The Southern Route
The first travelers of the Applegate Trail in 1846. See the page on the "preacher train" for the emigration of 1853.
Leaving Fort Hall [in 1846] we traveled down Snake River, passing the American Falls. There we met a company from Oregon, Mr. Applegate, Goff, Scott and others; this company turned many of the emigrants on to what is called the Southern Route to Oregon, and when we come to the fork roads, I to my sorrow took the Southern Route. This for a distance was the California road; it passed through the Warm Spring Valley and so on to the Humboldt River which in many places was dry; other places it was running a little. This is a dry barren country; willow and sagebrush was our dependence for fuel. By this time many of the emigrants began to suffer, an abundance of sickness and destitution, Martin Hoover still growing worse; sometimes of a morning all hands that was able went after cattle, leaving no strong men about camp, so in order to get Hoover from the tent to the wagon I would get on my hands and knees and he would crawl on to my back and I crawl along holding to the wagon tongue until I got to the wagon and so help him in, but poor man he was not long to remain with us. He was a good fellow, just as good as could be in every particular; he was moral and had good looks with him. Sickness and suffering increase. We traveled down the Humboldt to within a short distance of the Sink; here the Oregon road turns to the right and we enter the great desert. All credit is due Mr. Goff, who remained back to assist and cheer the hind part of the emigration, while credit is equally due to Mr. Levi Scott, who kept in the advance as pilot, and also doing all in his power to assist in opening the road, and doing everything that he could to assist the emigrants. Mr. Applegate left soon after turning that portion of the emigration that followed him, saying that he would send assistance from the Willamette to open the road, which if he did I never knew it. He sent provision to meet the emigrants, which he sold to them at a very high price. I will here remark that upon one occasion Mr. Scott and I was in advance with our axes opening the road; he remarked to me with tears in his eyes and said he would have to leave, that his life was in danger, which I did not think was altogether correct. True, he and others was the cause of our misfortune, but he did all he could to help us. I knew the emigration was terribly enraged, often swearing they would take Applegate's life on sight, but I thought no violence would be committed on the person of Mr. Scott. I said to Mr. Scott, he must not leave, that the lives of the emigration was in his hands; he was the only man that could take us out of the mountains, that while I had a bite of bread I would divide with him, and if I got to the valley I would do my part in remunerating him. So like a gentleman he remained until the front wagon got into the Willamette Valley. I think I fully satisfied him for all his trouble, as for me some time afterward I saw an article in the Spectator which acknowledged the receipt of $21.00 from one emigrant, which was all that he had received for piloting in the emigration of 'forty-six. I knew very well that I paid that $21.00. Where we left Humboldt the river was dry, but by digging holes in the sand we got water, all that had kegs filled them, but there was but few that had them. We now take the desert early in the morning, traveling all day; in the afternoon Mr. Scott sent me ahead, to save all the water that could be saved at a very weak spring there was ahead of us, and while I was damming the water my son David came up and said Martin Hoover was dead, this was my hand, that he died in the wagon as it was moving, that his ma did not know it, she being in the other wagon. About sundown the train came up. We buried the man immediately, got a bite of supper and started on a night drive, getting no water to amount to much. The moon is now about full and we traveled all night. Up to this time my wife had been as stout and rugged as she could be. I cannot see how we could have got along had it been otherwise. The wind being very cold during the night she took a cold, losing the entire use of herself except one limb. Now I had trouble, my wife having lost the use of her limbs and myself very feeble. Many times as she lay in the wagon and could not turn over I was so weak I could not do it only by getting my shoulder as near under her as I could with my hips against the wagon body, and by this means would partly turn her. We got to Rabbit [Hole] Springs about 10 o'clock a.m.; these springs are some holes in the ground about four feet deep, the water dribbling in these holes no faster than a man could drink, so we got no water to amount to much here, and now both stock and people began to suffer most terribly. One thing I remember that was a little funny and not very funny either, Mr. Lancefield, who was my old neighbor in Missouri and my traveling companion had a dog with him he called Queen. As we passed [through] the desert we passed many dead cattle left by those ahead. When we would come to one not quite dead Lancefield would say "Queen," and Queen would take the animal by the nose, and often the animal would make a desperate effort and rise. This would make a great laugh, but the poor animal would give a low moan and fall down. It would seem astonishing that we could laugh over such suffering, especially not knowing but the next hour it would be our fate to lose our team. And now my pen cannot describe the suffering, both of people and animals. We traveled that day, and the next night at 2 o'clock a.m. we came to a hot spring, at the Black Rock. The spring was very deep and about twenty feet in diameter and would cook meat in a few minutes, but we went down the branch and found it cool enough to use. Everything bore the marks of intense volcanic action. A little above the spring was a black-looking mountain which was black rock; it looked like a mass of black cinders, while at its base were fragments of lava and cinders, resembling those of a blacksmith forge. Here desolation reigned around to the fullest extent, the desert and mountains were all the eye could view beyond the little oasis where our almost famished cattle were feeding. We moved on a short distance to another oasis and in about five miles another with plenty of water and grass. Sickness of the train continued, and many deaths. The hardship of Thomas Crowley of Polk County, Missouri was immense. The family when it started was large, but before it got in the valley was reduced to but very few. His daughter Lelona I helped to bury on Grave Creek, afterward changed by the Legislature to Lelona [Leland] in remembrance of Lelona Crowley that was buried on that creek by the emigration of 1846. Mr. Crowley died at the foot of the Calapooia Mountain. After leaving Black Rock we continued westwardly over bad rocky roads; many places the wagons did not make a track, other places it was sandy desert, with an occasional oasis. Here we came to one of the most remarkable curiosities among the mountains. It was a canon or narrow pass through the mountains just wide enough for a smooth level road. In going down into the canon the hill was so steep that one wagon with all its wheels locked fell over forward on the team. When we got down then looking up the perpendicular wall on either side four or five hundred feet high, it was truly frightful. We traveled down the canon some twenty miles. Sometimes the rock on either side would get lower, then higher again. In ascending the hill on leaving the canon we found as before a rocky country. We are now in sight of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and on approaching one of the spurs of the Sierra to our great joy we did not find it difficult to ascend. Crossing over we soon found ourselves at Goose Lake. Here the Indians made a break on us, killing several head of our cattle and driving off quite a number, leaving many wagons almost without a team. Here my old friend Mr. Lancefield lost several of his oxen but supplied the place with cows. Passing Goose Lake we soon came to the river with a natural bridge, then Klamath Lake. The Indians yet remaining troublesome, here they killed my teamster. The teamster had pleurisy in his side and could not ride in the wagon. I tried to get him to ride, but he said the jolting of the wagon hurt his side. One evening he had fallen behind the train. I was terribly alarmed at him for doing so and scolded him much, telling him of the danger. The next day he did it again, the Indians came on him and filled him full of arrows, then stripped him of his clothing. This was on Klamath Lake. We crossed the Klamath River just at the outlet of the lake at a very rocky ford. Next was the Siskiyou Mountains, which was heavily timbered. And a great job it was to cut a road across, but we had a long way back provisioned and sent young men ahead to open the road, so we got over the mountain quite well. One incident that transpired here I will speak of. On one occasion in the mountain we had to make a dry camp; the next day was a drive of about four miles and a good camp, but one of my cows was missing. We knew that the Indians were all around us doing all the mischief they could, yet my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I took our rifles; I filled my mouth with bullets, if he did not he had everything convenient for loading, and in Daniel Boone style we returned to our old camp. We had scarcely got out of sight of where the train was camped when we found plenty of Indian tracks in the dust of the road we had made a few hours before, so we kept a sharp watch for Indians I assure you. We intended to have the first fire if there was any show, but the Indians kept so hid that we saw none, although we went back to and around our old encampment in search for our lost cow, but did not find her and returned, supposing the Indians had captured her. But next morning the lost cow was on hand. Leaving the Siskiyou Mountains we descended into the Rogue River Valley, the Indians yet remaining troublesome. At our camp near what is called the point of rocks, when we started in the morning, and the wagons fairly strung out, the Indians made a raid on our loose cattle, but was so well defended by our cattle drivers that the Indians only killed one cow. A dispatch being sent to the front, the wagons were soon put in order for defense and the teamsters returned to have a jolly old time, but the Indians had skedaddled. That night I dreamed the Indians met us at the crossing of Rogue River, and we sent over some horsemen and drove the Indians back. I told my dream to my wife in the morning, and it became true to the letter. The Indians held the opposite shore; we sent over a number of horsemen who fired several shots. I saw Indians when I got over, and my wagon was about the fourth wagon; in crossing our train was about a hundred wagons strong. Here is another little incident. On one occasion in those mountains the train was late getting into camp. We camped near a very pretty branch; my old friend John D. Woods, who started with me from my home in Missouri, stepped down to the branch a little after dark to get a pail of water, but quickly returned pretty badly frightened, stating that as he went to dip his water zip-zip went some arrows by his head; at that moment a flintlock gun snapped in a few feet of him. We were soon called to arms, and let the Indians know that we were on the alert. We discharged a few volleys, which made the mountains fairly ring. The Indians went off a short distance and with their old musket fired a few rounds; this ended the fight. Sickness yet continues, the health of my wife gradually improves, and so does my own. We now approach the much-dreaded Umpqua Canon. We had taken the precaution to send a good many young men ahead to open the road. Those young men deserve much credit for their hard and laborious work, both in the Siskiyou Mountains and Umpqua Canon. As we have said we was a hundred wagons strong; this was a large train, and as we made a corral with our wagons every night in order to defend ourselves against the Indians, and it was very convenient to keep our oxen together in yoking, we were now within a few days' drive of the Canon, and the teams that went in front had the easiest time and there was some of the train who had a strong force, could yoke their oxen quick and turn out with their wagons, breaking the corral [and] making it very bad on those not ready. On one occasion as usual the corral was broken while many teams were yet unyoked and ladies engaged, some mending the gap where the corral was broken, others yoking up oxen, while their men were