Scholfield writes about Siuslaw River, May 1854

Nathan Scholfield, and his son Socrates, were early settlers of Umpqua City. They came from Norwich, Connecticut.  This is the family that Scholfield creek on the Umpqua River is named for. Nathan Scholfield did a few surveys in the Umpqua and Siuslaw region, and the following is a letter he wrote to the Umpqua Weekly Gazette, published May 19, 1854. It’s kind of an interesting snapshot in time – of his observations of the landscape, and the mention of Siuslaw Indians trying to capture a whale that came up the Siuslaw river. He noted that the principal village was about 5 miles upriver from the mouth. I think this might be the village that was near the mouth of North Fork, and was the village that HBC trapper Alexander McLeod visited some 30 years before Scholfield.

One of the odd comments he makes is thinking that the Siuslaw (or Siusclaw as he likes to spell it) and Umpqua were of equivalent sizes. The Umpqua, heading up in the Cascades rather than the Coast Range like the Siuslaw, is quite noticeably larger. Another curious thing he mentions is going into a sea cave, by the size of which sounds like Sea Lion Cave – but he says it is near Cape Perpetua, which is still about 10 miles further north. Dr. Beckham believes he is referring to Cook’s Chasm, which is on the south side of Perpetua.  The waters are fierce enough there I would never dare enter that channel!  Then again, he also seems to refer to Perpetua as being closer to the Siuslaw than it really is – I almost wonder if he was confusing Heceta Head with Perpetua, but I am not sure. If anyone knows of another sea cave like that near Perpetua, let me know!

Anyway, as follows is Scholfield letter as printed in the Umpqua Weekly Gazette:

THE SIUSCLAW RIVER – Umpqua City. May 1st 1854

Published May 19 1854, Weekly Umpqua Gazette

Dear Sir: Having recently visited the Siusclaw River, for the purpose of observing its capacity and resources, and of examining the geological features of the adjacent country, in company of two others who were on a mineral exploration, I herewith send you the result of a partial reconnoissance along the coast, from the Umpqua to the Siusclaw, a distance of about twenty miles, and continued to Cape Perpetua, about two miles farther.

A hard sand beach extends through the whole distance, from the Umpqua to the Siusclaw, unbroken, save by four creeks, two of which are of considerable size. The same character is preserved to the promontory, the extremity of which forms Cape Perpetua, which is a high mountain range extending inland, and which at and near the cape, presents bold, rocky cliffs. The drifting sand, thrown up by the ocean extend for about half a mile inland, for most of the distance as we pass north from the Umpqua: but near the Siusclaw they extend in land some two or three miles. Beyond this is a strip from half a mile to two miles in width, evidently of recent formation, with poor, sandy soil, covered with wood of a stunted growth, chiefly pitch pine, beyond which is land of an older formation, with a rich soil, covered with a heavy growth of spruce, fir, and hemlock. North of Siusclaw, this recent formation extends some three or four miles inland, and from the river to the mountain range of the Cape. Beyond this, the character of the land is very similar to that of the best lands near the mouth of the Umpqua, but the ground is not so hilly. I should judge by the appearance that there is nearly or quite as much water in the Siusclaw as the Umpqua. I made a partial examination of the entrance, both at ebb & flood tide, and I observed that there was a sand island of large extend formed at its mouth, thereby diverting it into two channels, the principal of which runs on the north side of the island, in a direction north-west; the other on the south side, and in a direction about south-west. From appearances, I should judge that ordinary coasting vessels might easily make an entrance.

While on the river we stopped at the principal Indian ranch, which is about five miles from its mouth, and made preparations for a further examination up the river, having procured a canoe, and engaged two Indians to take us up. But as we were starting, a whale was discovered, leisurely spouting himself into notice; and our canoe was required by the Indians, who endeavored to capture this specimen of ichthyology, by shooting, lancing and otherwise mal-treating him. Being hotly pursued by some half dozen canoes his whaleship, totally disgusted, left the river. After these exercises were over, I was reluctantly obliged to abandon my enterprise of going up the river, as the rest of the party wished to return, after visiting the cape.

We found gold in very fine scales, on both sides of the river, in various places, and also near the cape; but we were satisfied by our observations that there were no beach mines here worth working; though I presume there may be gold discovered in the vicinity of the river, that will make profitable working. Black sand exists in abundance, in various places on the beach.

I would not advise any one to prospect the river for gold; but should any one wish to make an examination, I would recommend him to examine the creeks and ravines, from the north, especially those extending in to the mountain range referred to above; for the geological formation of this range is very similar to that about the Rogue River on the coast, where gold is abundant.

I cannot close this communication without noticing some natural curiosities of much interest, observed by us. Near Cape Perpetua, at a place where a high rocky bluff terminates the passage on the beach, is a cavern formed by the action of the sea, on hundred and fifty feet deep, by measurement, thirty feet wide at its mouth, twenty-five feet wide at its mouth, and fifteen feet high near its extremity, consisting through its entire length of a low but perfectly turned Gothic arch. It requires steady nerves to enter this cavern, which can only be done at low water; for the arch, which, although perfectly formed, is very low, and is composed of basalt and trap rock, apparently fragmentary, with a pressure of some one hundred and fifty feet in depth of the same material, promises anything but security to the adventurer.

Immense quantities of muscles [sic] covered the rocks between high and low water. Two classes of Zoophites, the anemone, and star-fish, of exceeding beauty, are found here, adhering to the rocks. This was the first opportunity I had ever had of seeing the anemone, or “animated flower” described by naturalists. They exist here in great numbers, in clusters on the rocks between tides. They resemble beautiful double set sun-flowers; their faces are of a yellowish-green color, with a small bulb in the centre, and five circular rows of pointed leaves, about one inch long, towards the margin. The usual size of these flowers was about three or four inches in diameter. They would contract on touching, and frequently close up entirely, appearing like a bud. If a pebble was dropped on one, it would cause its center bulb to project out like a head, and endeavor to crowd it off. They were growing firmly to the rocks, sometimes a dozen or more in contact. The star-fish, although more common on this coast, were here of the most brilliant and beautiful colors I ever saw. Some were of the brightest blue, some of a delicate yellow; some red, purple, and other colors. I contemplated the whole with peculiar interest.

Very respectfully, N Scholfield.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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