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In approaching the subject of the commerce of Portland, it will be found that it divides itself most naturally into three periods. The first of these begins in the most remote times, dating, indeed, as far back as the year 1811, when Astor projected his fur enterprise from New York upon our shores. This extends as far down as to 1848 and the first months of 1849-the period of gold in California. [page 213]
The period from 1811 until 1849 may be termed the age of commercial adventurers and independent shippers, or the period of our primitive commerce. The second stage, beginning with 1849, continues until 1868, and may be styled the period of dependence, or at least sub-dependence, upon San Francisco. The third, beginning with 1869, and extending up to the present time may be styled the period of independent commerce with the Atlantic seaports, Europe, and all the world.
Recurring to the primitive age we find included in this the enterprise of Winship, of Astor, a long regime of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the ineffectual attempts of Kelley, Wyeth, and Couch ; with, perhaps, a few independent ventures of other bold but unlucky Americans. It is not necessary here more than to refer to the scheme of Astor. It is well enough, however, to bear in mind that in days so early as 1809 and 1810, commercial men upon the Atlantic sea-board were looking toward the Columbia River as the next great opening for their enterprise. Looking upon the map of North America, they saw how the Columbia river and its tributaries made an open way from the heart of the continent so that the products of the interior might readily float thence to the sea, and were therefore impressed that at the mouth of this stream would rise the great emporium of the Pacific Coast and command the trade of the Orient. Astor's proximate object was to nourish a trade in furs and to thereby gain a foothold for American institutions. There is every reason to believe that he intended to so far extend his plans and operations as to include the planting of colonies, the development of agricultural and pastoral pursuits, and thereby to insure the conditions by which a great commerce such as then was crystalizing about New York City, should be developed upon the western waters. It is well enough known how his enterprise failed, how his ships were blown up or wrecked, and how his agents upon this toast betrayed his interests to his British rivals. Nevertheless, in the two years during which his business flourished, in spite of all his disasters, he succeeded in establishing the first settlement on the North Pacific coast, and in collecting furs worth something like two hundred thousand dollars. [page 214]
The Hudson's Bay Company, which succeeded to this enterprise, was a well established business corporation, and for a quarter of a century and more--1818 to 1846--carried on a commerce worth on the average a quarter of a million dollars per annum. This was, in the first years, almost exclusively devoted to the export of peltries and to the import of only such articles as were necessary to secure them--that is clothes, gew-gaws, trinkets, beads and a modicum of powder and shot. For more than ten years their commerce was thus restricted, and one ship a year from London was amply sufficient to bring all imports and to carry off all exports. About 1829, however, McLoughlin, the chief factor at Fort Vancouver, found that he might advantageously supply the Russian post at Sitka, or New Archangel, as then denominated, with wheat; and settling, therefore, a number of his servants upon lands in the Willamette Valley, and in after years encouraging the American settlers to engage in the cultivation of the cereals, he built up a considerable commerce in the Northern waters. As early as 1835, or 1836, it was found that an incidental commerce of much value might be conducted with the Sandwich Islands. And at this time began our first real export of salmon, lumber, and hoop-poles and staves. The annual ship passing by Honolulu on her voyage to the Columbia left at that point a portion of her cargo to be sold to the Islanders. Taking on here a supply of molasses, she proceeded to the Columbia river, and after discharging at the little fort at Vancouver, took on some salt salmon, lumber, hoop-poles and staves to leave at the Islands as she went on back to London. This amounted to as much as sixty thousand dollars per annum. This British circuit of trade flourished until 1845, when Nathaniel Crosby, a Yankee sea captain, began to make inroads upon it; and, as by the treaty of 1846, Oregon as far north as the parallel of 49 degrees fell to our nation, the Hudson's Bay Company relinquished, all this business to the Americans.
It was in 1830 that Hall J. Kelley began his unlucky series of enterprises, and although he met nothing but failure from beginning to end, and contemplated a system of colonization rather than commerce, the agitation into which the Eastern States, and especially the commercial circles of Boston were thereby thrown, produced [page 215] fruit later on. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, of Boston, a clever, mettlesome, idealistic, but nevertheless sagacious New Englander, conducted his expedition across the continent to the mouth of the Willamette river. His plan was to establish forts on the upper waters of the Columbia, which were to be supplied with goods for the Indian trade, while at the mouth of the Willamette he was to have a central station. To this point should be gathered the pelts collected from the Indians, and hither a ship should come every year bringing a supply of goods sufficient for the interior posts. A system of salmon fishing was also to be conducted on the lower Columbia, and as his vessel sailed away with the product of the year's labor of the trappers and the traders, she was also to carry a cargo of salt fish to be traded at the Sandwich Islands for whale oil or other products of that region. This brilliant scheme proved equally disastrous with that of Kelley's. Wyeth's little band, which he left at Fort Hall, had much ado to escape extermination at the hands of the red men. His fishermen on the lower Columbia had bad luck in taking salmon--some of them being drowned; and he was only too willing, after a struggle of less than three years, to sell out to his rivals and accept passage home in one of their ships. Captain Couch, in 1839, under the direction of John and Caleb Cushing, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, entered upon a scheme very similar to that of Wyeth's, with the exception that he did not contemplate dealing to any extent in furs. With the brig Maryland he sailed around Cape Horn, arriving at the month of the Columbia river and passing up its waters to the Willamette, and thence to Oregon City on the solsticial freshet of May, 1840. He had on board an assorted cargo for trade with the American settlers in Oregon, and intended to load up with salmon and return to the Sandwich Islands and there exchange his cargo for whale oil and return via the Cape of Good Hope to Massachusetts. His plans, however, totally failed from his inability to sell his goods at Oregon City at prices to compete with the Hudson's Bay Company` and from the impossibility of obtaining a cargo of fish. He sailed empty to Honolulu, and there had to sell the Maryland in order to get home.
In 1845, however, the persevering attempts of Americans to control this trade met with success. It was in that year that Captain [page 216]
Nathaniel Crosby came around the Horn from Massachusetts, and entering the Columbia river, sailed up to Portland, and, anchoring here, began to sell off his stock of goods. By means of batteaux, or flat boats, his goods were lightered up to Oregon City and there disposed of as the settlers found need. It was in connection with this bark, the Toulon, that the name of Portland began to be known. People at the thriving city of the falls inquired when they learned that Crosby's ship was in the river where she would unload, and the answer was made "At Portland." This venture was measurably successful, and thenceforward Crosby began a regular trade between Portland and the Sandwich Islands, carrying away salmon, hoop-poles, staves, and a little whip-sawed lumber, or perhaps something of the product of the saw-mills at Oregon City, near Vancouver, or the Hunt's mill on Cathlamet bay. In 1846 this success of Crosby's was followed up by the arrival of the Chenamus, from Newburyport, under Captain Couch, on his second venture.
In 1847, as the supremacy of the United States in the western waters began to he fully assured, other ships with cargoes of goods began to arrive. One of these was the bark Whitton, of New York, under Captain Ghelstom. She came up to Portland, and, after discharging, took on a considerable supply of produce, making a temporary wharf by drawing up near to the shore and placing poles from the bank to her deck, and upon these laying planks. At the same time the brig Henry was in the river on the East Portland side; the American bark Parsons is also mentioned as having entered the Columbia, and the Eveline from Newburyport.
