was the latter's preference for the south side of the Columbia.
From the Dalles to Oregon City—Crossing the Cascade range was a different matter in 1844 from what it was after the Barlows finished their road in 1846. We just avoided trouble in crossing the Des Chutes; Clark, Crockett and myself were in advance of the main party, and were taking the dangerous ford one at a time, which separated us by the distance of a long rifle shot, when we saw Indians on the west side; the third man narrowly escaped losing his gun, horse and clothing, but a quick movement which placed the muzzle of his rifle against the breast of an Indian who was trying to wrest it from him, caused it to be dropped as if it were hot, while a glance over his shoulder showed him a brown hand about to close on the horse's rope. The spring of horse and man to get away caused the Indians, seventeen in number, to scatter like a band of wolves defeated of their prey.
We reached the Dalles in safety, on the Sunday preceding October 20th, and guided by the Indians, stripped our horses close against a log building used for a chapel, not thinking of Sunday or preaching, and not understanding why we were passed and repassed without notice. I told Mr. Bancroft this many years ago, still stinging with the mortification I felt for the indecent intrusion we had so unintentionally committed. We ate a hasty meal outside this rude Mission church, and my comrades went to find out where the main portion of the party were. They found them near the camp of the man from whom they had hired the horses and where they had left the canoe in which they had come from Linnton and Fort Vancouver. It was quickly arranged that Clark, Murray and Ramsey should go down the river in the canoe, while Crockett, Ferguson and myself should cross the Cascades via the north base of Mt. Hood, to the McCarver farm on Tualatin Plains.
We started early, and travelled fast the first half of the day to the North arm of Hood River, crossing that into the grandest timber growth any of us had ever saw. We slept two nights in these groves of the Cascade forests, well described by the poet as God's first temples. I recognized the feeling of awe that used to impress me when as a child I attended churches designed, both in building and situation, to produce that effect. Our sleep was sweet and sound, and the waking, in the earliest morning, to gaze up at the still brilliant stars, after a night's lodging on the bare ground during all that half-famished thirty days' trip from Ft. Hall, gave me a feeling of exultation in life, which I have not command of language to describe.
On the 1 8th of October we reached Oregon City with the first fall rains. At that time the only wagon road out of Oregon City was to Tualatin Plains, where there was already some surplus grain raised, which was hauled to Oregon City for grinding. Mr. Walter Pomeroy was the largest wheat grower, and also built the first hotel at Oregon City. The Willamette River, however, was as yet the main channel of commerce through its valley.
We reached the McCarver farm on the 19th of October through a steady warm rain; and in pairing off for sleeping I joined my friend Daniel Clark again, and gave him an account of our crossing the Cascade mountains. Clark in return for my description of our trip across the mountains and our kind treatment at Oregon City, told of their trip down by » canoe, and of his taking the canoe over the rapids constituting the "long portage" by himself, and related an adventure he had had on a newly arrived ship at Vancouver, the first he remembered having seen, having been brought from Ireland to Canada in his infancy. He asked if he might look over the ship, and obtaining permission, lost no time in going on deck. He looked at the braces and rigging, scaled the ratlines as far as he felt safe, and finally found himself face to face with the captain in his cabin, busy with his manifest of cargo. The latter looked up from his work, and beholding a florid-faced, homespun-clad youth looking at him, said: "Young man, where did you come from and what do you want here?" "I did not mean to intrude, sir," answered Clark; "I never saw a ship before since I can remember—We've come from Missouri, across the Rocky Mountains; we've come to make our homes in Oregon and rule this country". The captain looked a while at his visitor before he replied: "Well, young man, I've sailed into every quarter of this globe and seen 'most all the kinds of people on it, but a more uncouth or bolder people than you who are descending this river I never saw anywhere." My comrade dropped off to sleep, and I lay by his side, quivering with the thought of our great journey completed; we had come an estimated two thousand miles across wild country, "Through roving tribes of savage men, to plant our Nation's banner on the far off lands of Oregon." Clark seemed not to have noticed he had had condensed all the fireside and camp fire talks he had heard into thirty words; I could not but reflect also how concisely his reply to the captain agreed with the camp-fire talks of the older men. Clark was two years my junior, read little, wrote a neat hand, and went to Vancouver as assessor under the Provisional Government of Oregon, in June, 1845.
