Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
Oregon Under the Provisional Government - Indian depredations at Willamette Falls - Death of George W. Le Breton - Arming of Citizens for Defense - Amendment to Organic Law, 1844 - Prohibitory Liquor Law - First American Settlement North of the Columbia River - Oregon City Incorporated, the First Municipality West of the Rocky Mountains - Incorporation of Oregon Institute - George Abernethy Elected Governor, 1845 - Petition of Provisional Government to Congress - Visit and Report of Lieutenant Neil M. Howison, U.S. Navy - Wreck of the U.S. Schooner Shark - Lieutenant Howison Presents Her Colors to the Provisional Government - Reception of the News of the Treaty of June 15, 1846.
ON THE 4th of March, 1844, Cockstock, a vicious Wasco Indian, who lived in the vicinity of Willamette Falls (Oregon City), accompanied by four Molallas, rode into that town. Their conduct was such as to create considerable alarm and excitement among the citizens. They were arrayed in war paint, armed with guns, and bows and arrows, which they brandished defiantly, and made other hostile demonstrations. Without having committed any actually hostile act, they crossed the river to the Indian camps on the opposite side, and solicited the Clackamas and Willamette Falls Indians to join them. Upon their return, the citizens had assembled in considerable number at the landing. All was excitement. Without any parley, a desultory firing commenced by both Whites and Indians. Cockstock had discharged his gun, when George W. Le Breton rushed him and attempted to arrest him, either in the interest of good order, or to ear the reward which Sub-Agent White had previously offered for the delivery to him of Cockstock. Le Breton, having received two gunshot wounds, had fallen and was struggling with Cockstock. He called out that he was being stabbed. Upon this, a mulatto, named Winslow Anderson, rushed upon Cockstock, and with the barrel of his rifle broke that savage's skull, and instantly killed him. The companions of Cockstock then fired guns and poisoned arrows promiscuously into the crowd. Messrs. Rogers and Wilson, both at work in the vicinity, neither participating in the mêlée, were wounded with arrows. Le Breton and they were conveyed to Fort Vancouver for surgical aid. Mr. Rogers died the next day. Le Breton lingered until the 7th. Though a young man, Le Breton had become a very prominent member of the community. He held the positions of Clerk of Court, Government Recorder, and Secretary of the Legislative Committee. He was a native of Newburyport, Massachusetts. One of the most zealous of American settlers, his death was a great loss to the infant settlement.
The affair created intense excitement. In Champoeg District, a mounted rifle company was organized, called the "Oregon Rangers," of which T.D. Kaiser was elected captain. The officers were commissioned by the Executive Committee of Oregon. The settlements were
put in a state of defense; but the war feeling subsided by Sub-Agent White compensating the widow of Cockstock, and otherwise appeasing the Wasco tribe. The American settlers, with apparent unanimity, justified Sub-Agent White's reward for Cockstock's arrest, and were disposed to justify the act of Le Breton in attempting to arrest him, which precipitated the fight, as also to avenge the deaths of Le Breton and Wilson. There were, however, strong denunciations of the acts of the Whites who engaged in the affray. It was declared to have been unnecessary, hasty, and without such overt act as would justify it (1). It was also claimed that the friendly Clackamas and Willamette Falls Indians who crossed the river with Cockstock and his party, on their return to the town declared that Cockstock maintained that his purpose, in returning, was to have an explanation from the Whites, and to demand the reason for their hostile actions and feelings to him, and why a reward should have been offered for his arrest (2).
In the official report of the sub-agent to the Secretary of War (3) will be found a letter (February 16, 1844) charging Cockstock with having made threats against a sub-agent (a colored man named James D. Saules) and the mulatto, Winslow Anderson, the slayer of Cockstock. On receiving this charge, Sub-Agent White, with a party of ten men, attempted to surprise Cockstock and his five adherents, while they were asleep. But the game was not there. Says he: "Cockstock had sworn vengeance against several of my party, and they thirsted for his blood. Having no other means of securing him, I offered $100 reward to any one who would deliver him safely into my hands, as I wished to convey him for trial to the authorities constituted among the Nez Perces and Cayuses, not doubting that they would feel honored in inflicting a just sentence upon him; and the colony might thereby be saved from an Indian war."
On a subsequent page of the report, Agent White states the cause of the quarrel between Winslow and cockstock, and refers to his ill-advised and injudicious interference, and the offer by him of a reward. It is evident that the agent had the desire to remove the Indian to a distance, of whom he had just cause to fear personal harm. The official statement is that Cockstock had been hired by Winslow to perform labor, for a designated time, upon his land claim, for which Cockstock was to receive a certain horse. Before the completion of the contract, Winslow had sold the horse, as also the land claim to his colored confrére Saules, the informer, without advising Cockstock of the sale, both allowing Cockstock to finish the contract. The negroes refused to deliver the horse to Cockstock when the work was fully performed. Cockstock, believing he had earned the horse, and that it was rightfully his property, took it into his possession. The negroes appealed to Agent White, who forced Cockstock to surrender the property. That cockstock should have been indignant at White and the two blacks, and that he should have made threats against the two conspirators and their auxiliary, in defrauding him of his compensation, is not surprising; nor is it strange that the proclamation of outlawry by the agent of the government, who added insult to injury by offering a reward for his arrest, should have provoked his anger.
Though these facts were known, many of the settlers were resolved on avenging the death of Le Breton and Wilson; besides, Cockstock was a dangerous character, who had had previous difficulties with settlers. But Sub-Agent White succeeded in effecting a
(1) "Historical Sketches of the Catholic Church of Oregon during the past forty years." Portland, Oregon, 1878. Page 145 and 147.
