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