Rogue River Valley, which takes its name from the river that passes through it, is about seventy miles by the main traveled route from Umpqua. The valley is well watered by never-failing streams; the soil is generally good, and it is skirted and interspersed with groves of fine timber. As it borders upon a rich gold region it must eventually become densely populated. As yet, however, it contains no white settlement, but is occupied by the Rogue River Indians, who have rendered it the seat of much trouble and suffering from their depredations.
There is no portion of the Territory, and indeed, I may almost add of the world, better adapted to grazing than this valley. In extent it is about fifty by thirty miles. Surrounded by mountains, the eye seldom rests upon a more beautiful, picturesque and romantic spot. It extends to within a few miles of the boundary between Oregon and California. These valleys all lie west of the Cascade Mountains and south of the Columbia River. . . .
The Indians immediately bordering on, or near the settlements, are perfectly friendly and well disposed. Settlers have nothing to fear from them. Those upon Rogue River are troublesome to those passing through their country, and will probably continue so until a garrison shall be established to overawe and keep them in subjection. This, I hope, will soon be done, for their depredations upon travelers have already caused much trouble and suffering. They are upon the great thoroughfare from Oregon to California, a fork of which leads to Fort Hall, being the road frequently traveled by emigrants from that point to Oregon.
Joseph Lane, "Circular of Hon. Jos. Lane," Bardstown Herald, Kentucky, February 4, 1852, page 1
Calapooia Creek, Umpqua ValleyMy Dear Cornelia
6th June 1852.
I am now at the house of Dr. Baker, an old settler of Oregon, where I arrived last evening, on my way back to Oregon City from the Rogue River country. Mr. Coe, my traveling companion, has just left me and is hastening back to the Willamette Valley, where official business requires his presence. I design to go hence to Scottsburg and the other points on the Umpqua River, with a view of taking a look at what I deem one of the most important commercial points in Oregon. The supplies for middle and Southern Oregon must come into the country through the Umpqua River, and I look therefore in a short time for the opening up of a large and prosperous town somewhere on the Umpqua River. It will probably take us some four days to make our contemplated visit to the places on the Umpqua River, and it will require some six days to get from here to Oregon City. It will therefore be about two weeks before I get back to headquarters.
My trip thus far has been full of interest, and though at times a little wearisome yet the pleasures have far exceeded the annoyances of the journey. The Umpqua region is as full of romantic beauty as it can well be. They call it a valley, but it is a collection of hills and valleys. Dr. Baker calls it a "Valley of Hills." Conceive of an immense potato field, with its hills rising up from five hundred to a thousand feet in height and then covered with oaks and fir with streams of water running adown their sides and the whole earth covered both on hilltop as well as in the valley with a rich sward of grass, and a large stream of water running in the center of the valley, bordered by a line of oaks and maple and you will then have some idea of the Umpqua region. It is a country extending from east to west about sixty miles and from north to south about fifty. For grazing purposes it is not excelled I venture to say by a country in the world. Nature has thrown the earth into a thousand fantastic and picturesque shapes. It is beautiful beyond description. Settlers are fast taking the desirable claims now, and probably before another year elapses almost every farm of any value will have been taken. I see but one objection to a residence in this part of Oregon, and that is the settlements owing to the make of the ground must be sparse, and therefore there will be a difficulty in the establishment of schools and churches. The climate is delightful, the country healthy. In the afternoon a sea breeze sweeps over the country and refreshingly tempers the fervor of the sun's rays. Besides being preeminently adapted to the raising of stock it will also produce any kind of vegetables or grains. Indian corn I am told grows finely. The vine grows spontaneously and yields a most excellent kind of grape. South of the Umpqua region lies the Rogue River country. It got its name of Rogue River from the character of the Indians who live upon the principal stream that washes the region. They have until late been a set of plundering, marauding rascals, not sparing life itself when it was necessary to accomplish their thefts. The severe castigation which Major Kearny gave them last summer, and the obligations of the treaty which they made with Gov. Gaines shortly afterwards, joined with an increasing fear of the whites who are gathering in such large numbers around them, are now exercising a salutary restraint upon their dispositions, and we can travel amongst them with tolerable security. I saw several hundred of them whilst I was on the river, most of them in a state little short of nudity. The men are large, well formed, of good countenance and of lithe and active limbs. They use principally the bow and arrow for weapons and send their shaft home with unerring aim. The women are not as good looking as the men. They do the drudgery of life. They gather and prepare all the food except the killing of the wild game. They live principally upon the deer, the elk, the salmon, the camas--a root shaped like an onion which grows wild in the prairies--the acorn, bugs, caterpillars and almost all kinds of insects. We saw the women gathering caterpillars to eat. They have a large basket with a wide mouth, which they place under a bush or branch, and when shake the caterpillars into their vessel, every now and then giving the side of the basket a rap with a view of knocking to the bottom such of the worms as are seeking to escape by coming up the sides. I suppose we saw bushels of caterpillars which had been thus gathered for food. They sometimes eat them raw, and at other times boil them, and mix them up with their roots in order to give to their vegetable food a semi-meat flavor. How would you like a piece of caterpillar pie? There was one practice which we noticed amongst the women the mention of which may interest you somewhat. When a friend dies the female relatives cover their head and hair with a sort of tar which they make out of the pitch taken from the trees, so as to completely plaster the hair to the head. They keep their hair in this condition until by the growth of new hair, and by exposure to the air, all the tar naturally wears off--when the days of mourning are considered at an end.
