Also see the travel diary of Stephen Palmer Blake.
Up Country News.The Pacific, San Francisco, January 21, 1853, page 2
Sacramento, Jan. 11, 1853.DEAR PACIFIC:--After long silence and many wanderings I greet you again. I can give nothing very new from the upper country, but information to the latest dates. Our company left Scott Valley on the 7th of Dec. and crossed the mountain between Scott and Trinity rivers that day. We traveled 16 miles, and worked faithfully all day to do it. Six miles of the distance the snow lay from an inch to ten feet deep. Two days before some footmen had crossed, but owing to the depth of the snow they could not keep the trail, and our animals following in their tracks were worse off than they would have been in the right path entirely untrodden. But with hard wading, pitching, and plunging, and getting off to tread the trail, five of us out of some twenty got safely in to Seeley's just after dark. Some gave it up and went back, some camped for the night in the snow, others left their animals and came in on foot. Two sons of Abraham, themselves and animals exhausted, rolled them[selves] in their blankets and lay down without a fire, supperless on the snow.
However, upon our arrival at Seeley's guides went back and brought in all, except those who had camped, men and beasts before midnight. I have not heard of anyone coming over the mountain since. The expressmen started to go over, but were compelled to return. When we left, most of the miners had left the Klamath and Scott rivers, and gone to Rogue River or the new diggings between Jacksonville and the coast, called Sailor Diggings. On Scott's Bar and on the Klamath below the mouth of Scott River, flour was not to be had at any price. In Yreka it had been as high as $1.25 per pound, but when we left it was selling at 65 cents; and there were several pack trains with cargoes of flour and groceries expected in a few days. Sugar and coffee were scarce at $1.00 a pound. At Shasta for the last month flour has ranged from 55 to 85 cents a pound. At Weaverville at the last accounts it was $1.25. Almost all the people were leaving.
The snow on the mountains between Shasta and Weaver was about five feet deep, rendering it impossible for loaded animals to pass. The people can come out on foot, however, if they are likely to starve. But the poor men on Salmon River will have a harder time. When we left Scott Valley men had been waiting three weeks to get over with beef cattle and provisions, but had given up all hopes of getting over with them. They had started the day before to go on foot, but finding the snow 20 feet deep, and soft at that, they had to turn back. They said provisions were very scarce when they last heard from there, and at that time they were in nearly a starving condition. What has become of them by this time it it hard to tell. There were near 200 men in all I think. Of the flood in Sacramento Valley you are apprised. Much damage has been done to ranches and crops, and hundreds of cattle, horses, mules and hogs have been swept away, chilled or mired.
The roads from Colusa to Red Bluff are impassable to wagons or loaded mules. Goods are scattered all along the valley and many are destroyed. The steamers are running to Tehama or the Bluffs almost every day. The Orient, the G. Winter and the Fashion have been to the Bluffs. The Express, the Capt. Sutter and Kennebec to Tehama. The people in the Valley and at Shasta will lack provisions. Colusa, though not very lively, just now is high and dry. Tehama is crowed with teamsters, packers and traders; two or three hundred constantly there.
In this goodly city it is the same old story--water and mud, mud and water--today one is uppermost, tomorrow the other. On Sunday the water rose again, but not as high as before. Now the water gives way, and the mud has it. As I unite ever and anon the shouts and laughter of the crowd rise over the slips and mishaps mirings of some unlucky wight.
Warmly yours,The Pacific, San Francisco, January 14, 1853, page 2
Northern Part of California.
Sacramento City, Jan. 18.FRIEND PACIFIC:--Having been often asked by persons in this region about the coast in the northern part of the state and southern part of Oregon, what little I have to communicate may be generally acceptable. Trinidad Bay is the northernmost harbor in this state now in use, and though in present realities compared with former extravagant anticipations it may be considered a failure, yet it may still be a place of considerable importance from the agricultural region about it. As a seaport for the mining region east of it, it must remain of little account so long as the great number of hostile Indians infest its very bad trail. Scottsburg, 45 miles from the mouth of the Umpqua, is the southernmost port in Oregon. There are a few troops and some settlers at Port Orford, but from both these places there is only a pack trail going back into the country, and they are too far north for the present mining population. During the past autumn three companies of miners have started from Rogue River Valley to find a passage over the Coast Range to the Pacific. One company was cut off by the Indians, the other two succeeded in reaching the coast, or at least they went within a few miles of it, so as to see the harbor at the mouth of Smith River. One company passed down the coast and came up the Klamath, the other returned the way they went, to Table Rock City, or Jacksonville, as it is generally called, in Rogue Valley. They intended to return immediately and make a settlement at the mouth of Smith River, but were prevented by the early setting in of the rains. The harbor is said to be a good one. If it should prove so, the place will undoubtedly become one of considerable importance, for there is quite an agricultural region along the coast; and the Sailor Diggings are only 35 miles back, and there is a large mining country there already filled with enterprising men. Illinois River rises in the Coast Range and runs nearly north into Rogue River. Its tributaries are Josephine, Althouse and Applegate creeks. A large amount of gold has already been taken from these creeks and the main river. Sailors Diggings are near Illinois River, on the west side and a little above the mouth of Althouse Creek. From there to Rogue River Valley it is about 45 miles. There will then be within 80 miles of the mouth of Smith River, a large and well-filled mining and agricultural country. There are from 3000 to 5000 men there now. Within 150 miles is Yreka and Scott Valley, all of which section will be supplied with provisions and merchandise from this nearest point, of course. Good trails and perhaps wagon roads can be made to all these places from that point on the coast. The only question to be settled is respecting the harbor. All I have been able thus far to learn is that Smith, after whom the river is called, examined it to some extent and pronounced it good. And a sailor who has been in there confirms it. Who can throw light on the subject?
Rogue River Valley is rapidly filling up. There are 40 or 50 families already there. Table Rock City is a large and flourishing village, destined to be the largest inland town in the upper country. Yreka is already in the shade. There is a Protestant and an Episcopal Methodist minister there, but as yet no church edifice or schoolhouse.
At Yreka there is a small building belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Society, and Mr. Knapp, a Protestant Methodist, preaches in it. There is also, I think, a small school house.
MARYSVILLE, O.T., Jan. 30. '53.I have at last seen the Umpqua, and will attempt to describe it. The largest valley I saw in the Umpqua was four miles wide and six long. William Churchill lives in this valley. He has a good claim. The main Umpqua [River] runs through this valley. There are many smaller valleys. It is a good grazing country and plenty of water in winter and dry in summer; timber very scarce, and poor--black oaks generally. The country does not suit me. I have also visited Rogue River Valley. It is the best country I have seen in Oregon. It is some 30 or 40 miles wide and 35 or 40 miles long, with many strips of timber running through it, and the mountains are covered with fine timber, and are generally of easy access. The valley is only tolerably well watered. Though several fine streams run through it, springs are scarce. It produces splendid grass. The snow which commenced falling on the 12th December was general in all the valleys. It lay on the ground until the 4th of January, during which time the weather was very cold. Many streams in the Willamette Valley were frozen over, much stock was lost, and many persons frostbitten. Since the snow has gone the nights are very cold. The mice have destroyed nearly all the wheat, and little seed is left in the country. The emigrants cannot get work. How they are to keep soul and body together, I know not. I pay ten dollars a week for my board. I am now down upon the country. It will never have as good society as there is in the States.
I was at Isaac Constant's, in Rogue River Valley, during the snow storm. He lost one cow. He has 18 cows and heifers, 15 yoke of cattle, 3 mules and one horse. The last emigration are generally satisfied with the country, and I would frankly advise my friends in Sangamon County to stay where they are. My advice is stay away! M.W.E. [Miletus Ellis]
"Letters from Oregon," Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, April 11, 1853, page 2
This valley is a pleasant one and probably the prettiest part of Oregon. It is a good farming country and gold mines all around it and only about 80 miles from the seacoast from whence supplies can [be] procured as soon as the road is open to Paragon Bay where ships can run from San Francisco. A great many emigrants have settled here who came here last fall. Everything is high at present. Grass grows very abundantly throughout.
Samuel V. Tripp, letter of April 16, 1853
RESOURCES OF THE NORTH.--There is not, probably, a country on the face of the earth more fully blessed with resources for the production of affluence than the one in which we live. Northern California and Southern Oregon abound in one succession of mountains and valleys, the former producing auriferous deposits unsurpassed at this time including a vast extent of country north of the Sacramento Valley three hundred miles and west from the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific. The valleys abound in rich pastures whose adaptation to grazing and farming are second to none. To enumerate the different placer and other diggings in the above named district, which have long been worked by miners to handsome profits, or to portray the supreme agricultural resources of the numerous beautiful valleys which are now being so speedily settled, will be a task we will defer for the future.
Sacramento Daily Union, June 15, 1853, page 2
The Rogue River Valley is a beautiful country; the mountain scenery is grand and picturesque, and the soil rich and productive. There are many fine and substantial improvements in the way of farming being made, and you can hear the merry glee of the happy and industrious farmer mingled with the sound of the shovel and the pick and the clank of the crowbar as the miner turns over the large boulder, in the bed of which he finds the precious ore.
The citizens of Jacksonville are making some considerable display in the way of improving their town, and we can see no reason why it should not, in the course of a few years, become a large and business town; it has all the natural advantages to make it such. They have a range unsurpassed for growing stock, a good soil for farming, and the mines in that vicinity are rich and extensive. The town is also situated on the direct and only road from the Columbia River to the Bay of San Francisco.
"From Yreka," Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, July 2, 1853, page 3
Correspondence of the Journal.
SALEM, Oregon, June 10, 1853.A. H. SANDERS, ESQ.:--After a pleasant, but rather tedious trip of thirty-five days from New Orleans, I arrived at Portland, Oregon, from which place I have proceeded leisurely to Salem, taking every opportunity on the way to view and inform myself about the country. The result of my observations and the information derived from others I will endeavor to give you and your readers.
The first appearance of Oregon, as we enter the Columbia River, has nothing about it attractive or inviting. On either side of the river are high bluffs shooting up from the water's edge to a height varying from fifty to two hundred feet, and covered from their base to the summit with stunted fir trees, which give to the scenery so somber and gloomy an aspect that the thoughts of the traveler involuntarily turn homewards, and he almost curses the hour that he left the smiling banks of La Belle Riviere for this faded, sterile, and frowning waste.
