UMPQUA.--The Umpqua Valley begins again to attract the attention of our people. We hear of parties forming to commence the settlement of this valley this spring. The Umpqua is represented as one of the most beautiful and salubrious valleys in Oregon, and as there is every prospect of a large immigration the coming season, we doubt not but it will soon have a numerous and prosperous population.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 7, 1850, page 2
INDIAN NAMES.--In this country as in all parts of the United States the custom is continued of giving Indian names to towns and rivers. In itself we do not regard it as a matter of very essential importance by what name a town or river is known, though we have a special preference for those names which sound smoothly and pleasantly to the ear. But it is a matter of great importance to the science of geography and the intelligent public that the orthography of names in common use should be settled. This is especially important at the present time in this Territory. We have here a class of Indian names entirely new to Americans. But we have also a class of intelligent men, who have enjoyed the most ample opportunities of knowing the general characteristics of the Indian language. Before this race of men, as well as the Indians and their jargon, have passed away it is all important that we should know how to spell our names.
That this matter deserves some attention let us look at a few orthographies. One of our small rivers is called by the various names Quality, Tuality, Tualatin and Falatine. Now who, not initiated, would suspect Quality and Falatine as having any kinship as the name of one and the same river? Again another name is written Clackamus and Clackamas while it is thought that the correct orthography of the name is Klakamas. Another name is variously read as Champoeg and Champooic. Another as Calapooa--Calapooia, and Kalapooya.
In regard to the pronunciation of our names if the orthography is corrected the pronunciation will soon correct itself. We noticed that in the States the name of our beautiful river is usually pronounced with the accent on the last syllable, while in this country it is pronounced with a full and emphatic accent on the second syllable. By the way, we think the orthography of the Willamette is settled, and we regard the orthography we sometimes see of Wilhamette as now obsolete.
We had intended to refer to other names for the purpose of remarking that many of them are so utterly barbarous that they ought to be abandoned. But having called attention to the subject we pass it for the present.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, March 7, 1850, page 2
The Laura Virginia on her way up called at Humboldt and landed passengers and cargo, then beat out, finding the two above-named vessels [J. R. Whiting and Eclipse] laying to outside. Capt. [Ottinger] gave them the bearings and put a pilot on board the J. R. Whiting, and then proceeded on to Trinity Bay, with passengers and cargo and thence to Rogue River (called by some Rogue and by others Trinity River). This river was located by Capt. O. on the 3rd of April last, and will be found to be in lat. 41 deg. 33 min. The Laura Virginia was the first vessel that passed in and out over the bar of that river, and on her return had a splendid run of only 22 hours from Cape Mendocino to San Francisco. The L.V. left at Rogue River the schr. Sierra Nevada.
"Intelligence from Trinidad," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, May 20, 1850, page 2
A DISCOVERY!--Capt. Ottinger, on the Laura Virginia, has made a trip to the mouth of Rogue River. This schooner was the first vessel that ever entered the mouth of that river. He was surprised to find there an English party, who had squatted upon both banks of the stream, and the islands in the river; which they very modestly claimed as their property. One of the party of the Laura Virginia, regarding the advantages and appearance of the country, found a spot not claimed, and which the English supposed was a swamp, and at once stuck down his pre-emption stakes. Gold has been found on the upper branches of this river, and may be found down to its mouth.
Rogue River is in Oregon. The country for agriculture is good in many places, though by no means as valuable as the Umpqua Valley. The Indian population is considerable in its neighborhood. At the last dates from Oregon, Gov. Lane had gone to make a treaty with them.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 5, 1850, page 2
The chiefs of the Klickitats and Calapooias have tendered the services of their tribes to Gov. Lane. When our informant left, they were encamped at Linn City, opposite Oregon City, awaiting the sentence of the murderers on trial before the Legislature. They are to join the forces of the Territory and march under Gov. Lane over the land route towards California till they reach the neighborhood of Rogue River. It is known that there are hostile tribes of Indians in this country. It was infested by them last season, and several helpless companies of Oregonians were murdered while on their way to California. Lately, some friendly Indians have given information in Oregon that the wives and children of some families who journeyed over this route last season are now prisoners among the Digger Indians--the men having been murdered. The Oregonians are highly incensed at these outrages, and it is thought they will not be satisfied until the offensive Indians are exterminated. The energetic steps taken by the Governor will doubtless be the means of opening a safe overland communication between California and Oregon.
"From Oregon," Sacramento Transcript, May 28, 1850, page 2
The chiefs of the Clatamas and Calipoos have tendered the services of their tribes to Governor Lane. When our informant left, they were encamped at Linn City, opposite Oregon City, awaiting the sentence of the murderers on trial before the Legislature. They are to join the force of the territory, and march under Governor Lane over the land route towards California, till they reach the neighborhood of Rogue River. It is known that there are hostile tribes of Indians in this country. It was infested by these last named, and several helpless companies of Oregonians were murdered while on their way to California. Lately, some friendly Indians have given information in Oregon that the wives and children of some families who journeyed over this route last season are now prisoners among the Digger Indians--the men having been murdered. The Oregonians are highly incensed at these outrages, and it is thought they will not be satisfied until the offensive Indians are exterminated. The energetic steps taken by the Governor will doubtless be the means of opening a safe communication between California and Oregon.--Sacramento Transcript.
"The Indians--Important Movement," Daily Alta California, San Francisco, May 30, 1850, page 2
While our citizens have been quietly preparing to go to Rogue River to dig for gold this summer, they have been aroused to unusual excitement by the discovery of a rich mine in another direction [in the Spokane country]. . . .
We suppose that there will also be a considerable mining business done this season on the rivers along the southern border of Oregon, as many persons who have been to California have convinced themselves that Rogue River and other streams in that vicinity will afford profitable "diggings."
"Gold in Oregon!" Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 30, 1850, page 2
Gov. Lane and Rogue River Gold.
Gov. Lane has gone to the Rogue River country to negotiate, if possible, a treaty with the Indians in that region, preparatory to working the gold mines there. It is the Governor's intention to explore that section of Oregon pretty thoroughly with reference to its mineral resources.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, May 30, 1850, page 2
TRINIDAD.--The new settlements on Trinity Bay, and its confluent rivers, appear to be highly prosperous. The deposits of gold in that region are found to be as rich and productive as any heretofore discovered. Explorations have been made from Trinity Bay up Trinity River and other streams as far as Rogue River, in Oregon, and gold has been found plentifully in all that region. But what is even better, many beautiful and fertile, though small, valleys have been discovered, well suited for agricultural purposes. Much anxiety was felt for four gentlemen who fell into the hands of the Indians, while out prospecting. They were stripped of everything, and it was not known whether they had even escaped with their lives. They were, if alive, in captivity among the Indians, who are represented as unusually numerous in that section of country.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, June 13, 1850, page 1
News from the gold mines comes in slowly. We learn that Gov. Lane has gone on to Rogue River. The washings on South Umpqua yielded a fair remuneration to the industrious. It was confidently believed, however, that Rogue River would pay much better, and most of the companies have passed on to that river.
"News from the Gold Mines," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, June 27, 1850, page 2
General Taylor's administration came into power--an administration which went to the extreme of proscription, notwithstanding the previous declaration of its chief that he had "no friends to reward, no enemies to punish." Among the proscribed was Governor Lane, and without cause, then or since alleged, other than his Democracy. He received a letter, notifying him of his removal, in April 1850, but his successor had not arrived. He had placed our relations with all the Oregon Indians upon an amicable footing, except with the Shasta or Rogue River Indians. These are a warlike and predatory tribe. Recent depredations, and safety for the future to the border citizens, required decided terms of peace or war with them. Governor Lane preferred the former, and was about to visit them to obtain restitution of stolen property, and treat for future relations, when his letter of removal came. What could he do? His successor had not arrived to assume the government and its responsibilities and discharge its duties. Should he abandon all, and leave confusion to reign, and the Indians to rob and murder at pleasure? Having been removed, he would have been justifiable in doing so, and the Administration alone responsible for the consequences. And had he consulted his private interests such would have been his course. But such course was not in keeping with his character. A duty to government, to Oregon and its citizens, was to be performed, and since his successor was not there to perform it, he felt it should be done by himself. Supposing he could complete the treaty he desired to make by the 18th June, and being desirous, since he was superseded, of being at liberty to attend to his private business as soon as duty would permit, he determined to return his official power to the source whence he obtained it--the government at Washington--and notify them that his discharge of its duties would cease on that day. In the absence of his successor to receive the responsibilities of the office from his hands and discharge its duties, this was the only course which accorded with his sense of duty. Accordingly he addressed the following letter to the Secretary of War:
Oregon City, O.T., May 27, 1850.SIR--I have the honor to report that I have succeeded in bringing to justice five Cayuse Indians, being all that are now supposed to be living who were concerned in the murder of Dr. Whitman, family and others. I am happy to say that our relations with the Cayuse, as also all other tribes, with the exception of the Shasta or Rogue River Indians, are of the most friendly character. I shall set out this day for Rogue River, for the purpose of placing our relations with these Indians upon a proper and friendly footing.
