The Congress of Women: The Pacific Northwest

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway
George Meredith's Novels

The Pacific Northwest

Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway is a native of Illinois. She was born in 1834. Her parents were John F. Scott and Annie Boloefron Scott, who were natives of Kentucky, but emigrated to Illinois with their parents in childhood. She was educated, chiefly by her own efforts, after marriage, when surrounded by her own children in the Oregon frontier. She has lectured in all the large cities, and has traveled extensively over the Pacific Northwest. She married Mr. B. C.. Duniway in 1853, in Oregon. Her special work has been in the interest of Equal Suffrage and the diffusion of practical business methods among those women who must help themselves. Her principal literary works are a poem entitled "David and Anna Matron," and numerous serial stories published during a period of twenty years in her own newspaper, The New Northwest. Mrs. Duniway is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Her postoffice address is 294 Clay Street, Portland, Oregon.

If the illustrious navigator in whose honor we are now holding this wonderful World's Columbian Exposition, had so shaped his adventurous voyage as to have first sighted land on the western slope of the two Americas, the history of this continent's discovery and development would have been strangely metamorphosed. Then the star of Empire, lured by balmy skies, would have made its way eastward, loitering leisurely in its course, often halting for generations to enjoy the equable temperature of the Pacific Coast, and never pressing onward to encounter the more rigorous climate of the Atlantic border until compelled to advance by the civilization surging behind it. But the destiny which directs the progress of civilization in every age never for a moment forgot the golden West; and with a wise design of which we, today, are reaping the benefits, the preserves of the Pacific Northwest were held in reserve in the nation's youth, that they might become the heritage of the fortunate descendants of the hardy stock of Anglo-Saxons who long ago conquered the adverse climatic elements of the Atlantic seaboard, in blissful ignorance, through all their years of toil, that the balmy zephyrs of the Pacific were playing at hide-and-seek among Sierran vales, or singing summer-laden peans through the mighty trees where rolls the Oregon.

And yet, this favored land had not been left for long without a witness. Destiny, as if mindful that some day the children of men might wonder at her apparent partiality to later generations, began as early as the year 1513 to make preliminary preparations for carrying out her plans.

Let us turn the search-light of history upon the inland empire of the Pacific Northwest and study its discovery from a landsman's standpoint. In the year 1804 an expedition, led by Captains Lewis and Clarke, started westward from a point east of the Mississippi River into the unexplored and almost unknown wilds stretching across the North American continent.

After a summer of wild, enjoyable adventure in the wilderness, the party went into winter quarters in the fall of the same year, on the banks of the Upper Missouri River, in what is now the State of Montana. The following year, after having grown accustomed to their adventurous life, they pitched camp for winter quarters at the mouth of the Lou Lou fork of the Bitter Root River, a branch of the Upper Missouri, near what is now the thriving modern city of Missoula. From this point they made frequent excursions, and by ascending Lou Lou fork discovered the now famous Lolo trail through the otherwise formidable Bitter Root Mountains. After having suffered severely from cold and hunger the party reached a Nez Perce village in the early spring, situated on an open plain contiguous to the south fork of the Clearwater, an important tributary to the Snake River.

In passing down the Clearwater the party noted three creeks, the most famous of these being now known as the Potlatch, which fructifies the beautiful and extensive Paradise Valley of Idaho, in the midst of which sits Moscow.

The journey of Lewis and Clarke was a series of exciting, laborious and often perilous adventures. But they reached the coast in safety and erected a rude fortification for winter quarters, which they named Fort Clatsop. They started on their return after a stay of some time, and after a leisurely voyage up the Columbia they reached the Willamette River, called by the natives Multnomah, which was discovered by Captain Clark on the second day of April, 1806.

Continuing their journey up the Columbia, they found the Dalles and Deschutes Indians very hostile and inhospitable. Doubtless the premonition of their forthcoming fate had dawned upon the tribes, and the instinct of self-preservation, powerful even when hopeless, had been awakened by rumors of a dreaded invasion of which these explorers were indeed forerunners.

But Yellept, the head chief of the Walla Wallas, inspired no doubt by the same premonitions, although they affected him differently, received the party with savage demonstrations of joy. He begged them to partake of his hospitality, and urged them to invite all nations to treat the Indians kindly. Setting an example himself, he brought them an armful of wood and a platter of roasted mullets with his own hands, a most peculiar service from the hands of an Indian chieftain, since it is a well-known part of the Indian's unwritten code to delegate every kind of domestic duties to women, including every burden of the camp and fire incident to their primitive modes of life.

