From Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIII. (1912) pp. 363-371
(Printed from copy made by Miss Agnes C. Laut in 1905 from the
original in the Hudson's Bay Company's House, London. England)
Readers of the Quarterly will recall the publication of the
journals of Peter Skene Ogden in Volumes 10 and 11, recording the
explorations and fur trapping experiences of that energetic H. B.
Co. fur trader in Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Nevada between the
Cascade Mountains and the main range of the Rockies during the
years 1825 to 1829 inclusive.
There is abundant indirect evidence that in the late summer of
1829, Mr. Ogden led his company of trappers to the southward from
Fort Walla Walla, through Eastern Oregon and along the eastern
side of the Sierra Nevada Range and into Southern California, and
that merely a detached party visited the Snake Country of
Southern Idaho. But there is no record available and it is
necessary to pass by the experiences of that year's journey with
the hope that the original journal will be found at some future
time. Upon the return of Mr. Ogden in the early summer of 1830 it
was found that by orders from Gov. Simpson he had been
transferred to the trade along the Coast in company with Mr.
Finlayson, and the command of the Snake Country Brigade had been
assigned to Mr. John Work, a very worthy successor. Mr. Work was
of Irish descent and his name is properly spelled Wark. In this
Quarterly (Vol. 10, page 296 et seq.), has already appeared an
account of a journey made by him in the spring of 1830 from Fort
Colvile to Fort Vancouver and a brief mention of his career. Mr.
Work's journals for at least two expeditions are available for
use in this Quarterly, and that for only the first part of the
expedition of 1830-31 is now given. This is another of the
transcripts made by Miss Agnes C. Laut from the original in the
Hudson's Bay Company's House in London; it (the transcript)is now
a part of the Ayers Collection in the Newberry Library of
Chicago, and through the courtesy of that Library this copy has
The track of Mr. Work's party in 1830 follows very closely that of Mr. Ogden in the Fall of 1827, for which compare with Vol. 11, page 355 et seq., of this Quarterly. From Fort Walla Walla, at the mouth of the Walla Walla River, across the Blue Mountain range and through the valleys of the Grand Ronde, Powder and Burnt Rivers to the Snake River at Huntington and on to the month of the Payette River it follows very nearly the scientifically recorded journey of John C. Fremont in 1843. Thence Mr. Work followed up the Payette River for two days, crossed over to the Boise River and from the sources of one of the forks of that river over to the Camas Plains and the waters of the Malade River in Southern Idaho. He then visited in turn the branches of that river and of the Lost River and proceeded across the lava bed plateau to the Blackfoot and the Portneuf Rivers. Evidently the intent was to trap pretty thoroughly the very sources of the various streams already named. It is of interest to recall that the year 1830 found in the camps of the American trappers in the Snake country some of the "mountain men" who afterward took an active part in the early government of Oregon, namely, Joseph L. Meek, Doc. Robt. Newell, Joseph Gale and others.
Sunday 22.- On the 15th the Snake Trappers whom I am appointed
to take charge of reached Fort Nez Perces(1)
from Fort Vancouver with their supplies. The following days were
occupied arranging about horses. On the 20th they moved off from
the fort. I remained two days to arrange papers and accounts to
write letters and this morning followed and came up with camp
near the foot of the Blue Mountains on a branch(2)
of the Walla Walla. I reckon the distance 24 miles E. S. E. The
party consists of 37 men, 4 hired servants, a slave,(3) 2 youths, in all 40 able to bear
arms and armed, and 29 women and 45 children (22 boys, 23 girls),
a total of 114 souls. These are provided with 21 lodges to
shelter them, 272 horses and mules, 337 traps. The horses are
pretty well loaded with provisions, as the journey lies through a
country where animals are scarce. In the above party are 26
Canadians, 2 Americans, 6 half-breeds from east of the mountains,
2 Iroquois, 1 Nippesing.
Monday, 23 Aug. -Sultry weather. Moved 8 miles E. S. E. to the
foot of the mountains, where we encamped(4)
on a small branch of the Walla Walla. Our journey is to last a
twelve-month, and we must take care of our horses at the
Tuesday, 24 Aug. - Early on the move and camped in 5 hours
east of the summit of the mountains. Four Cayuse Indians going to
the buffalo hunt joined us. They have no women, but one of them
has a slave girl who followed him and was sent back twice; but
today again came up. On her refusing to return, he shot her -,
the ball wounding 3 places, but not mortally. This is the way of
treating disobedience. I made him to understand that the whites
did not suffer such occurrences among them.
