A Weekly Offering of This n That

Rainy Day is my alter ego. She is the little angel that sits on one shoulder and whispers in my ear to forgo that 6" piece of triple chocolate fudge with the four scoops of ice cream on it; she is also the little devil who sits on my other shoulder and convinces me that I can eat just one bite of each and be satisfied, and then laughs with such great abandon when in fact, I eat the whole thing, she falls off my shoulder. Mostly, Rainy Day helps me see the humor in living and, mostly, she encourages me down the right path. Not necessarily the straight and narrow one (how fun is that?) but the path that offers the most adventure and fun.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to the Blues and Beyond

In June of 1813, a group of men, led by Reed, departed Fort Astoria to head back over the Blue Mountains to the area of present-day Parma, ID and Caldwell, ID. Both Marie and Pierre were hired – he as a hunter/trapper, she as factotum of the 'fort' they would build. It was Marie's job to feed the men who were there, dress the hides they brought in, and keep them in moccasins, as well as to raise the two boys. This time, she did not have to walk a mile or two to live separately from the men. She and the boys stayed in the cabin while the men went off to build other cabins and trap.
White Pine dugouts. Similar to the ones made of Cottonwood and
used by the Hunt party. These are at Sacajawea State Park in Pasco, WA.

For the most part, the Snake were friendly, though they weren't all happy to have these intruders in their land. By mid-January 1814, the cabin was filling with hides and preserved meat. On 14 January 1814, it was bitter cold, and snowing when a friendly Snake came to the door to warn Marie that some "Dog Snakes" were going to the other cabin where Pierre and some men were, to kill the men and burn the cabin.

Stone at entrance to Madame Dorion Memorial Park*
Marie quickly bundled the boys and headed out to warn them. Unfortunately, she arrived too late, and all were dead, or dying. She managed to run off the horses belonging to the Snake, saving two for her boys and herself, and one wounded man, who died the next day. When she and the boys returned to the man cabin, all the men were dead and scalped. Marie and her boys were alone. She managed to get a small amount of food, and one knife from the cabin, and headed back across the river and up into the Blue Mountains.

She had no idea who she could trust, so she trusted no one. If they saw anyone, they hid. With no men to protect her, it would have been too easy to kill the boys and take her as a slave. When they came this way two years prior, the snow was deep, but apparently not as deep. Also, there were many and a few horses to help beat the trail down.
Walla Walla River near Wallula, WA. Note how barren the hills once
away from the water.






No one knows where she camped for the winter. Many believe they camped near present-day Hilgard, OR, at a place well-known to the local tribes. I believe she would have gone as far west as she could, hoping to get out of the snow as she did on the previous trip. I also don't think she would have camped near a popular place due to fear of being found. I think she would have tried to go possibly as far as present-day Meacham, OR area, hoping to get out of the snow. At any rate, she and the boys build a small wikiup and spent between 50 and 55 days alone. As their two horses died, they were eaten. Although I doubt food was plentiful, I doubt they starved—they would have set snares and traps for whatever rabbits, etc., they could find and eat.
The bridge built in 1931 for old Highway 12 and named in honor of Marie.

When Spring came, they made their way down the north side of the Blues, and across the plains and hills, by which time they were starving, and eventually into the Walla Walla village of Wallula. Fortunately for her, they were friendly, and helped. A few days later, some of the Astorians came through, on their way back to Saint Louis, and when she told the story, they figured out the 50-55 days Marie and the boys were alone. They offered to take them back to Saint Louis, but Marie decided she liked the Northwest, and declined their offer.

The same bridge, now decommissioned and used by anglers.
She and the boys went up the Columbia to Fort Okanagan, where she married Louis Joseph Venier and had a daughter, Marguerite. When Venier died, or went back home, she and her family returned to Wallula, and Fort Nez Perces where they stayed for a few years. She married again, Jean Toupin, and added more children to her family. She worked for the Fort, as a guide, interpreter, and when the Whitmans came through, she was the factotum of the fort.

