We had then wound up about two-thirds of the cable. Immediately after, this remarkable occurrence took place: The great heavy line came wholly up out of the water. A bolt flew out of the capstan, which was a signal for the men who were at work on it to spring out of the way. The captain shouted, "Cut the rope!" but that instant the iron capstan was torn out of the deck, and jumped overboard, with the cable attached to it. I felt thankful for it, for I knew it was the only thing that could put an end to our presumptuous attempt. I had felt that this rope would be a great snare to us in case of accident. Three of our four rudders were broken; but the remaining one enabled us to get into an eddy that carried us to a little cove, where we stopped to repair damages sufficiently to come down the river.
All day, the rain had never ceased; and the river had seemed to me like some of those Greek streams that Homer tells of, which had so much personal feeling against individuals. I felt as if we were going to be punished for an audacious attempt, instead of rewarded for what might otherwise have been considered a brave one. When the capstan disappeared, it was just as if some great river-god, with a whiff of his breath, or a snap of his fingers, had tossed it contemptuously aside. So we turned back defeated. But there was a great deal to enjoy, when we came to think of it afterwards, and were safely out of it. We had seen nothing so bold and rugged before. An old Scotchman, who knows more about it than any one else here, had said to us before we started, "That British Columbia is such a terrible country, very little can ever be known of it." But there was a great deal that was beautiful too. I was particularly struck with the manner in which the Pend d'Oreille springs into the Columbia. Glen Ellis Fall, gliding down in its swiftness, always seemed to me more beautiful than almost any thing else I ever saw. But this river is more demonstrative. It springs up, and falls again in showers of spray, and comes with great leaps out of the canyon, in a way that I cannot describe. There is in it more freedom and strength and delight than in any thing else I ever saw. Far to the south-east, this stream widens into Lake Pend d'Oreille. On this lake are the wonderful painted rocks, rising far above the water, upon which, at the height of several hundred feet, are the figures of men and animals, which the Indians say are the work of a race that preceded them. They are afraid to approach the rocks, lest the waters should rise in anger, and ingulf them. There are also hieroglyphic figures far up on the rocks of Lake Chelan, which is supposed to have once been an arm of the Columbia. These paintings or picture-writings must have been made when the water was so high in the lakes that they could be done by men in boats.
Most of the tributaries of the Upper Columbia are similar in character to the main stream,—wild, unnavigable rivers, flowing through deep canyons, and full of torrents and rapids. With Nature so vigorous and unsubdued about us, all conventionalities seemed swept away; and something fresh and strong awoke in us, as if it had long slumbered until the presence of its kindred in these mountain streams called it to consciousness,—something of the force and freedom of these wild, tireless Titans, that poured down their white floods to the sea.
Most of these streams rise in lakes, and in some part of their course spread again into one or more lakes; as, the Arrow Lakes of the Columbia, the Flat-head, Kootenay, Pend d'Oreille, and Coeur d'Alene, and the beautiful string of lakes of the Okinakane, and many others.
As we passed through the Upper Arrow Lake and Lower Arrow Lake, which lie in British Columbia, we had some splendid views of mountain scenery. The Upper Lake is thirty-three miles long, and three in width, crystalline water, surrounded by snow-covered peaks and precipices, and forests of pine and cedar. The second is sixteen miles below the first, forty-two miles in length, and two and a half wide. Innumerable arrows were sticking in the crevices of the rocks. Formerly every Indian who passed deposited an arrow,—intended probably as an offering to the spirit that rules over the chase, just as the Indian medicine-man, when he gathers his roots, makes an offering to the earth.
The Catholic missionaries were much surprised to find crosses erected sometimes in lonely places, and at first supposed some other priests must have preceded them; but learned that they were set up by the Indians, in honor of the moon, to induce her to favor their nightly expeditions for robbery or the chase.
JULY 22, 1866.
We have been on an excursion to Kettle Falls on the Columbia, where the river dashes over the huge rocks in a most picturesque way. These falls were called La Chaudiere by the Canadian voyageurs, because the pool below looks like a great boiling caldron. We noticed that limestone there replaced the black basalt, of which we had seen so much, the water falling over a tabular bed of white marble.
There we saw some Indians engaged in spearing salmon, as the fish were attempting to leap the falls, in their passage up the stream to their breeding-places. They do not always succeed in passing the falls at their first leap, sometimes falling back two or three times. Many of them are dashed on the rocks at the Cascades, and at other points where the river presents obstacles to their progress. An immense number become victims to the nets of the fishermen, and the traps and spears of the Indians; and those that escape these dangers, and reach the upper waters, are very much bruised and battered,—"spent salmon" they are called. After their long journey of six or seven hundred miles from the sea, it seems as if they would be filled with despair at the sight of these boiling cataracts. They refuse bait on the way, apparently never stopping for food, from the time they leave the salt water. Often with fins and tails so worn down as to be almost useless, their noses worn to the bone, their eyes sunken, sometimes wholly extinguished, they struggle on to the last gasp, to ascend the streams to their sources. In calm weather they swim near the surface, and close to the shore, to avoid the strong current; and they are so possessed with this one purpose, and so regardless of every thing about them, that the Indians catch hundreds of them by merely slipping the gaff-hook under their bodies, and lifting them out of the water,—selecting the best to preserve for food, and throwing aside those that they consider as worthless. These pale, emaciated creatures, I looked at with the greatest interest. How strong is the impulse that carries them through, in spite of these almost insurmountable obstacles! It is beyond our knowledge, why, in coming in from the sea, they pass certain streams to enter others; but this they are known to do, so perfectly do they understand the mysterious direction given them.
The early explorers witnessed many ceremonies among the Indians not now observed by them; as, the salmon-dance, to celebrate the taking of the first salmon in the river. When the earliest spring salmon was caught in the Columbia, the Indians were extremely particular in their dealings with it. No white man could obtain it at any price, lest, by opening it with a knife instead of a stone, he should drive all following salmon from the river. Certain parts must be eaten with the rising, and others with the falling, tide; and many other minute regulations carefully observed. After the salmon-berry ripened, they relaxed their vigilance, feeling that by that time the influx was secure.
The Gros Ventres celebrated the goose-dance, to remind the wild geese, as they left in the autumn, that they had had good food all summer, and must come back in the spring. This dance was performed by women, each one carrying a bunch of long seed-grass, the favorite food of the wild goose. They danced to the sound of the drum, circling about with shuffling steps.
Old Fort Colville.—Angus McDonald and his Indian Family.—Canadian Voyageurs.—Father Joseph.—Hardships of the Early Missionaries.—The Coeurs d'Alene and their Superstitions.—The Catholic Ladder.—Sisters of Notre Dame.—Skill of the Missionaries in instructing the Indians.—Father de Smet and the Blackfeet.—A Native Dance.—Spokanes.—Exclusiveness of the Coeurs d'Alene.—Battle of Four Lakes.—The Yakima Chief and the Road-Makers.
FORT COLVILLE, July 25, 1866.
We have been making a little visit to Old Fort Colville, one of the Hudson Bay stations, kept by Angus McDonald, an old Scotchman, who has been there for a great many years. He is an educated gentleman, of a great deal of character and intelligence; and his wife is an Indian woman, who cannot live more than half the year in the house, and has to wander about, the rest of it, with her tilicums (relations and friends).
It was interesting to see how this cultivated man, accustomed to the world as he had been, had adapted himself to life in this solitary spot on the frontier, with his Indian children for his only companions. He has about ten. In some of them the Scotch blood predominated, but in most the Indian blood was more apparent. The oldest son, a grown man, was a very dark Indian, decorated with wampum. Christine, the oldest daughter, resembled her father most. She kept house for him, because, as she explained to us, her mother could not be much in-doors. She spoke, too, of disliking to be confined. I asked her where she liked best to be; and she said, with the Blackfeet Indians, because they had the prettiest dances, and could do such beautiful bead-work; and described their working on the softened skins of elk, deer, and antelope, making dresses for chiefs and warriors. We had a sumptuous meal of Rocky-Mountain trout, buffalo-tongues, and pemmican. Although Christine was, in some respects, quite a civilized young lady, she occasionally betrayed her innocence of conventionalities, as when she came and whispered to me, before the meal was announced, what the chief dishes were to be. She mentioned, as one of the delicacies of the Blackfeet, berries boiled in buffalo-blood.
