Skip to main content

Full text of "Reprint Department: The History of Oregon, Geographical and Political (Continued)"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 


George Wilkes: History of Oregon, Geographical, Geological and 
Political. (New York, Colyer, 1845.) 

[The reprint of this rare work was begun in the first number of the 
Washington Historical Quarterly and has been continued in portions of 
varying lengths. For the sake of librarians and others who have kept the 
files, the work is here continued. — Editor.] 

As to wind, I have witnessed less, if such a term can be used, than at 
any other place I have ever been in, and I have but to say, that if the 
timber we have here, spread their lofty branches in the States, they would 
be riven by the lightning, and blown down to an extent that would spare 
many of them the blow of the settler's axe. Here, I have heard no thunder, 
and have seen but one tree that had been struck by lightning. 


Aborigines of Oregon — Their Numbers and Character — Their Canoes — 
Their Mode of Fishing — Game — Timber — Fisheries — Water Pow- 
er — Mountains — A Volcano — Commercial, Agricultural, and Man- 
ufacturing Features of Oregon — Value of the Arm of Labor. 

The aborigines of Oregon form, at present, nine-tenths of the pop- 
ulation of the whole country, and from their newly adapted habits, are 
deserving of a place in the social census. They were formerly much more 
numerous, but like all the savage race, they melt away from the white 
man's approach like shadows before the advancing sun. I have no means 
of accurately ascertaining their number, as large bodies of them are in 
the habit of moving from place to place to reap the varying harvests of 
the fisheries, but I believe they somewhat exceed 20,000. They are 
most numerous in the Nez Perces country, which extends eastward from 
Wallawalla, and considerable numbers of the Cheenooks attracted by the 
fisheries, are to be found at the Dalles and at the mouth of the Columbia 
river. They are, however, degenerate and broken, and instead of the 
proud and warlike being which presents itself to the imagination when the 


208 Reprint Department 

idea of an American Indian enters it, they but offer to the actual beholder 
the specimen of a creature degraded almost to the level of a beast, and 
capable of submitting to the most servile abasement. Indeed, so completely 
are they under the control of the superior intelligence of the Anglo Saxon 
settler, that they can scarcely be considered in a much more dignified 
light than as a race of natural villiens or serfs. The Nez Perces Indians 
retain in a greater degree than any other, their ancient independence; but 
even the members of this tribe fall readily under the control and mastery 
of the whites. 

The Indians between Wallawalla and the Dalles are a cowardly 
and thievish set, and the portion of them situated at the latter place, in 
addition to being degraded and ignorant in the extreme, are so addicted 
to stealing, that they lay hands on every trifle that comes within their reach. 
Those portions at Vancouver and in the valley of the Willamette, are 
abject, servile, and filthy in their habits, and most of them go half naked 
during the whole year. In both this and the adjoining region, they per- 
form a great deal of work for the whites, and where labor is so scarce as 
it is here, they are of no slight assistance to the settlements. Many of 
them make very good hired hands, and they are found particularly useful 
in rowing boats, paddling canoes, herding cattle, and in the menial opera- 
tions which require a sort of refuse labor, if such a term can be used, 
that would be dear at the outlay of a valuable settler's time. You can 
hire a Chenook to work upon a farm a week for a shirt worth 83 cents. 

These Indians construct the finest canoes in the world. They make 
them out of the cedar which grows at the mouth of the Columbia, from 
twenty to thirty feet long, and from three to four feet wide. Their bot- 
toms are flat, like those of skiffs, and being light, this construction, to- 
gether with the sharp form of the bows, makes them very swift. In fash- 
ioning the canoe, they commence upon the middle and taper it gradually 
to a sharp point at each end, not turning it up with a flourish like the bows 
and stern of ordinary vessels of the kind. The only ornament they 
put upon them, is a sort of figure head made of a separate piece of wood, 
which is fitted on the bows, and is generally beautified with a rude mosaic 
of sea-shells imbedded in various figures in the wood. 

The conduct of the Hudson's Bay Company towards the Indians, 
has been prompt and discriminating, both in the distribution of benefits, 
and in the punishment of offences. They have not held a whole tribe 
responsible for the unauthorized acts of individuals, but have in all cases 
carefully sought out the real perpetrators and punished them without fail. 
When the country was first visited by the whites, the natives were of a 
ferocious and warlike character, and it required sixty men to pass up 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 209 

the Columbia in boats, to ensure the safety of the expedition; but now, a 
single individual can pass without molestation to the Dalles, and a squad 
of six or eight may travel in perfect security through any portion of the 
territory. The Flatheads and Snakes, formerly the most incorrigible, 
have long been peaceable, honest, and friendly. One of the gentlemen 
belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, told me that in the many trad- 
ing expeditions they had had with these tribes, they had never lost the 
first article, and many times they had purposely exposed their goods to 
trifling depredations, for the purpose of testing their honesty. 

