IT was in 1832 that Nathaniel J. Wyeth, of Boston, crossed the plains to give McLoughlin battle on Oregon soil. Wyeth duplicated Astor’s plan of campaign. He sent out a ship with goods for trade and with provisions; and he himself at the head of a small party of men set off by land. For various causes several of his men left him on the way, and fortune did not smile with unwonted benignity on the remainder, nor on the enterprise in general. Wyeth and a few of his party reached Fort Vancouver in need. The ship was wrecked. McLoughlin received the tattered wanderers hospitably and let them have whatever they required from the stores of the Company in exchange for labor or on credit.
When Wyeth returned to Boston it was to plan another expedition. He sent out the ship May Dacre to meet him at the mouth of the Columbia, and he once more proceeded to cross the continent, accompanied by a band of young New Englanders whom his accounts of El Dorado beyond the Rockies had fired with enthusiasm. This time Wyeth’s ship put into port safely, and he had goods and men enough to warrant him in establishing two posts for trade. He built one post on the island in the mouth of the Willamette and erected Fort Hall, his headquarters, on the Snake. McLoughlin then sent Payette to build Fort Boisé near Fort Hall in Idaho, and the Indians passed Wyeth’s fort by and took their trade to the post of the Company, whose personnel and methods they knew and trusted. Nor would they come to his Willamette post. Wyeth, defeated, sold out to McLoughlin, and returned to New England, where he prospered in other branches of commerce. His venture as a fur trader scarcely caused a ripple on the surface of life in Oregon, but in the East it kindled interest in the territory beyond the mountains, an interest dormant since the days of Lewis and Clark. Was Oregon a land for settlement? Men began to ask that question.
But Wyeth’s excursion while it had some effect, was not the chief cause which led to settlement. To the Salish Indians wrongly named the Flat-heads, because this tribe did not practice distortion belongs the honor of having awakened the East on the subject of Oregon. In 1832, the year of Wyeth’s first venture in Oregon, two old men and two young warriors of the Salish journeyed from Flathead Lake in the mountains through the dangerous country of their Indian foes to St. Louis, to seek out William Clark and to request from him a Bible and a holy man to teach their tribe what was in that book. The Salish had closely observed the Hudson’s Bay Company’s traders in Oregon and had concluded that it was something in the trader’s Bible which made the white man a man of power. From the voyageurs they had heard of priests who instructed the ignorant in the ways of righteousness; they had heard, too, through other tribesmen of the “Black Robes,” for the tradition of these great missionaries of New France was a part of Indian lore’; and being themselves, like most of the coast Indians, of a deeply religious temperament, they had at last resolved to send emissaries to Red Head, the Indians’ friend, to state their great desire for spiritual enlightenment.
Where had these Salish seen or heard of the Bible? That question has troubled the chroniclers who knew not the Scotch traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Nor’westers. But, as we have seen, many of these traders were religious, however unchristianlike the conduct of some of them might at times be. Even that Alexander Henry, who sank beneath the Columbia’s waters with Astoria’s old Governor when both were overweighted with rum, was what he himself would have called a God-fearing man. His journals, as well as the diaries of Cox, Ross, Thompson, Ogden, and others, reveal a profound faith in the God of salvation and in the efficacy of prayer for protection. At Fort Vancouver on the Sabbath, McLoughlin read from the Bible and prayed in the great hall that was filled with the Company’s employees, red and white. The Star-Man, trading with the Salish, had read his Bible and expounded as was his custom everywhere. In camp when on the march Ogden held prayers, as his journal tells us, and read from the Bible. The Indian brigade men attended these services as devoutly as the white men, although they under-stood not a word. Ogden’s wife was a Salish woman, daughter or sister of a Salish chief who was his firm friend. In all probability it was Ogden’s Bible which gave the Salish their great desire to possess a copy of that holy book.
