John C. Fremont


John C. Fremont - U.S. Army Colonel, instigator of war with Mexico in 1846, California Senator, the first Republican candidate for President, writer, promoter - was first an explorer. During the 1830s and 40s Fremont led several military surveys of the West. His reports greatly expanded American knowledge of the geography, geology, and the potential for agriculture in the Great Basin and in California. Foremost, though, Fremont was a booster of western expansion in the spirit of his father-in-law, the Missouri Senator, Thomas Hart Benton. During the late fall of 1842, after reaching the northwest limit of his second western survey, Fremont led his command south from The Dalles, on the Columbia River, along the Deschutes (or Fall River in his journal) towards the Klamath basin and on into California. The journal entry below describes the party's view from a point along the Deschutes opposite Mt. Jefferson and south as far as the Three Sisters and Bachelor Butte in the central Oregon Cascades.

November 29, 1842 - We emerged from the basin, by a narrow, pass, upon a considerable branch of Fall [Deschutes] river, running to the eastward through a narrow valley. The trail, descending this stream, brought us to a locality of hot springs, which were on either bank. Those on the left, which were formed into deep handsome basins, would have been delightful baths, if the outer air had not been so keen, the thermometer in these being at 89°. There were others on the opposite side, at the foot of an escarpment, in which the temperature of the water was 134°. These waters deposited around the spring a brecciated mass of quartz and feldspar, much of it of a reddish color.

We crossed the stream here, and ascended again to a high plain, from an elevated point of which we obtained a view of six of the great peaks - Mount Jefferson, followed to the southward by two others of the same class; and succeeding, at a still greater distance to the southward, were three lower peaks, clustering together in a branch ridge. These, like the great peaks, were snowy masses, secondary only to them; and, from the best examination our time permitted, we are inclined to believe that the range to which they belong is a branch front the great chain which here bears to the westward. The trail, during the remainder of the day, followed near to the large stream on the left, which, was continuously walled in between high rocky banks. We halted for the night on a little by-stream.

Samuel M. Smucker, The Life of Col. John Charles Fremont and His Narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, and California, New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1856, pp. 343-344.

Last modified in August, 2019 by Rick Thomas