|Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen|
The example taught by the acts of those who have preceded us, have doubtless contributed to our edification. Historians, philosophers and antiquarians have devoted ages to the most laborious investigation and research, spreading barrels of ink over tons of paper in their attempts to elucidate incidents, phases and facts which might and have been preserved by those whose lives were cotemporaneous with the subjects sought to be investigated.
The philosophic presentation of those examples of the past have not always been of the most reliable or definite character, and it is to be regretted that so much valuable time has been wasted in arriving at conclusions called history, but only worthy to be regarded as mythical fictions. If the founders of ancient and extinct empires and kingdoms could be recalled to earth they would feel like instituting suits for libel against the historians who have recorded their acts, if their remedy in that direction was not barred by the statute of limitation. In the rude and barbaric ages of the past, when the preservation of facts and incidents depended solely upon the uncertainty of tradition, they must have suffered terrible mutations incident to that faulty mode of preservation.
Human nature is so constituted with its bias of prejudice and self-interest, to say nothing of defective memory, that it is rarely that two persons who witness the same incident can, with the most honest intentions, give a similar version of what actually did occur.
It seems to be the accepted maxim, and doubtless with some foundation in reason, that no man is qualified to write the history of the time in which he lives, and that a truthful record of current events requires the conservative and mellowing influence of time to render them perfectly impartial and reliable. It seems to be the mission of historians to gather up facts and incidents of the past, with their cotemporaneous illustrations, and weave them together in a web of probabilities, often colored by the passions and prejudices of the writer.
The proof of the fact that historians look at objects and incidents of the past through magnifying or contracting lenses is to be found in what is recognized as History, both sacred and profane.
A correct narration of the condition, situation and surroundings of the early settlers of our State will be of interest to those who succeed us. Their mode of life, dress, manners, occupation, state of their manufactories, agricultural and other industries, and all that pertained to their comparatively rude and primitive condition must be of value to their successors in estimating the progress and benefits of civilization.
In the far-off future, when the "New Zealander will sit upon the ruined pier of London bridge," and indulge in antiquarian cogitations relative to the past, it might be convenient for him or some other delver in historic mine, to refer to the archives of the Oregon Pioneer Society to establish the fact that the founders of our State, unlike Romulus and Remus, derived their sustenance from something more respectable than a she wolf.
It is then evidently a duty that we owe to posterity - as the second article of your constitution has it - "To collect from living witnesses such facts relating to the Pioneers and history of the Territory of Oregon as the Association may deem worthy of preservation."
The treasures thus gathered up may seem to be of little present value to their possessors, but the time will come when posterity will highly prize and appreciate them. It will be of interest to those who are to inhabit this country centuries hence to know in what manner and by whom it was settled and reclaimed from the dominion of savages. It may be true that the progress of civilization and the accompanying arts and sciences will be such as to place our posterity upon a plane so high above us as to induce them to look upon the trials and privations of the pioneer with contempt, just as the modern pleasure-seeker who crosses the Atlantic in a well appointed steamship fails to discover anything in that exploit which should confer immortality upon Christopher Columbus, who previously performed that voyage without some of the convenient appliances developed by modern sciences.
In a few years hence, as the traveler in search of pleasure, crosses the continent, - when every foot of it shall be occupied with thrifty farms and smiling villages, and with luxury in every form contributing to his comfort and enjoyment, he will wonder what sort of stupid people Lewis and Clark, and the early emigrants were to spend from six months to two years wandering about, half starved, in a country that he crosses in sixty hours without suffering any discomforts or inconveniences. Indeed, the early exploits of discoverers, navigators, and warriors, dwindle into insignificance when viewed in the light of modern science and improvement.
The performances of Horsea and Hingurst, Christopher Columbus, Americus Vespucci, Cortez, Pizarro, and Lewis and Clark, would excite no comment in modern times if accomplished by the aid of modern appliances.
Darius did not resist Miltiades at Marathon with a bettery of Modern artillery and Leonidas failed to use Gatling guns and revolvers against the hosts of Xerxes at Thermopylae.
Had the patriots on Bunker Hill been armed with the Springfield breech-loader, no red-coat would have entered that historic redoubt.
But those failures or neglects simply illustrate the progress of the world. That progress which has received such an impetus within the last quarter of a century as to astonish those of us who have witnessed it, is not likely to be retarded or impeded, and two or three generations hence will look back upon us as a very primitive sort of people. While they will pity our ignorance, it may interest them to read of our lives and adventures as pioneers.
In looking over the former proceedings of your society, at the meetings which I did not have the pleasure of attending, I perceive that the questions relative to the organization of the provisional government have been ably presented in the main, with, however, some slight inaccuracies, which would be incident to any narration of facts so long after their occurrence. Not desiring to go over the same grounds so ably occupied by others at your previous re-unions, I have concluded to confine myself in this address to a statement of Oregon as I found it in 1843, who came here with me, and whom we found when we came. I might at this point add, by way of an apology, my regrets that the various and pressing demands upon my time have not permitted me to exhaust the facts and data at my disposal, which bear upon the early history and settlement of the country. I have therefore condensed my present communication to the narrowest possible limits.
As early as the year 1840, being then an adventurous youth in what at that time was known as the "Far West," I had heard of Oregon as a "Terra Incognita" somewhere upon the western slope of the continent, as a country to which the United States had some sort of a claim, and
Save his own dashings."
During the winter of 1842-3, Dr. Marcus Whitman, then a missionary in the Walla Walla valley visited Washington to intercede in behalf of the American interests on this coast.
Dr. Lewis F. Linn was then the U.S. Senate, from Missouri, and took a great interest in the settlement of Oregon. The means for the transmission of news at that time was slow and meagre upon the frontier, it being before the day of railroads, telegraph and postage stamps. But the Oregon question through the medium of Senators Benton and Linn, and Dr. Whitman, did create some commotion in Washington and enough of it found its way to the "Far West," to make some stir among the ever restless and adventurous frontiersmen. Without any formal promulgation it became fairly understood, and was so published in the few border papers then in existence, that our emigration party would rendezvous at Independence to start for Oregon as soon as the grass would subsist the stock.
Without orders from any quarter, and without preconcert, promptly as the grass began to start, the emigrants began to assemble near Independence, at a place called Fitzhugh's Mill. On the 17th day of May, 1843, notices were circulated through the different encampments that on the succeeding day, those contemplating emigration to Oregon, would meet at a designated point to organize.
Promptly at the appointed hour the motley groups assembled. It consisted of people from all the States and Territories, and nearly all nationalities. The most however, from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, and all strangers to one another, but impressed with some crude idea that there existed an imperative necessity for some kind of an organization for mutual protection against the hostile Indians inhabiting the great unknown wilderness stretching away to the shores of the Pacific, and which they were about to traverse with their wives and children, household goods and all their earthly possessions.
Many of the emigrants were from the western tier of counties of Missouri, know as the Platte Purchase, and among them was Peter H. Burnett, a former merchant, who had abandoned the yardstick and become a lawyer of some celebrity for his ability as a smooth-tongued advocate. He subsequently emigrated to California, and was elected the first Governor of the Golden State, was afterward Chief Justice, an still an honored resident of that State. Mr Burnett, or, as he was familiarly designated, "Pete," was called upon for a speech. Mounting a log, the glib-tongued orator delivered a glowing, florid address. He commenced by showing his audience that the then western tier of States and Territories was overcrowded with a redundant population, who had not sufficient elbow room for the expansion of their enterprise and genius, and it was a duty they owed to themselves and posterity to strike out in search of a more expanded field and more genial climate, where the soil yielded the richest return for the slightest amount of cultivation, where the trees were loaded with perennial fruit and where a good substitute for bread, called La Camash, grew in the ground, salmon and other fish crowded the streams, and where the principal labor of the settler would be confined to keeping their gardens free from the inroads of buffalo, elk, deer and wild turkeys. He appealed to our patriotism by picturing forth the glorious empire we would establish upon the shores of the Pacific. How, with our trusty rifles, we would drive out the British usurpers who claimed the soil, and defend the country from the avarice and pretensions of the British lion, and how posterity would honor us for placing the fairest portion of our land under the dominion of the stars and stripes. He concluded with a slight allusion to the trials and hardships incident to the trip and dangers to be encountered from hostile Indians on the route, and those inhabiting the country whiter we were bound. He furthermore intimated a desire to look upon the tribe of noble "red men" that the valiant and well armed crowd around him could not vanquish in a single encounter.
