The Umpqua Valley is distant from the Willamette about twelve miles, and is separated from it by the Calapooia Mountain. It is about ninety miles in length, and varies from five to thirty-five miles in width. It is made up of a succession of hills and dales, furnishes but little timber, yet abounds in a natural luxuriant growth of the richest grass.
North and South Umpqua rivers run through this valley, and form a junction about forty miles from the bay of the same name. The entrance to this bay is found to be practicable, as many ships and steamers have crossed the bar at its mouth, finding from three to three and a half fathoms of water upon it, without the aid of pilots, buoys or lighthouses. A few slight accidents, however, have occurred for the want of such improvements. A port of entry has been established here, and appropriations have been made for a lighthouse and fog signals.
This bay is destined to be an important point to the southern portion of Oregon; here will be the outlet for the produce of the Umpqua Valley, and, consequently, here will be its commercial city. Many pack trains are already employed in the transportation of goods and provisions from this point to the "gold diggings" on Rogue, Shasta and Scott rivers.
Rogue River Valley, which takes its name from the river that passes through it, is about seventy miles by the main traveled route from Umpqua. The valley is well watered by never-failing streams; the soil is generally good, and it is skirted and interspersed with groves of fine timber. As it borders upon a rich gold region it must eventually become densely populated. As yet, however, it contains no white settlement, but is occupied by the Rogue River Indians, who have rendered it the seat of much trouble and suffering from their depredations.
There is no portion of the Territory, and indeed, I may almost add of the world, better adapted to grazing than this valley. In extent it is about fifty by thirty miles. Surrounded by mountains, the eye seldom rests upon a more beautiful, picturesque and romantic spot. It extends to within a few miles of the boundary between Oregon and California. These valleys all lie west of the Cascade Mountains and south of the Columbia River. . . .
The Indians immediately bordering on, or near the settlements, are perfectly friendly and well disposed. Settlers have nothing to fear from them. Those upon Rogue River are troublesome to those passing through their country, and will probably continue so until a garrison shall be established to overawe and keep them in subjection. This, I hope, will soon be done, for their depredations upon travelers have already caused much trouble and suffering. They are upon the great thoroughfare from Oregon to California, a fork of which leads to Fort Hall, being the road frequently traveled by emigrants from that point to Oregon.
Joseph Lane, "Circular of Honorable Joseph Lane," Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, April 3, 1852, page 1
Our Umpqua Correspondence.
The course of trade--The Umpqua region--Routes through the valley, location, resources, advantages, prospects, etc.--The Umpqua River, etc.--A freshet.
Umpqua City, Jan. 8, 1852.Messrs. Editors --It ia a matter of surprise that your community, usually so active in the discovery of every opportunity of mercantile enterprise, should have failed to notice the advantages of a point so promising as the Umpqua River. It is true that several merchants from San Francisco are and have been quietly filling their pockets with the profits of a large and lucrative trade, but the greater portion of your community seem to live in "Rip Van Winkle" unconsciousness of a location offering a rich and permanent traffic. Like the fable of the boy crying wolf until no one would heed his alarm, the people of San Francisco have so often been deluded by false allurements to splendid prospects and glittering schemes that the modest truth is received with distrust.
A large mining district, comprising Southern Oregon and Northern California, is furnished with supplies from the Umpqua River. These mines are among the richest in California. Though a three years' resident, I have never known any district where miners have met with such universal success. The route from the mines to this place is, for the most part, over a level plain, yielding an abundance of grass for animals. Through the whole distance, there is not an interval of ten miles that does not afford rich pasturage. Thousands of pack mules are passing from these mines to the Umpqua Valley, with which this river communicates. (This river has a natural opening through the Coast Range, between San Francisco and the Columbia River.) Packers prefer this route to all others, and the Umpqua Valley has, by nature, a position that will inevitably give it importance. Though the supply of goods has been large during the season, it has been insufficient to supply the demand. Large numbers of pack animals have passed on to Salem, and even to Oregon City, for goods, on account of the deficiency at this point. They have preferred even this distance, rather than the rugged and barren trails through the Coast Range.
Not only does this river command the trade of a large and populous mining district, but it furnishes supplies to the numerous settlers of the Umpqua and lower Willamette valleys. These valleys, in salubrity of climate, fertility of soil and beauty of' scenery, are unsurpassed. The abundance of fine timber on this river has led to the erection of mills. The lumber of these mills, together with piles, make up the return cargo of vessels bound to your port.
The bar of the river has three and one-half fathoms of water at low tide, and the harbor is large and secure. Certain gentlemen interested in fancy speculations upon the coast have reported a less quantity of water upon the bar. Allow us to correct them by saying that we know them to be either ignorant of the truth, or willful in misrepresentation. We have learned that the Sea Gull, on her entrance into this river, having run over the North Spit, reported a small quantity of water. This is a matter which is soon to be settled by a U.S. survey.
Yours, M.S.S.P.S. A freshet has just taken place here, carrying away one wharf and doing other considerable damage. A vessel is standing off the bar bound for this place. The mail steamer has been ordered to stop here regularly, and is expected daily.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 1, 1852, page 5
Calapooia Creek, Umpqua ValleyMy Dear Cornelia
6th June 1852.
I am now at the house of Dr. Baker, an old settler of Oregon, where I arrived last evening, on my way back to Oregon City from the Rogue River country. Mr. Coe, my traveling companion, has just left me and is hastening back to the Willamette Valley, where official business requires his presence. I design to go hence to Scottsburg and the other points on the Umpqua River, with a view of taking a look at what I deem one of the most important commercial points in Oregon. The supplies for middle and Southern Oregon must come into the country through the Umpqua River, and I look therefore in a short time for the opening up of a large and prosperous town somewhere on the Umpqua River. It will probably take us some four days to make our contemplated visit to the places on the Umpqua River, and it will require some six days to get from here to Oregon City. It will therefore be about two weeks before I get back to headquarters.
My trip thus far has been full of interest, and though at times a little wearisome yet the pleasures have far exceeded the annoyances of the journey. The Umpqua region is as full of romantic beauty as it can well be. They call it a valley, but it is a collection of hills and valleys. Dr. Baker calls it a "Valley of Hills." Conceive of an immense potato field, with its hills rising up from five hundred to a thousand feet in height and then covered with oaks and fir with streams of water running adown their sides and the whole earth covered both on hilltop as well as in the valley with a rich sward of grass, and a large stream of water running in the center of the valley, bordered by a line of oaks and maple and you will then have some idea of the Umpqua region. It is a country extending from east to west about sixty miles and from north to south about fifty. For grazing purposes it is not excelled I venture to say by a country in the world. Nature has thrown the earth into a thousand fantastic and picturesque shapes. It is beautiful beyond description. Settlers are fast taking the desirable claims now, and probably before another year elapses almost every farm of any value will have been taken. I see but one objection to a residence in this part of Oregon, and that is the settlements owing to the make of the ground must be sparse, and therefore there will be a difficulty in the establishment of schools and churches. The climate is delightful, the country healthy. In the afternoon a sea breeze sweeps over the country and refreshingly tempers the fervor of the sun's rays. Besides being preeminently adapted to the raising of stock it will also produce any kind of vegetables or grains. Indian corn I am told grows finely. The vine grows spontaneously and yields a most excellent kind of grape. South of the Umpqua region lies the Rogue River country. It got its name of Rogue River from the character of the Indians who live upon the principal stream that washes the region. They have until late been a set of plundering, marauding rascals, not sparing life itself when it was necessary to accomplish their thefts. The severe castigation which Major Kearny gave them last summer, and the obligations of the treaty which they made with Gov. Gaines shortly afterwards, joined with an increasing fear of the whites who are gathering in such large numbers around them, are now exercising a salutary restraint upon their dispositions, and we can travel amongst them with tolerable security. I saw several hundred of them whilst I was on the river, most of them in a state little short of nudity. The men are large, well formed, of good countenance and of lithe and active limbs. They use principally the bow and arrow for weapons and send their shaft home with unerring aim. The women are not as good looking as the men. They do the drudgery of life. They gather and prepare all the food except the killing of the wild game. They live principally upon the deer, the elk, the salmon, the camas--a root shaped like an onion which grows wild in the prairies--the acorn, bugs, caterpillars and almost all kinds of insects. We saw the women gathering caterpillars to eat. They have a large basket with a wide mouth, which they place under a bush or branch, and when shake the caterpillars into their vessel, every now and then giving the side of the basket a rap with a view of knocking to the bottom such of the worms as are seeking to escape by coming up the sides. I suppose we saw bushels of caterpillars which had been thus gathered for food. They sometimes eat them raw, and at other times boil them, and mix them up with their roots in order to give to their vegetable food a semi-meat flavor. How would you like a piece of caterpillar pie? There was one practice which we noticed amongst the women the mention of which may interest you somewhat. When a friend dies the female relatives cover their head and hair with a sort of tar which they make out of the pitch taken from the trees, so as to completely plaster the hair to the head. They keep their hair in this condition until by the growth of new hair, and by exposure to the air, all the tar naturally wears off--when the days of mourning are considered at an end.
The Rogue River Valley is not of very great extent. The principal prairie is about 15 miles one way, and about twenty the other. There are other side valleys, but they are not very numerous nor of any very great extent. There is much good soil, but it is not so uniformly good as the soil of the Umpqua. Its principal value arises from its proximity to the mines of gold in that region, that there is a large mining region in that vicinity cannot be doubted. The diggers are making from five to fifty dollars per day. At one place a party of three have taken out about fourteen thousand dollars since the latter part of Feb'y. last. I worked a little at this place and from one pan full obtained about six dollars worth of gold. I shall send it to you by the first opportunity, so that you may have it made up into a ring or pin. It took me about fifteen minutes to do the work. It was by the especial favor of Judge Skinner, the Indian agent, whose nephew was working the claim, that I obtained leave to work in the claim as I did. There are about two thousand mines in the Rogue River country, and the people are fast flooding in. I venture to say that in less than a year the largest part of the population will be in Southern Oregon. The effect of the discovery of gold has been to advance prices considerably; cows are worth from $75 to $100. Flour twenty cents a pound, beef fifteen cents. Coffee and sugar were 40 or fifty cents, butter at $1 and eggs just what one chooses to ask for them. Now is the time for a good merchant to establish himself at Scottsburg or some point on the Umpqua River. The stoves of your father would sell there in the fall at fine prices. But I must close. I intended to have said something to you about the innumerable flowers that are garnishing the prairies, the rough and tumble life that we have had to encounter--such as sleeping out under trees and cooking our own bacon--the habits of the people and the simplicity of their lives &c. &c., but I must reserve them to end this letter.
I saw Allan at Marysville some two weeks since. He said he would write by the steamer that was then to go out. I sent you a dress by way of a sample of what they have in Oregon by M. Atkinson. Did you receive it? How are the dear children; kiss them affectionately for me. When shall I see them again? Remember me to to all our friends and acquaintances with kind love to the families. I am as ever, affectionately your husband, Thomas.
Thomas Nelson to Cordelia Nelson, Beinecke Library, Yale University
A correspondent of the St. Louis Republican, writing from Oregon City on the 10th of April, gives the following description of some of the towns in that distant Territory. . . .
The attention of our citizens and business men here seems to be directed towards the southern part of the Territory. Since my last, gold in considerable quantities has been discovered in the Rogue River country, Jackson County, which, together with the rich farming land in that quarter, has served to fasten nearly all eyes upon it. Emigration at this time tends towards Southern Oregon, that part of the Territory embraced within the counties of Umpqua, Douglas and Jackson, lying south of the Willamette Valley, and divided from it by the Calapooia Mountains, a spur stretching across the country from the Coast Range.
