John Wesley Hillman
And the discovery of Crater Lake.
The following is a list of wounded:
Col. B. R. Alden, U.S.A., wounded in the neck; Gen. Jos. Lane, in the right shoulder; Andrew B. Carter, right arm broken; Patrick Dunn in the left shoulder; Lieut. Ely, of Yreka, in the hand; James Carroll in the thigh; John Hillman and A. Adams by accident.
Letter of T. McF. Patton dated September 3, 1853, Oregon Statesman, Salem, September 20, 1853, page 2
[Crater Lake] was discovered by a party of 12 prospectors June 12, 1853, among whom were J. W. [Hillman], George Ross, James Louden, Pat McManus, Isaac Skeeters and a Mr. Dodd. These had left the main party and were not looking for gold, but having run short of provisions were looking for the wherewithal to stay the gnawing sensations that had seized upon their stomachs. For a time hunger forsook them as they stood upon the cliffs and drank in the awe of the scene that stretched before them. After partaking of the inspiration fostered by such grandeur they decided to call it Mysterious, or Deep Blue, lake. It was subsequently called Lake Mystery, and by being constantly referred to as a crater lake it gradually assumed that name, which is in itself so descriptive . . .
There is probably not a point of interest in America that so completely overcomes the ordinary Indian with fear as Crater Lake. From time immemorial no power has been strong enough to induce him to approach within sight of it. For a paltry sum he will engage to guide you thither, but before you reach the mountaintop will leave you to proceed alone. To the savage mind it is clothed with a deep veil of mystery and is the abode of all manner of demons and monsters. Old Allen David, chief of the Klamath tribe, gives the following Indian history of the discovery of the lake:
"A long time ago, long before the white man appeared in this region to vex and drive the proud native out, a band of Klamaths while out hunting came suddenly upon the lake and were startled by its remarkable walls and awed by its majestic proportions. With spirits subdued and trembling with fear they silently approached and gazed upon its face. Something within told them the Great Spirit dwelt there, and they dared not remain, but passed silently down the side of the mountain and camped far away. By some unaccountable influence, however, one brave was induced to return. He went up to the very brink of the precipice and started his campfire. Here he lay down to rest; here he slept till morn, slept until the sun was high in the air, then arose and joined the tribe far down the mountain. At night he came again; again he slept till morn. Each visit bore a charm that drew him back again. Each night found him sleeping above the rocks; each night strange voices arose from the waters; mysterious noises filled the air. At last, after a great many moons, he climbed down in like manner and frequently saw wonderful animals, similar in all respects to a Klamath Indian, except that they seemed to exist entirely in the water. He suddenly became hardier and stronger than any Indian of his tribe because of his many visits to the mysterious waters. Others then began to seek its influence. Old warriors sent their sons for strength and courage to meet the conflicts awaiting them. First they slept on the rocks above, then ventured to the water's edge, but last of all they plunged into the water, and the coveted strength was theirs. On one occasion the brave who first visited the lake killed a monster or fish and was at once set upon by untold numbers of excited Llaos (for such they were called), who carried him to the top of the cliffs, cut his throat with a stone knife, then tore his body into small pieces, which were thrown down to the waters far beneath, where he was devoured by the angry Llaos. And such shall be the fate of every Klamath brave who from that day to this dares to look upon the lake."--Minneapolis Tribune.
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, March 19, 1900, page 3
CRATER LAKE DISCOVERY
J. W. Hillman Tells How and When It Was First Found.
I see that a former resident of Southern Oregon in the early '60s claims to have been with the party that discovered Crater Lake. Mr. Clark dates his supposed discovery many years too late.
Just 50 years ago this summer a party of prospectors from California came to Rogue River Valley, stopped a day or two, laid in a supply of provisions, and then left the valley as they supposed, secretly, and without having betrayed the object of their visit; but while making their purchases one of the party drank, and talked enough to cause some of my friends to repeat and speculate upon the object of their mission, which was soon declared to be the old familiar hunt for the Lost Cabin mine. If I remember rightly, there were 11 members of the California party, and just as soon as their object became known, another party of Oregon prospectors was formed to follow them, and if the mine was rediscovered, to share in the fruits of the fabulous wealth that was supposed to follow.
At this date I cannot recall the names of the party formed to follow the California prospectors. I think our party consisted of 11--just the same number as the party we were to follow. I think Henry Klippel, J. L. Loudon, Pat McManus, a Mr. Little and myself were part of the number. I know Loudon was there; I am almost sure Klippel and Little were there, and I am sure I was one of the number. We made quick preparations, got some provisions together, and started after the California miners, who soon discovered that we were on their trail; and then it was a game of hide and seek, until rations on both sides began to get low. The Californians would push through the brush, scatter, double backwards on their trail, and then camp in the most inaccessible places to be found, and it sometimes puzzled us to locate and camp near enough to watch them. One day while thus engaged, and when provisions had run very low, each party scattered out to look for anything in the shape of game that could be found.
On my return from an unsuccessful hunt, I passed close to the camp of the Californians. Up to this time neither party had spoken to one of the others, but seeing a young fellow in camp, I bade him good day, and got into conversation with him. He asked me what our object was in the mountains, and why we hung so close on their trail.
I frankly told him we believed their leader had certain landmarks, which, if found, would enable them to locate the "Lost Cabin," and as we were all pretty good prospectors and hunters, we intended to stay with them until the mine was found or starvation drove us back to the valley. After this a truce was declared, and we worked and hunted in unison. One day just before deciding that it was no longer safe to stay in the mountains, with our very limited supply of food and no game to be found, we camped on the side of a mountain, and after consultation it was decided that a few of each party should take what provisions could be spared and for a couple of days longer hunt for landmarks which the leader of the California party was in search of; of that party I was one. Loudon did not go on with us, and who else did or did not go, I cannot remember.
On the evening of our first day, while riding up a long, sloping mountain, we suddenly came in sight of water and were very much surprised, as we did not expect to see any lakes, and did not know but what we had come in sight of and close to Klamath Lake, and not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down, and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death and destruction. We came to the lake a very little to the right of a small sloping butte or mountain, situated in the lake, with a top somewhat flattened. Every man of the party gazed with wonder at the sight before him, and each in his own peculiar way gave expression to the thoughts within him, but we had no time to lose, and after rolling some boulders down the side of the lake, we rode to the left as near the rim as possible, past the butte, looking to see an outlet for the lake, but we could find none.
I was very anxious to find a way to the water, which was immediately vetoed by the whole party, and as the leader of the Californians had become discouraged, we decided to return to camp, but not before we discussed what name we should give the lake. There were many names suggested, but Mysterious Lake and Deep Blue Lake were most favorably received, and on a vote Deep Blue Lake was chosen for a name.
We secured a small stick about the size of a walking cane, and with a knife made a slit in one end, a piece of paper was torn from a memorandum book, our names written on it, the paper stuck in the slit, and the stick propped up in the ground to the best of our ability. We then reluctantly turned our backs upon the future Crater Lake of Oregon. The finding of Crater Lake was an accident, as we were not looking for lakes, but the fact of my being first upon its banks was due to the fact that I was riding the best saddle mule in Southern Oregon, the property of Jimmy Dobson, a miner and placer, with headquarters at Jacksonville, who had furnished me the mule in consideration of a claim to be taken in his name should we be successful. Stranger to me than our discovery was the fact that after our return I could get no acknowledgment from any Indian, buck or squaw, old or young, that any such lake existed; each and every one denied any knowledge of it, or ignored the subject completely.
A few months after our return, war broke out between whites and Indians, and in September of the same year I was shot while in camp on Evans Creek, where several Californians were killed, among them being old "Grizzly," a well-known California fighter when volunteers were called for. And while on the subject of Indian wars, I would like to know if the particulars of the siege of Galice Creek were ever published, and has the story of the killing of Mrs. Wagoner and her child, and the noble defense of Mrs. Harris in protecting herself and child, after the killing of her husband, ever found its way into print. A nobler, pluckier defense was never recorded, and if Oregon ever has a "Hall of Fame," then the name of Mrs. Harris should find an honored place therein.
J. W. HILLMAN.Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, June 18, 1903, page 1
Hope Villa (La.) Jan. 2nd 1906Silas J. Day Esq.
I was very glad to get a letter from an old acquaintance in reply to my letter of inquiry, as it makes time and distance seem less.
To begin with I am the same J. W. Hillman that lived in Jacksonville the time you refer to and the one who had command of the expedition that found the bodies of the Ledfords after the massacre by the Rogue River Indians, and incidentally I may mention that on that expedition I had with my company Col. Kelly of the Oregon militia, Mr. Abbott, Indian agt. and [Ben] Davis--a nephew of Jeff Davis--neither one joined the command but went along to see what was being done. Col. Kelly was very anxious to have me muster in under the law of Oregon, but by doing so I [would have] lost my command of the men as he then would be my superior officer. I refused to do so, and I think it was his influence that caused the merchants of Jacksonville to refuse to renew supplies for a further chase of the Indians, as he claimed I might bring on another Indian war by chastising any band of Indians whom I might find. Abbott was the man who found the cache where the bodies were buried, and he so reported to me on his return to camp.
Now as to my history. I was born in Albany, N.Y. March 29th 1832. In '48 my father moved with his family to New Orleans, La. In the spring of '49 we joined the overland expedition sent by the government to Oregon. Deady of Oregon was in the same expedition. We arrived in Oregon City in Sept. of the same year and sailed for Frisco by ship Aurora, Capt. Kilbourn commanding. Before sailing I helped load the ship and had charge of a raft of lumber down the Willamette to the mouth of the Columbia. After staying in San Francisco a short time we went to Mariposa; from there my father returned to N.O., and I drifted around Cal. a short time, then made Jacksonville, Or. my headquarters. I married my first wife in ('67 I think) in N.O. With her I returned to my mining camp on Granite Creek--John Day country. My wife's family were on the Evening Star when she foundered, and my wife and self returned to La., where I have since lived. Children by my first wife all dead. In 1876 I married my present wife and have two married children--one boy and one girl. The boy is assistant civil engineer on the T&P R. Rd.
