News of Jackson County and the "Applegate Trail"--the southern emigrant route.
For the Oregon Spectator.From the great length of the journey from the United States to the Willamette Valley, the many rivers to cross and mountains to climb, it is but reasonable to suppose that emigrants would meet with many accidents, and suffer many losses in its accomplishment. To lessen these casualties to those who follow them should therefore be the wish, as it is the interest of every citizen of this valley.
THE ROAD TO OREGON.--No. 1.
To show the necessity of improvements upon the route, and the means adopted to effect them, I shall briefly refer to the time and manner in which the three preceding emigrations have accomplished the journey, and as the latter part of the road is much the most difficult, as well as most susceptible of improvement, all improvements worthy of notice have been made or attempted west of the Rocky Mountains.
The emigrants of 1843 were the first who traveled with wagons below Fort Hall--of these a part reached the Dalles of the Columbia in the month of November--others left their wagons and animals at Walla Walla, and a few remained at Dr. Whitman's mission through the winter.
When we consider the scarcity of grass and water along most of the route, the dangerous crossings of Snake River, and the making of the road for so great a distance over the wide plains of sage and sand and almost impassable mountains, that they arrived on the Columbia at all is a proof of energy and perseverance not often equaled by those who have followed them.
The obstacles so formidable had not been surmounted without much labor and loss, both of life and property, yet, though so near the end of their journey, they experienced by far more losses, hardship and sufferings in descending from the Dalles to the Willamette than in all the rest of the journey together, and almost in sight of the great object of their wishes many were relieved from perishing by the benevolence of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the timely and gratuitous assistance of Capt. James Waters, a fellow emigrant.
The emigrants of 1844 fared even worse than those of the preceding year, arriving late in the season, when by reason of the snow the trail by Mount Hood was thought to be impassable, the greater part of their worn-out animals were swum to the north side of the Columbia, which is nearly a mile wide, driven down on that side and recrossed in boats at Vancouver; a route of great danger, fatigue and exposure to the owners, and in which more than half the animals were lost. The rear of this emigration also got no further than Dr. Whitman's mission. Most of the citizens having experienced these calamities, and seeing their friends arrive in this distant country shorn of the means of their comfort, or of becoming useful citizens, a desire to remedy these evils became universal.
Hopes were entertained that this could be effected by finding a nearer and better road into the Willamette Valley, by a route formerly traveled by the Hudson's Bay Company, leaving the present road in the Malheur, or Powder River valley, and crossing the Cascade Mountains by a pass near Mount Jefferson. This was attempted by a party under the patronage of Dr. E. White, late Indian Agent of this Territory, in the summer of 1845. This party, after spending about a month in exploring the Cascade Mountains up the Santiam River and south of it, returned without accomplishing their object. As by this enterprise Dr. White had been at considerable expense, the Legislature of Oregon passed a resolution recommending his claims to remuneration "to the favorable consideration" of the federal government.
Two attempts have since been made to penetrate the Cascade Mountains from the Willamette Valley, and as on one occasion, in case of success, the guide was to receive one thousand dollars, we have reason to believe they have been prosecuted with due energy. Yet I think these attempts should not be taken as final evidence that no pass can be found.
In support of this opinion, I would remark that their endeavors have been improperly directed; the great height of this range of mountains intercepting the ordinary rain clouds from the Pacific Ocean, their western sides from their great moisture produce so heavy a growth of timber and undergrowth that in such forests traveling is extremely slow and laborious, and starting from the foot of the mountain it is difficult to keep a correct course and almost impossible to decide with certainty whether a valley or ridge will terminate at the summit of the main range, or some lateral spur.
But from the east side of the mountains, as the plain of the river Deschutes is much higher than that of the Willamette, and from the dryness of the country the sides of the mountains are either bald or sparsely timbered with pine without undergrowth, it is not difficult to reach the top. Once on the summit of the ridge, as the whole country below will be in view, and as every stream or valley will lead to the foot of the mountain, there can be little difficulty in choosing the most favorable descent. That a road may be found over the Cascade Mountains, near Mount Jefferson, is made still more probable from the observations of Capt. Fremont in the winter of 1843 while traveling up the river Deschutes (see his journal, p. 119), speaking of the Cascades, he says, "A small trail takes off through the prairie towards a low point in the range, and perhaps there is here a pass into the Willamette Valley." The same evening he finds his camp to be in latitude 45 deg. 2 min. 45 sec and longitude 125 deg. 2 min. 43 sec., being a due east course and not exceeding 100 miles from the town of Salem. Taking into account the length of the valley of the Santiam, and the opposite branch of the river Deschutes, but a small part of this distance can be timber.
When we take into consideration the excellence of the mills at Salem, its literary institution, the cheapness and abundance of provisions in its vicinity, and its central position in regard to the rest of the Territory, its advantages to the emigrant as the terminus of the road from the United States must be obvious.
The failure of Dr. White's enterprise left the large emigration of 1845 to find their way into the Willamette Valley by the usual means; the supply of boats being wholly inadequate to their speedy conveyance down the Columbia, and the stock of provisions failing at the Dalles, famine and a malignant disease at the same time raging amongst them, a scene of human misery ensued which scarcely has a parallel in history--the loss of life and property was enormous.
To the honor of the citizens of Oregon City and its vicinity, necessaries to the value of several hundred dollars were dispatched to their relief. To Mr. Cook, master of the Calapooia and the distributor of the above-named benevolence, many indigent families have reason to be grateful.
The whole community were again aroused to the necessity of finding a remedy for an evil so distressing and calamitous. Two road companies were chartered by the Legislature and a large amount raised by subscription, to encourage individual enterprise, and the year 1846 is not more an epoch to be remembered in the history of Oregon for the quiet settlement of its boundary than for the arrival of emigrants from the United States with their wagons at both ends of the Willamette Valley.
These improvements on the route I propose examining in a future communication.
Z. [Jesse Applegate]Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 21, 1847, page 2
Z. is welcome to the use of our columns. His articles will be read with pleasure, for they are upon a most interesting subject.
"To Correspondents," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 21, 1847, page 2
[illegible] glad to state that all [illegible] arrived safely in the [illegible] families, who have concluded [illegible] their property until spring, in the [illegible] the northern side of the Umpqua River. We are informed by some of the immigrants who have reached here that accounts of their condition have been exaggerated, and they ascribe much of their detention to their own mismanagement and delay. Of ninety wagons, which were all that were on the southern route, fifty are this side of the Umpqua Mountains, including twelve that had reached the first settlement at the head of the valley.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 4, 1847, page 2 A chunk of paper is missing from the issue microfilmed. J. Quinn Thornton wrote a response to this article, published March 4, transcribed below.
I am partial to the "sunny south." As I came through the southern route from Fort Hall, I passed through the southern valleys of this Territory, and while not inferior in point of soil to the Willamette, they bear evidence of a much more genial climate--being the native land of the vine and many fruits not found in this valley. As we, though much delayed in opening the road, arrived in the Rogue River Valley early in October, with our animals in good condition, and with but little loss, I am satisfied that hereafter immigrants from the United States will reach that valley in the month of September. Of this valley, all who have seen it speak in the highest praise. It is second in size only to the Willamette; the land, timber and water are well distributed for settlement; the grazing is superior and the climate delightful. It being the middle region, it is thought it will not be subject to the extreme wet of the Willamette, or the occasional droughts of California.
I have also been informed by good authority that the open country runs down this river to the ocean, and that the mouth is a good harbor for ships. If this be true, of which I have little doubt, as it has a fine country to back it, why will not claims near the mouth of this river be valuable? As it is not only the most accessible, but the nearest, point on the Pacific, what place in Oregon is more likely to be the terminus of the great railroad from the United States?
As there can be no difficulty in shipping from the Columbia provisions and all other necessary articles for the establishment of a settlement on this river, will it not be better for us to explore the Rogue River to its mouth, and if we find the country, the land and the harbor of the value it is represented, to form a company sufficiently strong for its settlement, rather than take up an outside or remote place, or give the little misfortunes have left us for a farm in this valley which may not suit us?
A party will start for the United States by the southern route in March or April; the opportunity will be favorable for us to go with them as far as Rogue River, and at once determine for ourselves and the friends who may follow us.
AN EMIGRANT."Rogue River Valley," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 18, 1847, page 3
For the Oregon Spectator.Mr. Editor--I have read an editorial article in the Spectator of the 4th instant, in which I could not fail to observe that you had been so far led astray by the rash, not to say willful, misrepresentations of thoughtless or designing and interested persons, as to make no less than seven incorrect statements in the first eleven lines of an article of thirteen. I am thus particular for the purpose of showing how many inaccuracies may be crowded into so small a compass. The article in question, when analyzed, will be found to contain nine averments, viz:
1st. That "all the immigrants" "excepting four families," have arrived in the settlements. This is incorrect. Mr. Duskins was, it is believed, among the last persons who returned with direct intelligence from the families "in the Umpqua valley." When he left, there were five or six families--one consisting of Messrs. Geddes and Nye, the Rev. J. A. Cornwall's, Mr. Kennedy's, Mr. Croizen's and Mr. Hall's. There was also the family of one whose name is not now remembered--believed, however, to be Davis or Wood; making in all about thirty souls.
2d. That the "four families" excepted had "concluded to remain with their property until spring, in the Umpqua valley." This also is incorrect. They had not "concluded" to remain. They remained because the hard hand of necessity was upon them. As well might it be said of the unhappy man who is being led to execution, that he has "concluded" to be hung.
3d. That those who had arrived in the settlements have "ARRIVED SAFELY." This also is incorrect, if anything is meant by the expression "arrived safely" beyond the simple announcement of the fact that many of the immigrants, after traversing a country dangerous in consequence of the hostility of the savages, have at length arrived in a very enfeebled condition to which they had been reduced by hunger, cold and nakedness. In addition to this, it may be affirmed that almost every man (perhaps indeed, everyone) who came into Oregon by the southern route is, in a pecuniary point of view, ruined by doing so. Do men arrive "safely" who lose their wagons, teams, tents and clothing; and who freeze their feet, and come in looking like famished wolves?
4th. That accounts of the condition of the immigrants "have been exaggerated." To exaggerate this account, it is feared, would be a difficult task. It is probably one which could be accomplished by those only who are the sources of your information. It is a fact well known among the immigrants that as early as the 14th of November last, an ox that had become too lean and too much exhausted to be able to go any further, and which had finally died in the kanyon of the Umpqua mountains (supposed, I believe, for some time, to have belonged to Rice Dunbar) was found with its hindquarters skinned and carried away. By whom, and for what purpose, was this done, if it was not done by some unhappy father who saw his children famishing for want of food? It was to this circumstance I referred in my communication of Nov. 30th, in which I observed that the immigrants previous to my leaving the disastrous kanyon had commenced eating the cattle that had died in it. I did not, indeed, see the ox skinned or eaten, as before mentioned, but the fact was not questioned while I remained at the kanyon, nor was it ever denied until improper and unworthy motives suggested the idea of keeping the people of the valley in ignorance of the extent of the sufferings of the immigrants. I did not, in stating the fact in my appeal to the people, in behalf of the sufferers whom I had left behind me, intend to censure any one of the gentlemen who had been instrumental in leading us upon that most unfortunate road. Much less was it my purpose to express any opinion at that time whether it would be proper to advise future immigrants to travel that road. This question I did not believe ought to be discussed while any of the immigrants remained in circumstances of so much suffering. And I must be permitted to say that had I been instrumental in placing a multitude of men, women and children in such a situation, I would have eaten my bread in bitterness until I had rescued them, instead of attempting to amuse the public mind either by speculations with regard to the practicability of some other route, or by wickedly attempting to produce the impression that accounts of the condition of the immigrants "HAVE BEEN EXAGGERATED." I say wickedly, because I believe that, had not some persons, influenced by improper motives, succeeded to some extent in producing this impression, all the immigrants would by this time have been in the valley. As circumstances now are, there is much reason to fear that the coming spring will reveal a tale of the sufferings of those in the Umpqua valley that will make sick the heart of every man who has one.
The sufferings, then, of the immigrants have not "been exaggerated." Indeed, I doubt whether the half has been told. By the very last intelligence we have of those "who have concluded to remain," we learn that an estimable old man, and his wife and grandchild, had subsisted three days upon three mice.
5th. That much of the detention of the immigrants is to be ascribed to "their own mismanagement." How did it come to pass that all the good managers traveled the old road, many of them arriving in Oregon City as early as Sept. 13th, with their property; while all the mismanagers took the route indicated by Messrs. Applegate and Goff, losing all their property and arriving in the settlements in December, looking more like the shadows of ghosts than the substantial forms of living men? Mr. Applegate met the company in which I traveled August 8th, a few miles on this side of Fort Hall. Although among the first of my company to get in, I did not arrive until Nov. 29th; while others who had entered upon the old road only about forty-eight hours before Mr. Applegate arrived at the point where the old road to Oregon turns off to the right from the California road, arrived Sept. 13th--two and a half months earlier.
6th. That much of the detention of the immigrants is to be ascribed to their WILLFUL delay--for in no other sense can the word "delay" be understood when read in the connection in which it appears. If those to whom you refer as being the source from which you derive your information, and whom you describe as being "some of the immigrants who have reached here," mean to speak of themselves only, nothing will be objected to their making themselves as odious as they desire. But if they intend to be understood as speaking of other immigrants than themselves, then a regard to truth and justice constrains me to pronounce their statement to be untrue in all its length, and depth, and breadth.
7th. That the averments made under the last three heads rest upon the authority of "some of the immigrants who have reached here." I am not careful to know what motive prompted "some of the immigrants who have reached here," thus to slander their fellow travelers. I hope, however, that it does not spring from that base and mean spirit which characterizes a class of individuals known by the expressive, though not very elegant, epithet of "bootlicks."