Mr. McDonald told us many stories about the Canadian voyageurs employed by the Hudson Bay Company, illustrating their power of endurance and their elastic temperament. One of their men, he said, was lost for thirty-five days in the woods, and finally discovered by the Indians, crawling on his hands and feet towards a brook, nearly exhausted, but still keeping up his courage. He asked us if we could conjecture how he had kept alive all that time, with no means whatever, outside of himself, to procure food. He had actually succeeded in making a fine net from his own hair, with which he caught small fishes, devouring them raw, accompanied by a little grass or moss; not daring to eat any roots or berries, lest they might be poisonous, as the country was new to him. These Canadians are as brown as Indians, from their constant exposure to the sun and wind, and have adapted themselves completely to Indian ways, wearing a blanket capote, leather trousers, moccasins, and a fur cap, with a bright sash or girdle to hold a knife and a tobacco-pouch. Their half-breed children are generally excellent canoe-men and hunters, with the vivacity of the father, and the endurance of the mother's race. Marcel Bernier, one of these French Canadians, was one of the early settlers in the Cowlitz Valley; and we have travelled with him between the Columbia River and Puget Sound, and once stopped at his house over night. It was quite different from the common Indian houses; having pillow-cases trimmed with ruffles and lace, and great bear-skin mats on the door. The baby slept in a little hammock swung from the ceiling. The family were devoted Catholics, and sung matins and vespers, and had pictures and images of saints about the room. We were quite impressed by the advance in civilization which the little admixture of French blood had brought.
Christine took us to see an ancient Indian woman, who remembers the country when there were no white people in it. She has the fifth generation of her children about her. She is wholly blind, her eyes mostly closed, only little bloodshot traces of them left. She sat serenely in the sunshine, hollowing out a little canoe of pine-bark for the youngest, two little girls who swam in the arm of the river before the tent-door.
We went with Christine also up on the bluff to see Father Joseph, a Catholic priest, who represented to me a new class of men, whom I had known before only in books. His eyes were as clear blue as Emerson's ideal ones, that tell the truth; and I knew he meant it, when he answered a question I asked him, in a way that surprised me, and which I should have taken, in some men, for cant. I asked him if it was not ever solitary there; and he said, "It is enough like my own home [Switzerland] for that, but all countries are alike to me. We have no home here below." For twenty-five years he has lived on the top of that hill, with only miserable Indians around him, who could repay him very little for all his efforts. In the Indian war, he was supposed to be so strongly on the side of the Indians, that the government agent, as I find by the printed report, recommended his removal; although he admitted that it was hard to say any thing against a man who had made such unbounded sacrifices for what he considered the good of the Indians. He had books in all languages on his shelves, and was very intelligent and courteous.
He described the condition of the country when the first little band of Jesuits, of whom he was one, entered upon the Oregon mission,—Oregon then extending east as far as the Rocky Mountains. They had often to travel through dark forests, into which the daylight never entered, and, axe in hand, make their own paths through the wilderness, sometimes crawling on all-fours through labyrinths of fallen trees, fording rivers where the water reached to their shoulders, travelling afterwards in their wet clothes, with swollen limbs, and moccasins soaked in blood from laceration of their feet by the thorns of the prickly pear, and lying down at night on their beds of brushwood, wrapped in their buffalo-robes. The Indians were full of curiosity to know what they were in search of, and listened with great interest when they attempted to talk with them. The first group that Father Joseph gathered about him sat all night to hear him, although they had come from hard labor of hunting and fishing, and digging roots. He said, that, however degraded they were, they were all eager to find some power superior to man.
The tribe among whom he first established himself—the Coeurs d'Alene—were renowned among all the tribes for their belief in sorcery; and he experienced great difficulty in making an impression upon them, from the opposition of the medicine-men (jugglers). Among this tribe he found two relics held in great esteem, of which the Indians gave him this account:—
They said that the first white man they ever saw wore a spotted-calico shirt—which to them appeared like the small-pox—and a great white comforter. They thought the spotted shirt was the Great Manitou himself, the master of the alarming disease that swept them off in such vast numbers, and that the white comforter was the Manitou of the snow; that, if they could only secure and worship them, the small-pox would be banished, and abundant snows would drive the buffalo down from the mountains. The white man agreed to give them up, receiving in exchange several of their best horses; and for many years these two Manitous were carried in solemn procession to a hill consecrated to superstitious rites, laid reverently on the grass, and the great medicine-pipe (which is offered to the earth, the sun, and the water) was presented to them; the whole band singing, dancing, and howling around them.
Father Joseph treated the Indians altogether as children, and devised a system of object-teaching, making little images representing what they were to shun, and what to seek, to which he pointed in instructing them. He considered it a miracle, that they yielded their hearts to his teaching; but it seemed to me, that if the good priest's gentle ways and entire devotion to their welfare had produced no effect, it would have been as contradictory to all the laws of nature as any miracle could be. While instructing some savages from Puget Sound, he said the idea came into the mind of one of the priests, to represent by a ladder, which he made on paper, the various truths and mysteries of religion, in their chronological order. This proved vastly beneficial in instructing them. It was called the "Catholic ladder," and disseminated widely among the Indians; their progress in religion being measured by their knowledge of this ladder. At the same time that he sent the ladder among them, he sent also roots and seeds and agricultural tools. I could hardly repress a smile at seeing that he spoke with the same enthusiasm of their success with the beans and potatoes, as with the ladder. The truth is, that he had deeply at heart the good of these, his "wild children of the forest," as he always called them. It was quite touching to him, he said, to see how ready they were to believe that God took charge of earthly things as well as of heavenly.
One of his associates in the early missions was a Belgian priest, whose journal he showed us. He brought over, to aid in the work, six sisters of Notre Dame, in 1844. The vessel which brought them to the Pacific coast stopped at Valparaiso and Lima, to inquire how to enter the Columbia River. Not receiving any satisfactory information, they sailed north till they reached the forty-sixth degree of latitude. Then they explored for several days, and at length saw a sail coming out of what appeared to be the mouth of a river. They immediately sent an officer to find out from this vessel how to enter; but, as he did not return, they were obliged to approach alone the "vast and fearful mouth of the river," and soon found themselves in the terrible southern channel, into which, they were assured afterwards, no vessel had ever sailed before. The commander of the fort at Astoria had endeavored, by hoisting flags, by great signal-fires, and guns, to warn them of their danger. They saw the signals, but did not suspect their intention. They sailed two miles amidst fearful breakers. When at length they reached stiller water, a canoe approached them, containing an American man and some Clatsop Indians. The white man told them he would have come sooner to their aid, but the Indians refused to brave the danger; and said that he expected every moment to see the vessel dashed into a thousand pieces. The Indians, seeing it ride triumphantly over the dreadful bar, considered it under the special guidance of the Great Spirit, and greeted it with wild screams of delight. This was the introduction of the serene sisters to their field of labor. My idea of the sisters generally had been of pale, sad beings, whose most appropriate place was by the side of death-beds. These sisters of Notre Dame were brisk, energetic women, of lively temperaments. Finding the building which was preparing for them not yet provided with doors and windows, from the scarcity of mechanics, they themselves set about planing, glazing, and painting, to make every thing neat and comfortable. Wilkes, in his account of his exploring expedition, speaks regretfully of the poor appearance the Protestant missions presented, when compared with those of the Catholics; there being among the former an unthrifty, dilapidated look, and the Indians he saw there appeared to be employed only as servants.
The Catholics took pains to make all their ceremonies as imposing as circumstances would permit; making free use of musketry, bright colors, and singing,—things most attractive to an Indian,—remarking often, "Noise is essential to the Indian's enjoyment," and, "Without singing, the best instruction is of little value." They showed the Indians that they regarded the comfort and good of their bodies, as well as of their souls; giving them at Easter a great feast of potatoes, parsneps, turnips, beets, beans, and pease, to impress upon them the advantages of civilization, and taking pains that the requirements of religion should not interfere with the fishery or the chase. All the good customs and practices already established among them, they confirmed and approved, and found much to sympathize with in the Indians. The suavity and dignified simplicity of the chiefs particularly pleased them, and the relation of the chief to the people,—they consulting him in regard to every public or private undertaking, as when about to take a journey, or when entering upon marriage; he regulating the gathering of roots and berries, the hunting and fishing, and the division of spoils. The priests said of the chief, "He speaks calmly, but never in vain." They admired the self-control of the Indians, who never showed any impatience when misfortunes befell them; and said, that, the farther they penetrated into the wilderness, the better Indians they found. They were especially pleased with those about the sources of the Columbia, and said of their converts in that region, "If it be true that the prayer of him who possesses the innocence, the simplicity, and the faith of a child, pierces the clouds, then will the prayers of these dear children of the forest reach the ear of Heaven." They were interested in the different views of the future life held by the different tribes. To those who lived by woods and waters, heaven was a country of lakes, streams, and forests; but the Blackfoot heaven was of great sandhills, stretching far and wide, abounding in game.
