The Columbia River: Its History, Its Myths, Its Scenery, Its Commerce/Part 1/Chapter 7
Events and Men who led the Way to the Pioneer Age—Kelley, Wyeth, and Bonneville—Ewing Young—Farnham, Shortess, and the "Oregon Dragoons"—The Wilkes Expedition—The Star of Oregon, and the Cattle Enterprise—Dr. John McLoughlin and the Americans—Dr. Marcus Whitman and his Winter Ride, and the Immigration of 1843—Retrospect of J. W. Nesmith—Features of the Journey across the Plains—Whitman's Services—Getting the Waggons across the Plains—Reaching the River and Building Boats—Delights and then Distress of the Descent of the River—Battle with the River—Condition in which they Reached Vancouver, and their Reception by Dr. McLoughlin—Subsequent Immigrations—The Barlow Road—The Donation Land Law—Quotation from Jesse Applegate.
THE pioneer era was ushered in by the coming to Oregon of fur-hunters, missionaries, and little bands of adventurers, who together composed the nucleus of that American community which formed the Provisional Government of 1843. There were certain individuals, too, whose agency in leading the way to the immigration movement was so unique as to deserve mention.
One of these was Hall J. Kelley of Boston. He was a native of New Hampshire and a Harvard graduate. As early as 1815, when seventeen years old, he conceived the idea of the colonisation of Americans in Oregon. He was a man of high scholarship, philanthropic spirit, and patriotic purpose. He was a dreamer and idealist, planning to form a community on the Columbia, as one of the Utopias which minds of that stamp, from Plato down, have been fond of locating somewhere in the unexplored West. After making a great effort, with partial success, to enlist Congress in his schemes, he succeeded in organising a company of several hundred, and by 1828 shaped the definite plan of going to St. Louis and following the route of the fur companies across the plains to the River of Oregon. But opposition by those same fur companies, and adverse criticism by the press broke up his enterprise for that time. In 1832 he started with a small party for the land of his dreams by the route through Mexico and California. In California, he met with Ewing Young, an American of great natural abilities and some education. Young and Kelley, brainy and original men, the former from shrewd commercial instinct and the latter from philanthropic dreams, formed a little company, and proceeded overland from California to Oregon. This was in the autumn of 1834. When, after some disasters, the company of eleven reached the Columbia, Young took up a great tract of land in the Chehalem Valley, where he devoted himself to stock-raising. Kelley, having become an invalid, went in distress to Fort Vancouver, where Dr. McLoughlin treated him with kindness, though the exclusive “Britishers” would not admit him to “social equality.” The other members of the company were scattered in various directions, but some of them remained till American occupancy became an accomplished fact.
This company of 1834,—the same year that the Methodist missionaries under Jason Lee arrived—may be considered the advance guard of American immigration. Kelley, upon his return to New England by way of the Sandwich Islands, disseminated much useful information about Oregon. To him, without doubt, is to be attributed much of the subsequent wave of interest which swept on toward American immigration. As first a New England college man, educator, and social theoriser, and then a leader of the pioneer movement to Oregon, Hall J. Kelley is worthy of permanent remembrance.
Ewing Young became distinguished for leading the party which in 1837 drove a band of seven hundred cattle from California to Oregon. This even marked an epoch in preparing for immigration and subsequent American possession. One of the peculiarly noteworthy facts in connection with Young's enterprise, is that Dr. McLoughlin, the Hudson's Bay Company's magnate, who had at first discountenanced Young on account of a charge of stealing brought against him from California, and who frowned upon the cattle enterprise for fear of American influence, became reconciled to both Young and the cattle, and subscribed liberally to the enterprise.
Nearly contemporary with Kelley and Young were Bonneville and Wyeth.