Other speeches were made, full of glowing descriptions of the fair land of promise, the far away Oregon which no one in the assemblage had ever seen, and of which not more than half a dozen had ever read any account. After the election of Mr. Burnett, as captain, and other necessary officers, the meeting, as motely and primitive a one as ever assembled, adjourned, with "three cheers" for Capt. Burnett and Oregon.
On the 20th day of May, 1843, after a pretty thorough military organization, we took up our line of march, with Capt. John Gantt, an old army officer, who combined the character of trapper and mountaineer, as our guide. Gantt had in his wanderings been as far as Green river and assured us of the practicability of a wagon road thus far. Green river, the extent of our guide's knowledge in that direction, was not half-way to the Willamette valley, the then only inhabited portion of Oregon. Beyond that we had not the slightest conjecture of the condition of the country. We went forth trusting to the future and would doubtless have encountered more difficulties than we experienced had not Dr. Whitman overtaken us before we reached the terminus of our guide's knowledge. He was familiar with the whole route and was confident that wagons could pass through the canyons and gorges of Snake river and over the Blue mountains, which the mountaineers in the vicinity of Fort Hall declared to be a physical impossibility.
Capt. Grant then in charge of the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Hall, endeavored to dissuade us from proceeding further with our wagons, and showed us the wagons that the emigrants of the preceding year had abandoned, as an evidence of the impracticability of our determination.
Dr. Whitman was persistent in his assertions that wagons could proceed as far as the Grand Dalles of the Columbia river, from which point he asserted they could be taken down by rafts or batteaux to the Willamette valley, while our stock could be driven by an Indian trail over the Cascade mountains, near Mr. Hood.
Happily Whitman's advice prevailed, and a large number of the wagons with a portion of the stock, did reach Walla Walla and the Dalles, from which points they were taken to the Willamette the following year.
Had we followed Grant's advice and abandoned the cattle and wagons at Fort Hall, much suffering must have ensued, as a sufficient number of horses to carry the women and children of the party could not have been obtained, besides wagons and cattle were indispensible to men expecting to live by farming in a country destitute of such articles.
At Fort Hall, we fell in with some Cayuse and Nez Perce Indians returning from the buffalo country, and as it was necessary for Dr. Whitman to precede us to Walla Walla, he recommended to us a guide in the person of an old Cayuse Indian called "Sticcus." He was a faithful old fellow, perfectly familiar with all the trails and topography of the country from Fort Hall to The Dalles, and although not speaking a word of English, and no one in our party a word of Cayuse, he succeeded by pantomime in taking us over the roughest wagon route I ever saw. Sticcus was a member of Dr. Whitman's church, and the only Indian I ever saw that I thought had any conception of, and practiced the Christian religion. I met him afterward in the Cayuse war. He did not participate in the murder of Dr. Whitman and his family, and remained neutral during the war between his tribe and the whites, which grew out of the massacre. I once dined with Sticcus, in his camp, upon what I supposed to be elk meat. I had arrived at that conclusion because, looking at the cooked meat and then at the old Indian interrogatively, he held up his hands in a manner that indicated elk horns; but, after dinner, seeing the ears, tail and hoofs of a mule near camp, I became satisfied that what he meant to convey by his pantomime was "ears" not "horns," but digestion waited upon appetite, and after the dinner was over it did not make much difference about the appendages of the animal that furnished it. It not being my intention to weary your patience with a detailed narration of our toilsome march across the continent, I shall leave that portion of the subject for some more convenient season, with the assurance to you that the data in my possession, if in the hands of a skillful Defore, would be a sufficient and truthful basis for a narrative as entertaining as Robinson Crusoe.
Having been elected by the people comprising the emigration to the position of Orderly Sergeant, with the duties of Adjutant, it devolved upon me to make up a complete roll of the male members of the company capable of bearing arms, and including all above the age of sixteen years.
They were divided into four details for guard duty, thus giving one-fourth of the company a turn of guard duty every fourth day, or as the soldiers express it, we had "three nights in bed." I have that old roll before me, and it is the only authentic copy extant.
