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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Chief Comcomly and Chief Coboway"
Includes ... Chief Comcomly ... Chinook Tribe ... Ilchee ... Chief Coboway ... Clatsop Tribe ...
Image, 2005, Comcomly Canoe, from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Detail, cement replica of Chief Comcomly burial canoe, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken April 19, 2005.


Chief Comcomly and the Chinook Tribe ...
Chief Comcomly was one of the Chiefs of the Chinook Tribe at the time of Lewis and Clark. He was born around 1770 and died in 1829 or 1830. During his lifetime he was a trader, navigator, and not only befriender of Lewis and Clark, but also benefactor of the early Astorians. Chief Comcomly's village was located at Chinook Point, today the location of Fort Columbia. Chief Comcomly first appears in the historic record in the journal of Captain Charles Bishop of the British ship Ruby which wintered in Baker’s Bay from December 1795 to January 1796. Lewis and Clark first met him in November 1805.

"... This Chin nook Nation is about 400 Souls inhabid the Countrey on the Small rivrs which run into the bay below us and on the Ponds to the N W of us, live principally on fish and roots, they are well armed with fusees and Sometimes kill Elk Deer and fowl. our hunters killed to day 3 Deer, 4 brant and 2 Ducks, and inform me they Saw Some Elk Sign. I directed all the men who wished to See more of the main Ocian to prepare themselves to Set out with me early on tomorrow morning. The principal Chief of the Chinnooks & his familey came up to See us this evening ..." [Clark, November 17, 1805]

"... found maney of the Chin nooks with Capt. Lewis of whome there was 2 Cheifs Com com mo ly & Chil-lar-la-wil to whome we gave Medals and to one a flag. ..." [Clark, November 20, 1805]

Image, 2004, entrance, Fort Columbia State Park, History Sign, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
History sign, at Fort Columbia State Park, Washington. Image taken April 9, 2004.


"Here was the home of the Chinook Indians and their great chief Comcomly"


Burial Canoe ...
In 1961 a cement replica of Chief Comcomly's burial canoe was erected on Coxcomb Hill within the city of Astoria. The canoe overlooks Youngs Bay.

Image, 2005, Comcomly Canoe, from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cement replica of Chief Comcomly burial canoe, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken April 19, 2005.
Image, 2005, Comcomly Canoe, from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cement replica of Chief Comcomly burial canoe, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken April 19, 2005.
Image, 2005, Comcomly Canoe, from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cement replica of Chief Comcomly burial canoe, Coxcomb Hill, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken April 19, 2005.


"One-eyed Chief" ...
Washington Irving in his narrative of 1811 Astoria (published 1836), tells of the founding of Astoria and the "Astorians" first meeting Chief Comcomly.

"... Mr. M'Dougal, who now considered himself at the head of the concern, as Mr. Astor's representative and proxy. He set off the same day, (April 5th) accompanied by David Stuart, for the southern shore, intending to be back by the seventh. Not having the captain to contend with, they soon pitched upon a spot which appeared to them favorable for the intended establishment. It was on a point of land called Point George, having a very good harbor, where vessels, not exceeding two hundred tons burden, might anchor within fifty yards of the shore.

After a day thus profitably spent, they recrossed the river, but landed on the northern shore several miles above the anchoring ground of the Tonquin, in the neighborhood of Chinooks, and visited the village of that tribe. Here they were received with great hospitality by the chief, who was named Comcomly, a shrewd old savage, with but one eye, who will occasionally figure in this narrative. Each village forms a petty sovereignty, governed by its own chief, who, however, possesses but little authority, unless he be a man of wealth and substance; that is to say, possessed of canoe, slaves, and wives. The greater the number of these, the greater is the chief. How many wives this one-eyed potentate maintained we are not told, but he certainly possessed great sway, not merely over his own tribe, but over the neighborhood. ...

