Part 4 out of 6
of all the difficulties of the channel. We were now no longer at a loss
to account for the rising of the river at the falls; for this tremendous
rock was seen stretching across the river, to meet the high hills
on the left shore, leaving a channel of only forty-five yards wide,
through which the whole body of the Columbia pressed its way.
The water, thus forced into so narrow a passage, was thrown into whirls,
and swelled and boiled in every part with the wildest agitation.
But the alternative of carrying the boats over this high rock was
almost impossible in our present situation; and as the chief danger
seemed to be, not from any obstructions in the channel, but from
the great waves and whirlpools, we resolved to attempt the passage,
in the hope of being able, by dexterous steering, to descend in safety.
This we undertook, and with great care were able to get through,
to the astonishment of the Indians in the huts we had just passed,
who now collected to see us from the top of the rock. The channel continued
thus confined for the space of about half a mile, when the rock ceased.
We passed a single Indian hut at the foot of it, where the river
again enlarges to the width of two hundred yards, and at the distance
of a mile and a half stopped to view a very bad rapid; this is formed
by two rocky islands which divide the channel, the lower and larger
of which is in the middle of the river. The appearance of this place
was so unpromising that we unloaded all the most valuable articles,
such as guns, ammunition, our papers,. etc., and sent them by land,
with all the men that could not swim, to the extremity of these rapids.
We then descended with the canoes, two at a time; though the canoes
took in some water, we all went through safely; after which we made
two miles, stopped in a deep bend of the river toward the right,
and camped a little above a large village of twenty-one houses.
Here we landed; and as it was late before all the canoes joined us,
we were obliged to remain this evening, the difficulties of the navigation
having permitted us to make only six miles."
They were then among the Echeloots, a tribe of the Upper Chinooks,
now nearly extinct. The white men were much interested in the houses
of these people, which, their journal set forth, were "the
first wooden buildings seen since leaving the Illinois country."
This is the manner of their construction:--
"A large hole, twenty feet wide and thirty in length, was dug
to the depth of six feet; the sides of which were lined with split
pieces of timber rising just above the surface of the ground,
and smoothed to the same width by burning, or by being shaved
with small iron axes. These timbers were secured in their erect
position by a pole stretched along the side of the building near
the eaves, and supported on a strong post fixed at each corner.
The timbers at the gable ends rose gradually higher, the middle pieces
being the broadest. At the top of these was a sort of semicircle,
made to receive a ridge-pole the whole length of the house, propped by
an additional post in the middle, and forming the top of the roof.
From this ridge-pole to the eaves of the house were placed a number
of small poles or rafters, secured at each end by fibres of the cedar.
On these poles, which were connected by small transverse bars of wood,
was laid a covering of white cedar, or arbor vitae, kept on by
strands of cedar fibres; but a small space along the whole length
of the ridge-pole was left uncovered, for the purpose of light,
and of permitting the smoke to pass out. The roof, thus formed,
had a descent about equal to that common among us, and near the eaves
it was perforated with a number of small holes, made, most probably,
for the discharge of arrows in case of an attack. The only entrance
was by a small door at the gable end, cut out of the middle piece
of timber, twenty-nine and a half inches high, fourteen inches broad,
and reaching only eighteen inches above the earth. Before this hole
is hung a mat; on pushing it aside and crawling through, the descent
is by a small wooden ladder, made in the form of those used among us.
One-half of the inside is used as a place of deposit for dried fish,
of which large quantities are stored away, and with a few baskets
of berries form the only family provisions; the other half,
adjoining the door, remains for the accommodation of the family.
On each side are arranged near the walls small beds of mats placed on
little scaffolds or bedsteads, raised from eighteen inches to three feet
from the ground; and in the middle of the vacant space is the fire,
or sometimes two or three fires, when, as is usually the case,
the house contains three families."
Houses very like these are built by the Ahts or Nootkas, a tribe of
Indians inhabiting parts of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland.
A Nootka calls his house an ourt.
The good offices of Lewis and Clark, who were always ready to make
peace between hostile tribes, were again successful here.
The Echeloots received the white men with much kindness, invited them
to their houses, and returned their visits after the explorers had camped.
Lewis and Clark told the Echeloot chiefs that the war was destroying
them and their industries, bringing want and privation upon them.
The Indians listened with attention to what was said, and after
some talk they agreed to make peace with their ancient enemies.
Impressed with the sincerity of this agreement, the captains
of the expedition invested the principal chief with a medal
and some small articles of clothing. The two faithful chiefs
who had accompanied the white men from the headwaters of the streams
now bade farewell to their friends and allies, the explorers.
They bought horses of the Echeloots and returned to their distant
homes by land.
Game here became more abundant, and on the twenty-sixth of October
the journal records the fact that they received from the Indians
a present of deer-meat, and on that day their hunters found plenty
of tracks of elk and deer in the mountains, and they brought
in five deer, four very large gray squirrels, and a grouse.
Besides these delicacies, one of the men killed in the river
a salmon-trout which was fried in bear's oil and, according to
the journal, "furnished a dish of a very delightful flavor,"
doubtless a pleasing change from the diet of dog's flesh
with which they had so recently been regaled.
Two of the Echeloot chiefs remained with the white men to guide them
on their way down the river. These were joined by seven others
of their tribe, to whom the explorers were kind and attentive.
But the visitors could not resist the temptation to pilfer from the goods
exposed to dry in the sun. Being checked in this sly business,
they became ill-humored and returned, angry, down the river.
The explorers noticed here that the Indians flattened the heads
of males as well as females. Higher up the river, only the women
and female children had flat heads. The custom of artificially
flattening the heads of both men and women, in infancy,
was formerly practised by nearly all the tribes of the Chinook family
along the Columbia River. Various means are used to accomplish
this purpose, the most common and most cruel being to bind a flat
board on the forehead of an infant in such a way that it presses
on the skull and forces the forehead up on to the top of the head.
As a man whose head has been flattened in infancy grows older,
the deformity partly disappears; but the flatness of the head
is always regarded as a tribal badge of great merit.
"On the morning of the twenty-eighth," says the journal, having dried
our goods, we were about setting out, when three canoes came from above
to visit us, and at the same time two others from below arrived for the
same purpose. Among these last was an Indian who wore his hair in a que,
and had on a round hat and a sailor's jacket, which he said he had obtained
from the people below the great rapids, who bought them from the whites.
This interview detained us till nine o'clock, when we proceeded down
the river, which is now bordered with cliffs of loose dark colored rocks
about ninety feet high, with a thin covering of pines and other small trees.
At the distance of four miles we reached a small village of eight houses
under some high rocks on the right with a small creek on the opposite side
of the river.
"We landed and found the houses similar to those we had seen at the
great narrows; on entering one of them we saw a British musket, a cutlass,
and several brass tea-kettles, of which they seemed to be very fond.
There were figures of men, birds, and different animals, which were cut
and painted on the boards which form the sides of the room; though the
workmanship of these uncouth figures was very rough, they were highly
esteemed by the Indians as the finest frescos of more civilized people.
This tribe is called the Chilluckittequaw; their language, though somewhat
different from that of the Echeloots, has many of the same words,
and is sufficiently intelligible to the neighboring Indians. We procured
from them a vocabulary, and then, after buying five small dogs,
some dried berries, and a white bread or cake made of roots, we left them.
The wind, however, rose so high that we were obliged, after going one mile,
to land on the left side, opposite a rocky island, and pass the day."
On the same day the white chiefs visited one of the most prominent
of the native houses built along the river.
"This," says the journal, "was the residence of the principal chief
of the Chilluckittequaw nation, who we found was the same between whom
and our two chiefs we had made a peace at the Echeloot village.
He received us, very kindly, and set before us pounded fish,
filberts, nuts, the berries of the sacacommis, and white bread
made of roots. We gave, in return, a bracelet of ribbon to each
of the women of the house, with which they were very much pleased.
The chief had several articles, such as scarlet and blue cloth, a sword,
a jacket, and a hat, which must have been procured from the whites,
and on one side of the room were two wide, split boards, placed together
so as to make space for a rude figure of a man cut and painted on them.
On pointing to this, and asking him what it meant, he said something,
of which all that we understood was `good,' and then stepped up
to the painting, and took out his bow and quiver, which, with some
other warlike instruments, were kept behind it.
"He then directed his wife to hand him his medicine-bag, from which he drew
out fourteen forefingers, which he told us had belonged to the same
number of his enemies, whom he had killed in fighting with the nations
to the southeast, in which direction he pointed; alluding, no doubt,
to the Snake Indians, the common enemy of the tribes on the Columbia.
This bag is usually about two feet in length, and contains roots,
pounded dirt, etc., which only the Indians know how to appreciate.
It is suspended in the middle of the lodge; and it is considered
as a species of sacrilege for any one but the owner to touch it.
It is an object of religious fear; and, from its supposed sanctity,
is the chief place for depositing their medals and more valuable articles.
They have likewise small bags, which they preserve in their great
medicine-bag, from whence they are taken, and worn around their
waists and necks as amulets against any real or imaginary evils.
This was the first time we had been apprised that the Indians
ever carried from the field any other trophy than the scalp.
These fingers were shown with great exultation; and, after an harangue,
which we were left to presume was in praise of his exploits,
the chief carefully replaced them among the valuable contents
of his red medicine-bag. The inhabitants of this village being part
of the same nation with those of the village we had passed above,
the language of the two was the same, and their houses were of similar
form and materials, and calculated to contain about thirty souls.
They were unusually hospitable and good-humored, so that we gave
to the place the name of the Friendly village. We breakfasted here;
and after purchasing twelve dogs, four sacks of fish, and a few
dried berries, proceeded on our journey. The hills as we passed
were high, with steep, rocky sides, with pine and white oak,
and an undergrowth of shrubs scattered over them."
Leaving the Friendly village, the party went on their way down the river.
Four miles below they came to a small and rapid river which they called
the Cataract River, but which is now known as the Klikitat. The rapids
of the stream, according to the Indians, were so numerous that salmon could
not ascend it, and the Indians who lived along its banks subsisted on what
game they could kill with their bows and arrows and on the berries which,
in certain seasons, were plentiful. Again we notice the purchase of dogs;
this time only four were bought, and the party proceeded on their way.
That night, having travelled thirty-two miles, they camped on the right
bank of the river in what is now Skamania County, Washington. Three huts
were inhabited by a considerable number of Indians, of whom the journal
has this to say:--
"On our first arrival they seemed surprised, but not alarmed,
and we soon became intimate by means of smoking and our favorite
entertainment for the Indians, the violin. They gave us fruit,
roots, and root-bread, and we purchased from them three dogs.
The houses of these people are similar to those of the Indians above,
and their language is the same; their dress also, consisting of robes
or skins of wolves, deer, elk, and wildcat, is made nearly after
the same model; their hair is worn in plaits down each shoulder,
and round their neck is put a strip of some skin with the tail
of the animal hanging down over the breast; like the Indians above,
they are fond of otter-skins, and give a great price for them.
We here saw the skin of a mountain sheep, which they say lives among
the rocks in the mountains; the skin was covered with white hair;
the wool was long, thick, and coarse, with long coarse hair on the top
of the neck and on the back, resembling somewhat the bristles of a goat.
Immediately behind the village is a pond, in which were great numbers
of small swan."
The "mountain sheep" mentioned here are not the bighorn of which we have
heard something in the earlier part of this narrative, but a species of wild
goat found among the Cascade Mountains. The "wildcat" above referred to is
probably that variety of lynx known in Canada and most of the Northern States
and the Pacific as the loup-cervier, or vulgarly, the "lucifee."