All of the tribes of Oregon wear their hair long, and are exceedingly 
fond of the dress of the whites ; but nothing holds so strong a claim to their 
admiration, or so firm a seat in their affections, as a shirt. A pair of 
pantaloons holds the next place, a coat next, and so on through the infe- 
rior articles of apparel. They show the most extravagant delight when 
dressed in these garments, but still prefer to display the shirt on the outside 
of all. Candor, however, compels me to declare, that those who are for- 
tunate enough to possess one of these articles, generally makes it do the 
duty of a full dress. They call the Americans, "Bostons," which title 
they have adopted in consequence of having been originally informed by 
Captain Gray, the. first pale face who ever entered their territory, that 
he came from a place called Boston. The English they call King George. 

The Indians of Oregon are exceedingly addicted to gambling, and 
have been known to pursue this demoralizing passion to the fatal length of 
even staking their liberty on a game, and playing themselves, by a run of 
ill luck, into a state of perpetual slavery. When we estimate the love of 
a savage for independence, we can arrive at some measurement of the 
degree of passion which exacts its sacrifice. Upon the whole, these Indians 
are of vast benefit to the whites of this region. In the present condition 
of the settlements, we should lose much by their absence. 

FISHERIES. — The fisheries of this country are very great, and fore- 
most among all the varieties which they produce, is the unrivalled salmon. 
It would be impossible to estimate the numbers of this excellent fish an- 
nually taken in the Columbia and its tributaries; but they have been set 
down at ten thousand barrels a year, which number I do not think by 
any means too large. The salmon in this country are never caught with 
a hook. They are sometimes taken by the Indians with a small scoop net, 
but generally are caught with a sort of spear of a very peculiar description. 
These are made by the natives after the following fashion. They take 
a pole, made of ash, or of some hard wood, about ten feet long and 
one inch thick, and gradually tapering to a point at one end. They then 
cut a piece, about four inches long, from the sharp prong of a buck's 

210 Reprint Department 

horn, and hollow out the large end so that it fits the pole. About the 
middle of the buck horn, they make a small hole through which they put 
a cord, or leather string, that runs along the pole and fastens to it about 
two feet from the lower end. When they spear a fish with this weapon, 
the pole is withdrawn and the buck horn barb is left imbedded in the 
animal's body, or having run through and through it, remains fastened 
on the other side. Escape is thus rendered impossible, and the prey un- 
able to elude the prong, is securely drawn in by the string. All the salmon 
caught here are taken by the Indians, and sold to the whites at about 
ten cents each, and frequently for less. One Indian will take about twenty 
upon an average per day. 

The salmon taken at different points, differ greatly in kind and 
quality, and it is only at particular places that they can be taken. The 
fattest and best are those taken at the mouth of the Columbia, and the 
next best are those taken in the Columbia, a few miles below Vancouver, 
at the Cascades, and at the Dalles. Those taken at the Willamette falls, 
are smaller in size, and inferior in flavor, and are said to be of a different 
kind. What is singular, this fish cannot be taken in any considerable 
numbers with large seines, and this is only to be accounted for, by their 
remarkable shyness, and their superior activity. I believe no white man 
has yet succeeded in taking them with the gig. They make their appear- 
ance in the vicinity of Vancouver, first in the Klackamus river, and the 
best quality are taken in June. 

There are several other kinds of fish in the bays, rivers, and creeks 
of the territory, of which a species of cod and the sturgeon are the most 
important. The later are a large fish, and afford great sport in a leisure 
hour to take them with a hook and line. They are taken in the Willam- 
ette, below the falls; in the Columbia, at all points, and in the Snake or 
Saptin river, as high up as Fort Boise. Of shell-fish, we have the crab, 
clams, muscles, and a small description of oyster. 

Game. — The wild animals of this, the first section of Oregon, are 
the black bear, black-tailed deer, raccoon, panther, polecat, rabbit, wolf, 
Beaver, and a few others. Of these, the deer and the wolves are the 
most numerous. We have no buffaloes, antelopes, or prairie chickens here, 
but in the second section the latter species of feathered game are plenty. 

Of fancy birds, we have blue jay, larger, and of a deeper blue than 
those of the States; the nut-brown wren, a most beautiful and gentle little 
atom, scarcely larger than the humming-bird; also a species of bird, which 
resembles the robin in form, color, and size; and also a species of night- 
ingale, that sings the livelong night; but though I have heard these evening 
songsters, time and again, I have never yet managed to get sight of one. 

