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Full text of "Early Okanogan history. Gives an account of the first coming of the white men to this section and briefly narrates the events leading up to and attending the establishment of the first settlement in the State of Washington under the American flag, an event which occurred at the mouth of the Okanogan River, September 1st, 1811"

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Gives an Account of 

The Fir^ Coming o/the White Men 
to this Sedion 


Briefly Narrates the Events Leading up to and Attending 
the E^ablishment of 

The FirS Settlement in the State of 

Washington Under the 

American Flag 

An Event Which Occurred at the Mouth o/the Okanogan 
River, September 1 ^, 1 8 H . 





R 1918 L 



/j^NE HUNDRED years ago this summer the first white men 
^-^ came to this section. The first to come was David Thompson 
and his party, making a dash down the Columbia river in July, 
1811, in the interests of the Northwest Fur Company. Thompson 
is unquestionably entitled to the honor of being the first white man 
that traversed the Columbia from its headwaters to the sea. Lewis 
& Clark had been before him from the mouth of the Snake down to 
the ocean, but no explorers or traders were on the Columbia above 
the mouth of the Snake in advance of David Thompson. He is there- 
fore, beyond all dispute, entitled to the honor of being the first white 
man that reached the mouth of the Okanogan river. And our river 
certainly had a most worthy discoverer, for Thompson is fit to com- 
pare with the greatest of the great pathfinders of the West. In 
Thompson was combined many exceptional qualities. He was a 
skilled surveyor and was thoroughly grounded in astronomy and 
capable of taking exact observations, and together with these quali- 
fications he had in him the instincts of an interpid, fearless and 
painstaking explorer. In short, he was a scientist as well as a 
natural born explorer. As a young man he entered the employ of 
the Hudson Bay Company in the far North. In about the year 1789 
he left the Hudson Bay Company and cast his fortunes with its 
great rival, the Northwest Fur Company, and continued with that 
company until 1812, by which time he had become one of the com- 
manding figures in that powerful organization. From 18 12 on he 
was largely in the employ of the Canadian Government surveying 
and map making. During the latter days of his life he was for a 
long time engaged in highly responsible professional duties upon the 
Canadian Boundary Survey. The record of the greater portion of 
the life's work of this man is still available for his original journals 
in his own handwriting are preserved in the archives of the Crown 
Lands Department at Toronto. The same occupy about forty vol- 

Early Okanogan History. 

umes, and one very large map made with his own hand covering the 
region from the Great Lakes to the Pacific. A copy of this map is 
before us at this time, and on it we find that Thompson wrote the 
name of our river in large letters, "Ookenaw-kane River." The date 
of the map is 1812, according to his inscription attached thereto. 
The Thompson Journals, however, have never been published, and 
for this reason the name and fame of the man is little known 
amongst the general public, and it has long been a matter of regret 
among those versed in the history and geography of the greater 
Northwest that the luminous record of the life work of this so modest, 
so meritorious an explorer, so scientific a surveyor, and so great a 
discoverer as Thompson was, has never seen the light, either under 
government patronage or by private enterprise. Although Thomp- 
son was a partner in the Northwest Company and primarily en- 
gaged in its commercial ventures up till 1812, he was not, however, 
especially during the latter years of his connection with that com- 
pany, much engaged in actual trade, nor held stationary at any of 
the posts, but was employed finding new routes and penetrating into 
unknown regions. To him was delegated for many years some of 
the most important expeditions into new and unexplored sections of 
country for the purpose of establishing trading posts for that great 
fur company, and his good judgment and sagacity in selecting such 
sites marked him not only as a great explorer and geographer, but 
as a far sighted trader also, for time almost invariably showed the 
wisdom of the locations he selected. As his days in the fur trade 
were in part during those strenuous years when the Hudson Bay 
Company and the Northwest Fur Company were fighting the great 
war for supremacy in the North, he had ample opportunity to show 
his qualities. 

After the Louisiana purchase by the United States and the 
return of the Lewis & Clark expedition with their report upon the 
conditions which they found in the Pacific Northwest, which report 
was published in 1807, it became an open secret that the Americans 
and especially the great fur merchant of New York, namely John 

Coming of the Nor'westers. 

Jacob Astor, had designs upon the Columbia river basin. This 
caused uneasiness amongst the Nor'westers, and they resolved to 
anticipate any and all American fur trading enterprises at the mouth 
of the Columbia or at any point inland upon the waters thereof. The 
Northwest Company then had trading posts from Montreal to the 
Rocky mountains, and their men had already penetrated the passes 
of the Rockies, and were trading with the Indians along the west- 
ward flowing rivers in what is now British Columbia, western Mon- 
tana, and northern Idaho. David Thompson was then upon the 
Saskatchewan and he was detailed to push through to the mouth of 
the Columbia and establish a chain of posts along the way. He 
attempted to come through in i8ro, but became coufused where the 
Columbia doubles on itself and makes a great ox bow curve to the 
north in the Kootenai Country, but he came through another pass 
and struck the river again far to the north early in 1811. At this 
time he came to the Columbia at the mouth of what he called Canoe 
river. (It has borne the same name ever since.) This point is sev- 
eral hundred miles north of what is now the international boundary 
line. Some of his men had weakened and had become discouraged 
to the point of mutiny, and we find that he was much disgusted at 
this period, but he was possessed of indomitable tenacity and perse- 
verance. He went ahead Vv^ith those he could depend upon; built 
canoes, and began the decent of the Columbia. We find him and 
his party at Illthkoyape Falls (Kettle Falls) in the latter part of 
Ma}^ or the first of June, 181 1. From here he left the Columbia, and 
about the middle of June, 1811, established a trading post for his 
company on what he called the Skeetshoo river (Spokane river) in 
longitude T17 degrees, 27 minutes and 45 seconds west, according to 
the records he made at the time, which post he named "Spokane 
House." This post was established on the Spokane river near the 
mouth of what is now called Hangman's creek near the city of 
Spokane. On June 21st, his journals show him back at Kettle Falls 
where he remained until July 3rd fixing his canoes, catching salmon 
and otherwise arranging for the trip to the mouth of the Columbia. 

