Copyright 2000 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
This page is part of the Union County, OR AGHP
First Rumors as to Existence of Rocky Mountains and Great River Beyond Flowing Westward to South Sea - Fabulous Stories of Hennepin, La Hontan and Others Stimulate Interior Exploration - The Verendryes, First White Men to Explore Rocky Mountains - Story of a Yazoo Indian, the First to Traverse Continent Between the Two Oceans, as Detailed to La Page - Origin of the Name Oregon - Journal of Captain Jonathan Carver - Indian Idea of Interior of North America - Indian Knowledge of Great Rivers Rising in Interior of North America - Their Stories About the Great River of the West - That the Word Oregon is of Spanish Origin, Inconsistent with Carver's Use of It, nor is It an Indian Name - Overland Exploration Inaugurated in Prosecution of Inland Fur Trade - North West Company - Two Expeditions of Alexander McKenzie - First Party of White Men Cross Rocky Mountains and Reach the Pacific Ocean.
AS EARLY as the commencement of the eighteenth century, rumors originated with or communicated by Indians roaming west and northwest of the Mississippi river averred the existence of a great river beyond the mountains, beyond the sources of the Missouri river. Indian theory, tradition or belief proclaimed a high mountain chain in which the Missouri found its sources; that, in those mountains to the west of the headwaters of the Missouri, another great river took its rise and thence flowed toward the setting sun to a salt lake of vast circumference. Narratives based on these rumors had been published of alleged journeys by travelers, embellished with maps and charts indicating the route pursued, and wonderous matters as to places visited; their inhabitants, the wealth of the regions, all circumstantially detailed, excited a desire to behold the Shining or Rocky Mountains; to see the great river beyond, and to follow it westward down to the South Sea. Kindred fables to the voyages of Maldonado, de Fonté and de Fuca, the narratives of Hennepin, La Hontan, Sageau and Carver provoked the attention of the curious, and invited adventurers, travelers and fur traders to the plains, the mountains, the river beyond, the illimitable sea into which it flowed, the people which inhabited the region. The problem of overland travel to and across the Rocky Mountains and to the shores of the great South Sea, as also the utilization of the wealth of the vast interior of continent, had become the study of the fur trader. To ascertain accessibility to these fields, and the means of development of those sources of wealth, were more the incentives to the capitalist and the adventurous voyageurs than either curiosity or desire to promote scientific knowledge. But it cannot be denied that these rumors, which had furnished the material for those fictitious narratives, had contributed much to exciting attention, and tended to hasten overland journeying westward from the Mississippi river across the Rocky Mountains. they proved to be the forerunners of path-finding from ocean to ocean. The discovery of the territory west of the Rocky Mountains and its ultimate appropriation by our race were the inevitable results.
In 1731, Marquis de Beauharnais, Governor-General of New France, conferred authority upon Pierre Gautheir de Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye, a fur trader, to equip an expedition to reach the headwaters of the Missouri. To avoid the dreaded Sioux, Verendrye had permission to ascend the Assiniboin and Saskatchewan rivers, and to follow any stream flowing westward into the Pacific. His real purposes were to establish the fur trade, and to ascertain the practicability of overland communication between New France (Canada and the Province of Louisiana) and the Pacific Ocean. A line of posts was built, extending from Lake Superior northwestward at available points to forts of the Saskatchewan, and at the junction of the Assiniboin and Red rivers. From these forts, expeditions were dispatched northward and westward in charge of his brother and sons. In one of these excursions, in 1743, the brother and son ascended the Missouri river to its source in the Rocky Mountains. They traveled south to the Mandan country. Discovering no passage through this vast mountain chain, and warned of danger from the Sioux, they turned back and reached the Missouri in 1744. To this party belongs the credit of having been the first white men who had ever seen the Rocky or Shining Mountains.
