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The discovery of the Columbia River Porter, Edward G. (Edward Griffin), 1837-1900 1902

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Array 4M& £outf) Heaflet^. f2^£
No. 131.
The Discovery
of the
Columbia River.
I.    The First Voyage of the Columbia.
Few ships, if any, in our merchant marine, since the organization of the Repub ic, have acquired such distinction as the
" Columbia."
By two noteworthy achievements a hundred years ago she
attracted the attention of the commercial world, and rendered
a service to the Unit d States unparalleled in our history.
She was the first American vessel to carry the stars and stripes
around the globe; and, by her discovery of " the great river
of the West," to which her name was given, she furnished us
with the title to our possession of that magnificent domain,
which to-day is represented by the flourishing young States of
Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
The famous ship was well known and much talked about at
the time; but her records have mostly disappeared, and there
is very little knowledge at present concerning her.
The committee for the centennial observance, at Astoria, of
the " Columbia's " exploit having applied to the writer for information upon the subject, in which they are naturally so
much interested, he gladly responds by giving an outline of
the facts, gathered mainly from private sources and illustrated
by original drawings made at the time on board the ship and
hitherto not known to the public.
* This paper was first printed in the New England Magazine, June, 1892, the Oregon
centennial year, under the title of" The Ship ' Columbia ' and the Discovery of Oregon,'' illustrated by original drawings made at the time un board the ship. Many of the facts were
gathered by Mr. Porter from private sources, giving his account, the most careful and valuable
which exists, a high original value.— Editor. The publication in 1784 of Captain Cook's journal of his
third voyage awakened a wide-spread interest in the possibility
of an important trade on the northwest coast. In Boston
there were a few gentlemen who took up the matter seriously,
and determined to embark in the enterprise on their own
account. The leading spirit among them was Joseph Barrell,
a merchant of distinction, whose financial ability, cultivated
tastes, and wide acquaintance with affairs gave him a position
of acknowledged influence in business and social circles.
Associated with him in close companionship was Charles
Bulfinch, a recent graduate of Harvard, who had just returned
from pursuing special studies in Europe. His father, Dr.
Thomas Bulfinch, lived on Bowdoin Square, and often entertained at his house the friends who were inclined to favor the
new project. They read fogether Cook's report of an abundant supply of valuable furs offered by the natives in exchange
for beads, knives, and other trifles. These sea-otter skins,
he said were sold by the Russians to the Chinese at from ,£16
to £20 each. " Here is a rich harvest," said Mr. Barrell, "to
be reaped by those who go in first."
Accordingly, in the year 1787, they made all the necessary
arrangements for fitting out an expedition. The other partners
were Samuel Brown, a prosperous merchant; John Derby, a
shipmaster of Salem; Captain Crowell Hatch, a resident of
Cambridge; and John Marden Pintard, of the well-known New
York house of Lewis Pintard & Co.
These six gentlemen subscribed over $50,000, dividing the
stock into fourteen shares, and purchased the ship " Columbia," or, as it was after this often called, the "Columbia Re-
diviva." She was built in 1773 by James Briggs at Hobart's
Landing, on the once busy little stream known as North River,
the natural boundary between Scituate and Marshfield. One
who sees it to-day peacefully meandering through quiet
meadows and around fertile slopes would hardly believe that
over a thousand sea-going vessels have been built upon its
The " Columbia " was a full-rigged ship, 83 feet long, and
measured 212 tons. She had two decks, a figure-head, and
a square stern, and was mounted with ten guns. A consort was provided for her in the " Washington " or " Lady
Washington" as she was afterwards called, a sloop of 90
tons, designed especially to collect furs by cruising among the
114 islands and inlets of the coast in the expected trade with the
Indians. These vessels seem ridiculously small to us of the
present day, but they were stanchly built and manned by skilful
As master of the " Columbia," the owners selected Captain
John Kendrick, an experienced officer of about forty-five
years of age, who had done considerable privateering in the
Revolution, and had since been in charge of several vessels in
the merchant service. His home was at Wareham, where he
had built a substantial house and reared a family of six children. The venerable homestead may still be seen, shaded by
trees which the captain planted. For the command of the
sloop a man was chosen who had been already in the service
of two of the owners, Messrs. Brown and Hatch, as master of
their ship " Pacific " in the South Carolina trade. This was
Captain Robert Gray, an able seaman, who had also been an
officer in the Revolutionary navy, and who was a personal
friend of Captain Kendrick. Gray was a native of Tiverton,
R.I., and a descendant of one of the early settlers at Plymouth. After his marriage, in 1794, his home was in Boston,
on Salem Street, where he had a family of five children. His
great-grandson, Mr. Clifford Gray Twombly, of Newton, has
inherited one of the silver cups inscribed with the initials
" R. G." which the captain carried with him around the world.
His sea-chest is also in good condition, and is now presented
by his grand-daughter, Miss Mary E. Bancroft, of Boston, to
the Oregon Pioneer and Historical Society for preservation
among its relics.
Sea Letters were issued by the federal and state governments for the use of the expedition, and a medal was struck to
commemorate its departure. Hundreds of these medals — in
bronze and pewter — were put on board for distribution among
the people whom the voyagers might meet, together with a
much larger number of the new cents and half-cents which the
State of Massachusetts had coined that year. Several of
these medals and coins have since been found on the track of
the vessels, among Indians, Spaniards, and Hawaiians. A few
in silver and bronze are preserved in the families of some of
the owners.
Neither pains nor expense were spared to give these vessels
a complete outfit. The cargo consisted chiefly of the necessary
stores and a good supply of hardware — useful tools and uten-
HJ sils — to be exchanged for furs on the coast. There were also
numerous trinkets to please the fancy of the natives, such as
buttons, toys, beads, and necklaces, jew's-harps, combs, earrings, looking-glas-es, snuff, and snuff-boxes.
The writer has full lists of the officers and crew. Kendrick's
first mate was Simeon Woodruff, who had been one of Cook's
officers in his last voyage to the Pacific. The second mate
was Joseph Ingraham, who was destined, later on, to be a conspicuous figure in the trade which he helped to inaugurate.
The third officer was Robert Haswell, the son of a lieutenant
in the British navy, who for some years had lived at Nantasket
(now Hull).
