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on the Columbia 








Cathlamet on the Columbia 





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Cathlamet on the 

Recollections of the Indian 

People and Short Stories of 

Early Pioneer Days in the 

Valley of the Lower 

Columbia River 


BINFORDS & MORT, Publishers, 


Copyright 1906 by Thomas Nelson Strong 

\ X 

ABen County Public Librari 
Ft. Wayne, Indwna 

Printed in the United Slates of America 


As my friend, Newman J. Levinson, Sunday editor of the Oregonian, 

originally instigated the publication of these tales, and has 

given me much valuable advice and assistance, this 

little volume is respectfully dedicated 

to him by the author 

Table of Contents 



I. Cathlamet . 


II. The Indian Village . 


III. Indian Men and Women . 


IV. Indian Children and Boys . 


V. The Indian Hunting 


VI. The Forest Ways . 


VII. The Coming and the Going 


VIII. The Medicine Man. 


IX. The Sweat House . 


X. The Sins of the Fathers 


XL The Broken Tribes. 


XII. The White Chiefs . 


XIII. Indian Wives 


XIV. Keeping the Peace . 


XV. ChiefUmtux 


XVI. Happy Days 


XVII. The Pioneers 


XVIII. The Pioneer Mother 


XIX. The Red Box 


XX. The End . . . . 



JVloDESTLY does the author of these tales 
refer to them as perhaps of little worth; but he 
has made a work which though small in com- 
pass, shines with a quality that endures. It is an 
unusual book. It possesses savor and sincerity, 
exactness and charm. Pioneer incidents are told 
with the warmth that comes of long saturated 
experience. The Indian scenes are more somber, 
as befits the race, but related in mellow tones 
that make the almost forgotten aboriginal live. 
They embody rare fads of value to the historian 
and ethnologist. Over all broods the back- 
ground of river and fir. 

In this setting Thomas Nelson Strong was 
born on March 17, 1853, of New England ante- 
cedents. His father, William, came toCathlamet 
as the first judge of Oregon territory; and it was 
after his father's associate and friend, Thomas 

Nelson, that the boy was named. Scarcely does 
the author allude to this boy, and never by direct 
reference. But into the boy's make-up, and the 
man's, there entered indelibly both the trans- 
mitted strain of a standard of culture and breed- 
ing, and the influence of the surrounding for- 
est, native, and frontier. It is this combination 
that gives the book its abiding quality of vivid 
sensitiveness and reality. 



1 HE tales told in this little book came to the 
writer in many ways. Some of the scenes des- 
cribed he saw himself. Indians in their lodges 
and canoes talked freely to him, a little boy. 
Hudson Bay Factors and French voyageurs in 
their declining years had many stories to tell, 
and these were caught up by greedy ears. What 
is here told is but a little of the gatherings of 
many years of wilderness life with native hunters 
and exploring parties in the Pacific Northwest. 
They may be in themselves of little worth, and 
yet may help future generations of our children 
to better understand the life and atmosphere 
of a peculiar time, to better appreciate the crim- 
son and the gold, and mayhap a little of the 
gray of the morning hour of the white man's 
day on the Pacific Coast. 



Cathlamet on the Columbia 

Cathlamet on the Columbia 



ATHLAMET, on the Columbia, 
was, from time immemorial, the cen- 
ter of the Indian strength on the 
lower river. The Indian lingered longer and the 
Indian blood is more conspicuous there now 
than at any other place between Portland and 
the Ocean. Chinook was a mud beach, a mere 
fishing station, but Cathlamet was an Indian 
town before Gray sailed into the river or Lewis 
and Clark passed by on their way to the sea. 
Here at the last gathered and passed away the 
Cathlamets, Wahkiakums, Chinooks and Cow- 


elislcies. Here Anderson lived for a while, and 
here the Hudson Bay Company, having passed 
away, came Birnie, Roberts and Allan and other 
old factors and clerks of the company to end 
their days. It was early recognized as an Indian 
center, and is the only place of the Fish Indians 
to which Kamiakin condescended to send his 
messengers when he was organizing the Indian 
War of 1855. At its best it was the largest In- 
dian settlement on the Columbia River west of 
the Cascades, and from the Indian stories must 
have numbered in the town itself from 500 to 
1,000 people. Like all Indian towns it changed 
population rapidly, and when the whites first 
knew it, it probably had 300 or 400 inhabitants. 
Sauvie's Island occasionally had more Indians, 
but they were there only temporarily, digging 


Queen Sally, of Cathlamet, was the oldest 
living Indian on the Lower Columbia in the late 
fifties and early sixties, and her memory went 
back easily to the days of Lewis and Clark when 
she was a young woman old enough to be mar- 
ried, which, with the Indians, meant about the 
age of fourteen. Seventy years is extreme old 
age for an Indian, and especially for an Indian 
woman, but Queen Sally was all of this. Judg- 
ing from her looks she might have been any- 
where in the centuries, for never was a more 
wrinkled, smoke-begrimed, wizened old crea- 
ture. Princess Angeline, of Seattle, was a bloom- 
ing young beauty beside her. 

It gave one a far-away feeling, in regard to 
the event not warranted by the years that had 
passed, when from the cliiFs above Cathlamet 
she pointed out the spot where the canoes of 


Lewis and Clark were first seen. She said the 
Indians had been on the watch for them for sev- 
eral days, as news had come by Indian post of 
the strangers from the East. Lewis and Clark 
with their partv came in the afternoon or even- 
ing, and were met by the Indians in their canoes 
at or a little above the modern town of Cath- 
lamet and escorted to the Indian village, which 
was then on the slough below Cathlamet, at 
about the point where the saw mill now is. How 
long they stayed here she could not clearly tell. 
It was evident she confused their westward and 
eastward trips and also their winter stay at Clat- 
sop with their stay at Cathlamet village. Twenty- 
five miles to wandering Indians is a bagatelle of 
too little importance to be considered in fixing 
a locality. It was a time of feasting, wonder- 
ment and council making. Lewis and Clark 


were doubtless weary of Indians by this time, 
but the strange sights they saw will never be 
seen again. 


The Indian Village 

HE village was made up of cedar 
houses thirty or forty feet long and 
fifteen or twenty feet wide. How they 
managed to split and cut out the cedar planks, 
sometimes twenty and thirty feet long, two to 
three feet wide and three to six inches thick, of 
which these houses were built, with the tools 
they had, is a mystery. With wedges made of 
elkhorn and chisels made of Beaver teeth, with 
flinty rocks and with fire, they, in some way, 
and at a great expenditure of labor, cut out the 
boards. The houses were well built, an opening 
was left along the ridge pole for the smoke to 
escape and there were cracks in the walls, but, 
excepting this and the door, there were no open- 



ings. Unless destroyed by fire, these houses 
would stand for ages, as the cedar was almost 
indestructible. Each house was fitted to accom- 
modate several families. Along the sides, which 
might be six or eight feet high, and along the 
rear wall were built beds like steamer bunks, 
one above the other. From the lowest of these 
bunks the floor of earth extended out like a 
platform four or five feet to a depression of a 
foot or two along the center of the lodge, which 
was reserved for the fire place. 

Fully inhabited by Indian men, women, chil- 
dren and dogs, lighted up by the smoky fires, 
the lodge interior looked like a witches' cave. 
Men and women in all conditions as to toilet 
lay sprawled on the earth platform about the 
fire. In the bunks amid dilapidated fUrs were 
numberless half-naked children and coyote- 


looking dogs. Along the ceiling hung dried 
salmon and strings of dried clams and roots. 
The smoke circled everywhere, and gave a misty 
look of vastness to the room, and through all 
like a solid atmosphere was the smell, the awful 
smell of the Indian lodge. Fires in an Indian 
village or an occasional abandonment were re- 
curring necessities in Indian life. Flesh and 
blood, even of the Indian variety, could not 
long abide in one Indian encampment. From 
this as well as from the necessity of getting food, 
it came about that the Lower River Indian lived 
in his village for only small portions of the year. 
It is safe to say that Lewis and Clark either 
found a lodge that had been little used or slept 
away from the village. No sane white man, ex- 
cept under stress of dire necessity, ever slept in 
a fully populated Indian lodge that had been 



used continuously by them for any great length 
of time. 

One of the strange sights that Lewis and 
Clark saw about this Wahkiakum village of 
Cathlamet were the burial canoes. The last of 
these were not destroyed until late in the fifties, 
and when Lewis and Clark came they were very 
numerous about the village and in the Colum- 
bia sloughs between the Elokomon and Ska- 
mokawa Rivers. The low, deep moan of the 
Columbia River bar, forty miles to the west- 
ward, is clearly heard at Cathlamet, and it may 
be due to this that these burial canoes placed 
high in the Cottonwood and Balm of Gilead 
trees were always placed with their sharp-point- 
ed prows to the west. With every paddle in 
place, with his robes and furs about him and all 
his wealth of beads and trinkets at his feet, the 


dead Indian lay in his war canoe waiting for the 
flood of life which should some day come in like 
the tide from the sunset ocean. 

Considering the great value of these canoes 
and the time it took to build one, it almost pass- 
es belief that they would be sacrificed to a simple 
belief in the future life. It is exadly as though 
upon the death of a multi-millionaire of our 
day all of his moneys, stocks and bonds should 
be buried with him, his heirs renouncing the use 
of all his accumulations. 

The Chinook canoe of the lower river was a 
beautiful thing and was as much a home of the 
Indians as was the lodge. In Alaska the Indians 
had good canoes, but nothing that for size, 
model and finish equaled the Indian canoe of 
the Columbia. These river canoes were of all 
sizes, from the one-man hunting canoe that 



could easily be carried, and which required an 
expert to handle, to the large cruising canoe 
forty or fifty feet long and five or six feet wide, 
which could carry thirty or forty people and all 
their equipments. The straight up and down 
lines of the stern and the bewitching curve of 
the bow were very graceful, and the water lines 
of bow and stern have never been excelled. The 
building of one was the work of years. It was 
painfully hollowed out with fire and flint and 
beaver-tooth chisel, was steamed within with 
red-hot rocks and water, and was stretched to 
exadly the right proportion and kept in place 
by stretchers strongly sewed in. It was swift, 
beautiful and seaworthy. Its only weakness was 
in the places where the cedar wood was cut 
across the grain to give the lines of bow and 
stern. Here in a heavy seaway the canoe would 



always work, and from here the canoe would 
sometimes split from end to end. Many a trag- 
edy of the sea was due to this inherent weak- 
ness, for in these and the Alaskan canoes the 
Indians traveled the entire coast line of the Pa- 
cific, from the mouth of the Columbia north- 
ward to Sitka and southward to the California 
line, and even farther, and old Indians often 
told of clinging to the broken sides of the canoe 
when it had split, for hours, and even days, 
until the surf rolled them ashore. 


Indian Men and Women 

HE Lower River Indians had no 
horses and no place to use them, but 
jj dogs they had a-plenty. Why they 
kept them except as sentries no one ever knew. 
They were miserable creatures without courage 
or hunting instincts, but no onecould come with- 
in a hundred yards of an Indian lodge without 
being discovered, and in this probably lay their 
value to the Indian, for they were not eaten ex- 
cept in cases of necessity or upon ceremonial 

The Indians in their canoes were jfine- look- 
ing people. Arms, shoulders and backs were 
well muscled and proportioned, and they han- 
dled their poles and paddles with grace and 



skill, but away from their canoes the efFed was 
not so good. They almost uniformly had short, 
squatty legs, sometimes made crooked by con- 
tinual squatting in the canoes, and this gave 
them a curiously top-heavy effect. 

Compared with the Horse Indians of East- 
ern Oregon and Washington they looked weak 
and insignificant. They were not as warlike a 
people as the Horse Indian, and in a land bat- 
tle would have had but a poor chance. Intel- 
lectually they were superior, and the Indians of 
Eastern Oregon complained that at the Cas- 
cades, where the native peoples met to trade to- 
gether, they were uniformly outwitted by their 
salt-water brethren. Upon the water they were 
superior also, and no Indian of the plains could 
handle a canoe as the Salt Water Indian could. 
The women were short, squatty creatures, with a 


tendency to grow fat and wrinkled when they 
could get food enough to grow fat on; the wrin- 
kles they acquired anyway. From fifteen to twen- 
ty the Indian girl was a warm-blooded creature, 
not at all bad -looking, but after this she aged 
rapidly; at thirty was old, and at forty fit only 
to tan buckskins and do heavy work. In their 
native state very few of them lived much be- 
yond fifty. The treatment of them by the In- 
dian men was brutal to a degree that white wo- 
men can hardly realize. Nevertheless they had 
a great deal of influence, and while an Indian 
in a fit of bad temper might in the evening 
knock down his tired squaw and leave her lying 
in the ashes by the fire, the next morning she 
would be his mistress of the household as usual. 
It was astonishing what good women the native 
women were, and how patiently and honestly 



they toiled and suffered for their worthless hus- 
bands. Afterwards when the white men came, 
the chance to marry one of the King George 
men or Bostons was to an Indian woman a 
chance to enter paradise. No white husband 
was ever as bad as an Indian, and however drunk- 
en and worthless the white man might be con- 
sidered to be by his own people, he was a mar- 
vel of husbandly virtues in the eyes of his native 
wife. His word was law, and to him she was faith- 
ful to the death. Long centuries of oppression 
made the Indian woman thankful for even a poor 
specimen of a man. Thrice happy was her lot 
when she was taken for wife by a decent white 
man. In her inarticulate way she greatly rejoiced 
and sacrificed herself for him gladly. There are 
many people in Oregon and Washington who 
have Indian blood in their veins, and icw, very 



few, of them have ever had reason to blush for 
their Indian mothers. 


