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ARTICLE VII.—THE NEW NORTHWEST.
The Hudson's Bay Territory. Edinburgh Review, Jan. 1859. The Overland Emigration Route froin Minnesota to British
Oregon. Report from a select Committee of the House of Representatives of Minnesota. 1858.
With an Appendix. A Semi-Weekly Overland Mail from Saint Paul to Puget
Sound. Proceedings of a Public Meeting of Citizens of
Minnesota, Jan. 3, 1859. Steamboat Navigation upon the Red River of the North. The
River System of the Northwest. Proceedings of the Chamber of Commerce of the city of St. Paul, Jan. 22,
1859. The Railroad System of the State of Minnesota, with its
connections. Reported to the Common Council of the city
of St. Paul, March 31, 1859. History of Minnesota, from the earliest French explorations
to the present time. By Rev. EDWARD DUFFIELD Neill, Secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society.
The progress of our civilization across the continent is opening new studies in geography and ethnology. Areas, larger than the eastern kingdoms, are continually redeemed from the wilderness, and are becoming the abodes of enlightened and prosperous peoples, who are organized under constitutional governments of their own. Together with what is new in this march of empire, some old things are brought to light connected with the preoccupiers of the soil which awaken peculiar interest in the development of our history.
Particular attention has of late been directed to the newest Northwest, in which we include the last-admitted of our VOL. XVII.
States this side of the Rocky Mountains and the areas to the north and northwest of it, both in the territory of the United States and of British America. Several causes have led to this. Gold, that magnet of men, has been largely discovered on Frazer River and its tributaries, giving promise of a region opulent in treasure, in consequence of which there has been a great rush of the loose residents of the Pacific coast to the spot, and a strong desire this side of the mountains to open up a highway to it. The government of Great Britain, improving a timely occasion as well as moved by the necessities of the case, has created the new colony of British Columbia for this auriferous region, so as to maintain order and security for the settlers, thus both attracting population and establishing it under the forms of society and law when gained. The Hudson's Bay Company, that ancient chartered corporation, which for nearly two centuries has held as a private demesne the vast realm known as Rupert's Land, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the Arctic Ocean, a realm larger than the entire territory of the United States, has just finished its existence by the expiration of its last license. Nearly all parties on this side of the water and on the other were opposed to the continuance any longer of this gigantic monopoly which, with its significant motto, “Pro pelle cutem,” had held as wild hunting grounds an iminense domain which might be opened for the abodes and works of civilization. The statesmen of
. England, ever eager in enlarging the dependencies of the crown, and stimulated by the rapid progress of American settlements, have conceived the idea of planting a series of colonies along our northern frontier from ocean to ocean. The country has been examined, the most reliable information has been sought, and the queen's speech has announced “The Act to which her Majesty has assented, for the establishment of the colony of British Columbia was urgently required in consequence of the recent discovery of gold in that district; but her Majesty hopes that this new colony on the Pacific may be but one step in the career of steady progress, by which her Majesty's dominions in North
America may ultimately be peopled, in an unbroken chain from the Atlantic to the Pacific, by a loyal and industrious population of subjects of the British crown." Our own ontlooking, restless and advancing pioneers already begin to feel crowded by the settlements which are thickening on the sun-down side of the northern Mississippi, and they are entering these new northwestern regions with their character istic traits. “There is no geographical obstacle whatever," says the Edinburgh reviewer, " to their progress, and the time must come, before many years have expired, when they will reach the imaginary line which divides the level prairie between Great Britain and the American Union.” And he fears that that line will be no barrier to them. The healthfulness of Minnesota, together with its productiveness, has also contributed to turn attention thither. That State is already an asylum for invalids from all parts of the land. Medical theory as to a change of climate for the arrest or cure of diseases seems to have undergone a change, both in this country and in Europe. The victims of pulmonary disease, which, in its various types, is the prevalent disease of the age, are sent, not, as formerly, to the warm latitudes, but to cold ones. The dry, bracing air of Minnesota has proved peculiarly remedial, as the high, cool districts of Switzerland have done. Many have found there the boon of health ; from the Yankee who left the damp seaboard with a cough, to the hoosier “from back in Indyanny” who came to till the land and “get shet of the ager.” A speaker at a railroad meeting, who was exalting the air of Minnesota, in the “high falutin” style, declared, among other things, that it was “a triumphant vindication of all pulmonary diseases !” West of this State the conditions of salubrity are increased. But perhaps the most prominent cause of all is the rising demand for interoceanic communication. The Pacific Railway is a necessity of the age, and it is felt to be so not only by the people of this country, but also by the statesmen of Great Britain. It is a favorite scheme among some of the latter to connect Halifax and Vancouver by a grand continental railroad through the entire length of British America. From explorations and estimates that have been made, it is demonstrated that the shortest and most feasible route within our own territory is the northern one from the head of navigation on the Mississippi to Puget Sound. It would seem that boundary questions between our government and that of Great Britain are not yet all settled. It is significant that the sole unsettled line is the extreme boundary on the Pacific coast. The island of San Juan, in Puget Sound, a portion of the disputed territory, has, according to the last accounts, been seized by Gen. Harney of our army, and its fortifications now bristle defiantly with American arms. Should diplomacy unfortunately be too late to decide the dispute which has already been appealed by this rash soldier to the arbitrament of battle, war would give to all this region a fresh glow.