Some years ago an Oregon lawyer wrote me [probably B. F. Dowell]; he had accidentally discovered that I was entitled to pay for services in the Oregon war and agreed to collect for me half, which I agreed to give, and he sent my share I suppose. I had forgotten that I was entitled to anything, but the govt. would not recognize the agreement between Col. Ross, Charley Drew and myself, which was that I was to get $16.00 dolls. per day for special express riding and $4.00 per day for my horse--that was after Mrs. Wagoner and her daughter were killed. I am getting a pension, but I refused to make application as long as I could attend to my own farming operations as they should be. I was and am still opposed to pensions unless under rigid investigation the party is worthy of the same, and just now I think of it I recd. your letter while in bed suffering from my shattered knee and just before your letter was handed me I extracted a piece of bone from my knee which had been causing me much agony. I have been in correspondence with Mrs. Martha Rapp of Ashland for some time past, and she has kept me pretty well posted about Rogue River Valley and its pioneers. I think she could write a history of the valley and its old settlers which would be valuable to the oldtimers. I am not used to the pen and have written myself tired, and yet I would like to inquire if you know of any survivors of the relief of Galice Creek? That is a little portion of history of Southern Oregon I have never seen in print, and I don't think there are any living but myself that knows the particulars. Ross and Drew and myself were the parties to the relief of the creek, and I was the one to whom the very dangerous task was given, and possibly I will write its history and have it published in the Sunday Oregonian. They have published several articles of S. Oregon written by myself.
Have I been explicit enough?
Wishing you a long life and a prosperous new year
I remain yours trulyP.S. I enclose the one-dollar application for June.
J. W. Hillman
Silas J. Day Papers, Lilly Library, Indiana University.
HILLMAN FIRST SAW OUR CRATER LAKE
Hope Villa Man Writes of the Trip to the Body of Water in 1853.
Tells of the Discovery of Wizard Island.
Captain O. C. Applegate has received a letter from J. W. Hillman of Hope Villa, La., the discoverer of Crater Lake, in which the writer recalls his trip to the lake fifty-nine years ago, and the impressions it gave him at that time. Hillman was one of a prospecting party hunting for valuable minerals in 1852, and happened to be foremost of the party when the lake was found. In those days he was in business in Jacksonville, Ore., which was the principal trading point of the region, there being no white people in the vicinity [of Klamath Falls]. Mr. Hillman was at that time in business at Jacksonville with Alexander Martin, Sr., now president of the First National Bank of Klamath Falls, to whom he refers in his letter as "Jerry."
Among other things he says in his letter:
"I was very much pleased with yours of July 13th, as Jerry had mentioned you in one of his letters to me, and the postal cards were reminders of a day long past, only there was no hotel at that point when I first saw it. Wizard Island looks very natural to me, as everything connected with the discovery does.
"There is one thing connected with the discovery I have never mentioned in writing about it, although I have often spoken of it in telling of the peculiarity of the lake, and others may have imagined the same thing that all of our party did. We rode past Wizard Island, leaving it on our right, looking for an outlet to the lake. I was in the lead, and although the snow was down to the water in many places on the banks, yet opposite the island the land was bare, and just after passing the island I thought my mule flinched as though his feet hurt. I placed my hand down below my knee and called to the boys, telling them we were near fire, as perceptible heat was arising from the surface. It might have been imagination on my part, but if so, the entire party had the same imagination, for they all agreed with me.
"I never mentioned the fact in writing about the lake, for fear of being called a visionary, and it looked so unreasonable that I hated to write about it, for I knew it must have been thousands of years since the lake was formed, and the cooling process should have been complete by that time.
"I also think I was the first man who ever dipped water from the head of the canyon on Rogue River. It was on our return trip. This, I think, is the first time I have ever written about it, but I have often told about it, as it had some funny features connected with it, in which J. Loudon, or Rube, as he was generally known, was concerned. If you never knew Rube I think Jerry could tell you some of his peculiarities, although it was while out in the mountains that he showed to the best advantage." [Click here for a story about James Louden/Loudon, aka Reuben Q. Rinos]
Evening Herald, Klamath Falls, September 10, 1912, page 2
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
As Told by Bentley Mackay.
He comes to us like a voice from the past--the past with its vanished glories; of the unknown West with the bands of roving Indians and desperadoes; of the time when the plains were dotted with millions of buffalo and the mountains crowded thick with all other kinds of game.
All of these things have vanished. Where once the redskin and the buffalo roamed at will are peaceful farms and villages. The thunder of the trains as they dash towards the West give but faint repetition of the thundering tread of the monarchs of the plain. A new West is in the ascendancy now, and the old has been relegated to the dim and misty past.
But there is still one link which binds it to us, and the link of which I speak is J. W. Hillman, soldier, scholar and explorer, who has the honor of being the discoverer of Crater Lake, the deepest and most beautiful lake in America, the lake about which Roosevelt says, "It is superb; no tongue can describe or painter portray the beauty of this lake. It is, and will remain until the end of time, the one and only Crater Lake."
And to think that we of Louisiana can claim him as our own adopted son! To see his tall military figure, his snowy white hair and beard, his patrician nose and keen, piercing dark eyes, one would not think that 82 eventful years have passed over his head.
His reminiscences read like a romance, but each statement is backed by documents which prove what he says is true:
I was born March 20, 1832, in the city of Albany, N.Y. I lived there for sixteen uneventful years. In 1848 my father decided to move his family to New Orleans. We children greeted this plan with enthusiasm and could hardly wait until we were aboard the good ship which was to carry us on our wonderful journey.
But the time came, as it comes to all landlubbers who venture upon the sea, when our one thought and prayer was to place our feet upon solid earth, for we were as seasick as people can possibly get and not die. At last we got so we could look at food without wanting to throw it overboard, and as soon as my appetite returned I ventured upon the deck once more.
It was here that I made the acquaintance of a Mr. Goodrich, of the firm of Hyde & Goodrich, cotton factors, New Orleans. I asked him many questions about his city, and he good-naturedly told me many interesting stories of the place and its people. Just before we landed in New Orleans he asked me if I "wanted a position?" I of course told him "Yes," for I had been studying Latin, Greek and ancient history so long that I was tired of them. I knew more of the Pharaohs of Egypt and of Virgil than I did of my own country. He told me to call around to his office when I was ready to begin work and he would see what he could do for me. I thanked him for the interest he had shown in me and promised to call upon him as soon as possible.
When I first viewed the city of New Orleans I was charmed with it, and as equally well were my father and mother.
Thus it was many days before I thought of my friend who had promised me the job. Father had begun work at once in the position given him before he left Albany.
Finally I threw off the languorous feeling which the sleepy city had imbued me with and decided to call upon Mr. Goodrich, though I thought he had forgotten me long ere this.
I finally located his place of business, which was thriving jewelry store. He had not forgotten me, and after greeting me kindly he wrote an address upon a piece of paper and told me to take it around to the firm of Buck & Peck, cotton factors, on Gravier Street [sic--see correction at beginning of next article].
I was given a job at once. It consisted of taking orders for cotton to all parts of the city. After doing this for some months, I was given a desk and with it a job which consisted of answering many of the letters of the firm's customers and changing foreign money into American.
Soon rumors reached me of the wonderful discoveries of gold in faraway California. In a few weeks more the gold fever woke the sleepy city and everyone who could possibly leave left for that faraway country which was beckoning with golden fingers to the world.
At the time there was a regiment of mounted rifles stationed at St. Joe, Mo., and the team master's department was being recruited in New Orleans. Many people were joining in hopes of securing a safe journey. My father joined, and I pleaded tearfully with him to allow me [to] accompany him. He was loath to do so, and pointed out to me that as I was the eldest child I should remain and care for the family. I then pointed out to him that I had a brother only one year my junior and that he could stay and care for Mother and the children until we got back. He finally relented, and the happiest moment of my life was when I was assigned a position as an extra driver.
At last all men were ready to embark, and so Father, with a last word to his brother-in-law--who was port collector under Gov. Isaac Johnson, and through whose influence we had secured so enviable [a] position--as to the arrangement of his business affairs and the care of Mother and the children, should anything happen to us, we embarked.
I shall never forget that day, as I stood on the deck and gazed back on the city we were rapidly leaving, varied emotions stirring my breast. The words of my mother recurred to me. I remembered vividly how she had kissed me and said, "May God, in all His mercy, watch over and protect my boy from all dangers!"
The tears rushed to my eyes, and afraid of being seen weeping like some child, I went below to my bunk.
We reached St. Louis without an accident and were transferred from there to Fort Leavenworth, where the regiment awaited us.
It was some time before the officers could agree as to how we were to travel. Finally they decided that due to better camping facilities it would be best to break the company up in small divisions. There were 300 six-mule wagons, with two drivers for each team. I was sent along in one of the wagons as extra driver, should anything happen to the regular driver. As we traveled in divisions of 100 wagons each, from five to ten miles apart, I saw very little of my father, who was at the head of another division.
We followed what was called "the old emigrant trail," crossing the Rocky Mountains at South Pass. We were now in a section of country which was unsurpassed in its rugged grandeur, with miles and miles of uncharted prairies, dotted with millions of buffalo as far as the eye could see. And above us beamed the blazing sun, shining until it seemed it would never set. When it did sink there were no hills to hide it from our view, but it seemed to disappear into the very earth. As soon as it sank from sight the west took on the color of orange, then it changed to a bluish purple, and in a few minutes it was dark. In all directions the prairies were dotted with our campfires, while we hurriedly prepared our suppers.
The two things which impressed me most upon the entire trip was the deadly effects of the cholera which raged in other trains ahead of us, and of the mad rush of the buffalo when they began a stampede.
No cholera had broken out in our ranks yet, but we were expecting it at all times. The trail was littered with the bones of animals, while the graves which marked it made it seem one continuous graveyard.
We also witnessed a buffalo stampede. Some distance away one of the leaders of the herd became frightened and began to run; the ones nearest him followed, and then it seemed as though the entire universe was covered with the brownish forms of buffalo rushing madly along, gathering momentum at each step. On they continued, rushing over anything that got in their way, through a wagon train, across a river, over a bluff, while in their wake hundreds of weaker members of the herd strewed that way, some crushed and mangled, others bleeding and dying, but all inevitably falling prey to the slinking coyotes and vultures which followed them.
