Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 3/The Social Evolution of Oregon

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Volume III.]
[Number 1
March, 1902

THE QUARTERLY

OF THE

OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY.


THE SOCIAL EVOLUTION OF OREGON.

Although Oregon is but thinly populated, clearly defined stages in its development are apparent and may be marked out from the facts already well authenticated. These facts may be grouped in various ways according to the purpose of the writer, but it is evident that the "Social Evolution" of Oregon must be primarily a question of industrial evolution, and the facts must be grouped accordingly.

The acquisition of a livelihood is the motive which operates most powerfully in bringing population together in sufficient numbers to create a social organization of any kind; it is the motive which holds the population together and renders possible that adaptation to environment and integration of elements which result in the various institutions of social life. While industry is in no sense the most important feature of social life, it is, nevertheless, the thing which lies most nearly at the foundation. It bears to the social organism the same relation that the skeleton does to the animal. The industrial growth of a community depends upon the opportunities presented for the making of a livelihood and the other features of social life, however varied their character or high their aim, depend upon the number and character of the population that is attracted.

A study of the social evolution, therefore, must lead to a study of the physical features of the locality; to the causes which lead to the discovery of its resources; to the characteristics and standards of life of the population that congregates; to the adaptation of population to environment and the integration into community life. Location relative to other centers of population, abundance and variety of resources, character, and standards of life in the population are all to be taken into consideration. The study of social evolution is also one of constant change. The elements of social life are continually shifting with relation to one another. New resources are always being discovered; more population is attracted to a locality; resources and population react upon one another in various ways; population is changed with relation to other centers by new facilities of communication; forceful individuals initiate far-reaching changes and unforeseen events bring into action powerful impulses to development.

In the social evolution of Oregon, locality alone has been responsible for much. Wide separation from the older centers of population has produced that slowness of growth and consequent spirit of conservatism which have characterized the development. Distance also has led in some degree to a sifting of the population. It has brought the vigorous and strong and eliminated the weak. It has kept away much of the foreign European population that has found readier access to the East and the states of the Mississippi Valley.

Climate and abundance of resource have rendered the population of Oregon free from much of that conflict with nature which the settlers of less favored regions have been obliged to experience. Variety of resource has rendered possible that social balance which comes from the constant interplay of a population engaged in different occupations and the compensating action of a city and a country population. A population composed of the sturdy stock of New England and the vigorous frontier settlers of the Middle West has brought to the social life elements of strength.

Location, abundance, and variety of resource have also brought their problems. The elimination of the foreign classes from Europe has deprived the population of a factor very valuable in the development of a new country because of the ability to do work of a burdensome kind that the American shuns. The abundance of resource and the ease of gaining a mere livelihood leads to the problem of a population too easily satisfied and lacking in ambition. Variety has tempted a superficial development of many rather than a thorough development of a few resources; and, lastly, the conditions that bring a population of the sturdiest kind bring also a class of adventurers who injure rather than aid in the social evolution .

The largest place in this paper must naturally be given to the industrial development, since that lies at the foundation of all social evolution. The industrial life of Oregon began with the discovery of its resources. Up to the time that the American colonies began to aspire to separate existence the resources of the whole Northwest were practically unknown. It is true, the explorers of different European nations had passed the coast at intervals for centuries; but they were interested only in looking for that indenture in the shore line which would promise them a waterway connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Not until Captain Cook, engaged in the more careful exploration of the coast in 1778, do we catch glimpses of any real appreciation of the resources of the country itself. Among many interesting geographical discoveries, he made observations which were to be of greatest importance in the development of the Northwest. The abundance of the fur bearing sea animals along the coast and the islands attracted his attention, as well as that of his crew. The fine furs brought from the interior by the Indians were an indication of an equally valuable supply within the country. The natives preferred the gaudy beads and trinkets, and were willing to exchange the most valuable furs for things of little value. Cook and his crew had learned of the esteem in which the Chinese held the furs, and the human mind was not slow in projecting a business enterprise which would offer a handsome return.[1]

The crew that served under Cook became more anxious to engage in the fur trade than to continue the exploration. Especially enthusiastic was one of their number, an American by nationality. John Ledyard was a native of Connecticut, but had joined the English exploring party because of his love of adventure. The profits to be derived from the fur trade of the Northwest had appealed to him with great force.[2] He continued for two years after the return of Cook's expedition in the British naval service, then deserted from a man-of-war stationed in Long Island Sound. He went from one to another of the moneyed centers of the United States to interest men of capital in the enterprise. In New York he was coldly received, and his proposal was treated as the dream of a visionary mind. In Philadelphia his welcome was more cordial, and the great banker, Robert Morris, would have sent a vessel to engage in the trade had not financial embarrassments prevented. In Boston the merchants were favorably impressed but not yet ready to act. Indeed, it was a matter to warrant careful consideration. It was a venture that required capital and that moral courage which risks the loss of all in the effort to win reward. There were dangers to be met from the sea, disease, and the hostility of Indians. Failing at last to secure the encouragement of American capital Ledyard went to Europe upon the same mission. In France he was encouraged by a company, but only to be again disappointed. The revolutionary hero, Paul Jones, cordially favored the enterprise and agreed to join in an expedition which also failed. Jefferson, the representative of the American Confederation in Paris, gave intelligent and sympathetic support to the enterprise, and kept the subject in 'mind long after Ledyard had perished. Failing in every effort to win the support of capital, Ledyard accepted a suggestion of Jefferson and started to cross Europe and Asia, with the purpose of reaching the shore of the Pacific Coast and exploring the country to the Mississippi River. Captured by Russian officers when nearly across Siberia, he was expelled from the country and entered the service of African exploration, where he perished. To the expedition of Captain Cook therefore, and particularly to the enthusiasm of that American member of his crew, the world owes its first knowledge of the resources of Oregon and the Northwest.[3]

The Russians were best fitted by nature and position to avail themselves immediately of the fur resources. They already knew the value of the business from experience along their own shores and now extended their operations to the American coast. Vessels from England and a few from other European nations also entered the trade, inspired by the reports from the crew of Cook. The English predominated, but were embarrassed by the monopoly of the Oriental ports, given to the East India Company by England. Gradually the others dropped out and the development of the maritime fur trade was left to the little nation which had just entered upon its national life.