8th. That ninety wagons were "all that were upon the southern route." While I can affirm that ninety wagons were not "all that were upon the southern route," I will not take upon myself to say certainly what was the precise number. Relying upon memory, an attempt will, however, be made to approximate to it. Seventy-five wagons had been turned into the new road previous to the company, in which I traveled, coming up. In this company, if I am not mistaken, there was eighteen wagons. Mr. Lard and his son-in-law had two wagons. James Savage had one. I have been informed that the company of Messrs. Brown and Allen contained eighteen wagons. This would make one hundred and fourteen. I may have made some mistakes as to precise numbers, but I do not doubt that many wagons have entirely escaped my memory.
9th. That of the ninety wagons affirmed to be all that were upon the southern route, "fifty are on this side of the Umpqua mountains, including twelve that had reached the first settlement at the head of the" Willamette valley. But where are the forty wagons making the difference between fifty and ninety? It is answered that they lie in scattered fragments upon the sides of hills, upon the tops of the mountains, and along the rocky glens and the most impassable kanyons which mark the disastrous "cut-off," leading us, as I am of opinion it did, as far south as lat. 40 north latitude. And where, too, are the twenty-four wagons which make the difference between one hundred and fourteen? It is answered that Gov. Boggs, having two wagons, William Boggs one wagon, Mr. Lard and his son-in-law two wagons, and James Savage one wagon, disappointed as to the distance down Mary's river [i.e., the Humboldt River], the quality of the water, and the quantity of grass along that stream, became alarmed, and believing that it would be periling the lives of their families to leave the California road and take that indicated by Messrs. Applegate and Goff, determined to go directly into the Mexican settlement. This determination was precipitated by its being believed that the point at which the road turns off to lead to Oregon by the way of the Black Rock was only about sixty miles from the sinks of Mary's river.
Of the eighteen wagons, of which it is believed the company of Messrs. Brown and Allen consisted, nothing definite has been heard. But it is feared that all have been cut off by the savages.
I do not desire, nor do I deem it necessary at this time (if indeed at all) to examine into the merits of the southern route as compared with the one in the north. This is entirely beside the purpose in view--that of repelling a gratuitous slander resting upon the authority of "some of the immigrants who have reached here."
I am, sir, respectfully yours, &c.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 4, 1847, pages 1-2 Thornton's letter was answered by David Goff in the April 29 issue of the Spectator, below.
Our friend "Z" has furnished us with two more excellent articles upon the subject of a "Road to Oregon." They shall have a place in due time.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 4, 1847, page 2
FOR SALE--The good fast-sailing schr. SAMUEL ROBERTS, 98 tons register, draws 7 feet water loaded, built of the best Jersey oak; in complete order. Apply
to J. G. WILLIAMS, 48 Front St.Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, March 15, 1847, page 5
The following letter has been received in this city and handed us for publication. The information which it contains may be considered reliable, and we therefore hasten to publish it.
Umpqua Valley, Dec. 27th, 1846.Dear Sir--At the suggestion of a Mr. Holt, who says he is personally acquainted with you, I am induced to write to you, and through you to arouse the sympathies of the good people of Oregon in behalf of a small company of emigrants who are unable to cross the Calapooya Mountain before sometime next season--myself and a large family among them. We are not, it is true, in a state of actual starvation, as yet, but of great want, and we do not know what the consequence will be unless we receive some aid from the settlement as soon as practicable.
We are in number about 25 or 30 souls, who are the last of the unfortunate ones who took the route to Oregon recommended by Mr. Applegate, and have lost nearly all our property, and almost every means of subsistence. And indeed, about the one half of the company was just at the point of starvation, when Mr. Holt (whose liberality we shall not easily forget) helped us to three tolerably good beeves. We have scarcely any flour or salt in the camp, and nothing in prospect but a little poor beef and occasionally a poor venison--which is quite uncertain, for deer are very scarce, as well as very wild.
We have made an effort to go to the fort near the mouth of the Umpqua, to try to procure some provisions, of possible, but it proved ineffectual, as the waters were very high, and none of us knew the way. We shall try again, but from information it is very uncertain whether we shall be able to procure any assistance from that quarter or not.
Some say it will be May or June next before the road will be dry enough for us to reach the settlements, and that we shall be detained here at least some three or four months. And in conclusion, we are sorry to say that we have been credibly informed that some of our fellow emigrants, who were more fortunate than ourselves and had crossed the mountain, actually misrepresented our condition to prevent bringing us supplies and pack horses, by stating that we had plenty and might have reached the settlements long ago had it not been for our indolence, in order to receive fresh aid themselves, though so near the settlement.
Now, in conclusion, we wish you to use your influence in our behalf, and try to induce some hardy young men to bring us some provisions, such as beef, flour and salt, as soon as the weather will permit, in doing which, you will confer a lasting favor, which we will, as soon as possible, endeavor to remunerate.
Yours, respectfully,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 4, 1847, page 3
J. A. CORNWALL.
APPOINTMENT BY THE GOVERNOR.
J. QUINN THORNTON, Supreme Judge of Oregon Territory, vice P. H. Burnett resigned.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 4, 1847, page 3
For the Oregon Spectator.Thomas Holt, in company with five half-breeds and one Frenchman, started on the 3rd of last December to assist the immigration then coming in on the southern route. They had a band of 34 horses. The following is a memorandum of travel kept by Mr. Holt.
Dec. 4th. We crossed the Rickreall and traveled 15 miles and camped on the north fork of the Luckiamute. Some of the men started with the expectation that I had provisions for all hands, and did not bring any. I did not take any more than I wanted for my own use, as it was generally understood that Mr. Jones had started out with fifteen hundredweight of flour, and some beef cattle. I found out here that Mr. Jones had not started at all. I had two hundredweight of flour, and Rev. J. B. Baldroch 100 cwt. flour and one bacon ham, which he sent to be given to the needy. I found it necessary to get some more; I bought twenty-seven pounds of salt pork from Mr. J. Taylor.
Dec. 5th. Crossed the north and south fork of the Luckiamute--swimming and bad crossing--traveled ten miles and camped on Muddy Creek. We met the first wagons here; Mr. Goff is here--he is bringing Mrs. Newton in. Mr. Newton, her husband, was killed in the most barbarous manner. Three Indians came to Mr. Newton and gave him to understand that he had better camp where he was; if he went any further, he would not get as good a place, and accordingly he camped. The Indians begged something to eat, and some ammunition, with the promise to fetch in a deer; one of the Indians could speak a little English. He gave them three balls and some powder. The Indian that could speak English loaded his gun with the three balls and remained about the camp. Mr. Newton suspected that all was not right, and wanted them to go away, but they would not go. He thought he would watch them, but happened to drop asleep, and one of the Indians shot three balls into him; he was lying outside of the tent--he jumped inside of the tent to get his gun, and one of the Indians got an axe and cut his leg very nearly off. He died the next day of his wounds. The Indian robbed the tent of some articles and took an American mare and packed her off.
Dec. 6th. Crossed Mary's River; there is a small canoe here that we cross our packs in, and swim our horses. Traveled nine miles and camped on the south bank; there are five families with their wagons here, and one family packing, camped here.
Dec. 7th. Traveled 18 miles and camped on the north bank of Long Tom River.
Dec. 8th. Crossed our pack over the river in a canoe and swam our horses. We overtook Capt. Campbell, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Harris, with 25 horses and some provisions. They all tell us that they are going to the kanyon. We have more help than Capt. Campbell, and we travel faster--he started three days before us. We met three families packing, and one family with a wagon. They tell us they have had nothing to eat today--the children are crying for bread; we let them have fifty pounds of flour. Traveled 4 miles through a miry prairie and camped on a slough.
Dec. 9th. We met 8 wagons and as many families, all out of provisions; we gave 10 pounds of flour to each family. Traveled 5 miles and camped on the Willamette. We waited here for Capt. Campbell to go ahead with the provisions, as we have no more to spare.
Dec. 10th. Traveled 14 miles and camped on Goose Creek. There is a number of families encamped here, waiting for assistance; their teams have given out. Mr. Owens, Mr. Patten, Mr. Duskins, Mr. Hutchins, Mr. Howell and Mr. Burrows overtook us today with 24 horses.
Dec. 11th. The Frenchman and three half-breeds turn back this morning; they are afraid if they go over the mountain, they will not get back this winter. I told Baptiste that Mr. Beers expected that he would go with me to the kanyon, and if he turned back, I could not go any further. He said that he did not think that the people back had any money to pay for being brought in. I told him that if he would go that he should be paid--if the people was not able to pay him, that Mr. Beers would raise a subscription and pay him. He said that he owed Mr. Beers sixty dollars--that if I would see that paid, he would risk the rest; I told him I would see that paid. We came across four or five families encamped, about noon, at a butte in the prairie. These families could not get any further without assistance. Mr. Goodman, Mr. Hutchins and Mr. Howell stopped here to assist them in. We traveled 23 miles and camped at the foot of the mountain. There are three families here that are in a very bad situation; their teams have given out, and they have no provisions. Mr. Campbell let them have some flour. I feel for them; it is hard for me to pass them, but when I know there are other helpless families among hostile Indians, I am bound to go on and assist them.
Crossed the Calapooya Mountains; saw the carcasses of a good many dead animals today--met one family on the top of the mountains, packing--met two families on south side of the mountain, just ready to take the mountain; they were almost afraid to try to cross--their cattle were nearly giving out, and their provisions all gone. Mr. Campbell let them have some flour. Traveled 12 miles and camped on a small creek in the Umpqua Valley. Traveled 9 miles and camped on Deer Creek. This is a very pretty valley, but it is small and scarce of timber. There is white and black oak, and some ash, but very little fir timber nearer than the mountain.
Dec. 14th. Traveled 15 miles and camped on the north fork of Elk River; there are five families here. Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Hall, Mr. Croizen and Mr. Lovlen; they have neither flour, meat nor salt, and game is very scarce. Baptiste killed two deer and divided the meat among them. I gave them 50 pounds of flour.
Dec. 15th. Crossed the north and south forks of Elk River, both swimming--we carried our packs across on logs. Mr. Campbell met his family here, and two others. Mr. Cornwall and Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Harris and Mr. Jenkins stopped here to help these families; there were not horses enough to take Mr. Cornwall's; he moved to the other family. Mr. Campbell left nearly all his property with him. We traveled 6 miles and camped on a spring branch.
Dec. 16th. Traveled 9 miles and camped on the creek where Mr. Newton was killed by the Indians. We saw a camp of Indians on a small creek; when they saw us, they run. Baptiste told them to stop--he went up to them--they told him that the Indians that killed the Boston man [Mr. Newton] was on the south fork of the Umpqua River, and the mare that they stole was there also. We crossed the north fork of the Umpqua River in a canoe; the Indians made us give them a blanket for the use of the canoe; we swam our horses across.
Dec. 17th. Traveled up the south fork of the Umpqua 10 miles and camped on a spring branch. We met the last company of immigrants here, consisting of five families. They rejoiced very much when they saw us.
Dec. 18th. All hands busy making pack saddles.
Dec. 19th. The Indians stole a horse belonging to Baptiste. Today we took the back track [returning home]. Mr. Owens took Mr. Crump's family; Mr. Patten and Mr. Duskins took Mr. Butterfield's family and the widow Butterfield; Baptiste took Mr. James Townsend's family; Delore took Mr. David Townsend's family; Thomas Holt took Mr. Baker's family. These families had been out of bread for more than two months. Their teams have all about given out--they are taking their empty wagons along until they get to the river; there they will leave them. We traveled nine miles and camped on Rock Creek.
Dec. 20th. The Indians stole 3 horses and 1 mule belonging to Mr. Owens, Mr. Patten and Mr. Duskins. We pursued the Indians so close that we got the mule. We traveled 6 miles and camped on a spring branch.
Dec. 21st. Crossed the north fork of the Umpqua River. The Indians were very saucy; they told us that they would not let us have a canoe to cross--told us to go and hunt a ford; they knew the river was very high, and it could not be forded. We had to give a gun, valued at eight dollars, belonging to Delore, before we could get a canoe. We traveled nine miles and camped on the north bank.
Dec. 22nd. Traveled 5 miles and camped on a spring branch. Snowed all day.
Dec. 23rd. Traveled 10 miles and camped on the south fork of Elk River. We leave the wagons here.
Dec. 24th. It took us all day to cross the river. It is out of its banks. Drowned two oxen. Camped on the north bank.
Dec. 25th. Lay by today. It snowed all night. The snow is a foot deep.
Dec. 26th. Traveled a mile and a half and camped on the north fork of Elk River. We find these families in a very bad situation. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hall state to us that their families have had nothing to eat for four days but a little tallow boiled in water. Mr. Baker has three oxen that were driven from the settlement; he paid 75 dollars a yoke for them. I proposed to him to let these families have them. He said that he had lost nearly all his property in the kanyon, and these oxen were all he had to depend on. These people are not able to pay him for them--I thought it rather a hard case that he should lose them and thought that under such circumstances, the people in the settlements would pay him by subscription. I told him that if he would leave them, I would insure his pay, whatever they cost him. He left them, and we divided them out, one to Mr. Kennedy's family, one to Mr. Hall's, and one to Mr. Croizen's family, and three-quarters of one to Mr. Cornwall's family. I gave 50 pounds of beef to two men that are encamped here for an axe, and sold them 10 pounds of tallow for one dollar. I gave the axe to Mr. Townsend, it being very cold weather, and he having no axe to cut firewood with. Mr. Owens leaves us today to go ahead. Mr. Duskins goes with him--as he has lost his horses, he can be of no more service to Mr. Butterfield. I let Mr. Townsend and Mr. Baker have 80 pounds each of beef. I omitted to state that Mr. Burrows returned on the 15th and packed Mr. Lovlen's family in.
Dec. 26th. We lay by today to dry our clothes. This is the first clear day we have had since we left the settlements.
Dec. 28th. Traveled 6 miles and camped on a spring branch. This is very slow getting along in consequence of having no pack oxen. I let the widow Butterfield have a horse to ride, the Indians having stolen her horse.