The country became mountainous now, and the scenery more grand. Sometimes we would come upon springs boiling from the ground hot enough to cook food; other times springs would be passed which were cold as ice and most inviting to the eye, but one glance at the skeletons which surrounded it told us that the water was poison and death lurked in its depths. I have seen yokes of oxen lying dead with their gear still upon them, so instantaneous had been their death.
I learned that these springs contained arsenic and other poisons gathered from unknown sources. It was a great temptation for a man nearly dying for water to come upon these places and not be able to drink. I have gone for days at a stretch and not taken food or drink and suffered no ill effects.
As we crossed the Rockies and saw the water flowing towards the Pacific we gave a shout, for we thought our troubles had ended, but such was not the case. As we came upon the trails which branched off towards Salt Lake and California, desertions became common and we were forced to guard the wagons to prevent the deserters from rifling them.
One thing I have forgotten to mention, and this was our adventure with the Indians. We saw very little of them, as our party was an extra large one and there was no danger of an attack from them. The only man we lost from this cause was one of our scouts, Jack Wilcox by name. A young Indian brave had been following in our wake for some time, but as he seemed very friendly no one paid any attention to him. One day Wilcox was showing him how to use a six-shooter. Leaving the gun in the Indian's hands, he happened to turn his back. The brave placed the gun at the back of his head and fired. Wilcox fell dead without a wound, and the Indian, still holding his weapon, disappeared. A party was sent after him at once, and some time later they returned. Nothing was said, but we knew that justice had been done, and the Indian had paid for his rash act with his life. Sometime later it developed that the reason for the deed was that Wilcox had mistreated some of his family, and the Indian had sworn revenge.
Every night as the campfires were burning bright and supper had been eaten we would all circle around a cheery fire and listen to some tale of adventure told by some grizzled veteran of the plains.
Finally one of the drivers became unruly and had to be placed in irons. I was appointed to take his place. And the job of driving six hard-mouthed Mexican mules gave me enough to think of for some time.
One night I was driving my team in the lead. It had been a hard day and I was fatigued, and despite my efforts my eyes closed and I slept. How long I slept I do not know, when I began to dream that a rattlesnake had bitten me. I woke with a start and gazed down the sheer walls of a precipice. A few steps more and I would have been dashed into eternity.
Our teams became very weak, and we abandoned all of the empty wagons, making much better time. Long marches and short rations had made the men mutinous, and ill feeling between the officers and soldiers became very noticeable. No doubt it would have reached open rebellion had not an incident happened which changed the thoughts of the men for a while. It was the appearance of cholera in our company.
One day Bainbridge, one of our wagon masters, came riding into camp cursing like one possessed of the evil one. He drew his pistol and placed it to his head, but before he could fire a cramp seized him and he fell from his mule while the pistol was discharged harmlessly in the air. We did all we could for the unfortunate man but all to no purpose, for within a few hours he was dead.
It seems odd to me now that one of the army surgeons was not called, but to my knowledge he was never called to attend any of the teamsters or civilians. Though out of such a motley crew there must have been a doctor; we had men from all walks of life--lawyers, professors, mechanics and soldiers of fortune--all following the beckoning goddess of fortune. One of our poets put it this way. I can only remember part of it, which ran like this:
We've lawyers, we've doctors,Passing through the Grand Ronde Valley, we had to fight a small forest fire, but no damage was done to teams or wagons. As we crossed the Cascades we came to where there had been a fierce forest fire and the trees were still smoldering. The ground was very hot in some places, for the fire had followed the roots of the trees far down into the ground. It took skillful driving to get the teams by.
We have educated fools--
They've quit their mean professions
And gone to driving mules.
We came to the banks of the mighty Columbia River, and its rushing, roaring torrents were a revelation to us all. The caravan followed along not far distant from it for many miles until we were close to Oregon City, then we headed straight for it. We reached there Sept. 18, 1849, after having been five months and three days on the journey.
Oregon City was then a small place filled with miners' shacks and rough dance halls and saloons [see correction at beginning of next article].
An episode happened to me which, though it has very little to do with the story, comes vividly to my memory.
I halted my team in the street to allow them a brief rest. I was sitting on the wagon gazing about me when I saw a pretty miss, surely not out of her 'teens, come out of a house almost directly in front of me. She halted and gazed timidly at me. She did not think I had noticed her, for I did not [return her] gaze for fear of her leaving. She looked just like the girls I had known at home, quietly dressed, neat and pretty. I longed to speak to her, for she was the first woman I had seen for months (or so it seemed to me), but I refrained for fear she would misunderstand and become angry. I whipped up my team in line with the others, but as I gazed wistfully back at her I felt very tired and homesick. Tears started to my eyes for the second time upon the journey, and I turned away lest my rough companions not understand my childish weakness and chide me.
----The rest of J. W. Hillman's reminiscences will be sent you later. They will consist of his adventures in Oregon and his subsequent discovery of Crater Lake.
Bentley B. Mackay.State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, May 22, 1914, page 3
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
By Bentley B. Mackay.
(Before this article begins, I wish to correct two errors which I unconsciously made in the previous article. They are: Buck and Peck were jewelers and not cotton factors, and Oregon City was a small place and instead of having the appearance of a western town resembled a quiet New England village.--B.B.M.)
On our arrival in Oregon City the turning over to the quartermaster of our wagons and teams ended our connections with the United States government, and an entirely new and different life opened before us.
At this time there was lying at the mouth of the Willamette River the three-masted, full-rigged whaler the Aurora, commanded by Captain Kilbourn, first mate Mr. Powell. The whaler was waiting to take a load of lumber to San Francisco, lumber at that time being worth three hundred dollars per thousand feet. All of the citizens who could secured passage on her to California, the goal of our dreams. The price of a ticket was seventy-five dollars, and under favorable conditions the trip should have been made in two weeks, but first she had to get her cargo aboard, which took much time.
My father secured a passage for himself, and I had free passage given me by acting as assistant steward. Our regular steward was a Malay, and after assuming my duties aboard I was initiated into the mysteries of baking bread, which had to be baked every day for the whole lot who were aboard.
On our way down the Willamette there were two unfinished rafts of lumber; these were to be finished and floated to where the Aurora was anchored in the Columbia. The larger of the rafts was taken command of by the second mate, and as I was a member of the crew [I] was given command of the next raft, with orders to finish loading and follow by the next tide.
The second mate had a six-hour start on me and expected to beat me very easily, but I was anxious to catch him, and as soon as our raft was completed I made a large steering oar and two sweeps. In addition I fastened two uprights to the raft to which we could fasten our blankets, causing them to act as sails for our unwieldy craft. There was a good breeze, and our hopes ran high. Our raft was imperfectly built, and in the front part there was an unfilled place about six feet square. I took the front of the raft to watch the course and look out for any snags or obstructions in the river, for owing to our blankets being used as sails we could not see from the rear which course we were steering[, which kept us] pretty busy forward, crossing from one side to another and giving orders how to steer.
The defect in our raft proved to be a dangerous trap and came near cutting my usefulness short, for as it plowed along it collected a great deal of drift and trash floating in the river, and in the darkness the unfilled place seemed as solid as the rest, and in my eagerness I walked off the raft in the water. I was of course very much surprised, but quickly climbed back upon my perch and said nothing about it to the others. In perhaps an hour I again forgot myself and walked off again. This was too much. I climbed aboard and told the crew to take in sail, by folding the blankets, and proceed to the aid of the sweeps, as I told them there was too much excitement for me to act as pilot in the night run.
When morning came we awoke to the fact that we were a healthy and very hungry lot and had no provisions with us. Just as the morning sun peeped over [the] tops of the magnificent trees we spied a small house in a clearing. We tied up, and I went ashore on a begging expedition. I told the settler who and what we were and explained our needs. He and his good wife kindly gave us all of the potatoes, biscuits and coffee we needed. I have eaten better, a great deal more dainty, meals, but to me that fragrant coffee, those beaten biscuits and delicious potatoes seemed to me the best I have ever eaten. After dining we began our journey again.
I remember but one settlement between Oregon City and Baker's Bay at the mouth of the Columbia, and that was Astoria, situated on the side of a mountain looking as though it were going to slip downhill at any moment and find a watery grave for itself. True, I stopped at a place called Portland, went ashore and looked for the town but could not see it at first for the tangle of down timber which was in the way. I climbed on one of the monstrous trees which were lying piled on top of each other, and in the distance I counted what seemed to be three log cabins. One I think was a blacksmith shop, but as far as I could see there was neither trail nor road leading to or from the place. This was in September, 1849. Portland is now one of the most thriving cities in the state of Oregon, whose population runs high in the thousands.
We forced our raft along as fast as possible, and just before sundown saw the first raft making fast to the Aurora preparatory to storing its load in the hold of the ship.
After making fast our raft to the ship we all went aboard ready to load our cargo. And now my duties as assistant began, and I had plenty of time to learn my trade, for after dropping [down] river to Baker's Bay we tied up for three months in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the bar. By the way, an article appeared in the Sunday Evening Post a few weeks ago, and [the] writer, I think it was John Fleming Wilson, stated that the bar is one of the most dangerous ones on the Pacific coast.
The time spent in Baker's Bay had plenty of excitement and interesting experiences. Captain Kilbourn was a skillful and careful navigator and always took advantage of every opportunity he thought favorable for the passage of the bar. Many times when trying to dash across the treacherous place we were nearly dashed on the Peacock Shoals, which received its name from one of Uncle Sam's warships which had been wrecked there sometime previously [on July 18, 1841] to our passage. Her spars were plainly visible above the waters of the bay, and we gave them as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes during the day the captain would man one of the whaleboats and visit some places on the shore or determine points on the bar. I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the crew and always went with him. What I learned of managing a whaleboat, which was of great service to me afterward, [I] attribute to his interest in me. All the time we were constantly on the watch for a chance to run out to sea. Sometimes we caught a glimpse of another ship waiting to get in as anxious as we were to get out. Then we missed her for quite a while and the captain told us that she had gone back to San Francisco for provisions.
