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Chapter 63: in the Northwest, among the Indians; trip to Alaska; life in Portland, Ore.; 1874 to 1881

In Portland, Ore., there were two large banks on Front Street; one was the First National, of which Henry Failing was the president, and the other a private banking house of which Ladd & Tilton were the proprietors. Ladd's bank was at the time of my arrival probably the wealthiest, and had the largest circulation of any in Oregon. Mr. Ladd was a Christian man and wanted to do a kindness to the Young Men's Christian Association, then very small in numbers and in possessions. He gave it a room in the rear of his bank building in the second story, and there our young men met from time to time. They were very poorly supplied with books or facilities for doing their work. I had hardly become established in my headquarters and in my home before I was elected to the presidency of the association. This came probably because I had been for so many years president of the Y. M. C. A. in Washington.

It was not long before I found myself associated with several active workers such as Dr. Lindsley, William Wadhams, Mr. Wakefield, James Steele, and others. At that time Captain M. C. Wilkinson of my staff was very active and earnest in Christian effort.

Soon we rented a large set of rooms on the lower side of Front Street, where there had been a saloon [469] and extensive gambling arrangements. Our meetings kept increasing, and large numbers of those who had gone astray were brought back to the Master's service.

A single instance may show how we worked in those days. E. P. Hammond, the evangelist, was holding meetings in the skating rink, a very spacious hall. There came in several men under the influence of drink who seemed to have had the purpose of breaking up the meeting. One man quite befuddled with liquor said to me as I tried to reason with him, “Old man, you are right. I wish you would sing The Sweet By and By.”

Instantly the assembly took up the hymn. I sat down by the youngest of the intruders. His name was Williams, the adopted sod of Mr.Williams and Mrs. Daniel Williams, special friends of my family. The young man had gone so far that his parents despaired of him, and he appeared to be given over to dissipation. Suddenly he looked up into my face with a hopeless expression and murmured: “Little as you think it, I would like to reform!”

Of course I reasoned with him, but he was too much under the influence of liquor to give me hope that he would remember what he promised.

Two days after that, just at evening when I was leaving my office on Front Street, I saw Williams sitting in the doorway of a closed store. He was badly intoxicated and hardly able to sit erect. I went to him and asked him to walk home with me. This he was unable to do. I called a hack that was passing and told him to get in. With bleared eyes he gazed around to see if anybody was looking and said: “I am ashamed.”

I succeeded in getting him into the hack and took him home with me, where we put him to bed and kept [470] him for several days, taking good care that he should not get at his clothing and give us the slip till the effects of the liquor had left him.

He then went into the evangelistic meetings of the Y. M. C. A. and was soon a new man. He was restored to his parents, and was soon married. All the time I had knowledge of the family, he was leading an honorable life.

There were many other remarkable instances of reformation. It seemed at that period that Satan was striving with all his helpers against light and knowledge, but in process of time the better people of that Western city conquered, building up their effective school system and their magnificent churches.

I remember that Mr. William Wadhams, Captain Wilkinson, and myself paid a visit together to a man who had a wife and several children. He was a drunkard, and she was slatternly dressed and foolish, really taking advantage of his dissipation to get the sympathy and help of the well-to-do. We found this man at his home and talked to him awhile. His wife brought out their large Bible, and he took a pencil in his hand and signed a pledge which one of us had drawn up, and looking up he said with determination: “May the Almighty strike me dead if I do not keep this pledge.” Then he signed it.

With more difficulty we succeeded at last in getting his wife to promise to do her part in taking care of the children and the home, and doing what she could to make her husband comfortable during his hours of rest from labor.

He drove a heavy freight truck, and ever after that he came into our meetings, participated with us in our exercises, and sustained a good and wholesome career. [471]

This shows what can be done in our Y. M. C. A. by a little united effort in behalf of those who are astray. Those cases seem to indicate much work, yet all of us who belonged to the Y. M. C. A. had other employment at that time, very absorbing on every day except the Sabbath, and such evenings as we could set apart for religious effort.

About this time I was one evening in the chapel of the Presbyterian church, Dr. Lindsley's, conducting a social meeting. Many were present, when suddenly there came in, across the room from the desk, a wildlooking man with jet black, disheveled hair and keen eyes. It was a striking figure and attracted quick attention. The man seemed to be beside himself. He cried out: “Is this the house of Godt”

I answered: “Yes, that is what we call it.” He said: “May I say something here?”