Jan. 1st. Crossed the mountain--the snow three feet deep in places. I cached some flour in the mountain, going out [on the way south]. I opened the cache today--our mouths water for some bread, as we have been out some time. Traveled 10 miles and camped at the foot of the mountain.
Jan. 5th. Today and the last three days traveled 24 miles and camped at the [Eugene] Skinner house. We met Mr. Powers here, with three horses to assist Mr. Butterfield.
Jan. 6th. Mr. Butterfield gave a dollar and a half towards paying for Delore's gun; he lies by today. We traveled 6 miles and camped on the Willamette.
Jan. 8th. Very cold and frosty; swam two creeks--the women and children got wet and came very near freezing. We had to camp--traveled 14 miles yesterday and today.
Jan. 9th. Crossed Long Tom River, swimming--traveled 10 miles and camped at Scott's Butte. Mr. Butterfield overtook us again today.
Jan. 10th. Crossed Mary's River, swimming. Traveled 10 miles and camped on the north bank of the river.
Jan. 11th. Traveled 12 miles and camped on Muddy Creek. Mr. Butterfield was taken sick and stopped here.
Jan. 12th. Traveled 5 miles and remained with Mr. Williams on the Luckiamute. Very stormy and cold.
Jan. 17th. After lying by four days in consequence of storms and severe weather, traveled 7 miles and stopped with Mr. Harris. Crossed the Luckiamute below the forks, swimming. Very stormy. Baptiste traveled on the 14th and crossed the Luckiamute, and drowned one of his horses. He left the two Townsend families at the forks of the Luckiamute.
Jan. 18th. Traveled 8 miles and stayed at Judge Nesmith's. Very cold and stormy--two horses gave out today.
Jan. 19th. The horses are so stiff today that they cannot travel. I leave Mr. Baker's family here. I took the best horse that I have to ride to Mr. Beers' house. I got as far as the Rickreall, and he gave out.
Jan. 20th. I took it afoot this morning, as far as Mr. Keyser's. I got a horse from Mr. Keyser and stayed all night.
Jan. 21st. Went to Mr. Beers' today. One horse died this day. On this day, Jan. 21st, 1847, I arrived at home, after having been gone fifty days, undergoing many privations and hardships, but I feel that I have done no more than my duty. The public doubtless is aware of the humane object of our trip. It was to relieve our fellow beings who were suffering almost beyond description. As the painful news of their sufferings was not to be heard without prompting, some of us endeavor to relieve them as far as we could. We succeeded in relieving many who must have perished. Our party agreed to charge nothing for the use of our horses, and as yet we have not received anything. And I feel it will be too great a loss on us as individuals to be at the whole of the expense of the trip. Therefore, I appeal to the public to know if they will not bear a hand in defraying the expenses of the trip. It will not be felt by the many, but to be wholly defrayed by persons in as indigent circumstances as we are in, will be felt considerably.
I therefore subjoin a bill of expenses:
For the Oregon Spectator.The three streams forming the Willamette River unite about the 44th degree of north latitude, to which point the settlements now extend. It will probably be found less expensive to make the Willamette River the channel of trade as high up as the forks than to build a railroad; the navigation of the river will have the further advantage of being convenient to both sides of the valley. The fine water power on the river, the natural beauty of the site, and broad and fertile valleys which follow up the three rivers which here unite, seem to mark this place as the center of trade for the upper Willamette, and should a branch of the expected railroad from the U. States to the Pacific be extended to this country, it will most likely here find its northern terminus.
THE ROAD TO OREGON.--No. 3.
Capt. Fremont (on the 27th Dec. 1843) crossed the Sierra Nevada directly on the 42nd parallel; as the wagon road over the Calapooya Mountain bears the same relative position to the forks of the Willamette that the wagon pass over the Sierra Nevada does to the pass of Capt. Fremont, the distance in both cases (according to Mitchell's late map) on a right line is about 225 miles. But as the road makes but very little easting until it crosses Rogue River, and is forced from a direct line in crossing the mountains and meandering the lakes, it is according to the waybills about 335 miles to the top of the Sierra Nevada. About 280 miles of this distance lies in the valleys of the Umpqua, Rogue River, Klamath and Sacramento; the remainder in the Calapooya, Umpqua and Siskiyou or Cascade mountains.
Of the road in the valleys, it is only necessary to state that the grass is everywhere plenty, and water at convenient distances--the road crosses a few hills in the different valleys, and some rocky country in the valley of the Sacramento; with these exceptions it is over firm, level plains--the streams are crossed at good rocky fords, and at the proper season are, from their size, of little impediment. The mountains require a more particular description.
The ridge dividing the waters of the Willamette and Umpqua rivers is called the Calapooya Mountains; it is narrow and of no great height, and may be crossed in many places; the wagon road crosses it by a ridgeway about 10 miles in length from prairie to prairie, and is not complained of by the immigrants, but chasms similar to the pass of the Umpqua Mountain may be found through the Calapooya by which a railroad will meet with but slight ascents or descents.
The Umpqua Mountain divides the waters of Rogue River and Umpqua, and is much more formidable than the Calapooia, being a much higher, rockier ridge, and over it, it is impracticable to make a wagon road.
The road passes through a chasm which cuts the mountain from side to side to its very base. As this pass has been a place of much disaster to some of the immigrants, and is of itself a natural curiosity, it requires a minute description. A pool of water, about 15feet in diameter, occupies the dividing ground between the waters of the Rogue River and Umpqua; there is from east to west about 30 yards of land between the mountains, which rises abruptly to the height of about 1500 feet--the descent each way from this point is very gentle--that to the south is about three miles--conducts by a good way to the open country; that to the north is about 12 miles in length--for three or four miles there is sufficient space of level ground, and but little work required to make a good road; but below this the stream increasing in size by the entrance of affluents, and the mountains closing in upon it, the road must descend in its rocky bed, made more difficult by some large stones and short falls, or be graded along the side of the mountain, which, having loose soil or decomposed basalt, can be done with the greatest facility these last two or three miles, when the hills recede, and leave, by frequent crossing [of] the creek, a bottom wide enough for a road the remainder of the distance. The party employed in opening the road, being in want of the necessary tools, and scarce of provisions, were unable to make this road properly, and attempted only to make it passable with as little labor as possible. On the level ground it is made crooked in going round logs and trees, and the banks at the crossings of the creek are left too steep, and at that part of the pass properly called the kanyon, the road is taken along the side of the hill about a mile, when it descends into the creek by a hill so steep as to require the greatest care to prevent wagons from upsetting. The difficulties of the road were much increased by the rains commencing about the time the first wagons were crossing the mountain. The failure of some of the weaker teams so discouraged others, that several wagons were left on the south side of the mountain, their owners thinking it impossible to take them through the pass. But nearly a month after the commencement of the rains, and at a time when they were falling, one of the largest wagons on the road, with 800 or 1000 lbs. in it, was drawn through the pass, and could easily have reached the prairie on this side on the second day had not the heavy rains which fell during its passage so swollen the little creek that runs down from the pass as to endanger the wetting the goods at one of the last crossings. As it was, the wagon was brought over all the bad road, and within a mile and a half of the prairie where Mr. P. arrived with his team before night, from which it is evident that with a little additional labor, heavily laden wagons may pass either way through this formidable mountain in dry weather in a day, and through it a railroad may be constructed as cheap, and with as little labor, as the same distance over a level plain.
By a gradual ascent of several miles through open country, the road reaches the summit of a high plain, or rather broad mountain, the western run here being a ridge rising considerably above the general level. This plain is timbered with a variety of pine (by far the finest tree I have seen of that family), with occasional small prairies, well stocked with grass and water; the road runs upon this plain about 27 miles and descends to the Klamath, at a prairie about 5 miles below the lake. The road is generally good, there being but two short steeps to ascend, and two to descend to the little streams which afford the camps.
This mountain is usually called the Siskiyou, but it is in my opinion the Cascade Range, as this broad plain runs directly south to the foot of a mighty pile glittering in eternal snow, and surmounted by a peak by far the highest in the range called Mount Shasta. Though the Klamath River cuts its way through this plain, it makes no opening, and is generally in kanyons of great depth.
The Sierra Nevada is a continuation of the Blue Mountains, and here is a high, narrow ridge, capped with snow. The road runs through a good, open pass, and the only hill to cross is on the east side of the range; fine grass runs up to the top of the mountain, and fine springs break out on both sides, which, though the ascent of the hill is long and laborious, the fine grass and water, and abundant wild fruits, make this a pleasant part of the road. Goose Lake lies on the west, and Plum Lake on the east side of this mountain; they are probably fifteen miles apart. From the heights west of Goose Lake, the pass through which Capt. Fremont crossed this mountain is in plain view, and is about 25 miles north of the wagon route. That the road may be made shorter and better as an immigrant route in this division, there is no doubt. From the heights, both in Rogue River and Umpqua valleys, there appears to be a belt of level country along the foot of the Cascades, which may unite these valleys north of the Umpqua Mountain, which is said to be the case by the Klickitat Indians and some of the trappers of this valley. It also appears when viewed from both sides that a low valley runs quite round the north end of the Siskiyou Mountain, connecting the Klamath and Rogue River valleys, which several who have visited that country say is the case, but that it contains much timber and marshy land, which would make it difficult to make a wagon road through it. A level plain lies between the Klamath River and the Sacramento, and a crossing on the Klamath above the lake would shorten the road full 20 miles. These passes would have been examined last fall, could a sufficient party of the immigrants have been raised to open the road as found without the assistance of the exploring party.
Should these passes be found practicable, the road from the Sierra Nevada to Willamette Valley will be nearly on a straight line, and almost all the way a level valley. But the road as found, though not on a direct line, is but little over 50 miles in timber, and the longest stretch between grass and water is but about 15.
A railroad crossing the Sierra Nevada at the wagon pass would require a stationary engine to overcome the eastern ascent, but on the west side, as the ascent may be distributed over about 12 miles, the ordinary locomotive will not require any additional power. From the west side of this mountain, it is well known no mountains obstruct the way to the Bay of San Francisco--nor is there any that may not be overcome to the Willamette Valley.
A railroad from the U.S. to the Bay of San Francisco will most likely cross the Sierra Nevada at this or Fremont's pass, and a branch extending north to the Willamette will be of immense value to this country. It will not only connect us with our mother country, but convey the produce of the three great valleys of Oregon to the greatest commercial mart of the world.
The rich commodities of the East, meeting with those of the Western Hemisphere at a point so much favored by nature in climate, health and other natural advantages as the Bay of San Francisco, will give birth to one of the greatest commercial cities the world has ever seen, and to supply it will always afford to us a ready market for our provisions and lumber, and besides the foreign commerce thus brought to our doors we will have a valuable local trade with California in exchanging our commodities for those of a more favored climate and the more precious metals with which that country is said to abound.
Z. [Jesse Applegate]Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 18, 1847, pages 1-2 No. 2 in the series of letters was concerning a hypothetical route across central Oregon.
A subscription has been opened at this office for the relief of Thomas Holt and others, who went to the succor of the immigrants by the southern route, and thereby incurred indebtedness which they cannot sustain. Call and subscribe.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 18, 1847, page 2
THE KLAMATH! THE KLAMATH!
All persons desirous of visiting the Klamath Valley this spring, for the purpose of making a thorough exploration thereof, are requested to attend at the Jefferson Institute, in the Rickreall Valley, on the 1st day of April next, for the purpose of organizing themselves into a company, for the above-mentioned purpose, and to fix upon a day for starting.
CORNELIUS GILLIAM.Rickreall Valley, March 2nd, 1847.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 18, 1847, page 3
The receipt of the recent news has compelled us to postpone the publication of "Z's" fourth paper which concludes his subject, "Road to Oregon."
"To Correspondents," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 1, 1847, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.From the crossing of the Sierra Nevada to the entrance of the most direct immigrant route into Bear River Valley (called Greenwood's Cutoff) is on a straight line according to Mitchell's late map, about 445 miles. The immigrant route is south of a right line to about the head of the Cajeux or Raft River, where it crosses to the north and remains on that side the remainder of the distance. To the head of the Raft River, it is on a straight line 350 miles--and by the waybills of the road 460 miles. The road from the pass of the Sierra runs in a southeasterly direction to Ogden's River about 140 miles; the first 70 miles of this distance, which reaches a large grassy plain, is a good road, and well supplied with grass and water the remainder of the distance to Ogden's River [the Humboldt], which includes all the long camps on the route, is as follows.
THE ROAD TO OREGON.--No. 4.
From the grassy plain above alluded to, it is 3 miles to a fine spring with sufficient grass for a camp. From this it is 17 miles over a level, but in places a heavy, road to the hot springs at the foot of the Black Rock; these springs extend along the foot of the mountain about 5 miles, and the extensive fields of grass produced by the spreading of their waters over the plain makes this a good recruiting place after the privations suffered in arriving here from Ogden's River. From the Black Rock to Ogden's River it is about 45 miles; there are along the road two springs at convenient distances for camps, but owing to the extreme drought of the last season, but one of these afforded sufficient grass and water for a camp, and at the other some of the immigrants could only get a small supply of water for their teams, making the distance of 35 miles over a level, but in places a heavy, road without camping. To avoid this a long stretch, the country north of Ogden's River, was examined for about 50 miles above the leaving point, but no grass or water could be found to supply the necessary camps.
The remainder of the road to the head of Raft River, a distance of about 320 miles, is in a northeasterly direction. The grass and water is plenty and at convenient distances, and the road is good, lying most of the distance in the level green valleys along the streams. As this part of the country is broken into detached mountains and level sandy plains, in the season of floods the waters collect in larger or smaller basins, but dry up as the summer advances; the little brooks which collect in the mountains mostly sink in a short distance from their sources. It is doubtful whether an immigrant route can be made much shorter than the present, as Ogden's River alone affords a connected chain of verdant plains supplied with water through this arid region, but a trail road may be taken over level plains on nearly a straight line.
