As Told by
First Sight of Oregon
We followed the Snake river
crossed the Burnt river, they on to the Powder river and followed it,
across country. It was hot and dusty, and we were becoming weary
with our long trip. We reached the Grand Ronde valley the 23rd of
Aug. and lay by for a day. Father traded two cows for a beef and
we jerked it. This valley was green and fresh with a sparkling
and was so beautiful. A Frenchman liven in the valley and had
of horses and cattle. Indians were camped in wigwams everywhere.
At Umatilla, La Grande, my brother met us, and it seemed as though we were not so far from home. On across the hot country, with little water for our stock. One afternoon we left camp, drove all night, all day and till the next night before we came to water at Mud Springs. September 7 we crossed the John Day river and the Deschutes on the 9th. At The Dalles, September 12 we saw the first houses since leaving Council Bluffs, June 10.
We came in over the Old Barlow Toll road at the foot of Mt. Hood. It was a terrifying experience. All one day we traveled over a peculiar shaped ridge called the Devil's back-bone. It was high and the surface was covered with chuck holes which made it almost impassible. Where the road left off there was almost a straight drop down, and it was necessary for us to rough-lock the wheels and tie trees to the rear of the wagons to operate as a drag to held them back. We also used chains on the wheels to keep them from turning around. Only two oxen were hitched to a wagon and a man was stationed on each side with a whip in order to keep them going in the right direction. The side of the hill was covered with women and children and the cattle that were turned loose. So steep was the grade that some of the women had to be assisted. A few days before a man had been killed here when his wagon turned over on him.
We arrived at Foster's, October 6, where we found plenty of fresh beef and potatoes, and we had one grand feast. From April to October without fresh food is a long time.
Our first real stop was made when we reached Oregon City. We lived here for two weeks, and sister Has, who had contracted mountain fever, was cared for by Dr. McLoughlin. As soon as she was better we went on to Salem, where we spent the winter. Father rented a large house that had been built for a hotel, and we fixed it up so that we could live in it, then rented part of it out to others. One of our renters was Dr. Weatherford. I met one of his daughters the day I wa crowned Queen of the State Pioneer reunion in June 1927.
Father came down with the fever, and he and Has were sick nost of the winter. That year the snow was very deep and the entire Willamette valley was blanketed by a foot of it until the last of January. Feed for the cattle was very scarce and father had about a hundred cattle that he hoped to take south with him. Cicero secured permission to cut timber. The cattle browsed on the limbs and we used the rest of it for fuel. When the snow began to melt, father thought it best to leave Salem to find feed for the cattle.
So the first of February found us again on the road on the last lap of our long journey. The road was so covered with wather that it was often impossible to tell whether or not we were following the road. Wagons would mire down, the cattle would scatter and we could only make a few miles a day. It rained nearly every day. We stopped in Brownsville, where Uncle Claybourne had settled. His family all grew up and married and played a large part in the development of that part of the courntry. The boys, Lucerne, Marshall, Harvey J., Thomas and Sterling Hill, and the girs Anna who married Mr. Woody, and Elizabeth who married A.W. Stannard, have all passed to their last reward, and the third generation is carrying on the work of the world.
The road over the Calapooia mountains was nearly as bad as that over which we had travelled from the Dalles to the settlements. One wagon broke down, and we were forced to leave it. All the next day we were looking for a sheltered place. We camped under a big fir tree, built a huge fire and tried to get fed and dry The next day we spent in camp, and the men repaired and brought up the wagaon we had left the day before.
Lou and I had an interesting experience one day. Just before we came to Elk Creek near Roseburg we had loitered behind the wagons; when we reached the creek, we found that the wagons had crossed on without us. The water was deep and muddy, and we hardly knew what to do. We found a large tree had fallen across the creek, and immediately we determined to cross on it. We had two puppies with us, so I took them over and came back to help Lou, who became so dizzy that she declared she could never cross that way. I told here to get astride the log, and I would keep close so she couldn't see the water. When I turned around after reaching her, there were both puppies! I carried them back and finally we were all across and st arted for the road. A little way farther we found that we had to cross another stream. Lou began to cry. Luckily, we found another tree that had fallen across the t ream; the top branches reaching over to our side. I told Lou that we could climb in the top; and get down on the other side. I managed to get the puppies over and Lou followed. We reached camp in time to help get supper. Father gave us a lecture, but no one knew what a hard time we had had; we simply told them we had crossed on a log.
