Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 9



The Wallamet prairies are not an uninterrupted level like those of Illinois. In some parts they resemble the "oak openings" of Michigan; in other parts the plains are quite extensive, but nowhere are we out of sight of large bodies of timber on the mountains, or the groves that fringe the rivers. Ranges of hills and isolated buttes occur frequently enough to save the landscape from monotony, and furnish variety of soil as well.

The first thought in viewing West Oregon is that it must be a country of perennial verdure,—a country of exhaustless food resources for cattle. Such is not the fact, however, owing to the absence of rain during about four months of the year, when the grass is dried up. For this reason it cannot furnish fresh pasturage later than the first of July, until the rains begin in October or November, when the chilly weather makes cattle poor, although grass is abundant. Time was when the Wallamet Valley waved in early summer with luxuriant native grasses, red and white clover, and many beautiful flowering plants. Cattle might wallow through grass breast-high on the prairies,

and as high as their heads in the creek-bottoms. Stock-raising was a lucrative business in an early day in Oregon : in the first place, because cattle were scarce among the settlers, and next, because, afier they became more numerous, they were in demand for food by the mining population, with which gold discovery suddenly peopled the southern portion of the State. The stock-owner then put his brand on his herd and turned them out to “ summer and winter” themselves on the abundance of the virgin prairies; but in course of time this indiscriminate pasturing injured the grasses, reducing them to a shorter growth, though it is said that when the land is permitted to lie idle under fence they recover their old luxuriance.

The lives of the early Oregonians, while they very often lacked material comfort, were remarkably care-free. The genial climate and kindly soil rendered constant or excessive labor unnecessary. Comparative wealth was easily attained when a hundred cows represented a capital of ten thousand dollars. To mount his “spotted cayuse” and scamper over the prairie looking after his stock was a pastime; good riding, good shooting, and knowing how to throw the lasso, popular accomplishments. Clad in his buckskin suit, and booted and spurred in true vaquero style, it was his pleasure to scour the prairies day after day on any errand, from cattle-hunting to looking for a wife with three hundred and twenty acres to make a mile square with his own. And well it might be—unless some of wild California stock “got after him,” when a sharp race sometimes ended in the caballero being “ treed.”

This free and easy life in a country so beautiful had charms not difficult to comprehend, and was more profitable than the laborious farming which made men too slowly rich “back in the States.” The larger part of the Wallamet Valley was taken up under the Oregon Donation Law of 1850, which gave three hundred and twenty acres to a married man, and the same amount to his wife in her own right. This brought early marriages into fashion, the courting which preceded it being often accomplished while the would-be husband sat on his cayuse, and the not unwilling bride of thirteen or fourteen summers stood on the door-step. Large families who took up in this way adjoining square miles were able to call a whole township their own.

But that was

“ In the olden, golden Time, long ago.”

Many a farmer sold his land, when remote from the settlements, for a merely nominal price, and went to reside in a town where he could send his children to school, in ante railroad days, thus losing the benefit the government intended to bestow upon the pioneers of this far-away region. That did not, however, prevent his “living by the copulation of cattle,” as the broad acres of the valley were unfenced for the most part, and his herds wandered whithersoever they would. Railroads are fast stamping out this primitive form of civilization, which is replaced by scientific farming, and this means confining stock to certain boundaries and providing for their subsistence. The farmer of the Wallamet Valley could not compete in stock-raising with the herders on the cheaper lands of the East Oregon ranges, because his land was too valuable for other purposes; nor could he compete with the stock-raisers on the coast ranges where grain-farming is impracticable, and where the moisture from the sea keeps green the grass and herbage the summer through.

In the early history of the valley wheat was the only cereal raised, and was used alike for food and for currency, a wheat certificate, like a silver certificate of to-day, being a legal tender, and the only money in circulation before the discovery of gold. The principal crops still are wheat, oats, and barley, in the order named. The wheat crop for 1890 in this valley is estimated at two hundred and fifty thousand tons, most of which goes to foreign parts. This large traffic in wheat began about 1870, when the first twenty miles of the Oregon and California Railroad were completed. The same ships which brought out the rails from England took back cargoes of Oregon wheat. Previous to this time farmers had hauled their grain to Portland, or to the other river towns, where it was boated to Portland and thence shipped to San Francisco. For a long time this Oregon product was shipped abroad as California wheat, and from its large size and fine appearance was a credit to the State which exported it. But, see how time makes all things even. Millers have found out that Oregon wheat is rather too soft, and is improved by mixing with California’s shrunken grain, and also that California

flour gains by mixing with Oregon wheat. So the dry and the moist climates contribute to each other.