Haswell was an accomplished young officer and kept a careful record of the expedition, from which much of our most
accurate information is derived. He was also a clever artist
and made some of the sketches of the vessels, which are here
reproduced for the first time. Next to him was John B. Cordis,
of Charlestown. Richard S. Howe was the clerk ; Dr. Roberts,
the surgeon ; and J. Nutting, the astronomer — or schoolmaster,
as he was sometimes called. Mr. Treat shipped as furrier, and
Davis Coolidge as first mate on the sloop.
On the 30th of September, 1787, the two vessels started on
their long voyage. Many friends accompanied them down the
harbor, and bade them farewell.
The owners had given each commander minute instructions
as to the route and the manner of conducting their business.
They were to avoid the Spaniards, if possible, and always treat
the Indians with respect, giving them a fair compensation in
trade. The skins, when collected, were to be taken to Canton
and exchanged for teas, which were to form .the bulk of the
cargo back to Boston.
They had a good run to the Cape Verde Islands, where they
remained nearly two months for some unexplained cause. The
delay occasioned much discontent among the officers, and
Woodruff and Roberts left the ship. At the Falkland Islands
there was no wood to be had, but plenty of geese and ducks,
snipe and plover. They lingered here too long, and Kendrick
was inclined to wait for another season before attempting the
passage around Cape Horn, but he was induced to proceed;
and on the 28th of February, 1788, they resumed their voyage,
Haswell having been transferred to the sloop as second mate.
They soon ran into heavy seas; and for nearly a month they
116 5
encountered severe westerly gales, during which the " Columbia " was thrown upon her beam ends, and the little " Washington " was so completely swept by the waves that all the beds
and clothing on board were completely drenched, with no opportunity to dry them.
Early on the morning of April i the vessels lost sight of
each other in latitude 570 57' south and longitude 920 40' west.
It was intensely cold, and a hurricane was raging. The crews
were utterly exhausted, and hardly a man was able to go
At last, on the 14th, the skies brightened, and they had their
first welcome to the Pacific; but they could no longer see anything of each other, and so each vessel proceeded independently the rest of the way. The sloop lay to off the island of
Masafuero, but the surf was so heavy that they could not land.
At Ambrose Island they sent a boat ashore, and found plenty
of fish and seals, but no fresh water, so they were obliged to
put themselves on a short allowance. Almost every day they
saw dolphins, whales, sea-lions, and grampuses. In June they
caught the northeast trade-wind ; and on the 2d of August, to
their inexpressible joy, they saw the coast of New Albion in
latitude 41 °, near Cape Mendocino. A canoe came off with
ten natives, making signs of friendship. They were mostly
clad in deerskins.    Captain Gray gave them some presents.
And now for a time our mariners enjoyed a little, well-earned
rest, and feasted their eyes upon the green hills and forests as
they cruised leisurely along the coast. The large Indian population was revealed by the camp-fires at night and by the
columns of smoke by day. Many of them came paddling after
the sloop, waving skins-and showing the greatest eagerness to
get aboard. Others were evidently frightened, and fled to the
In latitude 440 20' they found a harbor which they took to
be " the entrance of a very large river, where great commercial advantages might be reaped." This was probably the Al-
seya River in Oregon, which is not as large as they thought.
The natives here were warlike, and shook long spears at them,
with hideous shouts and an air of defiance. Near Cape Lookout they " made a tolerably commodious harbor," and anchored
half a mile off. Canoes brought out to them delicious berries
and crabs, ready-boiled, which the poor seamen gladly bought
for buttons, as they were already suffering from scurvy.
117 The next day seven of these men were sent ashore in the
boat with Coolidge and Haswell to get some grass and shrubs
for their stock. The captain's boy, Marcos, a black fellow
who had shipped at St. Iago, accompanied them; and, while
he was carrying grass down to the boat, a native seized his cutlass, which he had carelessly stuck in the sand, and ran off with
it toward the village. Marcos gave chase, shouting at the top of
his voice. The officers at once saw the peril, and hastened to
his assistance. But it was too late. Marcos had the thief by
the neck; but the savages crowded around, and soon drenched
their knives in the blood of the unfortunate youth. He relaxed his hold, stumbled, rose again, and staggered toward his
friends, but received a flight of arrows in his back, and fell in
mortal agony. The officers were now assailed on all sides,
and made for the boat as fast as possible, shooting the most
daring of the ringleaders with their pistols, and ordering the
men in the boat to fire and cover their retreat. One of the
sailors who stood near by to help them was totally disabled by
a barbed arrow, which caused great loss of blood. They managed, however, to get into the boat and push off, followed by
a swarm of canoes. A brisk fire was kept up till they neared
the sloop, which discharged several swivel shot, and soon scattered the enemy. It was a narrow escape. Captain Gray had
but three men left aboard ; and, if the natives had captured
the boat's crew, as they came so near doing, they could easily
have made a prize of the sloop. Murderers' Harbor was the
appropriate name given to the place. Haswell thought it must
be " the entrance of the river of the West," though it was by
no means, he said, " a safe place for any but a very small
vessel to enter." This was probably near Tillamook Bay.
Some of the maps of that time had vague suggestions of a supposed great river, whose mouth they placed almost anywhere
between the Straits of Fuca and California. When Gray was
actually near the river which he afterward discovered, he had
so good a breeze that he "passed a considerable length of
coast" without standing in: otherwise the Centennial of Oregon might have been celebrated in 1888 instead of 1892. How
slight a cause may affect the whole history of a nation !
Farther north they saw " exceeding high mountains, covered
with snow" (August 21), evidently Mount Olympus. A few
days later the painstaking mate writes, " I am of opinion that
the Straits of Juan de Fuca exist, though Captain Cook posi-
11S tively asserts it does not." Passing up the west shore of the
island now bearing Vancouver's name, they found a good, sheltered anchorage, which they named Hancock's Harbor for the
governor under whose patronage they had sailed. This was in
Clayoquot Sound, where, on their next voyage, they spent a
At last, on the 16th of August, 1788, the sloop reached its
destined haven in Nootka Sound. Two English snows from
Macao, under Portuguese colors, were lying there,— tne
"Felice" and the " Iphigenia," — commanded by Captains
Meares and Douglas, who came out in a boat and offered their
assistance to the little stranger. The acquaintance proved to
be friendly, although there were evidences later on of a disguised jealousy between them.
