Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 10
WHAT I SAW IN SOUTHERN OREGON.
The Southern division of Western Oregon is separated from the Wallamet Valley by a range of low mountains known as the Calapooyas. Crossing this divide, we enter the Umpqua Valley, or series of valleys, constituting Douglas County, named after Stephen A. Douglas, and extending from the Cascade Range, in the direction of the Umpqua River, to the ocean, containing an extent of territory greater than any county of its age in the State, notwithstanding its boundaries have several times been altered. It covers an area of four thousand square miles.
It was a clear, sharp, October morning, when I first left Eugene to go down into Southern Oregon. As the stage rattled out of town in the direction of the Umpqua, I took a last, lingering look at the fair, level valley encircling hills of russet-color, dotted with bits of green, in groups of oaks or pines; of Spencer's Butte, with its sharp, dark-tinted cone; and of the blue Cascades, now purpling under the morning sunrise. From the most distant mountains, light-gray mists were rising; in the middle distance was a purple interval; on the nearer hills, rich, yellow sunlight. The orb of day was not yet high enough to shine on the hither side of the peaks behind which he was mounting. They stood in their own shadow, and let his slant beams bridge the valleys between their royal heights, until they rested on the humbler foot-hills among which we were wending our way, and touched with a golden radiance the yellow leaves of the maples or silvered the ripples in the Wallamet water.
Such gorgeousness of color never shone, out of the tropics, as the vine-maple, ash, and white-maple display, along the streams in this part of Oregon. I had thought them bright, glowing,
radiant, on the Columbia and Lower Wallamet; but nowhere had I found them so brilliant as at the head of the Wallamet Valley. And, as we afterwards ascertained, this is nearly the southern limit of the beautiful vine-maple. It was almost in vain that we looked for its scarlet-flaming thickets fifty miles farther south, and at a hundred miles it had disappeared from the landscape altogether.
The Umpqua Valley, which I could imagine in its June freshness, was now sere w T ith the long drought of a rainless summer. The road, however, for some distance, led through the Calapooya Mountains, and the gorge of a creek, where the thick woods, in places, quite excluded the sun,—almost the light of day. Bright as the weather was, and dry as the autumn had been, there was shadow, coolness, and moisture here, among the thick-standing, giant trees, the underwood, and the ferns and mosses. A very pleasant ride on such a morning, but one which might be exceedingly uncomfortable in the rainy season, though never an uninteresting one.
Dry as was the valley beyond, it was still beautiful, one so soon learns to admire the soft coloring of these arid countries,— the pale russet hues of the valleys, the neutral tints in rocks and fences, the quiet dark-green of the forests, and the clear, pale, unclouded blue of the heavens. The expression of these landscapes is that of soft repose. Nature herself seems resting, and it is no reproach to man that he, too, forgets to work, and only dreams. But the men of this period are not dreamers. Even in the sacredest haunts of Nature, they plot business and talk railroad ! I certainly thought railroad, as my eyes wandered over this beautiful, but isolated valley. But that was in a time now half forgotten, so rapidly do conditions change in this Northwest empire.
No longer without connection with the outside world, the Umpqua Valley is emerging from its former condition of a grazing and wool-growing region, and commencing to develop its abundant resources. L^nlike the Wallamet, it has no great extent of level prairie-land bordering the river from which it takes its name, but is a rolling country, a perfect jumble of small valleys and intervening ridges ; the valleys prairies, and the hills wooded with fir on top, but generally bare, or dotted with
oak, on their long grassy slopes. It is a sort of country where a man may seem to have a little world to himself; owning mountains, hills, plains, and water-courses, or at least springs of water, and neither overlooked by nor at any great distance from a neighbor.
Douglas County, extending from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, with a seaport of its own, is in area more like a State than a simple division of one. Its climate differs from that of the Wallamet as much as, by reason of its more southern latitude, greater elevation, and mingling of sea-breeze with mountain air, it might be expected to. The result is salubrity and productiveness. Its prairies are adapted to wheat and all cereals; its creek-bottoms to Indian corn, melons, and vegetables : its foot-hills to fruit-raising; and its uplands to grazing.
The same general variety of timber grows here as in the Wallamet Yalley, and a few kinds in addition. The evergreen myrtle is a fine cabinet wood not found in Northern Oregon ; the wild plum and wild grape also grow here; and the splendid Rhododendron maximum is a tall shrub, bearing a wealth of deep rose- colored clusters of great beauty. The botany of the country is very rich. Game abounds in the mountains, fish in the streams. I saw, in October, apple- and pear-trees with a new set of blossoms, some of the fruit having grown as large as a gooseberry.
In considering Douglas County, it must be taken into account that the valleys are separated from the most western portion by the Coast Range, and that the mountains extend within a distance of forty or fifty miles of the sea. The passage of the river through the mountains is a turbulent one, and the scenery highly romantic and alpine in its character; therefore the previous remarks on agricultural possibilities do not apply equally to this portion of the county. But taken altogether its resources are numerous, including fruit-raising, dairying, agriculture, stock-raising, wool-growing, lumbering, gold-mining, coal, oil, limestone, marble, sandstone, salt-springs, sulphur- and soda- springs, salmon- and oyster-fishing, and the last discovery is natural-gas. In 1880 Douglas County shipped, it is said, one million pounds of wool, and sold twenty-seven thousand sheep to Nevada farmers. The population claimed is between thirteen thousand and fourteen thousand.
