Journal of Narcissa Whitman
July 18, 1836 – Oct. 18, 1836
Previously published in:
Eells, Myron, Marcus Whitman, Pathfinder and Patriot, 1909, Alice Harriman Company, Seattle.
Under the protection of Mr. McLeod and his company we left the Rendezvous and came ten miles in a southwesterly direction. The Flatheads and some of the Snake Indians accompanied us a short distance. We make but one camp a day.
One the 22nd we had a tedious ride, as we traveled till half-past 4 P.M. I thought of mother's bread, as a child would, but did not find it on the table, I should relish it extremely well; have been living on buffalo meat until I am cloyed with it.
Have been in a peaceful state of mind all day. Had a freedom in prayer for my beloved parents; blessed privilege that such a sinner as I may have access to a mercy seat, through such a Saviour as Jesus Christ. It is good to feel that He is all I want, and all my righteousness; and if I had ten thousand lives I would give them all for Him. I long to be more like Him - to possess more of his meek spirit.
25th. - Came fifteen miles today; encamped on Smith's creek, a small branch of Bear Creek. The ride has been very mountainous - paths winding on the sides of steep mountains. In some places the path is so narrow as scarcely to afford room for the animal to place his foot. One after another we pass along with cautious step. Passed a creek on which was a fine bunch of gooseberries, nearly ripe.
Husband has had a tedious time with the wagon today. It got stuck in the creek this morning when crossing, and he was obliged to wade considerably in getting it out. After that, in going between the mountains, on the side of one, so steep that it was difficult for horses pass, the wagon was upset twice; did not wonder at this at all; it was a greater wonder that it was not turning somersaults continually. It is not very grateful to my feelings to see him wearing out with such excessive fatigue, as I am obliged to. He is not as fleshy as he was last winter. All the most difficult part of the way he has walked, in laborious attempts to take the wagon. Ma knows what my feelings are.
26th. - Did not move camp today. Mr. McKay has been preparing to send out trappers from this place. Husband has been sick today, and so lame with the rheumatism as to be scarcely able to move. It is a great privilege that we can lie still today on his account, for he needs rest.
27th. - Had quite a level route today - came down Bear river. Mr. McKay sent off about thirty of his men as trappers today. Several lodges of Indians also left us to go in another direction, and we expect more to leave us to-morrow. They wish to go a different route from Mr. McLeod, and desire us to go with them; but it would be more difficult and lengthy than Mr. McLeod's. We are still in a dangerous country; but our company is large enough for safety. Our cattle endure the journey remarkably well. They supply us with sufficient milk for our tea and coffee, which is indeed a luxury. We are obliged to shoe some of them because of sore feet. Have seen no buffalo since we left Rendezvous. Have had no game of any kind except a few messes of antelope, which an Indian gave us. We have plenty of dried buffalo meat, which we have purchased from the Indians - and dry it is for me. It appears so filthy! I can scarcely eat it; but it keeps us alive, and we ought to be thankful for it. We have had a few meals of fresh fish, also, which we relished well, and have the prospect of obtaining plenty in one or two weeks more. Have found no berries; neither have I found any of Ma's bread (Girls, do not waste the bread; if you knew how well I should relish even the dryest morsel, you would save every piece carefully.) Do not think I regret coming. No, far from it; I would not go back for a world. I am contented and happy, notwithstanding I sometimes get very hungry and weary. Have six week's steady journey before us. Feel sometimes as if it were a long time to be traveling. Long for rest, but must not murmur.
Feel to pity the poor Indian women, who are continually traveling in this manner during their lives, and know no other comfort. They do all the work and are the complete slaves of their husbands. I am making some little progress in their language; long to be able to converse with them about the Saviour.
28th. - Very mountainous all the way today; came over another ridge; rode from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M. We thought yesterday the Indians were all going to leave us, except two or three; but not one has. They fear to, on account of the Blackfeet tribe, who would destroy them all, if they could. One of the axle-trees of the wagon broke today; was a little rejoiced, for we were in hopes they would leave it, and have no more trouble with it. Our rejoicing was in vain for they are making a cart of the back wheels, this afternoon, and lashing the fore wheels to it-intending to take it through in some shape or other. They are so resolute and untiring in their efforts they will probably succeed. Had some fresh fish for breakfast and some antelope for supper, sent us by Mr. McLeod and other friends in camp. Thus the Lord provides, and smoothes all our ways for us, giving us strength.
July 29th. - Mr. Gray was quite sick this morning and inclined to fall behind. Husband and I rode with him about two hours and a half, soon after which he gave out entirely. I was sent on, and soon after husband left him to come and get the cart; but I overtook an Indian, who went back and soon met husband, and both returned to Mr. Gray. The Indian helped him on his horse, got on behind him, supported him in his arms and in this manner slowly came into camp. This was welcome relief, and all rejoiced to see them come in; for some of us had been riding seven hours, others eight, without any nourishment.
[The next sheet of the journal is missing, which contains the account of their arrival at Fort Hall, where, she says,] We were hospitably entertained by Captain Thing, who keeps the fort. It was built by Captain Wyeth, a gentleman from Boston, whom we saw at Rendezvous on his way east. Our dinner consisted of dry buffalo meat, turnips and fried bread, which was a luxury. Mountain bread is simply coarse flour and water mixed and roasted or fried in buffalo grease. To one who has had nothing but meat for a long time, this relishes well. For tea we had the same, with the addition of some stewed service berries.
The buildings of the fort are made of hewed logs, with roofs covered with mud brick chimneys and fireplaces also being built of the same; no windows, except a square hole in the roof, and in the bastion a few port holes large enough for guns only. The buildings were all enclosed in a strong log wall. This affords them a place of safety when attacked by hostile Indians, as they frequently are, the fort being in the Blackfeet country. Since dinner we visited the garden and corn fields. The turnips in the garden appeared thrifty - the tops very large and tall, but the roots small. The peas looked small; but most of them had been gathered by the mice. Saw a few onions, that were going to seed, which looked quite natural. This was all the garden contained. He told us his own did extremely well until the 8th of June, when the frost of one night completely prostrated it. It has since came up again, but does not look as well as it did before. This is their first attempt at cultivating.