Three days later the English launched a small schooner
which they named " Northwest America," the first vessel ever
built on the coast. It was a gala-day, fittingly celebrated by
salutes and festivities, in which the Americans cordially joined.
The "Washington " was now hauled up on the ways for graving, and preparations began to be made for collecting furs.
One day, just a week after their arrival, they saw a sail in
the offing, which, by their glasses, they soon recognized as the
long-lost " Columbia." Great was their eagerness to know
what had befallen her. As she drew nearer, it became evident
that her crew were suffering from scurvy, for her topsails were
reefed and her topgallant masts were down on deck, although
it was pleasant weather. Captain Gray immediately took the
long boat and went out to meet her, and shortly before sunset
she anchored within forty yards of the sloop. She had lost
two men by scurvy, and many of the crew were in an advanced
stage of that dreaded disease. After parting off Cape Horn,
they encountered terrific gales, and suffered so much damage
that they had to put in at Juan Fernandez for help. They were
politely received by the governor, Don Bias Gonzales, who
supplied them with everything they needed. The kind governor had to pay dearly for this; for, when his superior, the
captain-general of Chile, heard of it, poor Gonzales was degraded from office; and the viceroy of Peru sanctioned the
penalty. Jefferson afterward interceded for him at Madrid, but
he was never reinstated. Who would have believed that a service of simple humanity to a vessel in distress would cause
such  a hubbub ?    By her cruel censure of an act of mercy
119 8
toward the first American ship that ever visited her Pacific
dominions, Spain seems to have been seized with a kind of
prophetic terror, as if anticipating the day when she would
have to surrender to the stars and stripes a large share of her
supremacy in the West.
After tarrying at Juan Fernandez seventeen days, the " Columbia " continued her voyage without further incident to
Nootka. Captain Kendrick now resumed the command of the
expedition. In a few days occurred the anniversary of their
departure from Boston, and they all observed it heartily. The
officers of all the vessels were invited to dine on board the
" Columbia " ; and the evening was spent in festive cheer,— a
welcome change to those homesick exiles on that dreary shore.
It was decided to spend the winter in Friendly Cove, Nootka
Sound; and a house was built large enough for the entire crew.
They shot an abundance of game, prepared charcoal for their
smiths, and worked their iron into chisels which were in good
demand among the natives. To their surprise one morning
they found that the Indians had landed and carried off fifteen
water-casks and five small cannon which Captain Douglas
had given them. This was a heavy loss; and, as the miscreants could not be found, the coopers had to go to work and
make a new set of casks.
In March, 1789, the " Washington " was painted and sent on
a short cruise, while the " Columbia " was removed a few miles
up the Sound to a place which they named Kendrick's Cove,
where a house was built with a forge and battery. In May the
sloop started out again for furs, and met the Spanish corvette
"Princesa," whose commander, Martinez, showed great kindness to Gray, giving him supplies of brandy, wine, hams, and
sugar; but he said he should make a prize of Douglas if he
found him.
At one place a large fleet of canoes came off in great parade, and offered their sea-otter skins for one chisel each.
Our men readily bought the lot,— two hundred in number,—
worth from six to eight thousand dollars. This was the best
bargain they ever made, as they could seldom get a good skin
for less than six or ten chiseis. An average price was one
skin for a blanket; four, for a pistol; and six, for a musket.
Gray then stood southward and went into Hope Bay, and
later into a place called by the natives Chickleset, where there
was every appearance of a good harbor.    He then visited the islands of the north, and gave names to Cape Ingraham,
Pintard Sound, Hatch's Island, Derby Sound, Barrell's Inlet,
and Washington's Islands (now known as Queen Charlotte's),
whose mountain tops were covered with snow, even in summer. It is a pity that most of the names given by our explorers in that region have been changed, so that it is not easy
to identify all the places mentioned by them.
Returning to Nootka, they found the Spaniards claiming
sovereignty over all that region, detaining the English vessels
and sending the "Argonaut" with her officers and crew as
prisoners to San Bias. The schooner " Northwest America,"
which Meares had built, was seized and sent on a cruise under
command of Coolidge, and her crew and stores were put on
the " Columbia " to be taken to China. Serious complications
between England and Spain grew out of these high-handed
proceedings, resulting in the " Nootka Convention," as it was
called,— the famous treaty of October, 1790, by which war
was averted and a new basis of agreement established between
the two powers.
Another important change now took place. Captain Kendrick concluded to put the ship's property on board the sloop,
and go on a cruise in her himself, with a crew of twenty men,
while Gray should take the "Columbia," reinforced by the
crew of the prize schooner, to the Sandwich Islands, and get
provisions for the voyage to China, and there dispose of the
skins. Ingraham and Haswell decided to go with Gray,
while Cordis remained with Kendrick. And so the two vessels parted company.
The "Columbia" left Clayoquot July 30, 1789, and spent
three weeks at the Hawaiian Islands, laying in a store of fruits,
yams, potatoes, and hogs. They were kindly received there ;
and a young chief, Attoo (sometimes called the crown prince),
was consigned to Captain Gray's care for the journey to
Boston, under the promise that he should have an early opportunity to return. They had a good run to China, and
reached Whampoa Roads on the 16th of November. Their
agents at Canton were the newly established Boston firm of
Shaw & Randall, who also attended to consular duties. It
was an unfavorable season for trade, and their thousand sea-
otter skins had to be sold at a sacrifice. The ship was repaired at great expense and made ready for a cargo of teas.
The following bill of lading should have a place here : —
121 IO
Shipped by the Grace of God, in good order and condition, by Shaw
and Randall, in and upon the good Ship called the " Columbia," whereof is
Master under God for this present Voyage Robert Gray, and now Riding at
Anchor at Wampoa, and by God's Grace bound for Boston in America —
to say, 220 chests bohea Tea, 170 Half chests do, 144 quarter chests do	
 to be delivered unto Samuel Parkman Esquire, or to his assigns and so God send the good Ship to her desired Port in Safety
— Amen.    Dated in Canton Feb. 3, 1790.
(signed) Robert Gray.
Kendrick reached Macao January 26, with his sails and rigging nearly gone ; and, being advised not to go up to Canton,
he went over to " Dirty Butter Bay," — a lonely anchorage near
the " outer waters,"— and there waited for an opportunity to dispose of his five hundred skins, and perhaps also to sell the
The "Columbia" passed down the river, February 12, on
her homeward voyage ; but a gale of wind prevented her seeing
her old consort.
