The Southern Route
The first travelers of the Applegate Trail in 1846. See the page on the "preacher train" for the emigration along that route in 1853.
A SCRAP OF EARLY HISTORY.
A Statesman Reporter Visits the Scene of the Battle of Pilot Rock in 1846.
Linkville, Or., April 10, 1886.Editor Statesman: Remembering my promise, I now write you. I crossed the mountains from Ashland to this place about three weeks ago, with a buggy and horse, and in company with the old pioneer Lindsay Applegate, now of Ashland, who crossed the plains in 1843, and built the first log cabin in Polk County. He will soon be an octogenarian. The road we now travel from Rogue River Valley to the Klamath Basin is the same, Mr. A. informed us, as viewed out by the "south road party" in [late June] 1846, of which party of fifteen men he was one. They were the first white men to cross the mountains by this route, and were six days hunting it out from Rogue River Valley to the Klamath River, a distance of thirty-three miles. They followed at times an Indian footpath. The old California trail ran south from Rogue River, crossing the Siskiyou Mountain ridge by the way of Pilot Rock. The road party left this trail about seven miles south of where Ashland now is, and struck out due east, finding and passing the soda springs, but it happened an hour or so before the road party left the California trail [that] a party of mountain men, trappers, traders and a few Columbia Indians, well mounted and armed to the teeth, had passed up the trail in the direction of Pilot Rock, and as the road party was passing along a ridge about a mile and a half from where it had turned east, the men then heard the Indian war whoop go up loud and shrill, seconded by the reports of many guns, only a few miles away. The battle of Pilot Rock had begun. The road hunters, however, appreciating the favorable turns of affairs, halted but a few minutes to listen to the conflict, but they heard distinctly while they tarried "the savage war whoop burst forth, and almost at the same moment a heavy volley ending in a perfect roar." All the sign of the deadly strife they could see was a thin cloud of blue smoke hanging along the side of the mountain, between their position and Pilot Rock, but as they continued their journey for several miles they heard occasionally the yells of the Indians and the reports of the rifles.
The old mountain man Turner was one of the seventy-five men engaged in this fight. He said they expected an attack where it was made, and so were ready for the red devils when they announced themselves.
The attack was made by three or four hundred warriors, their faces grim with war paint black and red--they came forth boldly from the shelter of rocks and bush, yelping and whooping like fiends and shooting arrows with great rapidity, but too high to harm the white men, who now with steady nerves returned the salute with a volley from fifty guns, which caused many braves to bite the dust, and sent the remainder back to shelter. This war party must have been under the influence of a "strong medicine," for the attack was repeated in less than a half hour, with unabated bravery, but being repulsed with a second volley more fatal in its effect than the first, the battle was finally over, though the Indians followed several miles shooting arrows from a distance and occasionally drawing the fire of the white men. Strange to tell, one white man was severely, and some horses slightly, wounded with arrows, and that was all. These Indians had no guns forty years ago.
This severe rebuke of those Indians secured the little party of road hunters. The war cry died upon the lips of the young braves. They clasped the little brown hands of the dusky maidens in their own, and made the nights hideous with the "death song," for their war chief, Kink-i-coony, "scalp-catcher," caught a rifle ball in his mouth.
Pilot Rock may be seen fifty miles away, as you pass up Rogue River Valley from the north, standing up against the sky like a large-sized wart on the backbone of the Siskiyou. Though not so broad at the base, it is higher than the great pyramid of Egypt, its top being exalted to the giddy height of six hundred feet from its base on the mountain. The sides are so precipitous that a man cannot scale them. There is, however, a crevice in the rock, running upward from the foot, along which people climb to the top, where there is said to be standing room for six hundred men.
J.A.A. [probably Jesse A. Applegate]Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 7, 1886, page 1
NOTES AND REMINISCENCES OF LAYING OUT
AND ESTABLISHING THE OLD EMIGRANT
ROAD INTO SOUTHERN OREGON
IN THE YEAR 1846.
By Lindsay ApplegateAfter the lapse of thirty-one years (as there has been no history of this circumstance placed before the public), I propose to give a plain statement of facts from notes taken at the time and from memory, giving motives that led to the enterprise. Our immigration of 1843, being the largest that had ever crossed the plains, our progress was necessarily slow, having to hunt out passes for our wagons over rivers, creeks, deep gullies, digging down the banks where nothing but a pack trail had been before, cutting our way through the dense forests before we could reach the valley of the Columbia, and then it appeared as though our greatest troubles had begun, for here we had to encounter cataracts and falls of the Columbia and the broad and lofty Cascades, with their heavy forests.
At Fort Walla Walla, on the banks of the Columbia River, with our teams about exhausted, we were advised to leave our wagons and animals over winter at that place in the care of the Hudson's Bay Co. A portion of the immigrants, including my two brothers' families and my own, accepted the proposition, providing we could secure boats in which to descend the river, as it was supposed we might secure them from the Hudson's Bay Co. Under these considerations we made arrangements with the said company for the care of the latter through the winter. We failed in our efforts to obtain boats; having a whipsaw and other tools with us, we hunted logs from the masses of driftwood lodged along the river banks, hewed them out, sawed them into lumber, and built boats, and with our families and the contents of our wagons commenced the descent of the river. Dr. Whitman procured us the service of two Indians to act as pilots to the Dalles. From there we thought we would have but little trouble by making a portage at the Cascades. We did well till we reached the Dalles, a series of falls and cataracts. Just above the Cascade Mountains one of our boats, containing six persons, was caught in one of those terrible whirlpools and upset. My son, ten years old, my brother Jesse's son, Edward, same age, and a man by the name of McClellan, who was a member of my family, were lost. The other three who escaped were left to struggle the best they could until we made the land with the other boats. Leaving the women and children on shore while we rushed to the rescue, it was only with the greatest effort that we were able to keep our boats from sharing the same fate. William Doake, a young man who could not swim, held on to a feather bed until overtaken and rescued. W. Parker and my son Elisha, then twelve years old, after drifting through whirlpools among cragged rocks for more than a mile, rescued themselves by catching hold of a large rock a few feet above water at the head of Rock Island. At the time of the disaster it was utterly impossible to render them any assistance, for it was only with the greatest skill that we succeeded in saving the women and children from sharing the same fate. It was a painful scene beyond description. We dare not go to their assistance without exposing the occupants of the other boats to certain destruction, while those persons were struggling for life in the surging waters. The whole scene was witnessed by Gen. Fremont and his company of explorers, who were camped immediately opposite, and were powerless to render us any assistance. The bodies of the drowned were never recovered, though we offered a reward to the Indians, who searched the river for months. We reached the Cascades without any other incidents worth relating.
We then made a portage around the falls, packing the most of our effects on our backs, dragging our boats over the rocks, reloaded and proceeded on our way to Vancouver, ascended the Willamette River to the falls, there made another portage around the falls, reloaded again, ascended the river twenty-five miles, coming to a place called Champoeg, where we finally left our boats and made our way across the valley to Lee's Old Mission, ten miles below where Salem now stands, and on the first day of December entered one of the old buildings to remain for the winter.
Previous to this, we had been in the rain most of the time for twenty days. Oh, how we could have enjoyed our hospitable shelter if we could have looked around the family circle and beheld the bright faces that accompanied us on our toilsome journey almost to the end! Alas, they were not there! That long and dreary winter, with its pelting rains and howling winds, brought sadness to us. Under these sad reflections, we resolved if we remained in the country to find a better way for others who might wish to emigrate, as soon as we could possibly afford the time. From what information we could gather from old pioneers and the Hudson's Bay Co., the Cascade Mountains to the south became very low, or terminated where the Klamath cut that chain; and knowing that the Blue Mountains lay east and west, we came to the conclusion there must be a belt of country extending east towards the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains where there might be no very lofty ranges of mountains to cross. So in 1846, after making arrangements for subsistence of our families during our absence, we organized a company to undertake the enterprise, composed as follows:
Levi Scott, John Scott, Henry Boygus, Lindsay Applegate, Jesse Applegate, Benjamin Burch, John Owens, John Jones, Robert Smith, Samuel Goodhue, Moses Harris, David Goff, Benit Osborn, William Sportsman, William Parker. Each man had his pack horse and saddle horse, making thirty animals to guard and take care of.
A portion of the country we proposed to traverse was at that time marked on the map "unexplored region." All the information we could get relative to it was through the Hudson's Bay Co. Peter Ogden, an officer of that company, who had led a party of trappers through that region, represented that portions of it were desert-like, and that at one time his company was so pressed for the want of water that they went to the top of a mountain, filled sacks with snow, and were thus able to cross the desert. He also stated that portions of the country through which we would have to travel were infested with fierce and warlike savages, who would attack every party entering their country, steal their traps, waylay and murder the men, and that Rogue River had taken its name from the character of the Indians inhabiting its valleys. The idea of opening a wagon road through such a country at that time was counted as preposterous. These statements, though based on facts, we thought might be exaggerated by the Hudson's Bay Co., in their own interest, since they had a line of forts on the Snake River route, reaching from Fort Hall to Vancouver, and were prepared to profit by the immigration.
One thing which had much influence with us was the fact that the question as to which power, Great Britain or the United States, would eventually secure a title to the country was not settled, and in case a war should occur and Britain prove successful, it was important to have a way by which we could leave the country without running the gantlet of the Hudson's Bay Co.'s forts and falling a prey to Indian tribes which were under British influence.
On the morning of the 20th of June, 1846, we gathered on the La Creole, near where Dallas now stands, moved up the valley and encamped for the night on Mary's River, near where the town of Corvallis has since been built.
June 21--Moved up the valley and encamped among the foothills of the Calapooia Mountains.
June 22--This day we traveled along the base of the Calapooias, our course being nearly southeast, passing near a prominent peak since called Spencer's Butte. In a little valley near the butte, on the south side, we discovered Indians digging camas. On perceiving us, most of them secreted themselves in the timber. One of our party succeeded in capturing an old Indian, and representing to him by signs the course we wished to follow, the old fellow preceded us two or three miles, and put us on a dim trail which had been marked by twisting the tops of the brush along the route. It had only been used as a foot trail and but seldom at that. It led us into a prairie at the base of the main Calapooia chain. Crossing the prairie, we found the little trail where it entered the mountains with difficulty, and being guided by the broken brush, reached at sundown a little stream on the Umpqua side, where we camped for the night in a beautiful little valley where the grass was good and the ground almost covered with the finest strawberries I had ever seen.
The next morning, June 23, we moved on through the grassy oak hills and narrow valleys to the North Umpqua River. The crossing was a rough and dangerous one, as the river bed was a mass of loose rocks, and, as we were crossing, our horses occasionally fell, giving the riders a severe ducking. On the south side we encamped for the night.
On the morning of the 24th, we left camp early and moved on about five miles to the south branch of the Umpqua, a considerable stream, probably sixty yards wide, coming from the eastward. Traveling up that stream almost to the place where the old trail crosses the Umpqua Mountains, we encamped for the night opposite the historic Umpqua Canyon.
The next morning, June 25th, we entered the canyon, followed up the little stream that runs through the defile for four or five miles, crossing the creek a great many times, but the canyon becoming more obstructed with brush and fallen timber, the little trail we were following turned up the side of the ridge where the woods were more open, and wound its way to the top of the mountain. It then bore south along a narrow backbone of the mountain, the dense thickets and the rocks on either side affording splendid opportunities for ambush. A short time before this, a party coming from California had been attacked on this summit ridge by the Indians and one of them had been severely wounded. Several of the horses had also been shot with arrows. Along this trail we picked up a number of broken and shattered arrows. We could see that a large party of Indians had passed over the trail traveling southward only a few days before. At dark we reached a small opening on a little stream at the foot of the mountain on the south, and encamped for the night.
On the morning of the 26th, we divided our forces, part going back to explore the canyon, while the remainder stayed to guard the camp and horses. The exploring party went back to where we left the canyon on the little trail the day before, and returning through the canyon, came into camp after night, reporting that wagons could be taken through.
We found everything all right on the morning of the 27th, although the Indians had hovered around us all night, frightening our horses a number of times. From the tracks we could see that they approached very closely to our encampment. Making an early start we moved on very cautiously. Whenever the trail passed through the cuts we dismounted and led our horses, having our guns in hand ready at any moment to use them in self-defense, for we had adopted this rule, never to be the aggressor. Traveling through a very broken country the sharp hills separated by little streams upon which there were small openings, we came out at about noon into a large creek, a branch of Rogue River, now called Grave Creek, on which we rested about two hours. During the afternoon our course was over a more open country--through scattering pine and oak timber. Towards evening, we saw a good many Indians posted along the mountainside and then running ahead of us. About an hour by sun we reached a prairie of several hundred acres, which extends down to very near the bank of Rogue River. As we advanced towards the river, the Indians in large numbers occupied the river bank near where the trail crossed. Having understood that this crossing was a favorite place of attack, we decided as it was growing late to pass the night in the prairie. Selecting a place as far from the brush as possible, we made every preparation for a night attack.
In selecting our camp on Rogue River, we observed the greatest caution. Cutting stakes from the limbs of an old oak that stood in the open ground, we picketed our horses with double stakes as firmly as possible. The horses were picketed in the form of a hollow square, outside of which we took up our positions, knowing that in case of an attack there would be a chance of losing our horses and that that would be a complete defeat. We kept vigilant guard during the night, and the next morning could see the Indians occupying the same position as at dark. After an early breakfast we began to make preparations for moving forward. There had been a heavy dew, and fearing the effects of the dampness upon our firearms, which were muzzle-loaders, of course, and some of them with flintlocks, we fired them off and reloaded. In moving forward, we formed two divisions, with the pack horses behind. On reaching the river bank the front division fell behind the pack horses and drove them over, while the rear division faced the brush, with gun in hand, until the front division was safely over. Then they turned about, and the rear division passed over under protection of their rifles. The Indians watched the performance from their places of concealment, but there was no chance for them to make an attack without exposing themselves to our fire. The river was deep and rapid, and for a short distance some of the smaller animals had to swim. Had we rushed pell mell into the stream, as parties sometimes do under such circumstances, our expedition would probably have come to an end there.
After crossing we turned up the river, and the Indians in large numbers came out of the thickets on the opposite side and tried in every way to provoke us. Our course was for some distance southeast along the bank of the river, and the Indians, some mounted and some on foot, passed on rapidly on the other side. There appeared to be a great commotion among them. A party had left the French settlement in the Willamette some three or four weeks before us, consisting of French, half-breeds, Columbia Indians and a few Americans; probably about eighty in all. Passing one of their encampments we could see by the signs that they were only a short distance ahead of us. We afterwards learned that the Rogue Rivers had stolen some of their horses, and that an effort to recover them had caused the delay. At about three o'clock, we left the river and bore southward up a little stream for four or five miles and encamped. From our camp we could see numerous signal fires on the mountains to the eastward. We saw no Indians in the vicinity of our camp, and no evidence of their having been there lately. They had evidently given us up, and followed the other company which the same night encamped in the main valley above. Under the circumstances, we enjoyed a good night's sleep, keeping only two guards at a time.
On the morning of June 29th, we passed over a low range of hills, from the summit of which we had a splendid view of the Rogue River Valley. It seemed like a great meadow, interspersed with groves of oaks which appeared like vast orchards. All day long we traveled over rich black soil covered with rank grass, clover and pea vine, and at night encamped near the other party on the stream now known as Emigrant Creek, near the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. This night, the Indians having gone to the mountains to ambush the French party as we afterwards learned, we were not disturbed. Here our course diverged from that of the other company; they following the old California trail across the Siskiyou, while our route was eastward through an unexplored region several hundred miles in extent.
On the morning of June 30th, we moved along the north bank of the creek, and soon began the ascent of the mountains to the eastward, which we found gradual. Spending most of the day in examining the hills about the stream now called Keene Creek, near the summit of the Siskiyou ridge, we moved on down through the heavy forests of pine, fir and cedar, and encamped early in the evening in a little valley, now known as Round Prairie, about ten or twelve miles, as nearly as we could judge, from the camp of the previous night. We found no evidence of Indians being about, but we did not relax our vigilance on that account. We encamped in a clump of pines in the valley and kept out our guard.
On the morning of July 1st, being anxious to know what we were to find ahead, we made an early start. This morning we observed the track of a lone horse leading eastward. Thinking it had been made by some Indian horseman on his way from Rogue River to the Klamath country, we undertook to follow it. This we had no trouble in doing, as it had been made in the spring while the ground was damp and was very distinct, until we came to a very rough rocky ridge where we lost it. This ridge was directly in our way. Exploring northward along the divide for considerable distance without finding a practicable route across it, we encamped for the night among the pines. The next morning, July 2nd, we explored the ridge southward as far as the great canyon of the Klamath but, having no better success than the day before, we encamped at a little spring on the mountainside. The next day, July 3rd, we again traveled northward farther than before, making a more complete examination of the country than we had previously done, and at last found what seemed to be a practicable pass. Near this was a rich grassy valley through which ran a little stream, and here we encamped for the night. This valley is now known as Long Prairie.
On the morning of July 4th, our route bore along a ridge trending considerably towards the north. The route was good, not rocky, and the ascent very gradual. After crossing the summit of the Cascade ridge, the descent was, in places, very rapid. At noon we came out into a glade where there was water and grass and from which we could see the Klamath River. After noon we moved down through an immense forest, principally of yellow pine, to the river, and then traveled up the north bank, still through yellow pine forests, for about six miles, when all at once we came out in full view of the Klamath country, extending eastward as far as the eye could reach. It was an exciting moment, after the many days spent in the dense forests and among the mountains, and the whole party broke forth in cheer after cheer. An Indian who had not observed us until the shouting began broke away from the river bank near us and ran to the hills a quarter of a mile distant. An antelope could scarcely have made better time, for we continued shouting as he ran and his speed seemed to increase until he was lost from our view among the pines. We were now entering a country where the natives had seen but few white people. Following the river up to where it leaves the Lower Klamath Lake, we came to a riffle where it seemed possible to cross. William Parker waded in and explored the ford. It was deep, rocky and rapid, but we all passed over safely, and then proceeding along the river and lakeshore for a mile or so when we came into the main valley of the Lower Klamath Lake. We could see columns of smoke rising in every direction, for our presence was already known to the Modocs and the signal fire telegraph was in active operation. Moving southward along the shore we came to a little stream coming in from the southward, and there found pieces of newspapers and other unmistakable evidences of civilized people having camped there a short time before. We found a place where the turf had been cut away, also the willows near the bank of the creek, and horses had been repeatedly driven over the place. As there were many places where animals could get water without this trouble, some of the party were of the opinion that some persons had been buried there and that horses had been driven over the place to obliterate all marks and thus prevent the Indians from disturbing the dead. The immense excitement among the Indians on our arrival there strengthened this opinion. Col. Fremont, only a few days before, had reached this point on his way northward when he was overtaken by Lieut. Gillespie of the United States army with important dispatches and returned to Lower California. The Mexican War had just begun and the "Pathfinder" was needed elsewhere. On the very night he was overtaken by Lieut. Gillespie, the Modocs surprised his camp, killed three of his Delaware Indians and it is said that, had it not been for the vigilance and presence of mind of Kit Carson, he would probably have suffered a complete rout. At this place we arranged our camp on open ground so that the Indians could not possibly approach us without discovery. It is likely that the excitement among the Modocs was caused, more than anything else, by the apprehension that ours was a party sent to chastise them for their attack on Fremont. We were but a handful of men surrounded by hundreds of Indians armed with their poisoned arrows, but by dint of great care and vigilance we were able to pass through their country safely. On every line of travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific there has been great loss of life from a failure to exercise a proper degree of caution, and too often have reckless and foolhardy men who have, through the want of proper care, become embroiled in difficulties with the Indians, gained the reputation of being Indian fighters and heroes, while the men who were able to conduct parties in safety through the country of warlike savages escaped the world's notice.
FROM TULE LAKE TO THE SPRING IN THE DESERT.On the morning of July 5th we left our camp on the little creek (now called Hot Creek), and continued our course along the shore of Lower Klamath Lake. This threw us off our course considerably, as the lake extended some miles to the southward of our last camp, and we did not reach the eastern shore until the day was far spent. We camped on the lake shore, and the next morning, July 6th, we ascended a high rocky ridge to the eastward for the purpose of making observations. Near the base of the ridge, on the east, was a large lake, perhaps twenty miles in length. Beyond it, to the eastward, we could see a timbered butte, apparently thirty miles distant, at the base of which there appeared to be a low pass through the mountain range which seemed to encircle the lake basin. It appearing practicable to reach this pass by passing around the south end of the lake, we decided to adopt that route and began the descent of the ridge, but we soon found ourselves in the midst of an extremely rugged country. Short lava ridges ran in every conceivable direction, while between them were caves and crevices into which it seemed our animals were in danger of falling headlong. The farther we advanced the worse became the route, so that at length we decided to retrace our steps to the smooth country. This was difficult, as our horses had become separated among the rocks, and it was some time before we could get them together and return to the open ground. Then we discovered that one of our party, David Goff, was missing. While in the lava field he had discovered a band of mountain sheep, and in pursuing them had lost his way. Some of the party went quite a distance into the rocks, but could hear nothing of him. We decided to proceed to the meadow country, at the head of the lake, by encircling the lava beds to the northward, and encamp until we could find our comrade. While we were proceeding to carry out this program, we discovered a great number of canoes leaving the lake shore, under the bluffs, and making for what appeared to be an island four or five miles distant. We could also see a lone horseman riding leisurely along the lake shore, approaching us. This soon proved to be our lost friend. The Modocs had discovered him in the lava fields, and probably supposing that the whole party was about to assail them from the rocks, they took to their canoes. He said that, seeing the Indians retreating, he concluded he would leave the rocks and ride along the lakeshore where the going was good. We nooned in a beautiful meadow, containing about two sections, near the head of the lake.
