(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Children's Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Crossing the Plains"

STOP 



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 byJSTOR. 

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 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.istor.org/participate-istor/individuals/early- 
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 
contact support@jstor.org. 



VOL. XIIL, No. 3 JULY, 1922 



OTagfjington Jlistorical ©uarterlp 



CROSSING THE PLAINS* 

At this late day it seems strange that any man in his right 
mind, who owned a good home in or near Princeton, Illinois, should 
leave it to encounter all the dangers, hardships and privations of a 
five-months' journey, when every day brought something of annoy- 
ance, of anxiety, and when the journey was ended he had to begin 
life anew among strangers where the conditions were altogether dif- 
ferent from what he had always been accustomed. 

Princeton is on a level plain surrounded by level plains a hun- 
dred miles in every direction from Lake Michigan to the Missis- 
sippi River. In the early days there were groves all over that region 
of oak, ash, maple, walnut, hickory, butternut, elm, wild plum and 
many other deciduous trees, with but few evergreens, though I can 
still remember the scent of the red cedar which was quite common 
and of no more value than the other woods. Little streams and 
larger rivers traversed the country bordered by trees and shrubbery 
of many kinds. Wild plums, grapes, crabapples, paw-paws and 
nxtts of many varieties were abundant in their season. The lands 
were rich and crops abundant with no droughts nor plagues of 
grasshoppers or other insects that in later years broke the hearts 
of the farmers of the Middle West. 

The dark side of the picture was the prevalence of malarial 
diseases and lack of means to get the crops to market. The level 
lands, in the springtime, were covered with water, the drainage 
was poor and the hot sun soon covered vast areas with stagnant 

•Note: — The paper following, gWing an account of the trip across "Tlie Plains," 
wag prepared for my children und grandchildren, who hav,e long liecn urging me to do 
this wori£ that they might have a permanent record of the experience of their parents 
and grandparents in that arduous imdertaking. Ours was "Bethel Company," and it may 
also properly l>e called a "Seat.jc Company," for more than half Its members came to 
this city to live not long after their crossing and most of those have died here. Only 
three members of the original party survive and all live in Seattle. Tliese are Mrs. Susie 
Mercer Graham, Mrs. Alice Mercer Bagley and the writer. — Clarence B. Bagiey. 

(163) 



164 Clarence B. Bagley 

ponds. Ague, (chills and fever) was almost universal, and in those 
days nearly eveiy summer, cholera was prevalent as no efforts were 
made to prevent its spread; in fact no one knew it could be kept 
from spreading all over the land. 

Railroads had only just begun construction — a short line ran 
out of Chicago a few miles toward the Northwest; a short canal 
from La Salle had been cut to Chicago. Wheat was twenty-five 
cents to fifty cents a bushel, oats ten to twenty-five cents, corn five 
cents, a good cow ten to fifteen dollars, a good horse fifty to sixty 
dollars, a man's day wage fifty cents and for a good harvester 
seventy-five cents. In the summer one could take a load of wheat 
to Chicago and get a better price but it took a week for the round 
trip. About all a healthy man could do was to make a bare Uving 
with the torrid heat in summer and arctic cold in the winter. 

To escape these almost intolerable conditions was the impelling 
motive for most of those who then went to Oregon. 

Father had a sufficient reason, however, for his migration. 

In the spring of 1850 father and mother and I went by the 
Great Lakes to Erie, in Pennsylvania, thence by canal to Con- 
neautville within a few miles from the Whipples, Bagleys, Smiths, 
Fishes, Carrs, Amidons and a large number of families who were 
more or less intermarried. Leaving mother and me with "Grandma 
Whipple" father and Uncle Whipple went by way of Pittsburg 
lo Washington and Baltimore. Father's chief errand was to attend 
the Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church. Dur- 
ing its session, the matter of establishing that Church in Oregon 
was canvassed and a determination on father's part to become a 
"Missionary" was fairly settled but not until the following year, 
1851, were the necessary arrangements made between him and the 
national organization of that Church that made it possible for him 
to begin preparations for the momentous departure, which went 
on carefully for months. 

During this period others had also decided on going to Oregon. 
From those who had returned from California and Oregon intending 
emigrants had the benefit of good and intelligent counsel and in- 
structions for their guidance on the way. They learned the char- 
acter of vehicles required and the kind of foodstuffs best suited 
for the trip. What was equally important, thev were told that sen- 
timent must give way to prosaic necessity. Books, keepsakes. 



