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The agent told me that the chief desired to talk with me about the incoming emigration; I a.s.sented, the agent acting as interpreter. This conversation ending, I went out to take a more accurate survey of the village. While standing in front of the chieftain's tent, a young Indian woman, riding astride of a very fine horse, approached the tent. She reined up her steed a few feet in front of me, showed a little astonishment at my presence, and lightly dismounted without any a.s.sistance from me. She tarried for a moment to pet her horse, thus giving me an excellent chance for observation. While I can not say that her form was sylph-like and elegant, yet her features were not irregular, nor was her form misshapen. She was of medium height and stood erect. Her head was covered with a luxuriant growth of dark coa.r.s.e hair, flowing over her shoulders and extending down to her waist. Her hair was neatly combed; around her neck she had several strings of different-colored beads, large and of bogus pearls; she had on a short gown closely fitting her neck and body, and extending to her knees; it was made out of soft buckskin and was tastefully ornamented with beads, and fringed around the bottom; her lower limbs were wrapped in buckskin leggings with fringed stripes at the sides; her feet were covered with a neat pair of moccasins, ornamented with beads. Such was the chieftain's daughter as I then saw her. She dashed by me and entered the tent. I soon after followed. I judged from the long and inquiring stare of the mother, and the quick and abashed look of the daughter, that the agent and chief were talking about me; and I subsequently learned that such was the fact. By invitation of the chief we stayed for dinner. I will not detain you by a description of that repast. After dinner we smoked the pipe of peace and friendship, then bade adieu to the chieftain and rode back to our camp. The next day I went up to the agent's camp and wrote for the "Detroit Free Press" a description of the Umatilla Valley and the surrounding country, stated the number of Indians residing there, their mode of life, their habits and customs, together with their desire for civilization. I stated the generous offer of the Cayuse chief, and closed with a glowing description of the dusky princess. I mailed the letter at The Dalles.
In due time we arrived in the Willamette Valley. Over three months elapsed before I received a copy of The Free Press containing my letter.
By a strange perversion the printer had changed the word "cayuse" into "hans." This explained a mystery. Quite a number of letters directed to the chief of the "Hans" Indians, care of the superintendent of Indian affairs for Oregon, had been received by him. No one knowing anything about the Hans Indians. These letters were afterwards published in the Oregon papers. I will give from memory a synopsis of two of them. The first was written by a Michigan man, and he was endorsed by Lewis Ca.s.s, Henry Ward Beecher and many other noted persons. It was a plain, straight-forward letter and unconditionally accepted the chieftain's offer. He desired to be speedily notified, in order that he might come on to accept his patrimony and open his agricultural school. The other letter was written by a Virginian. He was endorsed by the Senators of that State and by most of its Representatives in Congress. A daguerreotype accompanied the letter. This gallant gentleman stated to the Chief that he would scorn to accept the hand of the daughter unless he could first win her heart. He flattered himself, however, that he would have no difficulty in that matter. The whole tone of the letter was that of a regular masher. I do not know whether these letters ever reached the chief and his fair dusky daughter or not, nor do I know whether he was blessed or cursed with a white son-in-law.
My belief is that the perverseness of that Detroit printer obstructed the civilization of a tribe.
In conclusion, the jolly Indian agent was gathered to his fathers years ago. The bow has fallen from the nerveless grasp of the generous chieftain. The princess may still be alive; if so, and if her eyes by chance should fall upon these lines, she will, no doubt, remember the bashful and ungallant young man who met her in front of her royal father's mansion in the beautiful Umatilla Valley in 1852.
On the morning of the fifth day after our arrival in the beautiful and fertile valley of the Umatilla we resumed our journey. Our first point of destination was The Dalles. There we replenished our nearly exhausted stock of provisions. From thence, our first camp was at the eastern base of the Cascade Mountains. We pa.s.sed over this rugged and densely-timbered range by the Barlow Route. In addition to the stillness of the solemn and continuous woods, and the majestic splendor of the amphitheatre of surrounding mountains, there is the steep descent at once of Laurel Hill from a summit plateau to the valley of the Sandy River below. While it involves some sacrifice of truth to call this the descent of a hill, it requires a greater poetic imagination, from the few stunted Madronas, not laurels, standing on the western rim, of this summit table-land, to call the place Laurel Hill. I saw wagons with their household goods and G.o.ds descend this so-called hill. None but pioneers on whose brow and face sunshine and storm had stamped their heraldic honors, who had swam cold and turbulent mountain streams, had pa.s.sed down steep, rocky and dangerous canyons, and had crossed treacherous streams of quicksand, would ever have attempted this descent. To such seasoned veterans, impossibilities had a constantly diminishing radius. With a steady yoke of oxen--or a true and biddable span of horses--with a long and strong rope fastened to the hind axle-tree of the wagon and wound around some contiguous tree and gradually loosened, the wagons were safely let down these rough and almost perpendicular descents. My information is that no wagons pa.s.s over this road now. It answers for a bridle-path and pack-trail, and no more. Old Mount Hood, along whose southern base we pa.s.sed, stood forth in her imperial grandeur. The waters of the Columbia wash her northern base and the southern base of Mount Adams, her sister peak. A huge rock-ribbed canyon, at the bottom of which rolls the Oregon, separates the two.