It has lain among my musty documents for nearly a third of a century, and I shall now proceed to call over the names with the sad consciousness that the most of them have answered to their last roll-call upon earth, and I hope have made a better exchange for the troubles of this life. Still, I would take it as a great favor of those present would answer promptly as their names are again called after a lapse of thirty-two years, and I will mark those who have survived that long period and answer "here" as present for duty.
Alas! alas! of my 295 comrades who marched across the border at Fitzhugh's mill, with rifles on their shoulders, on the morning of the 20th of May, 1843, but 13 are here to-day to respond to the roll-call.
Time has sadly decimated our ranks, and the thin line that to-day presents itself as the remnant of the old guard of "43" is in the melancholy contrast with that gallant battalion of brave hearts and strong arms which so full of life and hope marched over the border thirty-two years ago. Many of them have fallen in defense of our infant settlement against the ruthless savages that surrounded us, and now fill honored but undecorated graves. Some I have with my own hands consigned to their last resting place; others have found homes in the surrounding States and Territories, while a few are scattered about over Oregon. In a few years, the last of us will have taken our departure for a better land as I hope, and our places will be occupied by strangers. Posterity will not, however, forget the sacrifices, the trials and privations we have endured in our efforts to make the "wilderness bud and blossom like the rose."
My duty did not require me to make out a list of the women and children, and I have always regretted that it was omitted. Such a list would be of interest to many who were then young and whose names ought to be enrolled as belonging to the emigration of 1843.
The ladies who accompanied us and who have contributed so much to the prosperity of our young State, deserve to be enumerated in the list of early settlers, but that important duty seems to have been neglected by those who had more time at their disposal than I had.
Men are generally governed in their actions by some rational motive. I have often been asked by refined and cultivated people in Washington the reason for my coming to Oregon at that early day, and I have found it a difficult question to answer. I was a poor, homeless youth, destitute alike of friends, money and education. Actuated by a reckless spirit of adventure, one place was to me the same as another. No tie of near kindred or possessions bound me to any spot of the earth's surface. Thinking my condition might be made better, and knowing it could not be worse, I took the leap in the dark. But in the emigration that accompanied me, there were staid men of mature years and cultivated intilects - men who left comparatively comfortable homes and friends, with their wives and children, gave up the advantages of civilization to cross a desert continent beset with hostile savages, to go they knew not whither, and with the certainty that in the event of a defeat by Indians, or finding Oregon uninhabitable, there could be no possibility of returning. The chances were more than even that if they escaped the scalping knife of the savages, it would only be to perish by starvation. So far as lands at reasonable rates and a fruitful soil were desirable, they were surrounded with them in the homes they abandoned. No monarchieal or arbitrary government oppressed them, no religious zealots persecuted them. They fled from no such evils as brought either the pilgrims or cavaliers to the New World; nor was their avarice tempted by the inducements which sent Cortez and his companions to Mexico, or Pizarro to Peru - for the existence of precious metals in this region was then unknown.
Then it may be asked, why did such men peril everything - burning their ships behind them, exposing their helpless families to the possibilities of massacre and starvation, braving death - and for what purpose? I am not quite certain that any rational answer will ever be given to that question. At the time we came, there was comparatively nothing known of the possessions to which we had a disputed title on this coast. Lewis and Clark had only beheld the valley of the Columbia river. The missionary reports were confined principally to exaggerated accounts of Indian conversions, while other writings upon the subject of Oregon were a mixture of fiction and perverted fact that contained no definite information of the country and its resources.
The Hon. Nathaniel Pendleton had written a report, submitting to the House of Representatives, of which he was a member in 1841 or '42, which was mostly a compilation of such information as he could gather up from the meagre sources then existing.
The best informed men in both Houses of Congress, excepting, perhaps, Benton and Linn, placed no value upon the country, while some of them deprecated any attempt at its settlement, and derided the idea of its ever becoming a portion of the American Union.
The furor about "54:40 or fight" was raised subsequently, when that alliteration became the rallying cry of a political party. But whatever might have been the motive of the early settlers, their labors resulted in the acquisition of one of the most valuable portions of the American Union, and their efforts in that behalf will be recognized and appreciated by posterity.
