LIFE AT PUGET SOUND
SKETCHES OF TRAVEL
WASHINGTON TERRITORY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, OREGON, AND CALIFORNIA
CAROLINE C. LEIGHTON
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS NEW YORK CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM 1884
COPYRIGHT, 1888, BY LEE AND SHEPARD.
All rights reserved.
The following selections from observations and experiences during a residence of sixteen years on the Pacific Coast, while they do not claim to describe fully that portion of the country, nor to give any account of its great natural wealth and resources, yet indicate something of its characteristic features and attractions, more especially those of the Puget Sound region.
This remote corner of our territory, hitherto almost unknown to the country at large, is rapidly coming into prominence, and is now made easy of access by the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The vast inland sea, popularly known as Puget Sound, ramifying in various directions, the wide-spreading and majestic forests, the ranges of snow-capped mountains on either side, the mild and equable climate, and the diversified resources of this favored region, excite the astonishment and admiration of all beholders. To the lovers of the grand and beautiful, unmarred as yet by any human interference, who appreciate the freedom from conventionalities which pertain to longer-settled portions of the globe, it presents an endless field for observation and enjoyment. There is already a steady stream of emigration to this new "land of promise," and every thing seems to indicate for it a vigorous growth and development, and a brilliant and substantial future.
At Sea.—Mariguana Island.—Sea-Birds.—Shipwreck.—Life on Roncador Reef.—The Rescue.—Isthmus of Panama.—Voyage to San Francisco.—The New Baby. 1
Port Angeles.—Indian "Hunter" and his Wife.—Sailor's Funeral.—Incantation.—Indian Graves.—Chief Yeomans.—Mill Settlements.—Port Gamble Trail.—Canoe Travel.—The Memaloost.—Tommy and his Mother.—Olympic Range.—Ediz Hook.—Mrs. S. and her Children.—Grand Indian Wedding.—Crows and Indians. 18
Indian Chief Seattle.—Frogs and Indians.—Spring Flowers and Birds.—The Red Tamahnous.—The Little Pend d'Oreille.—Indian Legend.—From Seattle to Fort Colville.—Crossing the Columbia River Bar.—The River and its Surroundings.—Its Former Magnitude.—The Grande Coulee.—Early Explorers, Heceta, Meares, Vancouver, Grey.—Curious Burial-Place.—Chinese Miners.—Umatilla.—Walla Walla.—Sage-Brush and Bunch-Grass.—Flowers in the Desert.—"Stick" Indians.—Klickatats.—Spokane Indian.—Snakes.—Dead Chiefs.—A Kamas-Field.—Basaltic Rocks. 38
Two Hundred Miles on the Upper Columbia.—Steamer "Forty-Nine."—Navigation in a Canyon.—Pend d'Oreille River and Lake.—Rock Paintings.—Tributaries of the Upper Columbia.—Arrow Lakes.—Kettle Falls.—Salmon-Catching.—Salmon-Dance.—Goose-Dance. 63
Old Fort Colville.—Angus McDonald and his Indian Family.—Canadian Voyageurs.—Father Joseph.—Hardships of the Early Missionaries.—The Coeurs d'Alene and their Superstitions.—The Catholic Ladder.—Sisters of Notre Dame.—Skill of the Missionaries in instructing the Indians.—Father de Smet and the Blackfeet.—A Native Dance.—Spokanes.—Exclusiveness of the Coeurs d'Alene.—Battle of Four Lakes.—The Yakima Chief and the Road-Makers. 75
Colville to Seattle.—"Red."—"Ferrins."—"Broke Miners."—A Rare Fellow-Traveller.—The Bell-Mare.—Pelouse Fall.—Red-Fox Road.—Early Californians.—Frying-Pan Incense.—Dragon-Flies.—Death of the Chief Seattle. 93
Port Angeles Village and the Indian Ranch.—A "Ship's Klootchman."—Indian Muck-a-Muck.—Disposition of an Old Indian Woman.—A Windy Trip to Victoria.—The Black Tamahnous.—McDonald's in the Wilderness.—The Wild Cowlitz.—Up the River during a Flood.—Indian Boatmen.—Birch-Bark and Cedar Canoes. 109
Voyage to San Francisco.—Fog-Bound.—Port Angeles.—Passing Cape Flattery in a Storm.—Off Shore.—The "Brontes."—The Captain and his Men.—A Fair Wind.—San Francisco Bar.—The City at Night.—Voyage to Astoria.—Crescent City.—Iron-Bound Coast.—Mount St. Helen's.—Mount Hood.—Cowlitz Valley and its Floods.—Monticello. 124
Victoria.—Its Mountain Views, Rocks, and Flowers.—Vancouver's Admiration of the Island.—San Juan Islands.—Sir James Douglas.—Indian Wives.—Northern Indians.—Indian Workmanship.—The Thunder-Bird.—Indian Offerings to the Spirit of a Child.—Pioneers.—Crows and Sea-Birds. 137
Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters.—Its Early Explorers.—Towns, Harbors, and Channels.—Vancouver's Nomenclature.—Juan de Fuca.—Mount Baker.—Chinese "Wing."—Ancient Indian Women.—Pink Flowering Currant and Humming-Birds.—"Ah Sing." 151
Rocky-mountain Region.—Railroad from Columbia River to Puget Sound.—Mountain Changes.—Mixture of Nationalities.—Journey to Coos Bay, Oregon.—Mountain Canyon.—A Branch of the Coquille.—Empire City.—Myrtle Grove.—Yaquina.—Genial Dwellers in the Woods.—Our Unknown Neighbor.—Whales.—Pet Seal and Eagle.—A Mourning Mother.—Visit from Yeomans. 165
Puget Sound to San Francisco.—A Model Vessel.—The Captain's Relation to his Men.—Rough Water.—Beauty of the Sea.—Golden-Gate Entrance.—San Francisco Streets.—Santa Barbara.—Its Invalids.—Our Spanish Neighbors.—The Mountains and the Bay.—Kelp.—Old Mission.—A Simoom.—The Channel Islands.—A New Type of Chinamen.—An Old Spanish House. 182
Our Aerie.—The Bay and the Hills.—The Little Gnome.—Earthquake.—Temporary Residents.—The Trade-Wind.—Seal-Rocks.—Farallon Islands.—Exhilarating Air.—Approach of Summer.—Centennial Procession.—Suicides.—Mission Dolores.—Father Pedro Font and his Expedition.—The Mission Indians.—Chinese Feast of the Dead.—Curious Weather. 199
Quong.—His Protege.—His Peace-Offering.—The Chinese and their Grandmothers.—Ancient Ideas.—Irish, French, and Spanish Chinamen.—Chinese Ingenuity.—Hostility against the Chinese.—Their Proclamations.—Discriminations against them.—Their Evasion of the Law.—Their Perseverance against all Obstacles.—Their Reverence for their Ancestors, and Fear of the Dead.—Their Medical Knowledge.—Their Belief in the Future.—Their Curious Festivals.—Indian Names for the Months.—Resemblance between the Indians and Chinese.—Their Superstitions. 220
Chun Fa's Funeral.—Alameda.—Gophers and Lizards.—Poison Oak.—Sturdy Trees.—Baby Lizards.—Old Alameda.—Emperor Norton.—California Generosity.—The Dead Newsboy.—Anniversary of the Goddess Kum Fa.—Chinese Regard for the Moon and Flowers.—A Shin Worshipper. 242
LIFE AT PUGET SOUND.
At Sea.—Mariguana Island.—Sea-Birds.—Shipwreck.—Life on Roncador Reef.—The Rescue.—Isthmus of Panama.—Voyage to San Francisco.—The New Baby.
ATLANTIC OCEAN, May 26, 1865.
It is a great experience to feel the loneliness of the sea,—to see the whole circle of the heavens, and nothing under it but the rising and falling water, from morning till night, day after day.
The first night we were out the porpoises came up at twilight, and sported round the vessel. I saw some sea-birds that seemed to be playing,—running and sliding on the green, glassy waves. In the wake of the vessel were most beautiful changing colors. Little Nelly S. sat with us to watch the phosphorescence. She said, "The stars in the sea call to me, with little fine voices, 'Nelly, Nelly, are you alive?'"
MAY 27, 1865.
We have had our first sight of land,—Mariguana, a coral island, one of the Bahamas. Every one stood in silence to see it, it was so beautiful. The spray dashed so high, that, as it fell, we at first took it for streams and cascades. It was just at sunrise; and we cast longing looks at the soft green hills, bathed in light. Now it is gone, and we have only the wide ocean again. But a new color has appeared in the water,—a purplish pink, which looks very tropical; and there are blotches of yellow seaweed. Some of it caught in the wheel, and stopped it. The sailors drew it up, and gave it to the children to taste. It was like a little fruit, and they say the birds eat it.
The sea is growing quite rough. I was thinking of being a little afraid, the vessel plunged so; but Mother Cary's chickens came out, and I thought I might as well consider myself as one of them, and not in any more danger than they are.
