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Peter Skene Ogden, fur trader Elliott, T. C. (Thompson Coit), 1862-1943 1910

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Peter Skene Ogden: 

Member of American Historical Association 
and of Oregon Historical 

The Ivy Press 
Portland, Oregon 

[Also published in Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol, XI, Number 3, for September, 1910.]
[Copyright, 1910, by Oregon Historical Society]
On November 29th, 1847, at Wai-i-Jat-pu, six miles west
of where the City of Walla Walla, Washington, is now located, that worthy missionary and Oregon pioneer, Marcus
Whitman, was murdered, an event anticipated even earlier by
others then residing in Oregon who knew the existing conditions. But unexpectedly and unfortunately the murder became a massacre; Mrs. Whitman was killed also, and with
her twelve others, immigrants who were located at the Mission
for the Winter. And the remainder, women and children,
over fifty in number, what of them? Confined to the adobe
buildings of the Mission and closely watched by sullen and
vengeful Indians of both sexes, they were held as captives for
a whole month, shut off from outside communication and
uncertain of their fate,—one of them in fact carried away to
the lodge of Chief Five Crows, forty miles distant.
But about December 20th a change was noticed in the demeanor of the Indians, and on December 29th the captives
were released and escorted to the Fort of the Hudson's Bay
Company, twenty-five miles westward on the Columbia river,
1 Read as the Annual Address before the Oregon Historical Society at Portland, Dec. 18th, 1909. T. C. Elliott.
arriving there at evening. The man who had accomplished
their ransom and who stood anxiously at the gate of the Fort
to receive them was Peter Skene Ogden, then the ranking
Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company at the Columbia
river headquarters, Vancouver, who, immediately upon hearing of the massacre, had hurried up the Columbia over two
hundred miles to the rescue. What wonder that the name
of Mr. Ogden has been held in kind remembrance by the
survivors of this massacre and their descendants, and the
pioneers of Oregon! The story of his life must be somewhat
incomplete, but such facts as have been gathered together
reveal a man of unusual force and character who was intimately connected with many stirring events of the early history of "Old Oregon" and British Columbia; and a leader
whose responsibilities were often great because he was the
field officer chosen to execute the most difficult tasks and command the most perilous expeditions. The telling of that story
will fix definitely the dates of extensive explorations in the
"Old Oregon" country, and the origin of some of its names,
and will include mention of many people prominent during
the period of the Hudson's Bay Company's supremacy on
the Columbia.
The name Ogden is an honored one in both England and
America. It is of Saxon origin, derived from the words Ock
and Dean, meaning Oak Vale or Valley, and suggestive of
length of years, sturdiness of frame and strength of character. There are in America two prominent branches of the
family: the Fairfield Branch of Connecticut, and the Eliza-
bethtown Branch of New Jersey; and it is to the seventh generation of the latter Branch that Peter Skene Ogden belonged. He was descended from John Ogden, known as The
Pilgrim John Ogden, who came from England about the
year 1642 and settled first at the easterly end of Long Island,
where he founded the present city of Southampton, but about
1668 removed to New Jersey, and there he and his descendants acquired estates where the cities of Elizabethtown and
O m
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 3
Newark now stand. The family was one of the most prominent in the latter community at the time of the breaking out
of the War of the Revolution.
Peter Skene Ogden was born in the city of Quebec, Lower
Canada, in the year 1794, the more exact date not ye^having
been traced. His father was then judge in the Admiralty
Court at Quebec and a leading: citizen among the Union
Empire Loyalists then residing in Canada. His mother (a
second wife of his father) was Sarah Hanson (Ogden) from
Livingston Manor, near New York City, a woman of fine
attainments and property in her own right. She was a sister
to Capt. John Wilkinson Hanson of the British army. Peter
Skene Ogden's grandfather was Judge David Ogden, a graduate of Yale College in the class of 1728, and mentioned by
one historian as the first thoroughly trained lawyer to reside
in the State of New Jersey, and a man of prominence and
influence in the City of Newark.
Peter Skene Ogden's father, "The Hon. Isaac Ogden, was
doubtless born in Newark, N. J. He graduated in the first
class that went out of King's (College), now Columbia University, chose the law for his profession, and became a dis-
distinguished jurist. Newark tradition says that at the outbreak of the Revolution, his father, Judge David Ogden, and
all his sons took the patriotic side, and that the son Isaac
Ogden delivered a stirring address to a mass meeting from a
platform extended from the second story of the old court
house, Newark. * * * But in the latter part of 1776, the
old Judge and his sons, Isaac, Nicholas and Peter, affiliated
with the Royalist party and their property was condemned
and sold during the war. However, Isaac's brothers, Abraham and Samuel, remained staunch and active patriots."
"Judge Isaac Ogden was said to have built a store on the
northeast corner of Broad and Market streets, Newark, where
the First National Bank now stands. His house in Newark
was alternately the residence of the British General and the
American Commander, as either party happened to be sue- mm
4 T. C. Elliott. V
cessful. In this way his young family became subject to all
the horrors attending a residence in the seat of war. But his
loyalty to the mother country becoming pronounced, he sought I (/f,
safety as a refugee in New York; and when the British
evacuated that section in 1783, he abandoned his property
and prospects and took his family to England. There is
every evidence that, like his father, he was honest in his convictions, for several biographers represent him as a man of
sterling integrity and of great moral worth.
"The sufferings he had undergone and the sacrifices he had
made, together with his learning and legal ability, attracted
the attention of the English government, and after the close
of the war, he was appointed Judge of the Admiralty at
Quebec by King George III. in the year 1788. He at once
re-crossed the ocean and established his family in Quebec,
where his natural energy of character enabled him to retrieve
much of his losses, although his salary was small in meeting
the demands of the rank he was obliged to assume." (This
quotation is from "The Ogden Family," a genealogical work
prepared with great care and labor by the late Wm. Ogden
Wheeler, from which other facts relating to the family are
also drawn.)
The two brothers, Abraham and Samuel, who supported
the side of the colonies, deserve mention. The former resided at Morristown, N. J., and his house became headquarters for General Washington during one period of the
New Jersey campaigns—he was a close adviser of the General, and his little son David became a favorite of the
General, and a companion on the daily ride among the troops.
The story is well authenticated that upon one occasion General Washington engaged in a playful fencing contest with
the little boy and by accident scratched his hand with one of
the foils and then and there shed the only blood drawn from
him during the war. After the war Abraham Ogden became
District Attorney for New Jersey and a member of the State
Senate, and at his death in 1798 was one of the most promi- ■\
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 5
nent lawyers in the state. Samuel Ogden, and his nephew
David, became interested in land purchases along the St.
Lawrence out of the tracts ceded by the Iroquois Nation,
colonized those tracts and the city of Ogdensburg took its
beginning and name from them.
These facts and traditions concerning the antecedents of
^i Peter Skene Ogden are related somewhat at length because
of their inherent interest, and also because they indicate the
kind of blood that ran in his veins and the opportunities and
associations he was depriving himself of in undertaking and
enduring the hardships common to the life of a fur trader.
We can also understand why his father and mother gave
him the family name Peter, after that of the uncle who had
remained loyal to the crown, but who had died before 1794.
The name Skene came to him from outside the family.
Among other prominent U. E. Loyalists then residing in
Quebec were the Skenes, formerly of Skenesboro (now
Whitehall) on the shores of Lake Champlain in New York
state. These two families, the Ogdens and the Skenes, had
been possessed of large properties and accustomed to the
luxuries of life and were living in Quebec in circumstances
limited for people of their social station, and a common bond
of sympathy existed between them. Andrew Skene was also
a jurist, and became god-father to this, the youngest son of
Judge Ogden. Hence the middle name which is properly
spelled SKENE, but in later years was spelled indiscriminately Skeen and Skein by the man who bore it, because he
said it looked better and he enjoyed a little variety in life.
Judge Isaac Ogden was, very soon after 1794, by the recommendation of Lord Dorchester (then Governor General of
Canada), appointed to be one of the Puisne Judges of the
District of Montreal, and at once removed his family to that
city, and it was there, persumably, that the boyhood and youth
of his son Peter Skene were spent. There is no record as to
those years, although the record as to a brother, Charles
Richard, three years  his  senior,  is that he,  Charles,  "was r
6 T. C. Elliott.
educated by Rev. Mr. Doty of Three Rivers and Mr. Shakel
of Montreal, where he studied law. In 1812 he began to practice," etc It is not unreasonable to suppose, therefore, that the Rev. Mr. Doty or some other vicar or rector (the
family were devout members of the Church of England) tried
a hand at educating young Peter Skene. However that may
be, neither any such influence or the overwhelming preponderance of biblical names among his ancestors induced him to
become a clergyman. His was a restless and imperious spirit
which demanded a life of activity and adventure. The "call
of the wild" to a young man in Montreal in those days was
not the quest of gold or the sailing of the seas or the raising
of stock on the plains, but the trading for furs. The men of
wealth in Canada were the shareholders in the fur companies;
there was a reputed romance to such a life as well as a prospect for future gain and prominence. A fur trader would he
be! And, moreover, just then was gently heard that special
call to the region beyond the Rocky Mountains just being-
opened up to the fur hunters through the explorations of M
Lewis and Clark, Simon Fraser, David Thompson, Joseph
Howse and others. Between the Northwest Company of Canada and the "Gentlemen Adventurers of England Trading
into Hudson's Bay," known generally as the Hudson's Bay
Company, the rivalry was already intense and it was not a
rivalry in trade only, but in exploration and discovery. Beginning with 1800 both the chief explorers, David Thompson for
the Northwesters and Jos. Howse for the Hudson's Bay Company, began to feel their way to the summit of the Rockies
and soon after along the head waters of the Columbia. We
already know of David Thompson on the lakes of the upper
Columbia and in the beautiful valleys of the Kootenai and
the Pend d'Oreille and the Skeetshoo (Spokane) from 1807
to 1812, and in future years we shall probably learn that
Joseph Howse was not far behind. The adventurous spirit
of young Peter Skene then might well be drawn toward the
fur trade and the romantic lands of the Columbia.
#0 Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 7
It has been suggested that the early years of Peter Skene
were spent in dissipation and that he left the parental roof
without the consent or knowledge of his parents. We prefer
to think the contrary in the absence of any detailed information. The record is brief, but clear enough. It comes from
the late Archibald McKinlay, his son-in-law, and from the late
Elwood Evans, of Tacoma, both of whom took it from Peter
Jfr Skene himself.    It is this:   In the year 1811, that is, at the
age of seventeen, in the Spring he entered the service of the
Northwest Company as clerk; previous to that he had begun
the study of law, and previous to that he had been in the
employ for a short time of John Jacob Astor as a clerk. This
takes him pretty well back toward boyhood, and as to that
period—well, what real boy is not mischievous! Where he
was employed by Mr. Astor is not stated, but presumably in
Montreal. In 1810 the organization of the Pacific Fur Company had been completed and the activity of that enterprise
was at Montreal rather than New York. The partners and
employees of that company took their start, both the overland
party and those going by sea, from Montreal. Peter Skene's
oldest brother, David, twenty-two years his senior, was already a leading solicitor in Montreal and a few years later
was one of the chief counsel for the Northwest Company
in their litigation with Lord Selkirk. It is entirely reasonable
to suppose that the family were influential in favoring the
strong and wealthy Canadian fur company in preference to
the more hazardous enterprise of Mr. Astor.1
In Southern Athabasca there is a lake and an island, both
called Isle a la Crosse; and each of the two fur companies had
a fort on the island. Sir Alex. Mackenzie tells us the occasion for this peculiar name: "This lake and fort take names
from the island mentioned, which received its denomination
from the game of the cross which forms a principal amuse-
ilt may be stated with confidence that it was not Peter Skene Ogden who was
supercargo of the Lark, Mr. Astor's vessel that was wrecked near the Sandwich
Islands in 1813. That was Nicholas Gouverneur Ogden, a distant cousin, who
afterwards represented the Astor Company in China. f
8 T. C. Elliott.
ment among the natives." Earlier fur traders (probably the
Frobishers in 1775-6) had found the Indians there playing a
game which afterward became the national game of Canada.
