The First Company of Gold Seekers to Arrive in Whiskey Gulch
The first company to reach the site of Canyon City was on the 8th of June 1862.
Wm. C. Allred, one of the party, said that two or three companies had started ahead of
his for the Florence Mines and they must have travelled some other route for his company
saw no sign of a previous visitation to Canyon Creek and had to make their own trail.
They reached the headwaters of the famous creek on the 8th and pitched camp on Little
Pine Creek just below the spot on where Marysville now stands having left Canyon Creek
at the western foot of Canyon Crk Mt.
"When we pitched camp, "said Mr. Allred, "the understanding was that we were not to move
until the next morning, so several of us took our pans and started off to do some prospecting.
I concluded to try the creek that we had descended so headed my horse westward and soon found
myself on the banks of a rushing, roaring stream. At that time the bottom of the canyon was
covered with a heavy growth of brush and grass. The most likely place, the mouth of Whiskey
Gulch or "Hog Point" to try to prospect was to cross the stream, so having my pan and no
needless articles on this side, I plunged in and after quite a struggle reached the other bank.
Then I found that I had forgotten my handkerchief in which I proposed to tie up some dirt and
gravel. There was nothing else to do but press my underwear into service, so taking off my
drawers, I made a bag of it, filled it with gravel, and returned to the other bank. The result
of a few minutes panning was perhaps nearly $4 in gold. I hastily mounted my horse and rode for
camp to tell the boys what I had found. Imagine my surprise and anger to find that during my
absence the company had decided to move on and left me. I came up with them on the flat just
below the present Prairie diggings, and reported my find, but it was no use. They were bound for
Florence, and to Florence they would go, so there was nothing for me to do but accompany them.
When we reached the John Day River, it was so high and swift that we could not ford it. Of course
that meant the building of a bridge so we prepared to stay a few days. We found a good place to
build a bridge and just below where the present bridge stands, and set to work with a will to build
a crude structure. MacGruder's party was close at our heels and came up the next day after we
arrived. It was here that I became acquainted with this noted leader through an adventure that nearly
cost us both our lives. I was down on the river doing some work when he came along and inquired if I
thought that it would be safe to cross. "No, "I said! It was too deep and the current too strong.
Besides you notice that the bank overlies the water and if you were once caught in the current and
carried under one of those banks you could not save yourself." He listened to what I said, but
announced his intention to try it anyway and it was no use to argue with him. Where I failed,
however, his horse won, for the animal refused to enter the water. Time after time MacGruder urged
him, but not a step would the animal take so MacGruder got mad and riding back a few rods and dug
his spurs and whipped his horse into a run thinking he would force him to take the water. Just as I
expected, the horse stopped short right on the edge of the river, sending MacGruder sprawling over
his head and into the water. MacGruder wore heavy spurs and in some way they caught in the reins thus
holding him feet uppermost and strangling him. I ran to his aid, and climbed out on the horse which was
so frightened that it could harly move and grabged the bridle to pull it off and just then the horse
reared throwing me into the water. Then MacGruder, strangling and excited, clutched me and began to climb
up, just as drownding men do. He pulled me down, fighting like a madman, and to save myself I struck him a
blow causing him to lose his hold, after which I took him by the hair and held him away from me. By this
time we had drifted into the stream and were whirling rapidly away under one of those under-hanging banks,
when I managed to grasp a Willow and hold on, yelling all the time, for help. Some of the men hurried to
the scene and throwing us ropes, pulled us out. MacGruder refused to take hold of anything but me, and,
more dead than alive, we reached the shore.
..... Return to Grant County, Oregon Home Page
..... Return to the Oregon - American Local History Network
..... Return to the - American Local History Network
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved