The History of Washington State

The History of Washington
Chapter 11, Part I

 

By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this series of books!

 

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CHAPTER XI.

ASSAULTS OF CIVILIZATION ON THE EASTERN WILDS OF WASHINGTON BY EXPLORATIONS AND EMIGRATION OVERLAND.

"The hunter may traverse the forest for game,
The fisherman follow the stream,
But the axeman opens the golden grain
To glades where their camp-fires gleam;
To settlers' huts and emigrants home,
To the cities yet to be,
To those whoa re not an thistledown blown,
Bit firm as the rooted tree."

It is a pleasant thing for the author, and, as we trust, an agreeable change to the reader, to turn aside from the dreary monotony of ocean exploration, if sea narrative which, like the element it traverses, oppresses us with a sense of sameness impossible to overcome. No; vary it as we will with dramatic effects and striking situations, of breaking billows; the tired eye languishes for something to interrupt the flatness of apparently illimitable wastes of cold gray seas. Storms, shipwrecks, and disasters are but accidents, affording no relief, for they seem, dress and disguise them as you will, but duplicates of each other, the old story in a new form. We turn, then, with positive delight to the contemplation of "fresh woods and pastures new" in the pursuit of our story--to the assaults of civilization upon the then untrodden territory of Washington's eastern borders; to follow the footsteps of her hardy hunters, voyageurs, explorers, and emigrants who in those old days made their difficult way through the green surges of our vast ocean of primeval forest, to camp beneath its shadows, let in with their keen axes sunshine upon its sod, and create oases in its desert of verdure which in the fullness of time should blossom as the rose, and replace the wigwam of the savage with the homes, school-houses, and churches of modern civilized life.

It is a singular fact that the same causes which led to at-

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Tempted discoveries by sea stimulated explorations by land. History again repeats itself; reality is born of error; the false gives birth to the true, or, to speak more correctly, the search for the fabulous ended ofttimes most unexpectedly in the finding of what ultimately proved a better thing in the real. Rumors, transmitted from tribe to tribe, and so at last coming to the ears of trappers and hunters, brought to the white settlements of the East vague reports of the existence of the "shining" (now the Rocky) mountains of the far West. The very name suggested possibilities of untold wealth. Fiction, feeding on the theme, sent forth its tales of journeys and discoveries alleged to have been actually made; pretended maps and charts added to their apparent reliability; cities were discovered, their inhabitants deserted; rivers whose sand glittered with gold and streams thick with uncut diamonds were born of dreams; and these dreams became waking visions in speculative minds, who received them as true, and straight-away set out to discover these Eldoradoes. As the Strait of Anian myth sent explorers for many a year to brave the icy seas in search of that gabled pathway to the Ind, so the tales of La Hontan, Hennepin, and others, baseless as they were, fired the zeal of inland seekers, whose repeated quests found at last a way across the continent, and to whose influence we owe the iron pathways of to-day. but it must be remembered that the wave of progress which is tidal in this century moved slowly on the last, and crept with dim and blinded steps in that which preceded it. The early histories of the first inland travelers, seem from our standpoint, read almost like fairy-tales, even when they are true. Take the "Histoire de la Louisiane" of La Page du Pratz, published in 1758, which purports o be the story of a Yazoo Indian, Moncasht-ape, meaning "he who kills trouble and fatigue." Of this book Evans says:

"In a fascinating vein La Page chronicles the adventures and observations of this learned aboriginal traveler. He details how he ascended the Missouri in its source to the Rocky Mountains, tarrying with Indian tribes to learn their language and inquire the way; his crossing those 'Shining Mountains,' exceedingly high and beset with dangers; his march from thence to the beautiful river that flowed into the great ocean. He there met a tribe called the Otters, two of whose people, a man and a

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woman, accompanied him westward. His first view of the Pacific 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 to pieces.' Can modern description better this much? The author saw Niagara for the first time with very nearly the same feelings" Evans goes on to say:

"La 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 information."

There had been however, another and previous visitor to these same "Shining Mountains" (pity it is, we think, that the name had not been preserved, for all mountains are rocky, while this great American chain is, whether stony or snow-clad, specially "shining"); and this first "pathfinder" was a Frenchman--one Vereudrye--whose story, as told by Evans, runs as follows: "In 1738 Marquis de Beauharnals, Governor-General of New France, conferred authority upon Vereudrye, a fur trader, to equip an expedition to reach the head-waters of the Missouri. To avoid the dread Sioux, he had permission to ascend the Assjniboin, and Saskatchewan rivers, and to follow any stream flowing westward into the Pacific. His real purpose was 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 were built, extending from Lake Superior northwestward, at available points to forts to 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 is 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

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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.

"The first travelers to lead a party of civilized men through the territory of the Stony Mountains to the South Sea" should be engraved on some massive mountain-face of "the Rockies" in letters so large as to be visible to every passing passenger; and this epitaph should be linked with the name of Alexander Mackenzie, a native of Scotland and a partner of the Northwest Fur Company, in honor of his then unparalleled achievement. He might well be called the Columbus of the wilderness, the pathfinder of the wooded sea. He himself, at the conclusion of one of his longest canoe voyages of exploration, in which he halted at what he calls "Vancouver's Cascade Canal,' mixed up some vermilion and grease and inscribed in large characters on the face of the rock on which his party had slept the night before. "Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada by land, July 33d, 1798."

It was from this adventurous yet eminently practical man that the suggestion emanated that the Northwest and Hudson's Bay Company should combine and divide between them the interior and northern part of North America, beyond the frontier of the United States and the Canadas. He imagined that he descended the Columbia, the "great river' of the natives; but, as was afterward discovered, was mistaken. The river he actually visited was actually the Fraser. He seems to have been a Napoleon in the breadth and scope of his commercial plans and generalship, as witness the following from his report:

"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 island, the entire command of the fur trade of North America might be obtained from latitude 48 to the Pole, except the portion of it which the Russian 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 the 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 exposes it has sus-

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tained 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 al 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 am informed, have been very successful, would instantly disappear from the coast."

We have suggested a memorial for Mr. Mackenzie, but fancy that the paragraph just quoted is as monumental in brass as any which could be erected. His report is well calculated to attract that "British credit and capital" to which he refers. As Evans says, he foreshadows "British policy and intent," those also of the Empire company, whose agent he was, and moreover defined the lines whereby England proposed to bound her claim to the territory of Northwest America.

Thomas Jefferson has been called, and has indeed won the to be so considered, the "father of Western exploration," to which may be added that he was the first of our statesmen to appreciate and make some effort to explore and develop the possibilities of their almost unknown wildernesses lying between the Mississippi and the Pacific. Throwing the search-light of the present upon the history of the past for many years following our declaration of national independence, the apathy and want of foresight of the great mass of our American legislators to the securing new territories and opening up the far West seem incomprehensible. Jefferson alone seems to have possessed a keener eye and wide range of vision. While representing us as our Minister at Paris, as early as 1786, he met John Ledyard, of Connecticut, to whom we have already alluded as the adventurous corporal 9f marines of Cook's visit to the Northwest coast. Their converse led to a suggestion from Mr. Jefferson that Ledyard should make a journey overland by way of the Russian possessions to Kamtchatka, and thence across by some ship of that nationality to Nootka Sound; thence downward on the latitude of the Missouri, and explore that region to the United States. Ledyard, as enthusiastic as himself, eagerly embraced the plan. The consent of the empress of Russian secured the needful passports. Ledyard proceeded on his jour-

Pages 139 and 140: picture is missing.

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ney, reaching Irkootsk, within two hundred miles of the coast of Kamtchatka, in January of 1787; winters there; is arrested in the spring on attempting to resume his journey by the Russian officials, who accuse him of being a spy, and forbid his return to Russia. His health fails, broken, as we are told, "by the severity of his treatment and the hardships of his journey." . Thus was the first attempt of Mr. Jefferson to explore the interior and western part of this continent frustrated.

\ Not discouraged by this failure, we find Mr. Jefferson again, in 1792, proposing to the American Philosophical Society the engagement of a competent scientist to "explore Northwest American from the eastward by ascending the Missouri, crossing the Rocky Mountains, and descending the nearest river to the Pacific Ocean."