The first town deserving any notice from the tourist is Drain, situated just where the railroad emerges from the Pass Creek canon through the Calapooya Mountains, joining Elk Creek, a branch of the Umpqua River. This place, founded twelve or fifteen years ago by Mr. Drain, an old resident of the county, and a wbilom State legislator, was for a long time only a station where passengers for Scottsburg, on the west side of the Coast Range, took stage for the rough but enjoyable journey across the mountains.
And here I cannot refrain from saying that I think travel suffers greatly from the levelling influence of railroads. There is nothing in the traveller’s rapid transit by the straightest route, through the lowest passes, across the outskirts of nature and of cities, confined to a seat which you may not have chosen, and in propinquity with (perhaps) very undesirable fellow-travellers, eating unwholesomely, and sleeping uncomfortably, to compensate one for liberty to choose his route, to breathe unpolluted air, to “take his ease in his inn” when he chooses, sleeping and eating in comfort. It is all very well for the demands of commerce to be satisfied in this way, but travel—why, one does not travel: he is snatched and tossed from place to place without having enjoyed one of the foremost purposes of travel, which is to gain health, pleasure, and instruction. Railroads are great civilizers ; but they also need to be civilized in some directions.
The ride from Drain to Scottsburg furnishes all the delights to be gathered from a magnificent forest, alpine heights, awful declivities, glimpses of a rapid river dashing itself over rocky obstructions, the balsamic odors of the woods, pure stimulating air, social converse, an hour for your dinner, and a friendly inn at your journey’s end. We are promised that all this, or much of it, is to be changed in a year or two by a railroad from Drain to the ocean, by a new route, and with new towns along it. Glasgow and Reedville are two which are not yet to be found on the maps.
Scottsburg, situated at the head of tide-water, was named foi Levi Scott, its founder, in 1850. A military road once connected it with the interior, but the great flood of 1861-62 washed away the road and a large part of Scottsburg, since which it has Bteadily declined. An attempt was made to render the river
navigable, and a light-draught steamer was built to run up to Roseburg, but after one trip the enterprise was abandoned. The town is situated in a narrow defile on the north bank of the river, while on the south side the mountains rise abruptly to a great height, and the whole aspect of the place is as Swiss as anything could be in America.
Eighteen miles below Scottsburg is Gardiner, named for Captain Gardiner of the “ Bostonian,” a vessel wrecked at the entrance of the river in 1850. It was founded by a San Francisco company in 1851. Of that company, two were afterwards governors of Oregon,—A. C. Gibbs and S. F. Chadwick. Gardiner was the seat of a customs-collection office for several years, but is now simply a milling-town. A salmon-cannery on the south bank of the river puts up the late run of fish in the Umpqua. From Gardiner to the sea, about eight miles, the country is a sandy plain. During the Indian wars in Southern Oregon, Fort Umpqua was established on the north bank, between Gardiner and the ocean, but was long ago abandoned. Here General Auger was stationed during his ante-bellum experience.
The mouth of the Umpqua has not a very good reputation as a harbor, many vessels having been wrecked in this vicinity, and only those in the lumber trade go in and out. The government in the days of General Lane’s delegateship erected a light-house at the entrance of the river, but upon a sandy foundation, and, when the rains came and the floods fell and the winds beat upon it, it fell, and has never been replaced. And here it may be justly affirmed that the government has been remiss; for there are but four light-houses on the Oregon coast south of the Columbia River,— namely, at Tillamook Head ; Cape Foulweather, near Yaquina Bay; Cape Arago, near Coos Bay; and at Cape Blanco, near Port Oxford.
The capacity of vessels entering the Umpqua for lumber is from six hundred and twenty-five to seventeen hundred and fifty tons, and their draught twelve to fifteen feet. The exports from Umpqua River for the j^ear last past amounted to 28,926.8 tons, consisting chiefly of lumber and laths, the remainder being in grain, wool, leather (from a tannery at Scottsburg), hides and furs, and dairy products. The import in machinery and general merchandise was fifteen hundred tons.
The Siuslaw (pronounced Si-wse-law) River, which separates Douglas from Lane County, has an entrance which might be improved, with a good harbor inside. The present channel is tortuous and shifting, with six feet at low water, but it is possible to carry a ten-foot depth nearly to the head of tide, a distance of twenty miles, and it will probably be so improved in the near future. There are large bodies of excellent timber on this bay which would then be available. A project is already on foot to build a railroad to the Wallamet Yalley whenever the government makes desired improvement of the bar and channel. There is reported a fine country on the upper Siuslaw.
The river scenery from Gardiner to Scottsburg strongly resembles that of the Columbia, though on a much smaller scale. The river is in places very shallow, being almost quite interrupted by bars of rock, which engineering is busy removing.