An interesting Indian tradition connected with these mountains has a narrow yet substantial footing in fact, but a broader, more airy and more poetic foundation in myth. It runs thus:
Prior to the tremendous conflict and convulsions mentioned herein, the waters of the Columbia and of its many tributaries were confined in the great basin east of the Cascade Mountains. They had no outlet to the ocean. Mount Hood and Mount Adams had for ages been friends; but in process of time they became estranged. That estrangement deepened in intensity until it culminated in a tremendous conflict. They hurled giant boulders at each other. From their tops they sent against one another huge and flaming volumes of fire and molten lava. In their herculean and supreme efforts for victory they tore asunder the mountains and let the long-acc.u.mulated waters of the upper basin rush downward to the ocean. Thus, was their separation made final and irrevocable.
It is not in the line of this narrative to marshal the reasons for, or against the probability, or improbability, of Indian legends. If I should depart from this rule in this instance, I would say that the similarity of the rocks on both sides of the great Columbia River gorge; the presence of submarine sh.e.l.ls embedded in the great eastern basin, as well as the formation of its converging ridges, and the character of its soil, lend a certain tinge of verification to a portion of this legend.
The other portion may be taken as a poetic description of volcanic action, with an attendant earthquake or seismic convulsion of great intensity, and of tremendous force.
From this speculation, let us return to more solid ground. There are two rivers heading near the same point, in the marshes and the highest tableland of the Cascade Mountains. The waters of the one, flow eastward and find the Columbia by a tortuous course east of the mountains; the waters of the other, flow westward and empty in the Columbia above the mouth of the Willamette. The Barlow Road is located on the northern side of this depression, or break in the mountains. Let this brief, and imperfect geographic statement serve as an introduction to the following incident:
Late in the fall of 1847 a large ox-train, with many loose cattle, attempted the ascent of the mountains by the eastern river, but were finally blockaded by the constantly-increasing depth of snow. There were many women and children, as well as stalwart men, in the train. The situation was perilous, threatening great suffering, and the possibility of starvation; hence, two men were deputed to cross the intervening snow-fields to the Willamette Valley for a.s.sistance. R. and B. were the men chosen for the difficult task; and with both of them I subsequently became well acquainted. Equipped with snow-shoes, they successfully pa.s.sed over the summit's ridges to the desolate base of old Mt. Hood.
Here they were enveloped in a dense fog--that most fearful of all calamities to a man in unknown woods, or mountains. Even to the experienced hunter or trapper, familiar with the topography of a mountain range, or a dense forest, the coming-in or settling-down of a fog envelopment, is viewed with apprehension, and alarm. A fog obliterates all the landmarks. Darkness has different shades of blackness;--the depth before you has an intensified blackness; the shadow of a mountain peak makes its huge column, or wooded side still darker. R. and B. became bewildered in the continuous fog. Their provisions were exhausted, and they were subsisting on snails. R. was six feet and well proportioned--brawny and enured to toil; B. was smaller and of a more delicate const.i.tution. R. was a p.r.o.nounced skeptic; B. was a man of faith and inclined to look for safety to a higher power when immediate danger was impending: hence, while R. was eagerly hunting for food, B. was engaged in prayer. One day, deep down under the snow, R. found the slimy trail of a snail; it led directly under B.'s knee. R. pushed B. aside, saying: "Get out of my way--I am nearly frantic for that snail." The game was soon captured, and R.
generously divided it with his starving companion. At the conclusion of their scanty feast, B. said to R.: "You are much stronger than I am, and you will probably survive me: now, if I die, what will you do with me?"
"Eat you, sir: eat you!" was the emphatic reply. B., in his subsequent narration of the incident, said that the idea was so abhorrent to him that it nerved him up until their escape was made. The families were rescued, and they came down the Columbia River to the Willamette Valley, while most of the stock was left on good pasturage east of the mountains. R. and B. have long since been gathered to their fathers.
Their trials, difficulties and dangers are over. May they rest in peace!
Crossing the Sandy we arrived at Foster's, situated at the west end of the Barlow Road and at the western base of the Cascade Mountains. We were now in the great Willamette Valley. What a change presented itself!
Here were green fields, meadows and pasturage lands. The breezes were moist and balmy. For over three months we had been crossing over scorched and desolate plains, encountering quite a number of sunburnt, treeless and waterless deserts. In this valley vegetation of all kinds was luxuriant and the smaller fruits abundant. For over three months we had eaten no vegetable food, and we never before so warmly appreciated the beauty and poetry of beets, onions, cabbages, potatoes and carrots.
I remained in the vicinity of Foster's for four days. On the evening of the fourth day a rancher by the name of Baker, who lived on the Clearwater offered me employment. He had let in the sunlight on about ten acres of very fertile soil in the dense forest. This he cultivated in vegetables. He took a canoe-load every day to Oregon City, distant about five miles by his water route. My business was to prepare these vegetables for transportation, for which I received five dollars per day; but one morning he set me to rail making and after working a day at it I struck. He was much amused at my rail making performance. He asked me if I could shoot well; I answered that that was just to my hand. So the next day we took our rifles and went up the creek-bottom and found deer very plentiful. I shot two fine bucks while they were bounding away, and Baker was much pleased by my ability in this line; so he offered me six dollars a day for every day that I would furnish him, on the bank of the creek, two deer. I successfully did this for ten days, when, the game becoming somewhat scarce in that vicinity, he wanted me to go out some six or seven miles into the foothills of the mountains.
This proposition carried with it so much loneliness and isolation, that it was declined.
