Surviving The Oregon Trail

History - Geography - Survival - Homesteading

National Geographic Magazine

by Crystal Calhoun

Oregon (Doctor Marcus Whitman)

By: Larry Wilson

The following is in the public domain.

Early Misconceptions 255

"The ridge of the Rocky mountains may be named as a convenient,
natural and everlasting boundary. Along this ridge the western limits
of the Republic should be drawn and the statue of the fabled god Termi-
nus should be erected on its highest peak, never to be thrown down."

Thanks to Dr Whitman and other pioneer heroes whose names
and memories are rightful!}^ forever embahiied in the affections
of every true American, the western limits of the Republic were
not drawn on the ridge of the Rocky mountains. The fabled
god " Terminus " was never stationed there. Providence had
willed it otherwise, and a brave and courageous people executed
that will. Though those mountains are high and rocky and
seemingly insurmountable, they were neither high enough nor
rocky enough to impress discouragement on the minds or hearts
of such dauntless men and women as Whitman and his wife and
their followers, or to stem the irresistible tide of the pioneer
emigration of these resolute and determined men and women
who, by their incomparable courage and untold sufferings, set-
tled the Oregon question forever.

The great historic fact is that prior to Whitman's visit to
Washington (to wdiich I shall presently allude) the sentiment
among public men was almost universal that Oregon was a
worthless waste, not worth contending for. Some in fact never
did learn or comprehend its great value. As late as 184G Sena-
tor Winthrop, of Massachusetts, quoted what Benton had said
in 1825, and then remarked: "This country will not be strait-
ened for elbow-room in the west for a thousand years, and neither
the west nor the countr}^ at large has any real interest in retain-
ing Oregon."

The Influence of the Hudson Bay Company.

The Hudson Bay company, through whose active influence
this false sentiment was mainly created, was in every essential
sense the direct, active and all powerful agent of the British
government. It held its charter and its licenses from that gov-
ernment; its officers were superintended by a governor and
deputy governor and a committee of directors resident in Lon-
don, while a resident governor superintended and directed its
vast operations in America.

The officers and members of the Hudson Bay company were,
as a rule, under the domination of the home government. One
grand exception, however, stands out in history : Dr John Mc-

3-t -Nat. Geog. Mao., vol. VI. 1894.

250 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

Laughlin was the true friend of the American pioneer. Brave,
generous, nohle, his house, his larder, his horses, his cattle were
all at the service of the poor travel-worn, weary and discouraged
emigrant. But for this disposition and these noble qualities
he was ostracised by the company and the British government,
driven into exile at Oregon City, there to end his days, yet re-
spected, venerated, honored by the pioneers, of Oregon and all
who knew him and his history.

Doctor Marcus Whitman.

It was at this critical period in our history that the great mar-
tyr to the cause of the vindication of American rights and the
advancement of national development and Christian civilization
came to the front, and in the grandeur of American manhood
in its sublimest sense rose equal to the great emergency, and
by his memorable trip across the continent, from Oregon to
Washington, in the dead of winter in 1842- '43, prevented the
contemplated barter of that great empire for a cod fishery bank
on the shores of Newfoundland. Dr Marcus Whitman, whose
name must be forever associated with the early history of Ore-
gon, had in 1835, under the auspices of the American board of
foreign missions in Boston, accompanied by his faithful wife, gone
to what was then a distant wilderness, and in 1836 established
there a mission. Though 48 years have passed since he and his
wife and nine of their household, on November 27, 1847, fell
"victims to savage outlawry on the plains of Walla W^alla, and
gave up their lives* as a part of the cost of preserving as our
rightful heritage that great territory, his name still lives and will
continue to live in the history of his country, imperishable as the
.stars, honored, respected, admired.

Dr Whitman, being deeply impressed that the government at
Washington, through false information received from British
sources — among others, from the British minister at \\'ashington
and the reports of the governor of the Hudson Bay company —
to the effect that the whole of Oregon territory was comparatively
Avorthless, was about to barter the whole thing away for a cod
fishery interest on the coast of Newfoundland, determined to
proceed to Washington at once at all hazards, for the purpose

* Five of the Indians concerned in the "Whitman massacre were tried,
■convicted, sentenced and hung at Oregon City in May, 1850.

Whitman's memorable Ride 257

of presenting the true state of the case to the President, the Sec-
retar}^ of State, and other members of the government. That he
was justified in his fears is more than fully demonstrated by the
historical occurrences of the times.

It is conceded by all historians who have written on the sub-
ject that Dr Whitman's mission to Washington, accompanied as
he was across the continent by that other brave pioneer, General
A. L. Lovejoy, in the winter of 1812-'43, saved Oregon to the
union, and all that is implied in, and which attaches to, that sal-
vation. His mission was of a quadruple nature. It was in the
interest, ^/i?-6% of the preservation of the sovereign rights of the
United States to a vast and immensely valuable territory about
to be bartered away through misinformation on the part of the'
government ; second, of the preservation of the lives and j^rop-
•erty of American citizens, men, w^omen and children, pioneer
emigrants, then settled in Oregon territory, and the protection
of Christian missions in the Indian territory of the Far West ;
third, of the material welfare of the United States; and fourth,
of the great cause of American civilization.

Although the board of missions, under wdiose auspices Dr
Whitman had gone to Oregon seven years 'before, for the reason,
doubtless, that they did not understand the real situation, did
not take kindly to his return witliout leave on his noble and
perilous mission, and he w^as, according to the historian Gray,
^' Instead of being received and treated as his labors justly en-
titled him to be, met by the cold calculating rebuke for unreason-
able expenses, and for dangers incurred without orders or in-
structions or permission, from the mission to come to the states."
Although this may be, and doubtless was, ^'ue, as stated in this
paragraph by Gray, the time has at last come when all shadows
have been dispelled, all doubts removed, and when in the clear
light of accurate, impartial history the motives, the courage, the
patriotism, the Christian fidelity of Dr Whitman are seen and
recognized in their true character, not only by the representatives
of the Congregational church, its early and present missions,
not only by the people of the Pacific northwest, nor yet alone
by the whole American people, but likewise b}^ those of the
whole civilized world.

The interest attaching to this memorable trip of Dr Whitman
across the continent in the winter of 1842-'43 was widespread.
Its fame extended throughout the nation, and the subject of
Oregon and the rights of the United States in respect to the same

258 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

were matters of discussion in all political circles. Public senti-
ment was wrought up to the highest pitch, so much so tliat the
democratic national convention which met at Baltimore in 1844
had, as one of its planks, " Fifty-four forty or fight," and on this
IDlatform the Polk administration came into power. The em-
barrassments with which it was surrounded, however, growing
out of the Oregon question and this particular plank in the
platform, were great.

The President found that preceding negotiations during the
administrations of his predecessors, Monroe, Adams, and Tyler^
had not proceeded on the part of the United States on the
theory of our right to fifty-four forty ; that the negotiations pro-
ceeded rather on the idea that they should treat the respective
claims of the two countries in the Oregon territory with a view
to establishing a permanent boundary between them west of the
Rocky mountains to the Pacific ocean, and in this compromising
spirit these administrations had proposed to fix the boundary
on the forty-ninth parallel. To add to the embarrassment, many
leading democratic senators, including Benton, of Missouri,,
scouted at the idea that our rights extended to fifty-four forty,
and insisted that we had no rights extending farther northward
than the forty-ninth parallel. To add still further to the em-
barrassment of the situation, Great Britain, through her min-
ister, on June 6, "1846, before the administration of Mr Polk was
clearly launched, submitted a proposition, the same that was
finally agreed on, of the forty-ninth parallel, and coupled with
it the suggestion that it must be accepted at once, and Avith-
out delay, if at all. In this great political dilemma President
Polk resorted to a course which, though adopted a few times in
the earlier years of our government, had not been resorted to
for nearly half a century — that is, of seeking the advice of the
Senate of the United States in advance of action on the part of
the executive.

