Oregon Historical Quarterly/Volume 63/Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83

Oregon Historical Quarterly, Volume 63
Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83 by George B. Roberts

Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor

George B. Roberts' letters to Mrs. Frances Fuller Victor, 1878-83, were elicited by her informed inquiries and general interest in Pacific Northwest history. Roberts lived in the region from the early 183os, and had much to offer a historian. His letters to Mrs. Victor were written thirty years after the Cowlitz Farm journal, were personal rather than semi-official, and cover a different range of experience. Sometimes Roberts' statements shade the past with the tolerance of age or the pleasant color of recollections of younger days; but his memories as a figure representing a British monopoly in a hostile frontier community are unhappy memories of the 'bending' of 'the law' by the land hungry and by naturally ambitious politicians.

Events which brought about the treaty of 1846 had not led either American or British government to insist on settling all details of their Oregon dispute; officially, the question of just what was involved in the "possessory rights" of the Hudson's Bay and Puget Sound Agricultural companies remained vague for many years. But to Pacific Northwesterners the question was much more urgent: the settlers' 'interested' view of the British companies often resembled Andrew Jackson's view of the national bank. And the impact of that view on the local representatives or officers of the companies, even though some became American citizens, was in immediate and specific actions. American land claimants reacted to what they felt were unreasonable exclusions or perquisites in their promised land-such as the Puget Sound Agricultural Company's claim of 26I square miles at Nisqually—with equal unreason.

The companies, while they continued to claim payment or reimbursement at the level of national government, lost their regional claims much as Great Britain lost the Pacific Northwest-by distance and attrition, if not by lack of interest. The Cowlitz Farm difficulties George Roberts writes of so feelingly were matched by Dr. William F. Tolmie's troubles at Nisqually, where "squatters" on PSA Company lands, according to company estimate, killed more than 6,000 of the farm's cattle between 1853 and 1856.[1] Like Roberts', Tolmie's verbal protest and written notices were ignored; company officials and Americans who attempted to cooperate in surveying company lands were threatened with bodily harm. When Tolmie asked the London directors for their suggestions toward effective action, they prudently if unhelpfully answered that it would be inexpedient to try to take legal action locally against such "lawless" proceedings unless Tolmie was fairly sure that the company could get a favorable verdict.[2] Settlers who met at Cowlitz in August of 1851 to ask Congress to create a separate Washington Territory north of the Columbia River, embodied their hostility toward the PSA Company's Nisqually establishment, "a large monied institution and a British Fort at That", in their memorial.[3] That the companies were British helped—and the dispute over ex-HBC factor John McLoughlin's claim at Oregon City had 'foreign' overtones—but even those 'vested interests' which were American received an equivalent of the law 'bending' treatment until they became notably less vested.

In the 1840s the Methodist Mission in Oregon was second only to the British companies in strength and wealth. Hardly conceiving they might set an example which could be used against the Mission as well as 'foreign monopoly,' the missionaries at Oregon City were among the earliest to 'take on' the British in the person of McLoughlin and the claim he originally took in his own name for the HBC but wished to hold for himself if the Company could not.[4] While the Methodists advanced on the Company, other Americans turned jealous eyes on the Mission's widespread earthly claims. Rev. George Gary, who succeeded Jason Lee in charge of the Mission and who made the voyage from Hawaii to Oregon with Roberts, described the situation as he saw it in the spring of 1844:

The emigrants of 1843 brought with them a strong prejudice against the Mission as a powerful monopoly, especially in view of the number and location of sections of land to which it had already laid claim.[5] Also, they came with the purpose of riding over and breaking down the Mission. This jealousy and prejudice, on arriving here, was heightened by being cordially met, countenanced, and at last indirectly cooperated with on the part of leading and distinguished members of the Hudson Bay Company. 2nd. The Mission, or some of its prominent members, has had a controversy with Doct. McLaughlin in reference to a section of land at Williamette [sic] Falls. This controversy has arrayed community into parties, some for the Doct. and some for the Mission. In this state of affairs our claims in some places are being "jumped," as it is called. There can be but little doubt, if any, but that the public feeling will sustain the jumpers ...

Our title as a Mission to the claims of land, is, in my opinion, just good for nothing at all. Such is the state of public feeling in reference to the Mission having many sections of good land not occupying them themselves, and not suffering others to occupy them. A strong reaction is about meeting us, and the sooner we are freed from these land claims, the better, if I judge right ...[6] The concept of 'equality' in regard to land claims in the Oregon Country evidently was applied stringently to more desirable locations. The companies and the Mission, like the Indians when they made claims, were not entitled to any larger share of plums by right of prior occupancy. Indeed, the companies, in the popular feeling, had no right to any—they were not individuals; the Methodist Mission was American, morally uplifting and educational, and to that extent might claim some part of the pie, but no more than an individual; the Indians were not morally uplifting, they neither toiled nor spun, and they could not exert international pressure. First come, first served did apply, but the extent of the application depended on who came first and the quantity they wished to serve themselves. The law of the times when not provided by what the local citizens brought with them, was frequently applied by them, and what appeared as a bend or even break by more distant standards, looked straight enough in the community.[7]

Roberts' vicissitudes as resident representative of the PSA Company on the Cowlitz Farm and the controverted PSA and HB Company claims which dragged along through various local, national and finally international proceedings for more than twenty years, came to an end in i 869. According to the findings of the Joint Commission which considered the claims, the U. S. purchased the rights of the two British companies for $650,000, of which $200,000 went to the PSA Company. Final payment was made in 1871, the year Roberts left the Cowlitz Farm for good and moved to Cathlamet, where other company employees had settled.

