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The quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society. Volume XIV. Oregon Historical Society 1913

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Array  -     THE QUARTERLY
Oregon Historical Society
Volume XIV
MARCH 1913
Copyright, 1913, by Oregon Historical Society
The Quarterly disavows responsibility for the positions taken by contributors to its page*
LIEUTENANT NEIL M. HOWISON—Report on Oregon, 1846.
A Reprint     ir*:V\^KT^-^^^^/-*^^^^^P^^- 1-60
THOMAS W. PROSCH-^Oregon in 1863      i^^^&i?t - 6f*64.
HENRYC.COE—Father WUburitrIndian Agent, 1886 - ^§^ - 65-6?
DOCUMENTS—Cost of Improvements made by Dr. John McLoughlin at
Willamette Falls to January I, 1851    -ifp£v.^^^^^^^M 68-70
REVIEW—F.G.YOUNG—Coman's Economic Beginnings of the Far West 71-79 •
k; -- 'antered at the post office at Portland, Oregon, as second-class matter  / IbfO
MARCH. 1913-DECEMBER. 1913
Edited by
Portland, Oregon
Folk Festival, Why Not, in Rose Festival?
By F. G. Young 315-317
Gray, Captain William P., Reminiscences of
By Fred Lockley 321-354
Oregon in 1863
By Thomas W. Prosch     61-64
Osborn, Burr, Survivor of Howison Expedition to Oregon
IN  1846
By George H. Himes 355-365
Scott, Harvey W.
—Review of Half-Century Carreer of, as Editor, and Estimate
of His Work
By Alfred Holman  87-133
—Outline of Events in Life of        133
—Extensive Library as Gauge of His Broad Scholarship and
Literary Activity
By Charles H. Chapman 134-139
—Review of Writings of, on Favorite and Most Important
By Leslie M. Scott 140-204
—Verses Contributed on Occasion of Death of
By Dean Collins and Wm. P. Perkins 139, 205
—Tribute to, From Contemporary Editors Throughout United
States on Fame in Journalism 206-210
Wilbur, Father, as Indian Agent, 1886
By Henry C. Coe     65-67
Howison, Lieutenant  Neil  M.,  Report  on  Oregon,   1846.
A Reprint  ^      1-60
Lownsdale, Daniel H., Letter of, to Samuel R. Thurston.
Introduction by Clarence B. Bagley 213-249
McLoughlin, Dr. John, Cost of Improvements Made by, at
Willamette Falls, to January 1, 1851    68-70
Ross, Alexander, Journal of, on Snake Country Expedition,
1824.   Editorial Notes by T. C. Elliott 366-388
Smith, E. Willard, Journal of, With Fur Traders, Vasquez
and Sublette, 1839-41. Contributor's Note by J. Neil-
son Barry  250-279
Work, John, Journal of, on Snake Country Expedition,
1830-31. Second Half—Editorial Notes by T. C. Elliott..281-314
Coman's Economic Beginnings of the Far West
By F. G. Young     71-79
Bagley, Clarence B., Introduction to Lownsdale Letter     215-7
Barry, J. Neilson, Contributor's Note to Journal of E. Willard
Smith,  1839-40            250
Chapman, Charles H., Harvey W. Scotfs Extensive Library as
a Gauge of His Broad Scholarship and Literary Activity   134-9
Coe, Henry C, Father Wilbur as Indian Agent, 1886      65-7
Collins, Dean, Harvey W. Scott.   A Poem        139
Elliott,  T.   C,  Editor of Journal of John   Work  on  Snake
Country Expedition, 1830-31 281-314
—Editor of Journal of Alexander Ross on Snake Country
Expedition, 1824   366-388
Himes, Geo. H., Burr Osborn, Survivor of Howison Expedition
to  Oregon in 1846  355-65
Holman, Alfred, Review of Harvey W. Scott's Half-Century
Career as Editor, and Estimate of His Work .... 87-133
Lockley, Fred, Reminiscences of Captain William P. Gray ,..321-354
Perkins, William P., Harvey W. Scott.  A Poem        205
Prosch, Thomas W., Oregon in 1863     61-64
Scott, Leslie M.,
—Review of the Writings of Harvey W. Scott on Favorite
and Most Important Topics 140-204
—Outline of Events in Life of Harvey W. Scott        133
Young, F. G., Why Not a Folk Festival in the Rose Festival f.. .315-317 THE QUARTERLY
Oregon Historical Society
Volume XIV
MARCH 1913
Copyright, 1913, by Oregon Historical Society
The Quarterly disavows responsibility (or the positions taken by contributors to its pages
Lieutenant Howison was early in 1846 detailed by Commodore Sloat of the Pacific squadron of the United States Navy,
then on this Coast, to make an examination of the situation in
Oregon. This order was given at the instance of George
Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy, and the expedition had probably been resolved upon by the administration at Washington. During the months of April, May and most of June
his vessel, the schooner Shark, was undergoing repairs in the
Sandwich Islands in preparation for the trip. Howison entered the Columbia on July 1, conducted his investigations and
prepared, in compliance with his orders, to return about September 1. He suffered shipwreck in crossing the Columbia
bar on September 10. Chartering the Cadboro from the Hudson's Bay Company officials he was ready to sail November 1,
but was compelled by unfavorable weather to remain anchored
in Baker's Bay until January 18.
His disastrous experience in the total loss of his vessel, and
the difficulties he contended with throughout his course in navigating the Columbia naturally made him emphasize the conditions affecting the channels and passableness of that river. He
revised Captain Wilkes' sailing directions for entering the Columbia. Changes in the channels in the intervening five years
had made this revision necessary. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
It will be noticed that as he was preparing to embark on the
Cadboro in early November in 1846, homeward bound, the
American barque Toulon arrived from the Sandwich Islands
with the "news of the Oregon treaty, Mexican war, and occupation of California." He had taken his observations of conditions in Oregon near the close of that long period of suspense
over the unsettled ownership of the country. He had seen
"all settled spots on the Columbia below the Cascades, the
Wilhammette valley for sixty miles above Oregon City, and
the Twality and Clatsop plains." He confines his/ report to
subjects his "own observations or verbal inquiries from authentic sources could reach."
He begins with a characterization of the attractive personality of Dr. McLoughlin, and gives an appreciative estimate of
his able and sagacious administration of the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company down to 1845, and of his large service to
the community as a whole. The attitudes taken toward him by
the different elements in the Oregon community are not withheld. The classes in the composition of the population of Oregon in the middle of the forties are described, particularly the
situation in which the American immigrants found themselves
after completing their long treks across the continent.
The Hudson's Bay Company dominated the affairs in the
settlement. The benevolence, the steadiness and the far-
sighted character of the policy of the managers of that concern
elicited his commendation.
Lieutenant Howison's report supplies very definite information on the trade, shipping, productions, towns, Indian population and general development of Oregon at this stage. He
forecasts with wonderful clearness the factors that have been
controlling influences in its growth ever since. The document
is a fit companion of the reports of Slacum and of Wilkes.
These are found in Volume XIII, pp. 175-224, and in volume
XII, pp. 269-299, respectively, of the Quarterly. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846       3
30th Congress,     [HOUSE OF REPS.]      Miscellaneous
1st Session. No. 29.
The result of cm examination in the year 1846 of the coast, harbors, rivers, soil, productions, climate and population of the Territory of Oregon.
February 29, 1848.
U. S. Frigate Savannah,
San Francisco, California, February 1, 1847.
Sir: Want of opportunity has prevented me from communicating with the commander-in-chief of the squadron since the
month of June last.
I shall therefore do myself the honor on this occasion to
report in detail my proceedings since that date, premising that
the much regretted shipwreck of the vessel I commanded, with
the loss of her log-book and all my papers, obliges me to draw
upon memory for what is now respectfully submitted.
In obedience to orders from Commodore Sloat, then commanding the Pacific squadron, I took the United States
schooner "Shark" last Ajwil to the Sandwich islands, where she
was thoroughly repaired and newly coppered. With my best
exertions, this was not completed until the 23d of June, on the
afternoon of which day I sailed for the Columbia river. Nothing more than usual occurred on this voyage. Made the land
of Oregon on the 15th of July, about thirty miles north of the 4       Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
river, and in expectation of northwesterly winds; but we had
calms and light westerly winds for the succeeding three days)
which obliged me frequently to anchor on the coast, and await
a change of tide, the direction of the flood being directly on
shore, and the soundings shoal; in some places only ten fathoms
seven or eight miles from the land.
About 10 o'clock a. m., of July 18, I anchored in ten fathoms, Cape Disappointment bearing NE. by N., distant
five miles. Several guns were fired and signals made for a
pilot; but seeing no one moving about the shore, on either side
of the river, I took the master with me in the whale-boat, and
pulled in the channel, between the breakers, sounding in no
less than four fathoms, and passing sufficiently far in to recognise the landmarks on the north shore, described in Wilkes's
sailing directions.
Here it is proper to mention, that while at the Sandwich
islands I met with Captain Mott, master of the Hudson's Bay
Company's barque Vancouver, and Captain Crosby, master of
the American barque Toulon, both of whom had lately been
in the Columbia river. I was informed by those persons that
the sands about the mouth of the Columbia had undergone
great changes within a short time past, and that a spit had
formed out to the eastward from the spot upon which the Peacock was wrecked in 1841, which made it impossible to enter
the river by the old marks, or those laid down on Wilkes's
chart. The receipt of this information was most opportune
and fortunate for me, as I had no other guide than a copy of a
copy, upon tracing paper, of Wilkes's chart, which was even
now, before its publication, out of date.
This new formation of Peacock spit, extending into the old
channel, greatly obstructed this already embarrassing navigation, and those most experienced undertook to cross the bar
with apprehension and dread. When, therefore, a seaman of
my crew, who had been wrecked in the "Peacock," reminded
me that this was the anniversary of her loss, I cannot deny that
I felt sensibly the weight of my responsibilities. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
Having, however, traced the channel in my whale-boat
through the tumult of various tide rips, and the way seeming
clear, I returned on board the schooner, and at 2 p. m. got
under way and stood in ENE. With the wind at west, weather
clear, and tide young flood, we glided rapidly and safely into
Baker's bay; and to those who were unacquainted with the
dangers which closely and imperceptibly beset our passage in,
nothing appeared more simple and free from danger. Upon
rounding Cape Disappointment, a boat came alongside with
three American gentlemen in her, who introduced themselves
as Mr. Lovejoy, the mayor of Oregon city, Mr. Spalding, a
missionary, and Mr. Gray, a resident of Clatsop Plains. From
these I learned that no regular pilots were to be had for the
river, but that there was a black man on shore who had been
living many years at the cape, was a sailor, and said, if sent
for he would come off and pilot us up to Astoria. He was accordingly brought on board, and spoke confidently of his
knowledge of the channel; said he had followed the sea twenty
years, and had been living here for the last six; that "I need
have no fear of him," &c. He ordered the helm put up, head
sheets aft, and yards braced, with an air that deceived me into
the belief that he was fully competent to conduct the vessel, and
he was put in charge of her. In twenty minutes he ran us
hard ashore on Chinook shoal, where we remained several
hours thumping severely. We got off about 10 p. m., without
having suffered any material damage, and anchored in the
channel, where I was determined to hold on until I could make
myself acquainted with the channel, or procure the services of
a person to be relied on. At daylight I was pleased to find Mr.
Lattee, formerly mate of a ship belonging to the Hudson's Bay
Company, and now in charge of the port at Astoria, on board.
Upon the vessel's grounding, the gentlemen visitors, feeling
themselves somewhat responsible for the employment of this
pretended pilot, immediately put off to Astoria, a distance of
ten miles, to procure the services of Lattee, who promptly complied with the request, and they all came back to the schooner
about daylight, having been all night exposed in an open boat. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
At 2 p. m. of the 19th, I anchored off Astoria, where I remained until the 22d, in order to visit Catsop Plains and the
neighboring country.
We were abundantly furnished by the American settlers
here with fresh beef and vegetables.
As I have said before, my only guide up the river was
Wilkes's chart, which extended about twenty-five miles, and
included part of Puget's island. In this a fine straight channel
is delineated from the neighborhood of Tongue point up to
Termination island. But upon consulting Lattee and an Indian named George, who acts as pilot in the upper part of the
river, they both denied the existence of this channel, and assured me that no other than the shallow and tortuous passage
which Captain Wilkes had himself always used, and which
was invariably used by all others, had been found out, although
George said he had often in his canoe, and at favorable times,
attempted to trace it as described by Captain Wilkes and his
officers. I nevertheless adhered to the opinion that such a
channel existed, but thought it best at present to follow the
beaten track, and accordingly buoyed out the common channel,
(which is necessarily done by every vessel attempting to pass
through it), and used that in proceeding up the river. I employed Indian George to accompany me, and derived great advantage from his knowledge of the water above Tongue Point
channel. He knows nothing about handling a vessel, but, with
a fair wind, will conduct her very safely, pointing out ahead
where the channel runs.
At this season of the year westerly winds blow every day,
and there is no difficulty in ascending the river.
I reached Fort Vancouver, 100 miles from its mouth, on the
night of July 24th, where I found H. B. M. sloop-of-war "Mo-
deste," Captain Baillie, who immediately sent on board his compliments and the offer of his services. There were also moored
to the river bank two barques and a ship in the employment of
the Hudson's Bay Company. The next morning Mr. Douglass,
chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, called on me with
polite offers of supplies, &c. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
On the 26th, I dropped down to the mouth of the Wilham-
mette, six miles below Vancouver, and made an effort to get
the schooner over the bar at the mouth of the river, with the
view of ascending it as far as navigable for sea-going vessels;
but having grounded on the bar, and the water having still
five or six feet to fall, I was obliged to desist from the attempt;
and sending off in a boat the first lieutenant and some other
officers to visit Oregon city, and the neighboring American
settlers, I returned with the schooner to Vancouver.
