Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

. (page 33 of 51)
Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 33 of 51)
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adorn its streets. It is the center of a large circle of cultivated people
and, though it is not as large as Seattle, it has exhibited great enterprise.



Spokane is the principal city of eastern Washington. It is a very active
place, with electric cars, electric lights, cable cars, elevators, etc., though
it is not at all peculiar in these respects, as nearly all progressive western
towns have the same, and their hotels rank with the finest in the leading
cities of the world. The Spokane River and Falls are of great beauty and

Idaho is essentially different from the States we have been considering
in many important particulars. It has formed successively a part of Ore-


gon, Washington, Utah and Nebraska. Although explored by Lewis and
Clark on their famous expedition, but little was known of it until 1852.
when gold was discovered near the northern boundary. On July 3, 1890,
Idaho entered the Union, being the forty-third State in the order of admis-
sion. The name Idaho is said to mean " Light of the Mountains."

Its mountain system is peculiar. The Salmon River range in the cen-


tral part of the State is one of the most picturesque in America and of
itself covers an area as large as New Jersey. Streams radiate to nearly
every point from their sources in this great central range, yet they all flow
into the Snake River and thence into the Columbia. The crests and sum-
mits of many of these mountains rise from 10,000 to 13,000 feet above
the level of the sea.

One of the most remarkable features of Idaho is the vast lava bed
which covers a large area of that part of the State on the east and south
along the course of the Snake River. This is the principal river, and
drains all the State except the most northern and the southeastern por-
tions. The Shoshone Falls of this river are second only to those of
Niagara, the Yellowstone and the Yosemite. The stream here is six hun-
dred feet wide, and above the falls it is divided by five islands into six
parts. Then, after flowing four hundred yards further, it passes in one
unbroken sheet over a precipice, making a descent of two hundred and
twenty-five feet.

Forests abound in the north. There is but little rainfall in the south-
ern part of the State, but toward the center there is a heavy snowfall for
several months in the year. The climate is dependent upon the elevation,
and varies from a dry area of almost torrid heat along the Snake River
and the foot-hills to the cold of the mountain peaks where the snow lies
frequently through the summer, and ice forms nearly every night. Even in
winter the ice and snow are often rapidly melted by the Chinook winds
blowing from the Pacific Coast.

The country is not well adapted to agriculture, yet on both sides of the
Snake River irrigation has produced the same results that it has in Utah.
In the aggregate the grazing lands form a considerable tract, but these
lands are widely scattered. There are many rich mines in the State, but
as yet they have not been fully developed. The Mormon Church is strong
in Idaho, but as polygamy is prohibited by law, about 3,000 Mormons
are practically disfranchised. The largest town is Boise City, which in
1890 contained about 3,300 people.





N our day, when the great northwestern part of our country with
its vast resources is so well known and so thoroughly appre-
ciated, it seems almost incredible that only fifty years ago so
little was known of that region that a man like Daniel Webster
was willing to believe it a "sandy desert." That this great
country which now comprises the States of Washington, Oregon
and Idaho is not to-day part of the British possessions is
largely due to the unselfish exertions of Dr. Marcus Whitman,
a missionary sent out to that part of the United States by the
American Board of Missions in 1836.

That this country, which was then known as Oregon, belonged right-
fully to the United States there can be no shadow of doubt. Captain
Robert Gray of Boston discovered the Columbia River in 1792 and gave
the name of his good ship to that beautiful and majestic Hudson of the
West. The English navigator, Vancouver, was informed of its existence
by Captain Gray before he ever entered its waters. The second claim of
the United States was based on the Louisiana purchase. This territory
had been ceded by France to Spain in 1762, re-ceded to France in 1800, and
sold by the latter country to the United States in 1803 "with all its rights
and appurtenances as fully and in the same manner as they were acquired
by the French republic." Although there was some doubt whether France
could rightfully claim the territory along the Pacific Coast as far north as
the parallel of forty-nine degrees, it was Spain who disputed her claim,
and not England.