Consequently on June 10, 1846, the President transmitted to
the Senate the proposal in the form of the convention presented
to the Secretary of State on the sixth of that month by the British
envoy, for its advice. Mr Polk's message transmitting this con-
vention concluded as follows :

"Should the Senate by the constitutional majority required for tlie
ratification of treaties advise tlie acceptance of tliis proposition or advise
it with such modifications as tliey may upon full deliberation deem proper.

Abandonment of rich Territory 259

I shall conform my action to their advice. Should the Senate, however,
decline by such constitutional majority to g\\e. such advice or to express
an opinion upon the subject, I will consider it my duty to reject the ofier."

In other words, President Polk, encompassed on the one hand
b}' the plank in the platform on which he was elected, of " Fifty-
four forty or fight," and on the other hand by the action of pre-
ceding administrations in conflict with that proposition, liis party
leaders divided on the question, and the issue brought directly
to the front by Great Britain, concluded to and did throw the
whole responsibility on the Senate of the United States. Two
days subsequently, June 12, 1846, the Senate adopted a resolu-
tion advising the President to accept the proposal of the British
government, and as a result the convention was finally agreed
to June 15, 1846.

So, although this memorable controversy had remained un-
settled for nearly half a century, it is a remarkable historical fact
that but nine days elapsed between the submission of the final
proposition to compromise by Great Britain and the signing of
the treaty.

Notwithstanding the fact that one hundred and three years
bave elapsed since the discovery of Columbia river by Cap-
tain Gray, ninety-two years since the cession of Louisiana, and
seventy-six years since our cession from Spain, the settlement of
our title to a certain portion of the territory of Oregon was held
in abeyance until October 21, 1872, less than twenty-three years
ago. That was the island of San Juan. The treaty of June 15,
1846, between the United States and Great Britain, which was
intended to settle all questions relating to our northern boundary,
inadvertently left the question as to the title to this island an
■open one. The treaty in defining the northern boundary of the
United States from a point in the Rocky mountains on the forty-
ninth parallel, from which point eastward the boundary line had
been fixed by the second article of the treaty of Washington, in
1842, reads as follows :

"Shall be continued westward along said forty-ninth parallel of north
latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from
Vancouver's island, and tlien southerly through the middle of said channel
and of Fuca's straits to the Pacific ocean."

This island is located in the " channel " mentioned in this
treaty, and the question at once arose, and for a period of twenty-

260 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

five years was a source of aggravating controversy between tliis
country and Great Britain, at one time very nearly involving the
two nations in war, as to which was the " channel " referred to
in the treaty. Great Britain, true to a national tendency, insisted
while the United States insisted that Haro channel, on the north-
ern side of the island, was the main channel within the meaning
of the treaty.

This minor boundary controversy was finally adjusted by a
provision in our treaty with Great Britain of May 6, 1871, sub-
mitting the question to the arbitration of the German Emperor,,
who, on October 21, 1872, made his award sustaining the conten-
tion of the United States ; and thus, after a period of nearly eighty
years, dating from the discovery of the Columbia by Captain
Gray, the whole question as to the ownership of the Oregon terri-
tory was finally determined, not, however, without a sacrifice of
important rights as to our northern boundary in the interest of

That Dr Whitman was misunderstood at the time by many^
and by none more than by the board of American missions, and
therefore suffered unjust criticism from that board, there can be-
no question. Barrows, in his '' History of Oregon," in referring-
to this fact, says : " He, as Coleridge says of Milton, strode so far
before his contemporaries as to dwarf himself by the distance.'^
But the day of atonement has come, and although in this as in
many other cases justice has been delayed, yet as a poet has
said, " Ever the right comes uppermost, and ever justice is done.""
No longer ago than Sunday, the tenth of the present month
(March, 1895), in the city of Chicago, the day was widely ob-
served in the Congregational churches of that city in honor of
Marcus Whitman, and incidentally in aid of Whitman college at
Walla Walla. The Chicago Inter-Ocean^ in its issue of March 11,
says : " Dr Whitman is the hero of the Congregational church of
this century. In fact, in the largeness of the results he accom-
plished, no man of the century leads him."

At the city of Walla Walla, in the state of Washington, within
six miles of Waiilatpu, the spot where he and his missionary
wife and nine other companions were, on November 27, 1847,
mercilessly slaughtered by the very savages whose best interests-
had been subserved by them and whose heads had been blessed
by their benedictions, there is to be erected a college bearing his-
name, with an endowment of $200,000, $50,000 of which has been
pledged by Dr D. K. Pearson on condition that the balance is

Tardy Appreciation of Whitman 261

raised. That colle;i;e, -when erected, as it doubtless will be, Avill
be a fitting and lasting monument to his name.

Whitman succeeded in disabusing the minds of Daniel Web-
ster, President Tyler, Thomas H. Benton, and other public men
as to the character and value of Oregon territory. They had
come to believe, through the continuous misrepresentations to
which I have referred, not only that Oregon territory was of little
value but that it was a physical impossibility to go from Fort
Hall to Oregon with wagons. AVhitman had taken his wife in a
wagon over these mountains eight years before (in 1835) and he
assured them there was no insurmountable difficulty ; and he
proved his assertion by leading back to Oregon an emigration
the same year, the summer of 1843, with 200 wagons and over
1,000 men, women and children, not losing, as I remember the
history, a single wagon or a single life in the journey west of Fort
Hall. •

Dr Whitman was a born leader of men. He had the courage
to face every danger, however perilous, in defense of the right.
His efforts while in Washington, coupled with the magnificent
successes of his expedition the same year, turned the scale in
which that vast territory was being weighed and balanced be-
tween the two countries in favor of the United States.

Had Dr Whitman been possessed of the egotistic assurance of
Horace of old, and could he have gazed down the long avenues
of coming ages, he might, with him, have truly said :

I have achieved a tower of fame

INIore durable than gold,
And loftier than the royal frame

Of pyramids of old ;
Which none inclemencies of clime,

Nor fiercest winds that blow,
Nor endless change, nor lapse of time,

Shall ever overthrow.
I cannot perish utterly ;

The broader part of me must live, and live and never die,
But bafhe Death's decree !

For I shall always grow, and spread
My new-blown honors still,

Long as the priest and vestal tread
The Capitolian hill.

I shall be sung when thy rough waves.
My native river, foam.

And when old Daunus scantly laves

262 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

And rules his rustic liome —

As chief and first I shall be sung,
Though lowly, great in might,

To tune my country's heart and tongue,
And tune them both aright.

The Contention of Great Britain.

In our contention with Great Britain respecting Oregon terri-
tory it was very earnestly and with some degree of facetiousness
asserted by the British minister, Packenham, that the different
titles under which we claimed were conflicting and therefore
destroyed each other, namely, discovery by Spain, cession from
France, and discovery and settlement by American citizens ; but
Mr Calhoun, as Secretary of State, in his letter to Mr Packenham,
disposed of that assertion with this remark :

" It has been objected that we claim under various and contacting titles
which mutually desti'oy each other. Such might indeed be the fact while
they were held by different parties, but since we have rightfully acquired
both those of Spain and France and concentrated the whole in our own
hands, they mutually blend with each other and form one strong and
connecting chain of title against the opposing claims of all others, includ-
ing Great Britain."

Mr Buchanan, in referring to this phase of the case, said :

"This is a most ingenious method of making two distinct and inde-
pendent titles held by the same nation woi'sethan one — of arraying them
against each other and thus destroying the validity of both. From the
moment Spain transferred all her rights to the United States all po.ssible
conflict between the two titles ended, both being united in the same partJ^
Two titles which might have conflicted, therefore, were thus blended
together. The title now vested in the United States is just as strong as
though every act of discovery, exploration and settlement on the part of
both powers had been performed by Spain alone before she had trans-
ferred all her rights to the United States. The two powers are one in this
respect ; the two titles are one, and they serve to confirm and strengthen
each other."

