Coquelle Trails

Part 2. Historical Accounts, 1826 - 1875


1. Alexander Roderick McLeod Expeditions: October 24, 1826 – February 4, 1827

Alexander Roderick McLeod was a Chief Trader for the Hudson’s Bay Co (HBC). During the fall of 1826, McLeod was sent by John McLoughlin, from Fort Vancouver, to explore the southern Oregon coastal region as far south as the Rogue River: an area that had never been mapped or otherwise recorded in history.  McLeod was provided with a group of beaver trappers, a few members of their families, a string of horses, packs, traps, trading goods, and supplies.  His mission was one of exploration and trade -- by foot, canoe, and horseback -- with one objective: beaver.

During the fall and winter of 1826 - 1827 the Coos and Coquille Indians living in the region of present-day Coos County were visited on four occasions by McLeod’s troupe of HBC servants, freemen, and their families (Davies 1961: 175-212; Hall 1995: 6-16; Tveskov 2000: 346-355; Zybach and Wasson 2009: 100-118). Part of McLeod’s duty was to keep a daily journal of the “new” (to HBC officials) region to which he was assigned.  McLeod’s journal, thus, became the first land-based historical record of the people, forests, wildlife, and terrain of the future Coos County, including the existing Indian travel routes and trails he relied on for his explorations.

McLeod’s daily journal was first published in 1961 (Davies 1961), with his travels interpreted by Dorothy Johansen, working with USGS quadrangle maps from her office in Portland, Oregon.  Vol. II, Part 1.1 of this report is a transcribed compilation of McLeod’s journal entries, from Johansen, for the times of his historic visits to the Coos and Coquille river basins study area: October 24 to November 2, 1826; November 10 to December 16, 1826; December 25, 1826 to January 8, 1827; and January 14 to February 5, 1827. Vol. II, Part 2.5 is an alphabetized listing of the historical place names used in the following pages to describe McLeod’s likely travel routes, and includes specific map references and legal descriptions for these locations.

In the spring of 1826, McLeod had taken an “exploring expedition” from Fort Vancouver down along the Oregon Coast to the Umpqua River.  There he met an important “Umpqua” Indian named “Little Chief” (possibly due to his stature, rather than his position), who advised him to travel down the Willamette Valley, cross the Calapooia Mountains at a low elevation pass, and take the Umpqua River to its mouth the next time he came to the Coast -- this being an easier, more direct route. Little Chief also confirmed rumors of a Great River with many beaver a few days south of the Umpqua.  On September 15, 1826, McLeod started a return trip to the Umpqua along the suggested route.  His principal intents were to trap beaver in this previously unknown (by HBC) territory; to explore further southward in an attempt to find more lucrative beaver hunting grounds; and to establish good trade relations “with the Nativs of the great river [Rogue River] in question.”

McLeod began the expedition with 65 horses and mares, five men, “and an Indian,” with the intent of delivering the animals to [John Baptiste Depaty dit McKay] “McKay’s old Fort, where the remainder of our forces are to join us.” McLeod was accompanied by David Douglas, the famous Scottish botanist, who was on a quest of sugar pine; previously unknown to science and evidenced in a seed pouch of an Indian man Douglas had met along the Columbia River.  Douglas also kept a daily journal (Douglas 1904; 1905), which adds significantly to the observations of McLeod, but he did not personally visit Coos Bay or Coquille River.

By September 23, McLeod had assembled his “forces” near present-day Oregon City: “eleven Canadian Servants, five Owyhees [Hawaiians] & two Native Indians; one Interpreter and a Clerk.” Many of the men were also accompanied by wives, children, and personal slaves. By the 28th McLeod and his men had gathered up their horses, assembled the packs, and headed toward the Umpqua, following the route prescribed by Little Chief. On October 6, heading southward along the western margin of the Willamette Valley, they added two freemen (independent trappers; not HBC servants) to their ranks: Depaty dit Mckay and “little Ignace,” an “Iroquois” whom McLeod personally enlisted “in hopes of finding a country to enable him to liquidate his heavy debt [to the HBC].” A third freeman, Jacques, also an Iroquois, joined the party the following day, on the 7th.

On October 16, the expedition reached the Umpqua River, near the present-day town of Elkton.  During the day Douglas had identified and gathered samples of myrtle, near the northern-most extent of the range of this tree. By the 21st the troupe had moved to a camp near present-day Scottsburg “at the termination of the plains about a mile short of an Indian Village.”  There they were reunited with Little Chief, as promised, who “informed us that he and his followers had a few skins which they would bring to trade.”

On the 22nd the “principal Chief with some followers arrived” at the HBC camp.  This man appears in many accounts of that time, as “St. Arnoose,” “Centrenose,” and “old Chief.” Douglas also describes him as “the principal Chief,” and “chief of the tribe inhabiting the upper part of the Umptqua River” (Davies 1961: 183, 185, 187), which would indicate that he was a (perhaps “the”) leading member of the Athapaskan-speaking Etnemitane, who were said to be very familiar with the lands to the immediate north and east of the Coos and Coquille river basins at that time.


First visit: October 25th, 1826 – November 2nd, 1826

On October 23, after deploying most of his trappers throughout the new countryside, McLeod wrote: “Fine weather. In the course of the forenoon we startd. in a body, leaving Laframboise [Michel La Framboise, aka “Old Raspberry”]  in Charge with an Assistant.  All the families remained at the camp . . .With five men and two Indians in a canoe, accompanied by the old Chief and suite in another craft, continued descending the main [Umpqua] river till dark . . .” 

