The Mullan Report of 1861

Synopsis written by Marc Entze and Amanda Van Lanen

John Mullan to Hon. J. Holt, from Fort I, Camp on Snake River W.T., July 3, 1859 (pages 2-6)

            In this letter John Mullan describes his progress in travel and road repair from Fort Dalles to Fort Walla Walla along the Columbia River and overland from Walla Walla to the mouth of the Toukanon [sic] River. He explains that he has chosen to cross the Snake River at the Tucannon, against private interests, because of the availability of wood and forage for animals.

            From the mouth of the Palouse River he then describes his “probable” course as running from the Palouse River to the Pyramid Butte and then to the southern edge of Coeur d’Alene Lake. Other men were scouting potential routes; Gustav Sohon was exploring the headwaters of the Palouse River to see if it could be used to cross into the Bitterroot Valley. Indians had assured them that this was a practicable route. Other surveys were made along the Clearwater River; both routes were considered important to interior travel. The Indians, though friendly, were mischievous and required constant vigilance.

John Mullan to Captain A. A. Humphreys, from Camp on St. Joseph’s River, July 31, 1859 (pages 6-10)

Mullan is further describing the work north of the Snake River. He desired to follow the Palouse River to its highest reaches, but found the route impracticable. Sohon and an Indian located a direct route towards Coeur d’Alene Lake and they made good progress until reaching timber in mid-July. Finding a good place to camp, with plenty of grass for the animals, they commenced construction through the woods.

While encamped, Mullan constructed a flat boat, believing that it would be more useful than bridges over the St. Josehp’s and Coeur d’Alene Rivers, which would likely be washed out by spring flooding. They found that the valley of the St. Joseph was the best grazing ground in the Coeur d’Alene mountains.

They continued to work through the timber, making steady but slow progress. They were now 199 miles from old Fort Walla Walla, and 169 miles from the new fort at Walla Walla. The explorations of Kollecki, Sohon and others were completed and added significantly to the understanding of the regions waterways and topography. Mr, Howard fell ill and was being treated at Fort Walla Walla. Sohon, having explored a possible route to the Bitterroot Valley, escaped unharmed from his Indian guide after they came upon another party of Indians. After learning of Sohon’s escape, Mullan noted that the Coeur d’Alene Indians were “treacherous and faithless.” Mullan warned his men to remain alert, and took every opportunity to show the Indians what a benefit the road would be to their traveling.

 Mullan also began making plans for the winter, believing it was his best interest to return to Fort Walla Walla for the duration of the winter, and he requested that his appropriation be renewed.

John Mullan to Captain A. A. Humphreys, from camp at Coeur d’Alene mission, August 16, 1859 (pages 10-15)

With the flat boats completed and a corduroy road of 400’ in length across the valley of the St. Joseph, along with an eleven mile stretch of road that had required considerable work in timber, dirt and blasting, Mullan felt they had accomplished the construction of a first rate section of road. From advance parties, Mullan chose to locate the road along the left bank of the Coeur d’Alene River for nine miles, before crossing due to rough rock protruding from the water along the shore line.

They reached the Mission, after much difficulty, having built the “finest” stretch or road yet, and were 198 miles from Fort Walla Walla. Surveying parties under Mr. Howard and Mr. De Lacey joined Mullan, after locating a possible railroad route from Fort Dalles on the Columbia River to the mouth of the Palouse on the Snake River. Mr. Howard is still ill, and very feeble and remained under treatment.

Mullan split his work force into four groups, an advance party and a construction party, to push construction along as fast as possible, in an effort to cross the Coeur d’Alene mountains before winter. Supplies from Fort Walla Walla would be located at the Mission site. Mr. Howard and Mr. DeLacey were then sent to determine whether or not the barrier of rocks, preventing free passage on Coeur d’Alene Lake, could be removed, which would also prevent seasonal flooding. Mullan also made plans for the future, which included, upon arrival at Fort Benton, sending a large force down the Missouri River to St. Louis and working with the remaining men, back along the road to Walla Walla repairing and improving the road.

John Mullan to Captain A. A. Humphreys, from camp on Coeur d’Alene River, September 4, 1859 (pages 15-19)

The four work groups referred to in Mullan’s last letter, continued to work in the Bitterroot Mountains, through very rough terrain. Timber was dense and the route required much blasting to enable construction. In addition, many bridges were constructed.

Mullan once again considers the future of his operation, following a winter cantonment in the Bitterroot Valley. He proposed that upon reaching Fort Benton in the early summer, to wait for the arrival of steamboats with another work crew, hired at reduced wages. His monthly expenses were now approximately $6,000, he was looking to reduce costs. Mullan received word that the Chippewa had successfully reached Fort Benton and had 24,000 rations for his party. He was pleased to hear that the Missouri had been successfully navigated and believed that the construction of the road, connecting points of navigation on the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, would significantly reduce the costs of deploying troops when compared to any other route.

Other explorations were currently underway in the Colville region, and on the Clark Fork. Mullan also observed that the Indians were utilizing the road, rather than their circuitous trains through the mountains. Mullan believed that the Jesuits were using their influence to support the construction of the road. However, he felt that the missionaries contributed to the Indian uprisings. Expecting Indian trouble, in the form of destroying bridges and boats, he threatened to hang anyone caught in the act.

John Mullan to Captain A. A. Humphreys, from camp on North Fork of Coeur d’Alene River, September 19, 1859 (pages 19-23)

Work was now in heavy timber, very difficult to clear and remove. Several bridges were needed, but because of the time required to construct them, Mullan opted for fords. Along the main fork and north fork of the Coeur d’Alene River there were a total of 27 crossings. In addition, Mullan expected to need 14 more bridges, due to the rough terrain. From the present location to the St. Francis Borgia would require no less than 46 crossings.

In view of the crossings, Mullan observed that fords worked for periods of low water, but of course would not be useful during high water. If these crossings were bridged, the road could be used year round. Mullan desired to open the route to Fort Benton with the present material now on hand and put the road in practicable condition. Mr. Engle reported that the Clark Fork route was difficult and not suitable for a wagon or rail route and his report greatly expanded the geographical knowledge. In addition, it was confirmed that the rocks in the Coeur d’Alene Lake could be removed, thus preventing flooding and opening up vast acres for grazing. Mullan considered this an essential item in the future settlement of the region.

A supply train reached the mission under the command of Major Grier, making the trip in thirteen days from Walla Walla.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp at foot of divide of Coeur d’Alene Mountains, October 4, 1859 (pages 23-26)

Mullan’s crew reached the foot of the divide on September 28 and the weather was deteriorating. There had been heavy rains and the temperatures were getting very cold. The road work continued to be very difficult, with lots of blasting and grubbing out of stumps. The scarcity of grass in the mountains was a concern, especially west of the divide. It was hoped to have the road open to the Bitterroot Valley by mid-December, and it was hoped that the winter would be late and mild. To hasten the construction, every man in camp was employed in road building, from teamsters and cooks, to laborers.

The large workforce was using up the appropriation and Mullan expected it to last until early summer at the latest. Mullan also noted that communications with Walla Walla was becoming more lengthy and difficult, with mail arriving twice a month. During the winter Mullan hoped to remain in contact at least once a month, and to aid winter travel he planned to establish small depots of oats for forage at Walla Walla, Snake River, Coeur d’Alene mission, the divide at the mouth of St. Francis Borgia, and Bitterroot. If this was not done, they would be cutoff from communications for six months.

A forge was employed daily in the repair of tools and keeping the train in operation. Mullan intended to send a pack train to Fort Benton for supplies, but could not spare a man for construction. Mr. Howard was still unable to work in the field, and several men had suffered cuts from axes or falling trees, but were recovering speedily.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp at foot of Bitterroot Mountains, October 26, 1859 (pages 26-27)

An Indian traveling to Walla Walla provided Mullan with the opportunity to write a quick letter. In the letter he gives a brief overview of their construction to date, noting that the road is now open to a point five miles east of the Bitterroot Range and all of the wagons and supplies have joined them.

