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Two Years in Oregon By Wallis Nash Characters: 18340

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Industries other than farming-?Iron-ores-?Coal-?Coos Bay mines-? Seattle mines-?Other deposits-?Lead and copper-?Limestone-?Marbles -?Gold, where found and worked-?Silver, where found and worked-?Gold in sea-sand-?Timber-?Its area and distribution-?Spars-?Lumber-?Size of trees-?Hard woods-?Cost of production and sale of lumber-?Tanneries -?Woolen-mills-?Flax-works-?Invitation to Irish-?Salmon-?Statistics of the trade-?Methods-?Varieties of salmon-?When and where caught-? Salmon-poisoning of dogs-?Indians fishing-?Traps-?Salmon-smoking.

It must not be inferred, from the prominence given in these pages to the farming and stock-raising interests of Oregon, that openings can not be found in many directions for new and rising industries.

Oregon is as rich in minerals as in lands for wheat-growing and cattle-raising. In the north of the State, about six miles from Portland, at a place called Oswego, on the Willamette, very rich deposits of brown hematite iron-ore have been discovered, and have for a few years been worked. The pig-iron produced at these smelting-works is now used in a foundry close at hand, to which a rolling-mill is just added. The iron is of the very best Scotch-iron quality, and commands equivalent prices at home and also in San Francisco.

At many other points large deposits of iron-ore are waiting for development. It is reported from Columbia, Tillamook, Marion, Clackamas, Linn, Polk, Jackson, and Coos Counties. In the Cascade Mountains it has been found in many directions, but as yet has not been properly prospected.

Coal abounds. The Coos Bay mines have been opened and worked for some years, and they keep quite a fleet of schooners plying between the mines and San Francisco. Other beds have been found on the Umpqua; and coal is reported from many points in the Coast Range. So far as my own knowledge goes, these mountain discoveries are of no very great value, from the want of continuity and uniformity of level, though it is but little more than the outcrop which has been tested in most places. A different report is given of a recent discovery in Polk County, in this valley, where a thick vein of stone-coal in the basin has been found. The coal I have seen in the hills is anthracite, nearly allied to lignite. The favorable feature is the outcrop at so many points in a northeast and southwest line of what seems to be the same vein.

Recently there has been a very energetic effort made to develop the coal-mines located in the Seattle district of Washington Territory. The presiding genius is Mr. Henry Villard, now so widely known in connection with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. The present output of these mines is about one hundred thousand tons per annum; but under the new arrangements it is expected that this will be raised to seven hundred and fifty thousand tons, so as to supply not only the San Francisco market, but also to deliver the coal at a moderate price at the various points, both on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, reached by the steamboats of the above-mentioned company. Three large steam-colliers are to be used for the ocean transport of the coal. Although this enterprise belongs to Washington Territory, I have thought it deserving of mention here, as being likely to have an important bearing on the development of Oregon.

MINERALS.Lead and copper have been discovered in abundance in Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas Counties, on Cow Creek, a tributary of the Umpqua River, and also on the Santiam among the Cascades.

Limestone, sandstone-both brown and gray-and marble quarries have been opened at various points in the State.

Gold is found in paying quantities at many points in Southern Oregon, and also in the gold-bearing black sand of the sea-beach, all along the southern and central portions of the State. The finely comminuted condition in which the gold occurs in the black sand has been a serious obstacle in the way of its profitable working; but the combined chemical and mechanical processes recently adopted bid fair to prove thoroughly successful. The Governor of the State estimated the product of Oregon in gold and silver in the year 1876 at not less than two million dollars.

The gold-mines of Baker County, and the gold and silver mines in Grant County in Eastern Oregon, have also recently been more fully developed, and with great success.

With the inflow of foreign capital, now begun in earnest, those best qualified to judge predict for Oregon a very high place among the gold and silver producing States of the Union.

The mineral district in Grant and Baker Counties will be shortly rendered accessible and profitable by the expected completion, both of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's line and of that of the Oregon Pacific, having eastward connections at Boisé City in Idaho, some fifty miles eastward of the eastern boundary of Oregon.

The timber of Oregon is of world-wide fame. It will take many years to exhaust the districts even now accessible to river, railroad, or harbor; and the opening up of the various portions of the State to be traversed by the railroads either now or shortly to be put in hand will bring to market the timber from hundreds of square miles of woodland yet untouched.

The following general statement is chiefly extracted from the "Report of the Government Commissioner of Agriculture" for the year 1875:

Baker County has a timber area of five hundred square miles, principally pine and fir. Benton County has a belt of timber-land of one eighth of a mile wide by forty-five miles in length, lying along the Willamette River, and another belt in the Coast Mountains of twenty-five by thirty miles.

This timber is principally pine and fir; there are also large quantities of splendid spruce; alder and white-oak, laurel and maple are also found. Alder grows from twenty-four to thirty inches in diameter, and is worth for cabinet-making purposes from thirty to forty dollars a thousand feet at the factory. There is a belt principally of spruce timber, a mile wide and how many miles long I can not say, heading northward from Depot Slough, a stream running into Yaquina Bay, many of the trees being eight and nine feet in diameter, and two hundred and fifty feet high.