gathering up the cattle. I could yoke as soon as any, but on seeing the trouble I called out to those that had caused it, that they had not acted the gentleman, at the time saying to those that remained to keep quiet and we would make two companies, and we did so, the front company sending back and getting their loose cattle. We now have two trains and we moved on in this way until we came to the Canon, coming each night close together, and now comes a joke. We beat the other company at their own game. Both companies the last camp before entering the Canon as usual camped within sight of each other, but we did not let our cattle mix. We had to work several days on the Canon before we could venture in, so each company furnished their quota of men each day to work on the Canon, so my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I looked after each other's interest. When he would work I would look after his cattle, and when I worked he would look after mine, and it so happened that it was my turn to work the last day. Before starting in the morning I suggested to Mr. Lancefield that he should complain that the corral was getting very muddy and that he should give the wink and pretend as though he would move the corral. Said I, the other company is watching every motion, and said I there is a patch of grass right at the mouth of the Canon, sufficient for our cattle, and when you yoke to move corral move right into the mouth of the Canon. This would place our company in the front and give us the advantage in the morning, knowing that those wagons that got into the Canon first would be most likely to get through, so I went about my work and at the appointed hour, which was about sundown, sure enough our train camped in the mouth of the Canon. It so happened that when we got through work for the day that Capt. Vanderpool and I was returning, he was Capt. of the other company, and on our return as we neared the mouth of the Canon we heard wagons coming. He became terribly alarmed, saying he must hurry, for his corral was broken and his teams would be scattered, but on coming up he stopped suddenly, and looked, saying Garrison it is your company. By this time the corral was formed across the road, but left the way open on each side, but what tickled me most was he had been fairly beaten at his own game. Here let me refer to the great amount of suffering for food; many were entirely without, and the cry of children for bread came to our ears daily. None but those who have been in like condition or have been eyewitnesses can sympathize for the almost starving emigrant, shut up among the mountains without hope of relief. I think I would have had plenty to have done me through, but I could not hear children crying for bread without dividing, I divided by the cupful, and biscuit, until I was without. People starving will eat anything that can be eaten; among other heart-rending sights I saw one lady digging roots on which to subsist. Let me here speak of a personal case, and I might give the man's name, he is a good citizen, well off and a resident of Salem. As we was passing through the Umpqua Canon, my wife was sitting in the wagon eating a piece of bread. He looking wishful to her, she broke off a piece and handed to him, and he passed on. The next summer there was a camp meeting near Dayton, and though poor yet we did the best we could under the circumstances, and spread our tent on the ground. A stranger came and introduced himself to my wife, asking her if she knew him. She said she thought not. Well, said he, I am the man you gave the bread to in the Canon. I did not eat it, although I had ate none for twenty-one days. I took it, said he, to my sick children. When we were met with beef from the Willamette, I was on guard, and it seemed to me if it had saved a world I could not have kept from crying. We now enter the great Canon; the evening before however my brother Joseph met me. He and Enoch came to Oregon in 1843. He brought to my relief provisions, a yoke of fresh, fat cattle and a number of pack horses. I pray Almighty God that I may never forget the kindness of this brother. When morning came all hands at an early hour were ready for the Canon; my brother attached his fresh oxen to one of my wagons but said it was impossible for the wagons to go through the Canon. I put two yoke of my weak oxen to the other wagon and after sending the loose cattle all in the advance we started. The Canon was not more than twenty miles through, and we were five days in it, so you may judge the amount of trouble we had. Oh! how many cattle died by starvation and many wagons were broken all to pieces. Much of the way we had ropes fastened on the wagon and men holding by the ropes. Allow me here to speak of a joke. Quite a stream flowed through the Canon, and we traveled much of the way in its bed. We came to a horrible bad place at which place many wagons were broken. At the lower end of the terrible rapid over which we descended was the running gears of a good wagon. I knew the owner and supposed he had abandoned it for good, and it being public property and better than mine I laid all the front part of the running gears of one of my wagons and supplied the place from the abandoned wagon. A neighbor whose wagon was broken left his front wheels and took mine, and another came along who took the hind wheels of the abandoned wagon, and so all hands was well pleased with their bargain, and why not, for each had made his own trade, but now comes the joke. When the owner of the abandoned wagon got through the Canon he sold it to my old friend Perry Durbin who took the trouble off my hands in crossing the Missouri. Durbin took a yoke of oxen and started back for his wagon. When I met him I asked him where he was going with his oxen. He said he was going after a wagon he had bought of Mr. Tod, so I laughed. What is up said he. There, said I, is part of your wagon, but go on and get mine that I left and you shall have yours. All right, said he, so on he went with much difficulty. Finally he met my front wheels coming, so that was all right, but on he went after his hind wheels, and by the way making enquiries he found his hind wheels coming. So all his wagon and mine too was on the way out, but then the other poor fellows who had left parts of their wagons they were out of luck finally when we all got out. Then came the rub. I was ready to give up the part I had when Durbin got mine as he said he would do. He had some trouble in getting my wheels but succeeded, and the poor fellows that was out of luck had to make carts. All hands now out of the Canon, and by the way the Indians were now friendly, so we could travel as we pleased. By this time the health of my wife had improved so she could ride on horseback. My brother, having brought out pack horses, took my family except two boys and bid me goodbye, and here my heart ached. I thought possibly I should never see my wife again, as she could scarcely walk alone, but then we must do the best we could, and bidding her goodbye they went on, and I remained a few days to let my oxen rest. Finally my old friend Mr. Lancefield and I gathered up our cattle preparatory for an onward move, and just now I am waited on by a committee. The emigrants had held a meeting and notified me by the committee that they must have the fat oxen my brother left me to eat. I knew full well to resist was useless, so I begged them to accept a couple of heifers which I offered them. They kindly agreed to it, and my oxen were spared. By this time a large portion of the emigrants had got out of the Canon, and of course it made a large encampment. Here I learned there was a young man by the name of Garrison in camp and that he was from the valley, so like Joseph and Mary of old I made search and found him, and who should he be but my nephew from the valley. Sure enough he had come out to assist me, and let me say although I may never be able to reward my kind friends, yet I am sure that he who has said "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it also unto me," will not let them go unrewarded. Morning comes and we make the start. That day one of my oxen died, and in the evening I sent the boys back to take off some of the hide for ropes as I might need them in crossing the Umpqua. On the return of the boys they told me they found the dead ox and that the family of Mr. _____ was busily engaged cutting off some of the best pieces to cook. Mr. Lancefield's team was now very weak. I had six yoke of my oxen and one of my brothers, so when we would come to a bad place I would send relief to Lancefield and help him along. Finally we came to a horrible hill on the South Umpqua. After I got up the hill I sent back several yoke of oxen to bring up Lancefield but he refused any assistance, sending me word that I would kill my team, that he had concluded to abandon his wagon and try to pack his oxen. So I felt dreadful bad but had to go on and leave him. Not long after [that] I abandoned one of my wagons. We now travel alone until we came to the North Umpqua. This is quite a river. We came to it in the evening; there was a few wagons ahead of us, and the Indians had assisted them in crossing, so when morning came I looked about but could find no Indians. One emigrant was camped on the opposite side a short distance below. I saw a canoe on his side. I hallowed to him to bring it over; he said he had nothing to eat and had no breakfast. I said to bring it over and I will give you your breakfast, so he brought it over. Soon quite a number of Indians came and I engaged them to ferry me over. I swam my oxen over, then with ropes I made a boat of the two canoes, placing a canoe on each side for the wheels to stand in. When I got to the opposite shore the hill was very steep to ascend, so I placed my oxen on the top of the hill then attached several log chains to the tongue of the wagon and then with the oxen pulled it up the hill, all over. We now moved onward over a handsome rich rolling country until we came to the Calapooia Mountain. There being no wagon road across the mountain and falling in with several other wagons we left them at the foot of the mountain, and all hands went to work to cut the road across, our old friend Mr. Scott the pilot yet remaining and working like a good fellow. It was several days before we got to the summit, but when we got the road opened up to it we returned and got our wagons and brought them to the summit, then took our cattle down into the Willamette Valley, and now for the first time I place my foot on the soil for which I had been so long traveling, that of the Willamette. We returned to the wagons, taking up flour with us which we purchased at the high price of Applegate. Here my brother Enoch Garrison met me to assist me, and let me say that [although] over twenty-five years have passed since, yet I have not forgotten the kindness of those relatives who came to my assistance and I hope I never shall, and Jeptha, as his father had come to my assistance, returned home taking with him my son David, and now my brother takes hold to help cut the road down the mountain, and it did appear to me he was able to do as much work as three of us. The fact is we were like our worn-out oxen, just alive and that was all. When we got the road cut we took up our oxen to where the wagons were left, and now I hear that my old friend Mr. Lancefield was camped at the foot of the mountain, and I was satisfied he was without flour so I took about twenty pounds on my shoulder and started down the mountain, a distance of about six miles, intending to carry it to him, weak as I was.. Here a man came up with a pack of flour taking out to sell to emigrants, so I returned and put my flour in my wagon and went down to the foot of the mountain with the packer, and the first camp I came to was Lancefield who bought what flour he wanted. He had failed in getting his oxen to pack so he spliced teams with Isaac Lebo and had worked his way along until he got to the foot of the mountain. I rendered him all the assistance I could in getting up the mountain, and this was the last I saw of him until I saw him at the Methodist mission farm on the Willamette. He and Mr. Lebo as soon as they struck the Willamette dug out a large canoe and leaving their wagon and cattle descended the river with their families. This I suppose was the first time the river had been navigated by a white man, so that all honor is due to those pioneers of 'forty-six for paddling the first craft that ever descended the Willamette from its source down to the mission farm. That is truly a feat that history should not lose sight of. I am now in the Willamette Valley and now I began to look for the valley called PARADISE OR THE GARDEN OF EDEN.
