These circumstances are cited in palliation of the doubts and surmises of Captain Thorn, which might otherwise appear strange and unreasonable. That most of the partners were perfectly upright and faithful in the discharge of the trust reposed in them we are fully satisfied; still the honest captain was not invariably wrong in his suspicions; and that he formed a pretty just opinion of the integrity of that aspiring personage, Mr. M’Dougal, will be substantially proved in the sequel.
Disquieting Rumors From the Interior.—Reconnoitring Party— Preparations for a Trading Post.—An Unexpected Arrival—A Spy in the Camp.—Expedition Into the Interior—Shores of the Columbia—Mount Coffin.—Indian Sepulchre.—The Land of Spirits—Columbian Valley—Vancouver’s Point.-Falls and Rapids.—A Great Fishing Mart.—The Village of Wishram.— Difference Between Fishing Indians and Hunting Indians— Effects of Habits of Trade on the Indian Character.—Post Established at the Oakinagan.
While the Astorians were busily occupied in completing their factory and fort, a report was brought to them by an Indian from the upper part of the river, that a party of thirty white men had appeared on the banks of the Columbia, and were actually building houses at the second rapids. This information caused much disquiet. We have already mentioned that the Northwest Company had established posts to the west of the Rocky Mountains, in a district called by them New Caledonia, which extended from lat. 52 to 55 deg north, being within the British territories. It was now apprehended that they were advancing within the American limits, and were endeavoring to seize upon the upper part of the river and forestall the American Fur Company in the surrounding trade; in which case bloody feuds might be anticipated, such as had prevailed between the rival fur companies in former days.
A reconnoitring party was sent up the river to ascertain the truth of the report. They ascended to the foot of the first rapid, about two hundred miles, but could hear nothing of any white men being in the neighborhood.
Not long after their return, however, further accounts were received, by two wandering Indians, which established the fact that the Northwest Company had actually erected a trading house on the Spokane River, which falls into the north branch of the Columbia.