From Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 14, p. 366 (Dec. 1913)
JOURNAL OF ALEXANDER ROSS - SNAKE COUNTRY EXPEDITION, 1824
EDITORIAL NOTES By T. C. ELLIOTT
Alexander Ross, whose day-to-day experiences in 1824 appear in this journal, did service in many parts of the Old Oregon country. As a member of the Pacific Fur Company he arrived on the Columbia in March, 1811, and assisted in the building of Fort Astoria, and in the fall of the same year assisted in the building of the first Fort Okanogan., at which post he was stationed for several years; from there he made trips south to the Yakima country, west to the summit of the Cascades, north to Thompson river and beyond, and east to the Spokane country. Later, while staff clerk of the Northwest Company at Fort George, he ascended the Willamette, and in 1818 assisted Donald McKenzie in the building of Fort Nez Perce at the mouth of the Walla Walla river, of which fort he was in charge until 1823. That summer he started to cross the mountains and quit the service, the Hudson's Bay Company having succeeded the Northwest Company, but was stopped at Boat Encampment by a letter from Deputy Governor George Simpson, asking him to take charge of the Snake Country Expedition that fall. This appointment he accepted and returned to Spokane House and thence proceeded to the Flathead Post in what is now Montana, where this journal begins. Returning from this expedition he spent the winter at the Flathead Post and in April, 1825, joined Governor Simpson at the mouth of the Spokane river on the way east to the Red River settlements, where he resided until his death in 1856.
Mr. Ross is one of the four writers upon whom we depend for much that is known about the early exploration of and fur trade in this vast Columbia river basin. In 1849, more than twenty years after his active experiences here, he published a book entitled "Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River," and in 1855 he put out another book entitled, "Fur Hunters of the Far West." It is related that Mr. Ross first left his paternal home in Scotland in 1804, from which it may be estimated that he was more than sixty years of age when completing these books, which, from their context, evidently were based upon some journal or memoranda then at hand. There has been and probably always will be a question as to how closely he followed any such original memoranda and how much he drew from memory. The publication of this journal is therefore valuable to the extent that it assists in answering that question, and it should be read in immediate comparison with the first 160 pages of Vol. II. of "Fur Hunters of the Far West," Smith, Elder & Co., London, 1855. It may be noted also that the preface of Mr. Ross' first book was dated in 1846 and that pages 154-5 of Vol. II. of his "Fur Hunters," contains a footnote suggesting that at least a part of it had been written much earlier.
The original of this journal is to be found in the possession of the Hudson's Bay Company at their head office on Lime street, London, but this text has been carefully copied from an original copy belonging to the Ayers Collection in the Newberry Library at Chicago, Ill.; that original copy was made by Miss Agnes C. Laut in preparation for writing her "Conquest of the Great Northwest," and was by her transferred to the Newberry Library. To the writer of these notes, it seems possible that this is not the journal that Mr. Ross had when writing his books and that he had other papers than those formally turned over to the Hudson's Bay Company. This suggestion is based upon the fact that other personal journals have been found among the family archives of contemporaneous fur traders, also upon other deductions. The reader will regret that seemingly Miss Laut did not find it necessary to copy the entire text of the original in the H. B. Co. House at London.
Referring to the journal itself it will be found that from Eddy, in Montana, Mr. Ross' party followed very closely the present- route of the Northern Pacific Railway as far as Missoula, which is at the mouth of Hell Gate Canyon and River (Porte d'Infer, as the French half-breeds first named it) ; thence he proceeded south up the Bitter Root Valley, along the stream which is the original Clark's Fork of the Columbia named by Captain Lewis when at its source in 1805. On a small mountain prairie of the easterly fork of this stream he was snowbound for a month, and that prairie has very properly been known ever since as Ross' Hole. Finally he succeeded in forcing a way across the continental divide by what is now known as the Gibbon Pass (but which Olin D. Wheeler rightly says should be called Clark's Pass), over to Big Hole Prairie, where a monument now stands commemorating the battle between General Gibbon and Chief Joseph during that memorable Nez Perce retreat in 1877. Mr. Ross now crossed the various small source streams of the Big Hole or Wisdom river and passed over the low divide to the Beaverhead, which is another of the sources of Jefferson's Fork of the Missouri. Thence he again crossed the continental divide southwest into Idaho, using perhaps the same pass that Lewis and Clark had in 1805 and was upon the waters of the Lemhi river, and then spent the entire summer and early fall upon the mountain streams of central Idaho, including the Snake river from the Weiser southward a considerable distance. He returned by practically the same route and arrived at Flathead fort the last of November.
As the Lewis and Clark party in 1805-6 traveled over a part of this same route it is very interesting in this connection to compare with the careful and voluminous notes of Dr. Elliott Coues and Mr. Olin D. Wheeler, both of whom personally followed the path of those explorers through these mountains.
But the really beautiful as well as valuable portion of this journal is the brief and vivid picture of the grand assembly of the Indians at their customary council ground, Horse Plains, in December, 1824, and the ceremonial opening of the annual trading period at the Flathead Post, followed by the outfitting of the next Snake Expedition under Mr. Peter Skene Ogden, the brief mention of the holiday season at the fort, and of the closing up and departure of the trader in the spring. Here are facts and figures useful to the writers of poetry and romance, as well as to the historian.
