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These traders carried on for many years an extensive and profitable business, in the course of which they traversed every part of the country about the southern branch of the Columbia, and nearly the whole of continental California. Unfortunately, however, they made no astronomical observations, and, being unacquainted with any branch of physical science, very little information has been derived through their means. Smith, after twice crossing the continent to the Pacific, was murdered, in the summer of 1829, by the Indians north-west of the Utah Lake.
These active proceedings of the Missouri fur traders roused the spirit of the North American Company, which also extended its operations beyond the Rocky Mountains, though no establishments were formed by its agents in those countries, and many expeditions were made, in the same direction, by independent parties, of whose adventures, narratives, more or less exact and interesting, have been published. In 1827, Mr. Pilcher went from Council Bluffs, on the Missouri, with forty-five men, and more than a hundred horses; and, having crossed the great dividing chain of mountains by the Southern Pass, he spent the winter on the Colorado. In the following year, he proceeded to the Lewis River, and thence, northwardly, along the foot of the Rocky Mountains, on their western side, to the Flathead Lake, near the 47th degree of latitude, which he describes as a beautiful sheet of water, formed by the expansion of the Clarke River, in a rich and extensive valley, surrounded by high
. mountains. There he remained until the spring of 1829, when he descended the Clarke to Fort Colville, an establishment then recently formed by the Hudson's Bay Company, on the northern branch of the Columbia, at its falls; and thence he returned to the United States, through the long and circuitous route of the Upper Columbia, the Athabasca, the Assinaboin, Red River, and the Upper Missouri. The countries thus traversed by Mr. Pilcher have all become comparatively well known from the accounts of subsequent travellers; but very little information had been given to the world respecting them before the publication of his concise narrative.* The account of the rambles of J. O. Pattie, a Missouri fur trader, through New Mexico, Chihuahua, Sonora, and California, published in 1832, throws some light on the geography of parts of those countries of which little can as yet be learned from any
other source. During his peregrinations, Pattie several times crossed the great dividing chain of mountains between New Mexico on the
* Published with President Jackson's message to Congress, January 23d, 1829.
PLANS OF WYETH FOR THE OREGON TRADE.
east, and Sonora and California on the west, and descended and ascended the Colorado, and its principal tributaries, which he describes as being navigable by boats for considerable distances. He also made trips across Sonora to the Californian Gulf, and across California to the Pacific, as well as through the Mexican provinces on the coasts of that ocean, where he suffered imprisonment and many other hardships from the tyranny of the authorities.
In 1832, Captain Bonneville, of the army of the United States, while on furlough, led a band of more than a hundred men, with twenty wagons, and many horses and mules, carrying merchandise from Missouri to the countries of the Colorado and the Columbia, in which he passed more than two years, engaged in hunting, trapping, and trading. *
About the same time, Captain Wyeth, of Massachusetts, endeavored to establish a regular system of commercial intercourse between the states of the Union and the countries of the Columbia, to which latter the general name of OREGON then began to be universally applied in the United States. His plan, like that devised by Mr. Astor in 1810, was to send manufactured goods to the Pacific countries, and from thence to transport to the United States, and even to China, not only furs, but also the salmon which abound in the rivers of North-Western America. With these objects,'he made two expeditions over land to the Columbia, in the latter of which he founded a trading post, called Fort Hall, on the south side of the Snake or Lewis branch of that river, at the entrance of the Portneuf, about a hundred miles north of the Utah Lake; and he then established another post, principally for fishing purposes, on Wappatoo Island, near the confluence of the Willamet River with the Columbia, a hundred miles above the mouth of the latter. This scheme, however, failed entirely. The Hudson's Bay Company's agents immediately took the alarm, and founded a counter establishment, called Fort Boisé, at the entrance of the Boisé or Read's River into the Lewis, some distance below Fort Hall, where they offered goods to the Indians at prices much lower than those which the Americans could afford to take ; and Wyeth, being thus driven out of the market, was forced to compromise with his opponents, by selling his fort to them, and engaging to desist from the
* The narrative of this expedition, written from the notes of Captain Bonneville, by Washington Irving, in the vein, half serious, half jocose, of Fray Agapida's Chronicle, contains some curious, though generally overcharged, pictures of life among the hunters, trappers, traders, Indians, and grisly bears, of the Rocky Mountains; but it adds very little to our knowledge of the geography of those regions.