Great Britain, again through her plenipotentiaries, sought to
discredit the effect of the discovery of Columbia river by Cap-
tain Robert Gray, for the reason, as suggested, that his ship, the
Columbia, ^vas a trading and not a national vessel. This conten-
tion was speedily disposed of by Mr Buchanan with this remark :

"The British plenipotentiary attempts to depreciate the value to the
United States of Graj^'s discovery because his ship, the Cuhnnbia, was a

Final Adjustment of the Boundary 2G3

trading and not a national vessel. As he furnishes no reason for this dis-
tinction, the undersigned will confine himself to the remark that a mer-
chant vessel bears the flag of her country at the masthead, and continues
under its jurisdiction and protection in the same manner as though she
had been commissioned for the express purpose of making discoveries."

In this great and prolonged diplomatic contest, one of the
most interesting questions discussed was as to what extent con-
tinuity of boundary furnishes a just claim in connection with
those of discovery and occupation. This question grew out of
the claim on the i^art of the United States that the Louisiana
territory extended to the Pacific ocean. This claim was denied
on the part of Great Britain. It was insisted, however, with
great ability by Secretary of State Calhoun, and subsequently
by Secretary Buchanan : First, that the claim was valid under
public law, and, secondly, that Great Britain, having asserted the
validity of the doctrine in reference to her possessions in this
country as against France, even to the extent of going to war
with that power in 1763, was estopped from denying the validity
of the doctrine as against the United States, especially inasmuch
as our people had contributed so much to a result in that con-
test favorable to Great Britain ; and it was further contended by
our diplomatists that Great Britain, whatever may have been
her rights in Oregon territory, relinquished all to France Ijy the
seventh article of the treaty between Great Britain and France
at the close of that war, in 1783.

The controversy in reference to the correct northern boundary
of the Oregon territory, whetlier the forty-nintli parallel, as now
agreed upon, except along the straits of Fuca, or 54° 40' north,
is one familiar to all. Spain unquestionably always asserted
claim as far north as the sixty-first parallel, but in her treaty
with Russia 54° 40' was recognized. It was claimed, however,
that by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which provided for deter-
mining " the limits to be fixed between the bay of Hudson and
the places appertaining to the French," the boundary between
Louisiana and the British territories north of it was actually
fixed by commissioners on latitude 49°. Whether this is true
or not is a matter of very serious disputation. A careful exam-
ination of all history bearing upon the point leads me to the
conclusion that such was not the fact.

In reply to the claim of the United States to go to 54° 40', it
was asserted that whatever might have been the right of Spain,
the latter in ceding to France in 1800 stipulated to convey only

264 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

as far north as the forty-ninth parallel. To this contention the
United States replied and with much force, and the contention
should never hare been abandoned : If this be so and if it be
true the right of Spain is good to 54° 40', then the strip between
the fort3^-ninth parallel and 54° 40', which it was alleged was not
included in the cession of Spain to France in 1800, was included
in the cession of Spain to the United States in the treaty of
Florida of 1819, by which Spain conveyed every right she had
on the continent north of the forty-second parallel. Mr Secre-
tary Buchanan, in his reply to Packenham, said :

"It is an historical and striking fact, which must have an important
bearing against the claim of Great Britain, that this Xootka convention,
winch was dictated by her to Spain, contains no provision impairing the
ultimate sovereignty Avhich that power had assei'ted for nearly three cen-
turies over tlie whole western side of North America as far north as the
sixty-first degree of latitude and which had never been seriously ques-
tioned by any European nation."

Subsequently to 1818 and down to the final settlement of the
boundary question in 1846 the only material difference in the
views of American statesmen and diplomatists was as to whether
the rightful claim of the United States extended to 54° 40' or
onl}'^ to the forty-ninth parallel. All concurred in the opinion
that our claim was beyond question good at least as far north
as the latter, Avhile many of our ablest statesmen and diplomat-
ists, strengthened and supported by a powerful sentiment among
the people, insisted that our claim extended to 54° 40'. No one
thing, however, nor indeed all other influences combined, did as
much to strengthen the sentiment and belief in favor of our
claim to 54° 40' as the mission of Dr Whitman in 1842.

TJie Opening oj the Oregon Route.

Fremont has been designated in history as " the Path-finder,"
and in some respects he is justly entitled to the pseudotiym, but
he was not the one who opened the great transcontinental trail to
Oregon by way of Fort Hall. Fort Hall was the leading eastern
outpost of the Hudson Bay company. It was located on Snake
river about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City. " Here," says
one historian, " many immigrant companies had been intimi-
dated and broken up by Hudson Bay men, and so Fort Hall
served as a cover to Oregon, just as a battery at the mouth of a
river protects the inland cit}^ on its banks." Here it was that the

The real Path-finder 2.65

Hudson Bay people in 1836 made a determined but unsuccessful
effort to prevent Whitman from attempting to go through with
his wagon to Oregon, insisting it was a physical im])ossibility.
The Tyler administration had promised to send Lieutenant Fre-
mont and his comjxany as an escort to protect Wliitman and his
200 wagons and 1,000 men, women and children on his return
to Oregon in the summer and fall of 1843, but failed to do so.

Whitman's expedition left Waldport, Missouri, in June, 1843,
and although at Fort Hall, 1,323 miles from the starting point, a
determined effort was again made by the Hudson Bay men to
prevent further i)rogress, insisting that it was impossiljle to go
through with wagons. Whitman and his 200 wagons did go
through and arrived at his home on Colum])ia river September
4, 1843. Fremont did not reach Fort Hall until October 23 of
the same year, fort3''-nine days after Whitman and his expedi-
tion had passed that point ; nor did Fremont arrive over a new
trail but over the identical one, for a distance of some hundred
miles, which W^hitman, Spaulding and their wives had trodden
seven 3'-ears before. Dr Whitman left his home on the Columbia
on this great mission October 3, 1842, and returned there Sep-
tember 4, 1843, after an absence of just eleven months.

The Organization of a Provisional Government in Oregon.

Following this successful expedition led by Dr Whitman in
1843 came the organization of a provisional government l)y the
people then in the territory and the final settlement of the whole
question by the treat}^ of 1846. At the time of the organization
of the provisional government there was but one law book in
all that region. This was a copy of the Iowa Statutes ) and in
the fundamental law of the provisional government there was
this provision : " The laws of Iowa territory shall be the law in
this territory in civil, military and criminal cases when not other-
wise provided." » Another provision which these brave, courage-
ous, liberty-loving pioneers inscribed in their fundamental law
was this : " There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servi-
tude in said territory, otherwise than for the punishment of crime
whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.''

Oregon, though added to the United States by the treaty of
1846, and created a territory, including what is now the states
of W^ashington and Idaho, in August, 1848, had no territorial
government until 1849. In March of this year its first territorial

266 Johi H. 3Iitchcll~Oregon

governor arrived and organized a territory with 8,785 inhabitants.
This territory was not dismembered until 1853, when the terri-
tory (now state) of Washington was carved out of it. It became
one of the states of the union July 14, 1859, and in 1863 the terri-
tory (now state) of Idaho was set apart from its area.

Of all the public men of the country during the period of the
early settlement of Oregon, no one seemed to grasp the real situ-
ation or so fully comprehend the vastness of the prospective
interests at stake as Lewis Field Linn, United States Senator
from Missouri. To his memory more than to that of any other
public man of the time do the pioneer immigrants and the people
of Oregon generally owe a tribute of lasting veneration.

