MARYSVILLE, O.T., Jan. 30. '53.I have at last seen the Umpqua, and will attempt to describe it. The largest valley I saw in the Umpqua was four miles wide and six long. William Churchill lives in this valley. He has a good claim. The main Umpqua [River] runs through this valley. There are many smaller valleys. It is a good grazing country and plenty of water in winter and dry in summer; timber very scarce, and poor--black oaks generally. The country does not suit me. I have also visited Rogue River Valley. It is the best country I have seen in Oregon. It is some 30 or 40 miles wide and 35 or 40 miles long, with many strips of timber running through it, and the mountains are covered with fine timber, and are generally of easy access. The valley is only tolerably well watered. Though several fine streams run through it, springs are scarce. It produces splendid grass. The snow which commenced falling on the 12th December was general in all the valleys. It lay on the ground until the 4th of January, during which time the weather was very cold. Many streams in the Willamette Valley were frozen over, much stock was lost, and many persons frostbitten. Since the snow has gone the nights are very cold. The mice have destroyed nearly all the wheat, and little seed is left in the country. The emigrants cannot get work. How they are to keep soul and body together, I know not. I pay ten dollars a week for my board. I am now down upon the country. It will never have as good society as there is in the States.
I was at Isaac Constant's, in Rogue River Valley, during the snow storm. He lost one cow. He has 18 cows and heifers, 15 yoke of cattle, 3 mules and one horse. The last emigration are generally satisfied with the country, and I would frankly advise my friends in Sangamon County to stay where they are. My advice is stay away! M.W.E. [Miletus Ellis]
"Letters from Oregon," Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, April 11, 1853, page 2
This valley is a pleasant one and probably the prettiest part of Oregon. It is a good farming country and gold mines all around it and only about 80 miles from the seacoast from whence supplies can [be] procured as soon as the road is open to Paragon Bay where ships can run from San Francisco. A great many emigrants have settled here who came here last fall. Everything is high at present. Grass grows very abundantly throughout.
Samuel V. Tripp, letter of April 16, 1853
RESOURCES OF THE NORTH.--There is not, probably, a country on the face of the earth more fully blessed with resources for the production of affluence than the one in which we live. Northern California and Southern Oregon abound in one succession of mountains and valleys, the former producing auriferous deposits unsurpassed at this time including a vast extent of country north of the Sacramento Valley three hundred miles and west from the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific. The valleys abound in rich pastures whose adaptation to grazing and farming are second to none. To enumerate the different placer and other diggings in the above named district, which have long been worked by miners to handsome profits, or to portray the supreme agricultural resources of the numerous beautiful valleys which are now being so speedily settled, will be a task we will defer for the future.
Sacramento Daily Union, June 15, 1853, page 2
FROM SOUTHERN OREGON.
We have been favored with a letter from Mr. Eaton Hickox, who has been for some time past engaged in mining in Southern Oregon. It would be well to say, however, that the 42nd parallel has not yet been surveyed, and it is a disputed point where that line of latitude runs. The result is that the country in that neighborhood acknowledges both the California state government and the Oregon territorial government, and votes in the elections of both. The country from this account is called "neutral ground."
Mr. Hickox writes that within some months previous a harbor was discovered a little north of the Klamath River and some distance south of Rogue River, where a town has been commenced called "Crescent City." It is said that the harbor is a good one. Mr. H. has furnished a map of the neighboring country, some points of which we will endeavor to describe, as we are unable to present a plate of it. The Klamath River enters the Pacific some 15 miles south of the Crescent City and harbor. The Klamath has numerous branches in the interior, upon which gold has been found and where there is a numerous population of miners. Some ten miles north of Crescent City is Smith's River, a much smaller and shorter river--probably not forty miles long--coming into the Pacific from a southeast direction. Some fifteen miles north of Smith's River is the Illinois River, traversing the country from the same direction, southeast, much larger than Smith's River, with numerous branches entering it some fifteen miles from the coast. Six or eight miles north of the Illinois River, Rogue River enters the Pacific. At a distance of twenty or thirty miles from the coast, this river has numerous branches. Gold has been found in the valleys and streams of this whole region of country, which region is rough and mountainous, with some pleasant valleys, the streams being generally rapid. This region has been, and is now, the favorite resort of Indians, who are the most warlike and cruel of any found in Oregon or California. The whites have driven them from their favorite hunting and fishing grounds, and shoot them down whenever they can find them.
"Althouse Creek" is one of the uppermost branches of the Illinois River. There Mr. Hickox is located with a company of miners. He writes--"Here I am now. I have a nice place to live in, and try to persuade myself that I am quite comfortable. Here is where the gold is obtained--the 'root of all evil'--which creates more evil while it is being dug than afterwards.
"There has been a great deal of gold taken out here. Some few have become suddenly rich and others remain poor. The banks of the creek have nearly all been worked over, and now the miners are preparing to turn the creek with flumes, so that they can work the bed. It is in one of these speculations that I am engaged at present. I did not think that I should mine anymore, but as I had a chance to get what I considered a good claim, and as nothing better offered, I felt disposed to try my luck once more. I shall have the water turned off in about a week, and then if there is anything at the bottom I will give it much joy when I get hold of it. Whether I make anything or not, I am determined that this shall be my last summer in the mines.
"The Indians in Rogue River Valley were quite troublesome the last spring, so much so that it has been dangerous to travel except in large companies. It is expected there will be some fighting, as they are the most warlike Indians in the country. It is feared that a company, of which Joseph Williams was one, have been killed by them. They left here some six weeks ago, and have not been heard from. (The letter from Mr. Estill, a notice of which we gave yesterday, is twelve days later than Mr. Hickox' letter--it was written at the same point.)
"A good many are leaving here for the new diggings lately discovered at Port Orford, near the mouth of the Umpqua River. It is said that the sands of the beach there are yellow with gold. I have not believed all this, consequently I remain with the few. I find it will not always do to run round with these reports. Some have left good claims here that they have been at the trouble of watching all winter so that they might work them this summer. But it is always thus in the mines. As soon as one gold discovery excitement dies away another is started, and it would keep one always moving to follow them up.
"There has been a good deal of sickness here this spring, of what is called the 'mountain fever.' The attacks are generally fatal. Until lately, there has not been a white woman in this valley. Some four or five married ladies came here the last spring, and I will assure you they created quite a sensation among the miners. For nearly a year I had not seen the face of a white woman, and it was a sight worth seeing. Dear woman! What is man without thy moralizing influence! Thy gentle presence holds in check their fierce natures. It is horrible to behold how degraded man will become away from the influence of woman! He who digs a fortune in the mines earns it well, and should not be envied.
"There are several persons here from Springfield and its neighborhood: Robert Estill, James Gormley, Addison Foley, Edward and William Northcutt and Wm. Smith, and there are others from Sangamon County."
Illinois State Journal, Springfield, August 18, 1853, page 2
Many towns, Oregon City, Portland, Salem, Marysville, Scottsburg, [Port] Orford and Crescent City, some with their hundreds and others with their thousands of inhabitants, with all kinds of goods that can be found in the States, and nearly everything as cheap as at the East (because of the great competition) except for the productions here. Flour is 10 to $18 per cwt., beef 15 to 25 cts. per lb., pork 20 to 30 cts. per lb., potatoes 1.00 to 3.00 per bus., onions 3.00 to 5.00 per bus., oats 2.00 to 4.00 per bus., butter .50 to 1.00 per lb., eggs and chickens same as butter. Oxen $200 per yoke, cows $100 per head, good American horses or mares $100. Indian ponies $25 to $75. The nearer the mines the higher the prices.
In the Umpqua Valley, where I am, while onions are worth $5.00, molasses is only 75 cts. per gal. A pound of butter is worth more than a gallon of molasses. One lb. butter will buy eleven lbs. sugar. One lb. butter will buy a dress. One day's work $2.00 to $3.00 will buy a pr. pants. You may now understand what to bring with you if you ever conclude to come to Oregon, just nothing at all only what is necessary on the way, except stock.
Calvin B. West, Yoncalla, September 6, 1853, in Reginald R. Stuart and Grace D. Stuart Calvin B. West of the Umpqua, California History Foundation, 1961, page 46
Our Oregon Correspondence.
Trip Through California to Oregon--Sketches of the Cities, Towns and Country--Sad Fate of an Emigrant Party &c.
Portland,Oregon, Sept. 21, 1853.I wrote you last from the southern mines of California, in the neighborhood of Sonora. The weather becoming very warm, I concluded to give up my location there, and try the northern mines. On my way I passed through San Francisco, and stopped a few days there. I was surprised to see how great was the change which the nine months since I left it had wrought. Large numbers of the best kind of buildings are going up in every part of the city, and in the environs many elegant residences are now erected. It is already a noble city, and in but few years must hold a rivalship with the greatest emporiums of the world.
From San Francisco I went to Sacramento, where I stopped a day. Notwithstanding the terrible calamities which have almost overwhelmed this city, it is still a place of great extent and business, and retains, and will retain, I suppose, the distinction of being the second city of California.
Taking a small-class steamer, I proceeded up the Sacramento River to Colusa, one hundred and thirty-five miles above Sacramento. In winter the navigation extends still another hundred miles, to Cowertsburg. The river flows through a fine valley, of great extent, and very productive, but it is quite unhealthy, I heard it said. From Colusa we were taken by coach along the valley another hundred miles, and came to Shasta, a right smart mining town, which has been just rebuilt, after being almost completely burned up. There are a large number of stores here, as it is the point of supply for an extensive region, and it has a very busy air. From Shasta onward is only a mule trail for the most part, and I accordingly made my way from here on foot, which method of locomotion I prefer to any other, and which is here, at any rate, by far the most agreeable. It is a little lonely, however; the houses are sometimes ten or twelve miles apart, and you may pass over a long distance without meeting anyone. The profound quiet and seclusion of these rural districts were to me very pleasing.Now and then the deer are startled by your footfall, and bound away from its sound, and all is still again. On leaving Shasta you pass up the valley of Clear Creek for some twenty-five miles, and then strike across a high range of land on to the Trinity, which is a considerable stream, and a valley of no great extent. Following up this stream quite to its head, you cross the height of land, and pass over into the valley of Scott's River, which is a remarkably fine one, and of considerable extent, being six or seven miles wide in some places, although the stream is quite small. There are here quite a number of settlers, and a good deal of land under cultivation. After the long stretch of desert land between the valley and Shasta (about one hundred miles), it seemed like an oasis in the desert. I found the people here a good deal alarmed about the Indians, who have committed many murders and destroyed much property in the Rogue River Valley, and it was feared that the Shasta Indians (who occupy this valley) would break out in the same manner.