They devoted themselves with great zeal to reconciling hostile tribes, particularly the Blackfeet and Flat-heads. All the tribes feared the Blackfeet, especially that terrible sub-tribe called the "Blood Indians." The Snakes, too, were a common enemy to all the river-tribes. Father De Smet, the Belgian priest, with great intrepidity started for the Blackfoot country, although receiving numerous warnings of the risk he incurred. He encamped in the heart of their country. One of their chiefs sought him out, and took a fancy to the fearless old man at sight, embracing him in savage fashion, "rough but cordial." This chief was ornamented from head to foot with eagle-feathers, and dressed in blue as a mark of distinction. With this powerful friend, he immediately gained a footing among them. He conducted towards them with great wisdom and kindness, interfering as little as possible with their old customs. After he had made many converts among them, they asked him, on one of the great days of the Church, if he would like to see them manifest their joy in their own way,—by painting, singing, and dancing; to which he gave courteous assent. The dance was performed wholly by women and children, although in the dress of warriors. Some of them carried arms, others only green boughs. All took part in it, from the toddling infant to the ancient grandam whose feeble limbs required the aid of a staff. They carried caskets of plumes, which nodded in harmony with their movements, and increased the graceful effect. There was also jingling of bells, and drums beaten by the men who surrounded them, and joined in the songs. To break the monotony, occasionally a sudden piercing scream was added. If the dance languished, haranguers and those most skilful in grimaces came to its aid. The movement consisted of a little jump, more or less lively according to the beat of the drum. It was danced on a beautiful green plain, under a cluster of pines. All the Indians climbed the trees, or sat round on their horses, to see it.
The missionaries secured some of their readiest converts among the Spokanes (children of the sun), who lived mostly on a great open plain. Instead of being crafty and reserved, like most of the tribes about them, they were free and genial. They welcomed the earliest explorers, and lived on friendly terms with the settlers. They were more susceptible to civilization and improvement than most of the other Indians.
Father De Smet was enthusiastic in his enjoyment of the forests and the mountains; speaking often of the "skyward palaces and holy towers" among the hills, "the immortal pine," the "rock-hung flower," the "fantastic grace of the winding rivers." The desert country through which he travelled, and of which we also saw something in coming to this place, he called "a little Arabia shut in by stern, Heaven-built walls of rock." In the narrow valleys at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, he found magnificent groves of rhododendrons, thousands of them together, fifteen or twenty feet high,—green arches formed underneath by their intertwined branches; above, bouquets of splendid flowers, shading from deepest crimson to pure white.
He mourned very much over the superstitions of the Indians; but said, nevertheless, that an attack of severe illness, which he suffered after one of his journeys, was no doubt sent as a punishment for his too carnal admiration of nature.
* * * * *
While we were talking with Father Joseph, and looking over the journal, a messenger rode up to the door, and told him that Tenas Marie (Little Mary) was dying. The Indian agent, who stood by, said, "It is not much of a loss; she is a worthless creature." Father Joseph turned to him in a most dignified way, and said, "It is a human being;" and then to Christine, and asked if she would lend him a horse, she having a whole herd at command. Presently he started off for a whole night's ride. I thought, if I were Little Mary, after my bad life, when I must enter into account for it, I should be a good deal cheered and supported to see his kind eyes, and hear his firm voice directing me at the last.
The Coeurs d'Alene (pointed hearts, or hearts of arrows—flint) were so called from their determined resistance to having the white men come among them. They did not desire to have one of the Hudson Bay Company's posts upon their land, although the other tribes favored their establishment among them, wishing to barter their skins and obtain fire-arms; but said, that, if the white men saw their country, they would want to take it from them, it was so beautiful.
Father Joseph was their interpreter in the negotiations between them and the United States Government. They attacked Col. Steptoe, while he was passing through their territory, because they had heard that the white men were going to build a road which would drive away the deer and the buffalo. It was explained to them, that, although this was so, other advantages would more than compensate for it. This was beyond their comprehension. To them, the advantages of civilization bore no comparison to the charm of their free, roving life. When the army officers entered the Coeur d'Alene country, they declared that no conception of heaven could surpass the beauty of its exquisite lakes, embosomed in the forest. This tribe held firm against all propositions of the government to treat with them, until Donati's comet appeared in 1858; when, supposing it to be a great fiery broom sent to sweep them from the earth, they accepted a treaty.
The "Battle of Four Lakes" was fought in this country. An old man whom we met at the fort in Walla Walla, who saw this battle, gave us some account of it. The lakes are surrounded with rocks covered with pine. Beyond them is a great rolling country of grassy hills. For about two miles, he said, this open ground was all alive with the wildest, most fantastic figures of mounted Indians, with painted horses, having eagle-feathers braided into their tails and manes; each Indian fighting separately on his own account. He described to us the appearance of the war chief as he rode to battle, his own head hidden by a wolf's head, with stiff, sharp ears standing erect, ornamented with bears' claws, and under it a circlet of feathers. From this head depended a long train of feathers that floated down his back; the loss of which would be the loss of his honor, and as great a disaster to him as, to a Chinaman, the loss of his cue. His war-horse was painted, as well as his own person, and also profusely decorated with feathers on head and tail. The Indians have such a fancy for feathers, that, in some of their medicine ceremonies, they smear their heads with a sticky substance, and cover them all over with swan's-down.
Lieut. Mullan's surveying expedition roused many of the tribes to desperation. Owhi, the Yakima chief, when urged to give up his land,—or, what amounted to the same thing, to allow free passage to the surveying party and the road-makers,—argued that he could not give away the home of his people; saying, "It is not mine to give. The Great Spirit has measured it to my people." Not being successful in his arguments, he organized the outbreak of the following winter. The army destroyed the caches filled with dried berries, and the pressed cake which the Indians prepare from roots for their winter food, many lodges filled with grain, and hundreds of horses; the officers mentioning in their report, that it would insure the Indians a winter of great suffering, and concluding in these words: "Seldom has an expedition been undertaken, the recollection of which is invested with so much that is agreeable, as that against the Northern Indians."
 To the Canadian voyageur, the word alene (awl) meant any sharp-pointed instrument.
Colville to Seattle.—"Red."—"Ferrins."—"Broke Miners."—A Rare Fellow-Traveller.—The Bell-Mare.—Pelouse Fall.—Red-Fox Road.—Early Californians.—Frying-Pan Incense.—Dragon-Flies.—Death of the Chief Seattle.
SEATTLE, August 23, 1866.
We were detained at Fort Colville several days longer than we desired, seeking an opportunity to get back to the Columbia River, by some chance wagon going down from the mines, or from some of the supply-stations in the upper country. In our expedition on the "Forty-nine," we had seen a great many miners, and, among them, one horrid character, with a flaming beard, who was known by every one as "Red." He had been mining in the snow mountains, far up in British Columbia, and joined us to go down on the steamer to Colville. He was terribly rough and tattered-looking. The mining-season in those northern mountains is so short, that he said he was going back to winter at the mines, so as to be on the spot for work in the spring, and that he should take up about forty gallons of grease to keep himself warm through the winter.
He and his companions told great stories about their rough times in the mountains. Some of them mentioned having been reduced to the extremity of living on "ferrins" when all other food had failed. These accounts were generally received, by the rest of the miners, with great outbursts of laughter. That appeared to be their customary way of regarding all their misfortunes,—at least, in the retrospect. We wondered what the "ferrins" could be. Nobody seemed to resort to them, except in the direst need. Upon inquiry, we found out that they were boiled ferns. I have always noticed that even insects of all kinds pass by ferns. I suspect that even the hungriest man would find them rather unsatisfying, but this light diet seemed to have kept them in the most jovial spirits.
R. was rather averse to travelling in such company, and always presented "Red" to me as the typical miner, when opportunities offered for our getting down from Colville with a party from the mines. Finally I persuaded him to accept either "Buffalo Bill," who offered to take us by ourselves, or an Irishman who insisted upon having a few miners with him. I think he was rather prejudiced against the former, on account of his name; and we therefore made an agreement with the latter, to take us, with only two miners, instead of ten as he at first desired, that R. should see them before we started, and that we should have the wagon to ourselves at night. As it happened, we left in haste, and did not see the miners until they leaped from the wagon, and began to assist in putting in our baggage. That was not an occasion, of course, for criticising them. Besides that, I saw, when I first looked at them, that they were rather harder to read than most people I had met; and I could not in a minute tell what to make of them. Our wagoner said they were "broke miners." I did not know exactly what that meant, but thought they might be very desperate characters, made more so by special circumstances. One of them looked like a brigand, with his dark hair and eyes. But I didn't mind; for I was tired of travelling about, and anxious to get home. I thought I would sleep most of the way down; so I put back my head, and shut my eyes. Presently the dark man began to talk with R., in a musical voice, about the soft Spanish names of places in California; and I could not sleep much. Then he spoke of the primitive forms in which minerals crystallized, the five-sided columns of volcanic rock, and the little cubes of gold. I could make no pretence at sleep any longer; I had to open my eyes; and once in a while I asked a question or two, although I would not show much interest, and determined not to become at all acquainted with him, because we were necessarily to be very intimate, travelling all day together, and camping together at night. But I watched him a great deal, and listened to his conversation upon many subjects. I think, that not only on this journey, but in all the time since we came to this coast, we have not enjoyed any thing else so much. He had uncommon powers of expression, and of thought and feeling too, and took great interest in every thing. He had even a little tin box of insects. He showed us the native grains, wild rice, etc., the footprints of animals, the craters of old volcanoes, and called us to listen to the wild doves at night, and the cry of the loon and the curlew.
