These pages are © Copyright 2001-2007, by Julie Kidd, all rights reserved.
Please report any broken links, or other concerns, to the webmaster.
Please respect copyright on and off the Internet.
POSITION AND ADVANTAGES OF PORTLAND.
ALTHOUGH of a different order, the history of the modern city should be no less interesting than that of an ancient metropolis like Jerusalem or Athens. It treats no less of human endeavor, and no less segregates and epitomizes human life. If that in which men busy themselves, and that which they produce is anywhere, or at any time, calculated to attract attention and demand investigation and analysis, why not here in Oregon, on the banks of the Willamette, as well as five to ten thousand miles away, in Spain or in Turkey?
Unlike the ancient or medieval city, it does not embrace within its walls--in fact, boasting no walls--the whole life and history of a people. The Roman Empire without Rome would be like Hamlet without Hamlet. But America without New York City would still be America, lacking only some million and a half of people. In our modern life the process of civil and social organization has gone so far that the center of supreme interest is in the whole confederation, in the whole national life, or broadly, in the people themselves, and not restricted to any one locality, individual or race. It would, therefore, be impossible to discover in any one American city a civil or political principle apart from that of the surrounding country. Furthermore, the motives or inducements that led to the building of a city in bygone times were unlike those of the present. Then a town was established by a tribe who first believed, or soon assumed that all its members had a common descent from some hero, or some patriarch, or from some divinity, who was still patron and guardian. They threw around themselves the walls of a city in order to be secure from dispersion and from intermixture with the rest of mankind, and to have a place where they might cultivate their own religion, practice their own customs, celebrate their own festivals, and rear their children [page 54] in their own traditions. For this purpose they chose a secure retreat, where they might easily put up fortifications, and cover the approaches by forts or walls. A cliff, a peak, or some huge rock, commended itself to their purposes. Jerusalem was set upon a high hill surrounded by mountains. The Acropolis in Athens, a rocky eminence with level top and steep sides, was the site of the original city. At Rome the Tarpeian Rock and kindred heights fixed the site of the mistress of the world. The termination > > Tun@ or > > Ton@ (Town), of many cities throughout England signifies a rock or bluff, and the A Burg@ of the Germans has a kindred meaning; all going to show how the people in old times, and almost to the present, were accustomed to look around for a hill or crag as a site for their tribal or family seat. Round about these bluffs and hilltops the cities grew. Those cities which were successful gained in population by simple natural increase, or by means of raiding of other tribes and bringing in captives, who were set to work upon the outlying fields, in the shops, in erecting fortifications, or in constructing royal palaces. Free migration was practically unknown; for, although the citizens of one city might go on military or commercial, or occasional literary excursions to other places, it was unusual for them to abjure their rights in their native seat, or to acquire privileges elsewhere. The ancient city was a social aggregation which had its origin in an intense tribal idea, dominating religion and controlling social life, naturally allying itself to a military type, since only by force of arms could its existence be preserved or its dominion be extended. Commerce was a secondary or even more remote consideration, and the free exchange of residence was, with few exceptions, impossible.
How unlike all this is a modern American town! A city here is but a spot where population is more dense than elsewhere. The residents claim no blood relationship, have no common traditions or religion, and seek its limits only from eligibility of life. The wants of commerce or manufacturing chiefly determine its site, while all the uses and advantages of existence add their interest. There is absolutely no compulsion, either of ancestry, religion, tradition, social or political necessity; or fear of death, slavery, or loss of standing, or of wealth, impelling an American to live in one corporation rather than another, [page 55] or to forsake the fields for the city. The arm of law rests over each of the seventy million inhabitants of the United States, and upon every acre of the national domain. Upon the high seas also, and in fact, in almost every part of the world, every American feels the potent protection of the flag of his country. Residence is therefore simply a matter of personal choice. One suits his place of abode to his business, to his aim in life, or to his physical or moral necessity. If his object be the acquisition of wealth he goes where he can get money fastest. If he have some special field of labor, as invention, art, or literature, he seeks that center which affords him the highest advantages. Some are guided to a choice by a religious or philanthropic mission to which they have deemed themselves called. Multitudes have no other incentive than an eagerness for amusement, or excitement, or the attraction of noise, and the exhiliration of being in a large place. The motive which impels the moving crowd on the street to press as near as possible to the scene of an accident or of excitement causes the more mercurial in the community to betake themselves to a large city in order to be near the animating events of the time as they occur. But without exhaustive enumeration, it need only be remembered that whether the motive of residence be grave or trifling, it is wholly free, and accordant with the aims and uses of the individual life.
The growth of the city in our times is therefore much more than of old an accommodation to human wants and needs. Although the purpose to live in a certain municipality may, in many cases, spring from sordidness, in any case the choice is made from some sort of personal attraction which frequently, perhaps commonly, rises to a feeling of affection, making the attachment of our citizens to their cities one of almost passionate energy. No ancient city ever commanded from its most eminent people a more enthusiastic devotion than is accorded to our American cities by those who dwell in them; and in none of our urban life is found a half or two-thirds of the population held by chains to a locality that is hateful to them.