But to return to the consideration of the facts connected with the emigration of 1843, as shown by the roll just called. There were 295 male persons above the age of sixteen, capable of bearing arms. There were 111 wagons and vehicles or different kinds, but no pleasure conveyance. The greater portion of the teams consisted of oxen.
Of the party, the following named persons turned back on the Platte: Nicholas Biddle, Alexander Francis, F. Lugur, John Loughborough and Jackson Moore.
Their hearts weakened at the prospect of the toil, privations and dangers of the trip and the great uncertainty of its termination. In view of all the surrounding circumstances then existing, I am of the opinion that those who turned back manifested more descretion, but less valor than those of us who braved the dangers and uncertainties of the trip.
The following named persons died at different points on the route: Stevenson died on the Sandy; Clayborn Paine died on the Sweetwater; Daniel Richardson died at Fort Hall; McClelland, Miles Eyers and C.M. Stringer were drowned in the Columbia; William Day arrived sick, and died at Fort Vancouver.
At Fort Hall, the following named persons turned off and went to California: J. Atkinson, Boardman, Joseph Childs, Dawson, John Gantt, Milton Little, Capt. Wm. J. Martin, Julius Martin, F. McClelland, McGee, John McIntire, John Williams, James Williams, Squire Williams, Isaac Williams, P.B. Reading and Thos. J. Hensley.
Deducting those who turned back and those who died on the road, together with those who went to California, left the actual number of our immigration who arrived here, 268. Upon our arrival, we found in the country the following persons, exclusive of missionaries, and who might be included in the general term of settlers. They had found their way here from different points, some crossing the Rocky mountains from the Eastern States, some of them sailors who had abandoned the sea, while others were trappers who had exchanged the uncertainties of nomadic life for farming; others had found their way from California.
I do not claim absolute accuracy for the lists of persons who were in Oregon prior to the emigration of 1843, as it is made up from the memory I retain of persons known to me nearly a third of a century ago. I am more or less acquainted with the history of those persons and the time of their arrival here, but to go into such details would swell this address to a volume.
Suffice it to say, they were the real Pioneers of Oregon, and among them were some of the noblest men, and I hope that an abler pen than mine will one day delineate their true merits. Some names may have escaped me; if so, I beg that those who have been unintentionally neglected will step forward and assert their rights.
In this connection I should say that some of the persons in this list are perhaps not designated by their Christian names. I have not had the opportunity to examine their baptismal record, and some names may be recorded which would astonish their sponsors.
I have, however, done the best that I could in the way of patronymics, and shall be pleased to be corrected where I have erred. I have given the names that the early Pioneers were then known by, and if I am guilty of mistakes it is the assumed duty, incumbent upon those who know better to "vindicate the truth of history."
While upon the subject of apologies, perhaps in the interest of absolute certainty, I should say that Uncle Dan Waldo with his party did not join us at the rendezvous, but overtook us on the Big Blue, and that Ransom Clark, John G. Campbell, - Chapman and Maj. Gilpin, though crossing the plains with Lieut. Fremont, they did not properly belong to our party; still, I have included them as they arrived in that year.
There were also at that time a few Roman Catholic missionaries in Oregon, but my knowledge of them was not sufficiently definite to undertake a correct list of their names.
This is also true of the settlers of Canadian birth who had formerly belonged to the Hudson Bay Company's service, but who had left it. I knew the most of them, and can bear testimony to the fact that they were quiet, honest, industrious settlers and good citizens, who helped to develop the country and assisted in its defense in our Indian wars. My limited acquaintance with them would forbid my attempting a correct list of their names. Among them, however, I remember Chamberlane, Plamondon, Gervais and Luce and many others who are entitled to share with us whatever credit is due to the Pioneers, as they endured the toils and privations of developing and defending the country, and I trust that some of their own number will file in our archives a correct list of their names. One of these Canadians [I think his name was DeLoar] lived near Champoeg, was one of Lewis and Clark's party that came to Oregon in 1804, and subsequently returned here in the Hudson Bay Company's service, and for many years enjoyed the appellation, "oldest inhabitant."
William Cannon, another very old man who resided near Champoeg and died a few years since, came to the country in the service of Astor, in Wilson G. Hunt's party, and resided here the remainder of his life. Washington Irving, in his Astoria, makes Cannon the hero of a luicrous adventure with a bear, and I have heard the old man give his version of the affair wherein he figured in a tree, his position secure in its elevation, while bruin watched below.