The first place that we reach on entering the Columbia is the famous Astoria. The inhabitants of Santa Fe, we are told, believe, in their ignorance, that Independence is the capital and largest city of the United States. Many people in the States, having heard so much of Astoria, fancy that it is the principal town of Oregon. What would be the surprise of such, on entering the Columbia, to find it a small insignificant village of thirty-five houses, hemmed in by hills, and appearing so isolated and lonely, that we must almost imagine Sir Walter Scott to have had it in his mind when describing the cells of hermits, and the solitary nests of aquatic birds on the black and rock-bound coast of Scotland. Leaving Astoria, and ascending the Columbia, we saw nothing for many miles but one gloomy monotony of bluffs and fir trees--no town, no human habitation, no improvement, no place where the hand of improvement dare grapple with these rugged wilds. One object alone relieved the eye from the painful sameness of rock and fir, which on every side meeting the view seemed as interminable as the rude and giant cottonwood of the Mississippi, and producing a far more depressing effect on the mind. That object was the snow-covered summit of Mount St. Helens, distinctly visible at the distance of eighty miles, but appearing to be not more than twenty. It was the first snow-covered mountain many of us had ever seen, and it is impossible to describe the mingled emotions of admiration and awe with which we gazed upon it when the steamer in rounding a bend in the river, its glittering summit bright as burnished silver, first burst upon our view. There it stood in all its lovely grandeur and magnificence, towering high above the clouds, wrapped in its shining mantle of snow, the rays of the setting sun glancing from its dazzling crest as from the oriental queen's diadem of pearl. It is almost worth a trip to Oregon to see this noble mountain.
Passing the small and growing villages of St. Helens and Vancouver, we entered the mouth of the Willamette, and in an hour and a half arrived at Portland. This town is the largest in Oregon, but by no means pleasantly situated, its site being low and surrounded with dense forests of lofty fir trees, which give it a somewhat gloomy appearance. Besides, the mud here in winter, I suppose, would render it very uncomfortable as a place of residence and not add much to its healthfulness. Notwithstanding these disadvantages it is a thriving town, and will probably continue, as it is now, the principal commercial place of Oregon, being so situated as to form the outlet of the Willamette Valley. Oregon City is a smaller place than Portland and is not improving. Situated at the falls of the Willamette, it enjoys unrivaled facilities for manufacturing, and may someday become a large manufacturing city.
The appearance of the country begins to improve as soon as we enter the Willamette. The hills recede rapidly from the river the higher we ascend, until we find ourselves a few miles above Oregon City, in the midst of a level and beautiful country--the most beautiful that can be imagined, far surpassing anything I had expected, though my expectations had been raised very high. This part of Oregon comprises the counties of Marion, Linn, Benton, Yamhill and Polk, and is said to be the most desirable portion of the Territory, although some persons express a preference for the Umpqua. The county of Marion, of which Salem is the county seat, is regarded as the best county in the territory. Certainly no part of the United States that I have seen can compare with it in beauty of scenery and apparent fertility of soil. The accounts I have heard of its productions, particularly of small grain, turnips, potatoes, &c., seem almost incredible. Corn does not grow so well as in the States; but I am told that from 20 to 40 bushels to the acre can be produced; and in some localities more.
The climate of Oregon, if I may judge from the short time I have been in the territory, deserves all that has been said in its praise. It is true that I have arrived here at a time when the climate would be likely to make the most favorable impressions; but all the old settlers say that the weather now is a fair specimen of the weather during the entire summer, and the winters, though more wet, are very mild and pleasant. I find the people here well satisfied with the country. None of them would be willing to leave and return to the States--at least none with whom I have conversed. The invariable answer \o my question "Are you satisfied to remain in Oregon?" is "I would not live anywhere else." This universal contentment of the people I regard as conclusive of the desirableness of the country.
The inhabitants of Oregon I find to be generally intelligent, sober and orderly, and fully as genteel in appearance as in the western states. I know of no place of the same size in the States where can be found a greater number of genteel respectable-looking people than are to be found in this town of Salem. Ladies--that is, single ladies--are scarce. They are not suffered to remain single long; as there are many intelligent good-looking men and old bachelors waiting to snatch them up as fast as they arrive. Females of any age, between fourteen and forty, can be suited.
If asked what class of persons would most likely do best in Oregon, I would answer that, where all seem to be doing well, it is hard to make any distinction. The farmers obtain the very highest prices for their products; merchants sell goods at great profits; and mechanics receive wages at the rate of six or eight dollars per day. Money seems to be plentiful, and probably will long continue so. Besides these advantages, the settler, if married, will find good schools at all times in which to educate his children--an advantage which Oregon enjoys over California in this respect. There are in Salem flourishing schools with excellent Eastern teachers. The people of Oregon seem to show great zeal in promoting education.
The annual election came off last Monday. Members of the Legislature and county officers were elected; also a delegate to Congress. Gen. Lane was candidate for delegate, and from the complexion of the returns already received I have no doubt is elected. The solicitations of the people that he should represent them again in Congress induced him to resign the office of Governor, and return to Washington.
I should not close this letter without giving you a strict description of Salem, the seat of government of Oregon. It is a new town, most beautifully situated on the Willamette, and growing rapidly. Besides stores and numerous hotels, it contains several handsome private dwellings, a seminary that would do credit to a city of ten thousand inhabitants, and other buildings. A court house is in progress of erection, also a State House, or house for the meeting of the Territorial Legislature. This will be built of stone, and when completed will be a handsome and costly structure. Lawyers I find quite numerous in Oregon--more than enough for the litigation. Some lawyers may gain, but some will lose by exchanging the States of the Atlantic and the Mississippi Valley for the doubtful chances of success on the shores of the Pacific. Every lawyer considers himself peculiarly gifted, but he will find a surprising amount of talent this side of the Rocky Mountains. Two dignified lawyers arrived in San Francisco the morning I reached there--Gevin Page, of Kentucky and Hon. E. Stanley, of N.C. They intend to practice in San Francisco. G.
Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Iowa, August 8, 1853, page 2
SALEM, OREGON, June 25, 1853.ED. JOURNAL:--The election of delegate to Congress, which has just closed, has resulted in the choice of Gen. Lane by a majority of about 1,600. As it may not be uninteresting to many of your readers, I will give you a statement of the vote in some of the principal counties:
The people of Oregon are remarkable for their hospitality and general cordiality of manners in their intercourse with each other and with strangers. Strangers! There are no strangers here; none of that cold reserve and distance of manner which marks the intercourse of people in the older states. Nor is there undue familiarity, but a respectful frankness and warmth of manner, quite refreshing to those who have left all old acquaintances behind, and find themselves among persons whose faces they have never seen before. Lonely indeed would be the situation of the emigrant on his arrival, were it not for this welcome extended to him by the Oregonians; but whatever of homesickness he may feel at first soon gives place to entire satisfaction and contentment. No person that I have seen, who has been here a few months, is willing to leave and return to the States.
The country of the Umpqua which is now attracting some attention I will endeavor to describe. It differs in its external aspect very little from the other parts of Oregon. It is composed for the most part of inconsiderable hills, not connected with any chain of mountains, but which rise in gentle undulations from the generally level surface of the country. The valleys are narrow, but of no great depth; and at their bottoms flow little streams which glide by a gentle descent to the Umpqua River, or to the neighboring ocean. Near the ocean and as we approach the Cascade Range of mountains, the scenery assumes a bolder character. The Umpqua, near its mouth, flows in a deep and rocky bed amid everchanging rocks and woods; but nearer its source the declivities are more gentle, and extensive valleys reward the labors of the cultivator. Some persons prefer this part of Oregon to any other, but most, I believe, prefer the Willamette Valley.
There are three newspapers published in Oregon; one of them Whig, the other two Democratic. They are now engaged in a triangular fight, all of them having agreed to disagree, and have a shot or two at each other. A reader of their editorials is reminded of the triangular duel described in a novel called "Midshipman Easy" in which Easy fired at Biggs, Biggs at Eastup, and Eastup at Easy. There seems, however, in the last few numbers, a disposition on the part of the Whig paper and one of the Democracy to form an alliance offensive and defensive against the Statesman, the Democratic paper published at Salem, and which is the official paper of the Territory, and the ablest. The weapons used in this controversy are such as are usual in newspaper warfare--argument, abuse, sarcasm, wit, ridicule. Mr. Bush the editor of the Statesman, has great skill in political controversy, nor does he shrink from personalities where personalities are necessary. His assailants are antagonists not to be despised.
Evansville Daily Journal, Evansville, Indiana, August 17, 1853, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, August 19, 1853, page 2
CRESCENT CITY, July 19, 1853.Mr. Schnebly:--Sir, Thinking it might be of some interest to the people of Oregon to know something about this place, our business and future prospects, I embody in the following nothing but facts which you may rely on.
Crescent City is situated in latitude 41 deg. 45 minutes, and about twelve miles below the mouth of Smith's River, which is three miles in California. The distance from Crescent City to Sailor Diggings is forty-five miles, to Althouse fifty-two, and to Jacksonville eighty miles. Packers have made the trip to Althouse in from seven to eight days, and in that distance there is not a stretch to exceed eight miles without plenty of grass and water. It is termed a good mountain trail.
New diggings have been, and still are being, discovered on the N. Fork of Smith's River, and at present there are about 100 persons engaged in working them. There is a vast amount of gold on the western slope of the Coast Range of Mountains. Those engaged in mining here have done remarkably well.
The population of Crescent City ranges somewhere between 1000 and 1200 persons. The town is improving rapidly, there are 34 stores, one steam sawmill, just built, and now in successful operation. The steam propeller Hartford purposes running weekly between this place and San Francisco. Sail vessels are constantly plying, and the mail steamship Columbia touches every two weeks on her upward trips to the Columbia River.
The farming country east of this place, comprising an area of some 3,000 acres, is all claimed, and some advancement [has been] made in farming. The district of country above for forty miles is principally prairie land, and well adapted to farming and grazing purposes. It will be remembered that the Oregon line extends nearly to the mouth of Smith's River. Thus, you see, persons desiring it could avail themselves of the Oregon donation act.
Crescent City is just about three hundred and fifty miles from Oregon City. I traveled it in thirteen days. There is good anchorage here, and the harbor is well protected on all sides except on the south.
Prices of produce, etc.--Flour is selling at $7 and $7.50 per 100 lbs.; bacon is worth from 16½ to 17 cents per lb., pork 15 cents; beef is retailing at 20 and 25 cents; corned beef (from America) is worth 10 cents, coffee 6 lbs. for a dollar, sugar (Island) 7 and 8, and Orleans 10 cents, in barrels and half barrels, crushed 12½ cents.
