The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1865

    There is in this valley a large proportion of comparatively level country, and also quite extensive sections of oak hills, the oak being the black and white, the same as in the Umpqua and at the head of the Willamette Valley. The level country on the waters of this river is divided in different directions by high and sharp ranges of mountains, hundreds, and in some instances thousands of feet high. The comparatively level portions will amount to about forty townships, the oak hills to about ten. The land is generally of a different character from that of the Willamette or Umpqua valleys; it is a "granite land."
    Farming in this valley has been carried on quite extensively, and with more science, skill and success than in any other portion of Oregon. Every variety of production succeeds here that can be produced in the Willamette and Umpqua valleys, and as this valley is still better protected from the summer sea breezes than the Umpqua, the nights are still warmer, and many vegetables grow and mature the better for it. All productions mature earlier here than in either of the other valleys.
    Many varieties of wild grapes and plums are indigenous to this country, and some very good varieties. All manner of fruit common to temperate climates succeeds well. The peach succeeds better here than in either the Willamette or Umpqua valleys. Considerable attention has been paid to the cultivation of the grape--enough indeed to demonstrate its success. Many of the most valuable varieties of the grape succeed well, producing quantities of wine per acre comparing favorably with the good wine countries of the world. There is an immense quantity of land in this valley suitable to the cultivation of the grape, and large amounts of it yet vacant. The land of this valley is open to private entry, preemption and homestead.
Report of the Commissioner of the General Lane Office1865, page 142

From California to Oregon.
From Yreka to Portland--Fine Scenery--Agriculture on the Pacific Coast--
Gold in Oregon--Facts, Incidents, &c.

(Editorial Correspondence.)