A third claim of the United States was based on the explorations of
Lewis and Clark, who were sent out by Jefferson in 1803, and who followed
the Columbia from its headwaters to its mouth. A fourth claim was
based on the actual settlement made at Astoria in 1811. A fifth was the
treaty of the United States with Spain in 1818, when Spain relinquished
any and all claims to the territory in dispute to the United States. The
sixth and last claim was the treaty with
Mexico in 1828, by which the United States
acquired all interests in the territory in ques-
tion that had been claimed by Mexico.

When the appeal of the Flat Head Indians
of the Northwest was made known to the peo-
ple in the eastern part of the United States, it
touched a responsive chord and stirred the
church to unusual activity. The Methodists
sent out the Lees in 1834, and the
American Board tried to get the
right men to send with them, but
were unable to do so until 1835,
when they sent out Dr. Marcus
Whitman and the Rev. Samuel
Parker upon a trip of discovery.
On reaching Green River, Dr.
Whitman and Mr. Parker met
large bodies of Indians, who en-
deavored to induce them to remain,
and it was decided that Dr. Whit-
man should return to the East, and,
after making the necessary arrangements, snould return the following

After hearing Dr. Whitman's report the American Board at once decided
to occupy the field. He had for a long time been engaged to marry Miss
Narcissa Prentice of Prattsburgh, New York, who was as enthusiastic with
respect to work among the Indians as Dr. Whitman himself. The Board
did not consider it expedient to send the young couple alone, so the day of
the wedding was deferred while search was being made for suitable per-
sons to accompany them. The Rev. H. H. Spalding and his wife, who had
been recently married, were at length induced to go. Then, all other
necessary arrangements having been made, Dr. Whitman and Miss Prentice




were married, and the four young people started on one of the most
formidable wedding journeys ever undertaken. The company was com-
posed of Dr. and Mrs. Whitman, Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, H. H. Gray, two
teamsters and two Indian boys who had accompanied Dr. Whitman on his
return from the West.

The American Fur Company was sending out a large expedition to Ore-
gon which Dr. Whitman expected to join at
Council Bluffs, and great was the consternation
of himself and his companions on arriving at
that place to find the company already gone, its
members not caring to wait, as they feared ladies
might prove a very troublesome burden on such
a rough journey. Nothing daunted, Dr. Whitman
decided to follow them as rapidly
as possible, and here the Indian
boys proved to be of great service.
The little party traveled for nearly
a month before they overtook the
fur company's caravan; Their
route was now in an almost un-
known part of the country, and led
them across rivers and over deserts
and mountains. While they were
passing through the buffalo coun-
try, food was easy to obtain, but
afterward game was much more
difficult to secure, and at times they
were reduced to a diet of dried buffalo meat and tea.

In spite of all drawbacks and efforts to persuade him to leave it behind.
Dr. Whitman persisted in hauling along the wagon which afterward had
so much influence on the destiny of that country. It was always getting
stuck in the creeks and rivers and being upset on the steep mountain sides,
and made it necessary for him to walk over all the most difficult portions
of the way. Even his wife did not sympathize with him in this effort, but
with undaunted courage he persisted, realizing the importance of getting
it through.

On reaching the Green River they were met by the Cayuse and Nez
Perce Indians, who were awaiting the return of Dr. Whitman and the boys
who had left them the year before. The Indians were delighted to see




them and paid them the most delicate attentions. After the little mission-
ary band reached Walla Walla, before deciding on a permanent location.
they decided to consult the ruling powers of Oregon, the officials of the
Hudson Bay Company, at Vancouver. Dr. McLoughlin, chief factor of this
company, received them cordially and decided that Dr. Whitman had better
begin his work in the Walla Walla country three hundred miles away, and
Mr. Spalding a hundred and twenty-five miles further on.