Indian Children and Boys 

HE children that Lewis and Clark saw 
I on the lower river were odd -looking 
creatures. The babies were strapped 
to boards and looked like miniature mummies 
of Egyptian times, but the older ones were cease- 
lessly active. They were little brown fellows with 
slender legs that upheld and rapidly carried 
about a protuberant stomach, apparently four 
sizes too large for the legs below and the head 
above. It is astonishing how much they looked 
like the pictures of Brownies in our children's 
picture-books. Amongst them the rate of mor- 
tality was high, and they grew up with the dogs 
as best they could; were fed, and in a fashion 
clothed and sheltered, and that was all. As soon 



as the little Indian could run about he com- 
menced to hunt and fish, and in mere love of 
slaughter would frequent the streams and maim 
and kill the salmon coming up to spawn. The 
little creek by Cathlamet was a favorite stream 
of the Fall salmon, and here the little Indians 
would gather and spear fish until they were 
weary of the sport, and would then in mere 
wantonness throw their captures on the rocks 
to spoil. At thirteen and fourteen the boys would 
begin seriously to hunt for game.The old Queen 
Anne muskets that they had in early days would 
be carefully loaded, not a grain of powder or a 
single shot would be wasted, for these commod- 
ities in the early days were difficult to obtain. 
In his little one-man canoe the youth would 
silently paddle through the sloughs looking for 
ducks and geese, of which there were countless 



thousands. He never attempted to shoot on the 
wing, and would rarely fire at a single bird, but 
would maneuver for hours to get a chance to 
fire into a sitting flock at short range. 

As the great flocks of wild fowl had then, 
as they have now, a most exasperating habit of 
lying in open water beyond gun shot, a favorite 
device with the Indian was to cover his canoe 
with green boughs so that it would appear to 
be a mere floating heap of brush wood, and lying 
in ambush under this the hunter would patient- 
ly wait for hours for the birds to come near or 
for a favoring wind to float him into their midst. 
An Indian enjoyed killing ducks and geese in 
this way. The stealthiness and the ease of it, both 
appealed to him, besides it meant many birds 
for one shot. 

So strongly was the necessity for economy 


in powder and shot impressed upon them that 
a young Indian about fourteen years old, seeing 
one day a large cougar about to cross a stream 
on a log, did not fire at him from the canoe, 
but crept ashore and hid himself at the end of 
the log until the cougar nearly touched the end 
of his gun, when he fired, and, in the words of 
Western Ike,"Blowed a hole in that cougar that 
a bull bat could a' flew through without teching 
his wings on either side." Spoken to about the 
risk he had taken the youngster said he couldn't 
afford to waste a load of shot, and had to make 
sure work.These old guns missed fire very fre- 
quendy, and the little Indian's economy might 
have cost him dear, but to his mind life was 
about the cheapest of his possessions; it had 
never cost him anything. For large game shoot- 
ing they would frequently make a slug for their 



muskets by whittling out a wooden plug the 
size of the interior of the gun barrel, and with 
this make a mold in damp sand, into which was 
poured the melted lead. The result was a fear- 
ful missile. It would not go straight for forty 
yards, but as it was never fired at such a great 
distance this made no difference, for by lying in 
wait or careful stalking the Indian would get so 
close in to his game that a miss was impossible. 
A bear slain in this way looked after his decease 
as if he had been hit by a section of Mount 
Hood in some "Battle of the Gods." 



The Indian Hunting 

PPOSITE Cathlamet in the Colum- 
bia River is Puget Island, named by 
^^^^^ Vancouver's exploring party on its 
first trip up the Columbia, in 1792, and here 
the Indians hunted the deer in the low, marshy 
lands along the sloughs. In the early times, be- 
fore they used guns, the bow and arrow were 
sometimes used, but generally the hunts were 
elaborate affairs and long lines of skirmishers 
drove the frightened deer into the inclosures or 
pitfalls, but after the traders came with guns 
and gunpowder, the same wary tactics and care- 
ful stalking were employed in deer hunting as 
in the pursuit of other wild game. 

Across the river, beyond its two channels and 


Puget Island, was high land again, and here is 
one of the most beautiful pieces of forest and 
one of the most striking slopes in all of the Coast 
Mountains. Commencing at Cathlamet Head, 
the unbroken ridge sweeps easterly to a point 
back of Westport, and between it and the Ne- 
halem River, for miles, the hunter travels in a 
great fir forest and up a gentle slope until he 
reaches an elevation of about three thousand 
feet, and sees the Columbia River to the north 
and east, the Nehalem River to the south and 
the Pacific Ocean to the west. Looking at it 
across the river from the hill in Cathlamet by 
the Birnie house, the sweeping outline of this 
long slope presents one of the most graceful 
and impressive scenes on the Lower Columbia. 
Here Wholiky and Scarborough and all the 
mighty hunters of the Lower Columbia hunt- 



ed the elk and the bear and the long aisles of 
those magnificent woods have seen some stirring 
sights.To watch one of these thorough hunters 
track an elk was always a fresh delight. For hours 
he would go uphill and down and out and in, 
in devious wanderings. Here a little twig mis- 
placed or a leaf pressed down, signs too faint for 
the inexperienced to even notice, would tell him 
when and where the great beast had passed. 
No bloodhound ever followed the track more 
persistently. After hours, perhaps, of this kind 
of work, the signs would grow clearer and easier 
to follow, and the hunter's eyes would grow 
keen and hot, step by step he would increase 
his speed, and piece by piece he would drop his 
wrappings and clothes. It was said of Indian 
Dick that he rarely had any clothes, to speak of, 
on at the death, and yet so perfect was his wood- 


land instinct that he would afterwards retrace 
his tracks for miles and gather up every article. 

It almost seemed as if the hunter had the 
sense of smell possessed by hunting dogs, but 
the Indians disclaimed this capacity and to their 
familiar hunting friends talked freely about the 
way they found the trail. One thing that helped 
them was that they were familiar with the lay 
of the ground and knew the runways and habits 
of the animals and could very nearly guess where 
any particular one was bound. 

Where an elk had been feeding it was very 
difficult to follow him, and sometimes the In- 
dian would make a short cut to find out where 
he had left his feeding grounds, and this made 
it occasionally necessary to look up the back 
track, but ordinarily it was a straight-away stalk 
for miles through the brush and heavy timber, 



and the hunter generally followed in the exact 
trail of the animal. 

At the beginning of a chase an Indian hunter 
like Wholiky or Indian Dick would often ven- 
ture a prediction as to where the chase would 
end. "We catch him on Rocky Hill little way 
over there," or "on little creek," or elsewhere, 
and usually there was where he was found. 

On ordinary ground the track could be read- 
ily followed and on hard rocky soil there was al- 
ways enough dust or vegetation to retain some 
trace of the passage of so heavy an animal as a 
deer, elk or bear; a dislodged pebble, a turned 
leaf or a crushed blade of grass was enough. 
The marvelous thing about it was the quick- 
ness and accuracy with which these slight signs 
would be seen and interpreted. A white hunter 
following his Indian friend had plenty of time 



to watch the process, and it was as interesting 
as the working out of a great puzzIe.To an or- 
dinary white man who knew little of the woods 
or of hunting, it was magic pure and simple. 

The closing in of the native hunter on his 
game was a stirring thing to watch. Long cen- 
turies of hunting with bows and arrows, feeble, 
short-range weapons, had bred into the Indian 
the habit of getting close up, and his having a 
gun made no difference with his habit. 

Carrying his body low crouched so that it 
seemed to glide along the ground like a snake, 
placing each step with noiseless certainty and 
going through the underbrush as quietly as a 
fish in water, the stealthy panther- like quality of 
the Indian here showed at its best, for, close to 
his prey, fairly vibrating with ten$e and subdued 
energy, the Indian of the chase was a very dif- 



ferent looking creature from the Indian of the 

On one occasion Indian Wholiky in the wood 
and heavy underbrush of the Nehalem Moun- 
tains crept up so close to a black bear that only 
the thickness of a tree separated them. Poor 
bruin was astonished and dead in the same mo- 
ment. The black bear in his chosen habitat of 
thick brush is one of the most unapproachable 
of animals by stalking, and poor bruin had a 
right to be astonished. 



The Forest IV ays 

I E W people appreciate how different 
the forest home of the Indians of the 
Lower Columbia was from the habi- 
tat of other Indian peoples and what effect this 
had upon them. Cathlamet was situated on the 
bank of the Columbia River and was in a mere 
notch cut out of one of the most remarkable 
forests in the world. 

For hundreds of miles to the North, East, 
South and West, the Douglas fir, now called in 
the trade by the commonplace name of Oregon 
pine, covered the earth with a green mantle two 
to three hundred feet in thickness. 

The growth of one of these forests was as 
good an example of the opulence of nature as 



could anywhere be found. Over the bare ground 
caused by a burn or windfall thousands of the 
cones of the fir tree would be scattered from the 
adjoining forest. Chattering pine squirrels and 
birds and the winds would carry the seeds. The 
next year the ground would be green with tiny 
trees, little fairy things of which there might be 
dozens to every square yard. In four or five years 
the ground would still be green, but the carpet 
of verdure would be perhaps six or seven feet 
deep, and of the little tiny trees perhaps nine- 
teen out of twenty would have been crowded to 
death, and so dense would be the surface of this 
green carpet that the lower limbs of the little 
trees, and many of the little trees themselves, 
shut out from all light, would be dying and fall- 
ing away. For two hundred years the process 
would go on, each young tree vigorously reach- 



ing upward to keep its head in the sunshine but 
making no attempt to reach out sideways, for 
this was hopeless. Only the stronger trees sur- 
vived the struggle and thousands died each year 
shut out from light and life by their stronger 
brothers. The lower branches dropped off farth- 
er up every year as the green pile of the fir car- 
pet was lifted higher and higher on the vigor- 
ous young stems. In perhaps fifty or a hundred 
years from the time the seed dropped on the 
ground there would be a compact young forest 
of beautiful timber fit for the masts and spars 
of ships, each tree eighteen or twenty -four in- 
ches through at the ground, gomg straight up 
into the air a beautiful straight shaft of nearly 
the same size a hundred feet without a branch 
or leaf, and then for fifty or one hundred feet 
tapering to the top and leafing out into the sun- 



shine. When the forest was fully grown this 
green mass of leafage would be two or three 
hundred feet from the ground, and the great 
stems of the trees six and eight feet in diameter, 
would stand like great brown corrugated col- 
umns one hundred or one hundred and fifty 
feet without a limb. 

Looked at from above, from the top of some 
high hill, for instance, this continuous forest ap- 
peared like a great green carpet spread evenly 
over a great sea of mountains, and it extended 
over hill and valley for thousands of square 
miles along the Pacific Ocean. Looked at from 
beneath, the forest vistas looked much like the 
groined aisles of some great cathedral with 
sweeping lengths to be measured by miles in- 
stead of feet. 

Since the coming of the white man uncount- 



ed millions of feet of lumber have been cut from 
this forest and fires have in places ravaged it and 
yet so immense is its extent and so vigorous is 
its power of renewal that it is today to the cas- 
ual sightseer the same unbroken forest that it 
has been from the beginning. 

This was the home and the hunting ground 
of the Indian of the Lower Columbia. Some 
parts of it he knew well but into other parts he 
would not go, and it was curious to see how the 
places where game and food were plentiful be- 
came familiar ground while the other places 
were invested with superstitious terrors. Along 
the rivers where canoes could go the Indian was 
at home, and along some of the prairies and 
smaller streams of the Willamette Valley, Indian 
villages and homes were established, but the for- 
est itself was untouched and except where it was 



hunted in was unknown and feared by the In- 

Thunder storms are of rare occurrence in the 
Valley of the Columbia and hence the Indians 
were very much impressed by them when they 
did occur. 

Jim Crow Mountain, near Brookfield, was a 
rough piece of country in which the hunting 
was poor. It was ^"^Mesatchie Illihee," and so in 
time the Indians conneded together what they 
thought was cause and effect. Jim Crow Moun- 
tain obtained the reputation of being a thunder 
blasted distrid and as being the chosen resting 
place of the gigantic Thunder Bird who so ter- 
rified the poor Indians with the flashings of its 
eyes and the mighty roll and thunder of its dark 

A part of the Upper Valley of theWenatchee 



above the lake had also the reputation amongst 
the Indians of the neighborhood of being"Mes- 
atchie Illihee" and of being the haunt of evil 
spirits. The first surveying party of the whites 
that went through identified the evil spirits in 
clouds of mosquitoes, which at times made the 
place uninhabitable and undesirable by either 
men or game. ''Mesatchie Illihee" meant only 
rough, bad or difficult country, but the Indian 
ghosts and hobgoblins seemed to like this kind 
of country, for they were always located in it by 
the Indian story tellers. 

The forest was so vast that the multitude of 
animals and birds that roamed through and 
lived in it were completely out of sight, and it 
was quite a common experience for the early 
explorers and surveyors to travel through it for 
weary days without seeing more than a pine 



marten or a chattering squirrel. Lewis and Clark 
in their expedition followed the rivers and this 
and good fortune and judgment was all that 
saved the party from disaster, for hunters well 
equipped but unacquainted with the woods, 
have starved in these great forests. 

The Indians tried no experiments and unless 
compelled wandered into no unknown country, 
and the old Indian trails on the Lower Colum- 
bia were few in number.There was a well known 
way for the Indians and Indian canoes from 
Chinook River to the Naselle and thence to 
Shoalwater Bay and another from Shoalwater 
Bay to Grays Harbor.There was an Indian trail 
from the waters of the Cowlitz River to Puget 
Sound and another around the Cascades of the 
Columbia; and in the Willamette Valley, owing 
to its more open character, horses were used 



and there were a great many trails to different 

The trails used by the Indians who did not 
use horses were always made by the tramping of 
feet and were never cut out or graded in any 
way.They practically always went up the sharp 
points of the hills and along the backbones of 
the ridges, and this was done to avoid fallen 

Thirty- five years ago a young hunter was 
searching for deer in the little range of moun- 
tains between the Willamette Slough and the 
Tualitin Plains. It was an idle, easy hunting, 
more for the love of wandering than for the 
desire of killing, and in the Summer evening 
he sat down to rest and look around. Something 
peculiar about a vista in the woods attracted his 
attention and he observed it closely. Apparent- 



ly an old trail, it tempted him to wander along 
it. For miles and miles it kept its course and soon 
it was clear that here was the old Indian trail 
from theTualitin Plains to the Columbia River 
at Sauvie's Island. Overgrown with moss, cov- 
ered with leaves and mold, it was still the old 
trail that in olden times had been trodden by 
thousands of moccasined feet. There were no 
choppings or blazed trees along it, and even the 
roots of the trees rounded and rubbed by the 
clmging clasp of soft, flexible feet showed plain- 
ly that they had not been trodden or marred by 
the heavy foot-gear of the white man. Every foot 
of the location and every sinuous turn of the 
old highway bespoke its origin and use. It was 
the old and fading signature of a dead people. 
So dim and spectral and yet so unmistakable, 
it was the rising of an Indian ghost. 