PORTLAND, Oregon, July 20, 1865.
    Decidedly the most interesting portion of our long trip was from Marysville. California, to this place. The distance is six hundred miles, all by stage, except twenty-eight miles from Marysville to Oroville by rail, and fifty miles from Salem, the capital of Oregon, to Portland, by steamer. True, we saw west of Denver, and in crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains, a greater variety of sublime views. but they were surrounded by so much desolation that painful reflections would force themselves upon the mind in spite of the admiration we felt at the wonders by which we were surrounded. My last letter was written from Yreka, the most northerly town in California, and I commence this where I left off.
    The morning we started from Yreka was fine, and on reaching the valley of the Shasta River, a few miles north of the town, we had one of the grandest views of mountain scenery that can be found upon the American continent. In the southwest were the summits of Scott's Mountains, which we had crossed two nights before, covered with perpetual snow; perhaps twenty miles east was Sugar Loaf, not so high, but a beautiful cone, lying darkly against the horizon, while still to the eastward towers up in solemn majesty Mount Shasta, nearly three miles above the level of the sea. Far down from the summit, for at least five thousand feet, his white mantle of spotless purity hides all his rugged features, and never for one moment changing that snowy robe, there he stands, and there he has stood, looking down on a perfect wilderness of mountains and far out upon the Pacific, ever since God finished his work of creation, and pronounced it all "very good." For unknown ages, the tawny savage has looked upon Shasta with stupid awe as the home of the Great Spirit, and now Christian men come to wonder and to bow before the majesty and the glory of Him "who setteth fast the mountains, being girded with power."
    A few miles to the north, stretching across our pathway, is the Siskiyou Range of mountains, and directly in front is Pilot Rock, a bald crag shooting up through the summit line perhaps five hundred feet, and apparently not more than two or three hundred yards in diameter. We were told it was named and described by Fremont, who crossed the Sierra Mountains a few miles north of the Rock on his first journey to the mouth of the Columbia. It is an object of mark for a long distance in all directions. We saw it after we had crossed the range and were a long distance to the north in Bear Creek Valley, a branch of Rogue River.
    Before reaching the Siskiyou Range, we crossed the Klamath River, a large, rapid stream, which cuts its way directly west from Klamath Lake, on the plains, through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean. Near the south base of the Siskiyous, about thirty miles north of Yreka, we crossed the dividing line between California and Oregon. Before the survey it was supposed it ran along the summits of the range, but the commissioners have located it near the hotel and farm of a Mr. Cole, a thrifty New Yorker from Putnam County.
    Three or four miles of constant ascent, and not so gradual as it ought to be, bring us to the summit of the Siskiyou Range, when we descend into the most southerly valley of Oregon, and a very beautiful and productive one it is. Fine cultivated farms greet and delight the eyes; the cool, delicious tradewinds, finding their way from the ocean through the valley of Rogue River, fan our brows; and the contrast between the barren valleys and forbidding crags which we had just left, skirting the Klamath River, and the large fields waving with grain ripe for the harvest, the comfortable white frame houses and beautiful gardens, was most refreshing and delightful. It is scarcely possible to conceive how great is the change in a journey of twenty miles. Almost immediately on crossing the summit  of the Siskiyou Mountains, the character of the vegetation changes. The mountain laurel, a new plant to us, with its broad green leaves and smooth red bark, changing every year, attracts attention, and the white and the black oak, the ash and the maple, none of which we recollect to have seen since leaving the forests of the Missouri, remind us of our distant home in the goodly state of Illinois. The valley of Bear Creek is not very broad, but being some thirty miles long and very productive, the farmers are enabled to supply the miners in this vicinity.
    At the lower end of the valley, we reached the fine little mining town of Jacksonville, the most southerly county seat in Oregon. There we remained for the night, and greatly enjoyed the rest we were thus permitted to gain. Early in the morning we resumed our journey northward, and a ride of a dozen miles brought us to the banks of Rogue River, down which the road runs for several miles, after which we again take to the ridges that divide the valleys of the Rogue and Umpqua
rivers. Near the summit, at the left of the road, is Grave Creek Rock, presenting nothing very special in its appearance, but which the Indians regard with superstitious awe. We could not learn precisely what calamities befel their ancestors, or what religious rites they perform here; but whether one or many Indians pass this rock, they always approach it with great reverence, and perform the most unusual and extravagant ceremonies. After the tribes in the vicinity a few years since had murdered a large number of Oregon settlers, and were at last flogged into peace and taken to their reservation, they could hardly be forced by this not very remarkable rock. A few miles further, and we reached Grave Creek station, where we were most hospitably entertained by Messrs. Harkness and Twogood. Mr. Twogood was formerly a resident of Chicago for many years, and is brother-in-law of one of our "solid" citizens. He and his excellent wife, an Iowa lady, by the way, gave Mr. Colfax and "his party" a most fcordial western welcome. The Chicago Tribune makes regular visits to this distant but intelligent and most hospitable home.
    Again we are off, and toward evening pass through Umpqua Canyon, through which a government road was made by Gen. Hooker. The canyon is ten miles long, and so difficult was it to get through at first that the first company of emigrants that passed by this route to the Umpqua Valley were two weeks in surmounting the obstacles before them. The sides of the mountains are almost perpendicular, the pine and fir trees grow to an immense height, and such a dark, dense tanglewood as this canyon presents we have not met anywhere in our journey. The remains of Gen. Hooker's road are still seen, but the line has been greatly improved by the company who now own it, and though they keep it in good order they tax all the travel north and south through this part of Oregon pretty smartly for their own special benefit.
    At evening of the first day from Jacksonville we had made seventy-five miles, and were then in the valley of the Umpqua River. Here we also found some very fine, productive farms, and riding all night reached Oakland early in the morning. Fifteen miles more brought us to the home of Hon. Jesse Applegate, one of the very earliest settlers of Oregon. Though a native of Kentucky, he does not believe in what we understand by "Kentucky politics," and is really one of the strongest possible Union men. And withal, there is not a more original thinker or patriotic citizen in the whole land. His farm, embracing the valley of [a] branch of the Umpqua River, is one of the largest and most productive in the state. After an excellent breakfast he rode with us to the next station, interesting us alike in his correct and profound observations on national affairs, and his valuable facts in relation to the early history and settlement of the Pacific Coast. Another weary ascent of half a dozen miles brought us to the summit of the Calapooya Range of mountains, descending from which we were on the streams which flow into the Willamette River. From the ridge overlooking the valley there is a most enchanting view of finely cultivated farms as far north as the eye can reach, while on the east the Cascade, and on the west the Coast, range of mountains, with their deep blue, and, in a few instances, snow-clad summits, together make a picture well nigh worth the crossing of the continent to see. The valley of the Willamette is about a hundred and fifty miles long, north and south, by twenty-five to fifty east and west, and is one of the largest and most productive districts on the Pacific Coast. The people of Oregon are proud of it, and well they may be, for it is worthy of all the enthusiasm with which they speak of it. Eugene, a beautiful, thriving little town, is the first considerable place we reached, and at 6 p.m. we were off for a night ride to the north. Reaching Corvallis, forty-five miles, at half-past ten, we were too early to escape the hospitality of the good people there, for they met us and literally overwhelmed us with kindness. Thirty-five miles more brought us early in the morning to the city of Salem, the capital of Oregon, where his Excellency Gov. Gibbs met us, and with other state officers gave us a most cordial greeting. Breakfast and the usual speech-making attended to by Mr. Colfax and "his party," we took a steamer on the beautiful Willamette River--a most grateful change from the jolting of the stagecoach. Some thirty miles upon a fine little steamer, between banks deeply fringed with the pine and the fir, brought us to Albany, where the river falls forty-five feet within a mile. A railway took us to the foot. After, of course, the people had claimed and received, as toll for passing down, speeches from the party, we took another steamer, and about 7 o'clock we were landed at the wharves of Portland. A most enthusiastic reception greeted Mr. Colfax and his companions in travel The speaker did himself more than justice in the hour's address which he delivered.
    These frequent mentions of receptions will serve to show the readers of the Tribune that there are more people and more towns upon the Pacific Coast than they supposed. Our journey from California, though long, has been most interesting and instructive. We find Portland to be a prosperous city of some six or eight thousand inhabitants. It is situated on the west branch of the Willamette, twelve miles above the Columbia. The ocean steamers from San Francisco to Victoria come up the river, one hundred and ten miles, to accommodate its trade, and it has a large and rapidly increasing commerce with the gold fields and silver mining districts of Idaho, on the headwaters of the Columbia. There are also large and rich mining districts in Oregon, but of all this my readers must wait to learn more till my next letter.
Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1865, page 2