Another explanation given is this: here the canoe routes
divided or crossed, that north to the Athabasca District, and
that west to the Rocky Mountains. Just where Peter Skene
Ogden began to earn his thirty or forty pounds per year
during his apprenticeship as clerk of the Northwest Company A
we do not know, but presumably he spent the entire seven
years at and in the region of Fort Isle a la Crosse. This was
a rather more pleasant fort than others because less isolated;
and the Cree Indians thereabouts were a superior tribe.
The rival fur companies were then opposing each other
bitterly. That was the period of the Seven Oaks Massacre
on Red River. Ogden had his hand in some of the acts of
violence, which were not limited to the Red River neighborhood by any means, and: he was of an age and disposition
to be recklessly active in behalf of his own company. Hon.
Donald Gunn, in his History of Manitoba, writing of the loss
of two lives at Fort Isle a la Crosse in the Winter of 1814-15, {
says (pp. 121-126) : "The consequence was that the servants
of the Northwest Company, among whom Samuel Black and
Mr. Peter Ogden, acted a conspicuous part when at leisure,
amused themselves by annoying and insulting their neighbors, at times encouraging if not commanding their men to
set their nets adrift, and at other times cutting them into
pieces—not forgetting to pay occasional visits to the Hudson's
Bay Company's House, where their conduct was often highly
improper and unjustifiable."
And right here, for the sake of diversion, let us note a
further companionship of Messrs. Ogden and Black, twenty-
one years later, recorded in a letter of Archie McDonald's at
Colvile in January, 1837, to John McLeod: "With your two
friends of old, Ogden and Black, I made the trip to the sea
last summer. There we found the usual bustle not at all
diminished by the presence of a new transport ship from Eng-
m. Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 9
land, a very superb vessel intended for the coast. In this
Skokum Ship, as the Chinooks call her, the Isle a la Crosse
Gents and myself were treated with a delightful cruise round
the mouth of the Wilamette before her final departure for the
coast of Finlayson." This refers, of course, to the trial trip
of the steamer Beaver £>n the Columbia river in 1836.
By far the most picturesque and at the same time quite ac-
H curate account of conditions in general and Mr. Ogden in
particular at Isle a la Crosse is the one inscribed by that redheaded artist with the pen, Ross Cox, in his book entitled,
"Adventures on the Columbia River." Ross Cox in the spring
of 1817 journeyed East with the express from Ft. George on
the Columbia to Fort William and Montreal.   He wrote:
"June 26th (1817). Beaver River at this place branches
into several channels. We took the principal one, and at
eleven A. M. arrived at its termination, where it enters the
lake of Isle a la Crosse, nearly opposite the fort. Stopped
here for half an hour pour se faire la barbe, and make other
little arrangements connected with the toilet. These being
completed, we embarked, but having the fear of the Crees
before our eyes our progress was slow and cautious across the
lake, until our avant-couriers announced to us that the flag of
the Northwest Company floated from the bastions, and that
all was safe. The Chanson a 1'aviron was instantly struck up,
and at one P. M. we reached the wharf, where we were met
by Messrs. M'Murray and Ogden, who were in charge of the
fort. Those gentlemen had also heard the rumoured intention
of the Crees to attack the establishment, but they were of opinion that the attempt would not be made. They had only eight
men under their command; but the place was surrounded by
strong palisades, and flanked by two bastions, which, although
not very beautiful specimens of fortification, would have puzzled a battalion of Indians to take. The Hudson's Bay Company had a fort on a point of land running into the lake,
which was not more than a quarter of a mile distant from our
establishment.    It had been taken the preceding winter by t
10 T. C. Elliott.
the Northwest Company, and at the period of our arrival
there were about twenty men prisoners in it, and upwards of
one hundred and twenty women and children, besides dogs
innumerable. They were miserably supplied with provisions,
and all seemed dejected and emaciated. Their principal reliance for food was on the lake; and when the fish failed, their
chief support was tripe de rocher. I conversed with some of
the men.   They were from the Orkneys, and wished they were 4m
safe home again. They spoke in no1 flattering terms of the
treatment they had received from their captors; but admitted
that such of the Northwesters as had been made prisoners by
their party fared no better	
We remained a couple of days at the fort to
refresh the men, and were hospitably entertained by our hosts,
on excellent white fish and tea without sugar. One of those
gentlemen, Mr. Peter Ogden, was nearly related to a high
judicial functionary, and in early life was destined for the
same profession. The study of provincial jurisprudence, and
the seignorial subdivisions of Canadian property, had no
charms for the mercurial temperament of Mr. Ogden; and,
contrary to the wishes of his friends, he preferred the wild
untrammeled life of an Indian trader to the "law's delay,"
and the wholesome restraints which are provided for the correction of over-exuberant spirits in civilized society. His accounts of his various encounters with Orkney men and Indians
would have filled a moderate sized octavo, and if reduced to
writing would undoubtedly stagger the credulity of any person
unacquainted with the Indian country; and although some of
his statements were slightly tinctured with the prevalent failing of La Guienne, there was vraisemblance enough throughout to command our belief in their general accuracy. In a
country, however, in which there is no legal tribunal to appeal
to, and into which the "king's wit does not run," many acts
must be committed that would not stand a strict investigation
in Banco Regis. 'My legal primer,' said Ogden, 'says that
"necessity has no law," and in this place, where the custom of
3to x\
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. ii
the country, or as lawyers say, the Lex non scripta, is our
only guide, we must in our acts of summary legislation, sometimes perform the parts of judge, jury, sheriff, hangman, gallows and all!'"
While at Isle a la Crosse, Mr. Ogden took unto himself a
wife, as was the custom among the fur traders, an attractive
daughter of the Cree nation, and his first son was born on
f January 18th, 1817, and named Peter, of course.    This son
was educated in the Protestant school at Red River and entered the H. B. Company's service and died in 1870 while still
in that service. His eldest son (named Peter Skene) had
died suddenly and both were buried the same day and in the
same grave.
The two fur companies were in 1817-18 engaged in legal
struggles at Montreal and we are told that the Northwesters
did not hesitate to send some of their men to remote districts
so as not to have them available at the trials. The famous
Coltman-Fletcher Report to Gov. Sherbrooke (by him transmitted to England) mentions one tragic incident in which
Ogden had a part near Isle a la Crosse in 1817, and says:
"A bill of indictment was issued against Ogden for this."
This may have been the occasion for the departure of Mr.
Ogden for the Columbia the following year, for there is where
we get our next glimpse of him.
It is a fact worthy of emphasis that the partners of the
Northwest Company were, as far as now known, the first
explorers of and the first traders on the upper Columbia
river. When the Pacific Fur Company's brigade ascended
the Columbia in the summer of 1811 to establish their posts
in the interior they found there already built and doing business, Spokane House, Kootenai Fort, Flathead or Saleesh
House, and perhaps a Fort at the mouth of the San Poil. And
in the spring of 1818, when Peter Skene Ogden came sweeping down the river on its flood waters, the Northwesters controlled the river from source to mouth without opposition.
James Keith was then the senior partner in charge at Fort c
12 T. C. Elliott.
George and harmony did not prevail there, if the few accounts
we have are correct.
The   Columbia  river   immediately  below   Wallula   passes *
through what is now known as the Gap, formed by high cliffs
on either side. Just below the Gap, in fact in it, a small island is
located. The two rocky cliffs were known to the fur traders as
McKenzie's Head and Ross's Head, so called after the two* men
who built Fort Nez Percees, or Fort Walla Walla as more gen- *
erally called, in July and August, 1818. Passing down the
river that spring, Mr. Ogden camped at the mouth of the
Walla Walla river, but was attacked by the natives and compelled to take refuge on this island, "where he made a stand
and completely routed the Indians." (Lieut. Drayton, of the
Wilkes Expedition, visited the spot in company with Mr.
Ogden in 1841 and the Wilkes account is our authority.)
This occurrence was one of the deciding factors to determine the immediate erection of the new Fort along the middle
Columbia river and the selection of that particular place for
its location. According to one authority, Mr. Ogden was
one of the party who assisted to build it, but we think this
There are but few records of that day to refer to, but it can
with reasonable certainty be said that during the years 1818-19
Mr. Ogden's headquarters were at Fort George (Astoria),
and that he led trapping parties from there into the country
between the Columbia and Puget Sound and around the harbors north of the Columbia. We have as authority for this
his own conversations as reported by Lieut. Wilkes; there is
also the family tradition that his second son, Charles, born
September 19th, 1819, first saw the light of day on the lower
Columbia. There were a good many Iroquois Indians in the
country at that time, employed by the Company or free trappers. The Iroquois were a troublesome lot to get on with.
Mr. Ross in his "Fur Hunters" relates one experience of the
Fall of 1818 that took place in the Cowlitz neighborhood when
Mr. Ogden* and a band of Iroquois were compelled to flee for
> \
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 13
their lives back to Fort George. The result of that escapade
was a grand wedding at Fort George in April, 1819, at which
the daughter of Chief How How, of the Cowlitz tribe, became
the' wife of one of the gentlemen of the fort. Whether Mr.
Ogden was the groom we do not know, but bashfulness would
not have been a prevailing hindrance. The record is silent,
/pP) also, as to his presence at another event at Fort George on
October 6th of 1818, when J. B. Prevost, special commissioner
of the United States, arrived in H. M. ship Blossom, and
went through the formality of raising the Stars and Stripes
over the fort, an occurrence that seems to have been viewed
in the light of a joke by the participants, but really was of
considerable importance in the claim of the United States to
the "Oregon Country." As Peter Skene Ogden was learned in
legal phrases, the first lawyer to reside in Oregon we may say,
let us romance a little and suppose that he was present and
entered a demurrer to the proceeding.
In 1820, Mr. Ogden acquired an interest in the Northwest
Company. Among the family papers is one yellow and worn
and bearing the written signatures of all the partners of the
Northwest Company present and voting (some very prominent names of the fur trade) at the annual meeting held at
Fort William in July of 1820, reciting the transfer to Peter S.
