Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 5/The Mercer Immigration




Volume V]
[Number 1
MARCH, 1904


By Clarence B. Bagley.

The early migrations to Oregon were nearly all of the farming class and composed of families. The "Donation Act" became a law September 27, 1850, and it proved to be a dominant factor in the early development of the Willamette Valley. Beginning with 1843, thousands of emigrants from the States in the Mississippi Valley, but mostly from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Arkansas, sold out their small holdings, put their wives and children into wagons and started for Oregon. For this reason the great disparity in the numbers of men and women did not exist there comparable to Washington and California.

California was admitted as a State in 1850, and almost the entire population was males, attracted there from all over the world by the discoveries of gold. Washington gained slowly in population during the quarter century following its separation from Oregon. Until about 1860 nearly all the increase was on Puget Sound or west of the Cascade Mountains. Most of it was composed of loggers, millmen, sailors, etc., who were unmarried. The ratio of males to females was not less than nine to one.

The "Donation Act" at first gave 320 acres to each unmarried man, and 640 acres to husband and wife; later this was reduced one-half, and still later again one-half. In the division of the claim the wife had the choice.

As may be supposed there were few single women of marriageable age. During the great Civil War it became a saying that the cradle and the grave were robbed to supply soldiers, and certainly the nursery was robbed for wives during the period the "Donation Act" was in force. Marriages of girls under fifteen years of age were common. I witnessed one near Salem where the bride was only thirteen years old and the groom more than three times that age. These early marriages were almost all contracted that the brides might get their "claims."

On Puget Sound the scarcity of women was a serious matter. It affected the social, industrial and moral condition of the several communities. It was a subject of frequent discussion and a matter of earnest regret.

Charles Prosch, then editor of the Puget Sound Herald, published at Steilacoom, and now enjoying a hearty and respected old age in Seattle, appears to have been the first to take up the subject for serious discussion. As early as October 22, 1858, an editorial headed "A Good Wife" appeared, and, after paying her a glowing tribute by way of preparing his bachelor friends for what was to follow, he said:

"Complaint has been made by several esteemed unmarried friends of the great dearth of marriageable females in our vicinity, and very truly. Many who are now wretched for want of comfortable homes, with 'heaven's last best gift' presiding therein, would lose no time in allying themselves with the fair daughters of Eve if they would but deign to favor us with their presence. There is probably no community in the Union of a like number of inhabitants, in which so large a proportion are bachelors. We have no spinsters.

The young men here seeking life partners are every way fitted to assume the incidental responsibilities. They already, in many instances, have comfortable homes, which only lack the presence of females to render them in the highest degree attractive. There are probably not less than fifty bachelors in and near Steilacoom, nearly all of whom are eager to put their necks in the matrimonial noose. With few or no exceptions they are abundantly able to provide comfortable homes, and even to surround themselves with the luxuries of life. For good moral character they rank high; indeed, we may safely challenge any community of equal numbers in the world to produce the same proportion of young men so little tainted with vicious habits. It is in a great measure owing to their freedom from vice that they have now sueh ample means. We can and do conscientiously commend them to the notice and favor of the fair sex abroad. They would be considered very desirable matches in large cities."

Again, August 26, 1859, with "Scarcity of White Women" for a topic, he gave an admirable essay that now, nearly a half century later, seems to me remarkable as a proof of the keen insight into existing conditions and prescience of those to follow evinced by its writer. With a few unimportant omissions it was as follows:

"'The white folks in Oregon, having no white women to choose from, are marrying Indian squaws.'

The above is from a paper called the True Democrat, published at Little Rock, Arkansas. How true it is of Oregon, we cannot say; but we have frequently been assured that the reverse was the case there, and that marriageable white women were plentiful. Unfortunately, it is too true of this beautiful territory, and is one of the causes—the principal cause, we might say—that operates to check its growth and development. The proportion of white men to white women here is about twenty to one. This vast disproportion of the sexes injuriously affects this country in various ways. The men are unsettled in their plans and discontented with their lot, though prospering by their industry. They feel that, without wives, they are without homes, and hence do not manifest that interest in the country which they would were the ties strengthened by the presence in their dwellings of cheerful helpmeets, to soothe their cares and stimulate their energies. With all the comforts of life about them, or within reach, and an independence from toil in early prospect, they yet feel that life has no charms for them, and are, therefore, reckless of whatever may befall them. This is a state of things not calculated to promote the interest of any country, if long continued, and here especially it is to be deeply deplored.

The intermarriage of whites with Indians is fraught with many and serious evils. It has been asserted that it elevates the Indian at the expense of the white race. While we question the fact of its morally elevating the Indian race, we are fully sensible of its demoralizing influence upon the white. The effect of this species of amalgamation, as seen here, and we believe, everywhere else, has been an almost instantaneous degeneration of the white, with no visible improvement of the Indian; while the offspring are found to possess not only all the vices inherent in the Indian, but unite with them the bad qualities of the whites. This mixture of the races has produced some of the most noted outlaws of the Southwestern States. It will create men of the same stamp here. It is the knowledge of this fact that has led to the enactment of laws prohibiting these unnatural alliances.