On the last day of October, the next of the more difficult rapids
being near, Captain Clark went ahead to examine the "shoot,"
as the explorers called the place which we know as the chute.
In the thick wood that bordered the river he found an ancient
burial-place which he thus describes:--
"It consists of eight vaults made of pine or cedar boards
closely connected, about eight feet square and six in height;
the top covered with wide boards sloping a little, so as to convey
off the rain. The direction of all of these vaults is east and west,
the door being on the eastern side, partially stopped with wide
boards decorated with rude pictures of men and other animals.
On entering he found in some of them four dead bodies, carefully wrapped
in skins, tied with cords of grass and bark, lying on a mat,
in a direction east and west. The other vaults contained only bones,
which were in some of them piled to the height of four feet.
On the tops of the vaults, and on poles attached to them,
bung brass kettles and frying-pans with holes in their bottoms,
baskets, bowls, sea-shells, skins, pieces of cloth, hair, bags of
trinkets and small bones--the offerings of friendship or affection,
which have been saved by a pious veneration from the ferocity
of war, or the more dangerous temptations of individual gain.
The whole of the walls as well as the door were decorated with strange
figures cut and painted on them; and besides were several wooden
images of men, some so old and decayed as to have almost lost
their shape, which were all placed against the sides of the vaults.
These images, as well as those in the houses we have lately seen,
do not appear to be at all the objects of adoration; in this place
they were most probably intended as resemblances of those whose
decease they indicate; when we observe them in houses, they occupy
the most conspicuous part, but are treated more like ornaments
than objects of worship."
The white men were visited at their camp by many Indians from the villages
farther up the stream. The journal says:--
"We had an opportunity of seeing to-day the hardihood of the Indians
of the neighboring village. One of the men shot a goose,
which fell into the river and was floating rapidly toward
the great shoot, when an Indian observing it plunged in after it.
The whole mass of the waters of the Columbia, just preparing to descend
its narrow channel, carried the animal down with great rapidity.
The Indian followed it fearlessly to within one hundred and fifty feet
of the rocks, where he would inevitably have been dashed to pieces;
but seizing his prey he turned round and swam ashore with great composure.
We very willingly relinquished our right to the bird in favor of
the Indian who had thus saved it at the imminent hazard of his life;
he immediately set to work and picked off about half the feathers,
and then, without opening it, ran a stick through it and carried it
off to roast."
With many hair's-breadth escapes, the expedition now passed
through the rapids or "great shoot." The river here is one hundred
and fifty yards wide and the rapids are confined to an area four
hundred yards long, crowded with islands and rocky ledges.
They found the Indians living along the banks of the stream
to be kindly disposed; but they had learned, by their intercourse
with tribes living below, to set a high value on their wares.
They asked high prices for anything they had for sale.
The journal says:--
"We cannot learn precisely the nature of the trade carried on
by the Indians with the inhabitants below. But as their knowledge
of the whites seems to be very imperfect, and as the only articles
which they carry to market, such as pounded fish, bear-grass, and roots,
cannot be an object of much foreign traffic, their intercourse
appears to be an intermediate trade with the natives near the mouth
of the Columbia. From them these people obtain, in exchange
for their fish, roots, and bear-grass, blue and white beads,
copper tea-kettles, brass armbands, some scarlet and blue robes,
and a few articles of old European clothing. But their great
object is to obtain beads, an article which holds the first place
in their ideas of relative value, and to procure which they will
sacrifice their last article of clothing or last mouthful of food.
Independently of their fondness for them as an ornament, these beads
are the medium of trade, by which they obtain from the Indians still
higher up the river, robes, skins, chappelel bread, bear-grass, etc.
Those Indians in turn employ them to procure from the Indians
in the Rocky Mountains, bear-grass, pachico-roots, robes, etc.
"These Indians are rather below the common size, with high cheek-bones;
their noses are pierced, and in full dress ornamented with a
tapering piece of white shell or wampum about two inches long.
Their eyes are exceedingly sore and weak; many of them have
only a single eye, and some are perfectly blind. Their teeth
prematurely decay, and in frequent instances are altogether worn away.
Their general health, however, seems to be good, the only disorder
we have remarked being tumors in different parts of the body."
The more difficult rapid was passed on the second day of November, the luggage
being sent down by land and the empty canoes taken down with great care.
The journal of that date says:--
"The rapid we have just passed is the last of all the descents
of the Columbia. At this place the first tidewater commences,
and the river in consequence widens immediately below the rapid.
As we descended we reached, at the distance of one mile from the rapid,
a creek under a bluff on the left; at three miles is the lower
point of Strawberry Island. To this immediately succeed three
small islands covered with wood. In the meadow to the right,
at some distance from the hills, stands a perpendicular rock about
eight hundred feet high and four hundred yards around the base.
This we called Beacon Rock. Just below is an Indian
village of nine houses, situated between two small creeks.
At this village the river widens to nearly a mile in extent;
the low grounds become wider, and they as well as the mountains
on each side are covered with pine, spruce-pine, cottonwood,
a species of ash, and some alder. After being so long accustomed
to the dreary nakedness of the country above, the change is as
grateful to the eye as it is useful in supplying us with fuel.
Four miles from the village is a point of land on the right,
where the hills become lower, but are still thickly timbered.
The river is now about two miles wide, the current smooth and gentle,
and the effect of the tide has been sensible since leaving the rapid.
Six miles lower is a rock rising from the middle of the river to
the height of one hundred feet, and about eighty yards at its base.
We continued six miles further, and halted for the night
under a high projecting rock on the left side of the river,
opposite the point of a large meadow.
"The mountains, which, from the great shoot to this place,
are high, rugged, and thickly covered with timber,
chiefly of the pine species, here leave the river on each side;
the river becomes two and one-half miles in width; the low grounds
are extensive and well supplied with wood. The Indians whom
we left at the portage passed us on their way down the river,
and seven others, who were descending in a canoe for the purpose
of trading below, camped with us. We had made from the foot
of the great shoot twenty-nine miles to-day. The ebb tide rose
at our camp about nine inches; the flood must rise much higher.
We saw great numbers of water-fowl, such as swan, geese, ducks of
various kinds, gulls, plovers, and the white and gray brant,
of which last we killed eighteen."
From Tidewater to the Sea
Near the mouth of the river which the explorers named Quicksand River
(now Sandy), they met a party of fifteen Indians who had lately been down
to the mouth of the Columbia. These people told the white men that they
had seen three vessels at anchor below, and, as these must needs be American,
or European, the far-voyaging explorers were naturally pleased.
When they had camped that night, they received other visitors of whom
the journal makes mention:--
"A canoe soon after arrived from the village at the foot of the last rapid,
with an Indian and his family, consisting of a wife, three children,
and a woman who had been taken prisoner from the Snake Indians,
living on a river from the south, which we afterward found to be
the Multnomah. Sacajawea was immediately introduced to her, in hopes that,
being a Snake Indian, they might understand each other; but their language
was not sufficiently intelligible to permit them to converse together.
The Indian had a gun with a brass barrel and cock, which he appeared
to value highly."
The party had missed the Multnomah River in their way down,
although this is one of the three largest tributaries
of the Columbia, John Day's River and the Des Chutes being
the other two. A group of islands near the mouth of the
Multnomah hides it from the view of the passing voyager.
The stream is now more generally known as the Willamette,
or Wallamet. The large city of Portland, Oregon, is built
on the river, about twelve miles from its junction with
the Columbia. The Indian tribes along the banks of the Multnomah,
or Willamette, subsisted largely on the wappatoo, an eatable root,
about the size of a hen's egg and closely resembling a potato.
This root is much sought after by the Indians and is eagerly
bought by tribes living in regions where it is not to be found.
The party made great use of the wappatoo after they
had learned how well it served in place of bread.
They bought here all that the Indians could spare and then
made their way down the river to an open prairie where they
camped for dinner and found many signs of elk and deer.
The journal says:--
"When we landed for dinner, a number of Indians from the last
village came down for the purpose, as we supposed, of paying us
a friendly visit, as they had put on their favorite dresses.
In addition to their usual covering they had scarlet and
blue blankets, sailors' jackets and trousers, shirts and hats.
They had all of them either war-axes, spears, and bows and arrows,
or muskets and pistols, with tin powder-flasks. We smoked
with them and endeavored to show them every attention, but we
soon found them very assuming and disagreeable companions.
While we were eating, they stole the pipe with which they
were smoking, and the greatcoat of one of the men.
We immediately searched them all, and discovered the coat
stuffed under the root of a tree near where they were sitting;
but the pipe we could not recover. Finding us determined
not to suffer any imposition, and discontented with them,
they showed their displeasure in the only way which they dared,
by returning in an ill-humor to their village.
"We then proceeded and soon met two canoes, with twelve men
of the same Skilloot nation, who were on their way from below.
The larger of the canoes was ornamented with the figure of a bear
in the bow and a man in the stern, both nearly as large as life,
both made of painted wood and very neatly fixed to the boat.
In the same canoe were two Indians, finely dressed and with round hats.
This circumstance induced us to give the name of Image-canoe
to the large island, the lower end of which we now passed at
the distance of nine miles from its head."
Here they had their first full view of Mt. St. Helen's, sometimes
called Mt. Ranier. The peak is in Washington and is 9,750 feet high.
It has a sugar-loaf, or conical, shape and is usually covered with snow.
The narrative of the expedition continues as follows:--
"The Skilloots that we passed to-day speak a language somewhat
different from that of the Echeloots or Chilluckittequaws
near the long narrows. Their dress, however, is similar,
except that the Skilloots possess more articles procured from
the white traders; and there is this farther difference between them,
that the Skilloots, both males and females, have the head flattened.
Their principal food is fish, wappatoo roots, and some elk and deer,
in killing which with arrows they seem to be very expert; for during
the short time we remained at the village, three deer were brought in.
We also observed there a tame blaireau, [badger]."
The journal, November 5, says:--
"Our choice of a camp had been very unfortunate; for on a sand-island
opposite us were immense numbers of geese, swan, ducks, and other
wild fowl, which during the whole night serenaded us with a
confusion of noises which completely prevented our sleeping.
During the latter part of the night it rained, and we therefore
willingly left camp at an early hour. We passed at three miles
a small prairie, where the river is only three-quarters of a mile
in width, and soon after two houses on the left, half a mile
distant from each other; from one of which three men came in a
canoe merely to look at us, and having done so returned home.
At eight miles we came to the lower point of an island,
separated from the right side by a narrow channel, on which,
a short distance above the end of the island, is situated
a large village. It is built more compactly than the generality
of the Indian villages, and the front has fourteen houses,
which are ranged for a quarter of a mile along the channel.
As soon as we were discovered seven canoes came out to see us,
and after some traffic, during which they seemed well disposed
and orderly, accompanied us a short distance below."
The explorers now met Indians of a different nation from those whom
they had seen before. The journal says:--
"These people seem to be of a different nation from those we
have just passed; they are low in stature, ill shaped, and all
have their heads flattened. They call themselves Wahkiacum,
and their language differs from that of the tribes above,
with whom they trade for wappatoo-roots. The houses are built
in a different style, being raised entirely above ground,
with the caves about five feet high and the door at the corner.
Near the end, opposite this door, is a single fireplace,
round which are the beds, raised four feet from the floor of earth;
over the fire are hung the fresh fish, which, when dried,
are stowed away with the wappatoo-roots under the beds.
The dress of the men is like that of the people above, but the women
are clad in a peculiar manner, the robe not reaching lower than
the hip, and the body being covered in cold weather by a sort
of corset of fur, curiously plaited and reaching from the arms
to the hip; added to this is a sort of petticoat, or rather
tissue of white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small strands,
and woven into a girdle by several cords of the same material.
