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The Overland Monthly, published at San Francisco, Volume 1, 1868. p.34-43.
by M. P. Deady
The apparent tendency of modern civilization is to repress and prevent the growth of individual extremes and produce only the mere average man. The city is the great promoter and centre of this civilization, as the castle and its surroundings was of that of the feudal ages. In the fourteenth century the town ranked below the manor, and the burghers counted it an honor and a security to enjoy the favor and protection of the lord of the soil.
Now all this is reversed. The country is subordinate to the town. The latter is the ever widening arena in which our material and sensuous people seek and find the best market for their abilities and the readiest gratification of their tastes and ambition.
But the rage for civic life as yet only exists in a modified form in some parts of the Republic. There are still some favored portions of this very progressive country, where the plow and the reaping hook maintain their ancient ascendancy in the popular use and estimation.
Among the fir-clad hills and broad rich valleys of Oregon, the bucolic instinct still lingers. Of the 100,000 people who constitute the permanent population of Oregon, fully four-fifths of them dwell not in town or village, but upon farms. Yet the commercial metropolis of Oregon is the second town in importance on the Pacific coast. Next to San Francisco, the capital and commerce of the Pacific slope will centre in this solid and reliable Oregon town.
Geographically speaking, Portland is situated in north latitude, forty-five degrees, thirty minutes, and west longitude, one hundred and twenty-two degrees, twenty-seven minutes, and thirty seconds, on the west bank of the Wallamet river and near the northern end of the great valley of the same name. From the sea, the town is approached by the Columbia river. This magnificent stream drains a greater and more varied extent of country than any water course upon the continent. Vessels drawing sixteen feet of water can go in and out the Columbia in ordinary weather and tide with safety; and when these are favorable they may sink four feet deeper with out danger.
After crossing the bar you sail or steam up this broad stream, past Irving's classic Astoria, in nearly a due west direction about fifty miles, then twining shortly but not sharply to the south, you hold the latter course for about forty miles. These ninety miles are counted "as the crow flies," on an air line, but by the thread of the river the distance is reckoned one hundred and eight miles. At this point the Columbia bends (speaking or rather looking up stream) a little north of west, making quite an elbow. On the outer and west side of this elbow enters the Wallamet river, flowing generally from the south. Up this deep, quiet stream you glide twelve miles, when you step ashore at Portland and make yourself at home at any one of a dozen hotels that promise at least all they perform. There is also a daily line of stages and steamboats leaving Portland for the south the former going up the Wallamet river from sixty to one hundred and fifty miles, owing to the season of the year, and the latter running to the Sacramento valley, and thence connecting by railway and steamboats with San Francisco. In the months of May, June and July, the healthy traveller may enjoy a delightful ride upon these stages-clearing the ground at the rate of one hundred miles in twenty-four hours.
At this time work is going on upon two lines of railway extending from Portland up the Wallamet valley, one on either side of the Wallamet river. How many struggles and failures these experimental enterprises are doomed to undergo before they are accomplished, no one can predict; but as the world now goes, their accomplishment is only a question of time. From the conformation of the country these roads must merge into one at about one hundred and twenty miles south of Portland.
Then, whether they will deflect to the left and go through the Cascade mountains to the east of Eugene, and on in the direction of Goose lake and the Humboldt to the Central Pacific, or continue due south to the southern border of Oregon, through the Umpqua and Rogue river valleys, with a view of meeting a railway from Sacramento, is a question now under discussion, some what prematurely. A railway up the valley of the Columbia, to connect Portland with the Central Pacific at Salt Lake, is also a favorite project with many Portlanders, and one that persons now living are likely to see realized.
From this hasty glance at the lines of travel actual and possible-that terminate in Portland, it is apparent that its facilities for commerce and communication with the world must always give it great importance in the business affairs of the coast.