In 1758 appeared the "Historie de la Lousiane," by Le Page du Pratz. In it will be found the story of a Yazoo Indian, euphoniously named Monchacht-Ape, which means "he who kills trouble and fatigue." In a fascinating vein, Le Page chronicles the adventures and observations of this learned aboriginal traveler. He details how he ascended the Missouri river to its source in the Rocky Mountains, tarrying with Indian tribes to learn their language and inquire the way; his crossing those Shining Mountains, exceeding high and beset with dangers; his march from thence to the beautiful river which flowed into the great ocean. He there met a tribe called the Otters, two of whose people, a man and a woman, accompanied him westward. His first view of the ocean he thus described: "I was so delighted I could not speak. My eyes were too small for my soul's ease. The wind so disturbed the great water, that I thought the blows it gave would beat the land in pieces."
Le Page is recognized as a reliable writer. He vouches his entire belief in the statements of the Yazoo explorer. That narrative, published, as it was, previous to any other person having crossed the Rocky Mountains or who had journeyed to the Pacific Ocean, which subsequent visits of travelers have found to be correct, would seem to carry intrinsic evidence of truthfulness; and its statements appear to have been based on actual observation.
The meaning of the word OREGON - from whence and how it originated - has never been satisfactorily ascertained. The first use of the name, as far as is known, must be accorded to Captain Jonathan Carver. In the journal of "Three years' travels through the interior part of North America for more than five thousand miles," he describes himself as a native of Connecticut, and as a "Captain of the provincial troops in America."
Captain Carver, who had served in the war against the French, left Boston 1766, and by way of Detroit and Michilmacinac visited the upper Mississippi region embraced, in the present States of Iowa and Wisconsin. He claims to have remained among the Indians for two years. In the introduction he thus stated his purpose:
"After gaining a knowledge of
the manners, customs, languages, soil and natural productions of the different
nations that inhabit the back of the Mississippi, to ascertain the breadth
of the vast continent which extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean,
in its broadest part, between the 43d and 46th degrees of northern latitude.
Had I been
able to accomplish this, I intended to have proposed to the government to establish a post in some of those parts about the Strait of Anian, which, having been discovered by Sir Francis Drake, of course belongs to the English. This I am convinced would greatly facilitate the discovery of a northwest passage or a communication between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific ocean." Disappointed in his intention to continue his journey "by way of Lakes Du Bois, Du Pluie and Quinipique to the waters of the great river of the West, which falls into the Strait of Anian," he claims:
"The plan I had laid down for penetrating to the Pacific Ocean proved abortive. It is necessary to add, that this proceeded, not from its impracticability (for the further I went the more convinced I was that it could certainly be accomplished) but from unforeseen disappointments. However, I proceeded so far, that I was able to make such discoveries as will be useful in any future attempt, and prove a good foundation for some more fortunate successor to build upon. These I shall now lay before the public in the following pages; and am satisfied that the greatest part of them have never been published by any person that has hitherto treated of the interior nations of the Indians; particularly the account I give of the Naudowessies, and the situation of the heads of the four great rivers that take their rise within a few leagues of each other, nearly about the center of this great continent, viz.: the river Bourbon, which empties into Hudson's Bay, the waters of the St. Lawrence; the Mississippi, and the river Oregon, or the river of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Strait of Anian."
Such statement is repeated in the introduction and again in the appendix. He ascends the St. Peter's river two hundred miles, to the country of the Naudowessies of the plains (the Dakotahs or Sioux), and refers to a branch of the river from the south nearly joining the Messorie (Missouri). From statements by Indians, he "has reason to believe that the river St. Pierre and the Messorie, though they enter the Mississippi twelve hundred miles from each other, take their rise in the same neighborhood, and this within a mile." After a description of the tribes he visited, he goes on: "I say from these nations, together with my own observation, I have learned that the four most capital rivers of North America, viz.: the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Bourbon, and the OREGON, or the river of the West, have their sources in the same neighborhood. The waters of the three former are within thirty miles of each other; the latter, however, is rather further west." * * * * "This shows that these parts are the highest lands in North American; and it is an instance not to be paralleled in the other three quarters of the globe, that four rivers of such magnitude should take their rise together, and each, after running separate courses, discharge their waters into different oceans at the distance of two thousand miles from their sources. For in their passage from this spot to the Bay of St. Lawrence, east; to the bay of Mexico, south; to Hudson's Bay, north; and to the bay of the Strait of Anian, west each of these traverse upwards of two thousand miles." When he arrived at this theory he was "two hundred miles up the St. Peter's river," and that was "the utmost extent of my travels towards the west." Carver, correctly, places the source of the river of the West "on the other side of the summit of the lands that divide the waters which run into the Gulf of Mexico from those which fall into the South Sea or Pacific ocean."