The buildings at Fort William, on Laramie Fork of the Platte, are made the same, but are larger and more finished than here. Here we have stools to sit on - there we had very comfortable chairs, bottomed with buffalo skin. Thus you see we have a house of entertainment almost or quite as often as Christian of the Pilgrim's Progress did. We expect one more before we get to Walla Walla; that is Snake Fort [Boise], belonging to Mr. McKay, who is journeying with us.
From this on our company will be small. The Indians all leave us today except one or two who go with us to assist in driving the cattle - Kentuck, who went with Mr. Parker last year, and the chief, Rottenbelly. The whole tribe are exceedingly anxious to have us go with them. They use every argument they can invent to prevail on us to do so - and not only argument but strategy. We all think it not best; we are very much fatigued, and wish to get through as soon as possible. To go with them would take us two months or more, when now we expect to go to Walla Walla in twenty-five days. When we get there rest will be sweet to us; so will it be to the Christian when he gets to Heaven. Will father and mother get there before I do? If so, then they will be ready to greet me on the threshold. Here we have raised our Ebenezer saying, "Hitherto the Lord hath helped us." Now we leave it and pass on. Our animals are nearly ready. It is now half-past two and we expect to go but a short distance and encamp.
Morn; came all of ten miles last evening, and did not arrive here till after dark. Mr. McLeod and his company started earlier than we did, intending to come but a little way. We could not get ready to come with him, and the man who piloted us led us wrong - much out of the way. Those on whom we depended to drive cattle disappointed us. Husband and myself fell in behind them to assist John Alts, who was alone with them. This made us later into camp than the rest of our company. We came through several swamps, and all the last part of the way we were so swarmed with mosquitoes as to be scarcely able to see - especially while crossing the Port Neuf, which we did, just before coming into camp. It is the widest river I have forded on horseback. It seemed the cows would run mad for the mosquitoes; we could scarcely get them along.
Mr. McLeod met us and invited us to tea, which was a great favor. Thus blessings gather thick around us. We have been in the mountains so long we find the scenery of this valley very grateful to the eye - a large stream on my right and one on my left, skirted with timber. At Fort Hall was our first sight of Snake river. We shall follow the south side of it for many days. We have passed many places where the soil is good, and would be fertile if there were frequent rains; but usually the country is barren, and would be a sandy desert were it not for the sage brush.
Eve. We passed the American Falls on Snake river just after dinner. The roar of the water is heard at a considerable distance. We stopped during the greatest heat for rest and dinner. Now that the Indians are no longer with us we shall expect to make two camps. I expect this to be a great mercy to us weak females, for it was more than we could well endure to travel during the heat of the day without refreshment.
Aug. 6th. - Route very bad and difficult today. We crossed a small stream full of falls. The only pass where we could cross was just on the edge of rocks above one of the falls. While the pack animals were crossing, both ours and the company's, there was such a rush as to crowd two of our horses over the falls, both packed with dried meat. It was with great difficulty they were got out, one of them having been nearly an hour much to his injury. We have a little rice to eat with our dry meat, given us by Mr. McLeod, which makes it relish quite well.
Aug. 7th. - Sabbath; came fifteen miles and camped at a fine place, with plenty of good grass for our weary animals. Thus are blessings so mingled that it seems as if there was nothing else but mercy and blessings all the way. Was there ever a journey like this performed where the sustaining hand of God has been so manifest every morning. Surely the children of Israel could not have been more sensible of the pillar of fire by night than we have been of that hand that has led us thus safely on. God had heard prayer in our behalf, and even now while I am writing on this holy day is the sweet incense of prayer ascending before the throne of Heavenly grace. Nor are we forgotten by our beloved churches, at home in the prayers of the Sanctuary, we are too sensible of its blessed effects to believe otherwise; and oh! how comforting is this thought to the heart of the missionary. We love to think and talk of home with such feelings as these. It warms our hearts and strengthens and encourages us in the work of our beloved Master, and makes our journeyings easy.
Aug. 8th, Monday. - Snake river. We have an excellent camp ground tonight; plenty of feed for our horses and cattle. We think it remarkable that our cattle should endure the journey as well as they do. We have two suckling calves that appear to be in very good spirits; they suffer some from sore feet - otherwise they have come on well and will go through. Have come eighteen miles today and have taken it so deliberately that it has been easy for us. The hunters came in last night well loaded; they had been in the mountains two days after game and killed three elk and two antelope. This is the first elk meat we have had, and it is the last opportunity we expect to have of taking any more game. We are told that many have traveled the whole distance from Rendezvous to Walla Walla without any fresh meat. We think our will last until we reach the salmon fishing at Snake Falls. Thus we are well provided for contrary to our expectations. Mr. McLeod has excellent hunters; this is the reason why we live so well. There is but little game and that is found at a great distance from the route.
11th. - Tuesday and Wednesday have been tedious days, both for man and beast - lengthy marches without water; rocky and sandy. Had a present to-night of a fresh salmon; also a plate of fried cakes from Mr. McLeod. (Girls, if you wish to know how they taste you can have pleasure by taking a little flour and water, make some dough, and roll it thin, cut it into square blocks, then take some beef fat and fry them. You need not put either salt or pearlash in your dough.) Believe me, I relish them as well as I ever did any made at home.
12th. - Friday; raised camp this morning at sunrise and came two hours ride to the salmon fishery. Found a few lodges of Diggers, of the Snake tribe, so called because they live on roots during winter, who had just commenced fishing. Obtained some and boiled it for our breakfast. Find it good eating; had we been a few days earlier we should not have been able to obtain any fish, for they had but just come up. They never go higher than these falls and come here every season.
Friday eve. - Dear Harriet, the little trunk you gave me has come with me so far, and now I must leave it here alone. Poor little trunk, I am sorry to leave thee; thou must abide here alone, and no more by thy presence remind me of my dear Harriet. Twenty miles below the falls on Snake river this shall be thy place of rest. Farewell, little trunk, I thank thee for thy faithful services, and that I have been cheered by thy presence so long. Thus we scatter as we go along. The hills are so steep and rocky that husband thought it best to lighten the wagon as much as possible and take nothing but the wheels, leaving the box with my trunk. I regret leaving anything that came from home, especially that trunk, but it is best. It would have been better for me not to have attempted to bring any baggage whatever, only what was necessary to use on the way. It costs so much labor, besides the expense of animals. If I were to make the journey again I would make quite different preparations. To pack and unpack so many times, and cross so many streams where the packs frequently get wet, requires no small amount of labor, besides the injury of the articles. Our books, what few we have, have been wet several times. In going from Elmira to Williamsport this trunk fell into the creek and wet all my books, and Richard's, too, several times. The sleigh box came off and all of us came near a wetting likewise. The custom of the country is to possess nothing, and then you will lose nothing while traveling. Farewell for the present.
