This report is addressed to Major Vinton who was the Chief Quartermaster of the Pacific Division, which included present day California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and so on. Vinton was at Ft. Vancouver at the time, hence the below address.
The bold type is intended to show some of the activities Rufus Ingalls had engaged in during his 4 months in the Oregon Territory.
This document was one of many submitted to the Congress in 1850 by President Millard Fillmore.
CHIEF QUARTERMASTERS OFFICE, Eleventh Military Department, Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory, October 17, 1849.
Major D. H. VINTON, Chief Quartermaster Pacific Division, Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory.
I have the honor herewith to enclose you copies of my monthly summary statement, and report of persons and articles employed and hired, for the month of September, 1849. I also enclose a memorandum of my disbursements for labor during the time I have been on duty in Oregon.
I take this opportunity to comply, so far as I may be able, with your circular of June 17, and your letter to me of October I, 1849. This will give you the information required, taken in connexion with my letter to you of August 27.
I arrived at this point from California, and reported to Major Hatheway, then commanding this department, on the 25th of May last. I came in the United States barque Anita, and found the Massachusetts here, ready to take in cargo. Both of these vessels I took to Portland, (a place 12 miles up the Willamette from its mouth, and near 100 from Astoria,) and caused them to be loaded with assorted lumber for use of government in California. It was not then until the 12th of June that I was able to commence duty at this place. Major Hatheway's command was in tents, and winter quarters were required to be prepared for it. The rifle regiment was looked for near the beginning of the rainy season, and it became necessary to provide winter shelter for it. By renting, if possible, buildings in Oregon City, as this place is the only one in the Territory where a sufficient number could be obtained; and, as it will be seen, no laborers could be employed to erect temporary buildings. In addition, I had to send forward a large quantity of supplies, to meet the wants of the rifle regiment, to Fort Hall; to purchase what forage I could, for use the coming winter; to discharge the transport ship 'Walpole, and to provide storehouses; and to make some tours of observation to various points of the Territory, in order to report on the resources of the country. The manner in which these duties have been performed, you can understand from actual inspection on your part, where the following details may prove deficient.
During the month of June I employed soldiers on extra duty to prepare timber from the woods, and raft down lumber from the mills ( 6 miles above here,) for buildings to accommodate Major Hatheway's command this winter. The expense incurred amounted to $31 05. So little was done, however, and desertions and dissatisfaction happening, that from the 1st July I promised to each soldier $1 per day, authorized by orders from division headquarters. On the 15th September following I had completed all the necessary buildings, and since then have paid no extra allowance. The whole amount paid extra-duty men is $1,390 22. I could not employ any citizen mechanics, and all the work has been performed by the labor of enlisted men.
From my observation, added to all reliable information I could obtain, it was easy to see that this point was much the most eligible in the Territory for the depot, and probably for the headquarters of this department, the only objection being that the Hudson's Bay Company, south of 49 north latitude, have their principal establishment at this place. I have made a contract with this company that all betterments and improvements made here by the United States government shall always remain subject to the orders of myself or my successor. On the arrival of the transport ship Walpole at Astoria, with a cargo of over 12,000 barrels of army stores, I deemed it expedient to collect them here and make this the depot. It has caused the charter party made by General Whiting to be an expensive one, but there was no alternative. At Astoria there were neither troops nor any means of discharging, storing, or protecting the stores. This vessel could have sailed here easily, but for the terms of the charter party. This point may be considered as the head of ship navigation, (except for light craft,) and is about 99 miles inland from Astoria. It is, besides, a point to which all supplies can be accumulated, and from which they can be easily, and at all times, transported to the important parts of the Territory. This is a point, in fact, which combines more resources, in a military point of view, than any other yet known to us. In this vicinity there is a sufficiency of timber for all building purposes, with saw and grist-mills within six miles. There is an abundance of good arable land, with pasturage for any number of animals. The communication between this and the interior is always easily effected by the waters of the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
I have erected at this place one building, 90 feet long and 25 feet wide, containing eleven rooms, occupied as quarters for the officers of Major Hatheway's command; one building 24 feet by 12, containing two rooms occupied as officers' kitchen and servants' room; two buildings 40 by 20 each; containing 4 rooms, occupied as company mess-room and kitchen, hospital kitchen, and bake-house. These buildings are, of course, made of rough material, but are considered sufficiently comfortable for our purposes this winter. In addition, I have finished two large two-story buildings, 50 by 40 each; that is, have laid the floors, put in the windows, made partitions; &c. They are occupied as quarters for company "L," 1st artillery, company laundresses and hospital matron, company storeroom and commissary depot.