The Rogue River Valley is not of very great extent. The principal prairie is about 15 miles one way, and about twenty the other. There are other side valleys, but they are not very numerous nor of any very great extent. There is much good soil, but it is not so uniformly good as the soil of the Umpqua. Its principal value arises from its proximity to the mines of gold in that region, that there is a large mining region in that vicinity cannot be doubted. The diggers are making from five to fifty dollars per day. At one place a party of three have taken out about fourteen thousand dollars since the latter part of Feb'y. last. I worked a little at this place and from one pan full obtained about six dollars worth of gold. I shall send it to you by the first opportunity, so that you may have it made up into a ring or pin. It took me about fifteen minutes to do the work. It was by the especial favor of Judge Skinner, the Indian agent, whose nephew was working the claim, that I obtained leave to work in the claim as I did. There are about two thousand mines in the Rogue River country, and the people are fast flooding in. I venture to say that in less than a year the largest part of the population will be in Southern Oregon. The effect of the discovery of gold has been to advance prices considerably; cows are worth from $75 to $100. Flour twenty cents a pound, beef fifteen cents. Coffee and sugar were 40 or fifty cents, butter at $1 and eggs just what one chooses to ask for them. Now is the time for a good merchant to establish himself at Scottsburg or some point on the Umpqua River. The stoves of your father would sell there in the fall at fine prices. But I must close. I intended to have said something to you about the innumerable flowers that are garnishing the prairies, the rough and tumble life that we have had to encounter--such as sleeping out under trees and cooking our own bacon--the habits of the people and the simplicity of their lives &c. &c., but I must reserve them to end this letter.
I saw Allan at Marysville some two weeks since. He said he would write by the steamer that was then to go out. I sent you a dress by way of a sample of what they have in Oregon by M. Atkinson. Did you receive it? How are the dear children; kiss them affectionately for me. When shall I see them again? Remember me to to all our friends and acquaintances with kind love to the families. I am as ever, affectionately your husband, Thomas.
Thomas Nelson to Cordelia Nelson, Beinecke Library, Yale University
The Rogue River and Umpqua valleys are of much less extent than the Willamette. And as I have not yet seen either, I shall say, at present, but very little respecting them. . . . The Rogue River runs through a valley to the south of the Umpqua. This river has its source in the Klamath and Cascade Range of mountains. It also has its sterile mountains, high hills, rich, fertile valleys and beautiful plains. Like the Umpqua, the entrance to its mouth from the ocean is greatly obstructed by a large sandbar. In size it is said to resemble that of the Umpqua; and, like that, its current is rapid, and it has numerous falls and rapids. The country through which it passes is very well timbered, well watered, and very rich and productive. But what has hitherto attracted immigrants to that valley more than anything else is the discovery of gold there. About 8,000 persons are now engaged in working the Oregon gold mines situated in the valley of Rogue River! The lands of that valley are mostly nominally taken up and claimed. The mines are productive. Many, however--as is the case in California and elsewhere--make but little, whilst others secure fortunes. The common laborer gets from four to eight dollars per day.
All the rivers which we have enumerated--as, indeed, all the rivers in Oregon--are subject to extraordinary rises and overflows. The Willamette is usually highest in November and December, when the rain falls most abundantly, and in the spring when the snows melt in the mountains.
The climate of this section is very mild. It has neither excess of heat or cold. The mean temperature is reported at 57 degrees of Fahrenheit. Snow sometimes falls four or five inches deep in winter, and it usually disappears in a day or two. Running water never freezes. It is never necessary to either shelter or feed stock of any kind. The valleys are always thickly covered with grass. Before the commencement of the rainy season the grass is apparently dead, but it is not. It is even then, though dry and whitened out, as full of nutriment as well-cured hay; and as soon as the rain begins to fall, the sap reenters the decayed blade, and the old grass becomes again as green and thrifty as ever! And thus the grass continues to grow all winter, so that the pasturage is even better in winter than in summer!
The rainy season usually lasts from four to five months; or from November to April, during which period it rains a great deal, though not all the time, by any means. Last winter, I am informed, there was very little rain fell in the months of January and February; the weather being mild and pleasant. There are also brief showers in summer; but these do not usually occur very often.
This country is very healthy. On the lowlands, and in the immediate vicinity of streams subject to overflow, intermittent fevers, or ague and fever, is not uncommon. But these diseases are neither obstinate nor fatal.
"Letters of Hon. Delazon Smith," Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, December 25, 1852, page 1
The Rogue River Valley lies south from the Umpqua Valley, and is separated from it by the Umpqua Mountain, and a succession of mountain ridges and narrow valleys. This mountain is high, precipitous, and rough--it is heaved up into high peaks, with intervening low gaps, through one of which a wagon road has been made, and with a small appropriation from government, judiciously applied, an excellent road might be made. The soil of this mountain is rather poor, and such is the character of all the mountain soil south of it. What is termed the Rogue River Valley lies high up on the river of the same name; it is 30 miles long from north to south, and about 15 miles wide from east to west. It is a beautiful valley to the eye of the beholder, but much of the soil is rather sterile, yet there is some excellent land that produces good crops of native grass, and would produce good crops of grain if cultivated.
This valley is also settling fast--gold mines have lately been discovered in it, and some of the miners are doing very well.
John M. Forrest, "Description of Oregon," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, September 25, 1852, page 1
A mile or two before reaching the river the road forks, and the left-hand leads to the upper ferry, eight miles above. We took the right and crossed at a rope ferry in a good boat.--There is only one house at the ferry. Thence to Willow Springs is called 20 miles, and Table Rock village, or Jacksonville, six miles beyond. The lower ferry on Rogue River is eight miles below the middle ferry, and not so far from the Kanyon by five miles. Applegate Creek flows into the river a mile below the lower, or Long's ferry. On this creek are 80 to 100 miners, as estimated, and doing fair. On Josephine, and other creeks, there is estimated to be five hundred men. The nearest mining on Smith's River is about twenty miles below Long's. In that vicinity are estimated to be 150 men. The route to all these places is over the lower ferry. To go this route from the Kanyon, a trail leaves the road about six miles beyond Grave Creek. It is not a wagon road, and not conspicuous at the parting.
