PART XXVII — THE CONTINUATION OF THE 1836 WHITMAN MISSION
ROUTE LOST DIARY ENTRIES WRITTEN BY NARCISSA PENTICE WHITMAN
Dec. 5, 1836 Rev. Mrs. H.K.W. Perkins Williamette Walla Walla
My Dear Mother:
I have been thinking of my beloved parents this evening; of the parting scene, and of the probability that I shall never see those dear faces again while I live. Sweet as it used to be, when my heart was full, to sit down and pour into my mother’s bosom all my feelings, both sad and rejoicing; now, when far away from the parental roof, and thirsting for the same precious privilege, I take my pen and find a sweet relief in giving her my history in the same familiar way. Perhaps no one else feels as I do. It would be, indeed, a great satisfaction to me to have my mother know how I do from day to day – what my employment and prospects are but more especially the dealings, the kind of dealings of my Heavenly Father towards us continually.
We left Vancouver Thursday noon, Nov. 3rd, in two boats-Mr. McLeod, myself and baggage in one, and Mr. S. in the other We are well provided for in everything we could wish-good boats, with strong and faithful men to manage them; indeed, eight of them were Iroquois Indians, from Montreal-men accustomed to the water from their childhood, and well acquainted with the dangers of this river. Mr. McLeod’s accompanying us was unexpected as desirable. He only came into Vancouver two days previous to our leaving from an expedition to the Umpqua, south of the Williamette. It rained some that afternoon, also on the 4th and 5th; the 6th it rained all day, nearly, and the wind was very strong, but in our favor, so that we kept our sail up most of the day. Our boat was well covered with an oilcloth. At night, when a great fire was made, our tents pitched and the cloth spread for tea, all was pleasant and comfortable. I rolled my bed and blankets in my India-rubber cloak, which preserved them quite well from the rain, so that nights I slept warm and comfortable as ever. My featherbed was of essential service to me in keeping my health this rainy voyage. Did not expect to get one when I wrote from Vancouver.
On the morning of the 7th we arrived at the Cascades, made the portage and breakfasted. Had considerable rain. The men towed the boats up the falls, on the opposite side of the river. The water was very low, and made it exceedingly difficult for them to drag the boats up, in the midst of the rocks and noise of the foaming waters. Sometimes they were obliged to life the boats over the rocks, as others go around them, to the entire destruction of the gum upon them, which prevents them from leaking. It was nearly night before all were safely over the difficult passage, and our boats gummed, ready for launching.
Dec. 8, 1836
Breakfasted just below The Dalles. Passed them without unloading the boats. This was done by attaching a strong rope of considerable length to the stern of the boat, two men only remaining in it to guidwe and keep it clear of the rocks, while the remainder, and as many Indians as can be obtained, draw it along with the rope, walking upon the edge of the rocks above the frightful precipice. At the Little Dalles, just above these, the current is exceedingly strong and rapid, and full of whirlpools. Not recollecting the place particularly, at the request of the bowsman I remained in the boat, boing quite fatigued with my walk past the other Dalles. It is a terrific sight, and a frightful place to be in, to be drawn along in such a narrow channel between such high, craggy, perpendicular bluffs, the men with the rope clambering sometimes upon their hands and knees upon the very edge, so high above us as to appear small, like boys. Many times the rope would catch against the rocks and oblige someone to crawl carefully over the horrible precipice to unloosen it, much to the danger of his life. When my husband came up, in passing this place, the rope caught in a place so difficult to access that no one would venture his life to extricate it, for some time. At last, an Indian ventured. When he had ascended sufficiently to unfasten it, he was unable to return, and did not until he was drawn up by a rope. They had another accident which threatened both the lives of some of them, and the property, and but fgor the protecting hand of God would have been lost. While the men with the rope were climbing up a steep and difficult ascent, the rope lodged upon a rock, which held it fast, and had it remained there until all hands had gained their point and commenced hauling, all would have been well; but one of the men above prematurely shoved it off. The current took the boat down stream rapidly, in spite of every effort to save it, prostrating all hands upon the rocks, and some of them were nearly precipitated down the precipice by the rope.
There journey down the river continues in Part XXVIII in the April 2021 Ancestor Trail.