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Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon and Columbia Rivers
Being a narrative of the expedition fitted out by John Jacob Astor to establish the Pacific Fur Company by Alexander Ross, one of the Adventurers. (1846)

Map of the Columbia


HAVING been one of the first commercial adventurers to the Columbia River, and having spent fifteen years of my life travelling among the savage tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, I was induced, from time to time, to note down such incidents and opinions, illustrative of savage life and manners, as appeared to me either new or interesting.

To the characteristic details of Indian life, I have added that of personal adventure, the trials and misfortunes which the first adventurers had to undergo among the Indians in that quarter; connecting therewith an account of the trade and commerce of the country during the early days of that bold spirit which animated the first explorers of the Columbia.

These different subjects have been arranged and linked together in their natural order, so as to form one complete narrative, embodying the history of the "Pacific Fur Company."

It is not an arm-chair narrative, derived from hearsay tales, but the result of practical experience on the spot. From beginning to end, I had personally to act my part in the scenes described; they passed under my own eyes; and the account altogether may derive more value from being authentic than from any adventitious embellishment bestowed .on it.

While on this part of our subject, it may be observed that there is an error which most travellers, especially those pioneers who first penetrate into dark and remote regions, fall into: they generally run into the extreme, and spoil a simple story by colouring. Not content to leave nature in its simple garb, they must brighten or darken, magnify or diminish, everything they describe, until at last the real likeness of the thing is entirely effaced, and truth itself, by over-refinement, is thrown into the shade.

What belongs to oneself is generally viewed with a partial eye; and perhaps that partiality influences my own opinion as to the interest of the subject before us. In reference to this subject, however, others have written on it as well as myself: Let our readers, therefore, judge for themselves.

In presenting the present work to the public, I have no very sanguine expectations. All I aim at is to lay before my readers a faithful and impartial statement of what took place, during my own times, in a quarter hitherto but little known.

Freedom from imperfection is not to be expected; yet, on the whole, I hope that this volume will prove to the calm inquirer, in all matters connected with the subject generally, a sure and satisfactory guide: allowance being made for any changes that may have taken place since this account was written— thirty years ago.

Red River Settlement, Rupert's Land,
Aug. 1, 1843.


Chapter I.
Introductory remarks—John Jacob Astor—Grasping views—Early traders of Canada—The Hudson's Bay Company—American fur companies—Astor's policy—Russian settlements—Coasting vessels —The Pacific Fur Company —lattering results —Oregon territory— New association - Mr. Hunt - Golden prospects - Proposals accepted—List of adventurers—Land party—Sea party—The ship Tonqum -Remarks -Opinion against opinion- Observations - Land expedition departs—Sea party set off for New York—Bark canoe—Spectators—Canadian voyageurs

Chapter II.
The Totsqisw sails—Quarrels on board—The captain's character - Accommodations—A sudden squall—Flying fish—The captain's harshness—Cape de Verd Islands—Alarm of fire—A suspicious sail —Crossing the Line—Springing a leak—Short allowance of water —Immense wave—The Falkland Islands—Rocky passage—Wild fowl—Port Egmont Bay—The party on shore—Mr. Farnham's gray goose—Old graves renewed—Epitaphs—Party left behind— New dangers—Mr. Robert Stuart's determined conduct—Feuds on board—Cape Horn doubled—The weather—Pilot fish—Trade winds—Rogues' mesa—Little pilot—Mouna Boa—A man overboard—The mate in irons.

Chapter III.
Karakakooha Bay—The sailors desert—The captain's conduct-Productions of Owhyhee - Tocaigh Bay - Governor Young - Royal proclamation —Woahoo - Ourourah, the residence of Tammeatameali —Harbour fees-Excursion on shore—The Queen's umbrella-The King's appearance—Royal palace and guards—Arsenal, or royal workshop—Royal dinner—His Majesty's fleet—Morais, or places of public worship—Sacred or puranee ground tabooed—Storm - A sailor left to his fate among the natives—Parting visit from his Majesty—His meanness—Diving of the natives—Native proas: how made—Clothing—Customs and peculiarities—Character of the women—White men at the Sandwich Islands—The King's disposition towards foreigners—Captain Cook —Pahooas, or war spears — A sham fight —Religion —Tam zneatameah conqueror and king—Apparent happiness of the natives—Prophetic hint—Distressed situation of a boat.

