Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 7/Route across the Rocky Mountains with a Description of Oregon and California/Chapter 3
ROUTE ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS WITH A DESCRIPTION OF OREGON AND CALIFORNIA, ETC., 1843.
[Reprint of a Work by Overton Johnson and Wm. H. Winter, Published in 1846.]
DESCRIPTION OF WESTERN OREGON.
Willammette Falls, Mills, etc.—Description of the Willammette Valley—Head of the Willammette River—Calapooiah Mountains—Umpqua Valley—Umpqua Mountains—Valley of Rogue's River—Clamuth or Chesty Valley—Description of Country North of the Columbia—Mount St. Helens, an Active Volcano—Numerous Low Islands in the Columbia River—Astoria or Fort George—Indians West of the Cascade Mountains—their method of catching Salmon—Government organized—Peopling of America and Pacific Islands—Scenery in Oregon.
Great improvements were made in the little town, at the Falls of the Willammette, during our stay in the Country. There was [sic] at the Falls, when we left, a Saw and Grist Mill on one of the Rock Islands, belonging to an American Company, styled the Oregon Milling Company, and on the main shore, two Saw Mills and a large merchant Flouring Mill, belonging to Dr. Mclaughlin, four Dry Goods Stores, a School House, two Churches, a Public Library, a flourishing Literary Society, Law offices, Physicians, Shops,and Mechanics, of almost every description, and a population of about three hundred persons.
At the Falls, the Willammette precipitates down a perpendicular basaltic rock, thirty-three feet, and spreads out as it approaches the precipice, into a broad sheet, at the verge of which it is nearly a half a mile wide. It is divided by two large Islands of rock into three different shoots. The whole descent of the water from the level surface above, to that below, is about forty-five feet. The River for some distance above and below the Falls, runs through a channel cut in the solid rock. On the East side, extending down from the Falls several hundred yards, and back from the water five hundred and fifty feet, there is a perpendicular wall one hundred and fifty feet high; further down the space between the hills and the River increases in width until there is sufficient room for a town of considerable size.
The Valley of the Willammette, which has generally been considered the best portion of Oregon, is situated on the South side of the Columbia River, between the Cascade Mountains, a lofty range running nearly parallel with the coast, at a distance from it of about one hundred and twenty-five miles, and the Calapooiah Mountains, a range of considerable height, which rise immediately on the coast, and extend along it so as to form an entire rock bound shore. The Valley has an average width of about seventy-five miles, and extends South one hundred and fifty miles. It is traversed from South to North by the Willammette River, a large and beautiful stream, which is navigable to the Falls, within two miles of which the tide reaches. The Falls overcome, and navigation reaches fifty miles further up the River. This valley is divided into several portions, by ranges of high lands running in different directions, generally following the course of the streams. The principal tributaries of the Willammette are the Clackamus, which rises in the Cascade Mountains and empties one and a half miles above [below] the Falls; the Twalita, which rises in the Calapooiah Mountains, flows through the Twalita Plains, and empties two miles above the Falls; and, eight miles above the Falls, the Moolally or Pudding River, which rises in the Cascade Mountains and empties into the Willammette from the East: fifteen miles above the Moolally, the Yamhill River, which empties from the West; and above the Yamhill, the Sandy Yam, which empties from the East. The streams emptying from either side have their sources in the bordering Mountains. On the lower Willammette, the country near the River is broken, and covered with dense forests of Pine. Further back from the River it is diversified, with open woodland and groves of heavy timber; and still further, there are beautiful plains, lying between the streams, separated by belts of timber, and extending back to the Mountains. On the upper Willammette the country is more open and level, and is diversified with groves of Oak, Pine, and Fir, and broad and fertile plains, covered with luxuriant crops of grass. Above the mouth of the Yamhill River, a range of hills commences, and follows the Willammette River, continuing, gradually, to increase in height, to its junction with the Columbia. From the mouth of the Willammette they follow the South bank of the Columbia, within fifteen miles of the Ocean; thence they bear away to the South, and join with the Calapooiah Mountains, at Cape Look Out, twenty miles South of the Columbia; encircling the Twalita plains, a cluster of small, but rich and beautiful prairies, lying twenty miles West of the Falls of the Willammette, being in extent about equal to thirty miles square and connected by the Shohalam Valley and Yamhill district, with the upper Willammette. In the upper Willammette Valley, the plains are more extensive, and in some places there is a scarcity of timber; but the soil is fine, and frequently we meet with small spots of clover, growing wild, over many parts of the country. Seventy-five miles above the mouth of the Sandy Yam, the Willammette Valley rapidly decreases in width, until it is nothing more than a narrow defile between the Mountains. No one has ever traced the River to its source, and but little is known of it, beyond the head of the Valley. It has generally been thought to rise in Mount Mclaughlin, one of the highest peaks in the Cascade range, and it is so marked on the best maps that have been made of the country; but the information we have received, from the Company which went across, from Fort Boise to California, convinces us to the contrary. They stated, that, after leaving the waters of Snake River, and ascending a high Mountain, they came upon an extensive level table land, which they supposed to be about eighty miles across, having a good soil, and being diversified with forest and plain; and that, having obtained an Indian pilot, whose language they could not understand, it was with much difficulty they persuaded him that they wished to go to the South West. The Indian showing them a small stream, and pointing to the North West, informed them that it led to a settlement of people, similar to themselves, and they were convinced that their guide alluded to the settlement on the Willammette, and that this was its source. They finally succeeded in getting him to understand that they were aware of the location of the settlement, to which he alluded, and that they did not wish to go to it. After reflecting some time, the Indian seemed to recollect like a dream, of there being white people to the South West, and accordingly conducted them to the head waters of the Sacramento, which has its sources, as they informed us, in the Southern part of this same table land.
The country on the Eastern side of the Willammette is very similar to that on the West, excepting that it is rather more level, and not so high, or uneven, near the River, and is not separated from the Columbia, by any high range of hills, as it is on the Western side. There is an abundance of excellent timber in this valley, the greatest portion of which is Fir. There are, also, in different parts, considerable quantities of Oak, Pine, and Cedar; and besides these, there is Hemlock, Yew, Balm, Maple, Alder, Laurel, Dogwood, Cherry, and Ash, with a great variety of shrubs and plants, and many such as we have never seen in any other country. Besides the power at the Falls of the Willammette, which is alone sufficient to propel an immense machinery, there is a vast amount of the water power in this valley, at least entirely sufficient always to supply every want of the country. Besides the Mills at the Falls, of which we have already made mention, there are in the upper Willammette, a Grist and Saw Mill, built by the Methodist Mission, and another Saw Mill building by an individual. In the Twalita plains there is a Flouring Mill in operation, and a Saw Mill in progress of building. Seven miles above Vancouver the Hudson's Bay Company have Saw and Grist Mills. Twenty-five miles above Astoria, and near the Columbia, there is an excellent Saw Mill in Operation, and on the Clatsop plains there is a small Patent Mill being set up for the accommodation of the settlers at the mouth of the River. The present population of the country, the great portion of which is in the Willammette Valley, amounts to about 6000 souls (exclusive of the Natives). A portion of these are English, French, and half breeds; but a large majority are from the United States and have emigrated to this country overland within the last four years. Those who have come into the country have been industrious, and improvements have gone rapidly on. Quite a considerable portion of the Willammette Valley has already been brought into cultivation, and there is, after supplying the inhabitants and emigration, annually, several thousand bushels of surplus wheat. New farms are being opened daily, and the cabin of the bold and enterprising pioneer may be seen rising on many a verdant hill, or nestled away in the quiet seclusion of many a flowery nook; and ere long the plow share and the axe promise to turn this wild and flowery wilderness into rustling fields and blooming gardens.