The first of March we reached Canyonville. There was a mill there and a few settlers. Father found a little cabin for mother and us girls, pitched camp there and made us as comfortable as possible. Then he and Cicero started with the cattle for the Rouge River Valley. Father had been mujch impressed with that valley on his first trip through it, and he had chosen a place for his claim. When he arrived, however, he found that Patrick Dunn and Fred Alberding had taken up that claim, so father moven to a place a few miles south. Soon he had a little cabin erected, some ground broken up, and a garden planted. Leaving Cicero to care for the cattle and garden, father started back with a train of pack mules for us at Canyonville, as there were no roads on from there and we had to leave our wagons.
After our months in camp we were
to finish our journey home. Father put Has and me on a big mare he had
brought across the plains and told us to go ahead to lead the pack
We had to follow the creek, being sometimes in the rocky bed and
on the bank. The pack mules had made steps like stairs as each
stepped in the track of the other. The old mare we were riding
over-step the distance all the time, and it was very uncomfortable
when we climbed up the bank it was easier for me, as I was in front,
easier for Has when we went down. If you think it was funny, you
just try it. It took us all day to come to a camping
We got a bit to eat, spread out our blankets and slept. I do not
remember of hearing anyone say she was tired as we were filled with the
prospect of coming so soon to our home.
I do not know how many days it took for us to reach our destination. Every night we had to camp early so that the mules could find feed. We could not get throufht the canyon in one day, and one night we had to spend lying on a piece of canvas spread on the wet ground. It was early in April when we reached the Rogue River Valley. It was a beautiful sight whith wild flowers growing everywhere. Along Bear creek there was a rancheree of indians with a lot of naked children running around.
At last, April 14, 1853, father said to us, "Tonight we will be at home." How happy we were and how long was that last day. I called to father, "How much further do we have to go?" He answered "You will know when you get there." Along about sunset father called, "Turn to the left Mary! Turn to the left!" The road led along what is now Neal creek and across what was later our upper farm. So I was glad to obey orders, and we turned, went around the hell, and there was our cabin. Cicero was standing in the clearing with his back to the road. When I called, he came running eagerly to meet us. He had spent a lonely time waiting for us. He had tried to make some bread and had used a cup of soda. There was an Indian rancheree where the Walker place is, and his other neighbors were farther away.
It would be impossible to tell of our feeling after our long journey to at last feel that we were at home. Iwish I could picture to you the little log cabin nestled under the shadow fo the siskiyous with the mighty oaks and pines standing guard and the beautiful wild flowers nodding us welcome. Words cannot express the wild beauty of the place nor our joy in knowing our long journey was ended.
The cabin itself was a rough one-room structure with no windows, a dirt floor, no chairs, no tables -- no anything. The first night we lay on our canvasses on the ground. In contrast to our comfortable farm home in Tennessee the little cabin was a sorry spectacle. Mother was heart-broken, thinking of the advantages of which her daughters were deprived. We began though with a will to make this new home as attractive as possible. Father made a table, stools for us children and a chair for mother. Curtains divided teh interior into rooms. We brought dishes out from Salem with us and a stove also. There was a wonderful soda spring on the place and the highway to Klamath Falls goes right through the claim where it leaves the Pacific Highway about six miles south of Ashland.
There were many things which were
and unpleasant, but mother and we girls took our places side by side
husband, father, and brothers and fought the good fight in making a
there in the wilderness. Cicero and La Grande went over to Yreka
to work in the mines and that left the rest of us plenty to do.
had an immense garden that year, and we milked forty cows and made
and cheese which we sold to the packers going over to the mines.
