Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 7/Route across the Rocky Mountains with a Description of Oregon and California/Chapter 2
THE JOURNEY OUT, WITH ITS INCIDENTS.
Trading House of Vasques and Bridger—Attacked by the Sioux—Soda Springs—Deep Chasm and the Crater of an extinct Volcano—Fort Hall—Snake or Lewis River, Falls. etc.—Snow Storm, and difficulty of starting fire—Indians along Snake River—Numerous evidences of great Volcanic action in past times—Fort Boise—Hills of Marble— Grand Round— Blue Mountains, etc.—Whitman's Mission, on the Walawala—Fort Walawala—Columbia River, Falls, etc.—Cascade Mountains—Wascopin Methodist Mission—Indian Burying Place—Fort Vancouver—Arrival at Oregon City, etc.
Having crossed the two Sandys, (branches of Green River,) on the 10th of August we crossed the main stream, a large and beautiful River, the water of which, unlike that on the opposite side of the Mountains, is very clear. Having crossed several of the tributaries of Green River, on the 13th we arrived at the Trading House of Messrs. Vasques and Bridger. It had been attacked, during their absence, by a band of Sioux, by whom the horse guard, and two Snake Indians, had been killed, and a number of horses driven off.
We remained here three days, and then went on to the Utah [Uintah] Mountains, at the head of Bear River, to hunt elk, as our stock of provisions was nearly exhausted. We made our camp at the foot of the Mountain, where we remained ten days, during which time the Utah Indians came to us, to trade horses, skins, etc. We met with but little success in hunting, and on the 28th started down the River.
On the 1st of September it rained, was quite cold, and the hills were covered with snow. This day we struck the trail of the Oregon Company, and during the nights we had heavy frosts. The valley of the River, is from one to eight miles wide. A large portion of it has a good soil, and is covered with an excellent grass. Flax grows spontaneously in this valley, and in considerable quantities. The hills on either side rise very high, and are rugged and barren, and there are only a few Cotton Wood trees scattered along the River. These streams abound with a fine fish called the Mountain Trout. We found wild Goats and large flocks of Geese, Ducks and Cranes, but they had been so much hunted by the Emigrants, that it was almost impossible to kill any of them.
On the 4th we came to where the valley appeared to terminate,—the River turning short to the left, and making a breach through the high range of hills on the West; but the general course of Bear River is nearly North. Here we crossed over the hills, and again came into the valley beyond.
On the 7th, we reached the Soda Springs. They are on the East side of Bear River, and are scattered over a level space, about equal, in extent, to one square mile; with a slight inclination to the River, and elevated above it some fifteen feet. A large portion of this level space is covered with a stinted growth of Pine and Cedar. The earth is of various colors. In some places it is almost perfectly white, and in others, quite red, etc. Above, below, and on the opposite side of the River, the valley is rich, and covered With fine grass. The Mountains, on the North and East, are barren; but on the West, they are covered with Pine. The Springs are deep pots in the earth, from one to fifteen feet across, and generally without an outlet. The water appears to be originally fresh, and seems to rise to a common level in all the springs; and in these pools, which have been probably made by strong jets of the rising gas, it becomes highly charged. A slight hissing sound, is occasioned by the escapement of the gas. The water in many of the Springs, where the surface exposed is small, is cool, very pleasant, and has a fine, pure and lively acid.
About half a mile below, and immediately on the bank of the River, there is a Spring where the water, (which is quite warm,) at intervals of fifteen seconds, is thrown several feet in the air, from the centre of a small conical rock, which it has formed about it. A few feet from where the water escapes, there is a hole in the rock, connected with the channel through which the water passes, which inhales and exhales the air, like an animal breathing. There are numbers of dried-up fountains, similar to this, back from the River, hollow truncated cones, from three to thirty feet in diameter. Several Springs rise in the bed of the River, the water of which is quite warm. Every thing here, has the appearance of recent and powerful volcanic action, and doubtless the causes still exist, at no very great distance.