Crossing the Plains 165 

household furniture and bedding must be kept down to the mini- 
mum. It was emphasized that nothing that would not be worth a 
"dollar a pound" when it reached Oregon should be taken. The 
soundness of this advice became apparent, months later, when the 
grazing for the animals became scanty and the ribs of the draft 
animals stuck out like hoops on a barrel. We did not need to 
lighten our loads by throwing away cumbersome and heavy articles, 
and not an animal in our train was lost on the trip except one horse 
belonging to Aaron Mercer that died from snakebite or eating some 
poisonous food. 

Another reason for getting along so well with our stock I have 
always attributed to the fact that we did not travel on Sundays or 
overdrive at any time unless it was absolutely necessary on account 
of food or water for them at the end of the usual drive. I have 
not been a rigid observer of the Sabbath on religious grounds but 
I have always believed human beings, work animals and even ma- 
chinery needed frequent and regular periods of rest. When I 
carried on a large printing business it was my rule not to have work 
done on Sundays except in rare instances when a lack of employees 
made it necessary for those in the office to work longer hours than 
usual. 

Father bought two good mules for $120 ; two good horses for 
$120, and two choice mares for $125. One wagon cost him $60 
and a coach with springs at $125. The mules drew the wagon and 
the four horses drew the coach. The outfit cost him about $550 
and when he got to Oregon he sold it for more than $1,000, thus 
realizing profit enough to pay the other expenses of the trip across 
the plains. The coach was used for many years as a stage carrying 
passengers and mails. The reverse of this glowing picture was when 
we had to pay $100 for a cow, $60 for a stove that had lost some of 
its more unimportant parts, in Salem, soon after our arrival. Also 
that winter, which was quite severe, we had to pay four dollars per 
bushel for potatoes and for flour $25 per barrel. 

All through the upper Mississippi Valley the roads were im- 
passable in those days after the frost left the ground until the earth 
had "settled". We held back the time of starting until the roads 
about Princeton were fairly good but the trip from that place 
through Illinois and Iowa to Council Bluffs or Kanesville took us 
from April 20th to May 22d. The roads were horrible. A wagon 



166 Clarence B. Bagley 

would settle down to the hubs in the mud, then extra teams would 
be hitched to it and the men would use rails or poles cut for the 
purpose and pry it out, perhaps having to do the same with the 
next one, though if we were where we could get out of the road on 
the grass the horse and wagons could secure fairly good footing. 
In the timber there was no escape; but there was but little timber 
along the road. 

We crossed the Mississippi River not far from Davenport, on 
a horse ferry boat. In those days there was a sort of treadmill 
attachment in common use whereby a horse would turn a revolving 
platform from which power was transmitted to the motive power 
of a hddX, threshing machine or other machinery. 

Our route lay through Oskaloosa and Des Moines in Iowa, and 
we reached the Missouri River on May 22, 1852, at or just below 
the old Mormon town of Kanesville. On the opposite banks of the 
river were hills then termed Council Bluffs, I believe from the fact 
that it had often happened that treaties and "councils" with the 
Indians had been made there. 

It took us all day to cross as there were many other wagons to 
be taken over and all of ours did not have the right of way at 
the same time. My recollection is that this ferryboat was operated 
by steam. 

We were now at the westerly limit of civilization. On the east 
bank of the river were a few small trading villages but on the west- 
erly bank the Indian country began. There were thousands of 
Indians camping on the river bottom and on the bluffs where Omaha 
now stands. We waited here over one day, Sunday, May 23, 1852, 
to get all ready for our real start for Oregon. 

The migration of 1852 was the heaviest of any to Oregon and 
California. It was then and always has been estimated that it 
reached fully 50,000. On all our part of the trip we had no fear of 
ihe Indians except to protect ourselves from the pilfering of articles 
about camp and from stealing our horses at night. 

Among Father Mercer's papers I found, several years ago, 
his original list of the night patrol of sentries that went on guard 
each night with the stock as most of the time they had to be taken 
quite a distance from camp in order that they might have sufficient 
grass to feed upon. This was a serious handicap all along the 



Crossing the Plains 167 

route and became much worse after the migration on the south of 
the Platte crossed over to the north side, somewhere near Fort 
Laramie, I believe. 

Bethel Company as it started from Princeton, consisted of the 
following : 

Thomas and Nancy Mercer and daughters Mary, Eliza, Susie 
and Alice. Mr. Mercer in the fall of 1852 came to Seattle and 
selected his Donation Claim that extended from what is now High- 
land Drive to Mercer Street and from First Avenue North to Lake 
Union. Mercer Street, Mercer Island and Mercer Slough all bear 
the family name. 

Daniel and Susannah Bagley and son Clarence whose activities 
have been presented in other publications. 

