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IN approaching this subject one finds that, as in all other lines, Portland has gradually become the center of all the navigation companies of Oregon. To indicate the sources of her present facilities it will therefore be proper to mention the efforts made in other places in our State which ultimated upon Portland. This can be done in no manner so satisfactorily as by inserting here two extracts; one of them being from a speech of Senator J. W. Nesmith, and the other from Hon. Wm. Strong, before the Oregon Pioneer Association. [page 249]
The former is a racy narrative of the very earliest efforts at navigation; and the latter shows the origin of our steamboat companies. Both the men named were personally cognizant of the facts in the case. Says Nesmith:
It is my purpose to speak briefly of the inception of our external and internal commerce, as inaugurated by the efforts of the early pioneers.
Forty years ago the few American citizens in Oregon were isolated from the out-side world. Some adventurous and enterprising persons conceived the idea of a vessel of a capacity to cross the Columbia river bar and navigate the ocean. Those persons were mostly old Rocky Mountain beaver trappers, and sailors who had drifted like waifs to the Willamette Valley. Their names were Joseph Gale, John Canan, Ralph Kilbourn, Pleasant Armstrong, Henry Woods, George Davis and Jacob Green. Felix Hathaway was employed as master ship carpenter, and Thomas Hubbard and J. L. Parrish did the blacksmith work. In the latter part of 1840, there was laid the keel of the schooner Star of Oregon, upon the east side of Swan Island, near the junction of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. The representatives of the Hudson's Bay Co. either dreading commercial competition, or doubtful about their pay, at first refused to furnish any supplies. But through the earnest representation of Commodore Wilkes--then here in command of the American exploring squadron, who offered to become responsible for the payment--Dr. M’Loughlin furnished all such necessary articles as were in store at Vancouver. (According to another account current among old pioneers, the boat builders feigned to be persuaded by M’Loughlin to give up their plan, and go to raising wheat for him. He supplied them with ropes, nails, bagging, etc., etc., such as was necessary for agriculture, and was greatly astonished when in passing the island he saw his farmers industriously building the craft which he had attempted to inhibit, expressing his vexation in the words, "Curse these Americans; they always do get ahead of us.") On the 19th day of May, 1841, the schooner was launched. She had only been planked up to the water ways, and in that condition was worked up to the falls of the Willamette. Owing to the destitution of means and the scarcity of provisions, the enterprising ship builders were compelled to suspend work upon their vessel until May, 1842. On the 25th of August the vessel was completed, and the crew went on board at the falls. They consisted of the following named persons: Joseph Gale, captain; John Canan, Pleasant Armstrong, Ralph Kilbourn, Jacob Green and one Indian boy ten years old. There was but one passenger, a Mr. Piffenhauser. Capt. Wilkes furnished them with an anchor, hawser, nautical instruments, a flag and a clearance. On the 12th of September, 1842, she crossed the bar of the Columbia, coming very near being wrecked in the breakers, and took latitude and departure from Cape Disappointment just as the sun touched the western horizon.
That night there arose a terrific storm, which lasted thirty-six hours, during which Captain Gale, who was the only experienced seaman on board, never left the helm The little Star behaved beautifully in the storm, and after a voyage of five days anchored in the foreign port of Yerba Buena, as San Francisco was then called.
The Star was 48 feet eight inches on the keel, 53 feet eight inches over all, with ten feet and nine inches in the widest part, and drew in good ballast trim four feet [page 250] and six inches of water. Her frame was of swamp white oak, her knees of seasoned red fir roots; her beam and castings of red fir. She was clinker built, and of the Baltimore clipper model. She was planked with clear cedar, dressed to 1¼ inches, which was spiked to every rib with a wrought iron spike half an inch square, and clinched on the inside. The deck was double; and she was what is known as a fore and aft schooner, having no top sails, but simply fore and main sails, jib and flying jib. She was painted black, with a small white ribbon running from stem to stern, and was one of the handsomest little crafts that ever sat upon the water. Capt. Gale and the crew, who were the owners of the Star, sold her at the bay of San Francisco in the fall of 1842 to a French captain named Josa Lamonton, who had recently wrecked his vessel. The price was 350 cows.
