163. Sam Houston. Young Houston was born of Scotch-Irish parents, in Virginia (1793). His father had fought under General Morgan in the Revolution. Sam Houston did not have much schooling, and when but thirteen his family moved to east Tennessee. Made angry by his older brother, he left home and went to live with the Cherokee Indians. He liked the wild life of the Indians and took part with the Indian boys in their pastimes of hunting, fishing, and playing at games.
He was now eighteen. He returned home and went to school a term at Marysville Academy. In the war of 1812 General Jackson called the men of Tennessee to arms. Young Houston responded to that call, and fought against the Indians in the great "Battle of Horseshoe Bend." He was dangerously wounded after doing heroic deeds. Houston was a long time in getting well.
At twenty-five he began to study law in Nashville and in six p321 months — just a third of the time said to be necessary — he was ready to practice. Houston's rise in the law and in the favor of the people was rapid. He went from one position to another until the people elected him to Congress.
He was in Congress four years. He won many friends by his gracious behavior. The people of Tennessee made Houston their governor. But suddenly, without warning, Houston resigned as governor, and forsook his home and friends. He sailed down the Mississippi River to the Arkansas, and up this river several hundred miles to the land of his early friends, the Cherokees, whom the United States Government had sent to that far-away country.
Here Houston found the old chief — now the head of his tribe — who had adopted him as a son years before on the banks of the Tennessee. The chief threw his arms around him in great affection and said: "My son, eleven winters have passed since we met. My heart has wondered often where you were; and I heard you were a great chief among your people . . . I have heard that a dark cloud had fallen on the white path you were walking, and when it fell . . . You turned your thoughts to my wigwam. I am glad of it, — it was done by the Great Spirit . . . My wigwam is yours, my home is yours, my people are yours, — rest with us."
When Andrew Jackson became President of the United States, Houston went, in his Indian dress, on a visit to Washington. He was warmly received by his old friend from Tennessee.
p322 Once more he turned his face toward the wilderness. He stopped in Tennessee and was warmly greeted by old friends. He did not stay long in Tennessee.
Neither did he stay long with the Cherokees, but hastened to Texas where the people were already murmuring against the treatment they were receiving from Mexico.
The people of Texas finally issued a Declaration of Independence. Thereupon the Mexicans resolved to send a large army into Texas and force the revolutionists into submission to the government.
A most important event of this war was the capture, by a large Mexican force, of an old fortress called the Alamo. It was defended by one hundred forty men, among them the famous "Davy" Crockett and Colonel Bowie — the inventor of the bowie knife. Only six Texans were alive after the capture of the fort. These heroic men died, fighting the Mexicans to last.
"Remember the Alamo!" became the war cry of every Texan. The Mexicans were p323 approaching, five thousand strong, under General Santa Anna. General Houston commanded the Texans, about seven hundred in all.
Suddenly the news came that General Fannin and his men, five hundred in number, had been massacred by the Mexicans at Goliad. The cause of Texan independence looked dark indeed.
Houston began a retreat of two hundred fifty miles to the eastward. Santa Anna followed closely after him, but scattered his men, just as Houston wanted him to do, until he had with him but eighteen hundred men. They were now on the banks of the San Jacinto.
Houston waited till the Mexicans were a bit careless, then seven hundred Texans charged the breastworks of the Mexicans. After the first fire they clubbed their guns and went at it, pioneer fashion, with the cry "Remember the Alamo!" The right and the left wings of the Mexicans gave way first, and then the center.
They retreated, expecting to cross a deep, narrow bayou or stream on a log bridge, but Houston had had the bridge destroyed. The slaughter was terrific. The stream was choked with Mexicans and their horses.
p324 Santa Anna was captured and was turned over to the Texan Government. Many thought he ought to die because of the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, but Houston was generous toward the beaten man, and sent him on to visit Washington.
Houston had been badly wounded and sailed to New Orleans for medical care. He returned to be elected first President of the "Lone Star Republic," as Texas was called. He was reëlected for a second term and served his country well.
Houston wanted Texas made a part of the United States. This was afterwards done and war followed with Mexico. In 1845, Texas sent Houston to the United States Senate, where he served his state for fourteen years.
He fully believed in the Union. He died in 1863.
164. The Columbia River Discovered in 1792. Captain Robert Gray was sent out by Boston merchants to buy furs from the Indians on the Pacific coast. He sailed around South America and up along the coast to Vancouver island, where he obtained a rich cargo of furs. He then made his way across the Pacific to China and came back to Boston by way of the Cape of Good Hope — the first American to carry the Stars and Stripes around the world.
p325 On a second voyage to the same region in the good ship, "Columbia," Gray discovered the mouth of this great river (1792). Up this river he went for nearly thirty miles, probably the first white man to sail upon its waters. Captain Gray named the river the Columbia after his vessel. The Indians had called it the Oregon.
