News of Jackson County and the "Applegate Trail"--the southern emigrant route.
The House elected A. L. Lovejoy Adjutant General, Joel Palmer Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and Milton Elliott Prosecuting Attorney, and on the evening of the 28th ult. adjourned sine die, after a session of twenty-two days.
"Legislative," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, January 6, 1848, page 2
AN ACT to improve the Southern Route to Oregon.
PREAMBLE.--Whereas, the unfriendly disposition of the Indians of the Columbia River will make the travel by the usual route down that stream unsafe and perilous [this was passed less than a month after the Whitman Massacre], and may subject immigrants the coming season to great annoyance and danger--and whereas the Southern Route from the United States to Oregon has, the present season, proved a safe and easy road for immigrants to this country, and admits of still further improvements,--Therefore,
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the House of Representatives as follows, That Levi Scott be, and he is, hereby appointed a commissioner, to improve and open the road known as the Southern Route, leading from the United States to Oregon.
2. Said commissioner, before entering upon the discharge of his duties, shall give bond to the Territory, with good and sufficient security, to be approved by the Governor in the sum of one thousand dollars, conditional for the faithful performance of the duties enjoined on him by this act.
3. It shall be the duty of said commissioner to engage the services of not exceeding ten able-bodied men, who shall obligate themselves to execute the orders of the said commissioner from the time of their engagement until discharged in the Willamette Valley, unless the commissioner sooner dispenses with their services.
4. Each person so engaged by the commissioner shall furnish, at his own proper expense and cost, horses, camp equipage, arms, ammunition and provisions, sufficient for his own consumption, with such tool or tools as the commissioner may direct.
5. So soon as said commissioner shall engage the services of a sufficient number of men, he shall appoint some convenient place of rendezvous, on a day not later than the 15th day of April next, and proceed to the discharge of the duties enjoined upon him by this act.
6. The commissioner shall carefully examine the country over which the present traveled road passes, and explore and determine upon the best practicable route for wagons to the eastern intersection of that part of the immigrant road to Oregon, known as Greenwood's Cutoff, with the road by the way of Fort Bridger, unless he shall sooner meet the wagons of the coming emigrants.
7. At a point the said commissioner may find convenient, he shall remain, or leave a suitable person of his party, to furnish the immigrants with waybills of the road, and such other directions as he may deem to their advantage, and proceed with, or dispatch the remainder of his party to open, in the best manner in his power, before the emigrants, the road or route he shall decide upon as being the best he has been able to discover.
8. Upon the arrival of the emigrants in the Willamette Valley, or their place of destination, it shall be lawful for the commissioner to lay and collect of them a poll tax of fifty cents for each male over twenty-one years of age, two dollars and fifty cents for each wagon or carriage and team, eight cents for each head of horses or cattle, and three cents for each head of sheep that may pass over the Southern Route and arrive in the Willamette Valley, or the place of their destination, in safety.
9. The said commissioner shall keep a correct account of all monies by him received and disbursed, specifying the amount received from each individual, and to whom paid, which account, together with all monies (if any) which may remain after paying all demands provided for in this act, he shall deposit in the office of the proper accounting officer or officers of Oregon Territory, to be held for the exclusive use and benefit and for the further improvement of the Southern Route to Oregon.
10. The commissioner shall be entitled, out of the funds collected in virtue of this act, the sum of five hundred dollars, as a full compensation for his services, and each man by him employed the sum of thirty dollars per month for all the time he may be in the service of the commissioner, provided, however, that no man shall be entitled to payment for his services who shall refuse or neglect to obey any reasonable order of the commissioner and be by him dismissed from further service, and provided further that nothing in this act shall be construed so as to prevent the commissioner from engaging the services of men at a lower price, or accepting the voluntary aid of the immigrants.
11. If, upon a settlement, there should not be sufficient funds in the hands of the commissioner to defray the expenses incurred by the provisions of this act, it shall be the duty of the commissioner to pay to each claimant an amount proportioned to the whole sum due, and for the residue of each claim remaining unpaid he shall give to the claimant a certificate of the amount remaining due and payable, which certificate, endorsed by the auditor of public accounts, shall entitle the holder to payment, with lawful interest, out of any funds that may hereafter be created for the benefit of said road.
12. This act to take effect, and be in force, from and after its passage.
Attest. ROBERT NEWELL, Speaker
C. W. Cooke, Clerk.
Approved 23rd Dec., 1847.
DISPATCHED TO CALIFORNIA.--Jesse Applegate, Esq., with fourteen men, started about the first inst. with dispatches to the United States authorities in California, soliciting such assistance in our present difficulties as may be in the power of those authorities to render. It is supposed that the Commodore in the Pacific squadron has been instructed by the home government to render to the people of Oregon such aid as should be required.
Unless unlooked-for difficulties delay Mr. Applegate, he will arrive in California by the last of the present month. His undertaking is an arduous one--may it be attended with abundant success.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 10, 1848, page 2 See Applegate's letter of October 16, 1859.
For the Oregon Spectator.
San Francisco, U.C.Editor of the Oregon Spectator. Sir--In a late number of your paper, I find a very false and slanderous communication over the signature of "A.Q." in reference to myself, and must ask the privilege of publishing a reply through the same medium.
25th Nov. 1847
The writer, whom I take to be some disappointed office seeker, in his wrath at my appointment of Indian Agent for Oregon, and having naught of truth to urge against my character and fair fame, resorts to several falsehoods to sustain his opposition to my elevation to this post, and you Mr. Editor, it appears, participate with him in this act--whether intentional or not I do not pretend to know.
To prove his position in his severe strictures and false estimate placed on my character generally, but particularly in reference to my philanthropic feelings and sentiments towards the Indians, he makes use of a letter from me to emigrants leaving Oregon last spring for this country, which was published in your paper, wherein he not only perverts my entire meaning by his pretended quotation from that, but actually quotes a sentence nowhere to be found in the letter. "Kill all the Indians you may find from Oregon to California." And this he exultingly exclaims "is sufficient to tell the man."
I have said that you were a participant in this affair, because you suffered a falsehood to go forth here, uncommented on in reference to a publication in your own paper, which might easily have been corrected by turning to look at your files. The following was the advice contained in my letter to the company on the subject of their Indian relations:
"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."
It can be seen from this extract how far the article referred to has done me justice, as out of 800 miles travel--the distance from Oregon City to this place, along the whole of which route Indians are to be met with--I have advised hostilities against them of but one hundred. And this because whites have ever suffered here from pursuing a different policy. I might adduce several arguments in favor of my position, or at any rate in excuse, for what no honest man who knows me would charge other than an error in judgment--but 'twould necessarily lengthen this communication too much. This is the course pursued by all mountaineers while traveling through hostile tribes, particularly when in small parties. But a few weeks before our passing, Capt. Fremont had several fights with these same Indians higher up the Klamath country--four of his men having been murdered whilst asleep in camp, himself and Lieut. Gillespie narrowly escaping the same fate. Our company was attacked by an ambush of them, in which we lost one man and two horses, so that if any bloodthirsty spirit is exhibited in my letter of advice, it must at least be admitted I have good cause of feeling so towards the Indians in that region.
As proof against "A.Q.'s" insidious charges and garbled extract I would cite what were my own acts towards Indians along this road, and shall mention the circumstance of five of them being taken prisoners by some men of Turner's party on Rogue River, which immediately borders on the hostile territory alluded to, whose lives were saved principally through my exertions, aided by Capt. Cameron and his company of Canadians with whom I traveled, as Turner, who was justly embittered against these same Indians, from being defeated, wounded and having most of his companions slain by them a few years previous--because of their treacherously coming into camp as friends--had sworn to take them out and shoot them, in which he was supported by most of his party. The next day, higher up the valley, some of our men burned a village and fired at the natives across the river, for which I strongly censured them. And indeed from the part I took in favor of humanity and the Indians came near having a serious difficulty with some of those with whom I traveled. Thus much for this portion of the libel.
