The History of Washington State

The History of Washington
Chapter 2

 

By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this series of books.  The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers!  Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with the world!

 

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Chapter II

BEING THE OPENING OF THE FIRST DOOR BY COLUMBUS, AND HIS GREAT DISCOVERY

"First in the ranks of those who bravely dare
Tempestuous seas in search of shores unknown,
Though the new world another's name may bear,
The fame of finding must be thine alone;
Thine the first eye to catch the transient beam
Of welcome watch light on its stranger strand,
Foretelling ere the moon brought brighter beam,
The certain presence of the looked for land."

--BREWERTON

"God will cause thy name to be wonderfully resounded through the earth, and will give three the keys of the gates of the ocean which are closed with strong chains." --Visions of Columbus.

Every age produces its hero. Every crisis in the extreme need of man brings forth some Moses fitted to lead the people through the desert of trail into the Canaan of rest. There are critical periods in the world's general condition also, times of stagnation when civilization seems to labor upon worn-pit and exhausted fields, and cries loudly for new worlds to conquer. Her enterprises, dammed up and circumscribed, chafe against their barriers and require larger opportunities for action. To find some imaginary promised land to enter in and possess it become the universal hope and general endeavor. It is the working out, but only on a grander scale, of the same spirit which actuates the restless settler of to-day, who takes up his claim, improves it, and then growing dissatisfied with "his pitch," shoulders his axe and once more loses himself in the wilderness in search of a new location. Yet it is, after all, a wise provision, an aggregation of those titles of unrest which stir the human sea and give healthful motion to the ever-seething waves of political, religious, social, and financial effort. So it was in that old day when Columbus "gave to Castile and Aragon a new world." The arenas of the nation's battle-fields for bread would appear to have become too stale and limited. We may assume

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that a condition of things had been reached which required not only a Moses for its leadership, but some land of promise to be possessed and enjoyed. It remained for Christopher Columbus to solve the problem; to become, in his search for that then greatly desire "shorter ocean pathway" to the riches of "Farther Ind," a modern Moses; like the law-giver of the Hebrews, permitted to see but not to realize the fruits of his labors' building far "better than he knew," for it would have been a greater revelation to himself than the discovery he actually made could he have seen with the eyes of centuries to come the vastness of an empire compared with which the land of ancient promise was but a barren field. In thus giving to civilization an open gate through which the floods of humanity might pour for ages and still find homes and remunerative fields of labor, better opportunities and more assured rewards, Columbus gained what most public benefactors receive at the hand of the ungrateful contemporaries--a life of neglect, but posthumous immortality of praise.

And now, as the first step leading to the Northwest coast settlement and occupancy, it may be well to pause for a moment and give some space to the consideration of the character and history of the man whose very obstacles and neglect spurred him on in spite of every discouragement and difficulty to that hour of his final triumph when he anchored the little Pinta and her consorts ina harbor of that hitherto unknown continent which should have borne his name rather than that of Americus Vespucius; but, to use his own homely illustration, he had broken the egg, and it was an easy task to follow his example.

Among the men who may be said to have lived before their time, and in their extraordinary genius and foresight to have anticipated their proper day, the Genoese, Christopher Colon, or Columbus, stand pre-eminent. Yet through the statements may seem paradoxical to many, especially in view of the fact that in this year of grace 1892 we are about celebrating another centennial of his great achievement, Columbus (if well- authenticated records are to be believed) did not discover America; or to so peak more correctly, his discovery was anticipated on both sides of the continent; by a Buddhist monk named Hoei-Shin, sent out by the Chinese as early as the fifth century, who reached the Mexico of to-day with no particular result, and by the Norse-

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men, the sea rovers, and at one time the terror of Europe, who visited Iceland, Greenland, and even Newfoundland in 860, being storm-driven on its coasts. The finding of Nova Scotia followed, and the songs of the Sagas may have mingled with the winter roar of New England pines on the inhospitable coasts of Plymouth long before the Pilgrims chanted their hymn of deliverance upon its rock. Even the Welsh bards tell us of one Madoe, who, fleeing from troubles at home in 1169, reached the western main with a colony of his countrymen. Catlin, the Indian historian and painter, believes that the Mandans owe their origin to the Welsh, and seems to sustain his position. Vancouver found a tribe in the vicinity of the Columbia whose features favored this theory, and both Lewis and Clark, and also Charlevoix, make statement which go to confirm it. Both the Pawnee and Cherokee tribes have been supposed to be of a similar origin. R. H. Major says of Henry of Portugal, a prince of advanced and liberal ideas, who devoted his life to the study of astronomy and navigation and the encouragement of geographical discovery, dying in 1463, nearly thirty years before the landing of Columbus: "The explorations instituted by Henry of Portugal were, in truth, the anvil upon which the link was forged that connected the Old World with the New." It is, however, proper to state that all these discoveries were but as straws heralding the advent of the breeze, bringing about no solid results in themselves. It is to the unwearied patience, courage, and genius of the great navigator, after all, that we owe the far-reaching super-structure of events whose cornerstone was laid on the memorable 12th of October, 1492.