The measure for which Senator Linn so vigorously and con-
stantly labored prior to his death, in 1843, for making donations
of the public lands in Oregon territory to citizens of the United
States to induce immigration and settlement finall}'' materialized
in an act of Congress passed September 27, 1850. This act very
largel}^ facilitated immigration to and settlement in that countr}^
One unfortunate incident, however, attached to this otherwise
beneficent and highly commendable piece of legislation. While
it facilitated immigration it tended also to facilitate marriage,
not only among the immigrants, but between male immigrants
and Indian women. By the fourth section of the act a grant in
prxsenti was made to any man who would reside on and culti-
vate for four consecutive years a tract of 320 acres of land if a
single man and 640 if married. While under this provision set-
tlement of the country was rapidly developed, it is nevertheless
a fact, fully borne out by the records of the courts in that country
within the next few years thereafter, that the premium paid on
marriage resulted in an unusual and abnormal crop of divorces,
as many marriages, especially those with Indian women, were
based on no other or higher considerations than the mercenary
ones offered by the act.

The Name Oregon.

There are various theories as to the origin and derivation of
the name " Oregon." Some writers declare that it is derived
from the Spanish, signifying " wild thyme," so called on account
of the abundance of that herb found by early explorers. Others
insist it is an Indian word, in use about the headwaters of the
Columbia to designate the waters of that river and meaning the

The beautiful Name of the State 267

•' great river of the west," and obtained from them by Jonathan
Carver, a native of Connecticut, in 1766-'68, who spent two years
among the Indians on the waters of the upper Mississippi, now
the state of Wisconsin. Carver's accounts, however, in reference
to many matters, are contradictory and unreliable, though in
reference to this he was quite likely right. It is more than
probable that an article published fifty-three years ago, in 1842,
in " Hunt's INIagazine " and reproduced by the historian Brown in
his political history of Oregon, presents the correct solution of
the question. Speaking of Oregon territory and the discovery
of Columbia river by Captain Gray, this article says : " The
territory watered by this river and its tributaries has since " —
that is, since the discovery of the river — " been called the Oregon
territory from a tradition said to have prevailed among the
Indians near lake Superior of the existence of a mighty river
rising in that vicinity and emptying its waters into the Pacific,
and which was suppo-ed to be the Columbia." Bryant in his
celebrated " Thanatopsis," written in 1815, refers to the Columbia
river as the Oregon : " Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no
sound save his own dashings."

Early News-carrying in and to Oregon.

It is a singular historical fact that the pioneers of Oregon
territory down as late as the settlement of our northern bound-
ary, in 1846, received most of their news from Washington by
way of the Sandwich islands. A semi-yearly vessel also brought
letters and ])apers around cape Horn, the news in which was neces-
sarily somewhat stale. Ijieutenant Howison in his report says :

" October 16, 1846, the American bark. Toulon arrived from the Sand-
wich islands and brought news of the Oregon treaty, the Mexican war
and the occupation of California. The right of ownership of the soil
being vested by treaty, I no longer felt any reserv^e in hoisting our flagon
shore, and it has been some time waving over our quarters on the very
spot which was first settled by white men on the banks of the Columbia."

On the receipt of the news from the Sandwich islands, James
Douglass, the chief factor of the Hudson Bay company and a
pronounced Britisher, addressed the following letter to Governor

Abernethy, of Oregon :

" Fort Vancouver, November 3, 1S46.
"George Abernethy, Esq.

"Dear Sir: Very important news for all parties in Oregon has just
been received by the bark Toulon from the Sandwich islands. It appears

268 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

that the boundary question is finally and fully settled. * * * The
British government has rendered more than strict justice required ; but
John Bull is generous, and was bound to be something more than just to
his promising son Jonathan, who will no doubt make a good use of the
gift. * * *

" Yours truly, James Douglass."

It was not until 1850 that the people of Oregon had a semi-
monthly mail, through a service established between San Fran-
cisco and Portland, Oregon.

The first attempt at sending mail across the continent from
Oregon territory was in 1838, fifty-seven years ago, when letters
were carried from the Willamette valley, in Oregon, to Medport,
Missouri, in sixty days, including two days' detention at Lapwai
and two days at Fort Hall, carrying to Reverend Jason Lee, the
Oregon missionary then in the east, the sad intelligence of the
death of his wife in Oregon.

The first Printing Press ivest of the Rocky Mountains.

The first printing press in Oregon was received as a donation
from the mission of the American Board of Foreign Missions in
the Sandwich islands to the mission of the board in Oregon. It
reached its destination at Lapwai, now the state of Idaho, then
a part of Oregon territory, and was put in operation b}^ Mr E. 0.
Hall, of the Sandwich Islands mission, and commenced publish-
ing books in the Nez Perce language. This was in 1838, fifty-
seven years ago. It was the first printing press west of the Rocky
mountains. The first newspaper published within the limits of
the present state of Oregon was established at Oregon City seven
years later, in 1845. It was called the " Oregon Spectator."

The first white Birth and Burial.

The first white American child born on the Pacific coast was
the daughter of Dr Whitman and wife, born near Walla ^Valla
in 1839. On June 26, 1838, Mrs Maria Pitman, wife of the mis-
sionary, Reverend Jason Lee, died near Salem, Oregon. She was
the first white American woman to close her eyes in death west
of the Rocky mountains. Today, on an humble headstone which
marks her last resting place in Salem, Oregon, may be read the
following inscription :

The Baptism of Sorroio 269

" Beneath this sod, the first ever broken in Oregon for the reception of
a white mother and child, Ue bnried the remains of Anna Maria Pitman,
wife of Reverend Jason Lee, and infont son. 8he sailed from New York
in July, 1836; landed in Oregon June, 1837; was married in July, 1837,
and died June 26, 1838, in full enjoyment of that love which constrained
her to leave all for Christ and heathen souls. ' Lo we have left all and
followed Thee ; what shall we have therefore ? ' "

Geographic Character idics and Natural Resources of Oregon.

What, briefly, are the prominent geographic cliaracteristics
and natural resources and advantages of the state of Oregon?
To enumerate, much less describe or discuss them would require
a long series of lectures, each of which, to be properly under-
stood and appreciated, should be fully illustrated. I may men-
tion a few only of the most notable.

First, an area — and I speak now of the present state of Ore-
gon — of 96,030 square miles, containing 60,518,400 acres, 'com-
prising every conceivable character of surface configuration ; an
area greater in extent by more than 6,000 square miles than all
of England, Scotland and Wales combined, with their aggregate
population of over 32,000,000 ; an area over eight times larger
than Belgium, with its population of above 6,000,000, and but
6,000 square miles less than one-half that of France, with its
40,000,000 people.

This area consists of numerous and extended fertile valleys ;
mountain ranges, rich in minerals, both precious and base, whose
sides are clothed with eternal verdure and whose j^eaks are
crowned with eternal snow ; forests unsur^jassed in extent and
in the number, variety and majesty of the trees composing them ;
immense fertile plateaus of everlasting green, on whose nuti'i-
tious grasses feed 2,600,000 sheep, of the value of $6,000,000,
and which produce annually over 17,000,000 pounds of wool,
averaging, according to price, from $2,000,000 to $2,250,000;
250,000 horses, of the value of $7,000,000 ; 6,500 mules, of the
value of 6300,000 ; 125,000 milch cows, of the value of $3,000,000,
and 1,000,000 oxen and other cattle, of the value of $12,000,000.

Then we have sandy deserts, gradually being converted into
fruitful grain fields in virtue of the processes of irrigation ; mag-
nificent rivers, including the Columbia, the great fatlier of
western waters, the Snake, the Willamette, the Yamhill, the
Tualatin, the Santiam, the Siuslaw, the Rogue, the Um])(iua. the

270 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

Coquille, the Nestucca, the Nehalem, the Sandy, the John Day,
the Link, the Lost, the Deschutes, the Umatilla, the Grande
Ronde, the Powder, and others of less magnitude and signifi-
cance, including innumerable streams, pure as the snow of the
mountain sides whence they spring and filled with trout and
other edible fishes ; grand lakes, which mirror back in sublime
beauty their mountain walls of granite, fringed with the Avaving
branches of stately firs ; extensive caverns, brilliant in stalactites
and cooled by running mountain streams of living waters ; and
lastly, volcanic regions, bearing on their encrusted surface the
very picture of' desolation, thus far successfully defying the
ingenuity of man and every effort at reclamation. It is grati-
fying, however, to be able to say that this character of configura-
tion is confined to a very small area in southeastern Oregon,
probably in all less than 1,000 square miles, known as the " Lava
Beds." Here it was that General Canby and the Reverend Dr
Thomas, peace commissioners, lost their lives while treating with
the Indians, in 1872, an Indian desperado known as Captain
Jack leading the murderous attack. Peace commissioner Colonel
A. B. Meacham, an Oregon pioneer, was seriously wounded at
the same time.