Being tied round the middle, these strands hang down as low
as the knee in front, and to the mid-leg behind; they are of
sufficient thickness to answer the purpose of concealment whilst
the female stands in an erect position, but in any other attitude
form but a very ineffectual defence. Sometimes the tissue
is strings of silk-grass, twisted and knotted at the end.
After remaining with them about an hour, we proceeded down the
channel with an Indian dressed in a sailor's jacket for our pilot,
and on reaching the main channel were visited by some Indians
who have a temporary residence on a marshy island in the middle
of the river, where is a great abundance of water-fowl."
The tribe of Indians known as the Wahkiacums has entirely disappeared;
but the name survives as that of one of the counties of Washington
bordering on the Columbia. Wahkiacum is the county lying next west
of Cowlitz. When the explorers passed down the river under the piloting
of their Indian friend wearing a sailor's jacket, they were in a thick fog.
This cleared away and a sight greeted their joyful vision.
Their story says:--
"At a distance of twenty miles from our camp, we halted at a
village of Wahkiacums, consisting of seven ill-looking houses,
built in the same form with those above, and situated at the foot
of the high hills on the right, behind two small marshy islands.
We merely stopped to purchase some food and two beaver skins,
and then proceeded. Opposite to these islands the hills
on the left retire, and the river widens into a kind of bay,
crowded with low islands, subject to be overflowed occasionally
by the tide. We had not gone far from this village when,
the fog suddenly clearing away, we were at last presented
with the glorious sight of the ocean--that ocean, the object
of all our labors, the reward of all our anxieties.
This animating sight exhilarated the spirits of all the party,
who were still more delighted on hearing the distant roar
of the breakers. We went on with great cheerfulness along
the high, mountainous country which bordered the right bank:
the shore, however, was so bold and rocky, that we could not,
until at a distance of fourteen miles from the last village,
find any spot fit for an encampment. Having made during the day
thirty-four miles, we now spread our mats on the ground, and passed
the night in the rain. Here we were joined by our small canoe,
which had been separated from us during the fog this morning.
Two Indians from the last village also accompanied us
to the camp; but, having detected them in stealing a knife,
they were sent off."
It is not very easy for us, who have lived comfortably at home,
or who have travelled only in luxurious railway-cars and
handsomely equipped steamers, to realize the joy and rapture
with which these far-wandering explorers hailed the sight
of the sea,--the sea to which they had so long been journeying,
through deserts, mountain-passes, and tangled wildernesses.
In his diary Captain Clark thus sets down some indication of his
joy on that memorable day, November 8, 1805: "Great joy in camp.
We are in view of the Ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we
have been so long anxious to see, and the roaring or noise
made by the waves breaking on the rocky shores (as I suppose)
may be heard distinctly." Later, same day, he says, "Ocean in view!
O! the joy!" Fortunately, the hardships to be undergone on
the shores of the ocean were then unknown and undreamed of;
the travellers were thankful to see the sea, the goal of all
their hopes, the end of their long pilgrimage across the continent.
That night they camped near the mouth of the river in what is now known
as Gray's Bay, on the north side of the river, in the southwest corner
of Wahkiacum County. Before they could reach their camping-place, the water
was so rough that some of the men had an unusual experience,--seasickness.
They passed a disagreeable night on a narrow, rocky bench of land.
Next day they say:
"Fortunately for us, the tide did not rise as high as our camp
during the night; but being accompanied by high winds from
the south, the canoes, which we could not place beyond its reach,
were filled with water, and were saved with much difficulty.
Our position was very uncomfortable, but as it was impossible
to move from it, we waited for a change of weather.
It rained, however, during the whole day, and at two o'clock
in the afternoon the flood tide set in, accompanied by a high
wind from the south, which, about four o'clock, shifted to
the southwest and blew almost a gale directly from the sea.
The immense waves now broke over the place where we were camped;
the large trees, some of them five or six feet thick,
which had lodged at the point, were drifted over our camp,
and the utmost vigilance of every man could scarcely save our
canoes from being crushed to pieces. We remained in the water,
and drenched with rain, during the rest of the day, our only food
being some dried fish and some rain-water which we caught.
Yet, though wet and cold, and some of them sick from using salt water,
the men were cheerful, and full of anxiety to see more of the ocean.
The rain continued all night."
This was the beginning of troubles. Next day, the wind having lulled,
the party set forth again, only to be beaten back and compelled to take
to the shore again. This was their experience for several days.
For example, under date of the eleventh the journal says:--
"The wind was still high from the southwest, and drove the waves
against the shore with great fury; the rain too fell in torrents,
and not only drenched us to the skin, but loosened the stones
on the hillsides, which then came rolling down upon us.
In this comfortless situation we remained all day, wet, cold,
with nothing but dried fish to satisfy our hunger; the canoes
in one place at the mercy of the waves, the baggage in another,
and all the men scattered on floating logs, or sheltering
themselves in the crevices of the rocks and hillsides.
A hunter was despatched in hopes of finding some fresh meat;
but the hills were so steep, and so covered with undergrowth
and fallen timber, that he could not penetrate them, and he was
forced to return."
And this is the record for the next day:--
"About three o'clock a tremendous gale of wind arose accompanied
with lightning, thunder, and hail: at six it lightened up for a
short time, but a violent rain soon began, and lasted through the day.
During the storm, one of our boats, secured by being sunk with great
quantities of stone, got loose, but, drifting against a rock,
was recovered without having received much injury. Our situation
now became much more dangerous, for the waves were driven with fury
against the rocks and trees, which till now had afforded us refuge:
we therefore took advantage of the low tide, and moved about half a mile
round a point to a small brook, which we had not observed before on
account of the thick bushes and driftwood which concealed its mouth.
Here we were more safe, but still cold and wet; our clothes and bedding
rotten as well as wet, our baggage at a distance, and the canoes,
our only means of escape from this place, at the mercy of the waves.
Still, we continued to enjoy good health, and even had the luxury of feasting
on some salmon and three salmon trout which we caught in the brook.
Three of the men attempted to go round a point in our small Indian canoe,
but the high waves rendered her quite unmanageable, these boats requiring
the seamanship of the natives to make them live in so rough a sea."
It should be borne in mind that the canoes of the explorers were poor
dug-outs, unfit to navigate the turbulent waters of the bay, and the men
were not so expert in that sort of seamanship as were the Indians whom they,
with envy, saw breasting the waves and making short voyages in the midst
of the storms. It continued to rain without any intermission, and the waves
dashed up among the floating logs of the camp in a very distracting manner.
The party now had nothing but dried fish to eat, and it was with great
difficulty that a fire could be built. On the fifteenth of the month,
Captain Lewis having found a better camping-place near a sandy beach, they
started to move their luggage thither; but before they could get under way,
a high wind from the southwest sprung up and they were forced to remain.
But the sun came out and they were enabled to dry their stuff, much of which
had been spoiled by the rain which had prevailed for the past ten days.
Their fish also was no longer fit to eat, and they were indeed in poor case.
Captain Lewis was out on a prospecting trip, and the party set out and found
a beach through which a pleasant brook flowed to the river, making a very good
camping-place. At the mouth of this stream was an ancient Chinook village,
which, says the journal, "has at present no inhabitants but fleas."
The adventurers were compelled to steer wide of all old Indian villages,
they were so infested with fleas. At times, so great was the pest,
the men were forced to take off all their clothing and soak themselves
and their garments in the river before they could be rid of the insects.
The site of their new camp was at the southeast end of Baker's Bay,
sometimes called Haley's Bay, a mile above a very high point of rocks.
On arriving at this place, the voyagers met with an unpleasant experience
of which the journal gives this account:--
"Here we met Shannon, who had been sent back to meet us
by Captain Lewis. The day Shannon left us in the canoe,
he and Willard proceeded till they met a party of twenty Indians,
who, having never heard of us, did not know where they [our
men] came from; they, however, behaved with so much civility,
and seemed so anxious that the men should go with them toward the sea,
that their suspicions were excited, and they declined going on.
The Indians, however, would not leave them; the men being confirmed
in their suspicions, and fearful that if they went into the woods
to sleep they would be cut to pieces in the night, thought it best
to pass the night in the midst of the Indians. They therefore
made a fire, and after talking with them to a late hour, laid down
with their rifles under their heads. As they awoke that morning
they found that the Indians had stolen and concealed their guns.
Having demanded them in vain, Shannon seized a club, and was about
assaulting one of the Indians, whom he suspected as a thief, when another
Indian began to load a fowling-piece with the intention of shooting him.
He therefore stopped, and explained by signs that if they did not
give up the guns a large party would come down the river before
the sun rose to such a height, and put every one of them to death.
Fortunately, Captain Lewis and his party appeared at this time.
The terrified Indians immediately brought the guns, and five of them
came on with Shannon. To these men we declared that if ever any one
of their nation stole anything from us, he should be instantly shot.
They reside to the north of this place, and speak a language
different from that of the people higher up the river.
"It was now apparent that the sea was at all times too
rough for us to proceed further down the bay by water.
We therefore landed, and having chosen the best spot we could select,
made our camp of boards from the old [Chinook] village.
We were now situated comfortably, and being visited by four
Wahkiacums with wappatoo-roots, were enabled to make an agreeable
addition to our food."
On the seventeenth Captain Lewis with a small party of his men
coasted the bay as far out as Cape Disappointment and some distance
to the north along the seacoast. Game was now plenty, and the camp
was supplied with ducks, geese, and venison. Bad weather again set in.
The journal under date of November 22 says:--
"It rained during the whole night, and about daylight a tremendous gale of
wind rose from the S.S.E., and continued through the day with great violence.
The sea ran so high that the water came into our camp, which the rain prevents
us from leaving. We purchased from the old squaw, for armbands and rings,
a few wappatoo-roots, on which we subsisted. They are nearly equal in
flavor to the Irish potato, and afford a very good substitute for bread.
The bad weather drove several Indians to our camp, but they were still
under the terrors of the threat which we made on first seeing them,
and behaved with the greatest decency.
"The rain continued through the night, November 23, and the morning
was calm and cloudy. The hunters were sent out, and killed three deer,
four brant, and three ducks. Towards evening seven Clatsops came over
in a canoe, with two skins of the sea-otter. To this article they attached
an extravagant value; and their demands for it were so high, that we were
fearful it would too much reduce our small stock of merchandise, on which we
had to depend for subsistence on our return, to venture on purchasing it.
To ascertain, however, their ideas as to the value of different objects,
we offered for one of these skins a watch, a handkerchief, an American dollar,
and a bunch of red beads; but neither the curious mechanism of the watch,
nor even the red beads, could tempt the owner: he refused the offer,
but asked for tiacomoshack, or chief beads, the most common sort of coarse
blue-colored beads, the article beyond all price in their estimation.
Of these blue beads we had but few, and therefore reserved them for
more necessitous circumstances."
The officers of the expedition had hoped and expected to find
here some of the trading ships that were occasionally sent along
the coast to barter with the natives; but none were to be found.
They were soon to prepare for winter-quarters, and they still
hoped that a trader might appear in the spring before they
set out on their homeward journey across the continent.
Very much they needed trinkets to deal with the natives
in exchange for, the needful articles of food on the route.
But (we may as well say here) no such relief ever appeared.
It is strange that President Jefferson, in the midst
of his very minute orders and preparations for the benefit
of the explorers, did not think of sending a relief ship
to meet the party at the mouth of the Columbia. They would
have been saved a world of care, worry, and discomfort.