T. H. Mc.-------.
FROM SOUTHERN OREGON.
We have been favored with a letter from Mr. Eaton Hickox, who has been for some time past engaged in mining in Southern Oregon. It would be well to say, however, that the 42nd parallel has not yet been surveyed, and it is a disputed point where that line of latitude runs. The result is that the country in that neighborhood acknowledges both the California state government and the Oregon territorial government, and votes in the elections of both. The country from this account is called "neutral ground."
Mr. Hickox writes that within some months previous a harbor was discovered a little north of the Klamath River and some distance south of Rogue River, where a town has been commenced called "Crescent City." It is said that the harbor is a good one. Mr. H. has furnished a map of the neighboring country, some points of which we will endeavor to describe, as we are unable to present a plate of it. The Klamath River enters the Pacific some 15 miles south of the Crescent City and harbor. The Klamath has numerous branches in the interior, upon which gold has been found and where there is a numerous population of miners. Some ten miles north of Crescent City is Smith's River, a much smaller and shorter river--probably not forty miles long--coming into the Pacific from a southeast direction. Some fifteen miles north of Smith's River is the Illinois River, traversing the country from the same direction, southeast, much larger than Smith's River, with numerous branches entering it some fifteen miles from the coast. Six or eight miles north of the Illinois River, Rogue River enters the Pacific. At a distance of twenty or thirty miles from the coast, this river has numerous branches. Gold has been found in the valleys and streams of this whole region of country, which region is rough and mountainous, with some pleasant valleys, the streams being generally rapid. This region has been, and is now, the favorite resort of Indians, who are the most warlike and cruel of any found in Oregon or California. The whites have driven them from their favorite hunting and fishing grounds, and shoot them down whenever they can find them.
"Althouse Creek" is one of the uppermost branches of the Illinois River. There Mr. Hickox is located with a company of miners. He writes--"Here I am now. I have a nice place to live in, and try to persuade myself that I am quite comfortable. Here is where the gold is obtained--the 'root of all evil'--which creates more evil while it is being dug than afterwards.
"There has been a great deal of gold taken out here. Some few have become suddenly rich and others remain poor. The banks of the creek have nearly all been worked over, and now the miners are preparing to turn the creek with flumes, so that they can work the bed. It is in one of these speculations that I am engaged at present. I did not think that I should mine anymore, but as I had a chance to get what I considered a good claim, and as nothing better offered, I felt disposed to try my luck once more. I shall have the water turned off in about a week, and then if there is anything at the bottom I will give it much joy when I get hold of it. Whether I make anything or not, I am determined that this shall be my last summer in the mines.
"The Indians in Rogue River Valley were quite troublesome the last spring, so much so that it has been dangerous to travel except in large companies. It is expected there will be some fighting, as they are the most warlike Indians in the country. It is feared that a company, of which Joseph Williams was one, have been killed by them. They left here some six weeks ago, and have not been heard from. (The letter from Mr. Estill, a notice of which we gave yesterday, is twelve days later than Mr. Hickox' letter--it was written at the same point.)
"A good many are leaving here for the new diggings lately discovered at Port Orford, near the mouth of the Umpqua River. It is said that the sands of the beach there are yellow with gold. I have not believed all this, consequently I remain with the few. I find it will not always do to run round with these reports. Some have left good claims here that they have been at the trouble of watching all winter so that they might work them this summer. But it is always thus in the mines. As soon as one gold discovery excitement dies away another is started, and it would keep one always moving to follow them up.
"There has been a good deal of sickness here this spring, of what is called the 'mountain fever.' The attacks are generally fatal. Until lately, there has not been a white woman in this valley. Some four or five married ladies came here the last spring, and I will assure you they created quite a sensation among the miners. For nearly a year I had not seen the face of a white woman, and it was a sight worth seeing. Dear woman! What is man without thy moralizing influence! Thy gentle presence holds in check their fierce natures. It is horrible to behold how degraded man will become away from the influence of woman! He who digs a fortune in the mines earns it well, and should not be envied.
"There are several persons here from Springfield and its neighborhood: Robert Estill, James Gormley, Addison Foley, Edward and William Northcutt and Wm. Smith, and there are others from Sangamon County."
Illinois State Journal, Springfield, August 18, 1853, page 2
Many towns, Oregon City, Portland, Salem, Marysville, Scottsburg, [Port] Orford and Crescent City, some with their hundreds and others with their thousands of inhabitants, with all kinds of goods that can be found in the States, and nearly everything as cheap as at the East (because of the great competition) except for the productions here. Flour is 10 to $18 per cwt., beef 15 to 25 cts. per lb., pork 20 to 30 cts. per lb., potatoes 1.00 to 3.00 per bus., onions 3.00 to 5.00 per bus., oats 2.00 to 4.00 per bus., butter .50 to 1.00 per lb., eggs and chickens same as butter. Oxen $200 per yoke, cows $100 per head, good American horses or mares $100. Indian ponies $25 to $75. The nearer the mines the higher the prices.
In the Umpqua Valley, where I am, while onions are worth $5.00, molasses is only 75 cts. per gal. A pound of butter is worth more than a gallon of molasses. One lb. butter will buy eleven lbs. sugar. One lb. butter will buy a dress. One day's work $2.00 to $3.00 will buy a pr. pants. You may now understand what to bring with you if you ever conclude to come to Oregon, just nothing at all only what is necessary on the way, except stock.
Calvin B. West, Yoncalla, September 6, 1853, in Reginald R. Stuart and Grace D. Stuart, Calvin B. West of the Umpqua, California History Foundation, 1961, page 46
Our Oregon Correspondence.
Trip Through California to Oregon--Sketches of the Cities, Towns and Country--Sad Fate of an Emigrant Party &c.
Portland,Oregon, Sept. 21, 1853.I wrote you last from the southern mines of California, in the neighborhood of Sonora. The weather becoming very warm, I concluded to give up my location there, and try the northern mines. On my way I passed through San Francisco, and stopped a few days there. I was surprised to see how great was the change which the nine months since I left it had wrought. Large numbers of the best kind of buildings are going up in every part of the city, and in the environs many elegant residences are now erected. It is already a noble city, and in but few years must hold a rivalship with the greatest emporiums of the world.
From San Francisco I went to Sacramento, where I stopped a day. Notwithstanding the terrible calamities which have almost overwhelmed this city, it is still a place of great extent and business, and retains, and will retain, I suppose, the distinction of being the second city of California.
Taking a small-class steamer, I proceeded up the Sacramento River to Colusa, one hundred and thirty-five miles above Sacramento. In winter the navigation extends still another hundred miles, to Cowertsburg. The river flows through a fine valley, of great extent, and very productive, but it is quite unhealthy, I heard it said. From Colusa we were taken by coach along the valley another hundred miles, and came to Shasta, a right smart mining town, which has been just rebuilt, after being almost completely burned up. There are a large number of stores here, as it is the point of supply for an extensive region, and it has a very busy air. From Shasta onward is only a mule trail for the most part, and I accordingly made my way from here on foot, which method of locomotion I prefer to any other, and which is here, at any rate, by far the most agreeable. It is a little lonely, however; the houses are sometimes ten or twelve miles apart, and you may pass over a long distance without meeting anyone. The profound quiet and seclusion of these rural districts were to me very pleasing.Now and then the deer are startled by your footfall, and bound away from its sound, and all is still again. On leaving Shasta you pass up the valley of Clear Creek for some twenty-five miles, and then strike across a high range of land on to the Trinity, which is a considerable stream, and a valley of no great extent. Following up this stream quite to its head, you cross the height of land, and pass over into the valley of Scott's River, which is a remarkably fine one, and of considerable extent, being six or seven miles wide in some places, although the stream is quite small. There are here quite a number of settlers, and a good deal of land under cultivation. After the long stretch of desert land between the valley and Shasta (about one hundred miles), it seemed like an oasis in the desert. I found the people here a good deal alarmed about the Indians, who have committed many murders and destroyed much property in the Rogue River Valley, and it was feared that the Shasta Indians (who occupy this valley) would break out in the same manner.
Crossing another height of land, you pass from Scott's into the Shasta Valley, which is of greater extent, but not nearly as fertile as the former. In this valley is situated the flourishing town of Yreka, which is one of the most considerable mining towns of Northern California, and the diggings hereabout are quite rich, but are not much worked at this season, on account of the weather. Here, too, the greatest excitement prevails in regard to the Indians, although no outbreak has as yet taken place, and, owing to the small number of Indians (not more than thirty or forty), there probably will be none. A company of mounted men, however, are constantly engaged in scouring the country adjacent, and another had been dispatched to the aid of the Rogue River settlements, where the danger is really great. In fact, not long after leaving the Yreka [sic], on my way there, I met a couple of men riding furiously, from whom I learned that a house had been attacked the same morning, and five or six men killed or severely wounded, and they were on the way to seek medical assistance for them. Not long after leaving them, I came to the base of the Siskiyou Mountains, which are the boundary between California and Oregon, and crossing which you find yourself in the Rogue River country, and in the midst of the hostile Indians. I halted a day here, in hopes of finding some companionship across the mountains, but as none came, I took my way across on foot and alone. It is a lonely place enough, for about twelve miles without any houses, and many places where the Indians, securely ambushed, might destroy almost any number without even being seen. I experienced no molestation, however, and made my way into the valley of the Rogue River at the expense of only a slight trepidation when the bushes were moved by some wild animals, as I invaded their domains.
A little way down the valley was the house which had been attacked. The attack was made at daybreak, according to the usual practice of the Indians. Two emigrant wagons were encamped by the river. The men, three in number, were asleep under the wagons, and all were killed, or so badly wounded that they did not long survive. [One of them was apparently a Hugh Smith.] The women and children in the wagons were not hurt, although the tops of the wagons were riddled with balls and arrows. Certainly it was a hard fate, after escaping all the danger of their long travel, so to perish on the soil they had come far to seek. As the people here were shorthanded and naturally much alarmed, I stopped with them a few days and assisted them to keep guard, but the Indians offering no further molestation, I continued on to Jacksonville, distant five or six hundred miles from San Francisco, and which is the last of the mining towns, although the mining region extends to the north considerably further--in truth, it is not at all certain as yet where it stops. Jacksonville is the depot of the Rogue River Valley, in which there are rich mining claims, as well as great agricultural resources, and bids fair to become a place of considerable importance.