"These parts, which are the highest
lands in North America, are the Shining or Rocky Mountains, which begin
at Mexico and continue northward, on the back, or to the east of California,
separate the waters of those numerous rivers that fall into the Gulf of
Mexico or the Gulf of California. From thence continuing their course still
between the sources of the Mississippi and the rivers that run into the South Sea, they appear to end in about forty-seven or forty-eight degrees of latitude, where a number of rivers arise, and empty themselves either into the South Sea, into Hudson's Bay or into the waters that communicate between those two seas."
Indians whom he met in his journey doubtless were aware of the existence of the Rocky Mountains. They had learned that the rivers that had their sources west of those mountains flowed towards the setting sun; - that there were several of those rivers which became one mighty river, through which the water of all these smaller rivers or affluents found its way to the ocean. This idea, knowledge, theory or tradition may have originated form statements of Indians living west of the Rocky Mountains, numbers of whom annually crossed those mountains to hunt buffalo. Indians may have informed Carver of the proximity of the respective sources of the headwaters of the Missouri and Columbia. So gradual is the ascent of the Rocky Mountains through several of the passes, the fact that the summit has been reached is indicated by the mountain springs of these great watercourses flowing in the adverse direction. Maps of North America published as early as 1750 exhibit "the great river of the West," by which name it was then designated, though it had never been seen by white men. Travelers in the valley of the Mississippi had received the information from Indians of the countries through which they passed, who had in turn derived it from more remote Indians, the statement having originated with and come through members of tribes living west of the Rocky Mountains. According to their customs, Indians would call a very large main navigable river, the river or the big river, while to small streams or parts of streams they would assign the distinctive name. There is no more evidence from Carver's journal that the word OREGON referred to the particular river which Gray subsequently discovered, than that the river Columbia empties into the fabulous Strait of Anian. There is quite as much evidence of the existence of the Strait of Anian as of Carver's fancied river named OREGON, "that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Strait of Anian." Carver's journal possesses no value whatever as a contribution to science. Neither its geography nor its natural history has any claim to belief. It is extremely questionable whether the publication of 1778 contains the results of Carver's personal observations in 1776-9. It added nothing to the solution of the problem of internal water communication, or lines of travel through the interior of the problem of internal water communication, or lines of travel through the interior of the North American continent. It may possibly have contributed to the belief that there was a vast river rising in the Rocky Mountains, not far distant from the headwaters of the Missouri, from which fact the hope was fostered that there might be practicable water communications between the interior of the continent and the Pacific Ocean.
The Columbia river so soon thereafter
having been discovered at its mouth warranted the assumption that the sources
of that vast river were in the Rocky Mountains. Carver's fabulous narrative
was accepted as probable because it was based upon a theory which was most
probable. Gray's discovery of a great river which did empty into the Pacific
Ocean, in a latitude which almost conclusively established where it might
have its sources, gave credence to Carver's story that the great river
of the West called the Oregon did take its rise in the Rocky Mountains,
at such a place as is described in his journal. The Columbia was at once
accepted as the great river of the West. Its mouth discovered, its immense
volume ascertained, it required no imagination to place its sources in
the great highlands of the interior in that vast dividing ridge, at just
such a place in the Rocky Mountains where four great rivers might, where
in fact the two mighty rivers of North America do, within the area of a
few square yards, take their rise, and flow in opposite directions into
two great oceans which are separated by the continent. The little heads which aggregate into the Missouri and the Columbia are contiguously found in the little valleys among the summit elevations of the Rocky Mountains. The one flowing east, its waters ultimately lose themselves in the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Gulf of Mexico, having in their way swelled the volume of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers. At the distance of a few yards, not leagues, the waters flow towards the setting sun. They contribute to the formation of the great river of the West, the mighty Columbia. To one of Carver's four great rivers he gave the mythical name, the Oregon. How natural the belief that the true river columbia was the great western river which gave origin to the Indian story or tradition which Carver's journal had promulgated. For a time a color of plausibility attached to his compilation. His mythical name for the river of the West, by those who sought to detract from Captain Gray the honor of being its discoverer, was applied to the river Columbia. But the world would not consent to such injustice. Carver's mythical name was however perpetuated. The region west of the Rocky Mountains through which the river of the West found its way to the ocean had been nominated the Oregon.