13th. - Saturday; Dear Harriet, Mr. McKay has asked the privilege of taking the little trunk along, so that my soliloquy about it last night was for naught. However, it will do me no good, it may him. We have come fifteen miles and have had the worst route in all the journey for the cart. We might have had a better one but for being misled by some of the company who started out before the leaders. It was two o'clock before we came into camp.
They were preparing to cross Snake River. The river is divided by two islands into three branches, and is fordable. The packs are placed upon the tops of the highest horses and in this way we crossed without wetting. Two of the tallest horses were selected to carry Mrs. Spalding and myself over. Mr. McLeod gave me his and rode mine. The last branch we rode as much as half a mile in crossing and against the current, too, which made it hard for the horses, the water being up to their sides. Husband had considerable difficulty in crossing the cart. Both cart and mules were turned upside down in the river and entangled in the harness. The mules would have been drowned but for a desperate struggle to get them ashore. Then after putting two of the strongest horses before the cart, and two men swimming behind to steady it, they succeeded in getting it across. I once thought that crossing streams would be the most dreaded part of the journey. I can now cross the most difficult stream without the least fear. There is one manner of crossing which husband has tried but I have not, neither do I wish to. Take an elk skin and stretch it over you, spreading yourself out as much as possible, then let the Indian women carefully put you on the water and with a cord in the mouth they will swim and draw you over. Edward, how do you think you would like to travel in this way?
15th. - Yesterday Mr. McLeod with most of his men left us, wishing to hasten his arrival at Snake Fort, leaving us a pilot and his weakest animals to come in with us at our leisure. This is a relief to us, as it is difficult to bring our cattle up to the speed they wish to travel. We passed the hot springs just before noon, which was quite a curiosity. Boiled a bit of dry salmon in one of them in five minutes.
16th. - This eve found plenty of berries called hawthorn on the stream where we have encamped. They are large as a cherry and taste much like a mealy sweet apple. Our route on this side of Snake river is less hilly and difficult than on the south side, and said to be two days shorter.
19th. - Arrived at Snake Fort [Boise] about noon. It is situated on Bigwood river, so called because the timber is larger than any to be seen this side of the mountains. It consists chiefly of cottonwood and is small compared with timber in the states. Snake Fort is owned and built by Mr. Thomas McKay, one of our company, whom we expect to leave here. He, with Mr. McLeod, gave us a hearty welcome; dined with them. Mr. McLeod was ready to leave on the morrow, but said he would stay a day longer to give us the opportunity of doing some necessary work, for which we were thankful.
20th. - Saturday. Last night I put my clothes in water and this morning finished washing before breakfast. This is the third time I have washed since I left home-once at Fort Williams and once at Rendezvous. Mr. McLeod called this evening to see if we were ready to leave. He observed we had been so engaged in labor as to have no time for rest, and proposed for ourselves to remain over Sabbath. This I can assure you was a favor for which we can never be too thankful, for our souls need the rest of the Sabbath as well as our bodies.
21st. - Sabbath. Rich with heavenly blessings has the day of rest been to my soul. Mr. Spalding was invited to preach in the Fort at 11 o'clock. The theme was the character of the blessed Savior. All listened with good attention.
22d. - Left the Fort yesterday; came a short distance to the crossing of Snake River, crossed and encamped for the night. The river had three branches, divided by islands, as it was when we crossed before. The first and second places were very deep, but we had no difficulty in crossing on horseback. The third was deeper still; we dare not venture horseback. This being a fishing post of the Indians, we easily found a canoe, made of rushes and willows, on which we placed ourselves and our saddles (Sister Spalding and myself), when two Indians on horseback, each with a rope attached to the canoe, towed us over. (O! if father and mother and the girls could have seen us in our snug little canoe, floating on the water.) We were favorites of the company. No one else was privileged with a ride on it. I wish I could give you a correct idea of this little bark. It is simply bunches of rushes tied together, and attached to a frame made of a few sticks of small willows. It was just large enough to hold us and our saddles. Our baggage was transported on the top of our tallest horses, without wetting.
As for the wagon, it is left at the Fort, and I have nothing to say about crossing it at this time. Five of our cattle were left there also, to be exchanged for others at Walla Walla. Perhaps you will wonder why we have left the wagon, having taken it so nearly through. Our animals were failing, and the route in crossing the Blue Mountains is said to be impassable for it. We have the prospect of obtaining one in exchange at Vancouver. If we do not we shall send for it, when we have been to so much labor in getting it thus far. It is a useful article in the country.
Now, for Edward's amusement, and that he may know how to do when he comes over the Rocky Mountains, I will tell how we got the cattle over the rivers. Our two Indian boys, Richard and John, have had the chief management of driving them all the way, and are to be commended for the patience they have manifested. They have had some one or two to help usually, but none so steady drivers as themselves. When a stream is to be crossed, where it is necessary for the animals to swim, Richard comes back after the cows. Having obtained consent he rides over, accompanied by his fellow drivers, all stripped to the shirt. Then they return with their horses, if the stream is wide and difficult. If not they leave their horses, tie their shifts over their heads, swim back, collect the cows and drive them through, all swimming after them. If the stream is very wide, and they return with their horses, they drive them swimming on the horses behind them. This saves them from the too great fatigue of swimming for the river twice. They love to swim, as they love to eat, and by doing so have saved me many an anxious feeling, for the relief it has given my husband many times. In this case all the horses and mules were driven across likewise. Usually the best Indian swimmer was selected and mounted the horse that was good for leading to go before the animals as a guide, while many others swim after them to drive them over. When once under way, such a snorting and halloaing you never heard. At the same time you can see nothing save so many heads floating upon the water. Soon they gain the opposite shore, triumphantly ascend its banks, shake themselves, and retire to their accustomed employment.