On October twenty-first, the six of us who owed General McCarver for the provisions furnished us on the Umatilla in eastern Oregon, went into the woods to get out material with which to build a shelter for his crop of wheat, already soaked with the first rainfall of Autumn. I was set to work to saw a large tree into four-foot lengths for roofing; the first step was to take the bark off with an ax, and I had the ax, eager to begin. The first stroke glanced back and went to the bone of my left leg, midway between the knee and the foot; as I looked at my hurt my companion in front of me fainted, but we got some rags and bound it up in the blood as woodsmen commonly do, and was helped to the house and installed as cook with little loss of time or working force. There was an ample supply of flour, bacon, smoked salmon and vegetables, and I learned something of the quantity of food six men at hard labor would consume in a week after being six weeks on half rations, However, the week put General McCarver's crop in a reasonably safe shelter, and while three of our companions continued with him, Crockett, Clark and myself went to work with a contractor in log cabin building—a man so small in stature that he was known as "Little" Osbourn. In a week we had built five cabins of legal size—16 feet square with eaves 6 feet above the ground, with doorway cut out and roof of four foot clapboards. This job finished, Clark took a rail-making contract and I went with Mr. Osbourn to seek a contract with Hon. P. H. Burnett, who led the emigrants from Missouri to Oregon in 1843-4. Within two minutes after our introduction Mr. B. was trying to learn from me how near Western Oregon resembled England in its natural growth of timber, brush and weeds. He wanted 1500 cedar rails made about two miles away, for which he would pay one dollar per hundred and furnish food for the maker while on the job. I took the contract, and my comrade, Crockett, joining me, we went at it without loss of time on a Monday morning, split out a few rail cuts into "puncheons" two inches thick and the width of the cut, rested one end of them on a large log, covering the spaces between, and with a dozen of these pieces had a roof to cook and sleep under. It began to rain and continued at short intervals during the week, but we did not lose much time. As we still had our emigrant appetites I went to his home on Friday for an additional supply of provisions and as I had to wait a few hours for Mr. Burnett, his wife put on the rude reading table some new books which Dr. McLoughlin had sent over from Ft. Vancouver with about half a bushel of ripe apples, five of which Mrs. Burnett presented to me, with the advice to save the seeds and plant them when I had selected a home for myself. While I enjoyed the apples the lady talked of her reasons for being glad of having come to Oregon, chief of which was the wonderful recreative effect it had had on herself; she had been sick for about two years before starting, unable to help herself for the most of that time, but by the time they had been on the road a month she was able to help with the cooking at the campfire, and soon was able to cook for her own family of eight and two hired men; and continued to do so until they reached Ft. Vancouver where she and her children with the exception of the eldest son had remained for a time as guests of Dr. McLoughlin and where she had not been permitted to do anything. Referring again to the kindness of the Doctor and his officers to herself and husband, she invited me to amuse myself with the new books, which were evidence of that kindness, until her husband's return. One of the books was Pope's poetical works with Dr. Johnson's estimate of Pope as a poet, and the other a plea for the Roman Catholic Church as the only true Christian Church — so profound that I was unable to follow its author for the little time I bestowed on it, but I have never had any doubt that Dr. McLoughlin was the chief agency in making Mr. Burnett and his noble wife devout members of the Roman Catholic Church. I never saw the gentle lady but that once, but, I have never seen the day since that I would not have staked all I am on the honor of P. H. Burnett and his wife in choosing the Catholic church and being remarried under its ritual in 1845 or 1846. At this time the M. E. Church was apparently and prospectively the ruling religious power in Oregon, and Peter Henderson Burnett nearly if not quite the head of its jurisprudence, while as an individual he was away in advance of any member of the M. E, Church then in Oregon, unless we except George Abernethy, the least demonstrative of his sect in Oregon.
A few words of personal history may be written at this point. On the day before election in 1845, Judge Burnett, a young man named Mason, (who told me he was reading law) and myself were on the hotel porch at Oregon City. Mason, as new to the voting privilege as myself, said: "Judge, whom do you consider the best man to vote for, for Governor?" Mr. B. with short hesitation answered: "I consider George Abernethy the best read man in Oregon." I did not see young Mason again until December, 1847, DUt I cast the first vote of my life for George Abernethy—one of Nature's noblemen, I think, as was Mr. Burnett; a life long friend of Dr. McLoughlin after they met in Oregon. They were the two most conspicuous men to join the Catholic Church in Oregon during the formative period unless we include General Jos. Lane.
