The Emigration to the Oregon Country in 1843
Compiled by Stephenie Flora
copyright © 2004
List of Emigrants to Oregon in 1843
Key and bibliography:
Barry: "The Beginning of the West" by Louise Barry (p.476- )
JApplegate: "With The Cow Column in 1843" by Jesse Applegate (OHSQ Vol 1 p.371-383)
EApplegate: Elisha Lindsay Applegate as told in "Pacific Trail Camp-Fires" by Dr. Reese P. Kendall (1901)
Arthur: A Brief Account of the Experiences of a Pioneer of 1843 by John Arthur (Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association 1887 p.96-104)
Burnett1: "Recollections and Opinions of An Old Pioneer" by Peter H. Burnett
Burnett2: "Letters of Peter H. Burnett" OHSQ Vol III p.398-426
Fremont: Memoirs of My Life, John Charles Fremont
Blevins: Alexander Blevins Interview
Ford: Pioneer Road Makers, Ninevah Ford, 1878 Salem, OR
McClane: Letter of John B. McClane, University of California Berkley Library, Recollections, mss, 13pp
Nesmith: Diary of the Emigration of 1843 by James W. Nesmith (OHSQ Dec 1906 329-359)
Newby: William T. Newby's Diary, Emigration of 1843 (OHSQ Vol 40 p.221-242); original housed at University of Oregon, Corvallis, OR
The following diary entries gives the reader a look at the emigration of 1843 through the eyes of the participants. The diary entries are abstracts and the complete diary or reminiscence of a particular individual can be obtained via the sources above. While the emigration of 1843 had its share of weather issues and stress from the unknown, the biggest challenge it faced was obtaining a balance between the strong personalities of those making the journey. Both Peter Burnett and James W. Nesmith make mention of it and it is an issue that was prevalent in the emigrations of later years as well.
Preparing To Emigrate
EApplegate: All the summer, fall and winter, after getting Shortess's guide, little else was studied or discussed, and many a man had mastered much of its contents. In obedience to Shortess's advide to trade for all the good American and English cattle we could, father and the uncles had collected nearly eight hundred.
Burnett1: The health of Mrs. Burnett had been delicate for some three years, and it was all we could do to keep her alive through the winter in that cold climate. Her physicians said the trip would either kill or cure her. I was also largely indebted to my old partners in the mercantile business. I had sold all my property, had lived in a plain style, had worked hard, and paid all I could spare each year; and still the amount of my indebtedness seemed to be reduced very little......... Putting all these considerations together, I determined, with the consent of my old partners, to move to Oregon. I therefore laid all my plans and calculations before them. I said that, if Doctor Linn's bill should pass, the land would ultimately enable me to pay up. There was at least a chance. In staying where I was, I saw no reasonable probability of every being able to pay my debts.......They all most willingly gave their consent, and said to me, "Take what may be necessary for the trip, leave us what you can spare, and pay us the balance when you can do so..... I followed their advice, and set to work most vigorously to organize a wagon company. I visited the surrounding counties, making speeches wherever I could find a sufficient audience, and succeeded even beyond my expectations. Having completed my arrangements, I left my house in Weston on the 8th day of May, 1843, with two ox wagons, and one small two-horse wagon, four yoke of oxen, two mules, and a fair supply of provisions; and arrived at the rendezvous, some twelve miles west of Independence, and just beyond the line of the State, on the 17th of May.
Ford: In the spring of 1843 Peter H. Burnett of Platte County Missouri and other prominent men were making up a company to go to Oregon. It was in my neighborhood in Platte City. I was acquainted with the parties. There was another object: One grand objective we had was the prospect of obtaining a donation of land if the country was worth staying in. That was the object of Burnett and others to come and colonize this country, to take possession of the United States domain west of the Rocky Mountains. It was not at that time settled to belong to the United States. The controversy was up and there was some influence fot to bear to induce people to colonize. The question was agitated in relation to the right and title of the United States to the country. I never heard that the government desired to colonize. It was all a private movement and we came on our own responsibility. We had not any assurance that the Government would assist or protect us in any manner. Freemont Company which fell in after us I understood was employed by the Government. But we did not travel together and we knew nothing of their going when we were making up a company.
JApplegate: The migration of a large body of men, women and children across the continent to Oregon was, in the year 1843, strictly an experiment; not only in respect to the members, but to the outfit of the migrating party. Before that date, two or three missionaries had performed the journey on horseback, driving a few cows with them. Three or four wagons drawn by oxen had reached Fort Hall, on Snake River, but it was the honest opinion of the most of those who had traveled the route down Snake River, that no large number of cattle could be susisted on its scanty pasturage, or wagons taken over a country so rugged and mountainous..... The emigrants were also assured that the Sioux would be much opposed to the passage of so large a body through their country, and would probably resist it on account of the emigrants' destroying and frightening away the buffaloes(sic), which were then diminishing in numbers.
Arthur: Passing over the years to 1843, about the middle of May, in company with my parents, brother and sisters, and with our wagons heavy laden with household goods, bidding a sorrowful and heart-felt adieu to kindred and friends, we set out upon the lengthy and fatiguing journey across the plains. The migration of a large body of men, women and children across the continent to Oregon in the year of 1843, was strictly an experiment, not only in respect to the number, but to the outfit of the imigrating party. Before that date a few missionaries and others had performed the journey on horseback, and a few wagons drawn by horses had reached Fort Hall; but it was the opinion of most of them who had traveled the route down Snake river, that no large number of cattle could be sustained on its scanty pasturage, or wagons taken over a route so barren and mountainous. The migration party was also assured that the Sioux Indians would be much opposed to the passage of so large a body through their country, and would forcibly resist it on account of the emigrants destroying and frightening the buffalo, which were diminishing in number. The emigrating body numbered over one thousand souls, with one hundred and twenty wagons drawn by ox teams, averaging about three yoke to the wagon, and over three thousand head of loose cattle and horses. I undertake to say that the emigration of 1843 was the chief event in saving the Pacific northwest to the United States.
JApplegate: The migrating body numbered over one thousand souls, with about one hundred and twenty wagons, drawn by six-ox teams, averaging about six yokes to the team, and several thousand loose horses and cattle.
Blevins: We rendezvoused at West Port west of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. We started from there in April. There were between 500 and 700 souls in the party and 113 wagons. Our Captain was Peter H. Burnett. He was chosen Captain at West Port. We had as additional officers Nesmith for orderly sergeant, he kept the roll of the emigrants, list of wagons and so forth. I do not recollect of any other officers. Our Pilot was John Gannt. He was a Mountaineer and had been as far as Fort Hall. He engaged to pilot us as far as Fort Hall. I kept a Journal but my house burnt down and it was destroyed.
Barry: some 300 Oregon-bound men, women, and children, with about 50 wagons, were at the "Indian Creek" rendezvous (just west of the Missouri line, in present Johnson county). By June 1(at Soldier Creek, near what is now Topeka) the "Great Emigration" of 1843--probably numbered upwards of 800 persons, with 110 wagons; and the final count of this year's emigrants, it would appear, totaled around 850 persons (although some claimed up to 1,000), with 120, or more, wagons. The peak livestock census (work oxen, loose cattle, horses, and mules) may have totaled 3,000 animals (though estimates ranged up to 5,000).
Nesmith: My duty required me to take the names of men for duty. They numbered 254. The number of wagons was 111.
Burnett1: the emigrants at the rendezvous held a meeting and appointed a committee to see Dr. Whitman. The meeting also appointed a committee of seven to inspect wagons, and one of five to draw up rules and regulations for the journey. At this meeting I made the emigrants a speech, an exaggerated report of which was made in 1875, by ex-Senator J.W. Nesmith of Oregon, in his address to the pioneers of that state. The meeting adjourned to meet at the Big Springs on Saturday, the 20th of May.
Nesmith: the meeting was organized by calling Mr. Layson to the chair and Mr. Burnett secretary. It was moved and seconded that there be a committee of nine appointed to draft rules and regulations to govern the company. Resolved that a committee of seven be appointed for the purpose of inspecting the outfits of the different individuals comprising the company.
Burnett1: I attended the meeting at the Big Springs, where I met Colonel John Thornton, Colonel Bartleson, Mr. Rickman, and Doctor Whitman. At this meeting rules and regulations were adopted. Mr. Delaney, who was from high up on Big Pigeon, near Kit Bullard's mill, Tennessee, proposed that we should adopt either the criminal laws of Tennessee or those of Missouri for our government on the route. William Martin and Daniel Matheny were appointed a committee to engage Captain John Gant as our pilot as far as Fort Hall. He was accordingly employed; and it was agreed in camp that we should start on Monday morning, May 22. We had delayed our departure, because we thought the grass too short to support our stock. The spring of 1843 was very late, and the ice in the Missouri River at Weston only broke up on the 11th of April.
The Great Emigration
Barry: The "Great Emigration" (slowed by a late spring) got under way from eastern Kansas on May 21 and 22. Committees (appointed on the 18th and 20th) had sought advice from Dr. Marcus Whitman (who would be traveling with them), and hired John Gantt (ex-army officer and one-time fur trader) as pilot to Fort Hall.
Nesmith: Cooper's wagons, with some others, start out from the encampment in the morning.
Burnett1: a general start was made from the rendezvous, and we reached Elm Grove, about fifteen miles distant, about 3 P.M. This grove had but two trees, both elms, and a few dogwood bushes, which we used for fuel. The small elm was most beautiful in the wild and lonely prairie; and the large one had all its branches trimmed off for firewood. The weather being clear, and the road as good as possible, the day's journey was most delightful. The white-sheeted wagons and the fine teams, moving in the wilderness of green prairie, made the most lovely appearance. The place where we encamped was very beautiful; and no scene appeared to our enthusiastic vision more exquisite than the sight of so many wagons, tents, fires, cattle, and people, as were here collected. At night the sound of joyous music was heard in the tents. Our long journey thus began in sunshine and song, in anecdote and laughter; but these all vanished before we reached its termination.... A trip to Oregon with ox teams was at that time a new experiment, and was exceedingly severe upon the temper and endurance of people. It was one of the most conclusive tests of character, and the very best school in which to study human nature. Before the trip terminated, people acted upon their genuine principles, and threw off all disguises. It was not that the trip was beset with very great perils, for we had no war with the Indians, and no stock stolen by them. But there were ten thousand little vexations continually recurring, which could not be forseen before they occurred, nor fully remembered when past, but were keenly felt while passing. At one time an ox would be missing, at another time a mule, and then a struggle for the best encampment, and for a supply of wood and water; and, in these struggles, the worst traits of human nature were displayed, and there was no remedy but patient endurance. At the beginning of the journey there were several fisticuff fights in camp; but the emigrants soon abandoned that practice, and thereafter confined themselves to abuse in words only. The man with a black eye and battered face could not well hunt up his cattle or drive his team.
Our emigrants were placed in a new and trying position, and it was interesting to see the influence of pride and old habits over men. They were often racing with their teams in the early portion of the journey, though they had before them some seventeen hundred miles of travel. No act could have been more inconsiderate than for men, under such circumstances, to injure their teams simply to gratify their ambition. Yet the proper rule in such a case was to allow any and every one to pass you who desired to do so. Our emigrants, on the first portion of the trip, were about as wasteful of their provisions as if they had been at home. When portions of bread were left over, they were thrown away; and, when any one came to their tents, he was invited to eat. I remember well that, for a long time, the five young men I had with me refused to eat any part of the bacon rind, which accordingly fell to my share, in addition to an equal division of the bacon. Finally they asked for and obtained their portion of the bacon rind, their delicate appetites having become ravenous on the trip. Those who were in the habit of inviting every one to eat who stood around at meal times, ultimately found out that they were feeding a set of loafers, and gave up the practice.
Nesmith: Encamped at the grove, consisting of one old elm stump.
Burnett1: we reached the Wakarusa River, where we let our wagons down the steep banks by ropes.
Barry: the Oregonians were crossing the Wakarusa--letting their wagons down the steep bank with ropes, unaware that "a very practicable ford... (was) about one hundred yards above." Their pilot, John Gantt, joined the camp on the Wakarusa's west bank that night. On the 25th the vanguard reached the Kansas crossing (at Topeka); the rest arrived next day. Since the river was high and unfordable, a committe (appointed May 27) "attempted to hire Pappa's (Joseph Papin's) platform, but no reasonable arrangement could be made with him." The emigrants then built their own ferryboat, completing it on the 28th. Meantime, some persons paid Papin and crossed the Kansas as early as May 26 on his "platform made of two canoes." (It sank on May 28 and "several men, women, and children came near being drowned, but all escaped with the loss of some property.")
Nesmith: Arrived at Kansas. Crossed the river on a platform made of two canoes. Encamped on the northwest side, at the landing. I swam the river several times with ease, and once assisted a young man named Wm. Vaughn to shore. Another man assisted me. His name was G.W. Stewart. Came near drowning myself in consequence of Vaughn's struggling with me in the water.
Burnett1: we reached the Kansas River, and we finished crossing it on the 31st. At this crossing we met Fathers DeSmet and DeVos, missionaries to the Flathead Indians.
Blevins: To cross the Crow they dug out canoes
of black walnut and lashed them together to form a raft. On this the
wagons were put and ferried over. The Zachery family when near the
western bank had the misfortune to have the raft sink, immersing the
whole family as well as their provisions and all in the water. There
were crowds of peaceable Indians on the shore who boldly plunged into
the water to their rescue. A little boy about six years old was
sitting on an ox-yoke which, being light, floated off with him. The
river ran very rapid at this place and the little fellow perched on
his frail raft hung on without a cry of fear. Several savages fleet
offoot ran down the bank, and after getting a few rods ahead of the boy,
went out and brought the young Moses ashore.
Barry: the last of the emigrants, and their wagons, reached the Kaw's North bank
Burnett1: we met a war party of Kansas and Osage Indians, numbering about ninety warriors. They were all mounted on horses, had their faces painted red, and had with then one Pawnee scalp, with the ears to it, and with the wampum in them. One of them, who spoke English well, said they had fasted three days and were very hungry. Our guide, Captain Gant, advised us to furnish them with provisions; otherwise, they would steal some of our cattle. We deemed this not only good advice but good humanity, and furnished these starving warriors with enough provisions to satisfy their hunger. They had only killed one Pawnee, but had divided the scalp, making several pieces, some with the ears on and part of the cheek. Two of this party were wounded, one in the shoulder and the other in some other part of the body.