CARIBBEAN SEA, May 28, 1865.
We have had a great experience of really rough weather. The spray dashed over the deck, and only the hardiest could keep up. Any one who tried to move was thrown off his feet. Preparations were made for divine service by lashing two boxes together in the middle of the deck, and spreading a flag over them. It was conducted by a Scotch Presbyterian minister. As he began his prayer, he received quite an addition to his congregation, in a flock of great birds, that appeared on my side of the vessel. They wheeled round, and settled down softly together. I do not know what they are, but suppose they are gulls of some kind. They have long, narrow wings, brown, with a little black, and snow-white underneath. I am half inclined to envy these wild, soulless creatures, that know no fear.
RONCADOR REEF, June 5, 1865.
On Tuesday morning, May 30, between three and four o'clock, we were awakened by the sharp stroke of the engine-bell, a deep grinding sound, and the sudden stopping of the vessel. We knew that we had not arrived at our port of destination, and felt instinctively that something extraordinary had happened. For a moment all was silence; then inquiries arose from all sides, as to what was the matter. The engine seemed to be in a great state of commotion; and the vessel began to writhe with a heavy, laborious movement, as if attempting to free herself from the grasp of some monster. We dressed hastily, and went into the cabin, where we found a good many of the passengers, and learned that the vessel had struck on a coral-reef. We put on life-preservers, and sat waiting until daylight, expecting every moment the vessel would split. As soon as it was light enough, we went upon deck, and saw the sailors cut away the masts and smoke-stacks, which went over the side of the ship. The water dashed over the deck, so that we were obliged to go below. It seemed there as if we were under the ocean, with the water breaking over our heads. Chandeliers, glasses, and other movable articles were crashing together around us. The cabin was filled with people, quietly sitting, ready for they knew not what. But among all the seven hundred passengers there was no shrieking nor crying nor groaning, except from the little children, who were disturbed by the noise and discomfort. How well they met the expectation of death! Faces that I had passed as most ordinary, fascinated me by their quiet, firm mouths, and eyes so beautiful, I knew it must be the soul I saw looking through them. Some parties of Swedish emigrants took out their little prayer-books, and sat clasping each other's hands, and reading them. A missionary bound for Micronesia handed out his tracts in all directions, but no one took much notice of them. Generally, each one seemed to feel that he could meet death alone, and in his own way.
In the afternoon a faint semblance of land was seen off on the horizon, and a boat was sent out to explore. It was gone a long time, and as night approached was anxiously looked for. Just about dark, it appeared in sight. As it drew near, we saw the men in it waving their hats, and heard them shouting, by which we knew they had succeeded in finding land. The men on the vessel gave a hearty response, but the women could not keep back their tears.
That night the women and children were lowered with ropes, over the side of the vessel, into boats, and taken to a raft near by, hastily constructed on the rocks at the surface of the water, from loose spars, stateroom-doors, and such other available material as could be secured from the vessel. All night long we lay there, watching the dim outline of the ship, which still had the men on board, as she rose and fell with each wave,—the engine-bell tolling with every shock. The lights that hung from the side of the vessel increased the wild, funereal appearance of every thing about us. They continually advanced and receded, and seemed to motion us to follow them. There was a strange fascination about them, which I could not resist; and I watched them through the whole night.
At daylight the next morning the ship's boats began to take us over to the island discovered the day before, which was slightly elevated above the surface of the water, and about four miles distant from the wreck. As we approached the shore, some new birds, unlike any I had seen before,—indolent-looking, quiet, and amiable,—flew out, and hovered over the boat, peering down at us, as if inquiring what strange creatures were about to invade their home. Probably they had never seen any human beings before. The sailors said they were "boobies;" and they certainly appeared very unsophisticated, and quite devoid of the wit and sprightliness of most birds.
Only a few persons could be landed at a time, and I wandered about at first almost alone. It was two days before all the passengers were transferred. Every thing was so new and strange, that I felt as if I had been carried off to another planet; and it certainly was a great experience, to walk over a portion of the globe just as it was made, and wholly unaltered by man.
I thought of an account of a wreck on this same water I had once read, in which the Caribbean was spoken of as the most beautiful though most treacherous of seas, and the intensity of color was mentioned. Such rose-color I never saw before as in the shells and mosses we find here, nor such lovely pale and green tints as the water all about us shows.
We have been here on this bare reef six days, with the breakers all around us, and do not know whether we shall get off or not. We amuse ourselves every morning with looking at the pert little birds, as queer as the boobies, though quite different from them, that sit and nod to each other incessantly, and give each other little hits with their bills, as if these were their morning salutations,—a rough way of asking after each other's health.
SAN FRANCISCO, July 2, 1865.
We are safely here at last, after forty-two days' passage,—longer than the children of Israel were in the wilderness. When we return it will be by a wagon-train, if the Pacific Railroad is not done.
When we landed on Roncador Reef, we had no data for conjecturing where we were, except that we remembered passing the island of Jamaica at twilight on the evening preceding the wreck. We were afterwards informed that the vessel was seized by a strong current, and borne far away from her proper course. How gay we were that night, with our music and dancing, exhilarated all the more by the swiftness of the white, rushing water that drove us on to our fate!
The heat on the island was so intense, that our greatest necessity was for some shelter from the sun. The only materials which the place furnished us were rocks of coral, with which we built up walls, over which were spread pieces of sail from the vessel. We lived in these lodges, in little companies. We sat together in ours in the daytime, and could not leave our shelter for a moment without feeling as if we were sunstruck. Every night we abandoned it, and slept out on the rocks; but the frequent little showers proved so uncomfortable that we were driven to great extremity to devise some covering. R.'s ingenuity proved equal to the emergency. He secured an opportunity to visit the vessel (which held together for some days) in one of the boats which were continually plying between her and the island, bringing over all available stores. All the mattresses and other bedding that could be secured had been distributed, mostly to the mothers and children. His penetrating eye detected the materials for a coverlet in the strips of painted canvas nailed to the deck. He managed without tools to tear off some pieces, and, by untwisting some tarred rope, to fasten them together; thus providing a quilt, which, if not comfortable, was at least waterproof, and served to draw over us when a shower came on. It was no protection, however, against the crabs, large and small, that used to crawl under it, and eat pieces out of our clothes, and even our boots, while we were asleep. These crabs were of the hermit order. Each one, from the minutest to the largest, had taken possession of the empty shell of some other creature, exactly large enough for him, and walked about with it on his back, and drew himself snugly into it when molested. Every little crevice in the rocks had a white or speckled egg in it when we landed, and from these we made a few good meals. The one day the women spent on the island alone with the birds passed in the most friendly manner; but after the men and boys came, the larger ones abandoned us.
We felt sorry not to bring away some of the beautiful shells which were plentiful there, and more gorgeous than any thing I ever saw before. While the living creature is in them, they are much brighter than after it is dead; and in the length of time it takes to bring them from tropical countries, they fade almost like flowers. Mrs. S. was so enterprising, and, I must say, so unaesthetic, as to try to concoct a meal from the occupants of some of the large conch-shells taken from the beach, cooking it for a considerable length of time in a large brass kettle, the only available utensil. Those who partook of it in our little group had cause to repent of their rashness; but we did not like to charge the injury to the lovely creatures which were sacrificed for this feast, preferring to "blame it on" to the brass kettle, as the California children would express it. The more cautious ones contented themselves with their two sea-biscuits and fragment of beef or pork per day, which were the regular rations served to each from the stores saved from the ship. Some surface water, found among the rocks, was carefully guarded, and sparingly dealt out.
After we had been four or five days on the island, two of the ship's boats were sent out to seek assistance, manned by volunteer crews; one headed for Aspinwall, which was thought to be about two hundred and fifty miles distant, and the other to search for what was supposed to be the nearest land.
Very early on the morning of the tenth day we heard the cry of "A sail!" We started up from our rocky beds, and stood, without daring to speak. There was a little upright shadow, about as large as a finger, against the sky. Every eye was turned to it, but no one yet dared to confirm it; and, even if it were a sail, those on board the vessel might not see our island, it was so low, or our flag of distress, as we had nothing on which to raise it very high. We stood for several minutes, without daring to look at each other with the consciousness that we were saved. We presently saw that there were two little schooners beating up against the wind, directly towards us, and that they carried the red English flag. They had been catching turtles on the Mosquito Coast. As soon as our boat reached them, they unloaded their turtles (which occupied them a day), with the exception of three large ones which they reserved for us, and then started at once.
These small vessels were unequal to carrying away half the people on the island, and they had no arrangements for the comfort of passengers. A considerable number decided to embark on them, and commenced doing so; while the larger part of the company remained on the spot, to take their chance of escape in some other way, since communication with the world was now established.
The next day we were all rejoiced by the appearance of two United States gunboats from Aspinwall, which point was reached by our other boat, after a rough experience; the waves having capsized her during the passage, and swallowed up the provisions and nautical instruments.