Among the merchants of Boston were some who had for years been interested in the trade with China. The breaking out of the Revolutionary War had interrupted the trade, and it had just begun to be renewed. Embarrassed by the lack of products, which were acceptable to the Chinese in exchange for their own products, they had been obliged to send specie to settle the balances. Of especial interest, therefore, would be the discovery of a product which could be used to further the business already begun. They were accustomed to meet in social intercourse, and generally the conversation would turn to the explorations of Cook and the prospects of the fur trade of the Northwest. When at length the undertaking seemed feasible, six of the merchants furnished the capital necessary to send two vessels to the Northwest coast to engage in the trade.[4] A silver medal was struck to commemorate the occasion, and under the command of Captains Robert Gray and John Kendricks the "Lady Washington" and the "Columbia" started out upon their memorable and significant voyage in 1787.[5]

After the first trip the representations of Ledyard were vindicated. Cargoes of fur were gathered up along the coast at a trifling sum and taken to the market at Canton, where they were sold at a high price. Vessels loading for the return with the teas, silks, and spices of China, carried them to the markets of Europe and America, netting sometimes as high as one thousand per cent upon the capital invested.

All along the coast from Alaska to California the vessels touched and gathered their rich harvest of furs. Stopping at customary points along the shore, the merchants' goods were displayed upon the deck of the vessel and the Indians came out in their canoes to make their exchanges. Skirting along the coast in this way, the merchant vessels of New England carried off the resources of Oregon to add to the enjoyments of the social life of the East. Though the early merchants did not establish themselves within the country nor attempt to further settlement, they were the stimulus which acted as the forerunner of a social life for Oregon. The superficial resources were utilized, and the more latent ones would be sure to be discovered. Their operations extended far to the north of the Oregon coast and far to the south, but they had seen Oregon, and a bond of connection had been established that was to make New England a prominent factor in the social evolution. From that connection were to spring important results. Forceful individuals at critical times came from the population of New England to further the life of Oregon, and her representatives in congress were more outspoken in the interests of a region in which they had an interest.

In another direction the same impulse that had led to the maritime fur trade was to make known the interior resources of the country and inspire to a change in the fur trading methods. Greater permanency was given to them, and the center of fur trading operation was located within the boundaries of Oregon. Jefferson had remembered the conversations with Ledyard; he, too, had become an enthusiast, not alone in the trade of the Northwest, but even more in the geographical problems that were connected with it. Unable at first to interest explorers in the enterprise, he was able, when he became president, to realize a long cherished desire. It was his influence, therefore, that set in motion an expedition to explore the interior of the country. At the same time that the English were pushing to the west in the northern latitudes Lewis and Clark were commissioned to explore the Louisiana territory, and to continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Successful in their mission, the year 1805 found them in winter camp at Clatsop beach busily engaged in writing the notes of their expedition, which was to give to the world for the first time its knowledge of the basin of the Columbia.[6] This was another stimulus to the development of Oregon. Soon renewed efforts were made to utilize the fur trade in a manner more thorough. The profits of the maritime trade, though still great, were declining. The methods pursued were wasteful of the animal life. A better method was necessary if the fur resources were to be conserved and be the aid, which they had promised to be, in the trade with China.

In this new development of resources Boston was to give place to New York. The effort of Nathan Winship to establish a trading post within the country, some distance from the mouth of the Columbia, was unsuccessful, and John Jacob Astor was destined to lead in the further development. A German by birth, he was an American by residence and interest. A fur trader by instinct, he loved the very smell and feeling of the furs. Largely interested in the trade to the east of the mountains, possessed of abundance of capital, endowed with great ability in organization, he was well fitted for an enterprise of such great magnitude and boldness. In partnership with other fur men he organized the Pacific Fur Company, the first important enterprise to utilize the resources of Oregon from the interior of the country. A fort was established at Astoria in 1811, and plans were made for the development of the business. As a business undertaking it was well conceived. The monopolistic methods of the company would best conserve the fur product, which the older methods were fast exterminating. Connection with the operations east of the mountains would give a continuous trade across the country. Accessibility to the Pacific Coast would insure the trade with China. The Russian traders to the north had expressed a willingness to purchase supplies from the fort at Astoria. Everything seemed favorable for a successful business. Unforeseen events, however, led to failure. The breaking out of the War of 1812 resulted in the appearance of an English vessel before the fort at Astoria; but a sale of the fort and the possessions of the company had already been made to a rival, the English Northwest Fur Company, and what had promised so well ended in failure.[7] Mr. Astor refused to renew the enterprise unless the United States government would guarantee protection.[8] As this could not be brought about, because of political complications, the fur trade of the Northwest fell into the hands of the English, who managed to keep control as long as the fur resource formed the prevailing industrial life of Oregon. Various heroic attempts, both by individuals and companies, were made to regain the trade for the Americans, or at least to win an equal share, but they were all unsuccessful. Consolidation of the two rival English fur companies in 1821 under the name of the Hudson Bay Company was the crowning act of the fur trading period. With a capital of $400,000, and a comprehensive charter from the English government, it virtually possessed the trade of the whole region.[9] There can be little doubt that the consolidation was a master in the line of business in which it engaged. Removing its headquarters from Astoria to Vancouver it erected forts at the strategic points and soon had within its grasp the entire trade of the basin of the Columbia. Monopolistic in its methods, it was responsible for much of the irritation that marks the early industrial life of Oregon. Its success, however, must be attributed as much to the superiority of its industrial organization and management. In the preservation of order, in the treatment of the native races, in control of its difficult set of employees, in conservation of the fur trading resources, it has probably never been surpassed in the history of the fur trade.