Five miles below the Soda Springs, the River makes an acute angle about a bold and lofty point, called the Sheep Rock, running away to the South West. Here, also, it seems to have made a breach through the Mountain, into another valley. Formerly, the Blackfeet Indians frequented this country; and, at this Rock, they had repeated battles with the Mountaineers, and with other tribes of Indians; and here the effects of their deadly encounters may still be seen, in bleached skulls and scattered bones. At this point, we left the River, and bore off to the right, across the valley, which is about ten miles wide. This valley appears to have been sunk several feet and is full of chasms, from two to twenty feet wide, and of unknown depth. Volcanic rock is scattered over it, in large masses; and in many places, it appears to have been upheaved from beneath. We passed, on the left, a large, hollow mound, the crater of an extinguished Volcano.
It was late in the night before we reached the Western side of the valley, and found wood and water for our camp. The water upon which we encamped, was a branch of the Portneiff, a tributary of Snake or Lewis River. We noticed, scattered over the country, a kind of black volcanic glass, shaped like the fragments of a broken bottle. Winding our way through the hills, by a very circuitous route, on the 13th of September we arrived at Fort Hall. It is situated on the South bank of Snake River, in a rich valley, about twelve miles wide and twenty-five miles long, and in latitude about 43 deg. 20 min. North. The Portneiff, Black Foot, and many other small streams, run through this valley of Fort Hall. The streams are lined with a fine growth of Cotton Wood timber, and the entire valley abounds in excellent grass. The Company keep several hundred cattle and horses at this place, which live through the winter, generally, without much attention. We were told by one of the members of the Company, that wheat had been sown at the Fort, and grew well. Fort Hall is built of the same material, and nearly in the same manner, as the Forts on the Platte are.
Leaving Fort Hall we traveled down the South bank of Snake River, and a few miles below we crossed the Portneiff, a beautiful little stream emptying into it; and at eighteen miles came to the American Falls. Here the river, compressed into about two thirds of its usual width, runs down over rugged volcanic rock, a descent of about twenty-five feet in one hundred. The water is divided into three different shoots by two large rocks on the Falls. In the middle shoot there is scarcely any perpendicular fall; in the other two there is about ten feet. Below these Falls, for many miles, the spurs of the Mountains on the South side run down to the river, and the road over them is in many places steep and rocky. We crossed a number of small creeks which run down from these Mountains to the River, the water of which is cool and clear. Many of the hills, over which we passed, were covered with a dwarfish growth of Cedar, and the Mountains on the South with Pine. The River, below the Falls, runs through a deep and narrow cañon, between black and rugged basaltic walls, and is little else than a succession of Falls and Rapids.
The valley through which Snake River flows is very wide, elevated from one to three hundred feet above the stream, and bounded on the North and South by parallel ranges of high Mountains. Its surface is broken and cut by deep ravines. It is very sandy and barren, producing nothing but wild sage and a few scattering blades of short grass. In traveling through this valley it is necessary to obtain some directions from those who are acquainted with the way, since grass is seldom found, except on the small streams.
A few days after our departure from Fort Hall we left our camp one morning, when, according to our bill of the route, we had a long stretch ahead before we would come to wood and water. The clouds were floating heavily along the sides of the distant Mountains, and the wind blowing in fitful gusts, made us fearful of an approaching storm. But our scanty supply of provisions induced us to proceed. We had not gone very far before the Heavens were completely obscured by the clouds. The cold increased to severity, and the mingled rain and snow, began to fall very fast. The dim trail, which led us over a high barren plain, became more and more indistinct from the accumulating snow. The distant Mountains, already,as white as the flakes that filled the air, gradually faded in the storm, and the extent of vision lessened as it increased. We were drenched with the rain and snow, and chilled and pinched with the cold, and in vain did we attempt to excite warmth by walking: for, loaded down with wet garments, and being accustomed to remain mostly on horseback, we were soon fatigued with traveling at a rapid rate over the wet dust and sand, and began to fall behind. We went on for some hours, the storm still continuing, and the same gloomy prospect was still around us. We were ignorant how long we should have to endure the cold and fatigue, before we could reach some poor shelter, or whether we might not entirely loose our obscure path, and be compelled to pass the night without shelter or fire. We began unanimously to give expression to such fears, when we came suddenly upon the river, at a small grove of Willow bushes, and hastened to unload our animals and kindle fires. It was a long time before we succeeded in producing fire from the flint and steel; but, after many attempts, we at length obtained it by sprinkling powder into the crown of a hat, together with whatever dry combustibles we could find, and discharging a pistol into it. To this we added the dry Willows which we had collected,and soon had a comfortable fire. We constructed frames of the green Willows, upon which we spread our blankets, and in this manner sheltered ourselves in some degree from the snow and rain, which continued to fall during most of the night. The weather, previous to this, had been quite warm, and on the succeeding day the clouds broke away and it was again pleasant.
