I have said that there were two sessions of the legislative committee of 1844, which adjourned from June 27th to December 16th, in order to have an opportunity of learning from the immigrants who were expected to the autumn the attitude of affairs between the rival claimants of the Oregon Territory. No less anxious than the Americans were the British subjects, who, being well informed by the belligerent speeches in congress, and the temper of the western people, began to look on their position in Oregon as insecure.
Nor was McLoughlin ignorant that the pilgrims of 1843 were prevented by circumstances rather than by will from hostile acts; and notwithstanding that the danger was averted for the time, he did not regret having written to England for protection. In the summer of 1844 he had added a bastion to Fort Vancouver, and otherwise increased the defences of the place, which before was hardly in a condition to resist attack. The reason given for these preparations was the threatening demeanor of the natives of the interior, and the necessity of doing something to
secure the company's property in case of an outbreak. But these explanations did not deceive the more intelligent of the Americans, and while some smiled at the admission that the Americans were feared, others chose to take alarm, and to accuse the company of intending to make war on them.
Early in July 1844 a British sloop of war, the Modeste, Captain Thomas Baillie, carrying twenty guns, entered the Columbia, and anchored opposite Vancouver; but it does not appear from McLoughlin's papers that any proffer of protection was made, or that the sloop remained long. It is certain, however, that the board of management had been officially notified that England would not yield any of Oregon north of the Columbia, and that they were to govern themselves accordingly.
The position which the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company filled at this time was one of great delicacy and not a little dread, which every fresh intelligence from the United States or England increased. On the 24th of January Wentworth of Illinois had said in congress: "I think it our duty to speak freely and candidly, and let England know that she never can have an inch of Oregon, nor another inch of what is now claimed as the United States territory." A determination to maintain this position was the issue upon which a president of the United States was to be elected. On the other hand, it had been said in the English parliament, by Sir Robert Peel, "England knows her rights and dares maintain them;" and by Lord Palmerston, that if Linn's bill
had passed both houses of congress it would have been a declaration of war. This belligerent attitude on both sides was also as well known to uneducated western men, who were capital Indian-fighters, and who had served under Jackson and Taylor, as it was to the scholarly officers of the British fur company.
The inducement to go to Oregon was not lessened by the prospect of having to drive out the nation which had been fought at New Orleans and along the border, and a large number of people [Note 1] collected at different points along the Missouri River, amounting in all to fourteen hundred persons. The company which rendezvoused near Weston, at a place called Capler's landing, was led by Cornelius Gilliam, who had conceived the idea of an independent colony, as best suited his fancy and the temper of the men. The leaders of 1844 were hardly equal to those of the previous
year. Nor by saying this do I mean any disrespect. They were brave, loyal, earnest, but better fitted to execute than to command; to be loyal to a government than to construct one. Their tendencies were more toward military glory than pride of statesmanship. This spirit led them to organize under military rules for their journey to the Columbia, and to elect a set of officers sufficient for an army, with Gilliam as general.
Little is known of Gilliam's antecedents. He was brave, obstinate, impetuous, and generous, with good natural abilities, and but little education. His accomplishments were varied; he had served in the Black Hawk war, and also in the Seminole war in Florida, as captain; he had preached the gospel of Christ; he had been sheriff of a county, and had served in the Missouri legislature. He was, indeed, just the robust, impulsive, sympathetic, wilful, and courageous leader the men of the border would choose. His aid was John Inyard [Note 2].
The colonel of the organization was Michael T. Simmons, uneducated, but brave and independent, who sought in emigration to Oregon recovery of fortune and health. Four captains were elected under Gilliam: R. W. Morrison, William Shaw, Richard Woodcock and Elijah Bunton [Note 3]. Instead of a judge advocate, with that instinct toward civil liberties which characterized the frontiersman, a court of
equity was established by the election of a judge, with two associate justices [Note 4]. But the court was inoperative, martial law prevailing during the maintenance of military discipline [Note 5].
When the independent colony reached the buffalo grounds, Gilliam used to dash off after the game, to the disappointment of those left in charge of the train. Speeches were made in camp on this subject, and some regulations were laid down for hunting, but they were not regarded; and as happened in 1843, when the Rocky Mountains had been passed, there was no longer any attempt to keep together in large companies.
The other divisions, led by Nathaniel Ford, a man of character and influence, and John Thorp, appear not to have found it necessary to burden themselves with too many regulations, and progressed well without them. Moses Harris, well known in the mountains among the fur-traders and trappers as Black Harris, acted as guide. A company under Sublette also travelled with them from the Platte to Green River. The spring was unusually rainy. By the overflowing of streams, as well as the softening of the earth, so much time was lost that by the 1st of July not more than one hundred miles in a straight course had been travelled. Yet they did not suffer themselves to be discouraged, only one man out of Gilliam's command turning back. Two months of wet weather produced dysentery and rheumatism [Note 6]. The delay occasioned by storms was so much additional time in which provisions were being consumed; hence
at Fort Laramie many families were already without flour, and compelled to purchase it at thirty and forty dollars a barrel. Sugar could be procured only at a dollar and a half a pint.
The route from Green River to Fort Hall was the same opened the year before by way of Fort Bridger. Many were bitterly disappointed on reaching this point to be told they were then only half-way to their destination; and a small company of men without families abandoned their wagons two days west of this post, and prepared to travel with their horses only [Note 7]. They reached Fort Hall on the 10th of September, finding flour at this place too high for their means. Gilliam's wagons arrived here the 16th, where a letter awaited them from Barnett, advising them, if they were likely to need assistance before reaching the Columbia, to send word to the settlers. As it was manifest that assistance would be needed, a party of young men were sent forward on horses, who reached Oregon City on the 18th of October. These were John Minto [Note 8],
Samuel B. Crockett, and Daniel Clark. According to Clyman, they encountered at the Grand Road James Waters of the previous emigration, who was going to meet his family, and who supplied them with provisions for the remainder of their journey [Note 9].
Ford's company, being in advance of Gilliam's, also sent three young men to the Willamette Valley with Minto's party. Snow had now begun to fall in the mountains, while a large part of the emigration was between Fort Boise and the Dalles. The misery entailed upon the belated travellers by the change to winter weather was indescribable [Note 10]. The road from
Burnt River to the Dalles was a panorama of suffering and destitution, and the rear of the caravan remained at Whitman's over the winter. Shaw, who turned aside to Whitman's station to lay in provisions, left there a family of seven children named Sager, whose parents had died on the road, the father while the company was at Green River, and the mother two weeks later. These children were adopted by Dr. Whitman. Shaw failed to reach the Willamette that season, as some of his family were prostrated by sickness, and he remained until March 1845 at the Dalles, with several other families [Note 11].
Two or more small mounted parties, the first to reach the Dalles, took the cattle trail round the base of Mount Hood, and arrived safely in the valley. But the later comers feared this route on account of the advanced season. The families were assisted in descending the Columbia by the loan of boats belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company; and the cattle were crossed by swimming to the north side of the river, driven down to Vancouver, and recrossed in
boats, as they had been the previous year. The scenes of suffering at the Cascades in 1843 were repeated in 1844. Minto, who it will be remembered hastened to the Willamette for help for his employer and friends, tells us that on returning with a boatload of provisions to the Cascades he found 'men in the prime of life lying among the rocks seeming ready to die. I found there mothers with their families, whose husbands were snow-bound in the Cascade Mountains, without provisions and obliged to kill and eat their game dogs. Mrs. Morrison had traded her only dress except the one she wore for a bag of potatoes. There was scarcely a dry day, and the snowline was nearly down to the river.
In such a plight did the immigration of 1844, which set out with high hopes to plant an independent colony in Oregon, find itself on reaching the promised land. The loss of life had been light notwithstanding the hardships of the journey [Note 12]; but the loss of property in cattle, clothing, and household and other goods had been great, to the ruin of many. The cattle had become fat during the weeks of detention on the grassy plains, and were unfit for the hard work of hauling loaded wagons for the remainder of the summer. Many died of exhaustion; some were taken by the natives, who, although not in open hostility, were troublesome at several places on the route, at the Kansas agency, at Laramie, in the Cayuse country, and on the Columbia [Note 13]; although White had deputized
H. A. G. Lee to be among the Cayuses during the passage of the immigration, and to assist in the purchase of cattle with the ten-dollar drafts mentioned in the previous chapter—a device which proved unsuccessful, as the immigrants preferred their cattle to the drafts. The natives were able, however, to sell their crops to the immigrants for good prices, by exchanging wheat, corn, and potatoes for clothing and other articles. Not being able to buy cattle, they stole them [Note 14]; and unable to purchase American horses with their less valuable ponies, they stole those also, until the immigrants, losing patience, retaliated, and took Indian horses regardless of individual ownership; and the evil consequences which were likely to fall upon the next immigration; savages being like civilized men in this respect, that they are ready to punish misconduct in others for which in themselves they find ample excuse.
The condition of the immigrants of 1844, after they had passed all the perils of the journey to Oregon,
was worse than that of 1843, for the reason that there had not been time for the country to recover from the draft upon its resources made the year previous. Thanks to the fertility of the soil, and to the good judgement of McLoughlin in encouraging farming, there was food enough for all, though many lived on short rations rather than incur debt. But the great want of the new-comers was clothing. All the goods in the several stores had long been exhausted; even at Vancouver there was no stock on hand, except the reserved cargo, which was not opened when the immigration arrived [Note 15]. Clothing was made by putting piece to piece without regard to color or texture; and moccasins, which took the place of boots and shoes, were the almost universal foot-covering. A tannery had been begun in the summer, in the neighborhood of Burnett's farm, but the autumn supply of leather, besides being inadequate, was only half tanned, and had a raw streak in the centre.
This destitution, while there was a year's supply in the warehouses at Vancouver, occasioned complaints on the part of the less reasonable of the immigrants who were unable to see why they should not receive as many favors from the Hudson's Bay Company as those of the previous year had, under the same circumstances. McLoughlin had, with his usual sagacity, foreseen that there would be this feeling, and while prepared to defend the company's property from pillage in case of a collision with the immigrants, sought by every means to cultivate a friendly feeling.
Minto relates that when Gilliam was at the Dalles he received a present of food and clothing from the gentlemen at Vancouver; and remarks that although kindly meant, it was a mistake on the part of the company, as it led to the discussion of subjects connected with the politics of the country, which were being forgotten in their more present anxieties, and to a great deal of gossip concerning the meaning of the recent action of the company in strengthening their defences, of which they had been informed, and also of the visit of the "Modeste." These conversations were so frequent that the naturally generous Gilliam, whose prejudices were becoming softened, was led to declare at the Cascades that although willing to live in peace with the Hudson's Bay Company so long as they kept within their treaty rights he would have no hesitation in knocking their stockade about their ears if they did not carry themselves properly.
But it would have been strange if the generous assistance which extended to everything except opening their storehouses against rules and without pay, and the untiring courtesy of McLoughlin and his associate, Douglas, could not have removed many of the preconceived and ill-founded notions of these western Americans [Note 16]. But the conflict which impended it was impossible to avoid by anything less than an admission that to the United States belonged the whole of Oregon, and that the company occupied the country temporarily under a convention which could be annulled at any time – an admission they
were not prepared to make until instructed by the British government to do so.
McLoughlin was very desirous that the immigration should find homes south of the Columbia River; first, because he believed that was their proper place of settlement, under and American form of government; but principally, as he alleged, because contact with the free and independent frontier men would destroy the spirit of obedience for which the company's servants were remarkable, and on which the success and prosperity of the company depended. To his great dissatisfaction, a considerable number encamped for the winter at Washougal, about seventeen miles above Vancouver, on the north bank of the river. They were some of those most thoroughly imbued with the Bentonian idea of American proprietorship, and soon found means of expressing that idea according to their several natures.
Elwood Evans states that Michael T. Simmons and his company, who were among those at Washougal, had first designed to settle in the Rogue River Valley; but that finding McLoughlin anxious to have the Americans settle on the south side of the Columbia, determined to locate himself and company on the north side of the river. According to Evans, who had means of obtaining his information from Simmons himself, the latter, after deciding to take a look at the Puget Sound region, applied to McLoughlin to furnish his family winter quarters in the fort; the request was refused unless he would agree to live on the south side of the river - a promise which Simmons would not give. A cabin outside the fort was finally obtained, and his family established in its shelter, when Simmons set out for Puget Sound, accompanied by Henry Williamson, Henry, James, and John Owens, and James Lewis. They proceeded no further than the forks of the Cowlitz River, sixteen miles north of the Columbia, when finding their provisions becoming exhausted, and the journey excessively difficult, owing
both to the nature of the country and the severe weather, they returned to Washougal, where they passed the remainder of the winter and the first part of summer in making shingles, which they sold to the fur companies, or in any employment they could find to pay expenses.