The Star of Oregon, a schooner, built in the early forties by Joseph Gale and other Americans, on Swan Island, was run down to San Francisco, but of course exported nothing, unless she herself be considered an export-for she was sold at San Francisco, and the money thus obtained was invested in cattle, which were driven to Oregon. It is not known that there were any other exports from Oregon, or, at least, that any passed Portland during those early times. This whole epoch, at least so far as concerns Americans, was that of commercial adventurers, and old-time traders, such as flourished on every sea from about the year 1790 to 1850. [page 217]
Coming now to the second epoch we find a commercial revolution consequent upon the discovery of gold in California. Thenceforth the objective point of the commerce of Oregon and of Portland as her principal shipping point was the Golden Gate. At the time that the discovery of gold was announced in Oregon in August, 1848, the brig Henry happened to be lying in the river, and her captain believing that the discovery of gold would produce permanent industries on the most gigantic scale, seized the opportunity, before the news became general, to buy up as many as possible of the spades, shovels and pans, that were to be found among the householders and farmers of young Oregon. With these he sailed off, and, although experiencing a long delay on the bar of the Columbia, and passing through a storm at sea, by which he was well nigh shipwrecked, he made the port of San Francisco without great loss, and realized a fortune. Other craft going down the coast to the same place carried produce of various kinds and some deck loads of ]umber which had been cut out by whip saws, or at Hunt's mill. From 1849 until about 1855, and even later, the trade in Oregon produce and lumber became exceedingly remunerative. One of the ship captains who made it a great success was Couch. He arrived on his third trip [page 218] from Massachusetts at San Francisco in 1849, with the Madonna, and sold what lumber he had on board at the fabulous price of six hundred dollars per thousand feet. Five hundred dollars a thousand was for some time the regular market price. The Madonna came up to Portland and thereafter made regular trips under command of Captain Flanders, now of our city. Stimulated by the great demand for lumber, mills began to spring up along the lower Willamette, and a heavy export trade was continued. Lot Whitcomb and Captain Kellogg, at Milwaukie, operated a saw mill and regularly despatched vessels to the Golden Gate, carrying their own lumber and also that of other mills, for which they received a hundred dollars a thousand as freight. The exact amount of lumber thus exported during thee years is not known, but, together with shingles, puncheons, poles, timbers, hoop-poles, shooks and staves, aggregated a value of many thousand dollars.
Under the stimulus of enormous prices and unlimited demand Oregon produce began to be gathered likewise and sent below. Butter at two dollars a pound, beef at one dollar; wheat, potatoes and other vegetables, at corresponding figures, were eagerly brought from all parts of the Willamette valley and shipped at Portland or other points on the lower Willamette and Columbia. To meet this growing commerce sailing craft became multiplied, and steam communication was soon demanded. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company, of New York City, under the presidency of Aspinwall, had in 1849 sent the old Pacific through the straits of Magellan for Astoria, but she stopped at San Francisco. In 1851 she was followed by the old Columbia, a side-wheeler of about six hundred tons, which reached the mouth of the Columbia river and stopped at Astoria. After this she made regular trips between San Francisco and the Columbia river, coming finally as far up that stream as St. Helens. In the latter part of the same year the Gold Hunter came up from San Francisco, and being purchased by the town proprietors and other citizens first connected our city by steam with the outer world.
There was no product of our valley which met with a greater demand than the Oregon apple. Orchards were exceedingly few, and in 1850 to 1855 the trees were so young that even the total aggregate of the entire Willamette valley was not large. People from the Eastern and Middle States, who had been accustomed to this fruit, and in crossing the plains or sailing around the Horn, or via the Isthmus, when they had been compelled to live upon fried bacon or salt beef, with little or no fruit or vegetables, were ravenous for the beautiful red or golden apples that grew large and fair in the Oregon rain and sunshine. They were willing, especially if their belts were full of A dust," to give almost their weight in gold for the pomes. A dollar apiece, and even five dollars for a big one, was a regular price in the earliest days. The first shipment was made from the nursery of Luelling & Meek, at Milwaukie, in 1853. This was a consignment of two hundred pounds for the San Francisco market, from which they realized five hundred dollars. In 1854 they sent forty bushels down, making twenty-five hundred dollars by the trans-action. About the same time Mr. J. A. Strowbridge, now one of our [page 219] most substantial citizens, began making collections and consignments, going about from orchard to orchard, and encouraging the farmers to plant trees as rapidly as possible. His returns were large, and the encouragement which he gave the farmers resulted in the extension of the early orchards. In 1855 the export reached fifteen hundred boxes, which sold at fifty cents to a dollar a pound; in 1856, five thousand boxes, selling at twenty-five to fifty cents a pound; in 1857, fifteen thousand boxes, at fifteen cents to fifty cents; in 1858, twenty-nine thousand, one hundred and ninety boxes, at seven cents to thirty-five cents; in 1859, seventy-two thousand boxes, at three cents to twenty-five cents; in 1860, eighty-six thousand boxes, at three cents to nineteen cents. In the winter of 1861, owing to the severity of the season, the orchards suffered a great loss, many of them being completely ruined, so that the exports did not for many years come up to their early productiveness. Even in 1863 we find the exports only forty-two thousand and thirty-one boxes. Yet it is to be noticed that after the discovery of gold and silver in Eastern Oregon and Idaho, quite considerable shipments were made thither, of which no record is found; and it was becoming customary also to turn the product into dried fruit, which subsequently exceeded in value the shipments of the green. Moreover, as prices fell, the crops were not fully gathered and thousands of bushels were suffered to rot under the trees, or were fed to the cattle and hogs.
About the year 1860, and until 1865, there began a steady change in the character of exports. It was during those years that many of the people of Western Oregon went mining in Eastern Oregon or in Idaho, and as they returned, brought with them large quantities of gold dust; while bars of the precious metals, which had been made in the mining camps or towns of the upper Columbia, began to come down to Portland and were shipped thence as treasure. These shipments soon vastly exceeded in value all other exports combined. Frequently a quarter of a million dollars, and occasionally twice or three times that sum, was sent away on a single steamer.
To begin now with a more exact account of our exports, those of 1863 are stated as follows: (It will not be supposed that these figures [page 220] are exact, or wholly comprehensive, since many shipments were made of which no account was taken, and gold dust especially was carried off in the pouches of the miners, the quantity of which was altogether unknown). Apples shipped aggregated forty-two thousand and thirty-one boxes; hides, two thousand, three hundred and twenty-four; wool, two thousand pounds and fifty bales. There were butter, flour, packages of eggs, gunnies of bacon, and live stock in considerable numbers. Of treasure there were nearly three million dollars.
In 1864 the shipments of treasure rose to upwards of six million dollars, while other products swelled these export figures by about six hundred thousand dollars. Apples had come up to sixty-one thousand six hundred and seventy-eight boxes. The shipment of flour was insignificant compared with that of later days, and that of wheat figured scarcely more, although we find that the bark Almatia took down a hundred tons on one of her trips. We also find a shipment of two hundred barrels of salmon. Although this fish was caught in considerable quantity and prepared by salting for domestic consumption, it figured comparatively nothing in those days before the canneries. Of other exports we find oats, potatoes, turpentine, hoop-poles, lumber, lard, oil, fish, beans, butter and bacon. The characteristic of these early shipments is that of a community of small farmers and housekeepers, who, of afternoons, rainy days and long winter evenings, treasured up betimes the various odds and ends of their domestic and agricultural economies, rather for the sake of a little ready money when they went down to Portland, than as a regular established industry. Even the exports of wheat, flour, lumber and cattle seemed to be the picking up and saving of the odds and ends after the domestic wants had been supplied. The shipment of treasure was about the only thing that constituted a great industry. To accommodate this commerce, and to meet the wants of travelers, the steamships Oregon, Sierra Nevada, Brother Jonathan, Pacific, George S. Wright and Moses Taylor were kept in operation. These were old fashioned, side-wheelers, high and wide, and also slow. They are well known among old Oregonians, and the fate of the Brother Jonathan, which was wrecked on the reef near Crescent City, in California, is still remembered with [page 221] something of the horror that fell upon the isolated communities in Oregon when the news of the great disaster was first received. The George S. Wright also suffered shipwreck, being many years later lost in the northern waters. Of sailing vessels, the barks Industry, Jennie Jones, Cambridge, Jane A. Falkenburg, Almatia, Samuel Merritt, Helen W. Almy and Panama are named.