Colonel Gilbert, in the "Historic Sketches," tells us that Yellept had five sons, who were all slain in battle, or perished miserably from white men's diseases. A number of years after Lewis and Clarke had partaken of his hospitality this noble chieftain saw the last one of them die. Heart-broken, the old man called his tribe together, and, lying down upon the body of his son in the grave, he sternly commanded them to cover him up with his dead.

A wail of lamentation went up from his people, but they buried him alive as he had ordered, and the glory and greatness of the Walla Wallas had departed.

The modern psychic tells us, upon evidence that to him is demonstration, that the Indians' heaven is located within the earth's aura, and directly above the earth and beneath the American pale faces' "Devochan;" that in this heaven all genuinely "good" Indians find their happy hunting-grounds restored to them in duplicate, with all the modern improvements added. In these Elysian shades the pale face cannot enter to rob them of their homes, or possess their squaws or maidens, or spread among them the diseases and disasters of civilization and death.

The swaying pines of the lands the pioneers loved, and left to us as a heritage, chant their eternal requiem. The mighty mountains wear white crowns of everlasting snow in their honor, and the broad prairies adorn their lowly graves with regularly returning flowers, as the seasons come and go. The iron horse wakes shrillest echoes now, where erst the bellowing of the belabored ox was heard. Steam and lightning have out-distanced time and conquered space in the years that have flown since they fell asleep. The echoes of the mountains and the rocks are answering back to new conditions, and the sons and daughters of the pioneers are confronted by new problems of which their parents scarcely dreamed. These pioneers, in goodly numbers, found their way to Oregon early in the "forties" and "fifties," making their way across the continent in the dim wake of Lewis and Clarke. The four-wheeled ship of the desert was their vehicle and the rough-ribbed ox their motive power. In peril often, in fatigue always, and sometimes through sickness, death and deprivation they struggled onward toward the setting sun.

But these early settlers found at length a country that well repaid them for their toil; a country of surpassing beauty and diversity of scenery, soil and climate; a country in which the giant minds that planned their exodus from older lands might have the ample room they needed to extend and grow. After reaching the Territory of Oregon, they settled, often in widely separated fields. For several years they lived in isolation, but also in health, peace and primitive plenty. They made friends with the Indians, and, forming a provisional government, protected themselves and the red man alike within its statutes.

But the discovery of gold, first in California and a little later in Oregon, was the lever that worked the change in the provincial habits of these Spartan-souled heroes.

By the beginning of the year 1850 the whole world had caught the gold fever. Men left their homes and families and flocked together to the new Eldorado like cormorants scenting the means of subsistence from afar. They settled California with a heterogeneous multitude from all the nations of the earth, and gradually, as the contagion spread, extended their peregrinations into Oregon, where nature had, in many places, been equally successful in storing up and hiding away her precious ores.

The entire region lying west of the Cascade Mountains, within the "rain belt," rejoices in two seasons, the wet and the dry. And yet, there is no drought in summer, nor is there any long continued spell of rain at one time in winter. The climate is mild throughout the year. Here is the home alike of the fruit and the grain, the forest and the mineral. If you fancy that you prefer to settle upon government lands there are yet many openings for such homes, where, by going from twenty to one hundred miles away from present railroad facilities, thus following in a much modified form the heroic example of early pioneers, you may, by overcoming comparatively few of the obstacles they encountered, achieve a like or a greater success.

Do you wish a climate with more marked extremes of heat and cold? The extensive tablelands of the eastern portion of this great domain invite you to possess them. Here, also, in many places, are the homes of the fruit and the grain. Here are mountain fortresses with intersecting valleys and limpid streams. Here, too, is the home of irrigation, the home of the stock grower and the stronghold of the baser metals, as well as of gold and silver and precious stones.

While I do not believe in a one-sexed country, any more than a one-sexed home or government, I do believe that women should have equal chance with men to. acquire the homes, that both the sexes equally need, and must jointly occupy. The one great obstacle in the way of women getting homes in the country is their too frequent desire to possess lands of area so great that to live upon them means isolation. But if women as well as men, when in quest of homes, would be content with farms containing five, ten, or at most forty acres, bringing with them, to a new country, sufficient means to carry them through the first year or so of settlement, say anywhere from five hundred dollars up, there are comparatively few of you, who are often rack-rented in the great cities, and overstrained in every way in trying to keep up appearances, who would not find youselves and those dependent upon you very soon in independent circumstances. When you live in the country, on land of your own, you are free from the exactions of house rent, water tax, and the constantly accruing wood, milk, butter, eggs, fruit and vegetable bills that make your lives a burden. In your city garrets are old clothes enough to keep your families clad in the country till an income grows; and through the care-free lives you may lead under such conditions your broken health returns.