To resume my narrative: we finished our job for Mr. Burnett on Saturday evening, and he paid me with a $15.00 note for legal services rendered to a young settler of good repute, which I later gave for a suit of cotton clothing to an emigrant of our train, which, we learned on Sunday by a letter from Dr. McLoughlin to General McCarver, had reached the Dalles. The letter also stated that General Gilliam's family had been furnished with a boat and had come down without delay, and that the young men who had applied for the use of a boat, would find one tied up at Linnton for their use. Accordingly, we three, Clark, Crockett and Minto, met at the residence of Mr. Henry Buxton, an English farmer from Rupert's land with whom General McCarver boarded, and started on foot over the newly cut road to Linnton. There we found Jacob Hoover and his family, who had recently landed from the boat we had come to use. We were invited to> partake of a swan dinner, which we could not well refuse, and then started on our twelve-mile row to Fort Vancouver—three of us in a seven man boat. We arrived at the fort gates between 8 and 9 P. M., and had trouble to gain admittance and then more trouble to get speech with Mr. Douglas, Dr. McLoughlin being absent at Oregon City. We were finally sent outside the gates to pass the night in a cabin occupied by two men; one, a Lowland Scotch blacksmith, a maker of the cheap axes, hatchets and knives used in the trade; the other, an honest, faithful herdsman from the Orkney Islands, whose three years' contract at 17 English pounds a year was nearly up, when he expected to return home and marry the lassie whose present of a pocket testament he carried near his heart. He could see no opportunity in a square mile of good land in Oregon. We learned this while sharing the contract breakfast of salt salmon and potatoes—cheap and wholesome food.
We were still eating when at the toll of the bell the gates opened. The grand figure of Dr. McLoughlin appeared on the stoop of his residence as we entered the gates. He beckoned us to him and advanced to meet us in the oblong square, upon the south-east corner of which a new bastion seemed to be just completed. As we met him he said: "Are you the young men who applied for a boat to aid your friend from the Dalles?" "Yes, sir". "Well, young men, I advise—I advise you to take the boat above the Cascade Falls if you can get help to do so, and bring down to that point not your own friends only, but all who desire to come, and I'll see—I'll see that they are brought away from the Cascades". We promised to do as he suggested, and his hand was lifted to his hat, when our spokesman, Clark, said: "We need to do a little business before we start", and held out to him a bunch of small orders, the only American money then in Oregon. He took them in his hand and giving them a slight examination said: "Young men we are not doing business for a few days; a ship-load of goods is in from London, and we are taking stock of what we have on hand, as our custom is. But I think you are going on an errand of mercy and you must have what you need". He turned and beckoned to a servant and said to him: "Guide these men to the shop and tell Mr. Graham to meet their wants if he can." He was again turning away—had taken a few steps when he faced around toward us and said: "Young men, perhaps you would like to communicate with your friends in the East. If so, you have an opportunity; a messenger will leave the fort today at two o'clock. It's an opportunity you will not have again in six months or a year, perhaps". We thanked him and said we were not prepared to take advantage of his kindness, as we had neither pencils nor paper. The Doctor wheeled about toward his office and another servant came running, to whom he said: "Go to Mr. Graham and ask him to send pens, ink and paper to the stranger's room." Then the good man turned to us again and pointing to the open door of the strangers' room said: "Young men, go in there and write your letters, and I would advise you to do so before noon; you can get your goods afterward. But be sure to be in that room when the bell rings." This we understood to be an invitation to a good English dinner, which was the common usage to all business visitors. The Doctor, raising his hat, went to his office leaving the writer feeling that he had seen the best sample of the many North British noblemen he had read about in boyhood. He was a very impressive personality.
(Note 1) (The writer laboriously covered half a sheet of foolscap to his father at Pittsburg, Penn. This was on Dec. 5th, 1844; he received his father's answer via St. Louis, Mo., and across the plains to Astoria on the 15th of July, 1847. I learned on this 22nd day of March, 19 10, that the package containing my letter from my father also contained a letter from the Postmaster General, creating my general on the journey to Oregon, Cornelius Gilliam, U. S. Postal Agent for Oregon. This first mail matter sent across the plains to Oregon was carried by J. M. Shively, part owner of the site of the city of Astoria—at that time known as Fort George, a Hudson Bay Co.'s trading post with James Birnie in charge.)