In 1865 the value of exports is given as seven million six hundred and six thousand five hundred and twenty-four dollars, the greater portion of which was treasure.
Holladay's California, Oregon and Victoria Steamship Line was running in that year, the Sierra Nevada (1,395 tons) and the Oregon (1,035 tons). The California Steam Navigation Company's line --Hensley-- was now operating the Pacific (1,100 tons), and here appears also the new name Orizaba (1,400 tons). These plied to San Francisco. Their rates for transporting horses were twenty-five dollars a head; cattle, twelve dollars; sheep, two dollars and fifty cents; and hogs, four dollars. The slaughtered animals were reduced somewhat; rates for hogs, one dollar and fifty cents; while cattle were still twelve dollars. General merchandise paid ten dollars; wheat, eight dollars, and flour, six dollars per ton. To Victoria the steamer Active was run by Captain Thorn.
Sailing vessels to San Francisco were the Jane A. Falkenburg, 600 tons, Captain A. D. Wass; the H. W. Almy, 600 tons, Captain E. Freeman; the bark Almatia, 700 tons, Capt. Stannard; bark W. B. Scranton, 700 tons, Captain W. Cathcart; bark Samuel Merritt, 550 toils, Captain Joseph Williams, and bark Live Yankee, Captain Wiggins.
The Hawaiian Packet line comprised the bark A. A. Eldridge, of 400 tons, under Captain M. Abbott, and the bark Comet, of 700 tons. Of this line, McCraken, Merrill & Co. were agents.
While the lines of commerce were thus maintained to ports outside the State, the internal commerce on our rivers was, very active and attained large proportions. The O. S. N. Co., ran steamers to Astoria, to the Cowlitz river, to The Dalles, and the Snake river. To Astoria, the J. H. Couch; to Monticello, a place at the mouth of the Cowlitz river, which was washed away in the flood of 1866, and [page ----] has since been called Freeport, the Cowlitz or Rescue; to the Cascades, the New World, Wilson G. Hunt, Cascade or Julia, to connect by means of the portage railway with the Oneonta, Idaho, or Iris. The fare to The Dalles was six dollars; freight, twelve dollars per ton. Connection was made between The Dalles and Celilo, by means of another portage railway, with the Owyhee, Spray, Okanogon, Webfoot, Yakima, Tenino, or Nez Perces Chief, for Umatilla, or the Snake river. Fare to Umatilla was twelve dollars, and freight seventeen dollars and fifty cents. To Lewiston the fare was twenty-two dollars, and freight sixty dollars.
The People's Transportation Company ran between Portland and Oregon City the Senator and Rival, to connect at Canemah with the Reliance or Fannie Patton. For Eugene, the Enterprise ran from Canemah.
Some independent steamers, then as now, were moving upon these inland waters, among which were the Alert, for Oregon City, to connect at Canemah with the Active for points above; the Union, plying between Canemah and Lafayette; the Echo, for Eugene; and on the Columbia between Portland and Vancouver, the Fannie Troupe.
In 1866 the total export amounted to $8,726,017. The details are given as follows: Pork, 72 barrels " $ 20; apples, 68,860 boxes " $1; eggs, 1763 packages " $10; bacon, 4376 gunnies " $16; hides, 4674 " ; $1.50; onions, 1.325 sacks " $4; syrup, 185 barrels " $8; wool, 1671 bales " ; $40; pitch, 292 barrels " $6; varnish, 124 cases " $10; dried apples, 2603 packages " $10; flour, 29,815 barrels " $5; salmon, 2564 packages at $8.50; staves and headings 59,203; shooks, 14,972 " 40 cents.
The foregoing items foot up $555,457; to which should be added $200,000 for cargoes of which no manifests were made. The shipments of treasure aggregated $8,070,600.
During this year the steamer Ranger was put on the Vancouver line, and the steamer Yamhill made tri-weekly trips to Hillsboro.
To San Francisco the new steamer Montana first appeared; and the schooner Alfred Crosby, to Victoria; the schooner Champion, [page 223] and the bark Ethan Allen, were found in our trade. The steamship Fideliter, a small, low screw propeller, which always went with a buzz, and at least preserved the appearance of activity, took up the route to Victoria. This same year also the dashing and swift steamer Oriflamme, began to ply on the route to San Francisco.
For 1867 the total export is given as $6,463,793.75. This appears to be more than $2,000,000 less than the preceding year, but this diminution is due to a great decrease in the export of treasure which fell from more than $8,000,000 to about $4,000,000.
During this whole period, from about 1845 until 1868 or 1869, the Oregon merchants, although industrious and active, and carrying on, as we have seen, a considerable volume of business, had been in reality working under the hand of San Francisco dealers. In the first part of this time many of them entertained the idea that as Oregon was the region from which the mines of California drew supplies, she must ultimately secure the gold that flowed forth from the depths of the earth. They believed that Oregon would become the head of business, and that her citizens would not only send supplies to California, but also control, to a very large extent, the trade and shipping between the two States. But while this reasoning had much foundation in the natural relation between the two regions, the time was not, however, ripe for its full justification. The out-put of gold in California was so enormous, so much of it was carried off at once by the miners, the California business men showed such preternatural activity, and the agricultural capacities of the Golden State proved to be so great that the greater portion of the capital developed from the mines was held in California and used in building up the great city at the Golden Gate. Oregon products, although always in good demand in California, did not figure by any means as the exclusive supply. The proprietors of Portland, in the loss of the Gold Hunter, found themselves unable to hold the carrying trade, or to control commerce between Portland and California. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company soon controlling this line, found it to their advantage to court the. favor of the California money kings [page 224] rather than that of the Oregon pioneers. In the course of time the steamship lines passed into the hands of Californians exclusively, and the northern trade was looked-upon by them as a perquisite of San Francisco.
During all these years, and even up to the present time, the merchants and people of California, partly on account of the money value of this policy and partly out of egotism and profound belief in the superiority of their own section, continually disparaged Oregon and Oregonians. The A Web-Footers A became the butt of all the little jokes that were going upon the streets and in social circles, much as Portlanders, at present, refer to the inhabitants of Tillamook as embodying all that is outlandish and slow in back-woods life. The rivers of Oregon were constantly represented as too shallow and rocky to be fit for navigation, while the mouth of the Columbia river was invested with all of the horrors which had lived over in romance and poetry from the writings of Irving. Merchants and insurance companies either refused to send ships to a place which was scarcely a recognized port, and of which nothing but evil appeared in the commercial papers. Our climate was spoken of as detestable and intolerable to civilized man--as being perpetually gloomy and wet, and, for at least nine months of the year, unfit for out-door occupation. This spirit of humorous jealousy was indeed carried to a most absurd extreme, and, by means of all the exaggeration of wild western fancy, made Oregon, and more particularly the region of Portland and vicinity--, to appear as the fag-end of the American continent, suitable only for the abode of those whose natural inertia and lack of ambition led them to avoid the close competition and high energy of more favored countries--of which California clearly stood at the head. While much of this may be excused as simply humor and vanity on the part of our neighbors, it, nevertheless, worked a real injury to our commerce and to the development of our State.
