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Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 2/Reminiscences of Alanson Hinman

REMINISCENCES OF ALANSON HINMAN

By James R. Robertson.

The task of gathering the reminiscences of the early settlers of Oregon is one both of pleasure and of profit. It is a real delight to listen to the narration of experiences which can never be repeated in a section now so far advanced in social and industrial life. These narratives are a heritage of which we should take advantage. The preservation of them is the best service which the present generation can render to the future. Nothing can be of such value, as times goes on, as the record of those who have been actors in the development of our commonwealth.

In a series of conversations with Alanson Hinman, it has been a privilege to the writer to go over the early history of Oregon with one who was a part of it and to gain a more realizing sense of the life and romantic situations of early days. Although now seventy-nine years of age, Mr. Hinman is still vigorous and retains an accurate memory and a discriminating judgment of men and events. Because of his excellent judgment and keen insight, Mr. Hinman's recollections are of especial value to the student of history. He makes no statements without careful consideration.

Mr. Hinman was born in Columbia County, New York, May 1, 1822, and was one of a family of eleven children. After several changes within his native state and Pennsylvania in search of an opening for a young man, Mr. Hinman finally decided to go West, with no particular point in view, and the year 1844 found him at Booneville, Missouri. Here he fell in with Col. Nathan Ford, a local politician of some considerable reputation in that locality, and a man who was very much interested in Oregon. Colonel Ford was just about to start for Oregon with a few others, and as a young man was considered a valuable addition to the party, Mr. Hinman was invited to join and decided to do so.

The immigration of 1844 followed, in the main, the trail which has been described in a former number of the Quarterly. It consisted of several parties which traveled separately on account of the greater convenience in pasturing the stock in small groups rather than large. The first part of the journey was made with difficulty on account of the rains and the soft prairie soil, but after the Platte River was reached the trail was comparatively easy. To the present generation this journey seems unprecedented in the history of emigration, but the old pioneers speak of it in a matter of fact way. Mr. Hinman regards it as a remarkably easy undertaking on the whole, with nothing that could be called hardship, except the tediousness of the journey that arose from the time consumed. The Ford party had no encounter with hostile Indians, and only one horse was stolen on the whole journey. No one in the party considered himself a hero, or realized that he was to become a part of a movement which would determine the future of the Northwest. The immigrants knew considerable about the country, principally from the letters which Peter Burnett had written to the local papers of Missouri. They knew also of the discussion in congress, and they confidently expected the passage of the bill then before congress granting to each settler six hundred and forty acres of land. No one in the party seems to have doubted that the United States possessed a good title to the country to which they were going and had a right to grant them land on which they could establish homes for themselves and their families.

When the party reached the present site of Baker City, Mr. Hinman left his companions, and under the guidance of Black Harris, the guide who had conducted Doctor Whitman across the Rocky Mountains, went to the mission station at Waiilatpu for supplies. During the week spent there, not only were the supplies secured, but the beginning was made of an acquaintance with Dr. Marcus Whitman, of whom Mr. Hinman speaks with great respect and affection. He recalls distinctly the meeting and describes Mr. Whitman as tall, with high cheek bones and prominent eyebrows, beneath which were grave and kindly eyes of gray. Mr. Hinman was invited to remain during the winter and conduct the school which had been started for the white children of the mission. He decided to do so, and thus became a resident of the mission at a time when its connection with the history of the country was important. He was in close relations with the family, taking his meals with them and acting as commissary for the mission in supplying provisions to immigrants who were passing. For this reason the recollections of Mr. Hinman are of great value in throwing light upon questions pertaining to this critical period in our local history.

