Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 1/A Narrative of Events In Early Oregon ascribed to Dr. John McLoughlin


The Original of the Following Document is in the Possession of Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor, Portland, Oregon. It was Secured From Mr. Harvey, a Son-in-Law of Doctor McLoughlin, and Seems to be a Defence by Doctor McLoughlin of Himself, Addressed to Parties in London.

The first Americans since 1814 who crossed to the west side of the Rocky Mountains was (at least to our knowledge) Mr. Jedidiah Smith with five trappers, who, having met some of the Hudson's Bay Company on the headwaters of Snake River came with them to the Hudson's Bay post at the Flat Heads, where they passed the winter.

In 1825 he returned to join his people, and in 1826 he brought a large party of his countrymen to hunt in the Snake country, where they have been ever since. In 1826 and up to 1828, there were constantly five or six hundred. But now, that beaver are scarce, there are only about fifty. In 1827, Mr. Smith pushed his trapping parties to the Bay of San Francisco, in California, and, in endeavoring to make his way here from California in 1828, fifteen of his men were murdered by the Umpqua Indians when he with only three of his men reached Vancouver from whence, spring 1829, he proceeded to join his countrymen in the Snake country.

The first American vessel that entered the Columbia River to trade since 1814 was the Oahee, Captain Dominus, in February, 1829. The Convoy, Captain Thompson, came a while after. These two vessels belonged to the same party, a merchant in Boston. In summer, they went up to the coast. Returned in the fall. The Oahee wintered in the Columbia River, but the Convoy proceeded to Oahoo. Returned spring 1830, and in the summer both vessels left and never returned.

In 1832 a Mr. Wyeth came across by land from Boston with eleven men, with the intention of establishing a salmon fishery and expected to have met a vessel which he had sent from Boston, but he learned afterwards she had been wrecked on an island in the Pacific, and the nonarrival of his vessel obliged Mr. Wyeth to return to the United States, but his men remained in the Wallamette.

In 1834 Mr. Wyeth returned with a large number of men whom he left in the Snake Country to trap beaver, where he built the present Fort Hall, and brought about twenty men with him to prosecute the object of his first voyage in 1832, for which purpose he had despatched the May Dacre, Captain Lambert, from Boston in 1833, and which entered the river a few days after Mr. Wyeth arrived at Vancouver, who built on Wapatoo Island. Collected in 1835 about a half cargo of salmon when the May Dacre sailed in 1835, and in 1836 Mr. Wyeth broke up his establishment on Wapatoo Island. Returned to the states, offered the remains of his property in the country for sale to the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company in London, but they referred him to their officers in the country at Vancouver, who bought Mr. Wyeth's property and his establishment of Fort Hall in 1837 from Mr. Wyeth's agent, and he left in one of the Hudson's Bay Company's vessels for Oahoo in 1838. But his labouring men dispersed in the country. The Rev. Jason and Daniel Lee of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with three laymen came overland from the states in company with Mr. Wyeth in 1834. They brought horses and cattle with them, but their supplies came by sea in the May Dacre. Messrs. Lee left the states with the intention of settling in the Flat Head Country as missionaries to those Indians but changed their minds and settled in the Wallamette Country, and as they had left their cattle at Walla Walla and they were rather weak after their long journey, they asked and obtained the loan of cattle from me.