Dexter Horton and wife and daughter Rebecca. Mr. Horton 
achieved a fortune in merchandising here and helped to found the 
great banking institution that bears his name. 

Aaron Mercer and wife. Mrs. Mercer died soon after reaching 
Oregon and he married again. In the early 'sixties they came here 
to live. 

William H. Shoudy, brother of Mrs. Horton. He married in 
Oregon and about 1863 they came here to live, he going into the 
store as a clerk for Mr. Horton. Several years later he and Henry 
A. Atkins bought out the store. In 1886, Mr. Shoudy was elected 
Mayor of this City. John A. Shoudy, another brother, was the 
founder of Ellensburg. 

John Pike. Mrs. Pike and son Harvey later joined Mr. Pike 
and they lived for many years in Seattle. He was an architect and 
builder. The plans and specifications of the first University build- 
ing were his work. He also did much carpentry work on that 
structure. Pike Street bears his name. The son Harvey took a 
claim that included the land between Lakes Washington and Union 
and he undertook to cut the first canal, using pick and shovel and a 
wheelbarrow. 

John Rosnacle, a blacksmith, who took care of shoeing the 
horses and mending the wagons. Sometime in the 'seventies he 
came to Seattle, bought him a home in South Seattle and many 
years later died there. 

William F. West and Jane, his wife and my mother's sister. 
They had a son bom to them at old Fort Boise on the Snake River 



168 Clarence B. Bagley 

near the mouth of Boise River. The boy was named Fort Boise 
in recognition of the place of his birth. Dr. Ossian J. West and 
Mrs. Myra Ingraham, children of Mr. and Mrs, West, and born 
in Oregon, now live in Seattle. 

Edna Whipple, my mother's sister, who was of our immediate 
party and who became the wife of George F. Colbert not long 
after reaching the Willamette Valley. 

Four brothers Warren, named Frank, George, Phinneas and 
Daniel, all of whom settled on the Columbia River and later en- 
gaged in the salmon industry and became quite wealthy. 

Ashby West, a young Englishman, a brother of William F. 
West, and who always lived with them while on the farm near 
Jefferson and later in that town. 

Daniel Drake, who drove our team into Oregon, but of whom 
I remember little. 

Prior to our reaching the Missouri River a family, named 
Gould, consisting of husband and wife and grown son, joined our 
company. Mrs. Gould died of cholera on the Platte River, the 
only death in our party. 

Giles Hunter, who became a friend of the family and with 
whom we kept up correspondence for ten or twelve years. The 
last time we met him was in San Francisco in 1864. 

Isaac Depew, S. Minard, A. P. Turner, George Taylor, Albert 
Long and Daniel Truett joined the company somewhere on the 
trip. The latter came through to Oregon with us. The others I do 
not remember. 

At Council Bluffs, Thomas Mercer was elected captain of the 
company and directed its movements across the plains. It was a 
nesecsaiy custom to select a captain of each party, who directed the 
movements of the train about stopping for the night and starting 
in the morning, about "Laying over," on Sunday or any other time 
it was thought best. Otherwise there would have been frequent 
disputes and disagreements about the movements of the company. 
The trip was one to bring out all the good qualities and the bad 
ones, as well, but I do not remember any serious disputes along the 
whole of the route. 

After resting over one day, we made our real start "across the 



Crossing the Plains 169 

plains" on the 24th of May, 1852. This proved to be a compara- 
tively early start as thousands came after us. We found better 
grazing in consequence and less dust, no small item in an alkaline 
country. About twetny miles out we had to cross a narrow, deep 
sluggish stream, called The Elkhorn. Here we had our only dis- 
pute with the Indians. A band of Pawnees had constructed of 
rushes a floating pontoon or bridge that would hold up a wagon and 
team. They demanded for each team and wagon five dollars. This 
our people felt was exorbitant and they offered to pay one dollar 
instead which in turn was refused. Our men got out their rifles 
and told the Indians that it meant a fight unless the lower offer 
was accepted. After a lot of loud talk matters quieted down and 
the Indians agreed upon the dollar and we came on our way. 

All through May and June we drove on up the Platte and its 
tributaries. For hundreds of miles the road was so level that but 
for the Platte running eastward no one could have told we were 
gradually ascending toward the Rocky Mountains. In one stretch 
of two hundred miles we saw but one lone tree, a Balm of Gilead 
on an island in the river. Our fuel was called "buffalo chips", 
though I am sure that much of it was from the cattle that had 
preceded us, instead of buffalo. That year the migration was so 
large and close together that the buffalo were frightened away 
from our vicinity and we never saw one on the trip. 