About the time that railroad communication with the outside world was seriously agitated it began to be seen clearly by the people of Portland that, in order to build up anything like commerce, they must get themselves upon an independent basis before the world. [page 225]
If they were to bring down to Portland their crops of wheat, aggregating many millions of bushels, and worth many millions of dollars, they must not follow the policy of shipping all this produce to California, there to be reshipped as the product of that State. Their pride in Oregon was suffering many hard blows from being ignored in commercial circles. They saw by shipping reports that their flour and wheat, which, they fondly believed was the best in the world, all appeared in the markets of the world as from their neighbor State, and went to swell her fame among the nations. Portland was not known in the newspapers of the east, except perhaps as an insignificent point somewhere on the northern coast. The name Oregon was also carefully suppressed, and ships bound for Astoria or Portland were simply reported as having cleared for the Columbia river, leaving it uncertain to one whose geographical knowledge was imperfect whether this river was in some northern county of California or in British Columbia. Preparations were made for purchasing goods at New York and importing them to Portland direct, thus saving the expense of port duties at San Francisco, the toll paid to her merchants, and the tariffs of reshipping on the California steamers. The name of the first vessel thus chartered was the Sally Brown, and her captain, Matthews. She was soon followed by the Hattie C. Besse. There was a sort of "great awakening" on the part of everyone, and the newspapers exhibited fully the disadvantages of shipping to California. Said The Oregonian: A Now we believe that it can and will be demonstrated to the commercial world that vessels of sufficient capacity to make profitable voyages can load on this river. But our interests in this regard have been strangely neglected by our people. We have preferred to let San Francisco manage matters to suit her own convenience, instead of trying to do anything for ourselves. There is no longer any question about vessels of a larger class being able to cross the bar at the mouth of the river; and, for a long time, as is well known here, vessels large enough for direct trade have no difficulty in reaching Portland. But the impressions which were formed abroad in regard to the Columbia river still remain, which is not strange when we consider the manner in which our trade has been carried on." [page 226]
The Herald discusses the subject and shows in the same manner how dependence upon San Francisco worked ill to all Oregonians. It said:
A We have frequently urged upon our citizens the importance of . establishing a foreign commerce and an independent trade for Oregon. Every intelligent man, on first becoming acquainted with the vast natural resources and commercial facilities of Oregon, is struck with astonishment at the apparent want of enterprise exhibited by the business men of this section in the matter of foreign commerce. A few days ago we noticed a sale of flour from the Salem mills at the highest market price; it was quoted in the printed reports as `California flour.'A gentleman of this city has just shown us a letter from his agent in New York, advising him of a sale of flour from the mill situated at Jefferson, in Marion county, Oregon, at the highest market rates. That is put down in the commercial report as `California flour.'Neither the name of Portland nor Oregon is noticed in commercial intelligence. Steamers and sailing vessels loaded for Portland appear in the shipping report as `cleared for the Columbia.'The imports of foreign goods to San Francisco upon which duties were paid at that port, amounted to $17,987,535.00, for the year 1867. The imports from the eastern States during the same year were not less than as much more; which would make an aggregate of imports of $35,975,070. Not less than one-third of that entire amount was reshipped to the Columbia, passing through Portland for a market--say, eleven million one hundred and ninety-nine thousand one hundred and seventy-two dollars. The San Francisco commission upon this amount was at least ten per cent.--$1,199,-927. The freight from San Francisco to Portland upon these goods was not less than $400,000. Allowing the same amount for commission and return freights, and it will he found that our trade with San Francisco in commission and freights costs $3,198,344. Goods can be shipped directly from New York and Boston, or from any foreign port to- Portland for one dollar a ton more than for San Francisco. By direct trade with the east and foreign ports, we have a saving of $700,000 in freights, and $2,398,344 in commissions and charges incident to breaking bulk, re-selling and re-shipping, at San Francisco. During the past two years Portland has paid tribute to San Francisco to an amount more than equal to the value of all assessable property. San Francisco has now a population of a hundred and twenty-five thousand. Portland, with a foreign and independent commerce, with the same spirit of enterprise, which has characterized the former city, would now number not less than fifty thousand. This proposition is now mathematically demonstratable. The mines naturally tributary to Portland are greater in extent and product than those to San Francisco; the agricultural products of Oregon are more certain, and as available as those of California. Our lumber, iron and coal--the three great staples of commerce --together with our manufacturing facilities, are infinitely superior to those of California; we are nearer to the rich commerce of the Indies, and in the direct line of the shortest practicable, belt of commerce around the world, when the contemplated railroad systems are completed. With all these superior natural advantages, why do we consent to be a mere dependency? Paying tribute to the amount of one-third of our earnings to a city which constantly strives to humble and degrade us ?" [page 227]
The estimates of the amount Portland was then paying to San Francisco, as given by the Herald, were probably excessive, but the reasoning presented was sound and weighty, and had a good effect among its constituents, as the like presentations of the Oregonian and other journals upon their readers.
About this time there were others also striving valiantly for release from these restrictions. Among these was Mr. Robert Kinney, who, although not .a citizen of Portland, had interests here; and, as the proprietor of large grist mills, was seeking a market for the products of his manufacture. His son, Marshall J. Kinney, at that time his agent in California; found it extremely difficult to charter a ship for crossing the bar independently of the California companies. He was met with all manner of preposterous objections, and he found the prevailing opinions in regard to the Columbia river prejudiced by self-interest, and even dense ignorance. Nevertheless, he succeeded in chartering a bark--the Cutwater--and the cargo shipped on her was among the first, if not the very first, to sail away independently of California.
As the people of Portland became thus moved, measures were introduced in the State Legislature, which convened in the latter part of 1868, to provide relief. Col. W. W. Chapman, still at the front in all matters relating to the prosperity of Portland, undertook the passage of a bill for a tug off the Columbia bar. His first step was to remove the prejudices of the agricultural members, who were naturally quite loth to vote money out of the State treasury for the benefit of Portland; but the Colonel was able to show them that, as their groceries, farm machinery, clothing and other necessaries were taxed heavily by coming through San Francisco, anything to open up direct communication with New York would result in their advantage. In order to prove that there must be some assistance given to shipping, he showed that although there was a depth of twenty-four feet on the Columbia bar at dead low water--which, at the time, was the case-the dangers resulted from lack of uncertainty of winds; and every disaster has been due to such failure. He showed that shippers and ship owners would refuse to dispatch vessels to this port while this embarrassment remained. He recommended [page 228] that the State give a subsidy for the maintainence of a proper steam tug at the mouth of the river. To show that such subsidy was necessary, he cited the experience of Captain Paul Corno, who had some years before attempted to maintain a. tug, but found that the business was not large enough to justify his endeavor. Chapman's recommendations were adopted, a subsidy of thirty thousand dollars was provided-to be furnished under proper restriction and in certain yearly installments-and the rates of pilotage were reduced twenty-five per cent. The tug boat was allowed, when not needed at the bar, to tow vessels to Portland.
Steps were also taken by the merchants of Portland, and by the city as a corporation, to maintain a dredger on the lower Willamette river, and a channel three thousand two hundred feet in length was cut to a depth of fifteen feet at low water, across Swan Island bar, at an expenditure of some twenty-five thousand dollars.
As a result of all these endeavors, a new and steady commerce began to spring up. The Packet line from New York continued regular trips, although, as the transcontinental railways were constructed, the need of them has very largely ceased. The commerce with foreign ports, and particularly with the United Kingdom, has, however, grown steadily from that day to this.