In 1843 three years before the treaty with Great Britain, by which the latter withdrew all claim to Oregon Territory south of the forty-ninth parallel, and before the American people by the election of President Polk declared for the whole of Oregon-" Fifty-four forty or fight "the site of Portland was, in the language of the country, " taken up" by a settler named Overton. Nothing much is remembered of Overton. It is understood that he was from Tennessee. He left the country soon after, and among the early settlers there is a tradition that he was hung in Texas, whether justly or not is not known. Probably on this account Portlanders do not generally trace their genealogy farther back, than to Messrs. Lovejoy and Pettygrove, until the year 1851
It happened in this way: Mr. Lovejoy being a native of Massachusetts of course desired to call the place after the capital of his state. On the other hand, Mr. Pettygrove being a Maine man preferred Portland. The dispute was finally settled by an appeal to the simple modern substitute for the ancient wager of battle, a game of heads or tails. Mr. P. tossed a copper cent, which he carried as a souvenir of other days, and as good fortune would have it, Portland won.
In 1846, some lots were disposed of to settlers, and a wharf and slaughterhouse constructed on the bank of the river.
From this time forth the new town was an existing fact, though it was not until the year 1851 that Oregon's ancient capital--Oregon city--situate at the great falls of the Wallamet, gave in, and acknowledged that the commercial sceptre had departed from her people. In the mean time Portland was described by strangers and tourists as "a place twelve miles below Oregon city."
In October, 1848, the proprietorship of the town changed hands, Mr. Pettygrove, who had bought out Gen. Lovejoy, selling to Daniel H. Lownsdale. The price paid was $5000 in Oregon leather, tanned by Lownsdale in a yard belonging to him and adjoining the town site. In I849, Stephen Coffin and W. W. Chapman became interested as proprietors of the town with Lownsdale. At this time, there were not to exceed one hundred people settled in the town. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 had the effect to turn the attention of the Oregonians towards the mines, and for two or three years all progress and improvement in Oregon, in both country and town, was seriously checked.
During this year (1849) a portion of the citizens organized an association and elected trustees for the purpose of building the Portland school and meeting house, being the first enterprise of the kind on the Pacific coast. The house was built at a cost of $2,200, on First street, and was used as a school house and place of holding secular and religious meetings and sometimes courts for many years. In the course of time the association ceased to exist, and the possession of the school house lot became an element in municipal politics and a subject of prolonged legal controversy; one incidental effect of which was to preserve in some measure the facts connected with the settlement of the town and its early " school and meeting house."
In 1846, some lots were disposed of to settlers, and a wharf and slaughterhouse constructed on the bank of the river.
In 1850, shipping began to arrive freely from California and the Sandwich Islands. Couch & Co. despatched the brig Emma Preston to China. Couch's addition to Portland, sometimes called North Portland, was laid out on the "land claim" of Capt. John H. Couch. December 4, of that year the first paper was published in the town the Weekly Oregonian. Thomas J. Dyer (afterwards Commissioner to Sandwich Islands) editor and publisher. At this time there were two other newspapers published in the Territory--the Spectator, at Oregon city and the Western Star, at Milwaukie, a then promising young city on the east bank of the Wallamet and six miles south of Portland.
The Western Star soon after disappeared from the Milwaukie horizon, to reappear in Portland as the Times. The town itself proved to be too near Portland, to become a city. It has however been noted for the manufacture of flour, the building of steamboats, and the Meek and Lluelling nursery, from which this coast received its first supply of cultivated apple trees. The first steamboat of any size or quality built in Oregon the once famous Lot Whitcomb was launched at Milwaukie on Christmas, 1850.
In January, 1851, Portland was first incorporated. The territorial extent of the young city was limited to two miles along the river by one mile back, making two square miles. In April following, the officers of the city government were chosen--Hugh D. O'Bryant being chosen mayor over Joseph S. Smith, the present democratic candidate for Congress, in Oregon. In June the city gave 222 votes for delegate to Congress, from which fact it may be safely inferred that the total population did not then equal one thousand. In March of this year, regular steam communication with San Francisco was first established.
The "good" ship Columbia arrived at Portland in that month and commenced to make monthly trips to San Francisco, carrying the U. S. mails. She was withdrawn from the route about 1860, and afterwards destroyed by fire in the China seas. Her Oregon career was an uninterrupted success.
