The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Jackson County News: 1846

News of Jackson County and the "Applegate Trail"--the southern emigrant route.

    In the spring of 1846 young Burch was manlike at 18 and joined a company of sixty or seventy men who went through to California with Duncan E. Cameron, one of the Hudson Bay company's leaders. . . .
    . . . when the company Burch was in was passing through Rogue River on the way to California, at the first crossing of Rogue River they were beset by a large party of Indians, who made unfriendly demonstrations, and were helping themselves freely to the articles at the camping place. The men sprang to their guns and brought them to bear on the aggressors, holding them terrified, while seventeen were taken prisoners. These men they tied by their wrists and kept them so two days. When they finally let them loose they all jumped into a stream and swam across. When they tied these prisoners they gave the others to understand that whenever they were attacked they would kill those captives. Some of them were chiefs, so they served the part of hostages to good advantage. They kept them until they had crossed over the mountains, and had crossed Klamath River into California, and as they let them loose on the south side of the Klamath, that was the stream they swam to get back to their own country. During that two days they were surrounded by hostile bands, and saw numerous parties of them on the Siskiyou Mountains, but the threat of killing their captives was efficacious, and they were not in any manner disturbed by them. Five years after a young brave came to him when camped on the same spot, and by signs recalled the fact that he was once tied by Burch and others in that company, which was the fact.
    On that same expedition, hardly a day's drive further south, they were attacked by a large party of siwashes, as they were camped almost at the foot of Mt. Shasta. It was probably the Modocs or Pit Rivers, who have all been freebooters in the past. They were camped at Soda Springs. A cloud of arrows flew, and one of them struck Aleck C. Obershaw. He was shot in the thigh. They carried his body for several days, to deceive the Indians, and finally buried him at the very water's edge. He was a very good man and much liked; was half French and half Indian, and the pilot of the expedition. The same night the Indians fired into the camp, but no casualties occurred. of course they were on the defensive all the while and retaliated as best they could, but while the Indians were in great force they never saw but three of them, and had no idea if their own shots occasioned any loss to their enemy.
    In California they found Milton W. Wambaugh, one of the five who went in advance of the emigration of 1843, who escaped from Oregon to avoid the penalties of justice. He ran away when Knighton was the marshal, and taking the overland road to California was fortunate in overtaking a party in advance. But when alone, on Rogue River, the Indians of that region attacked him and he told them a graphic story of his fight for his life. Being driven to close quarters he said he drew his revolver and shot five of his assailants dead. Wambaugh was a machinist, and worked for some time with the Hudson Bay Company. He was well educated and a natural orator. Not long ago (in a historical sense) Wambaugh was prominent in public life in Ohio, as we read of his stumping Ohio for Hayes or some recent candidate.
Samuel A. Clarke, "Pioneer Days: Reminiscences of C. W. Bruch, of Yamhill, an Immigrant of '44," Oregonian, Portland, September 13, 1885, page 2

    The Rt. Rev. Norbert Blanchet was consecrated Bishop of Oregon Territory on the 15th of July, 1845, in the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Montreal, Canada.
Oregon Spectator,
Oregon City, July 23, 1846, page 2

    The public mind has been happily put at rest, in relation to the welfare of Captain Jesse Applegate and party, by the arrival of intelligence at Fort Vancouver, recently, to the effect that he had succeeded in discovering a most admirable road for the emigration--one much more direct, and in every respect more preferable than the old one. We trust to be able to speak more at large in relation to this important circumstance hereafter. Captain Applegate struck the old trail in the vicinity of Fort Hall in time to turn the bulk of the emigration which are now coming on under his guidance; indeed it is altogether probable that the advance wagons have already entered the head of the valley.
    This achievement is a great piece of public enterprise on the part of Captain Applegate, and we hope that he will be rewarded accordingly.
    Since writing the above, Mr. J. M. Ware, from the States, has arrived and informs us that he came in company with Captain Applegate--that the wagons, numbering some two hundred and fifty, will probably arrive in about two weeks. We regret to state that Mr. Wm. Trimble, from Iowa, was killed by the Pawnee Indians, in passing through their country.

