The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County 1847

    I am partial to the "sunny south." As I came through the southern route from Fort Hall, I passed through the southern valleys of this Territory, and while not inferior in point of soil to the Willamette, they bear evidence of a much more genial climate--being the native land of the vine and many fruits not found in this valley. As we, though much delayed in opening the road, arrived in the Rogue River Valley early in October, with our animals in good condition, and with but little loss, I am satisfied that hereafter immigrants from the United States will reach that valley in the month of September. Of this valley, all who have seen it speak in the highest praise. It is second in size only to the Willamette; the land, timber and water are well distributed for settlement; the grazing is superior and the climate delightful. It being the middle region, it is thought it will not be subject to the extreme wet of the Willamette, or the occasional droughts of California.
"Rogue River Valley," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 18, 1847, page 3

    The great Bay of San Francisco on the south, and the Bay of Bodega and the ocean on the west, give it a position as a farming and commercial district which is scarcely surpassed by the valley of the Klamath, or of the San Joaquin and Sacramento.
    Stretching across the north of these splendid regions are the Snowy Mountains. This range of highlands forms a natural boundary between the Californias and Oregon. But the ignorance of our negotiators with Spain, or their criminal neglect of duty, gave us the parallel of 42°N., instead of this noble barrier of craggy ice and snow. Consequently the Californias extend beyond these mountains, and embrace the valley which lies between the Snowy Range and a spur of the President's Range, which puts out westward from Mount J. Q. Adams, in Latitude 42°10'. The average height of these hills is about 2700 feet above the sea. This vale is about fifty miles wide and one hundred in length. The Klamath River waters it. This stream has two principal sources; the one among the snows of Mount Monroe, in Latitude 43°20 and about one hundred miles from the sea; the other in a beautiful mountain lake, with a surface of about two hundred square miles, lying further south. Both these branches are furious mountain torrents, tumbling down lofty acclivities, into little valleys, where they run a few miles with a comparatively peaceful current, and then dash and roar again over another precipice, and so continue till they reach their confluence. Thence the Klamath moves on with a heavy whirling flood until within thirty miles of the sea, where it breaks tumultuously through a range of high hills, and meets tidewater; and thence proceeds in a northwesterly direction to the ocean. The aspect of the country lying on this stream is singularly charming. The mountainsides on the south rise gradually, and on one-third of their elevation are clothed with forests of pine, cedar, and other evergreens. The overtopping peaks shine with drifting snows. The highlands on the north are generally covered by trees, with rugged crags beetling out over their tops; and, at intervals, conical peaks arise, in some instances, in clusters, and in others, in solitary magnificence, over the lower hills. These peaks are frequently very beautiful. Their form is that of the frustum of a cone; around their bases are green forests; on their sides hangs the dwarf cedar tree, pendant in the air; on their very top, in the cold season, is a cap of snow; and down their steep sides murmur little brooks. The largest of these peaks lie, however, to the eastward, in the President's Range. The most conspicuous of these is Mount Jackson, in Latitude 41°40' N. This is the highest elevation in the range to which it belongs--rising nearly seventeen thousand feet above the ocean, in great abruptness, grandeur, and beauty of outline. Its base rests among deep evergreen woods; and it is girdled higher up with shrubs and hardy plants, to the region of frosts; and there commence the sheeting snows which spread wide and high its vast head with the desolation of eternal cold. The pathway between Oregon and the Californias passes near it.
    The valley itself is a rolling, irregular, inclined plane, broken by forests and isolated hills. The latter spring oftentimes in the midst of the prairies, like immense haystacks, several hundred feet high, some in clusters, and others solitary. These sometimes occur in the forests; and, in such cases, they are often castellated with basaltic rocks, presenting the appearance of ruined castles. The trees of the Klamath Valley consist principally of the same various species of the oak which grow on the other side of the Snowy Ridge. There is one tree here also in great abundance, which does not prevail on any other part of the northwest coast; a species of Myrtus--the largest of which measure twelve feet in girth, and one hundred feet in height. All its leaves, wood and fruit, are strongly aromatic, yielding an odor like Myrtus pimento, and producing sneezing like pepper. The fruit is large, globular, and covered with a fine green skin, enveloping a small nut with an insipid kernel, which the squirrel eats with a great relish. So fragrant is this tree, that, when the groves are moved by the wind, a delicious perfume fills all the surrounding air.
    The soil on the open plains of this delightful vale is very rich; and, since the climate is most salubrious, as well as most favorable to vegetation, this valley will hereafter become one of the most enchanting abodes of man. Indeed, it would be difficult to decide whether to prefer this or the vales on the south side of the Snowy Mountains, were it not for that unrivaled Bay of San Francisco, which connects the land, whose streams flow into it, with the commerce of the world more largely and intimately than the Klamath can do. In fact this river is both too rapid and too small for ship navigation; and the depth of the water on the bar at its mouth being only two and a half fathoms, it will, of course, never furnish a harbor suitable for extensive maritime trade. But it is a sweet valley for the growth of a happy and enlightened population; a lovely spot where the farm house, that temple of the virtues, may lift its rude chimney among the myrrh trees; where the wife, faithful in her love to her husband, and true to all the holy instincts of the mother, shall offer her pure heart's undivided devotion at the altar of HOME! HOME! that only refuge of man from the toils and pains of the outer world; that sanctuary, the desecration of which turns his heart to flint, and his affections into fountains of gall.
    The valley of the Klamath will be lighted from the hearths of happy homes ere long, and will be densely peopled. Sixty miles square of productive soil, surrounded with every beauty of mountain and forest, sprinkled with sweet groves, and threaded with streams of pure water, all under a genial climate, render it a magnificent site for the dwellings of man.
Thomas Jefferson Farnham, Life, Adventures and Travels in California, New York 1851, pages 336-339  It isn't clear from the text whether Farnham personally visited Oregon, or exactly when. Farnham died in 1848.