Early Of^anogan History. 

These features of his journey we have gathered from various pub- 
lished works, and from a partial transcript from his original journals 
kindly furnished us by Hon. Aubrey White, Deputy Minister, 
Lands and Forests, Toronto, Canada. He traveled in a large light 
built canoe that was constructed at Kettle Falls specially for the 
purpose, scantily provisioned and equipped, that they might 
make the journey with all speed and swiftness. This canoe was 
manned with seven men, five of them being French-Canadians and 
two Iroquois Indians. There also appears to have been an interpre- 
ter who was evidently a local Indian. It was a crew of long tried 
men in the service of the Northwest Company. We will write down 
their names as they were the first civilized men to traverse the Col- 
umbia above the mouth of the Snake, and likewise, of course, the 
first that ever set eyes on the Okanogan. The Frenchmen were: 
Michel Bordeaux, Pierre Pariel, Joseph Cote, Michel Boullard and 
Francois Gregoire. The Iroquois were Ignace and Charles, or 
Charlo as he was more commonly called. Charlo had been for many 
years in the employ of the Northwest Company, and had been with 
Mr. Thompson the year before on the Saskatchewan and at the 
sources of the Columbia. One authority says he was foreman on 
the trip down the river. Michel Boullard was an old voyageur that 
had seen long service with the company. He appears first with 
Thompson on the upper Saskatchewan in 1800, and seems to have 
served most of the time between 1800 and 1810, with Thompson, 
Finan McDougal and other Nor'westers in the Rocky mountain 
region of Northwest Canada. In August, 181 1, Boullard was traded 
by Thompson to David Stewart for a Sandwich Islander that Thomp- 
son took a liking to. This David Stewart was the founder of Fort 
Okanogan for the Astor Company. Stewart wanted Boullard for 
his long experience as an interpreter, and thus he came to serve the 
American company on the Okanogan river, and was well known 
through this valley clear up to the head of Okanogan Lake from 
1812 to 1814, and is frequentl}^ referred to in the reports and writings 

Coming of the Nor westers. 

of that period. The biography of the men with Thompson might be 
indefinitely extended, but cannot be done here. 

As above stated, Thompson and his party started down the 
river from Kettle Falls on July 3rd, 181 1, and right here where we 
strike the all-important part of his journey, we come upon unpub- 
lished history. For as heretofore noted, Thompson's journals have 
never been printed. They are copiously referred to, cited, and copied 
in piecemeal, but there is nowhere anything like a complete print. 
The journal of that part of his Columbia trip which we want most 
exists only in its original manuscript form and occupies Book 27 of 
Volume XI. of the David Thompson Mss. in the archives of the 
Crown Lands Department at Toronto, and the same runs from 
July 3rd, 181 1, to xA.pril 28th, 181 2, and is entitled "Voyage to the 
Mouth of the Columbia by the Grace of God by D. Thompson & 7 
men on the part of the N. W. Company." The writer of this article has 
attempted to get a transcript of this part of Thompson's journals, 
but up to date has been unable to do so, and we will have to trace 
his movements upon the authority of other works that refer to his 
journals and his travels. On July 6th he was down some place 
about where Wenatchee now is, but just where it is impossible for 
us to say from the information before us, but we have sufficient in 
our possession to definitely assert that he must have passed the 
mouth of the Okanogan river about July 5th, and we can safely say 
that the Okanogan river was first seen by white men on either 
July 4th or July 5th, 181 1. It is necessaril}- certain that it must 
have been one of those days. The exact time, however, is undoubt- 
edly recorded in the old original manuscript and awaits only a 
research at Toronto by somebody who has the inclination, means and 
opportunity to get it. On July 9th Thompson reached the mouth 
of the Snake river. Here he came upon the old course traveled by 
Lewis & Clark six years before, but up to this point he certainly 
was first. At the junction of the two great streams, in the midst of 
a big Indian camp which he found there, he erected a tall pole and 
hoisted the British flag, and posted a notice as follows: "Know 

Early Okanogan History. 

hereby that this coutitry is claimed by Great Britain as part of its 
territories and that the N. W. Company of Merchants from Canada, 
finding the factory of this people inconvenient to them, do hereby 
intend to erect a Factory in this place for the Commerce of the 
Country around." It will be noted that Thompson uses the word 
"factory;" both the. Northwest Company and the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany used to call their trading posts "factories" and the trader in 
charge of the post was called a "factor." On July 15th, the canoe 
containing Thompson and his men reached the goal of their journey, 
the mouth of the Columbia. He had faithfully carried out the task 
that was given him and the operations of the Northwest Fur Com- 
pany now stretched overland from Montreal to the mouth of the 
Columbia. But the Nor'westers had been forestalled in the race to 
the mouth of the Columbia, for when Thompson arrived there he 
found the men of John Jacob Astor's "Pacific Fur Company" erect- 
ing their Fort "Astoria." The men of the American company had 
come around the Horn from New York in that company's ship, the 
famous and afterward ill-fated "Tonquin." They had gotten their 
ship across the bar at the mouth of the Columbia in the latter days 
of March, 181 1, and their fort was well toward completion when 
Thompson arrived. Tompson was well known to many of the 
Astorians and they to him for Astor had recruited many of the prin- 
cipal partners in his enterprise at Montreal from Northwest Fur 
Company men. Thompson frankly told them his business in the 
country and that he had already taken possession up-stream and had 
established a permanent post on the vSpokane, and likewise the Astor- 
ians plainly told him that they were after the fur trade on the Col- 
umbia and all its tributaries, and here began the struggle between 
the powerful Northwest Company and the newly organized Pacific 
Fur Company backed by Astor, for the fur trade and for the occu- 
pancy of the Pacific Northwest; the one company for England and 
for British dominion on the Pacific, the other for the United States 
and for American supremacy here. The very first result of the con- 
test was the establishment by the American company of its first 

Coming of the Nor'wesiers. 

inland post at the mouth of the Okanogan river. We will now shift 
our narrative to the American company and relate the events con- 
nected with its coming and its early doings, and especially in refer- 
ence to its post at the mouth of the Okanogan. 



