O'NEIL'S 1885 AND 1890 REPORTS
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REPORT - 1885
REPORT - 1890
GAIL EVANS REPORT ON O'NEIL'S EXPEDITIONS
By Joseph O'Neil
Handwritten manuscript in Robert B. Hitchman Collection, Washington State Historical Society,
Typewritten transcript unattributed (likely Robert L. Wood).
U.S. Senate, Document No. 59, 54th Congress, National Archives.
W. G. Steel's map of the Olympic Mountains
University of Washington Libraries Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives
(Notable are the diminished Burke Range, and the presence of imaginary Trinity Mtn.)
Lt. Joseph P. O'Neil (1862-1938), no date
Robert B. Hitchman Collection, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma
Rod Farlee, Jan. 2012
Record of His Trip Back of Port Angeles in 1885
The First man to Scale the Mountains and Push Along Their Summits to Where the Water Runs Into
Hoods Canal - Many Exciting Hunts and Adventures - A Man Lost on the Field of Ice - A Perilous
Leap Over a Crevasse - Game Abounds -- Iron Discovered -- Big Elk Yards Found -- Visited by
Friends - The First White Woman in the Olympics -- Return Home.
While stationed at Fort Townsend in 1884 and 1885 I was attracted by the grand noble front of
the Jupiter hills, rising with their boldness and abruptness, presenting a seemingly impenetrable
barrier to the farther advance of man and civilization.
Inquiries about them elicited very little reliable information, and it seemed to me that Jupiter
hills and the Olympic mountains were almost as unknown to us as the wilds of Alaska.
A few bold adventurous spirits, for the sake of a shot at game, or lured on by the thought of
mineral wealth had made some endeavors to penetrate the outer barrier of the forest and under
brush, and the steep ridges and passes of the interior, but their efforts seemed crowned with
so little success that their undertakings were either given up or the results so barren that
the termination of their adventures are unknown to us.
EXPLORATION BY COL. CHAMBERS
Col. Chambers, of the Twenty-first infantry, commanding at Fort Townsend, did endeavor in the
years 1881-82 to penetrate the mountains back of Fort Townsend and construct a trail from the
fort into the mountains.
The summer months were given up to this work and the colonel gave personal attention to the
undertaking. Had it succeeded, great benefit might have been derived by Fort Townsend and that
part of the country on its completion. After six months, I believe, of weary labor a trail was
cut to and across both branches of the Dungeness river, but in getting to the last range of
foothills the way seemed too difficult and the undertaking so impracticable that the attempt was
abandoned and the trail from then till now know only to military authorities and perhaps a few
hunters and woodmen. Though I have never been on this trail and cannot speak authoritively yet
I believe, from the lay of the country and my knowledge of the existence of a trail from
Dungeness, that the abandoned endeavor could be utilized as a cross country road between
Dungeness and Townsend. The only communication existing between those places during the year
I was at the latter place was by means of a small tug, or at times of extreme low tide it was
practicable to travel on horse back.
The country passed through by the Chambers's trail is much the same as found on the foothills
all around the mountains. Dense forests and almost impenetrable underbrush are the main features
but not the only difficulties, for windfalls, precipices and canyons abound. This undertaking
was carried on with success, determined and persistent endeavors speaks well for the intentions
of the originator of the idea to succeed in penetrating the mysteries of the Pacific slope.
There have been other attempts to explore these mountains, but up to the year I made my
reconnaissance I was unable to obtain any reliable information.
VAGUE AND USELESS INFORMATION
People had reported to me on the whole interior of the country, but their accounts I found in
many cases to have originated in their imaginations from a distant view of the mountains.
One man particularly insisted that he had poled up a certain river without difficulty, had come
almost to its head, then shouldering his canoe, he, with a party of three others, crossed a
divide and came down another river into the Pacific Ocean.
I did not hear from the others, but his plan seemed so feasible that had I been a sailor and not
a soldier I would have deserted terra firma and trusted my party and myself to the route by
A WONDERFUL STORY EXPLORED
A few weeks later, after penetrating the mountains, I found that this party had accomplished
the wonderful feet of poling a canoe up a fall of fifty feet and rapids of several miles.
Another informed me of the existence of prairies of great extent inclosed in these mountains.
Proud of the idea that I might be the first to canter over these plains I brought with me two
saddle animals. One I left at Fort Townsend; the other, after being in the mountains for some
time, I took the-first opportunity of returning to the fort.
So many reports of this kind are circulated that it is with suspicion one listened to the
narratives of men who claim to have been in and traveled through these mountains.
GEN. MILES IS SURPRISED
One evening Gen. Miles, then the commanding general of this department, having heard some of
these wonderful stories in the course of conversation expressed surprise that in so prosperous
a country so much seemingly valuable territory should be unknown.
He determined to send a party to make a reconnoissance and find out, if practicable, what the
country was, its character and its resources, in case of military emergency.
THE PARTY ORGANIZED
I was fortunate enough to receive the detail. The summer was then half gone, and as time was of
importance, the party was hastily organized and within three days started from Vancouver
barracks for Fort Townsend, the supply base. The engineer corps consisted of as bright, talented
men and expert engineers as it is the good fortune of one man to secure.
Mr. H. Hawgood, now chief engineer of the Southern Pacific, in charge of the Los Angeles and El
Paso division; Mr. R.E. Habersham, now constructing engineer of the South Coast railroad, and
Mr. Norman Smith.
These men, together with Sergeants Weagraff, green and Gore and Private Johnson of the
Fourteenth infantry, made up the party. We had with us a pack train of four mules, which we
afterward increased to eight. There was some little hesitation in selecting a starting place.
Taking into consideration the seeming nearness of the mountains to Port Angeles, we chose that
place, and on the evening of July 16 arrived at the long dock at that port.
THE TRIP TO PORT ANGELES
The trip from Fort Townsend to Port Angeles is a beautiful one and on this day the sea was
calm, and the woods, bluff and sky were beautifully reflected in the cool, calm depths below.
About 1 p.m. we passed the old town of Dungeness. It was founded in the fifties and now has
about 500 inhabitants. It is noted chiefly for its fine dairy, good timber and miserable harbor.
The country behind it had been explored for probably five miles. A trail runs south from here
to Lost Mountain, and I think this and Col. Chambers's trail could be connected. When a good
road is established between Townsend and Dungeness, I have no doubt that the whole coast of the
Peninsula can be traversed by a wagon road. Port Angeles itself was then a town with a hotel,
United States Signal Service Office and 40 people, but each man, woman and child was thoroughly
convinced that their town was the metropolis of Washington, and their harbor the safest and
easiest of access on the coast. It may be now a rising town but her hopes then looked to be
devoid of fruit, her harbor is indeed very easy to access. Ships can sail in on any tide with
any wind. It is formed by ___ shaped sandspit, varying from three-quarters of a mile
in __ running into the strait. __________________________ made the port of entry. A custom
house was to have been built the the loss of the ship Brother Jonathan, together with Victor
Smith's death, were blows from which the town is only just recovering .
A BIG EVENT FOR ANGELES
On our landing here the whole town turned out to see and help us. Our animals were soon
pastured, our stores put up and our party established at the hotel. From this hotel there is
said to be a road running in a southeasterly direction about four miles. This was then a thing
of the future, but, as a proof of their intention, a clearing, varying from three to 29 feet,
had been made, except that logs of three or more feet in diameter were sometimes left as a
reminder of what the road had been. I intended to follow this road and then take a trail which
was used many years ago by Indians in packing game from the foothills.
THE FIRST DAY'S MARCH
On the 17th we made our first day's march from Angeles, stumbling through the underbrush,
cutting and clearing logs, frequently stopping to tighten packs, averaging perhaps a mile in an
hour and a half, until we were stopped by a marsh. One mule's curiosity was strong, and in his
attempts to investigate the condition of the herbage, west down, and it was only with the
assistance of the other mules that we finally succeeded in getting him out. Here we were forced
to camp, without grass or forage for the animals, and water neither the best or easy to get,
and to add to our discomfort about one hundred yards beyond, our trail disappeared nor did we
find it again except every now and then we would come across a few blazed trees. We pitched our
shelter tents, floored them with cedar bark, and then camp assumed something of the appearance
of a pigmy tent city.
Shelter tents, though the name may sound well, are simply pieces of canvas two yards long by
four or five feet broad, two of these buttoned together, fastened to a stick at each end of the
center line and raised to the height of two feet is the shelter for two persons. To make an
entrance to these dwellings you are not expected to be either stately or graceful.
PROSPECTING A TRAIL
The next morning Messrs. Hawgood and Smith went forward prospecting a trail and a party was sent
back for the stores we were forced to cache on the last day's trip. About sunset all returned to
camp, the engineer reporting the road before us very difficult.
DISTURBED BY A PANTHER
This first night of sleep of all was so sound that once when the cry of a panther within a few
feet of our tents produced a mild disorder and almost stampeded our mules I had to awaken one
man to help look after the trail.
FIRST RANGE OF FOOT HILLS
The first range of foot hills are about five miles south of Angeles and are about five hundred
feet high. I made my way to the top of the knoll from which I could get a magnificent view
northward. Before me were the straits of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver island with its green hills,
and with the golden hue of the setting sun. Up the straits two vessels with sails were flying
before a stiff breeze on their way into port. The distant smoke of a steamer marked its
progress. The white ___ of the light-house, indicating the end ____ dangerous reef which
surrounds the harbor seemed to rise at my feet, and five miles eastward lay Dungeness.
PROSPECTING FOR GOLD
The Yennis or White Creek, a beautiful stream clear and cold, filled with trout flowed on
toward the bay. When I descended I wandered along its bank looking for gold bearing specimens.
Capt. White, of the revenue service, after whom this creek is sometimes called, many years ago
owned a ranch near its mouth, and while prospecting found gold in quantities sufficient to pay
for the working, but he was ordered to San Francisco and though others have worked they have
been unable to make it pay. I think it was due to the inexperience of those who made the
SUNDAY SPENT IN HUNTING
The next morning (Sunday) all hands went hunting - some for trails or openings to avoid bush
cutting, and the others for game. Mr. Hawgood went up the creek and found it impracticable to
proceed in that direction. Mr. Smith crossed it, and found a better route on the farther side.
Mr. Habersham, when returning to camp, stopped on the creek bank, and with his rod and fly
secured a fine mess of trout, and in crossing got a good ducking by losing his footing.
A BEAR IN CAMP
I was not able to get out this day, so remained to keep camp, and the only incident to mar the
delightful monotony of the day was the advent of a bear in camp. I had been sleeping and was
awakened by a commotion among the mules. Hastily jumping from under my shelter tent, I was
confronted, not by a mule, but a huge black bear. Being unarmed, I started for the ammunition
tent for a rifle. The bear made for the woods, and I made no attempt to molest him. The
remainder of the day was spent in gathering together frightened mules.
Trail-making was continued the next day. We succeeded in cutting and grading nearly a mile and
two dangerous hills were overcome.
ONE MEMBER IS TAKEN SICK
Sergt. Weagraffwas taken sick. He seemed to suffer greatly, and small, red spots broke out all
over him. My medicine case had no preparation for such a case. Fortunately, remembering some
salve that an old lady had given me as a cure for everything, I had him thoroughly rubbed that
day, and next morning he was entirely recovered. Since then I have always carried the salve on
my mountain trip, and found it invaluable. On the 21st we moved camp a mile and a half further
to the bank of a small creek tributary to the Yennis.
SKULL CREEK CAMP
While clearing ground for the camp a well-preserved human skull was found, so we named this
place Skull Creek camp. Next day cutting work began again. The hills were much steeper; the
first one was about an angle of forty degrees and a three hundred feet climb. Late in the
afternoon of the 23rd we again moved camp to the "Three Moles", a distance of two miles. These
"Three Moles" are large springs which seem to have no outlet, still the water is not stagnant,
but clear, sweet and cold. On this day's march two of the mules behaved badly.
