|Monday 21st Oct 1805...bought Some pounded
Sammon from the natives,
and Some white root cakes which is verry good...Saw a great quantity of
pounded Sammon Stacked up on the shores.
Sergeant John Ordway
Museum visitors are reminded that the first
Euro-Americans on the scene were fur trappers, traders, explorers, surveyors
and dreamers following the Indian trails and the Columbia River currents
to this region. Lewis and Clark named Le Page River for one of their party,
now the John Day. The Pacific Fur Company expedition under the command
of Wilson Price Hunt passed this way in 1811 and John Day, for whom the
river is named, was in this party. David Thompson's exploratory group
representing the British Northwest Fur Company traveled down the Columbia
River to the sea in 1811. John C. Fremont of the U.S. Topographical Corps,
explored the region in 1843, making note of the fertile, grassy hills.
October 22d Tuesday 1805 ...we discovered the entrance
of a large river on the Lard. side...we landed at some distance
above the mouth of this river and Capt. Lewis and my Self set out to view
this river above its mouth...
November 2...At noon we crossed John Day's
River, a clear and beautiful stream, with a swift current and a bed of
rolled stones...Some of the emigrants had encamped on the rivers... November
3. After two hours' ride through a fertile, hilly country, covered...with
good green grass we descended again into the river bottom [Columbia]...reached
the ford of the Fall river [Riviere aux Chutes, Deschutes]
John Charles Fremont, 1843
The Great Migration began in 1843 as hundreds
of determined and eager pioneers set off from Missouri for the promised
land in Oregon. Seasoned and weary travelers reached the John Day River
and the plateau where the Trail forked, the right fork leading to the Deschutes
River mouth and The Dalles, the left fork heading southwesterly along Grass
Valley Canyon to the rushing, rocky Deschutes River some 30 miles upriver
from its mouth, the difficult Cutoff to the Barlow Road.
September 5 [day 126] J. Day's River a long
and steep hill to descend. 1 mile to the hill ascending from the river.
1 mile of a very steep and rocky hill...saw 2 graves, 6 dead cattle...
John Fothergill, 1853
Great clouds of dust settled onto the Oregon
Trail as settlers rushed to fill the Willamette Valley. Most Indians in
what is now Sherman County had moved to reservations. A few hardy stockmen
grazed their herds on the bunchgrass hills and some solitary families offered
services to travelers at river crossings and stage stops. Settlers by the
hundreds began to move into the region in the 1880s, coming from all directions.
Second generation Willamette Valley pioneers bounced back to the east side
of the Cascade Mountains to obtain large acreages of cheap land. Farmers
plowed the tough sod and planted wheat, using common sense and hoping for
a little rain and a little luck.
...Men came to the bunchgrass hills between
the two rivers eager for land. They came...on river steamers, they rode
stages...they pushed their tired horses and creaking wagons...Between the
two rivers they sowed the golden land.
The Settlers, 1880-1920