The Hudson Bay Company was an enterprise in which the business interests predominated. Its officers were engaged in developing the resources of a country, wild and remote, because it offered a profit both for themselves and the stockholders who lived in England. The other interests of a social life were incidental rather than essential. A population was brought into the country, but it was small in number and incapable of being molded into anything but a social life that resembled the feudal society of an earlier period in Europe. The gap between the elements of population was great. Among the officers were men fitted to grace the social life of any community, while among the employees were reckless characters unfit for any other life than one based upon absolute authority and autocratic rule. Most numerous were the Indian races whose life was undisturbed and whose social standards affected everything about them. The company was interested that such a social life should be continued in the interests of the business, and that a region capable of sustaining a large population should be kept a vast hunting ground fit to support only the few who lived within it and the stockholders whose interest in the region ended with the payment of their dividends. A society of another kind, however, would have been out of place where the fur trading company was in harmony with the surroundings. It was a social and industrial life well adapted to the conditions and did its part in the process of evolution. It will always furnish an interesting period to the student of Oregon history, as it is reviewed with something of the halo which the imagination throws about it. Its place in the industrial evolution is fixed because of its utilization of a superficial resource, but it is fortunate that it gave place in good time to other industries and other forms of social life that were better and higher.

As the product of the fur bearing animals was the determining influence in the first phase of Oregon's social life, the agricultural resources were the determining influence in that of the second. The transition was one from a superficial resource to one more latent, from an industry adapted to the support of a small population to one capable of supporting large numbers. The transition was so gradual that for years the two industries existed side by side, the one gaining while the other was losing its hold upon the community. The transition was a period of conflict, as the sources of Oregon's early history bear ample evidence. The interpreter of the sources, however, must, with every year, give less of place to what the earlier historians felt was most important. Periods of conflict in the broad view of social growth are as stimulating and vital to social progress as they are annoying to those who had to undergo the experiences. Conscious efforts were made to discourage the immigration by the creation of impressions unfavorable to the resources of the country and its accessibility. Immigrants already on the way were skillfully diverted wherever possible, and wagons were laid aside at the advice of interested officers of the company.

Efforts to conceal the agricultural resources of the region, however, were of no avail. The fitness of the country for agriculture and the abode of population was destined to be revealed. Everything was tending to make it known. Speeches in congress might reveal an ignorance that would lead to a sacrifice of the country, but other forces were stronger in the opposite direction. The well kept farm of the fur company in the valley of the Cowlitz, adjoining the fort, was itself a demonstration of what could be done. Under the direction of the old Scotch gardener the soil of Oregon produced as responsively as the better known soil of the Royal Gardens at Kew, where he had learned his art. The settlement of the company's ex-employees upon the French Prairie was another proof. The well kept farms of the missionaries, both of the Willamette Valley and east of the mountains, were further indication. The world might not hear of the former, but it was bound to know of the latter. From many sources the news was spread. Letters to friends in the East, articles written to the local press, narratives from travelers, accounts given by fur traders who had been driven from the field, reports made by officers of the government sent to visit the region, were all influential in making known the agricultural resources of Oregon.

The finding of the resources was one thing and the development was another. .A work of heroism was before the people as great as anything ever done. Fortunate was it for the social evolution of Oregon that a population existed equal to the emergency and alert for the effort. The early missionaries had already led the way. They had proved to be genuine pathfinders. Attracted at first by the religious needs of the natives, they had become the central stimulus to settlement. Care for the native races was overbalanced by preparation for their supplanting by the white race. Two streams of population joined on the distant territory. New England, the first mother of Oregon's social life, sent by the old sea route a population which was strong of purpose and possessed of enough capital to become the merchants of new colony.[10] The Mississippi Valley sent a population to till the soil which was full of the vigor of a frontier life and composite of various elements of an American population. To the valley had been coming settlers from both the North and the South as well as some of the foreign element, then beginning to arrive in America.[11] It was a population determined to win from the resources of nature a competence and to establish for itself homes. It came to establish a settlement that should be permanent in its character. It was fitted to occupy a region which required a population accustomed to the hardships and the dangers of a frontier life. Any other kind would not have been suited to the conditions and would speedily have given up and contributed nothing to the social evolution.

The first companies were small and the difficulties and dangers were great. Later companies were larger and better organized, and were freed from many of the discomforts and dangers. The migration of 1843, because of the large number that came,[12] may be taken to mark the beginning of an agricultural stage in the industrial life of Oregon. The settlers located in the valley of the Willamette, which seemed most favorable to their purpose and was most free from interference from the native races.

Strangely in contrast with the democratic settlement to the south of the Columbia River was the English enterprise to the north. The organization of the "Puget Sound Agricultural Company" was an attempt to enter the race in the development of the agricultural resources as well as the fur. Modeled after the fur company, owned by the same persons, operated by the same methods, it aimed to secure the settlement of the region to the north of the river. In pursuance of the plan a settlement was started on the land about the Sound in 1842. A method of industrial life, however, that had been successful in the conduct of the fur business, was not equally so in the development of agricultural resources. The aristocratic methods of the English Fur Company were destined to fail in competition with the democratic methods of the American agricultural population. The Americans were better fitted to survive on account of the character of the people, the contiguity of the territory, and their industrial methods. If the English had been able to crowd the Americans out in the fur trade, they, in turn, were to be crowded out in the development of agricultural resources and both sides of the river were to be gained for the democratic system of agricultural life. The colonists of the company to the north appreciated the difference, and many of them drifted south and joined the settlers in the Willamette Valley.[13]

Nothing is of greater importance to an agricultural population than the possession of land. The indefinite tenure that would satisfy the trader in furs was entirely inadequate to the wants of the farmer. Fixity of tenure is the basis of an agricultural life. It is the assurance of a livelihood and the guarantee of a home. For the earliest settlers who came there was no assurance of possession beyond the good will of their fellow-men. So high was the sentiment of honor, however, that violations of good faith were few if any. But the increase of population rendered a more definite system desirable. Tenure to the land became, therefore, a motive in every effort that was made to secure a form of government. The Provisional government was welcome for that reason, as well as others, and no part of the plan was received with greater satisfaction than the land law.[14] It assured the settlers of a tenure to the land upon which they had settled, which rested upon the consent of the community legally expressed and good until a better one could be obtained. When the territorial government was extended over Oregon, anxiety was felt at the action to be taken concerning the land, and the disappointment was great when the bill was reported without a law regarding the land. Contentment was not fully restored until the land law was passed and the settlers knew to what they were entitled and that their tenure was secured by the government of the United States.