Returning to Drain’s we find just beyond here Mount Yoncalla (Eagle-bird, in the Indian tongue), a point of interest. It was for nearly forty years the home of the grandest of those “ men of destiny,” as he himself named them, who, in 1843, opened a road for wagons from the Missouri to the Wallamet Yalley,— Jesse Applegate, “ the sage of Yoncalla.” The mansion where he dispensed wisdom and a free hospitality is given up to strangers, and the places that knew him shall know him no more.
Douglas County has two Methodist academies, one at Oakland, on a branch of the Umpqua about fifteen miles south of Yoncalla, and another at Wilbur, ten miles farther south. Both are charming locations. Oakland is Arcadian in beauty, its groves and natural park-like scenery being ideally “ academic.”
The North Fork of the Umpqua is to be dammed at Winchester, a short distance from Oakland, and a large woollen-mill to be erected there, which it is expected will be followed by other manufactories.
Roseburg, originally Deer Creek, the present county-seat of Douglas, and named after its founder, Aaron Rose, has a population of two thousand five hundred. It is the gem of the Umpqua Yalley, resting upon the river Umpqua, where it is a fine large stream bounded by beautiful park-like oak openings. Nothing could be finer than the sweep of the river as i from the south, the railroad on one side, and teeming gardens and attractive houses on the other. A handsome bridge spans it in the centre of the town. Roseburg, like Drain, is to have a railroad to the sea.
Proceeding south through a charming country to the Myrtle Creek Hills, the scenery at this place strongly suggests Harper's Ferry, without its costly improvements. Soon we enter the canon of Cow Creek, a wild and wonderful pass, rendered historic in the winter of 1889–90 by the blockade of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which lasted for more than a month. This remarkable obstruction to travel was occasioned by a combination of causes, but primarily by the construction of the road itself through the canon, and the cutting away the foundation, so to speak, of the steep hill-side where it occurred.
Cow Creek is a pure mountain stream, from fifty to a hundred feet in width, not very deep at its usual stage, but very crooked, the rugged points around which it makes its sharp turns necessitating frequent tunnels. As the canon is narrow, the road had to be cut along the mountain-side at a height sufficient to ufficient to
insure it from inundation in seasons of freshet. The pass is forty-live miles in length, with a fall of from seventy to one hundred and twenty feet to the mile. Even in the best of order, with the finest weather, one is conscious of a feeling of insecurity as one side of the train looks down on nothing nearer than the river-bed, and the other seems ever just missing the projecting rocks. Now you dash across a bridge, and anon you dart into a tunnel.
But last winter (I think it was in February) the thing happened,—not the one we were looking for,—it is always the unexpected which happens,—something which might have been the most appalling accident in railway history occurred. More than a hundred acres of earth, softened and loosened, with its lower side cut away, rushed down upon the railroad, completely buiying a section of track, obliterating a tunnel, and forcing itfeelf one hundred and fifty feet up the opposite mountain, effectually damming the river between. Bails twisted and doubled up, with ties, tools, wagons, bridges, and shops, were carried up the mountain-side. The river being dammed formed a lake above from twenty to one hundred and fifty" feet in depth, which, however, soon forced a passage for itself, when the accumulated waters, in a wall seventy-five feet high, roared down the rocky chasm with race-horse speed, carrying trees, earth, and stones upon their hissing crest. A lake a mile and a half in length and sixty feet deep still remains as a memento of this startling occurrence. Not ten minutes before the slide plunged down, a freight-train passed the spot. Fancy runs on and asks, What if a passenger-train had been hurled across the river, or had been imprisoned in the tunnel ? Imagine archaeologists a thousand years hence, when people travel with wings, and railways are a thing of the past, exploring and coming upon such an imprisoned train, or even upon the buried tunnel,—what speculations ! I used to think this when my eyes beheld, painted all along the rocky cuts of the Hudson Biver Bailroad, the cabalistic letters I. X. L.: what would the scientists say in the year 5000, when cosmic dust had buried New York and its surroundings out of sight, about the meaning of these characters? The railroad has been rebuilt for a long distance on the opposite side of the river.
From Glendale, at the south end of Cow Creek Cafion, we travel south, past the historic localities of Wolf, Leland, and Jump-off-Joe Creeks, scenes of struggle between the aboriginal and the imported inhabitants of the country in “ the fifties past the Lucky Queen mining-camp, between the last two streams, to Grant’s Pass, so named from an opening in the Coast Range said to have been occupied at some time by Captain— afterwards General—Grant.