Eighty-three miles below the American Falls, there is another tremendous perpendicular Fall in Snake River, over which the Salmon are unable to pass. Thirty-nine miles farther down, we saw, on the North side of the River, two very large Springs, bursting midway from the lofty precipices, rushing down like rivers, and foaming along over the piles of rock. They looked, at a distance, like banks of snow resting on the cliffs.
Seventeen miles below these Springs, are the Salmon Falls. These Falls are not perpendicular, except in one or two small shoots on the North side. The great body of the water runs down an inclination of not more than twenty-five feet in three hundred yards. The river here is about one hundred and fifty yards wide, and divided by an Island, commencing at the lower end of the inclination and extending down one fourth of a mile. The Salmon pass over the Falls with ease, when there is sufficient water on them. The surrounding country is very rough, broken, and entirely destitute of both grass and wood. The hills are, from the water in the River, about three hundred feet high. On the South side they are cut up by ravines; but on the North, they come bold and unbroken up within a few hundred yards of the water. There is nothing very picturesque or wild about these Falls, compared with the world of waste and wreck around them. The Indians take immense quantities of Salmon here, which they cut into thin slices, dry in the Sun, and afterwards pack them up in grass cases. The natives along Snake River live principally upon fish and roots, and are the fattest, most depraved, and degraded creatures anywhere to be found among the dregs of human nature. We have been told that during the Salmon season they become as fat as penned pigs, and in the winter so poor and feeble that they frequently die from actual starvation.
After leaving the Salmon Falls, we traveled down near the river, our path frequently leading us along the sides of the almost perpendicular bluffs. Twenty-seven miles below the Salmon Falls we came to the crossing where the companies which preceded us had passed over to the North side, which is much the nearest and best way, but we, having attempted the crossing and finding it too deep, were obliged to continue down on the South. This is, perhaps, the most rugged, desert and dreary country, between the Western borders of the United States and the shores of the Pacific. It is nothing else than a wild, rocky, barren wilderness, of wrecked and ruined Nature, a vast field of volcanic desolation.
Beyond the Mountains, which rise on the South of this point, is the great Salt Lake. Eighty-eight miles below the crossing of Snake River, we crossed two small branches of hot water. This region appears once to have been a high, level plain, which seems to have been overflowed from the East by a vast flood of lava. We were led to this conclusion from noticing that the basaltic layer, which covers the surface of the hills, (the summit of the hills being nearly on the same level,) decreases in thickness as we proceed down the River, until it gives out entirely; and the sandy base which composes the hills, seems to have given away to the action of time, until these table hills are but the fragments of the vast wreck. In these deserts we found the Horned Toad and a kind of Lizard, which is about eight inches in length, of a grayish color, slenderly proportioned, very swift, and apparently inoffensive.
Thirty-two miles below the Hot Branches, we crossed the Owyhe River, traveled down it two miles, and came opposite Fort Boise, which is situated on the North side of Snake River, a short distance below the confluence of the Owyhe and Boise; the latter of which, comes in from the North. There is, on the Boise River, a great deal of Cotton Wood timber, from which circumstance, it takes its name. From the crossing of Snake River to where it passes through the Blue Mountains, there seems to be no Falls or dangerous rapids. At Fort Boise, part of our company which came from Fort Hall, in hopes of procuring provisions, with the intention of going across into California, having obtained small supply, and the best directions they could get concerning the route, from Captain Payette, the principal at the Fort, (who appeared to be friendly, and much of a gentleman,) left us, to travel through a country, a large portion of which no white man had ever visited. They were to follow the Malheur, a small stream that empties into Snake River twelve miles below the Fort, to its source, and to pass over the California Mountains, to the head waters of the Sacramento.
