tv Book Discussion on Astoria CSPAN March 29, 2014 9:30am-10:46am EDT
introduction, and thank you, powell's, and you all for being here. normally i have a more formal presentation, i have a video that i've shown at readings, but tonight's a special night, so i'm going to do manager a little different -- something a little different. and i'm going to tell stories a little bit more and, of course, i'm going to do some reading as well. but it's special because, one, this is powell's, we're in oregon. astoria is very nearby. the center of this story. and also we're here with c-span booktv x so we have a national audience as well as a oregon audience. so i'm going to tell some stories, and you oregonians may know some of the stories, and you may not know others. but i'll start with how i came to this story.
and, actually, what's surprising about it is how this story was very well known in its day, in 1836 when washington irving was commissioned by john jacob astor to write the story of these events 20 years after they occurred. irving's book, also called "astoria," was a best seller of 1836. and those events have been largely forgotten in the american consciousness. i think you in oregon know a little bit more about them, or i'm sure some of you know a lot more about them. but in the national consciousness, they're largely forgotten except among historians and people who really follow western history. so it is a really important story. it's historically significant, and it's a great adventure story. and that's partly what attracted me to it.
and it's also a story that i i feel needs to be told because it's had, those events have had a big impact on the shape of the north american continent and on the course of american empire, these events that happened over these three years from 1810 to 181. 1813. so i stumbled across this story just kind of random lily. there are many things about being a freelance writer which i've been for almost 0 years now -- 30 years now that are a struggle, you know in uncertain income, uncertainty of all sorts. but one of the delightful things about being a freelance writer is how one story, one idea can lead to another. and that's what happened in this case. and so seven or eight years ago i was working on my last book
doing research, a book called "the last empty places" this which i profiled four really unpopulated areas of the country. and, of course, one of them, of those unpopulated areas of the country had to be eastern oregon, as i'm sure some of you can guess. [laughter] and i was driving in the course of doing my research one night in late may, one evening down a very long, long, lonely, empty highway in aaron oregon, and -- eastern oregon, and it was getting dark, and i was starting to think i was going to have to sleep by the side of the road. and i finally came to a little town that had a hotel, and i spent the night there. with some brat tuesday for having this -- gratitude for having this town appear out of nowhere. and the next morning i said, now, how did a town get the name of john day? [laughter] so i know you've all heard of the up to of john day and the john day river and the john day dam, there are many things in
oregon named john day. but i'm not sure everybody knows how all those john days got their name, john day. so i did a little research in john day -- [laughter] in a nearby historical society, and it turned out john day was one of these original astorians who was part of this huge overland expedition sent by john jacob astor from new york in 1810 to found the first american colony on the west coast. and what astor hoped would be a transglobal, trans-pacific trade empire. well, john day, i didn't know the bigger story at that point, i just knew that john day was this guy who had been -- i'm trying to think where his trauma started, but it started early. he was a 40-year-old kentucky hunter, and he ended up being nearly starving to death, poisoning himself with death cam
misbecause the thought they were the edible type of root, survived by shooting a wolf and eating its skin, was helped by a number of indians along the way, was left behind by his main party, wandered a winter trying to find the tracks of the main party, lost them, found a band of indians who he thought would help him who ended up stripping hip of all -- him of all his clothes and sending him out into the wilderness with nothing. after that, john day was just about done with the wilderness. [laughter] he was actually quite traumatized. and it turned out that he eventually, he had to go back the same way he came eventually, and he pretty clearly had a what it looks to me very much like the symptoms of ptsd. he tried to, he actually tried to kill himself. he tried the shoot himself, and he didn't succeed, he survived. [laughter] he was sent back. and so i read this story of john
day, and i thought, wow, that is one incredible story for this town, you know? to have a town named after that. and the more i looked into john day's story, the more i realized his was just one little tiny part of this huge undertaking that john jacob astor had sent to the pacific be coast. pacific coast. so that's what got me intrigued by it. and in the more i looked into it, the more it started to hook like, wow, this is a story that should be told in a book. and i'm an adventure writer, i write exploration history. these are the stories i love, and so i took it on as a book project. and, fortunately, i found a very willing publisher with echo and harpercollins. so in the introduction you heard a little bit about what the expedition was. there were two -- john jacob astor had a vision of global
trade empire on the pacific rim. this was right after lewis and clark, five years after lewis and clark were out here. and thomas jefferson had, essentially, the same vision. and as or to have came up with this idea -- astor came up with this idea, approached thomas jefferson with it. they met at the white house. thomas jefferson gave it his enthusiastic endorsement. it was astor's idea to try to capture, essentially, all the furs in the western part of the continent, funnel them through a set element at the mouth of the columbia river and sell them to china. and in china these furs would fetch extremely high prices because the chinese mandarins, for instance, used sea otter furs which were extremely luxurious, something like a million hairs per square inch. i think the finest, most densely coat of any mammal in the world. the chinese mandarins would pay incredible prices for these furs.