The old men on the mission to St. Louis were two who had known Lewis and Clark in 1805. The young warriors went with them to protect them. They saw Clark. He received them kindly, but he was powerless to give them a missionary. Their sacred errand ended in tragedy and disappointment. The two aged men died in St. Louis and the young warriors returned to their tribe empty-handed. But the news of their pious search spread far and wide. George Catlin, the artist, was in St. Louis at the time; and, so greatly did the poetic theme of these primitive seekers of the Light stir his imagination that he wrote and talked of them incessantly. The matter soon began to be seriously discussed by the churches and at the meetings of the mission boards.
The first response came from the Methodists. When Wyeth crossed the continent for the second time, in 1834, in his train went Jason Lee and his nephew Daniel Lee, two missionaries of that de-nomination. By McLoughlin’s advice the Lees settled in the growing settlement on the Willamette and not in the territory of the Salish. No doubt missionaries were less needed by the Salish than in the spreading village and farming community peopled by the old voyageurs and laborers of the Company and also by some sixty white settlers who had straggled into Oregon from various parts. These settlers had married Indian wives and were bringing up a flock of children without religious counsel of any sort. McLoughlin had already provided them with a school-teacher named Solomon Smith, a Harvard man of Wyeth’s first band, who took root in the country by marrying Celiast, daughter of the Clatsop chief, and began a family and farm of his own.
In 1835 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent out the Reverend Samuel. Parker and Dr. Marcus Whitman to found missions among the Indians of Oregon. By this date steamers were plying on the Missouri River, but the steamer which bore these missionaries got the worst of an argument with snags or sand bars and so came to a halt at Liberty, Missouri. From this point the missionaries and the party of traders under whose escort they were to proceed to Oregon took horse and pushed overland through the valley of the Platte, following that route first made by the buffalo, then appropriated by the Indians and the fur traders, and now known to history as the Oregon Trail.
At one of their encampments in that country of the Teton Range lying between the headwaters of the Platte and Green rivers on the east and the headwaters of the Snake on the west, where Astor’s Overlanders wandered long and helplessly, and where later Ogden’s brigades clashed with the traders of St. Louis Parker and Whitman met bands of Salish and Nez Percés. These Indians evinced so keen a desire for religious instruction that Whitman decided to turn back with an east-going brigade and bring more missionaries. Parker continued the journey over the mountains, guided by a party of the eager Salish. These Indians, says Parker who kept a journal “are very kind to each other, and if one meets with any disaster, the others will wait and assist him.” They had not proceeded far when they met a large band of Nez Percés coming to greet the holy man, advancing in columns, the warriors leading and the women and children in the rear all singing for joy, while their drummers beat out the rhythm of the march.
Although provisions were scarce and it was dangerous to delay, Parker pitched camp so that he might impart spiritual food to the several hundred primitive souls who thus sought him in the wilderness. He preached to them a number of sermons. They can have understood very little if anything of what he said, but he preached from the Bible, and so they knew that his words must be true and mighty; and they were happy. A buffalo hunt followed, and Parker was presented with a large quantity of cured meat and twenty buffalo tongues. A hundred and fifty Indians remained with him and brought him to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post at the mouth of the Walla Walla. Here they left him and returned over the mountains to re-join their hunters. The officer at the post sent Parker down the river to Fort Vancouver, where McLoughlin made him welcome.
Parker visited the site of Astoria and the tribes about the mouth of the river and saw for himself why McLoughlin had quitted Astoria and had moved his trading headquarters sixty miles up the Columbia. He found the Chinooks besotted and de-graded with liquor from the trading vessels which put into Baker’s Bay from time to time. Before the founding of Astoria the Chinooks, under the stern governance of Comcomly, were sober Indians. It is even recorded that the old chief once strongly reprimanded his son-in-law, Mc-Dougal, for giving rum to Comcomly’s son, causing him to return drunken to the Chinook village and to make a shameful spectacle of himself before his tribesmen. But during the reign of the Nor’westers, it seems that the Indians lived in a state of debauch, continued since then by means of liquor from the American trading vessels.
