John Wesley Hillman
And the discoveries of Crater Lake.
A Fourth of July Remembrance.
On July 4th, 1853, this county did not have quite as many wagon roads leading up to the heads of the canyons, well up to the summits of the high ridges, as now.
Jacksonville had assumed the appearance of a busy mining camp; numerous saloons were in full blast, and as it was quite warm weather, some of the more enterprising proprietors of places of resort thought if they just had a little of the snow that they could so plainly see on the summit of the now well-known Wagner Peak, to mix with their "dead shot," they would have a monopoly of furnishing the cooling drinks to the thirsty miners. So early on the morning of the 3rd of July, 1853, John Hillman of the Eldorado, with a companion and a pack animal, set out on the trail to Wagner Creek to bring a load of frozen snow to Jacksonville. They came to Fort Wagner, thence up through the timber toward the large patch of snow that showed so plainly on the old peak that year.
The previous winter there had been an extraordinary fall of snow. According to John B. Wrisley's account the snow fell over two feet deep where the town of Talent now is and deeper in proportion higher up the creek. Mr. Wrisley, with his family, wintered at Fort Wagner that winter, and there his daughter, Alice, was born, being the first white girl born in the present limits of Jackson County. She is now the relict of the late Carlos Goddard. Hillman and his companions proceeded through the unbroken forest to the point where Geo. H. Lynch now resides. Here Granville Naylor & Co. had located a sawmill and erected a log cabin, but had not put any doors or windows in it and had gone to Portland for supplies. Hillman found this cabin and could still see the snow in the distance, but being weary turned back to town and reported they had got within a mile of the snow and had found the "lost cabin," when in fact the snow was twelve miles away. But such were the delusions of the first settlers here.--[Welborn Beeson in Talent News.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 5, 1892, page 1
SAD CASUALTIES.--Edward Tracy, Esq., of Adams' Express, informs us that Robert Huston, formerly of the St. Charles Hotel, Shasta, was accidentally shot in Siskiyou a few days since. He was returning from a scouting expedition against the Indians when his mule fell, causing his gun to discharge its contents into his breast, the ball passing entirely through the body. He died in a few hours after the occurrence.
Also on the 18th, John Hillman, of Jacksonville, met his death [he did not] by the accidental discharge of his gun. By the same discharge another gentleman was shot through the knee.
Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, August 27, 1853, page 3
The following is a list of wounded:
Col. B. R. Alden, U.S.A., wounded in the neck; Gen. Jos. Lane, in the right shoulder; Andrew B. Carter, right arm broken; Patrick Dunn in the left shoulder; Lieut. Ely, of Yreka, in the hand; James Carroll in the thigh; John Hillman and A. Adams by accident.
Letter of T. McF. Patton dated September 3, 1853, Oregon Statesman, Salem, September 20, 1853, page 2
John W. Hillman, disabled for life by accidental discharge of a gun Aug. 19.
Oregon Indian Wars vol. 3, B. F. Dowell papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Ax 031.
Head QuartersCaptain A. J. Smith
9th Regt. O.M.
Camp Stuart Oct. 19th 1855
Comdg. Fort Lane O.T.
The Col. Comdg. has today dispatched to Galice Creek and vicinity Mr. Hillman and Mr. Wagoner for the purpose of taking into custody such squaws and Indian boys as are living with citizens in that neighborhood.
The object of this movement is to destroy the means of communication with the enemy.
Captain Lewis is on duty in that quarter and is instructed to render assistance if necessary in procuring their arrest, and also to aid in their conveyance to your station, or elsewhere as may be deemed advisable. Messrs Hillman and Wagoner are instructed to wait upon you in order that you may also detail a few men on this service should you desire to do so. The Col. Comdg. is desirous that a mutual understanding shall exist between the legally constituted agents of the government and the militia in all matters, particularly those pertaining to the public welfare.
John E. Ross
Col. Comdg. 9th Regt. O.M.
Per C. S. Drew, Adjt.
B. F. Dowell Papers, Bancroft Library
Head QuartersRegimental Order
9th Regt. O.M.
Camp Stuart Oct. 19th 1855
Captain W. B. Lewis
Comdg. Co. "E" 9th Regt., O.M.
The Col. Comdg. has this day dispatched Mr. John Hillman and J. B. Wagoner to take into custody all such squaws and Indian boys as are living with citizens in your neighborhood.
You will render every assistance in your power to ferret them out and secure their arrest, and if necessary to aid in their conveyance to Head Quarters or Fort Lane.
You are hereby fully authorized to adopt such measures as will effectually consummate this object.
John E. Ross
Col. Comdg. 9th Regt. O.M.
Per C. S. Drew, Adjt.
B. F. Dowell Papers, Bancroft Library
SHOOTING AFFRAY.--A person recently arrived from Jacksonville, Oregon, informs the Siskiyou Chronicle that a shooting match came off in that place, Dec. 26th, between a man by the name of Rhodes, Johnny McLaughlin and John Hillman, which resulted, as usual, in shooting an outsider, Henry Klippel, through the thigh, making a severe, though not dangerous, flesh wound, while all three of the combatants escaped unharmed. Rhodes, who it is said made the first hostile demonstration, was arrested by the Sheriff, and in default of bail, lodged in jail to await a trial at the next term of the Circuit Court for that place.
Sacramento Daily Union, January 9, 1858, page 1
Now comes John W. Hillman, and applies to the Board for a license to retail spirituous liquors in quantities less than one quart, which is allowed and his license assessed at Fifty dollars for six months from the 5th day of October 1859.
Now comes John W. Hillman and applies to the Board for a license to Keep a Billiard Saloon in Jacksonville Precinct, which is allowed and his license assessed at twenty-five dollars for Six months from the 5th day of September 1859.
Jackson County Commissioners' Journals, session of September 8, 1859
Headwaters of Rogue River.
On the afternoon of the 21st day of October last, a small party of us were wending our way up the Cascade Range of mountains, about fifteen miles south of Diamond Peak, leaving behind us the black pine desert of the Klamath Lake country, and anxious to reach the summit in time to obtain a view of the promised land--viz: Rogue River Valley. Reaching the summit aimed at, one of the highest points of the range, our course was changed by an unlooked-for obstacle, and one that even a John Day party were obliged to go around. Before us, and at our feet, lay a large lake, encircled on all sides by steep and almost perpendicular bluff banks, fully as high as that we were standing upon. The circumference of this land we could not estimate at less than twenty-five miles, and from the banks down to the water, not less than three thousand feet. At no place could we see the remotest chance of being able to climb down to the water, without the aid of long ropes and rope ladders. Near the south end of the lake rises a butte island, several hundred feet high, and drifts of snow lay clinging to the crevices of the rocky banks. The waters were of a deep blue color, causing us to name it Blue Lake. It lays about one mile west of Mt. Scott; fifteen miles south of Diamond Peak, and eighty miles northeast from Jacksonville. In the distance, and situated in the low pass that connects the Klamath country with headwaters of Rogue River another lake was visible, not as large, apparently, and accessible, bordering as it does on a large prairie. From the banks of Blue Lake no outlet is visible, but on descending the west side of the mountain, which is densely covered with heavy hemlock timber, we found water gushing out, and fine grass on what we called the water level of the lake, and following this level around the west and sough sides, springs and small streams were crossed every few yards, the waters of which, joined together in the large basin or valley below, form an important feeder to the North Fork of Rogue River, in fact, empty into it a volume of water equal in amount to one quarter of the whole river at Table Rock Ferry.
UNION PEAK.Five miles south of the Blue Lake, on a spur of the Cascades, stands a high rocky peak, which we ascended to lay out our route down the almost unknown regions of the headwaters of the river. Reaching the summit of this peak, after an hour of hard climbing up the loose, rocky sides, with many a pause when the wind blew the hardest, in order not to be blown off into the cañon below, we found ourselves standing on a space about ten feet by six, walled around carefully with loose rock to the height of three or four feet, evidently the work of Indians in olden time. Below us, to the northwest, lay the large basin in which are collected the waters of the North Fork. East of us, the gulches are just starting southward with the waters of the Middle Fork, and beyond the Cascades we looked down upon the waters of the Klamath Lakes, the deserts and prairies that we had so slowly toiled over last spring; Shasta Butte in full view to its base; Mt. McLoughlin, seemingly, almost within reach; and down the river, dense forests covering the innumerable mountains and hills that form the west side of the Cascades. Beyond, in the southwest, lay the main valley, with Jacksonville snugly stowed away in the far corner, and all the view in this direction backed by the Siskiyou Range, running either way as far as the eye could reach. Christening our standing place Union Peak, we scrambled down, mounted our animals and took our course for the forks. Union Peak can be seen from our town any clear day.
ROGUE RIVER FALLS.Fifty miles from Jacksonville, and just above the junction of the Middle Fork with the North Fork, the water of the Middle Fork makes a plunge down into a narrow, rocky canyon some 250 feet perpendicular, and still farther down, the large volume of water brought down by the North Fork cuts its way through the solid rock and plunges out of sight. Our commissary department calling loudly for reinforcements, we were not able to fully explore the falls, as our hunting ground was some five miles distant. After swimming our animals across the North Fork, we camped on splendid grass, and the evening was passed in frying, broiling and roasting ribs and steaks from a fat buck that we had "taken in out of the wet" a few hundred yards from camp.
ROAD.By cutting a trail from the forks to Blue Lake Basin, up the valley of the North Fork, a distance of twenty miles, the road is open and good from Jacksonville to the headwaters of Deschutes, on the old Dalles trail, and the distance will not exceed one hundred miles to the point that, by the spring trail, was 175 miles--avoiding, also, almost the whole of the Klamath desert of black pine and pumice stone, with grass and water abundant, and no mountain to climb. By this route, a wagon road can be cut through on to the Deschutes by anyone who is acquainted with the country, at a very small expense.
ONE OF THE PARTY.Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, November 8, 1862, page 2
OREGON'S GREAT CURIOSITY.--Several of our citizens returned last week from a visit to the Great Sunken Lake, situated in the Cascade Mountains about seventy-five miles northeast from Jacksonville. This lake rivals the famous valley of Sinbad the Sailor. It is thought to average 2,000 feet down to the water all round. The walls are almost perpendicular, running down into the water and leaving no beach. The depth of the water is unknown and its surface is smooth and unruffled, as it lies so far below the surface of the mountain that the air currents do not affect it. Its length is estimated at twelve miles, and its width at ten. There is an island in its center, having trees upon it. No living man ever has, and probably never will, be able to reach the water's edge. It lies silent, still and mysterious in the bosom of the "everlasting hills," like a huge well scooped out by the hands of the giant genii of the mountains in the unknown ages gone by, and around it the primeval forests watch and ward are keeping.
The visiting party fired a rifle several times into the water, at an angle of forty-five degrees, and were able to note several seconds of time from the report of the gun until the ball struck the water. Such seems incredible, but is vouched for by some of our most reliable citizens. The lake is certainly a most remarkable curiosity.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, August 12, 1865, page 2
LAKE MAJESTY.Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, September 9, 1865, page 2
FORT KLAMATH, Ogn.Editor Sentinel: I promised in a former communication that I would give you my impressions of Oregon's famous lake, a spot which will hereafter, in all probability, become as noted as Niagara Falls and other celebrated curiosities.
August 25th, 1865.
On Thursday last, in company with Messrs. Wm. Bybee, P. Ford, J. B. Coates, citizens of Jacksonville, Oregon, and Orson A. Stearns, 1st Sergeant of Co. I, 1st Oregon Infantry Volunteers, I left Castle Camp, at the foot of the mountain, on the new wagon road from Fort Klamath to Rogue River, and crossing the canyon at that point and going in a northeasterly direction, we gained by a gentle ascent the summit of the mountain on the southwest side of the lake; the distance from Castle Camp to the precipice or edge of the lake is about two and one-half miles; after crossing the canyon the whole way may be easily passed on horseback.
Upon rising the slope bounding the lake, the first impression made upon your mind is one of disappointment; it does not come up to your expectations, but this is only momentary. A second look and you begin to comprehend the majestic beauties of the scenery spread out before you, and you sit down on the brink of the precipice and feast your eyes on the awful grandeur; your thoughts wander back thousands of years to the time when where now is a placid sheet of water there was a lake of fire, throwing its cinders and ashes to vast distances in every direction. The whole surroundings prove this lake to be the crater of an extinct volcano. The appearance of the water in the basin, as seen from the top of the mountain, is that of a vast circular sheet of canvas upon which some painter had been exercising his art. The color of the water is blue, but in very many different shades, and like the colors in variegated silk continuously changing. Now a spot will be dark blue, almost approaching black, in the next moment it will change to a very pale blue, and it is thus continually changing from one shade to another. I cannot account for this changeableness, as the sky was perfectly clear, and it could not have been caused by any shadows; there was, however, a gentle breeze, which caused a ripple of the waters; this may account for it.
At first sight a person would not estimate the surface of the water to be more than two or three hundred feet below the summit of the surrounding bluffs, and it is only after a steady look almost perpendicularly down into the water that you begin to comprehend the distance. In looking down into the lake the vision seems to stop before reaching the bottom, and to use a common expression, you have to look twice before you see the bottom.
Heretofore, it has been thought by those who have visited the lake that it was impossible to get to the water, and this was also my impression at first, and I should have been contented to remain on the summit and view its beauties from that point without attempting to get to the water but for Sergeant Stearns and Mr. Ford, who, after gazing for awhile from the top, disappeared over the precipice and in a few minutes were at the bottom, near the water's edge, where no human being ever stood before. Their shouts induced Mr. Coates and myself to attempt the feat, which is in fact only perilous in imagination. A spring of water bursts out of the mountain near the top, on the side where we were, and by following down the channel which the water had made, a good footing may be obtained all the way down. In all probability, this is the only place in the whole circumference of the lake where the water is accessible, although Sergeant Stearns clambered around the edge of the lake for a short distance and ascended to the summit by a different route from the one we descended; yet he does not think he could go down where he came up. The water in the lake is as clear as crystal, and about the same temperature with the well water in Rogue River Valley. We saw no fish of any kind, nor even insects in the water; the only thing we saw that indicated that there are fish in the lake was a kingfisher. In ascending, I measured the distance as well as I could, from point to point, by the eye, and conclude that it is from seven to eight hundred feet perpendicular from the water to the summit of the bluff. The lake seems to be very nearly circular, and is from seven to eight miles in diameter, and except at two or three points the bluff is about the same altitude. Near the western shore of the lake is an island, about one-half mile in diameter, upon which there is considerable timber growing. The island is not more than one quarter of a mile from the western shore of the lake, and its shape is a frustum of a cone; the top seems to be depressed, and I think there is a small crater in the summit of the island. I think a path could be made from the summit to the water's edge, at the western edge of the lake, for the formation seems to be entirely pumice stone at that point, and the slope to the water's edge at a less angle than any place else around the lake; at this point, also, a boat could be let safely down to the water by a rope.
I do not know who first saw this lake, nor do I think it should be named after the discoverer. Sergeant Stearns and Peyton Ford are the first white men who ever reached its waters, and if named after any person should be named for them, but as I do not believe a more majestic sheet of water is to be found upon the face of the globe, I propose the name "Majesty." It will be visited by thousands hereafter, and some person would do well to build upon its banks a house where the visitor could be entertained, and to keep a boat or boats upon its waters, that its beauties might be seen to a better advantage.
F. B. SPRAGUE.
A New York paper locates the great natural curiosity of the Sunken Lake, which is in Jackson County, Oregon, near Jacksonville, Illinois.
Daily Mountaineer, The Dalles, January 25, 1866, page 2
LAKE MAJESTY.--A party of gentlemen start tomorrow to make a thorough exploration of this wonderful lake. They are provided with the material for a boat, and will probably sound its depths. Last week Messrs. Cawley and Beall, of this valley, and Captain Sprague visited the lake and the two latter, with some difficulty, descended to the water. Mr. Cawley says that his two companions did not seem to be more than six inches in height when they reached the edge of the water, and some idea of the immense distance from the crest of the mountains surrounding the lake may be formed when it is known that it takes a rifle ball, fired from the edge of the basin, about seventeen seconds to reach the water. These gentlemen estimate the distance across the lake at nearly ten miles, and the distance to the water from the most accessible point, at over one thousand feet. Britt accompanies the party to take photographic views, and we may soon expect Lake Majesty to be famous as one of the grandest natural scenes.
Oregon Sentinel, September 12, 1868, page 2
(From the Salem Statesman.)As I stood yesterday by the open grave of Mrs. Annie C. Schwatka, formerly Miss Annie Gaines, the circumstances connected with my first acquaintance with her at Fort Klamath, in 1865, recurred vividly to my mind. Major W. V. Rinehart was then in command of Fort Klamath, and Miss Gaines, being a sister to Mrs. Rinehart, constituted one of the Major's family. In that then wild land she was a great favorite, having commended herself to everyone by her intelligence and vivacity, and by her kind and generous spirit. She had a very high appreciation of the beautiful in nature, and was consequently an enthusiastic admirer of Klamath landscapes. She was an expert on horseback, and was seen almost daily riding over the grassy plains and among the evergreen groves of Klamath land, and no obstacle seemed too great for her to overcome when seeking to indulge her passion for adventure.
In Memory of Mrs. A. C. Schwatka.
During the summer of 1865, she was one of a party which visited our greatest mountain wonder, Crater Lake, and climbed down a thousand feet of almost vertical wall to the lake shore, being one of the first ladies who ever accomplished this arduous undertaking. One of the tributaries of Upper Klamath Lake, rising within a half mile of the summit of the rim of Crater Lake, flows gently, for a few miles, across grassy glades and among green trees, and then plunges into a narrow cañon with almost vertical walls of columnar basalt. Standing upon the brink of the yawning chasm, and looking down at the frothing cascades and the beautiful stream, seeming like a silver thread, five hundred feet below, with the mighty pillars on either side covered with the rust of ages, the scene is one of peculiar grandeur; and yet, a descent among these lofty columns amid the hemlock trees which grow in the fissures of the rock, to the rippling cascades and pools of clear, cold water below, and wondrous work of the Master Architect, will ever bear the name of "Annie's Creek," in remembrance of the adventurous explorer.
Among the pleasant reminiscences of the long ago, I also recall a local excursion on Klamath Lake with Major Rinehart and some others, in which Miss Gaines was, as usual, the most enthusiastic and adventurous of our party. While on the lake we spent some time drifting among the green islands, to one of which, lying away out in the center of the lake, covered with gigantic cane grass and bordered with green willows, we gave her name.
After a year or so spent at Fort Klamath, Annie came with Major Rinehart's family to Salem, where she entered the Academy of the Sacred Heart, and remained there until she completed her education, after which she became the wife of our friend, Mr. A. C. Schwatka, and the mother of two children, the youngest of which is only a few days old. Her home was always one of the most pleasant in Salem, and ever gave proof of her love of the true and the beautiful in its adornments.
But Annie has gone from among us. The bright and pleasant friend, the enthusiastic lover of art and nature, the gentle wife and loving mother, sleeps the sleep that knows no waking this side of the pearly gates of a better land.
O.C.A. [Oliver Cromwell Applegate]The New Northwest, Portland, February 11, 1876, page 2
Salem, February 7, 1876.
Hamilton S. Wicks, chief of the corps of artists and photographers sent out to Oregon by Frank Leslie, called on us last Friday. He was on his way to Southern Oregon to join a party going out to Crater Lake.
"Personal," State Rights Democrat, Albany, Oregon, August 17, 1877, page 3
THE DISCOVERY OF CRATER LAKE.
DELAWARE, Ohio, August 15, 1877.TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES:
In your issue of July 7th last is a description of "Crater Lake," written, as you suppose, by Col. J. H. Reed. In the fall of 1865, Company I, 1st Oregon Infantry, was stationed at Fort Klamath, and I, as the commander of the Company, undertook to make a road from Fort Klamath, by the way of Rogue River, to the valley. The rations furnished us by the government were not sufficient for men engaged in such hard labor, and to supply the deficiency I kept two or three men hunting for deer. One evening, while we were camped at the big spring south of the summit ridge, John Corbell and a Mr. Smith, who had been hunting, came in and reported that they had seen a beautiful lake, and each gave their description of it--Smith thinking that it was as much as 200 feet down to the water, and Corbell thinking that it was probably 700 or 1000 feet. (This lake had been discovered years before by a party of lost prospectors, of whom P. P. Prim, I believe, was one, but its locality had been lost.) The next day, accompanied by these two men and 1st Sergeant Orson A. Stearns and one or two others, I visited the lake, approaching it from the south side and at the only place in its whole circumference that it is possible to reach the water. Stearns was the first white man who ever drank of the water dipped from the lake. By mutual agreement we named it Lake Majesty, and, as its original discoverers gave it no particular name, we claimed the right to name it; and certainly no more majestic body of water exists on the globe. Since its second discovery and naming, many persons have descended to its waters, among them Mrs. Brown, who, with her husband, lived for a time at Fort Klamath and afterward moved to the Klamath River, a few miles below Link River.
Mr. Reed's description does ample justice to the lake, except that he states that the island is in its center, whereas it is near its western rim.
Respectfully, F. B. SPRAGUE.Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 24, 1877, page 3
Lake Majesty.[Crater Lake] was discovered by a party of 12 prospectors June 12, 1853, among whom were J. W. [Hillman], George Ross, James Louden, Pat McManus, Isaac Skeeters and a Mr. Dodd. These had left the main party and were not looking for gold, but having run short of provisions were looking for the wherewithal to stay the gnawing sensations that had seized upon their stomachs. For a time hunger forsook them as they stood upon the cliffs and drank in the awe of the scene that stretched before them. After partaking of the inspiration fostered by such grandeur they decided to call it Mysterious, or Deep Blue, lake. It was subsequently called Lake Mystery, and by being constantly referred to as a crater lake it gradually assumed that name, which is in itself so descriptive . . .
To the Editor of the Union County Journal.
There is an article partially descriptive of a great natural curiosity going the rounds of the papers again, and as a soldier in my company was the discoverer of this curiosity, I have been asked to give a description of it.
In the fall of 1865, I was stationed with my company at Fort Klamath, on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, in Southern Oregon. The nearest settlements and post offices were about one hundred miles away, and nothing but a pack trail leading over the mountains, over which all provisions for the post had to be transported. I determined to cut a wagon road over the mountains to facilitate the transportation of our supplies. The pack trail crossed the mountains at the base of Mt. McLoughlin, or Snowy Butte, as it is called in that neighborhood, and was a "hard road to travel." I determined to build my road on another route. Fort Klamath is situated in an almost level plain, between two spurs of the mountain, and this plain is one vast bed of lava, or pumice stone, sloping to the south and ending in Klamath Lake. I selected a route over the mountain at the northern end of this plain, so as to strike Rogue River, which runs through the settlements on the west of the Cascade Mountains, and down the banks of which river I was to build the wagon road. There is a sharp divide between the waters of Rogue River and the Fort Klamath plain, and I had considerable difficulty in engineering a road over this divide, or summit of the mountain.
Our rations furnished by the government were not sufficient for men employed in unusual hard manual labor, and as deer and bear were plenty, I kept one or two employed in hunting, that what they killed might help out our regular rations. The Cascade Mountains are a continuation of the Sierra Nevadas, and this range under different names extends from the Arctic Ocean to Patagonia, South America. The Cascades and Sierras will average one and a quarter miles in height above the ocean, and throughout Oregon, Washington Territory and the British and Russian (now American) possessions are numerous peaks whose altitude reaches from two to three miles. Sometime in past ages (the Supreme Being only knows how long since), a volcano has existed in the Cascade Mountains, and it happened, unknown to us at the time, that we were building our road on its base. One evening after work was done for the day, one of the hunters came in with a deer he had killed, and reported that he had seen a curious lake up in the mountain to the north of us. He did not seem excited at all about the matter, nor seem to think it was anything very unusual, but said that he came near falling into it before he saw it. I asked him some questions about it and he said that it was a long way down to the water, as much as three hundred feet, and he did not think anybody could get down to the water. After awhile the other hunter came in, and he too had discovered the lake, but from a different quarter. His account tallied with the first man, except that he thought it must be as much as a thousand feet down to the water, and that he thought it was the grandest thing he had seen. They agreed that the lake was as much as a mile and a half, or two miles in diameter and that it was impossible to reach the water, as the walls were perpendicular.
I determined to visit it, and next day taking First Sergeant Orson A. Stearns, the two hunters and another man or two, we "started out" up the mountain for the lake. The route was not a difficult one; most of the way a horse could be used. The distance from our camp, not more than three or four miles. On gaining the summit of the mountain and looking away to the north, mounts Three Sisters, Jefferson and Hood could be seen; to the east, Steens Mountain; to the south, McLoughlin, Shasta and Lassen's Peak, and in every direction the world seemed to be at our feet. To these sights, however, we were used, and we thought nothing of it, but if a stranger to mountain scenery could be suddenly placed in a similar situation he would be lost in amazement. The summit of the mountain seemed to be nearly a level plain for a distance of twenty miles, with sharp, rugged peaks surrounding this plain on all sides, except the side from which we ascended. No appearance of a lake could be seen, and no one would have suspected such a thing.
A tramp of half a mile dispelled this thought as we came suddenly upon the threshold of this "Well of the Gods." I had lived in the mountains for many years, and had seen many beautiful things, and had become so used to mountain scenery that it required something unusual to excite me, but when I stood on the threshold of this stupendous wonder, and got the first sight of it, the cold chills ran over me, and I drew back astonished. We were probably fifty feet from the walls, but it appeared to us that even another step would precipitate us headlong into its depths. When we had got through with our first expressions of astonishment, and our eyes had become somewhat used to looking down into its depths, we commenced a search for a place where we could approach safely and get a better view. Imagine yourself standing on the brink of an immense well, at least eight miles in diameter, and not less than three thousand feet deep, its jagged, irregular walls laid up by the hands of the Great Creator Himself, and you can have a very faint idea of this stupendous crater, for such it is, or has been. Viewed from the summit, the water is intensely blue, but is constantly changing, or appears to change, presenting all the appearances of variegated silk. Although it is not less than eight miles in diameter, it is so deep that storms passing over the mountain scarcely create a ripple on its bosom. Standing on the brink, I caused my men to fire their Springfield rifles into the lake, holding them as near as possible at an angle of forty-five degrees, and then counting in an ordinary manner from the report of the gun until the ball was seen to strike the water, and repeating this several times found I could count from fifteen to twenty during the interval. The balls would strike the water very much inside of the place aimed at, showing that the distance to the water was great. There are no streams of water emptying into the lake, and only a few springs that run into it, yet there is an immense amount of water running out of it underground and forming streams that run into Klamath Lake on the south, or Rogue River on the west and north.
The Klamath Indians have a tradition that a long time ago a monster inhabited this mountain, that he got angry and set it on fire and that it boiled over and ran all over the country and burned everything up, and destroyed a great many of their people, and they, notwithstanding they know where it is, never told us of it, nor talked about it until we made the discovery. They can't be persuaded to go anywhere near it, as they think the monster still there ready to "gobble them up," and were surprised when we questioned them about it, and told them we had been there and had got down to the water. They declared that the monster must be on good terms with the white people, and that it was only Indians that he wanted.
We made several trips to the lake and finally found one place where the water from a spring had cut a passage to the water down which by the aid of ropes we finally succeeded in reaching the water. From this point the scene is indescribable and I shall not attempt it. Orson A. Stearns was the first man, white or colored, who had ever reached the water of this lake, and we agreed that he should name it. He called it Majesty, but it is generally known as Sunken or Crater Lake. The water is purity itself, cold as ice. The lake is nearly circular, and near the western rim is a small island probably half a mile in diameter and more than a thousand feet high, shaped like the frustum of a cone, and on the peak a small crater.
The lava from this mountain extends south a distance of thirty miles to Klamath Lake, and has formed the plain on which the fort [Fort Klamath] is built. To the west, down Rogue River, lava has been found more than a hundred miles from the mountain.
No language can describe this immense vortex; it can only be comprehended by being seen. It is one of the great curiosities of the world, and when the route to it has been made easier it will be visited by thousands. We read of other living volcanoes whose craters are from a half to three-quarters of a mile in diameter, but imagine what this must have been in eruption, with a crater not less than eight miles in diameter. The immense masses of matter thrown out could not be represented by figures, and the peak must have been one of the highest on this continent..
F. B. Sprague.Union County Journal, Marysville, Ohio, December 14, 1882, page 2
One of the World's Great Natural Wonders.
REPORT OF A RECENT VISITOR.
Description of the Lake, its Surroundings and its
Curious Island, with a Dramatic Chapter
of Savage Tradition.
PORTLAND, Dec. 28th.Crater Lake is situated in the northwestern portion of Klamath County, Oregon, twenty-five miles west of north of Fort Klamath, and about ninety miles east [sic--Grants Pass was often considered "north" of Medford, hence Crater Lake must be east] of Medford, which is the best point to leave the Oregon & California Railroad. The Jacksonville and Fort Klamath military road pases within three miles of the lake, and the road to the very walls of it is an exceptionally good one for a mountainous country, while in near proximity may be found remarkably fine camping grounds.
The lake itself has been variously estimated from one by two to twelve by fifteen miles in extent, but from my own observation I would say it is certainly not less than six miles wide by eight long. It is almost egg-shaped, ranging from east of north to west of south. The water's surface is 6300 feet above sea level and is completely surrounded by cliffs or walls, from 1000 to over 2000 feet high, which are scantily covered with fir timber. To the southwest is Wizard Island, six hundred feet high, circular in shape, and slightly covered with timber. In the top is a depression, or crater--the "Witches' Cauldron"--90 feet deep, and 475 feet in diameter. This was evidently the last smoking chamber of a once-mighty volcano. The base of the island is covered with very heavy and hard rocks, with sharp and unworn edges, over which scarcely a score of human feet have ever trod. Farther up are deep beds of ashes, and light, spongy rocks and cinders, giving evidence of intense heat. Within the crater, as without, the surface is entirely covered with volcanic rocks, but here it forms one of the hottest places on a clear day in August it has ever been my lot to witness. Not a breath of air seems to enter, and the hot sun pours down upon thousands of rocks and stones that reflect his rays with an intensity that seems to multiply beyond conception. Here, however, we determined to lunch--and did--but one such experience will last a long time. Directly north of the island is Llao Rock, a grand old sentinel, standing boldly out on the west side of the lake and reaching twenty-two hundred feet perpendicular. From the top of it you can drop a stone and it will pass down and grow smaller and smaller, until your head begins to swim and you see the stone become a mere speck and then fade entirely from view and at last, nearly half a mile below, it strikes the unruffled surface of the water and sinks forever from sight in the depths of a bottomless lake. South of the island is an interesting point, seen only from the water, and known as Pixley Rock from the fact that it resembles cartoons of Frank Pixley, the talented scribe of the Argonaut.
There is probably no point of interest in America that so completely overcomes the ordinary Indian with fear as Crater Lake. From time immemorial no power has been strong enough to induce them to approach within sight of it. For a paltry sum they will engage you guide you thither, but before reaching the mountain top will leave you to proceed alone. To the savage mind it is clothed with a deep veil of mystery and is the abode of all manner of demons and unshapely monsters. Once inhabited by the Great Spirit, it has now become the Sheol of modern times, and it is certain death for any proud savage to behold it. This feeling has to a certain extent instilled itself in the mind of such whites as have made it their Mecca, until every stray log that floats upon the water is imagined to possess life, and may possibly be a monster. Exaggerated accounts of different points have been given and implicitly believed without a question or reflection. It has been claimed that the crater was eight hundred feet deep, while by actual measurement we found it to be ninety feet. The island was said to be 1500 feet high, but the barometer places it at just 600. It is said the lake has been sounded to a depth of 800 feet without finding bottom. This may be true; in fact I [am] somewhat inclined to believe it is. The water is the clearest I ever saw, fresh and soft, and a short distance from azure to as blue as indigo could make it. On all sides small streams, almost without number, pour down from the cliffs, and a portion of the year each rivulet becomes a rushing, foaming torrent, driving rocks and logs before it. There is no visible outlet, but a large number of extensive streams start suddenly from the mountain for miles around, not as puny brooks gathering strength as they rush on to the sea, but fully developed rivers from the start. The points of interest are so numerous that it is impossible to individualize. Suffice it to say, the scenery throughout is sublime, but to be seen to advantage one must go out upon the water. Years ago a small boat was by some means lowered to the lake, and our party succeeded by the aid of ropes in launching a light canoe that we had taken with us from Portland, a distance of about 350 miles. The descent can be made at one of the lowest points with comparative ease. Ladies have often descended to the water. The climb back is very laborious and usually requires over an hour.
From Allen Davey [Allen David], chief of the Klamath tribe, I gleaned the following in reference to the discovery of Crater Lake:
A long time ago, long before the white men appeared in this region to vex and drive the proud native out, a band of Klamaths, while out hunting, came suddenly upon the lake, and was startled by its remarkable walls and awed by its majestic proportions. With spirits subdued and trembling with fear, they silently approached and gazed upon its face; something within told them the Great Spirit dwelt here, and they dared not remain, but passed silently down the side of the mountain and camped far away. By some unaccountable influence, however, one brave was induced to return. He went to the very brink of the precipice and started his campfire. Here he lay down to rest, here he slept till morn, slept till the sun was high in [the] air, then arose and joined the tribe far down the mountain. At night he came again, again he slept till morn. Each visit bore a charm that drew him back again. Each night found him sleeping above the rocks; each night strange voices arose from the waters, mysterious noises filled the air. At last, after a great many moons, he climbed down to the lake and there he bathed and spent the night. Often he climbed down in this manner, and frequently saw wonderful animals, similar in all respects to a Klamath Indian, except that they seemed to exist entirely in the water. He suddenly became hardier and stronger than any Indian of the tribe because of his many visits to the mysterious waters. Others then began to seek its influence. Old warriors sent their sons for strength and courage to meet the conflicts awaiting them. First, they slept upon the rocks above, then ventured to the water's edge, but last of all they plunged beneath the flood and the coveted strength was theirs. On one occasion the brave who first visited the lake killed a monster, or fish, and was at once set upon by untold numbers of excited Llaos (for such they were called) who carried him to the top of the cliffs, cut his throat with a stone knife, then tore his body into small pieces, which were thrown down to the waters far beneath, where he was devoured by angry Llaos--and such shall be the fate of every Klamath brave who, from that day to this, dares to look upon the lake.
Crater Lake is but a striking memento of a dread past. Imagine a vast mountain, six by eight miles through, at an elevation of 7000 feet, with the top removed and the inside hollowed out, then filled with the clearest water in the world to within 2000 feet of the top, then place a round island in one end 600 feet high, then dig a circular hole tapering to the center like a funnel, 90 feet deep and 475 feet in diameter, and you have a perfect representation of Crater Lake.
What an immense affair it must have been ages upon ages ago, when, long before the hot breath of a volcano roiled its hoary head, standing as a proud monarch with its feet upon earth and its head in the heavens it towered far, far above the mountain ranges, aye, looked far down upon the snowy peaks of Hood and Shasta, and snuffed the air beyond the reach of Everest. Then streams of fire began to shoot forth, great seas of lava were hurled upon the earth beneath. The elements seemed bent upon establishing hell upon earth and fixing its throne upon this great mountain. At last its foundations gave way and it sank forever from sight. Down, down, down deep into the bowels of the earth, leaving a great black smoking chasm, which succeeding ages filled with pure fresh water, giving to our day and generation one of the most beautiful lakes within the vision of man.
In conclusion [I] will say Crater Lake is one of the grandest points of interest on earth. Here all the ingenuity of nature seems to have been exerted to the fullest capacity to build one grand, awe-inspiring temple within which to live and from which to gaze upon the surrounding world and say: "Here would I well and live forever. Here would I make my home from choice; the universe is my kingdom, and this is my throne."
W. G. STEEL.Oregonian, Portland, January 1, 1886, page 2
THE DISCOVERY OF CRATER LAKE.
Hope Villa, E. Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 28.To the Editor of the Oregonian:
In your issue of February 14 you make mention of "Crater Lake," and, judging from the name of the lake, that it is one in which I feel much interested. I take the liberty of writing and asking for a description of the same, and my reasons for doing so are that I can only imagine one lake in Oregon worthy of that name, and that lake I had the pleasure of discovering, away back early in the '50s--say about 1854, but I am not positive about the year--it might have been a year later, as I took no particular note of time while living in the excitement consequent upon a frontier life.
The story of the discovery is rather a long one, and would require more writing than I feel inclined just now to do, but may be briefly told as follows:
In the year of its first discovery, a party of California prospectors came to Jackson County, camped away from the town of Jacksonville and sent one of the men to Jacksonville to buy provisions for what seemed to be a long prospecting tour--and he seemed to be so careful of all he did, what he said, where he came from and where he was going to, that it excited the curiosity of several Oregon prospectors, myself among the number, and a party was immediately formed to follow and watch him, and as we soon found out it was the "now old story" of lost diggings they were on the trail of. It was slow, hard work keeping track of the Californians, for they resorted to every device imaginable to leave us, but we stuck to them night and day, without one word being spoken between either party until we were all short of provisions, when I took the initiative and spoke to the leader of the California party, telling him we proposed to stay as long as they were in the mountains. The result was we joined forces, got from them their landmarks and continued our search until provisions were so low that we had to make preparations for our return trip; finally it was agreed that a few of us should take all the grub the camp could spare, which was only enough for a couple of days, continue the search until it gave out and return and report progress to those we left in camp. After leaving our companions behind we came in a region where we could see lakes in almost every direction, and I have forgotten how many we counted from the summit of one peak. And finally, after ascending a long, gentle ascent, we came upon the banks of a precipice, and far below us was the bluest lake I ever saw, and the snow in very many places reached down to the water. We rode for a couple of hours as near the margin as we could, and looking back to our starting point and judging the distance we rode and walked, and measuring as near as possible by comparison, we estimated that the lake was not less than twenty miles in diameter.
About one half mile from where we were first on the banks there arose, from the lake, a small butte, and this was the only thing we discovered which broke the uniformity of the circular appearance. We looked for an outlet to it but could find none.
After our wonder and excitement had subsided, we proposed naming the lake, and the most appropriate name it could have had (Crater Lake) never occurred to us. Each one suggested a name, and it finally narrowed down to the selection of one of two names, Mysterious Lake or Deep Blue Lake, and I think the latter was what it was named. We wrote our names in pencil on a slip of paper, stuck a cleft stick in the ground and left it in its solitude.
I think there must yet be people living who heard our description of the lake. At that time there was no paper published in Jacksonville, so its description did not get in print.
I have been trying to remember the names of some of the parties who were with the expedition, and can think of but few. J. L. Loudon, who used to live with Col. Ross, I think was one; a man by the name of Little, who kept a saloon in Jacksonville, was another; I rather think Pat McManus, of Jacksonville, was another.
I have talked to Austin Badger and his wife, who kept hotel there, about it, and I think I have talked to C. C. Beekman about it, but so many years have gone by that I cannot be sure who would remember anything of it. Of one thing I am sure, and that is that Mrs. Badger, if she be alive (her husband is dead) can remember my description and verify what I say. And now, in conclusion, I would say that our party thought the lake was about 125 miles from Jacksonville, and if I remember rightly there was trouble with the Indians shortly after our return.
In your paper I see the names of people who must remember me, amongst whom I will mention ex-Gov. Gibbs, Judges Deady and Prim, Gen. John F. Miller, John Halley, Col. Keeler, who was with my party when I was looking for the Indians who killed Ledford and his companions, Col. John Ross, C. C. Beekman, and others whose names I can't recall.
Now, if not too much trouble, will you kindly inform me if I have spoken of the Crater Lake, or was the Deep Blue Lake another body of water?
J. W. Hillman.[From your description it is evident that Deep Blue Lake is none other than what is now called Crater Lake.]
Morning Oregonian, Portland, March 10, 1886, page 4
CRATER LAKE HISTORY.Ashland Tidings, July 20, 1896, page 2
Account of Rediscovery of Lake Majesty or
Crater Lake, and First Visit to its Waters.
Lake Majesty, or, as it is more generally known, "Crater Lake," was first discovered by a party of returning prospectors sometime late in the fifties or early sixties. It was never definitely located, and the published account of its discovery so exaggeratively pictured that little credence was given to the narrative, and the circumstance was apparently forgotten, until its rediscovery in August, 1865, by two members of Captain F. B. Sprague's Company "I," of the 1st Oregon Infantry, named F. M. Smith and J. M. Corbell, or, as they appear on the roster of the Co., Smith 2nd and Corbell 1st. [Notice of the discovery of the lake is not known to have been published in 1853.] In brief its discovery originated thus:
In July of that year, Captain Sprague conceived the idea of getting a more practicable road over which to haul the government supplies to Fort Klamath than the then traveled route by way of Mt. Pitt and Rancheria Prairie, and in company with John Mathews of Big Butte Creek viewed out the road from the Fort to Union Creek where it intersected the old John Day wagon road that was projected and partially built in the early sixties and afterward abandoned.
The then commanding officer of the post, Major Rinehart, gave him permission to take a detail of twenty-five of Company "I" and build the road.
Just before its completion, or about the 12th of August, 1865, orders came to send detachments of forty men each of Co. "C," 1st Cavalry, and of Co. "I" 1st Infantry to the Steens Mountain country near the line of the Chico and Owyhee road, to operate against the Snake Indians. As the Captain wished the detail to be filled by volunteers and thought most of the boys then building the wagon road would volunteer, the writer accompanied the Captain to the camp near Union Creek, and after getting the names of those who volunteered for the expedition, we, in company with four gentlemen from Jacksonville, Messrs. Coates, Foote, Jas. Clugage, and I think Wm. Bybee, returned by way of the newly discovered lake, about which marvelous reports were current, both as to its majestic beauty and inaccessibility. All previous visitors declaring the utter impossibility for any living thing not possessed with wings reaching the water's edge alive.
After the awe caused by the glimpse of its wondrous beauty had somewhat subsided, Mr. Coates and myself began to search for a place to descend, and against the earnest remonstrance of the other members of the party, finally disappeared over the edge of the rim that from above appears to overhang the water.
The point where we made our attempted descent was to all appearance a place where the former rocky wall had slid away into the water leaving an irregular trench or trough, whose sides were partly rocky and partly composed of loose pumice and soil. After slipping, sliding and walking alternately for perhaps one-third of the distance, down we came to a point whence we could see the water, and where there seemed to be a semblance of a beach, made by the mass of rocky wall that had slid into the water, on either side of which the rocky wall seemed to drop perpendicularly into the unfathomable blue of the lake. Seeing that we were to be successful in our venture, there was quite a race between Mr. Coates and myself to be first to the water. Being younger and more active than my companion, I reached the water's edge several yards in advance, and firing my revolver, as a signal to our comrades above that we had made the descent successfully. In a short time Captain Sprague and two of the other parties came down to the water, one only, Mr. Clugage, refusing to venture, saying there was not money enough in the state of Oregon to hire him to attempt the descent.
As we stood there in silence and awe, overcome by the grandeur and sublimity of the scene before us, Captain Sprague broke the silence by remarking that we ought to christen the lake, and as I was the first human being to touch the waters the honor properly belonged to me. At his suggestion, I gave it the name of Lake Majesty, and we fired a volley from our revolvers in honor of its christening.
An account of this visit and the christening of the lake was written by Captain Sprague and published in the Oregon Sentinel late in August, 1865.
That there are fish in the lake I firmly believe, as while we stood at its water's edge on that occasion and were debating the probability of its being inhabited by the finny tribe, a kingfisher alighted on the limb of a pine tree that grew from a rock ledge overhanging the water, and uttered his peculiar cr-cr-cer, which to us was conclusive evidence of the existence of fish in the lake. That there have never been fish seen there is to my mind no evidence of their nonexistence, as the peculiar color, depth and refraction power of the water would enable them to see and avoid the approach of intruders. I am also informed that Lake Tahoe, whose altitude, depth of water and other characteristics are very similar, has been found peopled with trout, whose existence would never have been known if left to the discovery by the unaided eye. There the fish are caught by trolling spoons attached to several hundred feet of line and towed behind boats whose occupants never see the fish until hooked. There is record of trout weighing as high [as] sixty pounds having been caught there by that method.
There is no doubt that there are innumerable subterranean rivers connected with the lake, and as all these streams are well stocked with fish, it is not improbable that they have found their way into this fountainhead.
It would be well worth the trouble for some of the visiting Mazamas or members of our local clubs to try the method of fishing followed in Tahoe before jumping to the conclusion that no fish exist in Crater Lake.
O. A. STEARNS,
Formerly 1st Sergt., Co. "I," 1st Oregon Infantry.
CRATER LAKE HISTORY.Ashland Tidings, August 6, 1896, page 3
A Contribution to it from Mr. Chauncey Nye, of this County.
In 1862 there was quite an excitement in Rogue River Valley in regard to newly discovered mines on the John Day River. A company was organized and placed under the command of Col. Ross for the discovery of a good road to that river. They were dubbed by the newspapers "the pathfinders," but the most of the paths they found were those made by Californians who had preceded them. The winter had been a long one, and the spring was cold and backward with deep snow on the mountains. The expedition camped for some time near where Eagle Point now is, waiting for the snow to get off the mountains. Two or three parties were sent out to break a trail through the snow but failed. So on the 10th of May the expedition started. It had snowed during the night and was four inches in depth all over the Butte Creek country.
We went by the way of Rancheria Prairie and Snowy Butte. We found much difficulty in crossing the snow, and much of it had to be bridged with fir boughs. We found much of the Klamath Valley covered with water, and long lines of sandhill cranes on the prairie looked like soldiers standing at rest. We had an Indian by the name of Blow as guide until we reached the Deschutes River. It was the 4th of June we camped at Big Klamath Marsh and found the ground had not thawed out enough for us to stake down our tents.
While here John Hillman and James Loudon (Rube Rinus) told us of a wonderful lake they had seen in the early fifties, up Rogue River, while following some California gold hunters who had been informed of fabulous mines on the upper Rogue River. They could not give any definite information as to its location, as they were somewhat bewildered at the time.
One fork of the Deschutes we had to swim, also the John Day River. We arrived at the mines about the middle of June, taking up claims on Granite Creek, where we remained during the summer, doing indifferently well and nearly all returning in the fall.
About the 1st of October six of us concluded to return by as direct a route as possible; first to Canyon Creek, which had been discovered that summer, thence to upper meadows on Deschutes, then on the old Cayuse trail to the spring about halfway between Deschutes and Klamath Marsh, thence to head of Rogue River and then down it home. The party consisted of Hi Abbott, James Layman, John Sessions, S. H. Smith, Joe Bowers and the writer. At this spring on Cayuse trail we turned southwest across a rather level pumice stone country not very thickly covered with yellow pine timber. Taking a high broken rock on the summit of the mountain as a landmark to steer for, we crossed two small streams before reaching the mountain, and its ascent at this place is not very abrupt until near the summit.
We had been traveling all day and were anxious to find water for camp purposes when the writer, happening to be a little in advance of the party, exclaimed, "Here, boys, is water. We can camp," and advancing a few steps farther, behold, the water was almost beneath our feet--so near, and yet so far. One of our party, who was a trapper, exclaimed, "There are beaver in it." He did not realize the immense distance down to the water and thought the white logs laying at the water's edge were sticks that the beaver had gnawed the bark from.
After gazing awhile at this wondrous scene and rolling down some huge rocks, which leaped at times at least a hundred feet at a bound, and timing them by our watches we became impressed with the vast distance to the water. Then looking about for other water we saw Diamond Lake and started to go to it but had not gone far before we became aware it was too far away, so we tied up to some spreading hemlocks and melted some snow from banks of it that had lain there all summer.
The next morning we started southward, dropping down the mountain a little and soon found plenty of ice-cold water and grass. We crossed what is now known as Castle Canyon and then ascended to the summit again to take observations, as we were somewhat afraid of getting onto the waters of the Umpqua. We here came to a high, conical, rocky peak. This, four of us, after some difficulty, succeeded in reaching the top of, but it being somewhat smoky we could not determine our exact location. The top of this peak is nearly circular, is flat and about twelve feet across. Some of the summit rocks had been loosed and broken and these had been piled up around its outer edges, done by Indians, no doubt as a protection from the wind while they lay on its top watching their enemies.
As it was during the rebellion we were there and all of us being ardent Union men, as we were about to descend I took up one of these large rocks and cast it down its rocky cliffs, and as it went thundering down a wooded gorge I christened it Union Peak, which name I hope it may retain as long as it stands a beacon on the summit of the mountain.
We then descended and into what is now known as the huckleberry patch, where, from appearances, there had been an abundant crop. From there, with some difficulty, we followed down what is now known as the middle fork of Mill Creek down to what is now known as the Rogue River Falls. We then descended the main river about a mile, where we crossed it on a log and swam our horses. That evening one of the party killed a fine, fat buck, to which we did ample justice, as we were getting short of provisions.
The report of the party in regard to the topography of the upper Rogue River and its publication in the Oregon Sentinel caused the Rogue River road to be prospected, and through the effort of J. B. Wrisley, Isaac Constant and some others it was built out to Diamond Peak before Capt. Sprague opened the road from Fort Klamath connecting with it a little below Silver Camp.
It will thus be seen that O. A. Stearns' contention [above] for the rediscovery of Crater Lake falls to the ground.
Prospect, Jackson County, Or.
----(The contention by O. A. Stearns as to the rediscovery of Crater Lake, referred to by Mr. Nye, was made in an article written by Mr. Stearns and printed in the Tidings of July 20th. In that Mr. Stearns referred to the discovery of Lake Majesty, as it was formerly called by a party of returning prospectors, and it is plain that Mr. Nye's party was the one alluded to. Mr. Nye mentions a visit said to have been made by a party of California miners in the fifties, but there seems to be no data left on which to claim this as the first discovery, and a great many people interested look, as Mr. Stearns does, upon Mr. Nye's party as really the first discoverers of Crater Lake. Mr. Nye's letter is an interesting contribution to Crater Lake history.)
The Discovery and Early History of Crater Lake.In company with most places of note, or natural wonders which subsequently become famous, Crater Lake has many claimants to its discovery, and like many of them it has no doubt been rediscovered (if I may be allowed the term) by parties totally unaware of the fact that it had previously been visited or its unique wonders known. That its existence was well known to the Klamath, Modoc and Rogue River tribes for centuries there can be no doubt, but like many of nature's wonders, in the early history of even the white races, its unequaled attractions to the student and lover of nature only served to make it in the mind of the untutored savage the abode of evil spirits (in Klamath Sko'ks or Sku'ks) and the special domain of an insatiable demon or giant who under the native name of Llao or Lewa, was ever on the watch to seize upon and annihilate the unwary hunter or presuming brave who should dare to peep over its steep cliffs or look upon its lonely island crater, of which he was the undisputed ruler. In the interest of civilization it is much to be regretted that this legendary spirit does not still hold sway on the island, so that he might smite into everlasting nothingness the despicable mortals who have ruthlessly set fire to and destroyed so many of the noble firs and pines which have so bravely struggled for centuries to maintain the precarious footing they have secured on its arid and uninviting slopes. These stories in course of time became so distorted, and the dangers of a visit to it so exaggerated, that, although well known to them in legend, none of those living at the advent of white men in Southern Oregon, except the Kiuks or conjurers of the tribe, had ever seen it, nor could they be prevailed upon to visit it any more than a Klickitat brave of those days could be induced to visit Chitwood (Gohabedikt) Lake, or a Shoshone to tempt fate by risking his life in a trip among the legendary spirits who were supposed to hold high carnival about the natural wonders of the Yellowstone Valley. The name by which the lake was known to the Klamaths and Modocs was Gay-was E-ush, or Gi-wash E-ush, from gi, to be or to stay, wash, excavation, and E-ush, lake. The name given to it by the Walamswash or Rogue River Indians, I have been unable to learn, though there is ample evidence that it was known to them as well as to the Klamaths and Modocs.
W. W. GORMAN.
There have been many claimants for the honor of being the first discoverer of Crater Lake, some of them even going so far as to give a detailed account of their trip and claiming to have discovered the lake in January or February, 1847, while accompanying the late General John C. Fremont in an expedition to California in that year, but on investigation none of these accounts have as yet been authentically substantiated. Having carefully read all of General Fremont's reports so far as published, and knowing his accuracy of observation, his impressionable nature, and his rare descriptive powers, I judge it highly improbable that such a marvelous natural wonder could by any possibility have been seen by him and remain unnoted and undescribed, even amid the pressure and excitement of those epoch-making days in the history of the Pacific Coast. In order that credit may be given to whom credit is due, a correspondence has been instituted to ascertain what reliability, if any, should be placed in this claim. Up to date, however, although numerous replies have been received, including one from Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont, no proof whatever has come to hand in favor of such claim except the fact that on examination of some early files of Southern Oregon papers the lake is found to be referred to as the "Great Sunken Lake" and "Hole in the Ground," the former name being the one applied to it by General Fremont and the latter by the soldiers of the party, according to the story of this claimant.
On the other hand it is quite possible that some eager prospector in search of the "lost cabin mine" or other equally fabulous and elusive mineral wealth, or some adventurous hunter in quest of large game, may have gazed upon its deep ultramarine blue waters and passed on, as he was not looking for "sunken lakes," and only recounted his trip later on when the lake had been made known to fame by the visits and description of those who appreciated beautiful scenery; just as a young U.S. army officer who visited the now famous Glacier Bay, Alaska, in 1877, in quest of mountain goats, passed its grand scenery and unrivaled glaciers by, leaving them to be made known to the world by a genuine explorer two years later.
The earliest discovery of the lake of which there is any authentic record was on June 12, 1853, by a party of prospectors named ------ Dodd, John W. Hillman, James L. Loudon, Patrick McManus, George Ross and Isaac Skeeters, who, in company with some others, had been lured up the Rogue River Valley in search of fabulously rich mines reported by some California gold hunters to be on the upper Rogue River. The events leading up to the discovery were as follows: In the early spring of that year a party of California prospectors came to Jacksonville, and by the secrecy observed in securing provisions and the caution maintained in all their movements, so excited the curiosity of several Oregon prospectors that a party was at once formed and a watch set upon the movements of the Californians which resulted in the leaking out of the old story of "lost diggings" teeming with placer gold, which the newcomers were in search of. As soon as both parties could be equipped a forced march began, and although every device known to the pioneers of those early days was resorted to, the Oregonians could not be misled or shaken off. This state of affairs ceased only on the provisions of both becoming exhausted, when a truce was called and Hillman, the leader of the Oregonians, candidly informed the Californian leader that his party proposed to stay as long as the others were in the mountains. The result was a union of the two parties, the interchange of the secret landmarks and a decision to have a few of the hardier members continue the search and report progress to the main party left in camp. This was accordingly done, and the above-named members of the united party were sent forward, but the "lost diggings" did not materialize, and game being scarce it soon became a serious question how longer to maintain even this small party in condition to continue the search for the famous diggings. To make matters worse the party had lost nearly all idea of their whereabouts and had to resort to the old method of climbing peaks to ascertain them. From the summit of one of these peaks they saw numerous lakes, and finally after ascending a long gentle slope they came upon the brink of a precipice where far below them lay what the leader of the party describes as "the bluest lake I ever saw." Their hunger was for the time forgotten as they gazed at its placid blue waters and in the clear atmosphere of that season of the year realized its great expanse. They reached the rim at a point a little west of Victor Rock, found the snow reaching down to the water in very many places, and, continuing along the rim for some hours, they estimated the lake to be not less than 20 miles in diameter, and judged its distance from Jacksonville to be about 125 miles. They looked in vain for an outlet, which made their discovery seem all the more wonderful, and they saw and on their return gave a fairly accurate description of Wizard Island, but failed to notice the Phantom Ship. After their wonder and excitement had subsided, the naming of the lake was discussed and, each one suggesting a name, it finally narrowed to the selection of one of two--Mysterious, or Deep Blue Lake--the latter being given the preference, though it was occasionally referred to afterwards as Lake Mystery. One member of the party suggested their making the descent to the water, but this was at once frowned down by his companions, who in their half-famished condition were more intent upon securing game with which to satisfy the cravings of hunger than in exploring beautiful scenery. The party soon proceeded on its way and on returning to civilization reported its wonderful discovery, but there being no newspaper then published in Southern Oregon (the first number of the Oregon Sentinel was issued on January 13, 1855), no account of it was printed, and in the stirring events of those days, when slaying Indians and searching for gold were the two chief occupations of the early settlers, it soon came to be looked upon as a miner's tale, and in course of time was forgotten. [The Table Rock Sentinel began publication November 24, 1855.] It is characteristic of the endurance, intrepidity and physical stamina of those early pioneers that although 44 years have since elapsed, three of the above-mentioned party of six, viz.: Hillman, Ross and Skeeters, are still living, notwithstanding that the first-named was severely wounded in an engagement with the Indians shortly after returning to the settlements.
Nothing further was heard of the lake until the fall of 1862, when it was again discovered by a party of six miners returning to the Rogue River Valley for the winter from the Granite Creek mines on the North Fork of the John Day River. On the afternoon of Tuesday, the 21st of October of that year, these men, Hiram Abbott, Joseph Bowers (one account gives this name as J. Brandlin), James Layman, Chauncey Nye, John W. Sessions and S. H. Smith, had been traveling all day, and in searching for water for a good camping place in the evening suddenly came upon the lake. It was only after seeking in vain for a place to make the descent to the water, and rolling down some large rocks to its surface, that they fully realized the height of the rim, and abandoning the attempt to obtain water from this source concluded to melt snow for the purpose. As the fall was a mild one, there was no fresh snow above the rim, but they found the old snow still lying in patches two to three feet deep, and drifts of snow lay clinging to the crevices of the rocky bank below the rim. They further reported bunchgrass as being abundant and of good quality, and but little timber at the point at which they reached the lake. They estimated the lake to be not less than twenty-five miles in circumference, and the rim at that point to be about 3,000 feet above the surface of the water. This was the first party that even approximately located the lake, as the Hillman party were too exhausted and bewildered when they discovered it to be able to give any very accurate account of its location on their return to the settlements. This party named their discovery Blue Lake, their chief contribution to its fame being the authentication of its existence and defining its location. A description of this trip was published in the Oregon Sentinel for November 8, 1862, and this, so far as I have been able to learn, is the first printed account of the discovery of the lake.
As the topography of the region was wholly unknown at that early date, the party thought it necessary to climb a peak or eminence of some kind every few days to take observations, as they were somewhat afraid of getting on to the headwaters of the Umpqua instead of the Rogue River. In doing this they observed a prominent conical rocky peak, which they decided to ascend for the above purpose. Only four of them succeeded in reaching the summit, which they found to be about twelve feet across, nearly circular, flat and with a parapet of loose rocks piled about its outer edge, indicating that it had been used as a lookout or watchtower by the Indians. As the country was then in the throes of civil war, and partisanship ran as high on the Rogue River as on the Rappahannock or Rapidan, the peak was unanimously named Union Peak, as all four were ardent Union men.
Three years later the lake was again discovered by a party to whom its existence was previously unknown. In July, 1865, Capt. F. B. Sprague, of Company I, 1st Oregon Infantry, undertook to complete a road from Union Creek to Fort Klamath, and in carrying out this object two of the men, John M. Corbell and F. M. Smith, while out hunting about August 1, accidentally came upon the lake, and on returning to camp and reporting their wonderful discovery, so excited the curiosity of the party that it was decided to visit and explore the lake at the first opportunity. In the meantime, one of the then periodically recurring Indian troubles broke out, and a detachment of volunteers from this party was sent to the Steens Mountain country to operate against the Snake Indians. While on the way six members of this detachment--William Bybee, James Clugage, J. B. Coats, Peyton Foote, Franklin B. Sprague and Orson A. Stearns visited the lake on August 24. All except Clugage made the descent to the water, and at the suggestion of Capt. Sprague they decided to christen the lake. As Mr. Stearns was the first to reach the water this honor devolved upon him, and he thereupon, with appropriate ceremonies, named it Lake Majesty. They reached the rim almost at the same locality where it is reached by the present wagon road, and made the descent a little to the north of this point. They reported having seen a kingfisher near the water's edge, and from this inferred that there were fish in the lake, an inference that has so far never been verified. This was the first party that actually reached the waters of the lake, and the first to observe and report the Phantom Ship. An account of this trip and the christening of the lake, written by Capt. Sprague on August 25, appeared in the Oregon Sentinel for September 9, 1865.
Shortly after this a party of eleven, viz.: John Bilger, J. B. Coats, Isaac Constant, T. Constant, James D. Fay, Herman Helms, ------ Kibbert, James Layman, John Neuber, W. A. Owen and T. Willitt, under the leadership of James D. Fay, while on a hunting trip to Diamond Peak, arrived at the lake on September 3, 1865, striking it on the side nearest Wizard Island, where Fay and Helms made the descent to the water, and inscribed their names with the date on a rock at the water's edge. The striking appearance of Wizard Island, with its partially wooded slopes and crater-like top, so appealed to their imagination that they thereupon formed the determination to visit the lake again and bring a boat with which to reach and explore the Island. In the 32 years which have since elapsed nine of this party have joined the "great majority," and only Messrs. Helms and Owen survive to tell of their early journey to the "Great Sunken Lake," as it is termed in a Southern Oregon paper of that year.
In the course of time the numerous reports that had reached the settlements regarding the "Great Sunken Lake," and its lonely island crater on which the foot of man had never trod, had so excited that love of adventure and exploration which is ever present in the colonizing and energetic races, and particularly in evidence in frontier life, that in July, 1869, a party was formed in Jacksonville consisting of J. B. Coats, James D. Fay, Miss Annie Fay, David Linn and family, Miss Fannie Ralls, James M. Sutton and family, and John Sutton, under the leadership of James M. Sutton. They left Jacksonville on July 27, via the Rogue River road, and on reaching its junction with the road to Fort Klamath, blazed and opened a wagon road to the rim of the lake, where they were joined by Col. J. E. Ross, Lieut. S. B. Thoburn and Mr. Ish. They had brought with them a wooden boat, knocked-down, which they put together at the lake, and with infinite labor and care to protect it from the rocks they succeeded in lowering it to the water, and on August 4, in this frail craft J. B. Coats, James D. Fay, David Linn, James M. Sutton and Lieut S. B. Thoburn visited Wizard Island, which was, with appropriate ceremonies, so christened by James M. Sutton. They were thus the first human beings to set foot on its virgin soil, and climbing its steep slopes they entered the tiny crater, which is such a duplicate in miniature of the great caldera which contains the lake itself. A record of the trip was enclosed in a tin can and cached in the rocks at the top of the old crater rim on the Island. They brought the first wagons to the lake, Mr. Linn's wagon hauling the boat which they left at the lake on their departure. They attempted to circumnavigate and sound the lake, but their boat proved too frail a craft for this purpose; they succeeded, however, in taking one effective sounding 550 feet deep, half a mile from the Island, and from the slope estimated the lake to be from 1,500 to 2,000 feet in the deepest part, an estimate which recent measurements have shown to be fairly correct. They were the first party to name it "Crater Lake," and having brought a camera with them were the first to secure pictures of the lake and of the most picturesque pieces of scenery on the way. A specimen of these early triumphs of the photographic art would now be a treasure, but I have so far been unable to secure one. They left the lake on August 5, returning to Jacksonville by the Rogue River road, and visiting Fort Klamath and other points of interest on the way, besides securing with considerable difficulty a picture of Rogue River falls. They reported that they "had much dust during the day and the air was loaded with smoke," a piece of evidence which the Mazama party of August, 1896, can fully corroborate. A graphic account of this trip was published in the Oregon Sentinel for August 21 and 28, 1869, in which the name "Crater Lake" appears in print for the first time.
From this time on, the lake gradually became known to fame, and in August, 1872, it was visited by Lord William Maxwell of Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, and Mr. A. Bentley, of Toledo, Ohio, who, accompanied by Capt. O. C. Applegate, John Meacham and Chester M. Sawtelle, of Klamath County, succeeded in placing a boat upon its waters, and were the first party to make an extended trip over its surface and view the picturesque peaks of its lofty rim from the best vantage points on the waters of the lake itself. They visited Wizard Island, found the record left by the Sutton party in 1869, and, after skirting the borders of the lake, named some of the more prominent peaks after members of the party. Among some of the names given were Bentley Peak, to what is now known as the Watchman, and sometimes called Helio Peak, Maxwell Peak to what is named Glacier Peak on the present map and Shag Rock on the Ashland sheet of the United States Geological Survey, and Applegate Peak to the present Vidae Cliff.
The first Geological Survey party to visit the lake was in 1883, when professors J. S. Diller and Everett Hayden spent several days in examining the rocks composing the rim, and, making a raft of logs, paddled out to and explored Wizard Island.
The attention of the federal government having been called to the matter in 1885, a party from the Geological Survey under the direction of Captain (now Major) C. E. Dutton, was detailed to survey and sound the lake, which task they performed in a thorough and efficient manner between July 11 and August 5, making in all 168 soundings, ranging in depth from 93 feet in the shallowest to 2,008 feet in the deepest part sounded. A short account of the work accomplished may be found in Science, vol. vii., 1886, p. 179, and in the Eighth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, Part I., p. 156. At the same time the topographic details of the work were carefully carried out by Messrs. Mark B. Kerr and Eugene Ricksecker, the whole resulting in the present excellent map of Crater Lake, which is issued as a detail of the Ashland sheet by the United States Geological Survey.
The more noticeable and important points of interest about the lake and rim were at the same time named as follows: The Watchman to the first peak west of the upper camping ground; Glacier Peak to the next, from a rock there showing the striations made by an ancient glacier; Llao Rock, after the giant or spirit which legend says formerly held sway there (this was formerly known as Mount Jackson in honor of Maj. James Jackson, U.S.A.); Palisades to a section of the northeast part of the rim, from its fancied resemblance to the Palisades on the Hudson; Red Cloud Cliff to a section of the rim due east of Wizard Island, from the red color of the rocks composing it; Sentinel Rock to a prominent rock a little farther south; Kerr Notch to a dip in the rim at the head of Sand Creek, in honor of Mr. Mark B. Kerr; Dutton Cliff in honor of Capt. C. E. Dutton; Vidae Cliff in honor of a young lady of Portland; Eagle Crags, to a series of jagged rocks on the south side of the rim; Cathedral Rock, from its fancied resemblance to the spires of a cathedral (this has since been changed to Castle Crest); Prospect Rock, to a prominent rock on the edge of the rim opposite the upper camping ground, from which one of the best views of the lake can be obtained (this is now called Victor Rock, in honor of Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor); Eagle Cove, to a small bay where the present trail leads from the rim to the water; Steel Bay, to a bay just east of Llao Rock, in honor of Mr. W. G. Steel; Cleetwood Cove, after the name of the boat used by the survey party; Grotto Cove, after some caves found near the water's edge in the rim at that point; Phantom Ship, to a prominent rock jutting out of the water under Dutton Cliff, and marking the continuation of an arete which is to be seen on the side of the cliff at that point. The past year the name Rugged Crest has been given to the section of the rim overlooking Cleetwood Cove, and on August 21, the name Mount Mazama was, with appropriate ceremonies, given to the mountain containing the lake itself. These names, with the exception of the recent additions, have all been confirmed by the United States Board on Geographic Names. In compliance with a petition forwarded to Washington in 1885, and ably advocated by Congressman Binger Hermann, the Secretary of the Interior, L. Q. C. Lamar, recommended the "temporary withdrawal of certain public lands in Oregon pending legislation, looking to the creation of a public park which shall embrace Crater Lake." On February 1, 1886, President Cleveland signed an executive order withdrawing from settlement or sale ten townships surrounding and including Crater Lake, viz.: Townships 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31, in ranges each 5 and 6 east, Willamette meridian.
In June, 1892, the Oregon Alpine Club sent to Washington a petition asking for the creation of a Forest Reserve along the Cascade Range in Oregon, in accordance with the Act of March 3, 1891, authorizing the President to set aside public lands as forest reserves, and on September 28, 1893, President Cleveland issued a proclamation creating the Cascade Range Forest Reserve, which includes within its southern limits Crater Lake and its environs.
Portland, Oregon, April, 1897.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE DISCOVERY AND EARLY HISTORY OF CRATER LAKE.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Nov. 8, 1862.Mazama, October 1897, pages 150-161
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Aug. 12, 1865.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Sep. 2, 1865.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Sep. 9, 1865.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Aug. 21, 1869.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, Aug. 28, 1869.