But where there are no white women what are the white men to do? is a question that has often been asked here. Occasionally we hear of a young man going to the States and getting a wife, or writing for one to come out. But it is not every young man who has female acquaintances in the States of suitable age or disposition for marriage. What are they to do who unhappily have no female acquaintances at all? We hardly know what to advise except to wait patiently and bide their time. A very long time cannot now elapse ere we shall have marriageable females enough in our own midst. The New England towns are full to overflowing of intelligent young women well trained to household duties, with no possible chance of finding husbands at home. Sooner or later the tide of female immigration will set in. Of this there is no uncertainty; it is only a question of time, but that we would hasten.

An appeal may, with propriety, be made to the good sense of the large surplus of young women of the crowded cities of the Northern and Eastern States, where all branches of female labor are reduced to starving rates of pay, and where thousands upon thousands deem themselves fortunate to avoid starvation. Among the female working classes in the States there are some who have means sufficient to enable them to come here, and we trust such will come, and leave their places to those more needy. How much better off they would be here as the wives of wealthy and prospering farmers, mechanics, professional men and merchants, than they are in their present position. Immediate employment can be obtained throughout the Territory at profitable wages by milliners, dressmakers, school teachers, seamstresses, laundresses, housemaids, etc. These pursuits are all seeking heads and hands to follow them here, at higher compensation than is obtained even in California.

Of the three thousand voters of Washington Territory, it is safe to say that two thousand are desirous of entering the marital state. Give them a chance and, our word for it, they won't make long courtships. By the time these two thousand are disposed of we shall have two or three thousand more, judging from the large number of bachelors constantly settling among us. Here is the market to bring your charms to, girls. Don't be backward, but come right along all who want good husbands and comfortable homes in the most beautiful country and the finest climate of the world."

Its view regarding the mixture of the races has proved in the main correct. That has been unalloyed evil, and the shame of it has saddened many households all over Puget Sound. Half-breeds, carrying the blood in their veins of men whose names are now historic, are known to all pioneers. Other pioneers, after their dusky mistresses had borne them children, cast them off and married white women. Some of these men cared for their illegitimate progeny—others did not. In either case the disgrace of it has darkened the lives of the white wives and their children in all the after years. The half-breeds have not become vicious or depraved, except in a few instances. Some of them in youth showed talent that gave much promise for the future, but failed of realization. In fact most of them died in early life.

February 24, 1860, the following appeared in the advertising columns of the Herald:

Attention, Bachelors: Believing that our only chance for a realization of the benefits and early attainment of matrimonial alliances depends upon the arrival in our midst of a number of the fair sex from the Atlantic States, and that, to bring about such an arrival a united effort and action are called for on our part, we respectfully request a full attendance of all eligible and sincerely desirous bachelors of this community to assemble on Tuesday evening next, February 28th, in Delin & Shorey's building, to devise ways and means to secure this much-needed and desirable emigration to our shores.

D. V. K. Waldron,
Egbert H. Tucker,
Christopher Downey,
Jas. E. D. Jester,
G. Ford,
O. H. White,
J. K. McCall,
E. O. Ferguson
O. C. Shorey,
And eighty-seven others.

The following week the Herald gave a short report of the meeting and of another held a few days later, but did not publish the full proceedings, owing to their great length.

June 1st, following, the Herald had an article more than a column in length, mentioning the call for the meeting of the bachelors. It said: "Judging from the number of journals which have bestowed notices on the object of the meeting alluded to, it is fair to presume that nearly every city, town and hamlet in the United States is acquainted with it. Our attention has been called to some ten or twelve such notices in papers published in as many different sections of the Union." Nearly a column from the Cincinnati Commercial was reprinted. That paper treated the subject humorously, but fairly, and gave the proposition its approval in most hearty fashion. I regret that lack of space prevents the republication of these remarks in full.

From time to time the newspapers mentioned the continued scarcity of women here, but nothing practical was ever done until early in 1861 a young gentleman, Asa S. Mercer, arrived in Seattle, fresh from college. Besides having attractive manners and plenty of confidence in himself, he found here an elder brother, one of the oldest and most influential pioneers, Judge Thomas Mercer, who numbered every man and woman in the county his friend. Also Dexter Horton and Daniel Bagley had been friends of the Mercer family at the old home in Illinois. With these three pioneers to introduce him, it was not long before young Mercer was one of the best known young men on Puget Sound. He soon went to work in helping to clear the old University site. and did much manual labor of different kinds during the erection of the university building in 1861.

In the fall of 1862 he became the first president of the Territorial University and taught a five-months' term. All the classes sat and recited in one room, the one in the southwest corner of the building.