After spending a couple of hours in this splendid pasture, we repacked and started on our way towards the timbered butte, but had not proceeded more than a mile before we came suddenly upon quite a large stream (Lost River) coming into the lake. We found this stream near the lake very deep, with almost perpendicular banks, so that we were compelled to turn northward, up the river. Before proceeding very far we discovered an Indian crouching under the bank and, surrounding him, made him come out. By signs, we indicated to him that we wanted to cross the river. By marking on his legs and pointing up the river, he gave us to understand that there was a place above where we could easily cross. Motioning to him to advance, he led the way up the river about a mile and pointed out a place where an immense rock crossed the river. The sheet of water running over the rock was about fifteen inches deep, while the principal part of the river seemed to flow under. This was the famous Stone Bridge on Lost River, so often mentioned after this by travelers. For many years the water of Tule Lake have been gradually rising, so that now the beautiful meadow on which we nooned on the day we discovered the bridge is covered by the lake, and the back water in Lost River long ago made the river impassable; is now probably ten feet deep over the bridge.
After crossing the bridge we made our pilot some presents, and all shaking hands with him, left him standing on the river bank. Pursuing our way along the northern shore of the lake a few miles, we came to a beautiful spring near the base of the mountains on our left, and encamped for the night. After using the alkali water of Lower Klamath Lake the previous night, the fresh, cold water of this spring was a real luxury. There was plenty of dry wood and an abundance of green grass for our animals, and we enjoyed the camp exceedingly. Sitting around our fire that evening, we discussed the adventures of the past few days in this new and strange land. The circumstances of the last day had been particularly interesting. Our adventure in the rocks; the retreat of the whole Modoc tribe in a fleet of thirty or forty canoes across the lake from Goff; the singularity of the natural bridge; the vast fields of tule around the lake, and the fact that the lake was an independent body of water, were subjects of peculiar interest and only intensified our desire to see more of this then-wild land.
July 7th, we left the valley of Tule Lake to pursue our course eastward, over a rocky table land, among scattering juniper trees. We still observed the timbered butte as our landmark, and traveled as directly toward it as the shape of the country would admit. This butte is near the state line, between Clear Lake and Goose Lake, and probably distant fifty miles from the lava ridge west of Lost River, from which we first observed it, and supposing it to be about thirty miles away. In pursuing our course we passed through the hilly, juniper country between Langell Valley and Clear Lake without seeing either the valley or lake, and at noon arrived at the bed of a stream where there was but little water. The course of the stream was north or northwest, and appearances indicated that at times quite a volume of water flowed in the channel. This was evidently the bed of Lost River, a few miles north of where this singular stream leaves the Clear River marsh.
Leaving this place, we pursued our journey through a similar country to that passed over during the forenoon, and encamped at a little spring among the junipers, near the base of the timbered hill, and passed a very pleasant night.
On the morning of July 8th, we passed our landmark and traveled nearly eastward, over a comparatively level but extremely rocky country, and nooned in the channel of another stream, where there was a little water standing in holes. On leaving this place we found the country still quite level, but exceedingly rocky; for eight or ten miles almost like pavement. Late in the afternoon we came out into the basin of a lake (Goose Lake), apparently forty or fifty miles in length. Traversing the valley about five miles along the south end of the lake, we came to a little stream coming in from the mountains to the eastward. The grass and water being good, we encamped here for the night. Game seemed plentiful, and one of the party killed a fine deer in the vicinity of the camp. From a spur of the mountains, near our camp, we had a splendid view of the lake and of the extensive valley bordering it on the north. On the east, between the lake and mountain range running nearly north and south, and which we supposed to be a spur of the Sierra Nevadas, was a beautiful meadow country, narrow, but many miles in length, across which the lines of willows and scattering pines and cottonwoods indicated the courses of a number of little streams coming into the lake from the mountain chain. A little southeast of our camp there appeared to be a gap in the mountain wall, and we decided to try it on the succeeding day.
July 9th we moved up the ridge towards the gap, and soon entered a little valley, perhaps containing a hundred acres, extending to the summit of the ridge, thus forming an excellent pass. The ascent was very gradual. The little valley was fringed with mountain mahogany trees, giving it quite a picturesque appearance. This shrub, which is peculiar to the rocky highlands, is from fifteen to twenty feet high and in form something like a cherry tree, so that a grove of mountain mahogany strikingly resembles a cherry orchard. About the center of the little valley is a spring of cold water, making it an excellent camping place, and for many years afterwards it was the place where the immigrants were wont to meet and let their animals recuperate after the long, tiresome march across the so-called American Desert; for this Sierra ridge separates the waters of the Pacific from those of the Great Basin which extends from the Blue Mountains far southward towards the Colorado. The little stream on which we encamped before entering this pass is called Lassen Creek, taking its name from Peter Lassen, who led a small party of immigrants across the plains in 1848, following our route from the Humboldt through this pass, thence down Pit River to the Sacramento. From the summit of the ridge we had a splendid view. Northward the ridge seemed to widen out, forming several low ranges of timbered mountains, while southward it seemed to rise very high, as we could see patches of snow along the summit in the distance. East and south of us, at the foot of the ridge, was a beautiful green valley, twenty or thirty miles in extent, and containing a small lake. A number of small streams flowed from the mountain into and through the valley, affording an abundance of water for the wants of a settlement. This fertile valley on the border of the desert has since been called Surprise Valley, and now contains quite a population.
As we stood on the Sierra ridge, we surveyed the vast desert plains to the eastward of Surprise Valley, apparently without grass or trees, and marked by numerous high rocky ridges running north and south. After deciding on our course, we descended the mountain and soon came to a little stream, the banks of which were lined with plum bushes completely loaded with fruit. There was a grove of pines at hand, and there we decided to noon, as the day was extremely hot. Game seemed plentiful about this rich valley, and while we were nooning a large band of antelope grazed in sight of us. Spending about two hours among these pines, which were the last we saw during our long and weary march on the desert, we packed up and moved across the valley eastward. After crossing the valley we entered a very sandy district, where the traveling was laborious, and next ascended to a table land, the surface of which was covered with small gravel. By this time most of our horses were barefooted, and our progress through the rocky country was consequently very slow. The country was so desert-like that we had about despaired of finding water that night, but just at dark we unexpectedly came to a little spring. There was but little water, but by digging some we were able to get quite enough for ourselves and horses, though it kept us busy until about midnight to get the horses watered. Although we had met with singularly good fortune in thus finding water at the close of the first day's march on the desert, we could not always expect such good luck in the future; and as we lay down in our blankets among the sagebrush that night, we could not help having some gloomy forebodings in regard to the future of our expedition.
FROM THE LITTLE SPRING ON THE DESERT TO BLACK ROCK.On the morning of the 10th of July we found an abundance of water in the basin we had scraped out at the little spring early in the night, so that we were able to start out on the desert much refreshed. Our horses, however, looked very gaunt, as there was a great scarcity of grass about the spring. The landscape before us, as we made our start this morning, was anything but inviting. It was a vast sand plain. No trees or mountains were in sight. Far in the distance were some dark-looking ridges. There was no vegetation excepting dwarf sage and greasewood growing in the sand and gravel. At about three o'clock in the afternoon we came to a huge volcanic wall, varying in height from twenty or thirty to several hundred feet, extending north and south as far as the eye could reach and apparently without any gap through it. We divided at the wall so as to explore it both ways. The party going southward, after proceeding a few miles, came to a little stream forming a beautiful meadow at the base of the wall, and flowing through a narrow gateway into the ridge. They immediately dispatched one of their party in pursuit of us with the good news, and we returned to the meadow early in the afternoon, and decided to turn out our horses and give them a chance to feed and rest, while we explored the defile on foot. We found it a very remarkable chasm, extending nearly due east. The gateway was about sixty yards in width and the canyon was, at some places, a little wider than that perhaps, and at others, was only wide enough for a wagon road. The little bottom was grassy and almost level, and, indeed, a remarkable track for a road. In many places, the cliffs on either side towered to a height of several hundred feet, and, in some places actually overhung the chasm. Those overhanging cliffs afforded excellent sheltering places for the Indians, and the signs betokened that it was a great place of resort for them. Sage hens and rabbits were plentiful, also mountain sheep, but the latter were so wild that we did not succeed in killing any of them. After making quite an extended trip into the canyon, we returned to the little meadow and spent the night.
On the morning of July 11, we again entered the gorge and traveled ten or twelve miles to a place where the stream formed quite a pool, and nooned. At this season, the stream ran no further than the pool. Here another canyon comes in from the north, and at the junction there is quite an area of level ground--perhaps two acres--mostly meadow, forming an excellent camping place. After noon we proceeded on our way, following the dry bed of the stream, and, after a march of perhaps ten miles, came out on the east side of the ridge. Here we found a lake basin of several acres in extent, where there was but a little water and a great deal of mud, hence strongly suggesting the name of Mud Lake, which it has since always borne. Earlier in the season, when the little stream that feeds it flows all the way through the canyon, this is doubtless quite a lake. The country eastward had a very forbidding appearance. Rising from a barren plain, perhaps fifteen miles away, was a rough, rocky ridge, extending as far as the eye could reach towards the north, but apparently terminating abruptly perhaps fifteen miles south of our course. Along the base of the ridge, towards its extremity, were seen green spots, indicating water. After considering the situation pretty thoroughly, we concluded that it would be the surest plan to depart from our usual course and travel southward to the extremity of the ridge, as, by so doing, we would probably keep clear of the rocks and be more certain to find water. So we followed the dry outlet of the lake, in a southwesterly direction, for a distance of three or four miles and we camped at a little spring.
In this vicinity quite a tragedy occurred while Capt. Levi Scott, accompanied by a detachment of regular troops, was en route to meet the immigration of 1847. It was his intention to make an effort to hunt out a direct route from Mud Lake to Humboldt, thus saving the distance lost by our change of direction in 1846. It appears that Mr. Scott and a man named Garrison, leaving the train encamped at Mud Lake, started out in a due easterly direction towards the black ridge to ascertain the practicability of finding a way across it. When out about ten miles they came across two Indians. Not being able to talk with them, they undertook, through signs, to learn something about the country. The Indians appeared to be friendly, but, taking advantage of Scott and Garrison while they were off their guard, strung their bows and commenced shooting with great rapidity. Garrison was mortally wounded, and Scott, while in the act of firing, was shot through the arm with an arrow which, passing through, entered his side, pinning his arm to his body. Scott fired, however, killing his Indian, and the other took to flight. Scott's were, fortunately, only flesh wounds, but Garrison had been pierced by two arrows and died soon after being conveyed to the camp. Thus the effort to make the cutoff failed, and to this day has never been made.
The little spring, where we encamped, furnished an abundance of water; the grass was good, but fuel extremely scarce, there being nothing in this line but dwarf sagebrush.
On starting out on the morning of the 12th of July, we observed vast columns of smoke or steam rising at the extremity of the black ridge. Reaching the ridge a few miles north of its extremity, we traveled along its base, passing a number of springs, some cold and others boiling hot. At the end of the ridge we found an immense boiling spring from whence the steam was rising like smoke from a furnace. A large volume of water issued from the spring which irrigated several hundred acres of meadow. Although the water was strongly impregnated with alkali, it was fit for use when cooled, and the spot was, on the whole, a very good camping place for the desert. The cliffs, at the extremity of the ridge, were formed of immense masses of black volcanic rock and all about were vast piles of cinders, resembling those from a blacksmith's forge. This place has ever since been known as "Black Rock," and is one of the most noted landmarks on the Humboldt Desert. At this place we rested a day and consulted as to the best course to pursue in order to reach the Humboldt, or, as it was then called, Ogden's River. The result of the council was that we agreed to separate, one party to travel eastward and the other to pursue a more southerly direction.
In pursuance of the plan decided on at Black Rock, on the morning of July 14th, we separated into two parties; eight men starting out in a southerly direction and seven men, including myself, towards the east. The country before us appeared very much like the dry bed of a lake. Scarcely a spear of vegetation could be seen, and the whole country was white with alkali. After traveling about fifteen miles we began to discover dim rabbit trails running in the same direction in which we were traveling. As we advanced the trails became more plain, and there were others constantly coming in, all pointing in the general direction toward a ledge of granite boulders which we could see before us. Approaching the ledge, which was the first granite we had seen since leaving Rogue River Valley, we could see a green mound where all the trails seemed to enter, and on examining the place closely we found a small hole in the top of the mound, in which a little puddle of water stood within a few inches of the surface. This was a happy discovery, for we were already suffering considerably for want of water, and our horses were well nigh exhausted. The day had been an exceedingly hot one and the heat reflected from the shining beds of alkali had been very oppressive. The alkali water at Black Rock had only given us temporary relief --our thirst was really more intense from having used it. Unpacking our horses, we staked them in the bunchgrass about the granite ledge, and began digging down after the little vein of water which formed the puddle in the rabbit hole. The water seemed to be confined to a tough clay or muck which came near the surface in the center of the mound, thus preventing it from wasting away in the sand. Digging down in this clay we made a basin large enough to hold several gallons and by dark we had quite a supply of good pure water. We then began issuing it to our horses, a little at a time, and by morning men and horses were considerably refreshed. Great numbers of rabbits came around us and we killed all we wanted of them. This is the place always since known as the Rabbit Hole Springs.
Looking eastward, on the morning of July 15th, from the elevated table lands upon which we then were, we saw vast clouds of smoke, completely shutting out the distant landscape. The wind, blowing almost constantly from the southwest, kept the smoke blown away so that we could get a tolerably good view towards the south. Our wish was to continue our course eastward, but the country, as far as we could see in that direction, being a barren plain, we concluded to follow the granite ledge, which extended in a southeasterly direction from the spring, believing the chances of finding water would be better by following that route. The smoke, as we afterwards learned, was caused by the burning of peat beds along the Humboldt River, the stream we were now wishing to find, though we had no correct idea of the distance we would have to travel in order to reach it, nor of the difficulties to be encountered. Pursuing our way along the ridge, searching everywhere carefully for water, at about eleven o'clock a.m. we observed the rabbit trails all leading in the same direction, and following the course indicated, we found a basin in the side of a rock large enough to hold a few gallons of water. Into this basin the water oozed from a crevice in the rock, very slowly, so that when the basin was emptied it was a long time filling. There was no way of improving this spring, for whenever the basin was full and the water running over, it would waste in the loose gravel and sand, and we did not get a sufficiency of it for ourselves and horses until late at night. Appearances indicated that it was a great resort for Indians, though there did not seem to be any in the vicinity while we were there. During the afternoon and evening, great numbers of little birds came for water, and were so tame that we could almost put our hands on them.
On the morning of July 16th, we proceeded along the ridge for four or five miles and came to quite a large spring, but so strongly impregnated with alkali that we could only use it in making coffee. Here we rested an hour or so while our horses grazed. This morning we passed over a country abounding in quartz. At this spring our granite ridge terminated, and before us was a vast desert plain, without a spear of vegetation, and covered with an alkaline efflorescence which glittered beneath the scorching rays of the sun. The heat was intense as we rode slowly out to the eastward upon the great plain. After we had traveled a few miles, we observed what was supposed to be a lake, even fancying that we could see the waves upon its surface, but after riding in that direction awhile, we discovered that it was only one of those optical illusions so often experienced on the desert. Next, we saw what we supposed to be a clump of willows to the eastward and rode in that direction with all possible dispatch, but, on nearing the place, we discovered, to our intense disappointment, that it was only a pile of black volcanic rocks, fifteen or twenty feet high. The sun was now getting quite low, and the heat was somewhat abating, yet it remained quite hot as we rode a few miles to the eastward on the desert. As night closed in upon us we selected our camping place in a little sag where there were some strong sage bushes growing. To these we tied our horses securely, for, as there was not a blade of grass and they were suffering for water, we knew they would leave us, should they break away from their fastenings. The only camp duty we had to perform that night was to spread our blankets down upon the loose sand. Then we stretched ourselves upon them, with little hope of rest, for our thirst had by that time become intense; worse, no doubt, from reason of our having drunk the strong alkali water that morning. Our reflections that night were gloomy in the extreme. Even if we could have heard the cry of a night bird or the familiar note of a coyote it would have given us encouragement, for it would have indicated the presence of water somewhere in the vicinity; but not a sound was heard during the livelong night except our own voices and the restless tramp of the half-famished horses.
As we started out on the morning of July 17th to the eastward we could see only a short distance on account of the dense clouds of smoke which enveloped the country. We spent much of the day in searching in various places for water and at about four o'clock in the afternoon we came to some ledges of rock. They afforded a shelter from the scorching rays of the sun, and we halted to rest for a while as some of the party were now so exhausted that they could scarcely ride. From the top of the rocks we could discern a small greenish spot on the desert, five or six miles distant, and, hoping to find water there, we decided to ride towards it. Robert Smith was now suffering severely from a pain in the head, and, as he was not able to ride, we were compelled to leave him under the rocks, with the understanding that he would follow us as soon as he felt able to ride. After going four or five miles, we beheld a horseman approaching us. This soon proved to be John Jones, one of the party who left us at Black Rock on the morning of the 14th. He had found water at the place we were making for, and, in searching for the rest of his party, had accidentally fallen in with us. We of course made a "stampede" for the water. On our arrival there two of the party, filling a large horn with water, started on their return with it to Smith. They met him on the way, hanging on to the horn of his saddle, while his horse was following our trail. By the time they returned the other party also arrived, so that, at about six p.m., we found ourselves all together again. The other party had fared almost as badly as we had, not having had any water since ten o'clock in the forenoon of the day before.
Although a godsend to us, this water was almost as bad as one could imagine. It was in the bed of a little alkali lake, thickly studded with reeds. There were about four inches of strong alkali water resting upon a bed of thin mud, and it was so warm and nauseating that it was impossible for some of the party to retain a stomachfull very long at a time. It was a grand relief to our poor horses to have an abundance of water and grass once more, and, tired as they were, they worked busily all night upon the reeds and grasses about the little lake. Much exhausted, we retired early, and arose considerably refreshed the next morning.
On the morning of July 18, our course was nearly southeast along the edge of a vast level plain to our right. Immense columns of smoke were still rising in front of us, and at about ten or eleven o'clock we came to places where peat bogs were on fire. These fires extended for miles along the valley of the Humboldt River, for we were now in the near vicinity of that stream, and at noon had the great satisfaction of encamping upon its banks. We found this sluggish stream about thirty feet wide, and the water strongly alkaline and of a milky hue. Along its banks were clumps of willows, affording us an abundance of fuel, and as there was plenty of grass for our horses, our camp was a good one. Since leaving Rabbit Hole Springs we had traveled much too far south of our course to satisfy us, and our desire was now to travel up the Humboldt until we should reach a point nearly east of Black Rock, and endeavor to find a route for the road more directly on our old course.
On July 19, we traveled perhaps twenty miles in a northeasterly direction along the river bottom, and encamped. The next day, July 20, we pursued our way along the river, on a good, easy route, making about the same distance as the day before. On the 21st we continued our march up the river and at noon came to a point where the river bottom widened out into quite an extensive meadow district. From this point we could see what appeared to be a low pass through the ridge on the west, through which was a channel of a tributary of the Humboldt, now dry. Here we decided to encamp and send out a party to examine the country towards Black Rock.
We had nothing in which to carry water but a large powder horn, so we thought it best not to risk sending out too large a party. On the morning of the 22nd of July, Levi Scott and William Parker left us, and, following the dry channel of the stream for about fifteen miles, they came to a beautiful spring of pure water. Here they passed the night, and the next day, July 23rd, they ascended by a very gradual route to the table lands to the westward, and within about fifteen miles of their camp of the previous night they entered quite a grassy district from which they could plainly see Black Rock. Exploring the country about them carefully they found the Rabbit Hole Springs. The line of our road was now complete. We had succeeded in finding a route across the desert and on to the Oregon settlements, with camping places at suitable distances, and, since we knew the source of the Humboldt River was near Fort Hall, we felt that our enterprise was already a success, and that immigrants could be able to reach Oregon late in the season with far less danger of being snowed in than on the California route down the Humboldt and over the Sierra Nevadas. The sequel proved that we were correct in this opinion, for this same fall the Donner Party, in endeavoring to cross the Sierras, were snowed in, suffered the most indescribable horrors, and about half of them perished.
The Humboldt Meadows affording us a splendid camping place, we concluded to remain there and recruit our jaded animal* for a few days before pursuing our journey farther.
