Saturday, April 23, 2011

Page 3,4 & 5

The Baltimore Colony

It was then in the early days of the spring of 1858 that a little band of old time friends and business associates met together in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and the subject arose as to the wonderful domain on our country westward of the Rocky Mountains on the Pacific, its history of trappers and miners and gold discoverers, with it international disputes as to national sovereignty and almost of war. Its varied and boundless resources, it climate and soil, its mineral resources and its tempting future possibilities on land and sea; all these were gone over in those talks among the old neighbors on those days. Then came up the personal interest of each as it might be aided in that prospective vista. Might a change of habitation ---- of home ---- warrant a serious thought? Then came expressions of doubt and fear as some would weigh the heavier matters of concern. There was a long reach of three thousand miles to consider. It must be overcome by the slow plodding ox team for two thousand miles without military escort over a trackless region infested with prowling savages to waylay and rob, and perhaps to murder. And then when this trial of toilsome six months should be ended, to begin in a new and wild country beset with all the inconveniences and often dangers in the home making - all these seemed insurmountable and not worth the price to be paid.

To go by sea over two oceans, to cross the sickly and miasmatic Isthmus of Panama and embark on the other side and still continue to suffer the mal de mer with which so many are afflicted in the small rolling steamships of those days; and then after the arrival in California again to trans-ship on vessels of still smaller capacity and convenience, upon that roughest part of the Pacific, to the shores of Oregon, with all the costs, time and torture to them, and the worse fate for delicate wives, mothers and children before the long journey way ended – to many of the little group seemed absolutely unbearable. To go still another way by water in the slow sailing vessels around Cape Horn with storms and rough sea for six months all the way, was not even considered.

Then came the other side in the musings and debate. This was the year following the panicky 1857, when depression, business failures and bankruptcies prevailed throughout the country. The outcome was not sure, should they, as professional and business toilers, rest content as home with such an unpromising future before them? Was not the outlook on the shores of the Pacific far more promising even though the long journey thither was fraught with so many inconveniences and with so much cost? How glorious, it was argues, was the commercial prospect so near at hand
For such a country! There was Asia fronting on the same seas and containing one half the population of the earth. What a market and what consumption there for so many of the products of American hands in the fertile valleys of Oregon! And what a rich part of the earth in China and Japan for their products in exchange for our own! The reciprocal commerce world, in brief time, employ a large and profitable shipping between the two coasts.

Then again, Congress was at that time considering a measure for the homesteading of the public lands making practically a donation of one hundred and sixty acres upon compliance with conditions of residence and cultivation, and payment of a small fee. A law already existed, known as the Preemption Act which gave Patent title to the same quantity of land upon settlement and cultivation and payment of $1.25 per acre. Under various grants of land by the General Government to the several public land states, lands could be purchased from them not requiring settlement and cultivation. Such liberal provision would enable those of the prescribed age of the little party to acquire the most desirable homes upon the public domain. Still another inducement for emigration to the Pacific, it was argued, was the hopeful prospect of a trans-continental railroad. The Government had already made elaborate surveys and there was a popular sentiment throughout the nation in approval of Federal aid toward such a desirable mode of communication between the Atlantic and Pacific Coast States and Territories. The danger of conflict with the Indian tribes in the Oregon country so much dreaded and suffered by the pioneers, until within two years previous to this Baltimore meeting, was no longer to be feared, since the various tribes had entered into treaties with our government and had all been removed and were then residing upon special Reservations with troops near at hand to preserve the peace.

These considerations had much to do in convincing those present that it was to their interest to think favorably of a migration to the great West. It was not because of any ill considerate feeling toward that great old city of the South, which in the siege of Fort McHenry gave forth that song dear the heart of every American;

”The Star spangled banner,
Oh, long may it wave,
O’er the land of the free
And the home of the brave.”

It was not for lack of beauty or fault of people, for Baltimore was then famous throughout the world for especially trees things: For it monuments, its hospitality, and its beautiful women. Most of these friends were native born to the city and all were united to social clubs, singing societies or fraternal and business associations.

They were leaving behind them many devoted kindred and fellow in society, commerce and trade. These were all ties hard to relinquish. But the individual conditions already mentioned with unfavorable health to some, while to many others with growing boys to rear, came the thought that in the new and promising West, with fewer restrictions more elbow room and more opportunities, there was an incentive and a better field for the development of the young. This reflection came more pronounced as there was known many successes of Baltimore boys who had gone to the Pacific in previous years. The advice of old Horace Greeley to the youth of the nation was still ringing in the ears of many; “Go West, young man, go West.”

Before they separated on that May day they had all agreed to become home seekers in the far away Oregon, if further information would warrant. The first requirement for so important a change was an accurate knowledge of conditions. This they did not possess. To obtain it in the most economic and reliable source they decided to commission Dr. Henry Hermann, one of their number present, to proceed to the Pacific Coast and there by personal observation and examination to acquire such details of facts of the country and of Oregon in particular, as would be convincing to those at home. The doctor was a learned man and of wide experience in life. He had been a professor in one of the oldest universities of Europe and was then a prominent physician and surgeon in Baltimore City and family physician of most, if not all, of those assembled in the little concourse mentioned. Above all he had for years been a close student of the growth and development of the Western states and territories and of their resources and possibilities. At one time he was on the point of joining in the rush for the gold mines when those discoveries were made in California. At the outbreak of the Mexican was he was chosen regimental surgeon in the troops raised in his county, then in Western Maryland, and would have gone thither so great was his desire to investigate the county intermediated, but family consideration prevented. He was therefore considered a most valued and fitted person to undertake this mission for the exploitation of the Pacific West. Oregon had only recently voted for admission as a state into the union, and a bill for its membership was then pending in the American Congress.