Jackson County 1858
Travelers' descriptions and assessments of the state of things.
LETTER FROM ILLINOIS VALLEY, O.T.
Illinois Valley (O.T.), Feb. 22nd, '58.Editors Alta: This is a part of Oregon of which there can be but little known abroad, as it has never been noticed in any of the Oregon or California journals, and therefore you may indulge me in a few observations of this isolated locality to the edification of some of your inquiring readers.
Situated, as it is, just far enough north of the forty-second parallel to place it in Oregon, and far enough south of the main settlements to exclude from it that odious name, "Tartardom," which epithet applies only to that portion of Oregon north of Umpqua--it is considered beyond the regular scope and scan of Oregon papers, and California papers have enough to do to eulogize their own fair vales. (The Alta, I suppose, has no sectional predilections--especially as to where it circulates.) Illinois Valley is, then, a neglected corner, and, indeed, it reminds me in this respect of the once-unnoticed Idlewild, of the Hudson, for it possesses rare natural beauties which, if developed and adorned by the handiwork of art to the same extent, could not fail to elicit its merited meed of praise and admiration.
That "sweet idyll of art-embellished and fancy-veiled landscape," though it has been so tastefully decorated and vividly pictured by the pen and pencil of Mr. Richards, certainly cannot far surpass, in point of loveliness and sublimity, this unpretending valley of which I now write. Though Idlewild is the home of our cherished poet, and to that spot flock all the admiring literati of our own and other lands, to gaze on the beautiful scenery of which they have read such brilliant descriptions from those master chorographers who, for years past, have delighted to make that a resort from the unwholesome and hampered avenues of city life. And therefore I dare not set up a rivalry.
This valley is about fifteen miles long, and from five to eight miles wide. It is surrounded by a high range of mountains on all sides, save where the chain is abruptly broken at the northeastern extremity to make way for Illinois River, which passes through the center of the valley, and on through this frightful gorge to its junction with Rogue River.
To the south and eastward is the Siskiyou Range of mountains, which, at each extremity of the valley, stretches forth its tutelar arms in paternal fondness, as if to enfold the captive vale in its strong embrace, and shield it from the ravages of the tempest. Then to the west and northward is the Coast Range, with which the arm of the Siskiyou, at the southwestern extremity of the valley, unites itself. And the arm at the northeastern extremity of the valley is severed in twain, just as it seems to lay hold on the Coast Range, to complete the entire circle of mountain walls. It is here that Illinois River escapes from this vast basin formed by these ranges and their connecting links, and as it is but a narrow passage, with high and very steep mountains on either side, it presents a sublime spectacle when viewed from an elevation on the opposite side of the valley. Indeed, were it not for this one opening, it would appear like a prison, for, frightful as the chasm is, it lets in daylight and the pure breeze.
Illinois River, which has its source in the Siskiyou Range, has many tributaries, all of which seem to emerge from the dark caverns of the surrounding mountains, and attracted, as it were, by the enchanting loveliness of the fair vale below, they come leaping down the verdant slopes to commingle their waters together in Illia's gentle bosom as she lies smiling in her mountain fastness.
There are two main branches of Illinois River at the upper part of the valley, with the rich and inexhaustible surface mines at Sailor Diggings between them, just as they begin to ascend the hills from their native vale. Next, to the southward, is Althouse Creek, long noted for its richness as a mining stream, and which empties into Sucker Creek, merely soon enough to become its tributary, as it no sooner blends its yellow waters with those of Sucker than both are swallowed up by their superior, Illinois River.
Bowlin Creek, another rich mining stream, is a tributary of Sucker, and Democratic Gulch, which yields at least the consolation that it has been rich, is also a tributary of Sucker.
All these streams, coming from different directions, concentrate in "Illia's vale," as it has been poetically denominated by one who, struck, doubtless with the grotesque beauty and sublimity of its surroundings, has ventured to weave his garland of praise into harmless rhyme. Then, to the northwestward, is Cañon and Josephine creeks--both mining streams--which, however, are rather late giving up their tribute to Illinois River, to gladden the valley with their rippling music.
I might speak of the agricultural resources of the valley in addition to what I have already said, for there are peculiarities in its agricultural adaptations even more attractive than its location and the fascinating scenery around would indicate. But I have already said enough to let you know there is such a place as Illinois Valley, so I have achieved my object.
W.H.A.Daily Alta California, San Francisco, March 17, 1858, page 1
About noon of the fourth day from Eugene [in April 1858] we reached Jacksonville. The meeting, or speaking, as the term was common, was appointed for that afternoon at 2 o'clock, in a beautiful grove on the outskirts of the town, outdoors. Seats were not provided. Audience and candidates could either stand, squat or move around. A large number gathered. Jacksonville was unlike the towns of the Willamette. It depended mainly upon its adjacent gold diggings for business and support. Along Bear Creek, in Rogue River Valley, and in other portions of the county, lands were of uncommon fertility. Farms and vegetable patches produced enough to supply the miners, and the merchants of Jacksonville were the middlemen of this easy traffic. Gold was plenty, prices ruled high. Few practiced frugality. Extravagance was the rule, and Jacksonville was as a mining camp of California. The inhabitants did not include themselves in the Territory of Oregon. It was the common phrase of any departing on a trip to the Willamette region, "I am going down to Oregon." The singularity was that the Willamette was far north--so that to go north was to go down.
James O'Meara, "Our Pioneer History," Oregonian, Portland, November 9, 1890, page 16
SCENES AND INCIDENTS OF OREGON TERRITORY.The distant Territory of Oregon is at present attracting attention, from the fact that it will soon apply to Congress to be admitted as a sovereign state in the federal union. Oregon is the most western portion of the domain of the United States. It is separated from Washington Territory by the Columbia River; the Rocky Mountains divide it from Nebraska; on its southern line lie Utah and California; on its western the Pacific Ocean. Its extreme length is seven hundred and fifty miles, its width two hundred and seventy-eight miles, including an area of nearly two hundred thousand square miles. Its climate is milder than the same latitude on the Atlantic side of the continent. The winters are short, and are not always accompanied by heavy falls of snow.
Oregon, its Boundaries.
Interesting Letter and Sketches.From a correspondent we have received a number of sketches and most interesting descriptive matter, relating more especially to the Umpqua River, which is the third in importance on the Pacific Coast, and the only stream between San Francisco Bay and the Columbia that is navigable through the otherwise impregnable Coast Range of mountains. This river rises in the "Cascade Range," and pursues a westerly course through extensive and fertile valleys, until it is joined by the South Umpqua, when its course is changed to a general northwest direction, where it is confined to deep canons and small valleys, to within about four miles of its mouth, where it makes a sudden bend to the southwest and spreads out into a broad deep harbor, which affords safe anchorage, and is protected by surrounding mountains and sand hills. The bar at the mouth is considered the least exceptionable on the entire coast, having sixteen feet of water at low tide. Vessels of five hundred tons find a deep and safe passage for seven miles, and smaller craft ascend thirty miles to Scottsburg--the head of navigation; and by following the river banks further on, a natural and commodious pass is found into the rich and beautiful prairie country, forming the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys.
Discovery of the Umpqua River.In the summer of 1850 an expedition was formed in San Francisco, consisting of some thirty speculators, adventurers and gold hunters, for the purpose of exploring the coast above San Francisco Bay, in hopes of finding a stream that penetrated the rough and inhospitable Coast Range, and led into the rich mining and agricultural regions in the interior. After careful examinations of all the streams south of the Umpqua, and finding them too small and shallow for their purposes, they proceeded northward, and discovered the Umpqua, off the bar of which they laid, and were boarded by Indians in canoes, who were peaceably disposed and desirous of trading. After thorough examination of the mouth of the river, they entered successfully and proceeded without obstacle to the head of navigation. Prior to the arrival of this vessel, no other is believed to have ascended the river, and its size and importance were wholly unknown.
Character of the Scenery.The character of the country at the mouth of the river is bold, wild and unfriendly in its aspect, and impresses one with a feeling of loneliness. Low sand spits confine the river as it mingles with the ocean to a narrow and well-defined channel, and hold the commodious harbor in their embrace. The land on the south boundary soon merges in a heavily timbered headland, visible at a distance from sea, while the north boundary continues for about four miles [in] a succession of sandy flats and hills, with timber up to where the original water limit commences, in mountains similar to the opposite side. The intervening space between the true headland on the north side and the spit seems once to have been a bay, contracted and filled up by sand driven from the coast hills by the northwest wind. On the south spit a lighthouse of the largest description is in course of erection, and a short distance from it is another building, occupied by the river pilot, and with those exceptions the austere features of nature in this situation have been undisturbed, and no sound is heard save the gabbling of wild birds and the keen note of the eagle mingling with the deep booming of the eternal surf. At a short distance from the mouth the river swells northward, forming Wood's and Winchester bays, both small indentations, the former the usual place of anchorage and the latter noted for the abundance of fish and shellfish it furnishes.
An Indian Village.About two miles up on the north side is situated the Umpqua River village represented in the sketch. The lodges are scattered along a little way from the water for about three quarters of a mile, and are built of boards split from cedar or lumber furnished by the Indian agent. In summer, tents of ordinary canvas are considerably used. The architecture of the winter lodge is very simple. A cellar from three to five feet deep is dug and walled up a little way above ground, roofed over in gable form. The fire is made on the floor at any convenient situation, and the smoke allowed to escape from an aperture at the top. The interior arrangements vary according to the means and taste of the occupant. Generally, they consist of mats and skins for beds, and matting of fancy workmanship spread about for neatness or display, with bunks for beds and a few cooking utensils; while some aspire to the white mode of living, and rejoice in tables, chairs, crockery and cradles. This settlement is the feeble representation of a once-numerous people, whose decaying lodges and graves, everywhere to be seen in the surrounding country, attest their former strength, and tell the same melancholy tale of extinction of the red man that is written in similar characters throughout the length and breadth of the land now occupied by his prosperous aggressor. This village numbers about four hundred and fifty souls; so similar in appearance, character and manners to all of the coast Indians who have been so often and well described, as to require but an outline sketch in this place.
Character of the Umpquas.The Umpqua Indians have been persistent in their friendship to the whites from their first intercourse with them, and in this particular are peculiar. They have intentionally and successfully avoided all of the broils and disturbances with Indians or whites which have raged from time to time in this Territory. When the whites first arrived in this river they lived in underground lodges, similar but more rude in structure to their present winter lodge; and were in possession of a few guns and blankets. They were mostly dressed with skirts, falling to the knee, made of tule grass, and capes of the same material lapping over them, with basket hats. Moccasins do not seem to have been much used by them, on account of the mildness of the climate. From the first they showed a desire to imitate the dress and manners of the whites, and as far at they have been able they have assimilated to them in their mode of living, and many now are provided with comfortable clothing, household articles and other necessaries of life, acquired by their own industry. They are quite skillful in the use of tools, and industrious to a meritorious degree. Like all Indians they are fond of gaudy trinkets and flashy trappings, but in deference to the tastes of the whites they are fast leaving off the monstrous bead and pearl appendages to the nose that formerly quite concealed their mouth and gave the children especially a disgusting appearance. Pressing the head is to some extent yet in vogue, but is growing less popular among the matrons of this day.
Besides the Umpqua language, many of them speak the jargon used by the Hudson's Bay Company in their communications with all Indians in their employ, and which is spoken by a few individuals of all the tribes of the north Pacific. This trading jargon is based on the original Chinook, which it is commonly called, with contributions from other Indian languages, beside some additions from French and English. It consists of about one hundred and eighty words, some of which of vulgar significance in the original are used in the jargon with a different and decent meaning, and pass current with all seriousness by the Indian; while to a stranger the Chinook in ordinary conversation might sound ridiculous and produce laughter entirely irrelevant to the subject.
Indian Superstitions.The Umpquas abound in superstitions and traditions. They have an extravagant account of the flood, and a faint idea of a good and evil spirit. Medicine men and women are common among them, and are the same juggling impostors whose incantations and mummeries have drowned the dying groans of the Indian from time immemorial. Polygamy is general, and wives are merchantable articles, limited in number only by means or inclination. The dead are buried in a rough box, a few feet below the surface, with all of the clothing and trappings on. An inverted canoe sometimes covers the grave, and over the whole a gable-shaped hut is built of part of the lodge of the deceased, whose property with the gifts of friends are deposited in and about the grave, and arranged in the manner represented in the sketch. Canoes, spears, paddles and other property consigned to the grave are supposed to yield up their essence and accompany their owner in spiritual form to the celestial waters of the future. While the body is being placed in the ground relatives and hired mourners keep up a monotonous and dismal howling, and for three days and nights the remains are watched and protected from disturbance by evil spirits by the same piteous moaning.
United States Fort.Fort Umpqua, established in July 1850, is situated two miles and a half from the river mouth, on the north side. It occupies a sandy situation, and is well protected from all of the coast winds by a thick growth of pines and encircling timbered sand hills. It is garrisoned by two companies of the United States Third Artillery. Situated as it is, at the southern extremity of the great Coast Reservation, and at the junction of the north and south coast trails with the mouth of the river, its position is regarded [as] strong and important as a barrier between the Indians on the reservation and the settlements south and east of it. Practically, the post is situated on an island, for all communication with it from the lines of travel and the post routes must be made by water. Facilities for communication with the interior and San Francisco are quite abundant. Two small steamers ply as often as business calls between the river mouth and Scottsburg, whence come supplies of all kinds at reasonable rates. Ocean steamers and sailing craft direct to and from San Francisco offer ready means of travel and occasional opportunities for news and fresh supplies. The river at this point, which is about a half a mile wide, furnishes a variety of fish and shellfish, and most of the prizes taken by the Indians in the fishery season are secured between Fort Umpqua and the bar. The salmon are caught higher up. Geese and ducks abound in winter, and flock in great numbers in the beautiful little bays and coves opposite where, in fact, most of the beauty and natural advantages of the immediate surroundings of the post are located. As the misty drapery that hangs upon the mountainside is dispelled by the morning sun, bright green masses stand out in relief upon the dark bodies of the opposite mountains, whose crest and sides are densely clothed by colossal firs, pines and cedars, beautified and softened by dangling lichens and luxuriant mosses. On a tranquil day the the view is one of changing and fantastic beauty. As the cloudy curtain fades away, and the sun brings out in turn the bright tints and variegated hues of the moistened foliage, the picture is reflected in the watery mirror beneath, which, if rippled by a passing canoe, is broken into a thousand changing forms and glittering colors. A close inspection of the detail, though it destroys the effect of the picture, is necessary to a right understanding of the composite beauty viewed as a whole.
The companionship of stately nature here displayed enrobed in perennial green, to one weary of parched hills and and plains, is peculiarly graceful, and conduces to make Fort Umpqua, with the pleasures of hunting, fishing, boating and a uniformly healthy climate, not the least desirable place to our army officers, who are frequently immured during their course of duty, where lands of "blue shadowy hills and vistas green" are to be seen. The climate at the mouth of the Umpqua is similar to the North Pacific Coast generally. At the situation of the post the bleak and piercing winds of summer from the northwest are modified by the adjacent hills, so also the southwest winds of winter. The air is bracing and tonic, and would be well suited to the spindled dyspeptics who sustain a flat and miserable existence in large towns.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, New York, April 2, 1858, page 332
OUR OREGON CORRESPONDENCE.
Scenery on the Umpqua and Its Tributaries--A Trip Through the Two Valleys, and What We Saw--The Fraser River Exodus--Its Effects on California and Oregon--Reflections--The Empire of the Pacific--Will California Profit by Her Depopulation?--Miserable Mail Facilities.
My Cabin in the Woods,Editors Union: to most of the population of your state the Territory of Oregon is indeed a terra incognita! I have been much surprised when in California to find such widespread ignorance prevailing there of our new state, and its vast, though undeveloped, industrial resources. Much of this, however, is certainly chargeable upon our local journalists, who, instead of pointing out to the outside world the vast field for industry that Oregon presents, are filling their columns fifty-two times a year with the dirtiest personalities engendered in that hotbed of rancor and hate--politics. Many a page might be well filled with word paintings of the sublime and beautiful views which the ever-varying landscapes of these three valleys--the Willamette, the Umpqua and the valley of the Rogue River--afford. The Willamette, which extends from the Columbia River on the north to the Calapooia Mountains on the south, and from the Coast Range on the west to the Cascades or Sierras on the east, in its geographical formation resembles the valley of the Sacramento. But it is far from being either so arid or so destitute of timber. It is smaller in extent than the Sacramento, but what it lacks in broad acres it more than makes up for in productiveness. It may be said, indeed, without exaggeration, to be the farmer's paradise! Every kind of grain or vegetable known to the temperate zone, and fruit, too, with precious few exceptions, can be raised there to perfection, and from the bottom of the highest hill to the top without the trouble of irrigation. It is thinly settled at present--though containing the bulk of our population--being held mostly by section and half-section settlers, but is bound to be densely populated at no very distant day. There is little or no vacant land there at present, but excellent farms can be purchased, with as good title as our Uncle Samuel can make, and well improved, for from five to ten dollars per acre. I am straying, however, I find, from the order of my heading--the Umpqua.
Valley of the Umpqua, July 19, 1858.
The Umpqua is less of an agricultural country than the Willamette, being very broken into rugged, barebrowed hills, covered with a luxuriant growth of trefoil or wild clover. As may be inferred from this description, it is the country for stock raising, and it is. Sheep and cattle raising is the principal occupation of its inhabitants, who send annually thousands of beeves and muttons to feed the hungry of the Golden State. The country, extending from the Calapooia Mountains north to the Cañon or entrance to Rogue River Valley south, about one hundred miles, with a breadth of perhaps fifty miles, is thinly inhabited, but there is room for thousands more. Strange that your people should quarrel as they do about the land of California, worthless as most of it is, when a few miles north, and within three days' sail of San Francisco, on the Coquille or Rogue River, around Coos Bay, and in this beautiful valley, they could find good land, well timbered, well watered, and with a propitious sky over all, for the taking! But mankind are like the feline race in one respect at least--what they get by force or stealth is sweetest.
But to return to what we set out to tell of--the scenery on the Umpqua River and its tributaries. Our imagination may do it justice, but words must fail us.Such a task would require the pencil of an artist of no mean order. One has been here, we understand, from San Francisco, taking views on the river from its mouth to Scottsburg, for a panoramic painting, which, if well executed, cannot fail to commend itself to the lovers of the beautiful in nature and art. We ascended the river from its mouth to Gardiner--a distance of four miles--in the ocean steamer Columbia. A lighthouse has recently been erected on the beach on the right hand of the entrance. The river runs out to the ocean nearly in a southerly direction, but bends away to the east after leaving Gardiner. On the left, as you enter, is a low tongue of sand beach, on which is Fort Umpqua, where are some United States soldiers stationed to guard the Indians on the Reserve around the Fort. It is a good location for a reserve, but must be a dismal place for whites, used to the civilities and amenities of life, to live. The Indians are not numerous, and are said to be peaceably disposed. They are under charge of Indian Agent Drew. The steamer sent a boat ashore opposite the Reserve, and several of the officers and men (of the army) came on board in her. There is no human habitation between there and Gardiner City, and only one house and a wharf there. The river here is a mile or over wide, and rolls dark and deep. Not an object on its banks but the primitive forests, and that solitary house composing the city of Gardiner. We round to at the wharf, and lo! "an Oregon girl," the blossom of the wilderness, attracts the attention of a group of young men on the steamer's deck. She is picking flowers in a wild meadow at the rear of the house--herself the fairest flower amongst them. Precipitated in three days from the sight of the bundles of hoops, laces, crinoline and rouge that promenade J Street and Montgomery, into this untrodden Eden, you may be sure this solitary Eve, in all her simplicity of dress and wildness of manner, was the object of their criticism. "No hoops here," said a gawky [sic], evidently from the region of Hangtown. "What a slim figure!" exclaims a second, "and how fresh and fair she looks!" chimed in a third. Without running over the catalog of the various remarks which she called forth, the general result of the criticism upon the charms of the "lassie wi' the lint white locks"--who was all unconscious of it--ended in her favor. This good opinion of the young woman was afterwards heightened to admiration, when, at the door of her father's cottage, the thirsty boys received from her hands, with a smile, draughts without stint of the nectar called fresh buttermilk! I am not a bachelor, you know, and cannot be accused of being floored by the witching god, but I'll be bound that simple unsophisticated Maid of Gardiner made an impression on the mind of many a Fraser-bound gold seeker, carrying him back to other days, and other scenes far away among the White or Green mountains of his native state. She was the remembrancer of sister or sweetheart to the sad heart of many a long-absent, weary wanderer. But a truce to sentiment. I'm in the cold world of reality again. One look upon the wild, savage grandeur of the first bend of the Umpqua, and in a little steamer fifteen by ten, which looks by the side of the Columbia like a Nautilus by a seventy-four, and we are steaming up the river to Scottsburg--some twenty miles in the interior, and the highest point navigable on the Umpqua. Away to the left, and running parallel with the coast in a northerly direction, amongst the everlasting Coast Range, we come opposite to a bay of considerable width, which our pilot informs us is the mouth of Smith's River, and up which, he says, for some twenty miles or more is some of the finest unsettled country on the Pacific Coast. It is prairie and timbered bottom land, some of its submerged by tide water at high tides. The river or bay is navigable all the way up. There are some white settlements on its banks. We must hurry on. It is now past seven o'clock, and Luna is just peeping over the high, precipitous hills that wall in the river on either side, coming down to the very water's edge. And such hills! and such a river! and at such an hour in the gray, solemn twilight of evening! Not a sound to break the stillness that reigns around as when the earth first came from the hand of the Great Architect, except the "puff," "puff" of the little steamer, and now and then the dissonant scream of the scared waterfowl as it wings its way high up into the mountains. Even the passengers have ceased to be communicative in [the] presence of the awful grandeur of the scenery. Rough, untutored-looking workmen hired in San Francisco to work upon the government roads in Oregon have ceased their blasphemous obscenity, and commune in silence with their own thoughts. It is night upon the waters! The clear shadow created waters, with the pale moon streaming occasionally down between two cleft mountains upon its bosom, which sends the borrowed light in glories back to heaven! What a time and place for meditation! But see! Here is a tongue of land, large enough for a garden, perhaps, but overgrown with trees. One dark object is discernible on the margin of the river. We pass it. "That," says our pilot, "was the solitary residence of Pierre Blancartee, a trapper of the Hudson's Bay Company for nearly twenty years. Upon that point of land, crushed out, as it were, from under the mountain by its weight, the Frenchman enjoyed his solitary life, until his eyesight failing, he was forced to give up his favorite pursuit, and betake himself to the French Prairie, where he has since reared a family of half-breeds, and is himself a hale and hearty old man of nearly seventy years."