The significant caption "A.Q." gives his piece--"Long looked-for has at last arrived"--also conveys an absolute falsehood, as by this he would give the reader to understand that I have long sought and looked for this office; when such an idea never entered my head, nor indeed was I in expectance of any official appointment in Oregon whatever, as for two years or eighteen months before quitting your territory I mentioned in all my letters home my determination of leaving each following season, and would have done so long before I did, but for my pecuniary embarrassments.
If any kind friend in Oregon ever did me the honor of writing or in any other way suggesting my name at Washington as a fit candidate for any office in your Territory, it was done without the slightest intimation or wish on my part--and if such has been the case, I am totally at a loss to know whom to thank for this gratuitous favor.
From all the secret as well as open maneuverings, schemings and wireworkings of your different cliques and parties, to represent, or perhaps misrepresent, the claims of respective friends and each other at Washington, for appointments to office--for which business your land is famous--I ever kept aloof, neither supporting others in this nor asking any man to support me.
The only proposition of the kind ever made me came from Dr. White, in the spring of 1844, whilst engaged at his house in copying and correcting his reports to government. He then told me, for the purpose I presume of bamboozling me and bribing my support to his ignorant and improper schemes, that he wished me to have some office in the country, and would like to suggest such a thing to the President. I thanked him politely for the flattering use he proposed making of my name, but requested him particularly not to mention it at home in connection with any such subject, as the President knew me much better than he or any man in Oregon did, and could give me an office if he thought proper, without his solicitation.
If my appointment has given offense to the numerous aspirants and expectants in Oregon, I most humbly apologize for being thus unwittingly placed in a post which any one of them was no doubt--or at least conceived himself so--better able to fill by reason of his superior talents, fitness and moral worth, and must ask leave to sympathize with them in their disappointed hopes and anticipations.
Were it not that I have received letters, as well as verbal assurances of friendship, and expressions of a wish for my return to Oregon to fulfill the duties of my appointment, from numbers of gentlemen there whose characters I highly esteem and whose good sense and clear judgment are in my opinion unsurpassed by any amongst you, this uncontroverted slander and abuse in your paper might have given rise to no very amiable feelings towards my fellow citizens there and doubts as to the reception I might meet with on returning. As it is, however, I am merely prompted by my innate and unsurpassed love of truth and detestation of falsehood, wherever seen or heard, to answer it; as my refusal to return and accept of the office, which will be made known in a letter to your Governor, prevents its forestalling my usefulness in that, and injuring me personally amongst those there who know me not; whilst I can assure the writer and his supporters, for their private information and consolation, that his envenomed production will not harm me the least at the spot where it was mainly intended to operate--Washington City.
Had "A.Q." in the zeal of his disinterested patriotism and great love of the redskins but waited a short period he might have saved this exhibit of unkind and bad manners, remained uncommitted in penning a very false and malicious publication, and kept, besides, the office open for himself or some other, more worthy than I, occupant.
Respectfully,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 24, 1848, pages 1-2
C. E. PICKETT.
From a communication in this paper by C. E. Pickett, Esq., our readers will perceive that this gentleman declines the office of U.S. Indian Agent for Oregon. Mr. Pickett complains of injustice at the hands of some of the people of this Territory. We have examined the files of this paper, and find that the letter of advice to emigrants, referred to by Mr. Pickett in his present communication, contains no such sentence as the quotation of "A.Q." would imply. In this respect injustice has been done to Mr. Pickett, which we are prompt to correct, but we trust that Mr. Pickett, probably in the excitement of the moment, has done injustice in his present communication to some of the people of Oregon
We have been in Oregon but a few months, yet in justice to Mr. Pickett we take pleasure in stating that during this time his name has frequently been mentioned in our presence in connection with the office of Indian Agent, but never in any way derogatory to him.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, February 24, 1848, page 2
It will be seen by a communication from Capt. Scott, published in this paper, that Jesse Applegate, Esq., bearer of dispatches to the U.S. authorities in California for assistance in the present difficulties with the Indians, has returned, being unable to cross the mountains at this season.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 9, 1848, page 2
We understand from Col. Ford and others that a party has been organized to explore the valleys of the Klamath, Rogue and Umpqua rivers. The party propose leaving this valley in the course of the present month. Comparatively nothing is known of these valleys, but without doubt they will be found to be rich and beautiful--perhaps the fairest portion of fair Oregon
We wish the party success.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 9, 1848, page 2
Oregon City, March 6th, 1848.To His Excellency,
Governor of Oregon.
Sir--I regret to inform you that the party under my command have been forced to return without performing the service upon which they were ordered, and I herewith return the dispatches with which they were entrusted.
The party took up their line of march from La Creole River, in the county of Polk, on Saturday, the 5th day of February, and notwithstanding the heaviness of the road and the difficulties and delays occasioned by the crossing of the numerous streams, they arrived safely at the base of the Cascade or Siskiyou Mountain, about halfway to Nueva Helvetia, on the 16th day of that month.
But here, contrary to my expectations, we found the pass deep in snow. On the 17th we ascended the mountain, which was free from snow up to the summit which divides the waters of the Rogue River from those of the Klamath, where we found snow in drifts from 1 to 6 ft. deep, but as the country descended from this point to the Beaver Dam Creek, and the snow appeared to diminish in that direction, we were encouraged to continue to beat our way forward with our horses, in the hope of finding on that stream sufficient open ground to afford a camp, but in this we were disappointed, the snow lying deep upon the little prairies and only a few naked spots on the hillsides facing the south. We here encamped for the first time without grass. On the 18th we ascended the hill, and entered the dense pine forest that covers the summit of the main mountain, which as it rises by a gentle ascent towards the east, we found the snow continually to deepen as we advanced until the whole plain was covered to the depth of from 3 to 4 feet, and the horses could only advance by plunges, and it was still about 20 miles to the descent upon the Klamath River; it was evident the horses could not reach that point. Our situation was now a serious one; our horses had for 2 days undergone excessive fatigue without food and were rapidly failing, and a further advance with them impossible; we were yet 200 or 300 miles from the place of destination, in an enemy's country, where the utmost vigilance was necessary to protect our property; we therefore returned to our camp on Beaver Dam Creek, where after some deliberation I consented, though at some hazard, to a division of the party, and 8 volunteered to attempt to pass the mountain on snowshoes and go on foot to California.
I left for those intending to cross the mountain about 10 days' rations, some parfleches (the only article we had) to be made into snowshoes, their blankets, ammunitions &c., and with the horses and the rest of the party pushed for the Rogue River Valley, where we arrived the same evening.
The party remaining in the mountain made snowshoes and all necessary arrangements and early the following morning commenced their journey. But the snow being light and dry and being weighted down by heavy packs and incommoded with their arms, they found their advance slow and laborious; to add to their misfortunes, the parfleche out of which the snowshoes were made, being too tender to support the weight of some of the heavier men of the party, burst and let their wearers down so deep that they were unable to extricate themselves without assistance.
Late in the afternoon of a day of great toil, the party found themselves about two miles on their way to California. When the party assembled, it was found that only 3 or 4 pair of snowshoes were fit for service, the material out of which the rest were made having entirely failed. A wickerwork of the branches of the willow was the only means they had to repair them. Some of the party also declared they were unable to proceed, but with a devotion seldom equaled urge their comrades to carry out the object of the expedition and leave them to their fate. But in this case humanity triumphed over patriotism, for the party by a solemn vote decided that they would not abandon a comrade to perish.
A proposition to divide the company was also negatived, as it was the opinion of a majority of the company that 4 men could neither advance nor return with any reasonable hope of success.
There being no choice in the party, after passing a comfortless night in the snow, turned their steps homeward, and by using all diligence overtook the horses in the Umpqua Valley, worn down by overexertion.