The camp where the troops, numbering some three thousand [sic], who were engaged in the war, was about ten miles from Jacksonville, under command of Gen. Lane, and I walked down there one day and stopped overnight, to see how the "boys" got on. I remained here all night, and had a fine time of it, with the canopy of heaven for a covering, but the hardy miner-soldiers made but little account of it, and the bright sun of the morning soon put all to rights. There had been an engagement a day or two before, in which the whites, engaging at a great disadvantage, were rather worsted. Capt. Alden, United States army, was very badly wounded in this engagement, by a wound in the neck, and Gen. Wool [sic] was wounded slightly in the arm. The Indians are very well armed, and have shown a good deal of shrewdness in carrying on the war, but they have committed many barbarities, and from the spirit which is aroused, they can hardly fail to receive a summary chastisement.
Finding the war in status quo, on account of a proposed treaty with the Indians, and mining pursuits altogether interrupted, as well as all others, I resolved to push across Oregon to Portland, and thence again to San Francisco. Traveling in that direction was considered extremely dangerous, and I received many warnings to the effect that I could hardly cross it unharmed, but, as I had made up my mind to cross at all events, I set out composedly enough from Jacksonville on foot, alone and unarmed, as I had come already some two hundred miles. Parties of men whom I met, armed to the teeth, evinced great astonishment on meeting me, and one southerly gentleman assured me, with a confidential air, "that it wasn't a good idee." However, I "calculated" as, being a Yankee, I had a right to do [it], that with a less party than twenty or thirty men I was full as safe in this way as to travel mounted and armed in parties of from two to five, as more men have been cut off so than in any other way--the arms and horses being great temptations for attacking, and the number too small for effective defense. At any rate I passed through the dreaded section of about sixty miles without molestation, although there are certainly a good many places, which, with the aid of the many stories told you of Indian murders, were strongly adapted to put one's nerves to the test.
The last twelve miles of the disturbed section passes through what is known far and wide in this quarter by the name of "the canyon." It is a very deep and narrow gorge, and is the only means of passing from the Rogue River country into the Umpqua. It has a road through it which one would think it a great achievement for a mule to get through on safely, but what was my surprise, to meet about half way through, a twelve-pounder cannon making its way along with considerable facility, by the aid of eight stout mules, and a company of mounted men, who were escorting it to the seat of war! Getting through the canyon after some six hours of as hard walking as one could well have, I came into the Umpqua, where there is no further danger from the Indians. This is a valley of great extent, and is considerably settled. A little town in it, called Winchester, of about seven or eight houses, is the only place of any note in it. Further on, to be sure, is a spot imposingly called Eugene City, but this contains only one house and a barn!
From the Umpqua, crossing the Calapooya Mountains, you come into the noble valley of the Willamette, of great extent and fertility, and which is now pretty much taken up. Everything is new here, as yet, but you can see the germs of a great state. The people whom I saw and conversed with, which were very many in the course of my route, seemed to be, without exception, pleased with their prospect. They said it was the easiest country to live in they had ever seen. As a wheat and grazing country it is undoubtedly superior to any part of your country; for corn it is not nearly so good, but potatoes and garden vegetables are of the very best quality.
Marysville is the first place that you come to deserving the name of a town, after leaving Jacksonville, a distance of more than two hundred miles. In winter it is at the head of navigation on the Willamette, but in the dry season the boats can only run twenty-five miles above Portland, from which Marysville is distant about one hundred. I was greatly struck with the contrast between an Oregon and a California town. It being Sunday all the shops were closed, and everything had the quiet air which it has in the towns of the Atlantic States. In a California town everything is in full blast on the Sabbath, and more business is done than on any other day of the week, although a change is rapidly working in this respect, and in San Francisco, for instance, a good deal of attention is paid to the decorum of the day.
From Marysville you pass to Albany and Salem, both considerable places, and the latter is the seat of government for the Territory. It contains a very large edifice for educational purposes, and the foundations of a commodious statehouse have been laid. From Salem to Oregon City is forty miles, across the "French Prairie," as it is called, from being much settled by the French. This latter is a place of a good deal of trade, and communication with Portland, twelve miles distant, every day by steamboat.
From Oregon City I came across the Portland Hills to Portland, the principal seaport and town of Oregon, and so finished a tramp of 500 miles, which I accomplished in a leisurely manner, at the rate of about 20 miles a day. Portland is well situated on the Willamette (so pronounced) twelve miles from its junction with the Columbia, and about 100 from the ocean. It has about 2,000 inhabitants, I should judge, and a large business is done here, it being the head of ship navigation. The harbor is the best in Oregon, undoubtedly, but still the bar of the Columbia has proved quite disastrous within a year, and it is now only a few days since a vessel laden with the materials for a much-needed lighthouse was wrecked and totally lost there. These repeated losses have just induced the employment of a steam tug, lately arrived, and which, it is believed, will pretty much put a stop to these disasters. The opening of some new ports to the southward has cut off some of the trade that used to come to this place, but still, as the depot of the great Willamette and Columbia valleys, it must always be a place of importance.
Oregon, on the whole, as I am able to say from a fair view of a large part of it, is a noble country, and is not surpassed, I believe, by any portion of our vast domain. I have been much interested in the trip across it, and have thought your readers would be glad even of the scanty notice I have been able to give of it.
CAL. OR.New York Herald, November 9, 1853, page 6
For the Oregon Spectator.Extract from a letter written by Geo. T. Allan, to a correspondent in this city, dated Lower Scottsburg, Aug. 26, '53:
"I have just returned in the Washington from Coos Bay, and a rough and dangerous time I had of it. In going into the bay we ran considerable risk. The entrance to it is, in my opinion, more dangerous than that to the Umpqua. We went in with a smashing breeze, and had to take in our sail in the most dangerous place, so what would have become of a sailing vessel in the same fix? The breakers looked dreadful!
"I have examined Coos Bay very carefully; coal has been discovered there in abundance, and of good quality; we ran up about twelve miles and took in coal for ballast. I can see that Coos Bay will have a coal and lumber trade, but I do not believe that it will affect the mining trade of the Umpqua."
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 9, 1853, page 3
For the Oregon Spectator.
LOWER SCOTTSBURG, Sept. 6, '53.Editor Oregon Spectator:
DEAR SIR:--I have no doubt but that anything new and tending in any way to the development of our Territory and its natural resources must prove interesting to the Spectator; at least, I always considered it so when the old Spectator was alive, and presume that in her new garb the policy has not been changed. At all events I go upon the strength of that supposition, and therefore, without further ceremony shall endeavor to give you a sketch, though a rough one, of the explorations of the steamer Washington to Coos Bay and Smith's River, and you may rely upon it that the statement shall be found correct, however uncouth the language:
On Friday the 19th of August, 1853, the Bully Washington ran down to Umpqua City, near the mouth of this (Umpqua) river, and next morning down to Winchester Bay and took a look at the bar. I presume it looked rather rough. The Washington is not in the habit of backing out, but however great is my respect for the illustrious name she bears, I must confess she backed out on this occasion, but next morning she ran down again, and although the captain of the brig Fawn was then on the beach and gave it as his opinion that there was no going out that day, still the Washington shook herself and thought she would try it; her able captain, of course, directing all; so out she went, but in my opinion at a great risk at that stage of the tide and bar; however, out she did go, and safely. Her captain merits the greatest praise for the coolness and intrepidity he displayed on the occasion. Once out, we ran to Coos Bay, at least to the entrance of it, in about three hours, but to enter in, and safely, was now the question, and a serious one. "To be or not to be," as Shakespeare says. The captain climbed to the masthead while the poor little Washington was rolling to and fro after a fashion that I have no wish to see repeated. He decided that we could venture in, and he remained on the masthead and ordered the fireman to take the helm. I saw at once that as it was then flood tide; we must either run in or perish in the attempt. There was, however, now no choice; we had put one foot into it and there was no backing out, so on we went, and although the breakers on each side looked frightful, we entered in safety, and most sincerely said, "Thank God for all his mercies."
Now in the bay, safely moored, I presume you expect some kind of description of it. On entering the bay we anchored in a bight on the south side, and discharged the cargo in canoes.
Having got rid of the cargo, we got up steam and proceeded up the bay about six miles to what they call the city site, but in my opinion it is badly chosen, as the anchorage is very much exposed, and flats run out to a great extent.
Coos Bay is pretty extensive but has many flats, and the entrance I consider dangerous for sailing vessels, but ocean steamers I believe can enter with safety, and even sailing vessels when a strong steam tug is at hand. But with such a boat I shall be in no particular hurry to risk my life again into Coos Bay. In fact, had the Washington not had steam at command she would have been totally lost, to all intents and purposes; as we crossed the bar with a strong N.W. wind, and whilst in the most dangerous part, and enormous rollers on each side, her sails totally failed us. Had, therefore, the little Washington not had steam, even the illustrious name she bears could not have saved her from a total wreck, and all hands must have perished, so in that case you would have missed THIS valuable communication.
On our arrival at the city site we were received by the b'hoys, about fifty of them, with three cheers, and of course the Washington responded with three whistles. The circumstances were exciting and fully justifies all the display made on the occasion. The Washington was the first steamer that had ever navigated Coos Bay--she had gone there at considerable risk, and her appearance and whistle astonished the natives! We camped with the b'hoys that night, and met with the most kind and cordial reception, and which we shall always be most willing and ready to reciprocate when any of them come our way. In mentioning our kind reception at the city site of Coos Bay, I must not neglect to state that I labor under great obligations to Dr. Foster and Mr. Harris, and also to Mr. Marpell.
On the next day we ran the Washington about five miles up the bay to one of the coal mines, with a good stock of the b'hoys on board, who kindly volunteered their services to ballast the Washington with coal. We anchored in perfectly quiet water and took in coal at about fifty yards distance from the shore. We tested the coal and the engineer pronounced it good. There are also here cedar and white pine, and I believe excellent timber. You have now my ideas of Coos Bay, and as they are taken from personal observation, I believe you can rely upon them.
Now for Smith's River. The Washington ran up Smith's River about forty miles. That river empties into the Umpqua about nine miles above its mouth. During this excursion we observed large bottoms of rich land, covered however pretty thickly with maple wood and brush, which could be easily cleared. We believe, however, that most of these bottoms are subject to inundation during the freshets in winter, and therefore fear that stock could not be carefully raised, or maintained when raised along the river. But I fully believe that root plants of every description could be raised in the greatest abundance and perfection. We ran up, as I have already stated, forty miles in the Washington, and then anchored or rather tied her along shore. It was then dead low water, and I have no doubt but in high tide she could have run at least twenty miles farther up, as the tide then showed every indication of rising at least four feet more. There is no want of timber, and of the most appropriate sizes for piles, in this river, and also other timber, and as the tide runs up so far, there would be in my judgment but little difficulty in taking it to market.