Shortly after Captain Gale arrived in San Francisco, the captains of several vessels then in the harbor came on board his schooner, and when passing around the stern read Star of Oregon, he heard them swear that there was no such port in the world.
Gale and his crew remained in California all winter, and in the spring of 1843 started to Oregon with a party of forty-two men, who brought with them an aggregate of 1250 head of cattle, 600 head of mares, colts, horses and mules, and 3000 sheep. They were seventy-five days in reaching the Willamette Valley. On their arrival with their herds the monopoly in stock cattle came to an end in Oregon.
Captain Joseph Gale, the master spirit of the enterprise, was born, I believe, in the District of Columbia, and in his younger days followed the sea, where he obtained a, good knowledge of navigation and seamanship. Captain Wilkes, before he would give him his papers, examined him satisfactorily upon these subjects.. Abandoning the sea he found his way to the Rocky Mountains, and was for several years a trapper. I knew him well and lived with him in the winter of 1843-4, and often listened to his thrilling adventures of the sea and land. He then had the American flag that Wilkes gave him, and made a sort of canopy of it, under which he slept. No saint was ever more devoted to his shrine than was Gale to that dear old flag.
In the summer of 1844, Aaron Cook, a bluff old Englishman, strongly imbued with American sentiments, conceived the idea of building a schooner to supercede the Indian canoes then doing the carrying trade on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Cook employed Edwin W. and M. B. Otie and myself as the carpenters to construct the craft. We built her in a cove or recess of the rocks just in front of Frank Ermotinger’s house, near the upper end of Oregon City.
None of us had any knowledge of ship-building, but by dint of perseverance we constructed a schooner of about thirty-five tons but-then. She was called the Calipooiah. Jack Warner did the caulking, paying and rigging. Warner was a young Scotchman with a good education, which he never turned to any practical account. He ran away from school in the "Land o’ Cakes" and took to the sea, where he picked up a good deal of knowledge pertaining to the sailors’ craft. I recollect one day when Jack, with a kettle of hot pitch and a long-handled swab, was pitching the hull of the Calipooiah, he was accosted by an "uncouth Missourian," who had evidently never seen anything of the kind before, with an inquiry as to his occupation. Jack responded in broad Scotch: "I am a landscape painter by profession, and am doing a wee bit of adornment for Capt. Cook’s schooner." [page 251]
In the month of August, 1844, we had launched and finished the Calipooiah and went on a pleasure excursion to the mouth of the Columbia. The crew and passengers consisted of Captain Aaron Cook, Jack Warner, Jack Campbell, Rev. A. F. Waller and family, W. H. Gray and wife, A. E. Wilson, Robert Shortess, W. W. Raymond, E. W. Otie, M. B. Otie and J. W. Nesmith. There might have been others on board; if so, their names have escaped me. The after portion had a small cabin, which was given up for the accommodation of the ladies and children. Forward was a box filled with earth, upon which a fire was made for cooking purposes. We had our own blankets and slept upon the deck. The weather was delightful, and we listlessly drifted down the Willamette and Columbia rivers, sometimes aided by the wind. Portland was then a solitude like any other part of the forest-clad bank. There were then no revenue officers here under pretense of "protecting" American industries, and no custom house boat boarded us.
In four days we reached Astoria, or Fort George, as the single old shanty on the place, in charge of an old Scotchman, was called. The river was full of fish, and the shores abounded in game. We had our rifles along, and subsisted upon wild delicacies. There were then numerous large Indian villages along the margin of the river, and the canoes of the natives were rarely out of sight. The Indians often came on hoard to dispose of salmon ; their price was a bullet and a charge of powder for a fish.
The grand old. river existed then in its natural state, as Lewis and Clark found it forty years before. I believe that there was but one American settler’s cabin on the hanks of the Columbia from its source to the ocean. That was on the south side of the river, and belonged to Henry Hunt and Ben Wood, who were building a saw-mill at that point.
On an Island near Cathlamet some of us went ashore to visit a large Indian village, where the natives lived in large and comparatively comfortable houses. They showed us some articles which they said were presented to them by Lewis and Clarke, among which were a faded cotton handkerchief and a small mirror, about two inches square, in a small tin case. The corners of the case were worn off and the sides worn through by much handling. The Indians seemed to regard the articles with great veneration, and would not dispose of them to us for any price we were able to offer.
The only vessel we saw in the river was Her Majesty’s sloop-of-war Modeste, of eighteen guns, under command of Capt. Thomas Bailie. ‘We passed her in a long nich in the river, as she lay at anchor. We had a spanking breeze, and, with all our sail set and the American flag flying at our mast-head, we proudly ran close under her broadside. A long line of officers and sailors looked down over the hammocks and from the quarter-deck at our unpainted and primitive craft in apparently as much astonishment as if we were the Flying Dutchman or some other phantom ship from the moon to plant the Stars and Stripes upon the neutral waters of the Columbia."
The steamer Eliza Anderson, launched November 27, 1858, was entirely built. at Portland, of Oregon fir timber, and at this date, July, 1889, is running on Puget Sound with most of her original timber as apparently sound as the day it was put iii her.[page 252] Judge Strong, at one time attorney of the old O. S. N. Company, succinctly begins his narrative at the annual meeting of the Pioneer Association in 1878 by stating what he found upon reaching the Columbia:
Astoria at that time was a small place, or rather two places, the upper and lower town, between which there was great rivalry. They were about a mile apart, with no road connecting them except by water and along the beach. The upper town was known to the people of lower Astoria as " Adairville." The lower town was designated by its rival as " Old Fort George," or " McClure’s Astoria." A road between the two places would have weakened the differences of both, isolation being the protection of either. In the upper town was the custom house, in the lower two companies of the First U. S. Engineers, under command of Major J. S. Hathaway. There were not, excepting the military and those attached to them, and the custom house officials, to the best of my recollection, to exceed twenty-five men in both towns.
At the time of our arrival in the country there was considerable commerce carried on, principally in sailing vessels, between the Columbia river and San Francisco. The exports were chiefly lumber ; the imports generally merchandise.
The Pacific Mail steamer Caroline had made a trip in the month of May or June, 1850, bringing up furniture for the Grand Hotel at Pacific City, and as passengers, Dr. Elijah White, Judge Alonzo Skinner, J. D. Holman and others, who were the founders and proprietors of the city. Some of the proprietors still live, but the city has been long since buried and the place where it stood has returned to the primeval forest from which it was taken. The Mail Company’s steamers Oregon and Panama had each made one trip to the river that summer, but regular mail service by steamer from San Francisco was not established until the arrival of the steamer Columbia in the winter or spring of 1850-51. The usual length of time of receiving letters from the States was from six weeks to two months. It took, however, three months to send and get an answer from an interior State, and postage on a single letter was forty cents. After the arrival of the Columbia, they came with great regularity once a month, and a year or two afterwards semi-monthly.
In 1852 the railroad across the Isthmus was completed, thus greatly improving that route. A route had been established across Nicaragua, which for a time was quite popular, but was finally abandoned on account of internal disturbances in the country, in part, and in part on account of competition and increased facilities upon the Isthmus route. The date when the Nicaragua route commenced to be used and was discontinued I am not able at this time to give. The price of passage by the Isthmus route, before their opposition, was from $200 to $250, which included only a limited amount of baggage. Freights were extraordinarily high, amounting to a prohibition upon all excepting merchandise.
In 1857 the Overland Stage Company was organized and commenced carrying the letter mail between St. Joe, Missouri, and Placerville, California, under a contract with the Postmaster General, under an act of Congress, approved March 3d, 1857. The act authorized a semi-monthly, weekly, or semi-weekly service, at a cost per annum not exceeding $300,000 for semi-monthly, $450,000 for weekly, and $600,000[page 253] for semi-weekly service-the mail to he carried in good four-horse coaches or spring, wagons, suitable for passengers, through in twenty-five days. The original contract was for six years, but was extended, and the line run until the railroad was completed in 1869. After the route was opened, twenty-two days was the schedule time. The stages run full both ways. fare $250. The starting and arrival of the stages were great events at both ends of the line. A pony express from San Francisco to St. Joe was started in 1859, and run about a year and a half. It made the trip in ten days.
