Settlement of Ross
The following data is extracted from Indians of Upper California,
Wrangell's trip through the Russian River Valley, 1834.
I have seen the Americans living in the surroundings of the settlement
Ross (in latitude 38°30"N) in narrow passages of the mountains,defiles from all sides encircling it, and in the valleys, laying behind the first ridge to the east, along which flows the river Slavianka, discharging herself in the sea about 7 miles to the south of, the mentioned settlement.
After taking of the grain (wheat and barley) from the steep declivities of the mountains, and after finishing other necessary agriculture labors at Ross, we
undertook a trip to the valleys. One of my guides was wounded with an arrow by a savage in the ear a year before this, in the same valley, where we intended to travel.
Several of the savages of the same tribe not long since made an attack on the nearest to San Francisco mission of the Spaniards and plundered it. Such splendid exploits suggested or instilled some esteem for the savages and we agreed to render them the deserved honour, to surround us with a guard of honor and arming us with loaded pistols. In this manner, the calvacade, excluding us three, consisted of 21 horsemen, in that number of Russians, 2 pakats, 6 Aleuts, 4 American vaqueros, and 2 interpretors with quivers filled with arrows behind the back. September 10 we were drawing to the mountain on the Bodega road. In this time of the year the horses are exhausted from the frequent riding on them and very lean from the scanty food. In the bay of Bodega 15 miles from Ross, there is a brick yard and a store for storing from the ships of the Co. arriving with cargoes for the settlement of Ross where there is no anchorage. The road from Ross to Bodega is cut through the woods and leads over the mountains one half further along the shores of the sea and woodless deserts, hardly to be seen in the neighborhood of Ross, where by great droves of horned and other cattle all the grass already dried up from the long duration of the summer heat were gone out. This obliged us to drive before us led horses in such a number as our men needed, and above this two mules packed with road provisions or supplies for about 4 days.
Crossing the River Slavitinka near her mouth, now washed up with sand, we turned to the left, to, the mountains, leaving the sea behind our backs, and made our way through cavities, forests, and thickets to places more even and less overgrown and though we rode by trail beaten out by the savages, who travelled by it from the valley to the sea shore to collect the testaceans for food, however we did not meet any of them. At last, and coming to a large overgrown with grass valley, we heard loud singing voices, the interpreters hurried away in advance to recognize friend or enemy meets us. Our own impatience to see the inhabitants of these lonely places, made us speed after our avantguard and in full gallop we all surprised an old woman of these American tribes, gathering some kind of herb corns in her basket plaited from fine roots. From fear she was stupified, not without difficulty we ascertained that behind the nearest thicket there are living several families of these Americans, who without doubt, had already noticed us at this time concealed themselves, fearing to fall into the hands of the Spaniards, not seldom riding out to catch the savages to convert them to the Christian faith, and that gathering the corns for food, sung out of her full throat, to disperse and drive off the evil spirits, always obeying the voice, repelling a hundred times in the mountains. Assuring the old woman that her voice did not attract evil intented people, we left her in peace and continued on our ways. The first night we stopped on a considerable collected plain valley between several hills, on the shore o f a little river, falling in the Slavianka under branched oaks. The warm mild air, the clear sky, the moonlight night, the bivouac fires, and herding of the horses in the high grass, all this presented a picture agreeable to the imagination and the feeling. The piercing and shrill howls of the jackals disturbed the harmony of nature, but with the beginning of daylight all became quiet, and we hurried forward with impatience to reach the famous valleys spoken of in Ross and to meet their inhabitants. Soon the places became wider and enlarged, extended fields with rich vegetable earth, covered with fat grasses, opened themselves one after another, but nowhere even a race of inhabitants. Suddenly we perceived on the far edge of the valley a winding stream of smoke: the interpreters and vaqueros concluded that there must be a village of many American natives and with some fear communicated to us this information. The smoothness and spaciousness of the place permitted our whole army out o f 5 nations to unroll by front and gallop with loose bridles so as not to give time to the savages to conceal themselves in the bushes.
Advancing and nearing, we behold a wretched miserable tree and not the least sign of the presence of people, further beautiful groves of oak as an English park, were changing with fields of grass, and at last we rode up to the river Slavianka which during the summer season is dried up in several places, there where we were crossing it or fording, it, she was not broader than 5 fathoms and not deeper than three feet. Arranging ourselves on her left shore in the bushes to dine, we heard voices drawing near to us from the savages closing or shutting out behind ourselves the horses which were left grazing, we sent the interpreters to meet the comers, who it proved were friendly visitors, attracted to come here with the desire to see us. Their number was about 15 men. Their wives and children remained in the village nearby. From them we learned that the villains (Sotoyomis) who took revenge on the Spaniards for the violation of the tranquillity of these peaceful inhabitants of these valleys by pillaging the mission of the savages, were for the most part white men from the mission of the savages, have placed themselves in ambuscade behind inaccessible bushes beyond the large valley in front, where they are ready to repulse any attack of their enemies. Our guides meanwhile learned that one highly esteemed chief of these American tribes, had been at Ross, and being treated kindly by the Russians is at present here in the surroundings: I wished to see him, and asked our guests to inform him of our arrival. The eldest chief chose one young lad as a messenger; this one throwing off his light cover or girdle, taking up his box in his hands, was lost out of sight in so short a time that we had no opportunity to recompense him with small presents for his willingness of service. The open, joyful, unanxious outlines of their faces of these savages, and their kind intercourse pleased me very much; we invited them to visit us in our night bivouac and they promised to find out wherever we would stop. Yet before evening arrived we reached the very largest valley; at the beginning there is no wood or forest, and even like a table, covered by fat, fragrant grass, and viewless (immense) in her broadness (wideness) was not less than 40 versts, here mountains from the right and left presented itselves to the view, their acquainted perimeter made us remark the nearness of our settlement Ross, where from they are viewed; In a direct distance through impassable ridges and gaps we were now not more than 25 versts from Ross, though we had made in a round about way, about 75. The Slavianka here pressed herself more to the Western mountains, and a small river, winding herself in the middle of the valley falls into her. We turned aside, and directed our way back through the fields, lying at both sides of the rivulet. The night overtook us in one of those beautiful groves of oak, by which here and there the plains are variegated. Our horses nearly drowned in the fragrant, high grasses which covered these plains. The bivouac fires in the camp twined between the dark green oaks of a hundred years. Deep silence surrounded us in these so generous gifted by nature places, and hardly had the night watchers, the jackals, begun their complaining howling, as at our bivouac fires appeared our friends the native Americans. Receiving from us tobacco, biscuits, beads, they sat down in circles with their countryman our interpreters and vaqueros, and took up their favorite and it can be said their constant occupation, whenever circumstances permitted, the play of even and uneven numbers. The two players sit one opposite another, on the sides of each are the choirs of singers, and the sweet melodies of their voices is only interrupted by the short and loud exclamations of the guessing or winning player, the antagonist, who endeavoring to conceal the true number of small sticks, which he holds in the hand behind his back, made very similar and different motions with both hands, with one beating time to the song on his bosom. The play always continues to the time, when all and everything is clean lost by one of the players. This play interested our guests and the vaqueros during the whole night, even to the very morning.
Source: Indians of Upper California,
Wrangell's trip through the Russian River Valley, 1834