I saw him again in March, 1854, m his own hospital by the bed of the guide who with Father DeSmet had divided his food supply with us at Goose Creek on Sept. 20, 1844.
(Note 2) (There were but two cots occupied in the Vancouver Hospital when I saw McLoughlin there. In addition to the guide mentioned, whose eyes were glittering with the encouragement his doctor-chief was giving as to his condition, was another, an American gentleman, dying silently, without hope. He had taken as his claim the tract which is now East Portland and erected an uncommonly good log cabin. He left a young native woman as his widow, but I have never been able to learn any more about the man than is here stated.)
The next intimate notice I had of Dr. McLoughlin was after he had moved his family to Oregon City and seemed happily busy in finishing his mills there for business. A logging crew under Judge Nesmith had thrown in a lot of logs for the Doctor at the pinery opposite what is now New Era. They had been floated down without rafting, and many of them had been rolled by the current across the shelving rocks of Abernethy Island, west of the Abernethy mills,—some of them very near the brink of the falls. Mr. James Welch, later of Astoria, had taken a contract to roll these logs over the falls so that they could be boomed below the sawmill. I learned that Mr. Welch wanted help and applied. Without mentioning terms he thrust a pikepole into my hands and said: "Go onto the boom below there and boom the logs we roll over; you will get your meals at my house and perhaps a bed." So I put in the first day catching Dr. McLoughlin's logs and booming them below his sawmill. After supper I decided to ask Mr. Welch about my wages as my work had been light and his own, with but one man to assist him, was both disagreeable and dangerous; the one man starting the log being often breast-deep in the water and requiring all his strength to stem the inflow after the log was started. Mr. Welch replied that he had offered $1.25 for help in booming; I told him that I had understood that he had offered $2.00 for help. "Yes," he said, "I would be glad to pay that for help above the falls". "Then count me with you," said I, "I am here to earn some clothing and I understand that your contract is with Dr. McLoughlin." He replied that it was; that he was glad to have my help, and that I might bed with Nate Buzard at his (Welch's) house, as the river was falling and time was very precious. While we three men were thus engaged in rolling logs over the brink of the falls, the Doctor was generally to be seen moving about from point to point of the race, or talking to Mr. Hedges, who seemed to have the supervision of widening and deepening the raceway over rocks and earth, while Judge Nesmith with his assistants was constructing the flumes to the respective mills. We had thrown some light logs toward the race and they had jammed in the frame of a gateway to the yet unfinished flume. One noon the Doctor and his grandson by marriage, William C. McKay, tackled this jam in the gate way with levers. They both worked with a will, each at intervals suggesting where a lever would be effective. The last suggestion was "Billy's", as we called him; with their utmost efforts the frame was relieved and the grand old man dropped his pole and clasping the boy in his arms kissed him on the cheek.
When we had finished our job above the falls Mr. Welch paid me with a check on Dr. McLoughlin, which I presented, of course, to< Billy McKay, as clerk of the store, telling him the kind of clothing I needed. "John," he said, "I believe Mr. Welch has fully drawn his account, but grandfather and all of us have seen how you have done your work; we have not the kind of goods you want, but if Mr. Pettygrove can furnish you I am sure grandfather will honor the order. I got the goods as far as my check would reach, but I got more, which I now feel constrained to relate.
The reader will easily understand that men working in the river all day as I have described would be too wet at bedtime to sleep comfortably; so at Mr. Welch's suggestion I went to the cooper shop of Uncle Jimmie Stephens, who liked company and conversation and had shavings to burn; on one of my drying nights Uncle Jimmie told me that William Overton, who drove staves and shingles on the future site of Portland and sold them at Oregon City, had offered him (Stephens) his claim for 300 new salmon barrels and would give him two years' time to make them in. "But," Mr. Stephens remarked, "Lovejoy and Pettygrove are talking of buying Overton out and starting a town on the land. Now I have no means to start a town with, but a man named Carter, who recently died in the hospital at Vancouver, had a claim on the east bank of the river opposite Overton's, which is to be sold by Nesmith as Probate Judge. I believe I can buy that for $300.00; I know I can if Judge Nesmith doesn't want to bid on it. Do you think I had better bid on that claim, John?" (This was the first time any one had asked my opinion on a business venture.) "What do you want with land, Mr. Stephens," I asked, "You have the best trade in Oregon just now". "Yes",' he replied, "But from my boyhood I have wanted to own an orchard". "Well", I said, "You get your staves from Overton and some one else brings your hoop material of oak and hazel from the east bank; your market for barrels is mainly down the Columbia—why not buy the Carter claim if you can?" I do not remember on which of four nights I had this conversation with Mr. Stephens about the land which became East Portland.