On the 24th, McLeod wrote:

Fine weather. Proceeded about six miles and landed at a Village of two houses, where we were very hospitably treated and breakfasted on sturgeon and salmon, after satisfying our host with a few trinkets, we continued our progress . . . Put up our crafts in a secure place and proceeded along the beach with our baggage and some trading articles to secure a welcome reception, carried on mens backs in this manner, we drudged on three hours and came to a small river whose breadth does not exceed thirty yards, yet Indians find plentiful supply of salmon trout in it, as we were informed by a few that cast up at the moment we appeared, their habitations being in the neighborhood they observed our approach from a distance and came to us with extreme caution apparent dismay, which soon was dispelled when notified of our friendly intentions, being the first people of a different colour to themselves they had ever seen, their eyes were fixed on us, our fire arms attracted particular notice, tho, they were aware of the use of them had never witnessed an instance of the effect. We lost an hour to allow the men to refresh themselves and went forward about nine miles and formed our camp near a small Lake, having receded from the beach since leaving the little river, yet walked on bare sand with now and then a clump of trees dispersed here and there, the sand is so loose as to leave the prints of a Bears feet very plain, yet we saw none, and but few tracks of deer; indeed there is no grass [these dunes have since been covered by exotic grasses introduced by the US Forest Service and others in the 20th century] to attract the latter. A messenger was dispatched ahead to notify the natives of our approach.

As near as can be determined, it appears that McLeod had traveled from the mouth of the Umpqua River, crossed Tenmile Creek, and traveled inland perhaps to Tenmile Lake.  It is unclear how many people he had with him, or whether he had brought horses. On Wednesday the 25th, after spending a restless night in the rain, McLeod’s party “continued our Journey about seven miles to a river or rather an inlet, the discharge of several rivers, the most noted is of no great magnitude.” He had arrived at an inlet of Coos Bay, quite likely North Slough near present-day Hauser, which is about seven miles south of Tenmile Lakes.

McLeod also noted:

This being the season for the salmon trout to ascend the different streams, the natives had an abundant supply of which we obtained some for trinkets. The main land is lofty and covered with impenetrable wood, if we can judge from appearances,” and, “After much difficulty in arranging for guides and a translator we got out of the reach of the majority of the Indians and past the night about three miles short of the Ocean, a short distance to the Southward of where we first made this river.

Jordan Point is a short distance southward (particularly by canoe) from Hauser, about three miles inland from the Ocean, and sand dunes separate the locations.

The loose sand heaped by the violence of the wind, proved very fatiguing to the men who had burthens to carry. We hired a sizable canoe to take us forward our old Chief and suite declined to go further, he was left to his own will, still we had four natives, attached to us, seemingly well disposed to serve us, yet the new comers somewhat discomposed, tho they place every confidence in us, which alone I believe has influenced them to comply with our solicitations relying on our protecting for their safety. Our Guide informed us, that for expeditions sake, we ought to take advantage of the ebb tide, as we had a rocky point ahead [probably Fossil Point] to double, which at flood tide would be attended with danger.

On Thursday, October 26th, McLeod wrote:

Rained most part of the day very heavily. We took advantage of the ebb tide agreeable to our Guides desire. The obscurity of the night suggested the Idea of entrusting the management of our craft to our new Guests, who acquitted themselves handsomely course three miles west then turned to the south, up an inlet where we found an Indian family lodged; being out of danger we waited day light then proceeded as before, 4 miles and secured our canoe with our baggage and things on the mens backs, we entered the woods in a westerly course, the distance of six miles and made the Ocean.

Assuming that Fossil Point is the same as “rocky point,” then McLeod has turned south, down South Slough, and spent some time waiting for daylight with an Indian family, possibly in the Joe Ney Slough - Brown’s Cove area. He then continued south to the head of the slough at daylight, before taking a “westerly course” through Seven Devils and reaching the beach in six miles; likely near the Whiskey Run area. From there: “Continued our progress on the beach composed of sand hard and level. The close of the day brought us to a fine river about a hundred and twenty yards broad.” Here, McLeod and his troupe had reached the Coquille River.  This was probably near present-day Bullards, where “except near the sea, it [the river] assumes the shape of a Bay.”

On the 27th, McLeod rented a canoe and took a trip up the Coquille “about 12 miles, visited several little villages from one to the other. The party of Indians following us increased as we ascended.”  By the end of the day he had traded for “3 Sea Otters, 27 large and small beavers and 3 common Otters” and returned to camp. The following day he returned upstream, securing 45 more beavers in trade and putting up for the night “by an Indian dwelling containing two families.” This location may have been near Riverton, approaching the mouth of Beaver Slough, which is about 12 miles upstream from Bullards.

 Sunday the 29th continued wet and stormy, so McLeod stayed in camp and traded for only “a small otter skin.” On Monday evening he wrote: “The rain having abated in the course of the night, we had an early start, still ascending the river, till about 10 A.M. having reached the limits of our Journey, we returned towards the sea, but had to put up for the night a few miles above the first village.” The “limits of the journey” may have put him at Cedar Point or Arago and, assuming the “first village” is near present-day Bullards, this campsite may have been at Randolph or Parkersburg.