Crossing another height of land, you pass from Scott's into the Shasta Valley, which is of greater extent, but not nearly as fertile as the former. In this valley is situated the flourishing town of Yreka, which is one of the most considerable mining towns of Northern California, and the diggings hereabout are quite rich, but are not much worked at this season, on account of the weather. Here, too, the greatest excitement prevails in regard to the Indians, although no outbreak has as yet taken place, and, owing to the small number of Indians (not more than thirty or forty), there probably will be none. A company of mounted men, however, are constantly engaged in scouring the country adjacent, and another had been dispatched to the aid of the Rogue River settlements, where the danger is really great. In fact, not long after leaving the Yreka [sic], on my way there, I met a couple of men riding furiously, from whom I learned that a house had been attacked the same morning, and five or six men killed or severely wounded, and they were on the way to seek medical assistance for them. Not long after leaving them, I came to the base of the Siskiyou Mountains, which are the boundary between California and Oregon, and crossing which you find yourself in the Rogue River country, and in the midst of the hostile Indians. I halted a day here, in hopes of finding some companionship across the mountains, but as none came, I took my way across on foot and alone. It is a lonely place enough, for about twelve miles without any houses, and many places where the Indians, securely ambushed, might destroy almost any number without even being seen. I experienced no molestation, however, and made my way into the valley of the Rogue River at the expense of only a slight trepidation when the bushes were moved by some wild animals, as I invaded their domains.
A little way down the valley was the house which had been attacked. The attack was made at daybreak, according to the usual practice of the Indians. Two emigrant wagons were encamped by the river. The men, three in number, were asleep under the wagons, and all were killed, or so badly wounded that they did not long survive. [One of them was apparently a Hugh Smith.] The women and children in the wagons were not hurt, although the tops of the wagons were riddled with balls and arrows. Certainly it was a hard fate, after escaping all the danger of their long travel, so to perish on the soil they had come far to seek. As the people here were shorthanded and naturally much alarmed, I stopped with them a few days and assisted them to keep guard, but the Indians offering no further molestation, I continued on to Jacksonville, distant five or six hundred miles from San Francisco, and which is the last of the mining towns, although the mining region extends to the north considerably further--in truth, it is not at all certain as yet where it stops. Jacksonville is the depot of the Rogue River Valley, in which there are rich mining claims, as well as great agricultural resources, and bids fair to become a place of considerable importance.
The camp where the troops, numbering some three thousand [sic], who were engaged in the war, was about ten miles from Jacksonville, under command of Gen. Lane, and I walked down there one day and stopped overnight, to see how the "boys" got on. I remained here all night, and had a fine time of it, with the canopy of heaven for a covering, but the hardy miner-soldiers made but little account of it, and the bright sun of the morning soon put all to rights. There had been an engagement a day or two before, in which the whites, engaging at a great disadvantage, were rather worsted. Capt. Alden, United States army, was very badly wounded in this engagement, by a wound in the neck, and Gen. Wool [sic] was wounded slightly in the arm. The Indians are very well armed, and have shown a good deal of shrewdness in carrying on the war, but they have committed many barbarities, and from the spirit which is aroused, they can hardly fail to receive a summary chastisement.
Finding the war in status quo, on account of a proposed treaty with the Indians, and mining pursuits altogether interrupted, as well as all others, I resolved to push across Oregon to Portland, and thence again to San Francisco. Traveling in that direction was considered extremely dangerous, and I received many warnings to the effect that I could hardly cross it unharmed, but, as I had made up my mind to cross at all events, I set out composedly enough from Jacksonville on foot, alone and unarmed, as I had come already some two hundred miles. Parties of men whom I met, armed to the teeth, evinced great astonishment on meeting me, and one southerly gentleman assured me, with a confidential air, "that it wasn't a good idee." However, I "calculated" as, being a Yankee, I had a right to do [it], that with a less party than twenty or thirty men I was full as safe in this way as to travel mounted and armed in parties of from two to five, as more men have been cut off so than in any other way--the arms and horses being great temptations for attacking, and the number too small for effective defense. At any rate I passed through the dreaded section of about sixty miles without molestation, although there are certainly a good many places, which, with the aid of the many stories told you of Indian murders, were strongly adapted to put one's nerves to the test.