26th. - Friday. On account of our worn out cattle and horses, it was thought best to separate from Mr. McLeod's party, at least some of us, and travel more deliberately. Two mules and a horse have almost entirely given out. It is necessary that some of our party go to Vancouver immediately for supplies and see Mr. Parker before he leaves. It was thought best for my husband and Mr. Gray to go. As Mr. McLeod intended to make but a day's stop at Walla Walla, we came on with him, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Spalding, the hired men, with most of our baggage, and the Nez Perce chief, Rottenbelly, to pilot them in. We parted from them about 3 o'clock and came as far as the Lone Tree. The place called Lone Tree is a beautiful valley in the region of Powder river, in the center of which is a solitary tree, quite large, but the side of which travellers usually stop and refresh themselves. We left our tent for Mrs. Spalding, as we expect to be out only a few nights, while she might be out many. Mr. McLeod kindly offered his for my use and when I arrived in camp found it pitched and in readiness for me. This was a great favor as the wind blew quite hard and the prospect was for a cool night.
August 27th. - Came in sight of the hill that leads to the Grande Ronde. This morning Mr. McLeod remained behind in pursuit of game, and did not come into camp until we had made a long nooning, although we had begun to feel a little concerned about him, yet about 3 o'clock he came into camp loaded with wild ducks, having taken twenty-two. Now, mother, he had just, as he always did during the whole journey, sent over nine of them. Here also, Richard caught fresh salmon, which made us another good meal, and if we had been out of provisions we might have made dinner upon the fresh-water clams, for the river was full of them.
Girls, how do you think we manage to rest ourselves every noon, having no house to shelter us from the scorching heat, or sofa on which to recline? Perhaps you think we always encamp in the shade of some thick wood. Such a sight I have not seen, lo, these many weeks. If we can find a few small willows or a single lone tree, we think ourselves amply provided for. But often our camping places are in some open plain and frequently a sand plain, but even here is rest and comfort. My husband, who is one of the best the world ever knew, is always ready to provide a comfortable shade, with one of our saddle-blankets spread upon some willows or sticks placed in the ground. Our saddles, fishamores and the other blankets placed upon the ground constitute our sofa where we recline and rest until dinner is ready. How do you think you would like this? Would you not think a seat by mother, in some cool room preferable? Sometimes my wicked heart has been disposed to murmur, thinking I should have no rest from the heat when we stopped, but I have always been reproved for it by the comfort and rest received. Under the circumstances I have never wished to go back. Such a thought never finds a place in my heart. "The Lord is better to us than our fears." I always find it so.
This morning lingered with husband on the top of the hill that overlooks the Grande Ronde, at the foot of which is a beautiful cluster of pitch and spruce pine trees, but no white pine like that I have been accustomed to see at home. Grande Ronde is indeed a beautiful place. It is a circular plain, surrounded by lofty mountains, and has a beautiful stream coursing through it, skirted with quite large timber. The scenery while passing through it is quite delightful in some places and the soil rich; in other places we find the white sand and sedge, as usual, so common to this country. We nooned upon Grande Ronde river.
The camas grows here in abundance, and it is the principal resort of the Cayuses and many other tribes, to obtain it, as they are very fond of it. It resembles an onion in shape and color, when cooked is very sweet and tastes like a fig. Their manner of cooking them is very curious: They dig a hole in the ground, throw in a heap of stones, heat them to a red heat, cover them with green grass, upon which they put the camas, and cover the whole with earth. When taken out it is black. This is the chief food of many tribes during winter. After dinner we left the plain and ascended the Blue Mountains. Here a new and pleasing scene presented itself-mountains covered with timber, through which we rode all the afternoon; a very agreeable change. The scenery reminded me of the hills in my native country of Steuben.
29th. - Had a combination of the same scenery as yesterday afternoon. Rode over many logs and obstructions that we had not found since we left the states. Here I frequently met old acquaintances in the trees and flowers, and was not a little delighted; indeed, I do not know as I was ever so much affected with any scenery in my life. The singing of birds, the echo of voices of my fellow travelers, as they were scattered through the woods, all had a strong resemblance to bygone days. But this scenery was of short duration-only one day.
Before noon we began to descend one of the most terrible mountains for steepness and length I have yet seen. It was like winding stairs in its descent, and in some places almost perpendicular. The horses appeared to dread the hill as much as we did. They would turn and wind around in a zigzag manner all the way down. The men usually walked, but I could not get permission to, neither did I desire it much. We had no sooner gained the foot of this mountain than another more steep and dreadful was before us. After dinner and rest we descended it. Mount Pleasant, in Prattsburg, would not compare with these Mount Terribles. Our ride this afternoon exceeded anything we have had yet, and what rendered it the more aggravating was the fact that the path all the way was very stony, resembling a newly macadamized road. Our horses' feet were very tender, all unshod, so that we could not make the progress we wished. The mountain in many places was covered with this black broken basalt. We were very late in making camp tonight. After ascending the mountain we kept upon the main divide until sunset, looking in vain for water and a camping place. While upon this elevation we had a view of the Valley of the Columbia River. It was beautiful. Just as we gained the highest elevation and began to descend the sun was dipping his disk behind the western horizon. Beyond the valley we could see two distinct mountains - Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. These lofty peaks were of a conical form, separated from each other by a considerable distance. Behind the former the sun was hiding part of his rays, which gave us a more distinct view of this gigantic cone. The beauty of this extensive valley contrasted well with the rolling mountains behind us, and at this hour of twilight was enchanting and quite diverted my mind from the fatigue under which I was laboring. We had yet to descend a hill as long, but not as steep or as stony as the other. By this time our horses were in haste to be in camp, as well as ourselves, and mine made such lengthy strides in descending that it shook my sides surprisingly. It was dark when we got into camp, but the tent was ready for me, and tea also, for Mr. McLeod invited us to sup with him.
Dearest mother, let me tell you how I am sustained of the Lord in all this journey. For two or three days past I have felt weak, restless and scarcely able to sit on my horse - yesterday in particular. But see how I have been diverted by the scenery, and carried out of myself in conversation about home and friends. Mother will recollect what my feelings were and had been for a year previous to our leaving home. The last revival enjoyed, my visit to Onondaga and the scenes there - these I call my last impressions of home, and they are of such a character that when we converse about home these same feelings are revived and I forget that I am weary and want rest. This morning my feelings were a little peculiar; felt remarkably strong and well - so much so as to mention it - but could not see any reason why I should feel any more rested than on the morning previous. Then I began to see what a day's ride was before me, and I understood it. If I had had no better health today than yesterday I should have fainted under it. Then the promise appeared in full view: "As thy day, so shall thy strength be," and my soul rejoiced in God, and testifies to the truth of another evidently manifest, "Lo, I am with you always."