Albert Ellison Garrison, Life and Labour of Rev. A. E. Garrison, 1887, pages 27-43
Just beyond American Falls we met Jesse Applegate, who had come to tell us about the new route to the Willamette Valley by way of Southern Oregon. On Raft River the road forked, one branch leading westward to Oregon and the other to California. We took the California road, intending to follow it for 300 miles and then turn westward by way of Klamath Lake into Oregon. We turned south on August 10 and traveled southward until September 5, when we left the California road and struck westward for Oregon .We had to cross a 55-mile desert, with only two springs to water our stock in the entire stretch. Our oxen were so weak that we had to leave two of them while crossing the desert. As we entered the timbered foothills on September 19 one of Virgil Pringle's oxen was shot by an Indian with an arrow and two of the loose cattle were shot.
Some of our party had kept tally on the mileage, and this day saw the passing of the 2000-mile mark. During the latter days of September we were passing through a country of lakes--Klamath Lake and others. Some of our party lost some cattle on Klamath Lake, which were driven off by the Indians. On October 15 we camped on Rogue River. Four days later we stopped to bury Mr. Crowley's daughter, who was 14 years old. The going was very slow and difficult along the Umpqua, as the roads had to be made, and the rains had started. We did not get to our destination until early in December, the last month's travel being very difficult and unpleasant.
We left our cattle on Eugene Skinner's donation land claim, where the city of Eugene is now located. Our oxen were so weak we had to leave them there, packing what goods we could carry, as well as the women and children, on our mules and going on to Luckiamute and stopping at what is now called Parker's Station. A couple of bachelors had a log cabin there. They offered to share it with us for the rest of the winter. One of these bachelors, Mr. Nealy, married my sister. My brother Jim, better known in later days as Judge Collins, with a man named Turnidge, stayed that winter in Eugene Skinner's unfinished cabin to look after their cattle. The cattle just about held their own during the winter. As soon as the cattle were strong enough to travel and the roads had dried up a little, early in the next spring, they drove the wagons to where we were staying on the Luckiamute.
Frank Collins, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Observations and Impressions of the Journal Man," Oregon Journal, Portland, March 18, 1922, page 4
Mr. N. Huber arrived here on Thursday last from Oregon. He left the Willamette Valley on the 7th of May, and arrived at St. Joseph, Mo., on the 28th of July. He was accompanied by eighteen men, and came by the new southern route. This route he represents not only as the longest by about 300 miles, but to be the most dangerous, on account of the hostility of the Indians. Mr. H., our readers will recollect, went out by the northern route. Whilst encamped at night the party were attacked by a party of Shasta Indians, in the Rogue River Valley, Northern California, who shot three horses, but did no further mischief. In the morning four of the party remained at the encampment, after the departure of the rest of the company, with the design of punishing the Indians. A party of about forty approached the encampment, but retreated upon being fired upon. These Indians are unacquainted with the use of firearms, of which they are very fearful, but are quite expert in the use of the bow, and will, in favorable situations, send their arrows with such force as to pass through the body of a buffalo. On the night of the attack the force and direction of the wind very materially prevented its success. . . .
Alonzo A. Skinner, formerly of this village, has been elected circuit judge of the Territory, for the next two years--salary $800 per annum. Mr. Huber, we perceive, was clerk of the last legislature.
Kalida Venture, Kalida, Ohio, August 17, 1847, page 2
LETTER FROM OREGON.
The following letter, dated Oregon City, 16th of April, 1847, is from Mrs. N. M. Thornton, wife of J. Q. Thornton, Esq., who about eighteen months since left this country for California. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Towler, and will be read with interest by our readers generally, and especially so by Mrs. T.'s numerous acquaintances in this county:
My Dear Mrs. T.--It gives me great pleasure to sit down to write to you, a friend with whom I have spent so many happy months. Oh, how often I have thought and spoken of you and Mr. T. and the family, and I presume I have not been forgotten. Not far on the other side Fort Laramie, I wrote to you, which letter, I presume, with one that Mr. T. wrote to Mr. Towler shortly after we commenced our journey, you received. I sent mine back by some persons whom we met returning to the States. We reached the Fort on the afternoon of the 21st--had no difficulty in fording Laramie River. There were but few persons at the Fort; several chiefs of the Sioux had lodges there. To these, at the suggestion of the gentlemen in charge, a supper was given by our party. After sundown, accompanied by a miss of fifteen, I visited an Indian burying ground, situated on an eminence half a mile distant from our camp. There were several enclosures containing the homes of the dead. Several corpses, large and small, lay on a scaffold, nine or ten feet high, some in boxes, and some rolled up in buffalo robes, with all their ornaments upon them they had owned when living. Several thousand warriors were expected at the Fort on their way to fight the Crows. Next morning, just as we were about leaving, they began to make their appearance over the tops of the hills, all on horses or mules, well equipped for battle. These Indians appeared more independent and high spirited than any other Indians I have ever seen. They came mostly well, some elegantly, dressed in Indian costume. I shook hands with a great many of them, and permit me to assure you that few city exquisites could present a hand so delicately formed, or of a softness so silky, as these wild men of the forest presented to the ladies of our camp.
On the 10th of July we visited Independence Rock. In the neighborhood of this rock are numerous lakes covered with a white substance, used by many of the emigrants as saleratus. Higher up the valley is Devil's Gate, a place where sweet water forces its way through the mountain. I look upon this as a greater curiosity than the Rock. I wish I had time to describe fully all the places of interest that I saw on our journey, but having a great many letters to write, and having but little time, I am compelled to be brief.
On the 18th, we forded Sweetwater at noon for the last time. It was the last stream I saw flowing in the direction of the home of my youth. Upon leaving this stream we entered the South Pass, and that evening encamped on waters flowing toward the Pacific. It was our first night in the Oregon Territory.
On the 24th of July we encamped on Green River, a very beautiful stream, and which, perhaps, was to us doubly so, as we had just completed a drive of forty miles on which we had neither grass nor water. That is the only long drive on the old route, and it could be avoided by going round by Fort Bridger, 100 miles, as many did, and I think wisely, for it proved severe upon the cattle. However, they recovered in a few days. While encamped on Green River Alderman left us, and Mr. T. drove for seven weeks. It almost killed him. He spit blood a number of times. Indeed, there are few whose health is benefited by the journey. The toil to be encountered is too great, unless a person has very efficient help, and this is almost impossible on the road, for it matters not how good your help may be when you start; the probability is that you will be without any before you get through. Persons hired become the most independent people on the road. But this is not wonderful on a journey of four or five months--a journey of toil and exposure, and one upon which there is neither law nor order. The more independent people can start, the better it will be for them. Nearly all the partnerships that people had formed this year previous to starting were dissolved on the road, and even families sometimes separated.
