The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current, January 04, 1920, Magazine Section, Image 81

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Career .of Adventure Had by Inland Mariners Rivals Even the Spiciest of Tales Related of the Spanish Alain.
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Copyrig:ht by Emma Hyatt Morton.)
FACTS outdo fiction. People are
more interested in the achieve-
ments of flesh and blood men
than In the imaginary deeds of aome
hero who Is the figment f an lmpres
aio'nlotic author's mind. '- No one be
grudges men worldly wealth when
they gain it by-sheer ability and fore
sight. Tb almost unwritten pages
f Columbia river history hold the
Investigator -breathless. '
The hardy race of river pilots and
navigators that were developed' in
Oregon with the inception and spread
of navigation of the interior streams
ef the northwest had no peer in the
annals of American literature. Some
ef their achievements were told in a
previous chapter; now comes a fur
ther continuation of their alluring
deeds. ,
Thoroughly Imbued with the essen
tially American characteristic of in
dividuality, they were quick to seize
opportunity and needed no precedent
for their work. They neglected no
chances, they were creators; made
their own openingsand, once started,
saw the thing through to the finish.
It Is a. difficult matter.- even at the
present late day, to adequately real
ize the value of their pioneer services
to the Oregon country. ' .
PortiBM Founded Here.
. Fortunes that were reaped from
the rivers of the northwest were le
sion, and these pioneer accumula
tions of wealth were the foundation
for some of the largest of the estates
- now existent in the country. The
capital that was thus attracted to
Oregon has been of incalculable value
in snaking possible the present-day
prosperity of the . region. Why this
phase of life in the -pioneer growth of
this corner of the United States has
never received more attention will
ever remain a mystery.
From the day when Lot Whitcomb
conceived the idea of building the
famous river craft that bore his name,
to the present, the steamers that
tiusily ply the Columbia and its net
work of branches have been making
mstory. one hundred and twenty
seven years ago Admiral Vancouver,
the British explorer, made the first
soundings at the mouth of the Colum
bia and sent the first accurate chart
of the bars and spits to the admiralty
''"In London. Ever since these sound
- Ings have been the basts for work at
the Columbia's mouth. They showed,
in detail, the conformation of the
I channels at the point where the huge
' river met the sea, and the river itself
" to above Astoria.
Could Vancouver visit this stream
today he could not believe his senses.
for here, at Portland, is located an
ocean harbor over a hundred miles!
from the sea. ' ' Should he place his
leadsman in the chains' and start
sounding he would hardly credit his
senses when the chart, as the line
reeled ouf to the distant bottom,
would call for from 45 to 160 feet and
he could find no bar. But his aston
ishment would be greater should he
start a journey inland, as he would
find an almost uniform channel way
through of more than 35 feet depth.
Bar Project Begins.
When Vancouver first charted the
mouth of the river he found the depth
about 27 feet. This was in 1792. In
1882 the river mouth had Bhoaled
alarmingly and the United States en
gineers recommended a Jetty project,
with the result that congress appro
priated the necessary funds and the
south Jetty was started.' At this time
the river depth was about 21 feet in
the main channel and ocean craft de
siring to enter frequently bad to lay
to outside for days and even weeks
for a favorable opportunity when tide
and weather would ' allow them to
make the perilous bar passage.
: With the progress of the jetty and
the scouring action of the current
the channels -were changed and the
depth gradually Increased, until Clat
sop spit began moving north and man
aged to again close the channel,
which, some 20 years later, placed the
engineers face to face with a totally
Incomprehensible problem, as they dis
covered that the channel was but two
feet deeper and that they had less
than an inch a year to show for their
work' and expenditure of money. Im
mediately they set about the solution
of this difficulty, with the result that
a further extension of the south Jetty
was recommended and the additional
construction of a shorter work on the
north, the purpose of the two confin
ing arms being to hold the current of
the river in check and force it to
dredge its own channel.
Safe Harbor Results. '
This recommendation met with gov
ernment approval and the work was
again ' taken up. wlth the result that
the most sanguine predictions of the
men in charge of the work have been
fulfilled, and the Columbia river bar
Is no more, it being possible for any
ocean-going vessel to enter in perfect
safety in almost any wather. And
while this work has been going on at
the mouth of the river the develop
ment of the upper reaches of streams
has been by no means neglected.
- Expenditure of some $14,000,000 in
various projects of dredging and
channel opening, the most essential
being the construction of the-Celllo
locks, has produced a system of in
land waterways that has but one peer
- in in 4
f6j "
Soundings ore r et
fane of rfcrence oof
3? : 048'
27 27 24
1 High m dry. one of the fast little steamers sets annual overhauling. 3 R. R. Thompson, who went to Sew
York and sold $2,000,000 of Oregon river navlamtlon atoek. 3 In the old days Dan O'.Vell was admiral of a
Hudson's Bay company bateanx fleet. 4 Willamette locks opened n Ions; stretch of navlarable waters, S
The J. IV. Teal Is n type of the fast hlsh-powcred boats developed la Oregon. 6 Captain and crew of the
old Portland rode to tbelr death over Oregon City Palls. 7 One hundred and twenty-eight years ago Ad
miral Vancouver made this chart of the Columbia's month. x f
in the country. Recently the-state of
New York, with government co-operation,
disbursed some $150,000,000 in
the development of a barge canal that
has but a small percentage of the
tonnage value that the streams of the
Oregon country possess. Mature has
done more for this region than any
amount of skillful engineering and
money could accomplish.
But while all this has been going
on, while man has been co-operating
with natural forces to make sate the
ingress and egress at the river's
mouth, and the safe and rapid naviga
tion of her upper reaches and tribu
taries, the pioneers among tfie navi
gators have been steadily doing their
best to demonstrate the necessity for
the immense projects that have been
carried to a successful conclusion. It
was their exploration and demonstra
tion of the -value of the traffic that
forced the nation to take a hand to
aid the territory served by the nat
ural streams, and while engaged on
this work the first-hand river men
and their craft have had' ma-" v ad
ventures. 1
River Kits With A?-itnrr.
Starting wit Oie launching of the
Columbia at Astoria by General Adair
and of the Lot Whitcomb at Milwau
kie, the annals .of river history are
rife with almost unbelievable tales of
breathless adventure. On - the upper
reaches of the rivers, barred as they
were by rapids at Oregon City on
the Willamette and at Cascades and
The Dalles on the Columbia, make
shift means for handling the freight
offered were employed, the solution
of the difficulty depending on the
Inventive genius of the men engaged.
Even prior to the advent of steam
navigation of the lower river by the
two boats launched in 1850 the upper
reaches of the Willamette were being
Captain James D. Miller owned a
flatboat 65 feet long with which he
made two round trips weekly between
Canemah and Dayton and Lafayette.
Captain George Pease had a larger
boat on the same run. and the two
alternated. On the down trip they
carried from 300 to 400 bushels of
wheat each voyage, for which they
received 60 cents per bushel freight,
and on the uprlver run they charged
$35 per ton measurement and had
all the business they could care for.
Indian Motors on Boots. .
Of course, these bofets had to have
power, but this was an easy matter
of solution for the doughty captains,
for they likely, had in. mind the. ex
ample set by the ancient Roman tri
remes and employed paddlers, not
slaves as in' days of old, but 'swarthy
Indians, skilled with the canoe and
expert river navigators. Captain Miller
had four of these units in his Indian
engine, and paid them at the rate
of $16 per day. The beauty of this
type of motor was that it wast elastic
and additional cylinders could be
placed in operation at need, and Cap
tain Pease had & more up-to-date af
fair, as his was a six-cylinder motor.
Gasoline and ignition troubles were
unheard of, and it was not necessary
to even crank the engine at start
ing, though a certain amount of care
ful priming was no doubt necessary
at times. There . Is no record, but
there is more than a possibility that
at certain times a Judicious mixture
of fluids to the carburetors of the
cylinders assisted materially in the
rapid propulsion of the craft.
