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ADVENTURERS OF OREGON



ABRAHAM LINCOLN EDITION

VOLUME M

THE CHRONICLES

OF AMERICA SERIES

ALLEN JOHNSON

EDITOR

GERHARD R. LOMER

CHARLES W. JEFFERYS

ASSISTANT EDITORS



ADVENTURERS OF
OREGO



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JO// A* McLOUGHLIN

Daguerreotype in the Library of Leland Stanford, Jr., Uni
versity. Reproduced by courtesy of Mr. G. T. Clark, Librarian
The picture came to the Library as a gift from Mrs. Mary Shel
don Barnes, formerly a member of the faculty. On the back of
the daguerreotype is a letter authenticating the portrait:

" I send you . . .the daguerreotype of brave old Governor
McLoughlin . . . presented by him to John Quinn Thornton,
the first Supreme -Midge of Oregon, and given by him to me be
fore his death. . . .

Yours truly,

" S. A. CLARK."



.L&Ml
h

ADVENTURERS OF
OREGON

A CHRONICLE

OF THE FUR TRADE

BY CONSTANCE L. SKINNER




NEW HAVEN: YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS

TORONTO: GLASGOW. BROOK & CO.

LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

1920



Copyright, 1920, by Yale University Press



CONTENTS

I. THE RIVER OF THE WEST Page 1

II. LEWIS AND CLARK " 27

III. THE REIGN OF THE TRAPPER " 74

IV. THE TONQUIN " 113
V. ASTOR S OVERLANDERS " 144

VI. ASTORIA UNDER THE NOR WESTERS " 185

VII. THE KING OF OLD OREGON " 211

VIII. THE FALL OF THE FUR KINGDOM " 240

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE " 273

INDEX " 277



VII



ILLUSTRATIONS

JOHN McLOUGHLIN

Daguerreotype in the Library of Leland Stan
ford, Jr., University. Reproduced by cour
tesy of Mr. G. T. Clark, Librarian. The
picture came to the Library as a gift from
Mrs. Mary Sheldon Barnes, formerly a
member of the faculty. On the back of the
daguerreotype is a letter authenticating the
portrait:

"I send you . . . the daguerreotype of
brave old Governor McLoughlin . . . pre
sented by him to John Quinn Thornton,
the first Supreme Judge of Oregon, and
given by him to me before his death. . . .
"Yours truly

"S. A. CLARK." Frontispiece

MERIWETHER LEWIS AT THE TIME
WHEN HE WAS SECRETARY TO PRESI
DENT JEFFERSON

Engraving by St. Memin, in the Corcoran

Gallery of Art, Washington. Facing page 34

DANCE OF THE MANDAN INDIANS

Engraving after a drawing by Charles Bod-
mer in Travels in the Interior of North Amer
ica in 1832-3-4 by Maximilian, Prince of
Wied Neu-Wied. Copy in the New York
Public Library. " " 46

ix



x ILLUSTRATIONS

THE OREGON COUNTRY AND ITS AP
PROACHES, 1774-1859

Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographi
cal Society. Facing page 56

WILLIAM CLARK

Painting by Charles Willson Peale in Inde
pendence Hall, Philadelphia. " " 72

JOHN JACOB ASTOR

Engraving in the Print Department of the

New York Public Library. " " 114.

ASTORIA IN 1813

Wood engraving in Voyage to the Northwest
Coast of America in 1811-lh by Gabriel
Franchere. " " iJ^Q

ON THE WAY TO OREGON: AN INDIAN
ALARM

Engraving by A. L. Dick, after a drawing by
E. Didier in Commerce of the Prairies, by
Joshua Gregg, 1845. " " IQQ



ADVENTURERS OF OREGON



CHAPTER I

THE RIVER OF THE WEST

HISTORIC Oregon emerges from myth. Over the
region of those "continuous woods" which shroud
ed the true River of the West, the romancings of
ancient mariners had spread the mirage of a great
inland waterway called the Strait of Anian. This
waterway threaded the continent from sea to sea,
among wondrous isles gorgeous with palaces, and
linked Europe to Asia. Into the Strait of Anian,
so the legend ran and gathered magic as it ran
flowed a mighty river, the River of the West.
This river had its source in the Mountains of Bright
Stones, in the heart of the continent, and its broad
equable tide was well adapted to bear fleets of treas
ure ships into the strait that made so convenient
a short cut between Spain and the sublime East.



