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Between St. Louis and the barrier of the Rocky Mountains lay vast plains, part of which were known as the "Great American Desert." This double barrier checked the westward movement for a time, crucial for our theme, until conditions could mature for the great migrations between 1840 and 1860. That critical time is thus stated by Prof. F. G. Young:
The vanguard of the pioneers had reached the western limits of Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. Settlement of the plains beyond before the age of railroads was out of the question. The next move, then, must be, as it were, a flight to the Pacific coast, where communication with the civilized world would again be open by the sea.1
To the northward, however, the system of rivers permitted the British fur traders to extend their chain of posts on into Oregon, giving them a kind of possession, which subsequently proved a hindrance rather than a help when it was concluded to consider the quality of occupation.
The first actual occupation by the Americans was made when the bands of missionaries sent by the Methodist Episcopal Church and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions from 1834 to 1844 planted in Oregon their missions and their homes. In 1842 and more especially in 1843 the regular stream of American immigration into Oregon began. The question of actual occupation was then taking on a meaning which the British fur traders were quick to discern. They had already allowed some of their retired servants to settle on farms, and in 1839 had begun a systematic development along this line through the agency of their subsidiary Puget Sound Agricultural Co. In 1841 they imported a number of British settlers from the Red River territory. Though abundantly successful in establishing trading posts and in ruling a wild territory from their stockaded forts, their efforts at establishing agricultural settlements or securing actual occupation were feeble indeed as compared with those of the onrushing trains of American immigants.
However, this last stage of the race for sovereignty was perfectly fair. The treaty of joint occupancy was still in effect. It was April, 1846, when the American Government gave Great Britain notice that that treaty would be abrogated at the end of the stipulated 12 months. Matters had come to such a pass at that time that, instead of waiting for the lapse of 12 months, the treaty fixing the boundary was concluded on June 15, 1846, less than 2 months from the date of the notice. A recent Canadian writer has gone so far as to say that had the joint occupancy continued another dozen years, until the Fraser River gold excitement of 1857-58, the Americans
1 F. G. Young, ed., The Correspondence and Journals of Capt. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, in Sources of the History of Oregon, I, xiii-xiv.
would have wrested what is now the Province of British Columbia from the British Crown.1
Though the treaty of boundaries was concluded in 1846, a final adjustment between the United States and the Hudson's Bay Co. was not reached until September 10, 1869. During that store of years the stations were held by representatives of the Hudson's Bay Co., but the posts dwindled away in power and importance. At the last many of them became the homesteads of the British caretakers, who became American citizens to acquire title. The present writer has visited Nisqually, once the chief settlement of white men on Puget Sound, and on the homestead of Edward Huggins, the last Hudson's Bay clerk at the fort, found many ruins and relics of the old days. Likewise a visit to Colville, the old capital of the upper Columbia trade, disclosed the fact that the McDonald family maintained there a farm, using the old blockhouse fort for a henhouse.
The American settlers built for themselves fresh new towns, the nuclei being usually a sawmill, a water power, a mine, or a convenient crossroads in the farming districts. Many of the pioneers had to build forts and stockades to protect their homes from Indians, but the dramatic life of the fur trade had vanished before the dawn of the real era of town building in old Oregon.
1 James White, "British Diplomacy and Canada," in University Magazine, VII (October, 1908), 398-414.
2. MORTON MATTHEW MCCARVER, FRONTIER CITY BUILDER.
By EDMOND S. MEANY.
The westward movement in American history is well exemplified in the life of Morton Matthew McCarver, whose career deserves more attention than it has hitherto received. He was one of those keen, brave, mentally alert Kentuckians, whose deeds have enlivened and enriched so many pages of western annals.
His parents, Joseph McCarver and Betsey Morton McCarver, moved, in 1799, from the woods of southwestern North Carolina into the wilderness of Kentucky and settled in Madison County near the new town of Lexington. There on January 14, 1807, was born to them the son who received the name of Morton Matthew. The mother was a leader in the sect of Shakers, and as such maintained. a rule of the home that became irksome to the restless boy who eagerly fed upon stories of the rivers and a farther west. At the age of 14 the lad left his home, and by that act became "dead" to his strict Shaker mother, who ever after refused to see him again. Like Lincoln, who was born in the same region two years later than he, this boy received his introduction to the great outside world by a flatboat trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. For a few years in Louisiana and Texas he acquired many rough experiences, the bitter lesson most thoroughly learned being that a poor white boy had small chance for advancement in that region at that time.
He returned to Kentucky, obtained employment and proceeded vigorously with his self-education. In 1829 he moved into the newer State of Illinois, and on May 6, 1830, married Mary Ann Jennings, of Monmouth. He moved about from place to place, worked and traded, accumulating experience and property. He desired to cross the Mississippi River and secure a foothold in the wild Indian lands of the western banks. He picked out a place on which to build a new town. The Black Hawk War broke out and young McCarver fought with the Illinois troops. He was present when Black Hawk's
beaten tribe signed the treaty with Gen. Winfield Scott, by which the Indians gave up the lands that later became eastern Iowa.