Leaving Fort Boise we traveled twelve miles, and crossed the Malheur, where there are many Hot Springs, rising out of the bank of the stream. Twenty-three miles from the Malheur we came to the Brule or Burnt River, and traveled up it to its source, leaving Snake River entirely. After striking the Brule, the country gradually becomes less barren. We found on this stream vast hills of marble. The road through these hills is very crooked and rough. From the head of the Brule, we came next to the valley of Powder River. Here the aspect of the country changes rapidly. Leaving behind us the Sage and Sand, we find the hills and Mountains covered with Pines, and the little valleys along the Creeks and Rivers with excellent grass. This valley is about ten miles wide and thirty miles long, a large portion of which has a good soil. It is encircled by hills and Mountains.
Thirty-three miles from Powder River, we descend abruptly some three thousand feet, into the Grand Round, which is a level plain about ten miles wide and twenty miles long, surrounded by Mountains, and traversed by the Grand Round River, which comes in from the West, runs nearly to the middle of the plain in several channels, joins with another branch, bears away to the left, and leaves the plain at its Northern extremity, through a low gap. Numerous small creeks and rivulets run through all parts of the valley from the surrounding Mountains. There are some balm trees on the River, and the Mountains are covered with Pine. Much the largest portion of the soil is very rich, and the whole is covered with a superior quality of grass. From the Grand Round we bore to the left, and began the ascent of the Blue Mountains. It was long but gradual. After reaching the summit, the road was generally passable, excepting some deep ravines, which were frequently very steep and rocky. A great portion of these Mountains are covered with dense forests of lofty pine. Those portions which are destitute of timber are generally covered with good grass, and a considerable portion of the soil appears to be fit for cultivation.
On the third day, we left the Mountains and descended to the Umatila or Utilla River, (generally called in that country, the Utilla,) in the valley of Walawala. From the brow of the Mountain, we had a fine view of the Cascade range, fifty miles distant, forming the Western boundary of the valley, stretching far to the North and South, with its lofty peaks of eternal snow rising among the clouds. The extent of the Walawala valley is not known; but it is probably three hundred miles long, with an average width of about fifty miles. Its course, from and below the junction of Snake River, is nearly South; above, it bends away to the East. The Columbia River runs through it to the Dales; where it leaves the valley, and breaks through the Cascade Mountains. This valley, is elevated above the Columbia from fifty to five hundred feet, and is very uneven, dry, sandy, and entirely unfit for cultivation, except along the base of the Mountains, and immediately on the smaller streams which run through it; the principal of which are the Walawala, Umatila, John Days, and De Chutes Rivers. Almost the whole of the valley is covered with a superior quality of grass; which springs up in the Fall, is green through the Winter and Spring, becomes cured in the latter part of Summer; and affords sufficient food for animals throughout the year. It grows in detached bunches; the blades are eight or nine inches long; and it is generally considered almost as nutritious as grain. With the exception of a few Cotton Wood trees on some of the streams, there is no timber in the valley; but there is an abundance on the neighboring Mountains. Lead has been found on the Umatila; but not, as yet, in any considerable quantities. This is the country of the Walawala Indians. They own a great many horses; some of them have as many as two thousand—and they are the finest Indian horses we have ever seen.
Thirty miles from the Umatila, we came to Whitman's Mission, situated on the Walawala River, twenty-five miles from its junction with the Columbia. The buildings are of unburnt brick, and are neatly and comfortably finished. The Missionaries have a Mill, and cultivate a small piece of ground.
We were told by Mr. Spaulding, the Superintendent of the Mission on Clear Water, distant about one hundred and fifty miles from Dr. Whitman's, and on the North side of Snake River, that in the neighborhood of his mission, as far as he was acquainted with the country, it contained many rich valleys, of considerable extent; and, from what we have been able to learn, from all the different sources of information with which we have been favored, it is our opinion that that portion of country lying between Snake River and the main branch of the Columbia, will in the course of time, be inhabited by a civilized people, as it doubtless contains some good valleys of land. The country of the Spokines, laying on the Spokine River, is said to be good. That occupied by the Cour De Lion and Calespell Indians, contains many Lakes and Marshes. About Fort Colville, on the upper Columbia, the Hudson's Bay Company cultivate the soil, with good success. Snake River, from where it leaves the Blue Mountains, to its junction, is clear of Falls and Rapids.