Oregon Spectator,
Oregon City, October 1, 1846, page 2

    In regard to the remainder of the emigration, who are coming in by Messrs. Applegate and Goff's recently explored route, we can obtain no satisfactory information, further than [that] they are as yet a considerable distance from the head of the valley. We have understood that several families have abandoned their wagons, and come in with pack animals; likewise, that two or three parties have started out with provisions &c. to meet the emigration. We have a rumor that one hundred and forty wagons, of the two hundred and fifty reported to have been on this route have turned off and gone to California; this requires confirmation, however.
"The Emigration,"
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 29, 1846, page 2

A. L. Lovejoy.                                                                A. A. Skinner.
ATTORNEYS AND COUNSELORS AT LAW, and Solicitors in Chancery, Oregon City.
    Having this day entered into co-partnership in the business of the law, under the above style and name, L. and S. will attend to any professional business entrusted in their care; and will practice in the Supreme and Criminal Courts of Oregon Territory, and in the several County Courts.
    Oct. 15, 1846.
Oregon Spectator,
Oregon City, November 12, 1846, page 3

    THE EMIGRANTS.--Our latest intelligence concerning the emigrants who are on the southern route comes to us from some gentlemen who have recently arrived in this place, after having "packed" into the settlements. At the time of their departure from the wagons (about twenty days since), which number altogether, as we are informed, only eighty, some few of the first were this side of the Calapooya Mountains; the most of them, however, were still engaged in crossing the Umpqua Mountains. They had experienced considerable suffering, from exposure and hard labor, and bravely surmounted numerous difficulties. We regret to state that Mr. William Smith died instantaneously--probably occasioned by overexertion--in the kanyon of the Umpqua Mountains. It is also our painful duty to record the death of David Tanner, of Iowa, and ------ Sallie, of Callaway County, Missouri, who died from wounds received in a skirmish with the Klamath Indians. [Sallie died on the Humboldt River, probably killed by Piutes.] In the same affair, Mr. Lippincott of New York City, a California emigrant, was severely wounded in the knee. We were acquainted with the parties; Mr. Sallie had left home in a rapidly declining state of health, which was as rapidly improved by the trip. He looked forward sanguinely to the enjoyment of a new life, as it were, in California, which an inscrutable Providence has prevented. Himself and two of his fellow emigrants have experienced the common lot--"In the midst of life, we are in death."

Oregon Spectator,
Oregon City, November 26, 1846, page 2

For the Oregon Spectator.
    Mr. Editor:--As the people of the United States as well as those of Oregon are deeply interested in the success of the company who have lately returned from exploring a southern route from the United States to this valley, it is the intention of that party in due season to give to their fellow citizens, whose philanthropy has prompted them to contribute to the success of this arduous undertaking, a full report of their travels and discoveries, and until such report is ready to be made public, it is certainly doing an injustice to those who have been engaged in this important service to attempt to forestall public opinion by the publication of such statements as are made in an editorial headed "The Emigration," which appeared in the 20th number of the Spectator [article of October 29, above].
    Notwithstanding the "early and safe arrival of all the emigration by the Mount Hood road," it appears that some are yet in the mountains, and many more beyond, who cannot either safely or unsafely arrive by the Mount Hood road this season, and those who have succeeded in passing the mountains have suffered losses in proportion to their numbers full as great as any previous emigration, some of those last getting through having lost half and others the whole of their animals.
    Facts, so far from proving favorable to the old road, go to show the decided advantage of the new. The emigrants on the new route, though greatly delayed by sickness, and the opening and breaking the way over timbered mountains and trackless plains, have arrived in the valley west of the Cascade Mountains more than five weeks ago, and "the families who have abandoned their wagons" amount to one only. This they have done by traveling a distance not exceeding that from Fort Hall to Walla Walla, and without meeting the tenth part of the natural obstacles encountered on the old route. From the Rogue River Valley to Oregon City, in less than ten years, there will be continuous settlements, there being but two narrow ridges of Coast Mountain between; the one sixteen, the other eight miles over.
    Were you, Mr. Editor, to take the trouble to examine the files of your paper, you would find that others, as well as Goff and Applegate, have spent their time and money in the public service, and are equally deserving the praise or censure of the public. And as the hope of pecuniary reward had no share in inducing them to undertake an expedition which was justly considered one of great danger, labor and privation, they have with equal magnanimity brought it to a successful issue. From the emigrants who are traveling the new road they have neither asked nor received anything except by purchase, and to those who have assisted them in opening the road, they have bound themselves as individuals to the payment of one dollar and fifty cents per day.
    Let me tell you, Mr. Editor, the company to which I am proud to belong did not leave their homes to ride a few days up the Willamette River and return with a false report to the people: They went seriously determined to find a new road, if one was to be found; they went actuated by the purest motives, and in the spirit of patriotism and philanthropy, and were more than successful.
    They have explored and opened a wagon road to the western valley of Oregon which may be traveled at any and all seasons, by a shorter and in all respects better route than any heretofore known.
    They have made it easy for wagons to pass between Oregon and California, which has hitherto been impracticable.
    They have found a way by which the southern rivers of Oregon may be connected by railroad to the bay of San Francisco without crossing a single hill.
    On the road they have found a mail may be carried at all seasons, and a railroad may reach the bay of San Francisco from the U.S. without crossing the Sierra Nevada, or to the Willamette without crossing the Cascade Mountains.
    And lastly, by their own unassisted means, they have succeeded in establishing a connecting link between the waters of Oregon and those of the great interior basin of California before unknown, and which one of the ablest explorers in the service of the United States attempted, without success.
    Such, Mr. Editor, are the achievements of the exploring party, which envy and cupidity would render nugatory!!!
    As I have stated nothing that I am unable to establish, I have nothing to conceal from the public.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 26, 1846, page 3

