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On a cold, rainy Sunday in December 1805, William Clark was dealing with sick men, hard-bargaining Indians, and spoiled elk.  However, he was quick to note in his journal that a welcome bit of novelty had crept into the dreary routine at Fort Clatsop. “We were informed day before yesterday that a whale had foundered on the coast to the S. W. near the Kil a mox [Tillamook] N. and that the greater part of the Clat Sops were gorn for the oile & blubber,” Clark wrote. “The wind proves too high for us to proceed by water to See this monster, Capt Lewis has been in readiness Since we first heard of the whale to go and see it and collect Some of its Oil, the wind has proved too high as yet for him to proceed.”

Beached blue whale carcass

Beached blue whale carcass

The sight of a whale would indeed have been a novelty. In 1805, the ascent of the New England whaling industry was still 15 years away, and Lewis and Clark would have known whales mostly as a source for lamp oil and candle wax.

One week after first hearing about the whale, Lewis and Clark got their first taste of the big fish from a couple of their own men who were employed at the Salt Camp. On January 5, 1806, Clark noted, “At 5 p. m. Willard and Wiser returned, they had not been lost as we expected.    they informd us that it was not untill the 5th day after leaveing the fort, that they Could find a Convenient place for makeing Salt; that they had at length established themselves on the Sea Coast about 15 miles S. W. from this, near the houses of Some Clat Sop & Kil a mox families; that the Indians were very friendly and had given them a considerable quantity of the blubber of the whale which perished on the Coast Some distance S. E. of them.”

Willard and Wiser had brought some of the whale blubber to Fort Clatsop. Ever the epicurean, Lewis was anxious to sample the whale meat. “It was white & not unlike the fat of Poark, tho’ the texture was more spongey and somewhat coarser,” he wrote. “I had a part of it cooked and found it very pallitable and tender, it resembled the beaver or the dog in flavor.”

Sacagawea

“the Indian woman was very impotunate to be permited to go”

His curiosity piqued, Clark determined “to Set out early tomorrow with two canoes & 12 men in quest of the whale or at all events to purchase from the indians a parcel of the blubber.” The next day, he picked up one additional passenger. Sacagawea had heard about the whale and was not about to be left behind. Lewis recorded, “Capt Clark set out after an early breakfast with the party in two canoes as had been concerted the last evening; Charbono and his Indian woman were also of the party; the Indian woman was very impotunate to be permited to go, and was therefore indulged; she observed that she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it very hard she could not be permitted to see either (she had never yet been to the Ocean).”

By Tuesday, January 7, Clark’s party had reached the sea coast, about 35 miles from Fort Clatsop. Clark hired an Indian guide to pilot them to the location of the beached whale. On the way, he noted that “we met 14 Indians loaded with blubber.” Unfortunately, the Corps of Discovery was a johnny-come-lately to the party. When they reached the Tillamook Nation on Wednesday the 8th, the Indians were busily boiling blubber and siphoning the whale oil into a canoe. The whale itself, called E cu-la by the natives, was lying on “a very large Rock” and had been dead for more than a week. It was “nothing but a Sceleton.”

Clark estimated the skeleton’s length to be 105 feet. According to Private Whitehouse, the head was shaped “like the bow of a Vessell nearly.” Based on that description, it could have been a blue whale, the largest mammal on the planet.

Makah Indians cutting up a whale, 1910

Makah Indians cutting up a whale, 1910

Finding no blubber left on the carcass, Clark’s next task was to try to strike a bargain. “We tok out a few bones and returned to the Cabins at the mouth of the Creek, and attempted to trade with thos people who I found Close and Capricious, would not trade the Smallest piece except they thought they got an advantage of the bargain,” Clark complained. Clark and the men were finally able to purchase about 300 pounds of blubber and a few gallons of whale oil. Clark wrote testily, “Finding they would not trade I Deturmined to return home with what we have.”

The next day, Clark divided the load among the men in his party and set out on the return trip to Fort Clatsop. They found it tough going until they chanced upon a party of Indians, also transporting a heavy load of blubber.  “On the Steep decent of the Mountain I overtook five men and Six womin with emence loads of the Oil and blubber of the Whale,” Clark recorded. “One of the women in the act of getting down a Steep part of the mountain her load by Some means had Sliped off her back, and She was holding the load by a Strap which was fastened to the mat bag in which it was in, in one hand and holding a bush by the other, as I was in front of my party, I endeavored to relieve this woman by takeing her load untill She Could get to a better place a little below, & to my estonishment found the load as much as I Could lift and must exceed 100 wt.” He added, “Estonishing what custom will do.”