The Valley of the Umpqua is divided from that of the Willammette by the Calapooiah Mountains, a single and almost unbroken ridge, the course of which is nearly East and West. Across these Mountains, which are not high, and the ascent and descent of which are very gradual, is a distance of about twelve miles. They are thickly covered with good Fir timber, are not rocky, and have a soil fit for cultivation. The Umpqua Valley is about thirty-five miles wide and its length is not certainly known. Its general character is very similar to the Willammette Valley, excepting that its surface is more undulating. The Umpqua River runs through the middle of the Valley, receiving numerous tributaries from the neighboring Mountains. It is a stream sufficiently large for navigation; but the great rapidity of its current will probably always prevent it from being useful for that purpose. The Valley is diversified with woodland and prairies; but the prairies occupy the greater portion, the timber being principally along the water courses and on the bordering Mountains. The prairies have a good soil, and are covered with a most excellent kind of grass. There is a great deal of fall in the smaller streams, and, having their sources in the Mountains, they are constant, and afford numerous fine water privileges. There is some granite in this Valley, but the prevailing rock is basaltic. The Umpqua Indians are quite numerous. They are not openly hostile to the whites, but yet it is not considered entirely safe for a few persons to travel through their country. No settlement has yet been made in the Valley, and no person has yet visited it except those passing through, to or from California. The Hudson's Bay Company have a trading Post near the mouth of the River. Supplies are taken to it overland, from Vancouver, on pack animals. There is a small bay at the mouth of the Umpqua, but the depth of water at the entrance is sufficient only for small vessels. It affords a tolerable harbor; but the intervening Mountains, extending along the coast, separate the Valley from the Ocean, and the River passing through them probably contains Falls, Rapids, and Canyons that will prevent vessels from passing any considerable distance up the River. This Valley, although it is separated by the surrounding Mountains, not only from all other portions of the country, but also from the Sea-Board, nevertheless offers sufficient inducements to ensure its speedy settlement. The Calapooiah Mountains are so gradual and unbroken that a good wagon road can easily be made across them into the Willammette Valley, and a railroad can be made to connect it with the navigable waters of the Willammette, whenever the necessities of the country require it and its wealth is sufficient to construct it.
South of the Valley of the Umpqua are the Umpqua Mountains, running nearly parallel with the Calapooiah Mountains, and separating this Valley from the Valley of Rogue's River. The distance across them is fourteen miles. They are high, very steep and somewhat broken, but not rocky, and covered with forests of Fir so dense that they entirely prevent the growth of grass.
South of this range is the Valley of Rogue's River, having the same course with the Valley of the Umpqua, and being about twenty-five miles wide. Its general character is much like that of the Umpqua, but it is more level, has a soil of a rather better quality, and is also covered with good grass. On the North side, where the California trail crosses the Valley, it is principally wooded; on the South, Prairie. Immediately above, the proportion of prairie and timber is very good. Here, as in the Umpqua Valley, the timber is on the streams, and the prairies are between them. There is, in the Valley, quite a considerable quantity of granite; but basaltic is the most prevalent rock. The Valley appears to widen above; its length is not known. It is traversed by Rogue's River; a stream somewhat larger than the Umpqua, and not so rapid, but that it might probably be made useful for transportation. Salmon ascend the River in great numbers; and so do they, indeed, most of the streams throughout the whole territory of Oregon. Water power is not wanting in the Valley of Rogue's River. A few miles below the California trail, the River appears to enter a canyon, and the Mountains along the coast are high and rugged, so as to prevent advantageous communication with the Sea-Board. The Indians who inhabit this Valley are numerous, and almost in a state of nature. They are of small stature, but well proportioned—slender, active and sensible. They have never had any intercourse, of consequence, with the whites, and have, therefore, but few of the articles manufactured by a civilized peeple. From their extreme hostility and treachery, and from the great amount of damage they have done to the white man, they have been almost universally called the Rascals. They seldom allow a company to pass, without molestation. They attack from ambuscades, made in defiles, chasms, and thickets. They have no firearms, their principal weapons being the bow and arrow. Their bows are made of the wood of the Yew tree; short, and covered on the back with the sinews from the loins of the Elk, which are fastened on with glue, and neatly and securely wrapped at the ends with the same material. Their arrows are feathered and pointed with small, delicate, uniform, and very sharp heads of flint. These arrows they shoot with great force and precision. They seldom have horses, and if they take or kill an animal in their attacks, (which they endeavor to do as much as to take the lives of the men,) they afterwards cook and eat it, making a great feast.
South of the Rogue's River Valley is the Chesty Mountain, a single, and almost bald and barren ridge. To the right of the California trail it bears a little to the South, and interlocks with the Mountains on the coast. The Northern base is covered with timber; the summit and Southern side, in many places, with large boulders of granite. The distance across is six miles. Going towards the South the ascent is gradual—the descent rather steep, but a very good road might be made across into the Clamuth or Chesty Valley, which lies immediately South of the Chesty Mountain, and has nearly the same course with the Valleys of the Umpqua and Rogue's River. This Valley of the Clamuth is about thirty miles wide where the California trail crosses it. It decreases in width below and increases above. It is traversed by the Clamuth River, a stream still larger than Rogue's River, but full of rocks, rapids, and narrows; and passing through the Mountains of the coast, it appears to run through a narrow canyon, affording no outlet from the Valley to the Pacific. The soil of this Valley is generally of a very inferior quality, but along the streams, and at the foot of the Mountain, it is good. The rest is a kind of dry, light, dusty and sandy land, producing but little vegetation. The surface of the Valley is generally quite level, and a large portion of it is open. There are a few scattering Oaks, in places through it, and some Pine; but the timber is, principally, the Fir growing along at the base, and on the sides of the Mountains. The Clamuth Indians are numerous and quite hostile. Their character and condition is much the same as that of the Rascals. This Valley is situated near the parallel of 42 deg, and we are not quite certain whether it is in Oregon or California.