But we return to the personal history and condensed life sketch of the man who, under God, wrought this great work, premising that we can but touch the prominent points, omitting many most interesting details.

Born, as the best authenticated records assure us--though even the exact date of his nativity is in doubt--at Genoa, in the year 1436--or, as other authorities claim, not till ten years later--Christopher colon, or Columbus, was the son of a wool-comber in humble circumstances. His father, however, appears to have been self-denying, or possible ambitious enough to send his son to the University of Paria, to study sciences which might fit him for nautical pursuits. It is evident that the influences of life in

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a maritime city naturally created in the boy an early passion for a seafaring life. Learning was then leaving the monasteries to take up its abode with the laity; printing was recently discovered, and books more easily obtained; stories of geographical discoveries and adventures were whetting an appetite for larger knowledge, which was increased by the writings of Pliny, Strabo, and others. Columbus began to make voyages when but a boy of fourteen. His enthusiasm ripened with his experience of the sea. The "sailor yarns" of the "fo'castle" of those days, built on the narrowest foundations of truth, loomed beneath the embellishments of their narrators into gigantic proportions. Wonderful tales of the mysteries of those unknown oceans, fancies whose extravagance rivaled the romance of Eastern fables, were the food upon which his ardent imagination fed. Among other stories of the time was the tradition that there existed a large island in the Atlantic called Antilla, mentioned by Aristotle; there was another rumor of an island on which St. Brandon, a Scottish and probably very "canny' saint, who knew how to turn his opportunities to the best advantage, landed in the sixth century and founded there a magnificent city. Yet there with their numerous followers and built seven cities, a city to each priest. Then came the story of Atlantic, learned by Plato from the Egyptians--an immense island in the Atlantic, full of large and populous cities, which had been swallowed up by an earthquake. Strange, is it not? that all these stores, wild as the winds, yet showed a germ of truth when submitted to the clearer light of after knowledge? What wonder that an ardent boy, full of vivid imaginations as Columbus must have been, eagerly caught up, dreamed over, and dwelt upon these weird legends of the intraversed seas, or that their inspiration should have fired his daring mind with the desire to explore and satisfy himself as to their reality. A certain religious zeal seems to have enhanced and possibly purified this ambition. There is in the Astor Library (whose learned librarian is the well-known and most deservedly distinguished author, Frederick Saunders, to whose excellent work on Columbus the writer is indebted for much condensed information) an antique folio entitled: "The Polyglot Psalter of Augustine Justinian. Bishop of Nebbio, in the Island of Corsica:" on the margin of Psalm XIX., verse 4, he

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puts a note in which he affirms that Columbus frequently boasted that he was the person here referred to, and appointed of God to fulfill this biblical statement. "It is recorded," says Saunders, "that on a certain occasion a mysterious voice said to him in a dream, "God will cause thy name to be wonderfully resounded through the earth and will give thee the keys of the gates of the ocean which are closed with strong chains." It was doubtless the result of overwrought study of his theory; but to the mind of Columbus it must have had the force of a supernatural revelation. He very beautifully adds, "Columbus, it has been said, stood midway between the medieval and modern ages; even his adventurous voyage over a dark and perilous ocean seems symbolic of the fact, for gloom and disaster overshadowed his course until he gained the western shore, when they vanished, and all became transfigured with the radiant light."

Columbus made voyages in the service of the Portuguese visiting Iceland in 1577, where he doubtless heard of the discoveries of Erik the Red. Still poor and unable to equip an expedition, he appealed to the King of Portugal, then too much engaged with a war against Spain to listen to him Waiting until his successor, John the Second, ascended the throne, he renewed his supplication. "His scheme, referred," says Saunders, "to a junta composed of two eminent cosmographers and a bishop, was decided to be extravagant and visionary; yet, the king was not satisfied with their decision, and called a council, with no better results. It was then that the bishop, who was the king's confessor, proposed the mean stratagem that he should obtain from Columbus his plans, charts, etc., under pretext of considering his enterprise. The evil suggestion was acted upon; a three-masted caravel was sent to the Cape de Verd Islands, with secret instructions o go as far westward as possible, to ascertain if there as any truth in the theory of Columbus. They did not go far before the cowardly crew became frightened by the storms, and their base attempt ended in disgrace, for Columbus discovered the treachery, and left Lisbon in disgust about 1484."