In February, Henry Williamson, who was from La Porte County, Indiana, and Isaac W. Alderman, erected a hut with a few logs, half a mile from Vancouver, on land occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company, and posted a notice on a tree that they intended to claim the land. This being reported to McLoughlin, he sent men to remove the logs and take down the notice; which removal was hardly completed when the intruders returned with a surveyor, and began running off a section of land. Being remonstrated with, Williamson and Alderman repaired to the fort to argue their case with the doctor. According to White, Williamson, "a modest and respectable young man, demeaned himself with propriety;" but Alderman, "a boisterious, hare-brained young fellow, caused him to blush for American honor." [Note 17]
There were present at this interview, besides White, a number of Americans, and several officers of the fur company. Williamson asked McLoughlin why his hut had been pulled down. McLoughlin replied that it was because it was on land occupied by the Hudson's Bay Company, who were conducting business under a license from the British government, according to a treaty which implied a right to occupy as much ground as they required. This Williamson disputed, and the argument lasted two hours, McLoughlin and Douglas keeping their tongues very well, but Alderman declaring that if he were dis-
turbed in the possession of the land he would "burn the finest building in Oregon," which was thought to mean that he would set fire to the fort. Finding that the young men would not yield, and irritated beyond measure, McLoughlin then declared if Williamson, who seems to have been regarded as the principal in the case, persisted in building there, he should be obliged to use force in preventing him; but offered, if he would choose a location somewhere else, away from any of the company's posts, to assit him in establishing himself; saying, as a reason for desiring his removal, that it was necessary to good order and discipline that their servants should be isolated from the settlements. Williamson, however, disclaimed any responsibility for the conduct of the company's servants, or any desire to influence them; and asserted his ability to get on without the assistance offered him, as well as his right, as an American citizen, to settle upon any unoccupied land in Oregon. Upon this, Chief Factor Douglas, justice of the peace under the Canadian laws, threatened to place him in irons and send him to York factory for trial; whereupon Williamson retorted, "You will have to send me farther north than Hudson Bay to place me beyond the reach of the United States government, - with which challenge the interview was terminated. [Note 18]
Immediately after, McLoughlin and Douglas addressed a circular to the citizens of Oregon, in which they recited the case of Williamson, and stated their position. The settlement was made at Vancouver under a license and a treaty which gave them the right to occupy as much land as they required for the operation of their business. They had opened roads, and made other improvements at great expense; no
officers of either government had questioned their right; their presence and business in the country were a manifest advantage to it, and a protection to the American as well as to the British settler. They had given assistance to both, and had done all they could do to develop the resources of the country. The land they occupied on the north bank of the river was indispensable to them as a range for their flocks and herds, and of little value for agricultural purposes, bein gin part inundated every summer, and in part forest land. They could not submit to the infringement of their right to occupy this land, and, as representatives of the Hudson's Bay Company, were bound to use every means sanctioned by law against trespassers on their premises, until otherwise directed by the company. Yet it was their earnest wish to be at peace with all. They entertained the highest respect for the temporary government established by the American citizens. The advantages of peace and harmony were evident, as were the dangers of lawlessness and misrule; and they felt confident that all persons desiring the well-being of the country would determine to unite in putting down every course tending to disturb the public peace, and in the support of justice, obedience to law, and mutual good-will. The circular closed with a fervent prayer to the divine bestower of all good, for the happiness and prosperity of the whole community. A letter was at the same time addressed to the executive committee, informing them of the intrusion of Williamson on their premises and enclosing a copy of the circular, which explained the course they were bound to persue in the event of the provisional government declining to interfere.
The reply of the executive committee was couched in terms altogether conciliatory. They regretted that "unwarranted liberties" had been taken by an Amer-
ican citizen upon the premises of the British company; expressed pleasure at learning that Williamson had finally desisted; and thanked McLoughlin for his "kind and candid manner" of treating a "breach of the laws of the United States, by setting at naught her most solemn treaties with Great Britain." They promised to use every exertion to put down causes of disturbance, and reciprocated the desire for a continuance of the amicable intercourse which had heretofore existed, which they would endeavor to promote "until the United States shall extend its jurisdiction over us, and our authority ceases to exist."