We travelled in a large freight-wagon, drawn by four mules. A pretty little "bell-mare" followed the wagon. At night she was tied out on the plain; and the mules were turned loose to feed, and were kept from wandering far away by the tinkle of the bell hung on her neck. We slept on beautiful flowering grass, which our wagoner procured for us on the way. When he tied great bunches of it on the front of the wagon, to feed the animals when they came to a barren place, it looked as if we were preparing to take part in some floral procession. The first night, we camped in the midst of the pine-trees. When I woke in the night, and looked round me, the row of dark figures on either side seemed like the genii in "The Arabian Nights," that used to guard sleeping princesses.
Besides the knowledge which our fellow-traveller possessed of the country through which we were passing, which made him a valuable companion to us then, his general enthusiasm would have made him interesting anywhere. I remember a little incident at one of our noon stopping-places, which we thought was very much to his credit. He always hastened to make a fire as soon as we stopped. It was rather hard to find good places, sheltered from the wind, where it would burn, and which would furnish us, too, with a little shade. On this occasion there was a magnificent tree very near us. We were passing out of the region of trees, so it was a particularly welcome sight. He started the fire close to it. It happened to be too near; the pitch caught fire, and presently the trunk was encircled with flame. He was desperate to think that he should have been guilty of an act of "such wanton destructiveness," as he called it,—especially as it was the last fine tree on the road. He abandoned all idea of dinner, and did nothing through that fiery noon, when we could hardly stir from the shade,—which we found farther off,—but rush between the stream near by and the tree, with his little camp-kettle of water, to try to save it. He looked back with such a grateful face, as we left the spot, to see that the flames were smothered. There was something like a child about him; that is, an uncommon freedom from the wickedness that seems to belong to most met, certainly the class he is in the habit of associating with. I doubt if there is one of the men we saw on the "Forty-nine" who would not have been delighted to burn that tree down; and how few of them would have thought, as he did, to put the little pieces of wood that we had to spare, where fuel was scarce, into the road, so that "some other old fellow, who might chance to come along, might see them and use them "!
He told us one beautiful story about miners, though, in connection with the loss of the "Central America." He had a friend on board among the passengers, who were almost all miners going home. When they all expected to perish with the vessel, a Danish brig hove in sight, and came to the rescue. But the passengers could not all be transferred to her. They filled the ship's boats with their wives and their treasure, and sent them off; and the great body of them went down with a cheer and a shout, as the vessel keeled over.
The event of special interest, in our journey home, was our visit to the Pelouse Fall. We had heard that there was a magnificent fall on the Pelouse, twelve miles by trail from the wagon-road, which we were very desirous of seeing; but no one could give us exact directions for finding it. Our friend the miner wanted very much to see it also; and as he seemed to have quite an instinct for finding his way, by rock formations and other natural features of the country, we ventured to attempt it with him. The little bell-mare, which was a cayuse (Indian) horse, was offered for my use, and an old Spanish wooden saddle placed upon her back. I had no bridle; but I had been presented at the fort with a hackama (a buffalo-hair rope), such as the Indians use with their horses. This was attached to the head of the horse, so that the miner could lead her. My saddle had an arrangement in front by which to attach the lasso, in catching animals. The miner said that just the same pattern was still in use in Andalusia and other Spanish provinces. I felt as if I were starting on quite a new career. When he lifted me on to the horse, he said, "How light you are!" It was because every care had dropped off from me.
We rode over the wildest desert country, with great black walls of rock, and wonderful canyons, with perpendicular sides, extending far down into the earth. Mr. Bowles, in his book, "Across the Continent," says he cannot compare any thing else to the exhilaration of the air of the upland plains; neither sea nor mountain air can equal it. The extreme heat, too, seemed to intensify every thing in us, even our power of enjoyment, notwithstanding the discomfort of it. The thermometer marked 117 deg. in the shade. I felt as if I had never before known what breezes and shadows and streams were. Just as we had reached the last limit of possible endurance, the shadow of some great wall of rock would fall upon us, or a little breeze spring up, or we would find the land descending to the bed of a stream. At length our miner, who had been for the last part of the way looking and listening with the closest attention, struck almost directly to the spot, hardly a step astray. It was all below the surface of the earth, so that hardly any sound rose above; and there was no sign of any path to it, not a tree, nor shrub, nor blade of grass near, but an amphitheatre of rock, and the beautiful white river, in its leap into the canyon falling a hundred and ninety feet. The cliffs and jagged pinnacles of basaltic rock around it were several hundred feet high. It looked like a great white bridal veil. It was made up of myriads of snowy sheaves, sometimes with the faintest amethyst tint. It shattered itself wholly into spray before it struck the water below,—that is, the outer circumference of it,—and the inner part was all that made any sound.
The miner looked upon it with perfect rapture. He said to me, "It is a rare pleasure to travel with any one who enjoys any thing of this kind." I felt it so too.
His striking directly at the spot, after many miles of travel, without any landmarks, reminded me of the experience of Ross, the Hudson Bay trader, when he travelled from Fort Okanagan on foot, two hundred miles to the coast, taking with him an Indian, who told him they would go by the Red Fox road; that is, the road by which Red Fox the chief and his men used to go. After they had travelled a long distance over a pathless country, without any sign of a trail, or climbed along the rocky banks of streams, he asked his guide when they would reach the Red Fox road. "This is it, you are on," was the reply. "Where?" eagerly inquired Ross: "I see no road here, not even so much as a rabbit could walk on."—"Oh, there is no road," answered the Indian: "this is the place where they used to pass."
At another time, when he was travelling with an Indian guide, who was accompanied by some of his relatives, the latter were left at a place called Friendly Lake, and were to be called for on their return. They went on to their journey's end, and on their way back, some days after, stopped at the place; but no sign of the relatives appeared. The guide, however, searched about diligently, and presently pointed to a small stick, stuck up in the ground, with a little notch in it. He said, "They are there," pointing in the direction in which the stick slanted,—"one day's journey off." Exactly there they were found.
There was a kind of generosity about this "broke miner," that made us ready to forgive a great deal in him. No doubt there would have been a great deal to forgive if we had known him more. He was, very likely, in the habit of drinking and gambling, like the others that we saw. I know he was a terrible tobacco chewer and smoker. He has been seventeen years on the Pacific side of the continent, came out as a "forty-niner," has travelled a great deal, and taken notes of all he has seen, and said he thought of making use of them some time, if his employments would ever admit of it. I think he is the best fitted to describe the country, of all the persons I have met.
He gave us quite a vivid idea of the semi-barbarous life of the California pioneers, and of the intense desire they sometimes felt for a glimpse of their homes, their wives, and children. I remembered Starr King's saying that women and children had been more highly appreciated in California ever since, on account of their scarcity during the first few years. I rather think the sentiment of the miners was somewhat intensified by the extreme difficulty they found in doing women's work. One of them, now an eminent physician, pricked and scarred his fingers in the most distressing manner, in attempting to sew on his buttons, and patch the rents in his garments. Another member of the camp, who was afterwards governor of the State, won his first laurels as a cook, by the happy discovery, that, by combining an acid with the alkali used in the making of their bread, the result was vastly more satisfactory than where the alkali alone was used. In crossing the plains, they had used the alkali water found there for this purpose.
A travelling theatrical company, who presented themselves with the announcement that they would perform a drama entitled "The Wife," met with unbounded appreciation. Carpenters were employed at sixteen dollars a day to prepare for its presentation. This was the first play ever acted in San Francisco. The company were encouraged to remain, and give other performances; but, as there was only one lady actor, every play had to be altered to conform to this condition of things.
The most tempting advertisement a restaurant could offer was, "potatoes at every meal." Those who indulged in fresh eggs did so at an expense of one dollar per egg.
When the signal from Telegraph Hill announced the arrival of the monthly mail-steamer, there was a general rush for the post-office; and a long line was formed, reaching from the office out to the tents in the chapparal. The building was a small one, and the facilities for assorting and delivering the mail so limited, that many hours were consumed in the work. Large prices were often paid for places near the head of the line; and some of the more eager ones would wrap their blankets around them, and stand all night waiting, in order to get an early chance.
Thus, with endless stories and anecdotes, accounts of his adventures as a miner and explorer, and descriptions of the new and wonderful places he had visited, and the curious people he had met, our fellow-traveller beguiled the tediousness of the journey, and continually entertained us.
As we approached Walla Walla, we made our last camp at the Touchet, a lovely stream. I woke in the morning feeling as if some terrible misfortune had befallen us. I could not tell what, until I was fully roused, and found it could be nothing else than that we must sleep in a bed that night.
