The Mullan Road

Historical Descriptions of Travel on the Road

Philip Ritz, "Letter from a Traveler – The Coeur d'Alene Route ," Walla Walla Statesman, November 23, 1866

            Summary: Philip Ritz has travelled from Walla Walla to the Bitteroots. The Mullan Road, while rough, is quite passable. He has learned that "two indians" know of another route that may save 40 miles of travel. He anticipates the value of a railroad through the region.

Letter from a Traveler – The Coeur d’Alene Route.
Nov. 8TH, 1866.

EDITOR STATESMAN. – I reached this point safely in nine days traveling time from Walla Walla. No doubt you are hearing some dreadful tales about these mountains; some badly frightened persons discouraged one of my teamsters’ entirely, and tried to make me believe it was utterly impossible to get over at all. The road is bad enough, but I have traveled over a great deal worse. You may know the road is not so very bad when a man can travel from French Town to the Mission, a distance of 138 miles in three days on horseback and pack his blankets, as Mr. Fitzgerald of the Dalles, has just done. This morning, as I cross the summit, the snow is one and one-half inches deep, and one mile from the summit there is none. The air is pure, clear and exhilarating, and the scenery most enchantingly lovely. From the summit in a clear day, a person has a most extended view of this mountain range.
            I have obtained some information about the route that will be valuable. I have learned from the Fathers at the Mission, of a pass known only to two Indians, which if practicable, will shorten the distance to Walla Walla some forty miles, and avoid the worst part of the route. When these Indians come back from the buffalo hunt I will learn all the particulars. I hope every citizen of Walla Walla valley will report every item of the resources of the country they can obtain, and that they will be published in a condensed form and sent to me. It will have a great influence with the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, in their examination of routes leading towards Walla Walla. The building of this railroad to the Pacific is only a matter of time, and all the influences that can be shown up honestly and properly, will do something to hasten that time.

            I have no doubt but that in five years after the road is built, there will be gold enough taken out of these mountains to pay for its construction. These mountains are a perfect net work of gold bearing quartz, and mountaineers have told me that there is scarcely a place that they have prospected but they get the color. It is not at all improbably that on running the tunnel through the summit of this mountain, which will be about two miles, as surveyed by Gov-Stevens, that there will be gold enough taken out of the rock to pay for its construction – as all over the crest of the mountains is scattered fragments of gold bearing quartz.

            Please excuse the brevity of this letter. I will write you again from Salt Lake City, and perhaps from Virginia City.

                        Very respectfully,
                                                PHILLIP RITZ