Between Canton and Boston the " Columbia " took the usual
route by the Cape of Good Hope, calling only at St. Helena
and Ascension Islands. She reached her destination on the
10th of August, 1790, having sailed, by her log, about 50,000
miles. Her arrival was greeted with salvos of artillery and repeated cheers from a great concourse of citizens. Governor
Hancock gave an entertainment in honor of the officers and
owners. A procession was formed ; and Captain Gray walked
arm in arm with the Hawaiian chief, the first of his race ever
seen in Boston. He was a fine-looking youth, and wore a helmet of gay feathers, which glittered in the sunlight, and an exquisite cloak of the same yellow and scarlet plumage. The
governor entertained the company with fitting hospitality, and
many were the congratulations extended on all sides to the men
who had planned and to those who had executed this memorable voyage.
It must be said that, financially, the enterprise was not of
much profit to the owners, two of whom sold out their interest
to the others; but, nevertheless, it was an achievement to be
proud of, and it prepared the way for a very large and remunerative trade in subsequent years. Indeed, so hopeful were the
remaining owners regarding it that they immediately projected
a second voyage. II
II.    The Second Voyage.
No sooner had the " Columbia " discharged her cargo than
she was taken to a shipyard and thoroughly overhauled, and
furnished with new masts and spars and a complete outfit as expeditiously as possible.
An important sea-letter was granted by the President and
another by Governor Hancock, and still others by the foreign
consuls resident in Boston. The owners prepared specific
instructions for Captain Gray, directing him to proceed with
all despatch, to take no unjust advantage of the natives, to
build a sloop on the coast during the winter, to visit " Japan
and Pekin," if possible, for the sale of his furs. He was not
to touch at any Spanish port nor trade with any of the subjects
of his Catholic majesty "for a single farthing." He was
charged to offer no insult to foreigners, nor to receive any
"without showing the becoming spirit of a free, independent
American." And he was to be as a father to his crew. He
was not to stop till he reached the Falkland Islands, and then
only for a short time.
The officers under Captain Gray were assigned in the following order: Robert Haswell, of whom we have heard much
already ; Joshua Caswell, of Maiden ; Owen Smith ; Abraham
Waters, who had served as seaman on the previous voyage ;
and John Boit. The clerk was John Hoskins who had been
in the counting-house of Joseph Barrell, and who afterward
became a partner of his son. George Davidson, of Charles-
town, shipped as painter; and that he was an artist as well is
evident from the interesting drawings which he made on the
voyage, and which, through the kindness of his descendants
and those of Captain Gray, are given with this narrative,
though of necessity somewhat reduced in size. The Hawaiian,
Jack Attoo, went back as cabin-boy. The sturdy carpenter of
the ship was Samuel Yendell, of the old North End of Boston.
He had served in the frigate " Tartar " when a mere boy, and
he helped to build the famous " Constitution." He lived to
be the last survivor of the " Columbia's " crew, dying at the
ripe age of ninety-two years in 1861. He was always known
as an upright, temperate, and industrious man. The present
governor of Massachusetts, William Eustis Russell, is his
great-grandson, and evidently inherits the faculty of building
the ship — of State.
123 12
The "Columbia" left Boston on the 28th of September,
1790, calling only at the Falkland Islands, and arrived at
Clayoquot June 4, 1791,— a quicker passage by nearly four
months than the previous one.. Obedient to his instructions,
the captain soon went on a cruise up the coast, passing along
the east side of Washington's Islands (Queen Charlotte's) and
exploring the numerous channels and harbors of that picturesque but lonely region.
On the 12th of August he had the great misfortune to lose
three of his men — Caswell, Barnes, and Folger — who were
cruelly massacred by the savages at a short distance from the
ship in the jolly-boat. He succeeded in recovering the boat
and the body of Caswell, which he took over to Port Tempest
and buried with fitting solemnity. It was a sad day for the
"Columbia's" crew. They named the spot Massacre Cove,
and the headland near by Murderers' Cape.
Another instance of the treacherous character of the natives
occurred while Captain Kendrick was trading with the " Washington " in this same region. Knowing their pilfering habits,
he took care to keep all portable articles out of sight when
they were around ; and he had a rule that more than two of
them should never be allowed on board at once. He kept a
large chest of arms on deck, near the companion-way, and
wore a brace of pistols and a long knife conspicuously in his
belt; and then he would fire a gun to let the Indians know
that he was ready to trade. On this occasion they did not
seem disposed to come any nearer; and so he went into the
cabin, to talk with his clerk. While there, he suddenly heard
a native laugh on deck. He sprang up, and found a whole
row of them crouching all around the sides of the vessel.
Turning to the arms-chest, he saw the key was gone, and at
once demanded it of the nearest Indian, who said in reply,
"The key is mine, and the ship is mine, too!" Kendrick,
without further ceremony, seized the fellow and pitched him
overboard. A moment more, and the whole set had disappeared. They all jumped into the water without waiting for
the captain's assistance.
It was near this shore, also, while cruising in the " Washington," that Kendrick's son Solomon was killed by the natives.
The father demanded redress of the chief, who denied all
knowledge of the deed. Meanwhile Kendrick's men found
the son's scalp with its curly sandy hair, and there was no
124 13
mistake abou*- its identity. The chief relented, and gave up
the murderer to Kendrick, who, in his indignation, was
prompted to shoot him on the spot. But pausing a moment,
the captain wisely concluded that the future safety of white
men would be better promoted by a different course. He,
therefore, handed over the culprit to be punished by the
chief in the presence of a large assembly of his tribe. There
was a well-known song, commemorating this event, quite popular with sailors. It was afterward printed, and bore the title
"The Bold Nor'westman." It gave very pathetically the story
of the murder and of the father's grief.    The first lines were,—
" Come, all ye noble seamen,
Who plough the raging main."
After the burial of Caswell the " Columbia" sailed around
to the north side of Washington's Islands, and found a fine
navigable stream, which they called Hancock's River. The
native name was Masset, which it still bears. Here they were
glad to meet the Boston brig " Hancock," Captain Crowell,
with later news from home.