From Dr. Whitman's Mission we proceeded to Fort Walawala, situated on the East bank of the Columbia at the mouth of the Walawala River. Here we disposed of our animals, procured canoes from the Indians, and having obtained a pilot from them, we cast our frail barks on the waters of the Columbia. The River, up and down from the Fort, as far as we could see, was broad and smooth, and we promised ourselves an agreeable passage, but we soon found that it was full of rocks, whirlpools, and dangerous rapids, to follow through which in safety required the greatest exertion, watchfulness and care. Our minds were constantly filled with anxiety and dread, and the wild manner in which our savage guide warned us of approaching danger had no tendency to dispel our unpleasant feelings. On the first day after leaving the Fort, one of our canoes, in which there were three persons, one of whom was a lady, in passing through a narrow shoot in the Grand Rapids, struck a rock, upset and filled instantly. The lady and her husband succeeded in gaining the rock, which was about three feet across the top, and just under the surface of the water. Our pilot succeeded in taking them off in safety, and regained most of the property. We passed on to what is called the Chutes, through many dangerous Rapids, to have accomplished which would have been very impracticable without skilful guidance. Here the river is wide, full of large rocks standing out of the water, and falls several feet. We were compelled to make a portage of nearly a mile over the rocks and sand, carrying our canoes and baggage on our shoulders. Three miles below the Chutes are the Little Dales, where the River runs three hundred yards through a narrow channel, between high rocks. Here we made another portage of our baggage and smallest canoe, and with some difficulty hired the Indians to run the others through the rugged Cañon. A few miles further and we came to the Great Dales, where we were compelled to leave our smallest canoe, and again make a portage of our baggage a distance of one and a half miles, over the rocks. Here the whole Columbia runs through a Cañon not more than seventy feet wide, whirling and boiling in a most furious manner, running with terrible velocity, and chafing against its rugged, rocky wall, and it requires the most dexterous management, which these wild navigators are masters of, to pass the dreadful chasm in safety. A single stroke amiss would be inevitable destruction. Three miles below the mouth of this Cañon, and one hundred and twenty-five miles below Fort Walawala, is the Wascopin Methodist Mission, at this time under the superintendence of Mr. Perkins, and situated half a mile from the South bank of the River. They have a small farm attached to the Mission, under the superintendence of Mr. Brewer. Both this and the Mission on the Walawala River, though they are well located for the purposes for which they are intended, and conducted, perhaps, according to the best judgment of those who have charge of them have not yet, we believe, been productive of much, if any, good. Here we were obliged to remain more than a day on account of high wind, by which we were detained several days on our passage to the Cascade Falls. From the Mission to the Falls, a distance of fifty miles, the River has scarcely any current. The Mountains are high on either side, rocky, and in many places covered with heavy forests of Pine, some of which are at least ten feet in diameter and three hundred feet high. A short distance below the Mission, we found the stumps of trees, standing erect in ten or fifteen feet water, as if a dam had been thrown across the River, and the water backed up over its natural shores. We asked the Indians if they knew how these stumps came to occupy their present position; but none of them were able to inform us. They have a tradition among them that long ago the Columbia, in some part, ran under the ground, and that during an eruption of Mt. St. Helens the bridge fell in. Some such circumstance as this is the only way possible in which this anomaly can be accounted for, unless Captain Fremont is correct, (which is certainly extremely doubtful,) in supposing them to be land slides. For they are found no where below the Cascade Falls, although the character of the River and its shores is, above and below these Falls, very much alike. They are found immediately above the Falls, and as far up as the still water extends, which lack of current in the River we consider to be the effect of some vast impediment having been thrown into it at the Cascade Falls. The Falls seem to be composed of large detached masses of rocks, which circumstance also favors our opinion. A short distance below the Wascopin Mission and the Rapids of the Great Dales we found the first of these submerged stumps. They increased in number as we descended the River, as is always the case wherever there has been an impediment thrown into the channel of a stream, so as to raise the water over its natural shores. Immediately above the Wascopin Mission, as we have before noticed, and at least as far up as Fort Walawala, the River is full of Falls and Rapids, and such also we believe to have been the original character of the River below, where we find, at the present time, these stumps and an entire lack of current; as this portion of it includes the breach through the Cascade Mountains, the most rugged country, perhaps, through which the Columbia flows. If these stumps and trees, (for many of them are still sixty or seventy feet above the water in the River) had been brought into their present position by land slides, as Captain Fremont suggests, it seems to us to be a matter of course that the most of those which were not thrown down by the motion, and agitation, would have been found standing in various inclined positions, but on the contrary, we find them nearly all standing erect. And again, what is highly improbable, the slides must all have been very nearly simultaneous, as the trees are all about in the same state of preservation. The most of them stand opposite where we considered the shores too gradual to admit of a slide. There are many large nooks in the Mountains, along this part of the River, which are suitable for small settlements.
