plate 39

Jonathan Carver
A Plan of Captain Carvers Travels
in the Interior Parts of North America
in 1766 and 1767


Audio Tour: About Carver

This map and the next are from Jonathan Carver’s journal “Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768” by J. Carver, Esq. (London 1778). After serving in five campaigns against the French and their Indian allies in Canada, and narrowly escaping massacre while commanding a company in Fort William Henry, Carver was recruited by Robert Rogers, a noted frontiersman and commander of Robert’s Rangers, to undertake an exploration of “the uncharted western territories,” with the objective of finding the long-sought Northwest Passage or, failing that, an overland route to the Pacific. Deflected in his westward journey by a war between the Sioux and Chippewa tribes, he turned north and then west again, traveling as far as the Minnesota River and present-day south-central Minnesota (where he is commemorated in the name of Carver County) before turning back. Despite this adversity, Carver’s travel over seven thousand miles across America allowed him to make important contributions to the mapping of the central region and to contribute to the knowledge of Indian life and customs.  

When Rogers and he quarreled over his pay, Carver resolved to return to England to publish his journals.  He made his way to London and eventually, after nine years of struggle and poverty, finally published them in 1778.19 They were an immediate success, and over thirty editions in English and several other languages were ultimately printed.  This map was included in the first edition, and served to portray, in an authoritative manner, the western half of the continent to interested readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

On the western edge of this map at latitude 47 degrees N, above and to the left of White Bear Lake, can be found the legend Heads of Origan with a river flowing westward from an unnamed lake. This is the first use of the word “Oregon” in print and demonstrates the association, and for a time the considerable confusion, of “Oregon,” “The River of the West,” and later the Columbia River. The map suggests a relatively easy waterborne route from the interior of the continent to the Pacific Ocean by means of the Missouri River, northwest to White Bear Lake, and then a rather easy portage to the Heads of Origan. This suggestion may have contributed to Jefferson’s decision to dispatch Lewis and Clark up the Missouri.

19. Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver: Cavendish Books, 1999).