30th. - In consequence of the lengthy camp yesterday, and failure of animals, two of the company's men left their animals behind, with packs also. This occasioned some anxiety, lest the wolves should destroy their beaver. Today they send back for them, and we make but a short move to find more grass. On following the course of the stream on which we encamped last night we found cherries in abundance, and had time to stop and gather as many as we wished. They are very fine - equal to any we find in the States. When we arrived Mr. Gray had the dinner waiting for us. This afternoon the men rested and made preparations to enter Walla Walla. The men who went for the animals returned late. We all regretted this hindrance, for Mr. McLeod intended to see Walla Walla today and return again with a muskmelon for Mrs. Whitman (so he said). he will go in tomorrow. It is the custom of the country to send heralds ahead to announce the arrival of a party and prepare for their reception.
31st. - Came to the Walla Walla river, within eight miles of the Fort (Wallula). Husband and I were very much exhausted with this day's lengthy ride. Most of the way was sandy with no water for many miles. When we left Mr. Spalding husband rode an Indian horse when he had never mounted before and found him a hard rider in every gait except a gallop, and slow in his movements, nor could he pace as mine did, so for the last six days we have galloped most of the way where the ground would admit of it.
September 1st, 1836
You can better imagine our feelings this morning than we can describe them. I could not realize that the end of our long journey was so near. We arose as soon as it was light, took a cup of coffee, ate of the duck we had given us last night and dressed for Walla Walla. We started while it was yet early, for all were in haste to reach the desired haven. If you could have seen us you would have been surprised, for both man and beast appeared alike propelled by the same force. The whole company galloped almost the whole way to the Fort. The first appearance we saw of civilization was the garden, two miles this side of the fort. The fatigues of the long journey seemed to be forgotten in the excitement of being so near the close. Soon the Fort appeared in sight and when it was announced that we were near Mr. McLeod, Mr. Pambrun, the gentleman of the house, and Mr. Townsend (a traveling naturalist) sallied forth to meet us. After usual introduction and salutation we entered the Fort and were comfortably seated in cushioned armed chairs. They were just eating breakfast as we rode up and soon we were seated at the table and treated to fresh salmon, potatoes, tea, bread and butter. What a variety, thought I. You cannot imagine what an appetite these rides in the mountains give a person. I wish some of the feeble ones in the states could have a ride in the mountains; they would say like me, victuals, even the plainest kind, never relished so well before.
After breakfast we were shown the novelties of the place. While at breakfast, however, a young rooster placed himself upon the sill of the door and crowed. Now whether it was the sight of the first white woman, or out of compliment to the company, I know not, but this much for him, I was pleased with his appearance. You may think me simple for speaking of such a small circumstance. No one knows the feelings occasioned by seeing objects once familiar after a long deprivation. Especially when it is heightened by no expectation of meeting with them. The door-yard was filled with hens, turkeys and pigeons. And in another place we saw cows and goats in abundance, and I think the largest and fattest cattle and swine I ever saw.
We were soon shown a room which Mr. Pambrun said he had prepared for us, by making two bedsteads or bunks, on hearing of our approach. It was the west bastion of the Fort, full of port holes in the sides, but no windows, and filled with fire-arms. A large cannon, always loaded, stood behind the door by one of the holes. These things did not disturb me. I am so well pleased with the possession of a room to shelter me from the scorching sun that I scarcely notice them. Having arranged our things we were soon called to a feast of melons; the first, I think, I ever saw or tasted. The muskmelon was the largest, measuring eighteen in length, fifteen around the small end and nineteen around the large end. You may be assured that none of us were satisfied or willing to leave the table until we had filled our plates with chips.
At four o'clock we were called to dine. It consisted of pork, cabbage, turnips, tea, bread and butter; by favorite dishes, and much like the last dinner I ate with Mother Loomis. I am thus particular in my description of eatables so that you may be assured that we find something to eat beyond the Rocky Mountains as well as at home. We find plenty of salt, but many here prefer to do almost, and some entirely without it, on their meats and vegetables.
Sept. 2d. - Have busied myself today in unpacking my trunk and arranging my things for a visit to Vancouver. Mother will wonder at this and think me a strange child for wishing to add three hundred miles to this journey; not from necessity, but because my husband is going, and I may as well go as to stay here alone. If we were obliged to go on horseback, I think I should not wish to undertake it, but we are going in a boat and it will not take us more than six days to go there. A very agreeable change and I think I shall enjoy it as well as to stay here. I feel remarkably well and rested-do not need to lounge at all, and so it is with us all. I can scarcely believe it possible of myself, but it is true, I feel as vigorous and as well able to engage in any domestic employment as I ever did in my life. I have not yet introduced you to the lady of the house. She is a native, from a tribe east of the mountains. She appears well, does not speak English, but her native language and French. The cooking and housework is done by men chiefly. Mr. Pambrun is from Canada, and much the gentlemen in his appearance.
Sept. 3d. - Messrs. McLeod and Townsend left for Vancouver today, but Mr. McLeod is so loaded as not to be able to give us a comfortable passage. Mr. Pambrun is going by himself next week and offers us a passage with him.
About noon Mr. and Mrs. Spalding arrived with their company, having made better progress than was anticipated. Here we are all at Walla Walla, through the mercy of a kind Providence, in health and all our lives preserved. What cause for gratitude and praise to God! Surely my heart is ready to leap for joy at the thought of being so near the long-desired work of teaching the benighted ones the knowledge of a Savior, and having completed this hazardous journey under such favorable circumstances. Mr. Pambrun said to us the day we arrived, that there had never been a company previous to ours, that came into the Fort so well fed as ours for the last days of the journey. All our friends of the East company, who knew anything about the country, dreaded this part for us very much. But the Lord has been with us and provided for us all the way, and blessed be his holy name. Another cause for gratitude is the preservation of our animals, in this difficult, dangerous and lengthy route, while many parties previous to ours have had every animal taken from them, and been left on foot in a dangerous land, exposed to death. Two horses have given out with fatigue and have been left, two have been stolen or lost, but most that we have now, have come all the way from the settlements, and appear well. Two calves only have been lost; the remainder came on well except those we left at Snake Fort.