We passed several of these old trappers' residences on our way to Scottsburg, which are now deserted. They are the only inhabitants to be seen on the river. Indeed, it is not habitable. An idea of the ruggedness of the country may be formed from the fact that it is impossible to build a road from Scottsburg to Gardiner. The river runs through one vast cañon, cut through the Coast Range, where, as Ossian said of Cuchullin's retreat:
"The sun never shines at noon."The Palisades along the Hudson are nothing to it in grandeur, for the Palisades have been spoiled by art, but here nature has her solitary reign. It is idle for me to follow up the description. No tongue nor pen can do it justice. I jotted down a few thoughts caught passing through my brain while ascending--mere fragments--and they are before the reader. Should business or pleasure ever call him up the Umpqua by moonlight, he may realize what I can feel, but cannot paint in language.
We reached Scottsburg at midnight, and found a good supper and warm bed at the only hotel in the place. It was Oregon fare--good, comfortable, plenty, and cheap. The prosperity of Scottsburg, and indeed of the entire of Central Oregon, is greatly retarded by the villainous--it is the most fitting expression that I can find--conduct of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, who have the contract for the delivery of a semi-monthly mail at Gardiner. This contract, owing to the difficulty of entering the river from sea in hard weather, leaves the company the discretionary power to come in or out, as the officers of the ship please, and when they please. The result may be easily anticipated. The steamer never can be depended upon. Sometimes she touches going up to Portland--sometimes not until coming back, and very frequently neither way. I have known Umpqua-bound passengers carried from San Francisco to Portland and back again to San Francisco, and on the next trip carried to Umpqua, and in the middle of summer, too, before being landed. So it is with the mail. The officers have only to say there was a fog, or a heavy sea, or they passed in the night and couldn't land "to perform their contract"! The Postmaster General could have remedied all this by stipulating that every time the steamer failed to land the mail in proper time, the company should forfeit a certain sum. Then I'll warrant there wouldn't be so many difficulties, and so frequently in the way of her landing. We hope the California delegation in Congress, together with our delegation-elect, will see that some such stipulation is made in the next contract. The very last trip, in the place of landing the mail, the Columbia took a cargo of Fraser River passengers up to Puget Sound, and delivered our mail coming back.
On my return from Salem, I had occasion to travel the California and Oregon road, and it is literally crowded with Fraser River-bound gold seekers. I counted five Spanish trains in nine miles. California must be fast becoming depopulated. Your state, I understand, has lost some fifty or sixty thousand inhabitants by the exodus. Oregon has not lost one hundred as yet! Why is this? The answer is easy. Your population have no stake in the country--our have. Ours have farms, crops, harvests, fruit orchards, stock and families to attend to--most of yours take their worldly goods on their backs. This stampede cannot fail to almost ruin California for a time, but I anticipate it will result in her ultimate and permanent good, in this wise: Your state government is an expensive piece of machinery which has hitherto drawn its propelling power mostly from the miners. That source, once "dried up," the tax will come upon the land more heavily. In this case, the land grabbers may be glad to sell out at a reasonable price to actual settlers, thus inducing a population to California who will not be carried off by every gold humbug that arises. Your next Legislature, with this end in view, and with no sparing hand, should pile the tax on to the land without stint. In a few years your landocrats would tire of paying for unproductive acres. In this way California may profit by her present exodus, and will, if her leading minds are patriotic. The Union, with its widespread circulation, can do much towards this end. Oregon does not feel the exodus, and for the reason I have named. We will gain by your loss of population. So will Washington Territory, and still further north. There are good lands in abundance north--sufficient to build up a Pacific Empire--and the mere penniless and venturous go north. If they are only unable to get away, the better for that country.
P.J.M. (Patrick J. Malone)Sacramento Daily Union, August 21, 1858, page 1
LETTER FROM OREGON.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
Further Views on the Umpqua Valley--Physical Appearance of the Country--Oregonians and Their Local Characteristics--Town and Country in Oregon--In California--Advantages and Disadvantages of "the Sister States"--Experience in Claim-Hunting--Log Cabin Building--Pleasures and Fatigues of a Country Life--Elk and Deer Hunting--"Old Halo"--A "Native American" and a Noted Character--Fraser Subsiding.
My Cabin in the Woods,Editors Union: In my last we quitted the Umpqua at Scottsburg, which is the highest point to which the solitary river of shades and shadows is navigable. The town has not escaped the disease peculiar to the majority of the towns on the Pacific coast, premature decline. A few years ago, when the "Gold Beach" humbug was at its height, Scottsburg grew too rapidly for its age. With the subsidence of the excitement, the growth of the town became stunted, and has remained dwarfed ever since. But notwithstanding there is comparatively little room for expansion, owing to the threatening aspect of the overhanging mountains, it is bound to be a place of some consideration yet as the entrepot and exporting mart of central Oregon. At present it contains only two mercantile and shipping houses of note--Lord & Peters, and Abernethy, Clark & Co.--who do a vast business. The people of this valley are anxious for the establishment of a local newspaper there. I don't know but some of your starveling California weeklies would do well there, as it would have a monopoly of the first States news reaching Oregon--at least two days before the Portland papers--and would, on that account, be sure to extend its circulation south into Rogue River Valley.
Umpqua Valley, O.T., Aug. 5th, 1858.
But to pursue our personal narrative. We started from the head of navigation for a tramp of sixty miles on foot, seldom, however, out of sight of the river, and still more rarely out of hearing of its cataracts, which are numerous and loud, if not grand. And such a road and such a country to make a road in! I always had an ideal "Umpqua Valley" of my own until now, but certainly now the phantom is dissipated. We were told on leaving "town" that a few miles would bring us to the "open country," and per consequence we kept stretching our necks forward to behold it at every turn of the road we came to, but ever and anon, Irish-like, when we got where it was (in our mind's eye) it wasn't there! There is no "Umpqua Valley" of clear plain and level land, such as one beholds from the decks of a Sacramento or Willamette River steamboat, but a succession of little valleys, varying in size from half a section of two or three sections at most, of arable land, or rather, I should say, cultivatable land, for the mountains here are as arable as the plains. These with, for the most part, barebrowed hills and mountains, of all sizes and shapes (as if the Great Architect had used a sieve with holes of uneven size in showering down the material, and it remained just as it fell), constitute the Valley of the Umpqua. A few years ago--before the advent of the grasshoppers--these hills were covered with the most luxuriant growth of wild clover. These pests have, however, in most localities, destroyed it, if not forever, at least for years to come, as they ate up every green thing, the fir trees excepted, by the roots. In some places, where the land is not overstocked with cattle, it is coming on, fresh and vigorous as ever. As may be conjectured from the physical appearance of the country, it is healthy beyond comparison, and fruitful as Paradise, needing but the hand of labor to make it a land flowing with milk and honey! (This not an Irish exaggeration, but a literal fact.) It is timbered in abundance with all the kinds of wood that are needed for building or for firewood purposes, and supplied from its numerous hillsides with water as pure and sparkling as ever rolled down the sides of Parnassus! The "Fraser-bound" hombres from your state traveling our way, who have occasion to slake their thirst at the numerous springs crossing the road at short intervals, can testify to this latter fact. In short, the Umpqua Valley is just the place for a lazy, careless man of the world, like your humble servant, to live and enjoy himself communing with the grandest and sublimest of Nature's works in all their wildness, and with his own thoughts thereon.