The last twelve miles of the disturbed section passes through what is known far and wide in this quarter by the name of "the canyon." It is a very deep and narrow gorge, and is the only means of passing from the Rogue River country into the Umpqua. It has a road through it which one would think it a great achievement for a mule to get through on safely, but what was my surprise, to meet about half way through, a twelve-pounder cannon making its way along with considerable facility, by the aid of eight stout mules, and a company of mounted men, who were escorting it to the seat of war! Getting through the canyon after some six hours of as hard walking as one could well have, I came into the Umpqua, where there is no further danger from the Indians. This is a valley of great extent, and is considerably settled. A little town in it, called Winchester, of about seven or eight houses, is the only place of any note in it. Further on, to be sure, is a spot imposingly called Eugene City, but this contains only one house and a barn!
From the Umpqua, crossing the Calapooya Mountains, you come into the noble valley of the Willamette, of great extent and fertility, and which is now pretty much taken up. Everything is new here, as yet, but you can see the germs of a great state. The people whom I saw and conversed with, which were very many in the course of my route, seemed to be, without exception, pleased with their prospect. They said it was the easiest country to live in they had ever seen. As a wheat and grazing country it is undoubtedly superior to any part of your country; for corn it is not nearly so good, but potatoes and garden vegetables are of the very best quality.
Marysville is the first place that you come to deserving the name of a town, after leaving Jacksonville, a distance of more than two hundred miles. In winter it is at the head of navigation on the Willamette, but in the dry season the boats can only run twenty-five miles above Portland, from which Marysville is distant about one hundred. I was greatly struck with the contrast between an Oregon and a California town. It being Sunday all the shops were closed, and everything had the quiet air which it has in the towns of the Atlantic States. In a California town everything is in full blast on the Sabbath, and more business is done than on any other day of the week, although a change is rapidly working in this respect, and in San Francisco, for instance, a good deal of attention is paid to the decorum of the day.
From Marysville you pass to Albany and Salem, both considerable places, and the latter is the seat of government for the Territory. It contains a very large edifice for educational purposes, and the foundations of a commodious statehouse have been laid. From Salem to Oregon City is forty miles, across the "French Prairie," as it is called, from being much settled by the French. This latter is a place of a good deal of trade, and communication with Portland, twelve miles distant, every day by steamboat.
From Oregon City I came across the Portland Hills to Portland, the principal seaport and town of Oregon, and so finished a tramp of 500 miles, which I accomplished in a leisurely manner, at the rate of about 20 miles a day. Portland is well situated on the Willamette (so pronounced) twelve miles from its junction with the Columbia, and about 100 from the ocean. It has about 2,000 inhabitants, I should judge, and a large business is done here, it being the head of ship navigation. The harbor is the best in Oregon, undoubtedly, but still the bar of the Columbia has proved quite disastrous within a year, and it is now only a few days since a vessel laden with the materials for a much-needed lighthouse was wrecked and totally lost there. These repeated losses have just induced the employment of a steam tug, lately arrived, and which, it is believed, will pretty much put a stop to these disasters. The opening of some new ports to the southward has cut off some of the trade that used to come to this place, but still, as the depot of the great Willamette and Columbia valleys, it must always be a place of importance.
Oregon, on the whole, as I am able to say from a fair view of a large part of it, is a noble country, and is not surpassed, I believe, by any portion of our vast domain. I have been much interested in the trip across it, and have thought your readers would be glad even of the scanty notice I have been able to give of it.
CAL. OR.New York Herald, November 9, 1853, page 6
Jacksonville, Oregon, Dec. 17, '53.
Mr. Editor--We arrived here in the Rogue River Valley Oct. 26th, just five, instead of four, months out from Kanesville, in company with a train of 87 persons, 23 wagons, 334 head of cattle, 1700 sheep and 29 horses and mules--all right save the "ordinary wear and tear" of wagons and teams, and some wear and tear of heart, especially for going hungry now and then, and eating poor dry beef for a fortnight on the road.--We were so foolish as to join company with this great multitude at Green River, 60 miles this side of the South Pass, and to come through with them, and dearly we paid for our folly. Our teams were broken down and we were delayed three weeks and over beyond the time we might have made.--There was a great deal of suffering in the train in consequence of the delay--suffering providentially arrested by relief of flour from the valley, meeting us ten days out, near the Sierra Nevadas [i.e., the Cascade Range]. We cannot express our obligations to this people for their generosity. It is the noblest community I ever saw. Many had consumed their whole summer in a most sanguinary war of defense with the bloodiest horde of Indians on the continent; all the grain that could be destroyed by fire had been consumed, and many of the dwellings of the settlers burned down; business of all kinds was totally prostrated, and the famine of the past year threatened a continuance for a year to come; but as news reached the valley that emigrants were suffering on the road, a force of fifty rangers immediately volunteered for their defense against the Indians, and under their protection a train of mules with three tons of flour, $1,000 worth--was sent to their relief. The whole road to the Sierra Nevadas, and indeed for a hundred miles beyond, was thus effectually occupied and aid supplied as far as any necessity could be anticipated. Wherever the presence of Indians was suspected, there