MULES AND PROFANITY
During their antics near the top of Skull Creek hill, one lost its footing and tripping the
other, both rolled down into the stream. I gave them up for lost, but the packer, with the
assistance of one of the men and a large amount of profanity, succeeded in releasing their
packs, they then got up and began to graze as if nothing had occurred. I have had many
occasions to notice that the gift of volubility in strong, terse and emphatic language is a
specialty with men accustomed to handling mules, but had I never known it before it was very
forcibly forced upon my mind this day. On the next hill the mule "kicker" attempted the same
performance. This time it did not escape so luckily, for in this role its hind leg was
frightfully torn, and was so badly hurt that we were obliged to unpack and abandon it. Up to
this point we would now and then ______ the old Indian trail, which was a most peculiar one,
consisting simply of ____ trees, so that a person could keep direction, but it ran straight
with disregard to windfalls, precipices, or ___ inconveniences of mountain ______________________________ cleared to the junction of the Yennis and Annis Creeks.
This point is just past the foothills and near the foot of the first range of mountains. We
moved camp in the evening to the junction of a little promontory between the creeks.
GRUB GETTING SCARCE
On the 25th our provisions were low. Sergeant Green was sent out to supply our larder, the
others to work on the trail, it was a gloomy day and hard work told on the men now almost
fasting. The Sergeant had poor luck and returned with only two grouse.
On this part of the trip we did not find game in any great plenty. The next morning, taking Mr.
Smith with me, I started for the mountains to look out a trail. Mr. Hawgood was left in charge.
A hill I thought impossible to ascend and recommended a backward move. To try to avoid it was
the engineer's problem for that day. Mr. Hawgood felt that a backward move would delay us many
days and proceeded to fix a trail here. With the sense, judgment and good luck he has always
had in railroad construction he surmounted this obstacle and we passed without any loss, even
SHERMAN MILES RANGE
Mr. Smith and myself followed an elk trail for about six miles and came into a most beautiful
valley, surrounded by lofty peaks, completely enclosed by the mountains, and forming one of the
finest grazing grounds 1 have ever seen. These mountains seem to be a distinct range. I called
them the Sherman Miles Range, for Mrs. Gen. Miles. On the north side traces of the dense
undergrowth still exist, but at our elevation of about 2000 feet the tangling underbrush
Traces of Alaska cedar are found here, and one of my engineers reported a quantity growing near
our camp; all our firewood for several days was this valuable wood, hemlock and spruce are also
found on this range. On the ridge a vein of quartz is laid open by a slide on the rock and earth
of the mountain side. The general direction of the range is almost parallel with the strait. It
is broken here and there by peaks rising in some instances almost abruptly from and sometimes to
an elevation of 3000 feet above the surrounding ridges. Two of these peaks are noticeable. I
called them the Sister peaks. One is about 6500 feet high, and the other about 1000 feet lower.
They are just at the head of the valley, and, from the mountains looking toward the strait,
appear to be joined together. They are, however separated by a pass which is about 3000 feet
below the highest point; and is on the narrow ridge that divides the head waters of the Annis
creek from the Chambers Creek. This pass or divide, for it is in reality both, we called Victor
pass, after Victor Smith, the collector at Port Angeles, who lost his life in the ill-fated
cruise of the ship Brother Jonathan.
INDICATIONS OF IRON
On this ridge, near the Sister Peaks, I found the strongest indications of iron. While leaning
against a rock taking my bearings, the iron ore, which must have been of magnetic quality, was
so pure as to deflect my needle over 15 degrees. This spot I marked at the time with a slab, as
it was a point from which I took observations. I did not notice the rock itself at the time for
I was not looking for mineral wealth of any kind, but to find out where I was, and I did not
discover the peculiar effect it had upon my compass needle until when at some distance from the
rocks, again looking at my compass I found that my course was over 15 degrees from the proper
one, and in platting my work found that the compass readings varied about the same. The valley
itself nestles beneath the Sister Peaks and is a little gem. The sides rising abruptly are the
mountain sides and through a gap in the north end runs the Annis Creek. It is well wooded, the
grass is luxuriant and of the blue joint variety.
TROUBLE FROM A CURIOUS LITTLE ANIMAL
A curious little animal found in these mountains was first discovered here. We called it the
Whistling Marmot, though I am not sure that that animal is found in this part of the country.
The resemblance, however, is striking. One was killed by a member of the party, but I did not
see it, nor did I have a chance at any time to examine this animal closely. It has the peculiar
school boy whistle, and was the source of much discomfort to two of the party who went out after
a bear. They separated, each getting on either side of the woods, with the understanding that
should anything occur requiring the presence of the other a whistle would be given. A whistle
was given and each hastened to the other; meeting, both were surprised and for a moment doubted
the other' veracity', thinking it a practical joke, when the same whistle sounded from the side
of the mountain, and after a time it was discovered to come from this peculiar little animal.
A PECULIAR HAYSTACK ROCK
There is a curious rock about the center of the valley, which at a distance closely resembled a
haystack. The peaks around show strange, fantastic figures. The place could well be called the
mountain of the Gods. Near the highest point of the highest peak sits Jove on his chair of state
thunderbolt in hand. Prometheus, too, seems to have been transported from his Caucasian rocks to
be chained to the cold rocks of Mount Mars; and Mars, equipped for war, seems to stand in solemn
gloom on the highest point.
GROUP OF HIGH MOUNTAINS
Passing through this valley and climbing a steep ascent on the south, after a toilsome march we
reached the summit of Victor pass, and here the scene changes. Looking east, west and south
mountains, free from timber, some covered with snow, rise in wild, broken confusion. The
grandest sight is of a cluster of mountains about thirty miles or so due south of Freshwater
Bay. This cluster I set down as Mount Olympus. For this mountain, famous as it is, seems to be
a source of mystery as to where it is really located; sailing around on the ocean a mountain, or
rather cluster of peaks, is seen, and very probably some mariner gave that name to these. I have
never found or heard of any one who had up to this time, been on or near it. This cluster is
snow covered, and seems to be the center of a mountain range, the formation of which much
resembles a coil. It has no pronounced direction, but seems to circle on itself, and guard, as
the walls of a citadel, the great gem, the pride of the particular territory, its central peaks,
the formation of the mountain itself, if you choose to call it one mountain, as seen from my
point on the Sister Peaks, is that of a huge ridge running about northwest and southeast, broken
here and there by peaks, the entire ridge elevated considerably above the surrounding
snow-covered mountains. There seems to be a river running by the outer circle, the canyon is
lost to sight in the center of the mountains. This river I pronounced to be the Elwha and then
there resolved to use my party so that one division could trace it up and give light on that
most interesting part of these mountains.
Our intention was to strike the Elwha where it penetrated the range, so we prepared to descent
the south slope of the ridge, then gain the ridge on the southwest and travel westward. This was
necessary, as the sister Peaks rose so abruptly that in no possible way could we pass on this
CHASING A BAND OF ELK
While descending, we saw a band of elk about two miles away, across the valley of the headwaters
of Chambers Creek. As fast as possible we made our way towards the coveted game, for we had
tasted fresh meat only once since leaving Port Angeles. Mr. Smith was somewhat in advance and
was lost to my sight in a small cluster of trees; he suddenly came out with an excited air, an
accelerated pace and information that a large bear had disputed passage with his. When we got
to the copse the bear was hastily disappearing down the ravine, concealed from us, except for a
passing glance, by the trees and brush in the bottom. In our excitement we sent a hasty shot
after him, but failed to stop him. The report, however, frightened the elk, and the reverberation
in the valley so confused the startled band that they headed directly for us. The excitement
proved too much for us and not waiting for them to come within range, we sprang from our
concealment, fired a volley and missed them. Mr. Smith's second attempt was more successful,
for he brought down a yearling doe, breaking its back. here we camped for dinner. After our
dinner we felt more in the humor for traveling and continued our trip until dark, when we
camped on the hillside in a deserted bear's den. The night was bitterly cold and we had but
two blankets, the only way we could keep comfortable was to have a large fire, and this was a
necessity as well as a luxury, for we were not sure at what moment Mr. Bruin might wish to
reclaim his quarters.
RIFLE PRACTICE ON A WOLF
Just before going into camp we practiced with a rifle on a large wolf. Mr. Smith took him in the
leg. We supposed there were many around, but that was the only specimen of the wolf tribe I saw
on the entire trip.
The next morning we followed the ridge until we came in sight of the valley of the Elwha. This
famous valley is at this point a canyon or at best a narrow ravine, and did not enter it,
contenting ourselves with locating the gap through which it passed and turned to retrace our
steps. I found that had I begun my trail from a point between Angeles and the Elwha we could
have passed into the mountains with much less trail cutting and fewer steep hills to climb, the
timber, too, had been burned and the aggravating work of cutting through the dense, tangling
underbrush would have, to a great extent, been avoided. The country is magnificent for grazing,
and wild game is found in the greatest of plenty. Many traces of hunters were here, and a little
old log cabin in which they slept still stood under the brow of a protecting hill.
DOWN THE MOUNTAIN IN THE DARK
The home trip was very dangerous, for it is far safer to ascent than to descend a mountain.
About dark we reached Victor's pass, and here we decided to make for our camp in preference to
spending another night on the mountain. To go down at a reasonable pace a steep mountain side is
at any time a slightly risky undertaking, but to travel thus on a night so dark that it is
hardly possible to distinguid\sh an object nine feet away, is my no means a trip devoutly to be
wished for. Mr. Smith had one serious fall, and I thought at first that his back was broken, but
after a long delay he way able to proceed with a little assistance, his injuries wee not severe,
but he was vey much bruised and sore.
The last time camp was moved a bay mule had undertaken some antics on the steep mountain side,
and had shared the fate of the "Kicker". Both mules were so badly crippled as to be unserviceable,
and the horse brought along with the vain hope of cantering over the prairies, was useless as a
packer, and an ornament for which we would have no use. Feeling it necessary to replace these, I
left for Port Angeles, taking Mr. Smith with me. We had also determined to hire an Indian as a
guide and courier. Town was reached on the 28th and we shipped the condemned animals to Townsend.
New ones were hired and after much parleying, an Indian engaged and early next morning we started
for our camp in the mountains.
FIRES IN THE FOREST
Early in the summer someone had set fire to the timber in the foothills and the fire had gradually worked its way to the foot of the mountains and was creeping toward the straits. As I passed into town I noticed the fire gradually coming upon our trail and I feared it would cut our communication. We reached camp at Skull Creek at dark and halted to await the coming of the moon. After delaying about two hours we again resumed the march. Ahead of us the whole woods were lurid and the glare of the fire shone higher and higher until it seemed to almost reach the heavens. We began to have grave doubts about getting back to our party but pressed on as fast as possible. At the water hole the fire was on our trail and was burning fiercely. We sat and watched it for a long time; it was indeed a grand sight. A great quantity of dead timber and twigs here fed the flames, and the blaze next caught a huge dead fir tree filled with pitch. It was a magnificent sight to watch the flaming sheets wrap around it and rise until there seemed to be one huge column of fire. Suddenly with a crash and a roar like the thunder of a huge cannon, it broke and fell. After a time we attempted to pass, but for nearly 200 yards the flames were well nigh scorching us. The mules we had hired seemed accustomed to brush fires, and we had but little trouble with them.
CAMP ALL ALERT FOR AN OUTLAW
Shortly after midnight we hailed camp. It was fortunate I had thought to announce our coming,
for on this day a noted outlaw had escaped the sheriff and was in these woods, supposed to be
desperate for want of food. Posses from Dungeness and Port Angeles were after him, and our camp
was notified and requested to see that he did not cross our trail. About 9 o'clock that evening
it was reported in camp that a prowler was around, so close watch was kept and directions given
by Mr. Hawgood, who was in charge, to halt any one who approached or attempted to pass. The camp
was son the alert, and to add to the smothered excitement, a panther persisted in haunting the
vicinity. Roaming about its outskirts much to the serious discomfort of the animals and o little
disturbance to the men. Several times during the night that wild, weird, almost horrible howl
broke the stillness and it seemed to come from the picket line. The camp was wrought to such a
pitch that when our advance mule came crashing through the brush, had it not been for a timely
call, he would probably have been stretched on the trail with a bullet through his train.