Walking and talking he came up to the desk. I answered him: “Certainly.”

He turned around and the first utterance he made was: “God bless them women!” looking at several who sat in front of him. Then he told us that some ladies had entered his saloon a few days before and knelt and prayed in their work to try and stop this evil. Their brave act had affected him strongly. It seems that he had been what they call in the Northwest a “sport.” He, Ned Chambreau, was a Frenchman, and had come from Canada in the early days of Oregon. He had married a young girl who was already, though not more than fifteen years of age, a decided praying Christian. Ned said that she would pray him out of any difficulty he got into, and his difficulties were many. Indeed, his conduct at times was criminal and exposed him to arrest. [472]

Now he was thoroughly in earnest for good and ready to turn over a new leaf. Mr. William Wadhams helped him, by a stock of goods, to go into the hardware business, but he did not succeed in that. Then he undertook the grocery trade, but after a time a second failure distressed him. I shall never forget how he would come to me and ask me to walk up and down the sidewalk with him to comfort him.

One day when matters were at their worst Chambreau received an offer from one of his old gambling friends which was very tempting, and it was accompanied by some apparatus necessary to make the card game safe and sure. His friend said: “Christians don't care for you. You will starve to death. Come back to us and you can have anything you want.”

The night after receiving this apparatus a kind lady was going past his store when she heard a man weeping aloud and praying; she went in and found Ned Chambreau on his knees in terrible distress.

“Why, Mr. Chambreau,” she said; “what is the matter!”

“Oh, dear, I cannot pay my rent and I cannot get ahead in my business, and I have had this tempting offer to go back to my old ways.”

She said kindly: “I will be your friend,” and ran out immediately, and visited several good Christian people who contributed money enough to pay his rent and bridge over the difficulties.

It was not long after, that, finding Ned Chambreau a most efficient Indian scout, I employed him as such. I sent him everywhere, and, as he was familiar with the different tribes and spoke fluently the Chinook language, he did the Government good service. He remained an active Christian until his death. [473]

Owing to my pecuniary condition on leaving Washington, I was forced to do something to earn money over and beyond my pay. Of course, by extreme economy something could be saved of the salary, though when it is remembered that for some time we were paid in greenbacks, a depreciated currency, and lost at least a quarter of the face value, it will be seen that the needs of a large family would not allow me to save much. It was then that I began to write for publication.

My first effort was “Donald's school days,” an attempt to put the New England school life of my youth into a story for boys. My publishers succeeded in getting quite a circulation.

In the winter of 1876, at the request of D. H. Stearns, during his absence of three months, I wrote the editorials for his paper, The Portland Bee. This work did not require much of my time. I have preserved the editorials until to-day. I remember thinking I would try an experiment and so wrote sketches of our public men of the past, of Presidents and other statesmen, comparing and contrasting them with the statesmen of that day who were well known to the country. My efforts worked so well that the paper increased in circulation. One day Judge Deady of the United States District Court met me, and not knowing that I was connected in any way with the paper said: “What has happened to the Bee?It seems to have taken on a new life.”

His compliment pleased me and made me redouble my efforts to give interest and strength to the editorial work.

A little later I wrote also for magazines and monthlies, particularly reminiscences of the Civil War. [474] These articles were well received and brought me a few hundred dollars.

One day in Portland I was invited to give at the Y. M. C. A. rooms a lecture on Gettysburg. It was then that I made my first effort in the war lectures. I spoke without notes and told the story of Gettysburg as well as I could from my own points of observation.

Evidently it proved interesting, for I soon received many invitations to give the lecture.

Nothing ever oppressed me more than a debt, and I was exceedingly anxious to make the last payment to that friend who had loaned me the $7,000 when I needed money.

While in Portland, Ore., we took our letters to the First Congregational Church of that city, and here, uniting with our friends of that connection, I did what I could to assist the minister, Rev. Mr. Eaton, in his arduous work. Habitually I taught the large Bible class in his Sunday school, and bore my part in his social and religious meetings.

As much of my duty had to do with the various tribes of Indians, I spent much time in going from one post to another of my extensive territory. The three Indian wars with the Nez Perces, the Piutes and Bannocks, and the so-called “Sheep Eaters” took three summers and much planning during my command of the Department of the Columbia.