"He next appears," says the same authority, "at the gate of the Franciscan monastery near Palos. According to the testimony of the physician of Palos, a seafaring man accompanied by a very young boy stopped one day at the fate of the convent of La Rabbia, and asked of the porter a little bread and water

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for his child. While the porter was giving refreshments to the boy the prior of the convent passed by and was at once impressed by the dignified bearing of the stranger. He entered into conversation with him and invited him to remain as his guest. Columbus revealed his name to his benefactor and told his troubles and his purposes."

Meeting in the prior a man himself learned in geographical science, who sent for a scientific friend to come and converse with his guest, a full discussion of Columbus' projects followed, ending in an offer to take his son Diego into the convent and educate him, and provide his father with a favorable letter to the Spanish Court. The time was inauspicious, the war spirit ruling the land to the exclusion of all peaceful enterprise; so we find Columbus returning, to wait patiently at La Rabbia till the spring of 1486, when the court had gone to Cordova. Upon repairing there and presenting his letter, he was curtly dismissed with a shake of the head by the prior in attendance, but, after long waiting, obtained an audience with Ferdinand and Isabella. Then came the famous Council of Salamanca, the favorite theme of many a painter, where our poor mariner took nothing by his motion but the objection "that if the earth is round you will be compelled to sail up a kind of mountain from Spain, which you cannot do, even with the fairest wind, and you could never get back." By some he was regarded as an adventurer, by others a visionary, by all an innovator upon what to their narrower conceptions were well-established facts. From the throne we find him going to the rich nobles of Spain. The Duke of Medina Celi, to whom he applied, advised another application to the king and gave him a letter to Isabella; but his proud spirit, grown weary with repeated refusals, rebelled, and he had determined to visit France." When it was found that another power might benefit by his plans, Santangel, the crown treasurer of the Church, pleased the cause of Columbus with the monarchs. The king doubted, but the queen believed, and when Ferdinand decided that his battles with the Moors had depleted his treasury, leaving him too poor to invest in so uncertain an expedition, Isabella, with that clearer foresight often given to womanhood, exclaimed, "I will undertake the enterprise, and, if necessary, will pledge my jewels for the money." Santangel declared with emphasis, " It will not be necessary." Saunders

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tells us that "a courier was sent after Columbus, the queen assented to his terms, and," woman-like again, "urged his departure as speedily as possible. Columbus claimed as his reward to be named high admiral, governor-general, and viceroy over the land he discovered, together with one tenth of the produce of the countries. Ferdinand acquiesced, and the contract was signed by the sovereigns at Santa Fe, on April 17, 1492.

"Furnished with authority from the court, he caused the royal order to be read commanding the authorities of the town to have two caravels ready for sea within ten days, and they their crews placed at the disposal of the admiral. A similar order was issued for a third vessel. When this edict as announced, although Palos was a seaport and there were plenty of seamen, none seemed inclined to hazard their lives on such a perilous expedition, and the greatest consternation prevailed. Many fled the town to avoid being compelled to serve, and for some weeks no progress was made toward the equipment of the vessels. At this crisis, however, Martin Alonzo Pinzon appeared, the same who sailed in command of the Pinta, and was either separated by the storm or willfully abandoned his admiral on the return voyage, arriving on the very evening of the day that Columbus reached Palos. He evidently thought to forestall and arrogate to himself the honors gained by his commander, whom he had already reported from Bayonne, and possibly believed, to be swallowed up. His chagrin at the enthusiastic reception and safe arrival of his chief, combined with his own disappointment and his sovereigns'; refusal to receive him at court, so worked upon him that he died ina few days after landing. This man now came forward with his brother Vincent Tanez, both navigators of Palos, to great wealth and undoubted courage, and not only agreed to furnish one of the vessels, but to go themselves with Columbus."