At that time there were millions of them roaming over a vast 
region between the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains. They had 
mostly disappeared west of that range. It is one of the tragedies 
of the west that they should have been so remorselessly slaughtered, 
mostly for their horns and hides. Until the Union Pacific Railroad 
was constructed no great inroads upon their numbers had been made 
but, with the repeating rifle and ease of access to the country, it 
was not long before they began to dissappear from much of the 
region where they had been so numerous. About 1876, they had 
been mostly killed off so that the problem of food for the Indians 
had become a serious one. In my childhood, as father and mother 
drove across the broad Illinois praries without regard to roads, 
deep paths were common, almost like trenches from twelve to 
eighteen inches deep. Father told me these were buffalo trails made 
many years before when immense herds of those animals frequented 
the great plains on the east side of the Mississippi. Even at that 
time deer, wild turkeys and wolves were plentiful. 



170 Clarence B. Bagley 

On the plains we saw lots of antelopes, wolves, prairie dogs 
and rattelsnakes, the latter of several varieties. In the mountain 
regions the latter were longer and not so thick through the middle 
as those common in Illinois and they were much more active. On 
the west side of the Rockies, scorpions became plentiful and much 
care had to be exercised in shaking one's clothing and shoes before 
putting them on in the morning. I saw mother shake one big one 
out of her stocking one morning. 

Our drinking water was taken out of the Platte River. We had 
been forewarned against using water from springs along the bank 
of that stream because of the presence of alkali and other min- 
eral salts that were poisonous. The river was from the distant 
mountains and was pure except for the silt it carried in solution. 
One could not see through a glassful of it when first taken from the 
stream. If we had time we could stir a teacup full of commeal 
in a bucketful and let it settle fifteen or twenty minutes when it 
became reasonably clear and the bottom of the bucket would be 
covered with half an inch of mud. If we did not have time we 
drank it plain, mud and all. It was a common saying that while 
crossing the plains every one had to eat a peck of dirt. We also 
had provided a large quantity of acetic acid and quite often a 
lemonade was made from it that served to make the water more 
palatable. 

We carried "reflectors" and "bakeovens" to bake our bread in 
and for other cooking purposes. The latter were big iron pots 
from twelve to twenty-four inches across the top, which was flat 
with turned-up edges, thus making a big iron plate. The oven 
was set on a bed of coals and coals heaped on its top and it did 
not take long to bake the bread which was wonderfully sweet and 
palatable. Of course we did not long have butter after leaving 
Iowa but we had meat in plenty and made plenty of gravy. I do 
not remember that any shortage of food occured at any time. Also, 
we had no difficulty in getting flour from other trains which had 
started with more than they needed or from families that had lost 
so many of its members that those remaining had to sell it or throw 
it away. 

The Platte River was and is a remarkable stream. Rising in 
the Rocky Mountains, of course the small streams are rapid and 
run through gorges and carry immense quantities of soil with them. 



Crossing the Plains 171 

When we got to the upper reaches of the stream the route was 
rough and at times the scenery was wild and beautiful, especially 
to us who had never seen a real mountain. When it becomes a 
large stream the adjacent ground is comparatively level and it flows 
slowly over a shifting bottom, quite often quicksand, Where we 
first saw it and for hundreds of miles as we followed its banks 
the water was shallow and a mile or more acfross. The men often 
waded across, and one time they let me go along and I also had no 
difficulty in getting across. 

For hundreds of miles we saw a constant procession of wagons 
on the south bank as well as on our own north side. We came to 
recognize some of the trains on the further side and of course on 
our own side. Years later I often heard father addressed by some- 
one in Oregon who told of meeting our train on the Platte or on 
the Snake River. Along the Platte the most notable feature of 
natural scenery was "Chimney Rock", that was shaped like an 
immense circular chimney set on a hill. It was on the south side 
of the river, a few miles away from it. Its formation was of a 
soft rock or indurated clay that in that arid climate was subject 
to slight erosion. It has been an object of frequent note for one 
hundred years, and in the years since we saw it has shown but 
little change in shape or height. 

We forded several streams that were so deep that blocks were 
put under the beds of the wagons so that the water would not dam- 
age articles in them. One of the large branches of the Platte, Loup 
Fork, was the most notable of these. It was necessary to drive 
very rapidly to avoid sinking in the quicksands all the way across, 
yet the wagons rattled and jolted as though the bottom was broken 
rock instead of sand. It greatly excited my curiosity at the time 
and I never have understood the peculiar formation that would 
let a wagon or animal settle in it and soon engulf it and yet seem 
like rock when driven across. We took the precaution to have 
our horses drink all the water they would before driving into the 
stream that they might not try to stop on the way across. All 
little details of our every day life had to be carefully thought out 
to avoid unnecessary delays and difficulties. 