Returning to Clayoquot, they found Kendrick in the harbor,
and gave him three cheers. He told them that after the tedious
sale of his skins at Macao he began to make the sloop into a
brig. This took so much time that he lost the season on the
coast, and stayed at Lark's Bay till the spring of '91, when he
sailed in company with Douglas and touched at Japan, and was
the first man to unfurl the American flag in that land. He
sought to open a trade, but was ordered off, as might have
been expected, had he known the rigidly exclusive policy of the
Japan of that time. Kendrick had called at Nootka, where, he
said, the Spaniards treated him kindly, and sent him daily supplies of " greens and salads." He had come down to Clayoquot
to haul up the " Lady Washington," now a brigantine, to grave
at a place which he had fortified and named Fort Washington.
During this sojourn, Kendrick purchased of the principal
chiefs several large tracts of land, for which he paid mostly in
arms and ammunition. The lands were taken possession of
with much ceremony, the United States flag hoisted, and a
bottle sunk in the ground. Kendrick sailed for China, September 29, taking with him the deeds, which were duly registered, it was said, at the consulate in Canton. Duplicate
copies were prepared, one of which was sent to Jefferson and
12.5 14
filed in the State Department at Washington. The originals
were signed bj^the chiefs (as documents are signed by people
who can only make their " mark "), and witnessed by several
of the officers and crew of the vessel. These deeds ran somewhat as follows: —
In consideration of six muskets, a boat's sail, a quantity of powder,
and an American flag (they being articles which we at present stand in need
of, and are of great value) we do bargain, grant, and sell unto John Kendrick of Boston, a certain harborinsaid Ahasset, in which the brig " Washington" lay at anchor on the 5th of August, 1791, Latitude 490 50' . . .
with all the lands, mines, minerals, rivers, bays, harbors, sounds, creeks,
and all islands . . . with all the produce of land and sea being a territorial
distance of eighteen miles square ... to have and to hold, etc.
The names of some of the signing chiefs were Maquinna,
Wicananish, Narry Yonk, and Tarrasone.
It was Captain Gray's intention to go into winter quarters at
Naspatee, in Bulfinch Sound, and he hastened that way; but,
being thwarted by contrary winds, they put in at Clayoquot,
and, finding excellent timber for the construction of the proposed sloop, he decided to remain there. The ship was made
as snug as possible in a well-sheltered harbor, which they
called Adventure Cove. The sails were unbent, the topgallant,
topmasts, and yards were unrigged and stowed below. A space
was cleared on shore, and a log-house built, the crew all working with a will. One party went out cutting plank, another
to shoot deer and geese. The carpenters soon put up a very
substantial building to accommodate a force of ten men, containing a chimney, forge, workshop, storeroom, and sleeping-
bunks. It served, also, the purpose of a fort, having two
cannon mounted outside and one inside through a porthole.
All around there were loopholes for small arms.
This they called Fort Defence, and here they lived like
civilized and Christian men. The log reports: " On Sunday
all hands at rest from their labors. Performed divine service."
The keel of the sloop was soon laid, and the work went
bravely forward. The sketch of this scene shows Captain
Gray conferring with Mr. Yendell about the plan of the
The days grew short and cold, the sun being much obscured
by the tall forest trees all around them. Some of the men
were taken ill with colds and rheumatic pains, and had to be
126 15
removed aboard ship. The natives of the adjoining tribe became quite familiar. The chiefs and their wives visited the
fort and the ship almost every day, coming across the bay in
their canoes. The common Indians were not allowed to land,
a sentinel being always on guard, night and day. Captain
Gray was disposed to be very kind to the natives. He often
visited their villages, carrying drugs, rice, bread, and molasses for their sick people. Going one day with his clerk,
Hoskins, they persuaded a woman to have her face washed,
when it appeared that she had quite a fair complexion of red
and white, and "one of the most delightful countenances,"
says Hoskins, " that my eyes ever beheld. She was indeed a
perfect beauty!" She got into her canoe, and soon after returned with her face as dirty as ever. She had been laughed
at by her companions for having it washed. It was a common
practice among some of the tribes for both sexes to slit the
under lip and wear in it a plug of bone or wood, fitted with
holes from which they hung beads.
On the 18th of February, several chiefs came over as usual,
among them Tototeescosettle. Alas for poor human nature!
he was detected stealing the boatswain's jacket. Soon after
he had gone, Attoo, the Hawaiian lad, informed the captain
of a deep-laid plot to capture the ship. The natives, he said,
had promised to make him a great chief if he would wet the
ship's fire-arms and give them a lot of musket-balls. They
were planning to come through the woods and board the ship
from the high bank near by, and kill every man on board except Attoo. Gray's excitement can be easily imagined. All
his heavy guns were on shore; but he ordered the swivels
loaded at once, and the ship to be removed away from the
bank. Haswell put the fort in a good state of defence, reloaded all the cannon, and had the small arms put in order.
The ship's people were ordered aboard. At dead of night the
war-whoop was heard in the forest. The savages had stealthily
assembled by hundreds; but, finding their plan frustrated, they
reluctantly went away. On the 23d of February the sloop
was launched, and taken alongside the " Columbia." She was
named the " Adventure," and reckoned at 44 tons. Upon
receiving her cargo and stores, she was sent northward on a
cruise under Haswell. She was the second vessel ever built
on the coast, and proved to be a good seaboat, and could even
outsail the " Columbia."
127 i6
Gray soon after took his ship on a cruise which was destined
to be the most important of all,— one that will be remembered
as long as the United States exist. On the 29th of April, 1792,
he fell in with Vancouver, who had been sent out from England
with three vessels of the Royal Navy as commissioner to execute
the provisions of the Nootka Treaty, and to explore the coast.
Vancouver said he had made no discoveries as yet, and inquired if Gray had made any. The Yankee captain replied
that he had; that in latitude 46° 10' he had recently been off
the mouth of a river which for nine days he tried to enter, but
the outset was so strong as to prevent. He was going to try it
again, however. Vancouver said this must have been the opening passed by him two days before, which he thought might be
"a small river," inaccessible on account of the breakers extending across it, the land behind not indicating it to be of any
great extent. " Not considering this opening worthy of more
attention," wrote Vancouver in his journal, "I continued our
pursuit to the northwest." What a turn in the tide of
events was that! Had the British navigator really seen the
river, it would certainly have had another name and another
Gray continued his "pursuit" to the southeast, whither the
star of his destiny was directing him. On the 7th of May he
saw an entrance in latitude 46 ° 58'"which had a very good
appearance of a harbor " ; and, observing from the masthead a
passage between the sand bars, he bore away and ran in. This
he called Bulfinch Harbor, though it was very soon after called,
as a deserved compliment to him, Gray's Harbor,— the name
which it still bears. Here he was attacked by the natives, and
obliged in self-defence to fire upon them with serious results.
Davidson's drawing gives a weird view of the scene.
On the evening of May 10 Gray resumed his course to the
south; and at daybreak, on the nth, he saw "the entrance of
his desired port " a long way off. As he drew near about eight
o'clock, he bore away with all sails set, and ran in between the
breakers. To his great delight he found himself in a large river
of fresh water, up which he steered ten miles. There were
Indian villages at intervals along the banks, and many canoes
came out to inspect the strange visitor.
The ship came to anchor at one o'clock in ten fathoms of
water, half a mile from the northern shore and two miles and
a half from the southern, the river being three or four miles
128 17
wide all the way along. Here they remained three days busily
trading and taking in water.
On the 14th he stood up the river some fifteen miles farther,
" and doubted not it was navigable upwards of a hundred."
He found the channel on that side, however, so very narrow
and crooked that the ship grounded on the sandy bottom; but
they backed off without difficulty. The jolly-boat was sent out
to sound the channel, but, finding it still shallow, Gray decided
to return ; and on the 15th he dropped down with the tide, going ashore with his clerk "to take a short view of the country."
On the 16th he anchored off the village of Chenook,
whose population turned out in great numbers. The next
day the ship was painted, and all hands were busily at work.
On the 19th they landed near the mouth of the river, and formally named it, after the ship, the Columbia, raising the
American flag and planting coins under a large pine-tree, thus
taking possession in the name of the United States. The conspicuous headland was named Cape Hancock, and the low
sandspit opposite, Point Adams.
The writer is well aware that the word " discovery " may be
taken in different senses. When it is claimed that Captain
Gray discovered this river, the meaning is that he was the first
white man to cross its bar and sail up its broad expanse, and
give it a name. Undoubtedly, Carver — to whom the word
"Oregon" is traced — may have heard of the river in 1767
from the Indians in the Rocky Mountains; and Heceta, in
1775, was near enough to its mouth to believe in its existence;
and Meares, in 1788, named Cape Disappointment and Deception Bay. But none of these can be properly said to have
discovered the river. Certainly, Meares, whose claim England
maintained so long, showed by the very names he gave to the
cape and the " bay " that he was, after all, deceived about it;
and he gives no suggestion of the river on his map. D Aguilar
was credited with finding a great river as far back as 1603;
but, according to his latitude, it was not this river; and, even
if it was, there is no evidence that he entered it.
The honor of discovery must practically rest with Gray. His
was the first ship to cleave its waters ; his, the first chart ever
made of its shores ; his, the first landing ever effected there by
a civilized man ; and the name he gave it has been universally
accepted. The flag which he there threw to the breeze was the
first ensign of any nation that ever waved over those unexplored
129 i8
banks. And the ceremony of occupation, under such circumstances, was something more than a holiday pastime. It was
a serious act, performed in sober earnest, and reported to the
world as soon as possible.
And when we remember that as a result of this came the
Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-5, an<^ the settlement
at Astoria in 18n,— to say nothing of our diplomatic acquisition of the old Spanish rights,— then we may safely say that the
title of the United States to the Columbia River and its tributaries becomes incontestable. Such was the outcome of the
"Oregon Question" in 1846.
On leaving the river, May 20, the " Columbia " sailed up to
Naspatee, where she was obliged to use her guns to check a
hostile demonstration of the savages. And soon after, in going
up Pintard's Sound, she was again formidably attacked by war
canoes, and obliged to open fire upon them with serious results.
In a cruise soon after, the ship struck on a rock and was so
badly injured that she returned to Naspatee and underwent
some repairs and then sailed for Nootka, and on July 23 reported her condition to the governor, Don Quadra, who generously offered every assistance, allowed them his storehouses
for their cargo, gave up the second-best house in the settlement
for the use of Captain Gray and his clerk, and insisted upon
having their company at his own sumptuous table at every
meal. Such politeness was, of course, very agreeable to the
weary voyagers, and was held in such grateful remembrance in
subsequent years that Captain Gray named his first-born child,
Robert Don Quadra Gray, for the governor as well as himself.
It was during this visit that Gray and Ingraham wrote their
joint letter to the governor, which was often quoted in the
course of the Anglo-Spanish negoiations. In September
Gray sold the little sloop " Adventure " to Quadra for seventy-
five sea-otter skins of the best quality, and transferred her officers and crew to the " Columbia."
As he sailed away, he saluted the Spanish flag with thirteen
guns, and shaped his course for China. As the season was
late and the winds unfavorable, he abandoned the project of
visiting Japan, which the owners had recommended. Great
was the joy of the crew when they found themselves homeward
bound. They had an easy run to the Sandwich Islands, where
they took in a supply of provisions and fruit, sailing again No-
L. 19
vember 3, and reaching Macao Roads December 7, in a somewhat leaky condition. The skins were sent up to Canton, and
the ship was repaired near Whampoa, and duly freighted with
tea, sugar, chinaware, and curios.
On the 3d of February the " Columbia " set sail for Boston.
While at anchor, near Bocca Tigris, her cable was cut by the
Chinese, and she drifted slowly ashore, almost unobserved by
the officer of the watch. This proved to be the last of her
tribulations, as it was also one of the least. In the Straits of
Sunda they met a British fleet escorting Lord Macartney, the
ambassador, to Pekin, for whom Captain Gray took despatches
as far as St. Helena.
At last, after all her wanderings, the good ship reached Boston, July 29, 1793, and received another hearty welcome. Although the expectations of the owners were not realized, one
of them wrote "she has made a saving voyage and some
prcfit." But in the popular mind the discovery of the great
river was sufficient " profit " for any vessel; and this alone will
immortalize the owners as well as the ship and her captain, far
more, indeed, than furs or teas or gold could have done.
It remains only to add that in a few years the ship was worn
out and taken to pieces, and soon her chief officers all passed
away. Kendrick never returned to America. After opening a
trade in sandal-wood, he was accidentally killed at the Hawaiian
Islands, and the " Lady Washington " was soon after lost in the
Straits of Malacca. His Nootka lands never brought anything
to the captain or his descendants or to the owners of the ship.
In fact, the title was never confirmed. Gray commanded several vessels after this, but died in 1806 at Charleston, S.C.
Ingraham became an officer in our navy, but went down with
the ill-fated brig " Pickering " in 1800. The same year Davidson was lost on the " Rover" in the Pacific. Haswell sailed
for the last time in 1801, and was also lost on the return voyage.
Their names, however, will always be associated with the
ship they served so well; and, as long as the broad "river of
the West" flows on in its course, so long will the " Columbia "
be gratefully remembered by the people of America. This
[1892] is the year of Oregon's first Centennial, and the enthusiasm it has awakened clearly shows that the highest honor on
that coast will hereafter be given to the heroic discoverers who
prepared the way for the pioneers and settlers, and thus added
a fine group of States to our federal Union,
m 20
Extract from the second Volume of the Log-book of the Ship Columbia,
of Boston, commanded by Roberi Gray, containing the Account of
her Entrance into the Columbia River, in May, 1792.*
May ith, 1792, A.M.— Being within six miles of the land, saw an
entrance in the same, which had a very good appearance of a harbor;
lowered away the jolly-boat, and went in search of an anchoring-
place, the ship standing to and fro, with a very strong weather current. At one P.M., the boat returned, having found no place where
the ship could anchor with safety; made sail on the ship; stood in
for the shore. We soon saw, from our mast-head, a passage in
between the sand-bars. At half-past three, bore away, and ran in
north-east by east, having from four to eight fathoms, sandy bottom;
and, as we drew in nearer between the bars, had from ten to thirteen
fathoms, having a very strong tide of ebb to stem. Many canoes
came alongside. At five P.M., came to in five fathoms water,
sandy bottom with a safe harbor, well sheltered .from the sea by
long sand-bars and spits. Our latitude observed this day was 46
degrees 58 minutes north.
May 10th.— Fresh breezes and pleasant weather; many natives
alongside; at noon, all the canoes left us. At one P.M., began to
unmoor, took up the best bower-anchor, and hove short on the small
bower-anchor. At half-past four (being high water), hove up the
anchor, and came to sail and a beating down the harbor.
May llth.— At half-past seven, we were out clear of the bars,
and directed our course to the southward, along shore. At eight
P.M., the entrance of Bulfinch's Harbor bore north, distance four
miles; the southern extremity of the land bore south-south-east half
east, and the northern north-north-west; sent up the main-top-gallant-
yard, and set all sail. At four A.M., saw the entrance of our desired port bearing east-south-east, distance six leagues; in steering
sails, and hauled our wind in shore. At eight A.M., being a little
to windward of the entrance of the Harbor, bore away, and run in
east-north-east between the breakers, having from five to seven
fathoms of water. When we were over the bar, we found this to
be a large river of fresh water, up which we steered. Many canoes
came alongside. At one P.M., came to with the small bower, in
ten fathoms, black and white sand. The entrance between the bars
bore west-south-west, distant ten miles ; the north side of the river a
half mile distant from the ship; the south side of the same two and
a half miles' distance; a village on the north side of the river west
by north, distant three quarters of a mile.    Vast numbers of natives
*This extract was made in 1816, by Charles Bulfinch, of Boston, one of the owners of
the Columbia, from the secondvolume of the log-book, which was then in the possession of
Captain Gray's heirs, but has since disappeared. It has been frequently published, accom-
panied by the affidavit of Mr. Bulfinch to its exactness. It is reprinted here from Greenhow's
History of Oregon.
132 21
came alongside; people employed in pumping the salt water out of
our water casks, in order to fill with fresh, while the ship floated in.
So ends.
May 12th.— Many natives alongside; noon, fresh wind; let go
the best bower-anchor, and veered out on both cables; sent down
the main-top-gallant-yard; filled up all the water-casks in the hold.
The latter part, heavy gales, and rainy, dirty weather.
May 13th.— Fresh winds and rainy weather; many natives alongside ; hove up the best bower-anchor; seamen and tradesmen at
their various departments.
May 16,th.— Fresh gales and cloudy ; many natives alongside; at
noon, weighed and came to sail, standing up the river north-east by
east; we found the channel very narrow. At four P.M., we had
sailed upwards of twelve or fifteen miles, when the channel was so
very narrow that it was almost impossible to keep in it, having from
three to eighteen fathoms water, sandy bottom. At half-past four,
the ship took ground, but she did not stay long before she came off,
without any assistance. We backed her off, stern foremost, into
three fathoms, and let go the small bower, and moored ship with
kedge and hawser. The jolly-boat was sent to sound the channel
out, but found it not navigable any farther up; so, of course, we
must have taken the wrong channel. So ends, with rainy weather;
many natives alongside.
May \t,fh.— Light airs and pleasant weather; many natives from
different tribes came alongside. At ten A.M., unmoored and
dropped down with the tide to a better anchoring-place; smiths and
other tradesmen constantly employed. In the afternoon, Captain
Gray and Mr. Hoskins, in the jolly-boat, went on shore to take a
short view of the country.
May 16th.— Light airs and cloudy. At four A.M., hove up the
anchor and towed down about three miles, with the last of the ebbtide ; came into six fathoms, sandy bottom, the jolly-boat sounding
the channel. At ten A.M., a fresh breeze came up river. With
the first of the ebb-tide we got under way, and beat down river. At
one (from its being very squally) we came to, about two miles from
the village {Chinouk), which bore west-south-west; many natives
alongside ; fresh gales and squally.
May ijlh.— Fresh winds and squally; many canoes alongside;
calkers calking the pinnace; seamen paying the ship's sides with
tar; painter painting ship; smiths and carpenters at their departments.