The men, it is but just to say, were orderly and cheerful in the performance of their duty and by their vigilance prevented the loss of any property by Indians, and after 28 days hard service were dismissed to their several homes in the Willamette Valley, according to the term of their enlistment; their discharge from their present engagement is therefore respectfully solicited.
A full return of the property belonging to the government and remaining in my hands, together with that lost on the expedition, will be forwarded to the Commissary General or his agent.
In conclusion I would remark that I am fully of opinion that the Cascade Mountain at the south pass has been practicable for horses the present season up to the first of January, and that had the party who undertook the journey on foot been active pedestrians and provided with suitable snowshoes, they could have succeeded in delivering your dispatches at their place of destination.
My reason for believing that the pass is practicable for horses until late in the season is founded upon the fact that the mountain rises but little above the winter snow line, and until the warmth imparted to the earth by the summer sun is exhausted, the snow must melt as it falls, most of the snow appeared to have fallen recently, and it was still falling while we were there.
I have the honor to be,Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 9, 1848, page 2
Your most obdt. servt.
By reference to the letter of Capt. Scott, published in another column, it will be seen that the gentleman declines acting under the law of last winter relating to the "Southern Route to Oregon" [see statute printed in the January 9 issue, above]. It is true that taxation of immigrants is an "odious" measure. From present indications, the Southern Route will be the ones which will be mainly traveled the coming season. Some good man, who is well acquainted with the route, should be sent out to meet the immigration. Unquestionably, Capt. Scott is that man, and we hope the requisite sum will be made up to him.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 23, 1848, page 2
Polk County, Oregon, March 12, 1848.To His Excellency,
Gov. of Oregon.
Sir--I deem it my duty to notify you that I decline acting as commissioner for the improvement of the Southern Route to Oregon with which the late Legislature of Oregon thought proper to honor me. My reasons for so doing are, that the pecuniary provisions of the law are inadequate to the payment of the sum allowed to myself and party for the required services. The manner of raising the money by a tax upon the emigrants is odious and impracticable, and as I have already been two seasons engaged in exploring the road and assisting the immigrants I cannot in justice to my private affairs spend another season in the same profitless manner.
But as it is considerable matter of great importance that the immigrants the present year should receive the advice and assistance of some experienced person, in case your excellency cannot obtain the services of such person as commissioner in my room, I will say to you and to the public that if the sum of $300 is made certain to me by the promise of responsible men in this valley, I am ready to go with the party returning to the States and meet the immigrants and do all I can for their safety and benefit. I further promise to appeal to their liberality, and all sums over 200 dollars they may contribute shall be deducted from the bond of the people of this valley. Should any arrangement of this kind be made, I will be ready to start at any time from my claim in the Umpqua Valley immediately on the road.
With the highest respect, yours, &c.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 23, 1848, page 2
From Fort Hall to Willamette Valley.
Emigrants to travel the Southern Route in safety should strictly observe the following directions, to wit:--
1st. To carefully extinguish their camp fires, to prevent the burning of the grass.
2nd. To travel in companies of about 20 wagons, and at least 25 men able to bear arms.
3rd. To keep a guard with their animals at all times when not traveling (day and night). Three or four men on guard at a time will be sufficient on any part of the road.
4th. Never to sleep two nights in the same camp--but move every day if but a short distance, nor pen or tie up their teams at night, but allow them to feed wherever they can.
5th. Always to select an open spot for a camp, at a distance from the timber and brush along the streams, and from the rushes about the lakes. The stock also should be kept away from such places, as the Indians conceal themselves in them to do mischief.
6th. From the headwaters of Ogden's River to the Cascade Mountains, the Indians along the road are poor, cowardly and treacherous; they are beggars by day and thieves at night. The less emigrants have to do with them either as friends or enemies the better for them. They should be kept at a distance, by signing them away by day and firing a few shots about occasionally through the night to let them know you are vigilant.
The Rogue River Indians are rather better but more dangerous. They will wish to trade horses (which they have stolen), skins, salmon &c., for guns and ammunition, but it is not only unlawful to trade these articles but very unsafe to arm them, for they will undoubtedly steal your property or kill you if they have an opportunity. There is but few of the Umpquas, and of course they are not dangerous--but they have stolen from, robbed and murdered the emigrants. If you should need their assistance in crossing the Umpqua River, pay them for the service what is right but do not permit them to extortion.
7th. From where Greenwood's Cutoff enters the Bear River Valley on a direct course (nearly E. & W.) to the head of the Cajeux Creek is less than 100 miles; by the road it is 225. There is nothing to prevent wagons from making this cutoff, but some 6 or 7 miles of rough road in descending into Cache Valley; this might be examined and its practicability determined in a day or two.
Mr. Anderson and many other mountaineers you will meet with on Bear River are well acquainted with this route and would conduct a party through for a trifle; I would advise emigrants to examine and if practicable to make this cutoff; it will avoid some bad road and save seven or eight days' travel.
If the road still pass Fort Hall, it will be as follows.
The Klamath, Rogue and Umpqua valleys (rivers emptying into the Pacific) are as yet unexplored and unknown. The southern road to Oregon crosses these valleys high up, and from what information we have obtained we believe that they are second to no portion of Oregon.
"Oregon As It Has Been Represented, and As It Is," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 20, 1848, page 2
From gentlemen just arrived in this city, we learn that Col. Ford and party have returned to this valley without having accomplished the exploration of the Klamath, Rogue and Umpqua valleys. Our informant states that the failure is attributed to the want of a sufficient guide. We regret the failure of the expedition.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, April 20, 1848, page 2
For the Oregon SpectatorTHURSDAY MORNING, May 4, 1848
MR. EDITOR--I have just returned from an excursion up the valley. When a few miles this side of Mary's River on Monday last, we were overtaken by party of 6 men, under the direction of Mr. John Saxton, just arrived from California. They were 15 days from the last settlement on the Sacramento, to the first in this valley, traveling the old California trail. There was no snow on the route. The party halted one day to rest, so that the journey was accomplished in 14 days travel.
They started with about 100 horses, and were unfortunate enough to have 65 taken from them in open daylight, by the Rogue River and Klamath Indians, assisted as the company think by some Molallas from this valley.
The Indians were very troublesome, firing on them for one entire day, and using every possible stratagem to intercept and cut them off at each of the narrow passes along the road. None of the men were injured except Mr. Girtman, who was shot in the thigh by the accidental discharge of his own gun, at the crossing of Rogue River. With some difficulty he was brought on to the settlement and left at the first house.
An advance party of 18 men was met about 4 miles beyond the north fork of the Umpqua on their way to the States. It was supposed they would camp until the rest of the company came up.
They brought no news of importance from California. The Henry had arrived, and Mr. Saxton supposes by this time she must be near the Columbia River. There are two families on board of her, coming to this country, who came to California in the last emigration, and some of their horses were brought through by Saxton's party.
It is deeply to be regretted that the Indians were so successful in getting the horses; they also captured 2 fine jacks, and the impression of the company that some of the Molallas were assisting looks rather ominous. The return party to the States is perhaps sufficiently large to avoid all danger, if they are prudent enough to keep together. About 20 men I should think, crossed the Calapooia on Friday last, on their way to the rendezvous at Skinner's.
The country looks beautiful up the valley; there is a prospect of a most abundant harvest. I saw wheat at Mr. Fuller's near Mary's River, 4 feet high, oats more than 18 inches, and barley headed and bearded.
There is a small camp of Calapooia Indians on the Muddy--a small creek between the Calapooia and Mackenzie's fork.
Respectfully Yours, R.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 4, 1848, pages 2-3
Messrs. Saxton, Martin and six other persons arrived at the first settlements at the head of the valley on Tuesday last, from California. They were only fifteen days from settlement to settlement. They were attacked by the Rogue River Indians at the "Point of Rocks," who succeeded in stealing from the party some sixty-five head of horses. The escape of the little company with their lives may be considered, under the circumstances, most miraculous.…
Mr. S. states that during the attack at the "Point of Rocks" he observed a Molalla Indian among the assailants, one whom he was well acquainted with during the time of his residence here. He is of the opinion that the news of our Indian difficulties has already been spread among the savages of that section of the country, who are gathering in for their share of the plunder of the coming immigration. Could not some early step be taken to ensure the protection of the immigrant?