On Tuesday the 31st, amid constant rain, McLeod determined to return to the Umpqua as quickly as possible in order to avoid damaging his furs.  That evening he “Encamped where we disembarked the 26 Instant,” an apparent reference to the location on South Slough where he had transferred from canoes to foot travel. On November 1:

The rain continued unabated all night, of course, we had a restless night, having no other canopy but the heavens. As soon as we could see, we got afloat and directed our course forward till we reached the rocky point, noticed above, the tide flooding confirmed the story of our Guide, and we had to wait for the ebb before we dared venture, therefore we had to stop short of the villages for the night. Killed a couple of Bustards & a heron, an Elk was wounded, the hurry of the moment only prevented us from tasting his flesh.

Thursday 2nd. Fine weather. Early in the morning we were on board reached the principal on the afternoon where we landed our Guide traded ten beaver and took our leave of these people and reached the little river [Tenmile Creek] where we formed our Camp for the night. When we past here few Indians were to be seen, now the number is pretty great; and in fact, they are so much dispersed at this season of the year, that an Idea of their number must be erroneous, to a person passing amongst them: for my part I dare not hazard an opinion certain not to come near the thing.


Second Visit: November 10th, 1826 – December 16th, 1826

After returning to the base camp near present-day Scottsburg on November 4th, McLeod reunited with David Douglas and his other expedition members.  Men and women were given work schedules, two men (John Kennedy and Francois Piette, dit Faneant) were assigned to transport progress reports and furs back to Fort Vancouver “as soon as the rain subsides,” and McLeod began to make plans to return to the Coquille in order, this time, to find an overland route that could be used by horses to reach the Rogue River and the upper Umpqua.

To this point the expedition had accumulated 215 large beaver, 64 small beaver, 19 large river otters, nine small river otters, and the three sea otters he had obtained at Tenmile Creek on October 27.  On November 9th, McLeod started back to the Coquille. On Friday the 10th he camped at his usual Tenmile Creek location, where “Indians supplied us with salmon trout for supper. Few ducks killed before leaving Camp.”

The next day, the 11th, McLeod wrote: “Fine weather, about midday encamped on the bank of an inlet connected with the main river, river Cahourz [Coos River], in this neighborhood the hopes of getting a few beaver suggest the propriety of making a stay.” This location may have been near present-day Hauser, or McLeod’s earlier location near Jordan Point.  It seems likely to be on the same Tenmile-to-Coos Bay route he had already traveled twice.

On the 14th, following a few days trading in camp, outfitting the trappers, and hunting for game, McLeod: “Changed encampment, distance three miles men off to set their traps, three Beaver caught, some wild fowl killed.” Following his previous patterns of systematically moving across the landscape, looking for beaver and for new trading partners, it seems likely that McLeod has moved from the North Slough and Haynes Inlet locations of Hauser and Jordan Point, to a strategic location three miles east; perhaps as far as the mouth of Kentuck Slough.

On Friday the 17th, Mcleod “removed to a more eligible situation distance a mile and half,” which could have been Pierce Point or Crawford Point, at or beyond the mouth of Willanch Slough.  On the 18th McLeod “Sent a man and two Indians to the second village, who obtained a few Beaver by the way of trade, report states, those Indians have no more furs.” He also reported, “A party of trappers that were up the north branch, returned with two Beaver. That Stream [possibly Haynes Inlet] is of no extent, so they have relinquished that place.” On Sunday the 19th: “A party in four canoes started for the purpose of trapping on the rout we propose going, others arrived, brought six beavers more wild fowl killed, indeed our daily fare depends thereon.”

On Monday, November 20, Mcleod reported “many Indians going backwards and forwards, some brought us berries, but we discountenance the same for various reasons.” On the 22nd he wrote:

In the evening two of our trappers arrived brought couple of beaver. The country is reported to be poor and unproductive, where ever our people have visited; their wish now is to proceed forward to where we discovered lately, as the appearances there more favorable.

“Where we discovered lately” is apparently McLeod’s reference to the Coquille River, judging by his subsequent actions. On the 23rd he sent a small party in advance, and then traveled south for nine miles “encamped late and some had to sleep on board their Canoes for want of a better place. Saw many Indians employed in fishing &c.” On the 24th he wrote:

Fine weather. Continued the same course as yesterday up an inlet to its termination at a portage half mile long, distance today ten miles. Our men being stationed at the south end of the portage came to us and returned with each a load of our things. Some Indians cast up who also assisted, however we had to stop for the night, at the north end. This little party since leaving the camp, caught 13 Beavers.

Isthmus Slough is about 10 miles in length, and at its southern-most extent is a portage about one mile in length to Beaver Slough, on the Coquille River.  The north end of the portage would be near Green Acres or Overland. Here McLeod hired some canoes to move their supplies forward, however, the slough was so “encumbered with brush wood” that passage was difficult and he took two men and traveled separately through “the woods” to join the party at the main river.  The juncture of Beaver Slough and the Coquille is the location of present-day Leneve.

McLeod had now traveled twice from Coos Bay to the Coquille River and by two different routes – from South Slough to Bullards by way of a beach trail; and from Isthmus Slough to Leneve by way of a short overland portage. The trail to Bullards was primarily by foot, whereas the trail to Leneve was primarily by canoe.