We left our miner in Walla Walla, to get work, I think, as a machinist. My acquaintance with him was a lesson to me, never to judge any one by appearance or occupation. We met afterwards some little, common-looking men, who had been so successful at the mines that they could hardly carry their sacks of gold-dust, which made hard white ridges in their hands. They had fifteen thousand dollars or more apiece. I thought, how unequally and unwisely Fate distributes her gifts; but then, as Mrs. S. said when there was such a rush for the garments brought on board the steamer for us at Panama, after our shipwreck, "Let those have them who can least gracefully support the want of them."
Among the miners of the upper country, who had not seen a white woman for a year, I received such honors, that I am afraid I should have had a very mistaken impression of my importance if I had lived long among them. At every stopping-place they made little fires in their frying-pans, and set them around me, to keep off the mosquitoes, while I took my meal. As the columns of smoke rose about me, I felt like a heathen goddess, to whom incense was being offered. The mosquitoes were terrible; but we found our compensation for them in the journey homeward. I remember the entomology used to call the dragon-fly the "mosquito-hawk;" and such dragon-flies I never before saw as we met with near the rivers, especially at the Pelouse. There seemed to be a festival of them there, and one kind of such a green as I believe never was seen before on earth,—so exquisite a shade, and so vivid. There were also burnished silver and gold ones, and every beautiful variety of spotting and marking. A little Indian boy appeared there, dressed in feathers, with a hawk on his wrist,—a wild, spirited-looking little creature.
On Sunday we reached Olympia, and saw the waters of the Sound, and the old headlands again. I had no idea it could look so homelike; and when the mountain range began to reveal itself from the mist, I felt as if nothing we had seen while we were gone had been more beautiful, more really impressive, than what we could look at any day from our own kitchen-door.
As we approached Seattle, we began to gather up the news. It is very much more of an event to get back, when you have had no newspapers, and only the rarest communication of any kind, while you have been gone.
Seattle, the old chief, had died. When he was near his end, he sent word over to the nearest settlement, that he wished Capt. Meigs, the owner of the great sawmill at Port Madison, to come when he was dead, and take him by the hand, and bid him farewell.
We learned that the beautiful Port Angeles was to be abandoned,—Congress having decided to remove the custom-house to Port Townsend,—and that no vessels would go in there. It seemed like leaving Andromeda on her rock. We are going down to make a farewell visit.
Port Angeles Village and the Indian Ranch.—A "Ship's Klootchman."—Indian Muck-a-Muck.—Disposition of an Old Indian Woman.—A Windy Trip to Victoria.—The Black Tamahnous.—McDonald's in the Wilderness.—The Wild Cowlitz.—Up the River during a Flood.—Indian Boatmen.—Birch-Bark and Cedar Canoes.
EDIZ HOOK, October 21, 1866.
We are making a visit at the end of Ediz Hook. No one lives here now but the light-keepers. When we feel the need of company, we look across to the village of Port Angeles and the Indian ranch. It is very striking to see how much more picturesque one is than the other, in the distance. In the village, all the trees have been cut down; but the lodges of the Indians stand in the midst of a maple grove, and in this Indian-summer weather there is always a lovely haze about it, bright leaves, and blue beams of mist across the trees. Living so much out of doors as they do, and in open lodges, their little fires are often seen, giving their ranch a hospitable look, and making the appearance of the village very uninviting in comparison.
OCTOBER 26, 1866.
We have had a great storm; and last night, about dark, a white figure of a woman appeared in the water, rising and falling, outside the breakers. Some Indians went out in their canoes, and took her in to the shore. One of them came to tell us about it. A "ship's klootchman" (wife or woman), he said it was, and a "hyas [big] ship" must have gone down. It was the figure-head of a vessel. The next morning, I saw that the Indians had set it up on the sand, with great wings—which they made of broken pieces of spars—at the sides. It was the large, handsome figure of a woman, twice life-size. They seemed to regard it as a kind of goddess; and I felt half inclined to, myself, she looked out so serenely at the water. I sat down by her side, thinking about what had probably happened, to try to get her calm way of regarding it. A sloop was sent over from the custom-house, to take it across the bay for identification; but that proved impracticable. The captain said that he knew the work,—it was English carving. Soon after, a vessel came in, having lost her figure-head. The men on board said that a strange ship ran into her in the night, and immediately disappeared. They supposed she was much injured, as they afterwards saw a deck-load of lumber floating, which they thought had come from her. They said it might be the "Radama," bound for China.
OCTOBER 29, 1866.
To-day, when we were coasting along the shore, we saw Yeomans preparing his canoe for a long excursion. It was lined with mats. In the middle were two of the baskets the Indians weave from roots, filled with red salmon-spawn. Against them lay a gray duck, with snowy breast; then, deer-meat, and various kinds of fishes. Over the whole he had laid great green leaves that looked like the leaves of the tulip-tree. The narrow end of the canoe was filled with purple sea-urchins, all alive, and of the most vivid color. I took one up, and asked him if they were good to eat. He said, "Indian muck-a-muck, not for Bostons" (whites). His arrangements looked a great deal more picturesque than our preparations for picnics.
The light-keeper at Ediz Hook told us to-day that he had exhumed an old Indian woman, whom some of her tribe had buried alive, or, rather, wrapped up and laid away in one of the little wooden huts in their graveyard, according to their custom of disposing of the dead. They had apparently become tired of the care of her, and concluded to anticipate her natural exit from the world by this summary disposition of her. Mr. S. heard her cries, and went to the rescue. He restored her to the tribe, with a reprimand for their barbarity, and told them the Bostons would not tolerate such mesahchie (outrageous) proceedings.
PORT ANGELES, October 31, 1866.
We made a spirited voyage to Victoria, across the Straits of Fuca. There had been a very severe storm, which we thought was over; but it had a wild ending, after we were on our way, and beyond the possibility of return. We saw the California steamer, ocean-bound, putting back to port. Our only course was to hasten on. The spray was all rainbows, and there were low rainbows in the sky,—incomprehensible rainbows above and below,—and the strongest wind that ever blew. It was all too wonderful for us to be afraid: it was like a new existence; as if we had cast off all connection with the old one, and were spirits only. We flew past the high shores, and looked up at the happy, homelike houses, with a strange feeling of isolation and independence of all earthly ties.
I staid on deck till every man had gone in, feeling that I belonged wholly to wind and wave, borne on like a bird. But the captain came and took me in, lest I should be swept from the deck. When we reached Victoria, great wooden signs were being blown off the stores, and knocking down the people in the streets. This is certainly the home of the winds.
NOVEMBER 20, 1866.
To-day we met on the beach Tleyuk (Spark of Fire), a young Indian with whom we had become acquainted. Instead of the pleasant "Klahowya" (How do you do?), with which he was accustomed to greet us, he took no notice of us whatever. On coming nearer, we saw hideous streaks of black paint on his face, and on various parts of his body, and inquired what they meant. His English was very meagre; but he gave us to understand, in a few hoarse gutturals, that they meant hostility and danger to any one that interfered with him. We noticed afterwards other Indians, with dark, threatening looks, and daubed with black paint, gathering from different directions. The old light-keeper was launching his boat to cross over to the spit, and we turned to him for an explanation. He warned us to keep away from the Indians, as this was the time of the "Black Tamahnous," when they call up all their hostility to the whites. He pointed to some Indian children, who had a white elk-horn, like a dwarf white man, stuck up in the sand to throw stones at. I had noticed for the last few days, when I met them in the narrow paths in the woods, that they stopped straight before me, obliging me to turn aside for them.
We saw them withdraw to an old lodge in the woods, as if to hold a secret council. We did not feel much concerned as to the result of it for ourselves, as we held such friendly relations to Yeomans, the old chief, and had always given the Indians all the sea-bread they wanted,—that being the one article of our food that they seemed most to appreciate. As it proved, it was a mere thunder-cloud, dissipated after a few growls.
MCDONALD'S, December 18, 1866.
Not knowing the name of the nearest town, I date this from McDonald's, that having been our last stopping-place. It is on the stage-route between Columbia River and Puget Sound, and a place worth remembering. I wish I could give an idea of its cheeriness, especially after travelling a fortnight in the rain, as we have done. At this season of the year, every thing is deluged; and the roads, full of deep mudholes and formidable stumps, are now at their worst. The heavy wagons move slowly and laboriously forward, sometimes getting so deep in the mire that it is almost impossible to extricate them, and at times impeded by fallen trees, which the driver has to cut away. They are poorly protected against the searching rains, and for the last two days we have been drenched.
When we caught the first glimpse of the red light in the distance, we felt very much inclined to appreciate any thing approaching comfort, tired and dripping as we were; but what our happy Fates had in store for us, we never for a moment imagined. We had hardly entered the house before we felt that it was no common place. The fireplace was like a great cavern, full of immense logs and blazing bark. It lighted up a most hospitable room. From a beam in the low ceiling, hung a great branch of apples. I counted twenty-three bright red and yellow apples shining out from it.
Two stages meet here, and the main business at this time of the year is drying the passengers sufficiently for them to proceed on their way the next day. The host and his family stood round the fire, handling and turning the wet garments with unbounded good-nature and patience. The stage-drivers cracked jokes and told stories. A spirit of perfect equality prevailed, and a readiness to take every thing in the best possible part. The family are Scotch,—hard-working people; but they have not worked so hard as to rub all the bloom off their lives, as so many people have that we have seen.
When supper was announced, another surprise awaited us. Instead of the unvarying round of fried meat and clammy pie with which we had hitherto been welcomed, we were refreshed with a dish of boiled meat, a corn-starch pudding, and stewed plums. Why some other dweller in the wilderness could not have introduced a little variety into his bill of fare, we could never conceive. It seemed a real inspiration in McDonald, to send to California or Oregon for a little dried fruit and some papers of corn-starch. He gave us, too, what was even more delightful than his wholesome food,—a little glimpse of his home-life. To a tired traveller, what could be more refreshing than a sight of somebody's home? Generally, at whatever place we stopped, we saw only the "men-folks;" the family, often half-breed, being huddled away in the rear. Here, in the room in which the guests were received, lay the smiling baby in its old-fashioned cradle. Two blithe little girls danced in and out, and the old grandfather sat holding a white-haired boy. When dinner was over, the great business of drying the clothes was resumed by the travellers and the family; and we held our wrappings by the fire, and turned them about, until we became so drowsy that we lost all sense of responsibility. We found, the next morning, that our host sat up and finished all that were left undone. He had become so accustomed to this kind of work, that he did not seem to consider it was any thing extra, or that it entitled him to any further compensation than the usual one for a meal and a night's lodging. When we offered something more, he pointed to a little box nailed up beside the door, over which was a notice that any one who wished might contribute something for a school which the Sisters were attempting to open for the children of that neighborhood. Being Scotch people, I could hardly believe they were Catholics; but found upon inquiry that their views were so liberal as to enable them to appreciate the advantages of education, by whomsoever offered. I was quite touched by McDonald's little contribution to civilization, in the midst of the wilderness. As I looked back, in leaving, at the great trees and the exquisitely curved slope of his little clearing, I felt that in the small log house was something worthy of the fine surroundings.
OLYMPIA, December 23, 1866.
When we reached Cowlitz Landing, we found the river quite different in character from what we had known it before. It had risen many feet above its ordinary level, and was still rising, and had become a wide, fierce, and rushing stream, bearing on its surface great trees and fragments of wrecked buildings, swiftly sailing down to the Columbia. How serenely we descended the river last year, floating along at sunset, admiring the lovely valley and the hills, reaching over the side of the canoe, and soaking our biscuits in the glacier-water, without once thinking of the vicissitudes to which we were liable from its mountain origin!
The little steamer that recently had begun to compete with the Indian canoes in the traffic of the river, and the carrying of passengers, did not dare to attempt to ascend it. Navigation was not to be thought of by ordinary boats, or by white men, and was possible only by canoes in the most trusty hands. No land-conveyance could be had at this point. We were told that we might take the stream, by those familiar with it, if we could find good Indians willing to go with us. One called "Shorty" was brought forward to negotiate with us. He has the same dwarfed appearance I have noticed in the old women, and that strange, Egyptian-looking face and air. It would be impossible for any one to tell, by his appearance, whether he personally were old or young; but the ancientness of the type is deeply impressed upon him. If half-civilized Indians had been offered, or those that had had much intercourse with the whites, I should have hesitated more to trust them; but he was such a pure Indian, it seemed as if he were as safe as any wild creature. Whether he would extend any help, in emergencies, to his clumsy civilized passengers, was a more doubtful question. However, as the alternative was to wait indefinitely, and the character of the stopping-places, as a rule, drives one to desperate measures, we confided ourselves to his hands, and embarked with him and his assistant, a fine athletic young Indian.
We fixed our eyes intently upon him, as if studying our fates. He was perfectly imperturbable, and steered only, the other poling the canoe along the edge of the stream, and grasping the overhanging trees to pull it along, using the paddle only when these means were not available. His work required unceasing vigilance and activity, and was so hard that it would have exhausted any ordinary man in a few hours; but he kept on from early morning till dark. Always in the most difficult places, or if his energy seemed to flag in the least, Shorty would call out to him, in the most animated manner, mentioning a canoe, a hammock, and a hyas closhe (very nice) klootchman; at which the young man would laugh with delight, and start anew. I considered it was probably his stock in life, the prospect of an establishment, which was presented to rouse and cheer him on. Shorty had been recommended to us as one of the best hands on the river. I began to see that it was for his power of inspiring others, as well as for his extreme vigilance in keeping out of the eddies, and avoiding the drift in crossing the river, to be caught in which would have been destruction. We crossed several times, to secure advantages which his quick eye perceived. I noticed that whenever he pointed out any particular branch on the shore to be seized, how certain the other was to strike it at once. With white men, how much blundering and missing there would have been!
I never felt before, so strongly, how many vices attend civilization, which it seems as if men might just as well be free from, as when I compared these Indians with the common white people about us,—the stage-drivers, mill-men, and others,—with no smoking nor drinking nor tobacco-chewing, and so strong and graceful, and sure in their aim, that no gymnast I have ever seen could compare with them. The ingenious ways in which they helped themselves along in places where any boat of ours would have been immediately overturned, converting obstacles often into helps, were fascinating to study. As night came on, I began to wish that their consciences were a little more developed, or, rather, that they had a little more sense of responsibility with regard to us. The safety of their passengers is no burden whatever on the minds of the Indians. Their spirits seem to rise with danger. They know that they could very well save themselves in an emergency, and I believe they prefer that white people should be drowned. I could only look into the imperturbable faces of our boatmen, and wonder where we were to spend the night. Finally, with a terrible whirl, which I felt at the time must be our last, they entered a white foaming slough (a branch of the river), and drew up on the bank. They announced to us then that we were to walk a mile through the woods, to a house. I think no white man, even the most surly of our drivers, would have asked us to do that,—in perfect blackness, the trees wet and dripping,—but would have managed to bring us to some inhabited place. They started off at a rapid gait, and we followed. We could not see their forms; but one carried something white in his hand, which we faintly discerned in the darkness, which served as our guide. They sang and shouted, and sounded their horn, all the way. I supposed it was to keep off bad spirits, but the next day we heard that in those woods bears and panthers were sometimes found. At length a light appeared. We felt cheered; but when we approached it, two furious dogs rushed out at us. They were immediately followed by their master, who took us in. After consultation with him, we concluded to abandon our Indians, as he said he could take us, on the following day, through the woods to the next stopping-place, with his ox-team. The quiet comfort of being transported by oxen was something not to be resisted, after having our nerves so racked. We felt an immense satisfaction in coming again upon our own kind, even if it were only in an old log cabin, where the children were taken out of their bed to put us in.
We have seen no bark canoes here; they are all of cedar. No doubt there is good canoe-birch on the river-banks, but something more durable is needed. The North-west Fur Company, in early days, sent out a cargo of birch from Montreal to London, to be shipped from there round Cape Horn to the north-west coast of America, to be made into canoes for their men to navigate the Columbia and its branches; in direst ignorance of the requirements of the country, as well as of its productions.
Voyage to San Francisco.—Fog-Bound.—Port Angeles.—Passing Cape Flattery in a Storm.—Off Shore.—The "Brontes."—The Captain and his Men.—A Fair Wind.—San Francisco Bar.—The City at Night.—Voyage to Astoria.—Crescent City.—Iron-Bound Coast.—Mount St. Helen's.—Mount Hood.—Cowlitz Valley and its Floods.—Monticello.
SAN FRANCISCO, February 20, 1867.
We are here at last, contrary to all our expectations for the last ten days. We left Puget Sound at short notice, taking passage on the first lumber-vessel that was available, with many misgivings, as she was a dilapidated-looking craft. We went on board at Port Madison, about dusk,—a dreary time to start on a sea-voyage, but we had to accommodate ourselves to the tide. The cabin was such a forlorn-looking place, that I was half tempted to give it up at the last; when I saw, sitting beside the rusty, empty stove, a small gray-and-white cat, purring, and rubbing her paws in the most cheery manner. The contrast between the great, cold, tossing ocean, and that little comfortable creature, making the best of her circumstances, so impressed me, that I felt ashamed to shrink from the voyage, if she was willing to undertake it. So I unpacked my bundles, and settled down for a rough time. There were only two of us as passengers, lumber-vessels not making it a part of their business to provide specially for their accommodation.