From the New York Tribune.
California to Oregon.

    Yreka (Wy-reka), the northern town of California, is 3,500 feet above the sea level. A ditch 100 miles long supplies village and miners with water. Crossing a little stream of the Siskiyou Mountains, 300 miles north of Sacramento, we were in Oregon. From the summit we saw Pilot Mountain, named by Fremont, and crowned by an enormous granite boulder, apparently a mile in diameter. Descending, we found a changed vegetation, new wildflowers, and abundance of oak, maple and mountain laurel. The latter is an evergreen of rarest beauty, sometimes 70 feet high, with vivid, shining leaves, and bark which deadens and drops off yearly, leaving smooth stem and branches of delicate, pale red.
    We enter valleys of tall timothy and golden wheat, white farm houses, with porches and verandas, shaded with locusts and willows, and flanked by immense barns; of young orchards, heavy with ripening plums and pears, apples and peaches; of clear rills, which pour down the hillsides to the farmer's door; of the district school houses, "where young Ambition climbs his little ladder, and boyish Genius plumes his half-fledged wings."
    At one dwelling an infant grizzly bear, aged 10 weeks and weighing 250 pounds, is tied to a stake. Checking him with a cart-whip when too playful, the owner frolics fearlessly with young Bruin. When Lola Montez resided in California she kept a grizzly bear as a household pet. At Jacksonville, Jackson County, we learn that a fortunate miner has taken out $208 within the last 24 hours. The placer diggings of this county yield $50,000 monthly. At Rock Point we cross Rogue River upon an excellent wooden toll bridge. A rival bridge owner, three miles below, made his structure free and for a time took all the travel. But this original Jacob bought the land on Evans Creek, six miles to the eastward and running parallel with the river, at its only fordable point and then bridged the creek, charging toll there for both streams. Discomfited by this shrewd maneuver, the rival retired from the contest.
Gazette and Courier, Greenfield, Massachusetts, October 9, 1865, page 1  
Albert Deane Richardson edited this account for his 1866 book, Our New States and Territories

Last revised December 30, 2017