From where Greenwood's cutoff enters the Bear River Valley, it is about a N.W. course to the Soda Springs, 80 miles, thence nearly in the same direction to Fort Hall, 60 miles. Here the road turns down Snake River, in a southwest course, to Raft River, 50 miles, and up Raft River, on a course nearly south, 30 miles, to a point nearly due west, and on a straight line, 95 miles from the descent into Bear River Valley. Before the scientific tour of Capt. Fremont to the Salt Lake in 1843, the true position of this country was not known, and the reason the road has not been improved in this part heretofore has been mainly owing to the ignorance of the relative position of the different points on Bear River of those who have attempted it. The Soda Springs, instead of being on the 42nd parallel, and Fort Hall a few minutes north of it, as laid down on the old map, he found this first camp in Bear River Valley three miles south of Smith's fork to be lat. 42 degrees 03 minutes 47 seconds, and of the Soda Springs to be 42 degrees 39 minutes 57 seconds, and Fort Hall in lat. 43 degrees 01 minute 30 seconds.
Capt. F. also found an excellent pass through the range of mountains west of Bear River directly on the 43rd parallel (see journal page 80) and from the broad grassy valley of the Roseaux or Reed River, a country nearly level and well supplied with grass and water extends over to the forks of the Cajeux; there is also a good road from Bear River Valley to the head of the little lake known to the trappers as Snake Lake, which leaves a distance of less than 35 miles to explore. That a road running nearly on the 42nd parallel may be found uniting these two points now scarcely admits of a doubt, and that it will be well supplied with the important requisites for animals is certain, and allowing 25 miles to cover the crooks of the road, there will yet be a saving in distance of 100 miles.
It is a remarkable fact that through all the ranges of mountains west of the United States there are good passes at or near the 42nd parallel; though no examination has been made expressly for that purpose, it has nevertheless been fully proved by Capt. Fremont to be the case in respect to the Rocky Mountains, the Bear River Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada or Blue Mountains, and the recent expedition proves the same to be the case in the Cascade Range, and as the Rogue River Valley extends down the river to the Pacific, the Coast Range is also open on this parallel.
As these natural passes, falling upon a right line across the continent, must ultimately have an influence in fixing the great thoroughfare from the United States to the shores of the Pacific, it may be of interest to the public to know how far the southern route to Oregon departs from this parallel.
As I before remarked, Capt. F. crossed the Sierra north of the wagon pass and directed his course for Ogden's River, but becoming discouraged with the appearance of the country to the eastward, he lost all hope of reaching that river and bore off to the southward, and as his description of the country along the route he traveled is most accurate, it is easy to determine the point at which the two routes come together and separate.
The wagon road comes upon his route on a remarkable little stream, which from the high walls of basalt which enclose its narrow valley is called the kanyon--the routes pass the same noted points to the Hot Springs at the foot of the Black Rock. Here Capt. F. bore off to the southward, and the wagon road keeps its easterly course. The second night after passing the Black Rock, Capt. F. finds the latitude of his camp to be 40 degrees 48 minutes 15 seconds, being 11 minutes 45 seconds south of the 41st parallel. And as he had traveled a day and a half south from Black Rock, it is evident that where the road leaves Ogden's River, which is but little south of the Rock, cannot be far from the 41st parallel, those who wish further to satisfy themselves will see Capt. Fremont's journal, from the 30th Dec. to the 3rd January inclusive.
The curve made in the road by following down Ogden's River to the 41st parallel, as it necessarily increases the length but 25 or 30 miles, is more than compensated by the fine traveling and pasturage on that stream, and a good camp being at any time to be had is of great advantage to caravans.
Though the southern route to Oregon, so far as traveling is concerned, is much superior to the northern route, yet under present circumstances I should hesitate to advise immigrants to travel it, particularly if their destination be to the northern portion of the Territory. The Indians along the route, not being dependent upon any trading establishment, have nothing to restrain them from the exercise of their natural disposition to plunder, and as they are at present, from causes which it is unnecessary to mention, but illy disposed towards us, it requires vigilance to prevent their depredations.
Though so far from being formidable that parties of 5 and even 4 men have traversed their country in its whole extent in safety and without the loss of a single article, and have remained stationary for weeks in the midst of them without being molested, yet large parties of immigrants were not equally successful.
Immigrants may embody for the protection of their property--but from the natural repugnance with which a free people submit to any kind of discipline or control, the duty of guarding it, which is its only security, will be negligently performed or wholly neglected. And besides failing in the object for which they unite, they will be subjected to all the tardiness and dissensions of a large undisciplined and discordant mass. The diligent will be withheld from prosecuting the journey by the slothful and indolent, more inert from the knowledge that they will not be left behind.
Z. [Jesse Applegate]Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 15, 1847, page 1
Another company will start from Mary's River, Polk County, on the 15th of next month, which will be piloted by Mr. L. Scott, taking the southern route to Fort Hall. The exploring company for Klamath River will start at the same time, and from the same place. Persons desirous of joining the exploring company are requested to send their names to Col. Ford, on La Creole River, by the first of May next.
"For the States," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 15, 1847, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.
Mr. Editor--It appears to be the desire of some persons to impress upon the community the idea that the party who explored the southern route to this valley, prompted by interested or improper motives, knowingly misrepresented the southern route and misled the immigrants to their injury. As naked assertions without the support of reason or truth should never be resorted to, or taken as argument, I hope to be indulged in stating a few facts in relation to that subject.
By reference to the history of the attempts to better the route to the Willamette, it will be seen that, to find a route by the way of the Santiam and Mount Jefferson had been attempted by Dr. White without success. The Oregon Legislature had granted to Thomas McKay a charter to construct a toll road through the same part of the mountains, but he also gave up his privilege without attempting anything. The same man once agreed to show that pass for $500.00, but failed to comply with his engagement; a very energetic effort had just been made to find a pass by some of the upper branches of the Willamette, but without success. Mr. Barlow had, it is true, undertaken to open a road through the mountains by Mount Hood, but some doubted his performance, and if he succeeded, it would not remove the principal difficulties complained of. In the event of a war between the U. States and Great Britain, which at that time appeared to be quite probable, an American army of course was expected to occupy this country. An army (to say nothing of immigrants) encumbered with baggage and artillery, to travel the old road through a country but scantily supplied with pasturage, inhabited with numerous tribes of Indians of a warlike character who are certainly under British influence, besides the many defiles where a few determined men might make good their defense and effectually check the advance of thousands, would be greatly delayed, if not entirely defeated in reaching this valley. Such was the state of affairs in this country when the party who found the southern route left their homes and their private affairs, to serve as they thought their fellow citizens and their country; that they sought no advantage of their fellow citizens of this valley by making their own section of the country the terminus of the road from the U. States I think must be evident when it is recollected that seven of their number had given their personal service in exploring the Cascade Mountains east of the Willamette River, and besides smaller amounts subscribed by others, three of them had subscribed $50.00 each, and one of them actually contributed a sum exceeding that amount in furtherance of the same object, and nearly all of their land claims are located north of La Creole River, and the road enters the valley south of the forks of the Willamette.
That they were sometimes mistaken in distances they do not deny. They had no instruments by which to determine their position; a watch, a pocket compass and a spyglass being their whole stock, and an incorrect map their only chart and nearly their only information of the country.
The party kept a journal of each day's travel, in which were entered the distances and direction from point to point along the route, the facilities or obstructions offered by the ground or streams to making a road, estimates of the amount of labor necessary to open the road through the timbered portion, the quantity and quality of the grass and water, with such other facts as had direct reference to the business in which they were engaged. When the party arrived on Ogden's River, after mature deliberation, a certificate was drawn up and signed by the whole company, 12 certifying to every fact, and the remaining three (who had not traveled the old road) to the correctness of the journal. This certificate and journal was sent by five of the party to meet the immigrants, and as the certificate stated the route found to be "shorter and better" than the old one and the journal minutely described it upon the faith of these documents, the immigrants turned upon the newly found road.
Now it follows that these 15 men were either sincere in their belief that the road they had found was better than the old one, or they had conspired together in a falsehood in order to deceive and mislead who? Their brothers! children! and fathers! for they met, or expected to meet, on the road persons thus nearly related to the different members of the company, and for what would they thus deceive them? They neither asked for nor received anything from them without paying for it. A solitary instance excepted: One of the immigrants since his arrival in this valley, feeling grateful to Mr. Scott, their guide, for his unremitted exertions, made him a present of $14.
The immigrants were informed that the people of the Willamette had by subscription raised a sum intended to pay the expenses of the road, that a party of 20 or 30 men must go before them to open it, and for their services, the party promised them $1.50 cents per day in the currency of the country. It was expected the subscription would have paid this expense, particularly as but one half of the required help could be had. But the man who places a good round sum opposite his name on a subscription paper is called liberal, and liberality is a noble quality, but he who pays is only honest, a merely rustic virtue.
The immigrants were informed that much of the road passed through nations of untamed savages, and they should form companies of at least 20 wagons to protect their property, that they should use diligence in traveling and take every precaution in making the necessary long drives--how far they profited by this advice, or suffered by neglecting it, I appeal to their candor to determine.
In conclusion, I must in justice to the exploring party state that when the immigrants were in want of provisions and assistance in the Umpqua Valley, that none were more ready to extend to them every assistance in their power, or to induce others to do so, every horse and ox they owned, able to do service, was dispatched to their assistance, and I believe the very last men who went to their assistance, Messrs. Wilson and Owen, the former for any helpless widow who might be left behind, and the latter expressly for the Rev. Mr. Cornwall, were furnished with flour by one of the exploring party, which they distributed gratis. Why they stopped short of the Umpqua Valley, the published letter of Mr. Cornwall fully explains.
But as no man has asserted that any of the explorers have misrepresented the condition of the immigrants at the Umpqua Mountain, who will suffer in character by being convicted of falsehood? I think further remarks unnecessary.
ONE OF THE ROAD HUNTERS.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 15, 1847, pages 2-3
TO THE OREGON EMIGRANTS.
Gentlemen: It being made my duty, as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, by an act passed by the legislature of Oregon, "to give such instructions to emigrants to this Territory, in regard to their conduct towards the natives, by the observance of which they will be most likely to maintain and promote peace and friendship between them and the Indian tribes through which they may pass," allow me to say in the first place that the Indians on the road to this country are friendly to the whites. They should be treated with kindness on all occasions. As Indians are inclined to steal, keep them out of your camps. If one or two are admitted, watch them closely. Notwithstanding the Indians are friendly, it is best to keep in good-sized companies while passing through their country. Small parties of two or three are sometimes stripped of their property while on their way to this Territory, perhaps because a preceding party promised to pay the Indians for something had of them and failed to fulfill their promise. This will show you the necessity of keeping your word with them in all cases.
There is another subject upon which I would say a few words. A number of the emigrants of 1845 took a cutoff, as it is called, to shorten the route, leaving the old road; the consequence was they were later getting in, lost their property, and many lost their lives. Some of those who reached the settlements were so broken down by sickness that it was some months before they recovered sufficient strength to labor.
A portion of the emigrants of 1846 took a new route, called the Southern Route. This proved very disastrous to all those who took it. Some of the emigrants that kept on the old road reached this place as early as the 13th of September, with their wagons, and all got in, in good season, with their wagons and property, I believe, except a few of the last party. While those that took the Southern Route were very late in reaching the settlements--they all lost more or less of their property--many of them losing all they had and barely getting in with their lives; a few families were obliged to winter in the Umpqua Mountains, not being able to reach the settlements.
I would therefore recommend you to keep the old road. A better way may be found, but it is not best for men with wagons and families to try the experiment.
My remarks are brief, but I hope may prove beneficial to you.
Dated at Oregon City, this 22nd of April, 1847.
GEORGE ABERNETHY.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 20, 1848, page 3
Governor of Oregon Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
For the Oregon Spectator.
San Francisco, California,Mr. Editor--Learning by the Toulon [that] there are many persons in Oregon desiring to come to this country in the spring, I feel myself obligated, as a traveler over the road, to give them some advice in reference to their mode of getting here, and take the liberty of addressing them (by your permission) through your columns.
10th February, 1847.
In the first place, let every horse be shod, without fail. All who neglect this will rue it on their arrival here. For not only will they travel much faster, and lose no horses by the way, but have something to ride after getting here, as by neglecting this their worn-out-hoofed and skeleton animals will be unfit for service for months, and besides, they will get next season but few horses and at high prices in California, in consequence of the [Mexican] war. Mules are in demand, and bring much better prices than horses, and do not suffer yourself to be imposed upon by certain folks in Oregon, who will tell you (as they deceived me) that the scrubbiest Oregon pony is worth more in California than the best of the native breed. Or rather I was told by several, a good one of the former would trade for two of the latter. This is altogether false, A good-sized, well-broke harness horse from Oregon is in demand and will sell well.
Treat the Indians kindly along the road, but trust them not, though you risk nothing in a couple hunting apart from the main body along the whole route. After you get to the Siskiyou Mountain, use your pleasure in spilling blood, but were I traveling with you, from this on to your first sight of the Sacramento Valley my only communication with these treacherous, cowardly and untamable rascals would be through my rifle. The character of their country also precludes the idea of making peace with them, or their ever maintaining treaties if made, so that philanthropy must be set aside in cases of necessity, and self-preservation here dictates these savages being killed off as soon as possible. After getting into Sacramento Valley, you will find good Indians and peaceable.
There is no danger whatever to be apprehended except in the thickets and rocks along the trail at particular spots, where they ambush themselves immediately on the path. Some dogs and men to go ahead and examine these, as well as the firing [of] a gun or two on entering suspicious places, will clear the road.
