Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 12/The Peter Skene Ogden Journals part II
JOURNAL OF PETER SKENE OGDEN: SNAKE EXPEDITION, 1826-7.
(As copied by Miss Agnes C. Laut in 1905 from Original In Hudson's Bay Company House, London, England.)
Monday, 12th Sept. (1826).
Took my departure (from Fort Vancouver) 2 boats 12 men bound for Snake Country and reached main Falls of Columbia 100 miles from Ft. Vancouver 4th day early. Found Mr. McKay and party with 100 odd horses waiting my arrival. The natives had already succeeded in stealing one prime horse. 1 sent back boats under La Framboise and 5 men and wrote Jno. McLoughlin. 17 and 18 employed giving horses to men with their loads. Sent off Mr. Black's men with 1100 salmon as far as falls whence they will proceed in canoes to Nez Perces Ft.
Gave call to collect horses and raise camp. 35 men in all assisted by Mr. McKay, who discovered an Indian stealing 2 (horses) which he secured. Followed banks of Columbia for 2 miles and bade it adieu. God grant we reach it again in safety. Course from Columbia S. E. 6 miles. Many horses are wild and throw their loads. Indians are moving in all directions. Strict watch is kept day and night. The natives are already starving.
Raised camp early to avoid the heat of the day. S. W. distance 8 miles.
Left our old tracks of last year for a fork of River of the Falls. A fall 40 ft. high, 20 yds. wide. 2 wild horses made their escape into> mountains and an Iroquois lost his with its load. Mr. McKay and 6 men are to go in search. 5 Indians visited us and returned a blanket stolen last year. Their numbers are few or they would not deal so fairly: distance 15 m. S. S. E.
The horse with his load was found neighing across the river last night; but not the two wild horses. Proceeded down River of the Falls to the Falls where we found an Indian camp of 20 families. Finding a canoe also a bridge made of slender wood we began crossing, horses were lost thro' the bridge. I am informed the salmon do not ascend beyond these falls. Course N. W.
Gervais 5 and party of 8 men with horses and mules joins us.
Wednesday, 5th Oct.
Saturday, 8 Oct.
At an early hour Mr. McKay with 25 trappers 2 horses each well loaded with traps started for the river discovered last summer by Sylvaille, 3 days from here. The different streams here I am of opinion discharge in Day's River.
Tuesday, 11th Oct.
Reached the river and joined Mr. McKay. 18 beaver from the traps.
Sunday, 16 Oct.
Having dried our lodges we followed the banks of the river till 1 p. m. when reaching 12 of our trappers we encamped. From this point 7 horses were stolen yesterday and two men wounded. Mr. McKay related the particulars. The night before last 3 Snake Indians stole 7 horses and crossing over a point of land to their surprise met Payette and Baptiste the Iroquois visiting traps. The latter pursued. The Indians offered no resistance and delivered up the horses. This did not satisfy the two men who demanded payment. The Indians offered 2 boats. This did not satisfy Baptiste who said "let us beat them well but not kill them" began with his whip handle. The Indians endured but becoming vexed one seized Bap. the other Payette. A scuffle ensued. One Indian was killed, both our men severely wounded, only saved themselves by flight leaving arms and horses. The Indians killed 4 of the stolen horses, then seeing a man coming made off with 3 [horses, and guns and rifles of wounded men. The whole thing is disgraceful to us; 65 beaver to-day; distance 10 miles.
Tuesday, 18 Oct.
Saturday, 29 Oct.
In the afternoon Mr. McKay and party arrived and reported—their Snake guide conducted them to a country of rivers and lakes, one of the latter the water is salt; its length they could not ascertain; it is a swampy country and the waters of this river as well as the other streams discharge into this lake. It must be low and deep to receive no less than 3 different streams without one discharging from it. Their traps they left from whence the party returned. As far as they could see, the country was level. The country is destitute of animals and we may prepare to starve altho' wild fowl seem to abound.
November, Tuesday 1st.
At sunset we reached the lakes. A small ridge of land an acre in width divides the fresh water from the salt lakes. These two lakes have no intercourse. The fresh water has an unpleasant taste 1 mile wide 9 long. In this (salt) lake discharge Sylvailles River and 2 small forks; but it has no discharge. Salt Lake at the south end is 3 miles wide. Its length at present unknown to us but appears to be a large body of saltish water. All hands gave it a trial but none could drink it. All the country is low and bare of wood except worm wood and brush. We had trouble finding wood to cook supper. The trappers did not see a vestige of beaver. Great stress was laid on the expedition visiting this quarter. Here we are now all ignorant of the country, traps in camp, provisions scarce prospects gloomy. Buffalo have been here and heads are to be seen. Fowl in abundance but very shy.