But at that time the European nations who held possessions
on the Pacific coast were very suspicious of the Americans,
and possibly President Jefferson did not like to risk
rousing their animosity.
The rain that now deluged the unhappy campers was so incessant that they
might well have thought that people should be web-footed to live in
such a watery region. In these later days, Oregon is sometimes known
as "The Web-foot State." Captain Clark, in his diary, November 28,
makes this entry: "O! how disagreeable is our situation dureing this
dreadfull weather!" The gallant captain's spelling was sometimes queer.
Under that date he adds:--
"We remained during the day in a situation the most cheerless
and uncomfortable. On this little neck of land we are exposed,
with a miserable covering which does not deserve the name
of a shelter, to the violence of the winds; all our bedding
and stores, as well as our bodies, are completely wet;
our clothes are rotting with constant exposure, and we
have no food except the dried fish brought from the falls,
to which we are again reduced. The hunters all returned hungry
and drenched with rain, having seen neither deer nor elk,
and the swan and brant were too shy to be approached.
At noon the wind shifted to the northwest, and blew with such
tremendous fury that many trees were blown down near us.
This gale lasted with short intervals during the whole night."
Of course, in the midst of such violent storms, it was impossible
to get game, and the men were obliged to resort once more to a diet
of dried fish, This food caused much sickness in the camp, and it became
imperatively necessary that efforts should again be made to find game.
On the second of December, to their great joy an elk was killed,
and next day they had a feast. The journal says;
"The wind was from the east and the morning fair; but, as if one whole
day of fine weather were not permitted, toward night it began to rain.
Even this transient glimpse of sunshine revived the spirits
of the party, who were still more pleased when the elk killed
yesterday was brought into camp. This was the first elk we had
killed on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, and condemned as we
have been to the dried fish, it formed a most nourishing food.
After eating the marrow of the shank-bones, the squaw chopped them fine,
and by boiling extracted a pint of grease, superior to the tallow
itself of the animal. A canoe of eight Indians, who were carrying
down wappatoo-roots to trade with the Clatsops, stopped at our camp;
we bought a few roots for small fish-hooks, and they then left us.
Accustomed as we were to the sight, we could not but view
with admiration the wonderful dexterity with which they guide
their canoes over the most boisterous seas; for though the waves
were so high that before they had gone half a mile the canoe
was several times out of sight, they proceeded with the greatest
calmness and security. Two of the hunters who set out yesterday
had lost their way, and did not return till this evening.
They had seen in their ramble great signs of elk and had killed six,
which they had butchered and left at a great distance.
A party was sent in the morning."
On the third of December Captain Clark carved on the trunk of a great pine
tree this inscription:--
"WM. CLARK DECEMBER 3D 1805 BY LAND FROM THE
U. STATES IN 1804 & 5."
A few days later, Captain Lewis took with him a small party and set
out to find a suitable spot on which to build their winter camp.
He did not return as soon as he was expected, and considerable
uneasiness was felt in camp on that account. But he came in safely.
He brought good news; they had discovered a river on the south side
of the Columbia, not far from their present encampment, where there
were an abundance of elk and a favorable place for a winter camp.
Bad weather detained them until the seventh of December, when a
favorable change enabled them to proceed. They made their way slowly
and very cautiously down-stream, the tide being against them.
The narrative proceeds:--
"We at length turned a point, and found ourselves in a deep bay:
here we landed for breakfast, and were joined by the party sent out
three days ago to look for the six elk, killed by the Lewis party.
They had lost their way for a day and a half, and when they
at last reached the place, found the elk so much spoiled
that they brought away nothing but the skins of four of them.
After breakfast we coasted round the bay, which is about four
miles across, and receives, besides several small creeks, two rivers,
called by the Indians, the one Kilhowanakel, the other Netul. We named
it Meriwether's Bay, from the Christian name of Captain Lewis,
who was, no doubt, the first white man who had surveyed it.
The wind was high from the northeast, and in the middle
of the day it rained for two hours, and then cleared off.
On reaching the south side of the bay we ascended the Netul
three miles, to the first point of high land on its western bank,
and formed our camp in a thick grove of lofty pines, about two
hundred yards from the water, and thirty feet above the level
of the high tides."
Camping by the Pacific
Next in importance to the building of a winter camp was the fixing
of a place where salt could be made. Salt is absolutely
necessary for the comfort of man, and the supply brought out from
the United States by the explorers was now nearly all gone.
They were provided with kettles in which sea-water could be boiled
down and salt be made. It would be needful to go to work at once,
for the process of salt-making by boiling in ordinary kettles is
slow and tedious; not only must enough for present uses be found,
but a supply to last the party home again was necessary.
Accordingly, on the eighth of December the journal has this entry
to show what was to be done:--
"In order, therefore, to find a place for making salt, and to examine
the country further, Captain Clark set out with five men, and pursuing
a course S. 60'0 W., over a dividing ridge through thick pine timber,
much of which bad fallen, passed the beads of two small brooks.
In the neighborhood of these the land was swampy and overflowed,
and they waded knee-deep till they came to an open ridgy prairie,
covered with the plant known on our frontier by the name of sacacommis
[bearberry]. Here is a creek about sixty yards wide and running toward
Point Adams; they passed it on a small raft. At this place they
discovered a large herd of elk, and after pursuing them for three miles
over bad swamps and small ponds, killed one of them. The agility
with which the elk crossed the swamps and bogs seems almost incredible;
as we followed their track the ground for a whole acre would shake at
our tread and sometimes we sunk to our hips without finding any bottom.
Over the surface of these bogs is a species of moss, among which are
great numbers of cranberries; and occasionally there rise from the swamp
small steep knobs of earth, thickly covered with pine and laurel.
On one of these we halted at night, but it was scarcely large enough
to suffer us to lie clear of the water, and had very little dry wood.
We succeeded, however, in collecting enough to make a fire; and having
stretched the elk-skin to keep off the rain, which still continued,
slept till morning."
Next day the party were met by three Indians who had been fishing
for salmon, of which they had a goodly supply, and were now on their way
home to their village on the seacoast. They, invited Captain Clark
and his men to accompany them; and the white men accepted the invitation.
These were Clatsops. Their village consisted of twelve families living in
houses of split pine boards, the lower half of the house being underground.
By a small ladder in the middle of the house-front, the visitors
reached the floor, which was about four feet below the surface.
Two fires were burning in the middle of the room upon the earthen floor.
The beds were ranged around the room next to the wall, with spaces
beneath them for bags, baskets, and household articles.
Captain Clark was received with much attention, clean mats were spread
for him, and a repast of fish, roots, and berries was set before him.
He noticed that the Clatsops were well dressed and clean, and that they
frequently washed their faces and hands, a ceremony, he remarked, that is
by no means frequent among other Indians. A high wind now prevailed,
and as the evening was stormy, Captain Clark resolved to stay all night
with his hospitable Clatsops. The narrative proceeds:--
"The men of the village now collected and began to gamble.
The most common game was one in which one of the company was banker,
and played against all the rest. He had a piece of bone,
about the size of a large bean, and having agreed with any individual
as to the value of the stake, would pass the bone from one hand
to the other with great dexterity, singing at the same time to divert
the attention of his adversary; then holding it in his hands,
his antagonist was challenged to guess in which of them the bone was,
and lost or won as he pointed to the right or wrong hand.
To this game of hazard they abandoned themselves with great ardor;
sometimes everything they possess is sacrificed to it; and this evening
several of the Indians lost all the beads which they had with them.
This lasted for three hours; when, Captain Clark appearing disposed
to sleep, the man who had been most attentive, and whose name was Cuskalah,
spread two new mats near the fire, ordered his wife to retire to her
own bed, and the rest of the company dispersed at the same time.
Captain Clark then lay down, but the violence with which the fleas
attacked him did not leave his rest unbroken."
Next morning, Captain Clark walked along the seashore,
and he observed that the Indians were walking up and down,
examining the shore and the margin of a creek that emptied here.
The narrative says:--
"He was at a loss to understand their object till one of
them came to him, and explained that they were in search
of any fish which might have been thrown on shore and left
by the tide, adding in English, `sturgeon is very good.'
There is, indeed, every reason to believe that these Clatsops
depend for their subsistence, during the winter, chiefly on
the fish thus casually thrown on the coast. After amusing himself
for some time on the beach, he returned towards the village,
and shot on his way two brant. As he came near the village, one of
the Indians asked him to shoot a duck about thirty steps distant:
he did so, and, having accidentally shot off its head,
the bird was brought to the village, when all the Indians came
round in astonishment. They examined the duck, the musket,
and the very small bullets, which were a hundred to the pound,
and then exclaimed, Clouch musque, waket, commatax musquet:
Good musket; do not understand this kind of musket.
They now placed before him their best roots, fish, and syrup,
after which he attempted to purchase a sea-otter skin
with some red beads which he happened to have about him;
but they declined trading, as they valued none except blue
or white beads. He therefore bought nothing but a little
berry-bread and a few roots, in exchange for fish-hooks,
and then set out to return by the same route he had come.
He was accompanied by Cuskalah and his brother as far as the
third creek, and then proceeded to the camp through a heavy rain.
The whole party had been occupied during his absence in cutting
down trees to make huts, and in hunting."
This was the occupation of all hands for several days,
notwithstanding the discomfort of the continual downpour.
Many of the men were ill from the effects of sleeping and
living so constantly in water. Under date of December 12,
the journal has this entry:--
"We continued to work in the rain at our houses. In the evening there
arrived two canoes of Clatsops, among whom was a principal chief,
called Comowol. We gave him a medal and treated his companions with
great attention; after which we began to bargain for a small sea-otter skin,
some wappatoo-roots, and another species of root called shanataque.
We readily perceived that they were close dealers, stickled much for trifles,
and never closed the bargain until they thought they had the advantage.
The wappatoo is dear, as they themselves are obliged to give a high price
for it to the Indians above. Blue beads are the articles most in request;
the white occupy the next place in their estimation; but they do not value
much those of any other color. We succeeded at last in purchasing their
whole cargo for a few fish-hooks and a small sack of Indian tobacco,
which we had received from the Shoshonees."
The winter camp was made up of seven huts, and, although it was
not so carefully fortified as was the fort in the Mandan country
(during the previous winter), it was so arranged that
intruders could be kept out when necessary. For the roofs
of these shelters they were provided with "shakes" split
out from a species of pine which they called "balsam pine,"
and which gave them boards, or puncheons, or shakes, ten feet long
and two feet wide, and not more than an inch and a half thick.
By the sixteenth of December their meat-house was finished,
and their meat, so much of which had been spoiled for lack
of proper care, was cut up in small pieces and hung under cover.
They had been told by the Indians that very little snow
ever fell in that region, and the weather, although very,
very wet, was mild and usually free from frost.
They did have severe hailstorms and a few flurries of snow
in December but the rain was a continual cause of discomfort.
Of the trading habits of the Clatsops the journal has this to say:--
"Three Indians came in a canoe with mats, roots, and the berries
of the sacacommis. These people proceed with a dexterity
and finesse in their bargains which, if they have not learned
it from their foreign visitors, may show how nearly allied
is the cunning of savages to the little arts of traffic.
They begin by asking double or treble the value of what they
have to sell, and lower their demand in proportion to the greater
or less degree of ardor or knowledge of the purchaser, who, with all
his management, is not able to procure the article for less
than its real value, which the Indians perfectly understand.
Our chief medium of trade consists of blue and white beads, files,--
with which they sharpen their tools,--fish-hooks, and tobacco;
but of all these articles blue beads and tobacco are
the most esteemed."
