Wednesday Evening, December 06, 1843
I am stationed at the Willamette Falls. This is a rather romantic spot, yet many things conspire to render it rather pleasant than otherwise. Its advantages for water power are very little, if any, exceeded by those of Rochester. There are at this place now a cooper's shop, two small stores established this season, by two Americans, named Briggs. One is to be permanent, if circumstances will justify. It is established by Mr. Cushion, of Newburyport, Mass. I understand he takes a deep interest in the affairs of Oregon. We have two mission buildings.
A saw mill is raised, and a flouring mill is in contemplation by a milling company, formed in the country for the purpose of improvement. The Hudson Bay Company have two houses for their convenience. So that we have quite a village.
What of the climate, water, soil, timber - in a word, advantages and disadvantages of Oregon, and what encouragement does the country hold out to emigrants? The climate is mild, the Summers generally fine, though in the middle of the day rather warm. The nights are cool, and very little rain in Summer. This Summer, however, we have been favored with some rain; it has been difficult to secure the harvest; not much, however will be lost. this is a prolific season here; crops are very good.
There will probably be fifty or more thousand bushels of produce in the country this year. Last year the Hudson Bay Company shipped, probably, 20,000 bushels for the Russian dominions and other places, at sixty cents per bushel. The Winters are generally rainy, though there is some pleasant weather, sometimes a little snow. Cattle, however, keep fat all Winter, without feddering. This is destined to be one of the best grazing coutries in the world. There are now large herds of cattle here, and more are annually being driven from California. Beef and pork are becoming abundant. Beef 5 to 6 cents per pound, pork 7 to 10 cents, wheat 60 cents to $1, peas about the same; corn is scarce, $1 to 1.50 per bushel. Garden vegetables are also raised. Horses are numerous. I know of no country where there are so many cattle and horses for the population as in Oregon. Some Indians are said to own one hundred and fifty head of horses.
This Summer there have been six or seven droves by my house to the settlement, to exchange for cattle. These are mostly from the upper country. These Indians will soon be rich in cattle, &c.; There are domestic animals, such as I have already mentioned, and cats, dogs, and hens; no tame geese, or very few, though there are thousands wild; also the swan, bald and gray eagle, vulture, buzzard, the crow of different kinds, fish-hawk, hen-hawk, pigeon-hawk, owl, black bird, robin, wren, and various kinds of other birds; some of which I have never seen in the states. We have the elk, deer, bear, panther, fox, raccoon, wild cat, wolf, squirrels of different kinds, rats, [bushy tail] mice, moles, beaver, otter, muskrat, mink, weasel, snakes, rattle snakes in some places, adder, lizards, and creeping and flying locusts of various kinds and colors. Water is abundant and good.
The streams are generally clear as crystal; some, which rise in the mountains of perpetual snow, are cold all Summer. There are several snow mountains in view from almost every point, and greatly, in my opinion, add to the beauty and grandeaur of the country. The soil is generally good, some dark loam mixed with clay, some sandy, gavelly, red soil; all produce very well so far as they have been tried. Wheat is sowed here after wheat from year to year. One man, it is said, has raised seven or eight crops of wheat in succession from the same ground, and the last is said to have been the best, and all were good. It is frequently the case, that when wheat shells considerably in harvesting, what falls is left on the ground and the next season a good crop is realized. I know of no country where a man can make a farm easier than in Oregon, or where he can live easier.
Mills are rather scarce, though the prospect is increasingly favorable. There are no regularly laid out roads; the general mode of traveling is on horseback, or by canoes. The prospect of commercial intercourse with the Sandwich and China is good. The Sandwich Islands are destined to be to the Western world, what the West Indies are to the United States. We obtain sugar and molasses from these, nearly, or quite as cheap as they can be afforded in the States. It is only about sixty days' sail to China, and fifteen or twenty to the Islands.
This has existed from time immemorial. The stronger tribes make war on the weaker, take prisoners, and enslave them. These are frequently taken to other parts of the country, and sold to other tribes. Such has been the case this week. A large party of the Clamoth tribe, fierce and warlike, from the South, came in with about twenty slaves, and sold most or all of them. Some, I was informed, were sold for three horses each, some cheaper. Slaves are not considered fillicum, that is, people, but as dogs. They do the principal part of the work and drudgery, and when they die are cast out among the bushes without burial, and are generally devoured by wild beasts. Hence human bones are scattered far and wide, and are numerous in some parts of the country. Slaves generally are as well or better clad than their masters, and as to food fare equally well; but the epithetelita-slave-is fixed upon them, never or seldom to be removed. In some instances they obtain their freedom. Many of the settlers, both French and American, buy and sell slaves. By these most of the work of the farmer is done. Will not some government notice this? Are not the laws of the Union strict on the subject of enslaving Indians?
This differs in different tribes. Those amoung whom I labor, invariably bury the head to the East. If they can be procured, the body is snugly wrapped in two or three new blankets or skins - elk, deer, or buffalo - with a quantity of beads and other trinkets. They generally bury the same day the individual dies, unless the death occurs in the afternoon. In such case the body is placed in the burial place, some distance from the ground, by means of a pole which is fastened with withes lengthwise of the body; this is placed on other sticks set up, crossed, and tied near the top. In this situation it remains till morning, when a grave is dug, in depth to the hips, by women, or slaves, with sharp sticks and their hands. Latterly, however, they have a hoe and shovel, so that the body lies about a foot or a little more below the surface, and is not unfrequently taken out by wild beasts. I saw a grave where a person had been recently buried, which had been dug open, and the flesh nearly all torn from the bones; the bones, however, not much disarranged.
I spoke to the Indian whose wife she was, to cover the bones; but he said, "No make close; it is not good." They are very fearful in reference to the dead. A few days after, the carcass, I believe, was entirely removed. The reason they assign for burying in the morning is, that if they bury in the afternoon another person will soon die. If a person dies at sunrise, they bury sometimes within an hour, or even half an hour, and no doubt in some instances bury alive. Brother Frost informed me that at Clatsop's, his station, they actually did bury one man alive. Though remonstrated with, bury him they would, and did. At my station we have made boxes for them, when called on, and directed them to bury deeper.
Other tribes have houses for the dead, and persons appointed to attend to them. It is said that when the skins become old and tender, in which the individual is wrapped, they are removed, and the bones placed in new ones. - Others deposit the dead in canoes on the banks of the river or islands. The shore of the Columbia river in many places is thickly covered with canoes at high-water mark. Others place their dead in crotches of trees, while others bury in a sitting posture. And others formerly, and probably in many cases yet, burn the dead.