The first river steamboat in Oregon was the Columbia, built by General Adair, Captain Dan Frost and others, at Upper Astoria in 1850. She was a side-wheel boat, ninety feet in length, of about seventy-five tons burthen, capable of accommodating not to exceed twenty passengers, though I have known of her carrying on one trip over one hundred. Though small, her cost exceeded $25,000. Mechanics engaged in her construction were paid at the rate of sixteen dollars per day, and other laborers five to eight dollars, gold. She made her first trip in June, 1850, under the command of Capt. Fros; McDermott, engineer. It generally took about twenty-four hours to make the trip. She tied up nights and in foggy weather. Fare was twenty-five dollars each way. She was an independent little craft, and not remarkably accommodating, utterly ignoring Lower Astoria. All freight and passengers must come on board at the upper town. She ran for a year or two, when her machinery was taken out and put into the Fashion. Her hull afterwards floated out to sea.
The Lot Whitcomb, also a side-wheeler, was the next. She was built at Milwaukie, then one of the most lively and promising towns in Oregon, by Lot Whitcomb, Col. Jennings, S. S. White and others and launched on Christmas Day, 1850. That was a great day in Oregon. Hundreds from all parts of the Territory came to witness the launch. The festivities were kept up for three days and nights. There was music instrumental-at least, I heard several fiddles -and vocal, dancing and feasting. The whole city was full of good cheer; every house was open and all was free of charge-no one would receive pay. Sleeping accommodations were rather scarce, but there was plenty to keep one awake.
The Lot Whitcomb had a fine model, a powerful engine, and was staunch and fast. Her keel was 12x14 inches, 160 feet long, a solid, stick of Oregon fir. Her burden was 600 tons, had a 17-inch cylinder, 7-feet stroke and cost about $80,000. She proved a safe and comfortable boat. Fare upon her was reduced to $15 between Portland and Astoria. She ran upon Oregon waters until the latter part of 1853, when she was taken to San Francisco and ran for some years on the Sacramento. Captain John C. Ainsworth took command. This was his first steamboating in Oregon. Jacob Kamm was her engineer. Captain Ainsworth was from Iowa, where he had been engaged in steamboating on the Mississippi between St. Louis and Galena about five years. He was a young man about twenty-eight years of age when he commenced in Oregon, and had nothing to begin with but the ordinary capital of an Oregon pioneer-a sound head, a brave heart, willing hands, energy and fidelity to trust. I have known him through his whole career in Oregon. The fortune and position he has acquired are not the result of accident or chance, but have beta secured by industry, integrity, ability, hard labor and prudence. Such fortune and such position come to all who work as hard, as long and well as Captain Ainsworth.
Jacob Kamm, the engineer, was the right man in the right place on such a boat, under such a captain. He proved himself skillful and prudent; no accident ever[page 254] occurred through his want of skill and care during the long period in which he ran as engineer on Oregon steamboats. The fortune he has acquired has been built up by hard labor, increased and preserved by skill and prudence.
The Pacific Mail Steamship Company, a New York corporation which had the mail contract between Panama and Oregon, brought out a large iron steamer called the Willamette. She was built for the company at Wilmington, Delaware, and brought around Cape Horn under sail as a three masted schooner, arriving in the fall of 1851. She was soon fitted up and commenced running, under Captain Durbrow, between Portland and Astoria in connection with the company’s sea steamer. She was an elegant boat in all her appointments, had fine accommodation for passengers, and great freight capacity. In fact, she was altogether too large for the trade, and in August, 1852, her owners took her to California and ran her on the Sacramento. One good thing she did, she put fare down to $10. Fare on this route went down slowly; first $26, then $15, then $10, then $8, and then $3; it is now $2. It is only within a few years that the passenger trade on the lower Columbia has been of any considerable value, or would support a single weekly steamboat. It has now become of more importance.
Time will only permit me to touch upon the important events which make eras in the commerce of Oregon.
Navigation -upon the Willamette above the falls at Oregon City by steamboats was opened by the Hoosier, built at Oregon City below the falls and taken up early 1851. She ran between Canemah and Dayton on the Yamhill.