I have now given you a rough sketch and hasty one of Coos Bay and Smith's River. I have not yet said a word about Scottsburg, and being a merchant of that place, and, I presume like all merchants over the world, anxious and desirous to make my pile, I think you ought to give me due credit for my forbearance. All I have to say, however, about Scottsburg is that it is the place, and will be eventually the place, although we have had great difficulties to contend with, but the Bully Washington is doing something, as you and your readers may judge from her movements so far. There is a first-rate opening now for a blacksmith here, a shop and tools all ready. A blacksmith can either purchase the shop and tools, or rent both, and I would recommend some of the b'hoys coming in to look at it, and quickly too. The proprietor of Lower Scottsburg, Mr. William Sloan, is now engaged daily deepening Brandy Bar, the only bar to our progress from the mouth of the river to Lower Scottsburg. He goes ahead like a man, and has deepened it two feet. He is just the man to go ahead, and will go ahead. In the meantime, the Francis Helen has been twice here since we established, and found no difficulty in crossing Brandy Bar, and also found our wharf very convenient on arrival here.
If I could depend now upon the weather I would venture the Washington once more over the bar here this season, in order to explore the Siuslaw, a river to the northward of the mouth of the Umpqua, as I understand, about ten miles. I have been anxious to make these explorations previous to the arrival of the immigration, so as to put them in possession of the real facts. I am informed that Smith's River takes its rise near to the Siuslaw, but am still uncertain upon that point. Had time permitted when I made the trip up Smith's River I should have ascertained it to a certainty.
In giving the description I have already give you of the Umpqua Bar and of the danger the Washington encountered in running out, you must not suppose that it is a dangerous bar, but the Washington is a real go-ahead and went out against a strong tide. Had she chosen her time and tide it would appear very differently.
Your friend,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 23, 1853, page 2
G.T.A. [George T. Allan--see above]
The Umpqua country is filling up fast. Choice claims are becoming valuable, and when there is a good road open to the coast from this valley, it will be a desirable part of the country to live in. There is considerable travel through the valley at the present time. The road from Paragon Bay is nearly abandoned, I am told, because it is extremely hard on pack animals. The increased transportation of goods through this valley proves that there is no good opening to the ocean opposite the northern mines.
There was considerable produce raised in the country this season considering the newness of the settlement and the disadvantages under which many of the settlers were placed. Wheat is worth from $4 to $5 per bushel, and onions and potatoes about the same. There is a small flouring mill at Winchester, in connection with a sawmill, and one far advanced towards completion at the mouth of Deer Creek, which, if supplied with such machinery as its exterior appearance would lead us to expect, will be alike creditable to the buildup and to this portion of Oregon.
"C.W.S.," letter from South Umpqua, Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 6, 1853, page 1
A Trip Up North.Being disgusted with the world, and especially with a printing office, we started in company with some friends on a tour away up north, passing over Trinity and Scott mountains, through Scott and Shasta valleys, over Siskiyou Mountains, fetching up in Jacksonville, Rogue River Valley, O.T.
Were it not that all this country has been so frequently described in our paper by numerous correspondents, we might attempt something of the kind at present. Such an effort now, however, would be superfluous. The magnificent valleys through which we passed are fast filling up with enterprising farmers, who are industriously laying out ranches and preparing for putting in crops for the next season. And if we may judge from the success that has attended the efforts of farmers the past season, their prospects to grow independent in a few years are most flattering. In no portion of California is the husbandman rewarded with more plenteous yields than in Scott, Shasta and Rogue River valleys. Here farmers have the very best market in California, especially those of the two first-named valleys, lying as they do in the midst of the very heart of the mines north of Shasta and Trinity.
We spent several days very pleasantly in the flourishing town of Yreka, where we formed the acquaintance of some of the most agreeable gentlemen whom it has ever been our good fortune to meet anywhere. If we do not renew that acquaintance ere many months, we are much mistaken at present. Yreka is somewhat larger than we expected to find it, as well as better built. Indeed, it contains some twenty or twenty-five brick and stone houses, many of them fireproof. We learned, too, that it is the intention of many more of the citizens to put up fireproof brick and stone buildings the ensuing summer. Backed by extensive agricultural districts, and the very best mines in the state, Yreka cannot fail to become probably the largest inland town in the extreme northern part of the state.
We also found Jacksonville, O.T. much better built than we expected. Indeed, the Robinson House, owned and kept by Dr. Jesse Robinson, formerly of this place, is probably the largest hotel north of Marysville. The business of the town, however, was very slack, occasioned by the recent Indian difficulties. During the approaching winter, when the mines in the vicinity will be filled up with miners, business must necessarily improve, and Jacksonville will be more flourishing than ever.
Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, October 15, 1853, page 3
Jacksonville, Oregon, Dec. 17, '53.
Mr. Editor--We arrived here in the Rogue River Valley Oct. 26th, just five, instead of four, months out from Kanesville, in company with a train of 87 persons, 23 wagons, 334 head of cattle, 1700 sheep and 29 horses and mules--all right save the "ordinary wear and tear" of wagons and teams, and some wear and tear of heart, especially for going hungry now and then, and eating poor dry beef for a fortnight on the road.--We were so foolish as to join company with this great multitude at Green River, 60 miles this side of the South Pass, and to come through with them, and dearly we paid for our folly. Our teams were broken down and we were delayed three weeks and over beyond the time we might have made.--There was a great deal of suffering in the train in consequence of the delay--suffering providentially arrested by relief of flour from the valley, meeting us ten days out, near the Sierra Nevadas [i.e., the Cascade Range]. We cannot express our obligations to this people for their generosity. It is the noblest community I ever saw. Many had consumed their whole summer in a most sanguinary war of defense with the bloodiest horde of Indians on the continent; all the grain that could be destroyed by fire had been consumed, and many of the dwellings of the settlers burned down; business of all kinds was totally prostrated, and the famine of the past year threatened a continuance for a year to come; but as news reached the valley that emigrants were suffering on the road, a force of fifty rangers immediately volunteered for their defense against the Indians, and under their protection a train of mules with three tons of flour, $1,000 worth--was sent to their relief. The whole road to the Sierra Nevadas, and indeed for a hundred miles beyond, was thus effectually occupied and aid supplied as far as any necessity could be anticipated. Wherever the presence of Indians was suspected, there an efficient detachment of troops was posted and the closest watchfulness maintained; whenever property was plundered from emigrants, the most vigorous efforts were made to recover it--and when families were found destitute of bread, they were supplied at the lowest rates to those having money, and free to those having none. And twice after the first, during the emigrating season, provision trains under escort were sent out that there might be no possible failure of the abundance of their liberality. On account of the great disproportion of prices of labor and food, emigrants experience very great difficulty in getting through the first eight months of their residence here; and no one can realize the intense interest felt in their condition by the citizens of the valley. Every facility within reach of the people is afforded them to obtain food and to find employment. There is a great deal of industry in the valley, and the strangest mixture of economy and liberality I ever saw. With the evidences of friendliness, frankness and generosity a man everywhere meets, he can hardly believe the community to be composed of people from every part of the Union, a year ago all strangers to one another.--Land here is good--but not as good as that of Wisconsin generally. It is too gravelly. Much of it, especially that most affected by drought, is quite naked. Generally it is about half covered with a short thick growth of very rich bunch grass that seems to spread some by grazing and may in places eventually form a close turf. A very little of the land on the streams has grass that may be mown--but the best of it is not what your farmers would call tolerable wild meadow--On the southern slopes of the mountains grass, much of it clover, takes the place of timber, while the northern slopes are covered with pine (mainly pitch pine), fir and yellow cedar--the latter differing a little from your white cedar, and approaching the famous redwood, palo colorado, of Oregon and California. Much of the southern slopes is grown up to a short stunted wild sage--Fremont's artemisia--a form of which covers "the plains" from Scott's Bluffs, below Laramie, to the Sierra Nevadas--fit for neither fuel nor food for man or beast. There is soil everywhere. The rock is very seldom exposed. Now and then you see a wall of sandstone or hornblende running along the mountainside, but you see too that time is fast employed whittling them to earth.
The periodical drought produces a necessity for irrigation on almost all soils, for the coarser products. Wheat, oats and barley--all cereal grains--do well. They mature before they suffer. Flax is indigenous on all good soils from the Bear River [a tributary of Great Salt Lake] to the Pacific. There is no three months of dog days to make corn. The summer nights are too cool for it and the drought a little too early. The early kinds are grown but with no great success. With wheat we can beat the world--and perhaps with oats. With coarse vegetables the country does well. In fat cattle, it can't be beat. Now, at midwinter, there are hundreds of cattle, as fat as your best stall fed, on the commons--propagating, growing, fattening, with as little human care as the deer on the mountains. The animal grows through all the seasons, and at one year old is as heavy as in your country at two. An ox here is expected to weigh eight to eleven hundred, of course, and you see one yoke performing a labor that two of ours can hardly do. The wheat crop for the next harvest is yet, Dec. 17, but little of it in. They sow till March. The plowing of the season is now from a third to a half done. It commences with the rains late in Nov. and continues to the middle of Feb. or first of March. It requires four or five yoke of oxen to break with a plow cutting 14 inches. We have had now four freezing nights, all in succession. It is called remarkably cold. Men complain of the cold as they do in your country when the mercury is 20 degrees below zero. Their houses are very open--about open enough for comfortable summer houses--and they expect to keep warm in them. The commerce of the country is carried on upon pack mules, and so mild are the winters that the "packers" expect to sleep and live in the open air in all seasons, even without tents. The highest point to which the mercury rose last summer was 112 degrees--but the heat was not oppressive as it is in Wisconsin. The air is balmy from the effect of the sea, and one feels free about the chest in the highest heat of summer. In winter the temperature ranges in the neighborhood of zero to 14 degrees below--seldom, perhaps never, freezing in the daytime, and only now and then nights. Nobody thinks of such a thing as feeding cattle in the winter. You sometimes see a little stack of hay designed for a working team in time of emergency--but this is not common. It is expected that teams will go right along through the winter, plowing and keeping fat on the new growth of grass which is now green and fine. The old Spanish trail and the present inland commercial route is through this valley, from California to Oregon. Thousands of mules are employed on it. Trains are constantly passing. And this multitude, winter and summer, subsist solely on grass. Potatoes and other coarse products are secured when ripe without regard to seasons. The potatoes are not yet all dug--though they ought to be. These things are secured against frost, by putting them into houses about as close as a good log house. The mildness of the winter is a very great advantage to this country. The rains and fogs render it an unpleasant season, but far less than you in that country suppose. The rains came on this year about the middle of November. It rained more than half the time for ten or twelve days, since that, for eighteen days, we have had two storms, and enough to keep the ground very wet--that is all. This is the busy time of the year.--Last summer and fall they had rains out of their season, and many suppose they may be looked for henceforth--but I apprehend there is no good ground for such a hope. We met these rains on the road and they were called unprecedented. The wet weather is from the southwestward brought by a tropical sea wind, I take it to be a diverted western monsoon, ranging along the region of mountains forming the whole western coast country of the continent, and it comes warm like a summer shower. We have no cold rain storms.