(2) Letter on "Report of Dr. E. White, Sub-Agent Indian Affairs, to Hon. J.M. Porter, Secretary of War, March 18th, 1844," contained in "A Concise View of Oregon Territory, its Colonial and Indian Relations, Compiled from Official Letters and Reports, together with the Organic Laws of the Colony, by Elijah White, late Sub Indian Agent of Oregon." Washington, 1846. T. Barnard, Printer. Page 32 et seq.
(3) Ibid. Page 32.
settlement with the Dalles Indians (Wascoes), as he reported, "by giving Cockstock's widow two blankets, a dress and handkerchief, believing the moral influence better than to make presents to the chief or tribe, and to receive nothing at their hands (1)." That settlement, however humiliating and contrary to proper Indian policy, rendered inexpedient further chastisement of those Indians who had participated in the affray. Doubtless an Indian war was averted, so nearly caused by the folly and injudicious acts of a government agent, - the nearest approach to an outbreak which had been experienced by the Willamette settlements since the advent of Americans.
In May, 1844, Peter G. Stewart, Osborn Russell and William J. Bailey were elected an Executive Committee. Messrs. Peter H. Burnett, David Hill, M.M. McCarver, M. Gilmore, A.L. Lovejoy, Robert Newell, Daniel Waldo and T.D. Kaiser constituted the Legislative Committee. On the 15th of June, 1844, the Legislative Committee convened at Oregon City. General M.M. McCarver was elected speaker, and Dr. John E. Long secretary. The message of the Executive Committee recommended several important modifications of the Organic Law of 1843. Large accessions to the population had been made by the late immigration. Settlements had widely extended, and the provisions of the law of 1843 were found inadequate for the growing necessities of an expanding community.
The Legislative Committee had been instructed not to pass any laws imposing taxes. By the law of 1843, revenue was raised by voluntary contribution. To secure necessary funds for defraying the expenses of the government: "We, the subscribers, hereby pledge ourselves to pay annually, to the treasurer of Oregon Territory, the sum affixed to our respective names, for the purpose of defraying the expenses of government: Provided, that in all cases each individual subscriber may at any time withdraw his name from said subscription upon paying up all arrearages and notifying the treasurer of the colony of such desire to withdraw." The pioneers not only acted upon the idea that all "just governments derived their authority by the consent of the governed," but they granted to each citizen the power to judge how much he was willing to contribute. The committee of 1844 believed that revenue should be derived from uniform taxation. The Ways and Means Committee, therefore, provided that any person refusing to pay taxes should derive no benefit from the laws, and should be disqualified from voting.
The act provided a tax of one-eighth upon all merchandise brought into the country for sale. It taxed improvements on town lots, mills, pleasure carriages, clocks, watches and live-stock. The sheriff was ex officio collector, with a commission of ten per cent on collections. The recommendations of the Executive Committee were severally adopted by the Legislative Committee, and incorporated into an amended Organic Law, which was to be submitted to a vote of the people at a special election; and, if approved by the popular vote, the amendments were to go into effect from and after the first Tuesday in June, 1845. At the special election, those amendments were ratified by a large majority.
The amended Organic Law abolished the Executive Committee, substituting, in lieu thereof, the office of governor. That officer was to be elected in June, 1845, and hold his office for two years. Under the original Organic Act, a law, before it took effect, was submitted to the popular vote. Under the amendment, such popular approval was abrogated; and the power of veto was conferred upon the governor, subject to the right of the legislature to pass by a two-thirds vote, notwithstanding the veto. The powers
Elijah White's "Concise View of Oregon Territory, etc.," page 36.
enjoyed by the Executive Committee were transferred to the governor. The Legislative Committee was superseded by a House of Representatives, consisting of not less than thirteen nor more than sixty-one members, apportioned among the various districts according to population. The Judge of the Supreme Court, theretofore eligible by the people, was to be appointed by the House or Representatives. The oath of office was modified so as to allow all citizens, whatever their nationality, to participate in the government. It was as follows:
"I do solemnly swear, that I will support the Organic Laws of the Provisional government of ORegon, so far as said Organic Laws of the Provisional government of Oregon, so far as said Organic Laws are consistent with my duties as a citizen of the United States, or a subject of Great Britain, and faithfully demean myself in office." A display of tolerant spirit greatly to be commended, this due allowance for national prejudices. The American settlers did not arrogate the right to impose laws or legal restraint upon British subjects; but they established a government, in which distinctions of nationality were for the time being overlooked. All were invited to co-operate. Every disability growing out of foreign birth was removed. They did not attempt to control or influence allegiance. The success of the little pioneer republic on the Pacific Coast is highly creditable to the early settlers of Oregon.
The American element had now established its ascendancy. It continued to gather strength by the constant accession of immigrants from the western States, yet no proscriptive action followed. In all the legislation of the Provisional government, and its character will compare favorably with that of old-established States, the sole desire seems to have been to secure co-operation, unanimity of feeling in the community, and the banishment of every influence calculated to promote division. A small minority of citizens still favored the idea of forming a government independent of the Untied States. The delay of Congress to extend jurisdiction over the territory, to settle the boundary question, and establish a territorial government; the isolated condition of the settlements and their remoteness from the States of the Union; the belief that the Provisional government rested solely on the will of the governed, and could be repudiated at any time by concerted opposition of the people; that titles to land and to property of all kinds would continue unsettled and doubtful, - all seemed to furnish food to encourage such opinions. But this feeling was limited to the few. The American independent settlers still faithfully adhered to their favorite project, - "a government based on republican ideas, cultivating American thought, limited in its duration to such time as the United States should embrace the territory within its jurisdiction." Having revised several laws, amended the land law, materially diminishing the allowance made for the mission claims, and provided a system of taxation, the June session of the Legislative Committee adjourned on the 27th of June, to meet on the 16th of December.