The shipboard at night changed from the daily routine of labor to one of laziness and enjoyment. The particular kind of enjoyment being usually indulged in was poker. At the long table--dining table--in the cabin the captain and three others would play poker every night. Always it was the same quartet. They were two brothers by the name of Cody. One of them I remember was named Mike Cody. When the game began I usually sat [at] the right side of the Captain, but I did not know one card from the other or the value of the hands, so the brothers did not mind it. Betting was real lively; large amounts were bet, but no money was put up if the betting was of a very large amount. One night this led to a dispute as to who had the most money on their person. Cody offered to bet the Captain that he (Cody) had the largest amount, but the Captain ingeniously led the talk to other topics, and the game went on as usual. When no one was looking, the Captain whistled to me to go to his stateroom and bring a large amount of cash. I had never been in his stateroom before, and I did not know where to look. His wife, who was a passenger aboard, was out of the room. I opened a closet on the side of his room and found many gold doubloons--Spanish money to a value of sixteen dollars--they were stacked in tall piles. I also found fancy boxes of Chinese make filled with the same. It was more money than I had seen before. I took a good handful, closed the doors and returned and took my seat quietly beside the Captain and filled his coat pocket with the money I had brought. Then when the talk came around as to who had the most money on their person the Captain was willing to bet. Cody was suspicious and said, "That kid has been away from the table, and I think I saw him pass something to you--No, I don't believe I'll bet tonight." And he didn't. It was rumored at one time that the Codys had won the entire cargo, but later the Captain won it back. The game they played was the old-fashioned five-card poker. You played the hand dealt you, then shuffled for another deal.
After our dash across the bar and we were at last in open sea, everything aboard ship changed. The Captain became the keen, alert commander, who inspires confidence in passengers and obedience in the crew.
Besides the large crew of discharged civilians, and the Captain's wife, there were but three passengers aboard, two cousins, one named Libby, the other I have forgotten. I believe they were only traveling to see San Francisco.
Our ship must have been a beautiful sight to those whom we met or passed; every spar was crowded with clean canvas. The wind was fair, and we made a welcome trip to port.
We got in San Francisco a few days before the first big fire that swept the canvas city off the map. Where hundreds of white canvas stores and tents once stood there remained after the fire nothing but smoldering ruins.
I did not go off the boat when we first landed, but waited until all the passengers left, some to get work there or strike out at once for the mines.
My father and four other New Orleans men managed to secure a whole upper story of a small house which was outside the business district and the burned area. We paid one hundred dollars per month for it, and there was just room for us to spread our blankets and sleep on the floor. We stayed in Frisco for some time before we decided where to go to the mines and preparing for the trip. I got jobs in the lumber yards for five dollars per day. Short jobs were one dollar per hour. I usually took the short jobs, as I made more.
In the early '50s California received the finest artists, musicians, merchants and merchandise that the world could supply. There were also, of course, that riffraff of the world, thieves, thugs and even convicts from Australia.
Gambling houses were in full blast, each one supporting a fine orchestra of musicians. There was only one exception where a solitary violinist held sway--John Kelly, an Irishman, played alone, receiving one hundred dollars per night for his services, and wherever he played the house was always full. In later years I had the good luck of making the acquaintance of this genius. In his travels he stopped over at Jacksonville, Oregon, where I made my headquarters. One day he and I were drawn on the same jury to try some petty case in a justice of the peace's office. When the case was given to the jury I said, "Kelly, we'll make you foreman, now let us decide the case and get away." In two minutes the verdict was ready. "Kelly," I said, "get to work and write up your report." It was then I learned that the poor devil could not write a word. I took paper and pencil and in perhaps half an hour I made him sign "John Kelly" so that it passed muster when signed on the returns. But to get back to San Francisco--
The region of the lawless element was amazing and culminated in the forming of the Vigilance Committee.
The streets of the city became so impassable that merchandise could not be hauled from one square to another without being mired. Merchandise which needed hauling and storing before it was sold was abandoned--it could not stand hauling and storing charges. I have walked for several squares on full boxes of tobacco laid down for that purpose. Montgomery Street for squares was impassable for man or beast. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody good." For instance: A gambler offered me five dollars to carry a bag of coin across the street while he picked his way carefully across. On another occasion a man offered me one hundred dollars for my boots--a pair my father bought me in St. Louis and I had not worn much. I refused the offer.
B.B.M.State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, June 19, 1914, page 10
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,After our party had decided where to go we began getting ready. First they bought a whaleboat, for we were as anxious to get away as we were to get to the Golden Gate. The men of the party attended to the details while I picked up occasional jobs and saw life from a new angle.
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
As Told by Bentley Mackay.
The boat purchased was in fine condition in all respects, but [with] the necessary supplies she was overloaded, and when the full crew boarded her she sank very low in the water. Five men and a boy in an overloaded boat was not in the least conducive to safety, for as far as I ever knew I was the only one in the crew who had ever handled an oar in his life.
We made a late getaway, for the tide was against us, and we were headed for the San Joaquin River. I had no idea where it was or how to get there, but it would have been all the same to me if they had headed for the Amazon. I would have taken it as all in the day's work. Five clumsy men in an overloaded boat and a boy as a steersman would not appeal to my ideas of comfort or safety at the present time, but then I was filled with youth and hope and was sure I could get out of any tight place in which I might be caught.
It was hard work to navigate the boat; the tide wanted to carry us through the Golden Gate, and we were not ready to go. It was getting dark and we were anxious to camp for the night if we could possibly make a landing. It was dark before we reached the nearest land, and the rush of the waters through and around the rocks made landing seem impossible. I gave up the steering oar to one of the men with instructions how to use it, together with the different commands. I then went forward and lay down upon the bow and watched for rocks and other obstructions until we found a place we thought we could make a safe landing. The boat was hauled as far inland as possible, and we at once prepared for a night's camp. I was saved the trouble of cooking supper, for there was enough cold food to last for the night.
I was pretty well worn out from handling a 16-foot steering oar either on my knees or in [a] sitting posture, for there was no room to stand, which is the proper way. My father spread a large rubber blanket which we had and bade me lie down and get some much-needed rest while he and the others took turns watching the boat and cargo. They must have had a hard time of it, for the boat and cargo were in a different position from what they were when I lay down. What my father thought was a dry spot to sleep on turned out to be what is called a sponge in the ground, and when I awoke I was lying in about two inches of water.
Quick preparation was made for a getaway; while one got breakfast the others loaded the boat. Soon we were on our way with high hopes to a quick fortune.
Our worst troubles came when we came to that crooked, treacherous stream called the San Joaquin River. It was early in January 1850, and the river was filled with a rushing torrent caused by the early thaws of the mountain snows. And before we had learned how to manage our craft the current, sweeping around a bend, struck us and turned us completely around. We soon learned how to take advantage of these bends, for we always steered for the inside course, thus escaping the full sweep of the current. In this way we made good time.
We stopped for a couple of days at a place called New York; a short distance from there was a store, and all of our party except myself went for supplies. I remember it was a Sunday morning and the camp was nearly deserted. A man appeared on the opposite bank and wanted the ferryman. I told him there was no ferryman so far as I knew. He saw my boat and asked who it belonged to. I replied that "I was the owner, but it was a hard talk to manage a boat of its size in so swift a stream, but that I might manage to pull over and get him if he was anxious." He was anxious all right, and when I brought him safely across he asked me what the charges were. I told him "two dollars," which he paid without a kick.
We continued our journey in the boat when one day one of our party accidentally shot himself through the foot by a bullet from what we called a "pepperbox," the first example of the revolver. The wound did not appear serious, but in a few days we had to leave him with one of the party as a nurse, expecting them to overtake us in a few days. Lockjaw set in, and the only one who rejoined us was the nurse.
We then sold the boat and purchased a mule and continued our journey to the famous Fremont Claims or the Mariposa Mines, as the name was, I think.
Flour was selling for one dollar per pound, and everything [else] was in proportion.
We staked off our claim, dug a big ditch to turn the stream into, and after hard work and running in debt for supplies we found out that the claim was not a very desirable one. I then took to the hills on a prospecting tour, found some gulches that looked promising. We broke up our party and hustled to get out of debt, which we were lucky enough to do in a very short time.
In those days I was never satisfied to work in a regular mining camp, but wanted to prospect and find my own mining ground. I never did find any rich "placer mines," but we would make from one-half ounce to one ounce per day, which was just enough to keep us encouraged and in hopes of finding more. We occasionally heard of prospectors striking a rich pocket and cleaning up five, six [hundred] or perhaps one thousand dollars per day. We never had such good luck but cleaned up only a small amount each day but which counted up in the final showdown.
We stayed in the Mariposa County until the summer of '51, when my father decided he wanted to get back to the States, and he and I started to San Francisco, where he made arrangements for his passage to New York. I told him I would stay awhile longer in California and see what luck might do for me. He was much surprised at my decision, but instead [decided] on depositing two hundred and fifty dollars with Wells, Fargo & Co. to my account. To the best of my knowledge they still have the money, for I never remember of having any need of it.
I never saw my father again until 1861, ten years after he had bade me goodbye in San Francisco.
San Francisco always held a charm for me, at least for a short time, so I at once began looking for work, and as always happened I found it without trouble, for if I did not look for work, work looked for me, and I always could have a job.
I fell in with a man who was owner of several fine teams. He was preparing to start a stage route from Stockton and was trying out his teams and let some of them out on shares. I got a team from him, giving him half of what I made, and as business was pretty good we were both satisfied.
There were two places at which I boarded while teaming; one was a restaurant on Montgomery Street called the Blue Wing, where the prices of board was $21 per week. You had the privilege of eating three meals a day, but no place to sit or rest--just eat and get out. On their bill of fare they had every kind of meat that could be found west of the Rockies, from mountain sheep or grizzly bear to antelope, or from swan to duck. You called for what you wished and got something nicely cooked. If you were in doubt as to it being [the] original order they did not try to argue with you but just let you do the proving--which saved them lots of trouble.
