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Christopher Columbus Bozorth

This brief autobiographical sketch of Christopher Columbus Bozorth was transcribed by .

Explanatory data from Bozorth family genealogy pamphlet, pub. 1930:

Squire Bozorth, a grandson of the original John, was born January 11, 1792. He moved from Kentucky to Missouri about the year 1819, settling in the northeastern part, now Marion County, Missouri. In 1845 Squire and his family crossed the plains, as related in the sketch of Christopher Columbus Bozorth, which will follow.

Nine children crossed with the parents. Two of the married daughters remained behind to cross the plains later.

C. C. Bozorth wrote a sketch of the trip across the plains of the Squire Bozorth family, and it was published in the Cathlamet, Washington, Gazette, in its issue of February 10, 1893, a copy of which follows:


By Christopher Columbus Bozorth, from the Cathlamet Gazette of February 10, 1893.

[This surname is often locally spelled Bozarth]

"At the age of thirteen years, I started with my father, mother, three brothers and five sisters from Washaska county, Iowa, on April 18th, 1845, for Oregon. Our outfit consisted of one large prairie schooner wagon headed by four yoke of oxen, and the family carriage drawn by one yoke of oxen. We used cattle, as we thought they would stand the trip better than horses. We had 25 head of cattle, my riding pony, 'Queen of Victoria,' our greyhound and what clothing and provisions we needed constituted the balance of the outfit.

"We traveled alone from our old home to Council Bluffs, Iowa, passing through the country inhabited by the Potawatami, Sac and Fox tribes of Indians, which was devoid of any roads.

"I remember well one ox team getting stuck in the mud, and the teamster was unable to get them out until my oldest brother, Owen, who had been out hunting, came up and took the whip and spoke to the team, when they drew the load out without any difficulty.

"It was through rain and mud all the way until we reached Council Bluffs, where we arrived on the 13th of May and remained there fifteen days for other parties to join us.

"We were reinforced by 15 more wagons and 31 men, besides the women and children.

"The first night out from Council Bluffs, the Indians stole my riding pony. Still every other day I walked and helped to drive the band of stock until we reached Grande Ronde valley, Oregon, where my father bought me another pony. "Nothing further of importance occured until we reached the Platte river, Nebraska, on June 8th. Those who are acquainted with the waters of that river know how difficult it is to ford, the river bed being composed of quicksand. We stayed here a few days while hunting a crossing place and finally started over, but before we reached the opposite side the teams were swimming.

"However, we managed to get out without serious accident.

"We then traveled up the Platte River without being molested by the Indians until we came to a Pawnee village, where the Indians came out in full force and demanded pay for the privilege of traveling through their country. Captain Haleway [Holloway?] called a halt to consult what was best to do. It was decided to send for the missionary and learn what was wanted by the Indians. "When he arrived we all gathered around him, being anxious to hear what he had to say. While we were engaged in talking, the Indians rushed into the wagons and stole all they could lay their hands on, among the rest my little hand gun and my father's tent on the carriage.

"My father saw an Indian tucking the tent under his buffalo robe and ran after him and hit him on the back with his cane. The Indian gave a big grunt, dropped the tent and started off. They then gathered together and held a big pow-wow.

"The missionary said they wanted four beeves. The Indians divided into four parties and demanded beef for each party, which we were glad to give, with the promise not to be molested again.

"They were saucy and impudent and would even come up and put their hands into our pockets and take tobacco, and did all sorts of insolent things which we were powerless to resist.

"We had considerable sport on the Platte river killing buffalo. I remember one day particularly, when a herd came rushing down and we were obliged to stop our train and let them pass. Quite a number were killed, but not a stufficient number to make a marked difference in the size of the band.

"We arrived at Fort Bridger on August 12th, where we laid by for several days to rest our teams and clean up. Here old John Switzler lost his butcher knife.

"He raved and swore, pulled his hair and flourished his arms in the air and shouted: 'This old fool will give a thousand dollars to the person who will find my butcher knife,' showing what a friend he considered it was to him.

"At Steamboat Springs we laid over to repair a wagon axletree which had been broken, where we met an old mountaineer whom they called Pegleg Smith. (Smith was a well known character on the plains; hunter, trapper and scout. He had a wooden leg.)

"Some of the men went hunting in the Bear River mountains to see if they could kill a grizzly bear.

"Mr. Lamberson got lost, and although we remained four days huntinq for him, he could not be found and we concluded that he had been killed by Indians. We were obliged to give up the search and move on. His family was in great qrief and reluctant to go, but we were obliged to keep up with the train.