When I went to Pettygrove's store as "Billy" McKay had suggested, I found there General A. L. Lovejoy, Captain John H. Couch and James Birnie who was even then contemplating taking the claim on the north bank of the Columbia, which he named Cathlamet. These men were so intently considering the question of the best point on the lower Willamette for shipping to lie, that I did not intrude into their talk. Captain Couch had the most to say. He said the best water on the lower Willamette was opposite the Overton claim for shipping, and said it very quietly for such a full-bodied sailor. Thus it was John H. Couch who located west Portland I believe, and the cooper, James Stevens, succeeded in his bid for the Carter claim which enriched him—with his ferry and orchard.
So far my rude narrative has touched the names of the first town-builders only, and quite naturally, town, city, state and National builders as they are. Of these, Dr. John McLoughlin planted the first on the waters of the "River of the West"—the old Oregon. Much has been said, and well said as to the nobility of McLoughlin's actions as chief factor or trader in the district of the Columbia for over twenty years of time, when Oregon was debatable land on both sides between Great Britain and the United States: held by joint treaty, free to occupancy by the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other. There was this difference between the joint occupants: the jealousy of the British Parliament as to land tenure, inhibited Canada from meddling with land titles in adjoining territory, and the original charter of the "Gentlemen Adventurers doing business into Hudson Bay" gave them no license to cultivate the soil. When McLoughlin started his farm near his trading post and called it Fort Vancouver, it did not prove his contention that his license as fur trader implied a right to occupy all the land he wanted for live stock. The Williamson incident showed that the Hudson's Bay people were very helpless among free Americans on questions of law and called for much wise forbearance on both sides. There were few Americans in the settlement at the time of the incident; the worst had already shown his character; the other had betrayed himself by making threats, to Dr. McLoughlin's disgust, and to Dr. White's also. But whether strictly legal or not, the first few hundred thousand bushels of wheat produced from the soil of Oregon were produced under McLoughlin's generous plan.
It is a wild guess to say that the H. B. Co.'s trade in wheat and wheat flour from Vancouver aggregated 55,000 bushels for export during the last ten years of his rule at Vancouver, and there was no change in its business under Mr. Douglas except in the matter of extending credit to American immigrants as they passed Fort Vancouver; which they largely ceased doing; but even before this, wheat and flour could be obtained at farms created under McLoughlin's advice, at the Gervais mill in the French settlement, and on Tualatin Plains.
The first two years of Dr. McLoughlin's life at Oregon City were very nearly a full realization of his reasonable hopes. I say this, notwithstanding his uniform reticence as to what precisely was his hope. From all I ever heard of his opinion of what was to be the government of Oregon we have reason to believe that he thought that Oregon would ultimately be left to govern herself independently of either the United States or England; being, he always said, too far from either government to be successfully governed by either. This was also the view of President Jefferson. The writer had more than ordinary opportunities to learn Dr. McLoughlin's views on the subject of the future of Oregon's government between 1840 and 1845, although he never had personal conversation with him, and all the evidence was as above stated. The posthumous letter left by him shows him to have been a prudent man up to the time that he resigned his position as Chief Factor rather than use that position in any other way than as a Christian gentleman. He was doubtless aware that he was to be made the scapegoat of prominent members of the British Navy who had left the Great River of the West without the protection of a warship, for which he had appealed, until there were enough American rifles near the mouth of the Willamette to render the deck of the ship safer than the shore, should possession of said shore be disputed.