Oregon is divided north and south by three mountain ranges,
separating the state into four tiers of fertile valleys. First, the
Coast range, running parallel with the Pacific ocean the length
of the entire state, and on an average distant some 40 miles from
the coast, separating the Nehalem, Tillamook, Alsea and other
coast valleys from the valley of the Willamette ; second, the
Cascade range, running also north and south parallel with the
Coast range, distant from the latter on an average 75 to 100
miles, and separating the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue river
valleys from the great Inland Empire in eastern Oregon, includ-
ing the valleys of Umatilla, Oclioco and other grazing plains
lying to the eastward ; and, third, the Blue mountains, running
from southeast to northwest, separating these valleys again from
the magnificent wheat fields of the Grand Ronde, Powder river,
Wallowa, Snake river and other valleys in the counties of Union,
Baker, Grant and Harney, in the region in which are located
La Grande,Union, Baker City, Ontario, Huntington, Canyon City,
and numerous flourishing mining and commercial towns.

Again, the state is divided in the other direction by the Cala-
pooia mountains, crossing the state from east to west, from the

The great Ranges and Peaks 271

Cascades to the Pacific ocean, about 150 miles from its southern
boundary. Other minor ranges also intersect the state east and
west, including the great Siskiyou range on the dividing line
between Oregon and California.

The state contains more than 25,000,000 acres of arable land.
The Willamette valley alone contains 5,000,000 acres. The whole
arable area is greater than the one-half of the entire area of the
six New England states. Over 10,000,000 acres (or about one-
sixth of the whole state) are covered with forests, the greater
portion as magnificent and valuable as any in the world of like
species, the balance of the state being mountain, grazing, and
desert lands, the latter of which can be nearly all made highly
productive by irrigation.

The Mountain Peaks of Oregon.

The great mountain ranges of Oregon and their grand scenery
are the pride of all her people and the wonder and admiration
of every traveler who beholds them. Rising from the Cascade
range, in the state of Oregon, in stately beauty and majestic
grandeur, with summits penetrating the clouds and wrapped in
everlasting snows, stand, like great sentinels on towering battle-
ments, mount Hood, 12,000 feet in height; Jefferson, 10,200
feet; Black butte, 7,000 feet; Snow butte, 6,000 feet; the Three
Sisters, 9,000 feet ; Diamond peak, 8,807 feet; mount Theilsen,
7,000 feet ; mount Scott, 9,125 feet ; Onion peak, over 4,000 feet ;
and last, but not least, mount Pitt, or mount McLaughlin, as it
is sometimes called, near the southern boundary of the state,
9,760 feet in height. These are all in the Cascade range and
within the state of Oregon, and, commencing with mount Hood,
the giant of the line and seemingly the commander of the
column, located about 25 miles due south of Columljia river in
the center of the Cascade range, they stand in a line running
almost due north and south in the order I have named them,
mount Pitt being near the California line. INIount Hood was
named after Lord Hood by Vancouver's navigator. Lieutenant
Broughton, in 1792. The exact height of this mountain, I be-
lieve, has never been accurately ascertained, the reported meas-
urements ranging all the way from 11,000 to 18,000 feet. It is
known, however, from more recent measurements, to be about
12,000 feet in height, or some 3,400 feet lower than Shasta, in Cali-

35— Nat. Geog. Mag., vol. VI, 1894.

272 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

fornia, and mount Rainier or Tacoma, in Washington. Slightly
east of mount Hood and but 70 miles distant, in what was once
a part of Oregon territory, but now the state of A\^ashington,
stands mount Adams, 9,570 feet in height, named for John
Quincy Adams. It is one of the five snow}'' peaks visible at the
same time from nearly every point of northern Oregon. One
hundred miles north of mount Hood and northwest of mount
Adams, also in Washington, is mount Saint Helens, some 9,750
feet in height, a magnificent cone, which is said to be frequently
in a state of eruption, and which is confidently said to have been
(as also Rainier) during the past year. ]Mr J. Quinn Thornton,
one of Oregon's earliest pioneers and chief justice of the terri-
tor3^ in his " History of Oregon and California," asserts it was in
a state of eruption in 1831. Fremont records the fact that it was
" in a state of activity November 13, 1843." The statement is
well authenticated that in 1832 mount Saint Helens scattered
ashes over the country to a distance of 100 miles, so obscuring
the sunlight as to make it necessar}- to emplo}^ artificial light at
midday that di»stance from the mountain. There is a perpetual
flow of hot water at a point in its southern slope, indicating that
the volcanic forces are not entirely extinguished.

The ascent of mount Hood from the south has been frequentW
made, and in more recent years by men and women numbered
by the hundred. On July 4, 1887, members of the Oregon Alpine
club of Portland, Oregon, carried to its summit 100 pounds of
illuminating red-fire. The illumination lasted 58 seconds and
was seen from Portland on the west, a distance of 60 miles, and
Prineville on the east, a distance of 80 miles. The illumination
was repeated in 1888, when it is asserted heliograjDhic communi-
cations were exchanged with the Signal Service officers at Port-
land. In July, 1894, a party numbering about 180 men and
women ascended to its summit in two separate columns, one
from the north, the other from the south. This mountain has
emitted smoke at intervals since the earliest settlement of the

Crater Lake.

No less interesting are the lakes of Oregon, which sleep in silent
beauty in the icy embrace of the mountains, some of them hun-
dreds and even many thousands of feet above the level of the
sea. They are numerous and of interest as deep as their placid

The mysterious and majestic Lake 273

waters ; but the one which above all is romantically interesting
and surprisingly wonderful is that known as Crater lake. It is
located in the Cascade range, in southeastern Oregon, at an eleva-
tion of over 8,000 feet. Its rim or shore is 1,800 feet higher than
mount Washington, in New Hampshire; 4,000 feet higher than
Vesuvius, in Naples, and on the same elevation above the sea as
mount Sinai, in Arabia. It was discovered in 1853 by gold pros-
pectors from southern Oregon, who in their wonder occasioned
by its strange location and startling beauty named it " Lake
Mystery." Later another party from fort Klamath in visiting it
were so awestricken with its peculiar character and its weird sur-
roundings that they gave it a new name, " Lake Majesty." Sub-
sequently, in 1886, scientific exploration developed the fact that
the waters of this strange lake occupy the crater of an extinct
volcano ; that it is a gigantic bowl carved out of the mountain,
whose rock-ribbed rim rises more than 8,000 feet above the level
of the sea ; that it is elliptical or oval in form, its surface cover-
ing an area of some 28 square miles, being about 61 miles in
length by about 4? in breadth. These discoveries led to a second
change of name, and it is now and has been for several years
past known as Crater lake. A few years since, mainly through
the efforts of Representative Herman, of Oregon, this lake, in-
cluding some twenty surrounding townships, was withdrawn
from the public surveys and reserved as a national park.

It is one of the most remarkable lakes on the face of the globe.
It is the deepest fresh-water lake in the United States, if not in
the world. By reason of its phenomenal location and awe-inspir-
ing surroundings it is unsurpassed in scenic grandeur and marvel-
ous beauty by any other known to man. The day is not far dis-
tant when travelers, sight-seers, seekers after knowledge, students
of nature, and lovers of the beautiful and the sublime of every
tongue will come from all countries and every clime for the pur-
pose of standing in the presence of its bewildering wonders, gaz-
ing on its entrancing mysteries, and feasting on the inspiration of
its majestic beauty.

What is the explanation of scientists of this seemingly abnor-
mal creation, which inspires awe and evokes mingled admiration
and wonder in the minds of all who behold it? It is this : that
there, in the departed centuries, once stood a giant volcanic moun-
tain whose summit towered into the heavens to a height probably
far above any other in the United States, if not in North Amer-

274 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

ica. This conclusion is based b_y scientists on well known geo-
metric and geographic principles. It is determined in part
by ascertaining the extent and angle of the rim of the crater
and taking into consideration the general configuration and com-
position of all its surroundings. According to the Geological
Survey the depth of this crater is 4,000 feet and of the water 2,000
feet over the greater portion — that is, from the rim of the lake it
is from 1,500 to 2,000 feet down to the surface of the water, and
the water is 2,000 feet deep. To add to the strange conforma-
tion and beauty of this phenomenal lake, located in a mountain
cup whose rim is indeed in nnbihus, there is a second crater
within the main one, which looms up in a hollow cone 650 feet
above the surface of the water. This is called '' Wizard island,"
while still two more similar craters exist which do not reach the
surface of the water, the top of the one being 450 feet below the
surface and that of the other 825 feet.

One writer, Mrs Frances Fuller Victor, in her interesting and
instructive book entitled "Atlantis Arisen," in speaking of this
lake says :

"One cannot, owing to the sunken position of the lake, discover it
until close upon its rim, and I say without exaggeration that no pen can
reproduce its image, no picture be painted to do it justice, nor can it for
obvious reasons be satisfactorily photographed. At the first view a dead
silence fell upon our party. A choking sensation arose in our throats,
the tears flowed over our cheeks. I do not pretend to analyze the emo -
tion, but if I were to endeavor to compare it with anything I ever read I
should say it must be such a feeling which causes the cherubim to veil
their faces before God. To me it was a revelation."

Captain (now Major) C. E. Dutton, in his report of the survey
of this lake to the Director of the Geological Survey, says :

"It was touching to see the worthy but untutored people who had rid-
den a hundred miles in freight wagons to behold it vainly striving to
keep back tears as they poured forth exclamations of wonder and joy akin
to pain, nor was it less so to see so cultivated and learned a man as my
companion hardly able to command himself to speak with his customary

Did time permit, attention might be attracted to the maiiy
other interesting characteristics of this wonderland in Lake and
Klamath counties, in southeastern Oregon. I might point to
Upper and Lower Klamath lakes, to Link river uniting the two,
with its valuable water power, having a fall of sixty-four feet in

The lesser La Ices 'and Eivers 275

a mile and a quarter and an average breadth of 310 feet; to
Williamson, Sprague and Lost rivers; to the hot and cold min-
eral and non-mineral springs ; to rivers which in great volume
rise from a-nd disappear into the earth ; to the lava beds, and to the
magnificent fertile plains where wheat is grown in abundance
at an elevation of over 4,000 feet ; but these and many other
features must be passed over or barely mentioned.

The Oregon Caves.

Scarcely less wonderful than the mysterious Crater lake are
the caverns of the Oregon mountains. The Josephine county
caves, about thirty miles from the railroad southwest of Grant
pass, will be found when thoroughly explored, it is believed by
those who know most about them, to be as extensive and won-
derful as is the INIammoth cave of Kentuck3^ These caves were
discovered but a few years ago by a hunter named Elijah David-
son, who followed a bear to its lair in the lower cave. The
entrance to each of the caves, one located higher in the moun-
tain than the other, is about eight feet wide and seven feet high.
They contain a great number of wonderful avenues, said to be
miles in length, besides large numbers of chambers, grottoes,
lakes, abysses and cataracts, and also innumerable chambers,
large and small. The first chamber is ten feet in height. One,
called " The Devil's Banquet Hall," is 150 feet in length by 75
feet in width and 60 feet in li eight. Its roof and walls are bril-
liant with hundreds of scintillating stalactites. The only explo-
ration of these wonderful caverns has been by private parties.
A thorough, scientific exploration should Ijc made at an early
day, and it is my intention to ask an appropriation from the
next Congress for such purpose.

The Great Wheat-producing Inland Empire.

The vast fertile grain-producing valleys of Oregon are the
Willamette, the Rogue river, the Umpqua, and that portion of
what is known as the "great Inland Empire" which lies in
eastern Oregon. The Willamette extends from Portland to the
Calipooia mountains, 30 miles south of Eugene, a distance of
over 150 miles in length by an average of 75 miles in width.
This valley is famed as one of the most fertile and productive
in the world. There is scarcely an acre of waste land in this

276 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

vast area of 12,000 square miles. It is a great Miocene basin;
fossils of the Miocene age are found there in abundance. The
greater portion of it is under improvement, but much of it is
held in large tracts of 640 acres, being the donations made to
settlers by the act of Congress of September 27, 1850. Nearly
the whole of it is well watered by streams, a very small propor-
tion requiring irrigation. It produces wheat, oats, barley, corn^
all kinds of vegetables, and fruits in abundance. The Willamette
valley is alone capable of sustaining a population of 5,000,000
souls, and even then the population would be but a fraction in
excess that of Belgium to the square mile, and less than that of
England by 102 to the square mile. The productive capacity
of the Inland Empire in eastern Oregon is something wonderful.
Thirty years ago not a bushel of wheat was raised in that en-
tire empire, although across the line near Walla Walla some
300 bushels of wheat were raised by Dr Whitman at his mission
in 1841 ; Commodore Wilkes, a portion of whose part}'- visited
this mission in that year, so reports. Twenty years ago the
coming fall I Jeft the Central Pacific railroad near Salt Lake and
journeyed westward through northern Utah and eastern Oregon.
The first wheat of any importance was grown in eastern Ore-
gon that year. There was a three-acre lot located near Avhere
the town of Weston, Umatilla county, now is and immediately
outside the boundaries of the Umatilla Indian reservation. The
crop had been taken off before my arrival. The wheat stubble
being so abundant, I was amazed and expressed surprise to my
host, with whom I remained over night, that there should be
such a fertile spot in this vast desert, as the whole country
seemed to me to be little less than a desert. He smiled and
replied that the tract on which this wheat had grown was the
same character as land of the whole surrounding country, in-
cluding the greater portion of the Umatilla Indian reservation.
I obtained a sack and immediately outside of the field, digging
down some 6 or 8 inches, filled it with a peck of soil. I brought
it with me to Washington ; took it to the late Professor Henry,
then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and requested that
he analyze it and tell me its properties and what good for. He
inquired, " Where did you get this soil ? " I replied, " West of
the Rocky mountains." Professor Henry remarked, " That is
rather indefinite." "But Professor," said I, " I shall not tell
you whether it came from California, Oregon, the Willamette

One of the World's Wheat-fields 277

valley or the top of mount Hood." He made me a very inter-
esting report, in which it was stated that he regarded the soil as
the best wheat-producing soil he had ever examined ; that it
contained properties ver}^ similar to the soil of Sicily, where
wheat had been raised for 2,000 years without exhausting the
soil. The report further stated that the soil Avas of such char-
acter that it would fertilize itself as cultivated ; that it would
not be necessary to let it rest after a crop or two, as in many
portions of the country, or to fertilize it. The predictions made
in that report have been amply verified. Two years ago I
visited Umatilla county and what was formerly the Umatilla
Indian reservation, and was told that there had been raised and
harvested that year in that county alone over 4,500,000 bushels
of wheat. That this single county will produce 5,000,000 bushels
of the best quality of wheat the present year, or an amount con-
siderably more than was produced in 1893 in any one of twenty-
one diflferent states in the Union, I have not the slightest doubt.
In addition, it is estimated that there wull be shipped the
present year from the city of Pendleton, the county seat of Uma-
tilla county, located on the transcontinental railroad, 5,000,000
pounds of wool, Avhile from The Dalles, the county seat of Wasco
county, an equal quantit}^ will be shipped. A large portion of
the state, notably Umatilla, Union, and Baker counties, with
several others in the eastern section, and Coos and Curry coun-
ties m the southwestern portion, are admirabl}^ adapted to sugar-
beet culture. The beets grown here are said to yield a larger
percentage of saccharine matter than those produced elsewhere;
while 20 tons per acre is a moderate estimate of the annual crop.