While wandering through the valley of the Clearwater and the adjacent hills, I was much struck with the wonders of petrification. I saw huge fir-logs, petrified. I can never think of what I then saw without recalling a story which I heard while delegate to Congress, and at Washington City. Congress always makes liberal appropriations for the investigation of the flora and fauna, and the mineral indications, as well as the water supply or rainfall, in the territories, and in the desert portions of the United States. Rugged old Ben Wade, while a Senator from Ohio, always opposed these appropriations as a waste of the people's money in what he styled, bug-hunting expeditions. Two scientists, eminent for their learning, and known as Major Hayden and Captain Powell, were usually employed in these explorations. The Major was said to be something of a martinet, while the Captain was an excellent judge of human nature, and had plenty of what the Philosopher Locke called "round-about common-sense." While on one of these scientific exploring expeditions these two gentlemen were in the mountains near Pike's Peak. That country abounds in fine specimens of petrification. One day the Major met a company of miners, and related to them the wonderful specimens of petrification seen by him that day. The miners listened with eloquent, but I fear insincere, attention to the Major's statement. When he had concluded, one of them said: "If you will go with me, Major, to the other side of the ridge, I will show you a specimen of petrification that discounts anything you have seen today."
The Major listened while the miner said, that at the base of a nearly perpendicular wall of rock, extending upward several hundred feet, there was an Indian with a rifle in his hand pointing at an angle upward towards the rock; that both Indian and rifle were petrified; that the smoke around the muzzle of the gun was petrified; and, what was more wonderful, that a short distance from the muzzle of the gun a cougar was petrified right in the air. The Major showed some uneasiness as the story proceeded, and said at its conclusion: "I was inclined to believe you when you began, but now I know you are lying." The miner softly put his hand to his pistol, but, relenting, said: "You are a tenderfoot and I forgive you; but why did you say I was lying?" "Because," said the Major, "I know that the laws of gravitation would bring that cougar down." "The laws of gravitation be d.a.m.ned," said the miner, "they were petrified too."
I visited Oregon City with my friend, and observed the beautiful falls of the Willamette and the waste of electrical and mechanical power.
Returning to his humble home, I bade him the next day a regretful good-bye, and with my horses started for a point in Mill Creek Valley, six or seven miles south of Salem, to the home of a friend with whom I became acquainted on the plains. This friend had taken up a claim, and I found him busily engaged in the erection of a building which might be styled in architecture as a midway between a dwelling house and a cabin.
He had determined, as soon as this structure was completed, to go to the mines in Southern Oregon. I also concluded to try my luck in digging for gold. In the latter part of October, 1852, in company with two other gentlemen, we started for the mines in Rogue River Valley, Southern Oregon. The habitations in the Willamette Valley at that time were few and far between. Large bands of Spanish cattle roamed over, and found ample food in the upper portion of the valley. It was dangerous for a footman to pa.s.s through that country. On horseback he was safe. But little of interest occured on this trip. My friend claimed to be and he was an expert rider. He had a large and powerful Spanish horse as his riding animal. While in the Umpqua Valley he mounted this horse one morning without saddle or bridle on a steep hill. The horse viciously resented this breach of etiquette and plunged with stiff-legged vaults downward and sideways on the steep incline, throwing his rider over his head. The rider struck with his full weight and the momentum of the horse's motion, on his right hand, throwing the small bones, to which some of the muscles of the inner arm are attached, out of their sockets at the base of the palm of the hand. The tendency was for these muscles still further to contract--thus aggravating his injury. The nearest doctor was fifty miles away. Upon examination, I concluded that these small bones ought to be forced into their proper place, if possible, before inflammation intervened. We accordingly placed the injured man upon his back on the ground, and as the operation would be very painful, the others held him securely while I forced these bones back into their sockets. Then we bound the wrist tightly, so as to keep them in place.
When we arrived at the Doctor's he, after an examination, complimented me highly for my surgical skill, and gave me credit for saving the wrist of the injured man. On our way to the mines we pa.s.sed through what is known as the Canyon in the mountain-spur that separates the Umpqua country from the Rogue River county. People now pa.s.sing through this canyon scarcely appreciate the difficulties attending the pa.s.sage which then existed. The canyon is formed by two streams, both heading in a small pond or lake at the summit of the mountain; the one that flows northward is called Canyon Creek. It was then crossed eighty-four times by the road. The other stream flowed southward and was crossed by way of the road over sixty times. In the rainy season, and especially when the mountains were covered, or blockaded with snow, the pa.s.sage was almost impossible. The pa.s.sage was strewn with the wrecks of wagons and the bones of horses and mules. Subsequently, Congress made an appropriation of $40,000 for a military road through this mountain gorge. This money was faithfully expended by General Hooker. The distance through the canyon is about nine miles. General Hooker built the military road on the side of the mountain. In quite a number of places you can sit in the stage and look down into a nearly perpendicular and sunless abyss hundreds of feet in depth. Large sums of money have since been expended by toll corporations, to keep this military road pa.s.sable and in repair.
We arrived at Jacksonville, in Southern Oregon, in the first part of November.
To a person who prior to that time had always been accustomed to a different order of society, and who had never visited the mines in the palmy days of California, a new social order was manifest. I state the facts and the impression they made upon me as a tenderfoot; but I ought to add that since that time, having become somewhat familiar with such scenes, my moral sense has toughened, so that my ability to "endure" is far greater now, than then, though my judgment as to the ultimate moral result of such a social order has never changed.