Early in 1851 Abernethy & Co’s barque, the Success, from New York, arrived at Oregon City with a general cargo of merchandise and three steamboats; two of them were small iron propellers, and the third, the Multnomah, was a side-wheel boat built of wood. The Eagle was very little larger than an ordinary ship’s yawl-boat. She was owned and run between Portland and Oregon City by Captains William Wells and Richard Williams. When Wells was captain, Williams was mate, fireman and all hands; when Captain Dick took the wheel, Wells became the crew. She carried freight for $15 per ton, passengers $5 each. Pretty good pay for a twelve mile route. She made more money according to her size than any boat in Oregon. Out of her earnings the owners built the iron steamboat Belle, and made themselves principal owners in the Senorita--two, for that day, first-class steamboats. The Washington was somewhat larger, owned by Alexander S. Murray, who commanded her. Ile took the boat up above the falls in June, 1851, run her there until the fall or winter of 1851-2, when he brought her down and run her between Portland and Oregon City until the spring of 1853, when she was again taken above the falls, where she ran until July of the same year, when her owners there, Allan McKinley & Co., brought her below and sent her under steam around to the Umpqua river. She arrived there in safety, crossing the bars of both rivers, and ended her days there in the service of her owners. She was known after her sea voyage as the "Bully Washington." The only money ever made out of her was made by her first owner, Capt. Murray. He was a sharp Scotchman, came from Australia here and returned there when he left Oregon. He is said to be the father of internal navigation in Australia. He made money, and when I last heard of him was engaged in the navigation of Murray’s river, which empties into the ocean at Adelaide.[page 255]
The next and most famous of the steamers that were brought out after the Success was the Multnomah . She came in sections, and was set up at Canemah by two or three army or navy officers of the United States, who had brought her out, Doctors Gray and Maxwell and Captain Binicle; was built of oak staves two inches in thickness and of the width and length of ordinary boat plank, bound with hoops made of bar iron, keyed up on the gunwales; was 100 feet in length, with good machinery, and like her principal owner, Dr. Gray, fastidiously nice in all her appointments. She had no timbers except her deck beams and the frame upon which her engine and machinery rested; was as staunch as iron and oak could make her, It was as difficult to knock her to pieces from the outside as it is for a boy to kick in a well hooped barrel. She commenced running above the falls shortly after the Washington, and run there--her highest point being Corvallis, then Marysville--until May, 1852, when she was brought below on ways in a cradle, and thereafter run on the lower Willamette and Columbia, part of the time making three trips a week to Oregon City and three trips to the Cascades. She brought down many of the emigrants of 1852. She fell into the hands of Abernethy & Co., and in the winter and spring of 1853, ran between Portland and Oregon City in connection with the Lot Whitcomb: On the failure of Abernethy & Co.; she fell into the hands of their creditors and had different captains every few trips for a year or two. She was then purchased by Captain Richard Hoyt, and run on the lower Columbia route until his death in the winter or spring of 1861-2. She finally came into the hands of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, and after much more useful service laid her bones in the hone-yard below Portland.
About the same time, 1851, a small wooden boat, a propeller, called the Black Hawk, ran between Portland and Oregon City. She made money very rapidly for her owners.
The other boats built for or run above the falls of the Willamette were the Portland, built opposite Portland, in 1853, by A. S. Murray, John Torrance and James Clinton. She was afterwards taken above the falls where she ran for some time. On the 17th of March, 1857, she was carried over the falls in high water, leaving hardly a vestige of the boat, and drowning her captain, Arthur Jamison, and one deck hand.
There was the Canemah, side-wheels, built in 1851, by A. F. Hedges, afterwards killed by the Indians in Colonel Kelly’s fight on the Touchet in 1856; Manson Beers and Hamilton Campbell. She ran between Canemah and Corvallis. The heaviest load she ever carried was 35 tons. Passage on her was $5 to Salem. She made little or no money for her owners though she had a mail contract.
The Oregon, built and owned by Ben Simpson & Co., in 1852, was a side-wheel boat of good size, but proved very poor property.
The Shoalwater, built by the owners of the Canemah, in 1852-3, as a low-water boat, commanded by Captain Lem White, the pioneer captain upon the upper Columbia, proved to be a failure. She changed her name several times, was the Phoenix, Franklin, and Minnie Holmes. Her had luck followed her under every alias. In the spring of 1854, she collapsed a flue near Rock Island while stopping at a landing. None were killed, but several were more or less seriously injured and all badly scared. H. N. V. Holmes, a prominent resident of Polk county, was badly injured, but jumped overboard and swam across the river to the eastern shore before he knew that he was hurt.[page 256]
Next was the Willamette, also built by the owners of the Canemah, in 1853. She was a large and expensive boat of the Mississippi style; run above the falls until July, 1854, when she was taken below, and in the fall of the same year was sold and taken to California. She proved a failure everywhere and came near breaking her owners. The current seemed to be against her whether she ran up or down stream.