From the Creole River to Sacramento is 425 miles, and thence to Sutter's Fort, 175. This can be traveled in 25 days, with good horses. The rough and hard travel does not commence till after passing the Shasta Peak, and getting on Destruction River, a branch of the Sacramento. The road along here for about fifty miles is the worst on the continent of North America. Just at the foot of Shasta Peak, and at the entrance into this barren, desolate region, you will find a beautiful small prairie of green grass; stop here at least three days to rest and feed your animals.
You will be apt to find little or no game at your season of passing from the Klamath River on, so keep your dried meat for this part of the journey.
Bring all your garden seeds. And make arrangements to have sent down next fall on some vessel all the apple scions and grafts that can be got.
Pears are plenty here of all kinds. Send your farming utensils--and also your white seed wheat; as I doubt not but this article will be scarce and high in the fall. Ship your ictas ["things"] to W. H. Davis, Esq. of this place, who will see to their safe landing and storage.
Respectfully, your obdt. servt.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 29, 1847, page 1
C. E. PICKETT.
FROM CALIFORNIA.--A gentleman who has passed the two last years in Oregon and California reached this city [St. Louis, Missouri] yesterday. His name is James Clymer, and migrated from Milwaukee with a view of determining for himself the character of that country. He left California in company with six other persons the latter end of April, and has been ninety days on the route. Mr. Clymer has kindly permitted us to glance at his diary--we could do no more--kept for the whole time of his absence, and to select such facts as may interest our readers. We have, of necessity, to take such incidents as occurred during his return home, passing over many descriptions of country, soil, places, mountains, people and government in Oregon and California.
Mr. Clymer met, at different times and different circumstances, parties of immigrants to Oregon and California who were roving about, discontented, and going back and forth, as whim dictated. On the 22nd of March, he notices having met in California a party of one hundred and fifty persons, thirty or forty of whom were then going to the Columbia River, having become tired of the other paradise. On the 20th of April, Mr. Sumner and his family arrived at camp prepared for their journey to the States. Mr. Sumner had been in Oregon; from thence he went to California, and being still dissatisfied he was now returning, after having spent five years in traveling and likewise a small fortune.
He met and left Mr. L. P. Hastings, the author of a work on California, at his camp on Bear Creek, a small creek running into Feather River. He has located near the road traveled by the immigrants to California. Mr. Hastings had been looking for some force from the States, with which it was designed to revolutionize California, but in this he had been disappointed. He was then, it seemed, awaiting the action of the American government in taking possession of that country--of which he appeared to have some intimation.
Twelve days of travel up the valley of the St. Mary's River over a most sterile country brought them to the point where Lieut. Fremont intersected the wagon trail on his route to California last fall. On the 23rd May, after long consultation and many arguments for and against the two routes--one leading northward by Fort Hall, and the other by the Salt Lake--they determined to take Fremont's trail, by the Lake. Interesting as it is, we cannot follow the traveler on his way, but must content ourselves with his conclusion as to the practicability of the route. Mr. Clymer is of opinion that it is very little nearer to California, and not so good a road as that by Fort Hall.
On the 23rd of July, Mr. Clymer met the advance company of Oregon immigrants, consisting of eleven wagons, nearly opposite the Red Buttes. From the North Platte, they had the pleasant sight of beholding the valley to a great distance dotted with people, horses, cattle, wagons and tents. Still further on, they met three small companies--some destined for Oregon and some for California. "It is remarkable," says the journal, "how anxious these people are to hear from the Pacific country, and strange that so many of all kinds and classes of people should sell out comfortable homes, in Missouri and elsewhere, pack up and start across with an immense barren waste to settle in some new place, of which they have, at most, no certain information." At Fort Laramie they met Gov. Boggs and Judge Morin, from Jackson County[, Missouri]. After a night spent in conversation, both of these gentlemen determined to change their destination for Oregon. Other parties were met, all getting along cheerfully--suffering, only, from the depredations of the Indians on their cattle and horses. The only death among the immigrants is that of Mr. Trimble, who was killed by the Indians.--Missouri Republican, July 30th, 1846.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 29, 1847, page 1 Edward Trimble was reported as alive in the Spectator of August 19, 1847, page 2; the report was retracted on page 2 of the September 2 issue.
We are requested to state that a number of persons are preparing to go overland to California, and will be ready to start by the first of June next.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 29, 1847, page 2
We regret exceedingly that we were obliged, on the score of strict justice and impartiality, to admit such a violently personal article into our columns as the communication of Mr. Goff. The merits of the difference between Judge Thornton and himself we do not presume to adjudge, and we can only say that we have no disposition to allow the columns of the Spectator to be used merely for the purpose of personal controversy and invective. Had we imagined to what end Judge Thornton's article would have tended, we certainly should have hesitated in publishing it. Although the liberty of the press is vitally important, it is liable to great abuse, and would not knowingly lend ourself to any perversion of its true and legitimate objects.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 29, 1847, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.
Rickreall Valley, Polk County,Mr. Editor--In the 3rd No. of 2nd vol. of the Spectator [issue of March 4, 1847, above], I have seen an article over the signature of "J. Quinn. Thornton," which, under the guise of contradicting an editorial article of a former number of the Spectator, is in reality a most bitter and false attack upon myself and my associates who were employed last season in exploring the southern route to Oregon.
Oregon, April 3rd, 1847.
Supposing you held yourself responsible for such a matter as appeared under the editorial head of your paper, I expected you would have given to Mr. Thornton at least a passing notice. Though a full knowledge of the character and standing of Mr. T. would justify you, with the most fastidious on the subject of honor, in treating him and his tirade with the contempt they merit, yet I think as the article appears in a paper under your conduct, and the author is in the same sheet announced Supreme Judge of Oregon, at a distance where the author is not known your silence may be misconstrued.
Supposing you suffered Mr. T.'s charges to pass in silence, because, as the editor of the only newspaper in Oregon, you did not wish to be drawn into a personal dispute, I have ventured to point out some of the inaccuracies of this great advocate of "truth and justice," and to give the public a small peep under the ermine.
However incorrect the article this literary chemist submits to the torturing process of decomposition, I think he is the last man who should undertake to expose the errors of others. For his name first appears in your paper subscribed to a falsehood, and the first act of his honor was to confess it, and while on the subject of the dead cattle being eaten at the Umpqua Mountains, I will merely remark that although he acknowledges as published what he did not know to be true, his explanation is as false as the original, and can only be regarded as a slander on his fellow immigrants, and his attempt to fix the stigma on a particular individual (Mr. Dunbar) could only be dictated by that fiendish spirit of envy and malevolence with which this man appears to overflow. Mr. D. to an unblemished character added the respect of his fellow travelers, whilst Mr. Thornton was the comparative of everything that was dishonest and mean.
That the "immigrants were in a starving condition, and already eating the dead cattle in the kanyon" is a slander upon the immigrants is easily seen, for it is well known that there were belonging to the immigrants loose cattle, which were in good condition enough to have fed them for months, and he thus covertly insinuates that those who had cattle would see their fellow travelers starve rather than relieve them. An ox crippled by accident was shot by his owner, and one of the quarters taken off--and this is the whole foundation upon which he builds his revolting story, and this Mr. T. knew or might have known had he been as anxious to state facts as to misrepresent them.
To notice his analysis in order: He carries his point in his first averment, by making a family of two bachelors. Query--who is the head of that family? or has it two heads, and no body?
Averment 2nd analyzed means--That the people remained in the Umpqua Valley because they could not get away without assistance. A majority of people left in this deplorable condition are here to prove this assertion a falsehood. They came without any assistance, bringing with them their wagons, teams and loose cattle, which are in much better condition than any wintered in this valley. They crossed the Calapooya Mountain in February, and found no snow to impede or obstruct their passage, though the valleys of the northern portion of the Territory were still wrapped in their wintry covering. They report Mr. Hall, who Mr. T. was going to shoot for splitting wood near his camp, to have gone to the fort, and that the Rev. Mr. Cornwall, and perhaps the bachelor family, remain in charge of the property left in their care, as they agreed to do. So this subject for Mr. T.'s commiseration is lost.
Under his 3rd head, he says--"Almost every man (perhaps indeed every one) who came into Oregon by the southern route is in a pecuniary point of view ruined by so doing." To prove this false in the general may most easily be done by proving it false in a special case; for example--Mr. Thornton himself, who had nothing of his own to lose. I cannot see how "in a pecuniary point of view" a man can be ruined who leaves the U. States hid in the bottom of a wagon owned, or at least claimed, by another person, unless "indeed" he is disappointed in defrauding those who have assisted him in defrauding his just creditors.
The "nice story" I'll suppose is about half true, which does very well for Mr. T. The mice were actually eaten, but as I can state on the authority of one of the immigrants (Mr. Whitely), that the "estimable old man and his wife and grandchild" had plenty of beef at the time; the "small game," I presume, were eaten by way of a dessert.
For a man appointed to the highest judicial office in the Territory, and a professed worshiper of the God of truth, so far to forget what was due to the dignity of his new appointment, and to the sanctity of his new profession, as to make statements so grossly and notoriously false as are contained in the 5th division of his tirade is to me unaccountable.
After asserting in his first sentence that immigrants on the southern route lost all their property, he goes on to say--
"Mr. Applegate met the company in which I traveled August 8th a few miles on this side of Fort Hall. Although among the first of my company to get in, I did not arrive until Nov. 29th; while others who had entered upon the old road only about forty-eight hours before Mr. Applegate arrived at the point where the old road turns off to the right from the California road arrived Sept. 13th--two and a half months earlier." I do not quote this long sentence to deny its truth, for that I think is useless, but to give to the public some information on that subject which it appears to be the disposition of some persons more deserving of notice than Mr. T. to suppress.
Maj. Harris and myself met Mr. Vanderpool's company at Goose Creek, where they had encamped on the 5th day of August. As Goose Creek is two days' travel for wagons on this side of the forks of the road, and the rear of the immigrants on the old road (except the Iowa company) were a day ahead of them, it follows that they must have arrived at the forks of the road on the 2nd day of August. Mr. Applegate arrived at the forks of the road on the morning of the 6th, and Mr. Linville's company, who were the first who turned into the new road, arrived there the evening of the 7th of that month, being 5 days' travel, or nearly 100 miles, behind the rear of the immigrants on the old road. Mr. Linville's company united to that of Mr. Vanderpool's alone broke and made the road to the Sacramento River, and besides losing much time in awaiting the coming up of the rear companies, they were further delayed in reopening the road over the Cascade Mountain which a fire had filled with timber. Yet they arrived in the Rogue River Valley west of the Cascade Mountains, and within 175 miles of this valley, on the 9th day of October, while the rear of the immigrants who were 5 days ahead of them at the forks of the road did not arrive at Oregon City until about the 20th of that month, and of the Iowa company, who arrived at Fort Hall but two days after Mr. A. left that post, 6 or 7 wagons, by using the greatest diligence, reached Oregon City the first week in November, and the remainder were unable to cross the mountains at all. Does this look like the southern route is a farther and worse road than the old one? Again, Gov. Boggs' company, in which Mr. Thornton was traveling, left their camp a few miles from the forks of the road on the morning of the 13th of August, being 11 days or nearly 200 miles in the rear of the hindmost immigrants on the road. A part of this company, according to the journal of Mr. Isaac Kuykendall, arrived at the Umpqua Mountain within 85 miles of this valley on the 6th of October, which shows that in despite the burning of the grass, and other annoyances and delays to which they were subjected by the Indians, they not only kept even pace with those on the old road, but actually gained nearly 100 miles upon them.
That the road through the Umpqua Mountain is at present a bad one no one has denied or wishes to deny, and that the necessary labor will make it a good one is as generally conceded. That much property was left there that may be lost or destroyed, and that some individuals were severe sufferers, is true, and to be regretted, but that the road hunters are to blame for it none but fools believe or liars assert.
The immigrants were told it would require much labor to open the road--that the Umpqua Mountains alone would require the labor of 20 men 10 days to make it passable, and the necessity of sending forward a sufficient company to open the road before the wagons was urged upon every company and almost upon every man. They could not spare the men, and the road hunters did all they could to supply the deficiency with their own labor, but unhappily for Mr. Thornton, the terrible kanyon cannot be made available in his case; long before he reached that place of disaster, he had willfully and malicious threw away and destroyed some property left in his charge, and to make its loss certain to the owner, he forbade any person to bring it along.
Mr. T. cannot even tell the truth in a matter of so little importance as his own arrival in the settlements. He was in the Rickreall settlement on the 28th November, which is 70 or 80 miles below the first house the road passes in this valley.
If the cool contempt with which his ready praises of the road were received, and his proffered services rejected by one of the road company may excuse his resentment towards that individual, his conduct to me has been marked by the basest ingratitude. At a time when this man's conduct had made him so odious to the company with which he traveled that scarce a hand would have been raised to defend his life or a hole dug to hide him when dead, and when he had actually been abandoned and his wagon remained out all night at the mercy of the Indians, I spent a whole day in bringing him up to the company; for this service he has repaid me by inventing and circulating a slander on my character! But he has yet to receive his quittance, which he may rest assured shall be written in plain characters.
In conclusion, I would say to Mr. Thornton that I consider him merely a "volunteer" in the cause of his "injured fellow travelers," for if they had felt themselves aggrieved by the road party, or your editorial, and wished an advocate, they would have chosen one who had at least a character for honesty and truth.
If his object has been to gain popularity and to recommend himself "where thrift may follow fawning," he has certainly missed the mark by doing too much. He should have remembered that, the traitor, the assassin and the liar are despised even by those for whom they do their duty work. That the quibble, the subterfuge and falsehood which might pass unnoticed in the pettifogger become conspicuous in the judge, and his present elevation, like the monkey on the pole, only shows the plainer that the robe of ermine but half conceals the dog.
Instead of the triumphant advocate of an injured immigration, and by exaggerating the length and difficulties of the southern route and enlarging upon the losses and sufferings of the immigrants, create a sympathy in his favor and bias the judgment of a jury that is soon to sit upon his conduct, he must stand before them the exposed liar, and the verdict of that party will finish his character by adding cheat and swindler to his other "blushing honors."