In modern times the principal thing that determines the building of a city at a particular place is the fact that at the point of its site the requirements of human life are found to exist in greater abundance [page 56] than elsewhere in the near surroundings. Its growth is but the unfolding of its natural advantages; together with the attractions, facilities, and amenities that may be added by man. The natural advantages, however, are the dominating principle, since improvements will not and indeed can never be added to any great extent where there is a natural obstacle. In the fierce competition of modern life, natural advantages will play more and more a controlling part. The man who can lift one pound more than his antagonist will just as surely surpass him as if the difference were one hundred pounds. The city that has commercial or manufacturing advantages over others of even a small part of one per cent will make that advantage tell in every transaction, and this will be just the feather that turns the scale. However great may be the enterprise of the opponent, or however willing it may be of sacrifice, it will find itself at last beyond its strength and its hopes must perish.
In this view the growth of a modern city is of vast interest; necessarily so to the business man, for he must know precisely what are those circumstances which give empire to a town. Otherwise, he will fail to make the best investments. To the student of human life and social science it is no less attractive, for he is thereby assured of the laws or principle which guides the human mind when acting individually and freely. It also illustrates how nature, and through nature providence, is the maker of the centers of our modern life, and thereby, determines, or predetermines, the lines and bounds of civilization.
In entering, therefore, upon this history of Portland as we withdraw our view from the larger circle of the early history of Oregon, we should not be understood as regarding it worthy of occupying a sphere of equal size with that of the nation, or of some ancient city which filled the Old World; but as treating of human action in an interesting phase, and as making clear what has been done in a city which will one day play an important part in the progress of our country. It will be nothing against it, that, as in a home or family it treats of men that we have known personally. History in all departments is ever pushing more closely to the roots of individual life, and what was once deemed beneath the dignity of [page 57] the historian’s pen, as altogether too insignificant for notice, is now eagerly studied as making clear the progress of events. The crown and scepter and the false magnificence of antique pomp have at last fallen from the pages of history and the every day doings of people on the streets, in their homes and fields are seen to contain the potency of civilization. No human feelings or motives are despised, but are all recognized as the fountain from which are gathered the stately river of national life and social advancement. In no place can these primary endeavors be better examined or comprehended than in a young city like Portland.
GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION AND TOPOGRAPHY.
The western side of North America is laid out on a large scale, a land of the “Jotuns,’’ a region of magnificent distances. It fronts the largest ocean; it has the most ample harbors, it is built out of the most continuous mountain ranges, and is watered by great rivers. It has large valleys and immense plateaus. Its geographical sections, the portions naturally connected by a coast, river, or mountain system, are wide and long, but the points which command natural ingress and egress to and from any one such section are comparatively few. Thus, on the whole of California’s coast line of six hundred miles or more, there is but one natural exit to the sea, and but one point from which the whole region may be touched direct. But that point, San Francisco, commands the situation perfectly.
The mountain formation of the region north of California, giving character to the whole of Oregon and Washington, possesses a similar integrity. It has a geometrical precision which all the variations of lateral ranges, lone peaks and inter-ranges, do not materially modify. Upon the eastern boundary the Rocky Mountains, which form the crest of the continent, set off by itself the Valley of the Columbia. The Cascade Mountains lying two hundred to three hundred miles westward of the Rocky range form the opposite rim of the basin making space for one of the most extensive, impressive, varied and fertile sections in the entire world. On the south, near the Oregon line, the elevated plains rise up in the Nevada Deserts, [page 58] and on the north far above the boundary of British Columbia the Selkirk Mountains and the Gold Range draw a jagged line between the waters of the Columbia and those of the Thompson and Fraser. When it is remembered that this Columbia Basin--perhaps four hundred by eight hundred miles in extent--is circled round by mountains of primitive rocks, bearing deposits of gold and veins of silver; beds of iron and of coal of unknown extent; lead, copper, and the other useful metals; and hills of marble, serpentine and other building stones; with abundant stores of gypsum and other sulphates; one will perceive what a seat of empire is embraced within these ranges. Moreover, on the top of these rocks, and in the illuvial valleys between is spread as fertile a soil as the world knows.
The Cascade Mountains make almost a straight line from south to north; high, steep and turreted by a score of volcanic peaks which always wear the ermine of sovereignty.
A hundred miles west of the Cascade Mountains is the lower but nevertheless eminent Coast Range presenting headlands to the sea and making difficult any passage inland from the ocean shore.
As the most striking and, to this work, the most pertinent geographical feature is the series of valleys from California to Puget Sound, lying between the Cascade and Coast Mountains and swelling or contracting to a width not far from fifty miles from west to east. Here are the Willamette, the Umpqua and the Rogue River Valleys in Oregon. In Washington the valleys of the Lewis River, the Chehalis, the Cowlitz; of the Puyallup, and of the Snoqualamie; with the gravel plains about the head of Puget Sound. All are of extraordinary beauty and almost universally fertile, and the sheltered passage way which they form within the ranges will be like an imperial roadway from north to south. Indeed this raceway of travel and commerce does not stop at either Puget Sound on the north or the Siskiyou Mountains on the California border toward the south. It continues northward down Puget Sound, through the waterways of the Georgian Gulf and the straits and passages of Western Alaska to the far north--the region of fish, of furs, and mountains of precious metals. At the other extremity it crosses the back of the Siskiyou Mountains amid passes through the valleys of California, finding easy [page 59] exit upon the waters of the Gulf of California. This passage by land and water of two thousand miles through some of the most charming and productive portions of the western world will necessarily pulsate with the tides of trade and travel.