From 4 a. m. snow has fallen. This will make it difficult for my 2 express men from Ft. Vancouver to find our tracks though every precaution was taken making marks at different camps, if only the Indians do not destroy these marks. It is incredible the number of Indians in this quarter. We cannot go 10 yds. without finding them. Huts generally of grass of a size to hold 6 or 8 persons. No Indian nation so numerous as these in all North America. I include both Upper and Lower Snakes, the latter as wild as deer, fit subjects for the missionary who could twist them in any form they pleased. What a fine field for the society; one equal to it not to be found. They lead a most wandering life. An old woman camped with us the other night; and her information I have found most correct. From the severe weather last year, her people were reduced for want of food to subsist on the bodies of relations and children. She herself had not killed any one but had fed on two of her own children who died thro' weakness. Unfortunate creatures what privations you are doomed to endure; what an example for us at present reduced to one meal a day, how loudly and grievously we complain; when I consider the Snake sufferings compared to our own! Many a day they pass without food and without a murmur. Had they arms and ammunition they might resort to> buffalo; but without this region the war tribes would soon destroy them. This country is bare of beaver to enable them to procure arms. Indian traders cannot afford to supply them free. Before this happens a wonderful change must happen. One of Mr. McKay's party was sent back to* request us to raise camp and follow his tracks. A chain of lakes was all they had seen, no game. Truly, gloomy are our prospects.
Friday, 4th Nov.
Raised camp taking west course and soon reached the end of Salt Lake not near so long as I expected, in some parts nearly 5 miles wide and deep, its borders flat and sandy. At evening we camped near three small lakes. Swans numerous. Tho' 100 shots fired, not one killed. Nothing but worm wood this day. Salt (?) Lake may be 10 miles in length. Mr. McKay and party arrived with the following accounts—no beaver, same level country a chain of lakes of fresh water. This adds to the general gloom prevailing in camp, with all in a starving condition, so that plots are forming (among) the Freemen to separate. Should we not find animals our horses will fall to the kettle. I am at a loss how to act.
Saturday, 5th Nov.
Bad as prospects were yesterday they are worse to-day. It snowed all night and day. If this snow does not disappear our express men will never reach us. I hope they will not fall a prey to the Snakes. I intend to take the nearest route I can discover to the Clammiitte Country. My provisions and are fast decreasing. The hunters are discouraged. Day after day from morning to night in quest of animals; but not one track do they see.
Saturday, 12 Nov.
Wednesday, 16th Nov.
Thursday, 17 Nov.
Friday, 18 Nov.
Reached the River of the Falls so desired by us all. Thank God! The road to the Clammitte we all know. 7 white tailed deer brought in.
November 25th, Friday.
Sunday, 27th Nov.
Wednesday, 30th Nov.
They are well provided with bows and arrows. They have only one horse. Snow is so deep, horses perish for want of food. In winter, they live on roots. In summer on antelope and fish.
30 Clammite Indians paid us a visit; fine men in good condition, but wretchedly clad. They say the river to the ocean is far distant and beaver they do not know. They say the Indians become more numerous as we advance to the ocean.
Late last night I was overjoyed by the arrival of one of my express men. One of the men gone back in quest of horses discovered them, otherwise tho' the distance is only 4 miles, they would never have reached the camp. They could no longer walk or crawl. For 14 days they were without food; for 9 days without quenching thirst. Their horses were stolen on the River of the Falls by the Snakes. One mule escaped. On entering the lodge the man fell from weakness and could not rise. I immediately sent for the other man and about midnight they brought him in, thank God, safe.
2 horses killed for food; terrible storms of snow and sleet! What will become of us? Course S.
About 300 Indians around our camp. We advanced 6 miles south following the river south. I estimate the Clammitte nation 250 men.
Reached the lake 1 iY^xi^ miles well wooded with maple and hazel; course S.
Sunday 25th, Christmas.
I did not raise camp and we are reduced to one meal a day.
1827, Sunday 1st.
Friday, 10th Feb.
The Indians here have a contemptible opinion of all traders. Of the numerous murders and thefts committed, not one example has been made. Indians in general give us no credit for humanity, but attribute our not revenging murders to cowardice. When ever an opportunity offers of murder or theft, they allow it not to pass. I am of opinion if on first discovery of a strange tribe a dozen of them were shot, it would be the means of preserving many lives. Had this plan been adopted with the Snakes, they would not have been so daring and murdered 40 men. The same is the case with all Indians. Scripture gives us the right to retaliate in kind on those who murder. If men have means of preventing, why not put the means in execution. Why allow ourselves to be butchered and property stolen by such vile wretches who are not deserving to be numbered among the living the sooner dead the better. Trappers would make hunts and traders become rich men. Here we are among the Sastise. Course this day west. The stream we are on has no connection with the Clammitte River; it flows south then west to a large river. These Indians know nothing of the ocean.
Mr. McKay roused me last night to say the Indians were on the point of attacking our camp. Our numbers amounting only to 8 men.
Sunday, 12 of February.
Tuesday, 21st Feb.
Late last night 7 of the 9 absent trappers made their appearance; only 93 beaver and 9 otter. The Indians where they have been most numerous and friendly, villages built of planks, large enough for 30 families in each, fine large canoes resembling the Chinooks, have various trading articles from the American ships, they informed the men it was only 4 days to the sea. The two missing men remained in the rear to trap.