In the following spring Parker traveled through the valley of the Walla Walla, the Snake, and the Spokane rivers, noting favorable sites for missions, and late in the year (1836) he set sail from Fort Vancouver. After an absence of two years he re-turned to his home, at Ithaca, New York, and immediately published his Journal of an Exploring Tour Beyond the Rocky Mountains. This made an-other wind to fan the rising interest of easterners concerning Oregon.
The Macedonian cry from the Salish country was not disregarded by the King of Old Oregon. If the savages themselves were petitioning for a teacher of the Scriptures, it began to appear that the white men in Oregon should also make request. McLoughlin wrote to his superiors in London asking for a chaplain to be sent to Fort Vancouver without delay. In due course a minister of the Church of England arrived, accompanied by his wife. This lady was the second white woman on the Columbia and, as chance would have it, her name also was Jane and her last initial B. The name of this couple in fact was Beaver a circumstance which was merrily hailed as a good omen among the fur traders, since beaver was the standard coin of the fur realm. But, alas, Jane Beaver was as inappropriate in her way to wilderness life as ever Jane Barnes had been. Mrs. Beaver re-fused to associate in any way with the Chief Factor’s wife, or with the wives of his officers; and Beaver himself publicly denounced McLoughlin and Douglas for the iniquity of marriages legalized only by the common law of the wilderness.
Douglas’s wife, Nelia Connolly, the daughter of a white man, was able to understand the words that were unintelligible to the Cree wife of McLoughlin, and the scorn and condemnation of the Englishwoman bewildered her and struck her with grief. Douglas, in temperament the opposite of his chief, cold, cutting, and doubly punctilious in anger, conveyed his impressions of the Reverend Mr. Beaver to that gentleman and insisted on the immediate performance of the marriage ceremony. Not so McLoughlin. That insulted monarch flew into a rage and drubbed the over-zealous moralist from the fort with his gold-headed cane. And, re-fusing to consider any rite performed by Beaver a sacred one, he would not submit to a ceremony at his hands but peremptorily ordered Douglas, lately equipped with powers as a Justice of the Peace, to unite him legally to the mother of his children.
McLoughlin, when his fury had passed, made public apology for his action with the cane, fearing that he had done what might diminish the clergyman’s possible influence for good in the community. But Beaver found himself unable to accept the apology, and as soon as possible he and his lady sailed away from that jungle of iniquity and ferocity. They had contrived, with the best intentions, to do no small harm during their brief visit. Ritualism and convention had met with the primal and the selflawed, and the test had been too severe for both.
Misunderstanding was mutual and perfect. The Beavers, from their sheltered English parish, where conduct was ordered in advance and where no greater danger threatened them than being caught out in the rain without their galoshes, could not even guess at the nature of the feelings they had stirred and outraged in the husbands of the Indian women at Fort Vancouver. If they had known how to listen, they could have heard from those husbands tales of feminine heroism which might have enlightened them, tales of how death from some wrath of Nature or from human foe had missed its mark at the man only because of the woman’s spontaneous reaction to her creed which declared her own life to be nothing outside his service. Ogden has recorded two occasions when the Salish woman saved his life and one gallant episode when she sprang to horse, pursued the party of rival traders and Indians who had seized his furs, dashed into the caravan, cut out the pack horses and stampeded them back to her husband’s camp under the leveled rifles of his foes. And sixteen-year-old Nelia Connolly had leaped to the place of danger before her young husband, as hostile Indians rushed upon him in the lonely northernmost fort in New Caledonia. Such memories as these gave fire to the fury of the King; for was it not he who had issued the ukase that, if any man dealt unfaithfully by an Indian woman, he could not remain in the service of the Company or in Oregon?
