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.

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