From Oregon Historical Quarterly, 1910
THE PETER SKENE OGDEN JOURNALS
Editorial Notes by T. C. Elliott
Our last view of Mr. Ogden was on July 18th, 1827, at some point on Snake River near Huntington, Oregon (see Or. Hist. Quarterly for June, 1910, p. 222), as he was returning from the expedition of that year, which had taken him into parts of Oregon unknown to white men before that time. We now renew the acquaintance thirty-six days later at Fort Vancouver, when he starts for another Snake Country expedition; this time to regions already familiar to him, in southeastern Idaho. The journeyings this season are quite easily traced as to general direction and often as to particular locality. The Indian trail from the Walla Walla river across the Blue mountain range to the Grande Ronde valley can be quite certainly identified and across southern Idaho from the mouth of Burnt river to the Portneuf many names are yet recognizable. The party keeps to the north of the line of the Oregon Short Line Railroad, up the course of Boise river (then Reed's river) to its source and then across Big Camas Prairie and the various water courses to the sinks of Lost river, and then makes a dash across the lava beds to the Snake and Portneuf. The canyon through which Little Lost river leaves the mountains was then evidently called Day's Defile. The winter of 1827-8 is a very long and severe one, and Thos. McKay, who is in charge of a detached trapping party on the waters of Salmon river, is unable to rejoin Mr. Ogden until May. So many horses are used for food or have died of exposure that Mr. Ogden builds canoes to carry his furs down the Snake river, but evidently abandoned that purpose. Unfortunately the record is silent for a whole month of the return journey. He reaches Fort Nez Perces, or Walla Walla, again on July 19th 1828, with returns far exceeding his expectations, which must have meant more than three thousand beaver skins. While at Fort Vancouver the following month Mr. Ogden must have become acquainted with Jedediah S. Smith of the American fur traders (who reached there after disaster on the Umpqua river in southern Oregon) and learn at first hand of the experiences of Mr. Smith with the Mojave Indians, to which reference is made in the journal for the following year. The chief value to history of this journal, in connection with the other three, is the further light thrown upon the relations between the American and the English fur trading companies; and the assistance to a considerable degree in clearing the record of Gen. William H. Ashley, a prominent citizen of St. Louis, who for some years represented the State of Missouri upon the floor of Congress, whose rapid progress to wealth has by many been regarded with suspicion. In his valuable "Hist. of the Amer. Fur Trade," published by Harper in 1902, Maj. Chittenden states (p. 277) that the details of Mr. Ashley's transaction with Mr. Ogden "will probably remain unknown until the world hears from Mr. Ogden through the records of the Hudson Bay Company." That is now partly available. We now know, the exact date and the nature of Mr. Ogden's disaster that year, and have confirmation of the name of the leader of the American trappers who accomplished it, who was a Mr. Gardner(1) and not Mr. Ashley at all; and that the conduct of this Mr. Gardner was not approved by those in authority in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company; and that the band of trappers under Mr. Gardner may have been free trappers not connected with Mr. Ashley (see entry of Feb. 19th, 1828, infra, for this). After the desertion of Mr. Ogden's men with their catch and outfits (which legally belonged to them) for whatever cause that may or may not have been, it may not have been incompatible with human nature on the plains at that time for Mr. Ashley to have acquired their furs, according to the manner they may have reached him; although any contrast with the treatment afforded Jedediah S. Smith as to his furs, by Dr. McLaughlin of the Hudson's Bay Company in August, 1828, is much in favor of the English company.
Mr. Ogden's fifth and last year (1828-9) at the head of the Snake Expedition takes him into regions unknown to him or to other traders, either American or English, before this time. It is then he discovers the Humboldt river and explores the country to the northwest of Great Salt Lake. By any one not personally conversant with the local topography it is mere speculation to attempt to identify in detail the journey, but his general course is easy to follow; and his record of the hardships calmly endured and the dangers encountered is unusually interesting. Leaving Fort Walla Walla late in September, 1828, and following the same route as the year previous as far as the mouth of the Malheur river, the party ascends that river and then turns eastward to the waters of the Owyhee, and by the first week of November is upon the streams draining into the Humboldt, or Unknown river as he termed it. There the beaver are plentiful and the trapping much to his liking, but cold weather and scarcity of food compel him to turn eastward toward the buffalo country and by the last week of December he is within sight of Great Salt Lake, but quite to the north of it. Continuing along from there to the familiar valley of the Portneuf about the middle of January he crosses southward to the Bear River valley and for the next two months is in the mountain valleys to the Northeast of Great Salt Lake, just where we do not yet know, except from the names left there in his honor. In April, detaching a party for separate duty and with instructions to return home on their own account, Mr. Ogden with fourteen men only returns to Unknown river and after a narrow escape from death by the Modoc Indians in June and July returns to the Columbia by way of Malheur lake and the John Day river of Eastern Oregon. We miss the name of the veteran Thos. McKay as one of his party this year.