Burnett1: None us knew anything about a trip across the plains, except our pilot, John Gant, who had made several trips with small parties of hired and therefore disciplined men, who knew how to obey orders. But my company was composed of very different materials; and our pilot had no knowledge that qualified him to give me sound advice. I adopted rules and endeavored to enforce them, but found much practical difficulty and opposition; all of which I at first attributed to the fact that our emigrants were green at the beginning, but comforted myself with the belief that they would improve in due time; but my observation soon satisfied me that matters would grow worse. It became very doubtful whether so large a body of emigrants could be practically kept together on such a journey. These considerations induced me to resign on the 8th of June, and William Martin was elected my successor.
Newby: Thare was nouthing of importance tuck place till we got to Big Blue which waus June the 6. We had the worst storme and raine I ever saw which commenst a bout 10 o'clock & held till day. All the tents blode down & some holding thare waggeons to keep them from upsetting.
Newby: Mooved our incampment a bout 4 hundred yards & had pirty much sich a knight as the knight before.
Nesmith: we divided our company into four divisions and elected a captain and orderly sergeant for each. Sergeant Ford on guard.
Nesmith: I traveled in advance with the pilot and advance guard. Passed the California wagons about 1:00 o'clock.
Burnett1: we were surprised and delighted to hear that Capt. Gant had killed a buffalo. The animal was seen at the distance of a mile from the hunter, who ran upon him with his horse and shot him with a large pistol, several shots being required to kill him. We were all anxious to taste buffalo meat, never having eaten any before; but we found it exceedingly poor and tough. The buffalo was an old bull, left by the herd because he was unable to follow.
Nesmith: I left camp this morning with James Williams and Ed. Otey, all mounted on mules, and armed with four pistols, a rifle and a bowie knife each, for the purpose of taking a buffalo hunt.
Nesmith: Tonight the council assembled to settle some difficulty between John B. Howell and Eldbridge Edson. Circumstances too numerous to mention.
Burnett1: we saw a splendid race between some of our dogs and an antelope, which ran all the way down the long line of wagons, and about a hundred and fifty yards distant from them. Greyhounds were let loose, but could not catch it. It ran very smoothly, making no long bounds like the deer or horse, but seemed to glide through the air. The gait of the antelope is so peculiar that if one was running at the top of his speed over a perfectly smooth surface, his body would always be substantially the same distance from the earth.
JApplegate: Before the division on the Blue River there
was some just cause for discontent in respect to loose cattle. Some of
the emigrants had only their teams, while others had large herds in addition,
which must share the pasture and be guarded and driven by the whole body. This
discontent had its effect in the division on the Blue. Those not encumbered
with or having but few loose cattle attached themselves to the light column;
those having more than four or five cows had of necessity to join the heavy
or cow column. Hence the cow column, being much larger than the other
and much encumbered with its large herds, had to use greater exertion and observe
a more rigid discipline to keep pace with the more agile consort. It is
with the cow column that I propose to journey with the reader for a single day.
The emigrants first organized and attempted to travel in one body, but it was soon found that no progress could be made with a body so cumberous, and as yet so averse to all discipline. And at the crossing of the "Big Blue" it divided into two columns, which traveled in supporting distance of each other as far as Independence Rock on the Sweetwater.
From this point, all danger from Indians being over, the emigrants separated into small parties better suited to the narrow mountain paths and small pastures in their front.
Burnett1: Ever since we crossed the Kansas River we had been traveling up Blue River, a tributary of the former. On the 17th of June we reached our last encampment on Blue. We here saw a band of Pawnee Indians, returning from a buffalo hunt. They had quantities of dried buffalo meat, of which they generously gave us a good supply. They were fine looking Indians, who did not shave their heads, but cut their hair short like white men.
Nesmith: Mr. Applegate's company passed us in the evening.
Burnett1: we crossed from the Blue to the great Platte River, making a journey of from twenty-five to thirty miles, about the greatest distance we ever traveled in a single day. The road was spendid, and we drove some distance into the Platte bottom, and encamped in the open prairie without fuel. Next morning we left very early, without breakfast, having traveled two hundred and seventy-one miles from the rendezvous, according to the estimated distance recorded in my journal.
We traveled up the south bank of the Platte, which, at the point where we struck it, was from a mile to a mile and a half wide. It runs hundreds of miles through a desert without receiving any tributaries. Its general course is almost as straight as a direct line. It runs through a formation of sand of equal consistence; and this is the reason its course is so direct.
McClane: ...but in going up the South Platt we lost
the trail and was satisfied we must have passed it somewhere from the lay of
the country, and there was a few of the young men and myself undertook to cross
the South Platt and see if we could find the Subletts trail.
(No doubt you know by experience, as well as others, that but few can swim on a trip of that kind and it devolves upon a few to find the fords and lost trails). We went across by pretty hard work by wading and swimming and then we struck the sand hills, apparently nothing but sand piled up in sugar loaf shape. The majority of the party that went over wished to take a straight shoot across to the North Platt or find Subletts trail. One other, and if I am not mistaken his name was Sewal and myself concluded we would go down the river, we thought it would be the most likely place to find the Subletts trail. This brought on a rupture in the party; they thought as they was the majority in the party they had ought to rule and us all go together. We thought it would be folly to take a trip across those sand hills, which would take nearly a days travel and being without provisions or blankets only having our amunition and guns. The prospect looked very gloomy going through the desert where there wasnt any prospect of game of any kind to live upon. So we started down the river. They seeing us start they demanded us to halt and come back. We halted but didnt go back. We told them that they could shoot, that we was going on, and immediately torned on our heels and went on. They Immediately started for the North Platt. We didnt travel many miles before we found the Subletts trail. We immediately returned opposite our camp, and went across to camp and report progress. After dark that evening we saw a little flickering light on the opposite side of the river and was satisfied it was our companions that had left us to go to the North Platt that day.
About that time there came us one of those rain storms that that country can produce and our comrads had a sorry time of it that night without food or shelter. In the morning after the river had swollen considerably, after the nights rain, they undertook to come across and they would have done so if it hadnt been for assistence from our side. After waiting some time on the bank of the river, we succeeded in finding a ford by starting in near where we were camped and going quarteringly across stream down it. Some times crossing islands and sometimes channels, by going down the stream that way about three miles we came out safely on the north shore. I have made this statement merely to show the inconvenience our emmigration encountered for want of a guide or a road.
Burnett1: The valley of the Platte is almost twenty
miles wide, through the middle of which this wide, shallow, and muddy stream
makes its rapid course. Its banks are low, not exceeding five or six feet
in height; and the river bottoms on each side seem to the eye a dead level,
covered with luxuriant grass. Ten miles from the river you come to the
foot of the table lands, which are also apparently a level sandy plain, elevated
some hundred and fifty feet above the river bottoms. On these plains grow
the short buffalo grass, upon which the animal feeds during a portion of the
year. As the dry season approaches, the water, which stands in pools on
these table lands, dries up, and the buffalo are compelled to go to the Platte
for water to drink. They start for water about 10 A.M. and always travel
in single file, one after the other, and in parallel lines about twenty yards
apart, and go in a direct line to the river. They invariably travel the
same routes over and over again until they make a path some ten inches deep
and twelve inches wide. These buffalo paths constituted quite an obstruction
to our wagons, which were heavily laden at this point in our journey. Several
axles were broken. We had been apprised of the danger in advance, and
each wagon was supplied with an extra axle.
In making our monotonous journey up the smooth valley of the Platte, through the warm, genial sunshine of summer, the feeling of drowsiness was so great that it was extemely difficult to keep awake during the day. Instances occurred where drivers went to sleep on the road, sitting in the front of their wagons; and the oxen, being about as sleepy, would stop until the drivers were aroused from their slumber. My small wagon was used only for the family to ride in; and Mrs. Burnett and myself drove and slept alternately during the day.
One great difficulty on this part of the trip was the scarcity of fuel. Sometimes we found dry willows, sometimes we picked up pieces of driftwood along the way, which we put into our wagons, and hauled them along until we needed them. At many points of the route up the Platte we had to use buffalo chips. By cutting a trench some ten inches deep, six inches wide, and two feel long, we were enabled to get along with very little fuel. At one or two places the wind was so severe that we were forced to use the trenches in order to make a fire at all.
Newby: Doctor Whitmon over took us last eveing. is a missionary. crost in the mountains last winter & returned to the States on missionary business & to settel up his brothers estate. Head with him his neighphiu (nephew), a lad ten or twelve years old.
Nesmith: This morning myself and twenty other men started ahead of the company with horses and mules to hunt and pack skins and buffalo meat to the crossing up the South Fork by the time the company should arrive at that point.
Burnett1: the party of hunters returned with plenty of fresh buffalo meat. We thought the flesh of the buffalo the most excellent of all flesh eaten by man. Its flavor is decidedly different from that of beef, and far superior, and the meat more digestible. On a trip like that, in that dry climate, our appetites were excellent; but, even making every reasonable allowance, I still think buffalo the sweetest meat in the world.
Nesmith: I stopped in camp with Mr. Reading and three other men. Dried meat all day.
Nesmith: The company came up and overtook us about noon at the crossing, but found the water so high that it was impossible to ford the river. Traveled about sixteen miles today and camped on the river bank. Applegate's company four miles in our rear. General McCarver left us to join the other company.
Undated Look At Camp Life in Cow Column
JApplegate: It is four o'clock A.M.; the sentinels on duty have discharged their rifles--the signal that the hours of sleep are over--and every wagon and tent is pouring forth its night tenants, and slow-kindling smokes begin largely to rise and float away in the morning air. Sixty men start from the corral, spreading as they make through the vast herd of cattle and horses that make a semicircle around the encampment, the most distant perhaps two miles away.
The herders pass to the extreme verge and carefully examine for trails beyond, to see that none of the animals have strayed or been stolen during the night. This morning no trails led beyond the outside animals in sight, and by 5 o'clock the herders begin to contract the great, moving circle, and the well-trained animals moved slowly towards camp, clipping here and there a thistle or a tempting bunch of grass on the way. In about an hour five thousand animals are close up to the encampment, and the teamsters are busy selecting their teams and driving them inside the corral to be yoked. The corral is a circle one hundred yards deep, formed with wagons connected strongly with each other; the wagon in the rear being connected with the wagon in front by its tongue and ox chains. It is a strong barrier that the most vicious ox cannot break, and in case of an attack of the Sioux would be no contemptible intrenchment(sic).
From 6 to 7 o'clock is a busy time; breakfast is to be eaten, the tents struck, the wagons loaded and the teams yoked and brought up in readiness to be attached to their respective wagons. All know when, at 7 o'clock, the signal to march sounds, that those not ready to take their proper places in the line of march must fall into the dusty rear for the day.
There are sixty wagons. They have been divided into fifteen divisions or platoons of four wagons each, and each platoon is entitled to lead in its turn. The leading platoon today will be the rear one tomorrow, and will bring up the rear unless some teamster, through indolence or negligence, has lost his place in the line, and is condemned to that uncomfortable post. It is within ten minutes of seven; the corral but now a strong barricade is everywhere broken, the teams being attached to the wagons. The women and children have taken their places in them. The pilot (a borderer who has passed his life on the verge of civilization and has been chosen to the post of leader from his knowledge of the savage and his experience in travel through roadless wastes), stands ready, in the midst of his pioneers and aids, to mount and lead the way. Ten or fifteen young men, not today on duty, form another cluster. They are ready to start on a buffalo hunt, are well mounted and well armed, as they need be, for the unfriendly Sioux have driven the buffalo out of the Platte, and the hunters must ride fifteen or twenty miles to reach them. The cow drivers are hastening, as they get ready, to the rear of their charge, to collect and prepare them for the day's march.
It is on the stroke of seven; the rush to and fro, the cracking of whips, the loud command to oxen, and what seemed to be the inextricable confusion of the last ten minutes has ceased. Fortunately every one has been found and every teamster is at his post. The clear notes of a trumpet sound in the front; the pilot and his guards mount their horses; the leading divisions of the wagons move out of the encampment, and take up the line of march; the rest fall into their places with the precision of clock work, until the spot so lately full of life sinks back into that solitude that seems to reign over the broad plain and rushing river as the caravan draws its lazy length towards the distant El Dorado. It is with the hunters we shall briskly canter towards the bold but smooth and grassy bluffs that bound the broad valley, for we are not yet in sight of the grander but less beautiful scenery (of Chimney Rock, Court House and other bluffs, so nearly resembling giant castles and palaces), made by the passage of the Platte through the highlands near Laramie. We have been traveling briskly for more than an hour. We have reached the top of the bluff, and now have turned to view the wonderful panorama spread before us. To those who have not been on the Platte, my powers of description are wholly inadequate to convey an idea of the vast extent and grandeur of the picture, and the rare beauty and distinctness of the detail. No haze or fog obscures objects in the pure and transparent atmosphere of this lofty region. To those accustomed only to the murky air of the seaboard, no correct judgment of distance can be formed by sight, and objects which they think they can reach in a two hours' walk may be a day's travel away; and though the evening air is a better conductor of sound, on the high plain during the day the report of the loudest rifle sounds little louder than the bursting of a cap; and while the report can be heard but a few hundred yards, the smoke of the discharge may be seen for miles. So extended is the view from the bluff on which the hunters stand, that the broad river glowing under the morning sun like a sheet of silver, and the broader emerald valley that borders it, stretch away in the distance until they narrow at almost two points in the horizon, and when first seen, the vast pile of the Wind River Mountains thought hundreds of miles away, looks clear and distinct as a white cottage on the plain.