In the Nez Perces campaign I gathered all available military force near Fort Lapwai, Idaho, and after the most arduous campaign, with several battles. and a continuous march of over 1,400 miles across the Rocky Mountains, making our way through the forests of the Yellowstone National Park, I succeeded in detraining [475] the Indians till General Nelson A. Miles overtook and had a battle with them near Bearpaw Mountain. The firing was still going on when I arrived on the field, and through my own interpreters succeeded in persuading Chief Joseph to abandon further hostile effort and make a prompt surrender.1

In 1876 what was called the “Custer massacre” occurred in Dakota. A large number of officers of the Seventh cavalry were killed, thus creating an unusual number of vacancies in the army.

My son Guy, who had finished his studies at Yale and had been a year working in a Portland banking house, came to me and said: “In our bank a cashiership became available and another young man without experience, just from Scotland, was given the place over my head. Now, father, I want you to ask for me an appointment; your friends are in the army!”

I wrote a dispatch to General Sherman, stating that my son wanted an appointment in the army. Guy, smiling, said: “Please do not put it that way, but say that you want it.”

“All right, Guy, go up home and see your mother and find what she says about such an appointment!”

He soon came back to headquarters and said, “Mother assents, with the hope of something better by and by outside.”

I sent the telegram asking for a commission in the cavalry. Within twenty-four hours an answer was returned: “Your son is appointed by the President, regiment to be designated hereafter.”

He was then placed before an army board, passed a creditable examination, and entered the service. [476] When his commission of second lieutenant came, it was for the Twelfth Infantry, not for the cavalry.

Eventually, however, he was appointed captain in the quartermaster's department of the army, and did service where it was especially pleasing to him. He took great pains to inform himself with reference to everything pertaining to military affairs, studying the tactics of all civilized nations and showing himself particularly able as an executive officer. Part of the time during the Indian wars I had him on my staff.2

While acting in this capacity, he never wished me to tell him how to do anything. “Just say, father, what you want me to do and it will be done.” These characteristics enabled him to perform a variety of service and finally promoted him to lieutenant colonel and chief quartermaster of the Second Corps in the enlarged army during the war with Spain.

We had been in the Northwest not quite a year when, having to visit Alaska, I took my family with me to that territory. We were on the June trip of the steamer California. The weather was fine and the expedition was very successful, full of interesting incidents from start to finish.

We were able to take our steamer on a trip north of Sitka,--a few days and nights' run; visiting altogether seven Indian tribes.3

I In both the Nez Perces and Bannock wars Second Lieutenant Guy Howard's gallant conduct was conspicuous. On August 20, 1877, at Camas Meadows, Ida., the Indians made a night attack on our camp and the bullets were cutting through the tent occupied by Guy and myself. Guy called out, “Father, lie down or you will be hit,” but I noticed that Guy did not lie down himself but immediately went out to assist in forming the lines for defense. [477]

On June 17th we were on St. Frederick's Sound. It appeared like an inland lake, as smooth as a mill pond, and surrounded by hills large and small and mountains covered with snow. It being Bunker Hill Day, we fired a salute with our single cannon. Near evening I gave to the passengers the story of Gettysburg, using some red chalk on an improvised blackboard. At ten o'clock at night I was still talking to the people while the sun was considerably above the horizon. That night we noticed that there was but little space from twilight to dawn, not more than an hour. It was difficult for Mrs. Howard to persuade the children to go to bed when the sun was shining.

After our return, October, 1875, I received word that a British general was moving along our border between Canada and the United States to make inspections, and that he would be in the vicinity of Fort Walla Walla before many days. Taking my staff with me, I went up to meet him, October 12th. Just as we were setting out from the fort, mounted, my aiddecamp, Captain J. A. Sladen, undertook to ride a horse that had not been recently used. The horse had only a snaffle bit, and the captain, who was a good rider, had hardly reached the saddle before the animal sprang forward and leaped a newly opened ditch, just grazing a tree against which Captain Sladen was thrown. With a leg badly fractured he could see the bottom of his foot, and as he lay on the ground he cried out in prayer: “O Lord, help me 1” Just as I reached him he looked into my face and smiled, saying: “We always do so when we get into trouble.”

I remember that I answered: “Sladen, sometimes the trouble is permitted for that reason!”

Thq captain's leg had to be amputated and he was [478] confined for a couple of weeks at the fort and then went down the river to his home in Portland; when, later, taking a steamer to join our families at Fort Stevens near the mouth of the Columbia, he slipped and broke open the newly healed wound. He endured great suffering in consequence of this and, in fact, was obliged to have his leg amputated again.