Travelers to the mines above, or to Shasta Butte (now called Yreka), cross either the middle or upper ferry at pleasure.
Below Willow Springs the valley is narrow, but in general of width to furnish space for farms between the mountains and river. The land is gravelly and poor, with some places that are fertile. All these on the south side of the river are taken. The Grave Creek Indians, with whom there is no treaty, object to "Bostons" settling on the north side, and they do not. What is called the Rogue River Valley spreads out from the Willow Springs. It is estimated to be about fifteen by twenty-five miles in extent, and is very beautiful, surrounded, on all sides, by lofty mountains. In places, the surface is slightly undulating, in other places, nearly level. A respectable tributary of Rogue River, meandering from the south or west [Bear Creek], may be made to irrigate the most of the valley on that side of the river.
A considerable part of this lovely valley is gravelly, poor land, affording some grass, and of small value for any other purpose. Other parts have a good, black clay soil, and must produce well, though no crop has been perfected since the settlement commenced. I was told the claims are all taken--so rapid has the immigration been.
At the Indian Agency, three and a half miles from the Willow Springs, we were very cordially received by the gentlemanly Agent, Judge Skinner. He has selected a desirable and valuable place, and there are many such. Table Rock village is six miles from the Agency, in plain sight, over the prairie plain. Judge Skinner rode there with us. The town is located at the border of the valley where the ground begins an ascent that rises gradually to mountain height, and is in the immediate vicinity of the most extensive diggings on Rogue River. It is composed of tents, sheds, shanties, and frail houses of split lumber. One respectable two-story house was being constructed.--The village has a population of about 150. This mining district, within the distance of five miles, is estimated to have a population of 1500 or 2000 men. A few of the gold claims are rich and pay well. I do not think they are generally so. How long profitable digging is to continue can only be a matter of opinion.--This is an auriferous country. Comparatively a small part has been "prospected." And the same general character of country extends north to the south Umpqua. Barren, gravelly plains, adorned with the beautiful manzanita, which loves the sterile soil, and mountains of a reddish hue, nearly destitute of vegetation, are some of its characteristics. This large extent of country, worthless for agricultural purposes, may be rich with gold that future labor will bring to light. Gold is now being dug (with what success I do not know) on Cow Creek, a few miles below where the trail crosses. It has been dug, last season, with some success, near the south Umpqua. I am not inclined to the opinion that the mining population in southern Oregon is to diminish for many years. It may largely increase.
Nathaniel Coe, "Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, July 3, 1852, page 2
THE TERRITORY OF OREGON.
The Climate and Productions--
Visit to the Rogue River Mines.
Portland (Oregon Territory).After more than a year's residence in Oregon, I am pleased with the climate, quite as well as I expected to be. We have no winter, compared with the Northern States. We have two seasons, the wet and the dry. I am better pleased with the rainy season of Oregon than with the cold winter of the Northern States, including even the garden of the North, Western New York. And our summer weather is not sultry hot as yours, and we never have a hot night.
July 7th, 1852.
Fruits do well, very well as yet. In addition to all the fruits of your latitude in the States, which flourish finely, figs promise well and will doubtless flourish, and be healthy. I saw, the other day, the soft-shell almond in its second year's growth, and it is in fine condition and is growing very well.
I have no doubt of the general healthiness of Oregon. The water is almost everywhere good. The air is pure. The breeze from the ocean is very regular, in summer from the north, in winter from the south. We never have the sudden changes of weather that are so frequent in the States. Neither do we ever have tornadoes, hurricanes or sudden gusts of wind, and very seldom thunder, never heavy thunder. A warm rain ends warm, never with cold, sleet or snow. Hail is not frequent. I do not remember to have seen what is called sleet in the States since I have been here.
We are expecting a large immigration this year, and probably next, as the land law expires next year.
July 8th.--The mail from the States has just come in, and I am too busy in preparing for the return mail to write more.
I send you an account of a trip I recently made to the Rogue River mines, in company with Thomas Nelson, United States Chief Justice of Oregon. It is intended as a description of that part of the Territory. I designed it for the information of numerous inquiring friends, as I have frequent inquiring letters.
Portland, Oregon Ter'y., June 1852.Steuben Courier, Bath, New York, September 8, 1852, pages 1-2
Dear Sir: The 18th of May I left Portland on a trip to the Rogue River mines. My trip was by a steamboat to Oregon City thirteen miles. This city is located at the foot of the Willamette, under the east bank, which rises several hundred feet and, opposite the falls, crowds upon the river. A narrow wagon track is excavated to Canemah, three-fourths of a mile above, which is the steamboat landing for the upper Willamette. From this landing the navigation extends to Marysville [Corvallis], seventy miles by land, and it may be double that by water.
The Willamette is one of the most lovely rivers in the world. It rises in the Cascade Mountains, and wandering through the whole length of the beautiful valley that takes its name, flows into the Columbia, 110 miles from the sea. The tide rises to the Clackamas Rapids, just below Oregon City. Its banks, in their general character, are of moderate and convenient elevation, but at the falls, and a few other places, are high and picturesque. From its mouth, about 60 miles up, it is bordered by forests of fir. Above that, the flower-bedecked prairies approach in many places to the river's brink.
