Jackson County 1851
The Coast Range does not extend to the ocean at all places, but there are numerous fertile valleys between the mountains and ocean, with some good harbors, it is thought, at the mouths of two or three rivers which are known to put into the sea there. The Umpqua River breaks through a low range of mountains about eighty miles from the sea. The British trading post is below, 10 miles, being seventy from the sea. Little is known about it by Americans, more than that there is a harbor at its mouth, and perhaps small vessels may run up to the post. The upper Umpqua Valley, as it is called, it is well known is better land and better grazing than the Willamette, inhabited by the Calapooia Indians--part of the same tribe who live among us here--a civil race, and very friendly; two or three families have settled there, but it is not known whether the river is navigable through the canyon where the river breaks through the mountains, or whether there can be a good road over the mountains around the canyon. People wish to be sure of an outlet to a good market before they settle down in any place. There were companies formed to explore and report on all these places, before the gold mines were discovered in California, but that put a stop to all explorations or improvements in Oregon, for a time, but business is beginning to revive again. Every company that went through by land to California washed gold on Rogue River and south of Umpqua, but having provision barely sufficient to take them through, had not time to examine, only on the road, and at the crossings of the streams. They all agree that the face of the country looks like the California gold region; the bare hills, red earth and slate rock, and that they found it as plenty as they could in California at the same stage of water. This summer there is to be a general search, by companies who are now forming for that purpose. It may be a failure, but if they succeed it will attract a great concourse of people there, who will all have to be supplied from this valley, which will make farming and teaming a better business than mining, and make the whole rush of immigration flow towards the upper end of this valley, and the Umpqua, and even to Rogue River (which is a beautiful country), if the Indians can be subdued as to be safe for settlers. They are a strong nation, stout and bold, and very hostile to the whites, and will fight harder against a company locating themselves there than against companies passing, a great many of whom they have attacked, and nearly all of them they have shot cattle and stole horses from. The exploring company must go very strong and keep a strong guard.
Robert Houston of Linn County, "Letter from Oregon," Logansport Journal, Logansport, Indiana, March 22, 1851, page 1
SOUTHERN OREGON.This bay [Scottsburg] is destined to be an important point to the southern portion of Oregon; here will be the outlet for the produce of the Umpqua Valley, and, consequently, here will be its commercial city. Many pack trains are already employed in the transportation of goods and provisions from this point to the "gold diggings" on Rogue, Shasta and Scott rivers.
The Settlement of Umpqua Valley--The Seacoast--Umpqua City--
The Valley--Irregularity of the Mails--The Land Bill--
Dr. McLoughlin's Claim--The Military--The Indians--Gold Diggings &c.
Yoncalla, Umpqua Valley, Oregon,To the Editor of the Tribune:
Thursday, Jan. 30, 1851.
Supposing that some information concerning this remote and almost unheard-of portion of our Pacific Territories may not be uninteresting to your readers, I have ventured, presuming upon the favor extended to my last communication, and address you again.
The Umpqua Valley is now filling up with settlers at a most unprecedented rate. The first settlement by whites south of the waters of the Willamette (except a single trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, established in 1836) was made in the fall of 1847, by Capt. Levi Scott and his two sons, who laid the foundation of our present flourishing settlement on Elk River, a tributary of the Umpqua. Voluntarily depriving themselves of the advantages of what little civilization there existed west of the Rocky Mountains, they remained alone in their self-imposed banishment until late in the fall of 1848, when another settler (Mr. Robert Cowan) was added to the list of pioneers of Umpqua. The discovery of the golden treasures of our southern neighbor about this time checked the settlement of this beautiful valley, and no further additions were made to the number of settlers until the next summer, when two or three more families came over from the Willamette.
Capt. Scott, with that spirit of enterprise which has ever been a prominent trait of his character, spent the winter of 1849 and '50 in exploring the country west of the settlement, with a view of finding a practicable land route to connect with the navigable part of the Umpqua River, and having succeeded in his object, early in the spring of 1850 he went to the mouth of the Columbia for the purpose of calling the attention of the officers of the U.S. Surveying Squadron to the importance of the Umpqua, and to induce them if possible to attempt the entrance. He had an interview while there with Capt. McArthur, the officer in charge of the government schooner Ewing, and entered into an agreement with him to explore the harbor, for which service he (Scott) was to pay the sum of $1,000. It appears to me a highly culpable act on the part of an officer of the U.S. government to exact or receive money for the performance of a service included in his duty as an officer. Capt. McArthur, however, failed to perform his part of the contract, thereby saving Capt. Scott the expense.
In August, while Capt. Scott, with two or three others, was encamped at the mouth of the river awaiting the arrival of the Ewing, the schr. Saml. Roberts appeared off the bar, and after a delay of a few hours entered the river in safety. The Samuel Roberts was in charge of a company of explorers who had left San Francisco with the intention of exploring the mouth of the Klamath. Having failed in their object of finding that river, and being unwilling to return emptyhanded to San Francisco, they had pushed on and had finally reached the Umpqua. The schooner immediately proceeded up the river to the head of navigation (about twenty miles from the ocean) without difficulty. The company selected a location for a city at the mouth of the river which they named Umpqua City, and another at the end of navigation to which they gave the name of Scottsburg, in honor of Capt. Scott. After a delay of a few days they returned to San Francisco, and the report they gave of the river and country induced a considerable number of persons to leave for the Umpqua. Several vessels loaded with passengers have since arrived, and our population, which last spring did not exceed twenty-five souls, now numbers between four and five hundred, and is rapidly increasing.
The Umpqua Valley now offers great inducements to emigrants. It is considered by good judges to be one of the richest and most fertile valleys in Oregon, and an opportunity is now offered (by the late act of Congress) to all of securing a home free of cost, in a beautiful region of country, convenient to the seaboard, and in a climate unsurpassed in point of mildness and salubrity by any in the world. There are many thousands in your crowded cities of the East struggling with poverty and living in wretchedness, who might here secure a handsome competence, and become--what they never can while they remain where they are--their own masters. The multitudes who are constantly fleeing from tyranny, misrule and oppression in Europe, and leading a life of beggary and perhaps of crime on the Atlantic shores, would here find an asylum where they might live in honest independence, and provide for their own support in the decline of life.
We have much reason to complain of the gross irregularity of the mails on the Pacific. Letters to and from the States are frequently three or four months on the way, and often miscarry altogether. More than this, we are compelled to pay four times the amount of postage paid by any other territory. For this there might have been some excuse when the Pacific mail routes were first established in the great expense and comparatively small amount of mailable matter. But this excuse can hold good no longer. Our mails would much more than pay their expenses if the postage was cut down to the uniform rate of ten cents. Utah, Minnesota and New Mexico fall far short of this, and are a burden to the government. Where then is the justice of compelling us to pay forty cents for the transportation of a letter which does not cost the department more than five and exacting from the other territories only ten cents for what costs perhaps fifteen. I trust that the matter will be looked into and remedied by Congress at an early day.
The news of the passage of the Land Bill by Congress was hailed by the most extravagant demonstrations of joy throughout the Territory. The exertions of our delegate, Mr. Thurston, in its behalf, will in the eyes of his constituents counterbalance many of his evil deeds. The bill has, however, in my opinion some objectionable features. The reservation of the "Oregon City claim" for educational purposes can be regarded in no other light than as the act of the most gross injustice to the claimant, Dr. Jno. McLoughlin. The claim was taken up and occupied by Dr. McLoughlin (who was a British subject) as early as 1842, when the country was under the provisions of the treaty of Great Britain, in the joint occupancy of the two countries, and when the number of American citizens in the Territory was by far less than the number of British. As soon as the proper officer was appointed for Oregon, he signified his intention of becoming an American citizen, having already withdrawn from the Hudson Bay Company, and has since in all points complied with the laws of both the provisional and Territorial governments. He has expended a large sum of money in the erection of bills and in making other improvements, and now all his land and improvements are to be taken from him. Any other British subject that has complied with the law in all its points, as he has done, is confirmed in his claim, and why should not he be?