FROM HUMBOLDT MEADOWS TO FORT HALL AND BACK TO BLACK ROCK.Our object was to locate the road direct from near the head of the Humboldt to Bear River, leaving Fort Hall forty or sixty miles to the northward. Our stock of provisions being almost exhausted, we decided to dispatch a party, with the strongest animals, to Fort Hall at once for supplies. while the rest of us would move along more slowly, making such improvements on the road as seemed necessary. and perhaps reaching the head of the river in time to meet the Fort Hall party there on its return. Accordingly, on the morning of the 25th of July, Jesse Applegate, Moses Harris, Henry Boygus, David Goff and John Owens left us for Fort Hall. The place decided on for the reunion of the party was known as Hot Spring or Thousand Spring Valley, on the Humboldt. I shall not undertake, after this date, to give a detailed statement of our experiences until the conclusion of our journey in the fall, only mentioning the most important incidents of the long and wearisome campaign.
The journey up the Humboldt, through a country so uniformly alike the entire distance, was quite monotonous. The sluggish stream, fringed with willows on either side, flowed through a narrow valley bounded by dry volcanic ridges, gradually increased in volume as we advanced towards its source, as the water wastes away in the dry, sandy region through which it flows. Like the Nile, this stream rises sufficiently every year to overflow and fertilize its valley, so that it produces the finest grass. Since 1843, immigrants had occasionally traveled down this stream to its sink, and had thence crossed the high, snowy range of the Sierra Nevada, from Truckee run via Donner Lake to the Sacramento Valley; and as we proceeded up the river we frequently met small parties, like ourselves, sunburned and covered with alkali dust, and worn and wearied by the long and difficult journey.
Game was our principal dependence for food, and this we found exceedingly scarce along the Humboldt, and the thousands of Indians who inhabited the valley at this season seemed to subsist chiefly upon grasshoppers and crickets, which were abundant.
One day, during our march through this country, Capt. Scott and myself, leaving the party on the west side, crossed the river for the purpose of hunting, and, while pursuing a band of antelope, came upon wagon tracks leading away from the river towards a rocky gulch among the hills, two or three miles distant. Several wagons seemed to have been in the train, and on either side of the plain tracks made by the wagon wheels in the loose sand were numerous barefoot tracks. Following the trail into the mouth of the gulch, we found where the wagons had been burned, only the ruins being left among the ashes. We found no human remains, yet the evidences were plain that a small train of immigrants had been taken here not a great while before, and that they had perished at the hands of their bloodthirsty captors, not one having escaped to recite the awful tale of horror. Possibly the bodies of the victims had been thrust into the river. Possibly the drivers had been compelled to drive their teams across the sage plains into this wild ravine, here to be slaughtered and their bodies burned. By a more extended search along the river and among the hills, we might possibly have found some of the bodies of the victims, and might have obtained some clue as to who the ill-fated immigrants were, but even this was not practicable at the time, and we could only hurry on with sad hearts to overtake the train far up the river.
On the 5th of August, we reached Hot Spring Valley, having traveled, as nearly as we could judge, about two hundred miles along the river. On the 10th the Fort Hall party returned to us with a supply of provisions, and on the 11th we turned our faces towards our homes, which we judged to be eight or nine hundred miles distant.
Before the party of five reached Fort Hall, one of them, young Boygus, hearing that a son of Capt. Grant, commander of Fort Hall, had recently started for Canada, via St. Louis, concluded to leave the party and, by forced marches, endeavor to overtake Grant, as he was anxious to return to his home in Missouri. Boygus was brave and determined, and expecting to meet immigrants occasionally; he set out alone on his hazardous undertaking. We never heard of him afterwards, and his fate has always remained a mystery. There was, perhaps, truth in the report current afterwards that his gun and horses were seen in the possession of an Indian at Fort Hall, and it is most likely that he was followed by Indians from the very moment he left his companions and slain, as many a poor fellow has been while all alone upon the great plains.
At Fort Hall the party of four met with a considerable train of immigrants, with some of whom they were acquainted, who decided to come to Oregon by way of our route. This train closely followed our companions on their return, and reached Hot Spring Valley before our departure. Before starting on the morning of July 11th, a small party of young men from the immigrant train generously volunteered to accompany us and assist in opening the road. These were: Thomas Powers, Burges, Shaw, Carnahan, Alfred Stewart, Charles Putnam, and two others whose names I now disremember. A Bannock Indian, from about the head of Snake River, also joined us. This increased our road party to twenty-one men, exclusive of Scott and Goff, who remained to guide and otherwise assist the immigrants on their way to Oregon.
Nothing worthy of mention occurred during our return along the valley of the Humboldt, and not until we left the river and proceeded westward towards Black Rock. The first night after leaving the river we spent at the spring found by Scott and Parker, on the 22nd of July. This we called Diamond Spring. Reaching this point about noon, we spent several hours in digging out a basin at the spring, which soon filled with pure, cold water.
Fifteen miles' travel the next day over a good route brought us at noon to the Rabbit Hole Springs. We soon improved this spring considerably, and, at about two p.m., took up our line of march for Black Rock, which we reached at nightfall. After we were out two or three miles from Diamond Springs this morning, our Bannock Indian discovered that he had left his butcher knife and, tying his pony to a sagebrush, started back to the spring on a run, supposing he could easily overtake us, as we would be delayed considerably at Rabbit Hole Springs; at any rate, he would have no trouble in following our trail. We saw him no more, and conjectured that he must have fallen a prey to the Diggers, who continually shadowed us as we traveled through their country, always ready to profit by any advantage given them.
No circumstances worthy of mention occurred on the monotonous march from Black Rock to the timbered regions of the Cascade chain; then our labors became quite arduous. Every day we kept guard over the horses while we worked the road, and at night we dared not cease our vigilance, for the Indians continually hovered about us, seeking for advantage. By the time we had worked our way through the mountains to the Rogue River Valley, and then through the Grave Creek Hills and Umpqua chain, we were pretty thoroughly worn out. Our stock of provisions had grown very short, and we had to depend, to a great extent, for sustenance upon game. Road working, hunting and guard duty had taxed our strength greatly, and on our arrival in the Umpqua Valley, knowing that the greatest difficulties in the way of immigrants had been removed, we decided to proceed at once to our home in the Willamette. There we arrived on the 3rd day of October, 1846, having been absent three months and thirteen days. During all this time our friends had heard nothing from us, and realizing the dangerous character of our expedition, many believed in the news which some time before reached them that we had all been murdered by the Indians.
As soon as we could possibly make the arrangement, we sent out a party with oxen and horses to meet the immigrants and aid them in reaching the Willamette settlements. For this assistance we made no demand, nor did we tax them for the use of the road, as was alleged by parties inimical to our enterprise. It had been the distinct understanding that the road should be free, and the consciousness of having opened a better means of access to the country than was afforded by the expensive and dangerous route down the Columbia, which we had tried to our sorrow, would be ample compensation for all our labors and hardships in opening the South road.
Of course our enterprise was opposed by that mighty monopoly, the Hudson's Bay Company, whose line of forts and trading posts on the Columbia afford them rare opportunities for trade with the immigrants. Many of the immigrants who followed us during the fall of 1846 had a hard time, though not as hard as they would likely have experienced on the other route; and some of them, not understanding the situation fully, became infected with the spirit of persecution, which had its origin with the Hudson's Bay Company, and joined in charging us with leading the travel away from the northern route for purposes of personal speculation. Certain members of the party were singled out to bear the burden of persecution, whereas, if any member of the party was animated by improper motives in seeking to open the road, all were equally guilty, as the party was governed in all its proceedings by a majority vote of its members.
The efforts of the Hudson's Bay Company to put down the road proved an eminent failure. Its superior advantages were better and better known and appreciated every year. It never ceased to be an important route of travel, and a large portion of the population of our state entered by this channel. It is a very significant fact that the great thoroughfare of today, from the Willamette to the Siskiyou chain, and thence out through the lake country and on to the Humboldt, departs rarely from the route blazed out by the road company thirty-two years ago.
Those who are conversant with the facts know that that portion of the route from the Humboldt to the lake country presents no serious obstacles in the way of the construction of a railroad, and had the Central Pacific company located their road on that route, from Humboldt as far as Goose Lake, and thence down Pit River to the Sacramento Valley, they would doubtless have saved millions of money in the original cost of the road, as well as in keeping it in order, since the snowfall would never have been seriously in the way, even in the severest winters.
In conclusion, I will recall the names of the road company, with a few facts relative to their history. I regret that it is not practicable to make this record more ample, but the company was made up, almost to a man, of active, energetic characters, who were not satisfied with a quiet, spiritless life, and many of them long ago were lost to the little community, "over in Polk," where they first settled, as they moved to other portions of the state or went out into adjacent territories to seek their fortunes. Under the circumstances, it has been impracticable to learn the whereabouts of some of them, or to gather such facts relative to their later history as would amplify and add interest to their biographies. Perhaps few companies of men ever performed such a campaign without repeated quarrels and even serious altercations, but the members of the Old South Road Company bore together the trials and privations of the expedition with a "forgiving and forbearing" spirit, and their mutual burdens and the dangers to which they were exposed, continually developed and strengthened their friendship. A reunion of them, were such a thing practicable, would be a season of peculiar joy, one to be remembered by the veteran survivors with pleasure, until they, too, shall pass away into the great unknown.
THE ROAD COMPANY.Capt. Levi Scott, a native of Illinois, came to Oregon in 1844, from near Burlington, Iowa. He was in the early days quite a prominent man in Oregon affairs. He was a member of the State constitutional convention. Capt. Scott located Scottsburg, on the Umpqua River. He is now over eighty years of age, and, I believe, resides in Lane County.
John Jones, usually known as "Jack" Jones, the wag of the south road expedition, came to Oregon from Missouri in 1843. Since then, he has been quite a wanderer. For many years he resided in California, and, if living, is now in Idaho, I believe. Native state, Missouri.
John Owens crossed the plains in 1843 from Missouri. He was, I think, a native of that state. Have no knowledge of his whereabouts.
Henry Boygus came from Missouri in 1843. He was a fine-looking, jovial and intelligent young man, and we were all much attached to him. Was probably murdered by Indians, near Fort Hall, after he left us in 1846 to return to his home in Missouri. Native state, Missouri.
William Sportsman crossed the plains in 1845, from Missouri, which was, I think, his native state. He left Oregon in 1847, and I have no knowledge of his whereabouts.
Samuel Goodhue, a native of New York, came to Oregon in 1844. He afterwards became a son-in-law of Davidson, the old pioneer, and a number of years resided about Salem. When I last heard of him, he was in Ohio.
Robert Smith came to Oregon in 1843 from Missouri. Native state, Virginia. He now resides at the head of the Yoncalla Valley, in Douglas County. Mr. Smith is a son-in-law of Charles Applegate, and brother to Mrs. Governor Chadwick.
Moses Harris, called "Black Harris," came to Oregon in 1844 from the Rocky Mountains, where he had been a scout and trapper for many years. He spoke the Snake language fluently, and was of great service to us on the plains. He returned to the States in 1847, as guide to Dr. White, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon, and died in Independence, Mo.
John Scott, a son of Capt. Levi Scott, came to Oregon with his father in 1844. He now resides near Dallas, Polk County, Oregon.
William G. Parker, a native of Missouri, came to Oregon in 1843. He resided many years in California, but is now a resident of Lake County, Oregon, and keeps the Half-Way House, on the road from Ashland to Linkville. Mr. Parker is a son-in-law of Capt. Solomon Tetherow, the old mountain man, and a brother to Mrs. Jesse Applegate.
David Goff came to Oregon from Missouri in 1845. He resided in Polk County, Oregon, until his death, which occurred, I believe, in 1874, and was universally respected. He was the father-in-law of Gen. J. W. Nesmith.
Benjamin F. Burch came to Oregon from his native state, Missouri, in 1845. Mr. Burch has long been a prominent man in Oregon affairs. He now resides at Salem, and is Superintendent of the State Penitentiary.
Jesse Applegate was born in Kentucky, and came to Oregon in 1843. He now resides on Mount Yoncalla, in Douglas County, Oregon.
Lindsay Applegate, also a native of Kentucky, came to Oregon in 1843. Now a resident of Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon.
With the consciousness that I have endeavored faithfully and impartially, though briefly, to relate the history of the South Road expedition, I close this narrative, hoping that my effort to preserve this much of this history of the early days may inspire other "old timers" to relate their experiences also. I am fully aware that memory is uncertain, and that a number of errors may have occurred in my narrative from this reason, but I place it before the people with confidence that it is, in the main, correct. In doing so, I ask no other reward for the labor of the preparation than that its perusal may cause the people to think more kindly of the old pioneers.
Oregon Historical Quarterly, March 1921, pages 12-45. The account was later serialized in the Capital Journal, Salem, beginning April 15, 1926, page 1. A brief biography of Lindsay Applegate appears on page 9 of that issue.
Fort Hall, Snake RiverDear Brother:
August 9, 1846.
I arrived here yesterday alone and on foot from the Willamette Valley at the head of a party to meet the emigration. We left our homes on Willamette the 22nd June last to explore a southern route into that valley from the U. S. After much labor and suffering we succeeded in our object though it occupied us so long that a part of the emigrants had passed our place of intersection with the old road before we could possibly reach it.
The new route follows the California road about 350 miles from here; it then leaves Ogden's or Mary's river and enters Oregon by the way of the Klamath Lakes, Rogue River, Umpqua and the head of the Willamette Valley--it shortens the road--avoids the dangers of Snake & Columbia rivers and passes S. of the Cascade Mts.--there is almost every place plenty of grass and water & every wagon, ox or cow may enter Oregon.
I would give you a more lengthy description of this road if I had time or opportunity but I cannot escape the importunities of the emigrants who are pursuing me into every room of the fort and besieging me with endless questionings on all possible subjects--so much am I confused that I scarce know what I have written or wish to write. Suffice it to say that we fully succeeded in our object though not a man of us had ever been in the country before--of your acquaintances, Lindsay [Applegate], David Goff, B. F. Burch & Wm. Sportsman were with me. I am pleased with Mr. Burch; he is a good boy and of correct principles--as he may not reach here in time to write tell his father that he is well and well pleased with the country and if the opportunity presented itself intended coming on to Missouri after him this fall--but as his horses were very tired when I left the balance of the company and I hear of no party going back I expect he will return with us to Willamette.
I met Larkin Stanley going to California & Oregon who told me you were coming to Oregon next year; if it is so I am glad to hear it--and gladder still that I have assisted in finding a new route. I believe I have no reason to change any part of the directions I gave you last spring. It is a pity you have not come sooner to Oregon. Gov. Boggs and almost all the respectable portion of the California emigrants are going on the new road to Oregon, and nearly all the respectable emigrants that went last year to California came this spring to Oregon--and as long as you are actually coming I venture to say that "you never will regret it." I am better pleased every day. I would write and wish to write much to you but at present I have no opportunity; the emigrants will give me no peace.
Capt. Grant has done his best to give me an opportunity to write but all in vain. Speaking of Capt. Grant reminds me of a favor I have to request of you and Betsy. Capt. Grant, the gentleman in charge of Fort Hall, has two sons and a daughter at school in Canada; he wishes them to come to Fort Hall next year with the emigration. He says his son, a young man of 20 or thereabouts, with little experience in the world, is his only dependence to bring his daughter a girl of 15 and a younger brother over the mountains. He appears anxious to place his daughter in the care of some respectable lady who is coming to this country.
Now if Betsy will take the girl under her protection and you will see to the comfort and safety of the sons, you will confer a great favor upon me, and serve a gentleman to whom I owe many obligations, not only for kindnesses extended towards myself, but for the assistance he daily renders to the emigrants to Oregon. If you are coming next spring to Oregon and will take charge of these young people, write to Richard Grant Jr. (care of Phillip Burns esq., Three Rivers, Lower Canada) when and where to meet you which it would be better probably your own house before you leave, as in that case you could see that they were properly prepared for the journey.
If I have the opportunity I will write more.
Jesse ApplegateDale Howell Morgan, Overland in 1846: Diaries and Letters of the California-Oregon Trail, Vol. II, Talisman Press, 1963, pages 634-636
To the Future Emigrants to Oregon
Fort Hall, Snake RiverGentlemen:
August 10, 1846
The undersigned are happy to inform you that a southern route to the Willamette has just been explored, and a portion of the emigration of the present year are now upon the road. Owing to unavoidable delays, the exploring party did not arrive at the forks of the road until some of the front companies of the emigrants were passed, perhaps eighty or one hundred wagons.
The new route follows the road to California about 320 miles from this place, and enters the Oregon Territory by the way of the Klamath Lake, passes through the splendid valleys of the Rogue and Umpqua rivers, and enters the valley of the Willamette near its southeastern extremity.
The advantage gained to the emigrant by this route is of the greatest importance--the distance is considerably shortened, the grass and water plenty, the sterile regions and dangerous crossings of the Snake and Columbia rivers avoided, as well as the Cascade Mountain--he may reach his place of destination with his wagon and property in time to build a cabin and sow wheat before the rainy season. This road has been explored, and will be opened at the expense of the citizens of Oregon, and nothing whatever demanded of the emigrants.
Gov. Boggs and party, with many other families of respectability, have changed their destination, and are now on their way to Oregon. Some of the emigrants intend stopping in the Umpqua Valley--which, though not so large, is quite equal to the Willamette for fertility.
A waybill, fully describing the road, will be prepared and sent to the United States, or to Fort Hall, for the use of the emigration of 1847, and no pilots will be required.
The exploring party left the upper settlements of the Willamette on the 25th of June last, crops were most promising, and farmers in high spirits. They met a large emigration from California, consisting of the Hon. Felix Scott, late of St. Charles County, Missouri, and many others who left the United States. They give a decided preference to Oregon over California
The exploring party consists of John Jones, John Scott, Robert Smith, John Owen, Samuel Goodhue, Henry Boggs, Wm. Sportsman, Jesse Applegate, Levi Scott, David Goff, Lindsay Applegate, Moses Harris, Wm Parker, Benj. Osborne, Benj. F. Birch.
Editors in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa friendly to the prosperity of Oregon will please insert the foregoing communication.