At Champoeg, a prettily located post-town on the French Prairie, twenty-one miles above the falls, I left the mail steamer, Canemah, and in company with Judge Nelson, who joined me here, pursued my route on horseback, and reached Salem, 25 miles, the evening of the 19th.
Salem is a pretty and thriving town on an extensive prairie that skirts the east bank of the river. It is designated as the capital of the Territory.
May 20.--Leaving Salem, a ride of 18 miles over rolling prairie, ornamented with scattering, low, branching oak trees, brought us to Santiam City, a post-town on Santiam River. This is a tributary of the Willamette flowing from the Cascade Mountains. Crossing by ferry, in 8 miles farther we again come to the Willamette, at Albany, the county seat of Linn County. This, also, is a prairie town, and not exceeded in beauty of location by any town in the valley. Here we spent an agreeable hour with the Rev. Jas. P. Miller and his interesting family, whose acquaintance it had been my good fortune to make a year ago. He came out under the auspices of a Presbyterian missionary society, I believe. Such occasional interviews with valued Christian friends in my frequent wanderings in this far distant country are bright epochs which memory fondly cherishes. Here we crossed the river by ferry. Nine miles should have taken us to Marysville. By missing our way we made it 12 or more.
Marysville, which, like other prairie towns has a pretty location, is the seat of justice for Benton County. It is a thriving village, and being the head of navigation, many trains of pack mules receive their loads here to supply the mining districts. Some packers proceed to Albany, Salem, Oregon City and Portland to make their purchases. Portland directly or indirectly furnishes the supplies for Southern Oregon, chiefly, except those of Oregon production, which are procured nearer, and except also a considerable quantity of merchandise which finds its way up the Umpqua River.
May 21.--We crossed by ferry the mouth of Marys River, a tributary from the Coast Mountains, and proceeded up the west side of the Long Tom River, another tributary from the same range of mountains. The country along the Long Tom is a very level and handsome plain, but needs more timber, and is rather low, parts being submerged yearly. The soil is clay, of a lighter color than usual elsewhere, and of brick hardness in the dry season, but it is said to be productive, especially for wheat. Fording the Long Tom at Starr's Point, twenty miles from Marysville, we found the character of the soil on the east side of the river quite different. It is sufficiently elevated, more sandy and light, and may be tilled at any season of the year.
The country is new, and some good desirable land is vacant. Most of the claims that are occupied have been taken within the last nine months. We stopped for the night with a family who had resided there for more than a year. The lady said that during four months she did not see a woman.
May 22.--The mud in many places being rather formidable, it was with the expectation of an improvement in that respect that we left the main traveled road yesterday and crossed the Long Tom. Though there is considerable travel by pack animals along this route, yet there are places without any distinct track. In some low grassy plains the mules do not follow each other, but the tracks may spread over a space of half a mile in width. In one of these we lost our way, and taking a wrong depression between the adjacent hills, wandered among spurs of the Calapooya Mountains four or five hours, all the while surrounded by scenery sufficiently interesting to repress the emotions of deep regret for our mistake. Every hill presents a new aspect of country. Nor was the animal world without interest. The cooing of grouse was in our ears everywhere. We loved to notice the art and caution with which they would stand, almost to be trodden on, rather than betray their existence by flying. Occasionally a timid hare, with its large ears erect, fled to a more distant covert. But the doe--the graceful white-tailed deer--what can be more beautiful! They bound along so proudly--so leisurely--as if intending only to exhibit their own beauty and the grace and elasticity of their own motions! Our route took us to the ridge of a mountain, which we followed for some miles. Here we enjoyed a prospect that dispelled any lingering regret for the error that led us among this mountain scenery. Smiling valleys were below, marked here and there by a meandering stream, but neither marred nor improved by the hand of man, hill rising beyond hill adorned with orchards of spreading oaks. Beyond them all, a long line of fir-covered summits and lofty peaks exhibited the well-known character of the Coast Mountains. In the best humor with ourselves and all nature about us, we wound our way down the long and steep descent of a grassy mountainside, gay with spring flowers, and just as night closed in reached a house on the Long Tom road. Having staked our horses in good prairie grass, and partaken of a refreshing meal, wrapped in our own blankets on the floor, we soon forgot the fatigues of the day in a luxurious slumber they had fitted us to enjoy.
A part of a traveler's outfit in Oregon, especially for the recently settled parts, are a pair of blankets, for his own use at night, and a rope about 40 feet long, with which to secure his horse. The whole prairie country is rich with fine grass, but the pasture ground being too extensive for convenience, we drive down a stake, tie one end of the rope to it, and the other around the horse's neck. After a few days' travel, the stakes are unnecessary--the horse may be let loose, the rope trailing. For sleeping we take the floor, or the ground, protected from dew by the foliage of a spreading tree, as convenience or inclination dictates. Our evenings are so fine, without fear of rain, that an outdoor location is quite pleasant, and the grassy earth is more mattress-like than a floor. In Southern Oregon, the traveler should also furnish himself some eatables. We found it convenient, and recruited our horses when we found good grass and water, without solicitude as to other accommodations by day or by night. Not intending to be pressed for time, we were less careful to be always in the direct route. We could not avoid being surrounded by objects and scenery of interest, and were indifferent as to what particular tree should guard our slumbers.
The main roads to the mines are much used and well beaten. Trains of pack mules are constantly passing, and thousands of cattle have this spring been driven to Southern Oregon and California.
