When Fremont came down from Oregon in 1844, he named the river Salmon Trout River, from the excellent fish found therein, but the same year, according to Angel, in his History of Nevada, a party of twenty-three men, enthused by the glowing accounts they had heard of California, left Council Bluffs, May 20th, crossed the plains in safety, and reached the Humboldt River. Here an Indian, named Truckee, presented himself to them and offered to become their guide. After questioning him closely, they engaged him, and as they progressed, found that all his statements were verified. He soon became a great favorite among them, and when they reached the lower crossing of the river (now Wadsworth), they were so pleased by the pure water and the abundance of the fish to which he directed them, that they named the stream “Truckee” in his honor.
This Capt. Truckee was the chief of the Paiutis, and the father of Winnemucca (sometimes known as Poito), and the grandfather of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, long known in Boston and other eastern cities, where she lectured under the patronage of Mrs. Horace Mann, Mrs. Ole Bull, Miss Longfellow, and other prominent women, as the Princess Sallie. When I first went to Nevada, over thirty-three years ago, I soon got to know her and her father, Winnemucca, and met them constantly.
Sarah always claimed that Truckee and Fremont were great friends and that it was the Pathfinder who named the river after her grandfather, but nowhere in his Report of the 1843-44 Expedition does he mention Truckee, and he called the river the “Salmon Trout River”; and this name he retained both in the report and map published in his Memoirs of My Life, Vol. I only of which was issued by Belford, Clarke and Company, of Chicago, in 1887.
Hence Sallie is undoubtedly mistaken in this regard. But on several points she is correct, and too great emphasis cannot be laid upon these facts. They are, I, that Truckee guided several emigrant parties, even as far as Sutter’s Fort, California (where Sacramento, the Capital of the State, now stands); II, that he was always friendly, true and honest in his dealings with the whites; III, that had the emigrants and settlers in Nevada treated him as honestly as he did them there would never have been any conflicts between the Paiutis and the whites; IV, that when the latter first came to the country he called councils of his people and bade them welcome the newcomers with open arms.
He died just as the wrongs inflicted upon the Paiutis were making them desperate and resolved on war. Though his son, Winnemucca, is well known never openly to have waged war against the whites, it was thoroughly understood that secretly he favored it. But had his father lived and retained his health and power there is little doubt but that the open conflict would have been averted, and many precious human lives on both sides saved.