Willies: History of Oregon 211 

The bald eagle, so well described by Wilson, is found along all the rivers; 
but here, he is obliged to compromise a portion of his lordly character to 
his necessities, and to work for his own living, having no fish-hawks to 
catch his game for him. He feeds principally upon the dead salmon he 
gleans from the surface of the water, as they float downward in the stream, 
and changes his diet, by an occasional swoop upon some unlucky duck, 
which he catches either while on the wing, or while feeding in the river. 
If the duck when pursued in the air, can reach the surface of the water, 
he does so with the utmost speed of wing, and seeks a momentary refuge 
by diving under it. The eagle, balancing himself over the spot of his 
victim's disappearance, waits until he rises, and then strikes at him again 
and again, until the latter's strength becomes wasted with the unusual ef- 
fort, and giving out at length, the relentless conqueror bears him off as he 
rises languidly and for the last time to the surface of the water. We 
have also pheasants in abundance, likewise partridges, grouse, brant, pel- 
icans, plovers, wild geese, thrush, gulls, cranes, swans, and ravens, crows 
and vultures. For a sportsman, this region is a paradise, and a dog and 
a gun will afford him a chapter of elysium every day of his life. 

There is one peculiarly attractive feature, which this country possesses 
over most others, and that is, that like Old Ireland itself, it has no poison- 
ous reptiles or insects, and better than Ireland, we are not burdened with 
obligations to any saint for the saintly office of extirpating them. The only 
snake we have, is the harmless garter-snake, and there are no flies to 
annoy the cattle. 

Timber. — The timber of this section of Oregon, constitutes the main 
source of its wealth. It is found in inexhaustible quantities on the Co- 
lumbia, and on the Willamette, just where the water power is at hand to 
cut it up, and where ships can easily take it on board. The principal tim- 
ber of this section is the fir, the white cedar, white oak and black ash. 
There are three kinds of fir; the white, yellow, and red; all of them fine 
for plank, shingles, boards and rails. 

The white fir makes the best shingles. The fir is a species of pine, 
which grows very tall and straight, and stands very thick upon the ground. 
Thick as they stand, however, when you cut one, it never lodges in its fall, 
for the reason that it never forks, and the limbs of the others are too 
small to stop the descent of its enormous bulk. In the Cascade mountains, 
and near the mouth of the Columbia river, they rise to the height of three 
hundred feet. They split exceedingly well, and make the finest boards of 
any timber I have ever seen. I cut one tree, from which I sawed twenty- 
four cuts of three foot boards, and there are plenty of such specimens all 
around me, yet untouched. 

212 Reprint Department 

The white cedar is very fine timber, and is nearly if not quite equal 
to the red cedar of the States. In the vicinity of Linntan, it grows to the 
size of three feet in diameter, and is tall enough to make six rail cuts to 
the tree. I have cut two ware-house logs, thirty feet long, off one tree, and 
three of the same logs off a red fir, which was only about fourteen inches 
in diameter at the stump. The cedar splits remarkably well, makes fine 
rails, shingles, or house-logs, and lasts a lifetime. 

The white oak timber is better for wagon-making than any speci- 
mens to be found east of the Rocky Mountains, and it is the best wood that 
can be had for axe-handles, and for similar purposes. It grows about as 
tall as in the States. The black oa k. which also grows profusely in our 
forests, makes excellent fire-wood, and answers likewise for many other 

In the range of mountains back of Linntann, we have plenty of the 
hemlock, the bark of which is fine for tanning hides; and I have no doubt 
that ere long, the skins that will be stripped from our large herds of stock, 
will be extensively converted into leather by its agency. We have also the 
dog-wood and cherry-maple, sprinkled among the firs and cedars. The 
hazel of this country is four times larger than that of the States, and is 
also much toughter in its texture; it is extensively used for hoops, and 
for the manufacture of a coarse kind of scrub broom. The fruit of this 
tree is of a lighter color than the hazel-nuts of the States, and they are 
of the shape and size of a chinkapin acorn. Persons coming from the 
States will find very little timber here like that to which they have been 
accustomed, for all of it is on a grander scale. The black ash and dog- 
wood are very similar to those of Tennessee and Kentucky, and the 
white oak is perhaps but little different from any eastward of the moun- 
tains. But we have no walnut, hickory, percimmon, pawpaw, locust, cof- 
fee-nut, chestnut, sugar-tree, box-elder, poplar, sycamore, or elm. 

Water Power. — The water power of this country is unequalled; 
and is found distributed through every section. That at the falls of the 
Willamette cannot be surpassed in the world. Any quantity of machinery 
can be put in motion there; but the good water power is not confined to 
the Willamette falls, for in many places on the Columbia, the Willamette, 
and the other rivers, there are mill sites as good, though none of them are 
quite so large. These advantages for converting the timber which sur- 
rounds them, into a marketable commodity of great value in the neighbor- 
ing ocean, will ere long be appreciated to a far greater extent by even 
this region, than at present. 