With this journal before us it is possible to speculate less as to the date when Mr. Ogden first visited Great Salt Lake and the locality bearing his name there. It will be remembered that in a previous journal (Or. Hist. Quar., Dec., 1909), under date of June 2nd, 1826, is recorded; "Proceeded but a short distance when we met a Snake; this Indian I saw last year on Bear's River." (In the foot-note to that entry the word probably might better have read possibly); and that Maj. Chittenden independently suggests Cache Valley through which the Bear river flows as the scene of Mr. Ogden's disaster in the spring of 1825. It would seem unusual for so enthusiastic and well equipped a trader as was Mr. Ogden that spring to neglect the inviting streams tributary to Bear river and the Salt Lake valley, when so near at hand. Yet it seems equally unexplainable that, although in the years 1826 and 1828 for months immediately to the north of Great Salt Lake on the Portneuf and other streams, he makes no mention at all in his journals of Great Salt Lake itself. He refers often to Salt Lake, meaning the headquarters of the American traders on Utah lake, but never to Great Salt lake until this present year. The record of that first expedition, of 1824-5, must be available before the desired fact can be known with certainty; and the strong probability is that after the expedition of 1824-5 and until 1828-9, after the renewal of the treaty of joint convention between England and the United States, the operations of the Snake river party were studiously confined within the limits of the Old Oregon Country, that is to the streams draining into the Columbia river.
Ogden's Hole took its name without doubt in the same manner as did Jackson's Hole and Pierre's Hole and other similarly named mountain valleys of limited area frequented as rendezvous by the trappers. This journal unfortunately contains no entry between January 17th, and March 29, 1829, but a rude pen and ink map accompanying the journal purports to show "Ogden's Track 1829," and this indicates that he followed the valley of Bear river very closely, but to the south of it, and this would have taken him into Cache valley and Ogden valley further to the southward and the stream known as Ogden river when the first settlers arrived in that region; those settlers took the name from the Indians and the retired trappers who lived here and there along the streams. Local tradition has it that Mr. Ogden had trouble with the Indians when there and that one of his men named Weber was killed in the canyon now so named and through which the main line of the Union Pacific railroad is now built. There is no confirmation of this, however, and the name Weber is American rather than French-Canadian.
The flat valley where the city of Ogden is now located is more likely to have been the site of Ogden's Hole, in the general acceptance of that term. It is there that the Ogden river comes out of a beautiful canyon of the same name -- a canyon that was almost impassible until the river was put to commercial use and a fine boulevard constructed through it, connecting the city with the Ogden valley, eight or nine miles away. This canyon is now the pleasure resort of the citizens of Ogden and affords delightful opportunity for the entertainment of their guests. The Ogden valley is a stretch of meadow land rather narrow in width, but opening into other small valleys of the branch streams that form the Ogden river. The trail used by Indians and trappers in passing to and from this valley crossed a divide and followed a smaller and less precipitous canyon opening at North Ogden, a few miles from the city of Ogden, and the early settlers understood Ogden's Hole to mean this smaller canyon and divide.
It may also be remarked that the writer of H. H. Bancroft's History of Utah in a foot note mentions Ogden's Hole as the mountain resort of a noted desperado of that name.
The publication of these two journals completes the set of four, which was begun in the Or. Hist. Quarterly for December, 1909. A sketch of the life and career of Mr. Ogden appears in the Quarterly for Sept., 1910. No one who has not seen the original of one of the journals used by the trappers and traders when in the field can appreciate the difficulty in reading their contents. They were made of small sheets of beaver skin often indifferently cured and tied with a thong; and the writing was done with a quill often under very uncertain conditions of weather or comfort. Unless conversant with the French language and with the names and terms common to the country and trade, it is practically impossible to decipher the writing at times, which covers margins and outside as well as inside of the sheets. The wonder is that these journals are so well preserved as to be deciphered at all, and blunders in the copying may well be overlooked, as it is quite often a question of interpretation, especially with proper names.
JOURNAL OF PETER SKENE OGDEN; SNAKE EXPEDITION, 1827-1828
(As copied by Miss Agnes C. Laut in 1905, from original in Hudson's Bay Company House, London, England)
August 24. Left Ft. Vancouver for the Snake Country with 28 trappers and hopes far from sanguine.
1st Sept. we reached Nez Perces,(2) on 5th Sept. set off.
Sept. 6, Friday. left Mr. Black and overtook the party encamped on W. Walow River 12 miles from fort.
Tuesday 10th. commenced crossing over the Blue Mtns; camped at 11 A. M. drenched in rain and fatigued from windfall. This is the best trail across the Blue Mtns. from the source of the Walla Walla.(3)
Friday 13th. All hands employed making poles for leather tents.
