Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

bases of the mountains are covered with wood; but the temperature in most places is too cold for the production of any of the useful grains or garden vegetables. The parts of this region which appear to be the most favorable for agriculture, are those adjacent to the Clarke River, and particularly around the Kullerspelm, or Flathead Lake, where the hills are well clothed with oaks, elms, cedars, and pines, and the soil of the low grounds is of good quality.

New Caledonia is the name given by the British traders to the country extending north and west of the Columbia regions, to the 56th parallel of latitude. It is a sterile land of snow-clad mountains, tortuous rivers, and lakes frozen over nearly two thirds of the year; presenting scarcely a single spot in which any of the vegetables used as food by civilized people can be produced. The waters, like those of the country farther south, however, abound in fish, which, with berries, form the principal support of the native population. The largest lakes are the Babine, communicating with the ocean by Simpson's River, and Stuart's, Quesnel's, and Fraser's Lakes, the outlet of all which is Fraser's River, a long but shallow stream, emptying into the Strait of Fuca at its eastern extremity. The coast of this country is very irregular in outline, being penetrated by many bays and inlets, running up from the sea among the mountains which border that side of the continent; between it and the open Pacific lie the islands of the North-West Archipelago, which will be here described.

The North-West Archipelago is a remarkable collection of islands, situated in, and nearly filling a recess of the American coast, about seven hundred miles in length, and eighty or one hundred in breadth, which extends between the 48th and the 581h parallels of latitude; that is to say, between the same parallels as Great Britain. These islands are in number many thousands, presenting together a surface of not less than fifty thousand square miles; they are, however, with the exception of nine or ten, very small, and the greater part of them are mere rocks.

The largest islands are all traversed, in their longest direction, from south-east to northwest, by mountain ridges; and the whole archipelago may be considered as a range connecting the Far-West mountains of Oregon with the great chain farther north, of which Mounts Fairweather and St. Elias are the most prominent peaks.

The coasts of these islands are, like those of the continent in their vicinity, very irregular in outline, including numerous bays and inlets; and the channels between them are, with one exception, narrow and tortuous. These coasts and channels were minutely surveyed, during the period from 1785 to 1795, by navigators of various nations, chiefly with the view of discovering some northern passage of communication between the Pacific and the Atlantic; and the true geographical character of the islands, which had previously been regarded as parts of the continent, was thus ascertained. The British, under Vancouver, made the most complete examination of the archipelago, and bestowed on the islands, channels, capes, and bays, a number of names, nearly all drawn from the lists of the British royal family, peerage, and parliament, some of which still retain their places on maps, though few of them will probably be used when those parts of America are occupied by a civilized population.

Of the interior of the islands little is known; but from all accounts, they are generally rocky and barren. The climate of the southernmost GEOGRAPHY OF OREGON.

29

islands appears to resemble that of the western region of Oregon, except that it is less dry in summer ; farther north, the rainy season increases in length, but the accompanying increase in the coldness of the atmosphere neutralizes any advantages for cultivation which might be derived from the more constant supply of moisture. Wood, however, seems to be every where abundant near the coasts; and this may prove important, as the channels of the archipelago offer great facilities for communication by steam vessels.

It has been already said that Russia claims all the coasts and islands north of the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes. The islands south of that line which are here considered as attached to Oregon, lie in three groups.

The southernmost group einbraces one large island and an infinite number of sınaller ones, extending from the 49th parallel to the 51st, and separated from the continent, on the south and east, by the channel called the Strait of Fuca. The main island received, in 1792, the long and inconvenient appellation of Island of Quadra and Vancouver, in virtue of a compromise between a British and a Spanish commander, each claiming the merit of having ascertained its insulation. It is the largest in the archipelago, and, indeed, on the whole west coast of America, being about two hundred and fifty miles in length, by an average breadth of forty-five miles. On its south-western side are several large bays containing islands, among which are some good ports, formerly much frequented by fur traders. The principal of these places is Nootka or King George's Sound, opening to the Pacific in the latitude of 494 degrees, between Woody Point, on the north, and Point Breakers, on the south; and offering a safe harbor for vessels in Friendly Cove, about eight miles from the ocean. Near Nootka, on the east, is another bay, called Clyoquot; farther in the same direction, at the entrance of the Strait of Fuca, is Nittinat; and within the strait are several other harbors, generally protected by small islands. Nootka Sound was, in 1789, the scene of occurrences which gave to it much celebrity, as they first rendered the north-west coasts of America the subject of dispute and convention between the governments of European nations.