Following along the shadowy trail, he soon 
reached the summit, from where he saw before 
him the valley of the Lower Columbia. The 
mountains to the Eastward, the great river in 
the foreground, the Willamette Valley stretch- 
ing to the Southward and many miles of river 
and forest lighted up by the evening sunlight. 

As the evening deepened the young hunter 
could by a very easy stretch of the imagination 
see along the path lines of bent Indian squaws, 
each carrying on her back by a strap about her 
forehead a heavy load, and some, too, with lit- 
tle babies in their funny little bound- up pack- 
ing cases, and trooping merrily at their heels, 
the little elf- like, copper -colored children and 
the wolfish dogs, and occasionally with these, 
and yet apart as became his dignity, an Indian 
warrior foot- loose and comfortable. 



It was a long procession and it had passed 
and repassed that way for hundreds of years, and 
now only the trail was left, but the trail told 
many things to any one who could see. 

To understand the Indian migration you 
must know what they are traveling for, because 
the Indian life was spent in traveling. In this 
case apparently these Indians had not traveled 
this road for war or sight-seeing or pleasure. It 
had only been the old quest of food. 

Immediately below the sightseer from this 
point lies Sauvie's Island, stretching for fifteen 
or twenty miles down the Columbia River, and 
this island, famous in the history of the Hudson 
Bay Company and of the pioneers, was a garden 
of the wapato, the Indian potato. The lakes and 
overflowed lands were green with its many ar- 
row-shaped leaves, and here every Autumn the 



Indians used to gather for the purpose of har- 
vesting it, and the stores so obtained helped to 
feed them through the Winter. 

On the river was also the gathering place for 
drying and smoking salmon. The Cascades on 
the Columbia and the Falls of the Willamette 
at Oregon City were great gathering places in 
the salmon season, but there were plentyof other 
streams where the salmon could be caught. It 
was preserved by drying and smoking, and from 
an Indian encampment in the olden time an 
odor used to float down the wind that was so 
pungent and characteristic that it could almost 
be seen. No real and truly pioneer who ever lived 
near the Indians can to this day catch the slight- 
est whiffy of ancient fish without seeing in fancy 
the Indian lodges. 

The Indians near the Coast made trips to the 



ocean for the native cranberry and for clams. 
These later were dried and smoked and so cured, 
with an abundant sprinkling of sand, were prob- 
ably the most indestructible food known. 
AlonCT or near the Coast were also the fav- 


oritc hunting grounds for elk. The meat of the 
elk and deer was cut in strips and dried over the 
fire, making what was known as jerked meat. 
Farther up the river the sweet, glutinous root 
of the camas was dried and packed for Winter 

The black bear is a cunning berry eater, and 
there is no more curious woodland sight than 
that of this big bear sitting upon his haunches 
drawing down huckleberry bushes and with 
flexible lips and tongue picking off the tiny ber- 
ries one by one; but even the black bear is a dul- 
lard in gathering berries compared with the In- 



dian woman. They knew every berry bush and 
patch anywhere within reaching distance and 
knew just how and when to gather them, and 
Olallies (berries) formed a great part of the 
Indian food supply. 

To the people who knew it the forest was a 
magnificent granary of food, and perhaps one 
of the most pitiful stories of the West is that of 
a party of Eastern men fleeing panic-stricken 
from anticipated starvation, leaving their com- 
rades to die by the way, because a little snow 
flurry and a little hunger met them in the woods. 
The mountains and the great forest were strange 
and terrifying to them. Had they been Indians 
or Western and forest- trained men they would 
have come out at their leisure, hungry and thin, 
half starved and hollow down to their boots, 
perhaps, but still all together. 



So far as Indian tradition goes there was never 
any famine amongst the native tribes of the 
Lower Columbia. When Azrael took his chosen 
from amongst these Indians to the Happy Hunt- 
ing Grounds he walked with them along other 
death -trails than the dreary one of starvation. 


The Coming and the Going 

HERE did the Indian of the Colum- 
bia River come from? 
^^1 Crab Creek, on the great plain of 
the Columbia, in Eastern Washington, is one of 
the most remarkable streams in the Northwest. 
At its source near Medical Lake it is a mere 
brook, and here, in 1870, there were trout, little 
fingerlings, by the hundreds. A few miles to the 
Westward the stream disappeared in sand and 
basaltic rock. Again a few miles below it came 
to the surface a larger stream than at first, and 
with larger trout. For 100 miles went this pe- 
culiar stream in this way, now sinking and now 
rising, every reach of open water stocked with 
trout of appropriate size, until at a point a little 



below Moses Lake, south of the Grand Coulee 
and 20 or 30 miles from the Columbia River, 
it finally disappeared in a waste of sand and 
rock. Thirty years ago in its lower reaches fat 
half-pound trout went in schools, and as the en- 
gineers of the Northern Pacific Railroad passed 
by they had much argument as to how the trout 
got there, and as to how the right-sized fish got 
in the right -sized streams. But the question is 
still unsolved. 

In some such fashion men speculate upon 
the orgin of the Pacific Coast aborigines. How 
came this people to be scattered along the coast 
and in the interior, each one in his proper habi- 
tat, and who were the Adam and Eve of the 
Chinooks and Cathlamets? It is an endless sub- 
jed, for they were apparently a people to them- 
selves and resembled no others, and perhaps the 



answer of Chief Moses, of the Wenatchees, is 
as good as any. Riding by this self- same Crab 
Creek in leisurely fashion one Summer day, he 
was asked how the trout got in. With an in- 
dulgent smile for the youthful ignorance that 
prompted such a question, the old chief an- 
swered: "Mika ticka cumtux caqua ucook tenas 
salmon chawco copa tenas chuck? Na, na, chawco, 
nesica tillicum be nesika cumtux yaca quansum mit- 
lite. " (You want to know how the little salmon 
got into the little creek? No, no, they didn't get 
in. My people know, and I know, that they have 
always been there.) 

Another curious question has to do with the 
scanty native population of Western Oregon 
and Washington when first known by the white 
men. The range was limitless and food abund- 
ant beyond measure. The country could have 



supported easily five times the number of native 
people that were on it. These Indians always 
claimed that they were once a populous and 
powerful people, but that in some way they had 
provoked the Divine anger and been destroyed, 
and this claim is undoubtedly based upon fact, 
and on this question, although there are uncer- 
tainties regarding the manner of the decimation 
of the Indians of the Willamette and Lower Co- 
lumbia Rivers, we have something definite to 
go on. This decimation began before the first 
white settlers came, and was largely finished be- 
fore 1830. None of the histories give any idea 
of the number of Indians who inhabited this 
region before historic times, and this can only 
be conjectured, but it is certain that once a com- 
mensurate Indian population filled Western 
Oregon from the Cascade Mountains to the 



Pacific Ocean. Every aged Indian told stories of 
a time when the rivers were lined with villages 
and floated many canoes. 

At Marr's Landing, about three miles below 
Castle Rock, on the Columbia, the river has in 
the last few years been washing away what is 
known as the island, and has uncovered the site 
of old Indian camp fires.These stretch in a long 
line up and down the beach. They are covered 
with two or three feet of loam, and on this fir 
trees a hundred years old have grown. As many 
as fifteen or twenty stone hammers have been 
found about a single fireplace, and these old 
charred fires are preserved as they were 200 years 
ago. One pathetic little relic found amongst the 
big stone hammers was a tiny little hammer and 
pestle, evidently playthings of an Indian child. 
On Archer Mountain, a mile or two west, are 



what appear to be ancient fortifications that 
would have required many warriors to man. No 
village of this magnitude was known there by 
white men. In the days of Lewis and Clark there 
was only a scattering settlement near Castle 
Rock, and a migratory trading band at the Cas- 

The Indian flint fadlory at the Clackamas 
River suggests a large population, and Cath- 
lamet was always a greater city of the dead than 
of the living. Between the Elokomon and the 
Skamokawa the sloughs were lined with the 
burial canoes of the dead, and as only disting- 
uished men were so buried, this stood for a very 
large population, probably greater than that of 
the Bella- Bella Indian Village in British Colum- 
bia. These canoe burials were ancient to say the 
least. Cedarwood is almost indestructible, and 



no living Indians knew the name or lineage of 
the dead or resented the resurrection that the 
white children accomplished in searching for 
Indian ornaments.They tumbled the bones out 
of the bed of loam and leaves that had gath- 
ered over them, and they were the bones of a 
hundred years gone. In sport the children put 
them together and speculated upon what man- 
ner of men they were, and the Indian children 
joined in the game, for the dead were the old, 
old people. 

Below the Indian village the ground was black 
and the plough turned up countless skulls and 
bones with flints and Indian arrowheads, be- 
speaking long ocaipation and a numerous pop- 

Long before 1800 the Indian had evidently 
reached the height of his power and prosperity. 



and when the white man came was already on 
the way to extinction. 

The waning of the Indian power of the Lower 
Columbia is shrouded in mystery. Young In- 
dian girls told the story of it in hushed whis- 
pers, and the old Indians spoke of it reludantly. 
Had the Death Angel come in bodily form they 
could not have been more impressed. The wail 
for the dead, so they said, was heard all along 
the rivers, and no one even hoped for life when 
the slaughter was on. 

The Indians named the chief instrument of 
destruction the "Cole sick." With the white man 
came the smallpox and the measles, but the 
"Cole sick" was neither of these. About 1820 
and 1830 epidemics of the old disease swept 
among the remaining Indians, and historians 
are puzzled to give it a name. 



One suggests that fever and ague came with 
the settlers, but theValley of the Columbia was 
never a fever and ague country and the pioneers, 
however malaria stricken at the beginning, must 
have been thoroughly disinfeded by their long 
trip across the plains. Others say that the turn- 
ing up of the soil by the Hudson's Bay people 
at the farms at Fort Vancouver released malaria 
from the soil and this caused the epidemic, but 
the disease was here before the farms, and it was 
impossible that a disease which raged over hun- 
dreds of square miles could have come from so 
trivial a cause. It may have been the modern la 
grippe striking an unprotected people. What- 
ever it was no more potent angel of death ever 
visited an afflicted people. 

The white man had no need of war or vio- 
lence in his dealings with these Indians, nor did 



he employ them, for the "Sahalee Tyee," the 
Indian god, had struck before him. 

After 1800 the smallpox, measles and con- 
sumption were always busy, and a death in the 
Indian village was a common thing. There was 
no doctor at Cathlamet, and in pitiful depend- 
ence upon their superior skill the Indians used 
to come to James Bimie and William Strong, 
the only white settlers there, and ask for med- 
icine, which was always given them, although 
it was no inconsiderable burden to supply it. 

But sickness in an Indian lodge was not to 
be checked by medicines. 



The Medicine Man 

'^^j N addition to these medicines In- 
^'f^f dians of the higher circles had In- 
°p^. dian medicine men. A sick Indian, 
a smoky lodge, a hundred Indians beating the 
roof with poles to a monotonous chant and 
dance, and a temporary maniac manipulating 
the sufferer with rattles and Indian trumpery, 
it was weird medical work, and soon transferred 
the Indian of the higher circles to the select circle 
of Abraham's bosom. 

The Indian war dance has for the last one 
hundred years been practically unknown on the 
lower river. Occasionally some feeble effort was 
made to imitate it, but nothing was ever done 
that could for one moment be compared with 



the wild rush and frenzy of a genuine war dance 
about the campfires of the Spokanes and Cay- 
uses. These were performances to stir the blood 
and raise the hair. Nowhere along the seacoast 
were there any war dances to speak of. Even 
among the Hydahs, Tlinklits and Chilcats of 
Alaska the war dance was a spiritless, tame af- 
fair. The medicine dance, however, an entirely 
different thing, was at its best among the Coast 

There were reports of Indian lodges in West- 
ern Oregon that were two hundred and twenty- 
four feet long, but this is probably an exagger- 
ation, and a lodge sixty or seventy feet long 
must have been a large one. In such a lodge in 
case of sickness of some distinguished person, 
would be gathered at night a hundred or more 
Indians. In the sunken place in the middle of 



the lodge cleaned out for this purpose, and be- 
tween the two end-fires would be placed upon 
a mat the sufferer lightly covered with furs. 
Around the sides and ends of the lodge in 
double and triple ranks, each with a pole in his 
hands, would be placed every available Indian 
man, woman and child. 

In Cathlamet the white children would some- 
times join in and were always welcome. At a 
given signal from some master of ceremonies, 
the dance would commence by everybody, at 
first slowly, but afterwards more quickly, jump- 
ing up and down in their places to a loud chant 
of yo-o-o, yo-o-o, yo, the first two long drawn 
out and the last sharply cut off and shouted al- 
most explosively. No one stirred from his po- 
sition except monotonously to jump up and 
down with the pole held upright in both hands 



in front of him, so that the movement brought 
it into contad with the low roof in perfect time 
with the chant and the jumping, the move- 
ments being so timed that the poles struck the 
roof all together with the final "yo." The noise 
was deafening and the lodge would shake in 
every timber. 

After this had gone on with increasing en- 
thusiasm for a half hour or so and the patient 
was supposed to be sufficiently prepared and 
the evil spirit properly alarmed, a terrific noise 
would be heard in the darkness outside, and 
suddenly the medicine man and four or five 
assistants would come bounding through the 
door with howls and yells into the smoky in- 
terior. They looked like fiends, bodies naked, 
faces covered with a hideous mask, over which 
towered a frightful headdress, and in their 



hands rattles, large cumbersome things deco- 
rated with teeth and feathers. This dress varied 
with different people and different medicine 
men, but the one idea was to make it as hideous 
and awe-inspiring as possible so as to impress 
and frighten the demons who had wrought the 
evil witchcraft upon the sufferer. Not for one 
moment did the dancing, chanting or pound- 
ing cease or vary in its monotony. 

