From Expedition to Exposition

The book reprints newspaper articles in the 19th century detailing the formation of Oregon between the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) to the Lewis and Clark Exposition (1905). It is divided into nine chapters:

  • Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Oregon Trail
  • Strange and Wondrous Land
  • Homesteading and Settlement
  • White Americans and Native Americans
  • Conflict with Great Britain-Again
  • Statehood
  • Life Out West
  • Lewis and Clark Exposition

"Today, reading newspapers from that century is much like looking at a still-life painting in a museum or an old photograph in a grandmother's album-this was the way it was at that time with people's faces frozen and the background static....The newspaper articles gave current news to their readers; from our vantage point these many years later each article is a new now...." -from the introduction

By a series of memorable events the United States have lately acquired a large addition of soil and jurisdiction. This is believed, besides the tracts on the east side of the Mississippi, to include all the country which lies to the westward between that river and the great chain of mountains that stretch from North to South, and divide the waters running into the Atlantic from those which empty into the Pacific Ocean, and beyond that chain between the territories claimed by Great Britain on the one side, and by Spain on the other…to the South Sea….

Chronicle Express, “Report,” March 26, 1804

There is no need of informing the house [House of Representatives] that already an expedition authorized by Congress at the second session of the fourth congress, has been actually undertaken and is going on under the President’s direction, up the Missouri. The two enterprising conductors of this adventure, captains Lewis and Clark, have been directed to attempt a passage to the western shore of the South Sea: from them on their return in 1803, a narrative full of instruction may be expected.

Chronicle Express, “Report,” March 26, 1804

Dear Brother: …During our passage over these mountains we suffered every thing which hunger, cold and fatigue could impose….On the 17th of November we reached the ocean, where various considerations induced us to spend the winter; we therefore searched for an eligible situation for that purpose, and selected a spot on the south side of a little river, called by the natives Netal, which discharges itself at a small bar on the south side of the Columbia, and 14 miles within point Adams…. Here we constructed some log houses, and defended them with a common stockade work; this place we called Fort Clatsop, after a nation of that name who were our nearest neighbors. In this country we found an abundance of elk, on which we subsisted principally during the last winter; we left Fort Clatsop on the 27th of March.

New-York Evening Post, St. Louis, 23d, September 1806.

    The Oregon Company, by a census, was found to contain:
  • 260 males over the age of 16 years;
  • 130 females over the age of 16 years;
  • 298 males under the age of 16 years;
  • 312 females under the age of 16 years.
  • 900 being the whole number of persons
  • They had 121 waggons; [sic]
  • 698 oxen; 206 horses; and 973 loose cattle.

New-Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, Concord, N.H., “Oregon Emigration,” July 27, 1843

…Next to the Mississippi, this river and its tributaries, water a greater extent of country than any river of our continent….The Multnomah was not discovered by Lewis and Clark when descending the Columbia, its entrance being concealed by an island; on re-ascending the Columbia, these celebrated travellers were astonished at the sight of a noble river little inferior to the principal stream.

The American, New York, “View of the Country on the Columbia,” September 20, 1820

Mr. Tucker, of Virginia, regretted that gentlemen were so backward: He should vote against the bill….His objections were that it would draw a portion of our population and of our active capital to appoint, where neither could be so profitably employed as in the United States; and the country would therefore sustain a loss….The Rocky Mountains should be the bounds of the United States.

Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, “Columbia River,” December 24, 1822

…The quadrupeds are chiefly elk, red deer, black-tailed deer, black, brown and grisly bears,—the last very ferocious—wolf panther, tiger, cat, wild cat, marmot beaver, land otter, muskrat, wood rat, and the best of the fur tribes, sea otter. There are several kinds of eagles; and the pelican, cormorant, swan, heron, crane, bustard, grey goose and white goose, and many kinds of ducks.

Boston Courier, “The Columbia River” February 16, 1832

The principal trees are cedar, spruce, pine, alder, &c. The alders are large, and some of them measure twenty inches in diameter. The cedars are often thirty feet in circumference. The fir trees are wonderful; one near the fort was called the king of the pines, and it measured forty-six feet in circumference, ten feet from the ground.

Boston Courier, “The Columbia River” February 16, 1832

People…may talk of their bed-room, but it falls to the lot of few to have so much bed-room as we had. Our couch was as long and as broad as an American prairie, and our curtains were the spangled canopy of heaven….and though my hair, when I awoke in the morning, was often wet with dew and sometimes white with hoar-frost, yet, thank God, I never, during the whole journey, had the slightest attack of cold, nor any touch of sickness whatever.

Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst, N.H., “Oregon Expedition,” February 7, 1833

…At about 11 o’clock we arrived, and stepped on shore, at the end of our journey! It is now three days over six months since I left my beloved home. I, as well as some of the rest, have been in some situations of danger, of trial, and of difficulty, but I have passed through them all unharmed with a constitution strengthened and invigorated by healthful exercise….[We arrived] at Fort Van Couver [sic].

Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, “Extracts from a Private Journal Kept by Mr. John Townsend,” January 6, 1836

Mr. Linn, of Missouri, on leave, introduced a bill authorizing the occupation of the Columbia or Oregon river, establishing a Territory north of latitude 42 degrees, and west of the Rocky Mountains, to be called the Oregon Territory; authorizing the establishment of a fort on that river, and the occupation of the country by the military force of the United states [sic]; establishing a port of entry, and requiring that the country should then be held subject to the revenue laws of the United States….

National Gazette, Philadelphia, “Twenty-Fifth Congress in Senate,” February 10, 1838

The day is not far distant when, if the General government shall do its duty in the matter, Oregon will be inhabited by a hardy, industrious, and intelligent population, and the enterprise of our citizens find a new channel of trade with the islands in the Pacific, the western coast of this whole continent, and perhaps with Eastern Asia.

New-York American, “Important Expedition,” July 4, 1842

…I suppose by next Spring a year, we shall hear but little of emigration to Oregon. Three parties have gone this Spring…By next Spring the true character of the Oregon Territory will begin to be known; but not sufficiently, I think, to deter a considerable number from going. But by next Spring a year, the mania will run out. That the country belongs to the United States I have no doubt….It is mountainous and rugged; its plains are dry and barren; nothing but rain in winter, nothing but sun in summer; very few fertile valleys, and these of very limited extend, and no navigable rivers. This is Oregon.

New-York Daily Tribune, “Oregon—The Other Side,” June 22, 1844

…My health is very fine, and the country exceeds my expectations. The extent of it is not so great as the United States, but there is enough here for all settlers in the next twenty years. I see mill and town sites now vacant, that will be a fortune to the man who obtains them. There is one mill site twenty miles up the Columbia, as good as the world could ask, with the finest fir and pine timber around it you could imagine, standing thicker than the cotton wood in the Missouri bottoms, and from 150 to 300 feet high….

Public Ledger, Philadelphia, “From the Oregon Territory,” September 17, 1844

Not less than Ten Thousand of our fellow citizens have this year left the fertile prairies of the Great Valley to encounter the perils and privations of the tedious over-land journey to Oregon. That journey will cost the emigrants at least six months’ effort and endurance—in most cases eight or ten months, counting from the time of leaving their homes—will expose them to many weary days of famine and nights of drenching, chilling storm—it will inevitably cost the lives of some delicate women and children—and will leave the survivors, at the coming on of a winter of incessant rain and sleet, still hundreds of miles from the Willamette, which is their general destination.… But suppose they should reach Vancouver by the 1st of December (which not half of them can possibly do) their food consumed, their clothing worn out, their wagons generally broken or abandoned in the stony deserts of Eastern Oregon—what will they do?—Where are the dwellings, the provisions, the clothing, for the immense multitude? Who will provide for them the barest necessities of life?…We fear that the coming winter will be one of extreme suffering with thousands of these misguided people. We hear with pleasure that a large party [turned] South by the Salt Lake, and so proceed down the Colorado to California, and not enter Oregon. This is wise: it is desirable every way since there will likely to be food and shelter. Upper California is a fair country—not equal to Virginia or Ohio, by a great deal—nor approach to Kentucky or Missouri—but the climate is temperate and the soil reasonably fertile. But Oregon is not a tolerably fertile country—not a tenth part of its surface can ever be cultivated at all, while there is not a mile square of it on which a good crop of Indian Corn…can be raised….

New-York Daily Tribune, “Emigration to Oregon,” July 26, 1845

That wide region, the interior plateau of the continent, with its wild mountains and its romantic scenes of chase and war; that ocean of the prairies, with its peril, its adventure, its hardihood of life, so analogous to the sublimity of spectacle and the stirring vicissitudes of the sea itself; those rich values of the Oregon, through which the same bright banner which sparkles on the Atlantic may carry the stars of our civilization westward to the Pacific—all this will be possessed or peopled ere long, either by England or by us.