We were joyfully received as we brought back provisions, and an impromptu feast and war-dance
was celebrated after midnight.
PANTHERS AND LEGENDS
The camp was aroused several times after this by the panther's cry resounding through the woods.
If there is anything that will make a man's blood creep it is to be suddenly awakened in the
night by that terrible salutation from our king of the mountains.
There is a curious legend among some Indians that a God, a bird of some kind, an eagle or raven,
makes its home in these mountains, and it will inflict a terrible punishment on those who by
entering them desecrates its home. Among what Indians or tribes this exist I know not, but when
our copper-colored friend saw where we were and found out where we were going, neither big pay
or the fear of being shot, both were promised him, could detrain him. He reluctantly camped with
us but during the night folded his tent and quietly stole away.
VISITED BY FRIENDS
The First White Woman in These Mountains
On the 4th of August we had finished the trail up to the mountains and were making preparations
for breaking camp when Mr. Chambers, a brother of Col. Chambers, accompanied by his son and
daughter, visited us, having made the trip to this point in about 10 hours, a distance by the
trail of probably 12 or 14 miles. They were the first who crossed the trail after us. Miss
Chambers was, I believe, the first white woman in these mountains, and we all admired her pluck
in following such a road. On the 5th we moved camp to the valley of the Sherman Miles range.
During the afternoon, in company with Mr. Chambers, his son and daughter, I climbed to the summit
of the lesser of the Sister Peaks, and while there a fog came down upon us and we experienced
great difficulty in finding camp.
MULES IN THE MOUNTAINS
We had trouble in making a trail from the valley over Victor pass. Near the summit of the ridge
there is a ledge of rocks about five feet in width, over which our animals had to pass. On one
side the mountain rose almost abruptly; on the other was a sheer fall of a thousand feet. It was
enough to make one feel the risk of handling animals in the mountains. Mr. Hawgood's engineering
qualities again came into play, and with no tools but mattocks, in an hour we had passed the
ledge without accident. There is a peculiarity of mules always noticeable in mountain work, that
they will always walk near the edge of a precipice; it seems to be their instinct to keep so far
from the wall where there is no danger of their packs swinging against it. In building a trail
the outer edge should always be made solid. On this day we successfully passed the first ridge
of mountains and crossed into the valley where heads the Chambers creek and reached the second
range. We had been from the 17th day of July to the 5th of August cutting our way through the
dense forests and undergrowth which cloths the foothills.
THE PARTY IS DIVIDED
On a prominent point of this second range of mountains our camp was made. This was to be the
main cache camp, and here all clothing, blankets and provisions not absolutely necessary were
deposited. A good view of the numerous ranges could be had from this point, and we planed our
courses from our tent. The party was to be divided. Mr. Hawgood, with one division, was to take
the direction of the Elwha, make his way to that river, then follow as nearly as possible to its
head, travel southward and come out on the south southwest slope. It was I who was to take the
other, strike southeast, find the head of the east fork of the Elwha, and then make my way out
to Hood's canal.
The main stream of the Elwha was about twelve miles from our position, and intervening were
MR. HAWGOOD HAS BAD LUCK
Mr. Hawgood, after traveling about a week, found it almost impossible to proceed. An accident
occurred on the trail which deprived him of part of his train, all his instruments and
provisions. In crossing the east fork of the Elwha and climbing the bluff on the farther side,
one of the mules in the lead missed its footing; it and nearly all the others were almost lost.
The one carrying the instruments rolled from the trail, the pack became loosened, all the
provisions, mess outfit and instruments went into the river, and it was impossible to recover
them. The poor animal, after rolling some distance, was stopped by a clump of trees, and they
succeeded in getting it to camp. No one had any hopes of its recovery, but I believe it is still
alive on Mr. Chamber's farm near Angeles. This party, hungry, tired and discouraged, returned to
the cache camp.
FOLLOWING A RIDGE
The ridge followed bore in a southeasterly direction, and was often broken by sharp peaks. Away
below me was the valley of one of the creeks which head in these mountains and flow into the
straits between Port Angeles and Dungeness. The valley was beautiful and might have been
mistaken for one of the prairies the people had spoken of. Some places it was several miles in
width and grass as luxuriant s I have ever seen. Our mules, worn and thin by constant travel,
and no food except what they could pick from tender shoots of the brush in the foothills, here
began to pick up, and notwithstanding the hard travel climbing and descending remained in good
condition, and on my return to Angeles were as strong looking as when they were taken from their
stables at Fort Townsend.
SOME CLEAR VALLEYS
Some of the valleys we passed were densely wooded but most of them were clear and capable of
immediate cultivation. On the right of the ridge ran one of the tributaries of the east fork of
the Elwha. The stream below looked dark and turbulent and the grade was so steep that none cared
to venture to take the water. On the second day's travel we were stopped by a peak so sharp and
steep as to defy the making of a trail. Here we turned to the right and made camp in a canyon of
a tributary to the tributary of the Elwha.
This canyon was enclosed by steep bold bluffs except where we descended. The ridge and peak were
of a slate or shale formation, and travel along the sides was rendered impossible by the slides.
TWO BEARS WITH THREE SHOTS
After camp was pitched Sergt. Weagraff started hunting and had not left the camp five minutes
before three shots in rapid succession were heard; as that was our signal for assistance, we all
rushed to his rescue, and found that he had killed two bears with those three shots.
I had never seen this feat accomplished before. We had a very comfortable camp that night. On
our mountain work we had become accustomed to break the ice on the water before making our not
very elaborate toilet, and here it seemed strange to find clear running water. The next morning
we retained the ridge and by cutting eastward passed the peak.
This route took us into another valley, and we crossed the headwaters of the Dungeness.
Our old ridge bore off southward, so, making our course southeast we struck another parallel to
our original direction. While crossing this valley of the Dungeness, Sergeant Weagraff and
myself, being considerable in advance of the train, came suddenly upon three large elk lying in
the shade of a small cluster of trees. After carefully selecting our game we fired, and each
finally brought down his elk. The flesh was a little tough and we afterwards became such
epicures in the matter of game meats that we wondered how we could have so demeaned ourselves by
eating it, but as many days had passed since we tasted fresh meat we relished it then. The camp
was near the sot where we had killed the elk.
GAME PLENTY FROM THIS ON
That evening the hunting party brought in a calf and from that time our larder never wanted for
About eight miles from this camp another peak arose. The descent this time was so steep on all
sides that it was unsafe to try to bring the mules down, so, leading them into camp we left them
and I resolved to tramp until we could find a place to get them over or discover the head of the
Elwha's east fork. During the last two days march we noticed that all streams ran eastward
instead of northward, and knew from that the ridge on which we traveled was the divide between
the stream's tributary to the strait on the north and Hood's canal on the east. Not being
familiar with either the name or location of these streams I could not readily place them.
Mr. Pilcher had joined us in the valley of the Sherman Miles range; taking him and Private
Johnson, each of us packing to a weight of about 40 pounds, we started from camp at 5 a.m., and
marched nearly 11 hours, when we camped in a ear's den, very tired. From here we could see the
source of the east fork of the Elwha and the field of ice from which it started. The monotony
of the day's travel was varied every now and then by a band of elk, a bear, or a deer perched
on one of the peaks. We made no attempt to shoot game, but we gave no respite to the bear when
we came across one.
RATHER A DANGEROUS FALL
Late in the afternoon, while trying to get from a mountain to the valley below and following the
bed of a dry creek, whose banks were covered with brushes, which overhanging, concealed the
pathway to a great extent, I lost my footing and fell, the incline was so great that my fall
started the loose dirt, and after sliding with it some distance my pack caught between two
rocks and stopped my headway for the moment. This gave me time to recover myself, and with the
assistance of the shrubbery on the bank I pulled myself out Glancing around, I discovered that
just below me, and not ten feet away, was a fall where, in the spring, I suppose, the water made
a magnificent jump. The fall was at least 50 feet deep, and the huge, ungainly boulders at it's
base did not look inviting. With great difficulty I got below the falls, and made the creek
The scenery in these mountains is grand - waterfalls and canyons, valleys and snow-covered
mountains. One fall attracted my special attention. It was of a stream about 10 feet wide, with
a descent of about 150 feet, then seething and foaming for a short distance, made another leap
nearly as large as the first. Large fields of ice and snow were often passed, and trees dotting
a landscape of green in the valleys.
During the several days we traveled on this trip we passed numerous bands of elk and small game
in great plenty, they were all so tame and almost confiding that it was like going into a heard
of domestic cattle, selecting your beast and killing him. Orders were very strict and no one was
allowed to shoot at any game unless the camp needed a supply of meat. Many a time did I long to
shoot and it required a strong repression of my inclinations to pass within fifty yards of a
band of elk and content myself with gazing at them.
AN EXCITING BEAR HUNT
One day I saw a bear lying on a rock sunning himself. He was a huge fellow and I was anxious to
have him. With great care I drew a bead on him, aiming at his heart. I stuck him fairly and he
tumbled from the rock. I afterwards found that the bullet had passed through the fore shoulder
and not the heart, but at the time I thought him dead. Dropping my rifle and drawing my knife I
made for the rocks behind which he had rolled. When I got there the bear was up and made for me.
Fortunately he was crippled and I got the better of him in my race for my carbine. When I
recovered my gun I managed to dispatch him by using the Apache's tactics, that of circling
around my game. He carried thirteen pieces of lead before he gave up life. This was my most
BIG ELK YARDS
While traveling in the valley you come every now and then to what I called an elk yard, the
winter home of the elk. These yards are sometimes hundreds of acres in extent. The trees are
denuded of their bark, the bushes cut down and the ground as trampled as the picket ground of
a Cavalry troop. They seem to be always found on the southern slope of a ridge or mountain,
and so hemmed in that they are, to a great extent, protected on all sides. Elk are generally
found in the valleys in the morning or evening. During the heat of the day they climb a
mountainside and rest in a cool snowfield. Deer are seldom found in the valleys except in the
very early morning or late in the evening.
ESTIMATING THE LENGTH OF THE ELWHA
The headwaters of the east fork of the Elwha I would roughly estimate to be about 25 miles from
our main cache camp, and the length of this fork is about 35 or 40 miles. I did not go to the
river itself but overlooking it, and it has a very sullen appearance The fields of ice in which
it heads is a small but very pretty field with an incline somewhat too steep for easy travel.
Passing this we continued on our way towards a peak from which I wished to take observations.
This we gained about noon time, and ascended with some difficulty. From here I could see Mounts
Baker and Rainier rising in their massive grandeur Mounts Constance, Adams and St. Helens were
distinctly visible, as was also the Sister Peaks of the Sherman Miles Range. We found ourselves
about 10 miles south and 12 miles west of Constance. Having made no provisions for camping out
we returned to the last camp, where we had left our packs. Mr. Pilcher had a few days before
gone to the pack train camp. Johnson and myself in making our way back came to a snowfield, in
which rises the east fork of the Elwha.
A PERILOUS LEAP OVER A CREVASSE
Here I had an irresistible desire to cross and not follow the trail around the ridge, which was
much longer; so leaving Johnson with instructions to watch me for a signal to come if it was
thought best, or to go around the trail if not, I started. The snow was hard packed and in many
places pure ice, and very slippery about half way down, and the incline was rather steep, here
a crevasse about 10 feet wide yawned before me. It was impossible even to estimate its depth;
to return, was on account of the steepness of the grade, the smoothness of the ice, and lack of
spikes in our shoes, impossible, so taking the only alternative I leapt it. In alighting I lost
my balance and fell, sliding down I reached the bottom much quicker and more bruised than I had
anticipated in starting. But on recovering myself immediately signaled to Johnson to go back by
A MAN LOST IN THE HILLS
He was much excited by my mishap, and in trying to come to me as quickly as possible attempted
to take a short cut, but got bewildered among the many revines and wandered away, lost. After
waiting a sufficient time for him to come up, I slowly made my way to camp, thinking to find him
there, but when I found the camp deserted my anxiety was aroused, and, lighting huge fires on
all the points around sought by this means to show him to camp. The night slowly passed but no
Johnson came, and after wandering around firing off my gun and doing all things also that could
possibly attract attention started for the pack train camp with the hope of finding him there.