"From California," Free Press, Oregon City, May 6, 1848, page 2
In 1848 a strange frenzy seized upon Oregonians, and that was the scheme of an immense cooperative corporation so vast in its comprehensiveness and details that its advocates and promoters delighted to name it a 'Commonwealth.' Because the various expeditions to the sage deserts of what is now Nevada developed the existence of a large, fertile and meadow-like body of desirable land about the lakes at the head of Klamath River, where no one was likely to settle soon, we went further and in anticipation fondly gave a local name, the proud 'Klamath Commonwealth,' which all leaders urged to occupy at once in order to carry out our cherished plans without let or hindrance by outsiders. Then, too, it was urged that we would be near enough to the newly discovered gold deposits in Southern Oregon to have the monopoly of supplying miners with all they needed from our diversified industries! The objections to Shasta and Rogue River valleys were that their numerous aboriginal population had been bitterly hostile since discovery. The fifty who had the experience of that untiring vigil on the 'pirate ship' told us much that helped to fan the flames of that excitement by the recital of more stories of fabulous metallic wealth in some southern tributaries of the Rogue. And now another sentiment began to seize upon some, and that was that gold would soon become so plentiful that it would have no more value than lead! The plan was cherished to begin the foundation of all industries at once, in modest 'plants' of course, and by not producing gold ourselves we might hope to maintain its usefulness as money! All can now see the fallacy of our theories, and may it not be that silver, notwithstanding any probable plenty, will continue to maintain its value?
In those councils we had such minds as Rev. Richard Miller, James Fulkerson (afterwards a judge), Captain Dunbar, William Rector, Jesse Applegate, Captain Levi Scott, Captain Tetheroe, Benj. Burke, James Linn and Charles Applegate.
The signers and promoters were all abundantly able to do their share of sustaining the enterprise.
A general bookkeeper's office was contemplated where would always appear the means, genius and bodily energy of each member as it was contributed, and he duly credited with his proportionate share of all profits and losses. (It is pretty well known that nearly all persistent cooperative farming enterprises are successes. K.)
The favorite theory of these men was that competition was the selfish and destructive motive of brutes and barbarians, and should not receive the countenance of thoughtful man who, only amongst created beings, carried the image of a beneficent God in his features! Humanity, like its antetype, should practice helpfulness instead of imposing crushing burdens; the result of a too keen rivalry!
Then too in their discussions it was argued that the impending depreciation or demonetization of that precious yellow metal from superabundance would be a priceless boon to mankind when it was no object of miserly and heartless hoarding. We should then see it used only for its utility in the arts and sciences and for all manner of always lustrous articles of adornment and luxury which would give employment to hundreds of the laboring classes in producing all the varieties of beautiful designs. That disposition would furnish a depository of values which would not disappear from popular use like the coin, only to deal in fictitious values in the great game of profit in money speculation in its multiform features.
Then, too, another view was that if the gold fields should become exhausted and no industries had been put in operation, we should be in a sad predicament.
Those were days of earnestness, and meaning was in all discussions. Debate was not mere wordy war, but was a serious prelude to action. Hence fifty wagons were furnished with good teams and loaded with all manner of implements for any branch of industry.
Abundance of arms and ammunition had a safe compartment; amongst them many Colt's dragoon and navy revolvers, with some improved rifles for long-distance shots.
The rendezvous was twelve miles west of Salem on the Rickreall (Riviere La Creole? K.), where it was decided to follow the South Route emigrant trail. 'The Calapooias'? Oh, a route bad been found that raised only two thousand feet above tidewater! When they reached Emigrant Creek, instead of the emigrant trail out to Klamath Lakes, they concluded to cut a new route over the Siskiyous three miles east of where the Southern Pacific tunnel is made, nearer Pilot Rock. It was a heavy climb, but these were the dauntless! while the descent was duly made to the Klamath and then up the flanks of Shasta, where they found gold enough to justify. (Whether they founded Yreka or not is unknown to the writer, but here is the first mention of the locality. K.) But the altitude was so great that the weather was raw and inclement. Then, too, they decided that although mining promised well, the prospects for agriculture were not so good as the Rogue River afforded. So the return to the latter was decided upon; but they discovered a better route by the Rogue River gorge, where the railroad tunnel opens. It required from fifteen to twenty yoke of oxen for each wagon, and they passed over ground under which the 'S.P.' tunnel now runs!
They made corrals two and a half miles east of the subsequent Jacksonville, perhaps on the 'Hanley' and 'Ish' tracts.
Jackson Creek was tried for gold and found promising. The tenth of May had come, and it was time to plant potatoes and sow spring wheat.
The Indians were alarmed at the stopping and began to fear the loss of their territory. In 1846 'Old John' had consented to the emigration through, but not to stop. When plows were got out the natives swarmed around day and night. Each morning arrows would be found sticking in the soil which had been 'lofted' (shot upwards and so let fall) into camp in the night. Three men and two oxen had been thus struck but not seriously hurt. The 'swish' of the arrow had been heard by the guards and kept them on the alert. Of course the plow ground would be fenced and men were sent to select timber for rails--the valley furnishing some sticks of pine.
Discussion as to adaptability was much aroused and men were hard to control after the arrow and wounding episodes. Captain Jesse counseled making at once a large stockade. Finally May 25th was fixed upon to take a decisive vote as to occupying the Rogue River Valley permanently.
The night of the 24th was clear and cold, while aboriginal signal fires surrounded and the howls and shrieks of the war dance were plainly heard. Also two white men were wounded with arrows.
Early in the morning a pretty heavy frost was discovered, which laid on the grass and wagon tires until after sunrise. The destiny of the 'Commonwealth' must be decided before high noon of that day, and so during the forenoon electioneering was the exclusive business.
Men who had never before spoken in public declaimed eloquently to save the enterprise.
At half past eleven the 'hat' passed around to collect ballots, which upon count showed a small majority for the abandonment of the enterprise. Then the minority spent the rest of the day in attempting a reconsideration.
Some contended that although God created advantages for man, the latter had not reached the point of utilizing that good; and that nothing valuable was attained without sacrifice, labor, perseverance, and, above all, experience.
They were answered that frost was God's sign that the climate and soil were not agricultural, but that he had designed that spot of earth for the aborigine; and evidently we were trespassers!
The collapse was irrevocable, and arose, not from want of material, but because of lack of comprehending the value of perseverance and cooperative effort.
Now came strange incaution and want of forethought. Potatoes, scores of sacks, had been brought for planting; but were now unloaded and emptied to save the sacks. A surplus of flour was emptied out in a huge pile. Many cumbrous articles were burned. In reply to a very logical question, I will say that they knew of no place to sell or bestow one iota of their surplus. No civilized camp beside their own expired 'Commonwealth' was anywhere within the boundaries of that wide horizon! Just when they finished the destructive process a slow-paced train of prospectors came in view eighty rods away. Some of the 'cooperators' joined them and spent the whole summer about Jackson Creek and Yreka in prospecting and taking out considerable gold--postponing their return to the Willamette until the beginning of winter. Some wandered away over their own trail down south and did not stop until they reached good mining in the valley of the Sacramento.