These Southern Valleys of Oregon, though in their present state of nature so lonely, so wild, and so secluded; though they now threaten the travelers who pass, at intervals of years, with dangers from the rugged mountain path, the swollen torrent, and the savage arrow, though many a gloomy glen and rocky gorge and dark and tangled wood which have been stained with conflict or storied by some savage ambuscade, still stand to awaken terror in the passer-by; yet, these Valleys, notwithstanding their wildness and dangers, offer inducements, (deadly to the fated native,) for which, ere long, the stronger hand of the White man will beat back the present wild and implacable inhabitants, and make them the homes of civilization. Each of these Valleys is probably of sufficient extent to make several large counties; and, but for their detached position and their being so separated from the sea-board as they are, or appear to be, they would doubtless be the most desirable part of the Oregon Territory. The general fertility of the soil is favorable to the agriculturist; the richness of the grasses, to the stockraiser; the vast beds and piles of stone, and the broad forests of the giant Fir, to the mechanic; while the unfailing abundance of water in the Rivers and creeks, pouring over numerous falls and rapids, present inducements highly favorable to the manufacturer. Occupying a position between where the Winter rains of Oregon and the Summer droughts of California are occasionally severe, they possess a climate which, mingling these two opposite evils, destroys them and thus renders these secluded Valleys, in this respect, the most desirable portion of these most desirable climes. But they are so much as nature made them, and so wild that many portions of them have never been trodden by the foot of the white man, and it may be when time and the bold enterprise of our Western adventurers shall develop more fully the character and resources of these mountain-wrapped solitudes, that there may be found a Pass which nature has provided as a way for commerce through her barriers; and from the sides of the mountains and from the bosom of the plains, may be drawn additional materials to add to the necessaries and comforts of man and to aid the march of civilization. It is possible that this portion of Oregon will be acquired from the natives, in the same manner that portions of the United States have already been acquired—by force. And should it be so acquired, and when judgment comes upon the conqueror for conquest, there will be none upon whom it will fall more lightly, for there are no people who deserve more justly punishment for "all manner of wickedness" than the natives of the Rogue's River and Clamuth Valleys.
Not much attention has yet been paid to the North side of the Columbia by American settlers, owing to the uncertainty in regard to the claims of the two Powers that hold it in dispute; but notwithstanding this uncertainty, a small settlement has been formed by persons from the United States about twenty miles above Vancouver, on the North side of the River, in the confident belief that the United States Government would never relinquish any portion of her just rights. In several respects it is superior to the South. Immediately on the River it affords many more and better situations for settlement. At the falls of the Columbia, which must, in time become a place of some importance, the North side only can be improved. As the navigation extends forty miles above the Falls, and entirely through the Cascade Mountains, over which a good road cannot probably be made; a canal around the Falls will be a project which will deeply interest that whole country, as it will probably be the only means to facilitate the intercourse between the different portions of country lying above and below the Cascade Mountains, and the ingress and egress from and to the United States; and a canal can only be made, with any reasonable expense, on the North side. The vast amount of water power which the Falls will afford can be rendered available with profit only on the North side. Cape Disappointment, which can be made almost as impregnable as the Rock of Gibraltar, and which entirely commands the entrance of the River, frowning down on the channel which washes its base, is also on the North side.
Puget's Sound, which is cut by the parallel of 49 deg., and is said to be surrounded by a very beautiful country of considerable extent, in point of spaciousness, safety and facility of access is the second harbor on the Western shores of America. The general character of the country is similar to that on the South, excepting that its Valleys are not so large, and the mountainous and hilly portions occupy a greater extent. Like the Valley of Willammette, the Valleys on the North side of the Columbia, are diversified with forest and plain. There is little or no difference in the soil, and the grass is equally fine. On the streams that empty into the Columbia, and their tributaries, there are many Falls and Cascades; which affords excellent sites for machinery, to an almost unlimited extent. On the Cawlitz, which is the largest falling into the Columbia from the North, below the Cascade Mountains, the Hudson's Bay Company have a Saw Mill, and there is, at the same place, a small French settlement, which has been connected with them; but their term of service having expired, they were permitted by the Company to remain in the country, (the contract of the Company with them is to return them at the expiration of their term of service to their own countries. This is done in order to prevent competition). They are engaged in agriculture and furnish, annually, several thousand bushels of wheat, to supply the Russian contract. Their wheat is boated down the Cawlitz, in bateaus; but the rapidity of the stream, renders the navigation difficult and tedious. This settlement is fifty miles above the mouth of the stream. The Valley, here, is not half so large as that of the Willammette; but it is, nevertheless, entirely sufficient to accomodate quite large settlements. There are many other smaller streams emptying into the Columbia from the north; on all of which there are Valleys back from the River. The timber is more abundant on the North, and of rather a better quality.
Twenty-five miles North from Vancouver, and about opposite the mouth of the Willammette, Mount St. Helens, a lofty snow-capped Volcano rises from the plain, and is now burning. Frequently, the huge columns of black smoke may be seen, suddenly bursting from its crater, at the distance of thirty or forty miles. The crater is on the South side, below the summit. The Cawlitz River has its source in Mount St. Helens.
On the Columbia, in most places, the hills, which are generally high, frequently steep and broken, and covered with dense forests, come in on both sides, close to the water, leaving only small bottoms in the bends of the stream. Some of these bottoms, however, are large enough for several good farms. On the North side, for many miles above and, below Vancouver, the bottoms are of considerable width. The hills are low, and rise gradually back, for some miles, affording room for large settlements. At the mouth of the Columbia, on the South side, is the Clatsop plain, extending along the coast; and from a mere point, at the Southern extremity, it increases in width, until it reaches the River, where it is about five miles wide. This plain is very sandy, and produces fine garden vegetables; but is fit for little else. It has probably been made by the deposits of the Columbia, thrown back by the waves of the Ocean. It is traversed by several sand ridges, like waves, running exactly parallel with the coast. As the Columbia approaches its mouth, it widens out into broad bays; which, excepting a single channel, are full of shallows and sand bars; many of which are entirely bare at low tide.
About twenty miles above Astoria there is a large cluster of low Islands, called the Catalammet Islands, several miles in extent; which are covered with Cotton Wood and Willows, and are overflowed by high tide. They are several hundred in number, and are separated by as many shallow channels, some of which are as wide as the main channel, and into which persons who were not acquainted with the River have frequently run, and have been lost among the shallows for many hours. A few miles below these Islands, on the North side, there is a singular Rock, standing immediately in the channel, and rising above high water about twenty feet. It appears at a distance, like an artificial Pillar, and has been called Pillar Rock. A few miles below this Pillar, the River is fifteen miles wide; and the channel, leaving the North side, bears across in nearly a straight line, to Tongue Point, which is several hundred feet high, extending out into the River, in the shape of a tongue, about half a mile, and commanding, most perfectly, the channel which washes its base.
Astoria, situated on the South side of the Columbia, twelve miles above its mouth, is generally known as being the first place which was settled on that River. It contains only a few houses, and is occupied as a Trading Post by the Hudson's Bay Company, and now called by them Fort George. Some of the hearthstones of the old Trading House of Mr. Astor may still be seen. This will probably eventually be the principal commercial place in Oregon; as it is the best situation between Tongue Point and the mouth of River, and as there are on the bar, at Tongue Point, only three fathoms water, while on the bar at the mouth there are five. The River, at the mouth, is four miles wide, and the entrance is obstructed by a large bar, upon which the waves of the Ocean, (excepting in the channel,) break with great violence. The flying sheets of foam may be seen from Astoria, and the roaring may be heard for a much greater distance. The point of land on the South is low and sandy and is called Point Adams; that on the North, is a high perpendicular rock, and as heretofore said, is called Cape Disappointment. The channel comes around close to the foot of the rock, so that it has entire command of that entrance of the River. Since the wreck of the Peacock upon these breakers this entrance has been considered by many in the States as extremely dangerous, but not so with those who are acquainted with the channel. All admit, however, that it is necessary to have a fair wind, and weather sufficiently clear to observe the land marks, to avoid danger, as the channel is narrow. With these, together with a correct knowledge of the place, we doubt not but that a thousand vessels, were they sailed by men of skill and judgment, might enter the mouth of the Columbia and not one be lost. In the case of the Peacock, it is said that the Captain mistook the bar for the channel and struck before he discovered his mistake. We believe that strongly constructed and powerful tow boats, directed by experienced pilots, would overcome this obstruction as effectually as the same means do that at the mouth of the Mississippi. When vessels have accomplished an entrance they find a safe harbor and good anchorage in Baker's Bay just within Cape Disappointment; and farther up, above, below and opposite Astoria—in the main channel of the River. The bad character which the mouth of the Columbia gained by the unfortunate accident which happened to Lieutenant Wilkes, then Commander of the United States Exploring Squadron in the Pacific, has since affected, materially and deeply, the prosperity of that infant Colony; and not the Colony alone, but also the interests of the numerous Whalers which are, in every direction, in every latitude and longitude, constantly traversing the broad bosom of this Ocean of Oceans; since it has certainly been the great cause to discourage an intercourse which would otherwise have been commenced, and carried on, to the great advantage of both. This character, which has been and still is so extremely detrimental, is in a great degree, unmerited and incorrect.