The expedition sailed, with the benedictions of the Church, on Friday, August 3d, 1492--mark the day, for it seems a singular rebuke of popular superstition, most common among sailors, that Friday is an unlucky day. Certainly it is a curious coincidence that Columbus began his voyage on Friday, discovered America on Friday, began his return on Friday, and reached his port on the same "unlucky day,' arriving at the Canaries on the 9th. They were detained at these islands for more than threw

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weeks. When passing to the west of the group they laid their course to brave the angers--magnified a thousandfold by ignorance and superstition--of the unknown western seas.

Losing sight of the Canaries and favored by the weather, the little fleet of Columbus pushed boldly out into the mare incognita. Passing within sight of the peal of Tenoriffe, then shooting forth its volcanic fires, his sailors began to manifest that fear which increased apparently with every league of their western progress. Two hundred miles more finds the deviation of the magnetic needle adding another element of embarrassment and dread. The variation reaching five degrees to then northwest and continuing to increase, they sail on, with no other guide but the heavenly lights, directing their course by the polar star. Great masses of seaweed, even now a hindrance to the progress of vessels in those latitudes, retard their voyage. But as hope begins to fail and courage to waver, like an angel messenger from the unknown shore comes a land bird to welcome and cheer them on. the murmurs of mutiny are hushed for a while. For eleven days the caravels drive on before a favoring gale, for the wind is easterly, then it shifts to the southwest and dies away, leaving them becalmed. The dim dawn breaks slowly, just graying the horizon, when martin Pinzon, standing on the high stern of the Pinta, shouts to the admiral with exceeding joy, "Land, land, Senor! I claim the promised reward." But the phantom shore vanishes with the sunrise, the first of a series of similar disappointments which add to their disheartenment. A more southerly course if recommended by Pinzon, who has seen a flock of parrots flying from the southwest. But Columbus is not to be moved. Trusting to his own judgment, he holds upon his course. Again the mutterings of mutiny break forth; hope departs, and they openly defy their commander. With what dignity does he meet their objections and disregard their threats! Hear his reply:

"This expedition has been sent out by your sovereign; and, come what may, I am determined, by the help of God, to accomplish the object of the voyage."

It rest only upon the evidence of Oviedo, for Irving tells us that Las Casas and Navarr do not mentioned the incident that Columbus at length, drive to a compromise, yields in some measure to his mutinous crew, and promises if within three day

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no land is discovered he will return to Spain. If it were so, and, deeply dramatic as it is, we are inclined to doubt the accuracy of the statement, how great must have been the confidence of the daring navigator, founded on close calculations and watchfulness of the signs, now thickening upon the sea, of his near to the goal of his hopes--the long looked-for coast--the only thing which could render his extorted promises a dead letter. If it were so, how awful it must have been anxiety lest some untoward accident, some hindrance of storm or calm should exhaust the period of probation without solving the problem! Did space permit, it might be both curious and instructive to attempt to diagnosis the moods of mind and condition of feelings through which Columbus must have passed during this purgatory of trial, the fever of hope alternating with the chill of fear. There must have been moments when it in the secret chambers of his heart he may have doubted the reality of his own theories and the exactness of his calculations. If so, he kept his contract well, never for an instant permitting a look of discouragement to increase that of his faint-hearted crew. But the hour of his triumph was at hand. They threatened in vain to cast him into the sea and return to Spain; they even, it is said, were about to execute their threat when that God in whom he trusted sends yet other tokens to quiet their disorders and renew their expectations of ultimate success. A coast fish glides by--a branch of thorn with berries--a cane carved by some savage hand that little knew the outcome of its labor. Columbus is saved, and again the voyage goes on--the half-assured crew obeying, though surlily. Take courage, brave pilot into the unknown! Your troubles are nearly ended; your deliverance is at hand. The over-famous 12th of October, 1492, is about to dawn, and in the fullness of time open a hundred harbored ports to untold millions yet to be. The prophetic voice you heard so long ago in dreams spoke not in vain: "God is about to make thy name to be wonderfully resounded through the earth, and will indeed give thee the keys of the gates of the ocean;" but "the chains," alas! are reserved for thy sole reward.