But, although their surroundings were not of a sort to make one very jolly,
when Christmas came they observed the day as well as they could.
Here is what the journal says of the holiday:--
"We were awaked at daylight by a discharge of firearms,
which was followed by a song from the men, as a compliment
to us on the return of Christmas, which we have always
been accustomed to observe as a day of rejoicing.
After breakfast we divided our remaining stock of tobacco,
which amounted to twelve carrots [hands], into two parts;
one of which we distributed among such of the party as make
use of it, making a present of a handkerchief to the others.
The remainder of the day was passed in good spirits,
though there was nothing in our situation to excite much gayety.
The rain confined us to the house, and our only luxuries
in honor of the season were some poor elk, so much spoiled
that we ate it through sheer necessity, a few roots, and some
spoiled pounded fish.
"The next day brought a continuation of rain, accompanied with thunder,
and a high wind from the southeast. We were therefore obliged to still
remain in our huts, and endeavored to dry our wet articles before the fire.
The fleas, which annoyed us near the portage of the Great Falls,
have taken such possession of our clothes that we are obliged to
have a regular search every day through our blankets as a necessary
preliminary to sleeping at night. These animals, indeed, are so numerous
that they are almost a calamity to the Indians of this country.
When they have once obtained the mastery of any house it is impossible
to expel them, and the Indians have frequently different houses,
to which they resort occasionally when the fleas have rendered their
permanent residence intolerable; yet, in spite of these precautions,
every Indian is constantly attended by multitudes of them,
and no one comes into our house without leaving behind him swarms
of these tormenting insects."
Although the condition of the exploring party was low,
the men did not require very much to put them in good spirits.
The important and happy event of finishing their fort and
the noting of good weather are thus set forth in the journal
under date of December 30:--
"Toward evening the hunters brought in four elk [which Drewyer had
killed], and after a long course of abstinence and miserable diet,
we had a most sumptuous supper of elk's tongues and marrow.
Besides this agreeable repast, the state of the weather was
quite exhilarating. It had rained during the night, but in the morning,
though the high wind continued, we enjoyed the fairest and most
pleasant weather since our arrival; the sun having shone at intervals,
and there being only three showers in the course of the day.
By sunset we had completed the fortification, and now announced
to the Indians that every day at that hour the gates would be closed,
and they must leave the fort and not enter it till sunrise.
The Wahkiacums who remained with us, and who were very forward
in their deportment, complied very reluctantly with this order;
but, being excluded from our houses, formed a camp near us.
. . . . . . . . .
"January 1, 1806. We were awaked at an early hour by the
discharge of a volley of small arms, to salute the new year.
This was the only mode of commemorating the day which our
situation permitted; for, though we had reason to be gayer than we
were at Christmas, our only dainties were boiled elk and wappatoo,
enlivened by draughts of pure water. We were visited by a few Clatsops,
who came by water, bringing roots and berries for sale.
Among this nation we observed a man about twenty-five years old,
of a much lighter complexion than the Indians generally: his face was
even freckled, and his hair long, and of a colour inclining to red.
He was in habits and manners perfectly Indian; but, though he did
not speak a word of English, he seemed to understand more than
the others of his party; and, as we could obtain no account
of his origin, we concluded that one of his parents, at least,
must have been white."
A novel addition to their bill of fare was fresh blubber, or fat,
from a stranded whale. Under date of January 3 the journal says:--
"At eleven o'clock we were visited by our neighbor, the Tia or chief,
Comowool, who is also called Coone, and six Clatsops. Besides roots
and berries, they brought for sale three dogs, and some fresh blubber.
Having been so long accustomed to live on the flesh of dogs, the greater
part of us have acquired a fondness for it, and our original aversion
for it is overcome, by reflecting that while we subsisted on that food
we were fatter, stronger, and in general enjoyed better health than at
any period since leaving the buffalo country, eastward of the mountains.
The blubber, which is esteemed by the Indians an excellent food,
has been obtained, they tell us, from their neighbors, the Killamucks,
a nation who live on the seacoast to the southeast, near one of whose
villages a whale had recently been thrown and foundered."
Five men had been sent out to form a camp on the seashore and go
into the manufacture of salt as expeditiously as possible.
On the fifth of January, two of them came into the fort
bringing a gallon of salt, which was decided to be "white, fine
and very good," and a very agreeable addition to their food,
which had been eaten perfectly fresh for some weeks past.
Captain Clark, however, said it was a "mere matter of indifference"
to him whether he had salt or not, but he hankered for bread.
Captain Lewis, on the other hand, said the lack of salt was
a great inconvenience; "the want of bread I consider trivial,"
was his dictum. It was estimated that the salt-makers could turn
out three or four quarts a day, and there was good prospect of an
abundant supply for present needs and for the homeward journey.
An expedition to the seashore was now planned, and the journal
goes on to tell how they set out:--
"The appearance of the whale seemed to be a matter of importance to all
the neighboring Indians, and as we might be able to procure some of it
for ourselves, or at least purchase blubber from the Indians, a small parcel
of merchandise was prepared, and a party of the men held in readiness to set
out in the morning. As soon as this resolution was known, Chaboneau and
his wife requested that they might be permitted to accompany us.
The poor woman stated very earnestly that she had travelled a great way
with us to see the great water, yet she had never been down to the coast,
and now that this monstrous fish was also to be seen, it seemed hard
that she should be permitted to see neither the ocean nor the whale.
So reasonable a request could not be denied; they were therefore suffered
to accompany Captain Clark, who, January 6th, after an early breakfast,
set out with twelve men in two canoes."
After a long and tedious trip, the camp of the saltmakers was reached,
and Captain Clark and his men went on to the remains of the whale,
only the skeleton being left by the rapacious and hungry Indians. The whale
had been stranded between two shore villages tenanted by the Killamucks,
as Captain Clark called them. They are now known as the Tillamook Indians,
and their name is preserved in Tillamook County, Oregon. The white
men found it difficult to secure much of the blubber, or the oil.
Although the Indians had large quantities of both, they sold it
with much reluctance. In Clark's private diary is found this entry:
"Small as this stock [of oil and lubber] is I prize it highly;
and thank Providence for directing the whale to us; and think him
more kind to us than he was to Jonah, having sent this monster
to be swallowed by us instead of swallowing us as Jonah's did."
While here, the party had a startling experience, as the journal says:--
"Whilst smoking with the Indians, Captain Clark was surprised,
about ten o'clock, by a loud, shrill outcry from the opposite village,
on hearing which all the Indians immediately started up to cross
the creek, and the guide informed him that someone had been killed.
On examination one of the men [M'Neal] was discovered to be absent,
and a guard [Sergeant Pryor and four men] despatched, who met him
crossing the creek in great haste. An Indian belonging to another band,
who happened to be with the Killamucks that evening, had treated
him with much kindness, and walked arm in arm with him to a tent
where our man found a Chinnook squaw, who was an old acquaintance.
From the conversation and manner of the stranger, this woman
discovered that his object was to murder the white man for the sake
of the few articles on his person; when he rose and pressed our man
to go to another tent where they would find something better to eat,
she held M'Neal by the blanket; not knowing her object, he freed
himself from her, and was going on with his pretended friend,
when she ran out and gave the shriek which brought the men
of the village over, and the stranger ran off before M'Neal knew
what had occasioned the alarm."
The "mighty hunter" of the Lewis and Clark expedition was Drewyer,
whose name has frequently been mentioned in these pages.
Under date of January 12, the journal has this just tribute
to the man:--
"Our meat is now becoming scarce; we therefore determined to jerk it,
and issue it in small quantities, instead of dividing it among
the four messes, and leaving to each the care of its own provisions;
a plan by which much is lost, in consequence of the improvidence of the men.
Two hunters had been despatched in the morning, and one of them, Drewyer,
had before evening killed seven elk. We should scarcely be able
to subsist, were it not for the exertions of this most excellent hunter.
The game is scarce, and nothing is now to be seen except elk, which for
almost all the men are very difficult to be procured; but Drewyer,
who is the offspring of a Canadian Frenchman and an Indian woman,
has passed his life in the woods, and unites, in a wonderful degree,
the dexterous aim of the frontier huntsman with the intuitive sagacity
of the Indian, in pursuing the faintest tracks through the forest.
All our men, however, have indeed become so expert with the rifle
that we are never under apprehensions as to food; since, whenever there
is game of any kind, we are almost certain of procuring it."
The narrative of the explorers gives this account of the Chinooks:--
"The men are low in stature, rather ugly, and ill made; their legs being small
and crooked, their feet large, and their heads, like those of the women,
flattened in a most disgusting manner. These deformities are in part
concealed by robes made of sea-otter, deer, elk, beaver or fox skins.
They also employ in their dress robes of the skin of a cat peculiar
to this country, and of another animal of the same size, which is light
and durable, and sold at a high price by the Indians who bring it from above.
In addition to these are worn blankets, wrappers of red, blue, or spotted
cloth, and some old sailors' clothes, which are very highly prized.
The greater part of the men have guns, with powder and ball.
"The women have in general handsome faces, but are low and disproportioned,
with small feet and large legs, occasioned, probably, by strands of beads,
or various strings, drawn so tight above the ankles as to prevent
the circulation of the blood. Their dress, like that of the Wahkiacums,
consists of a short robe and a tissue of cedar bark. Their hair hangs
loosely down the shoulders and back; and their ears, neck, and wrists
are ornamented with blue beads. Another decoration, which is very
highly prized, consists of figures made by puncturing the arms or legs;
and on the arms of one of the squaws we observed the name of J. Bowman,
executed in the same way. In language, habits, and in almost every
other particular, they resemble the Clatsops, Cathlamahs, and, indeed,
all the people near the mouth of the Columbia, though they appeared
to be inferior to their neighbors in honesty as well as spirit.
No ill treatment or indignity on our part seemed to excite any feeling
except fear; nor, although better provided than their neighbors with arms,
have they enterprise enough either to use them advantageously against
the animals of the forest, or offensively against the tribes near them,
who owe their safety more to the timidity than the forbearance
of the Chinooks. We had heard instances of pilfering while we
were among them, and therefore gave a general order excluding them
from our encampment, so that whenever an Indian wished to visit us,
he began by calling out `No Chinook.' It is not improbable that this
first impression may have left a prejudice against them, since, when we
were among the Clatsops and other tribes at the mouth of the Columbia,
they had less opportunity of stealing, if they were so disposed."
The weeks remaining before the party set out on their return were passed
without notable incident. The journal is chiefly occupied with comments
on the weather, which was variable, and some account of the manners
and customs of the Indian tribes along the Columbia River. At that time,
so few traders had penetrated the wilds of the Lower Columbia that
the Indians were not supplied with firearms to any great extent.
Their main reliance was the bow and arrow. A few shotguns were seen
among them, but no rifles, and great was the admiration and wonder with which
the Indians saw the white men slay birds and animals at a long distance.
Pitfalls for elk were constructed by the side of fallen trees over which
the animals might leap. Concerning the manufactures of the Clatsops,
they reported as follows:--
"Their hats are made of cedar-bark and bear-grass, interwoven
together in the form of a European hat, with a small brim of about
two inches, and a high crown widening upward. They are light,
ornamented with various colors and figures, and being nearly
water-proof, are much more durable than either chip or straw hats.
These hats form a small article of traffic with the whites,
and their manufacture is one of the best exertions of Indian industry.
They are, however, very dexterous in making a variety of domestic utensils,
among which are bowls, spoons, scewers [skewers], spits, and baskets.