On the 3rd of August we came to the Soda Springs, on Bear River. There is one group of five or six springs, and others scattered along the banks of the river. Shively, in a little work I saw before leaving the States, refers to one some distance from the river, which was not discovered by our party, and it is said to be the best one. I liked the water of the Soda Spring very much--think it is healthy. One half mile farther down the river is the Steamboat Spring, a very great curiosity. For a description, I refer you to Fremont.
We reached Fort Hall on the 7th of August, both very unwell. Everything very high there. Flour, forty dollars per barrel, and everything else in proportion. People setting out for Oregon should be careful to lay in a good supply of provisions. The quantity recommended by Hastings is too small, even if the journey be performed in five months. It requires from four to five months for wagons.
On the 8th we lay by 8 miles on this side of the Fort, where a Mr. Applegate, residing in the Willamette Valley, came to us and informed us that he was one of a party of explorers who had succeeded in finding a new road into the valley, nearer and better than the old one; that by taking it we would get into the settlements with all our property by the 28th of September. By such representations he induced every company that fell in his way to take the new route. Gov. Boggs, who was of our party, assured Mr. Thornton that he had known Mr. Applegate in Missouri, and knew him to be a man upon whose judgment and veracity confidence might be placed. The entire number of wagons that took that disastrous route amounted to upwards of one hundred and twenty. A few days after leaving the point at which Mr. A. left us, we left the old Oregon road, and turned our course down into California, along Ogden's River, through a sickly region, and among hostile Indians, who were very troublesome. They would steal or shoot the cattle whenever they had the least opportunity, which led to frequent skirmishes, in which several men were wounded. There were, however, but three killed on the route. After traveling several weeks in a south direction, we reached the point at which we were to turn our course and move towards Oregon. Disappointed as to the distance down this river, the quantity and quality of the grass and water, Gov. Boggs, persuaded that it would be no longer safe to rely upon information that thus far had proved incorrect, and being but sixty miles distant from the Sinks of Ogden's River, in Upper California, he at once, with some others, determined to proceed to the settlements in that country, which we are happy to learn, he reached in good time and in safety. We, however, felt reluctant to change our place of destination. We had been informed by Mr. Applegate that upon leaving Ogden's River we would have a drive of thirty miles without grass or water, but instead of thirty it proved to be sixty. On the morning of the third day, having traveled the whole of two days and one night, we came to a place where there was a hot spring, the waters of which tasted like soap suds. The people and cattle used this water, as it cooled in flowing off. We lay by at this place one day, and seven yoke of the strongest cattle were sent back to bring up Mr. Crump's wagon, whose team had failed during the night. The next day we traveled seven or eight miles to a place where there were several remarkable springs, one of which was a boiling spring, the others hot. We stayed at this place a day and a half, including two nights, for the purpose of recruiting the exhausted teams, preparatory to a drive of thirty-five miles through deep sand. That drive was made with great difficulty, but with the hope that at the end of it we would find healthy water and good grass, but in this hope we were doomed to be disappointed. The character of the water was the same, and the grass no better. Nearly every person in our company was at this time more or less unwell, and the teams were scarcely fit to travel. I have given you a brief history of eight days, from the time of leaving Ogden's River, and as were those days, so were many. We often had long drives without grass or water for the cattle, and frequently over bad roads, through canons, and over mountains. The dust was excessively annoying. It had been bad enough at times on the old road, but we found it was worse on this "cutoff." At length provisions began to grow scarce, some families being entirely out of flour, and teams were failing in consequence of fatigue and want of proper nourishment. The Indians were becoming more troublesome, wagons were turned over and broken, on roads so bad that they were almost impassable. I wish I had not lost that portion of my journal that was kept on the new road, so that I might be able to give dates. Someplace in the Klamath Valley a man whom Mr. T. had hired to drive his wagon turned it over in descending a very bad hill, and broke it. There was no timber which could be used to mend it, and it was left. But we succeeded in hiring another of a man who had two, and whose teams were no longer able to draw them both. In crossing the Siskiyou Mountain we were benighted, the wagons became very much scattered, and in that exposed situation we remained overnight, the poor animals having nothing to eat after their hard day's labor, and the people very little better off. The second day we got out of the mountain, and about noon to where there was water, but scarcely any grass. Our team, that had hitherto stood the journey remarkably well, failed on the morning of this day, and we had to leave our hired wagon, upon which the bed of our own had been placed, as I had it well arranged for sleeping in. Mr. T. hired two men to haul our most valuable property, and the balance, including our oiled tent, we were compelled to leave. Up to this time, although I have had to endure a great deal of fatigue and exposure, I had been comparatively comfortable; now I had to walk all day, and at night make my bed upon the ground, with the heavens for a canopy. Our supply of provisions was very small, and Mr. T.'s health failing daily. But as difficulties increased, my power of endurance increased. My health did not improve until I had to sleep in the open air.
A few days after we lost our team, our company were met by some men living in Oregon, who had come to meet their friends. They had beef cattle with them, which they sold to the different companies. Ours got two of them. I had never tasted beef so fine, nor enjoyed a dinner so much as the few I made of that excellent beef boiled and cold, without anything with it but salt. The gentlemen who met us informed us that it was little short of three hundred miles to the settlements--that the worst of the road was still before us; that they thought a part of it impassable to wagons; that certainly if the rainy season set in it would be impossible to get the wagons through a canon of the Umpqua Mountains. What a failing of hearts there was at hearing this intelligence. The teams were so weak as to be scarcely able to travel; the people had been suffering from want of sufficient and healthy food, and it was already past the season when the rains usually commenced. We were, too, in the country of the Rogue River Indians, whose character answers to their name. As for Mr. T. and myself, our trust was in God. The prospect was dark, but we felt that He who had already brought us through so many dangers could still deliver us. About the middle of November the rains did set in, which greatly increased the hardship of man and beast. As to Mr. T. and myself, we had to wade through mud and water by day, and at night make our bed down on the wet ground. Sometimes it would rain so hard that we would be compelled to get up and fold up the bedding, and put it under some pieces of oilcloth I had saved from the wagon cover, to prevent it from becoming thoroughly wet, as there was no opportunity for drying, and there we would stand by the fire until morning. From the time the rains commenced, until the 29th of November, we did not know what it was to be dry day or night. At length our party reached the Umpqua Mountains, and some of them succeeded in getting their teams three miles in one day. Some of the teams were so weak that their owners did not attempt it with their wagons. Those who made the first day's drive found it impossible to take their wagons any farther. They packed through whatever they could on horses and mules, and some of their strongest oxen. The men who had hauled for us could help us no longer. Bur Mr. T. hired a man to pack the best of our clothing, two blankets, one buffalo robe, and one small store of provisions through the mountains. We stayed by the balance a few days, it raining on all the time, but here we had a partial shelter. No opportunity being presented of sending anything more across, or rather through, the mountains, and learning that there was danger of the creek in the canon becoming so deep that it would not be possible to get through it, we resolved to leave all and escape. Mr. T. took his gun and some ammunition, and a piece of dried beef, and I two tin buckets. * * * And we set out accompanied by our greyhound Prince David that had accompanied us all the way from the States. We waded through mud and water four miles, and our way so hemmed in that we could not avoid it. We passed our families encamped on the road, there being no access to any other place. Wagons were scattered along, many of them with the property of the owners still in them; cattle were lying as they had fallen, many of them dead, others dying. Such distress could hardly be imagined. After pursuing our way four miles, we came to where Canon Creek occupies the entire width of the canon for the distance of three miles. At this place we were overtaken by a man and his wife whose tent we had passed in the morning. They were both in bad health; he carried their child, and she a small bundle under her arm and a frying pan on her back, suspended by a rope passed through the handle and round her neck. This family lost everything else. They and ourselves now entered the creek, a very rapid stream, the bed exceedingly rocky, and the water from two to four feet deep and rising, for the rain that was falling was melting the snow upon the mountains. We fell several times and could not have got along at all if we had not used sticks. Except when I fell, I do not remember to have been in the water more than waist high. Mr. T. went before me, and when it seemed too deep for more to venture, he would wade about until he would find a place more shallow. Before night we got to where the canon again widens, but we had still seven miles to travel before we got out of the mountain, and at least three to the place of general encampment. At this point we found Mr. Cornwall encamped; we stayed by his wife until morning in our wet clothes, without even a blanket to lie down upon. Mr. C. was in no condition to render us any assistance, except to spread a bed quilt over some poles to protect us a little from the rain. The next morning, after taking a very slight breakfast, we, with several others, continued our journey over steep and slippery hills. This day we waded Canon Creek twenty-eight times, and at last reached the South Fork of the Umpqua River, the place of general encampment, thankful that Canon Creek was no longer in our way, though our situation was still a melancholy one. Here we met many with whom we had traveled, and others whom we had never seen, most of them without anything to eat, except a miserable ox or cow was killed. Deer were seen, but they were very wild, and there were not horses upon which to hunt them, and the men were too feeble to hunt much on foot. Mr. T. set up some poles and stretched upon them one of the blankets we had sent through the canon, and our two small pieces of oilcloth, which afforded us a sort of shelter; a buffalo robe was our bed, and one blanket and Mr. T.'s cloak our covering. Here we lay ten days in a small valley, surrounded by mountains on which it snowed more or less every day, while in the valley it rained. Our fare in the morning was two spoonsful of broken crackers, some tea, and a little dried beef. At noon some of the poor beef cold, and without salt, and in the evening a little rice soup and tea. But we were better off than many, some not having tasted anything of which bread could be made for six weeks. Often when our scanty meal was prepared, someone would come to me and say, "I have not eaten anything for twenty-four hours." I would share with them. At length some men came out from the settlements with some horses, 750 pounds of flour, and two beeves. The provision was sold to the people. The supply to each family was small, and still it was a partial relief. Mr. T., by giving his best suit of clothes, his six-barreled revolving pistol, and his only remaining yoke of oxen, hired two of the horses, upon one of which we put our clothing, and the other we rode alternately. On the morning of the 18th of November we set off, with some others, for the Willamette Valley, leaving behind many of our fellow travelers, without any prospect of soon getting away.