Daily Oregonian, Portland, Jan. 1, 1886.
Daily Oregonian, Portland, Feb. 14, 1886.
Daily Oregonian, Portland, March 10, 1886.
The Mountains of Oregon, by W. G. Steel, Portland, 1890, p. 13.
Atlantis Arisen, by Mrs. F. F. Victor, Philadelphia, 1891, p. 179.
Ashland Tidings, July 20, 1896.
Klamath Republican, July 23, 1896.
Ashland Tidings, Aug. 6, 1896.
Klamath Republican, Aug. 13, 1896.
There is probably not a point of interest in America that so completely overcomes the ordinary Indian with fear as Crater Lake. From time immemorial no power has been strong enough to induce him to approach within sight of it. For a paltry sum he will engage to guide you thither, but before you reach the mountaintop will leave you to proceed alone. To the savage mind it is clothed with a deep veil of mystery and is the abode of all manner of demons and monsters. Old Allen David, chief of the Klamath tribe, gives the following Indian history of the discovery of the lake:
"A long time ago, long before the white man appeared in this region to vex and drive the proud native out, a band of Klamaths while out hunting came suddenly upon the lake and were startled by its remarkable walls and awed by its majestic proportions. With spirits subdued and trembling with fear they silently approached and gazed upon its face. Something within told them the Great Spirit dwelt there, and they dared not remain, but passed silently down the side of the mountain and camped far away. By some unaccountable influence, however, one brave was induced to return. He went up to the very brink of the precipice and started his campfire. Here he lay down to rest; here he slept till morn, slept until the sun was high in the air, then arose and joined the tribe far down the mountain. At night he came again; again he slept till morn. Each visit bore a charm that drew him back again. Each night found him sleeping above the rocks; each night strange voices arose from the waters; mysterious noises filled the air. At last, after a great many moons, he climbed down in like manner and frequently saw wonderful animals, similar in all respects to a Klamath Indian, except that they seemed to exist entirely in the water. He suddenly became hardier and stronger than any Indian of his tribe because of his many visits to the mysterious waters. Others then began to seek its influence. Old warriors sent their sons for strength and courage to meet the conflicts awaiting them. First they slept on the rocks above, then ventured to the water's edge, but last of all they plunged into the water, and the coveted strength was theirs. On one occasion the brave who first visited the lake killed a monster or fish and was at once set upon by untold numbers of excited Llaos (for such they were called), who carried him to the top of the cliffs, cut his throat with a stone knife, then tore his body into small pieces, which were thrown down to the waters far beneath, where he was devoured by the angry Llaos. And such shall be the fate of every Klamath brave who from that day to this dares to look upon the lake."--Minneapolis Tribune.
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, March 19, 1900, page 3
HELPED DISCOVER CRATER LAKER. J. Clark, president of the First National Bank, of Lawson, Mo., was in Salem last week for the first time in 40 years. Mr. Clark was a resident of Southern Oregon in the early '60s and was a member of the party which discovered Crater Lake. The party was led by Captain F. B. Sprague and consisted of about 25 men. The purpose of the expedition was to discover a pass for a wagon road through the Cascades.
Captain Sprague and Lieutenant O. A. Stearns were one day walking a little apart from the rest of the company, when they suddenly came into full view of a lake which spread out 2000 feet below them with a glistening surface seven miles by five in area. The lake was named Lake Majesty, as an expression of the feelings which were inspired in the discoverer by the unsurpassed grandeur of the scene. Mr. Clark thinks that although the new name may be more descriptive of the geological origin of the lake, the former name was more fitting as an indication of the scenic beauty which a visitor to that region enjoys.
Mr. Clark was well acquainted with the Applegates and other pioneer residents of Southern Oregon, and if possible he will visit that portion of the state before he returns East. He left Southern Oregon in the days when the stage was the only means of transportation. He is in Oregon for the purpose of settling up the estate of the late R. H. Finch, who was a wealthy resident of Missouri, and died, leaving considerable property in Marion County.
Medford Mail, May 22, 1903, page 2
CRATER LAKE DISCOVERY
J. W. Hillman Tells How and When It Was First Found.
I see that a former resident of Southern Oregon in the early '60s claims to have been with the party that discovered Crater Lake. Mr. Clark dates his supposed discovery many years too late.
Just 50 years ago this summer a party of prospectors from California came to Rogue River Valley, stopped a day or two, laid in a supply of provisions, and then left the valley as they supposed, secretly, and without having betrayed the object of their visit; but while making their purchases one of the party drank, and talked enough to cause some of my friends to repeat and speculate upon the object of their mission, which was soon declared to be the old familiar hunt for the Lost Cabin mine. If I remember rightly, there were 11 members of the California party, and just as soon as their object became known, another party of Oregon prospectors was formed to follow them, and if the mine was rediscovered, to share in the fruits of the fabulous wealth that was supposed to follow.
At this date I cannot recall the names of the party formed to follow the California prospectors. I think our party consisted of 11--just the same number as the party we were to follow. I think Henry Klippel, J. L. Loudon, Pat McManus, a Mr. Little and myself were part of the number. I know Loudon was there; I am almost sure Klippel and Little were there, and I am sure I was one of the number. We made quick preparations, got some provisions together, and started after the California miners, who soon discovered that we were on their trail; and then it was a game of hide and seek, until rations on both sides began to get low. The Californians would push through the brush, scatter, double backwards on their trail, and then camp in the most inaccessible places to be found, and it sometimes puzzled us to locate and camp near enough to watch them. One day while thus engaged, and when provisions had run very low, each party scattered out to look for anything in the shape of game that could be found.
On my return from an unsuccessful hunt, I passed close to the camp of the Californians. Up to this time neither party had spoken to one of the others, but seeing a young fellow in camp, I bade him good day, and got into conversation with him. He asked me what our object was in the mountains, and why we hung so close on their trail.
I frankly told him we believed their leader had certain landmarks, which, if found, would enable them to locate the "Lost Cabin," and as we were all pretty good prospectors and hunters, we intended to stay with them until the mine was found or starvation drove us back to the valley. After this a truce was declared, and we worked and hunted in unison. One day just before deciding that it was no longer safe to stay in the mountains, with our very limited supply of food and no game to be found, we camped on the side of a mountain, and after consultation it was decided that a few of each party should take what provisions could be spared and for a couple of days longer hunt for landmarks which the leader of the California party was in search of; of that party I was one. Loudon did not go on with us, and who else did or did not go, I cannot remember.
On the evening of our first day, while riding up a long, sloping mountain, we suddenly came in sight of water and were very much surprised, as we did not expect to see any lakes, and did not know but what we had come in sight of and close to Klamath Lake, and not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down, and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death and destruction. We came to the lake a very little to the right of a small sloping butte or mountain, situated in the lake, with a top somewhat flattened. Every man of the party gazed with wonder at the sight before him, and each in his own peculiar way gave expression to the thoughts within him, but we had no time to lose, and after rolling some boulders down the side of the lake, we rode to the left as near the rim as possible, past the butte, looking to see an outlet for the lake, but we could find none.
I was very anxious to find a way to the water, which was immediately vetoed by the whole party, and as the leader of the Californians had become discouraged, we decided to return to camp, but not before we discussed what name we should give the lake. There were many names suggested, but Mysterious Lake and Deep Blue Lake were most favorably received, and on a vote Deep Blue Lake was chosen for a name.
We secured a small stick about the size of a walking cane, and with a knife made a slit in one end, a piece of paper was torn from a memorandum book, our names written on it, the paper stuck in the slit, and the stick propped up in the ground to the best of our ability. We then reluctantly turned our backs upon the future Crater Lake of Oregon. The finding of Crater Lake was an accident, as we were not looking for lakes, but the fact of my being first upon its banks was due to the fact that I was riding the best saddle mule in Southern Oregon, the property of Jimmy Dobson, a miner and placer, with headquarters at Jacksonville, who had furnished me the mule in consideration of a claim to be taken in his name should we be successful. Stranger to me than our discovery was the fact that after our return I could get no acknowledgment from any Indian, buck or squaw, old or young, that any such lake existed; each and every one denied any knowledge of it, or ignored the subject completely.
A few months after our return, war broke out between whites and Indians, and in September of the same year I was shot while in camp on Evans Creek, where several Californians were killed, among them being old "Grizzly," a well-known California fighter when volunteers were called for. And while on the subject of Indian wars, I would like to know if the particulars of the siege of Galice Creek were ever published, and has the story of the killing of Mrs. Wagoner and her child, and the noble defense of Mrs. Harris in protecting herself and child, after the killing of her husband, ever found its way into print. A nobler, pluckier defense was never recorded, and if Oregon ever has a "Hall of Fame," then the name of Mrs. Harris should find an honored place therein.
J. W. HILLMAN.Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, June 18, 1903, page 1
Hope Villa (La.) Jan. 2nd 1906Silas J. Day Esq.
I was very glad to get a letter from an old acquaintance in reply to my letter of inquiry, as it makes time and distance seem less.
To begin with I am the same J. W. Hillman that lived in Jacksonville the time you refer to and the one who had command of the expedition that found the bodies of the Ledfords after the massacre by the Rogue River Indians, and incidentally I may mention that on that expedition I had with my company Col. Kelly of the Oregon militia, Mr. Abbott, Indian agt. and [Ben] Davis--a nephew of Jeff Davis--neither one joined the command but went along to see what was being done. Col. Kelly was very anxious to have me muster in under the law of Oregon, but by doing so I [would have] lost my command of the men as he then would be my superior officer. I refused to do so, and I think it was his influence that caused the merchants of Jacksonville to refuse to renew supplies for a further chase of the Indians, as he claimed I might bring on another Indian war by chastising any band of Indians whom I might find. Abbott was the man who found the cache where the bodies were buried, and he so reported to me on his return to camp.
Now as to my history. I was born in Albany, N.Y. March 29th 1832. In '48 my father moved with his family to New Orleans, La. In the spring of '49 we joined the overland expedition sent by the government to Oregon. Deady of Oregon was in the same expedition. We arrived in Oregon City in Sept. of the same year and sailed for Frisco by ship Aurora, Capt. Kilbourn commanding. Before sailing I helped load the ship and had charge of a raft of lumber down the Willamette to the mouth of the Columbia. After staying in San Francisco a short time we went to Mariposa; from there my father returned to N.O., and I drifted around Cal. a short time, then made Jacksonville, Or. my headquarters. I married my first wife in ('67 I think) in N.O. With her I returned to my mining camp on Granite Creek--John Day country. My wife's family were on the Evening Star when she foundered, and my wife and self returned to La., where I have since lived. Children by my first wife all dead. In 1876 I married my present wife and have two married children--one boy and one girl. The boy is assistant civil engineer on the T&P R. Rd.
Some years ago an Oregon lawyer wrote me [probably B. F. Dowell]; he had accidentally discovered that I was entitled to pay for services in the Oregon war and agreed to collect for me half, which I agreed to give, and he sent my share I suppose. I had forgotten that I was entitled to anything, but the govt. would not recognize the agreement between Col. Ross, Charley Drew and myself, which was that I was to get $16.00 dolls. per day for special express riding and $4.00 per day for my horse--that was after Mrs. Wagoner and her daughter were killed. I am getting a pension, but I refused to make application as long as I could attend to my own farming operations as they should be. I was and am still opposed to pensions unless under rigid investigation the party is worthy of the same, and just now I think of it I recd. your letter while in bed suffering from my shattered knee and just before your letter was handed me I extracted a piece of bone from my knee which had been causing me much agony. I have been in correspondence with Mrs. Martha Rapp of Ashland for some time past, and she has kept me pretty well posted about Rogue River Valley and its pioneers. I think she could write a history of the valley and its old settlers which would be valuable to the oldtimers. I am not used to the pen and have written myself tired, and yet I would like to inquire if you know of any survivors of the relief of Galice Creek? That is a little portion of history of Southern Oregon I have never seen in print, and I don't think there are any living but myself that knows the particulars. Ross and Drew and myself were the parties to the relief of the creek, and I was the one to whom the very dangerous task was given, and possibly I will write its history and have it published in the Sunday Oregonian. They have published several articles of S. Oregon written by myself.
Have I been explicit enough?
Wishing you a long life and a prosperous new year
I remain yours trulyP.S. I enclose the one-dollar application for June.
J. W. Hillman
Silas J. Day Papers, Lilly Library, Indiana University
The Relief of Galice Creek
A very interesting story of an incident of the early Indian wars in the Rogue River Valley is that published elsewhere today entitled "The Relief of Galice Creek." It was prepared for the Tidings by John W. Hillman, whom old pioneers of this section will remember as a resident of Jacksonville in early days. Mr. Hillman for a good many years has resided at East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and has been prominently identified with many affairs of that state. He has never returned to Oregon but has written to old acquaintances here and [omission] his ofttime desire in recent years to see once more the prettiest place on earth, the Rogue River Valley, the scene of many experiences of his early manhood.
Ashland Tidings, June 28, 1909, page 5
THE RELIEF OF GALICE CREEK
A Story of the Early Rogue River Valley Indian Wars
(By J. W. Hillman of East Baton Rouge, La.)
I think it was in the year 1855 when Mrs. Wagoner and her child defended herself and child from the Indians [It was Mrs. Harris], that Col. Ross and his adjutant Charley Drew had their camp and headquarters near Table Rock.
They were puzzled to know how every move contemplated by the volunteers was immediately known and anticipated by the hostiles in the field. After much study and investigation they concluded that the information was gotten by the squaws through their white husbands and miners living on Galice Creek, and to stop any further revelation of their plans it was thought necessary that the squaws should be taken and placed in Fort Lane, then under the command of Capt. A. J. Smith of the regular army.
If they dispatched a company of volunteers for the purpose the squaws would have become aware of their intentions and have defeated the purpose of the expedition.
At this time I was living in Jacksonville and it was a pretty lively camp, and I was so well pleased with the town that I had no desire to hunt Indians, as I knew there were more than enough volunteers in the field to whip all the hostiles then out, but it seemed as though Ross and Drew wanted one more volunteer, and for several days they sent messengers to Jacksonville to urge upon me their particular desire to have me visit them, as they had a secret mission for me to go upon. For two or three days I returned word that if they wished to see me more than I did them, to come where I was, as the road was no longer one way than another, but one day there came a more urgent note from Drew and with a Major's commission for me and an extra horse for me to ride. I told the messenger if he was very anxious for my company back to camp he must go out to Griffin's ranch and get my saddle horse, which was then on pasture. He lost no time in deciding, and in a couple of hours he was back with the animal, on which I depended to carry me out of trouble in case I was foolish enough to get in a tight place. In a few minutes I was ready for my ride to headquarters, and in a very short time was in consultation with Ross and Drew, and then it developed that they wished me to go to Galice Creek (I had never been there before), and on the way they thought I might fall in with one of two companies of volunteers then in the valley, and I was to take the company with me and bring out the squaws living there with the miners.
Before consenting to go I returned the commission sent me and said I would only go as special express messenger for the command and I was mustered in at $16.00 per day and $4.00 per day for my horse; needless to say that I never got the $16.00 per.
In a very short time Charley Drew wrote lengthy instructions for my guidance when I arrived at my destination; the only portion I remember was that I was to bring the squaws away or give evidence that I had been there. It was couched in very nice language, but the intention was plain: I must bring the squaws or their scalps. I knew and Ross knew that their scalps were perfectly safe as far as I was concerned, but it was a good document for a bluff, and I used it as such very effectually.
Very shortly I started alone on my ride down Rogue River Valley on my way to my destination. I don't remember where or how I crossed Rogue River, but I know I was striking a pretty lively gait downstream. I was surprised when I saw coming towards me a rider who was making as good time up the valley as I was down.
We met, stopped and talked. I asked him where he was from and where he was going. He said he had crawled his way out of Galice Creek, picked up a horse and was looking for help, as the camp was surrounded by Indians, and a white person was shot at every time he made his appearance, and that they would have been entirely without water had it not been for the few Chinamen in camp, for the Indians did not fire at them but let them in and out at pleasure. He also informed me that there was a white woman with her two children in camp (Mrs. Pickett, I think), and I could not possibly get to the creek if I attempted to ride there, but he agreed to act as my guide, provided I could get an escort of sufficient force to make my mission a success.
At this time we were near to Evans' ferry and hotel. We rode to the house, ordered something to eat, and while eating I noticed an army officer sitting on the gallery and a company of dragoons having their horses attended to.
I asked Evans what the officer's name was, and he said it was Major Fitzgerald. After eating I introduced myself to the Major, partially explained my errand, and asked for an escort. He was very kind and prompt in his reply. Calling an orderly he told him to detail a sergeant and twenty-five men to act as my escort in and out of Galice Creek. The soldiers were soon ready, but it was well on in the day when we had only gotten to Vannoy's Ferry, which was deserted, when we concluded to camp for the night, get an early start in the morning and return from the creek in time to camp at Evans' next day, if possible. As we had no grub, cooking did not bother us.
By daylight the next morning we had made a start. On our way we found seven pack mules, either lost or stolen from some train. I confiscated the bunch and drove them on before us. Our progress was slow, and it was about ten o'clock when we rode into the mining camp of Galice Creek. We were gladly received, but before proceeding to business I asked for breakfast for the men and myself, which was quickly prepared.
After satisfying our hunger I told the sergeant to place his men around the camp in such a manner that none might leave unless with my consent.
I then assembled the whole community together and proceeded to read my instructions. For a few minutes they did not seem to comprehend their import, but when the full meaning was realized there was consternation in camp. They nearly all reached for their rifles and one man by the name of Love [Timoleon Love?] placed himself in the door, rifle in hand, and swore he was lawfully married and that I should not take his wife. One or two others followed his example. In the meantime, the squaws had made a hasty exit for the purpose of escape. I requested one of their number to reread my instructions so that there might be no misunderstanding as to its import. When he had finished I said, "Boys, I have got the drop on you. Look out of the door and see what chance you have got to make a fight of it. You have heard my instructions. I must take the squaws to Fort Lane or bring evidence that I have been here. Now I am going to take them or their ears to show Ross that I have obeyed orders."
For a little while pandemonium reigned, and then everything quieted down and we proceeded to business.
My first requirement was for pack saddles and aparejos for the mules so that the squaws might ride. After gathering all in camp, I began hunting for the squaws and found them hidden away wherever they could find a hiding place. Most of them were on the floor under the bunks. I told their men to bring them out and get them ready for a start. In short order I had fourteen squaws and two or three Indian children ready to go. Then the husbands instructed the squaws to stay close to me and not let me get out of their sight, for there was a report, generally believed by the squaws (but without cause), that a company of volunteers under Angus Brown was killing squaws, old bucks, or anything that looked like an Indian on sight. Two squaws were put on each mule and the children behind a horseman. I forgot to state that I found a part of a company of volunteers at Galice Creek when I got there. I have also forgotten the captain's name.
We made a hurried departure, accompanied by the volunteers, and our trip was surely a funny one. Climbing the mountains the squaws would slide off behind the mules; going down they would ride behind the mules' ears; every time they would slide off they would cling together and roll down and over one another while nothing but bare legs and squaws' heads could be seen. Then the whole command would halt and I would order two men to remount the squaws and we would take a fresh start.
One of the squaws, the wife of Love, I think, who was rather good-looking and more intelligent than the others, came to me and begged that they be allowed to walk. But I was afraid I could not guard them as well as though they were riding, so I refused them the privilege. I afterwards learned that she was the same squaw that held a torch to guide the Indians to a bar in Rogue River to kill her then-husband. The captain of the volunteers urged the same thing and said we would give them a chance to escape and at the first move on their part to that effect he would kill the last one of them.
On my telling him that a move on his part to kill a squaw would be followed by an order from me to the soldiers to kill him and all of his company that helped him, he got quite indignant and wanted to know since when I had been an Indian sympathizer. My reply was that my record was all that I cared to go by and asked him if his record was as good.
We camped that night at our camp of the previous night, the squaws occupying a room on the ground floor of a room on the ground floor of a new house that was being built by Vannoy for a tavern. We spread our blankets outside and stationed guards to prevent any attempt at escape.
The white woman and her children remained on the creek, together with nearly all the miners. They were well supplied with ammunition, and after the squaws and volunteers left there was a good supply of food on hand and they thought the danger was mostly over and did not wish to leave their mining claims, which were paying well.
The next morning we made an early start, and during the trip the prisoners kept so close around me for fear of encountering the volunteers that I looked more like a prisoner than they did.
We proceeded on our way past Evans' Ferry, but Major Fitzgerald had moved, and I never met him again, for which I was sorry, as I wished to thank him for his kindness to me.
We reached Fort Lane without mishap, and I delivered my charge over to Captain Smith at the fort.
I continued with the command until the close of hostilities. The squaws I never saw again, but heard that they had finally gone back to their husbands on the creek.
I should state that when I left camp there were but three persons who knew where I was going or the object of my mission. They were Colonel Ross, Adjutant Drew and myself, and had it not been for Major Fitzgerald, my mission would have been a failure, for even though I could have gotten to Galice Creek, which I very much doubt [sic], the miners I think would have killed me before parting with their squaws.
Ashland Tidings, June 28, 1909, page 6
A PIONEER TALENo doubt there are many still living in Jackson County who remember the contest between Gen. Joe Lane and Mr. Skinner, rival candidates for Congress. The week prior to the election both candidates were in Jacksonville visiting their supporters and using their best endeavors to secure votes. In the same week, I think it was on a Sunday, the first troupe of minstrels who had ever been in Jacksonville came just before noon after a short ride from some point further down the valley.
Vivid Story of an Early Day Night Ride in Southern Oregon
[By J. W. HILLMAN, Hope Villa, La.]
In about half an hour I was acquainted with the whole bunch, and it was decided that we would take a ride through the valley early in the afternoon. When we were all mounted and riding from town toward Rogue River, Fred Furber came out on the street and offered mo forty dollars if I would carry a bunch of ballots to Sailor Diggings. I told him to wait until I got back and then I would talk business.
Our ride in the valley was fast and furious, and our horses were pretty well used up for the time being. As we entered town, Fred met me again and asked me if I would go. I told him I would not ride my horse on the trip for one hundred dollars. Then he asked what I would do. I told him if he would furnish the horse and give me one hundred dollars I would make the trip, with the understanding that I was to deliver the ballots about nine o'clock the next morning. The ride was considered long and hard for the time limit.
He agreed to my terms but said that he would have to send to Griffin's ranch for the horse. When the horse came and by the time I was ready it was good and dark and while I knew the road over to Applegate's Creek very well, having often packed from Crescent City to Jacksonville, yet I had never crossed Applegate Creek and knew nothing about the road to Sailor Diggings. But he told me to ride down the creek about ten miles from my starting point and I would see a log cabin near the bank and that the owner had a small boat for passengers; to wake him up and he would ferry me across. I reached the cabin all right, woke up the owner and told him that I wanted to cross and my only way of doing so was to unsaddle my horse, put saddle in canoe, tie my rope around his neck, start him across ahead of the boat and catch him before he could get away from me. It all worked well and I was on the bank as soon as he was and had no trouble picking up the end of my rope, and once more saddling him I started through an unknown region of country.
You must remember I had to ride fast or no hundred dollars for me. I struck a lively clip downstream and after riding a few miles I was surprised to find myself on the bank of another creek which through the darkness loomed up and appeared larger than the main stream, but as it was on the trail I knew I must get over, so riding my horse to the it was on the trail I knew--I must get over, so riding my horse to the bank, I tried to make him take to the water which he absolutely refused to do. Neither my spur nor my rope coiled up and used as a whip could make him jump the bank upon which we stood and take to the water. I turned him and went back 15 or 20 yards and came up on a run, but he stopped dead short. I wheeled again and once more tried to get in the stream on a little faster run, but all in vain. I hardly knew what to do but to my left there seemed to be a small butte and I thought I might ride around it and find another ford. I rode a mile or so and found that I was entirely off my course and as the night was quite dark I thought it better to wait until I could see what I was doing. I unsaddled, tied my horse to my left wrist, and with the saddle for a pillow I went to sleep. How long I slept I do not know, but when I awoke the whole heavens seemed full of stars which were brilliantly shining and I could see well enough to ride. I saddled, retraced my steps and when I found the trail I put my animal to his full speed and when I reached the ford he could not stop himself, so over we both went and whether he jumped into a hole or went down on his knees I do not know but I was in water up to my middle. However, we soon got out and crossed safely and once more I began to make time. I had not ridden very far before I turned in my saddle to watch if anything was stirring in my rear and I was most disagreeably surprised a big, lean, shaggy wolf (the only one I ever saw in Oregon) following me, evidently looking for a breakfast. I pulled my revolver and thought I could easily kill him but every one of the chambers snapped. The ducking I received had wet all the caps, and none would fire. I again started forward but kept a good lookout for my unwelcome companion, who seemed to grow bolder and come nearer as fast as he could. I knew I dared not let him get to my horse's heels so I tried a bluff; I coiled my rope, turned my horse and yelling at the top of my voice and swinging the rope around my head, I started for him as fast as I could go. He wavered for a minute then turned tail and took the back track. As long as he kept to the trail I followed him, but shortly he took to the brush and I wheeled and went on my journey but kept a lookout for him. But he had enough.
Daylight had not yet appeared, and I was getting as many miles as possible between me and Jacksonville before daybreak. Pretty soon dawn appeared and I noticed a ranch to my right, to which I rode and found occupied by a couple of young men with whom I had a slight acquaintance. I think they were harvesting a crop of oats. I tried to hire a fresh horse but was unsuccessful as they had none to spare. I asked them to give my horse a bundle of oats and me some breakfast. While eating I learned all I could as to the rest of my journey and it was not encouraging, for some of the trail was very rough. They averred it took them a full half day to ride to my destination. I said I wanted to be there by nine o'clock. They told me I could not do it on account of the roughness of the trail, but I told them I must try. So after settling for my horse and myself I once more started on my journey. I soon found that my road was a rough one, up and down over the rocky sides of a mountain which seemed to preclude all fast riding. But I had a plan which I had used before for making time over just such roads. I fastened my rope around my horse's neck (first taking off my spurs and tying them to the saddle), passed it over the saddle and then back to his tail, coiled the rope so as to carry it in my right hand, wound my left hand in his tail and the coil of rope for a persuader. I whipped him to a gallop, and I always found it easy to keep up with any horse under the conditions named and I could easily make five miles up and downhill while I would only be making one if I led or rode him over the same ground. Only in going downhill I had to be more careful than in going up. After passing a couple of such obstacles to fast riding I found a long, smooth downward slope. My horse, which proved to be a remarkably good one, not very fast, but willing and long winded, seemed to take on new life and with long stride and a steady gallop put the miles behind me in quick time. I kept up the gait with occasional breathing spells for the horse until I was at my journey's end, which was a little past nine o'clock. I delivered the tickets to the person who was to receive them, saw my horse well taken care of and was soon addressed by Gen. Joe Lane, who had come over the day before.
He asked me if he had not seen me in Jacksonville just before he felt. I told him I was there at the time. He then asked me when I had left there. I told him "last night," and he was anxious to know how I had made so quick a trip and the object of it. I told him that I had brought a lot of ballots over. He asked if they were tickets with his name on them. I told him I did not know, which was the truth, as I had asked no questions when I started. But all doubts were soon dispelled when the barroom adjoining the voting place was soon flooded with Skinner tickets. The General had no further use for me that day.
I waited until after dinner, cleaned my pistol and put it in working order and lounged around, saw a couple of fights and prepared for my return trip next day. I got home all right, received my money and was well satisfied with my trip.
I think I broke all records for time between the two places which had been made up to that time.
Ashland Tidings, July 22, 1909, page 6
THE LEDFORD MASSACREWhen news reached Rogue River Valley that the Ledford brothers and their three companions were missing the excitement was intense, as the young men were popular and had hosts of friends.
A Story of Pioneer Days in Rogue
Searching parties were immediately formed and every effort made to locate them, but without effect. Afterwards they resolved to organize a volunteer company and make a more thorough search for the missing men, and, if possible, hunt down the band of Indians who were supposed to be responsible for their disappearance.
Col. Ross took an active part in the formation of the company, who had their rendezvous in the yard attached to the Badger Hotel, where they expected to elect officers that evening. Ross came to me and wished me to join, but I declined. Ross returned to the men and stayed until late at night. When he returned he told me that the men had, without opposition, elected me captain. I replied, "All right, now let them elect Henry Klippel for lieutenant and J. L. Loudon for the sergeant and we will get ready for a move."
It must have been twelve o'clock that night before we got through our discussion, too late for Ross to go home and return early in the morning. The room I occupied was about 8x10, and attached to the wall was a bunk just big enough for one small man. I invited Ross to stay with me that night and he readily accepted, so it happened that Ross, who was very large and fat, and I, who was very lean and thin, tried to sleep in a bunk barely large enough for one. I was crowded, smashed and smothered and was heartily glad when daylight came so I might get up and dress.
After a short time news came that the company was officered to my satisfaction, and for me to come and prepare for departure. At that time nearly everyone had his own firearms and ammunition and it was only necessary to collect provisions, get a few pack animals and make a start, which we did, that same day.
The company numbered forty men, and in addition, as guests I had Col. Kelley of the Oregon Militia, Mr. Abbott, the Indian Agent, and Lieut. "Bob" Davis of the regular army. The latter was a brother of Ben Davis, the merchant, and a nephew of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.
After the first day out, Col. Kelley proposed to me to muster the company into the Oregon Militia, and as one of his arguments he said the men would get pay for their services, but as the members of the company had not enlisted for pay and did not expect or desire any, I respectfully declined.
Loudon reported to me one day that he thought the colonel would assume command in case we got into an engagement with the Indians. I told him if anyone assumed command without my consent or the wishes of the company, there would be something doing and the results might be surprising.
During this time everything was as harmonious and pleasant as one could wish, and Col. Kelley's desire to command, as reported to me, was due to the fact that he thought I was too young to have the lives of the men subject to my inexperience.
After leaving the main valley and getting into the foothills, I told the men to make no noise, to ride as quietly as possible and under no circumstances to shoot a gun, unless at an Indian. While riding up Butte Creek, one of the scouts came riding back and reported that a searching party was on their way home and had no news to give, only that they had found the last camping place of the Ledfords and beyond that everything was in doubt. He also said they would rest where they were, wait until the company came up and if they liked the looks of the captain they would join us and pilot us to the last camp of the Ledfords. We were soon up with them and found thirteen young men, ranchers and hunters, all strangers to me. Among them was a colored man with his two sons, and he seemed to be in charge of the crowd. After talking for a few minutes, they concluded to join the company and they led us to our destination. The day after joining us their discipline was put to a severe test. We rode into a very narrow valley and it seemed full of deer, for they ran through our advance guard and seemed panic stricken, not knowing which way to run, but not a shot was fired, although the venison would have been very welcome.
That same afternoon they had a more severe test for, on the side of a hill, not more than a hundred yards away, were three full-grown bears in plain sigh, and the temptation to shoot was strong, but I passed the word along not to fire, and with much regret they refrained.
We continued our journey and next afternoon we came to the last camp of the Ledfords. We pitched our camp a short distance away on a piece of rising ground where we could overlook it, and as soon as we were settled a systematic search began for a clue to their remains.
The men scattered in all directions, examining every bush or pool of water, and returned without results. The next day the search began again, and at noon, when some of the men returned, the result was the same. After dinner most of us went to their camp and sat on the ground, which was covered thick with pine needles. One of the men while idly turning the leaves up made an exclamation, which attracted out attention, for there on the ground, covered with needles, were pools of blood which plainly told us what had become of our missing friends. The search began again, for we knew their bodies could not be far off, but again we were doomed disappointment and returned discouraged to camp.
Mr. Abbott, the Indian agent, seemed more uneasy and anxious than any of the rest, and was continually on the hunt for some clue to solve the tragedy. Next day the search began again, with no results until Mr. Abbott came to camp and told me he thought he had found the place where the bodies were cached, and, oddly enough, it was close to the scene of the crime. It seems that he was returning to camp discouraged, and walking along head down came to a big bunch of chaparral of an acre or two in extent, which had been examined around its edges, but which seemed so dense that no one had thoroughly examined it. Mr. Abbott, coming upon it on the side farthest from camp, started to come through as a shortcut, and nearly in the center he came upon freshly turned earth and evidence of a recent burial. He immediately reported to me and we all followed him to the place of burial, and uncovering the place we found their saddles, camp equipment, and underneath, the bodies of four members of the party; the other body we never found.
I immediately sent a messenger to Jacksonville with the news and with a request for coffins for burial. While awaiting the return of the messenger we continued searching for a trail or clue by which we might follow up and catch the perpetrators of the crime. During our search up a gulch that led off from the camp, which seemed impassable on account of the brush, down timber and other obstructions, and about two miles from the scene of the outrage, one of the men came upon the bodies of the horses belonging to the murdered men. The horses had all been fastened to trees, shot, and left lying where they fell. The next day a couple of wagons and coffins came from Jacksonville and removed the remains for Christian burial.
The command then took up the search for the Indians. On reaching camp at night I would ask for volunteers to go after night to the summit of the highest piece of ground in the vicinity and watch for any sign of campfires and in the early morning again look for signs of smoke or fires that might help us in our search.
I think it was in the morning of the third day that the lookouts came in and reported smoke off in the direction of Rogue River, which they thought not very far off. I asked for volunteers to go with me on foot, and if successful in finding the Indians, to give them battle. Every man in the company insisted on going, but I told them it would be necessary for some to stay and take care of the animals and provisions and to help the wounded, if there should be any, and the only way I could settle the matter was to have Loudon call the roll and to make every third man a guard to remain in camp. As soon as possible we were under way in light marching order, carrying nothing but our arms and a small amount of "grub." We were in high hopes to catch the perpetrators of the crime, and made rapid progress in our march. I was handicapped with a stiff knee and could make but slow progress, as I would slip in trying to bring my lame leg up for a step forward. Some of the men, seeing my efforts to keep in the lead, came to me and insisted on carrying my gun for me. Others wanted to carry me, but I gave up my gun and made better time.
We came to Rogue River on one of its most inhospitable spots, everything barren and rocky and no signs of Indians. We prospected around and knew that our journey was a failure. After satisfying ourselves of our mistake we headed back for camp, badly disappointed and very tired. After traveling about half way to camp we were very much surprised to meet the reserves coming to find us, having all the animals and provisions with them. I did not like their failure to obey orders, but we all felt glad to ride instead of walking.
We returned to camp, took council with one another and finding our provisions nearly exhausted, and some of the animals needing shoeing, we reluctantly headed for Jacksonville. Arriving there I made a report to Col. Ross, asked for supplies and that the animals that needed it be shod. I don't know what influences were brought to bear, but it was decided not to send the company out again, and the only reason given me was that the merchants were afraid I would attack any body of Indians I saw and possibly bring on another Indian war.
J. W. HILLMAN.(I am in hopes some of the old company may read this, set me right if I have made mistakes, and I would like to correspond with them.--J.W.H.)
Hope Villa, La.
Ashland Tidings, October 7, 1909, page 6
HILLMAN FIRST SAW OUR CRATER LAKE
Hope Villa Man Writes of the Trip to the Body of Water in 1853.
Tells of the Discovery of Wizard Island.
Captain O. C. Applegate has received a letter from J. W. Hillman of Hope Villa, La., the discoverer of Crater Lake, in which the writer recalls his trip to the lake fifty-nine years ago, and the impressions it gave him at that time. Hillman was one of a prospecting party hunting for valuable minerals in 1852, and happened to be foremost of the party when the lake was found. In those days he was in business in Jacksonville, Ore., which was the principal trading point of the region, there being no white people in the vicinity [of Klamath Falls]. Mr. Hillman was at that time in business at Jacksonville with Alexander Martin, Sr., now president of the First National Bank of Klamath Falls, to whom he refers in his letter as "Jerry."
Among other things he says in his letter:
"I was very much pleased with yours of July 13th, as Jerry had mentioned you in one of his letters to me, and the postal cards were reminders of a day long past, only there was no hotel at that point when I first saw it. Wizard Island looks very natural to me, as everything connected with the discovery does.
"There is one thing connected with the discovery I have never mentioned in writing about it, although I have often spoken of it in telling of the peculiarity of the lake, and others may have imagined the same thing that all of our party did. We rode past Wizard Island, leaving it on our right, looking for an outlet to the lake. I was in the lead, and although the snow was down to the water in many places on the banks, yet opposite the island the land was bare, and just after passing the island I thought my mule flinched as though his feet hurt. I placed my hand down below my knee and called to the boys, telling them we were near fire, as perceptible heat was arising from the surface. It might have been imagination on my part, but if so, the entire party had the same imagination, for they all agreed with me.
"I never mentioned the fact in writing about the lake, for fear of being called a visionary, and it looked so unreasonable that I hated to write about it, for I knew it must have been thousands of years since the lake was formed, and the cooling process should have been complete by that time.
"I also think I was the first man who ever dipped water from the head of the canyon on Rogue River. It was on our return trip. This, I think, is the first time I have ever written about it, but I have often told about it, as it had some funny features connected with it, in which J. Loudon, or Rube, as he was generally known, was concerned. If you never knew Rube I think Jerry could tell you some of his peculiarities, although it was while out in the mountains that he showed to the best advantage." [Click here for a story about James Louden/Loudon, aka Reuben Q. Rinos aka Reub Rinus]
Evening Herald, Klamath Falls, September 10, 1912, page 2
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
As Told by Bentley Mackay.
He comes to us like a voice from the past--the past with its vanished glories; of the unknown West with the bands of roving Indians and desperadoes; of the time when the plains were dotted with millions of buffalo and the mountains crowded thick with all other kinds of game.
All of these things have vanished. Where once the redskin and the buffalo roamed at will are peaceful farms and villages. The thunder of the trains as they dash towards the West give but faint repetition of the thundering tread of the monarchs of the plain. A new West is in the ascendancy now, and the old has been relegated to the dim and misty past.
But there is still one link which binds it to us, and the link of which I speak is J. W. Hillman, soldier, scholar and explorer, who has the honor of being the discoverer of Crater Lake, the deepest and most beautiful lake in America, the lake about which Roosevelt says, "It is superb; no tongue can describe or painter portray the beauty of this lake. It is, and will remain until the end of time, the one and only Crater Lake."
And to think that we of Louisiana can claim him as our own adopted son! To see his tall military figure, his snowy white hair and beard, his patrician nose and keen, piercing dark eyes, one would not think that 82 eventful years have passed over his head.
His reminiscences read like a romance, but each statement is backed by documents which prove what he says is true:
I was born March 20, 1832, in the city of Albany, N.Y. I lived there for sixteen uneventful years. In 1848 my father decided to move his family to New Orleans. We children greeted this plan with enthusiasm and could hardly wait until we were aboard the good ship which was to carry us on our wonderful journey.
But the time came, as it comes to all landlubbers who venture upon the sea, when our one thought and prayer was to place our feet upon solid earth, for we were as seasick as people can possibly get and not die. At last we got so we could look at food without wanting to throw it overboard, and as soon as my appetite returned I ventured upon the deck once more.
It was here that I made the acquaintance of a Mr. Goodrich, of the firm of Hyde & Goodrich, cotton factors, New Orleans. I asked him many questions about his city, and he good-naturedly told me many interesting stories of the place and its people. Just before we landed in New Orleans he asked me if I "wanted a position?" I of course told him "Yes," for I had been studying Latin, Greek and ancient history so long that I was tired of them. I knew more of the Pharaohs of Egypt and of Virgil than I did of my own country. He told me to call around to his office when I was ready to begin work and he would see what he could do for me. I thanked him for the interest he had shown in me and promised to call upon him as soon as possible.
When I first viewed the city of New Orleans I was charmed with it, and as equally well were my father and mother.
Thus it was many days before I thought of my friend who had promised me the job. Father had begun work at once in the position given him before he left Albany.
Finally I threw off the languorous feeling which the sleepy city had imbued me with and decided to call upon Mr. Goodrich, though I thought he had forgotten me long ere this.
I finally located his place of business, which was thriving jewelry store. He had not forgotten me, and after greeting me kindly he wrote an address upon a piece of paper and told me to take it around to the firm of Buck & Peck, cotton factors, on Gravier Street [sic--see correction at beginning of next article].
I was given a job at once. It consisted of taking orders for cotton to all parts of the city. After doing this for some months, I was given a desk and with it a job which consisted of answering many of the letters of the firm's customers and changing foreign money into American.
Soon rumors reached me of the wonderful discoveries of gold in faraway California. In a few weeks more the gold fever woke the sleepy city and everyone who could possibly leave left for that faraway country which was beckoning with golden fingers to the world.
At the time there was a regiment of mounted rifles stationed at St. Joe, Mo., and the team master's department was being recruited in New Orleans. Many people were joining in hopes of securing a safe journey. My father joined, and I pleaded tearfully with him to allow me [to] accompany him. He was loath to do so, and pointed out to me that as I was the eldest child I should remain and care for the family. I then pointed out to him that I had a brother only one year my junior and that he could stay and care for Mother and the children until we got back. He finally relented, and the happiest moment of my life was when I was assigned a position as an extra driver.
At last all men were ready to embark, and so Father, with a last word to his brother-in-law--who was port collector under Gov. Isaac Johnson, and through whose influence we had secured so enviable [a] position--as to the arrangement of his business affairs and the care of Mother and the children, should anything happen to us, we embarked.
I shall never forget that day, as I stood on the deck and gazed back on the city we were rapidly leaving, varied emotions stirring my breast. The words of my mother recurred to me. I remembered vividly how she had kissed me and said, "May God, in all His mercy, watch over and protect my boy from all dangers!"
The tears rushed to my eyes, and afraid of being seen weeping like some child, I went below to my bunk.
We reached St. Louis without an accident and were transferred from there to Fort Leavenworth, where the regiment awaited us.
It was some time before the officers could agree as to how we were to travel. Finally they decided that due to better camping facilities it would be best to break the company up in small divisions. There were 300 six-mule wagons, with two drivers for each team. I was sent along in one of the wagons as extra driver, should anything happen to the regular driver. As we traveled in divisions of 100 wagons each, from five to ten miles apart, I saw very little of my father, who was at the head of another division.
We followed what was called "the old emigrant trail," crossing the Rocky Mountains at South Pass. We were now in a section of country which was unsurpassed in its rugged grandeur, with miles and miles of uncharted prairies, dotted with millions of buffalo as far as the eye could see. And above us beamed the blazing sun, shining until it seemed it would never set. When it did sink there were no hills to hide it from our view, but it seemed to disappear into the very earth. As soon as it sank from sight the west took on the color of orange, then it changed to a bluish purple, and in a few minutes it was dark. In all directions the prairies were dotted with our campfires, while we hurriedly prepared our suppers.
The two things which impressed me most upon the entire trip was the deadly effects of the cholera which raged in other trains ahead of us, and of the mad rush of the buffalo when they began a stampede.
No cholera had broken out in our ranks yet, but we were expecting it at all times. The trail was littered with the bones of animals, while the graves which marked it made it seem one continuous graveyard.
We also witnessed a buffalo stampede. Some distance away one of the leaders of the herd became frightened and began to run; the ones nearest him followed, and then it seemed as though the entire universe was covered with the brownish forms of buffalo rushing madly along, gathering momentum at each step. On they continued, rushing over anything that got in their way, through a wagon train, across a river, over a bluff, while in their wake hundreds of weaker members of the herd strewed that way, some crushed and mangled, others bleeding and dying, but all inevitably falling prey to the slinking coyotes and vultures which followed them.
The country became mountainous now, and the scenery more grand. Sometimes we would come upon springs boiling from the ground hot enough to cook food; other times springs would be passed which were cold as ice and most inviting to the eye, but one glance at the skeletons which surrounded it told us that the water was poison and death lurked in its depths. I have seen yokes of oxen lying dead with their gear still upon them, so instantaneous had been their death.
I learned that these springs contained arsenic and other poisons gathered from unknown sources. It was a great temptation for a man nearly dying for water to come upon these places and not be able to drink. I have gone for days at a stretch and not taken food or drink and suffered no ill effects.
As we crossed the Rockies and saw the water flowing towards the Pacific we gave a shout, for we thought our troubles had ended, but such was not the case. As we came upon the trails which branched off towards Salt Lake and California, desertions became common and we were forced to guard the wagons to prevent the deserters from rifling them.
One thing I have forgotten to mention, and this was our adventure with the Indians. We saw very little of them, as our party was an extra large one and there was no danger of an attack from them. The only man we lost from this cause was one of our scouts, Jack Wilcox by name. A young Indian brave had been following in our wake for some time, but as he seemed very friendly no one paid any attention to him. One day Wilcox was showing him how to use a six-shooter. Leaving the gun in the Indian's hands, he happened to turn his back. The brave placed the gun at the back of his head and fired. Wilcox fell dead without a wound, and the Indian, still holding his weapon, disappeared. A party was sent after him at once, and some time later they returned. Nothing was said, but we knew that justice had been done, and the Indian had paid for his rash act with his life. Sometime later it developed that the reason for the deed was that Wilcox had mistreated some of his family, and the Indian had sworn revenge.
Every night as the campfires were burning bright and supper had been eaten we would all circle around a cheery fire and listen to some tale of adventure told by some grizzled veteran of the plains.
Finally one of the drivers became unruly and had to be placed in irons. I was appointed to take his place. And the job of driving six hard-mouthed Mexican mules gave me enough to think of for some time.
One night I was driving my team in the lead. It had been a hard day and I was fatigued, and despite my efforts my eyes closed and I slept. How long I slept I do not know, when I began to dream that a rattlesnake had bitten me. I woke with a start and gazed down the sheer walls of a precipice. A few steps more and I would have been dashed into eternity.