JOURNAL OF ALEXANDER ROSS; SNAKE COUNTRY EXPEDITION, 1824
(As Copied By Miss Agnes Laut In 1905 From Original In Hudson's Bay Company House, London, England)
Tuesday, 10th of February.
Our party was as follows:
|Thyery Goddin||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Joseph Vail||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Louis Paul||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses||1 lodge|
|Francois Faniaint||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Antoine Sylvaille||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Laurent Quintal||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Joseph Annance||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Jean Bapt Gadaira||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Pierre Depot||1 gun||3 traps||2 horses|
|Francois Rivet, interp||2 guns||6 traps||15 horses||1 lodge|
|Alexander Ross||1 gun||6 traps||16 horses||1 lodge|
|11 men||12||33 (?)||50 (?)||3|
1824, Feb. 10. Every preparation for the voyage being made, I left Flat Head House(1) in the afternoon in order to join the Free Men who were encamped at Prairie de Cheveaux.(2)Joined the Free Men and encamped. Snow 18 inches deep. Weather cold. General course east, 8 miles. Statement of Free Men Trappers, Snake Country.
|Men||Traps||Guns||Horses||On the Books|
|Charles Gros Louis||3||16||4||10||2|
|Geo. Louis Gros||3||12||3||9||2|
|43||173 (?)||50||181||34 (?)|
|Total 20 lodges||54||206||62||231|
Many of these people are too old for a long voyage and very indifferent trappers. Iroquois, though good trappers, are very unfit for a Snake voyage, being always at variance with the whites,. too fond of trafficking away their goods with the natives. More harm than good to our expedition.
1824, February, Wednesday 11th. All hands being assembled together and provisions scarce, we lost no time leaving Prairie de Cheveaux. Proceeded till we reached Prairie de Camas(3) and put up for the night. Several deer seen. Weather cold. Snow 15 inches, wind east. General course east by south, distance 12 miles.
Thursday 12th. Remained in camp on chance of killing deer - people badly off for provisions. Murmuring among the Iroquois, but I could not learn the cause. High wind, heavy snow, wind east.
Friday, 13th. Early this a.m. the Iroquois asked to see their accounts. I showed them article by article and showed them their amounts wh. Seemed to surprise them not a little. Some time after leaving camp I was told that the worthy Iroquois had remained behind. I therefore went back, and true enough, the whole black squad, Martin excepted, had resolved to leave us, old Pierre at their head! On being asked the cause Pierre spoke at length. The others grumbled, saying the price allowed for their furs was so small in proportion to the exorbitant advance on goods sold them, they were never able to pay their debts much less make money and would not risk their lives any more in the Snake Country. Old Pierre held out that Mr. Ogden last fall promised there would be no more N. W. currency; this they construed to be paying half for their goods. I told them whatever had been promised would be performed. Although I had balanced their accounts, they could be altered if required. It was at headquarters accounts would be settled. They grumbled and talked, and talked and grumbled and at last consented to proceed. Thinks I to myself-this is the beginning. Having gained the blacks, we followed and camped at the Traverse(4) plain covered with but 10 inches of snow, weather fine, course S. E. Distance 10.
Saturday 14th. Early on our journey except four lodges hunting deer. Proceeded to fork called Riviere aux Marons,(5) where many wild horses are said to be. Our Horses are lean. Seeing the Iroquois apart from the whites I suspected plotting and sent for Pierre and Martin. Gave them a memo. importing that N. W. currency was done away with and their accounts would be settled with Quebec currency or sterling. This pleased. All is quiet. S. E.
Sunday 15th. Remained in camp on account of bad weather and for hunters who brought in four wild horses and seven deer. These horses are claimed by the Flathead tribes; those who kill them have to pay four skins Indian currency. Wind high.
Monday 16th. On our journey early. Delayed by a pour, rain, sleet, snow. Passed the Forks, left main branch Flathead, River followed up Jacques Fork(6) till we made a small rivulet on the south side which our people named Riviere Maron. Country is pleasant, animals small and lean. Traps produced nothing. Course S. E., distance nine miles.
Tuesday 17th. Left camp early, the people grumbling to remain. Passed three lodges of Tete Pletes. Francois Rivet(7) caught a beaver; but the wolves devoured, it, skin and all. Course S. SE., distance twelve miles.
Wednesday 18th. Remained in camp to hunt and refresh horses before entering the mountains. I appointed Vieux Pierre to head the Iroquois, Mr. Montour(8) the Ft. de Prairie(9) Half Breeds, and myself the remainder so the sentiments of the camp may be known by a council: among so many unruly, ill-tongued villains. Four elk and twenty-five small deer brought to camp. Louis killed nine with ten shots.
Friday 20th.(10) Detained in camp by sleet and rain.
Saturday 21st. Antoine Valle's boy died.
Monday 23rd. Passed the defile(11) of the mountains between Jacques and Courtine forks. End of defile had a view of noted place called Hell's Gate, so named from being frequented by war parties of young Blackfeet and, Piegans. We were met by eight Piegans and a drove of dogs in train with, provisions and robes to trade at the Flathead post. At Courtine's Fork, the country opens finely to view clumps of trees and level plains alternately. The freemen in spite of all we could say like a band of wolves seized on the Piegan's load:, one a robe, another a piece of fat, a third a cord, a fourth an appichinon, till nothing remained and, for a few articles of trash paid in ammunition treble the value. These people put no value on property. It would be better to turn these vagabonds adrift with the Indians and treat them as Indians.