The following table of the exports to San Francisco for 1869 shows the progress of our commerce. It is very incomplete, being much like the others in this regard, as given heretofore:
Of the items above mentioned, it will be noticed that treasure is rapidly decreasing, while flour, wheat and salmon are increasing. Iron appears for the first time in any noticeable quantity, and gives proof of the industry established at Oswego. Salmon, as shipped in [page 229] cases or packages, witnesses the beginning of the great industry about springing up in canning this noble fish. Although salmon were not shipped from Portland exclusively, nor perhaps to a very large extent, and although the business of canning was not operated with Portland capital, nevertheless the income from this resource had a decided effect in stimulating business at this point.
The aggregate of sales in the city is estimated at $3,400,000 for this year, and the internal revenue collections were $204,532.
In 1870 the commerce to the United Kingdom begins to rise. In that year, in the months from July 1st, 1869, to November, 1870, the exports thither amounted to a value of about $61,000.
The following table exhibits the export to San Francisco:
It appears that in the year 1870 no statistics were kept at Portland of exports, and of the above meagre table the Oregonian speaks as follows: A It is but just to this State to say, however, that the above figures do not for either year (1869-70) express the full amount of our shipment to San Francisco, but only such amounts of the various articles as were shipped into the San Francisco market for sale. It is well known that during each year we sent considerable quantities of wheat, flour, salmon, etc., to San Francisco for shipment to Eastern or foreign ports; these were not included in the above table. The very small increase of wheat exports of 1870 above 1869 is accounted for by the fact that in 1869 we shipped but little to foreign countries direct, while in 1870 we exported to foreign countries as much as, or more than, appears in this table. The latest shipment to all destinations would show that our grain and breadstuffs export have increased greatly more in proportion than any other products. It will be seen that exports of salmon have also increased. A
The exports to foreign countries--including China, British Columbia, Sandwich Islands, England, Ireland, Uruguay and Peru aggregated a value of three hundred and seventy-one thousand three hundred and fifty-five dollars--mostly lumber, flour and fish. [page 230]
The statistics of 1870 appear incomplete and unsatisfactory-showing negligence on the part of the Portland shippers of that time. The foreign commerce during that period does not seem to have advanced quite so rapidly as was hoped, and the Portland merchants appear to have been somewhat slow to make use of the great advantages open to them by the new order of things. Nevertheless, this was but natural, as the capital was not then in the city to inaugurate a great enterprise, and must be brought in from abroad. The Customs District of Willamette was created and a Custom House established at Portland this year.
This was, moreover, a period of railroad building and excitement, and, consequently, foreign commerce by water was not so rapidly pushed. Still further, the producers of the country, the farmers, lumbermen and stock-raisers, must adapt their industries more directly to commerce, and not consider it a simple addendum to conveniently provide to take care of what they happened to have left over of their domestic industries.
In 1871 foreign exports rise to a value of $692,297. Clearing to foreign ports are found five foreign ships, aggregating three thousand, seven hundred tons, and six foreign barks, two thousand, six hundred tons. Of American steamer clearances to foreign ports, there were twenty-nine, and six barks and one schooner, aggregating sixteen thousand tons. Imports from foreign countries reached $517,633.
The coastwise arrivals, from San Francisco and other American cities, aggregated eighty-six thousand four hundred and sixteen tons.
In 1872 we find commerce rising to something like its contemplated proportions. For its purposes, eighteen American steamers and eight barks were employed, with a tonnage of eleven thousand, nine hundred and forty-six; and of foreign vessels, twelve barks and two schooners, aggregating nine thousand, one hundred and forty tons.
Imports from England reached a value of $350,980; from British Columbia, $31,294; from Sandwich Islands, $171,332; from Hongkong, $115,338; from other points, $59,831, making a total of $728,825. The large imports from the Sandwich Islands show the [page 231] value of their trade to Portland, if their products of sugar might be somehow taken away, at least in part, from the San Francisco monopoly.
The exports for this year were as follows: To England, a value of $3,041,744; British Columbia, $107,508; Ireland, $187,549; Sandwich Islands, $8,824; Hongkong, $33,925, making a total of $642,620.
The wheat shipped to the United Kingdom from August 1st to December 13th reached 209,337 centals, worth $311,166, as against 99,463 centals, worth $257,276 in 1871. There were five vessels engaged in this trade, while in 1872 there were ten. The value of the grain thus exported did not keep pace with that of the year before, on account of the low price realized. The export to California of flour was 192,500 sacks.
As for coast-wise traffic, there were eighty-two steamers, twenty barks, three brigs, four ships and various schooners, aggregating a hundred and nine thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven tons.
The purely domestic commerce in the Willamette Valley was conducted with the old-time energy, employing forty steamers, with an aggregate tonnage of thirteen thousand, seven hundred and ninety-one, and twenty-one sailing vessels of various descriptions aggregating two thousand and thirteen tons. The Oregon and California Railway was now in active operation and the Oregon Central had tapped the agricultural portion of Washington county.
In 1873 there appears a great rise in exports. For the fiscal year ending in September the following showing is made: To foreign ports there were employed three steamers, the California, George S. Wright and Gussie Telfair, and thirty-five sailing vessels, for the most part ships or barks of large capacity from England. The exports of wheat to foreign ports was 640,262 centals, valued at $1,055,264; flour, 37,284 barrels, at $158,895, making a total of $1,284,149.
Foreign entrances aggregated a tonnage of nineteen thousand, one hundred and forty-three, and of clearances twenty-three thousand, four hundred and sixty-seven. Of American vessels in foreign trade the entrances were ten thousand, three hundred and two tons, and [page 232] clearances nineteen thousand, four hundred and forty-four. The imports reached a value of $514,343, and exports about $1,600,000. This was all trade with foreign countries.
The following table exhibits the trade with California for that year:
These all aggregated a value of $2,500,000.
The aggregate of vessels entering on account of coast wise traffic was 112,100 tons; of clearances, 79,694 tons. The difference notice-able in the entries and clearances is explained for the most part by the fact that ships loading at Portland frequently dropped below at Astoria to complete their cargo.
From the above it will be seen that the total exports both to foreign ports and domestic was about $4,100,000 in value. It will also be noticed that this includes nothing of treasure which figured so largely in early shipments; as by this period the business of the country had so far advanced as to be conducted, so far as concerned money, by means of money orders, checks and bills of exchange, so as to obviate the necessity of the transfer of money in a body.
The commerce from this time down to the present has flowed on with steadily increasing volume, and the details need not be so extensively given here as in the preceding pages. It may be noticed that with the coming of Ben Holladay in Oregon, as a railroad prince and capitalist, there was a general increase of energy, and much greater rapidity. in despatch and shipments than before. Things took on a livelier air, and assumed more the tone and style of California business. Dash, vim and even recklessness was affected to a greater degree in all business circles, and especially in commercial ventures. The transference of the headquarters of Holladay's ocean steamers [page 233] from San Francisco to Portland, made also a great difference in the growth of the city and in swelling the streams of trade leading hither.
For 1871 the foreign trade rises to the value of $692,297. There were cleared for foreign ports of foreign vessels, five ships aggregating three thousand seven hundred tons, and two barks of two thousand six hundred tons. The American vessels were twenty-nine steamers and six barks and one schooner, of sixteen thousand tons. The coastwise arrivals aggregated eighty-six thousand four hundred and sixteen tons.
Imports for this year from foreign countries reached a value of $517,633.
For 1872 the entrances from foreign ports, comprised of American steamers eighteen, and American barks eight, with a tonnage of eleven thousand nine hundred and forty-six. Of foreign vessels, twelve barks and two schooners, nine thousand one hundred and forty. This made the total tonnage for the year, one hundred and thirty-one thousand and thirty-five.