On November 27th McLeod noted: “canoes are not easily got here, as the Indians have resorted to the upper part of the river where fish is more abundant. It is moreover reported that the Indians grumble at our presumption in trapping without paying them tribute.” The following day he decided to move camp to a more “convenient place.” This latter location may have been Cedar Point or along the shore at what became Coquille City, according to mileage estimates McLeod gave at subsequent times.

The next several days were rainy, and McLeod stayed mostly in camp, trading with occasional Indian visitors, collecting beaver skins from the trappers, and helping the hunters with several elk they had killed.  On December 2, McLeod referred to the river as “Shequits.” Zybach and Wasson (2009: 87) speculated that McLeod may have transcribed the second and third syllables of the word Mishikhwutmetunne, with Native emphasis on “shi-KHWUT” being reasonably heard by McLeod as “she-QUITS.” In that instance, the preliminary “Mi” may have been mistaken as a simple grammatical referent, and the “metunne” being well understood as referring to “the people of” the Mishikhwut river.

On the same day, December 2, McLeod reported that the land was heavily inundated with water as far upstream as “the forks,” due to the incessant rains. This is the first appearance of this name in the historical records, but it is commonly used to depict two or more locations on the Coquille and its tributaries: most commonly the juncture of the North Fork and South Fork at Myrtle Point, and the juncture of the South Fork with the Middle Fork at Hoffmans [nee Huffmans]. Subsequent entries make it appear likely that McLeod is referring to the North and South Forks at Myrtle Point at this time.

On Friday, December 8, McLeod wrote:

Weather fine, proceeded up the river which continues fine and of equal breadth. About midday met our people descending also returned with us, put up at sun set passed many Indian habitations, indifferently erected, and their owners poorly off gave them a share of our stores. The party who joined us today had little success, indeed since we are in this river, the weather has proved very unfavorable, and till the [water level?] falls, little success can be anticipated, consequently a loss of time must ensue. I design therefore to avail myself of the period to visit the country southward [South Fork of the Coquille River] some distance from the upper part of this stream and [if?] it is found practicable for horses, we shall endeavor to find a passage from thence to the Umpqua to bring over our horses and baggage; distance 15 miles.

This is McLeod’s first written discussion of opening a pack trail to the Umpqua Valley.  His earlier concerns were exploring the country south of the Umpqua for beaver, and finding a route to Rogue River. At this point he has traveled between the Umpqua River and Coquille River three times, by differing routes, and come to the decision that none of these routes were suitable for pack horses.

On December 9 McLeod ascended the river “about five miles” and stopped to erect camp on the north bank. Assuming he had been camped at Cedar Point, then Johnson, 5 miles upstream at the mouth of Glen Aiken Creek, is the vicinity of McLeod’s next camp. Other possibilities include Arago, or even that he has just moved to Cedar Point for the first time.  That evening McLeod “Made preparations to proceed southward to obtain a knowledge of the Country.”

On Sunday the 10th, McLeod headed south with three French Canadian trappers, two Hawaiian servants of the HBC, “and three natives.” They “proceeded by water about 11 miles, where the river is divided into two branches, one coming from the northward, and the other from the opposite direction at the confluence of the former, stands a small village, containing half dozen of men and families.” This description clearly fits  “the forks” north of Myrtle Point, and if McLeod’s estimate of “11 miles” is accurate, then camp that morning would have been at or near Coquille City, about one mile upstream from Cedar Point -- however, McLeod’s estimates of mileage sometimes seem a little shaky, and often vary with known distances and with the estimates of other contemporary journalists, such as David Douglas, Peter Ogden, and John Work. 

At the juncture of the North Fork McLeod found a small village, with about a “half dozen of men and families.” Here he “Engaged a guide for the main Channel, where we found a foot path on the west bank of the south branch, which we followed and seasonably came to the river – past three small plains abounding with fine grass in full verdure.” McLeod then summarized: “After dusk we put for the night, distance by land 14 miles course southerly.” Is he saying that he traveled about 25 miles that day, 11 by canoe and 14 by land?  Or that the total distance could be covered on horseback in only 14 miles?  And with McLeod, the numbers 11 and 14 might not be that accurate to begin with.  A reasonable estimate – beginning at the forks – would place McLeod’s camp in the area of Broadbent, or at the extreme, Gaylord.

On December 11 McLeod wrote:

Heavy rain all day. As soon as day light enabled us to see our way we moved forward, after passing a short belt of wood we opened into a fine plain at the extremity of which, we came to a village of five dwellings rather unexpectedly. Our sudden appearance amazed the inhabitants who had not observed us, till we reached their door their fear was soon dissipated, we obtained some dried salmon indifferently cured for which they got in return a few trinkets. My men took their breakfast and by means of canoes, we forded the river, about 50 yards wide – continued our Journey on the east bank about five miles and reached another village greater and more populous than the last. Here the river assumes a different aspect, it becomes rocky, with many cataracts, some perpendicular falls, that afford the means of spearing the salmon trout . . .