In editing the letters, repetitions (particularly in regard to the Cowlitz claim) have been omitted where possible, as well as salutations and one short letter of November 16, I878, which contained no additional information. Omissions are indicated as usual by three or four periods. Editorial insertions such as first names or corrections in spelling are enclosed in brackets. Some punctuation had already been added by Mrs. Victor, and additional punctuation, initial and proper name capitals have been used for added clarity.

In the following rather congenial correspondence with Mrs. Victor, then, George B. Roberts generally answers questions about the British companies and men in the Pacific Northwest from his own long experience as a subordinate company officer. His last letter to Mrs. Victor is dated January 16, 1883, only five weeks before his death on February 23, 1883.

Cathlamet W.T. 11th Nov. '78

Mrs. F. F. Victor

Dear Madam

I have just received your letter of the 3rd Inst & write to say I will do the best I can to comply with your wishes. I need hardly say I lack the serenity of mind I ought to have, in writing on such subjects; in addition to the work of my store, I have nearly all the County business—I am Probate Judge, Treasurer, Dept. Auditor & so that my time is much occupied. I cant get much aid from [Geo. T.] Allan. You have opened an easy way for me that is to give an account of the visitors—their objects &c. In so far as I may do so, you may most implicitly rely upon my truthfulness according to my standpoint. If you could get access to the HBCos letter Book you would there get a mine of information and we Allan & I, could easily explain things met therein—they are safely cared for at Victoria & are under the charge of Mr [Wm.] Charles of the HBCo (a son in law of the late Mrs [James] Birnie of this place). I can't see what harm could be done in letting you see those books. The Company it appears to me have little to conceal or blush for.

I would like you to understand, if there is any particular point, that you would like to hear from me about, not to scruple; but write by every mail if you choose and you will be sure of an answer, but for me to sit down and write out as I could wish, all the old remisences [sic] is simply impossible. In approaching such a subject I feel as I did when I went to Portland to buy goods, I was lost among the multiplicity of things. In reference to Dr [John] McLoughlin it should be borne in mind that Sir Geo Simpson was his bitter enemy and for all purposes of anoyance Sir Geo. was the Company itself What did those old English gentlemen in Fenchurch Street know about matters here? they simply trusted to Simpson. Ermatinger[8] was in the Co's. employ while at Oregon City—from thence he went home to London on a visit & to annoy the Doctor Simpson prevented his return hither where he had left his young wife & ordered him to be stationed at the Red River of the North. Wm Glen Rae was stationed at Yerba Buena now St Francisco until 44 or 45 this was broken up it seems to me to spite the Doctor. It is true the Company had advised the Doctor to discontinue improvements at Oregon City or any where south of the Columbia, and they ultimately threw the whole burden on the Doctor. I suspect Simpson was the agent in this, as he certainly was in dis countenancing the missionaries-the alteration in attentions to them was certainly the work of Simpson tho' its possible his sagacity showed him the work (the small wedge Mrs Victor) they were doing. I think I was at Vancouver longer and earlier than any one now in the country & tho not in the councils of the heads-still as a clerk and recorder in the letter Books and presence in office and at mess enabled me to comprehend a little.

Frank Ermatinger was a stout Englishman a jovial companionable man, rather addicted to the bottle—he married a Miss [Catherine] Sinclair a relative of Dr McLoughlins wife—she was a niece of the [James] Sinclair[9] killed at the Cascades. Ermatinger was rather too intimate with Dr McLoughlin to be pleasant to Sir Geo. he was at the head of the Companys business at Oregon City and was a general favorite I think with the Americans—he was particularly kind to Mr. [W. H.] Gray tho he used to have much amusement at Grays expense.

Yes! I believe the Company were fully paid for their advances in Gov. [I. I.] Stevens War of 55 & 56. But I doubt how far they were compensated for their efforts in the Cayuse affair. I have often wondered why some recognition was not made of Mr. [Peter Skene] Ogdens services—he deserved—he was the only man who could have saved those families. I was away from Vancouver then & at the Cowlitz farm. Dr McLoughlin wrote me a letter in 40 while I was where Oregon City now is that Dr [Marcus] Whitman had been grossly insulted at Wailatpu & that there was no help for it—that he had earnestly counciled Whitman to come down to Vancouver & remain till something could be done for his protection. I was requested to communicate this to any Americans I might fall in with & they were few then.... Jno Dunn[10] & I were both naval apprentices to the HBCo & came in the same ship the Ganymede in 1830—he was illiberal to the Americans excited by the competition on the N W Coast he was at Ft McLoughlin Millbank Sound. Mrs. Doctor [Forbes] Barclay of Oregon City can give much information she has an excellent memory—she is a sister of Mrs. Jno McCraken Portland.

[Short letter dated Nov. 16, 1873, omitted.]

