Harper's New Monthly Magazine,  8 (1884), 500–15.

Wheat Fields of the Columbia

Ernest Ingersoll


Essay, Travelogue


Mapping, Physical Geography, Railways, Steamships, Agriculture, Natural Economy, Mining, Race, Anthropology, Engineers

People mentioned:

Henry Villard

    Advises the 'reader in the Atlantic States' to 'consult some modern map of this northwestern corner of the Union, whose features have only recently been accurately known and cartographed' (500). Gives an account of 'what the region contain[s] attractive to immigrants', and how it can be reached by many different forms of transport (501). Notes the emergence of several 'thriving, progressive farming centres' in the valley of the Walla Walla River in Washington Territory, which use 'the "summer fallow" plan as a precaution against too great depletion of their soil', as well as another 'bit of economy' with the 'use of "headers" rather than the ordinary mowers and reapers, the long stubble remaining after the harvest being burned, and thus returning to the soil in ashes the greater part of the minerals drawn into the straw during the previous year'. There are, however, still 'a large class of ignorant and shiftless farmers, "old-timers" for the most part, who are heedless of these far-seeing precautions'. (503) Observes that the difficulty of commercial 'placer-mining' in the region has meant that the initial diggings made by the white population were 'soon abandoned to the patient Chinamen, who are only too glad to be let peacefully alone with the second pick at anything', and who are 'hard to distinguish from the bowlders among which they delve' (504). These 'colonies of Chinese washing gold out of the gravelly shores of the river' inhabit 'little holes dug in the bank', and their life is 'far more comfortless and savage and isolated than that of the Indian on the opposite bank' (505). Describes Hangman's Creek where in 1857 'the trees along its banks a little lower down were decorated with the bodies of several ringleaders of a murderous revolt on the part of the Spokane Indians, to whom General Wright administered a defeat so severe and so well merited that this tribe has been most polite and friendly to the whites ever since' (510). Also reflects that the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway through the 'desolation' of the Spokane Valley involved 'incredible hardship to its engineers and workmen' (513).

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