In 1853 the first brick building was erected in Portland, by William S. Ladd, now the managing partner of the banking house of Ladd & Tilton.
In 1855 the local census showed that there were in the town four churches, one academy, one public school, one steam flour mill, four steam saw mills, four printing offices, and about forty stores engaged in the sale of dry goods, groceries, etc. The real and personal property in the town was valued that year for taxation at $1,195,034, probably about one-half of its cash value.
In 1857 the valuation of property was a fraction less than
in 1855, and the population was enumerated at 1,280 seven
hundred and sixty-five males and five hundred and fifteen
females. In 1860 the population had increased to
2,917; of these seven hundred and sixteen were between the
ages of four and twenty, and entitled to attend the public
schools. The following table shows the population on
December 31st, of each year given:
In 1866 the property in the city liable to taxation was valued at $4,200,000, and in 1867 at $4,100,000. The apparent decrease in valuation is more than accounted for by the passage of a law between the two assessments which allowed the debts of the property holder to be deducted from the value of his property. In 1866 there was collected by the city $70,00ooo taxes from property, and about $14,000 from licenses and fines; of this amount $10,ooo was expended upon the improvement of the Wallamet river. During the same period $75,00ooo was expended upon street improvements, but this sum was levied exclusively upon the real property immediately adjoining the improvements.
The city tax now being collected for this year amounts in the aggregate to $33,101; for general purposes $189,200; for river improvement $3,203; for interest on railway bonds $10,678, or seven and three-quarters mills on the dollar of the assessed value of property. Generally a large amount of taxable property is omitted from the assessment roll, while the rest is not assessed at more than half its value. The cash value of Portland is not far from $1o,ooo,ooo.
The following statement of the exports of Portland for the year 1866 is taken from the manifests of the vessels going out of the Columbia mostly to San Francisco. These values are estimated, but may be relied upon as near the wholesale prices of that year:
In addition, it is estimated that during this year there was exported from Portland, Oregon products to the value of $200,oo000. Neither does this table include any of the exports up the Columbia river by steamboat, to the mining regions. As to the export of wool, it is proper to remark that the export from Portland only includes a portion of the Oregon clip for 1866. The export by the way of the Umpqua river, was at least 100,000 pounds more, and there was also manufactured in the State during the same period 1,ooo,oo pounds.
The seaward bound exports from Portland, for the year 1867, were five times the value of those of 1866. As appears from the manifests of vessels, the total value of merchandise and produce exported from Portland in 1867 was $2,462,793.
Some fifty different articles enter into the list of exports for 1867. The following table exhibits the quantity and value of the leading articles:
In addition to the foregoing exports of merchandise and produce, Wells, Fargo & Co.'s register exhibits the export of treasure from Portland, as follows:
In 1854, the same parties sold forty bushels of Oregon apples in San Francisco for $2,5oo00. The export to San Francisco continued to increase.
During the next seven years, from the best information that can be obtained, the export and sale was as follows:
A box of apples in Oregon parlance is equal in bulk to a bushel, but of course the weight varies with the quality of the fruit.
Portland is well supplied with good water and gas. The latter was first introduced in 1857, by a company working under a charter from the Assembly, exclusive for the period of fifteen years. The company have laid three and one-half miles of mains, from three to six inches in diameter, and their works are of sufficient capacity to supply a city of 30,00ooo population. For this brilliant substitute for the tallow-dips, links and rush-lights of our ancestors, we pay six dollars per 1,000 feet.