The gold mines in Northern California, and those just discovered in Southern Oregon, afford to the latter by their steady demand, high prices and proximity of one of the best markets for all kinds of agricultural products in the world, and when these countries are settled, it will enjoy the almost exclusive monopoly of this market. With these two occupations, of mining and farming, carried on in the same vicinity, this part of Oregon must soon become densely peopled.
In the Umpqua Valley there are several towns, but recently known, however, as being places of immediate importance. Winchester, situated upon the North Umpqua on the route through the Territory from north to south, and directly on the road to the mines, is a flourishing village in embryo, with its "store," blacksmith shop &c. It is an inland town, with an extensive and rich farming country surrounding it on all sides sufficient to support, when settled, a large retail trade.
Going down this river about forty-five miles, which is some fifteen miles below Winchester, . . . nearly doubled in volume by receiving the South Umpqua, coming in from a southeast direction, we arrived at Scottsburg, situated on the north bank upon a narrow flat or bottom, only a few rods in width, but some two miles in length, and walled in on both sides by high, steep and rocky mountains, inaccessible for all useful or practical purposes. It is an important point, however, it being the only point of entry accessible from the interior for the Umpqua, Rogue River, Klamath and Shasta counties, and the mines embraced within their limits.
Twenty-five miles further down Umpqua brings us to Gardiner, on the south side of the river, three or four miles from its mouth. Directly at the mouth, on the north side of the river, Umpqua City is situated, which makes up the list of towns on this river. These three places are beginning to attract the attention of capitalists, and owing to their location and the vast extent of country to which this river affords the only entry by water, they will soon become of importance in the business world.
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 25, 1852, page 2
Head Quarters Fort OrfordCaptain:
August 29th 1852
Having returned to this post day before yesterday with my command, I have now the honor to forward agreeable to my instructions the following report of the expedition.
I left this post, accompanied by Lieut. Williamson, T.E., on the 20th June, with forty men of my company, taking forty days' provisions, which I at that time thought would be amply sufficient to carry us through to the Oregon Trail and back to this place. I followed the trail I had made last fall and on the fifth day encamped on the Coquille at the place we had turned back from last November. We here crossed the river without difficulty and, striking an Indian trail on the opposite side, followed it up the stream, the only difficulty we found in getting along arising from the fallen timber. During the latter part of the day's march, the trail ran through a succession of grassy slopes, on one of which we encamped. The next day we continued to follow up the river, losing the trail however on which we had been traveling, and after a good deal of trouble in cutting through brush and fallen timber, and having to cross the river twice to avoid high bluffs, we reached a small prairie situated like the others we had passed through, on the slope of the mountain, and here encamped. This spot I afterwards ascertained to be not more than three miles from my last camp, and easily reached by leaving the river and crossing a ridge. The next day we continued our course up the river intending to follow it if possible and ascertain if it was not one of the streams crossing the Oregon Trail between the Umpqua Cañon and Rogue River ferry. After having proceeded about a mile we were overtaken by a party of Indians who gave us to understand by signs that we would not be able to follow the course we were going, on account of high bluffs, but that we ought to go the route they were going to Rogue River, and that there we would find white men. Thinking if I should find any white men they would prove to be miners who had come down from Rogue River ferry, and would therefore be able to give me information as to the practicability of proceeding up that river, I decided to accompany the Indians. Under their guidance we crossed the Coquille again, and traveling south and southwest on a high ridge along a well-defined trail, we encamped for the night at a spring on its summit. The next day we succeeded in getting to within three miles of Rogue River, being detained a great deal on account of having to cut in many places through heavy brush and having to make too steep descents and ascents, to cross two streams which we found running to the eastward. The next morning about 8 o'clock we reached Rogue River, which we found to be a very deep and rapid stream, although not very wide. The last part of the descent to the river was through open oak timber, and at the foot of the slope an open grassy bottom extended about a mile along the river and stretched back from a half to three quarters of a mile to the base of the mountains. Here our Indians refused to go with us any farther, as they had come over for the purpose of catching salmon, but they gave me to understand that I should find white men both up [and] down the river. Finding a well-beaten trail running up along the river bank I moved on, but encamped after proceeding about half a mile in consequence of being obliged to send back to look for some mules that had been lost in descending through the brush. The next morning we continued to follow the trail but soon got among rocks, the trail winding along between, and sometimes going over them, but it being impossible to take animals along it we moved up to a plateau on the side of the mountain, but this soon terminating in precipitous cliffs, we retraced our steps and after some delay succeeded in making a way for our animals between the rocks and the foot of the cliffs. After this proceeded on about a mile when we were again stopped by the rocks, and to avoid them crossed a spur of the mountain that put down in front of us, and striking the river again, encamped without grass, and with the trail in advance still obstructed by rocks. The next day I returned down the river to obtain grass for the animals, and to procure if possible some Indians as guides, who might be able to show me a more practicable trail than that immediately along the river. The party I sent for this purpose to an Indian rancheria returned with two Indians, who by their signs were understood to say that the route up the river to the white men was very bad, and that it would take four days to reach them, but that there were white men in one day's journey down the river. To ascertain the truth of this statement I went down the river the next day with ten men, taking an Indian as guide. After proceeding about seven miles we arrived opposite a large Indian village, where our guide informed us the white men were. As soon as we were perceived, a number of Indians came across and among them was one who understood a little of the Chinook language; one of my men also speaking it, I was able to ascertain that there had been white men here, but that they had left the place some time back. This village is probably a permanent settlement, containing a good many huts, and having extensive fishing dams in its vicinity. It contains probably several hundred Indians. On returning to camp I determined to force my way up the river, hoping that the trail might improve as we proceeded, or, at any rate, by reaching a mining settlement I would be able to obtain some information with regard to the position and distance of the Oregon Trail. During the next three days, we succeeded in getting about eighteen miles up the river, but on the following day on moving about two miles we were stopped by [a spur] of the mountain jutting down, forming precipitous cliffs to the river. A stream running through a deep cañon from the north emptying just above these cliffs prevented our turning them except by heading the cañon at the same time.
Having now been out fourteen days, and my animals having become extremely tenderfooted from being obliged to travel among the rocks and over hard ground without shoes, I concluded to leave Rogue River and return to the Coquille and there form a camp from which I could examine the country with small parties. I would also at that place have the advantages of plenty of grass for the animals, and being within four days' march of Fort Orford, would be able to obtain from there any additional supplies I might require. We accordingly commenced our return, and reached the Coquille on the 7th July, having been detained two days on Rogue River in consequence of the Indians stealing two of my horses. The theft was discovered immediately after it had been committed, but owing to the darkness of the night it was impossible to follow the depredators at the time. The next morning we started in pursuit and traced the animals to a rancheria on the opposite side of the river, and there found them tied. To punish the Indians I burned the ranch, broke up the fishing dams, and destroyed the canoes at that place. On the morning of the 8th July, I dispatched Lieut. Williamson with the pack train and twenty men to Fort Orford, to bring out an additional supply of provisions for thirty days. My horses, with the exception of six, I also sent in at the time, to be left at Fort Orford, as they were mostly becoming disabled from the want of shoes. Whilst awaiting the return of the pack train, I was unable to obtain some information with regard to the country in the vicinity, and had a trail opened for about three miles directly to the eastward. On the 20th July, Lt. Williamson with the train, accompanied by Lt. Stoneman, joined me. On the 27th, with Lt. Williamson and seven men, I left camp, taking provisions for the party for ten days, with the intention of pushing through if possible directly eastward to the trail. On the second day we encamped on a considerable stream running to the north, but turning the point of a mountain, we found it to bear generally to the east and accordingly followed it for two days. On the fifth day in going over a ridge we found a series of blazes, evidently made by white men, and, as they were running in the direction we wished to go, we followed them for a little distance, when they suddenly terminated. We continued to move on, however, in a general direction to the eastward for some distance farther, when we returned to where we had first seen the blazes, and encamped on some good grass. The next day we remained where we were to enable Lt. Williamson to take some observations, to give our animals some food and rest, and to endeavor to find out something about the blazes we have met with. During the day a party that I had sent down a stream near us returned and reported that about three miles down they had found a party of miners, who informed them that a stream which came in just below was "Elk" Creek, which is the first stream we crossed on going south from the Umpqua Cañon, that from where they were then was a good trail to a new Oregon Trail, that had been made to avoid the Cañon, and that the distance was about eight miles, and from the point of junction to where the new Oregon Trail intersected the old, north of the Cañon, it was about four miles. As I did not consider that it would be desirable to have the proposed trail come out north of the Cañon, and as the route I had followed would require a good deal of work in clearing off brush and fallen timber, and making or finding a good ascent and discount to a ridge I had traveled on, I determined before putting any work on the road to have the country examined farther to the south and find if possible a divide between the stream I found running to the east, and the waters of the Coquille and Rogue rivers. On my return to camp I sent Lt. Stoneman for this purpose, with seven men and rations for ten days. After leaving camp he proceeded along the top of a ridge, heading all the waters running to his right and emptying into that river. On the third day, having been obliged to bear to the northward, he struck my trail and at once bore off to the southeast, and heading the Coquille altogether struck the divide to the north of the waters of Rogue River, and kept on it until he reached the Oregon Trail on the eighth day. On his return Lt. Stoneman followed the divide back for several days, but on the fifth day he moved down a long, gradual, grassy descent covered with open oak timber, and reached the banks of Rogue River, where he struck my trail. He endeavored to regain the dividing ridge by following up an adjoining spur of he mountain, but met with a good deal of difficulty from rocks and brush; however, he finally succeeded in reaching his trail, and then pushed on to the camp, which he reached on the 23rd August, having been absent sixteen days. The animals of Lt. Stoneman's party when they reached the Oregon Trail had mostly given out, their feet having become very tender, their hoofs being broken and cracked, and in several cases worn to the quick and bleeding; great difficulty and delay was experienced in trying to bring them back, and finally they had to be abandoned from their absolute in capacity to walk. In consequence of this delay arising from the desire to save the animals if possible, the provisions of the party were exhausted before their return, and for several days they had to depend for their food on what game they might chance to kill during the day's march. The report of Lieut. Stoneman with respect to the route is extremely favorable. He was able to travel on a high ridge covered with open pine timber, with grass and water to be found along the route; in places indeed the brush obstructed the way, but this he thinks can be easily removed. From the Oregon Trail to when he came down to Rogue River, he is of opinion that a good wagon road can be made; in fact, it would be practicable for wagons now if not for the brush. The nature of the descent from the ridge to Rogue River will do away I think with the necessity for going on to the Coquille at all in making the proposed trail, and as the bottom where I first struck the Rogue River is probably not over twenty miles to the eastward of this place, and a pretty good knowledge has been obtained of the nature of the country, I have no doubt that a route can be easily found to connect Port Orford directly with Rogue River, striking it at or near this bottom. Should this be effected the Oregon trail can be reached in five days, making the route much shorter and far better than that by way of the Coquille, for that bears too far to the north and at the present time is far from being good on account of the fallen timber. About two miles below the point at which Lt. Stoneman struck the trail, there is a trading post established and kept by two men, one of whom informed him that they saw nothing of Indians in their vicinity, and had not been troubled by them; that at Rogue River ferry there were now about twenty families settled, who felt no apprehensions with respect to Indians, and considered that they were able to protect themselves if necessary. The miners, some forty or fifty miles down [sic] Rogue River, had had some difficulty with the Indians, but had defeated them, and they had mostly moved down the river towards its mouth.