It is to be recognized that no provision has been made in this bill for widows and orphans, or those that have become such on the road and after their arrival in the country. There are a great many of this class in the Territory and of all others are the ones who most need the donation. Yet they are the only ones who are excluded from participating in the benefits.
I consider the amount of land given as too large. We have seen heretofore the evil effects of the large amount of land held by each individual in Oregon, and I had hoped before the passage of the Land Bill that a quarter or at most a half section would be the extent of the donation. Granting, as it does, to each married man 640 acres, and to each single man half the amount, its effect is to prevent the country from settling up closely. A small population is scattered over a large extent of country, and we are, in a measure, compelled to forgo the benefits to be derived from schools, libraries &c. I am aware that the majority of the inhabitants of the Territory are vastly better satisfied with the donation of a section than they would have been with a less amount, but I think that its effect on the country at large will be injurious in the end.
We have a military force stationed here at an expense to the government, of who knows how many hundred dollars a day, which has done, and is doing, absolutely nothing save the establishment of a single military post at the Dalles of the Columbia, where one is but very little needed. The Indians in that quarter (the Cayuses and the Nez Perces) have recently exhibited every evidence of a friendly disposition toward the whites, having delivered up to justice their principal chiefs, the murderers of the late Dr. Whitman and family. A small force is employed in garrisoning that post, and the remainder of the regiment is stationed at Vancouver, where they are of no more use than they would be in New York City. On our southern frontier, where we are daily expecting the commencement of hostilities on the part of the Indians, we are left entirely to our own resources. Col. Loring (the commandant) is aware of the state of things out here, having traveled as far south as the Klamath River last spring in pursuit of some deserters, the bones of some of whom he saw bleaching on the mountains. He has been repeatedly requested to send a force out here, but has uniformly refused, assigning as a reason that the desertion of the troops would be inevitable. There is, without doubt, some plausibility in the excuse, but if they are unable to take the first step toward accomplishing what they were sent here for--to protect us--why are they kept in service at all?
It will, in my opinion, be found necessary to adopt some radically different plan of military organization from that now followed, in order effectually to protect our own frontier, as well as that of our neighbor, California. I have heard the idea advanced of organizing volunteer companies to serve a short period--say six months, or at most one year--to choose their own officers and to receive a bounty of land at the expiration of their term of service. This plan appears to me to be the only feasible one in the existing state of things, and I think that if it were adopted, and a few hundred men kept in the field for one year, we should have after[wards] no fear of Indian depredations. The savages of this country are not as warlike as those on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, and a small force will be sufficient to quell them effectually. The tribes south of the waters of the Willamette are divided into small bands who live in distinct communities, speak in many instances different languages, and each band is always under the control of its own chief. They recognize no chief whose authority extends over the whole nation. In point of intellect they are as near the brute creation as any animal that wears the human form. They have no property (save a few horses stolen from travelers) and seem to have very little desire to acquire any. They live upon fish, acorns and roots, kill little or no game, and are, take them all in all, as low in the scale of creation as any beings in existence. It will be found an unimportant matter to subdue them when it is properly undertaken.
Some very rich deposits of gold are reported to have been recently discovered on our southern rivers--the South Umpqua, Rogue River and the Klamath--particularly the latter, and I fear that but little in the way of improvement will be done here until the placers are exhausted. Oregon is just beginning to recover from the shock which the gold mania has given her, and if the streams south are not as rich as represented, she will continue to rise, and at no distant day take her place as one of the states of our glorious Union, that Union which fanatics and traitors have labored in vain to destroy, and which still stands, as may it ever continue to stand--the pride of our nation and the wonder of the world.
With respects, your most obdt. servt.,
J.W.P.H. [J. W. Perit Huntington]New York Tribune, April 26, 1851, page 8
NEW MAP.--We have received from Mr. Nathan Scholfield, civil engineer, a lithographic map of Southern Oregon and Northern California, compiled from the best authorities and from personal observations and explorations. It also embraces a corrected chart of the coast between San Francisco and the Columbia River. The map is published by Marvin & Hitchcock. Mr. S. does not pretend to perfect accuracy in all the details, but presents it as an approximate map, correct in all its main features. We subjoin a communication from the author relative to the result of his explorations, knowing that everything which relates to the Pacific Coast is of interest to our readers. He differs in his opinions respecting certain localities from others who have made explorations and laid the results before the public:
SAN FRANCISCO, June 13. 1851.Gentlemen:--Accompanying this I send you a map of Southern Oregon and Northern California, composing a portion of the country lying between 40 and 44 degrees north latitude, which has till recently been but very little known; all previous maps of this portion being very erroneous and not to be depended on. Having spent considerable time in surveying and exploring this, as well other portions embraced in this map, I am enabled to present the public with an approximate map, without pretending to perfect accuracy in all its detail, yet in all its main features it may be relied on as correct. One year since it was not known where the Trinity River entered the ocean, or whether it was tributary to some other river. Parties of miners endeavored to have it done; but on account of the numerous falls and rapids and the precipitancy of its banks, it was not easily effected; others attempted by cruising along the coast to find its entrance. and ascend it from its mouth; but this had hardly been accomplished when a party with whom I acted set out to explore the Klamath River and valley. And for that purpose, with the map of Fremont, Wilkes, and several others, we sailed for a point on the coast in latitude 42 deg. 22 min., where, according to these maps, the Klamath was made to enter the ocean. Here we found a river, but not such an one as we were led to expect; and after exploring it we ascertained that this was not the Klamath, but the Teutonis or Rogue's River which, by all our authorities, was made a tributary of the Klamath. We ascertained that the Klamath passed south, where it was joined by the Trinity, and then pursued its course to the ocean. Having satisfied ourselves of the general worthlessness of this river or any in its vicinity, as a channel of communication with the interior, on account of the numerous rapids and high precipitous banks, running even into mountains, we left it in possession of the barbarous savages who infest it, and bent our sails tor the Umpqua River. Here, contrary to our expectations, we found an excellent harbor, spacious and well protected, with sufficient depth of water for vessels of large class, although in the language of Commander Wilkes, of the United States Exploring Expedition, we were led to suppose "the Umpqua afforded no harbor for seagoing vessels, and that there was but nine feet water on the bar." But we found eighteen feet on the bar at extreme low water, the same as at Columbia River, and a fine river, navigable for thirty miles to the head of tide water, and opening into a fine agricultural country in the interior. After thoroughly exploring this river, and tracing its meanderings as well as its several tributaries, and seeing the former maps were, in important points, very defective and erroneous, I deemed it expedient that a new one should be constructed, representing the main features of the country. I therefore offer this map to the public as the best representation of the country, till such time as the government surveys are completed. In addition to my own surveys, I have consulted in its construction the best maps extant, and the explorations and travels of scientific persons and miners, from which sources I have derived much valuable information. And lastly I have availed myself of the results of the late United States Coast Survey, by which I am enabled to give a corrected chart of the coast from San Francisco Bay to the Columbia River.
Yours, respectfully, N. Scholfield.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, June 13, 1851, page 2
Correspondence of the Statesman.
Arrival of Gov. Gaines--Gen. Lane--the Exploring Expedition--
Army--Indian Difficulties, and the Country Generally.
MT. YONCALLA, Umpqua Co., June 23, '51.MR. BUSH, SIR:--Beside the expiring camp fire of Uncle Billy, the undersigned sits quietly upon chips while engaged in the act of penning the memorable scenes through which he passed during his journey through this portion of the heritage. His debut into this country has been recorded with very few of the remarkable escapes--from accidents, grizzlys' jaws--rattlesnakes, &c., which attend the nervous and the timid. He lost his appetite--often did the sun at midday wink at his anxiety for his "fodder"--and that too in a land flowing richly with temporal blessings. But all has passed and forgetfulness is creeping upon him.