In 1841, Toupin took a land grant in French Prairie, Willamette Valley, Oregon Country, and they moved. Marie was known to help all who needed it, she made moccasins for children and adults, and truly was beloved by all who knew her. When she died in 1850 at the age of 64, she was given the great honor of being buried inside, under the steeple, of St. Louis Catholic Church (near present-day Gervais, OR).
Sagebrush  near the bridge
 Truly, Marie was the first pioneer woman to come overland and settle in the Oregon Country. She also gave birth to the first white children (though she was Ioway, her husbands were considered "white" and their children were also considered "white") in the Oregon Country – the baby born in the Blue Mountains in 1811, and Marguerite, born at Fort Okanagan.


*To read the memorial stone shown above, click here.  Please note, there are a few errors.
1. Marie's husband, Pierre Dorion, Jr. did not travel with Lewis & Clark. That was Pierre Dorion, Sr., and he did not make the entire trip, he only guided them through the Sioux territory.
2. The original location of the fort is now under Lake Wallula, made when the McNary Dam flooded this portion of the Columbia river.
3. The Reed party did not head out in Winter but in June.
4. I found no reference that she ever lived in Walla Walla, WA and if anyone has information that she did, I would like to hear from you.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Pacific Ocean

Add caption
From everything I've read, Hunt was not the most popular man on the trip, at least not in a positive way. Many of the men disliked him for a variety of reasons, among them his lack of leadership skills and his inability to follow the advice of his hunters, or disdain for the men and their advice. To be fair, he was a businessman out of Saint Louis, not a trapper, and had never been in the wilds before.

It must have offered Marie and the men some small satisfaction at the "gotcha" when they reached Fort Astoria on the 16th of February 1812 only to be informed Hunt was a day off, and it was really the 15th. Then, again, perhaps they were too tired to care.

Hunt calculated in the months since leaving Saint Louis they travelled 3500 miles to Astoria (a lot of back tracking and side trips). Hunt's party left Saint Louis 21 October 1810 and camped for the winter on Nodaway Island at the mouth of the Nodaway River near present-day St. Joseph, Missouri. The Dorion's joined him when he came back to Saint Louis for supplies and a guide and left in January 1811. They met up with the group on the Nodaway and broke winter camp 21 April 1811. I'm not sure if Hunt's calculations are from the actual beginning of the trip, or the 'second start.' Either way, it's a long walk!
 
Marie, the boys, and the metis were not allowed to live in for Fort – they had to stay at Young's Bay, a mile or two away with the Hawaiians and other Indians. I doubt anyone minded very much.

Pierre was hired to hunt and supply meat for the men, and Marie was hired to work at the fort--cooking, taking care of hides, making mocassins, etc. They stayed for almost 18 months, a time not only of needed rest for all of them, but a time for Marie to learn yet another language, the Chinook Jargon—the trading language developed by the local Indians for trading not only with each other, but with whoever sailed into their waters -- Chinese, Russian, English, French, or Spanish.

Did Marie despair of ever getting dry in the continual mist and fog? Did she worry about her boys getting lost in the dense undergrowth, and the local predators—whether human or animal? Did she wonder if she would ever get rid of the fleas? Narcissa Whitman mentioned fleas for the first time as they portaged the Celilo Falls. Lewis and Clark also mentioned them, and what a nuisance they were at Fort Clatsop. The temperatures do not get cold enough to kill them off on the western side of the Cascade Mountains.


At the mouth of the river, the Columbia is over a mile wide—the largest river any of the Hunt party had ever seen. The water of the Columbia at this point was tidal and therefore brackish, all their drinking water came from rain gathered in barrels, or from the many fresh-water rivers and creeks above the tidal line.

Fort Astoria was about 5 miles from Fort Clatsop built by Lewis and Clark. Because of the constant damp, and neglect while no one lived there, Fort Clatsop was uninhabitable. If you Google "Fort Astoria" several links will come up. This one https://plus.google.com/101422459144257765118/about?gl=us&hl=en shows a map of present-day Astoria, Oregon and where Fort Astoria, later renamed Fort George, is located. The Brewery is just to the north of the site of the original Fort Astoria which is on the corner of Exchange St and 15th St. If you click on Images for Fort Astoria, you will find copies of drawings and photos of the rebuilt fort.