Captain Meriwether Lewis, of the United States, afterward destined to distinguish himself as one of the leaders of the great expedition of Lewis and Clarke, now comes to the front and urgently solicits the command. But, possibly owing to French influence, presumably potent with Jefferson, Andre Michaux, a French botanist, who offers his services, is accepted, received his instructions, and gets as far as Kentucky; but being, as it appears, also in the service of the French government, he there receives an order from the French Minister to relinquish his appointment and select some other field of research--a piece of European jealousy which defeats the second attempt at exploration, on which Jefferson seems to be determined.

Yet a third time, and on this occasion with Americans at the helm, we find Jefferson, now President of the Unites States, taking advantage of the "Act for the establishment of trading houses with the Indian tribes being about to expire," to recommend their continuance; and at the same time, ina confidential communication to Congress (January 18th, 1803), he recommends "Am exploration to trace the Missouri to its source; to cross the high lands (Rocky Mountains) and follow the best water communication to the Pacific Ocean." The reader will remark that it is the same plan. Congress makes the necessary appropriation, and Captain Lewis, whose services were before rejected, but who has now become the private secretary oft h President, their common states for the increase of geographical

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knowledge having possibly drawn them together, obtains its leadership. Lewis requests that William Clarke be associated with him, and Clarke is accordingly appointed a captain in the army and ordered upon this service. "In April, 1803, the President's instructions were submitted to Captain Lewis, and being duly canvassed, were finally signed on the 25th of June following. The government of France, Spain, and Great Britain were notified of the expedition, and its purposes and passports issued to it by the ministers of England and France. Among other instructions we find the following:

"The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River and such principal streams of it as by its course of communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across the continent for the purposes of commerce."

They are also directed to fix by observation, the interesting points of the portage between the heads of the Missouri and the waters offering the best communication with the Pacific Ocean, and the course of that water to the ocean in the same manner as that of the Missouri.

Their orders to on to say:

"Should you reach the Pacific Ocean, inform yourself of the circumstances which may decide whether the furs of these parts may be collected as advantageously at the head of the Missouri convenient, as it is supposed, to the waters of the Colorado and Oregon or Columbia) as to Nootka Sound or any other part of that coast; and that trade be constantly conducted through the Missouri and United States more beneficially than by the circumnavigation now practiced . . . . . . . . . . . .On your arrival at that coast, endeavor to learn if there be any port within your reach frequented by the sea vessels of any nation, and to send two of your trusty people back by sea in such way as shall appear practicable, with a copy of your notes; and should be of he opinion that the return of your party by the way that they went will be imminently dangerous, then ship the whole and return by sea by the way of either of Cape Horn or the Ape of good Hope, as you shall be able"

A persistent man, this President Jefferson, who, after seventeen years of patient effort and waiting, notwithstanding the fail-

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ures of Ledyard's and Michaux's expeditions, finally carries out his plan and sends Lewis and Clarke into the field, who, with equal courage, in face of great opposition, carry out his ideas, fulfill their orders, and gain for themselves a name among the explorers of the earth.

The personnel of the expedition consisted, besides its commanders, of nine young men from Kentucky, fourteen soldiers of the United States Army, who volunteered, two French voyageurs as interpreter and hunter, and a Negro servant for Captain Clarke, all of whom, except the servant, were enlisted to serve as privates during the expedition. Three sergeants were appointed from their number. In addition, a corporal, six soldiers, and none watermen accompanied the expedition as far as the Mandan nation--forty-three souls in all.

Leaving late in the season, Captain Lewis very wisely determined to winter at the mouth of the Wood's River, on the eastern side of the Mississippi. Here he made the needful preparations for an early start in the spring. That the reader may the better understand the route and great distance traveled by these, the first pathfinders going our under government directions to span the continent, we will quote Evan's resume of their operations, and supplement it by Captain Lewis's own summary of their labors.

Evans condenses it thus:

"On the 14th of May, 1804, the party crossed the Mississippi River and commenced the ascent of the Missouri in boats cordelled by hand. On the 1st of November, 1804, having journeyed 1000 miles, it went into winter quarters in the Mandan villages. On the 8th of April, 1805, the party, consisting of thirty-three persons, resumed their westward march, and upon the 18th of August had reached the extreme head of navigation of the Missouri River, upward of three thousand miles from its mouth. They had ascended the main river to the three forks, to which they had given the names respectively of Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin. Regarding the first named to be the main stream, they had followed it to its source in the Rocky Mountains. Captain Clarke crossed to the headwaters of the Salmon River (the east fork of Lewis or Snake River), but abandoned it. The party then ascended Fish Creek, a branch of the Salmon, crossed a mountain ridge, and entered a valley of the

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Bitter Root, and ascended to the mouth of a creek now called Lonhou Fork, by them named Traveller's Rest. From thence they passed over the headwaters of the Kooskooskie, and having reached a point navigable for canoes, constructed boats and followed the river to its mouth in the Lewis Fork, of the Columbia (Snake River), which they reached October 7th. Lewis River was followed to its junction with Clarke's Fork, and thence the party proceeded down the main Columbia to Cape Disappointment, on the Pacific Ocean, at which they arrived November 14th. They stopped but a few days on the north side of the river, but established their winter quarters at Fort Clatsop, on the south side near its mouth, where they remained until march 23d, 1806."

Before setting out on their return eastward several written notes were left with the natives, and one posted up in the fort as follows:
"The object of this last is that, through the medium of some civilized person who may see the same, it may be made known to the world that the party consisting of the persons who names are hereunto annexed, and who were sent out by the Government of North America, did penetrate the same by way of the Columbia and Missouri Rivers, to the discharge of the latter into the Pacific Ocean., where we arrived on the 14th of November, 1805, and departed on their return to the United States by the same route by which they had come out."

"This 'note' fell into the possession of Captain Hill, of the brig Lydia, of Boston, which carried it to Canton and thence to the United States. On the back of it was sketched the connection of the respective sources of the Columbia and Missouri, with the routes pursued and the track intended to be followed on the return."

The expedition returned by substantially the same route until reaching Traveller's Rest Creek, where the party divided, Captain Lewis, with nine men, pursued the most direct route to the falls of the Missouri, exploring the Maria's River; Captain Clarke, with the remainder of the party, proceeded to the head of Jefferson River, where he left a small party to descend to the Yellowstone, himself advancing directly to the Yellowstone, and tracing it in boasts to its mouth. The several parties reunited at

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the mouth of the Yellowstone on the 12th of August, and having travelled nearly nine thousand miles, reached St. Louis in safety on the 23rd of September, 1806, without having lost a member of the party."

Captain Lewis's own summary tells us:

"The road by which we went out by way of the Missouri to its head is 3096 miles; thence by land by way of Lewis River over to Clarke's River, and down that to the entrance of Traveller's Rest Creek, where all the roads from different routes meet; then across the rugged part of the Rocky Mountains to the navigable waters of the Columbia, 398 miles; thence down the river 640 miles to the Pacific Ocean, making a total of 4134 miles. On our return, in 1806, we came from Traveller's Rest directly to the falls of the Missouri River, which shortened the distance about 579 miles, and is a much better route, reducing the distance from the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean to 3555 miles. Of this distance, 2575 miles is up the Missouri to the falls of that river, thence passing through the plains and across the Rocky Mountains to the navigable waters of the Kooskooskie River, a branch of the Columbia, 340 miles, of which is good road; 140 miles over a tremendous mountain, steep and broken, 60 miles of which is covered several feet deep with snow, on which we passed on the last of June. From the navigable part of the Kooskooskie we ascended that rapid river 73 miles to its entrance into Lewis River, down that river 154 miles to the Columbia, and thence 413 miles to its entrance into the Pacific Ocean. About 180 miles of this distance is tide water. We passed several bad rapids and narrows, and one considerable fall 268 miles above the entrance of the river, 27 feet, 8 inches; the total distance descending the Columbia waters, making a total of 3555 miles on the most direct route from the Mississippi at the mouth of the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean."

 

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