Bonneville was a well-educated French-American, a West Pointer, and holding the commission of captain in the United States Army. His ardent and imaginative disposition became fired with the thought of a far western expedition, and in 1832 he organised a fur-traders' company of a hundred and ten men. Though not realising his dreams of a fortune in furs, Bonneville made many interesting and valuable observations upon the Salmon, Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers. He became thoroughly imbued with the romance and scenic grandeur of the far West. Upon his return to New York, he had the good fortune to meet Washington Irving at the home of John Jacob Astor. Irving had already felt the irresistible fascination which the River of Oregon has wrought upon all poetical natures, and the result of this meeting was one of Irving's most charming volumes, Bonneville's Adventures, a volume which became another potent force in turning toward the Pacific slope the thoughts of the eager, restless people of the frontier.
Still another in the group of men who led the way to immigration was Nathaniel Wyeth. He was a talented, well-educated, and energetic Bostonian. So distinguished a personage as James Russell Lowell has said of him: "He was a very remarkable person, whose conversation I valued highly. A born leader of men, he was fitly called Captain Nathaniel Wyeth as long as he lived."
Wyeth conceived the idea of a great trading company on the Columbia, whose operations would necessarily create rivalry with the British. His design was to send companies across the continent to the Columbia head-waters and to maintain also ship connection by way of Cape Horn. He believed that a ship load of salmon from the Columbia River to the Atlantic sea-board would be a paying venture. On so large a scale did he lay out his enterprise that he expected soon to have a business of two hundred thousand dollars a year. But he looked beyond the fur and salmon business to American possession and settlement, at least south of the River to the California line. He therefore embraced in his view the building of enterprises which should lead up to and then profit by American immigration. Wyeth spent five years in Oregon, having many interesting adventures, and as many business reverses. As was the case with Astor, the British fur-traders proved too powerful for the Yankee. Among other undertakings, he built a fort on Sauvie's Island at the mouth of the Willamette, which he called Fort William. He desired to make this the basis of his trade, and he expected the Indians to go there to trade. But such was the influence of the Hudson's Bay people and their employees with the Indians that Wyeth's fort had no trade. It was during those years that a frightful pestilence swept the natives away like flies, and there was great fear among them that Wyeth's fort might harbour the scourge. The period of Wyeth's enterprise in Oregon extended from the spring of 1832 to the autumn of 1836. Though not a business success, it had a great bearing on the creation of an interest in Oregon, and on preparing for immigration a few years later. It opened the eyes of many Americans to the attractions of Oregon and to the tremendous power and profits of the Hudson's Bay Company.
The next movement may be called a real immigration to Oregon. It consisted of a party of nineteen, commonly known as the "Peoria party," since they went from Peoria, Ill. Jason Lee, the missionary of Chemeketa, delivered a lecture at that place in 1838, and so much interest in Oregon was aroused that in the year following, the Peoria party, the first regular party from the Mississippi Valley, set forth for the River of the West. Their leader, T. J. Farnham, christened his followers the "Oregon Dragoons" and Mrs. Farnham gave them a flag with the inscription, "Oregon or the Grave." Farnham declared his purpose to seize Oregon for the United States.
The Peoria party had the good fortune to have two writers in the number, whose accounts possess rare interest. These writers were the leader Farnham, and Robert Shortess. The party went to pieces at Bent's Fort on the Arkansas, but its members reached Oregon somewhat in driblets during that year, and the one following. Shortess reached the Whitman Mission at Walla Walla in the fall of 1839, and there he remained until the following spring, when he went down the River to The Dalles. From The Dalles, he made his way over the Cascade Mountains to the Willamette Valley, and there he lived many years. Farnham also finally reached Oregon, but his avowed mission was unfulfilled. Shortess says of him: "Instead of raising the American flag and turning the Hudson's Bay Company out-of-doors, he accepted the gift of a suit of clothes and a passage to the Sandwich Islands, and took a final leave of Oregon." But upon his return to the "States," Farnham published a Pictorial History of Oregon and California, a book of many interesting features, and one which played a worthy part in waking the people of the Mississippi Valley to the attractions of the Pacific Coast.