Fifty miles below the Mission we came to the Cascade Falls. Here the River, compressed into two thirds of its usual width, descends over huge rocks several hundred yards, with an inclination of about five degrees; and from the head to the foot of the Rapids, a distance of four miles, the water descends about fifty feet. From the great agitation of the water, caused by its rushing with such velocity down its rocky channel, the surface of the River, for several hundred yards, is as white as a field of snow. On the South the dark basaltic walls, rising perpendicularly four or five hundred feet, are covered with Pines. There are small islands of rock, both above and below the Falls, many of which are timbered, and huge volcanic fragments cover either shore. Here we were obliged to leave our canoes and carry our baggage nearly four miles, over rocks and hills, to the foot of the Rapids, where we found a bateau, which had been brought up from the Fort for the accommodation of the Emigrants.
We saw, while passing down, on the North side of the River, a large Indian burying place, where the bones of hundreds were heaped together in pens about eight feet square, made of thin Cedar slabs hewn and set upon end in the earth, covered with bark, and ornamented with carved images of birds, beasts, skeletons of men, and imaginary monsters. Some of these pens had rotted down, and the naked skeletons lay scattered over the ground. We found in one a body not yet decayed, wrapped in a blanket and lying on a board shelf.
The Falls afford one of the best Salmon fisheries in the Territory, and here the Indians take, in the Spring, great quantities of fish. It rained on us during the night we were at the Falls, and, with little intermission, during our passage to Vancouver. Below the Falls on the South side, there is, for several miles, a perpendicular rock bluff, rising from the water five hundred feet, over which several small streams are pouring in beautiful Cascades. The Columbia is broad and deep from the Falls to the Ocean, and the tide runs up to the foot of the Rapids. Twenty miles below the Cascades, the River makes a sudden bend, about a high Mountain point, called Cape Horn. Immediately on the point, there are several spires of solid rock, rising like huge horns, out of the water, from fifty to sixty feet high. Here we were met by a heavy gale of wind, and compelled to run ashore, and remain until the next day. This frequently happens to voyagers, on this part of the River. In one instance a crew of Emigrants were under the necessity of throwing part of their loading overboard in order to gain the shore. A few miles below Cape Horn, the highlands on the South side recede from the River, leaving wide, low bottoms, which generally overflow in the Spring. This low land continues to widen, to the mouth of the Willammette, and extends up that River about eight miles. In this part of the Columbia there are many low Islands.