I was disappointed. Everyone was sent out to look for the missing man, thinking that he might
have fallen and injured himself, but on searching every part of the trail over which we had
passed, felt that he was lost and his only chance of safety lay in his own judgment. He might
perhaps follow down the Elwha and cross Mr. Hawgood's trail, or cross it and reach the ocean.
Hastening back to the main cache camp, we found the other division of the party. A man was sent
to watch the river and all others to search for the missing man. After several days of fruitless
search no signs of Johnson were found.
Webmaster Note: Johnson made his own way to Fort Townsend about a week after O'Neil. He
apparently bushwacked down the Gray Wolf River and hiked out the Old Military Trail.
RETURN TO PORT ANGELES
When I arrived at Camp I found a courier with an order directing me to proceed to Fort
Leavenworth for duty. I delayed as long as I possibly could looking for our lost man, so leaving
the party in charge of Sergeant Weagraff to continue the search, I left for Angeles, and on the
26th of August took the boat to return.
REPAID FOR THE TOIL
We had been at work in these mountains from the 17th of July until the 26th of August. The
travel was difficult, but the adventures, the beauty of the scenery, the magnificent hunting and
fishing amply repaid all hardships, and it was with regret that I left them before I had
completed the work I had laid out for myself, and there is no doubt in my mind that my object
could have been accomplished had I the time.
WEALTH OF THE VALLEYS AND MOUNTAINS
I have spoken at length of the valleys and streams of these mountains. I had no special object
to look after; all I wished to learn was the character of the country and its topography, there
must be however, great mineral wealth here, for gold has been found in the foothills, as had
also coal. There are now two claims which have first class coal located hear Hoods's canal. Iron
ore is in some places most abundant and very pure. I also carried a specimen out which was
pronounced by the learned man to be copper. The formation of these mountains seems to speak
plainly of mineral wealth. There is no regularity about their formation, but jumbled up in the
utmost confusion, and the only regularity which does exist is that the ranges nearest the
Straight and Sound seem to run parallel to those bodies of water, and with all their irregularity,
ruggedness and at present difficult of access, the day will come when the state of Washington
will glory in their wealth and beauty.
Joseph P. O'Neil, U.S.A
[Reprinted in the Seattle Press, July 16, 1890.]
For more on the O'Neil Expeditions, see Robert L. Wood's "Men, Mule and Mountains" and "The Land
That Slept Late", and Carsten Lien's "Exploring the Olympic Mountains: Accounts of the Earliest
Expeditions 1878-1890", all published by The Mountaineers Books.
54TH CONGRESS Document
1 st Session Senate No. 59
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
January 8, 1896. -- Referred to the Select Committee on Forest Reservation and the Protection
of Game and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Squire presented the following
Letter From The Assistant Adjutant-General, Transmitting Copy of The Report of Lieut. Joseph
O'Neil, Fourteenth Infantry, of His Exploration of the Olympic Mountains, Washington, From June
to October 1890.
Washington, January 7, 1896
Sir: In compliance with the request of Prof. Mark W. Harrington, president of the University of
Washington, Seattle, Wash., of November 1895, returned to you with letter from this office of
December 3, Lieut. Joseph P. O'Neil, Fourteenth Infantry, of his exploration of the Olympic
Mountains, Washington, from June to October, 1890.
The photographs, map, and reports of members of the Alpine Club referred to therein, were not
received here with this document from the headquarters Department of the Columbia, and the
department commander says the report of Lieutenant O'Neil on this subject, or 1885, is not on
file at his headquarters.
Very Respectfually [sic]
Hon. Watson C. Squire J. C. Gilmore
United States Senate Assistant Adjutant General
Vancouver Barracks, Wash.
November 16, 1890
The Assistant Adjutant-General
Department of The Columbia
Vancouver Barracks, Washington
I have the honor to submit herewith my report of the exploration of the Olympic Mountains,
On the 9th of June, 1890, under direction of the department commander, I left this post to visit
the Sound, in order that I might make such preparations for the trip as were possible. At Fort
Townsend I engaged the steamer Enterprise to tow a covered scow down Hoods Canal to Union City.
I had procured a scow large enough to carry the entire party and outfit. This service was not
rendered An accident happened which left her in an unfit condition to perform the service, and
I was, on my return, forced to hire another vessel. I made diligent inquiries to gain all
information possible; but little had been done toward exploring of these mountains since my trip
of 1885. The Seattle Press, however, had sent out an expedition in December, 1889. I anxiously
awaited this report, which was promised me. Their full account was published in the issue of
July 16, 1890.
It was a mistake to send out such an expedition at such a season of the year in such a country.
This party spent six months or about that time in traveling up the Elwha and down the north fork
of the Quinaiult to the lake. An idea can be had of the progress they made by a comparison with
our trip up the Quinaiult. They were seventeen days in passing over ground which we passed over
in not quite three days. Their work, though performed under the most difficult circumstances,
is very nearly correct, as long as they confined themselves to recording notes of the country
actually passed over by them; but their mistakes of some landmarks render the general map of the
country which they publish not entirely correct. As I had been over the northeastern section of
this peninsula before, under direction of General Miles, my desire was now to penetrate from
Hoods Canal to the Pacific.
The plan I submitted to the department commander after my return from the Sound, June 16, was to
go up the Skokomish River to its head, to try to find the terminus of my trail of 1885, then to
proceed westward, coming out at the Quiets River, Grays Harbor, or whatever point I could make.
The intention was to make one main trail - detached parties sent in various directions were to
discover as much as possible of the surrounding country. This plan was approved by the
commanding general and followed. There is a trail over which mules carried from 100 to 200
pounds each, from Hoods Canal to Grays Harbor via Lakes Cushman and Quinaiult This trail is
about 93 miles in length, and was in itself an Herculean undertaking. No one not conversant
with the nature of this country - the windfall, the tangled undergrowth, its steep, almost
precipitous character - can appreciate the immense amount of patience and labor spent on this
comparatively small portion of the work of the expedition.
In this regard I can not mention too highly my appreciation of the energy, push, and interest of
the Board of Trade of Hoquiam, or Grays Harbor. At a very large outlay of capital they hired a
gang of men to cut a trail from their city to connect with and meet my trail in the mountains,
and of this 93 miles of trail fully 30 was cut by them. Too much credit can not be given to the
men who accompanied the expedition. These men I had spent much time in selecting, and in every
way came up to my expectation. Of Sergeant Marsh, Company G; Sergeant Yates, Company B, and
Private Fisher, Company G, I feel called upon to make special mention. Any direction I gave them
I felt sure would be executed, and that promptly. Private Fisher I made an acting corporal, and
he was placed in charge of detached parties, and after the departure of Prof. L. Henderson, the
bonanist, was acting in his place. The party consist of Sergeants Marsh, Yates, and Haffner;
Privates Barnet, Kranichfeld, Danton, Hughes, Higgins, Fisher and Krause. Private Krause had a
severe attack of rheumatism, brought on by the continuous exposure and rain, and was incapacitated
for service and sent back. He was relieved from duty on the 8th of July, but was unable to leave
until about the 20th.
At Port Townsend the representatives of the Oregon Alpine Club reported to me. I showed the
letter of instructions sent to me, and all agreed to its provisions and promised compliance. The
representatives were B.J Brotherton, naturalist; L. Henderson, botanist, and N. Lindsay,
mineralogist. After the departure of Private Krause, Mr. Church, a settler asked for permission
join, and as his services were voluntary I allowed him to accompany us and he more than made up
for the man I had relieved. J. Church, M.D., was added to the strength of the party on the
25th(?) of July. M. Price, an employee of the quartermaster's department, accompanied the
expedition in the capacity of chief packer. At various times, actuated by the absolute necessity
of the case, 1 employed men as packers. These were professional carriers of Indian extraction,
and were engaged when we were forced to have more supplies then we could carry on our backs at
a certain place by a certain time. A matter of great importance was foraging of the animals -
these had very severe labor when employed - and as grazing was not to be had at the Skokomish
Valley they were kept back at Lake Cushman, or at Hoodsport, as much as possible.
Mr. Price, the chief packer, deserves great commendation for his watchfulness and care of the
pack train, and it is due to him that in crossing one ford of the Skokomish River that we did
not lose four of our best mules. The current carried them under a drift of logs, he plunged
into the river, cut the ropes and freed the mules, and got them once more in quiet water. Three
mules were the only casualties of the trip, and it was simply providential that to so large a
party crossing so rugged a country no injury other than a broken finger was received. There was
one mule branded, "B. C.", which we thought recorded his date of birth, on account of cold and
exposure gave out; a good camp was selected and he was abandoned. Another mule, Sorais, fell
from the trail and rolled into the gorge of the Quinaiult River; she had no bones broken, and
we endeavored to save her, but all efforts were fruitless. The third, called "Weakback" maddened
by yellow-jackets' stings broke from the trail, and before she could be stopped plunged over
the precipice in the wildest part of the canyon of the Quinaiult.
Following the custom of explorers, I gave names to such places as I thought proper. I took the
liberty of calling the main range of mountains the Gibbon Range, in honor of the commanding
general. The northeast district, which is separate and includes the Jupiter Hills, the Miles
range, in honor of Major General N.A. Miles, United States Army; the third range, the Hoquiam
Range, after the enterprising city of Hoquiam, Wash. Mount Anderson, the most important mountain
next to Olympus, after Col. T. M. Anderson, Fourteenth Infantry. Two lakes at the head of the
Dusquebusch received the name of Francis and John. A few mountains were christened. All names
are carried on the map.
In the following I have arranged: First, the report of the principal incidents of the trip;
second, my remarks and conclusions after careful examination; third, photographs. I also submit
translations of the names of some rivers and places. The meaning of the names of the others I
could not get. All rivers were named by the Indians who inhabited the country at their mouths.
Also a few legends relating to this country, which show why this country was not well known to
the Indians The reports of the members of the Alpine Club are hereto appended.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Joseph P. O'Neil
Second Lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry
Commanding Expedition Olympic Mountains
REPORT OF THE EXPLORATION OF THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS
On the 24th of June a pack train under charge of Sergeant Marsh, Company G, Fourteenth Infantry,
accompanied by Packer Price and Private Barnes, left this post en route for Fort Townsend. The
next day, the 25th, the remainder of the party, consisting of Lieutenant O'Neil; Sergeant Yates,
of Company B; Sergeant Haffner, Company D; Privates Danton, Company K; Fisher, Company G;
Higgins, Company F; Hughes, Company E; Kranichfeld, Company B, and Krause, Company E, all of the
Fourteenth Infantry, took their departure, and on the 27th arrived at Fort Townsend, without
anything of importance occurring. As before mentioned the steamer Enterprise had been engaged to
convey the party to Union City, at the southern extremity of Hoods Canal. The day before our
arrival an accident occurred by which her boilers were rendered unfit for use. A delay occurred
in trying to get another steamer. We finally succeeded in chartering the steamer Louise, of Port
On the 1 st of July we steamed out of the Fort Townsend Harbor, and, after an all night run
landed at the mouth of the Lilliwaup Creek about 6 miles from Union City. There being no dock,
and the steamer unable to land, we were forced to transfer our supplies to the shore with small
boats, and to jump the mules from the deck and swim them to the shore. This was accomplished
without loss. The provisions were secured in a dry place under the bank until the pack train
could move with the first load. As we were able to carry only about a quarter of our supplies a
trip, we shipped the remainder up the creek to Mr. Taylor's ranch, to be stored until we could
The pack train in the meantime had been sent forward, lightly loaded, over the trail to Lake
Cushman. The trail was represented as being good, and the lake only 6 miles distant. Thinking
that the trip could be easily made in a few hours, nearly all the men had been sent ahead to
clear what obstructions there might be, while three packers followed with the train.