If these cataracts can be identified, then McLeod’s journey becomes clearer and his encounters with others becomes more meaningful.  A common reading of these notes is that these fishing areas are just south of Rowland’s Prairie, and that McLeod may have turned back at that point; however, he went on to say:

We continued our Journey, passed the village about 4 miles, following the same track by which we came, and in this short space, had to ford the river three different times, on one occasion Laderoute proved unable to follow his companions, had to go to his assistance still we had not come to the worst part of the way, seeming difficulties increasing, without any advantage accruing from persevering further I deemed it advisable to trace our steps back, to examine the Indian route to the Umpqua, which if practicable for loaded horses at this period of the season, the length of the river, Shequits, no doubts exist . . . but we can get to the great river [Rogue River] by this rout after a few days fine weather as the water falls as rapidly as it rises. At dusk we formed our camp about a mile south of the last village we past.

It is possible that McLeod reached Powers Prairie, and even a little further south, before turning back.  This interpretation more closely follows his mileage figures, but is discounted when considering the time of year he is traveling and the terrain he is going through. It seems fairly certain, however, that he made it a few miles south of Rowlands Prairie at a minimum. Of additional interest is his intent “to examine the Indian route to the Umpqua,” which indicates his increasing knowledge of the local geography and his use of established trails in his explorations.

On the 12th, McLeod and his men got up early and “proceeded to the village,” where they were surprised that “the water had risen four feet perpendicular since we past yesterday.” Moving north to “the second village”:

. . . had some further conversation with the Indians on the subject of the resources of the country, their assertions tend to encourage us to persevere in our pursuit, several minor streams are pointed out to us said to contain beaver, but the great river in particular is frequently alluded to, as possessing beaver in great plenty; but these people like their neighbours are subject to exaggerate, so we can’t rely on what they say. These people seemingly never molest those animals, I presume others either judging from appearances they never kill an animal and depend solely on the produce of the waters for subsistence, with roots that grow spontaneously in the vicinity, the same observation is applicable to the natives on the great river, who never trouble themselves about furs, and have little or no intercourse with strangers. At the second village, we hired two canoes; in which we embarked and proceeded before the current with uncommon velocity to its junction with the main river. It keeps the same breadth all long [sic?], bank in many places high and perpendicular. The bed of this river is of gravel in the present state of the water, no impediment exists to obstruct the progress from the upper village . . . At the forks we took our own crafts and before dusk reached our Camp, found every thing safe.

On Wednesday the 13th McLeod prepared for a trip to the Umpqua Valley, to find a practical method of bringing horses into the country “if possible.” Camp women, otherwise rarely mentioned in his journal, are kept busy drying skins, with the men helping. On the 14th, accompanied by the same men as had traveled down the South Fork, McLeod headed east, looking for a possible pack trail route from the Umpqua to the Coquille River. From camp (most likely Cedar Point, Coquille City, or Johnson), traveling in a canoe, McLeod and his men:

. . . ascended the river the length of the forks, left our craft, being provided with Indian guide, shaped our course southerly thro’ a foot path leading along the west shore of the north branch about two miles up the river we found a small village containing half dozen of Indians situated at the foot of a steep rock, which obstructed our passage but by means of the only canoe these people had, we were enabled to pass the precipice, which otherwise might have caused much loss of time, thro’ more than seventy yard in the direction we are going. 

Ivy speculates this location to be a rock outcrop on the Middle Fork, about two miles from Hoffman’s, that was blasted away during highway construction. Another important consideration is that McLeod has again hired an Indian guide, which means he will be following established trails and that his December 11 intent “to examine the Indian route to the Umpqua” is being quickly realized. After getting by the rock precipice, McLeod observed: “The country on both sides of the river as much as we can see of it, is mountainous and broken and covered with much wood.” Depending on the trail their guide is taking them, it is possible McLeod has traveled via Gravelford on his way to Dora or Sitkum; or he traveled along the Middle Fork via Bridge to Remote. The route through Dora would be the most likely to encounter the winter villages in the sequence he describes, but the route to Remote best fits his pace and travel descriptions: 

Heavy rain continues and in the evening came on snow. Continued our Journey and ascended the mountain nearly to its summit, passed two small villages collectively not exceeding twenty inhabitants of the masculine gender . . . We put up in the face of a steep hill, much exposed, having no other canopy than what our Blankets afforded. Saw elks tracks as we came along, we crossed four small streams running from west to east.

If, indeed, McLeod and his men, equipment, and bundles of firs are being taken to the Umpqua via the East Fork – which would make very good sense, so far as ruggedness of the terrain is concerned – then this last camping location would be somewhere east of Sitkum.  The clue would seem to be the “four small streams running from west to east,” but that might be disorientation on McLeod’s part, or a typo on the part of the transcriptionist.  Otherwise, that description might be for a north-south valley, with McLeod traveling the western side, which location has not been identified. If they are traveling the Middle Fork, this last camping location might be east of Remote, near the mouth of Rock Creek.

On December 16, McLeod and his men experienced “fine weather” and “in the course of the forenoon descend the mountain and entered a fine plain.” This may have been Reston or Fluornoy Valley by the East Fork, or Camas Valley by the Middle Fork.  They “continue forward” and “after passing a short mountain covered with thick woods we again got into a plain country on the bank of a small river,” would most likely be Tenmile, Flournoy Valley, or Lookingglass Valley. They killed a grizzly bear sow and cub for dinner and that night “encamped in the open plain.” 