In the summer of 1853 a company of California capitalists bought the land and built a basin and warehouse on the west side of the Willamette at the falls, near where the canal and locks now are. Their first boat was burned on the stocks October 6, 1853. The second was the ill-fated Gazelle, a large and beautiful side-wheel steamer. She made her first trip on the 18th of March, 1854. On the 5th of April, 1854, when lying at Canemah, her boiler exploded, causing great loss of lives. Over twenty persons were killed outright, and as many wounded, three or four of whom died shortly afterwards. The Rev. J. P. Miller, a Presbyterian minister, of Albany, in this State, the father of Mrs. Judge Wilson, now a widow and postmaster at The Dalles (postmistress is not known under the postoffice laws); Mrs. Kelly, wife of Col. Kelly, late U. S. Senator from this State, now resident of Portland, and Mrs. Grover, the wife of Gen. Cuvier Grover. Many other valuable citizens of Oregon were among the killed. The wreck was bought by Captains R. Hoyt, William Wells and A. S. Murray, taken down over the falls on the 11th day of August, 1855, and converted into the Senorita, of which I have before spoken. The warehouse company afterwards built the Oregon, which was sunk and proved a total loss. The property passed into other hands ; the buildings were afterwards burned, and all was swept away in the flood of December, 1861.
The first stern-wheeler upon the upper Willamette was the Enterprise, built in the fall of 1855, by Archibald Jamison (a brother of the one lost on the Portland when she went over the falls, in March, 1854), Captain A. S. Murray, Armory Holbrook, John Torrance and others. She was 115 feet in length, fifteen feet in width, and had neat cabin appointments. She run on the upper river under Captain Jamison--the first really successful boat on that part of the river-and after some years’ service was sold to Captain Tom Wright, son of Commodore, better known as " Bully" Wright, of San Francisco, who took her to Frazier river on the breaking out of the mines there, where she finished her course ; as I now recollect, she was blown up.
In 1856 Captains Cochrane, Gibson, Cassidy and others built the James Clinton, afterwards called the Surprise. She was in her day the largest and best stern-wheeler upon the Willamette.
The Success, built at a later period by Captain Baughman, belied her name, and had a short and unprofitable career.
There were other steamboats during this time and afterwards upon that portion of the river which time forbids me to name. What I have already stated is sufficient to give a general idea of the growth of navigation up to the time when corporations commenced their operation. These boats that I have named, and others built and owned by private individuals, held the field until 1862-3, when the People’s Transportation Company, a corporation under the general incorporation law of Oregon, entered upon its career. They built the canal, basin and warehouse on the east side of the river, and carried on a profitable trade between Portland and the various points up the river, finally selling out to Ben Holladay, who, with his railroad and river steamboats, then held command of the trade of the entire Willamette Valley.[page 257]
An account of the internal commerce of Oregon would be incomplete without a history of the origin and growth of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. I shall speak of it historically only, how it originated and what it has accomplished Whether its influence has been good ‘or bad, whether, on the whole, it has been or is likely to be detrimental to the true interests of our people, are questions that are not to be discussed here. Time will only permit me to give a brief sketch of the prominent points in its history. It is an Oregon institution, established by Oregon men who made their start in Oregon. Its beginnings were small, but it has grown to great importance under the control of the men who originated it.
In April, 1859, the owners of the steamboats Carrie Ladd, Senorita and Belle, which had been plying between Portland and Cascades, represented by Captain J. C. Ainsworth, agent, the Mountain Buck, by Col. J. C. Ruckel, its agent, the Bradford horse railroad, between the middle and upper Cascades, by its owners, Bradford & Co., who also had a small steamboat plying between the Cascades and The Dalles, entered into a mutual arrangement to form a transportation line between The Dalles and Portland, under the name and style of Union Transportation Company. There were some other boats running on that route, the Independence and Wasco, in the control of Alexander Ankney and George W. Vaughn also the Flint and Fashion, owned by Captain J. O. Van Bergen. As soon as practicable, these interests were harmonized or purchased.