Years have elapsed since cast adriftWhether you desire the cool invigorating breeze on the mountaintop, or the sunshine and shade of the valleys, you can have either or all at the expense of a short walk or ride. And this brings me to another digression. I have often wondered when in your city, and in others, how men continue to be "loafers" when the jewel "independence" is so cheaply purchased. Often, in passing by the "Fashion" [saloon], and observing conspicuous amongst a knot of loafers one long hombre, aye, as long as the twentieth of June--a specimen of the genus lunch-eater, with a crooked stick on his arm or in his mouth, sucking subsistence out of it, I suppose--I soliloquized with myself thus: "What a pity that such a man should continue to thus waste his existence--an object of contempt to others and of loathing (if he has the spirit as he has the form of a man) to himself, when, with an ax in his hand and a resolute, determined purpose, he could be useful to his kind and support his own right?" I know, to these gentlemen (?), it appears a formidable undertaking to "pluck the primeval forest up and plant its site with corn," but I assert, from personal experience, that it is more formidable at a distance than when approached. When approached and attacked, I am sure the life of a pioneer in the wilds of Oregon has less to dishearten the true man than the life of--I think he is called ---------, our Sacramento ideal of a lunch-eating loafer. It is this idea, too, pervading the minds of Oregonians which gives them their characteristic independence. Oregon drew its population mostly from the pioneers of the great West. They came here and settled the country under the provisions of the Donation Act, many of them commencing life (and not for the first time) here, all their worldly possessions comprised in a yoke of cattle, an ax, and the indispensable long Mississippi rifle. They are now, in four or five years, most of them, with from five to twenty thousand dollars. Many of your Californians, Pickett-like, think them rude and inhospitable. To Californians they are proverbially so, having a dread of sharpers, and not perhaps making proper discrimination. But when an Oregonian meets a friend or acquaintance, he lays aside the crust which his contact with this hardening Pacific Coast world has surrounded him, and is an open-hearted Western man again. There are some in every country who mistake a mixture of brusquerie and ignorance for independence, and of course, Oregon is not without her share. They are, however--to the credit of human nature be it spoken--the exception, not the rule.
From cherished friends, from native sod,
Whose grateful mountains ever lift
Their verdant bosoms up to God;
The city's glare and crowded mart
Have been my only haunts since then;
But now, with proud and swelling heart,
I tread the mountaintops again.
This valley was settled up since the year 1852, and as it has neither mines nor commerce, at least in successful operation, there are but few towns of any note. Elkton, the capital of this county, is in the future. Winchester is a beautiful, little rural village; it is the seat of the Land Office for this district. Roseburg, five miles south of Winchester, is the largest town between Jacksonville and Corvallis, and carries on "right smart" of trade, as Pike would say, with the mining counties south of us. But, indeed, it is one of the distinctive features of Oregon, as contrasted with California, that here the country is prosperous and the towns few and insignificant; with you, the towns are everything, and the country nothing. You are in the condition of too much brain in an over-weak body; we have a fat, plethoric body, but a deficiency of brain.
Thus, while you have the advantages on your side of close and compact population--in your towns, at least--and the consequent advantages that schools and commerce afford, you have the vice and poverty inseparable therefrom. We have more of the physical comforts of life, in the aggregate, than are possessed by California, but more, also, of a mental famine. True, we have any quantity of "institutions" and "colleges" without number, but few of them reach the dignity of a well-conducted common school in New England. Our great need, to set all things right, even in politics, which may seem to outsiders a herculean task, is population. We have rich, unappropriated lands, and a propitious climate to offer them. Population once here, common schools and commerce will follow. We have a faint hope that even our abominable mail arrangement would be improved, and God knows it needs it. I have not yet seen a Union of later date than the 26th of June. What think you of that, with your daily mail? We are even with the outside world, however, in this respect, for if we are in ignorance of what is passing outside our Chinese wall of exclusion, the barbarians outside can't know what we are doing inside. The relative merits of the two states--if we are a state yet--may be summed up in this wise: We have plenty to eat and drink and wear--even if the latter is buckskin and Kentucky jeans--enough of recreation, hunting the deer and elk, if we are not too lazy to enjoy it, and we are free from your land monopolies, your water monopolies and your road monopolies, but we must be content to vegetate in ignorance of the outside world, and to teach our children the rudiments of education in your own families--for, at least, this generation, I fear. California--but I need not draw invidious distinctions; you know its condition.
To return to my text, and to my experience in claim hunting. After two weeks' search, we found an unoccupied valley containing the requisites (prairie, timber, water etc.) for a settlement; staked out our "one hundred and sixty," as Oregonians say, "so as to spoil" the surrounding hills and cover the cultivatable portion of the valley, and "squatted down" for a life in the woods. Our experience in log cabin building, not for ourselves, but for our friends--for ours was already built--would be amusing enough to the denizens of the city, but there are hundreds of Pikes in our state who could beat us doing the work or telling the story, either. One incident, however, it would not do to omit--our chimney building: You know the materials of which log house chimneys are built in the West, viz., split boards, called "shakes," and mud. Well, to make ours a model to the neighbors, in point of architectural beauty, we resolved to give it its form and build on the ground and then raise it to its place on the pedestal prepared for it. But lo! my dear sirs, after constructing the thing exactly to our liking, and plastering the thing beautifully with about five hundred pounds of dirt, we discovered our greenness--the Leviathan couldn't be moved to its position! I tell you, I was real glad that somebody wasn't there to notice and laugh at--as he would be sure to do--our mortification. But "difficulties need only to be steadily looked in the face to vanish," saith the old adage. Our chimney wouldn't vanish to its place, though, if we were to stand looking at its face ever since. We had two courses left open to us: to call our neighbors to our assistance, thus rendering ourselves indebted and liable to as many calls upon us, or, to take the thing down. We chose the former, and since then, O! how my sides ached after the "raisings" I was forced to attend to pay the debt. Well, after all, what are they but some of the fatigues of country life. If it was hard work, we had cheerful company and good fare.
Amongst the pleasures of country life, I must not omit to mention the pleasures of the chase. Everyone round hereabouts hunts, everyone eats venison, and has little need for other kinds of meat, except for change. Deer and elk are plentiful; indeed, the former used to come round my cabin almost as tame as so many sheep, until I got a dog; since, they are more shy, but still, a little way back, I can count them at early morn or late evening, five, ten and more in a herd. "Old Halo," a noted Indian chief, of the almost extinct Calapooias, is suffered, in consideration for his uniform good behavior towards the whites at all times, to make this neighborhood his home and that of his family, instead of living confined like other "cultus" (bad) Indians on the Reservation. He has three or four wives, half a dozen girls, and as many boys, all of whom live by the chase. He sells venison to the neighbors for two dollars a carcass, when he kills more than he wants, which is frequently. At first, I used to get my supply of him, but recently I think my own killing is sweeter. In company with a neighbor, a few days ago, I assisted to kill four, but my part of the killing was done in assisting to take the hides off. Well, no matter, I have done executions since. I have--accidentally--shot an elk, which weighed, when dressed, upwards of five hundred weight. Upon this I mean to grow fat and strong for a grand hunt, on the headwaters of the Umpqua, this fall. A company of us intend to go and spend at least a week in the mountains.
Fraser River stock, though it never brought a premium in this market, is below par. There is a lull in the market that denotes a coming storm. To be plain, Fraser River is assuming more and more the appearance of a humbug every day it grows older. A Mr. Cole, well known in this neighborhood as a reliable man, has returned from the mines, and reports that there is gold there--the old story--but not enough to induce him to stay there. He says the mines pay about as well as Colville did, and he has been to Colville. There is also a dearth of mining intelligence among the papers of the Willamette--couldn't some of your Bay cotemporaries help them out of this dilemma? There is but one item to report from "the gold region." The river still continues inconveniently high for mining purposes, but just at the right pitch for excitement manufacturers. "A word to the wise is sufficient," and to the foolish, "though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar with a pestle, yet will his foolishness not depart from him."