Hunt did not return to Saint Louis overland, or stay at Fort Astoria. He returned by ship. He'd had enough of the Mountain Man lifestyle. From all I read, he was not missed.


These photos of the Pacific Ocean were taken in winter 2009, a few miles down coast from Astoria.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Life Saving Acts of a Generous People

The Cayuse people were, as noted in several journals, a tall, clean, and proud people. They were also rich, and generous when they wished to be. And at all times, they were shrewd businessmen. They owned vast herds of horses, and traded or sold many horses, but never the best. The best, they kept.

They considered both horse and dog as sacred. The coyote was sacred, and they thought the dog descended from coyote, so it was also sacred. It was anathema to kill and or eat either dog or horse in their villages. When Marie and the men began to drag themselves out of the mountains and into the village, they were fed, and placed in warm tipis. They were so hungry, they didn't care what they ate, but soon, they wanted either horse or dog, as the salmon was too rich.

It is well documented that on the 12th January 1812, the Cayuse moved their village about 15 miles down the Umatilla River, leaving the Astorians where they were encamped to recuperate. No reason was given for the move, but I wonder if it was so the Astorians could now kill and eat the dogs and horses they purchased, and not break the taboos of the village. As it was no longer a village, the taboos would not be in effect. And to think that we called them savages!

Though still weak, the men recovered enough that they were able to again be on the move. On the 23d of January, they had made it to the Walla Walla village of Wallula, at the confluence of the Walla Walla River and the Columbia River where they crossed the Columbia to the north bank. No mention, that I found, of why they went down the north bank, unless it was the Indian Road, with the south bank being to difficult for whatever reason (perhaps it was harder to get down the cliffs to water? I don't know).

They met several tribes as they walked and rode downriver. All were poor in comparison to the Cayuse, and some were extremely generous, even though they had little to share. Others had turned thievery into high art, and took great pride in stealing what they could, and if caught, shrugged it off.

It was still winter, yet the journals I read commented on how mild the air felt, how warm the sun, how wonderful to be out of the bitter cold and the snow. (I live in this part of the country, and believe me, January can be bitter cold, even if there isn't snow, so I'm guessing this was possibly one of those exceptionally warm years. Ice storms are not uncommon along the river in the winter, and yet not once was one mentioned.)

As they progressed west, eventually Mt. Hood, Oregon, made her appearance. It must have looked much as this photo taken before the dams turned the river into a series of lakes.
I often wonder what they thought when they came to the Celilo Falls, or the Great Falls of the Columbia, a major fishing area for all the tribes. I remember the falls, before The Dalles Dam flooded them. I still cry when I think about it, but that's not Marie's story, that's mine. Through the Freedom of Information Act, reports (and I assume others) have now seen the documents that confirm some of the dams were built where they were precisely to force the Indians out of their traditional and treaty-granted fishing rights. The Indians did not move. They are still here. This photo shows lone fisherman during the final fishing season at Celilo Falls.

The Astorians went slowly, though Hunt was in a hurry to get to Fort Astor, allowing the weaker to travel with them. By the time they reached the village of Wishram, the last of their horses were either sold or stolen, and everyone, and what supplies they still had, were loaded in canoes. On the 10th of February, the winds through the Columbia Gorge let up enough that the party at last was underway on the final leg of their journey, in canoes.


Next week:  The Pacific Ocean.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A New Year, A New Life

On the 23d of December, 1811, the rag tag Hunt party left present-day Farewell Bend State Park (Oregon) and began their climb into the snow-covered Blue Mountains. The mountains were barren, and what food could be found was covered by snow, and not easily seen. From the journal entries I read, I gather that the snow was roughly knee deep, not nearly as heavy as it could have been. By the time they crossed the summit, and were on present-day McKay (pronounced as McKee) Creek, they were out of the snow.