(To be concluded next week.)Palmyra Weekly Whig, Palmyra, Missouri, October 7, 1846, page 2
LETTER FROM OREGON.In reaching the settlements we had a toilsome journey of fifteen days, most of which it rained upon us. We had deep streams to ford, difficult hills to climb, and the Calapooia Mountains to cross. The valleys were almost impassable, in consequence of being covered with water in many places, and the deep mud. We arrived at the settlement on the La Creole, on the 28th November, and on the 29th stopped at a Mr. Allen's, where we remained ten days to dry our clothes and rest ourselves after our disastrous and long journey of seven months and a half. I arrived at this city on the 23rd of December, where I met with a kind reception from Governor Abernethy and lady, to whom we had letters from their friends in Quincy. Mr. T. remained in the country till the 1st of Feb.
(Continued from our last.)
Thus far we are pleased with Oregon. The health of both of us is greatly improved. We were weighed about one month after we came off the journey. Mr. T. had gained 35 pounds on his weight in Quincy, and I 19. Mr. T.'s throat and lungs do not appear to get any better, but he has hopes that the dry season, that has now commenced, will be of advantage to him. The health of this country far surpasses what we had expected. There are some cases of the ague in the country in the spring and fall, but they readily yield to medicine. I am now threatened with chills, but hope I shall be able to keep them off. Whether we will continue to like the country, time will tell. Times are harder here now than they have ever been known before. But notwithstanding we think men may become independent here with less effort than is usually made among industrious people in the States. The soil is fertile and well adapted to pasturage, or the growth of wheat. Corn can be raised, but it does not prove a profitable crop. The country is remarkably well watered, and the climate generally mild, with but little snow in the winter. Occasionally there is what is called here a severe winter, which sometimes lasts three or four weeks. The last winter, we are informed, was the most severe that has been known for years. The thermometer was as low as two degrees above zero at this city. The snow in the upper part of the Willamette Valley fell to a depth of 18 inches. A great many cattle perished. The people here have not been in the habit of providing food or shelter for their cattle, because of the usual mildness of the climate, and the abundance of grass that continues green most winters. Provision is very scarce and high this spring. Many families have nothing to eat for weeks together but boiled wheat. Wheat is now selling at one dollar, and potatoes at seventy-five cents per bushel in cash. In trade, or the currency of the country, everything is higher. There is but little money in the country. All sorts of clothing are very dear here, except at Fort Vancouver, where you can purchase as cheaply as in the States, if you have the money to pay for them. It is believed that so soon as the government of the U. States extends its jurisdiction over this territory, there will be a favorable change as regards its pecuniary interests.
We have had intelligence that the treaty between the U. States and Great Britain has been confirmed. The Hudson's Bay Company are, or at least pretend to be, pleased with the conditions of the treaty.
The missionaries have done much for Oregon. But it is to be feared that the halcyon days of this country are over. The demon Intemperance has been let loose and is now stalking abroad over the country, withering the hopes of many in this infant colony. The time was when alcoholic drinks could not be obtained, but during the session of the last Legislature a bill was passed in favor of manufacturing and retailing ardent spirits. The Governor vetoed the bill and returned it the House, where it became a law, two-thirds, exactly, of the members voting for it. Since then there has been a great deal of intemperance, gambling &c. There is a law against selling it to the Indians, but it is not regarded, their testimony not being taken against a white man. * * *
In relation to the towns, there are but two of any importance; this city, situated on the Willamette River, just below the falls, and 30 miles from its mouth, and Portland, 12 miles below this, and situated at the head of ship navigation, which gives it its only importance. Except as we came through the Umpqua Valley, on our way into the settlements, we have not had much opportunity of seeing the country as yet. Oregon City has five hundred inhabitants, with a Methodist and a Roman Catholic church.
Women who undertake the journey to this country should provide themselves well with cotton and linsey dresses--they are the most suitable, and look decidedly more genteel on the road than anything else. It is important, too, to have a good supply of silk handkerchiefs, to keep the hair shielded from the dust. The dust and air injure the hair very much. Green goggles are indispensable to all, men and women. Oiled tents and wagon covers I would not recommend. They attract the rays of the sun, and are very inconvenient to handle. The best and most convenient form for a tent is circular. It need not be very large. Wagon covers ought to be lined with coarse baise or green blankets. Let people who start with wagons have them made light and strong, and of well-seasoned timber, and let them have at least one yoke of oxen more to every wagon than would at first seem necessary. Although everything here is scarce and high, I would not advise people to encumber themselves with anything, except perhaps clothing, more than will be really needed on the road; anything else will not repay the anxiety and trouble attendant on getting it here. If people have money, let them bring it to this country. It was our intention when we left Quincy not to travel on the Sabbath day, but although we traveled in various companies, we were compelled to continue our journey on that day, or be left. Yet we are convinced that it would be a saving of time to lie by on that holy day. The cattle must have rest, and if they do not get it at the proper time, they will require double afterwards to recruit them. Some argue that if they do stop on that day, they will have to wash, bake &c. That is altogether a mistake, for causes of detention arise sufficiently often to afford opportunities for everything of that kind.
Although the sufferings and losses of the people who came the route of Applegate and Goff to Oregon were great, still they will hardly compare with those of a party of twenty-three wagons who were induced to take a "cutoff" (as these new roads are very appropriately styled) into California, and had to remain in the mountains. With some of the sufferers we became acquainted while in Col. Russell's company. Sixteen of them, fearful of starvation, resolved to encounter all the obstacles in their way and try to reach the settlements. There were eleven of the strongest men, and five of the strongest women, who made the attempt. They had to cross mountains covered with snow to the depth of several feet. Of the sixteen, nine men perished, and their bodies served as food for the survivors. One woman saw her husband's heart roasted; another ate a part of the bodies of her father and brother. They were at one time thirty-six hours in a snow storm without fire. The seven who reached Capt. Wm. Johnston's settlement were almost naked, and their feet frozen. One of the two men was carried in on the back of an Indian. From the California Star we learn that relief has been sent to the sixty-odd souls that remained behind, but the probability is that they all perished. Let not such horrid stories discourage immigration to these countries. Those who kept the old road to each country got in with their property, and in good season, except a small party who arrived at Fort Hall late in the season. This party have wintered comfortably at Dr. Whitman's mission, in Middle Oregon. There are two Baptist missionaries in this country, Messrs. Fisher and Johnston. Mr. Johnston lives a mile below this city, where he preaches, I believe, once in two weeks.
I have written you a long letter; still I have not written one-third of what I would like to say. There are many persons in your neighborhood to whom Mr. Thornton and myself would be glad to write, but we cannot write to our friends individually. You will therefore oblige us by showing them this letter, faulty as it is. * * *
Palmyra Weekly Whig, Palmyra, Missouri, October 14, 1846, page 1
NARRATIVE OF JOSEPH CORNWALL [1832-1918]
CROSSING THE PLAINS TO OREGON IN 1846. REMINISCENCES.
Joseph Cornwall was a Presbyterian minister in Oregon and Washington. His last pulpit was at The Dalles, Oregon. He was the son of Josephus Cornwall. Josephus was tall--six feet two niches, with black eyes and black hair.
Rice Dunbar (our captain) and family; Mr. Brisbin and family; James Campbell and family, Bridges, Shelby, several families of Smiths, Hall family, Crump family, Dr. Kendle, Woods and family, Nye and Gates, Goode, Alderman, Judge Thornton and wife, Scales, Clarke, Putnam, Kennedy and family, my father's large family, including Byrd, Stoley and Chrisman. There are others I do not remember.