Soon after the close of Wyeth's enterprise, there were two notable government expeditions to the Columbia River. One was commanded by Sir Edward Belcher of the British Navy, and the other by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the American Navy. The Wilkes expedition was one of the most interesting and important ever undertaken by the United States Government. The squadron consisted of two sloops-of-war, the Peacock and the Vincennes, the store ship, Relief, the brig, Porpoise, and the schooners, Sea Gull and Flying Fish. This fine squadron took up its principal station on Puget Sound, from which extensive surveys were made, one across the mountains to Fort Okanogan; another of the Cowlitz Valley and the Columbia River as far as Wallula.
One of the most important results of this elaborate Wilkes expedition was to establish in the minds of officers of the Government the essential unity of all parts of the Pacific Coast and the boundless opportunities offered to American immigration. Wilkes and his intelligent officers readily grasped, and conveyed through an elaborate report to the government, the idea that Puget Sound was an inherent and integral part of Oregon and that the Columbia Basin was essential to the proper development of American commerce upon the Pacific. They may also have forecast the time when California with her girdles of gold and chaplets of freedom would spring, Athena-like, from the Zeus brain of American enterprise. The control of the River was the key to the control of the entire coast from San Diego to the Straits of Fuca;—and American ownership should have extended to Sitka.
A memorable calamity occurred to the squadron upon its entrance to the River, and that was the loss of the Peacock on the Columbia River bar. The oft-depicted terrors of the River were realised at that time, and yet it was not the River's fault for the Peacock was out of the channel. The spit is known as "Peacock Spit" to this day.
Among the many episodes connecting Wilkes with the early immigration was the building of the schooner Star of Oregon and her voyage to California for cattle. This was in 1842. It will be remembered that Ewing Young had made a successful trip from California with cattle. But as the population of the Columbia had increased, there was a great desire among the settlers to obtain a larger number of cattle to let loose upon the rich pasture lands of the Willamette Valley. A little group of Americans conceived the adventurous project of building a schooner of Oregon timber, sailing with her to California, exchanging her there for stock, and driving the band across the country home again. The schooner was built by Felix Hathaway, Joseph Gale, and Ralph Kilbourne. The oak and fir timber of which the vessel was built was cut on Sauvie's Island, at the mouth of the Willamette, and in due time she was launched and taken to Willamette Falls for fitting. A difficulty arose. Dr. McLoughlin refused to sell sails, cordage, and other materials. He had the only supply in Oregon. In despair the enterprising ship-builders appealed to Lieutenant Wilkes. He felt a keen interest in their laudable undertaking and made a visit to McLoughlin to try to change his resolution. By assuring the Doctor that he would be responsible both for all the bills, as well as for the good conduct of the party, he induced him to allow the requisition for all materials necessary to complete the gallant craft. Gale was the only sailor in the party. Having satisfied Wilkes that he was qualified to command a ship, and having received from him a present of a flag, an ensign, a compass, kedge-anchor, hawser, log line, and two log glasses, the captain flung the flag to the Oregon breeze and turned the prow of the Star of Oregon toward the River's mouth. She may be remembered as the first sea-going vessel built of Oregon timber. Crossing the Bar in a storm, she sped southward in a spanking breeze, all hands seasick except Gale. He held the wheel thirty-six hours continuously, and in five days "dashed through the portals of the Golden Gate like an arrow, September 17, 1842."