Jonah and the whale

Jonah and the whale

Clark’s weary party returned home to Fort Clatsop on Friday, January 10 with their precious oil and whale meat. Clark reflected in his journal, “Small as this Stock is I prise it highly; and thank providence for directing the whale to us; and think him much more kind to us than he was to jonah, having Sent this monster to be Swallowed by us in Sted of Swallowing of us as jonah’s did.”

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Among the many geographical features that Lewis and Clark were on the lookout for during their transcontinental trip was evidence of volcanic activity. Based on burned-out pieces of lignite coal that floated down the Missouri River, rumors of volcanoes in the Louisiana Purchase territory had reached Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was intrigued enough to purchase a copy of Claude Nicholas Ordinare’s Histoire naturelle des volcans in preparation for Lewis and Clark’s journey.

Illustration of a 19th century volcano eruption

Illustration of a 19th century volcano eruption

Still, the science of volcanology was still in its infancy, and Lewis and Clark were uncertain what to look for. On August 24, 1804, the Corps of Discovery was passing through present-day Dixon County, Nebraska, when Clark noted the “Great appearance of Coal” in the area  and investigated a burning bluff:

Some rain last night, a Continuation this morning; we Set out at the usial time and proceeded on the Course of last night to the (1) Commencement of a blue Clay Bluff of 180 or 190 feet high on the L. S. Those Bluffs appear to have been laterly on fire, and at this time is too hot for a man to bear his hand in the earth at any debth, gret appearance of Coal. An emence quantity of Cabalt or a Cristolised Substance which answers its discription is on the face of the Bluff—

The area Clark visited was later known as the “Ionia volcano,” after the now defunct town of Ionia, Nebraska. The burning bluff was not, however, due to volcanic activity, but rather to the heat released by oxidizing minerals on the rapidly eroding river bluff.

A few weeks later, on September 14, 1804, Clark again set out to investigate a possible volcano that had been referred to in the papers of fur trader and explorer Alexander MacKay. “I walked on Shore with a view to find an old Volcano Said to be in this neghbourhood by Mr. McKey,” Clark wrote. “I was Some distance out    Could not See any Signs of a Volcanoe, I killed a Goat, which is peculier to this Countrey about the hite of a Grown Deer Shorter, its horns Coms out immediately abov its eyes.” As there is no volcanic activity in this part of South Dakota, the phenomenon observed by Mackay (and not by Clark) was likely similar to the burning lignite bluff Clark had seen earlier.

Though they did not know it, Lewis and Clark were destined to see some of the most spectacular volcanoes in North America.

On November 3, 1805, Sergeant Patrick Gass wrote in his journal:

The morning was foggy: one of the men went out and killed a fine buck. At 9 we proceeded on, but could not see the country we were passing, on account of the fog, which was very thick till noon when it disappeared, and we had a beautiful day. We at that time came to the mouth of a river on the south side, a quarter of a mile broad, but not more than 6 or 8 inches deep, running over a bar of quicksand. At this place we dined on venison and goose; and from which we can see the high point of a mountain covered with snow, in about a southeast direction from us. Our Commanding Officers are of opinion that it is Mount Hood, discovered by a Lieutenant of Vancoover, who was up this river 75 miles.

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

It was indeed Mount Hood, one of the volcanoes in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, which includes more than 20 volcanoes in present-day Canada, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.  Formed due to one tectonic plate sliding under another on the western edge of the continent, the Cascade volcanoes are among the most potentially dangerous in the world.

Lewis and Clark’s party observed five of these, including Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Jefferson, named by the Corps in honor of their presidential patron. The last major eruption of Mount Hood occurred in 1781-1782, but a more recent eruptive episode had occurred shortly before Lewis and Clark’s arrival in 1805. At the downstream end of the Columbia River gorge, Lewis and Clark noted the rich bottomlands that had been partially formed by Mount Hood’s eruption less than twenty-five years earlier. But they did not realize that the bottomlands had been formed by Mount Hood, an active volcano.