In doing all this work I have consumed about 60,000 feet of lumber, which has cost near $3,600. All other timber, &c., has been furnished by my working parties. The whole expense; then, including lumber, pay of soldiers, &c., will not vary much from $5,000. I have some small buildings, say ten, under rent from the Hudson's Bay Company, as shown by my report of articles hired, used as quartermaster's office, clerks' quarters, commissary's storeroom, stables for public animals, guard-house, quartermaster's store-room, &c., at a cost of about $225 per month. It was rendered necessary to incur this expense, as lumber was very high, and labor could not be obtained to erect the buildings required.
The rear of the rifle regiment arrived at Oregon City, a place situated on the Willamette river, 24 miles from its upper mouth, on the 11th or 12th instant. There are six companies of the rifles now in Oregon City, comprising three hundred men and twenty- two officers. I have rented a sufficient number of buildings to place this force in comfortable quarters during the winter. The buildings rented are the best in Oregon, and will be at the disposal of this regiment until next May; when it is presumed it will be required to create its own quarters. The expense of rent will amount to about $700 per month. My report for October will give you all of the amounts accurately, the designations of the houses, &c. I am unable to state it now, inasmuch as the houses are not yet assigned.
On the 1st of July I sent Lieutenant G. W. Hawkins forward with a train of some fifteen wagons, loaded with supplies for Fort Hall, to meet the rifle regiment. It is supposed Lieutenant Hawkins is now at Fort Hall, as he left with all that was necessary to insure his success.
By the transport ship "Walpole" stores of all kinds, and enough, for two years, were received. I have a large assortment of quartermaster's property yet unexamined, but apparently agreeing nearly with the list sent me by you from California. In a few days they will be examined, and my receipts forwarded to General Whiting. I cannot now inform you if any other stores may be wanted. I think none will be required within the next twelve months; but as you may know better than myself what is proposed to be done here, and as you know what stores are here; I must leave it to you to suggest what is proper. Before you return to California I will place in your hands a copy of my property return.
I have made provision to winter all the public animals that came with the rifle regiment, and can take charge of them as soon as the proper officers turn them over to me. So far as my observation goes, there will be some four hundred mules and one hundred and fifty horses to be taken care of by my agents.
As I stated to Major Cross, I can forage fifty animals in Oregon City, and thirty at this place-all others must necessarily be grazed in the interior at points already selected by me. There has been very little forage to be obtained this year in Oregon, and I have experienced much embarrassment in collecting some three thousand' bushels of oats, and about one hundred tons of hay. It has been gathered in small quantities from the farmers in the interior, and at an average price of say $1 75 per bushel, and $30 per ton. I have requested Major Allen to forward me what forage he may be able to spare, provided he can obtain any on the South American coast.
It is understood that most of the animals have arrived in a very worn down condition, and will require constant and tender care during the winter.
My means of transportation are ample enough, situated as the troops now are. I can easily supply the portion of the regiment now at Oregon City by means of river boats-the distance by water being thirty miles. There can be no supplies sent by land (the distance being twenty-five miles) until roads are opened. A rough horse-trail is the only one now open between this and Oregon City. It is cheaper always to forward supplies in this country by water than by land, and it is probable that the disposition of the troops will be such as to render it practicable by water.
Captain Hill's company was sent to Nisqually, on Puget's sound, near the middle of July last, by water, with supplies for one year. He is now situated at a point seven miles from Nisqually; and is in comfortable quarters for the winter. Should he require stores they can be sent by this river thirty miles, then up the Cowlitz river forty miles, and from that point must be packed fifty miles to reach him. It is believed that a wagon road can be opened from this point to Nisqually, and that by so doing would shorten the distance and facilitate the means of communication; but as yet there are but two ways of reaching Nisqually-one by sea, and the other by the Cowlitz river.
I have visited the valley of the Willamette, lying south from here, and found good roads and a fertile district of country. Probably the Yam-Hill country is the most productive in Oregon. It is certain that the main portion of the inhabitants (farmers) live in this valley. Most of them, however, were absent in the mines of California, leaving their farms in a state of utter neglect. I have found it almost impossible to employ any citizen laborers at any price, for the reason that all of them have gone or are going to California; and when employed they ask from five to ten dollars per day. This state of things (similar to what exists in California) has embarrassed me much, and has forbidden my making many arrangements that were required for our comfort and the good of the service. It has greatly affected Indian labor, which cannot now be relied on, except as boatmen. I give them from one to three dollars per day, but deploy them only occasionally on the water. The rifle regiment must depend upon its own labor for its improvements next year.
With regard to the military resources of this Territory I cannot say much from actual observation. There is an abundance of building material (fir timber) in all parts of Oregon. There are but few places where stone can be used, and then it is of an inferior quality, not used in building it is an indifferent basalt. I have seen no limestone, and I believe there is none; what I have used has been lime made from coral; brought in vessels as ballast from the islands of the Pacific. Good brick for ordinary purposes can be made either on this river or the Willamette, but I am told that they do not answer well for fire-brick. I have made a chimney of them, but have not had time to test them properly. In most cases lime mixed with the soil and straw, well prepared, has been found to make a good "adobe" or brick for chimneys. Coal has been discovered on the upper Cowlitz, on the Columbia near the Cascades, and near the river Alce, or bay of that name; but good samples have not yet been produced-it has always been surface coal of inferior quality. Many are of opinion that large and productive coal-beds exist in this country.
Major Hatheway has made a tour to Puget's sound, and Lieutenant Talbot made a trip of exploration south; but I have never seen their reports. It is probable that General Smith will receive them before his departure for California.
Nothing of importance can be reported with accuracy now; it is a new country, and must be explored by scientific officers. Those who have been here the longest time can give no authentic information of the country beyond the large water-courses, although there can be little doubt but that the Territory is rich in mineral and other resources.
I must call your attention to the price paid my chief clerk, Mr. L. Brooke, ($250 per month,) and request that I be permitted to retain him at any reasonable cost. He is of most excellent character-has always been connected with the army as clerk-is intelligent, trusty, and invaluable to me here. No other person, as you know, can supply his place with me; and should he refuse to serve, if his salary be reduced, I am left here crippled in my operations. I make this statement for the reason of his faithfulness to me, and his great desire to be useful to the service.
With regard to funds, I have to inform you that mine are entirely exhausted. I had expected $30,000 from California long since. No proper estimate has been made out, because, up to this time, I have not possessed the necessary data to base an estimate upon. But as you now can understand the wants of the department here, and my situation, as seen from my accounts, I would respectfully request that you may order Major Allen to turn me over whatever you deem proper. In the absence of an estimate I could say that $50,000 will be wanted, and a part of it as soon as possible. With your concurrence, I would like to send Mr. L. Brooke, by the "Anita," for the funds.
Whatever directions you may choose to give me for my guidance here, I shall be pleased to receive in writing, and follow out.
To meet contingencies in this Territory, I desire you to authorize me to draw on the Quartermaster General to the amount of $15,000. Should the funds arrive in time I shall not make use of your permission.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Captain and Assistant Quartermaster.
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