It has always been known that under the direction of Mr. Whitman the mission was a great assistance to the immigrants in the matter of furnishing supplies, and that great suffering would have been incurred in many cases if it had not been for the existence and policy of the mission. No one, however, but an eyewitness could adequately impress upon us the sacrifice with which this was often accompanied. Mr. Hinman recollects that during the winter of 1844 the family at the mission had nothing in the way of meats for their own use but the necks of the beef, which were made eatable by boiling, while the better part were distributed among the immigrants. Mrs. Whitman was not always so long-suffering as her husband, and would sometimes protest that it was not fair that the immigrants should get all of the best parts while only the leavings were available for the family. To these protests Mr. Whitman would reply, in a jesting tone, that he could stand the scolding of his wife far better than he could stand the complaints of the immigrants, and so it went on through the winter. Mr. Hinman, also as commissary, would sometimes protest against giving supplies to immigrants whom he knew could pay, but who misrepresented their condition. His orders, however, were always to take the people at their word, and if they said they had no money to take their notes. Supplies were never refused, and if they could not be paid for they were practically given. While the action of Doctor McLoughlin in assisting immigrants has been prominently dwelt upon, the action of the missionary should be placed beside it, and according to the opinion of Mr. Hinman, the sacrifice was greater in the latter case than in the former. Both suffered from the ingratitude of some of the immigrants, for many of the promises to pay for the supplies were never redeemed, and in many cases even the feeling of gratitude was lacking. Not only were provisions supplied, but a mill was erected about twenty miles from the mission for the purpose of giving employment to the immigrants while they tarried. Located as it was, the mission could not be anything but of great assistance to immigration, and Mr. Whitman as its directing genius could be nothing but the friend of the immigrant.

Of Mr. Whitman himself, only the pleasantest recollections remain with Mr. Hinman. He is not inclined to make a hero out of him, but speaks of him as "brave and discreet, full of energy, and living only for others." Reserved and careful in his speech he never spoke of others unless he had something good to say. However much he worried in regard to the coming of the Catholic missionaries, and the difficulties incident to the harmonious working of the two systems in a new country, he did not say unkind things, and with some of these missionaries he was on friendly terms. During the winter of 1844 there was nothing to indicate strained relations, although there was a growing anxiety upon the face of the Protestant missionary.

Not only was there no trouble between the Protestants and the Catholics, but the relation between the Indians and the whites was friendly. The Indians often came to the mission and seemed to be very fond both of Mr. and Mrs. Whitman. The mission was prospering, the religious exercises on Sunday were well attended, and Mr. Whitman was welcomed in the homes of the Indians during his visits through the week. Many of the Indians were engaged in agricultural pursuits and stock raising, and were quite prosperous. The principal anxiety that existed arose from the killing of the Indian Elijah on his return from California with cattle. He was a prominent Indian, and, in accordance with the custom, it was expected that some leader among the whites would be selected by the Indians for death in atonement. The two men who were most in danger of being selected were Mr. McKinley, the agent of the fur company, and Mr. Whitman of the mission. An Indian council, however, was held, at which Mr. Hinman was present, and the question was carefully and lengthily discussed, with the result that the Indians decided not to take any of the white men in revenge for the death of Elijah. Thus everything seemed once more harmonious and the mission and its leader out of danger. There were, to be sure, bad Indians, and they were the occasion of considerable anxiety at times. On one occasion Mr. Hinman recollects being called from his duties in the schoolroom by the arrival of some Indians, who were taken into the Indian room for a conference of some kind. Mr. Whitman at this time seemed to be considerably worried, and asked Mr. Hinman to watch, unobserved, a certain Indian, called the murderer, who was described to him. Mr. Hinman knew nothing of the cause of the conference, but remembers the occasion as indicating some difficulty between the Indians and the whites. If the trouble was growing, which ended in the massacre of 1847, it had not become openly manifest in 1844–45.

The winter of 1844–45 was the second winter since the return of Mr. Whitman from his journey to the East, and Mr. Hinman's recollections and opinions in regard to that event are important to the student of history, in view of the discussion that centers about it. He remembers that Mr. Whitman often spoke of it in the family, but never in a boastful way nor with claims to extraordinary service. He was particularly fond of speaking of the surprise which he created among the people of the East in his frontier costume of skins and fur. In regard to the visit to Washington Mr. Hinman is decided, because he recollects that Mr. Whitman told him that he made it. He did not, however, hear, while he was with the family, anything of the conversations which Mr. Whitman is quoted to have held with the government officials at Washington. Mr. Hinman is clear that the visit to Washington was made before he went to Boston on missionary business. Mr. Hinman believes that the interests which Mr. Whitman had in Washington were the ones which took him East at that time of the year. He does not believe that any question regarding the mission would have made it necessary to start until the spring. Mr. Hinman has no recollection of hearing about any trouble of a serious character connected with the mission. Nothing was said about it during the winter that he lived with the family.