Nor did they know that Mount St. Helens had recently undergone a significant eruption. An explosion at Mt. St. Helens around the year 1800 probably rivaled the 1980 eruption in size, spreading ash over central and eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana.

Mount St. Helens erupting, May 1980

Mount St. Helens erupting, May 1980

Lewis and Clark did know something of what to expect geographically when they got to the Cascade Range due to the explorations of George Vancouver, though they initially mistook a newly-sighted peak, Mount Adams, for Mount St. Helens, and mistook Mount St. Helens for Mount Rainier. By the time they had made winter camp at Fort Clatsop, however, Clark had sorted out his map and assigned the right names to the right peaks. Lewis and Clark noted the conical nature of some of the mountains, but they apparently did not draw the connection that they were in the midst of a chain of volcanoes. Minor eruptions in the 19th century filled in the gaps as explorers and settlers realized they were living in the midst of potentially explosive geologic giants.

Lewis and Clark’s last near-miss with volcanic activity came in the summer of 1806, when they passed to the north of the amazing thermal features of present-day Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. Like the Cascade volcanoes, the Yellowstone Caldera is considered an active volcano.

Boiling pots in "Colter's Hell"

Boiling pots in "Colter's Hell," Yellowstone National Park

In 1806, John Colter, a member of the Corps of Discovery, left the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Lewis’s consent to join a group of fur trappers. After splitting up with the other trappers, Colter passed through a portion of what later became Yellowstone National park during the winter of 1807–1808. He observed at least one geothermal area in the northeastern section of the park, near Tower Fall. After surviving wounds he suffered in a battle with members of the Crow and Blackfoot tribes in 1809, he gave a description of a place of “hidden fires, smoking pits, noxious steams, and smell of brimstone” that was dismissed by many people as delirium or exaggeration. Later, Colter’s observations were borne out by the reports of other mountain men who visited the area. The place he described was nicknamed “Colter’s Hell.”

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Location: Portland, Oregon

I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed. — William Clark, January 8, 1806

The Oregon Historical Society's building features an eight-story trompe l'oeil mural of the Lewis & Clark Expedition by Richard Haas (1989).

Portland, Oregon is a great city and a great place for the Lewis and Clark buff. This weekend I was remembering a near-perfect day I spent a few years ago in The City of Roses. It happened to be my 40th birthday and what a great day it was.

For breakfast, we found a great little place near our hotel called the Sunshine Cafe. The staff was Asian but did biscuits and gravy to perfection! It was balm to the soul for traveling Texans. After a yummy meal we headed off to explore downtown Portland.

Bishop's House in downtown Portland.

We started in Pioneer Square, then headed north to take a look at some of Portland’s ornate historic buildings. Portland has been fortunate in preserving many of these and would make a wonderful place to make a film noir movie. Among the most interesting buildings we saw were the Dekum Building (1892), the New Market Theater (1875), and the Bishop’s House (1879), which in its day has housed a rectory, a headquarters for a Chinese tong, and a speakeasy. It’s near the old police headquarters, and evidently wires ran between the two buildings. Legend has it that it’s unclear who was bugging whom. Today it is home to a Middle Eastern restaurant.

We spent some time in the Old Town neighborhood admiring Ankeny Square, which was undergoing a major renovation (which I am told has never been completed. Portlanders, is this true? What happened or didn’t happen?) It looks like there are some neat stores and some fun eateries in Old Town. We also saw all kinds of people, from yuppies to hippies to disreputable types. One thing that we both noticed during our stay in Portland was the number of people wandering around who were obviously high on something. By casual observation it appeared that this city is not much for enforcing public intoxication laws.

Mary at Waterfront Park.

Portland is also a place of tremendous civic willpower. We walked along the beautiful Waterfront Park, which had been reclaimed from the interstate highway some years ago. This is a great place to run or relax. We were interested to see the mast of the battleship Oregon, a hero ship of the Spanish-American War, and the enormous and impressive Salmon Street Fountain. Learned that Waterfront Park was the scene of a tremendous volunteer effort in 1996, when thousands of ordinary citizens pitched in to save the city from flooding.

We took our tired feet to the Park district and the main event of the day, the Oregon Historical Society. It’s great that more and more states have made the effort to create museums where citizens and visitors can go learn about the history of the place. At the time of our visit, we saw a very interesting temporary exhibit entitled “A Fair to Remember,” which recreated the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland. It was fun to learn how the Expedition was commemorated 100 years ago and how the fair really put Portland on the map. Of all the attractions, I would especially liked to have seen the flaming fireworks portrait of Meriwether Lewis. I looked on the society’s website and it looked like there were some amazing exhibits currently on display, including one of amazing art kites commemorating the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Wish I could make it to Portland to see that!

The permanent exhibit, “Oregon My Oregon,” detailed the state’s history from Indian times through early explorers, missionaries, Oregon Trail pioneers, and early industries such as mining and logging. This exhibit is very well-done, providing you with a substantive look at many facets of the state’s history without being overwhelming.

Had a great lunch at a burrito place called Maya’s Taqueria, then went back to the museum to view more exhibits, including a very interesting exhibit about the battleship Oregon which we had been so intrigued with earlier in the day at Waterfront Park.

Dinner was a great birthday treat at Jake’s Famous Crawfish, a very busy and lively restaurant. I got stuffed catfish and Mary got crab cakes. Finished it off with a fabulous chocolate truffle cake! What a great birthday! I loved Portland and am more than ready to return to this great city with so much history and close ties to the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

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Nootka woman wearing typical Pacific Coast headgear

Nootka woman wearing typical Pacific Coast headgear

On March 15, 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal: “we were visited this afternoon by Delashshelwilt  a Chinnook Chief his wife and six women of his nation which the old baud his wife had brought for market.” No stranger to white traders on the Pacific Coast, the Chinook women had come to Fort Clatsop hoping to profit from the presence of the Corps of Discovery by selling what the men wanted most: sex.

As Lewis and Clark well knew, the men of the Corps of Discovery were not above resorting to the “good officies” of prostitutes to meet their sexual needs. On November 21, 1805, Clark wrote from their camp along the Columbia that

Several Indians and Squars came this evening I beleave for the purpose of gratifying the passions of our men, Those people appear to View 〈horedom〉 Sensuality as a necessary evile, and do not appear to abhore this as Crime in the unmarried females. The young women Sport openly with our men, and appear to receive the approbation of their friends & relations for So doing    maney of the women are handsom. They are all low both men and women.

Clark noted the presence of venereal disease among the natives, a drawback that didn’t seem to discourage the men from enjoying the women’s favors. Clark noted, “we divided Some ribin between the men of our party to bestow on their favourite Lasses, this plan to Save the knives & more valuable articles.”

Chinook woman and child

Chinook woman and child

While Lewis and Clark obviously accepted sexual relations between their men and the natives – and perhaps participated in it themselves – they seemed to balk at out-and-out prostitution. On Christmas Eve 1805, Clark recorded the visit to Fort Clatsop of a Indian named Cuscalah ” who had treated me So politely when I was at the Clâtsops village.” Cuscalah arrived in a canoe with his young brother and two “Squars” and gave the Captains each a gift of a mat and a parcel of roots. When Cuscalah later demanded two files in exchange for the presents, Clark wrote, “as we had no files to part with, we each rturned the present which we had received, which displeased Cuscalah a little.    he then offered a woman to each of us which we also declined axcepting of, which displeased the whole party verry much—    the female part appeared to be highly disgusted at our refuseing to axcept of their favours &c.” Lewis wrote of the Chinooks a few days later, “they do not hold the virtue of their women in high estimation, and will even prostitute their wives and daughters for a fishinghook or a stran of beads.”

Lewis and Clark had good reason to be cautious. Lewis noted on January 27, 1806 that “Goodrich has recovered from the Louis veneri which he contracted from an amorous contact with a Chinnook damsel. I cured him as I did Gibson last winter by the uce of murcury.” Since mercury was not in fact an effective cure for the Louis veneri or “pox” (syphilis), it must be concluded that Lewis and Clark’s men did more than their fair share to spread venereal disease among the native populations of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers.  The presence of other whites on trading ships along the Pacific Coast added to the problem. By the time the “old baud” showed up with her six girls, Lewis would have none of it. He dryly observed, “this was the same party that had communicated the venerial to so many of our party in November last, and of which they have finally recovered. I therefore gave the men a particular charge with rispect to them which they promised me to observe.” To prevent further outbreaks of venereal disease, Lewis ordered his men not to sport with the “tawny damsels.”