As it was too late to get the cattle back to Oregon that fall, the party sold their schooner for three hundred and fifty cows, wintered in California, and the next spring drove to the Columbia twelve hundred and fifty head of cattle, six hundred head of mules and horses, and three thousand sheep. This was an achievement which made the way for immigration clearer than ever before, and in a most effective manner united the American settlers with the American government. Some of the Hudson's Bay Company people could begin to see the handwriting on the wall. Dr. McLoughlin saw most quickly and most clearly, and as elsewhere narrated, began to transfer his interests to the American side. This fine old man was big-brained, big-bodied, and big-souled, a natural American, though compelled to work for the British fur monopolists for the time. He admired the independent spirit of the incoming Yankee immigrants, even when the joke was on him. He afterwards told with much gusto of an American named Woods crossing the Columbia to Vancouver to try to get goods. He found his credit shaky, and somewhat piqued, he exclaimed: "Well, never mind, I have an uncle back East rich enough to buy out the whole of your old Hudson's Bay Company!" "Well, well, Mr. Woods," demanded the autocrat, "who may this very rich uncle of yours be?" "Uncle Sam," was the unabashed and characteristic American reply. "Old Whitehead" also appreciated, though he was obliged to manifest a dignified disapproval, when two young men from New York, having reached the fort on the River, were asked about their passports. Laying their hands on their rifles they replied, "These are an American's passports."
These small miscellaneous immigrations were in continuance from about 1830 to 1842. In the latter year a hundred came. In 1843, as elsewhere related, the Provisional Government was instituted. At the very same time, the immigration of 1843 was on its way to the River.
This immigration of 1843 was in many respects the most remarkable of all. It was the first large one, and it was a type of all. It will be remembered that Dr. Marcus Whitman had made his great winter ride in 1842-43 across the Rockies to St. Louis, with a double aim. First he wished to see the officers of the American Board of Missions, and then to enlist the American government and people in the policy of holding Oregon against the manifest aims of the British. There was already a tremendous interest felt in Oregon among the people of Missouri, Illinois, and the other great prairie States. Whitman's opportune arrival and his announced purpose to guide an immigration to the Columbia became widely known, and brought to a focus many vaguely-considered plans.
J. W. Nesmith, subsequently one of the most prominent pioneers and a member of each House of Congress from Oregon, has given a humorous account of the manner of starting this immigration of 1843, of which he was a member, which is so characteristic that we quote it here.
Mr. Burnett, or as he was more familiarly styled, “Pete,” was called upon for a speech. Mounting a log the glib-tongued orator delivered a glowing florid address. He commenced by showing his audience that the then western tier of states and territories were crowded with a redundant population, who had not sufficient elbow room for the expansion of their enterprise and genius, and it was a duty they owed to themselves and posterity to strike out in search of a more expanded field and a more genial climate, where the soil yielded the richest return for the slightest amount of cultivation,—where the trees were loaded with perennial fruit,—and where a good substitute for bread, called La Camash, grew in the ground; where salmon and other fish crowded the streams; and where the principal labour of the settlers would be confined to keeping their gardens free from the inroads of buffalo, elk, deer, and wild turkeys. He appealed to our patriotism by picturing forth the glorious empire we should establish upon the shores of the Pacific,—how with our trusty rifles we should drive out the British usurpers who claimed the soil, and defend the country from the avarice and pretensions of the British Lion,—and how posterity would honour us for placing the fairest portion of the land under the Stars and Stripes.... Other speeches were made full of glowing descriptions of the fair land of promise, the far-away Oregon, which no one in the assemblage had ever seen, and about which not more than half a dozen had ever read any account. After the election of Mr. Burnett as captain, and other necessary officers, the meeting, as motley and primitive a one as ever assembled, adjourned with “three cheers” for Captain Burnett and Oregon.
Peter Burnett to whom Nesmith here refers, was the same who became the first governor of California.