The sky looked threatening when we started; and the captain said, if he thought there was a storm beginning, he would not try to go on. But as we got out into the Straits of Fuca, the next day, a little barque, the "Crimea," came up, and said she had been a week trying to get out of the straits, and thought the steady south-west wind, which had prevented her, could not blow much longer. We continued beating down towards the ocean, and in the afternoon a dense fog shut us in. The last thing we saw was an ocean-steamer, putting back to Victoria for shelter. Our captain said his vessel drew too much water for Victoria Harbor, and the entrance was too crooked to attempt; but, if he could find Port Angeles, he would put in there. A gleam of sunshine shot through the fog, and showed us the entrance; and we steered triumphantly for that refuge. Two other vessels had anchored there. But just as we were about rounding the point to enter, and were congratulating ourselves on the quiet night we hoped to spend under the shelter of the mountains, the captain spied a sail going on towards the ocean. He put his vessel right about, determined to face whatever risks any other man would. But the vessel seemed unwilling to go. All that night, and the next day, and the next night, we rode to and fro in the straits, unable to get out.
Passing Cape Flattery is the great event of the voyage. It is always rough there, from the peculiar conformation of the land, and the conflict of the waters from the Gulf of Georgia, and other inlets, with the ocean-tides. Our captain had been sailing on this route for fifteen years, but said he had never seen a worse sea than we encountered. We asked him if he did not consider the Pacific a more uncertain ocean than the Atlantic. At first he said "Yes;" then, "No, it is pretty certain to be bad here at all times." What could Magellan's idea have been in so naming it? He, however, sailed in more southern latitudes, where it may be stiller. We expected to sail on the water; but our vessel drove through it, just as I have seen the snow-plough drive through the great drifts after a storm. Going to sea on a steamer gives one no idea of the winds and waves,—the real life of the ocean,—compared to what we get on a sailing-vessel. Every time we tried to round the point, great walls of waves advanced against us,—so powerful and defiant-looking, that I could only shut my eyes when they drew near. It did not seem as if I made a prayer, but as if I were myself a prayer, only a winged cry. I knew then what it must be to die. I felt that I fled from the angry sea, and reached, in an instant, serene heights above the storm.
Finally, as the result of all these desperate efforts, in which we recognized no gain, the captain announced that we had made the point, but we could get no farther until the wind changed; and, while we still felt the fury of the contrary sea, it was hard to recognize that we had much to be grateful for. We saw one beautiful sight, though,—a vessel going home, helped by the wind that hindered us. It was at night; and the light struck up on her dark sails, and made them look like wings, as she flew over the water. What bliss it seemed, to be nearing home, and all things in her favor!
I could hear all about us a heavy sound like surf on the shore, which was quite incomprehensible, as we were so far from land. But the water drove us from the deck. The vessel plunged head foremost, and reeled from side to side, with terrible groaning and straining. If we attempted to move, we were violently thrown in one direction or another; and finally found that all we could do was to lie still on the cabin-floor, holding fast to any thing stationary that we could reach. We could hear the water sweeping over the deck above us, and several times it poured down in great sheets upon us. We ventured to ask the captain what he was attempting to do. "Get out to sea," he said, "out of the reach of storms." That is brave sailing, I thought, though I would not have gone if I could have helped it. We struggled on in this way for a day and a night, and then he said we were beyond the region of storms from land. I am afraid I should, if left to myself, linger always with the faint-hearted mariners who hug the shore, notwithstanding this great experience of finding our safety by steering boldly off from every thing wherein we had before considered our only security lay. After this, I performed every day the great exploit of climbing to the deck, and looking out at the waste of water. I saw only one poor old vessel, pitching and reeling like a drunken man. I wondered if we could look so to her. She was always half-seas-over. I came to the conclusion it was best not to watch her, but it was hard to keep my eyes off of her. She was our companion all the way down, always re-appearing after every gale we weathered, though often far behind. I remember, just as we were fairly under way, hearing a man sing out, "There's the old 'Brontes' coming out of the straits." My associations with the name were gloomy in the extreme.
When the wind and sea were at their worst, considering the extremity, we felt called upon to offer some advice to the captain, and suggested that, under such circumstances, it might be advisable to travel under bare poles; but that, he assured us, was only resorted to when a man's voice could not possibly be heard in giving orders.
The captain was quite a study to us. On shore he presented the most ordinary appearance. When we had been out two or three days, I noticed some one I had not seen before on deck, and thought to myself, "That is an apparition for a time of danger,—a man as resolute as the sea itself, so stern and gray-looking." I was quite bewildered, for I thought I must certainly before that have seen every one on board. It proved to be the captain in his storm-clothes. One of the sailors was a Russian serf, running away, as he said, from the Czar of Russia, not wholly believing in the safety of the serfs. He had shipped as a competent sea-man; but when he was sent up to the top of the mizzen-mast, to fix the halliards for a signal, he stopped in the most perilous place, and announced that he could not go any farther. It seems that every man on board was a stranger to the captain. It filled us with anxiety to think how much depended on that one man. One night there was an alarm of "A man overboard!" If it had been the captain, how aimlessly we should have drifted on! I liked to listen, when we were below, to hear the men hoisting the sails, and shouting together. It sounded as if they were managing horses, now restraining them, and now cheering them on. When the captain put his hand on the helm, we could always tell below. There was as much difference as in driving. In the midst of the wildest plunging, he would suddenly quiet it by putting the vessel in some other position, just as he would have held in a rearing horse.
Two or three times, when there was a little lull, I went on deck; and the air was as balmy as from a garden. What can it mean, this fragrance of fresh flowers in the midst of the sea?
Some virtues, I think, are admirably cultivated at sea. Night after night, as we lay there, I said to the captain, "What is the meaning of those clouds?" or "that dull red sky?" And he answered so composedly, "It's going to be squally," that I admired his patience; but it wore upon us very much.
At length, one night, as I lay looking up through our little skylight, at the flapping of the great white spanker-sheet,—my special enemy and dread, because the captain would keep it up when I thought it unsafe, it seemed such a lawless thing, and so ready to overturn us every time it shifted,—a great cheerful star looked in. It meant that all trouble was over. One after another followed it. I could not speak, I was so glad. I could only look at them, and feel that our safety was assured. The wind had changed. I appreciated the delight of Ulysses in "the fresh North Spirit" Calypso gave him "to guide him o'er the sea,"—the rest of our voyage was so exhilarating.
We had one more special risk only,—crossing the bar of San Francisco Bay. The captain said, if he reached it at night, he expected to wait until daylight to enter; but I knew that his ambitious spirit would never let him, if it were possible to get over. About three o'clock in the morning, I heard a new sound in the water, like the rippling of billows, as if it were shallow. I hastened upon deck, and found that we were apparently on the bar. The captain and the mate differed about the sounding. Immediately after, I heard the captain tell a man to run down and see what time it was; and, upon learning the hour, heard him exclaim, in the deepest satisfaction, "Flood-tide, sure! Well, we had a chance!" I felt as if we had had a series of chances from the time we left Port Angeles Harbor, to the running in without a pilot, and drifting, as we did, into the revenue-cutter, just as we anchored. We had a beautiful entrance, though. It is a long passage, an hour or two after crossing the bar. San Francisco lay in misty light before us, like one of the great bright nebulae we used to look at in Hercules, or the sword-handle of Perseus. It is splendidly lighted. As we drew nearer, there seemed to be troops of stars over all the hills.
ASTORIA, ORE., October 17, 1868.
In making the voyage from San Francisco, I could hardly go on deck at all, until the last day; but, lying and looking out at my little port-hole, I saw the flying-fish, and the whales spouting, and the stormy-petrels and gulls.
On Sunday the boat was turned about; and when we inquired why, we were told that the wind and sea were so much against us, we were going to put back into Crescent City. It came at once into our minds, how on Sunday, three years before, the steamer "Brother Jonathan," in attempting to do the same thing, struck a rock, and foundered, and nearly all on board were lost.
Crescent City is an isolated little settlement, a depot for supplies for miners working on the rivers in Northern California. It has properly no harbor, but only a roadstead, filled with the wildest-looking black rocks, of strange forms, standing far out from the shore, and affords a very imperfect shelter for vessels if they are so fortunate as to get safely in. The Coast Survey Report mentions it as "the most dangerous of the roadsteads usually resorted to, filled with sunken rocks and reefs." It further says, that "no vessel should think of gaining an anchorage there, without a pilot, or perfect knowledge of the hidden dangers. The rocks are of peculiar character, standing isolated like bayonets, with their points just below the surface, ready to pierce any unlucky craft that may encounter them." The "Dragon Rocks" lie in the near vicinity, at the end of a long reef that makes out from Crescent City. All the steamers that enter or depart from there must pass near them.
It is very remarkable, that, while the Atlantic coast abounds in excellent harbors, on the Pacific side of the continent there is no good harbor where a vessel can find refuge in any kind of weather between San Francisco Bay and San Diego to the south, and Port Angeles, on the Straits of Fuca, to the north. It is fitly characterized by Wilkes as an "iron-bound coast."
