Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

The Hot Springs

I had one more marvel on this road to the Oregon country with which to surprise Susan Mitchell, and that was the Hot Springs, which were within a mile of the trail; therefore I led the company directly to them, there making camp.

There are five or six of these springs, from which water bubbles up so hot that one may boil meat in it without need of fire, and when I said as much to Susan's mother, she was inclined to think I would make sport of her; therefore she boldly plunged her hand in, with the result that every part of the skin which came in contact with the water was reddened to the point of being blistered.

[Illustration] from Antoine of Oregon by James Otis

That night we boiled some pemmican (a prepared meat carried by all travelers over the Oregon trail), in one of the springs, and the girls of the party amused themselves by making up balls of meal of dough grass, lowering cooking into the water by strands of plaited grass, cooking them as dumplings are cooked in a stew of meat.

When we camped at Portneuf Crossing, mother told us the story of the trapper Portneuf, who was murdered at this place by the Indians, and spoke in such a tragic manner that even John Mitchell was impressed by the brutal details. When I made the rounds of the camp before going to sleep, I took note that none of the men were inclined to move around alone outside the rays of light cast by the camp fires, and he whose turn it was to stand watch, had with him a companion, much as though he was afraid to remain without a comrade near at hand in a place where such an evil deed had been done.