so astor, he was not the first ship here on the west coast, but he was one of the earlier ones, and he came up with this idea of sending trade goods from new york around cape horn by ship to the mouth of the columbia, trading them to the coastal indians here for furs, trading things like knives and beads and and then taking those furs to china, trading them to the chinese for, you know, incredible markups at both places, taking chinese luxury goods such as civiles silks, teas, porcelain around the world back to london and new york. so his idea was to have, essentially, a fleet of ships circling the globe continuously and trading goods all along the way each at an incredible markup. and thomas jefferson had a vision of, he was hoping that
astor's settlement on the west coast would be the first seeds of an american or a democracy. he wasn't even saying it was an american democracy. he thought it would be the first seeds of a democracy on the west coast, jefferson did. and something like a sister democracy to the united states and that from the west coast democracy would spread to the east, and the two would join if the middle and make the whole continent a democracy. so that's the background. so what i'm going to do is i'm going to read a little bit about, a little snippet from four different characters, and that's part of what attracted me to the story, was that there are some really distinctly different leaders, different characters, different personalities. and they react in very different ways in these circumstances.
and their personalities and their reactions in these, in the course of these expeditions going across the country and around cape horn determined a lot of what happened in the years that followed and, actually, the decades that followed. so in some ways you can almost trace history back to, you know, pivotal moments. but in some ways these personalities shaped our destiny as a western empire on this continent. so the first one i'm going to read is a woman whom some of you in oregon may know named miriam dorian. there were two advance parties, one overland up the lewis and clark route and then one around
cape horn, the sea-going party. so her husband, pierre door yang, was the son of pierre door yang sr., and he he had had beee interpreter for lewis and clark five or six years earlier. pierre door yang was married to a native american woman from the iowa tribe, and pierre insisted that his wife come along even though she wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea. she had two small toddlers, two boys. and she also learned enroute that she was pregnant. she ended up -- her story is like sacajawea several times over. she has the most incredible survival story you can imagine. a friend in missoula where i'm from who's an historian and archaeologist, sally thompson, has studied a lot about lewis and clark and pointed out to me
as i was researching this story that sacajawea and marie dorian probably met, almost certainly met. and that got me doing the research, and they a certainly did, they were in the same camp. this was when sacajawea was going back upriver to her, i think up to the mandan villages, and marie dorian was going with momentum's party up the river for the first time. so sally said, well, i've always wondered what sacajawea said to marie dorian and wouldn't that be an interesting conversation to overhear. so i've tried to speculate a little bit. [laughter] and i say this is, i'm speculating. this, of course, is a nonfiction book. whatever happened happened, but this -- i say that this is, one
likes to think what they might have said to each other. it's likely marie dorian and sacajawea knew each other, two indian women in the small set element of st. louis, both wives and interpreters in the burgeoning missouri fur trade. what would sacajawea have told marie dorian? it will be very long and very difficult to reach the ocean. you and your children will suffer. by then, fife years after her journey with lewis and clark, sacajawea may have understood that a whites with their powerful guns and relentless urge for furs and farmland and profit had just begun their long reach toward the western ocean to. she may have understood that these first expeditions heading westward represented the beginnings of the end for her people's ancient seminomadic way of life. one imagines her saying to marie
dorian, don't go. [laughter] or join them, because they will come to our homelands whether we join them or not. or you will see amazing things. organizing into four river boats laden with approximately 20 tons of goods and equipped with oars, sails and tow ropes, the overland party embarked from winter camp on april 21st, 1811, with sails set in a favorable upriver wind. they hoped to reach the pacific as astor expected in late summer or autumn. so the second passage i'm reading takes place as they're going up the river from their winter camp which is a little, about 400 miles upriver there st. louis. from st. louis. and as i mentioned that they were to follow the lewis and clark trail which, of course, goes up the missouri and then over the northern rockies to the
columbia and down the columbia. well, as they went up the missouri, the farther they went, the worse the stories today heard about the frosty of the indians at the headwaters of missouri. the overland party's leader was a young new jersey businessman named wilson price hunt who was nope as a nice guy, very serious-minded, very conscientious, liked to lead by consensus. but he had one great shortcoming, and that's he'd never been this the wilder -- been in the wilderness before. astor had chosen him because astor knew that hunt would remain loyal to astor, and yet astor had hired a lot of other scot you should fur traders, french-canadian voyageurs, he was looking for the best, and those happened to be the canadian fur traders. but they were loyal to the