We reached here Saturday night. Sunday morning, hearing a silver triangle played in the streets, we looked out for tambourines and dancing-girls, but saw none, and were presently told it was the call to church. We were quite tempted to go and hear what the service would be, but the sound of the breakers on the bar enchained us to stop and listen to them.
PORTLAND, ORE., October 20, 1868.
In coming up the river from Astoria, we had always in view the snow-white cone of St. Helen's, one of the principal peaks of the Cascade Range. Nothing can be conceived more virginal than this form of exquisite purity rising from the dark fir forests to the serene sky. Mount Baker's symmetry is much marred by the sunken crater at the summit; Mount Rainier's outline is more complicated: this is a pure, beautiful cone. It is so perfect a picture of heavenly calm, that it is as hard to realize its being volcanic as it would be to imagine an outburst of passion in a seraph. Fremont reports having seen columns of smoke ascending from it, and showers of ashes are known to have fallen over the Dalles.
As we approached Portland, the sharp-pointed form of Mount Hood came prominently into view. Portland would be only a commonplace city, the Willamette River being quite tame here, and the shores low and unattractive; but this grand old mountain, and the remnant of forest about it, give it an ancient, stately, and dignified look.
OLYMPIA, October 30, 1868.
In crossing from the Columbia River to the Sound, we saw, along the Cowlitz Valley, marks of the havoc and devastation caused by the floods of last winter. The wild mountain stream had swept away many familiar landmarks since we were last there; in fact, had abandoned its bed, and taken a new channel. It gave us a realizing sense of the fact that great changes are still in process on our globe. Where we had quietly slumbered, is now the bed of the stream. We mourned over the little place at Monticello, where for eight years a nice garden, with rows of trim currant-bushes, had gladdened the eyes of travellers, and the neat inn, kept by a cheery old Methodist minister, had given them hospitable welcome,—not a vestige of the place now remaining. Civilization is so little advanced in that region, that few men would have the heart or the means to set out a garden.
Victoria.—Its Mountain Views, Rocks, and Flowers.—Vancouver's Admiration of the Island.—San Juan Islands.—Sir James Douglas.—Indian Wives.—Northern Indians.—Indian Workmanship.—The Thunder-Bird.—Indian Offerings to the Spirit of a Child.—Pioneers.—Crows and Sea-Birds.
VICTORIA, B.C., November 15, 1868.
We are to stay for several months in this place. We are delightfully situated. The house has quite a Christmas look, from the holly and other bright berries that cluster round the windows. The hall is picturesquely ornamented with deer's horns and weapons and Indian curiosities. But the view is what we care most about. On our horizon we have the exquisite peaks of silver, the summits of the Olympic Range, at the foot of which we lived in Port Angeles. We look across the blue straits to them. Immediately in front is an oak grove, and on the other side a great extent of dark, Indian-looking woods. There are nearer mountains, where we can see all the beautiful changes of light and shade. Yesterday they were wrapped in haze, as in the Indian summer, and every thing was soft and dreamy about them; to-day they stand out bold and clear, with great wastes of snow, ravines, and landslides, and dark prominences, all distinctly defined. When the setting sun lights up the summits, new fields of crystal and gold, and other more distant mountains, appear.
It is very refreshing to get here, the island has such a rich green look after California. It is quite rocky about us; but the rocks even are carpeted deep with moss, and the old gnarled branches of the oaks have a coating of thick, bright velvet. It is now the middle of November; and the young grass is springing up after the rain, and even where it does not grow there is no bare earth, but brown oak-leaves and brakes, with soft warm colors, particularly when the sun strikes across them. The skies, too, are like those at home, with the magnificent sunrise and sunset that only clouds can give. The California sky is, much of the time, pure unchanging blue.
When we first landed here, we were very much impressed by the appearance of the coast, it being bold and rocky, like that of New England; while on the opposite side of the straits, and almost everywhere on the Sound, are smooth, sandy shores, or high bluffs covered with trees. The trees, too, at once attracted our attention,—large, handsome oaks, instead of the rough firs, and a totally different undergrowth, with many flowers wholly unknown on the opposite side, which charmed us with their brilliancy and variety of color; among them the delicate cyclamen, and others that we had known only in greenhouses. They continually recalled to us the surprise of some of the early explorers at seeing an uncultivated country look so much like a garden. We were told that much less rain falls here than on the American side; the winds depositing their moisture as snow on the mountains before they reach Victoria, which gives it a dryer winter climate.
Vancouver, in his narrative, repeatedly speaks of the serenity of the weather here, and says that the scenery recalled to him delightful places in England. He felt as if the smooth, lawn-like slopes of the island must have been cleared by man. Every thing unsightly seemed to have been removed, and only what was most graceful and picturesque allowed to remain. He says, "I could not possibly believe that any uncultivated country had ever been discovered exhibiting so rich a picture." When requested by the Spanish Seignor Quadra to select some harbor or island to which to give their joint names, in memory of their friendship, and the successful accomplishment of their business (they having been commissioned respectively by their governments to tender and receive the possessions of Nootka, given back by Spain to Great Britain), he selected this island as the fairest and most attractive that he had seen, and called it the "Island of Quadra and Vancouver." The "Quadra," as was usual with the Spanish names, was soon after dropped.
Between Vancouver's Island and Washington Territory lie the long-disputed islands of the San Juan group; the British claiming that Rosario Strait is the channel indicated in the Treaty of 1846, which would give them the islands; while the United States claim that De Haro Strait is the true channel, and that the islands belong to them.
These islands are valuable for their pasturage and their harbors, and most of all for their situation in a military point of view. While this question is still in dispute, the British fort at one end of San Juan, and the American fort at the other, observe towards each other a respectful silence.
DECEMBER 1, 1868.
Sir James Douglas, the first governor of British Columbia, selected the site of Victoria. Owing to his good taste, the natural beauty of the place has been largely preserved. The oak groves and delicate undergrowth are a great contrast to the rude mill-sites of the Sound, where every thing is sacrificed to sending off so much lumber. He lives at Victoria in a simple, unpretending way. It was made a law in British Columbia, that no white man should live with an Indian woman as wife, without marrying her. He set the example himself, by marrying one of the half-breed Indian women. Some of the chief officers of the Hudson Bay Company did the same. The aristocracy of Victoria has a large admixture of Indian blood. The company encouraged their employes, mostly French Canadians, to take Indian wives also. They were absolute in prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks to the Indians, and dismissed from their employ any one who violated this rule. They gave the Indians better goods than they got from the United States agents; so that they even now distinguish between a King George (English) blanket, and a Boston (American) blanket, as between a good one and a bad one.
It was, no doubt, owing to the influence of Sir James Douglas, that Lady Burdett Coutts sent out and established a high school here for boys and girls.
DECEMBER 5, 1868.
We saw here some of the Northern Indians of the Haidah tribe, from Queen Charlotte's Islands. They came in large canoes, some of which would hold a hundred men, and yet each was hollowed out of a single log of cedar. They came down to bring a cargo of dogfish-oil to the light-house at Cape Flattery. They camped for two weeks on the beach, and we went often to see them. Having led such an isolated life on their islands, surrounded by rough water, and hardly known to white men, they have preserved many peculiarities of their tribe, and are quite different in their looks and habits from the Indians of Puget Sound. Some of the old women had a little piece of bone or pearl shell stuck through the lower lip, which gave them a very barbarous appearance; but in many ways the men had more knowledge of arts and manufactures than any other Indians we have seen. They showed us some ornaments of chased silver, which they offered for sale; also bottle-shaped baskets, made of roots and bark, so closely woven together as to hold water. But most curious to us were some little black, polished columns, about a foot high, that looked like ebony. They were covered with carvings, very skilfully executed. When we took them into our hands, we were surprised at their weight, and found that they were made of a fine, black coal-slate. A man who stood by explained to us that this slate is a peculiar product of their islands. When first quarried, it is so soft as to be easily cut; and when afterward rubbed with oil, and exposed to the air, it becomes intensely hard. At the foot of the column was the bear, who guards the entrance of their lodges; at the top, the crow, who presides over every thing. On some were frogs and lizards. One was surmounted by the "thunder-bird," a mythological combination of man and bird, who lives among the mountains. When he sails out from them, the sky is darkened; and the flapping of his wings makes the thunder, and the winking of his eyes the lightning. It is very strange that the "thunder-bird" should be one of the deities of the Indians of the North-west, where thunder is so rare as to be phenomenal. We heard of him in other parts of British Columbia, and see him represented in carvings from Sitka. Tatoosh Island, off Cape Flattery, where the Makah Indians live, derives its name from Tootootche, the Nootka name for the "thunder-bird." The Makahs originally came from the west coast of Vancouver's Island. They deem themselves much superior to the tribes of the interior, because they go out on the ocean. Their home being on the rocky coast islands, they naturally look to the water to secure their living. Their chief business is to hunt the whale, they being the only Indians who engage in this pursuit.