Nothing of special interest occurred until we reached the Humboldt or Mary's River, down which we followed many days. While traveling down the Humboldt we were met by a messenger from the train before us a few miles, who brought word that his train was attacked by Indians, and they wanted our help to fight them. We reached them by night. And sure enough they had a battle that day and drove the Indians away. As the result of that battle two or three were wounded, and one shot with poisoned arrows died.
Before leaving that river there was one death, Miss Mary Campbell. She was buried right in our road, and the whole train of wagons was driven over her grave to conceal it from the Indians. Miss Campbell died of mountain fever, and Mother by waiting on her caught the fever, and for a long while she lingered, apparently between life and death, but at last recovered.
In our journey we soon reached the point where the Applegate road left the Humboldt and faced north for Oregon. It was then past noon, and we had no guidebook of the road. Fifteen miles on the road brought us to a nice little spring where people could drink, but the stock could not. And a slip of paper left by the guides said it was twenty or twenty-five miles before we could reach water for the stock.
Father had three wagons, and we were not in the lead of the train that day. There were two ox wagons and a family carriage drawn by a span of mules. We appeared on the road in the following order: Our lead ox wagon, Dick Chrisman the driver, the other ox wagon driven by myself, and that was followed by the family carriage with Father the driver. It was night then, and our stock without water until we traveled twenty or twenty-five miles. They soon decided to travel that night, and then we started. Well, that was a night of great anxiety for Mother, for she thought of her boy, Joe, who after driving a team through the day was accustomed to sleep like a log through the night. Often I heard her voice calling, "Joe! Joe! Don't go to sleep! Wake up, Joe!" But Joe did go to sleep and lost his hat.
Fortunately the oxen were accustomed to follow the other wagon and the road was level and Joe did not fall out of the wagon. All went safe till daylight came and we reached water in abundance.
After resting a day we went forward only to find a long, dry and rocky road until we reached the neighborhood of Klamath Lake. There we found the Indians wild and hostile. One day a poor old man for some reason lagged behind and the Indians killed him. Besides they shot some of our stock with arrows.
We reached Goose Lake and camped by it one night. Soon after we reached the Siskiyou Mountains and had the first view of the Oregon pine, which we thought was [a] very handsome tree. We spent one night on the Siskiyou Mountain and reached the Rogue River Valley next day. There we saw the oak timber first after crossing the plains, and that gave a homelike expression to the country.
We camped one night on the bank of the Rogue River and the Indians stole one of our best horses. We traveled down the valley on the west side of the river to a point near Grants Pass and camped near the river. There before we left the camp in broad daylight the Indians attempted to steal a cow, but our men guarding the cattle drove them away. From there we soon reached the Umpqua canyon, and there we all camped for a day. We found that all were in dread of the canyon, which we heard was a very bad road.
Father went forward from camp to see the prospect and reported the road barely passable. He had a herder and owned most of the loose cattle in the train. Father killed a beef and divided it among the families of the train. He then took his herder to help with the wagons and we started on, leaving the company to rest another day and leaving his loose stock to come on in the herd. With our stock weak and poor and over bad roads, we spent the first day going some three miles and camped for the night. But a real surprise came before we retired. It began to rain on us, for it was then October, and the Oregon rains began.
Next day we started on, but soon our road turned in to the cold mountain stream of the canyon, and it was death to our poor weak oxen, and nearly all of them gave out or died that day. But we reached a level spot and camped. When we heard from the rest of our train, they came on one day and their oxen gave out and we were left almost helpless, far from the end of our journey. Several of the old people died from the shock. And all but Father had to leave their wagons, and most of them had to foot it into the Willamette Valley. By joining teams with another friend Father saved his wagons and took them on through the canyon. Before we left camp the people from our train passed our camp, and they were in a sorry plight. Most of the men, women and children were on foot, and even women and children often carrying heavy burdens of bedding or other goods.
As to ourselves we left camp to go through the canyon in the following order: Miss Chrisman, Byrd and Stoley went first, and carried the tent. Shortly afterward the family followed. Mother was put on a gentle mule, and she carried Laura, then an infant. Sister Lizzie and myself were able to help ourselves. Father went on afoot before us and led Narcissa and George. We were all on foot, except our mother and Laura. Much of the time we were in the water and sometimes deep wading.
We passed through the canyon sometime before night, and we found our tent stretched and we moved into it once more. But what became of the cattle? They were left to care for themselves. But when the people came they also went on through the canyon. Four of our cows and three oxen were left. But it was said that the Indians there were wild and hostile. One day when I was after some stock on an active mule they tried to capture me. But I rode safely to camp. We heard that the Indians burned all the wagons left in the canyon by our train. We were among the last to leave the canyon.
We passed on to our winter camp near where the town of Oakland now stands. But we learned afterward that a worthy man named Newton of our train was killed by the Indians somewhere near the present town of Roseburg.
One cause of Father's anxiety was that he had a library, which was large and heavy and could only be transported in wagons. He arrived at our winter camp with his books and wagons too. I suppose it was after the middle of October, 1846, when we reached our winter camp. And we soon decided to remain there until spring.
From the canyon to our winter camp we find little to mention, except scant rations, poor teams, bad roads and slow travel.
But now we have reached camp for winter; let us resume our narrative. Our herder, Mr. Byrd, went on with James Campbell to the Willamette to try to get help for us. And Father sent some letters to friends asking for help. Mr. Byrd found a Mr. Middleton Simpson, an old friend of Father's, on the Luckiamute. And he sent a sack of flour and a mule to help us on to the Willamette, but that was all the help we got till spring. But that was a valuable treat then.
Another rare sight to us was a herd of very fat beef cattle driven out to us. I never saw fatter cattle than those, and Father managed to buy one of the best. We kept the tallow for seasoning. And having plenty of milk, and deer being plentiful, and my cousin Stoley with us being an excellent hunter, we were well insured against starvation. But we had no bread or salt, and that we found a sad misfortune. And just here let me say that somehow word came to us that our commissary store might be replenished by a visit of someone to the fort of the Hudson's Bay Company, a day's journey or two down the Umpqua. Having a good riding mule, my cousin Stoley volunteered to go to the fort for supplies. A half bushel of peas, a half bushel of good, clean wheat, a handful of salt was all that he could get. But I suppose that was liberal for that day. And that was our supply of provisions until the next April. I must say of our neighbors, the Indians, that generally they behaved well and were peaceable and quiet.
But let me say that when we camped there, Father by some little presents secured the good will of the neighboring chief. The chief was called by the Indians "Capitan."
I may say that the food of the Indians consisted mostly of a vegetable resembling an onion [camas] but [which] was prepared by a process of cooking that gave it much the taste of a sweet potato. That root was gathered by the squaws in moist lands.
In midwinter, Father decided to build a log cabin, having brought with him an ax, a crosscut saw, a froe and the timber being near made that an easy task. And I may say here that near our camp was some of the best cedar timber that I ever saw. With that we made some of the finest boards and puncheons that I ever saw. We finished our cabin about the Christmas holidays and moved in from our tent. Just behind our cabin stood a fir tree, having very thick foliage and a brushy top 50 feet high.
As spring approached and on bright days we heard a mysterious hooting up in that tree, and we searched but could find nothing. That was the first grouse we heard hooting. It made us laugh when we found out what it was.
April came at last with its warm sun, its gentle breeze and pretty flowers. And that all made us restless to go forward and finish our journey, our journey to the Willamette, our daydream for many months. Sure enough, on the 9th day of April our friends from the Willamette came at about 10:00 a.m., and I need not say that we were glad. But I must record their names here: They are Joseph Hess, Clark Rogers and Josiah Nelson,
It was just a year since we had left our old home in Arkansas. But we started with glad hearts. Capitan and Jo, his sub-chief, came to say goodbye. Father gave his cabin to Capitan, and I will always remember him as a noble Indian, a good friend, honest and reliable.
We went a short day's journey and camped. Next day we crossed the Calapooia Mountain and reached the Willamette Valley. We passed down the valley on the west side over the sites where the towns of Cottage Grove, Eugene, Corvallis and Dallas now are, and it is hard to realize that it was all a wilderness then. But so it was. We passed on down to Chehalem Valley, where the parties lived who rescued us. And then we were at the end of our journey to Oregon. And now I am glad that I have finished my narrative.
(signed) J. H. Cornwall.University of Oregon typescript CB C816
CAPTAIN DUNBAR'S CO. 1846
THE APPLEGATE ROUTE FROM FT. HALL.
Narcissa Cornwall Moore
Daughter of J. A. Cornwall
Narcissa Cornwall Moore was a sister of J. H. Cornwall, and of Elizabeth Cornwall Geiger, wife of Dr. Wm. Geiger, of the Whitman Mission.
