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Hubert Howe Bancroft's History of the Pacific Northwest
Some New Books.
HISTORY OF THE PACIFIC STATES OF
NORTH AMERICA. By Hubert Howe
Bancroft, Vol.XXIII. The North-
west Coast, Vol. 2. A. L. Bancroft
& Co, San Francisco.
It is just two years since Mr. H. H. Bancroft gave to the public the first volume of his “History of the Pacific States.” Since that time a volume has appeared every three months in chronological order. Two volumes of the history of Central America [sic] have been issued, three of Mexico, one of the North Mexican states, and one of California, which have brought the history of these sections down to 1800, and including the volume before us, two on the northwest coast [sic], being the preliminary history of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, and British Columbia, down to 1846.
For the people of Oregon and the entire northwest coast, this is the most interesting volume yet issued of the whole series. The materials have been collected with Mr. Bancroft’s usual diligence, and sifted with his customary discrimination. The volume is the fruit of more labor than has ever before been expended on the subject – we had almost said of more labor than has been expended upon it by all other writers combined. More than that, the work has been executed with literary judgment and painstaking care.
The skill of the author is exhibited in the arrangement and distribution of his matter, and the discrimination with which he has distinguished between leading topics and those of less importance.
The volume next preceeding [sic] the present one gave a history of northwestern maritime discovery. The present volume is in the main a history of expeditions across the continent to the Pacific northwest, with an account of the competition with the English for possession of the country and the foundation of the American settlements here. The book opens with a history of the famous expedition of Lewis and Clarke [sic], which is presented in sufficient detail and illustrated with new matter derived by Mr. Bancroft from innumerable sources. English exploration of the northwest is treated next, beginning with the expedition of Simon Fraser [sic] and John Stuart through British Columbia to the waters of the Pacific ocean, followed by David Thompson and others a little later. The names of Fraser and Thompson are perpetuated in the well-known rivers that bear them. The period covered by these several English expeditions was included [sic] between the years 1797 and 1811.
When Lewis and Clarke [sic] returned to Washington from their expedition across the continent they took with them a Mandan chief, whom the government had promised to send back with an escort back to his home. Twenty hardy Missourians, under the command of Ezekiel Williams, were chosen for this duty. The party set out in the spring of 1807. The Mandan was restored to his people and Williams and his party continued to the Yellowstone to engage in trapping. But the party provoked the hostility of the Indians, and most of its members were killed. Williams himself escaped, and two other companions, wandering off to the Colorado, fell in with a Mexican caravan which they accompanied to Los Angeles. This is the first record of trapping in the Rocky mountains [sic]. In 1808 the Missouri Fur
Company was organized at St. Louis, and a trapping expedition in charge of Alexander Henry was sent to the upper Missouri and Yellowstone. Erecting an establishment at the forks of the Missouri, Henry there made his headquarters, but was driven out by the Indians,and [sic] passing over the divide, he built a house on the north branch of the Snake river From him the Henry Fork derives its name. His was the first establishment erected in this latitude west of the Rocky mountains.
In the early part of 1809, in the office of Abiel [sic] Winship of Boston, was projected the first attempt to establish a settlement on the Columbia river. Partners in the project were Abiel Winship, Jonathan Winship, who had commanded a vessel in the Pacific trade, Nathan Winship and Benjamin P. [Rusner],one or two others having smaller interests. The ship Albatross was chosen for the adventure, with Nathan Winship as captain, and William Smith as chief mate. Everything necessary for building, planting and trading was included in the outfit, the prominent idea being permanent settlement. With a crew of twenty-two men the vessel was to proceed round Cape Horn to the Columbia and ascend the river some thirty miles, where the captain was to select a site for he settlement. The land was to be purchased from the natives, a large two-story log house or fortress to be erected, with loop holes for cannon and musketry, and all conveniences for defence [sic]. On the second floor were to be placed all the arms and ammunition, and to this part of the building no native was to be admitted. Entrance to the upper story should be by a trap door, and the ladder should be drawn up after ascending. Land was to be cleared and cultivated under protection of the guns, and not less than half of the men were to be always on guard.
