Source and author unknown
ERASTUS S. JOSLYN
The spring of 1862 was late. There was snow in drifts
in the streets as late as the last of April. The river did not open for
navigation until the 17th of March, when the boats made the first trip, after
being closed for three months. The snow throughout the country had drifted
in places many feet deep, especially where the sun did not reach only for
a few hours each day. The Chinook wind did not blow once the long
However, when the spring rains commenced, accompanied by the warm Chinook winds, the snow on the mountains melted so fast the ground, already full of water and covered with a heavy fall of snow, caused the streams to overflow their banks. The hollows that fed the creeks cut immense ditches in them that you could set any settlers' house in. Many of the ranchers' fields were ruined by the raging streams, being filled with stones. Streams washed down and carried off the soil and left a crop of rocks. The creeks themselves changed banks and cut through fields, destroying them for usefulness ever again. The Columbia river also celebrated by putting over the highest flood ever, up to that time, known.
The rivers that fed the Columbia -- the upper reaches in Canada, the Snake, Clearwater and the smaller streams, Yakima, DesChutes, John Day -- were more than bank full. Bridges were washed away, roads were obliterated, and travel was at a standstill.
Main street was flooded and everyone moved to higher ground. The grade of Main street was not raised until many years after, when the railroad was completed from here to Portland. By looking at the elevation of the old stone building at the north end of Washington street, one can see how deep the fill was, at that end of Main street.
Where the Stadelman ice plant is now was the home of the first permanent settlers in what is now Dalles city. This family consisted of William C. Laughlin and his wife, Mary Laughlin, and a daughter, Lizzie, who afterwards married Wentworth Lord, and two sons, James and Frank. They came across the plains in 1850.
In front of their place for some distance east and west was a low ring of rocks, higher than the street on the north side. Here the steamboat landed, and all small boats propelled by sail or rowboats were tied up to receive or discharge freight or passengers. This ridge was almost covered by the high water. Room enough was left for the gangplank and the handling of freight. Among the boats that tied up on this high land above the flood water of the big river was a rowboat that belonged to E.S. Joslyn of White Salmon.
He came up once a week to deliver at the stores the "Joslyn butter and Joslyn cheese" that he and his wife, Mary Warner Joslyn, had manufactured during the week. His boat was a skiff, and carried a good-sized sail, as well as two sets of rowlocks for oars for two men to row at the same time. In this big boat I made my first trip on the river. After we had arrived by steamboat four years before, in 1858, from Portland, Mr. Joslyn invited our family and the family of the Rev. Thomas Condon to return with him to their home at White Salmon for a visit, and to travel the 20 miles in his skiff. It was a boat ride of several hours, for I remember we did not reach their hospitable borne until after dark which, during the "spring rise" of the river would be 9 o'clock or later.
There were 12 people in the boat beside all the luggage and freight that was necessary for two women, three little girls, four small boys and three grown men to make a visit of some length. We loaded up on that ridge in front of Laughlin's house and set sail and talked back and forth, helped by the strong current of the raging river. I locate the time of year, aside from the high water season, by the quantities of wild strawberries Mrs. Joslyn had bought from the Indian women, that we children expected to hull before they could be used.
Mrs. Joslyn was a woman who knew how to get a great deal of help out of children. They themselves were a childless couple. To get the strawberries hulled without all being eaten by the youthful hullers, all of whom were starving for fruit, and particularly the lovely strawberry, she sat us down around the big dining table, with our stint of berries before us, and we were told that when we had hulled all of them, without eating a single berry, we could have a saucer full with cream and sugar, and bread and butter with it. This treat hulled the berries. Wild strawberries are very small, and when ripe enough to eat crush easily, and little fingers were just right to spare the delicious fruit whole. On the other hand, Mrs. Joslyn always had a cake and a picnic planned for each child's birthday. I had my fourteenth birthday there with a picnic on May 29, 1868. No child was overlooked, even if his birthday was not in the summertime. Each had a treat coming.