Saturday 14th. Reached Clay River(4) or River de Grande Ronde wh. discharges in s. branch of Columbia 2 days march from Nez Perces. A Cayouse reported a party of American trappers are on the way to Nez Perces Fort.
Tuesday 17th. Crossed over the Fork of Powder River and encamped on main branch.
Wednesday 19th. encamped on River Brule.(5)
Saturday 21st. Mr. McKay to explore sources of Sandwich Island River,(6) with 11 men.
Sunday 22nd. Camped opposite Wayer's (Wazer's)(7) River; commenced guarding our horses.
Wednesday 25th. Trappers report traps of strangers set along this river. Shortly after an American by name Johnson appeared and informed us he and 5 others were on this stream. Their party consists of 40 men with a band of Nez Perces working in the direction Mr. McKay has taken. My sanguine hopes of beaver here are blasted. I shall send Sylvaille with 5 men to Payette's River; and proceed to Burnt and Day's River. Encamped in company with the Americans. The trappers were in every direction in quest of beaver. The Americans will not part with one.(8)
Saturday 28th. Our traps gave but one otter. Before all were raised it was 10 A. M. Advanced south on the fork.(9) The Americans informed me it was their intention to follow me to the Columbia. I informed them I could not offer them better terms than my own men had. With this they were satisfied.
Sunday 6th Oct. Reached Reed's River.(10) I have little hope as the American trappers are everywhere.
Thursday 10th Oct. Only 9 beaver, consequently no longer necessary for us to remain. It was from Wazer's, Payette's and this river we expected our returns and they have produced only 140 beaver. I must now reach another quarter after junction with Mr. McKay. Course s. from Reed's River.
Sunday 13th Oct. reached Prairie de Camasse, a fine stream discharging in Reed's River; course south. It is from near this point the Snakes form into a body prior to their starting for buffalo; they collect camasse for the journey across the mountains. Their camp is 300 tents. In spring they scatter from this place for the salmon and horse thieving expeditions. Crossed streams that discharge in River au Malade. Sylvaille and party appeared with only 20 beaver.
Thursday, 17th Oct. Crossed Camasse plains and encamped at Sunset on fork of Malade River.(11) Here we found a camp of Americans, men of the same party who had joined us on Wazer's River.
Thursday Oct. 24. The Americans being in want of supplies, applied for trade. They consented to 1/4 less than Indian tariff. I obtained 13 large beaver, 19 small, 25 musquash; also received from Henry Goddin 35 large beaver in payment of his debt to the company. This man deserted 3 years ago.(12) Since the Americans have been with us they have taken only 13 beaver and are discouraged.
Sunday 27th Oct. The trappers had advanced with their traps but gone only half an hour when all returned having met a trapper who had been pursued by a party of Indians whether blackfeet or Snakes be could not tell. 6 absent since yesterday; I am uneasy. Course s. e.
November Thursday 1st. Reached the heights of land that separates Goddin's from Sickly (Malade) River, a steep ascent, most dangerous to man and beast, upwards of a foot of snow on top, the descent very gradual.
Friday 2nd November. Stormy weather prevented starting. It is my intent to amuse the American party now with us so that McKay's men may have time to trap the beaver where the Americans purpose going. As they are not aware of this, it is so much the more in our favor. Should McKay not appear at the appointed place Day's Defile there will grass for our horses and buffalo for our support.
Saturday 3rd. Followed down Goddin's River s. e. Ten buffalo killed this day. It is incredible the herds of antelope seen.
Wednesday 7 Nov. Reached the Fork of Salmon(13) River called by Mr. Rose Malade his men having been attacked with beaver illness here. S. E. 10 cows killed.
Saturday 10 Nov. Reached Day's River at the point where Mr. McKay was to come. There being no buffalo nor a blade of grass I must push on. A camp of Snakes of upward Of 300 tents 1500 souls have been here 3000 horses. I must proceed to Snake River for food.
Sunday 11th. I left a note for Mr. McKay telling him what route to follow. Proceeded along Day's Defile following Day's River to Mr. McKenzie's(14) winter encampment. Hunters killed 5 cows.
Friday 16th Nov. Cold severe weather. At dawn we are in motion following Day's River over a barren plain till sunset when we reached the Great Barren Snake Plains in full view of Pilot Knobes(15) also S. Knobes in the centre of the plain, the former dividing the waters of Columbia from Missouri and Spanish River. The waters of Goddin's and Day's River disappear at the entrance of this plain and take a subterranean route to Snake River.
Sunday 18th. At three this morning all were in motion; 2 P. M. reached Goddin's River; see the tracks of a Snake camp. They have no doubt waited for the snow not daring to cross the plain without it. Course s. e.
Wednesday 21st. At 3 A. M. I gave the call.(16) At 6 A. M. started, At 7 P. M. all reached the fountain. found 7 of the Snake horses standing in the plain exhausted. This plain is not less than 50 miles across E. S. E.