^HK Louisiana Purchase which transferred the vast and loosely 
^*^ defined Louisiana Territory from France to the United States 
was consumated in 1803. The purchase extended the territory of 
the United States to a connection with the ''Oregon Country," but 
what constituted the "Oregon Country" was so absolutely indefinite 
that no one seems to have known what it meant, and opinions greatly 
differed. England claimed the country by right of the discoveries 
and explorations of her navigators along the coast. The United 
States laid more or less definite claims founded on the discoveries 
and voyages of American trading ships that had visited the coast. 
The consumation of the Louisiana Purchase gave a great impetus to 
the interest taken by Americans in the north Pacific, for prior to that 
time the Mississippi river was the western boundary of the United 
States and Oregon was therefore non-contiguous territory prior to 
1803. One of the first results of the Louisiana Purchase was the 
sending out of the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1804-05. They 
returned in 1806 and their published report fired the zeal of John 
Jacob Astor of New York to at once establish a trading post at the 
mouth of the Columbia and occupy the great surrounding region. 
His enterprise was two-fold; one was commercial conquest, the other 
was territorial expansion for the United States. At that time Astor 
had been in New York some twenty odd years, and while he had not 
yet, by any means, reached the full flood tide of his great wealth and 
prominence as a merchant and speculator, still he was already one 
of the richest men in America and was recognized as the leading fur 
trader in the United States. He was well known in all the great fur 
markets of the world. He had become a ship owner and had formed 
commercial relations that extended around the earth. 

Having fixed upon his general plan, Mr. Astor proceeded to 
organize his "Pacific Fur Company," and fit out his expeditions. 
The articles of agreement of the Pacific Fur Company were signed in 

The Coming of jJstor's Men. 9 

New York, June 23rd, 1810. Mr. Astor was to be the head of the 
company to furnish means not to exceed, however, an advance of 
four hundred thousand dollars, and to bear all losses for a period of 
five years. Of the hundred shares into which the stock was divided, 
Mr. Astor was to hold fifty and his associates fifty. Wilson Price 
Hunt of New Jersey was to be first resident partner and agent on the 
Columbia. Other partners were, Alexander McKay, Duncan Mc 
Dougal, Donald McKenzie, Ramsay Crooks, Robert McLellan, 
Joseph Miller, Robert Stuart, John Clarke and David Stuart. Ram- 
say Crooks, Robert McLellan and Joseph Miller were fur traders 
who had gained more or less eminence in the business, principally 
along the Missouri river. The others were all British subjects and 
men who had been partners in the Northwest Fur Company, for Mr. 
Astor was well acquainted in Montreal and was a great admirer of 
the splendid organization of the Hudson Bay Company and of the 
Northwest Fur Company, and he had turned to that source to find able, 
efficient and experienced men to join him in the enterprise. They 
were mostly Scotch as their names plainly show, in fact the North- 
west Company was controlled at all times by Scotchmen. The reader 
should note well the name last on the list above set forth, for it was 
David Stuart that was in charge of the expedition that established 
Fort Okanogan, and as our river had a most worthy discoverer, so 
also the man who first placed an outpost of civilization upon our 
river was a most worthy individual. He had been long with the North- 
west Company before he joined the Astor enterprise, and he was a 
fur trader of the first order. He was furthermore a most even 
tempered and kindly old man, and all the records of the time speak 
of him in the most commendable terms. 

The Astor enterprise went out in two expeditions; one overland 
under Wilson Price Hunt and Donald McKenzie above mentioned, 
the other went by sea around Cape Horn. The land expedition 
attempted to follow the trail of Lewis & Clark, and encountered 
great difficulties and hardships. It did not reach the mouth of the 
Columbia till January, 1812. In fact they came straggling in 

10 Early Okanogan History. 

through the months of February, March and April, 1812, and some 
did not arrive until May. The expedition by sea was much more 
successful. Their ship, the Tonquin, cleared New York harbor under 
escort of the famous frigate "Constitution," September 8, 1810, safely 
rounded the Horn, touched at the Sandwich islands and entered the 
mouth of the Columbia, March 25th, 181 1. With this party were 
the partners, Alexander McKay, Duncan McDougal, David and 
Robert Stuart and four clerks or apprentices, namely Alexander 
Ross, Francis B. Pillette, Donald McLellan and Ovide de Mon- 
tigny. All four of these clerks were subsequently on the Okan- 
ogan, the most prominent of which was Ross. He was for years on 
the Okanogan and he wrote three books, as we will hereinafter 
more fully mention, two of which treat of the early history of this 
particular section of the country. But to return to the Tonquin. 

As soon as a suitable site was found, the same being near 
the present location of the city of Astoria, the Tonquin began dis- 
charging cargo on the beach, and the work of building the fort 
began. The partner, Duncan McDougal, was in charge pending the 
arrival of the overland expedition under Mr. Hunt. The work of 
unloading the Tonquin and building the fort had so far proceeded 
that the Tonquin set sail on June 5th for a trading vo3^age northward 
along the coast. The vessel never returned and none of her people 
were ever seen again, as she was raided by Indians while trading in 
a bay near Nootka sound on the west coast of Vancouver island, and 
was blown up either by accident or design within thirty days after 
the departure of the ship from the mouth of the Columbia. This left 
the Astorians without a ship, and much badly needed equipment was 
also lost, but as she had practically only the captain and crew aboard, 
all of the partners, clerks and voyageurs of the company having re- 
mained at the mouth of the Columbia to work on the completion of 
the fort, the loss of the vessel, although a serious deprivation and 
placed the enterprise at great disadvantage, was not a fatal blow to 
the main plans of the great undertaking. As hereinbefore noted, 
V the Astorians while still busy upon the construction of their estab- 