british crown and not necessarily to america. so he had wilson price hunt lead the overland party which had about 60 people which is huge. that's twice the size of lewis and clark's party. 40 voyagers, i think several scottish fur traders, american hunters, marie dorian and her family, wilson price hunt. so as they're going up the missouri, they're starting to hear these stories about the frosty of the blackfeet. and one of the problems is that meriwether lewis and one of his small parties in which he was a member, scouting party, had killed two young blackfeet. and they left a jefferson medal happening around one of the blackfeet necks and then fled the territory, blackfeet territory. and the blackfeet were still really angry about that, that insult. so there'd been a previous party going up the missouri to try to establish a fur in, at head
waters of the missouri or near the headwaters of the missouri. and it had disappeared, and no one knew quite what happened to it. so as hunt's party is going up the missouri one day in may of 1811, they're sitting on the river bank resting after their morning's pull and rowing having breakfast, and they see two canoes coming down the river, and in it are three white men. they signal the canoes, and the canoes pull over, and it turns out they're three key yangs who are survivors of this massacre on the upper missouri. ask one of them is wearing -- and one of them is wearing, a 66-year-old cayenne named edward robinson is wearing a scarf around his head. underneath the scarf he's been scalped, and he's survived. he's actually been scalped back in ohio some years earlier, but he'd survived this massacre where there'd been any number of
atrocities committed against these trappers. so this told deeply on william price hunt, the young new jersey businessman -- [laughter] and the three trappers said, well, look, you don't want to go up to the headwaters of the blackfeet, but we know -- the headwaters of the missouri, we know a better way. we know a way that you can leave the missouri, strike out overland, cross several mountain ranges and we think we can take you to a river that's part of the headwaters of the columbia. we think we can get you there. and that meant for wilson price hunt striking out into what appeared to be at least a thousand miles of totally unchartered terrain. he had no idea, it was unmapped. so hunt, the serious, conscientious businessman, had to deliberate t what to do. so that's the next passage i'm reading, is his, hunt's decision
in this situation. the four boats made good progress upriver under sail that day. that's the day they had breakfast and met the three trappers coming down. under sail that day and camped that night, may 27, 1811, on little cedar island. they were now an estimated 1,075 miles up the missouri river from st. louis. the island was a botanical wonderland, a grove of cedar trees grew in its center surrounded by garden-like beds of vines and flowers. voyagers and woodsmen chopped new boat masts from the cedar while bradbury and nut l -- these are two eccentric british botanists that have joined the expedition in st. louis -- while they scrambled about collecting atlantas. hunt, however, was distract by his own problems. he had to to decide, and soon, whether to turn from the
missouri. the best possible route payment a subject of an -- became a summit of anxious inquiry wrote bradbury of that night camping on little cedar island. hunt questioned the three key yangs about their proposal. mr. astor had instructed him to try whenever possible to reach consensus among the partners. hunt polled them as he would throughout the journal think on their opinions about which way to go. one pictures hunt's party camped on the grassy bank of the narrow island. islands in the river granted a certain safety from indian attack with a large fire of long driftwood logs throwing yellow sparks toward the diamond-bright prairie stars. the 6-- perhaps hunt moves
between the tire and his tent interviewing and deliberating. what lay out there in the vast prairie night in the whole western continent behind the this tiny glowing circle of warmth and humanity? is which mountains would let them pass? which rivers, which tribes that roamed unseen in the continental darkness? on little cedar island wilson price hunt, for the first time, tasted the unknown. though its flavor might intoxicate an eager, lone young man like john coulter, hunt -- responsible for a large group of people and the expectations of great men -- probably found it neither exhilarating, nor romantic. on the one hand, there were the blackfeet warriors that surely awaited him on the known route up the missouri. on the other lay the route that left the missouri and struck overland, skirting south of the blackfeet where his party might wander lost over snowy mountain
ranges and through the starvation deserts. what might have come as a startling revelation about striking out into the unknown is that though the questions cop fronting one are often -- confronting one are often mundane, this route or that, this live drainage or another, the implications are profound and sometimes fatal. by morning hunt had decided. it's not surprising that in the choice between a near-certain, violent confrontation with the blackfeet and venturing out into a great stretch of unexplored terrain hunt, avoiding conflict, finally chose the latter. one could call it a bold choice in the true pitter of exploration or cowardice can, a retreat t into fear for the safety of his party and for himself. whatever an expedition member's perspective, hunt had made the fateful decision. the overland party would leave the missouri ask veer to the south -- and veer to the south of the planned route, avoiding