The coast South from Cape Look Out, (twenty miles South of the mouth of the Columbia,) to the Umpqua, is generally rugged and mountainous. There are some small valleys on the intermediate streams; but none of sufficient extent to demand attention. At Cape Look Out, which is a lofty and frowning rock extending into the sea, there are extensive sands and a vast rock rising out of the water, called Kilamoox Head, upon which, when the wind is high from the West, the Ocean waves dash and break in such fury, that the roaring may be distinctly heard in the Willammette Valley.
The Indians, West of the Cascade Mountains, are divided into numerous small bands, and many of them without any acknowledged head. There were once, on the waters of the Columbia, the Willammette, and along the shores of the Ocean, powerful tribes, but pestilence and disease, since the coming of the white man, have swept them rapidly away, until but a few poor, wretched, degraded beings, beyond the reach of charity, remain. Once Chenamus, a proud, intelligent, and influential Chief of the Chenooks, held sway over all the tribes between the shores of the Pacific and the Cascades and between the Umpqua and Puget's Sound, and extended his influence beyond the Mountains. But, after his death, his place was never filled; and now, the bones of his people are scattered upon the rock and hills, and their dwelling places are their graves. The bones of hundreds, perhaps thousands, lay heaped up promiscuously together. And every isolated rock that rises out of the Columbia is covered with the canoes of the dead. They are nearly all gone, and disease is still sweeping the miserable remnant away, so that, in a few more years, there will not be a single red man west of the Cascades, on the waters of the Columbia. The Indians of this lower country are generally smaller and not so well formed as the generality of the Natives of America. They have but few horses, travel mostly in their canoes, and live upon fish, fowls, and roots. Their houses are constructed of slabs, split out of Cedar, hewn and set upon end, around a frame of poles, and covered with bark. The Indians are very filthy in their habits, and almost destitute of clothing. The stench arising from the filth about their villages in the fishing season is almost insupportable. They are superior water-men, manage their canoes with the greatest dexterity, and are very expert in fishing. On the Columbia they fish with seines (such as are used in the United States). At the Falls they build scaffolds, out from the rocks, near to the falling water, and use a sort of dip net, fastened on a long staff. They use spears, where a seine cannot be drawn, and in the night they fish with hooks fastened on a pole, which they immerse deep into the water, and when they feel anything touch the pole, they jerk it up quickly and generally bring out a fish. This mode of fishing is practiced only during the season in which the Salmon are ascending the streams, and immediately below some great waterfall, where they collect in immense numbers. All the fish that are exported from Oregon are caught by the Indians. Their canoes are the finest we ever saw; they are made of the large white Cedar, hewn out with great labor. They are constructed with a high bow and stern, which are separate from the main vessel, and so neatly put on, that the joints will not admit water. They are very light, and the edges are ornamented with Sea Shells. These people are also ingenious in the manufacture of mats of rushes, and hats and baskets of grass. Some of their baskets are water tight, and many of them are ornamented with devices of beasts, birds, and flowers, worked in various colors. The religion of these Indians is much the same as that of the other tribes of America. They believe in one Superior Presiding Influence, which they call the Great High Chief. They believe also in an Evil Spirit, and in numerous inferior Spirits, both good and evil, which inhabit the earth and air, and are invisible or assume the form of smoke or vapor: the evil Spirits afflicting mankind with misfortunes, disease, and death. They also believe in the Spiritualization of beasts, birds and fish, and even of their clothes, ornaments, canoes, tools, implements of war, etc.; of fruits, flowers, and numerous other inanimate things; and we are inclined to the belief that they extend this Spiritualization to all organized bodies. It is on account of this opinion that they bury their dead in their canoes, with many of the articles which belonged to them, while living—such as arms, clothing, ornaments, etc—and furnish them with a supply of food, which they suppose sufficient to last them to the Spirit Land. For the same reason a horse or a dog is frequently butchered beside the grave of a hunter. The Spirits of all of which things, according to their opinion, will be required for their comfort and subsistence when they themselves have come to be disembodied Spirits. They are in many respects very superstitious: one instance of which is shown in the removal of a large stone, which lay in the way of some men who were taking saw-logs into the River, a mile below Oregon City. The workmen were about to remove it, when they were forbidden by some of the Indians, and told that it was once a man, and if they removed it, the River would rise up to it. They, however, removed it, and it happened that soon after the River rose higher than it had ever been known, which accidental circumstance was attributed by them to the removal of the stone, and of course strengthened their superstition. They have what they term Medicine-men, in whom they place great confidence,and suppose that they possess the power by means of charms to counteract the influence of evil Spirits, and to drive them away. They are called to exercise their charms in every base of sickness. They blow their breath upon the body, rub it, and press upon the stomach. After continuing this for some time, they pretended to have drawn something from the patient; they press it in their hands, and appear to hold it with the greatest difficulty, immerse it in the water, and continue alternately to rub and immerse it, until the evil Spirit is overpowered. Then, holding the clenched hands above the head, several loud shouts are uttered in as frightful a manner as they are able. They then open their fingers gradually, to allow the terrified Scocum, (evil spirit,) to make his escape—blow through their hands—continue to utter fearful cries, and to make threatening gestures—until they have driven the agent of evil entirely away. They go through the same operation, until they have drawn the last little devil from the body of the patient, and driven it away. All the time these incantations are going on a number of persons sitting in a row beside the sick, chanting their savage song, beat constantly and loudly with sticks upon a large dry board. These Medicine-men are supposed to be invulnerable, and lead the van to battle. They frequently exhibit proofs of their magic powers, at their dances and celebrations, by holding live coals of fire between their fingers for several minutes at a time. They are held accountable for the success of anything which they undertake, and if a person dies in their hands, or if they lose an engagement, they are tried for their lives. When a Chief, or member of a Chief's family, or other notable person dies, they are placed in their canoes, with their blankets, arms and other implements, which they used while living, hung to a bough of a tree, or placed upon a rock, and a favorite horse, and sometimes several slaves, are killed to bear the soul of the dead to the world of Spirits. Slavery exists in the lower country.
These Indians are great gamblers, and they have several games, the form of which we are not able correctly to describe. They play until all their property is gone, and then frequently gamble off their bodies, part at a time, until the whole is lost, and they are slaves for life. Marriage, among the Indians, is rather a mercenary transaction, than otherwise. It is true, perhaps, that there is a choice in some instances; but generally whoever pays the highest price takes the woman. Poligamy is universally practiced, and some of the Chiefs have as many as ten wives. The wealth of an individual is estimated frequently by the number of his wives. The women here, as well as with all other barbarous tribes and nations, do all the hard labor; hunting, fishing, and war being the only duties of the man. But the Indians between the Umpqua and Puget's Sound are at this time anything else but warlike. The time no doubt has been when they were, but they have degenerated as fast as they decreased in numbers, until they have, in every sense of the terms, become inactive and feeble. Perhaps nowhere on the great American Continent, on either side of the Isthmus of Panama, has their intercourse with the white man been more ruinous to them than it has here. It is, however, no less strange than true and deplorable, that wherever the white man has had intercourse with the Indian, almost without an exception, it has tended both morally and physically to degrade, sink, and destroy him. The different tribes differ from each other very much in their language. They have not a great many words, and almost every one is uttered with a strong guttural sound. They count to ten, and afterwards by tens and hundreds. These are the Flathead Indians, and we believe the only Tribe that practice this singular custom upon the Continent of America, or upon the surface of the globe. How it has happened that the name has been given to a Tribe inhabiting a country upon the upper part of that branch of the Columbia, commonly known in the States by the name of Clarke's River, and separated by several hundred miles from the only people who are known to have ever practiced this custom, we are unable to imagine. Some ignorance and mistake, however, have thus widely misplaced the name, and instead of having given it to those whose most unnatural fancy would have rendered it highly appropriate, they have wrongly designated by it a people whose heads are as round as our own. The same error has likewise been committed in giving to a Tribe inhabiting a country on the North side of Snake River the name of Nez Pierce, to whom the custom of piercing the nose is not at all peculiar, but which is practiced extensively by the Tribes along the coast, all of whom are separated from these who bear the name by a distance of two or three hundred miles, and between whom the lofty range of the Cascade Mountains, (which intervenes,) admits but little intercourse. The custom of piercing the nose, for the purpose of wearing in it shells, quills, rings, etc., is practiced somewhat by all the aboriginal inhabitants of America. But with the Tribes inhabiting these shores of the Pacific it has been almost universal and is still so with some. With those, however, who have had much intercourse with the whites, this, together with the custom of flattening the head, is beginning to be less observed.
The custom of flattening the head originated, probably, in the idea, that it was unbecoming the dignity of a master to wear the same appearance as the slave, and as garbs and insignia were perishable, or subject to be wrested from them, it seems that they determined to put on different and, of course, as they were superior, more beautiful heads. And perhaps the circumstance, that their slaves were to accompany them, and serve them in another world—the land of spirits—was considered by them an additional reason, why they should imprint indelibly, even on their very existence, a sure indication and record of their own superiority; lest perchance, the master might be mistaken for the slave, and to the slave might be awarded the privileges of the master; lest the proud master, who in this world was accustomed to grant his servant life, or bid him die, might, by mistake, in Heaven be compelled, himself, to suffer and to serve; might be compelled to dig the spirit-roots and gather spirit-berries, from the bogs and briers of heaven, and to bare [sic] around the Portages or paddle along the Rivers, the ghost of his own, nobleman's canoe, for a vile slave; lest, in the fair land of spirits, his free-born shade might be, through mistake, compelled to bare such like ignoble spirit burthens, and toil, and sweat, and tremble, at the will of a vile creature of the Great High Chief of Spirits, whom he before had been accustomed to command; lest such misfortunes might come upon him, by the too great natural resemblance, between himself and his slave, it is probable that he was more strongly induced to lay aside the servile-looking head, which silly nature gave him, and put on a more beautiful one of his own wise fashioning. If this be not correct, it is at least surely very much in the character of man; and if it be, it is not confined to the Flatheads, alone, nor is it peculiar to the ignorant and uncultivated barbarian. The actions of civilized and enlightened barbarians, speak with the same import. This operation of flattening the head, is performed when the child is very young, while the cranium is yet soft, and somewhat pliable. It nevertheless requires a long time to complete it. It must be effected very gradually, and the pressure must be continued upon the skull, until it has acquired a degree of hardness, sufficient to retain the shape which has been given. The object is to press back the forehead, which, when the operation is completed, is generally about parallel with the nose. In effecting this, the back part of the head is also somewhat compressed. This object is accomplished by binding a small board, or any other hard plane substance, closely upon the forehead, so as to press in the required direction. The child itself is lashed to a board, in such a manner as to favor the securing of the flattening plane, in the necessary position, and to prevent the child from strangling. This operation, although so unnatural, so confining, and affecting an organ so delicate as the brain, and though performed upon such tender years, does not, however, appear to produce pain. Mortality does not appear to be greater among the Flathead children than among the adults, in comparison with that of other Indian Tribes. Neither does the flattening of the head appear, in the least degree, to affect the mind. Slaves, born among them, whose heads are not flattened, are the same, in every respect, pertaining to the mind, as far as it is possible to determine. In disposition, passion, intellect, and in their whole character, as far as different individuals are alike, they are alike. But it is probable that this practice will soon become extinct, if not from the abandonment of the custom, at least from the extinction of the race.