The Coming of Jlstor's Men. 11 

lishment, were surprised on July 15th, 181 1, by the arrival of David 
Thompson and his party of Nor'westers from the interior. 
The Astorian partners immediately determined to establish an in- 
land post as a counter check to the Northwest Company, and as 
Thompson was about to return to the interior, it was agreed that the 
expedition of the Astorians to establish such inland post should 
travel with the Thompson party for mutual assistance and protection 
against the Indians and the perils of the river. Accordingly on the 
22nd of July, 181 1, the two parties started up the Columbia from 
Astoria. Old David Stuart was in charge of the Astorian party. 
With him were the four young clerks, Ovide de Montigny, Francis 
Pillette, Donald McLellan and Alexander Ross, two or three Canad- 
ian voyageurs whose names do not appear any place that I can find, 
and two Sandwich Islanders. It should be understood that when the 
Tonquin stopped at the Hawaiian Islands on the way out, quite a 
number of natives from these islands were employed and brought 
along on the ship. It appears that they were very efficient boatmen 
and packers, especially during hot weather. Hawaiians were much 
used for many years through this section by the fur companies. 
Alexander Ross in his "Adventures" gives us a full and complete 
account of this trip up the river, of the establishment of the post at 
the mouth of the Okanogan, and the course of events at Fort Okan- 
ogan during the first two years of its existence, and in a subsequent 
book entitled, "Fur Traders of the West," he gives us a very com- 
plete history of Fort Okanogan and surrounding country up till 
about 1816, for Ross was in charge at the post off and on pretty 
much all the time between 181 1 and 1816, when he was transferred 
first to Kamloops and later to the Walla Walla. Fort Okanogan, 
however, was rebuilt in 18 16 when Ross Cox was in charge, and 
here again we are fortunate, for he also wrote a book which deals 
very fully with the affairs at Fort Okanogan along about 1816. 
For our narrative of the first trip of the Astorians up the Columbia 
in July and August, 181 1, we will follow the record left by Ross in 
his "Adventures" which is before us as we write. 



^HE joint parties of Stuart and Thompson did not, however, con- 
^ tinue far together. The Thompson party was traveling light. 
Their canoe was not loaded with any merchandise for trade. Fur- 
thermore, Stuart and his men did not have canoes suitable for up- 
river work. They had merely obtained from the Indians at the 
mouth of the Columbia two ordinary big dug-outs commonly used 
along the coast. This style of canoe, while it has its advantages for 
some purposes and is a very desirable affair when used by the coast 
Indians for the purposes that it is intended, it is not a good up-stream 
craft. Ross says in his book that the Stuart party traveled in "two 
clumsy Chinook canoes, each laded with fifteen or twenty packages 
of goods of ninety pounds weight." By July 24th, 1811, they had 
reached the mouth of the Willamette. On the 28th the joint parties 
reached and passed the Cascades of the Columbia. On the 31st, 
Mr. Thompson's party finding themselves able to travel much faster 
than the canoes of Mr. Stuart, proceeded on by themselves. It was 
here, upon separating, that Thompson traded Boullard to Stuart for 
a Sandwich Islander. On August 8, 181 1, at noon, Thompson 
reached the mouth of the Snake river (he called it Chapaton river). 
Here he laid up his canoe and took the over-land route back to 
"Spokane House." As near as we can now ascertain he must have 
traveled a course very much the same as that now followed by the 
Northern Pacifiic railway between Pasco and Spokane. On August 
13th he was at Spokane House, so the trip across must have taken 
less than five days. Thompson was undoubtedly the first white man 
to cross through over-land from the mouth of the Snake to Spokane. 
On August 4th the Stuart party passed Celilo rapids. Day by day 
Ross chronicles the progress of the canoes of the Stuart party up the 
Columbia. He relates many occurrences of great interest, and al- 
though he designates the various localities by names which are as 
a rule now obsolete, yet the whereabouts of the party can usually be 

Fort Okanogan. 13 

readily determined. We will not attempt to follow the itinerary of 
the party day by day. At "Priest Rapids" they picked up an Indian 
who was a medicine man and he continued with them to the mouth 
of the Okanogan in charge of their horses, of which they bought a 
goodly number at the numerous Indian camps they encountered 
along the river. This Indian Ross constantly refers to as the 
"priest" and says they named the rapids where they got him, 
"Priest Rapids." Hence, we learn the derivation of the name, 
"Priest Rapids." On the 24th of August they reached the mouth of 
the Pisquowsh river, the Wah-na-at-cha of the Lewis & Clark map, 
or the Wenatchee of today. The name is Piskowish on Thompson's 
map and appears as Pisscows on the map of Ross. Here they met 
Indians in great numbers and the chief, Sopa, made them a present 
of two horses and they purchased four more giving for each, one 
yard of print and two yards of red gartering which was so highly 
prized by the Indians that horses from all quarters were brought to 
them, but they declined to buy more, not knowing what to do with 
them. On August 25th they passed the mouth of the Intyclook, 
the Entiat of today. They camped that night on the wooded point 
above the mouth of the Entiat. On the 26th they reached Whitehill 
Rapids, a place "where the river almost barred across by a ledge of 
low flat rocks, makes several quick bends." This place the writer 
has been unable to satisfactorily identify but it is either the Indian 
rapids or the Chelan rapids of today. Here they saw big horn, 
white goats and deer on the bluffs. On the 27th, about 10:00 a. m., 
they reached the mouth of the Tsill-ane. This, of course, is the 
Chelan. On the 29th they reached the foot of the Methow rapids. 
They made a portage around them and camped that night at the 
mouth of the Methow. Here the Indians assembled in great num- 
bers and offered them many horses for sale, and in all respects were 
exceeding kind. They invited them to stay and trade through the 
winter asserting that their country abounded in beaver and that there 
was plenty of game for food. They remained at the mouth of the 

14 Early Okanogan History. 

Methow over the 30th. We will now copy verbatim what Mr. Ross 
has to say in his book. 