At this session was passed a prohibitory liquor law (1). Its title was: "An Act to prevent the introduction, sale and distillation of Ardent Spirits in Oregon." The first section imposed a fine of $50 for the importation or introduction of ardent spirits into Oregon, with intent to sell, barter, give or trade the same, or for offering the same for sale, trade, barter or gift. The second section subjected to a fine of $20 the sale, barter, gift or trade of any ardent spirits, directly or indirectly, to any persons in Oregon. The third section declared any manufactory or distillery of ardent spirits a nuisance, subject to a fine of $100, and an order directing the sheriff to seize and destroy the distillery
Spectator, Vol. I, No. 1, February 5, 1846.
apparatus. The fourth section provided the mode for seizing and destroying distillery apparatus, implements and spirituous liquors, and punishing those engaged in such illicit manufacture.
By a law of the Legislative Committee (June 27th, 1844), the channel of the Columbia river had been made the north boundary of the Clatsop, Tualitan and Clackamas Districts. The two latter districts, created in 1843, were divided by the Willamette river, and a line continued northward from its mouth to the south boundary of the Russian possessions (fifty-four degrees, forty minutes north). The territory north and west of the Columbia river was now included in the Vancouver District. The only settlements and settlers in that district were the Hudson's Bay Company's establishments at Fort Vancouver, Cowlitz Farms, Fort Nisqually and Fort Victoria (1), the Canadian-French settlement at Cowlitz, two settlers on the north side of the Columbia river, viz., James Birnie, a retired servant of the Hudson's Bay Company, at Cathlamet, and Captain Scarborough, an American, near the mouth of the river, and Antoine Gobar, a herdsman in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company, located on a little prairie upon Cowlitz river, and upon the line of the old Hudson's Bay Company's trail from Fort Vancouver to Cowlitz.
In July, 1844, the British sloop-of-war Modeste, carrying twenty guns, Captain Thomas Baillie, visited Fort Vancouver, remaining several weeks. This visit occasioned some anxiety to the settlers. Reports were current that the company had strengthened the defenses of their posts; and it was apprehended that the boundary was soon to be adjusted; that north of the Columbia would become British territory, in fee as well as by occupancy.
The immigration of 1844 was perhaps as numerous as that of '43. Among them were 234 able-bodied men, as appears by their military organization, of which Cornelius Gilliam was elected commander with the title of General, Michael T. Simmons, the American pioneer of the Puget Sound Basin, Colonel, and Captains Morrison, Shaw, Woodcock and Bunton. Dr. McLoughlin's memoranda fixed the number 475. Lang and Bancroft, however, upon reliable authorities, estimate it at about 800. Among that immigration were Henry Williamson and Isaac W. Alderman. In February, 1845, the two erected a log hut "within a few hundred yards of a house occupied by one of the Hudson's Bay Company's servants, and within the limits of their improvements," near Fort Vancouver; and Williamson posted notice on an adjoining tree "that he had there taken a section of land." Dr. McLoughlin caused the removal of the cabin, and addressed a circular to the citizens of Oregon, protesting against the trespass. This was followed by an attempted survey of the claim by Williamson, whereupon, March 18th, Chief Factors McLoughlin and Douglas notified the Executive Committee of the Provisional government. In the altercation which ensued, threats were indulged in on both sides. Williamson finally desisted. The Executive Committee of the Provisional government congratulated the company upon such fact being known, and thanked Messrs. McLoughlin and Douglas for their "kindness of manner in dealing with a disregard of treaty obligations by a citizen of the United States." (2).
This regard for treaty obligations on the part of the Executive Committee was not palatable to a large number of Americans. Under the "Joint-Occupancy Treaty," many
(1) In the spring of 1843, the Hudson's Bay Company had established their first settlement on Vancouver Island. Roderick Finlayson, with a party of forty men, constructed a picketed inclosure, and erected necessary warehouses and buildings. It afterwards assumed importance as the principal shipping port; and the business, stock and property from the Oregon posts were transferred to it. After the treaty of 1846, it became the headquarters of the company's operations west of the Rocky Mountains.
(2) Letter of Osborne Russell
and P.G. Stewart, Executive Committee, to John McLoughlin, March 21, 1845.
settlers regarded all of Oregon open to every citizen, without the ability of either a British subject or an American Citizen to secure a vested right by the appropriation of any portion of land. To those entertaining such an opinion, the inclosures, made by the company of lands occupied, afforded no protection whatever, conferred no right of adverse possession. The mass of the community, however, though differently, and respected the rights of property or possession which the treaty had conferred.
Colonel Joseph L. Meek, Sheriff, in the spring of 1845, took a census. This did not include those living north of the Columbia. Practically, it was the census of the Willamette valley at the end of the year 1844. It exhibited a population of 2,110 of whom 1,259 were males, 851 females.