the blackfeet, and trek on foot and horseback into great swath of up charted terrain. the decision made, hunt sat down to write mr. astor of his change in plans. now, i'm going to skip back just for a moment back to astor. and astor was a really conscientious businessman, very focused. he'd come to this country as a young man from waldorf, germany. thus, we have all heard the name of that hotel, the waldorf-astoria. it's named for waldorf, germany, and for astor, his hometown. he came as a young man to new york right after the revolutionary war. he started importing musical instruments from england, finely-crafted musical instruments, and he exported furs from the north american continent to london. he'd met somebody aboard the
ship that brought him over who said you can make a lot of money in fur. and he was very focused, very driven towards his bottom line, meticulous in his planning. he'd spent years laying the groundwork for this huge expedition. many all his me -- in all his me meticulous planning and preparation, astor had not allowed for one major factor. mountain climbers talk about exposure, meaning one's level of risk in a particular situation. on a very narrow ledge on a cliff face, for instance, when a small mistake can result in major consequences. in 1810 when john jacob astor launched his great endeavor, this far wild edge of the north american continent with its brutal north pacific storms, hostile natives, extreme he moteness -- remoteness,
vulnerability to foreign empires, dense p rain forests, surf-battered coasts was as exposed as any habitable place on earth. nor was it possible to predict the powerful distorting effect that this degree of exposure would have on the personalities and leadership abilities of the men astor had chosen to head his west coast empire. under extreme stress, each leader succumbed to his own best and worst traits. for anyone who stood to gain from it, however, astor's vision was too mesmerizing not to embrace. his great trading scheme harmoniously and profoundly joined the dreams of two powerful and far-seeing men. astor would dominate the pacific rim trade and reap fantastic profits as would his fur trader partners. through john jacob astor's powerful global trade network and west coast colony, president jefferson and his successors would establish a democratic outpost on the dim, distant
pacific coast. jefferson's vision embraced the entirety of north america and accorded astor's enterprise a powerful role in shaping the continent's political destiny. a view you're undertaking as the germ of a great free and independent empire on that side of our continent and that liberty and self-government spreading from that side as well as this side will insure tear complete establishment -- their complete establishment over the whole. so there was a lot of weight riding on wilson price hunt when he's making his decision. wrestling there on little cedar island with his thoughts. so another leader in this is a scottish fur trader by the name of duncan mcdog l.
and he was one of the fur traders that astor had hired from canada where the real experts were. and there were many different personalities among these fur traders and many different degrees of expertise. well, duncan mcdog l, i don't know, a thumbnail sketch would be short, feisty, manipulative and looking out for himself would be one way to put it. astor had made him the second in command of the west coast colony. hunt was supposed to be the first in command of the west coast colony. but in hunt's absence, astor said mcconstitution l should be in charge. well, what happened with wilson price hunt in the overland party led by the three kentucky men, they were supposed to arrive in
as corps ya -- >> the most of the columbia in the fall of 1811. but fall came and went, and they still hadn't arrived. duncan was in charge there. so i'm going to read some of his thoughts. and what had happened was at that point -- well, i should back up a little bit in the story. the one expedition was hunt's going overland, and the other was the sea-going party coming around cape horn. this was led by a sea captain, jonathan thorne, who was a naval hero, a u.s. naval hero against the barbary pirates.
fearless guy. the ship was just stuffed with trade goods. it was a ship called the tonkin, i bet some of you know in this room. there are all different pronunciations. and it was just stuffed with trade goods, with 8,000 -- 9,000 pounds of gun powder, ten cannon, and it was carrying all the supplies to start astor's port on the, at the mouth of the columbia. it also carried captain thorne, his sailors, a crew of yankee sailors, ask it carried these fur -- and it carried these fur trade ors. the scottish fur traders as well as a number of french-canadian voyagers, and it carried several young clerks from canada, well educated young men who were always keeping journals. well, captain thorne was a very
fearless guy, courageous but also very rigid, rigidly-minded in this kind of militaristic sense of discipline. and so he had a boatload of these shaggy fur traders and voyagers, and the first night out by 8:00 they were at pistol, drawn pistols when captain thorne ordered light out and this fur trader said, no, we still want to keep socializing and smoking our pipes on deck, and captain thorne said lights out at eight. and it came to threats of -- death threats at that point to. and the voyage deteriorated from there. [laughter] he tried to abandon the fur traders on the falkland islands and sail away without them. [laughter] and they, there are these journal accounts that are just amazing. the fur traders are in a row boat like a long boat rowing
madly after the tonkin. [laughter] and the, it keeps sailing out to sea, and they keep expecting it to turn around and come back, and it's like six miles out to sea, and they're madly rowing after it. the falkland islands are uninhas been bitted, barren with, they think they're going to die there if they're left behind. .. they pick up a lot of hawaiian swimmers called both men in the old journals.
