THE DEBATED COUNTRY
The world was sad, the garden
was a wild!
The man, the hermit, sighed—till woman smiled!
Our army of peaceful occupation scattered along the more fertile parts of the land, principally among the valleys. Of course, it should not be forgotten that what was then called Oregon meant all of what now is embraced in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, with part of Wyoming as well. It extended south to the Mexican possessions of California. How far north it was to run, it was my errand here to learn.
To all apparent purposes, I simply was one of the new settlers in Oregon, animated by like motives, possessed of little more means, and disposed to adjust myself to existing circumstances, much as did my fellows. The physical conditions of life in a country abounding in wild game and fish, and where even careless planting would yield abundant crops, offered no very difficult task to young men accustomed to shifting for themselves; so that I looked forward to the winter with no dread.
I settled near the mouth of the Willamette River, near Oregon City, and not far from where the city of Portland later was begun; and builded for myself a little cabin of two rooms, with a connecting roof. This I furnished, as did my neighbors their similar abodes, with a table made of hewed puncheons, chairs sawed from blocks, a bed framed from poles, on which lay a rude mattress of husks and straw. My window-panes were made of oiled deer hide. Thinking that perhaps I might need to plow in the coming season, I made me a plow like those around me, which might have come from Mexico or Egypt—a forked limb bound with rawhide. Wood and hide, were, indeed, our only materials. If a wagon wheel showed signs of disintegration, we lashed it together with rawhide. When the settlers of the last year sought to carry wheat to market on the Willamette barges, they did so in sacks made of the hides of deer. Our clothing was of skins and furs.
From the Eastern States I scarcely could now hear in less than a year, for another wagon train could not start west from the Missouri until the following spring. We could only guess how events were going forward in our diplomacy. We did not know, and would not know for a year, the result of the Democratic convention at Baltimore, of the preceding spring! We could only wonder who might be the party nominees for the presidency. We had a national government, but did not know what it was, or who administered it. War might be declared, but we in Oregon would not be aware of it. Again, war might break out in Oregon, and the government at Washington could not know that fact.