Oregon flour, notwithstanding this prejudice, sells well in foreign markets, and has established itself in the markets of China and Japan, four hundred tons, in 1890, being shipped monthly, the failure of the rice crop opening the way for its introduction, and it is predicted that within another decade the Orient will consume the entire wheat product of the Pacific coasi

Hops are a profitable crop, especially in the coast counties and the rich bottom-lands about the head of the Wallamet. Root crops and vegetables are fine and abundant. Potatoes make a good yield, and are excellent in quality. Onions are large, of a mild flavor, and as a crop very profitable. Cabbages are large, and the leaf is tender. All garden products grow thriftily, and are of good quality; and when the season of the annual exhibit arrives, which is in the latter part of September, the farmers are able to make a surprising show. But it is in the spring and early summer that you have cause to criticise the Oregon producer. All the “ earlies” on your table came from California, are high in price, and lacking in freshness. Why not force the growth of certain spring edibles, and hasten those of summer by hot-house cultivation ?—why, only that the farmers and gardeners are as “ conservative” as the capitalists.

The dairies of Oregon do not supply the resident population, notwithstanding this was originally a cattle country. The reason has been pointed out; still the fact remains that the common red clover whose roots go down to a great depth, would endure the drouth of the rainless season, would seed itself, and become green with the first showers of autumn, furnishing an evergreen crop on which to keep milch cows in condition. Most of the hay cut in Oregon is from the natural grasses. Oats are raised for hay, which is fed to horses; but timothy, which would do so much for the dairy interest, is neglected very generally. The farmers are, however, in easy circumstances, and probably care nothing about a tourist’s opinion of their methods.

The fruits raised in the Wallamet Valley are apples, pears, plums, cherries, and prunes. Peaches grow well in some localities, but, like Indian corn, they prefer the more southern portion of the State. Small fruits are abundant and excellent. Grapes do not

generally do well, except the Concord, which ripens deliciously ; but all the fruits above named are of superior excellence.

The very best land for fruit-raising is that which has grown a forest upon its soil. To clear it costs on an average forty dollars per acre. An orchard near the mouth of the Clackamas is planted to one hundred and twenty-three varieties of apples, fourteen varieties of pears, twelve of plums, five of prunes, three of quinces, and three of grapes, besides the small fruits, and walnuts, butternuts, and almonds.

The price of grain-land varies according to location, from five to fifty or even two hundred dollars, but fair farming-lands ten miles away from towns can be purchased at from twenty-five to forty dollars. The foot-hill lands, which are covered with hazel and other brush, and which make good fruit-farms, can be purchased cheaply. There is not any large amount of unsurveyed or government land in this part of the State, and that which remains is in the mountains. The State lands in West Oregon that were immediately available are nearly all sold off, but some pieces can still be found which are either overlooked or in the hands of speculators who do not hold them high. The coming legislature, it is thought, will increase the price of school-land, which it ought to have done years ago. The amount of government land sold in West Oregon during the year just ended was four hundred and ninety-two thousand acres,—two hundred and ninety-two thousand in and bordering on the Wallamet Valley, and two hundred thousand in Southwestern Oregon.

Columbia is the most northerly county of this division of Oregon, and really belongs to the Columbia Valley, as it faces the Columbia Biver. It is heavily timbered and mountainous, with some rich farming-lands lying along the river and on the farther side of the hills. Its forest is underlaid with coal, iron, and other minerals, which will some day make it one of the most wealthy districts of the State.

South of Columbia is Washington County,—the Tualatin Plains of the pioneers, — which is one of the oldest settled portions of Oregon, and belongs to the wheat-growing lands. Hillsboro’, the county-seat, was founded in 1850, by David Hill, one of the executive committee under the provisional govern

ment of 1843. The population is about eight hundred.

Page 117.