A glance at the geography and population of the territory now before us will show what interest and importance attach
On our northern frontier we have the Mediterranean Lakes, thrust half way across the continent, already the seat and lighway of a commerce which extends to the other hemisphere, and pointing out the route westward to the Pacific. Reaching to a point within a hundred and fifty miles of the western end of Lake Superior, is another great avenue of trade from the south, the Mississippi. At the right angle where these two natural lines of continental commerce meet, is our starting place in the survey.
Two hundred miles north west of St. Paul, one hundred and twenty-five miles west of Fort Ripley, at the junction of the Sioux Wood and Otter Tail Rivers, is the new town of Breckenridge, near the new fort Abercrombie, at the head of navigation on the Red River of the North. The head waters of this river interlock with the head waters of the Mississippi and of various streams that flow into the Mississippi, so that small boats when the streams are fullest can pass from one to the other. The intermediate region is one of great beauty and fertility. Here are the “Big Woods," a belt of dense forest twenty or thirty miles in breadth, consisting of the best varieties of timber, the oak, maple, ash, elm,
walnut, butternut, basswoud, and aspen. Here are luxuriant rolling prairies, covered with tall grasses and many varieties of wild flowers, and with a deep, warm soil. Here are innumerable lakes, with which the whole landscape is gemmed, generally skirted with fine forest growths, and so clear that a late traveler in his enthusiasm says, that in looking into them one can see through to the other side of the globe and view the Chinese picking tea! It has been commonly sup:
: posed that this district is too far north for the prosecution of successful agriculture. Experience has exploded the idea, and we shall see, as we progress, that agriculture is far from being a failure many degrees farther northward. Wheat, barley, corn, oats, and potatoes, yield large products. toes rival any that Ireland itself can produce, and are already quite an article of export. The writer brought to New Haven
. last fall ripe field corn, of the dent variety, which he gathered in a field north of St. Paul on the 16th of September. The soil is largely a rich, sandy loam, on which vegetation matures with almost tropical rapidity. Nature's summer work is done in a hurry. No sooner have the frosts disappeared than a bright greenness is spread over the whole landscape. Leaves and flowers start forth as by magic; the crops spring to maturity and the harvest follows rapidly after sowing. Every month in Minnesota is a month of flowers, from the departure of the frost till it comes again. New blooms are constantly charming the eye as they garnish the prairies. Here is a bright yellow blossom, bending before the wind, that looks like the plume of a warrior. There is a tall spike covered with purple flowerings, by which the Indian knows when the corn is ready for roasting. Yonder is a plat all covered and spangled with bright blooms of many colors, like the gayest parterre of a garden. An editor says in a late issue of his paper, “On Sunday last we counted, in a space of less than
, thirty acres, forty-seven varieties of wild flowers, all indigenons to Minnesota.” Many of the high prairie lands are very moist and the luxuriant grasses afford the best of pasturage. All animals are turned loose upon these unfenced fields and the flocks and herds remind one of Holland. The