Clark's journal drawing of flattened heads of Pacific Coast Indians

Clark's journal drawing showing flattened heads of Pacific Coast Indians

For his own part, Lewis seems to have found it easy to resist the Chinook women. His journal entries reveal that he found the natives of the Pacific Coast singularly unattractive. On March 19, 1806, a few days after the “old baud’s” visit, Lewis wrote clinically about the natives’ appearance:

they are low in statue reather diminutive, and illy shapen; possessing thick broad flat feet, thick ankles, crooked legs wide mouths thick lips, nose moderately large, fleshey, wide at the extremity with large nostrils, black eyes and black coarse hair.    their eyes are sometimes of a dark yellowish brown the puple black. I have observed some high acqualine noses among them but they are extreemly rare.    the nose is generally low between the eyes.—    the most remarkable trait in their physiognomy is the peculiar flatness and width of forehead which they artificially obtain by compressing the head between two boards while in a state of infancy and from which it never afterwards perfectly recovers.

Lewis also noted the swollen legs of the natives: “the large or apparently swolen legs particularly observable in the women are obtained in a great measure by tying a cord tight around the ankle.    their method of squating or resting themselves on their hams which they seem from habit to prefer to siting,  no doubt contributes much to this deformity of the legs by preventing free circulation of the blood.”

Chinook woman and child, by Paul Kane

Chinook woman and child, by Paul Kane

Finally, Lewis couldn’t resist a swipe at the women’s abbreviated clothing, sagging breasts, and exposed private parts:

The dress of the women consists of a robe, tissue, and sometimes when the weather is uncomonly cold, a vest.    their robe is much smaller than that of the men, never reaching lower than the waist nor extending in front sufficiently far to cover the body…  when this vest is woarn the breast of the woman is concealed, but without it which is almost always the case, they are exposed, and from the habit of remaining loose and unsuspended grow to great length particularly in aged women in many of whom I have seen the bubby reach as low as the waist. The garment which occupys the waist, and from thence as low as nearly to the knee before and the ham, behind, cannot properly be denominated a peticoat, in the common acceptation of that term; it is a tissue of white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small shreds, which are interwoven in the middle by means of several cords of the same materials, which serve as well for a girdle as to hold in place the shreds of bark which form the tissue, and which shreds confined in the middle hand with their ends pendulous from the waist, the whole being of sufficient thickness when the female stands erect to conceal those parts usually covered from familiar view, but when she stoops or places herself in many other attitudes, this battery of Venus is not altogether impervious to the inquisitive and penetrating eye of the amorite.

In other words, he couldn’t help looking, but he didn’t like what he saw. Lewis temporarily dropped his scientific tone to offer this scathing judgment: “I think the most disgusting sight I have ever beheld is these dirty naked wenches.” Unfortunately, there is no record of what the Chinook women thought about him.

More interesting reading:

Love in the Afternoon: Syphilis and the Lewis & Clark Expedition

Lewis and Clark Among the Clatsops

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Jefferson's Instructions to Meriwether Lewis, 1803

Jefferson's Instructions to Meriwether Lewis, 1803

On your arrival on that coast endeavor to learn if there be any port within your reach frequented by the sea-vessels of any nation, and to send two of your trusty people back by sea, in such way as shall appear practicable, with a copy of your notes. and should you be of opinion that the return of your party by the way they went will be eminently dangerous, then ship the whole, & return by sea by way of Cape Horn or the Cape of good Hope, as you shall be able. as you will be without money, clothes or provisions, you must endeavor to use the credit of the U. S. to obtain them…

So wrote Thomas Jefferson in his instructions to Meriwether Lewis at the outset of the Lewis and Clark expedition. If Lewis and his party were successful in reaching the Pacific Ocean, Jefferson instructed, he was hopeful that Lewis could hitch a ride home on a friendly ship, or at least send back a couple of trusted members of his party and his precious journals by sea, if returning by land seemed too dangerous.

Captain Robert Gray

Captain Robert Gray

How practical a plan was this? The Pacific Coast or “Northwest Coast,” as it was called back in the early 19th century, was well known to ship captains engaged in the fur trade. The first American trading vessels recorded as having been in the area were the Columbia Rediviva and the Lady Washington of Boston, which arrived on the Pacific Coast in September 1788. Under Captain Robert Gray, the Columbia Rediviva made a second voyage from Boston to the Northwest in September 1790, spending the winter of 1791-92 at an encampment just north of Nootka Sound (on present day Vancouver Island). While there, Gray and his fifty crew members explored the area and collected sea-otter furs for sale in China.