Because of the cold nights, many horses have perished, most were Indian horses. Four weeks of rain has slowed construction considerably, and Mullan complains that his force is too small for the work to be done. He also noted that he had a check returned protested, and requested that the remainder of his appropriation be placed in New York.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp on St. Francis Borgia River, November 14, 1859 (pages 27-28)

Mullan was pleased to report the arrival of his expedition and wagon trains at a point 20 miles east of the Bitterroot. The train crossed the mountains without snow or difficulty, but on November 1 it began snowing and continued to snow until the 5th. On the 8th it became very cold, temperatures were below zero and the animals had to be driven to the Bitterroot River to find forage. It was hoped that they could resume work April 1st and reach Fort Benton by August. Mullan anticipated sending an express on snowshoes to Walla Walla, detailing the parties situation. Among the details to relate was the fact that they had plenty of stores for the winter, and a small advance party was sent to Fort Benton.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp Cantonment Jordan, January 3, 1860 (pages 28-36)

Since the last letter Mullan sent, the work party’s situation was settled for the winter. When the last express left camp, the snow covered all of the grazing grass for the animals, and they were forced to drive them back to the Bitterroot River. In order to avoid being trapped at the present location, they constructed sleds capable of carrying 600 pounds each. The animals were in constant danger from the cold, and the whole herd was nearly lost as they were crossing the frozen river and the ice broke up.

Ten miles above the mouth of the St. Regis Borgia, Mullan had the men construct a storehouse to protect their provisions, and then an office. Once completed, they began building log cabins, which he called “Cantonment Jordan.” Mullan believed they were better off making winter quarters, rather than turn back to Walla Walla, primarily because that would delay further construction of the road until June. The winter weather had an effect on the men, and one man suffered such severe frost bite that there was no option but to amputate his legs. Many other men suffered frost bite.

Because of the weather conditions, it was likely that another express could not be sent out until spring, in which case Mullan would not hear back from Washington until August, at which time they would be in Fort Benton. Because of this situation, Mullan outlined his plans for the summer, which included a recommendation that an expedition be sent up the Missouri River by steamboat, to transport his wagons back to Walla Walla. He estimated that the wagon road would save $30,000 over moving troops around the Panama route. In addition, he felt there would be less discomfort to the troops, and for the “effect upon the Indian mind.”

Other detail is provided regarding the possible routes for a railway. Although the line already surveyed was deemed practicable, Mullan was confident that a better pass might yet be found. Engineers for the Blue Ridge and Baltimore and Ohio railroads observed that there was less trouble with the present survey than that of the latter railroad.

This letter was intended to provide all the details of their present situation that Mullan could relate at that time, and the letter was to be delivered by Mr. Johnson.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from Cantonment Jordan, Bitterroot Mountains, January 17, 1860 (pages 36-37)

In this letter Mullan noted the arrival of two expresses, one from the Bitter Root Valley and the other from Walla Walla. The express from Walla Walla was carried by three Indians, who arrived via the Clark Fork Route, using horses for much of the way; their total journey taking one month. The expresses noted a maximum of two feet of snow in the mountains.

In the meantime, the office work continued at Cantonment Jordan as Mullan pushed to have things in order by spring when road work could resume. He hoped to have “men on the road as soon as the ground will enable us to work it.” It was observed by the Indians that this was an unusually severe winter, and the cold weather arrived two weeks sooner than most years.

John Mullan to A.A. Humphreys, from Fort Owen, Bitter Root Valley, March 10, 1860 (page 37-39)

This letter included copies of reports from men in the field, with the exception of Mr. Engle’s, who, due to winter weather, was forced to spend the winter at Fort Owen. In addition, this letter included Mullan’s program for spring and summer work. Expresses continued to reach Mullan’s camp on snowshoes, the winter lasting from November 2 through February 20 and “proved most disastrous to our animals.” The animals were not well-suited for winter travel, and forage lacking because the Indians burned the brush along the Bitter Root River. There were 37 oxen, 12 mules and 9 horses that survived the winter.