The Columbia of Astoria did a
profitable business from the time of
her launching In the river trade, ply
ing between Portland and the river
mouth, 24 hfurs each way, with fre
quent trips to the portage at Cascades.
The charge was $25 per head for
passengers and the same amount for
a ton, of freight, and requently the
passengers wero Jammed aboard as
thick as possible. The Columbia lived
but a short time and her engines were
transferred .to the Fashion, and the
hull was swept to sea during a June
freshet. "
Bateaux Handed Trade.
Writing of this period, Dan O'Neil,
the veteran purser, describes some of
the difficulties of navigation. Open
boats and man power were the only
means of getting goods through, and
on several occasions he took charge
of fleets of bateaux belonging to
the Hudson's Bay company. The boats
carried about a five-ton cargo each
and were handled by a crew of six
Indians, about five of them being in
a fleet- Vancouver would be left in
the afternoon and te first landing
and night's camp would be made near
where St. Johns now stands. This
was prior to 1850, when the river
steamers entered the field. Milwaukie
would be reached the second night,
and the following .night Oregon. City.
But it was In getting through the
first rapids just below Oregon City
that the first trouble was encoun
tered. Here the Indians woifld wade
and tow through the swift current,
"patient and enduring, good-natured
and .willing, as long as they received
their dollar a day and plenty of fresh
beef," said O'Neil.
One of the events that O'Neil tells
of was the arrival of a cargo of
schoolma'ams for the Oregon schools.
At this time, in 1851, he was in com
mand of ths Columbia snd had the
pleasure of taking this delightful con
signment through to their destination.
It would be Interesting "in view of
the certainty that these - more than
fascinating women must certainly
have, in a great number of cases,
later relinquished their books for
marriage to trace some of their ad
ventures. 0
Lot Whitcomb Braves Ocean.
The Lot Whitcomb, after her launch
ing at Milwaukie on Christmas day,
1850, engaged in river traffic until
1854. with an unvarying: career of
prosperity. However. In this year,
her owners decided that she was too
expensive a- boat to run and sold her
to a San Francisco firm, and in that
year she steamed out to sea, was
picked up at the bar by the steam
ship Peyton ia and towed to San Fran
cisco. Rough weather was encoun
tered, but the staunch little Willamette-built
craft made the trip success
fully and passed through the Golden
Gate with three feet of water In her
hold. Her name was then changed to
the Annie Abernatby and she ran for
a number of years on the Sacramento
From 1851 on the development of
river traffic in Oregon was exceed
ingly rapid. In this year half a dozen
boats made their advent into the
prosperous trade along the ribbons of
water that stretched into the interior.
On the upper Willamette this year
the dimunitlve Hoosler made her
bow In the trade between . Canemah,
and uprlver points. She was made
from' a ship's longboat, lengthened
out. and her motive power supplied
from a pile-driver engine and boiler.
George Pease was the pilot and pur
ser and she- was in service for a long
time. In this year Captain Alexander
Sinclair Murray, brought the steamer
Washington, which he had purchased
on the Sacramento river, to Portland
on the bark Success and placed her
on the Canemah-upper Willamette run.
This trade did not prove profitable
and Murray ran her down to Port
land in 1852 and placed her on the
Portland-Oregon City run, where she
ran until superseded by another
Murray-owned craft, the Portland.
Barrel Boat Makes Uebst.
Then came the Multnomah, another
of the famed pioneer boats, and a real
queer customer, for she arrived in
sections and was called the barrel
construction, as she was built oCr
stave-like timbers. She went into
service from. Canemah to Corvallis
and was the first boat to ascend. the
river to the present agricultural col
lege city. On some of her trips" the
Multnomah brought down as high as
1500 bushels or grain and enjoyed
quite a profitable trade. The Cane
mah. an opposition boat, made her
initial trip on the same route about
this time, and managed to obtain tho
mall contract, and ''Nathaniel Coe was
IConcludsd on Fijo