The Oregon Statesman

Vol. 14 - No. 50 Salem, Oregon Monday, Feb. 13, 1865


It very often happens in the settlement of a new country that the best locations for towns, river landings, harbors and other places where business ultimately centers, are overlooked and unknown for many years. The Yaquina Bay, which is now attracting much attention from the people of the upper part and center of Willamette valley is an instance of this. We believe the officers of the U.S. Coast Survey reported that a harbor existed there in 1849, and the bay had been visited by citizens more or less every year since. Vessels have entered the harbor frequently in the last eight or ten years. But no effort seems to have been made to overcome the thirty odd miles of mountains which intervene between the Willamette valley and the tide water at this point, until with-in the last eighteen months. It is now demonstrated by actual survey that the distance from Corvallis, the nearest point on the Willamette river, to the head of tide water on Elk Creek [or the south branch of the Bay] is less than fifty miles, and that a good road can be made over that distance with comparatively small expense. Freight can be brought from San Francisco to the Bay as cheap or cheaper than it can from San Francisco to Portland, while the distance of interior transportation from Portland to Corvallis is over eighty miles, against less than fifty from Yaquina.

In 1855, General Joel Palmer, then acting as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, reserved a large district of country along the coast, in which this Bay was included, for the location of the Indian tribes of the Willamette valley and Southern Oregon. The selection was opposed at the time with much vehemence by many of the then citizens of this part of Oregon, but not because it was expected that any part o f the reservation would be wanted for white settlement. On the contrary only a very small part of it was understood to be habitable at all. But the terrible scenes enacted in Southern Oregon during the Indian wars of 1853 and 1855 were yet fresh in the recollection of the people, and great apprehension was felt, lest so large a number of hostile Indians, collected so near the white settlements might break out again into active war, and murder and pillage the inhabitants before an adequate force could be collected to oppose them. General Palmer's couse, however, was sanctioned by the Government at Washington, and tribes to the number of about five thousand were collected upon the reservation. The fear of savage depredations happily proved unfounded, and the Indians settled down under the control of the agents and an insignificant military force into indolent peacefulness, content that their hunger was appeased with the rations which Uncle Sam caused to be distributed among them. Of late years we believe they have been made to raise their own food, so that there is no longer any necessity for distribution of food at the expense of the government. The large disbursements of money for the purchase of supplies, and the absence of any hostile movements soon reconciled the people to the selection, and they found that what has been dreaded as a terrible calamity, was really their chief market for the surplus products of their farms.

Since then the public have begun to discover the importance of the Bay as an outlet for produce and a means of communication with the outside world, efforts have been made to have a part of the reservation released and thrown open to settlement. Superintendent Huntington was called on for a report upon the subject and his reply, which was published some weeks ago in the Corvallis Gazette, showed that the northern half of the reservation is ample to support all of the large number of Indians who are now scattered over a district a hundred miles in extent. We intended to publish this report which contains many interesting facts, to-day, but its length forbids. We shall find room for it next week, however.

In the mean time we regret to notice that the Corvallis Gazette, in its zeal to advance the interests of its locality has been betrayed into some statements which are not warranted by facts or the courtesy due from one locality or individual to another. In the broad latitude which it is our invariable rule to extend to correspondents, we published the absurd assertions of "Emigrant" that the reservation was made at the instance of the "Oregon Steam Navigation Company," and that the Agent, Mr.Simpson, was in their interest, excluding people from that Bay! - and further that the Agent was realizing "a fortune" from the oyster-beds &c.; The Gazette reiterates these ridiculous falsehoods - careful to disclaim any responsibility for them however - and then utterly misrepresents Mr. Simpson's justly indignant answer. So far as this is merely a personal controversy between Mr. S. and the Gazette, we have no wish to interfere by taking up the cudgel in defense of Mr. Simpson. He is abundantly able to defend himself if he chooses to do so, and he canot do it better than by quoting from the Gazette itself of the 28th ultimo.

But the Gazetteseeks to impress the public that the interest of Salem requires that Corvallis be kept down, and that it is being exerted in that direction. Here is what it says:

The people of Benton county are as true and loyal a people as Oregon or any other State in the Union has, and do not merit such insinuations from men placed over what was once a large part of this country, by the government. Not only are they true to the government, but this county stood by Marion in her gallant struggle for State favors. The very vote that located the seat of government at Salem was obtained by the extra exertions of this county, and any combinations and cliques now by "Government officials" and newspaper monopolists, to injure Corvallis at the aggrandisement of Salem, would be in bad faith.

That tribute to the patriotism and loyalty of the people of Benton is but sheer justice, and no fair construction of Mr. Simpson's letter gives countenance to "insinuations" of the contrary. Benton may have a few citizens whose heart and sympathies are with the hell-born rebellion of Jeff Davis, but the mass of her voters have no other idea than devotion to the Union and the Government. The Gazette, Mr. Simpson, and the Statesman can have no diffence on that point.

As to the "vote that located the seat of government at Salem" the truth is that Benton gave 371 against Salem to 117 for it - over threeto one. Salem never thought of complaining of this - the people of Benton had their preferences and very properly expressed them. Salem was very thankful for the one-fourth she did get however, and never dreamed of "aggrandising herself" by "injuring Corvallis," and there are not five people in our city who will not rejoice to see Corvallis thrive and prosper to the utmost extent. It is a miserably narrow spirit which only sees disaster to one town in the prosperity of another. What will build up and increase Corvallis will also enlarge and enrich Salem. What will cripple and injure the former will lessen the trade and wealth of the latter. They are in no sense rivals, and never can be. Give us the twenty thousand additional settlers which the fertile unoccupied acres of Willamette valley need, and the two towns will increase in numbers and property so fast that they will have no time to waste on petty local bickerings and jealousies.

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