Mullan noted that Salt Lake was a 15 day’s journey, and he was going to send an express to Salt Lake to obtain additional mules in May or June. In the Bitter Root’s a mule sold for $150, compared to $15 - $20 at Salt Lake. Although the Indians were “are far from being quiet” and that “the Blackfeet are in open war,” Mullan hoped to reach Fort Benton by September. In addition, Mullan asked that a “level” be shipped up the Missouri River on an American Fur Company boat to aid in the work in the mountains.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from Fort Owen, Bitter Root Valley, March 11, 1860 (pages 39-40)

Mullan relates that he has secured the services of some friendly Flathead Indians who are to assist Sohon, with a pack train of 85 horses, on a trip to Fort Benton to gather supplies. Sohon and party are expected to return by the end of April. Indian troubles, especially with the Blackfeet worry Mullan, who has sent for the chief “Little Dog” so that Mullan can assure him they come as friends; Mullan suspects that some of the trouble is the work of “ill-disposed whites and half-breeds” who seek to incite “pernicious results.”

During the past winter, settlers had assisted Mullan by loaning their animals and he asks for compensation for them. Mullan plans to return to the cantonment [Jordan] by March 15.

John Mullan to A.A. Humphreys, Cantonment Jordan, April 3, 1860 (pages 40-44)

In this letter Mullan reiterates Sohon’s trip, with 17 Flathead Indians assisting, to Fort Benton where he will pick up 11 thousand rations that were left in the stores in the summer of 1859. Mullan sent letters with Sohon to Colonel Vaughn, the Indian agent at Fort Benton, requesting that a delegation of Blackfeet chiefs so that they could see the true nature of the road work.

The ferry at the Bitter Root River was completed and six boats constructed and the road graded near the ferry. The snow was still 18-inches deep west of the ferry towards Cantonment Jordan, and prevented Mr. DeLacy’s party; as a result the work party was moved ten miles up the Bitter Root River to work while the snow melted. There were 85 men currently at work with picks and shovels. When this work is completed, Mullan estimated that there would be twenty-five miles of road completed in the Bitter Root Valley by the first of May.

Further plans for the line of work are mentioned, and updates on the work of his engineers and topographers are outlined.

One of the problems of the long, cold winter was the outbreak of scurvy among the enlisted men on the tenth of March. The disease was effectively treated with the procurement of “fresh succulent vegetables,” which Mullan purchased from the Pend d’Oreille Mission. Mullan noted that not one of the citizen workers suffered from scurvy, because Mullan issued twice the amount of desiccated vegetables to them as to the soldiers because they work “harder, longer and more than the soldier.” Based upon their experience during the past winter, Mullan recommends that the amount of desiccated vegetables issued to soldiers, serving in winter, be doubled.

Mullan further details his plans for the route of the road and the frequency of correspondence with Walla Walla.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp along the Bitter Root River, 40 miles east of  Bitter Root Ferry, June 6, 1860 (pages 44-50)

With the arrangements completed at Cantonment Jordan, Mullan joined the advanced working parties, consisting of 80 men, who were engaged with a very difficult stretch of road, three-fourths of a mile long. The crews labored two weeks over this stretch of road, grading reached a depth of fourteen feet and some rock required blasting.

From a point known as “Brown’s Cut-off,” Mullan explored three routes: one along the right bank of the Bitter Root River, a second involved bridging the stream twice, and Brown’s Cut-off. In the end, Brown’s Cut-off proved to be a disappointment, and the route along the right bank was chosen. Sixty-five men were employed at that task, twenty-five to the Bitter Root ferry and Lieutenant White of the 3rd infantry was placed in charge of 32 men working eastward; they worked through some of the heaviest timber yet encountered.

Cantonment Jordan was abandoned June 4. Mend were sent up the Clark Fork to the mouth of the Jocko to explore that route. A storehouse, corral and depot were established at Hell-Gate and called “Camp Humphreys.”

Further exploration convinced Mullan that the route they were on would make a good railroad location. Men were stationed to obtain data from water gauges and throughout the winter, the snow depth was recorded providing a profile from the Bitter Root Mountains to Walla Walla. An exploration party planned from Hell Gate to Fort Laramie was canceled due to the poor condition of the animals following the harsh winter. Mullan believed that the connection from the Hell-Gate to Fort Laramie would prove very valuable in the future.