Sabbath, 4th. - This has been a day of mutual thanksgiving with us all. Assembled at the Fort at 12 o'clock for worship, our feelings are better imagined than described. This first Sabbath in September, a Sabbath of rest; first after completing a long journey, first in the vicinity of our future labors. All of us here before God. It is not enough for us alone to be thankful. Will not my beloved friends at home, the disciples of Jesus, unite with us in gratitude and praise to God for his great mercy? It is in answer to your prayers that we are here and are permitted to see this day under such circumstances. Feel to dedicate myself renewedly to His service among the heathen, and may the Lord's hand be as evidently manifest in blessing our labors among them, as it has been in bringing us here, and that, too, in answer to your prayers, beloved Christian friends.
5th. - Mr. and Mrs. Spalding have concluded to go with us to Vancouver, so nothing can be done by either of the parties about location until the Indians return from their summer's hunt. Expect to leave tomorrow. Have had exceedingly high winds for two days and nights past, to which the place is subject. Our room shakes and the wind makes such a noise that we can scarcely hear each other converse.
Sept. 7, 1836. - We set sail from Walla Walla yesterday at two o'clock p.m. Our boat is an open one, manned with six oars, and the steersman. I enjoy it much; it is a very pleasant change in our manner of traveling. The Columbia is a beautiful river. Its waters are clear as crystal and smooth as a sea of glass, exceeding in beauty the Ohio; but the scenery on each side of it is very different. There is no timber to be seen, but there are high perpendicular banks of rocks in some places, while rugged bluffs and plains of sand in others, are all that meet the eye. We sailed until near sunset, when we landed, pitched our tents, supped our tea, bread and butter, boiled ham and potatoes, committed ourselves to the care of a kind Providence, and retired to rest.
This morning we arose before sunrise, embarked and sailed until nine o'clock, and are now landed for breakfast. Mr. Pambrun's cook is preparing it, while husband and myself are seated by a little shrub, writing. We are this moment called. Farewell.
8th. - Came last night quite to the Chute [above The Dalles], a fall in the river not navigable. There we slept, and this morning made the portage. All were obliged to land, unload, carry our baggage, and even the boat, for half a mile. I had frequently seen the picture of the Indians carrying a canoe, but now I saw the reality. We found plenty of Indians here to assist in making the portage. After loading several with our baggage and sending them on, the boat was capsized and placed upon the heads of about twenty of them, who marched off with it, with perfect ease. Below the main fall of water are rocks, deep, narrow channels, and many frightful precipices. We walked deliberately among the rocks, viewing the scene with astonishment, for this once beautiful river seemed to be cut up and destroyed by these huge masses of rock. Indeed, it is difficult to find where the main body of water passes. In high water we are told that these rocks are all covered with water, the river rising to such an astonishing height.
After paying the Indians for their assistance, which was a twist of tobacco about the length of a finger to each, we reloaded, went on board, sailed about two miles, and stopped for breakfast. This was done to get away from a throng of Indians. Many followed us, however, to assist in making another portage, three miles below this.
Sept. 9th. - We came to The Dalles just before noon. Here our boat was stopped by two rocks of immense size and height, all the water of the river passing between them in a very narrow channel, and with great rapidity. Here we were obliged to land and make a portage of two and a half miles, carrying the boat also. The Dalles is the great resort of Indians of many tribes for taking fish. We did not see many, however, for they had just left.
Now, mother, if I was with you by the fireside, I would relate a scene that would amuse you, and at the same time call forth your sympathies. But for my own gratification I will write it. After we landed, curiosity led us to the top of that rock, to see the course of the river through its narrow channel. But as I expected to walk that portage, husband thought it would be giving me too much fatigue to do both. I went with him to its base, to remain there until his return. I took a handful of hazelnuts and thought I would divert myself with cracking and eating them. I had just seated myself in the shade of the rock, ready to commence work, when, feeling something unusual on my neck, I put my hand under my cape and took from thence two insects, which I soon discovered to be fleas. Immediately I cast my eyes upon my dress before me, and, to my astonishment, found it was black with these creatures, making all possible speed to lay siege to my neck and ears. This sight made me almost frantic. What to do I knew not. Husband was away, sister Spalding had gone past hearing. To stand still I could not. I climbed up the rock in pursuit of my husband, who soon saw and came to me. I could not tell him, but showed him the cause of my distress. On opening the gathers of my dress around my waist, every plait was lined with them. Thus they had already laid themselves in ambush for a fresh attack. We brushed and shook, and shook and brushed, for an hour, not stopping to kill for that would have been impossible. By this time they were reduced very considerably, and I prepared to go to the boat. I was relieved from walking by the offer of a horse from a young chief. This was a kindness, for the way was mostly through sand, and the walk would have been fatiguing. I found the confinement of the boat distressing, on account of my miserable companions, who would not let me rest for a moment in any one position. But I was not the only sufferer. Every one in the boat was alike troubled, both crew and passengers. As soon as I was able to make a change in my apparel I found relief.
We made fine progress this morning till 9 o'clock, when we were met with a head wind and obliged to make shore. We met the crew last night with the Western express. This express goes from and returns to Vancouver twice a year.
Eve. - Have lain still all day because of the wind. This is a detention, as we intended to have been at Vancouver by to-morrow evening. A party of Indians came to our camp this eve. Every head was flattened. These are the first I have seen near enough to be able to examine them. Their eyes have a dull and heavy expression.
10th. - High winds and not able to move at all today.
11th. - We came to the Cascades for breakfast-another important fall in the river, where we are obliged to make a portage of a mile. The boat was towed along by the rocks with a rope over the falls. This is another great place for salmon fishing. A boat load was just ready for Vancouver when we arrived. I saw an infant here whose head was in the pressing machine. This was a pitiful sight. Its mother took great satisfaction in unbinding and showing its naked head to us. The child lay upon a board between which and its head was a squirrel skin. On its forehead lay a small square cushion, over which was a bandage drawn tight around, pressing its head against the board. In this position it is kept three or four months or longer, until the head becomes a fashionable shape. There is a variety of shapes among them, some being sharper than others. I saw a child about a year old whose head had been recently released from pressure, as I supposed from its looks. All the back part of it was a purple color, as if it had been sadly bruised. We are told that this custom is wearing away very fast. There are only a few tribes of this river who practice it.