In the climate of Western Oregon, we find one of the principal advantages which this country, together with the whole Western coast of the Continent, possesses over those portions laying East of the great mountain range, which, extending from within the Arctic circle, divides the Continent into two Grand Divisions, different, not only in their geographical features, but also in climate and vegetation. The climate of Western Oregon is milder by several degrees, than it is between the same parallels of latitude in the States. Snow seldom falls in the Valleys South of the Columbia, and during our stay at the Falls of the Willammette, which embraced two Winter seasons, there were only two falls of snow; (with equal and perhaps greater propriety, we might call that portion of the year included between the first or middle of November, and the last of March, the rainy season;) the first of these snows was six or eight inches deep, and remained upon the ground about three days; the second, which continued to fall at intervals, during a week, passed away almost as fast as it fell, never concealing, entirely, the surface of the ground. During the period of our stay, we never saw ice on any of the streams of water, yet it has been stated that since the location of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, the Columbia River has been twice closed over at that place. If this be a fact, it must be owing, in a great measure, to the circumstance that the Columbia has its sources in far Northern latitudes, and in high mountainous regions. On the Willammette, which flows from the South, such congelation has never been known. We were informed by persons long resident in the country, that rains were very frequent through the Winter or rainy season, but that great quantities seldom fell in short times. During the first Winter we were in the country, there were several weeks together of fine, clear, and most delightful weather, and besides this, several other shorter periods of cessation; but during the second, it rained almost constantly, yet so light were these rains, generally, that in order to convey correct ideas, propriety would seem to demand some other term to designate them. Taking the two seasons together, which we experienced there, we doubt whether a greater quantity of water fell than falls generally in the same length of time, during the same months in the States. Many have expressed objections to the climate, on account of the rainy seasons, and it can not be denied that they frequently render it quite disagreeable and gloomy, especially to those who have just emigrated to the country. Yet most persons do their accustomed business at this season, whether it be in or out of doors, without seeming to experience any great inconvenience, or suffering detriment to their health. Southern winds prevail in the Willammette Valley, at this season, and when they change to the North they are usually succeeded by fine, clear weather. At the same time, however, they prevail from the East or change to the West on the Columbia, showing their course is affected very much by the hills and mountains. The clouds float low in the Winter, and frequently huge masses of them, as if influenced by attraction, cling to the sides of the hills and mountains, until as they move along, they are torn by the tops of the tall firs. We saw once as we were laying [sic] becalmed on the Columbia, in the dusk of the evening, the clouds descend from the mountain ravines, and settle down, for a while, so near the surface of the broad river, that the Islands with which it was there interspersed, and portions of the neighboring shores which were covered with groups of tall trees, penetrated with their tops above the cloud. Their seeming to be much elevated, together with the regularity of the upper surface of the cloud, awakened the idea of a beautiful little Archipelago, with all its Islands, floating in the air. The grass is green and growing throughout the Winter, and cattle and other animals keep in good condition, without any attention or feeding whatever, and we have frequently eaten excellent beef killed from the grass at this season. In the Summer there is probably not so much rain as in the United States, but it is entirely sufficient to perfect the crops of grain, which, except Indian Corn, are more abundant, and surer, than in the United States. The temperature at this season is near the same that it is in the same latitude East of the Mountains, except the nights, which are quite cool during the whole year, so that a person may sleep in midsummer comfortably under a pair of blankets. These cool nights are doubtless injurious to the growth of Indian Corn, which does not flourish and produce abundantly in this country. The sky, through the Summer, is usually clear, and on the plains a gentle breeze is generally blowing from the sea, which renders the Summers remarkably agreeable and healthy. The natural vegetation of the country is all of a giant growth. We have spoken of the Fir's attaining to the height of three hundred feet; many others, of the smaller kinds of vegetation, are in the same proportion. We have seen the common Elder growing from six to twelve inches in diameter, and the Hazel very commonly from four to six inches. There are several different kinds of wild fruit in the country, which are not found in the United States, and several which are, although it is not more abundant here than in the States. The cultivated fruits common in the States, such as the apple, peach, and pear, appear to come to perfection, though but little attention has yet been paid to grafting and cultivation, consequently there is but little fruit of a good quality. The grape, although not a native of Oregon, and not found anywhere West of the Rocky Mountains, and North of 42 deg., in a wild state, having been planted at Vancouver, is said to produce well. The wheat grown in Oregon is of a very superior quality; the grain is larger, fuller, heavier, and in every way finer than that grown in the States. The quantity produced, with the same cultivation, on the same extent of ground, we also think, is something more, but the difference is greater in quality than in quantity. The varieties of forest trees are not great; the Pine, Fir, White Cedar, Hemlock, and Oak being the principal. There are also some Maple, Ash, Alder, Dogwood, and Cherry, found along the watercourses. Thunder is seldom heard West of the Cascade Mountains, and storms and heavy winds are not prevalent. The Territory of Oregon has with great propriety been considered in three divisions. These divisions are natural and strongly marked, not only by the mountain ranges which separate them, but also by difference in soil and climate, and of course by different degrees of productiveness, and by a different general appearance. That portion of the Territory lying between these mountain ranges, (the Cascade and Blue Mountains,) is, under the above division, the middle portion, but is generally known in that country under the name of the Walawala Valley. Under this name we have previously noticed it, and thus we will designate this division wherever it comes in the course of our remarks. The climate of the Walawala Valley differs from that of Western Oregon, in being much dryer and somewhat colder. It appears strange that between two portions of country situated in the same latitude, and separated only by a range of mountains, the difference of climate should be so marked. We will not pretend to account for this difference, but will suggest that the, elevation of the Walawala Valley above the Valleys of Western Oregon, together with the circumstance of its being much farther from the Ocean, and separated from its influence by a very lofty range of mountains might make the difference. This climate, together with the dry and sandy character of the greater portion of the soil, and the richness of the grasses which they produce, renders this portion of Oregon above all others highly favorable to grazing; and it is in our opinion especially adapted, on these accounts, to the raising of sheep. As we have before remarked, the grass springs up here also, in Autumn, and is green and frequently growing through the Winter, so that animals require no other food. The almost entire absence of timber in the Walawala Valley is attributable to the dry and sandy nature, and to the insufficiency of the soil. The few Cotton Wood and Willow trees which line the margins of some of the streams and rivers, and the Pines which grow at the base of the Mountains, are all the timber which the Valley affords. Where the soil along the streams and near the mountains is rich, the climate favors the production of wheat, rye, oats, etc., the common garden vegetables, and is supposed to be more congenial to the growth of Indian Corn than that of Western Oregon. Corn has been grown for some years in small quantities at Dr. Whitman's Mission, and some of the Walawala Indians have been induced to cultivate small patches of it. But the ears we saw were small, and the quantity produced has also been small, and we are confident of our correctness in saying, that there is no portion of Oregon in which this grain can be profitably produced. The climate of the Walawala Valley, and everything else connected with it; the dryness of its soil, the purity of its waters, and the vicinity of snow covered peaks, are certainly highly favorable to health; and in proof of its healthfulness we have the testimony of those who have resided in it as Traders, or Missionaries, for a number of years, and not only the testimony of words, but also of appearance.
The remaining portion of the Territory of Oregon—the Eastern portion—we have sufficiently noticed in passing through it. Very much the largest portion of Eastern Oregon is at present and must continue for a great number of years to be comparatively valueless. It is a desert, so rugged, so dreary, and so exceedingly sterile that it cannot, until ages have melted its mountains, until the winds and floods and changes of thousands and thousands of years shall have crumbled into dust its rocks and its sands, yield anything worthy of consideration to the support of human life. There are, however, some beautiful exceptions to this general character; bright and blooming valleys, walled with mountains, and surrounded by wastes, which, contrasting so widely with everything about them, are regarded by the lonely traveler as being not only wildly romantic, but surpassingly beautiful. These, however, are rare. The traveler through that dreary region will cling to the summit of many a barren height and traverse many a sun scorched plain ere the green Oasis glads his eyes.
Those who have emigrated to the country have had uncommonly good health. Notwithstanding the great exposures which the Emigrations of 1843 and 1844 were necessarily subjected to in making and after having made a long and toilsome journey through a wild and desert wilderness, in preparing shelters from the rains and obtaining the means of subsistence, there were fewer instances of sickness in either than is common among a like number of people in the most healthy portions of the United States. But to describe the climate of Oregon with the greatest exactness, in the fewest words, is, we think, to compare it to France; which, laying between precisely the same parallels of latitude, and occupying exactly the same position on the Eastern Continent that Oregon does on the Western, boasts a climate which has long since and universally been acknowledged one of the finest on the Globe. The situation of Oregon in regard to commerce every one who knows anything about the geography of the world is already acquainted with. Its location is convenient to all the shores and Islands of the Pacific, the Western portions of South America,and as all the numerous groups of Islands of the great Pacific are ready of access, they will furnish much for profitable commerce, as they lie mostly in the tropics.