Nature had provided a climate and soil that was favorable for the agricultural settler, and the records agree in regard to the phenomenal crops of those early days. But no provision had been made for the auxiliaries of farming. All these had to be introduced from without. The plains were covered with a luxuriant growth of grass, but there were no herds to graze. The climate was favorable for the production of fruit, but there were no trees to plant. One by one the auxiliaries had to be added, often with difficulty, and usually with circumstances of romantic interest. When the prairies of Oregon are covered with stock and the hills are green with orchards, it is hard to realize that it was not always so. Among the many things to note in the social evolution of Oregon, there is nothing that surpasses the pluck and the courage that furnished to so remote a locality the things that are needed for an agricultural existence.

Life for the farmer would have been destitute indeed had there been no cattle. Without them "the plow would have stood idle in the furrow and the young pioneer would have gone hungry to bed."[15] Cattle were grazing in the pastures of the fur company, but they were not for sale. No others could be found nearer than the Spanish missions of California; but they must be obtained in some way, and the earliest of the industrial enterprises of the agricultural period had that for its object. The "Willamette Cattle Company" was organized in 1837, with a capital of a few hundred dollars, to bring to the settlers a herd of Spanish cattle from the missions of California. The enterprise was intrusted to Ewing Young and P. L. Edwards, who started by vessel on their important mission. It was no easy task to make the purchase from the Spaniards, whose policy forbade the sale. At length a herd of about eight hundred was secured and the journey back was begun. From the diary of Edwards we are able to get glimpses of the trials that were endured. Few are the incidents of history to be put beside the attempt to drive eight hundred wild Spanish cattle a distance of a thousand miles across mountains and over rivers. Sleep was rare where the mosquitoes were thick, and the cattle were impelled to "break like so many evil spirits and scatter to the four winds."[16] When the task was completed and over six hundred cattle were finally driven into the valley, it was a time of great rejoicing. All traces of those Spanish cattle have now disappeared from the herds of Oregon, but the time was when the meadows were dotted over with their picturesque forms "as mild looking as gazelles when at rest, but as terrible as an army with banners when alarmed."

The cattle that supplanted the Spanish herds, however, came across the plains with the emigrants. It was an undertaking of the greatest difficulty to drive them two thousand miles through country where pasturage was scanty in places and rivers and mountains were numerous. The task which had been pronounced impossible was accomplished, however, and in 1843 over one thousand cattle were brought to the valley.[17] Superior to the Spanish stock, they displaced them in time. No further lack was felt, and by 1850 the increase was so great that the surplus was shipped to California. The quality was improved from year to year, since selected varieties were brought, and, in many cases, stock of noted breeds. In the records of the early agricultural fairs we read of the Durham and Devon cattle, and the Cotswold, Oxfordshire, Southdown, and Merino sheep as particular attractions of the exhibition.[18] With the introduction of cattle and sheep, not only were the needs of the farmer supplied, but the beginning was made of an industry that was able to exist independently. It formed the easiest method of making a living, and the herder with long lariat riding through the deep grass of the valley was a familiar sight in the earlier days before the number of agricultural settlers and the cultivation of the soil drove them to the prairies of the south and east. It has proved to be an industry which has added to the wealth of Oregon, and affected in other ways its social life. Regions that would otherwise have remained unsettled have contributed to the resources, and a population independent and hardy has been added to the state.

As auxiliary to farming the production of fruit began. When the earliest settlers came orchards of choice fruit were growing on the property of the fur company. Like the cattle, however, they were not destined for the service of the settler. The earliest of the orchards of Oregon took their start from the "traveling nursery' of Henderson Luelling.[19] Unable to dispose to advantage of the nursery of young trees, when he was ready to start, this plucky man packed them in boxes and brought them across the continent. Importuned many times to abandon a load so heavy and cumbersome he always refused, and had the satisfaction of setting them out upon his claim at the end of the route. This choice selection of apples, cherries, plums, and pears brought into the community health and wealth and the promise of another industry for Oregon. From an auxiliary of farming the raising of fruit has come to be the means of a livelihood to many of the population, and with each year draws more to the state.

Could the facts be obtained there would be interest attached to the introduction of all of the auxiliaries to farming. Stock of various kinds was added. Cereals, fruits, and vegetables were brought to add to the necessities and comforts of an agricultural community. Tools, though heavy and often cumbersome, were carried across the plains or around the Horn by vessel. The agricultural life was fully established. Soon spots of cultivated land began to appear in various places. Roads were marked out and constructed between the different claims and settlements. Political divisions appeared upon the map. Groups of settlers collected at points most favorable for distribution. Supplies were secured at the warehouse of the fur company or from the merchants of Oregon City. Surplus crops were sold to the fur company at a regular price of sixty-two and one half cents per bushel. Population increased with every year and Oregon was fully transformed into an agricultural community. A form of industrial life had been started that has characterized the country ever since. It was established to last, and the only question of importance could be whether it would grow or stagnate. Far from the other centers of population, there was little to connect it with the industrial life of the rest of the country or of the world. It could easily exist, but the possibilities of development were not encouraging. The only market was the fur company. Destitute emigrants were continually arriving to increase the population, but to add little to the capital or the wealth. The dangerous entrance to the Columbia River kept out the few vessels that might otherwise have come. A critical period in the life of the colony was reached by 1847. Depression was the general feeling prevalent. The settlers organized among themselves a little company to build ships and seek by themselves to break the isolation of their position.