The men in whose cause he volunteers his services are beginning to see for themselves and to understand the motives of many who have, like Mr. Thornton, become "tenderhearted on a sudden" in their behalf. They see that "vested rights" and "local interests" have produced much of this inert sympathy. They find the road they have traveled after 150 miles through the rich valleys of the south enters that of the Willamette at by far the most valuable portion for settlement, and whatever their losses may have been, they have now alive more cattle than those who came by the way of Mt. Hood.
They see parties again preparing to brave the "hostile savage" on their return to meet their friends and relations to conduct them over the mountains and "along the rocky glens and almost impassable kanyon which mark this disastrous cutoff."
They see the immigrants for California for the first time preparing wagons for their conveyance to that country, over the most dreaded part of this most dreadful road, and by referring to the map they see that by the discovery of the new road, that the route to Oregon from the Platte to the Pacific lies for the whole distance between the parallels of 41 and 43 degrees of north latitude, and the conviction is forced upon their minds that they have not only traveled the best, but also the nearest route to Oregon.
Excuse the length of my epistle, and if there be in it any expression which may sound harsh to delicate ears, I hope you and your readers will excuse an old man who has been always accustomed to call things by their right names.
Yours, respectfully,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 29, 1847, page 4
It seems that Judge Thornton does not like our conception of duty, from the dreadfully satirical fashion in which he assails our poor self. In consideration of the love that is lost, we beg to assure him that we always perform our duty as we comprehend it and never shun any responsibility attending upon it. If it might not be deemed presumptuous, we would hazard the conjecture that the Spectator may possibly survive the issue and be as respectable a sheet as it was before it had aught to do with the effusions of his honor. His attempts to injure us in public estimation--who have never done him harm--we are weak enough to regard with pity rather than any other feeling, and most heartily despising the contemptible course he has taken we leave him to the enjoyment of his fame.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 1
EASTWARD BOUND--On Wednesday last a party of nineteen persons started from the Rickreall Valley for the States, by the way of the southern route; some of our most esteemed friends were members of the company, and we most sincerely wish them all a safe, speedy and agreeable journey.
Perhaps a larger party than the above are now rendezvousing in the Clackamas Valley, who design traveling by the Mount Hood road, and it is expected that in a few weeks they will be able to cross the Cascade Mountains without encountering any serious obstruction from the snow.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 1
IMMIGRANTS TO OREGON.--As this is possibly the last paper that will be published before the various parties returning to the States will have started, we deem it a duty to say a few words to the immigrants to this country who will probably receive this paper in the valley of the Sweetwater, or on Platte River. We would advise the immigrants after recruiting upon Sweetwater to take Greenwood's "cutoff" into Bear River Valley, by doing which they will save a detour of several day's journey through rocky ravines almost destitute of grass and water. After resting several hours and filling their kegs at the last water, which is called "Big Sandy," they had better commence the "cutoff" about four o'clock in the afternoon, and they will reach the next water about noon of the next day. Some forty miles this side of Fort Hall, they will strike what is termed the Southern Route into the Willamette Valley; they will exercise their pleasure about taking this road, or the old one, after a plain narration of facts. The old road to the Dalles of the Columbia and across the Cascade Mountains is difficult, with a scarcity of grass. Nevertheless the first wagons of the last immigration which traveled it reached this city on the 13th day of September, at least two months earlier than any previous immigration.
It was about the center of the immigration last year that turned into the new or Southern Route to Oregon. Much of the road had to be made, and the difficulties and detentions incident thereto were in a great measure the occasion of the unfortunate results that followed. Of perhaps one hundred wagons that were on the road about twenty succeeded in reaching the first settlement before winter set in with such severity as to compel the immigrants to leave the remainder of their wagons, with much valuable property, and push for the settlements in the most expeditious manner possible. From personal knowledge we know nothing of this road; it is said to be abundantly supplied with grass and water, yet it is but fair to remark that there is a diversity of opinion existing in the minds of those who have traveled it concerning its advantages. Numerous fortuitous circumstances transpired last year to its prejudice. We have no hesitation in saying that we believe there will ultimately be a southern road that will be traveled into the Willamette Valley. Facts, however, and the transpiration of events, with your own judgment, we would say to the immigrants, must determine you in the choice of routes. When you have chosen, push steadily on and do not stop to wrangle or dispute about it. Make the most of your time, without taxing your teams beyond their strength or endeavoring to be the first upon the road, for it has so happened that the first in starting have been the last in getting in. There is plenty of excellent land in our Territory , so much of it indeed that you need not rush yourselves into difficulties in order to obtain the first choice. Let harmony and good feeling prevail among you, and with resolution and perseverance we do not doubt but that you will overcome all difficulties in your way and safely arrive at the end of your journey.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.
Mr. Editor--In the Spectator of the 4th of February last, you affirmed many things respecting the immigrants which were erroneous, and among others that their delay was to be ascribed to "their own mismanagement." You were pleased to refer to "some of the immigrants who have reached here" as your authority for making these statements. Having been one of the immigrants, and knowing that no one of the statements was consistent with the truth in the case, I felt myself constrained to controvert and disprove them by the presentation of facts, which you were not able to meet with opposing facts. But it would seem from an article in the last No. of the Spectator that although you "have no disposition to allow the columns of the Spectator to be used merely for the purpose of personal controversy and invective," yet "on the score of strict justice and impartiality" you felt yourself constrained, in the absence of better arguments, "to admit a violently personal article into our columns" containing the epithets "fools," "liars," "traitor," "assassin," "liar," "dog," "cheat," "swindler," together with many others of a kindred vocabulary.
The general object of the article is to injure my private reputation, and its logic amounts to no more than this: J. Quinn Thornton is a very bad man. Ergo, the southern route is a very good one, and "none but liars assert or fools believe otherwise." It may not, however, be very easy for every class of mind to see the connection in this case between the sequence and the consequence, although it may appear very clear to you and your learned and erudite contributor, whose production is strikingly characterized by that elegance, grace, beauty and at the same time dignity of style for which the pure and chaste literature of Billingsgate is so justly celebrated.
Having recently arrived in the country, and occupying, as I do, the important position of Judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory, it may not be improper under the circumstances to refer to some papers in my possession which will be shown to any gentleman who may express a wish to see them.
1st. A petition sent to the late Thomas Reynolds, in the latter part of the autumn of 1840, when Governor of Missouri, praying for my appointment to the bench of the circuit court, and stating that "his deportment and character as a man, and his legal attainments, and studious habits as lawyer, qualify him for discharging with usefulness to the state and satisfaction to the people the important duties devolving upon one holding that office."
This petition is signed by many gentlemen residing in Palmyra, Mo. and the neighborhood of it. Among these I may mention S. D. Sooth, the cashier of the bank; John P. Rumer, clerk of the circuit court; Jerdon J. Montgomery, sheriff of the county; Maj. Gen. D. Willock; and John Taylor, Esq., who is the father of Hiram Taylor, Esq., on the Rickreall, and who also is personally acquainted with me.
2nd. A petition upon the same subject from the following brethren of the bar in the circuit in which Palmyra (the place where I resided) is situated, to wit: Samuel Glover, Urial Wright, William Holmes, David C. Tuttle, Richard E. Darrah, Alexander L. Slayback, O. H. Allen, Edwin G. Pratt, John J. Slossor, B. P. Major, F. A. Knowlan, and P. Williams. These my brethren of the bar, after practicing with them a number of years, were pleased to say, "his studious habits, devotion to business and equanimity of temper qualify him in an eminent degree for the judicial station."
3rd. A petition signed by many of the members of the Missouri legislature in both its branches, in which they say "Mr. Thornton's devotion to business, studious habits and legal learning would commend the wisdom of your choice, and justify your confidence." This is signed by the following gentlemen, among many others, to wit: Stephen Glasscock from the senatorial district in which I lived, and Z. G. Draper, and John Lear, representatives, and by Gen. Cornelius Gilliam, now residing upon the Rickreall.
4th. Letters upon the same subject from William Wright, Register of the land office at Palmyra, Mo.; William Blakey, Receiver; John Smith, President of the Mo. State Bank, St. Louis; and Sterling Price, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
5th. Commissions--one from the Governor of Missouri, and another from the Governor of the State of Illinois, the latter under date of February 5th, 1842.
6th. A letter from Dr. Richard Eells, of Quincy, Ill., sixteen days before I started, and dated April 2nd, 1846. He says, "As you are about to leave us under circumstances rendering it almost certain that we shall never on this side of the grave enjoy each other's society, permit me to say to you that I deeply regret the loss of your society with us." Again he says, "You will please accept as a small memento of my regard a volume of Gilman's Digest."
7th. A letter from Mr. Thomas Pope of Quincy, Illinois, under date of April 16th, 1846, two days before I entered upon my journey, to his brother-in-law in this city. He says, "Mr. Thornton will not be a dead weight in your new republic on the score of intelligence and morality, but will be of that class who will tend to elevate and make better."
8th. Letters to Dr. Marcus Whitman, Walla Walla.
I may observe, in addition, thar Mr. Wheeler of this city, and the Messrs. Cutting on the Clackamas, a short distance below, were with me at the time of my leaving Quincy, Ill., where I resided from April 1, 1841 to April 18, 1846. These gentlemen were witnesses to the many highly flattering attentions bestowed upon me, and of the kind regards expressed by hundreds of my fellow citizens at the time of my entering upon my journey.
Here, I believe that I might rest, so far as regards the many untruths contained in the article written over the name of David Goff, who, it is proper to remark, is so exceedingly illiterate as not to be able to write his own name or even to read it when written for him.
When I entered the columns of the Spectator, I was influenced solely by the desire to correct erroneous statements in order that the public might have the facts upon which to predicate opinions for themselves. I did not believe that the Spectator was ever open to the admission of such productions of inestimable grace and beauty as adorn the columns of the last number of that sheet, nor did I know that the Editor could under any circumstances be capable of consenting to prostitute the only press in Oregon to the lowest scurrility and personal abuse, and of permitting this sheet to be filled with epithets gathered from the vocabulary of a London fish market. In both, however, I am equally mistaken. And as it does not lie in my way to answer such pieces, and having neither the talent nor the taste for throwing epithets at either an editor or his contributors, I can only say that I refer to the immigrants themselves for the truth of my statements.
It has often been said that "you must fight the devil with fire." It is my purpose, however, not to fight him at all. David Goff's friends have brought disgrace upon themselves by writing the article in question, and I shall not wipe it off by giving to them or theirs the factitious importance which only a reply can confer. Nor will I suffer myself to be drawn into a contest with one where either victory or defeat must necessarily be equally fatal to a decent appearance, since in either case I must be blackened by soot and ashes. Nor can I believe that it is necessary thus to contend. It may be so where devil wars upon devil, and it is doubtless true where kindred spirits meet, as where one ruffian encounters another. But I cannot be persuaded that in a difference of opinion between gentlemen upon any question affecting a great public interest, such as the one as to the best road by which to enter this valley, it is at all necessary, in order to a suitable expression of opinion, to resort to Billingsgate slang and scurrility respecting individual reputation, or to epithets which have nothing in common with the inspiration of the pages of an American classic. It is at least certain that "Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said the Lord rebuke thee."
Having made these remarks, I now take leave of a sheet in which you admit "violently personal articles," "on the score of strict justice and impartiality," nor will I permit any of my friends to take any notice of any further attack upon my reputation, though filled with slander and epithets as scurrilous as the article in the last No. of the Spectator, which was sufficiently gross to disgust every man of sense and refinement on the one hand, and to satisfy the coarsest appetite and the most vulgar taste on the other. And notwithstanding the malicious epithets that blot and blur your columns, and the fierce temper of exposed wrongdoing which they exhibit, it is as easy for me, being master of the facts, to be master of the issue of the contest to which these facts relate, if I chose to engage in it, as for those who are the masters of the arms to be masters of the authority of the state. My reputation, therefore, is in my own hands, and I have the courage, also, to despise the vain efforts and impotent malice of both those who invent, and of those who publish, slanders upon my reputation.
I am, as ever, &c.Oregon City, May 4, 1847.
J. QUINN THORNTON
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 4
For the Oregon Spectator.
Mr. Editor--Having seen in the last No. of the Spectator an abusive article, the general object of which seems to have been to injure the reputation of Judge Thornton, we deem it but an act of justice to say that we arrived at Quincy, Illinois, about twelve of the clock Friday the 17th of April, 1846. We remained there waiting for him to start until sometime on Saturday. During that time his house was thronged with persons of merit and intelligence, manifesting the most flattering attentions and expressing the kindest regards. After crossing the river, and being advised by us to lighten his load, Mr. Thornton unpacked his law library and made arrangements to have it shipped via the Pacific. During the time thus occupied, a number of ladies and gentlemen crossed over from the city to spend with him and lady the time thus occupied.
We continued to travel with him until Tuesday. His wagon broke down about 12 miles on this side of Palmyra (Mo.), which would cause a delay of several days and made it necessary for him to return to Palmyra to purchase larger boxes and have new axletrees made, we being anxious to get to Independence as soon as possible, drove on.
COLUMBUS WHEELER,Oregon City, May 4, 1847.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 4
For the Oregon Spectator.
Yamhill, May 8, 1847.Mr. Editor--An article in the last number of the Spectator traducing the character of Judge Thornton suggests the propriety of this communication. I was on the bank of the Mississippi River on Saturday 18th April 1846 with my wagon and team at the time of his departure from the city of Quincy, and I have seldom or perhaps never witnessed attentions so marked as were then shown to him upon that occasion by a great number of warmly attached friends.
Twelve miles on this side of Palmyra, Judge Thornton's wagon was broken, and it became necessary for him to delay some days in order to have larger axletrees made; I assisted him to unload. At this time Mr. and Mrs. Towler, old friends of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton and residing in the immediate neighborhood of Palmyra, were with them accompanying them in an open carriage a part of the way. Judge Thornton returned to Palmyra for larger boxes, and I reluctantly drove on.