In sending on my resignation, I have given myself until the 18th day of June, in which time I hope to accomplish this most desirable arrangement.
I have the honor to be, sir,To the Hon. Secretary of War.
Your obedient servant,
He did not conclude the treaty with these Indians until the middle of July, but expected no pay for his services beyond June 18, 1849.
His successor (Major Gaines) did not reach Oregon until August, 1850, although he was commissioned October 2, 1849, and drew pay from that date. Governor Lane on the day of the date of the foregoing letter started for the country of the Rogue River Indians. He entered their country with twelve or fifteen men. These Indians had fiercely spurned all advances from the whites, and rejected all attempts at conciliation. With some difficulty he succeeded in assembling them, to the number of four or five hundred warriors, for a "talk." During the "talk," one of his attendants recognized two horses which had been stolen from himself, in possession of the Indians, and two pistols, then in the belts of two chiefs. The Governor demanded restitution of the property, telling the Indians they could not better evince their willingness to treat and preserve peace with the whites than by restoring stolen property. The head chief ordered restitution, but the possessors demurred. The Governor stepped forward, took one of the stolen pistols from the Indian's belt and returned it to the owner, and was about to take the other pistol, when the Indian having it in possession presented his gun and raised the war whoop. Instantly four or five hundred guns and arrows were presented at the small party of whites. A single false step would have led to bloodshed then and after. But Lane's coolness and promptness was equal to the emergency. He has been heard to say that small as was his party, with their superiority of weapons they might have made a successful defense. But he had gone there to make a treaty of peace, not to have a fight. Promptly stepping to the side of the principal chief, pistol in hand, he told him if a drop of blood of any of the whites was shed, it should be avenged by the destruction of his entire tribe. This had the desired effect. The chief told his warriors to cease their hostile demonstrations, and retire across the river. The Governor then stepped among the foremost, took their arrows from their bows and returned them to the quivers, or uncocked their guns, and knocked the priming from the pans.
The emeute thus quieted, the Indians retired over the river, while the Governor kept the great chief with him all night. In a few days afterwards the tribe was again congregated. After a "big talk," a treaty of peace was concluded, and presents distributed. The Governor left with them strips of paper, stating that they were at peace with the whites, and requesting that no man should do them injury. These strips were signed with his name, and the Indians for a long while after, when they approached a white man, would hold out the paper and say, "Joe Lane! Joe Lane!" the only words of English they had learned.
On the Governor's return, the old chief insisted on his taking with him his son (a youth of ten years) as a hostage. Since this treaty the head chief has taken the name of "Joe." He was previously known as Militecuitan (Horse at home). The tribe is constantly asking for Joe Lane, and cannot be made to understand why he is no longer "Big Chief."
"Biography of Gen. Lane," Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, July 17, 1852, page 1
SCHR. SAMUEL ROBERTS.--The Samuel Roberts, which sailed hence on Friday last for Klamath River, was forced to put back on Saturday night last, in consequence of a leak.
Alta California, San Francisco, July 13, 1850, page 7
News from the Gold Mines.
Persons have come in from the Rogue River country who are confident that gold may be found there in considerable quantities, though the waters were still too high to "prospect" satisfactorily. Gold, however, was found. Gov. Lane, not finding things to suit him on Rogue River, after negotiating a treaty of peace with the Rogue River Indians had gone on to Trinity, on his way to California.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, July 25, 1850, page 2
A DISCOVERY!--Capt. Ottinger, on the Laura Virginia, has made a trip to the mouth of Rogue River. This schooner was the first vessel that ever entered the mouth of that river. He was surprised to find there an English party, who had squatted upon both banks of the stream, and the islands in the river--which they very modestly claimed as their property. One of the party of the Laura Virginia, regarding the advantages and appearance of the country, found a spot not claimed, and which the English supposed was a swamp, and at once struck down his preemption stakes. Gold has been found on the upper branches of this river, and may be found down to its mouth.
Rogue River is in Oregon. The country for agriculture is good in many places, though by no means as valuable as the Umpqua Valley. The Indian population is considerable in its neighborhood. At the last dates from Oregon, Gov. Lane had gone to make a treaty with them.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 5, 1850, page 2
By arrival of steamer Carolina three days from Astoria, and four days from Fort Vancouver, we have advices from Oregon. We learn that Gov. Lane and party, whose departure to Rogue River has been previously announced, had been unsuccessful in his explorations for gold in that region, and had proceeded to the Umpqua.
"Oregon News," Sacramento Transcript, August 9, 1850, page 2
Gen. Lane, the Governor of Oregon, had left the city on the 1st of June with seventy-five Klickitat Indians and a few regulars for Rogue River, on an exploring expedition, and also for the purpose of making a treaty with the Rogue River Indians, who have lately been committing robberies and depredations on the emigrants. Gen. Lane's party had proceeded as far as the South Fork of the Umpqua River, where gold dust was discovered in quantities on the bars of the river. Here the party stopped and went to mining. As they had but few utensils, however, they only averaged about ten dollars per day. Great excitement prevailed in Oregon in regard to the flattering rumors of the existence of great quantities of gold in the Spokane country, north of the Columbia, which had been confirmed. Great quantities had left for the mines.
"From Oregon," Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 21, 1850, page 2
Our last accounts from Oregon represent those who have returned from the gold diggings on Rogue River well satisfied with the result of their labors.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, August 21, 1850, page 3
We have received cheering intelligence from the country lying along our southern border, and particularly from the valley of the Umpqua. We have no doubt but that the way is now opened for the speedy settlement of that portion of our Territory. The question so long agitated as to the practicability of entering the Umpqua from the ocean has been at length satisfactorily answered. On the fourth day of August, the schooner Samuel Roberts passed the bar and anchored in a very beautiful and secure harbor. The "holdings" are said to be excellent. The persons connected with this exploration made a pretty thorough examination of the localities at the entrance to the Umpqua. They found eighteen feet water on the bar at half tide.
The Samuel Roberts was out in search of the mouth of the Klamath, but not finding it, she entered the Umpqua. She had on board some thirty passengers. The gentlemen having the principal control of the enterprise are said to be greatly pleased with the country on which they have thus fallen, and having chalked out three town sites and marked off sundry land claims, have returned or sent to California for their families.
The Umpqua is represented as two miles wide at its mouth, and as gradually narrowing for a distance of thirty miles, where at the head of navigation it is some four hundred yards wide. The S. Roberts sailed up to the head of navigation in six hours. This portion of the river rests quietly in a deep kanyon, being enclosed on both sides by high and precipitous ledges of rocks.
The party engaged in the enterprise have selected a town site on the south side of the river at its mouth, another at the head of navigation, and another where the California road crosses North Umpqua. From the mouth of the river to the head of navigation the country is valuable principally for its fisheries, for its facilities for the lumbering business and for the sandstone which abounds in that region, and is said to be excellent for building purposes. At the head of navigation, the valley commences to spread out and widens gradually until it is extended to those beautiful plains so much admired as an agricultural and grazing country. We doubt not that the Samuel Roberts will soon be followed by other vessels and other immigrants, and our southern border will soon abound with a prosperous and happy population.
Rogue River is also still attracting some attention on account of its probable golden treasures. Another large party have started for that river this week, with the hope of doing better than working here for $10 per day. Whether these enterprising adventurers succeed, or not, the character and qualities of the country will be brought into notice, and good will result. All the signs of the times indicate the speedy settlement of the southern part of Oregon.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 5, 1850, page 2
The following extract is from a letter written by Mr. Jesse Applegate to a friend in this city.
Yoncalla, Umpqua,Dear Sir:
August 9, 1850.
It affords me much pleasure to inform you that a vessel, the Sam'l. Roberts, from San Francisco, lies in the Umpqua River at Mr. Scott's town. She reports the Umpqua to be a fine harbor, equaling the highest expectations formed of it. She also reports a fine entrance, half a mile wide, with three fathoms of water at half tide and plenty of water at any stage of tide, from the mouth to within ten miles of Scott's Point. The obstruction at that place is caused by a group of islands in the river, which she passed through with 12 feet water.
Col. Winchester, the supercargo, is at the head of a very wealthy company, and is now exploring the river above the fort, with 27 men. . . .
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 12, 1850, page 3
EUREKA.--WE HAVE FOUND IT.
The undersigned take this opportunity to invite public attention to the newly discovered town site now being laid off in town lots. It is delightfully located, thirty miles from the mouth of the river, at the head of ship navigation. The "Samuel Roberts" recently entered the mouth of the river, sailed up to this point and found eighteen feet the lowest water at low tide, also a safe harbor and good anchorage. The Umpqua Valley, a fine fertile country (now rapidly filling up), can be reached from this point with a good road, in about 20 or 30 miles. The proprietors are desirous of interesting men of enterprise and capital, and are prepared to dispose of lots on easy terms. Let those who doubt come and see.
SLOANE, FREDERICK & Co.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 12, 1850, page 3
THE NEW DEPOT
will offer for sale at Scott's ville, at the head of tidewater on the Umpqua River, an assortment of Dry Goods, Groceries, Provisions, Wagons, Harness, Lumber, Mill Irons &c., &c. on the first of October next.
WINCHESTER, PAINE & Co.Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 12, 1850, page 3
The Rogue River Indians are still hostile. Robert Allison, with a company from California, were robbed by them on Rogue River of all their horses, provisions, money and gold. They were compelled to come home from thence on foot, sick, shoeless and almost naked. The Indians surprised them while in their beds.
Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, September 14, 1850, page 3
THE UMPQUA.--This hitherto unknown region is waking up. A settlement is fast growing up, and business houses are being built to accommodate the demands of trade. The advertisement of Sloan, Frederick & Co. makes known more fully what they are prepared to do in this new district. To it we invite attention.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 19, 1850, page 2
Messrs. Scott, Sloan and Butler have gone to the mouth of the Umpqua to meet the U.S. Exploring Officer and search for an entrance to the river. I will take the liberty, having passed several times through the Willamette Valley this season, to make a few observations representing the country and climate of the different sections. I passed up and down immediately before and during the time of harvest. With respect to the country generally, I think the people have reason to be grateful, contented and happy. From the Umpqua Valley to the lower extremity the labors of the husbandman are well rewarded, while the influence of a genial climate conveys salubrity and affords the prospect of health and longevity of its inhabitants. . . .
The new road to the Umpqua promises to render easy the hitherto difficult passage of the Calapooya Mountains. Should the present expedition to the mouth of the Umpqua be successful in surveying an entrance to the bay or river, it will readily be seen that the Umpqua presents inducements to settlers, situated as it is at the opening gateway of the golden regions, with a climate eminently mild and highly salubrious, numbering among its productions the grape vine and the native plum, a large proportion of which is arable and well suited to grazing. It certainly appears to possess great and important advantages for the acquisition of wealth and the production of the means of subsistence. The spontaneous growth of the plum is so far as I have learned limited to this portion of Oregon, including the country lying on the Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath rivers.
This region of country is almost entirely free from those disturbing atmospheric phenomena which prevail in other lands: the deep thunder of those elemental electrical influences, with which the atmosphere of other lands is charged, seems emboweled in the strange hills and hidden caverns of our earth.
W. N. Goodell, letter of August 8, Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, September 19, 1850, page 2
The expedition to the Klamath River, which sailed hence on the 6th ult., had been spoken by the propeller Massachusetts, at the mouth of the Umpqua River. They were intending to proceed up what has been known as Rogue's River, as far as possible, and we shall, no doubt, very soon be in possession of much additional information in regard to a section of country about which but little has been known.
"Latest News from California," Daily Crescent, New Orleans, September 24, 1850, page 2
We have been informed by Mr. Samuel Culver and Lieut. Wood, who reached the city a few days since, that they have been for the past two weeks viewing and taking observations of the country between Astoria and the Tualatin Plains, with the view of ascertaining the practicability of opening a road from the former place to the foot of the latter.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 3, 1850, page 2
The expedition which sailed in July last to the Klamath and Umpqua rivers has been far more successful than was generally anticipated. Many new discoveries were made, and information gained in regard to a region of which but little has heretofore been known, and which cannot fail of being of much practical use in the future. The company entered preemption claims, marked out sites for settlement, and left a part of their number to occupy in their absence, and prepare for a return of a much larger force. They discovered several rich placers of gold, some of the ore from which has been exhibited to us. The company express their firm conviction that the south fork of Umpqua and Rogue's rivers are as rich in gold as any rivers in California.
"Matters on the Pacific Side," Southern Press, Washington, D.C., October 21, 1850, page 3
INTERESTING LETTER FROM OREGON.
Umpqua River, Oregon.A. E. Burr, Esq.: Dear Sir:--Little did I imagine when I was an inhabitant of the good city of Hartford that fate would make me such a wanderer. And as I look up and behold my present position, shut in on all sides by the rough and craggy mountains of Oregon, in a place now for the first time navigated by any save the frail canoe of the Indian, I am almost inclined to question my identity.
I make bold to presume that some account of this place will be interesting to you, as something new under the sun.
The information regarding the territory lying between the Columbia River and San Francisco has been very imperfect.
Navigators have surveyed the coast from on shipboard, marking here and there the rivers observed on entering the ocean, and travelers have passed from one place to another by an inland route at a distance of from one to two hundred miles from the coast. Lieut. Wilkes sent a detachment by the last-mentioned route, but they were unable to make any satisfactory discoveries owing to the hostility of the Indians. On their route they crossed several rivers and attempted to give their situation and course as you will find by referring to his map.
The principal rivers crossed by the party were the Umpqua and the Klamath. The Klamath is put down on Wilkes' map as a large river rising in the Klamath Lake and taking a northwesterly course, emptying into the sea in about Lat. 42º 30'.
In the latter part of the last year gold was found on the Trinity, or Smith's River, and great numbers of miners flocked thither by overland routes. Last spring several expeditions were set on foot for the purpose of discovering the mouth of the Trinity; the discovery was effected after much difficulty. Several of the vessels returned, being unable to find it. There are now regular lines of vessels plying between San Francisco and the Trinity River.
The sch. Patapsico while in search of the Trinity found the mouth of a river in Lat. 42º 26', into which they entered, but the Indians appearing hostile they left the next day and returned to San Francisco. This river was supposed to be the Klamath, and a company was raised after some delay for the purpose of making further explorations. The company chartered the sch. Sam'l. Roberts for the expedition, and thus I found myself embarked on an enterprise which though perilous in its nature was likely to become of interest and adventure.
We sailed from San Francisco the 8th July. Our party consisted of 34 all told. C. T. Eigenbrodt, R. W. Laritt, W. C. Evans, P. Flanagan, D. H. H. Beals, E. Fletcher, T. T. Tierney, W. E. Broadbent, A. W. Pierce, W. Helbert, Capt. Rufus Coffin, W. Stevens, C. T. Ward, N. Scholfield, Chas. McDowall, Chas. Lienfielder, A. A. Brinsmade, Dr. E. R. Fiske, A. Davis, R. S. Philpot, J. E. Farrill, Dr. Drew, C. T. Hopkins, H. Winchester, H. J. Paine and 9 connected with the vessel. All armed and equipped to carry the blessings of civilization to the renowned and warlike Indians of the Klamath.
We had on board the 5th vol. of Wilkes' report, which represents these Indians as the most warlike of any of the Oregon tribes, and we all read the account with no pleasant forebodings as to our own fate should we be so unfortunate as to fall into their power.
We beat up against the stormy N.W. wind which prevails on this coast, and on Sunday the 21st July we made Cape Blanco, which is a few miles to the windward of the place.
The coast here we found to be very rocky. Large detached masses of rock were to be seen extending some miles out to sea, presenting no very favorable appearance to the eye of the navigator. Many of the rocks were pierced with singular arches and caverns made by the action of the sea. We ran down between the rocks until we were opposite to the river [the Rogue River]. The Indians had built a large fire on the beach, and were to be seen running to and fro in considerable numbers. Mr. Mackie, the mate, was sent in a whaleboat with 5 men to make what observations he could as to the tide. The tide and wind set the boat to leeward of the channel, and suddenly they were drawn within the influence of the breakers, and with consternation we witnessed them overwhelmed in the raging surf. Immediately another boat was lowered, and brave hearts volunteered to go to the rescue of their comrades, but they soon returned unsuccessful. At this junction our pilot, Capt. Rufus Coffin of New Bedford, proposed to run the schooner in, and so in we went, dashing through the breakers and gliding in to a smooth anchorage.
Our hearts thrilled with joy as we saw our men approaching in the Indians' canoes, but alas! they were not all there. Two of our number had found a watery grave, and the surging billows still sweep over their lifeless remains. The survivors came aboard much exhausted, cold and shivering. The Indians had drawn them from the surf when they were unable to help themselves and immediately stripped them of their clothing, but seeing their cold condition had given them back a part of what they took.
The sides of the vessel were immediately lined with naked savages, their faces painted red and black in a hideous manner. We did not permit any of them to come aboard. They kept up an incessant clamor for clothing and beads, and we opened quite a trade with them for otter and fox skins. We also bought great numbers of their bows and arrows, which are very nicely made. They seemed ready to dispose of everything they had for clothing, and by the time we left we had stripped them of all their ornaments, which we took away as mementos of the place. They manifested a most pertinacious disposition to steal everything they could lay hold of. I even detected them in trying to make off with the belaying pins from the schooner's rail. Some tried to pick off the copper from her bottom.
They succeeded in taking from me a great spyglass, which I was unable to recover.
These Indians belong to the Shasta tribe and have a very bad reputation.
The place we were in presented a very picturesque appearance, being surrounded by thickly wooded mountains. The day after our arrival parties were sent out for making surveys of the river and harbor. Our engineers, Messrs. Scholfield and Laritt, performed the task in a very satisfactory manner.
The party that went up the river ascended about 20 miles. They found the river to be navigable for vessels for only two or three miles. We became satisfied that this could not be the Klamath River crossed by Wilkes, as it was not large enough to answer the description. The Indians brought in the body of one of the drowned men, and we gave him a Christian burial not far from the scene of his disaster, and erected a cross on the spot. The Indians stood mute spectators of the solemn ceremony. The body of the other man we could not find, although diligent search was made. He was a Swede by birth and went by the name of Charles Brown.
Exploring parties were sent out along the coast southward and northward for twenty or thirty miles each way. To the south the country was very rough and perfectly worthless. The party who went north, however, reported having passed through some very good country, but the Indians in that direction assumed a very hostile attitude, and our party deemed it prudent to make good their retreat to the schooner. The Indians drew themselves up in martial order across the trail, with their arrows on their bows. It was thought that if the party had showed any signs of fear that they would have commenced an attack. But the Indians here very seldom venture an attack upon any armed body of whites, even when the disparity of numbers is great.
The conclusions drawn from our explorations were that this river could not be the Klamath, it being too small, and we traced it far enough up to be satisfied that it took its rise in the Cascade Range and did not flow through those mountains as laid down on the chart.
The probability is that the Klamath takes a more southerly direction and flows into the Trinity River. Having become satisfied that this river did not offer much if any inducements for occupation, we were prepared to leave, and on the 31st of July, having a gentle breeze from the southward, we stood out of this inhospitable harbor, and once more found ourselves on the broad Pacific. That morning we had one of those narrow escapes which occasionally happen to the venturesome mariner. The wind failed us before we had got clear of the rocks, which extend about twenty miles out at sea in this place, and we found ourselves drifting fast onto one, which reared its head in a threatening manner from the briny gulf, and two boats were got out ahead to tow the vessel clear. The boats seemed to make but little difference with her, but fortunately a light air sprang up which soon took her clear of all danger.
While lying in this harbor, one of the Oregon steamers passed up the coast, and we ran up the Stars and Stripe and fired a gun, which she perceived and answered. Our design was now to find out whether the river Umpqua was capable of being entered by sailing vessels, and in two days we found ourselves in the latitude of that river and soon perceived what proved to be the mouth. The coast appeared to consist of a sandy beach, and it being calm we came to anchor off the mouth of the river in 12 fathoms of water. An Indian came off to the vessel, and guided by them our boat was dispatched to enter the river. They returned and reported that river as capable of being entered, with three fathoms of water on the bar, and after waiting for a commanding breeze we effected the entrance without difficulty.
The Indians here give accounts of a vessel entering the mouth of this river some twenty years since and making some repairs. With this exception, the Samuel Roberts is the first vessel which ever disturbed the tranquil waters of the Umpqua. We found here 3 men who had come down to meet the surveying schooner Ewing, which they said was contemplating making an exploration of this river. We congratulated ourselves on being ahead of them. These men had settled in the valley above, near the Hudson Bay Co.'s trading post, and were anxious to have the practicability of the river being navigable satisfactorily proved.
The Oregon folks had begun to turn their attention to the settlement of the Umpqua Valley about the time the gold was discovered in California, which served to prevent settlement till the present time. There were about fifteen claims taken up in the valley when we arrived. By referring to the map you will see how important the navigation of the Umpqua must prove in future. It will not only make the valley of the Umpqua accessible, but all the upper part of the Willamette Valley will be opened to the settler. I think the most direct communication with the whole of the Willamette Valley will be by the Umpqua River. The harbor at the mouth is very capacious, but there is hardly enough level ground for thirty miles up the river to stick in a town "edgewise." The shores of the river for that distance consist of immense ledges of sandstone rocks covered with a heavy growth of fine timber. There is plenty of water for vessels not drawing over twelve feet up to the place where we now lay. A short distance above there are rapids, which set a bound to navigation. While laying at the mouth of the river, the U.S. steamship Massachusetts was seen off the harbor. We fired a gun, and she hove to while our boat went out to her. Our men were well received on board, and had the tide been right at the time she would have entered the river, although a vessel of 700 tons. They were much gratified to hear our account of the place.
After arriving at the head of navigation, our party proceeded up the river to explore the country. I should exceed my limits were I to attempt to give an account of their adventures while on their excursion. Suffice it to say that they returned with extravagant ideas of the beauty and value of the country they had seen. All seemed to desire to make this the place of their future abode. The climate was delightful, and our travelers found no inconvenience in encamping out under the broad canopy of heaven at night. They, however, suffered some from not having a sufficient supply of provisions, and before their return were forced to live on a very short allowance.
They traveled in all about 160 miles up the river from the vessel, and satisfied themselves that gold was to be obtained, sufficient to remunerate any who chose to work for it. The sample of gold which I saw of their digging was very fine. But, in my view, the wealth of the country lies in the rich openings which invite the hand of the industrious agriculturist.
The Indians of the Umpqua are very different from those of the other river we visited, and have had much more communication with the whites.
They have most of them obtained clothing from the Hudson Bay Company, and do not have that savage appearance which the Shastas presented to us. We were at no time under any apprehension from them, and their whole demeanor seems to be perfectly friendly. We did not detect them in any acts of a thievish nature. They are of a very wandering disposition, and seldom encamp long in one place. Their lodges are generally found at the rapids, where they can take the salmon as they pass up the river. They have the peculiar habit of flattening the heads of their infants on the back and front, which gives their heads a very curious appearance. I imagine it would puzzle a phrenologist to distinguish the organs of an Umpqua Indian's brain.
Our company have made several claims, with the intention of laying out towns. Umpqua City in embryo lies at the mouth of the river, Scottsburg at the head of navigation, and Winchester farther up.
The Hudson Bay Company have a stockade fort about sixteen miles above the head of navigation, which has formerly done an extensive business in trading with the Indians for furs. The business is now of but very little account. I visited the old Frenchman who has charge of the fort, and had a very interesting conversation with him. He was very attentive, and showed me his gardens and fruit trees. He seems to live very contentedly with his Indian wife and half-breed son, but is somewhat troubled at the idea of so many people settling near him. His name is Gagnier; he is a Canadian by birth, but has spent the most of his life in the western wilds.
And now, my dear friend, what shall I do? Shall I give up the idea of returning to old Hartford, where exist so many precious associations of my youth, where yet live my friends and relatives, and where fancy has set my guiding star? Shall I relinquish these fond hopes for a life in this western wild? Thrift and independence is promised here, while if I return, a life of anxiety and toil awaits me. I cannot decide--I will banish the subject from my mind. So adieu for the present.
Hartford Weekly Times, Connecticut, November 2, 1850, page 2
A gentleman from the country above informed us a few days since that the gold fever had broken out again, and that it was likely to carry off some of the people from about Salem. It was caused by the glowing accounts given by a party that had just returned from the Klamath. Gold, they say, has been taken out in $1000 lumps, from that down to $8 lumps, that all the gold taken is found in larger lumps than the richest gold mines of California have yielded. The implacable hostility of the Indians renders it necessary to keep up a guard day and night. They represent the killing of seven men, belonging to one company.
The Indians on the Klamath and Rogue rivers have always manifested an open hostility to the whites, particularly those who stopped on the way going to or returning from California for the purpose of prospecting or digging on their lands. They represent the companies there as being too small to accomplish much, as it required the greater portion of them to form the necessary guard. They think it utter folly for companies of less than 30 persons, each going there to make money. Some persons are talking about going there to winter. We do not, by this report, wish to raise an excitement here, as the trip to the Umpqua, lately performed, has convinced the more eager that to go there for the purpose of digging gold did not pay, the opinion of many to the contrary notwithstanding.
The people here are getting somewhat used to the way reports are gotten up to catch the inexperienced and unsuspecting. There is not much doubt in the minds of those who are likely to know that gold exists in remunerating quantities upon the Klamath, but the time lost in going there and returning together with the difficulties to be encountered from Indians makes a trip there anything else than agreeable or profitable, at this season of the year especially.
We have an agricultural country superior to any on the continent. It is worth more than all the gold mines in America. The farmer here is the most independent we have ever seen. Although he labors but little, he has the wherewith to obtain anything that he may desire. A farmer can make more money from one acre of land in Oregon, when wheat is worth only 50 cents per bushel, than he can in any of the States off the same quantity of land when wheat commands $1 per bushel. The yield per acre is not only double that of the States every year, but it is a never-failing crop. For the raising of wheat, rye, barley and oats, Oregon can challenge (we might almost say the world, but our knowledge is not sufficient to warrant the expression) to a competition the the agriculturalists of the entire continent.
"Oregon Gold and Farming," Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 7, 1850, page 2
SOUTHERN OREGON.--A letter to the N.Y. Tribune, dated at Sacramento City, Sept. 15th, thus speaks of the discoveries in Southern Oregon:
The discovery of the navigable river Umpqua, in Southern Oregon, is probably the most important announcement which will be brought you by the present mail. It is singular that its mouth should not have been entered earlier, possessing, as it does, the width of a mile and four fathoms in depth at mean tide.
The sites, Umpqua City, Scottsburg and Winchester, appear to have been well chosen for towns, and must rapidly become centers for a thriving business population. To ensure this, I need only mention the inexhaustible quarries of sandstone and forests of timber, both of the best quality and situated on each side of the river, between the two former sites, no less than the large valley of cultivated land between the two latter.
With such advantages, it is plain that this portion of Oregon will soon be filled with a large population. And at the present moment it is the prevailing idea among all who do not intend to return to the States from California to seek and find a homestead. The preemption laws, as approved in that Territory--each settler securing 640 acres--will materially contribute to effect this.
Illinois State Journal, Springfield, November 11, 1850, page 2
The Oregonians have their eyes open and are moving. Says the Spectator:--
The Umpqua, that hitherto unknown region, is waking up. A settlement is fast growing up, and business houses are being built to accommodate the demands of trade. The advertisement of Sloan, Frederick & Co. makes known more fully what they are prepared to do in this new district.
Mr. Winchester, an extensive merchant and business man in San Francisco, has commenced a city in Southern Oregon, on the Umpqua, called "Winchester." He recently shipped 30 houses from San Francisco to that point. His present design is to transport from Umpqua to San Francisco an immense supply of free stone, for building purposes. It is found that the Umpqua River is easy of access--there being more water on the bar than in the southern channel at the mouth of the Columbia. Farmers and mechanics are moving to the Umpqua region.
"Intelligence from Oregon," Illinois State Journal, Springfield, November 19, 1850, page 2
The [New York] Tribune of September 26th announces the arrival of Judge O. C. Pratt. His friends here will be rejoiced to learn of his fortunate escape from the cholera, which was cutting off many all around him prior to and whilst at the Isthmus. Judge Pratt informs the Tribune that there is not gold enough in Oregon to pay emigrants for coming here--that it is confined principally to the Umpqua Valley and Rogue River. We have no inducements in the way of rich gold deposits to offer the future emigrants, but we have good soil and a healthy climate, which is more reliable, more precious than gold--yea, than fine gold.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 12, 1850, page 2
The mail route between Oregon City and the Umpqua went into operation on the 4th inst. The communication is semi-monthly. . . .
The Bostonian, recently from this port, was wrecked in entering the Umpqua River; vessel and cargo are said to be a total loss--no lives lost.
"Latest from Oregon," Illinois Daily Journal, Springfield, December 19, 1850, page 2
AN EXPLORING EXPEDITION IN 1850.Sitting in the library, close to the fire in the open grate, leaning back in my easy chair, I hear the rain on the roof overhead; once in a while a sudden gust of wind makes the window sash rattle. Half-conscious of my surroundings, I see the little wisp of smoke slowly curl and float upward from my cigar, while my mind wanders through the past and the days of youth spent in California. Memory brings the pictures of old scenes distinctly, one after the other, as if of the present, rather than the past.
With the recollection of the Winchester expedition to Oregon came the sudden thought that I had never read any mention of it, and the idea that the duty had fallen on me to write a few lines in record of an event no doubt long ago forgotten. Perhaps I may be the last survivor left to tell the adventure.
A few days after my arrival in San Francisco from the Deer Creek diggings, I received instructions to accept a proxy and join a company under the command of Colonel Hiram Winchester, and to embark on board the schooner I. M. Roberts [it was the Samuel Roberts] bound on an exploring expedition to the Rogue and Umpqua rivers. The object of this expedition was speculative. It was gotten up by company shareholders for mining, trading and settlement purposes. The history of its formation I knew but little about, and merely followed my written orders to investigate, make myself familiar with the country and locations, to report generally, particularly as to the country's future prospects, and so forth.
The schooner sailed with a favorable wind and tide, almost at the moment I mounted her deck. I had a letter recommending me to the Colonel, but out of all the promiscuous crowd on board I recognized no familiar face, nor found anyone I had ever heard of. The time spent with this expedition was short, but a few weeks, and since the dissolving of the company on board I have never met one of the members again. So it is no wonder that their names are lost to me beyond recall. I have a distinct recollection only of a short, thickset pilot, who, I think, was named Mr. Mackey, or "Mac" for short. [A letter printed by the Hartford, Connecticut Weekly Times on November 2, 1850--transcribed above--reports the pilot as Captain Rufus Coffin and a "Mr. Mackie" as the mate.]
Once out of the harbor, with a spanking breeze, it was suddenly reported that we had sprung a leak, and we put back to Sausalito, where within a few hours the proper repairs were made, and we again put to sea. After an average passage, at last we arrived off the entrance of Rogue River.
The exact place of this entrance was a matter of conjecture, owing to the constant shifting of the channel and the sand bars. There were no pilots familiar with the small coast ports in those days. This was the first time that I had ever seen a harbor's mouth choked by shifting sand hills under water. I looked in vain to see some mark that should show the ship's proper course through the unknown channel.
The schooner was laid to, for the appearance ahead was not considered inviting. Orders were given to lower and man the boats, the crews received their instructions, the oars fell with splashes into the water, and shoving off, the boats rapidly left us, to make their observations along the shore, and to pick out a safe channel for our little vessel to effect her entrance into port.
One of the boats was taken too close to a sandy point on the southerly side of the channel, which showed to the eye a fair beach and landing. The surf ran high with a strong undercurrent. This--perhaps with some awkwardness of the crew--caused the boat to upset, pitching all hands into the water. All but one of the crew reached the shore in safety, the boat was lost with the oars. As this sandy point had no name on the chart, it was christened Mariner's Point.
The remaining boats' crews, finding they could be of no assistance to the shipwrecked crew, returned to the schooner and reported that our men on the point had been seen, and that they were naked, surrounded by Indians.
The boats were hauled up, and a hasty consultation was had. It was agreed to take the chances and make for the harbor at once, and to land a force for a rescue.