In 1834 one Kelley came from Boston by way of California, accompanied by Ewing Young and eight English and American sailors. Kelley left the states with a party intending to come here by way of Mexico, but the party broke up on the way and Kelley alone reached California, and with one man overtook our California trappers on their return about two hundred miles from San Francisco, and Young, a few days after, with the rest of them; but as Gen. Fiqueroa, Governor of California, had written me that Ewing Young and Kelley had stolen horses from the settlers of that place I would have no dealings with them, and told them my reasons. Young maintained he stole no horses, but admitted the others had. I told him that might be the case, but as the charge was made I could have no dealings with him till he cleared it up. But he maintained to his countrymen and they believed it, that as he was a leader among them, I acted as I did from a desire to oppose American interests. I treated all of the party in the same manner as Young, except Kelley, who was very sick. Out of humanity I placed him in a house, attended on him and had his victuals sent him at every meal till he left in 1836, when I gave him a passage to Oahoo. On his return to the states, he published a narrative of his voyage in which, instead of being grateful for the kindness shown him, he abased me and falsely stated I had been so alarmed with the dread that he would destroy the Hudson's Bay Company's trade, that I had kept a constant watch over him, and which was published in the Report of the United States Congress. In 1835 five English and American deserters having lost two of their companions murdered by Indians made their way from California to the Wallamette. The same year the Revd. Samuel Parker of the Presbyterian Church, was sent by the Missionary Society of Boston to examine and find proper places to establish missions. He came with the American Fur-Traders to their rendezvous in the Snake Country, from whence he sent his companion, Dr. Whitman, to the states for missionaries and came alone to Vancouver. The Rev. Mr. Parker appears to me to be a man of piety and zeal, but is very unpopular with the other protestant missionaries in the country, for which I see no cause except that acting differently from them, he has published to the world the manner some of their countrymen act toward Indians, and the very different manner we treat them as may be seen by reference to his work. He left in 1836 by way of Oahoo.

In 1836 Dr. Whitman with his wife, and accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Spalding and his wife, and laymen, returned to the country. Dr. Whitman established himself in the vicinity of Walla Walla. The Rev. Mr. Spalding in the Nes Perces Country. In the fall Mr. Slocum [Slacum] came in a vessel from Oahoo, which he hired for the purpose. On arriving, he pretended that he was a private gentleman, and that he came to meet Messrs. Murray and companions who had left the states to visit the country. But this did not deceive me, as I perceived who he was and his object, and by his report of his mission published in the proceedings of the Congress of the United States, I found my surmises were correct. This year the people in the Wallamette formed a party and went by sea with Mr. Slacum to California for cattle, and returned in 1837 with 250 head. In 1836 the Rev. Mr. Leslie and family, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Perkins and another single [man], and a single woman, came by sea to reinforce the Methodist Mission. In 1837 a bachelor and five single women came by sea to reinforce the Methodist Mission, and three Presbyterian ministers came across land with their families, while their supplies came by sea. Two of these missionaries settled in the vicinity of Colville, the other in the Nes Perces Country. In 1838 two Roman Catholic Missionaries came from Canada. This year the Rev. Mr. Griffin of the Presbyterian Church, with his wife, came across land from the states by way of the Snake Country. There came with him also a layman of the name of Munger, and his wife. They came on what they called the self supporting system, that is, they expected the Indians would work to support them in return for their teachings, but their plan failed. Mr. Griffin is now settled in the Wallamette as a farmer, and Mr. Munger joined the Methodist Mission, where he became deranged, threw himself on a large fire, saying it would not hurt him, but was so seriously burned that in a few days he died. In 1839 a party left the State of Illinois, headed by Mr. Farnham, with the intention of exploring the country and reporting to their countrymen who had sent them. But four only reached this place. Three remained, but Mr. Farnham returned to the states by sea and published an account of his travels. Messrs. Geiger and Johnson came this year, sent as they said by people in the states to examine the country and report to them. Johnson left by sea and never returned. Geiger went as far as California and returned here by land. He is settled in the Wallamette. In 1840, the Rev. Mr. Clarke of the Presbyterian Church with his wife, and two laymen with their wives, came across land on the self supporting system, but, as their predecessors, they failed and are now settled in the Wallamette. In 1840 the Rev. Mr. Jason Lee, who had gone in 1838 across land to the United States, returned by sea in the Lausanne, Capt. Spalding, with a reinforcement of fifty-two persons, ministers and laymen, men, women and children, for the Methodist Mission, and a large supply of goods with which the Methodist Mission opened a sale shop. In 1841 the American exploring squadron, under Capt. Wilkes, surveyed the Columbia River from the entrance to the Cascades, and sent a party across land from Puget Sound to Colville and Walla Walla, and another from Vancouver to California. At same time the Thomas Perkins, Capt. Varney, of Boston, entered Columbia River for the purpose of trade. She was the second vessel that came for that object since the May Dacre in 1834. The first was the Maryland in 1840, Capt. Couch, of Boston, who came to endeavor to establish a salmon fishery, but did not succeed. The Thomas Perkins had a quantity of liquor, and as this was an article which, after a great deal of difficulty, we had been able to suppress in the trade, to prevent its being again introduced, I bought up Varney's goods and liquor, and it was still, spring 1846, in store at Vancouver. Spring 1842 the Americans invited the Canadians to unite with them and organize a temporary government, but the Canadians, apprehensive it might interfere with their allegiance, declined, and the project, which originated with the mission, failed. This spring the Chenamus, Capt. Couch, came from Boston. Capt. Couch opened a store at Oregon City and left a Mr. Wilson to do his business when he sailed in the fall for Boston. The ——, Capt. Chapman, of Boston, came also, who traded for a cargo of salmon, sailed in the fall, but never returned. In the spring the Rev. Father Desmit of the Society of Jesus came to Vancouver from the Flat Head Country where the year before he had established a mission from St. Louis. He came for supplies, which he purchased, and with which he returned to his mission. In August, the Rev. Messrs. Langlois and Bolduc [?] came by sea. The month of September 137 men, women and children arrived from the states. They came with their wagons to Fort Hall, and from thence packed their effects on horses and drove their cattle. They passed, without visiting Vancouver, from The Dalles to the Wallamette over the Cascades by the road which the Methodist Mission had opened to drive cattle from the Wallamette to that place. Dr. White who had formerly been a member of the Methodist Mission, but disagreeing with them had left them in 1840, came with these immigrants. He gave himself out, at a meeting which he called for the purpose, as being appointed Sub-Indian Agent by the American government for Oregon Territory. But of course the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company did not acknowledge his authority, and the immigrants brought the printed copy of a bill brought into the Senate of the United States by Dr. Linn, in which it was proposed to donate 640 acres of land to every white male inhabitant, the same to a male descendant of a white man, 320 to a wife, and 160 to a child under 18 years old. This year my difficulties began with the Methodist Mission, but as I have already given a full detail of it, I will not repeat it here. In 1843 the Americans again proposed to the Canadians to join and form a temporary government, but the Canadians declined for the same reason as before.