The medicine man howling dismally, circled 
with great leaps and bounds about his patient, 
in sporting phrase, ''sparring for an opening" to 
get to close grips with the evil spirit. Finally his 
chance came. The spirit, invisible to all but him, 
had been caught off his guard. He rushed in, 
seized the sick man, and with hands and teeth 
attempted to drag from him the demon that 
tormented him. In the contest the patient was 



tossed and roughly handled, for Indian devils 
come out reluctantly. 

The performance lasted for hours, taking 
the greater part of the night and the assemblage 
was wrought up to frenzy; but the treatment 
stopped only because human nature could en- 
dure no more. With the smoke, noise and gen- 
eral atmosphere the interior of the lodge be- 
came unbearable and the physical strain was too 
great to be longer endured. 

Sustained and soothed by this struggle with 
the evil one in his body, the sick man himself 
with patience and before many days generally 
gave up the ghost. 



The Sweat House 

HEY had another device that for 
quick dispatch was superior even to 
the personal treatment of the med- 
icine man, and this was the Indian sweat house. 
No Indian man in his native state voluntarily 
or for the sole purpose of cleansing himself ever 
took a bath. He trusted to the rain or to the 
necessary swimming, to passing through the 
wet woods and grass or to mere dry attrition 
for all the personal cleanliness he deemed nec- 
essary. It created a sensation in the highest social 
circles of the Chinooks, therefore, when Dun- 
can McDougall caused his Indian bride- elect 
to be thoroughly soaked and washed prelimi- 
nary to the marriage ceremony, and the fact 



was considered of so much importance that his- 
tory has gravely recorded it as one of the notable 
circumstances that attended that notable wed- 

History, however, in giving so much prom- 
inence to this fact, has done injustice to the In- 
dian woman. She was by instindt more decent 
than her Indian master and under favoring cir- 
cumstances was neat and clean. To her a bath, 
although rare, was not an unknown thing, and 
therefore the sweat house was not ordinarily for 

To the masculine Indian, however, a hot 
bath seemed the greatest sacrifice he could make 
to the deities that ruled disease and death, and 
so it happened far back in the history of the 
race that some aboriginal genius with a talent 
for inventing great sacrifices invented and 



brought into use the Indian sweat house, They 
were not much used on the Columbia River 
near the ocean, but on the Cowlitz and Lewis 
Rivers, all along the Valley of the Willamette 
and on the Upper Columbia and its tributaries 
sweat houses were everywhere to be seen. They 
were little, mound-shaped structures like a flat, 
old-fashioned bee-hive, were perhaps four feet 
in height and five feet in diameter, the size and 
form varying a little in different localities, and 
were constructed on the banks of the cold run- 
ning streams.They were made of willow branch- 
es, loosely intertwined after the fashion of a 
great basket upside down, without any opening 
except a hole in front of just sufficient size for 
a man to crawl in. 

After the willow work was completed it was 
daubed over with clay, making an almost im- 



pervious hut.The inside dimensions were care- 
fully calculated so as to accommodate one man, 
crouched into the smallest possible compass, 
with the necessary apparatus for a vapor bath, 
and the manner of its use was simple. After 
heating a number of large stones almost if not 
quite red hot the Indian, naked as the day he 
was born, and with a vessel of water, would 
crawl in and take the stones in also. Closing the 
door up tightly he would pour water on the hot 
stones until he was almost parboiled with the 
hot steam. After bearing this as long as he could 
the Indian would crawl out and without any 
preparation would plunge into the running 
stream. In this manner would be accomplished 
the second great medical treatment of the In- 

This course was taken for any illness or in- 



disposition, and would be taken even in mid- 
winter, it not being an unusual thing for a sick 
Indian after such a vapor bath to plunge into 
the water while snowflakes were whirling in the 
air and ite running in the river. Where the in- 
disposition was slight or due only to an un- 
cleanly life, the Indian would survive the treat- 
ment and be even benefited by it, and it was 
these cases that maintained its credit as a "good 
medicine" in the eyes of the tribe. 

With measles, smallpox and other diseases 
of similar character it was almost sure to cause 
speedy death, but as the Indian did not dis- 
criminate and with cheerful patience took it for 
jrranted that the afflicted one if he died was 
fated to death anyway, it did not discredit the 

Occasionally an Indian would kill a medicine 



man, or, as was once done by a sorrowing chief 
of the Klickitats, lasso the unsuccessful dodor 
about the neck and with the lasso fast to the 
saddle bow, ride his horse at full speed until 
the medical head was separated from the body, 
but no fault could be found with the sweat 
house, which maintained its credit as a sover- 
eign remedy until many years after the coming 
of the whites, and this accounts for the fact 
that measles amongst the Indians was about as 
deadly as the smallpox. 



The Sins of the Fathers 

flTH the white man came whisky 
and death hand in hand, and with 
him came the subtle laws under 
which nature punishes infractions of its moral 
code, and these laws struck at the very source 
of life of the Indian people, 

Lucy Quillis, one of several of the name, for 
it passed from one to another, was the little nurse 
in the white family. She was carefully taught, 
clothed and cared for. But in those days you 
might just as well have put a pretty little tiger 
cat in pantelets. On her part, with the very best 
intentions, she taught her infant charges the 
Chinook language, how to gamble in Indian 
fashion, and some other thines. 



When she was fifteen or sixteen years old, 
after the fashion of the young girls of her race, 
she fled from the house with her lover, a most 
unworthy scamp, and so began the life which 
ended a few years later in all that was left of 
poor Lucy, a mangled, battered body, being 
gathered up from the floor of the madhouse 
and buried. The "madhouse" of the Lower Co- 
lumbia and of Puget Sound was not in pioneer 
days a lunatic asylum or a female seminary, only 
a judicious combination of the two with un- 
limited whisky thrown in. 

The Indian woman of the Northwest Pacific 
Coast was not a flower- garlanded maiden or a 
frivolous French soubrette or Light o' Love, as 
so many Indian romances depict her.There was 
in her from childhood up a certain gravity and 
sober earnestness which was the natural result 



of her sober, hard-working hfe. For unnum- 
bered centuries the burden of the toil and res- 
ponsibility of her people had been upon her 
shoulders, and so far as she had anything to 
think with, she was a thoughtful, earnest wom- 
an. Inarticulate and coy in the expression of her 
feeling to a degree that imposed upon people 
who did not know of the fires that glowed be- 
neath, she was in reality alive and earnest and 
had great capacities for joy and suffering. Above 
all things she was a simple, law-abiding creature. 
In the tribe, as a maiden, she obeyed without 
question the moral code such as it v/as, of her 
people. Married to an Indian husband she was 
his slave, and married to a white man and made 
acquainted with his moral law, for his wife, she 
would have passed through fire, torture and 
death before she would have gone one step out 



of the straight path in which he desired her to 

There is not on record in Oregon history a 
single case of an unfaithful Indian wife of a 
decent white man, and in view of this one can- 
not recall some particulars of the history of those 
early times without a shudder or without taking 
a firmer hold upon a belief in a future life in 
which the crooked ways of this world may be 
made straight, for God seemed to deal harshly 
with the Indian woman. 

The spectre of the Eve of St. John when he 
spoke to "Smaylho'mes lady gay," spoke to 
understanding ears, and when he laid his burn- 
ing fingers on her fair arm with the declaration: 
"That lawless love is guilt above, 
This awful sign receive" 

and left there the scorched brand of guilt he 



branded wanton frailty, but God's Angel of 
Punishment in his dealings with many Indian 
women laid his hand on innocent victims and 
no law proteded them, no voice warned them, 
and they did not even know for what they were 

It is difficult for the white men and women 
of this day to conceive of the Indian code of 
morals or to appreciate how perfectly it fitted 
their wandering life or to understand how trust- 
fully and innocently the young Indian woman 
met the white strangers when they came. No ex- 
ploring or hunting party, however difficult or 
arduous the journey, ever lacked Indian women 
to go with it, and no white man had any diffi- 
culty at any time in obtaining a companion for 
his camp or home, nor from the Indian point 
of view was there anything indelicate or im- 



moral in this. It was the old custom of their 
race come down unquestioned from Adam and 
Eve and had the full sanction of parents and 

Nevertheless to this trustfulness and inno- 
cence the terrible physical punishment that had 
been evolved for a race of men who had been 
educated for centuries was ruthlessly applied, 
and to make the situation still more unhappy 
and apparently unjust, no remedial or palliative 
agencies were known to the victims. The cruel 
thing about the early history of Oregon was 
that the trader came so long before the mission- 
ary that death's work was largely done to the 
Indian woman before either knowledge or help 
could come to her. 

One of the saddest sights of early days was 
that of young Indian women driven out of the 



lodges to live or die as best they could alone in 
the woods. The other Indians would be fright- 
ened at their sickness and in their fear knew no 
pity. Occasionally an old woman or a grand- 
mother, whose life was considered of little value 
either to herself or her people, would go out 
with the stricken one and care for her. 

Such girls would patiently live apart in some 
little hut or wickie-up and without a word of 
complaint would care for themselves as they best 
could. The pioneer white women were in the 
habit of taking out food and such simple rem- 
edies as they could think of to these poor crea- 
tures, and not knowing the nature of their ill- 
ness or daring to come close to them, would 
place it upon a convenient stump to which the 
sick girl would come when her friend had with- 
drawn a little, and then the two would cheer- 



fully visit together with ten or twenty yards of 
pure air between them. 

Ordinarily, when white persons were about, 
when death came, the dead were decently buried, 
but occasionally the interment was as fearRil as 
the sickness, and this was true of the victims 
of any disease that the Indian feared was in- 

One Winter evening a good old missionary, 
telling in reflective mood his experiences on the 
Northern Coasts in a smallpox epidemic, told 
of sending Kathla, a young Indian girl who had 
contraded the disease, to a hut far outside the 
Indian village on a point in the bay where her 
old grandmother went with her as nurse, and 
how every morning he went in his canoe to a 
point of tide -washed rocks near their hut, and 
not daring on account of his people to go near- 



er, shouted out his instructions and left there 
their food and simple remedies. 

The missionary then wandered off in his 
story into a general description of that awful 
time; how twelve canoes laden with Indians 
seeking help camped on an island in the bay 
and after some weeks only one canoe went pad- 
dling away; and hov/, when the scourge had 
passed, he sent out trusty men immune to the 
sickness and bid them bury the dead who were 
lying about in the forest with orders afterwards 
to destroy their own clothing and go a -hunting 
for six months longer before returning to the 
village, so as not to bring the infection back 
with them. 

The old missionary told of one old Indian 
who had contracted the smallpox and who in- 
sisted upon having his grave dug in advance 



and his bed placed over it so that he could drop 
handily into it when he died, and added, in a 
chuckle, that the old Indian did not die after 
all and the grave was wasted, and then he lapsed 
into silence, forgetting that he had left Kathla's 
story incomplete, until some one asked about it. 

With an effort of the memory recalling the 
circumstances, the good man answered as if it 
were an ordinary occurrence of those old days: 

"Kathla and her grandmother, poor crea- 
tures! Oh, the wolves took them!" 

This is the seamy side of Indian life and the 
process of extinction of the Indian was grim in 
spots, but strange as it may seem, this period of 
fifty or one hundred years during which the 
natives of the Lower Columbia were passing 
away, was not on the whole an unhappy time 
for them. The Indian took life day by day and 



did not worry for the future. Sheltered and with 
enough clothes and food he was happy. The in- 
dividual was never seriously sick but once.The 
life and the medical system insured this and 
the fear of death was not in them. 

One of the most pathetic characteristics of 
all the Indians on the Pacific Coast was their 
submission to what seemed the mevitable. A 
sick Indian gave up at once and died with no 
more fear or apparent suffering than if he were 
falling asleep, and his relatives buried him with 
low wailings, the sorrow of which died out with 
the echo. 

To this day in Alaska the dying Indian will 
talk of his own coming death with a gentle pa- 
tience that seems to cast out all fear. 


The Broken Tribes 

NE of the effects of this earlier deci- 
mation of the people was a scatter- 
ing of all of the Indians of the Lower 
Columbia River Valley. They fled from their 
homes and temporarily settled in any place that 
provided them with the means of livelihood or 
that promised exemption from the plague that 
afflicted them. Inthis way the Cathlamets, whose 
home was originally upon the Oregon side of 
the Columbia River, below Puget Island, after 
wanderings that are not recorded, finally settled 
upon the present site of Cathlamet and near the 
place of the ancient Indian town, and from this 
people the modern town derives its name. 
The Wahkiakums, who lived in the ancient 



Indian village on the Elokomon Slough, near 
Cathlamet, returned to the ancient to wnsite after 
the panic was over, but only to leave it shortly 
after the coming of the Lewis and Clark expe- 
dition. This people gave their name to the 
County of Wahkiakum, within which Cath- 
lamet is situated. What final catastrophe com- 
pelled the Wahkiakums to leave their ancient 
village is not known, but charred timbers and 
burned and blackened soil on the site of the old 
town point almost certainly to fire as the final 
scourge ofthe Indians on the Elokomon Slough. 
These fragments of the Wahkiakum and 
Cathlamet peoples took up their homes together 
on the main Columbia River about one mile 
East of the old Indian village. Here they built 
their cedar houses and founded what is now the 
modern village of Cathlamet. 