Ogden of one share in the company and his admission as a
partner. That year he appears to have been in charge in the
Shuswap country, for in a report written from Thompson
river (British Columbia) in 1823 by John McLeod, who was
then there, it is stated in regard to the Indians living on a
certain branch of the river that "Mr. Ogden three years ago
made an attempt to send freemen up this North river, but in
consequence of some dissension that broke out amongst them
they returned (having) been 40 miles up the river." This
statement is as yet the only direct reference found as to his
whereabouts in  1820 and  1821, but from his familiarity a ijudge Isaac Ogden was not Chief Justice at Montreal, as often stated.
14 T. C. Elliott. dj'|
little later with the Flathead country and the Spokane country,
it is probable that he was also in service at those interior
In the spring of 1821 at London the principal owners of
the Northwest Company and of the Hudson's Bay Company §|j|
were compelled by circumstances to bury their differences and
merge their interests in the form of what we would now call 4
a trust. Right then began that "gigantic monopoly" to
which the more pious of the American settlers in Oregon took
such exception, but which, by the irony of fate, actually contributed more than any other one factor to the peaceable settlement of the "Oregon Question" in favor of the United
This trust took the name of the older and larger of the two
companies, and the news of its formation reached the Columbia in the fall of the same year. To the Northwesters actually
in the service, both on the Columbia and in the Indian country, this news caused chagrin and wonder. They had put
forth their best efforts, and most of them had endangered
their lives for the Northwest Company, and now it seemed
to have been wiped out. Peter Skene Ogden evidently proposed to know where he stood as to future prospects, and the
following year, 1822, he departed for Lower Canada and
London, under leave of absence.
Another reason may have taken him to England. His
father had been obliged to relinquish active service as a "Justice of the Court of the King's Bench" (to use the words of
his will)1 in 1818 and retire to England for medical treatment,
and was in fast declining health. Perhaps the father longed
for a sight of his youngest son and sent for him. At any rate,
among the family papers appears a letter written in trembling
hand at Taunton, England, addressed to Mr. Peter Ogden,
London Coffee House, Ludgate Hill, London, as follows:
0 r
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 15
Taunton 9th March 1823.
My Dear Son;
I The thought that we were separating forever in this world
was so afflicting that I found myself unequal to take leave of
you in Person, and indeed to bid you adieu in this mode fills
my heart with grief which I cannot express. You have my
blessing and my prayers that God of his great mercy & goodie ness may watch over, preserve & keep you in all your perils
™ & dangers to which you will be exposed. And that he will
give you grace to be grateful for all the benefits & favours he
may vouch safe to bestow on you, that you may repose your
trust & confidence in him, and that through the whole course
of your life you may be vigilant & careful to keep his commandments, to have a lively faith in our blessed redeemer, and
finally through his merits & atonement you may be eternally
blessed & happy. You will as often as you have leisure think
on these things, and that you may benefit & profit by those
reflections, as being apointed (?) to your present & future
Let me recommend to you to be careful of your health and
not to expose yourself to danger unnecessarily. You will of
course be exposed to many in the discharge of your duty, but
let me entreat you not to court them or be a volunteer in any
hazardous enterprise for which you will get little thanks &
I think my health daily improves. I have not yet ventured
out, the weather is too cold for me to go abroad, but I hope
will soon be milder.
I long much to receive a letter from you. I suppose I shall
receive one tomorrow.
I am interrupted by a visit from Col. Plenderlist (?). Your
mother Sister & Pering (?) are well & all join me in best
wishes that God may preserve & keep you.
Believe me to be most affect'ly & truly, Your Father,
I. Ogden.
You will be pleased to tell my friends to whom you have
letters that they were written on the 5th of March, as I forgot
to date them.
The year following the father died and- by his will Peter
Skene inherited with the other children one-eighth of the estate.
So our Mr. Ogden had a real taste of civilized life and that
in the capital city of the kingdom.    London Coffee House i
i* ^\«
16 T. C. Elliott. |§
was a fashionable place then and his photo, presumably taken
there, reveals a striking man. We wonder whether returning
through Canada he was not tempted to remain there.    His j£B
brother, Charles Richard, was already becoming very prominent, and a little later became attorney general of Canada
and a leader politically. Another brother, Isaac, was an army
officer for many years and afterward sheriff at Three Rivers.
Peter Skene himself was vivacious, active and fond of company and a natural leader. But the call to him was still the
call to the open, and to the Pacific slope. So on July 23rd,
1823, we find him at York Factory on Hudson's Bay ready to
take charge of the Express to the Columbia, after the annual
council that year.
The difference between the service and fare at the London
Coffee House and that on this journey by "Canoe and Saddle"
must have been very appreciable. Instead of roast beef for
dinner it was pemmican7 with some grease to help it go down
easily; and for breakfast it had been pemmican, and for supper
would be pemmican again.   The party did not find provisions /M
along the way as expected and had to subsist for a time on
"berries and 6 or 8 fish caught each day with 6 or 7 fathoms
of net made out of a skein of twine they happened to have
along." Even horseflesh was not to be had until they sent
across country to Edmonton for some. Mr. Ogden took sick
because of the lack of food and worry and was delirious for
a time, but recovered.
The record of this journey across more than half of our
continent has been preserved to us in the journal of John
Work, the clerk of the party, and it would be of interest to
follow it day by day, but not to the purpose of this narrative.
They passed the "height of land," as the continental divide
was always designated in those days, on the 10th of October,
and were at Boat Encampment on the Columbia on the 13th,
where they met according to appointment the fall express
from the Columbia bound east. With that party was Alex.
Ross on his way east to quit the service, but Mr. Ogden Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 17
delivered to him a letter from Gov. Simpson which turned
that gentleman back again to take charge of the Snake Expedition that fall. (Of this we learn in his "Fur Hunters.")
Down the Columbia the party go in three boats and reach the
"Forks of Spokane" on the 21st at evening, three months from
York Factory. Here Mr. Birnie from Spokane House and
gto Mr. Kennedy with 21  men start down the river for Fort
George, and Mr. Kittsen, Mr. Ogden and Mr. Work set out
for Spokane House on the 25th. And there evidently Mr.
Ogden remains for the winter.
Spokane House, nine miles northwest of the present city of
Spokane, even then a center of activities (although soon to
be abandoned for a more favorable location at Kettle Falls)—
what was its attraction? Mr. Ross gives a rather highly
colored view of it: "There all the wintering parties, with the
exception of the northern district, met. There they all fitted
out; it was the great starting point. * * * At Spokane
House, there were handsome buildings; there was a ball room
even and no females in the land so fair to look upon as the
nymphs of Spokane; no damsels could dance so gracefully as
they; none were so attractive. * * But Spokane House
was not celebrated for fine women only; there were fine horses
also. The race ground was admired, and the pleasures of
the chase often yielded to the pleasures of the race. Altogether Spokane House was a delightful place." We insert
this reference to Spokane House because it is appropriate to
this period in our narrative. Either just now or a few years
earlier Mr. Ogden has taken unto himself another wife, a
remarkable woman from the Spokane tribe of Indians (if family tradition is correct), who became a dutiful mother to his
children and afterward resided at Ft. Vancouver and for some
years at Oregon City. During the sixties, she removed to Lac
la Hache in British Columbia and died there in January, 1886,
at the age of ninety-eight years. She was a step-daughter of
old Francois Rivet, of the Lewis and Clark party, who took
up a claim on French Prairie in Oregon, and she was heir to ■tl
iS T. C. Elliott. £j
a portion of that clainv Could she have been a charming
widow when Mr. Ogden married her? She was six years his
senior in age, /
The following spring, 1824, the journals of Mr. Work
assist us again: "April 15th, Thursday, clear, fine weather.
Left Spokane House early on horseback, accompanied by Mr. \
Ogden and Mr. McDonald (Finan) and in company with the jjf
men and horses loaded with furs for Spokane Forks, there to
embark for Ft. George." And again: "Sat. May 1st. The
brigade, consisting of 7 boats, left Oganogan for Wallawalla,
wrought by 63 men and loaded with the Spokane and Thompson river veterans and a number of passengers." They arrived
at Fort George the morning of the 13th. The annual ship from
London was late that year and the partners waited as long as
possible, but (the journal continues)—"Tues. Aug. 3rd, Early
in the morning Messrs. Dease, Ogden, and McLeod accompanied by Kennedy came to the boats which were already
loaded. The three former embarked and proceeded up the
river for the interior."   They reached the mouth of the Spo- £
kane on .the 25th of August (a quick passage), and Ogden
proceeded to Spokane House with 80 loaded horses. Soon
an Indian brings the message from Fort George that the ship
has arrived and back down the river again they go to Fort
George, but are again at Spokane Forks on the 21st of October. And here we note an interesting item, the arrival of
important people in "Old Oregon." The journal reads: "Oct.
21st (1824) The property and all the Spokane men but two
were sent off to Spokane in charge of Mr. McDonald. Mr.
Ogden remained with me and the remainder of the extra men
to wait for the express. Oct. 27th. The express arrived in
the afternoon, 2 boats with Governor Simpson, Dr. McLough-
lin, Mr. McMillan, Mr. Dears and Mr. McKay. October 28th.
The Governor, Dr. McLoughlin, Messrs McMillan, Ogden
and McKay went off to Spokane. * * * Oct. 30th. The
gentlemen returned from Spokane. Sunday, Oct. 31st. Embarked about 11 o'clock with the Governor and Mr. McMillan if
4 Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 19
in one boat and Mr. McLoughlin and Mr. McKay in another
for Fort George. * * * Mr. Ogden and the people for
Spokane removed to proceed to their destination."
We thus mark the arrival of Dr. McLoughlin on the Columbia and the company in which he came, but leave that party at
Okanogan, where Gov. Simpson wrote on Nov. 1st to John
McLeod, who was at Thompson River, among other things
the following: "While at Spokane House we received letters
from Mr. Ross and the report he gives of the Snake Expedition is favorable * * * and Mr. Ogden proceeds immediately to the Flat Head Post in order to outfit and conduct
it back to the Hunting Grounds." So here we have the
record of the beginning of Mr. Ogden's five years in charge
of the brigade to the Snake Country, then considered the
most dangerous and most important field in which the Hudson's Bay Company operated. We should not omit to mention that Gov. Simpson (probably) brought out with him a
parchment from the Hudson's Bay House, Fenchurch Street,
London, certifying to the appointment of Peter Skene Ogden
as a Chief Trader by the Directors of the Company at their
meeting in March, 1824. (That parchment, dated March 3d,
1824, is still in the possession of the family.) Mr. Ogden
was winning his spurs early, thirty years of age, and only
thirteen years in the service; many of the older clerks waited
for years for such a promotion.
Flathead Post or Fort of those days was located about
where Thompson Falls, Montana, on the line of the Northern
Pacific R. R. is now situated. And we are fortunate to be
able to quote, by the courtesy of Miss Agnes C. Laut, from
her transcript of the Journal of Alex. Ross for the year 1824,
as follows: "Friday, 26th Nov. From Prairie de Chevreux
myself and party arrived at this place (Flathead Post) in the
afternoon which terminated my voyage of 10 months to the
Snakes. Mr. Ogden and Mr. Dears with people and outfit
from Spokane reached (this) place a few hours before us.
