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REPORT - 1885


REPORT - 1890


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ONeil's Exploration

Joseph O'Neil

By Joseph O'Neil

O'Neil 1885
Handwritten manuscript in Robert B. Hitchman Collection, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma.
Typewritten transcript unattributed (likely Robert L. Wood).

O'Neil 1890
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 Division.
(Notable are the diminished Burke Range, and the presence of imaginary Trinity Mtn.)

O'Neil portrait
Lt. Joseph P. O'Neil (1862-1938), no date
Robert B. Hitchman Collection, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma

Rod Farlee, Jan. 2012


O'Neil's Exploration

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.


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.


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 water.


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.


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.


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 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 .


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 attempt.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 of time.


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 disappears.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 ridge.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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 several ridges.


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.


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 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.


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.


That evening the hunting party brought in a calf and from that time our larder never wanted for fresh meat.

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.


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 again.


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.


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 exciting hunt.


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.


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.


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 trail.


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.


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.


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.


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.

spacer 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.


1890 Letters


54TH CONGRESS Document

1 st Session Senate No. 59

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.

War Department
Adjutant-General's Office
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, Washington.

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




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 Hadlock Mills.

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 remove them

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 bull trout.

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 Canal.

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 Lilliwaup.

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 porphyry.

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. 1.

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 [80] 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 overhanging vines.

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 supplies.

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 Dosewallips.

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 Angeles.

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 ocean.

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 passible.

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 next day

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 distant.

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 to.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Jos. P. O'Neil
Second Lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry
Commanding Olympic Mountains exploring expedition


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 east slope.

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 pleasure

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Jos. P O'Neil
Second Lieutenant Fourteenth Infantry
Commanding Olympic Mountains Exploring Expedition

True copy.
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.