The difference between Sir George Simpson, as Governor of the H. B. Co. and Dr. McLoughlin, as Chief Factor of the same Company over the valley of the Columbia, was one of Trade Interests vs. Humanity. There were four distinct interests in the fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains on the Pacific Slope; the "Gentlemen Adventurers of England Doing Business into Hudson Bay," a capitalistic company directed from London; the "Northwest Company," with headquarters at Montreal, Canada, a combined capitalistic and co-operative company; the "Russian Fur Co. of Alaska," never plainly defined outside of Russia; and the American Fur Traders, often a voluntary association, but sometimes individuals with capital; in other cases poor men, free from association with others. This latter class, down to 1844, were called free trappers in American parlance, or free men by the Hudson's Bay Company's servants. There grew so much rivalry for territory between the servants of the English Company—the Hudson Bay—and the British-Americans of the Montreal company that the British Government compelled them to unite for humane reasons. To the terms of the union, Dr. McLoughlin, a partner in the Northwest Company, refused his signature, deeming the conditions unjust to workers in the field.
As to the Doctor's intent in locating his claim at the falls of the Willamette and naming his townsite Oregon City, his actions and his long-suffering against the feeling of his proEnglish officers like John Dunn, and Americans who would have liked to share the ownership of the water-power with him, all lead me to the conviction that he chose it as the home of his age. I think myself safe in saying that here the Doctor saw the happiest days of his wonderful, useful and in every way noble life in Oregon. The eagerness and interest with which he went from point to point of the works he had under construction were evidences of this. There was no word of difference of shorage right between him and the milling company in 1845. While on this subject let me say that the ownership of a copy of Blackstone's Commentary on English Law by J. W. Nesmith, at this time chief workman on the flumes and king of Canemah's bachelor hall, satisfies me that McLoughlin's mind was at rest in regard to his riparian rights. I regret that I failed to make the personal acquaintance of Judge Nesmith at this time. He loaned the copy of Blackstone to J. S. Smith and I had perhaps a half-hour's lesson in it of great value to me subsequently.
The Americans then in Oregon were generally generous as well as just to McLoughlin. The missionaries were mostly wild about land matters, expecting townships to be given to the respective sects, where a rational view could see no service done. The writer succeeded the M. E. Mission as owner of the original chosen site, and on Sundays often spent the hour of the sermon leaning against the fence inclosing the fifteen or twenty graves within pistol shot of the original building. The lettering cut over Anna Pittman Lee and her babe was always sermon enough for me, an unregenerate:—"Behold, we have left all and followed thee. What shall we have therefore?" I never could and cannot yet condone the action of Mr. Lee in being away from his home when his wife and babe died.
From the summer of 1828 to that of 1845 we have the record that with Donald Manson, his construction officer, who built Fort Vancouver, Dr. McLoughlin made examination of the Willamette valley as a possible wheat field; they had three crops on the Vancouver farm as a guide to their conclusions, which were favorable. At this same time he began giving small parcels of seed wheat to retiring engagees of the Company, and advising those in whom he had confidence who had married wives native to Oregon, to make homes on the land of Oregon instead of taking them back to the colder winter climate of Canada, where they would be socially aliens. To such of these men as were thrifty and orderly, he furnished seed grain and loaned two cows for milk and two steers for work. The cattle and the increase remained the property of the Company, and the care they received in return for the milk and butter was to some extent a protection against the wolves and panthers, for though the cows fought to> defend their calves many were killed.
Some Americans complained because the Doctor would not sell the Company's cattle, but he denied himself and his officers, and even refused to supply the British exploring fleet and was complained of in its report for so doing. It is highly probable that the Doctor's loan of cattle to his former engagees turned farmers by his advice, while refusing to sell beef to the British Navy, was an under-lying cause of the dilatory action of Admiral Seymour, who delayed sending the warships Modeste and Fisguard to the Columbia River and Puget Sound until it was too late and both McLoughlin and James Douglas had deemed it wise to join the American Provisional Government for safety of the Company's property. We know now, though we did not then, that Captain Parks and Colonel Vavasour located four proposed fortifications in Oregon in 1845, anc * that one, at Cape Horn, was to block the Pass of the Columbia. That the latter favored the slaughter of all Americans he openly stated, but he was not alone to count contingencies of a fight for Oregon: the American settlers at Oregon City were not ignorant of what might be done to Fort Vancouver with a brush pile and a brisk wind on a dark night, and we now know that Father De Smet dropped a wise word of caution to the Capt. of H. B. M. sloop of war Modeste, which lay off Vancouver.