The name is a mystery, - doubtless a pure invention of the compiler of Carver's journal.
It has nevertheless become endeared to every American because of the long struggle to secure the territory to which the name Oregon was ascribed. it is embalmed in our affections because Columbia's greatest poet has immortalized it in the best effort of his lofty genius.
Learned authorities entitled to deference have suggested that the Spaniards applied the name Oregon to the region, on account of the abundance of wild marjorum (Oreganum) found along the coast, and conferred the name upon the main river emptying within such coast limits. This, however, seems untenable. Carver pretended to have picked up this word among the Indians near Lake Superior, in 1766 - 8, the narrative of which was published in 1778. If he was first to apply the name to the river of the West which he had derived from the Indians in the very heart of the continent, then prior to 1766 they had learned such name. If he coined it, which is more probable, then for the first time it was made known in 1778. There is no authentic account that any Spaniard ever landed upon that portion of the Pacific coast, which fronts the territory drained by the river, either before Carver's tour, or before the publication of his journal, or Gray's discovery. Spanish records give the names of every point upon the coast at which they made anchorages. Heceta, in 1775, named the mouth of the river San Roque. The Spaniards called the coast California. Gray, in 1792, as soon as the river had been discovered, had conferred its name Columbia.
The coast had its name among Spaniards, - the river received its name Columbia. The word Oregon is foreign to the coast; with that name Spanish explorers had nothing whatever to do. It was after the Columbia had been discovered, and it proved to be the great river of the West, that its headwaters were supposed to be identical with that river, to which Carver had alluded under the name of Oregon.
The late learned Archbishop of
Oregon (F.N. Blanchet) relates: "That in 1857 he met, at Bolivia, the eminent
linguist, Dr. George Haygart, of London, who asserted that Oregon had its
origin in the Spanish word Orejon, meaning big ear." The Archbishop remarks:
"It is probable that the Spaniards who first discovered and visited the
country, when they saw the ears of the natives enlarged by means of huge
naturally led to call them Orejon, 'big ears,' and that they applied the word also to denote the country inhabited." Had the word Oregon originated on the Pacific Coast; had the word been used in a single journal, narrative, voyage or report by any explorer of the coast; or had such peculiarity of ornamentation of the aborigines been commented upon by any traveler in the country itself or its coasts; or were the Spanish word for big ears an appropriate descriptive word for the most striking peculiarity of the native population; if a single one of these premises had been true, - such theory, through deference for its author, might be accepted as consistent with fact.
Carver either coined the word and the whole story, or attempted to repeat a story about the existence of "the river of the West" derived from Indian sources and to add a name which may have been suggested by their pronunciation. The statement about rivers is not dissimilar from stories repeated to all travelers who met Indians from the west of the Mississippi river, - is not inconsistent with their crude drafts of maps exhibiting their ideas of physical features, rivers, mountains, distances. Indians west of the Rocky Mountains may have communicated with Indians whom he saw; but what is most probable, he either repeated mere tribal traditions, or what other travelers had communicated as the belief of Indians as to countries west of the Rocky Mountains and towards the Pacific Ocean. Nor is the word Oregon found in any vocabulary of Indian language spoken west of the Rocky Mountains. It will be looked for in vain in the languages of the tribes or bands among whom he traveled. The Archbishop, while acknowledging his respect for the opinion of Dr. Haygart, does not adopt the big-ear theory. It is improbable that the true origin of the word will ever be satisfactorily determined. Like the word California whose meaning and origin have so lung puzzled the learned, the word Oregon will ever remain an enigma.