Hogs do but indifferently. If I were coming here again, I would bring two or three full-blood grass breed pigs. On the clover they would do as well as the bears and cattle--but those that subsist on roots and mast have a poor time of it. I should think the hogs of the valley were of Spanish stock--but mean and miserable as they are, a pig is worth an ounce of gold. With such as they are the country will soon be supplied and a better breed be called for. The breed of cattle cannot be improved. Everything of the kind becomes Durham in a year after it gets here. The Umpqua Valley, between here and the Willamette (pronounced Wil-lam-et) is said to be best for hogs. Hens may be obtained here for about $2.00 a pair. A family in our train took out a pair, with little trouble. I have seen no geese nor turkeys, and presume there are none in the valley. Surrounded by mountains as this valley is, it cannot, of course, be otherwise than well watered.
I can only say of the Rogue River what I have heard, that it is so large as to require ferries. On either side, down valleys three or four miles wide flow little creeks--Bear, Butte, Evans, Antelope, &c--from the mountains to the river. There are many little brooks that reach the creeks, and there you see everywhere small spring runs that in a little way lose themselves in the soil--and by all of these is afforded an abundant means for irrigation. A few, very few, trout are in the creeks, and some salmon live to get up here from the sea, but so bruised and beaten about by the drift in the swift streams, that they are unfit to eat. Of game--on the wooden slopes the deer are really "too numerous to mention." Back a few miles in the mountains, the black, brown and grizzly bears are abundant. The grizzly is one of the noblest animals in the world--more powerful and more fearless than the tiger. There is a species of the American lion, and what is said to be a very fair representative of the hyena, in the mountains--though I doubt whether the latter is vouched for by any very good authority. Myriads of wild geese and sandhill cranes--but their place of resort, so far as we know anything about it, is several lakes in the interior, some of which we pass in coming over from the Humboldt, and of which I may write more fully at another time. The grizzly is an animal of incredible strength. I have seen a cub, five months old, break up a bullock's leg in the joint, stripping away the muscles from the bone with his claws. But they can neither climb a tree nor run along a steep hillside, and so they are not very dangerous. The fiercer animals have never been known to descend into the valley. Small game is scarce. Wild fruit, except the apple, is rather abundant. Of that, no form is found save the tree--a fine crab tree, but bearing only a very few small berries, half as large, perhaps, as a currant, and half as good.--The grapes of this valley are abundant and superior. The domestic apple does remarkably well. The native plum grows on a dwarf bush, perhaps 10 to 18 inches high, and has the flavor of the peach. Apple trees for setting [i.e., planting] are packed over from the Willamette and sold here for $1.00 each.
This valley is about 75 miles long and perhaps 8 wide, beside the valleys of the creeks. The lower part of the valley, half of it, or thereabouts, is reserved for the present for the Indians. They attempted last summer to drive out the whites, and after a war of three months, during which about 40 white and 100 Indians were killed, peace was concluded by the surrender of the best half of the valley to the whites. These Indians are a wild fierce tribe, of kin to the Diggers on the Humboldt, and about the lakes this side of there, and the Snakes of Snake River.--They are degraded and cruel beyond measure. It is said that they murder for pastime. They will any of them shoot a man to get his hat. We saw the body of an emigrant that had been dragged from its grave, to be stripped, and left to the ravens. The whole country from the head of the Humboldt to this place, and indeed to the ocean, except the "desert," sixty miles, is infested by them to such an extent that no place is safe. I wrote you what we heard of the Humboldt Indians--the Diggers--of their extinction by the smallpox. We found it partially so--and no one comes over the plains without wishing it were so of all these tribes. At the western junction of the Bear River and Salt Lake roads, we heard of the war of the Utahs and Mormons, the particulars of which you probably had long ago. The opinion of the most intelligent men I saw who came that way, was, that the war was got up by the Mormons as a pretext for consolidating their military establishment and fortifying the passes to the city. Bad as the Utahs are, all who came that way agree that the Mormons are worse--that they are more adept at theft and more reckless at robbery. Much trouble is yet to be experienced with that community. The cattle trains that came by Salt Lake sustained more loss within striking distance of that city than those by the Bear River road on the whole trip.--The closest vigilance was insufficient to prevent the theft of cattle. The property of emigrants is probably no safer there than in the country of the Pawnee. I thought our road over the mountains by the Bear River was the worst possible, but I would advise those having any more than a small number of cattle, to come that way rather than run the hazards by Salt Lake. But I am digressing here. More of this anon.
The wood of the valley is mainly pitch pine, fir, cedar and burr oak. This pine cannot be split at all, and is too heavy for convenience--heavier than water. It however makes our lumber, while a mammoth pine of the mountain summits, called the sugar pine, makes our shingles and the shakes with which frame houses are generally covered. Our rail timber is the cedar and fir. The oak is a short, tough, gnarled tree like your burr oak, used only for fuel. The poplar and poorer species of the elm flourish along the streams, and in many places everything is covered with the grape vine. The yew tree grows here and there on the mountains--and so does the laurel.--The alder grows to a tree 18 inches in diameter--but it is useless. There is a tree representing the butternut but it has no fruit save a seed like that of the maple, and one called the mansimeter, a more splendid tree than you ever saw [he must be referring to the madrone, not the manzanita]; the "misseltoe bough" too, rendering the oak classic with its associations. The maple, linn [linden or basswood] and hickory are unknown here--though the hazel, a brittle thing in your country, by its singular toughness supplies the place of the latter for some purposes. The chaparral, the crookedest, ugliest and most obstinate bush you ever saw, forms the upland undergrowth.
The best informed men put the population of the valley at three to four thousand--three to four hundred being in the village of Jacksonville--and among them our old friend, Dr. E. H. Cleaveland, of Watertown. He is the only old acquaintance I have seen except Mr. Warren, of Hartland, whom I met on the plains and who called on you at your place. The Doctor is doing well--first rate--and sends his respects to all who remember him. He has actually driven out all competition and is now doing all the business of the valley in the line of his profession. The Dr. is now enjoying as much of wealth and the confidence of the people as any many in the valley. There are few--perhaps ten or twelve--families in the village. The first time I was here I saw but one woman, and she kept a bowling saloon and drunkery. Since that we have found a good society of families. The mass of the men "keep batch"--the merchants in their stores, and mechanics in their shops--even the Justice of the Peace, with several miners, cooks, eats and sleeps in "the office," a circular mosque-like building, made of "shakes," I believe without a board or pane of glass about it. The houses, except one, the Robinson House, are all made of these things, and are generally lighted by the crevices or windows of cotton cloth. The first successful schools in the valley are just started by persons of our company, are in Jacksonville to be the basis of an academy and one in the country. The first religious societies--three Methodist--are now being organized, with five clergymen, of the same denomination, all of our company, in the field. The most flourishing branches of business are those of the bowling saloon, the gambling den and the drunkery--and yet there is less of gambling and drinking in the place than you would expect to see. Merchants and mechanics are doing well. There is no cooper, gunsmith, carriage maker nor shoemaker doing business in the place--though by another year, they might all, save the latter succeed well. We have but one sawmill in the valley--though three more, at least, are commenced, and a grist mill is to be ready for the next harvest.
We find it very difficult to become familiarized to the enormous prices in this country. Flour, this winter, ranges from 20¢ to 25¢ a pound, beef is 20¢ and 25¢, bacon, mess [bacon trimmings] 37¢, prime 45¢, potatoes 6¢, squashes &c, 4¢ a pound. Salt is 25¢ a pound, candles 75-100¢, coffee 37¢, sugar 33¢, butter $1.25, milk 100¢ a gallon. While domestic staple products, it will be seen, bear from five to ten prices, labor bears but two to four--as, per day, $2.00-$3.00; per month, $50.00-$75.00. This renders it extremely difficult for emigrants to subsist the first few months. Some of our folks say they never before found "existence so much a problem."--Some of them, men heretofore well to do in the world, have dug potatoes for every 30th bushel; some have worked for $2.00 a day, with board, and paid $4.80 a bushel for potatoes--the price when we came. I sold a good log chain for five squashes. A neighbor sold a good wagon for 100 hills of potatoes, and got the worth of the wagon, $80.00, and I sold one for 100 lbs. of flour and 750 lbs. or 12½ bushels potatoes. Oxen are worth, by the yoke, but $100 to $160 and cows from $75 to $100 each. The difficulty of obtaining food is increased 100 percent by the voracious wolfish appetites of all newcomers. People eat till they are themselves astonished, and oftener thus than till they are satisfied. I presume four-fifths of those who have been here but three months, experience great trouble in getting enough to eat. It is a hard thing to say of the country, but it is true; and tell your readers if they do not wish to realize it, to stay at home. When a man gets to raising and selling agricultural products, or becomes established in any other business the profits of which are three or four times the profits of labor, he can prosper--but not till then.--That is too true. And you can tell them that if people were not made over, or rather half unmade, by the dehumanizing processes through which they go from Kanesville here, they would never submit to the conditions of this country. They would never submit to living in such houses, with such an absence of the conveniences and comforts of eastern life, and such a destitution of intellectual and moral opportunities, if they had not already learned on the plains to submit to anything. You can tell them that too; and tell them they can never, in living here, get paid for coming over the plains. I am not homesick; I am not prejudiced; I only tell you facts. And it is in fulfillment of a pledge to many of your readers, to tell them facts, that I tell them much more than half of those, in this country of mild winters, of a fruitful soil and mines of gleaming gold, are dissatisfied and regret having come here. Of those who have come without their friends, I have heard not one express an intention to bring them here. The general expression of such is, "I am glad my family are not here;" while the mass of those who stay, stay for other reasons than because they like the country.--We are all told that by another year or so we shall prefer it to the East. I know not how that may be; but I know that a large portion of those who have been here eighteen months, the time of the settlement, intend to leave.