After a very disagreeable passage, we landed at Fort Vancouver, forty miles below the Cascade Falls. It is situated on the North side of the River, one hundred miles above its mouth. The buildings occupied as stores, warehouses, shops, residences of the agents, men, etc., make quite a village. The ground back for half a mile is level, and then rises with a gradual inclination until it is elevated several hundred feet above the River. It is set with grass, and makes a very pretty appearance. Vessels drawing fifteen feet water ascend the Columbia this far, without any difficulty. Vancouver is the principal depot of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company, West of the Rocky Mountains. Their furs are collected from all parts of the Territory, to this place, and shipped once every year, to England, and the vessel returning, brings annually a cargo of goods, to supply the trade. They keep constantly on hand one year's supply in advance, that if any accident should happen to the vessel, either on her outward or homeward bound passage, the trade might not be interrupted. The Company have some good farms, and several large herds of cattle and hogs in different places. They have an extensive dairy on Sophia's [Sauvie's] Island at the mouth of the Willammette, where they make annually several thousand pounds of butter and cheese, which they send to Sitka, a Russian settlement to the North, with which the Hudson's Bay Company have also a contract to furnish a large amount of wheat yearly. In return for which they are to receive the Russian furs. They likewise furnish the Sandwich Islands with a considerable amount of flour, lumber, spars and fish, for which they receive in return the products of those Southern Islands. The great design of this Company is to trade with the Indians, and take the beaver, but, after this animal, so unfortunate on account of the rich dress which Providence has given it, as a shield against the cold of the North, had become nearly extinct, in the lower valley of the Columbia, and after the settlement of foreigners in the Sandwich Islands, and citizens of the United States in Oregon began to create markets, they extended their operations and began to cultivate the soil, to raise cattle, to build mills, to furnish the settlers with articles of merchandise, and to trade with foreign ports.
Having obtained a skiff at the Fort, belonging to Oregon City, we went down the River six miles, to the upper mouth of the Willammette. The lower mouth comes into the Columbia twenty miles below, making Sophia's Island. The hills are very high on the West side of the River; but rise gradually, and are covered with dense forests of Pine. We had but little difficulty in ascending the Willammette, there being not much current until we came within one and a half miles of the Falls, where we found a strong Rapid, at the junction of the Clackamas; a small, but rapid River, coming in from the East. Here we were obliged to get out into the water, and draw our boat with a cord, several hundred yards.
Having passed these rapids, we arrived, in a few minutes, at Oregon City, situated at the Falls of the Willammette, the place of our destination. This was the 13th of November, 1843, and it was five months and nineteen days after we left Independence, in Missouri. Here we were able to procure such things as were really necessary to make us comfortable; and, what was most especially pleasing to us, an abundance of substantial food. We enjoyed that plenty which, until now, we had long been strangers to; and were happy, after a long and tedious tour, over mountains and deserts, through a wild and savage wilderness, to witness, upon these distant shores, the home of Civilization. To see houses, farms, mills, storehouses, shops; to hear the busy hum of industry; the noise of the workman's hammer; the sound of the woodman's axe; the crash of the falling pines; and to enjoy the warm welcome of countrymen and friends. How grateful these circumstances were to us, he who had never passed the bounds of Civilization, or forsaken the parental roof, can never know. We had been here but a short time, before the last of the Emigrants arrived. They were soon scattered over the country. Those who intended to cultivate the soil, laid claims, built cabins, and prepared for the coming winter. Mechanics found employment at the Falls, and those who had no particular occupation or object in view, distributed themselves through the country, taking hold of whatever circumstances offered, or suited their inclinations best. All found enough to do, and there was in the country an abundance of the real necessaries of life. Every one seemed satisfied, for a time, with being permitted to have a home and a plentiful subsistence. And notwithstanding many were greatly exposed, during the winter season, all were blessed with excellent health.
Our arrival had a great effect upon the country. The people were beginning to feel lonesome, and to fear that it would be long before these far distant wilds of Western America would be settled. Property was of doubtful value, and their once high anticipations were fading away. They had heard reports from the Indians, of the approach of a great number of white people; but the reports were disbelieved, and we were our own heralds; for, not until we arrived, were they convinced of our coming. Instantly every thing revived; improvements went rapidly on, and the expectations of the people were again excited. We found, at the Falls, a small village, of about one hundred inhabitants. Lots were laid out on both sides of the River; those on the East side, by Dr. Mclaughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, West of the Mountains, and called Oregon City; those on the West, by H. Burns, and called Multnomah.
- It will be observed that the original forms of all proper names are retained, as this is a reprint and not a revision. Explanatory words in brackets are added only when identifications seem to be needed.—Ed.