We are full six miles away from the line of march; though everything is dwarfed by distance, it is seen distinctly. The caravan has been about two hours in motion and is now as widely extended as a prudent regard for safety will permit. First, near the bank of the shining river is a company of horsemen; they seem to have found an obstruction, for the main body has halted while three or four ride rapidly along the bank of the creek or slough. They are hunting a favorable crossing for the wagons; while we look they have succeeded; it has apparently required no work to make it passable, for all but one of the party have passed on, and he has raised a flag, no doubt a signal to the wagons to steer their course to where he stands. The leading teamster sees him; though he is yet two miles off, and steers his course directly towards him, all the wagons following in his track. They (the wagons) form a line three-quarters of a mile in length; some of the teamsters ride upon the front of their wagons, some march beside their wagons; scattered along the line companies of women are taking exercise on foot; they gather bouquets of rare and beautiful flowers that line the way; near them stalks a stately greyhound, or an Irish wolf dog, apparently proud of keeping watch and ward over his master's wife and children. Next comes a band of horses; two or three men or boys follow them, the docile and sagacious animals scarce needing this attention, for they have learned to follow in the rear of the wagons, and know that at noon they will be allowed to graze and rest. Their knowledge of time seems as accurate as of the place they are to occupy in the line, and even a full-blown thistle will scarce tempt them to straggle or halt until the dinner hour has arrived. Not so with the large herd of horned beasts that bring up the rear; lazy, selfish and unsocial, it has been a task to get them in motion, the strong always ready to domineer over the weak, halt in the front and forbid the weak to pass them. They seem to move only in the fear of the driver's whip; though in the morning, full of repletion, they have not been driven an hour before their hunger and thirst seem to indicate a fast of days' duration. Through all the long day their greed is never satisfied, not their thirst quenched, nor is there a moment of relaxation of the tedious and vexatious labours of their drivers, although to all others the march furnishes some season of relaxation or enjoyment. For the cow-drivers there is none.
But from the standpoint of the hunters, the vexations are not apparent; the crack of whips and loud objrgation are lost in the distances. Nothing of the moving panorama, smooth and orderly as it appears, has more attractions for the eye than the vast square column in which all colors are mingled, moving here slowly and there briskly, as impelled by horsemen riding furiously in front and rear.
But the picture in its grandeur, its wonderful mingling of colors and distinctness of detail, is forgotten in contemplation of the singular people who give it life and animation. No other race of men with the means at their command would undertake so great a journey, none save these could successfully perform it, with no previous preparation, relying only on the fertility of their own invention as it arose. They have undertaken to perform with slow-moving oxen a journey a journey of two thousand miles. The way lies over trackless wastes, wide and deep rivers, ragged and lofty mountains, and is beset with hostile savages. Yet, whether it were a deep river with no tree upon its banks, a rugged defile where even a loose horse could not pass, a hill too steep for him to climb, or a threatened attack of an enemy, they are always found ready and equal to the occasion, and always conquerors. May we not call them men of destiny? They are people changed in no essential particulars from their ancestors, who have followed closely on the footsteps of the receding savage, from the Atlantic seaboard to the great Valley of the Mississippi.
But while we have been gazing at the picture in the valley, the hunters have been examining the high plain in the other direction. Some dark moving objects have been discovered in the distance, and all are closely watching them to discover what they are, for in the atmosphere of the plains a flock of crows marching miles away, or a band of buffaloes or Indians at ten times the distance look alike, and many ludicrous mistakes occur. But these are buffaloes, for two have struck their heads together and are, alternately, pushing each other back. The hunters mount and away in pursuit, and I, a poor cow-driver, must hurry back to my daily toil, and take a scolding from my fellow herders for so long playing truant.
The pilot, by measuring the ground and timing the speed of the wagons and the walk of his horses, had determined the rate of each, so as to enable him to select the nooning place, as nearly as the requisite grass and water can be had at the end of five hours' travel of the wagons. Today, the ground being favorable, little time has been lost in preparing the road, so that he and his pioneers are at the nooning place an hour in advance of the wagons, which time is spent in preparing convenient watering places for the animals, and digging little wells near the bank of the Platte, as the teams are not unyoked, but simply turned loose from the wagons, a corral is not formed at noon, but the wagons are drawn up in columns, four abreast, the leading wagon of each platoon on the left, the platoons being formed with that in view. This brings friends together at noon as well as at night.
Today an extra session of the council is being held, to settle a dispute that does not admit of delay, between a proprietor and a young man who has undertaken to do a man's service on the journey for bed and board. Many such engagements exist, and much interest is taken in the manner in which this high court, from which there is no appeal, will define the rights of each party in such engagements. The council was a high court in the most exalted sense. It was a senate composed of the ablest and most respected fathers of the emigration. It exercised both legislative and judicial powers, and its laws and decisions proved it equal and worthy of the high trust reposed on it. Its sessions were usually held on days when the caravan was not moving. It first took the state of the little commonwealth into consideration; revised or repeated rules defective or obsolete, and enacted such others as the exigencies seemed to require. The common weal being cared for, it next resolved itself into a court to hear and settle private disputes and grievances. The offender and the aggrieved appeared before it; witnesses were examined, and the parties were heard by themselves and sometimes by counsel. The judges being thus made fully acquainted with the case, and being in no way influenced or cramped by technicalities, decided all cases according to their merits. There was but little use for lawyers before this court, for no plea was entertained which was calculated to hinder or defeat the ends of justice. Many of these judges have since won honors in higher spheres. They have aided to establish on the broad basis of right and universal liberty two pillars of our great Republic in the Occident. Some of the young men who appeared before them as advocates have themselves sat upon the highest judicial tribunals, commanded armies, been governors of states and taken high position in the senate of the nation.
It is now one o'clock; the bugle has sounded and the caravan has resumed its westward journey. It is in the same order, but the evening is far less animated than the morning march; a drowsiness has fallen apparently on man and beast; teamsters drop asleep on their perches and even when walking by their teams, and the words of command are now addressed to the slowly creeping oxen in the soft tenor of women or the piping treble of children, while the snores of the teamsters make a droning accompaniment. But a little incident breaks the monotony of the march. An emigrant's wife, whose state of health has caused Doctor Whitman to travel near the wagon for the day, is now taken with violent illness. The Doctor has had the wagon driven out of the line, a tent pitched and a fire kindled. Many conjectures are hazarded in regard to this mysterious proceeding, and as to why this lone wagon is to be left behind. And we too must leave it, hasten to the front and note the proceedings, for the sun is now getting low in the west and at length the painstaking pilot is standing ready to conduct the train in the circle which he has previously measured and marked out, which is to form the invariable fortification for the night. The leading wagons follow him so nearly around the circle that but a wagon length separates them. Each wagon follows in its track, the rear closing on the front, until its tongue and ox-chains will perfectly reach from one to the other, and so accurate the measure and perfect the practice, that the hindmost wagon of the train always precisely closes the gateway, as each wagon is brought into position. It is dropped from its team (the teams being inside the circle), the team unyoked and the yokes and chains are used to connect the wagon strongly with that in its front. Within ten minutes from the time the leading wagon halted, the barricade is formed, the teams unyoked and driven out to pasture. Every one is busy preparing fires of buffalo chips to cook the evening meal, pitching tents and otherwise preparing for the night. There are anxious watchers for the absent wagon, for there are many matrons who may be afflicted like its inmate before the journey is over; and they fear the strange and startling practice of this Oregon doctor will be dangerous. But as the sun goes down the absent wagon rolls into camp, the bright, speaking face and cheery look of the doctor, who rides in advance, declare without words that all is well, and both mother and child are comfortable. I would fain now and here pay a passing tribute to that noble and devoted man, Doctor Whitman. I will obtrude no other name upon the reader, nor would I his were he of our party or even living, but his stay with us was transient, though the good he did was permanent, and he has long since died at his post.
From the time he joined us on the Platte until he left us at Fort Hall, his great experience and indomitable energy were of priceless value to the migrating column. His constant advice, which we knew was based upon a knowledge of the road before us, was "Travel, travel, TRAVEL; nothing else will take you to the end of your journey; nothing is wise that does not help you along; nothing is good for you that causes a moment's delay." His great authority as a physician and complete success in the case above referred to, saved us many prolonged and perhaps ruinous delays from similar causes, and it is no disparagement to others to say that to no other individual are the emigrants of 1843 so much indebted for the successful conclusion of their journey as to Dr. Marcus Whitman.
All able to bear arms in the party have been formed into three companies, and each of these into four watches; every third night it is the duty of one of these companies to keep watch and ward over the camp, and it is so arranged that each watch takes its turn of guard duty through the different watches of the night. Those forming the first watch tonight will be second on duty, then third and fourth, which brings them through all the watches of the night. They begin at 8 o'clock P.M., and end at 4 o'clock A.M.
It is not yet 8 o'clock when the first watch is to be set; the evening meal is just over, and the corral now free from the intrusion of cattle or horses, groups of children are scattered over it. The larger are taking a game of romps; "the wee toddling things" are being taught the great achievement that distinguishes man from the lower animals. Before a tent near the river a violin makes lively music, and some youths and maidens have improvised a dance upon the green; in another quarter a flute gives its mellow and melancholy notes to the still night air, which, as they float away over the quiet river, seem a lament for the past rather than a hope for the future. It has been a prosperous day; more than twenty miles have been accomplished of the great journey. The encampment is a good one; one of the causes that threatened much future delay has just been removed by the skill and energy of that "good angel" of the emigrants, Doctor Whitman, and it has lifted a load from the hearts of the elders. Many of these are assembled around the good doctor at the tent of the pilot (which is his home for the time being), and are giving grave attention to his wise and energetic counsel. The care-worn pilot sits aloof, quietly smoking his pipe, for he knows the brave doctor is "strengthening his hands."
But time passes; the watch is set for the night; the council of old men has broken up, and each has returned to his own quarter; the flute whispered its last lament to the deepening night; the violin is silent, and the dancers have dispersed; enamored youth have whispered a tender "good night" in the ear of blushing maidens, or stolen a kiss from the lips of some future bride-for Cupid here, as elsewhere, has been busy bringing together congenial hearts, and among these simple people he alone is consulted in forming the marriage tie. Even the doctor and the pilot have finished their confidential interview and have separated for the night. All is hushed and repose from the fatigues of the day, save the vigilant guard and the wakeful leader, who still has cares upon his mind that forbid sleep. He hears the 10 o'clock relief taking post and the "all well" report of the returned guard; the night deepens, yet he seeks not the needed repose. At length a sentinel hurries to him with the welcome report that a party is approaching--as yet too far away for its character to be determined, and he instantly hurries out in the direction in which it was seen. This he does both from inclination and duty, for in times past the camp had been unnecessarily alarmed by timind or inexperienced sentinels, causing much confusion and fright amongst women and children, and it had been a rule that all extraordinary incidents of the night should be reported directly to the pilot, who alone had the authority to call out the military strength of the column, or of so much of it was in his judgment necessary to prevent a stampede or repel an enemy. Tonight he is at no loss to determine that the approaching party are our missing hunters, and that they have met with success, and he only waits until some further signal he can know that no ill has happened to them. This is not long wanting. He does not even await their arrival, but the last care of the day being removed, and the last duty performed, he too seeks the rest that will enable him to go through the same routine tomorrow. But here I leave him, for my taske is also done, and unlike his, it is to be repeated no more.
Burnett1: our people halted for lunch at noon, and to rest the teams and allow the oxen to graze. Our wagons were about three hundred yards from the river, and were strung out in line to the distance of one mile. While taking our lunch we saw seven buffalo bulls on the opposite side of the river, coming toward us, as if they intended to cross the river in the face of our whole caravan. When they arrived on the opposite bank they had a full view of us; and yet they deliberately entered the river, wading a part of the distance, and swimming the remainder. When we saw that they were determined to cross at all hazards, our men took their rifles, formed in line between the wagons and the river, and awaited the approach of the animals. So soon as they rose the bank, they came on in a run, broke boldly through the line of men, and bore to the left of the wagon. Three of them were killed, and most of the others wounded.
Burnett1: we arrived at a grove of timber, on the south bank of the South Fork of the Platte. This was the only timber we had seen since we struck the river, except on the islands, which were covered with cottonwoods and willows. From our first camp upon the Platte to this point, we had traveled, according to my estimates recorded in my journal, one hundred and seventy-three miles, in eleven days.
Newby: Lay buy & had a modert rain that has cooled the eare (air). It has bin warme and swelterry ever sence the 24. We hunted buffilow & kiled 2. We wonted thare hids for to make bots (boats) to craws the river.
Burnett1: we made three boats by covering our wagon boxes or beds with green buffalo hides sewed together, stretched tightly over the boxes, flesh side out, and tacked on with large tacks; and the boxes, thus covered, were turned up to the sun until the hides were thoroughly dry. This process of drying the green hides had to be repeated several times. From July 1st to 5th, inclusive, we were engaged in crossing the river.
Nesmith: Some stir in camp this morning in consequence of a sentinel's gun going off accidentally, which killed a mule belonging to James Williams, the bullet breaking the mule's neck. This is the most serious accident which has yet occurred from carelessness in the use of firearms, though, judging from carelessness of the men, I have anticipated more serious accidents before this time, and if they do not occur, they will be avoided by great good luck, not by precaution. Captain Applegate and Dr. Whitman came into camp this evening, their company being camped eight miles below this place. Mr. Stewart had the gratification of being presented with a daughter this evening.
Newby: Lay buy & made 2 bots to craws the river. A Mr. Richard Goodman & authers waus hunting & waus crawling on a buffilow & a Mr. Umacrs (Unmicker) gun went off & shot Mr. Goodman throo the right arm.
Nesmith: Continued crossing the river. Two men arrived in our camp this evening from Applegate's company, to get our skin boats for their company to cross eight miles below this place. They bring us intelligence of one of their company being lost by the name of Bennett O'Neil. He had been out three days. They have made vigilant search which proved unsuccessful. An accident occurred today in our company. Mr. Kerritook, a half-blood Cherokee, went out in the hills in quest of game. In firing at an antelope, his rifle burst at the breech, and injured him severly, though not dangerously.
Ford: We were not molested by the Indians beyond horse stealing and driving off cattle and having to pay to get them returned. They were friendly generally. We saw but few. They appeared to be wild and shy and afraid of the wagons. Ours were the first wagons they ever saw, and the first that ever crossed the plains from Missouri with the exception of eleven wagons that came out in 1842 to Fort Hall and there stopped. The persons in that train packed through from Fort Hall. We came to the Buffalo Country on the Platte and there we made boats of beef and buffalo hides--putting them around wagon beds; and for some we made frames. We swam our animals from bar to bar where we could get a footing until we could get across.
Nesmith: The glorious Fourth has once more rolled around. Myself, with most of our company, celebrated it by swimming and fording the South fork of the Big Platte, with cattle, wagons, baggage and so forth. All this at Sleepy Grove. In calculating the distance on our route, we find it 460 miles from Independence. This grove is the first timber of any consequence on the river above where we struck it. The grove consists of large cottonwoods and willows, situated under the bluff on the margin of the river, which is about half a mile wide at this place and partakes very much of the character of the Missouri River, being full of floating sand, with quicksand beaches, the general direction varying little from East and West.