Chapter IV.
Departure from the Sandwich Islands—Bad weather—Live stock destroyed—Columbia River—A boat and crew lost—Captain's conduct towards Mr. Fox-Mouth of the river—Bar and breakers- Cape Disappointment—Point Adams—Narrow escape of the long boat—Sounding the bar—A boat and crew left to perish—The ship in the breakers—Critical situation—Melancholy narrative of Steven Weeks—Search made for the lost boat, and narrow escape—Long boat swamped—Fidelity of the natives—Preparations for leaving the ship—Captain Thorn—The voyage concluded.

Chapter V.
Preparations for landing-Site of the new emporium of the west - Astor's representative —hard work—Huge trees —Natives - Comecomly—Mode of felling the trees—Danger—Trying scenes—Three men killed—Three wounded—Party reduced by sickness—Disaffection—Conduct of the deputy—Desertion—Mr. Astor's policy - Climate—Indian rumours—Comecomly's intrigues and policy— Trip to the cascades- Mr. M'Kay and north-west notions - Anecdote—Exploring party to the north—Several persons killed— Hostile threats of the Indians —Potatoes and other seeds planted- New building—Astoria—Departure of the ship—Dangerous situation of the whites—Great assemblage of Indians—People under arms —Blunderbuss accident —Alarming moment—Two strangers arrive—Mr. Thompson at Astoria—M'Dougafl's policy—The two great functionaries.

Chapter VI.
The ten tribes—Number of warriors—Their laws—Chief's arbitrary power—Dress, games, and arms of the men—Dress of the women, slaves, and basket-making—Lewdness of the women—Food, ornaments—The salmon -Superstitious customs —Sturgeon -Fathomfish—Roots and berries—Circulating medium—Econé, or Good Spirit—Ecutoch, or Bad Spirit—Etaminua, or priests—Keelalles, or doctors—War canoes -Diseases —Winter houses —Temporary, or Summer houses—Fleas—Practice of flattening the head—Colonization—Wailamitte—Cowlitz, or Pugets Sound—Conclusion.

Chapter VII.
First expedition into the interior—Number of the party—Tongue Point—Canoe swamped - Sailing difficulties- Indian villages— Cedars - First night's encampment—Mount Coffin —Cowlitz - Wallamitte—Columbia Valley—Point Vancouver—Difficulties---.The Cascades—Concourse of Indians—General appearance of the country—The portage—Description of the cascades—The roll of tobacco —Pilfering—Mr. Thompson—Exchange of men—The Long Narrows—Warlike appearance of the Indian cavalry—Button contract --Critical situation of the party—Camp of gamblers—The Narrows —Bard work at the carrying place—A day's work—Description of Ow portage—Number of Indiana—Aspect of the country—The plains bein—ad of the woods—Want of sleep—Demeanour of the Indiana.

Chapter VIII.
Columbia Pfls—A canoe swamped—Suspicious behaviour of the Indians—Stratagem —IJmataflow—WalIa-Wafla -Great body of Indians—Harangues—Indian ceremonies—The great forks—Difference in the waters—Length of the forks—The British flag—Mr. Thompson's design—Indian ideas—Salmon—European articles - Tununatapam —Departure from the Forks - Indian honesty - Eyakenia - Marl-hills - Dead children - Superstitions - Priest's Rapid—Rattlesnakes—Appearance of the country —Kewaughchen —Perilous situation of a canoe—The two sisters—The old Indian— Hunting party -Horses —The priest- Pies-cows - Sopa - Great assemblage of Indians—The comet - Oakinacken —Distance from Astoria—Indian council—Resolve to winter—Some account of the place—The stolen watch—The priest dismissed—Voyage concluded —The two strangers—First building—Division of the party— Lonely winter —The lost party —Indian trade - Mr. Stuart's adventures.

Chapter IX.
Anxieties at Astoria—Indians depart—A schooner built—The Dolly's rst trip—Criminal curiosity—The powder keg—The schooner condemned—Mr. Astor's cargoes—His policy—Remarks on the North-West coast—Unwelcome rumours - Calpo's statement - Rumours renewed—Hard cases—Joe Lapierre—Kaaisscafl'a account of the 2bnqnin—Strange Indian—Kasiascall's conduct - character—His design on Astoria—Remarks.