Progress to this point included the completion of three miles, of five, of earth and rock grading; four sets of drills are working daily and 112 men are employed in the road building and Mullan hopes to reach Fort Benton by August 1861.

John Mullan to A. A. Humphreys, from camp at Fort Benton, Nebraska Territory, August 2, 1860 (pages 50-54)

Mullan reached Fort Benton the first of August, the road is opened from Walla Walla and was 633 miles in length.

The grading and blasting detailed in Mullan’s letter of June 6 was completed June 20 and wagons and work parties were moved over the road. Additional details of the road construction, numbers of bridges and locations are enumerated. Some of the extra equipment was transferred to the Indian department and others auctioned off.

Additional discussion is provided for the continuing work on the road, including some re-alignments. Details of the nature of the road are provided.

At Fort Benton, Mullan turned over his wagons to Major Blake, as instructed, for his march from Fort Benton to Walla Walla. With a pack train and 25 men, Mullan departed ahead of Major Blake to make additional improvements to the road. Mullan details where the road will have to be relocated for a permanent location.

John Mullan to A.A. Humphreys, from camp at Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory, October 12, 1860 (pages 54-70)

Mullan gives a detailed account of the additional road work required, including location and size of the bridges at stream crossings, and locations of the necessary grading and corduroying of the road.

John Mullan to A.A. Humphreys, from camp at Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory, October 25, 1860 (pages 70-74)

While spending the winter in Walla Walla, Mullan drew up a budget based upon the requirements for finishing the road in the next season. This included wages for 59 hired men, and a budget of $500 for the hire of “extra men,” amounting to a monthly expenditure of $4,000 in wages. The cost of supplies was estimated at $15,500; total estimates for 15 months of additional work was $85,000.

Mullan provides further details about the expected work on the road.

A.A. Humphreys to John Mullan, from Washington D.C., March 15, 1859 (pages 74-75)

In this letter, Humphreys informs Mullan that an appropriation of $100,000 has been made for the construction of the military road from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Benton. Mullan is instructed to make “those parts of the route where the greatest difficulties and most numerous obstructions exist practicable for the passage of wagons at all seasons of the year.”

Further instructions are provided for provisioning the work force and undertaking the expedition.

P. M. Engle to John Mullan, from Camp on Pelouse River, W.T., July 7, 1859 (pages 75-83)

P. M. Engle received orders from Mullan to accompany Major P. Lugenbeel from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Colville to survey the wagon road and the surrounding country. This is Engle’s report of his trip, and he describes the topography between Fort Walla Walla and Fort Colville.

Engle left the Dalles on May 16, 1859 and reached Fort Walla Walla on May 27. Major Lugenbeel’s company was preceded by a supply train of 32 six-mule teams which helped Engle gauge the best wagon route. Since Mullan had already surveyed portions of the road on the south side of the Snake River and near the mouth of the Palouse in 1858, Engle focused on un-surveyed portions of the route.

After reaching Fort Colville on June 17, Engle received permission to return to Fort Walla Walla with Captain Kirkham’s supply train. He rejoined Mullan’s camp on the Touchet River on June 25.

Theodore Kollecki to John Mullan from Camp on the Bitter Root, June 8, 1860 (pages 83-86)

Kollecki reports on his reconnaissance of the Palouse River, from the last crossing of the military road to the Spokane trail. He concludes that Sohon’s earlier assessment of the area was correct. The Palouse River bottoms provide the best route for a wagon road in the region until the Spokane Trail crossing. Kollecki remained undecided as to whether the river bottoms above the crossing would make a good road, since he traveled on the easier tableland above the river.

J.L. White to John Mullan, from Coeur d’Alene Mission, August 16, 1859 (pages 87-88)

Having arrived at the Coeur d’Alene Mission, White reports on the condition of the road along the St. Joseph River which “contains some of the worst road passed yet.” High water from spring run-off made the road nearly impassable to wagons. Many sections of the road had to be corduroyed before wagons could pass. The conditions of the road would prevent eastbound travelers from passing, but White believes that westbound travelers would still be able to pass since they would be coming later in the year.