In 1836 Marcus Whitman and his bride, accompanied by Henry Spalding and his wife and W. H. Gray, a lay helper, arrived at Fort Vancouver. Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding were the first white women to cross the continent to Oregon.’ The missionaries had come by covered wagon from Fort Laramie to Fort Boisé, where Payette had put them in the charge of Tom Mackay’s brigade, then about to start homewards. They were received with enthusiasm and every offer of service was made to them by white men and Indians alike, so that their passage from Boisé to Walla Walla and down the Columbia was like a triumphal pro-cession. Word had been sent ahead to McLoughlin, and, when the Whitmans and Spaldings landed, they found the King and his court on the bank to welcome them.
On McLoughlin’s advice, Whitman went to the Cayuse Indians about five miles west of Walla Walla, and Spalding established himself at Lapwai on the Clearwater among the Nez Percés. While waiting for their new dwellings to be made ready for them, the two young women remained in the Big House and undertook to give instruction to McLoughlin’s children.
In 1838 McLoughlin went to London to confer with his superiors. From all signs, as he read them, the Treaty of Joint Occupation would soon cease to operate. By the terms of this treaty, signed in 1818, Great Britain and the United States had agreed that the subjects of both governments should have equal rights within the territory west of the Rockies for ten years. The treaty left the question of title to this region in abeyance. Ten years later the time was extended indefinitely, with a clause providing that the agreement could be terminated by either party on twelve months’ notice. A second decade had now run its course, and there was little disposition on either side to continue the agreement much longer. In the notes exchanged by the two Governments prior to 1828, the United States had expressed a willingness to consider an adjustment of the boundary at the forty-ninth parallel all the way to the Pacific. But the British Government, pointing out that this line would cut off the southern end of Vancouver Island, would not consent and presently suggested that the line should be drawn down through the middle of the Columbia River, leaving the navigation of that stream free to both parties. This suggestion the United States rejected.
The workings of diplomacy were watched closely by the officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company in England, and very probably those officials made suggestions to the British Government. At all events, they seem to have thought it likely that the Columbia would ultimately be decided upon as the boundary, for Fort Vancouver was built on the north bank of the river and the brigade leaders who ranged south of the river were instructed not to conserve the game but to follow up all the beaver streams, and, in short, to trap out this part of the country. Early during his reign at Fort Van-couver, McLoughlin became convinced that the country south of the Columbia, today the State of Oregon, would soon attract settlers, and that, what-ever the diplomats might decide, the territory would belong in the end to the nation which colonized it. It was with these several thoughts in his mind that he sent the old servants of the Company into the Willamette Valley to settle. There settlement could not interfere with the fur trade and, later, it might hold the territory for Great Britain. McLoughlin wished to see all the west-ern country from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean under his nation’s flag.
But now the Americans were coming in; and, if they settled the country, the same principle would apply in their case. So far he had been unable to induce the Company’s officers in London to undertake colonization in Oregon as they had done on the Red River in Rupert’s Land. Sir George Simpson, the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, ridiculed the idea that Oregon would ever be a Mecca of overland migration. He thought the difficulties too great and also that Oregon was not a farming country. But the old King knew better. Therefore he went to England to declare his views in person before the directors of the Company and to plead for action.
His visit was not successful. The Company did, indeed, agree to send out a few men to farm under the grant of a new company to be formed and to be called the Puget Sound Agricultural Company; but they made light of his prognostications in general and rather let him feel that he was taking toc much upon himself in giving advice.