It was then decided that all the company should be taken to Aspinwall by the United States vessels, and their boats and ours were at once put to service in transferring the people from the island; who, as they gathered up such fragments of their property as had been rescued from the wreck, and tied it up in bedquilts or blankets, shouldered their bundles, and moved slowly down to the point of departure,—their garments weather-stained and crab-eaten, some of them without shoes or hats, and all with much-bronzed faces,—presented a picturesque and beggarly appearance, in striking contrast to their aspect before the wreck.
We were treated with the greatest kindness by every one connected with the gunboats. They took us in their arms, and carried us into the boats, and stood all night beside us, offering ice-water and wine. They greatly bewailed our misfortunes, and told us, that, when they heard of our condition, they put on every pound of steam the vessels would bear, in order to reach us as speedily as possible, fearing that some greater calamity might befall us,—that our supply of water might entirely fail, or that the trade-wind might change, and a storm bring the sea over the island. They told us, too, that we were very far off the track of vessels; and, if our boats had failed to bring succor, in all probability no one would ever have come there in search of us.
The two schooners decided to remain a while, and wreck the vessel. As we steamed away from the reef, we passed her huge skeleton upon the rocks, the bell still hanging to the iron part of the frame.
On the second day we reached Aspinwall, and disembarked. As we sat on the wharf, in little groups, on pieces of lumber or on our bundles, waiting for arrangements to be made for our transportation across the Isthmus, a black man, employed there, fixed his eye upon our dark-skinned Julia, and, approaching, asked if she "got free in the Linkum war." I told him that she did, and asked him where he came from. He said he was from Jamaica; and I said, "I suppose you have been free a long time?" to which he, replied, with great energy, "Before I was born, I was free," and repeated it again and again,—"before I was born."
We found that Julia, to whom all things were new in the land of freedom, thought that the island where we spent so many days was a regular stopping-place on the way to California, and that the wreck was a legitimate mode of stopping; as one day she inquired if that was the way they always went to San Francisco, and said, if she had known travelling was so hard, she would not have started. This accounted for her equanimity, which surprised me, after the vessel struck the reef, as she sat quietly eating her cakes, while every thing was going to destruction around us, and the sea broke above our heads.
In crossing the Isthmus of Panama, we were delighted with the neat appearance of the natives, whom we saw along the roadside, or sitting in their little huts near by, which were made of the trunks of the tall palm-trees, in columns, open at the side, and thatched with leaves. These people were clad in clean white garments, the women with muslins and laces drooping from their bare shoulders, and with bright flowers in their hair.
On reaching Panama, the women there greeted us with great kindness and sympathy. One of them threw her arms around one of the first women of our party that she saw, and exclaimed, "Oh, we have thought so much about you! we were afraid you would die for want of water." It seemed strange that they should have cared so much, when a little while before they never knew of our existence. I felt as if I had hardly had a chance before in my life to know what mere humanity meant, apart from individual interest, and how strong a feeling it is. We realized still more the kindness of these "dear, dark-eyed sisters," when we opened the trunk of clothing which they sent on board the "America," the steamer that took us to San Francisco.
The voyage up the Pacific coast was long and wearisome. For some days we felt seriously the ill effects of the island life and the tropic heat, and could only endure; until, one morning, we came up on deck, and there were the beautiful serrated hills of Old California. We had rounded Cape St. Lucas, and had a strong, exhilarating breeze from the coast, and began to be ourselves again.
The monotony of our sea-life was broken by one event of special interest,—the addition of another human being to our large number. I must mention first,—for it seems as if they brought her,—that all one day we sailed in a cloud of beautiful gray-and-white gulls, flying incessantly over and around us, with their pretty orange bills and fringed wings and white fan-tails. They were very gentle and dove-like. They staid with us only that day. The last thing that I saw at night, far into the dark, was one flying after us; and, the next morning, we heard of the birth of the baby. She was christened in the cabin, the day after, by the Micronesian missionary, in the presence of a large company. A conch-shell from the reef served as the christening-basin. The American flag was festooned overhead; and, as far as possible, the cabin was put into festive array. She was named "Roncadora America," from the reef, and the vessel on which she was born. The captain gave her some little garments he was carrying home to his own unborn baby, and the gold ties for her sleeves. When her name was pronounced, the ship's gun was fired; then the captain addressed the father, who held her, and presented him with a purse of fifty dollars from the passengers, ending in triumph with—
"And now, my friends, see Roncadora, With freedom's banner floating o'er her."
The father then uncovered her; she having made herself quite apparent before by wrestling with her little fists under the counterpane, and uttering a variety of wild and incomprehensible sounds. She proved a handsome baby, large and red, with a profusion of soft, dark hair.
Port Angeles.—Indian "Hunter" and his Wife.—Sailor's Funeral.—Incantation.—Indian Graves.—Chief Yeomans.—Mill Settlements.—Port Gamble Trail.—Canoe Travel.—The Memaloost.—Tommy and his Mother. Olympic Range.—Ediz Hook.—Mrs. S. and her Children.—Grand Indian Wedding.—Crows and Indians.
PORT ANGELES, WASHINGTON TERRITORY, July 20, 1865.
We reached here day before yesterday, very early in the morning. We were called to the forward deck; and before us was a dark sea-wall of mountains, with misty ravines and silver peaks,—the Olympic Range, a fit home for the gods.
A fine blue veil hung over the water, between us and the shore; and, the air being too heavy for the smoke of the Indian village to rise, it lay in great curved lines, like dim, rainbow-colored serpents, over sea and land.
I thought it was the loveliest place I had ever seen. The old Spanish explorers must have thought so too, as they named it "Port of the Angels."
We found that the path to our house was an Indian trail, winding about a mile up the bluff from the beach; the trees shutting overhead, and all about us a drooping white spirea, a most bridal-looking flower. Here and there, on some precipitous bank, was the red Indian-flame. Every once in a while, we came to a little opening looking down upon the sea; and the sound of it was always in our ears. At last we reached a partially cleared space, and there stood the house; behind it a mountain range, with snow filling all the ravines, and, below, the fulness and prime of summer. We are nearly at the foot of the hills, which send us down their snow-winds night and morning, and their ice-cold water. Between us and them are the fir-trees, two hundred and fifty and three hundred feet high; and all around, in the burnt land, a wilderness of bloom,—the purple fireweed, that grows taller than our heads, and in the richest luxuriance, of the same color as the Alpine rose,—a beautiful foreground for snowy hills.
The house is not ready for us. We are obliged at present, for want of a chimney, to stop with our nearest neighbor. But we pay it frequent visits. Yesterday, as we sat there, we received a call from two Indians, in extreme undress. They walked in with perfect freedom, and sat down on the floor. We shall endeavor to procure from Victoria a dictionary of the Haidah, Chinook, and other Indian languages, by the aid of which we shall be able to receive such visitors in a more satisfactory manner. At present, we can only smile very much at them. Fortunately, on this occasion, our carpenter was present, who told us that the man was called "Hunter," which served as an introduction. Hunter took from the woman a white bag, in which was a young wild bird, and put it into my hands. The carpenter said that this Indian had done some work for him, bringing up lumber from the beach, etc., and had come for his pay; that he would not take a white man's word for a moment, but if, in making an agreement with him, a white man gave him a little bit of paper with any thing written on it, he was perfectly satisfied, and said, "You my tilikum [relation]—I wait."
The neighbor with whom we are stopping says, that, the night before we came, a wildcat glared in at her as she sat at her window.
It looks very wild here, the fir-trees are so shaggy. I think the bears yet live under them. Many of the trees are dead. When the setting sun lights up the bare, pointed trunks, the great troops of firs look like an army with spears of gold, climbing the hills.
JULY 30, 1865.
To-day, as we were descending by the trail from the bluff to the beach, we saw a funeral procession slowly ascending the wagon-road. It came from the Sailors' Hospital. We waited until it passed. The cart containing the coffin was drawn by oxen, and followed by a little white dog and a few decrepit sailors. There was no sign of mourning, but a reverent look in their faces. The body had been wrapped in a flag by brotherly hands. The deep music of the surf followed them, and the dark fir-branches met overhead.
In California, the poorest of people, by the competition of undertakers, are furnished, at low rates, with the use of silver-mounted hearses and nodding plumes, a shrouding of crape, and a long line of carriages. Even those who have really loved the one who is gone seem, in some incomprehensible way, to find a solace in these manifestations, and would have considered this sailor's solitary funeral the extreme of desolation. But Nature took him gently to her bosom; the soft sky and the fragrant earth seemed to be calling him home.
We found by inquiry that it was the funeral of an entirely unknown sailor, who had not even any distant friends to whom he wished messages sent. His few possessions he left for the use of the children of the place, and quietly closed his eyes among strangers, returning peacefully to the unknown country whence he came.
AUGUST 2, 1865.