By the walnut hearth-fires in many a home of the prairie States and at the corn-huskings and quilting bees the talk of Oregon and the forests of the Columbia, and the rich pasture lands of the Willamette, and the salmon and game, and genial climate and majestic mountains, went the rounds. Interest grew into enthusiasm, enthusiasm waxed hot, and in the early spring the great immigration of 1843 set forth from Westport, Missouri, for the Columbia waters. Though the immigration of 1843 was the earliest of any size and the first with any number of women and children, it had perhaps the least trouble and misfortune and the most romance and gayety and enthusiasm of any. The experience of crossing the plains was one which nothing else could duplicate;—the hasty rising in the chill damp of the morning, the preparing the cattle and horses for the long, hard drive, the rounds of the waggons to strengthen bolts and tires and tongues, the loading of the rifles for possible hostile Indians or buffalo, the setting forth of the scouts on horseback, the long train strung across the dusty plain, the occasional bands of wild Indians emerging like a whirlwind from the broad expanse, and then the approaching cool of night with its hurried rest on the rough prairie sod. Sometimes there were nights of storm and stampede and darkness. Sometimes savage beasts and savage men startled the train, or one of the stupendous herds of buffalo went thundering across the prairie. Then came the first glimpse of snowy heights, then of deep cañons, and then the summit was attained, and far westward stretched the maze of plains and mountains through which the Snake River, the greatest of the tributaries of the Columbia, took its swift way.
During most of the journey, Dr. Marcus Whitman was guide, physician, and friend. While severe controversy has arisen as to the extent of his services in organising the immigration, the testimony is unvarying as to the value of his presence with the train. Last to bed at night and first up in the morning, attending both people, cattle, and horses in their sicknesses and accidents, ahead of the train on horseback to find the passes of the hills and the fords of the rivers, the watcher by night and the pilot by day, the missionary doctor was the veritable "Mr. Greatheart" of the immigration.
Great was the astonishment of Captain Grant, commandant of the Hudson's Bay Fort Hall on Snake River, near the present Pocatello, when the long train filed past the enclosure. Grant had known Whitman before and was aware of his stubborn determination and patriotic purpose. But Grant attempted just the same to dissuade the immigrants of 1843 from going farther with their waggons, declaring the Blue Mountains to be impassable. The doughty doctor simply laughed quietly and told the immigrants to push on, and he would see them through. But just as they were entering the rough defiles of the Blue Mountains, a band of Indians from Waiilatpu, headed by Sticcus, came to meet the train, searching for Whitman, telling him that his medical services were in great demand at Lapwai. The much-needed guide turned over the pilotage of the train to Sticcus, and he himself hastened on to minister to the sick at As he passed through Waiilatpu he learned that the threatening conduct of the Indians had led Mrs. Whitman to go to Vancouver, and that during his absence the Indians had burned his mill and committed other depredations. But it was his lot to labour and suffer. He had become accustomed to it.
The event proved that Sticcus was a thoroughly capable guide. For, though not speaking a word of English, he made his directions so well understood by pantomime that, as Mr. Nesmith has said, he led them safely over the roughest mountain road that they ever saw. And so in due time the train emerged from the screen of timber on the Blue Mountains. Stretched wide before them, lay the plains of Umatilla and Walla Walla, while in the far distance the River of the West poured through the arid waste. Yet farther the snow summits of the Cascades ridged the western sky. After a brief pause at Waiilatpu, the train reached the banks of the River. The immediate vicinity of the section of the River first reached is very dry in autumn. Aside from the River itself, the immediate scene is desolate and forbidding. But probably those immigrants of '43 gazed upon the blue flood, a mile wide and hastening to the western ocean, with feelings almost akin to those which swelled the hearts of the Pilgrims landing from the Mayflower. This was another epic of state-making, and one generation after another of the Americans who have wrought such achievement may well turn back to join hands with those before.
Doubtless the immigrants, as they stood by the River in the pleasant haze of the October afternoon, felt as though their journey was substantially at an end. Being now at Fort Walla Walla on the river of that name, they paused to make ready for the last stage of the journey, little realising what perils and sufferings it would entail. Dr. Whitman and Archibald McKinley, the chief factor at the fort, advised them to leave their cattle and waggons to winter on the Walla Walla, while they pursued their way down the stream on flatboats. Part of the company accepted the advice, but a number determined to keep all their belongings together and to take their road along the bank of the River to The Dalles, and there make their flatboats.