In the summer a number of the immigrants of last year, headed by Mr. Hastings, not being satisfied with the country, left for California. As they were destitute of means, I made them advances, which they were to pay to the late Mr. Rae, at San Francisco, but few did so. But in the fall, 875 men, women, and children came from the states by the same route as those of last year, and brought 1,300 head of cattle. These came to The Dalles, on the Columbia River, with their wagons, drove their cattle over the Cascades by the same route as those of last year to the Wallamette, and when the road was blocked up by snow, along the north bank of the Columbia to Vancouver, where they crossed the river and proceeded to the Wallamette, and brought down their wives and children and property on rafts, in canoes which they hired from the Indians, and in boats belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, lent them by me. Yet with the assistance I lent them, they still suffered a great deal of misery, and spent a great deal of time, and the last passed Vancouver only at Christmas, and if, as some years is the case, the Columbia had frozen on the beginning of December, these immigrants were so destitute of provisions, and so poorly clad, many of them would have perished.

The Rev. Father Deros, [Demers] of the Society of Jesus, came this year with two other fathers of the same society and three laymen and established a mission in Colville District. Lieut. Fremont, of the United States service, came with a party to examine the country. After purchasing supplies from the Hudson's Bay Company, he rejoined his party at The Dalles, and proceeded across land to California.

In 1844 the immigrants amounted to 1,475 men, women, and children. They came by the same route, and were assisted by me with the loan of boats, as their predecessors of last year.