During these years one notices with interest the steady increase in shipment of wheat to the United Kingdom-showing that Portland, as the commercial city of Oregon, was rapidly building up a great foreign trade. In 1871 this was but 99,463 centals, valued at $257,276; while in 1872 the shipments rose to 209,337 centals, valued at $511,166. Flour shipped to California was 192,500 quarter sacks. The total export of wheat was twenty-three thousand eighty-two tons, and of flour fourteen thousand five hundred and fifty-eight tons. Although these figures show a large increase in quantity shipped, the prices realized during this season were so low as to impair somewhat the advantage thus derived. [page 234]
In the district of the Willamette there were registered this year forty steamers, with an aggregate tonnage of thirteen thousand seven hundred and ninety-one tons, and twenty-one sailing vessels of various kinds, two thousand and thirteen tons. This large number of craft on the rivers shows a well sustained inland trade, and that the transportation lines were active in bringing to the sea-board the interior products.
In 1873 Portland experienced the great fire by which about a million and a half dollars worth or property were destroyed. This great loss, calling for its repair, all the money that might be raised upon real securities, necessarily withdrew from trade and commerce large sums which would otherwise have been applied to their enlargement. Confidence was for a time somewhat shaken, and the year was less productive than was expected at the beginning; nevertheless, the volume of foreign trade continued to steadily increase as before. For the fiscal year ending in September we find three steamers plying to foreign ports, in British Columbia. These were the California, the George S. Wright and the Gussie Tellfair. The latter of these was looked upon with some interest as the first iron steamship in our waters; and even more as having in her younger and wilder days been a Rebel blockade runner. Besides the steamers there were thirty-five sailing vessels, mostly owned in Great Britain. The total export of wheat amounted to 640,262 centals, valued at $1,055,264; flour, 37,284 barrels, at $158,895; making a total value of wheat and flour export to the United Kingdom, $1,284,149.
To California, wheat reached 116, 076 centals; flour, 209,304 quarter sacks.
The total shipments to California for this year are shown by the following table:
The total valuation of the above is set down as $2,500, 000. [page 235]
Coastwise entrances aggregated 112,100 tons; clearances, 79,694 tons. Foreign entrances, 19,143 tons ; clearances, 23,467 tons. The tonnage of American vessels in foreign trade was-entered, 10,302; cleared, 19,444. The imports reached $514, 343, and the exports about $1,600,000 to foreign countries.
Following this year a new impetus to the production of grain was given in the upper Willamette Valley by the opening of the Willamette river to the head of navigation by means of a canal and locks at Oregon City. Steamers were thereby enabled to carry grain from points even as far as Eugene City to Portland without breaking bulk. So soon as the autumn rains-usually in October-swelled the volume of the river, these light crafts beg-an to remove the crops that the farmers hauled from considerable distances to shipping points on the river, and continued the traffic until late in the summer succeeding. The actual proportion of grain thus moved was not so large, but, on account of the competition thus afforded, rates of rail transportation were materially reduced.
The Portland merchants also, both in order to enable vessels of large draft to conveniently load at their wharves, and also to finish their lading beyond a degree of safety for passage down the Willamette river, constructed a number of immense barges to accompany the ships to Astoria, with the residue of their cargoes, or to leave it in store at that port as might be needed. This proved, however, to be only necessary as a temporary expedient, since the deepening of the channel between Portland and the ocean renders unnecessary all such expedients. New attention was directed to the safety and facility of passing in and out the Columbia river, and attention was called to the fact that out of more than one thousand arrivals and departures at the bar during the four years preceding but one loss was experienced, and this was due to the fright of the captain, chiefly, who abandoned his ship, to be rescued afterward by a party of salvors. Much railroad agitation was carried on in these years, and all were eager for direct communication with the East.
A good authority at the time thus speaks of the commercial condition: A In summing up our year's condition, we can say that if it has not been all that the most sanguine expected, it has, [page 236] nevertheless, proved the incorrectness of what grumblers predicted for it. The sweeping disaster of the great fires of the two preceding years seriously effected many of the sufferers, and the effects of the heavy losses have not yet in some instances been overcome; but, notwithstanding these calamities, and a few reverses in trade circles, there have been no failures of large firms or of business suspensions of consequence. The sound commercial basis which underlies our leading houses, their wholesome system of trade, and their positive cautiousness against speculation all combine to provide against disaster and to inspire confidence."
A From a table compiled this year to show the exports of wheat from 1868 to the middle of 1874, we find a total value of $11,105, 850."
A The bulk of the wheat was exported to the United Kingdom, and also a round aggregate of flour-but the largest proportion of the latter was sent to San Francisco, to New York, to ports in the Pacific, and to China and Japan."
It is reported for this year that nearly two hundred ships were employed in the export trade; but this evidently includes all coast wise craft of every description.
For the year 1875 we find a somewhat low condition--or at least not so flattering as might be expected. From Walling's directory we clip the following: A During the past year, Portland, in common with every other section of the Union, has felt the effect of the stagnation which has had such disastrous effects upon the commercial prosperity of the entire country; but remote as we are from the great centers of commerce, we have been comparatively free from the disastrous consequences which have left their impress upon the business marts of the eastern slope."
As is usually the case in periods of business depression, merchants and others began industriously to invent means of expanding their trade; and soon a hopeful condition of affairs was attained. Work on the West Side railroad, which had been stopped at St. Joe, on the Yamhill river, was resumed, and the region thus tapped, was brought into more intimate relations with Portland. [page 237]
The number of American vessels entering. this year aggregated 100,602 tons; the foreign, 16,304 tons.
The value of exports is shown by the following table:
Imports from these countries in foreign vessels were valued at $283,499; in American vessels, $163,359; total, $446,858.
The wheat sent to England during this year was 513,481 bushels; to Ireland, 548,986 bushels; flour, 48,110 barrels.
Noticing some of the imports we find ten thousand bricks from England--evidently brought by way of ballast. Bags, also, were brought from England to the value of $79,086. The trade from China was very largely in rice, a considerable portion of which was for the Chinese consumers in our midst; 731,926 pounds.
From the Sandwich Islands there were imported 160,839 pounds of rice; of sugar, 3,353,552 pounds; of molasses, 1088 gallons. This is evidently before the monopoly of Spreckles in California.
During 1876 business rapidly revived and the general enthusiasm prevailing throughout the entire United States did much to inspire our merchants with new energy and confidence. More interest was taken in collecting reliable statistics and in showing the world what we were capable of. It was found that the exports of Oregon averaged three hundred and eighteen dollars to each man in the State. A With a population of forty thousand men, Oregon's export of wheat equals one-seventh of the total export of the United States."
Eastern Oregon and Washington had now begun to raise wheat in large quantities. Wool figures as a very valuable product-the export being for that year 3,125,000 pounds, worth $600,000. The salmon catch was also rising and exports from this source were assuming large proportions. In 1875, 372,000 cases were put up, [page 238] and in 1876 this was swelled to 480,000 cases. Seventy-two vessels cleared with cargoes mostly wheat, for European ports. The export of wheat to Europe was 1,824,371 centals, valued at $3,138,294. The total export was 1,937,787 centals. The export of flour aggregated 215,714 barrels. The excess of wheat and flour exports for 1876, over 1875, reached a value of $794,857.
In the record of shipments to San Francisco, it is noticeable that apples are coming up to their former figure, being 41,523 boxes of . the fresh fruit, and 6,363 packages of the dry ; 22,671 sacks of potatoes and 176,939 bushels of oats were also shipped, but the bulk of our shipments thither for that year consisted of 290,076 cases of canned salmon, showing that almost from the first our cannerymen looked for sale of their goods in California. If it had been possible to carry on the salmon business on a purely independent basis before the world, and make Portland, the city nearest the greatest production of this article, the emporium, it is believed that many disasters and difficulties which overtook this business might have been avoided.
The shipment of treasure, or the actual transportation of money for this year was $2,651,431.78.
As another sign of increase and advance toward commercial supremacy was the change noticeable at this dine, by which the country merchants and the jobbers and dealers in small towns began to look to Portland as the base of their supplies.
During 1877 loud calls were heard from the people of Portland for direct railroad communication with the East, and strenuous exertions were made for the building of a road from Portland via The Dalles to Salt Lake. Much of this eagerness for independent rail lines was developed by the fact that in California many emigrants starting overland for Oregon were turned back by the representations of agents of the California Emigration Boards, and the Oregonians found their growth in population much retarded thereby.
The total value of exports from the Columbia river in 1876 was estimated at $11,825,087; in 1877 at $16,086,897. Seventy-eight ships and barks were engaged in carrying to foreign ports 2,341,210 centals of wheat, worth $4,954,475. Upon five vessels there were shipped 59,389 barrels of flour, worth $355,690. [page 239]
We venture to insert here one more table of exports to San Francisco, which the indulgent reader may omit in reading unless for purposes of reference and comparison:
The following table is also attended as giving the comparative shipments and values of wheat, including flour reduced to wheat, for the years 1874-75-76-77:
In 1878 there appears to be a falling off in export of wheat, which reached but 1, 449,608 centals, valued at $2,540,112; flour valued at $329, 000.
During the year 1878, however, there were exceedingly lively times between Portland and San Francisco on account of the competition between several steamship companies for the trade. In opposition to the Oregon Steamship Company, the old Pacific Mail steamers of large size, the Orizaba and the John L. Stephens were run. Also the Great Republic, the largest vessel ever afloat in our waters, carried things with a high hand, sometimes transporting as many as a thousand passengers at a single trip.
In 1879 the total number of steam craft of the Willamette District (Portland) was sixty, with a tonnage of 27,597. Of these the G. W. Elder and the Oregon, belonging to the Oregon Steamship Company, iron ships, built at Chester, were the finest and most conspicuous. [page 240]
The wheat export required the services of seventy vessels, and nineteen vessels were also engaged, either wholly or in part, for flour. The wheat reached 1,932,080 centals, worth $3,611,240; flour, 209,098 barrels, valued at $1,143,530. The total value of wheat and flour shipped both to domestic and foreign ports was $5,345,400.
The following table exhibits the rise and growth of the wool export:
The following figures furnish the statistics of the salmon canning business on the Columbia river. There were canned the following number of cases, in 1875, 231,500; 1876, 428,730; 1877, 392,000; 1878, 278,488; 1879, 325,000.
For 1880 the shipment of wheat was 1,762,515 bushels, valued at $1,845,537; flour, 180,663 barrels, valued at $891,872. The value of shipments to San Francisco aggregated $4,500,000. The wool shipment was 7,325,000 pounds; salmon, 472,000 cases.
For 1881 the value of wheat was $1,845,537, or, 1,766,515 bushels. For 1881 the shipments of lumber from Portland were considerable, although until this time the Portland mills were for the most part occupied in cutting for local trade, and to supply surrounding and interior points. The three principal mills at Portland . cutting for this year were the Portland Lumbering and Manufacturing Co., 6,200,000 feet; Smith's mill, 5,000,000; Wiedler's, about 50, 000, 000.
During this year greater interest than heretofore had been taken by Portland capitalists in exploring and opening coal and other mines that were naturally tributary to her; and a number of energetic men in this city formed an organization to encourage the growth of fruit in the contiguous sections and open a market to the east and up and down the coast. The salmon catch on the Columbia reached 550,000 cases. [page 241]
The years of 1880-1 were marked by the great business activity resulting from the construction of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's lines, the section from The Dalles to Walla Walla, to the Blue Mountains and to Texas Ferry, then building. The Northern Pacific railroad was running trains from Kalama to Tacoma and constructing the section of their road northeast of Ainsworth fifty-seven miles. The value of imports for this year are given as $486,208.
The following statement will show the state of business during 1882: "Prosperity of business has been unparalleled. The commerce of the city has been constantly increasing during the past year. The tonnage of ocean steamers arriving at this port shows an increase of more than double the records of. any previous year, many first-class steamships from foreign countries having made exceptionally prosperous voyages to and from Portland. Our regular ships plying hence to San Francisco have been constantly improving in character and increasing in number until the Portland line has become the busiest, most reliable and most profitable marine traffic from the city of San Francisco. The number of passengers carried on this line amounts to 5000 or more every month, and freight average 40,000 tons. The 'deep sea crafts' which visit our river prove the ignorance or malice of those who would represent entrance and navigation of the Columbia and the Willamette as perilous or impossible. There are now lying at our docks vessels which will load to twenty-two feet drafts before slipping their hawsers, and make the open sea without danger or delay."
The Willamette river was much improved, and agitation for the improvement of the Columbia bar was begun. The following excerpt shows the general spirit prevailing at the time: "Every unprejudiced observer of this vigor and of Portland's relation to the surrounding country says `Portland ought to do the business of Oregon, Washington and Northern Idaho.' The completion of an unbroken-line having five hundred miles of railroad eastward, with Portland as its great terminal point, marks an era in our history which will only be eclipsed by the present year." [page 242]
The year 1883 fully realized all the hopes that were raised by the construction of the O. R. & N. Company's lines. Portland took long strides towards the pre-eminence naturally assured her by right of position. "It used to be said that three-fourths of our interior trade passed Portland, and was supplied by San Francisco. The past year has changed this condition of things so materially that possibly the conditions are reversed."
During the year the ocean commerce of Portland seems to have somewhat diminished, but this is most natural, considering the vast amount of tonnage which the railroads have displaced by more rapid transportation. The city has during the year maintained its own powerful dredgers for the purpose of increasing the depth of channel in the Willamette, and less trouble than heretofore has been experienced in bringing ships to Portland. The latter months of 1883 found a greater number of ships in her harbor than one ever saw here at once, forty such vessels being at dock at one time in November."
It was in 1883 that the O. R. & N. Company's lines were finished and the main line of the Northern Pacific was pushed to a junction with its eastern section.
In 1884, however, a great business collapse resulted from the unusual expansion of the preceding months, and the year was rather disastrous. The Oregon and Transcontinental stocks dropped to a minimum. Villard failed, and many Portland stockholders were greatly crippled. Fictitious values had to be brought down to a substantial basis. Cessation of railroad construction, discontinuance of disbursements, and the fact that the railroad now coining into operation began to absorb the flowing money in the country, all tended to create a stringency. Prices of wheat fell low, and productions therefore realized but poorly; and during the holidays in Portland the whole city was blockaded by an Unprecedented storm of snow and ice, so that the somewhat unusual preparations of Portland merchants failed to realize their object. The time of this storm was, however, reckoned as about the lowest ebb of business, and with the advance of winter and the opening of the following season began a general rise. The main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad having [page 243] been completed, brought in immigration from the East. The O. R. & N. Company pushed their line to a junction with the Union Pacific, and formed a net-work of lines in the valley of the Columbia. The Oregon and California road was continued to Ashland, and the Oregon Pacific was finished from Corvallis to Yaquina bay. The section of the Northern Pacific from Portland to a point on the Columbia river opposite Kalama was also built.
The imports of this year are stated to he, domestic, $18,868,129; foreign, $1,013,866.
The exports aggregated, domestic, $6,284,735, foreign, $5,648,-116, making a total of about $12,000,000.
The wholesale trade diminished, owing to the cessation of railroad construction, but, as an offset, country merchants found that they could do better at Portland than at the East.
In 1885 there were shipped 4,546,540 centals of wheat, valued at $45,643,650, and 459,159 barrels of flour, valued at $1, 751, 589, making a total value of $7,394,239.
The shipment of wool aggregated 11,558,427 pounds, worth $1,637,936. The value of all exports reached $14,280,670, being $2,347,819 over the exports of the preceding year. The greatest crop of grain hitherto raised in the Northwest was harvested this year.
For 1886, the following table of exports still further illustrates the growth.
For 1887 the shipment of wheat was 173,915 tons, and flour, 45,766 tons, making a total-all reduced to wheat-of 237,989 tons. The total export of 1887 was $13,985,681.
The statistics of wheat for 1888 are given as follows:
The shipment of flour for the same period is shown by the following table:
The total shipment of wheat reached 4,462,371 centals, of a value of $5, 716, 598; flour, 644,471 barrels, of a value of $2, 302, 606.
The total export of 1888 reached $16,385,658. The shipment of salmon was 428,437 cases; the production of wool about 18, 000, 000 pounds.
It may be noticed in relation to the foregoing statistics that they are to a large extent incomplete, nor always correct so far as given; but they are the best to be obtained, and it is believed that the natural tendency to exaggeration is largely offset by the difficulty, or even impossibility, of finding a record of all products and exports. Indeed, for the purposes of this work it is not necessary that they should absolutely be impregnable, yet they are probably fully as reliable as those tabulated for other cities or other lines of industry. In some departments, such as salmon, wool, and to some extent in wheat and flour, the product of near or surrounding points has been undoubtedly tabulated with that of Portland; and in the case of wheat and flour considerable shipments have been made by rail to Tacoma for lading on foreign vessels. But this feature has now been obviated by the new pilotage laws so that port charges and towage on the rivers do not increase expenses of loading at Portland to a point above that at ports on Puget Sound. The facts given above show substantially the volume of business done by Portland, or by Portland capitalists. [page 245]
PRESENT CHARACTER AND CONDITIONS.
From the preceding pages it will be noticed how Portland has weathered all the storms of opposition from the earliest days, and has advanced to and continued to hold the position as emporium of the Pacific Northwest. In the primitive times she proved the superiority of her position over points on the lower Willamette for lading and unlading. Having securely gained this pre-eminence she proceeded during the second era to emancipate herself from the commercial tyranny of San Francisco, and during the third to build up an independent commerce with the world. Since 1868 she has stood before the nations as an autonomous power ` in commercial affairs, acting without fear or favor, and pressing her activities on the simple basis of the advantages that she possessed and the facilities which she could give. She boldly entered upon the construction of railroad lines, calling in capital from California, from the East and from Europe, and thereby made a practical test of what she was able to do. If, by virtue of position and business activity, she should prove inferior to other points, these railroads would necessarily withdraw from her, her capital and population leaving her stranded upon the shoals of bankruptcy. But if, on the other hand, her position and business enterprise enabled her to serve the entire surrounding region, these lines of transportation would give her still greater advantages. Amid all vicissitudes--social, commercial and political--incident upon construction of railroads, Portland steadily held her own; and, now that these lines are completed and in operation, finds her wealth and population increased four or five fold. She finds herself more secure than ever as the emporium and business center of the Pacific Northwest. Her present position is that accorded to her by nature, as the point of exchange between domestic productions and foreign imports, the point of supply for interior towns and country places, and the general depot for the stores that must somewhere be held in readiness for the use of the people.
The character of her business at present is determined by that of the surrounding sections. While they raise wheat she must handle [page 246] and sell wheat; their wool, fruit, ores, lumber, fish, coal, iron, cattle and other domestic productions all figure in her lists as passing through her for market.
This work being chiefly historical need not here be burdened with further details of commerce. It is confidently believed, however, that the exports of 1889 will reach a greater value than for any preceding year. These will, of course, be of the same character so far as quality or kind is concerned, as of years before. They will be drawn from the entire circle of valleys and mountains from the California and Montana borders.
It will not be necessary to insert here a disquisition upon the commercial needs of Portland, nevertheless the reader will naturally think of the steps that must be taken to make Portland complete as an emporium. First of all, it remains to perfect that confidence between Portland and the agricultural communities which will induce them to rely upon her merchants. Portland must reach such friendly terms with the farmers and graziers that her business men may never with any semblance of propriety be called "Shylocks." Our merchants must seek rather the enlargement of their sales than a large per cent. upon each one, knowing that a profit of even one per cent. on a hundred dollars, or orders worth a hundred dollars, is better than that of three per cent on but twenty dollars; and the small merchants and dealers of the country must be encouraged to feel that they are made to share with Portland the advantages which result from her superior natural position.
For another thing the people of Portland must learn to regard the whole Northwest as in a measure their Afarm. That is, they must feel the same interest in improving and developing the fields, forests and mines of all this region that the energetic farmer feels in making his own acres productive. Every effort must be put forth to bring wild lands in cultivation, to increase the area of orchards and the number of flocks and herds, and, if possible, to render substantial assistance to settlers who find the difficulties of pioneer life too great to be overcome. In some sections capitalists have greatly increased the productions of the soil, and enhanced values by selling land for an interest in the crop for a term of years until the purchase price [page 247] was liquidated. It is possible that extensive orchards and the cultivation of wild lands might be profitably encouraged in the same way.
For the most part the business men of Portland will find it to their greatest advantage to encourage those kinds of industry and occupation as lead to the settlement of the country and to the introduction of families. It is to he noticed that great as has been the volume of money turned over by the salmon canning business of the country, but comparatively little real advantage has accrued to the State. The business itself has been grossly overdone, the supply of fish well nigh exhausted, and for a large part at least, but an idle, transitory and turbulent element of laborers attracted hither. In like manner the immense lumbering business of Puget Sound and the lower Columbia has brought no benefit proportionate to the amount of capital employed and the money made. Exhausted forests and too frequently dissatisfied and demoralized communities have followed in the path of the ax and saw. A lesson also may be gathered from the great plains of Texas and Dakota, where the cattle and wheat business are cultivated by a class of capitalists who are themselves in New York or in London, and delegate to agents the management of their immense herds and fields. A band of cow-boys, or a camp of plow-men and harvesters, for a few months in the year are the only inhabitants of plains and meadows that might well support thousands of families. By such management the utmost extravagance of methods is engendered. Pastures are eaten out, soils exhausted, and the country left in a condition inviting the English or Irish system of landlordism. Portland wants nothing of this. She should consider that it is a State filled with families, with a multitude of rural towns, and with productive manufactories, that makes demand for the immense imports which she is to store and to distribute, and which provides the immense exports to be exchanged for the imports. For this reason she will principally encourage such industries as fruit raising, dairying, sheep and stock raising by small farmers on small farms; the raising of poultry and the labor of small manufactories, and of persons in rural communities. [page 248]
It remains also to open up the water ways, to complete the natural entrance at the mouth of the Columbia river, and to unlock the gates of the Columbia to the whole interior.
By such liberal policy, by breadth of plan and outlook, by exercise of a spirit of fraternity and accommodation, Portland will maintain her ascendancy. The conditions out of which monopolies and oppressive combinations arise will be prevented. Although expecting to run a hard race with San Francisco and even some Eastern city as Chicago, and with some local rivals for control of the business in certain portions of her field, she need have no fear of the result.
Locally, there is room here for great lumber yards, cattle yards, fruit canning establishments, cold storage houses and depots of supply for the merchant marine, for the fishing stations of Alaska, and for the mines of the upper Columbia. These will come in time.