The fact that Umpqua excels in fertility is so well known, and has been published so often, that it is unnecessary to make mention of it again; but a word of the condition of things may not be amiss. Our county is organized--the machinery is up, and soon it will start with great power. We need internal improvements very much, and it is expected that the new machinery will accomplish every desired attainment. The undersigned trust that the people do not expect too much.
The roads leading to Scottsburg (which, as yet, are trails) must be made into something which will afford aid and comfort to both man and horse.
Time cannot be spared to dwell upon their condition--sufficient to say that the undersigned has long since refrained from conversing with those who have traveled over them, because their varied descriptions of the roads were universally prefaced with violent oaths--and horrid imprecations.
Elkton, which at present has but a potential existence, is named as the site for a county town. It is on the main Umpqua, opposite Fort Umpqua. From this point to the (and including the) sand spit at the mouth of the river, claims are taken. Those east of Scottsburg teem with luxuriant grass--those west are overhung with vivid speculative theories respecting the future. The former will harvest an enduring reputation in wapatos and stock, while the latter will eat them up. From the mouth of the river up to Winchester, claims are being improved. Quite all are taken; twelve months since, but two or three were taken. Scottsburg, or Myrtle City, is at the head of tide water; vessels drawing seven feet of water can ascend to that point--those of deeper tonnage cannot ascend farther than ten miles from the mouth, where they will be obliged to discharge; within that space there are many new towns, beautifully pictured on paper showing rival advantages, and abundant reasons why one point is far more preferable than the other for that purpose; all of which, however, possess merit. At no distant day a discriminating public will determine the extent of the merit of each.
The entrance of the river is considered no more dangerous than that of the Columbia River. Those who know pronounce it perfectly safe and a good harbor. There are two ferries on the Umpqua within three miles of each other--and connect a road from Winchester to Scottsburg. A railroad can be made to connect those important points.
The claims along the road, which for excellence as stock ranges or for agricultural purposes have not betters anywhere, to my knowledge. When the undersigned passed through Green Valley (a part of the road will run through this valley) the grass was quite over his horse's back. This valley for richness is all that a person can desire--an attempt to describe it only seems to tease the fullness of an indescribable experience. It must be seen to be well appreciated.
Winchester is located on both sides of Umpqua River--about five miles above the forks--the town proper lies on the southern border of the river, and is a portion of land eminently qualified for a town. It is level and thinly timbered--lying at the head of an immense valley, which for natural beauty few if any surpass. The claim of Gen. Lane adjoins it on the south. The city plot has been laid in lots, and is fast improving as a mart. There are but few claims near Winchester which are not taken--all of them in south Umpqua in a few months will smile upon a lord and master--who no doubt in return will reflect the same in a broad grin. Upon the highest peak, near this point, the undersigned waded for deer, through grass waist high, from which he saw below one vast prairie, which Col. Loring had reserved for a military post; but which he abandoned because it is contiguous to the mines. There are "good diggings" within twenty miles of Winchester--yes, within the town limits, gold has been found. The main road to the canon passes through this place, at which there is a good ferry. Explorations are being made for a road east of the canon by a portion of Major Kearny's command--under the guidance of Jesse Applegate, Esq. Levi Scott, Esq., is also with them. The result of which will be laid before you, when it is made known here. The army have passed the canon, and the party exploring were, from last accounts, near Table Rock on Rogue River.
No better evidence can be given of the prolific tendency of this country than to mention the fact that during the before-mentioned ride through it, the undersigned found that three good mothers had presented to (he sincerely hopes) their deserving husbands, three babies each; in the aggregate nine. He was told that they were doing well. Notwithstanding his own great diffidence--in an unguarded moment and in the presence of several--a hearty "God bless each and every one of them," was forced from him. It is unnecessary perhaps to remark that no time was lost by the neighbors in adding to the imperfect preparation which had been made for a smaller number.
The genius of the country is an item of some considerable moment. Among the many useful inventions of one of the "oldest inhabitants," two only were found which can be mentioned this time. One a "submarine battery"*--used for the purpose of bringing to the surface salmon and the "lesser fry," and which works to a charm; the mu-luc chuck [Elk River] roars with pride in its possession. The particulars respecting it will be laid before the people at an early day. The other is a machine (or as I am forced to term it "a case independent") for making butter. It has a cylinder large enough to hold a barrel full of the "raw material"--and works much upon the principle of the machinery of the Lot Whitcomb. It is most assuredly of the high pressure class. It must be gratifying to the ladies to learn that it is to be patented exclusively for the ladies of Oregon, and is designed to supersede the piano, seraphine, &c. If the ladies devote too much time and attention to it, they will find it rather anti-cosmetic--quite as much so as the piano.
Gen. Lane passed here last week en route to the mines. During his absence from the mines, one of his Indian miners has been murdered, and others driven off. The unfortunate Indian was shot by--it is supposed Oregon men (after being frightened so that he was speechless), simply because he would not speak. There are several reports of the matter in circulation--all of which agree that it was an unprovoked attack on the Indian.
Gov. Gaines arrived here on Sunday last. He is engaged in raising men for the purpose of visiting the chief of the hostile Indians. He will leave during this week.--The army have passed Rogue River.--Several companies are organized for the purpose of giving battle to the Indians. As yet, no battle of much importance has been fought.
Yours, &c.,Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 4, 1851, page 2 *This most likely refers to explosives.
Rogue River Valley, which takes its name from the river that passes through it, is about seventy miles by the main traveled route from the Umpqua. The valley is well watered by never-failing streams; the soil is generally good, and it is skirted and interspersed with groves of fine timber. As it borders upon a rich gold region, it must eventually become densely populated. As yet, however, it contains no white settlement, but is occupied by the Rogue River Indians, who have rendered it the seat of much trouble and suffering from their depredations.
There is no portion of the Territory, and, indeed, I may almost add of the world, better adapted to grazing than this valley. In extent it is about fifty by thirty miles. Surrounded by mountains, the eye seldom rests upon a more beautiful, picturesque and romantic spot. It extends to within a few miles of the boundary between Oregon and California. These valleys all lie west of the Cascade Mountains, and south of the Columbia.
Joseph Lane, circular dated January 1, 1852, quoted in "Oregon Territory," The Sabbath Recorder, Alfred Center, New York, March 11, 1852, page 156
Umpqua Valley, Oregon, April 22nd, 1851.Gentlemen:--Allow me to call your attention for a moment to Southern Oregon. It is not my intention to dwell upon the fertility of its soil--the beauty of its scenery--the grandeur of its forests--the purity of its waters, or the salubrity of its climate. It is generally allowed, I believe, to possess all these advantages. But in addition to all these, recent disclosures have satisfactorily shown that Rogue River is as rich in gold diggings as the Klamath, and the most intelligent men among us think that the Umpqua will prove equally fertile in gold. The distance from Scott's Bay, the head of schooner navigation on the Umpqua, to the mining regions on Rogue River is from seventy-five to ninety miles, with a fine road through the whole distance. Indeed the route runs through the finest portion of Oregon, almost the entire way being over a level prairie. The mining region of the Umpqua and its tributaries is not more than fifty or sixty miles from Scottsburg. Goods and supplies can be easily transported on the route, and the miner will soon be able to obtain his supplies at a low rate.
Scottsburg is at least 175 miles nearer the Rogue River mines than either Oregon City or Portland, on the Willamette, and the road from this point is as good as the Willamette. Indeed, our road intersects with the road leading from Portland to Rogue and Klamath rivers at a distance of only thirty-five miles from Scottsburg. The demand for goods will be very great during the present season, and mules, horses and cattle are needed for transportation, as the supply in Oregon is not sufficient for the demand.