However, they were still in the snow, probably somewhere around present-day North Powder, Oregon, on the 30th when they came to a small village or camp of Shoshone. They were friendly, but not welcoming. At this time, Marie, the boys, and Pierre stayed behind as the rest of the men continued on without them. Marie must have looked longingly at the tipis, wanting not just their warmth, but also the women to help as she gave birth to her third child.

As soon as it was light enough to see, Pierre bundled his family onto the horse and led them to the camp Hunt's men made. The men were surprised to see them, especially Marie with the baby in her left arm, and Paul in his sling in her right. There was no mention as to where Jean Baptiste was, but I imagine he sat behind her. Pierre led the horse. There is quite a bit of conjecture as to where this camp was, but it must have been between North Powder and present-day La Grande, as there were trees, and the men had a roaring fire going.

The next morning, New Year's Day, the men refused to travel. New Year's Day is an almost sacred holiday to the voyageurs, and they built up the fire, and sang and danced and partied the whole time. This day gave the weaker ones a chance to rest, including Marie, so it was not a day of contention.

The plain at the bottom of the Blue Mountains. Marie, of course, would
not have seen the barbed wire fence nor the yellow blossoms.



On the 7th of January, 1813, they had crossed the summit of the pass, and were not just on the downward trek, they were out of the snow and somewhere between the headwaters of McKay Creek and present-day Emigrant Springs. They could look out and see the plains where Pendleton, Oregon would later be located. And the baby died. Pierre dug a hole, wrapped the baby in a piece of cloth (from his shirt? By now, I doubt he had much in the way of trade goods), and buried it. The baby was never identified as being male or female, nor was a name recorded anywhere. When Pierre finished, he repeated a prayer he remembered from childhood, a part of the Hail Mary, "Pray for us now and at the moment of our death. Amen."

Sage when it's blooming, not at mid-winter. Horses could eat the sage,
people could not.
Pierre was a grumbly sort of man. Many have called him a wife beater, but the only accounts I could find of him actually beating, or trying to beat, Marie are told about in the book. Part of that was cultural, it was expected of the man to keep his wife in line. If he couldn't control his wife, no telling what kind of mischief she'd get into. There was obviously love between them, as he defended her against Hunt, especially when Hunt demanded her horse. I've often wondered if he blamed Hunt for the death of his child. Would the child have lived, had Hunt not wasted so much time backtracking, etc.? If the men had not wanted to rest and celebrate New Years Day, the child would have lived until they reached the Cayuse village at the bottom of McKay Creek. Could a wet nurse have saved the baby? It is known many of the men had little, if any, respect for Hunt. In Hunt's defense, it must be said he was a businessman, not a mountain man, and he was, truly, a fish out of water.
Marie probably saw lots of birds and wildlife. This was taken on the
Columbia River


On the 8th January, Marie and her little family were out of the Blue Mountains and into the Cayuse village, welcomed, and in a warm tipi with hot food and women to help Marie.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Latte!

I'm late with this post, and I apologize. It difficult sometimes, to write when one has a houseguest ;-)

If you read last week's episode, you saw where I had two engagements to give a talk about Marie Dorion and to sign some books. Photos were taken at both events, and Phoebe Charbonneau of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and Gift Shop, has graciously sent me some to share with you all.

Standing by the marquee announcing my talk in the theater.
Because I am so late in getting this written, and I have a writer's group to attend this morning, I'm going to leave Marie & Co. stranded in the winter icy cold and barren Blue Mountains, leaving you the photos by Phoebe Charbonneau of me.


Signing books

Were you there? Was this your book I signed?

 Thanks for coming! And supporting both an author AND the
Oregon Trail Shop


I wonder what Marie would think of her trip if she could come back today, and do it all over again in a car? With a camera? I wonder how much the scenery has changed, and how much it has remained the same?

I wish we had a photo of Marie to share, but alas, we do not.


Have a great rest of the week, and I'll try to be better about posting next week. Honest. Trust me. In the meantime, think of some questions to ask in the comments section.