The people who have emigrated to Oregon have organized a Government, deeming it right and necessary, situated as they were, in an Indian country, and so far removed from the influence of any law; not only as a means of personal safety from the natives, if they were disposed to be hostile, but also, for the protection of life and property, against evil-doers among themselves; and for the distribution of equal justice in all their intercourse with each other. This Government, however, is intended only to be temporary, and subject to the disposition of the Government of the United States, whenever she extends her jurisdiction over the Territory. The people of Oregon, generally, have no disposition to set up an independent government; but on the contrary, they are exceedingly anxious to be taken into the care and under the protection of the United States. They expect to receive grants from the government and under this expectation, they have all located land claims of a section each; and these claims are of course respected and protected by the existing provisionary government. This government was organized in 1843, and previous to the arrival of our Emigration. The citizens met in convention, and elected an Executive Committee of three, which had the powers of a Governor, a Legislative Committee of nine, a Judge, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, four Justices of Peace, and as many Constables. Military Officers were also elected, and several companies of Militia organized. They made a short code of written laws, defining the duties and powers of the different officers, and adopted the Laws of Iowa so far as they would apply to their condition. They regulated the taking of land claims, determining who might hold claims, and defining what steps should be necessary in order that persons might be secure in the possession of lands. They limited these land claims by the same authority by which they laid them, (Senator Linn's Bill,) to six hundred and forty acres, and made any person laying two claims, liable to loose either. In order to hold a claim they made it necessary that the corners of the land, should be marked; and that a description of it should be entered upon the books of the Territorial Recorder; and the temporary government agreed to protect these land claims against all other claimants, except the United States of America. The Missionaries residing in the Willammette Valley, who took an active part in the organization; besides the claims allowed them as individuals, succeeded in obtaining, in the name of the Mission, thirty-six square miles, and in the best portion of the Willammette Valley. The succeeding Legislature, however, disregarded it, and all except the usual claim allowed to individuals, was liable to be taken by any one who might wish it. This government was extended over all the country between the parallels of 42 deg. and 54 deg. 40 min. North latitude, and West of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and made a residence of six months necessary to Citizenship. The second Legislature, elected by order of the Executive Committee, made a law, prohibiting the making and selling ardent spirits, in the Territory, except for Medical purposes; and likewise, a Law prohibiting the residence of negroes in the country, after the expiration of three years; and levied a tax upon the people, for the construction of roads and the defraying of expenses unavoidable in the transaction of the Government. They have endeavored to protect the rights of the Indians, and promote peace and harmony between them and the settlers; and no disturbance of a general nature has ever occurred between them, and an Indian war, in all probability will never interrupt the tranquillity of the Willammette Valley. The temporary government is acknowledged and supported by the great majority of the people, and is constantly gaining strength and character. None of the members of the Hudson's Bay Company took an active part in the organization of this Government; yet we believe that Dr. McLaughlin was present at the Convention. Since, however, many of those persons whom the Hudson's Bay Company have settled in the country, have been induced, by the influence of members of the Company, to vote at elections. Many of the individuals connected with the Company, among whom is Dr. McLaughlin himself, have preferred to avail themselves of the benefit of the Laws, to become subject to them and to pay the taxes levied by the Legislative Committee. One of the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company was appointed by the Executive, to the office of Treasurer of the temporary Government, and he accepted and served in that capacity. But little difficulty has yet occurred in its administration, and only two instances of resistance against the Laws, in both of which the authorities were successful and order was maintained. Private difficulties have but seldom occurred, and there is more harmony in this society than we have ever known or heard of, in any other part of the world. This happy circumstance is attributed principally to the general absence of intoxicating liquors, which is a state of things unprecedented in the settlement of a new country, and speaks loudly in favor of the moral character of the people of Oregon.
Many speculations have been indulged in since the first discovery of America, much research made, and many opinions offered as to the manner in which it became peopled. We have, in the course of our travels, become acquainted with some facts which may possibly throw light upon this subject. It may be that the facts which have induced us to form our opinion have been given to the public by others, and long since, but if they have, as we have never seen them, we beg leave to throw our opinion into the scale. The most commonly received opinion is, we believe, that the first inhabitants came across from the Northern part of Asia, at Berring's Straits, where the distance between the shores of the two Continents is but short. This opinion, though it is very plausible, and, in fact, probable, as regards America, can not account for the peopling of many of the Islands in the Pacific Ocean far removed from the shores of either Continent. It is our opinion that the Western shores, if not the Continent of America and all the inhabited Islands of the Pacific, have been peopled from China and Japan. It is now known, with as much certainty, as are any existences or transactions, of which we have been informed by ancient history that the Chinese Empire has been in existence, that its people have been in many respects enlightened, and that records have been made and kept by them for several thousand years past. They had vessels in which they went to sea, but not having an extensive knowledge of navigation, they never ventured far from land; it, however, sometimes happened that they were blown off to a great distance, at sea, became lost and bewildered, and were left to the mercy of the wind and waves; in this condition we believe that these lost vessels have been driven and cast upon the shores of our Continent, and upon the inhabited Islands of the Pacific, where the people who thus saved themselves have increased and made the aborigines of this Continent, and those Islands, and that being discouraged by the improbability of their ever regaining their native country, and destitute of all their accustomed means of improvement they have descended, in the course of ages, into their present state of barbarism. None can object to this theory, on account of the diversity of features, complexion, and languages, who hold that the human race have descended from one common parentage, since time and circumstances may have wrought a change in this case, as well as in that. The circumstances which lead us to this opinion are these: about fifty years ago, as we were informed by different gentlemen, connected with the Hudson's Bay Fur Company, and previous to their establishment in that country a Japanese Junk was cast upon the North West coast of Oregon; the people who saved themselves from the wreck were taken and enslaved by the Indians, and were found among them by the Company's Traders in that condition. They endeavored to purchase them from their masters, but were unable to obtain them at any reasonable price. The Company, after the expiration of several years, found it necessary to employ a steamer to collect their furs on this coast, and instructed the master upon its arrival to obtain, if possible, the Japanese slaves. The Indians, whose villages were near the Sea shore, were at the time of the Steamer's arrival on that coast, many of them, out in their canoes, some distance from land. As soon as they perceived her they fled for the shore, and the steamer pursuing, so terrified them that they not only abandoned their canoes, but their villages also, and fled en masse to the mountains, leaving not only the Japanese, but every thing else behind them. The Japanese were taken on board the steamer, conveyed to Fort Vancouver, and sent from there to their native country. And beside this, there are the remains of a wreck, near Cape Look Out, at which the Indians have frequently collected beeswax, which was thrown out on the beach by the surf; and it is the general impression that this also was a Japanese or Chinese vessel. The Indians have some strange and mysterious traditions concerning this wreck, but we were not able to learn any thing definite from them, concerning its character, of the time of its destruction, but it is evidently many years since it was lost. We know of no account of the loss of any such vessel from any of the Commercial nations of the world, and it is, at least probable that this also was driven from the shores of the Eastern Continent, and if this were the case, here then are two instances in which people have been cast upon the Western shores of America, from China or Japan, perhaps from both; two instances by which, had the Continent been at those times without inhabitants, it would or might have been peopled. And since the Chinese Empire has been in existence so long, and since they have been in many respects so long enlightened, why may not this have happened thousands as well as fifty or an hundred years ago? and why may it not have happened before this Continent was inhabited, and they have been the parents of the present aborigines?