Two Communications to Captain A. Pleasonton, August/October 1859 (page 88)

August 17 – J.L. White sends a map to Pleasonton in Fort Vancouver, W.T.

October 22 –  Brigadier General Wm. S. Harney confirms that supplies are en-route to Coeur d’Alene for the winter.

W.W. Johnson to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordan January 2, 1860 (pages 88-97)

W.W. Johnson provides a detailed report of his survey of the area between the Coeur d’Alene Mission and Cantonment Jordan from September through December 1859. He pays particular attention to river crossings and potential bridge sites, observing the topographical characterstics, as well as noting the degrees of slope in the road, the condition of mountain passes, and the overall terrain. 

A chart, drawn up by W.W. Johnson was approved by Mullan, and sent to Humphreys. The chart listed the elevations, in feet, of various points, including bridges, along the Mullan Road from the Coeur d’Alene Mission to Cantonment Jordan.

Coeur d’Alene Mission – 2,669 feet, considered the baseline measurement by Mullan.
Summit of Sohons Pass – 2,804 above baseline or 5473 feet.
Cantonment Jordan – 881 above baseline, or 3550 feet.

Note: these elevation numbers differ from those published in Mullan’s 1863 report, which lists the following elevations:

Coeur d’Alene Mission – 2280 feet.
Summit of Sohons Pass – 5100 feet.
Cantonment Jordan – 2990 feet.

P. Toohill to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordan, January 3, 1860 (page 98)

From December 27, 1859 to December 31, 1859, pages Toohill traveled from the Coeur d’Alene Mission to Cantonment Jordan in the company of two Indians. He reports the depth of snow over the passes, stating that there is two to three feet on average.

This report was forwarded to Mullan by A.A. Humphreys who writes that Toohill’s snow data, together with other snow data previously collected, might determine the feasibility of the route in the winter. Humphreys promises that reports on snow levels in January, February, and March will also be compiled and submitted.

C.R. Howard to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordan, January 5, 1860 (pages 99-104)

Howard left the Dalles on May 16, 1859 to explore the possibility of a rail line from the Dalles, along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, to the mouth of the Palouse River. Due to illness, Howard only surveyed as far as the Umatilla River, at which point Mr. Johnson and Mr. De Lacey took charge of the survey.

The question of grades is very important for potential railroad construction, and Howard begins with a discussion of grades along the Columbia. He concludes that grading would be very easy and that the river is flanked by flat-topped bluffs, gently rolling fields, or river bottoms sufficiently wide enough for a railroad. Some rock-cutting would be necessary, but Howard believed this could be easily and cheaply accomplished. 

Howard provides detailed explanations of the surveying methods used and of places where bridges, embankments, culverts, cuts, and other work would be needed.

W.W. De Lacy to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordon, January 5, 1860 (pages 104-110)

A continuation of the railroad report started by C.R. Howard. De Lacey took charge of the surveying party at the mouth of the Umatilla River after Howard became ill. By July 31, 1859, the party had completed their survey as far as the mouth of the Palouse.

De Lacy discusses his surveying methods and provides detailed descriptions of elevations, embankments, geographic features, and potential bridge locations. As with the portion surveyed by Howard, grades are easy and pose no problem to railroad construction. Blasting for cuts and building embankments will not be difficult either. Plentiful building materials such as rock and sand are available along the route and timber can be procured from the Upper Columbia, the Yakima, and the Clearwater Rivers. The greatest difficulty is the amount of curvature needed to follow the course of the river.


P. M. Engle to John Mullan from Fort Owen, January 8, 1860 (pages 110-129)

Report on Engle’s reconnaissance from the St. Regis Borgia River east to Fort Benton to determine the needs for spring maintenance, and to collect climate data.