What took place near Cathlamet must have 
taken place all over Western Oregon. Panic- 
stricken for the time the native people wan- 
dered about for several years, and fragments 
only of the ancient tribes returned to their old 

With this dispersion came an almost total 
disappearance of the tribal bonds and relation- 
ships. Every little settlement became a law to 
itself, and in Western Oregon there were no 
sharply defined tribal ties or boundaries. These 
peoples, as the white men came in, were grad- 
ually given the names of the localities in which 
they were found, or, as often happened, the lo- 
cality was given the name of the principal In- 
dian man who was found there, and afterwards 
the resident people were known by the same 
name. Thus, Wahkiakum was a chief of the 



Cathlamets, and yet two tribes have apparently 
derived their names, one from the chief and one 
from the locality. These two tribes came to- 
gether, and the double name, Wahkiakum- 
Cathlamet, is now perpetuated in the modern 
County of Wahkiakum and Village of Cath- 
lamet. The building up of Indian names for 
modern use was a wondrous process, and no 
man knows just how it was done. 

The Chinooks, Clatsops, Cathlamet- Wahki- 
akums and Coweliskies, with the native people 
of the Lower Willamette Valley, in this later 
period, roamed up and down the Columbia and 
Willamette Rivers between the Cascades of the 
Columbia and the Falls of the Willamette on 
the East, and the ocean on the West, and in- 
dividuals of any tribe took up their residence 
at any place that pleased them, and in this way 



a good deal of mingling of the Indians took 

With this dispersion of the Indians came an 
absolute failure in chieftainship. From 1800 on 
to the end it is remarkable how barren the lower 
river was of chiefs. 

Comcomly, of the Chinooks; Chenamus, of 
the Clatsops; Wahkiakum, of the Cathlamets, 
and Umtux, of the Coweliskies, are the only 
four borne in remembrance, and of these Wahki- 
akum is known from a line or two in Washing- 
ton Irving and as the founder of Cathlamet, 
while Umtux emerges from obscurity only by 
reason of his tragical end at the battle-ground 
back of Fort Vancouver during the Indian war 
of 1855-56. 

Comcomly was more nearly a chief than any 
other Indian on the Columbia West of the Cas- 



cades, and this Duncan McDougall recognized 
in 1813 when he married one of his daughters. 
Many other Indians are named as chiefs in the 
books, and some of them may have had some 
claim to the title, but early historians called any 
principal man of the natives a chief. In fact, 
from the time ofCartier's voyage, in 153 5, when 
a quaint old historian, writing of the Indian 
town of Hochelaga, on the St. Lawrence, speaks 
of meeting an Indian, "one of the principal lords 
of the said city," to 1608, when in the Long 
Wigwam of Wesowocomoco, the mighty Em- 
peror Powhattan, was divested of his greasy 
raccoon robe and gowned and crowned in kingly 
style by the English, up to the present time, 
very erroneous ideas have prevailed in regard to 
the power and authority of Indian chiefs. 
In time of war they were allowed a little 



authority, but not much. In Eastern Oregon, 
where chiefs were plenty, they were without 
authority in time of peace, beyond the influence 
of their personal wealth and character, and on 
the lower river the villages were without law or 
authority from any native source. 

During the latter days of Indian Cathlamet, 
Quillis was the principal man of the village, and 
had the largest lodge and family, and in earlier 
times would have been called a chief, but poor 
Quillis squabbled and scrambled with his broth- 
er Indians on terms of perfect equality, and if 
a canoe was to be hired or any contrad made, 
his word was no better than that of anyone else. 



The White Chiefs 

HILE this confusion was at its height 
a new element came in, so wedded to 
the Indian life that it became part 
and parce of it, and lived and died with it. 

When in 1670 the"Governor and Company 
of Adventurers of England trading into Hud- 
son's Bay," commenced to trade as the Hud- 
son's Bay Company with North America, they 
had no purpose of founding a dynasty, and yet 
that is what they did: the dynasty of the chiefs 
of the Indian people. 

Good old Dr. John McLoughlin, at Van- 
couver, was in all essential things a chief of the 
Indian people. His authority on the Columbia 
West of the Cascades was absolute, and it ex- 



tended with varying power over the entire region 
North of California and West of the Rocky 
Mountains. His word was law to a lawless peo- 
ple, and the great chief was known as such 
among all the Indians. He had all the character- 
istics of a chief — a quick temper, an arbitrary 
will and the heart and the head of a governor 
of men. He lived in impressive pomp, and all 
down the river the story of the stately halls and 
the wealth and magnificence of Fort Vancouver 
was told by Indian to Indian with bated breath. 
The present generation can never fully re- 
alize that Fort Vancouver was once in this North- 
west country, the court of a King, and that poor 
Indians wandering chieftainless and alone 
looked to it as a center of power, culture and 
wealth. In the lodges of Cathlamet, the Indian 
mothers told their children of the wonderful 


place and of the wealth of red blankets, of gay 
silk handkerchiefs and of powder and shot and 
provisions that were to be found in its store- 

The affedion and respect of the Indians for 
McLoughlin was quickened by the fad of his 
having a wife of the Indian blood, who bore 
herself in her relations to her husband and the 
world as the wife of an Indian chieftain should. 
How much of the blood of this good woman 
was French or Scottish and how much Ojibway 
Indian nobody knows, but she carried herself 
as an Indian woman, and when visitors were at 
Fort Vancouver, effaced herself in true Indian 
fashion; loved and respeded of her husband and 
of every one, she, according to common report, 
never presumed at Fort Vancouver to sit at her 
husband's table in the presence of strangers, and 



in this, according to Indian notions, was only 
rendering due respect to her lord and master. 
No requirement of Indian etiquette was 
more imperative than this, that an Indian 
woman should not be seen eating with her hus- 
band. It v/as her duty to wait upon and serve 
him, and afterwards provide for herself. It made 
no difference how wealthy she v/as, or how 
many servants she might have to wait upon 
her, she never presumed to put herself upon an 
equality with her husband or to be served be- 
fore him.Thiswasnotan invariable rule, as more 
tlian one Indian woman took her place at the 
head of her white husband's table and there 
welcomed his guests, but this was not common 
and was generally confined to Indian women 
married from tribes East of the Rocky Moun- 



There are wives of the Indian blood now liv- 
ing on the Lower Columbia whose husbands 
are well-to-do, influential men, who are loved 
and respected of their husbands, who have the 
respect of the communities in which they are 
known, and who live handsomely and well, yet 
who will not to this day sit at their own boun- 
tiful and well-appointed tables with their hus- 
band and his guests. This native shyness and 
reserve it is almost impossible for the native 
women to give up, and it enhanced Dr. Mc- 
Loughlin's dignity in the eyes of the natives 
that his wife treated him as a chief. 



Indian Wives 

HE relation of the white chiefs of 
the Hudson's Bay Company with 
native women presents a point of 
vivid interest in Indian history. For twenty years 
Fort Vancouver, like all other Hudson's Bay 
posts, was the home of fair- faced men and dark- 
faced women. 

There is no doubt as to the standing of the 
women. They had been wedded in the ancient 
and orderly fashion of their people and in the 
forum of conscience were as much married as 
ever Queen Victoria was. They knew that their 
husbands could dismiss them at any time, but 
this was the ancient and inalienable right of the 
husband according to Indian ideas, and so with- 



out a thought or care for the future they gladly 
gave themselves to their white masters and 
made loving and dutiful wives, and being used 
to the country and at home, made very effective 
helpmeets. The men accepted them upon the 
same terms and not one man in ten dreamed at 
first of the relation becoming a permanent one. 
They were not of the class of the settlers, and 
each man expeded in due time to return to 
England and there marry and found a family. 

Some of them did dismiss their Indian wives. 
There were two ways of doing this. One was 
to pass the wife, often with a bonus of goods 
or furs, over to some other white man; and this 
although a cruel process, was much more mer- 
ciful than the other, which was to send the 
woman back to her own people. 

No one who has ever seen an Indian wife 



of a white man sent back to her people ever 
wanted to see such a thing again. Sorrowfully 
gathering up her little belongings, lingering over 
the task as long as possible, the poor dumb 
creature would finally come to the last parting. 
Without outcry or struggle she would try to 
accept her fate. One or two good-bye kisses, for 
the Indian women under the training of the 
white men soon learned to kiss, and then with 
her little bundles she would make her way back 
to the lodges. 

For days and weeks she would bring little 
gifts of berries and game and lay them on her 
husband's doorstep, and for days and weeks 
would haunt the trading post or humbly stand 
near her husband's house, where he could see 
her, not daring to ask to be taken back, only 
hoping that his mood might change and that 



she might again be restored to her old place. 

Resolute men broke down under the strain 
of such partings and took back their dusky 
wives for better or for worse until death should 
them part. 

With the higher class of Hudson's Bay man 
the original marriage relation was very rarely 
dissolved. Little by little the light shone in upon 
him. Seeing at last clearly what he had done 
and strengthened by love of wife and children 
after many soul struggles, he faced his duty 
nobly, and calling in the minister took upon 
himself the marriage vows that bound him as 
well as the woman. 

Dr. McLoughlin was married after the Eng- 
lish fashion in 1836, eleven years after he and 
his wife had come to Fort Vancouver. Sir James 
Douglas was married at the same time, while 



another prominent Hudson Bay man and his 
wife were joined together in the white man's 
fashion by the same minister that married their 
daughter to her husband and at the same time. 

Romance treats it lightly, but whole tragedies 
of self-renunciation were bound up in many of 
these marriages. 

Before McLoughlin came to Oregon anoth- 
er servant of the Hudson's Bay Company had 
been exercising all the functions and authority 
of a chief of the Indians. James Birnie was in 
every respect an interesting charader, and had 
great influence with the Indians of the Colum- 
bia River, and from 1846 to his death in 1864 
he lived and with his wife reigned at Cath- 
lamet. He conneded himself with the Hud- 
son's Bay Company at Montreal, and three 
years later, in 1820, established a Hudson's Bay 



Company post at The Dalles. He was at Fort 
Simpson in British Columbia, where one of the 
islands outside the harbor now bears his name, 
and afterwards was in charge of Fort George, 
now Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia 

In 1846 he severed his connection with the 
Hudson's Bay Company and settled in Cath- 
lamet, the first white man to make a home 
there. Here he and his wife ruled in state and 
conducted what was in all essential particulars 
a post of the Hudson's Bay Company. The 
square Hudson's Bay store just east of the 
present steamboat landing at Cathlamet still 
stands. At least it is in the same position and is 
of the same shape, but clapboards and paint 
have given it a modern appearance. The old 
Birnie house was on the crest of the hill just 


back of the store. Like McLoughlin, Mr. Birnie 
had an Indian wife, brought with him from the 
Red River Indians of the East; but she, unlike 
Mrs. McLoughlin, bore herself with all the self- 
assertion of an English dame of long pedigree. 
She entertained in her own home and sat at 
the head of her own table, and no social center 
in those days in all the country was more fash- 
ionably attended than that of Mrs. Birnie. 
Once only in the year did she resume her In- 
dian character, and that was for her annual trip 
to Shoal water Bay for elk meat, clams and 

Mrs. Birnie's canoe was one of the wonders 
of the lower river. No larger one in the mem- 
ory of Indians had ever been seen there. It was 
said that it could carry seventy people. In the 
fall of the year this canoe, manned by twenty 



or thirty Indian men and women, with all their 
belongings and household furniture aboard, 
would start seaward from Cathlamet. 

Mrs. Birnie, all fire and energy, would be in 
command, and no woman on the river could 
command better.To the dip of the paddles and 
the Indian chant, the big canoe, enforcing res- 
pect everywhere, would pass the Chinook vil- 
lages into Chinook River to the portage. Here 
the expedition would be taken over to the Nasel 
River and from there would pass into Shoal- 
water Bay. After a few weeks of hunting and 
fishing the party, with its spoils, would return 
by the same route. 

Disposing of her gatherings and scattering 
her party, Mrs. Birnie would doff her Indian 
character and again assume her role as the grand 
dame of Birnie hall. 



Here was one of the great gathering places 
of the lower river, and here at the wedding of 
Mrs. Birnie's daughters were gathered impos- 
ing assemblies.Thomas Fielding Scott, first mis- 
sionary bishop of Oregon, an imposing figure 
in full canonicals, performed the marriage cere- 
monies. The Indians looked on in awe and 
amazement, and for weeks afterwards the little 
Indians gave dress rehearsals of the white man's 
wedding. The white robes of the bishop, which 
in their untutored way they took to be a glorified 
nightgown or white blanket in some way pecul- 
iarly appropriate for weddings, particularly took 
their fancy. To see a dirty little brat of an Indian 
with a piece of old cloth on, through rents in 
which gleamed a brown little stomach, attempt 
to repeat the marriage ceremony to a couple of 
other little brats, was very funny. 


Keeping the Peace 

[either Mr. Birnie nor any of the 
Hudson Bay employees had any 
legal authority over the Indians; law 
in these very early days was chiefly conspicuous 
for its absence, but each and every one of them 
fearlessly assumed the duty of a chief bound 
to maintain order within the bounds of his 
jurisdiction. Occasionally Dr. McLoughlin 
would have an Indian murderer hanged, and he 
never permitted any serious off^ense to go un- 
punished, but severe measures were rarely nec- 

Occasionally a naval expedition was sent out, 
but these on the lower river were not very des- 
tructive, George B. Roberts, Dr. McLoughlin's 



Prime Minister at Vancouver, who in the latter 
part of his life lived and finally died at Cath- 
lamet, and who knew more of affairs at Van- 
couver and of the Indians than almost any one 
else, had many comical tales to tell of these ex- 
peditions. The irate old doctor would storm 
about and order the instant punishment of the 
offending Chinooks. If the armed schooner 
Cadboro was away another little schooner would 
be hauled to the bank and a big gun would 
with infinite difficulty be transferred from the 
fort to her deck, where it would be carefully 
balanced to prevent an upset. Then in charge of 
a flotilla of canoes the schooner with the great 
black gun looming up impressively on the for- 
ward deck would proceed down the river to the 
great awe and astonishment of all the Indians 
until opposite the Chinook town, where she 



would come to anchor. After allowing a suffi- 
cient time for every Chinook to get well away 
the big gun would be carefully trained upon a 
spot where good old Roberts thought there was 
no danger of hitting anybody and fired several 
times. A few houses would be knocked down 
and a few canoes would be captured. The In- 
dians would make restitution and the principal 
offenders would receive some slight punish- 
ment. Then Dr. McLoughlin and Birnie and 
Roberts and the others would be again indulg- 
ent chiefs of their weak and erring people, and 
the Hudson's Bay Company would again en- 
fold them with its protedion. The schooner vic- 
torious, big gun and all, would sail up the river 
amidst great rejoicing and promptly resume its 
peaceful business of carrying goods and furs. 
The chief instrument of discipline was the 



store, for here every Indian was well known, and 
he could trade to such extent only as the factor 
allowed. If for any reason he was on the black 
list for offenses unatoned for it made no differ- 
ence how many beaver skins he could produce. 
There was no sugar or tobacco, powder, shot 
or blankets for him. In serious cases the store 
would be entirely closed to the whole people 
and this would bring the most stubborn tribe 
to its knees, for without powder and shot they 
were helpless, and without sugar and tobacco 
they were miserable. All hunting and fishing 
would stop, and about the storehouse would 
be gathered, stolid but unhappy groups of In- 
dian men and women squatting on the ground 
and discussing the situation. 