We might essay in vain to find a more graphic narrative of that most memorable night so fraught with gloom of anxiety and doubt, so glorious in its sunrise of perfect realization, than is recorded in a recent work, based upon the dairy of Columbus,

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rntitled: "With the Admiral." Strange that his should have been the first eye to discover that faint and feeble gleam upon the unknown shore for which so many weary eyes he had been industriously searching. What was its purpose, and by what native kindled, who little dreamed that his careless hand was lighting a beacon which shield lead to the extinction of his race! And yet its momentary gleam linked the old with the new--a civilized with a savage world. But to our quotations:

"At ten o'clock his quick eye caught a gleam of light out to sea which almost instantly disappeared. Fixing his eye on the quarter whence it had vanished, he called to Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo Sanchez, who were near by, and asked if they could not see it as well; then raising his voice, he hailed the lookout on the bow" 'Ola, in the prow there, see you not a light yonder off the port bow?' As the ship rose on a billow, Pedro Gutierrz saw the light plainly, and so told the captain, but Rodrigo Sanchez could not catch sight of it from where he stood. Up from the bows, too, came an answering hail which left the matter still in doubt: 'No, Senor Captain, we see no light from here!' Once or twice more, however, the wavering spark showed itself to Columbus's intent gaze and then sank our of sight.

"Sweeping swiftly to the west, for half a gale was blowing, the feet held on its way, the Pinta leading, with the Nina next, and the flagship last of all. At midnight the watch was changed, and fresh outlooks took the place of those who had been straining their eyes so far in vain; but still the troubled surface of the ocean was all that met their sight. On board the Santa Maria the silence was unbroken except by the swah of the waves against the ship's hull, and the low voices of the sailors as now and then they muttered some remark to one another. Just as the watch was again changing, toward two o'clock, the clouds which had been hiding the moon blew off, and the whole sea for leagues around was bathed ina flood of clear white light. Scarcely ha the last shadows swept over the rolling sea when a brilliant flash of fire was seen in the direction of the Pinta, and the dull roar of a cannon was borne down the winds to the vessels astern. It was the signal for land insight, and the flag-

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ship passed forward to join he foremost consort. As her inpatient sailors neared the Pinta they had need to ask for news, for directly before them, not more than a couple of miles away, lay the low and rounded summits of what was clearly sand-hills, while on the beach below a heavy surf was dashing in lines of snowy foam. At the very moment the moon emerged from the clouds, Juan Rodriquez Beruejo, one of the Pinta's seamen, from a little village neat Seville, has seen the first beams fall on the glittering and the frothy breakers, and had hurriedly fired a gun, with excited cries of 'The land! The land!' Had the moon remained hidden but a few moments longer there would have been a shipwreck to report.

"The great mystery of the ocean was revealed; his theory, which had been the scoff of sages, was triumphantly established, and Columbus had thus secured to himself a glory as enduring as the world itself."

Although doubt has rested upon the exact Island of the group on which Columbus first landed, the burden of proof favors Gaunahani (its original Indian name), which its discoverer--mindful, doubtless, of the sorrows through which it had been reached, and the Divine Providence which had so signally led him on--immediately called San Salvador (Holy Saviour). It is now known as Watling Island.

So ends our record of Columbus and his eventful voyage. It if appear lengthy, let the reader remember that the fourth centennial of that great discovery is at hand, and the eyes of the civilized world are turned, as with one accord, to reverence and do honor to his memory.

He stood out like a volcano mountain against the sky from the age in which he flourished, whose darkness favored him; for it cannot be denied that just in proportion as civilization advances does heroship cease to become conspicuous; attracting most brilliant in the deepest gloom, to pale and finally fade out with the coming of the dawn. Hence it was that, in the obscurity of the dark ages, men became planets of the first magnitude who in the brighter skies of our greater enlightenment would attract but passing notice.

Yet another word as to the much-discussed character of Columbus, which, seen through the haze of four centuries and

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the record of pens, offtimes inimical, it is no easy task to estimate justly. Reserving our own and quoting the opinions of others, we may well say, "Who shall decide where so many learned authorities diametrically disagree?" for no less than six hundred authors have written his biography. His discovery, the greatness of which he never realized, brought him more foes than friends; the rich regions he opened to others gave poverty to himself.

Carlyle, little given to extravagant praise, calls him "the royalist sea king of all;" Humboldt, " giant standing on the confines between medieval and modern times, making by his existence one of the greet epochs in the history of the world." Irving tells us that "the magnanimity of his nature shone forth through all the troubles of his stormy career." Bancroft, less flattering, remarks: "As a mariner and discoverer, Columbus had no superior; as a colonist and governor he proved himself a failure." Again we say, "Who shall decide?" This at least they cannot alter; the new World is his everlasting monument and will preserve his fame till time shall cease to be.

It is now our task to hang beside the description of Columbus's achievement as dramatic a picture as we may of the event, most important, though in a secondary degree, considered with relation to the settlement of the Northwest coast--the discovery of the Pacific by Balboa, with the voyage through the strait, which so properly bears his name, of the adventurous Magellan.

 

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