May iSth.— Pleasant weather. At four in the morning, began to
heave ahead; at half-past, came to sail, standing down river with
the ebb-tide; at seven (being slack water and the wind fluttering,)
we came to in five fathoms, sandy bottom; the entrance between the
bars bore south-west by west, distant three miles.    The north point
T33 22
of the harbor bore north-west, distant two miles; the south bore
south-east, distant three and a half miles. At nine, a breeze sprung
up from the eastward; took up the anchor and came to sail, but the
wind soon came fluttering again; came to with the kedge and
hawser ; veered out fifty fathoms. Noon, pleasant. Latitude observed, 46 degrees 17 minutes north. At one came to sail with the
first of the ebb-tide, and drifted down broadside, with light airs and
strong tide; at three-quarters past, a fresh wind came from the
northward; wore ship, and stood into the river again. At four,
came to in six fathoms; good holding-ground about six or seven
miles up ; many canoes alongside.
May igth.— Fresh wind and clear weather. Early a number of
canoes came alongside; seamen and tradesmen employed in their
various departments. Captain Gray gave this river the name of
Columbia's River, and the north side of the entrance Cape Hancock;
the south, Adams's Point.
May 2.0th. — Gentle breezes and pleasant weather. At one P.M.
(being full sea), took up the anchor, and made sail, standing down
river. At two, the wind left us, we being on the bar with a very
strong tide, which set on the breakers; it was now not possible to
get out without a breeze to shoot her across the tide; so we were
obliged to bring up in three and a half fathoms, the tide running five
knots. At three-quarters past two, a fresh wind came in from seaward ; we immediately came to sail, and beat over the bar, having
from five to seven fathoms water in the channel. At five P.M., we
were out, clear of all the bars, and in twenty fathoms water. A
breeze came from the southward; we bore away to the northward;
set all sail to the best advantage. At eight, Cape Hancock bore
south-east, distant three leagues ; the north extremity of the land in
sight bore north by west. At nine, in steering and top-gallant sails.
Midnight, light airs.
May list.— At six A.M., the nearest land in sight bore east-
south-east, distant eight leagues. At seven, set top-gallant-sails and
light stay-sails. At eleven, set steering-sails fore and aft. Noon,
pleasant, agreeable weather. The entrance of Bulfinch's Harbor
bore south-east by east half east, distant five leagues.
Captain Robert Gray's Sea Letter.
" To all Emperors, Kings, Sovereign princes, Slate and Regents and
to their respective officers, civil and military and to all others
whom it may concern.
" I, George Washington, President of the United States of America do make known that Robert Gray, Captain of a ship called the
Columbia, of the  burden  of  about   230 tons, is  a  citizen of  the
United States and that the said ship which he commands belongs
*34 23
to the citizens of the United States; and as I wish that the said
Robert Gray may prosper in his lawful affairs, I do request all the
before mentioned, and of each of them separately, when the said Robert Gray shall arrive with his vessel and cargo, that they will be
pleased to receive him with kindness and treat him in a becoming
manner &c. and thereby I shall consider myself obliged.
" September 16, 1790 — New York City
[Seal U. S.]
" Geo. Washington,
"Thomas Jefferson,
" Secy, of State.'1''
" When in 1826 the rights of the United States in regard to Oregon were formulated and made the subject of consideration by plenipotentiaries on the parts of Great Britain and the United States,
the claims of the latter were urged on three grounds, the most important or first being from their own proper right, which was founded
on Gray's discovery of the Columbia River. If Vancouver had
discovered the Columbia prior to Gray, it is impossible to say what
complications and results would have arisen in connection with the
extension and development of the United States. It is therefore a
source of endless gratification that Captain Robert Gray, by his
courage, enterprise and seamanship, in discovering and entering
the Columbia, ultimately secured to the United States this fertile
territory, almost twice as extensive in area as Great Britain. With
its six hundred and sixty thousand of inhabitants [1893], its great
cities, its enormous accumulations of wealth, the young empire
added to the United States through Robert Gray is fast shaping into
substance the golden visions of the enthusiastic Kendrick."— General A. W. Greely.
Rev. Edward G. Porter, for so many years the warm friend of the Old South Work, an
indefatigable worker in many fields of American history, and especially in whatever related
to the history of Boston, gave us in the paper here reprinted the best connected account of
the important event which so closely links Boston and New England, the extreme northeast
of the country, with its extreme northwest. It was with the expeditions of Kendrick and
Gray that " the ' Bostons' came into rivalry with the ' King George men' as explorers and
traders" on the Oregon coast. Much information concerning these expeditions, with full
references to original authorities, may be found in Bancroft's History of the Pacific States,
vol. xxii. 185-264. Bancroft had in his hands and frequently quotes manuscript narratives
of the two voyages by Haswell, "given me hy Captain Harwell's daughter, Mrs, John J. q.
Clarke, of Roxbury, Mass." The'first diary (65 pages) covers 1788-89 ; the second,' 1791-92.'
Of the latter Bancroft says : " It is a document of great interest and value, and includes a
number of charts.   The original contains also views of several places, the author having
!35 24
much skill with the pencil."    Several of Haswell's drawings were reproduced in connection
with Mr. Porter's paper when it originally appeared.
The letter of Gray and Ingraham to the Spanish commandant, written at Nootka Sound,
Aug. 3, 1792, referred to in the leaflet, is printed in the appendix to Greenhow's History of
Oregon and California, which contains much besides of value in the general connection.
W. tL Gray's History of Oregon begins with an account of Captain Gray's discovery.
There are various histories of Oregon by Dunn, Thornton, Hines, Twiss, Wilkes, and
others. The most interesting is that by William Barrows, in the American Commonwealths
Series. The chapter on " The Claims of the United States to Oregon " deals specifically
with the subject of the leaflet. The list of authorities given by Barrows is very full; and in
this connection reference should be made to W. E. Foster's " Bibliography of Oregon," in
the Magazine of American History, vii. 461. The first chapter of Bulfinch's " Oregon
and Eldorado" is a description of Gray's voyage: the second chapter is upon Lewis and
Clark's expedition. There is a capital chapter on Gray, in General A. W. Greely's " Explorers and Travellers," also followed by one on Lewis and Clark. Irving's " Astoria" is
well known. T. J. Farnham's History of Oregon Territory (1844) is "a demonstration
of the title of the United States to the same." Captain Gray's discovery naturally plays an
important part in this, as also in W. A. Mowry's pamphlet on " Our Title to Oregon." Mr.
Mowry has taken prominent part in the controversy as to the extent of Marcus Whitman's
services in "saving Oregon," in which Nixon, Marshall, Bourne, and others have participated. Full references relating to the Oregon boundary disputes may be found in Chanring
and Hart's " Guide to American History."
Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.


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