The Mullan Road
History of its Construction and Early Use
"Palouse Falls in Washington
Artist: Gustavus Sohon
Source: John Mullan, Report
on the Construction of a Military Raod from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Benton
Mullan Road Historical Overview:
- The Mullan Road, constructed between 1858 and 1862, was the first wagon
road to cross the Rockies to the Inland Northwest.
- Often, after its "completion," it was in such disrepair
that only foot travelers and pack animals could follow its course, especially
through the mountains.
- The building years were a momentous time in American history. In particular:
-- The United States Army had just fought the Coeur d'Alene War.
-- The section
of the trail in eastern Washington passed by the sites of recent Coeur
d'Alene War of 1858, including "Pyramid Butte" (site of the Battle
of Steptoe Butte), Hangman Creek (where Col. George Wright summarily executed
several Indians), and "Horse Slaughter Camp" (where Colonel Wright
slaughtered 700 horses, owned by the local tribes).
-- In his report on the
road-building (see below), the reader can discern Capt. John Mullan's concern
that his expedition would encounter still-hostile Indians.
-- Before the end of the road-building, the United States was engaged
in the Civil War -- Mullan calls it the "civil troubles."
- The story of the Mullan Road provides a window onto many historical
topics including American road-building, the Indian history of the Inland
Northwest, the American wilderness, the white settlement of the Inland
Northwest, and the story of America at the mid-nineteenth century, including
the Civil War.
Fast Facts about the Mullan Road:
The Mullan Report:
- In 1863 the United States Congress published Capt. John
Mullan's. Report on the Construction of a Military Raod from Fort Walla
Walla to Fort Benton. The report was illustrated with drawings by Gustavus
Sohon (1825-1903). The report is on line on our site.
- You can access a reading of the report at this location on the site -- ready to download to your computer or digital music player.
- And a glossary with information about people, places, and historical themes mentioned in the report.
More about the Mullan Road:
Mullan Road - Special Topics
More about John Mullan:
- An earlier "Mullan Report" — Another document detailing work on the Mullan Road is available at the University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL): "Military road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla-Walla. Letter from the Secretary of war, transmitting the report of Lieutenant Mullan...." was published in 1861, two years before the larger Mullan Report. Here is a summary of the report -- useful for finding the main points.
- Before building the first important wagon road in the Inland Northwest,
Capt. John Mullan needed the assistance of the original inhabitants of
the land. This chapter, "Waiting for the Indians,"
from The Fair and the Falls, provides an overview of Indian-White
relations during the years before, during, and after the building of the
road -- and it shows how dependent the white pioneers were on the original
Indian trail and ferry system of the region.
Works in Progress:
- History Class on the Mullan Road —
Students in History 590 (Historical Writing and Editing) at Eastern Washington University are working during Fall 2010 on a variety of Mullan-Related projects. This link connects to an overview of their work in progress.
- Student research on Walla Walla -- The Eastern Washington University "Mighty History Research Team" is currently contrructing a webste on frontier Walla Walla and the surrounding areas.
- Directory of Web Sites about the Mullan Road --