Third Visit: December 25th, 1826 – January 10th, 1827

McLeod rendezvoused with “Depoty” [John Baptiste Depaty dit McKay] on the 17th, at his camp near present-day Roseburg.  At that point he received mail, including a letter from John McLoughlin saying that reinforcements were being sent.  From there he proceeded to “an old establishment” on the Umpqua, perhaps near present-day Hubbard Creek or Elkton, and met with several other HBC trappers under his command.  Two of the men were ill, and McLeod considered sending them for “medical assistance.” On the 21st the two sick men, James Birnie, and five horses started out for Fort Vancouver “bearing dispatches” for McLoughlin and others.  Four other trappers, under the command of LaFramboise, were sent north on a trading expedition along the Coast. On the 22nd, McLeod began a return trip to the Coquille, camping along Lookingglass Creek on the evening of the 24th. No mention is made of Christmas or Christmas eve.

Monday 25th. Weather fine. Having every thing ready, the same men, that accompanied me, now return, John Kennedy and Gobin being the only addition. Having light loads we went a good part of the mountain, whose ascent is very steep and the descent not so steep but very long at its base. Pass’d the first river flowing in from the west and encamped . . .

One interpretation of this is that they climbed to the ridgeline near Kenyon Mountain and followed Skull Ridge west, whose “descent is very long at its base,” camping perhaps at Rock Creek or Remote.  Another possibility is that they had retraced their steps to the East Fork. On the evening of the 26th  “we reached our camp and found every thing in good order and safe.” This is probably the camp of December 12, and earlier; likely located at Johnson or Coquille City.

While experiencing “fine weather,” McLeod assigned different groups of trappers to different locations during the next few days.  Eight men, under the guidance of P. Charles, were sent to “a river southward” by going to the mouth of the Coquille with two local guides, and then heading south along the beach. On Monday January 1st, 1827, McLeod failed to note the New Year, reporting instead:

Fine weather, all the men out the whole day the close of which brought them home, with only 3 beavers a party of Indians visited us, among whom were many elderly men whom we interrogated on various subjects, but to little purpose as they can give us no satisfactory information or else they plead ignorance, it is obvious, fiction is a predominant failing with them.

On the following day, the 2nd, however, McLeod’s men brought the occasion to his attention: “Having but six men about me still they were not backward in observing the usual ceremony of the new year, a fathom of tobacco given them on the occasion.” Later that day he had them move camp “to a more eligible spot about seven miles nearer the Ocean.”  Assuming McLeod’s base camp was at Coquille City this time – and assuming that his estimations of mileage had become refined with experience – then this move would have been close to present-day Riverton.  Seven miles of travel by canoe from either Johnson or Cedar Point would have ended in locations quite likely to have been flooded at that time of year, or otherwise inconvenient for trading or skin storage purposes.

On January 4, Mcleod got his first reports of the P. Charles trapping crew to the south and found himself at the center of a political situation involving rival tribes, kidnapping, and slavery:

Rained at intervals. The Indians who accompanied P. Charles and party arrived, reported no bright prospects little or no Beaver to be found, they brought the skins of two state that the party will soon be here, unless they find greater encouragement than they have thitherto experienced, the natives attribute the disappearance of the beaver to the hight [sic] of the water one beaver caught, an Umpqua Indian who ranks as a chief with this people [possibly St. Arnoose, the “old Chief”], voluntarily accompanied us since leaving said river and was one of those that accompanied the party to the southward on his return yesterday, passing a village situated by this stream, some miles westward of us, took advantage of a favourable opportunity and seized on the person of a youth and succeeded in carrying him with impunity: no doubt this act of aggression will be imputed to us, as being committed by an individual attached to our party; therefore to do away with any bad impression, this act of cruelty might create, after reproving the old fellow sharply, in presence of many Indians, for his misconduct took the youth from him and returned him to his friends.

On January 5 McLeod “Sent two men to deliver the above mentioned youth to his Parents, who were grateful for our interference.” The same day: “Perre Charles & four of the party arrived, the others have stopped to lay their up a small river where some Beaver vestiges were seen, they have had no success: seventeen Beaver is all they caught.”

On Saturday the 6th McLeod “made preparations to proceed with a few men along the coast, the object in view is to reach, if possible, the great [Rogue] river, said to be some distance to the southward.” McLeod then “Settled two Indians to be of the party” and “gave instructions to the people remaining at the camp to continue trapping, turn about day after day, only half of them to absent themselves at once.” On the following day he left with six men in a canoe to the mouth of the Coquille and: “from hence afoot along the beach about 14 miles and sixteen by water, passed a small river by the natives (Chiste etudi) [possibly New River] formed our Camp near where our people were lately trapping, on the border of an extensive marsh or swamp.” The combined estimate of 30 miles by foot and canoe seems optimistic, but the “extensive marsh or swamp” could be about anywhere between the Coquille River and Flores Creek.

On January 8, McLeod continued south along the Coast in continued quest of “the Great River.” During the day he obtained a canoe and a guide from the Athapaskan-speaking Kwatami (“Sixes River Indians”), whom he characterizes as the “Got tam you” Tribe.  There is some speculation that these people were simply repeating a curse they had heard from earlier contact with trappers, and were making an attempt at using McLeod’s own language with him; if so, there is no way to determine if it were delivered in humor, as an attempt to further communications, or a directed curse in its own right (Zybach and Wasson 2009: 94). Later that day they cross a river, likely the Sixes, which McLeod also refers to as the “Got tam you” River.