Thursday 26th. Encamped at entrance(5)
of Grand Ronde River. All hands employed getting lodge poles to
pass the plains.
Monday 30th. Procceded to Powder River through a fine valley.
Thursday, 2 Sept. Proceeded to Burnt River. Kanota killed 2
antelope. Dupard and Prichett took 5 beaver.
Sunday, 5 Sept. Proceeded to Snake River,(6)
here about 200 yards wide.
Tuesday,. 7 Sept. Alex Carson who is to take charge of 5 men,
Depat, Cloustine, Sanders, Turner & Jean Ba'tiste, crossed
the river northward to hunt the Wazer(7)
and Payette's Rivers and cross the waters to some of the branches
of Salmon River. A party was sent last year but too late to cross
the waters they did not do well. These are to be at Nez PercÚs
(Fort) the 10th of July (next). This reduces us 6 men, 4 women,
30 horses. We are still strong enough to oppose the Blackfeet.
Thursday 9th. Reached the discharge of Payette's River up
which we proceeded. Payette found a horse here among the Snakes
stolen 3 years ago. The Indian pleaded he had traded it, but got
from Payette only a knife.
Saturday llth. Marched S. E, from Payette's River to Reid's
River(8) to the south flat, to the
Monday, 13 Sept. Cut across to Sickly River:(9)
here we encamped.
Thursday 16tli. Pritchett's wife in labor we did not move
camp. Kanota & Etang returned with 7 beaver. The woman
delivered of a boy.
Sunday 19. Reached Little Camas Plain.(10)
Saturday, 25 Sept, Fine weather: encamped near the mountains.
The people all out in different directions hunting. At 8 p.m.,
about an hour and a half after we encamped, one of the men,
Thomas Taanateau, came running to the camp afoot almost out of
his senses with fear and related that as he P. L, Etang, Baptiste
Tyagnainto & L. Kanote's slave were going to their traps on
the upper part of the stream in the mountain, they were set upon
by a war party of Blackfeet and his three companions killed on
the spot, that he barely escaped.
Five of my men were in camp. Some soon arrived & we put
ourselves in a state of defence and made pens for our horses. The
men scanned the hills in vain for the enemy. Three Cayuse Indians
with us found poor L'Etang and the slave murdered, stripped and
the latter scalped. Baptiste was still alive. They brought him to
camp through the dark. He is wounded but not dangerously and
gives the following account of the melancholy occurrence. The
four were ascending a steep hill afoot leading their horses and
not paying attention to the sides of the road when Indians
started up from the long grass and fired then rushed and seized
him but not before he discharged his gun and killed one. He
called on the slave to fire when the Indians rushed upon the
latter and killed him. In the interim Baptiste ran to cover in a
tuft of willows where he hid till the Cayuse found him, gun
powder horn and shot pouch were torn from him. L'Etang made no
defence. The slave killed one when he fired and it was his
struggle enabled B to escape. Thomas was not wounded. His
pursuers were near taking him but heard Kanota's rifle fired at a
deer. The Indians made off without taking time to mangle the
bodies as they are wont to do - scalping only the slave. The
enemy consisted of 20 men - their motive to get horses and arms.
Another man, F. Champaign had a narrow escape. They stole 3 of
his traps. These men risked ( ?) themselves but the Snakes being
ahead, it was thought the Blackft would hang on the rear. Payette
and 12 men interred our unfortunate companions. 4 men arrived
from Reid's River with 27 beaver; 42 beaver this day from our own
river. Sold L'Etang's property by auction .
