With the first party across the Applegate Trail in 1846.
PIONEER DAYS.(The following chapters on "Pioneer Days" were prepared by Mr. Tolbert Carter, an honored pioneer of 1846, and for a great many years a resident of Benton County, and were originally published in a local paper of that county. At my earnest request, one of his sons copied the letters, and they are here presented for permanent preservation in the Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association. Mr. Carter was born in Missouri, on November 6, 1825, of English ancestry. In early life he removed to Illinois, and started from Morgan County, in that state, to Oregon in March, 1846. He was married to Mrs. Martha Angeline Belieu on August 13, 1852, and made his permanent home a few miles north of the city of Corvallis. He was by occupation a farmer. He served a term in the state legislature with credit to himself and his constituents. He died on October 3, 1899, leaving an honored name as a heritage to a large family.--George H. Himes, Secretary.)
CHAPTER I.In response to your request I will give some sketches of my journey across the plains from Illinois to Oregon in 1846. I was in my twenty-first year, that being my first adventure from home, with but little conception as to what was before me. Everything was new and unknown, having a very limited knowledge of both men and things in general. I will remark, however, that I have since in these long years learned a little of the world and something concerning mankind; I have become convinced that no experience was presented in the limit of an eight-months' journey across the plains to learn so much of the deep-seated and different shades of human nature as such a travel affords. And there is no trait in man's nature that is not thoroughly tested. First, his bravery; second, his manly impulses; third, his endurance. Whilst all these qualities are thoroughly tested and fully exemplified, none perhaps is more required or none so requisite as his endurance and perseverance.
Now, imagine if you can, the condition of an inexperienced boy starting out on this terrible journey with all these necessary qualifications to learn, and adapt himself to each new requirement. You may have something in your mind's eye of the disqualification of the one who is now going to give some noted and still remembered incidents that occurred on the latter part of that long and soul-trying journey. In doing this these incidents must be drawn from memory, having neither notes nor journal to write from. Fifty-two years is a long lapse of time to write from memory, yet these incidents are as fresh in my mind today as the events of the past year; strange, indeed, but true. My object in sketching these pioneer incidents is because there were no notes taken at the time, and I have seen no written account of any of them by any writer, consequently, with the exception of what is written below, that long travel, with its attendant privations and misery, is entirely lost to history.
Another object in preparing a sketch of these long-past incidents is to some extent for the benefit of the young men (and some of the old ones) who seem to possess a chronic habit of complaining of hard times and blaming something or somebody for all the ills in life. It is for these persons in the present and the future that this narrative is given, and if any of the above-named class should happen to read this narrative through, my impression is they will readily confess "hard times" to them now and in the past have been a myth.
The incidents that will be narrated will commence at Lost River, now the southern boundary of Oregon. Lost River affords the water that forms the celebrated Tule Lake, the home of the savage Modoc Indians, who caused the war with that tribe in the Lava Beds. So far as I know I was one of the party who first had trouble with this savage tribe. That incident will be narrated. Then will follow the noted incidents that my memory still retains till I reached my present home, and if these sketches prove interesting, some incidents may follow concerning things that happened after arriving at our destination.
CHAPTER II.In my preliminary letter to you concerning a part of my journey to Oregon, I stated that I would commence at Lost River, near the southern boundary of the state, so here we are camped at the natural bridge on the stream. We have passed for a long distance through a harmless, inoffensive tribe called Digger Indians, perhaps the lowest in intelligence of all the American Indians. In consequence of this fact the officers had ceased to guard either the cattle or camp, but the sequel will show we had come in contact with a different kind of people. One morning when the teams were to be brought in, it was found that ten head of work oxen were missing. Our train consisted of fifty-two wagons. It was soon ascertained that the missing oxen had been driven across the rock bridge near camp, and, strange as it may seen, these ten oxen belonged to ten different teams, and the team that I had charge of, which belonged to a widow lady, was short one steer. So a council of war was held and it was decided that each one who had lost an animal should attempt to recover it. That decision enlisted your correspondent into the crowd thus delegated; so in less time than it takes to write it, these ten men were mounted and armed and equipped as camp laws directed. We crossed the bridge, struck the trail and on we went. It was soon discovered that five Indians had committed the theft. We ascertained this by counting the moccasin tracks in the sand. It must be remembered that we were in a treeless country--nothing to be seen but sagebrush and desert. So here we go in high glee. As for myself I considered it a splendid piece of fun and recreation; but in this, as in many other things, ignorance was bliss, as the sequel will show. After following the river six or seven miles the stream is formed into what is known as Tule Lake. After following the trail fifteen miles we came to where seven head of the oxen had been slaughtered. With the facilities with which they had to butcher, judging from the signs, it was to them quite a task, as their means of slaughtering was the bow and arrow, and from the amount of broken arrows lying on the ground it would take a long time to replace them. But there lay the upper part of the head, which was all that remained. Not a vestige was left from hoof to horn--entrails and their contents all gone. Now, the question was, where was the other three? It will be remembered that a belt of tules grows around most of these desert lakes and it grows from the height of from five to seven feet. The water at this time had receded quite a distance from the tules, and we supposed the living cattle were in these tules. Attempts had been made to burn the tules off, so that only patches remained--perhaps half were burned. There was a trail into this hummock from where we were, and supposing the cattle were in some of the unburned patches, five men volunteered to follow the trail and five remain and hold the horses. Your scribe was one of the simple ones to go on this foolhardy and hazardous trip. On we went over the burned districts and through patches of tules, seeing or hearing no Indians, but occasionally a puff of smoke would arise from some patch of tules. We learned that that was their sign to each other of enemies in the country. Not knowing this, we pressed forward. We now entered a large section of tules near the lake, still following the trail; about the center of this opening that contained five Indian houses with all their belongings. Of course we felt a little doubtful, being a half mile from our companions and hemmed in on every side by the rank tules, taller than our heads; but the neighborhood was to all human appearances deserted. We paused and listened, but no sound of voice nor tread could be heard. We, therefore, concluded the Indians had left their city and emigrated across the lake. Considering ourselves safe from danger, the work of destruction began, and certainly no city ever met with a more complete destruction, not even Carthage by the Romans; the only difference being the inhabitants were not sold into slavery. Everything that we met with was destroyed--pots, kettles, mats, baskets and, in fact, everything that we supposed would be of any use whatever. Some baskets which we destroyed were full of some kind of seeds resembling that seed of the well-known lamb's quarter; we spilled the seed and destroyed the baskets. Another thing was a family of wolf pups; some brave killed all of them, the mother dodging around to escape sight of the pale-faced destroyers. Someone suggested that the mother be shot, but others objected on the ground that the Indians might hear the report of the gun. We completed the destruction of the homes of these savages, and they no doubt considered it rough treatment from the first palefaces that they had ever seen. It was thought by our pilot that we were the first whites ever in that part of the country; at any rate, ours were the first wagons that ever came from Humboldt River in Nevada to Oregon. We now retraced our steps to join our companions whom we left in charge of the horses. As soon as we emerged from this section of tules to the burned district twenty or thirty Indians ran from around the huts we had destroyed out towards the lake on the dry land afforded by the receded water of the lake at this season. They ran till out of gunshot and halted in full view of us. I suppose it was their chief, Captain Jack, who was afterwards hung, that motioned with his quiver of arrows, and, in a loud, clear voice heard distinctly by us, intimated they wanted us to come back. Myself and another young man, equally ignorant, concluded we would have an interview with these strange, new acquaintances. So we started with guns on our shoulders. The Indians retreated as we advanced, so we saw we could accomplish nothing by this course. The Indians were all the time motioning and hallooing, so we laid our guns down to see what the result would be. They remained still; but we retraced our steps and rejoined our comrades at the desert. There was no signs of anything pertaining to the lost oxen in the lodges destroyed. They were no doubt in some other unburned section of tules not far distant. No doubt many will wonder why it was some or all the five who penetrated the tules, as the Indians would naturally suppose they would carry the news to what appeared to them an immense caravan. Our train consisted of fifty wagons, and they probably thought about all the palefaces in the world were in the crowd. So, in my judgment, if all ten men had gone in, not a living soul would have come out, as those Indians, concealed around those lodges, whilst we were destroying them, could have sent their arrows through the tules and killed every man, and we would not have seen them. So the fact that these five faint-hearted ones who would not go in, in my judgment, saved the lives of the five brave ones (excuse the remark) who did go in. So, more by good luck than by good judgment, we ten adventurers mounted our horses and struck out for more fun, not realizing the danger; but we soon found it. As we started we again separated, five going to the right up the lake, with the understanding that we would meet three or four miles west at the foot of the mountain and report progress. We had proceeded but a short distance when the party who were going up the lake gave a war whoop and formed in a circle, with revolvers in hand. We put spurs and charged on double quick and soon joined our excited comrades, ready for any emergency that required bravery to execute. In the center of these ten men lay an Indian, face down, in the sagebrush, which was not more than a foot high, and another council of war was held to decide the fate of the prisoner.
CHAPTER III.I have no doubt, Mr. Editor, that you would have been delighted to have heard the patriotic speeches made on this occasion. We had the prisoner at our mercy (that is, if mercy could have been thought of under the circumstances), lying flat on the ground, face downward, without moving a muscle, barefooted, no clothing but a mat made of cedar bark around his loins. Some were for shooting him on the spot; others, more lenient, proposed to take the prisoner to camp and hoist a wagon tongue and hang him, as no tree was in sight, so as to show these savages the civilized mode of disposing of prisoners. Your scribe said nothing on this occasion, being a youngster in the crowd. The latter proposition being agreed to, the next thing to be done was to get the prisoner to his feet so as to make the journey to camp, fifteen miles away. One of the party, more brave than the rest, dismounted to get our find to his feet. This task I had no desire to perform, as I supposed a bow and arrow might be concealed lengthwise under the body that could be brought into requisition and the arrow shot through a man quick as thought. In this, as in all other similar circumstances, there is fortunately someone fitted for the occasion, so one brave motioned the prisoner to arise instantly. A pitiful moan proceeded from the prisoner, and when raised sufficiently to see, tears were streaming down the face and the deathly moan still proceeded, and when erect it was discovered to be the oldest woman, I think, my eyes ever beheld. This being discovered, our brave who volunteered so bravely slipped back, mounted his horse and put his revolver in the holster. In fact, all feeling in the entire crowd of adventurers for blood, either by shooting or hanging, or any savage disposition that any of us had previously entertained, soon became very much modified, so much that it was not long till all those deadly revolvers were quietly put away to rest for a time in the holsters. We sat on our horses and left alone this poor, old woman, we waiting developments and she expecting nothing but death. The moans and tears continued, and she now commenced making an inspection of her captors. In doing this she looked every man square in the face, until she made the entire circle. I must say that when it came my turn to face this poor, ignorant savage (a human being nevertheless), with fear of sure death depicted in her countenance, together with the pitiful moan and tears, I confess I felt almost sorry that I had not remained in camp. She then became quiet and told us by signs all about the theft, making it as plain as if spoken in English. The story was that, while we were asleep, five Indians had stolen ten head of cattle and killed seven head, and took the meat, together with the three living oxen, and concealed them somewhere in the tule swamp, and lastly, she showed us by signs that could not be disputed, that she had not eaten of the meat. I suppose it would be too much to say that this decrepit old savage understood hypnotism or mind reading; but I must say from the effect she produced on those men, seeking revenge for the loss of part of their teams, one would reasonably suppose she understood both.
We sat on our horses like so many pictures a considerable time before the silence was broken. Finally, someone broke the circle without uttering a word and started for camp, leaving this old squaw the opportunity of giving the lie to the sign she gave us of not eating any of the stolen cattle. So we struck out, single file, leaving our hypnotizer alone on that bleak, lonely desert, disappointed in the experience she had passed through. She expected nothing but death would atone for the manner in which we had been treated by the tribe, and perhaps some of her sons were engaged in the theft.
We rode on, single file; not a word was spoken--hungry, thirsty and tired--until someone broke the silence by inquiring the supposed age of the squaw. The answer came, that, judging from her physical appearance, her birth would date back to the building of the Egyptian pyramids; others, more conservative, placed the date of her birth about the time of the invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar; but, still more conservative, your scribe, as he is always conservative in all things, would place the date of her birth not later than the landing of the Puritan fathers in the Mayflower. Even this may seem a little extravagant, but all such doubts would be removed could the individual in question have been seen.
So, with a final farewell to Tule Lake, the Indians and grandmother squaw, we arrived at camp at 10 o'clock at night all safe and sound, more by good luck than management. All seemed rejoiced at our return. Owing to our long absence, and the lateness of our return, fears were entertained that the Indians had taken us all in, and treated us as they had the oxen--slaughtered all hands.
Next morning we got an early start in order to reach Klamath Lake, as there is no water between Lost River and the lake. Arriving late and preparing to place guard, and in calling the roll, it was found that there was a man missing. The lateness of the hour prevented any investigation that night; but next morning a party went back, and found the missing man, stripped and dead. He was a man 50 years of age, and had been walking and driving cattle. He probably became weary and stopped to rest and perhaps fell asleep. The Indians stealthily approached him and shot him with arrows. We buried him alone on the desert, to remain till the final summons for all to appear.
When the party returned we proceeded down the lake till it closes in and forms Klamath River, a stream four or five rods wide, one of the worst crossings that wagons ever made--boulders from a foot through to the size of four barrels--but no accidents occurred.
We then had the Siskiyou Mountains to cross; but fortunately we found no difficulty in a two days' up and down passage. We then entered Rogue River Valley, inhabited by a new tribe of Indians on the coast. We then struck the trail leading from Oregon to California, and it was a comfort to know that civilized men had traveled this road before, as we had been months in a country where, to our knowledge, a white man had never been seen. The new tribe of Indians will be described in the next chapter.
CHAPTER IV.Rogue River valley was an agreeable change to us, as we found plenty of timber, water and grass for the stock. There were no indications of Indians in sight; but as we moved on and struck the river on the opposite side we saw two Indians, one with a rifle and the other with a bow and quiver of arrows. The river was about ten rods wide. They talked to us and exhibited their weapons; but as we could not understand their language, we did not answer them, so parted friendly, and proceeded down the river to where the trail crossed the stream, and there we camped. At this place we had our first introduction to Rogue River Indians' honesty, or rather dishonesty, as the sequel will show.
A Mr. Vanderpool, a former mountaineer, had brought 25 head of sheep safely across the plains. These sheep were entrusted to the care of one of his sons, but the old gentleman arose early that morning and turned the sheep out to graze until breakfast. The herd being near camp, he thought it would be safe to let them graze till he could eat his breakfast. After breakfast he went to bring the sheep, but, to his surprise and disappointment, they had disappeared in a canyon near at hand, with moccasin tracks following. He hurried back to camp and quickly reported. Your scribe quickly volunteered to follow and bring back the herd. Several other simpletons also offered their services, but, fortunately for us, he was a man of sense and experience with Indians, and would not allow us to enter the canyon on any such foolhardy expedition. As a matter of course, he would have to lead the party. So the result was that our new acquaintances were left to have a feast on the 25 sheep that had cost the owner a vast amount of trouble, and could he have succeeded in getting them through they would have been valuable property.
That morning we forded the river, a swift, ugly stream, with the water in the wagon beds in some places; but all got safely over and proceeded on our journey without interruption, until we came to what was afterwards called the Grave Creek Hills, which took us all day and well into the night to cross, it being dark and we not knowing where we were. As soon as we came to level ground, where it was possible to make a halt, we did so. We chained the oxen to trees to await what daylight would develop.
Soon a wagon appeared, with weeping and lamentation among its occupants. It was soon learned that an estimable young lady by the name of Crowley, who had been afflicted with typhoid fever, had died. It is hard to part with our loved ones in civil communities, where they may have all possible attention given them, as I know from experience; but imagine such loss in a wilderness inhabited by a savage tribe, and the impossibility of bestowing those tender cares; without physician or medicine to alleviate the suffering, and, worse still, after burial, the possibility of the body being exhumed, to be mutilated by savages or devoured by ravenous wolves, as there were many instances of such cases.
When morning came we found we were a few hundred yards from a small stream. We soon decamped and moved to the stream, laid over on that day and buried the deceased lady. All precautions were taken to hide the grave--it was dug in the center of the corral and a quantity of brush burned thereon. Two years afterward I passed that way, en route to the California gold mines, and, sorrowful to relate, the Indians had exhumed the body. Whether wolves had devoured the flesh or not could not be ascertained. At all events the bones lay bleaching in the sun, and her beautiful auburn hair lay in a mass, looking as bright and fair as it did on the head of the owner when in the vigor of youth. When I returned from California the mother of the lady came to where I was stopping, having heard of the circumstances, to inquire if the reports were true. That was one time in my life it seemed hard to tell the truth. I told her it was true, and, characteristic of all mothers (God bless them all), she wept bitterly. It must be remembered that all those wild Indians watched the movements of our train till night, as wagons drawn by oxen were a sight to them both mysterious and wonderful, and they have a way of transmitting news so that our coming was made known ahead, so that all might be on the lookout. I have no doubt now but what there were Indians perhaps within a stone's throw all day, watching everything that was done.
We will now leave this sorrowful scene and press forward to other troubles and privations, which, if we could have foreseen, would have made the bravest throw up their hands in utter despair. Winter was near at hand, and we were 200 miles from our destination--a land represented by some to flow with corn and wine and milk and honey, but the starved, hungry crowd, of which your scribe was a member, found none of the above-named delicacies, nor anything pertaining to either of them.
But to proceed on our journey. We encountered nothing of special note until we reached the entrance of the Umpqua Canyon. Before starting into that seemingly impassable barrier it was decided to lay over a day and give our lean, jaded oxen a rest, as it was said the canyon was nine miles through, and none of us had the slightest idea as to what kind of a road it would be. It was probably a good thing that we did not, for we all decided after passing over it that it was the worst road that wagons ever traveled over. Bonaparte crossing the Alps with his army, so much lauded in history, in my judgment, was no comparison, as he had no wagons.
The first day we made the ascent, and camped with the oxen chained to trees. Remember they were all corralled the night before without food of any kind. Next day we crossed a plateau of some length, and from that we passed down the steepest hill, or rather bank, that wagons were ever known to pass. Bear in mind that we were in a jungle of trees and bushes, and could only see a short distance in front or behind, so that if you had to stop for hours you could have no knowledge as to the cause of detention. My team was about the middle of the train of 50 wagons, so when this bank was encountered it took a long time to get down. As each wagon would pass down, those behind would move forward the length of a team and wagon. Finally I came to the jump-down, and now will come one of those pioneer incidents that will seem hard to believe, especially to those who have been brought up in a level country, and have seen no bad roads, nor anything else very bad. The wagon in front of me had in it a man who had been sick 20 days with typhoid fever, without medicine to relieve his suffering; in fact, he seemed at death's door, as he could not raise his hand to his head, and could not speak above a whisper.
CHAPTER V.Under such circumstances it looked frightful to send a helpless man, almost unconscious, down such a frightful precipice; but it had to be done; so we hurriedly prepared for the adventure. We rough-locked all the wagon wheels, and, to make sure, a man got on each hind wheel. Half way down this precipice a ledge of rock projected just perceivable to the first that passed down, but so many wagons and so much stock had passed, forcing the dirt below from the rock, there was at the time this wagon reach it a perpendicular fall almost two feet. With all precautions arranged, and the men on the hind wheels, we made the start, and got along all right until we encountered the rock, when, from some unaccountable cause, the front wheels rose up and went off the rock and the hind wheels rose up and went crashing down the bank. Of course, the men on the wheels let go. The wagon struck bottom side up, smashed the wagon bows with such a crash that no one could suppose anything could live underneath. When it landed someone yelled out: "There, he's killed." We all rushed down and removed the wagon box and bedding, and, strange to say, we found our fellow-traveler still alive. On examination it could not be discovered at the time whether he had sustained any bodily injury from his aerial flight or not. Much quicker than it takes to write it, the wagon was righted, the sick man placed in it, and it passed on out of the way for others. The man recovered and lived.
Whilst in this turmoil and excitement, a large ox came along packed with blankets and other things belonging to the traveling outfit. The old fellow seemed to take in the situation, and appeared to be very careful, being poor and weak. When he came to the projecting rock his limbs gave way and down he came, pack and all, and rolled over and landed in the creek below, unable to rise. We rushed to his assistance; all hands gave a lift, and when we got him on his feet he moved on, if not a wiser ox a much wetter one.
No other mishap occurred here, to my knowledge, and a little before night the party were all down, and moving down Canyon Creek, strung out single file. Much of the route was in the creek. When night came on we bivouacked in this lonely, dismal canyon, the poor oxen chained to trees, this making the third night without food of any kind. Our first rain fell that night, and from the manner it came down there was plenty where it came from. My recollection is that it was now the middle of October, and it may be truthfully said that the commencement of the rainy season in Oregon was the commencement of the tug-of-war for our weary, hungry party. After a long and almost sleepless night, morning came. We made an early start, as there was not much to cook. There was not a scrap of anything to eat in the wagon for the little family that was left in my charge. But on we go, pell mell down this creek, shut in on each side with precipitous mountains, the sides of which were covered with dense timber, with dense growth of underbrush along the creek, and a narrow, winding path cut out, following the tortuous meanderings of the stream. But fortunately about 3 o'clock the third day we emerged from this mountain prison. The rain had ceased falling and the sun gave additional enchantment to the scene, and there was plenty of grass for the almost famished stock. Canyonville, quite a flourishing town, is located on the same ground that our original camp was located. It would seem that all ought to be happy, and perhaps those fortunate enough to have something to satisfy the inner man could be so; but your scribe was not so fortunate, having eaten nothing since the day before, with no prospect for anything in the future. I must say that the prospect for me and my dependents (a woman and two small children) looked gloomy, indeed. What made it more so, the party that had preceded us to open up the way and make it passable, had nothing at this same place, only what they killed in the shape of game, so there was nothing to be had in that line. But next morning at the break of day I arose and took my gun and went forth to seek game, as our only chance was the rifle, and I had a good one. There was no chance of purchasing anything from those who still had a little, and I thought there was nothing in standing and starving without making an effort. So down the creek I went, to where it emptied into the South Umpqua River, waded the stream full waist deep, and up the side of a mountain I went. Soon I noticed fresh deer tracks. It has been 52 years since I saw those deer tracks, yet I remember the thrill of joy they sent through my weak and hungry body. A little further on I saw a deer, and if ever a man shot for meat, it was I. At the crack of the gun I saw I had the game. I prepared the carcass to carry to camp. Then I crouched down and got the deer on my back, but I found, owing to my exhausted condition, it was impossible for me to rise with it. Looking across the river, I saw a man going toward camp on his pony. I yelled at the top of my voice, and he heard me, and came and carried my game to camp on his pony. When the news spread through camp men came from all directions for a share of the meat. I must confess I hardly knew what to say, consequently I said nothing. When the deer was dressed I threw down the knife and said: "Gentlemen, if any of you think that you need that meat more than I do, help yourselves." After I threw down the knife, I went to the tent, and after a short pause they walked away without touching the meat, all knowing that I had the widow and children in my care.
The last day's march out of the canyon was the worst for the destruction of property. In fact, everything that could possibly be dispensed with was thrown away. The route was strewn with articles, all valuable to the owners, if they could have been preserved. Extra wagons, various kinds of tools, farm implements were abandoned, the owners being glad to escape with their lives. One Mr. Wood had brought a hive of bees safely this far, but the wagon conveying them upset in the creek, broke the hive to pieces, and the bees all drowned. His hive of bees cost him a great deal of trouble, as he had them to feed and water during the long journey. Had he got them through he had an offer of $500 for them.
Another company that came through the canyon, a day later than our company, fared worse, if possible, than we did, for the rain had swollen the stream to almost a swimming stage. One of their number, Judge J. Q. Thornton, wrote a journal of the trip. In the canyon he lost everything save what he and his wife had on their backs. When crossing the stream for the last time he looked back at his wife. She was stemming the tide holding high above the wave a silver-tinseled bonnet which she had preserved from the wreck. The thought struck him, he said, of the ruling passion strong in death.
It must be remembered that we were considerably past the time for emigrants to make the journey to Oregon, consequently the stock of provisions for the trip in many cases had become exhausted, and from this time on to the closing of this narrative will be a struggle to get enough of the necessaries of life to keep soul and body together. But we now had the consolation of knowing we had passed the danger line of savage Indians--a blessing enjoyed by all.
I will here say that such a journey has a tendency to destroy in nature much of its benevolence and sympathy for distress of all kinds, until we are almost devoid of those essential humane characteristics. Those who have never been through such ordeals may conclude this is not true, but it is true nevertheless.
CHAPTER VI.In my previous letter giving an account of our last night in the canyon, I forgot to mention that a lady gave birth to a child, but the condition of the road was so terrible that in a few hours the infant died. The mother soon followed, owing to the treatment she necessarily had to undergo. I also overlooked stating that two years after passing through the canyon I met the sick man who had got the rough passage down the bank. I inquired of him if he had any recollection of the circumstance. He replied that he had not, but he had an indistinct recollection of feeling himself falling. I told him that it was true that he did so, for I witnessed the accident and saw him fall. My wife and I, on a visit last year, passed through Canyonville, and I looked at the entrance of that memorable canyon and down the creek to where I killed the deer, and I felt an anxiety to again go through the canyon, and also visit the spot where I killed the deer. I was told, however, that it would be impossible to pass on our original road, owing to the fact that in making the grade on the side of the mountain the road we used was literally filled up with trees and stumps taken from the grade. I could not help feeling astonished at the vast change that had taken place within a half-century, and when I look in a mirror I find the change is nowhere more remarkable than in myself. Whilst improvements are going on in all other conditions, truth compels me to say that I am going on in the opposite direction; but your scribe tries to prepare for the inevitable.
After laying over two or three days preparations were made to resume our journey, and, being out of all danger of savage Indians, our large caravan broke into small caravans for the sake of convenience. The little party that I was in consisted of eight wagons, and as before stated, but little provisions remained in our party, and no prospective opportunity for procuring any. But being now out of danger of those pointed arrows in skillful hands, we were at liberty to hunt game at will, and deer were plentiful but in poor condition--nothing but does and fawns were in the valley. The bucks were in good condition, but they ranged back in the mountains, consequently were hard to procure. Occasionally, however, one was killed, but, as previously intimated, there was no more division of anything in the shape of food with each other. Poor venison boiled or roasted without seasoning, not even salt, is about as poor a repast as I ever undertook to satisfy the cravings of a hungry stomach with, and I deem myself competent to judge, as I have tried almost all edibles that most men have eaten or attempted to eat. But going through what I have has proven to me that hunger is an appetizer far ahead of any modern discovery on that subject. But on we go, with nothing to eat but poor venison straight, and we had rain almost every day until the sloughs had become muddy, which made it difficult for the poor, jaded teams to proceed at all, so that the best that could be done was four or five miles a day. This being the condition of things, with 150 miles to travel, and another almost impassable mountain to cross, imagine, if you can, our chances of ever reaching our destination. Without the full possession of the characteristics spoken of in the introduction to this narrative, all would have thrown up their hands in despair. The prospect of the undertaking, especially to fathers of large families, with such vast responsibility resting on them, was dreadful. The people of this great state should feel that they owe something to these men who possessed the indomitable will to accomplish such undertakings. Your scribe would not be misunderstood to claim the honor above referred to, for he simply tailed on and followed those brave veterans spoken of, and was simply there, and is now almost the only one left to eulogize those men for their bravery and perseverance as homebuilders of this great state. Those veteran pioneers who braved the dangers, privations and sufferings described above, in the occupation of this remote country far from civilization, have raised a progeny that for the bar, the bench, and the ministry, and, in fact, for all the duties and positions of real manhood and womanhood cannot be excelled by any state in the Union, Three of them are now in Congress--one in the Senate and two in the House, competing with the best talent of the nation. One of them recently caused even the renowned Jerry Simpson, of Kansas, to haul down his sign.
Our little company proceeded on the journey. The number of days required, also the distance from one point to another, must be omitted, as the intervening years prevent my recollection of these two necessary items in writing a journal of this kind; but several rainy days and muddy roads brought us to the crossing of North Umpqua River. The Indians furnished canoes to cross the wagons in. By lifting the wagons in and out of the canoes and swimming the stock, we managed to cross. This was severe on the poor oxen, the water being very cold. Our ferriage was very expensive, as the Indians saw they had us at their mercy, and, acting as some of our white brothers will act, made the best of it.
All safely across, we proceeded wearily ahead until we approached the Calapooia Mountains, which had to be crossed--a task to be dreaded, but which had to be done. Some time previous to this our distress had become known to friends in the settlement, who met their friends with fresh teams and provisions, but unfortunately for our little party we had no such good luck. In the meantime a wagonload of provisions had been brought to the opposite side of the mountain. A man having a brother and large family in our party left our party at the river to cross the mountain for the purpose of bringing a packload of provisions. I loaned him my overcoat (I happened to have one with me), and he agreed to let me have a share of the load, provided I would pay the cost at the wagon across the mountain. I readily accepted the proposition, as we had had nothing to eat but the poor venison previously described, or a poor animal that had been driven across the plains that someone would kill. This beef was no improvement over the venison. In the meantime our long and anxiously waited-for man returned with our much-needed provisions. Our share consisted of a small portion of flour, not exceeding 20 pounds, and about half that amount of peas. When the meal was being prepared from this precious package, I told the lady to give one mess of bread to us. As she placed the dough in the pan I could scarcely refrain from eating the raw dough. But sometimes in our surest and sanguine hopes we are doomed to disappointment. This was my fate in this instance. When the bread and poor meat appeared at the festive board, of course all eyes were turned and all stomachs craved the bread. The wheat from which the flour was made had been tramped by oxen in order to thresh it, and, of course, it was dark, and a wild weed grew among the wheat called anise, that bore a seed fragrant but sickening to the taste. It being ground with the wheat, the bread had the peculiarities of both. I ate a small portion of one biscuit, the stomach revolted at the taste of the anise, so I had to retire and relieve the stomach of the long-coveted bread, anise, dirt and all.
In relating this narrative I have aimed at the strict truth as I personally know it, but I will now report a circumstance given by another. About this time three men left us, all on foot, with blankets on their backs, to press on to the settlements, as they could travel on foot so much faster than the wagons could proceed through the soft, muddy road. These men left us without taking with them a scrap of provisions of any kind. One of the party had a shotgun, and they supposed they could kill enough game to subsist on till they could have a chance to procure food. But their hopes were painfully disappointed, as no chance occurred to kill anything, and they met no provisions till the third day. On that day they met on the summit of the mountain a man named Durbin, with some provisions on pack horses. At the place of meeting there was an abundance of wild berries that grow in the mountains there, called by the Indians salal berries. They are a pleasant, nutritious berry, but our hungry companions, not knowing but they might be poisonous, were afraid to eat them, so they made their distress known to Mr. Durbin.
CHAPTER VII.Mr. Durbin asked them why they did not eat of those berries, as the Indians live on them in their season. The hero of this little party was a man by the name of Toole, of Missouri, a large, portly young man, and a very agreeable gentleman, and, by the way, a Methodist. Dan Toole devoured a quarter of an acre, vines, berries and all. I give this story as it was reported to me. I personally know it is true, with the exception of the quantity that Mr. Toole ate.
We then arrived at the base of the Calapooia Mountains, and laid over one day to recruit our exhausted teams before surmounting this dreaded mountain, the summit of which was covered with snow. Then up we started, creeping along until we reached the summit and passed the belt of snow; then we camped and chained our oxen to trees and bivouacked for the night. Of course, we got but little sleep, as our beds were arranged on the cold, wet ground. In this high altitude, so near the snow, not much comfort could be expected. We were glad when day appeared and all hands prepared to make the down grade. As for cooking, that was a small task, owing to a limited quantity on hand to cook. In crossing the snow belt we met a few Indians going south. These aborigines were scantily dressed and barefooted, but appeared comfortable. On meeting them they greeted us in the jargon dialect, "Cla-hi-um," which meant, "How do you do." We afterwards learned the dialect so that we could converse fluently with the natives of the country, and I still retain a knowledge of it.
It required most of the day to make the descent. We had no trouble in getting down as the ground was so soft and the wagons cut in so that no trouble occurred in preventing the wagons crowding the teams down the mountain.
We were then in the border of the Willamette Valley, our long-desired destination. There was nothing in sight to encourage us; the supplies we expected to find were all disposed of and the parties had gone home. So this much-lauded Willamette Valley presented nothing to us but broad, fertile prairies covered with a rich coat of luxuriant grass, very acceptable to teams, but the milk and honey that we were to find in this valley were not in sight; so we had to content ourselves with our poor beef or venison, with a little dirty flour, strongly tinctured with both the smell and taste of the sickening anise seed. This was used to make a little soup and gruel for the children; as for myself I preferred the meat straight.
After resting a day or two we prepared to resume our journey. In starting we had to cross a swollen, narrow creek, the water being even with the top of the banks. A notch was dug on each side so the wagons could get in and out, and the father of Willard Linville, now of Corvallis, made the first attempt, having in his wagon his family and his mother, an aged lady. The driver partly missed the notch, only two wheels entering it, and the wagon upset in the raging water. Before all could be gotten out, the aged grandmother had drowned. The whole family had a narrow escape. This accident caused a day's laying over, and is one among the many painful incidents that occurred during the long and eventful journey. This case was the more sorrowful on account of the great age of this father and mother, undergoing the fatigue and danger incident to the long journey, and now at the near approach of their longed destination to die by such a fearful accident, and to be buried without a casket or ceremony, was surely grievous to the aged husband and son and to all concerned. There was in our party another man having a large family, by the name of Crowley. He was at the point of death with typhoid fever--the prevailing complaint of the journey. He was a son-in-law of the aged Linville.
In writing the history of this journey, so many years ago, I trust I will be pardoned for recapitulating some incidents that my memory recalls that I have failed to write in the previous articles. After we were through the canyon already described, in the exhausted condition of our party, coupled with the scarcity of provisions with some, and many entirely out, more complaining was heard for the want of tobacco than for the lack of provisions. After the company had divided into small parties, the one I was in, consisting of seven or eight wagons, and as I had three or four pounds of chewing tobacco, I concluded I would retrieve my lost generosity when I failed to divide the deer, by sharing my tobacco, as I never fancied the filthy habit. It was not much trouble to collect the hungry tobacco-chewers. The number was counted, and an equal division made, reserving for myself an equal share. For this act I was considered the greatest philanthropist in the entire outfit. After this, had circumstances been such that my services could have been offered for any official position, either county or state, and my success depended on these men who shared in the tobacco division, I would have gained the position far easier than I did in later years. Another matter requires some change. While it is true that poor beef and venison was the principal diet, long-range marksmen, your scribe being one of them, had an occasional change. Wild geese were plentiful, and those large, white-breasted honkers were considered a delicacy, as they were invariably fat. I killed some geese and also a coon, which our dog cornered in a hollow log. He was a large, fat one. I put him in the wagon, hauled him till night, dressed him, and again divided. This gave the poor meat an additional relish that only those who have experienced such conditions can realize.
These incidents, called to mind since the former articles were written, brings us back to camp. We went traveling through this beautiful Willamette Valley. About the fourth day from our mountain camp, Thomas Crowley, the sick man above mentioned, died. He was a man possessed of all the essential qualifications of an affectionate husband and father, and a thorough Christian gentleman, had a large family and was possessed of a large amount of this world's goods. I visited him two days previous to his death, and he told me he was going to die. He said he would be better satisfied to have seen his family settled and made comfortable, but such could not be, and added that there was a better place beyond for him than Oregon. We buried him without coffin, and all turned sorrowfully from his grave. He was the fourth one of the Crowley family that died in our train. It will be remembered the bones I assisted to rebury on Grave Creek were the bones of his daughter.
The next place of note we came to was where the beautiful city of Eugene is located. A small pole cabin was built--the first sign of civilization we had seen in traveling 2,000 miles. The little cabin, without door or window, looked homelike, indeed. Here several families, whose teams had become exhausted, were going to abandon their wagons and were making canoes to make the rest of the journey by water. Had I not been situated as I was, I would have joined that party. We went from this camp to what is now known as Long Tom River--a stream running crosswise of the valley, with much swampy land. It now being in December, of course all such sections were saturated with the continuous rains. To undertake this piece of road with exhausted teams proved to be terrible, as frequently each day oxen would mire and become helpless, and many had to be dragged out by main force, after which some were not able to stand, and were left to die. After several days of such helpless experience, Long Tom was reached. Long Tom is a stream about three rods wide. It had to be ferried, and a ferry boat was constructed by procuring two small Indian canoes, a little longer than the wagons, with a pine log made fast between. The contents of the wagons had to be taken out and placed on, not in, this frail boat and taken across; the wagons lifted in and lifted out on the other side, reloaded and taken out of the way for the next, and so on till all were over.
CHAPTER VIII.About this time, 3 o'clock in the afternoon, an event occurred which is painful to describe, and yet it is so full of the pathos of the whole terrible situation that it must be done. It will be remembered I was a boy, and was driving the team of a widow lady, who had expected, as we all had, that we would reach our destination months before. She was taken sick the night before the crossing, and a baby girl was born to her. After receiving what attention it was in their power to give her, they all crossed the river and left the sick woman and child in my charge. As night was approaching I timidly entered the tent where the sick lady lay. I got wood and renewed the fire, and, without speaking a word, I turned and looked at the lonely, distressed woman. She looked at me, and in a most pathetic voice said: "What do you suppose will become of me?" At this pathetic expression all my timidity vanished, all the man in me was instantly aroused, and I asked her to tell me what to do, and if it was in my power I would do it. The sleepless night wore slowly away, and morning came at last. Preparations were then commenced to get the sick woman and child across the stream. The wagon and contents had been passed over the stream the night before, so I crossed the stream, built a large fire, got fir boughs and made a bed on the cold, hard ground. I then went back and covered the woman and child up. Then, with the help of three others, returned and took the bed on which they were lying by the four corners, crossed and placed them in the tent I had prepared for them. A woman and child had died the night before under the same circumstances. She was another member of the unfortunate Crowley family. But the woman and child I speak of both lived. She survived the trying ordeal, with our scant preparations and the service that willing hands and kind hearts could render. She lived single a year, and then married a well-to-do farmer, raised a large and respectable family, Mrs. John Simpson, of Corvallis, being one of her daughters. The baby born at that time also lived to raise a large family; but both mother and child are now dead, and this humble narrative is the only record of the unsurpassed hardships of this remarkable experience, and I take pleasure in stating the fact that I did something to save the life of this mother and child. We do little kindnesses while rushing through life, and we often do things that are not kind, but I find that it is only the thoughts of the kind acts that give comfort as I am slowly jogging down the declining years of life.