Judge Mercer often made it a subject of semi-jocose comment that young women should be so scarce in this new community, and often suggested an effort to secure territorial or governmental aid for bringing out from New England a party of young women, who were needed as school teachers, seamstresses, housekeepers, and for other positions far removed from that of household servants.

This set young Mercer to thinking on the subject, and the more he thought of it the more he favored it. He talked the matter over with William Pickering, then Governor of the Territory, and with members of the legislature, and while everybody favored the proposition, the public treasury was empty, and public credit fully fifty per cent below par, so he failed in the effort to secure territorial aid. Nothing daunted, he went from place to place and obtained quite a number of generous private contributions to a fund that enabled him to go to Boston, and there the proposition was placed before the public for a lot of the girls and young women who had been made orphans by the Civil War to accompany him to Washington. Quite a large number evinced a willingness to go, but when the time came to start only eleven had found courage to leave their friends and make a journey of seven thousand miles into n wilderness but thinly settled with entire strangers to them. A few of these had to avail themselves of the means provided by Mr. Mercer, but most of them paid their own way.

They left New York in March, 1864, came by way of the Isthmus of Panama and San Francisco. At the latter place quarters were secured for the party on the bark Torrent, which brought them to Port Gamble, then called, Teekalet, and from there the sloop Kidder brought them to Seattle about midnight of May 16, 1864.

Their names were Lizzie M. Ordway, who never married; Georgia Pearson, who married C. T. Terry of Whidby Island—whose daughter Blanche has for years held a responsible position in the office of the city superintendent of schools, and who has performed the duties of the position so acceptably to the patrons of the school; Josephine Pearson, who died not long after her arrival in the Territory, unmarried; Annie May Adams, who married Robert G. Head, a well known printer of Olympia in early days; Miss Cheney, who married Captain Charles H. Willoughby, one of the best known captains in the early United States revenue service, and who held many other responsible positions; Maria Murphy, who returned East a good many years ago; Kate Stickney, who married Walter Graham, who then owned and lived on a beautiful farm on the shore of Lake Washington and now known as Brighton Beach (she did not live many years); Sarah J. Gallagher, who became Mrs. Thomas S. Russell, and after his death was quite wealthy, dying here in Seattle but a few years ago; Kate Stevens, who married Captain Henry Smith, well known on Puget Sound and in British Columbia; Miss Coffman, who married a Mr. Hinckley of Port Ludlow, and subsequently moved to California; Miss Baker, who married a member of the numerous and well known Huntington family of Cowlitz County.

There were also two male members of this party, Daniel Pearson, the father of the Misses Pearson, and the other was, I think, the father of Kate Stevens.

The Seattle Gazette of May 28, 1864, says: "We neglected last week to notice the return home of our highly esteemed fellow citizen. Mr. Asa S. Meer, from the East, where he has been on a visit for the greater part of the past year. It is to the efforts of Mr. Mercer joined with the wishes of the darlings themselves—that the eleven accomplished and beautiful young ladies whose arrival was lately announced, have been added to our population. We understand that the number would have been fifty, as at first reported, but many were not able to prepare for the journey this season. The thanks of the whole community, and of the bachelors in particular, are due Mr. Mercer for his efforts in encouraging this much-needed kind of immigration. Mr. Mercer is the Union candidate for joint councilman for King and Kitsap counties, and all bachelors, old and young, may, on election day, have an opportunity of expressing, through the ballot box, their appreciation of his devoted ness to the cause of the Union, matrimonial an vell as national."

His efforts had been so much appreciated that he had been nominated unanimously to the upper house of the Territorial I.' u r islative Assembly. His opponent was -M. S. Drew, who then lived at Port Gamble, but has been for a great many years a prominent resident of Seattle. The total vote in King County was 14S, and in Kitsap County about 90. Mr. Mercer was elected by a considerable majority.

He served during the session ending the last days of January, 1865, and the first days of March following he was again on his way Kast on the same errand that had engaged him on his previous trip. A letter, dated April 17, 1865, at New York City, to his brother in Seattle, announces that he had just arrived, having been much delayed on the Isthmus. It also refers to the intense excitement existing over the assassination of President Lincoln, two days previous.

He went to work at once, and met with encouragement wherever he went. In three months lie thought his plans were so well perfected that he could set the date for the return to Seattle, as the following letter will show:

"LOWELL, Mass., July 23, 1865.

