The History of Washington State

The History of Washington
Chapter 7

 

By Holice, Pam, and Deb

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

 

Page 95

CHAPTER VII.

REVIVAL OF SPANISH INTEREST IN NORTHWEST DISCOVERY.

"The blazoned banner of old Spain
Once more assaults the seas,
As on these misty shores again
She gives it to the breeze;
Her greed of gold and lust of dower
Entwining cross and sword,
From England's might and Russia's power
Her Northwest claims would ward."

--Brewerton.

With the missions now established, and growing favorably under the fostering care of the good fathers in California, we have nothing to do, but the renewal of Spanish exploration in the Pacific during the last quarter of the eighteenth century does interest us, coming within and at various points touching the limits of our Northwest coast. The renewal of this maritime energy on the pat of Spain was due to a variety of causes, but its principal object was to strengthen and enforce her claims to that which she already held by right of discovery. Her jealousy of encroachment had already nearly involved her in war with Great Britain, a conflict only averted by the good offices of France, which nation, though declining an offensive alliance with Spain against England, offered her services a mediator, with happy result. Spain, therefore, determines to make her claim to possession on the Northwest coast so strong as to be indisputable by an actual occupancy. To pace the way to this she dispatches the sloop of war, Santiago, from St. Blas, in January, 1774, under Lieutenant Juan Perez. His orders are to sail northward to 60; from there survey the coast southward to Monterey; to land at convenient places and take possession for Spain. In July he makes the land in 54 north (Queen Charlotte's Island), and names the point by adding another saint to our coast calendar--Cape Santa Margarita--the Cape Dixon of to-day. Scurvy, the bane of old-time navigation, attacking his crew, he turns southward, coast the shore, lands,

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and trades with the natives till driven seaward by a storm. He makes land again in August in 48 49', and enters a bay--the present Nootka Sound. Sailing southward, his pilot sees, in 47 47', a snow-called peak. Perez names it the Mountain of Santa Rosalia, but we know it as Mount Olympus. He then determines the true latitude of Cape Mendocino, and returns to Monterey. This voyage is important, as from it the Spanish claim the discovery of the present Strait of Fuca, and the Cape Flattery of Drake--known on their charts of the Strait and Cape Martinez. They, however, failed to publish these discoveries, thereby relegating to others the honors justly doe to Perez. Another expedition follows. The Santiago and Sonora, on June 10th, in latitude 41 10', anchor in a roadstead they name Port Trinidad. Here they take possession and erect a cross, still visible and seen by Vancouver in 1793. They look for the strait laid down on Bellin's charts as lying between 47 and 48, but fail to find it. On July 14th an incident occurs of a most serious nature. While in latitude 47 20' the only boat of the Sonora is sent onshore for water, manned by a crew of seven men; though well armed, are outnumbered by the natives and all murdered. The Sonora herself barely escapes, being surrounded by the savages in their canoes, who make repeated assaults and are beaten off with difficulty. Whether this was a wanton act of hostility, or brought about by some aggression of the boat's crew, will never be known. If the latter, they paid dearly for it. To this place they gave the name--a very pertinent one this time--of Punta de Partires (Point of Martyrs, now Point Grenville), and to the island near, Isle de Dolores (the Island of Sorrows). It is worthy to notice that Captain Berkley, twelve years later, in the Imperial Eagle, met with a similar experience with a boat's crew, and renamed it Destruction Island in consequence. The loss of his men, added to the breaking out of the scurvy and the generally unsea-worthy condition of the Sonora, induced a desire on the part of their commander, Heceta, to return to Monterey; but being over-ruled in a council of his officers, the vessels headed northward again. A storm, however, soon separated the ships, when Heceta, on the Sonora, returned homeward, leaving his consort, the Bodega, to continue the voyage northward. Heceta first makes the land on his return in 49 30'. Between 40 10' and

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46 9' he discovers a great bay, the head of which he could not recognize. From the currents, and eddies setting him seaward he could not enter, but believed it to be the mouth of some great river or passage to another sea." At night the force of the current driving him far from the coast, he is unable to make further examination. He names the northern cape San Roque and the southern cape Frondosa; the bay, Eusenda de la Roque, and the supposed river, Rio de San Roque. He reached Monterey on august 30th with two thirds of his crew disabled by the scurvy.

"Bodega and Maurelle," says Evans, " after parting from Heceta, pushed out to sea, first reaching the land in 56 north. Heading east, they discover a mountain in 57 2', which they name San Jacinto (the Mount Edgecombe of Cook)." Other discoveries and consequent declarations of possession in the name of His Most Catholic Majesty follow. On October 3d a bay is located in 38, on which Bodega bestows his own name. He surveys it and returns to Monterey, and thence to San Blas, after a cruise of eight months. We learn that upon the results of this voyage being known in Madrid, they w ere regarded as of the greatest importance. Orders were dispatched to have the survey of the American coast completed by the same officers.

A new expedition was accordingly sent out, whose results may be summed up, as stated by Fleurien:

"They might have remained at San Blas without knowledge in geography having sustained any loss by their inaction."

Evans tells us that this voyage is notable as the last made for several years by the Spanish from Mexico to the northern coasts of America. War being declared between Spain and Great Britain in 1779 for the time suspended operations.

It is almost a relief to know that it is so. One grows weary of this greed of exploration, this mania for the acquisition of territory which, once seen and taken possession of with fantastic ceremonies, halts at the door and makes no earnest effort to people and redeem. One wearies of bombast and saintly names, and longs, as for a line from home, for something of manly, good old English both in nomenclature and colonization.

 

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