At Fort Hall several companies of emigrants were met by one Jesse Applegate, who came out from the Willamette Valley assuring them he had found a much shorter road into the settlement than the old road down the Columbia River. This was in August. Several companies, I think about three, decided to take this cutoff, which led them hundreds of miles into Utah and California. We soon found we had made a terrible mistake. This narrative refers particularly to what was known as Captain Dunbar's Co.; the persons who composed this company, so far as I remember, were as follows:
John H. Bridges, single, Daniel Goode, single, Rice Dunbar and family, father of Judge O. R. Dunbar, James Campbell and family and negro boy, Edward, J. Quinn Thornton and wife, Mr. Shelby, single, lawyer, James Smith and family, Henry Smith and family, James Crump and family, Miss Adeline Social, Ira Farley and mother, Mrs. Colwell, widow and children, Mr. Loveland and family, Morgan Savage and wife, Henry Croizen and wife, Henry Hall, young man, Daniel Boone and family (his daughter married Gov. George L. Curry), Mr. Nye and Mr. Gates, bachelors, Grandpa Brisbin, Mr. Perkins and family, Mr. Hall and family, Mr. Long and family, Daniel Culver, bachelor, Mr. Van Bebber and family, Mr. Kennedy, wife and grandson, William Smith and family (he died in the canyon), Mrs. Burns, widow and children (husband died on the plains), Mr. Newton and wife (he was killed by Indians in the canyon), Rev. J. S. Cornwall and family and three men as help, Israel Stoley (cousin), and Richard Chrisman drove the two ox teams and Lorenzo Byrd drove the loose cattle. (He is the father of Dr. W. H. Byrd of Salem, Oregon, an old neighbor of the Cornwall family in Ark.) Albert Alderman, single, father of ex-State School Superintendent Alderman, William Brisbin, single.
The road was almost impassable in a great many places, and we were oftentimes compelled to camp without water. And sometimes there were trees fallen across the road which the wagons could not pass under until they had let down the bows from the top of the wagons. And in places there were logs which had to be cut away before the wagons could pass. We finally arrived at the Umpqua canyon.
Our train arrived at the canyon in the afternoon. All were called to look down the hill at the entrance of the canyon. It seemed almost perpendicular and [it] did not seem possible for a wagon and team to get down it, but they did. The emigrants were almost entirely out of provisions; all of their groceries were gone. There were several families who had small bands of cattle, mostly cows. They decided some person must kill a beef, and as Father had the largest band of cows it fell to him to furnish the beef. Father told me to pick out one and kill it, but they were to drive our cattle through the canyon, which was about twelve miles, as we were intending to start into the canyon next morning and needed all our men with the wagons. The next morning we started with our two wagons and carriage and two other wagons. They fastened ropes to the wagons and held them back to keep them from pitching over onto the oxen, and in spite of all their care one wagon turned completely over onto the team. We traveled until the middle of the afternoon through a drenching rain. We made up a fire and as we were thoroughly chilled decided to camp for the night and go on in the morning, but when morning came we found several of our oxen had died during the night. We were compelled to remain in camp, but the two wagons who were with us continued their journey through the canyon. The remainder of the company never attempted to bring their wagons into the canyon but abandoned them and started to bring their families through on foot. Some had a gentle horse or ox on which they packed their small children, but the most of them were afoot.
Our camp made a nice stopping place for the tired and hungry emigrants. There was plenty of wood, and we kept up a rousing fire night and day and a great many stopped with us overnight. They were always cold and hungry, and we often had to divide what little we had to eat, which was not really enough for ourselves, as we were entirely out of flour and all kinds of groceries. The starved emigrants would eat anything. We generally had plenty of meat, but could hardly get a chance to cook it, as they would beg for the beef when it was only put on to boil. We often would take the meat off the fire and hide it in the bushes when we heard a crowd coming. We had scarcely enough for ourselves, nothing to divide.
We remained in this camp several weeks. Father and our hired men had taken several loads of our things out of the canyon on mules, and we had given up all hope of taking our wagons any farther. This seemed a very unfortunate camp for us, and to add to our troubles, Father was kicked by a mule and had three ribs broken. By the time he was able to travel the river had risen until the wagon road was impassable, and we were compelled to go [by] the pack trail, which ran along the edge of the bluff. We decided to leave this camp and Father cached his books, thinking he would return in the spring and get them.
Early in the morning we all started on foot except Mother. We had a good, gentle mule, and we got a sidesaddle and Mother rode, carrying the baby, and a man (Byrd) walked by her side holding onto the saddle and helping her in any way she needed. The rest of us walked, each one carrying something. The road was very rough and steep in many places. We crossed streams of water often, which we found were very cold and deep. My brother and I could not cross the streams alone, and Father was carrying such a load that he could not help us but told us to catch hold of him when the water was too deep for us. We crossed streams a number of times where our feet did not touch the bottom. I carried a coffee pot with a bail to it and would bring it out full of water every time we crossed a deep stream. We found walking in our wet clothing very tiresome, and my brother thought he could not go any farther. We sat down and rested and I told him I would take our cloaks and hang them on the bushes beside the road and some person would see them and take them into camp. We found this a great help about walking, as they were very heavy and thoroughly soaked with water. In a few days our cloaks were brought into camp and were turned over to us. The rest of the crowd got far ahead of us, and we did not see them anymore until we reached camp.
It was nearly dark when we reached camp. The men had stretched our tent and built up a large fire and we warmed and dried ourselves. Supper was soon prepared by our sister, Elizabeth, a girl of seventeen. We had given up all hope of taking our wagons any farther when a man who had left his wagons at the entrance of the canyon offered Father a yoke of oxen to work into the settlements if he would give him one of his wagons. Father accepted his offer, and our wagons were brought out of the canyon and we were able to bring many things we expected to leave, among them our books. It was said Father brought the largest library ever brought across the plains. Only about four cows of our band ever came out of the canyon.
We soon started on our journey. Our two mules were only able to carry their harness, and the oxen could only draw the wagon, and the family all walked except Mother. I was nearly ten and my brother, George, two years younger than myself, walked every day through rain and snow. We finally decided to stop near where the town of Oakland now stands. We remained some time undecided what to do. The snow was getting pretty deep. There were a lot of emigrants at this camp; some were starting almost every day. They were mostly on foot, all trying to reach the settlements. Father decided to build a cabin and remain there until spring. Mother was not able to undertake such a trip, as she was suffering with the mountain fever, which she had caught from laying out persons who had died with it.
Our cabin was finished after Christmas, and we moved in. It was real warm, and we found it quite a change from camping out in the rain and snow. There was a large fireplace and a place for our beds, made after the style of the camp meeting scaffold running all the way across the end of the cabin. Under this we stored our trunks and things left by the emigrants. They were to return for them in the spring. Back of our cabin a corral was made of brush where we kept our mules and cows at night to keep the Indians from stealing them. There was a shed on one side under which our wagon stood. Israel Stoley slept in this with several loaded guns by his side. The Indians had but few guns; in fact we only saw one among them, and this one belonged to a Mr. Newton, a member of our company who was killed by the Indians near the canyon. This Indian had Mr. Newton's horse, and when the emigrants came for their things they bought the horse and took it into the valley and gave it to the widow.
A number of the Indians moved their camps near us. One morning we noticed unusual confusion in the Indian camps. Someone of us ran over to the camps to see what the trouble was, and we discovered they were all fighting among themselves, both men and women, and little children were screaming. They made everyone large enough fight. They used the sticks with which they dug camas, and some of them were terrible cut and bruised. We all stood and watched them through their battle, but we never knew why they did it.
It was after Christmas when we moved into our cabin. We were entirely out of groceries of all kinds. We did not even have salt. We had plenty of venison. Israel Stoley was a fine hunter, and he seldom failed to bring in a nice fat deer. After our cows were fat Father killed a young heifer. This gave us fat with which to cook our venison as well as beef. We had three milk cows left which gave us all the milk we needed. There was an abundance of camas, a vegetable which grew wild on the prairies and was used by the Indians about the same as we use potatoes. There were two kinds; one kind the Indians told us was poison. They taught us how to dig them, and then would sort them for us, picking out the poisonous ones. We baked them like potatoes, but they were not so good as the way the Indians cooked them. They would heat rocks and dig a place in the hot ground and pour them in and then put in the hot rocks and cover them up with dirt and leave them in the ground for at least twenty-four hours. We would buy them from the Indians, wash and dry them and then eat them with our milk.
There was an old lady in our company who taught us how to make blood pudding. The blood from the beef or deer was caught in a vessel, and they cut up little pieces of suet or fat in the blood and then added a little salt if they had it and then they would bake it. It was considered very good by the hungry emigrants.
All of the families were entirely out of provisions, and the men were not always successful in killing wild game. Sometimes they would eat crows and cut meat from dead cattle. It seemed a shame when deer was so plentiful. We learned the country where we were was called the Umpqua Valley, but there were about as many Calapooia Indians as there were Umpquas living there, but I suppose the country really belonged to the Umpqua Indians. Father told the chief we wanted to stay there until spring, and if he would not allow his men to steal our cattle and mules, or trouble us in any way, in the spring when we were ready to leave we would make presents and have the emigrants who had left their things with us give them presents.