Snow fell during the night to the depth of four inches. I arranged the best I could for my sick charges, but the best was poor, indeed, and in the morning we were all ready to pursue our toilsome journey. Mary's River was our next objective point. The snow disappeared during the day, to the satisfaction of all concerned. Arriving at Mary's River, as near as I can recollect, near where the grist mill now stands, it being at that place about 50 feet across. As it was now in December, of course the stream had to be ferried, but I must confess that I have entirely forgotten the kind of a craft improvised to cross in. Timber being nearby, I presume we made a raft. I well remember the stock had to swim, and that one of our oxen became entangled in the brush below the place of landing. I jumped in the cold water, tied a rope around his horns, and all hands pulled him out, more dead than alive. This incident had the tendency to arouse me from my condition of lethargy caused by almost constant watching over the sick charge since leaving Long Tom.
After crossing we camped and spent our first night in what is now the flourishing, beautiful city of Corvallis, now the county seat of Benton County. The Agricultural College is now located here, and other adornments too numerous to mention. Corvallis means "heart of the valley." Here was found another pole cabin, more attractive to us than a gorgeous palace would be now. It was the first inhabited dwelling or cabin it had been our pleasure to see in the state of Oregon. What made it more attractive to us, it was inhabited by a lonely civilized "white" man, whose name was J. C. Avery. He afterward became conspicuous in assisting to form a provisional government, arranging a county organization for the government of the present county, was United States postal agent for several years, and afterwards a member of the legislature. He raised quite a family, and some of them still live in Corvallis.
We then left Mary's River, our company from there consisting of only two wagons. One of these belonged to a cousin of mine, the other was the team I was driving. My brother, younger than myself, drove the loose stock all the way across. My cousin, being a man 35 years of age, and all his life a pioneer, of course he became manager of our little caravan. At this time we had prospective points in view, but the first night from Mary's River we camped at the foothills, a sparsely settled country, near the residence of H. C. Lewis. His dwelling was another of those soul-cheering cabins. Next we came to the residence of Thomas Reed, and after camp had been arranged, Mr. Reed visited us. This was the first visit we had received in almost eight months. On learning our condition, and that we had neither bread or flour, he returned to his house and brought some bread and divided it among the five children in camp. I was intimately acquainted with him 45 years afterward, and in all those long years I never forgot that noble act of charity. In the interview with Mr. Reed he informed us of one of those lovely, unoccupied cabins a short distance from his place, that he thought we might get into for a time, but the man who had control of it lived two miles beyond. He gave us directions as how to find the cabin, and we struck out, without trail or road, and luckily found it. My cousin mounted a horse and started to ascertain if we could occupy the house, leaving us and the teams standing till his return. It was raining as though a second flood was approaching. I went and looked through a crack, and there I saw the first dry ground I had seen in two months. I had seen gorgeously furnished sitting rooms, floors carpeted with the finest Brussels, but nothing I had ever seen had such a charm for me as did that dry ground, with the drenching rain overhead. The temptation was too strong for a youngster like me to endure, so without considering the penalty of breaking into a dwelling, I went to the wagon and got an ax, and in much less time than it takes to write it, I had a place cut for a door. Firewood being handy, I soon built a fire against the side of the chimney. I quickly improvised an Oregon bedstead (one-legged) and conveyed my invalid charge into the house, and placed her in a comfortable bed. I then turned the teams loose on the grass, which was very plentiful. All these changes were made before my cousin returned and reported that we could occupy the house. He asked how I knew I could occupy the house. I knew I could when I cut a hole in the wall, and there were not men enough in Oregon to put me out till it quit raining. I am sure that a king in his palace never felt better or enjoyed himself better than we did the first night in our new habitation.
CHAPTER IX.In my last letter our party had arrived at our new home. In the surrounding vicinity we soon located permanent homes, not known to us at the time, but this became our final destination.
Our first night under shelter, with beds arranged on dry ground, and the rain pattering over our heads, was a joy and comfort that none but persons in our weary and exhausted condition can possibly imagine. Oh, how sound we slept! The rain pattering on the roof sounded sweeter than any music from the finest quartet of today.
Morning came, and we all arose refreshed from the effect of our night's rest, with knowledge that this was the first morning in almost eight months without the hurry and discomfort incident on preparing to move camp. This morning there was nothing to do but to partake of our simple repast. If the average person was to be summoned to breakfast now with nothing in sight but what we had that morning, he would turn away in disgust, inwardly ejaculating: "No breakfast for me, if you please!" But not so with us; all fared sumptuously.
Attention was now turned toward making our new home as comfortable as circumstances would permit. The wagons were stripped of their covers, one was used to make a door shutter, the two tents were spread out and made protection on three sides and served as ceiling inside; rough, uncouth seats were improvised, nails driven in the walls to adjust clothing, and in a word our new home was made comfortable, compared with that of our long, tedious journey. It must be remembered that we were two days, and part of the third, making the journey from Mary's River to this place, which is about eight miles. This shows how fast our jaded teams could travel.
Our house being completed without, and furnished within, we now had the opportunity of looking around so as to ascertain where we were. Our party, or rather family, consisted of three men, two women and five small children.
In our reconnoitering we found game plentiful, consisting of deer, geese, ducks and almost every kind of wild animals, also the rare mammoth white swan, with his beautiful flute-like voice. We three hunters, all "crack shots," procured enough meat in this first effort to last several days. It required quite an amount to supply the family, as not a particle of anything else could be procured, not even salt to season the meat.
In relating our condition and what we lived on in those pioneer days to the men brought up since, they have frequently remarked: "How could you live on such diet?" I know it appears impossible to them, but if they could have seen we ten people commence on a kettle full of this wild meat of different kinds and never cease until the bottom of it was reached, it would have been explained. The splendid sport of killing game continued for a time, and now another difficulty presented that appeared, under the circumstances, impossible to surmount.
For the last two months no washing had been done, for the lack of material to wash with. The writer had a dozen shirts, and I overhauled them, picked out the cleanest until that would look as though it had been in close contact with terra firma, but in this case the old saying held true, "Where there is a will there is a way." I walked six miles to where G. B. Smith and his brother were "batching." (Afterwards he became known all over the state.) He butchered a beef occasionally, and I bought a small cake of tallow that cost 25 cents, half the money I possessed, and, to all business appearances, all I ever expected to have.
I returned to camp, burned a large pile of logs, improvised a leach, put the ashes therein and drained out the lye sufficient to wash the clothes of the family. This accomplished, my cousin concluded to make the effort to get flour so as to make bread for the children. The mill was twenty-five miles away, with two streams to swim. It was near the present city of Dallas, the county seat of Polk County. Blankets were arranged, our pockets filled with meat, and the writer and my cousin struck out. I went for the purpose of looking at the country, and to be company for the boy. He carried his gun, took a horse to carry the flour, and, to make a long story short, lest I become wearisome, the fourth day we arrived at camp with the flour, all rejoicing more to see the flour than the party. Many inquiries were made as to who and what we had seen. The gun came in good play, as wild geese were plentiful, and they were our principal diet on the trip, except on our return, when we had bread mixed with goose meat. We brought back 100 pounds of flour, and that was all the ten persons used until the first of April. You may judge the amount the grown ones of the party ate. As to myself I never tasted the dark mixture of dirt and anise seed since my experience recorded in this journal.
We had nothing to do now but prepare wood for the fire. There was plenty of fuel handy, so the intention now was to spend the remaining part of the winter in the woods. Some might suppose that, situated as we were, with nothing in sight to better our condition, only privation and misery could present itself in the future; but I have never, in all my life, enjoyed myself better than during the remainder of that winter. Perhaps it was different with men and families, but I then, as now, try to make myself happy, whatever my environment may be; and, strange to relate, I never was in a condition during the entire long and tedious journey that I would have changed and gone back from whence I came.