At all events, until 1847, the French-Canadian boatmen of the Columbia and Willamette rivers when approaching Oregon City from either above or below never failed to keep time to their oars with their refrain:
- "Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast;
- The rapids are near and the daylight's past".
The song of Gaelic Canadian though sung by born Canadians on the St. Lawrence and taken down by Gaelic passenger the same year that Dr. McLoughlin located Oregon City, — and translated into English by John Wilson to keep Britons loyal and to brace soldiers to acquire India, Ireland and Australia and her unnumbered protectorates.
Here let us rest a while and call to mind another boat song, sung by the Hudson's Bay boatmen under very different circumstances. In the same year that Dr. McLoughlin marked the claim at Oregon City as the home of his old age, another officer of the Company, having fulfilled his contract, was a passenger down the St. Lawrence in just such a "batteau" as the Company used on the Columbia. The crew were the same in number but were Gaelic Scots in descent. The passenger knew Gaelic and wrote the words of the song down and carried them to Scotland with him, where they were translated into English by John Wilson (Christopher North) as follows:
(The captain of the crew of seven recites)
<poem>"Listen to me, as when we heard our fathers Sing, long ago, the songs of other shores; Listen to me, and then in chorus gather All your strong voices as ye pull the oars. Fair these broad meads — these hoary woods are grand — But we are exiles from our father land. "From the lone shielin on the misty island, Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas; But still, our hearts are true, our hearts are Highland, And we in dreams behold the Hebrides. "Ne'er shall we see the fancy-haunted valley Where twixt the dark hills, flows the pure, clear stream; Nor ere around our Chieftain's banner rally; Nor see the moon from loyal tombstones gleam. "When our brave fathers, in the time long vanished, Conquered and fortified the keep, No seer foretold their children would be banished That a degenerate lord might boast his sheep. "Come foreign rage; let discord burst in slaughter! Oh, then, for clansmen true, and broad claymores, And hearts that would have given blood like water That heavily beats along the Atlantic shore. Fair these broad meads — these hoary woods are grand — But we are exiles from our fathers' land."</poem>
Poor fools, blind to an opportunity for millions in the new country of their birth, they should have had a chief like John McLoughlin to advise them; as he did his Canadian brothers of French blood; whom as we know he both advised and assisted to take up land and settle on the south side of the Columbia, which advice and assistance made him, Dr. John McLoughlin, the nursing father of agriculture in Oregon.
Dr. McLoughlin, as time ripens the history of his life and labors in Oregon, appears in the highest sense the pioneer of its highest form of civilization. For reasons of morality he refrained from using intoxicants in trade. As manager of the trade of the Hudson's Bay Company he was compelled to wield the trade in his control so as to hold the field against rivals. But amongst them and amongst the missionaries, including all the various sects, he stands among men in the days without law in Oregon so much above the general level that the Doctor was like the Bald Eagle. This is what the Indians called him. Among wild fowl the physical image is apt; but an intimate study of his life as a man, his morals and business relations reveals him as rarely if ever descending to a lower plane. As a man I am glad to claim him as the first home builder in Oregon. With as much right to locate his home on the banks of the Willamette where and when he did and call it a city, as I had to choose mine on the to me always beautiful hills five miles south of Salem; where I believed, when I located, there would be a village some day. His personal right to home in Oregon up to June 15, 1846, was equal to mine or any American and he resigned his place in the H. B. Co. and moved his family to Oregon City before the treaty of joint occupancy was abrogated. The Hudson's Bay Company as such had no right to land in Oregon under Oregon's laws and the Doctor erred in pulling down Williamson's cabin. The writer has been called four times to a seat in the Oregon Legislature and the vote cast most grateful to his feeling restored the McLoughlin estate.
- Frequently spelled Sticeas.
- We felt no reason to complain of coldness of the Missionaries. We felt we were intruding.
- Having come from Oregon City by canoe in the night ready for duty on morning—a very common practice at this time we learned.
- Thus this grand man gave us an interest in his benefactions and what he did immediately after showed that he was acting under strong inward impulse.
- The word sheilin means the cheapest kind of a human dwelling we cabin in Ireland and cot in England.