Also in the area at that time was British Captain George Vancouver, in the British sloop Discovery. When Gray and Vancouver met, Gray showed Vancouver his map pin-pointing the location of the then-unnamed Columbia River. Although Vancouver had noted “river-colored water” in the sea as the Discovery had passed a spot off the coast just two days earlier, he dismissed Gray’s discovery as the outflow of a few minor streams.

On May 11, 1792, Gray navigated the Columbia Rediviva across the treacherous sand bar at the mouth of the Columbia River and became the first western trading vessel to actually enter the Columbia waterway. Gray and Vancouver are both credited with the “discovery” of the Columbia River, though Vancouver deemed it “not suitable for major commerce.”

George Vancouver at the mouth of the Columbia

George Vancouver at the mouth of the Columbia

The next decade saw an increase in trading ships along the Columbia, with several ships a year visiting the coast to engage in fur trading with the coastal Indians. By the time Lewis and Clark reached the coast in 1805, there was a thriving trade in furs centered at Nootka Sound. Ships sometimes encountered in Pacific Northwest waters included Boston traders, French expeditions, British, Russian, and Spanish explorers and merchantmen, New England whalers, and even an occasional Japanese junk.

So, it was not unreasonable for Jefferson, Lewis and Clark to hope that a ship might happen by to carry the explorers home. In fact several ships were in the area that year. Most notably, the American ship Lydia of Boston, under Captain Samuel Hill, entered the Columbia River in 1805 to acquire timber for spars. The Lydia entered the lore of coastal legend not because it picked up Lewis and Clark, but because it picked up another famous, unlucky passenger. In his book The Way to the Western Sea, historian David Lavender sums up the story:

In the spring of 1803, a trading ship hunting for sea-otter pelts sailed into Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Resentful of several years of mistreatment by white traders, the Indians massacred all the crew except the ship’s twenty-year-old, English-born armorer (blacksmith) John Jewitt, and the sailmaker, John Thompson. Those two languished as prisoners until rescued on July 19, 1805, by Captain Samuel Hill of the brig Lydia, out of Boston. The salvation was effected without bloodshed, and on departing for further trading operations along the Northwest Coast, Captain Hill said he would return to Nootka within a few months to pick up whatever pelts the Indians gathered during his absence.

The Columbia Rediviva

The Columbia Rediviva

The Lydia traded along the Pacific Coast until August 1806 before heading for China, so it could have, in theory, been within hailing distance during Lewis and Clark’s time on the coast. On November 6, 1805, Clark reported, “we over took two Canoes of Indians going down to trade one of the Indians Spoke a fiew words of english and Said that the principal man who traded with them was Mr. Haley,and that he had a woman in his Canoe who Mr. Haley was fond of &c.    he Showed us a Bow of Iron and Several other things which he Said Mr. Haley gave him.” The “Mr. Haley” the Indians were speaking of was, presumably, Captain Samuel Hill.

As it turned out, “Mr. Haley” was a popular figure along the coast. On November 11, 1805, Clark reports talking with a Cathlama Indian dressed in a “Salors Jacket and Pantiloons,” who reported trading with white people. Sergeant John Ordway wrote balefully, “they tell us that they have Seen vessels in the mouth of this River and one man by the name of Mr. Haily  who tradeed among them, but they are all gone.”

On January 1, 1806, Clark made a list of “the names of Sundery persons, who visit this part of the Coast for the purpose of trade &c. &c. in large Vestles; all of which Speake the English language &c.—as the Indians inform us.” He again mentioned Mr. Haley, recording that the Indians said that he “Visits them in a Ship & they expect him back to trade with them in 3 moons to trade — he is the favourite of the Indians (from the number of Presents he givs) and has the trade principaly with all the tribes.”

Lewis and Clark at Celilo Falls, Columbia River (Mural from the Oregon State Capitol)

Lewis and Clark at Celilo Falls, Columbia River (Mural from the Oregon State Capitol)

Captain Hill/Mr. Haley’s well-supplied ship certainly would have been a welcome sight, but unfortunately for Lewis and Clark, he proved to be elusive. But was the Lydia really anywhere near Fort Clatsop? In 1815, when the Lydia‘s rescued sailor John Jewitt’s secret diary of his captivity was published – under the potboiler title Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt – the narrative contained a surprising factoid not in Jewitt’s original diary. According to David Lavender, Jewitt related that “the Lydia had crept about ten miles into the Columbia estuary in search of a convenient stand of timber from which to cut a new mast and spars. While the traders were there, visiting Indians showed the mariners medals given them by Lewis and Clark, who, they said had arrived by land with a small party and then, only a fortnight earlier, had started home, again by land.”

