Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission





Eva Emery Dye    (1855-1947)
By Walt Curtis 1995


When Eva Emery Dye and her husband Charles came to Oregon City (the end of the Oregon Trail) in 1891, she commented, "I began writing as soon as I reached this old and romantic city. I saw beautiful historical material lying around like nuggets..."

Within 2 years she had completed McLoughlin and Old Oregon, though it wouldn't be published until 1900. Verne Bright called her "the historian of the pioneers."

It's true - she would write about Dr. John McLoughlin, the man who helped the early pioneers and whose historic home was rescued by the Dyes. Also Jesse Applegate, Daniel Boone's kin, etc.

Her most popular book, The Conquest (1902), created a teenage Indian mother as heroine on the Lewis and Clark expedition. She became one of the most famous figures of West coast history - SACAJAWEA!

Dye was a suffragist and a historical novelist of great enthusiasm. Her style is upbeat, delightful, filled with colorful and accurate details given her era. Malcolm Clark Jr. felt her "history" was sound and she traveled about our nation doing research. Sacajawea is a literary creation, but so what? Little is known about the real woman. I think some of Dye's books need to be put back in print. Her writing is accessible and populist, neither cynical nor difficult to enjoy.

The Dyes are responsible for the statue of Sacajawea in Washington Park, erected in 1905 for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Eva and her lawyer husband were the intellectual backbone for the Chautauqua Society, an adult education society offering music, history, politics and literary recitations in the outdoors.

Lewis and Clark wintered at Fort Clatsop near the Oregon coast. This excerpt, from The Conquest, describes what is now Ecola State Park. Ecola is the native word for whale.

"A WHALE! a whale ashore!"

When Chief Coboway brought word there was great excitement at Fort Clatsop. Everybody wanted to see the whale, but few could go. Captain Clark appointed twelve men to be ready at daylight. Sacajawea, in the privacy of her own room that Sunday evening, spoke to Charboneau. Now Charboneau wanted her to stay and attend to the "L'Apalois" - roasting meats on a stick, - knowing that the child would have to looked after, slipped over to the Captains, discussing by the fire.

"Sacajawea t'ink she want to see de whale. She ought not go!"

"Very well," answered the Captains, scarce heeding. "She better stay at the fort. It would be a hard jaunt for a woman to go over Tillamook Head."

Charboneau went back. "De Captinne say you cannot go!"

This was a staggering blow to Sacajawea, but her woman's determination had become aroused and she took the rostrum, so to speak. Leaving the baby Touissant with his father, she in turn slipped over to the Captains. Sacajawea was a born linguist.

"Captinnne, you remember w'en we reach de rivers and you knew not which to follow? I show de country an' point de stream. Again w'en my husband could not spik, I spik for you.

"Now, Captinne, I travel great way to see de Beeg Water. I climb de mountain an' help de boat on de rapide. An' now dis monstrous fish haf come" -

Sacajawea could scarce restrain her tears. Sacajawea was only a woman, and a brave little woman at that. Captain Lewis was moved.

"Sacajawea, you are one of those who are born not to die. Of course you can go. Go and be getting ready, and," he added, "if Charboneau wants to go too, he will have to carry the baby!"...

...The sun rose clear and cloudless on a land of spring-time, and yet it was only January. Robins sang around the stockade, bluebirds whizzed down the Netul into Meriwether Bay, on the way to the Clatsop town. After a day's adventure, they camped near a herd of elk in the beautiful moonlight. At noon, next day, they reached the salt-makers. Here Jo Fields, Bratton, and Gibson had their brass kettles under a rock arch, boiling and boiling sea water into a gallon of salt a day. Hiring Twiltch, a young Indian for guide, they climbed Tillamook Head, about thirty miles south of Cape Disappointment. Upon this promontory, Clark's Point of View, they paused before the boisterous Pacific, breaking with fury and flinging its waves above the Rock of Tillamook.

On one side the blue Columbia widened into bays studded with Chinook and Clatsop villages; on the other stretched rich prairies, enlivened by beautiful streams and lakes at the foot of the hills. Behind, in serried rank, the Douglas spruce - "the tree of Turner's dreams,"the king of conifers, - stood monarch of the hills. Two hundred, three hundred feet in air they towered, an hundred feet without a limb, so dense that not a ray of sun could reach the aground beneath.

Sacajawea, save Pocahontas the most traveled Indian Princess in our history, spoke not a word, but looked with calm and shining eyes upon the fruition of her hopes. Now she could go back to the Mandan towns and speak of things that Madame Jussaume had never seen, and of the Big Water beyond the Shining Mountains.

Down the steep and ragged rocks that overhung the sea, they clambered to a Tillamook village, where lay the great whale, stranded on the shore. Nothing was left but a skeleton, for from every Indian village within traveling distance, men and women were working like bees upon the huge carcass. Then home they went, trailing over the mountains, every squaw with a load of whale blubber on her back, to be for many a month the dainty of an Indian lodge.