Such was the situation when an unforeseen event occurred that changed the whole aspect of affairs. In the summer of 1848 the "Honolulu" entered the little harbor at Portland. She loaded with picks and pans and other utensils useful to a mining population. When leaving, the crew mentioned the discovery of gold on American Creek by James Marshall, an Oregon man in the employ of Sutter at his famous mill in California. The discovery was confirmed and soon the male population of the colony was off for the gold fields. Travelers of that day tell us that the towns were inhabited mainly by old men, women and children. Crops were left standing in the fields, though the time of harvest was near. Indian troubles were forgotten, though a war was in progress on the frontier of the settlement. The Oregon Spectator was unable to get out its regular issues because of the lack of hands to do the work. The Provisional government was unable to get a quorum for the meeting of the legislature though there were important matters needing attention. Men even left their children to the care of benevolent women, who looked after the "orphans of 1848."[20]

It was evident that a change had taken place. A new impulse had entered the community like a strong tonic. Men who had gone to the mines began to return. Many of them had been successful and brought back enough to discharge obligations that had been resting over them for years. Others returned with added facility for extending their business. A market was established for the surplus products. Flour- and sawmills were kept running day and night. Vessels now took no heed of the dangerous entrance to the Columbia, but waited in line for their turn to load. Those who remained at home gained as much as those who went and were surer of getting it. Prices ranged high. Discouragement was dispelled and hope rose quickly to take its place. The industrial and social life of Oregon had received an impulse that was significant in its development.

The effects of the discoveries of 1848 were a strange mixture of good and bad for the community. Nothing so stirs to its foundation a community as the discovery of the precious metals. Many of the population of Oregon were unsettled in their industrial habits. The old and steady lines of industry were deserted for the chances of larger rewards. Emigration was turned to the newer settlements of California. Immediate relief from the isolated condition had been obtained, but a rival had been established to the south, whose attractions were destined to lead to speedy settlement. With the rapid growth of that community Oregon saw the hope of a connection by railroad with the East slipping away and a position of subordination to California gradually forced upon her. The markets, at first established, failed to bring the large returns when the supplies were being produced nearer to the point of consumption. A speculative spirit invaded the industrial life. Undesirable characters were brought into the country by the rush for gold. The Indians alarmed at the growing numbers and the irritating acts became hostile. Such were some of the objectionable features of the new influence that had entered the community.

In the long run, however, it must be counted as an advance in the industrial and social evolution. A center of population had been established where there had been nothing that was of benefit to Oregon. Wealth and capital were added to the community. If population that was undesirable came much also that was helpful drifted northward and entered the steadier life of Oregon in preference to the less certain life of the mining region. If some were upset and turned from a steadier life to one of search for precious metals, others were aroused to a healthy zeal for progress. A stimulus was given to the search for the latent resources of Oregon which led to the discovery not only of deposits of the precious metals, but to other resources that have proved fully as important and valuable. As the search was extended to Eastern Oregon the mineral resources grew richer. In 1868 quartz mining supplanted the superficial processes previously used, and an industry of a permanent character was thus established which has added yearly to the wealth and been a means of attracting inhabitants to the state. The establishment of mining camps and the growth of towns and cities gave opportunity for the utilization of the agricultural facilities which had been found to exist in the region east of the mountains. Settlement was directed to other sections beside the Willamette Valley and the distribution of population thus changed to a more even ratio thoroughout the state. Hardly yet has the older population awakened to the consciousness of the change and responded to the demands made by it.

The effect of the stimulus of 1848 was apparent in a multitude of ways. The discovery of resources was accompanied by a better utilization of the old. Other industries beside those connected with the mineral resources were established. Manufactures were developed, and a varied industrial life was guaranteed to Oregon. Population was attracted by the new branches of business that would never have joined the population of a strictly agricultural region. Flouring mills increased both in number and capacity. The bountiful resources of timber were more fully utilized. Woolen mills were started to make use of the supply of wool. The canning of salmon supplanted the earlier form of packing in barrels. Tanneries utilized the resources in hides. Investment was found for capital and labor had employment. Towns and cities increased in number and in size. Social life had broadened in every way.

With the readjustments that followed the discovery of gold a forward step was taken in the evolution, but the isolation of position had not been overcome. Soon the conditions of an earlier time returned. Though less apparent, they were just as real and urged to further progress. Already the people had felt the need, and forces were at work to liberate the community from its isolation and to continue in the line of growth.

None of the forces in the industrial evolution of Oregon is more significant than the efforts to utilize the high seas as an avenue of approach to the markets of the world. Nearest to Oregon were the ports of Asia. From the time that the early merchants of Boston carried the furs to the market of Canton a strange link existed between the social evolution of Oregon and the markets of the Orient. When the Chinese nobles trimmed their robes with the furs of the animals that live in the forests of the northwest of America, they established a bond of union that was destined to strengthen until the large populations of Asia should become ready to receive the surplus products that the growing population of Oregon and the whole Pacific Coast were anxious to supply. Following the opening of the ports of China by England in 1842, and of Japan by Commodore Perry in 1854, a closer industrial relation has been gradually established, which the people of Oregon have come to feel is inseparably connected with the industrial welfare of the state.

Of equal importance was the first cargo that was sent to the market at Liverpool in 1868, and led the way to an export trade which solves, in a large measure, the question of Oregon's continued evolution. To Joseph Watt, whose courage made the venture, a large place must be given among those who have contributed to the growth of Oregon. The change that has been wrought by the acquisition of a European market for the products has not been one of those striking events that please the fancy, but it has been a gradual force working with ever increasing power to draw Oregon out of her isolation and into the stream of industrial life that insures prosperity and growth.

Equally important among the forces that destroyed the isolation of Oregon has been the construction of railroads. Among the early colonists of 1848 a transcontinental line was a hope which they even dared to express in their petitions to congress. It was many years, however, before such a proposal could even receive consideration, and when the time finally came the conditions were more favorable to California, where the Central Pacific found its terminus rather than in Oregon. Henceforth the ambitions of Oregon turned toward a connection with California, and by that channel with the East.

Long before the country was ready for such an enterprise, projects were entertained for railroads. Previous to 1853 four lines had been contemplated, and in one case the books had been opened for subscriptions of stock. The action that was destined to materialize earliest into tangible form was the survey that was made by Joseph Gaston of a line to continue that made by a Californian to the border of Oregon.[21] Gaston started the enterprise upon his own responsibility. Possessed of little capital, it was his purpose to enlist the support of farmers along the route, and circular letters were addressed to them. Trusting to their interest to furnish food and shelter for the surveying party, he was fully rewarded by a generous response, and seldom have similar parties fared better. No criticisms that opponents could offer discouraged this persevering man. He continued to send circulars to the farmers and petitions to the legislature, until finally it was voted to grant a subsidy of $250,000 to the company that would construct the first hundred miles of road. A company was organized and a charter granted under the name of the "Oregon Central." Before the work of construction began a division arose in regard to the policy of construction by Oregon interests or the more abundant capital of California. Reconciliation was impossible, and two enterprises took the place of the one. The opposing factions planned to construct roads upon opposite sides of the Willamette River, and began a long and bitter rivalry. Curious methods were resorted to by each to get within the terms of the charter and to gain the right to the original name of "Oregon Central." Both were anxious to get the grants of land which had been promised by the United States government.

Construction was begun by the two divisions in the spring of 1868. The west side line was first to start amidst demonstrations of approval by the population of Portland favorable to their interests. A few days later the east side line began construction with even greater demonstration of approval. Neither of the factions had much money to back their enterprise. Skillful financiering was necessary to keep the men at work. Bitter litigation was in progress all the time, but still they kept on with the construction. The west side road at first seemed to have a little the better of the conflict. Conditions were changed with the appearance on the scene of a gentleman from California in 1868. In the person of Ben Holladay the east side road had secured a master in his line of business. Bold and autocratic in his methods, regardless of the feelings of others, unscrupulous in the methods pursued, he was able to crush the west side division and force it to sell its interests to him. Under the united management of the "Oregon and California Railroad," therefore, the lines were continued on both sides of the river.[22] Bonds floated in the German market gave abundance of capital at first. Interest on the bonds began at length to fail, an investigation was made, and the affairs of the road were transferred to other hands in 1876. In the person of Henry Villard, a man of broader views and more tactful methods, undertook the development of railroad interests. The whole policy was enlarged. The development of the roads of Oregon was to him an effort to develop the roads of the nation. His interests were not local. Fortunate was it for the industrial and social evolution of Oregon that the railroad interests fell to the lot of such a man. His own financial position was wrecked in the undertaking, but the system of railroads which have formed the basis of Oregon's growth and prosperity was started by him . The construction of the "Northern Pacific Railroad," the building of the "Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company's" line through the valley of the Columbia, the extension of the "Oregon and California Railroad" nearer to the border of the neighboring state, were all parts of the comprehensive plan. First to be achieved was the construction of the Northern Pacific, which gave Oregon its long desired connection with the East, and acted as a stimulus to the development of the system of railroads as they now exist . Connection between the "Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's'" line and the "Union Pacific," and the purchase of the "Oregon and California" line by the "Southern Pacific Railroad" in 1887, added two more lines of transportation across the continent and effectively broke the isolation of Oregon from other sections of the East. Smaller lines were constructed to the productive valleys and seaport towns, and the different parts of the state were joined together and brought nearer to the markets and points of shipping. That the change was realized is evident from the following words of the president of the Portland Board of Trade, spoken on the occasion of the completion of the Northern Pacific in 1884: "At present we are in the very midst of a commercial event of phenomenal importance; an event which welds us forever to the other parts of the country,—the union of the East and the West. The significance of the change is yet scarcely apparent, but a rapid adjustment of our business methods to the new order of things is necessary. Hitherto we have occupied what might be called an insular position, with insular advantages and insular prejudices; but now we are incorporated with the rest of the Union and must adopt the methods that elsewhere prevail." The popular approval and appreciation was manifested by a monster procession in which the principal object of interest was an old pioneer caravan with every detail depicted in realistic manner. Old weather beaten wagons were prominent; household utensils were mingled with tow-headed babies and bear cubs; men walked beside the wagons to protect, with their rifles, from imaginary harm, while a band of Warm Spring Indians followed with war whoop and flourish of tomahawks.

From the completion of the transcontinental lines the growth of industrial life has been steady and permanent. Isolation has been destroyed. Remoteness of location, however, has not been entirely overcome, and the process of evolution is not complete. The law of social growth has signified in the past that every step toward progress requires the taking of another, and already the interest of Oregon's population is centered on the construction of an interoceanic canal to shorten the waterway connection with her markets.

In the social evolution of Oregon it is necessary that many questions should arise that are closely connected with the industrial life. The prosperity of every community is identified with questions of an economic nature. In the first place the welfare of every community depends upon the harmonious relation of capital and labor. In the history of Oregon there has been little to mar the pleasant relation existing between the two. Capital has never been so abundant as to menace the interests of labor nor has labor ever been so abundant as to be independent of capital. Strikes that have occurred have been of small size and not aggravated in character. Both capital and labor have needed the help of the other and have united in the development of the resources of a new country. Oregon is yet so young that the men of wealth have grown to be such from an early start as laborers. Every man feels that his chance is equal to that of every other man more fully in a new community than elsewhere.

The only question which has marred the harmony has been a conflict between the white laborers and the Chinese. Such conflicts have been less frequent and pf milder nature than in the history of both California and Washington. Brought into the state during the time of railroad construction, the Chinese performed a valuable service and undoubtedly assisted in the industrial development in a very important manner. The legislation of the community, however, from an early time shows a discrimination against them and their privileges are limited even in the constitution of the state. Living, as they do, by themselves and preserving their own habits and standards of life, they do not assimilate with the other population. Together with the Indians they form a novel element in the social life.