Since the accident or providence, whatever we may call it, Sladen has especially enjoyed his Christian work.

We met the English general and his staff and after showing them proper attention brought them to Vancouver and Portland. I remember that the general was greatly pleased with everything in the West except that the Sabbath was not carefully observed. Walking with him one Sunday morning, he pointed to some busy workmen along the line of the railroad and said: “What a pity to set such an example.”

I had not been in the city of Portland long before the active people in the different churches combined to form a union mission with a view to doing something for the Chinamen, who had already come in large numbers to that part of the Pacific coast.

In my family there was a young Chinaman of slender build, very dignified, and apparently independent. His name was Moy Yu Ling. One day I gave him a Bible printed in Chinese. He read it quietly without remark, but soon he joined the mission, became deeply interested, and united with one of the churches, and for over twenty-five years has been a consistent Christian and a local missionary to his own people in Portland. A little later he opened up a store filled with Chinese goods of various descriptions. As a merchant and as a Christian teacher, for he continued in both [479] capacities, he has been remarkably successful. His children speak good English, and we always say when we meet them: “What a beautiful family l” The last time I was in Portland every child remembered me, took me by the hand, and called me by name.

Through Moy Yu Ling I came in contact with a large number of Chinese people and have from time to time interested myself in their welfare. I always feel that we ought to put up the bars against an overplus of immigration; but surely we ought not to discriminate against any given nation.

In 1878 a policy was inaugurated by the War Department, with a view to economize, to change the headquarters of each department from the cities in which they were located to the nearest army post. At the end of four years the headquarters of the Department of the Columbia were moved to Vancouver Barracks, and there I went with my staff officers and my family to remain two years.

At first we occupied the house that had been brought in pieces around the Horn to Vancouver from the East. This was done when Captain Rufus Ingalls was post quartermaster. Soon after its erection Captain U. S. Grant had his rooms in this building. I took the house as my quarters till we could put up another structure for the commanding general of the department. As soon as that was completed we moved again and occupied it with increased comfort and satisfaction.

It was while I was stationed at this post and occupying these new quarters that General Grant with some of his family and friends, returning from his visit around the world in 1879, made us a call. We gave him and his party an evening reception, having [480] invited public men from the territory of Washington and the State of Oregon to meet him.

When General Grant and his wife rode up with me from the Vancouver dock to my quarters, he had many observations, in the way of reminiscence, to make concerning the situation. For example. “That is the Ingalls house, where I lived for some time.” After looking at the house for some moments, he turned to the right in the evening twilight-we could see quite a distance up the river-and said: “Julia, that is the field where I planted my potatoes.”

She said: “Did you raise a crop, Ulysses?”

“No, I got little more than the seed.”

As we passed through the town he noticed a tall brick structure that he had not seen before and he said, addressing me: “What is that, general”

I answered: “A brewery, sir.”

Then he said: “I think, Julia, that must have been put up on Howard's account; it wasn't here in my day!”

During the reception that evening Governor Ferry, of Washington Territory, in an informal address in behalf of the citizens, welcomed the general and his friends to the Pacific coast. The general, standing with his hand upon a chair, blushing like a young man making his first speech, answered the governor in a few simple, well-chosen words. He pointed out some of the changes that had taken place since he was stationed in that vicinity, and he predicted a great future for Washington and Oregon. After his address I said to him that I had been told he could not make a speech.

“Oh,” he said, “I have been practicing on my feet since I went abroad till I can manage to say a few words.” [481]

Everybody, including General and Mrs. Grant, gave Mrs. Howard special credit for the cheerful, simple, and satisfactory entertainment of the evening.

It is sometimes thought that a happy reception like the one we had could not be given without the aid of wines. This one was especially successful and a good object lesson to many who were there and who would be called upon in like manner to entertain their friends.

The general and his company returned to the steamer for the night, and the next morning I went with them to Portland — going down the Columbia and up the Willamette.

One instance showed Grant's humor. He and his wife were standing near the gunwale as we approached the city of Portland. The houses, including the roofs, and the docks were thronged with people. Noticing them General Grant said to his wife: “Julia, look there; see those people. This turn-out must be on your account, because when I came here before there were not three people on the dock!”