The Americans applied this year again to the Canadians in the Wallamette (who were about settlers) to join them and form a temporary government, to which they acceded, as they saw from the influx of immigrants it was absolutely necessary to do so to maintain peace and order in the country. We had the pleasure to see her Majesty's ship, Modeste, Capt. Baillie. She anchored opposite Vancouver. The Belgian brig, Indefatigable, also anchored there. She was the only vessel that hitherto came under that flag, and brought the Rev. Father Desmit, with four fathers of the Society of Jesus, and five Belgian nuns of the Society of Sisters of our Lady. The fathers came to reinforce their mission in the interior in the Flat Head Country, and to establish others, and the nuns to build a convent and open a school for young females in the Wallamette. Spring, 1845, an American of the name of Williamson built a hut half a mile from Vancouver, on a piece of ground occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company. As soon as I was informed of it, I ordered the hut to be pulled down. A few days after, Williamson returned with a surveyor to survey the place, and finding his hut pulled down, and on inquiring, found it was pulled down by my orders, he called on me and asked the reason of my doing so. I told him it was because it was built on premises occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company, who were carrying on business in the country under a license from the British Government according to a treaty between the British and American Governments, which implies a right to occupy as much ground as they require for their business. But this was disputed, and he said he would persist and build. One of his companions went so far as to say if he was disturbed, he would burn the finest building in Oregon. Not wishing to enter into an altercation with this fellow, I told him in the presence of Chief Factor Douglas, and several of the Hudson's Bay Company's officers, and several Americans, and of Dr. White, who happened to be present at the time, that if he persisted in building, he would place me under the disagreeable necessity of using force to prevent him. He went away saying he would build. Although none of the Hudson's Bay Company's people, or any from the north side of the Columbia, had joined the organization, yet as Williamson was an American citizen, as a matter of courtesy to them, the accompanying letter of the 11th of March was addressed to the members of the Executive Committee of Oregon Organization with an address to the people, which on receipt was to be posted up for public perusal in Oregon City.

I also addressed them on the 12th, informing them that Williamson had desisted from his design of building on the premises in question.