CALVIN W. ISH.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 13, 1847, page 4
AN AGITATING COMPLAINT.--Gentle reader, have you ever had a genuine chill? Have you ever felt as though you were being stabbed in an indefinite number of places, an indefinite number of times, with an indefinite number of icicles? Have you ever had a regular sha-a-ake? Have you ever felt as though your whole system was about to shake itself into the largest number of pieces and each piece into the smallest possible size? In short, have you ever had the fever and ague? You are most fortunate if you have escaped it, for to have it is to enjoy the very luxury of misery. We pray you may never have it, and as it is of unfrequent occurrence in Oregon you may esteem yourself tolerably safe.
Poor we, however, have just gotten over our fifth or sixth attack of this extremely agitating complaint. Faith, it has nearly shaken into atoms the few ideas we once had in our knowledge box, and we get up to our labor just as the Spectator is going to press, to find, in the first place, that we haven't room to say much, and in the second that we haven't anything much to say, if we except indeed the "Sketches of Oregon," which it was our intention to have continued in this number, but they have been knocked, as it would seem, into the middle of next week.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 27, 1847, page 2
EXPLORING COMPANY.--We are requested to state that the company to explore the Klamath and Rogue river valleys will rendezvous at the Jefferson Institute, on the Rickreall, and positively start on the 10th day of June next, provided twenty men can be raised for the expedition. We are informed that Gen. Gilliam, Col. Ford, Maj. Thorpe and W. G. T'Vault, Esq., are using their exertions to raise the company and will accompany it should it start.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 27, 1847, page 2
The party returning to the States by the southern route had passed through the kenyon and were camped at the head of it on the 14th of May. They were in good health and spirits and gratified with the trip, as we learn by letters from them.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, June 10, 1847, page 2
CALIFORNIA EMIGRANTS. The company for California left the valley of the Rickreall about the first inst. We have been informed that the party numbered fifty persons.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, June 10, 1847, page 2
The exploring party for Rogue River Valley has been made up and will probably take their departure in a few days. Will not some gentleman of the party do us the favor of furnishing us with the names of those comprising it? We look for important and valuable results from this undertaking.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, June 10, 1847, page 2
Mr. N. Huber arrived here on Thursday last from Oregon. He left the Willamette Valley on the 7th of May, and arrived at St. Joseph, Mo., on the 28th of July. He was accompanied by eighteen men, and came by the new southern route. This route he represents not only as the longest by about 300 miles, but to be the most dangerous, on account of the hostility of the Indians. Mr. H., our readers will recollect, went out by the northern route. Whilst encamped at night the party were attacked by a party of Shasta Indians, in the Rogue River Valley, Northern California, who shot three horses, but did no further mischief. In the morning four of the party remained at the encampment, after the departure of the rest of the company, with the design of punishing the Indians. A party of about forty approached the encampment, but retreated upon being fired upon. These Indians are unacquainted with the use of firearms, of which they are very fearful, but are quite expert in the use of the bow, and will, in favorable situations, send their arrows with such force as to pass through the body of a buffalo. On the night of the attack the force and direction of the wind very materially prevented its success."Oregon," Kalida Venture, Kalida, Ohio, August 17, 1847, page 2
ARRIVAL OF BISHOP BLANCHET.--The ship L'Etoile du Matin (Morning Star), Captain Menes, five and a half months from Brest, France, direct, arrived in the Columbia on Saturday last, bringing as passengers Bishop Blanchet, five priests, three Jesuits, three lay brothers, two deacons and seven nuns. No European intelligence of importance.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, August 19, 1847, page 2
For the Oregon Spectator.
LONG LOOKED FOR HAS AT LAST ARRIVED.
We are credibly informed that C. E. Pickett has received the appointment of Indian Agent for Oregon Territory! Who can believe that the jurisdiction of the United States could have made its appearance in such a form? No one, I am sure, that knows the critical situation of the people of Oregon as it regards their affairs with the natives. The last we heard of Mr. Pickett, he was at the Sandwich Islands. His advice to emigrants to California, recently published in the Spectator [above], is sufficient to tell the man, in which he says, "kill all the Indians you may find from Oregon to California." Such advice to emigrants! Is it not worth a remark? I, for one, am disposed to think there is some mistake, as the office of Indian Agent is the most important of all we at this time most need--a man of sufficiently established character to give credit to the office. Do we not feel sore to think we have so displeased our President that he should inflict such a punishment as this appointment?
A.Q.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 2, 1847, page 2 Pickett responded to this in a letter printed February 24, 1848.
The next term of the Clackamas Circuit Court, Hon. A. A. Skinner, Judge, will commence in this city on Monday next. We understand that the docket is quite full and that some important and interesting causes will come up for decision.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 30, 1847, page 2
Our caravan was not disturbed by Indians until we reached the Rogue River Valley. Here the savages were very hostile. First they swarmed around our camp with salmon for sale, and when we refused they became very threatening. One Sunday morning they became very belligerent and of a sudden the redskins gathered their squaws up on the ponies and dashed off into the timber, only to reappear shortly with three and four buck Indians on each pony, their bows and arrows bristling ominously. The men of our party averted hostilities at that time by presenting the braves with money, trinkets and valuables.
Evelyn Blair Croner, "Pioneer Days in Oregon Domain," Morning Register, Eugene, June 18, 1911, page 18
[Immigrants arriving via the Southern Route.]
Polk County, Oregon, Oct. 2, 1847.Dear Sir--I am happy to inform you of the safe arrival in the Willamette Valley of Capt. L. Scott and party by the southern route.
Owing to traveling in a large company of 25 wagons, and being necessarily delayed by the sickness of Mrs. Burch, repairing the road &c., the party did not arrive in the Willamette Valley until the 26th of September.
Except an old wagon, abandoned by Judge Burch near Rogue River, every vehicle which took the southern road arrived in this valley; the teams are in good condition, and their owners in fine health and spirits, having suffered, from all sources, a comparatively trifling loss of animals.
As the southern route has suffered much unmerited detraction, it may be interesting, as well as afford to you the means of making up an opinion of the road, to give a brief account of the progress of the immigrants over the different parts of it.
East of the Cascades or Siskiyou Mountains, the party laid by, chiefly on account of the sickness and death of Mrs. Burch, eight days, and west of the mountains they were repairing the road seven days.
The traveling time from the forks of the road to the leaving of Ogden's River, about 350 miles, was 22 days, making an average of 16 miles per day.
From Ogden's River to the Rogue River Valley, a distance of about 300 miles, including the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountains, the traveling time was again 22 days, making an average of nearly 14 miles per day.
From the entrance of Rogue River Valley to the Willamette Valley, including the Umpqua and Calapooya mountains, 175 miles, they were traveling 13 days, making an average of 13½ miles per day.
Grass and water was everywhere abundant, except from Ogden's River to the Black Rock, which was, as last year, a hard drive.
Capt. Scott, who has by no means lost his character for perseverance, has considerably improved many places in the road, both in the ground and in lessening the distance.
The immigrants also deserve much praise for their readiness and alacrity in assisting him in his efforts for their benefit.
By a few days' labor they so far improved the road through the Umpqua Mountain that 8 of the wagons came the whole distance to the prairie, on the north side, in a day (mark that!), and the remainder had but a mile or two to travel on the following morning.
Calapooya Mountain, also, has been much improved, particularly the southern ascent, which will now compare with our best roads in the valley.
Much honor is due to the immigrants who followed Capt. Scott over the southern route, for they have done much for the future prosperity of this country. By their energy and perseverance they have redeemed the character of a road which, in the indispensable articles of grass and water, can accommodate an immense number of animals; from the easy access which it opens to the southern valleys of the territory, the day is not distant when they will rival the Columbia in population and wealth.
Very respectfully, yours,Geo. L. Applegate, Esq., Ed., O.S.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 14, 1847, page 2
MORE IMMIGRANTS.--SOUTHERN ROUTE.--Two more companies of immigrants, one of eleven and the other of sixteen wagons, have arrived by the Southern Route. They surprised the people at the head of the valley by rolling into the settlements before they were known to be on the road. They had halted in the neighborhood of the Forks of the Willamette. Their teams are represented to be in good condition. Ten head of cattle were stolen by the Indians, otherwise they experienced no loss. Two of the Indians engaged in the cattle stealing were killed.
We have a report that there is another company of forty wagons on this road.
Late last evening, after the above was put in type, we received a letter containing some interesting facts concerning the travel of the two companies above mentioned, which we are constrained to defer to another number.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 11, 1847, page 2
Files of the Spectator are before us, from which we glean several news paragraphs of considerable interest. . . .
The emigration, too, had met with sad reverses on that portion of the Southern Oregon route lying through the region intersected by Rogue River. Here Indian perfidy occasioned manifold disasters. Acts of violence and outrage were only equaled by most revolting and brutal murders on either sex committed, indiscriminate as to age or person.
"Oregon," California Star, San Francisco, November 13, 1847, page 2
Polk County, Oregon,Mr. Editor--Since it has become known to the people that the immigrants by the northern route are suffering great losses and misfortunes, and those who traveled under my guidance the southern road arrived here with their property in safety, some are inclined to censure me for not inducing a greater number to travel that road, and others assert that I selected a company of choice teams and pushed them through, in order to establish a favorable character for the southern route.
October 25, 1847.
As a statement of facts will fully exonerate me from all blame in the case, I hope you will indulge me, so far as to give this letter a place in your paper.
The unfortunate issue of the southern route last season to those who look only to results without examining causes, has created even in the minds of those not personally interested in the location of the road strong prejudices against it.
Though misfortunes of equal magnitude have been of yearly occurrence since the year 1842, yet persons interested in the arrival of immigrants by the old route have greatly enlarged upon the disasters suffered by the southern immigrants, and have labored to impress upon their minds that their losses are attributable wholly to the route they traveled, hence a majority of those who traveled the southern route last year have reported unfavorably of it to their coming friends; besides these, hundreds of letters written by persons interested in the old route were sent to meet the immigrants, not only cautioning them not to travel the south route, but advising them to starve, whip and even murder any person who advised them to do so, and this sanguinary counsel was particularly given in reference to myself. And lastly Mr. Abernethy in his official capacity of Superintendent of Indian Affairs and Governor of Oregon issued to them a circular giving all the weight of his high official station to an exaggerated account of the losses and calamities suffered by immigrants on the new route, and strongly recommending the old road without informing them that it was subject to like disasters to an even greater extent.
It is not reasonable to suppose that I, a private individual (had I been disposed to make so mad an attempt), could have withstood so high a functionary--such "a cloud of witnesses" and such a torrent of invective.
When at the solicitations of my friends I consented to return upon and make amendments to the southern route, I promised to conduct such immigrants as voluntarily chose to follow me; in this as well as making considerable improvement upon the road I have been successful.
In giving my opinion to the immigrants of the southern road, I was careful neither to overrate its advantages nor underrate the difficulties to be encountered in traveling it, and if any friend of the southern route wish it painted in stronger colors, or for the immigrants to be flattered into the belief that by taking it their troubles are over, they must employ some other messenger, more eloquent and less scrupulous.
How much better it would have been for the immigrants if the friends of the old road had dealt with them in the same candid manner; had they been correctly informed in regard to both roads, I have no doubt a majority of them would have taken the south road and would now in all probability be in this valley with their property in safety. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that only a small party (25 wagons) under my guidance took the southern route, and I take this opportunity of expressing the respect and high opinion I entertain for the gentlemen composing it. In the advantages taken of the ground, and in straightening the road (which I think much improved, and about 40 miles shorter than the route traveled last year), they had about 70 miles of new road to make, besides several days' labor in improving the pass of the Umpqua and Calapooya Mountains, which they performed in a manly and cheerful manner.
As the party for the United States, with which I traveled last spring, were unwilling to leave the road, or delay time for the purpose of examining the country, I was unable to make examinations which, I am satisfied, will lead to further and highly important improvements upon the Oregon route, besides others of less value. I am satisfied, from information on which I can place the fullest confidence, that a road may be made from the termination of Greenwood's Cutoff, on Bear River, to the head of the Cajeux or Raft River, which, without passing over worse ground than the old road, will be well supplied with grass and water and will cut off 100 miles of travel. But these improvements cannot well be made but by a party sent expressly for that purpose, prepared to open as well as explore them. Experience has fully proven that the delay and the increased labor upon the teams of immigrants in making new roads, however advantageous to those who follow, generally injure the first travelers.
In conclusion, I would recommend not only to the friends of the southern route, but to every friend to Oregon, and his fellow men, that these improvements be made, and I will venture to say that half the value of the property lost by the immigrants in reaching the valley the present year would be amply sufficient to apply a permanent preventive to such misfortunes in future, and I would ask those who yearly extend charities to the suffering and bereft immigrants, if their means would not be better expended in enabling these sufferers to arrive among us with their property, as independent citizens, rather than objects of pity and the prey of famine?
Very respectfully, yours,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 11, 1847, page 3
We see in the California papers the arrival of Chas. E. Pickett, Esq. from the Sandwich Islands.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 25, 1847, page 2
MORE IMMIGRANTS.--By the subjoined letter it will be seen that another company of immigrants have arrived in the valley by the Southern Route--making a surprisingly short trip--having left the States the 22nd of last June. "The almost impassable Kanyon" is certainly being redeemed.
Polk County, Oregon,Dear Sir--I have the pleasure to announce to you the safe arrival by the Southern Route of a fourth company of immigrants of 20 or more wagons. This party left St. Joseph on the 22nd June and being in the rearward of so large an immigration fared but badly until they took the S. route. Finding on it an abundance of feed, their teams rapidly recruited and upon their arrival here were in fine condition. From the best information I can get they have made the most saving trip that has ever been made from Fort Hall, having lost but four animals on the road (which were stolen by Indians.) The party kept up no guard, and it is remarkable they lost no more; a woman was wounded in the arm by an arrow. So terrible had the kanyon been described to them that they were expecting daily to arrive at it until they came into the settlements, and declare there is no kanyon on the road. They brought with them 80 sheep.
