Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)


Lt 32, 1880

Foss, Samuel; Foss, Mary

On the Steamer “D. S. Baker” en route for Portland. Oregon

June 1, 1880

Portions of this letter are published in 3Bio 140.

Dear Brother Samuel and Sister Mary Foss:

Should I send you all the fragments of epistles I have commenced to you and been called off before finished, I should have quite a postage to pay. But I wish to write a little description of the scenery while passing up and down the Cascades. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 1

Our camp meeting over at Milton, Oregon, we returned to Walla Walla, Washington Territory. From there took the cars for Wallula thirty miles. We passed over from Milton to Walla Walla, a very fertile prairie country. In one wheat field there were three thousand acres of wheat. In the background about, fifteen or twenty miles, was the range of Blue Mountains, the snow upon them almost giving you the chills. There is no timber in the valleys. Their wood is brought from the mountains. In the valleys by the winding streams are willows, poplars, cotton wood, and balm of Gilead, not large, but foliage sufficient to make quite a shade and a very fine appearance. Small groves were growing up out of the white glistening sand. The land is not a dead level, but broken. There is a range of hills stretching for miles. They resemble the waves of the sea. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 2

As we approached Walla Walla from Milton, we saw most singular whirlwinds, common in this country. They rise in pillars of sand and go directly up and increase in dimension as they rise, soaring higher and higher toward the heavens until raised thousands of feet in the air. The sand cloud is distinctly seen like smoke from an immense engine floating around in the heavens like a dusky cloud in a clear day. For ten miles after we left Walla Walla, amid the sagebrush and sand, were scattered farms located on the banks of streams that flow into the Walla Walla River. We could, for the thirty miles, trace the narrow river by the green, flourishing willows, poplars, and Gilead trees on the banks. Every little ranch had a flourishing orchard and after ten miles’ travel was barren sagebrush amid the sand. Only small houses here and there. We came to Indian settlements quite frequently. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 3

About six o’clock we reached the village of Wallula. The boat came steaming grandly up the river with colors flying and we were received on board. We engaged our staterooms and now I am writing. This is a grand little steamer. We do not leave the wharf till morning, for this channel is never passed except by daylight. At three o’clock in the morning we are in motion. We are having strong head winds but the current is in our favor. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 4

During the camp meeting in Milton, the last week, our good daughter Mary [White] was sick, with inflammation of the hands and limbs. Her joints were sore. I bandaged them with hot water compresses, having her lie still in her berth. She worked very hard in many ways at the camp meeting; copying, cooking, playing the organ, acting for Willie in the Sabbath School work. Mary is somewhat relieved. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 5

About [?] o’clock we come to rocks of singular formation, appearing as though an artisan had been laying an immense wall for a house. And now the scene changes. Regular terraces of rock rise [terrace] above terrace, extending up the mountains for hundreds of feet. These rocks are the palisades, stretching miles on the banks of the river. And as we ride on, rocks change their appearance, now appear smooth—rocks regular and even—like brick work rising in massive wall of masonry extending over many miles. Above these rocks rise the grand old mountains, not to the greatest height, but these regularly-laid stones reach to the very top of the mountains. Amid the rocks, the evergreen trees are growing apparently out of the bare rocks. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 6

And now we come to an old white signal on a pole. And the boat heaves in order to make this point. I see upon the banks large bags of wool. Four thousand pounds are taken on the boat. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 7

Now there is another feature of rocks looking altogether grand and solemn as though it were the ruins of an old city. The rapids through which we pass are dangerous, but the Captain is master of the situation. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 8

We were especially honored by the Captain and dignitaries on board. We were seated close by the Captain at the table, and he waited on us. He excused himself before dinner was finished. Said he must be in the pilot house himself and his hand upon the wheel now for a time. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1880, par. 9