After leaving Iowa the first white settlement we saw was at 
Fort Laramie. We did not visit the place as it was on the south 
side of the river, and our supplies were still plentiful. This station 



172 Clarence B. Bagley 

was a notable one and afterward became an outlying post of the 
United States Army. It was on the easterly slope of the Black 
Hills, near their foot, at the junction of Laramie Fork with the 
Platte and between the two streams, about five hundred miles west 
of Council Bluffs and about one hundred miles west of Chimney 
Rock. 

The Black Hills are a spur of the Rocky Mountains and they 
gave us our first experience of hill and mountain travel. In fact 
they were higher by far than any land thousands of the emigrants 
had ever seen. Their dark blue appearance was the same as our own 
mountains but were new to those who gave them their name. A 
scrubby growth of evergreens covered them, among the rest red 
cedar, and here we had unlimited supplies of wood for fuel for the 
first time since leaving Iowa. The scent of the wood of a cedar 
pencil often recalls the campfires of my childhood on the road to 
Oregon. 

In this region was about the first time we had use for the 
brakes on our wagons. All of them had been fitted out with chains 
fastened about one-third of their length securely to the wagon box, 
and when the brake was used the longer end was passed between 
the spokes and securely fastened by a hook or toggle joint thus 
preventing the wheel from turning. We had them on both sides of 
our wagons but not often had to use more than one at a time. 

From Fort Laramie to the 'South Pass" the road was full of 
interest and most of the time quite rough. When we reached the 
North Fork of the Platte we traveled up it to a beautiful affluent 
called the Sweetwater. At times this stream passed through rocky 
defiles and became deep and turbulent. On its banks was and is 
"Independence Rock", a mass of rock lying detached and covering, 
as I remember about ten acres. It was about 900 feet long and 
perhaps 100 feet high and its top was accessible only in a few places. 
It was the great directory of those who had gone that way for many 
years and had thousands of names marked on it, some in chalk, 
some and mostly in tar and here and there one chisled in the rock. 
I am told that many of these are still legible after seventy to a hun- 
dred years of exposure to wind and weather. 

There were nine crossings of the Sweetwater, by which time 
it became a small stream, little more than a rivulet. 

July 4th, 1852, we reached the "South Pass", which is still 



Crossing the Plains 173 

considered the most favorable of any in the whole range for a 
wagon road although the "Oregon Short Line" crosses the range 
about thirty miles further south. Here we had our first experience 
of finding beautiful spring flowers all about and only a few feet 
away big snow banks many feet deep. I have not recently consulted 
reference books but I believe the pass is about 7,000 feet above sea 
level. Here, within a few feet of each other, little rivulets started 
for the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. 

For many days the heat was excessive while the sun shone 
but at night we could not keep warm as water froze in our buckets. 
I went barefoot most of the time and I still remember how cold 
my little feet became as we started on the road in the early morn- 
ings. 

Soon after leaving the Pass father became seriously ill with 
"mountain fever," which was common in that region. My recol- 
lection is that we had to remain in camp for several days to let 
him recover so that it was safe for him to travel. 

We had now reached 'OREGON." Old Oregon as we now 
call it. At that time the Territory of Oregon reached from the 
Pacific Ocean to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and from 
British Columbia to California. Since then Oregon, Washington, 
Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming have been formed out 
of it. 

Heretofore each day had brought to the workers of the com- 
pany long hours and tiresome nights and days but they had been 
accustomed to similar work all their lives and thought but little of it, 
but from that time on the hard work began. Long drives had to be 
made from one watering place to another. Most of the good water 
was in the streams that flowed down from the mountains, the rest 
of it was full of minerals of many kinds. Mountains had to be 
crossed between these streams. Little and often no grass was 
found for long distances. Soil, volcanic ash, that was light as 
thistle down filled the air at the least disturbance and there was no 
escaping it. If the leading wagon was far enough to escape the dust 
of some other train all the rest of our own had to endure it hour 
after hour. The road ahead would look perfectly level and smooth 
but the wagons sank into it oftentimes to the hubs. 