There were in Jacksonville and its immediate vicinity from seven to eight thousand men, possibly more. The coat as an article of dress had fallen into "innocuous desuetude." Soft slouch hats were universally worn. There were but a few women, and most of them not angelic. The mines were rich, money was abundant, and gambling rampant. I ought not to omit the dance-halls that pointed the lurid way to perdition. I said that money was abundant; I do not mean by this that much United States gold coin was in circulation. There was a five-dollar gold piece that had its origin in Oregon. It was stamped on one side with the words "United States of America," and on the reverse side with the impress of a beaver; hence, it was called "beaver money." It was of the same size of the minted half-eagle, but contained more of gold. The other piece of money in circulation was octahedron in shape or form. It was stamped on one side the same as the beaver money, and on the reverse side were the words "Fifty Dollars." It contained more gold than the same weight of minted coin; but the money used in nearly all transactions was gold dust; hence, every merchant, saloonkeeper or gambler had his gold scales at command. Gold dust had a standard value of sixteen dollars per ounce, and purchases were paid for in gold dust. There was some silver in circulation, but the lowest denomination was twenty-five cents. A drink of milk, gla.s.s of beer or any other liquor, was twenty-five cents.
Sunday was partly a laundry day, but mostly a gala day. Mining ceased on that day. All came to town to see the sights, to hear the news, to try their luck at the gambling tables, or to purchase supplies for the coming week. This day was a harvest day for the gambler, the saloonkeeper, and the merchant. While there was a large quant.i.ty of alcoholic beverages consumed, drunkennes was at a minimum. Nearly everyone carried a pistol in his belt, and a sheath-knife in his boot.
Homicides were not frequent; this was due to the character possessed by the great body of miners, who acted on the great law of honor, and to the fact that to call a man a liar or to impeach the honor of his origin, or to use towards him any epithet imputing dishonor, was to invite the contents of a pistol into the accuser's physical economy. The laws of chivalry and honor were the only laws obeyed in such matters.
This kind of society, rough and uncouth in its exterior, had a strong basis in the n.o.bler principles of a chivalric manhood. It had also a poetic side, being composed princ.i.p.ally of young men; it did not suppress the finer impulses and feelings of their better nature. As an ill.u.s.tration: there was located in the valley a family, consisting of husband and wife and two children. They had quite a number of cows and kept milk for sale. A large number of young men used to visit this family every Sunday for the ostensible purpose of buying milk, when the real purpose was to see someone who had the form, the purity and the affection of a mother. When they left the humble abode of this mother, they talked of their own mothers, of home and its sweet recollections.
The strong ligaments of a mother's love serves as a moral anchor to them in the billowy storms of life, even far away from that mother.
Personal property of great value, such as gold in sluice boxes, though unguarded, was perfectly secure. The sneak thief, the burglar and the robber were conspicuous by their absence. Probably the certainty, promptness and severity of the punishment deterred their visitation.
There were no churches in that mining town, and religious services were infrequent. I remember one incident in this line: A Methodist minister, by the name of Stratton, came over from California and notices were posted that he would preach the next Sunday. There was a large building in process of erection for a gambling-house on the opposite side of the street from the princ.i.p.al gambling saloon. The roof was on this new building and a large party of us, desiring to hear the Gospel again preached, fitted up this hall with seats from the unused lumber. The minister had a large audience, the seats were all filled and hundreds stood on the outside of the building. He was an able and eloquent man and presented the simple story of the Gospel in a very forcible and earnest manner. When he had concluded his sermon, the contribution-box was pa.s.sed around and carried across the street to the gambling saloon, and they all contributed liberally, some of them dropping into the box a fifty-dollar gold piece. As soon as he had p.r.o.nounced the benediction, two mounted auctioneers, one desiring to sell a horse, the other a mule, requested the audience to remain while they offered them bargains and cried the virtues of these animals. Most of the audience did remain and the bidding was quite spirited and animated; so you see that that congregation had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, to buy a horse or a mule, as each man's wants might demand.
Civil government had not been extended over that section of the country.
The only system they had was the Alcalde system. This was borrowed from California, and by the Californians was borrowed from the mining jurisprudence of Spain. Every mining community of any considerable size had its Alcalde. He held his office by election, and his jurisdiction swept over the entire field of jurisprudence. There was no appeal from his judgments or decrees. Jacksonville and its mining community had such an officer; his name was Rogers. I think he was a lawyer, but had long since ceased to practice. He was a grey-headed and venerable-looking man. He administered the unwritten and the uncla.s.sified law of justice and equity as it appeared to him from the facts of each case heard by him. His judgments and decrees were promptly enforced; but there came a change. In the fall of '52 four men in the Willamette Valley formed themselves into a co-partnership for mining purposes, and with their horses and provisions went to Jackson Creek to try their fortune at mining. At first they were not successful. Provisions running low, they dispatched one of their number to the Willamette Valley with their horses to bring in an ample supply of provisions for the fast-approaching winter. This partner, sent on such a mission, became acquainted on his trip with a blooming damsel who had just crossed the plains. He made love to her; she reciprocated, and they were married.
The season had far advanced when the honeymoon was over. He brought, however, on his delayed return an abundant supply of provisions. His partners during his absence, had located some claims, opened them and found them very rich. But on his return, while they accepted the provisions, they denied to him all accounting, and refused to acknowledge his interest in the new-found claims. He brought an action before the Alcalde for an accounting and for the affirmation of his interest in the claims. The Alcalde, after hearing and fully considering the facts of the case, granted both of the pet.i.tions. Up to this time I had had no employment in the case and had taken but a general interest in it. The defeated parties called a miners' convention, whose declared object was the election of a judge of appeals for that and other cases.
My connection with the case commenced at this point. I was employed by the successful party before the Alcalde, and by others, to oppose this movement. At the appointed time nearly all of the miners of Jackson Creek and its vicinity a.s.sembled in convention at the appointed place.
