Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 1/Issue number 1 notes


[These notes were intended to be material for the closing pages of the Quarterly, but were misplaced by the printer in the make-up.]

By the death of Elliott Coues last Christmas the history of exploration of the region west of the Mississippi lost a most active and wonderfully proficient worker. After nearly a lifetime spent in prodigious activity in scientific lines he turned his energies to collecting, annotating and editing the original records of explorers and traders of the northwest and southwest. When Doctor Coues first took up the work of editing the narratives of explorers he had attained great eminence as a writer in ornithology. His reputation for thorough scholarship in the whole field of biology was such that he was assigned the subjects of general zoology, comparative anatomy and biology in the preparation of the Century Dictionary. "His scientific writings number about one thousand titles."

He had spent some sixteen years either as a surgeon at different army posts in the west, as far apart as Arizona and North Dakota, or as naturalist connected with different surveys. Thus he brought a unique preparation to the crowning work of his life in history. His'annotations, elucidating points of geography, zoology, and ethnology, are copious and minute to a degree that quite bewilders the average reader. The first fruits of his labors in the field of history were the four volumes of his edition of Lewis and Clark in 1893, Zebulon Pike's Expeditions followed in 1895; Henry and Thompson's Journals in 1897; and Fowler's Journal and Larpenteur's Narratives—distinct works—have appeared since. He was engaged on the Diary of Francisco Garces, when he broke down last September, in Santa Fe, at the age of fifty-seven. The issue of the New York Times of March 3, speaks of the recent great increase in value of all these works. The first two are particularly scarce, and have commanded treble their original value. Through Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor it is learned that he had expressed a warm interest in the work of the Oregon Historical Society. He would have been pleased with an honorary membership in the Society. To acknowledge in some fitting way the great service he has done the history of the Northwest would do the Society graceful credit.

A two-volume life of Gen. Isaac Ingalls Stevens by his son, Gen. Hazard Stevens, is announced to appear in May. The history of the Pacific Northwest during the eight eventful years from 1853 to 1861, cannot be understood without a knowledge of the striking personality of General Stevens. As Governor of Washington Territory, in command of the exploration and survey of the northern route for the Pacific Railroad, in authority during the terrible Yakima war, 1855-56, and as author and executor of the summary proceedings for the settlement of the difficulties arising out of that war, Governor Stevens had a most conspicuous part in making that history. Gen. Hazard Stevens has been at work on this life since 1877, and during the last two years has given almost his whole time to it. He says that he found his father's reports in the Indian Department, and others in Washington very full and complete, especially those relating to his Indian councils and treaties. "The proceedings at the Walla Walla council," he remarks, "are especially interesting, particularly the speeches of the Indian chiefs.' He believes that the life will have especial historical value in setting the origin of the Indian war of 1855-56, the policy pursued towards the Indians, and the prosecution of the Indian war in a correct light. General Stevens recognizes that the Oregon Historical Society is the rightful heir to the rich collection of historical material from which this part of this work was written.

The Oregon Historical Society, as a perusal of the reports of its activities during the first year of its existence reveals, has entered upon its work under most favorable auspices. The legislature appreciated the importance of the functions undertaken, and the expense attending a successful fulfillment of them. The membership roll indicates a hearty and strong response to the idea that Oregon shall be true to her makers. The Society had at the date of the first annual report of the Secretary seventy-six life members and two hundred and ninetyfour annual members.

The primal mission of the Society is to bring together in the most complete measure possible the data for the history of the commonwealth, and to stimulate the widest and highest use of them. Every member should avail himself of his first opportunity to visit the rooms of the Society in the City Hall at Portland. The Directors believe that he will be assured that there has been commendable zeal in the prosecution of the Society's work. They are concerned, however, that every member shall realize that the trust devolving upon the Society is such that it cannot be adequately or gloriously fulfilled unless each is alert in discovering material, and concerned that it shall reach the collections of the Society. In this line of our commonwealth's interests everything as to serviceability and value depends upon the concentration of the material.