This would seem to have been a heartbreaking miss of an easy ride home. But, the historical record and common sense shows that Jewitt’s recollection of the timeframe, especially almost ten years out, is suspect. Given the talkative nature of the coastal Indians. it is highly unlikely that any ship in the area would have gone unreported by the Indians and unnoticed by Lewis and Clark. Besides, according to Mary Malloy, author of Devil On The Deep Blue Sea: The Notorious Career of Captain Samuel Hill of Boston, Hill’s reputation as a sea captain was decidedly mixed, with murder, rape, kidnapping, and madness among his rumored capabilities. So even if Hill had shown up, it might not have been an easy ride home after all.

In the end, no trading ship appeared during the entire long winter of 1805-1806, captained by “Mr. Haley” or anybody else. There was no way to communicate with anyone back home, no safe passage for the journals, and no new supplies for the Corps of Discovery. Fortunately, Thomas Jefferson had considered just such an eventuality. His instructions provided Lewis with a Plan B:

Should you find it safe to return by the way you go, after sending two of your party round by sea, or with your whole party, if no conveyance by sea can be found, do so; making such observations on your return as may serve to supply, correct or confirm those made on your outward journey.

On March 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery began the long walk home.

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Thanks to our reader John Orthmann, who was kind enough to comment on additional Lewis & Clark sculptures in his neck of the woods, we have more sculptures to add to our blogs about statuary featuring Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the whole Corps of Discovery gang.

First of all, some sad news:

Lewis and Clark monument along Washington Highway 101 near the Oregon state line

This terrific chainsaw statue is no more. Wah. But some great news:

I missed a terrific statue by the great Stanley Wanlass. Located in Long Beach, Washington, this statue commemorates the day when William Clark recorded on a sturdy tree what must have been a deeply satisfying moment: William Clark. Nov. 19, 1805. By land from the U. States.

In our novel, To the Ends of the Earth, we described Clark’s memory of that day:

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and, taking care not to stumble in the darkness, went down to the sand spit and found a place to sit near the water. He looked at the blanket of gray mist covering the river, but he wasn’t really seeing it. In his mind’s eye, he saw instead the fog hovering in the giant, tangled trees along the Columbia River as the Expedition took their canoes through the river channels, coming ever closer to the Pacific Ocean they were so anxious to see. He could almost feel their heavy dugouts quiver in awe of the rough tidewater.

When they’d finally reached the great Pacific, he and Lewis had walked alone a short distance, leaving the men behind to whoop out their pleasure in the achievement. From a towering basalt cliff, they’d stood together in their ragged buckskins, drizzle dripping off their beards, watching enormous waves crash against the rocky shoreline. Clark’s heart was so full he couldn’t even speak. He would never forget the way Lewis faced down the great ocean with a challenging stare, as if to say I made it, you sonofabitch. Then he’d given Clark that defiant, crinkle-eyed smile, and a slow, satisfied nod.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptist by Alice Cooper (1905)

Sacagawea is said to have been immortalized in statue more than any other American woman. Portland is home to one of the earliest monuments, a tremendous bronze by Alice Cooper. The sculpture was dedicated for the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, a ceremony that was attended by feminist dignitaries including as Susan B. Anthony, and by Eve Emery Dye, feminist and author of The Conquest (1902), the historical novel that gave rise to many of the myths about Sacagawea that are still cherished today.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptiste, by Glenna Goodacre (2004)

Not content with one statue of Sacagawea and little Pomp, in 2003, Portland added another, this time at Lewis & Clark College. Glenna Goodacre, who also designed the Sacagawea dollar, created the work, which was donated to the school by college trustee Richard Bertea and his wife Hyla.