Ed. Gazette: Through the Gazette and the territorial papers generally, I wish to speak to the citizens of Puget Sound. The 19th of August I sail from New York with upwards of three hundred war orphans daughters of those brave, heroic sons of liberty, whose lives were given as offerings to appease the angry god of battle on many a plain and field in our recent war to perpetuate freedom and her institutions. I appeal to every true, warm-hearted family to open wide the door and share your home comforts with those whose lot is about to be cast in your midst. Let every neighborhood appoint a committee of a lady and gentleman to meet us at Seattle upon the arrival of the ocean steamer carrying the party, with instruction to welcome to their homes as many of the company as they can furnish homes and employment for. Judging from the known intelligence, patriotism and benevolence of the citizens of Washington Territory, I feel confident that a home will be found ready for each one of the three hundred young ladies I have induced to migrate to our new but interesting country. I can cheerfully vouch for the intelligence and moral character of all those persons accompanying me, and take pleasure in saying that they will be a 1 very desirable addition and help to the country.

Will the press generally aid us in getting these facts before the people.

Very truly,


The Gazette published the letter, remarking that the expediency of bringing so large a number at that time into our thinly settled country might be questionable, but added: "Be this as it may, they will soon be here and depending upon our citizens for homes. They have strong claims upon our sympathies, and all who have the least patriotism should extend the hand of fellowship to welcome, and will do all they can to provide for them. They come to us the unprotected orphans of the heroes whose lives were freely given for our country's salvation. The graves of their natural protectors now roughen the battle fields of Freedom. We, on this distant shore, enjoy the fruits of their valor and sacrifices, but we did not share their sufferings, toils, and dangers. We are called upon by every emotion of gratitude and sense of duty to protect and provide for their children."

The few papers then published in Oregon and Washington gave similar expressions of sentiment.

Copies of Mr. Mercer's letter and the editorial of the Gazette were printed and sent out to all the towns and communities in Western Washington, with the acompanying circular:

"Seattle, Washington Territory, September 18, 1865.

Dear Sir: Acting upon the information inclosed, a large and earnest meeting was held in this place on the 16th instant, to devise ways and means for the reception and care of the young Indies mentioned. Committees were appointed in the several towns and places of the territory for that purpose the one at Seattle to act as executive committee, with Mrs. H. L. Yesler. president on the part of the ladies, and W. E. Barnard, the gentlemen. Hon. C. C. Terry was chosen treasurer and Daniel Bagley was chosen corresponding secretary; ———————— and yourself were appointed a committee for your part of the territory. The objects are, first: To provide homes and employment in families for as many as possible. Second: To secure places for a time for others until they can be permanently cared for; and, third: To collect funds and articles to meet the immediate wants that must of necessity be pressing upon their arrival. It is thought a large number of blankets and of bed clothing of all kinds will be in demand. Prompt and efficient action must be had, or embarrassment and suffering be experienced by the orphans of our departed heroes. Humanity and patriotism, alike, call upon us to make their condition as comfortable as possible. They may be expected here in a few days, hence something must be done without delay. We cannot now stop to question the propriety of Mr. Mercer's action. We trust it will result in good to the territory and all concerned. Please report at once how many we may send to your care, upon their arrival here. 'To do good, and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' Also, collect funds and articles and forward or report to me or the treasurer, Mr. Terry, of this place.


Corresponding Secretary."

The responses were prompt and generous, and had the large number thus expected really made their appearance here, they would have received a royal welcome and been entertained and cared for most tenderly.

About two years ago a distorted account of many of the incidents connected with this party came under my attention. I enclosed it in a letter to Mr. Mercer, asking that he write me an account of his experiences in Washington and New York, which he did in due time, but a fitting occasion for its publication has never before now seemed to appear. It is as follows:

"Mayoworth, Wyoming, November 12, 1901.

Hon. C. B. Bagley, Seattle, Washington.

My Dear Sir: I am in receipt of your letter asking for an account of the voyage of the 'Mercer girls,' as they were at the time called, from New York to Seattle. Tempus fugit. Ah, how the time has flown. It really seems but a few days since, in the flush of youth and the vigor of young manhood, I started out to do something for the commonwealth of Washington, which I dearly loved, and incidentally confer a blessing upon those whom a presentation of facts might induce to come and abide with us. But a reference to the calendar shows that more than thirty years have sped away, and a glance at present conditions reveals the fact that marvelous changes have taken place in all things Washingtonian, save in God's pyramids that rise in the Cascade and Olympic ranges. These will ever stand as proud tokens of infinite power and smiling sentinels to guard the developments wrought by man.

Early in the year 1865, impressed with the future greatness of the Territory, and knowing her every need, I determined to aid that future by bringing to her shores of few hundred good women. I had been taught to believe, and did believe, that practically all the goodness in the world came from the influence of pure-minded women. At that time there was not a single woman of marriageable age on Puget Sound or the inlets north of Olympia. save two or three 'school marms,' who had accompanied me from the East the year before, and they were all preparing their wedding trousseaux. On the other hand, 'the woods were full' of single men—strong, brave and true-hearted, who had gone West to help subdue it and build a home. There were few families, and the bachelor element was almost wholly beyond the reach of female influence and its wholesome results. Most of these men had taken claims along the various streams and commenced the slow process of clearing. Prospectively their farms were valuable, but at that time unsalable, save for a pittance. The cost of a trip by steamer to the East was $250, not to mention incidentals. Thus the round trip, with the necessary expenses of finding a wife and returning to the 'Sound' would be $1,000 at least, and this was more than any claim in the country would sell for. So it was evident that Mahomet could not go to the mountains and the mountains had to be taken to Mahomet.