P.J.M. (Patrick J. Malone)Sacramento Daily Union, August 24, 1858, page 1
CRESCENT CITY, Aug. 14, 1858.The Pacific arrived in port here, early this morning, after lying off the harbor all night--a thick fog preventing her entrance--and I address you a few lines.
NAUTICAL ITEMS.The harbor presents, just now, a lively appearance, in comparison with its usual condition. The Pacific, the Santa Cruz, the Wilson Hunt, and the Latona are at anchor. The Hunt has just arrived from San Francisco, and the Santa Cruz from Humboldt Bay. The latter steamer started from San Francisco ten days ago, with the Latona in tow, and arrived here in seven days, but her coal giving out, she went back to Humboldt Bay for more. She will again sail hence with the Latona today, bound to Victoria. Some doubts are expressed whether the Santa Cruz will be able to take the Latona through. These doubts, however, I have heard only from landsmen, and they may be unworthy of any serious thought. The Ranger No. 2, a little steamer, 40 feet long, or thereabouts, bound for Victoria, arrived here a couple of days since, 28 days from San Francisco, and steamed off again yesterday, in pursuance of her voyage. She spent two weeks and a half, according to report, in getting round Cape Mendocino, having to put in frequently for wood.
CRESCENT CITY NEWS.Crescent City is a dull place for news. The only excitement, other than that of Fraser River, which has prevailed here for a long time, was a couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of the quashing of the indictment of "the Judds," for the murder of Rothenheim, nearly a year since. The indictment having been declared defective, because it failed to specify the part of the body in which the murdered man was shot, a motion was made that the accused should be discharged. Thereupon a vigilance committee was formed to seize the Judds if they should be liberated, and prevent them from committing any more murders; but the district judge remanded the prisoners to jail, to await the action of the next grand jury, and the vigilance committee has remained quiet.
Another case which caused some scandal was the trial of a fellow who had been preaching the gospel on Klamath River, but whose true character appeared on detection in horse stealing. When brought up for trial, he asked for a change of venue, on the ground that he could not get justice here, and when this motion was overruled, and the petty jury was being empaneled, the prisoner, who has several aliases--R. C. Waters and P. C. Culp being among them--cocked up his legs on the table and objected to a number of jurors, perfect strangers to him, making such remarks as "I don't like the look on that fellow's mug," "that's a regular &c. loafer; I don't want to be tried by any such chap as him." He was sentenced to the state prison for two years.
There is a rumor of Indian troubles near Humboldt Bay, but I can obtain no particulars.
THE TOWN OF CRESCENT CITY.The town of Crescent City offers little for me to describe. It is composed of about a hundred wooden and brick buildings, strung along the beach. The harbor is protected by Point St. George, which just out about half a mile due west into the ocean; and south of this point is a tolerable anchorage during summer, while the winds are from the north, but a very unsafe one during the winter. The town was laid out in '53, and high hopes were entertained of its future and speedy greatness until the end of '54, when it became plain that Yreka, and Weaverville and vicinity, would persist in obtaining their supplies from Shasta. Since then Crescent City has grown but little. During the last year there were 151 arrivals of vessels in port. About 7,000 tons of merchandise are imported annually. The price of freight per ton from San Francisco was $12.50 on an average last year; this year, on account of the Fraser River fever, it has been $20. Very little freight is brought hither during the winter.
There is a good wagon road to Yreka, part of the way planked. A stage runs to Yreka thrice a week, making the trip in three days, by way of Jacksonville and Althouse, O.T. At the latter place, and Sailor Diggings in its vicinity, are some of the richest diggings on this coast, and they offer--if rumor is true--a fair reward to men working alone with the rocker and pan, and still better rewards to those who have the capital to make extensive dams and sluices.
Among the notabilities of Crescent City is a United States lighthouse, provided with a fine Fresnel light, which can be seen at a distance of twenty miles. The lamp cost $3,000 in France, and is a beautiful specimen of workmanship.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, August 20, 1858, page 1
A TRIP TO RARA AVIS.
BY "ON THE WING."
To the mountains, boys! Away!--from this Jacksonville August dust! Let labor, trade and science revel in the mountain air, and rub against the forest. Get your mules, arms and ammunition; fishing tackle and salt, and don't forget the howitzer--load it with first-class cognac, of course--it don't miss fire! Agreed, agreed! was the simultaneous exclamation of these bronzed sons of the Pacific, who have grown restless under the regime of enervating luxury, which, with the scent of a bloodhound, follows on the track of gold, and is daily rearing her hydra heads in our midst. Unanimity--the ayes have it--we go! Mount, then, and lead off the cavalcade. To the east, northeast by east. Steer for the mountain of birds. Clouds of dust mark our passage across the valley to Rogue River; in fact, dust seems to be our evil genius--gold dust most especially. Here, on the waters of Rogue, a halt is sounded, and a salute is fired all round from the howitzer; mules watered, and revolvers loaded, when we mount and head up the river for Big Butte Creek. All hands are now on the alert; orders are given for revolver practice on inoffensive grouse and jackass rabbits, two spiritual salutes, premium being offered to the happy possessor of the most scalps on arriving at camp. Well, here we are!--after a drive of 40 miles, beating the shades of night at least two hours in the race to camp. Orderly bugler, "Call the roll." "All here, sir!" We now proceed to bury the donkeys in grass on the creek bottom, after which camp life bursts upon us in full blast; the fumes of grouse and buck rabbit--fried, stewed and grilled--has a magic effect on this little party. All else is forgotten. Our thoughts are set free from the cares of life, and are centered on a single object--grilled grouse--served up in the "Globe" Hotel, where all nature boards, and all mortals lodge.
To arms, boys! to arms! A drove of elk are stampeding the mules is the cry of our cargadoro. Now, the prospect of larger game chases away the fumes of grilled birds, upsetting camp gravity and setting up chaos; the mind and body pursue nothing but elk. In the general push the paraphernalia of camp is scattered and smashed; camp kettles roll down the hill into the creek, seemingly animated with the sport. Fun, fun and excitement enough to arrest and wipe out the premature wrinkles of age written in the faces of many that are entered in the great race up north after gold. The storming party succeed in capturing a heifer, which they hoist up to the limb of a fir, beyond the reach of impertinent wolves, and then come blowing into camp at dusk. General rejoicing takes place at the unprecedented good luck--two hours in camp, and plenty of meat--the choice of the antlered tribe of the forest. We now conclude to offer a sacrifice to good fortune and fun, and close the first day out by a few more rounds on the mountain howitzer, then pitch into the arms of the drowsy god on the greensward.
The morning breaks, and so do we from our slumbers. The first thing on the tapis today is a wholesale bath in the creek; the next is broiled elk and coffee, when a blast from the bugle warns us to jump aboard, which we do according--plunging into conversation and the chaparral at the same time with all imaginable zest. The mules lead off at a brisk pace, and seem to enjoy the trip. After traveling about ten miles, we leave the creek and head directly for the peak of Rara Avis, the point of destination. Time wings his way pleasantly 10 miles further, when having lost ourselves in mule peripatetics, it becomes evident to all that we have also lost our trail, taking an elk trail instead, which has led us into a quandary--having run it out--and stuck fast in a brush that was proof against the progress of his elkship. A council is held, the result of which is, onward, giving the elk a lesson on topographical engineering. It is determined to push ahead and camp on the west spur of the Bird. Work now commences. The sweat rolls off the pilgrims of pleasure in profusion. The excursion is a little heavier than we bargained for. Jokes in the crowd are few and far between. Brush tries men's souls, as well as pants. We are now prepared to realize the hardships endured by the volunteers in the last war, and to wonder how they ever chased the Indians out of these mountains. We would say to all the croakers, who howled so incessantly about fighting the poor Indian for the purpose of robbing the treasury, that an excursion hither would strip them of their philanthropy, as well as foggery. They would say with us that the volunteer doubly earned his scrip. But enough of this--we are lost! The brush and darkness thicken around us.