Nesmith: After dark we took a little recreation on a sand beach, in the shape of a dance, having two good violin players with their instruments. But that part of the company which is generally most interesting on such occasions happened to be absent from our party, viz: the ladies. This deficiency was not owing to their being none with the caravan, as we have several bright-eyed girls along, but we deemed it rather unncecessary to invite them to participate in our rough exercise of kicking sand.
Nesmith: Childs and Waldo's company left us here and went on three miles further. Several wagons broke off from our company to join them, among the rest, Old Prairie Chicken. Nobody sorry.
Arthur: Too much can not be said of Dr. Whitman's persistent activity urging the emigrants to bravely travel, travel, as he said that nothing else would carry us through. The emigration of 1843 was the first emigration of consequence to Oregon, and they made a broad wagon road from the frontier of Missouri to the Columbia river and made the way plain for future emigrations. The history of the emigration of 1843 may well be deemed a record of men and women's heroic deeds. They cheerfully gave up home, society, and all the blessings of peace and quiet, and turned from a country blessed with plenty, to face the unknown dangers of a wilderness, and to patiently endure the perils and privations, and to challenge the fierce assaults of the wild beasts, and the still wilder and more ferocious Indian foe. But a kind Providence permitted us to overcome difficulties and reach Oregon with but few accidents and but little sickness of a serious nature. Two babies were brought to light on the way. One baby died from sickness, and one boy four or five years old was killed by falling under the wheel of a wagon. One man was drowned crossing Snake river, and one lady died from sickness and was buried where LaGrande City now stands. The train was delayed but little otherwise than at the crossing of streams, and the tardy moving of a large drove of loose cattle and horses. The train was delayed eight days crossing the main Platte river. A caulked wagon box and a green buffalo hide formed with a hood and cross-sticks in the shape of a wash bowl and a small rope was made fast to each end of the wagon box and the buffalo boat, as it was called, and two or three men to each boat towed them from side to side. Late in the evening examination disclosed the possibility of teams fording the river drawing the empty wagons. Early the next morning eleven teams, drawing as many wagons endeavored to cross, but about midway the river the sand had washed out and made a channel so that we could not go ahead, neither could we go back against the current; after some difficulty we loosed the cattle from the wagons and permitted them to swim to land. It being the fourth of July, twenty-five or thirty men celebrated the afternoon in water waist deep getting the wagons out of the river; all the while listening to the glowing tales and development of Colonel Nesmith's genius.
Burnett1: we arrived at the south bank of the North Fork of the Platte, having traveled a distance of twenty-nine miles from the South Fork. We had not seen any prairie chickens since we left the Blue.
Nesmith: Crossed the divide between the two forks of the Platte, course about north, northwest. Traveled twenty-five miles. Camped on the north fork about two miles in the rear of Childs and Waldo. Several of our men lost this evening.
Newby: We come in site of the Chimney Mountain. This mountain is a bout 250 feete high & on top thare is a bout 100 feet. Loocks like a chimney.
Nesmith: The company traveled up the north fork about eighteen miles. Myself and three others went back on the plains to hunt some lost men belonging to our company. Found them in about seven miles and overtook the company at noon.
Burnett1: we saw three beautiful wild horses.
Nesmith: Came in sight of the Chimney about noon. Child and Waldo's company still ahead. I mount sergeant of the guard and have some sport. Gave two members of the old guard a tour by way of punishment for sleeping on post the night before. Found one of my men sleeping at post and took his gun away from him.
Nesmith: Childs and Waldo out of sight ahead. I go on with a party to look at the Chimney. Eight or ten of us ascend to the top of the mound from whence the shaft or column of clay and sand ascends about 150 feet above the mound, which is about 200 feet high, making 350 feet above the level of the plains, and one of the greatest curiosities I have ever seen in the West, and can be seen distinctly thirty miles on the plains.
Nesmith: Company left the Platte this morning and turned to the left in order to avoid some high bluffs on the river. Mr. Reading and myself left the trail and kept between it and the river, in order to examine the curiosities in the hills...We went down some very deep ravines, some of which were fifty feet, with perpendicular banks, in some places only wide enough for a mule to pass.
Nesmith: Sold a gun at camp this morning, belonging to Isaac Williams, for having gone to sleep on post last night.
Newby: We reached Fort Laramie a bout 12 oclock.
Burnett1: we arrived at Fort Laramie, where we remained two days repairing our wagons. We had traveled from the crossing of the South Fork one hundred and forty-one miles in nine days. Prices of articles at this trading post: Coffee, $1.50 a pint; brown sugar, the same; four, unbolted, 25 cents a pound; powder $1.50 a pound; lead, 75 cents a pound; percussion caps, $1.50 a box; calico, very inferior $1.00 a yard.
Burnett1: At the fort we found the Cheyenne chief
and some of his people. He was a tall, trim, noble-looking Indian, aged
about thirty. The Cheyennes at that time boasted that they had never shed
the blood of the white man. He went alone very freely among our people,
and I happened to meet him at one of our camps, where there was a foolish, rash
young man, who wantonly insulted the chief. Though the chief did not understand
the insulting words, he clearly understood the insulting tone and gestures.
I saw from the expression of his countenance that the chief was most indignant,
though perfectly cool and brave. He made no reply in words, but walked
away slowly; and when some twenty feet from the man who had insulted him, he
turned around, and solemly and slowly shook the forefinger of his right hand
at the young man several times, as much as to say, "I will attend to your
I saw that trouble was coming, and I followed the chief, and by kind, earnest gestures made him understand at last that this young man was considered by us all as a half-witted fool, unworthy of the notice of any sensible man; and that we never paid attention to what he said, as we hardly considered him responsible for his language. The moment the chief comprehended my meaning, I saw a change come over his countenance, and he went away perfectly satisfied. He was a clear-headed man; and, though unlettered, he understood human nature.
Nesmith: Arrived at Fort Laramie about 10:00 o'clock where we found Childs and Applegate's company. Found Laramie Ford very high, and the company was engaged all the afternoon and all night in ferrying. The boys at Fort Platte gave us a ball in the evening, where we received hospitable treatment.
Newby: We reached the Black Hills. Linsey Applegate waggeon broke down & changed in to a cart.
Nesmith: The company got under way this morning, traveling out to the big spring on Sand Creek, about eight miles in company with Childs. Camped together, Applegate's company having gone ahead.
Nesmith: Childs' company traveled ahead. Stopped at noon, just below a canyon on the Platte.
Newby: A very bad road. Joel J. Hembree son Joel fel off the waggeon tung & both wheels run over him.
Nesmith: An alarm at night originated in some very smart young men firing their guns near the camp after dark, and for doing so were put under guard by order of Colonel Martin. They raised a row with the guard, and like to have made a serious matter of it, and as it was, they cocked their rifles and threatened to shoot.
Newby: Lay buy. Joel Hembree departed this life about 2 oclock.
Nesmith: I came on ahead with Captain Gantt and an advance guard, passed over some very rough road, and at noon came up to a fresh grave with stones piled over it, and a note tied on a stick, informing us that it was the grave of Joel Hembree, child of Joel J. Hembree, aged six years, and was killed by a wagon running over its body. At the head of the grave stood a stone containing the name of the child, the first death that has occurred on the expedition. The grave is on the left hand side of the trail, close to Squaw Butte Creek. After crossing the creek we came to a party of mountaineers from the Black's Fork of Green River. They had stopped for dinner. Had several pack horses packed with furs belonging to Mr. Vasques, who treated us very hospitably. We found with Mr. Vasques and his party, two men returning from Oregon, giving a very bad account of that country. They also had letters to some of our company, which differed very much from their verbal account. Child's company of five wagons left our company and went on to the crossing of North Fork.
Newby: We buried the youth & in graved his name on the head stone.
Nesmith: Trailed six miles and camped on the Platte about noon, and endeavored to find a ford. Several men sick in camp, afflicted with a kind of fever. The company discontented, and strong symptoms of mutiny. Some anxious to travel faster, some slower, some want to cross the river here, some want to go ahead, and others want to go any way but the right way. This will always be the difficulty with heterogeneous masses of emigrants crossing these plains. While every man's will is his law, and lets him act or do as he pleases, he will always find friends to support him. In order to obviate this difficulty and maintain good order in large companies, the presence of military force, and a declaration of martial law is highly necessary. Then emigrants will travel in peace, harmony and good order. They have the elements of their own destruction within themselves.
Newby: We fordid the North Fork, tho it was with some difficulty. We first drove over a branch of the river on to a sand beach, then we toock 2 large rops & tide them in the ring of the leed cattle, then thare was from 30 to 40 men on a nouther sand beach that puld at the end of the roap to keep them strate & pull them out, as it was nearely swimming & up streme & a current like a mill tale. This was a bout 50 yards wide. Thin we had to forde a nauther branch a bout the same width, tho not so deepe. I toock the most of my thing out of my waggeon & tide it to a nother one and it turned over & over & come luce & washed down the river. A Mr. Lee & Mr. Williams & my self follerd after ia a bout one mile & had all like to got drowned. We made our escape, & that was all in the morning. We found it a bout 3 miles down the river. We got it out with out much damage. I lost my gun & shot pouch, ax, tare bucket & oxyoake. So much for the 22(nd).
Nesmith: This is my birthday, being twenty-three years of age and upwards of 3,000 miles West of the place of my birth. Edwin Otey and myself struck out toward a large mountain South in quest of game...returned to the company about noon. Found them nooning on the ground near the ford, where Applegate's company had crossed the river the evening previous. Two men from Childs' company met us this evening, informing us they were all across the north fork about ten miles ahead.
Burnett1: July 24 we crossed the North Fork of the Platte by fording, without difficulty, having traveled the distance of one hundred and twenty-two miles from Fort Laramie in nine days.
Arthur: The train crossed the middle Platte on a ferry boat at Fort Laramie and forded the north Platte, Green river and the various crossings of Snake river by coupling a train of teams one to the wagon of the other and placing an extra driver to each team below on horseback to guard the teams into line. Occasionally the train would stop a day to give the women a chance to do some washing.
Nesmith: Got up to the crossing about noon. Applegate's company on the opposite side. Drove across in the afternoon without difficulty.
Burnett1: we arrived at the Sweetwater, having traveled from the North Fork fifty-five miles in three days.
Arthur: On Sweetwater the train rested three days in order to lay in a supply of buffalo meat before leaving the region inhabited by that animal.
Nesmith: Six of us started on a buffalo hunt this morning, crossing a mountain, killed three cows and several bulls. Company consisted of Edwin and Morris, Otey, Chimp, Jackson, Howell and myself.
Nesmith: Started for the company about 8:00 o'clock in a very cold rain. Howell took sick and threw away his meat. Got up to our wagons in the evening. They lay at Independence Rock, our company having split. Colonel Martin, with most of the wagons, had gone ahead. Our wagon and some others of his company fell in with some deserters from Applegate's company, making in all nineteen wagons. All the rest of the company ahead. Applegate's camp on Sweet Water at the rock, and our company just below. The Oregon emigrating company has been strangely divided, and no doubt the dividend will be again divided. The materials it is formed of can not be controlled.
Newby: We reached the Independant Rock a bout 10 oclock & lay buy for the day. This rock is a bout 200 feet high & is a bout 14 hundred yards a round it. Thare is a number of names ingraved on the rock. My name is ingraved a bout 50 feet high in plane vu of the road.
Nesmith: Applegate's company leaves the rock this morning. Our little company remains at its first camp. Captain Cooper assumes command of the company. We spend the day in drying meat, cleaning up our wet firearms, making moccasins, etc.
Nesmith: After breakfast, myself, with some other young men, had the pleasure of waiting on five or six young ladies to pay a visit to Independence Rock. I had the satisfaction of putting the names of Miss Mary Zachary and Miss Jane Mills on the Southeast point of the rock, near the road, on a high point. Facing the road, in all the splendor of gunpowder, tar and buffalo grease, may be seen the name of J.W. Nesmith, from Maine, with an anchor.
Nesmith: Left the encampment near Independence Rock about 11:00 o'clock. Came up to Martin's encampment about 2:00 o'clock, and found some very sick men in the company. Among the rest wer Mr. Payne and Stevenson. The latter seemed very dangerous of fever, and flighty, uttering incoherent sentences. I took a parting look, never expecting to behold him again. We went three miles beyond Martin's company and camped, trailed seven miles. We have in company thirteen wagons and thirty-one men, a small band, indeed, but all seemed determined to go on through. Applegate and Childs ahead. Old Zachary, a man fond of rows, had been excluded from Martin's company for defrauding a young man by the name of Matney out of his provisions, and throwing him off in the wilderness. The old rogue, with the two Oteys, is encamped about a mile ahead alone; a small camp, but a big rascal.
Nesmith: Vasques and Walker's mountain party came up with us. We all camped close to Child's company at Sweet Water under a point of mountain.
Nesmith: Childs and Walker left us this morning, turning to the left for the purpose of curing mean. I went out with Captain Applegate and Dr. Whitman and took dinner at their encampment, on a sand creek, where they had killed seven cows the evening previous. All hands considerably alarmed about Indians, fearing an attack from the Cheyennes and Sioux, who are said to be in camp in great numbers forty miles South on the Platte. I returned to our camp and found them encamped on Sweet Water...Martin's company close in the rear. Came in sight of high range of mountains with snow on them, said to be the Mountains of Wind River. Martin's company passed us and encamped a mile and a half ahead.
Newby: we allso come in site of the Wind River Mountains. Tha are covered with ever lasting snow, and at a distance tha look like a white cloud. Jesse Applegate waggeon broke down & changed in to a cart.
Burnett1: while traveling up the Sweetwater, we first came in sight of the eternal snows of the Rocky Mountains. This to us was a grand and magnificent sight. We had never before seen the perpetually snow-clad summit of a mountain. This day William Martin brought into camp the foot of a very rare carnivourous animal, much like the hyena, and with no name. It was of a dark color, had very large teeth, and was thought to be strong enough to kill a half-grown buffalo.
Nesmith: Made an early start, passed Martin's company in corral. Trailed twenty miles. Martin's company camped on the river 200 yards below our encampment.
Burnett1: Mr. Paine died of fever, and we remained in camp to bury him. We buried him in the wild, shelterless plains, close to the new road we had made, and the funeral scene was most sorrowful and impressive. Mr. Garrison, a Methodist preacher, a plain, humble man, delivered a most touching and beautiful prayer at the lonely grave.