I believe that all who are competent to form any opinion on the subject say that the entrance to the Umpqua is as safe and easy of access as any that can be found on this coast to the north of San Francisco. There are three and one-half fathoms of water on the bar at low tide, and large vessels find no difficulty in getting in the harbor.
In haste, yours,Alta California, San Francisco, May 10, 1851, page 2
JOSEPH W. DREW.
Shasta Butte City, Cal.Dear Bro.,
Oct. 10, 1851
I left the wilds of Oregon for this city. I visited the rivers of Applegate & Rogue's. The Indians on the latter are shrewd, cunning & hostile. I witnessed a fight between two tribes. It was bloody & desperate. I was anxious to join one side. I want a few of their scalps ere I leave this region. They have taken mules & provision from us and killed a young man that I had with me, & several others with whom I was not acquainted. I do not know what to do. I am well aware that I can do well here this winter by practicing both medicine & dentistry, in which I have been engaged for the last year.
The difficulties are that my health is not good by any means & seems to grow worse. I think it is entirely owing to the damp, cold climate of this mountain country. Again, I lost most all of my medicines &c. & it will be impossible to obtain supplies at this late season on account of the difficulties to be overcome. This is 400 miles from Sacramento City, the mountain part of which is 150 miles and can only be passed by pack mules, the remainder by wagons. Also it is very doubtful whether a train of mules can get through, as the snow fell on the hills last week. It will not do to remain here on expense as everything is very high. Cannot get a room for less than 3 or $400 for the winter and board from 25 to $30 per week. If I had medicines & instruments or could get them this fall I would not think of leaving. It would cost me from 5 to $600 to get home from here & I do not wish to spend my money in that way if I can make it yield me anything here. In this country a man cannot calculate what will be the result of a movement or investment. It may make him a fortune, or blast his most sanguine hopes. This city is situated in the N.E. part of Cala. in sight of the Oregon line & near the noted Shasta Butte, forever covered with everlasting snow. Diggings are quite good here, but I tried mining 6 or 8 weeks during spring and summer & am satisfied. I will leave the country ere I ever do another hour's work of that kind. Timber in the valleys, mostly scrubby oaks, on the hills pines, fir, cedar, arbor vitae, spruce, juniper berry and serviceberry. Game common blacktailed deer; black, brown and grizzly bears; mountain sheep, a peculiar animal with hair & color like a deer & shape of a sheep inhabiting the most rocky & craggy mtn. heights, possessing great activity.
I can't write now as I feel uncomfortable both in body & mind. Ere another week passes I will either settle here for another year or leave the country. You shall hear from me in due time. The last news from home was Sept. 1850, and now this is Oct. 1851. I fear I will hear bad news, but I hope not.
Dr. Mathias Lair Harter, letter to his brother Samuel Kyle Harter, Troy, Ohio, as transcribed circa 1890s by Jane Abbott Harter, manuscript in possession of Dr. Harter's great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Tilton, Santa Barbara, California. Harter did leave for home--he was in San Francisco by November 1, 1851.
For the Oregonian.
Umpqua Valley.Oregonian, Portland, September 20, 1851, page 2
Having heard much of the fertility and beauty of the Umpqua Valley, my trip to that part of the territory had been anticipated with satisfaction. In company with two other gentlemen, leaving the south branch of the Willamette, I rode over the Calapooya Mountains, which connect the Cascade with the Coast Range by a difficult, steep, up-and-down wagon road. But these mountains are crossed farther west by a good, smooth wagon road, where no bad hills intervene, which we traveled on our return. When we approached the southern declivity our attention was directed to an extensive view of this celebrated valley, and were surprised at looking only upon mountaintops.
Umpqua Valley, so called, is not a valley but a group of valleys among a group of mountain buttes. The face of this tract of country, sixty-five miles long, and forty miles wide, equal to about fifty miles square, may be compared to potato hills on an immense scale, with more hill than valley. Less than one-third of it is susceptible of cultivation.
The valleys are small. The soil is rich and deep, and produces luxuriant crops. It has more sand, is more loamy and richer than the larger part of the soil in the Willamette Valley. For wheat it may be no better, but, if we except some timbered and prairie bottom lands of the Willamette, quite superior for other crops. Much of the flat land is too wet in winter, but I saw more that will not admit of easy draining. Patches of fir are frequent, and of great value for building purposes. Some of the dry plains and mountainsides are extensively sprinkled with low spreading white oaks, which exhibit an exact resemblance to old orchards, and give to the country a highly interesting and beautiful appearance. The plains are nearly continuous, being connected by passages between the buttes admitting of good carriage roads. There are exceptions. Some of the valleys will not be arrived at but by a rugged way.
The Umpqua River, which passes centrally though, affords abundance of water power. Scarcely a mile, or perhaps half a mile on it, that could not be improved for mill privileges. But there is not a mill in the valley.
Cattle are in fine order. To say they are good beef is a weak expression. Stall-fed beef in the States are seldom as good. If Jesse Applegate's herd of three hundred--calves, cows, oxen and all, as they are--could be driven into an eastern market, they would be a sight to be stared at, and would furnish beef of a delicacy and deliciousness of flavor that eastern palates have not tasted.
For grazing purposes, the Umpqua Valley can scarcely be excelled. Immigrants so locate their claims as to embrace the valleys without much of the hills. But the buttes, lofty and steep as they are, have a gradual ascent and good soil, and excellent grass, even to and over their mountain summits. They will never be taken as claims, or purchased of government, but farmers in the valleys will enjoy them. Thus a valley farm of six hundred and forty acres will be, practically, a farm of more than seventeen hundred acres, variable, to be sure, by location and the number of cattle kept by neighbors.
The oak trees produce abundance of acorns, and hogs--which subsist comfortably, but not luxuriously, a part of the year on grass and roots--round and swell out their porky proportions in acorn time in beautiful, but to the grunting selves, very dangerous style.
The road from the Umpqua River to the Calapooya Mountains is smooth and good; so it continues north through the mountains, and as far as the prairies extend. A few rather bad creeks want bridging.
For beautiful picturesque scenery I have seen no place that equals the Umpqua Valley. A hundred different positions present a prospect of valley, and hill rising above hill, in the most interesting succession, everywhere terminated by a range of mountains in the distance. Low-spreading oak trees, and patches of thick fir, with a bend of the river in view, complete the picture, and, as to natural objects, makes it perfect. Such scenery is quite beyond the inventive power of the pencil, aided, only, by imagination. Something by the hand of industry is still wanting, and will soon be added before the luxury of vision to the lover of nature will be enjoyed to its fullest extent. There should be a few dwellings and flocks and herds grazing.
To those who look only to the easy acquisition of property, the Umpqua Valley is peculiarly inviting, but it has its inconveniences, which such men should take into account. Population must always be sparse. If schools are maintained, it must be at large expense, because the children of only few families can congregate together. Religious meetings, to most families, must be at distant points. Persons accustomed to society, in easy neighborhood associations, may feel the loneliness of comparative seclusion, deeply.
It is well, therefore, to "look at this picture, and then at this."
For the Oregonian.
UMPQUA VALLEY, Nov. 23rd, 1851.FRIEND DRYER: Your paper of the 15th inst. has reached us, and we are surprised to find you crowing over such dwarfish vegetables and "small potatoes," the produce of ferny lands in the frozen lands of the north. Why did you not defer your notices of vegetables until you had news from the land where such things grow? We of Umpqua may tell of vegetables, were we green enough to boast of such things, and tell the truth, too, without mistaking the circumference for the diameter.