During the course of these conversations the paper which was read by Professor Bourne before the American Historical Society was placed in the hands of Mr. Hinman for examination and comment. He read it carefully, and does not think it correct. Of the journey to Washington, for which Professor Bourne does not find sufficient evidence, Mr. Hinman is sure, unless he was told a direct falsehood, which is improbable. Concerning the results of the visit to Washington, Mr. Hinman is conservative. He says we do not yet know how much Mr. Whitman succeeded in accomplishing, but he feels certain that he had primarily in view the settlement of the country when he went East, and that his visit to Washington had something to do with that. Mr. Hinman does not indorse the opinion set forth in the paper of Professor Bourne in regard to the character of Mr. Spaulding. He is spoken of by Mr. Hinman as a man impulsive in nature, deeply prejudiced, excitable, and not possessed of the best judgment, but not purposely dishonest or false. In regard to the lack of contemporary evidence concerning the purposes of the journey East, Mr. Hinman criticises the article of Professor Bourne as lacking in a clear understanding of the local conditions. Mr. Hinman calls attention to the fact that if Mr. Whitman had the purpose of encouraging settlement when he made his journey East, he would have taken every precaution to conceal that purpose, even from those with whom he was most intimate, in order to prevent a knowledge of his purpose from becoming known to the fur company and to the Catholics. If he was interested in furthering the settlement of the country, caution, and even secrecy, was an absolute necessity, and Mr. Hinman characterizes Mr. Whitman as a cautious man.

After the winter of 1844, which had been spent with pleasure and profit at the mission at Waiilatpu, Mr. Hinman accepted the offer of a similar position in the Oregon Institute, which was located on the present site of Salem. This institution was not distinctively a mission school, but had a board of trustees of its own. The Methodist mission had by this time been discontinued in the Willamette Valley, although many who had been connected with it were living in the region on claims of land. Although Mr. Hinman did not have an opportunity to become acquainted with the early history of the mission, yet he was acquainted with many who had figured prominently in it, and he speaks of them with great respect. The settlement on the French Prairie was not far below on the river, but of it Mr. Hinman has no recollections of importance. Farther down the river, at Oregon City, was the seat of the Provisional Government, which had been created just two years before. Mr. Hinman gives us an impression of the peaceful conditions of those times. There were few disputes, and most of these were settled without recourse to a trial. There was little fear of Indian outbreaks at that time, and as little feeling of hostility between the Americans and the English,—among the people as a whole. The claim of land taken up by Doctor McLoughlin at Oregon City was the only thing that gave rise to any strong feeling, and upon this question the people were divided. In fact, things were so peaceful that Mr. Hinman, in reply to a question in regard to the civil government, said, with a twinkle of the eye, "People were so civil in those times that they did not need a government." What need for a government there was was well supplied by the one formed by the settlers. Of political differences there was little, for almost every man was a Democrat. With the coming, however, of Mr. Dryer and the establishment of The Oregonian, the Whig party began to create an opposition. According to the opinion of Mr. Hinman, it was the influence of political aspirants as much, if not more, than the real needs of the community that led to the clamor for territorial government. So far as the government itself was concerned, it was little more than the change from Governor Abernethy to Governor Lane.

In the year 1847, Mr. Hinman was at The Dalles, which was the last of the Methodist mission stations, and had been purchased by the American board to be used as a basis of supplies. Previous to this, it had been necessary to bring all supplies from the fort at Vancouver. Mr. Hinman had been chosen to act as secular agent for the mission at The Dalles, and with his family, and Perrine Whitman, a nephew of Dr. Marcus Whitman, was living here at the time of the famous massacre. His experiences during this period are as interesting and thrilling as a romance, and add a valuable chapter to the history of that event. It is the firm conviction of Mr. Hinman that the massacre at Waiilatpu was bat one part of a more general massacre which was to include the mission of Mr. Spaulding, the mill, and the agency at The Dalles. All of the white people (Bostons) in the region were to be killed. This belief is founded upon incidents to be related, and upon a letter which was read in his presence in the office of the chief factor of the fur company at Vancouver.