they are expert at canoes and sailing and also know how to grow cards and they buy a lot of hawaiian pigs, live pigs to support the colony, the first american colony on the west coast. finally make it near the mouth of the columbia. we all know is this room at least -- the columbia bar, the great sand bar that blocks the mouth of the river, with 8 huge volume of water as the columbia river goes out and accused volume of water of the pacific ocean and its tremendous wealth crashing in and the tides are whipping this way and that and is one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world to this day as it was then. there is one channel through the columbia bar. it was not known then, it
shifted all the time. so capt. foreign with his charge from john jacob astor is to drop the men and supplies at the mouth of the columbia inside the columbia bar and he is supposed to go on his way and trade for sea otter on vancouver island, rich stretches of sea otter habitat were at that point. foreign is in a hurry to get across the columbia bar. on these terrible misadventures and he starts sending small boats with sailors to find the channel. they lose two boats or three of these boats, nine guys ground simply trying to find the channel over the course of three days and deferred traders and sailors are saying this is
madness to send a small boat, it was very rough weather at the time before was relentless and he sent them anyway so finally they get across the columbia bar which smashes a couple of times going overcome almost wrecks, finally they choose a spot for the first american colony. we know where it is, where the story at, or again is, when they lay the cornerstone of the warehouse, the first building, we are going to call this a story at after john jacob astor. if things done differently. so foreign crops plant supplies and takes off up the coast of vancouver island to trade for furs. this leaves duncan mcdougal behind wondering where hunt is and meanwhile the king is gone.
the indians who initially created them and traded with them were around the settlement, disappeared too so late summer, early fall of 1811 it get spooky out there. their sense of exposure deepened. it was a tiny clearing between the vast wilderness of north america's mountains, forests and rivers and the vast this of the pacific with its crushing swells and storms. it felt like the ends of the earth woven between c and force was an elaborate unseen network of indian tribes each with its own royalties, friendships and animosities linked by a hidden communication network. it was another great unknown. the astorians could only guess what the natives with thinking.
they had to flee, had no one to run to and nowhere to hide. the exposure was profound. the newest reliable help lay at least a year's journey away. paranoia set in for mcdougal in particular. was as if in his need for self importance he had drawn a giant target on his back. mcdougal had set himself up as the king of the northwest telling every indian chief who would listen while fitting his visiting his tenth of state of his importance and the glory of the empire to be. now, however with a protective cannon and a complement of men gone and stewart's party, another exploratory party coming up the columbia, traveling up river, where the indians vanished in force and rivers strangely quiet mcdougal realize he was a king who possessed neither cassel nor army.
perhaps he also assessed the surrounding indian tribes through the prism of his own thinking. he hoped to grow wealthy and powerful from this west coast enterprise to with the knowing that would come at least in part at the expense of the native inheritance. why given the chance wouldn't they wish to grow wealthy and powerful at his expense? a trove of trade goods, access and guns and gun powder, the tribes coveted. after stewart's party departed up river the indians could plainly see the treasure lay unguarded. the paranoia deepened. so mcdougal, always clever with a ruse comes up with this idea that he calls all the neighboring chiefs of the neighboring tribes to come to
his settlement. and he pulls a small glass vial out of his pocket and he says in this vital i hold the deadly smallpox. was decimated 20 years earlier. i just had to pull out this cork and everyone dies. this is where he tries to regain power. he later married the daughter of one of the chiefs as another insurance policy. meanwhile after i read the last passage, we have wilson price hunt, and we left up river at cedar island. for some reason he dawdles, doesn't understand the urgency of winter, never been in the
wilderness before. and that he was supposed to be keeping a schedule. he estimated 10 to 15 tons of deer with him. he needs horses to carry all this. it is well up to missouri, start trading for horses. the problem is they don't have quite enough horses so he scrambles around trying to find more horses, weeks passed by. was not until late july that he needs to missouri. the great swath of unknown terrain. he tracks four months, toddlers are there and she is walking most of the way and just learned, realized she is pregnant and doing about
december. scottish fur traders are are rising, some are walking. they have eventually 115 horses or so. imagine what a cavalcade of forces of people are. they cross the dakotas, wyoming over the bighorn mountains, the rate for rage, into idaho. they come to a small river and three trappers, it leads to the columbia, here you go. they build 15 big dugout canoes out of cotton would. they pile into the canoes, 40 voyagers and they are so eager to get off their horses and that
is their thing. they start down the river and first day everybody is happy and the river is swift and the rivers flat and they go flying along and the second day they hit a few ripples. third date a swamp a canoe and some rapids. by the ninth day they are going over major waterfalls and they are drowning. they have to abandon the canoes. and start out on foot and they run out of food and are in the law of plains of southern idaho in snake river canyon. it goes on and on. to make a long story short they end up in hell's canyon which is the deepest canyon in north america. on foot in december and they are starving. wilson price hunt has to make
another major decision, whether to read starving friends and partners behind because there is too weak to walk and stay with the main party or keep the whole party together. and other crucial decision in his life. mcdougal is waiting, in the snake river country. capt. foreign heads to vancouver island, alexander mackay is very experienced fur trader who in fact crossed the continent 12 years before lewis and clark with alexander mackenzie who has many of you know crossed the canadian north, it is not canadian north, in 1793. so alexander experienced fur traders on captain foreign's trip and they picked up an
interpreter on the way to vancouver island, an interpreter of greatest harbor. it is up near to fino b.c. and the interpreter shows the actual set, says we don't want to go up there. they have bad memories of earlier traders or eastern amount of resentment, ignores demand goes in any way. throughout this book, and a number of places, right about different cultures and 9 won't go into any detail at this point, other than to say it was a real irony that all of the native american tribes, and john jacob astor's parties were up against one of the wealthiest
ones, incredible herds of buffalo and the other being the northwest coastal indians with incredible salmon runs and the sea life, the seals and the whales and oysters and clams and on and on. they had an incredibly rich life materially and in many ways there way of life was materially better than many people in london and new york at the same time lived in lawn houses, a very elaborate ceremonial culture, potlatches, artistic traditions. they had -- so foreign fools in and dropped anchor in the cove in the south. the interpreter, the fur trader, into shore to talk negotiations
at the indian village. foreign stays on board but the big canoes come out to foreign's ship. foreign, impatient, sees no reason he shouldn't start creating on his own so that is where this passage begins. negotiations unfold less smoothly. i am saying on shore, mckay and josie were normally welcomed by the village and the chiefs and the village. negotiations unfolded less smoothly, the indians's canoes with long snout like props pull alongside the ship's whole. woven cedar clothing and weatherproof conical hats.