Now, to focalize our view, if we draw a line from the head of the Gulf of California to Mt. St. Elias in Alaska, by this chain of valleys and waterways, where do we find a cross line opening from the ocean to the Rocky Mountains, and allowing trade and travel to pass east and west as well as north and south? This cross line has been determined by the channel of flowing waters drawn from the Rocky Mountains across the Cascade and Coast Ranges to the Pacific--the Columbia River. A line of two thousand miles, a cross line of five hundred miles--these will ever be the thoroughfares of commerce and travel on the western Pacific shore. What is the natural place for the commercial metropolis of the region? At the point of intersection of the two. This is the geographical position of Portland. Although on the banks of the Willamette, she is also practically on the banks of the Columbia, her business portion constantly extending towards the imperial river. This, then is the most comprehensive description of Portland’s geographical situation--At the cross-roads of a natural depression from California to Alaska and of the pathway of the Columbia from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
To define her position in more particular terms, she is located in latitude forty-five degrees and thirty minutes north; longitude one hundred and twenty-two degrees and twenty-seven minutes west on the left bank of the Willamette River, twelve miles below the Falls of that stream at Oregon City, and ten miles above its confluence with the Columbia. It is one hundred and ten miles from the city by the Willamette and Columbia Rivers to the debouchure of the latter stream into the Pacific. As for distance to other well known points, it is about seven hundred miles to San Francisco’ by water, six hundred by rail; to the Cascades of the Columbia it is sixty miles; to the Dalles, ninety miles; to Walla Walla, two hundred and forty-five miles; to Spokane Falls, three hundred and seventy; to Lewiston, three hundred and fifty; to Salt Lake City, nine hundred; to Helena, Montana, seven hundred and fifty; to Chicago, two [page 60] thousand four hundred; to New York, three thousand three hundred. On the north to Olympia by rail it is one hundred and twenty miles; to Tacoma, one hundred and fifty; to Seattle, one hundred and eighty; to Port Townsend, two hundred and fifty; to Victoria, three hundred; to Vancouver, B. C., four hundred; to Sitka, nine hundred; On the south to Salem, the capital of Oregon, it is fifty miles; to Eugene City, the site of the State University, one hundred and twenty-five; to Roseburgh, in the Umpqua Valley, two hundred; to Jacksonville, in Rogue River Valley, three hundred.
Portland sits at the mouth of the Willamette Valley, and practically at the mouth of the Columbia Basin. To pass from San Francisco by rail to Puget Sound, or vice versa, one must go by Portland. To pass by water from the sea coast to the Inland Empire, as the Columbia Basin is sometimes termed, one must pass Portland. Take a map, make Portland a center, and draw from this center lines along the natural gaps and depressions to other parts of the Pacific Northwest, and there will be formed a circle of which these lines are approximately the radii.
Topographically considered Portland is laid out by nature on a scale commensurate with the geographical environment of which she is the center. All along the south bank of the Columbia, and the west bank of the Willamette, from the ocean for more than one hundred miles, even to the Falls of the Willamette at Oregon City, there is a range of low mountains or hills, lying almost the entire distance against the waters of these rivers and in many places jutting upon them in a heads and escarpments. These highlands, for fifty miles of their distance from the sea, are the broken terminals of the Coast Mountains, laid open by the flow of the Columbia. For the remainder of their extent they break down into lower elevations, known as the Scappoose Hills, or still further south, as the Portland Hills. They are an older formation, containing much of sandstone and Andesite, and are in many cases wholly lacking the basaltic covering which is well nigh universal in this northwestern region. At the mouth of the Willamette one finds a delta, which on the south, is embraced by the arm of the river that was formerly called in the Indian language by the liquid name of Multnomah. From [page 61] this water, now termed Willamette Slongh, which separates the largest of the islands of the delta from the main land, the hills rise abruptly, with but a narrow strip of alluvial soil unfit for building. Following tip this slough to its point of departure from the main river, the hills still impend upon the west, their natural abruptness being much emphasized by the dense growth of evergreen forests whose unbroken wall of tops add some hundreds of feet to their apparent altitude. At a point ten miles from the month of the Willamette, however, one finds a great bend in the river, which now comes directly from the south, whereas, hitherto one found it flowing from the southeast. Here has been formed the site of Portland.
By the casting tip of alluvium against the foot of the hills, and the formation of the river bank at some distance eastward, shallow lagoons have been formed, which during seasons of flood are united with the general flow of the river making a continuous body of water. Here are Balch’s, Guild’s and Conch’s Lakes. From the shore of the latter, as well as from the banks of the river, the land rises at an easy gradient, reaching at a distance of half a mile from the river a plateau one hundred feet above the level of the water. At a distance of about a mile from the river, the plateau joins abruptly the chain of hills, which here lift their fronts sharply six hundred feet above the Willamette. From Couch’s Lake on the north to the end of the sloping plateau on the south, where the impending hills again approach the river, and terminate the prospect, it is a distance of two and one-half miles. It is nowhere above a mile wide. It is moreover cleft by a small stream coining from the west--Tanner Creek--which throws one portion of the site of the city toward the south, with rounded surface, against the foot of the southern bosses of the hill chains, and the other portion toward the north with various undulations, against the northern and more retrogradient peaks. The cleft, however, is not deep, nor abrupt, and gives a delightful and expressive variation to the face of the site. This, then, is the topography of the city--a gentle slope, rising up from the river and lake to the hills a mile back, within the elbow of the river, and under the shelter of time highlands. The plat slopes northeast, and embraces somewhat less than three square miles in area. It [page 62] is cosy, protected from the southern storm, sufficiently well watered to be green the year around, and is constantly fanned by the breezes of the river.
But while this formed the limits of the original city, the additions have spread far beyond these bounds, and manifestly if the city is to grow it must overflow, as it has already clone far beyond its two or three square miles. The surface of the surrounding region, far from forbidding such extension, is favorable and inviting to it. It has recently been recognized that the outlying hills are most advantageous for residence. They rise tip in separate spurs and are steep and abrupt, having all the appearance of having been cut into their present form by the erosion of sea waves, as was undoubtedly the case when the general level of Oregon was so much depressed in remote times, as to allow the flow of ocean water over the entire surface of the Willamette Valley. There may be reckoned at least six of these prominences. Beginning on the north back of Couch’s Lake, we have Willamette Heights; next south are King’s Heights, overlooking the City Park. South of this across the deep canyon of Tanner Creek is Carter’s Hill, which was the first to be called Portland Heights. Next in order is Robinson’s Hill, succeeded by Marquam’s Hill, upon which is located the addition sometimes called Portland Homestead. To close the view are the South Portland Heights. There are upon all these highlands many knobs and knolls, separated from one another by small ravines all of which make back and disappear at length in the solid body of the chain. The elevation attained by these heights is from six hundred to eight hundred feet. But they roll upward and finally culminate in a commanding ridge whose eastern terminus rises highest of all and is named Mt. Zion, over 1,000 feet in altitude. It looks eastward across the river. The western extension of the same ridge, Humphrey’s Mountain, commands the prospect toward the Tualatin plains and the Coast Mountains. These heights, having an infinite variety of surface, with innumerable networks of ravines, afford an almost countless variety of sitely building spots. An exposure facing any sun or wind may be obtained and in the deeper depressions locations sheltered from all the storms may be readily found. South and east of Tanner [page 63] Creek canyon, the heights, including Mt. Zion and Humphrey’s Mountain, with their skirts and flanks, compose a region of about six square miles. North and west of the canyon, the ridge is some three miles broad, and extends parallel with the river indefinitely. Ten square miles are within easy reach of the city. Still south of the heights proper the chain of hills continue, although it breaks down to a much lower altitude, and form a rolling plateau two miles broad, by four or five in length. This makes a region extraordinarily sightly and sunny, and while not so much diversified as the heights, it is much more easily reduced to form and use--indeed not betraying by contour its elevation, but presenting the appearance of an undulating plain. It is easily accessible to the city, and will one day be a portion of it.
From the highest points of all the elevations named the scenery is unrivaled. They command the prospect of the Willamette River, its winding and silvery way to its delta and union with the Columbia; and for many miles a connected view of that greater stream and its path from the heart of the Cascade Mountains and the chasm in their walls out of which it proceeds. There are also embraced wide strips of meadow land, plains, illimitable forests, buttes and romantic hills; the vanishing wall of the Cascade Mountains, with Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Jefferson, all being volcanic peaks covered with perpetual snow, in unobstructed view. Seldom is there such a combination of water, valley, hill and mountain scenery to be embraced in one prospect. All in all there are twenty-five (or a much larger number if necessary) square miles of land ready for the use of Portland on the west side of the Willamette.
But this is exclusive of the east side, which by many is deemed the fairer of the two. Its surface is totally different from that which has just been considered, since it is not at all mountainous, and little broken. It is on the other hand, an imperial plain, with long easy slopes, wide expanses, and but occasional elevations. Beginning six miles below Portland on the east bank of the river one finds at St. Johns the first highland, north of which are river bottoms and illuvial plains subject to the overflow of the Columbia. This elevation rises sharply one hundred feet above the river and making a slow [page 64] ascent gains another hundred feet of altitude before reaching its maximum. Its slopes are long and sweeping, maintaining their elevation with more or less regularity up to Albina nearly opposite Portland. Back some distance from the river the plain rises again fifty feet, or possibly in some places one hundred feet more, to a continuous ridge, a bank of ancient washed gravel, brought down in long ages past by torrents from the Cascade Mountains, and here deposited while yet the sea rolled in. The gravel ridge once attained, the surface steadily falls to seek the level of the Columbia on the farther side. Highland, Piedmont, Columbia Heights, and other names significant of the elevated region are bestowed upon various portions of. this gravel ridge. From Albina southward the surface sinks by small degrees, broken here and there by ravines, until at the site of East Portland, three profound chasms or gulches, unite to form an illuvial bottom, making easy ingress from the river, but a bad water front. The first of these on the north is Sullivan’s Gulch, fifty feet deep and two hundred yards across; its bed a morass. It is down this cleft that the O. R. & N. R. R. finds a passage from the plain to the river level. Next south is Asylum Gulch, leading back to a powerful spring which leaps from under the plain behind, giving birth to a stream of water sufficient for the supply of the water works of East Portland. A mile south of this is Stephens Gulch, bearing off another clear stream, of many times the volume of the foregoing, which also springs bodily from the ground. It is by this depression that the O. & C. R. R. passes out of the city. South of the mouth of Stephens Gulch, the ground once more rises, gaining an altitude about the same as that of Albina, and it is called Brookland. On the obverse slope, however, it sinks to a considerable vale.
The strip of alluvium in front of East Portland, at the mouth of the gulches, is but a few hundred paces across, and thence the surface rises easily, nowhere attaining an elevation of more than one hundred feet, and develops into a plain with many variations of surface leading out three miles further to Mt. Tabor. This is a solitary hill seven hundred feet in height with a commanding front and long approaches. Its slopes are most inviting for residence property, the soil is congenial to gardens and orchard trees, and its [page 65] rocks of basalt give birth to a multitude of delicious springs. It is in truth a reservoir of water, as are the hills on the west. East of Mt. Tabor the plains extend for many miles with an occasional little butte or ridge; and to the south the surface rolls away in a woody expanse with frequent hills which break down at length on the margin of the Clackamas, a half score of miles distant. Comprehensively, therefore, the cast side of the river opposite Portland is a plain--with undulations and a few hills--eight or ten miles long, and as many wide. The site of Portland may therefore be briefly described as a sloping plateau within the elbow of the Willamette, surrounded by hills, opposite a great undulating plain. This situation is unsurpassed for a great city.
The Willamette river, immediately above the city, spread out in shallows and enlarged by alluvial islands, is there above half a mile wide. Obstructed, however, by the high point of Brookland, and thrown from the east to the west shore, it rapidly narrows, being but fourteen hundred feet across at Morrison street, near the center of the city. Thrown again from the solid bank of the plat on which the city stands to the east shore, striking a mile further down upon the elevated plains of East Portland, below the gulches, it is forced into one strong deep channel, wearing the face of the upland into an almost perpendicular bluff fifty feet high--the formation exposed being lcustrine clay, over--ying a mixture of coarse sand and washed gravel. At this point the river is but eight hundred feet across. It thence expands slightly; still wearing the Albina shore, as its course is deflected westward; swelling at Swan Island to as great a width as at Ross Island, The depth of water at Ross Island is but nine feet. Below this obstruction the depth rapidly increases, reaching sixty feet off the lower wharves of the city, near the railroad bridge. At Swan Island the narrow channel hugging the east shore gives a depth of twenty-six feet which is frequently doubled by the vast rise of the Columbia in the summer.
The term A advantages@ is relative, being always used with reference to the purpose in view. The advantages of a city relate to its adaptation to the uses of commerce, manufacturing and [page 66] residence. Under the head of commerce, facility for both water and land communication is to be regarded, together with the extent and variety of commodities available for exchange. Under manufacturing advantages, power, labor, and availability of raw material, fall into the account. As to residence one must consider salubrity, beauty of natural surroundings and contiguity to his business operations, together with social, educational and religious privileges.
The geographical position of Portland, which has already been described, gives her superior advantages as a commercial center. That will be a commanding commercial point which readily effects exchanges of commodities and equates supply and demand. Chicago is a center of lumber trade, controlling this great branch of business throughout the Lake basin and the Mississippi valley, for the reason that she can most readily reach the lumber manufacturing districts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada, and can keep in supply millions of feet of seasoned and assorted lumber, ready for the greatest number of places in the surrounding regions. Her control of this trade is sometimes spoken of as due to the superior enterprise of her merchants. But this is true only in a secondary degree. From the circumstance of her geographical position there is a greater number of builders and others who can more easily find at her yards the lumber they desire, than at any other city. They find the quickest and cheapest route between them and time sawmills, to lead through Chicago. If they can save a few hours time and a few dollars in money upon every bill, they are certain to send to Chicago. The extent of patronage, the rapidity of their sales, the speedy return of their money and the consequent large margins of profit, enable the Chicago dealers to enlarge their stock and to supply still more quickly and satisfactorily all the needs of their customers, and by this to attract more amid more business, and finally to under-sell the smaller and less equipped houses of even distant cities. In like manner from her proximity to the grain fields, and from her shipping facilities, she largely controls the wheat business; in like manner she is a center for market and sale of the beef and pork of the Mississippi valley. [page 67]
Any great commercial city, as London, New York, or the younger cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, would serve an equally good purpose by way of illustration. A commercial city is the point of storage, account and exchange for the commodities of the region.
The advantages of Portland as such a center arc at once apparent As noticed above she is the A cross-ways@ of the track between the mountains from California to Alaska, and the path made by the Columbia River from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. At this point are made four right angles, fixing the center of a circle a radius of which a hundred miles long embraces solid laud only, and at four hundred miles includes within the western are a portion of the ocean, which is by no means an unproductive segment. It must follow from this position that she can reach a greater number of producers and consumers than any point not located at such a natural center. This fact, other things being equal, simply assures her commercial pre-eminence.
But to make this commanding position certain it will be necessary to he assured as to the avenues of approach from the four cardinal points of the compass. If it be true that Portland is at the natural center of the Pacific Northwest, a region six hundred miles square, and the avenues of approach are easy and secure no one can doubt that she will continue to be the metropolis of this country, and perhaps rival San Francisco, as being the center of a region more extensive and productive. This is no fancy, as is evidenced by the impression made in by-gone times upon commercial men as they examined her geographical situation. Looking at the map of old Oregon, while lie was still in Boston half a century or more ago, Hall J. Kelley, a patriot, and originator of a scheme which was much patronized by leading men in Massachusetts, laid off a great city as a capital for the new commonwealth which he was to establish on the Pacific coast. He put this chief city on his map at the junction of the Willamette with the Columbia, not knowing that this site was flood land. Portland now occupies the spot nearest available to Kelley’s city. Still further, when the Hudson’s Bay Company wished to build a fort from which to reach most easily all points of the Northwest, both by land and sea, they selected a site as near to our city as their [page 68] necessities would admit--building a fort at Vancouver. They would probably have brought it nearer the Willamette, on the south side of the Columbia if the land had been fit for building, and if they had not anticipated that England would not secure the south bank. This tells the tale of the natural center of the Pacific Northwest.
To examine the avenues of approach and to see if they are sufficient to supplement this imperial position, it will be most convenient to begin our scrutiny from the west. Here is found a water-way at tide level of over a mile in width leading up from the Pacific between the hills to the docks of our city. The Columbia River on this lower course, is one of the most majestic of streams, and is unrivaled for navigation. Its fresh waters destroy those forms of marine life inimical to dock-yards and wooden piling, and clear the ships of their accretions of barnacles, as they come in from the sea. It is true that it is obstructed to some extent by a bar at its entrance, but under the operation of the jetty constructed by the government this is being constantly cut down by confinement of the waters, and a depth of thirty feet or perhaps more, at low water, sufficient for the deepest vessels will be secured. There is now a sure depth of twenty-six feet at low water. By the use of dredgers, jetties, and wing dams the bars in the river between the sea and Portland, are rapidly disappearing and in a very few years all obstructions will have ceased to exist. It is simply a matter of improvement, which is wholly practicable, to make the lower Columbia and Willamette fit for the largest craft that floats. This improvement is now progressing amid the commerce of all the world, or such part of it as floats on ships, may therefore be brought to Portland, The entrance from the sea could not be more advantageous. It is not so deep or wide as the Straits of Fuca, and Puget Sound. But it does not appear that one or two hundred feet of depth or five miles of width more than necessary would give even the Straits of Fuca any decided advantage. Both are royal water ways from the sea, naturally, or easily made, ample for the largest vessels. The superior width of the Straits allows of sailing more easily than in the Columbia, while the fresh water of our river is a great advantage to foul keels. [page 69]
The gap through the coast mountains formed by the passage of the Columbia makes also a pass at tide level for the construction of railways from the ocean to Portland. The route is easy and direct, and from Hunter’s point, opposite Kalama to Portland it is occupied by the track of the Northern Pacific, The convenience and speed attained on the river has retarded rather than otherwise the construction of a road from Astoria, but there is no natural obstruction.
Toward the North, to Puget Sound, British Columbia and Alaska, there is a natural route, passing through the valley of Cowlitz River and thence by water, or, as ultimately will be the case, the whole distance by rail. On the whole course of the lower Columbia numerous small rivers enter the great stream, navigable by steamers of light draft, the towns beside which are, and will be more and more supplied from the markets of Portland, The numerous sea coast towns, at the mouth of the small rivers, and on the small bays, conveniently find a market and emporium at Portland.
Toward the south extends the Willamette Valley, making a way practically level for a hundred and fifty miles. Beyond this the general slope of the country is still upward--across hills and valleys--to the crest of the granite Siskiyou Mountains three hundred miles distant on the California border. This whole region of Western Oregon, most productive in grain and fruit, finds its emporium at Portland. It is large enough and has the resources for sustaining a population of four millions. When this figure is reached, one-sixth this number will be found at Portland. Not only may this country of Western Oregon be reached from Portland by lines of rail which slope thither, but a very large portion of the Willamette River is a water-way directly to her docks. This is an easy amid inviting path to enterprising steamers, and while not now bearing and perhaps not likely to bear the great bulk of freight, has great and permanent value in preventing railroad monopoly and in keeping freight rates at a normal figure. It is not improbable that the value of water as an agent for moving heavy and bulky products will be more and more recognized by the agricultural population, and the hundred streams that meander from the mountains to the Willamette, across level plains and through deep valleys, will be cleared of drift wood, deepened [page 70] and straightened, and as they flow on will carry also along with them a multitude of loaded barges. Each such stream is the basis of a canal, and this abundance of water will make every farming community independent, and forever keep down extortionate rates of transportation. As all the water of this great valley flows past Portland, so must all the commerce which it bears.
But broad and easy as are the avenues of approach from the west, the north, and the south, and large as is the region thus brought within the reach of her commerce, it is from the east that the greatest portion of her trade must come; and it is true beyond all controversy that the city which is the emporium for the Columbia Basin will lead all others. On those immense plains and uplands with multitudes of valleys upon their environs, leading back into the old hills and towering mountains, there is room for the seat of a nation equal to France. Here are two-thirds of Oregon and Washington, all Idaho, and large parts of Montana and British Columbia. It is a region where the cereals average twice as much per acre as in Dakota where fruits flourish in sheltered localities as in the deep valleys, beside lakes, and along the rivers where live stock of all kinds transform the wealth of the pastures into value, and where mineral treasures are of vast and unknown extent.