With this worthy tribe of Chinooks the two partners passed a part of the day very agreeably. M'Dougal, who was somewhat vain of his official rank, had given it to be understood that they were two chiefs of a great trading company, about to be established here, and the quick-sighted, though one-eyed chief, who was somewhat practiced in traffic with white men, immediately perceived the policy of cultivating the friendship of two such important visitors. He regaled them, therefore, to the best of his ability, with abundance of salmon and wappatoo. The next morning, April 7th, they prepared to return to the vessel, according to promise. They had eleven miles of open bay to traverse; the wind was fresh, the waves ran high. Comcomly remonstrated with them on the hazard to which they would be exposed. They were resolute, however, and launched their boat, while the wary chieftain followed at some short distance in his canoe. Scarce had they rowed a mile, when a wave broke over their boat and upset it. They were in imminent peril of drowning, especially Mr. M'Dougal, who could not swim. Comcomly, however, came bounding over the waves in his light canoe, and snatched them from a watery grave.

They were taken on shore and a fire made, at which they dried their clothes, after which Comcomly conducted them back to his village. Here everything was done that could be devised for their entertainment during three days that they were detained by bad weather. Comcomly made his people perform antics before them; and his wives and daughters endeavored, by all the soothing and endearing arts of women, to find favor in their eyes. Some even painted their bodies with red clay, and anointed themselves with fish oil, to give additional lustre to their charms. Mr. M'Dougal seems to have had a heart susceptible to the influence of the gentler sex. Whether or no it was first touched on this occasion we do not learn; but it will be found, in the course of this work, that one of the daughters of the hospitable Comcomly eventually made a conquest of the great eri of the American Fur Company. ..."

Source:   Washington Irving, 1836, "Astoria"


Duncan McDougal and Ilchee ...
Soon after their meeting, Duncan McDougal married Ilchee, the daughter of Chief Comcomly. A bronze of Ilchee is located along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail near Columbia Shores, Vancouver, Washington.
[More]

Image, 2006, Ilchee Bronze, Columbia Shores, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilchee Bronze, Daughter of Chief Comcomly. View along Vancouver's Waterfront Renaissance Trail, Columbia Shores, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken December 31, 2006.


Chief Coboway and the Clatsop Tribe ...
Chief Coboway was a Clatsop Chief who Lewis and Clark befriended. Lewis and Clark called Chief Coboway by many names, among them being "Con-ny-au", "Conia", "Cania", "Com mo-wol", "Commowoll", "Commorwool", and "Que-ne-o". Chief Coboway welcomed the men in December 1805 during construction of Fort Clatsop.

"... All hands that are well employ'd in Cutting logs and raising our winter Cabins, ... in the evening two Canoes of Clât Sops Visit us they brought with them Wap pa to, a black Swet root they Call Sha-na toe qua, and a Small Sea Otter Skin, all of which we purchased for a fiew fishing hooks and a Small Sack of Indian tobacco which was given by the Snake Inds. Those Indians appear well disposed we gave a Medal to the principal Chief named Con-ny-au or Com mo-wol and treated those with him with as much attention as we could— I can readily discover that they are Close deelers, & Stickle for a verry little, never close a bargin except they think they have the advantage Value Blue beeds highly, white they also prise but no other Colour do they Value in the least— the Wap pa to they Sell high, this root the purchase at a high price from the nativs above. ..." [Clark, December 12, 1805]

According to Historian James P. Ronda (University of Nebraska Press Website, 2006):

"... Those Indians [The Clatsops], some four hundred strong living in three autonomous villages, had several chiefs, including Coboway, Shanoma, and Warhalott. Coboway, known to the explorers as Comowooll or Conia, was the only Clatsop chief who had any recorded contact with the expedition. ..."

Lewis and Clark write favorably about Chief Coboway.

"... This morning, the fishing and hunting party's Set out agreeably to their instructions given them last evening. At 11 a. m. we were visited by Commowoll and two boys Sons of his. he presented us with Some Anchovies which had been well Cured in their manner, we found them excellent. they were very acceptable perticularly at this moment. we gave the old mans Sones a twisted wire to ware about his neck, and I gave him a par of old glovs which he was much pleased with. this we have found much the most friendly and decent Indian that we have met with in this neighbourhood. ..." [Clark, March 6, 1806]