"When we arrived at Fort Hall we found Mr. Lamberson there. While lost in the mountains he came across an old Indian with his son. The son wanted to kill him, but the old Indian would not permit it. Instead, he gave him some roots to eat and directed him to Fort Hall.

"Before he arrived there he met one of Captain Grant's herdsmen who took him into the fort more dead than alive, being nearly starved and naked. (James Grant, factor at Fort Hall for the Hudson's Bay Company.)

"They gave him a pair of buckskin pants, moccasins and a shirt. He had been out about nine days and it was like receiving him back from the land of the dead, as his family had given up hopes of ever seeing him alive again.

"Our teamster left us at this place and started ahead on horseback with some Hudson's Bay company men.

"Between Fort Hall and Fort Borring we traveled some times into the night to get to watering places.

"The gray wolves were numerous and would follow along behind, and as soon as an animal would lag or give out it was pounced upon and killed at once. We arrived at Fort Boise on September 28th.

"My father traded his big wagon for a light one on account of our team getting weak and poor. While here we bought our first supply of flour, paying $12 per barrel for it.

"We arrived at Grande Ronde, Oregon, on October 7th, where we bought and killed a nice fat beef which we relished very much. The next day we started over the Blue Mountains and were three days in crossing, arriving at the Umatilla river on October 11th, where we bought some more beef and also some camas root, which we ate with a relish and thought delicious.

"The first day's travel down the Columbia river we were accompanied by two Indians who stopped with us at night and were very friendly. The guard let them leave camp about daylight, and when it came time to gather up our teams one of Mr. Lamberson's oxen was found to be missing. However, the train started on.

"Mr. Lamberson and my oldest brother, Owen, took their guns and started out to find the ox. They struck the trail of the Indians and found where they had driven the ox into the mountains.

"As they were returning to camp for the night they came across the Indians swimming their horses across the Columbia river. Owen leveled his gun at them and when they saw him they dropped into the canoe.

"They let one of their horses loose and it swam ashore near where they were standing, when Owen caught the animal and took it into camp.

"About midnight they were awakened by the Indians calling, "Whoa, haw, Buck!"

"They had driven the ox to camp and wanted to exchange it for their horse, which Mr. Lamberson was most willing to do.

"We arrived at The Dalles, Oregon, or Brewer's mission as it was then called, on October 31st, where we dug out canoes made from pine trees, lashed them together and started down the Columbia river on November 9th, Mr. Lamberson and my brother Owen driving the stock down the trail on the Washington side. (It was the Jason Lee mission, and H. B. Brewer, mission farmer, was in charge.)

"We went down to the upper Cascades and waited for them until they arrived with the stock. On the way down they were detained two days and nights by high water and were out in the cold without fire or food; they arrived at the Upper Cascades on November 22nd.

"We unloaded our canoes and put our wagons together and moved down to the Lower Cascades where we all remained until the 31st, when they started again with the stock, arriving at Linnton December 13th, the families remaining a few days waiting for transportation to Vancouver.

"During this time our provisions gave out and we were almost in a starving condition. I picked up old salmon skins, which the Indians had thrown away and broiled and ate them and was very glad to get them. It was enough for me, and I have been salmon sick ever since.

"Finally some small boats and bateaux from Vancouver came up and we all started for that place. We were detained at Cape Horn for several days on account of high winds, and arrived at Vancouver on December 8th, where we got fresh supplies from the Hudson's Bay company, who treated us very kindly.

"From here we went to Linnton and remained there until my brother arrived with the stock.

"My father bought a place in Washington county from John Ingart on Joe Gale Creek and what is now known as Forest Grove. (Joseph Gale was known as Governor Gale. He was a member of the first executive committee (standing for governor) of the Oregon provisional government, 1833-34. The stream is known as Gale's creek now.)

"There was no money in the country and wheat was the currency. A bushel of wheat for a day's work was the usual wages.

"My father and oldest brother built the first school house in Forest Grove. It was a log house and they received $40 for it and took it in pork at $10 per 100 pounds.

"We remained there until the fall of 1846. Raised a crop of wheat on a rented farm and hauled it with our ox team to Oregon City, which was our nearest market.

"We moved onto the Columbia river opposite Vancouver December 3, 1846, and took up a place and my father made a contract with the Hudson's Bay company to make 10,000 rails at 90 cents per 100 that winter.

"So we struggled along raising produce on our place for which we found a ready market at Vancouver and the British man-of-war, Modeste, which laid at that place about two years.