Bronze artist Heather Heather Söderberg with her Sacagawea (2011)

One of the newest sculptures can be found at the Cascade Locks Visitor Center in Oregon, where a sultry Sacagawea is now on hand with the Expedition’s faithful dog Seaman. Heather Söderberg was commissioned to create the bronzes as a permanent memorial to the struggle faced by the Corps in navigating the rapids and the events of April 13, 1806, when Sacagawea and Seaman accompanied Captain Lewis on a mission to trade deer and elk skins for canoes and dogs (for eating) with the local people.

This video shows the casting of Sacagawea’s head:

Meriwether Lewis and Seaman by John Jewell (2005)

Sergeant John Ordway, by John Jewell (2006)

Located near Tacoma, Fort Lewis (now named Joint Base Lewis-McChord due to an operations merger with the adjacent Air Force base), was named after Meriwether Lewis in 1917. Home of the Army I Corps, it is a huge and vital base. In a landmark choice, Major General John Hemphill, who spearheaded the project to bring these oversized bronzes to the base, commissioned a bronze of Sergeant John Ordway along with that of Lewis and his dog. Ordway’s statue is one of the few statues in the United States of a non-commissioned officer and the only one honoring one of the non-coms of the Corps of Discovery.

We wrote more about Ordway and his critical role in leading the Corps in our blog The Four Sergeants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Lewis & Clark at Patit Creek, by George Touchette (2005)

Near Dayton, Washington, an impressive collection of more than 80 — count ‘em, 80 — life-sized steel silhouettes give visitors a sweeping impression of the scene at Patit Creek, where the Corps of Discovery camped on May 2, 1806, during the Expedition’s return journey. The full-scale scene was conceptualized and designed by local history buff and funeral director George Touchette, and the town of Dayton obtained a $108,000 grant from the Washington State Historical Society to complete the project. The sculptures were cut by Northwest Art Casting in Umapine, Oregon.

Thanks again, John, for all the great additions! Readers, let us know about other Lewis & Clark sculptures in your neck of the woods!

Previous installments:

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 1) - Virginia to Missouri

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 2) – Great Plains

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 3) - Rocky Mountains to the Sea

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Location: 30 miles east of Portland, Oregon

Multnomah Falls

on our way to this village we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly, except a small bottom on the South side in which our hunters were encamped. the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side.

it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening.    several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. — Meriwether Lewis, April 9, 1806

Multnomah Falls, a magnificent two-tiered waterfall with a total height of 620 feet, is the top tourist attraction in Oregon, so it’s hard to get a sense of how it must have appeared to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they passed the falls on their way down the Columbia River in 1805 and again on their way back east in 1806. Lewis & Clark did not name the falls; “multnomah” is believed to be a Chinook Indian word meaning “downriver” and has been in use since before 1860.

Multnomah is only the largest and most spectacular of a series of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. The falls are the results of one of the biggest geological cataclysms in the history of this planet: the Missoula floods sometimes called the “Bretz floods” after the geologist who uncovered them, J Harlen Bretz. In the 1920s, Bretz realized that the land in the Columbia River Basin was the product not of years of erosion, but of a cataclysmic event caused by the breaking of an ice dam near present-day Missoula. The dam’s failure unleashed floods of stupendous force, scouring out landforms in a matter of hours rather than millennia.

In the case of Multnomah Falls, the floods altered the Columbia Gorge so that the rock faces lining the river are sheer vertical drops rather than eroded cliff faces, allowing for the unique waterfalls that have delighted visitors to the area least as early as 1883, when a wooden pedestrian bridge was built, giving travelers on the newly completed railways a thrilling closeup view of the lush alcove and the falls therein.

The epic construction of the Columbia River Highway provided an opportunity to further enhance the visitor experience at Multnomah Falls. The engineer of the construction, Samuel Lancaster, wrote of Multnomah Falls, “the setting is ideal. It is pleasing to look upon; and in every mood, it charms like magic, it woos like an ardent lover; it refreshes the soul; and invites to loftier, purer things.” Logging magnate Simon Benson of Portland purchased the land around the falls and donated it to the city.

The cathedral-like expanse known as the “Benson Bridge” was built in 1914, and the adjacent lodge in 1925. These historic structures lend a warm and interesting human touch to nature’s handiwork at the falls. You reach the bridge by a slippery footpath — the falls are so mesmerizing that I almost went plunging to my death trying to walk and look at the same time, so be careful!

For more reading:

Lewis & Clark road trip: Palouse Falls (much more on the Bretz floods)
Lewis & Clark road trip: The Historic Columbia River Highway

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