Forest Grove is the seat of the Pacific University, with a population of about one thousand. The college is under the patronage of the Congregational Church, although it is nonsectarian in its teachings. It was founded in 1848 by Bev. Harvey Clark and Mrs. Tabitha Brown, both of whom gave almost all their worldly possessions and their personal efforts to the work. The names of Marsh, Lyman, Collier, and Condon are associated with its growth. Its grounds and buildings are estimated at fifty thousand dollars; cabinet and apparatus, four thousand dollars; productive funds, eighty-three thousand dollars, with a library of five thousand volumes. The town of Forest Grove is laid out, as its name implies, among the beautiful oak-groves at the base of a spur of the Coast Mountains, half a mile from the Southern Pacific (west-side) Bailroad. Cornelius, Lilly, and Gaston are stations along the line of the road in this county, and Greenville is a farming settlement in a superb agricultural district.

Yamhill, or Che-am-ill, the Indian word for "bald hills," is next south of Washington. It is one of the earliest-settled and most beautiful parts of Oregon. In fact, the early patent of nobility in this region was to hail from Yamhill. The county-seat is McMinnville, with a population of two thousand two hundred. It is situated on the Yamhill Biver, and has communication by rail with all the important points on the west side of the valley and with San Francisco.

Lafayette, a pretty place a few miles away, was formerly the county-seat, but lost this distinction through too much "conservatism." Dayton, at the mouth of the Yamhill River, is another pretty town, of five hundred inhabitants and a good trade. Sheridan, the most western point on the Oregonian Railway, is nestled up at the foot of the Coast Range near old Fort Hoskins, and has a population of four hundred. There are eight other small towns in this county, which is celebrated for its yield of grain.

Crossing the beautiful Che-am-ill Range, we have a charming view of the country, and see again the familiar peaks of the Cascade Mountains. South of Yamhill we find ourselves among the fertile rolling hills and alluvial valleys of Polk County. Although full of resources in soil, building-stone, timber, cabinet woods, and minerals, Polk County has few towns of any size. Dallas is the county-seat, with about seven hundred inhabitants. It is situated on the Rickreal (corruption of La Creole) River, nearly opposite Salem, in a charming region.

Concerning names and their origin, there are many absurd conjectures made, quite as ludicrous as the frequent misnomers. I read the other day that Joaquin Miller gave the origin of the name of the Walla Walla tribe to be in the French ejaculation Voilà, voilà! Mr. Miller cannot have read Lewis and Clarke with much attention not to know that the Walla Walla tribe existed before any French voyageur dipped paddle in the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke spell the word Wallawollah.

The most delightful instance that I remember to have seen of the corruption of names was given by a newspaper correspondent from Colorado. The Spanish name of a river in the southern part of that State is El Rio de los Animos,—River of Souls. This correspondent, not being acquainted with Spanish particles, says of Lost Souls,—and further, that the French fur-traders, learning its meaning, called it Purgatoire, or Purgatory River, which the "bull-whacker of the overland trail," in his efforts to master the French, pronounced Picket-wire!

Lying west of Yamhill and Polk is Tillamook County, of which it is said “ there is no district of the Northwest so full of possibilities. A magnificent soil, a heavenly climate, and scenery that would delight the hearts of poets and painters are here as they are nowhere else; but its streams and rivers, its roads and its dales, its valleys, glens, and ravines are given over to the empire of loneliness.”

I am not authority for this glowing statement, which may be taken cum salis, but am ready to believe from collateral evidence that it is the isolation, rather than the presumed ruggedness, of this coast county which has heretofore ranked it lower than its relatives on the hither side of the mountains. It has a sea-coast of sixty miles in extent, and six rivers discharging into the sea, one of which, Tillamook, has a good harbor at its entrance. This bay was named by Lewis and Clarke, who made an excursion to it in the spring of 1806. About one-fourth of this county is occupied as an Indian reservation.

Like other coast counties, Tillamook has been cut off during

a great part of the year by the badness of the road over the mountains, and the uncertainty of the route by sea. But the Astoria and Albany Railroad Company has promised to open up this country. When the road is constructed there will be a market for the lumber, fish, game, fruit, hay, vegetables, dairy products, and coal of this region. It will traverse, so it is said, the valleys of the Miami, Nehalem, and Wilson Rivers, entering the Wallamet Yalley near Forest Grove. It is estimated that there are ten million dollars’ worth of “ stumpage” in Tillamook County. The lumber which will be manufactured there will furnish business for a railroad.

The town of Tillamook, on the Trask River, is the county- seat, with a population of .six hundred, and has a saw-mill, bank, church, school-house, court-house, and two newspapers. Bay City is located on Tillamook Bay, at the head of deepwater navigation, about five miles from the sea. Its present population is about two hundred, but its future, I am told, is considered assured. The Bay City Land Company have taken it in charge, and what land companies can do has been demonstrated. “ A young man willing to work,” going there now, might turn out a millionaire at forty. The experiment is worth trying, and doubtless will be tried.

The valley T of the Nehalem River, which is the northern boundary of Tillamook County, is the seat of the Nehalem Cooperative Colony of Western Oregon, an association which is putting in practice Edward Bellamy’s socialistic ideas. According to the report of the chief of the department of production of the colony, the experiment is resulting favorably. The colony r consists of twenty T -five men, six women, and thirty-five children. The society put in three thousand dollars four years ago, and now owns a plant for which they have been offered one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, their property including four thousand acres of land.

The water on the bar at the entrance to Tillamook Bay is from ten to thirteen feet at low tide, with good anchorage inside. When the jetty system has been applied, the channel deepened six or eight feet, and a light-house erected, the entrance will be safe for any vessels except those of the largest size.

A light-house was erected on a rock about a mile from the

coast at Tillamook Head, thirty miles north of the bay, in 1879. This appears to be the wildest spot on the coast. The rock rose one hundred feet above the water, and was only large enough to afford ground room for the workmen to carry on their operations. In the month of October four men were put upon the rock with tools and provisions. Only when the sea was smooth could a boat reach the rock, and when, a few days later, five men attempted to land there, the foreman was drowned. The eight remaining men suffered ail the discomforts of shipwrecked sailors, their only shelter from rain and spray being a heavy canvas tied to ringbolts fastened in the rock. They quarried out a cove and built a cabin in it, which they bolted to the face of the cliff. The next move was to quarry steps from the landing to the top of the rock, having to work a part of the time on a staging hung from the summit. Often the weather would not permit them to work at all, and in January they had a hurricane which dashed the waves to the top of the rock. Their supplies were washed away, and they expected to follow, but were so fortunate as to outlive the buffeting their cabin received from the elements. It was sixteen days before their situation could be made known to persons on shore. A line, fastened to the top of the rock and cast loose, was picked up by a ship, and supplies were transferred from the ship’s mast to the rock. By May the quarrymen had cut down the rock to a height of eighty feet, and made a level place for the light-house. In June the corner-stone was laid, and on every fair day a load of hewn material was taken out to the rock, and the building, fifty feet square, constructed, in which were rooms for the keeper of the light, with a room for the fog-signal machinery. The tower was raised forty-eight feet, placing the lantern one hundred and thirty-six feet above the sea-level, and in January, 1881, the light was put in operation. One month before a ship had gone ashore, and twenty lives been lost within a mile of the lighthouse. In some winter storms the waves have tossed boulders as large as cannon-balls over the top of the tower.

The coast of Oregon in a “ sou’wester” is extremely inhospitable. In summer it is much resorted to for pleasure, and has been so from the time of the earliest settlement in the Walla- met Valley to the present. The sea-beach at Tillamook, or the

mouth of Salmon River, in Polk County, was a favorite resort for the people of the central portion of the valley. To come here in July, camp out two or three weeks, fish, ride, hunt, and eat “ rock-oysters” and blackberries, was thought to be a sanitary as well as a recreative measure. The “rock-oyster,” so called because it is embedded in sandstone rock, has to be released from captivity by hard blows with a hammer. When extricated, it is pear-shaped, with the impression of a scalloped shell on the broad base of the soft shell which encloses it. At the small end, where the stem of a pear would be, is a foot or feeler projecting, not only out of the shell, but reaching out through an air-hole in the stem, and probably used to secure food. They are never found above tide-water, and are common, I think, to the California coast as well, as I have seen them of all sizes at Santa Cruz.