"On the 31st we parted from our friendly visitors, and shaping 
our course in an easterly direction along the bend of the river, we 
pushed on for about nine miles till we reached the mouth of a smooth 
stream called Oakinacken, which we ascended for about two miles, 
leaving the main Columbia for the first time, and then pitched our 
tents for the night. A great concourse of Indians followed us all 
day, and encamped with us. After acquainting them with the ob- 
ject of our visit to their country, they strongly urged us to settle 
among them. For some time, however, Mr. Stuart resisted their 
pressing solicitations, chiefly with the view of trying their sincerity; 
but, at last consenting, the chiefs immediately held a council, and 
then pledged themselves to be always our friends, to kill us plenty 
of beavers, to furnish us at all times with provisions and to insure 
our protection and safety." 

"On the ist of September, 181 1, we embarked and descended the 
Oakinacken again, landed on a level spot within half a mile of its 
mouth. There we unloaded, took our canoes out of the water, and 
pitched our tents — which operation concluded our long and irksome 
voyage of forty-two days." 

"The source of the Oakinacken is 280 miles due north, and in 
its course south the stream runs through three lakes to its junction 
with the Columbia; it is hemmed in on the east by a sloping range 
of high rocky hills at the foot of which the two rivers meet. On the 
south bank of the Oakinacken, half a mile from its mouthy Was the site pitched 
upon for the new establishment. " 

"The general aspect of the surrounding country is barren and 
dreary, but to the north the banks of the river are lined with the 
willow and poplar, and the valley through which it meanders presents 
a pleasing landscape." 

It is clear from this that the Stuart party camped in the evening 
of August 31st, 1811, on the banks of the Okanogan river, just about 
where Mary Carden's ranch is now located, and that the site of the 

Fort Okanogan. 15 

post which they established next day must have beeu almost exactly 
where Long Jim's stables and corrals are now situated. This was the 
first settlement under the American flag in what is now the state of 
Washington. As soon as they had their building well started, Pil- 
lette and McLellan with two voyageurs were despatched back to As- 
toria in one of the canoes, and as soon as they had the building com- 
pleted, Mr. Stuart with Montigny and the two remaining voyageurs 
came up the Okanogan river, evidently with pack horses for they 
carried a considerable amount of merchandise for trade with the 
Indians, and they continued on far to the north, passed along by 
Okanogan lake and proceeded over the height of land onto the 
headwaters of the Thompson river into the country of the Shuswap 
Indians, near where the city of Kamloops now stands, and they did 
not return for one hundred and eighty-eight days. While Mr. Stu- 
art was on the Thompson river he made arrangements to establish a 
trading post there the ensuing winter. He arrived back at Fort 
Okanogan, March 22nd, 1812. During the six months and over that 
he was absent, during the winter of 181 1 and 181 2, Ross was in 
charge at Fort Okanogan, and he has this to say in his book in 
regard to what he did there in the way of trade that winter: 

"During Mr. Stuart's absence of 188 days I had procured 1550, 
beavers, besides other peltries, worth in the Canton (China) market, 
2,250 pounds sterling, and which on an average stood the concern 
in but 5^ pence apiece, valuing the merchandise at sterling cost, 
or in round numbers, 35 pounds sterling; a specimen of our trade 
among the Indians! " 

Ross devotes considerable space in his "Adventures" to his ex- 
periences during that first winter at Fort Okanogan. 

On March 22, 1812, another party consisting of seventeen men 
was made up at Astoria and placed under command of Robert Stuart, 
a nephew of David. A portion of this brigade was to proceed over- 
land to St. Louis, with despatches for Mr. Astor at New York, and 
another portion carried supplies to Fort Okanogan and was to bring 
back the results of the winter's trade. After many vicissitudes and 

16 Early Okflnogan History. 

Indian fights, this party arrived at Fort Okanogan, April 24tli, 1812, 
and after remaining five days, left for Astoria again, carrying approx- 
imately 2,500 beaver skins. Mr. David Stuart accompanied this party 
and left at Fort Okanogan, for the summer only, Mr. Ross, Donald 
M'Gillis who had come up from Astoria with the Robert Stuart party, 
and our old acquaintance, Michel BouUard. On May 6th, Ross left 
M'Gillis in charge and started with Boullard and an Indian with 
sixteen pack and saddle horses on a trading excursion up the Okan- 
ogan river to the country of the Shu-swaps, following very closely 
Mr. Stuart's route the winter before. They had a very successful 
trading trip and they arrived back at Fort Okanogan, July 12, 1812. 
David Stuart arrived back from Astoria with a stock of goods, August 
12, 1812, and on August 25th he and his men left Fort Okanogan 
to winter among the Shu-swaps at Kamloops. Ross was again left 
in charge at Fort Okanogan for the winter of 1812 and 1813. He 
escorted Mr. Stuart as far as the mouth of the Similkameen and then 
returned to prepare his post for the winter operations. After spend- 
ing the fall of 181 2 in various trading excursions to nearby points, 
he left Fort Okanogan, December 2nd, to pay a visit to Mr. John 
Clark, at Fort Spokane, which was a post that had just been estab- 
lished by the Astor Company along side of "Spokane House" which 
was the name of the post as we have heretofore seen, that was estab- 
lished and maintained by the Northwest Company. The same con- 
dition prevailed at these two posts which was in vogue all over the 
north country in those days at all points where the great fur com- 
panies were contending with one another. Ross has this to say of 
his visit to Spokane: 

"During the three days I remained with him (Clark) I had fre- 
quent opportunities of observing the sly and underhand dealings of 
the competing parties, for the opposition posts of the North- West 
Company and Mr. Clark were built contiguous to each other. When 
the two parties happened to meet, they made amplest protestations of 
friendship and kindness, and a stranger unacquainted with the poli- 
tics of Indian trade, would have pronounced them sincere; but the 

Fort Okflnogan. 17 

moment their backs were turned they tore each other to pieces. Each 
party had its maneuvering scouts out in all directions, watching the 
motions of the Indians and laying plots and plans to entrap or foil 
each other. He that got the most skins, never minding the cost of 
crime, was the cleverest fellow; and under such tutors the Indians 
were apt disciples. They played their tricks also, and turned the 
foibles and wiles of their teachers to their own advantage." 