Which shall it be? Can the sense of our true interest, can the honor and pride of the nation hesitate? New-York American, “Columbia River—Oregon Territory,” June 15, 1838

The debate on this subject excites a good deal of interest in the United States Senate, and is becoming a topic of remark in the leading press on both sides. We condense the following statement of the merits of the case from Mr. Calhoun’s speech:

1. Priority of discovery by Captain Gray of Boston in 1788, of the mouth of the Columbia.—From this follows the right to each country, watered by river to its sources. This discovery was explored more fully by Lewis and Clarke [sic]. 2. The cession by Spain of all her rights of territory north of the 42d parallel of latitude…. 3. The French claim to which the United States succeeded [by the U.S. purchasing Louisiana].…

As matters stand, therefore, the United States asserts a complete and perfect title to the Oregon Territory…. As a compromise [with Great Britain], our Government offered to fix the parallel of 49 degrees as a limit between us….These efforts failed, neither party accepting the propositions made.

Vermont Watchman & State Journal, Montpelier, Vt., “Oregon Territory,” February 3, 1843

Whether wisely or not, English pride is always taking offence [sic] at what is regarded as American bombast, and the pugnacious feeling thus grows, like jealousy, by what it feeds on. Americans are naturally and becomingly proud of their country, its institutions, its greatness, and its amazing strides in prosperity.…We thrashed you when we were three millions, we can the more readily so now that we are nineteen millions.

The Christian Mirror, Portland, Maine, “Oregon,” May 15, 1845

Of them we purchased salmon, mostly dry, and gave in exchange powder and ball, and clothes. For one dried salmon, we gave one load of powder and one ball. For a fish hook, they would give us three salmon, and for an old coat as many as you wanted…. They were exceedingly anxious to buy clothes of all kinds. These Indians were exceedingly friendly and honest. We never lost any thing while in the Snake country.…Next morning, one of these Indians came driving him [a horse] into camp, for which I suitably rewarded him. It seemed to afford him great satisfaction.

The New York Herald, “Oregon Territory, October 9, 1845

We assert…that the United States, by the laws of nations, have no title, either by discovery or settlement to the Oregon Territory. Like unto ours is the British title, and for the same reasons. Both are mere shadows—a perfect humbug.

National Intelligencer, “The Oregon Question,” November 18, 1845

Parties are said to be very nearly balanced on the question of maintaining a separate government, independent of the United States and England, and if a sufficient number of Americans can be persuaded to join the independents and turn the scale, it is proposed to issue a declaration of independence, taking in the whole territory in dispute, the Hudson Bay Company to cede the forts and trading posts to the new gov’t. [sic].

The United States Gazette, Philadelphia, December 2, 1845

Whatever may hereafter be said of the precise terms upon which the Oregon controversy has been settled, there can be but one feeling of satisfaction throughout the two great nations which are thus restored to amity and peace at the termination of a dispute which had threatened to sacrifice some of the principal interests of the civilized world for the sake of one of the least important tracts upon the surface of the globe….

The Times, London, “The Oregon Territory, June 30, 1846

This place is Oregon City; has been built up this and last year; the greatest water power in the world; the falls are about twenty-five feet; solid rock across the Willamette river; two saw mills, two flouring mills erected and now in full operation; water power enough to run a thousand mills and factories; five stores, two blacksmith shops, and mechanics of all kinds; all new buildings in this town; plenty of lumber of the finest quality; a number of dwellings erected; clothing and other necessities of life can now be procured;…the rainy season sets in about the 15th of November, and continues until the last of January. February a clear and beautiful month, warm and pleasant, strawberry blossoms out, grass green—green all the year round; very little frost now; a little snow, which melts as it falls….[BUT] One thing is lacking in this country, and that is girls—not over a dozen in this country. Oh, how old maids would glory here. I do not see a woman once in a month. All the young men keep bachelors hall.

The New York Herald, “Arriving at Oregon City,” October 9, 1845

We had lived in New England, and in the Western states, and had expected to find Oregon a New England—increased in the size and grandeur of its mountains, trees, and streams; and increased also in the extent of its valleys, and temperate in its climate. Oregon as a whole, far, very far, surpasses our expectations…. There are many intelligent men in the States, who believe that Oregon has from five to six months of incessant rain, and about as many months of drought in the year…. During the greatest part of last winter there were no frosts here. That which is here denominated the “rainy season” commences on the 1st of November, and ends on the 1st of March—four months. Between the last day of October, 1847, and the 1st day of March, 1848, …there were seventy-six clear days, fourteen days on which it rained, hailed, or snowed all day, and thirty days on which it was neither clear nor stormy all day. Those of our citizens who have passed the winter in the middle portion of Oregon, represent the climate there as beautifully mild and pleasant, with scarcely a rainy day during the winter. …Oregon cannot be outdone; so that when any one shall wish for information on this subject, let him lay it down for certainty that, with the same amount of labor, he can raise produce of more value there than he can any where in the States. I care not what he inquires after, whether corn, wheat, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, peas, beans, potatoes, turnips, cabbages, onions, parsnips, carrots, beets, currents, gooseberries, strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, or fat and healthy babies….