This was just at the close of the Civil War, when thousands of widows and orphans filled the East, many of whom, I reasoned, would be glad to seek a home in the sunset land, then terra incognita. Hundreds of government vessels were lying idle and thousands of seamen were still on the pay rolls, with bunkers overflowing with coal, at all of the government wharves. My thought was to call on President Lincoln, tell him of our situation, and ask him to give me a ship, coaled and manned, for the voyage from New York to Seattle, I furnishing the food supplies. This, I was confident, he would gladly do. Having sat upon Lincoln's lap as a five-year-old lad and listened to his funny stories, and knowing the goodness of his heart, not a shadow of doubt existed in my mind as to tile outcome.

The steamer arrived in New York about noon and I arranged matters so as to leave for Washington on the morning train. Reaching the hotel office at 6 o'clock so as to breakfast and be off, crepe greeted me from all sides, and a bulletin announced the assassination of the President at Ford's Theater the night before. I was at sea without a compass.

Clearly nothing could be done at Washington then. Waiting the passing of the temporary shock to the people, I racked my brain for a way out of darkness. The Governor of Massachusetts, John A. Andrew, was at the moment the most talked about and seemingly the most popular and influential man and politician in the country. To him I would go with my story and seek his aid. In due time he was approached and given a full statement of rny hopes and aims, with an honest but glowing account of the resources and prospects of the country watered by the American Mediterranean. lie took hold in earnest, and introduced me to Edward Everett Hale, who gave me much help.

Passing over the months of hard and continuous labor in the various departments at Washington, with the statement that I had seen everybody, from President Johnson down the line, all of whom approved of the enterprise but were afraid to aid, I finally called upon General Grant and stated my wants. Having been stationed for a number of years on Puget Sound, he knew the situation and promptly promised his aid. Calling at his office one morning, he said: 'Mercer, sit down and read the morning paper until my return. I am going over to the White House to meet the President and his cabinet and will bring your matter to a head one way or the other.' Half an hour later he returned, and as he entered the door his salutation was: ' Captain Crosby, make out an order for a steamship, coaled and manned, with capacity to carry 500 women from New York to Seattle for A. S. Mercer, and I will sign the same.' Then, turning to me, he explained that the President and all the members of the cabinet approved the undertaking. but were afraid to assume the responsibility of making the order. They pledged themselves, however, to stand by ({rant if he would assume the risk. Half an hour's waiting and the orderly placed in my hands the document that apparently settled the whole question. Naturally I thought the order was good, and instead of going to the quartermaster and having a suitable vessel assigned, went out among the people to gather up the women, even issuing nearly 500 tickets for the trip.

Having interested and secured about all the passengers necessary to fill the ship, I returned to Washington to have the vessel made ready and turned over to me. Accompanied by Senator George H. Williams of Oregon, I called upon Quartermaster-General Meigs with Grant's order. Unfortunately the man in line first ahead of Senator Williams was an individual who had furnished a horse to our soldiers and taken a receipt for the same. The man had been paid twice for his animal already and General Meigs recognized him. The quarter-master Hew into a rage, ordered the man arrested and filled the room with the smoke of vituperation and cuss words until breathing was an actual effort. Presenting an order at this time was fatal. Still black in the face from his recent experience. General Meigs looked at the paper a moment, then said: 'There is no law justifying this order and I will not honor it. Crestfallen, I retired. Meigs was stubborn and the law was with him. Weeks passed and I was ready to give up the fight, when one day in New York I received a letter from General Meigs saying that he had ordered a special appraisement of the propellor Continental, a 1,600 ton ship, and that I could have her at the appraisement for carrying my people to Seattle notwithstanding the law required the sale to be at public auction. Eighty thousand dollars was the price, cash in hand.

That was not a price to 'stagger the world,' but it made me tremble. Sitting in my room at the Merchants Hotel and canvassing every known avenue that gave the faintest hope of leading up to this sum of ready money, I was surprised to receive a card bearing the name 'Ben Holladay.' Inviting him up. he began the conversation by saying: 'I understand the government offers you the Continental for $80,000, and that you have not the money. If you will let me have her I will fit her for the trip and carry your people to Seattle at a nominal figure.

Drowning men catch at straws. I was the asphyxiated individual and caught at the extended straw. The contest was unequal. Mr. Holladay had two good lawyers pitted against an inexperienced youth, over-anxious and ready to be sacrificed. Result—a contract to carry 500 passengers from New York to Seattle for a minimum price, in consideration of turning over the ship to him. Later—too late—I saw where the 'little joker' came in. Had there been a clause stating that 150 passengers were to be carried free, and $100 for each additional passenger, all would have been well.