Cathlamet W.T. Nov. 28th '78

Mrs F. F. Victor

I have received yours of the 18th Inst. I will try and answer your several queries as best I can and as many as you choose to propound if you will excuse my helter skelter way. Anent Wheat & flour in the fall of 42 I was sent to Champoeg Marion County to buy up all I could get at 60 cents per Impl Bus paid at Vancouver in goods—there was no money at all in the Country then, the first money was a barrel of dollars received from the agents at the Islands to pay a monthly sum to the "Modeste" crew; by the end of the month this money was on hand ready to issue again. A strange notion of the Drs was that after the ½ bushel measure was filled he required that it should be kicked to settle it & then filled again; the man who used to do this for me was old San Souci still living at Champoeg. Of course this was very distastful to some but most of the old hands had been too well trained to say much openly. Geo: Abernethy was then living at Salem, & that fall was the 1st meeting for political purposes. I paid little attention to it at the time. The missionaries were there in force; some of them probably Mr. [Josiah L.] Par[r]ish & others are still to the fore. I think they would confidently say with me that Gray was not there. I know that the wheat & flour business was not profitable to the Company—their only outlet was the Islands a little for Sitka and their own home trade. Barns at that time were either non est or rude affairs & loss was often sustained by the wheat heating in this moist close climate. Sixty cents looks small for wheat but their goods were very good and very cheap there was no duties in those days—why the duties & charges, since while I lived at Cowlitz amounted to 70 per cent. [Edward] Huggins[11] of Nisqually & [Dr. W . F .] Tolmie will say the same. The Commissioned Officers of the Co were supplied with goods at 33⅓ on Invoice Cost the Clerks & servants at so per cent & outsiders at ioo per cent-that is on the London Invoice cost. The controversy of M M M (the big brass gun—Genl M M McCarver—[Samuel?] Parker &c was more for notoriety than any thing else. [James] Douglas was advised to take no notice of them. Where could they have gone with their wheat if the Company hadn't taken it? I know very little of [Samuel R.] Thurston considered him in so far as the Doctor was concerned very unprincipled & Joe Lane very little better. I dont know how the feud between the Dr & Sir Geo: originated the Dr was at outs I think in 3I & threatened to retire and Duncan Finlayson who married afterwards a sister of Lady Simpson came to supercede him. The Dr did not leave for England till March '38 & returned still in the employ & full of emprise & energy to help on the business of the P. Sound Agricultural Association. On dit that Sir Geo: had prepared the Gov & Committee to give the Dr a whiging & that when he came into their presence the Drs fine manly appearance & bearing was such that they had no heart for the fight & certainly the Dr was a man of altogether unusual presence at that time. As I wrote you the Doctors bitterness was increased by Sir Geo Simpson's report in reference to the murder of his son Jno: at Stikine. I dont think there was any great ill feeling against the Dr or the Company till much later. The Officers & Clerks of the Company from 40-42 I think were Dr McL. Mr Douglas, Mr Ogden, Accountant to Depot store keeper Dugald McTavish, two or three Clerks temporarily in the Office, G. B . Roberts in charge of the men as it was then called, that is all the out door & general work of the establishment. Forbes Barclay was Surgeon & Indian trader. This was a queer thing, but it was so, & the Dr issued the hebdomidal rations to the men also—we used to muster at mess from 12 to 30 including strangers & often the Capts of the shipping in port—I dont think the number of men in the whole Columbia Department exceeded 300—we employed a great many indians at Vancouver often 8 to ten ploughs & as many harrows running with them-mostly of the Thlicatat [Klickitat] tribe, those Indians were hunters and root diggers & were kept away from the Fort by the river indians until Dr Tolmie was trader & took a kindly interest in them. The Doctor (McL) was proud of having so many Indians employed & always held out to the mission aries that that was the way to civilize them to teach them to work. I may say all the indians that could be got at were vaccinated. I think the British government sent out the lymph. We often had a bountiful table in those days & how often I've heard the Dr say "its all the produce of the country, gentlemen." ...

By the bye Dr McL was a North wester & Sir Geo: an HBC. Simpson was of very humble, tho respectable Scottish family at Caithness where his father was a schoolmaster. Wm Glen Rae who died where San Francisco now is, in charge of the Cos business there, was with us in 40 at Vancouver. He afterwards went to Stikine when he left Jno McLoughlin was left in charge—too young & hot headed for such a service. In reference to the Co's letter Books, I was astonished in '65 to find almost every letter received at Vancouver for so many years carefully preserved & were being duplicated at Victoria.

In answer to your 1st Query. I think the wheat business was not very profitable or desirable, except in so far as it enabled the Company to gather in a good deal of old debt—there was but very little money in the Country till 1849 & but little wheat. We used some times to supplement the wheat by purchasing in California to complete the contract with the Russians. I think the Russians only took about 500 Tons a year. The Islands took but comparatively little flour & the people here were too generally impecunious to buy much.

Dr [Wim. J .] Bailey so well known at Champoeg—the husband of "Ruth Rover" the Miss [Margaret] Smith that came with [David] Leslie & [H. K. W.] Perkins is one of the persons I think alluded to by J K Townsend—I haven't his work.

3rd. I think the Company kept up their post at Vancvr till '61. I can't confidently state the duration of each Chief Factors residence at Vancr. The abandonment took place after Dugald McTavish left for Victoria. J. A. Graham was in charge—Mr [A. G.] Dallas, son in law of Sir James Douglas ordered it—he was personally on a visit to Vancouver, he was two or three days with me at the Old Company farm at the Cowlitz prior to his going to Vancouver—he asked me what I thought of his paying a visit to [Gen. W. S.] Harney. I recommended it of course—he was a very gentlemanly man but had but little energy—he came to Victoria to supercede Douglas if required—had the necessary power of Attorney which I believe he never presented—he was also the head of the P. S. A. [Puget Sound Agricultural] Association. By the way I had the prospectus[12] published in London by the Company & gave it to a member of the W. T. Legislature in I think 53 to publish—you will find a copy in the paper of that day-they didn't return it to me the lands of the PSACo & their stock also about that time began to excite the cupidity of unprincipled men & led to what to outsiders would appear ill will to the Company.