Going westward we forded a number of beautiful streams, 
often having to block up the beds, but when Green River was 



174 Clarence B. Bagley 

reached we had to pay five dollars a wagon to the Mormons who 
owned the ferry and who were glad to levy tribute from the Gen- 
tiles. About the middle of July we reached "Soda Springs", a re- 
gion full of all sorts of strange things. In fact it seemed to our 
people just one remove from Tophet. Boiling springs were every- 
where. Sulphur springs, soda springs, soap springs — occasionally 
a spring of good, cold water. At this place "Steamboat Spring" 
was the most notable. We had heard of it before leaving home and 
often on the way across. I got down into it when the water was 
not flowing and found it little larger than my body. It would be 
quiet for a time, then the water would begin to flow, gradually 
increasing in volume and power until it would make a roaring noise 
similar to the exhaust of a high-power steamboat that could be 
heard a half mile, or even a mile if the breeze should be in the 
right direction. It was on the bank of Bear River, and within one 
hundred feet of it was one cold spring and not far from that an- 
other so hot that one could not hold one's hand in it. 

The soda springs were very numerous and seemed to spring out 
of solid rock, but the fact was the waters were so heavily mineralized 
that they gradually formed mounds, conical in shape, around them. 
Most of these springs were intermittent, but there was no regu- 
larity of time between the eruptions of water. Some of them were 
aerated as they came out and by mixing in some acetic acid and 
sugar were quite palatable to most folks. Conditions similar to 
these were so common for two or three hundred miles along the 
road that they soon lost their novelty. 

A few miles beyond these springs, coming westward, the roads 
to California and Oregon separated, the latter turning sharply to 
the right and northward. Going over a range of mountains, we 
reached the valley of the Port Neuf which stream empties into the 
Snake River about fifteen miles below Fort Hall. 

It is my recollection that as we drove down this valley newly 
made graves became so frequent that Susie and I agreed to count 
them, she taking one side of the road and I the other. Our count 
reached one hundred twenty for the day. All these were in sight 
of the road and doubtless there were many we did not see. Most 
of these deaths were caused by cholera, which by this time was 
making frightful inroads upon the emigrants. Careful considera- 
tion and comparison of figures made then and later generally 



Crossing the Plains 175 

agreed that fully five thousand lost their lives on the plains that 
year from a total of fifty thousand going to California and Oregon. 

Father and Father Mercer had been accustomed to treat suffer- 
ers from this epidemic for years in Illinois. A medicine com- 
pounded of a lot of barks and roots, all full of fire and bitterness, 
was generally used and if taken early after an attack was quite 
generally a cure for it. They had made up large quantities of the 
medicine before leaving Princeton and when cholera became a con- 
stant visitor they were called upon night and day to attend those 
suffering from it. Those who could do so paid something but no 
one was refused and the no-paying outnumbered the others by 
far; yet both- of them received considerable money that served to 
help pay expenses. For years afterward it was not uncommon 
for someone to exclaim, "Hello, Doctor," to father and then explain 
where some sick person had received treatment. 

So far as I have ever known, there was only one diary kept 
of our trip, and that by Aunt Edna Whipple. After her death I 
wrote to her daughter near Brownsville, Oregon, about it and re- 
ceived reply that she had never seen it ; therefore I have no doubt 
Aunt destroyed it. For this reason I have no sure knowledge of 
the dates of reaching different points except in a few instances. 
However I am sure we reached Fort Hall about the 20th of July. 

This was one of the notable features of interest along the 
route. Its walls were of "adobes" or sundried bricks with roof of 
poles covered with sod. An American trader (Wyeth) built it in 
1834 but his trading ventures in Oregon were unsuccessful and in 
a year or so he sold out to the Hudson's Bay Company who con- 
tinued to occupy it for a third of a century. 

At this point the evidences of the hardships, misfortunes, and 
general demoralization that had nearly overwhelmed a large part 
of the migration became painfully visible. Death of stock, break- 
down of wagons, families who had lost the father and often the 
mother, all combined in necessity to lessen the loads. Wagons were 
cut down to carts; oxen and cows were yoked together and not 
unusual was the sight of an ox and a horse, both so poor they could 
hardly put one foot before the other, fastened together and drawing 
a scanty-load that could almost have been transported in a wheel- 
barrow. I heard it said at that time that the wagons, yokes, furniture, 
crockery, books, ironware, looking glasses and impedimenta of all 



176 Clarence B. Bagley 

kinds covered a space of ten acres at least. This was often con- 
firmed in later years. Any of this stuff was free to anyone who 
wished to take it. If one found a better wagon than the one he 
was using, he drove away with it leaving his own for the next one. 
Our people bought a few supplies here and drove on. Our route 
from that point was almost the same that is now covered by the 
Oregon Short Line through Idaho. 