Mining is being perhaps fairly paid now. Some are making fortunes and some making nothing, or less. There is room for many thousand miners in this valley. The gold, in some quantity, is exhaustless. And the farther explorations are carried in every direction from us, the more extensive the gold-bearing country is found. New diggings are discovered somewhere every day. There is gold enough--more than can be washed out. And yet mining is a very precarious business. I would advise no one to come here to mine, because he is very likely to expend years of labor without profits and very sure to get less gold than will repay him for what he undergoes in coming and living a miner's life. It is worth something to "see the elephant," and well enough, perhaps, at least for a young man, to waste two years in learning the lesson of a trip to, and a residence in this country; and it is "well enough" for them only, as young men are bound to fool away about so much time, and there is no school in which they can learn as fast, or by the discipline of which truths will be so indelibly impressed on their memories. I will write again soon.
My respects to all--accept assurances &c.
of Yours, S. H. TAYLOR.
Watertown Chronicle, Wisconsin, March 29, 1854, page 1; also transcribed in Oregon Historical Quarterly, June 1921, pages 149-159
Rogue River Valley is a fertile and beautiful valley, about 50 miles long, and ranging in width from 4 to 10 or 12 miles. Rogue River crosses one end of the valley. It is a rapid stream nearly as wide as the St. Peters, although in general not so deep. The Indians live principally along the banks of the river, in villages. It would be a great treat to such a fisherman as yourself to see the salmon in this stream. Soon after our arrival last fall, there was a run of them, and I never saw such a sight in my life. The whole river was alive with huge salmon of 20 to 30 lbs. weight, jumping and floundering about--every little creek of a foot in depth was full of them, and the whole garrison were on the banks throwing them out with their hands. The Indians spear large quantities of them, which they smoke and lay up for winter. The salmon are not so good in the fall as in the spring, although those we ate last fall were very good. They run up all the little streams and gullies as far as they can, and then when the water recedes they die. Along some of the dry beds of these mountain streams thousands of them may be seen decaying in the sun.
"Letter from California," Burlington Weekly Telegraph, Burlington, Iowa, June 2, 1854, page 1 The author is likely Lt. Thomas F. Castor, Company A, 1st Dragoons.
The first vessel to enter Coos Bay was a small schooner, whose captain blundered into the inlet in 1852, believing it to be the Umpqua. Some Indians reporting the fact to Patrick Flanagan and pilot Smith at Umpqua City, they went to the relief of the captain, and brought the vessel around to its destination. When the Indian war was in progress a vessel loaded with military stores and soldiers was driven ashore near the entrance, and the troops forced to spend most of the winter in tents on the beach, during which time they taught the natives to treat white men with respect.
In the summer of 1853, P. B. Marple, from Rogue River Valley, made a voyage of exploration down the Coquille River and about Coos Bay, after which he formed a company of settlers among the Rogue River miners, who became the pioneers of this region. Gold was soon discovered in the beach sands from Coos Bay south to the mouth of Rogue River, and thousands flocked to the new diggings. When these were exhausted a few remained as settlers.
The first town on Coos Bay was Empire City, near the mouth of the harbor. During the mining period this was the supply depot. Here came Flanagan, of the disrupted Umpqua Land Company, who started a pack train to Randolph, near the mouth of the Coquille, and opened a trading post there. The gold excitement had not passed away when coal was discovered at Coos Bay. It was the first coal successfully mined on the Pacific Coast, and its market was San Francisco. The mine first opened was the Marple and Foley mine, about one mile from Empire City. The first cargo was wagoned to the bay, transferred to flatboats, and placed on board the Chauncy for San Francisco. The vessel was lost on the bar going out, but another vessel was soon loaded, and the cargo sold at a good profit. This mine was abandoned on the discovery of others at Newport and Eastport. Our old acquaintances, Flanagan and Mann, of the Umpqua Company, owned and made a success of the Newport mine, whose chief rival was the Eastport. The Henryville and Isthmus mines have also been productive, and some recent discoveries have been made at other points. The towns about Coos Bay dependent upon the coal and lumber interests are Empire City, North Bend, Marshfield, Newport, Eastport, Bay City, Henryville, Uttor City, Sumner, Coaledo and Coos City. On the Coquille the principal town, from whence Oregon draws her well known representative in Congress, is Coquille City. There are two or three other small towns in this part of Coos County.
North Bend, between Empire and Marshfield, is the great shipyard of Oregon, and the pioneer shipyard of the Pacific Coast. It is picturesquely situated and neatly laid out, has neither hotel nor saloon, yet contains everything necessary to comfort and happiness. The finest vessels built on the Coast come from North Bend. When finished in white cedar and myrtle wood, they are as handsome as sailing vessels can be.
Another shipyard at Empire City has also turned out a number of fine sailing vessels and small steamers, and some ship building has been done on the Umpqua at Gardiner and above, within a few miles of Scottsburg.
When to all the resources here indicated is added a naturally productive soil, and an ideally delightful climate, the question naturally suggested is, "Why is this region so little known?" The answer to this query is: first, that the Coast Range is a rude barrier to be crossed, requiring a first-class road to be passable for freight wagons in winter, and first-class roads have never existed on the Northwest Coast. There was, indeed, a military road constructed from the interior down the
Umpqua River as far as Scottsburg, in 1854, but though "military," it was only a very poor affair after all, which the extraordinary storms of 1861-62 completely destroyed. The road was reopened for mail wagons, and is traveled. There is now, also, a somewhat better road from Coos Bay to Roseburg. But the inhabitants having become used to producing for a foreign market such bulky and heavy articles as lumber, coal, sailing vessels and steamers, and owning vessels to transport these commodities and return them the things they need, have heretofore remained rather indifferent to the outside world, satisfied to be let alone in their Arcadia. Some years ago I paid them a visit, and found them just escaping a threatened famine. There had been seventy-two consecutive days when vessels could not come in or go out. To my surprised inquiry into the causes which had led to such a condition as a famine even in the absence of foreign trade, I was assured, with a smile, "We are a province of California."
Since that time the federal government has expended a good deal of money on the improvement of the bar at Coos Bay, and in the construction of a jetty at the mouth of the Coquille. Two railroad projects connecting the coast with the interior have been agitating the people for several years, and one of them, from the Coquille and Coos Bay to Roseburg, is in progress. When that is completed, the day of that charming dolce far niente which made this southwest corner of Oregon so delightful will be a joy departed, and the boomer will be here with his maps, and his real estate office on every corner.
Frances Fuller Victor, "A Province of California," Overland Monthly, July, 1893, pages 102-103
THE COQUILLE.--The Coquille River empties into the Pacific between Coos Bay and Rogue River, after flowing for many miles through a beautiful and fertile valley in the interior. The valley is now fast settling up with an enterprising population. It was formerly supposed that there was not a sufficient depth of water at the entrance of the river to admit of the passage of even small vessels, and the exterior trade of the valley has been transacted through Coos Bay and Port Orford. Recently, however, the schooner Twin Sisters has entered and departed in safety, and reports a sufficient depth of water on the bar for a vessel of 100 tons. When our informant (a reliable gentleman of Port Orford) wrote, the schooner Rambler--a vessel of about 45 tons--was expected, with a cargo of goods for Dr. Herman, the leader of the flourishing German colony on the Coquille. She also carries the engine and machinery for a grist mill, saw mill, &c. There is yet plenty of vacant land in the valley, but from present indications it will not long remain unoccupied.--Oregon Statesman.
Nevada Democrat, Nevada City, California, November 23, 1853, page 1
We are indebted to Judge MILROY for a copy of the following letter, which we publish with pleasure, and which we doubt not will be interesting to our readers:
YREKA, Cal., Dec. 26th, 1853.DEAR SIR: * * * I pity those families that have sold comfortable homes in the States, and lost the earnings of years--as most of them have--in getting to Oregon; and bitterly do they repent it; but they are there and there they must remain, to commence life anew--without the means to build themselves comfortable houses, or to open their farms, for the reason that it most generally takes all their money--and most of them have besides to sell their wagons, even, and what other stock they were so fortunate as to get through with--to furnish themselves with provisions and clothing the first year or two; as all the necessaries of life, together with tools, farming implements and labor cost enormously high. True, they got their land for nothing, after living on it a certain length of time, an unnecessary condition, for few of them are able to get away from their claims, and still fewer would have their claims if they could get away.
The people in the States have an imperfect and very erroneous idea of Oregon. They are falsely told by letter writers, and generally believe it to be a land of broad fertile valleys, covered with long, waving grass and gorgeous flowers of a thousand variegated hues, nodding under a cloudless sky to the cool breezes of the Pacific, and watered by a thousand meandering streams flowing from the mountains and fringed with trees that afford a cooling shade for man and beast; where the emigrant can pitch his tent, build his cabin, kill game in abundance for his family, open his furrows on every side, drop in his grain and wait till bounteous Nature restores it to him a thousandfold.
It is a "great country," and no mistake, but its greatness consists in its being so full of great mountains that there is scarcely room in any one place for a square, good-sized farm. The settlements are in a succession of long, narrow valleys, separated by mountains and extending nearly in a straight line between the Cascade Mountains, on the east, and the Coast Range, on the west, from the Columbia River to California, a distance of three hundred and fifty miles. One road runs through all the valleys and it is almost the only road in Oregon. Some of the mountains that separate the valleys cannot be crossed with wagons without great labor and difficulty.
Every valley has a stream of water running through it, but I saw no tributary streams to any of these valley streams, excepting the Willamette. The soil in the valleys is generally gravelly and barren and cannot be tilled with much profit. There are found, in some places, small narrow strips of low ground, along the margins of the streams, that produce well. Springs have also been found that will irrigate an acre or two, but such places are about all taken up.
The large pumpkins, turnips, potatoes, cabbages &c. that you read of being raised in Oregon are all greatly exaggerated; or if found growing at all beyond the ordinary size are found singly and alone, in some small, moist spot, near a spring or well.
Many of the late settlers have acknowledged to me that they were deeply disappointed in Oregon and were sorry that they had ever left the States; "but (each one would say) I will never acknowledge it in my letters, to be laughed at; no, no, let them find it out as the rest of us have. The more comes, the better it is for us."