But in one thing you have the advantage; we cannot say they grew in fern lands, and a cold climate. We have neither. We are compelled to confess them the growth of the richest loam, refreshed by showers, and warmed by the genial sun of the "sunny south." We could tell you of onions plucked in the growing season weighing over two pounds, of a percussion cap full of the seed; of the potato producing 3½ bushels of potatoes, the largest of which weighed 3¼ lbs.; of squashes weighing 45 lbs.; of not short of 260 lbs. of choice melons the produce of a single seed; of beets, parsnips, carrots, to say nothing of mammoth cabbages and turnips, that will fill--I cannot say that they may fill, for they are still growing at such a rate you can almost see the loamy earth yielding round them like water before the bow of a steamboat.
We could tell you that not a plant is cut down by frost. Tomatoes, beans, peas, and even melon and squash vines are blooming and growing ahead in spite of November and his chilling breath. What messes of green beans and luscious tomatoes you folks of the ferny land and cold side of the Calapooia might have now out of our gardens! It would make your mouth water to look at them. We might also tell you how the grass and clover appears to peep through the garden fence with jealous rivalry of the petted intruders on their domain inside, and show a growing inclination to look over the top, and how the cattle, as they crop, their succulent heads look up--not that the grass is so high, but in thankfulness to bounteous nature for so rich a pasture. This, and more could we tell you, but we are a modest and a kindly people, who "despise boasting," and would not make you discontented with your less happy lot. But this I may tell you before proceeding to relate the news that (except the figure of the steamboat) there is nothing in the foregoing either false or exaggerated.
The interval of peace we have enjoyed on our southern frontier has caused a rapid increase of our population. Immigrants have poured in upon us from the north, both from Willamette and the U.S.--from the south by the southern route and California, and also by water, entering the Umpqua River. There will be petitions presented to the Legislative Assembly for the organization of three new counties, which our increased population justify us to expect, will be granted. Seven new mills are built or in course of construction, where six months back the population would not justify the erection of one.
In regard to our commerce, it is my painful duty to mention the loss of another vessel on the Umpqua bar, which though a severe loss to the enterprising owner, a merchant of Scottsburg, cannot be regarded as a public calamity, as it will hasten the establishment of a regular pilotage, and perhaps a steam tug, to assist vessels in their exits and entrances at the mouth of the river, which the rapidly increasing commerce and the dangers of the bar evidently require.
Besides this avenue to the commerce of the world, the people of Umpqua have another, and perhaps in futur, a far more important one, in Port Orford. It is perhaps not known to your readers that the S.W. angle of the Umpqua country extends to within less than fifty miles of this place of rising importance, and that the recently discovered valley of the Coquille occupies much of the intermediate space.
It may be interesting to the friends of Esq. T'Vault to know that he is now here on his way to Port Orford; and as he is now on the right track, and as I think on the right plan, his prospects bid fair for success in his cherished project of opening a good road to that place.
A continuance for a few days longer of the present fine weather will, without doubt, give him that success his great perseverance and firmness richly merits.
T.J.Oregonian, Portland, December 6, 1851, page 2
Friday, Oct. 17th.--. . . Mr. Roach and Mr. Charles McDermit had recently also ascended the 'Batinko," or Indian Creek, a branch emptying from the west, two or three miles above, and heading in the Siskiyou Mountains, between the Klamath and Rogue's River. From thence they crossed to the head of Cañon Creek, which runs into a larger stream, now called Illinois River. Of this last there has been much dispute; some supposing it to be a distinct river, emptying into the Pacific near the Oregon line. The better opinion, however, seems to be that it is a fork of Rogue's River, which it enters ten or twelve miles from its mouth. Upon it is a large and fertile valley. The country upon Rogue's River itself is spoken of with great praise by all who have seen it, as containing fine farming valleys. The Indians of the Illinois Valley are said to speak the language of this part of the Klamath (the Shasta), and not that of Rogue's River. We were further informed that Joe, the head chief of the Rogue's River Indians, the same with whom Major Kearny had his contest during the past summer, and who is now living in peace with the whites, at the ferry on the Oregon trail, claims the Shasta tribes as properly his subjects, although they yield him no allegiance. Be this as it may, the fact of a pretty intimate connection between the Indians on the upper part of both rivers, is clear. We heard of one custom prevailing in the Illinois Valley, which is different from the practice here: that of burning the bodies of those killed in battle, instead of burying them, as they do in cases of natural death.
George Gibbs, "Journal of the Expedition of Colonel Redick McKee in the Summer and Fall of 1851," in Ethnological Researches Respecting the Red Man of America, Part III, Philadelphia 1853, page 155
SKETCHES OF OREGON.At the head of the Willamette Valley is the Calapooia Mountains, which divide this valley from the Umpqua Valley. The distance across it is 12 miles. During the rainy season the crossing is difficult. It is clothed with the tallest and best of timber, among which I found the laurel and chinquapin, of a large size. The juniper is plenty. In this range of mountains running across the valley east and west, the Willamette and Umpqua rivers have their rise, the former on the north side, running north, the latter on the south side, running a little north of west. The Umpqua flows into the Pacific.
COMMUNICATED BY B. R. BIDDLE.
Entering the Umpqua Valley, we came into beautiful country, cut up into small prairies. The lands are rolling, the whole covered with the finest grass I ever saw, from two to three feet high, and heavily headed. It had more the appearance of fields of grain than grass. The timber is excellent upon the surrounding hills, and is easily obtained. The prairies are dotted over by groves of oak resembling the red oak which is peculiar to this valley. There is no brush or undergrowth to mar the beauty of the river. Today we crossed several small streams; the largest of these is the Calapooia River. Along this stream there is fine timber, and water power. Salt springs abound in this whole valley, which adapt it, in a peculiar degree, as a stock raising region.
Having traveled twenty-eight miles in this valley from the Calapooia Mountains, we came to the North Umpqua River, a stream of the third class, with a swift current. We crossed at the ferry. On the south side is located the town of Winchester, the seat of Umpqua County. There are but few homes erected as yet; but its central position in this valley will command for it a large trade. The proprietors have in contemplation the construction of a wagon road from this place, down this river to Scottsburg at the head of tidewater, about sixty miles from Winchester. There is plenty of rock on the line to make this road, which will be made in the course of the next season, at a cost not exceeding five thousand dollars.
The settlement and prosperity of this valley depend upon the construction of this highway to the Pacific. Scottsburg is located at the head of tidewater, in a canyon, forty miles from the mouth of the Umpqua River. It is a port of entry, and invites vessels drawing eight feet water at low tide to convey her trade. This is a point of much interest to this beautiful and fertile valley. The emigration of the present year will divide. One third, I think, will go into this valley; the remaining two thirds will locate in the Willamette Valley.
The distance from Winchester, on the North Umpqua, to the crossing on the South Umpqua, is only forty miles. From this crossing to what is called the canyon, a defile leading through the dividing ridge, which separates the Umpqua from the Rogue River Valley, is about five miles. The Umpqua Valley between these points is unquestionably the most beautiful I ever saw. The timber in the valley is not of the best, but the beautiful oak groves, that are spread out over the whole extent, charm the eye. The country is handsomely undulating. Streams of pure spring water meandering through every prairie, the tall grass resembling the richest meadow, with the wild deer sporting amidst the wild and native luxuries, fill up the measure of the most extravagant conception of what constitutes a beautiful country.
Ascending some of the mounds that rise up from amidst the valley, or rising to a lofty height among the spurs of the Cascade, or Coast Range, you have a landscape spread out before you, that charms both the eye and the heart, and you are irresistibly led from nature up to nature's God. I may appear enthusiastic, but the reality warrants the description. This valley will in a few years teem with a dense population. Its proximity to the mines, the fertility of the soil, its grazing advantages, its unlimited water power, and above all its fine climate will claim for it the attention it deserves.
The road leading from the beautifully located town of Winchester to Scottsburg at the head of tidewater, which is now in progress, will be the highway, and this whole valley will find an outlet for the transportation and sale of their products to the islands that spread out over the Pacific and to China.