Elisha Lindsay Applegate, quoted in Reese P. Kendall, Pacific Trail Camp-Fires, Chicago 1901, pages 187-194
A communication has been received from Capt. Wm. J. Martin and others, setting forth reasons for their returning to this valley. Want of room compels us to defer its publication until the next paper. They make out a strong case.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 18, 1848, page 3
It is rumored that late explorations of the lower part of the Umpqua River and vicinity show its valley, below the rapids, to be much more extensive than heretofore supposed, and extremely beautiful and rich in soil. It is also said that all the lower Umpqua Indians, except seven, died with the measles and dysentery during the last winter. We shall soon have intelligence from that portion of the country upon which we can rely.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 13, 1848, page 2
Late Explorations.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 27, 1848, page 2
We understand from Dr. Prettyman, one of the party lately arrived from the Rogue and Umpqua valleys, that there is but little good prairie land in the lower portions of either of those valleys. None of the party proceeded down the Umpqua lower than to tidewater, from which point they represent the ocean as being seventy-five miles distant, and the waters of the river passing into it through a continuous kenyon. From tidewater on the Umpqua to Ft. Umpqua is said to be sixteen miles; this portion of the valley is represented as possessing some excellent soil. The upper portions of Rogue and Umpqua valleys are represented as containing much very beautiful and rich soil; that of the Umpqua as about equal in extent to the Willamette, and even more rich in soil. The reported death of nearly all the Umpqua Indians is confirmed.
The following, which we clip from the Polynesian of the 24th June, accounts for the appearance of the Honolulu in Oregon at this time. If all our neighbors upon the Pacific will devote their time to gold digging, the citizens of Oregon will be able to obtain their share of the spoils by obtaining a remunerative price for their flour, peas, oats, potatoes, butter, cheese, fish and lumber.
All that is required to make gold abundant in Oregon is a fair market for the products of her soil.
California.We have received per [the] Louise our regular files of California papers to the 29th of May. The only item of interest which they contain is the tidings of the fearful ravages of a terrible fever which has nearly depopulated all the seaport towns and caused a general rush to the interior. It is not exactly the yellow fever, but a fever for a yellow substance called gold. An exceedingly rich gold mine has been discovered in the Sacramento Valley, and all classes and sexes have deserted their occupations and rushed en masse to the mines to make their fortunes. The gold taken from this newly discovered mine is not gold ore, but pure virgin gold. It is procured by the simple process of digging and washing, and is obtained at the rate of from two to four ounces per day by each laborer. It passes current at San Francisco for $15 per ounce. Mr. Gray, supercargo of the Louise, brought with him two pounds of the metal. It has been analyzed by the knowing ones here who pronounce it "worth its weight in gold." We can assure our readers there is no hoax in this, for we have seen the gold with our own eyes, and it really benefited our optics. San Francisco was entirely deserted, everybody having gone mining. The Californian announced the suspension of their paper on the 29th of May, and the Star was also expecting to suspend publication. Laborers could not be procured at any price. Ten and fifteen dollars per day were offered and refused. Shovels, spades, pickaxes and other "digging" implements commanded enormous prices. Many unable to procure these were digging with knives, sticks and their fingernails. Enormous prices were offered for provisions delivered on the ground. Nearly 500 men, women and children were on the ground and crowds were still flocking up. The mine is some way above Sutter's Fort, about 130 miles from San Francisco. Its extent was unknown, but it was believed to be immense. The people with their families were camped out, and the mines being in the fever-and-ague country, many of them are doubtless by this time shaking off what of their finger- or toenails have not been worn off by digging. It is impossible to foretell the final effect of these discoveries in California. It is doubtful if there be sufficient force in Upper California at present to enforce any government regulations respecting these mines. There being no law respecting mines, it will be some time before government can control them.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, August 10, 1848, page 2
The mining excitement in California was beginning to attract attention, and the lull in active operations following the Cayuse War led to the formation of a company of twelve stout, energetic frontiersmen, led by [George E.] Frazer as captain, to go there. Making the little preparation necessary, they began the march. Reaching Rogue River, they made camp near a spring. Just below and in sight, a lot of Indian squaws were seen, gathering wild angelico. As these were being passed on resuming the march, a man named Bowman raised his gun and deliberately shot and killed a young squaw, and another was aiming his gun at an old squaw who was frantically waving her hands for mercy, when Frazer interposed and ordered his gun down and advised him to shoot Bowman instead.
Immediately afterwards, provoked by the atrocious murder, a band of at least 100 Indians, armed with bows and arrows, attacked and pursued the whites. The latter, being well armed, managed to keep them at a distance, killing many. That night camp was made, but quickly abandoned, and the march resumed and travel kept up all night. The pursuit was never given over till they were out of the Indian country and Shasta Valley was reached. The man Bowman, who had murdered the squaw, was so condemned by his comrades that he was of little account afterwards.
S.R.S., interview with Frazer, in "Pioneer Life in the West," Frankfort Roundabout, February 23, 1895, page 9
As we crossed the bridge across the river, "right here," said our friend, in 1848, some thirty of us en route for the California gold diggings encountered a company of a hundred or more Indians. There was no bridge here then. We were fording with pack animals. There was no alternative but fight, and fight we did, killing over fifty of our assailants, and losing but a single man. But it was desperate work, and but for that ridge of rocks which prevented us from running away, I fancy we should all have been killed in attempting to escape. The best way always with Indians is to give fight at once and never run."
"Our San Francisco Letter," Helena Weekly Herald, January 16, 1873, page 2
A correspondent, noting our reference to Mr. Minto's readiness to shoulder a musket as a private against hostile Indians, says it brings vividly to mind one particular instance, which he relates. It was during the war arising out of the Whitman massacre. Mr. Minto was one of a detail of sixteen picked men to act as an escort to Jesse Applegate, who was Gov. Abernethy's messenger to California to represent to the commandant of the United States troops there the extreme dangers surrounding the infant American settlement of the Willamette Valley and get a supply of arms and ammunition with which they might be able to defend themselves. The detail encountered deep snows in the Siskiyou Mountains, and the dangers and difficulties seemed so great that Capt. Levi Scott ordered a retreat. Mr. Applegate, who considered himself responsible for the attempt, felt the failure so keenly that at the first camp made after extricating the worn-out horses from the snow, he remarked that if he could have the company of but one man he would try to make his way through on snowshoes. The brothers Walter and Thomas Monteith were close by when this proposition was made. Minto said, "Well, Mr. Applegate, I came on this trip to do one man's duty, and if you think it possible one man's company can aid you I am your man." "And so am I," said each of the Monteiths almost simultaneously. Half of the company volunteered to go forward on foot, and they tried as only brave men can to pass the snowy barriers, but were compelled to retreat--guarding against hostile Rogue River Indians, and passing camp after camp, which had been set across their trail in the upper Rogue River Valley while they were in the snow. The party, by forced marches day and night, overtook their horses where Canyonville now stands, but the six days intervening between the retreat of the captain and the reuniting of the party were six days of the severest labor that any of that snowshoe party ever passed. This was a little episode of the first Cayuse War that has never been fully told, and all the actors in it are now gone, except James Field of Port Jervis, New York, Thomas Monteith, of Albany, Oregon, and John Minto, of Salem. While the latter has no just right to complain of much military title, he need not be ashamed to have his life as an American yeoman examined. Those living near Salem in 1861 know that there was never any uncertainty as to which side he took in the pro-slavery rebellion. Twenty-eight years ago to a day from the recent speaking of the county candidates at Silverton, Mr. Minto stood on a dry-goods box under the oak tree yet standing in the main street of the town, and as a representative of loyal and adopted citizenship proclaimed himself a defender of the national unity "by word, or pen, or pointed steel." And his life has always been consistent with that patriotic declaration.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, June 10, 1890, page 2
Within two years prior to the beginning of this contest between natives and miners the writer saw the hunters' paradise of Upper Rogue River. He saw banded antelopes lying on the swells of land opposite where the City of Ashland now is, like flocks of peaceful sheep. He saw the watchful native runner, seemingly naked, start to carry the news of our parties' presence from village to village in advance of us. He saw them closing in on the trail we made into the snows of the Siskiyous, where, according to the estimate of our leader, Jesse Applegate, they would slaughter every one of us for the property one of us carried, if we gave them the chance. When they were surprised by us, three-fourths of them were clad in deerskins, with the hair yet on. That they fought for their native valleys according to their knowledge is no disgrace to them.