The schooner was paid off, took the wind, and gradually forged ahead. Soon we were moving along with a good seven-knot breeze, and with fair prospects for making the harbor. But unaccountably the mainsail came down by the run; the lifts had parted. This caused the vessel to drift southward with wind and tide, so that when the damages were repaired it was found necessary to tack ship several times and beat up against the wind before recovering our former position. Had we here undertaken to cross the bar, as was the first intention, no doubt with the low tide we should have struck, and the vessel would have been lost with all hands on board. This we found out afterwards.
As we entered the sullen groundswell we could feel its momentum, its rise and fall. At this point our pilot took his place at the bows, a line of men was stationed at intervals the length of the deck, to pass the orders aft to the helmsman. Every preparation was made to keep the water that might be thrown upon deck from penetrating below.
As we neared the channel the swell was preceded by long lines of billows, one after the other, tipped with white crests. Little by little we glided on into the long rolling seas, which swept past us with great rapidity, increasing in size and force as we neared the shore. Our little craft was lifted up and borne onward with a rush, the sea striking our sides and passing on with a swashy, sweeping sound, leaving showers of spray that often fell upon the deck like rain. Left behind the roller, our hull would sink down and down, until nothing but the sea embankments could be seen ahead or astern, then came the struggle in the trough, the wind just filling the sails. Each roller was larger than its predecessor, and with renewed impetus carried the helpless schooner onward, so that at times it seemed as if it would be overwhelmed by the towering wave. When closer, the waters which were but a few feet above the sandy bar or bottom would rise and bear us up, lifting bow and stern with an up-and-down, seesaw motion, and with a strength that shook the frail bark's hull from bow to stern. The stern would lower, the bow dropping after, and once upon an even keel the craft would stagger and tremble, amidst the deafening roar of turbulent billows. The voice of the pilot was occasionally heard, as he shouted out at the top of his voice, "Port!" or " Starboard!" his orders repeated along the line aft.
At last one sea, greater than all the rest, came rushing onwards, its crest bent over in advance, as if in eager haste to embrace and engulf all that came in its way. It broke against the schooner's stern, dashed over our deck, seized the hull in its grasp, and we were thrust, as it were, into the smooth waters of the river, where the wind, filling our sails, soon bore us to the anchorage grounds. The distant heavy thuds and roaring sounds of the rolling billows, crossing the bar and beating the beach, were in deep contrast with the silence and calm in the bay.
No sooner were we at anchor than the boats were lowered, and an armed force sent to rescue the men at "Mariner's Point." Happily, this was peacefully done; the Indians gave up the men and let them take their clothes [back]. A few trifling things were stolen, but no account was taken of them.
One of the rescued men affirmed seriously that all their lives had been saved through Freemasonry, that he had given the sign of the order, which was recognized and answered. The conduct of the Indians changed immediately, and they were more friendly. A companion said that he did not observe any change until there was a certainty of the schooner entering the bay. He believed for his part that if we had remained at sea all hands on shore would have been killed, and this seemed to be the prevailing opinion.
The land on the southerly side of the river was explored for some distance, and an expedition in the boats was sent up the river. In many instances it was found necessary to drag the boats over the shoals.
The more the party advanced, the greater grew the number of Indians on the river banks. They evidently disliked the proceedings, but came to no open hostilities. Finding nothing especially interesting or worthy of further attention, the return movement was made. A memento of the trip was left chiseled on the face of a rock--the initials of the schooner and the date.
The Indian village, which was situated on a hill on the northern bank, was respected by our party, in accordance with orders from Colonel Winchester, as the Indians made signs that they could dispense with our company. In the morning and at evening we could see men, women and children bathing in the river; they seemed greatly to enjoy it, and we could see that they were good swimmers.
At times canoes came alongside, and the inmates were sometimes admitted on deck, but this was discontinued because of their thieving propensities. Nothing was found by which a trade could be picked up with them. Their visits at last became troublesome, and they began to get bold. With every opportunity, they would try to steal the copper sheathing by breaking off strips and withdrawing nails. At last they were forbidden to come alongside, and a guard was stationed on deck.
At one time several canoes were seen collected together, the inmates gesticulating and in earnest conversation. After a while they paddled to our anchor chain, and with an all together tried to lift up our anchor. It seemed to be a mystery to them why they could not do it.
Early one morning a large number of canoes, filled with more than a usual number of Indians, was discovered dropping down the river from above us. This raised suspicion of their intentions, and when they reached a short distance from our bows a blank cartridge was fired off from our cannon. The echo ran from hill to hill, and was heard repeated for a long distance far away. When the smoke cleared up the canoes appeared perfectly empty--not a man to be seen. As they passed or floated by us, we soon discovered the stratagem. The Indians had jumped overboard and were on the off side, with their heads just above water and supported by one hand on the edge of the canoe. Once they considered themselves out of danger, they scrambled on board and paddled swiftly for shore.
Our next movement was a march along the riverbank on the northerly side. A strong party, well armed, was landed, under instructions to take observations of the country, but to avoid trouble with the inhabitants. At the last moment we were told that if three cannon shots were fired off it would be a signal of danger, and an order for our immediate return.
At the beginning of our march but few Indians were seen. I cannot say that I felt very safe in prosecuting this journey, for looking at the company, although I felt they were brave men, I saw they lacked a soldier's discipline and needed experience. They were a careless set, with a leader who knew nothing of Indian fighting. I doubted if they had ever seen a "copper-color" before entering the river. With a sudden attack upon us, the confusion would have been great, and not knowing what to do or how to act, they could have been easily overcome. They marched along, keeping up a chattering all the time, in a confused body.
Beyond us, several miles ahead, could be seen a gathering of the redskins. There were no squaws observed with them, but all had arms, some bows and arrows, with quivers behind their backs. The nearer we approached them, the more imposing was their appearance, yet they made no demonstrations, either of hostility or friendship. Once close to a smaller group, who were in the advance of the main body, a young buck attempted to grab a musket from a careless fellow near by him, but was thwarted in the attempt. Affairs began to look bad. The Indians showed a growing insolence, and to make matters more critical at the moment, we heard the gun's reports from on board the schooner.
Some one sang out, "Keep cool, boys!" At the same time our men came together in closer order, and became more watchful. Finally, without any signs of hurry, our retrograde march was taken up. At one moment, by the looks and actions of the Indians, most of whom were young men, I thought we were in for a fight. Some of them appeared to desire it, and seemed to urge on others, who held back. We were followed on our way, but admonished our attendants to keep away from too close proximity to our persons. Happily, we arrived at the landing without mishap.
We found the boats ready for us a little way off shore, and the crews put us on our guard. They reported that an attempt had been made to capture a boat, and in the melee an oar had been taken on shore and carried away. When we were all aboard the "young chucks" took hold of the gunwales and tried to pull us ashore, but a few blows from the butts of the muskets warmed their fingers and made them let go their hold, and soon after we were on board ship, clamoring for our supper.
I have often heard since that at the time we were in Rogue River the Indians were friendly to all whites, and could be trusted. This I do not believe, for very satisfactory evidence was shown on their part of a hostile feeling against us, and a desire to act treacherously in case we pressed up the river to the interior.
Having met with nothing but disappointment to this time, and seeing nothing to be gained by a longer stay, with the first favorable wind and tide we left these rouge-colored waters of the river, crossed the bar, and stood for Umpqua.
The hours at sea on board the I. M. Roberts [sic] were mostly spent by the men in smoking, in telling yarns--or chestnuts disguised--and in jokes. Of all the crowd there was but one that had the miner's skill and imagination for an original story. I give you one of his, the only one I have left amongst my relics:
"I was snowbound, with seven others, in the mountains. We slept in the hollow of an old redwood tree. It was five hundred feet high by our calculations, without a limb lower down than one hundred feet from the ground. We were all very comfortable, and slept as soundly as if in a hotel. A coyote stole my pipe and tobacco from under my head, without waking me up.
"The next afternoon I met the animal perched up, standing on a stump, with my tobacco pouch slung round his neck, the pipe filled, and in his mouth between his teeth. He was trying to strike a match to light it with. Gentlemen, this 'ere is the identical pipe I took from him. Pass round the lucifers, will yer, Sam."
We had a doctor on board, a tall, thin man, with sandy hair and side whiskers. He had pretensions as a musical genius, based on very slight foundations. Everyone became familiar with his favorite song, which was repeated regularly every night, with a chorus that resulted in more noise than harmony. I quote one stanza:
O, this life is full of strife.Our pilot, with an extra vigor, expanded his lungs, and in trombone notes, mixed with the sound of a penny whistle, generally followed the doctor, and always ended with, "Now, boys! Chorus with a vim!"