Being blind, I proceeded to list all of my passengers and notify them of the date of sailing, issuing many tickets to the girls free. A few days before the time fixed for departure a long, scurrilous article appeared in the New York Herald, slandering me, stating that all of the men on Puget Sound were rotten and profligate; that the girls would all be turned into houses of ill-fame, and apealing to them to stay at home. The old saying that a lie will travel a thousand miles while the truth is putting on its boots was true in this case. Everywhere the article was copied, and before I could get my references printed and counteract the calumny, two-thirds of the passengers had written me, enclosing the Herald article, or clipping from it, and declined further consideration of the matter.

Armed with a handful of these letters, I called on Mr. Holladay and told him I was unable to carry out the contract as to numbers, but would be ready with perhaps 200 people. For reply I was told that the contract was off. But, as the ship was to be sent to the Pacific, they would take such passengers as I presented at regular rates. Then I saw the 'little jokerof the contract.

Delays in fitting out the ship caused expense and many annoyances, but we finally left New York on January 6, 1866, and after a very pleasant run of ninety-six days made San Francisco via the Straits of Magellan, touching at Rio Janeiro, Lota, and Talcahuano, Chile, and at Charles Island, one of the Galapagos group, lying under the equator and 600 miles out from the west coast of South America. After some days' delay in San Francisco the people were sent north in bunches of ten to forty on the lumber ships trading between Sound ports and the California metropolis.

The voyage was a remarkable one in many ways, but especially so in the matter of health, no sickness of any kind occurrinu r after tin- first few days of debt paying to the God of the Storm, save one case of child-birth, a baby girl having come to the wife of a gentleman passenger, who, with his wife and Continental baby, settled at Port Madison.

The young ladies comprising the party were selected with great care, and never in the history of the world was an equal number of women thrown together with a higher average of intelligence, modesty, and virtue. They are now going into the sere and yellow leaf of life with, as a rule, sons and daughters risen up to call them blessed. I have drifted away from them, hut I know that their influence upon the State has been, as a whole, for good. God bless them and theirs.

You did not ask for details of experiences during the trip merely for what might properly be termed the historic side of the venture. Hence. I have given you a running outline of the fads as they occurred. An incidental writing up of the trip and the formation of the party would be pleasant reading for some, but it would make too long a chapter for a busy newspaper of to-day. There were many trying and some amusing incidents in connection with the enterprise, one of which, no doubt, even the nervous, active reader of the day will appreciate.

One of the most enthusiastic supporters of my contemplated 'raid on the widows and orphans of the East,' as he was wont to call it. was Governor William Pickering. The day In-fore I started to New York the Governor met me. shook my hand warmly, and said: 'God bless you, Mercer, and make your undertaking a threat success. If you get into financial trouble and need money, do not hesitate to wire me and I will give you help. When I arrived in San Francisco I was broke—three lonesome dollars being my all. With the hotel bills of the party to pay and transportation to Seattle to secure, the situation was somewhat embarrassing, to say the least. Remembering the Governor's promise, I spent $2.50 sending him this telegram: 'Arrived here broke. Send $2,000 quick to get party to Seattle.' The next day I received a notice from the telegraph office to call, pay $7.50 and receive a dispatch waiting for me. Having but 50 cents, I could not buy the message. However, I called at the office and asked to see the superintendent. Explaining my impecunious state, I told him of the message to the Governor, and suggested that he, the superintendent, open the dispatch and see if it contained an order for money. If so, I could pay otherwise it was the company's loss. He opened the envelope and read, then burst into a hearty laugh, and passed the message to me. It was made up of over 100 words of congratulation, but never a word about money.

Trusting that the above may cover what you desire, I have the honor to be,Yours very truly,


A correct list of the names of the party who came out on the Continental was never published, so far as I have been able to find, although many attempts were made. The following is nearly correct, but may err in two or three particulars: Albert A. Manning and wife, W. L. Mercer and wife, John Wilson and wife, Dr. C. F. Barnard and wife, C. Boardman, wife and child, J. Bogart and wife, R. Conant, Lewis A. Treen, E. A. Stevens, W. Perrigo and wife, Mrs. J. S. Loud and son James, Mrs. M. Osborne and son Eben S., C. S. Spanieling and wife, Mrs. Pearson and son Daniel 0., David H. Webster, T. A. Lewis, B. Brady, F. Read, J. J. Tingley, H. O. Hill, —— Rhodes and wife, Captain E. Pettis, wife and son, Mr. Weeks and wife, Mrs. Grinnold and two daughters, Mrs. Wakeman and three children and her mother, Mr. Stephenson, wife and child, Mat A. Kelley, Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Chase and two children, Mrs. Warren and two sons, Mrs. Buckminster, Mr. Peterson, wife and three children, Mr. Horton, S. S. Tingley, and the Misses Harriet F. Stevens, Annie Stevens, Annie E. Stephens, Mamie Stephens, H. Stewart, Sarah Davidson, F. Collins, A. Weir, M. Kenney, Clara M. Lord, Carrie Bacon, E. Bacon, Nina E. Manning, M. A. Griffin, M. Staples, M. J. Smith, Annie Peebles, Lizzie Peebles, Julia Guthrie, Ida Barlow, L. Barry, A. Horton, A. Miller, M. Martin, Sarah A. Robison, and Misses Rhodes, Atkinson, Lawrence, and Connor.