Mountains. — We have the most beautiful scenery of North Amer- 
ica — we lie upon the largest ocean, we have the purest and most beautiful 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 213 

streams,* the loftiest and most majestic trees, and the most stupendous 
mountains of the continent. The latter, as I have had occasion to men- 
tion before, are divided into three great ranges, but as the description of 
the features of the lower region is at present my especial object, I will 
pass over the Rocky Mountains and the Blue, and confine myself to the 
President's range which forms the eastern wall of our valley. The several 
peaks of this range are grand and imposing objects. From Vancouver you 
have a full and fair view of Mount Hood, to the south, which is called by 
some the tallest peak of the Cascades, and rises more than sixteen thousand 
feet above the level of the sea, and ten thousand above the mountains 
immediately around it. This lofty pile rises by itself in a regular and 
perfect cone, and is covered with perpetual snow. It is the only peak you 
can see from Vancouver, as the view in other directions is obscured by 
tall fir timber. At the mouth of the Willamette, as you enter the Colum- 
bia, you have a full view of Mt. St. Helens or Mount Washington, and 
also of Mount Hood. From Linntan you have a very fair view of the 
former mountain, which is almost fifty miles distant from this point, 
though it looks as if it were almost within reach. This peak is very smooth 
and perfectly conical in its form. It is nearly as tall as Mount Hood, 
and is the most beautiful of the range. It lies immediately on a line with 
the mouth of the Columbia, and is a land-mark visible several miles at 
sea and useful in directing vessels to its harbor. Like Mount Hood it 
stands alone in its solitary grandeur far above all surrounding objects and 
awing them into insignificance. This mountain, which until last year, 
towevered serenely in the air covered with ten thousand perpendicular feet 
of snow, suddenly burst into a burning volcano, in which state it now re- 
mains. The crater is in its side about two-thirds of its distance from its 
base, and by the account of the Indian inhabitants in its vicinity, it emitted 
a flood of lava at the time of its eruption, which poured its stream of fire 
through the whole depth of the virgin sheet that wrapped its sides. A 
savage who had been hunting deer some distance up the mountain, finding 
his return to his wigwam thus cut off, took a run and attempted to jump 
across it, but not being able to clear its breadth, he fell with one foot 
in the glowing torrent, and was so severely burnt, that he came very nearly 
being lamed for life. He hastened to Vancouver, however, and by the 
assistance of Dr. Barclay at the Fort, was gradually cured. 

This mountain is second in height to but one in the world, (Coto- 
paxi in South America), and like other volcanoes it burns at intervals. 
On one side of it near its top, is discovered a large dark object amid the 

•We protest against this claim for their rivers, for It Is at variance 
with the writer's own description of the whole line of streams which he 
traversed from the Rocky mountains to the ocean. 

214 Reprint Department 

surrounding snow, which is supposed to be the mouth of a huge cavern, 
and doubtless is the ancient crater of some expired issue. On the 16th 
February 1844, the mountain burned most magnificently. Dense masses 
of smoke rose up in immense columns and wreathed the whole crest of the 
peak in sombre and massive clouds; and in the evening its fire lit up the 
flaky mountain-side with a flood of soft yet brilliant radiance. The range, 
of which this is the most distinguishing feature, runs throughout the whole 
length of the territory and is remarkable for its seperate and independant 

Commercial, Agricultural and Manufacturing Advantages. — The 
commercial advantages of this country are very great. The trade with the 
Sandwich Islands is daily increasing, and surrounded as we are with a 
half civilized race of men, our manufacturing power will soon have a home 
market for itself; besides, South America, California and the Sandwich 
Islands must' depend upon us for their lumber. Already large quantities 
of shingles and plank are sent to the latter market, and we shall also have 
a full demand for all our other surplus productions at the same port, for 
most vessels visiting the north Pacific, touch at these islands for the purpose 
of obtaining supplies of fresh provisions. The Russian settlements are 
already dependent upon us, and even the markets of China are within 
our reach. For the supply of the regions of the Pacific, and the more 
northern settlements of the coast, there can be no competition with us in 
the way of provisions, as we have no neighbors in the producing line. 

I consider Oregon, in many respects, superior to California, as in the 
latter country, the climate is so warm that pork and beef cannot be put 
up, and consequently the grazer loses half his profits; besides, its enervating 
temperature like that of all warm countries, has a degenerating effect 
upon the enterprise of the inhabitants. For a commercial and manufac- 
turing people, the climate of Oregon is warm enough. We can here pre- 
serve our pork and beef without danger of its tainting before the comple- 
tion of the packing; and we have finer timber, better water power, and are 
not subject to the ruinous droughts of California. 

Since our arrival, the prospetcs of /the country have very much 
improved. Business of all kinds is active and times are flourishing. We 
live in a state of primitive simplicity and independence; we are the victims 
of no vices; there is no drinking or gambling among us, and Labor meets 
with such ample inducements and ready rewards, that lazy men are made 
industrious by the mere force of the influences around them. 

Farming is considered the best business of this country. The busi- 
ness of making and putting up butter, which is never worth less than twenty 
cents per pound, is very profitable. A good fresh article is, I am told, 

Wilkes : History of Oregon 2 1 5 

never worth less than fifty cents and often brings one dollar per pound in 
the Pacific islands. There are now in operation, or will be this summer, 
mills enough to supply the whole population with flour. There is no scarc- 
ity of provisions at the prices I have previously stated, and I find that the 
emigrants who came out last year, live, very comfortably, are perfectly 
content with their change, and are much improved in their appearance 
since the time of their arrival. 