Sept. 12th. - Breakfasted at the saw mill five miles from Vancouver, and made preparations for entering it. You may be surprised to hear of a saw mill here when I said that there was no timber on the Columbia. Since we passed the Cascades the scene is changed, and we are told there is timber all the way to the coast.
Eve. - We are now in Vancouver, the New York of the Pacific Ocean. Our first sight, as we approached the fort, was two ships lying in the harbor, one of which, the Neriade, Captain Royal, had just arrived from London. The Columbia, Captain Dandy, came last May, and has since been to the Sandwich Islands, and returned. On landing we first met Mr. Townsend, whom we saw at Walla Walla. He is from Philadelphia, and has been in the mountains two years. He is sent here by a society to collect the different species of bipeds, and quadrupeds, peculiar to this country. We brought a parcel of letters to him, the first he had received since he had left home. Mr. Townsend led us into the fort. But before we reached the home of the chief Factor, Dr. McLoughlin, we were met by several gentlemen, who came to give us a welcome, Mr. Douglas, Mr. Tolmie and Dr. McLoughlin, of the Hudson's Bay Company, who invited us in and seated us on the sofa. Soon we were introduced to Mrs. McLoughlin and Mrs. Douglas, both natives of the country-half breeds. After chatting a little we were invited to walk in the garden.
What a delightful place this is; what a contrast to the rough, barren sand plains, through which we had so recently passed. Here we find fruit of every description, apples, peaches, grapes, pears, plums, and fig trees in abundance; also cucumbers, melons, beans, peas, beets, cabbage, tomatoes and every kind of vegetable too numerous to be mentioned. Every part is very neat and tastefully arranged, with fine walks, lined on each side with strawberry vines. At the opposite end of the garden is a good summer house covered with grape vines. Here I must mention the origin of these grapes and apples. A gentlemen, twelve years ago while at a party in London, put the seeds of the grapes and apples which he ate into his vest pocket. Soon afterwards he took a voyage to this country and left them here, and now they are greatly multiplied.
After promenading as much as we wished, and returning, we were met by Mrs. Copendel, a lady from England, who arrived in the ship Columbia last May, and Miss Maria, daughter of Dr. McLoughlin, quite an interesting young lady. After dinner we were introduced to Rev. Mr. Beaver and lady, a clergyman of the Church of England, who arrived last week in the ship Neriade. This is more than we expected when we left home-that we should be privileged with the acquaintance and society of two English ladies. Indeed, we seem to be nearly allied to Old England, for most of the gentlemen of the Company are from there or Scotland.
We have not found Rev. Samuel Parker here, to our great disappointment. He went to Oahu in the ship Columbia, a few weeks before we arrived. We have mourned about it considerably, for we thought it would be so acceptable to our dear parents and friends at home to hear him say that he had seen us alive here, after completing this long, unheard-of journey. Besides, I wished to send home many things which I cannot now. More than all this, his counsels and advice would have been such a relief to us, at this important time, as to location, character of the Indians, and the like. But it is wisely ordered, and we submit. He appears to have been a favorite here, and to have done much good.
The Messrs. Lee left Vancouver on Saturday last for their station on the Wallamet. Mr. Daniel Lee has been out of health, and for the year past has been at Oahu. He returned on the Neriade, benefited by his visit.
Sept. 13. - This morning visited the school to hear the children sing. It consists of about fifty-one children, who have French fathers and Indian mothers. All the laborers here are Canadian French, with Indian wives. Indeed, some of the gentlemen of the company have native wives, and have adopted the custom of the country not to allow their wives to eat with them. French is the prevailing language here. English is spoken only by a few.
Just before dinner we went on board the Neriade, the first ship I ever saw. She is a man-of-war, and goes to the Northwest coast soon. The Columbia returns to London this fall. The Company have lost three ships on the coast.
Sept. 14. - We were invited to a ride to see the farm. Have ridden fifteen miles this afternoon. We visited the barns, stock, etc. They estimated their wheat crops at four thousand bushels this year, peas the same, oats and barley between fifteen and seventeen hundred bushels each. The potato and turnip fields are large and fine. Their cattle are numerous, estimated at a thousand head in all the settlements. They have swine in abundance, also sheep and goats, but the sheep are of an inferior kind. We find also hens, turkeys, and pigeons, but no geese.
You will ask what kind of beds they have here. I can tell you what kind of bed they made for us, and I have since found it a fashionable bed for this country. The bedstead is in the form of a bunk, with a rough board bottom, upon which are laid about a dozen of the Indian blankets. These with a pair of pillows covered with calico cases constitute our beds, sheets and covering. There are several feather beds in the place made of the feathers of wild ducks, geese, cranes and the like. There is nothing here suitable for ticking. The best and only material is brown linen sheeting. The Indian ladies make theirs of deer skin. Could we obtain a pair of geese from any quarter I should think much of them.
Sept. 16th. - Every day we have something new to see. We went to the stores and found them filled above and below with the cargo of the two ships, all in unbroken bales. They are chiefly Indian goods, and will be sent away this fall to the several different posts of the company in the ship Neriade. We have found here every article for comfort and durability that we need, but many articles for convenience and all fancy articles are not here.
Visited the dairy, also, where we found butter and cheese in abundance-saw an improvement in the manner of raising cream. Their pans are an oblong square, quite large but shallow, flaring a little, made of wood and lined with tin. In the center is a hole with a long plug. When the cream has risen they place the pan over a tub or pail, remove the plug, and the milk will run off leaving only the cream in the pan. I think that these must be very convenient in a large dairy. They milk between fifty and sixty cows.
On visiting the mill we did not find it in a high state of improvement. It goes by horse power and has a wire bolt. This seemed a hard way of getting bread, but better so than no bread, or to grind by hand. The company have one at Colville that goes by water, five days ride from Walla Walla, from whence we expect to obtain our flour, potatoes and pork. They have three hundred hogs.
Dr. McLoughlin promises to loan us enough to make a beginning and all the return he asks is that we supply other settlers in the same way. He appears desirous to afford us every facility for living in his power. No person could have received a more hearty welcome, or be treated with greater kindness than we have been since our arrival.