The feeling for and against the proposition was quite intensified. After the convention was organized I arose and with some trepidation addressed the large crowd. I was listened to throughout with silent and respectful attention. I took the position, first, that inasmuch as the machinery of civil government had not as yet been extended over that district of the country, the Alcalde system prevailed, and thousands upon thousands of valuable properties had changed hands by virtue of the Alcalde judgments and decrees and their enforcement, and the property rights of many were dependent upon the validity and stability of such judgments and decrees, all would be endangered by the proposed change; that his ministerial officers might be subject to prosecution; that under such circ.u.mstances we had better stand upon the records of the past,--records as old as the inst.i.tution of mining in the United States. I further argued that if we attempted to complicate affairs by the election of a judge of appeals, and possibly by the inst.i.tution of other tribunals for the correction of error, we turn a system simple in itself, and beneficent in its operations in the past, into a complicated farce. I argued in favor of the probability of the Legislature, when it extended its machinery of civil government over that section of country, pa.s.sing an act validating the judgments and decrees or providing for a liberal mode and time for an appeal from them. My last point, omitting others, was that this movement had its origin in, and promotion by, the parties defeated in the Alcalde's court. If they had the power to secure a determination in favor of a court of appeals they certainly had power to elect the judge of appeals; that as this would be the first case to be heard by him, they certainly would not elect a judge who was not favorable to their interests; and that it had the appearance to me of a court organized to convict or to reverse. I pushed this point with every reason and every ill.u.s.tration and consideration that I could command. I appealed in conclusion to their native sense of justice and equity, and closed after speaking a little over an hour. I was roundly applauded. My opponent was what was known in the States as a pettifogger. I use this term not opprobriously. He was an old miner and possessed the power of rough-edged ridicule and philippics. He thought that the best way to answer my argument was to annihilate me. His description of a beardless tenderfoot coming all the way from Michigan to teach veteran miners what they ought to do, or ought not to do was certainly amusing, if not overdrawn by its exaggeration. He was frequently applauded by his side.
When he was through the voting commenced. The contending forces arrayed themselves on each side of a line, with a s.p.a.ce of four or five feet between them. The pulling and hauling across the s.p.a.ce was continuous.
After several efforts to make an accurate count, it was reported to the President that there was a majority of from three to ten in favor of the proposition. The next move was to select a judge of the court of appeals. This was soon accomplished. The judge so elected notified the parties of the time and place where the appeal was to be heard. At the appointed time I appeared and filed a written protest and demurrer to his jurisdiction. When I had finished reading them he promptly, and without hearing the other party, overruled both protest and demurrer. He heard the case anew and promptly reversed the judgment of the Alcalde. I think this was the only case the judge of appeals ever heard. Nothing but the dignity of the office remained. In after years I became well acquainted with said judge, but I never mentioned the subject to him. A more extended account of this affair is given in one of Bancroft's histories of the coast. The record or papers filed by me in this case, I have been informed, are in the archives of Jackson County.
Two incidents occurred late in the fall of '53 which as they are somewhat historical in their character and results, may bear narration.
Rogue River Valley was unoccupied and afforded abundant pasturage for horses and mules and horned cattle. Some enterprising fellow had just pre-empted all of that portion of the valley west of Bear Creek, and received stock for pasturage on that pre-empted domain, at so much per head. Late in the fall, four fine American horses had been stolen from this pasture. The theft was immediately attributed by the owners, and by the keepers of the stock, to the Indians. A party of hot-headed fellows, headed by the owners of the lost horses, went to the Indian Ranceree on Rogue River and took four of its younger men as prisoners, or rather as hostages--threatening to kill them if the stock was not delivered within a week. The hostages were brought to Jacksonville and strictly confined until the time should elapse. This action created great excitement among the Indians, and to save the lives of their companions they hunted for the lost animals in every direction, but could find no trace of them.
The Rogue River Indians gave it as their opinion that a band of Klamath Indians but recently in Rogue River Valley, on a trading expedition, had stolen the horses and driven them across the mountains to the Klamath Lake country. The fatal day arrived and the horses were unfound; and the determination was expressed by a large party of miners, reinforced by the gambling element, to carry the threat into execution. One of the Indians asked that he might talk to the whites before he was led out to execution. His request, after some considerable opposition, was finally granted. His speech was interpreted into English and ran, as far as I remember it, about as follows: He said that neither himself nor his companions had stolen the horses, and that they knew nothing about their loss; that the white man did not claim that they stole the horses, but they were to be killed because others had stolen the white man's horses, and neither they nor their friends were able to deliver them up to the white man; that the Indians had always treated the white man kindly--when he was hungry they gave him something to eat--but the white man had taken possession of their country, had driven the game far away into the mountains, had decreased the number of fish in the rivers and streams by muddying their waters, and had by the tramping of their horses and cattle destroyed the Kamas and Kouse upon which they largely subsisted and had entirely destroyed the gra.s.s and other seeds which they gathered in large quant.i.ties for food; that he felt like one wandering alone in the deep fog and dark timber on a mountain side, and he heard the voice of the spirits of his fathers calling to him "be quiet and brave; the Great Spirit will avenge you." He closed. Someone moved that the punishment be mitigated to whipping. I protested against any punishment at all, but voted for the mitigation. The motion carried; the poor innocent Indians were led away to receive the punishment; but I must say that the executioner of the sentence did not lay on the lash in a severe and brutal manner. The Indians were told to go; and they stayed not on the order of their going, but left with good speed. Such unjustified acts are pregnant with trouble, and the Indian war followed soon after.