Camp! Let us camp!! Everybody says camp!!! But where, ah, where is the water? We have had none since morning. We now realize our situation fully, and it is anything but flattering--presenting quite a contrast to last night. After taking a consultation and a pull of brandy, we concluded to camp. The mules are stripped and tied to the brush around us, knowing full well that if turned loose, they would get out of this wilderness on the hunt of grass and water, and without any remorse of conscience leave us afoot. To say the least, we are rather a blank-looking set, lying spread out on the red dirt, amongst the bunches of greasewood, where a spear of grass would be a curiosity, compelled to borrow a camping place from the sterile home of the lizard, is a little too blank, but we set out for a rub against the brush and--what's all that row? What have you found? The spirits of the party go up to about 125 in the shade on the announcement of a providential discovery. While extracting the contents of the hamper, six immortal bottles of claret are found, being the remains of yesterday's sumptuous fare. Presto, the camp changes--a fire is blazing, every countenance expands, and by stretching the imagination, we discover some romance amid all this bald reality. Never was claret more appreciated. We note this down as the Lost Camp, and could enjoy it as the rich feature of the trip were it not for the plaintive, dismal braying of our poor thirsty mules, that are insulted in their cries for water by the howling of a neighboring pack of wolves. But enough. We sup, and turn in, the second night out, with music from the orchestra of mules and wolves.
On waking up in the morning, overhauling the charts and taking our bearings, we find the Lost Camp located on a long sloping spur of the mountain, about halfway up to the base of the peak, where water never congregates. On either side the course of streams are plainly marked and easily seen. It is now decided by the conseil d'mont to bear to the southward as the nearest point to water. So the mules are packed and mounted, and a kind farewell is given to this arid paradise of brush. Water is the ruling thought. Two hours' ride, where white man never rode before, brought us to the supposed oasis. But fancy the concentrated wrath, and imprecations impious of thirsty excursionists, when, instead of the aqueous element, we discover nothing but broad fields of pumice stone, manufactured and thrown out here from the forge of Rara Avis, probably a thousand years ago, previous to her suspension of volcanic operations. We have heard of pleasure being pursued under difficulties, and beg to record this part of our ramble as a parallel case. But to the winds with speculation. Our tongues are swelling with thirst. Countenances begin to look ferocious. A bottle of brandy is broached and drained, and with desperation and Spanish spurs, we work up speed on the poor donkeys, retracing our steps to the Lost Camp, from which we descend the spur on the north branch seen in the morning, leaving the marks of our transit hanging on the chaparral, as the wrecked state of our raiment fully testify, causing us to strongly resemble a band of returned Fraserites. We reach the creek about 3 p.m. What a refreshing scene! Mules and men are stripped and plunge into the long-looked-for water--taking sweet revenge for past privations. A glorious breakfast is soon discussed, when we bring into requisition the piscatory apparatus, capture a few grasshoppers, and finish the day by angling for trout.
The fourth day out is a smooth one, without any contretemps to break the general enjoyment, save an epicurean altercation on the best modes of cooking and catching trout, which is decided by target shooting with Colt's pistols, the best shot winning the fishy argument. Today we circumvent our mountain friend. Making a detour and crossing the northern spur, we reach the elevated tableland covered by lakes, lost rivers and tules, camping on Clear Lake, on the east side of the mountain. This huge basin of lakes is a curiosity well worth a visit. It is the grand nursery of all the feathered tribes, between Petropaulowski and Mazatlan, and may well be named the City of Birds. Latitude 42, on the Pacific coast, cutting these lakes, is a medium climate, which accounts for the semi-annual convention of the migratory waterfowl, that are chased by the extremes of climate from the Gulf of Georgia and California. The thaumaturgical priests of old Rome, who foretold the fate of battles by the flight of birds, could here get signs to suit any emergency.
The Klamath River takes its source from these high lakes, and running west, along [the] 42nd parallel, breaks through the Coast Mountains to the sea. Rogue and Pit rivers head above this basin, divided only by the Shasta Range at its intersection with the Cascades, the latter being bent to the eastward and scattered somewhat, to make room for these rivers and afford a starting place for the Sierra Nevada, Pit and Rogue rivers, starting together, diverge and cut the coast respectively in about 37 and 43 degrees of latitude, forming a triangle which encloses entire several large rivers, some of which are Smith, Illinois, Applegate, Klamath, Shasta, Scott, Trinity, Eel, McCloud, West Branch of Sacramento and all its branches, Cottonwood and Russian rivers. The most of these streams are rich in gold, and taken altogether, affording resources for the profitable employment and support of a population of 500,000 souls. In the older states, probably, this number set out in life every year--say at the age of eighteen--under the age, and as a part and parcel of the machinery of adamantine monopolists, and are crowded through a brief thirty or forty years, then complacently shoved off the stage poor, with the satisfaction of seeking his whole family start in on the same long road, with a prospect of similar success: contributing to the aggregate wealth of corporations and the country at large, but not his own. Here he could do both; ten years in this triangle, with half the exertion and wear and tear of body, and he turns the tables on hereditary poverty. He can then use the lever of wealth to turn the screw of monopoly on the next generation; so pick up a little energy, money and your household goods, and taking advantage of the anticipated regime low steamship fare, spread yourselves on the balmy shores of the Pacific and grow up with an empire instead of it on you. But what are we talking about? Population will seek its level, as well as money or mercury. We have gone around the world in a few centuries, improving some in our notions of art, science and civilization as we go westward, and now we double on our tracks, stirring up the somnolent Chinese, with our deep-mouthed civilizers, waking them up from a two hundred years' dream and tell them to jump aboard of the cars and ride on the western wave, or to be engulfed by its restless flood. But to earth again. Fishing in clear lakes ceases to amusement and degenerates into slaughter, so we square the yards and blankets for a square night's rest, it being our intention to turn out early in the morning, fresh for the ascent of the mountain of birds. This peak having no particular name, we now christen it Rara Avis. May the world slumber as we will tonight.