At this time we had not heard of the settlement of the boundary question, and intense excitement prevailed among all
classes of residents on this important subject. I enjoined it by
letter on the officers under my command to refrain from engaging in arguments touching the ownership of the soil, as it was
our duty rather to allay than increase excitement on a question
which no power hereabouts could settle.
The officers were also directed to seek all the information
respecting the country which their respective opportunities
might afford. Besides the sloop of war Modeste, anchored in
the river, the British government kept the frigate Fisguard
in Puget's sound, and the strongly armed steamer Cormorant
in the sound and about Vancouver's island. These unusual
demonstrations produced anything but a tranquilizing effect
upon the American portion of the population, and the presence
of the British flag was a constant source of irritation.
The English officers used every gentlemanly caution to reconcile our countrymen to their presence, but no really good
feelings existed. Indeed, there could never be congeniality between persons so entirely dissimilar as an American frontier
man and a British naval officer. But the officers never, to my
knowledge, had to complain of rude treatment. The English
residents calculated with great certainty upon the river being
adopted as the future dividing line, and looked with jealousy
upon the American advance into the northern portion of the
territory, which had some influence in restraining emigration. 8       Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
Finding it impossible to get the schooner into the Willhamette
river, I left her at Vancouver, and made a visit to Oregon city,
where I was received by the provisional governor, George
Abernethy, esq., and honored with a salute fired from a hole
drilled in the village blacksmith's anvil. From the city the governor accompanied me for a week's ride through the Willham-
mette valley, and a more lovely country nature has never provided for her virtuous sons and daughters than I here travelled
over. This excursion ended, the governor took a seat in my boat,
and accompanied me to Vancouver. He was received on board
the schooner with a salute and remained with me for two days.
I had previously dispatched the first lieutenant, Mr. W. S.
Schenck, up the Columbia river as high as the Dalles, to find
out what settlements had been made along its banks, and more
particularly to endeavor to gain some information of the large
emigration which was expected in from our western frontier
this autumn, and from which we should get dates from home
as late as June. In person I visited the Twality plains, and
returned again by the city and river.
The high price of mechanics' labor here, and facility with
which any one can earn a living, had tempted ten of the Shark's
crew to desert; and although a liberal reward was offered for
their apprehension, only two had been brought back. The few
American merchant vessels which had visited the Columbia
suffered the greatest inconvenience from the loss of their men
in this way, and it is now customary for them to procure a
reinforcement of Kanakas in passing the Sandwich islands, to
meet this exigency.
When Captain Wilkes left the river in 1841, he placed the
Peacock's launch, at that time a new and splendid boat, in
charge of Dr. McLaughlin, agent of the Hudson's Bay Company, to be used in assisting vessels about the bar, should they
need it. After this boat had remained a year in the water without being of any use, she was hauled up on shore, and was
now completely out of order from the effect of decay and
shrinkage. Many applications had been made for her by American emigrants, but Dr. McLaughlin did not feel authorized to Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
deliver her to any other than a United States officer. She was
fast going to pieces, and I thought it good policy to sell her
for the benefit of the government, particularly as the man who
purchased did so with the intention of repairing her, to be
used as a pilot boat; she brought $150. It would have required
as much more to repair her, and I was only anxious she should
sell for enough to make the purchaser take care of her and
keep her employed.
Being under orders to come out of the river by the 1st day of
September, my explorations were necessarily very limited, making the best use of our time. Many interesting portions of the
country were still unvisited, which I greatly regret; for although Captain Wilkes in 1841, and other travellers since,
have given very comprehensive descriptions of the country,
so rapid are the developments made of its productions and resources by the large annual emigration of inhabitants, that
a statistical account two years old may be considered out of
date. Preparations were, of course, made to comply fully with
The American barque Toulon, bound to the Sandwich islands, and now attempting to go down the river, had required
the services of the old Indian, who acted as pilot, which left
me entirely dependent on the lead, and a boat ahead, to feel
my way through a devious channel of nearly 100 miles in
extent. I had not, nor could I procure, a map giving even an
outline of the general direction of the stream. Thus unprovided, I left Fort Vancouver at daylight of August 23d. Three
or four miles below the fort, I found the barque Toulon badly
aground on a sand bar. I anchored abreast of her and sent
men and boats to her assistance, but the current was strong,
and it became necessary to unlade part of her cargo; so, nearly
three days were consumed in relieving her. This, and the subsequent tediousness of the voyage down against constant head
winds, made it the 8th of September when I anchored in
Baker's bay. The 9th was devoted to observations on the bar
and preparations for crossing it.    On the 10th, in the after- 10     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
noon, the attempt was made and resulted in the shipwreck
of the schooner, as is circumstantially related in my communication dated September 21st.
Cast on shore as we were, with nothing besides the clothes
we stood in, and those thoroughly saturated, no time was to be
lost in seeking new supplies. I left the crew, indifferently sheltered, at Astoria, and, with the purser in company, pushed up
the river to Vancouver, whither news of our disaster had
preceded us, and elicited the sympathy and prompt attentions
of the factors of the Hudson's Bay Company and of Captain
Baillie and the officers of her Britannic Majesty's ship "Mo-
deste." These gentlemen had unitedly loaded a launch with
such articles of clothing and necessary provisions as we were
most likely to need, and added a gratuitous offering of a bag
of coffee and 80 pounds of tobacco. I met this boat 25 miles
below the fort, and could not but feel extremely grateful for
this very friendly and considerate relief. Copies of the letters accompanying these supplies are appended to this report,
(marked A and B,) as well as an extract from one from
Governor Abernethy, and another of the same friendly tenor
from Captain Couch, an American trader at Oregon city, agent
of Mr. Cushing, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, (the last
marked C and D;) to all of which I made appropriate replies.
At Vancouver my wants of every kind were immediately
supplied by the Hudson's Bay Company; and although cash
was at Oregon city and with the American merchants worth
twelve per cent, more than bills, yet the company furnished all
my requisitions, whether for cash or clothing, taking bills on
Messrs. Baring & Brothers at par. Upon returning to Astoria,
I set about putting up log houses for our accommodation, as
there was no vessel in the river, and it was extremely uncertain when an opportunity would occur for us to leave. We
got two comfortable buildings, of 30 by 24 feet, a story and a
half high, well floored and boarded, with kitchen and bake oven,
soon ready for occupation and use, and had half completed a
frame house for the officers' special accommodation, when the Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     11
schooner "Cadboro" arrived, which opened a prospect of leaving the river, and induced us to desist from finishing the officers' house. The cost of plank for these buildings was something over two hundred dollars.
Officers and men had been constantly kept exploring the
beach from Point Adams to the southward, to pick up any '
articles worth saving which should drift ashore from the wreck,
but they seldom found a spar or plank from her which the
Indians had not already visited and robbed of its copper and
iron fastenings.
Receiving information through the Indians that part of the
hull, with guns upon it, had come ashore below Killimuk's
Head, about 20 or 30 miles south of Point Adams, I sent
Midshipman Simes, an enterprising youth, to visit the spot.
He did so, and reported that the deck between the mainmast
and fore hatch, with an equal length of the starboard broadside
planking above the wales, had been stranded, and that three
of the carronades adhered to this portion of the wreck. He
succeeded in getting one above high-water mark; but the other
two were inaccessible, on account of the surf; and as it would
have beeri utterly impracticable to transport any weighty object over the mountain road which it was necessary to traverse,
I of course made no exertions to recover them, but informed
the governor of their position, that during the smooth seas
of next summer he might send a boat round and embark
Within a month all the upper works, decks, sides and spars
came ashore from the wreck, but separated a distance of 75
miles from each other, and were of no value, from the long
wash and chafing which they had undergone. To the heel of
the bowsprit we found two kedge anchors attached, one with
an arm broken off; and it is a little singular that the only
articles recovered which could be at all useful hereafter were
of metal and weight.
On the 11th of October we were cheered with the sight of a
sail in the offing, and next day the Hudson's Bay Company's 12     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
schooner Cadboro, from Vancouver's island, anchored at Astoria. The first lieutenant, master, and assistant surgeon were
ordered to examine her, and report in writing her capacity
or fitness to transport us to California; and although she was
but 57 feet in length, they were of opinion we could pack in
her closely and make the voyage. I lost no time, therefore,
in going up the river and chartering her from the company;
and although the price demanded (£500 sterling) was, in my
judgment, an extravagant one, my anxiety to rejoin the squadron, having heard overland of hostilities with Mexico, was
such as to overrule all other considerations, and I engaged the
On the 28th of October the winter set in, with a strong
gale at southeast, and heavy rain. The Cadboro' was prepared to receive us on board by the 1st of November; but
unremitting gales from the southward, with rain, prevented us
from embarking until the 16th. In the meantime the American
barque Toulon arrived from the Sandwich islands, and brought
us news of the Oregon treaty, Mexican war, and occupation
of California. This intelligence rendered us doubly anxious
to escape from our idle imprisonment in the river, and we
seized upon the first day of sunshine to embark. This was on
the 16th of November.
The ground upon which the houses described above had been
built (the extremity of Point George) was within the preemption claim of Colonel John McClure, who lived at Astoria;
and, upon vacating them, they were put under his care, and
subject to his use, as will be seen by letter annexed (marked
E.) The right ownership of the soil being decided by the
treaty, I no longer felt any reserve in hoisting our flag on
shore; and it had been some time waving over our quarters on
the very spot which was first settled by the white man on the
banks of the Columbia. When we broke up and embarked,
I transmitted this emblem of nationality to Governor Abernethy. The letter accompanying it, and the governor's reply,
are annexed, (marked F and G.) Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     13
The Cadboro anchored in Baker's bay November 17th, where
we remained, pent up by adverse winds and a turbulent sea
on the bar, until the 18th of January. Her master, an old seaman, had been navigating this river and coast for the last 18
years, and his vessel drew but eight feet water; yet, in this
long interval of sixty-two days he could find no opportunity
of getting to sea safely. This is in itself a commentary upon
the dangerous character of the navigation of the mouth of the
We suffered very much from our crowded stowage in this
small craft. The weather was wet and cold; and the vessel not
affording the comfort of stove or fireplace, and without space
for exercise, I was very apprehensive that we should have something more serious than chilblains and frost-bitten fingers to
complain of; but it was not so. Both officers and men enjoyed
the most robust health and ravenous appetites. Many of the
smaller items of the ration being deficient, the value was made
up by beef, salmon, and potatoes, and of these each man consumed and digested his four pounds and a half a day. The
Hudson's Bay Company allow its servants while making a
voyage eight pounds of meat a day, and I am told the allowance is none too much. Our long detention in the river obliged
me upon two occasions to send on new requisitions upon the
company's store at Vancouver for supplies, which were promptly answered.
The Toulon, having gone up the Willhammette, discharged her
cargo and taken in another, came down the river and anchored
near us on the 8th of January. Ten days afterwards we both
succeeded in getting to sea, and arrived in company at San
Francisco on the 27th of January. The barque was laden with
provisions, principally flour, which latter cost her $6 per barrel.
Before she came to an anchor a United States officer had
boarded her and purchased nearly all she had at $15 per
We found at San Francisco the U. S. frigate Savannah, and
sloop-of-war Warren, to which vessels my officers and crew 14     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
were immediately transferred and assumed their appropriate
It will be seen by the foregoing sketch that although my visit
to Oregon was most unexpectedly prolonged to six months, it
had notwithstanding offered very limited opportunities of extending personal researches throughout the country. The officers, in compliance with my orders, have individually furnished
me with a written report of all the information that each had
acquired deemed worth communicating, and I take this occasion
to express my obligations to them for the aid thus rendered me
—a service alike useful to me and performed in a manner
highly creditable to themselves. From these and the result of
my own inquiries and observations, I am enabled to put you in
possession of the following information, which, though it may
be deemed in many points trite and unimportant, I will not
apologize for, as my instructions required a full and minute
report, which "for its very fullness would be the more acceptable.   (Extract from Mr. Bancroft's letter of August 5, 1845.)
During the summer months, from April until October, the
winds on the coast prevail almost uninterruptedly from the
west, inclining northerly in the afternoon, and the other part
of the year they are generally from SE., S., and SW.; the navigator will therefore know what course to adopt in approaching
the mouth of the river. He cannot fix the cape, even when
many hundred miles distant, better than on an ENE. bearing.
He will be almost sure of a fair wind, as it seldom blows from
northeast any distance off shore. Cape Disappointment is in
latitude 46° 19' N., longitude 124° W. It is between six and
seven hundred feet high, and can be seen in clear weather 30
miles. It juts prominently out into the sea, is a bold headland,
and, if the weather be such as to allow an approach within
15 miles of it, cannot possibly be mistaken by persons at all
experienced in adjusting a line of coast with the chart south
of the Columbia. Soundings are very deep close in shore, while
to the north of the river you will have from 15 to 20 fathoms Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     15
in some places ten miles from shore, and in high westerly gales
the sea often breaks five miles from the beach. A ship should
never go nearer the coast than ten miles or twelve, unless with a
view of going right in, or of reconnoitring the bar, particularly
in winter, when the southeasterly gales spring suddenly up, and
as suddenly shift to SW, and WSW., which with a flood tide
requires a good sailing vessel and a press of canvas to keep
a safe offing. I lay at anchor in Baker's bay, some three hundred yards inside the cape, from November 17, 1846, until
January 18, 1847; and although we were unfortunately destitute of barometer and thermometers, we had a good opportunity of observing during these two winter months the wind
and weather. The heavens were almost always overcast; the
wind would spring up moderately at E., haul within four hours
to SE., increasing in force and attended with rain. It would
continue at this point some 20 hours, and shift suddenly in a
hail storm to SW., whence, hauling westwardly and blowing
heavy, accompanied with hail and sleet, it would give us a
continuance of bad weather for three or four days, and force
the enormous Pacific swell to break upon shore with terrific
violence, tossing its spray over the tops of the rocks more than
two hundred feet high. A day of moderate weather, with the
wind at NE., might succeed this; but before the sea on the bar
would have sufficiently gone down to render it passable, a
renewal of the southeaster would begin and go on around the
compass as before.