John Minto, "Treaties with Indians," Oregonian, Portland, December 4, 1900, page 19
Mr. [Ephraim] Catching, with his two brothers, came to Oregon overland from Missouri in 1846 and settled in the Willamette Valley. In 1848, on the first intimation of the discovery of gold in California that reached Oregon, he resolved at once to cast his fortune there. A vessel arriving from San Francisco had brought the sensational tidings, and while many were skeptical with regard to its correctness, Mr. Catching had faith to warrant him in making the effort to reach the new gold field. Enlisting a score or more of adventuresome companions, a party was soon equipped and ready for the journey."First Man at Coos Bay," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, May 24, 1903, page 15
Murdered an Indian.Their course lay through the valleys of Umpqua and Rogue rivers--a region as yet in a manner unexplored and inhabited by tribes of Indians whose disposition toward the encroachment of the white man was an unsettled proposition. The trip as far as the Rogue River country was made without incident or happening worthy of mention. There was, however, enacted a tragedy which--though a reproach to our boasted civilization, and even to our race--is entitled to a place in history as the inceptive prompting of the Rogue River Indian War: One of the party shot and instantly killed an unoffending old Indian. The Indians had been entirely harmless, and the victim of that most hellish perfidy had visited the camp of the white men with seeming friendship and good will. Standing with folded arms and unmindful of the, to him, strange implement leveled at his breast, he fell the victim of a species of vandalism which, in its degree, is undefinable by invective provided by the English language.
Mr. Catching was in favor of giving the miscreant over to the Indians to be dealt with accordingly as they should determine, but other counsels prevailing, the wretch was permitted to go unpunished and with the immunity so afforded to vaunt, in after years, his dastardly act as a mark of heroism. Thenceforth the enmity of the Indians toward the white settler, or wayfarer, was of marked intensity, till at length it culminated in the memorable Rogue River War, in which Mr. Catching participated and for which service his surviving widow is now entitled to a pension. Though recognizing the primary injustice done to the Indians, in defense of his own race and his own fireside he joined the ranks of the illustrious pioneer soldiers.
"When the discovery of gold at Sutter's Fort reached Oregon Territory, a company of pioneers traveled overland to the California mines. On arrival at the north end of Rogue River Valley, the company made camp near Table Rock. One member of the company was Ephraim Cannon Catching. His story of what happened at that camp as told to me more than forty years ago was about as follows: 'While we were busy with our camp arrangements, friendly Indians, some of whom had never seen white men before, gathered around and watched everything we did, but they did not bother anybody. Suddenly, and without provocation, a foolhardy member of our party fired his rifle at an Indian standing apart at a distance. The Indian fell dead, and a panic followed. The Indians swarmed around and demanded that the murderer be turned over to them for punishment. After considerable wrangling among us, we took a vote on what the Indians demanded. A majority voted to protect the murderer. I voted the other way.' Right there began the Rogue River War which took the lives of hundreds of whites and Indians and which cost this country millions of dollars. Catching was the first white settler in Coos County, Oregon, where he founded the town of Myrtle Point. He married late in life and became the father of thirteen children, one of whom, Mrs. Rose Crocker, lives in San Francisco. Every year hundreds of 'Knave' readers drive their automobiles the full length of the old farm, perhaps with never so much as a glance at his lonely grave at the top of a knoll a few rods away."
"Unpublished History," Ephraim L. Musick, "The Knave" editorial and feature section, Oakland Tribune, December 27, 1942, page B1
I packed up as quickly as I could and started on my eight-hundred-mile journey across the mountains to California [in the summer of 1848]. The country on from where Mr. Turpin lived was entirely unsettled, so I was practically alone. I traveled that day until about nine o'clock at night, staked and hobbled my horses, and went to sleep.
On the third day, late in the afternoon, I came up to my people; they were right at the mouth [of] the canyon where Canyonville now is. The next day we went through [the] canyon into the Rogue River country. Everything went well until the third day. On that we had to pass what was known as the "point of rock," a place that the Indians never allowed a white man to pass without a fight, and this was no exception, for they were laying in the road waiting for us. They held us up about two hours before we could drive them back so we could pass. We got through without losing a man or anyone getting wounded. From this time on there was nothing of importance occurred until we reached General Sutter's Fort in the Sacramento Valley.
Cyrenius Mulkey, "Eighty-One Years of Frontier Life," unpublished typescript, Oregon Historical Society Research Library Mss. 981, page 17
Oregon is convulsed by an excitement such as was never before felt here. What power has gold! Many excellent citizens are leaving and preparing to leave--some by sea--some by land with horses, and some with wagons. As a "Spectator," taking faithful note of passing events, we have given our readers a "sprinkling" of the gold news. Keep cool, gentlemen, it will take years to dig it all out, and when that shall have been done, it will be found that Oregon contains the elements of more wealth than any other portion of the earth of the same magnitude.
We wish our friends success in their enterprise of gold digging. This gold mania is not confined to Oregon--it seems to exist to an equal extent at the Sandwich Islands, and wherever the intelligence has spread.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 7, 1848, page 2
We clip the following from the Californian of May 17. The citizens of Oregon will be pleased to learn, and prompt to acknowledge their indebtedness in C. E. Pickett, Esq., for his early and zealous efforts to serve Oregon in her late emergency--as also to Governor Mason for his assistance in arms and ammunition, a schedule of which will be found in another column.
ASSISTANCE FOR OREGON.--We learn from C. E. Pickett, Esq., U.S. Indian Agent, that Gov. Mason has responded to the call of Gov. Abernethy for assistance in arms and ammunition, and that they will be dispatched by the first opportunity. Mr. Pickett, we understand, on learning of the Indian difficulties in Oregon, and previous to any call having been made on Gov. Mason, proceeded at once to Monterey, to solicit aid of the U.S. authorities, with the intention of accompanying such to Oregon and assuming the office of Sub-Indian Agent there until his successor should arrive. Gov. Mason, however, declined sending aid in the shape of officers and money, and also advised Mr. Pickett against assuming his proposed responsibility of mustering the forces in that territory into the service and pay of the United States, and making the U.S. government liable for all the expenses of the war, stating it as his opinion that Gov. Abernethy is the only proper and legitimate person to conduct this affair at present, and that his acts will be sanctioned by the general government, if done conformably to the United States laws.
Mr. Pickett, we believe, is still inclined to avail himself of the first conveyance to proceed to Oregon, provided an early opportunity is offered.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 7, 1848, page 3
The Spectator, after a temporary sickness, greets its patrons, and hopes to serve them faithfully, and as heretofore, regularly. That "gold fever" which has swept about 3,000 of the officers, lawyers, physicians, farmers and mechanics of Oregon from the plains of Oregon into the mines of California, took away our printers also--hence the temporary non-appearance of the Spectator.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 12, 1848, page 2
Umpqua and Rogue Valleys.
The Umpqua River is about 250 miles in length and takes its rise in the Cascade Mountains; the tide sets up the river about 75 miles, and within sixteen miles of Fort Umpqua. A short distance above Fort Umpqua a broken ridge (through which the river, aided, probably, by convulsions of the earth, has forced its way) stretches entirely across the valley, dividing it into upper and lower. The lower valley contains some good tillable land; the upper valley is more than half as large as the Willamette Valley. Rogue River is also a large river, and combined with the upper Umpqua their valleys are larger than that of the Willamette, and equally or more desirable in point of climate, richness of soil and beauty of locality and scenery. Like many other of the rich valleys of Oregon, the upper Umpqua Valley shows marked evidence of having once been a vast lake. As yet, but one claim has been taken in the Umpqua Valley, and none has been taken in the Rogue Valley. Game is very plenty, wild fruits abundant, and the soil rich and deep in these valleys, and they are only from one to two degrees of latitude removed from the upper gold mines of California.