Our teams became very weak, and we abandoned all of the empty wagons, making much better time. Long marches and short rations had made the men mutinous, and ill feeling between the officers and soldiers became very noticeable. No doubt it would have reached open rebellion had not an incident happened which changed the thoughts of the men for a while. It was the appearance of cholera in our company.
One day Bainbridge, one of our wagon masters, came riding into camp cursing like one possessed of the evil one. He drew his pistol and placed it to his head, but before he could fire a cramp seized him and he fell from his mule while the pistol was discharged harmlessly in the air. We did all we could for the unfortunate man but all to no purpose, for within a few hours he was dead.
It seems odd to me now that one of the army surgeons was not called, but to my knowledge he was never called to attend any of the teamsters or civilians. Though out of such a motley crew there must have been a doctor; we had men from all walks of life--lawyers, professors, mechanics and soldiers of fortune--all following the beckoning goddess of fortune. One of our poets put it this way. I can only remember part of it, which ran like this:
We've lawyers, we've doctors,Passing through the Grand Ronde Valley, we had to fight a small forest fire, but no damage was done to teams or wagons. As we crossed the Cascades we came to where there had been a fierce forest fire and the trees were still smoldering. The ground was very hot in some places, for the fire had followed the roots of the trees far down into the ground. It took skillful driving to get the teams by.
We have educated fools--
They've quit their mean professions
And gone to driving mules.
We came to the banks of the mighty Columbia River, and its rushing, roaring torrents were a revelation to us all. The caravan followed along not far distant from it for many miles until we were close to Oregon City, then we headed straight for it. We reached there Sept. 18, 1849, after having been five months and three days on the journey.
Oregon City was then a small place filled with miners' shacks and rough dance halls and saloons [see correction at beginning of next article].
An episode happened to me which, though it has very little to do with the story, comes vividly to my memory.
I halted my team in the street to allow them a brief rest. I was sitting on the wagon gazing about me when I saw a pretty miss, surely not out of her 'teens, come out of a house almost directly in front of me. She halted and gazed timidly at me. She did not think I had noticed her, for I did not [return her] gaze for fear of her leaving. She looked just like the girls I had known at home, quietly dressed, neat and pretty. I longed to speak to her, for she was the first woman I had seen for months (or so it seemed to me), but I refrained for fear she would misunderstand and become angry. I whipped up my team in line with the others, but as I gazed wistfully back at her I felt very tired and homesick. Tears started to my eyes for the second time upon the journey, and I turned away lest my rough companions not understand my childish weakness and chide me.
----The rest of J. W. Hillman's reminiscences will be sent you later. They will consist of his adventures in Oregon and his subsequent discovery of Crater Lake.
Bentley B. Mackay.State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, May 22, 1914, page 3
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
By Bentley B. Mackay.
(Before this article begins, I wish to correct two errors which I unconsciously made in the previous article. They are: Buck and Peck were jewelers and not cotton factors, and Oregon City was a small place and instead of having the appearance of a western town resembled a quiet New England village.--B.B.M.)
On our arrival in Oregon City the turning over to the quartermaster of our wagons and teams ended our connections with the United States government, and an entirely new and different life opened before us.
At this time there was lying at the mouth of the Willamette River the three-masted, full-rigged whaler the Aurora, commanded by Captain Kilbourn, first mate Mr. Powell. The whaler was waiting to take a load of lumber to San Francisco, lumber at that time being worth three hundred dollars per thousand feet. All of the citizens who could secured passage on her to California, the goal of our dreams. The price of a ticket was seventy-five dollars, and under favorable conditions the trip should have been made in two weeks, but first she had to get her cargo aboard, which took much time.
My father secured a passage for himself, and I had free passage given me by acting as assistant steward. Our regular steward was a Malay, and after assuming my duties aboard I was initiated into the mysteries of baking bread, which had to be baked every day for the whole lot who were aboard.
On our way down the Willamette there were two unfinished rafts of lumber; these were to be finished and floated to where the Aurora was anchored in the Columbia. The larger of the rafts was taken command of by the second mate, and as I was a member of the crew [I] was given command of the next raft, with orders to finish loading and follow by the next tide.
The second mate had a six-hour start on me and expected to beat me very easily, but I was anxious to catch him, and as soon as our raft was completed I made a large steering oar and two sweeps. In addition I fastened two uprights to the raft to which we could fasten our blankets, causing them to act as sails for our unwieldy craft. There was a good breeze, and our hopes ran high. Our raft was imperfectly built, and in the front part there was an unfilled place about six feet square. I took the front of the raft to watch the course and look out for any snags or obstructions in the river, for owing to our blankets being used as sails we could not see from the rear which course we were steering[, which kept us] pretty busy forward, crossing from one side to another and giving orders how to steer.
The defect in our raft proved to be a dangerous trap and came near cutting my usefulness short, for as it plowed along it collected a great deal of drift and trash floating in the river, and in the darkness the unfilled place seemed as solid as the rest, and in my eagerness I walked off the raft in the water. I was of course very much surprised, but quickly climbed back upon my perch and said nothing about it to the others. In perhaps an hour I again forgot myself and walked off again. This was too much. I climbed aboard and told the crew to take in sail, by folding the blankets, and proceed to the aid of the sweeps, as I told them there was too much excitement for me to act as pilot in the night run.
When morning came we awoke to the fact that we were a healthy and very hungry lot and had no provisions with us. Just as the morning sun peeped over [the] tops of the magnificent trees we spied a small house in a clearing. We tied up, and I went ashore on a begging expedition. I told the settler who and what we were and explained our needs. He and his good wife kindly gave us all of the potatoes, biscuits and coffee we needed. I have eaten better, a great deal more dainty, meals, but to me that fragrant coffee, those beaten biscuits and delicious potatoes seemed to me the best I have ever eaten. After dining we began our journey again.
I remember but one settlement between Oregon City and Baker's Bay at the mouth of the Columbia, and that was Astoria, situated on the side of a mountain looking as though it were going to slip downhill at any moment and find a watery grave for itself. True, I stopped at a place called Portland, went ashore and looked for the town but could not see it at first for the tangle of down timber which was in the way. I climbed on one of the monstrous trees which were lying piled on top of each other, and in the distance I counted what seemed to be three log cabins. One I think was a blacksmith shop, but as far as I could see there was neither trail nor road leading to or from the place. This was in September, 1849. Portland is now one of the most thriving cities in the state of Oregon, whose population runs high in the thousands.
We forced our raft along as fast as possible, and just before sundown saw the first raft making fast to the Aurora preparatory to storing its load in the hold of the ship.
After making fast our raft to the ship we all went aboard ready to load our cargo. And now my duties as assistant began, and I had plenty of time to learn my trade, for after dropping [down] river to Baker's Bay we tied up for three months in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the bar. By the way, an article appeared in the Sunday Evening Post a few weeks ago, and [the] writer, I think it was John Fleming Wilson, stated that the bar is one of the most dangerous ones on the Pacific coast.
The time spent in Baker's Bay had plenty of excitement and interesting experiences. Captain Kilbourn was a skillful and careful navigator and always took advantage of every opportunity he thought favorable for the passage of the bar. Many times when trying to dash across the treacherous place we were nearly dashed on the Peacock Shoals, which received its name from one of Uncle Sam's warships which had been wrecked there sometime previously [on July 18, 1841] to our passage. Her spars were plainly visible above the waters of the bay, and we gave them as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes during the day the captain would man one of the whaleboats and visit some places on the shore or determine points on the bar. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the crew and always went with him. What I learned of managing a whaleboat, which was of great service to me afterward, [I] attribute to his interest in me. All the time we were constantly on the watch for a chance to run out to sea. Sometimes we caught a glimpse of another ship waiting to get in as anxious as we were to get out. Then we missed her for quite a while and the captain told us that she had gone back to San Francisco for provisions.
The shipboard at night changed from the daily routine of labor to one of laziness and enjoyment. The particular kind of enjoyment being usually indulged in was poker. At the long table--dining table--in the cabin the captain and three others would play poker every night. Always it was the same quartet. They were two brothers by the name of Cody. One of them I remember was named Mike Cody. When the game began I usually sat [at] the right side of the Captain, but I did not know one card from the other or the value of the hands, so the brothers did not mind it. Betting was real lively; large amounts were bet, but no money was put up if the betting was of a very large amount. One night this led to a dispute as to who had the most money on their person. Cody offered to bet the Captain that he (Cody) had the largest amount, but the Captain ingeniously led the talk to other topics, and the game went on as usual. When no one was looking, the Captain whistled to me to go to his stateroom and bring a large amount of cash. I had never been in his stateroom before, and I did not know where to look. His wife, who was a passenger aboard, was out of the room. I opened a closet on the side of his room and found many gold doubloons--Spanish money to a value of sixteen dollars--they were stacked in tall piles. I also found fancy boxes of Chinese make filled with the same. It was more money than I had seen before. I took a good handful, closed the doors and returned and took my seat quietly beside the Captain and filled his coat pocket with the money I had brought. Then when the talk came around as to who had the most money on their person the Captain was willing to bet. Cody was suspicious and said, "That kid has been away from the table, and I think I saw him pass something to you--No, I don't believe I'll bet tonight." And he didn't. It was rumored at one time that the Codys had won the entire cargo, but later the Captain won it back. The game they played was the old-fashioned five-card poker. You played the hand dealt you, then shuffled for another deal.
After our dash across the bar and we were at last in open sea, everything aboard ship changed. The Captain became the keen, alert commander, who inspires confidence in passengers and obedience in the crew.
Besides the large crew of discharged civilians, and the Captain's wife, there were but three passengers aboard, two cousins, one named Libby, the other I have forgotten. I believe they were only traveling to see San Francisco.
Our ship must have been a beautiful sight to those whom we met or passed; every spar was crowded with clean canvas. The wind was fair, and we made a welcome trip to port.
We got in San Francisco a few days before the first big fire that swept the canvas city off the map. Where hundreds of white canvas stores and tents once stood there remained after the fire nothing but smoldering ruins.
I did not go off the boat when we first landed, but waited until all the passengers left, some to get work there or strike out at once for the mines.
My father and four other New Orleans men managed to secure a whole upper story of a small house which was outside the business district and the burned area. We paid one hundred dollars per month for it, and there was just room for us to spread our blankets and sleep on the floor. We stayed in Frisco for some time before we decided where to go to the mines and preparing for the trip. I got jobs in the lumber yards for five dollars per day. Short jobs were one dollar per hour. I usually took the short jobs, as I made more.
In the early '50s California received the finest artists, musicians, merchants and merchandise that the world could supply. There were also, of course, that riffraff of the world, thieves, thugs and even convicts from Australia.
Gambling houses were in full blast, each one supporting a fine orchestra of musicians. There was only one exception where a solitary violinist held sway--John Kelly, an Irishman, played alone, receiving one hundred dollars per night for his services, and wherever he played the house was always full. In later years I had the good luck of making the acquaintance of this genius. In his travels he stopped over at Jacksonville, Oregon, where I made my headquarters. One day he and I were drawn on the same jury to try some petty case in a justice of the peace's office. When the case was given to the jury I said, "Kelly, we'll make you foreman, now let us decide the case and get away." In two minutes the verdict was ready. "Kelly," I said, "get to work and write up your report." It was then I learned that the poor devil could not write a word. I took paper and pencil and in perhaps half an hour I made him sign "John Kelly" so that it passed muster when signed on the returns. But to get back to San Francisco--
The region of the lawless element was amazing and culminated in the forming of the Vigilance Committee.
The streets of the city became so impassable that merchandise could not be hauled from one square to another without being mired. Merchandise which needed hauling and storing before it was sold was abandoned--it could not stand hauling and storing charges. I have walked for several squares on full boxes of tobacco laid down for that purpose. Montgomery Street for squares was impassable for man or beast. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good." For instance: A gambler offered me five dollars to carry a bag of coin across the street while he picked his way carefully across. On another occasion a man offered me one hundred dollars for my boots--a pair my father bought me in St. Louis and I had not worn much. I refused the offer.
B.B.M.State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, June 19, 1914, page 10
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,After our party had decided where to go we began getting ready. First they bought a whaleboat, for we were as anxious to get away as we were to get to the Golden Gate. The men of the party attended to the details while I picked up occasional jobs and saw life from a new angle.
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
As Told by Bentley Mackay.
The boat purchased was in fine condition in all respects, but [with] the necessary supplies she was overloaded, and when the full crew boarded her she sank very low in the water. Five men and a boy in an overloaded boat was not in the least conducive to safety, for as far as I ever knew I was the only one in the crew who had ever handled an oar in his life.
We made a late getaway, for the tide was against us, and we were headed for the San Joaquin River. I had no idea where it was or how to get there, but it would have been all the same to me if they had headed for the Amazon. I would have taken it as all in the day's work. Five clumsy men in an overloaded boat and a boy as a steersman would not appeal to my ideas of comfort or safety at the present time, but then I was filled with youth and hope and was sure I could get out of any tight place in which I might be caught.
It was hard work to navigate the boat; the tide wanted to carry us through the Golden Gate, and we were not ready to go. It was getting dark and we were anxious to camp for the night if we could possibly make a landing. It was dark before we reached the nearest land, and the rush of the waters through and around the rocks made landing seem impossible. I gave up the steering oar to one of the men with instructions how to use it, together with the different commands. I then went forward and lay down upon the bow and watched for rocks and other obstructions until we found a place we thought we could make a safe landing. The boat was hauled as far inland as possible, and we at once prepared for a night's camp. I was saved the trouble of cooking supper, for there was enough cold food to last for the night.
I was pretty well worn out from handling a 16-foot steering oar either on my knees or in [a] sitting posture, for there was no room to stand, which is the proper way. My father spread a large rubber blanket which we had and bade me lie down and get some much-needed rest while he and the others took turns watching the boat and cargo. They must have had a hard time of it, for the boat and cargo were in a different position from what they were when I lay down. What my father thought was a dry spot to sleep on turned out to be what is called a sponge in the ground, and when I awoke I was lying in about two inches of water.
Quick preparation was made for a getaway; while one got breakfast the others loaded the boat. Soon we were on our way with high hopes to a quick fortune.
Our worst troubles came when we came to that crooked, treacherous stream called the San Joaquin River. It was early in January 1850, and the river was filled with a rushing torrent caused by the early thaws of the mountain snows. And before we had learned how to manage our craft the current, sweeping around a bend, struck us and turned us completely around. We soon learned how to take advantage of these bends, for we always steered for the inside course, thus escaping the full sweep of the current. In this way we made good time.
We stopped for a couple of days at a place called New York; a short distance from there was a store, and all of our party except myself went for supplies. I remember it was a Sunday morning and the camp was nearly deserted. A man appeared on the opposite bank and wanted the ferryman. I told him there was no ferryman so far as I knew. He saw my boat and asked who it belonged to. I replied that "I was the owner, but it was a hard talk to manage a boat of its size in so swift a stream, but that I might manage to pull over and get him if he was anxious." He was anxious all right, and when I brought him safely across he asked me what the charges were. I told him "two dollars," which he paid without a kick.
We continued our journey in the boat when one day one of our party accidentally shot himself through the foot by a bullet from what we called a "pepperbox," the first example of the revolver. The wound did not appear serious, but in a few days we had to leave him with one of the party as a nurse, expecting them to overtake us in a few days. Lockjaw set in, and the only one who rejoined us was the nurse.
We then sold the boat and purchased a mule and continued our journey to the famous Fremont Claims or the Mariposa Mines, as the name was, I think.
Flour was selling for one dollar per pound, and everything [else] was in proportion.
We staked off our claim, dug a big ditch to turn the stream into, and after hard work and running in debt for supplies we found out that the claim was not a very desirable one. I then took to the hills on a prospecting tour, found some gulches that looked promising. We broke up our party and hustled to get out of debt, which we were lucky enough to do in a very short time.
In those days I was never satisfied to work in a regular mining camp, but wanted to prospect and find my own mining ground. I never did find any rich "placer mines," but we would make from one-half ounce to one ounce per day, which was just enough to keep us encouraged and in hopes of finding more. We occasionally heard of prospectors striking a rich pocket and cleaning up five, six [hundred] or perhaps one thousand dollars per day. We never had such good luck but cleaned up only a small amount each day but which counted up in the final showdown.
We stayed in the Mariposa County until the summer of '51, when my father decided he wanted to get back to the States, and he and I started to San Francisco, where he made arrangements for his passage to New York. I told him I would stay awhile longer in California and see what luck might do for me. He was much surprised at my decision, but instead [decided] on depositing two hundred and fifty dollars with Wells, Fargo & Co. to my account. To the best of my knowledge they still have the money, for I never remember of having any need of it.
I never saw my father again until 1861, ten years after he had bade me goodbye in San Francisco.
San Francisco always held a charm for me, at least for a short time, so I at once began looking for work, and as always happened I found it without trouble, for if I did not look for work, work looked for me, and I always could have a job.
I fell in with a man who was owner of several fine teams. He was preparing to start a stage route from Stockton and was trying out his teams and let some of them out on shares. I got a team from him, giving him half of what I made, and as business was pretty good we were both satisfied.
There were two places at which I boarded while teaming; one was a restaurant on Montgomery Street called the Blue Wing, where the prices of board was $21 per week. You had the privilege of eating three meals a day, but no place to sit or rest--just eat and get out. On their bill of fare they had every kind of meat that could be found west of the Rockies, from mountain sheep or grizzly bear to antelope, or from swan to duck. You called for what you wished and got something nicely cooked. If you were in doubt as to it being [the] original order they did not try to argue with you but just let you do the proving--which saved them lots of trouble.
I would board at the Blue Wing a couple of weeks and then go to a boarding house near to where I had my horses stabled. It was a different style of a house, there being much more room. A long room opened off the street, with tables running its full length with benches on either side. The food was brought out in large dishes and served as desired by the diner. The reason I liked this place was because they cooked the very nicest Boston brown bread I ever tasted. It was served in liberal quantities.
After supper we could sit at the long table and read. One night while reading, a man opened the front door and asked if there was anyone who wanted a job in a hurry.
I told him I did. He wanted to know how long it would take me to get ready. "Ten minutes after I reach the stables," I replied. "Hurry up and come along," was the reply.
In a few minutes I was ready. "Where to?" I asked. "Rincon Point" was the reply. Now Rincon Point was [a] locked-in wharf under the supervision of the customs house. While driving there the man asked me if I would cross from an open wharf to the one he wished me to go to. A foot wharf connected the two. I knew this was about eight feet wide, but not intended for teams to drive over. I also knew just how perfectly I had my teams in control and how close to danger I could go and yet be safe. I said, "I think I can make it." He said, "Do it."
I crossed over safely and got inside the locked wharf, where a steamer was unloading cargo. The wharf was full of teams and workmen. My employer got down, disappeared for a few minutes, returned with a man, carrying a small box about three feet square and about eight inches deep. This they placed in the front of the wagon, and we put our feet on it and drove to the locked gate. A man glanced in and saw nothing and allowed us to pass. I was told to drive to [the] Wells, Fargo Express office and leave the box and call at his office the next day for my pay.
When I called, the office was full of people. I told the clerk what I came for and he asked "How much?" I replied, "Twenty dollars." He kicked and said ten was enough. I said, "You all seemed pretty anxious to get that box and yet you could find no one who would take a chance on driving a team." I was talking rather energetically, and he must have been afraid of our talk being heard, for he opened the cash drawer and, slapping a twenty on the counter, told me to "git"--which I did without delay. I never found out what the mysterious box contained, but I am sure that we, I unwittingly, secured a box without government inspection or duty.
It seemed the easiest thing in the world for me to secure a job when I asked for it, and I never acknowledged being unable to do anything asked of me. I would have agreed to run a steamship or a revival meeting just so the terms were satisfactory.
One day the proprietor of one of the large gambling houses asked me what I would charge to plow ten acres of ground for him. This was a poser, for I had never had my hands on a plow and would not have known which end to hitch my team to. I put him off time and again and told him I would have to see the land before setting my price and made arrangements to go out and look it over. I immediately got busy among the teamsters whom I knew had plowed before, and asked them what I ought to charge and what a man could plow in a day. None seemed to know exactly, and I asked if one acre a day was a conservative estimate. They replied that "it could be done."
After I had gone to look over the land, which I knew now to have been less than ten acres, I agreed to plow it for twenty-five dollars per acre. The owner thought the price was pretty steep, but when I told him that possibly I would have to use four horses he agreed to the price.
As near as I can remember there was a thin layer of sod over a rock foundation, so I could not plow deeper than four or five inches. I had all kinds of trouble learning to handle a plow; sometimes it would jump out of the ground and run 12 or 14 feet before I could get it to catch hold again, but I never did go back to remedy the places but let them stay as they were. Had no worse trouble until the last day and a half, when it seemed the work was too hard for my team, so I got another pair of horses and a helper and plowed with four teams [sic]. The trouble was, I found out after, was that I hard worn out my plow point against the rock and did not know enough to have it sharpened. After finishing the job I reported to the owner and told him to inspect the work. He did so and reported it satisfactory--and then I knew he did not know any more about plowing than I.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, September 18, 1914, page 8
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
Another instance of how jobs turned up for me was one Friday morning when after a couple of days of dull times I left my regular standard drive down to Long Wharf just to see if anything was doing. The day previous the owner of the team had given me a fine young mule to drive, telling me the animal was not well broken and to be careful with it, as it was very fiery and he thought had never been hit with a whip. I took my stand a few doors away from the corner near the wharf and was very much surprised to see a large number of fish stands, tables and buckets of fish blocking the way. One enterprising man with a large table had taken a position on the crossing, and there was no getting to the sidewalk without going some distance around. While sitting on my wagon watching the unusual sight, the proprietor of the corner saloon, whose entrance had been blocked by the fish dealers, came to me and asked what I would take to upset the stand that was on the crossing. I told him I was not anxious to do so, as the big husky [man] in charge was apt to give me a beating if he caught me. But he seemed very anxious to get him out of the way. He had argued with him but got no satisfaction as to the right of way.
I finally told him I would run the risk of a beating for ten dollars. He seemed to think the price rather high, but I pointed out that the fellow was able to berate me if he got the chance. He then slipped a ten-dollar gold piece in my hand and went back to his saloon. I gathered the lines up in my hands and gave the black, wild mule a severe cut with my whip, dropped the whip and yelled that "My mules were running away, for everyone to look out." I guided the team so that the hub of my hind wheel caught the leg of the table, and you may imagine the rest--some two hundred pounds of fish slipped and slided over the wharf in all directions. In the meantime the owner was busy chasing me and my team, yelling to me to "come back." I told him I would be back pretty soon and for him not to worry. This seemed to make him still more angry, for he yelled all kinds of names at me and continued to chase me. This was useless, for I soon left him far behind and soon his cries died away in the distance. But the last words I could distinguish were "Come back." It is needless to say I did not go back that day nor any other while in San Francisco.