Nesmith: Mr. Payne, a man in Martin's company, died this morning at 3:00 o'clock. He suffered severly, being unwell since we left Fort Laramie. Died of inflamation of the bowels, leaving a wife and four small children. He was decently interred on a rise of ground at the left of the road.
Newby: We in camped on top of the Rockey Moutain on a spring branch. The nit is very cool & a bout 3 hours in the day is very warme. It was cole enough last nite for frost, tho the wind blode so thare was none. Thare was a very curious explosion at noon; first thare was some thing past over us in the element like a bawl of fier, then follwd it a long streek of blew smoke in a zig zag form a bout 2 hundred yards long. Then followed it a very tremendious report as if it had bin lare guns firing. I lernd to day that a Mr. Pane in Martins co departed this life on the 3 of this instant. He left his familey in a bad condition: a wife & fore children, 2 twin babes. His brouther is a long & his parrents life in Orregon. We left Sweete Water a bout 10 oclock p.m.
Nesmith: Passed Applegate's company and encamped on Sweet Water. Wind River Mountains in sight.
Newby: We lay buy on the counte of John Pennington wife being sick. She had a daughter.
Burnett1: we crossed the summit of the Rocky Mountains, and on the evening of the 7th we first drank of the waters that flow into the great Pacific. The first Pacific water we saw was that of a large, pure spring.
Nesmith: Crossed the Divide.
Burnett1: we came to the big Sandy at noon. This day Stevenson died of fever, and we buried him on the sterile banks of that stream.
Newby: To day Mr. Steevenson departed this life. He was a young man with out any connection a long. He was in Capt. Waters Co.
Burnett1: we crossed Green River, so called from its green color. It is a beautiful stream, containing fine fish. On the margins of this stream there are extensive groves of small cottonwood trees, about nine inches in diameter, with low and brushy tops. These trees are cut down by the hunters and trappers in winter for the support of their mules and hardy Indian ponies. The animals feed on the tender twigs, and on the bark of the smaller limbs, and in this way manage to live. Large quantities of this timber are destroyed annually.
Burnett1: we were informed that Doctor Whitman had written a letter, stating that the Catholic missionaries had discovered, by the aid of their Flathead Indian pilot, a pass through the mountains by way of Fort Bridger, which was shorter than the old route. We, therefore, determined to go by the fort. There was a heavy frost with thin ice this morning.
Newby: We continued up the creek 6 miles and in camped on the count of Mr. Cares child being sick.
Burnett1: we arrived at Fort Bridger, situated on Black's Fork of Green River, having traveled from our first camp on the Sweetwater two hundred and nineteen miles in eighteen days. Here we overtook the missionaries. On the 17th we arrived on the banks of Bear River, a clear, beautiful stream, with abundance of good fish and plenty of wild ducks and geese.
McClane: I met Dr. Marcus Whitman between Fort Laramie and Fort Hall, soon after he overtook us. He formed a camp mess, consisting of a gentleman by the name of Record who was an attorney at law and Gen. Lovejoy, Nimrod Ford and P.B. Whitman, for the purpose of going on ahead of the wagons. We left the direct route which the wagons would have to take at Soda Springs and went a much shorter route across the mountains, horseback with pack animals to Fort Hall.
Newby: We reached Fort Bridges at 12 oclock. Lay buy for the day & Mr. Careys daughter, Katherine, died
Nesmith: Cooper puts up his tools and does some work for the company.
Newby: We buried the little girl & traveld 8 miles & in camped on a small salty branch.
Nesmith: Remained all day at the fort. Cooper trades his large wagon and blacksmith's tools for a smaller one. A child of Mr. Carey's died yesterday and was buried this morning.
Nesmith: Left the fort this morning, all the rest of the wagons having previously started. We struck out for Muddy Creek, where we arrived about noon....In the evening, as we attempted to cross Muddy, our large wagon capsized, throwing all the loading into the water and wet all our clothing, blankets, etc. Our flour we saved without any material injury. After an hour's wading in water and mud waist deep, we succeeded in getting everything out, excepting the coupling pole broke. We replaced it with a new one after dark.
Fremont: we passed on the road this morning the grave of one of the emigrants, being the second we had seen since falling into their trail...
Nesmith: overtook Waldo's company on the head of Muddy Creek.
Nesmith: Crossed a large mountain. Found some of the cattle absent; myself and Major Hall went back in quest of them, but we ascertained at Stoughton's camp that they were driven ahead. We rode until midnight over very rough road before we overtook the company.
Fremont: we continued our road down the river, and at night encamped with a family of emigrants--two men, women, and several children--who appeared to be bringing up the rear of the great caravan. I was struck with the fine appearance of their cattle, some six or eight yoke of oxen, which really looked as if they had been all summer at work on some good farm. It was strange to see one small family travelling alone through such a country, so remote from civilization.
Nesmith: Upset McHaley's wagon in Bear River
Burnett1: we arrived at the great Soda Springs.
Nesmith: Seven wagons of us left camp this morning, leaving McHaley and Applegate to lay by.
Fremont: we made our halt at noon in a fertile bottom, where the common blue flax was growing abundantly, a few miles below the mouth of the Thomas' Fork, one of the larger tributaries of the river. Crossing, in the afternoon, the point of a narrow spur, we descended into a beautiful bottom, formed by a lateral valley, which presented a picture if home beauty that went directly to our hearts. The edge of the wood, for several miles along the river, was dotted with the white covers of emigrant wagons, collected in groups at different camps, where the smokes were rising lazily from the fires, around which the women were occupied in preparing the evening meal, and the children playing in the grass; and herds of cattle, grazing about in the bottom, had an air of quiet security and civilized comfort that made a rare sight for the traveller in such a remote wilderness. In common with all the emigration, they had been reposing for several days in this delightful valley, in order to recruit their animals on its luxurant pasturage after their long journey, and prepare them for the hard travel along the comparatively sterile banks of the Upper Columbia.
Nesmith: Lieutenant Freemont, of the U.S. Topographical Engineers, with his party, overtook us this morning. Myself and Mr. Otey go on ahead to get an ox of ours in the other company. Came up to a village of Snake Indians at noon. Did some trading. I bought a black horse.
Nesmith: Passed Soda Springs about 2:00 o'clock. Camped on Bear River at a place where our trail leaves it.
Newby: We reached Sody Springs. These springs bile up & dont run off. Appears to go a way as fast as it biles. The water tasts like sody after it is done buyling. Thare is ten springs: six large ones & 4 smawl ones. Thare is allso a hot spring. The water is warm as dish water. It builes & fomes like a builing pot....
Fremont: arrived at Soda Springs....there was in the area a small hole of about an inch in diameter, through which at regular intervals, escapes a blast of hot air with a light wreath of smoke, accompanied by a regular noise. Dr. Wislizenus, a gentleman who had passed the area several years since remarked that smelling the gas which issued from the oriface produced a sensation of giddiness and nausea. Mr. Preuss and myself repeated the observation, and were well satisfied with its correctness, as the sensation of giddiness which it produced was certainly strong and decided. A huge emigrant wagon, with a large and diversified family, had overtaken us and halted to noon at our encampment; and, while we were sitting at the spring, a band of boys and girls, with two or three young men came up, one of whom I asked to stoop down and smell the gas, desirous to satisfy myself further of its effects. But his natural caution had been awakened by the singular and suspicious features of the remarks about the devil, whom he seemed to consider the genius loci.
Nesmith: The greatest curiosity in this part of the country are the soda springs, which boil up in level ground and sink again. They are quite numerous and have exactly the taste of soda water without the syrup. The springs are continually sparkling and foaming.
Nesmith: Kit Carson, of Freemont's company, camped with us, on his return from Fort Hall, having been on express.
McClane: We arrived at Fort Hall several
days ahead of the wagons, where we met considerable provisions, which had been
sent to Dr. Whitman and brought here by Cayuse Indians from his mission in Wildpoo;
where he was afterward massacreed, and we met there Gov. Grant of Fort Hall
who was commander of the fort and the head trader for the Hudsons Bay Company
at the fort. And through his kindness and solicitation we sat at his table
with him and had rooms appointed to us in the fort, which we occupied for ten
days. In the meantime all the emigrants had arrived, or nearly so. Governor
Grant said to us and the emigrants generally that it was useless to undertake
to go any further with the wagons, we might go to California but not to Oregon.
To Oregon we would have to go to work and rig up pack trains but it was impossible
to go with wagons, or in other words throw away our wagons as there was no one
there that wanted them. But Dr. Whitman interposed and stated to him that
he could take their wagons through without any trouble, he (Grant) poopooed
it and said "my friend you are certainly mistaken for you will never get
through with the wagons to Oregon".
Then Dr. Whitman went around among the emigrants and told them not to leave their wagons for he would insure them safe passage through with them. They appeared to become satisfied with his insurance and said they would take his word for it. He farther promised them, as he had received a dispatch from Walker and Eels that they expected their wives to be sick at a certain date, he would have to go on ahead of the wagons to be there in time. But him and his camp mess would rig up a couple of horses to a light wagon, which would leave a track for them to follow and besides leaving notes by putting up poles and leaving notes on the poles, where it was prairie directing them how to proceed. He then proceeded to divide up all of his provisions among the sick and poor, and then went around and picked up beef bones of beeves that had been killed that morning. In fact I believe that if he hadn't smuggled some of our provisions away we wouldn't have had anything but the bones left. As it was we had very little. I should have stated too that he put a calf (that had been dropped that morning) into the wagon and we started on our Journey leaving the wagons behind. He staying behind with the emigrants, encouraging them to come on. As I had the honor of being the driver and being alone crossing the Prairie, when I arrived at the place to camp, I found my Calf was gone. And just about the time we had our supper made of soup of beef bones thickened with flour, he, the Doctor rode up. He says "wheres that calf, why didn't you have some of that cooked?" Why, says I, "Doctor, That Calf must have come to life again, when I arrived at camp it wasn't in the wagon" and you may judge that from the foregoing that we had a very light diet from there on.
Burnett1: we arrived at Fort Hall, having traveled two hundred and thirty five miles from Fort Bridger in thirteen days. Fort Hall was then a trading post, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, and was under the charge of Mr. Grant, who was exceedingly kind and hospitable. The fort was situated on the south bank of Snake River, in a wide, fertile valley covered with luxuriant grass and watered by numerous springs and small streams. This valley had once been a great resort for buffaloes, and their skulls were scattered around in every direction. We saw the skulls of these animals for the last time at Fort Boise, beyond which point they were never seen. The company had bands of horses and herds of cattle grazing on these rich bottom lands.
Up to this point the route over which we had passed was, perhaps, the finest natural road, of the same length, to be found in the world. Only a few loaded wagons had ever made their way to Fort Hall, and were there abandoned.
We here parted with our respected pilot, Capt. John Gant. Dr. Marcus Whitman was with us at the fort, and was our pilot from there to Grand Ronde, where he left us in charge of an Indian pilot, whose name was Stikas, and who proved to be both faithful and competent. The doctor had left us to have his grist-mill put in order by the time we should reach his mission.
We now arrived at a most critical period in our most adventurous journey, and we had many misgivings as to our ultimate success in making our way with our wagons, teams and families. We had yet to accomplish the untried and most difficult portion of our long and exhaustive journey. We could not anticipate at what moment we might be compelled to abandon our wagons in the mountains, pack our scant supplies on our poor oxen, and make our way on foot through this terribly rough country as best we could. We fully comprehended the situation, but we never faltered in our inflexible determination to accomplish the trip, if within the limits of possibility, with the resources at our command. Doctor Whitman assured us that we could succeed, and encouraged and aided us with every means in his power. I consulted Mr. Grant as to his opinion of the practicability of taking our wagons through. He replied that, while he would not say it was impossible for us Americans to make the trip in our wagons, he could not himself see how it could be done. He had only traveled the pack trail, and certainly no wagons could follow that route, but there might be a practical road found by leaving the trail at certain points.
Ford: we crossed the mountains
to Fort Hall. It was occupied by the Hudson's Bay Co. I think it
was Grant that had charge of that. All those forts were made of adobe
walls like the wall around a lot and inside of that wall were adobe buildings,
generally small. The wall around the lot was 6 or 8 feet high, and about
18 inches thick. It could have been knocked down very easily, but the
Indians had nothing but arrows and could not shoot through it. They had
a few guns but very few at that time.
At Fort Hall we changed our Captain. We got a man by the name of Wm. Martin to pilot us and he acted as Captain a piece. He turned off on the California road with Childs. Dr. Whitman then volunteered to pilot the emigration through to Walla Walla. He lived in Walla Walla. He said he would pilot us there but he could not stay with us. He would leave notices with us how we should travel and we followed those notices till we came to Grande Rounde he went through and sent an Indian back to pilot us through from Grande Rounde to Walla Walla. We had no trouble from Fort Hall to Grande Rounde Valley.
Nesmith: Arrived at Fort Hall, where we remained until Friday, September 1. Here the company had considerable trading with Grant, manager here for the Hudson's Bay Company. He sells at an exhorbitant price; flour, 25 cents per pint; sugar, 50; coffee, 50; rice, 33 1-3. Part of the company went on with pack animals, leaving their wagons. Nothing of importance occurred, with the exception of a Mr. Richardson dying. Was buried August 31 at Fort Hall.
Newby: Lay buy & thare was a good rain, the first rain we hav had for the last 5 weeks. Doc Whitmon, considering it safe to travel alone, left for his place on pack horses with his neighfew & J.B. McClain.
Burnett1: we quitted Fort Hall, many of our young men having left us with pack trains. Our route lay down Snake River for some distance. The road was rocky and rough, except in the dry valleys, and these were covered with a thick growth of sage or wormwood, which was from two to three feet high, and offered a great obstruction to the first five or six wagons passing through it. The soil where this melancholy shrub was found appeared to be too dry and sterile to produce anything else. It was very soft on the surface and easily worked up into a most disagreeable dust, as fine as ashes or flour.