We went this morning to an Indian Tamahnous (incantation), to drive away the evil spirits from a sick man. He lay on a mat, surrounded by women, who beat on instruments made by stretching deer-skin over a frame, and accompanied the noise thus produced by a monotonous wail. Once in a while it became quite stirring, and the sick man seemed to be improved by it. Then an old man crept in stealthily, on all-fours, and, stealing up to him, put his mouth to the flesh, here and there, apparently sucking out the disease.
AUGUST 17, 1865.
Hunter stopped to rest to-day on our door-steps. He had a haunch of elk-meat on his back, one end resting on his head, with a cushion of green fern-leaves. He called me "Closhe tum-tum" (Good Heart), and gave me a great many beautiful smiles.
We find that there are a number of canoes suspended in the large fir-trees on some of our land, with the mummies of Indians in them. These are probably the bodies of chiefs, or persons of high rank. There is also a graveyard on the beach, which is gay with bright blankets, raised like flags, or spread out and nailed upon the roofs over the graves, and myriads of tin pans: we counted thirty on one grave. A looking-glass is one of the choicest of the decorations. On one we noticed an old trunk, and others were adorned with rusty guns.
Last night there came a prolonged, heavy, booming sound, different from any thing we had heard before. In the morning we saw that there had been a great landslide on the mountain back of us, bringing down rocks and trees.
AUGUST 30, 1865.
Yeomans, an old Indian chief, the Tyee of the Flat-heads at Port Angeles, came to see us to-day. He pointed to himself, and said, "Me all the same white man;" explaining that he did not paint his face, nor drink whiskey. Mrs. S., at the light-house, said that she had frequently invited him to dinner, and that he handled his napkin with perfect propriety; although he is often to be seen sitting cross-legged on the sand, eating his meal of sea-urchins.
He is very dramatic, and described to us by sounds only, without our understanding any of the words, how wild the water was at Cape Flattery, and how the ships were rocked about there. It was thrilling to hear the sounds of the winds as he represented them: I felt as if I were in the midst of a great storm.
His little tribe appear to have great respect for his authority as a chief, and show a proper deference towards him. He is a mild and gentle ruler, and not overcome by the pride and dignity of his position. He is always ready to assist in dragging our boat on to the beach, and does not disdain the dime offered him in compensation for the service.
His son, a grown man, no longer young, who introduced himself to us as "Mr. Yeomans's son," and who appears to have no other designation, is much more of a wild Indian than the old man. Sometimes I see him at night, going out with his klootchman in their little canoe; she, crouched in her scarlet blanket at one end, holding the dark sail, and the great yellow moon shining on them.
I used to wonder, when we first came here, what their interests were, and what they were thinking about all the time. Little by little we find out. To-night he came in to tell us that there was going to be a great potlach at the coal-mines, where a large quantity of iktas would be given away,—tin pans, guns, blankets, canoes, and money. How his eyes glistened as he described it! It seems that any one who aspires to be a chief must first give a potlach to his tribe, at which he dispenses among them all his possessions.
This afternoon, as I sat at my window, my attention was attracted by a little noise. I looked up; and there was a beautiful young Indian girl, holding up a basket of fruit, of the same color as her lips and cheeks. It was a delicious wild berry that grows here, known as the red huckleberry. Mrs. S. knew her, and told me that she was the daughter of the old chief, lately betrothed to a Cape Flattery Indian.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1865.
Everywhere about Puget Sound and the adjoining waters are little arms of the sea running up into the land, like the fiords of Northern Europe. Many of them have large sawmills at the head. We have been travelling about, stopping here and there at the little settlements around the mills. We were everywhere most hospitably received. All strangers are welcomed as guests. Every thing seems so comfortable, and on such a liberal scale, that we never think of the people as poor, although the richest here have only bare wooden walls, and a few articles of furniture, often home-made. It seems, rather, as if we had moved two or three generations back, when no one had any thing better; or, as if we might perhaps be living in feudal times, these great mill-owners have such authority in the settlements. Some of them possess very large tracts of land, have hundreds of men in their employ, own steamboats and hotels, and have large stores of general merchandise, in connection with their mill-business. They sometimes provide amusements for the men, little dramatic entertainments, etc.,—to keep them from resorting to drink; and encourage them to send for their families, and to make gardens around their houses.
The house where we stopped at Port Madison was very attractive. The maple-trees had been cut down to build it; but life is so vigorous here, that they grew up under the porch, and then, as they became taller, came outside, and curved up around it, so that it was a perfect nest. The maple here is not just like the Eastern tree, but has a larger, darker leaf. Inside, the rooms were large and low, with great fireplaces filled with flaming logs, that illuminated them brilliantly.
We began our expedition round the Sound in a plunger,—the most atrocious little craft ever constructed. Its character is well expressed by its name. These boats are dangerous enough in steady hands; but, as they are exceedingly likely to be becalmed, the danger is very much increased from the temptation to drink that seems always to assail the captain and men in these wearisome delays.
To avoid waiting two or three days at Port Madison for the steamer, we determined to cross to the next port by an Indian trail through the woods; though we were told that it was very rough travelling, and that no white woman had ever crossed there, and, also, that we might have to take circuitous routes to avoid fires. We started early in the morning, allowing the whole day for the journey. We passed through one of the burnt regions, where the trees were still standing, so gray and spectral that it was like a strange dream. Farther along we heard a prolonged, mournful sound, that we could not account for; but, in a little while, we came to where the bright flames were darting from the trunks and branches, and curling around them. The poor old trees were creaking and groaning, preparatory to falling. We were obliged, occasionally, to abandon the trail; or, rather, it abandoned us, being burnt through. Off the path, the underbrush was almost impassable; the vine-maple, with crooked stems and tangled branches, with coarse briers and vines, knit every thing together. It seemed more like a tropical than a northern forest, there were so many glossy evergreen leaves. We recognized among them the holly-leaf barberry (known also as the Oregon grape), one of the most beautiful of shrubs. Its pretty clusters of yellow flowers were withered, and its fruit not yet ripe. We found also the sallal,—the Indian's berry,—the salmon-colored raspberry, and the coral-red huckleberry. Occasionally we heard the scream of a hawk, or the whirring of great wings above our heads; but, for the most part, we tramped on in perfect silence. The woods were too dark and dense for small birds.
It was curious to notice how much some of the little noises sounded like whispers, or like footsteps. There was hardly a chance that there could be any other human beings there besides ourselves. It recalled to me the Indian's dread of skookums (spirits) in the deep woods. To him, the mere flutter of a leaf had a meaning; the sighing of the wind was intelligible language. So many generations of Indians had crossed that trail, and so few white people, I felt as if some subtile aroma of Indian spirit must linger still about the place, and steal into our thoughts. Occasionally an owl stirred in the thicket beside us, or we caught a glimpse of the mottled beauty of a snake gliding across our path. The great boom and crash of the falling trees startled us, until we were used to it, and understood it.
Whenever we left the trail, we felt some doubt lest we might not find it again, or might happen upon an impassable stream that would cut us off from farther progress; not feeling quite equal to navigating with a pole on a snag, after the fashion of the Indians.
Near sunset, when the woods began to grow darker around us, we saw a bird, about as large as a robin, with a black crescent on his breast. His song was very different from that of the robin, and consisted of five or six notes, regularly descending in minor key. It thrilled me to hear it in the solitary woods: it was like the wail of an Indian spirit.
It began to be quite a serious question to us, what we were to do for the night; as how near or how far Port Gamble might be, we could not tell. There was no possibility of our climbing the straight fir-trees, with branches high overhead; and to stop on the ground was not to be thought of, for fear of wild beasts. We hastened on, but the trail became almost undistinguishable before the lights of Port Gamble appeared below us. As we descended to the settlement, we were met with almost as much excitement on the part of the mill people, who had never crossed the trail, as if we had risen from the water, or floated down from the sky, among them.
We take great satisfaction in the recollection of this one day of pure Indian life.
The next day we decided to try a canoe. We should not have ventured to go alone with the Indians, not understanding their talk; but another passenger was to go with us, who represented that he had learned the only word it would be necessary to use. He explained to us, after we started, that the word was "hyac," which meant "hurry up;" the only danger being that we should not reach Port Townsend before dark, as they were apt to proceed in so leisurely a way when left to themselves. After a while, the bronze paddlers—two siwashes (men) and two klootchmen (women)—began to show some abatement of zeal in their work, and our fellow-passenger pronounced the talismanic word, with some emphasis; whereat they laughed him to scorn, and made some sarcastic remarks, half Chinook and half English, from which we gathered that they advised him, if he wanted to reach Port Townsend before dark, to tell the sun to stop, and not tell them to hurry up. We could only look on, and admire their magnificent indifference. They stopped whenever they liked, and laughed, and told stories. The sky darkened in a very threatening way, and a heavy shower came on; but it made not the slightest difference to them. After it was over, there was a splendid rainbow, like the great gate of heaven. This animated the Indians, and their spirits rose, so that they began to sing; and we drifted along with them, catching enough of their careless, joyous mood, not to worry about Port Townsend, although we did not reach the wharf till two or three hours after dark.
A day or two after, we found, rather to our regret, that we should be obliged to take a canoe again, from Port Discovery. The intoxicated "Duke of Wellington"—an Indian with a wide gold band round his hat, and a dilapidated naval uniform—came down, and invited us to go in his sloop. We politely declined the offer, and selected Tommy, the only Indian, we were told, who did not drink. With the aid of some of the bystanders, we asked his views of the weather. He said there would undoubtedly be plenty of wind, and plenty of rain, but it would not make any difference: he had mats enough, and we could stop in the woods. But, as we had other ideas of comfort, we waited two days; and, as the weather was still unsettled, we took the precaution, before starting, to give him his directions for the trip: "Halo wind, Port Angeles; hyiu wind, Dungeness," meaning that we were to have the privilege of stopping at Dungeness if it should prove too stormy to go on. So he and his little klootchman, about as big as a child of ten, took us off. When we reached the portage over which they had to carry the canoe, he pointed out the place of the memaloost (the dead). I see the Indians often bury them between two bodies of water, and have wondered if this had any significance to them. I have noticed, too, that their burial-places have always wild and beautiful surroundings. At this place, the blue blankets over the graves waved in the wind, like the wings of some great bird. A chief was buried here; and some enormous wooden figures, rudely carved, stood to guard him. They looked old and worn. They had long, narrow eyes, high cheek-bones, and long upper lips, like true Indians, with these features somewhat exaggerated.
We tried to talk with Tommy a little about the memaloost. He said it was all the same with an Indian, whether he was memaloost, or on the illahie (the earth); meaning that he was equally alive. We were told at the store, that Tommy still bought sugar and biscuits for his child who had died.
When we reached the other side of the portage, the surf roared so loud, it seemed frightful to launch the canoe in it; but Tommy praised R. as skookum (very strong) in helping to conduct it over. He seemed much more good-natured than the Indians we had travelled with before. He smiled at the loon floating past us, and spoke to it.
When we reached Dungeness, he represented that it would be very rough outside, in the straits. So he took us to a farmhouse. I began to suspect his motive, when I saw that there was a large Indian encampment there, and he pointed to some one he said was all the same as his mamma. It was the exact representation of a sphinx,—an old gray creature lying on the sand, with the upper part of her body raised, and her lower limbs concealed by her blanket. I expected to see Tommy run and embrace her: but he walked coolly by, without giving her any greeting whatever; and she remained perfectly imperturbable, never stirred, and her expression did not change in the least. I was horror-stricken, but afterwards altered my views of her, and came to the conclusion that she was a good, kind mother, only that it was their way to refrain from all appearance of emotion. When we started the next morning, she came down to the canoe with the little klootchman, loaded with presents, which she carried in a basket on her back, supported by a broad band round her head,—smoking-hot venison, and a looking-glass for the child's grave, among them. The old lady waded into the water, and pushed us off with great energy and strong ejaculations.
As we approached Port Angeles, we had a fine view of the Olympic Range of mountains,—shining peaks of silver in clear outline; later, only dark points emerging from seas of yellow light. Little clouds were drawn towards them, and seemed like birds hovering over them, sometimes lighting, or sailing slowly off.
EDIZ HOOK LIGHT, September 23, 1865.
This light-house is at the end of a long, narrow sand-spit, known by the unpoetical name of Ediz Hook, which runs out for three miles into the Straits of Fuca, in a graceful curve, forming the bay of Port Angeles. Outside are the roaring surf and heavy swell of the sea; inside that slender arm, a safe shelter.
In a desolate little house near by, lives Mrs. S., whose husband was recently lost at sea. She is a woman who awakens my deepest wonder, from her being so able to dispense with all that most women depend on. She prefers still to live here (her husband's father keeps the light), and finds her company in her great organ. One of the last things her husband did was to order it for her, and it arrived after his death. I think the sailors must hear it as they pass the light, and wonder where the beautiful music comes from. There is something very soft and sweet in her voice and touch.
Sometimes I see the four children out in the boat. The little girls are only four and six years old, yet they handle the oars with ease. As I look at their bare bright heads in the sunshine, they seem as pretty as pond-lilies. I feel as if they were as safe, they are so used to the water.
PORT ANGELES, October 1, 1865.
Port Angeles has been the scene of a grand ceremony,—the marriage of Yeomans's daughter to the son of a Makah chief. Many of the Makah tribe attended it. They came in a fleet of fifty canoes,—large, handsome boats, their high pointed beaks painted and carved, and decorated with gay colors. The chiefs had eagle-feathers on their heads, great feather-fans in their hands, and were dressed in black bear-skins. Our Flat-heads in their blankets looked quite tame in contrast with them. They approached the shore slowly, standing in the canoes. When they reached the landing in front of Yeomans's ranch, the congratulations began, with wild gesticulations, leapings, and contortions. They were tall, savage-looking men. Some of them had rings in their noses; and all had a much more primitive, uncivilized look, than our Indians on the Sound. I could hardly believe that the gentlemanly old Yeomans would deliver up his pretty daughter to the barbarians that came to claim her, and looked to see some one step forward and forbid the banns; but the ceremony proceeded as if every thing were satisfactory. There may be more of the true old Indian in him than I imagined; or perhaps this is a political movement to consolidate the friendship of the tribes. When they landed, they formed a procession, bearing a hundred new blankets, red and white, as a potlach to the tribe. They brought also some of the much-prized blue blankets, reserved for special ceremonies and the use of chiefs.
What occurred inside the lodge, we could not tell; but were quite touched at seeing Yeomans's son take the flag from his dead sister's grave, and plant it on the beach at high-water mark, as if it were a kind of participation, on the part of the dead girl, in the joy of the occasion.
OCTOBER 5, 1865.
Flocks of crows hover continually about the Indian villages. The most proverbially suspicious of all birds is here familiar and confiding. The Indian exercises superstitious care over them, but whether from love or fear we could never discover. It is very difficult to find out what an Indian believes. We have sometimes heard that they consider the crows their ancestors. It is a curious fact, that the Indians, in talking, make so much use of the palate,—kl and other guttural sounds occurring so often,—and that the crow, in his deep "caw, caw," uses the same organ. It may be significant of some psychological relationship between them.
Indian Chief Seattle.—Frogs and Indians.—Spring Flowers and Birds.—The Red Tamahnous.—The little Pend d'Oreille.—Indian Legend.—From Seattle to Fort Colville.—Crossing the Columbia River Bar.—The River and its Surroundings.—Its Former Magnitude.—The Grande Coulee.—Early Explorers, Heceta, Meares, Vancouver, Grey.—Curious Burial-Place.—Chinese Miners.—Umatilla.—Walla Walla.—Sage-Brush and Bunch-Grass.—Flowers in the Desert.—"Stick" Indians.—Klickatats.—Spokane Indian.—Snakes.—Dead Chiefs.—A Kamas-Field.—Basaltic Rocks.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON TERRITORY, November 5, 1865.
We saw here a very dignified Indian, old and poor, but with something about him that led us to suspect that he was a chief. We found, upon inquiry, that it was Seattle, the old chief for whom the town was named, and the head of all the tribes on the Sound. He had with him a little brown sprite, that seemed an embodiment of the wind,—such a swift, elastic little creature,—his great-grandson, with no clothes about him, though it was a cold November day. To him, motion seemed as natural as rest.
Here we first saw Mount Rainier. It was called by the Indians Tacoma (The nourishing breast). It is also claimed that the true Indian name is Tahoma (Almost to heaven). It stands alone, nearly as high as Mont Blanc, triple-pointed, and covered with snow, most grand and inaccessible-looking.
We have a great laurel-tree beside our house. It looks so Southern, it is strange to see it among the firs. It has a dark outer bark, and a soft inner skin; both of which are stripped away by the tree in growing, and the trunk and branches are left bare and flesh-colored. It has glossy evergreen leaves, and bright red berries, that look very cheerful in contrast with the snow.
APRIL 6, 1866.
The frogs have begun to sing in the marsh, and the Indians in their camps. How well their voices chime together! All the bright autumn days, we used to listen to the Indians at sunset; but after that, we heard no sound of them for several months. They sympathize too much with Nature to sing in the winter. Now the warm, soft air inspires them anew. All through the cold and rainy months, as I looked out from my window, there was always the little black figure in the canoe, as free and as unembarrassed by any superfluities as the birds that circled around it. It seemed a mistake, when the most severe weather came, for them to have made no preparation whatever to meet it. It drove the women into our houses, with their little bundles of "fire-sticks" (pitch-wood) to sell. I offered one of them a pair of shoes; but she pointed to the snow, and said it was "hot," and that it would make her feet too cold to wear shoes.
We were told, before we came here, that this climate was like that of Asia; and now an Asian flower has come to confirm it. The marshes are all gay with it: it is the golden club. The botany calls it the Orontium, because it grows on the banks of the Orontes; and it is very Asian-looking. It has a great wrapper, like the rich yellow silk in which the Japanese brought their presents to President Lincoln. It is a relation to the calla-lily, but is larger.