Saturday. 27th.   All hands building.    Mr. Ogden handed me 20 T. C. Elliott.
a letter from the Governor appointing me charge this place
for the winter. Mr. Ogden takes my place as chief of Snake
Expedition. Sat. nth Dec. Finished equipping the Snake
hunters. Monday 20th. Statement of men under Mr. Ogden
to go to the Snake Country. 25 lodges, 2 gentlemen, 2 interpreters, 71 men and lads, 80 guns, 364 beaver traps 372 horses.
This is the most formidable party that ever set out for the
Snakes, and Snake Expedition took its departure. Each
beaver trap last year in the Snake Country averaged 26 beavers. Was expected this hunt will be 14100 beaver. Mr. Dears
goes as far as Prairie de Chevroux." Their course was
through the valley of the Bitter Root river, passing by the
mouth of Hell Gate canyon, the present site of Missoula.
The next word we have of him is when John Work inscribes in his Journal at Okanogan on July 26th, 1825: "A
little past noon an Indian arrived from Spokane with a note
from Mr. Birnie and a packet which had recently reached that
place from Mr. Ogden dated East Branch of the Missouri
10th July.    *    *    *    A series of misfortunes have attended #
the party from shortly after their departure and on the 24th
of May they fell in with a party of Americans when twenty-
three of the former deserted. Two of this party were killed,
one by the Indians and one by accident, and the remainder of
the party are now coming out by the Flat Heads." This fixes
for the first time, as far as known to the writer, the date of
an unprofessional proceeding on the part of a band of trappers
of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, then controlled by
Gen. Wm. H. Ashley, of St. Louis. By distributing liquor
among Ogden's men a general desertion was brought about,
but this was apologized for a year or so later, as other journals show. The H. B. Co. did not then allow liquor and
cards to be carried by their men or used in their camps; the
only drinking allowed was at times of festivity or "regale".
But the Americans were much more free and easy.
Mr. Ogden did not come out by way of the Flathead Post
after all but by way of the Snake River route, already estab- & »
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 21
lished by Mr. Mackenzie in 1819, arrived at Fort Walla Walla
on Nov. 9th; there Chief Factor John McLoughlin was impatiently waiting for him and at once (Nov. 21st) started
him off again for another year's exploration and trade.
But it is not the purpose of this narrative to follow closely
these five years of trade and exploration and exposure and
danger among the thieving Snakes (how he did despise them!)
and the treacherous Blackfeet and wandering Piegans, not to
mention the various other tribes. The Snake Country stretched
from the Three Tetons on the east to the Cascades and
Sierras on the west, and hardly a tributary stream in that
whole stretch of country was overlooked by this indefatigable
trader. Much of the time was spent in the eastern portion,
near the Port Neuf river (so named after one of his men)
which Ogden declared the best beaver country on earth, but
all the winter of 1825-6 he was exploring the rugged country of eastern Oregon around the head of the John Day
river and from, there crossed to the Snake by way of Burnt
river, and nearly starved to death reaching there; and in the
fall of 1826 he led his trappers to Malheur and Harney lakes
and then ascended the Des Chutes and crossed the height
of land to the waters of what he called the Clamitte, and
further on to a river he called the Sasty, after the Indians
found there, with a high snow peak visible to the westward
to which he gave the same name; and toward spring turned
to the northeast across the plains of southern Oregon to the
head waters of the Malheur and followed that to the Snake;
this time additional discomfort was the presence of so much
salt or alkali water. The fall of 1828 he penetrated into the
regions of what he called Unknown River and the trappers
afterward called Ogden's river, but known to us as the Humboldt, and from there struck eastward to the shores of Great
Salt Lake which he skirted around to the northward, contributing more than the usual number of horses to the kettle
for subsistence, and finding Indians who ran from him and
evidently had never seen a white man before.    He returned
J iAs to the name Ogden this positively proves that the name was already
there when the first settlers arrived in 1849-50, but as to the location of "Ogden's
Hole," and the occasion for that designation, other explanations are given and
will be further mentioned in connection with the Ogden Journals.
^ ft
22 T. C. Elliott. f
in the spring and summer (1829) across that same region,
enduring heat and dust and narrowly escaping from rascally
Indians we know as the Modocs; but telling those Indians
(on May 29th, 1829) that in three months he would see them
again, he started homeward to Fort Nez Perces, which was
always the point of departure and return. Of the last four
of these expeditions we are in possession, through the courtesy of Miss Agnes C. Laut, of copies of the original journals kept by Mr. Ogden and on deposit in the H. B. House at
London (see Vols. 10 and 11 of the Oregon Historical Quarterly) . The data that he obtained was used by Arrowsmith,
the famous map maker of London, on his maps published
during the thirties and forties which were dedicated to the
"Hon'ble Hudson's Bay Company," and commonly used by
the fur traders at their posts. There are many names yet
remaining through the regions he explored that appear in
his journals, but the only locality still named after him is
that in Utah, where there is an Ogden Hole, Valley, River,
Canyon and City, though it remains yet to be definitely de- m}
termined what special circumstance led the American trappers to so designate that locality or when the circumstance
occurred. There is little doubt as to his having been the earliest explorations of the region around the westerly and northerly end of great Salt Lake, and as to the localities bearing
his name, the following letter, written on the 7th of May,
1909, by Mr. Charles F. Middleton, of Ogden, Utah, will be
sufficient authority: "I settled in Ogden in 1850, and have
grown up with the town. * * * Ogden1 was named after
Mr. Ogden of whom you write, both as to the river and
city. * * * Ogden Hole, or as some used to call it, Mr.
Ogden's Hole, is a low divide about seven miles north of
center of Ogden City. It used to be the only route over
which the trappers and Indians traveled into and out of Ogden
valley which lies directly east and north of Oregon City."
'      —"I »
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 23
Archibald McDonald, writing from Ft. Langley to Edward
Ermatinger in March, 1830, remarks that "He  (i.e. Francis
'f Ermatinger)  and Ogden with large parties are now to the
Southward". And Mr. Ogden, himself, writing to John Mc-
Leod from Vancouver on March 10th, 1831, states modestly:
"I was not so successful in my last years Trapping as the
year preceding although I extended my trails by far greater
distance to the Gulph of California but found beaver very
scarce, and unfortunately below the main Dalles of the Columbia my own Boat was engulphed in a Whirlpool and 9 men
were drowned. I had a most narrow escape". This (and
Chap. I of "Traits" hereafter mentioned) is the extent as yet
of our record of the expedition under Mr. Ogden that left
Fort Nez Perces in the early fall of 1829 and visited California
and returned in the summer of 1830. From the data appearing on the Arrowsmith maps it is fairly certain that he kept
to the east of the Sierras most of the way down, and we can
well imagine what sort of experiences he passed through.
But we must remember that the name California on British
maps then applied to all the region belonging to Mexico south
of the 42nd parallel, and not to the California we now know
as such.
The letter of Mr. Ogden's last quoted from continues:
"On my arrival here I found from the Committee's Letter I
was appointed to form an Establishment at a place called Nass
about 10 degrees to the Northward of this and was to have
sailed last Fall but an infectious fever made its appearance
amongst the natives and carried off upwards of two hundred
and our servants unfortunately took it and for three months
we had not one at our command and we are now again making
preparations for this same place. I know not what success I
may meet with there but I am not of opinion our wealth will
be increased".   This letter is signed Peter Skein Ogden.
After six years of life on the hurricane deck of a cayuse
Mr. Ogden was ready for any change of scene, of climate
and of die*, but we may easily imagine that it took a little 24 T. C. Elliott.
time for his legs and digestion to become accustomed to this
change, which required him to cross the Columbia River bar
periodically and remain on board ship part of each year. The
departure of the expedition James Douglas mentions in a
letter written to John McLeod from Fort Vancouver in March,
1832: 'The Nass party left us in the early part of last
April. * * * They were greatly retarded on the passage
by contrary winds and in consequence did not reach their
destination before the nth of May." And a letter of Duncan
Finlayson's of the same date reports: k'The coasting trade is
progressively improving; it turned out last summer about
3000 Beavers, exclusive of other valuable furs, but the loss
it sustained in the death of Cap. Simpson will be seriously
felt. * * * he departed this life at Nass on the 2nd of
September (1831). * * * Our* people appear to be firmly seated down at Nass^ * * * and we have it in mind
to extend our settlements along the coast, the best and most
judicious plan we can adopt for the purpose of wresting that
trade from the grasp of the Americans who have so far
monopolized it". The Fort built in the summer of 1831 was
at the mouth of the Nass River and was named Fort Simpson
in honor of the Captain who died there as just noted. In
the summer of 1834, however, the location was changed to a
point forty-five miles further down the inlet, not far north
from the present Prince Rupert of the Grand Trunk Pacific.
The following year the location of a post was selected further
south on Milbank Sound near the mouth of the Bellacolla,
which stream Alexander Mackenzie had followed to the
Pacific in 1793; this fort, was named Fort McLoughlin.
The American monopoly which Mr. Ogden was expected to
break up and succeeded against so well had to be met with
its own methods and means of trade. This is evidenced by
the following entry in a journal kept by Wm. F. Tolmie the
14th August, 1833, at Nisqually on Puget Sound: "A vessel is soon to be dispatched to the Southward for a supply
of tobacco and rum, etc.    The latter article is expended and
■■■■ ■., . ■   ■,-■ .,.,.'-.-.-■     . ■■■ -       " ..: - :_-! .   , ' '   .■   ,.—I."frfrfiawaSi
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 25
consequently the trade has been stopped at Nasse and Mil-
bank." It is hinted in history that trading vessels from Boston and vicinity dealt profitably in rum in other parts of the
world also. To the credit of the H. B. Co. be it said that by
agreement with the Russian-American Fur Co. some years
later liquor was abolished as an article of trade with the
Indians of the coast.
^ The same journal entry by Dr. Tolmie says:   "H. B. Ship
Cadboro arrived from Milbank Sound with news. * * *
Mr. Ogden has gone northwards to Stikeen with the Llama
and Vancouver, which place he is to survey." That took him
beyond the Russian boundary and into the trading territory
of the Russian-American Fur Company at New Archangel
(Sitka), but the plan was to build a fort upon the Stikeen
river above the thirty T$&|pfe limit. Dr. Tolmie was transferred to Fort McLoughlin that fall and the following spring
joined Mr. Ogden's expedition (outfitted at Fort Vancouver)
to the Stikeen, and his journals for June, 1834 (the originals
of which are in Victoria, B. C), relate in detail the exchange
of courtesies with the Russian officers off the mouth of the
river and the attempts of Mr. Ogden to bluff his way past
their vessel and rude block house, and the decision finally to
abandon the enterprise and return southward. Hubert
Howe Bancroft seems to have had access to this same source
in writing his History of the Northwest Coast and the incident is told by him with considerable accuracy and need not
be repeated here. But that it became an item for discussion
and comment among the fellow traders of Mr. Ogden is
manifest from another letter which follows, the answer to
which could it be found would be even more interesting to
official Stuarts Lake Western Caledonia
George Simpson Esq 20th Feby, 1838—
Governor in Chief of
Ruperts Land
Had I last year called upon you for your opinion
respecting my conduct in the discharge of my duty as con- 0
T. C. Elliott.
nected with the Stikine Expedition, you might probably then
have considered the application as premature - The circumstances in which that affair was enacted have now, however,
been thoroughly investigated and in justice to myself in common with the Gentlemen attached to the Expedition under my
command, I can no longer defer doing so. Reports, I am informed are current throughout the Country insinuating that I
acted with "too much caution" or in other words with cowardice, whence it would appear that an impression is entertained
by many that the failure of the expedition in question is
attributable to unworthy conduct on my part.