S OF OREGON

The first Adventurers of Oregon were therefore
certain Latin and Levantine seamen, who, for the
glory of some king, said that they had bravely
sailed and even meticulously charted these strange
waters of their own fancy! Truly, in their tales,
as Bancroft says, "maritime lying reaches the
climax and borders on the heroic." There was
no Strait of Anian such as they described. x Yet
where the imagination of these romancers coursed
among fabulous isles, one lucky American seaman,
after three centuries of naval fantasy, discovered the
Columbia River flowing scarf -like over the shoulder
blade of the continent. And it was chiefly by vir
tue of that discovery that the wilderness empire of
Oregon found its destiny within the United States
of America.

But we may not leave the myth of the direct pas
sage to Asia with merely a passing reference; it has
had too potent an influence upon history for such
casual treatment. It dates back to Columbus, of
course. Columbus discovered America; but he



1 The documents relating to these early myths are printed in
the first volume of Bancroft s History of the Northwest Coast. The
name of one of the romancers is perpetuated in the name of the
strait discovered in 1787 by Barkley, an English trader, and
named by him in honor of Juan de Fuca, a Greek pilot, whose
gallant ship was said to have breasted Anian s waters in 1592.



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 3

did not discover that pathway to the Orient which
he was seeking, nor that the round world was much
larger and Asia much smaller than he had calcu
lated them to be. He died believing that some
where not far behind the new lands he had found
lay the Asiatic coast, and that somewhere to the
south, he thought opened a direct sea passage
whereby the galleons of Spain might the swifter
reach and bear homeward "the wealth of Ormus
and of Ind."

The mystery of the short route to Asia concerned
Spain very particularly. Spain was the leading
maritime nation of the world, with Portugal a
close second; but now that all Europe was agog for
discovery, how long would it be before other na
tions France, or perhaps even England should
challenge her rights? How should Spain guard
against the encroachments of other nations with
oversea ambitions? In some such manner rea
soned, with disquiet minds, their Spanish majesties
who had financed Christopher s voyages. They
appealed to the Pope to define the boundaries of
Spanish possession. So Alexander VI, generous
and of helpful intent, drew a line through the
Atlantic from pole to pole, and gave all that lay
west of the line to Spain and all that lay east of it to



4 ADVENTURERS OF OREGON

Portugal. Surely not even the lore of Olympus,
where high gods made merry with a world of
little men, offers a scene so rich and quaint as
that which we may conjure up from the story
of Pope Alexander dividing the world between
his children, as if it were but a rosy apple. Their
Spanish majesties feared, indeed, even after such
fair apportionment, that it might yet prove to be
an apple of discord. They resolved therefore to
have the western passage discovered without
delay, secretly if possible, and fortified at both
entrances.

Thus began the great search which inspired most
of the explorers in the New World during three
centuries. The Cabots, Balboa, Magellan, Cortes,
Cartier, De Soto, Drake, Hudson, La Salle, were
adventurers who set out to make a reality of the
great discoverer s dream. Not all of them were
Spaniards; and thereby was it proved that Spain
had not groundlessly doubted whether the Pope s
award would long satisfy those nations which had
received no portion of it!

The first mariner actually to sail north of the
southern boundary of the present State of Oregon
is supposed to have been the Spanish seaman after
whom Cape Ferrelo is named. JEgrEelo. set out in



THE RIVER OP THE WEST 5

1543 from Panama. where the Spaniards had plant
ed their first colony on the Pacific. He appears,
however, to have left no record of having landed.
Perhaps the northern waters, in his estimation,
promised little; at any rate his voyage led to no
further northward explorations at that time. The
Spanish interests of that day lay in the south; and
it was indeed a golden south, where Spanish sea
men loaded their ships with wealth wrung from the
enslaved and terrorized natives and then sailed
homeward to spread the hoard at the King s feet.

It was the loss of some of these treasure ships, or
rather of their contents, in 1579 a loss occa
sioned by the unwelcome activities of a certain
from England that once again



turned Spanish sails northward in a search for
the hidden passage. Not only had Drake swooped
down as a conqueror upon waters and shores be
longing exclusively to Spain, not only had he es
caped to England with loot from Spanish vessels,
but he had discovered the desired passage and
had sailed through it so the Spaniards believed.
Drake, of course, had not discovered the passage,
though he had gone northward for that purpose,
desiring some other homeward route than the one
frequented by Spanish ships. He had, however,



6 ADVENTURERS OF OREGON

anchored in Oregon waters and had taken posses
sion, for his Queen, of the long rolling coast to the
south, naming it NesLAlhion-~ prophetically nam
ing it so, for although Spain was to be overlord of
this coast for centuries, it was to pass finally into
the hands of a people speaking their law in the
English tongue.