The land route from the settlements in Oregon to California and the Southern Route from the United States to Oregon pass through these valleys. To settle these valleys securely and advantageously, a settlement should be made in the Umpqua Valley of twenty or thirty families, and in the Rogue Valley of fifty or sixty families, and in each case provided with machinery for the erection of a flouring and saw mill. Such settlements would rapidly increase to large and flourishing communities. No portion of Oregon, and we believe we may truthfully add no portion of the world, presents a better opportunity for the selection of desirable homes than these valleys; their climate is mild and salubrious; their grasses abundant and nutritious; their soil easily cultivated, and capable of producing all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life; and, probably, they are better adapted to the successful cultivation of fruit than any other portion of Oregon--either north or south. In the neighborhood of these valleys, the Cascade Mountains recede from the ocean, allowing the valleys to penetrate much further into the interior and receive more of the wash of the mountains. A large delicious white plum and excellent grapes grow spontaneous in these valleys.
Agricultural and stock growing will probably be neglected in California; if, therefore, persons were desirous to enter into stock growing for the market which the gold mines of that country must afford, these valleys being at the door of that market are very desirable locations; if persons are inclined to engage in agriculture, these sections of the country are in the immediate neighborhood of gold that will be freely paid for the necessaries of life; if men desire to enter into mining, they can pass from the bosom of their families in these valleys into the California mines, and back at will. If gold is discovered in workable quantities in Oregon, it will be in her southern, eastern or middle portions, and in either case residents of the Umpqua and Rogue River valleys will have the advantage of those of the Willamette Valley. We have given this brief notice of the Umpqua and Rogue valleys for the information of those who may wish to emigrate to this country.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 14, 1848, page 2
FOR SAN FRANCISCO, California--The fine copper-fastened Schr. SAMUEL ROBERTS, Anderson, master, will be dispatched for the above port on the 25th instant. For freight or passage, apply to the captain on board or to
N. L. McCREADY & CO., 35 South St.Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, December 25, 1848, page 2
Oregon Wagon Company--Fortunate Occurrence.
It will be gratifying to the families and friends of those of our fellow citizens who last fall left here in wagons for the California mines to learn that they reached the mines in good season, and in safety. Those who have returned from the mines bring this assurance. Capt. McKay succeeded in taking the party through upon his proposed route, which renders California nearer and easier of approach from Oregon, even for packers, than the old route. A small party of California emigrants from the United States were overtaken upon this new route by the Oregon company. Our informant represents that the teams and provisions of the emigrant party were exhausted, and that the emigrants would, probably, have perished in the mountains but for having been overtaken by the Oregon company. The Oregon company was liberally supplied with teams and provisions, with which, of course, they were free, and anxious to aid the unfortunate sufferers in the completion of their journey. We extract the following in relation to the new road from the Star and Californian of Nov. 18th--
MEETING OF EMIGRANTS.--THE NEW ROAD.--We have received the report of a meeting held by the late emigration from the United States, in conjunction with a wagon party from Oregon traveling into California, upon their arrival in the Sacramento Valley on the 31st day of October.
The meeting appears to have been called with an object to obtain an expression of opinion relative to the new route taken this season by the emigrants, headed by Mr. Lawson, across the mountains of California. A committee was appointed and a report made, of which the following is a copy:
"The committee appointed by the chair to draw up a statement of facts relative to the management of Capt. P. Lawson, in viewing out a new route across the mountains to California, beg leave to submit for the consideration of this meeting the following report.
"Your committee would state that the wagon party from Oregon to California, consisting of some 46 wagons and about 200 persons, came into the route surveyed by Capt. Lawson on the Sacramento River, at a point about S.E. of the little Klamath Lake and about 50 or 60 miles distant from said lake. That we followed said route to within 40 miles of the valley of [the] Sacramento, at which point we overtook Capt. Lawson and a party of emigrants from the United States, with six wagons. A part of the party had abandoned their wagons and left on pack animals.
"Up to the point where our party overtook Capt. Lawson's party, we had not seen any evidence of any work having been bestowed upon the road by the emigrants. From that point a distance of 40 miles into the valley of the Sacramento, all the labor performed by our party could have been performed by four men in three or four days, as the obstructions to be removed were principally fallen timber and loose rock. We found the ascent and descent to and from the mountains very gradual and easy, and upon the whole, your committee consider the pass discovered by Capt. Lawson one of the finest in the world, through mountains so extensive as the one through which it passes. In the opinion of your committee, a most practicable road can be made with very little labor through this pass, and that this route will prove of lasting benefit to parties traveling to and from Oregon and California and from the United States, as it has proved to us. Your committee think Capt. Lawson entitled to the thanks of this meeting for the energy and decision displayed by him in surveying the route. Your committee, therefore, recommend the adoption of the following resolutions."
Here it was resolved to tender Capt. Lawson a vote of thanks, which done, was followed by three cheers and the dissolution of the meeting.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 28, 1848, page 2
Reminiscences by John Minto.
Editor Sentinel: It has occurred to me that in connection with your kindly notice of my being in Rogue River prior to any white settlement, the Sentinel being the pioneer paper of the pioneer portion of Southern Oregon, where the fiercest race contest was fought to a finish against the most spirited tribe of the wild race west of the Rocky Mountains, a few words as to why, with whom and for what I was in your valley in February, 1848, would not be out of place.
I was one of a detail of 16 men of whom that nature's nobleman, Hon. Jesse Applegate, was guide, and the other 15 his escort as bearer of messages from Gov. Abernethy to the acting governor of California and Commodore Schubrick, in control of the U.S. warships then on the California coast. The purpose was to get such assistance from the commandant of the U.S. forces then in California as could be spared us in our war against the Cayuses for the Whitman massacre, even if it were no more than a supply of ammunition. We followed the California trail successfully to some distance above the present site of Ashland, and on a slope north of the Ashland depot one of our company got a fine buck antelope from a flock resting like well-fed sheep. We were visited by natives evidently from a desire to learn, if possible, our purpose in being there at that unusual season. As an excuse for their visit, one of three men showed us a small buckskin sack filled with pemmican made from charred grasshoppers. They took our amusement over their offer of trade in good part, showing it was only pretense.
The story of our being defeated by the snow encountered on the mountain near the line of the Ashland-Linkville road has been published as written by Mr. Applegate and myself. Of course that of Applegate is far the best in literature. It was written in answer to a request of the late Mrs. F. F. Victor and published in the state history of the early Indian wars of Oregon, pp. 151-152, compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Victor, twenty-five years after the event. It is not an agreeable business to correct the writing of the dead, and I am so far as I know the last living member of that party of sxiteen, and I feel it due to the sacred truth to say that in that letter to Mrs. Victor, Mr. Applegate, whether from failing memory or a desire not to place himself as leader of the party, which he was, makes Mr. Fields, a born gentleman, say: "Before I joined this expedition in the Willamette Valley, I fully understood the gravity of the undertaking. Against the performance of such an undertaking I weighed my own life as nothing; in fact, if only one of the party should reach the end of the journey and the rest 'fell by the way, the object of the expedition would be cheaply obtained." The last high sentiments were Mr. Jesse Applegate's own, spoken to me at least fifty hours before James Fields, sick in mind and body, told, in the words used by Mr. Applegate, that he would take his chances to get to the Willamette settlements afoot and alone rather than delay us of the snowshoe party another hour. This was spoken, as Mr. Applegate says, by Fields after he had got into camp and had his supper after the first day's effort on the showshoes. We were camped where the Applegate road to or from Ft. Hall left Jenny Creek. The snow was six to seven feet deep and very light and fluffy. We were, we guessed, four miles beyond where we had penetrated with our horses, from which point we retreated at the command of our captain, Levi Scott, to our camp we had left that morning.