There lies east of the southern portion of Rogue River Valley a wide slope of land free from timber and ending at the rim of the mountain, and beyond and easterly from which--there is a high mountain table land--covered with fine green timber, among which sleep verdant valleys whose arms extend like the radius of a star, in every direction. Some of these valleys are wet and marshy, while others are dry and produce a rich and abundant growth of bunch gra.s.s. There was a large number of stock pastured in this section of country. Occasionally a small band of the fattest and largest steers would mysteriously disappear from this range. The number disappearing increased each successive year. The cattle men became alarmed, and organized an armed and mounted patrol to keep guard and watch over their stock. In the fall of '51 it was reported that some five or six fine steers were missing from their accustomed range. A search was immediately made and the trail of the missing cattle discovered. It led over the rim into the mountain basin or plateau, above referred to and across a marsh, now, and from this circ.u.mstance, called Dead Indian Prairie, and up a narrow arm of the prairie to a mountain culmination in a lonely spot, surrounded on nearly all sides by a dense growth of tall chapparal brush. Here the carca.s.ses of the cattle, also the bodies of three Indians were found, with all the indications that they had been recently killed. These patrol men said that they also found the meat of the slaughtered cattle on platforms, with a slow fire of hardwood still burning beneath them.
Thus the process of jerking preparatory to packing was in full operation. They gave it as their opinion that the cattle had been stolen by Klamath Indians, and that a party of predatory Modocs came upon them a short time before the patrol men appeared, and, finding a good opportunity to supply themselves with food, shot down the Klamaths; but that before they could appropriate to themselves the booty, the whites made their appearance and the Modocs hid away in the chapparal brush.
This theory was received by their employers as rational and satisfactory. In '58 I visited this country for the first time--having heard the story, I sought the spot where the tragedy occurred. There were still the bleached bones of the cattle and the whitened skeletons of three Indians. The platform was still standing, and the extinguished brands of charcoal and the ashes, of the vine-maple fire still existed.
It was late in the afternoon. The sun was fast disappearing behind the western hills. I hesitated for a moment whether to take a long route by way of the narrow prairie to our camp, or to go down the brush-covered mountain sides and thus cut off at least a mile of the distance. The side of the mountain down which I determined to go, was said to be infested with grizzly. I examined my rifle and pistol, to see if they were in order and then with rapid strides commenced the descent. When about half way down I heard a rustling in the brush to my left; I turned and looked in that direction, and saw two large grizzlies on their haunches attentively surveying me. My first thought was to shoot; but as my rifle was a muzzle loader, I concluded that discretion was the better part of valor, inasmuch as there were two of them--hence I stood quiet till they dropped out of sight in the brush. I did not allow the gra.s.s to grow much under my feet, as I dodged through the chapparal brush to reach the prairie beyond. I am convinced that I could have killed one of them, but what to do with his enraged mate, was the question. I remember the answer of a young man, who, while hunting, came across a grizzly probably in her own jungle, in about the same way. He was asked why he did not shoot; his answer was, that it would be some honor for a man to kill a full grown grizzly, but a far greater honor for a grizzly to kill a man.
This great basin--circular in form and some eight miles in diameter--has been visited by me in connection with hunting parties many times since.
It is, or was in former years the hunter's paradise; but I am informed that the cattle men--the pre-emptor, and the homesteaders, and timber monopolizers--have extended their dominion over the luxuriant gra.s.s-producing prairies and the magnificent forests of pine, fir, hemlock and larch, and have driven the game far back into the fastnesses of the mountains. The Indian kills only to satisfy his wants and with only imperfect instruments of destruction; he did not menace the entire extinction of the beasts of the field and forest, hence game of every kind existed and multiplied all around him; but to the white man, armed with a repeating rifle, and fired with a devouring avarice their doom is fixed. Nothing but the intervention of the strong arm of the law can avert the decree of annihilation. Having alluded to this matter once before in these sketches I will not pursue it further here.
Black-tail deer were abundant on this mountain plateau, and it did not take long for a party of good shots to obtain all the venison desired.
We did not kill for the mere love of slaughter, but for food and for the attendant excitement and recreation of hunting.
There roamed through these forests numerous small bands of elk; I say small bands, for I have never seen them here in such large herds as I have seen in the Coast and Olympic ranges of mountains. They seemed to exist here in family groups, ranging in number from three to seven or eight. I counted one group, however, numbering fifteen, in an exploring expedition in the dark woods near the base of snow-crowned Mount McLaughlin. I had a fine opportunity to shoot a good sized buck whose head was crowned with large and fine antlers; but was so distant from camp and the ground was so rough and difficult of access, that I forebore, and seated myself on a rock to study their habits and to watch their movements. These small bands were quite difficult to find, for the elk is a great roamer, but with pluck and perseverance, and the discomforts of sleeping on their trail perhaps for one night, we were usually successful, unless the trail led into the impa.s.sable breaks in the mountains.