165. The Lewis and Clark Expedition. The next important step in finding a route to the Oregon country was the great expedition undertaken while Thomas Jefferson was yet President.
Lewis and Clark were two young men chosen by Jefferson to explore the region known as the Louisiana Purchase and to make their way across the Rocky Mountains to the Oregon country and to the Pacific. They chose forty-two men to go with them — some as soldiers, others as servants, and still others as hunters. From the little French village of St. Louis they began their journey in boats in the spring of 1804.
Up the Missouri River they slowly made their way against the current of the muddy, rushing stream. At one time it was so swift that they could not force boats against it and at another time the brushwood that came down the river broke their oars.
Near where the city of Council Bluffs now stands, Lewis and Clark held a great meeting with the Indians. They told the Indians that the people of the United States and not the people of France were now the owners of this great land. Together they smoked the "pipe of peace" and the Indians promised to be friendly.
p326 On they went till the region near the Black Hills was reached. It was the fall of the year and the trees were bright with color, and the wild duck and geese in large numbers were seen going southward.
The company spent the winter on an island sixteen hundred miles from St. Louis. The men built rude homes and fortified them. The Indians were friendly and the explorers spent many evenings around the wigwam fires listening to stories of the country the Indians had to tell them.
In the spring they bade the Indians good-by, passed the mouth of the Yellowstone, and traveled on till the Rocky Mountains with their long rows of snow-covered peaks came into view.
On the thirteenth day of June they beheld wonderful pictures of the "Falls of the Missouri." The water tore through a vast gorge a dozen miles or more in length.
166. The Way Over the Mountains. On they went until their boats could go no farther. They had reached rough and rugged hills and mountains. They climbed the heights as best they could. From now on the suffering was very great indeed.
One day Captain Lewis went ahead with three men to find Indian guides for the party. They climbed higher and higher until finally they came to a place where the Missouri River takes its rise. They went on and at last came to the western slope of the mountains, down which flowed a stream toward the Pacific.
Finally Captain Lewis came upon a company of Indian women p327 who could not get away. They all bowed their heads as if expecting to be killed. They led the white men to a band of Indians who received them with all the signs of kindness they could show.
Now they all turned back to find Clark and his party. When they reached Clark the Indians smoked the "pipe of peace" and Lewis and Clark told the Indians why the United States had sent them out.
They were the first white men these Indians had ever seen. They looked the men over carefully and took a deep interest in their clothing, their food, and in their guns.
The mountains were now rough and barren and the streams ran through deep gorges. The explorers took an old Indian guide and crossed the Bitter Root Mountains into a valley of the same name. They followed an Indian trail over the mountains again and into the Clearwater. They suffered for want of food and on account of the cold. When they reached a tribe of the Nez Percé (Pierced Nose) Indians they ate so much they were all ill.
167. On Waters Flowing Into the Pacific. In five log boats, which they had dug out of trees, they glided down the Clearwater to where it meets the Snake River. They camped near the spot where now is the present town of Lewiston, Idaho. Then they embarked on the Snake River and floated down to where it joins the mighty Columbia.
They were among the Indians again, who had plenty of dried fish. Here is the home of the salmon, a fish found in astonishing numbers. The men had never seen so many fish before.
p328 The number of Indians increased as they went toward the Pacific. Finally the party of explorers passed through the Cascade Mountains and were once more on the smooth current of the Columbia. They soon beheld the blue waters of the Pacific.
During their five months' stay on the Pacific, Captain Clark made a map of the region they had gone through. They repaired their guns and made clothes of the skins of elk and of other game.
The Indians told them of a shorter route to the Falls of the Missouri and Captain Lewis and nine men went by this route while Captain Clark with others retraced the old route. They saw nothing of each other for two months, when they all met again in August on the banks of the Missouri.
They reached St. Louis September 23, 1806. The people of the United States were glad to hear of the safe return of the exploring party, for they had long thought the men were dead.
p329 Both President Jefferson and Congress put great value upon the useful information that the expedition gathered. Congress rewarded every one connected with the expedition. Each man was granted double pay for the time he spent and three hundred acres of land. To Captain Lewis was given fifteen hundred acres and to Captain Clark a thousand acres. Lewis was appointed first Governor of Louisiana Territory and Clark was made Governor of Missouri Territory.
168. Fur Traders and Missionaries Lead the Way. Soon after this expedition the fur traders pushed their way across the Rocky Mountains from St. Louis to the Pacific. They found the "gateway of the Rockies," called the South Pass, which opened the way to the Oregon country (1824).