Mr. Applegate on our arrival left the care of his horses to one of the captain's sons and went off to one side and sat down on a log, evidently in mental trouble. I was nearest to him and quickly stripping and tying my horses I went to him and said, "Mr. Applegate, you seem much cast-down at this result." He replied, "Yes, I am, John." I replied, "Well, the people of the Willamette do not expect what is impossible of us, and certainly it is impossible for us to cross these mountains with our horses under present conditions." He replied, "That is so, John, but they do not see our condition; people judge of these things by their success or failure. I proposed this expedition and feel this failure so keenly that if I could have the company of but one man, I would try to get through on snowshoes and not feel the sacrifice if one of us got through." Before one minute had passed Mr. Applegate had three volunteers, and before our supper-dinner was cooked, the party was equally divided, eight to try to get through on snowshoes, and eight to get back with the 32 horses under the leader[ship] of Capt. Scott. Mr. Fields was a thoroughbred gentleman, a member of the Society of Friends, and his object in being with us was to get to California and from there back to New York. The snowshoe party, as Mr. Applegate's letter correctly says, were loaded with eight days' provisions, gun, blanket and ammunition each, but carrying that handicap they overtook their horses in five days and four nights marching at the present site of Canyonville, then a beautiful natural game park. With one exception, those 16 were a fine body of men. All now passed to the other side but one, and he is trying to give the truth of history to the credit of one of the noblest of Oregon pioneers, against his own written statement.
JOHN MINTO.Salem, Oregon.
October 10, 1903.
Oregon Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 16, 1903, page 2. Reprinted in the Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, October 22, 1903, page 1
Ukiah Mendocino County Cal. Jan. 15 1892Hon. W. P. Lord
According to promise I sit down to give you a brief outline of my travels in this great state. I promise however by the statement that I deem it utterly impossible for the average man of today even, much less he who shall live 50 years hence, to fairly estimate the conditions of travel over this continent 50 years ago. This thought kept recurring as I came up the Willamette Valley and on across the Umpqua and again up the Rogue River, over the Siskiyou and Sierra Nevadas into California. In 1847-8 I was one of a detail of 16 frontier volunteer soldiers, acting as escort to Hon. Jesse Applegate, who bore a communication from Gov. Geo. Abernethy of the provisional government of Oregon to the commandant of the U.S. troops then in California, asking such aid as said commandant could spare of either arms or ammunition, to assist the pioneer settlers of Oregon to quell and bring to justice the Cayuse Indians who massacred their true friends Dr. Whitman and wife and some 20 others in Nov. 1847. The most of the party started and the second day camped on the bank of the LaCreole near the place where ex-Senator Nesmith lies at rest by his own choice. We each man furnished his own saddle and pack horses, rifle and blankets. The government of Oregon furnished each one pound of powder, 5 pounds of lead and one box of percussion caps. We had no shelter tents. We forded or swam all the streams on our march except the Long Tom branch of the Willamette. The calculation was to make the present location of Sacramento City in 30 days if we could get through the Siskiyou Range. As I passed Ashland on this trip in fewer hours of luxurious easy riding than it took days of hard, laborious travel, the thought with which I introduce this narrative was forced vividly upon me. The snow line reached a little further down into the valley then than now, and it was from 5 to 8 feet deeper on the tops of the mountains than it was on this trip. We had no steam snow plows then, and instead eight of us tried to make the passage on very poorly constructed snowshoes of the Canadian style, but even with their assistance we were compelled to abandon the attempt. Our captain had retreated with all our horses as we began to make our snowshoes and had two full days the start of us before we became satisfied that we must turn back. We resolved on a desperate struggle to overtake our horses and did, after four days and nights forced marching, overhauling then where Canyonville now is located in the South Umpqua. I carried on the snow and the forced march 9 days provision and a very heavy rifle of the old style. I need not add that that was the severest fatigue experience of my pioneer days. I wonder now how it was possible for a body of men (passing amongst Indians who were always ready to use opportunities to kill white men) to have such jolly campfire times as we had on all that trip, except the nights of struggle in the snow and the forced marching. Nearly every night after supper we made Uncle Jesse (as we called him) act much the part of lecturer of a university. We so plied him with questions that he was compelled to teach us the "braw sober lessons" he was so well qualified to give. After that, it was the song or story and then to bed in blankets often wet and "lodgings upon the cold ground," with little care and less fear. It seems to me now it would be a very great hardship to repeat such an experience even if I were young again.
On the trip we passed but few points where the snow was more than two feet deep, and I was a little surprised to find it extending so far down into the Sacramento Valley and still more to encounter the severest frost I have noted this winter on the morning of the 12 at Sacramento City.
I came on through to Petaluma and thence northward in the coast counties of Sonoma and Mendocino. I find the people here more cosmopolitan than Oregonians but genial and kind. From Petaluma northward 50 miles the country is much like the southern portion of Marion County, but of course with more summer heat and less winter rain. Sheep husbandry is declining, and I will tell you why as near as I can in the words of Judge McGarvey of the Superior Court here at Ukiah, Mendocino County.
I had been referred to Mr. Saml. Wheeler, cashier of the Ukiah Bank, for information on the sheep and wool interests, but he sent me to Judge McGarvey as the best posted man here both as to sheep and wool and the men engaged in the pursuit. I found the Judge in his room intently reading reading apparently and told him my errand as excuse for interrupting him. He said the interest of which I was inquiring was waning in the state, "the no-fence law" being the chief cause. As "no man could now pursue sheep husbandry on the plains of Central and Northern California surrounded as his holding would generally be by wheat- or fruit-growing small farms, unfenced."
This rapidly increasing obstacle to moving sheep either from farm to farm or from the plains to the mountains is the chief cause of the decline of the interest in the best lands of the state. In this county of Mendocino and all those having much broken land the increase of coyotes, wildcats and eagles within the past 5 years has been such that the Judge said some men "could not save increase sufficient to maintain the numbers of their flocks." The Judge owns sheep himself and spoke so intelligently and well on the subject that I told him I should have a little joke on a legal friend I had in Oregon, who I believe depended on me largely for being posted in sheep, and mentioned your name. The Judge came to the hotel afterwards and we had more sheep talk, and I learned he was intently studying a decision by Judge W. P. Lord in the Pacific Coast Reporter when I entered his room. He is Judge of the Superior Court in this county and quite social when off duty.
Sacramento, Jan. 18. Leaving Ukiah on the 16 I passed the night at Santa Rosa. While in traveling you see many well-to-do people; you soon begin to hear of dull times in getting back into the country, and I find many signs [of] a stationary condition in this capital city. Visiting the statehouse to see the picture of that grand pioneer of Oregon and California Peter H. Burnett, I find the chief officers are publicly solicitous that visitors should be well treated. I entered my name in the visitors book and gave as my introductory note the desire to see the likeness of ex-Gov. Burnett, whom I had known as a pioneer in Oregon in 1844. I met C. B. Moore soon after my arrival here on the 17th and we rode out to Sutter's Fort. It is now I believe state property and is being rebuilt, and I understand an effort will be made to erect a copy at Chicago in 1893. The Californians spend lavishly on such things. There is a fine piece of statuary of Columbus and Queen Isabella in the rotunda of the capitol, but two paintings, one of [a] family of emigrants being stopped by the exhaustion of their team and the other of a party of miners weighing the gold, gold gathered during the day, while one of their number is preparing supper. [It] took my attention even more than the fine marble group.
The days are bright and clear, but the nights decidedly chilly. I shall leave tonight for Auburn, Placer County, where a citrus fair has been on for a week past. That is still nearer the snows of the Sierras than this, yet there is oranges hanging on the trees, which I presume are unripe, and those placed on this 1st-class hotel table are fine in appearance but very hard and sour. Some things even Californians cannot do. They cannot I think make Northern California produce good. Oranges and the [omission] cannot bring back the time when Crockett Auermann won a ½ ounce of gold by catching a coyote with his hands within 200 yards of Sutter's Fort.
Yours TrulyUniversity of Oregon Special Collections CA 1892
Last revised April 3, 2021