It is noteworthy that it was difficult for McLeod and his men to obtain wood.  On the 8th he noted that: “no wood is to be found on the west shore [likely Floras Lake], which is composed of sand thrown up by the sea” and is separated from the “Kwatamis,” who had a village on the east shore and sent a canoe to get the men.  Later in the day they encountered “a deserted village; for want of timber we were obliged to use the planks with which the natives form their huts to raft us over the river [possibly Elk River].”

Sometime on the 8th or 9th McLeod and his men exit the study area on their way to the Rogue River.  It is difficult to tell by his notes where he has gone, where they camped, or how far they traveled; on the “Squits en” [Sixes?] river, for example, “the Indians who never saw a European face before, seemed to be alarmed, for we observed in the course of the day, several running from us.” Johansen (Davies 1961: 204) thinks this might be on Mussel Creek, near present-day Arizona Beach and the Prehistoric Gardens tourist stop, but then Mcleod says they travel an additional 17 miles and camped “on the border of a small lake, about a mile and a half long.” It is difficult to determine where this might be, particularly since he also passes “Quatachen,” “Henne-Chenni,” and “Ukejeh” rivers further south, before reaching the Rogue. A key in any interpretation of place or distance of these journal entries is that Garrison Lake [lagoon] at Port Orford is the last substantial “lake” going south along the coast, and that the “lake” at Mussel Creek is essentially a wetland pond. “Ukejeh,” however, might well be Euchre Creek.   


Fourth Visit: January 15th, 1827 – February 5th, 1827

On January the 11th, McLeod finally reached the long-sought Rogue River, about four miles inland from the mouth, “called in the native dialect Toototenez,” and – in a typical Mcleod criticism – “falls short of the description report has given it.” As with the Indians along the Coos and Coquille, McLeod discovered the Tututni had no prior interest in trapping beavers, “have not a skin amongst them . . . pleaded ignorance of the method of killing these animals . . . tho’ vestiges [of beaver] exist in every creek that we past,” and, “that when told that beaver was the object of our pursuit, they appeared amazed.”

On the 12th McLeod recorded “9 Bustards killed of larger size than any I have seen in this quarter; their colour dark, and under their wings deep brown.” It is unknown at this point whether “Bustards” is referring to geese or buzzards; if the latter, then perhaps these may be California condors.  Bustards are actually long-legged, long-necked, round-bodied birds native to Africa, Australia, and Eurasia, but is a name apparently used by French Canadians (“Iroquois”) for geese.  On the 13th, having reached the Rogue River and having met and stated his intentions with several people there, McLeod began a return trip to the Coquille.

On January 15th McLeod writes: “High northerly wind with frequent showers of hail and snow continued our progress passed the river Ukejeh had an interview with the Indians, passed the river Hene Chenni at dusk we put up in the face of a steep hill.” Johansen (Davies 1961: 204) thinks these may be the Elk River and one of its forks, but it seems too far south for that to be accurate. They seem to be making good time, but on the 16th he and his men “continued our rout and encamped at the last woods south of river Got tom ye,” which seems to be the Sixes River, or perhaps Floras Creek.  Because the Sixes and Elk rivers are only a few miles apart, one of these interpretations must be wrong.  If the January 15 campsite was near Lookout Rock, then the “Ukejeh” was likely Euchre Creek (McArthur 1982: 262 says George Davidson, on page 373 of the 1889 “Coast Pilot,” calls Euchre Creek “Ukah Creek”), and the Hene Chenni could have been Mussel Creek or Myrtle Creek. The campsite of the 16th, then, would be inland along the mainstem of the Sixes River, perhaps just south of the town of Sixes.

On January 17th Mcleod returned to his camp on the Coquille River; probably the same one he left on January 2. While gone to the Rogue, the hunters and trappers had had little success although “everyone acknowledges there are plenty of signs of both beaver and elk.”  The principal problem was considered to be the weather, which had caused rapid changes in river depths, making trapping difficult. Trading was also difficult “in consequence of the high value the Indians put on the few furs they possessed.” On Sunday the 21st McLeod decided to put an end to the trapping because of “unfavorable weather” and poor results, and return to Fort Vancouver. 

On Monday, January 22 McLeod wrote:

Same weather as yesterday, issued orders for all the traps to be taken up, in doing which two beaver were found in them. Women employed in scraping skins settled with the little Chief Kitty yeahun and Neaze [unsure of the identity of these men, or their Tribal affiliation] who return to their respective homes along the coast. Made some preparations for starting tomorrow should the weather permit. As the navigation of the Umpqua is very dangerous at this season of the year, suggests the other rout by the north east branch of this river, as the surest way, as we can by means of canoes reach the foot of the mountain from thence men can easily in three days carry our property over to McKays [Depaty’s] camp, at least where we last left them in a fine plain at the base of the mountain, southward from hence. Some of the party having traps above were allowed to start to recover them.

McLeod’s decision to take “the other rout by the north east branch of this river,” shows his increased understanding of the geography and river conditions of the Coquille and Umpqua rivers. On the 23rd he noted “about midday the remainder of the party and self proceeded a few miles up the river, the heavy rain made us put sooner than we otherwise would have done.” This campsite was likely one used earlier – perhaps Leneve, which is only a few miles upstream from Riverton. On the 24th, “Ignace cast up, with a sick child of his, whose indisposition suggested the idea of coming to us to obtain medical assistance. The childs case is not dangerous, tho’ the father alarmed.” The following day, as Ignace departed to rejoin the other trappers in his group on Coos Bay, McLeod “admonished him to make all haste and join the others, in fifteen days he expects to reach the old fort at the Umpqua, the appointed place of rendezvous.”