About four or five days after the massacre of Mr. Whitman and his associates, an Indian came to Mr. Hinman, as he was" engaged with his usual duties, and told him that there was a Canadian below who had been trying to get a boat from the Indians to go down the river. This Indian had not been sent to Mr. Hinman but had come of his own accord. Mr. Hinman immediately went down to the river, and when the Canadian saw him he said that he had been unsuccessful in his attempt to get a canoe from the Indians, and asked Mr. Hinman to get the boat for him. He said that he had been instructed by the company's agent at Fort Walla Walla to call upon Mr. Hinman for a boat if he was unsuccessful in getting one alone. This attempt to get a boat without the help of any one has to Mr. Hinman a significance which becomes apparent later. The messenger had evidently come thus far on horseback. Mr. Hinman had no trouble in getting a boat and some Indians to paddle. As the station was in need of medicine for the neighboring Indians, Mr. Hinman proposed to accompany the Canadian to the fort at Vancouver. An attempt to get medicine at the mission at Waiilatpu had been made a short time before, and two Indians had started up the river, but the sickness of one had necessitated a return. Mr. Hinman was, therefore, desirous of going down the river to obtain the medicine, and took advantage of this opportunity.

The Indian chief was requested to get the canoe ready, and Mr. Hinman and the Canadian went to the station to get dinner. Mr. Hinman recollects that the Canadian ate little, seemed nervous, and looked occasionally in the direction of the fort at Walla Walla. Mr. Hinman did not think seriously of it, however, and the meal was finished. Everything was ready for the journey after dinner and the two set out. It was soon apparent that the Canadian was for some reason in a great hurry and continually urged the Indians to hasten, and when night came he was desirous of continuing the journey into the night. The Indians objected, however, as they were becoming tired, and finally an appeal was made to Mr. Hinman, who counseled to let the Indians have their way as they needed the rest. They landed, therefore, and pitched camp for the night. As soon as it was light, however, Mr. Hinman heard his companion up and stirring around in the preparation of breakfast. Again the purpose to hasten was apparent, but aroused no special alarm as the reason was not yet known. The journey was continued and the cascades reached; the portage was made, but no further progress could be made on account of a storm of rain and wind which came up and made the river very rough. They were obliged to pitch camp. It was at this time and under these circumstances that the Canadian volunteered to tell the cause of his haste. He told Mr. Hinman that a massacre had occurred at Waiilatpu, and that Mr. Whitman and his associates were dead. He gave a graphic description of the scene. He said that he had been out looking for horses, and when standing upon a hill had seen below him a crowd of Indians. Desirous of learning the cause of their assembling, he had gone down and among them before he became aware of the massacre. No attempt was made to do violence to him as he was known to be an employee of the company. He stated that he had been sent by the agent of the company with a dispatch to the fort at Vancouver to acquaint the officials of the massacre. The cause of the haste was now apparent, and the indignation of Mr. Hinman was aroused. He demanded to know why he had not been informed of this before, as he would not have left his station at The Dalles if he had known it. The Canadian replied that he had been instructed by the agent of the company at Walla Walla, Mr. McBean, not to tell. The significance to Mr. Hinman of this order not to tell becomes apparent when the contents of the dispatch were learned later. The situation was a difficult one for Mr. Hinman. His natural impulse was to return, but the portage had been made, and a return would deprive the messenger of the boat and delay a dispatch which should go on its way as quickly as possible. It was determined, therefore, to continue the journey, but with considerable misgivings on the part of Mr. Hinman.