The fearsome tales told thereafter of the red-
bearded English corsair miraculously steering his
treasure-crammed ship, the Golden Hind the
very name sounded supernatural into the mys
terious passage, inspired Spanish seamen to seek
that passage anew; for by what way the terrible
Drake, "laughing athwart the decks," had gone
he might even again return.

But if Drake thus, in a legendary role, inspired
the mariners of Spain to new search for the hidden
passage, he presently, in his proper person, put a
curb on Spain s activities and humbled her pride
upon the sea. And for two .hundred years after
those ten days in July, 1588, when Drake scattered
the blazoned sails of the Armada upon the rocks
and tide-rips of the North Sea, Spain had little
heart for maritime exploration in any quarter of
the globe. Had it not been for that achievement
of Elizabeth s seamen far from Pacific shores, who



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 7

knows what might have happened on the west
coast of America north of Mexico? Or on the
east coast? With Spain mistress of the seas, could
Englishmen have obtained a foothold on either
coast to drive a continental wedge between the
Spanish on the south and the French on the north?
The defeat of the Armada, remote as it seems, in
fact decided that the laws and language of England
should prevail in America.

Two centuries passed. Once again Spanish sea
men of the south turned north to seek the western
gate of that hidden passage. It was shortly after
the accession of Carlos III to the Spanish throne,
in 1759, that Spain s ambition for world power,
which had been somnolent since the disaster of
the Armada, awoke once more. Drake s country
men meanwhile had settled along the Atlantic
seaboard, which coast also Spain held to be hers
de jure, if not de facto. Thus had the English
spread already to the New World their religious
heresy and their peculiar ideas of government. In
the very year when Carlos ascended the throne,
they had broken the blade of France on the heights
of Quebec; and in one year more they had practi
cally swept from the northeastern parts of America
that autocratic system of government and those



8 ADVENTURERS OF OREGON

social ideals which were the fundaments of Spanish
power, no less than of French.

When Carlos of Spain was ready to give his
attention to the northern half of the New World,
the English colonists either ignorant of or in
different to the Spanish decree that, whatever
truce Spain might hold with England in Europe,
there should be "no peace beyond the line"
were already beginning their thrust westward
towards the heart of the continent. Moreover,
Spain s domination of the Pacific coast was seri
ously threatened by another power from the north*
"Rjiggjftn fur frurii-prg had overrun Siberia to the
shore of the Pacific, where they had established
headquarters at Kamchatka. In 1741 Vitus Ber
ing, a Dane sailing for the Russian Czar, had dis
covered the Aleutian Isles and the strait that bears
his name. And now the Russians were masters of
Alaska, reaping enormous wealth from their yearly
harvest of sea otter and seal. Now, therefore, more
than ever was it vital to Spain that the hidden chan
nel should be discovered, its banks fortified, and its
waters closed forever to all but Spanish keels.

So, in 1774, the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico dis
patched Juan Perez to make a thorough explora
tion of the Northwest Coast. The time seemed



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 9

auspicious for New Spain. True, the English had
swept away the French and in this very year were
battling with the Indians beyond the Appalachians
for the rich territory of the Ohio; and far to the
north the {riders f t.hft Hudson s Bay Company^
wjgrg, pushing wpst.wfl.rH. But the storm of revo
lution was gathering in the American colonies. If
the winds but continued to blow advantageously
for Spanish statecraft, the passing of that storm
should see Spain arbiter of the whole New World.
The acquirement of Louisiana from France, in 1763,
signified Spanish intent to press in from the south
and west upon the English colonies. And, to fore
stall Russia, the interloper in Alaska, the whole of
the Northwest Coast must be explored and formally
annexed to New Spain.

From gr\]nn TTppptfl, who followed Perez s route
and made a landing in 1775 at the present_EoinL
Grenville to establish Spanish claims, comes the
first mention that is not legendary of the River of
the West. Heceta did not discover a river, but he
noted in his journal that, when anchored near the
forty-sixth parallel, his observations of the cur
rents had convinced him "that a great quantity of
water rushed from this bay on the ebb of the tide."
Illness among his crew as well as other mishaps



10 ADVENTURERS OF OREGON

prevented Heceta from entering to explore the bay
where the River of the West still unseen of white
men emptied its foaming and roaring waters.