To those who remained on the Walla Walla now fell the difficult task of constructing flatboats. Huge, uncouth, structures they were, made of timber gathered on the river bank. But when loaded and pushed out into the swift current, steered with immense sweeps in the stern, these flatboats afforded to the footsore and exhausted immigrants a delightful change. Out of the dust, off the rocks, away from the sage-brush, with more of laugh and song than they had had for many a day, they swept gaily on. For a hundred miles or more the elements were propitious. With the bright sunshine, the clear, cool water, the majestic snow-peaks in the distance, the easily gliding boats,—this seemed the pleasantest part of the entire journey. But after The Dalles had been reached and the two divisions of the company were again united and on their way down the River to the Cascades, disaster began to haunt them. At the Cascades, a boat with several members of the Applegate family, one of the most prominent in the immigration as well as afterwards, was overturned in the rapids, and t hree of the party drowned in the boiling surge. Two were saved in a way that seems almost miraculous. One of these was a young boy, the other a young man. The boy was very active and an excellent swimmer. After the overturning of the boat he was carried two miles in the current, part of the time being entirely sucked under by the whirling under-current. After being tossed with violence betwixt rock and wave till it seemed that he must expire, he was suddenly spewed forth upon a ledge of slippery rock, to which he clung desperately till he had recovered breath. Then he drew himself up on a narrow shelf, and at the same instant saw the young man swept by. Reaching forth, the brave boy managed to bring the struggling man to the same shelter with himself. But when they had regained sufficient strength to examine their surroundings, they discovered that they were on a rocky niche from which they could find no ascent of the ragged precipitous cliff. They were in a trap. Looking across the River, they could see that the bank was smooth and that on that side lay the trail. Young Applegate saw that a reef extended a considerable part of the way across the River, and desperate as the attempt seemed, he resolved to pick his way along the reef to a point whence he might swim to the other shore. It was his only chance for life. Fearful as were the odds, the daring lad accomplished his aim. He emerged on the further end of the reef. Looking around, he discovered that his comrade had not possessed the nerve to follow. And then,—most wonderful of all,—back he went to assist his more timid fellow. In this, too, he succeeded, and after a return in which they should have been drowned a dozen times, they both reached the farther end of the reef. There casting themselves again into the inhospitable flood, they buffeted their way to shore. Battered, bruised, exhausted, they yet recovered and lived to a good old age to tell the tale of their fight with the Columbia River.
From the Cascades to Vancouver, the company suffered more than in all the rest of their journey. The fall rains were at hand, and it poured with an unremitting energy such as no one can realise who has not seen a rain storm on the lower River. Food had become almost exhausted. Clothing was in rags. Tired, hungry, wet, cold, disheartened, the immigrants who had so jauntily descended the River to this "Strait of Horrors," presented a most woful appearance. It actually seemed that many must perish. But in the crisis, help came. One of the party managed to procure a canoe and hastened down the River to Fort Vancouver. As soon as Dr. McLoughlin learned that nearly nine hundred men, women, and children were beleaguered in the mist and chill, he equipped boats with flour, meat, and tea, and in his choleric excitement, waving his huge cane, bade the boatman hurry to the rescue. It was not business for the good Doctor to thus aid and abet American immigrants, and the directors of the Hudson's Bay Company and the cold-blooded Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-chief, disapproved. But it was humanity, and that ever predominated in the mind of "Old Whitehead." The next night he caused vast bonfires to be alight along the bank, and gathered all the eatables and blankets that the place afforded. When the boat loads of the battered, but rescued Americans drew near, the Doctor was on the bank to meet them, to hand out the women and children, to administer the balm of cheery words and warmth and food. Few were the travellers on the River, none were the immigrants of '43, who would not rise up and call him blessed.
After this happy pause at Vancouver, the immigration passed on to the Willamette Falls, then the centre of operations in Oregon, and there they were soon joined by the chosen men who had driven their thirteen hundred head of cattle by the trail over the Cascade Mountains, a task toilsome and even distressing, but one that was accomplished. After an inactive winter in the mild, muggy, misty Oregon climate, the immigrants of '43 spread abroad in the opening spring to secure land, each his square mile, as the Provisional Government provided, and as the American government was contemplating.