After about two days and a half from the start the fort at Vancouver was reached in the afternoon. Mr. Hinman and the Canadian landed and went directly to the house of Mr. Ogden. He inquired for news from up the river, and was informed of what had happened so far as Mr. Hinman had learned it from the messenger. Taking in his hand the dispatch, he told Mr. Hinman to accompany him to the office. Here they found Mr. Douglas, the chief factor of the company and successor to Doctor McLoughlin. Mr. Hinman was on excellent terms with both of these men, and regarded them highly both as business men and gentlemen. The seal was then broken and the dispatch read. In the condition of mind in which Mr. Hinman was, every word made an impression on his mind. After an account of the massacre of Mr. Whitman and his associates, the dispatch went on to state that three bands of Indians had started, painted and armed, for the mission of Mr. Spaulding, the mill, and the station at The Dalles, with the purpose of killing the Bostons at these places. When this was read, Mr. Douglas stopped, and, looking intently at Mr. Hinman, exclaimed that he should have remained at The Dalles; that he should have been informed by all means by the agent at Walla Walla of the massacre. As the dispatch was read through, the anxiety of Mr. Hinman increased to almost a certainty that when he returned he would find his family and associates dead. At the suggestion of Mr. Hinman that the letter be sent to the Governor of the Provisional Government at Oregon City, a copy was made and dispatched at once. As Mr. Hinman was a friend of Governor Abernethy, he wrote him a letter on his own account, containing the news to which he had listened a short time before in the office of the fur company, and, in particular, mentioning the three parties which the dispatch had indicated as headed for three points, including The Dalles. Both of these letters were presented at the same time to the provisional legislature, which was then in session. They were also published in the Oregon Spectator of the time, and the attention of Mr. Hinman was called to the fact that his own letter contained an account of the three parties sent out to kill the whites, while the letter of Mr. Douglas made no mention of it. It is the opinion of Mr. Hinman that the clause was purposely left out in order to shield the agent of the company at Fort Walla Walla. Whether he was criminally implicated in the plot or not, the circumstantial evidence would have been damaging, and the officers of the company saw it. The circumstances would show, when put together, that Mr. McBean, the agent of the company at Fort Walla Walla, had sent a dispatch to Fort Vancouver, containing information that a party of armed Indians were headed for The Dalles, with the purpose of killing the inmates of the mission station; that he had instructed the messenger bearing that dispatch to ask for a boat only after he had failed to get one himself; that the messenger had used every effort to get one without succeeding; that Mr. Hinman had learned of his wishes incidentally through an Indian who had not been sent to ask for the boat; and that Mr. Hinman had been told that the agent at Fort Walla Walla had instructed the messenger not to tell Mr. Hinman about the massacre. Mr. Douglas saw at once that warning should have been given at The Dalles, and that the failure to do so, together with the accompanying circumstances, was an embarassing position for the agent at Fort Walla Walla. Mr. Hinman has never been able to get a satisfactory explanation of the action of Mr. McBean, although he requested his friend, Mr. Ogden, to seek for it when he went up the river a little later to capture the murderers. Mr. Hinman has remarked, during the course of these conversations, that if Archibald McKinley, or a man like him, had been in charge of the fort at Walla Walla, the massacre would never had happened.

Mr. Hinman started upon the return trip as soon as possible. The journey was necessarily slow, and to add to the delay, one of the Indians had died. In about three and a half days, however, the return was made; when about fifteen miles from The Dalles the home of his Indian boatman was reached, and it was learned that the mission was safe. Reaching The Dalles, Mr. Hinman went as quickly as possible to the house. He hastily greeted his wife and called Perrine Whitman to the upper chamber to tell him privately what he had learned upon his journey down the river. Scarcely had they reached the room when Perrine Whitman told him in rather a careless way it was rumored that there was a band of "Indians in the neighborhood, and that they had come to kill the Bostons. No sooner had this been said than, looking from the window, they saw five powerful Cayuse bucks coming toward the mission. Mr. Hinman naturally supposed that they were the Indians mentioned in the dispatch which he had heard read in the office of the fur company at Vancouver, and that there were more of them. Calling upon Perrine Whitman to barricade the doors and windows, he went out through the Indian room in the rear of the house and started to run towards the camp of the Wascoes for assistance. He had run but a hundred feet when one of the Indians appeared round the house. He disappeared again, and Mr. Hinman, supposing that he had gone to get his pony to ride him down, made an attempt to get to a place on a bank of the river where it would be so rocky that the Indians would be unable to follow on their ponies. The Indians did not pursue him, however, and he reached the Wascoes in safety. They were told of the need of assistance, but refused to have anything to do with the matter, evidently fearing that they would get into trouble with the more powerful Indians of the upper river country by helping the whites. They even refused to give a rifle to Mr. Hinman when he tried to get possession of one to use on his way back. Unsuccessful in the attempt to get assistance from the Indians, Mr. Hinman started back towards the mission. As he ascended the hill leading from the river two Indians, mounted on ponies and armed with guns, came riding towards him. They looked sulky and Mr. Hinman supposed that his time had come. He had no weapon of defense, but determined to make an effort to save his life by strategy. The revolver had but recently been invented, and the Indians were deathly afraid of the "pepper boxes," as they called them. As Mr. Hinman approached the Indians to offer them a greeting he put his right hand into his breast pocket as though holding a revolver. He offered them his left hand, but they were sullen and only grunted a half greeting. They complained of the manner in which they had been received upon their first visit; they complained that they had found barricaded doors instead of an open welcome. Mr. Hinman at length turned to go and they also wheeled their ponies around and accompanied him, one on either side. As the heads of the ponies were alongside of Mr. Hinman, the bodies of the Indians were just a little behind. Mr. Hinman recollects that walk from the river to the mission as the most uncomfortable one of his life. His hand was kept in his breast pocket all of the time, and he turned his head now to one side and now to the other, keeping a watch upon the Indians, who rode along silent and sullen, well armed with guns.