This valley is about seventy-five miles in length and twenty wide. I would recommend this valley to the consideration of all who design to make Oregon their future home.
South of this valley after crossing the divide of twelve miles, through the canyon I have spoken of, you enter Rogue River Valley. This is about the same extent as the Umpqua, and is said to be a fine valley, but as I know but little about it I shall omit a detailed description. This much is known of it generally, the Indians have been troublesome, but are now at peace; mining operations are engaged in, which promise to pay. It extends to our southern boundary, which borders on Shasta Valley, a rich mining district, and the scene of present operations on [an] extensive scale, which pay the miner from eight to twelve dollars per day.
Illinois Journal, Springfield, December 11, 1851, page 2
Oregon Letter.People's Friend, Covington, Indiana, February 28, 1852, page 2
We are requested to publish the following letter recently received by Mr. A. D. Babcock, from Mr. Lemuel Bills, who formerly resided in this place.
OREGON, Dec. 22, 1851.Mr. A. D. BABCOCK:--Your letter has been duly considered and I will endeavor to answer it accordingly. In relation to this country I must say that my estimation of it has increased during my sojourn in it. I have been quite extensively over it. The finest portions now unsettled lie in Rogue River Valley. There are great openings here for young men of business habits. The Willamette Valley is fast settling up. There are good locations here for the establishment of manufactories and everything else which a new country needs to develop its resources. There is not much cold weather here in the winter. While you are foddering out your summer's labor our cattle are helping themselves to green grass. A great country for milk, butter, cheese, &c. There are many gold mines here, which yield tolerable well. The mines on Rogue River yield from $4 to $6 per day. Rogue River is 150 miles south of Willamette fork. The lands in that valley are good. Beef sells from 15 to 25 cents per lb., flour from 15 to 37 cents, tobacco $2 per lb., powder $5 per lb., boots $14 per pair.
In the Willamette Valley the prices are about as follows: Wheat $1 per bushel, coffee 25 to 30 cents per lb., corn, there is none. Vines will do well in the southern part of the country. Apples and peaches do well in some situations. There are some fine nurseries here of the best varieties. For the last two months myself and son W. have been together. I have heard from all my folks--have seen only two persons from Covington since I left.
From Klamath River our route 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
IN SOUTHERN OREGON
HOW THAT PART OF THE STATE LOOKED IN 1851.
Reminiscences of Adventure Recalled and Talked Over by Pioneers.
There is particular charm in whatever revives the memories of long ago. To meet someone who formed part of one's early experiences--especially who participated in the early life of this region, those years that were equally full of hardship and romance, when we were full of the pride of life, young, hopeful and ripe for adventure--though both may now be old and sere--is like putting new wine into old bottles.
The other day, at Roseburg, I met J. H. Hartin, who lives on Lookingglass, and was one of the early settlers of that beautiful region. Comparing notes, we discovered that in the spring of 1851 we formed part of the same company of 75 men who went southward prospecting the Rogue River, and finally disbanding at Shasta Butte City--a city of tents and shanties that formed the first settlement of Yreka.
Comparing notes, we remembered that no settler occupied the South Umpqua in May or early June, when we went through there. There was a ferry at Winchester, and the Applegates and Estes, with perhaps one or two more, lived in the romantic regions of Yoncalla and North Umpqua. Southward, to the California line, for over one hundred miles, there was no settler. Through the Rogue River country Indians were hostile, and we stood guard and were always ready for battle. Within four months, before we returned northward, the wave of settlement had passed through there, and scarce a single good land claim was left. All through there the settler had made his beginning, and the work of progress was commenced.
To say no settlement existed does injustice to the enterprise of Joe Knott, for we found him at the foot of the Umpqua Mountains, where Canyonville now stands. It was comforting to find a square meal obtainable in the commodious log structures that made the Knott home so pleasant for wayfarers. Mr. Hartin remembers that the Knott boys asked them as they came up if they saw the carcass of a horse a mile or so back, and told them that at daylight a monster grizzly came regularly to make his matin meal thereof. That was enough for these frontiersmen; they resolved to be up and stirring at daybreak. So the others were, but Hartin overslept, and was much chagrined to be waked at daybreak by the sound of shots, and to find his companions had killed the bear--a grizzly sure enough. Hartin came from some point in the Willamette Valley, and his companions were men well known, and some quite prominent in early times. The Bailey boys lived in Lane County, and Joe and Zeke went for the bear. They got there just in time, for Mr. Bruin had breakfasted--and dined, too, probably--and was starting away for the day when Zeke drew a bead on him. Joe had no rifle, but as the bear turned when Zeke's shot took effect, Joe ran in close and finished him with a small "pepperbox" revolver, that was in use in those days. It was risky, but Joe was recklessly brave, and finished the bear in good shape. There were a few grizzlies about at that time, but as a rule they were but few, none being found north of the Umpqua.
My own small company had gone over the Umpqua Mountains, and were camped beyond, on Cow Creek, when this larger company crossed over. We waited there to make up a respectable force, for the Rogue Rivers were hostile. We elected Pleasant Armstrong of Yamhill County captain, and Joe Bailey lieutenant. Armstrong was a man of substance and character, a man among men, older than most of us, and a veteran among Indians. He was one of those who built the schooner in the Willamette in the '40s, and took her to San Francisco--or rather to Yerba Buena, as it was then called--and made a trade for Spanish cattle to stock the abundant Oregon pastures. He drove--with others--those cattle to Oregon, and afterward made a business of such trips overland, driving stock and trading with the Californians, so was well used to the mountain roads, and also to the fierce Indians who occupied the south land. From the first the Rogue Rivers had been hostile, and he had learned to fight them. Joe Bailey had also been experienced with Indian wars. There were three Baileys--Zeke, Ike and Joe--I think--the last being the youngest. They were all brave as could be--regular frontiersmen--but Joe was a pearl among men, naturally endowed, correct in speech, and with a manliness that all respected. Born on the frontier, he had little schooling, but was a great leader, and acquired knowledge and manners that commanded universal appreciation from educated men.
We proceeded on our journey, and I look with regret back at that muster roll, for it counted some who have gone to the unknown that I afterwards knew well and had much occasion to care for. There was old Billy Greenwood, of Howell Prairie, as delightful a man as Western prairies ever knew; Lewis Cannon, who had a claim on the prairie near Turner; Michael Cosgrove, of French Prairie, and an Irish mickey who came with him, typical of the Emerald Isle. My own companions were with me from Portland, but none ever returned to Oregon. The Umpqua was represented by Hartin and Dillard, who have resided there now for over 40 years. Dillard was a first-class wagonmaker and Hartin a carpenter, good at tools for almost any job, and had worked at wagonmaking with Dillard. They had a wagon they built together in Missouri.
As a traveling caravan we possessed abundant resources. On Umpqua Mountain Greenwood's wagon met with disaster, for in a tremendous chuckhole one wheel collapsed. He looked on in despair, for every spoke was broken. Dillard said not to worry, for he and Hartin could make a new wheel in two hours, and sure enough, they did. On the mountain were fine white oaks. One of these was felled, chopped in lengths, split and the heart used for new spokes. A roaring fire was made, and as the new spokes were in shape they were put so the heat made the sap boil out of them, and while at the highest possible heat they were driven in the hub. They had tools--Dillard had--a full outfit, and before the oxen--who were turned to grass with their yokes on--had well filled themselves, the wagon was in running order. It is worth saying that that wheel held up for the trip and for all summer, and my informant says it was whole when he saw it two years later. This incident is worth recalling to show the present age how successful their fathers were. The name of Dillard is preserved in the Umpqua and will be handed down by the locality that bears the name. Just such incidents as this show how bravely these oldtimers met and overcame all obstacles.