The bear family was well represented in this mountain plateau. The black, the brown, the cinnamon, the grizzly and what is known among hunters as the mealy-nosed brown bear, were plentiful. This last species of bear, if it be proper to call them a species, I have always thought was a cross between the grizzly and the brown bear. His nose or muzzle up to his eyes is nearly white. Like many crosses, he inherits all the bad qualities of his progenitors, and seemingly, none of their good qualities. In size he is between the grizzly and the brown bear. While most of the species of the bear family will run on the approach of man, unless one comes upon them suddenly in their patrimonial jungle, or a female with her cubs, the mealy-nosed bear is inclined to stand his ground, and to resent any crowding upon him. Doctor Livingston says, in his Book of Travels in Africa, that if you come upon the lion in the day time, he will face you and quietly look at you; and if you stand still he will in a short time turn and look at you over his shoulder, and then commence easily to move away, and when he thinks he is out of sight he will bound off with accelerated speed. The mealy-nosed brown bear acts very much in the same manner. Hunting parties sometimes have with them a leash of trained bear-dogs, and they always close the hunt in a chase for bruin. There is in this kind of sport a dash of danger, that makes it all the more exciting.
Hunters, like poets, are born. Keenness of vision, presence of mind in case of conflict or danger, together with steadiness of nerve, are the essential characteristics of a true hunter. No practice or exercise can fully supply these qualities. I could narrate many exciting and dangerous conditions, or situations, arising from the want of some of these qualities; but as the actors may be living, I omit them.
I am at liberty to narrate only my own acts and mistakes. I cannot omit from these sketches the first grizzly killed by me. Myself and companion were camping on Dead Indian Prairie, when we were informed that there were some fresh elk-tracks near a large wet prairie some three miles from our camp. We started out to hunt for these elks. We went up a narrow prairie through which flowed a small brook to a larger prairie through which this brook also flowed. The brook was fringed on each side with a thick growth of willows from three to five rods in width. We hitched our horses near the larger prairie, and my companion was to go carefully through the timber on the right hand, while I was to cross the brook and carefully scout the timber on the left hand. Shortly after I had crossed the brook and got a good view of the prairie beyond, I saw a large grizzly feeding near the outer line of the willows. He was some sixty or seventy rods away. I considered for a moment, my plan of action. I had left my pistol at the camp and had only my rifle and hunting-knife. I kept in the timber out of sight until I got opposite to him and probably about forty rods away. Gra.s.s on the prairie was tall, and I concluded that as I only had one shot, I would get closer to him; so I crawled through the gra.s.s towards him until I was possibly twenty rods away. He commenced to act as though all was not right, and he stood listening, reared upon his haunches, and snuffing the air. I began to get a little nervous. I desired to get a shot at or near the b.u.t.t of his ear. While he was listening, however, he kept turning his head from me and towards the willows. I concluded that I could strike his heart, and quickly brought my rifle in position, and fired. He fell to the ground; I arose to my feet and commenced to reload. My rifle was muzzle-tight, and I had to carry in my pouch a bullet-starter. Having got the powder in the gun and started the ball, just as I pulled the ramrod he arose to his feet. As I was in plain view, he started directly for me. Casting my eye around, I saw a hemlock tree, with pendent limbs, some thirty or more rods away. I started for it with all the speed I possessed. As he was running on a kind of circle hypothenuse, I could see that he was rapidly closing the s.p.a.ce between us. He was probably fifteen or twenty feet from me when I dropped my rifle and leaped for the branches of the tree. My aspirations were lofty just then. Had he come on, he might possibly have gotten me, but I was soon out of his reach. He stopped to grasp my rifle and shook it violently. It was a half-stocked rifle, and he bit off a portion of the stock. He stayed around the tree some three or four minutes licking his wound, which I subsequently found was less than half an inch too high. It was a mortal shot, but did not produce immediate death. He suddenly leaped to his feet and dashed off to a thicket of chapparal some twelve or thirteen rods away. I descended from the tree, found my rifle to be in an effective condition, rammed down the ball, put on a cap and ran for a tree standing outside of the chapparal brush--listened and looked; and I quickly saw him. He had run into the forks of a felled tree and had all the appearance of life. I fired at the b.u.t.t of his ear, but he did not move. I reloaded and carefully approached him and found him to be dead. He was poor, but was estimated to weigh some two hundred and fifty or three hundred pounds.
We took his pelt, and after a good deal of persuasion and blindfolding my riding-horse took it into camp.
Moral: no man has the right to hunt grizzly bear with a muzzle-loading rifle and muzzle-tight at that.
I have several times since then, either alone or with a hunting companion, met them, and with a Remington repeater found no difficulty in commanding the situation.
The winter of 1852-'53 was distinguished for--so far as the memory of the oldest inhabitants recalled--its unprecedented deep fall of snow.
Rogue River Valley is rimmed around on all sides by high ranges of mountains. These mountain ranges were rendered impa.s.sable for pack trains or other modes of transportation. The supply of provisions in the mines grew less and less, until it was nearly exhausted. Flour and beef, the staples of the miners' diet, went up to a dollar a pound and more; salt was worth nearly its weight in gold. This was the result of a corner, however. In these circ.u.mstances myself and three partners, who had purchased some mining claims a considerable distance down Rogue River, took our blankets, rifles and a scanty supply of provisions on our backs and started for our claims. It was with some difficulty that we were able to reach them. They were gulch claims, and if intelligently worked under fair conditions of the weather would yield about an ounce a day to each laborer. We commenced work on them, but the weather was so inclement and the snow fall so continuous that we suspended. I ought to have stated that there was quite a good log cabin on the claims. My partners all claimed to be good hunters, but showed no disposition to try or show their skill in that regard. I did all the hunting and succeeded in keeping the camp quite well supplied with venison. I finally tired of their masterly inactivity, and my strenuous work in wallowing about in the snow.
