Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 570 pages of information about Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains.

The soil in the neighborhood of the sea-coast is of a brown color, inclining to red, and generally poor; being a mixture of clay and gravel.  In the interior, and especially in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, the soil is generally blackish, though sometimes yellow.  It is frequently mixed with marl, and with marine substances in a state of decomposition.  This kind of soil extends to a considerable depth, as may be perceived in the deep cuts made by ravines, and by the beds of rivers.  The vegetation in these valleys is much more abundant than near the coast; in fact, it is these fertile intervals, locked up between rocky sierras, or scooped out from barren wastes, that population must extend itself, as it were, in veins and ramifications, if ever the regions beyond the mountains should become civilized.


Natives in the Neighborhood of Astoria—­Their Persons and Characteristics.—­Causes of Deformity—­Their Dress.—­ Their Contempt of Beards—­Ornaments—­Armor and Weapons.-Mode of Flattening the Head.—­Extent of the Custom.—­Religious Belief.-The Two Great Spirits of the Air and of the Fire.—­ Priests or Medicine Men.—­The Rival Idols.—­Polygamy a Cause of Greatness-Petty Warfare.—­Music, Dancing, Gambling.—­ Thieving a Virtue.—­Keen Traders—­Intrusive Habits—­ Abhorrence of Drunkenness—­Anecdote of Comcomly.

A brief mention has already been made of the tribes or hordes existing about the lower part of the Columbia at the time of the settlement; a few more particulars concerning them may be acceptable.  The four tribes nearest to Astoria, and with whom the traders had most intercourse, were, as has heretofore been observed, the Chinooks, the Clatsops, the Wahkiacums, and the Cathlamets.  The Chinooks reside chiefly along the banks of a river of the same name, running parallel to the sea-coast, through a low country studded with stagnant pools, and emptying itself into Baker’s Bay, a few miles from Cape Disappointment.  This was the tribe over which Comcomly, the one-eyed chieftain, held sway; it boasted two hundred and fourteen fighting men.  Their chief subsistence was on fish, with an occasional regale of the flesh of elk and deer, and of wild-fowl from the neighboring ponds.

The Clatsops resided on both sides of Point Adams; they were the mere relics of a tribe which had been nearly swept off by the small-pox, and did not number more than one hundred and eighty fighting men.

The Wahkiacums, or Waak-i-cums, inhabited the north side of the Columbia, and numbered sixty-six warriors.  They and the Chinooks were originally the same; but a dispute arising about two generations previous to the time of the settlement, between the ruling chief and his brother Wahkiacum, the latter seceded, and with his adherents formed the present horde which continues to go by his name.  In this way new tribes or clans are formed, and lurking causes of hostility engendered.

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Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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