By 1776 the Northwest Coast had been thor-
oughly explored, so Spanish mariners reported, as
far north at least as Jiitka, although neither the
Strait of Anian nor the River of the West had been
discovered. Spain, however, made no move to
occupy the land, as there seemed no immediate
danger from Russia, and the American Revolution,
as Spanish and French statesmen saw it, was ulti
mately to bring the revolting colonists into the fold
of their Latin allies. In pursuance of the usual
Spanish policy of secretiveness, Spain did not pub
lish any account of the explorations of her seamen.
But in 1778 a Yankee named^Ionathan Carver
published in London a book purporting to be a
record of his travels across the American continent,
in which he related as fact what Indians had told
him of the great (jliver of the West rising among
the Mountains of Bright Stones and flowing into
the Strait of Anian. ) The name of this great river,
said Carver, was the Oregon; and a map proved
the tale. This book contained some truth, for ap
parently Carver did penetrate beyond the Missis
sippi, but it contained also not a little myth and



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 11

a great deal of padding from untrustworthy sources.
Today the one important bit in the book is the grand
4iaj3ie "Oregon/ Is it an Indian \yord. or a word
of Spanish dprjvfltirm. or Hid Carver invent it p No
one knows. It seems not to have been used again
until 1811 when Welfare C^iJIfn T^ya.nt. r^r^v^d
it and immortalized it in Thanatopsis:

. . . Take the wings

Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound
Save his own dashings. . . .

Two years before the appearance of Carver s
book, that is, in 1776, when England and her
American colonies were locked in bitter strife, the
British Admiralty had sent Captain fiook to ex
plore the Northwest Coast of America. One of the
aims of this expedition, of course, was the discovery
of -the- passage; for the officers and crew of any
ship of His Majesty s discovering that passage
would receive twenty thousand pounds sterling,
an award offered by Parliament in 1745 and still
standing. Cook anchored off



Island, on March 29, 1778, and then sailed north
until forced by ice to turn back. He wrote in his
journal: " Whatever passage there may be, or at



12 ADVENTURERS OF OREGON

least part of it, must lie to the north of latitude
72, " which was indeed so. The only actual pas
sage was the impracticable northern strait already
discovered by Bering. Cook then crossed to the
Asiatic coast and thence to theSahdwichJslands,
where he was killed by natives. His voyage to
the Northwest Coast had results. It was made the
basis of England s claims in the quarrel with Spain
about Nootka ten years later. More important,
however, was the introduction of Englishmen to
the ^sea-otter traje. A few sea-otter skins had
been presented by the natives at Nootka to Cook
and his men; and when Cook s ship arrived at
Canton, after the tragedy at the Sandwich Islands,
these furs were bid for by Chinese tradesmen at
what seemed to. the English seamen fabulous sums.
Trade! Furs convertible into gold! Here was
the potent influence to bring out of the realm of
myth the land "where rolls the Oregon." Since
the days when Elizabeth had answered Philip of
Spain out of the mouths of Drake s guns, England
had consistently refused to concur in Spain s doc
trine that the Pacific was a closed sea. So when
the news of furs on the Pacific coast of America
was bruited about English ports, English mer
chants lost no time in preparing expeditions for



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 13

trade with the natives of that far country. As for
the direct passage, let the explorers look for it; as
to the Spanish fiat, let the diplomats wrangle about
it. Honest merchants were neither to be lured by
an invisible channel nor barred by an intangible
principle from new paths of trade. Presently
four separate fur trading expeditions one from
China, two from India, and one from TfoigJflnfl
ploughed Pacific waters.

One of these, sailing from Bengal, was com
manded by.JnliTi 1iffta.res r Ja.t.ft of the British navy.
Though Meares made Nootka his headquarters,
he, too, like Cook, had some influence on Oregon.
He was an enterprising soul and a brisk trader,
hardly more scrupulous tftan other men of his class
at that time. Since he was obliged to sail along a
so-called Spanish coast, he hoisted the Portuguese
flag when convenient, and perhaps left it flying
at the Felice s masthead while he went ashore at
Nootka and purchased the place with bound
aries unspecified from Chief Maquinnajor some
copper and a pair of pistols, and denoted it not
Portuguese but British soil. He erected buildings
of a primitive sort and "occupied." He shipped
some Chinese workmen from their native land,
gathered up Kanaka wives for them at Hawaii