The Forests of Oregon.

Another source of immense wealth in the state of Oregon is her
forests. No state in the Union has a greater variety of valuable
trees or fine woods. These include sugar pine and silver pine,
cedar, red, yellow and white fir, redwood, and spruce of different
varieties ; ash, hemlock, maple, myrtle, white oak, laurel, alder,
dogw^ood, wdld cherry, hazel, chittamwood, and Oregon yew ;
three species of poplar — the quaking asp, cottonwood and bal-
sam tree; live-oak and chestnut oak, nutmeg, tamarack, moun-
tain mahogany, juniper, birch, box elder, and many other
varieties. In addition, there are the vine maple, growing from

278 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

6 to 12 inches in diameter and from 12 to 30 feet in height; the
Oregon crab-a}>p]e, which grows in groves, making the forest
impenetrable for man or beast ; and many other varieties. The
Oregon cedar grows to an immense size. It is no uncommon
tiling in the forests of Tillamook and Coos counties, on the coast,
to find vast forests of these trees 10 to 12 and very often 15 feet
in diameter and from 200 to 250 feet in height. The Oregon
sugar-pine grows to 250 feet in height, bearing cones from 12 to
18 inches in length. The mills of Oregon manufacture over
250,000,000 feet of lumber annually.


The forests of the state are filled with all kinds of game, in-
cluding bear, elk, deer, grouse, prairie-chicken, pheasants, Chi-
nese or Denny pheasants (a most delicious game bird, introduced
from China by Honorable 0. N. Denny, of Oregon, while United
States consul-general at Shanghai), quail, and other varieties of
game birds. The rivers and lakes are, during the summer, filled
with game fowl, including canvas-back, and teal of excellent

The Precious and other Metals.

No state in the Union is more highly favored in natural en-
dowments than Oregon. Her resources, developed and unde-
veloped, are almost as varied as are the gifts of nature, and their
value cannot be estimated. Her mines, though only partially
developed, are rich in the precious metals, as also in iron, coal,
nickel, copper, cinnabar, asbestos, tin, marble, onyx, limestone,
sandstone, granite, and dolomite. A recent writer on the geo-
logic formations of Oregon remarks that " the igneous rocks of
southern Oregon are said to contain all the zeolitic mineralsj
and some geologists believe precious gems of no small worth."

Already more than $25,000,000 in gold have been taken from
the placer mines in two counties in the state — Jackson and
Josephine, in southern Oregon. Eastern Oregon is rapidly de-
veloping into a great gold and silver, producing region. Capital
only is required to make it one of the most valuable mineral
fields on the Pacific coast.

Oregon has an abundance of the very best quality of iron ore.
Clackamas county in particular abounds in this mineral. Ex-

Natural WmUh oj the State 279

tensive iron works are in progress at Oswego, in that county,
located on the AVillamette river 18 miles from its mouth and 7
miles from Portland, and large amounts of pig-iron are produced

Grains and Fruits; Rivers, Harbors, Railroads, etc.

The resources of Oregon are not confined to her mountains or
her rivers. Her valleys are fertility itself. Wheat, oats, corn,
barley, hops, flax, hay and other grains and grasses; apples,
pears, peaches, apricots, plums, prunes, cherries, nectarines,
grapes and other varieties of small fruits and berries, are all
products of her soil. The natural advantages of the state are
all that could be desired. A seacoast of more than 400 miles,
indented with numerous capacious bays and storm-protected
deep-water harbors ; the Columbia, the Tillamook, the Neha-
lem, the Yaquina, the Alsea, the Siuslaw, the Umpqua, the
Coquille, Coos bay and port Orford, capacious enough to protect
in safety all the navies of the world ; a mighty river on its
north draining a basin of 395,000 square miles, including its
tributaries, which combine twelve degrees of latitude and thir-
teen of longitude. The main Columbia is navigable 725 miles
from its mouth, with two interruptions — the first at the Cascades,
150 miles from the mouth, where there is a fall of 300 feet in four
miles and where a canal and locks, being constructed by the
general government, will be completed in the present 3'ear ; and
another at The Dalles of twelve miles, where the general govern-
ment has taken steps looking to the construction of a boat rail-
way. Willamette river is navigable for 140 miles ; the Snake
for 150 miles. The falls of the Willamette at Oregon City are
estimated at 1,000,000 horse jDOwer; the fall is forty feet. Here
a great electric plant has been established within the past two
years at an expenditure of several millions of dollars, and this
vast water power is being utilized in Oregon City and in Portland,
twelve miles distant, in manufactories of various kinds and in
electric lighting.

The Salmon Fisheries of Columbia River.

The salmon fisheries of Columbia river are the most extensive
and profitable in the world, and a source of immense wealth. It
is but thirty-three years since the first fishery for catching and

280 John H. Mitchell — Oregon

barreling salmon was established there, and not until 1867 was
the first fish cannery erected, the purpose of the latter being to
preserve salmon in cans — fresh, spiced and pickled. There are
today some thirty-eight canneries on Columbia river, in which
are invested more than $5,000,000 capital. ^Nlore than 4,000 men
are emploj^ed during the fishing season. Canned salmon are
shipped by rail across the continent and by ships to all parts of
the world. A cargo frequently is valued at a quarter of a million
dollars, and single cargoes have gone out occasionally of the value
of over $300,000. The salmon season commences in ^lay and
ends in August. The fish are caught mainly by drift gill-nets
ranging in length from 120 feet to 600 feet. Many salmon are
also taken by traps and fish-wheels.

In the single year 1880, 538,587 cases of salmon were canned
on Columbia river, having an export value of 82,650,000. The
average salmon weighs about twenty pounds, and they are
packed three to a case, making a catch that year of about 1,600,000

Salmon is by no means the only food-fish produced in large
numbers in Columbia river. Sturgeon, flounder, smelt, tomcod,
and salmon trout exist in abundance, and within the last few
years shad weighing from three to four pounds have been plenti-
ful. Other waters in the state of Oregon are full of salmon,
Salmon fisheries are carried on extensively in Tillamook bay.
Nehalem ba}^ Nestucca bay, in northwestern Oregon, and in the
Rogue, Siuslaw, Coquille and other rivers in central and south-
western Oregon.

Dairy Interests.

Several of the coast counties, especially Clatsop, Tillamook,
Columbia, Douglass, Coos and Curry, in addition to their exten-
sive and valuable lumber interests, and in some cases, notably
Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook and Coos, their valuable coal de-
posits, are especially well adapted to dairying, and immense
quantities of butter and cheese are annually produced.

Railroad Facilities.