After the fur traders came the missionary, Nathaniel Wyeth, a New Englander who led a party to the Columbia and established a post (1832). Five missionaries followed him and began to work among the Indians. Very soon Parker and Whitman went out to the Nez Percé Indians who came over the mountains to meet them near the headwaters of the Green River. Parker returned with the Indians and visited Walla Walla, Vancouver, and the Spokane and Colville regions. Whitman returned East, was married, and found a missionary, Spaulding, and his wife, and the party went out to the Oregon country to work among the Indians.
169. The Boundary Established. During this time fur traders from Canada and Great Britain were occupying the Oregon country as far as the Columbia River. The United States and Great Britain made a treaty by which they agreed to occupy the country together. This treaty lasted till settlers from the United States made it necessary to have a new treaty. In 1846 a new treaty was made and the northern boundary was established as now.
170. A great Explorer. Fremont's father was a Frenchman who was driven to America by the terrible French Revolution.
John Charles Fremont was born at Savannah (1813) while his parents were on a journey through the South. His father died soon after, and his mother went to live in Charleston, South Carolina.
After a time at a good school, Fremont entered the junior class in Charleston College (1828). After leaving college he spent two and a half years on a voyage to South America.
On his return he joined a company of engineers sent by the governor to explore the mountains between South Carolina and Tennessee, in order to find a suitable place for a railroad. This work was through a region rough, wild, and full of beauty. It gave young Fremont a taste for exploration which never left him.
p331 Fremont's longing for a wild life was gratified when he was made assistant to a famous Frenchman who exploring the wild region between the upper Missouri River and Canada.
After this work Fremont returned to Washington and later married Jessie Benton, the daughter to Senator from Missouri. Thomas H. Benton was a great friend of President Jackson.
Fremont was now related to a powerful man who was deeply interested in the growth of the "Great West." Benton's repeated speeches on the "West" and on the "Oregon Country" called attention to the importance of the Pacific slope.
In 1842 Fremont, now a lieutenant of engineers, received permission from the government to explore the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. With a party made up largely of French Canadians, and assisted by that famous guide, Kit Carson, he passed up the Kansas River, crossed to the Platte, went up this river, and thus reached the South Pass.
171. On the Watershed. Standing on the watershed of a continent, he saw the beginnings of rivers that flow into the Atlantic, and of others that stretched away through unknown regions to the Pacific. He took four men and climbed what has since been called Fremonts Peak, one of the highest of the Rockies, about 13,800 feet above the sea. At the top Fremont unfurled the stars and stripes in all its glory!
172. A Pathway to the Pacific. Fremont reported his discovery at Washington and immediately applied for orders to make an expedition to discover a more southerly route to California and Oregon.
p332 He left the little town of Kansas City with his guide, Kit Carson, in May, 1843. In September, after traveling seventeen hundred miles, the little party beheld the shores of Great Salt Lake. What feelings must have stirred the breasts of men shut in for months by mountains, at seeing what appeared to be an ocean, here in the midst of a continent! Little did they dream of that hardy band of immigrants, so soon to follow, who would make at shores of this sea blossom like a garden! Fremont wrote: "As we looked over that vast expanse of water and strained our eyes along the silent shores, over which hung so much doubt and uncertainty, I could hardly repress the almost irresistible desire to continue our exploration."
After making preparations, the party crossed over to a branch of the Columbia River. Down this they traveled till Fort Vancouver was reached, November 4. Here Fremont was the guest of the Governor of the British Hudson Bay Company.
November 10, on the way home, the little party started to make the circuit of the Great Basin, a vast depression beyond the east wall of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But very soon they found deep snow on the mountains. They crossed into the Great Basin, but did not know it.
According to Fremont's observations, they were in the latitude p333 of San Francisco Bay and only seventy miles from it. But what miles! Up and down that snowy mountain, which the Indians told him no man could cross in winter, with snow upon it as deep as the trees were high, and places where if a man slipped off he would fall half a mile at a time!
They attempted to cross without a guide, in the dead of winter. In forty days the men and the surviving horses — a woeful procession crawling along one by one, skeleton men leading skeleton horses — arrived at Sutters Fort (Sacramento) in the beautiful valley of the Sacramento. Here genial warmth, trees in foliage, grassy ground, and flowers made a fairy contrast to the famine and freezing they had met on the mountains they had climbed.
After enjoying the hospitality of Colonel Sutter, Fremont again crossed the mountains some five hundred miles farther south where the beautiful San Joaquin River makes a gap or pass.
He was once more in the Great Basin, where he found a tribe of Digger Indians, so named because they got their food by digging. Roots, insects, and lizards were their common food.
Pushing forward with great energy, he reached Utah Lake, thus having nearly made the circuit of the Great Basin.
