R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

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to induce some of them to enter into conversation with him and to obtain
guides. He learned that the river ran south, its banks were steep, its current
rapid and dangerous and the natives fierce. A few days later he .was able to
get from a native of another party a plan of the river which he supposed to
be the Columbia. This Indian told Mackenzie that there was a well-beaten
path which led to the coast, but that the strangers had passed the opening into
it some days ago. The story of the dangers of the route was repeated, and
at last Mackenzie became convinced that it would be useless, even if it were
practicable to go any further down the river. The place where Mackenzie
came to this resolution was on the Fraser River near the mouth of the
Quesnel. He procured material for a new canoe and again began rowing
against the current. On the ist of July he put his men on short allowance,
and on the 4th, having reached the west road, he hung up his canoe, made a
cache where another portion of their scant provisions was left behind.

As was very natural, the hardships and uncertainties of the journey and
the determination to leave the river and adopt with unreliable guides an un-
known route overland, occasioned great dissatisfaction among Mackenzie's
men. When, however, they saw that their leader's resolution was unalter-
able, and that if they abandoned him he would proceed alone, they determined
to accompany him. On this as other occasions, Mackenzie owed much to his
friend MacKay. The party then set out, each man carrying a heavy burden.
The road seems to have been a well beaten one and several parties of Indians
were met with. At the first of these encampments they noticed in the ears
of one of the children two coins, one English and the other of Massachusetts
Bay, bearing the date of 1787.

On the loth of July the explorers reached an Indian village near which
was a burial place. Here they were kindly treated. A few days later they
met a party of Northern Indians. Here for the first Mackenzie speaks of
the women as taking great pains with their personal appearance. The men,


too, were tall and well dressed. The eyes of these people were gray, with a
tinge of red, and their complexion fairer than that of any natives he had seen.

Soon after this the explorers reached a mountainous region. Having
climbed over a ridge they arrived at a place where there is a confluence of
two rivers crossed by one to the left. Here the weary, half-starved travelers
were hospitably entertained at a large village inhabited by a tribe of fisher-
men, whose skill in taking and curing salmon excited their admiration. They
procured a canoe at this place and proceeded down the river now known as
the Bella Coola. They next stopped at a village where the women were
employed in manufacturing cloth from the inner bark of the cedar tree. Here
also they were kindly treated. As they neared the sea the natives seemed
to be less prosperous. On the 20th of June Mackenzie reached the mouth of
the Bella Coola, which empties not intO' the open ocean, but into one of the
numerous channels which pierce the coast of British Columbia. Not satisfied
with meeting the water, Mackenzie proceeded down Labouchere Channel
towards the sea. Here for the first time the explorers were in great peril of
destruction from a band of hostile natives. The most troublesome of them
declared he had been ill-treated by white men whom he called Macubah and
Bensins. When Mackenzie afterwards learned that Vancouver had explored
Burke Channel that season, he interpreted these names as Vancouver and
Johnstone. The party was forced to take refuge for the night on a rocky
island and in the morning Mackenzie painted in melted grease and vermilion
on the face of the rock the words :

" Alexander Mackenzie, From Canada by Land, The Twenty Second of
July, One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Ninety Three."

The place where Mackenzie's journey ended was in latitude 52° 20' 48"
N. A few hours afterwards the great explorer had good reason to fear that
this brief record of his journey would be the only one made, for they again
encountered the savages in greatly increased numbers, and the little band of
almost expended travelers seemed doomed to destruction. Mackenzie, how-


ever, was able not only to repulse them, but to force them to restore some
articles they had carried off the previous day. He lived to return to his
native land, and to receive from the King of England the honor of Knight-
hood, an honor seldom won, even in the brave days of old, by a more gallant
or a more blameless knight.

LEv^^Is AND Clark Expedition.