Chapter X.
Land expedition—Hunt and M'Kenzie —Montreal recruits—La Chine - Devout fareweli—Mackina in 1810—Fur traders of the South — Frolic parties—Comparison between the South and North—Arrival at St. Louis—Recruiting service—Yankees—Canoe-men—Delays at St. Louis—Difficulties—Mr. Miller—The Missouri—Canadian voyageurs —Winter quarters - Mr. Hunt revisits St. Louis - M'Kenzie - Mr. Astor's policy - The Yankees desert - Winter quarters broken up—Rocky Mountains—Pilot knobs—New scenes —Columbia River—The horses abandoned—Take to canoes—The canoes abandoned—Trappers—Mr. Miller—Party on foot—Hardships—Starvation—Conflicting councils—Gloomy prospects—Property en cache—The party divided—Three men perish—M'Kenxie's speech—He arrives at Astoria—Mr. Crooks and others left behind —Mr., Hunt's arrival at Astoria—Voyage concluded.

Chapter XI.
Doings at Astoria—Three parties on foot—Their object—M'Lellan's resolution —Hostile attack at the Long Narrows—Mr. Reed—Two Indians shot—Heroic conduct of M'Lellan—Difficulties adjusted— Advance of the party—Remarks—Arrival at Oakinacken—Departure again for Astoria—Scene at Umataflow—Mr. Crooks's adventures and suffering —Yeck-a.tap-am—Umatallow left—Merit rewarded—Arrival of the party at Astoria—The ship Beaver there also.

Chapter XII.
General meeting of the partners—Resolutions passed—Departure of the parties for the interior—Mr. Clarke—The caseades—Wysenpam, or the Long Narrows—Situation of the party—Loss of time—Mr. M'Kenzie—A stroll through the Indian camp—Mr. Clarke's alarms —Command transferred—Reed's rifle recovered—A robber in irons —The five shots— rewarded—Mr. Stuart's departure for St. Louis—Second division—Summer trip to She WhapsBoullard and his squaw—Mr. Stuart's arrival at OakinackenDeparture for She Whaps—Winter operations at OakinackenVisits—Travelling scenes—A night in the snow—Jacque and his powder-horn—Mr. Stuart's account of his journey—Arrival at Walla Walla.

Chapter XIII.
Mr. Clarke—Stragglers—Hard travelling—Cox's pilgrimage—Visit to Spokane—Trade—Mr. Pullet—Mr. Farnham—Cootanais and Flatheads - M'Lennan —Plunge in the lake —Adventures -Outposts - Catatouch chief—Curiosity —Fracas -Introduction of civilization- Commotion - M'Kenzie -Great Snake River-Caches robbed— Canadian wanderers—Character of the Shahaptains—Visit to Spokane - M'Tavish —Account of the war—Winter travels —M' Kenzie at Astoria—New resolves —M'Kenzie's return to his post—Indian chiefs—Bold enterprize —Property recovered—Chiefs and their horses -Stratagems —Indians outwitted -Plotting -Friendly Island -Conference —Marauding propensities —Treaty of peace-System changed -Plentiful market—The island abandoned—Arrival at Walls Walla —Commotions among the savages —Tummeatapam - Arrival at Astoria.

Chapter XIV.
Mr. Stuart-Snake. River —Trappers —Joyous meeting —Trappers' resolution-Crow Indians' troubles-Horses change masters-Mr. Stuart on foot—M'Lellan left alone—Hardships of the partyFamine—Le Clerc's horrid proposition—The old bull—The old horse - Pilot-knobs - Winter quarters - Unwelcome visitors - Change of quarters—Spring—Travelling at random—An OttoIndian—River Platte—Two traders—News of the war—The Missouri—The old horse given for an old canoe—St. Louis—Mr. Astor— Wallaznitte —Falls —Scenery —Habits of the Col-lap-pohyea-ass tribes - Concourse of savages - M'Dougall's letter - M'Kenzie's stratagem—Indian disappointment—The ship Beaver —Coasting voyage—Mr. Astor's policy—Captains—Their instructions—Mr. Hunt baulked in his plans—The Boston merchants— Mr. Astor's conduct—Difficulties of Mr. Hunt's situation—The ship AThatrou—All the parties at head-quarters.

Chapter XV.
Meeting of the partners—Warm discussion —M'Kenzie -Eloquence of the times—Reasons for dissolving the company—Dissenting partners converted-Final resolve—The deputy's powers-Departure of the brigade—A canoe lost—A man's leg in jeopardy— Rumours at the narrows—Snake party—Rumours renewed - Tummeatapams counsel - Hostile appearance at the forks —Number of Indians—Nez Percés' fleet—Fears of the whites—Indian visit— Strong guard—Mr. Clarke—Relic of the silver goblet—Mr. Hunt at Astoria—Face of affairs changed—Mr. Hunt departs from Astoria—North-West squadron—A great Eri duped—Bill of sale— Petty manoeuvring—Rumours of ships—The Astorians at their post —Bills signed—Astoria delivered up—North-West Company.

Chapter XVI.
Mr. Franchere—Comecomly's anxiety—His report of a sail—His attachment to the Americans—Lafrainboise, the interpreter—Mr. M'Dougall's visit—The Racoon sloop-of-war —Come comly grows partial to the British flag—North-West partners—British officers— Astoria changed to Fort George—Captain Black's character—Mr. Hunt's voyage—Commodore Porter—Mr. Hunt leaves the Marquesas—Arrival at the Sandwich Islands—Rumours—The ship Lark —Eight persons perish—Columbian affairs—The property delivered —No ice—The people assembled—Voyage—The Cascade banditti— Two North-West canoes—North-West affray at the cascades—Mr. Stuart wounded—Mr. Keith's conduct—Preparations for war—The great expedition—Conduct of the Cath-le-yach-é-yach Indians— Expedition fails—The effect—Remarks.

Chapter XVII.
Party to the WaUsznitte—Hunt's voyage concluded—The brig Pedlar —M'Dougall suspected—His character vindicated—Mr. Ht's reniarks on the late concern—His liberality—His farewell address to the clerks—Final departure from Columbia—The party for Canada - Efforts and disappointments - Snake expedition - The melancholy story of Pierre Dorion's wife—Massacre of the Snake party— Remarks - A winter in the Blue Mountains - List of casualties - Astor's hopes disappointed - Comment on the late concern.

Chapter XVIII.
Origin of the Oakinackens —Religion —Good Spirit—Evil Spirit— Ideas of a future state—Ceremonies—End of this world—Extent of country—Names and number of tribes—Warriors—Population - Royal family—The great chief, or Red Fox—Wild hemp—Long journeys—Barter—Emblem of royalty—Government—Indian ideas —Council of chiefs—Manners—Employments—Plurality of wives —Brawls—Dress and clothing —Stratagems —A savage in wolf's clothing—Painted faces and sleek hair.

Chapter XIX.
Marriage contracts—National custom—Exchange of presents—Nocturnal visits—The object—Purchasing the bride—Customs on the occasion—Feuds and quarrels—Tia-quili-augh, or Indian doctor— His office—Precarious life—Mode of paying him—Manner of treating the sick—Customs and ceremonies on the occasion—Hard duty - Superstitions - Knowledge of roots and herbs - Curing wounds—Diseases, or general complaints —Gambling —Tail-all-acome, or the national game—Manner of playing it—Bets—Gambling propensities—Hot baths—Manner of using them—On what occasions—Indian qualifications—Gymnastic exercise—Comparison —General remarks.

Chapter XX.
Social habits—Winter habitations—Economy of the winter-summer employments—Collecting of food—Fish barriers—Salmon—Division of labour—Roots and berries—Scenes at the fish camp—Mode of catching the deer—Preparation of food—Furnaces or ovens—Implements of warfare—Spampt, how made—Pine moss—Bread, how prepared—Great war-dance—Manner of fighting—Treaties of peace - Scalps - Slaves - Funeral ceremonies - Mode of interment— Graves - Superstitions—Emblems—Customs—Mourning--Punishments—Sedate habits and docile dispositions.

Chapter XXI.
Calculation of time—Singular manner of naming children—Peculiar modes of address—Anecdote of an Indian chief—Indian forbearance —Conduct of the whites in Indian countries—Comparison of crime between Indians and whites—Manner of swaddling infants—Hardships during infancy—Savage customs—Indian constitution—Chief cause of scanty population—A day's journey—Calculation of distance -Rough roads—Indian ideas—Social habits—Some remarks on the system adopted for converting Indians to the Christian faith.


Chinook Vocabulary
Table of the Weather at the Mouth of the Columbia


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