I witnessed another one of the disastrous fires that so frequently swept the tent districts of San Francisco. The hundreds and hundreds of canvas houses burned like paper, and thousands of dollars worth of possessions were destroyed in a few moments. When the fire was raging at its highest a man jumped on my wagon and offered me one hundred dollars to make a load for him. While trying to get near his store I became blocked by wagons and teams of all descriptions, while fire was raging on all sides. I sprang from my wagon to loose my teams and try to save them from the awful heat. Just then I saw an opening ahead of me, and I rushed my wagon into it as fast as the mules could pull it. I forged slowly ahead, my mules becoming more and more frightened; finally I came to an opening and dashed out of the immediate fire zone. I did not make any money on that occasion and considered myself lucky to escape with my team.
Once again the desire for change and the wanderlust got hold of me, and off I struck for the mines. I was not particular where, just so long as I was going. This must have been a continuation of my boyhood ambition, which was to cross the Rocky Mountains and to go where no white man had gone before me, both of which were gratified before I became a man.
I went to Sacramento and then decided to go to Drayton, a mining camp, and in a few days I had located on a claim and found an empty cabin of which I occupied. It was a fairly good claim, and I worked it until another wandering fit struck me, and I went back to Sacramento. While working in Drayton we heard rumors of trouble between the Frenchmen and the Americans at Mokelumne Hill, a mine some distance away. The trouble finally culminated in the killing of some of the Frenchmen.
They organized and being the stronger party drove some of the Americans away from the claims, among whom was a man called "Mountain Jack," who had killed one or two of the opposite party, and their concentrated hate was directed toward him. He was driven from camp and the Frenchmen tried to catch him, but he was well mounted. When the news reached our camp that he had escaped it was not before he had been chased a hundred miles. I thought that this wild ride was a wonderful test of endurance, but thought no more of it until I had to duplicate it, many years after, when I took [it] as all in the day's work. I was not being chased, however, but [it] was something concerning politics. But as Kipling says, "That's another story."
On reaching Sacramento I looked for a job, not wishing to prospect just then. I remember walking in a busy-looking mercantile establishment and asking for a job. The usual questions of what I would do were asked. I said I could do most anything and did not care what it was just so the terms were satisfactory. After a little talk I found that the manager was in no need of clerks just then, but was the proprietor of a brickyard four miles below the city on the opposite side of the river. He wanted four boys for off-bearers, that is, to carry the molded clay in their frames and empty them in rows on the ground so that the sun might dry them before being built in a kiln for burning. And when I first got to the place I was surprised to see that our sleeping quarters were arranged on the open plain. A mosquito bar was staked off for each individual, and under each a neat bed ready for occupation. They were arranged in straight rows and looked more like a cemetery than a camp, although nothing could have been more appropriate for the comfort of the men. How long the works had been there I had no idea, but there seemed to be no system to the work, especially in reference to the output of the plant.
The pit from which the clay was dug and shoveled to the mill for the grinding was attended by men whom I never came in contact with. We had a stint of ten thousand bricks per day, and as there was no system to the work it took us until sundown to finish them. There were two big husky Russians to shovel clay to the mill, and they would not, or could not, keep it running regularly and smoothly. One morning they got quarreling about the work and delayed the whole operation. I got mad and told them to get out of the pit and I would show them they could not do a boy's work, for I would shovel it alone. They took it as a joke, and got out and I got in and took their place. As it happened, Mr. Pollock, the manager, happened to be there on one of his periodical visits. Hearing the bickering he came over to the works and asked what the trouble was about. I told him the two men were quarreling about doing a boy's work. "Can you do it?" he asked. "Yes," I said. "then do it and I will pay you more than anyone on the works." I held the job. We were well fed and well treated. Every morning at sunrise the cook would pass around to the beds of all the men with cups of coffee. But this was something I never did--drink coffee before breakfast--as it spoiled my appetite; neither would I smoke.
We were getting along all right with our work now and finishing our stint in shorter time, but I was not satisfied. I wanted to get at the pressing of the brick, as that seemed to be a nicer and cleaner job, requiring quicker motions, and I was surprised when the chance came to me. Something had turned up with the off-bearers, and the man pressing the brick said something about my not being able to take his place. I asked him if he was willing to change places. He said "Yes." I took his place and he took mine and finished the day's work. Early the next morning I hurried to the pit and got the molds and everything in order for work when he came up and told me to get out as he intended to take his job back. I told him that he had desired the change, and now I was not going to change back. About this time time Mr. Pollock came up and asked the cause of the dispute. When informed, he said, "Possession is nine points of the law, but settle it the best you can." I finally prevailed over the fellow and kept the job. In a short time we had our work so systematized that by the time the Sacramento boat bound for San Francisco passed the yard, long before sundown, we were all ready to jump into the water and swim out and spend the night in a nice little two-room cabin on the place. After supper he would often send for me to come and talk with him. He was always plentifully supplied with cigars and would always present me with one, although at that time I never smoked, telling me to give it to some of my friends.
One day the whole force took a holiday to go to Sacramento to witness the hanging of three horse thieves. People at that time enjoyed a little social hanging so much as the present-day youngsters enjoy tango teas. Everyone witnessed the gruesome sight without pity, for were they not horse thieves? And horse thieves need expect no mercy. Only two of them were brought to the gallows, the other having been respited by the Governor. As soon as the two were decently strung up, a committee of citizens formed a parade and marched up to the jail and very shortly brought out the other one and hanged him to the same gallows. I don't think I ever heard so many lies told in the same length of time as that fellow told. He accused every prominent citizen of Sacramento of being interested in the gang of thieves that infested the valley. He even accused the Governor. He was a nice-looking young fellow, and a fluent talker. The committee in charge gave him plenty of time to talk, and he used it to abuse everybody and defer his own execution.
At this time the very worst crime, outside the cities, was that of stealing horses. It was not even necessary to steal one to bring prompt execution, for if the people were searching for a horse thief and came upon a stranger with a rope, he was strung up. And the posse would ride away with an air of a duty well done.
I was tired of staying in one place and was preparing to leave and go to the most northern mining camp in California, as I heard the finds there were being numerous; it was called the Shasta Butte City [Yreka]. But before leaving I once more journeyed to San Francisco--the mecca of all Californians. By this time the vigilance committee had pretty well gotten the best of the "hounds," as others had left while some were still in jail awaiting trial. The jails were the upper floors of large warehouse and were kept well guarded. One of the prisoners was the one-time bare-knuckle fighter Yankee Sullivan. I do not know what he was in jail for, but he met death in some strange way. It is still unsettled whether he committed suicide or was put to death by order of the committee.
I only stayed a short while in the city, but while there met the redoubtable Mountain Jack, of whom I spoke a little while ago. Imagine my surprise to recognize an old friend of mine whom I had left in Albany, New York, when we moved to New Orleans. He was then a young cabinet maker, and his shop had only been a half square from where we lived. Going and returning from school I would stop and spend many an hour in his shop. He would let me use his tools and would often show me how to fashion some trifle I was trying to make. His greeting was kind and extremely cordial, but in the few years of our separation we had grown leagues apart. He was a man who had been hunted and killed men; perhaps he was right, but nevertheless he had killed them. I was only a boy who had not learned to smoke, drink or gamble. We had not friends in common and we drifted apart. I never saw him again. I have often wondered what became of him, whether he was killed in some broil or whether he became tired of [the] rough life of the wild West and went back to the quiet little city of Albany and took up his trade of cabinet making. I like to think that he did the latter. A few years of rough western life would make a philosopher out of any man, and I have often wondered why a man who had been quiet and law-abiding in the East would come out to the West and become a desperado. Was it because they thought they were too far away for their friends back home to hear of their doing? Or was it the rude atmosphere of the place? I sometimes think that all men must be criminals at heart, or lawbreakers, and the only reason they hold themselves back is because of the fear of disgrace in the eyes of their friends.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, September 19, 1914, page 6
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE FOUND HEAT ON SURFACEMedford Mail Tribune, September 21, 1914, page 6
Will G. Steel, superintendent of Crater Lake Park, has received the following from J. W. Hillman, the first white man to view the lake, concerning the discovery:
"Hope Villa, La., Sept. 14, 1914."Hon. Will G. Steel, Medford, Or.
"Dear Sir: Before I could thank you for the 'History of Crater Lake,' which you so kindly sent me, I have received your letter of September 7, requesting further items regarding its discovery. I don't think I omitted any essential point that you have not published in your account, some [omission?] concerning the discovery of the lake in 1853:
"Some unimportant minor matters may have been unmentioned. For instance, I should like to be able to locate for your benefit the last stopping place we made before my companions and myself left for the last day's ride, which resulted in the discovery of the lake. It could not be called a camp; it was just a waiting place for the party until we returned. It was the head of an arroyo, or steep mountain cleft in the hills, on the right of the trail we were following, and not very many miles from the lake itself.
Rolled Boulders Down"Just a little while before riding up the mountain, previous to seeing the lake, we crossed a well-worn, wide Indian trail, which we supposed was the route traveled by the Oregon Indians between Oregon, Klamath Lake and California.
"Worst of all, I suppose, I helped destroy some of the scenic effects at our first point of contact. There were several very large boulders near the rim, four or five, I think, and by our united efforts we sent them crashing to the waters below. Our eyes could not follow them to the water, nor could we hear them when they struck, but we knew by the ripple in the lake when they landed, and I judged by the time the rocks were traveling that the water was 1000 to 1500 feet below the rim. I guess the rocks are still lying there, as I never moved them.
Felt the Heat"While standing on the rim we saw snow reaching from the summit to the water in very many places, but in a few places there was none at all. We mounted our animals, turned to the left and rode past what is called Wizard Island, where there was no snow. I was riding in the lead, and when my mule left the turf for the rocks he flinched very visibly. Supposing his feet were tender, I jumped off to relieve him of my weight, and in doing so I stooped to the ground and really thought I could feel heat issuing from the surface. Anyway, I called to the men, saying we were near hell, for I could feel the heat. Everyone in the party thought the same thing, but until now I have never written it, although in talking of the lake I have mentioned it. I never wrote it, for it did not seem at all reasonable, as I knew that old Crater Lake had taken many years to accumulate the amount of water that was in sight.
Is 83 Years of Age"Writing is a serious task to me. I am well in my 83rd year and am very weak.
"If in your work of writing about the lake you need any data about Rogue River Valley, you can find a whole fund of information in the person of Mrs. Martha Rapp of Ashland. When I first knew her, in 1852 or 1853, she was a young miss of 12 or 13 years of age, bright, intelligent and a universal favorite. She was often the guest of Mrs. Badger, whose husband kept the hotel in Jacksonville. She was acquisitive for information and remembers everything connected with early years of the valley. She happened to be one of the party of ladies to whom I related the incidents of my trip and the discovery of the lake. She seemed more interested than the older members of the party. Perhaps it was because they knew I was hunting for gold and the Lost Cabin Mine and only found a lake.
"Thanking you again for favors received, I am, yours sincerely,
'J. W. HILLMAN."
For what John Hillman and his brother George were up to in 1861 and '62, click here.
J. W. HILLMAN OF ELEVENTH WARD DIED FRIDAY
J. W. Hillman, one of the prominent citizens of the seventh ward, aged 83 years, passed away Friday morning at 4 a.m. after an illness of several weeks.
Mr. Hillman is the father of Mrs. N. K. Knox of Baton Rouge, wife of one of the city's leading real estate men, and of Geo. W. Hillman. He is survived by his wife.
Mr. Hillman was a member of the Capital City lodge of Pythians and was a Mason.
The funeral will take place Saturday morning at Harelson.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 19, 1915, page 1
HOPE VILLA NOTES
Mr. John Wesley Hillman died at his home, near Hope Villa, last Friday morning, March 19, after an illness of several weeks. He was given a Masonic burial at Harelson Cemetery. Mr. Hillman was 82 years, 11 months and 19 days of age and has lived a life of adventure experienced by very few. He was in the famous gold rush of '49, when gold was discovered in California, and helped to develop that country as well as many other portions of the then-unknown West. Necessarily in adventuring in unexplored territory he was in many Indian fights, of which he bore several scars. In  he and a party of others were the first white men to look upon the beautiful waters of Crater Lake, in Oregon, the deepest and most beautiful lake in America. After many years of adventure in the West he crossed the Isthmus of Panama and came to New Orleans to live. Mr. Hillman is survived by a wife and two children, Mr. [George] Waldo Hillman of New Orleans, and Mrs. N. K. Knox of Baton Rouge, and several grandchildren.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 26, 1915, page 3
HILLMAN--Entered into rest on Friday morning, March 19, 1915, John W. Hillman, age 83 years, born in Albany, N.Y., and a resident of Louisiana for the past 49 years.
Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., papers please copy.
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 28, 1915, page 10
Mrs. J. W. Hillman, formerly of Hope Villa, has many friends in Baton Rouge who will be glad to learn that she will hereafter make her home with her daughter, Mrs. Nathan Knox.
"Personals," State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, April 5, 1915, page 5
WOULD NAME PEAK FOR DISCOVERER
WILL G. STEEL WRITES INTERIOR DEPARTMENT SUGGESTING
THE HONORING OF WHITE MAN WHO FIRST SAW CRATER LAKE
Superintendent Steel of the Crater Lake Park, says the Medford Sun, has sent the following communication to Secretary Lane, suggesting that the discoverer of Crater Lake be commemorated by renaming Glacier Peak in his honor as Hillman Peak:
"The Secretary of the Interior
"Sir--It is with sincere regret that I have to inform you of the death at Hope Villa, La., on March 19, 1915, of Mr. John W. Hillman, who on June 12, 1853, discovered Crater Lake. He was the leader of a party of twenty-two prospectors, of whom he was the first to see it.
"Now, therefore, I recommend that the name Glacier Peak, applied to one of the highest points on the western rim of the lake, be changed to Hillman Peak, and in justification thereof will say, one of the most important mountains in the state of Washington is known as Glacier Peak, as also in the state of California, thus leading to unnecessary confusion, and at least one of them should be changed. Such a change would also be a deserved and appropriate recognition of the first white man who ever saw Crater Lake, and for whom some prominent point should be named."
Evening Herald, Klamath Falls, April 7, 1915, page 2
J. W. HILLMAN TO BE HONORED
Late Discoverer of Crater Lake to Have Monument in Memory.
Special to the Times.
Baton Rouge, July 16.--A monument is to be erected to the memory of the late John W. Hillman of Hope Villa, at Crater Lake, Oregon, which was discovered by Mr. Hillman in 1853.
A letter has been received by Mrs. Hillman, widow of the noted western pioneer, from William G. Steel, superintendent of the Crater Lake National Park, in which he says:
"It is my intention, during the present season, to have erected on the spot where Mr. Hillman discovered Crater Lake, a memorial to him, in the shape of a reinforced concrete seat, built in a perfect semi-circle overlooking the lake. It will be pure white and on each end there will be a tablet of bronze."
Mr. Hillman discovered Crater Lake June 12, 1853. He was born in Albany, New York, March 29, 1832, went to Oregon in 1849, and died in Hope Villa, March 19, 1915.
He was one of the pioneers of the West, and his greatest work was the discovery of Crater Lake, near Medford, Oregon, which the United States government has turned into a national park.
The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana, July 17, 1916, page 10
HILLMAN'S SON VISITS CRATER LAKE
When John W. Hillman wandered over the pathless waste of pinnacled rocks and boulder-strewn forests, through ravines and canyons, and on to that fantastic lake which is now known as Crater Lake, he never dreamed that the almost inaccessible area might be viewed by his own granddaughter, who had made the ascent in an automobile.
G. W. Hillman, son of the discoverer of Crater Lake, Mrs. Hillman and their daughter, Miss Hildegarde, of New Orleans, visited Crater Lake during the past week en route to Portland.
"My father had often described the blue of the lake to me, but I had never dreamed of such deep blue," says Mr. Hillman. "He has been dead several years, but we grew up on the stories of how, when wandering through the heart of the Cascades in search of the famous Lost Cabin mine, sometimes on foot and at other times riding a mule, he suddenly found himself on the brink of a chasm with the blue of the heavens many feet below. That was in 1853.
"My father joined the gold rush of '49 and went to California from Albany, N.Y. He became a government scout after several of his pay streaks had panned out, and there was little of this Oregon country that was not known to him. That is perhaps the reason that I have always felt the call of the West.
"My father and his companions had much controversy at first as to whether the lake should be named Mysterious Lake or Deep Blue Lake. They named it 'Crater Lake' in 1869."
Mr. Hillman is going back to New Orleans when his vacation is ended, but Mrs. Hillman and Miss Hildegarde will remain in Portland for several weeks.
Unidentified clipping, DAR scrapbooks vol. 18, page 27, RVGS. George W. Hillman was interviewed by the Oregonian in the issue of August 12, 1920 (page 6). Hildegarde was born around 1902.
When White Men First Beheld the "Sea of Silence"
Pioneer Tells Own Story of Discovery of Crater Lake
"Not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down, and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death."
Thus it was that on June 12, 1853, just 69 years ago tomorrow, the first white man who ever beheld Crater Lake literally stumbled upon that magnificent body of water. As he rode his mule up the long slope that was to lead to the lake rim, with his eyes searching the rocks for some outcropping of that gold thought to be hidden in this region, little did he realize that he was soon to be the discoverer of the bluest, deepest and most beautiful mountain lake in the world. This hardy prospector was J. W. Hillman, an Oregon pioneer of 1849. The trail over which Hillman and his party toiled in those early days is now replaced by an automobile highway, while the lake itself and surrounding region have been fittingly set aside as a national park, where many thousands come each summer to be enthralled by the same wild beauty which held Hillman and his party under its spell over threescore years ago.
A few years ago Mr. Hillman died at a ripe old age at his home in Louisiana, where he had spent the closing years of his life. Shortly before his death he dictated his memoirs to Bentley B. Mackay of the Louisiana State University. These memoirs have only recently been cast into shape for publication by Mr. Mackay, and that portion dealing with the discovery of Oregon's wonder lake is herewith published for the first time by The Oregonian, through arrangement with Mr. Mackay. The story not only tells of the discovery of Crater Lake, but also describes briefly the trip of the emigrant train to which Hillman was attached across the plains to the Columbia, and gives a graphic picture of the Oregon country of those pioneer days.
BY BENTLEY B. MACKAY
With thousands of tourists thronging beautiful Crater Lake National Park every season and gazing upon the limpid blue water of the most beautiful lake in America, it is indeed fitting that some thought be given to that intrepid explorer, J. W. Hillman, and his little band of 22 men who first viewed the lake in all of its wild beauty on June 12, 1853. Outliving all of his companions, Mr. Hillman died only a few years ago in Louisiana at the age of 83, death being indirectly due to an Indian bullet that he carried in his body for nearly 60 years.
Just before his death Mr. Hillman dictated to the writer many of his experiences in the West. The events leading up to the discovery of Crater Lake are here printed for the first time. We shall let Mr. Hillman tell his own interesting story.
Discoverer Tells Own Story."I was born in Albany, N.Y., March 25, 1832. In 1848 my father moved with his family, by ship, to New Orleans. We remained in New Orleans until the California gold fever broke out in 1849, and my father decided to go to California, taking me with him.
At the time there was a regiment of mounted rifles at St. Joseph, Mo., preparing to make the long journey to Oregon. The teamster-master's department was being recruited in New Orleans and we were lucky enough to be allowed to join.
"Our trip up the lonely Mississippi River was typical of the pioneer life of that day. On our boat there was a varied assortment of men, from the dregs of society to millionaires who were making the trip for mere love of adventure. Gambling and drinking were indulged in night and day, and each day brought its share of excitement. It was rumored that Jack Wilson, a notorious gambler, won and lost two fortunes before he was killed in a wild battle which occurred on the boat 50 miles from St. Louis.
Trip Across Plains Begun."We landed in St. Louis and remained there for several days. The city was filled with emigrants making preparations to go to California. We caught a boat going up the Missouri River to St. Joseph, where our regiment was stationed preparatory to making the trip to the unknown Oregon country.
"As soon as the thousands of emigrants heard that a regiment of soldiers was soon going to 'hop off' into the unknown country, they made ready to follow close on our trail, and from daylight until dark there was the hurry and bustle of preparation. Children, dogs, mules, horses and oxen all added to the general hubbub.
"The officers finally decided that due to better camping facilities the outfit should be broken up into small companies. There were 300 six-mule wagons, and these were divided into groups of 100 wagons each. I was sent along as extra driver.
Oregon Trail Followed."We followed what was known as the Oregon Trail, intending to cross the Rockies at South Pass. It was not long before we were all strung out along the trail for miles. The country was unsurpassed in its wild beauty; the miles and miles of uncharted prairies stretched as far as the eye could see and the grass waving and nodding before the wind. Above us by day shone the blazing sun, and when it disappeared into the very ground, as it were, it seemed but a moment until darkness, when in all directions could be seen the camp fires of the soldiers and emigrants who were going into a far country, braving dangers and hardships almost inconceivable to those of the present day.
"The two things that impressed me most were the awful ravages of cholera and the thousands of buffalo that could be seen in the distance. We had the pleasure of witnessing several stampedes by these animals. The leader of the herd would become frightened and begin to run; soon it would seem that the entire universe was moving. As far as the eye could see were the brownish forms of the great beasts, gaining momentum as they swept along. On they would rush, sweeping all before them, over a wagon train, through a river or over a precipice, but never would their mad rush be checked until they were overcome with exhaustion. In the wake hundreds of the weaker members strewed the way, some crushed and mangled, others bleeding and dying, all inevitably falling prey to the coyotes and wolves that followed them.
Indians Not Feared."We came in contact with a great number of Indians, but our immediate party was too strong, and we feared no attack. Troops were called out several times to go to the assistance of small trains that had been raided by the savages, and each time a number of emigrants had been killed.
"When we reached the Rocky Mountains and saw the water flowing toward the Pacific we thought that our troubles were nearly ended, but such was not the case. Desertion among the soldiers became very common when we came to the trails that led to Salt Lake or to California.
"Finally we came to the mighty Columbia River, and its majestic sweep was a revelation to us all. The caravan now headed straight for Oregon City, reaching there September 18, 1849, after having been five months and three days on the journey.
Oregon City Tiny Village."Oregon City was a tiny place, having much the appearance of a New England village, rows of small houses lining the streets with neat, clean gardens in front.
"Turning over our wagons to the quartermaster ended our connections with the United States government, and a new and different life was opened up to us.
"My father heard that there was lying at the mouth of the Willamette River a three-masted full-rigged whaler, the Aurora, commanded by Captain Kilbourne, ready to make a trip to San Francisco with a load of lumber, and we were able to get passage.
"I remember but one settlement between Oregon City and Baker's Bay, at the mouth of the Columbia, and that was Astoria, situated on the side of a mountain, looking as though it were going to slide down into the water any moment.
Portland Mass of Timber."When we came to what was known as the village of Portland we stopped for a few hours for wood. I went ashore and looked for the town, but could not see it at first because of the tangle of fallen timber. I climbed a tree and in the distance I saw three huts, a blacksmith shop and one small commissary. This was in the latter part of September, 1849. When I returned to this town in 1852 I found that a great many changes had taken place. It was beginning to compare favorably with Oregon City.