We have the finest spar timber, perhaps, in the world, and vessels 
arriving at the Columbia often take off a quantity for that purpose. The 
saw mills at the Willamette Falls cut large quantities of plank which they 
sell at two dollars per hundred. In speaking of the fir before, I omitted 
stating that it made excellent coal for blacksmith's purposes; and I will 
farther remark that it is singular that neither the fir nor the cedar, when 
burned, makes any ashes. It has been supposed that the timbered land 
of his country will be hard to clear up, but I have come to a different 
conclusion from the fact that the fir timber has very little top, is easily 
kindled, and burns readily. It also becomes seasoned very soon, and it is 
the opinion of good farmers that the timbered land will make the best 
wheat-fields of the country. 

When an individual has any idle time, he can employ himself in making 
fir and cedar shingles, for the first of which he can get four dollars a 
thousand, and for the second, five; any quantity of them can be disposed 
of at these rates. Carpenters and other mechanics obtain three dollars 
per day and found. There is employment in abundance for every one de- 
siring it, and it is only necessary for a man to be industrious to accom- 
plish sure success and surround himself with all the comforts of an earthly 


Concluding Remarks — Directions to Emigrants — Line of Route and Table 
of Distances, Etc. 

Having now completed an account of all the material points of our 
expedition into Oregon, and furnished the inquirer a general idea of its 
character and capabilities, the only thing that remains for me to do in the 
limits of this sketch, is to add a few more directions for the emigrant, 
for whose particular benefit, as I said, before, these imperfect notes are 
furnished. I have shown, indeed the result of our general expedition 
proved, that the route from the Rendezvous in Missouri, to this point, is 
practicable for any description of conveyance, and the success of our cat- 
tle in coming through, adds an assurance that it is remarkable as well, for 

2 1 6 Reprint Department 

its extraordinary emigrating facilities. If this needs any corroboration, a 
world of evidence can be furnished to sustain it, as well as every fact I 
have advanced ; but in support of the peculiar feasibility of the route across 
the Indian territories of the States and along the line of the Platte, I will 
merely refer the reader to the fact, that Mr. Ashley, in an expedition in 
1836, drew a field piece, (a six pounder) from Missouri, across the prai- 
ries, through the southern pass, to a fort on Utah lake (to the south of our 
southern boundary line,) the whole journey being a distance of 1200 
miles; and to the additional fact that in 1828, a large number of heavily 
laden wagons performed the same journey with ease and without an acci- 
dent, as will be seen by a reference to Congressional documents on file. 

It will be remarked that I have slurred over portions of the route and 
neglected the regular incidents of much of our daily travel, but when it is 
remembered that the journey lasted six months, and that the events of 
many successive days scarcely varied from each other, the reader will 
come to the conclusion that it would have been hardly wise in me to have 
taxed his patience with each day's dull routine. The great object, I con- 
sidered to be, the furnishing the course of the route, a view of its general 
aspect and difficulties, the distances between points of travel, (the main 
object of the present chapter) and to impart an accurate notion of the re- 
gion which the settler must make his future home. I have therefore 
avoided everything that did not contribute to this design, with the excep- 
tion of a few trifling incidents of humor inseparable from such an expedi- 
tion, which I introduced to enliven the monotony of the narrative, and 
which, moreover, I considered useful as affording an idea of camp life, 
and the amusements of a journey over the prairies. 

Emigrants should start as early as possible in ordinary seasons. The 
first of May should be set down if possible as the outside limit, and even 
as early as the first of April, would do. For those coming from the 
Platte country, it is thought to be most advisable to cross the Missouri at 
McPherson's ferry in Holt county, and to take up the ridge between the 
Platte and Kanzas rivers. 

Companies of forty or fifty wagons are large enough, and I would 
advise bodies of travellers for this region to keep within that measure. 
Large bodies prove unwieldly to arrange and to control; the numerous 
stock attached to them become troublesome, and moreover large bodies of 
Americans are prone to differ in opinion. Small collections offer but few 
inducements to a disordered ambition, but large ones are conducive of 
selfish strife and discord. This has been seen to have been the case with 
our expedition; which divided after crossing the Kanzas; and which was 
further subdivided afterwards, on the other side of the mountains. I did 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 217 

not particularize this latter circumstance because I considered it of minor 
importance at the time, and it is now sufficient for my purpose to mention 
it here, as a caution against the error which induced it, in the future. 

In driving stock to this country, about one in ten is lost; not more. 
Having started, the best way to proceed to save your teams, is to drive 
a reasonable distance every day, and to stop and go into camp about 
an hour before sundown. This gives time for all the necessary arrangements 
of the encampment and affords the teams an opportunity to rest and eat be- 
fore the night sets in. About eight hours drive in the long days — resting 
an hour at noon — is, I think enough for one day's travel, and you should 
make it a rule never to drive irregularly if you can help it. Along the 
whole line of the Platte, on the Bear and Boise rivers, and in many other 
places, you can encamp at any point you please; but at some points of 
the route you will be compelled to drive hard to get water and range for 
your cattle. 