We passed American Falls and went on down the south side 
of the Snake River some distance below Salmon Falls. At the 
latter place we got our first salmon. This was a notable point for the 
catching of these fish by the Indians who came there from many 
miles in every direction to catch and dry the salmon for their win- 
ter's food. All sorts of trades were made for the fish. The Indians 
had no use for money but were glad to exchange for clothing and 
particularly for ammunition. The emigrants were strangely 
thoughtless or indifferent in thus supplying the Indians with am- 
munition, and doubtless many white men and women were killed 
by the Indians with the bullets white men gave them at this place. 
Father took the shirt off his back in exchange for a big fish and 
I cannot now remember of ever in my life enjoying food with a 
greater relish. 

Below American Falls the Snake River flows in a deep canyon 
most of the way until it reaches the Columbia. There was no pos- 
sibility of driving along its banks. The road followed along the 
bluffs from 5(X) to 800 feet above the stream. The horses were 
watered by leading them down long, steep paths to the river and 
the water for cooking and camp purposes was painfully carried up 
the same paths. 

Our company decided to cross to the north side of the stream 
and at a point that later became known as "Payne's Ferry", we 
ferried over in our wagon beds that had been made with such 
close joints that a good packing with candle wicking and fragments 
of clothing made them so nearly water tight that by putting two 
of them together and laying the tongues and other poles across they 
held up quite a load. The men stripped entirely naked and directed 
the horses across and also towed the improvised boats as well. It 
was dangerous and slow process but all hands had become accus- 
tomed to meet difficulties and dangers bravely and efficiently. 

From there we drove across the highlands to the Boise River, 



Crossing the Plains \77 

going down the hill into the valley at a point that is now well 
within the limits of Boise. I visited my old friend, Christopher W. 
Moore, in 1893, at that city, and from his beautiful home in the 
outskirts he pointed out to me the place where we camped for the 
night. His train came to Oregon the year we did and they took the 
same route from Fort Hall. He also confirmed my childhood's 
recollection of places and events along our route. At the time I 
was there several irrigation projects had been carried out or were 
well under way and now the highlands that were mostly covered 
with sagebrush are producing the finest crops in the world. Boise 
is about 2500 feet above the sea and its winters are cold but al- 
falfa grows luxuriantly and they cut three crops in a season. 

Here we had our one considerable excitement on account of In- 
dians. As I have said earlier, night watches were kept all along 
the route. This night Daniel Warren was one of the guards. It was 
the custom to keep the animals picketed with long ropes so they 
might readily get their feed but could not stray. Sometime during 
the night Dan saw Father Mercer's Tib moving in a direction that 
aroused his suspicion and he soon saw that she was following her 
rope. He was armed with a revolver of a kind known as "Allen's 
Pepper Boxes," and he immediately began firing in the direction 
of the further end of the rope. He heard the whiz of an arrow as 
the Indian who was leading the mare dropped the rope and ran. 
Of course the firing and outcry aroused the camp and a consider- 
able uproar ensued. However, when it was found the animals 
were all safe and no damage done, matters soon quieted down. 

Tib was a valuable animal and the Indians had several times 
tried to trade for her. Father Mercer brought her to Seattle and 
she gave him valuable service for many years. I believe she was 
thirty years old when she died. 

Our route contined down the valley of the Boise to old Fort 
Boise which was on the bank of Snake River near the mouth of 
the Boise. Here we were delayed several days by the advent of a 
son born to my Aunt Jane (Mrs. West) on the 15th of August. 

I believe we were ferried across the river here by men engaged 
in that business. In the valleys of the Malheur, Burnt and Powder 
Rivers we found excellent feed for our horses, but the crossing 
over of high hills or mountains between the streams made it very 
hard on the animals and everybody else as all who could possibly 



178 Clarence B. Bagley 

Ao so had to walk uphill and down as well. The crossing of the 
Blue Mountains was particularly difficult as most of the road was 
rough and steep. In going down into the Grand Ronde Valley the 
rnen doublelocked the wheels and tied ropes to the tops of the 
wagons and several men walked along on the upper side of the road 
and by main strength kept the wagons from upsetting. 

In the Grand Ronde Valley was an Indian Reservation where 
the natives had begun to live like white men. They were raising 
vegetables and other crops and here we got our first new potatoes 
and garden vegetables. 

' We continued on down the valley of the Umatilla and on the 
south side of the Columbia to The Dalles, crossing the John Day's 
iind Descuttes Rivers, most of the time in sight of the Columbia 
but so far up on the hills that we rarely could get down to it. 

We reached The Dalles on September 3d, 1852. Here we 
reached civilization. The United States army had a regimental 
post here ; missionaries had established stations ; several stores well 
stocked with goods suitable for white men's trade as well as the 
Indian. Altogether it was a considerable frontier town. 