"We were held up in Baker's Bay for several weeks, due to the fact that we could not cross the bar into the open water. Several times we were nearly dashed to pieces on the Peacock Shoals, which received this name from one of Uncle Sam's warships that had been wrecked there some years before. The spars of the ship were plainly visible at low tide.
"One day everything was favorable and we dashed across the bar and were soon on the high seas. The trip to San Francisco was made without incident. We reached there a few days before the big fire that swept the tented city off the map.
"My adventures in the gold mining country, of course, is another story, but I will say that while we were lucky enough to find some gold, we did not discover enough to make us very wealthy. I soon went to northern California and from there I went to Jacksonville, Or. It was a live mining town of about 1200 inhabitants. The town was situated at the mouth of a gulch at the edge of the beautiful Rogue River Valley, and the mining was not done in the immediate vicinity of the town. I learned to love the Rogue River country, and for several years it was my home when I was not in the saddle on some exploring expedition.
"I became the owner of a pack train and later formed a partnership with a man named Ben Drew. We covered the Oregon Territory pretty thoroughly and had any number of adventures with Indians and white renegades.
"In 1853 it was that we had an exceptionally hard winter, and provisions became very scarce. Thousands of horses, mules and cattle starved to death. We were caught in a place called Vannoy's ferry, some miles from Portland. Flour was selling at $1 a pound, musty bacon 75 cents, etc. Tobacco was an article very much in demand. A man could chew his tobacco for awhile and then lay it aside, much as a child will do with his gum. He would then smoke it after it was dry. Plug tobacco was the kind most in demand. One would take a dollar and hand it to the dealer, who would place it on a plug and cut out a piece the exact size of the money, both thinking that a good bargain had been made.
"We pulled through the winter with our teams in fair condition, and when supplies began to move in the early spring months we had more than we could do. Old settlers claimed that the country had been set back several years due to this hard winter.
"I spent quite a bit of time in the Umpqua country, which was unrivaled for its beauty. Whenever I think of the Umpqua River, the words of a poet come to my mind. I read these lines in a little book called 'Steel Points,' published by W. G. Steel, who has done so much for Crater Lake National Park.
"I know a place where the fern is deep
And the giant firs wave high,
And a dripping ledge leans cool and steep
And a laughing brook leaps by.
And it's there to be with a soul that's free
From the street's discordant jar,
With a blanket spread on a cedar bed,
And the wealth of the world afar.
"I know a pool in a mossy dell
That the wary trout love best,
And a timid trail to the chaparral
Where the red deer lie at rest.
A night bird's call when the shadows fall,
And a gray wolf's lonely cry:
A slumber deep and a dreamless sleep
Under the open sky.
Lost Cabin Mine Sought."One night in Jacksonville the acquaintance of a prospector from California. The man took a great liking to me, and one night while heavily drunk he confided to me that he and nine other California miners were forming a party to go into the mountains in search of the famous 'Lost Cabin mine.' He declared that the leader of the party had the original map showing the location of the mine, and he spoke glowingly of the mine as though its discovery were already an established fact.
"The story of the mine is well known to all of the old settlers of Oregon. In fact, it became a legend of that country. It seems that an old prospector was found dying from wounds suffered in a battle with the Indians. In his pouch was found a core of nuggets of the purest gold. He drew a rough sketch of the mine and said that it was the richest mine in the whole West, but that the savages knew of its whereabouts and were protecting it. He had been driven away by them and badly wounded. From his description of the country it was somewhere in the vicinity of Crater Lake, although no such place was then known to exist. The old man died and a mad search was started. Scores of men were killed by the savages before the search was finally given up and the map disappeared from circulation.
Oregonians Follow Californians."As soon as the drunken fellow told me that they had the map my youthful mind was ablaze with desire to help find the mine. I immediately told some of my friends about it, and we decided to follow close on the trail of the Californians. Of the group that later accompanied me I can only think of the names of Henry Klippel, J. L. Louden, Pat McManus, Mr. Little and a man named McGarrie.
"We were always ready to move at a moment's notice, and when the California party left Jacksonville we were close on their trail. They soon discovered that we were following them and a game of hide-and-seek began until rations on both sides began to run low. The Californians would push through the brush, scatter and double back on their trail and camp in the most inaccessible places to be found, and it sometimes puzzled us to find them, experienced as we were.
Two Parties Join."One day both parties engaged in a hunt. I killed a young deer and was skinning it when two of the California prospectors came up to where I was. This was the first time we had ever met face to face. I grasped my rifle, expecting trouble, but they engaged me in conversation and wanted to know why we were following them. I told them frankly that we knew that they had certain knowledge of the whereabouts of the Lost Cabin mine, and we were following them with the intention of staking off claims close to them.
"After we had talked things over a truce was declared and the two parties dined on venison at one campfire. From then on we hunted and prospected together, and it was well that we did, for once or twice we caught sight of a party of warriors watching every move that we made. But no open attack was attempted, due to the strength of our party and to the fact that each man was a seasoned veteran.
Crater Lake First Seen."One afternoon a few days later--it was June 12--I was riding up a long, sloping mountain, some distance in advance of the rest of the party. With my searching the rocks for any indication of that vein we were searching for, I scarcely noticed where I was riding. Suddenly my mule stopped, and, looking up, I saw a body of water before me. As we had not expected to see any lakes, I was much surprised and thought at first we must have come clear to Klamath Lake. But as I looked closer I realized I was looking at a most unusual sight, that I was at the very edge of a precipice and that, nestling far down in the heart of the mountain, was the bluest and most beautiful body of water I had ever seen. I fired my rifle and several my companions rushed up to gaze with wonder upon this magnificent lake, which since has been fittingly named Crater Lake and set aside as a national playground.
"For lack of words that will give the reader who has never seen this body of water some idea of its beauty, I shall quote what Professor Joseph LeConte, a great admirer of Yellowstone and Yosemite, said:
"'Yellowstone has its glories, and so have the Yosemite and Crater Lake, but their grandeur is not in common. One cannot compare unlike things. There is but one Crater Lake. The overpowering impressiveness of its grandeur cannot be described, and no idea of its masterful influence over the human mind can be conveyed by words. It must be seen to be appreciated. It stands alone in its class in all this world. Probably the six greatest natural wonders of the American continent consist in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, Niagara Falls, Mammoth Cave, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Crater Lake, no two of which can be compared, for each one is preeminent.'
Time to Explore Lacking."As we stood and gazed far down at the blue water and at the deep and almost perpendicular bluffs, many of them 2000 feet in height, we searched the walls of the cliffs for some pathway whereby we could reach the water's edge. But nowhere could we find a route. We decided that it would be a long and difficult descent to reach the water, and as our members were eager to continue their search for gold, we gave up the attempt. But before we turned our backs upon the magnificent scene we discussed such names as Mysterious Lake and Deep Blue Lake. We voted to call it by the latter name, and as discoverers we wrote out names on a piece of paper and placed the paper in the end of a forked stick which we wedged between the rocks.
"The next day ran across a band of Indians who were friendly, but when we asked about Deep Blue Lake none of them would acknowledge that such a lake existed. We learned from a medicine man that this place was looked upon as sacred, and death would come to any Indian who gazed upon the lake. I am told that even as late as 1890 no Indian could be induced to look upon the water that would be 'bad medicine' for him.
"We searched in vain for gold and especially the Lost Cabin mind, but not a trace could we find. We did hear, however, that the savages were preparing to go on the warpath, so we hurriedly left for Jacksonville, where the party disbanded."
Oregonian, Portland, June 11, 1922, page G1 This story was reprinted in the Medford Mail Tribune of August 9, 1922, page B1.
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE REVISITS GEM
Story of Finding Told by Discoverer, Who Made Trip on Mule--
Was Hunting Lost Mine.
Back in the days of '52, when "gold" was the magic word which lured men from comfortable homes and civilization into the rocky, pine-clad mountains of the West, eleven fearless Californians plunged into the wilderness of [the] Cascades in Southern Oregon, near Medford, in search of the famous, perhaps fabulous Lost Cabin mine.
Like a great magnet the Lost Cabin mine, possibly real, perhaps mythical, drew searchers from far and wide.
In spite of their precautions, the secret of their search became known, and a party of Oregonians was organized to stalk them and claim a share of their "find." After days of "hide and seek," during which those of each side endured many hardships, the parties joined forces.
J. W. Hillman, leader of the searching prospectors, has the distinction of being the first white man to see Crater Lake. While climbing a steep ridge, his mule suddenly stopped within a few feet of the rim and Hillman gazed at the awe-inspiring spectacle of Crater Lake. "Had I been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge of death," said Hillman. How different the present-day journey to Crater Lake!
Party Laves MedfordA party of of sightseers, in a Chevrolet landau sedan, left Medford, the gateway to the lake, piloted by Mr. Hillman, for the wonderful Crater Lake country. The wide, smooth highway winds along Rogue River and through giant forests till at last it reaches the gorge of the Rogue and beautiful Mill Creek Falls.
After lunching at Prospect, the party plunged into the Crater Lake National Forest for their last lap on the Crater Lake trip. After a short stop to register at the park entrance and visit to Superintendent C. G. Thomson's office at "Government Camp," the party climbed to the rim of the famous lake.
With the first glimpse of the wonderful lake, glistening in the mighty crater of a giant extinct volcano, the members of the party felt a thrill, a feeling of awe and wonder unlike anything they had ever experienced before. There was an expanse of water, wondrously blue, like a great sapphire in a setting of lofty cliffs. Crater Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in America. The water is a lovely turquoise along the edges and in the deeper parts a Prussian blue.
Weird Tales ToldWeird and ghostly tales of Crater Lake are woven into the old Indian legends, and old members of the Klamath and Modoc tribes even yet tell of the great god Llao an old mighty Mount Mazama before the great eruption which played a part in forming Crater Lake. Beloved Joaquin Miller best described the lake in his article in the Sunset magazine:
"The Lake?" he wrote, "The Sea of Silence? Ah, yes, I had forgotten--so much else; besides, I should like to let it alone, say nothing. It took such hold on my heart, so unlike Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, when first seen, that I love it almost like one of my own family. But fancy a sea of sapphire set around by a compact circle of the great grizzly rock of Yosemite. It does not seem so sublime at first, but the mote is in your own eye. It is great, great; but it takes you days to see how great. It lies 2000 feet under your feet, and as it reflects its walls so perfectly that you cannot tell the wall from the reflection in the intensely blue water you have a continuous unbroken circular wall of 24 miles to contemplate at a glance, all of which lies 2000 feet, and seems to lie 4000 feet, below. Yet so bright, so intensely blue, is the lake that it seems at times from some points of view to lift right in your face."
Medford Mail Tribune, August 8, 1926, page 14
COLVIG RECALLS EARLY DAY VISIT AT CRATER LAKE
CRATER LAKE.--(Special.)--A member of a company of soldiers stationed at Fort Klamath years ago, Judge William Colvig of Medford was a visitor in the Crater Lake National Park recently, recalling the first time he had seen the lake back in 1865 when a group of cavalrymen visited the scenic wonder in the thought they were the discoverers. They had not heard of its previous discovery by John W. Hillman, a prospector.
The 25 men in the party had been on a trip from the fort when they came into the lake area, Judge Colvig related. Camp was established in the present location of the park headquarters. From this point, the soldiers wandered up to the rim where the lodge is now located, beholding a sight which momentarily took their breath away. They believed they were on ground never before visited by white man and immediately decided to name the blue waters made so impressive by crater walls rising high around its entire circumference.
Several names were suggested, and a vote resulted in the choice of "Lake Majesty," based on the majestic impressiveness of the scene. The name several years later was changed to Crater Lake.
The soldiers continued to think they had come onto a new body of water until one member of the party recalled he had once heard of a young miner visiting the lake area 12 years before while in search of a lost mine. The miner had not realized the extent of his discovery and had not told many of his visit.
Judge Colvig is the only surviving member of the soldier party.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 11, 1931, page 3
ANCIENT GOLD PAN BELIEVED LEFT BY LAKE DISCOVERER
A relic of a bygone day when prospectors occasionally found their way to the Crater Lake area and believed to have direct connection with John W. Hillman, who discovered Crater Lake in 1853, an old gold mining pan was recently found in the Crater [Lake] National Park in the general location of Hillman's old camp site, not far from the "Watchman," first high point on the rim of the lake west of the lodge.
The pan, victim of the elements, rusted, bent and mostly a battered piece of tin, was found by Fred Patton, a park foreman, while engaged in road work. A water bucket, bent double, a broken crock, and two buttons were also found.
Two pine trees cut down so long ago that the trunks had decomposed almost level with the ground are the only signs of camp. Time had left its mark and [there was no other] indication that the camp may have resounded to the voices of Hillman's party in '53. It was in the general direction of the route that his party had taken from Jacksonville in the search of the famed Lost Cabin mine, trailing a party of Californians who thought they had information the mine was located along the headwaters of the Rogue River.
The pan is a realistic reminder of the visit of the party of Californians to Jacksonville in 1853 and how they camped outside the then-booming mining town, keeping secret their mission. However a member of the party, becoming loquacious on liquor, betrayed his trust.
When the Californians left Jacksonville, a party of Oregonians took up their trail, led by Hillman. For days the southern party attempted to elude the pursuers but unavailingly until both parties realized the necessity of meat. The two parties joined, with the exception of a few who turned back to Jacksonville, 80 miles away, and combined game hunting with the search for the mine.
There is a supposition that Hillman may have left the camp site where the pan and water bucket were found on the day he discovered the lake, June 12, riding up the slope of the rim, unknowing that on the other side he was about to discover a scenic wonder of the world, a deep blue lake in the crater of an extinct volcano.
The mining pan and bucket will be placed in the park museum.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 18, 1931, page 3
One of the stories which young Charles [Skeeters] often heard was the tale of how Crater Lake was discovered, for his father had been a member of that historic party. Isaac Skeeters, because of his wide knowledge of the country and his skill as a woodsman, was asked to guide a party of gold hunters into the hills in June of 1853.
One of the pack mules wandered away one day, it is said, and a member of the party went in search of the animal. While hunting for the lost mule, the miner suddenly came upon a body of water, a lake so beautiful and with such blue water so far below the lake rim that the discoverer was amazed. When the gold seekers, later called by historians "the John Hillman party" returned to the valley, they talked far and wide of their discovery. Later the beautiful blue lake was named "Crater Lake."
Olive Starcher, "Potpourri," Medford Mail Tribune, April 6, 1952, page 21
Along Nature's Trail
By Ken McLeod
One hundred years have passed since the young prospector John Wesley Hillman, on June 12, 1853, became the first white man of record to look down upon Oregon's choicest jewel--the lake now called "Crater." To Hillman goes the honor of discovery, but in searching the record one wonders to what extent the honor is truly accorded among the many discoverers of Oregon's famous lake. The first man reaps the harvest; however, it may not be beyond the realm of possibility that some long and forgotten trapper may have been there before him.
The story of the many "discoveries" of the Jewel of the Cascades has been told before, but I will chance the risk of becoming a bore and review the steps of discovery. It was late May or early June in 1853. The people of Jacksonville heard a rumor that a party of Yreka miners had discovered the famous "Lost Cabin" mine--a fabulously rich "lost" prospect supposed to be located somewhere in the headwaters of the Rogue or Umpqua rivers.
The Yreka miners were at that moment on their way to "locate" the Oregon gold. Rumor fired the rivalry of the boys of Jacksonville, and so a party was hastily organized to set out in pursuit of the Californians. O. A. Stearns, who was well acquainted with many of the members of the Jacksonville trailing group, has called the party the "Loudon-Hillman-McManus" party and states that while John Hillman was a member of the party he was not the leader, to which post later writers have elected him.
Both the Yreka and the pursuing Jacksonville group returned home unsuccessful in the quest of the "fabulous" treasure they sought and even Hillman's discovery passed unnoticed as being the priceless gem of the mountains but merely a geological curiosity of little value to men who sought but only gold. Actual publicity regard this treasure of the Cascades fell to the lot of other "discoverers." Stearns states that "The persons who claimed to have first seen Crater Lake allowed 31 years to elapse before their claims were presented to the public and then only through another party."
The Jacksonville party reported their find to the people at home and called it the "Deep Blue Lake." Apparently they practically forgot the incident, for no further publicity appears to come from that source. The lack of public interest is attributed by Stearns to the fact that "no paper was then published in Oregon south of Oregon City"; Stearns then accuses the "discoverers" of lack of imagination and appreciation of this wonder of nature by stating, "As a matter of historical truth, few people heard of the lake from any of these reported discoverers, and they did not really know where it was located as they were lost at the time of stumbling onto it, and for several days thereafter."
The second discovery of the lake fell to Sessions, Nye and party, another group of gold miners returning to Jacksonville from the newly discovered John Day mines. The date was October 21, 1862, and according to Stearns, "Mr. Nye states that he and his party was told of the finding of a 'mysterious and deep lake' somewhere in the Cascade Range, several years previously by James and John Hillman." The Hillmans apparently had joined the Sessions party at the Klamath Marsh to Jacksonville rather than going south through Indian country to the Southern Emigrant Road, the "Applegate Trail."
John Sessions later wrote a brief account of having seen the lake and stated, "The waters were of a deep blue color, causing us to name it 'Blue Lake,' while others in the party called the lake 'Hole in the Ground.'"
The third discovery fell to the lot of J. M. Corbett and Francis M. Smith, members of Company I, 1st Oregon Infantry, under Captain F. B. Sprague, while the company was building the wagon road from Fort Klamath to Union Creek. Corbett and Smith discovered the lake on Aug. 1, 1865, while hunting to supply their camp with meat. Stearns tells us that "Later in the same month the lake was visited by Capt. Sprague, Sergeant Stearns and civilians Bybee, Ford, Coats and Clugage."
The Oregon Sentinel printed a letter by Capt. Sprague giving the details of this discovery and the account of the first descent of the rim by O. A. Stearns and Peyton Ford. This party christened the lake "Lake Majesty," and Stearns states it was so known and visited by hundreds of people the next four years. Stearns states, "Capt. Sprague blazed a trail to the lake from the wagon road he built, and over this road and trail traveled the first visitors who went with the expectation of seeing this wonder."
Stearns had a small opinion of the "discoverers" of the lake. He comments, "Not one of the so-called discoverers ever revisited the lake or seemed to realize its value to the state until Capt. Sprague gave it a name and established its exact location."
Herald and News, Klamath Falls, June 13, 1953, page 4
Along Nature's Trail
By Ken McLeod
The first published account of the wonders of Crater Lake was the letter of Capt. F. B. Sprague published in the Oregon Sentinel of Sept. 9, 1869, whose description is also handed down to us by Frances Fuller Victor in her book The River of the West, published in 1870. The Sprague letter is quoted as follows:
"Upon rising the slope bounding the lake, the first impression made upon your mind is one of disappointment; it does not come up to your expectations; but this is only momentary. A second look and you begin to comprehend the majestic beauties of the scenery spread out before you, and you sit down on the brink of the precipice, and feast your eyes on the awful grandeur; your thoughts wander back thousands of years to the time when, where now is a placid sheet of water, there was a lake of fire, throwing its cinders and ashes to a vast distance in every direction. The whole surroundings prove this lake to be the crater of an extinct volcano.
"The appearance of the water in the basin, as seen from the top of the mountain, is that of a vast circular sheet of canvas, upon which some painter had been exercising his art. The color of the water is blue, but in very many different shades, and like the colors in variegated silk, continually changing. Now a spot will be dark blue, almost approaching black, in the next moment it will change to a very pale blue; and it is thus continually changing from one shade to another. I cannot account for this changeableness, as the sky was perfectly clear, and it could not have been caused by any shadows; there was, however, a gentle breeze which caused a ripple of the waters; this may account for it.
"At first sight a person would not estimate the surface of the water to be more than two or three hundred feet below the summit of the surrounding bluffs; and it is only after a steady look, almost perpendicularly down into the water, that you begin to comprehend the distance. In looking down into the lake the vision seems to stop before reaching the bottom, and, to use a common expression, you have to look twice before you see the bottom.
"Heretofore it has been thought, by those who have visited the lake, that it was impossible to get to the water, and this was also my impression at first sight, and I should have been contented to remain on the summit and view its beauties from that point, without attempting to get to the water, but for Sergeant Stearns and Mr. Ford, who, after gazing awhile from the top, disappeared over the precipice, and in a few minutes were at the bottom, near the water's edge, where no human being ever stood before. Their shouts induced Mr. Coats and myself to attempt the feat, which is in fact only perilous in imagination. A spring of water bursts out of the mountain near the top, on the side where we were, and by following down the channel which the water has made, a good footing may be established all the way down. In all probability, this is the only place in the whole circumference of the lake where the water is accessible, although Sergeant Stearns clambered around the edge of the lake for a short distance, and ascended to the summit by a different route from the one we descended; yet he does not think he could go down where he came up. The water in the lake is clear as crystal, and about the same temperature with the well water in Rogue River Valley. We saw no fish of any kind, nor even insects in the water; the only thing we saw that indicated that there are fish in the lake was a kingfisher.
"In ascending, I measured the distance as well as I could, from point to point, by the eye, and conclude that it is from seven to eight hundred feet perpendicular from the water to the summit of the bluff. The lake seems to be very nearly circular, and is from seven to eight miles in diameter; and except at two or three points, the bluff is about the same altitude.
"Near the western shore of the lake is an island, about one-half mile in diameter, upon which there is considerable timber growing. The island is not more than one-quarter of a. mile from the western shore of the lake, and its shape is a frustum of a cone: the top seems to be depressed, and I think there is a small crater in the summit of the island. I think a. path could be made from the summit to the water's edge, at the western edge of the lake, for the formation seems to be entirely pumice stone at that point, and to slope to the water's edge at a less angle than any place else around the lake; at this point also, a boat could be let safely down to the water by a rope.
"I do not know who first saw this lake, nor do I think it should be named after the discoverer. Sgt. Stearns and Peyton Ford are the first white men who ever reached its waters, and if named after any person should be named for them; but as I do not believe a more majestic sheet of water is to be found upon the face of the globe, I propose the name of "Majesty." It will be visited by thousands hereafter, and some person would do well to build upon its banks a house where visitors could be entertained, and to keep a boat or boats upon its waters, that its beauties might be seen to a better advantage."
Herald and News, Klamath Falls, June 17, 1953, page 6
Mrs. O. T. Brown was the former Roxanna Gray. She was the first white woman resident at Fort Klamath in the 1860s, and the first white woman to visit Crater Lake, also in the 1860s, according to historical accounts of Southern Oregon.
On the visit to Crater Lake, she was accompanied by an Indian woman, named Annie Gaines, for whom Annie Springs is named.
"Relatives of Pioneer Couple Hold Reunion," Medford Mail Tribune, June 9, 1963, page C6
Last revised June 7, 2019