When in 1803 Louisiana was purchased from France by the United
States, the government determined to explore the new territory. President
Jefferson accordingly planned an expedition for discovering the courses and
sources of the Missouri, and the most convenient waterways to the Pacific
Ocean. The leaders of the exploring party, which was splendidly equipped,
were the president's secretary, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Both
were captains in the United States army. Besides the captains there were
forty-three persons. They set out in three boats heavily laden with stores,
and materials for presents for the Indians. The party wintered at Wood
River and on May 14, 1804, set out on their voyage up the Missouri. On the
25th of the same month they passed the last white settlement on the river, a
French village called La Charette. When they reached the mouth of the
Osage River at the beginning of June, the Indians there refused to believe
that Spain had parted with Louisiana. The explorers were, however, able
to show the Indians that the government of the United States had really suc-
ceeded to the power of Spain. On the 12th of June a party of Sioux came
down the river, and the explorers were fortunate enough to obtain as guide
and interpreter a man named Durion, who had lived for twenty years among
those formidable savages.

In the Autumn Lewis and Qark arrived at the Mandan country, where
they resolved to winter. These Indians, the most civilized of the North
American - tribes, had long been friendly to the white men, and during their
stay among them the explorers found them intelligent and friendly. Sev-


eral of the leading- men of the Northwest Company visited this place during
the autumn and winter. Among them were McCracken, McKenzie. and
Leroche. The last named trader offered to join the expedition, but his serv-
ices were declined.

At the beginning of April the expedition divided. Sixteen men were
sent back to make a report to the government of what had been done, and
thirty-two proceeded up the river. In the latter party was an Indian woman,
the wife of Carbonneau, an interpreter. Her name was Sacajawea, or the
Birdwoman. She had been captured from the Shoshones, a tribe living
among the Rocky Mountains, and who proved a useful member of the party.
On Sunday, May 26, Captain Lewis obtained his first view of the Rocky
Mountains. Thus far the course of the explorers, though sometimes toilsome,
had been neither dangerous nor uncertain. However, they found that one
branch of the river tended north, while the other ran in a southerly direction.
They could not ascertain which was the main river, and Captain Lewis went
north into Maria's River to explore. When he became convinced that no
river rising near the source of this stream could reach the western ocean he
returned. At the junction of the rivers, in latitude 47° 25' 17.2" the ex-
plorers lightened their load by leaving behind everything that they could

On the 1 2th of June they reached the falls of the Missouri. Here expe-
ditions set out in different directions to seek for the best route. There was
no want of adventure in this region. Bears were frequently met with and
buffalo hunting praved dangerous sport. Waterfalls and precipices made
travel either by boat or by foot hazardous. On the 29th of June Captain
Lewis, Sacajawea with her child and husband were almost carried down the
river by a cloud burst. After about a month's careful exploring- the junction
of three streams was reached. These were called the Jefferson, Madison and
Gallatin, Following the longest, the Jefferson, the party on the 12th of
August reached the headwaters of the Missouri. Lewis writes of this dis-


covery, " At the distance of four miles further the road took us to the most
distant fountain of water, the mighty Missouri, in search of which we have
spent so many toilsome days and restless nights. Thus far I had accomplished
one of those great objects on which my mind had been unalterably fixed for
many years; judge then of the pleasure I felt in allaying my thirst with this
pure, ice-cold water which issues from the base of a low mountain or hill of
a gentle ascent for half a mile. The mountains are high on either hand, but
leave this gap at the head of this rivulet through which the road passes. Here
I halted a few minutes and rested myself. Two miles below, McNeal had
exultingly stood with one foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked
his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and hitherto deemed endless

They climbed a mountain ridge and, looking around them, saw the snow-
covered mountains which now form the boundary line between Montana and
Idaho. " They followed a descent much steeper than that on the eastern side,
and at a distance of the three-quarters of a mile reached a handsome, bold creek
of cold, clear water, running to the westward. They stopped to taste for the
first time the waters of the Columbia, and after a few minutes followed the
road across steep hills and low hollows till they reached a spring on the side
of a mountain."

The first part of the commission of the explorers had now been accom-
plished, but the most difficult task was still before them. As they searched
for some path by which they could reach the navigable part of the river they
met a band of Shoshone Indians. Among them Sacajawea recognized a
dear friend who had been a fellow prisoner, and who greeted her very affec-
tionately. The chief of the tribe proved to be her brother. Lewis and Clark
smoked the pipe of peace with these Indians and gave the chiefs medals bear-
ing the image of Washington. To the people many presents were given.
The Shoshone Indians have a curious custom of removing their shoes before
beginning their council, and they insisted upon the white men following their


example. Food was given the travelers, and to their surprise and delight one
of the dishes was a fresh salmon. They received this as evidence that they
could not be far from a river by which they could reach the ocean. They
were able to procure horses with which they were to proceed on their journey.
On August 1 8 Captain Lewis kept his thirty-first birthday. On this oc-
casion he tells us he was resolved " to live in future for mankind as I have
formerly lived for myself," a resolution which one would think it was not
necessary for a young man to make who had spent " toilsome days and rest-
less nights " in order to bring an unknown region to the knowledge of civ-
ilized man. On the 21st of August Captain Clark discovered salmon weirs
on the bank of a river and named the stream after his brother explorer, the
Lewis River. The country was terribly rough and there was no game to be
seen. The Indians whom they met used sunflower seeds and the roots of a
plant called " yamp " to eke out their slender store of food. Towards the end
of August the Shoshone Indians who had accompanied them on their journey
wished to leave them and join the hunting parties that were going to the
plains to hunt buffalo on the banks of the Missouri. Captain Lewis was,
however, able to persuade them to remain with him some time longer. The
difficulty of getting enough horses for so large a party retarded their progress.
At the beginning of September the explorers fell in with a party of Indians
called Citashoots, who spoke a language quite different from any he had yet
heard. It was full of strange guttural sounds, which Lewis compares to the
clucking of a hen. The Indians were well mounted, but had very little food.
As the season advanced a fall of snow added to the difficulties of their route
and increased the scarcity of game. On the i6th of September they were
reduced to the necessity of killing one of their colts for food, and they gave
the place the name of Hungry Creek.

The river had become broader and they determined to make canoes in
which to descend to the mouth of the Columbia. They had met a party of
the Perce-nez, or, as Lewis calls them, the Pierced Nose Indians. Their


chief, who was styled Twisted-Hair, drew a plan of the river below on a
piece of white elk-skin. From these people the half-famished party were able
to procure supplies of kamas root, buffalo and dried salmon. The unaccus-
tomed plenty made many of the men very ill, but by the 5th of October the
canoes were finished and they were able to proceed. On the tenth day they
were told by an Indian whom they met that he had seen white men at the falls
of the Columbia. They reached the Snake River, but were forced to buy
from Chopunnish or Pierced Nose Indians some of their dogs for food. The
men of these people are described as stout, portly, well-looking men. The
women are small, good-looking features, generally handsome, and their dress
more modest than any hitherto observed. They spend their summers in fish-
ing and collecting roots, the autumn in hunting roots and the spring in trad-
ing for buffalo with the Indians of the plains. Unlike the hospitable Sho-
shones, they were selfish and avaricious. As they proceeded they met other
Indians who' used vapour baths, which Lewis describes, and on the 17th of
October the explorers arrived at the confluence of the Snake or Lewis River
with the Columbia. Here they met a band of Sokulk Indians, the first of
the natives who followed the curious custom of flattening their heads. These
people were very unprepossessing in appearance and in habits. They made
their houses of mats and rushes. The men were more industrious than is
usual among these savages, and great respect was paid to old age. On the
19th of October Lewis discerned Mount St. Helens and recognized it by
Vancouver's description. About this time the travelers observed a great
burial vault sixty feet long by twelve feet wide. The bodies of those who
had recently died were carefully wrapped in robes of skin, but the place con-
tained heaps of bones of people who had died long ago. The remains of ani-
mals and various domestic utensils which had been left for the use of the
departed spirits were scattered about. On the 22nd of October the expedi-
tion reached the mouth of the Deschutes River. The population of the banks
of the Columbia River must at the beginning of the nineteenth century have