Estimating the Catholic missions and the Canadians who had left the Hudson Bay Company's service in the country in the fall of 1843, at 50 persons, added to the other settlers and Protestant missionaries, would make the white male population 157; add to this those who crossed the plains that year and we have in that vast territory now comprised within the limits of the State of Oregon, Washington and Idaho Territories, approximating 424 male white persons above the age of 16, and in this communication you have their names. At that time there were no settlers between the Missouri border and the Cascade mountains, and no Americans north of the Columbia river. My old friend Mike Simmons, now deceased, is entitled to the honor of being the first American settler in that region, and no better man has ever inhabited it since. The settlements west of the Cascades were confined to the counties of Clatsop, Washington, [then known as Tualatin plains] Clackamas, Champoeg, [now Marion] and Yamhill. There were no settlers on the east side of the Willamette, south of Marion, and George Gay, living in the southern border of Yamhill county, was the most southern settler west of the river. Sutter's fort, now Sacramento city, at a distance of 600 miles south, was the nearest white settlement in any direction. Oregon City was then the principal town west of the Rocky mountains. It was located by Dr. John McLoughlin, then Governor of the Hudson Bay Company, on the east side of the river, and consisted of about half a dozen houses.
On the west side at the Falls, as it was all then called, was Linn City, more commonly known as the Robin's Nest, owned by Robert Moor, Esq., and just below it, at the terminus of the present canal, was Multnomah City under the proprietorship of Hugh Burns, a shrewd Hibernian, and the principal blacksmith west of the Rocky mountains. Salem contained three houses, and no other towns were known.
The present site of Portland was a solitude surrounded with a dense forest of fir trees. Perhaps I ought to devote a paragraph to its early history.
With three comrades, I left the emigration on the Umatilla river, at a point near the present Indian Agency, and after a variety of adventures, which I may at some time narrate, we arrived in a canoe at Fort Vancouver on the evening of the 23d of October, 1843. We encamped on the bank of the river about where the government wharf now stands. The greater part of our slender means were expended in the purchase of provisions and hickory shirts, consigning those that had done such long and continuous service, with their inhabitants, to the Columbia. On the morning of the 24th, we started for what was known as the "Willamette" settlement at the Falls.
Dr. McLoughlin told us that at a distance of seven miles below the Fort, we would encounter the waters of the Willamette entering the Columbia from the south. At about the distance indicated by the Doctor, we reached what we supposed to be the mouth of the river and after paddling up it until noon, looked across, and to our astonishment discovered Fort Vancouver. It then flashed upon us that we had circumnavigated the island opposite the Fort. We retraced our way, and that evening discovered the mouth of the Willamette and encamped upon its banks. The next evening we encamped on the prairie opposite Portland upon what is now the town site of East Portland, owned by James Stephens, Esq.
In 1844, William Overtgon, a Tennesseean, located upon the present town site and engaged in making shingles, and set up a claim to the land, which was then like the other continuous wilderness lining the banks of the river. Overton sold his claim to Pettygrove and Lovejoy, who, in 1845, laid out some lots and called the place Portland, after the city of that name in Maine, from which State they had emigrated. Overton was a desperate, rollicking fellow, and sought his fortunes in the wilds of Texas, where, as I have heard, his career was brought to a sudden termination by a halter.
In 1843, the only settler on the river below the Falls, was an old English sailor by the name of William Johnson, who resided upon a claim about a mile above the present city of Portland. He was a fine specimen of the British tar, and had at an early day abandoned his allegiance to the British lion and taken service on the old frigate Constitution. I have frequently listened to his narrative of the action between Old Ironsides and the Guerriere, on which occasion he served with the boarding party. He used to exhibit an ugly scar upon his head, made in that memorable action by a British cutlass, and attributed his escape from death, to the fact that he had a couple of pieces of hoop-iron crossed in his cap, which turned the cutlass and saved his life.