At this time freights were not large between Portland and the upper Columbia, and the charges were high. There was no uniform rule ; the practice was to charge according to the exigency of the case. Freights had been carried in sail boats from Portland to the Cascades at twenty dollars per ton. I have before me an advertisement in an early number of the Weekly Oregonian, that the schooner Henry, owned by F. A. Chenoweth, now a practicing lawyer at Corvallis, and George L. Johnson, would carry at that rate.
On the 29th of December, 1860, there being then no law under which a corporation could be established in Oregon--the proprietors of the Union Transportation Line procured from. the Washington Territory Legislature an act incorporating J. C. Ainsworth, D. F. Bradford, S. G. Reed, R. R. Thompson and their associates under the name and style of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. R. R. Thompson and Lawrence Coe, who then first became interested with the other parties, had built a small steamboat called the Col. Wright, above The Dalles, which went into the line and made up their shares of the capital stock. This was the second boat they had built at that point. The first, when partially completed, was carried over the falls and down the river in high water. There the hull was sold, fitted up and taken to Frazer river on the breaking out of the gold mine excitement in British Columbia, and much to the credit of its builders, made the highest point ever reached by a steamboat on that river.
The Oregon Steam Navigation Company, or O. S. N. Co., as it has been more generally called and known since organized under the act, J. C. Ainsworth was the first president, and with the exception of a single year, when J. C. Ruckel held the position, has been its president ever since. Its principal office was located at Vancouver, and its property formed no inconsiderable addition to the taxable property of Washington Territory. It might have remained there until this time, had it received fair treatment. But the citizens thought they had the goose that laid[page 258] the golden egg, and they killed it. By unfriendly legislation and unjust taxation, the company was driven from the Territory, and in October, 1862, it incorporated under the general act of Oregon, where it has ever since existed an Oregon corporation; in fact, as it has always been in ownership and name. Its railroads, steamboats, warehouses, wharf-boats and wharves have all been built and established by the company without public aid except the patronage by the public after they were completed.
All its founders started poor. They have accomplished nothing that has not been equally within the power of others by the exercise of equal foresight, labor and per-severance. They had no exclusive rights. The rivers are wide enough for all the steamers which can be built, and the passes at the Cascades and The Dalles are broad enough for all the railroads that may be found desirable. They are still unoccupied and open to all.
The O. S. N. Co. have diminished the price of carrying freight and passengers, whenever it has established lines from the great cost of transportation of the early times; fares have come down to $5 between Portland and The Dalles; $12 to Wallula; $20 to Lewiston; $2 to Astoria, and freights have been correspondingly reduced. Wheat and flour were last season brought down from Lewiston for $8, and from Wallula for $6 per ton, including handling over the boat lines and two railroads.
Of one thing the citizens of Oregon may well boast. Taking into consideration what has been done by private enterprise alone, there is no young State in the Union where so much in the way of internal improvements has been accomplished in so short a time.
The canal and locks in the Willamette at Oregon City, in the main constructed by private means, have worked wonders for the commerce on that river. Their original cost was nearly half a million dollars. Soon we may hope to see the canal and locks at the Cascades, completed by the United States, which will be of equal value to the commerce upon the Columbia river."
An entire volume might be filled with an account of the early efforts of the O. S. N. and P. T. Co., of their successes, and the adventures of their captains, as Baughman, the Coes, the Grays, Stump, M’Nulty, Snow, Pease and Troupe; and the tales of river and shore that spring up in the aquatic life of every community. But space forbids any such enticing enlargement, and instead we must he content with a list of the steamers which were built by the Peoples’ Transportation, or Oregon Steam Navigation Co., or have come into possession of the O. R. & N. Co.--which absorbed both the P. T. and the O. N. Co., under the management of Villard. For this we are indebted to Captain Troupe and Mr. Atwood, of the O. R. & N. Co.