The very last day of winter, as if they could not possibly wait a day longer, great flocks of meadow-larks came, and settled down on the field next to us. They are about as large as robins, and have a braided work of black-and-gold to trim off their wings, and a broad black collar on their orange breasts. They appear to have a very agreeable consciousness of being in the finest possible condition. The dear old robins look rather faded beside them. With them came the crimson-headed linnets. In trying to identify these little birds from our books, I found that great confusion had prevailed in regard to them, because their nuptial plumage differs so much from their ordinary dress. These darlings blushed all over with life and joy, which told me their secret.
APRIL 30, 1866.
In the winter we were told, that, when the spring came fully on, the Indians would have the "Red Tamahnous," which means "love." A little, gray old woman appeared yesterday morning at our door, with her cheeks all aglow, as if her young blood had returned. Besides the vermilion lavishly displayed on her face, the crease at the parting of her hair was painted the same color. Every article of clothing she had on was bright and new. I looked out, and saw that no Indian had on any thing but red. Even old blind Charley, whom we had never seen in any thing but a black blanket, appeared in a new one of scarlet. But I was most touched by the change in this woman, because she is, I suppose, the oldest creature that I ever looked at. Nothing but a primeval rock ever seemed to me so old; and when we had seen her before, she was like a mummy generally in her clothing. These most ancient creatures have their little stiff legs covered with a kind of blue cloth, sewed close round them, just like the mummy-wrappings I have seen at Barnum's Museum. She has more vivacity and animation than any one else I ever saw. If anybody has a right to bright cheeks, she has. I like the Indians' painting themselves, for in them it is quite a different thing from what it is in fashionable ladies. They do it to show how they feel, not commonly expressing their emotions in words.
This woman, who is a Pend d'Oreille, has the most extraordinary power of modulation in her voice. The Indians, by prolonging the sound of words, add to their force, and vary their meaning; so that the same word signifies more or less, according as it is spoken quickly or slowly. She has such a searching voice, especially when she is attempting to convict me of any subterfuge or evasion, that I have to yield to her at once. The Indians have no word, as far as I can learn, for "busy." So, when I cannot entertain her, I have to make the nearest approach I can to the truth, and tell her I am sick, or something of that kind; but nothing avails, with her, short of the absolute truth. She is so very fantastic and entertaining, that I should cultivate her acquaintance more, if it were not for this deficiency in the language, which makes it impossible to convey the idea to her when I want to get rid of her. As old as she is, she still carries home the great sacks of flour—a hundred pounds—on her back, superintends the salmon-fishery for the family, takes care of the tenas men (children), and looks after affairs in general.
MAY 10, 1866.
We walked out to Lake Union, and found an Indian and his wife living in a tree. The most primitive of the Indians, the old gray ones, who look the most interesting, do not commonly speak the Chinook at all, or have any intercourse with the whites. On the way there, we found the peculiar rose that grows only on the borders of the fir-forest, the wild white honeysuckle, and the glossy kinni-kinnick—the Indian tobacco.
We saw a nest built on the edge of the lake, rising and falling with the water, but kept in place by the stalks of shrubs about it. A great brown bird, with spotted breast, rose from it. I recognized it as the dabchick. The Indians say that this bird was once a human being, wife to an Indian with whom she quarrelled. He was transformed to the great blue heron, and stalks about the marshes. With the remnant of her woman's skill, she makes these curious nests, in sheltered nooks, on the edges of lakes. She dived below the water, and we peeped in at her babies. Their floating nest was overhung by white spirea. They had silver breasts, and pale blue bills. I wondered that their little bleating cry did not call her back; but, though below the water, she seemed to know that we were near, and as long as we lingered about she would not return.
We are going on a long journey to the north, part of it over a desert table-land, where for four days there will be no house,—a part of the country frequented by the Snake River Indians and the Nez Perces, who are inclined to be hostile. It is near the territory of the Pend d'Oreilles. I have seen one of them, with a pretty, graceful ornament in her ear.
FORT COLVILLE, WASHINGTON TERRITORY, June 8, 1866.
We travelled by steamer from Seattle to Portland, thence by a succession of steamers as far as Wallulla. We then took the stage for Walla Walla, at which point public accommodation for travel ceases. We stopped there two or three days, seeking a conveyance across the country to this point; and finally secured a wagoner, who agreed to transport us and our luggage for a hundred dollars, the distance being two hundred miles.
The most interesting part of the journey was the passage of the Columbia. The bar at the mouth of the river is a great hinderance to its free navigation; and vessels are often detained for days, and even weeks, waiting for a favorable opportunity to cross. We waited five days outside in the fog, hearing all the time the deep, solemn warning of the breakers, to keep off. Our steadfast captain, as long as he could see nothing, refused to go on, knowing well the risk, though he sent the ship's boats out at times to try to get his bearings. In all that time, the fog never once lifted so that he could get the horizon-line. At the end of the fifth day, he entered in triumph, with a clear view of the river, the grandest sight I have ever seen. The passengers seemed hardly to dare to breathe till we were over the bar. Some of them had witnessed a frightful wreck there a few years before, when, after a similar waiting in the fog for nearly a week, a vessel attempted to enter the river, and struck on the bar. She was seen for two days from Astoria, but the water was so rough that no life-boat could reach her. The passengers embarked on rafts, but were swept off by the sea.
As we passed into the river, I sat on deck, looking about. All at once I felt a heavy thump on my back, and a wave broke over my head,—a pretty rough greeting from the sea. It seems that we slightly grounded, but were off in an instant.
I had long looked forward to the wonderful experience of seeing this immense river, seven miles broad, rolling seaward, and the great line of breakers at the bar; but no one can realize, without actually seeing it, how much its grandeur is enhanced by the surroundings of interminable forest, and the magnificence of its snow-mountains. The character of the river itself is in accordance with every thing about it, especially where it breaks through the Cascade Mountains in four miles of rapids; and still higher up, shut between basaltic walls, rushes with deafening roar through the narrow passage of the Dalles, where it is compressed into one-eighth of its width. For a long time I could not receive any other sensation, nor admit any other thought, but of its terrific strength. The Indians say that in former times the river flowed smoothly where are now the whirling rapids of the Cascades, but that a landslide from the banks dammed up the stream, and produced this great change. How many generations have repeated the account of this wonderful occurrence, from one to another, to bring it down to our times! This is now accepted by scientific men as undoubtedly the fact.
It is hard to conceive the idea of the geologists, that this is only the remnant of a vastly greater Columbia, that formerly occupied not only its present bed, but other channels, now abandoned, including the Grande Coulee, between whose immense walls it poured a current ten miles broad at the mouth; and that the water was at some time one or two thousand feet above the present level of the river, as shown by the terraces along its banks, and fragments of drift caught in fissures of the rock. The Grande Coulee is like an immense roofless ruin, extending north and south for fifty miles. Strange forms of rock are scattered over the great bare plain. To the Indians, it is the home of evil spirits. They say there are rumblings in the earth, and that the rocks are hot, and smoke. Thunder and lightning, so rare elsewhere on the western coast, are here more common. The evidences of volcanic action are everywhere apparent,—in the huge masses and curious columns of basaltic and trap-rock, the lava-beds through which the rivers have found their way, and the powdery alkaline soil. The marks of glaciers are also as distinct in the bowlders, and the scooping-out of the beds of lakes. The gravelly prairies between the Columbia and Puget Sound, and the Snoqualmie, Steilaguamish, and other flats, show that the Sound was formerly of much more extensive proportions than at present.
The Columbia was first discovered on the 15th of August, 1775, by Bruno Heceta, a Spanish explorer, who found an opening in the coast, from which rushed so strong a current as to prevent his entering. He concluded that it was the mouth of some great river, or possibly the Straits of Fuca, which might have been erroneously marked on his chart. As this was the anniversary of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, he named the opening Ensenada de Asuncion (Assumption Inlet); and it was afterwards called, in the charts published in Mexico, Ensenada de Heceta, and Rio de San Roque. He gave to the point on the north side the name of Cape San Roque; and, to that on the south, Cape Frondoso (Leafy Cape).
Meares, in 1788, gave the name of Cape Disappointment to the northern point, owing to his not being able to make the entrance of the river, and the mouth he called Deception Bay, and asserted that there was no such river as the St. Roc, as laid down in the Spanish charts.
Vancouver also, when exploring the Pacific coast in 1792, passed by this great stream, without suspecting that there was a river of any importance there. He noticed the line of breakers, and concluded, that, if there was any river, it must be unnavigable, from shoals and reefs. He had made up his mind, that all the streams flowing into the Pacific between the fortieth and forty-eighth parallels of latitude were mere brooks, insufficient for vessels to navigate, and not worthy his attention.