The winter of 1844-5 marks the first attempt of emigrants from the United States to make settlements north of the Columbia river. A portion of the Independent Oregon Company of 1844, of which Cornelius Gilliam was General, Michael T. Simmons, Colonel, stopped at Washougal, where they erected temporary winter quarters and went into camp. Colonel Simmons, and those with his immediate company, had designed to have located in the Rogue river valley; but, on the arrival of Simmons at Vancouver, a persistent effort was made to induce the party to settle south of the Columbia. That effort stimulated Simmons to resolve upon trying the Puget Sound region. He endeavored to secure quarters at Fort Vancouver for his family during his contemplated northern trip. Such request was flatly denied until he should abandon his purpose of settling north of the Columbia. Simmons finally procured from the Kanaka the use of a room for one month in a shanty outside the fort. In the month of December, accompanied by Messrs. Williamson, Loomis and the three brothers Owens, Colonel Simmons started for Puget Sound. After a tedious trip, attended with many hardships, the party reached the forks of Cowlitz river, where their provisions gave out, and they returned to Washougal. In July, 1845, Colonel Simmons visited Puget Sound, accompanied by William Shaw, George Wanch, David Crawford, Ninian Everman, Seyburn Thornton, David Parker and two others. Passing Cowlitz Farms, they learned that John R. Jackson had preceded them, and had located a claim and returned to the Willamette valley for his family. Colonel Simmons' party reached the Sound in August. They procured canoes and went around the head of Whidby's Island, returning through Deception Pass to the east side of the Island.
In the month of October, 1845, Colonel Simmons led the first American immigration to Puget Sound. It consisted of himself and family, Gabries Jones and family, James McAlister and family, David Kindred and family, George Bush (1) and family, and Messrs. Jesse Ferguson and Samuel B. Crockett. Peter Bercier, of the Cowlitz (French) settlement, acted as a guide from the Cowlitz Prairie. They were fifteen days cutting a road from Cowlitz Landing to Tumwater, or the falls of the Des Chutes river. Colonel Simmons took a claim at Tumwater, calling it New Market. The remainder settled upon Bush Prairie, all within a circuit of six miles. The first house was erected upon the claim of David Kindred, at the edge of the prairie, about two miles south of Tumwater.
Bush was a colored man, a man of intelligence and great force of character,
who deservedly commanded the respect of his associates and neighbors. He
had left Missouri because it was a slave State, and there his race was
ignored. He migrated to Oregon, north of slavery's line of thirty-six degrees,
thirty minutes, which he expected to find "free territory." Before his
arrival, the color line had been drawn by the passage of the proscriptive
law against his race, inhibiting people of color residing within the territory.
North of the Columbia river, where, at that time, British influence controlled,
the inforcement of that law was altogether improbable. Besides, it was
a prevalent opinion that the Columbia river would be adopted as the boundary
line; that north of the river it would possibly continue British soil.
Old George, knowing that "slaves cannot breath in England," felt that,
for him and his race, north of the Columbia was the preferable location.
There is no doubt that George Bush was actuated by such opinions to seek
a residence on the north side of the river; nor is it saying too much for
the influence he exerted in that little band to claim the sympathy of his
associates with his condition, after that long march with them to escape
that pro-slavery atmosphere which crushed out his humanity, had much to
do in determining the Simmons colony to settle upon Puget Sound.
During the fall, John R. Jackson had returned from the Willamette with his family and settled ten miles from Cowlitz Landing, naming his location Highlands. These were the first independent American settlements in northern Oregon.
The laws enacted at the session of the Legislative Committee in December, 1844, are preserved in the published legislation of Oregon. Among them was an act incorporating Oregon City, the first municipal incorporation west of the Rocky Mountains. The Oregon Institute at Salem, under the auspices of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, was also incorporated at the same session.
At the first election under the amended Organic Law, in June, 1845, GEORGE ABERNETHY was elected Governor of Oregon Territory. Before his inauguration, and while the last Executive Committee was still in office, the representatives proved by the amended Organic Law, and who were elected at the same time as Governor Abernethy, convened at Oregon City. General McCarver was elected Speaker, and Dr. John E. Long, Secretary. The message of the retiring Executive Committee was a manly, straightforward document, abounding in valuable suggestions and forcibly exhibiting the condition of affairs. A committee of five, consisting of William H. Gray, Jesse Applegate, H.A.G. Lee, John McClure and David Hill were appointed "to draft a memorial to the Congress of the United States, setting forth the condition, situation, relation and wants of the country." On the 27th of June, the memorial was reported and adopted. A resolution also passed providing that it should be signed by the Executive Committee, the Circuit Judge (Hon. J.W. Nesmith), and each member of the House. On the 28th, it was duly signed by Messrs. Russell and Stewart (a quorum of the Executive Committee), Judge Nesmith, and the members and officers of the House. A copy was delivered to Dr. Elijah White, to be conveyed to Washington.
The memorial was presented in the Senate of the United States by Hon. Thomas H. Benton (December 8, 1845). The opinion that he expressed of that document is, probably, its best commentary. It gives a thorough view of the situation of Oregon, the motives of the founders of the Provisional government, and their idea of its claim to recognition, either by Congress or by the people of Oregon. Senator Benton thus alluded to the memorial.
"These petitioners stated that, for the preservation of order, they had, among themselves, established a Provisional and temporary government, subject to the ratification of the United States government. The petition sets forth, in strong and respectful language, arguments why the citizens residing in that section of country should be protected for the purpose of preserving their rights, and also as a means of preserving order. The memorial was drawn up in a manner creditable to the body by which it was presented, to the talents by which it was dictated, and to the patriotic sentiments which pervaded it; and the application was worthy of a favorable consideration for its moderation, reasonableness and justice. As the best means of spreading the contents of this petition before the country, and doing honor to the ability and enterprise of those who presented it, he moved that it be read at the bar of the Senate" (1).