been quite numerous, for few days passed without meeting" parties of natives
or passing their villages. At one of the latter Lewis took note of the Indian
method of curing" salmon. The fish were dried on scaffolds, then pounded
and placed in baskets made of grass and rushes. Tliese receptacles were two
feet long- by one in diameter. They were lined with salmon skin and pounded
fish pressed so closely together that the contents of each weighed from ninety
to one hundred pounds. Preserved in this way, the salmon remained fresh
for years. It was an article of commerce as well as a provision against future
want, and the Indians were very chary of parting with it. Ever since reach-
ing the source of the Columbia game had been growing scarcer, but as the
explorers neared the falls of the Columbia, in latitude 45° 42' 57" the country
became more fertile and gfame more plentiful. Here the Indians built their
houses of wood. Lewis was able to perform the office of peacemaker near
the falls between a tribe of Indians called the Escheloots and the tribes above,
with whom they had been at enmity. This was done through some of the
chiefs of the Upper Columbia tribes who had accompanied the expedition
thus far. Towards the end of October large numbers of sea otter were ob-
served, though not many of them were killed. Mount Hood was recognized
by Captain Lewis and it continued in sight for many days. The Indians
below the falls spoke a fully different language from those above. A party
met with on the 28th of October displayed a musket, cutlasses, several brass
kettles and other articles obtained from the traders. Their chief showed with
great pride a medicine bag filled with fingers of his enemies. Shortly after
passing the Klikitat River an island was seen which contained an ancient
burial-place. This was called by the natives " The Land of the Dead." On
the first of November the traveler avoided a long rapid and shoot by making
a portage, and soon after reached the tide water in latitude 45° 45' 45".
Three days later an Indian village containing two hundred people of Skilkoot
nation was reached. The houses were built of bark and thatched with straw.
The natives were impudent and dishonest. They had had much intercourse


with the white traders. One of the canoes met with in this vicinity bore on
its prow a full-sized image of a white man and a bear. On the 6th of No-
vember it was observed that the Coast Mountains crossed the river. Near
the mouth of the Cowlitz some canoe loads of Indians were met. Their leader
could speak a few words of English, and informed the explorers that he had
traded with a Mr. Haley. The next village was formed of houses built en-
tirely above ground and belonged to a tribe calling themselves Wakkiacum.
The dress of the women is thus described : " They wore a robe not reaching
lower than the hip, added to this was a sort of petticoat or rather tissue of
white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small strands and woven into a
girdle by several cords of the same material."

On the 7th of November the billows of the Pacific were seen, and for
more than a week the boats endeavored, in spite of rain and wind, to reach
the shore of the ocean. This they accomplished on the i8th of November,
when they passed Cape Disappointment. Before this they had met two chiefs
of the Chinook nation, Concommoly and Chillahlawil. Having made their
way across the mouth of the river, they made acquaintance with the Chilts
and Clatsops. Clark printed in beautiful characters on a tree the following
inscription: "William Clark. Dec. 3rd, 1805. By land from the United
States in 1804 and 1805."

Here Lewis and Clark resolved to winter, and proceeded to build Fort
Clatsop, which was finished on the 30th of December. The Indians, who
had become familiar and intrusive, were now warned that the gates of the
stockade would be closed at dark, and that from that time till morning the
white men wished to be alone. Here we will take our leave of the explorers,
who spent the third winter of their voluntary exile on the shores of the Pacific
they had striven so hard to reach.

This imperfect sketch gives but little idea of the toils and privations of
the noble band of brave men who first explored the grand rivers which water
so large a part of the territory of the United States. Still less does it do


justice to their careful observation and diligent research. When the journals
of Lewis and Clark were made public the reader learned the quality of the
soil, the nature of the vegetation, the various kinds of wild animals and the
characteristics of the many tribes of natives to be met with between the con-
fines of civilization and the Pacific Ocean. By the aid of the maps and the
descriptions of the explorers, the traveler could identify every bend in the
river and ascertain the position of every island and mountain range along
the route followed by them.