Throughout Oregon the NE. wind, or between N. and E.,
is clear and dry, and in winter very cold; it is the only wind
at that season which will serve to take a ship safely out to
sea; and as it generally succeeds the westerly gales, which
leave a heavy sea on, the impatient navigator is oftentimes
obliged to remain at his anchor until this fair wind has blown
itself out. The northeaster may, as I have said before, be
considered a land breeze, not reaching over ten or twelve miles
to sea. In the upper part of the Territory, and above the
mouth of the Cowlitz, on the Columbia, clear easterly winds 16     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
are prevalent, and it is during their continuance the greatest
degree of cold is felt; the river is often frozen over in the
neighborhood of Fort Vancouver. Even in Baker's bay, the
schooner we were on board of was in January belted around
with ice at the water's edge, fully eighteen inches thick; this
was, however, considered by the old residents an unusual and
extraordinary spell of cold weather.
Captain Wilkes's survey, in 1841, of the mouth of the Columbia, however accurately it may have been done, is, I am
sorry to say, at present only calculated to mislead the navigator;
this I affirm without any intention to reproach himself or his
assistants with incapacity or neglect; five years' time has doubtless put an entirely new face upon the portrait of the sands
hereabouts; nor has the change been altogether sudden, for I
ascertained from those who had passed and sounded among the
sands at short intervals since the date of the survey, that these
changes have been gradually and steadily progressing. This
chart delineates two fine open channels, broad and with regular outlines; but at this moment the mouth of the southern
channel is nearly closed up, not having at low water more
than two fathoms in it, while the old or northern one is obstructed by a spit from the wreck of the Peacock to the eastward ; so that on the line of six fathoms laid down on the chart,
only six feet can now be found. Many other changes equally
important have taken place within the bar, which is needless
to allude to here. The constant alterations which this bar, in
common with most others, is undergoing, go to prove the
necessity of frequent surveys and the establishment of resident pilots, who can be constantly exploring the channel, and
keep pace with the shifting of sands, and the consequent change
in the direction of the tides.
The following sailing directions will at this time carry a
vessel safely into Baker's bay; but how far they may be suitable a year hence is altogether doubtful. There has been no
heavy freshet in the Columbia for the last two summers, and
the elongated and narrow spits which now jut out from the sands Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     17
bordering on the channel are considered the result of the predominant sea wash, which will be removed by the first sweeping freshet that rushes out of the river. The past winter, 1846-
'47, having been unusually severe, and a heavy deposit of snow
and ice resting on the mountains and in the interior valleys,
persons anticipate a great inundation in June, or as soon as the
sun's rays attain power to convert this winter covering into
fluid. This will unquestionably produce a new movement in
the sands at the mouth of the river, and may perhaps render
nugatory these directions for entering the river.
The wind should not be to the northward of west, nor to the
eastward of south. The beginning of the summer sea breeze
is generally at WSW., which is the most favorable quarter.
Bring Cape Disappointment to bear NE. by N., catch an object
in range on the high land behind it, (in order to correct the
influence of the tide,) and stand for it on that bearing until the
middle of Cockscomb hill is fully on with Point Adams—you
will then be in 10 fathoms, a fathom more or less depending
on the stage of the tide. Now steer ENE., or for Point Ellice,
taking care to fix that also in range, and keep it on with some
object in the distant high land in the rear—this course will
gradually open Cockscomb hill with Point Adams, and will
take you over the bar in four and a half fathoms water, deepening to five and six if you are exactly in the channel. If the
tide be flood, and you shoal the water, you are probably too
near the north breaker, and will find it necessary to observe
strictly the Point Ellice range, which will inform you how you
are affected by the tide. As you advance in, look along the
northern shore for the first yellow bank or bluff which opens
from behind the cape; and if it be ebb tide, haul up immediately
NNE.; but if it be flood or slack water, NE. will do, and stand
on that course until the next point opens, which is called Snag
point; then steer direct for the cape and Snag point in range,
which is N. by W. Y^ W. by compass. Passing a little to the
eastward of this range, will open another seeming point,
marked Jn summer by a growth of alder trees of unusually dark 18     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
green hue, (in winter they are more brown than the adjacent
forest,) which has attained the name of Green point; beyond
this range a vessel should not pass to the eastward, or the
middle sands will abruptly bring her up. If it be flood tide
you may pass within fifty yards of the cape; and even if it be
full calm, the current will take you to an anchorage; but if it be
ebb, keep a short quarter of a mile from the cape, as you are
almost sure to be becalmed, and the tide runs out to the westward here at least five knots; if you lose the wind at this point,
you must instantly let go an anchor, and, veering a good scope
of cable, await a change of tide. The best anchorage is the
cape bearing SSE., or on with Killimuk's Head, distant about
five hundred yards, in five fathoms water. If a stranger reach
this point in safety, he had better remain here until either of
the Indians, George or Ramsay, be sent for, or he can procure
advice from some one familiar with the navigation hence to
Astoria. From appearances on the chart, he would suppose
this navigation very simple, but the strong and diverse currents make it extremely embarrassing and dangerous; and
should a vessel ground anywhere within fifteen miles of the
outer bar, and a strong wind arise, the swell is sufficiently
great and the bottom hard enough to bilge her; none but a
buoyant and fast pulling boat should be sent to sound about the
bar, as the tide occasionally runs with an irresistible force; and,
in spite of all efforts, would sweep an indifferent boat into the
Five fathoms can be carried at low water up to Astoria,
which is the first anchorage combining comfort and security;
three-quarters of a mile above that, is a narrow pass of only
thirteen feet; but from Baker's bay, (pursuing the Chinook
channel, which passes close to Point Ellice, and is more direct
and convenient for vessels bound straight up,) four fathoms
can be carried up to Tongue point, which is three miles above
Astoria; and just within, or to the westward of, Tongue point
is a spacious and safe anchorage. From Tongue point the
navigation for ten miles is extremely intricate, and some parts Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     19
of the tortuous channel not over ten feet deep at low water.
The straight channel which Captain Wilkes discovered has become obstructed about its eastern entrance, and nothing can be
made of it. A channel nearly parallel with it, but to the southward, was traced in my boats, and I devoted a day to its examination, and carried through three fathoms at low water;
but my buoys being submerged by the tide, prevented me from
testing its availability in the schooner. From Pillow rock the
channel is at least three fathoms deep at the dryest season all
the way to Fort Vancouver, except a bar of fifteen feet at
the lower mouth of the Wilhammette, and another about a mile
and a half below the fort. The Wilhammette enters the Columbia from the southward by two mouths, fourteen miles
apart; the upper is the only one used, and six miles below
Vancouver. Throughout the months of August and September, it is impracticable for vessels drawing over ten feet. Both
it and the Columbia, during the other months, will easily accommodate a vessel to back and fill drawing thirteen feet.
The Columbia is navigable to the Cascades, forty miles
above Vancouver; the Wilhammette up to the mouth of the
Clackamas river, twenty-one miles above its junction with the
Columbia, and three below the falls, where the city of Oregon
is located. These rivers reciprocally contribute their waters
to one another at different seasons of the year. When the
winter sets in, generally with the month of October, and rains
are almost incessant, the Wilhammette river receives all the
waters which drain from the valley of its name, which immediately raise it above the level of the Columbia, into which it
flows with a strong current, causing a rise in the latter, and
sometimes a gentle reflux of the waters up stream; this continues until March, when the rains cease and the Wilhammette
settles to its level. 'Tis then, however, the warm rays of the sun
begin to penetrate the more northern and frozen resources of
the Columbia; the mountain snow and ice are soon converted
into streams, which simultaneously contribute, along a course of
seven or eight hundred miles, to swell this majestic river until, 20     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
by the month of June, it attains its greatest force and volume; it
is then actually a tributary to the Wilhammette, forcing its waters back to the falls and causing a perceptible current in that direction. This rise in the Columbia is, however, like freshets
in the Mississippi, not perceptible on the bar at the mouth,
except to extend the time and increase the force of the ebb
tide; at Vancouver the average summer rise is 16 to 18 feet.
The most suitable sailing vessels for this navigation are brig
or barque rig, and of light draught of water—not to exceed,
when loaded, 13 feet. They should be well found in ground
tackling, and furnished with at least two good sized hawsers
and kedges of suitable weight. During the summer months the
prevailing westerly winds make the voyage up the river both
safe and quick, and a vessel may descend at that season with
the assistance of the downward current without much detention ; but in winter both wind and tide are generally from the
eastward, and forty-five days is the usual time to get to Vancouver ; and this can only be done by warping, a very laborious
operation for merchant vessels. I have been thus prolix in
speaking of these two rivers, as they are the arteries of life to
this country; indeed, I have no information touching points
distant from their banks which has not already been published
to the world by means vastly more competent than any in my
possession. Besides; the information desired of me was more
particularly in relation to the civilized inhabitants of Oregon;
and very few of these are found settled, as yet, any great distance from the rivers.
Of Puget's sound and its many harbors nothing more is
known or can be at present added to Wilkes's observations in
English jealousy and unoccupied country in the south have
interposed to prevent American emigration to the north side
of the Columbia until the last autumn.
I fell in with many persons exploring the country between
the Cowlitz river (which is navigable by boats thirty miles
from the Columbia in the line of route to Puget's sound) and Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     21
the seacoast, and that hitherto unknown region is represented
as offering many attractions to the new settler. A few scattering families are to be found north of the Columbia and elsewhere. I saw personally but little of Oregon, but that comprised its most interesting parts, viz-: all settled spots on the
Columbia below the Cascades, the Wilhammette valley for
sixty miles above Oregon city, and the Twality and Clatsop
plains. These, with the exception of superannuated missionary
establishments at the Dalles and Wallawalla, and the Hudson's
Bay Company's farm on the Cowlitz, and their distant trading
posts in different parts of the Territory, are the only portions
of the country yet occupied. All these united, however, make
but an item when compared with the vast whole of Oregon,
of whose topography, mineralogy, soil, or natural productions,
it would be affectation in me to offer any account. My report,
as far as it goes, shall be confined to subjects which my own
observations or verbal inquiries from authentic sources could
reach. And first in order and importance is of the people who
form the body politic here, their laws, &c.
The persons of any consideration who have been longest
settled in Oregon are the factors, clerks and servants of the
Hudson's Bay Company. Their first point of residence was at
Astoria; but the country hereabouts was forest land, and difficult to clear, and it became necessary to increase their resources of provisions and other domestic productions as their
establishments enlarged. About twenty-two years ago, leaving
a single trader to 'conduct the fur trade at Astoria, they made
a new settlement 96 miles up the river, and called it Vancouver.
This eligible site is the first prairie land found upon the banks
of the river sufficiently elevated to be secure from the summer
inundations. The control of all the company's affairs west of
the Rocky mountains was at that time, and continued until
1845, to be in the hands of Mr. John McLaughlin. As this
gentleman figures largely in the first settlement of the country,
and continues to occupy a most respectable and influential stand
there, it may be proper to describe him.   He is a native of 22     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
Canada, but born of Irish parents; his name is seldom spelt
aright by any One but himself; he is well educated, and, having studied medicine, acquired the title of doctor, which is now
universally applied to him. Of fine form, great strength, and
bold and fearless character, he was of all men best suited to
lead and control those Canadian adventurers, who, influenced
partly by hopes of profit, but still more by a spirit of romance
enlisted themselves in the service of the fur trading companies,
to traverse the unexplored country west and north of Hudson's
bay. He came, I think, as early as 1820 to assume the direction of the Hudson's Bay Company's interest west of the
Rocky mountains, and immediately organized the necessary
trading posts among the Indians of Oregon and those on the
more northerly coasts.1 He continued to maintain the superintendence of this increasing and most profitable trade, and by
judicious selections of assistants, the exercise of a profound
and humane policy towards the Indians, and unremitting steadiness and energy in the execution of his duties, placed the
power and prosperity of his employers upon a safe and lasting
foundation. So much of his early life was passed away in the
canoe and the camp, that he seems to have been prevented from
cultivating those social relations at home which have their
finale m matrimonial felicity, and (as was customary among
his brethren of that day similarly employed) he rather unceremoniously graced the solitude of his camp with the society of a
gentle half-breed from the borders of lake Superior. This lady
occasionally presented him a pledge of her affection and fidelity, of whom two sons and a daughter survive, and I believe
before her death was regularly married to the doctor, whose
example in this particular was followed by all the other officers of the Hudson's Bay Company who had acquired the
responsibility of parents. The doctor's oldest son, Joseph, is
a respectable land owner and farmer in the Wilhammette; his
daughter, the widow of a deceased Scotchman; and the other
son, David, who received his education at Woolwich, in Eng- Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     23
land, is engaged in commercial business with an American
named Pettygrove, of whom something will be said hereafter.