Crossing the plains gave, I fancy, a habit of out-door life to the early Oregonians which their children have inherited. To “go camping” every summer is their delight, and they cling to the primitive custom of camp-meetings,—“basket meetings” they are called. That “ the groves were God’s first temples” seems natural enough in “ the continuous woods where rolls the Oregon.” The devotional spirit comes more easily and quickly, and with more power, in immediate contact with Nature, than when coaxed and stimulated into exercise by the appliances of art. In the age when architecture was really and truly an art, this truth was seized upon ; and those grand cathedrals which still remain the glory ef Europe, in their pointed roofs, fretted arches, and long colonnades, their deep shadows, and windows of colored glass, staining the light they transmitted to the colors of Nature’s choicest hues, were intended to express that solemn and subtile sense of beauty, which, in the presence of great Nature, lifts the heart above and away from mean or trivial considerations.

The people on the east side of the valley who do not go to the sea coast find no lack of delightful summer camps among the foot-hills of the Cascade Mountains. The eastern half of Marion County is a natural park, where green hills overtopped by snow-peaks, solemn forest depths, mountain gorges, precipitous cliffs, lakes, and cataracts, alternating with s be reached in a few hours of travel. Silver Creek Falls, near Silverton, is a noted resort of the Salem people. The creek drops off a projecting shelf of rock one hundred and eighty feet in height, being dashed into a white cloud of spray. The visitor may stand behind this misty veil and look through a cloud of rainbows. On another branch of the stream, at no great distance, is a similar cataract. There are mineral springs in Marion and Linn Counties, chiefly soda, which are fitted up with conveniences for invalid visitors; but Oregon has not yet attempted a fashionable watering-place.

Benton County, next south of Polk and Tillamook, extends from the river to the sea, being prairie land in the eastern end, and having rolling, mountain, and coast lands to the west, giving it adaptability to all kinds of farming, dairying, and wool-growing, and facilities for manufactures of various kinds. The Oregon Pacific traverses it, and it has seaports of its own at Yaquina and Alseya Bays. The Alseya River rises in Mary's Peak near Corvallis, and runs west to the ocean. The Yaquina River flows into the bay of that name.

Lane County, the largest in the Wallamet Valley, extending from the Cascade Range to the sea coast, combines rare agricultural and manufacturing opportunities. It embraces within its limits the three forks of the Wallamet, besides that west branch bearing the sobriquet of Long Tom, and contains thousands of acres of either grain, pasture, or timbered lands, with abundance of water-power,—in fact the resources of a State more than twice as large as Rhode Island. To the eye Lane County presents a diversity of surface which is very attractive,—prairies that from level become undulating; hills that from long swells, scantily wooded, rise gradually into high mountains with crowns of evergreen forest, with pretty little valleys stretching along the numerous streams.

The climate in this portion of the Wallamet Valley is rather drier than at the north end. The elevation above the Columbia is four hundred feet. It is a beautiful sight to behold the luxuriant wheat-fields about the last of June, just before the grain begins to ripen, and when the elegant Lilium Washingtonium—Oregon's emblematic flower—stands head and shoulders above the nodding stalks, scenting all the air with its fragrance.


See page 103.

The entire area of the Wallamet Valley has almost no waste land in it, and most of it is under improvement, although not by any means all well cultivated. The old donation law, which gave so much land to actual settlers, operated to prevent close neighborhood and consequent improvement, with good farming, school privileges, and roads kept in repair. The influx of population within a few years has changed the old order of things to a considerable extent, but not yet thoroughly.

People are beginning to understand that a few acres well tilled are better than many left in neglect. Fruit-farming on from five to forty acres is coming into fashion, to the benefit of all concerned. It is said that five acres of cleared timber-land will support a family in comfort. Until recently Oregon made no attempt to raise fruit for export, except apples to California. This year choice apples were shipped to England, and pears, plums, and peaches to Chicago. Many prune orchards are being set out, this fruit being most profitable for export in a dried state.

Before closing my remarks on the western portion of Oregon I will subdue my dread of tables sufficiently to present one giving the comparative condition of the several counties at the commencement of 1890, including also Southern Oregon.

The amount of mortgages recorded against property in Multnomah County is $3,626,730; Benton, $202,438; Clackamas, $423,076; Marion, $939,403, and Polk, $294,164.