In addition to the great facilities resulting from grand navi-
gable water-courses and capacious coast harbors, with which
Oregon is so bountifully blessed, the state is now no longer iso-

Facilities f 07' Commerce 281

lated by reason of lack of railroad transportation facilities. The
city of Portland, the metropolis of the state, with a present popu-
lation of more than 80,000 people and an annual trade of over
$140,000,000, is the western terminus of five transcontinental
railroads — the Southern Pacific, the Union Pacific in connection
with the Oregon Short Line and the line of the Oregon Rail-
^ way and Navigation Company, the Northern Pacific, the Great
Northern, and the Canadian Pacific ; besides these, several state
railroads center here. In addition to this, the city of Port-
land is the head of ship navigation on the waters of the Colum-
bia, located on the Willamette river 12 miles from its mouth,
and to wdiich ships of all nations, of whatever draught, steam
and sail, come and go without interruption. The great warships
of the navy, the Baltimore, the Chicago and the Monterey, have
all been in her harbor within the past two years. But not only
so, there are regular lines of first-class ocean steamers running
weekly betvveen San Francisco, California, and Yaquina bay,
Oregon, connecting with the Oregon Pacific railroad, a first-class
full-gauge road, now constructed and running regularly from
Yaquina bay eastward across the entire Willamette valley, and
which, I am credibly advised, will within the present year be
extended to a transcontinental connection. Another line of
steamers plies weekly between San Francisco and Coos bay,
Oregon, A railroad is now under construction connecting As-
toria, Oregon, with Portland and the great transcontinental lines
of railroad. Other lines of railroad are being projected and
built in Oregon, one connecting the valleys of the Willamette,
UmjDqua and Rogue rivers with the waters of Coos bay on the
Pacific ocean. The interior cities and towns of eastern Oregon
are rapidly being connected with branch lines. This has already
been done as to Weston, Athena, Heppmer and other important

Demand for the Nicaragua Canal.

The people of Oregon, although blessed with innumerable
blessings and endowed with commercial advantages not com-
mon to states and people generally, nevertheless are in want of
one thing. We want, our interests demand, and we must and
Avill have at no distant day, a ship canal crossing the isthmus of
Nicaragua. The interests not only of Oregon, but of the Pacific
coast, of the whole nation, and of all the civilized nations of the

282 John II. Mitchell— Oregon

globe demand it. With one voice and with no uncertain sound
should the people of all the commercial and civilized nations of
the earth demand the speed}^ construction of this great work, so
absolutely essential to the commercial necessities of the age and
the proper advancement and promotion of the enlightened civili-
zation of the century in which we live. We of the Pacific coast
are no longer unimportant factors in the trade and commerce of
the world. When Dr Marcus Whitman crossed the continent
in 1842-'43 to save Oregon to the union, the trade of the Pacific
coast with foreign or domestic ports amounted to notliing. To-
day our trade with Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium,
Cuba and Brazil, to sa}^ nothing of our trade with China, Japan
and the Sandwich islands, amounts in value to more than
$45,000,000 annually. Give us the Nicaragua canal and we will
then stand erect in every element which constitutes independent
commercial supremacy. Capable of meeting every home want of
whatever nature, we become at once and forever a formidable
competitor for our surplus products, not only in the home
market, but in all the markets of the world.


In conclusion, I cannot better personify the state of Oregon
than by employing the language of that gifted writer, the author
of "Atlantis Arisen." She said :

" I know how, if I were a painter, I should personify the young giant
Oregon. Lithe, strong, beautiful should he be, with Empire written on
his brow and power tempered by mildness beaming from his eyes. Of
fair complexion he, with tawny, blonde hair and curly, golden beard.
His robe should be of royal purple, embroidered with wheat ears, and
his crown of tarnished gold. His throne should be among the rugged
mountains, with a lake at his feet, rolling yellow plains on one hand and
smiling green valleys on the other. His sceptre, shaped like the taper-
ing pine, should be of silver, set with opals, emeralds and diamonds. On
his right should roll the magnificent Columbia, to which ships in the
distance should seek entrance, and over his shoulder the white crest of
mount Hood stand blushing in a rosy sunset."

The names and memories of the brave pioneer men and women
who laid the foundations of empire in the wilds of Oregon de-
serve to be forever perpetuated, not only in their country's his-
tory, but in the reverential hearts and minds of the people
of the present and all future generations. There is something

The Dream and Glory of Conquest 283

strangely dramatic, as also sublimely pathetic, in the stranjj;e
scene of hundreds of men, with their wives and little ones, bid-
ding farewell to friends, to home, to civilization, and starting
on a journey with ox-teams a distance of 3,000 miles across
a trackless waste, and over rugged, unexplored mountains, the
way obstructed by numberless bridgeless rivers, yawning, deso-
late canyons and parched repellent deserts, with a view of estab-
lishing new homes amid all the perils incident to a wilderness
inhabited only by savage men and beasts. Many of these brave
men and women never lived to reach their destination, but fell
by the wayside, like Hervey's ships, " that sailed for sunny
isles, but never came to shore." But, leaving the lonely grave
of the loved one in the desert, the body soon to be devoured by
the hungry wolf of the plain, the brave column of survivors,
sustained by Wordsworth's " amaranthine flower of faith," and,
in the language of Milton, " finding new hope springing out of de-
spair," moved on and on, and although, in the words of Southey,
" no station is in view nor palm grove islanded amid the waste,"
they still press on and on, over burning deserts and trackless
mountain steeps, until at last they rest in the cooling shades of
" tbe continuous woods where rolls the Oregon."

As a factor in the civilization of America and of the age in
which we live, Oregon as a state challenges attention. Civiliza-
tion over two hundred j^ears ago marshalled its battalions and
took up its line of march in the Orient. Gathering strength
with the stead}^ advance of its conquering column, the tread of
its victorious legions among the mountains and over the plains
of the distant west signaled tlie rapid approach of the builders
of empire; and though beauteous in its infancy, grand in the
clear light of the Orient in the early morn of its existence, may
we not expect that the state of Oregon will realize its grandest
achievements amid the glories of accumulated splendor in the
distant Occident?

It was truly a grand conception, a sublime thought, inspired
by an almost supernatural prescience on the part of Coleridge
when, more than half a century ago, he in his " Tal>le Talk " gave
utterance to this sentence :

"The possible destiny of the United States of America, as a nation of
an hundred million of freemen, stretching from tlie Atlantic to the Pacific,
living under the laws of Alfred and speaking the language of Shakes-
peare and ]Milton, is an august conception.

284 John H. Mitchell— Oregon

The time is rapidly approaching when more than one hundred
niilHons of freemen, breathing the ^mre air of liberty, inspired
by one common sentiment of patriotism, sharing the blessings
of a free country, upholding one flag, respecting and abiding by
the same code of laws, honoring and revering the memories of
the men who laid the foundations of the Republic, loving the
same country and worshiping the same God, shall fill this great
land from sea to sea with the glad anthems of a free, courageous,
independent and happ}^ people.

Vol. VI, pp. 285-291, l-LXXXIII, PL. 15

October 31, 1895




Published by the National GEoaRAPHic Society

Price 25 cents

National Geographic Magazine – Surviving the Oregon Trail
Welcome to our Whitman library. These letters and diary entries are available in the public domain.  Please note we have made light changes to the text (spelling errors) and have occasionally added some pictures to illustrate what they may have seen during that time, according to their letters or diary entries for reader enjoyment.In addition, we are in the process of creating lessons featuring the Whitmans, their travel on the Oregon Trail and their short stay in Walla Walla, Washington.  In the end we hope to provide you not a tragic tale of misfortune and misunderstandings but rather their story, full of inspiration, self-sacrifice, hope and a legacy of the lives they saved no matter the race or social standing.

The original letters are held by Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wa.Full text of "Mrs. Whitman's letters 1843-1847" are in the public domain
MRS. WHITMAN'S LETTERS[An additional number of the letters written by Mrs. Narcissa Whitman to her relatives in New York, have recently been secured, together with some very important ones from Dr. Whitman himself, incidentally alluding to matters which of late years have been the subject of much controversy. The originals of the letters in this pamphlet, as well as those in the Transactions of this Association for 1891, are in my possession as a permanent contribution to the archives of our Association. At my earnest solicitation they were donated to us by Mrs. Harriet P. Jackson, a sister of Mrs. Whitman, who lived at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1893, to whom we owe a vote of thanks. The letter of Rev. H. H» Spalding to Mrs. Whitman's father, giving probably the first account of the massacre, also appears in this pamphlet. — Geo. H. HlMES, Secretary.]More Free Resources from the Public Domain:Marcus Whitman, pathfinder and patriot Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer, Volumes 15-21