The people (at least the old settlers in Oregon) are indolent and outlandish. their greatest pride consists in wearing a pair of buckskin breeches, with long fringes down the seam, a huge pair of Mexican spurs, and in talking jargon, as it is called, a mixture of Indian and English gibberish, intelligible to none but themselves, and looked upon by them as the highest accomplishment a man can have. They lounge about their cabins, letting their wives make a living for them by cooking scanty meals for travelers, whom they charge exorbitant prices, and whom they will not treat with respect if they cannot talk jargon. The Californians call them the d----d Walla-wallas, and when down here they are so well aware of the detestation in which they are held that they will not acknowledge their country.
At the town of Jacksonville, situated in the mines in Rogue River Valley, in Oregon, I saw the "Marion of the Mexican War"--Gen. Joe Lane, of Indiana. He was about concluding a treaty with the Indians, with whom he had been fighting--not much to the satisfaction of the majority of the Oregonians, however; they, standing aloof from danger, and talking in a terrible, furious, quixotic vein, of death and destruction to the Indians, yet were perfectly willing to leave that delightful pastime to the brave and generous Californians who went over from there to assist them. The course pursued by Gen. Lane, under the circumstances in which he was placed, meets the approbation of every honest, sensible man. The General resides in Umpqua Valley, near Winchester, where I became acquainted with one of his sons. There resides, in the same valley, a large number of bachelors--old "forty-niners"--most of whom came to California in that year, and failed in making their piles, or could not keep them when made. They lived in the mines so long that they became lazy and indolent in their habits, and went up there and took claims and built cabins on them and live there like bears. They will elevate their shaggy eyebrows at each new emigrant, and push their dirty fingers through their uncombed, bushy hair, and ask in a voice that sounds as hollow as the braying of a half-starved jackass in an empty barn, if "there has been many girls crossed the plains this year?" There is a chance for old maids!
While out, alone, in Rogue River Valley, about the close of the Indian war there, I saw, one day, a number of Indians at a distance, approaching me with guns in their hands. I was not frightened, of course, but became very suddenly sensible of the fact that I had no important business to detain me longer in that vicinity.
From Jacksonville, in company with a companion, I crossed the Siskiyou Mountains, which divide Oregon from California, and also divide the Cascades from the Sierra Nevada mountains. While camping out, in crossing the Siskiyou Mountains, I was, one night, while lying down, struck twice on the neck by a large snake, which, fortunately, happened not to be of a poisonous species. I was not much alarmed, of course, but gave a very sudden and striking illustration of the sudden rises men sometimes make in California.
By looking over your map you will see in Northern California, near the boundary of Oregon, the great Shasta Butte, a mountain peak, 18,000 feet high, the upper half of which is buried in the snows of ages. No human being has ever reached its summit. Fremont attempted it, but failed. A gentleman of this place ascended a thousand feet higher than Fremont's mark, but was forced to abandon the undertaking as impossible. For a description of this peak, see Fremont's Report.
At the base of this mountain is a beautiful valley, in which this town is situated; and in and around this valley are the richest gold mines in California. The town of Yreka is three years old--poll 1500 votes--has several fine hotels--two express offices--a regular police--watchmen who walk the streets at night and cry the hour--streets swept once a week, &c. There is a feeling of security displayed here at night that I have seldom witnessed in any town in the States. Door and windows of dwelling houses, shops, stores are often left open at night, and the most valuable goods exposed; yet a theft is rarely known.
We have judges, sheriffs, constables and justices to administer the laws and enforce justice, but the terrible Judge Lynch often relieves them of their duties by a summary proceeding, which I have several times witnessed. Murders are of rare occurrence here, though two were committed last week.
A vast amount of merchandise and provisions, of every kind, is brought to this place, and the only way to get it here, over the mountains, is by pack mules; frequently along the brink of frightful precipices, where the least false step would precipitate the mule and pack hundreds of feet below.
Sunday is always the great day for business in this place. On that day the miners come in to get their tools sharpened--to lay in their supplies of provisions--to hear the news and to relax and amuse themselves. The noisy din commences in the morning and increases till night. The gaming saloons are open; female gamblers, richly dressed, mingle with the noisy throngs that surround the gambling tables and bars. Bands of musicians, seated upon elevated platforms, play the sweetest airs to "sooth the savage." Shouts of laughter are heard from the various saloons and along the crowded sidewalks. The auctioneer, with long Mexican spurs on his heels, rides swiftly up and down the narrow streets, crying the bids and throwing the horse upon his haunches with a heavy Mexican bit as he wheels. Hand over hip the heavy sledge hammer falls upon the ringing anvil; and amidst all this babel-like confusion of sounds the deep tunes of the minister's voice are heard, preaching in a small church nearby, crowded with an attentive congregation, whose ears are often saluted with a strange medley of words, something like the following; "Oh! my beloved hearers, let these truths"--"Four ounces, four ounces for this fine young horse, five can I hear?"--"Ten dollars in bank, who'll tap it?"--"Let me entreat you to believe"--"[illegible] double O, red"--"Just a-going, just a-going for"--"The Apostle Paul says"--"I'll go you ten dollars better"--"Ninety-five, ninety-five dollars for"--"The devil and his angels," &c., &c.
Do not think that profane language, drunkenness, quarreling and fighting are the natural consequences of such gatherings here. You will rarely see, in the older states, the same number of men collected together that do not carry these vices to a greater extent. Men do not hastily quarrel when everyone carries a knife and revolver in his belt, ready for instant use. Mirth and apparent good feeling generally prevails; yet it always seems to me like the sportive playing of a tiger, that may, in an instant, turn to ungovernable fury--to rend and destroy, for I have seen such crowds, one minute in boisterous good humor, and in the next an infuriated mob, howling like demons:
'Tis dangerous to rouse the lion,--We have, here, a population composed of nearly all nations. The Indian and the negro jostle each other on the sidewalk. The burly Englishman and the frisky Frenchman touch glasses at the bar. The swarthy Spaniard nods to the grim Chinese. The dark Chileno and the broad-sombreroed Mexican smoke together. The American is saluted with a friendly "how you vas," from Mynheer [sic--'mein herr"] of Holland.
Deadly to cross the tiger's path;
But the terrible of terrors,
Is man in his wild wrath."
Such is Yreka, at the present day. It is probable that it may, in future, become the capital of a flourishing state, composed of Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Boarding here is $16 per week; single meals, $1; flour, beef and potatoes, each, 20 cts. per pound, and milk $2 per gallon.
When I hear from you I'll write again, and
My weaved up follies."Until then, I "remain, hushed in grim repose."
Yours, respectfully,Weekly Times, Delphi, Indiana, February 17, 1854, page 2
PIONEER NEWSPAPER WORK.
Running a Weekly in a Mining Camp--
Prominent New York Democrat Visiting the City.
Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Mayfield, of Fairhaven, are at the Snoqualmie Hotel. Mr. Mayfield is one of the pioneer newspaper men of the Coast. In 1852 he came to California, and going to Yreka where the mining excitement was then at its height, he started the Yreka Journal, which he ran for ten years. Later he moved to Walla Walla, where he founded the Watchman. He has also worked on newspapers in Portland and elsewhere on the Coast. In the 'fifties he went into the Rogue River Indian war, where he fought until he was shot in the knee.Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 17, 1891, page 5
"Running a newspaper in those early times in a mining camp was pretty ticklish business, for the men were rough and cared as little for your life as they did for their own.
"But a newspaper was profitable. I got enormous prices for advertising and for job printing. For theater tickets, for instance, I got $10 a thousand, and for other work in proportion. You can imagine something of the way matters were going when I tell you that in the first year I cleared $8,000 off of that country weekly.
"You can hardly conceive now of the lawlessness and disorder of those days. I suppose that in the first year I was there at Yreka I saw with my own eyes fifteen men killed. There would be a sudden brawl or a quarrel, and in the end one or two dead men; and the murderers would frequently not be touched.
"I remember one evening in a saloon the men were playing cards when quick as a flash one of them stabbed a Dutchman in the throat. The blood spurted out on the wall, and the man fell back dead. Then the murderer took his hat with an oath, and going out of the door, said: 'Do any of you ------ want to follow me?'
"No one followed him. The game was suspended for a few minutes until the corpse was taken out, and then things went on as usual.
"Toughs like Ferd Patterson, Matt Bledsoe and Jim Smith went around killing people as they liked, running elections and tearing things up generally until the day of the vigilantes. The vigilantes did good work in putting an end to this lawlessness.
"I recall one quarrel in which Judge George W. Tyler, who later was famous in the Sharon-Hill case, was engaged. The Judge was a good poker player; and one evening he sat down with a man Burke to a friendly game. At the end of it Burke was flat broke, and the Judge leaned back and said tauntingly, 'Well, Burke, is there any game you can play?'
"Burke was angry and fired up. 'If I can't beat you at poker, I'll bet you $50 I can lick you.'
"'Well,' answered the Judge, 'I'm in for any game that pleases you.'
"Then Burke borrowed $50 of the bartender, and the two men began fighting in the barroom; and a fearful fight it was. Burke bit off the Judge's finger, but the Judge whipped him and won the $50.
"I came near to getting into a fight with Calvin B. McDonald, who came to Yreka and started the Sierra Citizen. McDonald was a bright writer, and he was the author of several poems which were pretty good. But he made his mistake in thinking he could be a political editor; and so he went into politics and began pitching into everybody. Of course he went for me in lively style, and I answered him. I twitted him on his egotism, and that was a sore point.
"One day we met on the street, and he said: 'See here, Mayfield, if you don't stop this I'll take it out of you in public.'
"I replied: 'Now, McDonald, I don't claim to be so big an editor as you are. You are a big editor, a six-boiler editor, and I am not; but when it comes to fighting, then you have me where I am at home. So come on any time you like.'
"But he never came.
"Yet, some years after, when I was at Walla Walla, McDonald came to town without a cent in his pocket. He wanted to give a lecture, and in consideration of old times I look him to the hotel, paid his bill, and advertised his lecture--on the massacre of Glencoe--and got him a good house. At that time he made a very profound apology for his former behavior.
"Then again Dave Colton, D. D. Colton, was running for senator, and he got Jim Smith, a desperado, pardoned out of prison in order to come up to Yreka and bulldog around the polls. I gave him a touch about his coming out of the prison to run our politics, and when Smith met me on the street he told me he was going to whip me, and he could whip me.
"I didn't believe in fighting and I don't now; so I answered him mildly, 'Yes, Jimmie, I dare say you can whip me, and I've never said you couldn't; but if you try I'll shoot you dead, dead in your tracks. And you know, Jimmie, you are an outlaw here and nobody would touch me if I killed you this very minute.'
"And Jimmie didn't touch me.
"You see I always preferred to be peaceable and avoid a fight."
Last revised April 10, 2021