It may be asserted with safety that, before the so-called journal of Carver was published, the word Oregon had never been applied by Indians. Such a river as the Columbia the Indians would have called the river, the big river, or the big river running toward the setting sun, or words of such import, thereby distinguishing it from the ordinary streams or the affluents of the great river. The good Archbishop illustrates this Indian peculiarity: "One tribe only, the Chinooks, who lived near the mouth of the Columbia, gave the river any name, calling it "Wikaitli Wimakl,' - the grand river."
A name for the region whose history is being traced had become necessary. How it acquired the name its subsequent history rendered so well known was worthy of consideration. The region to be called Oregon had had its coasts visited and examined; now is to begin the occupancy and exploration of the territory itself. Instead of circuitous voyages by sea, it is to be traced overland. The continent is to be traversed; mountain chains are to be crossed; the mighty rivers permeating the interior are to be examined and utilized. The theoretic "Strait of Anian" is to give place to practical water communication and overland travel.
The first white man who crossed the Rocky Mountains and reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean, overland, who led the first party of civilized men through the "Territory westward of the Stony Mountains to the South Sea," was Alexander Mackenzie, a native of Scotland, a partner of the North West Fur Company.
After Canada had become a British
province, Montreal became the principal point for the collection and shipment
of furs procured from the interior and northern portion of North American.
The Hudson's Bay Company enjoyed the exclusive trade within the Hudson's
Bay Territory. Beyond the boundaries of that territory, the merchants of
Montreal had sent trading parties who had penetrated westward to the base of the Rocky Mountains, and northwestward to a distance of twelve hundred miles northwest of Lake Superior. In 1778, Messrs. Frobisher and Pond of Montreal had built a trading-post on the Athabasca or Elk river, which, till the building of Fort Chipewyan, was the most remote trading point from the white settlements. These individual enterprises could not successfully compete with the Hudson's Bay Company. This led to the formation, in 1784, of the North West Company of Montreal. From a voluntary association of merchants, a mere partnership for purposes of trade, a vast organized power was created, exercising authority and control, and demanding the service and allegiance, of its employés and retainers. The North West Company consisted of twenty-three shareholders or partners. The wealthiest, who furnished the capital, remained at Montreal. They were called agents, and acted as a board of management of the commercial interests of the company. The other partners, termed wintering partners, were assigned to the several trading-posts. In prosecution of the fur trade, the company employed about two thousand persons, classified as clerks or traders, guides, interpreters and voyageurs. The clerks or traders, usually young highlanders of good family, entered the service for five or seven years, and served a thorough apprenticeship. Meritorious discharge of duty rendered a clerk eligible to partnership. The clerks traded with Indians at various posts and trading points upon lakes and rivers, some of which were thousands of miles remote from frontier establishments. The guides, interpreters and voyageurs enlisted for a term of years, with opportunity for increased pay by meritorious service. They willingly re-entered from love of the life they pursued, assured also that, when disqualified by age or bodily infirmity, they would be retired with a pension.
The trading goods imported from England were packed in bundles each weighing ninety pounds, and distributed among the various trading-posts. Furs were packed in bundles of the same weight. These packs were transported in bark canoes by the chain of lakes and rivers, which canoes and packs were carried over portages by voyageurs. The most remote trading points to which goods were sent and from which furs were received were distant from Montreal over three thousand miles. Four years would elapse between ordering goods in Montreal, and the sale in London of furs received from the remote trading points, in return for such goods. Much valuable knowledge of the interior was derived from the employés of this company. Shortly after the formation of the North West Company, Fort Chipewyan was established near the southwest end of Lake Athabasca or Lake of the Hills, in latitude fifty-eight degrees, forty-one minutes north. This lake is about two hundred miles long from east to west, with an average breadth of thirteen miles, and is about equally distant from Hudson's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It receives Athabasca or Elk river from the Rocky Mountains. It discharges itself through Slave river which, after running north two hundred miles, empties into Great Slave Lake. Alexander Mackenzie was a North West Company partner in charge of this post. For the purpose of determining whether Great Slave Lake, after receiving the water of Slave river, emptied into the Arctic Ocean, he projected his first voyage of discovery.