When you reach the country of the buffalo, never stop your wagons 
to hunt, as you will consume more provisions during the delay than you 
will save by the amount of your game; for it is generally consumed 
at once from the difficulty of curing it, in consequence of the warmth of 
the weather. Let your horsemen and scouts perform this duty, and sup- 
ply this want for you; and if they use proper exertions, they can keep you 
all in fresh meat throughout the whole of the country of game. Any one 
wishing the amusement of this sport, should bring along an extra horse, and 
not use him until he reaches the buffalo region, as the hunting of this ani- 
mal is rough work, and emigrants must needs be very careful they do not 
break their horses down. A prudent care should be taken of horses, teams, 
and provisions from the start, and no extra exertion should be required 
from the two first, and nothing of the last should be thrown away that 
can be eaten. 

If a prudent course is taken, the trip can be made in ordinary sea- 
sons, in four months. It is true it took us longer, but we lost a great 
deal of time upon the road, and besides, we had the way to break. I have 
reason to believe, that other and better routes than the one travelled 
by us can be found. Captain Gant, our pilot, was decidedly of the 
opinion, that to keep up the south fork of the Platte, and to cross it just 
above the stream called the Kooshlapood, and thence up the latter stream, 
passing between the Black Hills on your right, and the Rocky Mountains 
on your left, and striking by this course at last the ordinary route by 
Green river, would be a better and nearer way into Oregon, and more 
plentifully supplied with game than the one we took. He had travelled 
both, and only brought us through the road he did, to avoid the large 

218 Reprint Department 

bands of Sioux and Black feet Indians, whom he had been informed were 
hunting upon the southern route. 

The following table of distances, it is proper for me to say, is a rough 
calculation made up from an estimate of our daily travel. It consequently 
does not claim the accuracy of a geometrical admeasurement, but it is 
thought by those to whom I have submitted it, to be not far out of the 

A Table of Distances From Independence, Missouri, to the Intermediate 

Points Between That Town and Astoria at the Mouth 

of the Columbia River 


From Independence to the Rendezvous, 20 

Rendezvous to Elm Grove 15 

From Elm Grove to Walpalusia, 22 

Walpalusia to Kanzas river, 31 

Kanzas River to Big Sandy creek, 31 

Big Sandy to Hurricane Branch, 12 

Hurricane Branch to East fork of Blue River 20 

East fork to West fork of Blue River 15 

West fork to where we came in sight of the Republican fork of the 

Blue River 41 

Up Republican fork of the Blue River to where we left it to cross 

over to the Big Platte River 66 

Up the Platte to where we saw the first herd of buffalo 56 

Up the same to the crossing on the South fork of same 117 

South fork to crossing on North Fork of same, 31 

Crossing of North Fork to Cedar Grove, 13 

Cedar Grove to Solitary Tower 18 

Solitary Tower to Chimney Rock 18 

Chimney Tower to Scott's Bluffs 20 

Scott's Bluffs to Fort Larimie 38 

Fort Larimie to Big Spring at foot of Black Hills 8 

Big Spring to Keryan on North fork of Platte 30 

Keryan to crossing of North Fork, 84 

Crossing of North Fork to Sweetwater River, 55 

Up Sweetwater River to where we first saw the eternal snows of 

the Rocky Mountains, 60 

From the above point to main dividing ridge of Rocky Mountains, . . 40 

From dividing ridge to Little Sandy River, 16 

Little Sandy to Big Sandy 14 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 219 

Big Sandy to Green River 25 

Down same 12 

To Black's fork of Green River, 22 

From Black's fork to Fort Bridger 30 

Fort Bridger to Big Muddy River 20 

Big Muddy to Bear River 37 

Down Bear River to range of hills mentioned as running up to its 

bank, 57 

Down Bear River to Great Soda Spring 38 

From Soda Spring to the Portneuf River, the first water of the Co- 
lumbia 25 

To Fort Hall in the Snake or Saptin River 58 

From Fort Hall to the Portneuf again, 11 

Portneuf to Rock Creek, 87 

Rock Creek to Salmon Falls on the Saptin, 42 

Salmon Falls to crossing on the Saptin, 27 

From crossing of Saptin to Boiling Spring, 19 

Boiling Spring to Boise River, 48 

Down same to Fort Boise on Saptin, 40 

Fort Boise to Burnt River, 41 

Up Burnt River for, 26 

From last point to Powder River at "the Lone Pine," 18 

From "the Lone Pine" to Grand Round 15 

Grand Round to the Umatilla River on the west of the Blue Moun- 
tains 43 

Umatilla to Dr. Whitman's Mission, 29 

Mission to Fort Wallawalla, 25 

Wallawalla to the Dalles Mission 1 20 

Dalles to Vancouver, 100 

Vancouver to Astoria 80 

Astoria to the ocean, 10 

Making in all from Independence to the Pacific ocean 2036 

From Independence to Vancouver by the above computation is 1946 
miles by the route we traveled. I am well satisfied that the distance does 
not exceed 2000 miles for the reason that our ox teams could not have 
accomplished a greater distance within the time of their actual employ- 