The water-works were commenced in 1856, under a city ordinance giving the simple right to lay pipes in the street. No change has been made in the matter. The company have two reservoirs on the verge of the city. One, two miles from the dam, supplied by a six-inch main, is one hundred feet square by fifteen feet deep. Another, three-fourths of a mile from the dam, supplied by a seven and one-fourth inch main, is two hundred and twelve by two hundred feet square and fifteen feet deep. There are about eight miles of mains laid in the streets, from three to seven and one-fourth inches in diameter. A large sized reserve reservoir is about to be constructed. For an ordinary family, with bath-room, water costs two dollars and fifty cents per month. Cisterns are quite common, or rather, were so. The best of water can be obtained in that way, but the superior convenience of the hydrant is bringing it into general use. I suppose the time will come (I know it ought to be nigh at hand) when the public, through the agency of its governments, will enjoy its water, gas and telegraphs at first cost, and without the intervention of middle men. To convert a municipal government into a practical "Cooperative Union," for the purpose of supplying the community with either or all of these necessaries, is a very simple thing, provided one could be found or constituted with the requisite sense and integrity. In the meantime, the public must expect to pay for these things as it does for others--whatever price the seller can get for them.
The population of Portland is principally engaged in mercantile and mechanical pursuits-the latter being for the most part those required in house building and finishing. The Irish furnish a large share of the unskilled day labor and a few of the tradesmen and mechanics. Washing and wood-sawing have been monopolized by the Chinese, except what of the latter is done by machinery. They are also employed extensively as house servants. The negro population is comparatively small, but increasing by immigration and otherwise. So far it is moderately thrifty and well conducted. They have a public school and are about to erect a house of worship. The merchants and business men are principally Jews, and Americans from New England and New York-particularly New England. Theatrical amusements never ranked high in Portland, and now they are at a very low ebb. There is no theatre-house in town fit to be called such. Occasionally a low grade of minstrels and vulgar comedy exhibit in halls and melodeons employed for the occasion.
On the other hand, church-going is comparatively common. The church buildings will accommodate four thousand persons, and probably on an average one half that number attend the Sunday services in them, but the communicants are a still less number. The churches are eleven in number-two Episcopalian, two Roman Catholic, one Methodist, two Jewish, one Baptist, one Presbyterian, (O. S.) one Congregational, and one Unitarian. Within one or the other of those congregations will be found the larger portion of the substantial worthy people of Portland. The Methodists and Roman Catholics have the greatest number, drawn comparatively from the humbler walks of life. One of the Jewish congregations is of reformed practice. Both of them represent comparative wealth, and are growing in numbers. These children of Shem--at least the German part of them are a domestic, home-loving people. As a rule they marry young, and faithfully obey the first commandment given to man and woman--" Be fruitful arid multiply." How long will the cultivated American of Yankee descent, with his maximum family of one delicate child, successfully compete with this healthy and fruitful people for the lead and mastery in commerce and business?
The town of Portland constitutes one school district, and is placed under the management of three directors, chosen by the voters of the district. The school-going population of children between the ages of four and twenty is not far from 200,000. There are three public school houses, which in the aggregate accommodate 1,000 scholars. These schools are well kept, and the buildings are very fair. With the grounds and furniture, they are estimated to be worth $72,500. In addition to these there are five private schools, all of which are well patronized. They are more or less exclusively under denominational patronage and influence, as follows: two Roman Catholic, one Methodist, one Jewish, and one Episcopalian. The average number of scholars in attendance upon these private schools is about four hundred.
The fire department consists of five companies, two of which work steam engines. The organization is based upon the so-called voluntary principle, but the city bears a large part of the expense. In early days the active and leading young business men belonged to the department and controlled it. But as time passed and these quondam "young fellows" got married, waxed old and wealthy, they let go of the brakes, and the leadership is passing into other and different hands. Now the engine house becomes more and more a club room. As in larger cities, the day will come here when the control of the fire companies will be sought and obtained by rough captains, to enable them to get place and plunder for questionable aid to politics and politicians at primaries and polls. So far, the department has been very efficient, and as little in the hands of political cappers as one could expect such an association of men to be in this voting country. Yet it is a noticeable fact, that a certain class of party athletes appear to appreciate an engine company quite as much for the vote it can throw as the water.
The newspaper business is well represented in Portland. All the eastern despatches published at San Francisco in the Evening Bulletin are published at Portland the following morning in the Daily Oregonian and Herald--. The Oregonian is the oldest paper in the State now published. The weekly was commenced in 1850 and the daily in 1861. It has been published the past ten years by Henry L. Pittock. In typographical appearance and general appointment it is not excelled, if equalled, by any paper on the Pacific coast. The annual cost of publication is from $40,000 to $50,000.