Under the unfavorable aspect which opinion has apparently
assigned with regard to the share I bore in the transactions
alluded to, I deem it proper, nay indispensible [sic]—to call
upon you for an official answer to the following queries which,
in justice to all concerned, I doubt not will unhesitatingly be
acorded answer viz: Whether the part I adopted under the
peculiar circumstances wherein I found myself placed, of withdrawing without having carried into effect the instructions I
had received, be attributable to cowardice or not? Again:
What in the opinion of Gov. Pelly and yourself, is the line of
action I ought to have pursued in order to avoid the foul
stigma which has been so charitably affixed to my name ? And
finally: Whether, even admitting the question of my physical
desparity to have been less obviously unfavorable to me, I
could, without infringing on the provisions of the Convention,
or consistently with the duty which I owe to myself as well as
the Gentlemen who accompanied me, have acted in a manner
more conducive to the ultimate interest of the Concern of
which I am a member?
I remain, etc.
P. S. Ogden.
Of his arrival in the Columbia again in 1834 we have this
item from J. K. Townsend's Narrative. Mr. Townsend was,
in December of that year, on board a H. B. Co. vessel en
route for the Sandwich Islands and had been bar bound in
Baker's Bay several days: "On the morning of the nth, Mr.
Hanson, the mate, returned from the shore, and reported that
the channel was smooth; it was therefore deemed safe to
attempt the passage immediately. While we were weighing
anchor, we descried a brig steering toward us, which soon
I ft
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 2y
crossed the bar, and ran up to within speaking distance. It
was one of the Hudson's Bay Company's coasters, and as we
were getting under weigh, a boat put off from her, and we
were boarded by Mr. Ogden, a chief factor from one of the
Company's forts on the coast. He informed us the brig left
Nass about the first of October, but had been delayed by contrary winds, and rough, boisterous weather. Thus the voyage which usually requires but about eight days for its performance occupied upwards of two months. They had been
on an allowance of a pint of water per day, and had suffered
considerably for fresh provisions. Mr. Ogden remained with
us but a short time, and we stood out past the cape".
One further item regarding the three and one-half years
on the coast is worth mentioning. It was then that the first
circulating library of the Pacific Coast was started. The
record is that the Gentlemen of the coasting trade contributed
to a fund and had brought from England the latest books and
magazines and circulated them from one post to another. In
his journal Dr. Tolmie speaks of receiving from Mr. Ogden
the Life of Edmund Burke and Franklin's First Journeys to
the North. Mr. Townsend was a trifle in error as to Ogden
being then a chief factor, but it was only a month later that
he arrived at that honor. The parchment showing his appointment is dated at H. B. House, London, January ist,
1835. The promotion was accompanied with the assignment,
to the command of the New Caledonia District with headquarters at Fort St. James on Lake Stuart; the post established
by Simon Fraser in 1806. This district extended from the
Coast Range eastward, and included all streams drained by
the Fraser river.
As a young man Mr. Ogden is described as being a little
below medium height and broad between shoulders and hips,
but very muscular and quick in action, such a man as it would
be unpleasant to line up against in a foot ball match. When
in the Snake country he had complained of being reduced to
skin and bones by the life there, which was calculated to make 1
28 T. C. Elliott.
him a man of sixty in a few years, he said. But sea air and
food and an occasional potion, perhaps, seems to have agreed
with him, for we are told that the Indians of New Caledonia
stared at him as the fattest man they had ever seen.
New or Western Caledonia was an extensive region of
mountain peaks and valleys and prairies, of beautiful lakes
and swift rivers, and of curious Indians,—different from those
of the Snake country.    The road thither left the Columbia qfe
at the Okanogan; there the "property" was transferred to
the backs of horses, often several hundred in number, and the
pack trains went winding their way northward to the Thompson river at Kamloops, and thence on through the mountains
to the northern forts, five or six in number. Later this became the famous Okanogan mining trail.
There was also a trail from Fort Colvile up Kettle river, a
route now traveled by the steel rail locomotive; but few goods
were taken in that wayr It is not purposed to relate incidents
of the nine years spent in charge of New Caledonia. Father
Morice has treated that period quite amply in his "History of
the Northern Interior of British Columbia." %
Mr. Ogden took his family with him to Lake Stuart; a
daughter named Euretta (whose mind was clouded) and his
youngest son named Isaac were born there. To some extent
he introduced farming in the district but the main article of
food the year round was dried salmon. Every spring he
made the journey to Fort Vancouver to sit as a member of the
Board of Management, which Gov. Simpson had organized,
perhaps as a means to curtail the authority of Dr. McLoughlin.
Mr. Ogden appears to have been pretty close to Gov. Simpson
during all of his career. We will next quote from the Narrative
of Lieut. Chas. Wilkes of the U. S. Exploring Expedition, who
met Mr. Ogden in June, 1841, at Vancouver:
"At Vancouver, I was again kindly made welcome by Dr.
M'Laughlin, Mr. Douglass, and the officers of the establishment. During my absence, Mr. Peter Ogden, chief factor of
the northern district, had arrived with his brigade. The fort
had, in consequence, a very different appearance from the one £
..ilr■■-- ;„'-i. "- "~<   ■ .\1
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 29
it bore when I left it. I was exceedingly amused with the
voyageurs of the brigade, who were to be seen lounging
about in groups, decked in gay feathers, ribands, &c, full of
conceit, and with the flaunting air of those who consider themselves the beau-ideal of grace and beauty; full of frolic and
fun, and seeming to have nothing to do but to attend to the
decorations of their persons and seek for pleasure; looking
down with contempt upon those who are employed about
the fort, whose sombre cast of countenance and business employments form a strong contrast to these jovial fellows.
"Mr. Ogden has been thirty-two (twenty-three) years in this
country, and consequently possesses much information respecting it; having travelled nearly all over it. He resides
at Fort St. James, on Stuart's Lake, and has six posts under
his care.
"The northern section of the country he represents as not
susceptible of cultivation, on account of the proximity of the
snowy mountains, which cause sudden changes, even in the
heat of summer, that would destroy the crops.
"His posts are amply supplied with salmon from the neighboring waters, that empty themselves into the sounds on the
coast. These fish are dried, and form the greatest part of
the food of those employed by the Company during the whole
year. Their small-stores of flour, &c, are all carried from
Colville and Vancouver. Furs are very plenty in the northern
region, and are purchased at low prices from the Indians: his
return, this year was valued at one hundred thousand dollars,
and this, he informed me, was much less than the usual
amount.    *    *    *
"The day before I left the fort, Mr. Ogden informed me that
he had made arrangements to take me as far as the Cowlitz
Farm in his boat, on my way to Nisqually, and desired that I
would allow Mr. Drayton to accompany him up the river as
far as Wallawalla. To both of these arrangements I readily
"About ten o'clock, we were all summoned to> the great din-
ing-hall by Dr. M'Laughlin, to take the parting cup customary
in this country. When all were assembled, wine was poured
out, and we drank to each other's welfare, prosperity, &c.
This was truly a cup of good-fellowship and kind feeling.
This hanging to old Scotch customs in the way it was done
here is pleasant, and carries with it pleasing recollections,
especially when there is that warmth of feeling with it, that 3)°
T. C. Elliott.
there was on this occasion. After this was over, we formed
quite a cavalcade to the river-side, which was now swollen to
the top of its banks, and rushing by with irresistible force.
"On reaching the river, we found one of Mr. Ogden's boats
manned by fourteen voyageurs, all gaily dressed in their
ribands and plumes; the former tied in large bunches of
divers colours, with numerous ends floating in the breeze.
The boat was somewhat of the model of our whaleboats, only
much larger, and of the kind built expressly to accommodate
the trade; they are clinker-built, and all the timbers are flat.
These boats are so light that they are easily carried across
the portages. They use the gum of the pine to cover them
instead of pitch.
"After having a hearty shake of the hand, Captain Varney,
Mr. Ogden and myself embarked. The signal being given,
we shoved off, and the voyageurs at once struck up one of
their boat-songs. After paddling up the stream for some
distance, we made a graceful sweep to reach the centre, and
passed by the spectators with great animation. The boat and
voyageurs seemed a fit object to grace the wide-flowing river.
On we merrily went, while each voyageur in succession took
up the song, and all joined in the chorus. In two hours and
a half we reached the mouth of the Cowlitz, a distance of
thirty-five miles.    *    *    *
"On the second day, our voyageurs had doffed their finery,
and their hats were carefully covered with oiled skins. They
thus appeared more prepared for hard work.    *    *    *
"On the 19th we reached our destination. On our approach,
although there were no spectators, except a few Indians, to
be expected, the voyageurs again mounted their finery, and
gaily chaunted their boatsong.
"Mr. Ogden had been one of the first who travelled over
this part of country, and he informed me that he had seen the
whole country inundated by the rise of the river. This,
however, can but rarely occur, and could only be the result
of a sudden melting of the snows when accompanied with
violent rain-storms."    *    *    *
And again from the same Narrative later:
"The brigade, after remaining at Wallawalla till the 8th,
took their departure. In taking leave of Mr. Ogden, I must
express the great indebtedness I am under, for his attentions
and kindness to Mr. Drayton, as well as for the facility he
offered him for obtaining information during their progress
-44 I-
=3* Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 31
up the Columbia. I am also under obligations to him for
much interesting information respecting this country, which
he gave without hesitation or reserve. He was anxious that
Mr. Drayton should accompany him to Okonagan; but as this
route had just been traversed by another party, it would have
been a waste of the short time he had to spend about Walla-
walla. Mr. Ogden is a general favorite; and there is so much
hilarity, and such a fund of amusement about him, that one
is extremely fortunate to fall into his company."
On one of his trips from Fort St. James to Fort Vancouver
he had the company of Father P. J. DeSmet (see his Letters
and Sketches p. 217), who was en route to Europe and who
wrote; that he reached Colvile and "embarked on this river
on the 30th of May (1842) in one of the barges of the Hudson's Bay Company. Mr. Ogden, one of the principal proprietors offered me a place in his. I shall never forget the
kindness and friendly manner with which the gentleman
treated me throughout the journey, nor the many agreeable
hours I spent in his company. I found his conversation instructive, his anecdotes and bon mots entertaining and timely;
and it was with great regret that I parted from him."
At the time of his final departure from New Caledonia a
written testimonial was presented to him in behalf of the
gentleman of the district, the original of which is among the
family papers, and reads as follows:
Fort Alexandria Westn Caled.
Sir, 26th, April 1844.
To Peter Skeen Ogden, Esquire
Chief Factor of the Honble.
Hudson's Bay Company.
I have been honored with a communication from the several
Gentlemen recently under your command in Western Caledonia, wherein I am requested to adopt measures for conveying to you the testimony of their respect and esteem, under a
very substantial form. But since a certain latitude has been
vouchsafed to me upon this point, and knowing well, as I
believe, your private sentiments in connexion with it, I have
thought proper, under all the circumstances, to deviate from
the form prescribed, and to tender you in the present shape
the expression of our united esteem and regard.