I remember that my own small party had camped by a beautiful creek and turned our horses and cattle out to crop the rank grass that covered the valley. Our tents were pitched and fires made to cook a meal, for the mountain travel had been wearisome. Canyon Creek came down its deep ravine for weary miles and had to be crossed over 90 times. At one place it leaped a rocky ledge with the greatest ease. It was a delightful little waterfall, or cascade, but it chanced that our only way up was to lift our wagons bodily over that same ledge, which was useful as teaching a lesson in the law of gravitation. It was easy enough to descend the south side, and it seems we were closely followed by another party, wherein were some young fellows who celebrated their climb through the canyon by firing guns and pistols, and uttering all sorts of whoops and yells. Down in the valley below their discordant sounds told of war. We imagined that some party following us was ambushed on the mountain and fighting for life, so we all rushed to arms, and were trying to face the music as bravely as possible when the advance guard came in sight and relieved our fears. We stood guard many a night, through rain and by light of friendly stars; passed by newmade graves where Lieutenant Stuart, of the regulars, and others had been killed in battle only a few days before, and I called to mind a story I had heard in Charleston, where I had lived two years before.
Stuart, pere, was a talented writer and man of decided genius. He had one weakness that frequently overcame him, but his friends all knew that he was very proud of his son in the army, and I thought the news of his death would grieve that father so far way. One day Mr. Stuart was calling at a friend's house, and Charity, a much-valued house servant, was admitting him, when he stumbled and fell, catching hold of the negro woman, who also fell. His native wit was equal to the occasion; tipsy and unbalanced as he was, he stammered: "Ch-Charity, th-thou cov-overeth a m-multitude of sins." There, in that pine forest, on the farthest verge of the continent, recalling the past and sad with the present issue, this incident came to mind.
We missed actual war by a hair's breadth, as it were, kept up discipline and were always ready, but the speck of war under the base of Umpqua Mountain never became more than a threatening cloud. Armstrong had 60 head of fat cattle he was driving to the mines. We found a long string of teams, wagons, carts, pack and saddle animals and of teams, and the savages could have had us at disadvantage had they attacked us among the chaparral and pine forests of those interminable hills. They were a brave set of savages, for we heard of a battle that preceded our coming but a few days and hardly reached Yreka when word came of a fight with regulars near where Phoenix now stands. They were too proud to ambush common travel, but sought battle with the regulars whenever they could find them.
Volunteers were called for, and Armstrong and the Bailey boys raised a company of 100 men, who took the war path. They were gone but a few days and came back covered with glory. It is pitiful to read the story of battle between those red men, who fought in their native heath, armed only with bows and arrows, and whites, who hunted them with arms of precision loaded with powder and ball. The Indians began it, no doubt of that, but they labored under a foolish prejudice that the land was theirs and that these white men were trespassers. When Armstrong's volunteers came up they found the Indians corralled under the bluff of Table Mountain, close to which the river run. They were in the heavy woods that filled the river bottom, while the regulars were drawn up in military array, firing volleys into the woods. Captain Armstrong told the commander that they were not fighting as he would advise. The answer was: "Go in and fight your own way, then." Armstrong said he wouldn't like to be between two fires, so the regulars were drawn off and the volunteers went at it. They were dismounted and formed in line and charged right through the heavy timber. Neither Armstrong nor the Bailey boys were capable of fear; they crowded the Indians so that they ran, and pursued by regulars as well as volunteers, they plunged into the river, where many of them were killed. The river ran red with blood that day. We cannot but feel compassion for these sons of the forest, fighting for their homes, but they had attacked the troops and killed Lieutenant Stuart and two privates, and Armstrong remembered that on every trading trip he made to California they had fought him for years past, so all were animated by a feeling to avenge these wrongs. Zeke found an arrow hole through his hat, but no white man was wounded. Hartin remembers that Armstrong told his story after their return, as they gathered around the evening camp fires. I remember that all the time we traveled together it was interesting to listen those evenings when varied experience was told by these campaigners in the wilderness, especially interesting to one whose life had been spent in great cities.
Armstrong came to Fort Hall with teams in '42, got horses there and came through to the Willamette. Both he and Joe Bailey were afterwards killed in battles with Indians. Each in his way was remarkable, and a natural leader of men. Armstrong, who had a look of sturdy manhood, was much older. Joe was tall, handsome, winning in his way and brave as a paladin. Each of them was actually incapable of fear. The years have swept on and left them behind, but it is a satisfaction, so long after, to give the impression their conduct made on me, that has never been forgotten. Each of them "gave the world assurance of a man!" Ten years later Joe Bailey was killed in battle with the Indians on Pit River. His rash courage may have led him to undervalue a foe he had so often conquered. By that time they had found guns to war with and were more dangerous.
We did not find gold in paying quantity on Rogue River, or any of its tributaries, nor did we find hostile Indians in our way. As we approached the Klamath we met an Oregonian, named Carter Wright, who had taken out considerable gold, including one rugged mass that he afterward sold for $2200, weighing over seven pounds of the precious metal. Some of our people knew him, and he stopped to enable us to look at this treasure trove. He took it out of his saddle bags and we all passed it around--a rough conglomeration of quartz, dirt and yellow dullness that was envious to behold. It is safe to say that we never saw the like again. This man Carter Wright made quite a little raise at Shasta that summer, took this chunk and his other gold to Salem, where he sold it to Riley & Kendall, who were dealers on "the Island" at Salem in the pioneer epoch. Kendall gave him somewhat of a premium for his nugget, as it had become historic. The fame of it had met us halfway to the diggings. The digger proved to be not much better than an ordinary "digger," for he took his winnings back to Missouri and exchanged them--by a gradual, but sure process--to whisky straight, and became so straightened that he never could accumulate the wherewithal to return to Oregon, though that was the ambition of his fruitless life. It is thus that fortune squanders her favors on the unworthy and her successes on the unsuccessful. I remember that the boys, and some of the men, of our expedition seemed to look on that poor devil with envious thoughts of his prodigious success, but it is doubtful if any one of them made so pitiful an ending as did this spoiled favorite of fortune.
We also met Dr. McBride, Barlow and Jesse Barlow, well-known oldtimers, who were with a company that had fought the Rogue River Indians at Willow Springs, near Jacksonville, earlier that year. Like Achilles, in that respect, Barlow got a shot in the heel from an arrow. The Indians attacked them in the early morning, and as they survived in pretty fair shape and hadn't lost any Indians, the party were on their way back from Yreka, homeward bound. There is no doubt that the Rogue River Indians were troublesome and dangerous fellows from very early days, but it is a question if they were not "more sinned against than sinning" from the beginning. They were a high-spirited race, and there was certainly something patriotic in their resentment of intrusion and defense of their land and homes.
Not long ago I told the story how Ewing Young and party, in '34, murdered two young hunters on Rogue River, from a mistaken fear that their own safety was compromised by the presence of these young men in their camp. Mr. Hartin was one of those who could see that a native had some rights, and should at least have been treated with kindness. He told of two desperadoes named Brown and Ballard--or Red--who were cowardly and infamous ruffians, the sort who have caused the massacre of the innocents through all American history. As early as '53 these miscreants went to the Indian camps and shot them down promiscuously. It is satisfactory to know that they were hanged comfortably together in the upper country in '63, but their infamy had to be dearly compensated for by the unhappy settlers of Southern Oregon.