Thursday 22nd. Reached Snake River at 11 A. M. crossed and camped on an island; 50 Snakes paid us a visit also 7 Nez Perce's lately with American trappers. If the Snakes are not too troublesome we shall remain some days.
Sunday 25th. The chief of the lower Snakes with 300 followers paid me a visit, by name The Horse. He carries an American flag. I made him the following presents, 1 calico shirt, 2 scalpers, 1 1/2 lb. ball, 1/2 powder, 1 looking glass, 1/4 lb. glass beads, 1 half axe, 2 awls, 3 flints. They departed but not without some petty thefts.
Wednesday 28. Encamped on Fork Portneuf River, which draws its waters from hot springs. We are now 3 miles from Blackfeet Hill,(17) 2 from Snake camp.
Friday 30th. This morning the Americans who have been in company with us since 18th Oct. started for Salt Lake.(18) The beaver we have traded from them exceed 100. During the time they have been with us, they have trapped only 26, so they lost more by meeting with than we have.
[US] Saturday, Dec. 1. The day and month have begun with a wild storm of wind and snow. 5 Snake tents have joined our camp. I had rather they kept at a distance as they answer as a screen for horse thieves. Our numbers are but 12 men; the Snakes exceed 1500. We are completely at their mercy. I am on good terms with the chiefs and will try to remain so. I feel most anxious in regard to McKay's party, also the man I left on Sickly River. Now 4 inches of snow on the plains which helps our horses' feet. No trapper can do justice to his traps unless he has 4 good horses. My party average this; but the horses too young to endure privations. One died today. Very severe cold. The trappers came in covered with ice and nearly froze.
Tuesday 4 Dec. The Snake camp in motion towards Blackfoot Hill. A stolen trap restored to me today by the chief. It is the opinion of many that winters in the Snake country are mild; but the bareness of the plains causes us to feel the cold greater than it is. In my leather hut with only willows for fire I find it far from pleasant. We now number 900 beaver. We shall raise camp in quest of buffalo tomorrow.
Saturday 8 Dec. Followed down the fork to Portneuf River and this stream to its discharge on Snake River south and camped.(19) Have grass for our horses and wood for fires. It was my opinion that a trapper with his family could be fully equipped with a year's supplies for Snake country for L15, but I think now for blankets etc. it should be L25.
Friday, 14 Dec. It would relieve me to hear of Mr. McKay. Mr. S. McGillvray's party from the east side of the mtns.(20) if no accident has happened ought to he in the waters of Salmon River. If the same severe weather exists he will have to remain quiet till April and so lose the hunt. The hunters killed 12 buffalo, the greater part of the meat being left for the wolves and starving Snakes. The Snake camp 12 miles off laying up buffalo meat. Have never seen buffalo so numerous.
Thursday 20 Dec. At mid-day 2 Americans of a party of 7 arrived and informed me two days since they separated from Mr. McKay and party in Day's Defile with perhaps 500 beaver. He cannot cross the mts. owing to the snow and the weak state of his horses. These Americans traded 49 horses from the Nez Perces at an extravagant rate averaging $50. They lost 19 crossing the plains from Day's Defile. They were obliged to eat 6. The Americans had 10 stolen by the Snakes; one American remained with Mr. McKay. They had commenced trapping Sandwich Island River when Mr. McKay joined them.
Friday 21st. The Americans left to join the camp at Blackfoot Hill.
Monday 24 Dec. Snow again last night. At an early hour, we were in motion ascending Snake River 2 miles and camped. The American party of 6 joined us, their leader a man named Tulloch(21) a decent fellow. He informed me his company would readily enter into an agreement regarding deserters. He informed me the conduct of Gardner's at our meeting 4 yrs.(22) since has not been approved. Tulloch speaks highly of the treatment he received from McKay. I shd. certainly he shocked if any man of principle approved of such conduct as Gardner's.
Tuesday 25 Dec. Arrival of one of our men from Sickly River relieves me of anxiety. He reports they have 100 beavers and are not far. Our total number of beaver exceeds my expectations.
1828 January 1. The men paid me their respects and were politely received. The Americans followed the example and received the same treatment. The Americans leave for Salt Lake. The hunters are now making snow shoes as the depth of snow keeps increasing. The others pass their time in gambling. No cards are sold to the men at Ft. Vancouver. Still they procure them.
Saturday 5th Jan. It has ceased snowing but continues to blow a gale from the North. One of the party who accompanied the Americans as far as the source of Portneuf River arrived this A. M. and reported snow not so deep in that quarter numerous herds of buffalo crossing and recrossing. They have hope of succeeding in reaching Salt Lake. If so we may see them again 15 days. It is more than probable one of the chief traders(23) of the company will return with them to arrange about deserters. This would be most desirable. Altho' our trappers have their goods on moderate terms, the price of their beaver is certainly low compared to Americans. With them, beaver large and small are averaged @ $5 each; with us $2 for large and $1 for small. Here is a wide difference. All to their liberty to trade with the natives. It is optional with them to take furs to St. Louis where they obtain $5 1/2. One third of the American trappers followed this plan. Goods are sold to them at least 150 Pc. dearer than we do but they have the advantage of receiving them in the waters of the Snake country. An American trapper from the short distance he has to travel is not obliged to transport provisions requires only 1/2 the number of horses and very moderate in his advances. For 3 years prior to the last ones, General Ashley transported supplies to this country and in that period has cleared $80,000 and retired, selling the remainder of his goods in hand at an advance of 150 P cent, payable in 5-years in beaver @ $5 P beaver, or in cash optional with the purchasers. Three young men Smith, Jackson and Subletz purchased them,(24) who have in this first year made $20,000. It is to be observed, finding themselves alone, they sold their goods 1-3 dearer than Ashley did, but have held out a promise of a reduction in prices this year. What a contrast between these young men and myself. They have been only 6 yrs. in the country and without a doubt in as many more will be independent men. The state of uncertainty I am now in regarding the absent men and McKay's party and the gloomy prospects for a spring hunt make me wretched and unhappy.
Wednesday 16th. The Americans are anxious to procure snow shoes, and I am equally so they should not as I am of opinion they are anxious to bring over a party of trappers to this quarter. I have given orders to all not to make any for the Americans. This day they offered $25 for one pair $20 for another but failed. 5 men traded leather with the Snakes.
Friday 18 Jan. I proposed to one of the trappers to set off in quest of Mr. McKay and he consented without hesitation. The Americans continue offers for snow shoes but without success.
Sunday 20th. Early this morning, Portneuf started to find Mr. McKay. I have given him information of the country with a map of the different streams. If McKay be on Goddin's River or Salmon River, I am in hopes he will find him. He would not consent to any one accompanying him, apprehending loss of time and discovery by Blackfeet. He is well provided with blankets and ammunition. I forwarded a general letter to the Columbia by him asking Mr. McKay to forward it to the Flat Heads. Tullock, the American, who failed to get thro' the snow to Salt Lake tried to engage an Indian to carry letters to the American depot at Salt Lake. This I cannot prevent. It is impossible for me to bribe so many Indians with my party. I have succeeded in preventing them from procuring snow shoes. The Indian trade of the Columbia is one third less than it was. In Thompson River district not more than 200 skins were traded at the fort, and the returns not more than 2000. At present not one. These returns were procured by sending traders in every direction.
Tuesday 22 Jan. A Snake arrived and informed the American trader one of their caches had been stolen by the Plains Snakes. From the manner he describes the place, no doubt remains of its being stolen. In my mind this fellow is one of the thieves. Property in it valued at about $600. How long will the Snakes be allowed to steal and murder I cannot say. The Americans are most willing to declare war against them and requested if they did in the spring would I assist them. To this I replied, if I found myself in company with them I would not stand idle. I am most willing to begin but not knowing the opinion of the Company it is a delicate point to decide. Acting for myself, I will not hesitate to say I would willingly sacrifice a year or two to exterminate the whole Snake tribe, women and children excepted. In so doing I could fully justify myself before God and man. Those who live at a distance are of a different opinion. My reply to them is: Come out and suffer and judge for yourselves if forbearance has not been carried beyond bounds ordained by Scripture and surely this is the only guide a Christian sh'd follow. A hunter today killed 22 antelope by driving them in a bank of snow and knifing them, not allowing one to escape. 200 of antelope have been killed wantonly in the last week, for not more than 1/4 of the meat has been brought to camp. No place is more suitable for a large party to winter than this.
Wednesday 23rd. The American is now very low spirited. He cannot hire a man to go to his cache nor snow shoes, nor does he suspect that I prevented. This day he offered 8 beaver and $50 for a pair and a prime horse to anyone who would carry a letter to the American camp. In this also he failed. I have supplied the American with meat as they cannot procure it without snow shoes. The Americans are starving on Bear River according to report, no buffalo in that quarter, they are reduced to eat horses and dogs. We could not learn from Indians if the American traders had come up from St. Louis.
Friday 25th. Snow and storms continue, a terrible winter. A man who went in quest of lost traps arrived with reports of fearful distress of the Americans. Horses dead, caches rifled. I believe this as a trapper saw calico among the Snakes, traded from the Snakes of the Plains. The Americans are determined to proceed but find it is to no purpose these extravagant offers. They are making snow-shoes themselves wh. they ought to have done 2 wks. ago. I cannot ascertain the motive of their journey south. I dread their returning with liquor.(25) A small quantity would be most advantageous to them but the reverse to me. I know not their intentions but had I the same chance they have, long since I would have had a good stock of liquor here, and every beaver in the camp would be mine. If they succeed in reaching their camp they may bring 20 or 30 trappers here which would be most injurious to my spring hunt. As the party have now only 10 traps, no good can result to us if they succeed in reaching their depot and returning here. We have this in our favor; they have a mountain to cross, and before the snow melts can convey but little property from the depot as with horses they cannot reach here before April.