McLoughlin reached home towards the end of 1839. Immediately he was confronted by a new problem created by the influx of missionaries and one which he could now do little toward solving. In the year before, Jason Lee had gone east for more helpers and had returned by ship bringing with him more missionaries and their families and some settlers. It had been McLoughlin’s policy to advise each missionary to seek a separate field where his activities would not overlap those of any other religious teacher. Creeds were unimportant to him, as indeed they were to the other sons of the wilderness. And because it was not creeds but knowledge of God and the Commandments which mattered to man, he had, five years since, appointed Jason Lee, the Methodist, to the settlement of French-Canadian Catholics on the Willamette, for as yet no priest of their own Church had entered Oregon. There Jason Lee performed marriages and baptized children. Whitman and Spalding, McLoughlin had sent to different tribes, so that each tribe should have but one white leader of light and thus should not be confused by a divided authority. But the missionaries, some with their families, who had come on Jason Lee’s ship were settling wherever the soil looked most promising for wheat. Moreover, two Catholic missionaries, Blanchet and Demers, had arrived from the Red River and had begun their labors on the Willamette and at Fort Walla among Whitman’s Cayuses. Father Pierre Jean de Smet, a Belgian Jesuit from St. Louis, came in 1840 and settled among the Salish. Other priests quickly followed and toured the Indian territory, preaching and baptizing; and there were presently in Oregon about sixty missionaries, itinerant and stationary. More settlers came and also some American traders. The latter were not attached to the American fur companies but were small peddlers; and the chief article of trade on their pack horses was liquor. When the brigade leaders came in next spring (1840) they reported to McLoughlin that the Indians were uneasy because so many people were coming in, and were already sorry for their invitation to the missionaries.
Because of later happenings, it is worth while to understand the Indian point of view. With the Indians of the North Pacific territory, who lived either on the seashore or along the larger rivers inland, water was not uncommonly used in some of their religious rites, because chiefly on the waters and by the products of the waters they lived. Therefore they took very kindly to the rite of baptism. When Protestant and Catholic missionaries wrote in their diaries that they had baptized scores of eager Indians daily, they were not exaggerating. For when the Indians learned that near by there was a white holy man who could per-form a Strong Magic with water, they traveled in droves to partake of the blessing. So far so good. But presently they were told that the baptism they had received so happily was impotent to save them. According to Indian logic that meant a bad magic, and it might harm them very muchby bringing about a fish famine, for instance. Thus did they interpret the white man’s dispute of creeds; and dissensions arose among themselves as to the respective merits of the missionaries. And each year they saw more white men coming in and taking up their land, for which they were paid nothing. They began to be very suspicious as to the true purpose of the white holy man’s magic. Add to these perplexed questionings the incitement of the free trader’s whiskey, and we have the fundamental causes of the Cayuse War which was to break forth within a decade. Tragedy was inevitable, although most of the men and women who taught the Gospel in Oregon were devoted spirits, willing not only to live their lives among the Indians but to give their lives for the creeds they taught and for the salvation of their red-skinned brothers.
McLoughlin now was between two fires his Company’s displeasure and the animus of the new settlers. Sir George Simpson came out in 1841 and, on looking over the books of the Company at Fort Vancouver, was furious because of the credit given to the Americans. McLoughlin retorted that he would not allow these men to starve. What most stirred Simpson’s anger probably was the proof before his eyes, in the tents and cabins, that McLoughlin’s prophecies of settlement which he had scouted had been true ones. On the other hand the settlers and even some of the missionaries, whom McLoughlin had received kindly and had generously helped, distrusted him. They did not understand the old King and his sway over Oregon. Two eras of civilization, historically more than a hundred years apart, were touching and clashing in Oregon the eras of old feudalism and of modern republicanism. Those who so readily vilified McLoughlin and the Hudson’s Bay Company did not know that, during these few years, only the old King’s fiat held the Indians back from slaughter. They did not know that a native deputation had waited upon McLoughlin and requested permission to wipe out the strangers who were speaking evil words against him nor that these red-skinned deputies had been driven from Fort Vancouver in disgrace, with the threat of ostracism from the Company’s trade and from all its benefits if they lifted a finger against the newcomers.
In 1843 Marcus Whitman, returning to Oregon from a visit to the East in connection with the affairs of the mission, fell in on the way with a caravan of over nine hundred settlers and guided them across the mountains. The men were accompanied by their wives and families and all their worldly goods. The Great Migration into Oregon had begun.