This town is in Josephine County, situated on Rogue River, and is a creation of the Oregon and California Railroad. In 1883 it contained a single habitation—Dimmick’s—on the old road from Portland to Sacramento. In that year it was laid out in town lots by some far-seeing speculator, and proved so good a location that to-day it is the seat of government of Josephine County, with a population of three thousand, and growing industries, chiefly manufactures in wood, this being the centre of the sugar-pine district. There are twenty saw-mills within a radius of as many miles, and in the town are sash-, door-, and shingle-factories, breweries, a broom- and a paint-factory. The railroad also has its car-shops and round-house here; and among the improvements under way are an iron bridge over the river, an electric-light plant, a water-works system, and several substantial brick blocks. A railroad is already projected from here to Crescent City, California, eighty-seven miles, and thence down the coast to Eureka in that State. Such a road would make this a distributing point for Southern Oregon, and would greatly reduce the high freight rates which have heretofore prevailed in this section of Oregon. There were shipped from here over the Southern Pacific in 1889, 100 car-loads of choice watermelons, 73 of cantaloupes, 82 of sweet potatoes, 87 of peaches, 830 of apples, 11 of nectarines, 19 of grapes, 18,000 pounds of almonds, 32,000 pounds of prunes, 48 car-loads of hops, 36 of broom-corn, 113 of gold-quartz worth sixty-five dollars per ton, $285,000 worth of gold-dust, and 1878 car-loads of sugar-pine lumber and manufactured wood-work. The shipments extended north to Seattle, and south to Los Angeles. Land is not yet held high in this county, nor indeed in any part of Southern Oregon; and there is a good deal still open to entry, and a vast amount of railroad lands, ranging from two dollars
and fifty cents to twenty dollars per acre, which is yet to be settled. This tells the story of the resources of this part of Oregon as far as developed. No wheat or cereals,—it would cost too much to ship them to the sea-board; no minerals except gold quartz,—they are not mined or manufactured for a similar reason. Nothing against the soil or climate, but everything against the transportation, or the lack of it. It is time that Southern Oregon sought shorter and cheaper routes to markets.
I was shown a potato in Rogue River Yalley which weighed seven pounds! It was one of a lot of twenty whose aggregate weight was one hundred and one pounds, and the crop of which they were a part matured without either rain or irrigation, on land that had been planted to potatoes for twenty-eight consecutive years. The owner expected forty thousand pounds from one acre. This was near Grant’s Pass. Another farmer near Ashland reported thirty thousand pounds of potatoes to the acre. None of my readers are likely to believe this, but it is true.
The Oregon and California, or, as it is now called, the Southern Pacific Railroad, from Glendale to Grant’s Pass runs just inside the eastern boundary-line of Josephine County, a large portion of which is still unsurveyed. It is here that it strikes Rogue or Rascal River, so named by the fur-hunters of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who had, as well as later travellers, many a skirmish to effect a crossing, the Indians lying in wait for them at the ford. The name, applied to the natives and the stream, became attached to the valley.
Rogue River rises in the Cascade Mountains and courses southwest and west to Grant’s Pass, where it runs northwest, and again southwest, receiving the Illinois River, which drains Josephine County, about twenty miles from the sea. Rogue River Yalley, embracing all the country drained by that river and its numerous tributaries, is an aggregation of smaller valleys, divided by rolling hills, the whole encircled by elevated mountain ranges. The river is not navigable for any great distance from the sea, but abounds in rapids and falls, furnishing abundant power for manufacturing purposes. It is a stream of unsurpassed beauty, with water as blue as the sky, and banks overhung in some places with shaggy cliffs, and in others with thickets of wild grape-vines and blossoming shrubs.
It is not claimed that there is as great an amount of rich alluvial soil in this section of Oregon as in the valleys north of it. It is rather more elevated, drier, and on the whole more adapted to grazing than to the growth of cereals. Still, there is enough of rich land to supply its own population, however dense; and for fruit-growing no better soil need be looked for. A sort of compromise between the dryness of California and the moisture of Northern Oregon and Washington,—warmer than the latter, from its more southern latitude, yet not too warm, by reason of its altitude,—the climate of this valley renders it most desirable. Midway between San Francisco Bay and the Columbia River, what with its own fruitfulness, and the productions of the Wallamet and Sacramento Valleys on either hand, within a few hours by railway carriage, the markets of the Rogue River Valley can be freshly supplied with both temperate and semi-tropical luxuries.
The grape, peach, apricot, and nectarine, which are cultivated with difficulty in the Wallamet Valley, thrive excellently in this more high and southern location. The creek-bottoms produce Indian corn, tobacco, and vegetables equally well; and the more elevated plateaux produce wheat of excellent quality and large quantity, where they have been cultivated: still, as before stated, this valley is commonly understood to be a stock- raising, fruit, and wool-growing country,—perhaps because that kind of farming is at once easy and lucrative, and because so good a market for fruit, beef, mutton, bacon, and dairy products has always existed in the mines of this valley and California.
Rogue River Valley during a period of about twelve years was the scene of active and profitable placer-mining, after which for an equal term the mines were abandoned to the Chinese; but in later years mining has revived, and several companies are realizing good returns from investments in mining ditches and quartz leads. The other minerals known to exist in this region are copper, cinnabar, lead, iron, coal, granite, limestone, kaolin, and marble. The latter is of very fine quality, white, exceedingly hard, and translucent.
Like every part of Oregon, this valley has its mineral springs, its trout-streams, game, and abundance of pure soft water. No local causes of disease exist here, and it is hard to conceive of a
country more naturally beautiful and agreeable than this. The forest is confined to the mountains and hill-sides, and is not so dense as towards the Columbia.
Rogue River Yalley is divided into three counties,—Jackson, Josephine, and Curry. Jackson County was created January 12, 1852, and Josephine was cut off from it in January, 1856. The name of the former does not refer, as one might suppose, to the deity of good Democrats, but to Jackson the discoverer of the mines on Jackson Creek, after whom Jacksonville, the county-seat, was also named.