Bear in mind that it is difficult at this late day to find room for large settlements even in small holdings, directly along the established railroad lines. If you would grow up with the country you must first establish yourselves on its frontier.

I have at this moment in mind many places where deeded lands, held at reasonable prices on easy terms, can be bought in the Pacific Northwest for just such homes. I also know of whole townships on the still farther frontier where irrigation lends the magic of its power to such marvels of production as are never seen elsewhere. These lands are from twenty to eighty, and even one hundred miles away, at present, from railroads. But many thousands of acres are there awaiting possession, where many hundreds of ideal home sites could be secured, contiguous to inexhaustible summer range for stock; where alfalfa yields prodigious returns from irrigation for winter's feed for stock; where a farm of forty acres or less would make an independent home. In these places chickens thrive like magic on sunflowers bigger than dinner-plates; hogs grow fat on barley, harvested by themselves, after having thriven to maturity on alfalfa, also of their own harvestings; small fruits, cereals and vegetables yield enormously. The air is as pure as ether, and the scenery is as grand as Heaven. Here can be grown in inexhaustible quantities the sugar beet, the mangel-wurzel, and all the other staples on which man and beast do thrive, except, perhaps, your Indian corn, for which the delicious air of night is too cool to permit its superabundant growth. Adjacent mines abound in all directions, awaiting the toil and money of man for their development.

Again, I think of evergreen forests, humid skies and fruit-bearing vales, hard by the sunset seas. But many of these are also away from present lines of railroad, though not more than twenty, thirty, or at most one hundred miles away, Think of it! Only one hundred miles! Why, we of the Pacific Coast went two thousand and three thousand miles away from railroads to get our start!

Oh those primitive times! How, amid all these scenes of wonder, do I love to pause and live over again the far-off days when everybody in my great bailiwick knew everybody else; when there were no extremes of wealth or want, but everybody had enough and to spare. Families living hundreds of miles apart made annual visits to each other's homes at convenient seasons. Their vehicles were the same battered, creaking ships of the desert, their teams the same old oxen, grown fat and festive, that, half starved and footsore, had brought them across the continent in the bygone years.

Anon, the railroad era dawned upon the land. The shout of its coming was heard in the air, and songs like this floated out upon the breeze:

From the land of the distant East I come
A railway abroad, and I love to roam,
In my lengthening, winding way,
On my ballast of rock and my ribs of pine,
And my sinews of steel that glitter and shine,
While my workmen sap and sow and mine,
As steadily, day by day,
They tunnel the mountains and climb the ridges,
And span the culverts and rivet the bridges,
And waken the echoes afar and anear
With the shout of triumph and song of cheer.

The State of Oregon, or what is left of it since it married off its three territorial daughters, Washington, Montana and Idaho, to state governments, contains in round numbers an area of 95,275 square miles. Washington, the eldest of Oregon's "three stately graces," possesses about an equal area. Montana comes next, with skirts nearly as ample, and Idaho sits proudly at the eastward gates, holding aloft, as shown on the maps, the rough similitude of a huge arm-chair on her mountains' summits, inviting you to come and be seated.

There is much mountainous country throughout the Pacific Northwest-so much that the pure air of heaven, playing at random among the heights, frightens away the cyclones of the flats and sends them howling over the Kansas prairies and the great plains of Texas, leaving our rock-ribbed vales in smiling security. Tornadoes, drought and pestilence, from the same cause, escape us.

The trend of the main mountain ranges is north and south, with innumerable spurs reaching out in all directions, breaking the country into diversified valleys, well watered and fertile. Every cereal known to agriculture, every fruit and flower of the temperate zones, and many products of semi-torrid climes, find congenial homes in different portions of this broad domain. Every mineral known to man abounds within our borders. Our forests are gigantic and inexhaustible, our rivers are big and deep and rapid, and our creeks and rills and lakes no man can number.

But don't come to a new country wholly empty-handed, expecting the few who are on the ground ahead of you to furnish you with remunerative employment. Come prepared to take care of yourselves till you can have time to raise a crop. Come prepared to help each other, just as did the early pioneers, just as all must do who leave the mark of success upon the age in which they struggle.

"The world belongs to those who take it,
Not to those who sit and wait."

Once, when I was twenty years younger than now, though not a whit less enthusiastic, as I was journeying westward across the continent by rail, I perpetrated some stanzas with which to please my friends at home; and now I will conclude the address by their recital here:

Ho! for the bracing and breezing Pacific,
As surging and heaving he rolleth for aye;
Ho for the land where bold rocks bid us welcome,
And grandeur and beauty hold rivaling sway!
Yes; ho! for the West, for the blest land of promise,
Where mountains all white bathe their brows in the sky;
While down their steep sides the cold torrent comes dashing,
And eagles scream out from their eyries on high.
I have seen the bright East where the restless Atlantic
Forever and ever wails out his deep moan,
And I've stood in the shade of the dark Alleghanies,
Or listened, all rapt, to Niagara's groan.
Again, I have sailed through grand scenes on the Hudson,
Steamed down the Fall River through Long Island Sound;
The Ohio I've viewed, and the weird Susquehanna,
Or skirted the Lake Shore when West I was bound.
I've sniffed the bland breeze of the broad Mississippi,
And dreamed in the midst of his valley so great,
Have crossed and re-crossed the bold turbid Missouri,
As he bears toward the Gulf Stream his steam-guided freight;
And I've bathed my hot forehead in soft limpid moonbeams
That shimmered me o'er with their glow and their gold,
In the haunts where the loved of my youth gave glad welcome,
And memory recalled each dear voice as of old.
But though scenes such as these oft allured, pleased and charmed me,
Euterpe came out with her harp or my lyre;
Yet when I again reached thy prairies, Nebraska,
To sing she began me at once to inspire.
And, as westward we sped, o'er the broad, rolling pampas,
Or slowly ascended the mountains all wild,
Or dashed through the gorges and under the snowsheds,
The Nine with crude numbers my senses beguiled.
Colorado's wild steeps, and the rocks of Wyoming,
Their lone stunted pine trees and steep palisades,
And afar to the west the cold, bleak Rocky Mountains,
At whose feet the wild buffalo feeds in the glades,
Have each in their turn burst sublime on my vision,
While deserts all desolate gazed at the sky,
And away to the south rose the snow-crested Wasatch,
Bald, bleak and majestic, broad rolling and high.
I have stood where dead cities of sandstone columnar,
Loom up in their grandeur, all solemn and still,
And mused o'er the elements' wars of the Ages
That shaped them in symmetry wild at their will.
I have rolled down the bowlders and waked the weird echoes,
Where serpents affrighted, have writhed in their rage,
And watched the fleet antelope bound o'er the desert
Through vast beds of cacti and grease-wood and sage.
I have sailed on the breast of the Deseret Dead Sea,
And bathed in its waters all tranquil and clear;
Have gazed on the mountains and valleys of Humboldt,
Strange, primitive, awful, sad, silent and sere.
I have climbed and reclimbed the steep, wind-worn Sierras,
Peered in their deep gorges all dark and obscure,
Dreamed under the shadows of giant Sequoias,
Or talked with wild Indians, reserved and demure.
I have trusted my bark on the billows of Ocean,
And watched them roll up and recede from the shore,
And have anchored within thy fine bay, San Francisco,
Where the Golden Gate husheth the Ocean's deep roar.
But not till I reached thy broad bosom, Columbia,
Where ever, forever, thou roll'st to the sea,
Did I feel that I'd found the full acme of grandeur,
Where song could run riot, or fancy go free.
Then my Pegasus changed his quick pen to a gallop,
Euterpe's wind harp waked Æolian strains,
And the Nine in their rapture sang odes to the mountains,
That preside over Oregon's forests and plains.
Hoary Hood called aloud to the three virgin Sisters,
Who blushed with the roseate glow of the morn;
St. Helen and Ranier from over the border
Scowled and clouded their brows in pretension of scorn.
The Dalles of Columbia, set up on their edges,
Swirled through the deep gorges as onward they rolled,
Or over huge bowlders of basalt went dashing,
Dispersed into spray ere their story was told.
To the north and the south and the west rose the fir trees,
With proportions colossal and graceful and tall,
Dark green in their hue, with a tinge of deep purple,
Casting shadows sometimes o'er the earth like a pall.
Bold headlands keep guard o'er the Oregon River,
Whose clashings are heard far away o'er the main,
As roaring and foaming and rushing forever,
He struggles with Ocean some 'vantage to gain.
White cities sit smiling beside the Columbia,
Where, though land-walled, the breeze of the sea she inhales,
While wind-worn Umatilla and gale-torn Wallula
Keep sentinel watch o'er her broad eastern vales.
Then ho! for the bracing and breezy Pacific,
Whose waves lave the Occident ever and aye!
I care naught for the grandeur of Asia and Europe,
For my far Western home greets me gladly to-day
Yes, ho! for the west, for the blest land of promise,
Where mountains, all green, bathe their brows in the sky;
While down the tall snow-peaks wild torrents come dashing,
And eagles scream out from their eyries on high.
Sources +