I was "Where rolls the Oregon," as the poet, Bryant, expresses it, where naught is heard but the dashing of the waters; no neighbors nor associations of any kind except the aborigines of the country. Our nearest neighbor was eight miles away, with the exception of Mr. Reed, the philanthropist above mentioned
Each day was spent in the woods with the rifles, laying up food for the winter, which consisted of different species of game. Whatever kind we produced was dressed, cut in pieces and hung up to dry, without salt, and as our dwelling had no chimney, but with fire built near the wall, there was an abundance of smoke to prevent the meat from spoiling. And, strange to say, with this meat diet alone it was soon apparent that our entire family was gaining in flesh, and, still more strange to relate, I have never spent a winter since that I enjoyed more than the one here mentioned.
The excitement produced, the real fun in hearing the report of the deadly rifles of the three hunters and fleeing game of the fowls or beast as they came in range of each other's guns, caused the day to pass and compelled us to return to camp only half satisfied with the day's sport. And now, after these long intervening years, your scribe would gladly pass such another winter.
Not many days after we were located I wandered off some three miles from home. I came to the place that from then till now has been my home. A fine spring was gushing out at the edge of the valley, and about all I knew of selecting a home was that it should possess water, and I fancied that this place, when improved, would make a good one, so I resolved to locate it for that purpose.
On returning home and making known my discovery and intention of locating it for a home, the pertinent question was asked, "What are you going to do with it?" Of course, in my condition, I had no answer to that question, as at the time it appeared as though I could never aspire to own a pig, there being no pig to own.
With the dark future in view, my brother and I returned next day, laid a foundation for a house, near the spring, drove stakes at the corner, which filled the requirements of the organic law at the time. Good luck came my way, as this narrative will show, so that I retained my place, and it is my home today. Without giving occurring incidents, I will say that after a time my cousin purchased a claim a short distance from mine, built a house and all hands moved to his place. It was a beautiful location, and he made it afterwards a lovely home.
This brings us to the first of March, 1847. About the middle of the month arrangements were made to go to mill, at Salem, now the capital of the state, and thirty miles away. There being no road, the trip had to be made by water. Parties living ten miles up the river (our places were located near the Willamette River) had made a large canoe for the purpose of bringing supplies from Oregon City, seventy miles away.
This canoe was borrowed and brought opposite our place. Myself and brother and two other men boarded the boat, with camping outfit for the trip, and made it to Salem the first day. I had money to buy our supplies. The other parties had to go into the French settlement and somehow trade for wheat, so this detained us two days. When we started from home the snow was six inches deep, but in the meantime a warm rain had melted it, and the river was booming. We loaded our canoes with the flour, twenty bushels of wheat, and a large amount of other supplies, and made the start for home.
CHAPTER X.Before starting for home we bought a shoulder of pork and a small cake of tallow. We now had salt to season the food with, and after being without that essential item for some five months, no one can conceive the difference in the taste of food except those who had the experience. We also brought coffee, but we had nothing with us in the shape of cooking utensils but a frying pan. So here we go up the booming Willamette, although we made but little progress.
That night and the next morning our shoulder of pork disappeared. The bones were gnawed so clean that a dog would starve on what remained, so after this we had nothing but bread, with the addition of a mess prepared by putting water in the frying pan where the bread had been baked, let it reach the boiling point, and then thicken to the consistency of gravy. This mixture and bread was all that we had for six days. One of our party called this new prepared gravy "wallop," so if anyone in the future might be forced to this scanty living, they will know how to make it.
After arriving home I only remained one night, leaving these hard-earned supplies for the benefit of others. And it was no light matter to leave companions with whom I had been for so long, sharing all the privations and sufferings incident thereto.
On arriving at Salem I met an intimate friend, with whom I had traveled a long way upon the plains. He intended to go to California, while I desired to remain with my relatives. We parted with the best feeling toward each other, but afterward he changed his mind and came back to Oregon.
My friend, Robinson, was on the eve of starting to Puget Sound, and insisted on my going with him. Perhaps it may appear strange that I would accept such a long and difficult journey, considering my past year's experience, but it must be remembered that I was in a strange land, with but few friends, and neither home nor money, and as my friend was well supplied with money, all these made an inducement that led me to accept the proposition.
My friend, his brother and family, and another man and family, together with their household goods, wagons, and oxen yokes started on our voyage in a large bateau. (This species of boat was used by the Hudson's Bay Company in the transmission of their freight.) So here we are, with the mode of traveling entirely changed from desert, sagebrush, mountains and Indians, to the broad waters of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. I found a vast difference in going downstream in a strong, swift current to that of going upstream with a heavy-laden canoe.
It was now April, and the weather was fine. We would land and camp on shore of nights, and we had plenty of nourishing food, seasoned with salt to taste. All things considered, the mode of travel was agreeable to me, besides I had the promise of something in the future--a home and employment at the end of our voyage.
We went smoothly over the broad water of the great Columbia, and perhaps no stream in the world presents such picturesque scenery as it does, with its precipitous mountains and strangely shaped rocks. Each day brought strange and delightful views to this party of former land travelers. Our captain was an experienced sailor, and as the boat was provided with a sail it was spread to the breeze, when the wind was fair, and we glided swiftly and pleasantly through the water.
We now make camp within view of a strange sight, and, after supper the captain and I made an investigation and found it to be an Indian cemetery. A large table-shaped rock stood near the shore, perhaps twenty feet above the water. On this there were perhaps a hundred canoes, and in each was the remains of an Indian.
The mode of burial with these Indians was that when one died, if he had a canoe, to place the corpse with his belongings in it and then convey it to this or some elevated spot. The cemetery on this rock had become literally covered. A new place of burial was selected on shore, opposite Coffin Rock (as that was the name afterwards given it), where a point on the mountain sloped down to the river, and as many canoes as possible had been placed thereon, and a larger space occupied on the ground adjacent.
On this ground was an immense canoe, the largest in all the group. The edges and bowsprit of the craft were adorned with different species of sea shells, and it had remained in its present position until the bow and stern had given away and fallen apart. There in the center lay the remains of its former owner, covered with a section of cedar bark. Our captain, being somewhat of a curio hunter, remarked: "That fellow has been a chief; he has something." So he put action to the words and removed the bark covering. Sure enough there lay the most perfect skeleton that I ever beheld--every bone belonging to the body from crown to foot, together with all the adornments pertaining to a knightly personage of his race. At the head lay his hair, looking as fresh as though it had just been shampooed. A number of brass rings were around the bones of his ankles, wrists and above the elbows. Around his neck were two or three strings of U.S. buttons and copper cents, and near the head were a number of ear ornaments.
Our relic hunter removed all these ornaments, appropriating everything to himself. I asked him what he intended to do with them, when he answered: "Trade them to the Indians." Your scribe stood amazed at the mortal remains of this once knightly chieftain, and disgusted at the sacrilege being made of his ornaments, the only history that remains of his life and former greatness. And what made the scene more impressive to me was that the time might come when our race would become extinct, and our own bones disinterred by the living race to find curios of the people that once existed.
Here we leave this strange city of the dead. In a short time we came to the junction of the Cowlitz and Columbia rivers, and we leave the latter, a swift, tortuous stream for our heavy-laden craft to navigate. Consequently a laborious change came to our party. We had to wade many times, waist deep, to haul our boat over rapids, it being impossible to propel it with oars.
After several days of arduous labor we reached the spot where the boat had to be abandoned, and the rest of the journey be made by land. Camp was formed, arrangements made to return to the place from where we started, and drive the teams belonging to the three families over some mountain trails unknown to any of the party. I will here remark, in view of what had to be done before another start could be made, I had come to the conclusion that I had had all I wanted of Puget Sound, as it was at least one hundred and fifty miles to where the teams were.
The boat was unloaded of the household goods, wagons, oxen yokes and all. In the evening two men came walking up to the camp with blankets on their backs, and to my surprise, one of the men, by the name of Shaw, was an intimate friend of mine, having been raised near him in Illinois. Of course I was overjoyed to meet him. He came to this country the previous year and had been to the Sound. We went for a walk and he told me it was useless to go there, as there was nothing but heavy timber and rocks, no inhabitants but Indians, and nothing to eat but clams and fish. There was no agricultural land, and nothing to induce anyone to go there.
