The Bridge of the Gods

The Bridge of the Gods: A Romance of Indian Oregon
by Frederic Homer Balch

Reviewed in the Syracuse Herald


THE BRIDGE OF THE GODS


Bridge of the Gods - Frontispiece.png

"WHAT think you
now, Tohomish?"

THE BRIDGE OF THE GODS

A Romance of Indian Oregon

By F. H. BALCH


With eight full-page illustrations by

L. Maynard Dixon

SEVENTEENTH EDITION


CHICAGO . A. C. McCLURG & CO.
NINETEEN HUNDRED & TWELVE


Copyright
A. C. McClurg & Co.
1890 and 1902


PUBLISHERS NOTE


ENCOURAGED by the steady demand for Mr. Balch's "The Bridge of the Gods," since its publication twelve years ago, the publishers have decided to issue a new edition beautified with drawings from the pencil of Mr. L. Maynard Dixon. This tale of the Indians of the far West has fairly earned its lasting popularity, not only by the intense interest of the story, but by its faithful delineations of Indian character.

In his boyhood Mr. Balch enjoyed exceptional opportunities to inform himself regarding the character and manners of the Indians: he visited them in their homes, watched their industries, heard their legends, saw their gambling games, listened to their conversation; he questioned the Indians and the white pioneers, and he read many books for information on Indian history, traditions, and legends. By personal inquiry among old natives he learned that the Bridge which suggested the title of his romance was no fabric of the imagination, but was a great natural bridge that in early days spanned the Columbia, and later, according to tradition, was destroyed by an earthquake.

Before his death the author had the satisfaction of knowing that his work was stamped with the approval of the press and the public; his satisfaction would have been more complete could he have foreseen that that approval would be so lasting.

July 1, 1902.

PREFACE.


IN attempting to present with romantic setting a truthful and realistic picture of the powerful and picturesque Indian tribes that inhabited the Oregon country two centuries ago, the author could not be indifferent to the many serious difficulties inseparable from such an enterprise. Of the literary success with which his work has been accomplished, he must of course leave others to judge; but he may without immodesty speak briefly of his preparation for his task, and of the foundation of some of the facts and legends which form the framework of his story. Indian life and character have long been a favorite study with him, and in these pages he has attempted to describe them, not from an ideal standpoint, but as he knew them in his own boyhood on the Upper Columbia. Many of the incidents related in the story have come under his personal observation; others have been told him by aged pioneers, or gleaned from old books of Northwestern travel. The every-day life of the Indians, their food, their dress, their, methods of making their mats, of building their houses, of shaping their canoes, their gambling games, their religious beliefs, their legends, their subjects of conversation, the sports and pastimes of their children,—all these have been studied at first hand, and with the advantages of familiar and friendly intercourse with these people in their own homes. By constant questioning, many facts have been gained regarding their ancestry, and the fragments of history, tradition, and legend that have come down from them. Indian antiquities have been studied through every available source of information. All the antiquarian collections in Oregon and California have been consulted, old trading-posts visited, and old pioneers and early missionaries conversed with. Nothing has been discarded as trivial or insignificant that could aid in the slightest degree in affording an insight into Indian character and customs of a by-gone age.

As to the great Confederacy of the Wauna, it may be said that Gray s "History of Oregon "tells us of an alliance of several tribes on the Upper Columbia for mu tual protection and defence; and students of Northwest ern history will recall the great confederacy that the Yakima war-chief Kamyakin formed against the whites in the war of 1856, when the Indian tribes were in revolt from the British Possessions to the California line. Signal-fires announcing war against the whites leaped from hill to hill, flashing out in the night, till the line of fire beginning at the wild Okanogan ended a thousand miles south, on the foot-hills of Mount Shasta. Knowing such a confederacy as this to be an historical fact, there seems nothing improbable in that part of the legend which tells us that in ancient times the Indian tribes on either side of the Cascade Range united under the great war-chief Multnomah against their hereditary foes the Shoshones. Even this would not be so extensive a confederacy as that which Kamyakin formed a hundred and fifty years later.

It may be asked if there was ever a great natural bridge over the Columbia,—a "Bridge of the Gods," such as the legend describes. The answer is emphatically, "Yes." Everywhere along the mid-Columbia the Indians tell of a great bridge that once spanned the river where the cascades now are, but where at that time the placid current flowed under an arch of stone; that this bridge was tomanowos, built by the gods; that the Great Spirit shook the earth, and the bridge crashed down into the river, forming the present obstruction of the cascades. All of the Columbian tribes tell this story, in different versions and in different dialects, but all agreeing upon its essential features as one of the great facts of their past history.

" Ancutta (long time back)," say the Tumwater In dians, "the salmon he no pass Tumwater falls. It too much big leap. Snake Indian he no catch um fish above falls. By and by great tomanowos bridge at cascades he fall in, dam up water, make river higher all way up to Tumwater; then salmon he get over. Then Snake Indian all time catch um plenty."