Sept. 17th. - A subject is now before the minds of certain individuals, in which I feel a great interest. It is that we ladies spend the winter at Vancouver, while our husbands go to seek their locations and build. Dr. McLoughlin is certain that it will be the best for us, and I believe is determined to have us stay. The thought of it is not very pleasant to either of us. For several reasons, I had rather go to Walla Walla, where, if we failed to make a location, or of building this fall, we could stay very comfortably, and have enough to eat, but not as comfortably, or have a s great a variety as here; besides, there is the difficulty of ascending the river in high water, not to say anything of a six months' separation, when it seems to be least desirable; but all things will be ordered for the best.
Sept. 18. - Mr. Beaver held two services in a room in Dr. McLoughlin's barn today. Enjoyed the privilege much. This form of worship, of the Church of England, differs in no way from that of the Episcopalians in the States. The most of the gentlemen of the fort are Scotch Presbyterians, very few being Episcopalians. The great mass of the laborers are Roman Catholics, who have three services during the Sabbath, one of which is attended at this house, at which Dr. McLoughlin officiates in French. He translates a sermon or a tract, and reads a chapter in the Bible and a prayer. The singing in Mr. Beaver's church was done by the children, some of their tunes having been taught them by Rev. Mr. Parker, and others by the Mr. Shepherd, of the Methodist mission.
Sept. 19. - The question is decided at last that we stay here about four or five weeks. There is so much baggage to be taken up now, that the boat will be sufficiently loaded without us. Have the cheering promise that our husbands will come for us in a short time if prospered. One thing comforts us. They are as unwilling to leave us as we are to stay, and would not if it were possible for us to go now. From this we are sure that they will make every effort to return for us soon. We are told that the rainy season will commence soon, and continue through the winter, and late in the spring, while at Walla Walla there is none. Vancouver, too, is subject to fever and ague. These are quite good reasons for preferring Walla Walla, even if we had to live in a lodge.
Have been making some necessary purchases for our two Indian boys, Richard and John, which we are glad to do, partly as a reward for their faithful care of the cattle during the journey. We left them at Walla Walla. They regretted our leaving them, and now I cannot feel willing to stay away from them all winter. Their anxiety to study continues the same, especially Richard. We love them both and feel deeply interested in their welfare, and shall treat them as our own as long as they deserve it.
Sept. 20th. - Dr. McLoughlin gave my husband a pair of leather pantaloons today. All the gentlemen here wear them for riding for economy. Riding horseback and carrying a gun in very destructive to cloth pantaloons.
Our husbands have been making preparations to leave us today, but have found so much to do that they could not get ready to leave much before night. They have concluded to start the boat a short distance and camp, while they, with Mr. Pambrun and Mr. Gray, remain in the Fort to leave early in the morning.
Sept. 21. - Our friends left us this morning early. One thing I should have mentioned, as decided upon before they left, was the propriety of making two stations. After consideration it was decided best to do so for several reasons. The Cayuses as well as the Nez Perces are very anxious to have teachers among them. They are a numerous tribe [not numerous, but wealthy and influential.-M. Eells] and speak the same language as the Nez Perces. There are other fields open ready for the harvest and we wish that there were many more laborers here ready to occupy them immediately. Several places have been recommended which our husbands intend visiting before they fix upon any place. You will recollect that we had Grande Ronde in view as a location when we left home. Our reasons for not fixing upon that place are insurmountable. The pass in the Blue Mountains is so difficult and the distance so great that it would be next to impossible to think of obtaining supplies sufficient for our support. We could not depend upon game, for it is very scarce and uncertain. Mr. Parker recommends a place on the Kooskooska (Clearwater) river, six days' ride above Walla Walla. I hope to give you our exact location before I send this.
Sept. 22. - Dr. McLoughlin has put his daughter in my care and wishes me to hear her recitations. Thus I shall have enough to do for diversion while I stay. I could employ all my time in writing and work for myself if it were not for his wishes.
I have not given you a description of our eatables here. There is such a variety I know not where to begin. For breakfast we have coffee or cocoa, salt salmon and roast ducks with potatoes. When we have eaten our supply of them, our plates are changed and we make a finish on bread and butter.
For dinner we have a greater variety. First we are always treated to a dish of soup, which is very good. All kinds of vegetables in use are taken, chopped fine, and put into water with a little rice, and boiled to a soup. The tomatoes are a prominent article, and usually some fowl meat, duck or other kind, is cut fine and added. If it has been roasted once it is just as good (so the cook says), and then spiced to the taste. After our soup dishes are removed, then comes a variety of meats to prove our tastes. After selecting and changing, we change plates and try another if we choose, and so at every new dish have a clean plate. Roast duck is an everyday dish, boiled pork, tripe, and sometimes trotters, fresh salmon or sturgeon-yea, articles too numerous to be mentioned. When these are set aside, a nice pudding or an apple pie is next introduced. After this a water and a muskmelon make their appearance, and last of all cheese, bread or biscuit and butter are produced to complete the whole. But there is one article on the table I have not yet mentioned, and of which I never partake. That is wine. The gentlemen frequently drink toasts to each other, but never give us an opportunity of refusing, for they know that we belong to the Tetotal Society. We have talks about drinking wine, but no one joins our society. They have a Temperance Society here and at Wallamet, formed by Mr. Lee.
Our tea is very plain. Bread and butter, good tea, plenty of milk and sugar.
Sept. 30th. - We are invited to ride as often as once a week for exercise, and we generally ride all the afternoon. Today Mrs. McLoughlin rode with us. She keeps her old fashion of riding gentlemen fashion. This is the universal custom of Indian women, and they have saddles with high backs and fronts. We have been recommended to use these saddles, a more easy way of riding, but we have never seen the necessity of changing our fashion.
I sing about an hour every evening with the children, teaching them new tunes, at the request of Dr. McLoughlin. Thus I am wholly occupied, and can scarcely find as much time as I want to write.
The Montreal Express came this afternoon, and a general time of rejoicing it is to everyone. News from distant friends, both sad and pleasing.
Mr. Spalding has come with it and brought a letter from my husband, filled with pleasing information. The Lord has been with them since they left us, and has prospered them beyond all expectations. They have each selected a location. My husband remains there to build, while Mr. Spalding comes after us. Cheering thought this, to be able to make a beginning in our pleasing work so soon.