The trip to Oregon is neither a costly nor an expensive one, and an 
individual can travel here at as small an expense, as he can move from 
Tennessee or Kentucky, to Missouri. AH the property he starts with he 

220 Reprint Department 

can bring through, and it is worth, upon his arrival, more than when 
he set out. 

To conclude, there is no country in the world where the wants of 
man can be so readily supplied, and upon such easy terms as in this; and 
none where the beauties of nature are displayed upon a grander scale. 

The chief value of this country, I must remark in closing, lies in 
the advantages it offers to the United States for a direct route to the 
East Indies and the ports of the Pacific ocean. Already these have been 
embracd by the Hudson's Bay settlers, and even now, the products of 
this region have grown to an importance that would make them sadly 
missed by several of the island markets and settlements upon the western 
coasts which they have of late supplied. Every day adds to their amount 
and their demand, and an ordinary sagacity may see in this fact, the 
promise of our future importance in the commercial world. There are 
many considerations involved in the first steps of our advance which it 
would please me to allude to in detail, but they are not embraced within 
the scope of my present purpose, and I leave them to the treatment of 
abler political economists. 

The more extended political organization of which I before spoke, 
is about to take place, and I was waited upon two or three days ago 
by a party from the Falls, to consult upon a plan of a general territorial 
government, with a legislature of two houses, and a Chief Justice for its 
first executive officer. This arrangement will embrace all the settlements 
of the valley into one common government, the representatives of which 
will convene in general congress, at stated periods, at Multonomah or 
Oregon city, and there transact all the necessary business for our little 
body politic. When this plan is adopted, (as it doubtless will immediate- 
ly be) , it will perhaps, be the peculiar honor of your humble servant, to sit 
in a curule chair of the first Republican Government beyond the Rocky 
mountains. We shall then be able to make our own laws, and likewise 
to do our own voting and our own fighting. Let not our brethren of the 
States mistrust our ability to maintain ourselves in our new position! We 
have strong arms and stout hearts; we have despised the toils of two thou- 
sand miles of travel to build our homes upon the soil, and we will never 
leave its face, until we sink beneath it.* 

•Recent accounts from the west Inform us that there are now gathered 
near Independence, Missouri, about 7,000 emigrants, all destined for Oregon 
and California. They are to set out In convenient detachments about the 
1st of June. 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 221 



The author cannot say his last word without allusion to a British re- 
publication which appeared when the foregoing pages were in press. It 

British Claims, in opposition to the Pretensions of the 
United States, by Thomas Falconer, Barrister at Law, of 
Lincoln's Inn." 

It is unnecessary to our purpose to travel after the wrtier through all 
his tortuous sophistries, as they are fully answered by the plain state- 
ments of the previous portions of this work; but, as Mr. Falconer is a 
special advocate of international law, and advances some rather novel and 
interesting positions, it may not be amiss to glance at the main points of 
his performance. The learned barrister somewhat ingeniously commences 
by adjudging us the French Title as the foundation of our claims, and 
having given it this position as his least formidable obstacle, pelts away at 
it with evident satisfaction. He is welcome to his pains, for if he suc- 
ceeds in destroying it altogether, it will not affect our claims a jot. He 
next insists upon the discoveries of Drake with the utmost pertinacity, 
though he succeeds but poorly, and can manage to defend the varacity of 
the freebooting Preacher, on whose romantic statements they depend, 
no better than by asking — what motive he could have to lie? This ap- 
peal, in the face of the fact, that navigators had for nearly a hundred 
years previous been struggling for the renown of the furtherest northern 
advance, is the very superlative of absurdity, and is undeserving of a grave 
reply. Mr. Falconer lays great stress upon the concessions of Spain by 
the Nootka treaty, (a rather strange mode by the way of fortifying the 
antagonistic claims of Drake and Cook,) and insists that, ''this conven- 
tion was an admission of the right of the English Government to make 
settlements." Well, suppose it was, what then? She did not consummate 
that privilege by any settlement, as we have before shown, previous to the 
succeeding war I 796 which swept the right away with the other condi- 
tional agreements and reciprocal privileges dependant upon a state of 
amity! Had she, in the mean time, made an actual settlement and re- 
tained it through the war, her proposition that "the right to make settle- 
ments was a cession of territory," would, in its application to this case, 
wear a graver aspect. But throwing aside the Nootka treaty, and 
granting Britain the prilivege of settlement in unoccupied wastes as a nat- 