The trail had been entirely misrepresented and was very difficult to travel; the almost
perpendicular hills, heavy windfalls, miry swales, and to add to this the freshness of the
mules, newness of the ropes and aparejos causing the packs to constantly slip, rendered this
day's march about the most difficult of the entire trip. The party ahead had been almost worn
out in trying to clear the way. To add to the disagreeable features of the day, heavy rain began
in the morning and conscientiously followed us the entire day. About 9 o'clock that night camp
was pitched in a swamp, as it was too dark to proceed any farther. Owing to the constant
slipping of the packs, the falling of the mules, and heaviness of the trail, we had made about
2 1/2 miles this afternoon.
Early the next morning, July 3, the march was resumed, and Lake Cushman reached about noon. This
lake is a beautiful sheet of water, nestling under the rugged peaks of the first range of
mountains from the canal. It is about 1 1/2 miles in length by 1,000 yards in width and about
200 feet deep. It abounds in fish, the principal variety of which are the brook, lake and
Some five or six years ago a man named Rose squatted on the quarter section on the edge of the
lake, and made for himself a beautiful home. Others have followed, and there is now no section
of land not take up or squatted on within 3 miles of the lake, or between the lake and Hoods
Rose built for himself a raft on which he ferried his animals across the lake, and we were
forced to hire this old and water-soaked collection of logs to cross or spend two weeks in
cutting a trail around it. All our provisions, men, and animals were thus ferried across, and
camp was pitched on the west side of the lake in Mr. Windoffer's field.
The Fourth of July as observed, the usual order "all duty other than the usual guard and fatigue
will be dispensed with", the result of which was a great increase to our larder, and among the
others, Professor Henderson especially distinguished himself by a catch of a hundred trout,
fine, large beauties, in a few hours.
On the 5th, three mules were taken from the pack train to move the necessary bedding and
provisions for the trail workers. Scouts were sent out to prospect for a trail up the Skokomish
River, while I went back to find out the condition of the trail to Hoodsport, with a view of
changing the route by which supplies would be brought in. This trail was found to be a good one,
and was used by us from this time forward. The scouts sent out to prospect for the trail met
with no very encouraging success, and the necessity of forcing our way through the dense forest
and over precipitous bluffs dawned on us and placed us all in no very sanguine mood; and to add
to the discouragement, an incessant downpour of rain had followed us from the time we left
On the 6th, Mr. Church, a young man who had come out from the East, and had some time before
taken up a squatter's claim, wishing for experience, asked to join us. And I, anxious for the
assistance of good woodmen, readily granted it. He continued with us throughout the trip.
July 7, a trail had been cut a distance of about 4 1/2 miles, and Camp No. 2 there established.
This camp is about 500 yards from a camp occupied by a set of miners. These men are now
developing a copper mine. Some years before prospectors found hematite at this place and took
up claims, expecting to develop an iron mine. In their work they came across small pockets of
copper, and they are now developing, expecting to find a paying copper mine. The formation
there is sandstone and slate, with veins of porphyry. The copper is found in these veins of
At Camp No. 2 a bluff jutting into the river stopped further progress, and after vainly
endeavoring to get around it we were forced to bridge the face of it. This was done by felling
trees from the top in such a manner that they would lay so that when covered with dirt and
boughs they formed a ledge of sufficient width to allow a mule to pass. The entire strength of
the party was occupied for four days and a half in building this bridge, but it was done in so
substantial a manner that this piece of road, which some miners were afraid to cross, did not
even delay the pack train. By the 10th all supplies were brought up, and were cached at Camp No.
By the 11th of July a trail had been cut to Camp No. 3, a distance of about 7 miles from Lake
Cushman. By this time we had passed several rough fords in the stream, and the water being
quieter and more shoal, we undertook to travel up the bed of the stream in preference to cutting
through the fallen timber Our first trip over this new kind of a trail nearly drowned for us
two of our best pack mules, and cost the loss of the supplies they were packing. We were forced
to leave the river and continue to hew our way through the woods.
At Camp 3 I began the practice of sending our exploring parties, while the eight trail workers
continued on the trail. Thus the party, while continuing to progress toward the center of the
mountains, were enabled to discover the country on either side of the trail, and to locate
prominent points called observation peaks. The first of these parties was formed by Professor
Henderson and Private Fisher, the botanists. They ascended a peak on the left-hand side of the
Skokomish Valley about 10 miles from Lake Cushman. From this point they could locate Union City
and Hoods Canal on the south and east, and the head of the North Fork and the Skokomish river to
the north and west.
On the 14th Camp No. 4 was established in a little basin about a mile below the falls of the
river, at the east extremity of what is called the Canyon. Here another cache camp was made, and
while the packers were bringing up supplies, the remainder of the party, trail makers and all,
went out to look for a way over or through this canyon to make the divide.
The most dangerous part of the trip was experienced in scouting for trail and securing
observation points, and this was no exception. Two civilians, out for a few days' hunting, had
joined us and went with the party prospecting the North Fork. They were hardy men and good
hunters, but they made no more requests to accompany any of our scouting expeditions.
The party of the North Fork, after very severe labor, succeeded in reaching a point we called
Bruins Peak, and from here we gained first sight of what we then believed to be, and afterwards
discovered was, the East or Main Fork of the Quinaiult River. This part of the country is very
peculiar and deceptive. The main direction of the Skokomish River from its head to the lake is
almost east - to be more accurate, 12 degrees south of east. About 11 miles from the Lake, a
branch called Jumbos Leap, comes in from the south, while a mile above this junction a branch
comes in from the north. This last is the largest of the streams and a true main branch of the
river. The North, Middle and South Forks are fed by numerous small streams and rills, each of
which is separated from the other by steep, precipitous hills. This renders the country not
only difficult, but dangerous for travel. After four or five days a route was blazed across the
South Branch of Jumbos Leap, past the falls, to another supply camp called No. 6. This was about
a mile above the junction of the North and Middle forks.
The making of this trail was one of the most difficult and hazardous pieces of work of the
entire trip. After cutting a zigzag trail up the steep side of the canyon and cutting through
the woods about a mile and a half, we were confronted by the torrent of Jumbo Leap. This
turbulent little stream rushed through a canyon not more than 80 feet in width and  feet in
depth, and whose sides were perpendicular rock. Our scouts had crossed this by swinging to a
tree which grew about 2 feet from the side, and, sliding down that, crossed that stream on a
tree which we felled, and climbed the other perpendicular side with the assistance of trees and
It was a difficult problem to cross our pack train, and we spent nearly a week in trying to
bridge this, as there was no means by which to get around it.
The workers' camp had been moved from the supply Camp No. 4, to this point, which we called Camp
5. In bringing the supplies to this camp we had the first serious accident. Many mules had
fallen and rolled down the steep hillsides, but none had heretofore been injured. On this move
one of the best mules of the train, on the second pitch of the canyon hill, lost its footing
and rolled to the bottom. When we got to her to relieve her of her load, we found her hind
quarters so severely injured as to render her unfit for service for some time.
While at this camp 5, a party consisting of Judge Wickersham and several members of his family
came through with intention of penetrating the mountains and coming out of the other side of
Port Angeles. The Judge had been up the summer before, and had mistaken the North Fork for a
pass, and thought it led direct to Port Angeles. His party, however, did descend the Dosewallips
and, after almost incredible hardships, reached Hoods Canal and civilization. They were in the
mountains about twenty days.
From this camp Mr. Church and Mr Brotherton were sent to explore the main South Branch of the
Skokomish River from its head to where it empties into the main river, a few miles from the
Skokomish Indian Reservation. We had been misinformed as to the size and length of this stream,
and acting on the information received they had carried with them only three days' provisions.
It took them, however, fifteen days to make the trip and they suffered somewhat from the
scantiness of their larder.
The South Branch of the Skokomish is similar to the North, except that its valley is wider and
contains very few narrow gorges. Its tributaries are very small until near its mouth, where it
receives a very good sized stream.
Meanwhile the trail workers had been kept steadily at the bridge, and after many failures
succeeded in building a substantial crossing. The pack train was enabled to move the working
camp to Camp No. 6. Here the same difficulty presented itself as faced us at Camp No. 4. We
first made the attempt to work the trail up a ridge which lay on the divide of the Quinaiult
River; and having cut over a mile trail up the steep hillside, the scouts returned with the
information that it was impracticable to proceed farther with animals. All men were then taken
from the trail and exploring parties sent out in every direction. After an absence of nine days
a party composed of Sergeants Marsh, Yates, and Fisher returned with the information that a
route had been found to the head of the North Branch of the Skokomish. Here it was possible to
gain the divide and descend to some valley on the other side. They were unable to tell whether
this valley was of the Quinaiult Elwha, or Duckbush . Up to this time we had no fresh meat
except a deer or a bear, which had been killed by former scouting parties. This party, however,
ran across a band of elk, and killed several. Leaving Fisher to dry the meat, the two Sergeants
hastened back to report their success and show their spoils. All hands were immediately placed
on the new trail. At Camp 6, we regretted the loss of Professor Henderson, who was called home
on urgent private business.
During the next twelve days no incident of importance occurred. All hands were busy on the
trail, except Packer Price and his two assistants, who were engaged in bringing up the
During this time we had several times sent back for supplies, our bacon having run short on
account of the scarcity of game, and much wastage and loss was occasioned by the numerous falls
of the mules while fording the streams, or losing their footing on the sidehills.
The clothing of the men and their foot wear had also to be replaced.
On the 16th of August we arrived at Camp 9. Here we prepared to split up the main party, send
off smaller expeditions, while sufficient numbers were left to carry the pack trains to the
center of the mountains, where the smaller parties returning would report.
The Skokomish river, from the head of the North Fork to the lake is a turbulent stream ~ a
torrent at times, full of falls and rapids, until within a few miles of the lake. It is about
25 miles from the head to the lake. The Middle and South Forks are short streams, and their
only interest is their turbulence. The Skokomish River, from the lake to its mouth, is a very
fair-sized stream, averaging in depth from 4 to 5 feet. Its great drawback is a gorge filled
with rocks and boulders, through which it rushes. It is joined a few miles above the Skokomish
Agency by the South Fork.
The formation of the upper river is massive slate, coarse sandstone, and a sprinkling of barren
quartz and porphyry, carrying no mineral, with the exception of a small quantity of iron and
copper before referred to. The timber growth consists of fir, red cedar, Alaska cedar, hemlock,
mountain hemlock, white pine, alder and vine maple. The principal berry shrubs are the heath,
rosaceas, and gaultheria families. There was only one food plant found in the valley, which was
a pucadenum, of the umbellifera family.
There was great difficulty in procuring forages for the animals. It was necessary to keep them
back at the lake as much as possible where they could get grass. The charges here were so
exorbitant that I kept them at Hoods Canal as much as possible. We found no grazing until near
the head of the North Branch, and even here it was dangerous to allow them to graze, as our
botanist had found poisonous stagger weed (Acconite montanus).
Having come within a day's march of the divide, and feeling now that there was no doubt of the
possibility of crossing it with a pack train, directions were given for the various parties to
start on their respective trips. Mr. Church, with one assistant, was directed to proceed to the
head of the South Branch of the Skokomish, from thence he reached the Winooche, to go down that
stream to its mouth, then to go up the Whiskan to its head. Mr. Brotherton, with Sergeant Yates,
was sent down the stream first seen by the party of sergeants, while prospecting for a trail,
and which I afterwards discovered to be the Duckabush, and to also find the head waters of the
Taking Privates Fisher and Danton, I started out to find the head of the east or main branch of
the Quinaiult, to follow that stream to the lake. From the lake we were to cross over to the
head of the Humptolips River. The thorough exploration of this stream was not at first considered
necessary, but the conflicting reports as to the source of the stream, the mineral wealth, the
timber and agricultural lands, the general characteristics of the country, together with the
communication from the Assistant Adjutant-general directing that if possible a thorough
examination of the Humptolips and Whiskan be made, decided me to make as accurate a map and
gain as good a knowledge of the country as possible.
Mr. Church had very rough experience, his assistant, Dr. Church, who had recently come from
Washington D.C., had volunteered his services and was sent on this trip. Mr. Church once, while
trying to scale a bluff overhanging the west fork of the Satsop River, lost his footing and fell
several feet, and though his injuries were not severe, he lost much of his provisions, ruined
his compass, and was left in an almost destitute condition. For five days they were forced to
exist on berries or whatever other food they could find. The doctor had his first taste of shoe
leather as a food. After many severe trials the mouth of the Wynooche was reached. The doctor,
who had been crippled, was left at a farmhouse, while Church proceeded as best he could up the
Whiskan . He was assisted much by the kindness of the settlers, who have taken up all surveyed
land in that district.
This party reported their trip as having been very severe; that the country around the head of
the south branch of the Skokomish is very rugged and of no use except for timber. The Satsop
River is formed by the junction of five small streams, these formed from numerous creeks and
rills. The Wynooche rises back in the mountains, and is formed from many small streams. The
Whiskan does not extend as far back as the mountains, and has been surveyed almost to its head
by or under the direction of the Government, and all sections laid off taken up either under
the timber law act, or homesteaded, or pre-empted.
The incidents of the trip undertaken by me and our two men were as varied and dangerous as those
of the other parties, and a few words will suffice to illustrate the character of the country.
Camp No. 9 in the Skokomish Valley, was the cache from which all parties started. This was
situated about 5 miles from the headwaters of the North Fork in the creek bottom. About 2 miles
away was the summit of the ridge -- the divide of the Skokomish and Quinaiult rivers. The top of
the divide was 3,500 feet above our camp.
At 5:30 a.m. we started, loaded with (?) pounds a man. The hillside was so precipitous that were
it not for the huckleberry bushes, which grew in great profusion, we would not have been able to
have made the ascent. At 11 a.m. we had accomplished 2,000 feet. We had come to a perpendicular
cliff of slate; our only hope was to find some place to scale it. There was no possibility of
gaining the height at any other place; careful inspection showed the ledge, some places nearly
a foot in width, others hardly 6 inches. This we essayed, and after hanging to this frail
support for nearly an hour and a half, we finished this first part of the climb by 1:30 p.m.,
having gained nearly 3,500 feet. By the side of a small lake we took a rest and lunch, then
again the perilous work. At 5 p.m. we first sighted the Gibbon Range, and its snow crowned
peaks, from the summit of the long-wished-for Quinaiult Divide.
Descending into the valley of the Quinaiult we caught an elk trail. Following this some distance,
passing a huge sugar-loaf mountain standing alone, we came to where a mountain, almost denuded
of timber, seemed to be the home of bear and elk. One of the strangest freaks I have ever seen
forced its unwelcomed strangeness on us. An elk trail as broad as a wagon road, as well beaten
as a towpath, stopped abruptly on the edge of a precipice. How many elk had been fooled as we
were? This nearly cost the life of some of our party. We attempted to climb down the
promontory-like cliff, but after a short distance were forced to seek the bed of a dry creek;
this, after we had followed it for some time, ended in a fall of some 50 feet. Toiling back,
clinging to every bush, we finally reached a place where a smaller stream joined. From this we
made our way to the bed of the main stream. Selecting as level a place as we could find we
camped, as it was now dark. Early next morning, again trying to reach the river bed, Private
Danton nearly lost his life. He was swinging to a ledge on a cliff when his feet caught, and
but for prompt assistance would have been thrown below.
A little before noon we reached the bank of the Quinaiult River. This river heads at the base of
Mount Anderson. On Mount Anderson are three glaciers; from these, streams are formed which form
the main stream.
Mount Anderson, if not the highest, is as important as any mountain in this district. It is the
most prominent peak - much more so than Mount Constance - in the southeast part, and at its base
four of the most important rivers rise, viz, Quinaiult, Duckabush, Dosewallips and a branch of
the Elwha. It stands the second peak in Gibbon Range and bearings can be taken on it from any
point in the mountains.
After a very heavy tramp of five days we reached Lake Quinaiult. This is a sheet of water about
5 miles in length, by 3 in width, and is very deep, many places 300 feet or more. It abounds in
fish, and the Quinaiult salmon - found only in this lake and river -- is said to surpass the
famous Chinook of the Columbia. Trout of all kind abound.
The country of the Quinaiult is very different from that of the Skokomish, the bottoms are much
wider, the stream is not as turbulent, nor canyons as numerous. After the junction of the North
and East Forks, about 10 miles from the lake, the river becomes a large-sized stream, in spring
very rapid. It was just below the junction that the party sent by the Seattle area press met
with an accident, by the capsizing of their raft, which nearly ended in disaster. The North
Fork is a stream nearly as large as the East Fork, rising just south of Mount Olympus. It has
very little bottom land and is very boisterous. The valley from the junction is well adapted
for agriculture. It is fertile bottom land about 3 miles in width.
After spending a few hours as guests of a Mr. McCalla, which time was used in inspecting the
lake and trying to get a photograph of it and the peak which stands like a sentinel over it, we
started for the Humptolips River. After a three-day jaunt we reached Humptolips City. This city
has two houses and a name. Here I sent Fisher and Danton up the East Fork while I with an old
trapper explored the North Fork. We spent altogether twelve days in this section, and then
crossed over to the Hoquiam River.
My completing the Humptolips and the Hoquiam, finished the rivers on the southern slope of the
mountains. A few words may give an idea of its resources, the resources of the country south of
the main mountains. This extends from the Pacific Ocean to Hoods Canal, a distance of 65 miles.
On the south it extends to the Chehalis River, a distance of about 25 miles. The soil, except
in the southeast, however, is very rocky. Timber is to be the great production for many years,
and the supply does seem inexhaustible. The principal trees are fir, pine, red cedar, larch,
alder, water maple. The red cedar and fir, however, are the most numerous. The soil where it
has been cleared produces the first season, and requires but little cultivation.
There are some small patches of ground bare of trees, called prairies; these have all been
taken; in fact, all surveyed land has been settled on and many squatters located on unsurveyed
sections. But there is a great evil, one that will injure the development of the country; that
is, large tracts of land controlled by one person or corporation. A large amount of this land is
so controlled; three townships on the Humptolips has thus been kept from settlement. Besides
this many other tracts are held from settlement unless settlers pay about three times the amount,
or more, than that charged by the Government. This entire strip of country, about 60 miles in
length by 25 in width, is what might be termed a rolling country, heavily timbered, but when
cleared, very good agricultural land.
When we arrived at the Hoquiam River, we found it so affected by the tides that at high water
steamers could navigate it for about 12 miles. At what is called the Hoquiam Landing, we found
a small steamer and a party of engineers of the Northern Pacific Railroad under charge of Mr.
Davis. They had been prospecting a route for a road from Grays Harbor to Crescent City or some
point of the Straits. A point at or near Crescent City was thought by them to be the best point
for a terminus. The road was found to be practicable. We traveled together on the steamer until
Hoquiam was reached, where we separated, their party going to Aberdeen while we remained in
Hoquiam to pass Sunday, as no means of transportation could be had.
The people of Hoquiam were very civil and hospitable, and made our stay very enjoyable. The day
was spent in looking over the harbor and country around.
The resources of Grays Harbor are very great. Not only the country before spoken of, but the
entire west coast north of it must here seek an outlet. The harbor is a good one. It has had
very little assistance or work, yet vessels drawing 16 feet have sailed in.
It was now the 31 st of August, and an immense amount of work remained, and I feared that I
would be forced to abandon and send back the pack train for the sake of putting all men to work
exploring, but the Board of Trade of Hoquiam offered to finish a trail into their town if I
would use it. I accepted their offer, provided it was finished by September 25. I then started
for Union City by steamer and rail. It would have taken me two weeks to have retraced my steps,
whereas I could reach my mountain camp over my trail in a three day's march.
Mr. Brotherton and Sergeant Yates had a rough trip. They had followed the Duckabush divide,
discovered the head of the Dosewallips, and traced the course of both streams to Hoods Canal.
Judge Wickersham's party had gone down before them, and had come out at the south of the
Dosewallips some few days before. This latter party had suffered considerably from lack of food;
one of the party had been poisoned, and was swollen almost beyond recognition.
There are only a few miles on the east side of the mountains -- perhaps will average 5 -- fit
for cultivation, the remainder steep hills or deep canyons. A large quantity of good timber is
found, all of which is proved up on and sold to mills, but from the entrance of the Canal little
else of value is discovered. At the head of the canal the Skokomish Indian Reserve is laid out
and inhabited by about fifty Indians. This is excellent land, and raises fine crops of hay,
besides many farms cereals. These Indians are civilized, live in houses, own and cultivate
farms, and are seemingly very prosperous; but their morals are the Indian morals - they are
suffering from the effect of their animal life. In a few years they will be extinct.
The streams on the east side of any importance are the Skokomish, Duckabush, Dosewallips, the
Quillicene; the minor streams are the Lilliwap, Eagle Creek, Humma-Humma, the Fulton Creek;
these last rise in the foothills and do not penetrate into the mountains. Of all these the
Skokomish is the largest and the most important.
The mountains are more precipitous on this side; within 5 miles of the canal they are nearly as
high as they are in the heart of the mountains. This stretch of country, rough, precipitous, cut
by deep canyons and gorges, extends for about 35 miles; this country is absolutely unfit for any
use except, perhaps a national park, where elk and deer would be saved. The scenery is well
suited for such purpose, and I believe that views there are unequaled in the world.
By the 7th of September all the parties had arrived in camp. While we had been scouring the
country Mr. Lindsay and Sergeant Marsh had been left with eight others to complete the trail
to the foot of Mount Anderson and get up all supplies. This had been finished by September 6
so that we now had an abundance of supplies in the heart of the mountain.
From Mount Anderson we were able to locate Mount Clay Wood, which I had located and named in
1885, while exploring in the northeast section of this district. Mount Constance, or the Three
Brothers, can not be distinguished from the interior of this country. It is here where the party
sent by the Seattle Press last winter made a mistake by attempting to locate points from these
two mountains. They mistook Mount Anderson for the Brothers and probably Mount Clay Wood for
Constance, and this miscalculation threw them probably twenty miles out of their course.
From our camp (14) at the foot of Mount Anderson, we could gain a fair idea of the general
direction of the various directions of the different mountain ridges. There are three principal
directions in which the mountains run, and form that number of distinct divisions.
These ranges were called the Gibbon Range, the Miles Range, and the Hoquiam Range.
The Gibbon Range starts at the southeast corner at Lake Cushman and extends in a northwest
direction to near the Quillayute River, where it sinks into low foothills. The principal peaks
are Mounts Eleanor, The Brothers, Anderson, McMillan, Olympus, and Lee. The rivers are the
Skokomish, Quinaiult, Duckabush, Dosewallips, Quiets, Raft, Ho, and the branches of the
Quillayute, the Elwha. The lakes are Crescent, Quinaiult, and Cushman.
The Miles Range occupies the northeast corner of the district. The Jupiter Hills form the east
part of this range. The principal rivers are the Quilicene and Dungeness; there are many small
streams and creeks flowing into the Sound and Straits. Its principal peaks are Mounts Constance,
Clay Wood, and Sherman; this last peak is now called Mount Angeles by the people at Port
Only a portion of the Gibbon Range is visible from the Sound, while nearly the entire extent of
this range can be seen any bright day from the steamers. The Gibbon Range shows well from the
The third - the Hoquiam Range - extends from Mount Anderson southward, then west until it loses
itself in rolling foothills near the Pacific. Its northern slope is drained by the creeks
flowing into the East Quinaiult, while the Satsop, Wynooche, Humptolips, and also the South
Skokomish drain its southern slope. The Whiskan and Copalis do not take their rise in this range
proper, but in the foothills.