I have seen a hundred and thirty pines cut for ships' spars on one homestead near Yaquina Bay, not one of which snapped in the felling, and which ran from eighty to one hundred and twenty feet in the clear, without a branch, and about as straight and level as a ruler. And this lot were cut from but a very few acres of the wood, and where it was easy to convey them to the tidal stream which floated them to the harbor. It was a pretty sight to watch the team of five or six yokes of oxen hauling the long, white spars from the wooded knoll on which they grew-the red and white colors of the oxen and the voices of the teamsters and lumbermen lending life and cheerfulness to the somber forest.

TIMBER.Clackamas is one of the best timbered counties in the Willamette Valley, fully one half of its area being in heavy timber. Pine, fir, spruce, white cedar, white oak, maple, and ash are found. About two thirds of the area of Curry County is covered with forests of yellow, red, and white fir, sugar-pine, white cedar, spruce, white and other oaks, and madro?o. The timber-lands of Douglas are principally covered with the different varieties of evergreens and oaks. There are thousands of acres which would yield from three to six hundred cords to the acre not yet taken up. Not over one third of the area of Lane County is woodland. This embraces the different varieties common to the Pacific coast.

The timber-land of Linn, occupying half its area, is comprised in three belts of dense forest, half of which is red fir. Within the last twenty-four years thousands of acres of woodland have grown up from seed, and are now covered with trees from forty to eighty feet high, with a diameter of from ten inches to two feet. There have been made from one acre of fir-timber six thousand rails ten feet long by at least four inches thick.

Multnomah has a large area of timber-land, mostly yellow and red fir.

Three fourths of the area of Tillamook is in timber, and half of this is fir and hemlock. The forests of Umatilla are confined to the mountains, where they are very dense, and to the belts along the streams. Wasco has immense forests in the mountains, many of them as yet inaccessible. The general result is, that Oregon has in all 15,407,528 acres of woodlands out of a total area of 60,975,360 acres. The timber on the average is worth now about four dollars per thousand cubic feet at the saw-mill in the log, and costs when sawed into inch lumber about eight dollars the thousand feet of such lumber. The price of the lumber to the consumer varies from nine to fourteen dollars per thousand feet, according to the demand. Much of the fir and spruce timber will cut into six or seven logs of sixteen feet in length, the tree being six feet in diameter two feet from the ground.

From one cut out of a fallen fir on my own land we split one hundred and thir

ty-two rails of fully four inches diameter, and from several trees over six hundred rails each have been split.

A good deal of unauthorized timber-cutting goes on upon the Government land not yet taken up. When the logger is honest, he buys the right to cut from the owner of the land, paying "stumpage" of about fifty cents a tree. I have known many acres to provide over fifty of these big trees, thus returning a good price for the timber, and leaving rich and partly cleared land for pasturing purposes in the hands of the owner.

One of the industries that needs to be established in many parts of the State is tanning. Hides are plentiful, and of excellent quality; bark, both of oak and of hemlock, is easily procurable, and the water-power is abundant almost everywhere. At present the leather used is chiefly imported from California; it has been hastily tanned, and is of poor quality. The drawback to this business is that it absorbs capital before it begins to yield profit; but, the machine once having begun to revolve, the returns are steady, the risks few, the results permanent, and the profits very considerable.

WOOLEN-MILLS.The woolen manufacture in Oregon has already taken good hold. Oregon goods are well known in California, and in Philadelphia and New York also. They received well-deserved praise at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. There are three woolen-factories in the State: one at Oregon City, one at Brownsville, and one at Ashland, in the south of the State. Their blankets and tweeds are admirable for thickness, solidity, and softness of texture. The Oregon City mills employ a good many Chinamen; they work well and economically. There is every probability of a fourth factory being at once established in or near Albany; and the more the better, considering the ample water-power, and the abundance and excellence of fleeces.

Taking into account the quality of the flax grown in the State and the indefinite power of expansion of the product, seeing that the very edge of the flax-land has hardly yet been touched, while many thousand acres are specially fit for the crop, and considering, also, that linen in its various forms is unnaturally dear on the Pacific coast, it seems a pity that one or more linen-factories should not be established. The present disturbed state of Ireland has, we know, prepared many of its inhabitants for emigration, and among them are many trained in the growth, the preparation, and the manufacture of flax. Any persons familiar with this industry could not do better than transfer themselves, their capital, their machinery, and their staff of workers, to this free land; here they will find a hearty welcome, a fine climate, the very best of raw material, a market at their doors, unlimited opening for expansion of their business, and a habitation free alike from turbulence, riot, and oppression.

No book attempting to deal, in however general terms, with the industrial development of Oregon, can pass the business in canned salmon without notice.

The growth of the business has been marvelous. The following table shows the canning of the Columbia River salmon during the ten years ending with 1880:

Year. Cases. Year. Cases.