Engle departed from Mullan’s camp at Wolf’s Prairie on November 7, 1859, accompanied by an Indian agent to the Flatheads. Seven days later they reached Fort Owen. Due to inclement weather, Engle initially planned to remain at Fort Owen until receiving further instructions. By November 22, the weather broke, and Engle continued his survey with E. Irvine. On  December 3, the party became trapped in a severe snowstorm near the continental divide with temperatures of 40 below zero. Engle feared they would be stranded without provisions, but the following day, they pressed on to Sun River farm. An interpreter at the farm agreed to guide the party on to Fort Benton. Along the Missouri River, a lack of timber was one of the “greatest inconveniences,” and the storms remained so severe that the party was forced to secure their camps with rocks.

The party arrived at Fort Benton on December 8 and departed for Fort Owen on December 15, equipped with an odometer. Fighting severe winter weather throughout the entire trip, Engle reached Fort Owen on January 6, his animals in poor condition due to lack of food from snowfall. Due to the weather, he was unable to fulfill Mullan’s instruction to run a compass line, and he was forced to abandon his wagons.

 Engle gives observations on the weather, the condition of the road, areas that need repair, and makes suggestions for alternative paths in difficult sections.

G. Sohon to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordan, February 15, 1860 (pages 129-135)

[This portion of the report was also published in Mullan’s final 1863 report (pages 95-100).]

Sohon’s report on his survey of a potential wagon route across the Bitterroot Mountains from Sma-Kodle prairie to Hell-Gate: arriving in Walla Walla on June 6, Sohon sought the guide services of some Nez Perce Indians, who declined to join him because the believed the route to be impassable. Instead Father Joset and Agustine, a Coeur d’Alene Indian guide, arrived from the Coeur d’Alene to act as guides. According to all Indian guides consulted, this route had never been traveled.

There were no guides that knew the entire length of the proposed route, but three Indian guides- Ko-ne-moo-say, Koahlis, and Agustine- each knew a portion. All three were reluctant to guide Sohon and his party for fear of losing their land and because of the difficulty of the terrain. The guides finally agreed to meet him at a camas prairie in late June.

Lacking guides, Sohon explored the from military road crossing at the Snake River to Sma-Kodle prairie. On June 20 the party met with a band of Coeur d’Alenes at the camas prairie. After much hesitation, the tribe decided that Agustine should accompany Sohon across the mountains.

Three days after leaving the camas prairie, Agustine refused to travel any farther stating, “If all the Americans work here a thousand years they could never make a road.” Without a guide and fearful of an Indian attack, Sohon was forced to abandon his survey.

P. E. Toohill to John Mullan from Cantonment Jordan, February 20, 1860 (pages 136-137)

Toohill reports on his trip as an expressman from Fort Walla Walla to Cantonment Jordan. He left Walla Walla on February 5 and arrived at Cantonment Jordan on February 18. Along the way he notes weather, distances traveled, and road conditions. In all, he reports 165 trees had fallen across the road.

P. M. Engle to John Mullan from Fort Owen, March 7, 1860 (pages 137-140)

A report on Engle’s examination of the Snake River from Fort Taylor to “Red Wolf’s” crossing. On July 1, 1859, Engle left camp at the mouth of the Tuckanon creek and began his survey of the Snake River Valley. The soil of the area looked promising, and he encountered several Palouse and Nez Perce Indian farms. At Al-pah-hah creek, Engle visited a Nez Perce village led by Chief Timothy. Despite its farming potential, Engle concludes that the Snake River Valley is too canyon-like to make a good wagon road or railroad. The area is devoid of timber, would require too many rock excavations and bridges, and has too many sharp curves.

P. M. Engle to John Mullan from Fort Owen, March 8, 1860 (pages 140-143)

Report of reconnaissance of the area between Power Lake and the lower Spokane Prairie and the Spokane River between the Coeur d’Alene Trail and the Colville Wagon Road. Engle started his reconnaissance on September 24 after being delayed by rain. He notes the topography and the availability of resources such as timber and grazing lands. The party encountered some Coeur d’Alene Indians, which Engle finds “annoying,” and was continually plagued by rain.

Engle rejoined Mullan’s party on October 30, and concludes that the area surveyed would make a “natural” wagon road.