—^- 3.2
T. C. Elliott.
Permit me, therefore, in the name of the Several Gentlemen
attached to this District, and in my own name, to express the
Satisfaction which we have individually experienced while
serving under your command; and to bear testimony to that
urbanity and friendly feeling which have throughout characterised your deportment towards us during the period of
your administration—a period, it may be added, distinguished
no' less by the substantial increase of our private comforts
than by the Several public improvements which you have so
successfully planned and carried through.
With our united good wishes for your health during the
journey which awaits you, and for your safe return, I have the
honor to subscribe myself, in the name of the Several Gentlemen of Western Caledonia.
Dear Sir,
Your most obedient and
humble servant
Alex. C. Anderson,
Clk. H.H.B. Co.
In the Spring of 1844 Mr. Ogden crossed the Rocky Mountains under a year's leave of absence, his first vacation since
1822; rather strenuous for a Britisher. Archibald McDonald
mentions sending two sons, 12 and 14 years of age, in his
care to Montreal, to be placed in a good school in Vermont.
During the year he attended to matters of business connected
with the estate of his mother, who had died, and visited relatives and friends in Canada and New York, and traveled in
Europe. In the Spring of 1845 we find him again at Red
River returning to Oregon and assigned by Gov. Simpson to
take charge of the Warre-Vavasour party, then just starting
for the Columbia. The Earl of Aberdeen had asked Lord
Metcalf, Governor General, and Sir Richard Jackson, Commander in Chief, in Canada, to detail two army officers to
visit the "Oregon Country" incog., as travelers, and gather
information for the use of the English government in the
event of war, as the negotiation over the boundary question
was then at an acute stage. As to this party the story is told
in the Oregon Historical Quarterly for March, 1909, and
need not be repeated here.    A jolly time they had of it fol-
1 m
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 33
lowing the quicker route on horseback through what is now
Banff National Park and across by Simpson's Pass, the same
route followed by Gov. Simpson himself and described in
his "Journey Around the World." They reached Fort Vancouver late in August, after being only sixty days en route.
And now we will pause to mention one of the first bunco
games known to have been played in Old Oregon, at Cape
Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia river. Among
the instructions given to Mr. Ogden by Gov. Simpson the
most important was that relative to the taking possession of
Cape Disappointment and the isthmus back of it. This was to
be attended to at once, ostensibly with a view to the formation
. of a Trading Post and Pilot's Look-out," but really for the use
of the British forces, if need be. Fort George was to be
abandoned and a trading post established at Baker's Bay; a
clerk named Richard Lane was sent from Red River with the
party to be left in charge there. Pursuant to instructions,
Mr. Ogden quickly and alone visited the Cape, but found
there a rude house already erected and a man named James
Sanler in possession, whom he at once bought off for the sum
of $200.00. Upon visiting Oregon City to file the claim of
the H. B. Co., Mr. Ogden found that two other persons,
Messrs. Wheeler and McDaniel, were the real claimants, and
that Sanler had been put there merely to hold possession for
them. What Mr. Ogden may have said then and there is not
recorded, but in a letter to Lieut. Warre on Oct. 2nd he reported his failure, and the willingness of Wheeler and Mc-
Daniell to sell for $900.00, but his refusal to pay the price.
Then followed a vigorous correspondence between Mr. Warre
and Mr. Ogden, the former urging to buy and the latter
declining to do so because not strictly authorized by the
letter of Gov. Simpson, which distinctly stated that neither
the cape or any other place was to be taken possession of "if
already held by any citizen of the United States." On February 14th, following, however, Mr. Ogden informed Mr.
Warre by letter that he had concluded to purchase and had
^MaH /
T. C. Elliott.
done so as a cost of $1000.00, and had filed on the land in
his own name, and from a further note by Lieut. Warre at
Red River the following June, it is learned that Gov. Simpson allowed the item as one to be repaid to Mr. Ogden by
the H. B. Co. But we very much doubt whether Mr. Ogden
ever again saw the color of the $200 paid to James Sanler.
Later, in their claims against the United States Government, the Hudson's Bay Company included Cape Disappointment at a value of $14600.
From 1845 to the time of his death Mr. Ogden made Fort
Vancouver his headquarters, and with the retirement of Dr. McLoughlin became the ranking Chief Factor on the Columbia.
He shared the management with James Douglas until 1849
when that gentleman removed to Victoria, after which he
was the only Chief Factor on the Columbia until 1852 when
Mr. Dugald MacTavtsh was transferred from the Islands to
assist him. There is just a suggestion here and there of slight
differences with James Douglas; at any rate the dignified and
reserved Mr. Douglas looked especially after the affairs at
Vancouver, while Mr. Ogden preferred the field duties and
is often reported as "leaving for the interior." The trip up
the Columbia seemed an every day occurrence to him and he
was the best known white man to all the Indians west of the
Rocky mountains. They knew him as "The Old Whitehead",
and he was accustomed to give small presents to the older Indians here and there in remembrance of some service performed in previous years. His canoemen and the servants
knew him among themselves as "M'sieu Pete."
In June, 1846, the National boundary was fixed at the forty-
ninth parallel, and then began to arise important and perplexing questions regarding the properties of the H. B. Company
within United States territory, their "possessory rights," as
the treaty indefinitely recited. There were questions relating to squatters on the lands claimed by the H. B. Company
and there were unreasonable constructions of law by local
customs officials in regard to the carrying of freight by the
_•*>;, #
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 35
H. B. Company's vessels, and the payment of duty upon goods
transferred around from Vancouver to Nisqually. In the
Spring of 1849 United States troops began to arrive at Vancouver and their encampment was on the higher ground
immediately behind the H. B. Company stockade under a
formal lease at a pretty stiff consideration entered into between Capt. Rufus Ingalls, Quartermaster, and Mr. Ogden.
This lease continued for periods of six months at a time
until Col. Bonneville (the Capt. Bonneville of Washington
Irving) was instructed from headquarters at Benicia to lay
out a military reservation one mile square, and this was surveyed so as to include the entire stockade and village of the
H. B. Company. There was every occasion for serious friction, at least in sentiment, for the H. B. Company was claiming a large amount of land along the river. But Mr. Ogden,
although holding strictly to the rights of his company, managed to avoid conflict and was on the best of terms with the
army officers.
Fort Vancouver continued to be the supply point for the
company's forts along the coast and at the Sandwich Islands,
and the business with the Oregon settlers and the Indians of
the interior continued to be large; and there were accounts to
be collected from the early settlers. As manager of the
largest business concern in the country Mr. Ogden's responsibilities were both varied and great. He came to be called
Governor Ogden and many Oregon pioneers yet living recall
him as "a short man, dark complexioned, witty and lively in
conversation" and distinguished in appearance. Of those years
we can not here speak in detail but will offer a few glimpses
of him through contemporaneous documents.
On October 5th, 1849, the mounted regiment of riflemen
to Oregon arrived overland from Fort Leavenworth and their
quartermaster, Maj. Osborne Cross, has this to say in his
"My duties had now come to a close and from this time to
the nth of November I was employed in paying off the team-
mmSm 36
T. C. Elliott.
sters and collecting money; which I was enabled to do through
the kindness of Mr. P. S. Ogden, the chief factor of the
Hudson's Bay Company, who advanced money enough at par
to finish my duties, besides turning over to Captain Engalls
(should be Ingalls) a few thousand dollars for the use of the
Department. The kindness of Mr. Ogden in many instances
in accompanying the officers of the department, places it under
many obligations to him".
A little later, Hon. Thos. Nelson, chief justice of the
supreme court of Oregon, to whom the 'secretary of state
at Washington referred special duties, wrote: "The Chief Factor of this Company, Gov. Ogden, is a gentleman of high
standing, and much kindness and good feeling is manifested
by him on all occasions towards the people of the United
In August, 1850, H party of distinguished people arrived
in Oregon and their experience is told in the words of Gen.
James C. Strong, one of the party, who wrote thus:
"I came in a sailing vessel around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and from there in another sailing vessel to Astoria,
Oregon, with Governor Gaines and family, General Hamilton,
secretary of the territory, and family, and William Strong,
judge United States district court, and family; landing at
Astoria about the middle of August, 1850.
"Great was their disappointment on finding that the little
river steamer Multnomah, the only one plying on the Columbia
at that time, and which they had been told would be there and
take them up the river, was laid up for repairs, and that Captain Hoyt had gone to San Francisco for new machinery. The
Captain of the vessel could not be prevailed upon to go up the
river, so how to get to their place of destination became a
serious problem to the newly appointed territorial officers.
"The next day after the landing, an attache of the Hudson's
Bay Company came over from Scarborough point, and on
learning the situation suggested that word be sent to Governor
Ogden, of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose headquarters
were at Fort Vancouver, asking him to send a bateau to us.
"Governor Gaines at once wrote a letter to Governor Ogden,
and this man, who could speak the Chinook jargon fluently,
got an Indian to take it to him. *
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 37
"It was a new and novel sight to all of us as we watched
that Indian start off in his 'icht man' canoe for a trip of about
100 miles up one of the grandest rivers in the world, and how
anxiously we waited to know the result, frequently walking up
to Tongue point and scanning the large bay above.
"There were quite a number of inhabitants living at Astoria,
all of whom treated us very kindly and told us that would be
the quickest way of getting up the river, as it would be about
three weeks before the mail steamer would arrive, and they
had no doubt but that Governor Ogden would do the best he
could for us.
"In a few days a large bateau arrived bringing a cordial
welcome from Governor Ogden."
It may be added that when the next day a H. B. Company
coaster called at Astoria to carry up the goods and baggage of
this official party the U. S. Customs official there forbade
the loading of it.
In October, 1853, Mr. Ogden was extending courtesies to
the family of Judge Pratt, who had recently arrived in Oregon, as shown by the following:
Hon Peter Sken Ogden       Linn City> °- T'y- Oct. 20t 1853.
Dear Sir,
The grapes you so kindly forwarded from "Van Couver"
placed me alike under obligations to the giver, and tended to
decrease my dislike towards Oregon as a home. Your neighborly spirit in that particular deserves as it really receives a
grateful remembrance. Little attentions of that kind it is out
of the question to be insensible to; and, I can do no less than
to thank you sincerely for the favor—
But if I am grateful for the first present, pray what should
I be for the second consisting of two such fine Turkies. I
must confess that the knowledge that such luxuries can be
produced here in this country, enhances my opinion of it four
fold—And now allow me to say I am quite embarrassed with
the thought, how I shall repay your kind recollection of me. I
need hardly add that we esteem as almost invaluable, and in
some way or other my husband and self will make it a point
to reciprocate these unmistakable tokens of good will, and in
the meantime, I remain with a sincere respect,
Most Truly Yours,
Annie A. Pratt. 33
T. C. Elliott.
The family relations of Mr. Ogden at this time we get a
glimpse of through the following letter:
"My Dear Sir :—
"I was indeed truly glad to receive your letter yesterday
and do most heartily congratulate you and Sarah on the birth
of your daughter and still more that all are well. The name
given to the young lady also gives me great satisfaction as
it is one that is dear to me in every sense of the word as it
again recalls to my remembrance the name of my dear departed Mother. We have so far no Express but am "most
anxiously looking for it—at all events at present as I am now
situated cannot leave this before the 22nd. * *. * I shall
be glad to see the Old Lady here when she can leave Sarah
with safety but not before. * * * I should like to see
Janet with her sister and what she thinks of it. Yrs. Sincerely,
Peter Skeen Ogden". (The Old Lady was his usual term of
endearment for his wife ).