an efficient detachment of troops was posted and the closest watchfulness maintained; whenever property was plundered from emigrants, the most vigorous efforts were made to recover it--and when families were found destitute of bread, they were supplied at the lowest rates to those having money, and free to those having none. And twice after the first, during the emigrating season, provision trains under escort were sent out that there might be no possible failure of the abundance of their liberality. On account of the great disproportion of prices of labor and food, emigrants experience very great difficulty in getting through the first eight months of their residence here; and no one can realize the intense interest felt in their condition by the citizens of the valley. Every facility within reach of the people is afforded them to obtain food and to find employment. There is a great deal of industry in the valley, and the strangest mixture of economy and liberality I ever saw. With the evidences of friendliness, frankness and generosity a man everywhere meets, he can hardly believe the community to be composed of people from every part of the Union, a year ago all strangers to one another.--Land here is good--but not as good as that of Wisconsin generally. It is too gravelly. Much of it, especially that most affected by drought, is quite naked. Generally it is about half covered with a short thick growth of very rich bunch grass that seems to spread some by grazing and may in places eventually form a close turf. A very little of the land on the streams has grass that may be mown--but the best of it is not what your farmers would call tolerable wild meadow--On the southern slopes of the mountains grass, much of it clover, takes the place of timber, while the northern slopes are covered with pine (mainly pitch pine), fir and yellow cedar--the latter differing a little from your white cedar, and approaching the famous redwood, palo colorado, of Oregon and California. Much of the southern slopes is grown up to a short stunted wild sage--Fremont's artemisia--a form of which covers "the plains" from Scott's Bluffs, below Laramie, to the Sierra Nevadas--fit for neither fuel nor food for man or beast. There is soil everywhere. The rock is very seldom exposed. Now and then you see a wall of sandstone or hornblende running along the mountainside, but you see too that time is fast employed whittling them to earth.
The periodical drought produces a necessity for irrigation on almost all soils, for the coarser products. Wheat, oats and barley--all cereal grains--do well. They mature before they suffer. Flax is indigenous on all good soils from the Bear River [a tributary of Great Salt Lake] to the Pacific. There is no three months of dog days to make corn. The summer nights are too cool for it and the drought a little too early. The early kinds are grown but with no great success. With wheat we can beat the world--and perhaps with oats. With coarse vegetables the country does well. In fat cattle, it can't be beat. Now, at midwinter, there are hundreds of cattle, as fat as your best stall fed, on the commons--propagating, growing, fattening, with as little human care as the deer on the mountains. The animal grows through all the seasons, and at one year old is as heavy as in your country at two. An ox here is expected to weigh eight to eleven hundred, of course, and you see one yoke performing a labor that two of ours can hardly do. The wheat crop for the next harvest is yet, Dec. 17, but little of it in. They sow till March. The plowing of the season is now from a third to a half done. It commences with the rains late in Nov. and continues to the middle of Feb. or first of March. It requires four or five yoke of oxen to break with a plow cutting 14 inches. We have had now four freezing nights, all in succession. It is called remarkably cold. Men complain of the cold as they do in your country when the mercury is 20 degrees below zero. Their houses are very open--about open enough for comfortable summer houses--and they expect to keep warm in them. The commerce of the country is carried on upon pack mules, and so mild are the winters that the "packers" expect to sleep and live in the open air in all seasons, even without tents. The highest point to which the mercury rose last summer was 112 degrees--but the heat was not oppressive as it is in Wisconsin. The air is balmy from the effect of the sea, and one feels free about the chest in the highest heat of summer. In winter the temperature ranges in the neighborhood of zero to 14 degrees below--seldom, perhaps never, freezing in the daytime, and only now and then nights. Nobody thinks of such a thing as feeding cattle in the winter. You sometimes see a little stack of hay designed for a working team in time of emergency--but this is not common. It is expected that teams will go right along through the winter, plowing and keeping fat on the new growth of grass which is now green and fine. The old Spanish trail and the present inland commercial route is through this valley, from California to Oregon. Thousands of mules are employed on it. Trains are constantly passing. And this multitude, winter and summer, subsist solely on grass. Potatoes and other coarse products are secured when ripe without regard to seasons. The potatoes are not yet all dug--though they ought to be. These things are secured against frost, by putting them into houses about as close as a good log house. The mildness of the winter is a very great advantage to this country. The rains and fogs render it an unpleasant season, but far less than you in that country suppose. The rains came on this year about the middle of November. It rained more than half the time for ten or twelve days, since that, for eighteen days, we have had two storms, and enough to keep the ground very wet--that is all. This is the busy time of the year.--Last summer and fall they had rains out of their season, and many suppose they may be looked for henceforth--but I apprehend there is no good ground for such a hope. We met these rains on the road and they were called unprecedented. The wet weather is from the southwestward brought by a tropical sea wind, I take it to be a diverted western monsoon, ranging along the region of mountains forming the whole western coast country of the continent, and it comes warm like a summer shower. We have no cold rain storms.