"... It continued to rain and hail in Such a manner that nothing Could be done to the Canoes. a party were Sent out early after the Elk which was killed last evening, with which they returned in the Course of a fiew hours, we gave Commorwool alias Cania, a Certificate of his good conduct and the friendly intercourse which he has maintained with us dureing our residence at this place: we also gave him a list of our names &c.— The Kilamox, Clatsops, Chinnooks, Cath lah mahs Wau ki a cum and ChiltzI—resemble each other as well in their persons and Dress as in their habits and manners.— their complexion is not remarkable, being the usial Copper brown of the tribes of North America. they are low in Statue reather diminutive, and illy Shaped, possessing thick broad flat feet, thick ankles, crooked legs, wide mouths, thick lips, noses Stuk out and reather wide at the base, with black eyes and black coarse hair. ..." [Clark, March 19, 1806]

Lewis and Clark turned Fort Clatsop over to Chief Coboway when they left in March 1806 to begin their journey back home.

"... about 10 A. M. we were visited by 4 Clatsops and a killamucks; they brought some dried Anchoveis and a dog for sale which we purchased. the air is perefectly temperate, but it continues to rain in such a manner that there be is no possibility of geting our canoes completed.— at 12 OCk. we were visited by Comowooll and 3 of the Clatsops. to this Cheif we left our houses and funiture. he has been much more kind an hospitable to us than any other indian in this neighbourhood. the Indians departed in the evening. ..." [Lewis, March 22, 1806]

"... about 10 A. M. we were visited by Que-ne-o alias Commorwool 8 Clatsops and a Kil-a-mox; they brought Some dried Anchovies, a common Otter Skin and a Dog for Sale all of which we purchased. the Dog we purchased for our Sick men, the fish for to add to our Small Stock of provision's, and the Skin to cover my papers. those Indians left us in the evening. ..." [Clark, March 22, 1806]


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 15, 1805 ...
in full view of the Ocian[Pacific Ocean] from Point Adams [Point Adams, Oregon] to Cape Disapointment [Cape Disappointment, Washington], I could not See any Island in the mouth of this river as laid down by Vancouver [Sand Island]. The Bay which he laies down in the mouth is imediately below me [Baker Bay]. This Bay we call Haleys bay from a favourate Trader with the Indians which they Say comes into this Bay and trades with them Course to Point adams [Point Adams, Oregon] is S. 35° W. about 8 miles To Cape Disapointment [Cape Disappointment, Washington] is S. 86° W. about 14 miles     4 Indians of the War-ki a cum nation Came down with pap-pa-too to See &c.    The Indians who accompanied Shannon from the village below Speake a Different language from those above, and reside to the north of this place The Call themselves Chin nooks,     our men all Comfortable in their Camps [Station Camp] which they have made of boards from the old Village above. we made 3 miles to day.






Clark, November 17, 1805 ...
This Chin nook Nation is about 400 Souls inhabid the Countrey on the Small rivrs which run into the bay below us [Baker Bay] and on the Ponds to the N W of us, live principally on fish and roots, they are well armed with fusees and Sometimes kill Elk Deer and fowl. our hunters killed to day 3 Deer, 4 brant and 2 Ducks, and inform me they Saw Some Elk Sign. I directed all the men who wished to See more of the main Ocian [Pacific Ocean] to prepare themselves to Set out with me early on tomorrow morning [The men are currently at Station Camp]. The principal Chief of the Chinnooks & his familey came up to See us this evening [Historians assume this was Chief Comcomly] ...






Clark, November 20, 1805 ...
Some rain last night dispatched Labiech to kill Some fowl for our brackfast he returned in about 2 hours with 8 large Ducks on which we brackfast I proceeded on to the enterance of a Creek near a cabin no person being at this cabin and 2 Canoes laying on the opposit Shore from us, I deturmined to have a raft made and Send a man over for a canoe, a Small raft was Soon made, and Reuben Fields Crossed and brought over a Canoe— This Creek which is the outlet of a number of ponds, is at this time (high tide) 300 yds wide— I proceeded on up the Beech and was overtaken by three Indians one of them gave me Some dried Sturgeon and a fiew wappato roots, I employd Those Indians to take up one of our Canoes which had been left by the first party that Came down, for which Service I gave them each a fishing hook of a large Size— on my way up I met Several parties of Chinnooks which I had not before Seen they were on their return from our Camp. all those people appeard to know my deturmonation of keeping every individual of their nation at a proper distance, as they were guarded and resurved in my presence &c. found maney of the Chin nooks with Capt. Lewis of whome there was 2 Cheifs Com com mo ly & Chil-lar-la-wil to whome we gave Medals and to one a flag. one of the Indians had on a roab made of 2 Sea Otter Skins the fur of them were more butifull than any fur I had ever Seen both Capt. Lewis & my Self endeavored to purchase the roab with differant articles at length we precured it for a belt of blue beeds which the Squar—wife of our interpreter Shabono wore around her waste. in my absence the hunters had killed Several Deer and fowl of different kinds—