Dr. Whitman built his little house on a peninsula formed by the
branches of the Walla River, in what is now
one of the most fertile and beautiful portions
of Washington. The Indians called it
Wai-i-lat-pui, meaning "the
place of rye grass." One of the
first efforts of Dr. Whitman
was to induce his Indians
to raise their own grain, fruits
and vegetables.

All the missionaries in that
part of the country believed
that undertheexistingtreaty
between the United States
and Great Britain, the nation ^
which first settled and or-
ganized the territory would
hold it. The glowing accounts
given of the soil, climate, great for-
osts and indications of mineral

wealth had induced a small number
of Americans to immigrate, and in the
vicinity of each mission was quite a popula-
tion of farmers and traders. In 1840-41
many of them met and discussed the subject
of organizing a government under the American flag, but were unable to do
so, being outnumbered by the English. In the fall of 1842 Elijah White, an
Indian agent for the government, brought a party of Americans, men, women
and children, numbering one hundred and twenty, to Waiilatpui. Among
this party was a most intelligent gentleman, General Amos L. Lovejoy,
who was thoroughly informed in national affairs, and told Dr. Whitman of
the treaty then pending between England and the United States regarding




the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions iu
North America.

The statesmen of this period were ignorant on the question of the
great value of the territory in dispute, and the ''interminable desert,"
"arid plains" and "impassable mountains" were constantly quoted as
impediments in the way to a country, most of which was "as irreclaimable
and barren a waste as the Desert of Sahara." All this ignorance was the


result of the teachings of the Hudson Bay Company, which, wishing to
secure a monopoly of the country, constantly decried it and endeavored to
persuade all outsiders of its worthlessness. In this they succeeded so well
that, although our statesmen were thoroughly persuaded of the justice of
the claims of the United States, they regarded the country as being of so
little value that they were very little concerned when, in the Ashburton
Treaty of 1843, Oregon was again ignored, the mind of Daniel Webster,
the then Secretary of State, having been concentrated during the negotia-
tions on the question of a few thousand acres, more or less, in Maine.


When General Lovejoy left for Oregon this treaty was still under con-
sideration, and when through him Dr. Whitman learned of the state of
affairs at Washington, he determined to go there and explain to the author-
ities the true value of the country they were about to allow to slip from
their grasp. He consulted with his brother missionaries and received
their hearty concurrence, but they were not willing to allow him to under-
take such a journey alone. When a volunteer was called for, General Love-
joy, who had just finished his tedious five months' journey to Oregon,
promptly offered to retrace his way to assist Dr. Whitman in his great

Before leaving, Dr. Whitman made a visit to Fort Walla Walla to pro-
cure the necessaries for his journey, and while there an express messenger
of the Hudson Bay Company arrived from Fort Colville, three hundred
and fifty miles up the Columbia, with the announcement that a colony of
one hundred and forty Englishmen and Canadians were on their way.
Great was the joy among the Englishmen present, and a young priest
expressed the sentiments of most of the people present when he threw his
cap into the air and shouted, " Hurrah for Oregon America is too late;
we have got the country!" Naturally Dr. Whitman did not share in the
general pleasure, but carefully avoided all mention of his purpose in going
to Washington, and on his return to his home hastened his preparations
for departure. On the third day of October, 1842, he bade his young wife
a reluctant good-bye, and with General Lovejoy and one guide set out on
a journey whose success or failure meant so much to our whole country.