May 23.--A few miles brought us to the southern limit of the Willamette Valley. This extensive and beautiful valley is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges. It is extensively prairie land, diversified by strips and patches of fir, pine, oak, cedar and other trees. Parts of it are very level, other parts pleasantly rolling. It has, also, detached elevations, here called buttes, some of them rising to mountain height. The soil is clay, more or less mixed with sand, varying in different localities, but everywhere good for wheat. Peas do well, and are said to be prolific and sure, and will supply the place of corn for feeding. Bottom lands, fir timber lands, and some prairies, among hills, or near the mountain ranges, produce potatoes, beets, onions, turnips and other roots in great luxuriance, of astonishing size, and excellent flavor. Other prairie lands in this valley need manure for root crops.
The distance by the Long Tom road, across the Calapooya Mountains, to Umpqua Valley, is 12 miles. We found it dry and smooth, and the hills not difficult for wagons. On entering the Umpqua, about noon, our anticipations of a cordial reception at the house of our mutual friend, Jesse Applegate, Esq., were realized. Mr. A. was a pioneer of Oregon, and is now one of her most intelligent and wealthy farmers. He has been on his present claim between two and three years and recently refused five thousand dollars to give it up. It is no town site and never will be, but is only valuable for agricultural purposes.
Umpqua Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, having Calapooya or the north, Cascades on the east, Umpqua south, Coast Mountains west. It has no extensive plains like the Willamette Valley, but is a group of grass-covered hills or mountains of various sizes and heights up to 1500 feet. Their ascent, though too steep for cultivation, are sufficiently easy for pasturage, of which they afford abundance, their soil, even to their lofty summits, being good. They are separated by small valleys of convenient width for farms, and of great fertility. These valleys have a clay soil which becomes quite hard, and cracks in summer, but having been once broken may be easily worked. It varies considerably in different localities in composition and quality. Some places can be easily cultivated in the dry season. It has produced wheat and root crops well, but I do not believe this [corn?] will ever be a profitable crop in Oregon. Our nights are too cool, and we have none of the warm rains that it loves. The soil of the hills are unlike that of the valleys, being more sandy and lighter. Over the whole valley, but mostly on the hillsides, are extensive orchards of black and white oaks, of the exact appearance of old apple orchards. They are prolific. The fruit, unlike acorns of the States, is not bitter, and is used by the Indians as food. The acorn of the white oak is said to make as solid pork as corn. The most lovely scenes and landscape views I have ever seen may be had everywhere, from almost every mountaintop. In the flower-adorned prairies below, a line of luxuriant trees, in the rich green of spring, betray the meanderings of the pure stream which their shadowy branches conceal. In some locations the silvery surface of a river adds variety and interest. The successions of hills, purple with flowers, so varied in their gradual, increasing ascent, and every variation so pleasing with the enchantment of spreading shady trees, in clusters and single, the view closed by a mountain range with numerous peaks pointing spire-like into the sky--the effect of such scenery may be felt but not described. And the picture must be drawn without a bare rock, fearful acclivity, or smoking volcano. Such views add great interest to some pictures, but would spoil this, which is the beautiful, and only that.
Umpqua Valley is admirably adapted to grazing. Two-thirds of the land, not being arable, will not be claimed or bought for many years, if it ever is. Farmers who cultivate the valleys will enjoy it. Snow to obstruct the grazing of animals is not to be feared. They thrive as well in winter as summer, and are always fat. Stall-fed cattle in the States are not so good. Last March, Mr. Applegate sold a lot of 80 cattle, of the ages of three, four and five years, from a herd of less than four hundred. By agreement they were to be transferred at the estimate average weight of nine hundred pounds--at 8 cents a pound, 72 dollars each, amounting to $5,760. The raising of them cost him nothing. The purchasers of these cattle drove them to Shasta City, California, and sold them at the same estimate weight at 20 cents a pound, as I have been informed. The distance driven was three hundred and fifty miles--expense nothing but the pay of drivers.
Desirable claims in this valley are mostly occupied.
I should have said, the rivers that flow through this valley are Elk on the north, cutting off spurs of the Calapooya Mountains; North Umpqua, more centrally; Calapooia, a creek, nearly as large as Elk River, between North and South Umpqua, and South Umpqua on the south, along the base of Umpqua Mountains. No very eligible road has yet been found and opened across the Umpqua Mountains. The route through the Canyon (so called) is chiefly traveled, except in high water, when an arduous mountain trail is used. Passing from the scenery which I have described, the Canyon has little of interest for the eye, or comfort for the body. Its difficulties are deep mud, steep hills and frequent crossings of the creek on a bed of rocks, angular and uneven. The crossings, I was told, are seventy-three, besides a mile or two directly in the bed of the stream. The distance through is twelve miles, and is rode at this season of the year without difficulty in four hours. A man not used to such roads would think it impassable for wagons, and I suppose it is so, drawn by horses. They flounder in the mud too much, but ox teams perform it daily. Four or five pair of oxen will drawn through ten to fifteen hundred pounds.
Emerging from the Canyon, the valley of Cow Creek opens pleasantly. It is narrow, with some pretty fair soil, but more that is gravelly and poor, and affords space for a few farms, with the needful arable land. A bachelor from Boston is located two miles from the Canyon, where he caters for the public. The next resident is at Rogue River more than thirty miles. As we arrived at the bachelor's tavern before night, we rode a few miles down the valley, turned our horses loose to fine bunchgrass, and slept beneath a spreading fir tree.
May 27.--We crossed Cow Creek and left the valley eight miles from the Canyon. The road is good. The whole distance for the next eight miles is an arduous crossing of mountains, to Grave Creek. This creek has its name from an emigrant's body having been buried here. Here is a valley which will admit for one or two farms. Leaving Grave Creek, one mountain of two or three miles is to be crossed, after which the road is good to Rogue River. The land is poor and gravelly, and except a few bottoms of small extent, will never be used for agricultural purposes. We arrived at the middle ferry, Rogue River, just at dark. There is but one house here--a bachelor tavern. We got supper, and then crossed the ferry with our animals, to better grass for them, and better lodgings for ourselves, under protecting trees.