Jackson was the owner of a pack-train which transported provisions to the mines, who being encamped at this place made himself and the locality suddenly famous by his discovery. For many years the town enjoyed a good trade; but Jacksonville lost its opportunity when it permitted the Oregon and California Railroad to pass by on the other side. Medford, a few miles to the northeast, is on the railroad, and takes away the trade that formerly went to Jacksonville, which is now trying to recover it by building a branch road to Medford, which has about two thousand inhabitants.
Ashland, one of the prettiest towns in Oregon, has, on the contrary, profited by being upon the line of communication between two great States, and is prosperous. It was settled in 1852 by J. A. Cardwell, E. Emery, and David Hurley, who, being from Ashland, Ohio, named the place after their old home. It is located where Stuart Creek comes dancing down from the foot-hills of the Cascades, offering abundance of water-power, and where the view over the whole of Rogue River Yalley is delightsome. Its manufactures are lumber, flour, and woollen goods.
The population of Ashland is about three thousand, and there are over a dozen smaller towns in the county, the population of which is fifteen thousand.
Josephine County, named after Josephine Rollins, daughter of the discoverer of gold on the creek also named after her, differs somewhat from Jackson County in being at once more broken and more near the sea, which circumstances modify its climate and its resources. The latter have been chiefly confined to mining products, gold, silver, and copper being fou nd here,
but only gold being profitably mined, on account of the inaccessibility of this portion of Oregon previous to the opening of railroad transportation. For the same reason, and owing also to the shifting nature of the population, agriculture has been neglected. Yet this is a lovely country, of grand mountains and quiet, fertile valleys lying between grassy slopes, with oak groves like old orchards dotting their sides, and open woods of the noble sugar-pine, where the balmy air is laden with the perfume of sweet violets, with abundant wild fruits, and flowers in every sheltered nook. “ It is,” said a lady to me, “ a paradise of beauty, where, if one had one’s friends, life would be wholly delightful.” Yet it is one of the most sparsely-settled portions of the State, and its whole taxable property is valued at little over one million dollars. Kirbyville, founded in 1852 by one Kirby, a prospector, was formerly the county-seat, but Grant’s Pass has superseded it. Besides this, there are eight or ten other mining-camps, the whole population of which is not more than three thousand.
About thirty miles south of Grant’s Pass, in the Siskiyou Mountains, are the recently discovered Josephine County Caves. Elijah Davidson, of Williams Creek, was the discoverer, having followed a bear to its lair in the lower of the two caves. They are situated on the steep side of a mountain, and the last ten miles of the thirty are over a narrow trail.
The entrance to either is about eight feet wide, and high enough to admit a man standing upright. From the entrance of the upper cave the floor inclines somewhat, and it soon becomes necessary to descend by a ladder to a passage averaging eight feet in diameter either way, but having many projections and contractions in its course. The first chamber entered has a height of ten feet, and its walls and roof are brilliant with stalactites. The passage from chamber to chamber is often extremely difficult. Pools of water are met with ; and many passages remain unexplored, days being required to transverse all that are seen to exist.
The lower cave has no stalactite formations, but is filled with immense rocks piled one upon another, requiring long ladders to surmount. A stream of cold, clear water flows from it, and also a stream of cold air.
The devil is always credited with an interest in remarkable places, which is a direct compliment to his royal nibs; at least so it appears to me. The Josephine Caves are no exception to the rule, but have in the upper one a Devil’s Banquet Hall, seventy-five by a hundred and fifty feet, and sixty feet in height. It is decorated with huge rocks suspended from the ceiling appearing ready to fall at a breath; black cavities yawn in the distance; impish shadows haunt unexplored recesses; over the floor are spread rocks great and small; and so, perhaps, after all, it is well enough to resign the proprietorship of so unlovely a place to His Satanic Majesty; especially since there are bright and dazzling chambers, and pools and water-falls, more to our taste in other parts of this wonder-house of nature.
Curry County, named after George L. Curry, who was governor of Oregon when it was organized,—that is, in 1855,—is the coast division of the Hogue Eiver Yalley, and, having no transportation, except by pack-train or wagon, over the difficult mountain passes, has, although highly productive, made small progress in population and development. Only a small portion of the county is surveyed. Its valuation is placed at about one million dollars, and its population at not more than two thousand. Lumbering and salmon-packing are its principal industries. Ellensburgh was made the county-seat in 1858.
Port Orford is the seaport of Curry County and the whole Rogue River Yalley, so far as Oregon is concerned; although Crescent City in California was the actual port in use in early mining times, supplies being carried from that harbor over the mountains to Yreka, and again over the Siskiyou Range into this valley by mule-trains. This picturesque feature of mining life has disappeared, when at the head of a procession of longeared, neat-footed burden-bearers the “ bell-mare” tinkled her silvery commands to her followers as they climbed the rocky steeps or wound through devious mountain defiles. Hot infrequently the cloud of dust raised by the train gave information to the dusky foe, and the ambush was prepared where the trail led down a steep grade through a narrow pass, or across a stream that must be forded. There the unlucky muleteers were put to death or to flight and the train confiscated.