Queen Charlotte's Island, so called by the British, or Washington's Island, as it was named by the Americans in 1789, forms the centre of another group, situated between the latitudes of 52 and 54 degrees, at a considerable distance from the continent. The principal island is of triangular form, and is rather smaller in superficial extent than the Island of Quadra and Vancouver, though larger than any other in the archipelago. Its north-western extremity received from the Spanish navigator Perez, who discovered it in 1774, the name of Cape Santa Margarita, but is now generally known as Cape North; the north-east end was called by the Americans Sandy Point, and afterward, by the Spaniards, Cape Invisible; the southern extremity is Cape St. James. The island presents a number of bays, affording good harbors, which were first examined, surveyed, and named, by the American fur traders; and afterwards received from British and Spanish navigators the appellations usually assigned to them on maps. The principal of these bays are, on the northern side, Hancock's River, the Port Estrada of the Spaniards, near Sandy Point, and Craft's Sound, or Port Mazarredo, a little farther west ; on the Pacific coast are Port Ingraham, near North Cape, and Magee's Sound, in the latitude of 521 degrees; on the eastern side of the island are Skitikis, in latitude of 53 degrees 20 minutes, Cummashawa, a few miles farther south, and still farther in the same direction, Port Ucah and Port Sturges. The country around some of these places, especially Hancock's River and Magee's Sound, is described by the American für traders as fertile and beautiful, and enjoying a milder climate than any other parts of the north-west coasts.

The Princess Royal's, Burke's, and Pitt's Islands form a third division of the North-West Archipelago, lying near to each other and to the continent, immediately east of Queen Charlotte's Island. They are all small and rocky, and nothing worthy of note appears in the accounts of them.

To the aboriginal inhabitants of Oregon it would be inconsistent with the plan of this work to devote much attention. They are all savages; and they make no figure in the history of the country, over the destinies of which they have not exerted, and probably never will exert, any influence. The principal tribes are the Clatsops and Chenooks, occupying the country on each side of the Columbia, near its mouth; the Klamets and Killamucks, of the Umqua; the Classets, on the Strait of Fuca; the Kootanies, and the Salish or Flatheads, of the country about the northern branches of the Columbia, and the Shoshones, the Sahaptins or Nez-perces, the Kayouses, Walla-Wallas, and Chopunnish, who rove through the regions of the Lewis branch. These tribes differ in habits and disposition only so far as they are affected by the mode of life which the nature of the country occupied by them respectively compels them to adopt; the people of the sea-coasts, who venture out upon the ocean, and attack the whale, being generally much bolder and more ferocious than those of the middle country, who derive their subsistence by the quiet and unexciting employments of fishing in the river and digging for roots. Among the peculiar habits of some of the tribes should be mentioned that of compressing the heads of their infants by boards and bandages, so as materially to alter their shape ; which induced the discoverers of the country to apply to those people the name of Flathead Indians. This custom appears to have prevailed chiefly among the tribes of the lower Columbia, and but little among those dwelling on the northern branches of the river, to whom the appellation of Flatheads is, however, at present confined. The Black feet, so much dreaded by travellers in the middle region, chiefly inhabit the country east of the Rocky Mountains, on the Yellowstone, and the Missouri above its falls, and annually make inroads upon the Shoshones and the Chopunnish, whom they rob of their horses, their only wealth. The principal tribes in the country north of the Columbia regions, are the Chilcotins and the Talcotins, between whom the most deadly hostility subsists. The natives of the North-West Archipelago are the most cunning and ferocious of all these savages; particularly those of the vicinity of Nootka, who appear also to be the most intelligent. The number of the aborigines of all those territories cannot be ascertained, but it is supposed not to exceed thirty thousand, and is every where diminishing.

Among these people, missionaries of various Christian sects have long been laboring with assiduity, though, as it would seem, from all accounts, with little advantage. The Roman Catholics have made the greatest number of converts, if we assume the reception of baptism as the test of conversion; whole tribes submitting at once, on the first summons, to the rite. The Methodists and Presbyterians employ themselves chiefly in

GEOGRAPHY OF OREGON.

31

imparting a knowledge of the simplest and most useful arts, and have thus induced some of the natives to engage regularly in agricultural pursuits; but the poverty of the soil generally renders their efforts in this way unavailing. The last-mentioned missionaries also endeavor to convey religious and literary instruction to the Indians through the medium of their own languages, into which books have been translated and printed in the country. Perhaps it would be better to teach the natives to speak and read English; but the other system has been generally adopted by American missionaries in all parts of the world.

The civilized inhabitants of Oregon are, as already mentioned in the General View, either citizens of the United States or servants of the British Hudson's Bay Company: the latter body enjoying, by special grant from the government, the use of all the territories claimed by Great Britain west of the Rocky Mountains, as well as the protection of British laws, in virtue of an act of Parliament; whilst the citizens of the United States remain independent of all authority and jurisdiction whatever.

The establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company have been, until recently, devoted exclusively to the purposes of the fur trade: but, within a few years past, several farms have been laid out and worked, under the direction of the agents of the company; and large quantities of timber are cut, and salmon are taken and cured, for exportation to the Russian possessions, to Mexico, and to the Sandwich Islands. The furs are obtained partly by hunters and trappers, in the regular service of the company, but chiefly by trade with the Indians of the surrounding country ; and they are transported from the different establishments in the interior, either to Montreal or to York Factory on Hudson's Bay, or to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia, whence they are sent in the company's vessels to London. The goods for the trade, and the supply of the establishments, are received in the same manner ; the interior transportation being performed almost entirely in boats, on the rivers and lakes, between which the articles are carried on the backs of the voyageurs or boatmen. The regular servants of the company, in the territories west of the Rocky Mountains, are, a chief factor, two chief traders, and about four hundred clerks, traders, voyageurs, &c.; besides whom, nearly as many laborers from Canada and from Europe are employed on the farms, and Indians are occasionally engaged when wanted. The factors, traders, and clerks, are, for the most part, Scotchmen or Canadians; the hunters and other regular servants are nearly all half-breeds. The company maintains on the Pacific coasts one steamer and six or eight sail vessels, all armed, and three large ships conduct the communications between the Columbia and London.

The establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company are generally called forts, and are sufficiently fortified to resist any attacks which might be expected. Those beyond the Rocky Mountains are in number about twenty-two, of which several

, including all the largest, are near the coasts. Fort Vancouver, the principal of these establishments west of the Rocky Mountains, is situated near the north bank of the Columbia, at the distance of eighty-two miles in a direct line from its mouth, and about one hundred and twenty miles following the course of the stream. The fort is simply a large, square, picketed enclosure, containing houses for the residence of the factor, traders, clerks, and upper servants of the company, magazines for the furs and goods, and workshops of various kinds; immediately behind it are a garden and orchard, and behind these is the farm, of about six hundred acres, with barns and all other necessary buildings. West of the fort are the hospital and houses for the voyageurs and Indians; about two miles lower down the river are the dairy and piggery, with numerous herds of cattle, hogs, &c.; and about three miles above the fort are water-mills for grinding corn and sawing plank, and sheds for curing salmon. The number of persons usually attached to the post is not less than seven hundred, of whom more than half are Indians of the country, the others being natives of Great Britain, Canadians, and half-breeds. The whole establishment is governed nearly on the plan of one of the small towns of Central Europe during the middle ages; the stockade fort representing the baronial castle, in which the great dignitaries of the company exercise almost absolute authority.

Fort George, at the distance of ten miles from the Pacific, on the south bank of the Columbia, occupies the site of a trading establishment called Astoria, formed by the Americans in 1811, which was taken by the British during the war in 1813, and, though subsequently restored in virtue of the treaty of Ghent, has never since been re-occupied by citizens of the United States. The first buildings were destroyed by fire in 1820; after which, some small houses were erected by the Hudson's Bay Company on the same spot, where a trader and three or four other persons generally reside. Fort Umqua is near the mouth of the Umqua River, which enters the Pacific about a hundred and eighty miles south of the Columbia, and affords a harbor for small vessels. Fort Nasqually is at the mouth of a little river emptying into Puget's Sound, the southernmost part of the great bay called Admiralty Inlet, which extends southwardly into the continent from the Strait of Fuca: near it the Hudson's Bay Company has large farms, which are said to be in a prosperous condition; this place is also the seat of a Roman Catholic mission, under the direction of a bishop in partibus, (the bishop of Juliopolis,) whose influence is, no doubt, important to the company, as the majority of its servants are of that religion. Fort Langley is at the entrance of Fraser's River into the eastern extremity of the Strait of Fuca, in latitude of 49 degrees 25 minutes; farther north is Fort M'Loughlin, on Milbank Sound, and Fort Simpson, on Douglas Island, in the NorthWest Archipelago, in latitude 541 degrees. The company has moreover made an agreement with the Russians, who claim the coasts and islands north of the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes, by which the British traders enjoy the exclusive use of the coasts of the continent, extending from that parallel to Cape Spenser, near the 58th degree; and a post has been in consequence established near the mouth of the Stikine, a large river emptying into the channel called Prince Frederick's Sound, in the latitude of 56 degrees 50 minutes.

In the interior of the continent, the Hudson's Bay Company has on the Columbia, above its falls, Fort Walla-Walla, or Nez-Percé, on the east side of the northern branch, near its confluence with the southern ; Fort Okinagan, at the entrance of the Okinagan River into the north or main branch; Fort Colville, near the Kettle Falls; and some others, of less consequence. On the Lewis, or great southern branch, are Fort Boisé, at the mouth of the Boisé, or Reed's River, and Fort Hall, at the entrance of the Portneuf. North of the Columbia country are Fort Alexandria, on Fraser's River, and others on the lakes, which abound in

« PreviousContinue »