Columbia River Salmon - As Written in 1897

Posted by Nick Amato on


Two young men were drowned within reaching distance of the shore in Youngs bay yesterday afternoon and a third man was rescued by the heroism of Fred Henry who pulled him ashore at the risk of his own life.

The drowned were John Anderson, aged 21, and Rasmus Anderson, aged 18, both large and strong men, being about six feet tall, weighing nearly 200 pounds and strong in young manhood. They were recent arrivals in Astoria, having come here with their mother, who is an invalid, and a sister. They rent­ed a small house by the shore of Youngs bay, near the location of the old oil factory, and it was in sight of it that they were drowned. They were the sole support of the family, and from all accounts were sober, industrious boys, who made a living by cutting wood.

Yesterday morning, they were invited by Hans Jensen, who lived near them, to take a sail up the Walluski. They gladly accepted and started in a lit­tle shell of a boat that was hardly capable of holding one, let alone three. They made the up trip in safety and on the return, the wind had sprung up strong from the south west and made quite a swell but skillfully handled she came through the opening in the old Goss trestle and was within a few hundred feet of shore when an effort was made to take the sail down. In doing so, the boat capsized and the three were thrown into the water.

As soon as they came to the surface, they all grabbed the bottom of the boat and foolishly tried to climb on top of it. As they did so, it kept turning over, and they soon became exhausted by their efforts. On shore were a number of people who shouted advice, but there was no boat near by to go to their assistance, so they were compelled to stand by and watch the men drown, except a few boys, assisted by Frank Henry, who got a boat from a Chinaman a quarter of a mile away, and started to row to the scene. Before they could get near, the two young men stopped struggling with the boat, and throwing up their hands, sank out of sight.

At this moment a most exciting and pathetic incident occurred. Jensen was struggling to hold on to the boat when out from the crowd came a little girl about 14 years of age who had an oar in her hands and ran into the water say­ing: "My papa is drowning. I will save him." By this time the crowd was fran­tic but Fred Henry who was in the crowd ran into the water and grabbed the girl and brought her back to shore and instructed some men to hold her. He then took the oar and started out after Jensen although he could not swim. After wading out until the water was up to his shoulders, he was able to grasp Jensen and then started back to shore with him.

Jensen was nearly unconscious but grabbed at Henry and if he had not retained his presence of mind, they both would have drowned, although Frank Henry was then close with the boat with two boys straining at the oars. As soon as Fred Henry got Jensen ashore, willing hands were ready to carry him to his home near by and Fred Henry directed his resuscitation. In the meantime, Frank Henry started for town to secure Dr. Estes and on the way notified some fishermen in Uniontown who quickly got some gear together to grapple for the bodies of the two young men.

After a search for a couple of hours, the bodies were recovered almost directly under where they were last seen in the water. Coroner Pohl was noti­fied and took possession of the bodies pending a decision as to whether an inquest should be held but it is unlikely that one will be held as the drowning was witnessed by so many people. The arrangements for their funeral have not yet been made. Some one started the rumor last evening that the three men were intoxicated at the time but this is entirely untrue as they had not had any liquor with them. Their death leaves their mother in distress as she is an invalid confined to her bed.

—May 29, 1899 ADB 

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There is generally a freshet in the river for about two weeks, during the month of June, when the fishing is done during the day, but at other times all fishing is done in the night, for the salmon are very shy and the water at other times so clear, that even by tanning the net, they detect it.

salmon fishing

It is a pretty sight, in the early twilight of a pleasant day, to see the boats, with sails all spread, skimming along the water, on their way to the fishing grounds.

Then it seems as though the fisherman’s life must be a pleasant one, but when, as is more often the case, it rains- as it can only rain in Oregon-and with the nights intensely dark, the romance vanishes; and as we draw the curtain to shut out the dreariness, it is with an earnest hope that no boat will be capsized by the gale, or that in the darkness and fog, none may drift outside the bar, for the river is rapid and broad. Probably at no point where fishing is done is it less than three miles wide and in some places six or seven.