The Albatross set sail in July, 1809, and during the several years of her adventures in the Pacific she created quite a commotion. She was seized on the California coast at one time, and was blockaded at another at the Hawaiian islands by a British man-of-war. She entered the Columbia on the 26th of May, 1810, and on the lst of June, Winship and Smith set out in whale boats in search of a site on which to plant their proposed establishment. They ascended as far as Oak Point, which they thought just the place for their purpose. Ground was secured, logs hewn, a garden spot prepared and seed sown. But the annual freshet of the Columbia, of which they had no knowledge when they selected the low spot of fertile ground, deluged them with water, and they chose a higher spot a short distance below. The natives, however, soon became troublesome, and Captain Winship determined for the present to withdraw. After remaining for a time at Baker Bay, trading, [sic] the Albatross sailed away, leaving upon the bank of the Columbia the relics of its first embryo metropolis. Astor’s attempts prevented the Winships from further efforts.
To most readers Astor’s undertaking has been made sufficiently familiar by the charm of Irving’s literary style. Yet Mr. Bancroft’s chapter on the founding of Astoria is highly interesting even to those who ave run over Irving’s pictured page-. [sic]
It was Astor’s idea to establish a line of forts across the continent, with headquarters near the mouth of the Columbia, -- [sic] a grand centerpiece which would give the controller of them [sic] command not only of the fur trade of America, but of the world. From the great mart, seated at the entrance of the mighty river of the west, yielding to none in wealth, magnificence or position, and imposing her terms upon the commerce of the of the coast and inland territory – from the vast emporium should sail vessels of every build and burden, making regular voyages to north and south, to Asia, to Europe, to Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Furs could be taken to the China market in one-half the time required from Europe, and supplies could be brought hither by vessel at one-tenth of the cost of carriage overland. It would, indeed, be a smooth, glittering, golden round, [sic] furs from Astoria to Canton, teas and silks and rich Asiatic merchandise to New York, then back again to the Columbia with beads and bells and blankets, with guns, knives, tobacco and rum. It was alluring as a South Sea dream, and as little destined to realization.
It does not fall within the scope of this review to give the details of the endeavor of Astor to carry out his idea. We may only say that to those who have read Irving’s Astoria with much interest Mr. Bancroft’s narrative will also be most attractive and satisfactory. It was arranged that the two expeditions should be sent to the mouth of the Columbia simultaneously; one by sea from New York, the other by land from St. Louis. How the maritime first part of the Astor project terminated in the Tonquin disaster is familiar history. The land party arrived at Astoria in February, 1812.
The whole history of these expeditions and of the founding of Astoria is presented by Mr. Bancroft in a more connected and comprehensive form than by any other writer. He makes admirable use of all old materials and has gathered much that is new.
From the failure of Astor’s scheme and the transfer of Astoria to British hands the author proceeds with the history of the northwest coast under the union of the Northwest and the Hudson Bay companies down to the controversy between the United States and Great Britain for possession of Oregon. “The Oregon Question” is treated with great fullness of discussion and accuracy of detail. An introductory essay presents chronological review of the title foundations, showing precisely the grounds on which the claims of each country were based. Incidental to this historical review is an account of that part borne by the early immigrants in erecting and maintaining in Oregon the authority of the United States.
Of the value of this work as a history of the Northwest coast [sic], we cannot speak too highly. Here, especially, it ought to find many readers. No person who desires to possess information concerning the discovery and settlement of the Pacific northwest [sic] can afford to pass this great work by. It will take its place at once as the highest of authorities, and that place it is likely to maintain. There is no probability that any other author will attempt to cover so completely this wide field of investigation, or will bring to it so much patient labor, careful search for original materials, or enthusiastic devotion to the single purpose covered by this effort. Of disputed points there is always intelligent discussion, and when Mr. Bancroft differs from others, as he often does, he gives the reasons for his opinions and conclusions in a firm, though modest and perfectly lucid way. +
--Coquille City Herald January 20, 1885