Tuesday 24th. Remained in camp to hunt. Traded seven beaver from the Piegans. As they were going off we saluted them with the brass gun to show them that it at least makes a noise.
Wednesday 25th. Passed Piegan River(12) the war road to this quarter. Here the road divides to the Snake country, one following the Piegan River, the other Courtine's Fork(13) both to the Snakes S. E. We followed the latter, a continuation of S. fork of Flathead River. Elk and small deer in great plenty. Flocks of swans flying about. Was informed that two Iroquois, Laurent and Lazard, had deserted. Assembling a small party, I went in pursuit of the villains. After sixteen miles we came up with them, partly by persuasion, partly by force, brought them along after dark. Old Pierre behaved well. Lazard had disposed of his new rifle and ammunition for a horse. Lazard had sold his lodge. Though encamped in a most dangerous place, not a freeman would guard the horses.
Thursday 26th. The general cry was for remaining to hunt. I assented. It may be asked why I did not command. I answer to command when we have power of enforcing the command does very well; otherwise, to command is one thing; to obey, another.
Friday 27th. Hunt yesterday, twenty-seven elk, six deer.
Sunday 28th. All this day in camp to wait those laggard freemen who arrived in the evening and camped on the opposite side of the river to show contrary.
Tuesday March(14). There fell seven inches of snow; south wind soon dispelled the gloom. This being a good place for horses, we resolved to pass the day to prepare for passing the mountains between the headwaters of the Flathead and Missouri Rivers. Killed eleven elk, four sheep, seven deer. They're very fat here.
Thursday 11th. Proceeding over slippery stony road, at every bend a romantic scene opens. The river alone prevents the hills embracing. Our road following the river crossing and recrossing. Here a curiosity called the Ram's Horn"(15) - out of a large pine five feet from root projects a ram's head, the horns of which are transfixed to the middle. The natives cannot tell when this took place but tradition says when the first hunters passed this way, he shot an arrow at a mountain ram and wounded him; the animal turned on his assailant who jumped behind a tree. The animal missing its aim pierced the tree with his horns and killed himself. The horns are crooked and very large. The tree appears to have grown round the horns. Proceeded over zigzag road.
Monday 15th(16). Early this morning thirty men, ten boys, fifty horses set off to beat the road through five feet of snow for twelve miles. Late in the evening all hands arrived well pleased with day's work having made three miles. The horses had to be swum through it, their plunges frequently disappearing altogether. Geese and swan seen in passage north today.
Thursday 18th. This morning sent off forty men with shovels and fifty horses to beat the road. Weather bad with snow and drift, they returned to camp. The crust is eight ( ?) inches thick lying under two feet of snow. Owing to crust the horses made no headway. There are now eight miles of the road made, oft the prospect is gloomy, people undecided whether to continue or turn back.
Friday 19th. We did not resume our labors today owing to the drift. This country abounds with mountain Sheep weighing about seventy pounds. Late today John Grey, a turbulent leader among the Iroquois, came to my lodge as spokesman to inform me he and ten others had resolved to abandon the party and turn back. I asked him why? He said they would lose the spring hunt by remaining here, were tired of so large a band, and did not engage to dig snow and make roads. It told him I was surprised to hear a good quiet honest fellow udder such language, God forgive me for saying so. I said by going back they would lose the whole year's hunt, and here a sudden change in weather would allow us to begin hunting. Danger required us to keep together for safety. John answered he was neither a soldier nor a slave; he was under the control of no man. I told him he was a freeman of good character and to be careful not to stain it. In, my heart I thought otherwise. I saw John in his true colors, a turbulent blackguard, a damned rascal. He said fair words were very good but back he would go. "You are no stronger than other men" said I, "stopped you will be! I will stop you," and he said he would like to see the man who could stop him. I said I would stop him. If his party walked off the expedition would fail. Vieux Pierre interrupted by coming in. John went off cursing the large band, the Snake country and the day he came to it! So another day ends.
Saturday 20th. Stormy. John as he swore, did not turn back nor any of his gang. I suspect he is plotting to raise a rebellion. If he succeeds, it will injure our prospects if not stop us altogether. In the evening the cry of "enemies, enemies, Blackfeet! Piegans" was vociferated in the camp. All hands rushed out when the enemies proved to be six friendly Nez Perces separated from their camp on the buffalo ground and in snow shoes made way to us across the mountains. They have been five days on this journey. They told us the Blackfeet and Piegans had stolen horses out of the Flathead and Nez Perces' camp nine different times and they were preaching up (!) peace and good fellowship. The Blackfeet had made a war excursion against the Snakes, killed eight, taken some slaves and many horses. That the buffalo were in great plenty but the snow very deep. The Piegans were seen in seven bands. Cannot these outlandish devils disturbing the peace be annihilated or reduced?
Sunday 21st. Finding John at the head of a party, I sent for the intriguing scamp and agreed with him to hunt me animals, whenever I should want any, from which source his debt of 4,000 livres is to be reduced 400 livres or about twenty beaver. To this he agreed. All quiet once more. It is impossible to proceed without these hunters.
Tuesday 23rd. Early this a.m. thirty persons went on snow shoes across the mountains to the buffalo. I feel anxious, very anxious, at our long delay here. The people grumble much. The sly deep dog Laurent who once already deserted left camp today and turned back. He was off before I had any knowledge of it and told his comrades he was going to the Nez Perces' camp to trade meat, but would come again. Our camp abounds with meat. The dog has no thought of returning unless the Indians cast him out as he deserves. A more discordant, headstrong, ill-designing set of rascals than form this camp God never permitted together in the fur trade.
Wednesday 24th. All quiet in camp today.
Thursday 25th. All the women went off to collect berries.
Sunday 28th. The buffalo hunters came back today, buffalo in plenty; thirty killed, six of the men brought over 140 pounds of dried meat but becoming snow blind could not secure ( ?) the meat left behind. Grass began to appear through the snow.
Tuesday 30th. A meeting today to decide whether to make the rest of the road or not. It was agreed to wait seven or eight days, another party to go buffalo hunting.
Friday 2nd (April) Today I was surprised by the return of Laurent. He says he went as far as Hell's Gate but finding no beaver came back. The truth is, he saw the Piegans, got a fright and came back.
Monday 5th. Were visited by fifty Nez Perces just arrived from buffalo country loaded with provisions. Our people commenced a trade with them so brisk that hardly a ball was left among the freemen nor a mouthful of provisions amongst the Indians. When these people meet Indians, a frenzy siezes them. What madness in them, and what folly in the company to be furnishing such people with means. It was now we learned the truth of Laurent's trip back. He was sent by the Iroquois to get these Indians to trade with us. This visit has left our people almost naked and cost 100 balls to send our visitors off pleased.
Wednesday 7th. Nez Perces went off.
Friday 9th. After a pause of twenty-six days we shifted quarters two miles ahead.
Saturday 10th. This morning none of the freemen would work on the road except old Pierre, who alone went and alone worked. A novel trick brought about a change. Old Cadiac dit, Grandreau having made a drum and John Grey a fiddle, the people were entertained with a concert of music(17) Taking advantage of the good humor, I got all to consent to go to the road tomorrow.
Wednesday 14th. This morning on going to my lodge in camp, I could muster only seven persons with twenty horses to finish the last mile of the road. In the evening we raised camp and moved to the foot of the mountain at the source of Flathead River, 345 miles from its joining the Columbia. The river is navigable for 250 miles.
Thursday 15th. This day we passed the defile(18) of the mountains after a most laborious journey both for man and beast. Long before daylight, we were on the road, in order to profit by the hardness of the crust. From the bottom to the top of the mountain is about one and a half miles. Here is a small creek, the source of the Missouri, in this direction between which and the source of the Flathead River is scarce a mile distant. The creek runs a course nearly S. SE. following, the road through the mountain till it joins a principal branch of the Missouri beyond the Grand Prairie(19). For twelve miles, the road had been made through five feet deep snow but the wind had filled it up again. The last eight miles we had to force our way through snow gullies. At 4 p.m. we encamped on the other side of the defile without loss or accident. Distance today, eighteen miles. This high land is a horn of the Rocky Mountains, called the Blue Mountains. It is the dividing ridge(20) between the Nez Perces and Snake Nations and terminates near the Columbia. The delay has cost loss of one month and to the freemen 1,000 beaver. Two men should winter here and keep the road open at all seasons.
Friday 16th. Encamped here to make lodge poles for the voyage.
Saturday 17th. Proceeded to the main fork(21) of Missouri hobbled our horses and set watch. It was on this flat prairie 400 Piegans came up with Mr. McDonald(22) last fall and a freeman named Thomas Anderson from the east side of the mountains was killed.
Monday 19th. As we are on dangerous ground, I have drawn up the following rules:
(1)All hands to raise camp together and by call.
(2)The camp to march as close as possible.
(3)No person to run ahead.
(4)No persons to set traps till all hands camp.
(5)No person to sleep out of camp.
These rules which all agreed to were broken before night.
Wednesday 21st. Thirty beaver today. The freemen will keep no watch on their horses but to tie them and sleep fast.
Thursday 22nd. Thirty-five beaver taken,six feet left in the trap. Twenty-five traps missing. Boisterous weather today. The freemen left their horses to chance, nor did they collect them during the storm at night.
Discordant people fill up the cup
Indifference and folly will soon drink it up
But loss and misfortune must be the lot
When care and attention are wholly forgot.
Friday 23rd. Bad weather keeps us in camp. That scamp the Salteux and worthless fellow his nephew threaten to leave because I found fault with them for breaking the rules. If they attempt it, I am determined to strip them naked.
Saturday 24th. Crossed beyond the boiling fountain(23), snow knee deep. We encamp in the spot where the Flathead and Nez Perces fought a battle four years ago. Herds of buffalo grazing here: sixteen killed. The camp is now under guard. Half the people snow blind from the sun glare.
Monday 26th. Crossed to Middle Forks(24)
of the Missouri, smaller than the first fork with which it unites ten miles from here. A large herd of buffalo here; upwards of twenty killed, two young calves brought to camp alive. This is a Piegan trail where three years ago, the freemen had battle with the Piegans and a Nez Perces lad was shot last year.
Tuesday 27th. After camping, We mounted the brass gun and shot it three times for practice.
Wednesday 28th. Forty-four beaver to camp today.
Thursday 29th. Leaving the Missouri, crossed over to the Nez Perces River called the Salmon River(25). It is a branch of the river on which Lewis and Clarke fell in leaving the Missouri for the Pacific. Followed tip the middle fork of Missouri to its source, then ascending a hill fell on the waters of the Salmon. Passed a deserted Piegan camp of thirty-six lodges. This place is rendered immemorial as being the place where about ten Piegans, murderers of our people, were burnt to death. The road in the defile we passed from the Missouri to this river is a Piegan and Blackfoot pass of most dangerous, sort for a lurking enemy; and yet all the freemen dispersed by twos and twos. The rules are totally neglected. Here birds are singing and spring smiles. All traps out for the first time since we left the fort.
Friday 30th. Only forty-two beaver. Remain in camp today. Three people slept out in spite of rules and I had to threaten not to give single ball to them if they did not abide by the rifles. All promised fair and all is quiet.
May, Saturday 1st. Fifty-five beaver today.
Thursday 6th. On a rough calculation all the beaver in camp amount to 600 skins, one-tenth of our expected returns.
Monday 10th(26). This morning I proposed that a small party should go on a trip of discovery for beaver across the range of mountains which bounds this river on the west in the hope of finding the headwaters of Reid's River which enters the main Snake River below the fall, on which a post was begun by Mr. McKenzie in 1819. I might say begun by Mr. Reid in 1813. For this trip, I could get only three men.
Tuesday 11th. Took fifty beaver and shifted camp.
Wednesday 12th. Caught fifty beaver. Went up to headwaters of the river. This is the defile where in 1819 died John Day(27); a little farther on the three knobs so conspicuous for being seen.
Monday 17th.(28) Resolved to make a cache here. Hiding furs in places frequented by Indians is a risky business.
Wednesday 19th. Got a drum made for the use of the camp. It is beat every evening regularly at the watch over the horses and to rouse all hands in the morning.
Wednesday 26th.(29) Again at Canoe Point on Salmon River.
Saturday 29th. Crossed over height of land which divides the waters of the Salmon and the Snake descended to Goddin's River(30) named in 1820 by the discoverer Thyery Goddin. The main south branch of the Columbia, the Nez Perces, the main Snake River and Lewis River, are one and the same differently named. I have determined to change my course and steer for the source of the Great Snake River near the Three Pilot Knobs (Three Tetons) a place which abounds both in beaver and Blackfeet. I told the people danger, or no danger, beaver was our object and a hunt we would make.
Monday 31st. Left eight to trap Goddin's River and raised camp for head of the Salmon.
Sunday 6th (June). The two men (________________________) and Beauchamp who went off yesterday were robbed by the Piegans, had a narrow escape with their lives and got back to camp a little after dark having traveled on foot forty miles. On their way to the place to meet our people they discovered a smoke and taking it to be our people advanced within pistol shot when behold it proved to be a camp of Piegans. Wheeling, they had hardly time to take shelter among a few willows when they were surrounded, fifteen armed men on horseback. Placing their horses between themselves and the enemy, our people squatted down to conceal themselves. The Piegans advanced within five paces, when our people raising their guns made them fall back. The Indians kept capering and yelling around them cock sure of their prey. The women had also collected on a small eminence to act a willing part, having on their arrow finders and armed with lances. During this time, the two men had crept among, the bushes, mud and water a little out of the way and night approaching made their escape leaving behind horses, saddles, traps. They saw the tracks of our people near the Piegan camp and that is all we know of them. We fear they have been discovered but little hope of their escaping as they lead little ammunition.
Coison said the Piegans were the rear guard of a large war party, from the great quantity of baggage, the men not exceeding twenty-five.
I called the camp together and proposed to start with twenty men to find our people and pay the Piegans a visit, the camp to remain till my return. The general opinion over ruled my wishes, thinking it safer to move camp more distant, than go for the men.
Monday 7th. At an early hour saddled our horses. The road proved short to Goddin's River S.W. After letting our horses eat a little, I fitted out a party of twenty men well armed to go in quest of our people. They set off at sunset, old Pierre in command, with orders to find our people and observe peace unless attacked.
Tuesday 8th. All hands in camp; a park enclosed from horses. The big gun mounted and loaded.
Wednesday 9th. Five of the twenty men back tired out; no news.
June 10th Thursday.(31) All arrived safe this afternoon. The Blackfeet taking to flight. Since they separated from us, the eight trappers had taken fifty-two beaver. The party lost my spyglass.
Friday 11th June. Twelve men fitted out for Henry's Fork to meet at the fork on 25th Sept., our party go up Goddin's River.
Wednesday 16th June. Took twenty-five beaver, the first of our second thousand, low indeed at this advanced season. The signs for beaver are very fine; in one place I counted 148 trees large and small cut down by beaver in the space of 100 yards. Last night eight feet and seven toes left in the traps. Fifteen traps missing, making loss of thirty beaver.
Saturday 19th. Had a fright from the Piegans. This morning when almost all hands were at their traps scattered by ones and twos only ten men left in camp, the Blackfeet to the number of forty all mounted descended at full speed. The trappers were so divided, they could render each other no assistance so they took to their heels among the bushes throwing beaver one way, traps another. Others leaving beaver, horses and traps, took to the rocks for refuge. Two, Jacques and John Grey, were pursued in the open plain. Seeing their horses could not save them, like two heroes wheeled about and rode up to the enemy,who immediately surrounded them. The Piegan chief asked them to exchange guns;but they refused. He then seized Jacques' rifle but Jacques held fast and after a little scuffle jerked it from them saying "If you wish to kill us, kill us at once; but our guns you shall never get while we are alive." The Piegans smiled, shook hands, asked where the camp was and desired to be conducted to it. With pulses beating as if any moment would be their last, Jacques and John advanced with their unwelcome guests to the camp eight miles distant. A little before arriving, Jacques at full speed came in ahead whooping, and yelling "the Blackfeet ! the Blackfeet!" but did not tell us they were on speaking terms. In an instant the camp was in an uproar. Of the ten men in camp, eight went to drive in the horses. Myself and the others instantly pointed the big gun lighted the match and sent the women away. By this time the party hove in sight but seeing John with them restrained me from firing and I made signs to them to stop. Our horses were secured I then received them coldly well recollecting the circumstances of the two men on the 6th and not doubting it was the same party. All our people except two came in and the camp was in a state of defense. I invited them to a smoke. Their, story was: We left our lands in spring as all embassy of peace to the Snakes, but while smoking with them on terms of friendships they treacherously shot our chief; we resented the insult and killed two of them. We are now on the way to meet our friends the Flatheads." They said the camp was not far off and the party 100 strong. They denied any knowledge of the 6th inst. After dark they entertained us to music and dancing all of which we could have dispensed with. Our people threw away thirty-two beaver; twenty were brought in. A strong guard for the horses. All slept armed.
Sunday 20th. Again invited the Piegans to smoke; gave them presents; and told them to set off and play no tricks for we would follow them to their own land to punish them. They saddled horses and sneaked off one by one along the bushes for 400 yards then took to the mountains. The big gun commanded respect.
Monday 21st. Decamped. Found a fresh scalp; sixty-five beaver today.
Thursday 24th. This is the spot where Mr. McKenzie and party fell on this river in spring of 1820 on the way to Ft. Nez Perces.
Saturday 3rd July.(32) We left River Malade and proceeded to the head of Reid's River.(33) In 1813 during the Pacific Fur Company, Mr. Reid with a party of ten men chiefly trappers, wintered here; in spring, they were all cut off by the natives. After Mr. Reid this river was named. At its mouth an establishment was begun by Donald McKenzie in 1819. It was burned and two men killed. In spring 1820, four men more were destroyed by the natives. This river has already cost the whites sixteen men.
August 24th. Number of miles traversed to date, 1,050; number of horses lost, 18.
Saturday, Sept. 18th.(34) While our people were crossing the height of land, I left the front and taking one man with me ascended the top of a lofty peak situated between the sources of River Malade and Salmon River, whence I had a very extensive view of the surrounding country. Both rivers were distinctly seen. The chain of mountains which for 150 miles separates the waters of the Salmon River from those which enter the Great Snake lie nearly E. W.
Wednesday 6th Oct.(35) Our cache of May is safe. Length of Salmon River covered this year, 100 miles.
Oct. 7th. Beaver taken out of cache, counted and packed and carried along with us.
Tuesday, 12th Oct. This morning after and illness of twenty days during which we carried him on a stretcher died Jean Bat Boucher, aged 65, an honest man.
Thursday, 14th Oct. Today Pierre arrived pilaged and destitute. This conduct has been blamable since they left us. They passed the time with the indians and neglected their hunts, quarrelled with the indians at last, were then robbed and left naked on the plains. The loss of twelve out of twenty trappers is no small consideration. With these vagabonds arrived twenty american trappers from the Big Horn River but whom I rather take to be spies than trappers. Regarding our deserters of 1822 accounts do not agree. It is evident part of them have reached the American posts on the Yellowstone and Big Hole with much fur. I suspect these Americans have been on the lookout to decoy more. The scalp furs and horses carried last year to Fort des Prairies by the Blackfeet belonged to, this establishment. The quarter is swarming with trappers who next season are to penetrate the Snake country with a Major Henry(36)
at their head, the same gentleman who fifteen years ago wintered on Snake River. The report of these men on the price of beaver has a very great influence on our trappers. The seven trappers have in two different caches 900 beaver. I made them several propositions but they would not accept lower than $3 a pound. I did not consider myself authorized to arrange at such prices. The men accompanied us to the Flatheads. There is a leading person with them. They intend following us to the fort.
Saturday 16th. Sent our express, to Mr. Ogden at Spokane house.
November lst, Monday. Got across the divide.
FLATHEAD POST, 1825
1824. November, Friday 26.(37)- From Prairie de Cheveaux myself and party arrived at this place in the afternoon , where terminated our voyage of 10 months to the Snakes. Mr. Ogden(38) and Mr. Dears(39) with people and outfit from Spokane reached this place only a few hours before us. Statement of people both voyages ( ?)
Engaged party with their families, including gentlemen, and 43 men, 8 women, 16 children. Freemen and trappers with families, 34 men, 8 lads, 22 women and 5 children. Total, 176 souls.
To accommodate people and property we use a row of huts 6 in number, low, linked together under one cover, having the appearance of deserted booths.
Saturday 27. All hands building. Mr. Ogden handed me a letter from the Governor appointing me in charge of this place for the winter. Mr. Ogden takes my place as chief of the Snake expedition.
Monday 29. Kootenais joined Flatheads at Prairie de Cheveaux. Indians are now as follows there:
|Lodges||Men & Lads||Guns||Women||Children|
and 1,850 horses.
We sent word to the camp to come and begin trade as follows: First, Flat.; 2d P. etc., as in order above.
Tuesday 30. About 10 o'clock the Flatheads in a body mounted, arrived, chanting the song of peace. At a little distance they halted and saluted the fort with discharges from their guns. We returned the compliment with our brass pounder. The reverbating sound had a fine effect. The head chief advanced and made a fine speech welcoming the white man to these lands, apologizing for having but few beaver. The cavalcade then moved up. The chiefs were invited to the house to smoke. All the women arrived on horseback loaded with provisions and a brisk trade began which lasted till dark. The result was, 324 beaver, 154 bales of meat, 159 buffalo tongues, etc.
December, Wednesday 1. The Pend' Orielles arrived in the manner of those of yesterday and traded as follows: 198 beaver, 8 muskrat, etc.
Received 2000 of the Snake Freemen's(40) beaver today and sent off canoe to Spokane House.
Thursday 2d. Employed with Freemen and Indians all day. At night we had received 2000 more of Snake beaver.
Friday 3d. The Kootenais accompanied by 10 Piegans came up, with the same ceremony and traded as follows: 494 beaver, 509 muskrat, 2 red foxes, 3 mink, etc. The Kootenais do not belong here but are driven from fear of the Piegans and Blackfeet.
The trouble of this part is now over till spring as the Indians have gone home. In all we have traded 1183 beaver, 14 otter, 529 muskrat, 8 fishers, 3 minks, 1 martin, 2 foxes, 11,072 pounds dried meat, etc. (Buffalo meat.)
The trade hardly averages 3 skins per Indian.
Sunday, December 5. Began to equip the Freemen today. Mr. Ogden settling their accounts. Mr. Dears in the Indian shop with Interpreter Rivett, and myself with Mr. McKay(41) in the equipment shop.
Saturday, December 11. Finished equipping the Snake hunters. Mr. Kittson(42) from the Kootenais arrived..
Monday, 20th. Statement of men under Mr. Ogden to go to the Snake Country: 25 lodges, 2 gentlemen, 2 interpreters, 71 men and lads, 80 guns, 364 beaver traps, 372 horses.
This is the most formidable party that has ever set out for the Snakes. Snake expedition took its departure. Each beaver trap last year in the Snake country averaged 26 beaver. It is expected this hunt will net 14,100 beaver. Mr. Dears goes as far as Prairie de Cheveaux.
Wednesday, 22d. Statement of people at this fort: 2 gentlemen, 14 laborers, 4 women, 7 children. Set the people squaring timber to keep them from plotting mischief.
Saturday 25th. Considerable indians; the peace pipe kept in motion. All the people a dram.
Sunday 26th. No work today. Ordered the men to dress and keep the Sabbath.
January 1, 1825. At daybreak the men saluted with guns. They were treated to rum and cake, each a pint of rum and a half pound of tobacco.
March 1. Tuesday. The winter trade from December 4 has amounted to 71 beaver, 2 otter, 15 muskrat, 3 foxes, etc.
Saturday, 12 March(43) After breakfast embarked 4 canoes in sight of 1000 natives for Spokane House. 1644 large beaver, 378 small beaver, 29 otter, 775 muskrats, 9 foxes, 12 fishers, 1 martin, 8 mink, also leather and provisions.
(At Spokane House) Friday, 25th March.- Of all situations(44) chosen in the Indian country. -Spokane House is the most singular: far from water, far from Indians and out of the way. Spokane (Forks) on the west, Kettle Falls on the north Coeur d' Alene on the south, Pend' Oreille on the east would be better.
1. Flathead House or Fort or Post was then located almost exactly at the present railroad station of Eddy (Northern Pacific Ry.), on north bank of Clark Fork River, in Sanders, Montana; this was about ten miles southeast and further uptheriver from the site of David Thompson's "Salish House," which was established in 1809 andused by theNorthwest Company traders while that company continued in business.
2. Horse Plains, now designated by thesingle word "Plains." a famous council ground of the Salishor Flathead Indians; thefreemen were probably camped near therailroad station of Weeksville.
3. Camas Prairie. to the eastward from the Horse Plains; the Indian trail went across the hills by way of this prairie, instead of around by the river as the railroad now runs. This trail is clearly shown on map in Stevens' Report, Pac. Ry. Report, Vol. 12, Part 1, also an engraving showing this prairie.
4. At Perma station of the No. Pac. Ry., where the trail again struck the Flat head River and crossed it: known later as Rivet's Ferry because a son of old Francois Rivet settled there.
5. A small stream entering the Flathead from the south near McDonald station of the No. Pac. Ry.
6. The Jocko, which flows into the Flathead at Dixon, Montana; this stream so named after Jacques Raphael Finlay, an intelligent half-breed and one of David Thompson's men, in 1809.
7. Afterward a settler on French Prairie in the Willamette Valley.
8. Mr. Ross' clerk: doubtful whether the Nicholas Montour of David Thompson's time.
9. A general term meaning the prairie forts of the company on the Saskatchewan River.
10. See page 11 of "Fur Hunters."
11. Coriacan Defile through which the No. Pac. Ry. now passes; the view of Missoula and the Bitter Root Valley is as fine now as it was in 1824.
12. The Hell Gate or Missoula River.
13. The Bitter Root River of today. Our Clark Fork River was then called the Flathead River clear to Lake Pend d'Oreille, and below that even.
14. Now seem to be near the forks of the Bitter Root,0 above the town of Darby, Ravalli County, Montana.
15. See pages 18 and 19 of "Fur Hunters", they follow the trail through the gorge of Ross Fork of the Bitter Root. This Rams Horn tree was a common sight to pioneers who traveled that trail in the fifties and sixties. It is yet known as the Medicine Tree, because so revered by the Indians. The trunk still stands in Sec. 22. TP. 30 N., R. 20 E., B. M.
16. He is now in Ross' Hole, his "The Valley of Troubles," as described on page 20 of "Fur Trappers" Lewis and Clark were here September 4, 1805 ; also consult Pac. Ry. Report, Vol. 12, Part 1, page 169, for description and engraving.
17. The first vaudeville performance in Ravalli County, Montana, of which we have record.
18. Gibbons pass across the continental divide.
19. Big Hole Prairie,Beaverhead County, Montana, well described and illustrated in Stevens' Pac Ry. Report already cited.
20. Very nearly correct. The Blue Mountain Range of Eastern Oregon and Washington really is a continuation of the mountain range that crosses Idaho and joins the continental divide at the head of the Bitter Root Valley of Montana.
21. Meaning the Big Hole or Wisdom River.
22. Finan McDonald, who led the Snake Expedition in 1823.
23. The warm springs near Jackson P.O., Beaverhead County, Montana.
24. That is he crossed the low divide to Grasshopper Creek near Bannock: the Beaverhead would be his Middle Fork of the Missouri.
25. He has crossed over to the Lemhi River, a branch of the Salmon River, which flows into the Snake, and is in Idaho. See page 53 of "The Fur Hunters."
26. The party is now probably at the junction of the Salmon and the Pahsimari Rivers in Custer County, Idaho; see page 59 of "The Fur Hunters."
27. Evidently the John Day of the Astor party, who became a Northwest Company trapper under Donald McKenzie. See page 62 of "Fur Hunters."
28. Now about to start on a profitless trip across the ridge of Salmon River Range directly west. See page 62 of "Fur Hunters."
29. The party has returned from the trip to the westward; see page 67 of "Fur Hunters."
30. According to Arrowsmith's map this would be Big Lost river, on present day maps. Ross seems to have ascended Pahsamari River to source and crossed the divide to Birch Creek, where he left his main party and himself made four days trip to Snake River near St. Anthony's. He is back again on the 6th. See pages 68,69,70 of "Fur Hunters."
31. See page 72 of "Fur Hunters," where Mr. Ross misnames the three buttes in the desert southeast of Lost River by calling them the Trois Tetons. He now proceeds up Goddins or Big Lost River to its source and crosses to the source of the Malade or Big Wood River near Ketchum, Idaho, where the next Indian scare occurs. See pages 75-80 of "Fur Hunters."
32. Descending the Malade (Big Wood River) to the mouth of Camas Creek. the party turns west across Camas Prairie and the divide to the head of the Boise River; see pages 80-89 of "Fur Hunters."
33. Consult Irving's "Astoria" for account of the death of Mr. Reed of the Pacific Fur Company.
34. This journal omits entirely all mention of Mr. Ross from the time he reached the Boise until he returns on September to the rough mountain pass dividing Blaine and Custer Counties, Idaho; for this interim see pages 90-118 of "The Fur Hunters." His lofty peak now mentioned may be Boulder Peak of today, but he named it Mt. Simpson.
35. The party is now back at Canoe Point, see previous note on May 10th. The party sent off on June 11th joins them a little further along on their way to the headwaters of the Missouri.
36. Major Andrew Henry, the first American trader to cross the continental divide (in fall of 1810) and at this time partner of General Wm. Ashley in the fur business. The desertions of the H.B.C. freeman to the Americans mentioned in this text took place before General Ashley personally ever came to the Rocky Mountains; see page 356 of Vol. 11 of Or. Hist. Quart. for discussion of this.
37. From the heading it would appear that Mr. Ross now begins a new part of the journal, covering his residence at Flathead Post or Fort.
38. Peter Skene Ogden, well known to Oregon pioneers; see Oregon first. Quar., Vol. 11 pp. 247-8.
39. This was Mr. Thomas Dears, who was a clerk of the H. B. Co. on the Columbia at this time
40. That is, that the skins taken for the free hunters that were a part of the expedition in distinction from the engaged men or employees of the company.
41. Probably Mr. Thos. McKay, son of Alex McKay of the Pac Fur Co., whose widow became the wife of Dr. John McLoughlin.
42. William Kittson, who was in charge of the trading post among the Kootenais for many years; he died at Fort Vancouver about 1841. His brother, Norman, was one of the early millionaires of St. Paul, Minn.
43. The trading post is now left in charge of some half-breed or entirely abandoned until fall, as the Indians spent their summer hunting buffalo.
44. Mr. Ross indulges in his usual disgust as to the site of Spokane House which feeling he elaborated at length in his "Fur Hunters." And this post was abandoned the following year for the new one at Kettle Falls, called Fort Colvile.