%247. The Oregon Country.%—Lewis and Clark were not the first of our countrymen to see the Columbia River. In 1792 a Boston ship captain named Gray was trading with the Pacific coast Indians. He was collecting furs to take to China and exchange for tea to be carried to Boston, and while so engaged he discovered the mouth of a great river, which he entered, and named the Columbia in honor of his ship. By right of this discovery by Gray the United States was entitled to all the country drained by the Columbia River. By the exploration of this country by Lewis and Clark our title was made stronger still, and it was finally perfected a few years later when the trappers and settlers went over the Rocky Mountains and occupied the Oregon country.
[Footnote 1: Barrows’s Oregon; McMaster’s History, Vol. II., pp. 633-635.]
[Illustration: Mouth of the Columbia River]
%248. Pike explores the Southwest.%—While Lewis and Clark were making their way up the Missouri, Zebulon Pike was sent to find the source of the Mississippi, which he thought he did in the winter of 1805-06. In this he was mistaken, but supposing his work done, he was dispatched on another expedition in 1806. Traveling up the Missouri River to the Osage, and up the Osage nearly to its source, he struck across Kansas to the Arkansas River, which he followed to its head waters, wandering in the neighborhood of that fine mountain which in honor of him bears the name of Pikes Peak. Then he crossed the mountains and began a search for the Red River. The march was a terrible one. It was winter; the cold was intense. The snow lay waist deep on the plains. Often the little band was without food for two days at a time. But Pike pushed on, in spite of hunger, cold, and suffering, and at last saw, through a gap in the mountains, the waters of the Rio Grande. Believing that it was the Red, he hurried to its banks, only to be seized by the Spaniards (for he was on Spanish soil), who carried him a prisoner to Santa Fe, from which city he and his men wandered back to the United States by way of Mexico and Texas.
[Illustration: %EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTHWEST% BY ZEBULON M. PIKE %1806-1807%]
%249. Astoria founded.%—The immediate effect of these explorations was greatly to stimulate the fur trade. One great fur trader, John Jacob Astor of New York, now founded the Pacific Fur Company and made preparations to establish a line of posts from the upper Missouri to the Columbia, and along it to the Pacific, and supply them from St. Louis by way of the Missouri, or from the mouth of the Columbia, where in 1811 a little trading post was begun and named Astoria. This completed our claim to the Oregon country. Gray had discovered the river; Lewis and Clark had explored the territory drained by the river; the Pacific Fur Company planted the first lasting settlement.