This letter was written at the time of the birth of his granddaughter Sarah Ellen McKinlay, at "The Cliffs," near Oregon
City, on November 6th, 1851. His own daughter, Sarah Julia,
had married Archibald McKinlay in June, 1840, and in 1846
Mr. McKinlay was promoted from command at Fort Walla
Walla to a chief tradership in charge of the Hudson's Bay
Company's store at Oregon City. He became an American
citizen and took up a donation claim (afterward deeded to
JDavid McLoughlin) just south of the town; his house on that
claim is still standing. Because of its sightly location, Mr.
Ogden named this residence "The Cliffs" and purchased from
Mr. McKinlay (in the name of his wife) a small tract of the
land upon which a house was built in 1852 for the wife and
younger children to reside in.
And if there be any suggestion that he was not faithful and
tender to his family during these last years let this letter to
Mrs. McKinlay testify:
Lachine (Canada ), Oct'r 18th, 1852.
My dear Daughter:—
I was indeed truly glad to receive a letter from you and
dear little Janette's kiss which you must mean for me; the
tidings you report of all being in health, the Old Lady and all
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 39
the children, was indeed good news for me. At present I
shall not write you a long letter but merely say I am truly
anxious to see you all again and hope to be with you before
next spring. * * * You say in your letter I will find
warm hearts ready to receive me, in you particularly. My Dear
Daughter, I never doubted it, and you are indeed often the
subject of my thoughts. Now do not for one moment suppose that your Father will ever forget you; if it has entered
banish such an idea from your mind, but I do not think you
ever formed such an opinion of me. I know your goodness
of heart, and your Mother's also. Excepting when traveling
I lead a very solitary, lonesome life and never go into society,
indeed live more retired than I did at Vancouver.
Now my dear daughter, may God bless you and all your
children and your Mother and children.    *    *    *
Ever your affectionate Father.    Peter Skeen Ogden.
We diverge a moment to note Mr. Ogden's slight contributions to literature. As a letter writer he was given to playful
allusion and amusing fur trade gossip and we could wish
that more of his letters were in existence. One he wrote from
Western Caledonia to John McLeod in 1837 has already been
printed in full (in Vol. II p. 260 Washington Historical
Quarterly) but reveals his style and a small part will be
reproduced here: "When at Vancouver last summer I saw our
Steam Boat and made a short trip in her. She cost fifteen
thousand pounds but our commerce will soon repay us, at
all events will have a decided advantage over our opponents,
again last summer they, the Americans, had four ships there
(i.e. on the N. W. Coast). * * * Amongst the many
good things their honours from Fenchurch Street sent us last
summer was a Clergyman and with him his wife, the Rev'd
Mr. Beaver, a very appropriate name for the fur trade; also
a Mr. & Mrs. Coppindale to conduct the Farm Establishment
& by the Snake country we had an assortment of Am. Mis-
sionarys the Rev. Mr. Spalding and Lady two Mr. Lees &
Mr. Shepherd surely clergymen enough when the Indian
population is so reduced but this not all there are also five
more Gents as follows: 2 in quest of Flowers 2 killing all 40 T. C. Elliott.
the birds on the Columbia & 1 in quest of rocks and stones all
these bucks came with letters from the President of the U.
States and you know it would not be good policy not to
treat them politely they are a perfect nuisance—" etc. From
his wide acquaintance and fondness for comradeship it is t
evident that he was quite a voluminous correspondent.
Beyond his personal letters the extent of Mr. Ogden's
literary work is not certain. In the Bancroft Collection there
is a manuscript (dictated) by Mr. Jesse Applegate, who was
one of the most intelligent and observing among the Oregon
pioneers of the Forties, which states: "Peter Skeen Ogden
wrote very extensively on the Indians—he showed the Mss. to
Mr. Applegate; it comprised his own early experiences; he
was the discoverer of the Humboldt river. We had no
reading and Mr. Ogden gave it to me as a Winter's amusement. It was full of—interesting episodes. Mr. Applegate
revised and made many suggestions. It ran back to the
union of the two companies. Mr. Ogden brought it to Washington Irving who undertook to edit it, but died before its
In the collections of the Oregon Historical Society, at
Portland there is a letter by Mr. George T. Allan, for a long
time a clerk at Ft. Vancouver and afterward a resident of
Oregon, which reads: "Mr. Ogden possessed considerable
ability as a writer and literary man, and wrote some very
interesting sketches of his adventures in the Indian country,
which I perused in manuscript and partly copied for him in
1849. I believe they were afterwards published, but I have
never seen the book."
And Mr. Archibald McKinlay, writing to Elwood Evans in
March, 1882, says:— "Peter S. Ogden did publish a book. I
never saw but one copy. I have the dedication written by
Washington Irving dedicated to Lady Simpson. It is in his
own handwriting. It was more of what I would call a romance."   This introduction is extremely graceful. •
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 41
There is, as far as yet appears, no reference in the family
correspondence to any acquaintance with Washington Irving,
but such an acquaintance would have come about very
naturally during the year 1852 when Mr. Ogden was in New
York and vicinity. And it is said of Mr. Irving that he did
accumulate a number of manuscripts of this character but
instructed that they be destroyed after his death, which occurred in November, 1859. The book referred to by Mr.
McKinlay can hardly be the same as the writings described
by Mr. Applegate, though it might be the part copied by
Mr. Allan. It is readily identified as a small and now very
rare little volume published in London in 1853 anonymously
and entitled "Traits of American Indian Life and Character,
by a Fur Trader." The style of its writing has little semblance
to that of Mr. Ogden's letters, it is entirely lacking in that
quaintness and humor so common to him, and it is quite impossible to conclude that he would have personally edited it
without the correction of certain contradictions as to dates,
localities and facts. But the incidents related just as certainly
refer to Mr. Ogden as the actor and relator and check closely
with portions of his own career, and must have come from
In December, 1851, Mr. Ogden left Ft. Vancouver in charge
of a Mr. Ballenden and again started for Montreal; not this
time by the familiar route up the Columbia, but by steamer to
San Francisco and from there to the Isthmus of Panama and
steamer to New York. His letter from there reports extreme
heat on the steamer followed by extreme cold upon arrival
and a preference for the climate of Oregon. He was welcomed at the wharf in New York by his brother Henry, the
father of that Wm. Seton Ogden who lived in Oregon for
many years and who married the daugher of Thos. J. Dryer,
the founder of The Oregonian. For family reasons this marriage was objected to by Peter Skene Ogden, who in a letter
iFor discission of this see Appendix of 3rd Edit, of Hist, of No. Interior of
B. C. by Father Morice.
Mtfii ft
42 T. C. Elliott.
from Lachine ordered his subscription to "Squire Dryer's
Paper", as he called it, stopped. This brother Henry had been
for a time prior to 1839 employed as cashier in the New York
custom house and was influential in political matters. He
resided on nth street near Union Square, and in after years
Peter Skene in various ways assisted him quite often.1
He met Sir Geo. Simpson in Montreal en route to Washington and followed him there to assist in official business of
the Company. Then Sir George desired assistance in New
York in the purchase of a cargo of goods for Vancouver, and
the ship Henry Benton of 400 tons burden was chartered to
bring the goods out. Afterward in June he again visited
Washington to meet Supt. Anson Dart of the Indian Department and the Secretary of the Treasury regarding claims of the
H. B. Company for goods furnished during the Cayuse War,
but to his disgust was not given much encouragement. While
then in Washington he met Mr. Elwood Evans, afterward the
writer of a History of Oregon and Washington, and in a
letter from there to Mr. McKinlay says: "What think you,
who should be seated opposite to me at the (hotel) dinner
table but our old Drayton of the Wilkes' Expedition; he at
first sight recognized me" etc. His letters mention meeting
many of the army officers who had been stationed at Vancouver and had returned East.
While in Canada his headquarters seem to have been at
the H. B. Co. House at Lachine but he visited his brother
Isaac at Three Rivers and his sister and nieces in Montreal
and with his brother-in-law, Mr. Edward M. Hopkins, invested considerable of his savings (which had been accumulating at 4% with the H. B. Co. in London) in bank
stocks in Canada. To landed investments he seems to have
had no liking and an open rupture took place with his next
older brother over some 5670 acres of land in the Gosford
District which had turned out to be worthless. This brother
Charles Richard Ogden was then residing in England, after
iHis only daughter yet living resides in Portland at the present time. ♦
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 43
serving a term as Governor of the Isle of Man. His career in
Canada had. been really brilliant but political changes had
compelled a change of scene. Sir Geo. Simpson went to
England that year and Mr. Ogden seems to have been waiting
for some new appointment, for in a letter from, Lachine to
Mr. McKinlay in November he says:— "Before this can reach
you young Miles from London on his way to teach them to
keep accounts at Victoria will be with you and will give you all
the particulars of my new arrangements—satisfactory to my
feelings in almost every respect and I do hope will prove satisfactory to all concerned". Probably the new arrangement
meant the transfer of Mr. MacTavish to Vancouver to assist
him, although certain changes were taking place at Victoria
incident to the retirement of Jas. Douglas from the Company's
employ. After almost exactly a year upon the Atlantic seaboard he returned to the Columbia, of which journey the following memorandum is found among his papers. "Feb. 5th
(1853) Went on board the Steamer Georgia. Sailed on the
7th. Arrived at Aspinwall on the 16th in morning. Arrived
at Panama at 8 oclk evening on the 17th. 19th Left Panama
on the Steamship Tennessee for San Francisco. Arrived at
Accupulco [sic] on the morning of the 26th of February. Sunday morning at 9 O'clk March 6th Steamer Tennessee stranded
off Tellegraph Rock 4 miles north of the Heads. Monday
Left the Wreck across the mountain for San Francisco. Arrived at the Oriental at one O'clock. Sunday March 13th Left
for Oregon on steamer Columbia. 16th arrived at Astoria
in the evening."
An experience of this ship-wreck revealing the natural
shrewdness of the man has been kindly furnished by Gen. Jas.
C. Strong, (a brother of the late Judge Strong of Oregon) who
is still residing in California. "Peter Skeen Ogden was one of
God's noblemen. I had as good an opportunity to become
acquainted with him, I think, as any American, as on his invitation, I occupied a room in the H. B. Co.'s stockade, and
lived at his table a great deal of the time whenever I was in 44
T. C. Elliott.
Fort Vancouver. He told me all about his shipwreck, and
seemed to enjoy thinking how he outwitted the thieves. As
he told it to me it was like this. The captain missed the entrance to the bay of San Francisco by reason of fog, and he
was wrecked on the rocks just north of the entrance. Mr
Ogden had quite a large sum of money with him in gold coin.