Jesse ApplegateDale Howell Morgan, Overland in 1846: Diaries and Letters of the California-Oregon Trail, Vol. II, Talisman Press, 1963, pages 637-638
Leaving Fort Hall [in 1846] we traveled down Snake River, passing the American Falls. There we met a company from Oregon, Mr. Applegate, Goff, Scott and others; this company turned many of the emigrants on to what is called the Southern Route to Oregon, and when we come to the fork roads, I to my sorrow took the Southern Route. This for a distance was the California road; it passed through the Warm Spring Valley and so on to the Humboldt River which in many places was dry; other places it was running a little. This is a dry barren country; willow and sagebrush was our dependence for fuel. By this time many of the emigrants began to suffer, an abundance of sickness and destitution, Martin Hoover still growing worse; sometimes of a morning all hands that was able went after cattle, leaving no strong men about camp, so in order to get Hoover from the tent to the wagon I would get on my hands and knees and he would crawl on to my back and I crawl along holding to the wagon tongue until I got to the wagon and so help him in, but poor man he was not long to remain with us. He was a good fellow, just as good as could be in every particular; he was moral and had good looks with him. Sickness and suffering increase. We traveled down the Humboldt to within a short distance of the Sink; here the Oregon road turns to the right and we enter the great desert. All credit is due Mr. Goff, who remained back to assist and cheer the hind part of the emigration, while credit is equally due to Mr. Levi Scott, who kept in the advance as pilot, and also doing all in his power to assist in opening the road, and doing everything that he could to assist the emigrants. Mr. Applegate left soon after turning that portion of the emigration that followed him, saying that he would send assistance from the Willamette to open the road, which if he did I never knew it. He sent provision to meet the emigrants, which he sold to them at a very high price. I will here remark that upon one occasion Mr. Scott and I was in advance with our axes opening the road; he remarked to me with tears in his eyes and said he would have to leave, that his life was in danger, which I did not think was altogether correct. True, he and others was the cause of our misfortune, but he did all he could to help us. I knew the emigration was terribly enraged, often swearing they would take Applegate's life on sight, but I thought no violence would be committed on the person of Mr. Scott. I said to Mr. Scott, he must not leave, that the lives of the emigration was in his hands; he was the only man that could take us out of the mountains, that while I had a bite of bread I would divide with him, and if I got to the valley I would do my part in remunerating him. So like a gentleman he remained until the front wagon got into the Willamette Valley. I think I fully satisfied him for all his trouble, as for me some time afterward I saw an article in the Spectator which acknowledged the receipt of $21.00 from one emigrant, which was all that he had received for piloting in the emigration of 'forty-six. I knew very well that I paid that $21.00. Where we left Humboldt the river was dry, but by digging holes in the sand we got water, all that had kegs filled them, but there was but few that had them. We now take the desert early in the morning, traveling all day; in the afternoon Mr. Scott sent me ahead, to save all the water that could be saved at a very weak spring there was ahead of us, and while I was damming the water my son David came up and said Martin Hoover was dead, this was my hand, that he died in the wagon as it was moving, that his ma did not know it, she being in the other wagon. About sundown the train came up. We buried the man immediately, got a bite of supper and started on a night drive, getting no water to amount to much. The moon is now about full and we traveled all night. Up to this time my wife had been as stout and rugged as she could be. I cannot see how we could have got along had it been otherwise. The wind being very cold during the night she took a cold, losing the entire use of herself except one limb. Now I had trouble, my wife having lost the use of her limbs and myself very feeble. Many times as she lay in the wagon and could not turn over I was so weak I could not do it only by getting my shoulder as near under her as I could with my hips against the wagon body, and by this means would partly turn her. We got to Rabbit [Hole] Springs about 10 o'clock a.m.; these springs are some holes in the ground about four feet deep, the water dribbling in these holes no faster than a man could drink, so we got no water to amount to much here, and now both stock and people began to suffer most terribly. One thing I remember that was a little funny and not very funny either, Mr. Lancefield, who was my old neighbor in Missouri and my traveling companion had a dog with him he called Queen. As we passed [through] the desert we passed many dead cattle left by those ahead. When we would come to one not quite dead Lancefield would say "Queen," and Queen would take the animal by the nose, and often the animal would make a desperate effort and rise. This would make a great laugh, but the poor animal would give a low moan and fall down. It would seem astonishing that we could laugh over such suffering, especially not knowing but the next hour it would be our fate to lose our team. And now my pen cannot describe the suffering, both of people and animals. We traveled that day, and the next night at 2 o'clock a.m. we came to a hot spring, at the Black Rock. The spring was very deep and about twenty feet in diameter and would cook meat in a few minutes, but we went down the branch and found it cool enough to use. Everything bore the marks of intense volcanic action. A little above the spring was a black-looking mountain which was black rock; it looked like a mass of black cinders, while at its base were fragments of lava and cinders, resembling those of a blacksmith forge. Here desolation reigned around to the fullest extent, the desert and mountains were all the eye could view beyond the little oasis where our almost famished cattle were feeding. We moved on a short distance to another oasis and in about five miles another with plenty of water and grass. Sickness of the train continued, and many deaths. The hardship of Thomas Crowley of Polk County, Missouri was immense. The family when it started was large, but before it got in the valley was reduced to but very few. His daughter Lelona I helped to bury on Grave Creek, afterward changed by the Legislature to Lelona [Leland] in remembrance of Lelona Crowley that was buried on that creek by the emigration of 1846. Mr. Crowley died at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain. After leaving Black Rock we continued westwardly over bad rocky roads; many places the wagons did not make a track, other places it was sandy desert, with an occasional oasis. Here we came to one of the most remarkable curiosities among the mountains. It was a canon or narrow pass through the mountains just wide enough for a smooth level road. In going down into the canon the hill was so steep that one wagon with all its wheels locked fell over forward on the team. When we got down then looking up the perpendicular wall on either side four or five hundred feet high, it was truly frightful. We traveled down the canon some twenty miles. Sometimes the rock on either side would get lower, then higher again. In ascending the hill on leaving the canon we found as before a rocky country. We are now in sight of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and on approaching one of the spurs of the Sierra to our great joy we did not find it difficult to ascend. Crossing over we soon found ourselves at Goose Lake. Here the Indians made a break on us, killing several head of our cattle and driving off quite a number, leaving many wagons almost without a team. Here my old friend Mr. Lancefield lost several of his oxen but supplied the place with cows. Passing Goose Lake we soon came to the river with a natural bridge, then Klamath Lake. The Indians yet remaining troublesome, here they killed my teamster. The teamster had pleurisy in his side and could not ride in the wagon. I tried to get him to ride, but he said the jolting of the wagon hurt his side. One evening he had fallen behind the train. I was terribly alarmed at him for doing so and scolded him much, telling him of the danger. The next day he did it again, the Indians came on him and filled him full of arrows, then stripped him of his clothing. This was on Klamath Lake. We crossed the Klamath River just at the outlet of the lake at a very rocky ford. Next was the Siskiyou Mountains, which was heavily timbered. And a great job it was to cut a road across, but we had a long way back provisioned and sent young men ahead to open the road, so we got over the mountain quite well. One incident that transpired here I will speak of. On one occasion in the mountain we had to make a dry camp; the next day was a drive of about four miles and a good camp, but one of my cows was missing. We knew that the Indians were all around us doing all the mischief they could, yet my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I took our rifles; I filled my mouth with bullets, if he did not he had everything convenient for loading, and in Daniel Boone style we returned to our old camp. We had scarcely got out of sight of where the train was camped when we found plenty of Indian tracks in the dust of the road we had made a few hours before, so we kept a sharp watch for Indians I assure you. We intended to have the first fire if there was any show, but the Indians kept so hid that we saw none, although we went back to and around our old encampment in search for our lost cow, but did not find her and returned, supposing the Indians had captured her. But next morning the lost cow was on hand. Leaving the Siskiyou Mountains we descended into the Rogue River Valley, the Indians yet remaining troublesome. At our camp near what is called the point of rocks, when we started in the morning, and the wagons fairly strung out, the Indians made a raid on our loose cattle, but was so well defended by our cattle drivers that the Indians only killed one cow. A dispatch being sent to the front, the wagons were soon put in order for defense and the teamsters returned to have a jolly old time, but the Indians had skedaddled. That night I dreamed the Indians met us at the crossing of Rogue River, and we sent over some horsemen and drove the Indians back. I told my dream to my wife in the morning, and it became true to the letter. The Indians held the opposite shore; we sent over a number of horsemen who fired several shots. I saw Indians when I got over, and my wagon was about the fourth wagon; in crossing our train was about a hundred wagons strong. Here is another little incident. On one occasion in those mountains the train was late getting into camp. We camped near a very pretty branch; my old friend John D. Woods, who started with me from my home in Missouri, stepped down to the branch a little after dark to get a pail of water, but quickly returned pretty badly frightened, stating that as he went to dip his water zip-zip went some arrows by his head; at that moment a flintlock gun snapped in a few feet of him. We were soon called to arms, and let the Indians know that we were on the alert. We discharged a few volleys, which made the mountains fairly ring. The Indians went off a short distance and with their old musket fired a few rounds; this ended the fight. Sickness yet continues, the health of my wife gradually improves, and so does my own. We now approach the much-dreaded Umpqua Canon. We had taken the precaution to send a good many young men ahead to open the road. Those young men deserve much credit for their hard and laborious work, both in the Siskiyou Mountains and Umpqua Canon. As we have said we was a hundred wagons strong; this was a large train, and as we made a corral with our wagons every night in order to defend ourselves against the Indians, and it was very convenient to keep our oxen together in yoking, we were now within a few days' drive of the Canon, and the teams that went in front had the easiest time and there was some of the train who had a strong force, could yoke their oxen quick and turn out with their wagons, breaking the corral [and] making it very bad on those not ready. On one occasion as usual the corral was broken while many teams were yet unyoked and ladies engaged, some mending the gap where the corral was broken, others yoking up oxen, while their men were gathering up the cattle. I could yoke as soon as any, but on seeing the trouble I called out to those that had caused it, that they had not acted the gentleman, at the time saying to those that remained to keep quiet and we would make two companies, and we did so, the front company sending back and getting their loose cattle. We now have two trains and we moved on in this way until we came to the Canon, coming each night close together, and now comes a joke. We beat the other company at their own game. Both companies the last camp before entering the Canon as usual camped within sight of each other, but we did not let our cattle mix. We had to work several days on the Canon before we could venture in, so each company furnished their quota of men each day to work on the Canon, so my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I looked after each other's interest. When he would work I would look after his cattle, and when I worked he would look after mine, and it so happened that it was my turn to work the last day. Before starting in the morning I suggested to Mr. Lancefield that he should complain that the corral was getting very muddy and that he should give the wink and pretend as though he would move the corral. Said I, the other company is watching every motion, and said I there is a patch of grass right at the mouth of the Canon, sufficient for our cattle, and when you yoke to move corral move right into the mouth of the Canon. This would place our company in the front and give us the advantage in the morning, knowing that those wagons that got into the Canon first would be most likely to get through, so I went about my work and at the appointed hour, which was about sundown, sure enough our train camped in the mouth of the Canon. It so happened that when we got through work for the day that Capt. Vanderpool and I was returning, he was Capt. of the other company, and on our return as we neared the mouth of the Canon we heard wagons coming. He became terribly alarmed, saying he must hurry, for his corral was broken and his teams would be scattered, but on coming up he stopped suddenly, and looked, saying Garrison it is your company. By this time the corral was formed across the road, but left the way open on each side, but what tickled me most was he had been fairly beaten at his own game. Here let me refer to the great amount of suffering for food; many were entirely without, and the cry of children for bread came to our ears daily. None but those who have been in like condition or have been eyewitnesses can sympathize for the almost starving emigrant, shut up among the mountains without hope of relief. I think I would have had plenty to have done me through, but I could not hear children crying for bread without dividing, I divided by the cupful, and biscuit, until I was without. People starving will eat anything that can be eaten; among other heart-rending sights I saw one lady digging roots on which to subsist. Let me here speak of a personal case, and I might give the man's name, he is a good citizen, well off and a resident of Salem. As we was passing through the Umpqua Canon, my wife was sitting in the wagon eating a piece of bread. He looking wishful to her, she broke off a piece and handed to him, and he passed on. The next summer there was a camp meeting near Dayton, and though poor yet we did the best we could under the circumstances, and spread our tent on the ground. A stranger came and introduced himself to my wife, asking her if she knew him. She said she thought not. Well, said he, I am the man you gave the bread to in the Canon. I did not eat it, although I had ate none for twenty-one days. I took it, said he, to my sick children. When we were met with beef from the Willamette, I was on guard, and it seemed to me if it had saved a world I could not have kept from crying. We now enter the great Canon; the evening before however my brother Joseph met me. He and Enoch came to Oregon in 1843. He brought to my relief provisions, a yoke of fresh, fat cattle and a number of pack horses. I pray Almighty God that I may never forget the kindness of this brother. When morning came all hands at an early hour were ready for the Canon; my brother attached his fresh oxen to one of my wagons but said it was impossible for the wagons to go through the Canon. I put two yoke of my weak oxen to the other wagon and after sending the loose cattle all in the advance we started. The Canon was not more than twenty miles through, and we were five days in it, so you may judge the amount of trouble we had. Oh! how many cattle died by starvation and many wagons were broken all to pieces. Much of the way we had ropes fastened on the wagon and men holding by the ropes. Allow me here to speak of a joke. Quite a stream flowed through the Canon, and we traveled much of the way in its bed. We came to a horrible bad place at which place many wagons were broken. At the lower end of the terrible rapid over which we descended was the running gears of a good wagon. I knew the owner and supposed he had abandoned it for good, and it being public property and better than mine I laid all the front part of the running gears of one of my wagons and supplied the place from the abandoned wagon. A neighbor whose wagon was broken left his front wheels and took mine, and another came along who took the hind wheels of the abandoned wagon, and so all hands was well pleased with their bargain, and why not, for each had made his own trade, but now comes the joke. When the owner of the abandoned wagon got through the Canon he sold it to my old friend Perry Durbin who took the trouble off my hands in crossing the Missouri. Durbin took a yoke of oxen and started back for his wagon. When I met him I asked him where he was going with his oxen. He said he was going after a wagon he had bought of Mr. Tod, so I laughed. What is up said he. There, said I, is part of your wagon, but go on and get mine that I left and you shall have yours. All right, said he, so on he went with much difficulty. Finally he met my front wheels coming, so that was all right, but on he went after his hind wheels, and by the way making inquiries he found his hind wheels coming. So all his wagon and mine too was on the way out, but then the other poor fellows who had left parts of their wagons they were out of luck finally when we all got out. Then came the rub. I was ready to give up the part I had when Durbin got mine as he said he would do. He had some trouble in getting my wheels but succeeded, and the poor fellows that was out of luck had to make carts. All hands now out of the Canon, and by the way the Indians were now friendly, so we could travel as we pleased. By this time the health of my wife had improved so she could ride on horseback. My brother, having brought out pack horses, took my family except two boys and bid me goodbye, and here my heart ached. I thought possibly I should never see my wife again, as she could scarcely walk alone, but then we must do the best we could, and bidding her goodbye they went on, and I remained a few days to let my oxen rest. Finally my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I gathered up our cattle preparatory for an onward move, and just now I am waited on by a committee. The emigrants had held a meeting and notified me by the committee that they must have the fat oxen my brother left me to eat. I knew full well to resist was useless, so I begged them to accept a couple of heifers which I offered them. They kindly agreed to it, and my oxen were spared. By this time a large portion of the emigrants had got out of the Canon, and of course it made a large encampment. Here I learned there was a young man by the name of Garrison in camp and that he was from the valley, so like Joseph and Mary of old I made search and found him, and who should he be but my nephew from the valley. Sure enough he had come out to assist me, and let me say although I may never be able to reward my kind friends, yet I am sure that he who has said "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it also unto me," will not let them go unrewarded. Morning comes and we make the start. That day one of my oxen died, and in the evening I sent the boys back to take off some of the hide for ropes as I might need them in crossing the Umpqua. On the return of the boys they told me they found the dead ox and that the family of Mr. _____ was busily engaged cutting off some of the best pieces to cook. Mr. Lancefield's team was now very weak. I had six yoke of my oxen and one of my brothers, so when we would come to a bad place I would send relief to Lancefield and help him along. Finally we came to a horrible hill on the South Umpqua. After I got up the hill I sent back several yoke of oxen to bring up Lancefield but he refused any assistance, sending me word that I would kill my team, that he had concluded to abandon his wagon and try to pack his oxen. So I felt dreadful bad but had to go on and leave him. Not long after [that] I abandoned one of my wagons. We now travel alone until we came to the North Umpqua. This is quite a river. We came to it in the evening; there was a few wagons ahead of us, and the Indians had assisted them in crossing, so when morning came I looked about but could find no Indians. One emigrant was camped on the opposite side a short distance below. I saw a canoe on his side. I hallowed to him to bring it over; he said he had nothing to eat and had no breakfast. I said to bring it over and I will give you your breakfast, so he brought it over. Soon quite a number of Indians came and I engaged them to ferry me over. I swam my oxen over, then with ropes I made a boat of the two canoes, placing a canoe on each side for the wheels to stand in. When I got to the opposite shore the hill was very steep to ascend, so I placed my oxen on the top of the hill then attached several log chains to the tongue of the wagon and then with the oxen pulled it up the hill, all over. We now moved onward over a handsome rich rolling country until we came to the Calapooia Mountain. There being no wagon road across the mountain and falling in with several other wagons we left them at the foot of the mountain, and all hands went to work to cut the road across, our old friend Mr. Scott the pilot yet remaining and working like a good fellow. It was several days before we got to the summit, but when we got the road opened up to it we returned and got our wagons and brought them to the summit, then took our cattle down into the Willamette Valley, and now for the first time I place my foot on the soil for which I had been so long traveling, that of the Willamette. We returned to the wagons, taking up flour with us which we purchased at the high price of Applegate. Here my brother Enoch Garrison met me to assist me, and let me say that [although] over twenty-five years have passed since, yet I have not forgotten the kindness of those relatives who came to my assistance and I hope I never shall, and Jeptha, as his father had come to my assistance, returned home taking with him my son David, and now my brother takes hold to help cut the road down the mountain, and it did appear to me he was able to do as much work as three of us. The fact is we were like our worn-out oxen, just alive and that was all. When we got the road cut we took up our oxen to where the wagons were left, and now I hear that my old friend Mr. Lancefield was camped at the foot of the mountain, and I was satisfied he was without flour so I took about twenty pounds on my shoulder and started down the mountain, a distance of about six miles, intending to carry it to him, weak as I was.. Here a man came up with a pack of flour taking out to sell to emigrants, so I returned and put my flour in my wagon and went down to the foot of the mountain with the packer, and the first camp I came to was Lancefield who bought what flour he wanted. He had failed in getting his oxen to pack so he spliced teams with Isaac Lebo and had worked his way along until he got to the foot of the mountain. I rendered him all the assistance I could in getting up the mountain, and this was the last I saw of him until I saw him at the Methodist mission farm on the Willamette. He and Mr. Lebo as soon as they struck the Willamette dug out a large canoe and leaving their wagon and cattle descended the river with their families. This I suppose was the first time the river had been navigated by a white man, so that all honor is due to those pioneers of 'forty-six for paddling the first craft that ever descended the Willamette from its source down to the mission farm. That is truly a feat that history should not lose sight of. I am now in the Willamette Valley and now I began to look for the valley called PARADISE OR THE GARDEN OF EDEN.
Albert Ellison Garrison, Life and Labour of Rev. A. E. Garrison, 1887, pages 27-43
Just beyond American Falls we met Jesse Applegate, who had come to tell us about the new route to the Willamette Valley by way of Southern Oregon. On Raft River the road forked, one branch leading westward to Oregon and the other to California. We took the California road, intending to follow it for 300 miles and then turn westward by way of Klamath Lake into Oregon. We turned south on August 10 and traveled southward until September 5, when we left the California road and struck westward for Oregon .We had to cross a 55-mile desert, with only two springs to water our stock in the entire stretch. Our oxen were so weak that we had to leave two of them while crossing the desert. As we entered the timbered foothills on September 19 one of Virgil Pringle's oxen was shot by an Indian with an arrow and two of the loose cattle were shot.
Some of our party had kept tally on the mileage, and this day saw the passing of the 2000-mile mark. During the latter days of September we were passing through a country of lakes--Klamath Lake and others. Some of our party lost some cattle on Klamath Lake, which were driven off by the Indians. On October 15 we camped on Rogue River. Four days later we stopped to bury Mr. Crowley's daughter, who was 14 years old. The going was very slow and difficult along the Umpqua, as the roads had to be made, and the rains had started. We did not get to our destination until early in December, the last month's travel being very difficult and unpleasant.
We left our cattle on Eugene Skinner's donation land claim, where the city of Eugene is now located. Our oxen were so weak we had to leave them there, packing what goods we could carry, as well as the women and children, on our mules and going on to Luckiamute and stopping at what is now called Parker's Station. A couple of bachelors had a log cabin there. They offered to share it with us for the rest of the winter. One of these bachelors, Mr. Nealy, married my sister. My brother Jim, better known in later days as Judge Collins, with a man named Turnidge, stayed that winter in Eugene Skinner's unfinished cabin to look after their cattle. The cattle just about held their own during the winter. As soon as the cattle were strong enough to travel and the roads had dried up a little, early in the next spring, they drove the wagons to where we were staying on the Luckiamute.
Frank Collins, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Observations and Impressions of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, March 18, 1922, page 4
IN EARLIER DAYS
By Fred Lockley.
"I was born in Missouri on May 28, 1824," said David Guthrie, an Oregon pioneer of 1846. "While I call Dallas my home, I spend considerable of my time visiting my two daughters, one of whom is in Corvallis and the other in Salem. My father's people were Scotch and settled in Virginia, where my father was born. My mother was also a Virginian, her name being Margaret Phillips. After serving in the War of 1812, my father moved to Kentucky, where he met my mother and where they were married in 1814.
"When I was 22 years old, I started for Oregon. This was in May, 1846. Meadows Vanderpool was the captain of our train. I was driving a team for Thomas Crowley, who settled in Polk County. We had planned to come by the regular route, but at Fort Hall we met Jesse Applegate, Moses Harris, David Goff, John Owens and Henry Bogus. Jesse Applegate told us that they had just explored a road into Oregon by the southern route. We decided to go by the road that had just been opened, as they told us it would be an easier road and shorter. Nearly 100 wagons met at Thousand Springs toward the middle of August, to take the new road. Mr. Applegate told us that that spring, in 1846, a number of the settlers in Polk County had decided to explore a more feasible road into Oregon than the one down the Columbia River, with all the difficulties to be met from The Dalles on to the Willamette Valley. After making one attempt to explore the road they found the party was too small, so they returned and a new party was formed, consisting of Captain Levi Scott, John Scott, Jesse and Lindsay Applegate, Ben Burch, John Owens, Henry Bogus, Robert Smith, John Jones, Samuel Goodhue, Will Parker, Mose Harris, Dave Goff, Ben Osborn and Will Sportsman. He told us they had left Polk County late in June and had thoroughly explored the country by the southern route and that it was the most practicable road. The rest of their party were engaged in locating the road between Fort Hall and Bear River while Jesse Applegate and the men with him had come into Fort Hall for supplies. They were traveling with pack horses, and I guess I am one of the first men to drive a wagon over the Applegate cutoff. We were joined later by Captain Levi Scott, who stayed with us, piloting us through south central Oregon, across the mountains and into the Rogue River country.
"We had considerable sickness in our party. James Carter, one of our party, died on the Humboldt River. His widow hated to have him buried looking so rough, so I shaved him after he was dead. Mrs. Carter, his widow, later married William B. Prather at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Stewart, at what is now Corvallis, in 1847. They were the first white couple to be married in Benton County.
"There were 15 in the family I was with--the Crowleys. Eight of them died before reaching Oregon. We buried one of the children at Pacific Springs, near the divide over the Rockies. The last of the family to die on the trip was Martha Leland Crowley, who died near what used to be called Grave Creek, but is now called Leland Creek, I believe. I was a carpenter and made coffins for the members of our party who died. We had no boards left when Martha died, but I knocked some boxes to pieces and made her a coffin. There were 26 pieces of board in her coffin. We buried her by the stream and then corralled the cattle over her grave so the Indians would not find her body and dig it up. We heard later that Indians had found the grave and dug her up to get her clothes. In 1849, when I went to the mines, I stopped to visit her grave. I found her bones were scattered all around so I buried them and piled stones over the grave.