The PSAA Company ought to have been protected by the Treaty of '46. How little they had of this let others tell. I should like you to ask [Elwood] Evans or Chenoworth [F. A. Chenoweth] about this & what became of all the Companys property. The U S was choused out of it—the company got but little too. It fairly ruined me. The squatters took my crops year after year—the records of WT are a curiosity in my case. I had no end of injunctions issued only to be re scinded, some thing akin to your California land troubles. [Selucious] Garfield[e] has much to answer for. I need not say anything of poor Judge [C. C .] Hewitt—before whom most of these cases came—he was, poor man, a mere apology for a Judge.

I think Mr [Samuel] Black was killed in the spring of 37. Jno McLoughlin was killed I think in '38 at Ft Stikine.

A Journal was always kept at all and each of the Company postsall of which are or ought to be now at Victoria. I kept the Journal at Vancouver myself for many years—it was the duty of the person in charge of the out door work. We had a very large farm as Farnham & others tell you, at Vancouver. Hall J. Kell[e]y was at Vancouver in I think '34—he was about 5 feet 9 Ins high wore a white slouched Hat—Blanket Capot leather pants with a red stripe down the seam—rather outre for even Vancouver—we little understood such chaps as he & his, and our notions of equality were somewhat different. For Kelly to have been treated otherwise than he was would have been detrimental to the discipline of the place by admitting him as an equal. Dignity had to be preserved in those days—how much depended on it. The doctor could not afford it as we say to get down to Kelly's standing. Jason Lee was a large round shouldered man 6 feet one or two inches decently dressed—he married a Miss Pitman who came with the crowd of missionaries in the Lausanne Capt [Josiah] Spaulding—she met Lee here. When Lee I mean Jason Lee went home across land he heard while in the states of this ladys death—he married another lady at once I think & returned with her to the country. Mr. & Mrs [George] Gary who succeeded Jason Lee or rather came to wind up the mission affairs were fellow passengers of mine from the [Hawaiian] Islands'3 By the Barque Brothers chartered by the HBCo in 44. Mr Garry [sic] thought it was strange Lee should have married so quickly. Jason Lee was a man of fair attainments, his interests differed from ours but was always friendly—his brother'4 Daniel was a tall raw boned, good natured, good fellow with little knowledge seemingly of the world. Dominie Sampson exactly in appearance not garb. Of course I know Judge Strong well! Governor [J. P.] Gain[e]s I saw but little of. I dont think he amounted to much.

And now we come to a ticklish point—Indian Wars—cause and conduct. Do you remember Genl Wool [Winfield Scott 15] preferred the military occupancy of St [San] Juan? to Douglas notion of placing civil officers there? Wool was undoubtedly right. Wool understood the whole matter. Douglas had had no experience of what often bad weak ignorant foolish J. Ps & Juries can do.

I have repeatedly told you that McLoughlin & Douglas and others I wot of were always upon their dignity & were respected by the indians in consequence. They feared no one—outsiders I mean—were not subject to the popular vote—there was no clamour to conciliate or condone—they did about what was right—could punish or reward—unquestioned—had no axe to grind. I dont blame the indian agents

13. In spring, 1844, Roberts was bringing out his bride from England. The Garys found the Roberts "very agreeable . . . fellow passengers . . . They appear as very moral persons, respecting religion and moral things, as though well educated and religiously disposed." Mrs. Roberts, Gary noted, was "much out of health" during the voyage to the Columbia River. "Diary of Rev. George Gary," OHQ, XXIV?71, 72.

14. Mrs. Victor has crossed out "brother," and inserted the correct "nephew" in Roberts' letter.

15. In his letter of March 3, 1879, Roberts corrects Wool to Scott; perhaps he actually meant General W. S. Harney? so much. It appears to me its the institutions of the country that are at fault.

As to Gov Stevens war in West Washington with all due respect to a brave energetic man, it was a crazy like thing. It should have been easily dealt with by 3 or 4 small parties of 30 men each—as for any of the indians of the East Cas cades coming to aid those of the West was not likely—those Indians had families & would not have come this way. In dians are merely grown up children, they often have the keenest sense as to right and wrong. The indian agents cant help being influenced by clamour—their all depends upon it. I have known many of your West point military men perfect gentlemen to whom indians would cheerfully submit. Harney from the best accounts I can get was unfortunately not one of them. For information I once asked a poor illiterate Irish man who had been in both the British & American armies Which do you prefer Jimmy the West point officer or the Volunteer officer? The West point man ave coorse & so it will be with the Indians.