I would board at the Blue Wing a couple of weeks and then go to a boarding house near to where I had my horses stabled. It was a different style of a house, there being much more room. A long room opened off the street, with tables running its full length with benches on either side. The food was brought out in large dishes and served as desired by the diner. The reason I liked this place was because they cooked the very nicest Boston brown bread I ever tasted. It was served in liberal quantities.
After supper we could sit at the long table and read. One night while reading, a man opened the front door and asked if there was anyone who wanted a job in a hurry.
I told him I did. He wanted to know how long it would take me to get ready. "Ten minutes after I reach the stables," I replied. "Hurry up and come along," was the reply.
In a few minutes I was ready. "Where to?" I asked. "Rincon Point" was the reply. Now Rincon Point was [a] locked-in wharf under the supervision of the customs house. While driving there the man asked me if I would cross from an open wharf to the one he wished me to go to. A foot wharf connected the two. I knew this was about eight feet wide, but not intended for teams to drive over. I also knew just how perfectly I had my teams in control and how close to danger I could go and yet be safe. I said, "I think I can make it." He said, "Do it."
I crossed over safely and got inside the locked wharf, where a steamer was unloading cargo. The wharf was full of teams and workmen. My employer got down, disappeared for a few minutes, returned with a man, carrying a small box about three feet square and about eight inches deep. This they placed in the front of the wagon, and we put our feet on it and drove to the locked gate. A man glanced in and saw nothing and allowed us to pass. I was told to drive to [the] Wells, Fargo Express office and leave the box and call at his office the next day for my pay.
When I called, the office was full of people. I told the clerk what I came for and he asked "How much?" I replied, "Twenty dollars." He kicked and said ten was enough. I said, "You all seemed pretty anxious to get that box and yet you could find no one who would take a chance on driving a team." I was talking rather energetically, and he must have been afraid of our talk being heard, for he opened the cash drawer and, slapping a twenty on the counter, told me to "git"--which I did without delay. I never found out what the mysterious box contained, but I am sure that we, I unwittingly, secured a box without government inspection or duty.
It seemed the easiest thing in the world for me to secure a job when I asked for it, and I never acknowledged being unable to do anything asked of me. I would have agreed to run a steamship or a revival meeting just so the terms were satisfactory.
One day the proprietor of one of the large gambling houses asked me what I would charge to plow ten acres of ground for him. This was a poser, for I had never had my hands on a plow and would not have known which end to hitch my team to. I put him off time and again and told him I would have to see the land before setting my price and made arrangements to go out and look it over. I immediately got busy among the teamsters whom I knew had plowed before, and asked them what I ought to charge and what a man could plow in a day. None seemed to know exactly, and I asked if one acre a day was a conservative estimate. They replied that "it could be done."
After I had gone to look over the land, which I knew now to have been less than ten acres, I agreed to plow it for twenty-five dollars per acre. The owner thought the price was pretty steep, but when I told him that possibly I would have to use four horses he agreed to the price.
As near as I can remember there was a thin layer of sod over a rock foundation, so I could not plow deeper than four or five inches. I had all kinds of trouble learning to handle a plow; sometimes it would jump out of the ground and run 12 or 14 feet before I could get it to catch hold again, but I never did go back to remedy the places but let them stay as they were. Had no worse trouble until the last day and a half, when it seemed the work was too hard for my team, so I got another pair of horses and a helper and plowed with four teams [sic]. The trouble was, I found out after, was that I hard worn out my plow point against the rock and did not know enough to have it sharpened. After finishing the job I reported to the owner and told him to inspect the work. He did so and reported it satisfactory--and then I knew he did not know any more about plowing than I.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, September 18, 1914, page 8
REMINISCENCES OF J. W. HILLMAN,
FAMOUS FORTY-NINER AND THE
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE
Another instance of how jobs turned up for me was one Friday morning when after a couple of days of dull times I left my regular standard drive down to Long Wharf just to see if anything was doing. The day previous the owner of the team had given me a fine young mule to drive, telling me the animal was not well broken and to be careful with it, as it was very fiery and he thought had never been hit with a whip. I took my stand a few doors away from the corner near the wharf and was very much surprised to see a large number of fish stands, tables and buckets of fish blocking the way. One enterprising man with a large table had taken a position on the crossing, and there was no getting to the sidewalk without going some distance around. While sitting on my wagon watching the unusual sight, the proprietor of the corner saloon, whose entrance had been blocked by the fish dealers, came to me and asked what I would take to upset the stand that was on the crossing. I told him I was not anxious to do so, as the big husky [man] in charge was apt to give me a beating if he caught me. But he seemed very anxious to get him out of the way. He had argued with him but got no satisfaction as to the right of way.
I finally told him I would run the risk of a beating for ten dollars. He seemed to think the price rather high, but I pointed out that the fellow was able to berate me if he got the chance. He then slipped a ten-dollar gold piece in my hand and went back to his saloon. I gathered the lines up in my hands and gave the black, wild mule a severe cut with my whip, dropped the whip and yelled that "My mules were running away, for everyone to look out." I guided the team so that the hub of my hind wheel caught the leg of the table, and you may imagine the rest--some two hundred pounds of fish slipped and slided over the wharf in all directions. In the meantime the owner was busy chasing me and my team, yelling to me to "come back." I told him I would be back pretty soon and for him not to worry. This seemed to make him still more angry, for he yelled all kinds of names at me and continued to chase me. This was useless, for I soon left him far behind and soon his cries died away in the distance. But the last words I could distinguish were "Come back." It is needless to say I did not go back that day nor any other while in San Francisco.
I witnessed another one of the disastrous fires that so frequently swept the tent districts of San Francisco. The hundreds and hundreds of canvas houses burned like paper, and thousands of dollars worth of possessions were destroyed in a few moments. When the fire was raging at its highest a man jumped on my wagon and offered me one hundred dollars to make a load for him. While trying to get near his store I became blocked by wagons and teams of all descriptions, while fire was raging on all sides. I sprang from my wagon to loose my teams and try to save them from the awful heat. Just then I saw an opening ahead of me, and I rushed my wagon into it as fast as the mules could pull it. I forged slowly ahead, my mules becoming more and more frightened; finally I came to an opening and dashed out of the immediate fire zone. I did not make any money on that occasion and considered myself lucky to escape with my team.
Once again the desire for change and the wanderlust got hold of me, and off I struck for the mines. I was not particular where, just so long as I was going. This must have been a continuation of my boyhood ambition, which was to cross the Rocky Mountains and to go where no white man had gone before me, both of which were gratified before I became a man.
I went to Sacramento and then decided to go to Drayton, a mining camp, and in a few days I had located on a claim and found an empty cabin of which I occupied. It was a fairly good claim, and I worked it until another wandering fit struck me, and I went back to Sacramento. While working in Drayton we heard rumors of trouble between the Frenchmen and the Americans at Mokelumne Hill, a mine some distance away. The trouble finally culminated in the killing of some of the Frenchmen.
They organized and being the stronger party drove some of the Americans away from the claims, among whom was a man called "Mountain Jack," who had killed one or two of the opposite party, and their concentrated hate was directed toward him. He was driven from camp and the Frenchmen tried to catch him, but he was well mounted. When the news reached our camp that he had escaped it was not before he had been chased a hundred miles. I thought that this wild ride was a wonderful test of endurance, but thought no more of it until I had to duplicate it, many years after, when I took [it] as all in the day's work. I was not being chased, however, but [it] was something concerning politics. But as Kipling says, "That's another story."
On reaching Sacramento I looked for a job, not wishing to prospect just then. I remember walking in a busy-looking mercantile establishment and asking for a job. The usual questions of what I would do were asked. I said I could do most anything and did not care what it was just so the terms were satisfactory. After a little talk I found that the manager was in no need of clerks just then, but was the proprietor of a brickyard four miles below the city on the opposite side of the river. He wanted four boys for off-bearers, that is, to carry the molded clay in their frames and empty them in rows on the ground so that the sun might dry them before being built in a kiln for burning. And when I first got to the place I was surprised to see that our sleeping quarters were arranged on the open plain. A mosquito bar was staked off for each individual, and under each a neat bed ready for occupation. They were arranged in straight rows and looked more like a cemetery than a camp, although nothing could have been more appropriate for the comfort of the men. How long the works had been there I had no idea, but there seemed to be no system to the work, especially in reference to the output of the plant.
The pit from which the clay was dug and shoveled to the mill for the grinding was attended by men whom I never came in contact with. We had a stint of ten thousand bricks per day, and as there was no system to the work it took us until sundown to finish them. There were two big husky Russians to shovel clay to the mill, and they would not, or could not, keep it running regularly and smoothly. One morning they got quarreling about the work and delayed the whole operation. I got mad and told them to get out of the pit and I would show them they could not do a boy's work, for I would shovel it alone. They took it as a joke, and got out and I got in and took their place. As it happened, Mr. Pollock, the manager, happened to be there on one of his periodical visits. Hearing the bickering he came over to the works and asked what the trouble was about. I told him the two men were quarreling about doing a boy's work. "Can you do it?" he asked. "Yes," I said. "then do it and I will pay you more than anyone on the works." I held the job. We were well fed and well treated. Every morning at sunrise the cook would pass around to the beds of all the men with cups of coffee. But this was something I never did--drink coffee before breakfast--as it spoiled my appetite; neither would I smoke.
We were getting along all right with our work now and finishing our stint in shorter time, but I was not satisfied. I wanted to get at the pressing of the brick, as that seemed to be a nicer and cleaner job, requiring quicker motions, and I was surprised when the chance came to me. Something had turned up with the off-bearers, and the man pressing the brick said something about my not being able to take his place. I asked him if he was willing to change places. He said "Yes." I took his place and he took mine and finished the day's work. Early the next morning I hurried to the pit and got the molds and everything in order for work when he came up and told me to get out as he intended to take his job back. I told him that he had desired the change, and now I was not going to change back. About this time time Mr. Pollock came up and asked the cause of the dispute. When informed, he said, "Possession is nine points of the law, but settle it the best you can." I finally prevailed over the fellow and kept the job. In a short time we had our work so systematized that by the time the Sacramento boat bound for San Francisco passed the yard, long before sundown, we were all ready to jump into the water and swim out and spend the night in a nice little two-room cabin on the place. After supper he would often send for me to come and talk with him. He was always plentifully supplied with cigars and would always present me with one, although at that time I never smoked, telling me to give it to some of my friends.