"I spent the summer of 1849 in California working mostly on the middle fork of the American River. That fall I opened a store at Hangtown. I came back to Oregon in the summer of 1850 with something over $3000. I bought a good claim in Polk County for $400 and with the rest of the money I stocked it with blooded sheep and good horses and cattle. A year after my return to Oregon in September 1851. I married Mary Ellen Davidson."
Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, January 23, 1914, page 6
Mr. N. Huber arrived here on Thursday last from Oregon. He left the Willamette Valley on the 7th of May, and arrived at St. Joseph, Mo., on the 28th of July. He was accompanied by eighteen men, and came by the new southern route. This route he represents not only as the longest by about 300 miles, but to be the most dangerous, on account of the hostility of the Indians. Mr. H., our readers will recollect, went out by the northern route. Whilst encamped at night the party were attacked by a party of Shasta Indians, in the Rogue River Valley, Northern California, who shot three horses, but did no further mischief. In the morning four of the party remained at the encampment, after the departure of the rest of the company, with the design of punishing the Indians. A party of about forty approached the encampment, but retreated upon being fired upon. These Indians are unacquainted with the use of firearms, of which they are very fearful, but are quite expert in the use of the bow, and will, in favorable situations, send their arrows with such force as to pass through the body of a buffalo. On the night of the attack the force and direction of the wind very materially prevented its success. . . .
Alonzo A. Skinner, formerly of this village, has been elected circuit judge of the Territory, for the next two years--salary $800 per annum. Mr. Huber, we perceive, was clerk of the last legislature.
Kalida Venture, Kalida, Ohio, August 17, 1847, page 2
LETTER FROM OREGON.
The following letter, dated Oregon City, 16th of April, 1847, is from Mrs. N. M. Thornton, wife of J. Q. Thornton, Esq., who about eighteen months since left this country for California. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Towler, and will be read with interest by our readers generally, and especially so by Mrs. T.'s numerous acquaintances in this county:
My Dear Mrs. T.--It gives me great pleasure to sit down to write to you, a friend with whom I have spent so many happy months. Oh, how often I have thought and spoken of you and Mr. T. and the family, and I presume I have not been forgotten. Not far on the other side Fort Laramie, I wrote to you, which letter, I presume, with one that Mr. T. wrote to Mr. Towler shortly after we commenced our journey, you received. I sent mine back by some persons whom we met returning to the States. We reached the Fort on the afternoon of the 21st--had no difficulty in fording Laramie River. There were but few persons at the Fort; several chiefs of the Sioux had lodges there. To these, at the suggestion of the gentlemen in charge, a supper was given by our party. After sundown, accompanied by a miss of fifteen, I visited an Indian burying ground, situated on an eminence half a mile distant from our camp. There were several enclosures containing the homes of the dead. Several corpses, large and small, lay on a scaffold, nine or ten feet high, some in boxes, and some rolled up in buffalo robes, with all their ornaments upon them they had owned when living. Several thousand warriors were expected at the Fort on their way to fight the Crows. Next morning, just as we were about leaving, they began to make their appearance over the tops of the hills, all on horses or mules, well equipped for battle. These Indians appeared more independent and high spirited than any other Indians I have ever seen. They came mostly well, some elegantly, dressed in Indian costume. I shook hands with a great many of them, and permit me to assure you that few city exquisites could present a hand so delicately formed, or of a softness so silky, as these wild men of the forest presented to the ladies of our camp.
On the 10th of July we visited Independence Rock. In the neighborhood of this rock are numerous lakes covered with a white substance, used by many of the emigrants as saleratus. Higher up the valley is Devil's Gate, a place where sweet water forces its way through the mountain. I look upon this as a greater curiosity than the Rock. I wish I had time to describe fully all the places of interest that I saw on our journey, but having a great many letters to write, and having but little time, I am compelled to be brief.
On the 18th, we forded Sweetwater at noon for the last time. It was the last stream I saw flowing in the direction of the home of my youth. Upon leaving this stream we entered the South Pass, and that evening encamped on waters flowing toward the Pacific. It was our first night in the Oregon Territory.
On the 24th of July we encamped on Green River, a very beautiful stream, and which, perhaps, was to us doubly so, as we had just completed a drive of forty miles on which we had neither grass nor water. That is the only long drive on the old route, and it could be avoided by going round by Fort Bridger, 100 miles, as many did, and I think wisely, for it proved severe upon the cattle. However, they recovered in a few days. While encamped on Green River Alderman left us, and Mr. T. drove for seven weeks. It almost killed him. He spit blood a number of times. Indeed, there are few whose health is benefited by the journey. The toil to be encountered is too great, unless a person has very efficient help, and this is almost impossible on the road, for it matters not how good your help may be when you start; the probability is that you will be without any before you get through. Persons hired become the most independent people on the road. But this is not wonderful on a journey of four or five months--a journey of toil and exposure, and one upon which there is neither law nor order. The more independent people can start, the better it will be for them. Nearly all the partnerships that people had formed this year previous to starting were dissolved on the road, and even families sometimes separated.
On the 3rd of August we came to the Soda Springs, on Bear River. There is one group of five or six springs, and others scattered along the banks of the river. Shively, in a little work I saw before leaving the States, refers to one some distance from the river, which was not discovered by our party, and it is said to be the best one. I liked the water of the Soda Spring very much--think it is healthy. One half mile farther down the river is the Steamboat Spring, a very great curiosity. For a description, I refer you to Fremont.
We reached Fort Hall on the 7th of August, both very unwell. Everything very high there. Flour, forty dollars per barrel, and everything else in proportion. People setting out for Oregon should be careful to lay in a good supply of provisions. The quantity recommended by Hastings is too small, even if the journey be performed in five months. It requires from four to five months for wagons.
On the 8th we lay by 8 miles on this side of the Fort, where a Mr. Applegate, residing in the Willamette Valley, came to us and informed us that he was one of a party of explorers who had succeeded in finding a new road into the valley, nearer and better than the old one; that by taking it we would get into the settlements with all our property by the 28th of September. By such representations he induced every company that fell in his way to take the new route. Gov. Boggs, who was of our party, assured Mr. Thornton that he had known Mr. Applegate in Missouri, and knew him to be a man upon whose judgment and veracity confidence might be placed. The entire number of wagons that took that disastrous route amounted to upwards of one hundred and twenty. A few days after leaving the point at which Mr. A. left us, we left the old Oregon road, and turned our course down into California, along Ogden's River, through a sickly region, and among hostile Indians, who were very troublesome. They would steal or shoot the cattle whenever they had the least opportunity, which led to frequent skirmishes, in which several men were wounded. There were, however, but three killed on the route. After traveling several weeks in a south direction, we reached the point at which we were to turn our course and move towards Oregon. Disappointed as to the distance down this river, the quantity and quality of the grass and water, Gov. Boggs, persuaded that it would be no longer safe to rely upon information that thus far had proved incorrect, and being but sixty miles distant from the Sinks of Ogden's River, in Upper California, he at once, with some others, determined to proceed to the settlements in that country, which we are happy to learn, he reached in good time and in safety. We, however, felt reluctant to change our place of destination. We had been informed by Mr. Applegate that upon leaving Ogden's River we would have a drive of thirty miles without grass or water, but instead of thirty it proved to be sixty. On the morning of the third day, having traveled the whole of two days and one night, we came to a place where there was a hot spring, the waters of which tasted like soap suds. The people and cattle used this water, as it cooled in flowing off. We lay by at this place one day, and seven yoke of the strongest cattle were sent back to bring up Mr. Crump's wagon, whose team had failed during the night. The next day we traveled seven or eight miles to a place where there were several remarkable springs, one of which was a boiling spring, the others hot. We stayed at this place a day and a half, including two nights, for the purpose of recruiting the exhausted teams, preparatory to a drive of thirty-five miles through deep sand. That drive was made with great difficulty, but with the hope that at the end of it we would find healthy water and good grass, but in this hope we were doomed to be disappointed. The character of the water was the same, and the grass no better. Nearly every person in our company was at this time more or less unwell, and the teams were scarcely fit to travel. I have given you a brief history of eight days, from the time of leaving Ogden's River, and as were those days, so were many. We often had long drives without grass or water for the cattle, and frequently over bad roads, through canons, and over mountains. The dust was excessively annoying. It had been bad enough at times on the old road, but we found it was worse on this "cutoff." At length provisions began to grow scarce, some families being entirely out of flour, and teams were failing in consequence of fatigue and want of proper nourishment. The Indians were becoming more troublesome, wagons were turned over and broken, on roads so bad that they were almost impassable. I wish I had not lost that portion of my journal that was kept on the new road, so that I might be able to give dates. Someplace in the Klamath Valley a man whom Mr. T. had hired to drive his wagon turned it over in descending a very bad hill, and broke it. There was no timber which could be used to mend it, and it was left. But we succeeded in hiring another of a man who had two, and whose teams were no longer able to draw them both. In crossing the Siskiyou Mountain we were benighted, the wagons became very much scattered, and in that exposed situation we remained overnight, the poor animals having nothing to eat after their hard day's labor, and the people very little better off. The second day we got out of the mountain, and about noon to where there was water, but scarcely any grass. Our team, that had hitherto stood the journey remarkably well, failed on the morning of this day, and we had to leave our hired wagon, upon which the bed of our own had been placed, as I had it well arranged for sleeping in. Mr. T. hired two men to haul our most valuable property, and the balance, including our oiled tent, we were compelled to leave. Up to this time, although I have had to endure a great deal of fatigue and exposure, I had been comparatively comfortable; now I had to walk all day, and at night make my bed upon the ground, with the heavens for a canopy. Our supply of provisions was very small, and Mr. T.'s health failing daily. But as difficulties increased, my power of endurance increased. My health did not improve until I had to sleep in the open air.
A few days after we lost our team, our company were met by some men living in Oregon, who had come to meet their friends. They had beef cattle with them, which they sold to the different companies. Ours got two of them. I had never tasted beef so fine, nor enjoyed a dinner so much as the few I made of that excellent beef boiled and cold, without anything with it but salt. The gentlemen who met us informed us that it was little short of three hundred miles to the settlements--that the worst of the road was still before us; that they thought a part of it impassable to wagons; that certainly if the rainy season set in it would be impossible to get the wagons through a canon of the Umpqua Mountains. What a failing of hearts there was at hearing this intelligence. The teams were so weak as to be scarcely able to travel; the people had been suffering from want of sufficient and healthy food, and it was already past the season when the rains usually commenced. We were, too, in the country of the Rogue River Indians, whose character answers to their name. As for Mr. T. and myself, our trust was in God. The prospect was dark, but we felt that He who had already brought us through so many dangers could still deliver us. About the middle of November the rains did set in, which greatly increased the hardship of man and beast. As to Mr. T. and myself, we had to wade through mud and water by day, and at night make our bed down on the wet ground. Sometimes it would rain so hard that we would be compelled to get up and fold up the bedding, and put it under some pieces of oilcloth I had saved from the wagon cover, to prevent it from becoming thoroughly wet, as there was no opportunity for drying, and there we would stand by the fire until morning. From the time the rains commenced, until the 29th of November, we did not know what it was to be dry day or night. At length our party reached the Umpqua Mountains, and some of them succeeded in getting their teams three miles in one day. Some of the teams were so weak that their owners did not attempt it with their wagons. Those who made the first day's drive found it impossible to take their wagons any farther. They packed through whatever they could on horses and mules, and some of their strongest oxen. The men who had hauled for us could help us no longer. Bur Mr. T. hired a man to pack the best of our clothing, two blankets, one buffalo robe, and one small store of provisions through the mountains. We stayed by the balance a few days, it raining on all the time, but here we had a partial shelter. No opportunity being presented of sending anything more across, or rather through, the mountains, and learning that there was danger of the creek in the canon becoming so deep that it would not be possible to get through it, we resolved to leave all and escape. Mr. T. took his gun and some ammunition, and a piece of dried beef, and I two tin buckets. * * * And we set out accompanied by our greyhound Prince David that had accompanied us all the way from the States. We waded through mud and water four miles, and our way so hemmed in that we could not avoid it. We passed our families encamped on the road, there being no access to any other place. Wagons were scattered along, many of them with the property of the owners still in them; cattle were lying as they had fallen, many of them dead, others dying. Such distress could hardly be imagined. After pursuing our way four miles, we came to where Canon Creek occupies the entire width of the canon for the distance of three miles. At this place we were overtaken by a man and his wife whose tent we had passed in the morning. They were both in bad health; he carried their child, and she a small bundle under her arm and a frying pan on her back, suspended by a rope passed through the handle and round her neck. This family lost everything else. They and ourselves now entered the creek, a very rapid stream, the bed exceedingly rocky, and the water from two to four feet deep and rising, for the rain that was falling was melting the snow upon the mountains. We fell several times and could not have got along at all if we had not used sticks. Except when I fell, I do not remember to have been in the water more than waist high. Mr. T. went before me, and when it seemed too deep for more to venture, he would wade about until he would find a place more shallow. Before night we got to where the canon again widens, but we had still seven miles to travel before we got out of the mountain, and at least three to the place of general encampment. At this point we found Mr. Cornwall encamped; we stayed by his wife until morning in our wet clothes, without even a blanket to lie down upon. Mr. C. was in no condition to render us any assistance, except to spread a bed quilt over some poles to protect us a little from the rain. The next morning, after taking a very slight breakfast, we, with several others, continued our journey over steep and slippery hills. This day we waded Canon Creek twenty-eight times, and at last reached the South Fork of the Umpqua River, the place of general encampment, thankful that Canon Creek was no longer in our way, though our situation was still a melancholy one. Here we met many with whom we had traveled, and others whom we had never seen, most of them without anything to eat, except a miserable ox or cow was killed. Deer were seen, but they were very wild, and there were not horses upon which to hunt them, and the men were too feeble to hunt much on foot. Mr. T. set up some poles and stretched upon them one of the blankets we had sent through the canon, and our two small pieces of oilcloth, which afforded us a sort of shelter; a buffalo robe was our bed, and one blanket and Mr. T.'s cloak our covering. Here we lay ten days in a small valley, surrounded by mountains on which it snowed more or less every day, while in the valley it rained. Our fare in the morning was two spoonsful of broken crackers, some tea, and a little dried beef. At noon some of the poor beef cold, and without salt, and in the evening a little rice soup and tea. But we were better off than many, some not having tasted anything of which bread could be made for six weeks. Often when our scanty meal was prepared, someone would come to me and say, "I have not eaten anything for twenty-four hours." I would share with them. At length some men came out from the settlements with some horses, 750 pounds of flour, and two beeves. The provision was sold to the people. The supply to each family was small, and still it was a partial relief. Mr. T., by giving his best suit of clothes, his six-barreled revolving pistol, and his only remaining yoke of oxen, hired two of the horses, upon one of which we put our clothing, and the other we rode alternately. On the morning of the 18th of November we set off, with some others, for the Willamette Valley, leaving behind many of our fellow travelers, without any prospect of soon getting away.
(To be concluded next week.)Palmyra Weekly Whig, Palmyra, Missouri, October 7, 1847, page 2
LETTER FROM OREGON.In reaching the settlements we had a toilsome journey of fifteen days, most of which it rained upon us. We had deep streams to ford, difficult hills to climb, and the Calapooia Mountains to cross. The valleys were almost impassable, in consequence of being covered with water in many places, and the deep mud. We arrived at the settlement on the La Creole, on the 28th November, and on the 29th stopped at a Mr. Allen's, where we remained ten days to dry our clothes and rest ourselves after our disastrous and long journey of seven months and a half. I arrived at this city on the 23rd of December, where I met with a kind reception from Governor Abernethy and lady, to whom we had letters from their friends in Quincy. Mr. T. remained in the country till the 1st of Feb.
(Continued from our last.)
Thus far we are pleased with Oregon. The health of both of us is greatly improved. We were weighed about one month after we came off the journey. Mr. T. had gained 35 pounds on his weight in Quincy, and I 19. Mr. T.'s throat and lungs do not appear to get any better, but he has hopes that the dry season, that has now commenced, will be of advantage to him. The health of this country far surpasses what we had expected. There are some cases of the ague in the country in the spring and fall, but they readily yield to medicine. I am now threatened with chills, but hope I shall be able to keep them off. Whether we will continue to like the country, time will tell. Times are harder here now than they have ever been known before. But notwithstanding we think men may become independent here with less effort than is usually made among industrious people in the States. The soil is fertile and well adapted to pasturage, or the growth of wheat. Corn can be raised, but it does not prove a profitable crop. The country is remarkably well watered, and the climate generally mild, with but little snow in the winter. Occasionally there is what is called here a severe winter, which sometimes lasts three or four weeks. The last winter, we are informed, was the most severe that has been known for years. The thermometer was as low as two degrees above zero at this city. The snow in the upper part of the Willamette Valley fell to a depth of 18 inches. A great many cattle perished. The people here have not been in the habit of providing food or shelter for their cattle, because of the usual mildness of the climate, and the abundance of grass that continues green most winters. Provision is very scarce and high this spring. Many families have nothing to eat for weeks together but boiled wheat. Wheat is now selling at one dollar, and potatoes at seventy-five cents per bushel in cash. In trade, or the currency of the country, everything is higher. There is but little money in the country. All sorts of clothing are very dear here, except at Fort Vancouver, where you can purchase as cheaply as in the States, if you have the money to pay for them. It is believed that so soon as the government of the U. States extends its jurisdiction over this territory, there will be a favorable change as regards its pecuniary interests.
We have had intelligence that the treaty between the U. States and Great Britain has been confirmed. The Hudson's Bay Company are, or at least pretend to be, pleased with the conditions of the treaty.
The missionaries have done much for Oregon. But it is to be feared that the halcyon days of this country are over. The demon Intemperance has been let loose and is now stalking abroad over the country, withering the hopes of many in this infant colony. The time was when alcoholic drinks could not be obtained, but during the session of the last Legislature a bill was passed in favor of manufacturing and retailing ardent spirits. The Governor vetoed the bill and returned it the House, where it became a law, two-thirds, exactly, of the members voting for it. Since then there has been a great deal of intemperance, gambling &c. There is a law against selling it to the Indians, but it is not regarded, their testimony not being taken against a white man. * * *
In relation to the towns, there are but two of any importance; this city, situated on the Willamette River, just below the falls, and 30 miles from its mouth, and Portland, 12 miles below this, and situated at the head of ship navigation, which gives it its only importance. Except as we came through the Umpqua Valley, on our way into the settlements, we have not had much opportunity of seeing the country as yet. Oregon City has five hundred inhabitants, with a Methodist and a Roman Catholic church.
Women who undertake the journey to this country should provide themselves well with cotton and linsey dresses--they are the most suitable, and look decidedly more genteel on the road than anything else. It is important, too, to have a good supply of silk handkerchiefs, to keep the hair shielded from the dust. The dust and air injure the hair very much. Green goggles are indispensable to all, men and women. Oiled tents and wagon covers I would not recommend. They attract the rays of the sun, and are very inconvenient to handle. The best and most convenient form for a tent is circular. It need not be very large. Wagon covers ought to be lined with coarse baise or green blankets. Let people who start with wagons have them made light and strong, and of well-seasoned timber, and let them have at least one yoke of oxen more to every wagon than would at first seem necessary. Although everything here is scarce and high, I would not advise people to encumber themselves with anything, except perhaps clothing, more than will be really needed on the road; anything else will not repay the anxiety and trouble attendant on getting it here. If people have money, let them bring it to this country. It was our intention when we left Quincy not to travel on the Sabbath day, but although we traveled in various companies, we were compelled to continue our journey on that day, or be left. Yet we are convinced that it would be a saving of time to lie by on that holy day. The cattle must have rest, and if they do not get it at the proper time, they will require double afterwards to recruit them. Some argue that if they do stop on that day, they will have to wash, bake &c. That is altogether a mistake, for causes of detention arise sufficiently often to afford opportunities for everything of that kind.
Although the sufferings and losses of the people who came the route of Applegate and Goff to Oregon were great, still they will hardly compare with those of a party of twenty-three wagons who were induced to take a "cutoff" (as these new roads are very appropriately styled) into California, and had to remain in the mountains. With some of the sufferers we became acquainted while in Col. Russell's company. Sixteen of them, fearful of starvation, resolved to encounter all the obstacles in their way and try to reach the settlements. There were eleven of the strongest men, and five of the strongest women, who made the attempt. They had to cross mountains covered with snow to the depth of several feet. Of the sixteen, nine men perished, and their bodies served as food for the survivors. One woman saw her husband's heart roasted; another ate a part of the bodies of her father and brother. They were at one time thirty-six hours in a snow storm without fire. The seven who reached Capt. Wm. Johnston's settlement were almost naked, and their feet frozen. One of the two men was carried in on the back of an Indian. From the California Star we learn that relief has been sent to the sixty-odd souls that remained behind, but the probability is that they all perished. Let not such horrid stories discourage immigration to these countries. Those who kept the old road to each country got in with their property, and in good season, except a small party who arrived at Fort Hall late in the season. This party have wintered comfortably at Dr. Whitman's mission, in Middle Oregon. There are two Baptist missionaries in this country, Messrs. Fisher and Johnston. Mr. Johnston lives a mile below this city, where he preaches, I believe, once in two weeks.