Idaho, side wheeler, 178 tons, built in 1860; Col. Wright, stern wheeler, built in 1861; Tenino, stern wheeler, built in 1861; Nez [page 259] Perces Chief, stern wheeler, built in 1863; Enterprise, stern wheeler, built in 1863; Senator, stern wheeler, built in 1863; Oneonta, side wheeler, built in 1863; John H. Couch, side wheeler, built in 1863; Iris, stern wheeler, built in 1864; Active, stern wheeler, built 1865; Webfoot, built in 1865; Alert, stern wheeler, built in 1865; Okanagon, stern wheeler, built in 1866; Shoshone, stern wheeler, built in 1866; Rescue, Spray and Lucius, stern wheelers, built in 1868; Yakima, stern. wheeler, built in 1.869; Emma Hayward, stern wheeler, 756 tons, built in 1870; McMinnville, stern wheeler, 420 tons, built in 1870; Dixie Thompson, stern wheeler, 276 tons, built in 1871; E. N. Cooke, stern wheeler, 299 tons, built in 1871; Daisy Ainsworth, built in 1872; New Tenino, stern wheeler, built in 1872; Alice, stern wheeler, 334 tons, built in 1873; Welcome, stern wheeler, 250 tons, built in 1874; Bonita, stern wheeler, 376 tons, built in 1875; Orient, stern wheeler, 429 tons, built in 1875; Occident, stern wheeler, 429 tons, built in 1875; Champion, stern wheeler, 502 tons, built in 1.875; Almata, stern wheeler, 395 tons, built in 1876; S. T. Church, stern wheeler, 393 tons, built in 1876; Ocklahama, stern wheeler, 394 tons, built in 1876; Annie Faxon, stern wheeler, 564 tons, built in 1877; Wide West, stern wheeler, 928 tons, built in 1877; Mountain Queen, stern wheeler, 500 tons, built in 1877; Spokane, stern wheeler, 531 tons, built in 1877; Bonanza, stern wheeler, 467 tons, built in 1877; Northwest, stern wheeler, 274 tons, built in 1.877; R. A. Thompson, stern wheeler, 912 tons, built in 1878; S. G. Reed, stern wheeler, 607 tons, built in 1878; Harvest Queen, stern wheeler, 697 tons, built in 1878; John Gates, stern wheeler, 551 tons, built in 1878; Willamette Chief, stern wheeler, 523 tons, built in 1878; D. S. Baker, stern wheeler, 566 tons, built in 1879; Hassalo, stern wheeler, 350 tons, built in 1880; Olympia, side wheeler, 1083 tons, built in 1883; Escort, tug, built in 1883; Alaskan, side wheeler, 1257 tons, built in 1883; S. J. Potter, side wheeler, built in 1887; Sea Home, side wheeler, built in 1889; Modoc, stern wheeler, built in 1889; Wallowa, tug, built in 1889. Of the Gov. Grover, Owyhee, Minnehaha, Josie McNear, Mountain Buck, Cowlitz, Belle, Eagle, Express and tug Donald, owned and operated by the companies named, we have been unable to learn when they were built. [page 260]
Aside from the O. R. and N. Co., and its predecessors there have always been a few independent steamers on the river, making their head quarters at Portland, such as the Fannie Troup, Salem, Manzanillo, Traveler, Lurline, G. W. Shaver, and local craft. One of the most indefatigable of our independent navigators is Capt. V. B. Scott, with his two Telephones, the first of which was destroyed by fire; river racers equal to anything of . which the world has record. Another very solid company is that of Joseph Kellogg & Son, having two good steamboats, the Joseph Kellogg and Toledo and making a specialty of navigation upon small streams, particularly the Cowlitz.
With the exception of a few of the older craft on the Willamette and the new iron ships Olympian and Alaskan, all the boats named were built in Oregon.
With the opening of the Columbia to British Columbia, our inland navigation will assume a hundred fold greater proportions.
It may be remarked, however, that the Columbia river steamers are a swift and powerful class of vessels; built for actual hard service, and having a certain individuality of their own. Under John Gates many improvements were made, the stern wheel developed to its full power, and the perils of. our rapid and great current overcome by the hydraulic steering gear. Some of them have reached the high speed of twenty miles per hour, and all have been able to over-come a ten and twelve mile current. As the most magnificent of swimming animals have been developed in the Columbia, so we may expect the finest swimmers of man’s construction to be made on its water.