Ross got back to his post from Spokane, December 14th, 18 12, 
but nearly lost his own life and the lives of all his men and horses 
in a big snow storm that they encountered in the Big Bend country. 
On December 20th he set out to visit Mr. Stuart at the Kamloops 
post. Ross calls it "Cumcloups." He arrived there on the last day 
of the year, 181 2. Here we find the enterprise and energy of the 
indomitable and obiquitous David Thompson again in evidence. He 
had come through the passes of the Selkirks from the upper reaches 
of the Columbia and established a Northwest Company post along- 
side Mr. Stuart's establishment. Mr. Ross has this to say of the 
conditions prevailing at Kamloops: 

"There was opposition there as well as at Mr. Clark's place, but 
without the trickery and maneuvering. M. La Rocque, the North- 
West clerk in charge, and Mr. Stuart were open and candid, and on 
friendly terms. The field before them was wide enough for both 
parties, and, what is more, they thought so; consequently they fol- 
lowed a fair and straightforward course of trade; with Mr. Stuart I 
remained five days, and in coming home I took a near and unknown 
route, in order to explore a part of the country I had not seen before." 

Mr. Ross evidently returned from Kamloops through by Nicola 
lake and struck the Similkameen some place near where Princeton 
now stands. He came down that river and struck the Okanogan 
river at the "forks," as he says, and got to Fort Okanogan, January 
24th, 1813. On May 13th, 1813, Mr. Stuart arrived at Fort Okan- 
ogan from the Kamloops country with a rich catch of fur. They 
remained at Okanogan ten days, packing, pressing and loading the 
furs, and then Ross and Stuart with a crew of men set out with the 

18 Early Okanogan History. 

canoes for the rendezvous at the mouth of the Walla Walla. Ross 
goes into a world of details in regard to all of these happenings and 
it ''must be admitted that he is an entertaining writer and his chapters 
on the Okanogan Indians are very valuable from an ethnological 
point of view, but as a geographer and descriptive writer he was a 
failure, although there should be a few exceptions made to this state- 
ment, as, for instance, his account of the first trip up the Columbia. 
But he traveled up and down the Okanogan country from the mouth 
of the river to the head of Okanogan lake time and again, yet he 
scarcely ever tells us the name of a landmark, a stream or a moun- 
tain. He made one exploring trip into the Methow country and 
evidently crossed the Twisp pass and got well down on the Skagit, 
)'et it is impossible to tell from his writings where he was at any 
time, perhaps for the very good reason that Ross did not know. He 
says his Indian guide got lost on the Methow trip, but to read his 
account, one is lead to believe that it is just a case of "blaming it on 
the cat." He took unto himself, at Fort Okanogan, an Indian girl 
of the Okanogan tribe, and when he returned to Winnipeg, about 
1825, he took her and his half-breed children with him, and the 
Pacific Northwest knew them no more. Ross became prominent in 
Manitoba and Assiniboia. He was chosen first sheriff of the province 
of Manitoba, and in 1835, was appointed a member of the first gov- 
ernment council. It is said that his Indian wife was of exceptional 
intelligence and in later life became one of the grand old ladies of 
the Red River settlement. His third book which appeared in 1856, 
the year of his death, referred entirely to the Winnipeg country, and 
is entitled "The Red River Settlement." 

At first he was faithful to Astor but later turned bitterly against 
him. In fact, his works contain many severe criticisms of Mr. 
Astor and also of his associates, the justice or injustice of which is 
difficult now to determine. 

Stuart and Ross reached the rendezvous at the mouth of the 
Walla Walla May 30th, 1813, and a few days afterward the brigades 
began arriving from up the Snake river and overland from 

Fort Okanogan. 19 

Spokane. These brigades brought from the Spokane establishment 
the tidings of the breaking out of the war between United States and 
Great Britain. Upon arrival of the consolidated brigades at Astoria, 
June 14th, 1813, a council of the partners was held. There was 
found to be dissension amongst the partners and a feeling of discour- 
agement and dismay pervaded the meeting on account of the news of 
the war and their wholly unprotected situation from an attack by a 
British war ship or privateer. There was also great dissatisfaction 
among some in regard to Mr. Astor's management of the company, 
and to crown it all, the opposition of the Northwest Company was get- 
ting stronger. It was decided, however, after much discussion, to 
attempt to continue the enterprise for another year in spite of the 
hazards and difficulties, and preparations were at once made to send 
out the wintering parties again. The outward bound brigades left 
Astoria in a body on July 5th, 1813, Stuart and Ross for the Okan- 
ogan and Kamloops country, Clark for the Spokane country and 
McKenzie for the Willamette country. Resolutions were also passed 
authorizing McDougal, the head factor at Astoria to sell out every- 
thing to the Northwest Company at any time if the situation became 
desperate and that company could be induced to buy. 

On August 15th, 181 3, the brigades reached Fort Okanogan. 
Here Ross was left in charge again for the winter. Clark and his 
men proceeded with their goods to Spokane and David Stuart took 
the now well known pack train route up this river to winter again 
at Kamloops, among the Shu-swaps. 

We have now reached the beginning of the end of the Astor 
Company. Events were fast culminating that were to change the 
course of things for many years to come, but the influence of Mr. 
Astor's efforts was not lost as subsequent results proved, for al- 
though it ended in commercial failure, it very materially strength- 
ened the case of the United States in establishing its claims to this 
section of the country when the final arbitration of the boundary 
dispute was settled, something over a third of a century later. 