The Joslyns were members of the Congregational church here, and charter members since 1859, when Missionary Tenney organized the membership. When they wished to attend the services of their church they must take the steamboat which was running between Fort Dalles and Upper Cascades on the Washington side. The boat left The Dalles at 5 o'clock in the morning and made the Cascade by the middle of the forenoon. She discharged her freight and passengers and waited for the train over the six-mile portage from the lower cascades, that was bringing passengers, fast freight, mail and express from the Portland boat. This was transferred to the "upper boat" for The Dalles, and often took several hours for the transfer, according to the amount of freight to be handled. Then the trip upstream against the heavy current took twice as long as going down the river. When Mr. Joslyn wished to take The Dalles boat, he would send someone, probably an Indian, out to a point that overlooked the river downstream, and as soon as the boat was in sight away below, there was plenty of time after the Indian had reported for Mr. Joslyn, who was ready, to start for the landing. A hail called the boat in to the sandy beach, and he and his kegs of butter and cheese were hurriedly carried on board. If this was Friday or Saturday Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn would stay over Sunday for the church services, and return Monday morning. The fare from White Salmon to Fort Dalles was $2.50. For the two it would be $5, and returning $10, and that was pretty expensive traveling. They were usually entertained at the home of the missionary. When we arrived at White Salmon after that delightful trip by small boat in the beautiful month of May, we found a family at the Joslyn home that afterwards became honored residents of The Dalles, and of Wasco county.
This was the family of a returned missionary who had been sent by the Congregational missionary society to the Marshall islands, away out in the Pacific ocean, a few years before. They were the Rev. E.P. Roberts, Mrs. Myra Farrington Roberts, and three children. The two eldest, Charlotte, and William J., were born at the Mission station, and the third was an infant son of only a few weeks, born at the hospitable home of the Joslyns. He is now a resident of this city, Albert S. Roberts, who has been active in all educational, religious and political affairs, as well as a prominent business man, wool and wheat grower here for many years. Rev. S.P. Roberts moved his family to The Dalles about 1868. He and Mrs. Roberts taught school, a private school, in their own home, where Gus Bonn now lives, at the southwest corner of Liberty and Fourth streets. They were very successful teachers. Some years after, Mr. Roberts served as principal of the public school. He was my teacher. I learned from him how to compose and express myself in English composition, more than from any teacher I ever had.
They finally settled in Dry hollow and were among the first orchardists to prove that a dry hillside would raise the most delicious cherries and peaches. His friends made all sorts of fun at his expense when he told them what he expected from the hill orchards, and no water anywhere nearer than at the bottom of a 40-foot well. Roberts' demonstration was a success.
Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn came to Oregon, a young couple from Massachusetts, by the Isthmus of Panama in 1852. He came up the Columbia river looking for a location and was attracted by what the virgin White Salmon had to offer, and the next year they built a log cabin and began extensive improvements, which developed in the course of time into a typical New England home and farm.
They were the first settlers on the north bank of the Columbia river east of the Cascades. Washington territory had not been set off at that time and they lived in Oregon territory for a few months. This was an Indian country. But "Joslyn," as the Indians soon learned to call him, was a friend to the Indian, and they lived as neighbors and friends for several years, or until the war-like Yakimas made trouble and influenced the friendly White Salmons who, although some remained true to "Joslyn," burned his house down while Mr. Joslyn was away in Portland. Mrs. Joslyn had to flee For her life across the river to Hood River, where the Nathaniel Coe's lived, for safety. This was in February of 1856, only a short time before the Indians descended on upper Cascades and burned and almost wiped out that settlement, March 26. This was the time that Lieut. Phil Sheridan retook the Cascades and a number of Yakimas were hung. The Joslyns came back to their ruins on the White Salmon river to make a better and permanent home.