Tuesday 28. Encamped on Sickly River where it received the
Camas Plain River.(11) Country
rugged and barren. Blackfeet tracks are observed prowling about
Saturday, 2 Oct. Marched N by E to Muskeg Swamp where the N.
fork of Sickly River has its source.(12)
A party of Snakes 11 years ago took 300 beaver in 2 encampments
here. Few beaver are here now driven by fire & destroyed by
some sickness for there is no sign of recent hunting here. Little
but reeds growing. The beaver feed on the roots. Whether this
causes the sickening quality of the flesh or the roots, several
of the people are sick from eating the beaver. Hemlock is also
found the roots of which cause the flesh to be poisonous.(13)
Sunday, 10 Oct. One of the men who went up the river brought
back news he had met a party of 20 American hunters just arrived
from Snake River across the plains. They had been 2 days without
water. One of them an Iroquois called Pierre,(14)
who deserted from us came to our camp; but little news was
obtained from him. Americans are encamped within a short distance
Tuesday, 12 Oct. Left Sickly River and struck across the plain
to a small rivulet that bears Bevens' name. Eastward lie the
plains(15) towards Snake River.
Our object is to search Salmon River. There are 2 roads of the
same length - the north branch of Sickly River and the one we
take by Goddin's River,(16)
preferable because level and leading sooner to the buffalo for
provisions, the people being out of food. Moreover the Americans
may not follow us by this road not knowing our route. Their
horses are (s)low but they have no families or lodges and little
baggage to embarrass them wh. gives them an advantage over us.
The Americans raised camp before us and proceeded up the river,
but on seeing us strike across the plain they left the river and
followed along the foot of the mountains and encamped behind
where Payette and party were defeated by the Blackfeet 2 yrs.
ago. I did not see a Mr. Rabides who is at the head of the party
but it appears they are 200 men, 100 hunters. Crooks & Co.
are the outfitters. A Mr. Fontenelle(17)
who manages this business is now at Snake River with 50 men, They
have great quantity of goods en cache. They have been hunting on
the Upper Snake. They were set upon by the Blackfeet on
Yellowstone River and 18 men killed. They had intended to go to
the Flatheads this fall but were deterred by the advanced season.
Thursday, 14 Oct. A. (?) Plante, M. Plante, P. Findlay, &
Payette killed each a buffalo. Are now in a barren country
covered with wormwood.
Wednsy. 20. Reach what is called the fountain & a swamp
where Goddin's River has its source. A road here thro' the
mountains to Days' Defile: A road also from the south. Buffalo
are numerous but the Banock Snakes have driven off the elk.
Saturday 23rd. The women availed themselves of the hot springs
to wash their clothes.
Tuesday, 2nd Nov. Camped near head of Day's River. Three years
ago a party of freemen wintered here with Mr. McKay(18) we met 2 Flatheads. Their camp
is 6 days' march off, very strong, Flatheads, Pendant D'Oreilles
and Spokanes with Nez PercÚs being together.
Saturday, 6 Nov. The two Flatheads left today. I wrote by them
to Mr. C. F. McLoughlin apprising him of our route.
Tuesday, 23rd Nov. A party of Freemen under Mr. Ogden passed
the winter here some years ago. There was neither ice nor snow in
the valley then.
Sunday, 28 Nov. Stormy cold weather snow showers ( ?) and
drifting. Crossed the height of land 12 miles S. E. The snow 2
ft. deep. The horses are jaded. People are fatigued. Large herds
of buffalo are about.
Wednesday, Dec. 1. Proceeded to the entrance of Day's Defile.(19) Six of the men, August Finlay
at the head of the party, 0. Finlay, M. Finlay, A. Hoole ( ?). A.
Plante and Bte Gardipie separated from camp and took the road
round the end of the mountain. These men are all half Indians.
The two roads meet at the end of a few day's march, the road thro
the pass is hilly, and uneven (depth) of snow 2 ft. Horses gave
out on the way. Excellent feeding at camp half way. Herds of
buffalo observed in the valley.
Dec. 9, Thursday. Crossed plains to a dry branch of Goddin's
Friday 17th. Arrived( ?) of Snake River lower end of Blackfoot
Hill. Found good feeding for horses and a great many Snakes are
encamped around. Loss of horses altogether crossing plains 26.
Cold caused the loss. The Americans hunted this Quarter summer
and fall. Lately a party of them crossed the mountains to White
River to winter. We found poor L'Etang's rifle among the Snakes,
picked up in bushes where Blackfeet had camped.