Winter caught the caravan in the mountains. Through snow and sleet the immigrants straggled to the bank of the Columbia. Here they built rafts to float them down. And on one of these rafts, as it shot through the Dalles under the pelting of rain, a baby was born. It was night and stormy with wind and rain when the first of the fleet neared Fort Vancouver. McLoughlin ordered his men at the fort to turn out to aid the rain-soaked pilgrims in mooring the rafts and in landing the household goods. Bales of blankets were carried down. All night the clerks over their books made entries of supplies sent out by a small army of runners. McLoughlin ordered the women and children taken to the Big House, where his wife ministered to their needs. He remained on the shore till morning in the driving rain, directing the work of his men. His presence meant more than the settlers guessed. It was a sign to the Indians. The explanation, which he wrote to his superiors in London, of the large accounts carried on his books for the settlers and missionaries will bear recording here. It was to the effect that, if he had shut the gates of the fort and the doors of the storehouses against the immigrants, the Indians would have fallen upon them and the charge would have been made by those who were jealous of the Company’s preeminence that its officials had set the natives on to murder these people.
The growth of the American population made it necessary now for the settlers to organize a pro-visional government, since they were unwilling to acknowledge the authority of McLoughlin and the Hudson’s Bay Company. The first convention of Americans met in 1843, at Champoeg on the Willamette near the present Salem, Marion County, and chose three commissioners to govern them. Two years later they framed a constitution and appointed a governor. The new government was opposed by the British settlers and by Douglas. But McLoughlin supported it and contributed to its first exchequer. The missionaries living among the Indians were not in favor of it, for the deposing of McLoughlin meant that there was now no authority which the Indians would recognize. The natives were becoming more sullen and resentful daily because of the great con-course of white settlers; and there was now no check at all upon whiskey peddling.
Meanwhile the Oregon Question was convulsing Congress and a part of the nation on the eastern side of the mountains. A year before the Oregon settlers appointed their governor and subscribed to a constitution, President Polk had been swept into the White House by the slogan of “Fifty-four Forty or Fight,” which meant that Great Britain must recognize as American soil the whole Pacific coast from the northern boundary of California to the southern limits of Russian Alaska 54° 40′ or else the United States would declare war. Negotiations were in progress between John C.
Calhoun, Secretary of State, and Richard Pakenham, on behalf of the British Government, when Polk declared, in his inaugural address, that “our title to the country of the Oregon is `clear and unquestionable. Yet, in spite of these statements and the loud response they evoked, Pakenham made two proposals to submit the question to arbitration; but both were declined by Buchanan, the new Secretary of State, who said uncompromisingly that the United States would arbitrate no question involving its territorial rights.
But by the spring of 1846 the United States was at war with Mexico. To fight Great Britain at the same time was impracticable. Though there was furious recrimination in certain quarters in England, as the echo of the bloodthirsty speeches of Congressmen and Senators sounded across the Atlantic, the British Government marked out for itself a course, described by Lord Aberdeen as “consistent with justice, reason, moderation, and common sense.” On June 6, 1846, Pakenham submitted to Buchanan the draft of a treaty which was signed six days later without amendment or alteration. The President sent the treaty to the Senate for consideration without his signature. This was a reversal of the usual procedure; but the overwhelming majority in favor of signing the treaty (37 to 12) in a degree at least saved Polk from the appearance of a wanton change of front.
By the terms of this treaty the boundary line between the territories of the United States and those of Great Britain was continued westward along the forty-ninth parallel to the middle of the channel which separates Vancouver Island from the mainland; thence it proceeded southerly to Juan de Fuca Strait and through the center of that strait to the ocean, thus securing the whole of Vancouver Island to England. Navigation of the channel and strait was to be free and open to both signatories; and navigation of the Columbia River was to be free to the Hudson’s Bay Company and to those trading with them; and the possessory rights of the Company and of all British subjects in the territory were to be respected.