Saturday 26. The Snakes have now about 400 guns obtained in war excursions against Blackfeet and from trappers they have killed and stolen caches. In the plunder of Reid's Fort,(26) they secured 40. Still these villains are allowed to go unmolested In any other part of the world, the guilty are punished in England a man is executed. Power gives the right. Here we have both power and right, but dare not punish the guilty. Were proper statements sent to England or to the Honuble Hudson's Bay Com. I am confident greater power would be granted to Indian traders; and surely they would not make an improper use of them. This is the plan the American gentlemen adopt with tribes on the Missouri; the Spanish also. The missionaries have done but little: and murders are no longer heard of among the Spaniards. Threats are of no avail among the Snakes.
Sunday 27th. The Americans expect to start tomorrow. Their snow shoes are poor make-shifts and will give them trouble. It will be a month before they can return. Meanwhile there will be no beaver skins left among the Snakes.
Monday 28. At midnight we were surprised to see Portneuf make his appearance. This man set out on the 20th to carry despatches to Mr. McKay and since his departure has only reached Goddin's River wh. distance with our weak horses we performed in 2 1/2 camps. On reaching the river he broke the cock of his rifle. Depth of snow, slow progress, sore eyes, he considered it wisest to return. This is a cruel blow to my prospects. I shall make another attempt by sending three men as soon as I can have snow-shoes made. Only 3 men here have ever seen Salmon River. One is next to blind, the other 2 lame. One of the latter must go. Two Americans this day started for Salt Lake. They are not sanguine; as the man I sent out has failed. They have an arduous task, wretched snow-shoes and this is the first time they ever used them. I sent men with them as far as the Indian village, as they intend sleeping there to-night (in case of stray beaver skin). The ice is very weak. One of the Americans had a narrow escape, a minute more and he would have gone. He made a noble struggle for his life.
Wednesday 30th I fear the man I sent with the Americans has gone off with them. I sent a messenger to the Indian village after him.
Thursday 31. The absent man arrived.
February 1. Men started with express in quest of McKay.
Monday 4th. The 2 Americans who left on 28th unexpectedly made their appearance. Most agreeable to me but a cruel disappointment to them. They could only reach the sources of Portneuf River, whence they returned.
Wednesday 6th. The Americans again making preparations to start for their depot. From precautions taken they may succeed and reach Salt Lake. This will be their third attempt, and they will have no time to lose if they are to return for the spring hunt.
Sunday 10. Men who started in quest of McKay arrived. Again have they failed. Their guide had to return on account of lameness. They reached Day's Defile. I am obliged to make another attempt. It is impossible to make spring arrangements without McKay's party. My men will start again. The 2 Americans again set out for their cache. It is laughable, so many attempts on both sides and no success. Was it not I feared a strong American party here I shd undertake the journey myself and would succeed.
Tuesday 12th Feb. At dawn of day Payette and 2 men set out in quest of McKay. A war party of Blackfeet has taken the direction of Salt Lake. The Americans left here are alarmed at the news not only on account of the two men but for their camp in that quarter. The Americans have only 24 horses left, the rest dead from cold & of the 50 they brought I have no hope one horse can escape, though covered with robes each night. It will be difficult to reach Nez Perce's without them. The distance from this place to Burnt River is 400 miles, with the exception of 80 the navigation is good and with time we could pack our property over this distance.
Saturday 16th. The 2 Americans arrived this afternoon accompanied by one of their traders,(27) and 2 men they met on Portneuf River near the source. They report a fight with the Blackfeet and old Pierre the Iroquois who deserted from me 4 yrs. ago was killed and cut in pieces. Pierre owes a debt to the company but as we have a mortgage on his property in Canada we shall recover. Their traders from St. Louis did not arrive last fall owing to the severe weather in Salt Lake region. All except the freemen of the Flat Heads reached the depot safely. The loss in horses by Blackfeet has been 60. It was a novel sight in this part of the world to see a party arrive with dogs and sleds; for seldom are 2 in. of snow to be found here. They informed me His Royal Highness the Duke of York was dead, and of course the old story that we shall soon be obliged to leave the Columbia. At all events tho' they have later news than I have, the treaty(28) does not expire before November. Then we shall know what to expect.
Monday 18th. By the arrival of the Americans we have a new stock of cards in camp, eight packs. Some of the American trappers have already lost upwards of $400 equal to 200 beavers, or to the Americans 800 beavers. Old Goddin who left me in the fall is in a fair way of going to St. Louis having sold his 8 horses and 10 traps for $1500. He has his fall and spring hunt equal to 600 more wh. makes him an independent man. In the H. B. service with the strictest economy barring accidents in the course of 10 years he might collect that sum. it surprising men, give preference to the American service and pay extravagant prices for beavers?
Tuesday 19th. More rain. The Americans are making preparations to go to the Flat Heads. Their trader, Mr. Campbell, informed me 2 of their trappers Goodrich and Johnson who joined my camp last fall are heavily indebted to his concern. I replied I had no knowledge of the same and that it was his duty to secure his men and debts also. I said my conduct to them was far different from theirs to me four years since.(29) He said it was regretted; that there was no regular company otherwise I shd. have received compensation. It may be so. At all events, dependent on me, they cannot acknowledge less. I have acted honorable and shall continue so.
Wednesday 20th. The 2 trappers are to return to the Americans. 30 tents of Snakes are starving near us. Stormy weather prevents the Americans attempting to cross the Barren Plains.
Saturday 23rd. American party left for the Flat Heads and perhaps the Kootenays. They have a long journey but are well provided, tho' very silent regarding the object of the journey. I believe they intend trapping the forks of the Missouri for which they are strong enough in numbers. Two of our horses dying a day from cold.
March 1828. Cloudy cold weather. Scarcely risen when Payette made his appearance with 2 of McKay's men. He found McKay camped on the forks of Salmon River. He had sent 3 times in quest of us, but without success. He reports beaver 350, loss of horses 8. They found snug winter quarters, buffalo numerous, only 6 inches of snow. The men arrived snow blind.
Monday 3rd March. Two Americans off for Salt Lake. They do not intend to return. The Indian who started last fall with my express for McKay, and did not reach him, and I concluded he is dead. I wish my letter could reach the Columbia before the spring express starts for York.
Monday 17. The Americans now 5 in number more or less starving do not attempt to take beaver but gamble from morning to night. May they continue. My trappers are not idle. One canoe is finished; preparations for 2 more. Will take beaver with our canoes.
Wednesday 26 March. Americans with us since December departed for Salt Lake. We separated on good terms.
Thursday 27. Two Americans arrived from Salt Lake surprised not to find their party here, whom they came to assist across the mountains. They intend going to the Utahs and started for Portneuf River. Two of McKay's men arrived with a letter. He cannot reach Day's Defile owing to the great depth of snow. He despairs of joining me. It will be impossible for us to go to Henry's Fork. Our numbers are too weak to face the war tribes. I have ordered McKay to try and join me.
Saturday 30th. Moved to Portneuf River opposite the American camp.
Tuesday 1st Ap. Encamped at Snake River.
8th Tuesday. I have appointed Sylvaille to trap Sickly River with 6 men to be at Nez Perces by end of July.
Tuesday 17 April. Encamped Snake River 100 yds. from Benoit's grave. I warned the trappers to on guard against the Blackfeet. I have doubled day and night guard owing to the Blackfeet across the river.
Wednesday 23rd. Encamped on Blackfoot Hills.
Thursday 24th. Have completed our 2nd M of beaver, independent of McKay's success. If no accident happens Sylvaille's part, I might reach Vancouver with 4000. I have only 16 men and dare not go to the source of these streams.
Friday 25th Ap. Fine weather at last, 2 of the trappers arrived having narrowly escaped the Blackfeet. I wish to God McKay's party would make their appearance, and relieve my anxiety. Shd. an accident happen us all is lost.
Sunday 27 Apr. Crossed Blackfoot Hills and camped opposite side Blackfoot River near to discharge in south branch. From the top of Blackfoot Hill I could see plainly the Barren Plains of Three Knobs and entrance of Day's Defile no appearance of snow. At a loss to account for McKay's delay.
Tuesday 6 May. Began retracing steps for Ft. Vancouver from entrance of Blackfoot River. Heard 5 shots across river, sent to reconnoitre and found 5 of McKay's men who reported that gentleman 5 miles distant. They have been detained by snow.
Thursday 8th. McKay and party arrived with 440 beaver. This strengthens us against the Blackfeet.
Saturday 10th May. Fine weather; saw the track of a large band of horses and suspect the Blackfeet have stolen them from the Americans. The day guard called to arms and at a distance we saw an armed party on horseback making for our camp. In a second we were in readiness and having secured horses advanced to
meet them but in lieu of Blackfeet they proved to be Plains Snakes returned from Henry Forks. They report 2 days since raiding a party of Blackfeet. In the loot were clothes, hunters hats shoes etc horses belonging to the Americans who wintered with us. The furs were left on the plains. A convincing proof the Americans have been murdered and pillaged, knowing how blood thirsty the Bl. are and how careless the Americans. The sight of this caused gloom in camp. We may be doomed to the same fate. God preserve us. The Snakes are on the way to Salt Lake to find Americans there and obtain reward for restoration of property.
Saturday 24. Again a stormy night of rain. Trappers started at an early hour and soon 2 arrived with the alarm Blkft! that Louis La Valle was killed within half a mile of camp. I gave orders to secure the horses and sent McKay with 12 men to rescue 4 trappers in the same direction fearing they were also killed. At mid day he returned with the body of the deceased wh. he found naked on the plains but not scalped. The absent trapper also came in with him. After the Blk. had killed La Valle they were discovered by the trappers, who hid. The war party 60 in number have come from Salt Lake. They had a bale wrapper with the Am. Co's name on it. I had the body interred-valuable smart loss. He leaves a wife and 3 children, destitute.
(The month of June spent in crossing back over the mountains.)
Tuesday 8 July. At dawn of day Mr. McKay left with a man preceding us to Sandwich Island River to find Sylvaille whom he found at the Indian Fish Pen. Two had gone to Nez Perces and they had been attacked by 150 Blkft. on May 20 one woman killed. one Blkft. killed all horses lost but 650 beaver concealed in a cache on Sickly River.
Monday 14 July. Left South Branch of Snake River and reached Burnt River; joined by 40 Indians on the way to the fort.
Thursday 17 July. Reached powder River were met by 20 men sent from Nez Perces by Mr. Black. The interior brigade,(30) has not yet reached Fort Nez Perces. Leaving the brigade in charge of F. Payette, I shall to-morrow leave for the fort.
Saturday 19th. Reached Nez Perces--all well.
Tuesday 22nd July. Brigade arrived safe. Mr. McKay's party will join us at Ft. Vancouver. So ends my 4th trip to the Snake Country and I have to regret the loss of lives. The returns far exceed my expectations.
1. See Journal of Nath. Wyeth in "Sources of Oregon History," Vol 1, p. 74.
2. Fort Nez Perces or Walla Walla at mouth of the Walla Walla river, Mr. Samuel Black in Command.
3. Probably the trail from the forks of the Walla Walla river seven miles above Milton, Oregon, across to the Grand Ronde valley, afterward the regular toll gate road.
4. Not a very frequent designation for the Grand Ronde river.
5. Burnt river.
6. Owyhee river, so named by Mr. Reed or Mr. Mackenzie of the Pac. Fur Company because some Islanders killed there.
7. The Weiser river.
8. Rather far west to find so many Amer. trappers and Mr. Ogden thinks of turning back in disgust, but decides finally to keep on.
9. Snake river.
10. The Boise river, first called Reed's river after John Reed of the Pac. Fur company.
11. Not the Malade of extreme So. Idaho which drains into Great Salt Lake.
12. On May 24th, 1825. See Or. Hist. Quarterly, Dec. 1909, P. 333
13. Difficult to positively identify these streams, but the river named Malade by Mr. Mackenzie seems to have been the Big Wood river of today, and that so called by Mr. Ross a fork of the Salmon; Goddin's river seems to be Big Lost river and Day's river to be Little Lost river of today's maps.
14. Donald Mackenzie trapped here in 1819 and 1820, as member of the Northwest Company of Canada.
15. The Three Tetons, and the three buttes of the lava beds of Idaho west of Blackfoot.
16. Early start for the dash across the lava beds or desert of Idaho to the Snake river near Blackfoot or Pocatello.
17. Still so designated on map of Idaho.
18. Meaning Utah Lake or Sevier Lake, where Gen. Ashley and his successors had headquarters; some 200 miles by trail to the southward, by way of Portneuf and Green rivers.
19. Not far west of Pocatello, Idaho; Fort Hall built near here by Nath. Wyeth six years later.
20. Indicates that the H. B. Company sent trading parties from some Canadian Fort as well as from Vancouver.
21. Samuel Tulloch; mentioned by Chittenden, but little known of him.
22. Refers to expedition of 1824-5, concerning which see Or. Hist. Quar. for December, 1909; the Mr. Gardner may have been Johnson Gardner, who is mentioned by Chittenden.
23. Jedediah S. Smith, D. E. Jackson, or Wm. L Sublette, proprietors of the Rocky Mt. Fur Company.
24. On July 18th, 1826; see Hist. Amer. Fur Trade, p. 280.
25. This was what caused the trouble in May, 1825, already alluded to, if we understand correctly.
26. On what is now Boise river in January, 1814; built by John Reed.
27. Robert Campbell; see entry of Feb. 19th infra and Hist. of Amer. Fur Trade, P. 260.
28. The treaty of Joint Occupation between England and the U.S. agreed to in November, 1818. Mr. Ogden did not know that it had already been renewed.
29. In the spring of 1825; see introductory notes.
30. Carrying the furs from Thompson river and Kootenai and Flathead districts down the river to Fort Vancouver.