When the Pacific Mail Steamship Company used to run steamers to Portland under their contract with the government, they were required to carry the mail to Gardiner on the Umpqua River, but, one of their steamers being in danger of being lost on the bar, Captain Tichenor was instructed to look for another port on the coast where passengers and mail for Southern Oregon could be safely landed. In June, 1851, he put ashore at Port Orford nine pioneers under the command of J. M. Kirkpatrick, together with arms, tools, and provisions, and proceeded on his voyage, leaving the party to make such improvements as they could.
The Indians gathered near in alarming numbers, and the men fortified themselves on a high rock that sloped to the sea, having dragged up to their fort a four-pound cannon. On the second day a war-dance was held by the natives whose " heath" was being thus invaded. After working themselves up to a proper degree of courage the warriors advanced on the works, the foremost one endeavoring to wrest a gun from the hands of Kirkpatrick, who instead of giving up his arms seized a firebrand and touched off the cannon, the charge doing execution upon six of the assailants. The Indians sent a shower of arrows among the white men, wounding four of the nine. The skirmish lasted about fifteen minutes, during which six more Indians were killed, when they retreated. The party was then unable to perform the most important part of their duty, which was to explore a road to the interior, arid after five days, the enemy appearing to be preparing for another attack, which they were not in a condition to resist, they watched for an opportunity and took to flight under cover of the night and the forest. On the Coquille River, which, with Coos River, they discovered, they were near being confronted by a village of Indians, but avoided them, and were in hiding two days, with only some berries for food. Arrived at the Cowan River, the natives assisted them to cross, and on the eighth day they reached the settlements on the Umpqua.The "Seagull" on her next trip to Portland called at Port Orford and landed forty men, who, finding the place deserted, and evidences of a struggle manifest, believed the first party to be all killed, and so reported. But the steamer on the return voyage brought thirty recruits from Portland, headed by one
T’Vault, a man famous among the pioneers of Oregon. This T’Vault headed a company to explore a road into the Eogue Eiver settlements east of the mountains, and in August they set out; but, becoming discouraged by the hardships of the trip, all but nine of the company returned to Port Orford. The remainder kept on, but finally became lost and entangled in the tropical jungles of the Coast Eange, coming at last to the Coquille, which one of the party, who had been in the first flight to the Umpqua, recognized. This showed to them that they were nearing the coast instead of the valley, and determined them to keep on to the Umpqua settlements. While crossing the Coquille they were attacked, and again four of the nine were killed. The remaining five, including T* Vault, reached Umpqua after six days of wandering, subsisting on berries in the woods and mussels on the coast. All were more or less wounded. One Hedden, who had been in the first fight, escaped with slight injury. In running from the furious attack of the Indians the party became separated. A young man named Williams, whom we met at Ashland, while being pursued was shot through by an arrow which was broken off in his abdomen, where it remained four years before it came out, without surgery. The history of Southern Oregon is a nearly endless chronicle of these personal conflicts with the native nobility of the country.
I confess in this public manner that I am not a worshipper of the Indian, and I declare that, even admitting one Alessandro to be possible (which he is not), he would be one adorable character among a thousand devils of his race. Yet there are examples of a rude courage, partaking of the nature of frantic bravery, which one must admire. One of these savage heroes was Eogue Eiver John, a chief of that tribe. After the conquest of the Indians, and their confinement on a reservation in Northern Oregon, he was banished to Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, for stirring up rebellion among his people. On the way to San Francisco, when the steamship was off Crescent City, he, with his son, attempted to take the ship, with the intention of swimming ashore and regaining their former homes. One or two persons were wounded in the affray, but the chiefs son suffered most, receiving a wound in the struggle which caused the loss of a leg. They were put in irons and w ere captives at Alcatraz
for some time, but finally were permitted to return to the reservation, where the chief died a few years later.
Port Orford has been selected for a harbor of refuge for this part of the coast, and an appropriation of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been secured to commence the work. Curry County is well supplied with game and fish. Its splendid cedar forests are worth more than gold-mines to whomsever will convert them into lumber. Cedars from three to eight feet in diameter and with not a limb on them for a hundred feet grow here. Here sea-fogs keep vegetation forever green, and miasmatic diseases are unknown. The residents of the valleys would like to live upon the coast, were it not for the mountains which divide it from their fertile prairies. Yet it is by these mountains the climate is rendered what it is, —partially confining the fogs and winds to the coast, making this section cool and moist, and the interior warm and dry.
Ellensburgh, situated at the mouth of Rogue River, is famous for stirring scenes in the Indian war of 1855-56. It was at the mouth of Rogue River that a camp of volunteers, a company of settlers, and the Indian agent, Ben. Wright, were surprised and massacred. Wright was killed, and his heart cut out and eaten by his Indian wife and her people. The reason given by this unchristianized Ramona for this repast was that her husband had a big (good and brave) heart, and that (on the accepted principle that a part helps a part, as we say when we eat calves’ brains), herself and tribe would be made more courageous by it.