One day the whole force took a holiday to go to Sacramento to witness the hanging of three horse thieves. People at that time enjoyed a little social hanging so much as the present-day youngsters enjoy tango teas. Everyone witnessed the gruesome sight without pity, for were they not horse thieves? And horse thieves need expect no mercy. Only two of them were brought to the gallows, the other having been respited by the Governor. As soon as the two were decently strung up, a committee of citizens formed a parade and marched up to the jail and very shortly brought out the other one and hanged him to the same gallows. I don't think I ever heard so many lies told in the same length of time as that fellow told. He accused every prominent citizen of Sacramento of being interested in the gang of thieves that infested the valley. He even accused the Governor. He was a nice-looking young fellow, and a fluent talker. The committee in charge gave him plenty of time to talk, and he used it to abuse everybody and defer his own execution.
At this time the very worst crime, outside the cities, was that of stealing horses. It was not even necessary to steal one to bring prompt execution, for if the people were searching for a horse thief and came upon a stranger with a rope, he was strung up. And the posse would ride away with an air of a duty well done.
I was tired of staying in one place and was preparing to leave and go to the most northern mining camp in California, as I heard the finds there were being numerous; it was called the Shasta Butte City [Yreka]. But before leaving I once more journeyed to San Francisco--the mecca of all Californians. By this time the vigilance committee had pretty well gotten the best of the "hounds," as others had left while some were still in jail awaiting trial. The jails were the upper floors of large warehouse and were kept well guarded. One of the prisoners was the one-time bare-knuckle fighter Yankee Sullivan. I do not know what he was in jail for, but he met death in some strange way. It is still unsettled whether he committed suicide or was put to death by order of the committee.
I only stayed a short while in the city, but while there met the redoubtable Mountain Jack, of whom I spoke a little while ago. Imagine my surprise to recognize an old friend of mine whom I had left in Albany, New York, when we moved to New Orleans. He was then a young cabinet maker, and his shop had only been a half square from where we lived. Going and returning from school I would stop and spend many an hour in his shop. He would let me use his tools and would often show me how to fashion some trifle I was trying to make. His greeting was kind and extremely cordial, but in the few years of our separation we had grown leagues apart. He was a man who had been hunted and killed men; perhaps he was right, but nevertheless he had killed them. I was only a boy who had not learned to smoke, drink or gamble. We had not friends in common and we drifted apart. I never saw him again. I have often wondered what became of him, whether he was killed in some broil or whether he became tired of [the] rough life of the wild West and went back to the quiet little city of Albany and took up his trade of cabinet making. I like to think that he did the latter. A few years of rough western life would make a philosopher out of any man, and I have often wondered why a man who had been quiet and law-abiding in the East would come out to the West and become a desperado. Was it because they thought they were too far away for their friends back home to hear of their doing? Or was it the rude atmosphere of the place? I sometimes think that all men must be criminals at heart, or lawbreakers, and the only reason they hold themselves back is because of the fear of disgrace in the eyes of their friends.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, September 19, 1914, page 6
For what John Hillman and his brother George were doing in 1861 and '62, click here.
J. W. HILLMAN OF ELEVENTH WARD DIED FRIDAY
J. W. Hillman, one of the prominent citizens of the seventh ward, aged 83 years, passed away Friday morning at 4 a.m. after an illness of several weeks.
Mr. Hillman is the father of Mrs. N. K. Knox of Baton Rouge, wife of one of the city's leading real estate men, and of Geo. W. Hillman. He is survived by his wife.
Mr. Hillman was a member of the Capital City lodge of Pythians and was a Mason.
The funeral will take place Saturday morning at Harelson.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 19, 1915, page 1
HOPE VILLA NOTES
Mr. John Wesley Hillman died at his home, near Hope Villa, last Friday morning, March 19, after an illness of several weeks. He was given a Masonic burial at Harelson Cemetery. Mr. Hillman was 82 years, 11 months and 19 days of age and has lived a life of adventure experienced by very few. He was in the famous gold rush of '49, when gold was discovered in California, and helped to develop that country as well as many other portions of the then-unknown West. Necessarily in adventuring in unexplored territory he was in many Indian fights, of which he bore several scars. In  he and a party of others were the first white men to look upon the beautiful waters of Crater Lake, in Oregon, the deepest and most beautiful lake in America. After many years of adventure in the West he crossed the Isthmus of Panama and came to New Orleans to live. Mr. Hillman is survived by a wife and two children, Mr. [George] Waldo Hillman of New Orleans, and Mrs. N. K. Knox of Baton Rouge, and several grandchildren.
State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, March 26, 1915, page 3
HILLMAN--Entered into rest on Friday morning, March 19, 1915, John W. Hillman, age 83 years, born in Albany, N.Y., and a resident of Louisiana for the past 49 years.
Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., papers please copy.
Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 28, 1915, page 10
Mrs. J. W. Hillman, formerly of Hope Villa, has many friends in Baton Rouge who will be glad to learn that she will hereafter make her home with her daughter, Mrs. Nathan Knox.
"Personals," State Times Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, April 5, 1915, page 5
WOULD NAME PEAK FOR DISCOVERER
WILL G. STEEL WRITES INTERIOR DEPARTMENT SUGGESTING
THE HONORING OF WHITE MAN WHO FIRST SAW CRATER LAKE
Superintendent Steel of the Crater Lake Park, says the Medford Sun, has sent the following communication to Secretary Lane, suggesting that the discoverer of Crater Lake be commemorated by renaming Glacier Peak in his honor as Hillman Peak:
"The Secretary of the Interior
"Sir--It is with sincere regret that I have to inform you of the death at Hope Villa, La., on March 19, 1915, of Mr. John W. Hillman, who on June 12, 1853, discovered Crater Lake. He was the leader of a party of twenty-two prospectors, of whom he was the first to see it.
"Now, therefore, I recommend that the name Glacier Peak, applied to one of the highest points on the western rim of the lake, be changed to Hillman Peak, and in justification thereof will say, one of the most important mountains in the state of Washington is known as Glacier Peak, as also in the state of California, thus leading to unnecessary confusion, and at least one of them should be changed. Such a change would also be a deserved and appropriate recognition of the first white man who ever saw Crater Lake, and for whom some prominent point should be named."
Evening Herald, Klamath Falls, April 7, 1915, page 2
J. W. HILLMAN TO BE HONORED
Late Discoverer of Crater Lake to Have Monument in Memory.
Special to the Times.
Baton Rouge, July 16.--A monument is to be erected to the memory of the late John W. Hillman of Hope Villa, at Crater Lake, Oregon, which was discovered by Mr. Hillman in 1853.
A letter has been received by Mrs. Hillman, widow of the noted western pioneer, from William G. Steel, superintendent of the Crater Lake National Park, in which he says:
"It is my intention, during the present season, to have erected on the spot where Mr. Hillman discovered Crater Lake, a memorial to him, in the shape of a reinforced concrete seat, built in a perfect semi-circle overlooking the lake. It will be pure white and on each end there will be a tablet of bronze."
Mr. Hillman discovered Crater Lake June 12, 1853. He was born in Albany, New York, March 29, 1832, went to Oregon in 1849, and died in Hope Villa, March 19, 1915.
He was one of the pioneers of the West, and his greatest work was the discovery of Crater Lake, near Medford, Oregon, which the United States government has turned into a national park.
The Times, Shreveport, Louisiana, July 17, 1916, page 10
HILLMAN'S SON VISITS CRATER LAKE
When John W. Hillman wandered over the pathless waste of pinnacled rocks and boulder-strewn forests, through ravines and canyons, and on to that fantastic lake which is now known as Crater Lake, he never dreamed that the almost inaccessible area might be viewed by his own granddaughter, who had made the ascent in an automobile.
G. W. Hillman, son of the discoverer of Crater Lake, Mrs. Hillman and their daughter, Miss Hildegarde, of New Orleans, visited Crater Lake during the past week en route to Portland.
"My father had often described the blue of the lake to me, but I had never dreamed of such deep blue," says Mr. Hillman. "He has been dead several years, but we grew up on the stories of how, when wandering through the heart of the Cascades in search of the famous Lost Cabin mine, sometimes on foot and at other times riding a mule, he suddenly found himself on the brink of a chasm with the blue of the heavens many feet below. That was in 1853.
"My father joined the gold rush of '49 and went to California from Albany, N.Y. He became a government scout after several of his pay streaks had panned out, and there was little of this Oregon country that was not known to him. That is perhaps the reason that I have always felt the call of the West.
"My father and his companions had much controversy at first as to whether the lake should be named Mysterious Lake or Deep Blue Lake. They named it 'Crater Lake' in 1869."
Mr. Hillman is going back to New Orleans when his vacation is ended, but Mrs. Hillman and Miss Hildegarde will remain in Portland for several weeks.
Unidentified clipping, DAR scrapbooks vol. 18, page 27, RVGS. George W. Hillman was interviewed by the Oregonian in the issue of August 12, 1920 (page 6). Hildegarde was born around 1902.
When White Men First Beheld the "Sea of Silence"
Pioneer Tells Own Story of Discovery of Crater Lake
"Not until my mule stopped within a few feet of the rim of Crater Lake did I look down, and if I had been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge to death."
Thus it was that on June 12, 1853, just 69 years ago tomorrow, the first white man who ever beheld Crater Lake literally stumbled upon that magnificent body of water. As he rode his mule up the long slope that was to lead to the lake rim, with his eyes searching the rocks for some outcropping of that gold thought to be hidden in this region, little did he realize that he was soon to be the discoverer of the bluest, deepest and most beautiful mountain lake in the world. This hardy prospector was J. W. Hillman, an Oregon pioneer of 1849. The trail over which Hillman and his party toiled in those early days is now replaced by an automobile highway, while the lake itself and surrounding region have been fittingly set aside as a national park, where many thousands come each summer to be enthralled by the same wild beauty which held Hillman and his party under its spell over threescore years ago.