From The Dalles to the Upper Cascades our wagons and their 
contents were taken down in "bateaux", a type of boat that had long 
been in use on the rivers of the Middle West and on the big streams 
west of the Rockies. The wagons had to be taken to pieces for 
the trip. Our horses were taken down the river on a fairly good 
trail by the single men of the party. 

At the Cascades there was a tramroad with wooden rails on 
which small cars were drawn by horses and many of the emigrants 
had their wagons and goods taken down below the Falls in these 
cars but it is my recollection that our people set up their wagons 
and drove down, thus saving considerable expense. 

We camped not far from the river and also very near to the 
point where the main landing for the steamboats plying the river 
was later established. Here Mrs. Nancy Mercer was taken ill and 
as it was apparent she might not be able to move soon most of us 
went on down the river, leaving Mr. Mercer and family to follow, 
but her illness soon became serious and within a few days she 
died and was buried there. 

The rest of us hired a man named Chenoweth to take us down 
the big river to the mouth of the "Big Sandy." 



Crossing the Plains 179 

Chenoweth later became a Judge in Washington Territory. 
He then operated a big scow that carried our wagons and goods, 
but our horses again were taken down along the bank of the Col- 
umbia. In the middle of the scow was a big pile of sand and rocks 
and on this we built a fire and cooked as we slowly floated down 
the river. 

We landed at the mouth of the "Big Sandy", a stream that 
flows into the Columbia River east of Portland some twenty or 
twenty-five miles. The "base line" on which the Government sur- 
veys of Oregon and Washington are founded runs directly east 
from Portland and intersects the Columbia at the mouth of the 
Sandy. I imagine this was intentional on the part of the surveyor 
at the time the line was fixed. 

Here we again hitched our horses to the wagons and started 
on the last miles of our long, long trip. We camped on the bank 
of the Clackamas the first night at Cason's farm, a few miles below 
Oregon City. As we passed through the latter place we chmbed a 
high bluff as the road then ran over a big hill ; now it goes along the 
bank of the Willamette. That night we camped on a little prairie 
on the bank of Pudding River. The next night on or near Howell 
Prairie northeast of Salem, and on September 17th, 1852, we con- 
sidered our journey ended as we reached the home of "Uncle Jesse 
Parish" near Parish's Gap. There is a range of hills between the 
valleys of Mill Creek and the Santiam River and a low point called 
the Gap was used for many years as the main road to the south. 
It is about four miles from the little town of Jefferson. Uncle West 
immediately settled on vacant land adjoining the Parish farm and 
lived there for a great many years. 

Next day father went to Salem and secured the rental of a 
small house not far from the bank of the Willamette and about 
the same distance from the north branch of Mill Creek. Uncle 
Ossian and Aunt I/Ucie Carr owned a home a couple of blocks from 
that house for many years ; in fact until they came to Seattle, finally, 
to live. 

We remained in this house but a short time, as Wiley Chap- 
man, who had come to Oregon in 1847 and already had a large home 
in Salem, made arrangements with father and mother to move into 
it and have Rhoda and Memory live with us that winter while he 
and Will and Ed went to the mines in Southern Oregon. 



180 Clarence B. Bagley 

Here began the intimacy between Mem and me that continued 
while he lived. He was the nearest to a brother of anyone of my 
boyhood playmates. The following summer father built a small 
home for us where we lived until 1856 when we moved out into 
the hills south of Salem about six miles. Here we planted a big 
orchard and gradually acquired a good herd of cows, several horses 
and quite a farm. Father bought the farm adjoining owned by 
John Dodge, who moved over to Mimi Prairie near Olympia. This 
place had been taken as a Donation Claim by Aaron Mercer who 
lived on it about a year and then sold out to Dodge. 

We lived there until we came to Seattle in 1860. 

Father established several churches in different parts of the 
Territory, but after about two years, differences arose between the 
churches of the Northern and Southern States, the governing body 
was split and the result was that the yearly allowance to father 
was not paid and he had to depend upon his own exertions to make 
a living. He entered the service of the American Tract Society 
and traveled over Oregon selling and distributing their books and 
publications. In 1859, he came over to the Sound on that mission 
and to Seattle where he found Mr. Mercer and Mr. Horton es- 
tablished and he was so well pleased with this region that he 
decided to come here to live if mother found it suitable for her to 
live in. She was never very strong and it was feared the climate 
might not agree with her. 

We came over in a buggy drawn by two horses and were nearly 
two weeks on the way as we had lots of friends along the route 
where we visited and father was urged to preach at several places. 

Ours was the first family to come to Seattle by land in our 
own vehicle as the road from Puyallup to White River was just 
being opened as we drove over it; in fact at one place the work- 
men had to remove a few logs out of the road to let us pass through. 

Clarence B. Bagley