Discovering the Region: Texts

7. John Boit, "Log of the Second Voyage of the Columbia"

“John Boit's Log of the second voyage of the Columbia,” in Voyages of the “Columbia” to the Northwest Coast: 1787-1790 and 1790-1793, ed. Frederic W. Howay (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1941), 397-99. 

15 [May 1792]. N. Latt. 46º 7’ W. Long. 122º 47’. On the 15th took up the Anchor, and stood up River but soon found the water to be shoal

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so that the Ship took the Ground, after proceeding 7 or 8 miles from our 1st station, however soon got off again. Sent the Cutter and found the main Channel was on the South side,[1] and that there was a sand bank in the middle, as we did not expect to procure Otter furs at any distance from the Sea, we contented ourselves in our present situation[2] which was a very pleasant one. I landed abrest the Ship with Capt. Gray to view the Country and take possession,[3] leaving charge with the 2d Officer.[4] Found much clear ground, fit for Cultivation, and the woods mostly clear from Underbrush. none of the Natives come near us.

18 [May 1792]. Shifted the Ship’s birth to her Old Station abrest the Village Chinoak, command’d by a cheif name Polack.[5] Vast many Canoes full of Indians from different parts of the river where constantly along side. Capt. Grays named this river Columbia’s, and the North entrance Cape Hancock, and the South Point Adams.[6] This River in

1. Captain Gray found that the deep water or ship’s channel of the river then, as now, crossed the river from Harrington Point to Tongue Point and followed the south bend to Point Adams, but then crossed again into Baker’s Bay behind Cape Disappointment. Sand Island was then attached to Point Adams and lay directly in what is now the deep water channel off that point. See Oregon Historical Quarterly, XVIII. 242-243

2. The latitude cited is practically correct, but the longitude is a full degree too far east. This anchorage was somewhere near Point Gray, which is the location of the speculative town site of Frankfort, now shown on commercial maps of the north bank of the river. According to the table of distances by the government engineers, this point is seventeen and a half miles from the sea. Boit does not record all the movements of the ship on May 14, 15, and 16, and for this see the log of the Columbia, pages 435-438, below.

3. The words “and take possession” were inserted at a later time and are in a quite different ink.

4. The interpolated words suggest a ceremony which is not yet known to have actually taken place, and one which would have been of great value to the United States officials during the boundary disputes prior to the treaty of 1846. During the first session of the Thirty-second Congress a bill was introduced for the relief of Martha Gray, widow of Captain Robert Gray, and of the heirs of Captain John Kendrick (S.B. Bill Number 526), and in that connection, on August 11, 1852, a report was filed which contained unsupported statements as to such an act of taking possession. In Early Days in Old Oregon (McClurg, 1916), there appears the positive statement to the author that such an act was performed, but no references are given to support it.

5. Evidently a predecessor of Comcomly, the one-eyed potentate of the Chinook Indians during so many years of the fur-trade period, whose daughters were given in marriage to some of the traders.

6. This name is still officially recognized, but the name given to the northern cape did not become permanent. Captain Heceta named the southern point Cabo Frondoso because of the trees and brush which then grew down to the edge of the beach. Astoria, on the southern bank fifteen miles inland, was the first trading post on the lower river, and Fort Vancouver, one hundred miles inland and on the north bank, became the first factory, meaning thereby the residence and headquarters of the chief factors, who managed the business of the district.

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my opinion, wou’d be a fine place for to sett up a Factory. The Indians are very numerous, and appear’d very civill (not even offering to steal). during our short stay we collected 150 Otter, 300 Beaver, and twice the Number of other land furs. the river abounds with excellent Salmon, and most other River fish, and the Woods with plenty of Moose and Deer, the skins of which was brought us in great plenty, and the Banks produces a ground Nut, which is an excellent substitute for either bread or Potatoes, We found plenty of Oak, Ash, and Walnut trees, and clear ground in plenty, which with little labour might be made fit to raise such seeds as in nessescary for the sustenance of inhabitants, and in short a factory set up here and another at Hancock’s River in the [34] Queen Charlotte Isles, wou’d engross the whole trade of the NW Coast (with the help [of] a few small coasting vessels).

20 [May 1792]. This day[1] left Columbia’s River, and stood clear of the bars, and bore off to the Northward    The Men at Columbia’s River are strait limb’d, fine looking fellows, and the women are very pretty. they are all in a state of Nature, except the females, who wear a leaf Apron (perhaps ‘twas a fig leaf). But some of our gentlemen, that examin’d them pretty close, and near, both within and without reported that it was not a leaf but a nice wove mat in resemblance!! and so we go—thus, thus—and no Near!—!

1. Now the two accounts, Captain Gray’s and Boit’s, synchronize. The dates given by Captain Gray are official and take precedence, and it is still correct to say that the Columbia River was first entered by white men on May 11, 1792. A similar divergence of one day appears in the narrative of Captain Vancouver the following October.

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