To narrate all the incidents which occurred in connection with the early settlement of the country would exceed what I have intended as a brief address, to an unreasonable limit. Suffice it to say that the immigration of 1843 arrived safely in the valley during the fall and early part of the winter, and found homes in the then settled neighborhoods. Dr. John McLoughlin, then at the head of the Hudson Bay Company, from his own private resources, rendered the new settlers much valuable aid by furnishing the destitute with food, clothing and seed, waiting for his pay until they had a surplus to dispose of. Dr. John McLoughlin was a public benefactor, and the time will come when the people of Oregon will do themselves credit by erecting a statue to his memory. Of foreign birth and lineage, he gave the strongest proof of his devotion to republican institutions, by becoming an American citizen, while all his personal interests were identified with the British government. Thus far, detraction and abuse have been his principal reward. There was at that time no money in the country, and all transactions were based upon barter or trade, and fortunate was the individual who could procure an "order" on the "Hudson Bay Company" for goods, which were then sold at remarkably reasonable rates considering all the surroundings. During the early period of the settlement of Oregon, there existed a wonderful equality among the population in point of wealth. Those who possessed a few cattle were considered the most fortunate; still the property was too equally divided and too scanty to admit of distinctions on the score of wealth. The means of transportation consisted of pack horses by land and canoes by water, with an occasional Hudson Bay batteax. I remember, as late as 1847, standing with some friends upon the banks of the Willamette, when we discussed the possibility of any of our number living to see its placid bosom disturbed by the wheels of a steamboat. At that time, the rude hospitality of the settlers was dispensed with a liberal hand. The traveler went forth with his own blanket and lass-rope, thus furnishing his own bed and security for the safety of his horse, while the cabin door of the settler always stood open to furnish him shelter and food, without money and without price. In the summer of 1846, my wife and self, entertained two British officers. I staked out their horses on the grass; they had their own blankets and slept on the floor of our palatial residence, which consisted of a pole cabin fourteen feet square, the interstices between the poles a puncheon floor and a mud chimney, and not a pane of glass or particle of sawed lumber about the institution. The furniture, consisting of such articles as I had manufactured from a fir tree with an ax and augur. We regaled our guests bountifully upon boiled wheat and jerked beef, without sugar, coffee or tea. A quarter of a century afterward I met one of these officers in Washington. He reminded me that he had once been my guest in Oregon. When that fact was recalled to my mind, I attempted an apology for the brevity of our bill of fare, but with characteristic politeness, he interrupted me with, "My dear sir! don't mention it. The fare was splendid and we enjoyed it hugely. You gave us the best you had, and the Prince of Wales could do no more."
As an illustration of the honest and simple directness which pervaded our legislative proceedings of that day, I will mention that in 1847, I had the honor of a seat in the Legislature of the Provisional Government; it was my first step upon the slippery rungs of the polictical ladder. The Legislature then consisted of but one house and we sat in the old Methodist church at the Falls. Close by the church, Barton Lee had constructed a "ten-pin alley" where some of my fellow members were in the habit of resorting to seek relaxation and refreshment from their Legislative toils. I had aspired to the Speakership and supposed myself sure of the position, but the same uncertainty in political matters existed then that I have seen so much of since. Some of my friends threw off on me and elected a better man, in the person of Dr. Robert Newell. God bless his old soul. In the small collection of books at the Falls known as the Multnomah Library, I found what I had never heard of before, a copy of "Jefferson's Manual," and after giving it an evening's perusal by the light of an armful of pitch knots, I found that there was such a thing in parliamentary usage as "the previous question."
I had a bill then pending to cut off the southern end of Yamhill, and to establish the county of Polk, which measure had violent opposition in the body. One morning while most of the opponents of my bill were amusing themselves at "horse billiards" in Lee's ten-pin alley, I called up my bill, and, after making the best argument I could in its favor, I concluded with: "And now, Mr. Speaker, upon this bill I move the previous question." Newell looked confused, and I was satisfied that he had no conception of what I meant; but he rallied, and, looking wise and severe [I have since seen presiding officers in Washington do the same thing], said: "Sit down, sir! Resume your seat! Do you intend to trifle with the Chair! when you know that we passed the previous question two weeks ago? It was the first thing we done!" I got a vote, however, before the return of the "horse billiard' players, and Polk country has a legal existence to-day, notwithstanding the adverse ruling upon a question of parliamentary usage.
Genial, kind-hearted Newell! How many of you recollect his good qualities and how heartily have you laughed around the camp fire at his favorite song, "Love and Sassingers." I can yet hear the lugubrious refrain describing how his dulcena was captured by the butcher's boy.