they held up rolls of sea otter furs to trade. capt. thorne, naval hero with no experience in the trade and his chief trader on shore at the villages ordered a tempting array splat on the deck with pots and other trade goods. an elderly indian chief climbed aboard to establish prices to trade goods for furs. capt. thorne made an offer. two blank and send smaller items like fish hooks in exchange for one sea otter fur. known to be huge bargainer among coastal indians, contemptuously rejected capt. thorne's offer is too low. it was a clash of two cultures on the purest of economic terms. accounts very as to the details of the interaction between thorne and follow the game --
the same general pattern. he wanted five blankets instead of two that thorne had offered for sea otter fur. thorne didn't budge. he held this holes average race in sovereign contempt, the two at a stalemate. jonathan thorne was not a bargainer. he was the navy man with little experience outside those cultures. he believed he had given a fair price but entered a northwest coastal indian trading culture where bargaining was a centuries-old way of life. these people were not the ignorance damages fthorne
believed they were. he began to ridicule foreign's offer harassing and festering in to trade. he suddenly spun about, his temper exploding. he grabbed a sea otter fur and rub it in his face. damn your eyes, he shouted to the chief angrily kicking away the bundles of furs and trade goods, then he and threw him off the ship. the other indians left in their canoes. mckay and josie returned to the ship later that day when they heard what had happened urged captain thorne to weigh anchor immediately. the indians would look for revenge for such a deep in salt. thorne contemptuously left to them off. you pretend to know a great deal about the indian character, he said, according to alexander ross's account which captured the spirit of this tense
encounter whether or not the exact wording. you know nothing at all. do not be so saucy now. it didn't end well. that is where i will end. thank you very much and we can talk and take questions. [applause] >> feel free to get up and leave but we can keep talking. >> what is interesting about this story is how much you had to leave out to get it into the pages that you got it in. one of the pieces i thought was fascinating was during the war of 1812 mcdougal sold for
astoria to the north west company, the canadian company for pennies on the dollar but nonetheless it was sold to the canadian company and that could have ended right there. this could be southern british columbia accept treaty, british ship captain of the raccoon came in and conquered the fort from canadians during the war of 1812. all conquered possessions had to be returned and because it was conquered it had to be returned in 1818. it is full of stuff like that. was four months later, it would be southern british columbia. half a dozen of those -- >> these narrowly missed
chances. you are bringing up -- focuses on 1810-1813 and the aftermath of this whole region in limbo for 40 years after it these events for just the reason they were siding, that the war of 1812 broke out and this is all in the book. i do focus on these expeditions. astoria was a potential prize of war. i won't tell the whole story but mcdougal heard war had broken out. astoria, the royal navy was coming to seize astoria so to the rival northwest fur company. and was subsequently made a partner in the northwest.
he fashioned himself a golden parachute and then bailed out. he died in a very nasty way in canada some years later. it is what happens to the now section of this book. there are no details how he died but it wasn't so many years later. kind of the epitaph, he died a terrible death. that was mcdougal. what happened, so many things could have gone differently, with this part of the continent, if astoria had succeeded this might not have been southern british columbia but the united states might possess the entire west coast from alaska to mexico or even further, or if it was a powerful see going trading empire across the pacific, and it could have been a separate
company, could have been another thing. because of the war of 1812, it wasn't the treaty of can -- i don't want to get -- in 1818 as many of you who are joining us now, the u.s. and great britain signed a joint occupation of agreement which meant either americans or british could be here even though the british established themselves in this columbia basin region. it hung the whole region in the northeast in limbo until the 1840s but could have gone a lot of different ways. could have been all british and all-american. >> other questions? >> if you go into a little detail about john jacob astor to resupply astoria and the
struggles he had to face trying to get a ship out here. >> terrible struggle. you can imagine 12,000 miles around cape horn to get a message in. it was 12,000 in china. that was one of the big problems with john jacob astor abscission, it is not the lack of communication, and he didn't know for two years whether hunt had arrived, and eventually did arrive mostly intact but not entirely. john jacob astor had little control over what was going on and he was really wanting them to stand fast and put tremendous resources behind it. a huge amount of money, endless
resources but his men didn't have the will. hunt fox after -- he thought john jacob astor was not willing to defend the place but john jacob astor spend over a year trying to convince the u.s. navy to or the president, secretary of state, everyone in washington d.c. to send an armed ship, u.s. naval ships to defend astoria against the british navy. the u.s. navy was going to send a ship but at the last minute the crew got diverted to fight a battle on the great lakes though it didn't go. a meticulous planner, he outfitted another couple of ships, he bought a really fast ship called the lark and send it from new york to run blockades. he sent two capt.s undercover, sea captains to london.