Capt. Grey, who reached the place shortly after, with keener observation and deeper in-sight, saw the indications of a great river there, and after lying outside for nine days, waiting a favorable opportunity to enter, succeeded in doing so on the 11th of May, 1792, being the first to accomplish that feat, and explored the lower portion of it. He gave to the river and to the southern point the names they now bear.
Vancouver failed in the same way to discover the Fraser, the great river of British Columbia, although he actually entered the delta of the river, and sailed about among the sand-banks, naming one of them Sturgeon Bank; while the Spanish explorers, who were there about the same time, recognized the fact of its existence far out at sea, in the irregular currents, the sand-banks, the drift of trees and logs, and also in the depression in the Cascade Mountains, which marks its channel.
In 1805 Lewis and Clarke, who reached the mouth of the Columbia that year, found that the Indians called the river "Shocatilcum" (friendly water).
Tourists have not yet discovered what a wonderful country this is for sight-seeing, fortunately for us. On our passage up the Columbia, after leaving Portland, we sat for two or three days, almost alone, on the deck of the steamer, with nothing to break the silence but the deep breathing of the boat, which seemed like its own appreciation of it; and sailed past the great promontories, some of them a thousand feet high, and watched the slender silver streams that fall from the rocks, and felt that we were in a new world,—new to us, but older and grander than any thing we had ever seen.
We were shown a high, isolated rock, rising far above the water, on which was a scaffolding, where, for many generations, the Indians had deposited their dead. They were wrapped in skins, tied with cords of grass and bark, and laid on mats. Their most precious possessions were placed beside them, first made unserviceable for the living, to secure their remaining undisturbed. The bodies were always laid with the head toward the west, because the memaloose illahie (land of the dead) lay that way.
In the instincts of children and of uncivilized people, there seems something to trust. This idea of Heaven's lying toward the west appears to have been held by the New-England Indians also, and is expressed in Whittier's lines,—
"O mighty Sowanna! Thy gateways unfold, From thy wigwam of sunset Lift curtains of gold! Take home the poor spirit whose journey is o'er— Mat wonck kunna-monee! We see thee no more!"
The Chinese have also the "peaceful land in the west," lying far beyond the visible universe.
Farther up the river, we passed some abandoned diggings, where little colonies of patient, toilsome Chinamen had established themselves, and were washing and sifting the earth discarded by previous miners; making, we were told, on the average, two or three cents to the pan. The Chinaman regularly pays, as a foreigner (and is almost the only foreigner who does so), his mining-license tax to the State. He never seeks to interfere with rich claims, and patiently submits to being driven away from any neglected spot he may have chosen if a white man takes a fancy to it.
We stopped one night at Umatilla City, a cheerless little settlement at the junction of the Umatilla River with the Columbia, in the midst of a bleak, dreary waste of sand and sage-brush, without a sign of a tree in any direction, a perfect whirlwind blowing all the time. What could induce people to live there, I could not imagine.
We stopped a day or two at Walla Walla, where one of the early forts was established; the post having been transferred from Wallula, where it was called Fort "Nez Perces," from the Indians in that vicinity, who wore in their noses a small white shell, like the fluke of an anchor.
The journey from Walla Walla to Fort Colville occupied eleven days and nights, during which time we did not take a meal in a house, nor sleep in a bed. It was cold, rainy, and windy, a good deal of the time, but we enjoyed it notwithstanding. To wake up in the clear air, with the bright sky above us, when it was pleasant; and to reach at night the little oases of willows and birches and running streams where we camped,—was enough to repay us for a good deal of discomfort. At one of the camping-grounds,—Cow Creek,—a beautiful bird sang all night; it sounded like bubbling water.
For several days we saw only great sleepy-looking hills, stretching in endless succession, as far as the horizon extended, from morning till night, as if a billowy ocean had been suddenly transfixed in the midst of its motion. They have only thin vegetation on them,—not enough to disturb or conceal the beautiful forms, the curves which the waves leave on the hills they deposit. Their colors are very subdued,—pale salmon from the dead grass, or light green like a thin veil, with the red earth showing dimly through. There is no change in looking at them, but from light to shadow, as the clouds move over them.
We travelled, for a long distance, over sage-brush and alkali plains. In this part of the country, sage-brush is a synonym for any thing that is worthless. We found the little woody twigs of it available for our camping-fires; but its amazing toughness reminded me of a story told by Mr. Boller, in his book "Among the Indians." He was taking a band of mustang half-breeds from California to Montana, when, to his surprise, one of the mares presented him with a foal. Supposing it would be impossible for it to keep up with the party, he took out his revolver to shoot it. Twice he raised it, but the little fellow trotted along so cheerily that his heart failed him, and he returned it to the holster. The colt swam creeks breast-high for the horses, and travelled on with sublime indifference to every thing but the gratification of its keen little appetite. He resolved to take it through, thinking it would never do to destroy an animal of so much pluck, and named it "Sage-brush." It swam every stream, flinched from nothing, and arrived in good order in Montana, a distance of three hundred miles, having travelled every day from the time it was half an hour old. Its name was most appropriate, as an illustration of the character of the plant.
Intermixed with the wastes of sage-brush were patches of bunch-grass. The horses sniffed it with delight as luxuriant pasturage. It is curious to see how nature here acts in the interest of civilization. The old settlers told us that many acres formerly covered with sage-brush were now all bunch-grass. It is a peculiarity of the sage-brush, that fire will not spread in it. The bush which is fired will burn to the ground, but the next will not catch from it. The grass steals in among the sage-brush; and, when that is burned, it carries the fire from one bush to another. Although the grass itself is consumed, the roots strike deep; and it springs up anew, overrunning the dead sage-brush.
Then we came to the most barren country I ever saw,—nothing but broken, rusty, worm-eaten looking rocks, where the rattlesnakes live. But here grew the most beautiful flower, peach-blossom color. It just thrust its head out of the earth, and the long pink buds stretched themselves out over the dingy bits of rock; and that was all there was of it. We took some of the roots, which are bulbous, and shall try to furnish them with sufficient hardships to make them grow.
One night, while in this region, we camped on a hill where the cayotes came up and cried round us, which made it seem quite wild.
Wherever there was any soil, there was another little plant that was very pretty to notice, both for itself, and because of its adaptation to the climate in the dry season. It was coated with a delicate fur; and long after the hot sun was up, and when every thing else was dry, great diamonds of dew glistened in its soft hair. We saw a great many plants of the lupine family, in every variety of shade, from crimson, blue, and purple, to white.
On the last days we had all the time before us dark mountains, with snow on their summits, and troops of trees on their sides, and ravines with sun-lighted mists travelling through them. It was like getting into an inhabited country, to reach the trees again: they were almost like human beings, after what we had seen. The Spokane River divides the great treeless plain on the south from the timbered mountainous country to the north.
During this journey, we came upon various little bands of Indians, of different tribes. We noticed the superiority of the "stick" Indians (those who live in the woods) over those who live by the sea. The former have herds of horses, and hunt for their living. The Indians who live by fishing are of tamer natures, poor and degraded, compared to those of the interior.
We saw at Walla Walla some of the Klickatats, from the mountains. They were very bright and animated in their appearance, and wore fringed dresses and ornamented leggings, and moccasins of buffalo-skin. They were mounted upon fancy-colored and spotted horses, which they prize above all others. They presented such a striking contrast to the lazy Clalams on the Sound,—who used to say to us in reply to our inquiries as to their occupations and designs, "Cultus nannitsh, cultus mitlight" (look about and do nothing), as if that were their whole business all day long,—that I was reminded of what some of the early explorers said, that no two nations of Europe differed more widely from each other than the different tribes of Indians.
One day we met an Spokane Indian, of very striking appearance, with a face like Dante's, but with a happier expression. He was most becomingly clothed in white blankets, compactly folded about him, with two or three narrow red stripes across his bonnet of the same material, which had a red peaked border, completely encircling the face, like an Irishwoman's night-cap, or rather day-cap, but much more picturesque. He was scouring the hills and plains between the Snake and Spokane Rivers, mounted on a gay little pony, in search of stolen horses. Upon being questioned as to his abiding-place, he informed us that he did not live anywhere.
We saw some representatives of another tribe of Indians, the Snakes. They call themselves Shoshones, which means only "inland Indians." The white people called them Snakes, probably because of their marvellous power of eluding pursuit, by crawling off in the long grass, or diving in the water. They seemed more wild and agile than any we had seen. The Snakes were a very numerous tribe when the traders first came among them. When questioned as to their number, by the agents of "The Great White Chief," they said, "It is the same as the stars in the sky." They were a proud, independent people, living mostly on the plains, hunting the buffalo. They kept no canoes; depending only on temporary rafts of bulrushes or willows, if not convenient to ford or swim across the streams. They were the only Indians of this part of the country who had any knowledge of working in clay,—their necessities obliging them to make rude jugs in which to carry water across the bare plains. The mountain Snakes were outlaws, enemies to all other tribes. They lived in bands, in rocky caverns; and were said to have a wonderful power of imitating all sounds of nature, from the singing of birds to the howling of wolves,—by this means diverting attention from themselves, and escaping detection in their roving, predatory expeditions.