When they reached the building the Indians began to bluster and again complained of the treatment which they had received. It was Mr. Hinman's plan to enter the house as he had left, through the Indian room. Unlocking the door he stepped in and was followed by the five Indians. The windows were all closed with wooden shutters and the room was dark. It was not a pleasant experience to be in a dark room with five Indians suspected of evil intent. The Indians, when they entered, had closed the door, and one of them had placed himself against it to keep it shut. Mr. Hinman requested him to step aside in order that the door might be opened, but he made no sign of moving. Mr. Hinman taking hold of him pulled him away, but without a word the Indian shut the door again and took his place against it. Fearing that a second attempt to open the door might precipitate trouble, Mr. Hinman went to one of the windows, and pulling back the shutters, thus let in a little light.

Then began a conversation in which, Indian fashion, only one of the five took part while the others remained silent and sullen. The Indians were asked to tell what they wanted, and in reply said that they wanted to see Perrine Whitman. Mr. Hinman went to the door and called to Mr. Whitman to come. He hesitated, thinking that it would mean death, but was told that it would be better to come and see what was wanted, as the Indians could kill them all any way if they intended to do so. As Perrine Whitman entered the room one of the Indians raised a large rawhide whip which he carried and made a motion as though to strike. Mr. Whitman dodged as though he expected the blow to come, and the Indian asked what he was afraid of. In case of danger there would have been little chance for escape, as the guns of the mission were not in good repair, although there was ammunition in the station. Mr. Whitman did the talking in the conversation which followed, as he had an unusual facility in the use of the native languages, and could speak Cayuse almost as well as the Indians themselves. Mr. Hinman dictated most of the subject-matter of the conversation. The Indians were asked what they wanted, and replied that they wanted powder and balls. They were told that there was no powder or balls to spare, but as this was their first visit to the mission they should have, as a present, a shirt apiece. This did not satisfy them, and they renewed their request for powder and balls. The parley was kept up for some time, and finally Mr. Hinman determined that the best thing to do to stop it was to tell them what was known about the massacre. Mr. Whitman thought it was not wise to do so, but finally agreed to do it. They were then told that they could not have the powder and the balls; that the massacre of the missionaries up the river was well known by people at The Dalles, and that they intended to keep the powder and balls for their own use. The Indians at once protested that it could not be so; that they had just come from up the river, and that everything was all right. They were told, however, that they were not telling the truth, and the incident of the messenger to the fort at Vancouver was related to them. When they heard this they immediately stopped their demands. If they had come in the first place with the purpose of murder, as Mr. Hinman firmly believes, they now realized that their plan was detected and that the missionaries were on their guard. The parley continued, however, but the Indians seemed willing to accept something else. They held out for a long time for blankets, but finally said they would accept the shirts and went away, much to the relief of the party at The Dalles. On their departure they drove off with them a band of about thirty horses which had been left there, some of which belonged to the immigrants.

It is the firm belief of Mr. Hinman that a massacre would have occurred at The Dalles had it not been for the fact that he had happened to learn, in that peculiar way on the journey to Fort Vancouver, of the massacre of Mr. Whitman and his associates.