     As our whole party, with I think few if any exceptions, undertook the hazardous duty of discovering a better road from the purest spirit of philanthropy, having no pecuniary views whatever, you may imagine our feelings when for our exertions for the general good instead of the thanks of our fellow citizens we were assailed from all sides with abuse and slander the most injurious. . . .
    To reap the advantages of my exertions, I intend next spring to lead a party to the mouth of the Tututni, or Rogue River, in lat. 42º 26'. The southern route passes through a very fine valley on this stream which is said to extend down it to the coast. Mr. Douglas of the H.B. Co. has kindly furnished me with a chart of the harbor at the mouth of the river and such sketches of the country as his marine officers had taken. The harbor will not admit large vessels, but ships may enter of sufficient size to answer all the purposes of trade. The stream is, according to his account, navigable for large vessels about 40 miles into the interior, and the Klamath and Rogue River which there unite are navigable for small boats much further.
    This country, from the wild and untamable character of the natives, has as yet no white inhabitants, but as much of the land is really very fine and the grazing superior [and] the valley and the mountains clad with a noble growth of pine, to those who have the courage to secure the first choices in that country will accrue what many men desire--a large fortune. I have (perhaps deservedly) the character of a bold adventurer, and no small desire for wealth; I may be destined to found in this valley the first Christian community.
Jesse Applegate, letter to his cousin Lisbon Applegate October 11, 1847; Beinecke Library, Yale University

    M. [October] 11th. This morning we, in about 6 miles, came to Klamath River. Crossed. Then passing in the timber we did not come to grass or water before dark. We were obliged to camp in heavy timber. Distance 12 miles.
    T 12th. Passing on over this mountain we, in about 9 miles, came to the beaver dams and camped for the day.
    W. 13th. Followed down this branch over hills &c. and about noon came to big hill creek. Nooned there. Then on to Little Prairie and camped. Distance about 11 miles.
    T. 14th. Continued on over the mtns. through the timber. In about 8 miles we
descended a steep hill [the Jenny Creek Slide] to a creek up to the top of the Rogue River Mtn. Then down for about 2 miles and camped. Distance abut 10 miles.
    15th. Continued descending the stream on which we camped last night. The valley increased in width and the face of nature became more interesting. During the day several mtn. branches had increased the main stream considerable. At noon we saw some Indians and their lodges or shanties. They ran like wild men from us. Passed on to one of these streams and camped. The grass and water, timber and soil is of good quality. Distance today about 10 miles.
    S. 16th. The roads today were excellent and the face of nature appeared full as interesting as yesterday. Followed down Rogue River about 12 ms. & camp.
    Sun. 17th. Our cattle have good grass but do not appear to eat early while the frost & dew is on. So we concluded to travel while the dew was on and stop about 9 o'clock but not finding a convenient place we were obliged to travel until 11 a.m. Then we took breakfast and moved on again about 1 p.m. Found very good camping ground about 5 on the river bank with plenty of Indians who brought us fish to trade. Distance today about 15 ms.
    M. 18th. Followed down the river (with some of our too neighborly Indians about 12 ms. and camped.
    T. 19th. In about one m. we crossed the river and left it after following it about 50 ms. in all. Passed among the bluffs and camped after a distance of abut 12 ms. Some of the Indians are yet following us. Their room is better than their company.
Lester Hulin diary 1847, Southern Oregon Historical Society MS 485, folder 1

Last revised August 11, 2018