This settlement was eminently just. It gave to the United States the territory rightly claimed through Gray’s discovery of the Columbia, through Lewis and Clark’s descent of the lower part of the river, and through the planting of Astoria. On these facts the American right to the Columbia Valley rested soundly. The United States had also, in 1819, acquired Spain’s claim to the coast, through the treaty which ceded the Floridas and all Spanish territory on the Pacific north of California. But the Spanish title to Oregon was a shadowy one. Spanish mariners had done no more than land on the coast and declare possession; and, two hundred years before they did so, the Englishman Drake had sailed along the north Pacific coast and had taken possession of “New Albion” for his sovereign.
Great Britain’s claim to the Northwest Coast Oregon, Washington, New Caledonia, and Van-couver Island was based on the explorations of Cook and Vancouver, on Mackenzie’s overland journey to the sea, and on the explorations and establishments of the fur traders. The British right to New Caledonia (British Columbia) and Vancouver Island is easily seen to be indisputable now that the mists of controversy have evaporated. Indeed, even when the argument was raging, Calhoun advanced England’s right in conversations with Polk, as Polk’s diary reveals, and more than once urged upon Polk’s attention the fact that England could claim the country watered by the Fraser by the same right that the United States claimed the country watered by the Columbia, pointing out that the Hudson’s Bay Company had built a score of trading posts on the Fraser and its tributaries and had begun colonization at Victoria on Vancouver Island.
The Oregon Treaty gave to both the United States and Canada a broad outlet on the Pacific, with the opportunity to expand their settlements to its shores and their commerce across its waters.
Unfortunately the lurid and acrimonious language of many Congressmen and Senators was reflected by the populace now about ten thou-sand in Oregon itself. There was discord between the Americans and the British and unreasoning animosity against the Hudson’s Bay Company and its officials and servants. This unfriendly feeling began as early as 1841. Lieu-tenant Wilkes of the United States Navy, visiting Oregon in that year, commented on the attitude of the settlers towards the Company which had treated them with such great generosity, and expressed his surprise. There is no doubt, however, that the Company’s servants, whose regard for McLoughlin was little short of adoration, resented the intrusion of the settlers and their new government, and contributed their share of strife. Those were the blind days when jingoism ranked as patriotism, and when a man’s love for his own flag was measured largely by the hatred he felt for his neighbor’s. Ill-will did not prevail with all, but it did prevail with too many. It was finally to pass away in the exercise of democratic government and in blood, when the Indians rose against the white dwellers in Oregon and thus accelerated their union.
In the year of the Oregon Treaty, McLoughlin resigned from the Hudson’s Bay Company and retired with his family to Oregon City. He was succeeded by Douglas at Fort Vancouver. The Indians took the departure of “White Eagle” from the Big House bitterly to heart, and they blamed the Americans for this stroke of sorrow. McLoughlin knew that as a deposed chief his power was broken; he could no longer command the natives. He sent word up the river to the Whitmans and begged them to come into the settlement, but they would not leave their post among the Cayuse Indians.
A few months later an epidemic of measles broke out and a number of sick were being nursed at the Mission House by the Whitmans and their helpers. The disease spread among the Indians, and Whit-man and Spalding had their hands full. The natives were terror-stricken. Some of them, at least, believed that the white people had purposely let loose this scourge to wipe out the Indians. No doubt they had heard of Duncan McDougal and his corked bottle of smallpox and concluded that the missionaries could have kept the bottle of measles corked if they had half tried. The epidemic seems to have been the spark which touched off the stored-up fears and resentments of the Indians. The wanton murder of numbers of their red kindred just beyond the hills by Bonneville and other American adventurers, the seizure of their lands by settlers, whose first great caravan these Indians had seen enter their country under Whitman’s guidance, were other causes of their sullen discontent.