In accordance with the resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly, this memorial, able paper as it was, became the occasion of a novel episode in the legislative history of the Provisional government. It, together with a copy of the amended organic law, had, by a vote of the house, been placed in the hands of Dr. Elijah White, to be carried to Washington for presentation. That gentleman was about to visit Washington to
Globe," Vol. XV, page 24, first session twenty-ninth Congress, 1845-6.
procure an adjustment of his accounts with the Indian Bureau, as also to apply for the governorship of the territory of Oregon, which office it was expected would shortly be created. He carried with him two other resolutions passed by the legislature, one a vote of thanks "for meritorious exertions to find a pass through the Cascade Mountains," the other recommending "to the favorable consideration of Congress the just claims of Dr. E. White, sub Indian agent, for a remuneration for the heavy expenses by him incurred in attempting to discover a southern passage through the Cascade Mountains" (1). A few days later the House resolved:
"That whereas, a copy of the organic law of Oregon, together with some resolutions, intended to be sent to the United States, have not been attested and dispatched according to the directions of this House; therefore,
"Resolved, that the clerk dispatch for them a messenger to Vancouver, with authority to bring said documents back, and that he deliver them to the secretary; and that the expenses incurred be paid by the members of this House who voted for the resolution." On the next day the House resolved:
"That whereas, the Speaker of this House has signed certain documents, ordered to be sent to the United States, by a vote of this legislature, from a mistaken sense of duty, and not from contumacy or contempt for this House; therefore,
"Resolved, that M.M. McCarver, said Speaker, have leave of absence for the purpose of following Dr. E. White to Vancouver; and this House enjoins that said Speaker erase his name from said documents, to wit: the Organic Law and two resolutions in favor of Dr. E. White." It was further
"Resolved, that it was not the intention of this House, in passing resolutions in favor of Dr. E. White, to recommend him to the government of the United States as a suitable person to fill any office in this territory;" and it was further
"Resolved, that the Clerk of this House forward, by some suitable person, an attested copy of this resolution, to the United States government."
On the 17th of August, Dr. White addressed to the Assembly the following:
"To the HONORABLE etc.,
"Gentlemen: Being on my way, and having but a moment to reflect, I have been at much of a loss which of your two resolutions most to respect, or which to obey; but at length have become satisfied that the first was taken most soberly, and, as it answers my purpose best, I pledge myself to adhere strictly to that. Sincerely wishing you good luck in legislating, I am, dear sirs, very respectfully yours,
Dr. E. White accomplished nothing at Washington for himself by this mission, and was never afterwards known in Oregon politics.
During this session of the legislature, the Hudson's Bay Company yielded its financial support to the Provisional government. The American settlers had invited the company to join the organization. The matter of allegiance had been settled; but the wealth of the company would have subjected it to a greater burden of taxation than all other classes; indeed, the almost entire expense of the organization would have fallen upon the company. After considerable negotiation had taken place between leading members of the Oregon provisional government and the company's officers, the committee on apportionment of representation, on the 14th of August, addressed a communication to
"Oregon Archives," page 107.
Dr. John McLoughlin, in which this interrogatory was directly propounded: "Do you think the gentlemen of the company, over which you preside, will become parties to the Articles of Compact, by the payment of taxes and in other respects complying with the laws of the Provisional government?"
To this Dr. McLoughlin and James Douglas promptly replied: "Viewing the organization as a compact of certain parties, British and American subjects residing in Oregon, to afford each other protection in person and property, to maintain the peace of the community, and prevent the commission of crime, a protection which all parties in this country feel they particularly stand in need of, as neither the British nor American governments appear at liberty to extend the jurisdiction of their laws to this part of America; and, moreover, seeing that this compact does not interfere with our duties and allegiance to our respective governments, nor with any rights of trade now enjoyed by the Hudson's Bay Company, we, the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, consent to become parties to the Articles of Compact, provided we are called upon to pay taxes only on our sales to settlers."
This satisfactory conclusion was followed soon after by the election of Chief Factor James Douglas as District Judge for three years, and Charles Forrest, Superintendent of Cowlitz Farm, District Judge for one year. All the element of Oregon population had become an unit in favor of her system of popular government.
In the month of August, Lieutenants Warre and Vavasour of the Royal Engineers visited Fort Vancouver, having crossed overland by way of Red river and Fort Colvile. The mission of these officers was an investigation of the condition of Oregon, and of the charge that officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, particularly Dr. McLoughlin, had encouraged American settlement. "They had sold goods to American settlers cheaper than to British subjects; they had joined the Provisional government, without reserve, save the mere form of oath. They were accessory to the appropriation of the territory by the American settlers." Such was the arraignment of Dr. McLoughlin at that time. In an autobiographical memoranda, published at a later date, he repels those insinuations of treachery to his country and the company. Says he:
"By British demagogues I have been represented as a traitor. For what? Because I acted as a Christian, - saved American citizens, men, women and children, from the Indian tomahawk, and enabled them to make farms to support their families. American demagogues have been base enough to assert that I had caused American citizens to be massacred by savages. I, who saved all I could." * * * * "I felt it my bounden duty, as a Christian, to act as I did, and which I think averted the evil (a disturbance here which might have led to a war between Great Britain and the States), and which was so displeasing to some English demagogues, that they represented me to the British government as a person so partial to American interests as to sell the Hudson's Bay Company's goods, in my charge, cheaper to American interests as to sell the Hudson's Bay Company's goods, in my charge, cheaper to Americans than I did to British subjects. On the other hand, though, if the American immigrants had been my brothers and sisters, I could not have done more for them; yet, after acting as I have, spending my means and doing my utmost to settle the country, my claim (Oregon City) is reserved, while every other settler get his (1). To be brief: I founded this settlement, and prevented a war between the United States and Great Britain; and, for doing this peaceably and quietly, I was treated by the British in such a manner, that from self-respect I resigned my situation in the Hudson's Bay Company's service, by which I sacrificed $12,000 per annum; and the Oregon Land Bill shows the treatment I received from the Americans."
Act, September 27, 1850.
To exhibit the shades of politics manifested, as the time approached for the settlement of the boundary, it may well be remembered that, at that identical time the Hudson's Bay Company officials gave in their assent tot he "Articles of Compact," when they had consented to join the Americans in the maintenance of the Provisional government, a resolution was introduced in the legislature, "That no person belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, or in their service, shall ever be considered as a citizen of the government of Oregon, nor have the right of suffrage or elective franchise." This was rejected. Late in December, the legislature adjourned. Its last act was a peace offering, being the passage of the resolution, "That one of the principal objects contemplated in the formation of the Provisional government was the promotion of peace and happiness among ourselves, and the friendly relations which have, and ever ought to, exist between the people of the United States and Great Britain; and any measure of this house calculated to defeat the same is in direct violation of the true intention for which it was formed."
At the time of the loss of the United States ship Peacock (1841), Captain Wilkes expressed his intention in regard to the disposition of the launch, which had been saved. In a letter to Dr. John McLoughlin, he said: "I thought I could not possibly place her to a better use than by leaving her as a pilot boat for communication with vessels off the dangerous bar of this river, and to afford relief, by giving pilots and assistance to those that are coming in, or in cases of accidents." * * * * "I will now state in a few words the charge I wish the honorable Hudson's Bay Company to assume, viz.: That the launch be kept at Fort George (Astoria) under the special charge of the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company, for the sole purpose of affording aid and relief to all vessels requiring assistance of any kind, and to furnish pilots for entering the river, until called for by some person, authorized by me or the government of the United States, to receive her" (1).
In the Oregon House of Representatives, August 11, 1845, a resolution was passed appointing a committee of three to wait on Chief Factor McLoughlin, to inquire whether "the launch boat left in his possession by Lieutenant Wilkes can be given to the government: Provided, this government becomes responsible for the safe-keeping and delivery of said boat to order of Lieutenant Wilkes, or the United States government, when properly demanded" (2). Dr. McLoughlin courteously answered, referring to the special instructions intrusting him with the custody of the launch.
The legislature, not satisfied with this appropriate answer, upon the 19th of December, 1845, passed an act "authorizing the governor to take charge of, refit and employ the launch in accordance with the conditions of Lieutenant Wilkes." Governor Abernethy addressed Dr. McLoughlin, inclosing a copy of the legislative fiat. Dr. McLoughlin persisted in obeying the language of the trust he had accepted. Surely the Provisional government of Oregon could not claim to be the United States government, nor its accredited representative. The matter became embarrassing to both parties; neither could well recede from the position taken. The matter was ultimately settled by Dr. McLoughlin turning the boat over to Lieutenant Neil M. Howison, United States Navy, who visited Oregon in command of the United States schooner Shark. That officer sold the launch to an Astoria pilot to be used as a pilot boat.
At the December session, a law was enacted relating to the currency. It made "gold and silver, treasury drafts, accepted orders on solvent merchants, and good, merchantable
(1) See "United States Exploring Expedition" (Wilkes), Volume V, page 520.
(2) "Oregon Archives," pages
147, 150, 151.
wheat at market price, delivered at a customary depot for wheat, lawful tender for the payment of taxes, judgments rendered in the courts, and for all debts contracted in the territory where no special contract had been made to the contrary." By a supplementary act, those paying taxes in wheat were required to deliver the same at the warehouse or place designated for the county or district, which had been declared depots for receiving public revenue. The person in charge was authorized to give a receipt, stating the amount which should be placed to the credit of the treasurer of the respective counties.
Lewis and Polk counties were established at this session of the legislature. The immigration of 1845 far exceeded in number any of its predecessors. It was estimated at three thousand. Two trains left Independence, one commanded by Welch, with Joel Palmer and Samuel K. Barlow, the other by Samuel Hancock, who settled on Whidby Island. There were several companies that left St. Joseph. A great effort was made at Fort Hall to turn this immigration towards California; and about one-third of the immigrants followed William B. Ide, guided by the trapper Greenwood. When the Oregon trains had reached Fort Boise, stephen H. Meek volunteered to show a shorter and more practicable route across the Blue and Cascade Ranges of mountains.
Meek had never traversed the country. While he had been a trapper in the vicinity, he had heard others speak of such a pass. It was well known that Southeastern Oregon was less mountainous than the northern region; and Meek assumed from such physical feature that a more feasible route could there be found; that a lower and better pass through the Cascade Mountains existed. His "guessing" having failed, the immigrants became indignant, and he was obliged to seek safety in escaping from their justly provoked wrath. The party, whom he caused to be lost in the mountains, after his desertion, with extreme difficulty and untold hardships passed down the John Day river and reached the Columbia; thence they followed the old trail to the Dalles. That party had lost a number on the way by sickness; and several more died after reaching the Dalles. On Palmer's company arriving at the Dalles, and finding there some sixty families awaiting transportation, with but two small boats available, Palmer determined on making the effort to cross the Cascade Mountains with their wagons. Barlow and Knighton had before left the Dalles. Knighton had already returned discouraged; but Barlow with seven wagons was still seeking a pass through the mountains. Palmer came up with Barlow on the 3d of October. When it became known in Oregon City that this party had left the Dalles, and were attempting to cross the Mount Hood range of the Cascade Mountains into the Willamette valley, a relief party was sent to their assistance. Palmer himself arrived at Oregon City November 1st; but full another month elapsed before the last of the party had reached the settlements. In that immigration, Oregon received valuable accessions to her population. Among the number were Joel Palmer, Tetherow, T'Vault, Avery, the Waymires, John Fleming, Staats and Dr. Ralph Wilcox. The number of American occupants thereafter vastly preponderated over the British representatives.
The British ship Modeste was anchored in the Columbia off Fort Vancouver all winter (1844-6); and her officers exerted their best efforts in extending hospitalities alike to British and American residents. But the popularity of her officers, and their amenities, failed to reconcile American settlers to her presence. By many, that presence was regarded as a standing menace; and not a few declined participancy in those mutual entertainments which grew out of her visit to the Columbia river.
On the 5th of February, 1846, at Oregon City, was issued the first number of the first newspaper published on the west side of the Rocky Mountains. It was named the Oregon Spectator, and was edited by William G. T'Vault, of the immigration of '45. Its proprietors were a company of gentlemen organized under the name of the "Oregon Printing Association." Its avowed objects were: "To promote science, temperance, morality and general intelligence; to establish a printing press; to publish a newspaper." T'Vault was President, J.W. Nesmith Vice-President, Governor Abernethy Treasurer, and John P. Brooks Secretary. Its Board of Trustees were Robert Newell, John H. Couch and John E. Long. T'Vault did not long continue editor. He was succeeded by H.A.G. Lee, who shortly gave place to George L. Curry.
The condition of affairs in the spring of 1846, the presence of the Modeste at Vancouver, and of the frigate Fisgard at Fort Nisqually, stimulated the American settlers to form a company of mounted riflemen, which was called the "Oregon Rangers," of which Charles Bennett was elected captain. The proceedings at the seat of the national government leading to the treaty of June 15, 1846, have been fully detailed. While the news from the East, heard only at irregular intervals, was usually of a pacific nature, still the anxiety of the American settlers was kept alive, although their solicitudes and doubts were not demoralizing, nor did they tend to discourage active pursuits of every-day life. All were actively engaged in preparing their new homes, as though all international disputes had been adjusted. Full of patriotic ardor, and stimulated by their British surroundings, they selected Salem as the place for the first Fourth of July commemoration in the Willamette valley. It was a grand demonstration. Peter H. Burnett was the orator. Guns were fired. Toasts were followed by patriotic speeches; and a grand ball closed the festivities.
Early in this year (1846), Commodore Sloat, commanding the Pacific squadron, U.S. Navy, had issued an order for the U.S. schooner Shark, Lieutenant Neil M. Howison (1), "to make an examination of the coast, harbors, rivers, soil, productions, climate and population of the territory of Oregon." The Shark arrived at the mouth of the Columbia river July 15th. Just inside of Cape Disappointment was met the boat containing the Rev. Mr. Spalding, Wm. H. Gray and General A.L. Lovejoy, then mayor of Oregon City. By them, Lieutenant Howison was informed that a colored man, then residing at the cape, claimed to be a pilot. His services were obtained; but he ran the Shark ashore on Chinook shoal. The three Oregonians, blaming themselves for this accident, went ashore and procured the services of Mr. Lattee, former mate of one of the Hudson's Bay Company's vessels, then in charge at Astoria. On the 19th, the Shark anchored off Astoria. On the 24th, she reached Fort Vancouver, finding H.B.M. sloop-of-war Modeste, Captain Baillie, and two barks and a ship belonging to the company.
Lieutenant Howison remarks: "At this time we had not heard of the settlement of the boundary question, and intense excitement prevailed among all classes of residents on this important subject. I enjoined it by letter on the officers under my command to refrain from engaging in arguments touching the ownership of the soil, as it was our duty rather to allay than increase excitement on a question which no power hereabouts can settle. Besides the sloop-of-war Modeste, anchored in the river, the British government kept the frigate Fisgard in Puget Sound, and the strongly armed steamer Cormorant in the Sound and about Vancouver Island. These unusual demonstrations produced
of Lieutenant Howison, U.S. Navy, House of Representatives, thirtieth Congress,
first session. Miscellaneous Documents No. 29.
anything but a tranquilizing effect upon the American portion of the population; and the presence of the British flag was a constant source of irritation.
"The English officers used every gentlemanly caution to reconcile our countrymen to their presence, but no really good feeling existed. Indeed, there never could be congeniality between persons so entirely dissimilar as an American frontiersman and a British naval officer. But the officers, never to my knowledge, had to complain of rude treatment. The English residents calculated with great certainty upon the river being adopted as the future dividing line, and looked with jealousy upon the American advance into the northern portion of the territory, which had some influence in restraining emigration."
The Shark continued at Fort Vancouver till the 23d of August, Lieutenant Howison's instructions being to leave the mouth of the river by the first of September. The Shark was detained till the 8th of September in reaching Baker's Bay. The 9th was devoted to an examination of the bar of the river. On the afternoon of the 10th, in attempting to get out, she was totally wrecked. The officers and crew of the Shark reached San Francisco on the 27th of the ensuing January, having chartered the Hudson's Bay Company's schooner Cadboro. Before leaving San Francisco, Captain Howison presented to the Provisional government the stand of colors which had been preserved from the wreck of the ill-fated Shark. In his neat and appropriate letter to Governor Abernethy, he said;
"To display this national emblem, and cheer our citizens in this distant territory by its presence, was a principal object of the Shark's visit to the Columbia; and it appears to me, therefore, highly proper that it should henceforth remain with you, as a memento of parental regard from the general government. With the fullest confidence that it will be received and duly appreciated as such by our countrymen here, I do myself the honor of transmitting the flags (an ensign and union jack) to your address; nor can I omit the occasion to express my gratification and pride that this relic of my late command should be emphatically the first United States flag to wave over the undisputed and purely American territory of Oregon."