The bowl or trough is of different shapes--round, semicircular,
in the form of a canoe, or cubic, and generally dug out of a
single piece of wood; the larger vessels have holes in the sides
by way of handles, and all are executed with great neatness.
In these vessels they boil their food, by throwing hot stones into
the water, and extract oil from different animals in the same way.
Spoons are not very abundant, nor is there anything remarkable
in their shape, except that they are large and the bowl broad.
Meat is roasted on one end of a sharp skewer, placed erect before
the fire, with the other end fixed in the ground.
"But the most curious workmanship is that of the basket.
It is formed of cedar-bark and bear-grass, so closely interwoven
that it is water-tight, without the aid of either gum or resin.
The form is generally conic, or rather the segment [frustum]
of a cone, of which the smaller end is the bottom of the basket;
and being made of all sizes, from that of the smallest cup
to the capacity of five or six gallons, they answer the double
purpose of a covering for the head or to contain water.
Some of them are highly ornamented with strands of bear-grass,
woven into figures of various colors, which require great labor;
yet they are made very expeditiously and sold for a trifle.
It is for the construction of these baskets that the bear-grass
forms an article of considerable traffic. It grows only
near the snowy region of the high mountains; the blade,
which is two feet long and about three-eighths of an inch wide,
is smooth, strong, and pliant; the young blades particularly,
from their not being exposed to the sun and air, have an appearance
of great neatness, and are generally preferred. Other bags
and baskets, not waterproof, are made of cedar-bark, silk-grass,
rushes, flags, and common coarse sedge, for the use of families.
In these manufactures, as in the ordinary work of the house,
the instrument most in use is a knife, or rather a dagger.
The handle of it is small, and has a strong loop of twine
for the thumb, to prevent its being wrested from the band.
On each side is a blade, double-edged and pointed; the longer
from nine to ten inches, the shorter from four to five.
This knife is carried habitually in the hand, sometimes exposed,
but mostly, when in company with strangers, is put under the robe."
Naturally, all of the Columbia River Indians were found
to be expert in the building and handling of canoes.
Here their greatest skill was employed. And, it may be added,
the Indians of the North Pacific coast to-day are equally
adept and skilful. The canoes of the present race of red
men do not essentially differ from those of the tribes
described by Lewis and Clark, and who are now extinct.
The Indians then living above tide-water built canoes of smaller
size than those employed by the nations farther down the river.
The canoes of the Tillamooks and other tribes living on the seacoast
were upwards of fifty feet long, and would carry eight or ten
thousand pounds' weight, or twenty-five or thirty persons.
These were constructed from the trunk of a single tree, usually
white cedar. The bow and stern rose much higher than the gunwale,
and were adorned by grotesque figures excellently well carved
and fitted to pedestals cut in the solid wood of the canoe.
The same method of adornment may be seen among the aborigines
of Alaska and other regions of the North Pacific, to-day. The
figures are made of small pieces of wood neatly fitted together
by inlaying and mortising, without any spike of any kind.
When one reflects that the Indians seen by Lewis and Clark
constructed their large canoes with very poor tools, it is impossible
to withhold one's admiration of their industry and patience.
The journal says:--
"Our admiration of their skill in these curious constructions was
increased by observing the very inadequate implements which they use.
These Indians possess very few axes, and the only tool they employ,
from felling the tree to the delicate workmanship of the images, is a chisel
made of an old file, about an inch or an inch and a half in width.
Even of this, too, they have not learned the proper management;
for the chisel is sometimes fixed in a large block of wood, and, being held
in the right hand, the block is pushed with the left, without the aid
of a mallet. But under all these disadvantages, their canoes,
which one would suppose to be the work of years, are made in a few weeks.
A canoe, however, is very highly prized, being in traffic an article
of the greatest value except a wife, and of equal value with her;
so that a lover generally gives a canoe to the father in exchange
for his daughter. . . .
"The harmony of their private life is secured by their ignorance
of spirituous liquors, the earliest and most dreadful present
which civilization has given to the other natives of the continent.
Although they have had so much intercourse with whites, they do
not appear to possess any knowledge of those dangerous luxuries;
at least they have never inquired after them, which they probably
would have done if once liquors bad been introduced among them.
Indeed, we have not observed any liquor of intoxicating quality among
these or any Indians west of the Rocky Mountains, the universal
beverage being pure water. They, however, sometimes almost intoxicate
themselves by smoking tobacco, of which they are excessively fond,
and the pleasures of which they prolong as much as possible, by retaining
vast quantities at a time, till after circulating through the lungs
and stomach it issues in volumes from the mouth and nostrils."
A long period of quiet prevailed in camp after the first of February,
before the final preparations for departure were made.
Parties were sent out every day to hunt, and the campers were
able to command a few days' supply of provision in advance.
The flesh of the deer was now very lean and poor,
but that of the elk was growing better and better.
It was estimated by one of the party that they killed,
between December 1, 1805, and March 20, 1806, elk to
the number of one hundred and thirty-one, and twenty deer.
Some of this meat they smoked for its better preservation,
but most of it was eaten fresh. No record was kept of the amount
of fish consumed by the party; but they were obliged at times
to make fish their sole article of diet. Late in February
they were visited by Comowool, the principal Clatsop chief,
who brought them a sturgeon and quantities of a small fish which
had just begun to make its appearance in the Columbia. This was
known as the anchovy, but oftener as the candle-fish;
it is so fat that it may be burned like a torch, or candle.
The journal speaks of Comowool as "by far the most friendly
and decent savage we have seen in this neighborhood."
With Faces turned Homeward
The officers of the expedition had decided to begin their homeward
march on the first of April; but a natural impatience induced them
to start a little earlier, and, as a matter of record, it may be
said that they evacuated Fort Clatsop on the 23d of March, 1806.
An examination of their stock of ammunition showed that they
had on hand a supply of powder amply sufficient for their needs
when travelling the three thousand miles of wilderness in which
their sole reliance for food must be the game to be killed.
The powder was kept in leaden canisters, and these, when empty,
were used for making balls for muskets and rifles. Three bushels
of salt were collected for their use on the homeward journey.
What they needed now most of all was an assortment of small wares
and trinkets with which to trade with the Indians among whom they
must spend so many months before reaching civilization again.
They had ample letters of credit from the Government at Washington,
and if they had met with white traders on the seacoast,
they could have bought anything that money would buy.
They had spent nearly all their stock in coming across the continent.
This is Captain Lewis's summary of the goods on hand just before
leaving Fort Clatsop:--
"All the small merchandise we possess might be tied up
in a couple of handkerchiefs. The rest of our stock in trade
consists of six blue robes, one scarlet ditto, five robes
which we made out of our large United States flag, a few old
clothes trimmed with ribbons, and one artillerist's uniform coat
and hat, which probably Captain Clark will never wear again.
We have to depend entirely upon this meagre outfit for the purchase
of such horses and provisions as it will be in our power to obtain--
a scant dependence, indeed, for such a journey as is before us."
One of their last acts was to draw up a full list of the members
of the party, and, making several copies of it, to leave these
among the friendly Indians with instructions to give a paper
to the first white men who should arrive in the country.
On the back of the paper was traced the track by which the
explorers had come and that by which they expected to return.
This is a copy of one of these important documents:--
"The object of this list is, that through the medium of some civilized
person who may see the same, it may be made known to the informed world,
that the party consisting of the persons whose names are hereunto annexed,
and who were sent out by the government of the U'States in May,
1804, to explore the interior of the Continent of North America,
did penetrate the same by way of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers,
to the discharge of the latter into the Pacific Ocean, where they
arrived on the 14th of November, 1805, and from whence they departed
the 23d day of March, 1806, on their return to the United States
by the same rout they had come out."
Curiously enough, one of these papers did finally reach the
United States. During the summer of 1806, the brig "Lydia," Captain Hill,
entered the Columbia for the purpose of trading with the natives.
From one of these Captain Hill secured the paper, which he took
to Canton, China, in January, 1807. Thence it was sent to a gentleman
in Philadelphia, having travelled nearly all the way round the world.
Fort Clatsop, as they called the rude collection of huts in which they
had burrowed all winter, with its rude furniture and shelters, was formally
given to Comowool, the Clatsop chief who had been so kind to the party.
Doubtless the crafty savage had had his eye on this establishment,
knowing that it was to be abandoned in the spring.
The voyagers left Fort Clatsop about one o'clock in the day, and,
after making sixteen miles up the river, camped for the night.
Next day, they reached an Indian village where they purchased "some
wappatoo and a dog for the invalids." They still had several men
on the sick list in consequence of the hard fare of the winter.
The weather was cold and wet, and wood for fuel was difficult to obtain.
In a few days they found themselves among their old friends,
the Skilloots, who had lately been at war with the Chinooks. There was
no direct intercourse between the two nations as yet, but the Chinooks
traded with the Clatsops and Wahkiacums, and these in turn traded
with the Skilloots, and in this way the two hostile tribes exchanged
the articles which they had for those which they desired.
The journal has this to say about the game of an island on which
the explorers tarried for a day or two, in order to dry their goods
and mend their canoes:--
"This island, which has received from the Indians the appropriate
name of Elalah [Elallah], or Deer Island, is surrounded on the
water-side by an abundant growth of cottonwood, ash, and willow,
while the interior consists chiefly of prairies interspersed
with ponds. These afford refuge to great numbers of geese,
ducks, large swan, sandhill cranes, a few canvas-backed ducks,
and particularly the duckinmallard, the most abundant of all.
There are also great numbers of snakes resembling our
garter-snakes in appearance, and like them not poisonous.
Our hunters brought in three deer, a goose, some ducks, an eagle,
and a tiger-cat. Such is the extreme voracity of the vultures,
that they had devoured in the space of a few hours four
of the deer killed this morning; and one of our men declared
that they had besides dragged a large buck about thirty yards,
skinned it, and broken the backbone."
The vulture here referred to is better known as the California condor,
a great bird of prey which is now so nearly extinct that few specimens are
ever seen, and the eggs command a great price from those who make collections
of such objects. A condor killed by one of the hunters of the Lewis and Clark
expedition measured nine feet and six inches from tip to tip of its wings,
three feet and ten inches from the point of the bill to the end of the tail,
and six inches and a half from the back of the head to the tip of the beak.
Very few of the condors of the Andes are much larger than this, though one
measuring eleven feet from tip to tip has been reported.
While camped at Quicksand, or Sandy River, the party
learned that food supplies up the Columbia were scarce.
The journal says that the Indians met here were descending
the river in search of food. It adds:--
"They told us, that they lived at the Great Rapids; but that
the scarcity of provisions there had induced them to come down,
in the hopes of finding subsistence in the more fertile valley.
All the people living at the Rapids, as well as the nations
above them, were in much distress for want of food, having consumed
their winter store of dried fish, and not expecting the return
of the salmon before the next full moon, which would be on the
second of May: this information was not a little embarrassing.
From the Falls to the Chopunnish nation, the plains afforded
neither deer, elk, nor antelope for our subsistence.
The horses were very poor at this season, and the dogs must
be in the same condition, if their food, the dried fish,
had failed. Still, it was obviously inexpedient for us to wait
for the return of the salmon, since in that case we might not reach
the Missouri before the ice would prevent our navigating it.
We might, besides, hazard the loss of our horses, as the Chopunnish,
with whom we had left them, would cross the mountains as early
as possible, or about the beginning of May, and take our horses
with them, or suffer them to disperse, in either of which cases
the passage of the mountains will be almost impracticable.
We therefore, after much deliberation, decided to remain where we
were till we could collect meat enough to last us till we
should reach the Chopunnish nation, and to obtain canoes from
the natives as we ascended, either in exchange for our pirogues,
or by purchasing them with skins and merchandise. These canoes,
again, we might exchange for horses with the natives of the plains,
till we should obtain enough to travel altogether by land.
On reaching the southeast branch of the Columbia, four or five men
could be sent on to the Chopunnish to have our horses in readiness;
and thus we should have a stock of horses sufficient both to transport
our baggage and supply us with food, as we now perceived that they
would form our only certain dependance for subsistence."
On the third of April this entry is made:--
"A considerable number of Indians crowded about us to-day,
many of whom came from the upper part of the river.
These poor wretches confirm the reports of scarcity among the
nations above; which, indeed, their appearance sufficiently proved,
for they seemed almost starved, and greedily picked the bones
and refuse meat thrown away by us.
"In the evening Captain Clark returned from an excursion. On setting
out yesterday at half-past eleven o'clock, he directed his course along
the south side of the [Columbia] river, where, at the distance of eight miles,
he passed a village of the Nechacohee tribe, belonging to the Eloot nation.
The village itself is small, and being situated behind Diamond Island,
was concealed from our view as we passed both times along the northern shore.
He continued till three o'clock, when he landed at the single house already
mentioned as the only remains of a village of twenty-four straw huts.
Along the shore were great numbers of small canoes for gathering wappatoo,
which were left by the Shahalas, who visit the place annually.
The present inhabitants of the house are part of the Neerchokioo tribe of
the same [Shahala] nation. On entering one of the apartments of the house,
Captain Clark offered several articles to the Indians in exchange
for wappatoo; but they appeared sullen and ill-humored, and refused to give
him any. He therefore sat down by the fire opposite the men, and taking
a port-fire match from his pocket, threw a small piece of it into the flame;
at the same time he took his pocket-compass, and by means of a magnet,
which happened to be in his inkhorn, made the needle turn round very briskly.
The match now took fire and burned violently, on which the Indians,
terrified at this strange exhibition, immediately brought a quantity
of wappatoo and laid it at his feet, begging him to put out the bad fire,
while an old woman continued to speak with great vehemence, as if praying
and imploring protection. Having received the roots, Captain Clark put up
the compass, and as the match went out of itself tranquillity was restored,
though the women and children still took refuge in their beds and behind
the men. He now paid them for what he had used, and after lighting his pipe
and smoking with them, continued down the river."
The excursion from which Captain Clark had returned, as noted in this extract,
was up the Multnomah River. As we have already seen, the explorers missed
that stream when they came down the Columbia; and they had now passed
it again unnoticed, owing to the number of straggling islands that hide
its junction with the Columbia. Convinced that a considerable river must
drain the region to the south, Captain Clark went back alone and penetrating
the intricate channels among the islands, found the mouth of the Multnomah,
now better known as the Willamette. He was surprised to find that the depth
of water in the river was so great that large vessels might enter it.
He would have been much more surprised if he had been told that a large city,
the largest in Oregon, would some day be built on the site of the Indian huts
which he saw. Here Captain Clark found a house occupied by several families
of the Neechecolee nation. Their mansion was two hundred and twenty-six feet
long and was divided into apartments thirty feet square.
The most important point in this region of the Columbia was named
Wappatoo Island by the explorers. This is a large extent of country
lying between the Willamette and an arm of the Columbia which they called
Wappatoo Inlet, but which is now known as Willamette Slough. It is twenty
miles long and from five to ten miles wide. Here is an interesting
description of the manner of gathering the roots of the wappatoo,
of which we have heard so much in this region of country:--
"The chief wealth of this island consists of the numerous ponds in
the interior, abounding with the common arrowhead (sagittaria sagittifolia)
to the root of which is attached a bulb growing beneath it in the mud.
This bulb, to which the Indians give the name of wappatoo, is
the great article of food, and almost the staple article of commerce on
the Columbia. It is never out of season; so that at all times of the year
the valley is frequented by the neighboring Indians who come to gather it.
It is collected chiefly by the women, who employ for the purpose canoes from
ten to fourteen feet in length, about two feet wide and nine inches deep,
and tapering from the middle, where they are about twenty inches wide.
They are sufficient to contain a single person and several bushels
of roots, yet so very light that a woman can carry them with ease.
She takes one of these canoes into a pond where the water is as high
as the breast, and by means of her toes separates from the root this bulb,
which on being freed from the mud rises immediately to the surface
of the water, and is thrown into the canoe. In this manner these patient
females remain in the water for several hours, even in the depth of winter.
This plant is found through the whole extent of the valley in which we
now are, but does not grow on the Columbia farther eastward."
 In the Chinook jargon "Wappatoo" stands for potato.
The natives of this inland region, the explorers found,
were larger and better-shaped than those of the sea-coast,
but they were nearly all afflicted with sore eyes.
The loss of one eye was common, and not infrequently total
blindness was observed in men of mature years, while blindness
was almost universal among the old people. The white men made
good use of the eye-water which was among their supplies;
it was gratefully received by the natives and won them friends
among the people they met. On the fifth of April the journal
has this entry:--
"In the course of his chase yesterday, one of our men [Collins],
who had killed a bear, found the den of another with three cubs in it.
He returned to-day in hopes of finding her, but brought only the cubs,
without being able to see the dam; and on this occasion Drewyer,
our most experienced huntsman, assured us that he had never known
a single instance where a female bear, which had once been disturbed
by a hunter and obliged to leave her young, returned to them again.
The young bears were sold for wappatoo to some of the many Indians
who visited us in parties during the day and behaved very well."
And on the ninth is this entry:--
"The wind having moderated, we reloaded the canoes and set out
by seven o'clock. We stopped to take up the two hunters who left
us yesterday, but were unsuccessful in the chase, and then proceeded
to the Wahclellah village, situated on the north side of the river,
about a mile below Beacon Rock. During the whole of the route
from camp we passed along under high, steep, and rocky sides
of the mountains, which now close on each side of the river,
forming stupendous precipices, covered with fir and white cedar.
Down these heights frequently descend the most beautiful cascades,
one of which, a large creek, throws itself over a perpendicular rock
three hundred feet above the water, while other smaller streams
precipitate themselves from a still greater elevation, and evaporating
in a mist, collect again and form a second cascade before they reach
the bottom of the rocks. We stopped to breakfast at this village.
We here found the tomahawk which had been stolen from us on
the fourth of last November. They assured us they had bought it
of the Indians below; but as the latter had already informed us
that the Wahclellahs had such an article, which they had stolen,
we made no difficulty about retaking our property."
The Columbia along the region through which the expedition
was now passing is a very wild and picturesque stream.
The banks are high and rocky, and some of the precipices to
which the journal refers are of a vast perpendicular height.
On the Oregon side of the river are five cascades such as those
which the journal mentions. The most famous and beautiful
of these is known as Multnomah Falls. This cataract has a total
fall of more than six hundred feet, divided into two sections.
The other cascades are the Bridal Veil, the Horsetail,
the Latourelle, and the Oneonta, and all are within a few miles
of each other.
On the ninth of April the voyagers reached the point at which they were
to leave tidewater, fifty-six miles above the mouth of the Multnomah,
or Willamette. They were now at the entrance of the great rapids
which are known as the Cascades of the Columbia, and which occupy
a space on the river about equal to four miles and a half.
They were still navigating the stream with their canoes, camping sometimes
on the north side and sometimes on the south side of the river.
This time they camped on the north side, and during the night lost one
of their boats, which got loose and drifted down to the next village
of the Wahclellahs, some of whom brought it back to the white men's
camp and were rewarded for their honesty by a present of two knives.
It was found necessary to make a portage here, but a long and severe
rainstorm set in, and the tents and the skins used for protecting
the baggage were soaked. The journal goes on with the narrative thus:--
We determined to take the canoes first over the portage,
in hopes that by the afternoon the rain would cease,
and we might carry our baggage across without injury.
This was immediately begun by almost the whole party, who in
the course of the day dragged four of the canoes to the head
of the rapids, with great difficulty and labor. A guard,
consisting of one sick man and three who had been lamed by accidents,
remained with Captain Lewis [and a cook] to guard the baggage.
This precaution was absolutely necessary to protect it from
the Wahclellahs, whom we discovered to be great thieves,
notwithstanding their apparent honesty in restoring our boat;
indeed, so arrogant and intrusive have they become that nothing
but our numbers, we are convinced, saves us from attack.
They crowded about us while we were taking up the boats,
and one of them had the insolence to throw stones down the bank
at two of our men.
"We now found it necessary to depart from our mild and pacific
course of conduct. On returning to the head of the portage,
many of them met our men and seemed very ill-disposed. Shields
had stopped to purchase a dog, and being separated from the rest
of the party, two Indians pushed him out of the road, and attempted
to take the dog from him. He had no weapon but a long knife,
with which he immediately attacked them both, hoping to put
them to death before they had time to draw their arrows;
but as soon as they saw his design they fled into the woods.
Soon afterward we were told by an Indian who spoke Clatsop,
which we had ourselves learned during the winter, that the Wahclellahs
had carried off Captain Lewis' dog to their village below.
Three men well armed were instantly despatched in pursuit of them,
with orders to fire if there was the slightest resistance or hesitation.
At the distance of two miles they came within sight of the thieves,
who, finding themselves pursued, left the dog and made off.
We now ordered all the Indians out of our camp, and explained
to them that whoever stole any of our baggage, or insulted our men,
should be instantly shot; a resolution which we were determined
to enforce, as it was now our only means of safety.
"We were visited during the day by a chief of the Clahclellahs,
who seemed mortified at the behavior of the Indians,
and told us that the persons at the head of their outrages
were two very bad men who belonged to the Wahclellah tribe,
but that the nation did not by any means wish to displease us.
This chief seemed very well-disposed, and we had every reason to believe
was much respected by the neighboring Indians. We therefore gave
him a small medal and showed him all the attention in our power,
with which he appeared very much gratified."
The portage of these rapids was very difficult and tiresome.
The total distance of the first stage was twenty-eight hundred yards
along a narrow way rough with rocks and now slippery with rain.
One of the canoes was lost here by being driven out into the strong current,
where the force of the water was so great that it could not be held
by the men; the frail skiff drifted down the rapids and disappeared.
They now had two canoes and two periogues left, and the loads were divided
among these craft. This increased the difficulties of navigation,
and Captain Lewis crossed over to the south side of the river in search
of canoes to be purchased from the Indians, who lived in a village
on that side of the stream. The narrative continues:
"The village now consisted of eleven houses, crowded with inhabitants,
and about sixty fighting men. They were very well disposed, and we found no
difficulty in procuring two small canoes, in exchange for two robes and four
elk-skins. He also purchased with deer-skins three dogs,--an animal which has
now become a favorite food, for it is found to be a strong, healthy diet,
preferable to lean deer or elk, and much superior to horseflesh in any state.
With these he proceeded along the south side of the river, and joined us
in the evening."
Above the rapids the party encountered two tribes of Indians from
whom they endeavored to buy horses, for they were now approaching
a point when they must leave the river and travel altogether by land.
One of these tribes was known as the Weocksockwillacurns,
and the other was the Chilluckittequaws. These jaw-breaking
names are commended to those who think that the Indian names
of northern Maine are difficult to handle. Trees were now
growing scarcer, and the wide lowlands spread out before
the explorers stretched to the base of the Bitter Root Mountains
without trees, but covered with luxuriant grass and herbage.
After being confined so long to the thick forests and mountains
of the seacoast, the party found this prospect very exhilarating,
notwithstanding the absence of forests and thickets.
The climate, too, was much more agreeable than that to which they
had lately been accustomed, being dry and pure.