There is now living in this Territory I think an extra well to do farmer; has a very fine house, immense barns &c. Well when he came here he was young & impetuous—without a shoe to his foot, or a crown to his hat. He choose for himself an Indian village & soon enclosed the camping site and ordered the indians off, this was I think in '46. This man was running a great risk & only the influence then of the HBCo was his safe guard. There was neither flag nor governor nor courts to back him—but was this right? this is only one in stance. Clamour would perhaps say indians had no right that a free born American could respect. Think of the wrongs done me from 59 to 71 at the Cowlitz farm. The old carcase of the Company brought every wolf and vulture to the banquet & the government rewarded the wrong doers by giving them the lands. The voting power did it all. I was wronged, the government cheated, Mr [Selucious] Garfield[e] carried to Congress—how can any government do right, led astray by the very men who should help them. A short time ago Sheriff Billings of Olympia a man who has held that office for many, perhaps is years, remarked to the Judge of the Territory here en passant—"here stands a man gentleman who has been outrageously robbed, & the records of your court will show it" but what can I say & I only mention it to show you that in my belief gross injustice is often done the poor indian—as it was to me having surrendered my birthright, I could get no protection & the Company in their reports were careful to note in connection with this matter that Roberts was an American. Many a man by a little firmness tact and gentlemanly instincts will rule successfully where others would require an army to back them. Now all this may be offensive to you from me. I remember riding with Judge Strong from Olympia to my house (Cowlitz farm) in 'Sq. I had a vial of some HBCo liquid, & the Judge had one too, because we were coming together he said. I had just seen an article in the Westminster Review—The "Manifest Destiny of the United States," & commenced about it.—Judge the whole thing is rotten! look at this English paper & turn to these American sheets—its like going out of the parlor into the kitchen—now in all honesty this was from my stand point. I could only elicit from him "Oh these people know nothing of our country"—a year or two ago I recalled this to his memory—he said I saw it all then as plainly as I do now, but couldn't acknowledge it to you. It may be that I am partly right as to political Judges & Indian Agents. Genl. Wool knew the difference between a cultivated military officer under control and a mere mobocrat. I remember the remark of an American Naval Officer [Neil M. Howison?] to me in '46. Well he said pointing to a group of frontiermen—they may be Americans but they are as much of a curiosity to us as they are to you....

Among the earliest notabilities in my time was David Douglas a fair, florid, partially bald-headed Scotsman of medium stature, gentlemanly address, about 45 [35] years of age—this was his second visit to the country. On a prior visit he had been all thro upper California by permit of the Mexican Govt—he was only bound by them to refrain from sketching & their military defences or perhaps was not to make fun of their helplessness. He was sent by the Royal horticultural Society, & on this return was aided with instruments for defining the positions of the places he visited. I used to help him at Vancouver, or perhaps I should say he kindly intended to furbish up my school acquirements—for I witsh a doen other boys had been sent from the Greenwich naval schools to be reared for the Company's coast service—about that time the HBCo were anoyed by American traders who used to take goods to the Russians & there peddled for furs with the refuse & liquor. To put down this trade the Co required permanent posts along the coast and a number of fast schooners which they proposed to build here. Capt [Aemilius] Simpson a Lieut in the R. N . [retired] was super intending when he died at Ft. Simpson on Nass River in 1831. The Co built one schooner[13] & gave up building. She was an expensive failure—the sailors used to declare they could stow 6 Bbls more on one side of the mast than on the other. She was lost on Pt Rose spit, Queen Charlottes Isld, March '34-she careened over & could not be defended when the tide ebbed. The crew escaped to Ft Simpson. This summer '34 I went with the expedition to the Stikine river. We were to build 30 miles inland 40 or 50 above the Russian Fort. The Russians bluffed us off. They had a brig the Tally ho! purchased from the Americans & two 14 oared gunboats. So as not to lose the season we returned to old Ft Simpson & brought it down & built the present one, after which we went to Sitka got a protest from Baron Wrangel & armed with this and a fearful bill of losses the Co went to the Govt. It ended by Nesselrode & Palmerston urging the Cos to be friends. The Russians then rented their Stikine post to us & permitted the building of Tass still further north—the rent was paid in wheat, butter & East side Otter. At the end of Ten years this ended. The posts were not remunerative. Jno McLoughlin was killed at Stikine-the Dr eldest son-by one of his men. The chary way in which Sir Geo: behaved about this death envenomed the Dr against him. The advent of Sir Ed Belcher & Kellet with the surveying ships the Sulphur & Starling, ostensibly to survey the river and Cross Sound that is Sitka, was probably to protect the company and overawe the Russians. Belcher thought he was slighted, but I think Douglas was only carrying out his orders. The Dr, McL, was on his way to Europe that year—partly with a view to the establishment of the Puget Sound Agricultural Co—Capital £200,000 in £100 shares £10 per share only being paid down. Two shares according to my status in the Service was alloted to me, which I disposed of six years ago realizing little more than the Capital without interest. There were only I think 3 small dividends paid. I've no doubt there was a political object in starting this Co with an eye to the future, that is they could urge they had farms fisheries &c all over the County, and the virtual possession. Had the Company taken Whitbys [Whidbey] Island instead of Cowlitz farm it would have been much more to their interest, & at the treaty carried over that Isld Douglas himself remarked this to me—revenons a nous moutton On a visit of David Douglas to Saml Blacks post at the junction of the Fraser & Thompson, while enjoying the lonely hospitality of his brother Scot, Douglas a rather fiery chap remarked the Companys Officers hadn't a soul above a beaver skin & dire was the offense, they retired with the idea of having it settled in the morning—at the early dawn of which Black was tapping at the pierced parchment which served as a window to the hut. With the query Mr Douglas are ye ready. Black was an oddity he had a beautiful ring presented to him at the coalition by the N W Co en graved "To the most Worthy of the Worthy Northwesters" he was afterwards killed at his post by the Indians; some superstitions about not attending the funeral of a chief. He had a daughter to whom he willed perhaps £20,000 but he had described her by some pet name afterwards changed to some christian form by some well intentioned priest. As her identity was not clear under the protean change, she got nothing & died the wife of Mr Pambrun of Oregon City a brother of Mrs J. McCraken's of Portland. Douglas on his way home by one of the Co's ships while botanizing at the S[andwich] Islands fell into a pit for wild cattle, & was found trampled to death. On dit that he used among his travellers tales to say that he had found gold enough about the roots of plants in California to make a watch seal. Had he reached home with this, what would have been the conse quences?