1871 35,000 1876 429,000

1872 44,000 1877 393,000

1873 103,000 1878 412,924

1874 244,000 1879 440,000

1875 291,000 1880 540,000

Each case contains four dozen tins of one pound each, or two dozen of two pounds.

The total output of the Pacific coast for 1880 is estimated at 680,000 cases.

SALMON.Besides the Columbia River, which is the main source of supply, other Oregon rivers are laid under tribute. The Rogue River, the Alsea, Umpqua, Coquille, Nehalem, Siletz, and Yaquina Rivers are all salmon-yielding streams. The system followed is generally known. The proprietor erects his cannery on the edge of the river, generally on piles driven into the mud. The cannery consists of a large warehouse for laying out the fresh salmon as soon as caught. Next comes a building fitted with large knives for cutting up the salmon into the proper length for canning, and boilers in which the cans or tins are boiled. Then come the packing and storing houses. That the undertaking need be on a large scale may be judged from the fact that they may have to deal with three or four thousand salmon at a time, as the produce of one night's take, and these salmon averaging twenty-five pounds in weight.

The canneries make their own tins, one man, by the aid of ingenious machinery, putting together fifteen hundred tins in a day.

The boats and nets belong to the cannery. The fishermen are paid by the fish they bring in: one third belongs to the cannery in right of boat and nets; the other two thirds are bought from the fishermen at fifty cents a fish.

The importance to Oregon of the trade is shown by the proceeds for the year ending August 1, 1879, from the 412,924 cases exported being $1,863,069.

The tin for the salmon, and also for the canned beef which is prepared in several of the canneries, is all imported. The imports for 1879 amounted to 54,520 boxes, costing from $8 to $9 a box.

The number of salmon ascending some of these streams to spawn is almost incredible.

Both the Siletz and the Yaquina Rivers yield two kinds: one a heavy, thick-shouldered, red-tinged, hooknosed fellow, which is never eaten by white men when it has passed up out of tidal waters; the other a slim, graceful, bright-scaled fish, known as the silver salmon. Of this last there are two runs in the year: one in April and May, the other in October and November.

The heavy, red salmon runs in the fall of the year, from August to November, and the heads of all the streams, even to the little brooks among the mountains, are filled with ugly, dark, yellow-and-white spotted fish pushing their way upward, until I have seen five huge fish in a tiny pool too shallow to cover their back-fins. Some get back to the ocean with the autumn floods; the majority are left dying, or dead, on the gravel or along the edges of the streams. Here they are deadly poison to dogs, and to wolves also. It is almost impossible to keep dogs of mature age in the coast district; sooner or later they are almost sure to get "salmoned," and to die.

The only way is to allow the puppies free run at the salmon: two out of three will die; the survivor, having passed the ordeal, will be salmon-proof and live to his full age.

The symptoms of salmon-poisoning are refusal of food, staring coat, running at the eyes, dry and feverish nose, absolute stoppage of digestion, followed by death in about three days after the first appearance of poisoning.

All sorts of remedies have been unsuccessfully tried. A young dog may battle through, if dosed with Epsom salts as soon as his state is observed; for an old dog, I can find nothing of avail. Castor-oil, large doses of mustard, shot in quantities forced down the throat, calomel, aloes, blackberry-tea-all of these I have heard of, but have not the slightest faith in any one.

Therefore, any new-comers into the coast country bringing valuable dogs with them will have to keep them tied up, or else may expect to lose them, as I have unfortunately experienced.

INDIAN SALMON-TRAPS.The repugnance of the white man to the dark and spotted salmon is not shared by the Indians. They had a salmon-camp on Big Elk, the chief tributary of the Yaquina, last year, which I went to see. The river runs between steep hills, covered with the usual brush, and with a narrow trail cut through along the edge of the water. The tide runs up for about four miles above the junction with the Yaquina, and there, in a wide pool into which the little river fell over a ridge of rocks, hardly to be called a fall, the Indians had their dam and traps. Just below the fall they had planted a row of willow and hazel stakes in the bed of the stream close together and tied with withes. In the center was an opening-a little lane of stakes leading into a pocket some six feet wide. The Indian women sat out on the rock by the side of the pocket with dip-nets and ladled out the salmon, which had been beguiled by their instinct of pushing always up the stream into entering the fatal inclosure.

The Indian tyhees or shelters were on the bank close by-miserable hovels made of boughs, and some old boards they had carried up-and hung round with torn and dirty blankets to keep in the smoke. Poles were set across and across, and from these hung the sides and bellies of the salmon, while a little fire of damp wood and grass was kept constantly replenished in the middle of the floor, by a wretched-looking crone who squatted close by.

Newport Pier, 1879.

When we got there, a younger woman was opening and splitting the salmon just caught, pressing the eggs into a great osier basket, where they looked exactly like a pile of red currants. She gave us a handful of eggs for trout-bait; as every one knows, the most deadly and poaching lure for that fish. And we found the benefit of them that same evening at Elk City, four miles below, where the salmon-trout crowd almost in shoals to be caught.

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