They had escaped from massacre, and the next thing to do was to get away. That was no easy matter for the Indians in the neighborhood wanted them to stay, and refused to render any aid in departing. For several days, and even far into the night, the matter was discussed in one of those prolonged conferences which the Indians seemed to like so much. The Indians were always giving plausible excuses. The chief, whenever he made a speech, mounted a chair and did a great deal of talking. Their principal reason for refusing to give assistance to the missionary party in getting away was the fear that they would be held responsible for aiding the whites by the Indians up the river, of whom they seemed to stand in considerable fear. Furthermore, they seemed to be fond of the whites and really wished them to remain. When at length the delay was intolerable, Mr. Hinman brought the matter to a close by telling them that the whites would agree to remain, but that they would be held responsible to Governor Abernethy for their lives if any harm befell them. Hardly had these words been spoken when the old chief jumped down from his chair saying that they might go. From that time on the Indians did all they could to assist the departure. A large canoe was secured, and the Indians took the party down the river. On the way they met a party going up at the request of the Provisional Government, for the purpose of giving protection to the mission. With them Mr. Hinman went back, but as there was no need of their services at the mission, they continued up the river, and Mr. Hinman rejoined his family on their way down the river.

From The Dalles Mr. Hinman came to the Willamette Valley, and he has made this his home ever since. The greater part of the time he has lived on his farm on the edge of Forest Grove, but has also been engaged in merchantile pursuits. Twice during the gold fever he went to California, overland. The journey was one of considerable danger on account of the hostility of the Rogue River Indians. Mr. Hinman, in order to avoid trouble, traveled during the night and camped during the day. Several times the Indians were seen at a distance, but were successfully avoided. The conditions in early days in California are well remembered by Mr. Hinman, and had it not been for sickness, which caused his return on both occasions, he would have remained longer.

The life of a merchant in the early times is well illustrated by the experiences of Mr. Hinman. It was a matter of considerable difficulty to get a stock of goods in those days, and was sometimes accompanied with interesting experiences. San Francisco became a basis of supplies; merchants often went there for their supplies. On one occasion, when returning with a cargo of goods, Mr. Hinman experienced a shipwreck. The ship had proceeded on its way from San Francisco as far as Cape Mendocino, when it struck a rock. Proceeding on its course for about an hour, it was finally beached just outside of Blunts Reef, and turned broadside to the sea. The sky was cloudy, and a strong breeze was blowing. Boats were lowered, and women and children sent in them to the shore. Some of the boats were lost, but not before a cable had been extended from the ship to the shore. The men were urged to save themselves, if possible. There were plenty of life-preservers on board and every one had one. Mr. Hinman recollects the situation as the ship was breaking up. He decided to make a trial to reach the shore, and let himself down into the sea. Just before he dropped into the water his hat fell off, and he remembers thinking to himself, "good-bye, old hat, I will soon follow you." After the first fall he rose to the surface and began to swim. A heavy sea carried him a little distance, and he rose again no worse for wear. The cable was heavy with the water and was so much submerged that to hold on would have meant death. He had, therefore, let go, trusting to the sea to carry him to land in time. As every wave took him a little nearer to land, he realized that his chances for life were good and courage rose. There was not any great discomfort in the conditions, except fear of floating debris. He watched for the big waves and was carried by each one a little nearer the shore. He knew that the shore was getting nearer, because things looked darker and darker every time he came to the surface. At length a big wave took him on its crest and when it receded, he could feel the sand beneath him, and strong arms were put around him, and a voice was heard saying, "Well, old fellow, you are safe." In this shipwreck, about a third of the passengers and crew were lost.

Mr. Hinman has had some connection with the political history of the state, having served in the state legislature in 1866. He took an active part in the senatorial contest between Governor Gibbs and John H. Mitchell, favoring the nomination of Gibbs; but when it was apparent that he could not be elected, giving his support to Mr. H. W. Corbett. Mr. Hinman gives a vivid impression of the disappointment of Governor Gibbs, who broke down and cried like a child. From 1867 to 1873, Mr. Hinman was collector of customs at Astoria, and since that time has resided upon his farm on the edge of Forest Grove. He has always taken an active part in local affairs, giving much time and attention to the public interests; he has been mayor of the City of Forest Grove twice; he has also been interested in educational matters, and has been a trustee of Pacific University during its whole history.

 

 

I have read the above and deem it to be correct.

A. Hinman.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1932, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.