A frying sassingers for he."
In these primitive days, we had but few of the vices of civilization. Intemperance in strong drink was unknown, and there was comparatively no litigation. Lawyers and doctors had to till the soil like honest men to procure their daily bread. Every neighborhood had a rough log school-house in which "stated preaching" was dispensed on Sunday by divines who had cultivated their fields during the week, and who did not "sit upon the ragged edge of despair" and were not troubled with visions of "a moral Niagara," or "sections of the day of judgment." Every neighborhood had also its violinists, who furnished music for the innocent and rational devotees of Terpsichore, who, clad in buckskin, tripped the light fantistic toe in moccasins on puncheon floors. In fact, the young people whiled away much of the long dreary winter in that sort of amusement.
And went home with the gals in the morning."
In the Eastern States, I have often been asked how long it was after Fremont discovered Oregon that I emigrated there. It is true that in the year 1843, Fremont, then a Lieutenant in the Engineer Corps, did cross the plains, and brought his party to the Dalles, and visited Vancouver to procure supplies. I saw him on the plains, though he reached the Dalles in the rear of our emigration. His outfit contained all of the conveniences and luxuries that a Government appropriation could procure, while he "roughed it" in a covered carriage, surrounded by servants paid from the public purse. He returned to the States and was afterward rewarded with a Presidential nomination as the "Pathfinder." The path he found was made by the hardy frontiersmen who preceded him to the Pacific, and who stood by their rifles here and held the country against hostile Indians and British threats, without Government aid or recognition until 1849, when the first Government troops came to our relief. Yet Fremont, with many people, has the credit of "finding" everything west of the Rocky mountains, and I suppose his pretensions will be recognized by the future historian, while the deserving men who made the path, unaided by Government, will be forgotten. "And such is history."
A rude prosperity, contentment and happiness pervaded our society, and while our posterity may be more refined, cultivated and wealthy, I doubt if they will be any better, more contented, virtuous or happier, than their rude Pioneer ancestors.
Mr. President and Pioneers, I am not here to draw inviduous distinctions or depreciate any one man's merits by referring to those of another; but I feel it is an occasion when I might pay a slight tribute to an early Pioneer [who, I am sorry to say, is absent, and has left our State], without partiality, as we have always been political opponents. If at this time, after the lapse of nearly a third of a century, I were called upon to designate the man of the immigration of 1843, or any other immigration, who had made the most personal sacrifices for the benefit of our common State and had received the least reward, I should mention the name that deservedly heads the roll of 1843.
He was at the rendezvous at Fitzhugh's Mill on the 17th day of May, 1843, and more by his silence than by what he said, gave character to our proceedings. No man did more upon the route to aid the destitute and encourage the weak. He divided his rations with the same reckless liberality with which he signed the bonds of those who have victimized him and reduced him to poverty in his old age.
He was one of the first settlers in Polk county, as he has been in Umpqua, and now is in Northern California. He presents the singular anomaly of a genleman of the highest culture who shrinks from contact with society. In his presence all feel the power of his genius, while he has not the volubility to utter a dozen consecutive words; but give him pen, ink and paper, and there is scarcely a subject upon which he cannot shed a flood of light.
He was the leader in forming our Provisional Government in 1845, as he was of the party of 1846 that escorted the first immigration by the Southern route - an unselfish service in which he periled his life to ruin himself pecuniarily. The services and reputation of Jesse Applegate are the common property of the Oregon Pioneers. "Such a man might be a copy to these younger times." In the language of the great poet -
His life was gentle: and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This was aman."
Mr. President and Pioneers, the time rapidly approaches when we, the first settlers of Oregon, must go hence and leave to our posterity the fruits of our toils and our labors, and I feel this to be an occasion when, if animosities or unkindness have existed amoung us, they ought to be buried out of sight and forgotten. Let us at least leave to those who are to come after us a heritage of charity, kindness and good feeling, and let us hope that our descendants may prove themselves an honest, patriotic race of men and women, worthy to inherit the goodly land we spied out for them, and in your and their pursuit of all that is great and good,
Still daily to grow wiser,
And may you better reck the rede
Than ever did th' adviser."