The taste of the sage is exceedingly bitter; the shrub has a brown, somber appearance, and a most disagreeable smell. The stem at the surface of the ground is from one to two inches in diameter, and soon branches, so as to form a thick, brushy top. The texture of the stem is peculiar and unlike that of any other shrub, being all bark and no sap or heart, and appears like the outside bark of the grapevine. How the sap ascends from the root to the branches, or whether the shrub draws its nutriment from the air, I am not able to decide. One thing I remember well, that the stems of the green growing sage were good for fuel and burned most readily, and so rapidly that the supply had to be continually renewed, showing that they were not only dry, but of very slight, porous texture. Had the sage been as stout and hard as other shrubbery of the same size we should have been compelled to cut our wagonway through it, and could never have passed over it as we did, crushing it beneath the feet of our oxen and the wheels of our wagons.
Ford: At Fort Hall General McCarver started out ahead of the train toward Salmon Falls with a few packers, and on approaching Fort Boise on the Boise River, there they discovered some Indians and he saw a red flag hoisted. He formed his men for battle. They marched up towards the Indians believing that they meant (to) fight. When he got near enough he discovered that the red flag was a salmon split open and spread out as a sign to the packers that they had salmon for sale. So they marched up and bought some salmon. They had a good deal of fun with McCarver because he had agreed to insure the lives of all that had gone ahead with him for a coon skin that they would get there safely.
Newby: Mr. Richerson departed this life with some old complant, lveing a wife & 2 children.
Nesmith: Got under way this morning. Weather very cold and rainy, as it has been for the last three days. Trailed down Snake River fifteen miles. Passed some fine mill sites. Camped on Snake River.
Nesmith: This morning, Jackson, Cooper's teamster, left and joined Zachary's mess. Trailed sixteen miles without wood, water or grass. Camped on a small branch with excellent grass.
Fremont: Carson rode into the camp with flour and a few other articles of light provision, sufficient for two or three days--a scanty but very acceptable supply. Mr. Fitzpatrick had not yet arrived, and provisions were very scarce and difficult to be had at Fort Hall, which had been entirely exhausted by the necessities of the emigrants. He brought me also a letter from Mr. Dwight, who, in company with several emigrants, had reached that place in advance of Mr. Fitzpatrick, and was about continuing his journey to Vancouver.
Nesmith: Got an early start this morning. Traveled ten miles to the river. Nooned on the river. Traveled down it and camped on the bank, making twenty miles to-day. The river here assumes a broad, placid and beautiful appearance, the water being very clear, unlike any of the river in the Western states.
Fremont: seven men were sent to Fort Hall under the guidance of Francois Lajeunesse, who, having been for many years a trapper in the country, was considered an experienced mountaineer. Though they were provided with good horses, and the road was remarkably plain one of only four days' journey for a horseman, they became bewildered, and, losing their way, wandered about the country in parties of one or two, reaching the fort about a week afterward.
Burnett1: we arrived at the Salmon Falls on Snake River, where we purchased from the Snake Indians dried and fresh salmon, giving one ball and one charge of powder for each dried fish. We found several lodges of Indians here who were very poorly clad, and who made a business of fishing at the falls. The falls were about eight feet perpendicular at that stage of water, with rapids below for some distance. The stream is divided upon the rapids into various narrow channels, through which the waters pass with a very shallow and rapid current, so that the fisherman can wade across them. The salmon are compelled to pass up these channels, and readily fall a prey to the quick, sharp spear of the Indian fisherman. The spear consists of a strong, smooth pole, ten or twelve feet long and an inch and a half in diameter, made of hard tough wood, upon one end of which there is fastened a piece of sharp-pointed buckhorn about four inches long. The larger end of this piece of buckhorn is hollowed out to the depth of about three inches and fastened on the end of the pole, which is tapered to fit onto it. To the middle of this buckhorn there is securely fastened a thong or string of sinew, the other end of which is firmly attached to the pole about one foot above the buckhorn, leaving a considerable slack in the line. With this spear the Indian fisherman lies down or sits close to one of these narrow channels with the point of his spear resting near where the fish must pass. In this position he remains motionless until he sees a fish immediately opposite the point of the spear, as the fish slowly ascends the rapid current; when, with the quick motion of a juggler, he pushes his spear clear through the salmon before this powerful fish can dodge it. The buckhorn at once slips off the end of the pole on the other side of the fish the first flounce he makes; but he is securely held by the thong attached to the pole. No spear could be more skillfully designed or more effectually used than this.
Ford: We came to Snake River. Dr. Whitman was with us there and he advised us to fasten our teams together, the whole train with the exception of my own team. I had a strong carriage and I thought I could drive them separately. I fell in behind and the wagons and teams being angling (?) in the current raised the current on the bank side probably some 2 feet or 18 inches higher than the usual height and it pressed so hard against my team that I was about to go over the shoal where several persons had gone over and drowned before that, the animals the rode over themselves too. Seeing that there was a danger of going over I sprung out of the carriage and ran to the team and pressed myself against the team and held the lead ox to his place until the train went on and the water lowered. I remained in that situation till the whole train got across on land. Dr. Whitman rode back on a large gray horse and threw a rope to me and told me to put it on the near ox's horns. I did so and he put it around the horse's saddle and he then led the way across and I got into the carriage and drove across. The Doctor towed the team acros with his rope. I learned afterwards that one of the oxen which were temporarily in the wagon instead of mules was a weak ox. I consider that Dr. Whitman saved my life, and I remembered it when he was massacred. I remembered it in the Cayuse war where I endeavored to redress his wrongs. We all got across safely. There was a Mr. Ayres an Englishman who had a family in his care who came on his mule. He was riding a mule and went over that shallows and into the deep water and drowned he and his mule. This was near the American Falls, the first crossing of the Snake (River). The second crossing was at Fort Boise.
Nesmith: Left the canyon in the morning and traveled twenty miles over a country destitute of grass. Struck the river ten miles above Salmon Falls. Encamped for the night.
Newby: To day I saw a Mr. Wilson that had sold his waggeon & tean at Fort Hawl & was packing. He went to strike fire on the 5 ult & thare was one pound & a half of powder caught on fire & had like to have burnt him up. He is the worst loocking pirson I ever saw. He had a wife and two children. He was taken in by Mr. Mills & hawled.
Nesmith: Encamped on a creek with good grass. I went down to the falls and purchased some fine salmon. Had a fight in camp this evening. Old Zachary stabbed Mr. Wheeler with his knife.
Burnett1: we crossed the Snake River by fording without difficulty, and in crossing we killed a salmon weighing twenty-three pounds, one of our wagons running over it as it lay on the bottom of the pebbly stream.
Nesmith: Passed the Hot Spring about noon. Water almost boiling. Camped on a small branch.
Burnett1: we passed Boiling Spring. Its water is hot enough to cook an egg. It runs out at three different places, forming a large branch, which runs off smoking and foaming. It rises half a mile from a tall range of hills covered with basaltic rock, and the plains around it are covered with round rocks of the same kind. The water is clear and rises at the head of a small ravine.
Ford: From Fort Hall to this point there was no road. Doctor Whitman used to put up notices directing us from one notice to another. We traveled by these notices from place to place. We found no tracks. In some places we found an Indian trail and in other places not. The Indians would take a straight course up and down where wagons could not go. We had to go around to get on the divides which we could travel from one place to another. We seldom followed the trail. It was better traveling out of it than in it, it confused our teams. We traveled over a great deal of sage brush which was very hard to get over. We could not stop to chop it out. The wagons would bend it down but the ground was sandy and the wagons would sink deep into the sand and then rise high on the sage brush. The foremost wagon would mash it down. It tired the foremost teams very much. We had to change the foremost teams back every day, and use the strongest teams and the strongest wagons to mash the sage brush down. We could do it however so that the next wagon could follow more easily. Frequently there would be a horseman ahead who rode where the wagons ought to go. If they found any obstacles in the way they would turn back and notify the train and turn them in the right direction where they should go.
Nesmith: Lost my horse this morning, and trailed a-foot all day. Found my horse at camp, Cooper having brought him on and left me to walk all day.
Nesmith: Trailed down Boise on the South side. Traveled sixteen miles. Encamped on the bank of the river. Indians in camp this evening. We have seen them for the last four or five days. Every day they come to sell us dried salmon, and present a poor, squalid appearance, besides being d--d lousey.
Nesmith: Haggard and myself went to Fort Boise ahead of the wagons; distance 10 miles. The wagons arrived in the afternoon. The wind blowing very hard from the Northwest, we found it impossible to ford the river, as swells rolled very high. Encamped for the night just below the fort. Visited Monsieur Payette, the commandant; found his a very agreeable old French gentleman, and has been in this country, in the fur trade, since 1810, having left New York in that year and came around by sea to the mouth of the Columbia, in the employment of Mr. Astor. We spent a pleasant evening in his company and had a dance.
Burnett1: we arrive at Fort Boise. then in charge of Mr. Payette, having traveled from Fort Hall, two hundred and seventy-three miles, in twenty-one days. Mr. Payette, the manager, was kind and very polite.
Nesmith: Crossed the river this afternoon without any difficulty, water being about four feet six inches deep.
Burnett1: we recrossed the Snake River by fording, which was deep but safe.
Ford: The second crossing was at Fort Boise. We then blocked our wagon beds up six inches inside of the standards and forded the river--a thing I have never heard of being done before or since. It was a very dangerous way because if we had got into deep water the bodies would have floated off. We succeed in getting across safely, but we considered it very hazardous.
Newby: We continued down the river & in camped 1 mile a bove Fort Busha. Grazing indifferent.
McClane: I hadn't any trouble with my wagon until we got to the Burnt River "there when we struck Burnt River where the brush wasn't on the bank we traveled on the bank and where it was too thick we drove into the water. There could have been a very good road made but we had neither an ax or men to do it.
Nesmith: struck Burnt River, making nine miles. Killed a beef this evening. Provisions getting scarce.
Newby: We went up to the fort & fasened our waggeons to gether as we did at the upper crawssing & drove over. This ford is better than the upper one, tho it is a bout 8 or 10 inches deeper than the upper one.
Burnett1: we reached Burnt River, so named from the many fires that have occurred there, destroying considerable amounts of timber. It hardly deserves to be called a river, being only a creek of fair size. The road up this stream was then a terrible one, as the latter runs between two ranges of tall mountains through a narrow valley full of timber, which we had not the force or time to remove.
Nesmith: Trailed ten miles over the roughest country I ever saw, Burnt River being hemmed in by hills on both sides. Encamped on the bottom.
Newby: We continued through the hills & struck the river in 4 miles. Then we struck Burnt River in 5 miles.
Burnett1: we had some rain during the night, and next morning left Burnt River. Today we saw many of the most beautiful objects in nature. In the rear, on our right and left, were ranges of tall mountains covered on the side with magnificent forest of pine, the mountain tops being dressed in a robe of pure snow, and around their summits the dense masses of black clouds wreathed themselves in fanciful shapes, the sun glancing through the open spaces upon the gleaming mountains. We passed through some most beautiful valleys and encamped on the branch of the Powder River at the Lone Pine.
This tree stood in the center of a most lovely valley about ten miles from any other timber. It could be seen at the distance of many miles, rearing its majestic form above the surrounding plain, and constituted a beautiful landmark for the guidance of the traveler. Many teams had passed on before me, and at intervals, as I drove along, I would raise my head and took at that beautiful green pine. At last, on looking up as usual, the tree was gone. I was perplexed for a moment to know whether I was going in the right direction. There was the plain, beaten wagon road before me, and I drove on until I reached the camp just at dark. That brave old pine, which had withstood the storms and snows of centuries, had fallen at last by the vandal hands of man. Some of our inconsiderate people had cut it down for fuel, but it was too green to burn. It was a useless and most unfortunate act. Had I been there in time I should have begged those woodmen to "spare that tree".
Nesmith: Looney's wagon turned over this morning soon after leaving camp. We crossed the divide and encamped at the lone pine tree.
Nesmith: Left the pine tree this morning. Trailed fourteen miles. Encamped on the third fork of Powder River.
Newby: We struck over the devide & struck the Lone Tree on the waters of the Powder River in twelv miles. The tree is cut down.
Fremont: "We met here two poor emigrants (Irishmen) who had lost their horses two days since--probably stolen by the Indians--and were returning to the fort in hopes to hear something of them there. They had recently nothing to eat; and I halted to unpack an animal, and gave them meat for their dinner."
Fremont: "I have never seen a wagon-road equally bad, in the same space, as this of yesterday and to-day. I noticed where one wagon had been overturned twice, in a very short distance; and it was surprising to me that those wagons which were in the rear, and could not have had much assistance, got through at all. Still, there is no mud; and the road has one advantage in being perfectly firm."
Fremont: "From the heights we had looked in vain for a well-known landmark on Powder River, which had been described to me by Mr. Payette as l'arbre seul (the lone tree); and, on arriving at the river, we found a fine tall pine stretched on the ground, which had been felled by some inconsiderate emigrant axe. It had been a beacon on the road for many years past."
McClane: After leaving Burnt River we made a good
way from there to the foot of the Blue Mountains in the east of Grand Round.
There we found a number of Cayuses in camp waiting for the Doctor. There
he received an invitation from one of the Chiefs for him and his mess to dine
with him (the chief) on elk meat, which was the finest dinner I had eaten for
many a day.
From there the Doctor left us and went to Walkers and Eels across the country, but left instructions with us how to proceed to his mission and for all of us, his mess, to stay there until his return, which we did.
Nesmith: encamped at Grande Ronde, a beautiful bottom prairie about six miles across and surrounded by mountains capped with snow. Had some difficulty in entering the Ronde in consequence of the big hill which it was necessary for us to descend. Soil to-day assumed a more fertile appearance than any I have seen west of the mountains, in some places covered with beautiful green grass, giving it the appearance of spring.
Burnett1: we came into and through Grand Ronde, one of the most beautiful valleys in the world, embosomed among the Blue Mountains, which are covered with magnificent pines. It was estimated to be about one hundred miles in circumference. It was generally rich prairie covered with luxuriant grass and having numerous beautiful streams passing through it, most of which rise from springs at the foot of the mountains bordering the valley. In this valley the camas root abounds, which the Indians dried upon hot rocks. We purchased some from them and found it quite palatable to our keen appetites.
Nesmith: Started over the mountains. Trailed twelve miles and encamped on a small dry creek in a deep ravine. To-day E. Otey and myself went hunting. Had a beautiful prospect of the Grande Ronde from the top of the mountains. Mrs. Rubey died at Grande Ronde and was buried October 1.
Burnett1: we ascended the mountain ridge at the Grande Ronde and descended on the other side of the ridge to a creek, where we encamped. These hills were terrible.