The industrial prosperity of a communty is inseparably connected with the question of a medium of exchange and standard of value. Money is indispensable to the existence of industrial life in any important sense, and the amount and the kind of money means progress or decline and marks the community as industrially sound or unsafe. In the early days of the fur trade exchanges were made in the terms of the skin of the beaver, the animal most numerous in the valley of the Columbia. When the agricultural resources were utilized the bushel of wheat took its place beside the beaver skin as a standard of value. Convenience soon led to the use of orders upon the Hudson Bay Company or the stores of the agricultural settlement. They served the purposes of a medium of exchange for the simple transactions of an early time. Metallic money was scarce at first. Occasionally a barrel of silver would be brought into the region to pay the crew of some ship. Much of it would get into circulation and thus be added to medium of exchange. Here and there could be found the coins of Mexico and Peru. With the discovery of gold in California the dust became abundant. It was not, however, able to command as much in exchange as the same amount of gold in the form of coin. This fact led to one of the most interesting events in the monetary and industrial history of Oregon, the coining of the "Beaver money' in 1849. An act of the Provisional legislature was passed authorizing the coinage of gold. Before it could be carried into effect the Provisional government was supplanted by the territorial, and the plan seemed to be defeated. Some, however, were not willing to see it fail, and formed a private company to undertake the enterprise.[23] As it had never been submitted to the government of the United States, for license, it was unconstitutional in form. In every other particular it was eminently regular. The little mint was not possessed of the necessary appliances to render the coins uniform in quality or color, but they were scrupulously accurate in the amount of gold which they contained. Never had the mints of the national government created a more honest coin. When they were called in later by the mint at San Francisco they were found to contain eight per cent more gold than the standard coins of the United States.[24] This money received the name of "Beaver' from the stamp placed upon one side of the coin. Altogether about $30,000 of this money was coined in denominations of five and tendollar coins.

The Oregon community throughout its history has favored metallic money. The -notes-, which the Provisional government sometimes gave in return for its obligations and agreed to receive in payment of obligations to itself is the nearest that Oregon ever came to a paper currency. No state institutions were ever organized to issue paper money because such privilege has been denied by the wisdom of the framers- of the constitution and Oregon has been spared the evils of a currency which figured in the history of so many of our commonwealths. Even during the time of the civil war, when paper money was issued and every appeal to patriotism would urge to its use, Oregon remained essentially upon a metallic basis, by the passage of a special contract law,[25] enacted in imitation of a similar policy in California. Financial heresies have not taken root in the industrial life of Oregon and the social evolution has profited thereby. Few things so stamp a people as the ideas held in regard to money.

Population congregating in any locality for the purpose of making a livelihood soon organizes itself into a political society, for man is a "political animal.' Industrial life can not exist without some form of civil government. In the early period of the fur trade this function was supplied by the company, and particularly its officers. It was of an autocratic type, but rendered substantial justice, and was able to secure a most excellent order in circumstances that might easily have been disorderly. No region so remote from civilization was ever more safe for the traveler than the territory under the jurisdiction of the Hudson Bay Company.

Its ideals, however, were not sufficient for the democratic settlers who came to pursue an agricultural life. At a very early date justices of the peace were appointed in the mission settlement in the Willamette Valley. The formation of the Provisional government in 1843 was a long step in advance, and must mark one of the important stages in the social evolution of Oregon. It is one of the finest examples to be found of the resourcefulness of the American frontier settler. Although temporary in character, it sufficed to keep the region in trust until events could so shape themselves that the United States could extend over the region a territorial form of government. This again was a forward step in the social evolution. At first sight it may seem that it was little more than a change from Governor Abernethy to Lane, but it marked a greater change than that. It was the realization of something long desired; it attached the population of Oregon to that of the rep'ublic. The social life expanded with the very thought; the social life and habits that prevailed in the republic were to prevail in Oregon; the nation was henceforth to aid in the development of Oregon, and the resources of Oregon were to be added to those of the nation; national soldiers were to help the colonists in their struggles against the Indians, and in time of need the soldiers of Oregon were to defend the interests of the nation.

The establishment of statehood in 1859 was the logical end of political evolution. A community can attain to nothing higher than to achieve a place in the council of the nation. It is both a benefit to be enjoyed and an obligation to be honorably met. If Oregon, in the past, has occupied a subordinate place in the development of national life, her position grows more important with the changes that are occurring, and her opportunity to take a more prominent part in 'national affairs grows greater.

Connection with the life of the nation brought with it the questions of national importance. Oregon always had its local party questions; but now it was to share in the great problems that stirred national feeling to its depths. The population of Oregon had established a reputation for political interest. An early California paper said that there were two occupations in Oregon, "agriculture and politics.' The politics of the earlier days was one-sided. The population was affiliated with the democratic party. But how could it be otherwise when that was the party which had included the men who had taken the greatest interest in the development of Oregon. The party of Jefferson, of Floyd and Benton, of Monroe and Linn, of Douglas and Polk, was not unfittingly the party of the colonists. In the whole history of the territorial government there was but one whig governor and his term of office was not a pleasant one. Mr. Lincoln was doubtless discreet when he replied to the president, who offered him the governorship of the Oregon territory, "No sir-ee."

The establishment of the Oregonian, under the editorship of Mr. Dryer, marked a change in the political sentiment of the population. With the growth of the whig party the early political conditions were changed.

With the growing prominence of the slavery question and the formation of the republican party the change became greater still and the majority were ranged on the side that stood for the Union and against the institution of slavery. Every interest of Oregon became in some way involved in this great question, as in fact did the interests of every commonwealth. There was a strong Southern element in the population that had come from Missouri and there was some hope that the public opinion of Oregon might be made to count for secession and slavery. General Lane, a favorite son of Oregon, was candidate for the vice presidency upon the extreme Southern ticket. Nothing redounds more to the credit of Oregon than her stand against slavery and secession. The vote taken at the time that the question of slavery was submitted to the people for action, previous to the submission of a constitution to congress for ratification, shows the division of opinion, while the clause still kept in the constitution prohibiting free negroes is a historic reminder of the sensitive Southern spirit that could not endure to look upon a free negro if prohibited from keeping one in bondage.[26]

A study of the social evolution of a community would not be complete without some mention of the institutions which arise among a population in response to the higher needs. Those impulses which lead to the broadening of the mental and the deepening of the moral nature are of utmost importance to a community. In the accomplishment of this work the community mainly looks to three institutions—the public press, the church, and the school.