The site that he wanted for a town was a rocky bluff which the Indians called Shokoquon and which the white men called Flint Hill. There were then associated with McCarver two kinsmen, Simpson S. White, who had married Mrs. McCarver's sister, and Amzi Doolittle, who had married Mr. White's sister. When the treaty was signed in 1832 these three men were the first to cross the river and take possession of that coveted hill. But the treaty had stipulated that the lands should not be opened to settlement until June 1, 1833. Soldiers came and drove the town builders away. They returned to the claim, and again the soldiers drove them off and burned their cabins. When the legal date arrived the three determined men crossed the river at daybreak, and this time they were not disturbed. They were joined by a Vermonter named John B. Gray, who urged the case so strongly that the town builders consented to call the new place Burlington, though for several years the local name of Flint Hill persisted, and, in fact, the post office was so called at first. A flat-bottomed ferryboat propelled by oars was maintained by McCarver and associates to give Burlington its first transportation facilities.
In September, 1834, McCarver, in the presence of citizens and soldiers at Montrose, read a proclamation by Gov. Stevens T. Mason, of Michigan Territory, declaring that the laws of the United States and of Michigan had been extended over the country in the "Black Hawk Purchase." Two years later, when Iowa had been transferred to the care of Wisconsin Territory, Congress enacted a law donating 640 acres for town purposes to each of the towns of Burlington, Fort Madison, Bellevue, Dubuque, Peru, and Mineral Point. McCarver, George Cubbage, and W. A. Corell were appointed commissioners to carry out the provisions of this law. McCarver devoted himself earnestly to this task, though the beneficent plan worked against the ready sale of his own town lots.
Iowa became a Territory in 1838, and on January 7, 1839, the first governor, Robert Lucas, as commander in chief of the Iowa military forces, issued an order appointing Morton M. McCarver to the position of commissary general. He took much interest in the office. The title of general clung to him through life. He saw active service in a similar office during Indian wars in Oregon. For a time McCarver prospered in Iowa. He did not confine himself to the expansion of his town of Burlington, but took part in the development of lead mines near Dubuque and traveled about the Territory. The widespread panic of 1837 seriously affected western interests. McCarver began to fear that Burlington could not hold its own in the race with such cities as Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis,
and New Orleans. The settlers of Iowa were spreading out into agricultural communities. He was hearing of a land of promise much farther to the westward. American missionaries had gone there and planted homes as well as missions. American settlers began to cross the plains for Oregon. It was highly desirable that settlers should go there. The joint occupancy treaty of 1827 was still in force between Great Britain and the United States. The British fur traders were in possession, and some retired employees of the Hudson's Bay Co. had taken up homes. Prior to the arrival of the missionaries there were no American homes in Oregon, and now there was beginning the race toward a settlement of the sovereignty of that region by actual occupation by either British subjects or American citizens. To encourage American effort in this race, Senator Linn, of Missouri, was passing through Congress a law granting 640 acres to each family and 160 additional acres to each minor child.
Here was a combination of conditions that presented an irresistible lure to the venturesome spirit of Gen. McCarver. It was with difficulty that he resisted the temptation to join the migration of 1842 consisting of 111 persons, headed by Dr. Elijah White, Medorem Crawford, L. W. Hastings, A. L. Lovejoy, and Columbia Lancaster. His ardor had no chance of being weakened during the succeeding 12 months, as there were agitations and public meetings in his neighborhood at which the Oregon question was discussed in all its phases. He joined the great Oregon caravan of 1843. There were nearly 1,000 persons in this migration. Peter H. Burnett, who later became the first governor of California, was made captain and McCarver was one of the council of nine. This migration was one of the crucial events in American history on the Pacific coast. It gave the Americans a real standing in that region, it solved the main portion of the problem of the joint occupancy treaty, many men of the party took active parts in the struggling provisional government, and from that time there was no more of doubt as to whether Oregon could or would be peopled by actual settlers.
McCarver had joined the party without cattle or household impedimenta. True to his town-building instinct, he formed, on the trail, an agreement with Burnett, and when they had crossed the Rocky Mountains, he pushed on ahead of the party and selected a place for a town on the Willamette River. In honor of Missouri's Senator and Oregon's friend, he called the place Linnton. By the time his partner Burnett and the other immigrants arrived he was ready to expand and build up his new city. In this he failed. Oregon City, at the falls of the Willamette, in addition to the adjacent water power, was nearer the farming lands, and between Oregon City and Linnton, Portland arose and overshadowed both. McCarver after