To give an account of the distance and direction of each day's march, or a description of the country passed over, that would be at all accurate would be an extremely difficult matter. The routes traveled will be found indicated in a very general manner on the rough map drawn by Lt. Stoneman, which accompanies this report; almost everything had to be guessed at, however, from the impossibility of obtaining a view of the surrounding country, occasioned by the heavy pine timber with which the ridges are clothed. Occasionally indeed open spots are reached, which being most always on the slope of the mountain, the view is limited to a particular direction, and may be still more circumscribed by high ridges in the vicinity. The whole country is a series of mountainous ridges, the general direction of the principal ones being north and south, but an infinite number of spurs are running off in all directions, forming deep ravines through which the principal streams and their tributaries wind, their waters flowing during their course to most every point of the compass. The open grassy prairies that are met with are invariably situated on the eastern or southern slopes of the mountains, but on the top of the ridges, grass in small quantities is frequently to be found in the open pine timber. The tops of the highest ridges are the most available for travel, the timber being open, and but little fallen timber to be met with, although the brush sometimes proves an obstacle for some little distance. The sides and bottoms of the ravines are most always much obstructed by fallen logs, and having also the additional disadvantage of a good deal of brush.
Lt. Stoneman states that when he struck the trail, which is near where a stream called "Goose Creek" crosses it, he found the spurs of the mountains that slope down to be mostly covered with open oak timber, and that there was a good [deal] of grass in the immediate vicinity, but that it was mostly covered by private claims.
I have have lost during this expedition twelve mules and two horses. Ten of the mules that accompanied Lieut. Stoneman's party had to be abandoned, as I have mentioned, some having died however before they were left. One mule died in my camp from disease and one was lost while marching on Rogue River, and was doubtless caught while astray by the Indians. One of the horses mentioned broke down completely on our way from Rogue River, and it being impossible to get him any farther he was abandoned. Another fell while going up a steep ascent and injuring his loins so severely as not to be able to move, was shot by my order.
These losses leave me now with but thirty-seven in the "troop," all of them being much out of order. With the exception of our six-mule team left for the service of the post, all the mules were taken with the command when it left in June last, and twelve having been sent but twenty-two were brought back; these are leg-weary and footsore, much reduced in flesh and with their backs and bellies very sore from carrying heavy packs over such a rough country; several will perhaps never be fit for packing again, but the greater number will probably in course of time recover and be again serviceable.
In obedience to your instructions to give the distances on the route, I would state that we made the following estimates:
From Fort Orford to the "Depot Camp" on the Coquille, about sixty miles.
From "Depot Camp" to the "Big Bend of Rogue River," thirty miles.
From "Depot Camp" to the "Oregon Trail," by the route taken by Lieut. Stoneman in going out, sixty to sixty-five miles, and between the same points by his return trail, seventy to seventy-five miles.
From "Depot Camp" to the Oregon Trail striking it north of the Cañon, from fifty to sixty miles.
From the Oregon Trail to where Lieut. Stoneman struck Rogue River on his return, from forty to forty-five miles.
At the point where Lt. Stoneman intersected the Oregon Trail I have mentioned the general appearance of the mountain slopes and also that the grass immediately on the trail is mostly covered by private claims; back some few miles, however, there is a good deal of grass and wood and water to be found in abundance. And there are doubtless many spots that would be suitable for building purposes as the slopes are not very steep and there are also some level bottoms on the watercourses.
On the return of Lt. Stoneman, having but five or six days' rations on hand, I returned with the command to this post, which I reached on the 27th August.
It is my intention to send a small party to examine the country from this place to the "Big Bend of Rogue River," and should they find a good trail, which I have no doubt they will be able to do, the best route to the Oregon Trail will then have been discovered.
Another great advantage, which will be gained by connecting Fort Orford with Rogue River at the point I have mentioned, will be the control the military at this post can exercise over the Indians on that river. A short march will bring us to the river above most of the villages below the ferry, and then by marching or dropping down the river in canoes, their villages and fisheries are at our mercy; upon reaching the mouth, a march of eighteen or twenty miles along the coast will bring us back to this port.
Accompanying this will be found a series of meteorological and astronomical observations made by Lieut. Williamson.
I do not think any route from here to the Oregon Trail, more particularly that by the way of the Coquille, can be traveled after the rainy season sets in; the tops of the highest ridges will then probably be covered with snow, and any streams that it will be necessary to cross will become so swollen in a short time as to become impassable.
I am, Captain,Capt. E. D. Townsend
Your obt. servt.
H. W. Stanton
1st. Lt. of Dragoons
Asst. Adjt. General
NARA. Transcribed from scans of original ms.
I have just returned from Umpqua Valley (or rather hills). It contains two large counties of very rich land. It is somewhat more than two years since the first settlement of whites was made in this district. There are now about 2000 souls in this district of country, and probably ten or twelve sermons are as many as have ever been preached in that district. I preached on Sabbath to about 70 souls at a little village of four families. Rogue River Valley includes part of the mining district, portions of which are rich in gold. In this district I suppose there are 3000 souls, and this valley is rapidly peopling with civilized men. Here also there have never been more than five or six sermons preached. The soil of a large portion of this valley is said to be rich. In each of these districts we have some six or eight Baptist members, scattered like sheep without a shepherd. These are emphatically missionary fields.
Ezra Fisher, letter of September 30, 1852, "Letter from Oregon," Zion's Advocate, Portland, Maine, November 5, 1852, page 2
Table Rock, Rogue River Valley,H. P. Graves,
Oregon, Sep. 20th, 1852.
My dear old friend:--I am very happy to inform you that we arrived in Yreka, Siskiyou County, Cal., on the 24th of Aug. last, all well, in fine spirits and without any loss of property. Yreka is situated on the Shasta mines, where we left our families some 12 days while we looked at the valley of Shasta and Scott River. These valleys are very fine to look at, but the frost too frequent for raising vegetables, the winter too severe for stock; ascertaining these facts to my satisfaction, I believed I could do better in this valley, and moved in 4 families, viz.: Dr. Coffin, Tenbrook, Geo. Rodgers and myself, crossed the Siskiyou Mountains to this place, distance from Yreka 70 miles. This is a beautiful little valley, well watered and plenty of timber; portions of it rich soil and susceptible of being cultivated. It lays much lower than the two valleys above spoken of, consequently a very mild climate and a fine range for stock everywhere about here. I have got me a claim on a half section of very fine land, 2 miles northeast of and in sight of the town of Table Rock, the only town in this valley.
The Rogue River gold diggings are within 2 miles of my ranch. The diggings were not discovered until last Feb., and could not be worked much on account of the hostility of the Indians, until the water failed in most of the gulches; a few, however, yet afford water for running rockers. As good a proportion of the miners in this vicinity who have water are doing as well as in any mines I have been in. One company of 5 men have been making from $100 to $2000 per day, frequently making $1000 per day. They took out one lump a few days since worth $1200, and took out the same day over $600 besides. Every week brings about some new development of more extensive rich diggings in the hills and gulches that surround this valley. Upon the whole, I believe the mines will be lasting in south Oregon and will yield abundantly to the lucky few, while the many poor fellows must ever feel the pains of an empty pocket, go where they may. This valley was commenced being settled last winter, but did not make much headway on account of the Indians, until about 7 weeks ago the settlers and miners had a big fight with them and whipped them out; since that they are very friendly and no doubt will remain so because they can't help themselves.
I am putting up cabins to live in--will have them done this week. I intend to fence and break up ten acres of ground within the next 4 weeks, ready for putting in all kinds of vegetables in Feb. next. There is but little preparation for farming in this valley next year. I don't think any other man will have one-half that much in cultivation, and very few any. Everything in the like of farming pays well. There are 2 gardens in the valley that were attended to and have yielded abundantly. Potatoes 40 cts. and onions 50 cts per pound; everything else in the way of gardening in the same proportion, and is likely to remain so for some time. Flour 23¢ to 25¢ per lb., butter $1.00 to $1.50 per lb., according to its freshness; beef 12¢ to 15¢ per lb. &c. &c. What I expect to do after fencing and plowing. Shall pitch into the mines and try my luck again--if I strike it big I shall stick to it until next spring, but in the meantime will have my garden planted, for I am bound to play "Roots awern" [sic--possibly "play roots" on 'em] pretty strong next summer or have it done.
Next spring so soon as the waters will admit of it, I expect to undertake an exploring expedition to the coast. From San Francisco to the mouth of the Columbia there are no good ports of entry, nor safe harbors for vessels, a distance of 700 miles, and the few landings have been made are hardly accessible from the country by pack animals. This whole extent of country gets its supplies from these extremes. You must know that something big lies in the middle. Scottsburg will not do: immovable mountains close in until they can only get the town 8 lots wide, and many others in the way. There is a bay discovered I have every reason to believe just above the mouth of Coos River, south of the mouth of Umpqua River, and next thing is to get a road to it and get a foothold. There is said to be a fine country adjoining the bay, but inhabited only by Indians. I intend to make a bold push among the first, for I believe it will pay well and [be] a comfortable place to live. We should have went in this fall, but it was too late to do anything with safety. It may take three months to find a pass to it, but the Coast Range of mountains are very rugged and hard to pass in the snowy season. I am now in my elements. I am again in a wide and open field for daring enterprise. No little 8 by 10 stove room is necessary to keep warmth in man that blood may circulate in his veins. The surrounding mountains are his only hindrance, and to penetrate them the farthest is one of "man's proudest efforts" here.
The situation of the valleys on the Pacific side: They lay between the Sierra Nevada, Cascade and Coast ranges. The valley of Sacramento in the south, Scott and Shasta valleys north, are separated by the Trinidad Mountains putting up from the Coast Range and connecting with the Sierra Nevada. Scott and Shasta are separated from Rogue River Valley in like manner by the Siskiyou Mountain, and Rogue River and Umpqua valleys by the Umpqua Range of mountains in like manner.
You who have been ever accustomed to seeing endless regions of rich land, susceptible of settlement and cultivation, would pass these valleys by unnoticed, for they are small and wind about through the range of mountains and [are] spotted with small buttes or mounds like islands. The low mountains and buttes are covered with grass as well as the level portion of the valley. Grazing is extensive, also the mining district, while farming land is limited so much so that competition in that line will never bring prices low. Enough about the country and that climate, and I don't suppose you care or are much interested in either.
Now the way we came and how we got here &c. &c.
As I wrote you from Ft. Laramie, we left the Missouri River on the 19th of May, came on 14 wagons in company, followed up the north side of Platte and the usual route to junction of Salt Lake road. There instead of taking Sublette's Cutoff across the 53-mile desert to Green River to Salt Lake road 30 miles to junction of Kinney's Cutoff, took it, crossed Green River and intersected before getting to Hams Fork of same, thence old route to Soda Springs on Bear River and to the junction of the Oregon and California roads. Now I started for Rogue River Valley, Oregon, and it was evident from the geography of the country that it was 300 miles nearer to that part of Oregon by the southern route or the Applegate route than by the northern route to Oregon City. So resolved to take the nearest shot, hit or miss, believing I could go where anyone else could, thence California road to junction Lassen route on Humboldt. There we took the Lassen route to California, as far as Goose Lake, crossing that terrible desert about which so much fuss has been made since '49; we continued the Applegate route northwest to Klamath Lake. There were 14 wagons ahead of us on this route, and at Klamath Lake they took the left, leaving the Oregon road, passing between Shasta Butte and Sheep Rock, striking the head of Shasta Valley, passing down to Yreka, the county seat of the northern county in California. We concluded to take a look at that country too, and followed their trail. We traveled about 70 miles out of our way in coming here and had a worse road, but we got to satisfy ourselves with the country in northern California. Many who took the northern road by Oregon City for this valley have not got in yet. Two or three wagons got in a day or two ago.