'^HE Nor'westers were quick to see the opportunity offered them by 
^ the war and the defenseless condition of the Astor establishments 
on the Columbia. The management hurried the news across the 
continent to the Pacific partners that a British sloop-of-war, the 
"Racoon" was on the way to the mouth of the Columbia, to capture 
the American trading post, also that they had a ship of their own, 
the "Isaac Todd" enroute to the mouth of the Columbia with sup- 
plies and equipment to enable the Northwest Company to establish 
a trading post there; that the Isaac Todd was armed, and also held 
. letters of marque and reprisal and was therefore a duly accredited 
privateer and in a position to seize the American post as a prize of 
war. As a result of this there suddenly appeared at the Okanogan 
post, on the last day of September, 1813, a big Northwest Company 
brigade of ten canoes under the leadership of John George McTrav- 
ish and John Stuart. They stopped but a few hours with Ross at 
Okanogan for they were hurrying down to the mouth to meet the 
Isaac Todd upon its arrival, and likewise they were clothed with full 
authority to make a purchase of all the holdings and property of the 
Astor Company, if a good bargain could be made. Ross says they 
were in high spirits and came sweeping gaily down the Columbia, 
with the canoe-men singing their boat songs in wild chorus. And 
well they might be jubilant, for they had every advantage. They 
had the American company between the devil and the deep sea. 
They would either force them to sell out or fall a prize of war. This 
brigade reached Astoria October 7th, 1813. 

Without going into details, Duncan McDougal, the factor in 
charge at Astoria, sold out the whole Astorian enterprise on the 
Pacific to the Northwest Company on November 12th, 18 13. The 
American flag was hauled down and the Union Jack was run up 
in its stead. The name of the place was changed from Astoria 
to Fort George. ,. 

The Nor'westers Triumph Over Astor. 21 

Shortly afterwards the Racoon arrived and her captain took for- 
mal possession of the country for England. The "Isaac Todd" was 
however badly delayed on her voyage and did not arrive till the 
following April. 

All the inland posts including Fort Okanogan, of course, now 
passed to the Northwest Company. Fort Okanogan was turned over 
December 15th, 1813. Ross entered the service of the Northwest 
Company and was placed in charge for the new management. His 
second book starts with his service under the new regime, and, as 
before stated, it is entitled "Fur Hunters of the West." It opens 
with an account of a trip from Fort Okanogan overland to the Yak- 
ima country for the purpose of acquiring horses. Many horses were 
maintained at Fort Okanogan as long as the fur from the north con- 
tinued to come down the trail along this river. They grazed these 
extensive horse bands on what is now the southwestern portion of 
the South Half. Afterwards, however, when the Northwest Com- 
pany and the Hudson Bay Company consolidated and Fort Okanogan 
became a Hudson Bay post, the fur from the north was not brought 
down through the Okanogan valley by the horse brigades, but was 
sent over the mountains to the mouth of the Fraser. This greatly 
lessened the importance of the place. There were many wolves in 
this country in the early days and both Ross and Cox in their books 
make frequent mention of the depredations of these fierce animals 
upon the horse bands grazing in the vicinity of the fort. They also 
mention the existence of elk in the country in those days, but we 
have been unable to find when or how they disappeared. Ross con- 
tinued in charge at Fort Okanogan until the spring of 18 16, when 
he was transferred to Fort George and the next year we find him as 
factor at Kamloops, and in 181 7-18 he was in charge of the post on 
the Walla Walla. He also made one trip from Okanogan to the 
buffalo plains in Montana, returning with a good catch of fur and 
robes. ' Ross was succeeded at Fort Okanogan in the spring of 18 16 
by Ross Cox who was a very bright and highly educated j^oung 
Irishman. To him was entrusted the rebuilding and remodeling of 

22 Early Okanogan History. 

the fort. He goes into the matter in detail and has left us a very 
fair map of the immediate vicinity around the mouth, even going so 
far as to designate the places where there were rattlesnakes. He evi- 
dently had a true Irishman's aversion for snakes. He has the word 
"rattlesnakes" written all over what is now Brewster flat. We will 
copy only the following excerps from his work in regard to the fort 
which he rebuilt as above stated in the summer of 1816: 

"By the month of September we had erected a new dwelling 
house for the person in charge, containing four excellent rooms and 
a large dining hall, two good houses for the men and a spacious store 
for the furs and merchandise to which was attached a shop for trading 
with the natives. The whole was surrounded by strong palisades 
fifteen feet high and flanked by two bastions. Bach bastion had in 
in its lower story a light brass four-pounder, and the upper loop-holes 
were left for the use of musketry." 

The post was built about a mile southeast of the original fort 
and was situated so as to command the Columbia. It has now en- 
tirel}^ disappeared but many old timers, both Indian and white, re- 
member it and there is no question about the exact location of the 
same. It stood on the bank of the Columbia a little below the old 
Indian grave yard that is there today and just above the river end of 
Long Jim's fence. We find further on in the work of Cox the fol- 
lowing commentary: 

"The situation of Okanogan is admirably adapted for a trading 
post, with a fertile soil, a healthy climate, horses in abundance for 
land carriage, an opening to the sea by the Columbia and a commu- 
nication to the interior by it and the Okanogan. The river is well 
stocked with fish and the natives quiet and friendly. It will, in my 
opinion, be selected as a spot pre-eminently calculated for the site of 
a town when civilization (which is at present so rapidly migrating to 
the westward) crosses the Rocky mountains and reaches the 

Cox wrote these words well nigh a hundred years ago, but 
events up to date show him to have been a poor guesser, for there is 

The Nor'westers Triumph Oxier Astor. 

less at the mouth of the Okanogan now than in his day, but the 
prospects at present are that time may yet vindicate his prediction. 

Cox wrote in a very interesting manner of the Okanogan Indians, 
and in this regard it tallies quite closely with the writings of Ross 
on the same subject, but differs in some quite important particulars. 
Both men, however, were eminently qualified to speak on the sub- 
ject of which they wrote; both of them became proficient in the 
Indian language and Cox became very popular amongst these 
Indians. The writer has inquired extensively amongst old Indians 
to find out if they had any recollection or were familiar by tradition 
or otherwise, with the names of the old traders and voyageurs at 
Fort Okanogan. Such efforts have been absolutely barren of results, 
except that old Doctor John, who died a year ago last fall, gave proof 
when interviewed on the subject, shortly before his death, that he 
had heard of Cox. There are old half-breeds living on the Spokane 
reservation and in the Colville valley that were born at Fort Okan- 
ogan three-quarters of a century and more ago. If these men were 
properly interviewed, undoubtedly much valuable information could 
be obtained. We quote the following from the work of Ross, which 
is of local interest: 

"The principal family of the Oakinacken nation bears the title 
or name of Con-con-ulps, being the name of the place where members 
of it generally reside, which is situated about nine miles up the 
beautiful stream of that name." 