The scenery in Oregon is varied, romantic, picturesque, and grand. There is certainly nothing to equal it in North America, East of the Rocky Mountains; and, although much has been said of the beauty and grandeur of the scenery of Switzerland, we doubt if any thing can be there found to equal it; taking into view the rich, extensive, and flowery plains, surrounded by tall and heavy forests of ever-green, watered by many large and living streams, flowing sometimes smooth and gentle, then rapid and again precipitating, in broad and heavy. sheets, down immense perpendicular Falls. There may be, some where on the earth's whole surface, some spot which can equal in the mighty grandness of its scenery, the mountains, the valleys, and the shores of Oregon; but if there be, 'tis vast, 'tis beautiful, 'tis grand indeed. Let the beholder stand upon the green summit of one of the high isolated hills, that rise from the plain in the upper Willammette, and what a prospect! The imagination that has been accustomed only to the level surface and dull monotony of the Valley of the Mississippi, must be stretched to its utmost to comprehend the mighty picture. The fair Valley of the Willammette, with its hills and its vales, its forests and its plains, is spread out before you. To the East, and extending as far as the eye can reach to the North and South, the Cascades, in one lofty, unbroken range, rise mountain upon mountain and forest over forest, until their highest peaks, wrapped in eternal snow and white as the unsullied flake in the storm of Winter, stand high and giddy, far above the clouds. At your feet you can see the Willammette, meandering down the wide fertile Valley, and can trace afar the course of the broad Columbia, winding through its forest-crested hills; and further to the North St. Helens shows her towering crater of eternal fire; and further still the eye is lost in the wide labyrinth of dark and clustering heights in distance indistinct. Away to the South the peering summits of some lofty chain are dimly drawn upon the sky. To the West you hear the distant Ocean's sullen roar, as its waves, with crash tremendous, break upon its rock-bound shores. The bright, clear blue above is cloudless; all beneath seems hushed in deep repose; even the loud Cataract's thunders wake not so far the circling waves of air: and save, perchance, the carol of a mountain bird, the breeze sighing to the leaves, and the heavy murmuring of the distant deep, all else is silent as it was upon the morn when God created it. Here may the imagination lift the veil which hides the future and peer into the destinies of this fair land: As it runs over the wide prospect, it peoples it with thousands and thousands of busy inhabitants, sees every plain checked with fields, and even the steep and rugged Mountain-side made to yield to the hand of the husbandman; every where houses, gardens, orchards, and vineyards, scattered in countless multitudes over hill and valley; flocks and herds feeding on every hand; the broad highways coursing the valley or winding away over the hills, thronged with a busy concourse, all moving hurriedly to and fro, engaged in the avocations of a civilized life; sees villages, towns, and cities, with massive walls and glittering spires, which have risen above the mouldered huts of a departed race. It looks forward to the time when, where now the Indian, upon his jaded horse, is winding along the narrow and solitary trail, the powerful locomotive, with its heavy train, will fly along the rattling railway; when, instead of yon frail canoe, the proud steamer will dash along the majestic river; when that Ocean, now idly breaking on its cragged shores shall be whitened with the sails of Commerce, and when, amid the flags of an hundred nations, its own proud motto and device, resting on folds gemmed with images, whose bright originals bestud her skies, shall float proudly superior to them all; when, where now, there is little else than a wild wilderness, there shall be all the life—all the populous throng and bustle—all the stately magnificence—all the interests—all the intelligence—of the most active, proud and populous nations of the Old World. Imagination, peering into the far future, beholds enthroned upon an hundred heights, the lordly mansions of the opulent, surrounded with gardens, teeming with fruits and flowers; with parks and pools and groves of ornamental trees; and far up the sides of the surrounding mountains, the herdsmen's and the shepherd's humble cottages repose in sweet and solitary quiet, deep buried amid the mountain pines. And still, yielding to a more romantic mood, the imagination, excited by every thing about it, and by its own wild pictures, cannot but come, in its dreamy wanderings, to the time when these mountains—these rivers—these verdant vales, when every rock, and hill, and cataract: when every forest, glade and glen: when every mountain gorge and precipice, and dark ravine, shall have been sung and storied, until they have grown old and honored by the Poet's pen, and the thrilling legends of the past. But, looking beyond the snow-capped barrier, which bounds the vision to the East, the mind labors in vain to read, from the character of such dreary regions, what will be the future destiny of those wilds and wastes. Long may the lover of romantic scenes and adventures, find in them an ample scope for all his inclinations. Long may the Poet and writer of fiction, undetected, rear there the fabricks of their dreams, and people the green mountain-girt Oases of those unexplored solitudes, with the gallant, lovely and happy creatures of their imaginations. About these hang mysteries which time and the baseless stories of the fanciful will probably render only more mysterious. In these may rest at last the remnant of the ancient owners of this great Continent; and here, in a semi-civilized condition, they may continue the wonder and the terror of ages yet to be. In such a land as this it is easy to suppose that the minds of its future inhabitants, partaking of the characters of the things around them, will rise in splendor, like their own cloud-piercing peaks, or flow in majesty like their broad, majestic Rivers.
And while beholding here a prospect which he feels that nature herself, in her farthest reaching, in her most sublime imaginings, could not improve, to which, though she would scatter with unsparing hand upon one favored spot, all beauty and all grandeur, she could not add one single touch; while taking at one vast sweep such an assemblage of grand and various scenery, and while indulging such fanciful images of the future, the traveler reclining, perhaps, upon the green sward which clothes the rounded height from its base to its brow, and beneath the green arms of a low and spreading oak might revert, amid such silence and such scenes, to the far land of his home, and recall to his mind others, though less grand and beautiful, yet even dearer than these, might yield to a feeling of regret, when hearing here the loud Ocean's voice, and seeing yonder the stern mountain barrier mingling its snows with cloud and sky, both separating him from that home and from those cherished scenes.
But to conclude this portion of our subject by summing up, in short, the advantages and disadvantages which the Territory of Oregon possesses, in comparison with other countries, or rather, with portions of the United States. We suppose its principal advantages, for instance, over the Valley of the Mississippi, to be, in climate, in its situation for Commerce, in its water power, in its forest of gigantic trees, in the purity of its waters, and in the vastness and beauty of its scenery. In all of these it is certainly superior. In respect to its climate, the rainy seasons, it is true, are often disagreeable; but its being favorable to grazing, and most especially its great healthfulness, renders it very far superior to that of any portion of the States. Its situation for profitable Commerce with other portions of the world we consider to be superior also to that of the Valley of the Mississippi. The vast extent of Sea-coast, embracing every clime, and the numerous fertile Islands with which the great Pacific Ocean is crowded, to which it has immediate access, render it superior. And the circumstance that almost all the commercial and manufacturing nations of the world are compelled to make great circuits, in order to reach these shores, gives another advantage worthy of consideration. Its water power, we believe, cannot be surpassed on the face of the globe, neither can its forests or the purity of its streams. Its principal disadvantages, (excepting that of the Winter rains,) are the limited extent of the habitable portion, the great amount of waste land included even in that portion, the different parts of it which are suitable for settlements being detached by ranges of mountains, making access from one to another often difficult; the rock-bound character of its coast; the inferiority of its inland navigation, and of the soil of the high lands. In all of these it is surely inferior to the Mississippi Valley. But after balancing the advantages and disadvantages we cannot determine which is, in reality, superior. Different men have different opinions. One will prefer one country, and another will prefer another country; one will choose the fertile Valley of the Mississippi, another the healthful climate and the romantic scenery of Oregon.
- Cape Lookout is confused with Tillamook Head.—Ed. Quarterly..
- Cape Lookout is sixty miles farther south.—Ed. Quarterly.