Ford: At Grande Rounde there was a party with
the instruction as to whether we had better stop there or not. It was
a beautiful country. They would have stopped and colonized it if we had
had provisions. We did not regard the Indians at all. Peter H. Burnett
was in favor of stopping and locating there but having no supplies we travelled
on for the Blue Mountains cutting our way through the fallen timber. We
camped many times in sight of our former night's camp. We found it very
laborious and very hard cutting that .... timber with our dull axes that we
had not ground since we left Missouri having no grinding stone to grind them
& our hands being ....very tender cutting those dry sticks which .....the
skin loose on our hands. But it was getting late in the season, and it
devolved on some 40 persons to make that road. The lazy ones dropped back,
not for the purpose of screening themselves, but to rest their cattle, so they
stated, we we imputed it to a thin diffidence in regard to work. It devolved
on the 40 perservering ment to drive the wagons and cut the roads.
The women frequently would drive the teams and the men would do the work. The most of them had axes. We had shovels but it was rarely that we used them. I recollect we had to dig down the banks to get across the Grande Rounde River. When we crossed the Grande Rounde River the snow had fallen to a depth of two inches but did not lay long. I think it was September it was an early snow. We travelled under the guidance of an Indian pilot that Dr. Whitman had sent back. Wherever he directed us to go there we went, without searching for any other route since they have changed the road in many places. He found us a pretty fair route for getting through. The Indian did not look about much, he was familiar with the ground. He proved to be a faithful Indian. If I recollect right--he was the very Indian that afterwards killed Dr. Whitman.
Fremont: "About 2 o'clock we arrived at the ford where the road crosses to the right bank of the Snake River. An Indian was hired to conduct us through the ford, which proved impracticable for us, the water sweeping away the howitzer and nearly drowning the mules, which we were obliged to extricate by cutting them out of the harness. The river here is expanded into a little bay in which there are two islands, across which is the road of the ford; and the emigrants had passed by placing two of their heavy wagons abreast of each other, so as to oppose a considerable mass against the body of water. The Indians informed us that one of the men, in attempting to turn some cattle which had taken a wrong direction, was carried off by the current and drowned."
Burnett1: we passed through the Blue Mountains,
arriving at their foot on the 6th and encamping upon a beautiful stream of water.
On the morning of the 5th there was a snow storm on the mountain. During
our passage through the Blue Mountains we had great difficulty in finding our
cattle, and the road was very rough in many places. Our camp was about
three miles from the Indian village, and from the Indians we purchased Indian
corn, peas, and Irish potatoes, in any desired quantity. I have never
tasted a greater luxury than the potatoes we ate on this occasion. We
had been so long without fresh vegetables that we were almost famished, and
consequently we feasted this day excessively. We gave the Indians in exchange
some articles of clothing, which they were most anxious to purchase. When
two parties are both as anxious to barter as were the Indians and ourselves,
it is very easy to strike a bargain.
Newby: We crawsed over a bad mountain & down it to a creek, the hill very bad to go down. These is hills of the Bliew Mountain. Tha are covered with the pirtiest timber I ever saw. We hav past betwene two snowey mountains for the last 3 days.
Newby: We continued over the mountain, passing through hevey timber. The timber is so thick in meney places that you coldant see a man 20 steps. I believe that there is pine trees 200 feet high & not more than 2 foot through.
Burnett1: we arrived within three miles of Doctor Whitman's mission and remained in camp until the 14th.
The exhausting tedium of such a trip and the attendant vexations have a great effect upon the majority of men, expecially upon those of weak minds. Men, under such circumstances, become childish, petulant, and obstinate. I remember that while we were at the mission of Doctor Whitman, who had performed such hard labor for us, and was deserving of our warmest gratitude, he was most ungenerously accused by some of our people of selfish motives in conducting us past his establishment, where we could procure fresh supplies of flour and potatoes. This foolish, false and ungrateful charge was based upon the fact that he asked us a dollar a bushel for wheat, and forty cents for potatoes. As our people had been accustomed to sell their wheat at from fifty to sixty cents a bushel, and their potatoes from twenty to twenty-five cents, in the Western States, they thought the prices demanded by the doctor amounted to something like extortion, not reflecting that he had to pay at least twice as much for his own supplies of merchandise, and could not afford to sell his produce as low as they did theirs at home. So obstinate were some of our people that they would not purchase of the doctor. I remember one case particularly, where an intimate friend of mine, whose supplies of food were nearly exhausted refused to purchase, though urged to do so by me, until the wheat was all sold. The consequence was that I had to divide provisions with him before we reached the end of our journey.
Newby: We lay buy within 3 miles of Doct Whitmans, a mishionary astablishment, to git provision. The Dr. had gon to Spaldings Mishion & left evything in charge of Mr. Giger; & the emigrants was much disapointed, as the Dr. had got them to come much out of there way with promices of provisions cheep & was surprised by high prices that we had to pay for all we got; bef (beef)10 cts, pork 15 ct, potatoes $1.00, flour without bolting 7 c.
Fort Walla Walla
Nesmith: Left our Cayuse neighbors this morning in good season and started for Fort Walla Walla, where we arrived in three hours. It is situated at the mouth of the Walla Walla River, from which it takes its name. It commands a view of the Columbia River, otherways the prospect is dreary. Above and below are high bluffs, while near to the fort are sand banks not possessing fertility enough to sprout a pea, and in fact this is too much the ease with all the far-famed Walla Walla Valley. There are some spots of good soil immediately on the streams, but from Dr. Whitman's to the fort, a distance of twenty-four miles, there is no timber except a little cottonwood, or a species of Balm of Gilead, and at the fort there is not a tree in sight on either side of the Columbia River. If this is a fair specimen of Oregon, it falls far below the conceptions which I formed of the country.
Nesmith: This morning E. Otey and myself visited the fort. Bought some tobacco and corn and other small articles. Mr. McKinley visited our camp in the afternoon and we traded him the wagon and harness for a horse, concluding to pack from here on. Made some pack rigs to-day, and made arrangements for packing. Weather fine.
Nesmith: Took the wagon to the fort his morning and got the horse which we traded for yesterday. Otey and myself made two pack-saddles. Several Indians encamped with us nearly all day, and one young fellow who camped with us last night seems to be inclined to remain, as he is yet in camp. Says he is going to the Methodist Mission, which is 120 miles on our route. Our camp is quite a pictureque place. Immediately under the high bluff of the far-famed Columbia, about one-half mile above are two rocks rising 100 feet above the level of the river. They are separated by a small space, and are nearly round, presenting the appearance of two towers. Mr. McKinley informed me that the Indians looked upon them with a great deal of veneration, and say that they are two Indian damsels, petrified. I must confess that their appearance does not correspond very well with the tradition. Some wagons arrive from Dr. Whitman's this evening.
Nesmith: Mr. Haggard went to the fort this morning to do some trading. After he returned, we packed all our effects on two mules and started about eight o'clock...Found a little green grass where we encamped at night, near Windmill Rock. Our trail leads immediately under the bluffs. Our Indian still remains with us.
Nesmith: Met Mr. McDonald and a small party from Fort Vancouver on his way to Fort Hall. He advises us to be on our guard for Indians, as there are only three of us, and they are very saucy, having three days ago robbed five men of all they had, at the same time drawing their bows and arrows and threatening them if the men did not give up their property.
Burnett1: we arrived at Fort Walla Walla, then under charge of Mr. McKinley, having traveled from Fort Boise, two hundred and two miles, in twenty-four days.
Newby: We came to Fort Wallawalla on the Carumba River.
We lay buy. Thare was some 25 finuly swaped thare cattle for cattl in the Walammet Valley & tuck water. This forst is in charge of the Hudson Bay Co & managed by a Mr. McKindly, in which to much cannot be said in his prase, tho the fort was poorly supplyed, yet all accommodations posable was extended.
Fremont: In six miles we crossed a principal fork; below which the scattered water of the river was gathered into one channel; and, passing on the way several unfinished houses, and some cleared patches where corn and potatoes were cultivated, we reached, in about eight miles farther, the missionary establishment of Dr. Whitman, which consisted at this time of one adobe house--i.e., built of unburnt bricks, as in Mexico. I found Dr. Whitman absent on a visit to the Dalles of the Columbia; but had the pleasure to see a fine-looking large family of emigrants--men, women, and children--in robust health, all indemnifying themselves for previous scanty fare in a hearty consumption of potatoes, which are produced here of a remarkably good quality."
Fremont: arrived at Ft. Nez Perce, an establishment of the Hudson Bay Company, located a few hundred yards above the junction of the Walla Walla with the Columbia River. "Mr. McKinley, the commander of the post, received us with great civility; and both to myself, and the heads of the emigrants who were there at the time, extended his hospitality in a comfortable dinner to which he invited us.....At the time of our arrival, a considerable body of the emigrants, under the direction of Mr. Applegate, a man of considerable resolution and energy, had nearly completed the building of a number of Mackinaw boats, in which they had proposed to continue their voyage down the Columbia. I had seen, in descending the Walahwalah (Walla Walla) River, a fine drove of several hundred cattle, which they had exchanged for Californian cattle, to be received at Vancouver, and which are considered a very inferior breed. The other portion of the emigration had preferred to complete their journey by land along the banks of the Columbia, taking their stock and wagons with them."
Nesmith: In four miles' travel we struck the Deschutes River. Hired two Indians to conduct us across the ford, which we crossed without difficulty. Just below we passed the Dalles, quite a waterfall on the Columbia. Arrived at the Methodist Mission in the evening.
Burnett1: A portion of our emigrants left their wagons
and cattle at Walla Walla, and descended the Columbia in boats; while another,
and the larger portion, made their way with their teams and wagons to The Dalles,
whence they descended to the Cascades on rafts, and thence to Fort Vancouver
in boats and canoes. William Beagle and I had agreed at the rendezvous
not to separate until we reached the end of our journey. We procured from
Mr. McKinley, at Walla Walla, an old Hudson's Bay Company's boat, constructed
expressly for the navigation of the Columbia and its tributaries. These
boats are very light, yet strong. They are open, about forty-five feet
long, five feet wide, and three feet deep, made of light, tough materials, and
clinker built. They are made in this manner so that they may be carried
around the Falls of the Columbia, and let down over the Cascades. When taken
out of the water and carried over the portage, it requires the united exertions
of forty or fifty Indians, who take the vessel on their shoulders, amid shouts
and hurras, and thus carry it sometimes three-fourths of a mile, without one
letting it down. At the Cascades it is let down by means of ropes in the
hands of the Canadian boatmen.
We employed an Indian pilot, who stood with a stout, long, broad paddle in the bow of the boat, while Beagle stood at the stern, holding a long-steering oar, such as were used upon flat-bottoms and keel-boats in the Western States. I remember that my friend Beagle, before we left Walla Walla, expressed great confidence in his skill in steering, as he had often passed the Ohio Rapids at Louisville. But these rapids were nothing to those on the Columbia. I have seen Beagle turn as pale as a corpse when passing through the terrible rapids on this river.
Our Indian pilot was very cool, determined, and intrepid; and Beagle always obeyed him, right or wrong. On one occasion, I remember, we were passing down a terrible rapid, with almost the speed of a race-horse, when a huge rock rose above the water before us, against which the swift and mighty volume of the river furiously dashed in vain, and then suddenly turned to the right, almost at right angles. The Indian told Beagle to hold the bow of the boat directly toward that rock, as if intending to run plumb upon it, while the rest of us pulled our oars with all our might, so as to give her such a velocity as not tobe much affected by the surging waves. The Indian stood calm and motionless in the bow, paddle in hand, with his features set as if prepared to meet immediate death; and, when we were within from twenty to thirty feet of that terrible rock, as quick as thought he plunged his long, broad paddle perpendicularly into the water on the left side of the bow, and with it gave a sudden wrench, and the boat instantly turned upon its center to the right, and we passed the rock in safety.
While passing through these dangers I was not much alarmed, but after they were passed I could never think of them without a sense of fear. Three of our emigrants were drowned just above the dalles, but we reached them in safety, sending our boat through them, while the families walked around them on dry land. These dalles are a great curiosity, but they have been so often described that I deem it unnecessary to attempt any description myself.
Arthur: After resting at the Sweetwater we rolled on slow but sure, until the 120 wagons, with but few exceptions, reached The Dalles. Then owing to the lateness of the season, it was thought to be unwise for the emigrating party to undertake to make a wagon road over the Cascade mountains, lest the way might be blockaded with snow and women and children perish with cold and hunger, therefore the greater number of the wagons for the time being were left at The Dalles, and the stock driven over the mountains to the Willamette Valley by way of an Indian trail, traced by men, women and children. My father and a number of others floated their wagons and goods from The Dalles to the Cascades, a distance of forty miles, on a raft made of dry logs. Fifteen miles below The Dalles, aided by Indians and their canoes, the stock were forced to swim to the north side of the Columbia river, and being but a few more than a sufficient number of horses to pack camp equipments, with but few exceptions women and children, the same as men, traced the stock on foot to the Cascades, and from there over the rough and steep mountains, deep canyons and uncertain brooks to Vancouver, a distance by the serpentine trail of one hundred miles or more. The company was detained six days at the Cascades moving wagons and goods below the rapids, a distance of six miles. From there they were conveyed down the Columbia and up the Willamette to the falls. At Vancouver the stock was crossed over the Columbia river and marched on to the Wallamet Falls, as they were then called, and we were at our journey's end.
Newby: Then we continued on to the Big Dalls & packed our things uperds of a mile & hierd the Indians to run our canoes through & in camped at the end of the Dalls.
Fremont: "At noon we corssed John Day's River, a clear and beautiful stream with a swift current and a bed of rolled stones.....Some of the emigrants had encamped on the river, and others at the summit of the farther hill, the ascent of which had probably cost their wagons a day's labor; and others again had halted for the night a few miles beyond, where they had slept without water."
Fremont: "The road in about half an hour passed near an elevated point, from which we overlooked the valley of the Columbia for many miles, and saw in the distance several houses surrounded by fields, which a chief, who had accompanied us from the village, pointed out to us as the Methodist Mission. In a few miles we descended to the river, which we reached at one of its remarkably interesting features, known as the Dalles of the Columbia. The whole volume of the river at this place passed between the walls of a chasm, which has the appearance of having been rent through the basaltic strata, which form the valley rock of the region. At the narrowest place we found the breadth, by measurement, fifty-eight yards; forming a trough between the rocks--whence the name, probably applied by a Canadian voyageur......In the recent passage through this chasm, an unfortunate event had occurred to Mr. Applegate's party, in the loss of one of their boats, which had been carried under water in the midst of the Dalles, and two of Mr. Applegate's children and one man drowned. This misfortune was attributed only to want of skill in the steersman, as at this season there is no impediment to navigation...."