Several engagements had been made during the voyage out. The local paper of June 11, 1866, makes the following announcement:

Married—On the 27th ult, by Rev. D. Bagley, David H. Webster to Miss Sarah A. Robison, of King County, W. T.

Even the arch-promoter of the immigration movement could not escape Cupid's entanglements, as the following notice will show:

{{hi|Married-On the 15th of July, 1866, at the Methodist Protestant Church in this city, by the Rev. Daniel Bagley, Mr. Asa Shinn Mercer to Miss Annie E. Stephens, of Baltimore, Maryland.

The Continental has often been represented as having been captured by the Federal fleet while engaged in blockade r ning during the Civil War. This is not true. She was built for the United States at Philadelphia in 1864. She was constructed of oak and hickory. Her length was 285 feet, beam 36 feet, depth of hold 17 feet. When turned over to Ben Holladay she was practically a new ship and worth fully $250,000. By the scoundrelly trick he relates in his letter Mercer was robbed of a fortune. Captain Charles Winsor commanded her on the voyage out. He was later succeeded by Captains Dall, Bolles, Thorn, Metzger and others. William Law and John Farrell, both widely known Pacific Coast engineers, came out on her.

The Continental ran up to Portland and also to other Paeifie Coast ports for the ensuing four years, but September 27, 1870, while crossing the Gulf of California, encountered a heavy gale and foundered, eight lives being lost with her. She was commanded by Captain Chris Dale at the time, and, whether justly or unjustly, he was greatly blamed in connection with the affair.

Miss Harriet F. Stevens kept a record of the trip and furnished it for publication soon after the arrival of the party here. The following is briefly condensed therefrom:

"The steamer with its lessened quota of passengers, left New York January 16, 1866, and ran at once into a severe storm that lasted two days," after which she says:

"As we recovered our normal condition we began to look about us. With great satisfaction we found that we had a party of intelligent, amiable, sprightly people. The unmarried ladies are mostly fr New England, and can boast a fair share of beauty, grace and culture, which characterize the best society of that region. It is impossible that the lovely girls who are with us should have left the East because their chances of matrimony were hopeless. One must look for some other motive. One need only observe their lively appreciation of all that is grand and novel in our experiences to feel assured that the love of adventure, the ardor and romance of youth are sufficient to account for their share of our Hegira. But are all the unmarried ladies young ladies? Certainly not! Besides the humble writer there are several equally venerable. Their bright faces, wit and sound sense are, however, such that they cannot fail to be desirable members of society in a new country."

Rio Janeiro was reached February 10, and, as several days were passed in that beautiful harbor, all had interesting visits to all parts of the city and its lovely suburbs. Rev. Mr. Simanton, an American missionary at Rio, came to the ship on the Sabbath and held religious services. They left that city on the 18th.

The Straits of Magellan were reached March 1st, and over three weeks were spent in making the passage through, as they called at Port Gallant, Sandy Point, and Lota. At the latter place they received their supply of coal, which accounted for much of the delay.

The Galapagos Islands were reached April 7, and a brief stay was had while some minor repairs to the engines were made.

April 24th they arrived safely in San Francisco harbor.

In a letter to a local paper, a few weeks after their arrival in Seattle, she says:

"I wonder if the good people of Washington Territory have any idea of the discouraging circumstances under which the handful of female immigrants landed upon your shores! My friend and myself, arriving in San Francisco in good health and high courage, were surprised to find persons commissioned by friends in the East to seek us immediately on the arrival of the Continental, render us all the services of which we stood in need. and. if our spirits were so crushed that we desired to return, secure a passage for us. We had just finished what we considered the happiest three mouths of our lives, and it would he difficult to depict our state of mind, on reading letters from our friends bewailing our hard fate and beholding the actual presence of their agents, whom we had never seen he fore, hut who evidently believed that we had been led by misrepresentation to take passage with a party of ignorant, vicious people, from whose presence we should fly as from a pestilence.