" My father talk one time," said an old Klickitat to a pioneer at White Salmon, Washington; "long time ago liddle boy, him in canoe, his mother paddle, paddle up Columbia, then come to tomanowos bridge. Squaw pad dle canoe under; all dark under bridge. He look up, all like one big roof, shut out sky, no see um sun. Indian afraid, paddle quick, get past soon, no good. Liddle boy no forget how bridge look."

Local proof also is not wanting. In the fall, when the freshets are over and the waters of the Columbia are clear, one going out in a small boat just above the cas cades and looking down into the transparent depths can see submerged forest trees beneath him, still standing upright as they stood before the bridge fell in and the river was raised above them. It is a strange, weird sight, this forest beneath the river; the waters wash over the broken tree-tops, fish swim among the leafless branches: it is desolate, spectre-like, beyond all words. Scientific men who have examined the field with a view to deter mining the credibility of the legend about the bridge are convinced that it is essentially true. Believed in by many tribes, attested by the appearance of the locality, and confirmed by geological investigation, it is surely entitled to be received as a historic fact.

The shipwreck of an Oriental vessel on the Oregon coast, which furnishes one of the most romantic elements in our story, is an altogether probable historic incident, as explained more fully in a foot-note on page 75.

The spelling of Indian names, in which authorities differ so widely, has been made as accurate as possible; and, as hi the name "Wallulah," the oldest and most Indian-like form has been chosen. An exception has been made in the case of the modernized and corrupted "Willamette," which is used instead of the original Indian name, "Wallamet." But the meaningless "Willamette" has unfortunately passed into such general use that one is almost compelled to accept it. Another verbal irregularity should be noticed: Wauna, the name given by all the Indians in the story to the Columbia, was only the Klickitat name for it. The Indians had no general name for the Columbia, but each tribe had a special name, if any, for it. Some had no name for it at all. It was simply "the big water," " the river," "the big salmon water." What Wauna, the Klickitat name, or Wemath, the Wasco name, signifies, the author has been unable to learn, even from the Indians who gave him the names. They do not know; they say their fathers knew, but it is forgotten now. A rich and splendid treasure of legend and lore has passed away with the old pioneers and the Indians of the earlier generation. All that may be found interesting in this or any other book on the Indians, compared to what has been lost, is like "a torn leaf from some old romance."

F. H. B.

Oakland, California,

September, 1890.

CONTENTS.


Book I.

THE APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS.

CHAPTER PAGE I. THE NEW ENGLAND MEETING 13 II. THE MINISTER S HOME 21 III. A DARKENED FIRESIDE 31 IV. THE COUNCIL OF ORDINATION 39 V. INTO TRACKLESS WILDS 47


Book II.

THE OPENING OF THE DRAMA.

THE OPENING OF THE DRAMA. I. SHALL THE GREAT COUNCIL BE HELD? . 53 II. THE WAR-CHIEF AND THE SEER .... 69 III. WALLULAH ............ 74 IV. SENDING OUT THE RUNNERS ...... 87

Book III.

THE GATHERING OF THE TRIBES.

I. THE BROKEN PEACE-PIPE ...... 91 II. ON THE WAY TO THE COUNCIL .... 103 III. THE GREAT CAMP ON THE ISLAND ... 120 IV. AN INDIAN TRIAL ......... 131

V. SENTENCED TO THE WOLF-DEATH .... 142

Book IV.

THE LOVE TALE.

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE INDIAN TOWN ........ 151 II. THE WHITE WOMAN IN THE WOOD . . 159 III. CECIL AND THE WAR-CHIEF ..... 169 IV. ARCHERY AND GAMBLING ...... 176 V. A DEAD QUEEN S JEWELS ...... 181 VI. THE TWILIGHT TALE ........ 191 VII. ORATOR AGAINST ORATOR ...... 200 VIII. IN THE DARK ........... 210 IX. QUESTIONING THE DEAD ...... 217

Book V.

THE SHADOW OF THE END.

I. THE HAND OF THE GREAT SPIRIT = . . 227 II. THE MARRIAGE AND THE BREAKING UP 241 III. AT THE CASCADES ......... 248 IV. MULTNOMAH S DEATH-CANOE ..... 260

V. As WAS WRIT IN THE BOOK OF FATE . 268

ILLUSTRATIONS.


"'What think you now, Tohomish?' "
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
Frontispiece
"'I have spoken; I will not turn back from my words' "
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
Facing page 50
"'The Earth hears us, the Sun sees us'"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 88
The Great "Witch Mountain" of the Indians
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 108
"'I will kill him'"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 168
"'It was the Death-song of the Willamettes'"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 204
"'Come back! Come back!'"
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 224
Multomah's Death-canoe
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
" 264

What tall and tawny men were these,
As sombre, silent, as the trees
They moved among! and sad some way
With tempered sadness, ever they,
Yet not with sorrow born of fear.
The shadows of their destinies
They saw approaching year by year,
And murmured not.

* * * * *

They turned to death as to a sleep,
And died with eager hands held out
To reaching hands beyond the deep;
And died with choicest bow at hand,
And quiver full and arrow drawn
For use, when sweet to-morrow's dawn
Should wake them in the Spirit Land.

Joaquin Miller.