The present surveyed limits of the city, including Couch's addition on the north, and Caruther's addition on the south, is about three square miles. The houses on Front street are of a substantial character. Many of them are built of brick, and three stories high, with stone or iron fronts. The best of brick are made in the vicinity; in fact, anywhere in the Wallamet valley. A quarry lately opened up the river furnishes a stone of a light grey color, with a bluish tinge, that cuts into any shape, and hardens with exposure to the air. First street is devoted to retail business. Both it and Front are laid with the Nicolson pavement. The latter was laid in 1865. Owing to the fact that the ground was soft in some places, and sank away, several yards of the pavement were taken up this Spring and relaid. Not a block or a board gave any evidence of decay, and the wear was hardly perceptible. The streets are laid out at right angles. Those running parallel with the river are numbered first, second, and so on to eleventh. This does not include the street immediately upon the river, which is called Front, nor Park street, which is intended to be the Broad street of the city. It is between Seventh and Eighth, and about the centre of the city from east to west. The streets running at right angles with the river are called principally after the forest trees, and some few after individuals and places. One is very properly named after the great Oregon fish--the Salmon. Probably, in days gone by, the Indian fisherman landed his "Light birch bark canoe" at the foot of this street, and "swapped" the finny monarch of the Columbia and Wallamet for Boston Muck-a-muck, (American's food) and hence the name. Alleys and Places--the localities where dwell the marked social extremes of city population--are not yet invented.
On the city front the Wallamet is about a fourth of a mile wide. From the foot of Stark street it is crossed by a tolerable steam ferry every ten or fifteen minutes. At this point the tide ebbs and flows from eighteen inches to two feet. Any vessel that can come in the Columbia can lie at the docks. The wharves are extensive and of a very superior character; one of them--the Oregon Steam Navigation Company's--being the finest on the Pacific Coast. Front street is about twenty-five feet above low-water mark, and once within the memory of white men the northern portion of it was a few inches below high water. At about. a half mile from the river, the elevation above Front street ranges from a few feet to a hundred, the greatest elevation being at the south. This elevation is maintained, without much variation, for another half mile eastward, when the plateau terminates in a semi-circular range of fir-clad hills, which overlook all the surrounding country.
The special drive of the Portlanders is out to the "White House," and "Riverside Race Course," six miles south of town. The road--an excellent Macadam one--winds along the west bank of the Wallamet. The drive is a very romantic and interesting one. On the one hand is the clear, blue river, apparently of an unfathomable depth, and on the other the river range of hills, rising quite abruptly in places from the line of the road to the distance of several hundred feet, and covered with great, old evergreen forest trees.
From the greater portion of Portland the snow-covered summit of Mt. Hood--distant about forty miles to the east--is plainly visible. Buttman's picture gives a fair idea of the view. But the full effect cannot be produced on canvas. You must be comfortably seated on the well-shaded east porch of a Portland residence, on Seventh street, when the thermometer is at ninety, and gaze for long upon that great, white, glistening snow-peak, rising out of, and towering far above, the surrounding, dense, dark, green forests, to appreciate the sublimity and originality of this Monarch of the Mountains.
The principal public building in Portland is the Court House, erected in 1865-6, at a cost of $100,000. Its form is that of a Roman Cross. The basement is built of stone, and contains the county jail. The walls above the basement are of brick, and the roof is of tin. Its greatest length is one hundred and eight feet, and its width, eighty-four feet. The hight from the floor of the basement to the eaves is sixty feet, and to the top of the dome, one hundred and fifteen feet. The dome is a light, wooden structure, rising from the centre of the building and immediately over the main court-room. It is circular in form, about twenty-three feet in diameter, and towers in the air fifty-five feet above the level of the roof. From the promenade surrounding its base you have a commanding view of Portland and the adjacent country. Away, across the Wallamet, your eye takes in the houses and orchards which constitute the suburban town of East Portland. A little to the east and south is the Insane Asylum for the State. Still some miles beyond you see the green, isolated hill, called--from some actual or fancied resemblance to the place of the Saviour's transfiguration--Mount Tabor.