As to crossing the plains it is no hardship for me. I would do it once a year for ten years if it were profitable. I enjoyed myself better than I could have done in Iowa, although I performed the most laborious part, viz.: Grass hunter, camp locator and general guide and director for the company. Performed the trip on muleback and necessarily had to ride several miles farther than the noted "Ottumwa Iowa Horse Train." Traveled most every day. I got into that station from necessity--to save my own stock, for there was no one else to do it that seemed to give any satisfaction. Whether I did nor not I don't know nor care, they never complained to me. The train hung together through to Yreka, the only one I know of doing so on the plains this season. I do not think however it was on account of any particular pains that was taken to keep them together, nor any particular LOVE for each other, but some like sheep herded in for fear of danger--while others, dronelike, chimed in with the noise ahead, indifferent to all else. Summing our company all up, they would make a very good average, for we had some as good ones and some as mean ones as could be scared up on the plains, all good enough in their places, but the plains don't suit them.
The "Injuns." We had no trouble with them on the trip, nor lost anything, for we guarded our stock every night from the Mo. River to Yreka. Some companies lost nearly their whole train of animals by not guarding. You will no doubt see accounts in the papers of the great difficulties between the emigrants on our route and the Modoc Indians, situated at Tule Lake on the sink of Lost River, 20 miles below the natural bridge. They had committed some depredations on those that preceded us a day or two, by killing a few scattered men and giving hard battle to the main company, wounding 2 or 3 of them. A pack company of 8 men in our rear 1 or 2 days were surrounded and killed, save one man. Another train of wagons were surrounded by the Indians; some 3 or 4 fine men from Yreka, who had went out to meet the emigrants, were killed, but the train was rescued by Ben Wright, a celebrated Indian fighter, and his party of whites and Shasta Indians. Ben pitched in, shot down some 18 or 20 Modocs, pursued the army through the tules to the lake where they took canoes, and then he raked them from stem to bow, canoes upsetting, squaws and papooses floating about in the lake, and a noted Indian of Ben's party, named Swill, swam in and commenced a war of extermination. Caught every squaw and papoose he could get sight of, put them under and held them there until drowned. They are still fighting them and will exterminate them if possible. The Modocs are some 5 or 600 strong, and have a cave in a rock butte, situated in the center of the marsh where they retreat to whenever pursued. The cave is thought to be one mile in length, well furnished with provisions, water and munitions of war of their kind. The entrance is small and cannot be passed on account of the shower of arrows let loose by those devils that occupy that pit. Ben Wright had them in there some two weeks last winter; tried to smoke them out, couldn't do it. He says if he can run them all in again he can save [sic] them. I think he intends to drill a hole through the rock overhead and blast them out, then kill them as they attempt to make their escape. We met a party of some 16 men from Yreka, at Goose Lake, 2 of whom returned with us, and from one of them, a Mr. Fraim, we ascertained the precise location of the Indians. Knowing our situation, having 6 or 7 families, a large amount of stock and only about ten well-armed men that would do to aid in a fight. I told Mr. Fraim we must defeat them by stratagem. I could not make a single man realize the fact that there was any danger of a fight, and if it did come off it would be unexpected and confusion would follow. The Indians were concealed in 2 parties, one in the rocks, and the other in the tules ahead. The road as usually traveled passed close by the side of those in the rocks. before arriving at their hiding place, we took to the right, passed them unnoticed and was near up to the band in the tules before they discovered us. When they seen us they came in hot pursuit. It would have done you good to see some of our brave Indian fighters look wild. The cry of stop and help us; drive them Indians back, they will overtake us--lets us ascertain what they mean. Ahead one-half mile we had to make a narrow pass and then the upper band. We crowded on, drove those back in the tules, and gained the advantage of the ground and passed secure by where they could not get to us without exposing themselves in the open field; that they were afraid to do. We then played the bluff game on them. They said they did not want to fight. Why? Because we had gained an advantage over them in the ground. Their warriors were sticking up as thick as cornstalks on the rocks, springing their bows and throwing themselves into all kinds of postures, whooping and yelling like a thousand coyotes. Had I stopped when nearly all wanted to (and to stop their soliciting I had to use some rough language) we would have been surrounded and cut off beyond a doubt. The plans of the Indians were as plain as day, and they could all see them after it was all over. Every company that have been caught there have been out-managed. Mr. Fraim and myself agreed precisely on the plain of operating, and he played a good part in the tules while I led the train at a proper distance from the rocks. Some of our boys were cool and decided, while others--. There was several in that didn't belong to Ottumwa; fell in with on the way.
So ends the trip. As all are writing it will be unnecessary for me to speak of their affairs. As you are aware I left Oskaloosa with 3 wagons, 2 horses and 5 mules. Well, I traded off one horse for mules, sold the Jim horse I got from Mudge. I arrived at Yreka with the same 3 mares and the same 5 mules and six other mules and 4 wagons and am out for the additional 6 mules and one wagon $240, all honest fair trading. I am offered $900 for 6 of my mules, but they will be worth $1200 when fat. My stock, 14 head, came through in good condition. My mares are worth $200 each, will not sell any until spring.
Give my respects to all friends, and show this letter to Mr. Comer; if he is not there write to him, also to Silas and Mr. Leighton and my wife's people, for I shall not have time to write any more for one month at least. Direct to Oregon City, Oregon. City is some 270 miles north of this. Give my respects to Dr. Warden, Mudge and all friends; tell them I will write in due time. Emily sends her love to all; she is well, perfectly satisfied and happy. Tell the little girls not to marry until they get here; I will ensure them husbands.
Very respectfully yours,Des Moines Courier, Ottumwa, Iowa, December 9, 1852, page 2
JAMES C. TOLMAN.
The Rogue River and Umpqua valleys are of much less extent than the Willamette. And as I have not yet seen either, I shall say, at present, but very little respecting them. . . . The Rogue River runs through a valley to the south of the Umpqua. This river has its source in the Klamath and Cascade Range of mountains. It also has its sterile mountains, high hills, rich, fertile valleys and beautiful plains. Like the Umpqua, the entrance to its mouth from the ocean is greatly obstructed by a large sandbar. In size it is said to resemble that of the Umpqua; and, like that, its current is rapid, and it has numerous falls and rapids. The country through which it passes is very well timbered, well watered, and very rich and productive. But what has hitherto attracted immigrants to that valley more than anything else is the discovery of gold there. About 8,000 persons are now engaged in working the Oregon gold mines situated in the valley of Rogue River! The lands of that valley are mostly nominally taken up and claimed. The mines are productive. Many, however--as is the case in California and elsewhere--make but little, whilst others secure fortunes. The common laborer gets from four to eight dollars per day.
All the rivers which we have enumerated--as, indeed, all the rivers in Oregon--are subject to extraordinary rises and overflows. The Willamette is usually highest in November and December, when the rain falls most abundantly, and in the spring when the snows melt in the mountains.
The climate of this section is very mild. It has neither excess of heat or cold. The mean temperature is reported at 57 degrees of Fahrenheit. Snow sometimes falls four or five inches deep in winter, and it usually disappears in a day or two. Running water never freezes. It is never necessary to either shelter or feed stock of any kind. The valleys are always thickly covered with grass. Before the commencement of the rainy season the grass is apparently dead, but it is not. It is even then, though dry and whitened out, as full of nutriment as well-cured hay; and as soon as the rain begins to fall, the sap reenters the decayed blade, and the old grass becomes again as green and thrifty as ever! And thus the grass continues to grow all winter, so that the pasturage is even better in winter than in summer!
The rainy season usually lasts from four to five months; or from November to April, during which period it rains a great deal, though not all the time, by any means. Last winter, I am informed, there was very little rain fell in the months of January and February; the weather being mild and pleasant. There are also brief showers in summer; but these do not usually occur very often.
This country is very healthy. On the lowlands, and in the immediate vicinity of streams subject to overflow, intermittent fevers, or ague and fever, is not uncommon. But these diseases are neither obstinate nor fatal.
"Letters of Hon. Delazon Smith," Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, December 25, 1852, page 1
The Rogue River Valley lies south from the Umpqua Valley, and is separated from it by the Umpqua Mountain, and a succession of mountain ridges and narrow valleys. This mountain is high, precipitous, and rough--it is heaved up into high peaks, with intervening low gaps, through one of which a wagon road has been made, and with a small appropriation from government, judiciously applied, an excellent road might be made. The soil of this mountain is rather poor, and such is the character of all the mountain soil south of it. What is termed the Rogue River Valley lies high up on the river of the same name; it is 30 miles long from north to south, and about 15 miles wide from east to west. It is a beautiful valley to the eye of the beholder, but much of the soil is rather sterile, yet there is some excellent land that produces good crops of native grass, and would produce good crops of grain if cultivated.
This valley is also settling fast--gold mines have lately been discovered in it, and some of the miners are doing very well.
John M. Forrest, "Description of Oregon," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, September 25, 1852, page 1
A mile or two before reaching the river the road forks, and the left-hand leads to the upper ferry, eight miles above. We took the right and crossed at a rope ferry in a good boat.--There is only one house at the ferry. Thence to Willow Springs is called 20 miles, and Table Rock village, or Jacksonville, six miles beyond. The lower ferry on Rogue River is eight miles below the middle ferry, and not so far from the Kanyon by five miles. Applegate Creek flows into the river a mile below the lower, or Long's ferry. On this creek are 80 to 100 miners, as estimated, and doing fair. On Josephine, and other creeks, there is estimated to be five hundred men. The nearest mining on Smith's River is about twenty miles below Long's. In that vicinity are estimated to be 150 men. The route to all these places is over the lower ferry. To go this route from the Kanyon, a trail leaves the road about six miles beyond Grave Creek. It is not a wagon road, and not conspicuous at the parting.
Travelers to the mines above, or to Shasta Butte (now called Yreka), cross either the middle or upper ferry at pleasure.
Below Willow Springs the valley is narrow, but in general of width to furnish space for farms between the mountains and river. The land is gravelly and poor, with some places that are fertile. All these on the south side of the river are taken. The Grave Creek Indians, with whom there is no treaty, object to "Bostons" settling on the north side, and they do not. What is called the Rogue River Valley spreads out from the Willow Springs. It is estimated to be about fifteen by twenty-five miles in extent, and is very beautiful, surrounded, on all sides, by lofty mountains. In places, the surface is slightly undulating, in other places, nearly level. A respectable tributary of Rogue River, meandering from the south or west [Bear Creek], may be made to irrigate the most of the valley on that side of the river.
A considerable part of this lovely valley is gravelly, poor land, affording some grass, and of small value for any other purpose. Other parts have a good, black clay soil, and must produce well, though no crop has been perfected since the settlement commenced. I was told the claims are all taken--so rapid has the immigration been.
At the Indian Agency, three and a half miles from the Willow Springs, we were very cordially received by the gentlemanly Agent, Judge Skinner. He has selected a desirable and valuable place, and there are many such. Table Rock village is six miles from the Agency, in plain sight, over the prairie plain. Judge Skinner rode there with us. The town is located at the border of the valley where the ground begins an ascent that rises gradually to mountain height, and is in the immediate vicinity of the most extensive diggings on Rogue River. It is composed of tents, sheds, shanties, and frail houses of split lumber. One respectable two-story house was being constructed.--The village has a population of about 150. This mining district, within the distance of five miles, is estimated to have a population of 1500 or 2000 men. A few of the gold claims are rich and pay well. I do not think they are generally so. How long profitable digging is to continue can only be a matter of opinion.--This is an auriferous country. Comparatively a small part has been "prospected." And the same general character of country extends north to the south Umpqua. Barren, gravelly plains, adorned with the beautiful manzanita, which loves the sterile soil, and mountains of a reddish hue, nearly destitute of vegetation, are some of its characteristics. This large extent of country, worthless for agricultural purposes, may be rich with gold that future labor will bring to light. Gold is now being dug (with what success I do not know) on Cow Creek, a few miles below where the trail crosses. It has been dug, last season, with some success, near the south Umpqua. I am not inclined to the opinion that the mining population in southern Oregon is to diminish for many years. It may largely increase.
Nathaniel Coe, "Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, July 3, 1852, page 2
THE TERRITORY OF OREGON.
The Climate and Productions--
Visit to the Rogue River Mines.
Portland (Oregon Territory).After more than a year's residence in Oregon, I am pleased with the climate, quite as well as I expected to be. We have no winter, compared with the Northern States. We have two seasons, the wet and the dry. I am better pleased with the rainy season of Oregon than with the cold winter of the Northern States, including even the garden of the North, Western New York. And our summer weather is not sultry hot as yours, and we never have a hot night.
July 7th, 1852.
Fruits do well, very well as yet. In addition to all the fruits of your latitude in the States, which flourish finely, figs promise well and will doubtless flourish, and be healthy. I saw, the other day, the soft-shell almond in its second year's growth, and it is in fine condition and is growing very well.
I have no doubt of the general healthiness of Oregon. The water is almost everywhere good. The air is pure. The breeze from the ocean is very regular, in summer from the north, in winter from the south. We never have the sudden changes of weather that are so frequent in the States. Neither do we ever have tornadoes, hurricanes or sudden gusts of wind, and very seldom thunder, never heavy thunder. A warm rain ends warm, never with cold, sleet or snow. Hail is not frequent. I do not remember to have seen what is called sleet in the States since I have been here.
We are expecting a large immigration this year, and probably next, as the land law expires next year.
July 8th.--The mail from the States has just come in, and I am too busy in preparing for the return mail to write more.
I send you an account of a trip I recently made to the Rogue River mines, in company with Thomas Nelson, United States Chief Justice of Oregon. It is intended as a description of that part of the Territory. I designed it for the information of numerous inquiring friends, as I have frequent inquiring letters.
Portland, Oregon Ter'y., June 1852.Steuben Courier, Bath, New York, September 8, 1852, pages 1-2
Dear Sir: The 18th of May I left Portland on a trip to the Rogue River mines. My trip was by a steamboat to Oregon City thirteen miles. This city is located at the foot of the Willamette, under the east bank, which rises several hundred feet and, opposite the falls, crowds upon the river. A narrow wagon track is excavated to Canemah, three-fourths of a mile above, which is the steamboat landing for the upper Willamette. From this landing the navigation extends to Marysville [Corvallis], seventy miles by land, and it may be double that by water.
The Willamette is one of the most lovely rivers in the world. It rises in the Cascade Mountains, and wandering through the whole length of the beautiful valley that takes its name, flows into the Columbia, 110 miles from the sea. The tide rises to the Clackamas Rapids, just below Oregon City. Its banks, in their general character, are of moderate and convenient elevation, but at the falls, and a few other places, are high and picturesque. From its mouth, about 60 miles up, it is bordered by forests of fir. Above that, the flower-bedecked prairies approach in many places to the river's brink.
At Champoeg, a prettily located post-town on the French Prairie, twenty-one miles above the falls, I left the mail steamer, Canemah, and in company with Judge Nelson, who joined me here, pursued my route on horseback, and reached Salem, 25 miles, the evening of the 19th.
Salem is a pretty and thriving town on an extensive prairie that skirts the east bank of the river. It is designated as the capital of the Territory.
May 20.--Leaving Salem, a ride of 18 miles over rolling prairie, ornamented with scattering, low, branching oak trees, brought us to Santiam City, a post-town on Santiam River. This is a tributary of the Willamette flowing from the Cascade Mountains. Crossing by ferry, in 8 miles farther we again come to the Willamette, at Albany, the county seat of Linn County. This, also, is a prairie town, and not exceeded in beauty of location by any town in the valley. Here we spent an agreeable hour with the Rev. Jas. P. Miller and his interesting family, whose acquaintance it had been my good fortune to make a year ago. He came out under the auspices of a Presbyterian missionary society, I believe. Such occasional interviews with valued Christian friends in my frequent wanderings in this far distant country are bright epochs which memory fondly cherishes. Here we crossed the river by ferry. Nine miles should have taken us to Marysville. By missing our way we made it 12 or more.
Marysville, which, like other prairie towns has a pretty location, is the seat of justice for Benton County. It is a thriving village, and being the head of navigation, many trains of pack mules receive their loads here to supply the mining districts. Some packers proceed to Albany, Salem, Oregon City and Portland to make their purchases. Portland directly or indirectly furnishes the supplies for Southern Oregon, chiefly, except those of Oregon production, which are procured nearer, and except also a considerable quantity of merchandise which finds its way up the Umpqua River.
May 21.--We crossed by ferry the mouth of Marys River, a tributary from the Coast Mountains, and proceeded up the west side of the Long Tom River, another tributary from the same range of mountains. The country along the Long Tom is a very level and handsome plain, but needs more timber, and is rather low, parts being submerged yearly. The soil is clay, of a lighter color than usual elsewhere, and of brick hardness in the dry season, but it is said to be productive, especially for wheat. Fording the Long Tom at Starr's Point, twenty miles from Marysville, we found the character of the soil on the east side of the river quite different. It is sufficiently elevated, more sandy and light, and may be tilled at any season of the year.
The country is new, and some good desirable land is vacant. Most of the claims that are occupied have been taken within the last nine months. We stopped for the night with a family who had resided there for more than a year. The lady said that during four months she did not see a woman.
May 22.--The mud in many places being rather formidable, it was with the expectation of an improvement in that respect that we left the main traveled road yesterday and crossed the Long Tom. Though there is considerable travel by pack animals along this route, yet there are places without any distinct track. In some low grassy plains the mules do not follow each other, but the tracks may spread over a space of half a mile in width. In one of these we lost our way, and taking a wrong depression between the adjacent hills, wandered among spurs of the Calapooya Mountains four or five hours, all the while surrounded by scenery sufficiently interesting to repress the emotions of deep regret for our mistake. Every hill presents a new aspect of country. Nor was the animal world without interest. The cooing of grouse was in our ears everywhere. We loved to notice the art and caution with which they would stand, almost to be trodden on, rather than betray their existence by flying. Occasionally a timid hare, with its large ears erect, fled to a more distant covert. But the doe--the graceful white-tailed deer--what can be more beautiful! They bound along so proudly--so leisurely--as if intending only to exhibit their own beauty and the grace and elasticity of their own motions! Our route took us to the ridge of a mountain, which we followed for some miles. Here we enjoyed a prospect that dispelled any lingering regret for the error that led us among this mountain scenery. Smiling valleys were below, marked here and there by a meandering stream, but neither marred nor improved by the hand of man, hill rising beyond hill adorned with orchards of spreading oaks. Beyond them all, a long line of fir-covered summits and lofty peaks exhibited the well-known character of the Coast Mountains. In the best humor with ourselves and all nature about us, we wound our way down the long and steep descent of a grassy mountainside, gay with spring flowers, and just as night closed in reached a house on the Long Tom road. Having staked our horses in good prairie grass, and partaken of a refreshing meal, wrapped in our own blankets on the floor, we soon forgot the fatigues of the day in a luxurious slumber they had fitted us to enjoy.
A part of a traveler's outfit in Oregon, especially for the recently settled parts, are a pair of blankets, for his own use at night, and a rope about 40 feet long, with which to secure his horse. The whole prairie country is rich with fine grass, but the pasture ground being too extensive for convenience, we drive down a stake, tie one end of the rope to it, and the other around the horse's neck. After a few days' travel, the stakes are unnecessary--the horse may be let loose, the rope trailing. For sleeping we take the floor, or the ground, protected from dew by the foliage of a spreading tree, as convenience or inclination dictates. Our evenings are so fine, without fear of rain, that an outdoor location is quite pleasant, and the grassy earth is more mattress-like than a floor. In Southern Oregon, the traveler should also furnish himself some eatables. We found it convenient, and recruited our horses when we found good grass and water, without solicitude as to other accommodations by day or by night. Not intending to be pressed for time, we were less careful to be always in the direct route. We could not avoid being surrounded by objects and scenery of interest, and were indifferent as to what particular tree should guard our slumbers.
The main roads to the mines are much used and well beaten. Trains of pack mules are constantly passing, and thousands of cattle have this spring been driven to Southern Oregon and California.
May 23.--A few miles brought us to the southern limit of the Willamette Valley. This extensive and beautiful valley is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges. It is extensively prairie land, diversified by strips and patches of fir, pine, oak, cedar and other trees. Parts of it are very level, other parts pleasantly rolling. It has, also, detached elevations, here called buttes, some of them rising to mountain height. The soil is clay, more or less mixed with sand, varying in different localities, but everywhere good for wheat. Peas do well, and are said to be prolific and sure, and will supply the place of corn for feeding. Bottom lands, fir timber lands, and some prairies, among hills, or near the mountain ranges, produce potatoes, beets, onions, turnips and other roots in great luxuriance, of astonishing size, and excellent flavor. Other prairie lands in this valley need manure for root crops.
The distance by the Long Tom road, across the Calapooya Mountains, to Umpqua Valley, is 12 miles. We found it dry and smooth, and the hills not difficult for wagons. On entering the Umpqua, about noon, our anticipations of a cordial reception at the house of our mutual friend, Jesse Applegate, Esq., were realized. Mr. A. was a pioneer of Oregon, and is now one of her most intelligent and wealthy farmers. He has been on his present claim between two and three years and recently refused five thousand dollars to give it up. It is no town site and never will be, but is only valuable for agricultural purposes.
Umpqua Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, having Calapooya or the north, Cascades on the east, Umpqua south, Coast Mountains west. It has no extensive plains like the Willamette Valley, but is a group of grass-covered hills or mountains of various sizes and heights up to 1500 feet. Their ascent, though too steep for cultivation, are sufficiently easy for pasturage, of which they afford abundance, their soil, even to their lofty summits, being good. They are separated by small valleys of convenient width for farms, and of great fertility. These valleys have a clay soil which becomes quite hard, and cracks in summer, but having been once broken may be easily worked. It varies considerably in different localities in composition and quality. Some places can be easily cultivated in the dry season. It has produced wheat and root crops well, but I do not believe this [i.e., corn] will ever be a profitable crop in Oregon. Our nights are too cool, and we have none of the warm rains that it loves. The soil of the hills are unlike that of the valleys, being more sandy and lighter. Over the whole valley, but mostly on the hillsides, are extensive orchards of black and white oaks, of the exact appearance of old apple orchards. They are prolific. The fruit, unlike acorns of the States, is not bitter, and is used by the Indians as food. The acorn of the white oak is said to make as solid pork as corn. The most lovely scenes and landscape views I have ever seen may be had everywhere, from almost every mountaintop. In the flower-adorned prairies below, a line of luxuriant trees, in the rich green of spring, betray the meanderings of the pure stream which their shadowy branches conceal. In some locations the silvery surface of a river adds variety and interest. The successions of hills, purple with flowers, so varied in their gradual, increasing ascent, and every variation so pleasing with the enchantment of spreading shady trees, in clusters and single, the view closed by a mountain range with numerous peaks pointing spire-like into the sky--the effect of such scenery may be felt but not described. And the picture must be drawn without a bare rock, fearful acclivity, or smoking volcano. Such views add great interest to some pictures, but would spoil this, which is the beautiful, and only that.
Umpqua Valley is admirably adapted to grazing. Two-thirds of the land, not being arable, will not be claimed or bought for many years, if it ever is. Farmers who cultivate the valleys will enjoy it. Snow to obstruct the grazing of animals is not to be feared. They thrive as well in winter as summer, and are always fat. Stall-fed cattle in the States are not so good. Last March, Mr. Applegate sold a lot of 80 cattle, of the ages of three, four and five years, from a herd of less than four hundred. By agreement they were to be transferred at the estimate average weight of nine hundred pounds--at 8 cents a pound, 72 dollars each, amounting to $5,760. The raising of them cost him nothing. The purchasers of these cattle drove them to Shasta City, California, and sold them at the same estimate weight at 20 cents a pound, as I have been informed. The distance driven was three hundred and fifty miles--expense nothing but the pay of drivers.
Desirable claims in this valley are mostly occupied.
I should have said, the rivers that flow through this valley are Elk on the north, cutting off spurs of the Calapooya Mountains; North Umpqua, more centrally; Calapooia, a creek, nearly as large as Elk River, between North and South Umpqua, and South Umpqua on the south, along the base of Umpqua Mountains. No very eligible road has yet been found and opened across the Umpqua Mountains. The route through the Canyon (so called) is chiefly traveled, except in high water, when an arduous mountain trail is used. Passing from the scenery which I have described, the Canyon has little of interest for the eye, or comfort for the body. Its difficulties are deep mud, steep hills and frequent crossings of the creek on a bed of rocks, angular and uneven. The crossings, I was told, are seventy-three, besides a mile or two directly in the bed of the stream. The distance through is twelve miles, and is rode at this season of the year without difficulty in four hours. A man not used to such roads would think it impassable for wagons, and I suppose it is so, drawn by horses. They flounder in the mud too much, but ox teams perform it daily. Four or five pair of oxen will drawn through ten to fifteen hundred pounds.
Emerging from the Canyon, the valley of Cow Creek opens pleasantly. It is narrow, with some pretty fair soil, but more that is gravelly and poor, and affords space for a few farms, with the needful arable land. A bachelor from Boston is located two miles from the Canyon, where he caters for the public. The next resident is at Rogue River more than thirty miles. As we arrived at the bachelor's tavern before night, we rode a few miles down the valley, turned our horses loose to fine bunchgrass, and slept beneath a spreading fir tree.
May 27.--We crossed Cow Creek and left the valley eight miles from the Canyon. The road is good. The whole distance for the next eight miles is an arduous crossing of mountains, to Grave Creek. This creek has its name from an emigrant's body having been buried here. Here is a valley which will admit for one or two farms. Leaving Grave Creek, one mountain of two or three miles is to be crossed, after which the road is good to Rogue River. The land is poor and gravelly, and except a few bottoms of small extent, will never be used for agricultural purposes. We arrived at the middle ferry, Rogue River, just at dark. There is but one house here--a bachelor tavern. We got supper, and then crossed the ferry with our animals, to better grass for them, and better lodgings for ourselves, under protecting trees.
Our landlord brought us some bread of his own manufacture, baked before the fire, and this we contrived, using our own tin cups, to enjoy a better dish of coffee than he could have provided. This kind of life makes victuals relish well, and men will not be fastidious as to their preparation. We rode up the valley to Willow Spring, twenty miles, and to the Indian agency, three and a half miles today, where we found a very cordial reception by Judge Skinner, the gentlemanly agent.
What is called Rogue River Valley spreads out from Willow Springs. It is about 15 by 25 miles in extent, on both sides of the river, and is very beautiful, surrounded on all sides by mountains. In places it undulates slightly--in other places level. A part of it has a rich, black clay soil, but it has, also, considerable gravelly, poor soil, yielding a little bunchgrass. No crop has yet been perfected, though the claims, I was told, are all taken, so rapid has been the settlement.
May 29.--Judge Skinner rode with us to the mines, six miles across the prairie plain, where we spent half the day in riding three or four miles along the ravines that are being dug up, and in observing the work. The gold is found in the ravines, through which mountain streams descend into the valley. These ravines are divided into claims, the extent of which is fixed by a rule established, democratically, by the first occupants. It determines the length and width of a claim, also when, and under what circumstances, a claim shall be regarded as abandoned by a claimant and be opened to a new occupant. Each miner is allowed one claim. A newcomer may take any unoccupied or abandoned claim. The rules thus established are, and must be, strictly complied with. Thus each mining company is a little democracy, which not only establishes the extent of gold claims but takes cognizance over life and property. This may be called "mob law," but it is a government that seems to be necessary in these new settlements, where courts are not organized. Egress to the old settlements is so tedious and expensive that without such government, crime would go unpunished, and there could not be order and safety. I understand this democratic surveillance has been deliberately prudent, and is effect salutary. A white man was given counsel, a fair trial before an impartial jury, and hung, for the diabolical murder of a white man. Another white man for shooting--not mortally--an Indian was made to pay five horses, ten blankets and thirty dollars, which satisfied perfectly the chief, the tribe and the wounded Indian, and prevented retaliation. This is a kind of punishment they understand and were much better satisfied with than they would have been with the delays of law and its penalties.
In digging gold, the earth is excavated down to the rock--it may be from two to six or eight feet. The surface earth is thrown aside. A layer next above the rock is washed. This is done by using the "long tom," which is a trough some twelve feet long, the lower end closed, and the bottom there, for about two feet, made of sheet iron or leather, perforated with holes like a riddle. A stream of water is made to run through the trough. One or two men shovel in the earth, another stirs it up and throws out the stones. The fine earth and gold is carried through the riddle in a receiver below. Two or three times a day the earth in the receiver is washed out in a tin pan. The company whose work we observed most particularly washed out the day we were there two hundred dollars, which was about an average day's yield. They had six or eight men at work, and paid for labor $4.00 a day and board. This was the first claim taken, and one of the best. A few other claims are rich, but I do not think they are generally so, or the miners making large wages. Farming in Oregon is an easier and more healthy, and I fully believe a much surer, way of accumulating property than digging gold.
The gold dug here is not very fine, but is handsome. It is not mixed with black sand, and though there is plenty of quartz, seamy and rotten, in the earth, it is combined with quartz but little. Quicksilver is not used at these mines. I was told that a vein of quartz gold had been discovered a few miles off, which is not worked.
June 1st.--Judge Skinner, the Indian agent, concluded to return with us as far as the South Umpqua, for the purpose of having a talk with the Grave Creek Indians. We rode to the lower, or Long's ferry, thirty-one miles. There are three ferries on Rogue River, in going out we crossed at the middle. Long's is eight miles below; the upper, or Evans', eight or ten miles above. In descending below the valley that I have described the mountains approach near the river, leaving, however, a width sufficient for small farms and in a few places of pretty fair land, but generally sterile. The arable land on the south side has claimants; on the north side the Indians object to "Bostons" settling, and they do not.
At Long's we found an encampment of a few hundred Grave Creek Indians. They are a branch of the Rogue River nation, but independent of them. With the Rogue Rivers, Gov. Gaines made a treaty last year, which they faithfully observe. With the Grave Creeks we have no treaty. They occupy the country north to the Umpqua, more than thirty miles without a white settler, and through which all the travel to and from the mines passes. A few of them have been saucy, and perhaps compelled contributions from weak and timorous parties. I am not sure whether they have murdered any. But they as a nation are friendly and kind. Probably there will be no difficulty hereafter; nor do I think there is any danger now, even to a single traveler, if he is armed and resolute. Travelers do go armed through their country. They are pretty well formed, fair-sized Indians, much superior to those of the Willamette Valley. Only a few of them have firearms or know how to use them, but they use the bow and arrow with great skill and effect. They use for food a great variety of roots, insects, worms, even grass, and any kind of animal. When we were riding through the Grave Creek country, I saw several women gathering something from bushes that overhung a pond, and I rode out to see what it could be. They readily came out from the pond in which they were standing, and all exhibited their baskets to show me their success. The contents were caterpillars, and nothing else, similar to the kind on apple trees in the States but a trifle larger. They had wide-top baskets, which they held under the bushes, and jarred the boughs. At another time, when N. and myself were walking out, we came unexpectedly to some Indian huts. One woman was making a basket--and she understood her business, working with skill and dexterity. Another was pounding the camas root, to work into bread, I suppose; she had it in a basket on a large stone, and used a stone for a pestle. Another was washing camas root in a basket, water tight. Our curiosity prompted us to observe them awhile. When the camas was washed she commenced the process of boiling. With two sticks, from a fire near her, she took heated stones and dropped them into the basket of water and camas, which set it boiling finely.
They offered us boiling camas. It has a sweet taste, but to me was not pleasant. Its shape is that of a small onion. Hogs thrive on it. The only dress of these women were narrow girdles about the waist. Boys to the age of 10 or 12 years are entirely naked. Some of the men are very nearly so. Others begin to dress like white men. Women wear on their heads a willow basket made just to fit, like a round hat crown without a brim. It is water tight. They use it when occasion requires to dip or hold water, or as a drinking vessel. The women tattoo their faces by pricking soot into the skin. From a point at each corner of the mouth, a black line expands to the width of an inch below the chin. Some of them tattoo in other parts of the face. They for mourning cover their head with a coat of tar, which becomes smooth, hard and black, and has the appearance of a leather cap fitting tight. They besmear their faces with tar; from all of which they have a hideous and disgusting appearance. I did not see any men in mourning dress, from which I infer they do not change their dress for mourning. They do not have many, perhaps not any slaves. They never steal Indian children to make slaves of them, as more northern tribes do, although their own are sometimes stolen for that purpose.
As to the extent of mining in Rogue River, there are estimated to be from 1500 to 2000 in the vicinity of the upper mines, which I have described. A few more are at work near the river and on it, above the ferry. On various tributaries from Long's ferry, down some forty miles, there are estimated to be some 700 or 800.
How long profitable digging will continue can only be a matter of opinion. This is an auriferous country. Comparatively, only a small part has been "prospected." The same general appearance continues northward to the South Umpqua. Barren, gravelly plains, adorned by the beautiful manzanita, which loves a sterile soil, and mountains of a reddish hue, nearly destitute of vegetation, are some of its characteristics. This large extent of country, worthless of agricultural purposes, may be rich with gold, which future industry will bring to light. I am not of the opinion that the mining population of Southern Oregon is to diminish for many years. It may largely increase.
I ought, perhaps, to return to Rogue River. It is a beautiful stream without falls, so far as I observed, yet all along rapid. I followed its course up and down thirty miles, and had it in frequent view. I did not observe any place where it appears to have overflowed its banks. Its course is less meandering than rivers usually are. The current is probably too strong to allow its profitable use for navigation, yet I can't say what steam may do. From the lower mines some forty miles below Long's ferry, to the sea it is unknown. There is even doubt as to where it enters the Pacific. On some of the maps it is made to enter south of Port Orford. A large river there is generally thought to be Rogue River. [The Rogue enters the Pacific about twenty miles south of Port Orford.] Indian accounts make this, probably error, and that Rogue River finds the ocean north of Port Orford, and is "the Sequolchin," that is has no falls, and has been navigated by canoes to its mouth.
. . . I must close this too-long letter without detailing my return. You see from the date I am at Portland, from whence I started.
Your friend, N. [Nathaniel] Coe.
OREGON.Camp Meetings.--On Wednesday, June 23rd, [1852,] worn down with fatigue, I took my tents on to the camp ground, distant three miles from our residence, and the next day my family came. The meeting was a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. A funeral sermon was preached on Saturday, on the occasion of the death of Bishop Hedding. We regarded this camp meeting as very successful; a delightful spirit prevailed. Bro. Hoyt was taken sick on the ground, and remained seriously ill for several days.
TOUR TO PUGET'S SOUND, BY REV. WILLIAM ROBERTS.
On the 1st of July, Mrs. Roberts and one of the boys accompanied me to the Calapooia camp meeting. There was much good feeling during this camp meeting, but no very marked results. A few were converted, and several reclaimed. It rained so much as to interfere with our success. Bro. McKinney's health was feeble, and Bro. Woodward could be on the ground but a part of the time. The best of all, God was with us.