fur trade. Meanwhile, a brig, which he had despatched from Boston, with a cargo of goods, arrived at Wappatoo Island, where she, after some further arrangements with the Hudson's Bay Company, took in a cargo of salted salmon, for the United States. She reached Boston in safety ; but the results of her voyage were not such as to encourage perseverance in the enterprise, which was thereupon abandoned.*
The American traders, being excluded by these and other means from the Columbia countries, confined themselves almost entirely to the regions about the head-waters of the Colorado and the Utah Lake, where they formed one or two small establishments; though they sometimes extended their rambles westward to the Sacramento, the Bay of San Francisco, and Monterey, where they were viewed with dislike and mistrust by the Mexican authorities. The number of citizens of the United States thus employed in the country west of the Rocky Mountains seldom, if ever, exceeded two hundred : during the greater part of the year, they roved through the wilds, in search of furs, which they carried, in the summer, to certain places of rendezvous on the Colorado, or on the Lewis, and there disposed of them to the traders from Missouri; the whole business being conducted by barter, and without the use of money, though each article bore a nominal value, expressed in dollars and cents, very different from that assigned to it in the states of the Union.t
About the time of Wyeth's expeditions also took place the earliest emigrations from the United States to the territories of the Columbia, for the purpose of settlement, and without any special commercial objects.
The first of these colonies was founded, in 1834, in the valley of
Captain Wyeth's expeditions, though unprofitable to himself, have been rendered advantageous to the world at large; for his short memoir on the regions which he visited, printed with the report of the committee of the House of Representatives on the Oregon territory, in February, 1839, affords more exact and useful information, as to their general geography, climate, soil, and agricultural and commercial capabilities, than any other work yet published. Wyeth's movements are also related incidentally in the account of Bonneville's adventures, and in the interesting Narrative of a Jour. ney across the Rocky Mountains, &c., by J. K. Townsend, a naturalist of Philadelphia, published in 1839.
+ Thus, among the prices current at the rendezvous on Green River, in the summer of 1838, we find whisky at three dollars per pint, gunpowder at six dollars per pint, tobacco at five dollars per pound, dogs (for food) at fitteen dollars each, &c. Twenty dollars were frequently expended in rum and sugar, for a night's carouse, by two or three traders, after the conclusion of a bargain. Under such circumstances, it may be supposed that the price of beaver and muskrat skins was proportionally raised; and that a package, purchased for a hundred dollars on Green River, may have been afterwards sold with profit at St. Louis for twenty.
AMERICAN SETTLEMENTS IN OREGON.
the Willamet River, in which a few retired servants of the Hudson's Bay Company had already established themselves, by permission of that body, and were employed principally in herding cattle. The Americans, who settled there, were mostly Methodists, under the direction of ministers of their sect; and colonies of Presbyterians or Congregationalists were afterwards planted in the Walla-Walla and Spokan countries. In all these places, schools
. for the education of the natives were opened, and, in 1839, a printing press was set up at Walla-Walla, on which were struck off the first sheets ever printed on the Pacific side of America north of Mexico. The Jesuits of St. Louis then engaged in the labor of converting the Indians, in which they appear, from their own accounts, to have met with extraordinary success; but, according to the customs of that order, they did not attempt to form any settlements.*
The attention of the government of the United States had been, in the mean time, directed to the north-west coasts, especially by the recent refusal of the Russians to allow American vessels to trade on the unoccupied parts north of the latitude of 54 degrees 40 minutes. This refusal was based on
* The first body of American emigrants went by sea, under the direction of Messrs. Lee and Shepherd, Methodist ministers, who had already visited those countries; and several other parties of persons of the same sect have since established themselves in the Willamet valley, and near the falls of the great river.