Such was the coming of the immigrants to the River. Subsequent immigrations bore a general resemblance to that of 1843. Each had its special feature. That of 1845 was conspicuous for its size. It was three thousand strong. It was also illustrious for the laying out of the road across the Cascade Mountains near the southern flank of Mt. Hood. This noble and difficult undertaking was carried through by S. K. Barlow and William Rector. It was a terrific task, and was not completed the first year. Cañons, precipitous rocks, morasses, sand-hills, tangled forests, fallen trees, criss-crossed and interlaced with briars and vines and shrubbery of tropical luxuriance, such as no one can appreciate who has not seen an Oregon jungle,—these were the obstructions to the Barlow Road. But they were vanquished and in 1846 and thence onward the immigrants made this the regular route to the Willamette Valley. So steep was Laurel Hill on the western slope that waggons had to be let down by ropes from level to level. The marks of the ropes or chains are still seen on the trees of Laurel Hill. The immigration of 1852 was sadly conspicuous for the devastations of cholera. Many a family was broken in sunder and some even were entirely eliminated by the dreadful plague. The immigrations of 1854 and 1855 were notable for the Indian outbreaks, and especially for the atrocious butchery of the Ward family near Boisé in the earlier year, the most pitiless Indian outrage in Oregon history.
From 1850 onward for some years the Donation Land Law of Congress was a great lure to immigrants, for by it a man and wife could obtain a section of land. A single man could take up half a section. That situation encouraged early marriages. Girls were in great demand. It was not uncommon to see fourteen-year-old brides. Some narrators relate having found married women in the woods of the Columbia who were playing with their dolls! But though the immigrations varied in special features, they were all alike in their mingling of mirth and melancholy, of toil and rest, of suffering and enjoyment, of heroism, and self-sacrifice. They embodied an epoch of American history that can never come again. To have been an immigrant from the Missouri to the Columbia was an experience to which nothing else on earth is comparable. It confers a title of American nobility by the side of which the coronets of some European dukes are tawdry and contemptible. Perhaps no one ever better phrased the spirit of Oregon immigration than Jesse Applegate of the train of '43, one of the foremost of Oregon's builders, long known as the “Sage of Yoncalla.” So fitting do we deem his language that we quote here an extract from one of his addresses.
The Western pioneer had probably crossed the Blue Ridge or the Cumberland Mountains when a boy and was now in his prime. Rugged, hardy, and powerful of frame, he was full to overflowing with the love of adventure, and animated by a brave soul that scorned the very idea of fear. All had heard of the perpetually green hills and plains of Western Oregon, and how the warm breath of the vast Pacific tempered the air to the genial degree and drove winter back to the North. Many of them contrasted in imagination the open stretch of a mile square of rich, green, and grassy land, where the strawberry plant bloomed through every winter month, with their circumscribed clearings in the Missouri bottoms. Of long winter evenings neighbours visited each other, and before the big shell-bark hickory fire, the seasoned walnut fire, the dry black-jack fire, or the roaring dead elm fire, they talked these things over; and as a natural consequence, under these favourable circumstances, the spirit of emigration warmed up; and the “Oregon fever” became as a household expression. Thus originated the vast cavalcade, or emigrant train, stretching its serpentine length for miles, enveloped in vast pillars of dust, patiently wending its toilsome way across the American continent.
How familiar these scenes and experiences with the old pioneers! The vast plains, the uncountable herds of buffalo; the swift-footed antelope; the bands of mounted, painted warriors; the rugged snow-capped mountain ranges; the deep, swift, and dangerous rivers; the lonesome howl of the wild wolf; the midnight yell of the assaulting savage; the awful panic and stampede; the solemn and silent funeral at the dead hour of night, and the lonely and hidden grave of departed friends,—what memories are associated with the Plains across!