On the 26th McLeod “proceeded to the first fork distance about 9 miles.” It is difficult to figure out what McLeod meant by “first fork”; it seems to be a different location than “the forks.” Fishtrap Creek enters the Coquille about nine miles upstream from Leneve; Arago (Hall Creek) is about nine miles from Cedar Point; and Johnson is about nine miles from Myrtle Point. The following day heavy rains forced the men to remain in camp, rather than risk getting their cargo of 200 furs wet.  Three elk were killed during the day and “three Indians stopped with us, on their way down stream, with a cargo of camass, their chief subsistence at present, fish having long ago almost entirely failed in this river which made the majority of the Indians to resort to other places.”

On Sunday, January 28 the rain began to let up and Mcleod and his men “succeeded by the close of day to enter the N east branch, about a mile, where we landed.” Three more elk were killed and the next two days were spent visiting with Indians whose “dwellings are on the banks of this river, a short distance above, drying meat, and preparing the elk skins as “wrappers” for the furs.

The following day, January 30, he was able to write: “Heavy rain: however having our furs wrapped in elk skins with the hair on we ventured to proceed with part of our baggage.”  The group had a chain of rapids to ascend, but “the distance we came to day [does] not exceed two miles this part of the river is rapidous yet not dangerous, water falling fast, the apparent continuation of bad weather leaves us no hopes of making much progress.”  Their new campsite may have been near Elk Creek, and McLeod, knowing he would likely be late for the appointed rendezvous, decided to send a runner ahead to inform those waiting for him.  He was forced to send a teen-aged Indian boy on the mission alone as, “the Indians about us are ill clad, that they can’t venture any distance in such weather, besides the mountains over which we must pass, are covered with snow and no compensation that we can offer will tempt any of the natives to accompany our messenger.”

On February 1 the rain lightened and McLeod was able to make better progress, and his group traveled until dusk, possibly camping that night in the Dora area. The following day they:

Continued our rout, and put up near an Indian village situated on an eminence in a plain of some extent, to our surprise the messenger we sent forward, did pass the spot and we met him close by on his return, the awful aspect of the mountains intimidated him, or rather some acquaintance of his residing here attracted his attention, and dissuaded him from going to join his master J.B. Depoty, being one of his household I expected he would shown more determination.

On Sunday the 4th McLeod and his men poled the furs upstream, possibly the entire length of Sitkum Valley to the mouth of Camas Creek, where they encamped. The following day was also “rainy”:

. . . yet we continued our Journey till night precluded a possibility of going further, in lieu of going over the mountain as on former occasion we took another track, following its base now and then touching the river expecting it to be more advantageous than the former one, in this idea we were sadly mistaken. We past a small village at the extremity of the mountain but had no conversation with the few people in it. Much snow as we got near the mountain.

Monday 5th. Light rain, as soon as the day dawned, we were glad to avail ourselves of it to leave a disagreeable berth, having past the night exposed to snow and rain –shortly after sun rose, we entered the open country, having got out of the mountain . . .



“Little Ignace,” the Iroquois freeman trapper encouraged by McLeod to join the expedition in early October in hopes of clearing his “heavy debt,” and who was so worried about the health of his child on January 24, became the first known person to have died in Coos territory, when he was killed shortly after leaving McLeod’s troupe on the 25th.

McLeod learned of the news on February 7, when he wrote: “in the course of the evening another Indian messenger cast up, with intelligence of a disconsolate nature, purporting the death of Ignace and an Indian at the River Cahouse, the report is variously related which leaves hope of its being ill founded . . . so many reports are in circulation founded on fiction that little reliance can be put on any and I wish this one may prove as ill founded as the others.”

On February 13, after arriving at the “Scottsburg” base camp, McLeod wrote:

Aubitchon, Joudoin, Torrowaheni arrived and corroborated the report relative to the fate of Ignace, who was killed by natives of river Cahouse in retaliation for an Indian of that tribe who was shot by the accidental going off of a gun, lying in the bow of a canoe, as the Indian was in the act of hauling the craft, on the beach, in the usual way, having hold of the bow or stern, the gun went off, and he fell lifeless on th beach.  This accident happened before the deceased Ignace had found the others and they alarmed by the event, made all haste forward to get out of the reach of the Indians, before they got intimation of the circumstance, trusting the fate of Ignace to chance, who not aware of what had happened, fell an easy sacrifice to the irritated natives that supposed the death of their relative a willful deed, it can scarcely be expected of them otherwise.  This is the manner the men state the case, of the death of the Indian as above narrated, to the fate of Ignace, we are indebted to Indian Information; and no doubt exists of its correctness.  Want of resolution on the part of these three men prompted them to act in the manner they did, if time permitted I would do away at least with the idea of our being the aggressors entertained by these people; the hasty departure of the men tends to confirm them in that opinion, but must be deferred to a future period, indeed even if we went now we cannot expect to see the culprits for they have had time to effect their escape; two weeks have elapsed since the misfortune happened . . .


© 2013 Coquelle Trails