Each cannery has a steamboat which is sent out in the morning to tow the fishing boats home. These steamers will tow sometimes thirty boats at one time.

By this means the boats are usually in by 9 o’clock in the morning, giving the fishermen the day for sleep, so they are able to go fishing the next night again. When the boats come in, the nets are all given to a net-tender, who examines them, mends all rents, and gets them ready for the men at night.

The fish, as they are landed on the wharf, are counted; then a man takes them, and, by quick strokes with a knife, the heads, tails and fins are dissevered; then he splits, cleans and throws them into a large tank of salt water.

Another man takes the scales, slimes and thoroughly washes them; then they are taken to a machine that cuts them in pieces to fit the cans; these are taken to the fillers, who press them in cans and salt them, each can receiving the same amount; then the tops are put in.

The machine that cuts these tops punches a hole in each. Now the solderers receive the cans and solder the tops on, and also the hole in the tops. These cans are, or supposed to be air tight; they are passed through the testing tank, and if no leak is discernable they are ready for cooking. This is done in most canneries with steam. In this way they are cooked one hour; then they are taken out, a hole is punctured in them to let out the air, and immediately re-soldered. After this process, they are ready for the last cooking; this is done in steam-tight tanks.

When taken from these tanks they are dipped in strong lye to take off all grease. After cooling they are again tested and the perfect ones lacquered. When this is dry they are labeled, and when thoroughly dry are cased and ready for shipping.

Most of this work is done by people who work well, if they have a good overseer, and are very expeditious.

Before closing this article I will give a little description of the places where these establishments are situated. The canneries are invariably built over the water on piles. Back of these, on the banks of the river are clustered a few dwellings, with generally a pretty cottage, where the proprietor or foreman resides. Back of these are high bluffs, covered with evergreen trees, mostly spruce, hemlock and fir. These might rival the big trees of California, if not in diameter, in height. The mail is brought to these places daily by the boats plying between Portland and Astoria. Of course this description does not apply to the canneries situated at Astoria.

columbia salmon

Just now I hear that Mr. E.C. Rufus, who runs Badollet & Co’s boat No. 10, was capsized this morning. Himself and boat puller were in the water two hours before being rescued. The boat righted and net saved. It seems that the fishermen are venturing too near the bar for their own safety.

—Apri/19, 1878

About 1 o’clock P.M., at high tide yesterday, one of Badollet & Co’s fishing boats capsized near Scarborough hill, the fishermen clung to the bottom and were rescued by one of Watson’s fishing boats. The net and boat are probably lost, as the wind was blowing a gale at the time.

—April 20, 1878

One of Jos. Hume’s fishing boats was seen returning to the cannery at Knappton about noon yesterday with only one man and part of a net. Whether the other man was lost or not we did not learn. The wind was blowing severely.

—April 20, 1878 WA

Messrs. Badollet & Co’s fishing boat No. 12 in charge of Nicholas Devinich, capsized last night below Scarborough hill. The occupants of the boat saved themselves with difficulty. The net was picked up by Mr. John Lewis, who runs Watson Bros. boat No. 17, who had the meanness to demand the sum of $100 for a few minutes work, refusing to give up the net unless paid that sum. Messrs. B. & Co. tendered him $20, which he finally concluded to accept rather than to go to law. The boat was picked up by Mr. Peter Rosset, who had the manliness to charge nothing for the same.

—April 20. 1878 WA

About 3 o’clock yesterday morning, a fishing boat was upset while under sail in the river near the city, the wind being very strong. The boat was picked up by two fishing boats passing about two hours afterwards, with two men setting on the bottom, and brought to the shore. The boat belonged to Wm. Hume, of Eagle Cliff, and upon righting her it was found that the night’s catch, which consisted of thirteen fish, and a few utensils had been lost.


salmon columbia rivers end

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