There are various myths extant about this same Ben. Wright. By some he is represented as an illiterate, bad man, with a record shocking to civilized sensibilities. It is said he deliberately poisoned a large number of Pit River and Modoc Indians whom he had invited to a council at Modoc or Tule Lake. By others he is spoken of as a sort of Spanish caballero, riding a glossy black horse, wearing the fringed buckskin suit, red sash, broad-brimmed hat, and jingling spurs of the gente de razon of California. It is said he had handsome features, fine dark eyes, and wore his black hair long. Investigation seems to prove that he was a Philadelphian by birth, of a good family, who was drawn to the Pacific coast by the gold-mines, who dug gold on the Klamath River and about Jacksonville. In 1852 there
was a great slaughter of immigrants by the Indians about Tule Lake, and, a company being raised to go to the assistance of a beleaguered train the handsome and popular Philadelphian was chosen captain. The immigrants were relieved, and the volunteers under Wright patrolled the dangerous part of the road for several weeks until all had passed. Many harrowing incidents were connected with the murder and captivity of women, which stirred the manly blood of Wright and his comrades, and doubtless the quality of their mercy would have been rather strained had it been appealed to. But it was not. The Modocs had laid a trap to catch the volunteers and prevent their getting out of the country, which being discovered, Wright turned the tables on his would-be slayers, and prevented their getting back to their fastnesses in the Lava Beds.
But this had nothing whatever to do with his death a few years later. The government had appointed him to act as its agent with the Chetcoe and other coast tribes, and he was doing all any agent could do for them when they killed him. The settlers who escaped the massacre at the mouth of Rogue River took refuge in a block-house erected a short time before, except a fugitive who escaped to Port Orford, where a corporal’s guard of troops were stationed, whom the Port Orford people would not permit to leave had they so wished. Word had to be sent to San Francisco, where troops were arriving on their way to protect the interior of Rogue River Talley. In the month which intervened between the commencement of the siege of the block-house and the arrival of the troops, great privation and suffering were endured, and several lives were lost in making sorties to procure potatoes from a field, or milk from a cow for the starving children.
In the mean time and before the army reached Crescent City, a part of the few inhabitants of that place, commiserating the condition of the Rogue River men, if living, determined to discover their needs, and reinforce them, if possible. They proceeded up the coast as far as Pistol River, where they were attacked by the Pistol Indians and forced to defend themselves in a hastily-constructed log-pen, where Colonel Buchanan found them when he came marching up the same trail, and soundly berated them for meddling in military matters, of
which they knew nothing ! It is not singular, everything considered, that Indian philanthropists are so rare among the border people.
The county of Coos, on the coast, is not a part of either the Umpqua or the Rogue River Yalleys. It is a basin drained by the Coquille and Coos Rivers, which have many tributaries, and when well developed will prove to be one of the wealthiest divisions of Oregon. Coos is not an Indian name, the natives calling their river Cowes. I have already spoken of the discovery of this region by the fugitives from Port Orford. Cape Arago, at the entrance to the bay at the mouth of Coos River, was named by Spanish navigators, who probably also saw the Coquille, for they described it felicitously, comparing it to the rivers of Aragon for beauty, and also for similarity of the trees and shrubs growing upon its banks.
Soon after the Port Orford affair, in 1852, a small schooner, bound to the Umpqua River, entered Coos Bay by mistake, and remained there for several weeks, looking for the settlements, and in great fear of the Indians. Their plight was discovered by the Umpqua Indians, who informed the inhabitants of Gardiner, when they sent a pilot to bring the voyagers to their intended haven.
In 1853, P. B. Marple, of Jackson County, explored the Coquille Valley, and organized a company of forty men to settle on Coos Bay. Gold-mining on the coast began soon after at Randolph, near the mouth of Coquille, and a seaport town grew up rapidly on Coos Bay, called Empire City, which became the seat of government of Coos County, organized in December, 1853, and is the port of entry for the district of Southern Oregon. It has a small population, while Marshfield, four miles farther up the bay, and founded a little later, by J. C. Tolman, is a place of considerable importance, with a thriving trade. Between the two is the lumbering establishment of North Bend; and on the river, above Marshfield, are the towns of Coos City, Utter City, Coaledo, Sumner, and Fairview.
Coal was very early discovered on Coos Bay, and has been worked continuously for many years, employing a line of steam- vessels to carry it to San Francisco. The quality of some late discoveries in coal is claimed by experts to be of a very high
order. One analysis gives : fixed carbon, 47.23; volatile matter, 42.17; water, 2.30 ; ash, 8.25; sulphur, .60. Its coking capacity is 54.45. Others were nearly as good, and the quantity is practically inexhaustible.
Coal-mining is the most important industry of this region, lumbering the second, and ship building the third, the shipyard at North Bend being the largest in the State. Many fine vessels, finished inside with the beautiful cabinet-woods of this section of Southern Oregon, have been launched from this yard, and have assisted to build up the fortunes of their owners and the wealth of the country.
