Murray C. Morgan
Not Much in Puget Sound Impressed Early Day Travel Writer
The News Tribune
March 2, 1995
Northwest Room Home
Copyright, 1995, Murray Morgan
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Not Much in Puget Sound
Impressed Early Day Travel Writer
Richardson was one of the first professional newspaper travel
writers to visit Puget Sound. That was in the summer of 1865.
After Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomatox in April effectively
ended the Civil War, companies with contracts involving the
delivery of mail to the West offered Schuyler Colfax of Indiana,
the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives, an
all-expense tour of places needing mail service, including "special
coaches for crossing the continent and unusual facilities for
studying the vast and varied interests of the West, yet in their
Colfax invited four sympathetic newsmen, including Richardson, to
accompany him on the junket. In spite of the sponsorship, theirs
was not always an easy ride.
Here is Richardson's report on the luxury train from Portland to
Olympia in 1865:
We steamed down the clear
Wallamett twelve miles; down the blue Columbia for thirty-eight;
up the mudding Cowlitz for two, and landed at Monticello in
Washington Territory. Then to Olympia, ninety miles, an open
stage wagon carried us over the worst roads and among the
grandest woods in the world. It also demonstrated how fifteen
passengers can be transported in a vehicle which only has seats
for nine _ viz: by putting six of them on horseback.
He admired the forest, "thick with slender fir, pine,
hemlock, spruce, cedar and arbor vitae; the trunks gloved in moss
of orange-green, and branches tufted with long, swaying, hair-like
strands of Spanish moss; the ground white, yellow and purple with
luxuriant flowers." But villages were too small to be named,
and farm houses five to ten miles apart. "For miles the
telegraph wire is supported by trees alone, and not a pole is
their second evening they came to Tumwater on the Deschutes, and
half an hour later they were in Olympia, facing a choice between
two hotels. They chose the Pacific, "kept by a peculiarly
intelligent negro woman, whose husband managed the kitchen, while
she superintended the establishment, conducted its finances, and
put money in the family purse."
Pacific was about the only thing he admired in the territorial
capital, which he noted had no daily newspaper. Nor was there one
in the whole territory. Olympia he dismissed as "a quaint
village among logs and stumps, traversed by plank sidewalks
erected upon stilts to avoid mud and deluge. The arterial begins
on the level shore of the smooth, shining sound, climbs a low
muddy hill, and plunges out of sight in the deep pine woods.
capitol is a lonely, white frame building, like a warehouse. It is
a settlement struggling hard against primeval Nature and
Aboriginal man. Thus far the advantage is rather with the forest
and the Indian."
Richardson was more impressed on the second day when Olympia
celebrated the presence of the highest government official to
visit the Territory. In the absence of Gov. William Pickering,
Elwood Evans of Tacoma welcomed the speaker and an old cannon was
fired, or as Richardson described it, "the rude throat of an
old field-piece did hoarsely counterfeit the dread thunders of
Colfax responded with an oration that moved the author almost to
tears: "I never realized the magnitude of our Union until in
this remotest wilderness, forty-four thousand miles from home, I
found not only the same language, and the same currency, but the
same flag, and, vibrating from every extremity of the vast
continent, the same hopes, sympathies and undying memories."
From Olympia they caught a steamer north:
upon Puget Sound, the
loveliest body of water body of water in the western hemisphere.
Spreading in a great complicated network of arms, straits and
inlets it has fourteen hundred miles of navigation, and affords
Washington more harbors than are possessed by any other region
of equal area in the world.
What most impressed Richardson? The Mountain, of course:
Nearly all day we were in
sight of Mount Rainier, triple-pointed and robed in snow. Baker,
Adams and St. Helens are all striking. Shasta is grand. Hood is
grander; but from this standpoint, Rainier, whose summit has
never been trodden by man, is monarch of all, the Mont Blanc of
the Pacific Coast.
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