14 ADVENTURERS OP OREGON

possibly with the idea that the less conversation
between married folk the more harmony and
proceeded to colonize Nootka. He was well re
ceived by the Indians. His description of the wel
come given him is worthy of reproduction, for
the sake of the picture it gives us of the chiefs
Maquinna (or Maquilla) and Callicum and their
warriors, a scene the like of which can never recur.
Meares wrote in his journal, on May 16, 1788:

They moved with great parade about the ship, singing
at the same time a song of a pleasing though sonorous
melody: there were twelve of these canoes, each of
which contained about eighteen men, the greater part
of whom were cloathed in dresses of the most beautiful
skins of the sea otter, which covered them from their
neck to their ancles. Their hair was powdered with
the white down of birds, and their faces bedaubed with
red and black ochre, in the form of a shark s jaw, and
a kind of spiral line which rendered their appearance
extremely savage. In most of these boats there were
eight rowers on a side. . . . The Chief occupied a
place in the middle, and was also distinguished by an
high cap, pointed at the crown, and ornamented at the
top with a small tuft of feathers. We listened to their
song with an equal degree of surprise and pleasure. It
was, indeed, impossible for any ear susceptible of de
light from musical sounds, or any mind that was not
insensible to the power of melody, to remain unmoved
by this solemn, unexpected concert. . . . Sometimes



THE RIVER OP THE WEST 15

they would make a sudden transition from the high to
the low tones, with such melancholy turns in their vari
ations, that we could not reconcile to ourselves the
manner in which they acquired or contrived this more
than untaught melody of nature. . . . Everyone
beat time with undeviating regularity, against the
gunwale of the boat, with their paddles; and at the
end of every verse or stanza, they pointed with ex
tended arms to the North and the South, gradually
sinking their voices in such a solemn manner as to
produce an effect not often attained by the orchestras
in our quarter of the globe.

After the concert, the chiefs, brought aboard the
Felice a skin bottle of seal oil, in which exhilarat
ing beverage Meares and his guests pledged their
eternal friendship.

Having thus established amicable relations with

the Indians, Meares set about erecting buildings

and a fort, and he also built a little ship, the North-

West America, the first vessel to be constructed on

I the Northwest Coast. He explored southward in

| search of JBruno^ecetaJs .river, or the River of the

| West. He did not find it, though he crossed the

^ bar and stood near enough to its mouth to name

the spit of land hiding it Cape Disappointment.

and the harbor beyond, Deception Ba^.

His colony soon came to grief. The year 1789
saw two other expeditions in these waters. One



16 ADVENTURERS OP OREGON

hailed from the Spanish port of Syi
lea, and the other from -Boston. The Viceroy of
Mexico had bethought him that it was now three
years since he had sent up the coast a sea scout
to report what the Russians were doing. Spain
had graciously permitted the Russians to occupy
Alaska, but with the distinct proviso that their
ramshackle trading craft were not to nose south
ward. It was high time to ascertain if this under
standing were perfect on both sides. The Viceroy
therefore sent north Don Estevan Martinez, cap
tain of the Princessa, which was no trading vessel
but an imposing ship of war bristling with guns.
Martinez made some startling discoveries. He
learned that the Russians were about to push
down to Nootka; he found at Nootka the Meares
colony; he found also riding at anchor in Nootka
Sound, besides an English vessel, the Iphigenia,
two other vessels flying the Stars and Stripes,
the Columbia, Captain John Kendrick, and the
Lady Washington, Captain Robert Gray, both
of Boston. Meares himself was absent on a voy
age to China. Martinez seized the colony and
the English vessels, the Argonaut, the Princess
Royal, and the North-West America, as they
sailed into port, quite unaware of the Spanish



THE RIVER OF THE WEST 17

intruder. He took f!npt.g.ju fVJfipt-f of the Argo
naut a prisoner to Mexico. He did not molest the
American vessels.

England promptly demanded redress for the
seizures at Nootka. Spain answered haughtily,
rattled the sword, and made a gesture to her cousin
of France, who nodded agreeably and took down
the family armor and began polishing it publicly.
But the earth beneath the Bourbon s palace at
Versailles was already quivering from the sub
terranean rumblings of the French Revolution, and
Spain saw that the aid she had counted upon was
uncertain at best. Spain was obliged therefore
to sign articles which, besides reimbursing the
enterprising Meares for his losses, restored Nootka
to the British flag, and acknowledged the right of
British subjects to free and uninterrupted naviga
tion, commerce, and fishing in the North Pacific;
also to make and possess establishments on the
Pacific coast wherever these should not conflict


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