The Whitman mission was attacked. The Whitmans and twelve others in it were murdered. Some fifty persons were taken away as prisoners. The government of Oregon, powerless to effect the rescue of the captives, appealed to Douglas. Ogden with some of the men of his brigade followed the Indians into the mountains and induced them to surrender the prisoners.
When the Indian risings began, the Hudson’s Bay Company stopped the sale of firearms to the natives. But the insane prejudice abiding in the minds of some of the settlers and missionaries inspired a few of Oregon’s early chroniclers to set down the cause of the uprising to the machinations of the Company. Some of the farm lands belonging to the Puget Sound Agricultural Company were seized by settlers in defiance of the Treaty of 1846, and attempts were made to wrest McLoughlin’s holdings from him. But the Father of Oregon had many friends as well as foes among the settlers, and these stood by him loyally.
John McLoughlin died in 1857, aged seventy-three. A few years before his retirement from office he had turned for comfort, in the storms of censure and prejudice that broke over him, to the Canadian priests who had come into Oregon, and he died a devout Catholic. His latter years saw no change in his large spirit of tolerance and good-will towards loyalties and faiths other than his own. In soul and mind, as well as in bodily stature, McLoughlin towered high above most of the men of his day in Old Oregon. He got little gratitude in his life-time and for years after his death, a cloud rested upon his memory. But the pages of scurrility about him have been faded white by the light of the truth, and his name and fame are today treasured as a great tradition in Oregon. He was a master builder, for he erected the moral structure of law and of just and humane principles in the wilderness; and it was under the shelter of his building that settlement began and grew in peace for a decade.
The Indian outbreaks which began in 1847 and continued for a generation compelled the American Government to provide for the security of the settlements, and, in 1848, the American domain west of the Rockies was erected into Oregon Territory. In 1853 it was divided and Washington Territory was set up. Six years later, on February 14, 1859, the State of Oregon was admitted to the Union with its present boundaries.
So passes Old Oregon. So dawns the new régime. Great changes have come to that country west of the mountains in the thirty-five years since McLoughlin went to live there! Portland, first settled in 1845, is now a chartered city and the home of Oregon’s first newspaper, the Oregonian. There is a settlement at Seattle, named after a chief who remained friendly during the Indian wars. Victoria, on Vancouver Island, whither Douglas moved the Pacific headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1849, is a thriving colony. The capital of McLoughlin’s feudal kingdom, Fort Vancouver, is the county seat of the new Washington Territory.
The Hudson’s Bay Company will shortly sell to the United States Government all its property on the American side of the boundary. The old Company is now no longer a feudal overlord but only a trading corporation. Its domains to the north, west of the mountains, have been surrendered to the Crown and two new colonies, Vancouver Island and British Columbia, which are presently to become one, are beginning their history. James Douglas is the Governor of both colonies. A few years more and these colonies, together with the fur trader’s vast northern empire of Rupert’s Land and Athabaska, east of the mountains, shall pass into the new Dominion of Canada.
The population of Oregon and Washington has been temporarily depleted by the stampede for gold, following the discovery of mines in California in 1849, and Victoria has become a great outfitting post. Men are pouring into Victoria to buy goods. Presently begins the rush of gold seekers up the Fraser River. A new adventure beckons to the hardy, and cavalcades of Oregon men are driving northwards. The men of young Oregon, the men of the second generation, are seeking new goals in the wilderness, even as their fathers sought. They are traveling the old route of the northern brigades, up the bend of the Columbia, up the Okanogan, and down David Thompson’s river to the Fraser. In their packs are not beaver traps but washing-pans, shovels, and picks. As they pass through the peaceful valley of the Thompson, they see Indians paddling up the river towards the fort to trade. They cast scarcely a glance at the bales in the canoes. The great quest today is not pelts but gold. A boundary line between two flags no longer holds asunder the spirit of British and American adventurers. But the romance of the fur trade is ended.