Mr. Hartin related his own remembrances of that fearful time when the wars of '53-56 were raging and the trouble among the Umpquas. These were not disposed to be troublesome. Mr. Arrington had them all camped in the bend of Lookingglass Creek, near his own home, and had but little fear of them. Every winter morning Mr. Arrington went there and called the roll and found them all present, for he had them under good discipline. One day these fellows--Brown and Ballard--came and said they heard a lot of Rogue Rivers were secreted in the Umpquas' camp. Arrington went with them, called his roll, identified them all, and supposed there could be no trouble. But these ruffians went back and reported to people of Rogue River that a lot of hostiles were on Lookingglass, got up a company to exterminate them, and early one morning attacked them sleeping, in the most cowardly manner. At least five were killed, including one woman and one blind old man, and a number were wounded. This lot of friendly Indians were driven to the mountains and scattered; some joined the hostiles and with their neighbors from Cow Creek and Rogue River spread firebrand and tomahawk through the settlements and mining camps, and burned houses and barns on Ten Mile in the Umpqua. In a battle on Ten Mile P. F. Castleman was wounded and seven Umpquas were killed. Thus it will be seen that very much of the trouble with these desperate Indians was caused by white men who were miscreants and enemies of humanity.
Not long after meeting Mr. Hartin I also met Mr. Castleman, just alluded to, who spoke with considerable respect of the Rogue Rivers, and especially Old John, their war chief, who, as I stated in a late sketch, was taken to Benicia to be out of reach, so his influence could not work on his people. I told how Old John captured the steamer on the way to San Francisco and held the deck, leaving the wheelsman at helm unharmed until they brought so many gleaming barrels to bear on him from surrounding points of vantage that resistance was useless, so he surrendered. The story proves to be that Old John and his son--a chip of the old block--acted together. They had roamed the wilds and hunted and fished mountains and streams from the summits of the Cascade Range to the very ocean shore. As the steamer was passing the father and son recognized the headlands of their native shore, and the impulse of patriotism was too much for ordinary prudence. There sprang up a hope in their hearts that they might succeed once more in reaching that native illahee and again roam that mountain wilderness. In the affray on the ship the son's leg was shot, and amputation became necessary. Years after the longing for return became so great that he was allowed to go back to see the Rogue River hills once more. He stumped about there with his wooden leg for awhile; finally crossed the Cascades with the Klamaths, and the last known of him was making his home, in a wooden-legged way, with them. Old John, too, returned to his people after many days, when wars and rumors of Indian wars were over. It is to be hoped they had some happy years as the windup of their fitful lives. Whatever may be said of the savages of that early time, it should never be forgotten that the Indians who lived among these romantic scenes suffered and endured much at the hands of human fiends as white men, and that they fought like brave men, long and well, and were fighting for their native land!
The vales they loved so well are full of homes; villages nestle through them, churches and schools adorn them, the very mountaintops are becoming homelike and fruitful; the records and memories of half a century ago, when the red men lived and loved--when they hunted those mountains and fished these streams, and their women dug the camas and gathered the fruits of valley and mountain--seem as evanescent as the mists that today shroud these valleys and curl about these grand old hills, but to me there remains the romance and fragrance of a past we did not know, and of a people who were driven forth by a civilization they could not understand--whose dregs stifled them and whose outcasts violated their rights as well as desolated their homes. What we call progress has the trail of a serpent too often as its residuum. The whole story of Indian life and early history is made up of such episodes as we read here, as well as of lofty ideals accomplished and civilization achieved. It is a pity we cannot do better grace to the patriotism and worth of a race that produced such heroes and sages as we know in history, and such hard-fighting patriots as old Chief John.
S. A. CLARKE.Sunday Oregonian, Portland, February 10, 1895, page 6
It was the month of May--and many a May has come and gone since then. The wonderful beauty of Umpqua's hills and vales had lately been unfolded to us, as we journeyed southward day by day, scaling azure heights to descend into paradisaical vales, Eden-like in their loveliness and beauty. At that time all the rolling surfaces and sheltered valleys of the Umpqua were waiting, as they had waited since primeval dawn broke over them. Ragged oaks fitly crowning those grand old hills, or that clustered in groves upon their sides, reminded one who was "to the manor born" of New England's ancient orchards. Dark groves of arrowy firs filled the valleys, in contrast with flowering willows and alder. This variety of forest hues was enlivened by waving grasses, and the wilderness of leaf and bloom that everywhere surrounded us.
It had been a tiresome day of travel. Since dawn we had climbed Umpqua Mountain, descending through the terrible gorge of Canyon Creek, which stream we forded lengthwise, three miles, at one time, and crossed in all one hundred times. Our wagons had been lifted up the minor precipices that the stream threw itself over. At noon we reached the beautifully wooded summit of Umpqua Mountain; then, following the sun towards the evening we went down, and down, winding out upon the ridges and into the hollows, following smoother acclivities, and early in the afternoon camped beside a rippling stream upon as beautiful a prairie as stock ever grazed on. Our tired beasts were turned loose and gave way to exuberant frolic. Sober oxen bellowed and made pretense of play; cayuse ponies vied with sedate team horses in antics among grasses that almost hid them, in which they lay and rolled with perfect realization of equine and bovine luxury.
Our tents were being pitched where rushes offered a luxurious bed; our fires were kindled for the coming meal; all was rest and jollity. The terrors of Umpqua Canyon were an oft-told tale that had preceded the journey, something we had apprehended, but now the great mountain was behind us and the dreaded bugbear of the journey was no more. Suddenly, "the peace that blessed our vale" was disturbed. The mountainside we had just descended, and supposed to be as silent and deserted as we found and left it, became alive with sounds of war. Guns and pistols were discharged and fierce yells broke the waiting silence. Hardly an instant's time was lost, and every man of us had found his weapon and was ready for the defense. We had no organization as yet. Our company had gradually grown in numbers, and we had waited a few days on the Umpqua side to increase it before we ventured upon hostile territory. It was the intention to complete some form of organization when camp was made that evening.
News reached Oregon in the winter of 1850-1 that rich and extensive mines had been found in the extreme north of California. Thousands of Oregonians were bound there, many of whom had been in the mines before. We were in the lead of this immigration. We knew that all the Indian tribes were surly, but only the Rogue River tribes were actually hostile. Our camp that night would be on the edge of their country, so we waited in numbers sufficient to make it safe to march through the hostile territory.
We knew of no company following us and thought it possible that Indians on the warpath were cutting off stragglers who were trying to overtake and join us. Some remained to guard camp and care for the animals, lest the savages should drive them off, but our main force went boldly back to see what was happening. Before we reached the mountain we were met by a motley crew of homespun Oregonians, who, as they came on, kept up their fusillade and yells to let the world about them know that they were near. Our company was small and composed chiefly of eastern people who came to Portland by water, where they united their fortunes for this journey. Your genuine Oregonian of the early gold epoch was a robust character, generally full of noise and good humor. The new arrivals were from the Willamette settlements, including men, boys and some families. They heard we were in advance, and pushed on to effect a junction. When they reached the summit and saw our camp in the valley, they blazed away, boys and young men trying, by vocal fury, to drown the sound of arms. As men in our company knew some of theirs, and the Freemasonry of the western wilds dispenses with formality, we were soon acquainted, and were willing to concede that the newcomers added greatly to our strength. Nearly all of them were skilled hunters; even the boys were eager for a scrimmage with the natives. Before night fell we were an organized and well-officered company. A man of commanding character, Pleasant Armstrong, one of the solid men of Oregon, who came with the new arrivals, and had been in command of many Indian forays, was elected captain. Not long after, when leading a company of volunteers in regular Indian war, he was killed in battle. We were fortunate to have him for our leader.
It has seemed necessary to describe our outfit and the circumstances of our meeting in these western wilds, which are wilds no longer. A generation has passed and that beautiful region is now a land of homes and schools. Our company for a month prospected and passed over, without discovering, as rich mines as were ever known, that were found the succeeding year. We numbered seventy-five and met with no adventures greater than the killing of a grizzly bear by one of the Oregon contingent. It was not such a company as Indians care to include in their warpath. Those Oregon sharpshooters too seldom missed their aim.
S. A. Clarke, "On the Klamath," Sunday Oregonian, April 5, 1885, page 1
Last revised October 13, 2021