The pioneer of the other Protestant sects was Mr. Samuel Parker, whose journal of his tour beyond the Rocky Mountains, though highly interesting and instructive, would have been much more so, had he confined himself to the results of his own experience, and not wandered into the regions of history, diplomacy, and cosmog| ony, in all of which he is evidently a stranger. Upon the recommendations of Mr. Parker, Messrs. Spaulding, Gray, and Whitman, were sent out by the Board of Missions, in 1836; and they were followed, in 1838, by Messrs. Walker, Eels, and Smith, all of whom, with their wives, have been since assiduously engaged in their benevolent pursuits among the Indians, chiefly those of the middle regions of Oregon. See the History of the American Board of Commissioners, published at Boston.
Some accounts of the state of these settlements in 1837 may be found in the report of Mr. W. Slacum, who was commissioned by the American government to visit the Columbia countries in that year: this paper, however, which was published by order of the Senate of the United States in 1838, is so vague and inexact in its details, that it is, in most cases, calculated rather to confuse and mislead than to direct.
The Jesuits De Smet, Mengarini, Point, and others, have, since 1840, made several missionary tours through the Columbia countries, in the course of which they baptized some thousands of Indians; they also erected a church at a place near the Kullerspelm Lake, on Clarke's River, where the Blessed Virgin appeared in person to a little Indian boy, “whose youth, piety, and sincerity," say the good fathers, “joined to the nature of the fact which he related, forbade us to doubt the truth of his statement.”- De Smet's Letters, published at Philadelphia, in 1043,
the fact that the period of ten years, fixed by the fourth article of the convention of 1824 between the two nations, during which the vessels of both parties might frequent the bays, creeks, harbors, and other interior waters on the north-west coast, had expired : and the Russian government had chosen to consider that article as the only limitation of its right to exclude American vessels from all parts of the division of the coast on which the United States, by the convention, engaged to form no establishments; disregarding entirely the first article of the same agreement, by which all unoccupied places on the north-west coast were declared free and open to the citizens or subjects of both nations. The government of the United States immediately protested against this exclusion ; and their plenipotentiaries at St. Petersburg have been instructed to demand its revocation.* To the reasons offered in support of
* See President Van Buren's message to Congress of December 3d, 1833, and the accompanying documents. The letters of Messrs. Wilkins and Dallas, successively plenipotentiaries of the United States at St. Petersburg, relating the particulars of their negotiations with the Russian minister, will be found very interesting, from the luminous views of national rights presented in them. The instructions of Mr. For syth, the American secretary of state, to Mr. Dallas, dated November 30, 1837, are also especially worthy of attention. After repeating the cardinal rule as to the construction of instruments, – that they should be so construed, if possible, as that crery part may stand, – he proceeds to show that the fourth article of the convention of April, 1824, was to be understood as giving “ permission to enter interior bays, &c., at the mouth of which there might be establishments, or the shores of which might be in part, but not wholly, occupied by such establishments; thus providing for a case which would otherwise admit of doubt, as it would be questionable whether the bays, &c., described in it, belonged to the first or the second article. In no sense,” continues Mr. Forsyth, “can it be understood as implying an acknowledgment, on the part of the United States, of the right of Russia to the possession of the coast above the latitude of 54 degrees 40 minutes north ; but it should be taken in connection with the other articles, which have, in fact, no reference whatever to the question of the right of possession of the unoccupied parts of the coast. In a spirit of compromise, and to prevent future collisions or difficulties, it was agreed that no new establishments should be formed by the respective parties north or south of a certain parallel of latitude, after the conclusion of the agreement; but the question of the right of possession beyond the existing establishments, as it subsisted previous to, or at the time of, the conclusion of the convention, was left untouched. The United States, in agreeing not to form new establishments north of the latitude of 54 degrees and 40 minutes, made no acknowledgment of the right of Russia to the possession of the territory above that line. If such admission had been made, Russia, by the same construction of the article referred to, must have acknowledged the right of the United States to the territory south of the line. But that Russia did not so understand the article, is conclusively proved by her having entered into a similar agreement in a subsequent treaty (1825) with Great Britain, and having, in fact, acknowledged in that instrument the right of possession of the same territory by Great Britain. The United States can only be considered as acknowledging the right of Russia to acquire, by actual occupation, a just claim to unoccupied lands above the latitude of 54 degrees 40 minutes north; and even this is a mere matter