Fifth day. Camp is alive this morning at dawn. Our breakfast consists of the good things that swim, fly and run at large; strictly speaking it may be called a wild breakfast. Leaving the cook in charge, we sally forth, passing around the eastern base of the venerable old Bird, we charge on to the southeast spur, but the donkeys recoil, strongly reminding us of that celebrated charger of Quixote de la Mancha on the windmills. The mules are now abandoned, and stringing out afoot, we make aboard from one side of the spur to the other, thus gaining altitude and weaving our way to the summit without much opposition; with the exception of a temporary repulse, from fatigue and slim air, that are easily subdued by appealing to our sympathetic friend, the glass howitzer of cognac. The same kind friend is brought into requisition to signalize the culmination of the excursion--the heavy part of it in particular. A rocket is now sent up to explore space beyond our reach, after which we work up a perspiration with lever power, by starting huge rocks of 500 tons from their diluvian bed, which go crashing for about five miles to the inhabitable world below, flattening large trees on the passage. But growing tired at length of this kind of sport, we assembled for lunch and a look at the seething world. Boys, this is the place we have been looking for. Here nature reigns supreme. Where would you go to get further out of the world? Not a cloud to mar the landscape. A clear vision, obstructed only by the immensity of space! Down there to the southward the Siskiyous, bridled with pine, strings out from east to west. To the northward the Umpqua, both intersecting the Cascade and Coast Mountains, enclosing an area of 150 miles square, constituting Rogue River Valley, a magnificent garden fenced in with mountains. Down there to the southeast you see the elevated table of lakes, formed by the melting snow from the surrounding peaks, the feeders and source of the Klamath. It is proposed--and may not be visionary--to take the snow now melting under our feet and give it an introduction to the Pacific, through the Golden Gate, in latitude 37 instead of 41, where the Klamath now enters below Crescent City. Gold can change the course of rivers, as well as nations, men, politics and religion. In this age we should be surprised at nothing. Five years hence may witness these Klamath Lakes tumbling into Pit River, through a tortuous canal over the transversal Shasta Ranges, clearing the Sacramento of accumulated sediment deposited there by the thousands of rockers, toms and sluices of California, working daily like beavers, damming up a noble river, in the production of gold to satisfy the cormorant appetite of commerce. But the stimulus to this great enterprise lies in the bottom of the Klamath River; recent prospects inducing the belief that it is fabulously rich in the precious oro. Time, time, give us a little time, to arrange our hydraulics, and we will sluice off the Pacific Slope to the bedrock; then, with the proceeds, build the Pacific Railroad, and convert California into a commission house to forward goods for the world, between Canton and Liverpool. Boys, here is the place to take a calm and dispassionate view of the world, free from bias or political prejudice, unmixed with the associated world, we look down on [omission] of life below. What a buzz, what commotion; now a storm--then an earthquake! The current of air change, the seasons too, says Indian tradition, change at the approach of the palefaces. Though the Indian is cruel in knowledge of philosophy, he is about right in this instance, for the attrition of men on the earth's surface, for ages, has undoubtedly produced changes in the seasons. Caucasian blood has raised steam from the earth, brought down lightning from the heavens, and sent them whizzing around the world, displacing earth and air, and taming them for the uses of men. The smoke of civilization rarefies the air, producing a thundershower which is a curiosity to our Indians, and proof of his position on the seasons, he never before having seen this kind of war in the elements during his happy sojourn on his native hunting grounds.
Yes, boys, from Nature's observatory, seated on this stray knob of the Cascades, we will take a glance at the political orb, through that huge telescope, the press. Attention then, while I look.
But a short time ago, the world seemed troubled, and smelt of war. England and the United States set their powder mills to grinding on the sea police question. England and France had a slight war discussion about the explosion of infernal machines, by the Red Republicans, in the streets of Paris, which so nearly blew up an empire. England and India are mixing blood on the great cartridge question; the Hindoo will be compelled to relinquish his puppet gods, by feeding on hogs' lard. The army is ahead of the missionary in making proselytes among the Buddhists. What a novelty!
The British lion roams at large through the world in quest of prey, but at present seems to bare more than he can digest; however, commerce lends her aid, so pitch in, Britons, and congratulate among yourselves, for, in Europe and America, the sulphurous clouds break away at the approach of modern diplomacy, the elements have returned to a healthy equilibrium at the behest of trade. The horizon is once more clear, save the distant suppressed growl of the Imperial Gaul, who would rashly wreck the world--a la Napoleon I--were it not for the potent appeal of commerce, who, in anger at suicidal Europe, points directly to Asia as a field on which to practice the modern art of war. The great shipping firms--England, United States, France and Russia--must not quarrel, but make a descent on China, and smash the walls of that fossil empire, and become their bankers and merchants. It is political economy to mix them with the world through this medium.
Commerce must use Asia--England wants cotton; France, silk; Russia, a seaport on the Pacific (the Amoor); the United States, a general average, with no police on the high seas--while all agree to take tea comfortably together. Boys, it is amusing to note the difference in the estimation of Asia and Africa by Madame Commerce; one is ingenious and industrious, the other is neither. Both occupy a large space on the earth. Asia is a machine that will run well as she is, and with commercial governors is well balanced in the world's economy; while the African must leave his native soil to be equally productive. Hence, commerce has decreed that a descent be made on the Asiatics, and gives up the benighted Africans to the tender solicitude of Exeter Hall.
Be calm, boys, and don't get excited. Neither smile, nor groan, nor indulge in levity, but exhibit as much national pride and patriotism as is consistent with possibility in this elevated region of eternal frost, for we now direct our observations toward home. Yes, we leave Europe, and look at the United States; we have an interest there, and should be excusable for slight enthusiasm, while contemplating, in all this wide world, the only practical cradle of the popular will, capable of turning out thrifty and muscular states, almost yearly, that are proof, so far, against the vicissitudes of the world; in fact, so well balanced are these children of the West that, like a barrel of lager beer, they go through a state of fermentation, throwing off all impurities, and without a foreign agent, concentrated love of country and patriotism takes place--becoming a purer and wiser drink, worthy of any German from the Vaterland, and we insist, at the risk of becoming excited, that it is palatable to the gods.
Ah boys! it's plain enough to be seen that were it cold enough to freeze the mercury, you cannot be calm while looking at this fabulous cradle. Although thousands of miles away from the center, seated on this rim of this great nursery of stars; although huge sovereigns, joint monarchs of all within the range of our vision, we exhibit the weakness of mortals, and submit to bursts of patriotism, while looking at our vast republican home.
Then give way! Fellow the bent of inclination!! Let us swear by this constitution--seal it up in this empty howitzer--and plant it in this snow, monumental to the oath--we guard well that barrel of lager through all its stages of effervescence, foreign or domestic, political or religious; and to prevent an explosion for all time, insist on girding it with the iron hoops of the Pacific railroad. We can then tap the trade of Asia, and establish an additional safety valve to hold the stars well balanced in the sphere of empire. But the world is liable to convulsions, so are governments and men, and of course our proud states are not invulnerable.
One of our insidious enemies is Madam Luxury, the twin but prodigal companion of Commerce, who played and coquetted with the United States, permeating the whole body with her enervating drugs, until spots of putrefaction and decay appeared. The national mind grew morbid, and oblivious to her Republico-Continental position in the world. Centralized monarchs of Europe chuckled with delight at the Kansas, Utah, and Abolition storms, painting across the Atlantic with contempt at the symptoms of decay in the Empire Republic. But forbearance ceasing to be a virtue, Commerce waged hot war on her playful sister, Luxury, shelling her with the recent tremendous financial crash, which was sedative to her impertinence, and a pleasant rebuke to her presumption, causing her to retire from the boards, and go below. After the smoke of the bombardment cleared away the national mind became practical, and the body is fast becoming convalescent.
Stop! Stop!! Cease, ah ye arch agitators! Give our republic an even chance on earth. The strongest government must succumb, when arrayed against herself. Anchor on to the constitution, and lead us not back to the palmy days of Greece, where the ostracism was used, with such happy effect, to garrote her own greatness, depleting the body politic, by making it criminal to be a good statesman or general! No! don't break the phalanx of states, but build the Pacific railroad, with the money spent in dissecting administrations--which will secure more than a general average in the trade of Asia, and cause Madam Commerce to smile with delight, and open wide her arms to embrace you as the premium cask of lager beer. From the summit of Rara Avis, fair world, we bid you adieu.
Jacksonville, Southern Oregon.
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, October 3, 1858, page 4 This expedition was referred to in a letter to the Oregon Statesman printed September 21, transcribed here. Rara avis--"rare bird"--may refer to the snowy patch shaped like an osprey (some see an angel) that appears on the western flank of Mount McLoughlin in the spring.
Last revised March 13, 2021