We have this day 15 beaver, wh. completes our first 1000 and have 2 to begin our 2nd.
The two absent men made their appearance with 14 beaver.
Thursday 1st Mar.
All are more or less without food. Traps set gave but 2 beaver. On an average we require 15 a day for food.
Tuesday, 13 Mar.
Thursday, 22 March.
Monday, 26 March.
Sat. 7th April.
Have sent Mr. McKay to explore the sources of the Willam- ette, wh. to this day have not been discovered. This party with Gervais may collect some skins.
Mr. McKay will not go as I intended. We shall cross the mountains eastward.
Wednesday, 23 May.
I did not raise camp, but sent 6 men in different directions. One of the men hunting fowl saw an Indian on horse back on the opposite side of the river. He made signs to him to cross but the fellow disappeared. How vexing! Within the last 10 days, 3 horses have been killed for food.
Two of the men report they found springs of fresh water ahead, south east. Of course I shall take that direction. Pro- ceeded to the main stream of Salt Lake River. Crossed a stony point, reached the entrance of Salt Lake south of the lake level covered with worm wood. The men I sent in quest of Indians returned without success.
Friday, 25th May.
Two fine mares dead from lack of water, the carcasses pur- chased by men for food. Some of the men tried bathing in the lake but their limbs were as red as if pickled and I am without guides nor has a person in camp the slightest idea of where he is.
Our horses found scattered — all the men on the alert. They returned reporting 56 stolen. This was a blow I did not antici- pate in this barren country nor could I credit it, and I gave orders to make strict search. At 9 all but 7 were found, the missing no doubt stolen as tracks have been discovered. Shd, the thieves be Snakes we may find a guide. Mr. McKay with 12 men pursued the tracks 5 of them were returned with word the thieves had gone east, then turned back on their tracks west taking stony ground to conceal their course. They followed to Upper Salt Lake River which they crossed thothe water had risen 4 feet. Mr. McKay was the first to plunge in and 7 followed, the other 5 returned.
Monday, 28 May.
Friday, June 1st.
Saturday, June 2nd.
Sunday, 3rd of June.
Tuesday, 5th June.
Wednesday, 6th June.
6 A.M. N.N.E. over stony road. At 3 P. M. reached camp of last November, to the great joy of all, and now that we know where we are, we must look for beaver. To return to Ft. Vancouver with our present returns will be most galling.
Friday, 8 June.
Sunday, 24 June.
Tuesday, 26 June.
Tuesday, 3rd July.
Tuesday, July 10.
Monday, 16 July.
Wednesday, 18 July.
- Mr. Samuel Black, still in charge of Ft. Nez Perces or Walla Walla.
- Along Fifteen Mile creek.
- Camped near Dufur evidently.
- The year before they kept further to the West; this year direct to White river and the falls, where electric power plant now is.
- Falls of Des Chutes River below White river.
- First and original "Sherar's Bridge."
- See p. 354, No. 4, Vol. X of Quarterly. 6 Somewhere on Crooked River or John Day River. (?)
- Now between headwaters Crooked and John Day rivers.
- Sylvaille's or Silvies river, which they descended.
- The usual policy of the H. B. Company traders; a "square deal" to the Indians as well as to their own men.
- From advance trip to Malheur marshes and lake.
- Malheur and Harney lakes; some confusion follows in reference to salt and fresh water lakes, probably due to transposition.
- Undoubtedly Harney lake, although not salt.
- Still refers to Harney lake. They now proceed Northwestward across Central Oregon and do not enjoy the journey.
- Klamath. Note this spelling and use of the name before they reach that region.
- Pauline Mountain (?)
- Probably Pauline lake and East Lake.
- Route known to Mr. McKay who accompanied Mr. McDonald the previous year.
- Probably the present Williamson river. In December, 1843, John C. Fremont crossed from head of Des Chutes river to Klamath Lake in two days. Compare with his journals.
- Probably the Lower Klamath Lake; their course from now until May 14th difficult to follow.
- The upper Snake river country trapped by Alex. Ross in spring and summer 1824.
- This quite characteristic of the Modoc tribe; the party now probably in N. E. California.
- But this is a very good description of Pitt river, a source of the Sacramento.
- The Klamath river or some branch of it, in all probability. A party has been sent ahead.
- First known mention of the name Shasta applied to mountain and river. Arrowsmith spells it SHASTY and places both to North of the Clamite, as he spells that name, and Mt. Pitt in California.
- Note Bancroft's explanation in comparison.
- This advance party has been nearly to the Coast on some stream, probably the Klamath.
- Probably to the southward.
- Probably the Siskiyou divide to the waters of the Rogue river valley.
- Quite interesting as to an early spelling of the name, as well as otherwise.
- They are to cross the unexplored regions of Klamath, Lake and Harney counties, a hard journey of 24 days. Again compare Fremont. The Applegate "cut off" to the Willamette crossed the same country.
- Getting into Harney Lake region again.
- Malheur Lake: some of the stench still remains.
- Beaver fur usually poor in summer.
- For Fort Vancouver by way of Walla Walla.