Hogs do but indifferently. If I were coming here again, I would bring two or three full-blood grass breed pigs. On the clover they would do as well as the bears and cattle--but those that subsist on roots and mast have a poor time of it. I should think the hogs of the valley were of Spanish stock--but mean and miserable as they are, a pig is worth an ounce of gold. With such as they are the country will soon be supplied and a better breed be called for. The breed of cattle cannot be improved. Everything of the kind becomes Durham in a year after it gets here. The Umpqua Valley, between here and the Willamette (pronounced Wil-lam-et) is said to be best for hogs. Hens may be obtained here for about $2.00 a pair. A family in our train took out a pair, with little trouble. I have seen no geese nor turkeys, and presume there are none in the valley. Surrounded by mountains as this valley is, it cannot, of course, be otherwise than well watered.
I can only say of the Rogue River what I have heard, that it is so large as to require ferries. On either side, down valleys three or four miles wide flow little creeks--Bear, Butte, Evans, Antelope, &c--from the mountains to the river. There are many little brooks that reach the creeks, and there you see everywhere small spring runs that in a little way lose themselves in the soil--and by all of these is afforded an abundant means for irrigation. A few, very few, trout are in the creeks, and some salmon live to get up here from the sea, but so bruised and beaten about by the drift in the swift streams, that they are unfit to eat. Of game--on the wooden slopes the deer are really "too numerous to mention." Back a few miles in the mountains, the black, brown and grizzly bears are abundant. The grizzly is one of the noblest animals in the world--more powerful and more fearless than the tiger. There is a species of the American lion, and what is said to be a very fair representative of the hyena, in the mountains--though I doubt whether the latter is vouched for by any very good authority. Myriads of wild geese and sandhill cranes--but their place of resort, so far as we know anything about it, is several lakes in the interior, some of which we pass in coming over from the Humboldt, and of which I may write more fully at another time. The grizzly is an animal of incredible strength. I have seen a cub, five months old, break up a bullock's leg in the joint, stripping away the muscles from the bone with his claws. But they can neither climb a tree nor run along a steep hillside, and so they are not very dangerous. The fiercer animals have never been known to descend into the valley. Small game is scarce. Wild fruit, except the apple, is rather abundant. Of that, no form is found save the tree--a fine crab tree, but bearing only a very few small berries, half as large, perhaps, as a currant, and half as good.--The grapes of this valley are abundant and superior. The domestic apple does remarkably well. The native plum grows on a dwarf bush, perhaps 10 to 18 inches high, and has the flavor of the peach. Apple trees for setting [i.e., planting] are packed over from the Willamette and sold here for $1.00 each.
This valley is about 75 miles long and perhaps 8 wide, beside the valleys of the creeks. The lower part of the valley, half of it, or thereabouts, is reserved for the present for the Indians. They attempted last summer to drive out the whites, and after a war of three months, during which about 40 white and 100 Indians were killed, peace was concluded by the surrender of the best half of the valley to the whites. These Indians are a wild fierce tribe, of kin to the Diggers on the Humboldt, and about the lakes this side of there, and the Snakes of Snake River.--They are degraded and cruel beyond measure. It is said that they murder for pastime. They will any of them shoot a man to get his hat. We saw the body of an emigrant that had been dragged from its grave, to be stripped, and left to the ravens. The whole country from the head of the Humboldt to this place, and indeed to the ocean, except the "desert," sixty miles, is infested by them to such an extent that no place is safe. I wrote you what we heard of the Humboldt Indians--the Diggers--of their extinction by the smallpox. We found it partially so--and no one comes over the plains without wishing it were so of all these tribes. At the western junction of the Bear River and Salt Lake roads, we heard of the war of the Utahs and Mormons, the particulars of which you probably had long ago. The opinion of the most intelligent men I saw who came that way, was, that the war was got up by the Mormons as a pretext for consolidating their military establishment and fortifying the passes to the city. Bad as the Utahs are, all who came that way agree that the Mormons are worse--that they are more adept at theft and more reckless at robbery. Much trouble is yet to be experienced with that community. The cattle trains that came by Salt Lake sustained more loss within striking distance of that city than those by the Bear River road on the whole trip.--The closest vigilance was insufficient to prevent the theft of cattle. The property of emigrants is probably no safer there than in the country of the Pawnee. I thought our road over the mountains by the Bear River was the worst possible, but I would advise those having any more than a small number of cattle, to come that way rather than run the hazards by Salt Lake. But I am digressing here. More of this anon.
The wood of the valley is mainly pitch pine, fir, cedar and burr oak. This pine cannot be split at all, and is too heavy for convenience--heavier than water. It however makes our lumber, while a mammoth pine of the mountain summits, called the sugar pine, makes our shingles and the shakes with which frame houses are generally covered. Our rail timber is the cedar and fir. The oak is a short, tough, gnarled tree like your burr oak, used only for fuel. The poplar and poorer species of the elm flourish along the streams, and in many places everything is covered with the grape vine. The yew tree grows here and there on the mountains--and so does the laurel.--The alder grows to a tree 18 inches in diameter--but it is useless. There is a tree representing the butternut but it has no fruit save a seed like that of the maple, and one called the mansimeter [manzanita?], a more splendid tree than you ever saw; the "misseltoe bough" too, rendering the oak classic with its associations. The maple, linn [linden or basswood] and hickory are unknown here--though the hazel, a brittle thing in your country, by its singular toughness supplies the place of the latter for some purposes. The chaparral, the crookedest, ugliest and most obstinate bush you ever saw, forms the upland undergrowth.