This gentleman was the subject of some lectures in Olympia some years ago by the Revd Mr Somerville of Victoria-Lectures about an early Scottish here. I remember he set out to ascend Mt Hood, but his staff of life unlike the widows cruize failing, or from some other cause he returned without doing the mountain. Is it not singular that he could travel in security? He was always accompanied by Wm Johnson a servant, an old man-o' war's man whom I saw settled in '36 where Portland now stands-this man moved near Oregon City & in '45 used to manufacture the blue ruin (from Molasses) that used to add so much to the hilarity of the Modeste's and the Company servants at that time.... It is strange that without police or military the good order we had could be maintained. It was perhaps owing partly to the diverse people, Canadians, West Highlanders from the Lewis Islands (the Hebrides) Orkenny men, Irequoise, Half breeds S I Islanders &c-partly to there being no liquor & partly to the good management of the Companys Officers. They never used bad or ribald language & neither Dr Mc Loughlin or Douglas seemed to forget themselves for one moment.

Dr. [Meredith] Gairdner & Dr Tolmie came out as surgeons in the service by the Barque "Ganymede" in '33 both promis ing scientific young men-their patron was Sir Wm Hooker. Gairdner had been studying under Exrenbergh, the infusoria man. That study was popular at that time. One of our Salmon bears the name of Gairdner-he was taken with hemmorage of the lungs- he himself opened a vein in both arms to relief the pressure & called to me to bind up in case Wm McKay, then a boy, now Dr McKay, should get frightened. He shortly after went to the interior for health & re turned had a relapse-then went to the Islands where he died. Tolmie after being a factor retired & now lives a respect ed citizen at Victoria. J . K . Townsend Botanist from Philadelphia & Mr [Thomas] Nuttall came in '34. The first was our surgeon this the winter I think of 36. He was given this birth to make him more at ease at the establishment. He was a capital taxidermist & he it was who set up the birds Mrs Harvey some time since presented to somebody of which I saw a notice in the papers. Our early flowering shrub nuttalii was named after Nuttall. They crossed the country I think with Nathaniel Wyeth. He was a fine fellow, but failed in his main business plans. He built on the West side of Sauvies Jsld Fort Williams, and also built Fort Hall. Boissee was estab lished by the HBCo-it is a French word signifying thinly wooded. Dr McLoughlin was required by the Company to put down poor Wyeth that is in a fair honorable legitimate way. The bargain that did his business was something like this: he was not to oppose in the lower country & we were not to oppose in the interior, but where he had one party we had two & then much better goods. Think of the cascades, the Dalles & the almost insuperable difficulties, want of command over his people, & who can be astonished at his failure? One of these traders had a supply of squeaking wooden Cats & Dogs which took with the indians amazingly against our staple goods. By the time that beautiful toy, Hussars on wheels, could be had from England the Indians had tired of toys. Indians are grown up Children. In the spring of 34 news came that a Junk was wrecked at Cape Flattery. Mr. Thomas McKay, son of Tonquin McKay was sent off with 30 men to go there by way of the Chehaylis & rescue the survivors. They were stopped at Pt Grenville the coast is there precipitous. The Co then sent Capt [Wm. H.] McNeil[14] with the Brig Llama who by taking hostages from the Indians secured the remaining crew of the Junk 3 in number-they were brought to Vancr & sent off in the fall by the ship bound to England. Cpt McNeil was an American, one of the most successful of the Co's opponents on the coast. They purchased his vessel the Llama & acquired his services-he died only about a year ago. He ran the steamer between Victoria & New Westminster. He was a Boston man & sailed for the house of Sturgis & Co. He be came a factor in the service. I went passenger with him to England in '42-he was mate with Capt Thomason at one time; i.e . Dana's Capt in "Two years before the mast." He was also a shipmate of Capt [John] Dominis who was here in the Btig Owhyhee in I830 & to whom the indians attributed the fever & ague of that year. It came about the time of the Ist cultivation of the soil at Vancouver was fearfully violent and must have been in the air as it affected us all, from the root eating Indians to the Carniverous English sea men. Our ships were about 200 to 300 Tons, armed with 6 to IO nine pounder canonades in the waist, with a few swivels & musquetouns-those on the coast were provided with a net of 9 thread Ratline, IO feet all round the ship, the outer bordering was chain. A few boxes of hand-grenades were al ways at hand. I never knew the indians to be abused. The Brig "Dryad", in fact all the Co's ships admitted any num ber of the Indian women on board the canoes returned for them and no troubles came in this way. The flower of the lower Columbia Women were wives to the companys labour ing men. Sol: Smiths wife now at Clatsop was one of them. I've known her since '3I. In those years, say 3I-34, there certainly was outside of the Co's people not IO women who had dresses. The women all wore the Calequarter-cedar petticoat, either twisted into cords or frayed from the waist to the knees, this, with a piece of green or scarlet Baize over the shoulders constituted their dress. the men had only a shirt, with sometimes a blanket. The Hayoquoise [hiaqua shells] were then valuable. I have known a party of 30 men to be sent to the Chehaylis to buy them for the Southern i e Umpqua & Col & pay I2 & 14 Blankets per fathom for the best. there were 30 to the fathom for medicine kind, & then the fewer the more valueable. The Company had some immi tation ones of Ivory made in London, but they didn't take. The Ships lost here oIn the bar were the William & Ann, crew all massacred by the Clatsops-they got ashore with arms wet & defenceless. This was avenged, and the two Clat sop chiefs killed. The Issabella Capt Ryan got aground on Sand Island & was a total loss-the Vancouver with a cargo of ?30,000 was lost after the pilot was on board-a mere nothing was saved.iThe Co didn't like this, & in the fall all the furs were shipped at Nesqually via the Cowlitz port age-this was in '48. I was then at the Cowlitz. Every fall the indians were excited as to what new ill was to come Whooping cough-measles-Typhoid fever &c, & they used to be very anxious to hear from Tolmie at Nesqually the news in my letters. All these things we think so lightly of now scourged the poor indians dreadfully. Hearing that General Joe Lane was coming from the sound, I rode out a few miles to meet him, & answered his enquiries & made the best sug gestions I was able for the peace of the country for it was then changing from the old Regime to the new. I was aston ished to hear him remark D--- them, it would do my soul good to be after them. This would never have escaped the lips of either McLoughlin or Douglas. I think this was before the indians were hung at Steilacoom for killing [Leander C.] Wallace[15] at the Co post Nisqually. For that trial they took men all the way fi om Oregon City to make a Jury. On dit that one or more of these travel-worn Jurymen wrapped himself in his blanket & before dozing said, gentlemen when you want to hang an indian just give me a call-the Indians were hung whether they called him or not-you see the Cos chiefs in my mind were not at all influenced by any passions or prejudices entertained by men less capable than themselves they were very independent in that way-no government from below.