This gives us the derivation of the name "Conconully" and the 
Indian name for Salmon creek is "Con-con-ulps" to this day, they 
call it by that name now, but the geography of Ross never is any 
too good as to exact location anywhere in his books, and when he says 
they commonl}^ resided nine miles up the stream we are led to believe 
that either he or his publisher made a mistake, for the topography 
of the couutry nine miles up Salmon creek is an unlikely locality 
for Indians to be habitually camped. 

Who-why-lo£f or "Red Fox" was the head chief of the Okan- 
ogans when the Astor men arrived. Ross has this to say of him: 

24 Early Okanogan History. 

"The old chief was a venerable and worthy savage; his influence 
was great over a wide circle, not only at home but abroad among the 
neighboring tribes. The Red Fox had been many times with his 
young men to the Great Salt lake as they call it, meaning the Pacific, 
the direct road to which across the mountains was almost due west 
to where they fall on the sea-coast in about the forty-ninth degree of 
north latitude. They take generally fifteen days to make the jour- 
ney, sometimes more, sometimes less according to circumstances. 
Traffic is their object." 



/TTHE history of Fort Okanogan could be spun out indefinitely but 
^ it is of course impossible to go into any lengthy discussion of the 
same in this brief work. We will however attempt to set forth a few 
of the more important and interesting features that marked the 
course of events in subsequent years as the closing chapter of this 

In 182 1 the Northwest Company and the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany, tired of the long and ruinous strife and struggle between the 
two organizations, by a mutual agreement entered into in London, 
consolidated the two companies together under the name of the lat- 
ter, and from that time forward till its abandonment in the middle 
fifties, the trading establishment at the mouth of this river was a 
Hudson Bay Company post. That company in the old days was 
noted for the secretiveness of its operations, especially when in con- 
tact with American traders and we can derive but little light on the 
inside history of the fort from American sources, and Canadian lines 
of information must be followed up, and these have been but to a 
very limited extent available to the writer. Just when Fort Okan- 
ogan ceased to be a trading post of importance the author hereof is 
unable to definitely state, but certain it is that during the last fifteen 
or twent}' 3^ears of its existence the place was reduced to a small es- 
tablishment. Various causes brought about this condition which are 
too intricate and numerous to discuss here. The result is that the 
early history of Fort Okanogan is much more complete and definite 
than the later history. In fact we know but very little that is defi- 
nite and reliable about the last years. Many travelers, however, vis- 
ited the place through the thirties, forties and fifties and the general 
run of events can be fairly well traced. The histor}' of the Okan- 
ogan country in the middle and latter fifties is fairly accessable and 
could be written quite complete with some research. General Mc- 
Clellau's expediton came through the Okanogan valley in 1853 ^^^ 

26 Early Okanogan History. 

there was much travel through the valley in the late fifties and early 
sixties by the placer miners going north to the "diggin's" on the 
Caribou and elsewhere. It was one of these parties of gold seekers 
going north that encountered the well known Indian fight in Mc- 
Laughlin's canyon. The party was following the old Hudson Bay 
Company trail. We strike, however, a long period prior to about 
1883 when the history of this section is pretty much of a blank. 
There appears to have been no one in the country at the time, except 
"Okanogan Smith" and a few more old time cattle men and miners 
on the Fifteen Mile Strip. The result is that the pioneers of our 
later period knew little of the old order of things which had disap- 
peared many years before they came, and the same general ignor- 
ance of those early times has continued down to the present, how- 
ever, there has all along existed more or less faint and fragmentary 
knowledge of those remote days and the same has always been a local 
theme of interest frequently mentioned and discussed, but definite 
and reliable information has all along been lacking. But this old- 
time fog of oblivion has within the last year or two been to a large 
extent dispelled in the general awakening of interest in "Old Ore- 
gon" which has brought forth old publications and records that have 
lain long in obscurity and by the light of which we are now able to 
retell the long forgotten story with accuracy and precision, and the 
bringing back of the memories of the old regime in this centennial 
year of its advent in this region seems very much like conjuring up 
the phantom legend of "La Chasse Gallerie" as the spirits of Ross, 
David Stuart, Cox, Thompson, Alexander Henry and the rest come 
back from the past to be with us this summer in our celebrations of 
the events of one hundred years ago among these scenes and along 
these rivers we now call ours, but which they then called theirs. 

To those who wish to inform themselves in regard to the early 
history of this region we will refer them to the following books: 
"Adventures" and "Fur Hunters of the West," by Alexander Ross; 
"Adventures on the Columbia, Including the Narrative of a Resi- 
dence of Six Years on the Western Side of the Rocky Mountains," 

Later History. Z7 

by Ross Cox. This book was published in 183 1 and is now out of 
print and is listed as a scarce work. "Franchere's Narrative," by Gab- 
riel Franchere, written about 1825. This book is in print. The 
"Henry and Thompson Journals," by Elliott Coues. This is a 
splendid new work that has just made its appearance. "Chritten- 
don's History of the American Fur Trade." This is also a very 
recent work. In Hudson Bay House, London, there is said to be 
the daily journals kept by the factors at Fort Okanogan for many 
years, but these, of course, are not obtainable except at great cost 
and expense. "Couquest of the Great Northwest," by Agnes Lout; 
Washington Irving's "Astoria," Dunn's "History of Oregon." The 
works of Ross, Cox, Franchere and the "Henry and Thompson 
Journals," by Elliott Coues, are the most valuable and should be in 
the school libraries of Okanogan county that the rising generation 
may become familiar with the history of this section, for it certainly 
deserves attention, as it is rich in incident and had a great influence 
upon the ultimate acquisition of all this section as part of the terri- 
tory of the United States.