After securing some horse feed for the coming year, and writing up the third quarterly report, I prepared for a tour to Southern Oregon.
In consequence of excessive labor in nursing the sick, Mrs. Roberts was attacked with fever, and I was detained at home until Monday, August 2nd, when I started on a
TRIP TO THE UMPQUA AND ROGUE'S RIVERS.--A traveler's rig for such a tour would be somewhat of a curiosity in the place of my nativity. The weather is hot, but the nights are cold, and very likely he must often camp out. His blanket must answer for saddle cloth, protection from rain, and bed. Besides his Bible, Hymn Book, Discipline and changes of raiment, his saddlebags ought to contain tracts, Sunday school papers and something to eat. Provision for making fire is indispensable, and may be carried in his holsters, or elsewhere, as his convictions of danger from hostile Indians, or wolves, may induce him to carry a revolver or go unarmed. Whatever a man's previous notions may have been on the question of non-resistance, or the beautiful theory of staring a hungry cougar, or enraged grizzly out of countenance, a little experience will induce the conviction that a good rifle or revolver will materially assist in warding off danger, or providing a dinner.
A long rope coiled round the horse's neck, and a leathern hobble, will assist in keeping him from straying away at night, when he is let loose to graze. Nor will it answer to go without purse or scrip. There are places where even a minister would go very hungry, or be very unwelcome, unless he could pay seventy-five cents for a meal.
Rev. F. S. Hoyt.--Fifteen miles brought me to Brother Campbell's in the Chehulpum Valley, who at the time was very sick. On going over to Brother Helms' I found that Brother Hoyt had arrived, with the intention to accompany me at least on a part of the journey. Right glad was I to see him, and the more especially as my wife's enfeebled condition had saddened my heart, and magnified the difficulties of the journey.
Marysville and Belknap Settlement.--Passing by Albany, and transacting some business with Judge Thornton, we rode on to Brother Stuart's, at Marysville, late at night. The next day we passed through the village. It is the head of steamboat navigation on the Willamette, and is rapidly improving. Brother Hoyt's horse becoming very lame, we traveled very slowly to the Belknap Settlement, where he borrowed another of Brother John Starr.
"Off the Track."--On Wednesday we crossed a spur of the Coast Mountains, and lost our way for want of proper direction. While off the track we were on a point of land that gave us a most magnificent view of the Willamette. Finding the road again, we stopped for the night at the cabin of a settler, near the base of the Calapooia Mountain. Our route is now an extensive thoroughfare, on which we pass an abundance of mule trains every day, some going to the Willamette for supplies, and others are returning, loaded with flour &c., for the mines.
Umpqua Valley.--On Thursday we crossed the mountain, and were kindly received by Mr. Charles Applegate, in the Umpqua Valley. This is one of three brothers who were formerly located in the Willamette, but have now settled close together in the Umpqua. Their numerous bands of cattle, together with the constant travel, have eaten up all the grass, so that our horses are beginning to fare badly.
Good Luck for the Horses.--Here we fell in with Mr. Hardin, the representative from Jackson County, Rogue's River, and at once decided to travel with him. We found him an intelligent man, and well acquainted with the route. Today we met with a remarkable piece of good luck for our horses in the shape of four quarts of oats for dinner.
North Fork.--At night we reached Mr. Grubb's, within two miles of Winchester. The population of the Umpqua is steadily increasing, and settlers are making improvements all along the road. At Mr. Grubb's we found an interesting family of children, some of whom probably will be sent to the Oregon Institute to school. Next morning we passed through Winchester, on the North Fork of the Umpqua. Things have improved since I first saw this place, two years ago. This was the terminus of my former journey, and I now enter upon a new part of the country. The scenery is beautiful, although everything is parched and dry.
Afternoon, our course, which had generally been south, turned more to the east, following up the windings of the South Umpqua, which we crossed four times, and concluded to put up at Mr. Saml. Briggs' within two miles of the Umpqua Canyon.
The Sabbath.--Here we spent the Sabbath. The settlements are sparse. Our hope had been to visit such families as were within reach and bring them to hear the word of God, but we were too tired for that.
Brother Hoyt preached, and I exhorted as well as circumstances would allow, Mr. Briggs' family, some of my neighbors and our own company constituting the congregation. Spending the day as usefully as possible, we rested in peace. On going down to the river we noticed that numerous excavations had been made, digging for gold. But it is not considered sufficiently rich to pay for working. On Cow Creek, a few miles from here, some persons have done well.
Umpqua Canyon.--On Monday, Aug. 9th, we entered the famous Canyon. it is a deep, long gorge, or pass, through the mountain which divides the Umpqua from the Rogue's River Valley. It is said to be at its best estate, and is bad enough even now. The general course is from north to south. We pass up the channel of a creek for about nine miles, until we reach the summit, and then gradually descend.
Crossing a Creek.--We crossed this creek about 97 times, and traveled many hundred yards directly up its rocky bank. By 2 o'clock we were fairly through, and glad enough to be delivered. Paid 75 cts. each for a poor dinner in a rum shop. This we thought decidedly better than starvation. Our course now lay more to the west again, some six miles, until we crossed Cow Creek, after which we resumed a southerly direction, over a mountainous route to Grave Creek, where we camped amid vermin and vice enough to alarm our fears. The Indians of this vicinity are not to be trusted. Our horses fare badly. Next morning they were missing, and it was nine o'clock before we were ready to start. Our real toils now began. The waters of the Canyon had softened our horses' hooves, and the gravel of the road had worn them very tender, so that they could scarcely travel.
"Public Houses."--The few cabins to be found in this region are tenanted by rum sellers, who, for the public good, keep a little to eat, and a great deal to drink. The average fare is a dollar per meal. At noon we rested in a fine prairie on Rogue's River. Winding our way around the points that turn diversely the course of this river, we came towards evening to the notorious point of rocks where so many travelers have fallen victims to the Indians. Near this place is the residence of Dr. Ambrose, who kindly received us, when made acquainted with the object of our visit.
The Red Men.--Here we learned more fully the particulars of the recent difficulties with the Indians. It resulted in their being surrounded by the whites, and completely reduced to terms on their favorite fighting ground. From twenty to thirty Indians were killed. Bad as these savages have been, one cannot help thinking that such an expenditure of human life is too wasteful to meet the smiles of Heaven.
Rogue's River.--On Wednesday, Aug. 10th, we were fairly in the Rogue's River Valley proper. Stretching out before us, as we arrived at the Willow Spring, was an extended plain, of great beauty and loveliness. It is finely watered and timbered, and doubtless will yield amply to the labors of husbandry. I have no means of knowing the dimensions of this portion of the valley. There are perhaps 1000 square miles of land within the limits of vision most of which is capable of cultivation.
(To Be Continued.)Vermont Christian Messenger, Northfield, Vermont, May 11, 1853, page 1
The Journal of Rev. W. Roberts: concluded.
Jacksonville.--It is in the mountains on the west of this plain where the gold has been found. In a defile of these mountains leading from the plain above mentioned to Applegate's Creek we found the town of Jacksonville.
On the 7th of last February the first blanket house was erected here; now there are thirty or more houses, and occupied extensively as a camping and trading place. The miners are reported to be very successful. The report of $400 per day for one claim, and from $1,500 to $2,000 per week for another, reminded us strongly of California. We reached here at noon.
"Emma's" Company.--As it was desirable that I should see the "regions beyond," a mule was procured, and in two hours I was on my way to Yreka, leaving Brother Hoyt to make a reconnaissance of Jacksonville and its vicinity, and prepare for the Sabbath. My course lay south, up the valley. The mountains gradually close in on both sides until at the Mountain House, twenty-five miles beyond Jacksonville, there is but little more than width enough for a full claim. During the afternoon I overtook a brother, James Shelley, who was my companion the rest of the journey. We talked of the kingdom until our hearts burned within us.
Northern California--Shasta Valley.--Messrs. Russel & Gibbs, at the Mountain House, kindly entertained us, for which they would not receive any pay from me. Early next day we were toiling up the Siskiyou Mountain. To the left of our road, and in full view most of the day, lay the Pilot Rock, quite a prominent landmark, and is said to be five miles north of the forty-second parallel. By ten o'clock we had crossed the line, and were in Northern California. The hills begin to assume a bare and naked appearance, and Mount Shasta, a magnificent snowy peak, rises on our left. As we approach the Klamath, which is winding its way through yonder ravines and gorges, the "tule" on its margin & alkaline appearance of its waters tell us we are on the outlet of the great Klamath Lake. We forded the river where it was one hundred and fifty yards wide, and by two p.m. reached the Willow Spring, in Shasta Valley. Were it not for the destitution of timber and scarcity of water, this might be regarded as an admirable valley. The tracks of a race course we noticed were thoroughly worn at our dining place. Over against Shasta Butte on the west side of the valley, and among the low hills of the coast mountains, we found Yreka. This place was once called Shasta Butte, and should have retained the name, if possible. But it was born a little too late. Redding's Springs, a place of great importance in the Sacramento, having come into notice and assumed the name of Shasta first, the legislature of California decreed the name of this place to be Yreka, after the little stream on which it stands.
Yreka.--It is a place full of business, especially on Sunday, when most of the trading is done. I was met with a most cordial reception from Br. and Sister Lowrie Dr. Cummings and wife, with whom I stayed during my brief sojourn. On Friday I examined a little of the surrounding country.
No Humbug.--Directly over the mountain to the west is Humbug Creek, which has yielded an immense amount of gold. A little farther is Scott's Valley, and then come the Trinity Mountains. Through these regions great numbers of men have been working and harvesting immense quantities of gold. In looking about Yreka I found some brethren who had just arrived overland from Missouri. During the day a messenger arrived from Humbug corner [coroner?] to hold an inquest over a young man who had just committed suicide with a rifle. He was a victim of the bottle. At night I preached to an attentive congregation in the court room, and organized a class of seven members.
Perils in the Way.--Between this place and the Sacramento there lie the Trinity Mountains, which are so difficult to cross that for all practical purposes the valley of Shasta belongs to Oregon. A very enterprising gentleman who recently obtained a charter for a road from Sacramento to the Oregon line is reported to be cut off by the Pit River Indians. He started some eight weeks since with a party of five to explore the route, and is doubtless killed. We ought at once to send a man to occupy this place. (One is now there.)
Travels Abundant.--Before six o'clock on the morning of Saturday I was again in the saddle; there were seventy miles to be retraced [Roberts is heading back north now] before ten o'clock on Sunday. On the ascent of the Siskiyou Mountains the mule became disabled; the heat was intense, and she could scarcely be driven up the steep mount. Once on the summit the refreshing northern breeze revived her, and I reached the Mountain House in the Rogue's River Valley at 4 p.m. Resting for a couple of hours, I resumed the journey, intending to travel all night, if necessary. Perhaps it would not edify anybody to read the detail of a night's travel in an Indian country, among wolves and grizzly bears. But still the real life of your itinerants on the outskirts of Christendom should be known if it should be endured.
"Real Life" of an Itinerant.--Toward ten o'clock I could distinctly hear the footsteps of animals behind me, and in the darkness dimly see the form of two, but was unable to tell what they were. The poor donkey became excessively frightened, and with a speed that would have done credit to a racehorse, run toward Jacksonville. It is surprising how the apprehension of danger will banish the sensation of weariness. Twice I lost the trail in the timber, and attempted to build a fire, but the wind was so high that I was compelled to extinguish it, or set the country on fire.
In sweet communion with God, the night was spent, groping my way along in the dark, reaching Jacksonville by sunrise. The black wolf, when hungry, is extremely dangerous, and I rather promised myself to travel no more by night alone.
Brother Hoyt had worked nobly during my absence--visiting the miners, distributed tracts, and otherwise preparing the way of the Lord. We had two services; he preaching at 3 p.m., on "Seek First the Kingdom of God," and myself at 10½ a.m., on "Glorying in the Cross." The house was full, and the Spirit of God attended the word. We shall be culpable if we do not furnish one or two men for this vicinity. But it will cost something, and where are the men?
Wise in Time.--While here Brother Hoyt made arrangements for a church lot, in front of the public square. A large immigration is pouring in, and should no reverse take place in the productiveness of the mines, there will soon be more inhabitants in this vicinity than in the rest of Oregon. By previous arrangement we went that evening as far as Dr. Ambrose's, and obtained some grass for our horses.
A Mineral Region.--On Monday we started home, and reached Grave Creek at night. The whole country we passed today is mountainous, fit mainly for game and gold. To be sure there are spots of arable land, but it is a mineral region, and will soon be "drilled and bored" to remove the precious deposit.
On Tuesday we passed the Kanyon, and stayed again with our friend Briggs. It rained severely on Wednesday. Reaching Winchester we got additional shoes to put on our horses, after which they suffered less with sore feet. Very late on Thursday we reached the Calapooia Mountain, and crossed it in the night.
Friday morning we separated, Brother Hoyt to return his horse in the Belknap Settlement, and myself to cross the valley by Spencer's Butte, and McKenzie's Fork of the Willamette. The route was new and very tiresome. Reaching the Willamette towards noon, I obtained something to eat of a family named Blair. Some the neighbors were present, and earnestly solicited me to stay over Sabbath, but it could not be; longer absence from home, on such a tour, would justly excite alarm.
A Skeptic.--Crossing McKenzie's Fork at Spoor's Ferry, I reined up, toward sundown, at the house of a man whom I had seen before, and whose wife was a member of our church. In a few moments he gave me to understand that he was a skeptic, and that I had offended him by warning the people against skeptical principles as they would flee from the face of a serpent. After the first severe repulse, and such explanation as gave us a fair understanding of each other's position, he very cordially pressed me to stay, and not only gave me the best his house afforded, but fed my horse with oats, gave me full permission to have family prayer, and ask a blessing at table, as I thought proper.
The Grace of God Sufficient.--When I left next morning, it was with a cordial invitation to come again, and a deeper conviction that honest faithfulness, both in the pulpit and out of it, will always secure the divine blessing. Fifty miles now remained. My weary horse carried me until noon, and then I had to walk and urge him along, reaching Brother Helms' at dark. Here I learned that my wife had been seriously sick during my absence. Obtaining a fresh horse of Brother Campbell, I reached home by midnight. The painful, heart-crushing intelligence which sometimes meets the eye and ear of the itinerant, who spends most of his time away from his wife and children during their minority, on his return, may not be related, and we turn with humble confidence to Him who says, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
The result of my researches induces me to believe that we need men for the following places: Jacksonville, Siskiyou Mountain, Applegate's Creek, Canyonville, Winchester, Scottsburg, Spencer's Butte and McKenzie's Fork. Bro. W. Morse was employed to go [to] the Umpqua and visit the settlements as thoroughly as possible, so that we could have the fullest information at conference. He went into all the settlements down the Umpqua as far as Scottsburg, distributing tracts, Sunday school books and papers, and preaching the word wherever he could collect any hearer.
During this journey I traveled more than 700 miles on horseback and on foot, and with Brother Hoyt and Morse distributed about 10,000 pages of tracts, 175 numbers of the Sunday School Advocate, and a number of copies of juvenile Sunday school books.
Vermont Christian Messenger, Northfield, Vermont, May 18, 1853, page 1
OVERLAND TO OREGON.The following letter from Oregon embodies information of practical interest to everyone meditating the overland journey to the New England of the Pacific. It was communicated by the receiver to The National Era:
Table Rock City, Jackson Co.,
Oregon, Sept. 20, 1852
Our market is in the mines, which consume more than Oregon can supply. The prices are as follows, and vary but little during the year, in this valley. Flour and potatoes from 25 to 30 cents per pound; onions, 50; pumpkins, 10; turnips, 15; melons, from 50 cents to $3 apiece. Butter, from 90 cents to $1.50 per lb.; cheese, $1; beef, 15 cts.--live weight, 10; dried fruit, 40. These are the retail prices.
Grass supplies the place of hay. Your poor stock just off the plains, a little hay would not be amiss during the cold rains. They can do without. The mountains are covered with grass and timber. The buttes are covered with a rich foliage of grass. The country south of this river is principally prairie, susceptible of cultivation, and generally well supplied with spring water. There are no swamps. The streams are all lined with timber, and generally rapid owing to the short distance from the mountains to the ocean. Some streams are filled with "trout," others with salmon. At Puget Sound there are plenty of oysters, and this undoubtedly will be the point of attraction eventually. The rush of emigration is at present to Southern Oregon, and the choicest claims are generally taken though aplenty for sale.
The emigrants are generally well pleased with Oregon on arriving. It is here as in other parts, occasionally you meet a dissatisfied, homesick man; but a small regiment could not run me from the country. This city is one year old and contains 2,000 inhabitants; out of this number there have been three deaths. Two were sick before coming, and one died of dissipation. We have one mill in operation, another building. A grist mill will be in operation next summer.
Many kinds of plows are used, but the cast iron is the best. All kinds of farming utensils can be obtained cheaper than to bring them. Bricks are used for chimneys in some parts, but none used here yet. Cooking stoves are to be had at Salem and Oregon City for $30 and upward. In this valley no schools have been organized. There are some very efficient schools, both high and low, in the Willamette Valley. We are situated near the mining region--of course, as yet without the pale of law, which causes gambling and drinking to exist to some extent, though not to interfere with the pursuits of the inhabitants.
Agriculture and stock raising are the principal employment. Many spend a part of their time in the mines. Cattle all run at large, and some good stock has been introduced by emigrants. Good hogs are common; there is a sow and pigs running at large here worth $300. Flies and mosquitoes are not troublesome; a few are found lurking about watercourses. There is but little variation of soil and productions in the different valleys, though this pleases me best, being nearer the best market. Some of the miners are doing well; some lumps are found weighing $12 and occasionally a man throws out from $400 to $500 a day.
I will now recommend the outfit necessary for the journey. Your clothing may be such as you commonly wear in the States, both for male and female. This is the cheapest article we buy, and will not pay transportation. Four yoke of hardy cattle to a load of twenty hundred. Your wagon should be light and strong. Young cows are the most profitable stock to drive.
Your provisions for each person should be 200 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of bacon, 30 pounds of sugar, 25 pounds of rice, 12 pounds of dried fruit, one peck of salt and plenty for stock, and such groceries as you commonly use in the States. Do not depend on getting supplies at the forts, or you will be sadly disappointed--better have too much than not enough, as you will find many poor emigrants in need.
Let your loading consist of provisions, feather beds, blankets, and a few necessary tools to use on the road. Many emigrants cook upon the ground, but a small light stove is better, as wood is scarce in many places, and often buffalo chips will have to be used.
Start from Council Bluffs by the first of May. Be sure and procure a guide book. Come through the South Pass, then keep both right-hand roads till this side of Soda Springs, then take the left-hand road. Travel regularly every day 15 or 20 miles, and before coming to the Klamath Lake country form yourself into large bands for safety. Go well armed, give nothing to the Indians, but keep them at a distance, and you will have no trouble.
If you come, give me information to that effect, and I will meet you in that country. Bring a few garden seeds. You may rest assured that all kinds of fruit common to the temperate zones flourish luxuriantly here. Bring a good supply of quilts and blankets, as our summer nights are cooler than in Ohio, and our winter nights much warmer.
I have given you the most important information of the country, and you may have overlooked some things you may wish to know. This letter is intended for all who contemplate a journey to the Pacific State. My term of office as sheriff will not expire till June 1854.
Yours, with pleasure,Richard Hull, Orangeville, Trumbull Co., O.
ROBERT C. SYKES,
Table Rock City, Jackson Co., O.T.
Hornellsville Tribune, Hornellsville, New York, January 29, 1853, page 2
Correspondence of the Oregon Statesman.
Jacksonville, O.T., Dec. 9, '52.Mr. Editor--As our friend Mr. McDermott is about visiting your section of the Territory, I am induced to write you a few words giving the current news of this place. Though still a stranger, I find enough [of] interest in the welfare of the place, and of its inhabitants. A short year since and this was but a barren wilderness. New farms, ranches and miners' cabins fill the wide plain, and the rude traces of the savage give place to the onward step of civilization, commerce and thrifty industry. An old California miner come on a visit, and well satisfied I am with the prospects, notwithstanding the dissatisfaction manifested by many newcomers, who, in hopes of an immediate reward for their long and tedious journey, look for hundreds a day, when five or six dollars should at first content them. This is less than they expected, and hence discontent and grumbling at their hard fate. Hence, also, something almost akin to despair, which leads many to offer their services for the nominal pay of their food and lodging.
The richness of the mines is yet untold, and I am confident that the wealth of California herself will not exceed the resources of Southern Oregon. Yreka City is but a few months older than Jacksonville, yet its prosperity and increase are still undiminished, and from all appearances will continue long and steadily. A few days prior to my departure from these large and extensive deep diggings were discovered prospecting from ten cents to twelve dollars a pan, and in a claim not far from our own pieces as high as fifty dollars were taken out by some Iowa boys who crossed the plains this season, by the Yreka route, having industry and stout hearts, must and will succeed. At first they were somewhat discouraged at their want of success, and accident leading them to change their diggings, also led them to this rich spot. By the way, while speaking of immigrants, let me also speak of one to whom hundreds of immigrants, with their wives, families and property, are indebted for safety at this moment--I mean Mr. Wright, long and well known in this country--upon whose conduct and that of his companions, too high a eulogy cannot be paid. Sometime in the early part of August last, Mr. Wright and about twenty-eight others, whose names I regret cannot be obtained, left their homes and business on the first intimation of the difficulties from the Indians experienced by the immigrants near Shasta Butte, and proceeded to the spot to protect them. For three months and more did these gallant spirits, forgetful of self and personal interest, spend both time and money in this dreary region, and until all the wagons coming that way were safe through the dangers of the route. During this time supplies were freely afforded by the open-hearted citizens of Yreka City as often as the call was made, and until the snows of the winter set in, and then, and not until then, did Mr. Wright and his party return, having first contrived to meet the Indians, and destroying, as nearly as can be ascertained, a hundred of the tribe. For these services we trust to see them well recompensed. They have earned a public reward, and soon may they reap it.
I should be glad to see a small press established in Yreka City. There is an excellent opening for one there, and I believe a lucrative one. It would better enable us to blazon forth the histories of these men, among other things, so that their light should not be hid under a bushel.
By the hands of these indefatigable young men--Messrs. Cram, Rogers & Co. of the Express, and who now connect with Adams & Co.'s old and known line--we are put in possession of the news of the death of the Hon. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Calhoun, Clay and Webster, three mighty pillars of our great national fabric, have fallen, yet their remains bear the seal of majesty, and their acts the monuments of a nation's glory.
By the same invaluable means of communication, we hear of the destruction of the greater portion of Shasta City (Redding's Springs) by fire, and I am sorry to say to you that the editors of the Shasta Courier are among the sufferers. They sent to San Francisco immediately for a new press, and we hope soon to see that favorite little sheet again amongst us in full success.
I shall remain here sometime prospecting the gulches and hills of this place, and should you desire further communications of reliable sources, you may depend upon
FELIX.Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, January 8, 1853, page 2
Last revised May 12, 2018