A few years ago Mr. Hillman died at a ripe old age at his home in Louisiana, where he had spent the closing years of his life. Shortly before his death he dictated his memoirs to Bentley B. Mackay of the Louisiana State University. These memoirs have only recently been cast into shape for publication by Mr. Mackay, and that portion dealing with the discovery of Oregon's wonder lake is herewith published for the first time by The Oregonian, through arrangement with Mr. Mackay. The story not only tells of the discovery of Crater Lake, but also describes briefly the trip of the emigrant train to which Hillman was attached across the plains to the Columbia, and gives a graphic picture of the Oregon country of those pioneer days.
BY BENTLEY B. MACKAY
With thousands of tourists thronging beautiful Crater Lake National Park every season and gazing upon the limpid blue water of the most beautiful lake in America, it is indeed fitting that some thought be given to that intrepid explorer, J. W. Hillman, and his little band of 22 men who first viewed the lake in all of its wild beauty on June 12, 1853. Outliving all of his companions, Mr. Hillman died only a few years ago in Louisiana at the age of 83, death being indirectly due to an Indian bullet that he carried in his body for nearly 60 years.
Just before his death Mr. Hillman dictated to the writer many of his experiences in the West. The events leading up to the discovery of Crater Lake are here printed for the first time. We shall let Mr. Hillman tell his own interesting story.
Discoverer Tells Own Story."I was born in Albany, N.Y., March 25, 1832. In 1848 my father moved with his family, by ship, to New Orleans. We remained in New Orleans until the California gold fever broke out in 1849, and my father decided to go to California, taking me with him.
At the time there was a regiment of mounted rifles at St. Joseph, Mo., preparing to make the long journey to Oregon. The teamster-master's department was being recruited in New Orleans and we were lucky enough to be allowed to join.
"Our trip up the lonely Mississippi River was typical of the pioneer life of that day. On our boat there was a varied assortment of men, from the dregs of society to millionaires who were making the trip for mere love of adventure. Gambling and drinking were indulged in night and day, and each day brought its share of excitement. It was rumored that Jack Wilson, a notorious gambler, won and lost two fortunes before he was killed in a wild battle which occurred on the boat 50 miles from St. Louis.
Trip Across Plains Begun."We landed in St. Louis and remained there for several days. The city was filled with emigrants making preparations to go to California. We caught a boat going up the Missouri River to St. Joseph, where our regiment was stationed preparatory to making the trip to the unknown Oregon country.
"As soon as the thousands of emigrants heard that a regiment of soldiers was soon going to 'hop off' into the unknown country, they made ready to follow close on our trail, and from daylight until dark there was the hurry and bustle of preparation. Children, dogs, mules, horses and oxen all added to the general hubbub.
"The officers finally decided that due to better camping facilities the outfit should be broken up into small companies. There were 300 six-mule wagons, and these were divided into groups of 100 wagons each. I was sent along as extra driver.
Oregon Trail Followed."We followed what was known as the Oregon Trail, intending to cross the Rockies at South Pass. It was not long before we were all strung out along the trail for miles. The country was unsurpassed in its wild beauty; the miles and miles of uncharted prairies stretched as far as the eye could see and the grass waving and nodding before the wind. Above us by day shone the blazing sun, and when it disappeared into the very ground, as it were, it seemed but a moment until darkness, when in all directions could be seen the camp fires of the soldiers and emigrants who were going into a far country, braving dangers and hardships almost inconceivable to those of the present day.
"The two things that impressed me most were the awful ravages of cholera and the thousands of buffalo that could be seen in the distance. We had the pleasure of witnessing several stampedes by these animals. The leader of the herd would become frightened and begin to run; soon it would seem that the entire universe was moving. As far as the eye could see were the brownish forms of the great beasts, gaining momentum as they swept along. On they would rush, sweeping all before them, over a wagon train, through a river or over a precipice, but never would their mad rush be checked until they were overcome with exhaustion. In the wake hundreds of the weaker members strewed the way, some crushed and mangled, others bleeding and dying, all inevitably falling prey to the coyotes and wolves that followed them.
Indians Not Feared."We came in contact with a great number of Indians, but our immediate party was too strong, and we feared no attack. Troops were called out several times to go to the assistance of small trains that had been raided by the savages, and each time a number of emigrants had been killed.
"When we reached the Rocky Mountains and saw the water flowing toward the Pacific we thought that our troubles were nearly ended, but such was not the case. Desertion among the soldiers became very common when we came to the trails that led to Salt Lake or to California.
"Finally we came to the mighty Columbia River, and its majestic sweep was a revelation to us all. The caravan now headed straight for Oregon City, reaching there September 18, 1849, after having been five months and three days on the journey.
Oregon City Tiny Village."Oregon City was a tiny place, having much the appearance of a New England village, rows of small houses lining the streets with neat, clean gardens in front.
"Turning over our wagons to the quartermaster ended our connections with the United States government, and a new and different life was opened up to us.
"My father heard that there was lying at the mouth of the Willamette River a three-masted full-rigged whaler, the Aurora, commanded by Captain Kilbourne, ready to make a trip to San Francisco with a load of lumber, and we were able to get passage.
"I remember but one settlement between Oregon City and Baker's Bay, at the mouth of the Columbia, and that was Astoria, situated on the side of a mountain, looking as though it were going to slide down into the water any moment.
Portland Mass of Timber."When we came to what was known as the village of Portland we stopped for a few hours for wood. I went ashore and looked for the town, but could not see it at first because of the tangle of fallen timber. I climbed a tree and in the distance I saw three huts, a blacksmith shop and one small commissary. This was in the latter part of September, 1849. When I returned to this town in 1852 I found that a great many changes had taken place. It was beginning to compare favorably with Oregon City.
"We were held up in Baker's Bay for several weeks, due to the fact that we could not cross the bar into the open water. Several times we were nearly dashed to pieces on the Peacock Shoals, which received this name from one of Uncle Sam's warships that had been wrecked there some years before. The spars of the ship were plainly visible at low tide.
"One day everything was favorable and we dashed across the bar and were soon on the high seas. The trip to San Francisco was made without incident. We reached there a few days before the big fire that swept the tented city off the map.
"My adventures in the gold mining country, of course, is another story, but I will say that while we were lucky enough to find some gold, we did not discover enough to make us very wealthy. I soon went to northern California and from there I went to Jacksonville, Or. It was a live mining town of about 1200 inhabitants. The town was situated at the mouth of a gulch at the edge of the beautiful Rogue River Valley, and the mining was not done in the immediate vicinity of the town. I learned to love the Rogue River country, and for several years it was my home when I was not in the saddle on some exploring expedition.
"I became the owner of a pack train and later formed a partnership with a man named Ben Drew. We covered the Oregon Territory pretty thoroughly and had any number of adventures with Indians and white renegades.
"In 1853 it was that we had an exceptionally hard winter, and provisions became very scarce. Thousands of horses, mules and cattle starved to death. We were caught in a place called Vannoy's ferry, some miles from Portland. Flour was selling at $1 a pound, musty bacon 75 cents, etc. Tobacco was an article very much in demand. A man could chew his tobacco for awhile and then lay it aside, much as a child will do with his gum. He would then smoke it after it was dry. Plug tobacco was the kind most in demand. One would take a dollar and hand it to the dealer, who would place it on a plug and cut out a piece the exact size of the money, both thinking that a good bargain had been made.
"We pulled through the winter with our teams in fair condition, and when supplies began to move in the early spring months we had more than we could do. Old settlers claimed that the country had been set back several years due to this hard winter.
"I spent quite a bit of time in the Umpqua country, which was unrivaled for its beauty. Whenever I think of the Umpqua River, the words of a poet come to my mind. I read these lines in a little book called 'Steel Points,' published by W. G. Steel, who has done so much for Crater Lake National Park.
"I know a place where the fern is deep
And the giant firs wave high,
And a dripping ledge leans cool and steep
And a laughing brook leaps by.
And it's there to be with a soul that's free
From the street's discordant jar,
With a blanket spread on a cedar bed,
And the wealth of the world afar.
"I know a pool in a mossy dell
That the wary trout love best,
And a timid trail to the chaparral
Where the red deer lie at rest.
A night bird's call when the shadows fall,
And a gray wolf's lonely cry:
A slumber deep and a dreamless sleep
Under the open sky.
Lost Cabin Mine Sought."One night in Jacksonville the acquaintance of a prospector from California. The man took a great liking to me, and one night while heavily drunk he confided to me that he and nine other California miners were forming a party to go into the mountains in search of the famous 'Lost Cabin mine.' He declared that the leader of the party had the original map showing the location of the mine, and he spoke glowingly of the mine as though its discovery were already an established fact.
"The story of the mine is well known to all of the old settlers of Oregon. In fact, it became a legend of that country. It seems that an old prospector was found dying from wounds suffered in a battle with the Indians. In his pouch was found a core of nuggets of the purest gold. He drew a rough sketch of the mine and said that it was the richest mine in the whole West, but that the savages knew of its whereabouts and were protecting it. He had been driven away by them and badly wounded. From his description of the country it was somewhere in the vicinity of Crater Lake, although no such place was then known to exist. The old man died and a mad search was started. Scores of men were killed by the savages before the search was finally given up and the map disappeared from circulation.
Oregonians Follow Californians."As soon as the drunken fellow told me that they had the map my youthful mind was ablaze with desire to help find the mine. I immediately told some of my friends about it, and we decided to follow close on the trail of the Californians. Of the group that later accompanied me I can only think of the names of Henry Klippel, J. L. Louden, Pat McManus, Mr. Little and a man named McGarrie.
"We were always ready to move at a moment's notice, and when the California party left Jacksonville we were close on their trail. They soon discovered that we were following them and a game of hide-and-seek began until rations on both sides began to run low. The Californians would push through the brush, scatter and double back on their trail and camp in the most inaccessible places to be found, and it sometimes puzzled us to find them, experienced as we were.
Two Parties Join."One day both parties engaged in a hunt. I killed a young deer and was skinning it when two of the California prospectors came up to where I was. This was the first time we had ever met face to face. I grasped my rifle, expecting trouble, but they engaged me in conversation and wanted to know why we were following them. I told them frankly that we knew that they had certain knowledge of the whereabouts of the Lost Cabin mine, and we were following them with the intention of staking off claims close to them.