"My mother always had a welcome for any stranger who called at our house. I remember the winter of 1847-48, after the Whitman massacre, Joseph Meek and old Squire Ebberts stayed all night at our house on their way to Washington City.

"As Joe Meek said, he was going as "minister plenipotentiary" from the republic of Oregon.

"I also remember George A. Barnes, now banker at Olympia when he arrived at our place in the fall of 1848, where, to his delight, he found in our garden some nice cabbage. He selected one fine head and concluded he would stay by it until he had finished it.

"He afterwards said the cabbage head stayed by him for three weeks.

"My father started for the California gold mines in 1848 on the first sailing vessel which left Portland for San Francisco. On his return he came via Victoria, B.C. Here he met Sir James Douglas, and, being an old acquaintance of my father's, Sir James gave him a free pass on the old steamer Beaver, which now lies a wreck at Victoria.

"After my father returned from the California mines he fitted out a team and started my two brothers and myself for California. We left Vancouver on May 9th, 1849, with four yoke of oxen and provisions to last a year. We traveled up the Willamette valley and the "Long Tom" mud, and arrived at what is now called Roseburg on June first. Here we met a lot of miners and packers returning from California. They told us we could not get through with wagons around Klamath Lake before the first of September, so we concluded to return home and go by water. My brother Owen went on with some pack animals and the rest of us returned.

"I remained at home on my father's farm across from Vancouver until the spring of 1851, when I again started overland for Yreka in northern California.

"Nothinq of importance occured until we arrived at Klamath river. There was no ferry, but we found an old dugout and in this we ferried over that swift, dangerous stream. I was the only person in the crowd who knew anything about handling a canoe and it fell to my lot to do all the ferrying. We got over alright, however, and arrived at Yreka about the first of June.

"My first experience in mining was on the Yreka flats, where I sank a hole and got about 75 cents to the pan: but I thought this would not pay and went prospecting. It turned out afterward that where I had panned my 75 cents proved to be a very rich mine when developed.

"One Sunday after it had been worked I thought I would pan out a little spot that had been left, some four or five feet square, and I got $84 out of it.

"I returned from the California mines in 1852, concluding that mining was not my line of business, and again went to farming with my father who, during my absence, had moved to Lewis river on the old place that is now known as the Woodland farm.

"Here my father died in March, 1853, and I remained with my mother and family.

"During the fall of 1855, the time of the Indian outbreak, the neighbors all gathered at one house for safety at night and went to their farms in the day time to work.

"We organized a company of volunteers for home protection, called the 'Lewis River Rangers,' with Wm. Bratton as Captain.

"We lived in fear from day to day, not knowing what time the Indians would come down the Yucoma trail and kill us all.

"Captain Bratton sent me out with a scouting party up the Yucoma trail to see if we could discover any Indians, but we did not and returned.

"Captain Kelly's company of Vancouver built us a blockhouse for protection from the hostiles and called it Fort Rose in honor of the wife of Hon. Columbia Lancaster.(Columbia Lancaster was supreme judge of Oregon under the provisional government in 1844. He was in the territorial council (senate) of 1851-2, from the three counties north of the Columbia, and refused to come to Salem, contending that the capital had been illegally voted in the 1850-51 legislature to be in Salem. He was the first delegate to congress from the newly created territory of Washington, arriving in 1854. He was quite a character in that territory.)

"My mother died on March 10, 1856. During the Indian trouble on March 26, 1856, a messenger came from Vancouver, warning citizens and commanding them to flee to safety, as the Indians had burned Fort Cascades and killed some of the citizens there. (That was the outbreak that was put down by Second Lieutenant Philip H. Sheridan and his dragoons. It was the first real battle of the man who became the world's greatest cavalry leader.)

"So the people hastily gathered together and went to St. Helens, as there was better protection there for the women and children.

"The men would cross the Columbia river in the daytime and work, taking turns at guarding each other. We remained at St. Helens in this way till June, when the farmers all returned to their places without any further trouble.

"In June, 1856, I was elected county assessor, also in 1860 and 1864, this being Clark county at that time.

"In 1860 and 1861 I was elected a member of the territorial legislature. From 1875 to 1873, I was county assessor of Cowlitz county. I was married June 10, 1863, to a daughter of Jacob Johns, who crossed the plains in 1852. I lived on the old farm until the fall of 1881, when I went into the mercantile business on the bank of the Lewis River and named the place Woodland. This has grown to be quite a little village and promises to be a thriving town in the near future."

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So ended the story of C. C. Bozorth.


Updated on 10 May 2007.

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