Tuesday, 21 Dec. Clear and cold. Large party of Snakes paid us
a visit on horseback as a mark of friendship passed 3 times round
our camp firing volleys. They were well armed and wore the scalps
and mangled remains of the 2 Blckft whom they killed 2 days ago
suspended from their horses' bridles.
January, 1831. New Year's day. None of the people went
hunting. They endeavored to regale themselves. Each man was
treated with a dram of rum and some cakes.
2nd Sunday. Foggy late last night 16 Flathds and Nez P came
from the American camp(20) at
White River on the E. side of the waters. They are afoot. Have
been 10 days on the journey. They sold their horses to the
Americans at high prices and now wear blankets of blue green and
white besides having guns, rifles and beads. The Americans are to
come this way in spring to form a post among the Flatheads. The
Americans have 2 parties 6 chiefs and a great many men.
March, Thursday 17. Cloudy rain cold. The Snakes are moving
off down the river. The chief of the Horn(21)
and a few old men paid us a visit.
Friday 18. Moved camp across the plain to Portneuf (?) River.
1. Fort Nez Perce is the original Northwest Company's name for the trading post erected by them in the summer of 1818 and later known as Fort Walla Walla; for description of the building of the Fort, consult Alex. Ross's "Fur Hunters of the Far West."
2. This branch stream was probably Pine Creek, which empties into the Walla Walla River at the town of Touchet, sixteen miles east of Fort Walla Walla; the horses belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company were herded on what is still known as the Hudson's Bay ranch on this creek.
3. Not a "gentleman of color" from the South, but a captive from some other tribe and usually designated as such by leaving his hair cut short. This slave gave a good account of himself before his death soon after, as will be seen a little further on.
4. Probably near either Blue Mountain Station on Dry Creek or the town of Weston on Pine Creek, both in Umatilla County, Oregon; from this place they crossed the Blue Mountain divide the following day.
5. This was at Summerville, Union County, Oregon, formerly known as Indian Valley; after four days here, they passed through the Grande Ronde Valley and over the divide to Powder River.
6. Huntington, Oregon, having come by way of Powder River and Burnt River.
7. The Weiser River in Idaho; called the Wazer by Arrowsmith.
8. The Boise River, known as Reed's River after John Reed of the Astor party who started a trading post at its month.
9. The Malade, or Wood River of present maps; but the party can hardly have reached it yet.
10. Not far northeast but across the ridge from Mountain Home on the Oregon Short Line Ry.
11. At the host springs about eight miles west of Stanton in Blaine County, Idaho; present site of Magic Reservoir of U.S. Reclaimation Service.
12. The North Fork of the Malade would be Little Wood River of today.
13. The Malade was so named by Donald Mackenzie because his men were made sick by eating beaver there; Alex. Ross reports a similar experience and now John Work adds his testimony and explanation.
14. Evidently the same Pierre who gave Alex. Ross so much trouble in 1825 in the Bitter Root Valley.
15. The dry lava bed plateau of central southern Idaho, beneath which the mountain streams flow to Snake River.
16. Arrowsmith shows this name of the Big Lost River and Day's River or Day's defile would be the Little Lost River of today.
17. Consult Chittendon's Hist. of Amer. Fur Trade. A trapper named Robidoux is mentioned; also Lucien Fontenelle. Both were with the American Fur Company of the Missouri River, with which Ramsay Crooks of Astor Company fame was connected.
18. Consult Mr. Ogden's journal for winter of 1828 when he was so anxious about this Thos. McKay party; the latter was son-in-law of Chief Factor John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver.
19. Where the river canyon opens upon the plain, which they crossed a few days later in about the line of branch line of Oregon Short Line of today to the Blackfoot Mountains east of the Snake River and City of Blackfoot.
20. Probably this refers to the vicinity of Ft. Bridger on a branch of Green River and to the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, the partnership of Fitzpatrick, Jackson, and Sublette. This was the company with which Meek, Newell and Gale were associated. Arrowsmith shows a white Mud River, which would be our Bear River.
21. Probably the same chief named The Horse in Mr. Ogden's journal.