222 Reprint Department 

ural right, and still she gains nothing by it, for, by her own rule: "dis- 
covery alone and an alleged intention to occupy do not give a perfect 
title, unless an actual occupation takes place." This is an unfortunate 
quotation of the learned barrister's, for we have seen that Britain's very 
first settlement in any part of Oregon, was at Astoria, after the purchase 
of the Pacific Fur Company's effects in 1813; while on the other hand, 
the United States reaps the harvest of the principle by a number of 
explorations and settlements extending from 1 792 to the above period. 
But these formidable circumstances must be overcome, and the gentleman 
of Lincoln's Inn seeks to accomplish his purpose by a farther burrowing 
into international law. By the outlay of a little industrious research, he 
finds that this grand system accords to the subjects of monarchial govern- 
ments privileges by discovery and settlement, which it denies to the Citizens 
of a Republic; that while the former may be empowered by their sovereign 
to discover countries, to take possession and establish laws, the later cannot 
receive similar powers from the President of the United States, "and 
without such authority," continues he, "they are mere outcasts and vaga- 
bonds upon the face of the desert, and no political inferences can be drawn 
from their acts. Hence," concludes the learned barrister, "the British 
settlement on the Columbia in 1813, was the first of a national and legal 
character, recognizable as such, by foreign nations." This is all very 
well as an ingenious obliquity of argument, but n>e understand the political 
distinction between Americans and Britons in a different sense. By our 
institutions every Citizen of the United States is in himself a sovereign, 
and possesses, as a matter of course, every natural right and its conse- 
quences, that monarchs grant by special act of grace to their obedient sub- 
jects. While Europeans range in varying subordinate degrees, the Citizens 
of our glorious Republic have a right to rank with kings. 

Satisfied with his deductions, the learned gentleman finally winds up 
with an appeal to the commercial interests which will be injured by a state 
of war, and with a suggestion that the whole dispute be referred to the 
arbitration of some foreign power. 

Do we need more than this to prove the absurdity of international 
law as applied to us? Is not the above insulting construction of our in- 
stitutions, a sufficient argument to induce us to reject at once the system 
it is based on with the contempt it deserves! Instead of gravely inquiring 
what might have been the opinion of this or that monarchial writer some 
hundreds of years ago, would it not be more dignified — more just, to decide 
for ourselves upon the merits of the case, and according to first principles? 

Wilkes: History of Oregon 223 



(No. 1.) 

Convention between the United Slates and Russia, signed at St. Petersburg, 
on the I 7th of April, 1 824. 

ARTICLE I. It is agreed that, in any part of the great ocean, 
commonly called the Pacific Ocean, or South sea, the respective citizens 
or subjects of the high contracting powers shall be neither disturbed nor 
restrained, either in navigation or in fishing, or in the power of restoring to 
the coasts, upon points which may not already have been occupied, for the 
purpose of trading with the natives ; saving always the restrictions and con- 
ditions determined by the following articles. 

ART. 2. Wtih the view of preventing the rights of navigation and 
of fishing, exercised upon the great ocean by the citizens and subjects of 
the high contracting powers, from becoming the pretext for an illicit trade, 
it is agreed that the citizens of the United States shall not resort to any 
point where there is a Russian establishment, without the permission of 
the governor or commander; and that, reciprocally, the subjects of Russia 
shall not resort, without permission, to any establishment of the United 
States upon the north-west coast. 

Art. 3. It is, moreoevr, agreed that hereafter there shall not be 
formed by the citizens of the United States, or under the authority of 
said States, any establishment upon the north-west coast of America, nor 
in any of the islands adjacent, to the north of 54 degrees and 40 minutes of 
north latitude; and that, in the same manner, there shall be none formed by 
Russian subjects, or under the authority of Russia, south of the same 

Art. 4. It is, nevertheless, understood that, during a term of ten 
years, counting from the signature of the present convention, the ships of 
both powers, or which belong to their citizens or subjects, respectively, 
may reciprocally frequent, without any hinderance whatever, the interior 
seas, gulfs, harbors, and creeks, upon the coast mentioned in the preceding 
article, for the purpose of fishing and trading with the natives of the 

Art. 5. All spirituous liquors, fire-arms, other arms, powder, and 

224 Reprint Department 

munitions of war of every kind, are always excepted from this same com- 
merce permitted by the preceding article; and the two powers engage, re- 
ciprocally, neither to sell, nor suffer them to be sold, to the natives, by 
their respective citizens and subjects, nor by any person who may be under 
their- authority. It is likewise stipulated, that this restriction shall never 
afford a pretext, nor be advanced, in any case, to authorize either search 
or detention of the vessels, seizure of the merchandise, or, in fine, any 
measures of constraint whatever, towards the merchants or the crews who 
may carry on this commerce; the high contracting powers reciprocally re- 
serving to themselves to determine upon the penalties to be incurred, and to 
inflict the punishments in case of the contravention of this article by their 
respective citizens or subjects. 

(To be continued.)