I also ceased hunting. The provisions were soon exhausted. Nothing was left but coffee and sugar, of which we had a fair supply. With a drink of strong coffee well saturated with sugar, and jolly in spirit, we treated the situation as a huge joke. We all started out for venison. I saw nothing during the day, but frequently heard the report of the rifles of my partners. Each shot was full of hope. We all returned quite late in the evening, and the report of nothing killed was somewhat dismaying. We made, however, a cup of strong coffee--told our best stories, then rolled ourselves in our blankets to dream of home, and of our father's house, where there was bread enough and to spare. We rose early the next morning, taciturn and sad; not much conversation was indulged in. Each, after his breakfast of coffee and sugar, took his own course into the woods, while I had my accustomed ill luck of seeing no game. I heard reports of my companions' rifles, but their echoes did not carry with them much of faith, or hope. I returned quite late that evening and found my companions all in the cabin. Things began to look serious. We took our accustomed coffee and sugar, and soon retired to our bunks to dream of tables loaded with provisions; but some fatality always prevented us from reaching them. I was hungry, and while slowly working my way through the snow to the cabin I looked anxiously for some bird or squirrel that I might kill and eat. The next morning we held a short consultation to determine whether it was better to leave, or to make still further efforts to obtain provisions. In the afternoon of that day I saw a large buck and three does in a clump of brush above me on the mountain side. They were too far away for an effective shot--so I slowly approached them. They saw me and were somewhat disturbed by my presence. They could not go higher on account of the increasing depth of snow. I was lying on the snow with my rifle in position, watching an opportunity for a successful shot. All at once the buck left the clump of brush and came plunging down the mountain side, attempting to pa.s.s me some eight rods to my right. If I ever looked through the sights of a rifle with a desperate determination, it was then. I fired when he was nearly opposite me and he plunged headlong into the snow. I had struck him fairly in the heart, and life was immediately extinct. I got to him as soon as I could, after reloading my rifle, and cut out of his ham a piece, which I ate while it was still warm. It had the same effect upon me for a short time as a drink of strong brandy has upon an empty stomach. I cut off the saddle, threw it over my shoulder, and started for camp. It was in the dusk of the evening when I arrived. My partners were there, and when they saw me coming said nothing, but with a fixed gaze, as though to be certain of relief, fairly grabbed the saddle from my shoulders, rushed into the cabin and began to roast and eat. The roasting was not overdone. About midnight, for fear that wolf or cougar might find the portion left on the mountain side, they took my trail to where it was, and brought it in. We stayed about a week longer, but I had no difficulty in killing an abundance of venison. I did the hunting; my partners did the packing. On the last day of our stay I killed three deer, and with the echo of my last shot, the ghost of starvation, which I had imagined was standing on the clouds and pointing Willametteward, disappeared in thin air.
Resting for two days, and in the meantime having received an offer for our claims from a company mining on the bars of Rogue River, my partners were anxious to accept the offer. I first opposed it, but finally consented. My partners were not only tenderfeet, but they were subject to periodic attacks of cold feet. I drew the bill of sale, and each partner took his $250 in gold dust. It was an unwise transaction, for the claims were worth much more. We all determined to go to the Willamette Valley. When we arrived at the road we found that many miners, especially of those living in the Umpqua, or Willamette Valley, were returning home. The second night we stopped at what was called a hotel, about four miles south of the mouth of the canyon. It rained hard and continuously all of the second day of our journey, and we wallowed through the slush, snow and water until about 11 o'clock p. m. before we reached our stopping-place. The next morning early, twenty-five or thirty of us were at the southern mouth of the canyon and on the creek that flows south. We found it a dashing, foaming and roaring torrent, but it had to be crossed; so eight of us, with strong poles in our hands, standing in a line, elbow to elbow, moved slowly and in unison through the tumbling waters. The worst, so far as that creek was concerned, was over. The other crossings were made without so much difficulty, or danger. It rained continuously all day. We arrived at the little lake on the summit about noon. There we commenced the descent of Canyon Creek proper. This has a larger, deeper and more furious current.
The first crossings were accomplished without much trouble or peril; but as we descended the mountain its volume increased and its current became so swift and strong, that we were compelled to make our way, the best we could, on the steep mountain side. We crawled under logs and over logs, and in dangerous places hung onto brush to steady us. I was among the first to reach the hotel near midnight of that awful day, tired, wet and hungry. We were now in a land of plenty, and although we paid a dollar each for one meal of good, plain, solid food, we did not begrudge it.
The next day we made a camp in an old deserted shack in the valley and remained there for about a week. The flood had swept away all the ferry-boats on the South Umpqua, and there were no means to cross that swollen and rapid river. The ropes, or cables still remained, however.
The owner of the ferry offered eight of us board, and a place to sleep in his barn, if we would a.s.sist him in the construction or rather digging out, of a canoe from a huge log which he had selected for that purpose. We accepted his proposition, and experience soon showed that most of those who had accepted his offer were quite good mechanics. One of them, who was a wagon maker by trade, was elected as boss, and every day, by the continuous stroke of ax, adz and other tools, that canoe began to a.s.sume the shape and form of the real thing. It was full thirty feet in length, and of several tons capacity. It might be cla.s.sed a giant in the canoe family. It was placed upon an extemporized sleigh, and two yoke of oxen drew it to the river bank. The wire or rope extending across the river being intact, the next day the builders of this ark, or most of them, and the ferryman with his two sons, launched it; and we having deposited our blankets in it, the owner, seated in the stern, acted as captain, while two of the strongest men in the party took hold of the rope and by a hand over hand motion, to keep it straight in the current, thus attempted to work it across the river. But when the stronger current was encountered, it became impossible to hold it without filling it with water, and the command was given to let go.