The doctor's present wife is a half-breed, the widow of one
McKay, a celebrated old trapper, who came out with Astor's
people in 1810, and was killed on board the ship Tonquin the
same year.
The doctor is now about seventy years of age; is still strong
and active, of robust figure and rosy complexion, with clear
gray eyes, surmounted by huge brows and a full head of hair,
white as snow. He is a strict professor of the Catholic religion.
He resides now altogether at Oregon city; is said to be on furlough from duty in the company's service, and devotes himself to the operation of a fine flour and saw-mill which he has
built at the falls. He is active and indefatigable, and has bylA
his advice and assistance done more than any other man to-f!
wards the rapid development of the resources of this country;
and although his influence among his own countrymen, some
few of the most respectable American settlers, and throughout
the half-breed and Indian population, is unbounded, he is not
very popular with the bulk of the American population. Some
complaints against him of an overbearing temper, and a disposition to aggrandizement increasing with his age, seem not
to be entirely groundless. He is, nevertheless, to be considered a
valuable man; has settled himself on the south side of the river,
with full expectation of becoming a citizen of the United
States, and I hope the government at home will duly appreciate him.2 With Dr. McLaughlin came many others engaged
in the Hudson's Bay Company's service; and these, as before
remarked, are now the longest settled residents of the land.
Few of those who filled even so high a post as that of clerk
have separated themselves from the company's service and
still continue to reside in the Territory; but of the boatmen,
trappers, farmers, and stewards, almost every one, upon the
expiration of his five years' service, fixed himself upon a piece
of land and became a cultivator.
2. This wish of lieutenant Howison was not gratified. Section eleven of the
Oregon Donation Land Law of 1850 dispossessed Dr. McLotfghlin of his claim
known as the "Oregon City Claim. 24     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
By far the greater part of these are Canadian voyagers, or
those who worked out their term of service in pulling bat-
teaux and canoes along the water-courses, which are almost
continuous from York factory, on Hudson's bay, to the shores
of the Pacific ocean. Eight or ten of these persons being annually discharged for twenty years, have become a large item in
the population of Oregon. They settled contiguous to each
other on the fine lands of the Wilhammette, about 30 miles
above the falls, and form now a large majority in Champoeg
county; their residence is called the French Settlement, and
Canadian French is their language. Besides, there are a few
prosperous cultivators adjacent to the Hudson's Bay Company's farm on the Cowlitz. They are all connected with
Indian women, and would have united themselves with the tribes
to which their women belong but for the advice of Dr. McLaughlin, whose influence induced them to assume the more
civilized and respectable life of the farmer. They are a simple,
uneducated people, but very industrious and orderly, and are
justly esteemed among the best citizens of the Territory. They
come under the general designation of half-breeds, and this
class of population, including all ages and sexes, may be computed, numerically, at seven or eight hundred. They are well
worthy the fostering care of the government, and have been
assured that they will not be excepted by any general law of
the United States in relation to Oregon land claims or preemption rights. If, unfortunately, their rights of property
should not be protected by laws of the United States, they
will soon be intruded on and forced from the lands. Falling
back upon the Indian tribes with a sense of injury rankling in
their bosoms, the consequence might in all time to come be
most deplorable for the peace and safety of this country; where,
from the sparseness of the population, a band of forty or fifty
blood-thirsty savages might surprise and destroy in rotation
hundreds of inhabitants.
Simultaneously with the Canadians were discharged from
the company's service other subjects of Great Britain, as farm- Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     25
ers, mechanics, gardeners, dairymen, &c, chiefly from Scotland and the Orkney isles; besides some of the wild offspring
from the Earl of Selkirk's emigrants to the Red River settlement, north of the lake of the Woods. A few American
hunters, not numbering over 12 or 15, straggled into the country about the same time, and occasionally runaway seamen from
our northwest traders. This heterogeneous population was,
in some way or other, to a man, dependent on the Hudson's
Bay Company. No important accessions to it occurred until
the American missionaries, with their families, came into the
country; nor do I believe, prior to 1836, a single white woman
lived here. It was not until the year 1839 that any regular
emigrating companies came out from the United States; and
these were small until 1842, when an annual tide of thousands
began to flow towards this western window of our republic.
From the best information I could procure, the whole population of Oregon, exclusive of thoroughbred Indians, whom
I would be always understood to omit, may be set down now
at nine thousand souls, of whom two thousand are not natives
of the United States, or descendants of native Americans.
Nearly all the inhabitants, except those connected with the
Hudson's Bay Company, are settled in the Wilhammette valley;
the extreme southern cottage being on Mary's river, about
one hundred miles from the Columbia. Twenty or thirty families are at Astoria and the Clatsop plains; and by this time,
there may be as many on the north side of the river, in the
neighborhood of Nisqually and other ports on Puget's sound.
Between Astoria and Fort Vancouver, but one white man
resides on the bank of the river for purposes of cultivation;
and he is a retired officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, named
Birnie, who has fixed himself 25 miles above Astoria. His
house is the seat of hospitality, and his large family of quarter-
breeds are highly respectable and well behaved. From Fort
Vancouver to the Cascades, forty miles, but a single family has
yet settled on either side of the river. Lieut. Schenck, who
went up to the Dalles, had nothing to add to Captian Wilkes's 26     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
account of this point of the country. He was hourly impressed
with the strict accuracy of that officer's observations.
The people of Oregon had lived without law or politics, until
the early part of 18453; and it is a strong evidence of their good
sense and good disposition that it had not previously been found
necessary to establish some restraints of law m a community of
several thousand people. Among the emigrants of this year,
however, were many intelligent reflecting minds, who plainly
saw that this order of things could not continue in a rapidly
increasing and bustling population; and that it had become indispensable to establish legal landmarks to secure property to
those already in its possession, and point to new comers a mode
of acquiring it. A convention was accordingly held, and a
majority of votes taken in favor of establishing a provisional
government, "until such time as the United States of America
extend their jurisdiction over us." The organic law or constitution was of course first framed, and made abundantly democratic in its character for the taste of the most ultra disciple of
that political school.
It makes the male descendants of a white man 21 years of
age, no matter of what colored woman begotten, eligible for
any office in the Territory; and grants every such person the
privilege of selecting six hundred and forty acres of land, "in
a square or oblong form, according to the natural situation of
the premises." It provides for the election of a governor and
other officers, civil and military, and makes it the duty of such
elected to take the following oath:
"I do solemnly swear to support the organic laws of Oregon,
as far as they are consistent with my duties as a citizen of the
United States, or as a subject of Great Britain, and faithfully
demean myself in office; so help me God."
One of the first enactments of the legislature elected under
the organic law, was, "that in addition to gold and silver, treasury drafts, and good merchantable wheat at the market price,
shall be a lawful tender."
3. Lieutenant Howison is hardly correct in this statement, as a fairly complete political organization was effected in 1843. In 1845 the governmental authority was made more adequate. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     27
The subject of forming this provisional government had been
several months, indeed years, under discussion, • and may be
considered the first political question canvassed within the Territory. It was opposed by the influence of the Hudson's Bay
Company and British subjects generally, although the chief
factors of that company were ready to enter into a compact
or domestic treaty for the regulation and adjustment of all
points of dispute or difference which might spring up among
the residents: indeed, they admitted that it was time to establish some rules, based upon public opinion, decidedly expressed,
for the maintenance of good order and individual rights; but
they felt apprehensive for themselves and their interests in
placing extensive law-making power in the hands of a legislative body, composed of men on whose judgment they could
not implicitly rely, and whose prejudices they had reason to
believe were daily increasing against them. Their opposition
was, however, unavailing.
The election for governor excited the same sort of party
array; but, as there were several candidates for this office, some
new considerations may be supposed to have mingled in the contest George Abernethy, esq., a whole-souled American gentleman, was elected by a majority of the whole; nor did he receive any support from those under the company's influence.
This gentleman came to Oregon as secular agent to the Methodist mission in 1838 or '39, and, at the dissolution of that body,
engaged in mercantile and milling business. He is very extensively acquainted with the country and people of Oregon,
and greatly respected for his amiable, consistent and patriotic
character. He is a native of New York, and married a lady
of Nova Scotia, and will make a valuable correspondent to the
United States government, should it be desirable to communicate with Oregon.
Among the components of the population are some few
blacks, (perhaps thirty,) and about double that number of
Kanakas or Sandwich islanders. These last act as cooks and
house servants to those who can afford to employ them.   Al- 28     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
though the population has quadrupled itself within seven years
past, and will doubtless continue to increase, it cannot be expected to do so at the past ratio.
California invites many off who are seeking new lands; and
the emigrants of 1846 who reached Oregon were not computed
at over seven hundred, while the two previous years had each
increased the population two thousand or more.
The privations and sufferings of the first overland emigrants
to this country are almost incredible, composed, as they were,
of persons who, with families of women and children, had
gathered together their all, and appropriated it to the purchase
of means to accomplish this protracted journey.
They would arrive upon the waters of the Columbia after
six months' hard labor and exposure to innumerable dangers,
which none but the most determined spirits could have surmounted, in a state of absolute want. Their provisions expended and clothes worn out, the rigors of winter beginning
to descend upon their naked heads, while no house had yet
been built to afford them shelter; bartering away their wagons
and horses for a few salmon, dried by the Indians, or bushels
of grain in the hands of rapacious speculators, who placed
themselves on the road to profit by their necessities, famine
was staved off while they labored in the woods to make rafts,
and thus float down stream to the Hudson's Bay Company's
| establishment at Vancouver. Here shelter and food were invariably afforded them, without which their sufferings must
soon have terminated in death.
Such was the wretched plight in which I may say thousands
found themselves upon reaching this new country; but, in the
midst of present want and distress, the hardy pioneer saw
around him all those elements of comfort and wealth which
high hope had placed at the terminus of this most trying journey. At Vancouver he found repose and refreshment, the
offerings of a disinterested benevolence. Aided by advice and
still more substantial assistance, he prosecuted his journey up
the Wilhammette, and on the banks of this river could make Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846    29
choice of his future home, from the midst of situations the
most advantageous and lovely. Here stood the ash, the pine
and the poplar—the ready materials which an Illinois man,
axe in hand, wants but a few hours to convert into a family
domicil; the river teemed with fine salmon, and the soil was
rich, promising fruitful returns for labor bestowed on it.
But throughout the winter these enterprising people were,
with few exceptions, dependent on the Hudson's Bay Company
for the bread and meat which they ate, and the clothes which
they wore; stern necessities, and the clamors of suffering children, forced them to supplicate credit and assistance, which, to
the honor of the company be it said, was never refused. Fearful, however, of demanding too much, many families told me
that they lived during the winter on nothing more than boiled
wheat and salted salmon; and that the head of the family had
prepared the land for his first crop without shoes on his feet, or
a hat on his head. These excessive hardships have been of
course hourly ameliorating; the emigrant of 1843 has prepared a house and surplus food for his countrymen of the
next year; and two roads being opened directly into the Wilhammette valley, rendering a resort to the Columbia unnecessary, has enabled the emigrants to bring in their wagons, horses
and cattle, and find homes among their own countrymen.
The apprehensions of want are no longer entertained; the
new arrivals improve in character and condition; a cash currency is likely soon to be the law of the land, and the houses
are more and more fashioned to convenience, with an occasional
attempt at nicety. The Hudson's Bay Company is no longer
begged for charity, or besought for credit; but is slowly receiving back its generous loans and advances.
But I am sorry, in connexion with this subject, to report that
the conduct of some of our countrymen towards the company j
has been highly reprehensible.   The helping hand held out by I
the company to the early American emigrants not only relieved
them from actual distress at a critical moment, but furnished
them with means to make a beginning at cultivation, and un- 30     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
questionably accelerated the growth and settlement of the country in a manner which could not have succeeded but for such
timely assistance. The missionaries are not, however, to be forgotten ; they did much for the early emigrants, but their means
were more limited. I was told at Vancouver that the amount
of debt due the company by Americans exceeded eighty thousand dollars; and that so little disposition was shown to pay
off this debt, that it had been determined to refuse any further
Some few persons, arriving here with titles and pretensions,
had obtained credit for more than a thousand dollars; and
these very men, since further credit had been refused, were
foremost and most violent in denouncing the company as a
monstrous monopoly, &c.
The bulk of this debt, however, is due in sums of from twenty
to two hundred dollars, and seems to be the cause of no uneasiness to the officers of the company, who told me they were
often surprised by the appearance (after an absence of years)
of some debtor who came forward to liquidate the claim against
him. Much of this large amount will probably be lost to the
company; but there is some reason to presume that the larger
credits were granted to individuals whose political influence
was thus sought to be procured; and that the company, in this
respect, should have made false calculations, and lost their
money, is not so much to be regretted.
The honor of enrolling the names of doctors, colonels, generals and judges upon the debtor side of the ledger, they may
also consider a partial indemnification for what they may eventually lose.
However unlimited, therefore, may be our gratitude for
their kindness to the needy emigrants in earlier years, we cannot suppose it was necessary of late to have been so profuse in
such grants; and I have no doubt their determination to withhold further credits will prove advantageous to both parties.
The country is now so generally settled, and furnishes so much
surplus, as to enable the people to supply the indispensable Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846    31
necessities of each other; among whom obligations of small
debts will be mutual, and not onerous. Of the politics of the
people of Oregon, it may be said they are thoroughly democratic ; but, although I doubt not every American was a warm
party man at home, a separation from the scene of contest has
had the effect to cool down his feelings on the subject; and,
as he no longer has the privilege of a vote in national elections,
the subject engrosses but little attention. Some individuals
were named to me who had, while discussing the propriety of
forming a provisional government, been disposed to advocate
an entire independence of the United States; but as matters
have resulted, they have almost to a man changed their opinions, and are now displaying more than ordinary patriotism
and devotion to the stars and stripes.