After all had retired in the tent I told Mr. Robinson that I had concluded to return with the boat next morning, without giving him my information concerning the Sound country. He quickly remarked, "If you go I will, too." I told him that I didn't want to influence him at all, but had done all the good I could until he got his team. Nothing more was said that night; but next morning I saw by the way things were moving that I would have company on the return voyage. Sure enough, orders were soon given to reload the plunder and all hands worked with a will, and to all appearances were glad to return.
My boss and his brother returned, leaving the third family alone in that desolate country. William Packwood was his name. He reached the Sound, and he and progeny have remained in that country ever since.
CHAPTER XI.It must be remembered in making my last described journey that after we entered Columbia River, to where we made the stop on the Cowlitz River, no sign of civilization was apparent; nothing but Indian villages and numerous Indians.
The monotony of the trip was relieved by the sight of a canoe containing the body of an Indian. These canoes that made graves for their owners invariably had holes in the bottom in order to prevent them from being used. Many of them were to all appearances new, and were valuable property to their owners, and Mr. Snow in his history of the Northwest makes this statement: "Before the introduction of tools by the Hudson Bay Company it took one Indian six months to construct his canoe." The mode of construction was by burning. After the country commenced settling up many an Indian has been rolled out of his canoe, the hole in the bottom repaired and it appropriated to the man who committed the sacrilege, which would prove to the ignorant savage the high state of our civilization.
Another characteristic of all the Northwest Indians is a practice they have of mutilating whatever articles the dead might have possessed, such as buckets, kettles, baskets, steel traps or utensils of any description so that they can never be used. I have many times inquired of them their object in thus spoiling the articles belonging to the dead of their tribe, and their answer would always be that they were also dead, and consequently not fit to use. Cases are known of these tribes who bury in canoes to confine the favorite slaves alive in the canoes to perish by starvation. I have known tribes to bury their dead in the ground and then deposit food in the grave sufficient to last a certain number of days. Yet all those ignorant savages with whom I have been acquainted have had a distinct knowledge of a "Sa-ha-lie Tyee," the meaning of which is a grand chief over all, and who abides above the clouds.
To resume my narrative. We started down the river and find it much easier and faster traveling down stream than up, as we made the trip down in six hours that occupied six days going up.
Nothing worthy of note occurred till the place where Portland now is was reached. Here my boss left us to proceed on foot to the Tualatin plains, which means a place of no timber, or a land without trees, for the purpose of looking at the country. We went to Oregon City to await the report of the boss. On his return he made known that he had purchased a ranch, with the intention of my assisting him in improving it.
We brought the team from Salem and repaired to the ranch sixteen miles away. This was in the vicinity of the oldest settlement in Oregon, outside of the mission station. Here were many old mountaineers and many discharged from the Hudson Bay Company, consisting of French, Scotch and English, who all had Indians for wives. Prominent among these was the celebrated mountaineer, Joseph L. Meek, a man calculated for a leader of men--a man of fine appearance, with herculean strength, but, judging from his actions generally, it would seem he was destitute of moral restraint.
He had two sons, both respectable business men. One of them is supposed to have been murdered in Portland, and the other still resides on the old homestead.
We now are to decide what is to be our future home, for a time at least--a beautiful situation indeed.
My boss was a lean, rawboned Ohioan, raised in that timbered country in an early day, consequently knew but little about anything except work, and I soon found that he knew all about that. As I had never studied that art but very little, he was just the teacher I needed. It may be truly said that the summer following was the first summer's work I had ever performed. He had a fine team of four pair of large oxen, the same that I drove on the plains for three months. He could not manage oxen at all, so I was lucky in that respect, as there were rails to chop and split so as to fence the farm; and it consequently fell to my lot to plow the prairie land for sowing in the fall. A large plow was rigged on wheels with a lever attached so that one hand attended the plow and the other guided the team.
We had a very pleasant home on the main traveled road to Oregon City, where all the trade was done to supply the entire community. The situation gave us the chance of learning all the news to be obtained at the time; but little news was to be had then. Nothing was obtainable from our homes in "The States" only as the emigrants arrived each year, there being no mail route established then.
It is now the 20th of April, and, to show whether we had worked or not, by harvest there were one hundred acres fenced ready for the seed in the fall. My wages was one dollar per day, with board and washing, to be paid with a $40 horse which had been procured from the Snake Indians, a beautiful bay, pretty as a picture; in a word, I had the fancy horse of the community, a perfect pet and a race horse in those days; but that quality was no advantage to me, as I never indulged in that sport further than riding ahead of all the boys, which in those days of fast riding was a valuable quality, indeed. All stock in those times were fat and sleek, consequently Salem (that was my horse's name) was ready for the saddle each Sunday.
Notwithstanding my pleasant home surroundings, I was laboring under great disadvantages, so far as social conditions were concerned, as I had brought no clothes suitable for high association.
In the middle of June I made the journey to where my folks were living, and I found them all much more pleasantly situated than I expected. The widow and my brother were keeping house together; for the use of her team and wagon other parties were furnishing necessaries. The person I was most anxious to see was the little stranger [i.e., the baby] who came to our camp at Long Tom. It was asleep, but I aroused it from its slumber and treated it beyond the common courtesy that is due to strangers. I remained a short time and returned with clothing that proved superior to that belonging to anyone in the community, which in those pioneer times was a valuable recommendation for a stranger.
We are now supplied with all the paraphernalia necessary to appear in any company that assembled in those days. We had a regular organized community--a large log church within three miles, in which four denominations held services each Sabbath. I availed myself of the opportunity of attending these services, as I was trained from youth to manhood to attend church.
At my first appearance in an audience in this new country, I was delighted with the appearance of the people, both in their health and the hearty social greeting extended from one to another. Having but few acquaintances, I was introduced to all the young ladies and young gentlemen present, and introductions then were not the cold formal kind of today. Equality existed everywhere--no butting off the bridge; no big fish striving to devour the little fish.
Strange as it may seem, it is my candid opinion that from the first settlement of this country till 1850, the time when gold commenced flooding the country from California, were the happiest days the country has ever seen. The unexpected acquisition of wealth caused the people to discard, to a large degree, the essential elements of true happiness. All thought and effort was turned to the gaining of more wealth, paying little regard to the manner in which it was acquired.
On the road to the church there lived one of the prettiest girls on the plains, or anywhere for that matter. I soon made her acquaintance, which budded and bloomed into affection, so much so that I sometimes thought arrangements could be made to travel with her in double harness through life; but a sad difficulty presented itself. I was not able to purchase the necessary harness in which to travel, so all such notions had to be abandoned.
When fall came I assisted in seeding the crop, with the understanding that I was to have a third when threshed. I then went into partnership with a brother of my boss who lived four miles above Oregon City, in the timber. I had to go in debt for part of the team, so we ran a logging camp during the winter. The enterprise was eminently successful, as I paid for the team, had money to rattle, the first I had had in Oregon.
I came back in the spring to take care of my crop, harvested it and had five hundred bushels for my share, which I sold for fifty cents per bushel on the threshing floor. And to sum up the earning of my first experience in making a living, I had a team, two horses and three hundred dollars in money. I doubt very much whether any young man in Washington County could have made a better showing.
Now these letters will have to come to a close, leaving my trip to California, as I went soon after harvest. I was in the first party from Oregon to the mines, remained there two years, and returned to occupy my former selected home. One year afterwards I married.
I stated in commencement of these letters that, considering my limited knowledge, I had been successful; but now comes the capsheaf of my success, which is my marriage. On a limited acquaintance of two months the risk was made, and I will here remark that for all the essential characteristics of wife and mother, with all the necessary qualifications thereto, she is as near right as it has ever fallen to the lot of womanhood to be. We have been married forty-seven years, raised a family of eight children, all grown, and I am proud to say there is not a stain on the character of any of them, but are all married and prosperous. Wife and I are alone on the old, old homestead, nearing the end of life's race.
Transactions of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Reunion of the Oregon Pioneer Association, June 14, 1906, pages 65-103