Nov. 16th, 1847.
Here are some interesting particulars relative to the arrival of the last companies on the Southern Route, received too late for insertion in our last paper.
A company of 16 wagons, under the direction of Mr. Gordon, left the forks of the road on the 27th day of August, bound for California. They met the party of Com. Stockton, who advised them to keep the Southern Route to Oregon until they arrived at the Sacramento River, and by descending it they would avoid the Sierra Nevada. They followed his advice, but after laying by one week at that river examining the country, they concluded it would be safer to follow the road to Oregon. While lying at the Sacramento a party of 11 wagons passed them on their way to Oregon (the party of Mr. Davis); they did not overtake this party, but they arrived in the Willamette Valley on the morning of the 25th of October, being two days less than two months on the road including all stoppages and lying a whole week in one camp, the small party starting in behind and getting through before them having made the trip much sooner.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 25, 1847, page 2
Nothing of importance transpired in passing through the Rogue River country [in 1847], although there was a good many Indians with us most of the time. We got through the Canyon with but little trouble, although it was such a bugaboo to the emigration the year before.
Thomas Smith, Wilbur, Oregon 1884, Mss 806, Oregon Historical Society Research Library
Hon. J. Quinn Thornton.
We clip the following from The Friend of June last. It will undoubtedly be gratifying to the friends, as also the lady, of the Hon. J. Quinn Thornton, to learn that he was courteously received and entertained by strangers while on his way to the United States. We have no doubt but that Judge Thornton will do everything in his power to advance the interests of Oregon and her citizens.(Published by request.)
San Jose, California,The Hon. J. Quinn Thornton, formerly Judge of the Supreme Court of Oregon, is now at this place, in good health, and on his way to Washington City. The nature of his mission there has not transpired, but he is supposed to be charged with important public interests. It is at least certain that Capt. J. B. Montgomery, of the U.S. sloop-of-war Portsmouth, has offered to convey him to the United States, on board his ship, at the expense of the government. It is understood that the vessel will sail tomorrow and convey him to Valparaiso, where he will take the English steamer via Panama, if the ship should arrive in time to meet the steamer, otherwise he will be conveyed round Cape Horn.
December 27, 1847.
Judge Thornton is a modest man and has the reputation of being an able lawyer and a writer of no ordinary power. He is treated with the most respectful and delicate attention by all the officers on board the ship, and he will leave this port with the kind regards of all who have made his acquaintance, and with the warmest wishes that he may be more than successful in accomplishing the object of a mission believed to have reference to Oregon.
Respectfully yours,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, August 24, 1848, page 1
WESTWARD HO! WESTWARD HO!
In the spring of 1847 a company formed that had about one hundred wagons, and Wiley Chapman (formerly of Salem) was captain by general election. This caravan traveled in solid phalanx, with long, close columns and under strict military discipline. Their cattle would get scattered and caused delay because there were so many of them to graze together. On this account they made slow progress. They were a whole month in passing from southern Iowa to St. Joe, Mo., because their company was so unwieldy they did not get along. It was found necessary to divide, and Rev. Mr. Jolly became leader of the division in which Col. Chapman's family was found. They were still unwieldy, and on the Platte River divided yet again, and Mr. Frederick became captain of a new company. Thenceforth they gave up the former discipline and despotic authority of almost army rule and every man took care of himself, which, under their experience, worked admirably. No doubt the preliminary discipline had a good effect. Frederick's company was reduced to thirteen wagons, and all went smoothly. At St. Joe there was a fresh examination made to see if all were properly outfitted for the journey. One man wouldn't submit and refused to give any account of his outfitting. He had four or five good yoke of cattle and a brand-new wagon and felt very independent, so much so that he pushed on ahead and made a company all by himself. However he managed to camp near enough to the company he despised to gather safety from their vicinity. This man, when he pulled out for himself, declared that he was sufficient for himself and would neither ask nor give help to anyone. While he camped close to the main company, he refused to mind the rules. The stoutest wagon will break, however, and this man's wagon was the first to show damage, all new and strong as it appeared. He was pushing ahead all by himself one day when an axle broke, owing to some defect, and he found himself broke down in a hostile Indian country. They had by this time reached Oregon and were on the southern route, just south of Goose Lake. The Modocs and Snakes were not pleasant company to think of, and he had little else to think of as the various teams came up and passed on. It was towards noon when the leader came up and without appearing even to notice the independent breakdown cracked his whip and passed on. The next and the next did the same until the last wagon was gone by and out of sight. This man, late so independent, was utterly forlorn, and his company were terrified beyond description when they saw the last wagon disappear in the distance toward Oregon. The company passed over a ridge a few miles beyond that hid them from his view and into a hollow, and there stopped to noon. The captain of the train was a blacksmith by trade and a wagonmaker, and had brought along a spare axle or two. From the hollow he went back where the independent wagon was broken down, brought it up to the rest of the company and repaired the damage while the rest nooned. That killed the independent movement, and thereafter there was no better or more accommodating man in the company than the one they had called "Old Arrogant."
Colonel Chapman says he had no upset until he had crossed the Calapooia Mountains into the head of the Willamette Valley. He turned over into a creek and all hands got wet, but no damage resulted, though all the family had the measles at the time.
ALMOST A TRAGIC EPISODE.The only Indian danger that threatened them was in Rogue River Valley. There they found at Point of Rocks numerous Indians gathered on an open space by the riverside near where they camped. In the evening, two men and as many women came to their camp with formal offerings of presents. There were many women and children in their camp. In the morning all around was alive with Indians of all sorts, filled with curiosity. One man who had just overtaken the company and joined its march was yoking up when an Indian asked him for a corn-cake that stood before the fire in a skillet. This was refused, and the Indian ill-naturedly kicked the skillet over. The white man hit him with the ox bow, and the Indian staggered back with the blow. In an instant women and children all disappeared among the Indians, and every man among them rushed to arms. There was an old chief among them who kept cool, while the young men rushed in and out of the throng with bows in their hands drawn to their arrowheads. They wanted to shoot, but the old chief motioned them to desist. The white men had all grasped their guns at the first signal and went on yoking up cattle with their loaded guns in their hands.
Frederick shook his head also when the young men of the train asked: "Shall we shoot?" He got on his horse and rode to the Indians, making them a speech as he went among them. He was successful in pleasing them, for everyone listened attentively and was evidently pleased. The friendly old chief took him to a fish trap they had set in the river after the train drove on and caught him some salmon. He then came on with several of his men and traveled all day with the whites, and at night went to the mountains nearby and camped, not interfering in the least with the emigrants' camp. In the morning he brought a supply of bear meat and deer meat they had killed early in the day. Captain Frederick reciprocated by giving the old chief and his men presents. He sent four of his warriors as an escort all the way to Umpqua. So the incident that was so threatening for an instant became a very pleasant feature of their later travel.
They reached Corvallis--called Marysville then--November 18, 1847, having been seven months on the long and weary road. At the Umpqua River a civilized Indian came to them, and hearing them pronounce this valley as Wil-lam-met-te, corrected the pronunciation and gave them a deal of valuable information in good English. The same night the civilized thief took Colonel Chapman's horse and equipments, not forgetting to appropriate a good blanket overcoat. In 1858, almost six years later, Mr. Chapman found the horse in possession of the H.B. Co.'s trader at Fort Umpqua, and claimed and secured the ownership. The equipment and overcoat were not recovered. The horse was so gentle that all the family could pile on and ride at the same time.
Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: Some Chapters from the Early History of the City of Portland," Oregonian, Portland, May 31, 1885, page 2
The party that went back the southern route [in 1847] consisted of thirteen persons; the spring was late, which caused us some trouble in crossing streams, swales and mountains. We passed through the Umpqua Canyon where the emigrants of  saw such hard times, as graphically described by J. Quinn Thornton in his book on Oregon. We found many carcasses and wagons, pieces of wagons, crockery and everything that it was possible for emigrants to have on a trip of that kind, which strewed the highway and byway and especially at camping places. Indians had carried off all they wanted of this plunder; still there was a great deal left along the road to show what they had endured and suffered on that short road of a little over twelve miles. At Grave Creek we found the resting place of a young lady who had died. The creek received its name from the fact that Miss Crawley was buried on its banks. The body had been dug up by the Indians for the purpose of securing the clothing she was buried in. Her hair was lying around in various places. It was very long and beautiful brown hair. It made us all feel sad, but such was the fate of many emigrants of those days and for many days after that; yes, many years passed without safety to travelers on the plains.
A NIGHT ATTACK BY INDIANS.We did the best we could to fix the grave, and went on. Nothing of interest took place until we got into the vicinity of where Jacksonville now stands. When we were in camp, about midnight, Indians commenced shooting arrows in among us. They wounded one horse, and pinned several blankets to the ground with arrow barbs, while those slept that were between them. One arrow passed through my hair, just missing my scalp. The first volley of arrows did no harm. The guard gave the alarm, and we all jumped from our beds and commenced firing in the direction the arrows came from. This quieted them, and we thought they were driven off, but they slipped back again, singly, in hopes of wounding a horse so he could not travel, which was a common practice with them, for they are very partial to horse meat. But they did not succeed; though one horse was badly hurt, we got the arrow out all right, he was able to travel and finally got well.
AN ESCAPADE, FOUR AGAINST A HUNDRED.The next morning four of us concluded to have a little sport with the Indians. There were four of us: Frank Miller, Bill Sportsman, Frank Burch and myself. (Burch now lives in Polk County.) Our plan was to all pack up and start. When the company should cross a deep ravine about half a mile in our rear, we four were to drop out and watch the camp just left. We knew they would come in to see if they had caught any game. We had not to wait long. Seeing the balance of the company rising the hill on the other side, the Indians concluded we were all gone. We waited a few minutes to see how many there were of them. I counted about ninety; Burch said there was at least a hundred. Two were on horses. There was no way to get at them but to push out in full view and make for them, which we did, as hard as our horses and mules could go, yelling at every jump like so many devils. The distance we had to run in their plain view was half a mile. They stood looking at us, apparently as "cool as cucumbers."
INDIANS STAMPEDED--A HORSE CAPTURED.Three of us were mounted on mules. I was on a good California horse. My horse took the lead, but I could hear the yells of the boys coming on. Mr. Indian still stood his ground, and I thought it high time he should make tracks for the brush, which was close by. I began to think that if Mr. Siwash did not soon vamoose the ranch, I should turn my nag the other way. We all had good guns, besides which I had a large-size Allen's revolver. The boys commenced firing; that started the Indians; they began walking towards the brush. That encouraged me; bang went my gun. Out came my revolver; all four of us were still charging and yelling. By this time the Indians got into the brush. Bang, bang, bang went my revolver; at that they were panic-stricken, and away they went, pell-mell out of the brush and over the creek, making for a heavier thicket a few hundred yards off. One of them who was on horseback could not get his horse over the creek, as it was necessary to make quite a jump. So he left his horse and scampered after his brother Rogues as fast as he could go on foot. We got the horse, and felt rather fine over the grand race we had had and the splendid fright we gave the Rogue River thieves. Miller saved us the trouble of dividing the horse into four parts by claiming him as entirely his own. He said it was a horse they had stolen from him a year before when he went through there. We believed as much of that as he expected us to, but let him have the horse all the same as reward for his remarkable power of recognition. Anyhow, the rascals wasted lots of arrows, almost enough to cook breakfast by, and they lost a good part of a night's rest trying to capture some horseflesh of us, but we turned the tables on them cleverly and had a good morning's sport besides. Really I thought I deserved the largest share of the spoils of war, because my nag led them all in the charge, and my pepperbox revolver banging away consecutively was what set them running.
THE REVOLVER WON THE BATTLE.We felt very fine over our escapade and made much of our capture, but realize now that, had it been a few years later, after the Indians became accustomed to white men and their firearms, our scalps would have been hanging at their lodgepoles that day to pay for our temerity, for it would have been easy for them to put an arrow through a man on horseback, and our shooting from the saddle on the jump need not have alarmed them much, as the chances were that no one would be hurt by our shots. My revolver was what did the business for them; when they saw so much shooting going on from the end of my arm, without stopping to load, it was too much for Mr. Indian and he broke for the woods. Soon after we caught up with our company we surrounded an old Indian and his boy and took them prisoner. Some of our men wanted to kill the old one, especially the one whose horse had been shot the night before. Several made strong objections, but the man had got quite furious, and he ordered all the rest to stand aside and leave the space clear.
A WHITE MAN GETS BLUFFED.He cocked his gun and was about to take aim at the Indian, but my blood was up and I, too, cocked my gun and covered him. I had a race for my life with these people, and had no doubt they would have sacrificed me and the others if they could have accomplished it. I told him he should not kill in cold blood without paying the penalty of his own life. He took his gun down and the scared Indian got away, much to his relief, but it was the means of separating our company. Nine went in one crowd and seven in another. The seven rode late and camped in advance of us, for I was one of the nine. We saw no more of them until we came near Ash Hollow, on the North Platte River. The second day after the separation we got another horse from the Indians. The siwash who rode him thought we should capture him if he stayed with his horse, so he left the animal in our charge and took up a steep mountainside. It proved to be another horse for Miller.
Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: A Third Article Relative to the Adventures of Joseph Watt," Oregonian, Portland, September 27, 1885, page 2
[Henry Williamson] started on his return to Oregon in 1847, with a young thoroughbred stallion as a present from his father, which was killed by a rattlesnake bite on the way. He came by the Southern Route, and was wounded by an arrow on the arm in passing through Rogue River Valley.
John Minto, Rhymes of Early Life in Oregon, Salem 1915, page 32
Last revised June 29, 2022