It was a significant event in the higher life of the people when the first printing press was brought from the Sandwich Islands in 1839 and given to the mission at Lapwai. It marked the beginning of a movement that was to be a powerful agent in stimulating mental activity and in molding public opinion and moral sentiment. The establishment of the Oregon Spectator in 1846 brought into existence a journal that served the needs of the primitive colony. Joined by the Free Press, there was little development until 1850, when the establishment of the Oregonian, and a few months later, in 1851, of the Statesman, led to a stimulus that was to be felt throughout the succeeding years. Other journals of a more local character followed and each has performed its part in the social evolution. In the pages of these journals is to be found the completest record of every stage of development in Oregon's life. The public questions which have agitated the community are all seen reflected in vigorous language and with the coloring of the times in which they were living matters. Bringing to the population of a community the record of events and questions of a common interest, the newspaper has served to create a spirit of community life, and the news from distant parts of the world has broadened the life of those who have come in contact with it.

For the creation of a moral and religious sentiment among the early population of Oregon events were favorable. In the period of the fur trade distinctly religious influences were not prominent, but there was a higher moral tone than usually exists under similar circumstances. The officers of the fur company were men of high character. Intemperance and immorality were discouraged and prevented as far as possible. Religious services were conducted on Sundays at the fort in Vancouver. Foremost among the impulses to a high standard of moral life must be mentioned the coming of the missionaries. Seeking in the first place to serve the native races they were equally effectual in preparing a condition more favorable to the white man. Strong and zealous they exerted a lasting influence upon the life of the community. Without distinction of denomination their influence was beneficial. It is true there was much of conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in the early days, but the conflict that grew from a zeal to secure for the community the things that each thought essential was a better foundation upon which to build than the moral lethargy which characterizes the beginning of many communities. It is true that the efforts of the religious leaders to direct affairs of the community life favorably to the interests in which they believed, were often annoying to the settlers who cared little for religion, but it nevertheless sufficed to prevent many of the abuses which so easily creep into a community where there is too little watchfulness.

With the organization of the first Catholic Church at Champoeg in 1839, and the Protestant churches by the Methodists and Congregationalists at Oregon City in 1842 and 1844, began an organized movement which, regardless of tenets of belief, was to be a potent factor in the development of that moral fibre in community life which is its most valuable possession. Various denominations arose among the population, and there was not always the unity most favorable to best results. Centers of influence, however, were started, which later development has ever been striving to unify. Though the moral foundations were firmly laid, conditions of a growing community have not been most favorable to a development proportional to that in other lines. Absorption in the pursuit of material interests, shifting of population, thin distribution over a wide area, independence from the restraining influences of the older communities, are influences to be met and overcome in the evolution of religious and moral life. A church membership for Oregon considerable below the average of that for the United States, and a crime rate a little above, are indications of a condition that should render the serious mind thoughtful and alert to seek for every stimulus to a development at least equal if not greater than that of the industrial and political life.[27]

With the educational institutions, our brief study of the evolution of the community may fitly end. In the schools of any locality are the centers of influence that are most effective in producing social progress in things that pertain to the higher life. Beginning with the institutions established by the missionaries, the growth has been steady though slow; beginning with the schools for the native races and the children of the settlers, academies and colleges were added generally in advance of the needs rather than in response to a demand. First of the higher schools was the Oregon Institute, which was created in the cabin of "Lausanne" before the missionaries had touched the shore of Oregon.[28] In the following year an academy was founded upon the plains of the Tualatin, and earliest among the acts of the territorial legislature was the establishment of the public schools. From these beginnings other institutions have been started both by the different denominations and the state. Each in turn has been a center of influence in the evolution of the community, and from facilities, in most cases meager indeed, strong leaders have received the stimulus that enabled them to perform the work that they have done. Among the builders of the social life of Oregon credit should be awarded to the men who, through sacrifice, made possible the greatest stimulus to good that a community can possess.

JAMES R. ROBERTSON.


  1. Greenhow's History of Oregon and California.
  2. Sparks' Life of John Ledyard.
  3. Report of Cook was published 1784.
  4. J. Barrell, S. Brown, C. Bulfinch, J. Darby, C. Hatch, J. M. Pintard.
  5. Greenhow's History of Oregon and California.
  6. Journal of Lewis and Clark.
  7. Astor's letter to J. Q. Adams in 1823.
  8. Irving's Astoria.
  9. Act of parliament, 1821. In Appendix to Greenhow's History of Oregon and California.
  10. John Couch established a mercantile business in 1842 at Oregon City.
  11. Analysis of pioneer population by George H. Himes.
  12. About nine hundred.
  13. Henry Buxton, Forest Grove, one of the settlers on the Sound.
  14. Grover's Archives.
  15. Matthew P. Deady.
  16. Diary of P. L. Edwards.
  17. Jesse Applegate's "Day With the Cow Column of 1843."
  18. Pamphlet report of Agricultural Society of Oregon, 1861.
  19. Hon. R. C. Geer, in his address before the pioneer association.
  20. Tabitha Brown was teacher of school for such orphans in Forest Grove.
  21. Gaston's Railroad Development of Oregon, quoted by Bancroft in History of Oregon.
  22. Lang's History of the Willamette Valley.
  23. Oregon Exchange Company.
  24. Ex-Governor G. L. Curry. Address to pioneer association.
  25. Copy of special contract act.
  26. Vote on slavery: Seven thousand seven hundred against slavery; two thousand two hundred for slavery. Vote on free negroes: Eight thousand six hundred against free negroes. Bancroft's History.
  27. United States Census Report for 1890.
  28. Catalogue of Willamette University.