I have written you a long letter; still I have not written one-third of what I would like to say. There are many persons in your neighborhood to whom Mr. Thornton and myself would be glad to write, but we cannot write to our friends individually. You will therefore oblige us by showing them this letter, faulty as it is. * * *
Palmyra Weekly Whig, Palmyra, Missouri, October 14, 1847, page 1
NARRATIVE OF JOSEPH CORNWALL [1832-1918]
CROSSING THE PLAINS TO OREGON IN 1846. REMINISCENCES.
Joseph Cornwall was a Presbyterian minister in Oregon and Washington. His last pulpit was at The Dalles, Oregon. He was the son of Josephus Cornwall. Josephus was tall--six feet two niches, with black eyes and black hair.
Rice Dunbar (our captain) and family; Mr. Brisbin and family; James Campbell and family, Bridges, Shelby, several families of Smiths, Hall family, Crump family, Dr. Kendle, Woods and family, Nye and Gates, Goode, Alderman, Judge Thornton and wife, Scales, Clarke, Putnam, Kennedy and family, my father's large family, including Byrd, Stoley and Chrisman. There are others I do not remember.
Nothing of special interest occurred until we reached the Humboldt or Mary's River, down which we followed many days. While traveling down the Humboldt we were met by a messenger from the train before us a few miles, who brought word that his train was attacked by Indians, and they wanted our help to fight them. We reached them by night. And sure enough they had a battle that day and drove the Indians away. As the result of that battle two or three were wounded, and one shot with poisoned arrows died.
Before leaving that river there was one death, Miss Mary Campbell. She was buried right in our road, and the whole train of wagons was driven over her grave to conceal it from the Indians. Miss Campbell died of mountain fever, and Mother by waiting on her caught the fever, and for a long while she lingered, apparently between life and death, but at last recovered.
In our journey we soon reached the point where the Applegate road left the Humboldt and faced north for Oregon. It was then past noon, and we had no guidebook of the road. Fifteen miles on the road brought us to a nice little spring where people could drink, but the stock could not. And a slip of paper left by the guides said it was twenty or twenty-five miles before we could reach water for the stock.
Father had three wagons, and we were not in the lead of the train that day. There were two ox wagons and a family carriage drawn by a span of mules. We appeared on the road in the following order: Our lead ox wagon, Dick Chrisman the driver, the other ox wagon driven by myself, and that was followed by the family carriage with Father the driver. It was night then, and our stock without water until we traveled twenty or twenty-five miles. They soon decided to travel that night, and then we started. Well, that was a night of great anxiety for Mother, for she thought of her boy, Joe, who after driving a team through the day was accustomed to sleep like a log through the night. Often I heard her voice calling, "Joe! Joe! Don't go to sleep! Wake up, Joe!" But Joe did go to sleep and lost his hat.
Fortunately the oxen were accustomed to follow the other wagon and the road was level and Joe did not fall out of the wagon. All went safe till daylight came and we reached water in abundance.
After resting a day we went forward only to find a long, dry and rocky road until we reached the neighborhood of Klamath Lake. There we found the Indians wild and hostile. One day a poor old man for some reason lagged behind and the Indians killed him. Besides they shot some of our stock with arrows.
We reached Goose Lake and camped by it one night. Soon after we reached the Siskiyou Mountains and had the first view of the Oregon pine, which we thought was [a] very handsome tree. We spent one night on the Siskiyou Mountain and reached the Rogue River Valley next day. There we saw the oak timber first after crossing the plains, and that gave a homelike expression to the country.
We camped one night on the bank of the Rogue River and the Indians stole one of our best horses. We traveled down the valley on the west side of the river to a point near Grants Pass and camped near the river. There before we left the camp in broad daylight the Indians attempted to steal a cow, but our men guarding the cattle drove them away. From there we soon reached the Umpqua canyon, and there we all camped for a day. We found that all were in dread of the canyon, which we heard was a very bad road.
Father went forward from camp to see the prospect and reported the road barely passable. He had a herder and owned most of the loose cattle in the train. Father killed a beef and divided it among the families of the train. He then took his herder to help with the wagons and we started on, leaving the company to rest another day and leaving his loose stock to come on in the herd. With our stock weak and poor and over bad roads, we spent the first day going some three miles and camped for the night. But a real surprise came before we retired. It began to rain on us, for it was then October, and the Oregon rains began.
Next day we started on, but soon our road turned in to the cold mountain stream of the canyon, and it was death to our poor weak oxen, and nearly all of them gave out or died that day. But we reached a level spot and camped. When we heard from the rest of our train, they came on one day and their oxen gave out and we were left almost helpless, far from the end of our journey. Several of the old people died from the shock. And all but Father had to leave their wagons, and most of them had to foot it into the Willamette Valley. By joining teams with another friend Father saved his wagons and took them on through the canyon. Before we left camp the people from our train passed our camp, and they were in a sorry plight. Most of the men, women and children were on foot, and even women and children often carrying heavy burdens of bedding or other goods.
As to ourselves we left camp to go through the canyon in the following order: Miss Chrisman, Byrd and Stoley went first, and carried the tent. Shortly afterward the family followed. Mother was put on a gentle mule, and she carried Laura, then an infant. Sister Lizzie and myself were able to help ourselves. Father went on afoot before us and led Narcissa and George. We were all on foot, except our mother and Laura. Much of the time we were in the water and sometimes deep wading.
We passed through the canyon sometime before night, and we found our tent stretched and we moved into it once more. But what became of the cattle? They were left to care for themselves. But when the people came they also went on through the canyon. Four of our cows and three oxen were left. But it was said that the Indians there were wild and hostile. One day when I was after some stock on an active mule they tried to capture me. But I rode safely to camp. We heard that the Indians burned all the wagons left in the canyon by our train. We were among the last to leave the canyon.
We passed on to our winter camp near where the town of Oakland now stands. But we learned afterward that a worthy man named Newton of our train was killed by the Indians somewhere near the present town of Roseburg.
One cause of Father's anxiety was that he had a library, which was large and heavy and could only be transported in wagons. He arrived at our winter camp with his books and wagons too. I suppose it was after the middle of October, 1846, when we reached our winter camp. And we soon decided to remain there until spring.
From the canyon to our winter camp we find little to mention, except scant rations, poor teams, bad roads and slow travel.
But now we have reached camp for winter; let us resume our narrative. Our herder, Mr. Byrd, went on with James Campbell to the Willamette to try to get help for us. And Father sent some letters to friends asking for help. Mr. Byrd found a Mr. Middleton Simpson, an old friend of Father's, on the Luckiamute. And he sent a sack of flour and a mule to help us on to the Willamette, but that was all the help we got till spring. But that was a valuable treat then.
Another rare sight to us was a herd of very fat beef cattle driven out to us. I never saw fatter cattle than those, and Father managed to buy one of the best. We kept the tallow for seasoning. And having plenty of milk, and deer being plentiful, and my cousin Stoley with us being an excellent hunter, we were well insured against starvation. But we had no bread or salt, and that we found a sad misfortune. And just here let me say that somehow word came to us that our commissary store might be replenished by a visit of someone to the fort of the Hudson's Bay Company, a day's journey or two down the Umpqua. Having a good riding mule, my cousin Stoley volunteered to go to the fort for supplies. A half bushel of peas, a half bushel of good, clean wheat, a handful of salt was all that he could get. But I suppose that was liberal for that day. And that was our supply of provisions until the next April. I must say of our neighbors, the Indians, that generally they behaved well and were peaceable and quiet.
But let me say that when we camped there, Father by some little presents secured the good will of the neighboring chief. The chief was called by the Indians "Capitan."
I may say that the food of the Indians consisted mostly of a vegetable resembling an onion [camas] but [which] was prepared by a process of cooking that gave it much the taste of a sweet potato. That root was gathered by the squaws in moist lands.
In midwinter, Father decided to build a log cabin, having brought with him an ax, a crosscut saw, a froe and the timber being near made that an easy task. And I may say here that near our camp was some of the best cedar timber that I ever saw. With that we made some of the finest boards and puncheons that I ever saw. We finished our cabin about the Christmas holidays and moved in from our tent. Just behind our cabin stood a fir tree, having very thick foliage and a brushy top 50 feet high.
As spring approached and on bright days we heard a mysterious hooting up in that tree, and we searched but could find nothing. That was the first grouse we heard hooting. It made us laugh when we found out what it was.
April came at last with its warm sun, its gentle breeze and pretty flowers. And that all made us restless to go forward and finish our journey, our journey to the Willamette, our daydream for many months. Sure enough, on the 9th day of April our friends from the Willamette came at about 10:00 a.m., and I need not say that we were glad. But I must record their names here: They are Joseph Hess, Clark Rogers and Josiah Nelson,
It was just a year since we had left our old home in Arkansas. But we started with glad hearts. Capitan and Jo, his sub-chief, came to say goodbye. Father gave his cabin to Capitan, and I will always remember him as a noble Indian, a good friend, honest and reliable.
We went a short day's journey and camped. Next day we crossed the Calapooia Mountain and reached the Willamette Valley. We passed down the valley on the west side over the sites where the towns of Cottage Grove, Eugene, Corvallis and Dallas now are, and it is hard to realize that it was all a wilderness then. But so it was. We passed on down to Chehalem Valley, where the parties lived who rescued us. And then we were at the end of our journey to Oregon. And now I am glad that I have finished my narrative.
(signed) J. H. Cornwall.University of Oregon typescript CB C816
We went down Emigrant Creek and camped on it another night. The next day we struck Bear Creek, traveled for some distance down its beautiful and fertile valley, when we crossed the broad prairie and camped at the Willow Springs, between this creek and Rogue River. The next night we camped on Rogue River just above the Point of Rocks, a place afterwards rendered famous, and a dreaded Thermopylae to travelers during the wars with the treacherous and bloodthirsty Rogue River Indians.
Captain Medders Vanderpool had a fine flock of about fifty head of sheep which he had brought safely through the buffalo-wolves, and all the other dangers of the long journey thus far, but one morning while we were eating breakfast at a camp on Rogue River just below the Point of Rocks they were driven off by the Indians, and we were compelled to go on without making an effort to recapture them.
After we had left camp about a quarter of a mile there was also a cow reported missing. Several of us went back to search for her and found the Indians butchering her, near the camp. The Rogues ran off into the bushes and did not show themselves again. So we were compelled to go on, leaving the beef with them as well as the mutton.
We traveled down Rogue River about forty or fifty miles, and crossed it at a place where the ford was rather deep and rough. It is a swift, turbulent, and rapid stream, and there are not many places where it can be forded with safety, even late in the fall when it is at its lowest stage.
The second day after we crossed Rogue River, we came to a place where the road cutters had done nothing, and it was impossible for us to pass with the wagons. So the train was brought to a halt. I went forward, and after searching for a long time I found a place where we could pass by cutting through the thick bushes for about a furlong. The place where the horse trail passed was too rough, and could not easily be made passable for wagons. We went to work on the line I had blazed out and cut our way through the woods, which brought us out near the Tetalum, or Louse Creek, as it it now called by the realistic and unpoetical people who live along its banks.
In two or three days after passing this place we reached the Jump-off-Jo, where the road cutters had again done nothing, and we were compelled to stop and cut our way through to the open ground beyond, which occupied us for several hours, working all the available force of the company.
Three days from here we struck the head of a small branch running into Grave Creek, which we followed down to its junction, through heavy timber and thick bushes. The road had been so poorly opened that the train was frequently compelled to stop and remove obstacles that ought to have been cleared away by the party in advance of us.
As we came down this branch Miss Leland Crowley died. The wagon in which the sick girl lay stopped while she was dying, and those behind could not pass. This made a breach in the train, as those in front still continued to advance without noticing that those in the rear were delayed.
This circumstance, perhaps, caused the Indians who were constantly skulking in the woods near us to become more bold and to venture upon us more closely. They shot one of the oxen of Virgil K. Pringle as it stood in the team with an arrow, wounding it so that the animal soon died. Yet the savage who aimed the arrow from the thick bushes by the roadside was so completely concealed that he was not seen at all, for it was late in the twilight of the evening.
About the time that Pringle’s ox was shot on the right-hand side of the road, one of the teamsters noticed that his dog turned up his hair and snuffed towards the thick bushes on the left-hand side, where the drivers stood. On looking in the direction indicated by the dog he saw an Indian about fifteen paces from the road, with a gun resting on top of a large log and pointed towards him. He hissed on the dog, at the same time springing into the wagon to get his rifle. At his bidding his own dog and two others dashed at the Indian who, finding himself thus suddenly assailed and by such a formidable and unlooked-for force, fled precipitately into the thick forest and instantly disappeared from sight.
But the resolute dogs pressed upon him and soon caught him, for we could distinctly hear what seemed to be a life-and-death struggle between them for a few minutes, about a hundred yards away in the thicket. After the struggle had gone on for five minutes or more it ceased, and the dogs came back to us. One of them was severely, but not mortally, wounded with an arrow which was sticking in his side. We supposed that they had either killed the Indian, or that he had been succored by some of his comrades. At the very least, he must have been fearfully mangled by the dogs.
When Miss Crowley was dead, the rear part of the train moved on again and came into its place in the camp after dark.
The next morning we moved up a little and crossed the main creek, where we stopped to bury the dead girl. Mrs. Tabitha Brown, a generous and noble-hearted widow lady, who afterwards founded the college at Forest Grove in the Tualatin Plains, gave the upper sideboards of her wagon to make a coffin. We dug the grave in the middle of the corral, or circle of the camp, and after depositing the remains we filled it up level with the surface of the ground, replacing the sods which had first been carefully removed so as to give it the appearance of the natural, unbroken ground as much as possible. We then corralled all the stock so that they should tread over the grave, and when we got ready to start, drove all the wagons, one after another, over it in the hope of so obliterating all traces of it as to prevent the Indians from finding or disturbing it.
Levi Scott, 1888, as told to James Layton Collins, From Independence to Independence, unpublished typescript by Dean Collins 1967, SOHS 994.15.1, pages 191-194
Our journey [in 1846], with little exception, was pleasing and prosperous until after we passed Fort Hall. Then we were within eight hundred miles of Oregon City, if we had but kept on the old road down the Columbia River.
THE FALSE GUIDE.But three or four trains of emigrants were decoyed off by a rascally fellow who came out from the settlement in Oregon assuring us that he had found a new cutoff, that if we would follow him we would be in the settlement long before those who had gone down the Columbia. This was in August. The idea of shortening a long journey caused us to yield to his advice. Our sufferings from that time no tongue can tell. He said he would clear the road before us, so that we should have no trouble in rolling our wagons after him. But he robbed us of what he could by lying, and left us to the depredations of Indians and wild beasts, and to starvation. But God was with us. We had sixty miles of desert without grass or water, mountains to climb, cattle giving out, wagons breaking, emigrants sick and dying, hostile Indians to guard against by night and day, if we could save ourselves and our horses and cattle from being arrowed or stolen.
We were carried hundreds of miles south of Oregon into Utah Territory and California, fell in with the Klamath and Rogue River Indians, lost nearly all our cattle, passed the Umpqua Mountains, 12 miles through. I rode through in three days at the risk of my life, on horseback, having lost my wagon and all that I had but the horse I was on. Our families were the first that started through the canyon, so that we got through the mud and rocks much better than those that followed. Out of hundreds of wagons, only one came through without breaking. The canyon was strewn with dead cattle, broken wagons, beds, clothing and everything but provisions, of which latter we were nearly all destitute. Some people were in the canyon two or three weeks before they could get through. Some died without any warning, from fatigue and starvation. Others ate the flesh of cattle that were lying dead by the wayside.
. After struggling through mud and water up to our horses' sides much of the way in crossing this 12-mile mountain, we opened into the beautiful Umpqua Valley, inhabited only by Indians and wild beasts. We had still another mountain to cross, the Calapooia, besides many miles to travel through mud, snow, hail and rain.
A DREADFUL JOURNEY.Winter had set in. We were yet a long distance from any white settlement. The word was, "fly, everyone that can, from starvation, except those who are compelled to stay by the cattle to recruit them for further travel." Mr. Pringle and Pherne insisted on my going ahead with Uncle John [Brown, Tabitha Brown's brother-in-law] to try to save our own lives. They were obliged to stay back a few days to recruit their cattle. They divided up the last bit of bacon, of which I had three slices; I also had a cup full of tea. No bread. We saddled our horses and set off, not knowing if we should ever see each other again. Captain Brown was too old and feeble to render any assistance to me. I was obliged to ride ahead as a pilot, hoping to overtake four or five wagons that left camp the day before. Near sunset we came up with the families that had left that morning. They had nothing to eat, and their cattle had given out. We all camped in an oak grove for the night, and in the morning I divided my last morsel with them and left them to take care of themselves. I hurried Captain Brown so as to overtake the three wagons ahead. We passed beautiful mountains and valleys, saw but two Indians in the distance during the day. In the afternoon, Captain Brown complained of sickness and could only walk his horse at a distance behind. He had a swimming in his head and a pain in his stomach. In two or three hours he became delirious and fell from his horse. I was afraid to jump down from my horse to assist him, as it was one that a woman had never ridden before. He tried to rise up on his feet, but could not. I rode close to him and set the end of his cane, which I had in my hand, hard in the ground to help him up. I then urged him to walk a little. He tottered along a few yards and then gave out. I then saw a little sunken spot a few steps ahead and led his horse to it, and with much difficulty got him raised to the saddle. I told him to hold fast to the horse's mane and I would lead by the bridle. Two miles ahead another mountain to climb over. As we reached the foot of it he was able to take the bridle in his own hand and we passed over safely into a large valley, a wide solitary place, but no wagons in sight.
The sun was now setting, and the wind was blowing and the rain was drifting upon the sides of the distant mountain. Poor me! I crossed the plain to where three mountain spurs met. Here the shades of night were gathering fast, and I could see the wagon tracks no further. Alighting from my horse, I flung off saddle and saddle-pack and tied the horse to a tree with a lasso rope. The Captain asked me what I was going to do. My answer was, "I am going to camp for the night." He gave a groan and fell to the ground. I gathered my wagon sheet, which I had put under my saddle, flung it over a projecting limb of a tree and made me a fine tent. I then stripped the Captain's horse and tied him, placed saddle, blankets and bridles under the tent, then helped up the bewildered old gentleman and introduced him to his new lodging upon the bare ground. His senses were gone. Covering him as well as I could with blankets, I seated myself upon my feet behind him expecting he would be a corpse before morning.
THE SITUATION.Pause for a moment and consider the situation. Worse that alone, in a savage-infested wilderness, without food, without fire, cold and shivering, wolves fighting and howling all around me. Dark clouds even hid the stars. All as solitary as death. But that same kind Providence that I had always known was watching over me still. I committed all to Him and felt no fear. As soon as light dawned, I pulled down my tent, saddled my horse, found the Captain able to stand on his feet. Just at this moment, one of the emigrants whom I was trying to overtake came up. He was in search of venison. Half a mile ahead were the wagons I hoped to overtake, and we were soon there and ate plentifully of fresh meat. Within eight feet of where my tent had been set fresh tracks of two Indians were to be seen, but I did not know that they were there. They killed and robbed Mr. Newton only a short distance off but would not kill his wife because she was a woman. They killed another man on our cutoff, but the rest of the emigrants escaped with their lives. We traveled on for a few days and came to the foot of the Calapooia Mountain. Here my children and my grandchildren came up with us, a joyful meeting.
Excerpted from "A Brimfield Heroine--Mrs. Tabitha Brown," Oregon Historical Quarterly, June 1904, pages 199-202. Written August 1854. Mrs. Brown was sixty-six years of age during the journey. A longer version of the letter is found in "The Brimfield Heroine Letter," in Ella B. Spooner, The Brown Family History, Laurel, Montana 1929. The widely reprinted version found in Webb Research Group's "Over the Applegate Trail to Oregon in 1846: is an abridged version of these letters.
CAPTAIN DUNBAR'S CO. 1846
THE APPLEGATE ROUTE FROM FT. HALL.
Narcissa Cornwall Moore
Daughter of J. A. Cornwall
Narcissa Cornwall Moore was a sister of J. H. Cornwall, and of Elizabeth Cornwall Geiger, wife of Dr. Wm. Geiger, of the Whitman Mission.
At Fort Hall several companies of emigrants were met by one Jesse Applegate, who came out from the Willamette Valley assuring them he had found a much shorter road into the settlement than the old road down the Columbia River. This was in August. Several companies, I think about three, decided to take this cutoff, which led them hundreds of miles into Utah and California. We soon found we had made a terrible mistake. This narrative refers particularly to what was known as Captain Dunbar's Co.; the persons who composed this company, so far as I remember, were as follows:
John H. Bridges, single, Daniel Goode, single, Rice Dunbar and family, father of Judge O. R. Dunbar, James Campbell and family and negro boy, Edward, J. Quinn Thornton and wife, Mr. Shelby, single, lawyer, James Smith and family, Henry Smith and family, James Crump and family, Miss Adeline Social, Ira Farley and mother, Mrs. Colwell, widow and children, Mr. Loveland and family, Morgan Savage and wife, Henry Croizen and wife, Henry Hall, young man, Daniel Boone and family (his daughter married Gov. George L. Curry), Mr. Nye and Mr. Gates, bachelors, Grandpa Brisbin, Mr. Perkins and family, Mr. Hall and family, Mr. Long and family, Daniel Culver, bachelor, Mr. Van Bebber and family, Mr. Kennedy, wife and grandson, William Smith and family (he died in the canyon), Mrs. Burns, widow and children (husband died on the plains), Mr. Newton and wife (he was killed by Indians in the canyon), Rev. J. S. Cornwall and family and three men as help, Israel Stoley (cousin), and Richard Chrisman drove the two ox teams and Lorenzo Byrd drove the loose cattle. (He is the father of Dr. W. H. Byrd of Salem, Oregon, an old neighbor of the Cornwall family in Ark.) Albert Alderman, single, father of ex-State School Superintendent Alderman, William Brisbin, single.