    "GREAT CRY AND LITTLE WOOL."--In another column will be found an article over the signature of "Moses Harris," in which we are charged with an "attempt to forestall public opinion," inasmuch as in the discharge of our editorial duties we had occasion to prepare and publish an article in which we simply gave, in a statement of facts, all the intelligence that we could obtain concerning the emigration, without any reference in word, or even in thought, as to the comparative merits of the routes by which emigrants have arrived here this season. We do not know, however, that we would have hesitated in giving the information in question had it actually been necessary to have gone into an argument as to the merits of these routes. We are not easily deterred in the performance of anything that we esteem to be a duty. As to the charge of forestalling public opinion, we refer our readers with a great deal of pleasure to the article complained of, and feel well assured that every unprejudiced mind cannot fail to perceive how unfounded is the charge.
    We have a "bone to pick" with Mr. Harris, for, by the article over his signature, he makes it our unpleasant duty not only to deny some of his asseverated facts, but to prove that which is quite the reverse. It is hardly worthwhile to state in passing that in no single instance has Mr. Harris quoted our language correctly; almost any sentence can be so perverted as to mean what was not intended. There is no occasion to quibble or use sophistry in this matter. If the emigrants by the southern route "arrived in the valley west of the Cascade Mountains more than five weeks ago," what then? They might suffer and starve on this side just as easily as on the other--the settlements, Mr. Harris, the settlements, what time did they arrive at the settlements, their destination? Or, have they yet arrived? What's the use of saying "the families who have abandoned their wagons amount to one only"? Did not Mr. James Campbell abandon two, Davidson one, Vanderpool one, Long one, Van Bebber one and Watkins one?
    They did, and we have evidence to establish the same. It is not wise to live in glass houses and throw stones.
    We are not aware that there are any emigrants by the Mount Hood road who are yet in the mountains and unable to get through this season, as intimated by Mr. Harris; on the contrary, we know that there are none. The rearward company, consisting of seven wagons, arrived here during the first week in the present month.
    We have not the space, if we had the inclination, at this time to argue as to the advantages or disadvantages of either route; the pleasure, therefore, of surprising Mr. Harris and his friends with an exposition of our views thereupon, is unavoidably deferred to some future occasion. Far be it from us to speak disparagingly of any scientific undertaking--much less of one that promised such important beneficial consequences to Oregon. Nor would we withhold from any member of that exploring party a single iota of his deserts. We mentioned Messrs. Goff and Applegate because theirs were the only names that we knew of the party, nor do we know the number or names of the gentlemen who composed the expedition.
    A word more and we have done. We do not love to be found fault with without the shadow of a cause, nor will we permit ourselves to be charged falsely and unjustly, especially by those whose fears would seem to be the only source of their imputations.
    As the editor of this paper, we write and publish that which we believe to be the truth, with the promotion of the general interest always in view, and it is to be hoped that we shall continue to have nerve enough to pursue this course regardless of consequences.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, November 26, 1846, page 2

    THE EMIGRANTS--SOUTHERN ROUTE.--We have no further information to give concerning the emigrants on the southern route,
excepting that which is contained in the following letter, received a few days since:
Settlement of the Rickreall,
    November 30, 1846.
    Editor of the Spectator:—I have just arrived in the settlements of this valley from the Kenyon in the Umpqua Mountains. I left the people suffering beyond anything you have ever known. They must perish with hunger unless the people of the settlements go to their relief with pack horses and bring them in. They will have property with which to pay for such services. If they are not brought away they must perish. Before I left, they had already commenced eating the cattle that had died in the Kanyon. At least one hundred head of pack horses should be taken out immediately. I implore the people of this valley, in the name of humanity, and in behalf of my starving and perishing fellow travelers to hasten to their relief.
In haste, I am sir, yours &c.
    We have understood that a considerable band of horses have been sent out from Champoeg County, sufficient probably to bring in all or most of the emigrants.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, December 10, 1846, page 2

Last revised March 1, 2017