The Last Stage of the Columbia
On the thirteenth of April the party reached the series of falls
and rapids which they called the Long Narrows. At the point
reached the river is confined, for a space of about fourteen miles,
to narrow channels and rocky falls. The Long Narrows
are now known as the Dalles. The word "dalles" is French,
and signifies flagstones, such as are used for sidewalks.
Many of the rocks in these narrows are nearly flat on top,
and even the precipitous banks look like walls of rock.
At the upper end of the rapids, or dalles, is Celilo City,
and at the lower end is Dalles City, sometimes known as
"The Dalles." Both of these places are in Oregon; the total fall
of the water from Celilo to the Dalles is over eighty feet.
Navigation of these rapids is impossible. As the explorers had
no further use for their pirogues, they broke them up for fuel.
The merchandise was laboriously carried around on the river bank.
They were able to buy four horses from the Skilloots for which
they paid well in goods. It was now nearly time for the salmon
to begin to run, and under date of April 19 the journal
has this entry:--
"The whole village was filled with rejoicing to-day at having caught
a single salmon, which was considered as the harbinger of vast
quantities in four or five days. In order to hasten their arrival
the Indians, according to custom, dressed the fish and cut it into
small pieces, one of which was given to each child in the village.
In the good humor excited by this occurrence they parted,
though reluctantly, with four other horses, for which we gave
them two kettles, reserving only a single small one for a mess
of eight men. Unluckily, however, we lost one of the horses
by the negligence of the person to whose charge he was committed.
The rest were, therefore, hobbled and tied; but as the nations here
do not understand gelding, all the horses but one were stallions;
this being the season when they are most vicious, we had great difficulty
in managing them, and were obliged to keep watch over them all night.
. . . . . . . . . .
As it was obviously our interest to preserve the goodwill of
these people, we passed over several small thefts which they committed,
but this morning we learnt that six tomahawks and a knife had been
stolen during the night. We addressed ourselves to the chief,
who seemed angry with his people, and made a harangue to them;
but we did not recover the articles, and soon afterward two of our
spoons were missing. We therefore ordered them all from our camp,
threatening to beat severely any one detected in purloining.
This harshness irritated them so much that they left us in an
ill-humor, and we therefore kept on our guard against any insult.
Besides this knavery, the faithlessness of the people
is intolerable; frequently, after receiving goods in exchange
for a horse, they return in a few hours and insist on
revoking the bargain or receiving some additional value.
We discovered, too, that the horse which was missing yesterday
had been gambled away by the fellow from whom we had purchased him,
to a man of a different nation, who had carried him off.
We succeeded in buying two more horses, two dogs, and some chappelell,
and also exchanged a couple of elk-skins for a gun belonging
to the chief . . . One of the canoes, for which the Indians would
give us very little, was cut up for fuel; two others, together with
some elk-skins and pieces of old iron, we bartered for beads,
and the remaining two small ones were despatched early next morning,
with all the baggage which could not be carried on horseback.
We had intended setting out at the same time, but one of our horses
broke loose during the night, and we were under the necessity
of sending several men in search of him. In the mean time,
the Indians, who were always on the alert, stole a tomahawk,
which we could not recover, though several of them were searched;
and another fellow was detected in carrying off a piece of iron,
and kicked out of camp; upon which Captain Lewis, addressing them,
told them he was not afraid to fight them, for, if he chose,
he could easily put them all to death, and burn their village,
but that he did not wish to treat them ill if they kept from stealing;
and that, although, if he could discover who had the tomahawks,
he would take away their horses, yet he would rather lose
the property altogether than take the horse of an innocent man.
The chiefs were present at this harangue, hung their heads,
and made no reply.
"At ten o'clock the men returned with the horse, and soon after an Indian,
who had promised to go with us as far as the Chopunnish, came with two horses,
one of which he politely offered to assist in carrying our baggage.
We therefore loaded nine horses, and, giving the tenth to Bratton,
who was still too sick to walk, at about ten o'clock left the village
of these disagreeable people."
At an Indian village which they reached soon after leaving that of the
disagreeable Skilloots, they found the fellow who had gambled away the horse
that he had sold. Being faced with punishment, he agreed to replace
the animal he had stolen with another, and a very good horse was brought
to satisfy the white men, who were now determined to pursue a rigid course
with the thievish Indians among whom they found themselves. These people,
the Eneeshurs, were stingy, inhospitable, and overbearing in their ways.
Nothing but the formidable numbers of the white men saved them from insult,
pillage, and even murder. While they were here, one of the horses
belonging to the party broke loose and ran towards the Indian village.
A buffalo robe attached to him fell off and was gathered in by one of
the Eneeshurs. Captain Lewis, whose patience was now exhausted, set out,
determined to burn the village unless the Indians restored the robe.
Fortunately, however, one of his men found the missing article hidden
in a hut, and so any act of violent reprisal was not necessary.
So scarce had now become fuel, the party were obliged to buy
what little wood they required for their single cooking-fire.
They could not afford a fire to keep them warm, and,
as the nights were cold and they lay without any shelter,
they were most uncomfortable, although the days were warm.
They were now travelling along the Columbia River, using their
horses for a part of their luggage, and towing the canoes
with the remainder of the stuff. On the twenty-third of April
they arrived at the mouth of Rock Creek, on the Columbia,
a considerable stream which they missed as they passed this point
on their way down, October 21. Here they met a company of Indians
called the Wahhowpum, with whom they traded pewter buttons,
strips of tin and twisted wire for roots, dogs, and fuel.
These people were waiting for the arrival of the salmon.
The journal says:--
"After arranging the camp we assembled all the warriors, and having
smoked with them, the violins were produced, and some of the men danced.
This civility was returned by the Indians in a style of dancing,
such as we had not yet seen. The spectators formed a circle
round the dancers, who, with their robes drawn tightly round
the shoulders, and divided into parties of five or six men,
perform by crossing in a line from one side of the circle to the other.
All the parties, performers as well as spectators, sing, and after
proceeding in this way for some time, the spectators join,
and the whole concludes by a promiscuous dance and song.
Having finished, the natives retired at our request, after promising
to barter horses with us in the morning."
They bought three horses of these Indians and hired
three more from a Chopunnish who was to accompany them.
The journal adds:--
"The natives also had promised to take our canoes in exchange for horses;
but when they found that we were resolved on travelling by land they refused
giving us anything, in hopes that we would be forced to leave them.
Disgusted at this conduct, we determined rather to cut them to pieces
than suffer these people to enjoy them, and actually began to split them,
on which they gave us several strands of beads for each canoe.
We had now a sufficient number of horses to carry our baggage,
and therefore proceeded wholly by land."
Next day the party camped near a tribe of Indians known as
the Pishquitpah. These people had never seen white men before, and they
flocked in great numbers around the strangers, but were very civil
and hospitable, although their curiosity was rather embarrassing.
These people were famous hunters, and both men and women were
excellent riders. They were now travelling on the south side
of the river, in Oregon, and, after leaving the Pishquitpahs,
they encountered the "Wollawollahs," as they called them.
These Indians are now known as the Walla Walla tribe,
and their name is given to a river, a town, and a fort of the
United States. In several of the Indian dialects walla means
"running water," and when the word is repeated, it diminishes the size
of the object; so that Walla Walla means "little running water."
Near here the explorers passed the mouth of a river which they
called the Youmalolam; it is a curious example of the difficulty
of rendering Indian names into English. The stream is now known
as the Umatilla. Here they found some old acquaintances of whom
the journal has this account:--
"Soon after we were joined by seven Wollawollahs, among whom we recognized a
chief by the name of Yellept, who had visited us on the nineteenth of October,
when we gave him a medal with the promise of a larger one on our return.
He appeared very much pleased at seeing us again, and invited us to remain
at his village three or four days, during which he would supply us
with the only food they had, and furnish us with horses for our journey.
After the cold, inhospitable treatment we have lately received, this kind
offer was peculiarly acceptable; and after a hasty meal we accompanied him
to his village, six miles above, situated on the edge of the low country,
about twelve miles below the mouth of Lewis' River.
"Immediately on our arrival Yellept, who proved to be a man of
much influence, not only in his own but in the neighboring nations,
collected the inhabitants, and having made a harangue, the purport
of which was to induce the nations to treat us hospitably,
he set them an example by bringing himself an armful of wood,
and a platter containing three roasted mullets. They immediately
assented to one part, at least, of the recommendation,
by furnishing us with an abundance of the only sort of fuel
they employ, the stems of shrubs growing in the plains.
We then purchased four dogs, on which we supped heartily,
having been on short allowance for two days past. When we were
disposed to sleep, the Indians retired immediately on our request,
and indeed, uniformly conducted themselves with great propriety.
These people live on roots, which are very abundant in the plains,
and catch a few salmon-trout; but at present they seem to subsist
chiefly on a species of mullet, weighing from one to three pounds.
They informed us that opposite the village there was a route
which led to the mouth of the Kooskooskee, on the south side
of Lewis' River; that the road itself was good, and passed
over a level country well supplied with water and grass;
and that we should meet with plenty of deer and antelope.
We knew that a road in that direction would shorten the distance
at least eighty miles; and as the report of our guide was confirmed
by Yellept and other Indians, we did not hesitate to adopt
this route: they added, however, that there were no houses,
nor permanent Indian residences on the road and that it
would therefore be prudent not to trust wholly to our guns,
but to lay in a stock of provisions.
"Taking their advice, therefore, we next day purchased ten dogs.
While the trade for these was being conducted by our men,
Yellept brought a fine white horse, and presented him
to Captain Clark, expressing at the same time a wish to
have a kettle; but, on being informed that we had already
disposed of the last kettle we could spare, he said he would
be content with any present we chose to make him in return.
Captain Clark thereupon gave him his sword, for which the chief
had before expressed a desire, adding one hundred balls,
some powder, and other small articles, with which he appeared
perfectly satisfied. We were now anxious to depart, and requested
Yellept to lend us canoes for the purpose of crossing the river;
but he would not listen to any proposal of the kind.
He wished us to remain for two or three days; but, at all events,
would not consent to our going to-day, for he had already sent
to invite his neighbors, the Chimnapoos, to come down this
evening and join his people in a dance for our amusement.
We urged in vain that, by setting out sooner, we would
the earlier return with the articles they desired;
for a day, he observed, would make but little difference.
We at length mentioned that, as there was no wind it was
now the best time to cross the river, and we would merely
take the horses over and return to sleep at their village.
To this he assented; we then crossed with our horses, and having
hobbled them, returned to their camp.
"Fortunately, there was among these Wollwaollahs a prisoner belonging
to a tribe of Shoshonee or Snake Indians, residing to the south of
the Multnomah and visiting occasionally the heads of Wollawollah Creek.
Our Shoshonee woman, Sacajawea, though she belonged to a tribe near
the Missouri, spoke the same language as this prisoner; by their means
we were able to explain ourselves to the Indians, and answer all their
inquiries with respect to ourselves and the object of our journey.
Our conversation inspired them with much confidence, and they soon
brought several sick persons, for whom they requested our assistance.
We splintered [splinted] the broken arm of one, gave some relief
to another, whose knee was contracted by rheumatism, and administered
what we thought beneficial for ulcers and eruptions of the skin on
various parts of the body which are very common disorders among them.
But our most valuable medicine was eye-water, which we distributed,
and which, indeed, they required very much.
"A little before sunset the Chimnapoos, amounting to one hundred men
and a few women, came to the village, and, joining the Wollawollahs,
who were about the same number of men, formed themselves in a circle
round our camp, and waited very patiently till our men were
disposed to dance, which they did for about an hour, to the music