Daily National Intelligencer, “Oregon,” January 20, 1849

…If the State [Oregon] has been admitted, it will prove to be one of the most foolish and unfortunate events that can happen to the people of this Territory. The recent census made by the County Assessors shows the population to be less than 45,000 and if this number are [sic] compelled to sustain the burdensome expenses of a State organization, they will soon discover it to be a costly and worthless luxury.

New-York Times, “From Oregon,” February 2, 1849

I was prepared for California. But Oregon is more of a revelation. It has rarer natural beauties, richer resources, a larger development, and a more promising future than I hard learned of. The dazzle of gold and silver has made California more conspicuous in eastern eyes. Our visit here has therefore had the always delicious element of unexpectedness in its pleasures….No week’s riding has given us greater or richer variety of experience; more beauty of landscape; more revelation of knowledge; more pleasure and less pain, than this one up through northern California and middle Oregon….The Californians call their northern neighbors the Web Feet; and from all account there is something too much of rain and mud during the winter season; but the facility and perfection which its agriculture enjoys in consequence leave the practical side of the joke with the Oregonians….

Springfield Republican, Springfield, Mass., “Across the Continent,” September 6, 1865

An opinion is becoming prevalent of late years that the sewing machine, which has been considered one of the blessings of the age, is in fact of very doubtful value; that it does not lessen woman’s work at all, because people wear a great many more garments than formerly, and stitch them a great deal more; and that it does materially impair the health of women who use it. Some go so far as to say that it rapidly kills or makes chronic invalids of them….

The Evening Bulletin, Portland, Oregon, “Sewing Machines and Health,” May 1, 1872

SALEM is making steady and satisfactory progress in population and wealth. It has many advantages that guarantee its future greatness. Being the Capital of the State it will always be a center of intelligence and power.

Morning Oregonian, “Letter from Northwest,” August 13, 1874

It seems that the hoodlum spirit is like horse disease—it goes everywhere. Jacksonville boys have got it, and go round drumming on people’s windows of nights. It is proposed to put ’em in jail.

The Weekly Oregonian, “Oregon,” January 25, 1873

It is claimed that Albany has more men with their heads above the timber line (bald-headed men) than any town of like population in the state.

The Weekly Oregonian, “Oregon,” January 25, 1873

Men become bald. Why? Because they wear close hats and caps…You never see a woman with a bare, shiny bald head. And you never see a man lose a hair below where the hat touches the skull. It will take it off as clean as you can shave it down to exactly that line, but not a hair below, not if he has been bald fifty years. The common black stiff hat, as impervious as sheet iron, retains the heat and perspiration…. A fur cap we have known to produce baldness in a single winter….The Creator knew what he was about when he covered man’s head with hair. It has a very important function in protecting the brain. Baldness is a serious misfortune….

The New Northwest, Portland, “About the Hair,” August 13, 1875

A span of mules ran away from a wagon near Lincoln, Polk county, last week. The driver was thrown forward upon the tongue of the wagon. After running some distance the team ran astride of a tree, the tongue of the wagon striking it full. The team went on, but left the wagon and load with the driver underneath, piled in a heap at the tree. When the wreck was discovered it was found that the wagon was smashed into atoms and that nearly every bone in the young man’s body was broken. Several bones were broken two and three times. He was jammed into a jelly, so to speak, and at last accounts he was still lingering.

Morning Oregonian, “Oregon,” October 5, 1875

The capital of the State, Salem, is the largest village in the valley, having about six thousand people. There is a curious coincidence in the name, which means a place of peace, for, strangely enough, the Indians dwelling there were the Cheméketas, or peace-makers….What a pity the town was not named Cheméketa, and that the metropolis was not called Multnomah, Salem and Portland having about as much real significance in their situation as if they were simply lettered A and B.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, “In the Wahlamet [sic] Valley of Oregon,” October 1882

“You have no conception of the interest that is being manifested by Eastern business interests in the Lewis and Clark Exposition,” said President Jefferson Myers, of the State Commission, on his return from New York today. One of the most prominent business men in the East said…that he believed the Lewis and Clark Exposition would be of more benefit to the United States…than any exposition that has ever been held, not excepting St. Louis. With many others he looks upon this exposition as a means of opening up and extending trade with Oriental countries….Mr. and Mrs. Myers attended the White House reception tonight, by special invitation of President Roosevelt.

Morning Oregonian, “Will Be at Fair,” February 5, 1904