Butter brought us one dollar a pound and cheese seventy-five cents.
Our staple foods -- coffee, sugar, flour and bacon, were shipped from South America to Crescent City, they sent inland by pack train. Flour cost from fourty to fifty cents a pound. At Jacksonville we once witnessed a remarkable transaction wherein fifty-two gold nuggets were weithed on one side of the scale and salt in the other.
When we arrived there were a few men located in the upper valley. Fred Alberding, Thomas Smith and Patrick Dunn had taken donation claims on what are now known as the Houck, Homes and Dunn places; Mr. Gibbs, James Russell and H.F. Barron had located at what is now the Barron ranch. The latter was then popularly called the Mountain House because it was at the base of the Siskiyous where the road starts up the steep mountain. Dick Evan's place joined father's on the north or what is now known as the Kincaid place. Just after crossing the Rogue river we came to the Tevaultes cabin, Merrimans next, next came Dr. Coffenes, then Cores, Van Dykes, Newhouse at Eagle Mills. I think Helmans, Emerys and Hargadines were all in Ashland. The fall of 53 quite an immigration came in, the Myers, Walkers, Wells; Myron Stearnes took up a claim near the Lithia Springs and John Murphey had a claim near by.
Mother and we three girls were the only women in the upper part of the valley and were asked to help with the sewing for the Mountain House. We made bed ticks, sheets, pillow slips and then were asked to keep them in condition. "The BOYS" as we called them had one white shirt among them, and it was in the wash often. Our first summer was a busy one, azs there were many demands upon our time and strength aside from the really hard work we were doing. Mother was nurse and counselor for all who needed care and sympaty. As the little valley began to fill up with other homeseekers, she was called on to help welcome the little strangers in these new homes, or to close the eyes of loved ones gone still further west.
Yet there were jolly times mingled with the more somber duties. Our few neighbors, all men, did not neglect their social duties, and on many Sunday mornings we would awake to find the fence in front of the cabin lined with those who had come, somne of them many miles, to see "The Hill Girls," as we were called. Father would invite them all in, and we would spend the day cooking a substantial meal for them. Many of these men were miners who had been away from civilization a long time; the sight of the little home with "women folks" appealed to them mightily.
One day Mr. Gibbs brought some potatoes and three eggs from the Mountain House and said, "Mary, make me a little cake. I'm going to eat with you today." We made the cake; mother made some biscuits, and we had a wonderful meal. The potaties were about the size of hen eggs, but they were potatoes -- the first we had seen since leaving Salem. Another time Mr. Gibbs brought us a cat that had come from Crescent City with the pack train of Mr. Russell. That cat was the first one in Southern Oregon. A little later Mr. Russell brought some chickens to mother, and she was most happy to get them.
Some young men who ran a pack train to Yreka invited us girls to attend the Fourth of July celebration that year. Our Aunt Kelly who lived there wrote that there would be such a crowd of miners there at that time that we had better wait a few days. A little later the men came with horses for us to ride, and we started on our pleasure trip of forty miles. We rode Spanish side saddles covered with raw hide. There was only a trail over the Siskiyous, and in some places it was so steep that we had trouble in sticking on our horses.
We reached Yreka just as the sun was setting. The streets were filled with miners who were anxious to see some girls. I believe that Lou, Has and I were the first girls to cross the Siskiyous. Aunt Kelly invited some of her friends in to spend the evening with us. Some of them were fine musicians and entertained us delightfully. One man, a jeweler, made all kinds of jewelry out of pure gold taken from the mines at Yreka. He asked Aunt for permission to give us something he had made. He gave Lou a heavy gold ring and to each Has and I a set of ear rings. He brought these over to Aunt's and put them in for us. I have worn mine ever since and have never had them out. While there we visited the print shop the day the first paper was printed in Yreka. I remember I got some of the printer's ink on my dress. It was a pretty taffeta made with lots of ruffles on the skirt.
Last updated by William P. Russell on Saturday, 25-Jun-2005 21:08:13 MDT