Governor Abernethy gracefully and gratefully received the colors in behalf of the American settlers of Oregon, and responded: "We will fling it to the breeze on every suitable occasion, and rejoice under the emblem of our country's glory, sincerely hoping that the 'star-spangled banner' may ever wave over this portion of the United States."
The treaty of June 15, 1846, between the United States and Great Britain, restricting the American Oregon to the territory south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude, had now become known in the territory. Disappointed, not to say humiliated, by the surrender of so much territory, yet proudly and joyfully, the American settlers hailed the prospect of being recognized as American citizens, entitled to share the protection and blessings of that Union they loved so well; - jubilant that their highest hopes were soon to be realized; that the United States would extend its protecting aegis over them; and that their homes would be within the recognized Republic of the United States of America, and they citizens of one of its political divisions.
Upon the receipt of the news
that the United States government had given to Great Britain the twelve
months' notice of the abrogation of the Joint-Occupancy Treaty of 1827
(although advices of the ratification of the Treaty of Limits of June 15,
1846, had not reached Oregon), politics became the order of the day. "The
wish was father to the though", that tidings would be received that Oregon
had been organized as a territorial
government. Such a condition of affairs would require officers to administer such government. It was the expectation of all that the national government would proceed to confirm the land grants to actual settlers, in accordance with the spirit of the proposed legislation which had encouraged immigration and settlement. These interests, weighty to every settler, impelled the belief that the presence in Washington City of a delegate was required, one who was accredited by the people, who enjoyed the popular confidence. To secure the attention of the government, to hasten legislation, to give information to shape and mold it, were matters of public concern.
In the fall, county meetings were held, out of which emanated district conventions. There proved, however, too many causes of local jealousy to harmonize on a choice for representative. No delegate could be agreed upon, nor could anything more be accomplished than a mere expression of diverse views entertained as to land claims, and a policy to be pursued. In the meantime, the legislature convened. It memorialized Congress. Time passed, and another election (1847) transpired. George Abernethy was re-elected governor. He beat his competitor, General A.L. Lovejoy, but a few votes. In fact, the result was so close as to require settlement by the official returns. The Willamette valley had given Lovejoy a majority; and the trifling majority was overcome by a small majority which Abernethy received north of the Columbia. In the fall, a convention was called at Lafayette for the purpose of memorializing the President to appoint Oregon settlers to territorial offices.
Again personal bickerings defeated the scheme. By that convention, however, a committee, consisting of Judge Burnett, George L. Curry and L.A. Rice, were appointed to draft a memorial to Congress upon the needs of Oregon. That memorial was an able and temperate protest against further neglect of the territory. It set forth the claims of the settlers to consideration. It portrayed the resources and importance of the territory, its poverty of appliances to repress crime and to protect property. Again the settlers asked that the title to the lands earned by them might be quieted, and concluded: "We think we merit the respectful consideration of our government. It is with our country whether she will hear us or not."
That convention did not attempt to reconcile the conflicting claims of the men who were named as proper persons from whom to select the bearer of this memorial to the seat of government, and urge its consideration upon the Executive Department and Congress. But Governor Abernethy selected J. Quinn Thornton as a delegate. That gentleman sailed upon the bark Whiton, the vessel by which the memorial was also transmitted to Washington. Thornton asserts that he was sent as a delegate by the Provisional government; that he was appointed by Governor Abernethy; that his expenses were borne by the Oregon Methodist missionaries; and that he also was requested to act by Dr. Marcus Whitman, who at that time anticipated an Indian outbreak in the interior.
Certain sections of the treaty
of June 15, 1846 (vague and uncertain rumors of which had by this time
reached the territory), which were represented as confirming to British
subjects in possession such possessory rights as had been acquired, might
defeat certain claims by missionaries, notably the Oregon City claim. Ostensibly
to look after those interests, and to forestall favorable action on the
people's memorial, J. Quinn Thornton sailed on the 10th of November,
as a delegate to Washington City. He found at San José, California,
the sloop-of-war Portsmouth, and on her secured passage, arriving
at Boston May 5, 1848.
In the Oregon legislature of December, 1847-8, Mr. Nesmith introduced a resolution remonstrating against the appointment of Judge Thornton to any office in the territory. This was adopted, then reconsidered, and, by the Speaker's casting vote, ultimately defeated. What Delegate Thornton claims to have accomplished has become familiar to all Oregon settlers, by the full reports of his expedition as related by himself (1).
In 1847, the immigration to Oregon numbered between four and five thousand. The principal event of this year was the Whitman massacre. It was so thoroughly interwoven with the history of the missions of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions as to render its narration necessary in the chapter detailing the history of those missions. As a consequence of the horror at Waiilatpu, - the murder of Dr. Whitman and wife, and the innocent inmates of the Whitman Mission, by the perfidious Cayuses,- the Provisional government organized a force of volunteers to punish the murderers, or to chastise the tribe if it refused to surrender them. Such was the sole cause of the Cayuse war.
(1) Thornton's "History of California
and Oregon." Thornton's "History of the Provisional Government," in "Transactions
of Oregon Pioneers," 1874.