Clark, December 12, 1805 ...
All hands that are well employ'd in Cutting logs and raising our winter Cabins [building of Fort Clatsop], detached two men to Split boards— Some rain at intervales all last night and to day— The flees were So troublesom last night that I made but a broken nights rest, we find great dificuelty in getting those trouble insects out of our robes and blankets— in the evening two Canoes of Clât Sops Visit us they brought with them Wap pa to, a black Swet root they Call Sha-na toe qua, and a Small Sea Otter Skin, all of which we purchased for a fiew fishing hooks and a Small Sack of Indian tobacco which was given by the Snake Inds. Those Indians appear well disposed we gave a Medal to the principal Chief named Con-ny-au or Com mo-wol [Chief Coboway] and treated those with him with as much attention as we could— I can readily discover that they are Close deelers, & Stickle for a verry little, never close a bargin except they think they have the advantage Value Blue beeds highly, white they also prise but no other Colour do they Value in the least— the Wap pa to they Sell high, this root the purchase at a high price from the nativs above.






Lewis, February 24, 1806 ...
This evening we were visited by Comowooll the Clatsop Chief [Chief Coboway] and 12 men women & children of his nation. Drewyer came a passenger in their canoe, and brought with him two dogs. The chief and his party had brought for sail a Sea Otter skin some hats, stergeon [White Sturgeon] and a [s]pecies of small fish [eulachon, or candle fish] which now begin to run, and are taken in great quantities in the Columbia R. about 40 miles above us [Cowlitz River] by means of skiming or scooping nets. on this page I have drawn the likeness of them as large as life; it as perfect as I can make it with my pen and will serve to give a general idea of the fish. the rays of the fins are boney but not sharp tho' somewhat pointed. the small fin on the back next to the tail has no rays of bone being a thin membranous pellicle. the fins next to the gills have eleven rays each. those of the abdomen have eight each, those of the pinna-ani are 20 and 2 half formed in front. that of the back has eleven rays. all the fins are of a white colour. the back is of a bluish duskey colour and that of the lower part of the sides and belley is of a silvery white. no spots on any part. the first bone of the gills next behid the eye is of a bluis cast, and the second of a light goald colour nearly white. the puple of the eye is blak and the iris of a silver white. the underjaw exceeds the uper; and the mouth opens to great extent, folding like that of the herring. it has no teeth. the abdomen is obtuse and smooth; in this differing from the herring, shad anchovey &c of the Malacopterygious Order & Class Clupea, to which however I think it more nearly allyed than to any other altho' it has not their accute and serrate abdomen and the under jaw exceeding the upper. the scales of this little fish are so small and thin that without minute inspection you would suppose they had none. they are filled with roes of a pure white colour and have scarcely any perceptable alimentary duct. I find them best when cooked in Indian stile, which is by roasting a number of them together on a wooden spit without any previous preperation whatever. they are so fat they require no additional sauce, and I think them superior to any fish I ever tasted, even more delicate and lussious than the white fish of the lakes which have heretofore formed my standart of excellence among the fishes. I have heard the fresh anchovey much extolled but I hope I shall be pardoned for beleiving this quite as good. the bones are so soft and fine that they form no obstruction in eating this fish. we purchased all the articles which these people brought us; we suffered these people to remain all night as it rained, the wind blew most violently and they had their women and children with them; the latter being a sure pledge of their pacific dispositions. the Sturgeon which they brough us was also good of it's kind. we determine to send a party up the river to procure some of those fish, and another in some direction to hunt Elk as soon as the weather will permit.





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources: Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2006; Oregon Historical Society website, 2005, "The Oregon History Project"; Oregon State Archives website, 2007.

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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July 2011