There was no end of testimony as to the dismal character of Washington Territory; the ignorance, coarseness and immorality of its people, and the impossibility of obtaining employment. It was added that the wrath of Washington Territory was such that Mr. Mercer's life was nearly in danger; that its people utterly repudiated the whole thing. One lady said in our presence: 'Of course, no respectable woman came on the Continental:' another assured us that we should never be respected on the Pacific Coast because we came in that disreputable ship. Friends assured us that Puget Sound was the last place in the world for women, and offered us all sorts of inducements to remain. Those who felt warranted by relationship positively vetoed leaving California. But Washington Territory had been the land of our dreams for many months. Many of us could not be satisfied until we had seen it, and we determined to go on. although our hopes were greatly depressed by such a mass of testimony.

Shade of Falstaff! How this world is given to lying! At the first sight of your beautiful little village my spirits began to revive. The line structure occupying so grand a site, and devoted to education is not. I reflected, a bad commentary on the smaller houses below.

I now believe that only the most conscientious determination not to awaken hopes that would not be realized has led Mr. Mercer to give impressions of Seattle far below the truth. There is much more of comfort and refinement than I expected. But the one tiling above all others with which I am satisfied is the complete justification of Mr. Mercer's expedition, which I find in the facts stated publicly by Rev. Mr. Bagley. It is unfortunate that times have changed since the beginning of the enterprise, but surely that is no fault of Mr. Mercer's. For myself, I think the party is obtaining situations quite as rapidly as could be expected under the most favorable state of affairs, and I believe that is the opinion which the party generally holds. I am happy to say, also, that they have experienced the same agreeable surprises in regard to the country and the people which I have expressed above."

December 18, 1865, Governor Pickering received a dispatch from Mr. Mercer in New York, asking for a loan of three thousand dollars, and announcing that the party would sail on the 22d of that month. The Governor had no private fortune and was unable to respond in any sum, but at once called on the legislature, then in session at Olympia, to make an appropriation from the territorial treasury.

Accordingly the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives presented "House Bill No. 42 An act appropriating certain moneys to aid Mr. Mercer."

The majority of the committee recommended the appropriation of four thousand dollars for the following reasons:

"1. The reputation of the territory is, in a measure, at stake."
"2. The bare idea that five hundred ladies should be left in the City of New York disappointed and unprovided for, when they have come from their homes in good faith, is not to be entertained for a moment by any man claiming to be actuated by the feelings of humanity."

The minority submitted an adverse report, and after the bill reached its third reading it failed to pass by a vote of eight for and eighteen against it.

From San Francisco, besides the dispatch sent to Governor Pickering, mentioned by Mr. Mercer, he also sent the following:

"To Daniel Bagley, Seattle.

Will you and Horton authorize Phillips to sign indemnifying bond with me for two thousand dollars?

A. S. Mercer."

The guaranty asked for in the telegram appearing above was not sent, hut instead a dispatch was sent to Mr. Mercer authorizing him to use funds that had been entrusted to his care by Mr. Bagley for another purpose. This did not afford the anticipated relief, for those funds had been used by Mr. Mercer months before. Right there was the secret of Mr. Mercer'c failure at that time and at other times in his life. He was ever prone to take whatever he urgently hoped for as certain of accomplishment. When he had been promised the ship he took all else for granted. Large sums of money had been put into his hands by his relatives and friends for certain purposes. All these he diverted into this immigration scheme, and the failure of the enterprise made it impossible for him to pay back these moneys. He broke up several of his best friends and financially crippled others, and was made the subject of ugly charges by many of those whom he had injured. That he had used these moneys for his personal benefit no one claimed, but the fact that their money had gone toward the accomplishment of the immigration scheme did not reconcile to their losses those who felt they had been robbed by Mr. Mercer.

Mr. Mercer became interested in the matter of securing this immigration to Washington Territory because he realized that much public and private good would follow, but he did not lose sight of the financial profit that might also be obtained from it. as the following contract, with names omitted, will show:

"I, A. S. Mercer, of Seattle, W. T., hereby agree to bring a suitable wife, of good moral character and reputation, from the Hast to Seattle, on or before September, 1865, for each of the parties whose signatures are hereunto attached, they first paying to me or my agent, the sum of three hundred dollars, with which to pay the passage of said ladies from the East and to compensate me for my trouble.

Seattle, W/T., March 1, 1865.

A. S. Mercer.
Names of second parties to the above contract,"


In all the earlier stages of his great work he was not actuated by mercenary motives. He believed that his mission was one of immense benefit to the Territory and of great good to those whom he might induce to come out here. His every action, his whole attitude toward those who had entrusted themselves to his guidance and care was that of a chivalrous, pure-minded American gentleman.

The years that have elapsed since then have verified and justified his predictions as to the far-reaching and beneficial effects that were to result to the immigrants themselves and to the new land of their adoption. They have proved a blessing to every community from the Cowlitz northward to the boundary line. In public and at the fireside their teachings and their example have conserved the well-being of the people of which they and their children have formed an integral part.