In the summer a meeting of the people in the Wallamette was called in which the organization was new-modeled, and a clause put in by which it was provided that no man could be called to do any act contrary to his allegiance. It struck me this was done to enable us to join the organization and I mentioned this to my colleague Chief Factor Douglas, who thought, as I did, that in our present situation and the state of the country it would be advisable to do so, and I was not surprised to find a few days after on my visit to Oregon City that my surmises were correct, as the originator of the clause who was a member of the legislature then in session, called on me and proposed to me to enter the organization on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company. After conversing on the subject and being aware the organization could afford assistance to none but its own members, I told him I would proceed to Vancouver, consult with my colleague, Chief Factor Douglas, and the other officers of the Hudson's Bay Company at that place, which I did, and Chief Factor Douglas coincided with me in the expediency of our doing so. I returned to Oregon City and on the legislature writing me a letter inviting me to join the organization on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company, in a written reply I informed them I did so; and on my way back to Vancouver, I was informed of the arrival of Chief Factor Ogden with dispatches from Sir George Simpson, Governor in Chief of Rupert's Land, in which I was happy to see that my proceeding in the case of Williamson had been approved. I have stated that Chief Factor Douglas coincided in opinion with me that in our situation, and in the present state of the country, it was evident for us (since none of us could be called to do any act contrary to our allegiance), to join the organization, as it resolved itself by this clause merely into an association of the people of the country to maintain peace and order among themselves, and in the present state it was not only necessary, but absolutely our duty, as in 1843, seeing the large number of immigrants of that season, and seeing from the public papers it was expected the numbers would be greater next year, and as they came from that part of the United States most hostile in feeling to British interest which was greatly excited by the perusal of Irving's Astoria. Kelley and Spalding's letters, several copies of which were among them, in which our conduct and proceedings were represented in the blackest and falsest colors, had worked so much on the minds of these immigrants that I found out they supposed we would have set the Indians on them, and that they had frequently talked among themselves that they ought to take Vancouver. They now knew these reports were false, but as prejudice takes a strong hold of people's minds, and of which others might avail themselves to form a party to make an attack on the Hudson's Bay Company's property—of which it may be said they were encouraged by the public papers stating that British subjects ought not to be allowed to be in the country, by the expectation held out by Linn's bill that every male above eighteen years of age would have a donation 640 acres of land, a wife 320, and all under 18 would have 160 acres in any part of the country—I wrote, fall 1843, to the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company that it was necessary to get protection from the government for the security of the Hudson Bay Company's property, and to which in June 1845 I received their answer stating that in the present state of affairs the company could not obtain protection from the government, and that I must protect it the best way I could, and as I had sent an account of Williamson's attempt to build on the premises of the Hudson's Bay Company, and of my proceedings on the occasion to her Majesty's Consul, Gen. Millar, at Oahoo, calling on him for protection for the Hudson's Bay Company's property, and to which he did not even reply, though he could have done so by the vessel which conveyed my letter. Therefore,—[seeing our situation, and that an incendiary in the dry weather in the summer and fall might easily destroy Vancouver and fly to the Wallamette where we could not touch him. Indeed at that very time, there was a man at Vancouver on his way with Dr. White to the states whom we knew had repeatedly said among his countrymen that his only object for coming to this country was to try a change of air for the benefit of his health, and to burn Vancouver, and I heard afterwards on his way back he had expressed his great regret at not having perpetrated his atrocious intention, and wanted to return from Fort Hall to endeavor to carry it into effect, but his countrymen and Dr. White persuaded him to continue his journey to the states with them; and there are plenty such characters in the country. One Chapman got up at a Methodist Camp Meeting and confessed publicly that he had belonged to a celebrated band of robbers in the State of Arkansas headed by the notorious —— whom the United States Government had a great deal of trouble to catch and break up his band, and Chapman declared there were several of his former associates in this country, and if they reformed he would not expose them, but if they persisted in their former evil course, he certainly would. Even in 1844 a man agreed at this place to erect a building on the opposite side of the river. After it was erected, they differed about the payment. It was referred to arbitration, and the builder lost his case. A few days after, the building was burnt in the night, and though every person about the place is convinced who did it, yet there is no evidence to convict, and if there was, it would afford no indemnification to the owner of the property that was destroyed. I also had been informed that an American had proposed to form a party to take Vancouver by surprise. To deprive evil-doers of a place of refuge, as the organization could only assist its own members]—I considered it our duty to join the organization, as already mentioned. It may be said why not place sentries? It is because I know from experience that common men cannot be depended on for such a purpose beyond a few nights, and there were so few officers at the fort, to have employed them on that duty we must have put a stop to the business of the place which would derange the whole business of the department, and I therefore considered it best to act as I did. I was much surprised a few days after the arrival of Chief Factor Ogden, by the arrival of Lieut. Peel and Capt. Parks, who handed me a letter from Capt. Gorden of Her Majesty's Ship America, from Nisqually, and stating he was sent by Admiral Seymour, who wrote me to the same purport to assure her Majesty's subjects in the country of firm protection, and which was most unexpected after what the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company had written me. But more particularly from the silence of Her Majesty's Consul, Gen. Millar, at Oahoo, which led me to suppose at the time, though I was mistaken, that the British Government had cast us off and we must take care of ourselves the "best way we could." I do not mention this to find fault with others, but merely to state my feelings, and the responsibility I felt for the property under my charge. I was still more surprised on the return of Chief Factor Douglas from Nisqually, where he had been in company with Mr. Peel, to see Capt. Gorden, to receive a letter from Capt. Baillie of Her Majesty's Ship Modeste, informing me he was sent by Admiral Seymour to afford protection to her Majesty's subjects in the Columbia River if they required it. At first I thought we would not, as we had joined the organization, but on the suggestion of Chief Factor Douglas I thought it well to accept Capt. Baillie's important offer, and I am now happy I did so, as I am convinced it was owing to the Modeste being at Vancouver, and the gentlemen-like conduct of Capt. Baillie and his officers, and the good discipline and behavior of the crew, that the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company at Vancouver have had less trouble than they would have had, and which (though they have had a great deal more than I expected) certainly they have done nothing to incur, but the reverse. They have done everything they could to avoid it, but after all of which I am not surprised when I am certain there are many ill-disposed persons among these immigrants who think they are doing a meritorious act by giving trouble to British subjects.

The immigrants in 1845 amounted to 3,000 persons, men, women and children.