We were about ten miles from the Umpqua River, and the Indians living there would often come and spend the greater part of the day. There was one who spoke English, and he told Mother the Rogue River Indians were coming to kill us. Mother told them if they troubled us in the spring the Bostons, the Indian name for the white people, would come out and kill them all off. Whether this had any effect or not I don't know, but anyway they did not kill us. But we always thought they came one day for that purpose. Father was busy reading and did not notice the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke about it. Most all of them wore blankets or skins over their shoulders, and we could not tell what they had concealed under these. As soon as Father noticed them he got up and got his pistols and asked the Indians to go out and see him shoot. They followed him out, but kept at a distance. The pistols were a great curiosity to them. I doubt if they had ever seen any before. As soon as they were all out of the cabin Mother barred up the door and would not let them in anymore. Father entertained then outside until evening, when they got on their ponies and rode away. They never returned to trouble us anymore. They seemed satisfied.
Israel Stoley concluded to go on a hunting trip and camp out for the night. He took the two mules and an Indian who spoke English--he was a Calapooia and very friendly to us. They returned next evening with the mules loaded with deer. When he dressed the deer he gave the Indian the skins and such parts as he did not care for himself. While Stoley was away the Indians took advantage of his absence and made a raid on our camp and stole everything they could carry off. We were drying a lot of deer meat for an old man by the name of Culver, whom we were going to send into the settlements for help. They took the meat. This caused him to give up his trip until later on. Father sent for the old chief and told him what they had done. He made them return some things, but they kept all the clothing. They found Stoley was gone and no person in the wagon, so they helped themselves.
We were getting anxious to start on towards the Willamette. We could have gone ourselves, but many of the emigrants had left all their clothing with us and Father would not go off and leave them, for we knew it would be a long time before they would be able to get any more.
We tried more deer meat and started our man on his way to the Willamette Valley for help. He had only been gone but a few days when early one morning we saw him coming. We all ran out to meet him and hear the news. Mr. Culver told us he had met a man by the name of Joseph Hess and two young men, Josiah Nelson and Clark Rogers, coming for us. They were from the Chehalem Valley near where the town of Newberg, Yamhill County, now stands, and Mr. Nelson still lives there, but the other two have long since passed to the other shore.
The emigrants who had left their things with us most all arrived that day or the next. Our preparations for our journey were short, and we bade adieu to our neighbors, some of them looking sorrowful with tears in their eyes when they saw us drive away. We were all delighted to start on our journey to the settlement. We had been a long time on our way. Mr. Hess had brought flour, coffee and salt. He had known Father back in Arkansas. He was surely a friend indeed, as well as we a friend in need. We traveled through a beautiful country. We hardly ever passed a place where any person lived. We finally reached the home of Mr. Hess, where we met his family. Mrs. Hess soon prepared us a good dinner, which we all enjoyed very much.
After dinner we moved into a cabin on the homestead of Josiah Nelson, near the home of Mr. Hess. He continued to help us when we needed help. He would often kill a beef, and we always got a piece, and when they cut a cheese we were always remembered with a generous piece.
We soon got acquainted with the neighbors, and Father was invited to preach in their houses where they were large enough. Lewis Rogers, an old settler in the Chehalem Valley, had the largest house, and he generally preached in his house.
There was a band of Spanish cattle in the valley which were a terror to the neighborhood. They belonged to a man by the name of Sydney Smith. They were brought from California by a man by the name of Ewing Young, who died. I have often seen his grave.
Father started out to hunt land on which to file a homestead, as all the good land in the Chehalem Valley was already taken up. He heard of the Tualatin Plains and went there to look at the country and became acquainted with the Rev. Harvey Clark, who was a Congregational minister, and Alvin T. Smith, an elder in Mr. Clark's church. He was a very pious man, and I have heard he would never let a traveler stay all night Saturday unless he would remain until Monday, and he whipped his cow because she bawled on Sunday. Anyway we found him to be an excellent man. They prevailed on Father to move there and teach their school and preach. Mr. Smith came to help us move. We bade our Chehalem neighbors farewell and moved to the Tualatin Plains. We moved into a house in Mr. Clark's dooryard, but it was only partly finished. There was no fireplace, and such a thing as a cook stove was hardly thought of in those days. We made a fire outside and cooked the same as we had in crossing the plains.
There was an old house standing nearby which we decided to fix up for our winter residence. Father and my brother built a chimney and made a partition through the house, and we were soon settled for the winter. Our cabin stood near where the Congregational Church now stands in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon. While living there my youngest sister, who is now Mrs. Anna Shinn, was born. A few days before moving into our new house my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was married to Dr. William Geiger, who owned a home about two miles from where we were living. Dr. Geiger had lived at the Whitman Mission. He was left in care of the mission while Dr. Whitman made a trip east of the mountains. This was the winter of forty-three. The Whitmans were killed by the Cayuse Indians in November, 1847.
While we were living at Mr. Clark's, Dr. Whitman and his nephew, Perrin Whitman, called one afternoon for a short visit with Mr. Clark's family. My mother asked him if his wife was not afraid to live among the Indians. He said that Mrs. Whitman would say when any person spoke of being afraid that the Indians never killed women.
Father soon began teaching. I don't think he ever received a dollar in money, but we were supplied with vegetables, meat and flour. Either Father or Mr. Clark preached every Sunday, and they kept up a sabbath school, Dr. Geiger being superintendent.
That fall the news came that Dr. and Mrs. Whitman had been murdered, and a runner came to our house in the night and called Father and asked him if he had a gun. He answered that he had a gun and two large pistols. He told him to keep them loaded and be prepared to protect his family, as they were expecting Indians to attack the settlers any night.
The cabin in which we were living had been used for a church house for a long time, and the graveyard was nearby. There were a number of funerals during the winter.
Father dug a well a long ways from the house, and I had to carry most all the water for the house and for washing. We had no barrel and only one pail, and our cooking utensils were an oven and two coffee pots, in one of which we made our wheat or pea coffee; in the other we cooked meat or vegetables.
The family all went to school during the day except me and my two little sisters. I was left at home to do the housework and cooking and take care of Mother, who was sick. It was a pretty hard task for a girl of eleven years who had never been used to work, but when anything was to be done call a darkie to do it. I was almost too tired when night came to sleep. Father kept a fire burning all night, and I was always called to get up in the night to look after the baby. I had to get up before daylight to get breakfast so the folks could get off to school. There was a young minister who came to live with us; he never helped about anything. I had to wash his clothes, starch and iron his white shirts. We had no starch, and I would scrape potatoes and put them in water and the starch would settle on the bottom. This made a very good starch.
We had three milk cows, and I was expected to make enough butter for the table. I would save up the cream, but we had no churn, having thrown ours away on the plains. I would take the cream to a neighbor's and churn, then carry it home and dress the butter.
I learned how to make squash pies, and I often spent a whole afternoon baking pies, but I could only bake one at a time. I had no shoes. We started with several pairs apiece, but did not make allowance for our growing feet. I set the only pair that I could wear too near the fire and they drew up so I couldn't get them on. Mrs. Joseph Gale made me three pairs of moccasins, and I gave her my gaiters in exchange for them, as they fitted her oldest daughter.
By the next spring, 1848, my father had found a location that suited him in Yamhill County on the South Yamhill River, about three miles south of McMinnville. There was a cabin on the place. In the spring we moved to our new home, but it was not finished enough to live in and we moved into William Rogers' cabin nearby and lived there until ours was ready. It was not long until ours was ready and we moved in, but it did not seem like the lovely home we had left in Arkansas, but it seemed better than moving from place to place.
We soon got seed wheat and potatoes. We had brought garden seed with us, and we began making garden.
There was one thing we all had, and that was good health. My brothers began making rails, and we soon had a garden and a small field fenced and a good garden planted, and it really began to seem like home.
University of Oregon typescript CB C816
A delegation of three Jackson County residents, Atlanta Parker Naffziger, John E. Ross and Arthur Powell, left yesterday afternoon for Portland and today are attending the launching ceremonies of the S.S. Table Rock at the Kaiser Swan Island shipyards as representatives of Jackson County. The S.S. Table Rock is the first of two ships which are being named after historic Southern Oregon spots and is the 41st tanker to be launched at the Swan Island yard.
Mrs. Naffziger's father, William Parker, gave Table Rock its name. Parker, with Lindsay and Jesse Applegate, blazed a trail through the Rogue River Valley in 1846 in an effort to find a better route from Fort Hall to the Willamette Valley, and Table Rock was named at that time, the pioneers using it as a landmark. Mr. Parker and Jesse Applegate were brothers-in-law. Mrs. Naffziger is the only living first-generation descendant of these three men.
"Valley Folks to View Launching S.S. 'Table Rock,'" Medford Mail Tribune, November 28, 1943, page 10
Last revised May 22, 2017