Of the British subjects, who form but a fraction of the whole
population, I can say but little, as in my intercourse with
them national affairs were but little spoken of. Nearly every
one of them is or has been in the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company, and entertains a becoming reverence for his country; but I heard many of the most respectable express the opinion that the resources of Oregon would be much more rapidly
made available under the auspices of the United States government than under that of Great Britain.
The next most prominent British subject to Dr. McLaughlin
is Mr. James Douglass, a Scotchman of fine talents and character. He has been on this side the mountains since 1825 or
'26, and has gone through the probationary grades in the
company's service, and now has the control, associated with
Mr. Peter Skeen Ogden, of the whole business in Oregon and
oh the Northwest coast. He has a large family of quarter-
breeds: a daughter of fifteen, with whose education and manners he has taken much pains, would compare, for beauty and
accomplishments, with those of her age in any country. Mr.
Ogden is senior to Mr. Douglass in the company's service; he
has been, until recently, the active agent in exploring the country and establishing trading posts; and although he is not with- 32     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
out those tender ties which it is the weakness of humanity to
yearn after, they have not yet been legitimated by marriage.
A handsome, lady-like daughter of his is married to a Scotchman, and these in turn have a family of children. Mr. Ogden is
a jocose and pleasing companion; has at least one brother living in New York, but says he was born on the lines between
New York and Canada. I mention the domestic relations of
these gentlemen with reluctance; but it is necessary, to illustrate how completely their interests and affections are fixed
upon things inseparable from Oregon. This remark will apply
to every Englishman who has been five years in the country;
and although when news of the boundary treaty arrived they
undoubtedly were much mortified, they soon recovered their
composure, and, I believe, were very well satisfied with their
future prospects. Mr. Douglass, loyal to his king and country
from principle, observed that "John Bull could well afford to
be liberal to so promising a son as Jonathan, for the latter had
given proofs of abilities to turn a good gift to the best account." I cannot but suppose that, before the expiration of
the company's trading privileges here, the very respectable and
intelligent body of men engaged in conducting its business
will become blended with us in citizenship, and good members
of our great democratic society. The number of British subjects throughout this Territory does not exceed six hundred,
exclusive of French Canadians, and this number is not increasing. With three days' notice, double that number of Americans, well mounted and armed with rifles, could be assembled
at a given point on the Wilhammette river. In the excited
state of public feeling which existed among the Americans
lupon my arrival, the settled conviction on the mind of every
one that all Oregon belonged to us, and that the English had
long enough been gleaning,its products, I soon discovered that,
so far from arousing new zeal and patriotism, it was my duty
to use any influence which my official character put me in
possession of to allay its ex||>erance, and advise our countrymen to await patiently the progress of negotiations at home. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     33
The Hudson's Bay Company had information of consultations
held on the south side of the river, in which the agrarian principle of division of property found some advocates, and perhaps they had some, grounds to apprehend that their extensive
storehouses of dry goods, hardware and groceries might be
invaded; in addition, therefore, to their own means of defence,
they procured from the British government the constant attendance at Vancouver of a sloop-of-war. This vessel anchored there in October, 1845, and I left her there in January,
1847. She, however, I understood, was under orders to leave
the river, and her commander, who had once struck on the
bar, and narrowly escaped with the loss of false keel and rudder, only awaited the good weather of spring to attempt to get
The company's agents expressed to me their fervent hopes
that the United States would keep a vessel of war in the river,
or promptly send out commissioners to define the bounds of
right and property under the treaty. They have been excessively annoyed by some of our countrymen, who, with but
little judgment and less delicacy, are in the habit of infringing
upon their lands, and construing the law to bear them out in
doing so. An individual, and a professor of religion, too, had
been ejected by our course of law from a "claim" of the company's, and costs put upon him; but having nothing, the costs
had to be paid by the plaintiffs; which was scarcely done when
the same person resumed his intrusive position; and as he called
himself now a "fresh man," the same formula of law must
be gone through with to get clear of him, and so on ad infinitum. In a case where an American was confined one night in
the fort for this sort of pertinacity, and refusing to give security that he would forbear in future such forcible entry upon the
land, he instituted an action for damages for false imprisonment; but as no notice of suit had been served on the committing magistrate, and as I expostulated with the man on the subject, I believe he gave over the idea. These and many other
similar acts arose from a belief that the Hudson's Bay Com- 34     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
pany would be soon turned out of the country by the terms of
the anticipated treaty, and many were led to this offensive
course by a desire to succeed to those advantages which could
not be conveyed away by the retiring company. Since the details of the treaty have come to hand, it is to be presumed a
better understanding of respective permanent rights will be
entertained; but I feel bound to express the opinion, for the
information of government, that however acceptable that treaty
may be to the people generally, some of its items give great
discontent and heart-burnings in Oregon. Howsoever little
creditable this may be to the good sense and moderation of
the complainants, it may be accounted for by reference to the
fact that in every community some of its members are unreasonable enough to act upon a one-sided view of the subject.
i In this particular case several causes unite to excite dissatisfaction: first, disappointment at not having a grasp at the enclosed fields and ready-made habitations which they had all
| along expected the treaty would oblige the Hudson's Bay Company to vacate; next, the hoped-for dissolution of this company would have relieved many persons from the presence of
their creditors; and others saw that only in that event would
Americans be able to engage successfully in commercial pursuits. But although too many were influenced by motives so
unworthy, yet it must not be supposed I would include among
them the" substantial cultivator, or any one of the great bulk
of honest emigrants who came here to live by his labor, and
not by his artifice or speculating genius, which would render
the labors of others subservient to his use.
These discontents might not be worth alluding to, did we
not remember from what small beginnings political parties
sometimes take their rise; and this may be the nucleus of a
growth of independents, who may compromise our government
in its stipulations for the security of English property in Oregon, to say nothing of the effect produced upon public opinion
by the habit of seeing always on the increase a party opposing
the policy and measures of the United States.    It should be Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     35
nevertheless observed that in Oregon the general tendency of
persons and things is towards improvement; the ragged and
penniless emigrant is, upon his arrival here, much less under
the influence of human or moral laws than the same man is
found to be a couple of years afterwards, when he has acquired
a house over his head and fenced in an enclosure for his cattle.
Becoming a property-holder instantly inspires him with a reverence for the law, and he sees by supporting its inviolability
he can alone make sure of retaining the means of independence
and comfort which it has cost him two years' labor to obtain.
The Hudson's Bay Company, from its having been so long
established in the country; from the judicious selection it has
made of sites for trading, agricultural and manufacturing purposes; from the number of persons and large moneyed capital
employed, and most of all from the far-sighted sagacity with
which its business is conducted, in some way or other involves
itself in every matter of consequence relating to this country;
nor is it possible to avoid introducing it as bearing upon all
points worth bringing to the notice of government. The terms
of the treaty exemplify how ably its interests have been represented in London, and the immunities it enjoys by that instrument will, I apprehend, make it more the object of jealousy and
dislike to our citizens here than it has hitherto been.
However long and tedious this report has already become,
my inclination to terminate it must give way to a sense of duty,
while I describe as briefly as possible all that I could see or
learn about this company. Its original charter, granting exclusive trade for furs around Hudson's bay, was extended to
other trade west of the Rocky mountains; and the privilege
of raising from the soil whatever was necessary for their
comfortable maintenance, in the prosecution of this trade, was
likewise granted; but in reading its charter and the laws subsequently enacted in relation to its interests, it is very manifest that it was only considered an association of capitalists
for purposes of trade. 36     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
The Puget's Sound Agricultural Company is merely a nominal affair, being only a new name with new privileges, under
which the capital of persons belonging to the Hudson's Bay
Company is turned into profit. It would be difficult to get
exactly at the true relationship between it and the other, as the
parties who manage them are the same, and they have endeavored to make them appear as separate interests. When, therefore, a new farm is taken possession of, stocked and put under
cultivation, or a fine mill erected and put into profitable operation, these are acts and privileges of the agricultural society;
but when the products of these establishments are ready for a
market, the company, with trading privileges, takes them in
hand. As before stated, persons wishing to hold land under
the provisional government, having selected the same, were required to mark out its limits, and have it recorded by a person
selected to keep a book of all such entries. Lands thus marked
out were called "claims"; and in compliance with this requirement, the Hudson's Bay Company had entered all their landed
property in the names of their officers and clerks; they have
omitted no means or forms necessary to secure them in their
possessions. Fort Vancouver is surrounded by 18 English
"claims," viz: nine miles on the river and two back; and besides
the dwelling houses, storehouses and shops in the fort, they
have a flour mill a few miles up the river, and above that again
a saw mill. The Vancouver grounds are principally appropriated to grazing cattle, horses, sheep and hogs. On the Cowlitz
the company has a large wheat-growing farm, and I believe
these are the only land claims they have below the mountains.
They have, besides, a post on the Umpqua. Around their posts
at Fort Hall, Boise, and on the northern branches of the river,
they have hitherto enclosed no more ground than was necessary for garden purposes; but finding themselves confirmed
by treaty in their hold upon property "legally acquired," God
knows what may be the extent of their claims when a definite
line comes to be drawn. The company have three barques,
employed freighting hence to England and back, via the Sandwich islands, besides a schooner and small steamer in the trade Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     37
of the northwest coast. They supply the Russian establishment
at Sitka annually with 15,000 bushels of wheat, and sell them
besides, I am told, some furs. The trade in this latter article
has become of late years much less profitable than formerly;
and it is said to have so far dwindled in amount as to be scarcely worth pursuing; but as no statistical reports of profits, or
extent of trade, are ever published by the company, it is not
possible to say with accuracy what they are doing. In April,
1846, a report reached Oahu that the company's barque Cowlitz
had, after leaving the Sandwich islands for England, been run
away with by the crew, and Mr. Pelly, the company's agent,
immediately issued advertisements, making it known, and calling on commanders of ships of war to intercept her. He told
me on that occasion that the barque's cargo of furs and specie
(which was the usual annual remittance by the company)
amounted to nearly two hundred thousand pounds sterling. The
rumor about her turned out to have originated in a mistaken
apprehension. Although it is well known that furs are not so
abundant as formerly, they nevertheless still form an important
article of trade, and this is entirely monopolized by the company. Nearly every dollar of specie which comes into the coun- ^
try—and there is more of it than might be supposed—finds its
way sooner or later into the company's chests; keeping, as they
do, a very large stock oh hand of all those articles most necessary to the new settler. Indeed, so extensive and well selected
are their supplies, that few country towns in the United States
could furnish their heighbors so satisfactorily. An annual shipload arrives from London, which, with the old stock, makes an
inventory of one hundred thousahd pounds. Goods are invariably sold at an advance of one hundred per cent on London
prices; which, taking their good quality into consideration,
is cheaper than they are offered by the two or three Americans
who are engaged in mercantile business in the country.
The managers of this company, as I have before remarked,
are sagacious, far-sighted men; they hold the keys of trade,
and establish the value of property and of labor, both of which 38     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
they are too wise to depreciate unduly. They are complained
of as powerful monopolists; but so> long as their power is
made subservient to general interests, as well as their own,
and stands in the way of rapacious speculators, it avails a good
purpose, and is cheerfully recognized by the good citizen. They
certainly may be said to establish a standard of prices; and
many persons think if they were withdrawn, more competition
would arise among merchants, and higher prices would be given
for produce; but it should be remembered that their prices,
those which they give and those which they take, are uniform,
and not subject to those fluctuations which militate eventually
against the producer.
They would sell the last bushel of salt or pound of nails in
their storehouses as the first had been sold; not increasing the
price as the article became less abundant in the market. They
give sixty cents for an imperial bushel, or sixty-eight pounds of
wheat; one dollar apiece for flour barrels; three dollars a thousand for shingles, and a corresponding price for other articles
of country production. They see very plainly that in the prosperity of others consists their own; and, acting upon this judicious principle, they are content with sure and moderate gains.
I have heard general charges of extortion alleged against them,
but without proof to sustain them. They have providentially
been the instrument of much good to Oregon, as the early emi-.
grants can testify; and however objectionable it is on some
grounds to have a large and powerful moneyed institution, controlled by foreigners, in the heart of this young America, its
sudden withdrawal would be forcibly and disadvantageously
felt throughout the land. In a few years, with a knowledge
that the company is to withdraw, there will no doubt be a more
enlarged system of trade entered upon by our own merchants,
which will eventually supply the place of the company. At
present they cannot well be spared, as will be more plainly seen
by what I have to say of the commerce of Oregon. These remarks about the Hudson's Bay Company are made under the
impression, prevalent in Oregon—where the treaty itself had Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     39
not arrived when I left, but only a synopsis of it—that the
charter of the company would expire in 1863, and of course its
privileges with it. If the facts be otherwise, and its existence
as a corporate body, under British charter, is perpetual, my
speculations about its officers becoming American citizens are
fallacious. Exclusive of the Hudson's Bay Company's imports,
the external commerce of Oregon is of very limited extent; it is
a petty trade, not sufficiently systematized to be reducible to
a statistical table, and I can give no better idea of its extent
than to state that during the whole year of 1846 a barque of
three hundred tons came twice from the Sandwich islands,
bringing each time about half a cargo of dry goods, groceries,
hardware, etc., bought at Oahu. Ah American ship was also
in the river this year, but came in ballast for a freight of lumber, &c, to the islands. Three mercantile houses divide the
business of the Territory, small as it is, and I believe each has
a favorable balance on its side. The prices imposed in selling
to the consumer are enormously high, and these he must pay
from the produce of his labor, or dispense with the most necessary articles of clothing, cooking utensils, groceries and farming implements. An American axe costs $5; a cross-cut saw,
$15; all articles manufactured of iron 25 cents per pound, &c,
(&c. The impediments to commerce here are, first, the want of
a fixed currency; second, the remoteness of the foreign market
and its uncertainty, and more particularly the hazardous nature
of the navigation in and out of the river, and the tediousness
of ascending and descending it. These last make the freight
and premium on insurance very high, which adds to the cost
of the imported article, and detracts proportionally from that
which is offered in payment for it, and which, to realize anything, must be carried abroad. The misfortuhe is, that these
impediments create and depend upon each other, and are likely
to continue, and painfully retard the growth of this promising
country. If the commerce were more extensive, it would afford
payment to pilots, and construct light-houses, beacons, and
buoys, which would greatly diminish the risk and expense of 40     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
getting vessels into the river; and again, if more means of
transportation presented themselves, the surplus produce of the
country would find a sale, and be conveyed to a foreign market—thus enabling the farmer, the miller, the sawyer, the
shingle-maker, the gatherer of wool, and the packer of salted
beef and pork, to share ih the advantages of a more extended
demand; in short, some thousands of people in this country are
suffering at this moment in consequence of the inadequate
means of commercial exchange between it and its neighbors
of California and the Sandwich islands.
