Description of Tongue Point.—A Trip to the Willamet.—Arrival of W. Hunt in the Brig Pedlar.—Narrative of the Loss of the Ship Lark.—Preparations for crossing the Continent.
The new proprietors of our establishment, being dissatisfied with the site we had chosen, came to the determination to change it; after surveying both sides of the river, they found no better place than the head-land which we had named Tongue point. This point, or to speak more accurately, perhaps, this cape, extends about a quarter of a mile into the river, being connected with the main-land by a low, narrow neck, over which the Indians, in stormy weather, haul their canoes in passing up and down the river; and terminating in an almost perpendicular rock, of about 250 or 300 feet elevation. This bold summit was covered with a dense forest of pine trees; the ascent from the lower neck was gradual and easy; it abounded in springs of the finest water; on either side it had a cove to shelter the boats necessary for a trading establishment. This peninsula had truly the appearance of a huge tongue. Astoria had been built nearer the ocean, but the advantages offered by Tongue point more than compensated for its greater distance. Its soil, in the rainy season, could be drained with little or no trouble; it was a better position to guard against attacks on the part of the natives, and less exposed to that of civilized enemies by sea or land in time of war.
All the hands who had returned from the interior, added to those who were already at the Fort, consumed, in an incredibly short space of time the small stock of provisions which had been conveyed by the Pacific Fur Company to the Company of the Northwest. It became a matter of necessity, therefore, to seek some spot where a part, at least, could be sent to subsist. With these views I left the fort on the 7th February with a number of men, belonging to the old concern, and who had refused to enter the service of the new one, to proceed to the establishment on the Willamet river, under the charge of Mr. Alexander Henry, who had with him a number of first-rate hunters. Leaving the Columbia to ascend the Willamet, I found the banks on either side of that stream well wooded, but low and swampy, until I reached the first falls; having passed which, by making a portage, I commenced ascending a clear but moderately deep channel, against a swift current. The banks on either side were bordered with forest-trees, but behind that narrow belt, diversified with prairie, the landscape was magnificent; the hills were of moderate elevation, and rising in an amphitheatre. Deer and elk are found here in great abundance; and the post in charge of Mr. Henry had been established with a view of keeping constantly there a number of hunters to prepare dried venison for the use of the factory. On our arrival at the Columbia, considering the latitude, we had expected severe winter weather, such as is experienced in the same latitudes east; but we were soon undeceived; the mildness of the climate never permitted us to transport fresh provisions from the Willamet to Astoria. We had not a particle of salt; and the attempts we made to smoke or dry the venison proved abortive.