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on the seventeenth of July, 1846, Rear Admiral Si;- George Seymour, in command of her Majesty's ship Collingwood, arrived at Monterey, and forthwith addressed an official letter to Governor Pico, at Los Angeles, informing him that, in view of the existing war between the United States and Mexico, her Majesty's government would not interfere in the affairs of California. That official note was sent by me to Governor Pico, by a special messenger, under a safe-conduct granted by Commodore Stockton. On the return of the messenger to Monterey, I paid him one hundred dollars for his service, and delivered the safe-conduct into the hands of Captain Mervine, then in command of the United States forces at that port.

In conclusion, I deny positively that the British government ever had any intention of establishing ii protectorate over California.

Respectfully yours, J. Alex. Forbes.



For twenty years, while California was a Mexican territory, the streams of the great Sacramento valley and in the northern portion of the state were constantly visited by bands of trappers, belonging both to the several American fur companies and to the great Hudson Bay Company. A brief outline of the character of these companies will be necessary to a proper understanding of the nature of the trapper occupation of California.

The first and most important of these is the celebrated Hudson Bay Company. Very soon after the first colonization of America, the shipment of furs to England began, and in 1670 Charles II. granted a charter to Prince Rupert, the Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of Craven, Lord Ashley and others, giving them full possession of the country about Hudson Bay, including all of British America not occupied by the Russians and the French. They established forts and a system of government, and became a most powerful corporation. The Canadians established a trading-post at Mackinaw, and many individuals were engaged independently in the fur trade beyond the limits of the territory occupied by this vast monopoly. In 1783, these traders united in one association, called the Northwest Company, and soon became formidable rivals to the English company. It was McKenzie, of this new organization, who, in 1789, penetrated to the Arctic ocean by the way of Slave lake and McKenzie river, and, in 1792, crossed the Rocky mountains, discovered Frazer river, and on the twentieth of July reached the Pacific ocean near King's island, in latitude 52°, having made the first overland journey across America. From this time the competition was sharp and brisk between the rival associations, and they both became powerful and well settled. The expedition of Lewis and Clark to the Columbia, and their residence among the Mandans, in the winter of 1804-5, attracted the attention of these companies to this region, and in 1806, Simon Frazer, a partner in the Northwest Company, established a post on Frazer lake.

The pioneer among American traders in this region was John Jacob Astor, who had been engaged in the fur business in the East since 1784, as founder and manager of the American Fur Company. In 1810, he organized the Pacific Fur Company, and sent the ten-gun ship Tunquin to the mouth of the Columbia, where it arrived March 22, 1811. McDougal, Tom McKay and David Stuart, partners in the company, were passengers. They erected a fort near the mouth of the river, and named it Astoria. Captain Thorn then sailed with the vessel along the coast, to trade with the natives, and himself and all on board, save the interpreter, were killed by Indians at Vancouver's island. In July, a party of the Northwest Company, under Mr. Thompson, arrived at Astoria, with the intention of taking possession of the mouth of the Columbia river, but, finding themselves anticipated by the Americans, retraced their steps to Montreal. On the fifteenth of February, 1812, a party of the Pacific Fur Company under Wilson Price Hunt arrived at Astoria, after an overland journey of privation and danger lasting eighteen months. In May, of the same year, the ship Beaver arrived from New York with supplies. Posts had been established on the Okinagan, on the Spokane, and above the mouth of the Shahaptan; but, in 1813, news was received of the war between Great Britain and the United States, and the expected arrival of a British war-vessel.

The interior posts were abandoned, and the non-arrival of supply-ships from New York, caused by the uncertainties of war and the dangers of navigation, so unsettled McDougal, the partner in chargethat when two parties of the Northwest Company, under McTavish and Stuart, arrived at Astoria, in October, 1813, and announced the expected arrival of two war-vessels, the P/tabe and Isaac Todd, he sold all the property to that association for one-third its value, and, to show his bad faith, soon after became a partner in the same company. A little later the Raccoon arrived and took possession of Astoria in the name of His Britannic Majesty, and changed the name to Fort George.

The fort was restored to the United States in 1818, under provisions of the treaty of Ghent, but the government failed to grant the encouragement to Mr. Astor that he solicited, and should have received, and this region was left to the occupation of the Northwest Company. After a war of two years between the rival English companies, in which a bloody battle was fought in the Red River country, they united, in 1824, in one corporation, under the name of the Hudson Bay Company, the principal establishment on the coast being Fort Vancouver, built by the Northwest Company in 1821. For years they dominated this region, having posts in the whole Columbia basin, until the establishment of the boundary line north of Washington Territory compelled them to withdraw into British America, in 1845. The charter of the company having expired, it now possesses no territorial rights, and is simply a trading company, handling, with C. M. Lampson & Co., of London, the bulk of the fur trade of the world.