"After we had talked things over a truce was declared and the two parties dined on venison at one campfire. From then on we hunted and prospected together, and it was well that we did, for once or twice we caught sight of a party of warriors watching every move that we made. But no open attack was attempted, due to the strength of our party and to the fact that each man was a seasoned veteran.
Crater Lake First Seen."One afternoon a few days later--it was June 12--I was riding up a long, sloping mountain, some distance in advance of the rest of the party. With my searching the rocks for any indication of that vein we were searching for, I scarcely noticed where I was riding. Suddenly my mule stopped, and, looking up, I saw a body of water before me. As we had not expected to see any lakes, I was much surprised and thought at first we must have come clear to Klamath Lake. But as I looked closer I realized I was looking at a most unusual sight, that I was at the very edge of a precipice and that, nestling far down in the heart of the mountain, was the bluest and most beautiful body of water I had ever seen. I fired my rifle and several my companions rushed up to gaze with wonder upon this magnificent lake, which since has been fittingly named Crater Lake and set aside as a national playground.
"For lack of words that will give the reader who has never seen this body of water some idea of its beauty, I shall quote what Professor Joseph LeConte, a great admirer of Yellowstone and Yosemite, said:
"'Yellowstone has its glories, and so have the Yosemite and Crater Lake, but their grandeur is not in common. One cannot compare unlike things. There is but one Crater Lake. The overpowering impressiveness of its grandeur cannot be described, and no idea of its masterful influence over the human mind can be conveyed by words. It must be seen to be appreciated. It stands alone in its class in all this world. Probably the six greatest natural wonders of the American continent consist in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, Niagara Falls, Mammoth Cave, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Crater Lake, no two of which can be compared, for each one is preeminent.'
Time to Explore Lacking."As we stood and gazed far down at the blue water and at the deep and almost perpendicular bluffs, many of them 2000 feet in height, we searched the walls of the cliffs for some pathway whereby we could reach the water's edge. But nowhere could we find a route. We decided that it would be a long and difficult descent to reach the water, and as our members were eager to continue their search for gold, we gave up the attempt. But before we turned our backs upon the magnificent scene we discussed such names as Mysterious Lake and Deep Blue Lake. We voted to call it by the latter name, and as discoverers we wrote out names on a piece of paper and placed the paper in the end of a forked stick which we wedged between the rocks.
"The next day ran across a band of Indians who were friendly, but when we asked about Deep Blue Lake none of them would acknowledge that such a lake existed. We learned from a medicine man that this place was looked upon as sacred, and death would come to any Indian who gazed upon the lake. I am told that even as late as 1890 no Indian could be induced to look upon the water that would be 'bad medicine' for him.
"We searched in vain for gold and especially the Lost Cabin mind, but not a trace could we find. We did hear, however, that the savages were preparing to go on the warpath, so we hurriedly left for Jacksonville, where the party disbanded."
Oregonian, Portland, June 11, 1922, page G1 This story was reprinted in the Medford Mail Tribune of August 9, 1922, page B1.
DISCOVERER OF CRATER LAKE REVISITS GEM
Story of Finding Told by Discoverer, Who Made Trip on Mule--
Was Hunting Lost Mine.
Back in the days of '52, when "gold" was the magic word which lured men from comfortable homes and civilization into the rocky, pine-clad mountains of the West, eleven fearless Californians plunged into the wilderness of [the] Cascades in Southern Oregon, near Medford, in search of the famous, perhaps fabulous Lost Cabin mine.
Like a great magnet the Lost Cabin mine, possibly real, perhaps mythical, drew searchers from far and wide.
In spite of their precautions, the secret of their search became known, and a party of Oregonians was organized to stalk them and claim a share of their "find." After days of "hide and seek," during which those of each side endured many hardships, the parties joined forces.
J. W. Hillman, leader of the searching prospectors, has the distinction of being the first white man to see Crater Lake. While climbing a steep ridge, his mule suddenly stopped within a few feet of the rim and Hillman gazed at the awe-inspiring spectacle of Crater Lake. "Had I been riding a blind mule I firmly believe I would have ridden over the edge of death," said Hillman. How different the present-day journey to Crater Lake!
Party Laves MedfordA party of of sightseers, in a Chevrolet landau sedan, left Medford, the gateway to the lake, piloted by Mr. Hillman, for the wonderful Crater Lake country. The wide, smooth highway winds along Rogue River and through giant forests till at last it reaches the gorge of the Rogue and beautiful Mill Creek Falls.
After lunching at Prospect, the party plunged into the Crater Lake National Forest for their last lap on the Crater Lake trip. After a short stop to register at the park entrance and visit to Superintendent C. G. Thomson's office at "Government Camp," the party climbed to the rim of the famous lake.
With the first glimpse of the wonderful lake, glistening in the mighty crater of a giant extinct volcano, the members of the party felt a thrill, a feeling of awe and wonder unlike anything they had ever experienced before. There was an expanse of water, wondrously blue, like a great sapphire in a setting of lofty cliffs. Crater Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in America. The water is a lovely turquoise along the edges and in the deeper parts a Prussian blue.
Weird Tales ToldWeird and ghostly tales of Crater Lake are woven into the old Indian legends, and old members of the Klamath and Modoc tribes even yet tell of the great god Llao an old mighty Mount Mazama before the great eruption which played a part in forming Crater Lake. Beloved Joaquin Miller best described the lake in his article in the Sunset magazine:
"The Lake?" he wrote, "The Sea of Silence? Ah, yes, I had forgotten--so much else; besides, I should like to let it alone, say nothing. It took such hold on my heart, so unlike Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, when first seen, that I love it almost like one of my own family. But fancy a sea of sapphire set around by a compact circle of the great grizzly rock of Yosemite. It does not seem so sublime at first, but the mote is in your own eye. It is great, great; but it takes you days to see how great. It lies 2000 feet under your feet, and as it reflects its walls so perfectly that you cannot tell the wall from the reflection in the intensely blue water you have a continuous unbroken circular wall of 24 miles to contemplate at a glance, all of which lies 2000 feet, and seems to lie 4000 feet, below. Yet so bright, so intensely blue, is the lake that it seems at times from some points of view to lift right in your face."
Medford Mail Tribune, August 8, 1926, page 14
COLVIG RECALLS EARLY DAY VISIT AT CRATER LAKE
CRATER LAKE.--(Special.)--A member of a company of soldiers stationed at Fort Klamath years ago, Judge William Colvig of Medford was a visitor in the Crater Lake National Park recently, recalling the first time he had seen the lake back in 1865 when a group of cavalrymen visited the scenic wonder in the thought they were the discoverers. They had not heard of its previous discovery by John W. Hillman, a prospector.
The 25 men in the party had been on a trip from the fort when they came into the lake area, Judge Colvig related. Camp was established in the present location of the park headquarters. From this point, the soldiers wandered up to the rim where the lodge is now located, beholding a sight which momentarily took their breath away. They believed they were on ground never before visited by white man and immediately decided to name the blue waters made so impressive by crater walls rising high around its entire circumference.
Several names were suggested, and a vote resulted in the choice of "Lake Majesty," based on the majestic impressiveness of the scene. The name several years later was changed to Crater Lake.
The soldiers continued to think they had come onto a new body of water until one member of the party recalled he had once heard of a young miner visiting the lake area 12 years before while in search of a lost mine. The miner had not realized the extent of his discovery and had not told many of his visit.
Judge Colvig is the only surviving member of the soldier party.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 11, 1931, page 3
ANCIENT GOLD PAN BELIEVED LEFT BY LAKE DISCOVERER
A relic of a bygone day when prospectors occasionally found their way to the Crater Lake area and believed to have direct connection with John W. Hillman, who discovered Crater Lake in 1853, an old gold mining pan was recently found in the Crater [Lake] National Park in the general location of Hillman's old camp site, not far from the "Watchman," first high point on the rim of the lake west of the lodge.
The pan, victim of the elements, rusted, bent and mostly a battered piece of tin, was found by Fred Patton, a park foreman, while engaged in road work. A water bucket, bent double, a broken crock, and two buttons were also found.
Two pine trees cut down so long ago that the trunks had decomposed almost level with the ground are the only signs of camp. Time had left its mark and [there was no other] indication that the camp may have resounded to the voices of Hillman's party in '53. It was in the general direction of the route that his party had taken from Jacksonville in the search of the famed Lost Cabin mine, trailing a party of Californians who thought they had information the mine was located along the headwaters of the Rogue River.
The pan is a realistic reminder of the visit of the party of Californians to Jacksonville in 1853 and how they camped outside the then-booming mining town, keeping secret their mission. However a member of the party, becoming loquacious on liquor, betrayed his trust.
When the Californians left Jacksonville, a party of Oregonians took up their trail, led by Hillman. For days the southern party attempted to elude the pursuers but unavailingly until both parties realized the necessity of meat. The two parties joined, with the exception of a few who turned back to Jacksonville, 80 miles away, and combined game hunting with the search for the mine.
There is a supposition that Hillman may have left the camp site where the pan and water bucket were found on the day he discovered the lake, June 12, riding up the slope of the rim, unknowing that on the other side he was about to discover a scenic wonder of the world, a deep blue lake in the crater of an extinct volcano.
The mining pan and bucket will be placed in the park museum.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 18, 1931, page 3
One of the stories which young Charles [Skeeters] often heard was the tale of how Crater Lake was discovered, for his father had been a member of that historic party. Isaac Skeeters, because of his wide knowledge of the country and his skill as a woodsman, was asked to guide a party of gold hunters into the hills in June of 1853.
One of the pack mules wandered away one day, it is said, and a member of the party went in search of the animal. While hunting for the lost mule, the miner suddenly came upon a body of water, a lake so beautiful and with such blue water so far below the lake rim that the discoverer was amazed. When the gold seekers, later called by historians "the John Hillman party" returned to the valley, they talked far and wide of their discovery. Later the beautiful blue lake was named "Crater Lake."
Olive Starcher, "Potpourri," Medford Mail Tribune, April 6, 1952, page 21
Last revised April 9, 2017