Ford: We went immediately on down the Columbia
River. We were 6 months on the road from Platte City to Oregon City. Part
of the emigration made canoes on the Walla Walla River above Wallula......called
Applegate's company. Jesse Applegate was Captain; they just placed .....loads....in
the canoes and travelled down the Columbia River to The Dalles. They had
an Indian pilot and they ran that fleet of canoes into The Dalles, and into
those falls and capsized most of the canoes and drowned, I think 5 or 4 persons.
They lost the most of their stuff. Some were thrown on the rocks
and some went down through the rapids. One man named Doak, who could not
swim, he was thrown on a feather bed and flung on a rock. He remarked
afterwards that he always liked feather beds.
They were heavy unmanageable cottonwood canoes. If they had had Indian canoes they would not have had any mishap. They all attempted to go through the rapids. The Indian who piloted them got through. The others did not know what they were going into.
"Dalles" is an Indian name signifying whirls or table rock I don't know which. They were going to all go down towards the Cascades 50 miles below that. I think they got their canoes and made their way down.
I was with the wagons. My wagon was in front of the caravan when it got to The Dalles. The first wagon that landed at The Dalles. There the country would not admit any further travel by wagon. The Cascade Mountains separated us from Willamette Valley. Several of us went into the pine forest there and got dry pine trees and hauled them to the river with our oxen and made rafts of logs; six or eight, one foot to 18 inches diameter, and 20 feet long lashed together. We took our wagons apart and put the bodies on first and put the running gear on the top pieces and the baggage and stuff on top of that and lashed it on. Some would reserve a wagon bed with a cover on it for a kind of a cabin for the women and children to sleep in. On one of these rafts there was a wagon with a cover on for that purpose a family occupying it and a woman was confined and delivered a child in the daytime, and the crew that were on the raft knew nothing of the circumstance till it was all over. It was to their great surprise that they heard the cry of an infant. Everything went on finely. They landed at the Cascades all cheerful, the mother and child included.
There were some big rocks in the river and not knowing which way to steer our craft we would steer right straight for those big rocks. We did this so that when we got near the main current would carry us to the right side. But if we happened to steer to the wrong side the stronger current might have carried us on the other side and dashed us on the rocks. We went clear and got safely to the Cascades. There we had no more use for our rafts. We landed our things and spent two weeks in making a wagon road around the Cascades to get our wagons around. I had a cousin that brought the long boat of The Peacock. He had packed across in 1842 and heard that we were coming. There were women and children that had no mode of conveyance or transportation and were waiting for some means of getting away. And I prevailed on my cousin to take them. They were strangers to me and in distress and suffering while I could stand it better than they could. I told him I would find my way down by some means. I had made my calculation to buy Indian canoes below the Cascades. I succeeded in doing that and my cousin brought the boat and as many as could get in the boat down. I made a raft of 4 canoes lashing them side by side, taking the wagon beds of 5 wagons to pieces making a platform on top of the canoes, and then taking the running gear apart and putting them on top of the platform; and the baggage on top of the running gears. I lashed it all on securely and hoisted a mast in the center of the craft with a wagon sheet for a sail.
Ford: At the Cascades there was a Negro woman, and there was a canoe tied up on the shore. The Negro woman went out into the canoe to dip up some water, and the canoe sheered from under her and she fell in and disappeared. She was never seen again. She had been a servant attached I think to Burnett or his brother-in-law's family.
Newby: We reached the Fawls. Heare we met Capt. Waters with a lareg bt & a suply of pervision. We left our canoes a bove the fawls & went a bord the bote.
Fremont: "After passing through about two miles of broken water, we ran some wild-looking rapids, which are called the Lower Rapids, being the last on the river, which below is tranquil and smooth--a broad, magnificent stream. On a low broad point on the right bank of the river, at the lower end of these rapids, were pitched many tents of the emigrants, who were waiting here for their friends from above, or for boats and provisions which were expected from Vancouver."
Ford: Another party behind me got wind bound behind Cape Horn. They remained weather bound in a canoe on the rocks for some days and got out of provisions. They had raw hide on the boat. They boiled that at times and used it for rations until they used that up. A man by the name of Delaney had a boxful of hemp seed. He ate all that, a small quantity daily to sustain life. One man who remembered that on their way up they had taken breakfast at the same place when he was about famishing though he could find something that they had dropped. He got down on his knees and hunted in the snow for crumbs that they might have dropped when they went up. They had been to Vancouver and went back to get the balance of their stuff. He wept bitterly at the situation because they thought they would have to perish. Dr. McLaughlin knowing the time that they would be due and satisfied that they were in distress somewhere, sent a boat and a canoe of provisions to them and saved them. They got there just in time to safe (sic) them from perishing.
Nesmith: Arrived at the Hudson Bay Company's mill about seven miles above the fort, at twelve o'clock, where we met Waters, Tharp and Marten and Smith, taking up a barge to bring the families down from the Mission. Left the mill and soon arrived at Fort Vancouver where we found the brigs, Vancouver and Columbia and one schooner. We were kindly treated by Dr. McLaughlin, in charge of the fort.
With two Indians and two white men besides myself we set sail for Vancouver. Those were the first wagons brought down the river below the Cascades. It attracted a good deal of attention from the emigrants and others at the time--my fixing such a craft. Some thought it would not bear the trip with 5 wagons and their load of passengers. I have confidence in myself, and I managed the thing myself, and we sailed quite successfully down to Vancouver. They saw the sail. It seemed to them a very odd craft on the river, and they could not distinguish what kind of craft it was. It was not a canoe; it was not a bateau; and they were satisfied it was not a Man of War because they could not see any guns--so they told us after we landed. Many comical remarks were made about the craft when we landed. Dr. McLaughlin the chief factor at Vancouver was on the shore with quite a company of persons that saw the craft coming. Some 75 or 100 persons of the Hudson Bay Co. and round about came to the shore to see our craft landing.
Dr. McLaughlin was the first man that met me when I stepped ashore. He introduced himself to me; and he complimented me very much for my preserverance. He complimented the Bostons for being so perservering. He said it appeared they had a spirit to travel as far as they could by land; and then invented some way for traveling still further on by water; that they beat army people for perseverance and enterprise that he ever saw or heard of
We needed supplies and he gave us all the supplies we asked for. If we had money to pay for it he accepted it, and if we had not we got it without a word. He was very generous and kind; and from my acquaintance afterwards, in all my life I never have seen a man who was more noble and more generous and high minded in my judgment that Dr. McLaughlin. Some of the emigrants went to California after that and failed to pay him. Those who remained in Oregon generally paid him, and not withstanding some mistreating him he still was generous to persons who wanted favors. He would let them have seed wheat to sow and would wait for his pay till they could raise it.
Newby: We reached Vancoover a bout 12 oclock. We hav bin in the rain 2 days. Two much can not be said of Dr. McLaughlin & other officers at Vancoover.
Fremont: arrived at Fort Vancouver where "I found many American emigrants at the fort; others had already crossed the river into their land of promise--the Walahmette (Willamette) Valley. Others were daily arriving; and all of them had been furnished with shelter, so far as could be afforded by the buildings connected with the establishment. Necessary clothing and provisions (the latter to be afterward returned in kind from the produce of their labor) were also furnished. This friendly assistance was of very great value to the emigrants, whose families were otherwise exposed to much suffering in the winter rains, which had now commenced; at the same time that they were in want of all the common necessaries of life. Those who had taken a water conveyance at the Nez Perce Fort, continued to arrive safely, with no other accident than has been already mentioned. The party which had passed over the Cascade Mountains were reported to have lost a number of their animals; and those who had driven their stock down the Columbia, had brought them safely in, and found for them a ready and very profitable market, and were already proposing to return to the States in the spring for another supply."
Nesmith: Arrived at Oregon City at the falls of the Willamette.
Ford: Then we sailed down
the Columbia to the mouth of the Willamette. After we got into the Willamette
there came up a gale of strong wind up the river in the direction we were going
and that endangered our craft it finally raised the waves six feet high and
they would slush over the entire craft and cargo and over our heads. It
required two Indians and two white men to bale out the canoes, a man to each
canoe. They found that they could bale it out as fast as it would slush
in. I kept the craft as near in the middle of the river because it was
smoother there than it was near the shore. Our craft ran very rapidly
up the stream until we got to the rapids below Oregon City. There the
wind slacked up and we tied up for the night. In the morning we towed
the craft over the rapids with ropes 4 men and myself and we got to Oregon City.
It was the first cargo wagons that ever was landed at Oregon City by land
or sea. They were landed on the 10th day of November 1843.
There were not over a dozen houses at Oregon City when we got there. It was mostly round about near the falls. There were but few people & they were very kind and generous. There was a Missionary store there, there were some packers that had come there with their animals over the Cascade Mountains on the trail, but they lost their animals repeatedly through the Indians and had to buy them back. Some of them had to give the Indians their shirts to have the animals brought back; so that when they got in they had not any shirts themselves--only their coats on. It was a very narrow trail and a rough road to travel. Those that had teams and stock came down the Columbia swam their animals at the Cascades and came down on the north side below the Cascades to opposite the mouth of the Sandy; there they crossed back to the south side. From there they drove them along the shore to Oregon City over a level country. Among those of our party who came over the Cascades by the trail were General McCarver and a man by the name of Chase, two Doughtys and perhaps a dozen others. After we arrived at Vancouver with our wagons, we sent up for the balance of the wagons.
Arthur: On November 20th, Oregon City was then but an infant not named. The Hudson's Bay Company then had a saw-mill, a flour mill and a storehouse, furnished with a small stock of merchandise. Then there was wheat in the valley to furnish bread for the entire emigration of 1843, and a number of Spanish cattle, but the circumstances of the emigrants were such that but few were able to buy them for beef; therefore during the winter of 1843 and 1844, they were forced to subsist chiefly on bread, boiled wheat, and pea coffee, and lived in log houses oftener twelve by fourteen feet than eighteen by twenty feet. The openings between the logs were filled with chinks and daubed on the outside with mud. The chimney was built upon the outside of the house, made of split sticks laid on in proper form and thoroughly daubed and plastered with mud on the inside to prevent them from taking fire; a large opening cut through the logs communicating with the chimney, formed a fire-place, of which the back, jambs and hearth was made of mud and dried by slow fire. The roof was made of shakes laid like shingles, kept in place by small timbers laid across each row, those kept in place by shorter ones placed between them up and down the roof. In this manner the pioneer constructed a roof for his cabin without the expense of a dime for nails, with wooden hinges and a wooden latch for the door, the latch string made from the skin of a deer pursued and killed by himself; which as the old song has it, "hangs outside the door," in those days symbolizing a cordial welcome within. There was a bed in each corner at the end of the room opposite the fireplace. There was no chamber above to obliterate the view of the roof. There was no division in departments; from floor to roof, from wall to wall was a single family room, occupied by the family in common. A rough board table, and a very few other articles, such as could be manufactured out of a fir tree with an ax and auger, completed the inventory of household furniture of a pioneer's house. We plowed the ground then harrowed the wheat in with a harrow made wholly of wood, cradled, raked and bound the wheat into sheaves, and when dry placed the sheaves on a smoothe piece of ground in circular form enclosed with a fence, and then drove the horses or cattle around on it to thrash out the grain, and with a rake and a wooden fork separated the straw from the wheat. In the afternoon when the wind raised, the wheat was separated from the chaff by standing on a box and pouring the mixture down on a sheet. Wheat was then a legal tender at one dollar per bushel. The flouring mill at Oregon City was then the only one of importance in Oregon. However, there was a cheap mill in Marion county, where North Salem now stands, and also a very cheap one in Washington county, a short distance west of where Forest Grove now stands; but there were many who had to go to mill at this time whose situation was such they had to carry the sacks of grain and the wagon over creeks on foot-logs, swim the team over, yoke up and drive on to the next creek and repeat the same performance, both going to and coming from the mill.
Ford: The general face of the country
appeared to me as if it was not acceptable for the habitation of white people.
The country we passed over, the Walla Walla Country and Eastern Oregon
has proved to be a different country entirely from what it appeared to the emigrants
at the time. They considered it a desert gotten up expressly for the Indians,
suitable for them and nobody else--fit for a wild race of people. That
same country has since proved to be one of the finest wheat countries known
in the world. It looked barren although it was covered with fine grass,
bunch grass with thousands of Indian horses. The Indians were numerous.
I was raised in a timber country and this being bare of timber it looked
like a barren desert to me. It was only suitable apparently for grazing
Indian ponies and for hunting it did not appear delightful to me with the exception
of the Grande Rounde Country. I have been back to the Centennial and travelled
eleven thousand miles in the United States, and after residing 19 years in Eastern
Oregon I find no country that seems to me prettier nor no country that is so
fertile nor that I would swap this for. It is the finest land for garden
vegetables fruit apples pears plums and peaches and is only surpassed for grapes
by California. In Umatilla and the Walla Walla Valley I raised an apple
measuring 16 1/2 inches in circumference and weighting 46 ounces avoirdupois.
At the Centennial at Philadelphia it was claimed by the showbill as the
World Beater, the next size at the Centennial was an apple weighing 42 ounces.
It is the largest apple on record.
Western Oregon I thought a fine country; it satisfied me when I got there. Aside from Eastern Oregon I know no other such anywhere. This valley was a very desirable country to look at from the first most beautiful diversified with prairie and timber adjacent to each other that I ever saw.
Arthur: It is evident that the pioneers of 1843, being the first emigration of importance to Oregon, were more harassed and disturbed by Indians, than subsequent emigrations. The Indians were constant visitors, every searching, prying, and closely scrutinizing everything in and about the pioneer's cabin, in a manner to arouse distrust and cause families to guard them with caution; and to give an Indian food was equivalent to advertising for others to make a request for the same. On several occasions when mother and the smaller children were left alone, it was absolutely necessary for mothers to bar the door of the cabin in order to keep them out of the house; and so determined were they at one time to enter the house, that the girl, who subsequently became my wife, was forced to guard the window with an ax in hand.
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