this is clever. this is john jacob astor at his best or worst. recently to see captains to london with a blank check to by a british ship, sale and armed british ship to astoria in the company of the royal navy, the ship probably left in the company of the royal navy and was willing to defend astoria against but royal navy. the royal navy thought was a british aboard a russian ship, it was a stealth ship. it wrecked in hawaii and a crew of the stealth ship mutinied so there was one thing after another. >> can you get the mike over is there? >> when john jacob astor was forming the overland party and the party that was to go by sea, any idea of the privation and difficulties the party would
have in reaching astoria? >> i have thought about that a lot. that aspect of people in these difficult situations facing the unknown and the physical privation or mental stress really interests me and did he understand that? he had been a fur trader as a young man in the upper hudson valley so he dragged his wagon through swamps and forests. he had some understanding but nobody realized how vast the continent really was and how much terrain there was between new york and here as we know now. there were tribal territories, densely populated and some of it very and populated.
is no food in southern idaho. i don't think he knew. i think he knew very little about how they suffered. how they would suffer. he learned in the long run of course. >> a descendant of john jacob astor came to celebrate the bicentennial and he is known as lord astor, did they move to england? >> there is a long line and the line split into american and british line around 1900, one of the descendants moved to england and eventually became a titled aristocracy but he is a descendant of this astor. the astor i am writing about is the founder of the astor dynasty and there were many descendants in the united states including the astor many of us heard
about, john jacob astor iv who went down on the titanic. that would be the great great grandson i believe of the astor i am writing about who was the founder. another group, another astor went from this dynasty to england. >> the man who came to astoria is related. he was not an impostor. >> he was not an imposter. >> he is an astor definitely. >> the spanish in california were they aware of what was going on in the northwest? they have a little claim. >> good point. the spanish -- all of this is historical background, i will try to limit myself but the spanish started building missions from baja california
from their settlements in what is now mexico of the california coast in the 1770s and got as far as san francisco, that was the farthest north mission and they had done it in part to stake a claim to that territory. they more or less stopped around san francisco. the russians started building fur posts down from alaska so that is where the gap in the settlement was between what is now alaska and san francisco. that is where astor and jefferson saw this unclaimed chunk of the west coast. >> i read once that the russians tried to put a settlement down on the coast of washington or oregon. i only read it once and i wasn't sure of the facts of that and i have never seen it since. i know the russians were trading sea otters.
you went down the columbia and put one at what is now the tri-cities. h his notice, gitmo. how do you see your writing about astoria as to the complexion or depth or breadth of that story? >> what i have done, the books that came out previously have not focused on these expeditions with the depth that i have. that is really what i focus on.
i am an adventure writer. eat and very detailed specifics of what was like on overland journey is and try to bring those to life as much as possible. some wonderful books about astoria, the astorian empire, a beautifully research scholarly work about astoria. if you want historical detail, that tells everything there is to know about astoria. that wasn't my mission. my mission was -- my self-appointed mission was to focus on the adventure story of these expeditions. there is such tremendous stories, dramatic stories and the hardest thing for me was to leave things out. there are so many stories.