He reached Fort Hall, in the southeastern part of Idaho, at the end of
eleven days, and thus far the journey was comparatively easy, as each
member of the party was familiar with the road. Captain Grant, the com-
manding officer at Fort Hall, had for years done all in his power to dis-
courage immigration to that part of the country, and, with the single
exception of Dr. Whitman, he had been uniformly successful in persuading
settlers that they would be unable to move their wagons, and consequently
the greater part of their goods, across the mountains, thus compelling them
to go on horseback or on foot for the remainder of the way. He now
suspected that the missionary had some important business on hand, and
tried in every possible way to thwart it. He dwelt on the hopelessness of
crossing the Rocky Mountains, already covered with snow in some places
twenty feet deep, and on the almost certain death of anyone who might
encounter the Pawnee or Sioux Indians who were then at war with each


Dr. Whitman fully realized the difficulties and dangers attending his
enterprise, but he refused to return and Captain Grant had no authority
to stop him. as he carried with him a permit signed " Lewis Cass, Secretary
of War." Instead of turning back he set out in a southeasterly direction
over a route to the States, untrodden, as far as he knew, by the foot of a
white man. The course he pursued took him past the vicinity of the
present Salt Lake City, Fort Uintah in the northeastern part of Utah, Fort
Uncompahgre in the western part of Colorado, and from there down into
New Mexico to Santa Fe, thence back into Colorado to Bent's Fort, from
which point his way lay in a generally easterly direction through the
States of Kansas and Missouri to St. Louis.

The weather the little party encountered was terribly severe, and they
were obliged to change guides several times. On their way to Taos. New
Mexico, they met with a terrible snowstorm which compelled them to seek
shelter in a defile of the mountains, where in spite of all efforts to get
away they were detained for ten days. At the end of that time they con-
trived to make a fresh start, but soon encountered a snowstorm so severe
that it almost blinded them and made the mules unmanageable. At last
the guide stopped and acknowledged that he could show them the way no
further, and on attempting to retrace their steps, they found that all traces
had been completely covered by the fast falling snow. They knew
not which way to turn, and after coming so far, it seemed that they must
perish in the snow with their errand still unaccomplished.

In this extremity General Lovejoy tells us that "Dr. Whitman dis-
mounted, and, upon his knees in the snow, commended himself, his distant
wife, his missionary companions and work, and his Oregon, to the Infinite
One for guidance and protection.

" The lead mule, left to himself by the guide, turning his long ears this
way and that, finally started, plunging through the snowdrifts, his Mexican
guide and all the party following instead of guiding, the old guide remark-
ing: 'This mule will find the camp if he can live long enough to reach it.'
And he did."

On returning to the camp the guide refused to go any further with
them, which was a terrible blow to Dr. Whitman as they had already lost
much valuable time. He told General Lovejoy to remain in the camp and
rest while he returned to Fort Uncompahgre for another guide, whom he
brought back at the end of a week. The Grand River at the point they
encountered it, was about six hundred feet wide ; for two hundred feet on
either shore the water was frozen solid, and a terrible torrent two hundred


feet wide rushed between. The guide declared that it was impossible to
cross, but Dr. Whitman plunged boldly in, and his horse with great diffi-
culty succeeded in swimming to the other shore, and then the rest followed.
Owing to the many delays, they had consumed all their provisions, and
were obliged to subsist upon a dog and a mule they had killed, but on reach-
ing Santa Fe they were again abundantly supplied with provisions.

When near Bent's Fort, Colorado, Dr. Whitman pushed ahead to try to
meet a party of men who he had heard were on their way to St. Louis.
But he lost his way, and when he finally reached the fort, some time after
his companions arrived there, he was exhausted and almost discouraged.
Still, he delayed only a single night, and hurried on to overtake the party
which had already started, while General Lovejoy remained at the fort
until he had recovered from his exertions.

The trail to St. Louis was a most dangerous one, being infested with
wild beasts and savages, but he reached that town in safety and learned
that the Ashburton treaty had been signed August 9, 1842, nearly two
months before he left Oregon. But this treaty only related to the Maine
boundary, so there was still hope that he would be in time to save Oregon
for the Union.

When he reached the capital he was worn and exhausted, and his
hands, feet and ears had all been frozen; but he cared little for this if the
President and Secretary of State would only grant him an interview to
enable him to explain to them the great mistake they would make if
they permitted Oregon to slip from their grasp, and this he had no diffi-
culty whatever in securing.