Our landlord brought us some bread of his own manufacture, baked before the fire, and this we contrived, using our own tin cups, to enjoy a better dish of coffee than he could have provided. This kind of life makes victuals relish well, and men will not be fastidious as to their preparation. We rode up the valley to Willow Spring, twenty miles, and to the Indian agency, three and a half miles today, where we found a very cordial reception by Judge Skinner, the gentlemanly agent.
What is called Rogue River Valley spreads out from Willow Springs. It is about 15 by 25 miles in extent, on both sides of the river, and is very beautiful, surrounded on all sides by mountains. In places it undulates slightly--in other places level. A part of it has a rich, black clay soil, but it has, also, considerable gravelly, poor soil, yielding a little bunchgrass. No crop has yet been perfected, though the claims, I was told, are all taken, so rapid has been the settlement.
May 29.--Judge Skinner rode with us to the mines, six miles across the prairie plain, where we spent half the day in riding three or four miles along the ravines that are being dug up, and in observing the work. The gold is found in the ravines, through which mountain streams descend into the valley. These ravines are divided into claims, the extent of which is fixed by a rule established, democratically, by the first occupants. It determines the length and width of a claim, also when, and under what circumstances, a claim shall be regarded as abandoned by a claimant and be opened to a new occupant. Each miner is allowed one claim. A newcomer may take any unoccupied or abandoned claim. The rules thus established are, and must be, strictly complied with. Thus each mining company is a little democracy, which not only establishes the extent of gold claims but takes cognizance over life and property. This may be called "mob law," but it is a government that seems to be necessary in these new settlements, where courts are not organized. Egress to the old settlements is so tedious and expensive that without such government, crime would go unpunished, and there could not be order and safety. I understand this democratic surveillance has been deliberately prudent, and is effect salutary. A white man was given counsel, a fair trial before an impartial jury, and hung, for the diabolical murder of a white man. Another white man for shooting--not mortally--an Indian was made to pay five horses, ten blankets and thirty dollars, which satisfied perfectly the chief, the tribe and the wounded Indian, and prevented retaliation. This is a kind of punishment they understand and were much better satisfied with than they would have been with the delays of law and its penalties.
In digging gold, the earth is excavated down to the rock--it may be from two to six or eight feet. The surface earth is thrown aside. A layer next above the rock is washed. This is done by using the "long tom," which is a trough some twelve feet long, the lower end closed, and the bottom there, for about two feet, made of sheet iron or leather, perforated with holes like a riddle. A stream of water is made to run through the trough. One or two men shovel in the earth, another stirs it up and throws out the stones. The fine earth and gold is carried through the riddle in a receiver below. Two or three times a day the earth in the receiver is washed out in a tin pan. The company whose work we observed most particularly washed out the day we were there two hundred dollars, which was about an average day's yield. They had six or eight men at work, and paid for labor $4.00 a day and board. This was the first claim taken, and one of the best. A few other claims are rich, but I do not think they are generally so, or the miners making large wages. Farming in Oregon is an easier and more healthy, and I fully believe a much surer, way of accumulating property than digging gold.
The gold dug here is not very fine, but is handsome. It is not mixed with black sand, and though there is plenty of quartz, seamy and rotten, in the earth, it is combined with quartz but little. Quicksilver is not used at these mines. I was told that a vein of quartz gold had been discovered a few miles off, which is not worked.
June 1st.--Judge Skinner, the Indian agent, concluded to return with us as far as the South Umpqua, for the purpose of having a talk with the Grave Creek Indians. We rode to the lower, or Long's ferry, thirty-one miles. There are three ferries on Rogue River, in going out we crossed at the middle. Long's is eight miles below; the upper, or Evans', eight or ten miles above. In descending below the valley that I have described the mountains approach near the river, leaving, however, a width sufficient for small farms and in a few places of pretty fair land, but generally sterile. The arable land on the south side has claimants; on the north side the Indians object to "Bostons" settling, and they do not.
At Long's we found an encampment of a few hundred Grave Creek Indians. They are a branch of the Rogue River nation, but independent of them. With the Rogue Rivers, Gov. Gaines made a treaty last year, which they faithfully observe. With the Grave Creeks we have no treaty. They occupy the country north to the Umpqua, more than thirty miles without a white settler, and through which all the travel to and from the mines passes. A few of them have been saucy, and perhaps compelled contributions from weak and timorous parties. I am not sure whether they have murdered any. But they as a nation are friendly and kind. Probably there will be no difficulty hereafter; nor do I think there is any danger now, even to a single traveler, if he is armed and resolute. Travelers do go armed through their country. They are pretty well formed, fair-sized Indians, much superior to those of the Willamette Valley. Only a few of them have firearms or know how to use them, but they use the bow and arrow with great skill and effect. They use for food a great variety of roots, insects, worms, even grass, and any kind of animal. When we were riding through the Grave Creek country, I saw several women gathering something from bushes that overhung a pond, and I rode out to see what it could be. They readily came out from the pond in which they were standing, and all exhibited their baskets to show me their success. The contents were caterpillars, and nothing else, similar to the kind on apple trees in the States but a trifle larger. They had wide-top baskets, which they held under the bushes, and jarred the boughs. At another time, when N. and myself were walking out, we came unexpectedly to some Indian huts. One woman was making a basket--and she understood her business, working with skill and dexterity. Another was pounding the camas root, to work into bread, I suppose; she had it in a basket on a large stone, and used a stone for a pestle. Another was washing camas root in a basket, water tight. Our curiosity prompted us to observe them awhile. When the camas was washed she commenced the process of boiling. With two sticks, from a fire near her, she took heated stones and dropped them into the basket of water and camas, which set it boiling finely.
They offered us boiling camas. It has a sweet taste, but to me was not pleasant. Its shape is that of a small onion. Hogs thrive on it. The only dress of these women were narrow girdles about the waist. Boys to the age of 10 or 12 years are entirely naked. Some of the men are very nearly so. Others begin to dress like white men. Women wear on their heads a willow basket made just to fit, like a round hat crown without a brim. It is water tight. They use it when occasion requires to dip or hold water, or as a drinking vessel. The women tattoo their faces by pricking soot into the skin. From a point at each corner of the mouth, a black line expands to the width of an inch below the chin. Some of them tattoo in other parts of the face. They for mourning cover their head with a coat of tar, which becomes smooth, hard and black, and has the appearance of a leather cap fitting tight. They besmear their faces with tar; from all of which they have a hideous and disgusting appearance. I did not see any men in mourning dress, from which I infer they do not change their dress for mourning. They do not have many, perhaps not any slaves. They never steal Indian children to make slaves of them, as more northern tribes do, although their own are sometimes stolen for that purpose.
As to the extent of mining in Rogue River, there are estimated to be from 1500 to 2000 in the vicinity of the upper mines, which I have described. A few more are at work near the river and on it, above the ferry. On various tributaries from Long's ferry, down some forty miles, there are estimated to be some 700 or 800.
How long profitable digging will continue can only be a matter of opinion. This is an auriferous country. Comparatively, only a small part has been "prospected." The same general appearance continues northward to the South Umpqua. Barren, gravelly plains, adorned by the beautiful manzanita, which loves a sterile soil, and mountains of a reddish hue, nearly destitute of vegetation, are some of its characteristics. This large extent of country, worthless of agricultural purposes, may be rich with gold, which future industry will bring to light. I am not of the opinion that the mining population of Southern Oregon is to diminish for many years. It may largely increase.
I ought, perhaps, to return to Rogue River. It is a beautiful stream without falls, so far as I observed, yet all along rapid. I followed its course up and down thirty miles, and had it in frequent view. I did not observe any place where it appears to have overflowed its banks. Its course is less meandering than rivers usually are. The current is probably too strong to allow its profitable use for navigation, yet I can't say what steam may do. From the lower mines some forty miles below Long's ferry, to the sea it is unknown. There is even doubt as to where it enters the Pacific. On some of the maps it is made to enter south of Port Orford. A large river there is generally thought to be Rogue River. [The Rogue enters the Pacific about twenty miles south of Port Orford.] Indian accounts make this, probably error, and that Rogue River finds the ocean north of Port Orford, and is "the Sequolchin," that is has no falls, and has been navigated by canoes to its mouth.
. . . I must close this too-long letter without detailing my return. You see from the date I am at Portland, from whence I started.
Your friend, N. [Nathaniel] Coe.
OVERLAND TO OREGON.The following letter from Oregon embodies information of practical interest to everyone meditating the overland journey to the New England of the Pacific. It was communicated by the receiver to The National Era:
Table Rock City, Jackson Co.,
Oregon, Sept. 20, 1852
Our market is in the mines, which consume more than Oregon can supply. The prices are as follows, and vary but little during the year, in this valley. Flour and potatoes from 25 to 30 cents per pound; onions, 50; pumpkins, 10; turnips, 15; melons, from 50 cents to $3 apiece. Butter, from 90 cents to $1.50 per lb.; cheese, $1; beef, 15 cts.--live weight, 10; dried fruit, 40. These are the retail prices.
Grass supplies the place of hay. Your poor stock just off the plains, a little hay would not be amiss during the cold rains. They can do without. The mountains are covered with grass and timber. The buttes are covered with a rich foliage of grass. The country south of this river is principally prairie, susceptible of cultivation, and generally well supplied with spring water. There are no swamps. The streams are all lined with timber, and generally rapid owing to the short distance from the mountains to the ocean. Some streams are filled with "trout," others with salmon. At Puget Sound there are plenty of oysters, and this undoubtedly will be the point of attraction eventually. The rush of emigration is at present to Southern Oregon, and the choicest claims are generally taken though aplenty for sale.
The emigrants are generally well pleased with Oregon on arriving. It is here as in other parts, occasionally you meet a dissatisfied, homesick man; but a small regiment could not run me from the country. This city is one year old and contains 2,000 inhabitants; out of this number there have been three deaths. Two were sick before coming, and one died of dissipation. We have one mill in operation, another building. A grist mill will be in operation next summer.
Many kinds of plows are used, but the cast iron is the best. All kinds of farming utensils can be obtained cheaper than to bring them. Bricks are used for chimneys in some parts, but none used here yet. Cooking stoves are to be had at Salem and Oregon City for $30 and upward. In this valley no schools have been organized. There are some very efficient schools, both high and low, in the Willamette Valley. We are situated near the mining region--of course, as yet without the pale of law, which causes gambling and drinking to exist to some extent, though not to interfere with the pursuits of the inhabitants.
Agriculture and stock raising are the principal employment. Many spend a part of their time in the mines. Cattle all run at large, and some good stock has been introduced by emigrants. Good hogs are common; there is a sow and pigs running at large here worth $300. Flies and mosquitoes are not troublesome; a few are found lurking about watercourses. There is but little variation of soil and productions in the different valleys, though this pleases me best, being nearer the best market. Some of the miners are doing well; some lumps are found weighing $12 and occasionally a man throws out from $400 to $500 a day.