The Oregon Question.

Very soon after the return of Lewis and Clark a merchant whose name
is still a synonym for boundless wealth formed the Pacific Coast Fur Com-
pany to establish the fur trade on the Pacific Coast. John Jacob Astor was
a German by birth, who had made his home in New York and had prospered
greatly. He had for many years been engaged in commerce on the Pacific
Coast and with China, and in trade with the Indians in the center of the
American continent. He now determined to obtain control of the whole fur
trade of the unsettled parts of the United States and of the Russian establish-
ment in North America. He intended to establish trading posts on the
Missouri, the Columbia and the coasts contiguous to that river. By export-
ing the furs gathered in America to China and exchanging them for the
products of the east, he hoped to extend the commerce of the Pacific Fur
Company around the world. Astor tried to avoid the danger of the competi-
tion of the Northwest Company by inviting it to share his enterprise, an offer
which that powerful and energetic body declined. He was, however, able to
enlist several individual members of the company as partners and to engage a
number of its old employes. A ship was sent out tO' view the coast and agents
were sent to St. Petersburg to conclude an arrangement with the Russian
Fur Company by which that body would sell its fur to the Astor Fur Com-
pany and obtain supplies of food and merchandise at the station to be estab-
lished at the mouth of the Columbia. These preliminaries concluded, an
expedition was sent out in 1810 on board the good ship Tonquin, Captain


Thorn master, to build the fort and establish the fnr trade. It called at the
Hawaiian Islands for fresh supplies, and on the T2th of April, t8ii, beg-an to
build a fort at Point Georg-e, on the south side of the Columbia, about twelve
miles from its mouth. The fort was called after the founder of the enter-
prise. Astoria. As soon as the work was well under way Captain Thorn
departed on the Tonquin on a trading cruise to the west coast of Vancouver
Island. Neither the ship nor captain ever returned. The captain and most
of the crew were massacred by the Indians in return for an insult which
Thorn had put upon one of the chiefs. The ship itself was blown up, whether
by accident or desigji could never be learned. The survivor of the crew of
the Tonquin was an interpreter, who surrendered himself as a slave to the
women who accompanied in their canoes the infuriated savages. On the
T5th of July, before the fort was completed, a boat came down the Columbia
bearing a party of the Northwest Company's men whose leader, David
Thompson, had been for years exploring the region in which the northern
waters of the Columbia had their source, and who had hoped to be the first
to reach the Pacific and build a trading post at the mouth of the river of which
he believed himself to be the discoverer, and had hoped to be the first to ex-
plore. McDougall, the commander of the Fort Astoria, treated his visitor
with the greatest courtesy, and after a few days Thompson departed for
Montreal accompanied by Stuart, who was in charge of an expedition to build
a trading post in the interior. The place chosen by Stuart for the fort was
on Okanagan River; the Northwest Company had already reached the Spo-
kane. A few months later Qarke, of the Pacific Fur Company, planted an-
other establishment on the latter river. On the i8th of January, 1812, an
overland expedition in charge of Hunt, chief manager of the Pacific Fur
Company, arrived at Astoria after having suffered many hardships and losses.
When Astor heard of the loss of the Tonquin he sent a ship, namely,
the Beaver, to Astoria with supplies and merchandise to trade with the Rus-
sians for furs. In August Hunt proceeded up the coast in the Beaver to


conclude some arrangements begun in St. Petersburg some time before by
which the Pacific Coast Fur Company would buy all the furs of the Russia
Company and supply them with all necessaries for their trade with the na-
tives. Having satisfactorily fulfilled his mission Hunt sailed for the Sand-
wich Islands, but it was six months before he could find a vessel to bring him'
to Astoria. During his absence the Northwest Company had established
many trading ports on the Upper Columbia and its branches. The war of
1812 had broken out and the partners of the Pacific Fur Company having
no ship and small means of defense were becoming anxious for the safety of

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 5 of 79)