Soon after this visit to Portland we all accompanied the general and the strangers on one of the Ocean Steam Navigation Company's large steamers on an excursion to the Cascades of the Columbia. On the way up we habitually gathered in a large room of observation, just in front of the lofty pilot house. Grant and most of the company were smoking, while he told incidents of his journey around the world. Among other things he described in a very graphic way his visit to Japan. He said he was received by the princes and officials at Tokio in great style. They were questioning him with reference to establishing a constitutional [482] government in Japan. One of them said: “General, we would like to have a government such as you have, or such as England has, but we are afraid that if we give the right of suffrage to the people they will vote us out of office; of course, we would like to participate in the liberal government that we desire to establish.”

The general replied: “But do not go so fast; give the people a right to vote on a few things at first-upon the establishment of schools, for example. By voting they will learn how to vote.”

This instance is quite interesting in view of the fact that very soon a constitutional government was inaugurated in Japan, the history of which is certainly in line with this wholesome advice of our general, whose heart and soul were permeated with a love for our form of government.

While we were in Vancouver, on September 17, 1879, our daughter Grace married Captain James T. Gray, the son of the missionary, W. H. Gray, historian of Oregon.

During the fall of 1879, President Hayes, accompanied by General Sherman and others, paid a visit to Oregon and Washington Territory. I met him at Roseberg as they came up from California, and accompanied them along the line of the railroad and elsewhere, while they were in my department. We had interesting journeys up the Columbia and over Puget Sound. Mr. Hayes was greatly interested in the various Indian tribes that we met. He had a characteristic council one day with the Puyallups at Tacoma. The Indians selected their speakers with some care, and after the interview was over President Hayes remarked: “What orators they are I Every one [483] of these wild men has made a speech that would do honor to a member of Congress.”

Just about that time I had difficulty in preserving a small tract of country to Spokane Lott and his people. He was the chief of a band of Indians. Lott was a remarkable character. He was taught Christianity when a youth by Father Eeles, an old missionary. I was on one occasion with him in a meeting where there were two Presbyterian ministers holding a communion. The habit was for each communicant to make a confession of his sins. The Indians told in their simple way what they had done that was wrong. One man, for example, said: “I have stolen two horses. I will never steal horses any more, and I have given back the horses to the Indian owner.”

We were in a large Indian house constructed without any windows and having but one room. It was the only room in the tribe. The women and children crowded in and sat on the ground. There were a few benches and a table on one side, where the ministers were. Several public confessions, one after another, had been made; one woman far back rose up and was talking in a querulous voice. Lott, who was as tall as Abraham Lincoln, rose slowly from his squatting position near the table. At his full height he stretched out his hand, palm down, and motioned it toward the woman and said something. The interpreter near me whispered: “Lott says, ‘Sister, sit down. You can confess your own sins, but you have no business to confess other folks' sins.’ ”

I was in great distress a while before the President's visit, because I could not properly protect Lott and his lands against the encroachments of avaricious white settlers. I carried the case at once to General [484] Sherman, and showed him an order setting apart a portion of the public land, where Lott was, for a reservation. This order, approved by General Sherman, was signed by the President, and I had the satisfaction of issuing it and seeing it executed. When, a few months later, I was obliged to leave for.the East, being under orders to go to West Point as superintendent, Lott heard of it and came five hundred miles to see me in Portland. Hearing that I had already taken the steamer to depart for San Francisco, Lott rushed on board, and, seeing me, began to talk rapidly in broken English. “You no go, no leave I You leave, we have trouble; you stay, we have peace.” It would be impossible to describe his pleadings, but he showed much feeling and was sure I could remain if I would. I told him that the President had ordered me to another field of duty and that I must obey, but that I should always be his friend, and that I did not think he would have any more trouble.

I asked Lott once with reference to giving the land in severalty to the Indians. He said: “Nol Nol” that with his band it would do no good. There was hardly an Indian who could take up land according to law; they did not have the energy or the education. “If you will let me take the reservation I can raise enough, with the help of the old people, to support them well; and this is the way to do till the children grow up and are taught to be like other Americans.”

1 For account of Indian campaign see my works entitled “Chief Joseph in peace and in War” and “My life among hostile Indians.” O. O. H.

2 For gallant service in action Lieutenant Howard received from the Government the brevet rank of first lieutenant. O. O. H.

3 Of this journey I have given a detailed account in my book on Indians.

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