I will now recommend the outfit necessary for the journey. Your clothing may be such as you commonly wear in the States, both for male and female. This is the cheapest article we buy, and will not pay transportation. Four yoke of hardy cattle to a load of twenty hundred. Your wagon should be light and strong. Young cows are the most profitable stock to drive.
Your provisions for each person should be 200 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of bacon, 30 pounds of sugar, 25 pounds of rice, 12 pounds of dried fruit, one peck of salt and plenty for stock, and such groceries as you commonly use in the States. Do not depend on getting supplies at the forts, or you will be sadly disappointed--better have too much than not enough, as you will find many poor emigrants in need.
Let your loading consist of provisions, feather beds, blankets, and a few necessary tools to use on the road. Many emigrants cook upon the ground, but a small light stove is better, as wood is scarce in many places, and often buffalo chips will have to be used.
Start from Council Bluffs by the first of May. Be sure and procure a guide book. Come through the South Pass, then keep both right-hand roads till this side of Soda Springs, then take the left-hand road. Travel regularly every day 15 or 20 miles, and before coming to the Klamath Lake country form yourself into large bands for safety. Go well armed, give nothing to the Indians, but keep them at a distance, and you will have no trouble.
If you come, give me information to that effect, and I will meet you in that country. Bring a few garden seeds. You may rest assured that all kinds of fruit common to the temperate zones flourish luxuriantly here. Bring a good supply of quilts and blankets, as our summer nights are cooler than in Ohio, and our winter nights much warmer.
I have given you the most important information of the country, and you may have overlooked some things you may wish to know. This letter is intended for all who contemplate a journey to the Pacific State. My term of office as sheriff will not expire till June 1854.
Yours, with pleasure,Richard Hull, Orangeville, Trumbull Co., O.
ROBERT C. SYKES,
Table Rock City, Jackson Co., O.T.
Hornellsville Tribune, Hornellsville, New York, January 29, 1853, page 2
Correspondence of the Oregon Statesman.
Jacksonville, O.T., Dec. 9, '52.Mr. Editor--As our friend Mr. McDermott is about visiting your section of the Territory, I am induced to write you a few words giving the current news of this place. Though still a stranger, I find enough [of] interest in the welfare of the place, and of its inhabitants. A short year since and this was but a barren wilderness. New farms, ranches and miners' cabins fill the wide plain, and the rude traces of the savage give place to the onward step of civilization, commerce and thrifty industry. An old California miner come on a visit, and well satisfied I am with the prospects, notwithstanding the dissatisfaction manifested by many newcomers, who, in hopes of an immediate reward for their long and tedious journey, look for hundreds a day, when five or six dollars should at first content them. This is less than they expected, and hence discontent and grumbling at their hard fate. Hence, also, something almost akin to despair, which leads many to offer their services for the nominal pay of their food and lodging.
The richness of the mines is yet untold, and I am confident that the wealth of California herself will not exceed the resources of Southern Oregon. Yreka City is but a few months older than Jacksonville, yet its prosperity and increase are still undiminished, and from all appearances will continue long and steadily. A few days prior to my departure from these large and extensive deep diggings were discovered prospecting from ten cents to twelve dollars a pan, and in a claim not far from our own pieces as high as fifty dollars were taken out by some Iowa boys who crossed the plains this season, by the Yreka route, having industry and stout hearts, must and will succeed. At first they were somewhat discouraged at their want of success, and accident leading them to change their diggings, also led them to this rich spot. By the way, while speaking of immigrants, let me also speak of one to whom hundreds of immigrants, with their wives, families and property, are indebted for safety at this moment--I mean Mr. Wright, long and well known in this country--upon whose conduct and that of his companions, too high a eulogy cannot be paid. Sometime in the early part of August last, Mr. Wright and about twenty-eight others, whose names I regret cannot be obtained, left their homes and business on the first intimation of the difficulties from the Indians experienced by the immigrants near Shasta Butte, and proceeded to the spot to protect them. For three months and more did these gallant spirits, forgetful of self and personal interest, spend both time and money in this dreary region, and until all the wagons coming that way were safe through the dangers of the route. During this time supplies were freely afforded by the open-hearted citizens of Yreka City as often as the call was made, and until the snows of the winter set in, and then, and not until then, did Mr. Wright and his party return, having first contrived to meet the Indians, and destroying, as nearly as can be ascertained, a hundred of the tribe. For these services we trust to see them well recompensed. They have earned a public reward, and soon may they reap it.
I should be glad to see a small press established in Yreka City. There is an excellent opening for one there, and I believe a lucrative one. It would better enable us to blazon forth the histories of these men, among other things, so that their light should not be hid under a bushel.
By the hands of these indefatigable young men--Messrs. Cram, Rogers & Co. of the Express, and who now connect with Adams & Co.'s old and known line--we are put in possession of the news of the death of the Hon. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Calhoun, Clay and Webster, three mighty pillars of our great national fabric, have fallen, yet their remains bear the seal of majesty, and their acts the monuments of a nation's glory.
By the same invaluable means of communication, we hear of the destruction of the greater portion of Shasta City (Redding's Springs) by fire, and I am sorry to say to you that the editors of the Shasta Courier are among the sufferers. They sent to San Francisco immediately for a new press, and we hope soon to see that favorite little sheet again amongst us in full success.
I shall remain here sometime prospecting the gulches and hills of this place, and should you desire further communications of reliable sources, you may depend upon
FELIX.Oregon Statesman, Oregon City, January 8, 1853, page 2
Last revised April 7, 2017