'Tis a bubble and a dream,
Man is but a jolly boat
That's floating down the stream,
And pleasure is the waterman
That floats you down the tide,
The passengers smiling in joy,
While sorrow sits beside.
Now this fine old gentleman sat,With the order to "douse the glim,'' the finishing song was enthusiastically begun, and seemed as if it would never end:
On the top of his head was a wig,
On the top of his wig was a hat,
Noah had three sons--Shem, Ham and Japheth,"Sweet Home" and "Auld Lang Syne" invariably ended in disaster, and were at last abandoned.
Shem was hanged, and Ham was drowned,
Japheth was lost and never was found,
So that was the end of three sons--Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Colonel Winchester was a very quiet, unassuming man. He never cared to join the festivities in the cabin, dimly lighted, with its atmosphere filled with the scent of tobacco and whisky. He was always an observant spectator on board. I heard of him many years ago, long after these events, as living in Sonoma County. I have regretted many times that I did not call upon him when I had it in my power. I presume it is too late now.
We made the offing of the Umpqua in the morning, but from the want of wind, and its being low tide, an entrance to the bay was not effected through the southern channel until nearly noontime. We crossed the bar without difficulty, and anchors were let go on the southerly side of Umpqua Bay, under the shelter of the high hills behind the point, and here it was the seaport town of Umpqua was located in prospective, and noted on a map.
On the following day our party were all disembarked in the boats and were landed some miles up the river, on the north bank. Our arms and munitions were handed us, and we took leave of the boats' crews, who returned to the schooner. Close to the place of landing was located "Scottsburg," named after General Scott, and we laid out the site afterwards of "Roseburg," named after a certain lady. [Roseburg was named after Aaron Rose.]
We started on a foot march along the river bank, and then left it to cross over plains and mountains, some of them covered with trees, and many showing nothing but the dryness of the season. Not a sign of civilization met our gaze as we followed a trail; the springs and rivulets were dried up, and with the heat we suffered somewhat from thirst. We advanced to the cascades and the junction of Elk and Umpqua rivers, crossing the Elk by wading through very shallow water, and well tired out, we pitched camp under the limbs of a large tree in front of a stockade on the opposite side of the river, and here was marked upon the map the site for the future town of Elkton.
The old stockade fort had been built many years before, by the Hudson Bay Company. It was famous in former times for its trade with the Indians, and here lived for many seasons a Frenchman with his Indian wife and children, enduring all kinds of hardships for his masters, nearly alone, and not infrequently at the risk of his life. Many times have I listened in wonder to his adventures, as recounted by himself. I could not help feeling pity for the man who had, as it were, thrown away a lifetime in this wild, picturesque place. Something more than common must have induced him to seek solitude and a half savage life, to withdraw himself so completely from the civilized world, to forget, to be forgotten, to pass away with time as a shadow. There was something miserable in his appearance, something sad yet attractive; it was like looking upon some new specimen of man. The only discoverable bond between him and the outside world was the well-filled shelves of old-fashioned bound books, with the last six months' newspapers that had come to hand.
Of late, it is true, this odd character, usually so uncommunicative, had met more frequently the white settler, on his way to locate a new home, but with every new footstep passing the fort, and with every new path over the hillside, disappeared his friend, the red man, his trade, and his occupations. When once the blacksmith's hammer should be heard, and the land around him be plowed up to give forth an abundance, where then would this old man, with his squaw and half-breeds, turn for consolation? His dreams would be filled with thoughts of the Indian race and barters for skins; it would be all that would be left him. New thoughts and habits would press upon him, in which he could not participate with pleasure, and often have I asked myself, what was the future of this man. In vain I've sought an answer.
Umpqua Fort was built of logs set in the ground, and well bolted together. Inside the enclosure was the agency dwelling, a store house, and several small buildings. Around them was an open space, between them and the outer defense. The fort was prettily situated, a short distance from the riverbank, and away from close quarters of the hills, so that an enemy approaching could be seen, particularly as a space had been cleared on all sides. Looking up stream for a long distance was seen the bend of the river, where it disappeared from view. Its banks were at intervals covered with large trees and underbrush; beyond the flat and grazing lands were the ranges of mountains covered with fir trees. In front of the fort, on the opposite side of the river, a sloping hill gradually rose; the peak and outlines were made clear against the background of blue sky. To the left a gap gave token of the location of the Elk River and the pretty valleys beyond. To mark the two forks of the river were the rapids, the noise of whose turbulent waters passing over the rock obstructions could be heard plainly at the fort.
Down this swift and dangerous current the Indian was wont at one time to show his skill in handling his paddles and guiding his canoe. This required no little dexterity, for the passages were narrow, and contained many submerged rocks. Few white men ever dared alone the perils of the trip, which was so easily managed by the Indian.
Breaking camp, we once more started on our travels, this time up the Elk River. We were told that we need feel no apprehensions regarding the Indians, and on our road not a living being was met with, neither did we see any habitations until we first sighted the Applegates' possessions.
Upon reaching the log cabin of Charles Applegate our party was divided, it falling to my lot to be quartered with Jesse. Both of the brothers were very kind and hospitable. During my visits to them, I was shown a large pile of heavily grained wheat, gathered from the last year's crop. The yield had been large, but unprofitable. The distance to a market was too great to pay for hauling, at the price offered for it.
I met Jesse several years afterwards, about the year 1872, at Hayward, Alameda County. He was in company with Surveyor-General I. T. Stratton, and as they drove up to my office door and met me, Mr. Applegate said at once, and offhand, "I have met you before--let me think a moment." Finally he recollected that I had met him at his own house, and had given him a newspaper, the first he had received for months. My name he could not remember, so Mr. Stratton introduced us to each other.
Leaving the Applegate farm behind us, we traveled over and about the country for several days, occasionally striking some settler's log cabin. On the way to the Umpqua, high up, we located the to-be "city of Winchester," and "Washington" was dotted down on the map as well. A great deal of curiosity was evinced by every stranger we met to know the news from California. When told, they seemed scarcely able to realize the true facts.
A return down the river was made to Fort Umpqua. We bade adieu to the Frenchman, his wife and the half-breeds, retraced our steps along the riverbanks to our boats, and embarked to join once more the schooner. The anchor was lifted, and with all sail set we crossed the bar, starting southward on our course with a fair wind.
Outside the Golden Gate we were detained by a calm, but after a long delay we took an afternoon breeze and came safely to anchor in San Francisco Bay. The expedition was ended; men scrambled over the sides, to separate on shore and to scatter, who knows where?
Like many other speculations, this one did not prove a success financially, and probably a few months later on these explorers had forgotten the trip in the excitement of new enterprises. For my own part, I have seldom thought of the expedition since, and my attention was called to the subject through being a passenger on board the steamer Eastern Oregon, hailing from Yaquina Bay. This was in the year 1887.
Upon inquiry, I found this bay was situated in the exact spot of the former Umpqua Bay, at the entrance of Umpqua River. C.T.W. [C. T. Ward]
Overland Monthly, May 1891, pages 475-482
In the early Californian days, when the government was still sufficiently ignorant of the topography and geography of the Coast to be hoodwinked by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company into an agreement to allow the Oregon mails to be landed "at the mouth of the Klamath River," a San Francisco company, consisting of seventy persons, inspired with the idea that the founding of a city at the entrance of a stream which, while it was to become the entrepot of Oregon, also, no doubt, "rolled down its golden sands" in mines of wealth, would be an enterprise worthy of the argonauts, determined to carry it into execution.
All that was then known of the mouth of the Klamath River was the information obtained from the report of John C. Fremont, who placed it in Oregon, although it had never been seen by him, nor by any modern navigators. The glory of discovery, therefore, awaited the would-be founders of an ideal city, who already enjoyed, in anticipation, the distinction and reward of great exploits.
In May, 1850, thirty-five of the company embarked in the schooner Samuel Roberts, and sailed away upon one of the most remarkable voyages ever performed, when the nature of the Northern California and Oregon coast is considered. The captain and owner of the vessel was Chester Lyman, afterwards a professor in Yale College, who knew more about Greek than navigation, but his first mate was Peter Mackie, a Canadian, who did know a little about sailing a vessel, though he was ignorant of the classics, and who, with the help of one English seaman, relieved the captain of his irksome duties. Volunteers from the company performed, under Mackie's orders, the unavoidable labors of "able seamen."
These argonauts were, besides Lyman, Nathan Schofield, author of a work on surveying, from Norwich, Connecticut; Socrates Schofield, his son; Herman Winchester, and his brother D. Winchester, who edited the Pacific News of San Francisco; Dr. Henry Payne, of New York; Dr. E. R. Fiske, of Massachusetts; S. S. Mann, a Harvard graduate; Dr. J. W. Drew, of New Hampshire; a Mr. Barney, of New York State; a Mr. Woodbury, of Connecticut; C. T. Hopkins, of San Francisco, who wrote an account of the company's adventures for The Pioneer, an
early California magazine; Henry H. Woodward, Anthony Ten Eyck, A. G. Able, Patrick Flanagan, Dean, Tierman, Evans, whose christening names have been lost; Addison C. Gibbs, of Buffalo, New York, a lawyer, who was afterwards Governor of Oregon; Stephen Fowler Chadwick, born in Connecticut, educated in New York, a lawyer, and after Gibbs, one of Oregon's governors, and James K. Kelley, a Pennsylvanian, educated at Princeton College, and afterwards a famous Oregon
politician; besides about a dozen others less well remembered.
Indian fighting being one of the common incidents of pioneering and exploration, the company provided themselves with a four-pound carronade and small arms, with ammunition in the shape of scrap iron, gathered from the ashes of a burned hardware store; half a ton of nails, screws, hinges, and other small articles. The Schofields were furnished with surveying instruments; the company was well provisioned, and in short, nothing seemed lacking to the successful issue of the Klamath expedition except success, and that was in the rosy-tinted future
Good fortune attended them, in enabling the Samuel Roberts to escape the perils of coastwise navigation, but the mouth of the Klamath was not a part of their bonanza, for the first opening they descried was the entrance of Rogue River. Thinking this might be the desired haven, a boat with six men was sent to sound out the channel, but was overturned in the river, and two of the men drowned; the others were rescued by the Indians, who immediately stripped them of their clothing, deftly converting it to such decorative uses as the imagination of the savage prompts.
When the schooner, which was following in on only a fathom and a half of
water at high tide, came near the entrance, those on board discovered, by the aid of glasses, great numbers of Indians running hither and thither, and making such demonstrations as would have deterred them from going farther, had they not felt it their duty to attempt the rescue of their comrades. The vessel, too, was in considerable danger, making much maneuvering necessary, and a shout of relief went up as she came safely through, answered with yells from ashore, where the four men were being roughly handled by their captors.
No sooner was the Samuel Roberts fairly in the stream than the river was filled with dusky swimmers, two hundred of whom swarmed over the deck of the vessel, which, not being provided with boarding netting, could not be kept free of them. As long as the Indians had peltries to trade they freely exchanged them for old iron and other worthless articles. When their furs were gone they still appropriated whatever excited their cupidity with a sleight of hand that would have been the envy of a London pickpocket. Not wishing to encounter their hostility, the company
refrained from taking too much notice of these pilferings, even when it was discovered that they had started the schooner's copper with their teeth, and were endeavoring to saw off the anchor chain with an iron knife!
The vessel remained in the river two or three weeks, under the impression that it was the Klamath, during which time an examination of the country was made, which resulted in a determination to abandon it, and to make further examination of the coast as far north as the mouth of the Umpqua River. But getting to sea again with the natives detaining them was not easily accomplished, and it became necessary to discharge the carronade amongst them to keep them from taking the vessel. For this injury they took reprisal a few weeks later, when the pilot boat W. G. Hackstaff, Captain White, became stranded on the bar, and was captured and destroyed by them, the crew escaping to the woods, where they wandered nearly three weeks, and until rescued by the Samuel Roberts company one hundred miles north of Rogue River.
By extraordinary good fortune and Mackie's able seamanship, the schooner got out of the river without sustaining any injury. On coming off Coos Bay the voyagers sighted the opening, but the wind failing, the vessel could not enter. While waiting for a breeze they spoke a canoe having a crew of Umpqua Indians, who, on learning they were seeking an entrance, offered to pilot the schooner into the river of that name. On the 5th of August the Samuel Roberts arrived off the bar, and sent a boat ashore to take the depth of the water and the appearance of the country. The report returned was that there was plenty of water on the bar, a large river inside, fine forests farther inland, and a soil that appeared fertile.
Over two months had been consumed in a heretofore fruitless quest, causing this good report to be doubly gratifying. A flag made during the voyage was run up to the masthead, the carronade was loaded, and with a shout from thirty-five pairs of lungs was touched off, startling the echoes along shore, and proclaiming to the savage sprites inhabiting the hills the invasion of ruthless civilization.
But other than wood nymphs were aroused by the sound. On the 6th, when the bar was crossed, and the schooner had come to anchor in a small cove inside the entrance, the argonauts were surprised to find there a party of Oregonians who had come down to the mouth of the river, to look out for the United States surveying schooner Ewing, which was expected to make a survey of the entrance to the Umpqua. These gentlemen, who had recently settled in the Umpqua Valley, and were interested in learning whether or not a seaport could be established at the river's mouth, were rejoiced at the report of the survey made by the Samuel Roberts company, and made them most heartily welcome. They were invited on board, and on the 7th the schooner proceeded up the river, piloted by the small boat, taking soundings as far as the head of tide water, about thirty miles from the sea.
Mr. Levi Scott had taken a land claim at this point, which is at the foot of the Coast Range on the west, and Mr. Jesse Applegate in the valley on the east side, and from them the adventurers gathered much information about the country. As compensation for having opened the river to navigation, Scott turned over to the Samuel Roberts people one hundred and sixty acres of his land claim as a town site, and this encounter with the Oregonians resulted in the organization of the "Umpqua Townsite and Colonization Land Company," whose property was to be divided into shares and drawn by lot.
Having perfected their plans, their force was divided into three parties--one to remain with the vessel, another to explore the country through, to and along the South Umpqua, and a third to explore the North Umpqua. The towns laid out by the company were Umpqua City, at the mouth of the river; Scottsburg, at the head of tide water; Elkton, at the junction of Elk River with the main stream on the east side of the Coast Range; Winchester, at the ferry on the North Fork, and Oakland, midway between the last two places. This done, a part of the company returned to San Francisco, and having sold some lots, dispatched the brig Kate Heath, Thomas Wood, captain, to the Umpqua with machinery for sawmills, merchandise for stores, and seventy-five settlers, who took with them the zinc houses made in Boston and sent out to San Francisco in 1849, to be put up at Umpqua City.
But now occurred an unlooked-for impediment to the company's enterprises.
The Oregon land law, as passed in September of this year, was especially framed to prevent the holding of lands by speculators or new residents, the claimant being confined to a given number of acres, and compelled to reside upon his claim a certain number of years. Thus, the company, as a company, could not obtain a patent or a title that could be transferred. No titles could be purchased, because no claimants in this part of the Territory had completed their titles, nor could any titles be given to the lots already sold. So, the bubble being pricked, the land scheme collapsed.
Misfortunes having begun, "unmerciful disaster followed fast and followed faster." One vessel loaded with piles was lost at sea; another cargo failed of sale by detention; prices fell fifty percent; the firm with whom the company's funds were deposited became bankrupt, and in less than a year from the sailing of the Samuel Roberts in search of its golden fleece, these argonauts were cast away on various isles of grief north and south of the 42 parallel.
As has already been said, Gibbs, Chadwick and Kelley remained to become prominent members of the Oregon community. Addison C. Flint and D. C. Underwood, who also belonged to the company, though he arrived later on the Kate Heath, took up residence in Oregon. Flint laid out the towns of Winchester and Roseburg, and Underwood became promoter of other land schemes. The town of Winchester was for some years the county seat of Douglas County.
As to the results of the San Francisco company's adventure, they were considerable. Their influence obtained from Congress appropriations for mail
service, a lighthouse at the mouth of the river, and a separate collection district.
During the early years of mining in Rogue River and Shasta diggings, Scottsburg was the entrepot of commerce, and so remained until Crescent City in California became a port for supplying the mines. It retained a considerable trade until the winter of 1861-2, when the extraordinary floods of that season washed away its business houses, ruined the "military road," which the Hon. Joseph Lane persuaded Congress to build from the valley to the head of navigation on the Umpqua, and undermined the lighthouse, which toppled over and remained fallen.
Frances Fuller Victor, "A Province of California," Overland Monthly, July, 1893, pages 96-99
Last revised April 6, 2021