The granaries are surcharged with wheat; the saw-mills are
surrounded with piles of lumber as high as themselves; the
grazier sells his beef at three cents per pound to the merchant,
who packs it in salt and deposites it in a warehouse, awaiting
the tardy arrival of some vessel to take a portion of his stock
at what price she pleases, and furnish ih return a scanty supply
of tea and sugar and indifferent clothing, also at her own rate.
I feel it particularly my duty to call the attention of government to this subject. This feeble and distant portion, of itself,
is vainly struggling to escape from burdens which, from the
nature of things, must long continue to oppress it, unless parental assistance comes to its relief. The first measure necessary
is to render the entrance and egress of vessels into the mouth of
the Columbia as free from danger as possible; and the first step
towards this is to employ two competent pilots, who should
reside at Cape Disappointment, be furnished with two Baltimore-built pilot boats, ( for mutual assistance in case of accident
to either,) and be paid a regular salary, besides the fees, which
should be very moderate, imposed upon each entering vessel.
A light-house, and some beacons with and without lights, would
aid very much in giving confidence and security to vessels approaching the river; but more important than all these would of
course be the presence, under good management, of a strong
and well-built steam tug. The effects of these facilities would
be to render certain, at least during the summer months, the
coming in and going out of vessels, subtract from the premium Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     41
on insurance, and give confidence to the seamen, who now enter
for a voyage to Oregon with dread, reluctance and high wages.
It is not for me to anticipate the boundless spring which the
vivifying influence of an extended organized commerce would
give to the growth and importance of this country; its portrait
has been drawn by abler hands, in books and in the Senate, but
I must take leave to suggest that good policy requires the parent government to retain the affections of this hopeful offspring
by attentions and fostering care: it needs help at this moment;
and if it be rendered, a lasting sense of dependence and gratitude will be the consequence; but if neglected in this its tender
age, and allowed to fight its own way to ihdependent maturity,
the ties of consanguinity may be forgotten in the energy of its
own unaided exertions.
Nisqually, the innermost harbor of Puget's sound, may at
some future day become an important port for the exportation
of produce from the north side of the river; but the inland
transportation is at present impracticable for articles of more
than a hundred pounds weight, on accouht of the mountains
and water-courses. No wagon road has yet been opened from
an interior point to Nisqually. Its importance will increase
with the settlement of the country around it, possessing, as it
does, natural advantages exceeding those of any other port in
the Territory.
Besides Fort Vancouver, six sites have been selected for
towns; of these Astoria takes precedence in age only. It is
situated on the left bank of the Columbia, thirteen miles from
the sea: it contains ten houses, including a warehouse, Indian
lodges, a cooper's and a blacksmith's shop; it has no open
ground except gardens within less than a mile of it. It may be
considered in a state of transition, exhibiting the wretched remains of a bygone settlement, and the uncouth germ of a new
one. About 30 white people live here, and two lodges of Chinook Indians. The Hudson's Bay Company have still an agent
here, but were about transferring him over to a warehouse
they are putting up at Cape Disappointment.   A pre-emption 42     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
right to the principal part of this site is claimed by an American
named Welch; the other portion, including Point George, is
claimed in like manner by Colonel John Maclure. Leaving
Astoria, we ascend the Columbia eighty miles, and there entering the Wilhammette, find, three miles within its mouth, the
city of Linton, on its left or western shore. This site was selected by a copartnership of gentlemen as the most natural depot for the produce of the well settled Twality plains, and a
road was opened over the ridge of hills intervening between
the plains ahd the river. It contains only a few log-houses,
which are overshadowed by huge fir trees that it has not yet
been convenient to remove. Its few inhabitants are very poor,
and severely persecuted by musquitos day and night. Not one
of its proprietors resides oh the spot, and its future increase
is, to say the least, doubtful. Eight or nine miles above Linton,
on the same side of the Wilhammette, we come to a more promising appearance of a town. It has been named Portland by
the individual under whose auspices it has come into existence,
ahd mainly to whose efforts its growth and increase are to be
ascribed. This is Mr. F. W. Pettygrove, from Maine, who
came out here some years back as agent for the mercantile
house of the Messrs. Benson, of New York. Having done a
good business for his employers, he next set about doing something for himself, and is now the principal commercial man in
the country. He selected Portland as the site of a town accessible to shipping, built houses, ahd established himself there;
invited others to settle around him, and appropriated his little
capital to opening wagon roads (aided by neighboring farmers)
into the Twality plains, and up the east side of the river to the
falls where the city of Oregon stands. Twelve or fifteen new
houses are already occupied, and others building; and, with a
population of more than sixty souls, the heads of families generally industrious mechanics, its prospects of increase are favorable. A good wharf, at which vessels may lie and discharge
or take in cargo most months in the year, is also among the
improvements of Portland.   Twelve miles above we come to Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     43
the falls of the Wilhammette, and abreast of and just below
these, on the east side of the river, stands Oregon city. This
is considered the capital of the Territory, contains seventy-odd
houses, ahd has a population of nearly five hundred souls. The
situation of this place is very peculiar: the river here is about
eighty yards wide, and at its lowest stage is twelve feet deep;
in freshets it sometimes rises thirty feet above low-water mark.
The rocky rampart, over which it falls almost perpendicularly,
is perhaps forty feet high; and from about its upper level, a
narrow strip of level ground three hundred yards wide, (between the bed of the river and a precipitous hilly ridge,) is the
site of the town. This hilly range runs along down stream for
nearly a mile, when it slopes off to the level of the river side
plateau. The opposite side presents nearly the same features,
so that the view in froht and rear abruptly terminates in a
rocky mountain side of five or six hundred feet elevation. In
a summer day the sun's rays reflected from these cliffs make
the temperature high, and create an unpleasant sensation of
confinement, which would be insupportable but for the refreshing influence of the waterfall; this, divided by rocky islets,
breaks mto flash and foam, imparting a delicious brightness to
this otherwise sombre scenery. A Methodist and a Catholic
church, two flour and saw mills, a tavern, a brick storehouse
and several wooden ones, an iron foundry just beginning, and
many snug dwelling houses, are at this moment the chief constituents of the capital of Oregon. The site on the opposite side
of the river, upon which some good buildings are beginning to
appear, is called Multnomah. Communication is kept up between these two places by two ferry boats. Dr. McLaughlin
claims the square mile which includes Oregon city on one side,
and an American named Moore claims an equal extent on the
other side. The doctor has fixed a high price on his town lots,
more than can be conveniently paid by those desirous of living
in town, and persons were occasionally constructing upon his
land in defiance of his remonstrances and threats of the law.
Our government is already, I understand, in possession of the 44     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
evidence upon which his claim rests, and I need therefore say
nothing more on the subject.
A sixth spot dignified with the name of town is Salem, high
up the Wilhammette, of which too little exists to be worthy of
an attempt at description. It would seem from this sorry catalogue that Oregoh cannot yet boast of her cities. Even in these,
however, her improvement has been great and rapid, and population comes into the capital faster than the gigantic fir trees,
which have lately been its sole occupants, can be made to disappear.
The American missionaries were the first persons to attempt
any establishment in Oregon, independent of the Hudson's Bay
Company. They have doubtless done much good in past years,
but are now disunited; and with the exception of Mr. Spalding,
a worthy old Presbyterian gentleman who resides on the Koos-
kooskie river, I could hear of no attempts going on to educate
or convert the aborigines of the country by Americans. Why
their efforts came to be discontinued, (for there were at one
time many missions in the field, Presbyterian, Methodist, and
Babtist, and an independent self-supporting one,) would be a
question which it would be difficult to have answered truly.
The various recriminations which were uttered, as each member thought proper to secede from his benevolent associates
in Christian duty, were not calculated to increase the public
respect for their ihdividual disinterestedness or purity. They
seem early to have despaired of much success in impressing
the minds of the Indians with a just sense of the importance of
their lessons, and very sagaciously turned their attention to
more fruitful pursuits. Some became farmers and graziers,
others undertook the education of the rising generation of
whites and half-breeds, and a few set up for traders; but these
last imprudehtly encroached upon a very dear prerogative of
the Hudson's Bay Company by bartering for beaver, and only
by hastily quitting it escaped the overwhelming opposition of
that all-powerful body. The French missionaries, to-wit: a
bishop, a number of priests, and seven nuns, are succeeding in Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     45
their operations. They are amply furnished with money ahd
other means for accomplishing their purposes. They educate
a number of young Indians, principally girls, and all the offspring of the Canadians. In addition to a large wooden nunnery already some years in use, they are now building a brick
church of corresponding dimensions, on beautiful prairie
grounds a few miles from the Wilhammette river, and thirty-
two above Oregon city. They are strict Catholics, and exercise
unbounded influence over the people of the French settlements,
who are improving in every way under their precepts. The
mission derives its support from Europe, ahd I was told that
the Queen of France, and her daughter, of Belgium, are liberal patronesses of the institution. It is at present in high
estimation with all classes; it gives employment and high wages
to a great number of mechanics and laborers, pays off punctually in cash, and is without doubt contributing largely to the
prosperity of the neighborhood and country around it. A few
Jesuits are located within six miles of the mission, and are ostensibly employed in the same praiseworthy occupation.
The Methodist institute, designed as an educational establishment for the future generations of Oregon, is still in the
hands of gentlemen who were connected with the Methodist
mission. It is finely situated on the Wilhammette, fifty miles
above Oregon city. As a building its exterior was quite imposing from a distance, but I was pained, upon coming up with it,
to find its interior apartments in an entirely unfinished state.
Mr. Wilson, who is in charge of it, was so hospitable and polite
to me that I refrained from asking questions which I was sure,
from appearances, would only produce answers confirmatory
of its languishing condition. Five little boys were now getting
their rudiments of education here; when, from the number of
dormitories, it was manifest that it had been the original design
to receive more than ten times that number. I learned from
Governor Abernethy, however, about the beginning of 1847,
that the number of its pupils was fast increasing. 46     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
Of the Indian population of Oregon nothing new can be said.
The "Nez Perces" are described as receiving advantageously
the suggestions of Mr. Spalding with regard to the cultivation
of their fields and rearing their cattle and horses. No difficulties or wars among the tribes of any consequence have recently occurred. A fracas between the Cowlitzes and Chinooks
took place while I was in the river, in which a young Chinook
was killed, but the parties are mutually too feeble to make their
quarrels a matter of any general interest. It was only among
these two remnants of tribes, besides the Clatsops and the Cal-
lapooiales, that we had an opportunity of making any observations, and what I say on this subject will be understood as
relating exclusively to them. The old and melancholy record
of their decline must be continued. Destitutioh and disease
are making rapid havoc among them; and as if the proximity
of the white man were not sufficiently baneful in its insidious
destruction of these unhappy people, our countrymen killed two
by sudden violence and wounded another in an uncalled for and
wanton manner during the few months of my sojourn in the
country. The only penalty to which the perpetrators of these
different acts were subjected was the payment of a blanket or
a beef to their surviving kindred. Public opinion, however,
sets very strongly against such intrusions upon the degraded
red man, and perhaps a year hence it may be strong enough to
hang an offender of this kind. It is clearly the duty of our
government to look promptly into the necessitous conditions of
these poor Indians. Their number is now very small: of the
four tribes I have named, there are probably altogether not
over five hundred, old and young, and these are scattered in
lodges along the river, subject to the intrusion of the squatter.
If their situation could but be known to the humane citizens
of the United States, it would bring before the government
endless petitions in their behalf. As a matter of policy, likewise, it is indispensable that measures should be taken to get a
better acquaintance with these as well as the mountain tribes;
they are perfectly familiar with the difference between Amer- Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     47
icans and Ebglish, calling us "Boston mans," and the English
"King George's mans"; and it would be highly judicious to
make them sensible of their new and exclusive relations with
the United States. A gratuitous annual distribution of a few
thousand flannel frocks and good blankets ( for an Indian would
rather go naked than wear a bad one) to those living near our
settlements would be not only an act which humanity demands,
but one from which many good cohsequences would ensue. In
speaking of the Indians, I would respectfully suggest that this
moment is, of all others, the most favorable for extinguishing
their titles to the land. Miserable as they are, they display
some spirit and jealousy on this subject. Although a patch
of potatoes may be the extent of their cultivation, they will
point out a circuit of many miles as the boundary of their possessions. The tribes of which I have spoken have no chiefs,
and oh that account it would be difficult to treat formally with
them; but a well selected agent, with but small means at his
disposal, would easily reconcile them to live peaceably and
quietly in limits which he should specify.