The road was almost impassable in a great many places, and we were oftentimes compelled to camp without water. And sometimes there were trees fallen across the road which the wagons could not pass under until they had let down the bows from the top of the wagons. And in places there were logs which had to be cut away before the wagons could pass. We finally arrived at the Umpqua canyon.
Our train arrived at the canyon in the afternoon. All were called to look down the hill at the entrance of the canyon. It seemed almost perpendicular and [it] did not seem possible for a wagon and team to get down it, but they did. The emigrants were almost entirely out of provisions; all of their groceries were gone. There were several families who had small bands of cattle, mostly cows. They decided some person must kill a beef, and as Father had the largest band of cows it fell to him to furnish the beef. Father told me to pick out one and kill it, but they were to drive our cattle through the canyon, which was about twelve miles, as we were intending to start into the canyon next morning and needed all our men with the wagons. The next morning we started with our two wagons and carriage and two other wagons. They fastened ropes to the wagons and held them back to keep them from pitching over onto the oxen, and in spite of all their care one wagon turned completely over onto the team. We traveled until the middle of the afternoon through a drenching rain. We made up a fire and as we were thoroughly chilled decided to camp for the night and go on in the morning, but when morning came we found several of our oxen had died during the night. We were compelled to remain in camp, but the two wagons who were with us continued their journey through the canyon. The remainder of the company never attempted to bring their wagons into the canyon but abandoned them and started to bring their families through on foot. Some had a gentle horse or ox on which they packed their small children, but the most of them were afoot.
Our camp made a nice stopping place for the tired and hungry emigrants. There was plenty of wood, and we kept up a rousing fire night and day and a great many stopped with us overnight. They were always cold and hungry, and we often had to divide what little we had to eat, which was not really enough for ourselves, as we were entirely out of flour and all kinds of groceries. The starved emigrants would eat anything. We generally had plenty of meat, but could hardly get a chance to cook it, as they would beg for the beef when it was only put on to boil. We often would take the meat off the fire and hide it in the bushes when we heard a crowd coming. We had scarcely enough for ourselves, nothing to divide.
We remained in this camp several weeks. Father and our hired men had taken several loads of our things out of the canyon on mules, and we had given up all hope of taking our wagons any farther. This seemed a very unfortunate camp for us, and to add to our troubles, Father was kicked by a mule and had three ribs broken. By the time he was able to travel the river had risen until the wagon road was impassable, and we were compelled to go [by] the pack trail, which ran along the edge of the bluff. We decided to leave this camp and Father cached his books, thinking he would return in the spring and get them.
Early in the morning we all started on foot except Mother. We had a good, gentle mule, and we got a sidesaddle and Mother rode, carrying the baby, and a man (Byrd) walked by her side holding onto the saddle and helping her in any way she needed. The rest of us walked, each one carrying something. The road was very rough and steep in many places. We crossed streams of water often, which we found were very cold and deep. My brother and I could not cross the streams alone, and Father was carrying such a load that he could not help us but told us to catch hold of him when the water was too deep for us. We crossed streams a number of times where our feet did not touch the bottom. I carried a coffee pot with a bail to it and would bring it out full of water every time we crossed a deep stream. We found walking in our wet clothing very tiresome, and my brother thought he could not go any farther. We sat down and rested and I told him I would take our cloaks and hang them on the bushes beside the road and some person would see them and take them into camp. We found this a great help about walking, as they were very heavy and thoroughly soaked with water. In a few days our cloaks were brought into camp and were turned over to us. The rest of the crowd got far ahead of us, and we did not see them anymore until we reached camp.
It was nearly dark when we reached camp. The men had stretched our tent and built up a large fire and we warmed and dried ourselves. Supper was soon prepared by our sister, Elizabeth, a girl of seventeen. We had given up all hope of taking our wagons any farther when a man who had left his wagons at the entrance of the canyon offered Father a yoke of oxen to work into the settlements if he would give him one of his wagons. Father accepted his offer, and our wagons were brought out of the canyon and we were able to bring many things we expected to leave, among them our books. It was said Father brought the largest library ever brought across the plains. Only about four cows of our band ever came out of the canyon.
We soon started on our journey. Our two mules were only able to carry their harness, and the oxen could only draw the wagon, and the family all walked except Mother. I was nearly ten and my brother, George, two years younger than myself, walked every day through rain and snow. We finally decided to stop near where the town of Oakland now stands. We remained some time undecided what to do. The snow was getting pretty deep. There were a lot of emigrants at this camp; some were starting almost every day. They were mostly on foot, all trying to reach the settlements. Father decided to build a cabin and remain there until spring. Mother was not able to undertake such a trip, as she was suffering with the mountain fever, which she had caught from laying out persons who had died with it.
Our cabin was finished after Christmas, and we moved in. It was real warm, and we found it quite a change from camping out in the rain and snow. There was a large fireplace and a place for our beds, made after the style of the camp meeting scaffold running all the way across the end of the cabin. Under this we stored our trunks and things left by the emigrants. They were to return for them in the spring. Back of our cabin a corral was made of brush where we kept our mules and cows at night to keep the Indians from stealing them. There was a shed on one side under which our wagon stood. Israel Stoley slept in this with several loaded guns by his side. The Indians had but few guns; in fact we only saw one among them, and this one belonged to a Mr. Newton, a member of our company who was killed by the Indians near the canyon. This Indian had Mr. Newton's horse, and when the emigrants came for their things they bought the horse and took it into the valley and gave it to the widow.
A number of the Indians moved their camps near us. One morning we noticed unusual confusion in the Indian camps. Someone of us ran over to the camps to see what the trouble was, and we discovered they were all fighting among themselves, both men and women, and little children were screaming. They made everyone large enough fight. They used the sticks with which they dug camas, and some of them were terrible cut and bruised. We all stood and watched them through their battle, but we never knew why they did it.
It was after Christmas when we moved into our cabin. We were entirely out of groceries of all kinds. We did not even have salt. We had plenty of venison. Israel Stoley was a fine hunter, and he seldom failed to bring in a nice fat deer. After our cows were fat Father killed a young heifer. This gave us fat with which to cook our venison as well as beef. We had three milk cows left which gave us all the milk we needed. There was an abundance of camas, a vegetable which grew wild on the prairies and was used by the Indians about the same as we use potatoes. There were two kinds; one kind the Indians told us was poison. They taught us how to dig them, and then would sort them for us, picking out the poisonous ones. We baked them like potatoes, but they were not so good as the way the Indians cooked them. They would heat rocks and dig a place in the hot ground and pour them in and then put in the hot rocks and cover them up with dirt and leave them in the ground for at least twenty-four hours. We would buy them from the Indians, wash and dry them and then eat them with our milk.
There was an old lady in our company who taught us how to make blood pudding. The blood from the beef or deer was caught in a vessel, and they cut up little pieces of suet or fat in the blood and then added a little salt if they had it and then they would bake it. It was considered very good by the hungry emigrants.
All of the families were entirely out of provisions, and the men were not always successful in killing wild game. Sometimes they would eat crows and cut meat from dead cattle. It seemed a shame when deer was so plentiful. We learned the country where we were was called the Umpqua Valley, but there were about as many Calapooia Indians as there were Umpquas living there, but I suppose the country really belonged to the Umpqua Indians. Father told the chief we wanted to stay there until spring, and if he would not allow his men to steal our cattle and mules, or trouble us in any way, in the spring when we were ready to leave we would make presents and have the emigrants who had left their things with us give them presents.
We were about ten miles from the Umpqua River, and the Indians living there would often come and spend the greater part of the day. There was one who spoke English, and he told Mother the Rogue River Indians were coming to kill us. Mother told them if they troubled us in the spring the Bostons, the Indian name for the white people, would come out and kill them all off. Whether this had any effect or not I don't know, but anyway they did not kill us. But we always thought they came one day for that purpose. Father was busy reading and did not notice the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke about it. Most all of them wore blankets or skins over their shoulders, and we could not tell what they had concealed under these. As soon as Father noticed them he got up and got his pistols and asked the Indians to go out and see him shoot. They followed him out, but kept at a distance. The pistols were a great curiosity to them. I doubt if they had ever seen any before. As soon as they were all out of the cabin Mother barred up the door and would not let them in anymore. Father entertained then outside until evening, when they got on their ponies and rode away. They never returned to trouble us anymore. They seemed satisfied.
Israel Stoley concluded to go on a hunting trip and camp out for the night. He took the two mules and an Indian who spoke English--he was a Calapooia and very friendly to us. They returned next evening with the mules loaded with deer. When he dressed the deer he gave the Indian the skins and such parts as he did not care for himself. While Stoley was away the Indians took advantage of his absence and made a raid on our camp and stole everything they could carry off. We were drying a lot of deer meat for an old man by the name of Culver, whom we were going to send into the settlements for help. They took the meat. This caused him to give up his trip until later on. Father sent for the old chief and told him what they had done. He made them return some things, but they kept all the clothing. They found Stoley was gone and no person in the wagon, so they helped themselves.
We were getting anxious to start on towards the Willamette. We could have gone ourselves, but many of the emigrants had left all their clothing with us and Father would not go off and leave them, for we knew it would be a long time before they would be able to get any more.
We tried more deer meat and started our man on his way to the Willamette Valley for help. He had only been gone but a few days when early one morning we saw him coming. We all ran out to meet him and hear the news. Mr. Culver told us he had met a man by the name of Joseph Hess and two young men, Josiah Nelson and Clark Rogers, coming for us. They were from the Chehalem Valley near where the town of Newberg, Yamhill County, now stands, and Mr. Nelson still lives there, but the other two have long since passed to the other shore.
The emigrants who had left their things with us most all arrived that day or the next. Our preparations for our journey were short, and we bade adieu to our neighbors, some of them looking sorrowful with tears in their eyes when they saw us drive away. We were all delighted to start on our journey to the settlement. We had been a long time on our way. Mr. Hess had brought flour, coffee and salt. He had known Father back in Arkansas. He was surely a friend indeed, as well as we a friend in need. We traveled through a beautiful country. We hardly ever passed a place where any person lived. We finally reached the home of Mr. Hess, where we met his family. Mrs. Hess soon prepared us a good dinner, which we all enjoyed very much.
After dinner we moved into a cabin on the homestead of Josiah Nelson, near the home of Mr. Hess. He continued to help us when we needed help. He would often kill a beef, and we always got a piece, and when they cut a cheese we were always remembered with a generous piece.
We soon got acquainted with the neighbors, and Father was invited to preach in their houses where they were large enough. Lewis Rogers, an old settler in the Chehalem Valley, had the largest house, and he generally preached in his house.
There was a band of Spanish cattle in the valley which were a terror to the neighborhood. They belonged to a man by the name of Sydney Smith. They were brought from California by a man by the name of Ewing Young, who died. I have often seen his grave.
Father started out to hunt land on which to file a homestead, as all the good land in the Chehalem Valley was already taken up. He heard of the Tualatin Plains and went there to look at the country and became acquainted with the Rev. Harvey Clark, who was a Congregational minister, and Alvin T. Smith, an elder in Mr. Clark's church. He was a very pious man, and I have heard he would never let a traveler stay all night Saturday unless he would remain until Monday, and he whipped his cow because she bawled on Sunday. Anyway we found him to be an excellent man. They prevailed on Father to move there and teach their school and preach. Mr. Smith came to help us move. We bade our Chehalem neighbors farewell and moved to the Tualatin Plains. We moved into a house in Mr. Clark's dooryard, but it was only partly finished. There was no fireplace, and such a thing as a cook stove was hardly thought of in those days. We made a fire outside and cooked the same as we had in crossing the plains.
There was an old house standing nearby which we decided to fix up for our winter residence. Father and my brother built a chimney and made a partition through the house, and we were soon settled for the winter. Our cabin stood near where the Congregational Church now stands in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon. While living there my youngest sister, who is now Mrs. Anna Shinn, was born. A few days before moving into our new house my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was married to Dr. William Geiger, who owned a home about two miles from where we were living. Dr. Geiger had lived at the Whitman Mission. He was left in care of the mission while Dr. Whitman made a trip east of the mountains. This was the winter of forty-three. The Whitmans were killed by the Cayuse Indians in November, 1847.
While we were living at Mr. Clark's, Dr. Whitman and his nephew, Perrin Whitman, called one afternoon for a short visit with Mr. Clark's family. My mother asked him if his wife was not afraid to live among the Indians. He said that Mrs. Whitman would say when any person spoke of being afraid that the Indians never killed women.
Father soon began teaching. I don't think he ever received a dollar in money, but we were supplied with vegetables, meat and flour. Either Father or Mr. Clark preached every Sunday, and they kept up a sabbath school, Dr. Geiger being superintendent.
That fall the news came that Dr. and Mrs. Whitman had been murdered, and a runner came to our house in the night and called Father and asked him if he had a gun. He answered that he had a gun and two large pistols. He told him to keep them loaded and be prepared to protect his family, as they were expecting Indians to attack the settlers any night.
The cabin in which we were living had been used for a church house for a long time, and the graveyard was nearby. There were a number of funerals during the winter.
Father dug a well a long ways from the house, and I had to carry most all the water for the house and for washing. We had no barrel and only one pail, and our cooking utensils were an oven and two coffee pots, in one of which we made our wheat or pea coffee; in the other we cooked meat or vegetables.
The family all went to school during the day except me and my two little sisters. I was left at home to do the housework and cooking and take care of Mother, who was sick. It was a pretty hard task for a girl of eleven years who had never been used to work, but when anything was to be done call a darkie to do it. I was almost too tired when night came to sleep. Father kept a fire burning all night, and I was always called to get up in the night to look after the baby. I had to get up before daylight to get breakfast so the folks could get off to school. There was a young minister who came to live with us; he never helped about anything. I had to wash his clothes, starch and iron his white shirts. We had no starch, and I would scrape potatoes and put them in water and the starch would settle on the bottom. This made a very good starch.
We had three milk cows, and I was expected to make enough butter for the table. I would save up the cream, but we had no churn, having thrown ours away on the plains. I would take the cream to a neighbor's and churn, then carry it home and dress the butter.
I learned how to make squash pies, and I often spent a whole afternoon baking pies, but I could only bake one at a time. I had no shoes. We started with several pairs apiece, but did not make allowance for our growing feet. I set the only pair that I could wear too near the fire and they drew up so I couldn't get them on. Mrs. Joseph Gale made me three pairs of moccasins, and I gave her my gaiters in exchange for them, as they fitted her oldest daughter.
By the next spring, 1848, my father had found a location that suited him in Yamhill County on the South Yamhill River, about three miles south of McMinnville. There was a cabin on the place. In the spring we moved to our new home, but it was not finished enough to live in and we moved into William Rogers' cabin nearby and lived there until ours was ready. It was not long until ours was ready and we moved in, but it did not seem like the lovely home we had left in Arkansas, but it seemed better than moving from place to place.
We soon got seed wheat and potatoes. We had brought garden seed with us, and we began making garden.
There was one thing we all had, and that was good health. My brothers began making rails, and we soon had a garden and a small field fenced and a good garden planted, and it really began to seem like home.
University of Oregon typescript CB C816
Mr. Harry L. Wells
In compliance with your request made some time ago I now attempt to fulfill the promise then made to you. I am sorry that I could not have fulfilled my promise sooner, but your request came to me at a very busy time, and a man of my age does not feel much like writing at night after working in the field all day.
The company that left Snake River near the mouth of Raft River on the 22nd day of August 1847 consisted of 11 wagons and the following named persons, to wit:
John Grimsley, wife and five children
Abraham Coryell and two sons, Lewis and George, both grown
Benjamin Davis, wife and six children
Ira Wells, wife and child. The child fell out of the wagon on the north bank of the North Umpqua River and both wheels ran across its head and killed it and the child was hauled to where Eugene City is now and buried on the land claim of E. F. Skinner, the former proprietor of Eugene City.
Daniel Wells and wife
William Wyatt, wife and two or three children
William Aldrich and wife, son
Andrew Welsh, wife and two or three children
William Johnson, an old bachelor
William Risk, a single man
John Bonser, a single man
Daniel Cook, a single man
Thomas Smith, a single man
The above persons, my own name included, compose the company with which I came through the Modoc country in the fall of 1847. Quite a number have passed to that bourne from whence there is no return.
Some of them were still living at last accounts:
John Grimsley, Corvallis, Benton County, Ogn.
William Wyatt, Philomath, Benton County, Ogn.
Ira Wells, Elkton, Douglas County, Ogn.
And the last account I have [for] Lewis Coryell was at Pleasant Hill, Lane County, Ogn. I presume there are others still living, but I do not know their address. I suppose some of them had middle names, which I do not remember hearing.
Now as to incidents. After we left Snake River, the first of any note, we camped near what has since been called the City of Rocks, and the Indians either stole an ox or it strayed off so that we did not find it.
On the evening of the 29th of August we traveled late to find water and consequently did not get up very early the next morning, and when we came to get up our cattle we found three of the oxen were missing. Search being made, the trail was struck and it was found that the Indians had started them for Salt Lake. Mr. Grimsley and son, a lad about fifteen years old, struck the trail on foot and started in pursuit, and in the meantime four other men of the company on horseback had also struck the trail, but instead of following them up came to camp and said if anyone wanted to go in pursuit we could have their horses. Four of us mounted and started immediately and took the trail, and when about 8 or 10 miles from camp we met Mr. Grimsley and son and two other members of the company who had struck the trail unknown to us, bringing the oxen back and also the Indians who we kept under guard that night. One of the oxen had been shot nearly through with an arrow that Mr. Grimsley drew from him, but it striking no vital part it did not appear to hurt the ox much, as he worked in the team steady from there to the Willamette Valley. The above incident occurred on the headwaters of the Humboldt River, at that time known by the name of Mary's or Ogden's River.
On the 5th of September, getting into camp late in consequence of crossing the mountains to avoid crossing the Humboldt River twice, and not having seen any Indian signs since we left the head of the river, we did not put out any guard, and the next morning found one of the oxen within one hundred yards of the wagons partly skinned and a part of the meat taken and six other oxen missing, which we never recovered although five or six of the men were out all day and until after midnight the next night. We concluded from that on there should be a strict guard kept day and night.
Leaving the Humboldt and crossing what was called the ash plain past Black Rock and the hot springs in said plain to High Rock Canyon without anything of note transpiring until the morning of the 19th of September, just as we were yoking up in the morning it was rumored that Mrs. Welch was sick, which proved to be true. A child was born to her that morning. We were then camped in High Rock Canyon, mother and child doing well. On the morning of the 22nd we were camped in what was called the little pass and as the stock were immediately around the wagons the guard were called in to breakfast so as to expedite things, and while at breakfast the Indians drove off two more oxen and Lewis Coryell, the owner of one of the oxen, getting on the trail followed them a short distance and its getting pretty warm pulled off his coat and laid it on a rock and said he did not go to exceed one hundred yards beyond but when he came back his coat was gone, and it appearing that the Indians were watching us Ira Wells said it would be a good plan to waylay the camp ground and kill some of them. Upon this suggestion George Coryell, Daniel Cook and the writer volunteered to remain and just as the teams started Mr. Grimsley's son concluded to remain with us. We did not have to wait long after the wagons left before two Indians came on to the ground, one of which was killed and the other fell at the firing of the guns but succeeded in getting away. Undoubtedly a very foolish act, but we were all young, and [it was] an act for which we received a severe scolding by the old men of the party. On the morning of the 24th we were alarmed by the cry of "Indians!" and found them to be all around us. They cut up a great many antics but did not come within gunshot. This took place at the foot of the mountains on the other side of Goose Lake, and on the other side of the mountains. The Indians did not molest us until we started down this side of the mountains, when the soil being light and the wind blowing at a fearful rate we raised a fearful dust and then the Indians began to shoot arrows among us but they did no damage, although there were some pretty close calls. The following night the guard were saluted with a few arrows, one passing through one of the guards' overcoat.
From this on until we came to Lost River the first sight we would get of the Indians they would be running away from us and yelling with all their might. On the evening of the 30th we camped on Lost River about three miles below the ford, and during the night an ox was shot from across the river with a poisoned arrow which was pulled out of him the next morning. The ox died the following night, although the arrow did not penetrate to exceed half an inch.
On the second of October while passing around the Klamath Lake the Indians tried by means of flags and signals to lure us into ambush, but did not succeed.