When we reached the ferry on the Snake River, we saw some Indians swimming their horses across. They were a bunting-party of Spokanes and Nez Perces. Strapped on to one of the horses, with a roll of blankets, was a Nez Perces baby. This infant, though apparently not over a year and a half old, sat erect, grasping the reins, with as spirited and fearless a look as an old warrior's.
At one of the portages, we saw some graves of chiefs; the bodies carefully laid in east-and-west lines, and the opening of the lodge built over them was toward the sunrise. On a frame near the lodge were stretched the hides of their horses, sacrificed to accompany them to another world. The missionaries congratulate themselves that these barbarous ceremonies are no longer observed, that the Indian is weaned from his idea of the happy hunting-ground, and the sacrilegious thought of ever meeting his horse again is eradicated from his mind. I thought with satisfaction that the missionary really knows no more about the future than the Indian, who seems ill adapted to the conventional idea of heaven. For my part, I prefer to think of him, in the unknown future, as retaining something of his earthly wildness and freedom, rather than as a white-robed saint, singing psalms, and playing on a harp.
Between the Snake and the Spokane are several beautiful lakes. We met a hunter coming from one of them, who had shot a white swan. He said he found it circling round and round its dead mate, in so much distress that he thought it was a kindness to kill it.
We passed two great smoking mounds, and, on alighting to investigate, found that we were in the midst of a kamas-field, where a great many Indian women and children were busy digging the root, and roasting it in the earth.
Some of the old women wore the fringed skirt, made of cloth spun and woven from the soft inner bark of the young cedar, which they used to wear before blankets were introduced.
The Indians eat other roots beside the kamas, but that is the one on which they chiefly depend. As soon as the snow is off the ground, they begin to search for a little bulbous root they call the pohpoh. It looks like a small onion, and has a dry, spicy taste. In May they get the spatlam, or bitter-root. This is a delicate white root, that dissolves in boiling, and forms a bitter jelly. The Bitter Root River and Mountains get their name from this plant. In June comes the kamas. It looks like a little hyacinth-bulb, and when roasted is as nice as a chestnut. We have seen it in blossom, when its pale-blue flowers covered the fields so closely that, at a little distance, we took it for a lake. One of the women, seeing our curiosity as we watched them, drew some of the bulbs out of the earth ovens, and handed them to us. As we tasted them, they explained that they were not ready to eat; that it would take two or three days to roast them sufficiently. This they live upon for two or three months; with the salmon, it is their chief article of food. The women stop at the kamas-grounds, while the men go to the fishing-stations.
In August they gather the choke-berry and service-berry, to dry for the winter. When they are reduced to great extremity for food, they sometimes boil and eat the moss and lichens on the trees, which the deer eats. Most of the work of digging the roots, and picking the berries, falls upon the women. On this account, a Spokane man in marrying joins the tribe of his wife, instead of her joining his tribe; thinking, if he takes her away from the places where she has been accustomed to find her roots and berries, she may not succeed, in a new place, in discovering them.
We saw, in the vicinity of the Pelouse River, some remarkable basaltic rocks, that looked like buildings with columns and turrets and bastions. Some of them were like my idea of the great kings' tombs of the Egyptians. The colors on them were often very Egyptian-like,—bright sulphur-yellow, and brown, and sometimes orange and dark red,—incrustations of lichen and weather-staining. We saw, also, walls of pentagonal columns of rock, packed closely together. Where the Pelouse enters the Snake River, are immense ledges of square blocks. When we camped there, and I lay down beneath them at night, "Swedish trappa, a stair," from the geological text-book, was always running in my mind,—this black trap-rock made such great steps that led up towards the sky.
We have seen here a splendid specimen of gold, which is to be sent to the Exposition at Paris. It is granulated, and sparkles as I never saw gold before. Some one suggests that a thin film of quartz may be crystallized over it.
Next week we hope to go up within sight of the whirlpools of Death's Rapids, a long distance above here, on the Columbia River. These rapids are so named on account of the number of persons who have been lost in attempting to navigate them. Their names are cut into the rocks at the side of the passage; their bodies have never been found.
Two Hundred Miles on the Upper Columbia.—Steamer "Forty-Nine."—Navigation in a Canyon.—Pend d'Oreille River and Lake.—Rock Paintings.—Tributaries of the Upper Columbia.—Arrow Lakes.—Kettle Falls.—Salmon-Catching.—Salmon-Dance.—Goose-Dance.
FORT COLVILLE, July 20, 1866.
We have just returned from a trip on the Columbia River, extending two hundred miles north into British Columbia, on the little steamer built in this vicinity for the purpose of carrying passengers and supplies to the Big Bend and other mines in the upper country. We did not get to the "Rapids of the Dead." The boat, this time, did not complete her ordinary trip. Some of the passengers came to the conclusion that the river was never intended to be navigated in places she attempted to run through. It is a very adventurous boat, called the "Forty-nine," being the first to cross that parallel,—the line separating Washington Territory from British Columbia. The more opposition she meets with, and the more predictions there are against her success, the more resolute she is to go through; on which account, we were kept three weeks on the way, the ordinary length of the passage being four days. I was surprised, when we came to the first of what was called the "bad water," to see the boat aim directly for it. It was much better, the captain said, to go "head on," than to run the risk of being carried in by an eddy. I never saw any river with such a tendency to whirl and fling itself about as the Upper Columbia has. It is all eddies, in places where there is the least shadow of a reason for it, and even where there is not; influenced, I suppose, by the adjoining waters. Some of these whirl-pits are ten or fifteen feet deep, measured by the trees that are sucked down into them.
The most remarkable part of the river is where it is compressed to one-sixth of its width, in passing through a mountain gorge three-quarters of a mile long. The current is so strong there, that it takes from four to six hours for the steamer to struggle up against it, and only one minute to come down. The men who have passed down through it, in small boats, say that it is as if they were shot from the mouth of a cannon.
When we reached this canyon, our real difficulties began. We attempted to enter it in the afternoon, but met with an accident which delayed us until the next morning. Meanwhile the river began to rise. It goes up very rapidly, fifty, sixty, I believe even seventy, feet, sometimes. We waited twelve days in the woods for it to subside. The captain cut us a trail with his axe; and we sat and looked at the great snow-fields up on the mountains, so brilliant that the whitest clouds looked dark beside them. The magnificence of the scenery made every one an artist, from the captain to the cook, who produced a very beautiful drawing of three snow-covered peaks, which he called "The Three Sisters."
Everybody grew very impatient; and at length, one night, the captain said he would try it the next morning, although he had never before been up when the water was so high. A heavy rain came on, lasting all night, so that it seemed rather desperate to attempt going through, if the river was too high the night before; and I could hardly believe it, when I heard the engineer getting up the steam to start. The wildest weather prevailed at this time, and on all important occasions. As soon as we went on board the boat, in first starting, a violent thunder-storm came on, lightning, hail, and rain; and a great pine-tree came crashing down, and fell across the bow of the boat. A similar storm came again the first time we tried to enter the canyon; and the drift it brought down so interfered with the steering, that it led to the accident before mentioned. On this last morning, there were most evident signs of disapproval all about us,—the sky perfect gloom, and the river continually replenishing its resources from the pouring rain, and strengthening itself against us. But we steamed up to the entrance of the canyon. Then the boat was fastened by three lines to the shore, and the men took out a cable six hundred feet in length, which they carried along the steep, slippery rocks, and fastened to a great tree. One of them rolled down fifty feet into the water, but was caught by his companions before he was whirled away. They then returned to the boat, let on all the steam, and began to wind up the cable on the capstan. With the utmost power of the men and steam, it was sometimes impossible to see any progress. Finally, however, that line was wound up; and the boat was again secured to the bank, and the cable put out the second time. This part of the passage was still more difficult; and, after the line was arranged, two men were left on shore with grappling-irons to keep it off the rocks,—a great, fine-looking one, who appeared equal to any emergency, and a little, common one, with sandy hair and a lobster-colored face and neck. We watched them intently; and, as we drew near, we saw that the line had caught on something beneath the surface of the water, so that they could not extricate it. The little man toiled vigorously at it, standing in the water nearly up to his head; but appeared to be feebly seconded, by the big one, who remained on the rocks. It seemed as if the line would part from the strain, or the boat strike the next moment. The mate shouted and gesticulated to them; but no voice could be heard above the raging water, and they either could not understand his motions, or could not do as they were directed. The boat bore directly down upon them. Presently it seemed evident to us that the little man must sacrifice himself for the steamer; but I did not know how it looked to him,—people are all so precious to themselves. He stopped a second, then flung back his cap and pole, and threw himself under the boiling water. Up came the rope to the surface, but the man was gone. Instantly after, he scrambled up the bank; and the great magnificent man did nothing but clutch him on the back when he was safely out.