Next in importance are the companies of American trappers that approached from the east, crossed the Rocky mountains and made their way to the Pacific coast. In 1762, the province of Louisiana, embracing all of the western portion of the United States not claimed by Spain, belonged to France, and the governor chartered a fur company under the name of Pierre Ligueste Laclede, Antoine Maxan & Co. Laclede established St. Louis the following year, and it became a headquarters for the fur trade similar to Mackinaw and Montreal. The business of this company and many others that engaged along the Missouri in the trapping of beaver became very large. The acquisition of Louisiana by the United States threw this trade into the hands of the Americans. In 1815, Congress passed an act expelling British traders from all the territories east of the Rocky mountains, and the American Fur Company, at the head of which Mr. Astor had been for many years, began to send trappers to the head-waters of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. American trappers also penetrated into New Mexico and established a trade between St. Louis and Santa Fe. Up to this time but one attempt had been made by trappers to penetrate the Rocky mountains, and that was in 1808, by the Missouri Fur Company, at the head of which was a Spaniard named Manuel Lisa. Posts were established on the Upper Missouri and one on Lewis river, the south branch of the Columbia; but the failure of supplies and the hostility of the savages caused its abandonment by the manager, Mr. Henry, in 1810.

In 1823, Gen. W. H. Ashley, a St. Louis merchant long engaged in the fur trade, pushed a trapping party into the Rocky mountains. He went up the Platte to the Sweetwater, and up that stream to its source, discovered the South pass, explored the head-waters of the Colorado (or Green) river, and returned to St. Louis in the fall. The next year he again penetrated the mountains and built a trading fort on Lake Ashley, near Great Salt Lake, both of which bodies of water were discovered by him that year, and returned, leaving there one hundred men. From that time the head-waters of the Missouri and its tributaries, the Green and Columbia rivers and their tributaries, were the trapping-ground of hundreds of daring men, whose wild and reckless life, privations and encounters with the savages, make a theme of romance that has occupied the pen of Washington Irving and many authors of lesser note, and been the source from which the novelists of the sensational school have drawn a wealth of material. It was the custom to divide the trappers into bands of sufficient strength to defend themselves against the attacks of savages, and send them out in different directions during the trapping season, to assemble the next summer at a grand rendezvous previously appointed, the head-waters of the Green river being the favorite locality for the annual meeting.

In the spring of 1825, Jedediah S. Smith led a company of this kind, consisting of about forty men, into the country west of Great Salt lake, discovered Humboldt river and named it Mary's river; followed down that stream and crossed the Sierra Nevada into the great valley in July. He collected a large quantity of furs, established a headquarters on the American river near Folsom, and then, with twTo companions, recrossed the mountains through Walker's pass, and returned to the general rendezvous on Green river, to tell of the wonderful valley he had visited.

Cronise speaks of American trappers having penetrated into California as early as 1820, but is evidently mistaken, as there is no record of any party crossing the Rocky mountains previous to the expedition of Mr. Ashley in 1823, save Lewis and Clark in 1804, Missouri Fur Company in 1808, and the Pacific Fur Company, under Wilson P. Hunt, in 1811. Jedediah S. Smith must stand in history as the first white man to leul a party overland into California.

The return of Smith with such a valuable collection of furs, and specimens of placer gold he had discovered on his return journey near Mono lake [see article on the Discover;/ of Gold], led to his being sent again the next season, with instructions to thoroughly inspect the gold placers on the way. This time he went as a partner, Mr. Ashley having sold his interest to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, consisting of William Sublette, Jedediah S. Smith and David Jackson. He passed as far south as the Colorado river, and here h id a battle with the Indians, in which all but himself. Turner and Galbraith were killed. They escaped and arrived at the Mission San Gabriel, where they were arrested as filibusters and sent to San Diego, but were released upon a certificate from the officers of some American vessels which chanced to be on the coast, that they were peaceful trappers and had passports from the commissioner of Indian affairs. This certificate bears date December 20, 1826, and in the following May we find them in camp near San Jose, where the following letter was written to Father Duran, who had sent to know what their presence there signified:—

Reverend Father :—I understand, through the medium of one of your Christian Indians, that you are anxious to know who we are, as some of the Indians have been at the mission and informed you that there were certain white people in the country. We are Americans on our journey to the River Columbia; we were in at the Mission San Gabriel in January last. I went to San Diego and saw the general, and got a passport from him to pass on to that place. I have made several efforts to cross the mountains, but the snows being so deep, I could not succeed in getting over. I returned to this place (it being the only point to kill meat), to wait a few weeks until the snow melts so that I can go on; the Indians here also being friendly, I consider it the most safe point for me to remain, until such time as I can cross the mountains with my horses, having lost a great many in attempting to cross ten or fifteen days since. I am a long ways from home, and am anxious to get there as soon as the nature of the case will admit. Our situation is quite unpleasant, being destitute of clothing and most of the necessaries of life, wild meat being our principal subsistence. I am, Reverend Father, your strange but real friend and Christian brother,

J. S. Smith.

May 19th, 1827.

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