The salmon fishery naturally succeeds the preceding subject. Strange to say, up to this day none but Indians have
ever taken a salmon from the waters of the Columbia; it seems
to have been conceded to them as an inherent right, which no
white man has yet encroached upon. They are wonderfully
superstitious respecting this fish; of such vital importance is his
annual visitation to this river and its tributaries that it is prayed
for, and votive offerings made in gratitude when he makes
his first appearance. In Frazier's river, ahd still further north,
the Indians carry their ceremonies and superstitious observances at this event far beyond the practices in the Columbia:
here the shoals of salmon, coming from the north, enter the
river in May, but they are permitted to pass on several days
before nets are laid out for their capture. No reward of money,
or clothes, will induce an Indian to sell salmon the first three
weeks after his arrival; and throughout the whole season, upon
catching a fish they immediately take out his heart and conceal 48     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
it until they have an opportunity to burn it, their great fear
being that this sacred portion of the fish may be eaten by dogs,
which they shudder to think would prevent them from coming
again to the river. When it is remembered that the many
thousand Indians living upon this river, throughout its course
of more than twelve hundred miles, are almost entirely dependent upon salmon for their subsistence, it would lessen our
surprise that these simple-minded people should devise some
propitiatory mean of retaining this inappreciable blessing. The
annual inroad of these multitudinous shoals into the Columbia
may, in its effects upon the happiness and fives of the inhabitants, be compared to the effect produced upon the Egyptians
by the rising of the Nile; a subject upon which they are described as reflecting not with lively solicitude ahd interest, but
with feelings of religious solemnity and awe.
The salmon are much finer, taken when they first enter the
river; and from the last of May the business of catching and
drying is industriously pursued by the Indians. These sell to
the whites, who. salt ahd pack for winter use, or exportation.
As the season advances the fish become meagre and sickly, and
only those not strong enough to force a passage against the
torrent at the Cascades, and other falls, remain in the lower
waters of the river. In September they are found at the very
sources of the Columbia, still pressing up stream, with tails
and bellies bruised and bloody by the long struggle they have
had against the current and a rocky bottom. They die then in
great numbers, and, floating down stream, the Indians intercept them in their canoes, and relish them none the less for having died a week or fortnight previous. The young fry pass out
to sea in October; they are then nearly as large as herrings.
Different families of salmon are in the habit of resorting to
different rivers. The largest and best come into the Columbia,
weighing on an average twenty pounds each; some exceed
forty pounds. Seven or eight hundred barrels are annually
exported; they retail at Oahu for ten dollars a barrel, but I do
not believe they are so highly appreciated anywhere as in Oregon, where they may be considered their staple article of food.
Sturgeon ahd trout are also abundant in the Columbia. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
I was surprised to find so great a scarcity of game in this
country. I lugged a heavy gun more than a hundred and fifty
miles through the Wilhammette valley, and in all that ride saw
but three deer. Wolves are numerous, and prey upon other
animals, so that the plains are entirely in their possession. The
little venison I saw in Oregon was poor and insipid; a fat buck
is a great rarity. Elk are still numerous, but very wild, living
in the depths of the forests, or near those openings which the
white man has not yet approached. An Indian hunter often
brought elk meat to us at Astoria, which he had killed in the
unexplored forests between Clatsop plains and Young's river.
Black bears are very common, and destructive to the farmers'
pigs; the grizzly bear is more rarely seen, but one of the Shark's
officers procured a very promising young grizzly, and sent him
a present to a lady friend at Oahu, whence it is probable he will
be conveyed to the United States.
Nearly all the birds and fowls of the United States are found
here, with several varieties of the grouse ahd partridge which
we have not. The turkey is not indigenous to Oregon, but has
been introduced and successfully reared there. Wild fowl,
from the swan to the blue-wing, are very abundant during the
winter. The wild geese move over the country in clouds, and
do great injury to the wheat fields upon which they determine
to alight. The field lark, the robin, the wren and the sparrow
alternately flit before the traveller and identify the country
with scenes at home.
Although most descriptions of timber grow in this country,
and grow to a great size, its quality and usefulness are in nowise comparable to that produced in the United States. The
feest here is found farthest north from Nisqually, towards the
northern boundary. In those parts I visited, there was not a
stick of timber suitable for shipbuilding; the spruce makes
tough spars, but is very heavy, and after seasoning is apt to
rive and open too much. Neither hickory, walnut, nor locust
has yet been found here; they would doubtless, if introduced
and proper soil selected for them, thrive prosperously.   The 50     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
hazel bush makes a substitute for hickory hoop-poles, and an-
. swers well. Perhaps a critical exploration would find timber
of durable fibre in the less genial atmosphere of the mountain
ridges; the cause of its bad quality in the low lands is the
rapidity of its growth, which in all countries produces the same
disqualifying effects. The ash, which is very abundant, compares with that grown elsewhere better than any other timber.
Much remains unknown respecting this essential portion of
this country's wealth; nor would I have it inferred that because
I saw no good specimen of timber, there are hone to be found.
Oregon, from its extent and varied topography, must, of
course, possess some diversity of climate. As a general remark, it is equable and salubrious; and although ten degrees
of latitude farther north than Virginia, it assimilates to the
climate of that State, particularly in winter, qualified by less
liability to sudden violent changes. The same season, however,
in Oregoh is characterized by more constant rains and cloudy
weather. Our log-book records rain, hail, or snow, every day
between October 29th, 1846, and January 17th, 1847, except
eleven, and a continuation of such weather was anticipated
until the month of March. But during this time there were
but few days of severe cold. Grass grew verdantly in every
spot that was at all sheltered, and yielded sustenahce to the
cattle, which requires neither shelter nor feeding (except what
it procures itself) throughout the year. From March till October the weather is delightful; occasional showers obscure the
sun and refresh the earth; but what is very remarkable, the
summer clouds in Lower Oregon are seldom attended by thunder and lightning. During the winter, at the mouth of the
river, we experienced this phenomenon, and witnessed its effects occasionally upon conspicuous trees in the forest, but in
the interior it is not common at any season—a consoling circumstance to our countrywomen, who had been previously
subject to its terrifying effects, oh the banks of the Illinois
and Mississippi. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     51
The products of the soil depend mainly upon the climate,
and the excellence of the latter is indicative of the abundance
of the former. Hence we find from the seacoast to the Cascade range of mountains, an average breadth of 110 miles, a
most vigorous natural vegetable growth; the forest trees are
of gigantic stature, while the intervals between them are filled
with a rank, impenetrable bushy undergrowth. Where the
growth is rapid, maturity and then decay quickly succeed, and
the soil is enriched from its own fruits. This region, like that
of the United States before it was colonized, "has been gathering fertility from the repose of centuries, and lavishes its
strength in magnificent but useless vegetation." It is not,
however, a woody solitude throughout. Within the limits alluded to lies the whole Wilhammette valley; continuous ranges
of prairie lands, free from the encumbrance of trees or other
heavy obstacles to the plough, stretch along, ready for the
hand of the cultivator; in their virgin state these are overgrown with fern, the height of which, say from three to ten
feet, indicates the strength of the soil. No felling of trees
or grubbing is necessary here. A two-horse plough prostrates
the rankest fern, and a fine crop of wheat the very next year
succeeds it. The fields, however, continue to improve under
cultivation, and are much more prolific the fourth and fifth
years than before. Wheat is the staple commodity; the average
yield is twenty bushels to the acre; and this from very slovenly
culture. Those who take much pains, reap forty or fifty. Although population is dispersed over these.clear lands, and a
large portion of them is held by "claims," there is, notwithstanding, a mere fraction cultivated. A fair estimate of all
the wheat raised in 1846 does not exceed 160,000 bushels,
which, by the average, would grow upon 8,000 acres of land—
not a hand's breadth compared to the whole body claimed and
held in idleness. The quality of the wheat produced here is,
I believe, unequalled throughout the world; it certainly excels
in weight, size of grain, and whiteness of its flour, that of our
Atlantic States, Chili, or .the Black sea, and is far before any
I have seen in California.   Oats grow with correspondent lux- 52     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
uriance; but the nights of this salubrious valley are too cool for
Indian corn or rye. These last grow to perfection further
interior, where the summers are warmer than they are westward of the Cascade mountains. The few experiments made
with hemp and tobacco have proven the competency of the soil
and climate to their production. In short, I can think of nothing vegetable in its nature, common within the temperate zone,
that Oregon will not produce. Fruits have been, so far, very
sparingly introduced; there are a few orchards of apples,
peaches, and pears among the Canadians; but growing upon
seedlings, the fruit is inferior. A great variety of berries
are indigenous and abundant; among them the strawberry,
cranberry, whortleberry, and a big blue berry of delicious
flavor. The traveller stopping at the humblest cottage on a
summer day will be regaled with a white loaf and fresh butter,
a dish of luscious berries, and plenty of rich milk; to procure
all of which the cottager has not been outside his own enclosure.
The fields for cultivation comprise, as before remarked, but a
small portion of the country; outside the fences is a common
range for the cattle. These have increased very rapidly, and
in nothing does the new emigrant feel so sensibly relieved from
labor as in having to make no winter provision for his stock.
Large droves of American cows and oxen have annually accompanied the emigrating parties from the United States, and
the Hudson's Bay Company have imported many from California; but of this indispensable appehdage to an agricultural district, the far greater number in the Wilhammette valley have
sprung from a supply driven in from California, through the
instrumentality of Purser Slacum, United States navy, who
visited Oregon eight or nine years ago as an agent of the
government. Chartering a small vessel in the Columbia, he
carried down to St. Francisco a humber of passengers, gratis,
whom he aided in procuring cattle, and purchased a number
for himself besides, which were driven into the rich pastures
of Oregon; their descendants are to the inhabitants a fertile
source of present comfort and future wealth.   It is but justice Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     53
to the memory of Mr. Slacum to add, that from this circumstance, and others like it, evincing an interest in the welfare of
the people, and a desire to aid their efforts in settling the
country, no other official agent of the United States who has
visited Oregon is held in equally high estimation or grateful
remembrance by the early settlers here.
The Hudson's Bay Company own large flocks of sheep, the
breed of which they have taken every paihs to improve, besides
affording them a constant table supply of good mutton. This
stock yields a profitable fleece of wool, which goes to England.
Many farmers are also rearing this animal, which succeeds
admirably. I saw a flock of twenty on the Recreall river,
which had been brought the year before from Missouri. Its
owner informed me that they had travelled better, and proved
on the journey more thrifty, than either horses or oxen, climbing mountains and swimming rivers with unabated sprightli-
ness during a journey of two thousand miles. Of this small
stock every one had come safely in.
It is scarcely worth while to add that all garden vegetables
grow abundantly in Oregon—at least all which have been
tried; fresh seed and increased varieties are much wanting, and
it is to be lamented that the emigrants seldom bring out anything of this kind. If each would provide himself with a few
varieties, how soon would they be repaid for their trouble.
The man who will put some walnuts and hickory nuts in his
pocket, and bring them to Oregon, may in that way propagate
the growth of timber, for which posterity will be grateful. But
few exotic plants or flowers have yet arrived; but the natural
flora of this country is said, by those acquainted with the subject, to be very rich and extensive. Speaking of flowers reminds me that the honey-bee has not yet been naturalized—a
desideratum which every one seems to notice with surprise
where the sweet briar and honeysuckle, the clover and wild-
grape blossom, "waste their sweets upon the desert air." An
emigrant of 1846 left Missouri with two hives, and conveyed
them safely over the mountains; but was overtaken by winter 54     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
before reachihg the settlements, and, to the regret of all, this
praiseworthy  and troublesome  experiment  did not succeed.
There has been nothing valuable in mineralogy yet discovered. Coal had been found in the northeastern portion of
Vancouver's island, and the British war-steamer Cormorant
visited the mine and procured some of it, which was found to
be of fair quality. A systematic exploration of our own territory would doubtless bring to light much valuable information
on this subject.
With respect to defences, the subject is too comprehensive
to be more than hinted at here. Cape Disappointment may be
rendered impregnable, and will command the river so long as
the chanhel passes where it does; but I cannot suppose the
government will commence works of defence anywhere, without a special reconnoissance by military engineers had first been
made of the premises. It may be proper, however, to report
that Cape Disappointment is now "claimed" by Mr. Peter
Skeen Ogden, a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company.
He purchased the "claim" from an American named Wheeler,
giving him a thousand dollars for it, and is now putting up a
warehouse there. Point Adams, the southern point of the
river's mouth, and nearly five miles from the cape, is low and
sandy, and of course not so susceptible of defence as the other
side; nor is there safe anchorage in its neighborhood durihg the
winter season. The cape, Tongue point, both sides of the Wilhammette falls, a site at the Cascades, and one at the Dalles,
are points on the rivers prominently presenting themselves for
reservation by the government, should it design to reserve
Nisqually, and perhaps other places on the sound and coast,
are not less distinctly marked by nature as eligible sites for
forts or future towns. I have omitted Astoria from this list,
as the isthmus of Tongue point, within three miles of it, is
every way better situated for a business settlement, being accessible to ships from sea of equal draughts of water, having more
spacious anchorage ground, and subject to less tide.   A snug Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     55
cove on the eastern side affords secure landing for loaded boats,
flats, and rafts coming down the river, without the exposed
navigation around the promontory. Mr. Shortiss, an American, "claims" two miles along the river and half a mile back,
including all this point, by virtue of the organic law of Oregon,
and an hereditary title acquired through his Indian wife, who
was born somewhere hereabouts. The policy of confirming all
these land claims it is not my province to discuss; but it may
be necessary to observe that few of those who are now in possession of the land could by any means be made to pay even
a dollar and a quarter an acre for it. In the first place, they
have hot the necessary funds; and in the second, they feel
that they have fairly earned a title to it, by assuming possession while it was uncertain to whom it belonged, and that this
very act of taking possession at the expense of so much toil
and risk gives an increased value to what remains unoccupied,
which will indemnify the government for the whole. The
President's suggestions to Congress on this subject will, it is
hoped, be acted on, and a law framed to meet the exigency.