Between 1861 and 1866 the material growth of Portland was stimulated beyond the ordinary pace, by the new mining trade and travel with the countries to the eastward of the Cascade mountains. This having since subsided, as all mining trade and travel does, there is a visible decline in the superficial and profitless buzz and bustle that always accompanies the shoal of sprightly and unthrifty adventurers who float hither and thither upon the flood tide of mining excitements. But the real prosperity and importance of Portland have never rested upon such uncertain foundations as these. Portland is the mart of the Wallamet valley, and such it ever has been and will be. This resource can never fail her, and to appreciate the future of Portland you must have some knowledge of the wonderful capacity and productiveness of this garden of the Pacific.
The Wallamet valley lies between the cascade and coast ranges of mountains. It is about one hundred and twenty miles in length from north to south, and on an average about fifty miles wide. It is a third larger than the State of Connecticut, containing in round numbers, exclusive of the slopes of the mountains, four millions of acres of land, and such land as is seldom found in the same quantity elsewhere on the earth's surface. Taking the vote of June, 1866, as a basis, and allowing five souls to the voter, the valley then contained a population of 66,525, which to-day has increased to 75,000 at least. The average of the old agricultural states is about thirty souls to the square mile, but this estimate includes much barren and unproductive land. Besides, the Wallamet valley is already a manufacturing district, and its capacity in that respect is very great. It abounds in wool, wood, iron, and water power. In 1860 the population in Connecticut equaled ninety-eight to the square mile. When this Oregon valley reaches that point, and it is capable of going beyond it, it will contain 615,384 souls, more than the whole State of California to-day.
About one-third of the valley is prairie land, the rest of it being more or less heavily wooded with fir, oak, maple and ash trees. Timber and water are well distributed and of a superior quality. The climate is temperate--the mean temperature being about sixty degrees. The mean rain-fall for the year varies somewhat in localities, but fifty inches is not far from the average. The greater portion of this usually falls in the months of November, December, March and April. Rain seldom or never falls in harvest time from the first of August to the middle of September. The soil and climate are especially adapted to the production of small grain, particularly wheat. The apple, pear, plum, cherry, currant, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry of the best quality, grow in great abundance. There is no better country for the domestic animals, and the Wallamet wool is already famous, and will always rank high in the wool markets of the world.
The valley is drained by the Wallamet river. This river is now navigable from Portland for half the length of the valley the year round and for the whole length during some months in the winter.
In the progress of time the navigation will be improved materially, as it has been in the last fifteen years. Eleven comparatively important streams flow into the Wallamet during its course through the valley. Some of these are now partially navigated by steamboats, and may be much more so. Besides, they furnish supplies of water power for all kinds of mills and machinery. The head of the valley is only about four hundred feet above the level of Portland, and railways can be constructed on each side of the river at a comparatively small cost.
This is a moderate estimate of the country which lies
at the back of Portland. It will be seen at a glance that
the trade and commerce of such a valley must in time build
up and sustain quite a city. Yet it is not in the highway of
the world, no more than Boston or Philadelphia. It will
never be the centre of fashion, speculation or thought. Do
what it will, it will be comparatively a provincial place,
and noted for peculiarities in manners, opinions and
business; but it will be worth more dollars per head than
either London or New York, and its good citizens will sleep
sounder and live longer than the San Franciscans. In
population it may not, in this century, if ever, exceed
50,000, and its strongest sons will often be drawn away to
the Metropolis of the Pacific, where they are sure to win
the prizes in commerce, the arts and professions. Yet for
all that and more, if any young person who reads this is
casting about for a place where a fair stock of sense,
industry and good habits will, within certain limits, pay
certainly and well in any honest calling, let him or her
take passage at once for PORTLAND-ON-WALLAMET.
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