On our arrival at Camp 14, on September 6, we were all much worried at the report that is was
impossible to proceed with the mules; they would have to be returned. Mr. Lindsay reported that
he had used every endeavor to find a way out. In fact things did look gloomy, and it seemed as
if nothing without wings could pass from that divide. Old tactics were resumed - every available
man was sent out to prospect for a trail. My intention was to get into the valley of the
Quinaiult. This meant getting down 3,000 feet from the divide - a feat that nearly cost the life
of a man when we essayed it nearly a month ago. That time we had no pack mules to get down.
After a search of thirteen days a place was found where, with some work, a trail could be made
All hands were set to work. The river was 3,000 feet below us and the descent almost
perpendicular, but by zigzagging - making nearly five miles to go three-quarters -- we finally
reached the bottom. Camp 15 was made on the Quinaiult side of the divide. From this camp all
extra baggage was ordered back. Each man was allowed one blanket and one piece of shelter tent;
an extra pair of socks and one of under clothes was to be packed in each knapsack. One month's
provisions was reserved. Sergeant Marsh was ordered to take one man and the packers, bring the
stores to Hoodsport, and be back at Camp 15 by the 22nd.
We had been much troubled by yellow jackets stinging the mules. The north slope of the
Skokomish-Duckabush Divide, over which the trail ran, was so infested with these insects as to
render it almost impassable. Numerous small fires were started to burn out their nests. These
fires spread and when the train attempted to pass to Hoodsport the trail was almost obliterated.
Two of the mules lost their footing and rolled over 100 feet, landing in the creek bottom. When
they were again gotten on the trail they were found to be so badly injured that the packs were
thrown aside and the mules abandoned. They followed the train as far as Camp 6. The orders I had
given to the chief packer were, should any mule in falling break its leg to kill it, but if
injured and there was any hope of its recovery to try and leave it at one of our abandoned
camps, so that if it recovered it could be reclaimed. When we had all gotten out of the
mountains I sent Sergeant Marsh back to try to recover the mules and their packs. One mule
marked B. C. had gotten as far as Lake Cushman and had died the day before the Sergeant arrived.
The other he succeeded in bringing to Hoodsport. It died the day after its arrival.
The pack train on its return made two endeavors to pass this burning hill and failed. The men,
discouraged, wished to abandon the attempt, and had a less determined man been in charge we
would have been deprived of our pack train. Sergeant Marsh overcame all the difficulties, and
returned at 5 o'clock of the day he was ordered to report.
On the 16th of September directions were given for parties to prepare for the final trip
through the mountains. Two parties were formed. Mr. Lindsay, the mineralogist, a man who had
spent many years in prospecting mountains, was given charge of the party going north. He was
to find the source of the Elwha; to place the copper box of the Oregon Alpine Club on the
summit of Mount Olympus, if possible; and send parties down the Ho and the three branches of
the Quillayute. The party was to assemble some place on the Solduck and make for Port Townsend
and await my arrival. This was one of the most important expeditions of the entire trip, and I
thought I had selected a competent leader. Mr. Lindsay was given Sergeant Yates, Privates
Fisher, Danton, Kranichfeld, Hughes, and Mr. Brotherton, the naturalist. They carried
twenty-five days' provisions with them.
I took the other party. Its purpose was to get the pack train to Tade Creek, a tributary of the
Quinaiult, where the Hoquiam people were to meet us, then up the North Fork of the Quinaiult,
over some of the country explored by the Seattle Press party, to find the head of the Quiets
and Raft rivers and follow them to the ocean. The pack train, after we left it, was to follow
the trail which had been cut by the Hoquiam people to Hoquiam, and there take steamer for
Portland. Coming down the divide was a dangerous piece of trail for the mules. Looking at them
from below they seemed like flies coming down a wall. They had become accustomed to this kind of
travel, however, and no mishap occurred. Soon we were traveling down the valley of the
Quinaiult. The country was so comparatively open that in five days the train was able to make
the forks, and for two days traveled behind the trail makers.
The day before arriving at the forks we lost another mule. We had passed the dangerous places
on the trail, and were congratulating ourselves on having passed safely through the canyon, when
we noticed a commotion among the mules. They had run into a yellow-jackets' nest. Blinded with
pain, they broke from the trail; four made for the bluff. We succeeded in stopping three, but
one passed, and with one bound was over the edge, and the dull thud told us that she had struck
on the first ledge nearly 200 feet below. Under ordinary circumstances I would not have allowed
anyone to undertake a climb so dangerous for so little gain, but this mule, in her pack, carried
the coffee and some public papers of mine. By the aid of the omnipresent huckleberry bushes I
swung down to her, followed by the packer, the doctor, and Haffner, and reached the place where
she was held to the side of the cliff by two trees, which she had fallen into. It was impossible
to recover anything except a small bag of rice which loosened in her fall. Her neck was broken.
We continued our march, nothing of note occurring until we separated from the pack train the
The 22nd of September was the day we sent the pack train back to civilization, while with Mr.
Church, Dr. Church and a Mr. West I took my direction for the bend of the North Fork of the
Quinaiult. Sergeant Marsh, with a man named McCarty, was directed to cross the Hoquiam Range
and try to strike the head of the Humptolips River. We found the traces of many camps of the
Seattle Press exploring party, and comparing their report, which I had with me, I found that it
was a very accurate description of the country passed over. Their map, however, is not entirely
correct, from the fact that they took bearings on mountains which they supposed were Mounts
Constance and the Brothers, which were Mounts Anderson and Clay Wood. These mountains are much
farther from the canal than the mountains they supposed they were sighting at. This threw their
map and their position much out of its proper place. They must have traveled very slowly, for in
three days we passed over the distance that they traversed in seventeen days.
At the mouth of the main canyon we sought to make the divide, but were forced by the steepness
of the mountain into the bed of a creek which joins the main stream at the canyon. The creek we
called Canyon Creek. Its banks rose perpendicularly from its narrow bed, sometimes to the height
of 200 feet. At every few rods cascades varying in height from 10 to 50 feet and the damp walls
of porphyry presented a spectacle which might have at any other times pleased us, but now only
wearied us. Wet through to the skin, and tired and hungry, we made camp in this rocky bed,
having progressed only 2 1/2 miles since 10 o'clock a.m. The next day a little after noon we
made a lunch camp in a beautiful park about 500 feet below the ridge of the divide. After lunch
we pushed on to gain the summit, and here we beheld far in the distance the sinuous course of
the Quiets River wending its way to the ocean.
Mount Olympus with its forty glaciers, loomed up above the jaggy mountains that surrounded it;
its height has been heretofore greatly overestimated. The actual height, as taken by our aneroid
while our party was at the summit, is only 7,875 feet, but its immensity makes the mountains
around it, though they are only from 1,000 to 1,200 feet lower, seem insignificant. The Quiets
River rises on the southeastern slope of Olympus, but it has large tributaries coming in from
the south and the north; its general direction is almost due southwest. Mr. Church and the
doctor were sent down this river. Mr. West and myself turned back to find the head of the Raft
River. I was much disappointed, expecting to find the Raft one of the largest of the western
rivers, that I had passed its source, which was so insignificant that I had overlooked it. On
our return we found it and traveled on the ridge some distance to observe it and get its general
direction. We then turned eastward to strike a stream on the other side of the divide which we
knew to be the North Fork of the Quinaiult, or one of its tributaries. We reached it, but were
unable to travel either on the ridge or hillside and again forced into the bed of the stream.
Down grade is always more dangerous than uphill work. We had several narrow escapes. In the most
perilous place we lost our footing and rolled together to the brink of a precipice, where we
were stopped by a small tree that had fallen there. The only injury, besides some bruises, was
a broken finger. This was the most severe accident that happened to any member of the expedition,
and it was providential that traveling with so large a party over so rough a country no more
serious accident should have occurred. Once again that day, in descending a place where the
water fell about 15 feet, we attempted to slide down the rocks in a shallow part of the stream,
of course, intending to go down feet first; but my spike catching in a crevice, I reversed my
intention and position, and dove into a deep pool of water. It was fortunately so deep that I
sustained no injury, other than breaking my watch and losing all the provisions I carried.
This stream increased in size very rapidly, fed by its numerous tributaries, and I was puzzled
to know where it joined the North Fork of the Quinaiult. But what puzzled me more a little later
was where the stream we had been following, a rushing, foaming body of water, fully 30 feet wide
and from 6 inches to 5 feet in depth, disappeared and as completely as if it had never existed;
and for three hours we tramped along in its bed, which was a dry as if water had never touched
it. We dug several feet but found no water At last we had about resolved to make a dry camp,
when just in front of us flowed the stream, much larger than where it disappeared We afterwards
noticed a great many of these freaks, the water sinking and again rising some 8 to 10 miles
We had mistaken the location of this stream, for instead of flowing on to the North Fork it
makes a curve and joins the main Quinaiult River about 5 miles above the lake. I called this
stream the West Branch for Mr. West. He proved himself a thorough mountain man.
On the 28th we arrived at the lake and were glad to get under shelter once more, for we had
been in a drenching rain for three days and nights. After drying ourselves, we started in the
canoe across the lake and down the river to the ocean.
The Quinaiult Indian Reservation extends to and includes the waters of the lake. It contains
about 30 square miles and about 100 Indians.
The Quinaiult River from the lake to the ocean is about 35 miles in length, but it is rendered
this long by the great number of bends, it being a very tortuous stream; with comparatively
little expense it could be rendered navigable for steamers. The agency is situated at the mouth
on the left bank of the river. It is a rather neat looking village. The Indians all live in
frame dwellings, some of which are very comfortable in appearance. There is no agent there at
present, and the school superintendent, Mr. Sager, is now in charge. The Indians were well
behaved, orderly, and have attained a higher state of civilization than any I have seen, and
they seem contented One of the saddest sights is the number if Indians that are blind, or nearly
so. This is caused to a great extent by the smoke in their shacks.
When we started on the lake in our frail bark the rain accompanied us and was a constant
companion during the two days we were paddling down the river; many times we were forced to
land and bail out. About 7 miles from the agency the Indian habitations appear; they are spread
with great scarcity down the river from this point. We stopped over night at Ha Ha a Mally's
place; this place was occupied by Charley High as man Chow Chow and Ha Ha a Mally and their
squaws and papooses. It was any port in a storm, and the rain had given us such a thorough
drenching that I was willing to go anywhere. It was an agreeable surprise at the neatness of
everything, and especially the cooking, the squaws even washed their hands before beginning the
preparation of the meal, which consisted of dried fish, boiled potatoes, coffee, and bread. The
rain had continued during the night, and was raining torrents when, after a warm breakfast ~ an
unusual thing -- we continued our way down to the agency, where about noon we arrived. We were
treated very kindly by the superintendent, given dry clothing while ours were drying, and a good
dinner. In looking over the reports of prior agents I found the reservation classed as worthless
land by many. The present superintendent seems to have inspected it more closely, and agreed
with me that this land is exceptionally good.
The Indians are anxious to have their lands allotted in severally. This would be advantageous,
for at present there are very few Indians occupying this immense tract, and none of it is
cultivated or worked, except a few acres near the agency. The reservation contains exceptionable
land and very good timber; there is some swamp land near the center, but it is only about 8
miles in extent.
I had arrived at the agency on the 30th of September. At dinner I was informed that the party
under Mr. Lindsay had passed through the day before, on its way to the O He Hut, to take steamer
for Hoquiam, so instead of delaying here to rest I immediately started to overtake the party and
arrived at Hoquiam on the 1st of October.
The party to explore the northwest section had suffered considerable hardships, and the travel
was very rough. I do not feel satisfied, however, by the work done by them, and on account of
the early camps made and the time wasted in them, they were unable to carry out their
instructions. And I was much disappointed that I had no explorers of my party to go to the
railroad engineers' trail at the mouth of the Bogachiel and Solduck rivers, where they unite
and form the Quillayute. Still, this lack was supplied by Mr. Davis's notes which were sent to
me, and which I have freely used in compiling my map of this portion of the country.
Mr. Brotherton fixed the copper box, containing records of the trip and records from the pages
of the Oregon Alpine Club, on the summit of Mount Olympus, where, I believe, human foot had
never trod. From this summit they could descry the Ho in the far distance. Private Fishers, who
had been acting, and with much success, as botanist since Professor Henderson's departure, got
separated from the party, struck the head of the Quiets, and followed it down to its mouth.
Two days later Mr. Lindsay got on the same river, and having mistaken his bearings, thinking it
was the Ho or one of the branches of the Quillayute, followed and got traces of Fisher, who had
by that time become convinced that this must be the Quiets. The foot wear of the men, however,
had given out, and the rations were low. Mr. Lindsay thought best to bring the party down to
Hoquiam, where the various other parties I had sent out were to meet. Had this trip no results
other than ascertaining the height of Olympus, it would have been a success, but though it
failed in it exploration of the Hoh and the Quillayute, it located the head of the Elwha and the
Ho - this latter from a distance, however - as I was afterwards able to supply most of the
missing data of the Quillayute district. The Ho is the only river of the west that we must pass
with no remark.
The country on the west side of the mountains is capable of great possibilities; though the
undergrowth is rank and luxurious, and the entire country heavily timbered, it is no more
difficult to clear than are the farms of western Washington. There are many patches of so-called
prairie land on all the rivers. The river bottoms have very rich soil, and are mostly covered
with alder and vine maple in the valleys. All the country will eventually make good farm land.
Before this is accomplished many million feet of timber will have been taken from it. With a
market for the lumber there is hardly a quarter section that would not almost pay for itself.
Our explorations or the reports received from auxiliary parties did not extend north of the
Quillayute River, but from that river to Grays Harbor, a distance of about 80 miles, and for 25
miles back, the country is the same as that on the south slope of the mountains before referred
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jos. P. O'Neil
Second Lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry
Commanding Olympic Mountains exploring expedition
REMARKS ON THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS
In The summer of 1885, under the direction of General Miles, then commanding the Department of
the Columbia, I made my first trip into these mountains. The strength of the party was eight
men, and we had eight pack animals. We spent about six weeks, when I was ordered back to
Leavenworth, and the entire party returned
That time I started from Port Angeles. The trail was cut from that town southward to Mount
Sherman. The name of this mountain has since been changed by the people of Port Angeles to Mount
Angeles. Near this peak we found a pass which led across the first range of mountains to the
head of what we called Hawgood Creek. The mountains of the northern slope, like those of the
eastern, come close to the water. The first range is only about 9 miles from the Straits.
The trail from Victors Pass goes straight south until the ridge on the south side of Hawgood
creek is reached; it there tends southeast about 12 or 15 miles. In passing on this trail from
the summit of any of the peaks the Dungeness River can be seen, while south of it the most
eastern and northern branch of the Elwha runs.
The southeasterly direction of the trail is stopped by a very sharp peak; at this point it turns
almost south for about 10 miles, when it was abandoned. On this trail some very fine but small
valleys are passed. Game - elk and deer - were found in great abundance, and after passing the
first divide, until the slope of this tributary of the Elwha, no undergrowth was found. There
are three small valleys that at the time I believed would be valuable for small ranches.
The timber in all sections is much the same. Alaska cedar was found on the first ridge, south of
Angeles, near its summit; a few trees of Port Orford cedar were found there as well as on the
There is, I believe, no precious mineral in these mountains; some few specimens of gold have
been found, but entirely placer. Captain White many years ago owned a place on White of Yennis
Creek, near Port Angeles. He tried washing for gold. I have lately discovered that he stopped
because it did not pay expenses. Gold has been panned on the Lilliwaup Creek in the southeastern
section, but only a few colors were found. Old experienced miners prospected this place, and it
is on record that the men panned $1.50 in one day. Even the most sanguine abandoned their
prospecting trips. An article was shown to me saying that an assayer had determined that a piece
of ore brought from these mountains carried $200,000 to the ton (estimate of Mr. Everett, of
Tacoma, Wash.). I would unhesitatingly pronounce this bosh. Such ore never came from these. I
found one man with more magnificent specimens of silver in the mountains. I took him with me,
made him all kinds of promises, and at last found out that they were products of a mine in the
Cascade Range. Many unprincipled men have done this and reaped rich harvests from speculators.
Quarts, porphyry, slate, and such gold-bearing rocks abound. In the valley of the East Quinaiult
I found a vein of quartz fully 3 feet thick, but barren. Because quartz is found in gold fields
it does not follow that gold is found in quartz fields.
The reason I assign for the absence of precious minerals here is that these mountains bear every
indication of being of very recent formation, and I fully believe they are.
There is, however, a ledge of copper. I first discovered it in the Skokomish Valley, and
afterwards found traces of it on the Wynooche, Whiskan, and Humptolips Rivers; the ledge
appeared to be the same, and was in the same formation. Parties are now prospecting this in
the Skokomish, Wynooche, and Whiskan valleys. There have been no favorable reports of this yet
received. The best indications I saw were at the head of the Humptolips River.
While out in 1885, south of Angeles, I found strong indications of iron. This was a magnetic
quality, and its effects on the needle of my compass was marked. I did not, however, at the time
examine it and lost by a mule's fall all my specimens. Though many reports have been sent out
about the quartz of coal of this district, I have seen no specimens, nor have I ever come across
any indications. I made a diligent search for any trace of limestone and found none, there is
in the copper ledge an agate that at first I thought might be some crystal of lime, but the
mineralogist decided that it contained no trace of lime. I was also informed that on the Prairie
River, a small branch of the lower Quinaiult, limestone was to be found; but in passing down by
it I could see no formation to induce me to waste time in prospecting it, especially while I had
three experts who passed within 10 miles of this creek through a canyon where the walls had been
cut several hundred feet, and while they were looking for it did not discover the slightest
trace. As I reached Humptulips City great excitement prevailed because of the report that in the
canyon, some 20 miles above, granite had been found. 1 took with me an expert I had sent to me
for this special trip. I got down into the canyon, at the imminent risk of my neck, and the
nearest approach to granite was porphyry.
There is a great wealth in this district, and that is its timber. It seems to be inexhaustible.
A story was told by a man sitting near me in a dining room. He said that they tried to dissuade
him from coming to Grays Harbor, saying that there was nothing there, and elk walked across the
mouth of the harbor at low tide without wetting their bellies. "When I came," he remarked, "and
found a vessel drawing 17 feet in the harbor and 22 feet of water on the bar, I concluded that a
country that grew timber 12 feet in diameter, and elk with legs 221/2 feet long was good enough
for me." I could not quite agree as to the elk, but I have measured many trees over 40 feet in
circumference, and some over 50 feet. The foothills are nearly all covered with fine fir and
red cedar timber. On the Humptolips larch is found. At the head of the Quiets is an immense
quantity of red cedar. Should the Alaska cedar in the Skokomish ever be gotten out it will prove
more valuable than a coal mine.
As before mentioned, the land in the southeastern corner is not very favorable for agriculture
on account of the stony soil but with this exception the soil is very good, and a glance at the
map will show how well watered it is. In the Quinaiult Valley, near the lake, an old gentleman
invited me into his garden to help myself. I had had no vegetables for over six weeks, but from
one turnip I made a hearty meal. The place where this garden stood was last winter a tangle of
trees and underbrush. Near the Humptolips, in August, I was offered some magnificent
strawberries and that night we fed on peas, cabbage, and potatoes; yet last winter this place
was a wilderness.
The game is very plentiful, particularly elk and bear; deer are somewhat scarce. I did not see
as many elk on this trip as on my former. All the large game seeks the higher altitudes during
the midday, but may be found in the valleys morning and evening. We were entertained one night
in the latter part of September, when the elk were beginning to run, with the whistles of the
bulls. This is sweet music in the wilds.
The black bear are the only specimens of bruin's family we ran across, or saw signs of; no new
species were seen. This bear is cowardly and will on the slightest noise make away. We came
across two exceptions, however; one disputed the possession of an elk with Fisher, who was armed
with a small caliber revolver; Fisher concluded to let the bear have the elk. Once again a she
bear was walking with her cub; a rifle shot wounded her; she turned, her hair, like the quills
of the porcupine, showing her anger; she was killed, however, before she reached the party.
Cougar are found in the foothills; I have seen none in the mountains. Beaver, mink, otter, and
skunk abound in the valleys. The whistling marmot is found on the rocky mountain sides. A small
animal much resembling him called the mountain beaver, is found in soft places on the mountain
sides. These are very industrious little animals and adept engineers; they dig canals to bring
water to their holes and cut drains to prevent themselves from being flooded.
The trail made in 1885 before described is, I understand, still in use. This leads from Port
Angeles to Noplace, in the heart of the mountains.
There is a trail from the Quilicene to near the mouth of the Elwha River. Leading from Pisth
southwest over the hills to the Pacific, near the Quillayute, is another trail.
Our pack mules traveled from Hoods Canal across the heart of the mountains to Lake Quinaiult
and then to Hoquiam in nine days. This trail I hope will be a monument to the expedition. It
is over 93 miles in length, through forests, across chasms, up and down almost perpendicular
mountains, across rivers and torrents, and, worst of all quagmires.
There are two termini on the east of the trail that may be taken at either Lilliwaup or
Hoodsport, on Hoods Canal, to Lake Cushman; from thence it travels almost west for about a mile,
crosses to the right bank, which it keeps until the miner's camp is passed about 3 miles. The
river is then forded several times. Each ford is prominently marked. It follows the right bank
after the sixth ford and continues until it passes the North Fork about 1 mile.
Jumbos Leap (the South Fork) is bridged. This might be now carried away, but the foot log will
last for ages. From the camp (No. 6) the trail turns after crossing the river, strikes for the
North Fork, and following it for about 10 miles. At this camp (No 9) it turns northwest, takes
up the divide, and passes over into the Duckabush, which it follows about 6 miles, then turning
southwest crosses the branch it had followed, and travels up the main fork about 4 miles,
crosses this fork and ascends to the Duckabush-Quinaiult Divide; crossing this divide it
descends into the Quinaiult which it follows to the lake, from the lake it turns south to
Humptulips City, then southeast to Hoquiam Landing. A steamer can here be procured to Hoquiam.
The trail is well blazed throughout its entire extent.
The expedition called much attention to this country. Since its organization the towns of
Lilliwaup, Hoodsport, and Quinaiult City have been established and are on the trail. Last March
there were 2 settlers on Lake Quinaiult; today there are over 125. The Quiets country has now
about 60 settlers. Men were going into the mountains as I was returning. One of the great
inconveniences of the trip was that a number of prospectors and others followed, and a guard
had to be left at each cache camp to protect our stores.
The rare bits of scenery, the hunting and fishing, will always attract numbers to these
mountains for a summer outing.
In closing, I would state that while the country on the outer slope of these mountains is
valuable, the interior is useless for all practicable purposes. It would, however, serve
admirably for a national park. There are numerous elk - that noble animal so fast disappearing
from this country - that should be protected.
The scenery, which often made us hungry, weary, and over-packed explorers forget for the moment
our troubles, to pause and admire, would surely please people traveling with comfort and for
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jos. P O'Neil
Second Lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry
Commanding Olympic Mountains Exploring Expedition
Geo. S. Wilson
Assistant Adjutant General
For more on the O'Neil Expeditions, see Robert L. Wood's "Men, Mule and Mountains" and "The Land
That Slept Late", and Carsten Lien's "Exploring the Olympic Mountains: Accounts of the Earliest
Expeditions 1878-1890", all published by The Mountaineers Books.