The admissions made in the answer of the executive committee were not pleasing to the marjority of the Americans in the country, who contended, as did Williamson, that the treaty gave no vested rights, as neither the sovereignty of the soil nor the boundary line was determined, and joint occupancy left all free to go wherever they desired. Some of the more careful and conservative argued that joint occupancy did not mean the occupancy of the same place by both nations, but only the equal privilege of settling where they would not interfere with each other, the first party in possession being entitled to hold until the question of sovereignty was settled. The affair gave rise to much discussion, not only among Americans themselves, but between Americans and the gentlemen of the British company; and while the arguments were conducted with courtesy, and each side was able to learn something from the other, which softened the arrogance of national pride and pretensions, the main question of difference - the propriety of making the Columbia River practically a boundary so long long as the sovereignty of the country remained undecided- continued to agitate the new-comers, and to interest every inhabitant of Oregon.
Mr. Applegate, commenting on the relative positions of the American and British debaters, has said
that gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company who took part in these discussions were more scholarly and accomplished than their antagonists, but the Americans were better informed on the technicalities of the points in dispute. The British in Oregon had also a local weak point to defend. They had been ordered by the board of management to remove their establishments on the south side of the Columbia to the north side, but had not done so, and were occupying territory supposed to belong to the United States, when they forcibly ejected an American citizen from the territory they claimed for Great Britain. This gave color to the opinion of some that England intended, or the Hudson's Bay Company, for her, to attempt holding the whole of Oregon in case of a war, which really seemed impending at this time, and it gave occasion to men like Williamson and Simmons to assert a right to settle wherever they might choose, if their reason for choosing was only to defy the power of England.
In July Colonel Simmons renewed his endeavor to explore the country toward or about Puget Sound, and started with a company consisting of William Shaw, George Waunch, David Crawford, Niniwon Everman, Seyburn Thornton, and David Parker. They found at a small prairie five miles north of the plain on which the Cowlitz farm of the Puget Sound Association was situated, and ten miles from Cowlitz landing, that John R. Jackson of their immigration had been before them, made a location at this place [Note 19], and had returned to bring his family. Jackson made his settlement in the autumn, which he called Highlands.
Continuing to the sound, the party took canoes and made a voyage down to and around the head of
(pg. 464)Whidbey Island, returning through Deception Pass to the east channel, and thence back the way they came to the Columbia River. In this expedition Simmons ascertained the advantages of the sound for commerce, and determined to settle there. In October he removed his family [Note 20] to the head of Budd Inlet, where he took a claim which he called Newmarket, at the falls of Des Chutes River, where there was a fine water power. He was accompanied by James McAllister and family, David Kindred and family, Gabriel Jones and family, George W. Bush and family [Note 21, Jesse Ferguson, and Samuel B. Crockett. This small company cut a road for their wagons through the dense forests between the Cowlitz landing and the plains at the head of the sound, a distance of sixty miles, in the short space of fifteen days. All settled within a circuit of six miles; and the first house erected was upon the claim of David Kindred, about two miles south of the present town of Tumwater, the Newmarket of Simmons. Besides the half-dozen families above mentioned, and the two men without families who settled about the head of the sound in 1845, a few others were looking for locations in that country, three of whom were Wood, Kimball, and Gordon.
Thus, by an effort to avoid the censure of teh directors of the Hudson's Bay Company in London, some of whom had influence with members of the British cabinet, by keeping American settlers south of the Columbia River, McLoughling provoked their oppositioned and hastened the beginning of their occupancy in the region about that beautiful inland sea, which the company had no doubt at that time would come into the possession of Great Britain.
With the exceptions mentioned, the immigrants of 1844 settled in the Willamette Valley the same autumn. The following summer a number went to California, the party being headed by James Clyman. They rendezvoused at La Creole River, in what is now Polk County, starting thence the 8th of June, the company consisting of thirty-nine men, one woman, and three children. [Note 22] Besides the overland immigration, but few persons arrived this year by sea; and
those came in the brig "Chenamus," Captain Couch, from Newburyport, to the Hawaiian Islands, and thence to
the Columbia River. They were William Cushing, son of Caleb Cushing, and Henry Johnson, clerk in the establishment of Cushing and Company at Oregon City. A small fishery was established by this firm, between Astoria and Tongue Point, on the lower Columbia, from which the "Chenamus" took a cargo the following year, having made one or more voyages to the Islands in the mean time. The "Chenamus" was the only American vessel bringing a cargo to Oregon in 1844. On her return to Newburyport she took Cushing and Johnson home, and was commanded by Captain Sylvester, formerly of the "Pallas," Captain Couch remaining in Oregon in charge of the company's business. Neither the vessel, her captain, nor Johnson were ever again on the Pacific coast.
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