He wrapped this in some soiled clothing and put it in the
bottom of a large valise and placed some more soiled clothing
over it, and carried that on shore himself, leaving the rest of
his baggage to take its chances with the others, much of which
was brought ashore during the day. They were told it was
not many miles to where they would get shelter and that they
could walk there easily enough. His satchel was too heavy
to carry, so he unlocked it, pulled some of the soiled clothing
to the top, and let a pair of old half wornout shoes stick out
of the satchel in plainjsight, and leaving it unlocked as of no
value, went with the other passengers to San Francisco. The
next morning he came back with the wagons procured to
bring the baggage and found, as he had anticipated, that
the trunks had all been broken open and rifled, but the thieves
had not touched his satchel, which laid on the ground just as
he had left it." Other recollections of Mr. Ogden by Gen.
Strong are of interest:—"I should not call Mr. Ogden's voice
peculiar, it was neither falsetto, tenor or harsh, still it was
an individual voice. * * * He did not have a hearty
laugh but when pleased had a most peculiar little twist to his
lips, one I shall never forget, it was an individuality. He
was a well read man and frequently quoted from Shakespear,
and some times from the Bible. * * * Mr. Ogden spoke
three languages, English, French and Indian. He greatly
amplified the Chinook Jargon by his acquaintance with so
many words from the various Indian tribes with which he
had lived." J| Jj
Returning to Fort Vancouver in the spring of 1853 Mr.
Ogden again undertook the management of the H. B. Company's business on the Columbia, which still continued to be
IT* *
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 45
large. It was the principal wholesale house on the Columbia,
and distributed goods to Fort Hall and Fort Boise, in Idaho
and Fort Colvile in North Washington and the Indian traders
of Southern Oregon. In the nearer by communities, The
Dalles, Oregon City, Cathlamet, Chinook and Champoeg
goods were sold on commission by former officers of the
Company, Mr. Allan, Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Anderson, Mr.
Birnie and others. But Mr. Ogden was in failing health; his
letters speak of internal disorders and a recurrent fever, possibly beginning, as Mr. Evans states, though some exertion
at the time of the stranding of the steamship Tennessee. The
published notice of his death speaks of an illness of several
weeks. These last weeks were spent at "The Cliffs" under
the care of his wife and daughter and Dr. Barclay; death
occurred on the 27th of September, 1854. Rev. St. Michael
Fackler, the first Episcopal clergyman to reside in Oregon
(Rev. Herbert Beaver excepted) officiated at the burial and
his body was laid to rest in Mountain View Cemetery at
Oregon City, where his grave may still be seen, a wild rose
bush its only adornment, and the glistening peak of Mt. Hood
its only monument.
During his illness Dr. McLoughlin was a regular visitor
at the bedside and urged upon him to permit a formal marriage ceremony with his wife. Mr. Ogden bluffly refused,
saying that if his many years of open recognition of the relationship and of their children was not proof enough the
empty words of man could not add anything of value. Surely
enough this refusal occasioned long delay and much trouble
in the settlement of his estate, for certain of the family in
Canada and England began proceedings to break the will on
the ground that there was no proof that he was ever married.
A compromise was finally arranged, however, by Sir George
Simpson, who was the executor. The will was executed at
Fort Vancouver in June, 1851, but described him as a resident
of Montreal and was proven at Montreal. Probably this was
because nearly all of his investments were in Lower Canada, /"
T. C. Elliott.
although Sir Geo. Simpson, in one communication, suggested
that it had been Mr. Ogden's intention to return to Canada
to reside permanently. He always remained a British subject.
His estate amounted to at least fifty thousand dollars.
At the time of his death the oldest son, Peter Ogden, had
advanced in the service of the H. B. Company to the rank of
chief trader and was in charge of Fort SflBft, British Columbia, where his father had been before him. Many descendants
through him still reside in various parts of Canada and some
still continue in the service of the H. B. Company. The
second son, Charles, remained a bachelor—seems to have been
employed at Fort Vancouver for a time, and died at Lac La
Hache in 1880. Another son, Michele, was a stockman and
ranchman on the Pend d'Oreille river, and died on the Flathead reservation where his descendants still live. A daughter
Cecilia had married one Hugh Fraser, of unknown residence.
The three younger children, Mrs. McKinlay, Euretta and
Isaac resided at Oregon City. All of these children together
with relatives residing in Canada and New York, were remembered in the will. None of his direct descendants are
known to be now living in Oregon; but a niece, Mrs. Ogden
Chase is a widow, residing near Portland.
Archibald McKinlay, writing to El wood Evans in 1882,
paid this tribute to Peter Skene Ogden: "He was undoubtedly
a wonderful man. Whenever the Hudson's Bay Company
had occasion to send any of their officers on a dangerous
expedition Peter S. Ogden was sure of the berth. His even
temper, his great flow of good humor and his wonderful
patience, tact and perseverance, his utter disregard of personal
inconvenience and suffering rendered him just the man for
any difficult or dangerous task. He was greatly esteemed by
his brother officers and nearly worshiped by his men and the
Indians. * * * His last great and good work was when
he went with a small party of men to liberate the poor women
and children captured by the Cayuses after the Whitman
massacre, a dangerous task and one which the Indians plainly
• \
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 47
told him no other need have attempted."    A brief mention
of that event is appropriate before conclusion.
On December 6th, 1847, ^ate at evening a French-Canadian
messenger arrived at Fort Vancouver in a canoe from up the
Columbia bringing a letter from Wm. McBean of Fort Walla
Walla giving the news and particulars of the massacre and
captivity at the V^nitman Mission. Mr. Ogden was first informed and at once went into consultation with Mr. Douglas.
The problem presented to them was a complicated and perplexing one. The location of the national boundary at the
49th parallel of north latitude had been determined by treaty
eighteen months previous, the Whitman Mission was an
American settlement and the legislative body of the provisional government of Oregon was at that very time in session at Oregon City only twenty-five miles distant; but that
government was physically powerless to begin and carry on
a war against the Indians without calling upon the Hudson's
Bay Company for even powder and lead, not to mention other
equipment. Should the officers of the company take the
initiative, or merely report the event to the Americans ? If the
former alternative, could the company accomplish anything
before the excitable Americans further angered the Indians
and rendered the Hudson's Bay Company's influence and
methods futile? Would the Indians themselves desist from
further bloodshed, or was this a general uprising? But it was
a situation calling for quick decision and action, and, just as
in 1843, when the weary and destitute immigrants arrived
at the Columbia, the call of humanity prevailed. The following morning Mr. Ogden was off for Fort Walla Walla with
two bateaus manned by only the usual compliment of servants and without any display of arms and was well on his
way before the tidings of the massacre even reached Oregon
Twelve days were consumed by the journey—not a rapid
one for he proceeded as though on regular business and paid
the regular toll of powder and ball to the Indians at The Dalles /
48 T. C. Elliott.
portage, and it was the 19th of December before arrival at
the destination. Messengers were then at once dispatched to
the Spokane country to learn whether the Indians of that
quarter were still quiet, and to the chiefs of the Walla
Walla, Cayuse .and Nez Perces tribes to say that "The Old
Whitehead" was at the fort and desired to speak with
them, a message to them no doubt as welcome as it was
imperative. It was the 24th inst. before he assembled
them in council and only after he considered himself in
possession of full information. Mr. Wm. McBean has related to the writer some of the incidents of that day. It
is the nature of the Indian to be deliberate in words and
the council lasted all day; Mr. Ogden alone of the whites attended and in the end prevailed. This was the tenor of his
speech to the Indians and of the reply of one of them, as reported by Mr. Ogden himself to the .editor of the Oregon
Spectator at Oregon City upon the return there in January:
"We have been among you for thirty years without the shedding of blood; we are traders, and of a different nation from
the Americans, who are of the same color, speak the same
language, and worship the same God as ourselves, and whose
cruel fate causes our hearts to bleed. Why do we make you
chiefs, if you cannot control your young men? Besides this
wholesale butchery you have robbed the Americans passing
through your country, and have insulted their women. If
you allow your young men to govern you, I say you are not
men or chiefs, but hermaphrodites who do not deserve the
name. Your hot-headed young men plume themselves on
their bravery; but let them not deceive themselves. If the
Americans begin war they will have cause to repent their
rashness; for the war will not end until every man of you is
cut off from the face of the earth! I am aware that many of
your people have died; but so have others. It was not Dr.
Whitman who poisoned them; but God who has commanded
that they should die. You have the opportunity to make some
reparation.    I give you only advice, and promise you nothing •
Peter Skene Ogden, Fur Trader. 49
should war be declared against you. The company has nothing to do with your quarrel. If you wish it, on my return I
will see what can be done for you, but I do not promise to
prevent war. Deliver me the prisoners to return to their
friends, and I will pay you a ransom; that is all." To which
Chief Tiloukaikt of the Cayuses replied: "Chief, your words
are weighty, your hairs are gray. We have known you a
long time. You have had an unpleasant journey to this place.
I cannot therefore keep the families back. I make them over
to you, which I would not do to another younger than your-
self-" ' 9
Then followed five days of suspense until the captives were
brought in, and two days more until the whites residing at
Lapwai, Mr. Spalding and others, arrived. Mr. Ogden at
the time thus wrote: "For two nights I have not slept, but,
thank God, they are all safe and none have been maltreated."
The party then at once set off down the river and none too
soon because of the arrival of the news that some of the Oregon volunteers had arrived at The Dalles and the Cayuse
war had begun.
This, in brief, was the crowning event of Mr. Ogden's
career, for which his name will be ever held in grateful remembrance in Oregon. The official letter of thanks from
Gov. Abernethy to him and his modest reply need not be
reproduced here. Mr. Ogden's own religious affiliation was
with the Church of England. Although he always rendered
courteous treatment and support to the missionaries, both
Protestant and Catholic, he had little faith in the permanency
of religious influence upon the Indians. But it is stated, without verification, that a short time before the massacre he had
sent to Mrs. Whitman, with his compliments, the material for
a dress.
Sojourners at the Lakeview Hotel (of which the courteous
and generous Mr. A. B. Ferguson is the proprietor—Mr.
Ferguson's wife was the Susan Ellen McKinlay already mentioned as a babe and it was at this home that both Mr. and 5o
T. C. Elliott.
Mrs. McKinlay died) at Savona's Ferry, on Thompson River,
British Columbia, are wont to inquire as to the identity of a
large oil portrait hanging in the parlor, which bears on the
back the following legend: "Stanley, Oregon, 1848. Mrs. McKinlay with compliments of the artist." This portrait represents Peter Skene Ogden as he is remembered by the survivors of the Whitman massacre.
Traveling eastward from Savona's by the Canadian Pacific
Railway and when close to the continental divide of the Rocky
Mountains looking to the north up the beautiful Yoho valley a massive peak appears that has been designated by the
Canadian government as Mount Ogden (not, however, in
honor of our hero). Its melting glaciers form a stream flowing to the south and westward as one of the sources of the
mighty Columbia, upon so many of the waters of which Peter
Skene Ogden, the_fur trader and explorer, spent so many
strenuous but happy days. And as these waters rush onward
to the ocean they are joined and swelled by other glacial
streams from that beautiful mountain of Oregon which will
ever stand as a snow white sentinel over his final resting place
in the Mountain View Cemetery at Oregon City.
-  * ■   -•   1


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