By many it will be strenuously denied that Portland can be the emporium for this region. Some other point it is contended, as upon Puget Sound, will most readily command the trade. But Portland’s strength is assured by the following considerations The trade of the Columbia Basin will flow westward to the Pacific Ocean. It will seek the most direct and easy route thither, since thereby its producers will pay less rates for transportation of their products. The tributaries of the Columbia, from the borders of Utah, to the borders of British Columbia and from the eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains spread out like the ribs of a fan; all converge upon the main Columbia, and thus unitedly pass through the gap of the Cascade Mountains on to Portland. It is simply a principle of physics that any body, whether a ball or a train of cars, will roll most readily down an inclined plane, and that friction or traction is increased by the attempt to go up hill. But from the head of Snake river to the [page 71] head of the Columbia, or of any tributary of either river, to Portland, is an inclined plane hither. To be sure the canyons of both these rivers and of many of their tributaries, are rugged, but once let a road be laid alongside their banks or down the general valley, and there is a preceptibly down grade the entire distance, adding the force of gravity to the wheels of the engines to help them with their loaded trains. The gap of the Columbia is the only pass through the chain of the Cascade Mountains at the level of tide water. All other passes lead over the main axis of the range at an elevation of three to four thousand feet. It is manifestly more expensive of time and force to draw a train over the back of the Cascade Mountains to Puget Sound than to bring it through the gap of the Columbia on a down grade. It is the inland farmer and merchant who must pay the difference, and however slow they may be in recognizing this, they will, with the certainty of water finding its level, choose the route which makes their bill the least. It is true that the roads to Portland may not always charge their minimum, but if they are able, by reason of natural advantages, to carry at a less rate than is possible for the roads across the mountains, they will at the scratch come down to it, and make that advantage the make-weight in their struggle. Any road which can persistently carry merchandise at one cent per hundred or even per ton, less than its rivals, will beat them in the long run. The natural grade to Portland from all parts of the inland country gives her thus much advantage. But, to complete the circle of ex change, if the wheat, live stock and ores of time upper country come down to Portland, this will be the most advantageous point at which to procure merchandise and necessaries for that entire region. Portland can thereby most readily receive the products of the Columbia basin, and supply the mercantile wants of her people.
The above reasoning not presented as a special plea in favor of Portland, but simply as a statement of the facts in the case, is absolutely conclusive of the natural pre-eminence of the city at the entrance to the gateway of the tipper Columbia.
But this only half states the case. While the waters of the Columbia amid its tributaries have made passes to all parts of the river basin for the railroad, they are themselves a means of transportation [page 72] of the most gigantic power. To be sure, this river, and the rivers which feed it, are wild and violent streams. They flow with great force, often break into rapids, and are at many places obstructed by rocks. The Columbia has four impassable rapids, or cataracts, and half a dozen others of such strength as to strain a strong steamer in passing. The Snake river is swift and turbulent through a large part of its course and boasts the highest water fall of any great river in North America. Such streams as the Deschutes, John Day, Klickitat, Yakima, Spokane, Palouse, Pend d’Oreille, Okanagon and Kootenai, or the tributaries of the Snake, for the larger portions of their way are fierce torrents cutting their canyons hundreds and in places thousands of feet deep into solid rock. But it is by no means impossible to bring most of these rivers into use for the purposes of commerce. By canals, locks, boat railways, wing dams and removal of obstructions, the Columbia may be made navigable for all sorts of river craft, for one thousand miles. It will thereby become an artery of commerce bearing a fleet of steamers and barges loaded with grain and ores. Any product might thus be brought even from the British line at prices which literally “defy competition.” The opening of the Snake river to its head waters would be a matter of more difficulty, but to the Salmon Falls the river may be improved so as to accommodate steamboats of all kinds. Every one of the hundred minor streams might likewise be made fit for bearing off the abundant products of the soil. The time may come when a net work of canals, both for irrigation and for the uses of commerce will cover the surface of the Columbia Basin. Such commerce will necessarily flow to the Columbia, and to Portland. The value of water will be better understood. The railroad as an agent for transportation has been exaggerated somewhat out of its natural proportions. Its great speed will always commend it to travelers, but in the movement of such heavy articles as grain and minerals, rocks and wood, the slower but less expensive water will play a very important part. As population increases in the continental areas, there will spring up a class of hydraulic engineers and inland navigators bringing our numberless rivers to their highest use as generators of power, as means of irrigation and of transportation. [page 73]
As was noticed in reference to the waters of the Willamette Valley these streams of the Columbia Basin will have a high value in restraining railroads from extortionate charges. This will make the people of the upper country independent, and they will naturally look to the city which they reach at minimum expenditure for supplies and make it their commercial center.
It is clear beyond all contradiction that, with the Columbia river and its tributaries open to navigation, Portland commands the interior as no other city on tide water. By no possibility can any port on Puget Sound have two thousand miles of river navigation, laying open the continent as far as Idaho, Montana and British Columbia. By choice of rail or river, and by the judicious use of each, Portland and her inland customers will be brought into communication at the greatest possible economy of both time and money, and the business between them will therefore flourish at the least possible expense.
It is sound policy, therefore, for the people of Portland to push vigorously for the opening of the upper Columbia. The work at the Cascades, however, is progressing, and no doubt within ten years the two thousand miles of inland navigation will no longer be locked up by rocks and shoals.
By the foregoing examination it appears that while Portland sits at the cross roads of the great North, South, East and West tracks of commerce, her avenues of approach from every quarter are perfect, or certainly capable of being made so. If this does not enable her to do a wider, more expeditions, more direct and comprehensive business than any other place on the North Pacific Coast, there is nothing in position. Such are her commercial advantages.