Farming has not been much followed in Coos County, its market being chiefly supplied from California. This condition of agriculture arises from two causes,—namely, the density of the forest about the bay, requiring great labor and expense to remove it and prepare the ground, and the movable character of the people employed by corporations, the majority of the population being of this and the merchant class. Yet five acres of this rich, loamy soil, if farmed to vegetables and small fruits, would support a family in comfort. The mild, moist climate, furnishing feed all the year round, and the amplitude of pasturage offered by unoccupied lands should make this a superior dairy country. Dairying is followed to some extent, but not as it should be. Fruit does well in this region, and fruit, both green and dried, is one of the exports from Coos Bay.
The entrance to this harbor has not been regarded as favorable to commerce, on account of the shifting nature of the sands on the bar, and the insufficient depth of water. Accordingly, Congress was petitioned for aid in removing the obstructions to trade, the cost of the work required being estimated at about two and a half millions, of which two hundred and thirteen thousand seven hundred and fifty-six dollars have been appropriated, and one hundred and ninety-seven thousand four hundred and sixty-five dollars and eighty-one cents expended. This amount has been applied to the construction of a jetty, which, although completed for a distance of only seventeen hundred and sixty- one feet, has sensibly improved the bar, on which water enough is found for vessels drawing over fifteen feet. The work planned, it is expected, will make a good and permanent channel. The average tonnage of vessels entering Coos Bay has been 300 tons. During the year ending June 30, 1890, the arrivals were 354; the net tonnage of which was 89,188, and the gross tonnage 117,726. The river and bay steamers are twelve in number, and their gross tonnage 740. Five tugs are employed, with a tonnage of 620, gross. The total exports of Coos Bay for the year ending June 30 amounted to 221,329.1 tons, value $1,992,903; and the imports to 18,000 tons, value $1,175,600; leaving a balance in favor of the port of $817,303.
Coos Bay has hitherto been reached only by small sea-going vessels, or by mountain roads, with which the storms of winter dealt severely, leaving them unfit for travel the greater part of the year. The Scottsburg road from Drain's was the one usually taken. At the former place the stage was abandoned for a small steamer to Gardiner, or to the mouth of the river (I took the mail-carrier's small boat from Gardiner to the coast), whence a beach-wagon conveyed passengers twenty miles to the north side of Coos Bay, where they were met by a steamer and taken across to Empire City. The beach ride is wearisome, with the perpetual roll of the broad-tire wheels over the unelastic wet sand, and the constant view of a restless waste of water on one hand, with dry, drifting sand between us and the mountains on the other, varied only with patches of marsh and groups of scraggy pines at intervals.
All this is soon to be changed. Coos Bay is to be reached by rail from Drain's; and as lovely and genial a spot of earth as one could desire is to be made easily accessible. The prodigality with which nature has adorned the hill-sides hereabouts with the elegant rhododendron, the blue spirea, nutmeg, myrtle, and other trees and shrubs famed in the poetry of the Adriatic, was a constant joy to me while I remained here. The pleasure derived from it was like that of coming upon a volume of the odes of Callimachus or a painting by a master in an out-of-the-way place.
One of the immediate results of the changed prospects of Coos Bay is the founding of the town of Glasgow, on a fine site commanding a view of the bay and of the bar at its mouth. A wharf two thousand feet long has been constructed, and extends over a bed of Eastern oysters which were planted there
years ago, and almost forgotten, but which are now of good size. Mills and other improvements are going up at this place.
The Coquille Valley consists of tracts of fertile land on the main river and its branches, aggregating a hundred miles in length by one to three in width. Its population is more agricultural than that on Coos Bay, and has made greater improvements in farms. Coquille City is situated on a bend of the river about twelve miles from the ocean, and is a pretty town of about one thousand inhabitants. Without having a harbor of much consequence, Coquille has maintained for many years a coasting trade in vessels drawing from seven to nine feet. Steamers run from Bandon, at the mouth of the river, to Coquille City, a distance of twenty-three miles, and return, daily. There are about a dozen schooners in the coasting trade, and four river boats in the trade of the Coquille. The exports &re chiefly of white-cedar lumber, for which this region is famed. The import of general merchandise last year was three thousand five hundred tons.
The government has made several appropriations for the improvement of Coquille River and bar, by means of jetties at the entrance, and clearing the river of impediments to navigation in the form of rocks and snags. A depth of ten feet at low water has been obtained in the channel, and a greater depth will yet be reached. To secure this result the people have largely contributed, both in money and labor.
Railroad connection with Roseburg is now promised, and lands all along the line, where formerly a single nearly impassable mud road gave outlet to the interior, are being rapidly taken up. In a few years this valley will be known as one of the choicest of many choice sections of Southern Oregon. There are now about twenty settlements in the whole Coos Bay region.
The scenery along the route from Coquille to Roseburg possesses all the charms peculiar to the Coast Mountains, and Enchanted Prairie, the name of one of the valleys on the east side of the range, conveys no sense of bombast to the beholder. The river cuts deeply into the mountains from its source in beautiful Camas Valley, the road approaching the edge of perpendicular cliffs of awe-inspiring height. From Camas, the Roseburg road soon emerges into the Umpqua Valley, the distance by this route from Coos Bay being about forty miles.
What further remains to be said of Southern Oregon will be found under the specific heads of geology, mineralogy, mining, botany, etc.