Nothing of importance transpired in passing through the Rogue River country, although there was a good many Indians with us most of the time. We got through the Canyon with but little trouble, although it was such a bugaboo to the emigration the year before. Passed through the Umpqua Valley with no particular incident except the death of Mr. Wells' child as spoken of in the names of the persons composing the company.
We arrived in the head of the Willamette Valley on the evening of the 24 of October 1847 and at E. F. Skinner's, the first white residence, about noon on the 26th.
Now as to the company ahead of us that year, Captain Levi Scott was pilot, and the company was called the Davidson Company, a Mr. Davidson being at the head of it.
The company we passed near Lost River, who were trying to get down to California, who subsequently came through to Oregon, John Lebo, an old neighbor of mine in Indiana, is the only name that I can be positive about. The last company that came through on the above route in 1847 the following were members of the company: David D. Davis and family, the two Mr. Briggs and their wives, father and son. The old gentlemen was living at last accounts at Springfield, Lane County.
Prior F. Blair and family, present residence Eugene City
James Frederick and family
John Aiken and family, residence Salem
James Chapin, Latham, Lane County
Cornelius Hills, a young man
Charnell Mulligan, a young man
Wilkison Gouldy, a young man
Joseph Downer, a young man
Of the company that came through in 1851:
Cornelius Hills and wife, the same man as came through in 1847, he having went back to the States and married
Wm. Riddle and family, residence Riddle, Douglas Co.
Sam. B. Briggs and family, the son is living at Canyonville, Douglas County
Wilbur, Douglas Co., Oregon
Sept. 13th, 1884
Having to the best of my ability complied with your request and hoping although late it may be of some service to you and hoping you may succeed in writing a more correct history than Walling's History of Southern Oregon, which the more I read the more I became disgusted with its errors and falsehoods, a perfect disgrace for any man to publish as history, especially while so many are living that knows it to be false. I have not seen a patron of Mr. Walling's yet but would be glad to get half price for his book. The mildest term I have heard used yet is fraud in regard to it. There are so many errors in regard to this vicinity that I do not wonder of people being disgusted with it.
Any service I can render you will be cheerfully done at any time when I can command the time to do it. Hoping you will acknowledge the receipt of this and whether it will be of any service to you,
I remainP.S. I neglected to get suitable paper and have written on such as I had, as I live some distance from town.
Yours very truly
Mss 806, Oregon Historical Society Research Library
From Fort Hall to Willamette Valley.
Emigrants to travel the Southern Route in safety should strictly observe the following directions, to wit:--
1st. To carefully extinguish their camp fires, to prevent the burning of the grass.
2nd. To travel in companies of about 20 wagons, and at least 25 men able to bear arms.
3rd. To keep a guard with their animals at all times when not traveling (day and night). Three or four men on guard at a time will be sufficient on any part of the road.
4th. Never to sleep two nights in the same camp--but move every day if but a short distance, nor pen or tie up their teams at night, but allow them to feed wherever they can.
5th. Always to select an open spot for a camp, at a distance from the timber and brush along the streams, and from the rushes about the lakes. The stock also should be kept away from such places, as the Indians conceal themselves in them to do mischief.
6th. From the headwaters of Ogden's River to the Cascade Mountains, the Indians along the road are poor, cowardly and treacherous; they are beggars by day and thieves at night. The less emigrants have to do with them either as friends or enemies the better for them. They should be kept at a distance, by signing them away by day and firing a few shots about occasionally through the night to let them know you are vigilant.
The Rogue River Indians are rather better but more dangerous. They will wish to trade horses (which they have stolen), skins, salmon &c., for guns and ammunition, but it is not only unlawful to trade these articles but very unsafe to arm them, for they will undoubtedly steal your property or kill you if they have an opportunity. There is but few of the Umpquas, and of course they are not dangerous--but they have stolen from, robbed and murdered the emigrants. If you should need their assistance in crossing the Umpqua River, pay them for the service what is right but do not permit them to extortion.
7th. From where Greenwood's Cutoff enters the Bear River Valley on a direct course (nearly E. & W.) to the head of the Cajeux Creek is less than 100 miles; by the road it is 225. There is nothing to prevent wagons from making this cutoff, but some 6 or 7 miles of rough road in descending into Cache Valley; this might be examined and its practicability determined in a day or two.
Mr. Anderson and many other mountaineers you will meet with on Bear River are well acquainted with this route and would conduct a party through for a trifle; I would advise emigrants to examine and if practicable to make this cutoff; it will avoid some bad road and save seven or eight days' travel.
If the road still pass Fort Hall, it will be as follows.
I recall now the names of the fifteen South Road explorers--Father, Uncle Jesse, Parker, Levi and John Scott, Henry Boygus, Ben Burch, John Owens, John (Jack) Jones, the man who moved the pioneer orchard, Robert Smith, Sam Goodhue--who was periodically insane; Moses (Black) Harris, David Goff, Bennett Osborn and William Sportsman. At the time this party went through Rogue River Valley so quietly another company was fighting every rod of the way!
Elisha Lindsay Applegate, quoted in Reese P. Kendall, Pacific Trail Camp-Fires, Chicago 1901, page 313
A delegation of three Jackson County residents, Atlanta Parker Naffziger, John E. Ross and Arthur Powell, left yesterday afternoon for Portland and today are attending the launching ceremonies of the S.S. Table Rock at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyards as representatives of Jackson County. The S.S. Table Rock is the first of two ships which are being named after historic Southern Oregon spots and is the 41st tanker to be launched at the Swan Island yard.
Mrs. Naffziger's father, William Parker, gave Table Rock its name. Parker, with Lindsay and Jesse Applegate, blazed a trail through the Rogue River Valley in 1846 in an effort to find a better route from Fort Hall to the Willamette Valley, and Table Rock was named at that time, the pioneers using it as a landmark. Mr. Parker and Jesse Applegate were brothers-in-law. Mrs. Naffziger is the only living first-generation descendant of these three men.
"Valley Folks to View Launching S.S. 'Table Rock,'" Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1943, page 10
From Klamath River our route [in 1851] lay over Green Spring Mountain about where the road is now located from Ashland to Klamath Falls. This range of mountains we crossed without incident except that in approaching Jenny Creek we had to descend a long steep hill so steep no kind of lock (wagon brakes were unknown those days) would hold the wagons, so drags were made from tree tops to hold the wagons from crowding the teams. It was quite dark before all the wagons reached camp. Near Ashland we connected with the main road or train from Oregon to California. Here we met pack trains carrying supplies to the mines at Yreka and Northern California. My father bought a side of bacon of the packers at 75 cents a pound. We had started across the plains with more than ample supplies, but other families in our train were destitute by the time they were half way and had to be supplied from the stores of others.
Speaking of pack trains, I would say here that all the supplies for the mines in the early fifties were transported by pack train. These trains. as they were called, consisted of from ten to sometimes more than a hundred mules, and the average load per mule would be 250 pounds. Many of the larger trains were Mexican and they were the best equipped. Their mules were small but well trained.
When camp was made for the night each mule's load was placed to itself and the aparejo (pack saddle) placed in front of the load. When driven in for reloading the "bell mare" was led to the head of the line, and each mule lined up directly in front of its own pack. All mule trains had one horse called the "bell mare" that was ridden by a boy in the lead of the train. The mules would follow the bell. When strung out on the mountain trails they seemed to keep step or step in the same places until the earth on hill trails was pressed down or dug out to resemble stairs.
We met several pack trains as we continued our journey through the beautiful Rogue River Valley. At that time its primitive beauty had not been marred by the hand of the white man. Our home seekers must have regretted that they could not at that time settle upon the fertile soil of Bear Creek Valley, but we were in the Indian country.
At the time we passed through the Rogue River Valley there were no settlements of any kind and we met no prospectors, but later in the fall of 1851 gold was discovered at Jacksonville, which caused that country to settle up rapidly in 1852. We met with very few Indians in the Rogue River country, and those we met were friendly. I recall that at our camp on Rogue River, directly opposite Gold Hill (when I give the name of places in this story, it is the present name), we were visited by Indians that brought some splendid salmon for trade, and we all had a feast of that king of fish.
We forded the Rogue River somewhere above Grants Pass, and our passage over the Grave Creek, Wolf Creek and Cow Creek Hills was uneventful. I remember that it was almost dark when we made camp at Grave Creek. There we saw the
grave where a Miss Leland had been buried. I mention this because this grave will be alluded to later in my story.
A Miss Leland with the first emigrant train passing over this road, in 1846, had died at this point, and the emigrants, knowing the habits of the Indians to desecrate graves, had tried to conceal the place, but the Indians had found the grave and exhumed the body, leaving a wide, deep hole.
When ve arrived at the south end of the canyon, we camped by the small creek just south of the Johns' place. Here we met I. B. Nichols for the first time. He was on his way south with his pack train with supplies for the mines at Yreka, California. One of his party had killed a fat buck, and we were generously supplied with venison. I remember that "Nick" brought the head to our camp to show us the antlers, and to the head was an ample share of neck. This found its way into my mother's pot, and to us hungry emigrants was a feast indeed.
George W. Riddle, History of Early Days in Oregon, Riddle Enterprise, 1920, pages 26-28
Washington City, December 12, 1851.To his excellency the President of the United States:
SIR: A sense of duty prompts me to call your early attention to the peculiar condition of things in Oregon. I have been a citizen of that Territory for nearly three years, have traveled the settled portion of it all over, had much to do with the Indians, and know them, perhaps, as well as any other man, and understand the wants of the American citizens there, and can say to you that for their protection, and for the protection of others emigrating there, troops to be garrisoned on the great road from St. Joseph, via Fort Hall, to the Dalles of the Columbia, and also on the road from Oregon to California, are absolutely indispensable for the protection of life and property. I know that I need but call your attention to the condition of things there, and present the facts within my knowledge, to secure your aid and prompt action in the premises. The suffering this season for the want of troops to protect emigrants and others en route to Oregon, and from Oregon to California, has been terrible, and certainly this government ought, and will I have no doubt afford protection to her citizens in a country so remote and exposed as are all persons traveling either on the emigrant road to Oregon, or on the road from Oregon to California. There are but these two roads south of the Columbia on which troubles are to be apprehended. The shape of the country and its stupendous mountains are insurmountable barriers to the location of roads of importance. A garrison of two or three companies of horse--one infantry, if a mounted force cannot be had--on each of these roads, at the Grand Ronde, for instance, on the emigrant or northern road, and in the Rogue River Valley, on the California or southern road, should be established. The moral influence that the establishment of the posts would produce upon the minds of the Indians would do much towards keeping peace with them, and afford the protection to American citizens that they are so justly entitled to.
It may be well here to mention that the road from Oregon to California forks in the Rogue River Valley--the main road--passes south of the great Shasta mountain to the source of the Sacramento, thence down that river to its great valley, and to Sacramento city; the north branch passes by Klamath Lake to Fort Hall. A small party of emigrants have gone that route this season and got in safely. This route was opened by Jesse Applegate, Scott and others in the year 1846, for the purpose of affording to emigrants a pass into the southern portion of Oregon, but such was the suffering of the first emigrants on this route that it has been but little traveled since, but will, I have no doubt, be much traveled if a garrison should be established in Rogue River valley, as above suggested.
I have been thus explicit in order that you may understand the condition and wants of the country which I have the honor to represent, with the full belief that you will take such steps as may be necessary to give protection to the citizens there, and emigrants and others traveling to and from Oregon.
Herewith I enclose two communications from Oregon for your perusal, which you will please return to me. One of the writers I am well acquainted with (Mr. Applegate, one of the early settlers of Oregon). He has done much to bring the country into requisition by exploring, opening roads &c. &c.--a sensible, reliable man. With Mr. Simons I have no acquaintance, but have no doubt of the truth of his narrative.
With great respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant,
JOSEPH LANE.The Daily Union, Washington, D.C., February 6, 1852, page 1
We mentioned, not long since, that Captain Felix Scott, late of this county, had in all probability been murdered by the Indians [in the fall of 1858], when on his way from the States to Oregon, by way of the Southern Oregon, or Applegate, route.
His son, who has lately returned from a tour of inquiry, gives us the following information. Rumor had reached Yreka, based upon Indian assertion, that a party consisting of three men had been murdered by the Indians in the vicinity of Goose Lake, and their stock, comprising six horses and six head of neat cattle, with a considerable amount of money, was taken by the murderers.
Upon the reception of this report at Yreka, the son of Captain Scott immediately set out for the scene of the reported disaster, and progressed as far as Honey Lake, but found it impossible to proceed farther in consequence of the severity of the weather, and the accumulation of snow on the mountains. He has learned, however, from Mr. Crawford, an old settler on French Prairie, that on his way to Oregon, when he left Humboldt River, Capt. Scott (whom he had frequently seen on the plains) was but three days' travel in the rear, and that they had intended traveling together through the remainder of the journey. But Mr. Crawford, having gone some distance on the Applegate route, found it so little used as to have become difficult to follow, and returned and took the road by Noble's Pass. The presumption is that Capt. Scott, seeing the appearance of late travel on the road proposed to be taken, pursued it, and from his previous knowledge of the country, was enabled to find the pass in the mountains and finally reached Goose Lake, where the tragedy occurred.
Captain Scott was a native of Monongahela County, Va. He resided some years in Missouri, and was Lieutenant Governor of that state. He afterwards came to California and resided some time with Capt. Sutter at the old fort. His age at the time of his death was about seventy.--Eugene Press.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, January 25, 1859, page 1
Southern Oregon's First RoadI am writing this article in the hope that the people of Southern Oregon, and the Rogue River Valley in particular, may become interested in learning something of the history of the first road through this valley.
By ALICE C. SARGENT
The only account of this hazardous undertaking was written by Lindsay Applegate, one of the organizers of the expedition, some years after the completion of the work.
In order that all who read this little sketch may understand the motives which induced this little body of men to undertake this dangerous work, I shall quote from the manuscript written by Lindsay Applegate:
". . . Our immigration of 1843, being the largest that had ever crossed the plains, our progress was necessarily slow, having to hunt out passes for our wagons over rivers, creeks, deep gullies, digging down the banks where nothing but a pack trail had been before, cutting our way through the dense forests before we could reach the valley of the Columbia, and then it appeared as though our greatest troubles had begun, for here we had to encounter cataracts and falls of the Columbia and the broad and lofty Cascades, with their heavy forests.
"At Fort Walla Walla, on the banks of the Columbia River, with our teams about exhausted, we were advised to leave our wagons and animals over winter at that place in the care of the Hudson Bay Company. A portion of the immigrants, including my two brothers' families and my own, accepted the proposition, providing we could procure boats in which to descend the river, as it was supposed we might procure them from the Hudson Bay Company. Under these considerations we made arrangements with the said company for the care of the latter through the winter. We failed in our efforts to obtain boats. Having a whipsaw and other tools with us, we hunted logs from the masses of driftwood lodged along the river banks, hewed them out, sawed them into lumber and built boats, and with our families and the contents of our wagons commenced the descent of the river. Dr. Whitman procured us the services of two Indians to act as pilots at The Dalles. From there we thought we would have but little trouble by making a portage at the Cascades. We did well until we reached The Dalles, a series of falls and cataracts. Just above the Cascade Mountains one of our boats, containing six persons, was caught one of those terrible whirlpools and upset. My son Warren, 10 years old; my brother Jesse's son Edward, same age, and a man by the name of McClellan, who was a member of my family, were lost. The other three, who escaped, were left to struggle the best they could until we made the land with the other boats. Leaving the women and children on shore while we rushed to the rescue, it was only with the greatest effort that we were able to keep our boats from sharing the same fate. William Doake, a young man who could not swim, held on to a feather bed until overtaken and rescued. W. Parker and my son Elisha, then 12 years old, after drifting through whirlpools among cragged rocks for more than a mile, rescued themselves by catching hold of a large rock a few feet above water at the head of Rock Island. At the time of the disaster it was utterly impossible to render them any assistance, for it was only with the greatest skill that we succeeded in saving the women and children from sharing the same fate. It was a scene painful beyond description. We dare not go to their assistance without exposing the occupants of the other boats to certain destruction, while those persons were struggling for life in the surging waters. The whole scene was witnessed by General Fremont and his company of explorers, who were camped immediately opposite, and were powerless to render us any assistance. The bodies of the drowned were never recovered, though we offered a reward to the Indians, who searched the river for months. We reached the Cascades without any other incidents worth relating.
"We then made a portage around the falls, packing the most of our effects on our backs, dragging our boats over the rocks, reloading and proceeding on our way to Vancouver, ascended the Willamette River to the falls, there made another portage
around the falls, reloaded again, ascended the river twenty-five miles, coming to a place called Champoeg, where we finally left our boats and made our way across the valley to Lee's old mission, ten miles below where Salem now stands, and on the 1st day of December, 1843, entered one of the old buildings to remain for the winter.
"Previous to this, we had been in the rain most of the time for twenty days. 0h, how we could have enjoyed our hospitable shelter could we have looked around the family circle and beheld the bright faces that accompanied us on our toilsome journey almost to the end! Alas, they were not there! That long and dreary winter, with its pelting rains and howling winds, brought sadness to us. Under these sad reflections we resolved, if we remained in the country, to find a better way for others who might wish to emigrate, as soon as we could possibly afford the time.
". . . So, in 1846, after making arrangements for the subsistence of our families during our absence, we organized a company to undertake the enterprise, composed as follows: Levi Scott, Henry Boygus, Jesse Applegate, John Owens, Robert Smith, Moses Harris, Benit Osborn, John Scott, Lindsay Applegate, Benjamin Birch, John Jones, Samuel Goodhue, David Goff, William Sportsman and William Parker.
"Each man had his pack horse and saddle horse, making thirty animals to guard and take care of. A portion of the country we proposed to traverse was at that time marked on the map 'unexplored region.' . . . The idea of opening a wagon road through such a country at that time was counted as preposterous.
". . . One thing which had much influence with us was the fact that the question as to which power, Great Britain or the United States, would eventually secure title to the country, was not settled, and in case war should occur and Britain prove successful, it was important to have a way by which we could leave the country without running the gantlet of the Hudson Bay Company's forts and falling a prey to Indian tribes, which were under British influence."
On the morning of the 20th of June, 1846, the expedition was under way. On the morning of June 29 they passed over a low range of hills from the summit of which they had a splendid view of the Rogue River Valley, which is described as a great meadow interspersed with groves of oaks, which appeared like vast orchards.
As they made their way through the Rogue River Valley they were constantly followed by the Indians and had to be on guard day and night. When they had to pass through heavy timber and brush they dismounted and led their hosses, carrying their guns across their arms ready to fire. The Indians were armed with bows and poisoned arrows, the pioneers with the old-time muzzle-loading rifles. They made their way through the valley, crossed the Cascade Mountains into the Klamath country, and thence east to the Humboldt River. Here they met a train of immigrants. They brought back with them 150 people, the pioneers traveling ahead and making a road over which the wagons could pass. This train was taken through to the Willamette Valley.
Here I shall again quote from the account of the expedition when on the return trip:
"No circumstance worthy of mention occurred on the monotonous march from Black Rock to the timbered regions of the Cascade chain. Then our labors became quite arduous. Every day we kept guard over the horses while we worked the road, and at night we dared not cease our vigilance, for the Indians continually hovered about us, seeking for advantage. By the time we had worked our way through the mountains to the Rogue River Valley, and then through the Grave Creek Hills and Umpqua chain, we were pretty thoroughly worn out. Our stock of provisions had grown very short, and we had to depend, to a great extent, for sustenance upon game. Road working, hunting and guard duty had taxed our strength greatly, and on our arrival in the Umpqua Valley, knowing that the greatest difficulties in the way of the immigrants had been removed, we decided to proceed at once to our homes in the Willamette. There we arrived on the 3rd day of October, 1846, having been absent three months and thirteen days. During all this time our friends had heard nothing from us, and, realizing the dangerous character of our expedition, many believed in the news which some time before reached them that we had all been murdered by the Indians."
It is a fact that a great proportion of the population of Oregon entered the state by this route laid out by the fifteen pioneers in 1846. [Only a small proportion of settlers used the southern route. George W. Riddle wrote that his train of twelve wagons was the only one to follow the southern route in 1851. Some years it wasn't traveled at all.]
We have living here in this valley today people who came into Oregon over this old south road or, as it was usually called, "the old immigrant road."
The road was free to all, a work of humanity--the only compensation to the builders was a consciousness of duty nobly done.
All the members of this road party returned in safety to their homes except Henry Boygus, a brave and handsome youth, who was probably murdered by the Indians near Fort Hall.
In closing, I will quote again from the Applegate manuscript:
"Perhaps few companies of men ever performed such a campaign without repeated quarrels and even serious altercations, but the members of the Old South Road company bore together the trials and privations of the expedition with a 'forgiving and forbearing' spirit, and their mutual burdens and the dangers to which they were exposed continually developed and strengthened their friendship. A reunion of them, were such a thing practicable, would be a season of peculiar joy, one to be remembered by the veteran survivors with pleasure until they, too, shall pass away into the great unknown."
Since the account of the road expedition was written, all members of the party have passed into "the great unknown." But their memory should be kept green by those who were so greatly aided and benefited by their labors and unselfish sacrifices. May their brave souls rest in peace.
Ashland Weekly Tidings, October 26, 1921, page 2
Last revised March 17, 2019