On June 3, 1789, Mackenzie with
his party left Fort Chipewyan in three bark canoes. Having passed through
Slave river to Great Slave Lake, he discovered at its northwest extremity
an outlet. Mackenzie followed the river northward for nine hundred miles,
to its mouth in the Arctic Ocean in latitude 69 degrees north, longitude
136 degrees west of Greenwich. To this river he gave his own name. Returning,
he examined the country on the east side of the river, reaching Fort Chipewyan
September 12th. As there were
two large rivers west of Hudson's Bay (Coppermine and Mackenzie) which flowed northward into the Arctic Ocean, any passage of sea connected with the Pacific must be still farther west. This voyage therefore aided greatly in establishing the extreme improbability that any passage of sea existed in Northwest America eastward of Behring's Strait. On the 10th of October, 1792, Mackenzie set out on his second voyage. With two canoes laden with necessary articles of trade, Mackenzie ascended the Unjigah river, reaching the base of the Rocky Mountains, latitude 56 degrees, 9 minutes north, longitude 117 degrees, 35 minutes west of Greenwich on the 1st of November.
The party remained at this camp until May 9, 1793. In a bark canoe, light enough for two men to pack, the party, consisting of ten men with their equipage and three thousand pounds of provisions and trading goods, embarked at seven o'clock in the evening, reaching an island in about an hour. At three o'clock next morning they continued the ascent of Unjigah river. On the 10th of June they reached a lake at it's extreme source, latitude 54 degrees, 24 minutes north, longitude 121 degrees west. Mackenzie says: "We landed and unloaded, where we found a beaten path leading over a low ridge of land of eight hundred and seventeen paces in length to another small lake. The distance between the two mountains at this place is about a quarter of a mile." * * * * "Here two streams tumble over rocks from the right, and lose themselves in the lake which we had left; while two others fall from the opposite heights and glide into the lake which we are approaching, this being the highest point of land dividing these waters; and we are now going with the stream."
On the 17th of June they reached a navigable river called by the natives "Tacoutche Tessee," - the great river. Mackenzie descended this in a canoe for two hundred and fifty miles, when, leaving it July 4th, he traveled westward, reaching the Pacific Ocean at what he calls "the cheek of Vancouver's Cascade Canal," in latitude 52 degrees, 20 minutes, 48 seconds north, longitude 128 degrees, 2 minutes west of Greenwich. As he was about to set out on his return, says his interesting journal: "I now mixed up some vermilion and grease, and inscribed in large characters, on the south face of the rock on which we had slept last night, this brief memorial: 'Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada by land, the twenty-second day of July, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three.'"
The party reached their winter camp upon Unjigah river August 24. Early in September they arrived at Fort Chipewyan. The geographic result of this voyage was the confirmation of Captain Cook's conclusion that the continent of North America extended in an uninterrupted line northwest to Behring's Strait. Its great and immediate practical effect was to invite the great companies engaged in inland fur trade to a new and extensive field.
Mackenzie marked out the proposed field, detailed its physical features, and urged British capitalists and enterprise to appropriate it. He suggested combination of North West and Hudson's Bay Companies to divide between them the interior and northern part of North America, beyond the frontier of the United States and Canadas. Of south of the line of this vast domain he thus remarks:
"The line may be traced from
whence the line of American boundary runs to the Lake of the Woods in latitude
forty-nine degrees, thirty-eight minutes north, from whence it is also
said to run west to the Mississippi, which it may do, by giving it a good
deal of southing, but not otherwise, as the source of that river does not
extend further north than latitude forty-seven degrees, thirty-eight minutes
north, where it is no more than a small brook. Consequently, if Great Britain
retains the right of entering it along the
line of division, it must be in a lower latitude; and, wherever that may be, the line must be continued west till it terminates in the Pacific Ocean to the south of the Columbia. This division is then bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Frozen Sea and the Hudson's Bay on the north and east. The Russians indeed may claim with justice the islands and coast from Behring's Strait to Cook's Entry."
Referring to utilization of rivers within such region as a line of communication, he thus speaks of the Rocky Mountains, and the watercourses, finding their sources in that chain: "The succession of ridges of the Stony Mountains, whose northern extremity dips in the North Sea in latitude seventy degrees north, and longitude 135 degrees west, running nearly southeast, and begins to be parallel with the coast of the Pacific Ocean from Cook's Entry, and so onward to the Columbia. From thence it appears to quit the coast, but still continuing, with less elevation to divide the waters of the Atlantic from those which run into the Pacific. In those snowclad mountains rises the Mississippi (if we admit the Missouri to be its source), which flows into the Gulf of Mexico; the river Nelson, which is lost in Hudson's Bay; Mackenzie's river, that discharges itself into the North Sea, and the Columbia, emptying itself into the pacific Ocean. The great river St. Lawrence and Churchill, with many lesser ones, derive their sources far short of these mountains. It is indeed the extension of these mountains so far on the seacoast that prevents the Columbia river from finding a more direct course to the sea, as it runs obliquely with the coast upwards of eight degrees of latitude before it mingles with the ocean."
Mackenzie established "the non-existence of any passage by sea northeast or northwest from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean; but internal communication by rivers is clearly proved."
He was impressed with the belief that the river he descended, called by the natives "Tacoutche Tessee," - the great river, - was the Columbia. Such continued popular opinion until 1812, when the Tacoutche Tessee was traced to its mouth, and proved to be what is known as Fraser river. With the impression that he had discovered the headwaters of the Columbia, Mackenzie observe: "By these waters that discharge themselves into Hudson's Bay at Port Nelson, it is proposed to carry on the trade to their source at the head of the Saskatchewan river, which rises in the Rocky Mountains not eight degrees of longitude from the Pacific Ocean. The Tacoutche Tessee or Columbia river flows also from the same mountains and discharges itself likewise in the Pacific in latitude forty-six degrees, twenty minutes. Both of them are capable of receiving ships at their mouths, and are navigable throughout for boats."
"The distance between these waters
is only known from the report of the Indians. If, however, this communication
should prove inaccessible, the route I pursued, though longer, in consequence
of the great angle it makes to the north, will answer every necessary purpose.
But, whatever course may be taken from the Atlantic, the Columbia is the
line of communication from the Pacific Ocean pointed out by nature, as
it is the only navigable river in the whole extent of Vancouver's minute
survey of that coast; its banks also form the first level country in all
the southern extent of continental coast from Cook's Entry, and, consequently,
the most northern situation fit for colonization, and suitable to the residence
of a civilized people. By opening this entire course between the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and forming regular establishments through
the interior, and at both extremes, as well as along the coasts and islands,
the entire command of the fur trade of North America might be obtained,
from latitude forty-eight degrees north to the
pole, except the portion of it which the Russians have in the Pacific. To this may be added the fishing in both seas and the markets of the four quarters of the globe. Such would be the field for commercial enterprises; and incalculable would be the product of it when supported by the operations of that credit and capital which Great Britain pre-eminently possesses. Then would this country begin to be remunerated for the expenses it has sustained in discovering and surveying the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, which is at present left to American adventurers, who, without regularity or capital, or the desire for conciliating future confidence, look altogether to the interest of the moment. They, therefore, collect all the skins they can procure and in any manner that suits them, and, having exchanged them at Canton for the produce of China, return to their own country. Such adventurers, and many of them, as I have been informed, have been very successful, would instantly disappear from the coast."
The name has now been found for
the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. No passage of sea runs northeast
from the Pacific through the continent; but a magnificent chain of lakes
and mighty rivers constitute a line of water communication throughout the
great interior. Sources of wealth claim consideration of capitalists, of
men of enterprise. The credit and capital of Great Britain is appealed
to. American adventurers without capital, unable to compete successfully
with these monster monopolies, are to be driven from this coast. The sagacious
mackenzie heralded the future policy of the Empire company, whose agent
he was; foreshadowed British policy and intent; defined the lines by which
Great Britain intended to bound her claim to the territory of Northwest