While noting these advantages as pre-eminent, it will not be contended that there is no room for other great cities on the Coast. Puget Sound will certainly have three or four; the Inland Empire, half a dozen. At the mouth of the Columbia there will be a large lumbering, coaling, and shipping city. At Yaquina, at Coos Bay, and in Southern Oregon there will be large towns. But the larger and more active these surrounding places, the more populous and [page 74] energetic will be the center, for through it can they all most readily reach each other, and the business which is common to the whole section must be transacted here.
Next in line comes consideration of Portland’s advantages as a manufacturing point. First, as to raw material. It scarcely need be said that if Portland can reach every part of the Northwest by natural channels and roadways, she can readily obtain all raw materials produced in the section. Logs for manufacturing lumber may be brought tip the Columbia or floated down it, or floated down the Willamette, or brought on rail cars from the forests to left or right. Materials for the manufacture of paper are found near. Woods for excelsior, furniture and ship-building are no less at hand. Wheat, oats, rye, barley, for bread stuffs and meals; wool, flax, hemp, for cloths, twines and ropes; broom corn; manilla (from abroad) for ropes; tar and turpentine; ores of lead, silver, gold, copper and quicksilver, nickel and manganese from the whole circle of mountains; limestone; cement rock, marble, all may be obtained from places comparatively near. Iron, the sine qua non of modern civilization, lies in hills of limonite six miles north, and also eight miles south, and exists to even a greater extent in portions of Columbia County distant twenty to forty miles. Other iron beds are accessible from all parts of the Northwest. Such a list of materials for manufactures at her very doors, which must in truth pass by her to go else where for working up, shows that Portland has no lack of stuff to begin on.
While material is thus abundant--inexhaustible--power equal to it may be found as near. Coal exists in vast deposits ill the mountains forty miles northwest, and may be obtained also in ships or by carloads from a dozen other points. But the great source of power is the Fall of tile Willamette at Oregon City, twelve miles south. This is one half greater in energy than tile fall of St. Anthony, in the Mississippi, at Minneapolis. It is forty feet high at low water of the Columbia, and is six hundred feet across and never ice bound. Streams might be led out from above this fall and conducted in flumes along the hillsides to Portland, and there be made to energize machinery. But it is now a more popular method to reduce this power [page 75] by means of dynamos, to electricity, and convey it upon wires direct to the machine rooms in the factories at Portland. The loss is found to be but eighteen per cent.
As if this fall of the Willamette were not enough--sufficient to drive the looms of Manchester--there are sixty miles distant the Cascades of the Columbia, of one hundred times greater strength--practically unlimited and infinite. At this point the Columbia falls thirty feet in less than three miles, with a volume varying according to the season from ten million to seventy million cubic feet per minute--quite equal to that of the Mississippi at its mouth. There is no place in the world were there is such an aggregate of water power on tide water, as at Portland, obtaining its supply from these two cataracts. Power for manufacturing. like raw material, is found here existing to an extent beyond all calculation. It only remains to put the two too-ether to do the manufacturing of the world. Of course means of exit and transport of the manufactured articles are as good as the means of bringing in the raw materials.
It only remains to consider the supply of labor to close the circle of manufacturing. Laborers by the thousands may be gotten in a few weeks from all parts of the world. The question is whether the conditions are such that once here they can work as cheap and efficiently as elsewhere. It seems likely that in a region where food and fuel are unusually plentiful and cheap, and where from the mildness of the climate fuel is not used to so great an extent as in colder regions, the cost of living would be so much reduced that a laborer could afford to work for at least as small wages here as elsewhere. Nor, with proper sanitary regulations does any reason appear why they should not work as efficiently. Particularly, as seems likely if the laborers made homes on the cheaper lands of the hills northwest of the city, or on the highlands northeast, the greater salubrity of these elevations should impart unusual force and vigor both of body and mind. The healthfulness of Portland is equal to that of Philadelphia, the great manufacturing city of America.
With command of unlimited material, power and labor, Portland has advantages for manufacturing in excess of any city on the Pacific Coast, if not in the world. Indeed, it is unique and remarkable in this regard. [page 76]
The subject of salubrity and advantages of scenery, education and society--partly natural, partly artificial-- will appear farther on in this volume, and may be omitted here.
As to the advantages to be derived from topography, the description of the city’s site, with reference to the hills and river as given above, exhibits its abundance of water front; its low lands easy for the use of wholesale houses and heavy business, for elevators, manufactories and mills; its easy slopes, well adapted to the use of hotels, retail houses, offices and shops; and the circle of highlands, whose eminences, knolls and peaks lift the residence portion some hundreds of feet above the smoke, surcharged air, mist and malaria to be met more or less at or near the river level. Indeed the atmosphere of the Portland hills is remarkably delicate and pure, having come for the most part from the west as a sea breeze, bearing the salty and tonic properties of its native region, which are destructive to the land-born germs of microbes and bacteria. It is rendered moreover perceptibly odoriferous and balsamic by its passage over the forests of fir trees.
For a great shipping point or harbor, one might think time Willamette too narrow. But as the need of more room is felt it will be entirely practicable, as has been suggested by government engineers to cut slips into the alluvium and lagoons at the lower end of the city for dock room and ship accommodations of any desired dimensions. [page 77]