About 20 years ago I went with a steamboat load of picnickers to White Salmon. With a friend, we located the old cellar from the walls of which the Indians had burned Joslyn's log cabin. It stood in the center of an orchard of apple and cherry trees. As we strolled up the road, under the immense maple trees, to the landing a mile above, we came to an Indian tepee. Smoke was coming out at the top, and we knew it was inhabited. We "halloed", raised the curtain door and walked in. Here was an old Indian sitting over the little fire burning in the center on the ground, with long gray hair stringing down over his neck and shoulders. He did not rise as we entered, but to our "Kla-hi-um tillicum," or "How do you do, Friend," he seemed glad to see us, and soon asked for a "cultus potlatch" of "chickiman," which means that he was asking us to give him some money. We afterwards learned that he was called "White Salmon Dave" and that he was the Indian who had applied the torch to Joslyn's house 50 years before.
After the Indian trouble at the Cascades our government built a blockhouse at White Salmon at the steamboat landing. There was an Indian trail leading out from White Salmon from the steamboat landing then to the Yakima Indian reservation, and It was necessary to guard the freight to the reservation at the blockhouse, and for a tine a squad of soldiers were kept there.
The blockhouse was a most picturesque building. The top story stood out over the lower story. It was built of square logs. It was taken down in later years by the man who owned the land, James P. Warner. It would have been a great addition to the scenic beauty of the river roads if it could have been left.
Mr. Roberts moved his family into the blockhouse until he could build a house farther from the river. I visited the family while they lived in the blockhouse. Some time before the death of Mrs. Roberts she left a description of this historic building, so accurate as to measurements and details that a duplicate could be constructed from the plans. One of the old doors to the White Salmon blockhouse is now in the custody of the Old Fort Dalles Historical society.
The Joslyn place was an ideal one for children, who had always been deprived of big oak shade trees, with an immense swing, green grass, flower garden and fruit trees. We simply loved Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn, and every thing on the beautiful place that nature had placed there, and also their handwork -- all seemed to be made for our pleasure. Steamboat excursions at least once a year -- one on the Fourth of July from The Dalles -- were always looked forward to with eagerness for many years, after my first visit in May of 1862. During this visit and before we returned home, Mr. Joslyn took us all across the river in the skiff to visit the Coes who were warm friends and neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn, and friends of Rev. and Mrs. Condon. It was a very warm day, as I well remember, for the walk from the sandbar landing was a warm one; as much as a mile up to the Coe house. The family of N. Coe were the first settlers in Hood River. They settled there in 1854. Their house had in front, towards the river, a big flower garden fenced in by a picket fence, full of all old-fashioned flowers.
When we returned to White Salmon after spending the day we crossed the Hood River on a foot bridge, about where the highway bridge is now, and boarded our skiff at Stanley's landing, about where Koberg has his pleasure beach now. When pioneer N. Coe died in 1868, my mother went to his funeral and took me with her. We went by steamboat, leaving here at 5 o'clock in the morning. He was buried in the cherry orchard on his place. His grave has since been removed to a cemetery back on the hill, some distance from town.
When our visit at White Salmon was at an end, we came home by steamboat. The boat was the old "Idaho", Captain John McNulty, commander. Mr. Joslyn took us out in his skiff to take the boat in the stream. The captain did not run the bow up on the beach and run a gangplank out, but the steamer was stopped and our skiff went alongside and we were lifted up bodily, and set on deck by the hands. The wind was blowing a gale that afternoon, and I thought every minute our boat, big as it was, would be swept by the wind and waves under the big boat. But we made it safe aboard, and home.
The Joslyn place is now the Burkett place at Bingen and the new house the Joslyn's built before they sold, to replace the old house where we visited, still stands, quite a pretentious looking building, as you pass by on the highway.
The Joslyns and the Coes were unusually fine people, and made a lasting impression on all the people whom they came in contact with. Mrs. Mary White Coe was an educated woman. She was born and reared in New York City. She is responsible for the name of Hood River being attached to that beautiful stream, instead of Dog river. She would not let any hired man or child say "Dog river." She always corrected us, saying that no stream as beautiful as that was, should be called "dog," and she succeeded.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer