Gold in Oregon--Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys.
The Pacific News of June 17 says:
Since our last, the discovery of large gold deposits in Oregon has awakened considerable attention here. The accounts are very authentic, and we think may probably have an influence to direct part of the current of emigration which is now on the plains.
In connection with this paragraph, the following extract from a letter to the editor of the Alton Telegraph, from B. C. Cleaver, Esq., late of Madison County, dated at Oregon City on the 4th March last, will be found interesting, as it describes a part of Oregon hitherto but little known.
Some time in last April, myself, one son and two sons-in-law were seized with the yellow or gold fever, the effect of which carried us all off towards California..We took the land route with wagon and team, and traveled up the Willamette Valley, over a fine farming country, for a distance of 150 miles. Here we ascend the Calapooya Mountains, so called. These mountains are very fertile in many places, and are not of great elevation, having fine springs, good timber &c. In one day's drive from the Willamette Valley, we reach the Umpqua Valley. Here se see mounds of various sizes, covering from 50 to 500 acres of land. The valleys between those mounds are of various widths, say from a quarter of a mile to ten miles wide. the soil is generally of excellent quality, and the valleys are especially fertile. These mounds are generally covered with a fine coat of grass, and various kinds of timber--some black and white oak, some pine, and a large species of laurel &c.--some of which were three feet in diameter. The timber that grows on these mounds is generally of a short scrubby nature. There are also many fine springs bursting from the sides of these mounds. Much excellent timber is found in many parts of this valley, though in several places it is not convenient to the prairie.
I am not prepared to state, at this moment, the width of this valley of mounds, but I judge it to be about 50 miles. In about the center of this valley, we cross the north fork of the Umpqua, and at the south side we cross the south fork of the Umpqua. These forks are pretty much the same size--each about 125 paces wide. There are several families residing in this valley, and a ferry is kept on the North Umpqua. Fort Umpqua is situated some twenty miles below this road, on the main Umpqua River. After crossing the South Umpqua, we enter the Umpqua Mountain, and pass through what is called a "canyan." We enter this canyan at the mouth of a small river, and travel up this mountain-bound stream, crossing it some 25 times, and lastly, traveling in its bed a short distance, when we fall in upon the head of another small river, leading south. Following this stream down a few miles brings us into a handsome little valley. It is a hard day's drive through this canyan. From this little valley, it is a hard day's drive over a hilly section of country to the Rogue River Valley. Here we find some good little prairies, and for 20 or 30 miles up the river we occasionally find good little valleys. But here the valley becomes large--say some 30 miles in width, and probably 40 in length. Some parts of this Rogue River Valley are very fertile, but much of it is not good, having too much gravel in the soil, which injures a great many valleys in this western world.
I should have stated that, whilst we were traveling through the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys, we made it strictly our business to look for gold in every likely-looking place. This gave us a chance also to examine other qualities of this country, and in our investigations we found considerable gold, both on the Umpqua and Rogue rivers. I should also state that, from the prospects of gold above mentioned, the people of Oregon are at this time all on tiptoe, and making great preparations to open those mines this spring. The climate of the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys is like that of the Willamette Valley, being mild and pleasant, both in winter and summer. From the Rogue River Valley we enter the Siskiyou Mountains. These mountains are not very rough nor of any great elevation. After traveling some 50 miles through these mountains, we arrived at the Klamath Lake--out of which this stream flows. This river is a fine stream, some 150 paces wide, and for about half the year it cannot be forded. We forded it by propping up wagon beds, and in about 10 miles' travel we came to the Klamath Lakes. Here are truly some of the great wonders of the western world, presented in the form of these mighty lakes. These lakes--also Mount Shasta, which stands near them--are situated upon a very elevated country, probably the most elevated section of country west of Rocky Mountains, for several hundred miles north and south. Many of the great rivers of the West have their source from these lakes, or their immediate vicinity. Here is the fine Klamath River, which flows immediately from the lake's side, besides several others of considerable note that have their sources in this vicinity, say, the great Sacramento, Deschutes, John Day, Rogue River, the Umpqua, and the McKenzie Fork of the Willamette. All these streams take their rise in and near those great lakes.
It is impossible for me, with my limited knowledge of this section of country, to do the subject strict justice. We were rambling, however, through this section of country for about four weeks, during which time I gave strict attention to those many curiosities that presented themselves to view. Those lakes, and the mounds and ridges that divide them, cover a large tract of country. Many of those lakes, by wash and other causes, are fast filling in. A few of them have already filled up and formed rich little valleys. From this place we made our course to the Sacramento Valley. The road is circuitous, and in many places very rough. We finally descended into the Sacramento Valley, and after chasing around for a time, we made our way to the Redding's diggings, for health, the most northerly mines in California [sic]. Here we commenced mining with fair success, but had [not] been long in fair business before we witnessed the awful spectacle of a very sick camp. The sickness increased and many deaths took place, and the people, as soon as they were able to travel, set out for Oregon. My company recovered in part, and we left the mines on the 24th of July. California is truly one of the sickliest, poorest in soil, and hottest countries your unworthy writer ever visited. I hope this will be warning enough to my friends about California.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 1, 1850, page 2
Umpqua River, O.T., Aug. 9, 1850.Mr. Editor:
Having lately received some important information relative to the country in California, on the Pacific, I take this opportunity to acquaint you with some of the items. At Mr. Wells' I saw Mr. Taylor of Santiam, lately returned from California. Mr. Taylor wintered on the Trinity River, and was successfully engaged in digging gold. He gave me some account of recent explorations and their results. The river formerly known as Trinity by miners, turns out to be a branch of the Klamath. Gold is found nearly to the mouth of the Klamath, and most abundant on the Klamath branch. He estimates that 400 men have gone to dig on this river, the Klamath.
South of Trinidad Bay, which is supposed to be an open roadstead, another bay has been discovered, named Humboldt Bay. A little south of this, a river has been found, called Eel River, but which is supposed to be the real Trinity River; also, Humboldt Bay to be Trinidad Bay. Mr. Taylor represents the land to be the best he has seen west of the Rocky Mountains.
Our friends, D'Aubigne, who came with Capt. Purvine, and David Buck, who came with the Bristows of the late immigration, were among the number who explored it. Mr. Buck held a claim on Humboldt Bay's town site, and D'Aubigne a farming claim on Eel or Trinity river. But 160 acres are allowed for a claim. Mr. Taylor was a partner with D'Aubigne, and assisted him in building and making a claim. The valley was represented to be about 100 miles in length below the canyon. Wagons had been taken from Sonoma and Russian River to the valley of the river above the canyon. They there led their wagons and came through with their cattle to the lower settlement. The timber is represented to be excellent, redwood on the mountains, white fir and balm of gilead on the bottoms.
Mr. Taylor was engaged to pack through for a party to the Trinity mines. He estimates the distance as about 100 miles. He considers the harbor good. The grass was said to be of an excellent quality; it resembles very much red-top and clover. When he left, subsequent to the 4th of July, he represented it to have been nearly as green as in the [illegible]. Of late, repeated showers of rain had fallen. Game was said to have been very abundant. Mr. Bush had written by him to Gov. Lane to give information respecting the country. I expressed the wish that, as the letter had failed to reach its destination, it be published, if there is any person authorized to receive and open it.
Messrs. Scott, Sloan and Butler have gone to the mouth of the Umpqua to meet the U.S. Exploring Officer, and search for an entrance to the river. I will take the liberty, having passed several times through the Willamette Valley this season, to make a few observations representing the country and climate of the different sections. I passed up and down immediately before and during the time of harvest. With respect to the country generally, I think the people have reason to be grateful, contented and happy. From the Umpqua Valley to the lower extremity the labors of the husbandman are well rewarded, while the influence of a genial climate conveys salubrity and affords the prospect of health and longevity to its inhabitants.
I will begin my description at Tualatin Plains. Here, in addition to an open, beautiful country, rich soil and good timber, the fruits of American industry and energy are seen in good improvements and an exhibition of public spirit. From its proximity to market, encouragement to agriculture is given, the effect of which is [not] lost. It has one drawback in comparison with the southern settlements: the sparseness and scarcity of grass and the severity of winter, in a hard winter, stock here requiring to be fed.
Yamhill and Chehalem are next in order; the soil is good and productive. The raising of vegetables is restricted, however, to favorable localities, or land that has been [illegible] with regard to the production of grain. South of this the farmer has little cause to fear the dominion of winter. The mild climate of the Pacific discloses to view fields ever verdant and an air ever temperate. As a proof of this, through all this country it is considered safe to sow oats in the fall. The general yield of wheat, on good land, will amount to from 20 to 30 bushels per acre.
The country hitherto described will probably afford few inducements to the agricultural emigrants this year, as the best claims are all taken, and from its nearness to market, improved claims sell high.
Lacreole [Rickreall] with its delightful valley next claims our attention; the bottom or valley is handsome and tolerably rich; behind this (the vicinity) it merits little attention, except from the excellent range afforded for cattle and swine. From its extensive oak hills, a want of timber for building and fencing, is to some extent [illegible]. In going south, we come to the Luckiamute River, about 70 miles from Oregon City, or Portland. On the upper road we come to the little Luckiamute first, at the bridge. The land is good in the forks, and pleasantly situated. From the main Luckiamute to Mary's River, the country is generally conceded to be the best in Oregon.
The mountains to the right here assume a highly bold, picturesque and romantic appearance, while at their base the varied appearances of wooded streamlets, springing fountains, open vales, and rich plains render it a beautiful country.
* * *The new road to the Umpqua promises to render easy the hitherto difficult passage of the Calapooia Mountains. Should the present expedition to the mouth of the Umpqua be successful in surveying an entrance to the bay or river, it will readily be seen that the Umpqua presents inducements to settlers, situated as it is at the opening gateway of the golden regions, with a climate eminently mild and highly salubrious, numbering among its productions the grapevine and the native plum, a large proportion of which is arable and well suited to grazing. It certainly appears to possess great and important advantages for the acquisition of wealth and the production of the means of subsistence. The spontaneous growth of the plums is, so far as I have learned, limited to this portion of Oregon, including the country lying on the Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath rivers.
This region of country is almost entirely free from those disturbing atmospheric phenomena which prevail in other lands: the deep thunder of those elemental, electrical influences with which the atmosphere of other lands is charged, seems emboweled in the strange hills and hidden caverns of our earth.
W. N. GOODELL.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 19, 1850, page 2
Report of Lieutenant Commanding W. P. McArthur to Professor A. D. Bache, Superintendent of the Coast Survey, communicating a description of the islands and rivers between the harbor of Monterey and the mouth of the Columbia River.
* * *The important rivers between San Francisco and the Columbia are, perhaps, sufficiently well defined on the reconnaissance chart, as far as latitude and longitude are concerned.
Eel River.--There are nine feet of water on the bar at the mouth of this river. The entrance is very narrow, and the swell so high, generally, as to render it difficult and dangerous for sailing vessels. Steamers might enter and depart without difficulty.
Humboldt River.--The entrance to this bay is half a mile in width between the breakers. There are eighteen feet of water on the bar at mean low water.
The Klamath.--On the bar of this river there are seventeen feet of water at mean low water. The channel is so narrow and the current so strong that I deem it unsafe for sailing vessels. Steamers are required to make this river useful.
Rogue's River.--This river has ten feet of water on the bar at the mouth at mean low water, but it is too narrow for sailing vessels, as there is scarcely room to turn in the channel.
The Coquille River is not available for anything larger than small boats and canoes.
The Coos.--This river was not so closely examined, but to judge by appearances at the mouth, I do not hesitate to express the opinion that it will be found to be available and very useful for steamers.
The Umpqua.--I crossed the bar of this river in the second cutter, in 14 feet water, and passed into three fathoms on the inside of the bar, the rollers breaking at the time all the way across the channel. The channel, in my opinion, is practicable for steamers, but dangerous for sailing vessels, unless under very favorable circumstances.
The remaining rivers to the northward can only be entered by small boats, except, perhaps, the "Yaquina," which might be entered by vessels of a larger class.
The Republic, Washington, D.C., December 27, 1850, page 3
The Shasta and Klamath Diggings.
A correspondent of the Pacific News, who visited the Shasta gold regions, after it was "dug out," says:
"I saw some of the gold that had been taken out, which was mostly in large 'chunks,' weighing from a quarter of a pound to two, and even as high as five pounds. It was estimated by those capable of judging that upward of $200,000 had been taken out of a comparatively small extent of diggings. Since that time I have been a wandering miner, spending all I had to work so hard for barely to keep soul and body together, until driven to this place once more by the approach of winter--penniless, homeless, but, I am happy to say, not friendless.
"I am happy to be able to assure you that the Klamath mines have turned out very rich, extending over the entire river, its branches, creeks and ravines. I am confident that next spring these 'placers' will take the lead of any of the older mines, if not of them all, for any man can with ease make his $12 to $15 per day, and many that I know are averaging from $15 to $30 daily. These facts, no longer mere hearsay, but actual results, must give to Klamath City an importance as a depot of supply to an extensive mineral region, that will not fail to raise it into a prosperous town."
----Yesterday, about noon, the brig Kate Heath entered our harbor, after an absence of nearly three months spent in exploring the Umpqua River in Southern Oregon, and surveying the rich bottoms of its tributaries. This vessel left San Francisco on the 27th September last, having on board a company of seventy-five persons, exclusive of those belonging to the brig, who went with the design of making permanent settlements in that beautiful and inviting region.
The Umpqua Valley.
From the Pacific News, Dec. 23rd .
In consequence of the headwinds prevailing at the time of their departure, thirteen days were spent in reaching a point which will hereafter be gained by steamers like the New Orleans in thirty-six hours. The cargo of the Kate Heath was discharged at Umpqua City, two miles within the mouth of the river, to the left as one ascends. At this location, which is destined to be the great point to which the commerce of the entire portion of Southwestern Oregon will be forever directed, a number of durable houses and stores were erected, thus laying the foundations of a city which must have a growth proportioned to that of similar points in our state.
After landing at Umpqua City, the passengers of the brig made the best of their way up the river, in boats and canoes--as was done above Sacramento City, one year since, before the steamers had been made which now navigate these waters--as far as Scottsburg, a distance of about thirty miles. They scattered themselves from that point, and took up "claims" in various unoccupied portions of the fertile bottoms above.
It may be well to remark in this connection, showing the appreciation in which this newly explored portion of Oregon Territory is held by the other inhabitants of that region, that from August, the date of the former explorations of the Umpqua Company of this city, to October last, nearly every claim from Scottsburg to the Fort [Fort Umpqua], a distance of sixteen miles, and also much beyond, was taken up by the Oregon people themselves. They even left good claims in the renowned Willamette Valley without waiting for a purchaser, or sold them to some raw recruit from California, and removed with all their household, cows, turkeys, chickens and children, into the better valley of the Umpqua. And to show that this was not done merely from a love of change, we will state that previous to the explorations of the company they had but little knowledge of the whole region. Being composed mostly of Western people, they know more about tracking the pathless forest or prairie than about navigating along the coast and exploring the mouths of its rivers. They had crossed the upper forks of the Umpqua and the Trinity, and here their knowledge ended.
At present, with that keen sagacity which they are not lacking, they discover that a little to the south of the Willamette lies a land with valleys more fertile, a climate more bland, and accessible by one-half the distance to a market superior to any other in the world. They are thus getting possession of some of the choicest portions of that territory, leaving to those recently arrived from California via the Columbia, and to immigrants over the plains, those portions which they themselves consider of less value. And thus there is growing up, at almost the only other point on the coast after San Francisco, an order of things which betokens well for the future. The period of a year will not elapse before an energetic and thriving population shall fill up these smiling valleys and people these new towns with busy inhabitants. Every branch of business will there find employ. The merchant at the present moment can there sell his goods at prices such as were known here a year ago, and that, too, within two days' sail of our crowded port and glutted market.
New York Tribune, February 11, 1851, page 6
The brig Kate Heath returned to San Francisco on the 22nd of December, after an absence of nearly three months spent in exploring the Umpqua River, in South Oregon, and surveying the rich bottoms of its tributaries. Seventy persons went on the brig for the purpose of settling. They laid the basis of Umpqua City, two miles within the mouth of the river. It is destined to be the great point to which the commerce of the entire portion of Southwestern Oregon will be directed. The settlers then went up the river and took up land claims in the fertile bottoms.
"Further from California," Weekly Missouri Republican, St. Louis, February 21, 1851, page 1
OREGON, THE UMPQUA VALLEY &c.The following letters on Oregon and the Umpqua Valley were written by a gentleman who has resided for some years in California and Oregon, and who is well acquainted with the subjects he treats of. The suggestions relative to the supposed mistakes of FREMONT and WILKES are made more for the purpose of provoking inquiry into the subject than to settle the points at once, and in this light they are worthy of the attention of the reader. The letters, we would add, were originally written for the information and guidance of the author's friends in Vermont.--Editors, Courier & Enquirer.
LETTER NO. 1.
SAN FRANCISCO--1851.My dear--
Having lately been one of a party employed--or rather employing themselves--in exploring a part of Southern Oregon, and having received many letters during my residence here asking information and advice relative to emigration to California and Oregon, I feel compelled to atone for my long though involuntary neglect of friends at home by communicating in full the result of our observations.
Those who are familiar with the narratives and maps of FREMONT and WILKES will recollect that both of these explorers lay down the Klamath River a large stream rising in the Cascade Mountains, and emptying into the Pacific, in latitude 42° 26' N. The river itself is represented as a very large one, and the reports of the trappers, miners and emigrants who had crossed it were highly favorable as to its navigability and the richness of the valley through which it flows. In order to verify these reports, as well as to secure the possession of such locations as should be most likely to be hereafter valuable, a company was organized in this city in June last to examine and report upon the resources of that section of our country. A schooner of one hundred tons [the Samuel Roberts] was chartered for the voyage, and a party of men under the direction of Col. WINCHESTER, of Western New York, took passage in her for the mouth of the Klamath. The vessel sailed July 7, [1850,] and after beating up the coast shout three hundred miles arrived July 21st at the supposed mouth of the river. Our entrance here was attended with considerable danger. The mouth of the stream was very narrow, and a heavy surf continually broke across the bar. The shore was crowded with savages, whose disposition we had yet to learn. A ten-knot breeze was blowing from the Northwest, and breakers showed their black heads above the surf on all sides as we approached. When within half a mile of the mouth, a boat, manned by the mate and five men, was lowered to examine the entrance. This boat was unluckily caught in the surf and instantly swamped, the mate and crew receiving the benefit of a ducking. Another boat was soon dispatched to their aid but, being unable to approach without sharing the fate of the former, returned to the vessel. Our men were now seen through our glasses to be seized and stripped by the Indians on shore, and, as you may suppose, the excitement on board our craft was intense. All the firearms, of which by the way we had plenty, were got in readiness for action; the six-pounders were charged to the muzzle with grape and cannister, and we determined without hesitation to risk our vessel and our lives at once, sooner than see our comrades butchered by savages before our eyes. The schooner was now headed towards the entrance of the river, when just before reaching the bar, the halyards parted and down came the foresail, leaving her in an almost unmanageable condition, and in a very critical position. The vessel was with much difficulty put about, and two whole mortal hours were consumed before the damage was repaired. This accident probably prevented the vessel from striking, and saved us all from going to Davy Jones, as the tide had risen three feet while we were at work, thus giving us sufficient water to get over the bar.
Once more then the schooner was headed towards the shore, but our dangers and trials were not over yet. The centerboard could not be raised by the winch, and not until it actually rubbed on the sand could it be started from its position. We ware however fortunate in finding the channel, though there were only nine feet of water on the bar. The schooner nearly broached to several times in the surf, and we could hardly believe our senses when we found ourselves in smooth water inside the harbor, and saw four of our six men coming off alive in a canoe. The missing men were supposed to have been drowned. One of them, however, as we subsequently learned, was killed by an Indian, who finding him in an exhausted state, ran him through with a wooden spear, to obtain possession of his clothes. Poor fellow! The other man's corpse was brought to us by the savages and given up for a blanket. It had been horribly mutilated by the vultures and wolves, and we buried it with its companion on a point of land near the scene of the tragedy. The ill-fated boat was stove to pieces, and the fragments strewn up and down the beach, one oar being all that we recovered from the natives, but as they had offered no violence to our surviving comrades we treated them with kindness and attention, being desirous to secure their good will rather than provoke them by hostilities, as has been too often done by the settlers in our new territories.
We had now an opportunity for contemplating human nature--if human it could be called, which appeared to us to be inhuman--in a phase entirely new and interesting to all of us. These Indians are of middle height, none that we saw exceeding five feet six inches, stout and well proportioned. They are entirely naked, save an occasional deerskin about the middle, and yet they do not seem at all sensible to the rawness of the climate. Their food consists of fish, venison and berries, of which they brought us supplies. They are the most thievish race in existence. Their whole aim was to steal, or, if caught, beg everything about the ship they could lay their hands on. They would come at night and try to pull the copper off the schooner's bottom, and one astute individual tried hard for several hours to cut oft the chain with his iron knife, and so secure the anchor as his booty. He tugged lustily at the chain, looking back at the schooner now and then to make sure that he was not watched, while the watch on deck, hid behind the netting, enjoyed heartily his strenuous but fruitless efforts. Another picked the surveyor's pocket of his note book and got possession of the eyeglasses of the sextant, with which he was highly delighted. They were struck with awe and amazement at the compass and theodolite, imagining us to be communicating through them with the beings of an invisible world.
We never suffered them to come on board the vessel, but every morning at the break of day they surrounded us in large numbers in their canoes, crowding the rail fore and aft, and keeping us busy trading old clothes and trinkets for their bows and arrows, furs, &c. Our salt provisions they would not touch, but were extremely anxious for our clothes, which, when they obtained some of them, they wore in the most fantastic and unheard-of manner, and for which they would have killed the whole of us, had we been off our guard a moment. Being one day particularly troublesome, and refusing to retire from the railing when ordered, we fired our big gun, shot and all, over their heads, when they did not wait tor a second discharge, before they were safe ashore, and out of reach. They scattered presto you may depend, nor were they so free and familiar with us again during our stay.
The phrenological appearance of these savages is by no means contemptible, but it would require a vast deal of training to develop their intellects to [text cut off scan] notwithstanding their seven shots apiece, but by putting a bold face on the matter, and showing a perfect contempt for the savages, they marched straight through the crowd towards an adjacent hill, as if they meant to continue their route by the upland trail. But the Indians suspecting ran forward, in a mass, to head them off, while the members of our party coolly seated themselves in the shade and partook of lunch, which over, and the Indians a mile out of the way, they returned leisurely to the vessel.
----To those who have lived in San Francisco a year or so, there is no sight so refreshing as that of a green tree! This may sound strangely to those at home, whose farms are half covered with timber, and whose orchards and gardens and cultivated fields suggest no other idea than that of profit, but to us, who had gazed for so long [on] the bare hills of California, the country around this river seemed almost a paradise. Here were hills crowned with spruces, towering up to twice the height of those on our own green mountains. Here, too, were maples and oaks, pines and hemlocks, laurels and myrtle trees, while drooping willows bent their filmy boughs, and formed a light and graceful fringe over the bosom of the quiet stream, as if listening to the converse of the finny tribes below. Nor was the hand of cultivation missed as among the wilds at home, for Nature here has drawn the line between the wood and the grassy plain. Never have I witnessed a growth so dense or so luxuriant as that which covers the windward side of the hills of Oregon. The sea breeze comes regularly upon these slopes, charged with moisture from the Northwest, and deposits a saline dew upon the nearest objects. The effect of this, [in] spite of the chilliness of the climate, is wonderful. You could almost walk on the top of the herbage, and the effect of the breeze where it strikes the second range of hills is as evident as the contrast between the lights and shades of a picture. Herds of elk, deer and antelope make their beds in this rank herbage, and we not unfrequently surprised them in their lairs. The proportion of woodland and pasture here is about equal, and the line is drawn as distinctly as if by the woodman's axe, but unfortunately the good land extends only a mile or two from the beach, when the forest takes sole possession of the otherwise barren mountains of the Coast Range.
We ascended the stream twenty miles from its mouth, in whaleboats, until we became satisfied that the discovery we had made was useless, and that we were likely to incur the hostility of the natives by prosecuting our researches further. We could foresee, however, though no pass exists at this point to the interior through the Coast Range, that some future day will behold here some of the richest dairies that ever made butter or cheese. Farmers from Vermont and northern New York, where the six months' winter eats up the produce of the balance of the year, would gloat upon a country where grass--and such grass, grows the whole year round!
We left this river, which by the way we named the Styx [sic], after ten days' laborious exploration, having ascertained that WILKES and FREMONT were altogether wrong in placing the mouth of the Klamath in Oregon, and that we must go elsewhere if we would fulfill our mission. Accordingly, we weighed anchor, and after another narrow escape from wreck in getting out of the harbor, we stood to the northward, in search of the mouth of the Umpqua. The latitude of this river was not known exactly, never having been entered, but WILKES described the entrance as being narrow, and furnishing no harbor for seagoing vessels. He also gives nine feet as the depth of water on the bar. We were happy in proving him to be here again as inaccurate as usual, our surveys giving three and a half fathoms on the bar, an entrance of five hundred yards in width, and a deep harbor, three and a half miles long, and from one half to one and a half miles wide. We entered this beautiful sheet of water on the evening of August 4th, and, as we let go our anchor, the stars and stripes were run up to the masthead and saluted with the first three cheers that had ever disturbed the dormant echoes of the place.
Here again we found ourselves hemmed in by a dense forest of evergreen, which protects an almost impenetrable growth of underbrush. The soil is very rich, and lies over a stratum of fine light sandstone, similar to that of which Trinity Church, New York, is built. Of this stone there are inexhaustible deposit, and extensive quarries could be carried on with very little trouble or expense. Fish of every variety are abundant in the bay. Salmon, salmon trout, flounders, herrings, soft-shell crabs, eels and rock cod are so numerous that at times the bottom cannot be seen for them, though generally it is visible at a depth of ten or fifteen feet. We met here a party of three emigrants: one of whom, a Mr. SCOTT, proved of great service to us throughout the expedition, from his knowledge of the Umpqua country, while another named [Joseph?] SLOAN soon showed himself too smart to succeed in everything he undertook.
Accepting our invitation to come on board and bunk with us, SLOAN overheard some of our party discussing our plans, and concluding that we might as well work for his benefit as our own, he stepped ashore next morning, axe in hand, and spotted his square mile of land, on the very site we had pitched upon for our settlement. This he did alone, supposing all the while that no one was watching him. When the schooner next day got under way to ascend the river, he accompanied us, and on arriving at the head of navigation thirty miles up, he took his horse and galloped off to the county seat, expecting to have his claim recorded in the name of a neighbor of his, according to the Oregon law, before we should find him out. He had reckoned without his host, however. Dr. HORACE O. PAINE, from Troy, New York, one of our party, immediately hired a horse and guide at Fort Umpqua, took a nearer road, traveled forty-five miles the same night--got the start of SLOAN, who, having heard next day of the discovery of his plot, procured a fresh horse and clapped spurs to him with a will, but all in vain--PAINE led him in the race of about one hundred miles some two hours, and recorded not only the contested claim, hut also SLOAN's own claim and those of several of his friends, which had not been entered for record, in the names of the members of our party. The effect was electric. SLOAN, disappointed and vexed, roused the settlers, who had now pretty generally heard of the exciting race, telling them that the rascally "Down Easters" had entered the Umpqua and taken possession of the whole valley, and were going to drive the settlers all out of it. This waked up the Hoosiers, sure enough; and down they came with their long rifles, swearing that they would shoot every one of the d---d Yankees, and DR. PAINE in particular. A party of twenty or more soon reached the vessel, hut the Doctor, meeting them with the blandest countenance in the world, and giving up at once to all who designed to settle the claims they had made, they became our best friends, especially since the discovery of a harbor close at hand had done so much for the value of their property. The consequence of the movement was the promotion of migration into the valley, many families having immediately started from the Willamette Valley to settle upon the Umpqua, towards which they would perhaps have sooner turned their steps, had they known that by so doing they were approaching, instead of receding from, a harbor and a market. More anon.
Yours, truly,Supplement to the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, October 10, 1851, page 1
Last revised December 26, 2017