Fremont hastened to Washington with the story of his discoveries. General Scott now recommended that he be made captain.
p334 Fremont's third expedition, with Carson as a helper, began in the spring of 1845, and aimed to explore the Great Basin and the coast of California and Oregon.
173. In the Mexican War. Little did Fremont — or any of his men — think what fortune had in store for them. On his way to the Oregon Country Fremont received news that the Mexicans were planning to kill all the Americans in the Sacramento Valley. War had already broken out between the United States and Mexico, but he did not know it. He returned, reaching the valley in May, 1846, and the settlers rushed to join him. In one month he had beaten the Mexicans and declared northern California independent.
Fremont marched with all speed to Monterey and occupied it. This practically finished the conquest of all California in sixty days.
174. Becomes a Private Citizen. Son after this event Fremont returned to Washington, gave up his place in the regular army, and went to live in California. His journey to California made up his fourth expedition. But the people would not let him p335 long remain in private. The state elected him to the United States Senate. Fremont was not long in Congress, but was of great service in giving advice concerning the long-talked‑of railroad to the Pacific.
While Fremont was in Europe on business, he learned that the Government was planning to survey three routes to the Pacific. He hastened home and set out on his fifth expedition, which was full of danger and suffering. The explorers lived fifty days on horse meat and were forty-eight hours without food of any kind.
Fremont finally got through to California and hastened back to Washington to report what he had found.
He now took up his residence in New York City and became a member of the party opposed to the extension of slavery. The new party, the Republican, nominated him as its first candidate for President (1856). He was defeated after a most exciting time, yet he carried all the Northern states but four.
During the Civil War he was made a major-general, but after a year or two he resigned. He was talked of for President in 1864, but did not make the race.
After the war was over he was interested in a great continental railroad. From 1878 to 1881, he was governor of Arizona. Congress voted him a pension just before he died in 1890.
The Leading Facts. 1. Houston had little schooling, and went to live with the Cherokee Indians. 2. Wounded at Horse Shoe Bend; studied law in Nashville; was sent to Congress for four years; and was elected governor of Tennessee. 3. Went to live with the Cherokees again, and then went to Texas. 4. Houston won the battle of San Jacinto; was made president of the republic of Texas; and later elected to the United States Senate. 5. The Columbia River was discovered by Gray. 6. The way to the Oregon country was made known by Lewis and Clark and by missionaries. 7. The Indians received them with kindness along the route. 8. Parker and Whitman went as p336 missionaries to the Nez Percé Indians. 9. Whitman and Spaulding, with their wives, made the trip and worked among the fur traders and Indians. 10. Emigrant parties went to Oregon to build homes. 11. The northern boundary of United States established. 12. Fremont went to school in Charleston, but left for a voyage to South America. 13. He worked for exploring parties; married and thus became related to a great man interested in the Far West. 14. Fremont explored the South Pass in his first expedition; on his second saw Great Salt Lake, and crossed the mountains with great suffering. 15. Fremont crossed a third time, conquered California; was made a United States senator, and became first candidate of the Republican party for the Presidency.
Study Questions. 1. What was peculiar in Houston's early life? 2. What had he done before he began to study law? 3. What made people like him? 4. Where was the battle of Horse Shoe Bend fought? 5. How did the Cherokee chief welcome him? 6. Why did Houston go back to Tennessee? 7. What drew him to Texas? 8. What were the first bad defeats of the Texans? 9. Tell the story of San Jacinto. 10. What kind of a general, a president, and a senator did Houston make?
11. How did Captain Gray happen to discover the Columbia River? 12. Why was it named Columbia? 13. Who sent Lewis and Clark to the Oregon country? 14. Describe the trip up the Missouri River. 15. Tell how Lewis and Clark spent the winter. 16. How did the Indians on the way receive him? 17. How did they return home? 18. What offices were given Lewis and Clark? 19. How early did missionaries visit the region? 20. Name some of the missionaries and some of the Indians among whom they worked.
21. Who was John Charles Fremont? 22. What of his youthful days? 23. What experience in early days after college prepared him for his great work? 24. Who was Kit Carson? 25. Describe Fremont's journey to the South Pass and tell what was seen and what was done. 26. What expedition did he now plan? 27. Picture the scene on the discovery of the Great Salt Lake. 28. Picture his exploration of the Great Basin and crossing the Sierras. 29. What was the contrast at Sutters Fort? 30. Describe the Digger Indians. 31. At what was Fremont's third expedition aimed and what did it really accomplish? 32. Why was he a senator from California? 33. Picture his fifth expedition. 34. Tell the story of his life during and after the Civil War.
Suggested Readings. Houston: Bruce, Life of General Houston; Crockett, Life of Davy Crockett, 368‑405.
Fremont: Bigelow, Life of John Charles Fremont, 1‑216, 319‑373, 379‑466.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 25 Jun 13