The best informed men put the population of the valley at three to four thousand--three to four hundred being in the village of Jacksonville--and among them our old friend, Dr. E. H. Cleveland, of Watertown. He is the only old acquaintance I have seen except Mr. Warren, of Hartland, whom I met on the plains and who called on you at your place. The Doctor is doing well--first rate--and sends his respects to all who remember him. He has actually driven out all competition and is now doing all the business of the valley in the line of his profession. The Dr. is now enjoying as much of wealth and the confidence of the people as any many in the valley. There are few--perhaps ten or twelve--families in the village. The first time I was here I saw but one woman, and she kept a bowling saloon and drunkery. Since that we have found a good society of families. The mass of the men "keep batch"--the merchants in their stores, and mechanics in their shops--even the Justice of the Peace, with several miners, cooks, eats and sleeps in "the office," a circular mosque-like building, made of "shakes," I believe without a board or pane of glass about it. The houses, except one, the Robinson House, are all made of these things, and are generally lighted by the crevices or windows of cotton cloth. The first successful schools in the valley are just started by persons of our company, are in Jacksonville to be the basis of an academy and one in the country. The first religious societies--three Methodist--are now being organized, with five clergymen, of the same denomination, all of our company, in the field. The most flourishing branches of business are those of the bowling saloon, the gambling den and the drunkery--and yet there is less of gambling and drinking in the place than you would expect to see. Merchants and mechanics are doing well. There is no cooper, gunsmith, carriage maker nor shoemaker doing business in the place--though by another year, they might all, save the latter succeed well. We have but one sawmill in the valley--though three more, at least, are commenced, and a grist mill is to be ready for the next harvest.
We find it very difficult to become familiarized to the enormous prices in this country. Flour, this winter, ranges from 20¢ to 25¢ a pound, beef is 20¢ and 25¢, bacon, mess [bacon trimmings] 37¢, prime 45¢, potatoes 6¢, squashes &c, 4¢ a pound. Salt is 25¢ a pound, candles 75-100¢, coffee 37¢, sugar 33¢, butter $1.25, milk 100¢ a gallon. While domestic staple products, it will be seen, bear from five to ten prices, labor bears but two to four--as, per day, $2.00-$3.00; per month, $50.00-$75.00. This renders it extremely difficult for emigrants to subsist the first few months. Some of our folks say they never before found "existence so much a problem."--Some of them, men heretofore well to do in the world, have dug potatoes for every 30th bushel; some have worked for $2.00 a day, with board, and paid $4.80 a bushel for potatoes--the price when we came. I sold a good log chain for five squashes. A neighbor sold a good wagon for 100 hills of potatoes, and got the worth of the wagon, $80.00, and I sold one for 100 lbs. of flour and 750 lbs. or 12½ bushels potatoes. Oxen are worth, by the yoke, but $100 to $160 and cows from $75 to $100 each. The difficulty of obtaining food is increased 100 percent by the voracious wolfish appetites of all newcomers. People eat till they are themselves astonished, and oftener thus than till they are satisfied. I presume four-fifths of those who have been here but three months, experience great trouble in getting enough to eat. It is a hard thing to say of the country, but it is true; and tell your readers if they do not wish to realize it, to stay at home. When a man gets to raising and selling agricultural products, or becomes established in any other business the profits of which are three or four times the profits of labor, he can prosper--but not till then.--That is too true. And you can tell them that if people were not made over, or rather half unmade, by the dehumanizing processes through which they go from Kanesville here, they would never submit to the conditions of this country. They would never submit to living in such houses, with such an absence of the conveniences and comforts of eastern life, and such a destitution of intellectual and moral opportunities, if they had not already learned on the plains to submit to anything. You can tell them that too; and tell them they can never, in living here, get paid for coming over the plains. I am not homesick; I am not prejudiced; I only tell you facts. And it is in fulfillment of a pledge to many of your readers, to tell them facts, that I tell them much more than half of those, in this country of mild winters, of a fruitful soil and mines of gleaming gold, are dissatisfied and regret having come here. Of those who have come without their friends, I have heard not one express an intention to bring them here. The general expression of such is, "I am glad my family are not here;" while the mass of those who stay, stay for other reasons than because they like the country.--We are all told that by another year or so we shall prefer it to the East. I know not how that may be; but I know that a large portion of those who have been here eighteen months, the time of the settlement, intend to leave.
Mining is being perhaps fairly paid now. Some are making fortunes and some making nothing, or less. There is room for many thousand miners in this valley. The gold, in some quantity, is exhaustless. And the farther explorations are carried in every direction from us, the more extensive the gold-bearing country is found. New diggings are discovered somewhere every day. There is gold enough--more than can be washed out. And yet mining is a very precarious business. I would advise no one to come here to mine, because he is very likely to expend years of labor without profits and very sure to get less gold than will repay him for what he undergoes in coming and living a miner's life. It is worth something to "see the elephant," and well enough, perhaps, at least for a young man, to waste two years in learning the lesson of a trip to, and a residence in this country; and it is "well enough" for them only, as young men are bound to fool away about so much time, and there is no school in which they can learn as fast, or by the discipline of which truths will be so indelibly impressed on their memories. I will write again soon.