Many allowances should be made in favor of these people.
They come generally from among the poorer classes of the
western States, with the praiseworthy design of improving
their fortunes. They brave dangers and accomplish Herculean
labors oh the journey across the mountains. For six months
consecutively they have "the sky for a pea-jacket," and the wild
buffalo for company; and during this time, are reminded of
no law but expediency. That they should, so soon after their
union into societies at their new homes, voluntarily place themselves under any restraints of law or penalties whatever, is an
evidence of a good disposition, which time will be sure to improve and refine. If some facts I have related would lead to
unfavorable opinions of them, it will be understood that the
number is very limited—by no means affecting the people as a
mass, who deserve to be characterized as honest, brave, and
hardy, rapidly improving in those properties and qualities which 56     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
mark them for future distinction among the civilized portion
of the world.
With great respect, I am, sir, &c, &c,
Lieut. Commanding, U. S. Navy.
To the Commander-in-chief
Of the U. S. Naval forces \
the Pacific Ocean.
Her Majesty's Sloop Modeste,
Fort Vancouver, Columbia River, Sept. 13, 1846.
Sir: It was with the greatest regret that I this morning
received information of your vessel being on the sands at the
mouth of the Columbia. From the hurried information I have
received, I much fear my boat will be too late to render any assistance in saving the vessel; but in the possibility of your not
having been able to save provisions, &c, I beg to offer for your
acceptance a few of such articles as are not likely to be obtained
at Clatsop.
I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,
THOS. BAILLIE, Commander.
Lieut. Howison,
Commanding U. S. Schooner Shark.
Fort Vancouver, Sept. 11, 1846.
Dear Sir:   We have just heard of the unfortunate accident
which has befallen the Shark: on the bar of this river, and
we beg to offer our sincere condolence oh the distressing event. Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     57
We also beg to offer every assistance we can render in your
present destitute state, and hope you will accept of the few
things sent by this conveyance. Captain Baillie having despatched bread and tea by the Modeste's pinnace anticipated
our intehtion of sending such things. Have the goodness to
apply to Mr. Peers for any articles of food or clothing you may
want, and they will be at your service if he has them in store.
As the people of Clatsop can furnish abundance of beef and potatoes, we are not anxious about your suffering any privation
of food. If otherwise, Mr. Peers will do his utmost to supply
your wants.
With kind remembrance to the officers, we remain, dear sir,
yours truly,
Neil Howison, &c, &c.
Baker's Bay, Friday, September 9, [1846.]
Sir:    I much regret the melancholy disaster which befel
your vessel on Wednesday evening, and also my inability to
render you any assistance at that time.   The Indians tell me
there are several lives lost, but I hope such is not true.
I am informed you wish to occupy part of the house at
Astoria; it is at your service, as also anything else there in the
shape of food or clothing; and I must, at the same time, apologise for offering you such poor accommodations. I sent off
a despatch to Vancouver yesterday morning, to acquaint them
of your distress, and expect an answer Sunday morning.
I remain, sir, yours, most respectfully,
Port Agent of Hudson's Bay Company.
To Captain Howisqn,
&c, &c, &c. 58     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon,
Oregon City, September 15, 1846.
Dear Sir : Last night we heard the melancholy tidings that
the schooner Shark was lost on the South spit. It was very
paihful intelligence, particularly as we are yet in doubt as to
the safety of yourself, officers, and crew. The letter we received at this place states that the probability is, all were saved;
which I sincerely hope may be the case; but until we hear of
the safety of all, we will be in an unhappy state of suspense.
My first feeling was to leave all here, and reach Clatsop as
soon as possible; but I am situated in such a way, just at this
time, that I cannot leave. Should you not make arrangements
to get away in the Mariposa, we have your room in readiness
for you, and will be very happy to have you make one of our
family, as long as you may remain in the country, and any
one of your officers that you may choose for the other room.
I perceive the Modeste's launch was to leave with a supply of
provisions for you for the present. If you wish anything that
I have, let me know, and I will send it down immediately. I
have plenty of flour, and have no doubt but plenty of beef and
pork can be obtained here for the crew. It will give me great
pleasure to be of any service to you. Hoping to hear from
you soon, and that yourself, officers, and crew are all safe on
shore, and in good health,
I remain, dear sir, yours, very truly,
Captain Neil Howison,
&c, &c,
September 19, 1846.
******    Should a vessel arrive belonging
to the firm, I think you will have no difficulty in chartering her Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846     59
to go to California. I shall be happy to render you all the
assistance that lies in my power. Should you wish any assistance as it regards money, or anything that I can obtain for you
in Oregon, please inform me, and I will at the earliest date
endeavor to procure it for you. Please accept my kihdest regards to yourself and officers.
Yours truly,
Capt. Neil Howison.
Baker's Bay, Columbia River,
December 1, 1846.
Dear Governor: One of the few articles preserved from
the shipwreck of the late United States schooner Shark was
her stand of colors. To display this national emblem, and
cheer our citizens in this distant territory by its presence, was a
principal object of the Shark's visit to the Columbia; and it
appears to me, therefore, highly proper that it should henceforth remain with you, as a memento of parental regard from
the general government.
With the fullest confidence that it will be received and duly
appreciated as such by our countrymen here, I do myself the
honor of transmitting the flags (an ensign and union-jack)
to your address; nor can I omit the occasion to express my
gratification and pride that this relic of my late command should
be emphatically the first United States flag to wave over the
undisputed and purely American territory of Oregon.
With considerations of high respect, I remain your obedient
Lieutenant Commanding United States Navy. 60     Lieutenant Howison Report on Oregon, 1846
Oregon City, December 21, 1846.
Dear Sir : I received your esteemed favor of the 1st December, accompanied with the flags of the late U. S. schooner
"Shark," (an ensign and union-jack) as a "memento of parental
regard from the general government" to the citizens of this
Please accept my thanks and the thanks of this community
for the (to us) very valuable present. We will fling it to the
breeze on every suitable occasion, and rejoice under the emblem of our country's glory. Sincerely hoping that the "star-
spangled banner" may ever wave over this portion of the
United States, I remain, dear sir, yours truly,
Neil Howison,
Lieutenant commanding, &c, &c.
A very snug harbor has within a few years been sounded
out and taken possession of by the Hudson's Bay Company on
the southeastern part of Vancouver's island. They have named
it Victoria, and it is destined to become the most important
British seaport contiguous to our territory. Eighteen feet
water can be carried into its inmost recesses, which is a fine
large basin. There is besides pretty good anchorage for frigates outside this basin. The company are making this their
principal shipping port, depositing, by means of small craft
during the summer, all their furs and other articles for the
English market at this place, which is safe for their large ships
to enter during the winter seasoh. They no longer permit them
to come into the Columbia between November and March. OREGON IN 1863
Sp Thomas W.Piotch
One of my books is Bancroft's (San Francisco) Hand Book
Almanac for the Pacific States for 1863—a half century ago.
It is not, perhaps, a rare or valuable volume, but to those interested in "old Oregon" it is entertaining ahd pleasant—a reminder of days when people and things on the North Pacific
Coast were young and new. To the readers of the Oregon
Historical Quarterly the mere mention of the names therein
contained will be good, while comparison of the statistical facts
and figures of those days with like statements of these days
will be instructive and grateful. It is impossible to tell
how many people were in Oregon fifty years ago,
but, judging by the numbers found by the census taken
in 1860 and 1870, it may be safely assumed that the
number was about sixty-five thousand, or about one-fourth the
number to be found this year in the city of Portland alohe, a
city that then contained about four thousand inhabitants. While
all parts of the state have increased in population, trade and
wealth, no one will pretend, of course, that other parts have
kept up in the race with Portland. Gold had been discovered
in Washington Territory in 1860-1-2, and so many men had
gone to seek it that in 1863 Congress created the Territory of
Idaho, including those parts of Washington in which the gold
had been found. Following these discoveries, gold was found
in Eastern Oregon. As one of many results of these gold finds
several thousand people, mostly men, planted themselves in
that part of the State east of the Cascade Mountains. They
liked the country and were there to stay. They demanded
political recognition from the Legislature, and in consequence
the counties of Baker and Umatilla were created, these, with
Wasco, being the three counties in the eastern half of the
State in 1863. Baker and Umatilla were then so new, however, that they do not appear in the Almanac as possessed of
settlements ahd governments as complete as those of the older
counties. 62
Thomas W. Prosch
In 1863 Addison C. Gibbs was Governor of Oregon. He had
six predecessors, dating back to 1845, namely: George Abernethy, Joseph Lane, John P. Gaines, John W. Davis, George
L. Curry and John Whiteaker. Other State officers were
Samuel E. May, Secretary of State; Edwin N. Cooke, Treasurer ; Asahel Bush, Printer, and P. S. Knight, Librarian. Elections were held in June, and State officers chosen for four
years. In 1862 the people had voted on location of the State
capital, Salem getting 3213 votes, Eugene 1921, Corvallis 1798,
and all other places 427. The vote was indecisive, as no place
had a majority.
James W. Nesmith and Benjamin F. Harding were U. S.
Senators, and John R. McBride Representative in Congress.
P. P. Prim, R. E. Stratton, Reuben P. Boise, E. D. Shattuck
and J. G. Wilson were the five circuit judges, and they also
constituted the Supreme Court. In each district was a prosecuting attorney. The first and fifth districts each included three
counties; the second, third ahd fourth, five counties each. The
district attorneys were James F. Gazley, A. J. Thayer, Rufus
Mallory, William Carey Johnson and C. R. Meigs.
The State militia was then headed by Major General Joel
Palmer, Brigadier General Orlando Humason, Brigadier General Elisha L. Applegate, Judge Advocate Richard Williams,
and Surgeon General Ralph Wilcox. Aides to the commander-
in-chief were A. G. Hovey, John H. Mitchell, David P. Thompson and L. W. Powell. The writer believes these men constituted the entire militia force of the state.
The United States was represented by Matthew P. Deady,
district judge; Shubrick Norris, clerk; Wm. L. Adams, customs
collector at Astoria; Edwin P. Drew, collector at Umpqua, and
William Tichenor, collector at Port Orford; Byron S. Pengra,
surveyor general at Eugene; W. A. Starkweather, register, and
W. T. Matlock, receiver, of the land office at Oregon City;
John Kelly, register, and George E. Briggs, receiver, of the
land office at Roseburg; Wm. H. Rector, superintendent of
Indian affairs, and T. McF. Patton, clerk, at Salem; Wm. Oregon in 1863
Logan, Indian agent at Warm Springs reservation; T. W.
Davenport, at Umatilla; James B. Condon, at Grand Ronde;
Benjamin R. Riddle at Siletz; Lewis Brooks at Alsea, and
Amos D. Rogers at Klamath.
General George Wright at San Francisco was in command
of the military on the Pacific Coast, but General Benjamin
Alvord, at Fort Vancouver, under Wright, was in charge of
operations, posts and men in Oregon and Washington.
At Cape Hancock and Toke Point were Oregon's only two
lighthouses. In the State were one hundred and fourteen post-
The State Treasurer reported April 22d, 1862, that he had
$3,899 in hand September 8th, 1860, but that since he had received $89,707. He had disbursed $54,472, and there was on
hand at date of report $39,134. These figures seemed large
then, but now, when they are exceeded frequently in a single
week, they are very small.
The State Senate consisted of sixteen members, and the
House of Representatives of thirty-four. Those belonging
to the two bodies were:
Senate—D. W. Ballard, Wilson Bowlby, C. E. Chrisman,
Bartlett Curl, J. W. Drew, Solomon Fitzhugh, William Greenwood, John W. Grim, D. S. Holton, A. G. Hovey, James K.
Kelly, John R. McBride, John H. Mitchell, James Munroe,
William Taylor and. Jacob Wagner. Wilson Bowlby was president, and Samuel A. Clarke, chief clerk.
House—Lindsay Applegate, C. P. Blair, H. M. Brown, F.
A. Collard, E. W. Conyers, John Cummins, A. J. Dufur, Joseph
Engle, James D. Fay, P. W. Gillette, J. D. Haines, A. A.
Hemenway, Orlando Humason, J. T. Kerns, Rufus Mallory,
V. S. McClure, Wm. M. McCoy, A. A. McCully, John Minto,
I. R. Moores, Joel Palmer, Maxwell Ramsby, C. A. Reed, G.
W. Richardson, Ben Simpson, John Smith, Archibald Stevenson, S. D. Van Dyke, P. Wasserman, James Watson, Ralph
Wilcox, M. Wilkins, W. H. Wilson ahd A. M. Witham. Joel
Palmer was speaker, and S. T. Church, chief clerk. 64
Thomas W. Prosch
The Legislature represented by these men was the twenty-
third in Oregon's history, or the twenty-third session was held
by them, dating back to May 16th, 1843, there being