I would tell you all about the doings of the new custom house officer Col [Simpson P.] Moses of those years (they say now a contemptible little Jew) why he took almost every British ship that came the "Forager" "Albion" "Beaver" "Mary Dare" &c his conduct was beneath the government & was probably from beneath also. The "Forager" came with a cargo for the Co-this was in '49 when white labor was not to be had & a few indians or 1/2 breeds helped to discharge his cargo-he was looking for some return cargo when Capt [B. H.] Hill of the U S Artillery wanted him to take his Co round to Steilacoom & the Co offered him a lot of shingles they had taken from [M. T.] Simmons & the early settlers if he would do so. The poor fellow no sooner got there than J. Q. Thornton traveled over & brought him to Vancr for giving liquor to Indians & another man was in his wake for Coasting—he got off somehow—promising never to return. One of the charges for seizing the Steamer Beaver was for landing my present wife at Nesqually instead of going up to Olympia[16] where there was only two or three huts & no accommodation whatever. I had better not say more. The case of the "Albion" was a sad one & the government in Washington did what they could to set things right, but then think of the anxieties and delays it required a long time then to hear from Washington. We did not like those things I fancy I am pretty cool about them now, but it did rather damp my democracy. I often heard Dr McLoughlin say these Englishmen when they first come are such rabid democrats, and in a few years they are always conservative at least.

Old Mr [Rev. Samuel] Parker wintered with us at Vancr in 35—he was suffering for exercise—wanted McNeil to wrestle with him, but McNeil thought there would be little honor for him, but rather any amount of fun at his expense if he failed with the old man—he taught our baker to make salt rising bread, a very good old fanatic with some few peculiarities, such as licking his plate &c. [T.J.] Faruiham was a jovial jolly fellow in batchelors hall. Douglas fitted him out from his own wardrobe so as to be presentable at mess—he speaks in his work for himself.

At that time we lived well; plenty of cattle, sheep, swine, salmon, game & an ample garden. The decanters & fine English glass set off the table & made it look I suppose superb to those who had come across the country with hardly the commonest necessaries. . . . The numberless missionaries had little to complain of, so far as I could see, & why Gray should be so embittered is a marvel to me. Why, he & his superiors could not have existed without the constant aid they had.

The Revd Herbert Beaver & wife came out I think in '36 he had I believe been Chaplain to a regiment at St Lucia in the West Indies—he was of the fox hunting type & was soon sadly at outs with the Dr, with the Catholics and had many a joke at the methodists particularly poor Danl Lee the brother of Jason whom he called that sapient Dominie Sampson—prodigious. [Sir Walter] Scott surely must at some time have seen Lee. Beaver had to report to the Govr & Committee & was required to let the Doctor see it before sending, that any apparent reforms suggested might be carried out, without the delay otherwise. On one occasion the Dr was fearfully incensed & in the Ft yard asked for an explanation anent the report. Beaver said "if Dr McL you require to know why a cows tail grows downwards I can simply cite the fact." The Dr so far lost control as to strike with his ready cane—the parson bawled to Jane his wife for his pistols, old style affairs, flint locks, half as long as my arm.[17] Next day we had an auction of the effects of Capt [David] Home,[18] who with his crew were drowned in crossing from Bakers Bay to Birnies (Astoria now).

The Dr humiliating himself in presence of his subordinates went up to Beaver and said "Mr Beaver I make you this public apology for the indignity I offered you yesterday. I assure it was unpremeditated." Beaver turned on his heel and said "Dr McL I wont accept your apology" & turned away. Beaver & his wife were very kind to me. they kept a good table. he had a salary of ?200 a year and found in everything except clothes. He may have done me diservice. He set about Baptising all indiscriminately. I wont say they were all the vilest of the vile, but I was sponsor general to the crowd. What chance is there for my salvation? Judge [William] Strong when the country was given up to the Americans required testimony as to the moral condition of people he was to admit Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/23 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/24 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/25 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/26 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/27 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/28 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/29 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/30 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/31 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/32 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/33 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/34 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/35 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/36 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/37 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/38 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/39 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/40 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/41 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/42 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/43 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/44 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/45 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/46 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/47 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/48 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/49 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/50 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/51 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/52 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/53 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/54 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/55 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/56 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/57 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/58 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/59 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/60 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/61 Page:Letters to Mrs. F. F. Victor, 1878-83.djvu/62

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

  1. John S. Galbraith, "The British and Americans at Fort Nisqually, 1846-1859," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 41 (April, 1950), in.
  2. Galbraith, "The British and Americans at Fort Nisqually," PNQ, 41:114-16. Tolmie's letter of protest to Governor I. I . Stevens about set tlers' depredations, dated December 27, 1853, and Stevens' answer stating the trespasses were matters Tolmie should take up in the courts, dated January 9, 1854, are included in "Letters of Governor I. I . Stevens, 1853-1854," edited by John S. Richard, PNQ, 30 (July 1939), 325-29.
  3. Edmond S. Meany, "The Cowlitz Convention: Inception of Washington Territory," Washington Historical Quarterly, XIII (January, 1922),7.
  4. W. Kaye Lamb discusses McLoughlin's claim in his introduction to McLoughlin's Fort Vancouver Letters, Third Series, 1844-46, edited by E. E. Rich, Hudson's Bav Record Society, VII (London, 1944), xl-li. Hereafter HBRS VII.
  5. According to H. H. Bancroft's History of Oregon (San Francisco, 1886-88), I:416n, Daniel Waldo recalled that "Jason Lee played the devil up at the Dalles" when the 1843 immigrants reached that point. "He said the Mission had always ruled the country and if there were any persons in the immigration who did not like to be ruled by the Mission, they might find a country elsewhere to go to. It got all over the country, of course, very quickly. That made war with the missionaries at once. We came here pretty independent fellows, and did not ask many favors."
  6. "Diary of Rev. George Gary," edited by Charles H. Carey, Oregon Historical Quarterly, XXIV (March, 1923), 81, 97.

    After selling the Mission farms, mills and other property to various missionaries, and generally getting it 'out of business,' Gary noted a "great and sudden change in the current of feeling in this community in reference to our mission, if I get the right idea. Under the former business managements, the prejudice of community was this mission was of a speculative and monopolizing character. Now as our business closes up and it is difficult to get mission drafts from us, we are ruining the country. . . . Almost everyone, or at least quite a proportion of those who have been in this region for two or three years and are well off have received their foundation or start from the mission." OHQ, XXIV (June, 1923), 175-76.

  7. The views of George Roberts, Edward Huggins and W. F. Tolmie about "the hopelessness of obtaining justice in the courts of the Territory" for the companies are stated in testimony taken by the British and American Joint Commission for the final settlement of the claims of the Hudson's Bay and Puget's Sound Agricultural Companies (14 vols., 1865-69), P. S. A. CO. vs U. S., Vol. 2, P.S.A.Co. Evidence, pp. 70, 93, 99-100, 111-12.
  8. Francis, often called Frank. For biographical information see Burt Brown Barker, editor, Letters of Dr. John McLoughlin written at Fort Vancouver, 1829-1832 (Portland, 1948), 306-307.
  9. Hudson's Bay Company trader in charge of Fort Walla Walla. See Clinton A. Snowden, History of Washington (6 vols., New York, 1909), III:348, 453; Weekly Oregonian (Portland), April 5, 1856, p. 2, col. 1.
  10. See Dunn's History of the Oregon Territory and British North American Fur Trade ... (London, 1844), iii; E. E . Rich, editor, McLoughlin's Fort Vancouver Letters, First Series, 1825-38, HBRS IV (London, 1941), 266.
  11. Huggins includes autobiographical information in his letter to Mrs. Eva Emery Dye, February 8, 1904 (Dye Collection, Oregon Historical Society); see also Elwood Evans, History of the Pacific Northwest (2 vols., Portland, 1889), II:384-85.
  12. The prospectus is printed in OHQ, XIX (December, 1918), 345-49.
  13. The Vancouver. See Roberts' letter of March 25, 1849, for details.
  14. Biography in HBRS VII:314-18.
  15. See Bancroft, History of Oregon, II:67-68, 80, and Roberts' letter of January 20, 1879.
  16. Galbraith, "The British and Americans at Fort Nisqually," PNQ, 41:119, states that Moses charged that the Beaver had landed Miss Rose Birnie, a British subject and later the second Mrs. Roberts, at Nisqually without having taken her first to Olympia. Moses released the ship before a judicial hearing.
  17. W. Kaye Lamb reviews the relations of Beaver and McLoughlin in HBRS IV-. c xvii-cxx. See also R. C. Clark's "Editorial Comment" and Beaver's "Experiences of a Chaplain at Fort Vancouver, 1836-1838," in OHQ (March, 1938), 65-73 and 22-38; G. Hollis Slater, "New Light on Herbert Beaver," in British Columbia Historical Quarterly, VI (January, 1942), 13-29; and Thomas E. Jessett, ed., Reports and Letters of Herbert Beaver, 1836-1838 (Champoeg Press, 1959).
  18. See HBRS IV-.274-77 , James Douglas' letter to Simpson, March 18, 1838, describing the drowning of Home and several of his crew; also Roberts' letter of March 25, 1879 on Home.