My respects to all--accept assurances &c.
of Yours, S. H. TAYLOR.
Watertown Chronicle, Wisconsin, March 29, 1854, page 1; also transcribed in Oregon Historical Quarterly, June 1921, pages 149-159
The first vessel to enter Coos Bay was a small schooner, whose captain blundered into the inlet in 1852, believing it to be the Umpqua. Some Indians reporting the fact to Patrick Flanagan and pilot Smith at Umpqua City, they went to the relief of the captain, and brought the vessel around to its destination. When the Indian war was in progress a vessel loaded with military stores and soldiers was driven ashore near the entrance, and the troops forced to spend most of the winter in tents on the beach, during which time they taught the natives to treat white men with respect.
In the summer of 1853, P. B. Marple, from Rogue River Valley, made a voyage of exploration down the Coquille River and about Coos Bay, after which he formed a company of settlers among the Rogue River miners, who became the pioneers of this region. Gold was soon discovered in the beach sands from Coos Bay south to the mouth of Rogue River, and thousands flocked to the new diggings. When these were exhausted a few remained as settlers.
The first town on Coos Bay was Empire City, near the mouth of the harbor. During the mining period this was the supply depot. Here came Flanagan, of the disrupted Umpqua Land Company, who started a pack train to Randolph, near the mouth of the Coquille, and opened a trading post there. The gold excitement had not passed away when coal was discovered at Coos Bay. It was the first coal successfully mined on the Pacific Coast, and its market was San Francisco. The mine first opened was the Marple and Foley mine, about one mile from Empire City. The first cargo was wagoned to the bay, transferred to flatboats, and placed on board the Chauncy for San Francisco. The vessel was lost on the bar going out, but another vessel was soon loaded, and the cargo sold at a good profit. This mine was abandoned on the discovery of others at Newport and Eastport. Our old acquaintances, Flanagan and Mann, of the Umpqua Company, owned and made a success of the Newport mine, whose chief rival was the Eastport. The Henryville and Isthmus mines have also been productive, and some recent discoveries have been made at other points. The towns about Coos Bay dependent upon the coal and lumber interests are Empire City, North Bend, Marshfield, Newport, Eastport, Bay City, Henryville, Uttor City, Sumner, Coaledo and Coos City. On the Coquille the principal town, from whence Oregon draws her well known representative in Congress, is Coquille City. There are two or three other small towns in this part of Coos County.
North Bend, between Empire and Marshfield, is the great shipyard of Oregon, and the pioneer shipyard of the Pacific Coast. It is picturesquely situated and neatly laid out, has neither hotel nor saloon, yet contains everything necessary to comfort and happiness. The finest vessels built on the Coast come from North Bend. When finished in white cedar and myrtle wood, they are as handsome as sailing vessels can be.
Another shipyard at Empire City has also turned out a number of fine sailing vessels and small steamers, and some ship building has been done on the Umpqua at Gardiner and above, within a few miles of Scottsburg.
When to all the resources here indicated is added a naturally productive soil, and an ideally delightful climate, the question naturally suggested is, "Why is this region so little known?" The answer to this query is: first, that the Coast Range is a rude barrier to be crossed, requiring a first-class road to be passable for freight wagons in winter, and first-class roads have never existed on the Northwest Coast. There was, indeed, a military road constructed from the interior down the
Umpqua River as far as Scottsburg, in 1854, but though "military," it was only a very poor affair after all, which the extraordinary storms of 1861-62 completely destroyed. The road was reopened for mail wagons, and is traveled. There is now, also, a somewhat better road from Coos Bay to Roseburg. But the inhabitants having become used to producing for a foreign market such bulky and heavy articles as lumber, coal, sailing vessels and steamers, and owning vessels to transport these commodities and return them the things they need, have heretofore remained rather indifferent to the outside world, satisfied to be let alone in their Arcadia. Some years ago I paid them a visit, and found them just escaping a threatened famine. There had been seventy-two consecutive days when vessels could not come in or go out. To my surprised inquiry into the causes which had led to such a condition as a famine even in the absence of foreign trade, I was assured, with a smile, "We are a province of California."
Since that time the federal government has expended a good deal of money on the improvement of the bar at Coos Bay, and in the construction of a jetty at the mouth of the Coquille. Two railroad projects connecting the coast with the interior have been agitating the people for several years, and one of them, from the Coquille and Coos Bay to Roseburg, is in progress. When that is completed, the day of that charming dolce far niente which made this southwest corner of Oregon so delightful will be a joy departed, and the boomer will be here with his maps, and his real estate office on every corner.
Frances Fuller Victor, "A Province of California," Overland Monthly, July, 1893, pages 102-103
Last revised April 30, 2018