Finally a subdued and repentant committee 
of the principal men would wait upon the of- 



fended factor.They would be received with se- 
vere and impressive dignity, would very likely 
be kept waiting for several days for an interview 
with the chief. When admitted to his presence 
their business would be curtly and sternly de- 
manded of them. Then a great silence would 
prevail; not a word would be said perhaps for 
half an hour or more. Finally a principal man 
would rise in his place and mournfully lay be- 
fore the fador the unhappy condition of his 
people, carefully refraining from mentioning 
what he and the fador and everybody else knew 
was the secret of the v/Hole trouble. Then the 
factor upon his part would curtly tell them what 
they all very well knew, that at such a time and 
place a white trapper had been robbed of his 
furs and outfit, and that until these had been 
returned and the criminals given up for pun- 



ishment his heart was angry towards them, and 
that there were no goods for any one until res- 
titution had been made. 

After expressing their astonishment at the 
news and denying all knowledge of the affair 
and any ability to detect or bring in the offend- 
ers, the Indian committee would slowly stalk 
out, and the groups about the store would be- 
gin again their subdued conversations. 

After a day or two some of the plundered 
goods would be returned. The fador would be 
obdurate.Then more would come in. Still the 
factor shook his head. After awhile all would 
be returned and the solemn committee would 
ask for mercy, and would plaintively tell that 
the robbers were of another tribe; that they 
had gone to a far-off illihee, etc., etc., but all 
in vain. 



After a few days more Indian Jim and In- 
dian Joe and their associates would be produced 
as the culprits. In nearly every case the offend- 
ers would surrender themselves to justice when 
the pressure on their people became sufficiently 
hard, but if not they were brought in by force. 

Indians acted very much as children do, and 
one of their peculiarities was that a criminal 
seemed unable to keep silent regarding his 
crime, and however disastrous the consequences 
might be to himself, was compelled to confess 
and give himself up. 

As one by one the Hudson's Bay Company 
gave up its posts the men who were foot loose 
returned to English soil, but many were not so 
free. Dr. McLoughlin and James Birnie, happy 
in their married life, were nevertheless not in a 
position to return home, and were compelled 



to stay in the wilderness with their wilderness 
people, and this was true of hundreds of others. 
Ties carelessly assumed at first, in the end held 
these men captives by a chain that they could 
not and would not break. 

Already men and women are proud of the 
Indian blood in their veins, and more and more 
this feeling will grow, but at this early time the 
Indian wife could only be happy in her native 
land, and was unfitted for any other; and it 
speaks well for the great hearts of these noble 
men that they recognized this and gave them- 
selves a willing sacrifice to a new country and 
a dying race. They had connected themselves 
with a changing time and were compelled to 
change and pass away with it. 

The clinging arms of the wilderness women 
were about them and held them to their forest 



life.There they lived and there they died, and 
the God of the wilderness has pronounced their 
work good. 



Chief Umtiix 

^'^ENTION has been made of the 
peaceful charader of the Indians 

Sf'^^-ftl along the Lower Columbia and their 
broken strength. It is a fad, therefore, to be 
noticed that after Fort Vancouver came into the 
possession of the Americans a number of these 
Indians did on one occasion form line of bat- 
tle against the whites, and that by reason of 
what then happened one spot in the Lower 
Columbia River Valley bears to this day the 
title of a battle ground. 

The Coweliskies who lived on the Cowlitz 
River, then known as the Coweliskie, and along 
the two branches of the Lewis River in what is 
now known as Cowlitz and Clark Counties of 


the State of Washington, were not of the pure 
river type of Indian, nor did they live diredly 
on the banks of the Columbia. They had a trail 
extending from the Cowlitz River to the gravel 
plains South of 01ympia,Tacoma and Seattle. 
Some of them who lived near the Gravel Plains 
had ponies and were what might be called half 
horse and half canoe Indians. They were a more 
lively and warlike people than the Chinooks 
and held a middle position between the Colum- 
bia River and the Puget Sound Indians. 

Indians are by nature great gamblers, and it 
is hard where all so excelled to specify any one 
tribe that was preeminent in this fascinating 
vice, but perhaps the Indians of the Lower 
Puget Sound country were entitled to this 
award. Too timorous to go to actual war and 
take chances with death, they were also too 



adventurous to be contented in mere eating and 
drinking, and therefore gambled with an aban- 
don that put to shame the very best modern 
efforts of our gilded youth.The white man plays 
to some limit, but these Indians had none. 

Whenever any of these Indian cominunrcies 
on Puget Sound acquired enough portable 
property to make it worth while they sent out 
invitations to their neighbors for a meeting at 
some appointed place, and to this spot the In- 
dians would flock from every point of the com- 
pass.! hey would bring with them their wives, 
children, dogs, horses, furs, lobes, weapons and 
every bit of their property that they could carry 
along, leaving nothing at home except their 
canoes and lodges. The prominent features of 
these aboriginal fairs or expositions were what 
might be called "agricultural horse trots." 




Horse racing as a gambling game was an 
institution amongst them, and every little com- 
munity of the horse Indians had its racing pony, 
which was at once its pride and hope. Other 
gambling games were played at these meetings 
but the horse race was the greatest of them all. 
Curiously enough the Indian in his native state 
never raced canoes. This is a modern invention 
of the white man. 

To these race meets appointed by the Indians 
of Lower Puget Sound many of the Coweliskies 
with their wives and chattels would go, and 
generally they came back afoot without their 
chattels and sometimes without their wives. 

LJpon the speed of their favorite pony the 
Indians would stake everything: robes, goods 
and horses, and, the fever of gambling upon 
them, would not hesitate to stake and lose the 



clothing from off their backs or even their faith- 
ful squaws. 

This betting of a wife upon a gambling 
game was a rare event, not because of any dis- 
inclination on the part of the loving husband 
to put up the wife of his bosom on a wager, 
but rather to the disinclination of the other man 
to put up anything of value against such skit- 
tish property as Indian squaws. The Indian 
might be a gambler, but he wasn't always a 
fool, and to win an assorted lot of wives was 
not exactly the way to get rich or happy. 

It was only in cases like that of the amorous 
Jewish King that an Indian would in a gamb- 
ling game put up anything of value against an 
Indian woman, and had King David and his 
faithful Uriah been Columbia River Indians, 
the wily old lover would have needed only to 



put his faithful soldier in the front of a 
poker game to get his wife, and the putting of 
Uriah in the front of the battle and the shed- 
ding of blood would have been spared the 

This intercourse of the Coweliskies and the 
Puget Sound Indians naturally made them 
friendly, and when the Indian war of 1835-56 
was in progress and Chief Leschi on the Sound 
was taking the Puget Sound Indians into war 
with the whites, great fear was felt on the Co- 
lumbia River that the Coweliskies would be 
drawn into the conflict, and it was deemed best 
to keep them at Fort Vancouver, and there they 
were brought and kept in semi-imprisonment. 

At this time the regulars were in the field, 
and a company of volunteers was, greatly to 
its dissatisfaction and to the dissatisfaction of 



its Captain, in garrison at Fort Vancouver, and 
the fort was the center of more general alarms 
and troubles than any other point in the North- 
west. The Yakima Indians were attacking the 
Cascades settlement only thirty miles to the 
eastward, and a large number of settlers had 
been killed there. General, then Lieutenant 
Philip Sheridan, with only forty men, the last 
of the regulars, had gone to the Cascades to 
withstand them, and was having a hard time. 
Everywhere fear was about Vancouver and all 
of the settlers from the threatened points were 
encamped about it for protection. 

Panics were of daily happening and it was 
a common occurrence for such a panic to arise 
in some strange way in the middle of the night. 
A cry would be raised in the darkness that the 
Indians were coming, and in a moment the 


muddy roads and trails through the dark woods 
would be thronged with the panic-stricken 
people fleeing to the fort for protection. Most 
of the men were absent at the front fighting 
Indians, but the trampling women and child- 
ren had a hard time of it, and the few men 
stationed at the fort, and especially the young 
Captain, had almost more than they could do 
to keep order and still remain in a posture of 
defense against the very real Indian enemy only 
thirty miles away. 

Amidst all of these alarms the camp of the 
Coweliskies lay like a dark cloud under the fort, 
portending danger, and many a mother and 
many a fighting man, looking at it with appre- 
hension, wished that it might be destroyed be- 
fore it broke and scattered, carrying fire and 
death with it. 



While things were in this condition the 
Coweliskies suddenly decamped. In a single 
night their camp disappeared and in the morn- 
ing the settlers saw in their fancy their worst 
fears confirmed: the Coweliskies had gone on 
the warpath and now the Indian war was to be 
brought to their own firesides. 

The company was promptly put under arms 
and went in pursuit, and about fifteen miles 
Northwest of Vancouver overtook the fugi- 
tives. Great difficulty was found in locating 
them and still greater difficulty in finding out 
their intentions, whether for war or peace. To 
precipitate a conflict by striking the Indians un- 
necessarily would in the unprotected condition 
of the settlers have been a crime, while to let 
the Indians escape to carry on in unbroken 
force an Indian warfare would have been worse. 



The young Captain placed his little force 
across the path of the Indians and went to work 
to develop the situation. Negotiations were en- 
tered into.The two forces stood on their guard 
against each other, but everything went well, 
and one evening the Indians finally promised 
to return the next morning, and for the first 
time for many nights the young Captain had 
rest. In that night some lawless idiot did his 
deadly work, and the next morning it was 
learned that Umtux, the chief of the Indians, 
lay dead between the lines. Who killed him no 
one knows or suspects to this day. None of the 
sentrys fired upon him and none of his Indians 
appeared to have had murder against him in 
their hearts. Nevertheless there lay Chief Um- 
tux half way between the lines of his people 
and the lines of the volunteers, indubitably very 



dead. Lying in the trail by the side of a log 
with the hole made by a rifle bullet through 
him, Chief Umtux was more dangerous dead 
than living, and instantly the battle lines were 
formed in earnest and for a few hours Chief 
Umtux lay upon the crimsoned soil of what it 
seemed would at last be a genuine battle-ground 
of Northwestern Oregon. Steadily the two 
forces stood against each other, but fortunately 
no other shot was fired and Western Oregon 
was spared an Indian war. 

A brave French voyageur volunteered to go 
to the Indians and resume treaty -making, and 
taking his life in his hands stood in their midst. 
It is told that it was a dramatic scene. The In- 
dians, half crazed with fear and lust of revenge, 
stood about him. He explained as he best could 
that the death of Umtux was not the ad; of the 


soldiery, but of some lawless ranger, and that 
if they would submit they would be protected. 
Gradually with perfect skill and fearlessness he 
won back their confidence and obtained a re- 
newal of their promise to go back to the fort. 

One strange thing for Indians, they stipu- 
lated for, and that was that the soldiers should 
return and leave them free for twenty -four 
hours to bury their chief unobserved. When this 
condition was reported to the young Captain 
he was doubtful. On the one hand it looked 
like an Indian trick to escape without a battle, 
while on the other hand their Chief had been 
unfairly killed and they had a just right to sus- 
ped the good faith of the white men. 

After some hours of consideration he accept- 
ed the solemn promise of the Indians and 
marched his men back to the fort, leaving the 


Coweliskies alone with their dead. Chief Umtux 
was buried that night, but how and where no 
man save his Indians ever knew, and they never 

If you will look upon a map you will see a 
place about twelve or fifteen miles Northeast of 
Vancouver that bears to this day the name of 
"Battleground." Near here the Indians stood at 
bay, and near here Umtux was buried. 

The death of Umtux was a direct blow at 
the peace that then prevailed between the In- 
dians and the white men in Western Oregon, 
and his murder was an ad of violence that dis- 
graces the pioneer annals of Oregon, but there 
was more to come, and what happened after- 
wards shows in still another light the less noble 
side of the pioneer character, for the pioneer 
men had the faults of their virtues. Their bold- 



ness sometimes became temerity, their love of 
liberty license, and their justice revenge, and the 
wife of the pioneer was like unto him. 

When the company came marching back in- 
to the fort without any Indians either dead or 
alive and without a battle to report, excitement 
ran high and when it became known upon what 
terms they had allowed the Indians to remain, 
the excitement increased. There could be no talk 
of lynching, because the company contained 
practically all the fighting men of the settle- 
ment, so the women with busy tongues took 
the matter into their own hands, and when the 
company was assembled, appeared before it, 
and, in the presence of an excited crowd, pre- 
sented to the Captain a woman's red petticoat 
as a banner for his soldiers. It was a deadly in- 
sult and the company quailed under it. 



For a moment matters looked serious, and 
there was every prospect of a general riot and 
a free fight, but the Captain was a man of parts 
and equal to the situation. With a white face he 
stepped forward and on behalf of his company 
accepted the gift. In a few manly words he told 
the women and the gaping crowd that they did 
not know what they did or appreciate the reason 
for the action of the soldiers, and assured them 
that if it should be the good fortune of the 
company to be ordered to the front that their 
flag would be carried into action, and if so car- 
ried would be dyed a deeper red before it re- 
turned, and then turning to his company gave 
a short military command.There was some hesi- 
tation in obeying it, and a tall, lanky fellow 
made some insolent remark and drew a bowie 
knife. That was enough, and with joy in his 



heart that his wrath could be unloosed and that 
he had somebody besides women to expend his 
anger upon, in one bound the Captain was up- 
on him. The man made one ineffectual stroke 
with his knife, and ever after one side of the 
Captain's mouth, where the knife cut in, drooped 
under his moustache a little more than the 
other, and then the man went down helpless 
as a child in a grasp that threatened to choke 
out life. 

The Captain always afterwards cheerfully in- 
sisted that he was only maintaining military dis- 
cipline, and would not have killed the man, but 
the men of his company, in telling of the affair, 
claimed that they saved the fellow's life only by 
pulling the Captain off.The Captain stood six 
feet two inches in his stockings and had had 
provocation that would have angered an angel, 



so perhaps the truth was with the rank and 

The next day, true to their appointment, the 
Coweliskies came marching in and put them- 
selves under the protection of the white Cap- 
tain, and the women with one of those swift 
revulsions of feeling that follow so fast after 
heedless adion, were profuse in their apologies 
and wanted to take back their flag; besides the 
woman who had lent the petticoat wanted it 
back for personal reasons, for petticoats were 
short in more ways than one in those days, but 
no, the members of the company were obdurate. 
The petticoat had been given to them and their 
flag it would remain. 

The Coweliskies made no more trouble. The 
Indian war rolled Eastward back from the 
gates of the Cascades. The settlers went home 



and confidence was restored.Then the company 
was disbanded, taking back with it only the 
satisfaction of knowing that it had done its duty 
and that it had been the only military command 
of the war that had been presented with a ban- 

The Coweliskies in their squalor were but a 
poor and far away imitation of the angels that 
buried the great law giver, yet their work abides, 
for of Umtux it is true "that no man knoweth 
of his sepulchre unto this day." 



Happy Days 

I' HERE were few more joyful or ani- 
j mated sights than a lodge or hunting 
j&M^M^\ party of Indians in good luck. The 
Indian bucks sitting around smoking or gamb- 
ling, the Indian women busy in preserving fish 
and meat and preparing skins, and the funny 
little children and the dogs: a mingled, whoop- 
ing, joyful mass, eating, sleeping and playing 
all day long. Even the little baby with his tightly 
bound head and body strapped to a board hung 
up against a tree, looked around with his little 
beady eyes in contented amusement, and unless 
frightened never cried. 

Amongst themselves or with their intimate 
friends they were not at all reserved, but joked 



and told stories with the utmost freedom. Many 
of these stories, told in the open lodge before 
the women and children, would not bear re- 
peating, could not well pass inspection for the 
Government mail. 

As the lingering remnant of this people ap- 
proached the end, on one conspicuous occasion 
Providence threw a broad gleam of sunshine 
over their path and made all of them rich be- 
yond the utmost dreams of Indian avarice. 

In 1 86 1 came a day when the snows gathered 
and the rains fell. The Clackamas, Molalla, San- 
tiam, and McKenzie, the Long Tom, Rickreall, 
Yamhill and Tualatin poured their crowded 
waters into the Willamette River and swept it 
with a great flood from end to end. Linn City, 
opposite Oregon City, was swept away to the 
bedrock, and flouring mills, saw mills, ware- 



houses, wharves, stores and houses from all 
along the river went floating to the sea in a mass. 
The Columbia River at Cathlamet was covered 
for days with lumber, flour, furniture and prop- 
erty of every description, and the tides there 
made salvage easy. 

Every Indian and every canoe along the river 
was busy. Flour was the principal thing saved. 
This wets in only about half an inch, and re- 
mains just as good as ever inside. 

In front of the Quillis lodge was ranged a 
great pile of sacked flour, food enough for years. 
Lumber was brought ashore in any quantity 
that was wanted. The Indians even tied up a 
whole wharf and warehouse in one of the 
sloughs below the town. 

They saved furniture and clothing and 
crockery, everything that an Indian could ask 



for. Incalculable wealth rolled along for days on 
the river and the Indians were free to pick and 
choose. The little Indians whooped along the 
bank with their loose, single shirt half the time 
over their heads and never covering their naked- 

"Nanich! nanich!" (see! see!) they shouted, 
and "Hiyu supalil! hiyu supalil!" (plenty flour! 
plenty flour!) dancing up and down in their ex- 
citement and occasionally making a wild plunge 
toward the river to save some article that floated 
near shore, occasionally, too, falling in and be- 
ing pulled out and slapped by the watchful, ex- 
cited mothers. 

It was almost incredible what came down 
the river. There was no rattlesnake country 
within 150 miles, and yet an old log house came 
floating by alive with rattlesnakes. Bales of hay 



floated by with crowing chickens. One young 
Indian attracted by the neat look of some white 
painted beehives that came floating by on the 
platform of on old outhouse, took one aboard 
his canoe. A moment after he went howling 
overboard, and when he was pulled ashore and 
emptied of the water that had poured into him, 
expressed his opinion in unvarnished terms of 
the white people who put up hornets in white 
boxes. ''Hiyu Mesatchie, '^and then, as the Indian 
vocabulary failed, "D—nMe^.^/cA/V." As for the 
beehive and the canoe, they went sailing out 
over the bar, and so far as any one knows, 
these bees are the same ones that are now 
making the beeswax that washes up every now 
and then from the Pacific Ocean. 

It was a gorgeous time, and when the flood 
of wealth was over the Indians of the lower 



river were richer than they had ever been even 
in their dreams. 

To Quillis and his people, however, the in- 
quiry that suggested itself to the sportsmen who 
found four pounds of bread and ten gallons of 
whisky in their camp luggage, soon suggested 
itself," What did they want so much bread for?" 
A lot of flour was promptly exchanged for a 
sixty -gallon barrel of whisky, and Ingersoll 
never sang the song of the oaken barrel half as 
joyously as the Indians did. 

It was the last great feast of the Columbia 
River Indians, Only one thing marred its joy- 
ousness and this was temporary. Old Quillis 
was a wise old chap, and as the whisky bright- 
ened up his intelled it occurred to him that the 
barrel of whisky would last one Indian longer 
than it would the tribe, so he quietly stole the 



half empty cask and hid it in the woods, but 
Quillis sober could not find what Quillis drunk 
had hidden, so after a week of antics that 
alarmed the rest of his tribe as to his sanity, 
Quillis called his people together and con- 
fessed his sin and begged their help in finding 
the precious barrel. After a long search en- 
thusiastically joined in by all the Indians, the 
barrel was found and the interrupted feast 
went on. 

Gradually the race died out, happy in the 
Indian fashion, and care -free to the last, and 
the survivors in the Willamette Valley and the 
Valley of the Columbia can now almost be 
counted on the fingers. They did not pass away 
unnoticed or alone. Other powers and noted 
men tied to them in the web of fate, passed 
away with them. Great captains of the imperial 



race sat in their lodges, and a President, to be, 
of the United States, traveled in somewhat 
sorry state in their canoes, in those last few 



The Pioneers 

fiO PICTURE of the Western In- 
dian can be complete without refer- 
ence to the race that supplanted him 
and the circumstances of the contact of the two 
races so long as it existed. 

Shuffle Shoon and Amber Locks 
Sit together building blocks, 
Shuffle Shoon is old and gray, 
Amber Locks a little child. 

One speaks of the long ago. 
Where his dead hopes buried lie, 
One with chubby cheeks aglow, 
Prattleth of the By and By. 

In 1850 there were probably not to exceed 
one thousand white men in all the vast district 



lying North of the Columbia River. The Wil- 
lamette Valley South of the Columbia, was 
comparatively well settled with white people, 
but from Cathlamet Northward for thousands 
of miles the wilderness lay unmarked by white 
men's hands. 

A few hamlets on Puget Sound, a house at 
Cathlamet, another at Oak Point and a few 
others here and there, with Fort Vancouver, 
was all. 

Cathlamet was one of the loneliest places on 
the earth. Into its loneliness in 1850 came a 
white pioneer and his wife, with two little 
babies. A trail through the woods was made to 
the point on the river about a quarter of a mile 
below Mr. Birnie's, and here a small log house 
was built and occupied. 

It is hard to conceive of the impulse or in- 



stinct that brought two such people into such 
a situation. The man was a trained lawyer, as 
after events made clear, one of the highest types 
of his profession. Even before he left the East 
his abilities were recognized, and he stood on 
equal terms with men who in the stirring events 
of the next ten years were to earn world-wide 
fame. He was a man of culture and refinement. 
At a time when college graduates were rarer 
than they are now, he was a graduate of Yale 
College, and always bore about him the evi- 
dence of his training. Greek was familiar to him, 
and Latin he could read to the end of his days 
almost as readily as he could English. Not only 
college bred, but a man of wide and choice 
reading, he made a strange seledion of a place 
for the exercise of his undoubted talents and 
capabilities, but, strange as was his choice of a 



home, it was a still more strange home for his 
wife, who for some years was the only white 
woman of Cathlamet. 

A refined and cultivated young woman, 
thoroughly educated and accustomed to the 
best social circles of the Eastern States, with 
two little babies, was somewhat out of place in 
the Cathlamet of 1850. The pioneer instinct is 
one of the strangest instincts of a virile race, 
and no stranger manifestation of it ever ap- 
peared than this. In the long Winter nights the 
wolves howled within hearing of the little log 
house, and the young women of today, fearful 
of a mouse, would not have thought it a cheer- 
ful sound. With wolves on one side and an In- 
dian village on the other, the bravest of women 
might have felt a little timid. 

The first few years at Cathlamet were years 



of hardship for this white family.The duties of 
the man compelled him to be away from home 
and to be at Oregon City, Salem and other 
points a great portion of the time, and his wife 
was left alone with her children. 

His income was ridiculously small, and was 
almost consumed in traveling and similar ex- 
penses, so that the improvement of the place 
grew very slowly, and household comforts were 
not to be had, and the surroundings made the 
young wife's position a very hard one. 

One of the peculiarities of Indian life is the 
little apparent effed that an Indian village has 
upon wild animals in its proximity. The large 
gray wolf, the most knowing and elusive of 
animals, will loiter around the outskirts of an 
Indian village, and upon occasions will come 
into it almost as fearlessly as the native dogs. It 



may be that the wolfish nature of the Indian 
dogs invites such familiarity, but there is no love 
lost between the wolf and the dog, and it is not 
uncommon for the wolves to kill and eat their 
dog brethren. 

InMetlakahtla, a large Indian village of eight 
hundred people, on Annette Island, in Alaska, 
two years ago, large gray wolves came, even in 
Summer nights, into the heart of the town, and 
the shadowy gray creatures were frequently met 
with on the streets. Wolves would not have 
come within five miles of a town of equal size 
of white people. 

Wild animals fairly swarmed about Cath- 

Every now and then a choice duck of the 
tame flock would be heard squawking loudly 
and be seen progressing across the sloughs in 



a direction in which he evidently did not want 
to go, A cunning little mink had seized him 
from below and was towing him ofF. Not a 
sign of the mink could be seen, and when any- 
body shot at the sorrowful procession they gen- 
erally killed the duck, and the mink went free. 

The family pig, upon which was centered 
many hopes, would be feeding in a little pas- 
ture near the house, when a great hulking bear 
would come rolling over the fence and little 
piggy, with a frantic squeal issuing from one 
end of him, and his curly tail twisting frantic- 
ally from the other, would disappear in the 
dark woods, never to be heard of more. 

The cougars took toll from the dozens or so 
of sheep that were kept, and would come into 
the very corrals for that purpose. 

As if this were not enough, the Indian dogs 



took a hand in the sport and worried the sheep 
whenever they could, and nothing would per- 
suade the Indians to reduce the number of 
their canine pests. The white men formed an im- 
promptu protective association, and shot the 
dogs whenever they could catch them, until the 
dogs learned the trick of running into the lodges 
whenever they saw a white man around with 
a gun. 

This protected them for some time, until 
the sheep were nearly gone, when something 
had to be done, and then one of the white men 
with a rifle in one hand for emergencies, and a 
Colt's revolver in the other for dogs, boldly 
went into the lodges and shot the dogs there. 
It was risky work. 

The inside of the lodge was all smoky and 
confusion, and the children and the Indians 



hid the dogs in the beds, but canine curiosity 
was too strong, and every now and then a dog 
would stick his head out and bark. Crack would 
go the revolver, half a dozen more dogs would 
break out simultaneously, and it would be bow- 
wow, crack, crack, until the revolver was empty. 

In this way the dog pest was kept down and 
the sheep were given some chance for their 

There was naturally a very limited market, 
and not much variety in food, and salt salmon 
and potatoes grew tiresome. 

The only thing that made living possible was 
that wild game was abundant and cheap. A few 
charges of gunpowder and shot would buy a 
fine wild duck or goose, a single charge of gun- 
powder would buy a forty-pound salmon, and 
an Indian would sometimes come in with his 



one-man canoe loaded with wild fowl, which 
he would sell for anything the white people 
would give for them. 

The family grew larger, and as children were 
born to Mrs. Birnie and the young white wife, 
the white woman and the red would minister 
at each other's bedsides like sisters, and the 
friendships so formed never failed or changed 
so long as the two women lived. 

Occasionally some relief came to the mon- 
otony. In 1853 a visit was made to Fort Van- 
couver, nearly a hundred miles away. To save 
expense the traveling was done in a canoe, with 
an Indian crew, and as a baby six months old 
was a necessary passenger on the journey, it 
will be seen how anxious this white woman was 
to see and talk with her own people again. 

During all of this time at Cathlamet the In- 



dians looked to the white woman for help in 
every time of trouble. Was a native baby sick 
the white mother must know some remedy; was 
any Indian hurt the white woman in the absence 
of the white man must do the necessary surgi- 
cal work. 

It was one continual demand, and the back 
porch of the house was lined with Indians al- 
most every morning with olallies (berries) to sell, 
with ducks or geese to dispose of, or with some 
tale of woe or sickness to tell. Generally one or 
two Indian women were about the house help- 
ing in some capacity, and their relatives would 
visit them as often as they were allowed. 

Indian women visiting were not enlivening 
creatures. Coming in quietly with a hardly ar- 
ticulate "klowhiam" or good morning, they 
would stand around, saying nothing. When 



pressed to stay, they would look about, chatter 
a little among themselves, and then, carefully 
avoiding the chairs, would curl their legs un- 
der them and squat down on the floor. Once 
there they were fixed to stay until told to go 

The original Indian woman always squatted 
on the floor in preference to sitting on any- 
thing higher, and always stayed until she was 
told it was time to depart. She used her eyes a 
good deal, but her tongue very little. 

As household help the Indian girls were 
quick to learn and ready to work, but so soon 
as they were educated to a point where they 
were useful and dressed nicely and kept clean, 
they became so attradive that they were mar- 
ried out of hand. 

The household help by reason of this was 



a continual succession of Indian Lucys, Mar- 
garets, etc., without number. 


The Pioneer Mother 

ITH visiting the sick, teaching the 
young and caring for her own family, 
the pioneer mother had her hands 
full, and of the fruits of her lahor she saw but 
little. The life was terribly narrow, but so full 
of labor and danger that there was no time to 
repine. The coming of a white man with a 
white woman who settled in ElokomonValley, 
about two miles back of Cathlamet, was a great 

The low divide between the Columbia and 
Elokomon Rivers was covered at this time by 
a dense forest of the spruce and Douglas fir, 
and so thick was the growth that the fir trees 
would go up for loo feet without a limb, and 



not a ray of the sun could reach the ground. 
The trees grew very tall, and one a short way 
outside the forest on the edge of a little prairie 
being measured with instruments, was found 
to be about 308 feet in height. 

An almost obliterated Indian trail went over 
the divide between the rivers, and so anxious 
were the white women to see each other that it 
was a very common thing for them to go over 
it. One hundred yards up the trail there was 
nothing to see but trees, and one mile in the 
woods was as far away from human help as 
the wilds of Siberia. 

One day when one of them with two of her 
little boys was on the trail in the midst of the 
woods, a large cougar suddenly appeared in it 
not forty yards away and stood looking at her. 
Now, the cougar is an uncanny beast, and in 



these Northern woods, a most formidable one. 
A man can live in the woods for years and 
never see one, and yet some day the supple yel- 
low panther will stand in front of him on some 
woodland path as though he had come there 
by magic. Not a footfall or sound of breaking 
twig will give any warning of his coming. He 
will simply be there; it is a trick of his, and he 
always takes the same position, calmly looking 
at you without curiosity and without fear, very 
rarely if ever crouching, and growling, if at all, 
in a gentle, sing-song drawl, more like purring 
than anything else. 

With a low flattened head, the little ears 
drawn back, softly poised on sinewy, tawny 
legs and velvet pads, and with the long sweep- 
ing tail gently going from right to left and left 
to right with a quiet, steady motion, the cou- 



gar when he steps out of obscurity into the open 
to observe man, is an impressive creature. 

An armed man stops to consider a moment 
before he fires, and an unarmed man has a very 
lively desire to be somewhere else. Only in the 
woods can you see a cougar so, and it is not a 
pleasant sight for a woman with empty hands. 

There was one best thing to do, and, prompt- 
ed by the mother's instinct, this mother did it. 
Taking one child by each hand and drawing 
them close up to her, so as to present a united 
front, she calmly looked the beast in the eyes 
and slowly and steadily moved towards him. 
She said it was the only thing that she could 
very well do. 

The grim lips curled back a little, and the 
white teeth showed; but few animals unwound- 
ed can face man, and, retiring step by step, the 



cougar moved back before her, and gliding into 
the brush, disappeared. 

An Indian woman would have stood in her 
place, and, gathering her children under her 
blanket, would have waited the issue in pa- 
tience, and if forced into a fight, would have 
made a better one than the white woman; but 
steadily moving up into the face of the enemy 
was the English blood, and for cold-blooded 
courage when courage was necessary, the white 
woman was the superior of her red sister. 

This was only one of many anxieties and 
perils.With so many burdens the children had 
largely to take care of themselves, and one day 
a two -year -old boy being missing, a search was 
instituted and the youngster was found floating 
in an eddy of the Columbia River, quietly cling- 
ing to a little piece of driftwood. He had fallen 



over a rocky clifF about eight feet high into the 
river, and had found a natural life-preserver in 
the tiny piece of wood just at hand. Indian 
Margaret was the nurse then, and she quietly 
stripped herself, swam out like a duck and towed 
the baby in. Except for that friendly piece of 
driftwood and Indian Margaret, this little nar- 
rative would never have been written. 

Another time of extreme anxiety was when 
the Indians had procured large supplies of 
liquor. A frightful hubbub would prevail in the 
Indian village, and as this was diredly between 
the Strong and Birnie houses, it made a fear- 
some situation. 

The Indians, harmless enough at ordinary 
times, were liable to be dangerous when drunk, 
and more than once the children were chased 
home by drunken Indians with drawn knives. 



It was perhaps a drunken joke, but if so, the 
joking was on a very serious subject, and a 
white- faced little woman barring her doors and 
windows with only her small children within, 
had no enjoyment of the situation. 


The Red Box 

HE Indian War of 1855-56 brought 
great anxiety to Cathlamet. There 
were a few more white men there 
then, but the preponderance of the Indian was 
still overwhelming, and when it became whisp- 
ered about that the Klickitat Chief Kamiakin, 
the head and front of the war, had messengers 
at Cathlamet, there was fear everywhere, but 
the native Indians stood up manfully for their 
white friends, who had helped them, and Mrs. 
Birnie and her husband held them with a steady 

Here was one of the great advantages to the 
Hudson's Bay men of having Indian wives. 
No plotting could go on without their knowl- 



edge, and in a time of stress the Indian wife 
could always be relied on. No white person saw 
the messengers or knew who they were, but that 
they came was certain. 

Across the Httle creek in a small pasture 
stood two tall spruce trees, and at the top of 
one of these, placed on a limb trimmed off for 
the purpose, suddenly appeared a large box, red 
as blood. There it remained for months, and 
even years, and was said to be Kamiakin's sig- 
nal to war, but no white man knew how it got 
there or what its message was. 

One explanation of its presence only deepens 
the mystery. If an Indian killed another he 
would, so it is claimed, procure a small box, 
paint it a brilliant red and attach it to a limb 
high upon some conspicuous tree, cuttmg close 
to the trunk all the limbs below it, and it is said 



that this in some strange way showed repent- 
ance for the crime and amounted to a punish- 
ment because the life of the murderer would 
only last so long as the box remained secure in 
its high place. As the box was generally very 
securely attached, the murderer's Me was quite 
safe for many years, and no other Indian would 
meddle with it. 

This particular red box that appeared so 
mysteriously at Cathlamet in the time of Kam- 
iakin's war was, it is claimed, placed there by 
a son of the Chief of the Skookum Tillicums 
(Strong People), who had murdered a fellow - 
Indian and was intended by him as a public 
confession of guilt and an expiatory sacrifice. 

Be this as it may, the mere suggestion opens 
up many strange phases of the Indian character. 
No Indian ever openly humilated himself, and 



if such a custom prevailed the elevation of the 
red box was made more in pride than in hu- 
mility. "I have slain" it said, and no ordinary 
Indian had much compunction in this or 
thought it lowered him in the estimation of his 

If the young SkookumTillicum hoisted such 
a signal in the feverish times of a general war, 
and the settlers had known that he was boast- 
ing of an accomplished murder, it is more than 
likely that they would have taken it for granted 
t|hat his message was, "I have slain, I have slain. 
Go thou and do likewise," and would probably 
have promptly disposed of young Skookum 

This strange red box might well therefore 
have been a confession, a boast and a call to 
war all in one, and people as quick as are the 



Indians in interpreting signs would very easily 
have known its deeper import, although they 
might not tell it to their white neighbors. 

The red box raised high upon the tree did 
not add any to the comfort or feeHng of se- 
curity of the few white people that lived at 

From 1850 to 1862 the pioneer life of Cath- 
lamet went on, the white population steadily in- 
creasing and the red as steadily diminishing. 

The order of burial of the Book of Common 
Prayer was continually in use and was read over 
many lonely little graves, every trace of which 
has since been swept away. 

One of the saddest of these burials was that 
of Indian George, a young Indian of sixteen. 
He had been a slave of theTsimpseans, North- 
ern Indians, from Fort Simpson, and on one 


of their insolent war excursions into Puget 
Sound, Judge Strong saw him, and, moved with 
pity at his deplorable condition, bought him 
for two dollars and fifty cents worth of goods 
and brought him to Cathlamet. Here he grew 
up in the household into a strong, happy boy, 
but every now and then the wild instinct would 
come upon him and he would run away. Noth- 
ing would be done to reclaim him, and in a itv^ 
weeks he would return, ragged and thin, but 
very happy to get back. Nothing pleased him 
so much as to salute the little steamboats that 
used to come monthly from San Francisco by 
dipping to them a little home-made American 
flag, and when he lay dying of consumption 
his every wish was gratified by the promise that 
he should be buried shrouded in it. 



The End 

^^! HE earlier Cathlamet life was some- 
times enlivened by the visits of strang- 
ers, and one of these is worthy of 

Half way between the Hudson's Bay store 
and the Strong house was a little cove in the 
low, rocky bank before which, in high tide, 
floated the Indian canoes and behind which was 
the Indian lodges. An old logging railway and 
cannery wharves now hide it almost from sight, 
but it was in this early day the principal land- 
ing place for the Indian village and here in 
times past McLoughlin, McDougall, McTav- 
ish and many other notables had landed. 

In the Fall of 1852 a canoe turned in to the 



landing from the Columbia River, and in it 
were an Indian crew and a rather short young 
man of pinic and white complexion, evidently 
one of the new United States officers at Fort 
Vancouver. He was a stranger in the country 
and was on a trip to Shoalwater Bay and very 
anxious to get some white man to go on with 
him. He stayed at the Strong house for several 
days and so prevailed upon his host that at the 
end of his visit they went off together to the 

No record of this trip exists, and no official 
report of it was ever made. The Indians were 
reticent in regard to it, and all the two men 
vouchsafed to say was that they had had a jolly 
good time and would have stayed longer had 
the provisions held out. 

Twice again the young officer came to Cath- 



lamet a welcome guest, and then his short stay 
of a year in this country being finished, went 
away to the career that time had in store for 
him, and a marvelous career it was, for it was 
written in the book of fate that this obscure 
young Captain Grant should command the 
armies of the great Republic in the mightiest 
war of modern times, that he should sit as a 
ruler of the Nation and should finally sleep in 
that great tomb that looks down upon the 

It was fated that both host and guest should 
sleep at last at two Riversides far apart, one in 
his stately tomb by the Hudson, and the other 
under the trees and grass by the dark forest he 
loved so well, looking down upon the Wil- 

One rendered a great service to his country 



in its time of need and met with quick and 
great reward; the other at the fountain head of 
the history of a great commonwealth, after the 
fashion of the pioneers, expended his life and 
strength for a coming people and gave of the 
best that was in him for future generations. 

Another visitor was a dashing young fellow 
from New York who entered into wilderness 
life with a zest. For the few years he was here 
his adventures were numberless. When as clerk 
of the court in some fiercely contested murder 
or other case he carelessly unslung his revolver 
and sat at his desk with it lying on the table 
before him, there was order in the court, for 
everybody knew what he could do with fire- 

Only once did the wilderness get the ad- 
vantage of him, and then he owed his life to 



the friendly service of an Indian. While survey- 
ing a road from Cathlamet Northward to the 
Boisfort Prairie, with the idea of extending it 
to Puget Sound, he was, when a httle away 
from the party, suddenly charged upon by an 
enraged elk. 

Being without weapons, he dived for the 
first place of shelter at hand, which happened 
to be a small fallen tree lying about two feet 
above the ground. The elk would furiously 
strike at him with hoofs and horns on one side, 
and would then jump over and strike at him 
from the other, and the only way to avoid the 
savage animal was to keep up a very alert dodg- 
ing under the tree from side to side. 

This game of hide and seek went on for sev- 
eral hours until the man was nearly worn out, 
the elk growing more and more adive and his 



eyes growing greener and more furious, as their 
manner is when balked, until an Indian com- 
ing up shot him and allowed a very tired, dirty 
and humbled young man to limp back to camp. 

It was written for this young man that he, 
too, should serve his country in the Civil War, 
but that less fortunate than some of his com- 
rades, he should fall in battle at the head of his 
brigade, crippled for life by a shot through the 

As a white - haired old General he now walks 
haltingly in his vineyard in California, and 
thinks often of early Oregon and of the days 
when '^all the world was young." 

About the time of the great flood of 1861 
came one of the coldest Winters ever known in 
Oregon, theWinter of 1861-62. Ice rarely forms 
at Cathlamet, but that Winter the water along 



the shores of the Columbia was frozen so solidly 
that horses and sleds were used on it, and snow 
fell and remained on the ground to the depth 
of three feet. The little steamer Multnomah, 
with genial Captain Hoyt as master, was frozen 
in at Cathlamet, and so were quite a number of 
other people. 

There is at least one staid, elderly woman of 
Portland who will remember the gay carnival 
of that Winter in the white and Indian town of 
Cathlamet.The Indians had plenty of food and 
clothing and were happy .The whites were jolly, 
as pioneers always were if they had half a 

The six weeks of freezing weather was filled 
in with sleigh -riding, games and dancing, and 
from the hills of Cathlamet to the Columbia 
River the men, boys and women, white and 



Indian, coasted continually. Food with the white 
people grew scanty, but this made no differ- 
ence, and a fine young horse was shot for meat 
and served on the tables as roast beef. 

In the log houses and the lodges great fires 
blazed and there was nothing of sorrow or fear, 
and so we end the story, for here Cathlamet 
ceases to be Indian Cathlamet, and became from 
this time on a town of the"Bostons."