Long before Dr. Whitman reached Washington there was an under-
standing that the settlement of the boundary question between Oregon
and the British possessions had been delayed because there were negotia-
tions pending looking < o the exchange of the American interests in Oregon
for the fisheries of Newfoundland. When he heard of this, Dr. Whitman
assured Mr. Webster that it would be better to barter all New England for
Newfoundland rather than part with Oregon. He told President Tyler
and Mr. Webster of the fertile soil, of the healthful climate, of the great
forests, of the indications of mineral wealth, only to be met with the sup-
posed unanswerable objection that all this could not matter since Oregon
was shut off by impassable mountains, and a great desert which made a
wagon road impossible. It was then that the heroic missionary had his
reward for all his toil and trouble in hauling his old wagon across the
country, for he could now reply: " Mr. Secretary, that is the grand mistake

M 23


that has been made by listening to the enemies of American interests in
Oregon. Six years ago I was told that there was no wagon road to Oregon,
and that it was impossible to take a wagon there, and yet in despite of
pleadings and almost threats, I took a wagon over the road, and have, it
now." This plain statement had an effect which any amount of argument
and oratory could not have produced.

It was a new experience to these experienced politicians to meet a man
who could plead so eloquently for the cause of his country, and still have
no selfish interests of his own to serve, and when he asked that they would
not barter away Oregon until they had given him an opportunity to lead a
band of stalwart American settlers across the plains, they could not well
refuse. After receiving this promise he hurried to Boston to report to the
missionary board, who in turn severely censured him for leaving his station.

Meanwhile General Lovejoy had published far and wide that Dr. Whit-
man and himself would lead a party of emigrants 'across the country to
Oregon early in the spring, and a rendezvous was appointed not far from
the spot where Kansas City now stands. The grass that year was late and
the band of emigrants did not start until the first week in June. The
journey was long and dangerous, but was safely accomplished, and when
in September one thousand immigrants with their wagons and stock
entered the long disputed territory, the hearts of Dr. Whitman and all
other patriotic Americans with him thrilled with joy as they realized that
at last Oregon was saved to the Union.

That Dr. Whitman was the means of saving Oregon to the United
States there can be no doubt. A Senate document, the forty-first Congress
February 9, 1871, reads: "There is no doubt but that the arrival of Dr. Whit-
man, in 1843, was opportune. The delay incident to a transfer of negotia-
tions to London was fortunate, for there is reason to believe that if former
negotiations had been renewed in Washington, and that if for the sake of
a settlement of the protracted controversy and the only remaining unad-
judicated cause of difference between the two governments, the offer had
been renewed of the 49th parallel to the Columbia and thence down the
river to the Pacific Ocean, it would have been accepted. The visit of
Whitman committed the President against any such action." Before Dr.
Whitman left Washington a message was on its way to Mr. Everett, our
minister to England telling him that "the United States will consent to
give nothing below the latitude of forty-nine degrees."

After Dr. Whitman's return to Waiilatpui he resumed his labors among
the Indians, and for a number of years devoted himself entirely to their




interests, healing the sick, teaching the ignorant, and counting no labor
too great if it resulted in their benefit. Yet the Indians seemed changed.
When the Whitmans first began to work among them they were willing
to comply with all requests, but now for some years a feeling of dissatis-
faction had been slowly creeping in. The missionaries insisted on their
cultivating the ground and supporting themselves by their own labor, and
of this mode of life the Indians soon grew weary. They were also insti-
gated to deeds of violence by various enemies of the missionaries. Al-
though Dr. Whitman was aware of the existence of this hostile spirit, it
seemed impossible to believe in the existence of any real danger in the
face of his loving service among them for eleven years, when on the 28th
of November, 1847, an Indian named Istikus, who was the firm friend of
Dr. Whitman, told him of threats against his life and also that he had bet-
ter " go away until my people have better hearts." Knowing Istikus as he

Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 33 of 51)