the difficulty was keeping things out and even then, it is not a huge book but not a small boat peter and what i wanted to do by telling these stories, these dramatic stories i wanted to use those as a lens to get into the history, as a vehicle to get into the history, as a way to bring the reader along into the history. my first priority was to tell a really good story. that is what i have done. how i added depth. washington irving does wonderful job telling the story. sentences of long compared to ours. want to keep the microphone moving one side to the other. start over if there. >> could use a little more about david thompson's trip down and coming into astoria? >> there is so much to say. david thompson was with the
north west company which was the british, canadian rival who astor worked with and proposed a partnership to start a west coast colony and they more or less apparently declined him. he went ahead and started one anyway. as soon as the british heard he was starting one, as soon as the north west company heard he was starting one they sent a message through their interior network of rivers and lakes in the voyager canoes to as far west as they could and sent it to david thompson who was then exploring in the northern rockies region and he had been out there several years, he was just coming back east and won a vacation after this huge amount of mapping and they call him the stargazer because he was always using a sextant and mapping things. he was on his way back and get
the message coming to the rockies by voyager canoes and says go to the mouth of the columbia. not clear what the details of the message were but immediately turned around to get to the mouth of the columbia, crossed over the rocky mountains, and next year paddled down the columbia. and historians -- astorians had been there four months. he actually hung out with them. they might be rivals and enemies, cordial gentleness and welcomed with all the dinners and scourge reality. >> astor was one of the most
wealthy clinton in the country and get a blank check for ships in london. why did he not give his astorian party -- >> he did. a blank checkbook. one thing i write about is irony of hunt having his blank checkbook in the bottom of hell's canyon and winter starving. it brings to mind what money can do in certain circumstances or not do. hunt did have a blank check. this is another segment of this story. he eventually got to astoria, he went off of astor's second supply ship, the beaver four months after hunt arrived and hunt went off on the beaver to trade up the coast of vancouver island and alaska. that ended up being its own
fiasco. he and the captain had a choice whether returning to astoria in the winter when it was storm your going to hawaii, the captain convinced to go to hawaii to fix the ship. he ended up in the south pacific after that and wanders all over the place and finally shows up back in astoria 15 months later and it has already been sold out and he said what? what are you doing? why are you selling the place? they were saying where were you? >> what happens with this pregnant lady who was supposed to have a baby? >> marie duran. she is this incredibly tough woman and she goes to the whole hell's can and winter starvation scene and she and her family have one horse between them.
they go through struggles, blizzards, the whole thing. they finally get out of hell's canyon. schilling indians, the big hunt indians, guiding them across the old mountain range and she gives birth at the base of the blue mountains in winter, late december, across the blue mountains, really cold, snowy conditions and the baby dies on top of the blue mountains after a week. it is one of these things where i tried to trace the trail where they were. >> is she buried in st. joseph? >> there is the -- she survived as an incredible massacre came later where a whole branch of astorians in snake river country
were massacred including her husband and she and her two boys escaped and she she hid in a shelter made of her horse's tied with her two boys, came to the columbia, met a canoe going down the columbia, eventually years later ended up as one of the first settlers in the valley. when the wagon trains came out, bringing settlers, she was already there. that is another phase of the story. there was a return parties that went carrying messages fur astor back to new york. they stumbled around for a year or two but between those two parties, the return party led by
robert stewart, a well-known name in western history they found what you all know as the oregon trail. that is how the original oregon trail was discovered from all this blind wandering around on the part of hunt and robert stewart on the way that discovered what is called south pass through the rocky mountains and that was the key piece of geography where you could finally discovered where you could cross the rocky mountains in a wheeled vehicle, a horse-drawn wagon. that was the key link in the oregon trail that allowed settlers to come west carrying their belongings and once they could do that, the valley was becoming recognized as a very fertile kind of garden of eden on the west coast. in fact it was the astorians who were the first whites to explore
the valley and start a fur posts there and they knew it was a rich agricultural place. this became a tremendous magnet for the settlement of the west and the westward movement. these settlers to get out there had to come out and it was the astorians route they followed to get out here. they were greeted by marie dorian. all right, thanks, you have been a wonderful audience. [applause] >> thank you for coming. i will be up here and if you want to talk i will be up here at the table. thanks so much for that. i need my glass of water.
[inaudible conversations] >> for more information visit the author's web site, peter stark author.com. >> we ask two things. first, we are there because we were attacked in new york city and 3,000 americans were murdered. that is why we went to afghanistan to get those people who were killing us. second, president obama has said there is a limit to this. with in two years we are not doing it anymore. i agree with you, julie. at some point you have to let them do it. but in our first goal if we get away from the afghans and look at what our first goal was, if i had told you or any listeners in
2001 that we would not be attacked again in the united states of america for the next decade, none of us would have believed it because at that point al qaeda had more of the advantage. now we have al qaeda and the terrorists definitely on the defensive. so we can at this point get out most of our forces from afghanistan. i agree with you. we have been successful in what we really wanted to do as a country and that is to protect ourselves. >> vietnam vet, assistant defense secretary during the reagan administration, analyst and author being west will take your questions in depth live for three hours starting at noon eastern next sunday on c-span2's booktv. next on booktv paul kengor presents his thoughts on what it means to be a reagan
conservative. this is what about an hour and 15 minutes. [applause] >> thank you, ashley. thank you, andrew. growth city college graduate. andrew was in the first-class i taught in 1990, i think he was. thank you to packs will as well, ron robinson who is not here, the young america's foundation longtime executive director, thank you for all that you do for young people, for campuses across the country and for conserving and preserving the reagan ranch and reagan legacy. ronald reagan reagan conservatism was about conserving and preserving as well. that is something, more on that in a minute. also thanks to c-span for being here, people often call c-span