P. M. Engle to John Mullan from Fort Owen, March 9, 1860 (pages 143-151)

Notes on the reconnaissance of a wagon route from Thompson’s Prairie across the Bitter Root Mountains along the Clark’s Fork of the Columbia. The survey party left Mullan’s camp at the Coeur d’Alene Mission on August 18, 1859. Engle describes the route along the Clark’s Fork as some of the worst road he had seen. The party was forced to cut through dense strands of forest and travel over sharp rocks and steep embankments. The two Indian guides that accompanied Engle seemed unsure of the route. Since they had only traveled it in the winter, they did not recognize much of the terrain. Additionally, a forest fire blazed through the Bitter Roots ahead of Engle, covering the area in smoke and leaving little forage for the pack animals.

P. M. Engle to John Mullan from Fort Owen, March 16, 1860 (pages151-152)

Notes on the reconnaissance of the St. Joseph River. On July 30, 1859 Engle and Gustavus Sohon traveled up the St. Joseph River in bark canoes supplied by a group of Coeur d’Alene Indians. On July 31 they started toward the summit of the mountains, but turned back because smoke blocked their view. The Indians explained that a fire had been started to burn off a tree moss that deer fed on, thereby forcing the deer into the valleys for food.

P. E. Toohill to John Mullan, Report of an Expressman carrying mail across the Bitter Root Mountains for military road expedition in April and May, 1860 (pages 152-155)

Toohill started from Cantonment Jordan on April 7, 1860, reached Walla Walla on April 15, and returned to Cantonment Jordon on May 4. This report is a log of the mileage covered each day, the people encountered, weather, and road conditions.

A.A. Humphreys of the War Department forwarded this report to Mullan for the purposes of gathering all possible data about the road, especially improvements needed to make the road more permanent.
W. W. De Lacy to John Mullan from Fort Q. Camp on the Touchet River, September 26, 1860 (pages 156-160).

Survey of the Hell’s Gate Valley, the approaches to Mullan Pass from the Rockies, and the practicability of a rail line along the wagon road from Mullan  Pass to Fort Benton.

De Lacy describes the topography of the route, noting the amount and types of work that would be needed for railroad construction. He recommends a route along the hillsides to avoid river crossings as much as possible. Even so, many bridges, embankments, and at least one tunnel would need to be constructed.

W.W. Johnson to John Mullan from Camp at New Fort Walla Walla, October 12, 1860 (pages 161-168)

A report on the survey of a wagon road from Coeur d’Alene Mission, via Coeur d’Alene Lake and Mix’s Road to the Snake River. Johnson left the Mission on September 14, 1860 accompanied by his half-breed guide Antoine Plante. He describes the topography and work needed to complete a road between Wolf Lodge and the head of the Spokane River, concluding that it would take fifty men one month to complete this stretch of road. However, he states that with more exploration, an easier route might be found.

After resting for a day at Antoine Plante’s house on the Spokane River, which Johnson describes in detail, the men continued their explorations along Mix’s Road. Johnson describes the topography and resources of the route. He concludes that little work is needed to make this route an “excellent” road.

W.W. Johnson to John Mullan from Camp at Fort Walla Walla, October 26, 1860 (pages 168-170)

A detailed topographic description of the Little Falls of the Spokane, made by W.W. Johnson during his reconnaissance from the Coeur d’Alene Mission to the Snake River, as outlined in the previous section of the report (pages 161-168). He estimates a cost of $5000 to prevent flooding and reclaim  32,000 acres of land for cultivation.

An additional note by Mullan commends the report for providing addition support for his plan to improve the road along the valleys of the St. Joseph and Coeur d’Alene Rivers.

W.W. Johnson to John Mullan from Camp at Walla Walla, October 31, 1860 (pages 170-171)

A report on the type and amount of work performed on the Mullan military road during the summer and fall of 1859. Johnson provides an overview of the topography and soil conditions, and he provides mileage for each leg of the road. Work completed includes bridge building, cuts, excavation, and blasting. In total, 258 miles of road were constructed from Fort Walla Walla to Cantonment Jordan. At least two miles of road needed to be relocated to avoid river crossings, and several bridges still remained to be constructed to replace ferry crossings.