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´╗┐Title: Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains
Author: Irving, Washington, 1783-1859
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains" ***



By Washington Irving


IN THE COURSE of occasional visits to Canada many years since, I became
intimately acquainted with some of the principal partners of the
great Northwest Fur Company, who at that time lived in genial style
at Montreal, and kept almost open house for the stranger. At their
hospitable boards I occasionally met with partners, and clerks, and
hardy fur traders from the interior posts; men who had passed years
remote from civilized society, among distant and savage tribes, and
who had wonders to recount of their wide and wild peregrinations, their
hunting exploits, and their perilous adventures and hair-breadth escapes
among the Indians. I was at an age when imagination lends its coloring
to everything, and the stories of these Sinbads of the wilderness made
the life of a trapper and fur trader perfect romance to me. I even
meditated at one time a visit to the remote posts of the company in
the boats which annually ascended the lakes and rivers, being thereto
invited by one of the partners; and I have ever since regretted that I
was prevented by circumstances from carrying my intention into effect.
From those early impressions, the grand enterprise of the great fur
companies, and the hazardous errantry of their associates in the wild
parts of our vast continent, have always been themes of charmed
interest to me; and I have felt anxious to get at the details of their
adventurous expeditions among the savage tribes that peopled the depths
of the wilderness.

About two years ago, not long after my return from a tour upon the
prairies of the far West, I had a conversation with my friend, Mr.
John Jacob Astor, relative to that portion of our country, and to the
adventurous traders to Santa Fe and the Columbia. This led him to advert
to a great enterprise set on foot and conducted by him, between twenty
and thirty years since, having for its object to carry the fur trade
across the Rocky Mountains, and to sweep the shores of the Pacific.

Finding that I took an interest in the subject, he expressed a regret
that the true nature and extent of his enterprise and its national
character and importance had never been understood, and a wish that I
would undertake to give an account of it. The suggestion struck upon the
chord of early associations already vibrating in my mind. It occurred
to me that a work of this kind might comprise a variety of those curious
details, so interesting to me, illustrative of the fur trade; of its
remote and adventurous enterprises, and of the various people, and
tribes, and castes, and characters, civilized and savage, affected by
its operations. The journals, and letters, also, of the adventurers by
sea and land employed by Mr. Astor in his comprehensive project, might
throw light upon portions of our country quite out of the track of
ordinary travel, and as yet but little known. I therefore felt disposed
to undertake the task, provided documents of sufficient extent and
minuteness could be furnished to me. All the papers relative to the
enterprise were accordingly submitted to my inspection. Among them were
journals and letters narrating expeditions by sea, and journeys to and
fro across the Rocky Mountains by routes before untravelled, together
with documents illustrative of savage and colonial life on the borders
of the Pacific. With such material in hand, I undertook the work.
The trouble of rummaging among business papers, and of collecting and
collating facts from amidst tedious and commonplace details, was spared
me by my nephew, Pierre M. Irving, who acted as my pioneer, and to whom
I am greatly indebted for smoothing my path and lightening my labors.

As the journals, on which I chiefly depended, had been kept by men of
business, intent upon the main object of the enterprise, and but little
versed in science, or curious about matters not immediately bearing upon
their interest, and as they were written often in moments of fatigue
or hurry, amid the inconveniences of wild encampments, they were
often meagre in their details, furnishing hints to provoke rather
than narratives to satisfy inquiry. I have, therefore, availed myself
occasionally of collateral lights supplied by the published journals of
other travellers who have visited the scenes described: such as Messrs.
Lewis and Clarke, Bradbury, Breckenridge, Long, Franchere, and Ross Cox,
and make a general acknowledgment of aid received from these quarters.

The work I here present to the public is necessarily of a rambling
and somewhat disjointed nature, comprising various expeditions and
adventures by land and sea. The facts, however, will prove to be linked
and banded together by one grand scheme, devised and conducted by
a master spirit; one set of characters, also, continues throughout,
appearing occasionally, though sometimes at long intervals, and the
whole enterprise winds up by a regular catastrophe; so that the work,
without any labored attempt at artificial construction, actually
possesses much of that unity so much sought after in works of fiction,
and considered so important to the interest of every history.



     Objects of American Enterprise.--Gold Hunting and Fur
     Trading.--Their Effect on Colonization.--Early French Canadian
     Settlers.--Ottawa and Huron Hunters.--An Indian Trading Camp.
     Coureurs Des Bois, or Rangers of the Woods.--Their Roaming
     Life.--Their Revels and Excesses.--Licensed Traders.
     Missionaries.--Trading Posts.--Primitive French Canadian
     Merchant.--His Establishment and Dependents.--British Canadian
     Fur Merchant.--Origin of the Northwest Company.--Its
     Constitution.--Its Internal Trade.--A Candidate for the
     Company.--Privations in the Wilderness.--Northwest Clerks.
     Northwest Partners.--Northwest Nabobs.--Feudal Notions in the
     Forests.--The Lords of the Lakes.--Fort William.--Its
     Parliamentary Hall and Banqueting Room.--Wassailing in the

TWO leading objects of commercial gain have given birth to wide and
daring enterprise in the early history of the Americas; the precious
metals of the South, and the rich peltries of the North. While the fiery
and magnificent Spaniard, inflamed with the mania for gold, has extended
his discoveries and conquests over those brilliant countries scorched by
the ardent sun of the tropics, the adroit and buoyant Frenchman, and the
cool and calculating Briton, have pursued the less splendid, but no
less lucrative, traffic in furs amidst the hyperborean regions of the
Canadas, until they have advanced even within the Arctic Circle.

These two pursuits have thus in a manner been the pioneers and
precursors of civilization. Without pausing on the borders, they have
penetrated at once, in defiance of difficulties and dangers, to the
heart of savage countries: laying open the hidden secrets of the
wilderness; leading the way to remote regions of beauty and fertility
that might have remained unexplored for ages, and beckoning after them
the slow and pausing steps of agriculture and civilization.

It was the fur trade, in fact, which gave early sustenance and vitality
to the great Canadian provinces. Being destitute of the precious metals,
at that time the leading objects of American enterprise, they were long
neglected by the parent country. The French adventurers, however, who
had settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence, soon found that in the
rich peltries of the interior, they had sources of wealth that
might almost rival the mines of Mexico and Peru. The Indians, as yet
unacquainted with the artificial value given to some descriptions of
furs, in civilized life, brought quantities of the most precious kinds
and bartered them away for European trinkets and cheap commodities.
Immense profits were thus made by the early traders, and the traffic was
pursued with avidity.

As the valuable furs soon became scarce in the neighborhood of the
settlements, the Indians of the vicinity were stimulated to take a wider
range in their hunting expeditions; they were generally accompanied on
these expeditions by some of the traders or their dependents, who
shared in the toils and perils of the chase, and at the same time made
themselves acquainted with the best hunting and trapping grounds, and
with the remote tribes, whom they encouraged to bring their peltries
to the settlements. In this way the trade augmented, and was drawn from
remote quarters to Montreal. Every now and then a large body of Ottawas,
Hurons, and other tribes who hunted the countries bordering on the great
lakes, would come down in a squadron of light canoes, laden with beaver
skins, and other spoils of their year's hunting. The canoes would be
unladen, taken on shore, and their contents disposed in order. A camp of
birch bark would be pitched outside of the town, and a kind of primitive
fair opened with that grave ceremonial so dear to the Indians. An
audience would be demanded of the governor-general, who would hold
the conference with becoming state, seated in an elbow-chair, with the
Indians ranged in semicircles before him, seated on the ground,
and silently smoking their pipes. Speeches would be made, presents
exchanged, and the audience would break up in universal good humor.

Now would ensue a brisk traffic with the merchants, and all Montreal
would be alive with naked Indians running from shop to shop, bargaining
for arms, kettles, knives, axes, blankets, bright-colored cloths, and
other articles of use or fancy; upon all which, says an old French
writer, the merchants were sure to clear at least two hundred per cent.
There was no money used in this traffic, and, after a time, all payment
in spirituous liquors was prohibited, in consequence of the frantic and
frightful excesses and bloody brawls which they were apt to occasion.

Their wants and caprices being supplied, they would take leave of the
governor, strike their tents, launch their canoes, and ply their way up
the Ottawa to the lakes.

A new and anomalous class of men gradually grew out of this trade. These
were called coureurs des bois, rangers of the woods; originally men
who had accompanied the Indians in their hunting expeditions, and made
themselves acquainted with remote tracts and tribes; and who now became,
as it were, peddlers of the wilderness. These men would set out from
Montreal with canoes well stocked with goods, with arms and ammunition,
and would make their way up the mazy and wandering rivers that interlace
the vast forests of the Canadas, coasting the most remote lakes, and
creating new wants and habitudes among the natives. Sometimes they
sojourned for months among them, assimilating to their tastes and habits
with the happy facility of Frenchmen, adopting in some degree the Indian
dress, and not unfrequently taking to themselves Indian wives.

Twelve, fifteen, eighteen months would often elapse without any tidings
of them, when they would come sweeping their way down the Ottawa in full
glee, their canoes laden down with packs of beaver skins. Now came their
turn for revelry and extravagance. "You would be amazed," says an old
writer already quoted, "if you saw how lewd these peddlers are when they
return; how they feast and game, and how prodigal they are, not only in
their clothes, but upon their sweethearts. Such of them as are married
have the wisdom to retire to their own houses; but the bachelors act
just as an East Indiaman and pirates are wont to do; for they lavish,
eat, drink, and play all away as long as the goods hold out; and when
these are gone, they even sell their embroidery, their lace, and their
clothes. This done, they are forced upon a new voyage for subsistence."

Many of these coureurs des bois became so accustomed to the Indian mode
of living, and the perfect freedom of the wilderness, that they lost
relish for civilization, and identified themselves with the savages
among whom they dwelt, or could only be distinguished from them by
superior licentiousness. Their conduct and example gradually corrupted
the natives, and impeded the works of the Catholic missionaries, who
were at this time prosecuting their pious labors in the wilds of Canada.

To check these abuses, and to protect the fur trade from various
irregularities practiced by these loose adventurers, an order was issued
by the French government prohibiting all persons, on pain of death, from
trading into the interior of the country without a license.

These licenses were granted in writing by the governor-general, and
at first were given only to persons of respectability; to gentlemen of
broken fortunes; to old officers of the army who had families to provide
for; or to their widows. Each license permitted the fitting out of
two large canoes with merchandise for the lakes, and no more than
twenty-five licenses were to be issued in one year. By degrees, however,
private licenses were also granted, and the number rapidly increased.
Those who did not choose to fit out the expeditions themselves, were
permitted to sell them to the merchants; these employed the coureurs des
bois, or rangers of the woods, to undertake the long voyages on shares,
and thus the abuses of the old system were revived and continued.

The pious missionaries employed by the Roman Catholic Church to convert
the Indians, did everything in their power to counteract the profligacy
caused and propagated by these men in the heart of the wilderness. The
Catholic chapel might often be seen planted beside the trading house,
and its spire surmounted by a cross, towering from the midst of an
Indian village, on the banks of a river or a lake. The missions had
often a beneficial effect on the simple sons of the forest, but had
little power over the renegades from civilization.

At length it was found necessary to establish fortified posts at the
confluence of the rivers and the lakes for the protection of the trade,
and the restraint of these profligates of the wilderness. The most
important of these was at Michilimackinac, situated at the strait of the
same name, which connects Lakes Huron and Michigan. It became the great
interior mart and place of deposit, and some of the regular merchants
who prosecuted the trade in person, under their licenses, formed
establishments here. This, too, was a rendezvous for the rangers of the
woods, as well those who came up with goods from Montreal as those who
returned with peltries from the interior. Here new expeditions
were fitted out and took their departure for Lake Michigan and the
Mississippi; Lake Superior and the Northwest; and here the peltries
brought in return were embarked for Montreal.

The French merchant at his trading post, in these primitive days of
Canada, was a kind of commercial patriarch. With the lax habits and easy
familiarity of his race, he had a little world of self-indulgence and
misrule around him. He had his clerks, canoe men, and retainers of
all kinds, who lived with him on terms of perfect sociability, always
calling him by his Christian name; he had his harem of Indian beauties,
and his troop of halfbreed children; nor was there ever wanting a
louting train of Indians, hanging about the establishment, eating and
drinking at his expense in the intervals of their hunting expeditions.

The Canadian traders, for a long time, had troublesome competitors in
the British merchants of New York, who inveigled the Indian hunters
and the coureurs des bois to their posts, and traded with them on more
favorable terms. A still more formidable opposition was organized in
the Hudson's Bay Company, chartered by Charles II., in 1670, with the
exclusive privilege of establishing trading houses on the shores of that
bay and its tributary rivers; a privilege which they have maintained to
the present day. Between this British company and the French merchants
of Canada, feuds and contests arose about alleged infringements of
territorial limits, and acts of violence and bloodshed occurred between
their agents.

In 1762, the French lost possession of Canada, and the trade fell
principally into the hands of British subjects. For a time, however, it
shrunk within narrow limits. The old coureurs des bois were broken up
and dispersed, or, where they could be met with, were slow to accustom
themselves to the habits and manners of their British employers. They
missed the freedom, indulgence, and familiarity of the old French
trading houses, and did not relish the sober exactness, reserve, and
method of the new-comers. The British traders, too, were ignorant of the
country, and distrustful of the natives. They had reason to be so. The
treacherous and bloody affairs of Detroit and Michilimackinac showed
them the lurking hostility cherished by the savages, who had too long
been taught by the French to regard them as enemies.

It was not until the year 1766, that the trade regained its old
channels; but it was then pursued with much avidity and emulation
by individual merchants, and soon transcended its former bounds.
Expeditions were fitted out by various persons from Montreal and
Michilimackinac, and rivalships and jealousies of course ensued. The
trade was injured by their artifices to outbid and undermine each other;
the Indians were debauched by the sale of spirituous liquors, which had
been prohibited under the French rule. Scenes of drunkeness, brutality,
and brawl were the consequence, in the Indian villages and around the
trading houses; while bloody feuds took place between rival trading
parties when they happened to encounter each other in the lawless depths
of the wilderness.

To put an end to these sordid and ruinous contentions, several of the
principal merchants of Montreal entered into a partnership in the winter
of 1783, which was augmented by amalgamation with a rival company in
1787. Thus was created the famous "Northwest Company," which for a time
held a lordly sway over the wintry lakes and boundless forests of
the Canadas, almost equal to that of the East India Company over the
voluptuous climes and magnificent realms of the Orient.

The company consisted of twenty-three shareholders, or partners,
but held in its employ about two thousand persons as clerks, guides,
interpreters, and "voyageurs," or boatmen. These were distributed at
various trading posts, established far and wide on the interior lakes
and rivers, at immense distances from each other, and in the heart of
trackless countries and savage tribes.

Several of the partners resided in Montreal and Quebec, to manage
the main concerns of the company. These were called agents, and were
personages of great weight and importance; the other partners took
their stations at the interior posts, where they remained throughout
the winter, to superintend the intercourse with the various tribes of
Indians. They were thence called wintering partners.

The goods destined for this wide and wandering traffic were put up at
the warehouses of the company in Montreal, and conveyed in batteaux, or
boats and canoes, up the river Attawa, or Ottowa, which falls into the
St. Lawrence near Montreal, and by other rivers and portages, to Lake
Nipising, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and thence, by several chains of
great and small lakes, to Lake Winnipeg, Lake Athabasca, and the Great
Slave Lake. This singular and beautiful system of internal seas, which
renders an immense region of wilderness so accessible to the frail bark
of the Indian or the trader, was studded by the remote posts of the
company, where they carried on their traffic with the surrounding

The company, as we have shown, was at first a spontaneous association of
merchants; but, after it had been regularly organized, admission into
it became extremely difficult. A candidate had to enter, as it were,
"before the mast," to undergo a long probation, and to rise slowly by
his merits and services. He began, at an early age, as a clerk, and
served an apprenticeship of seven years, for which he received one
hundred pounds sterling, was maintained at the expense of the company,
and furnished with suitable clothing and equipments. His probation was
generally passed at the interior trading posts; removed for years from
civilized society, leading a life almost as wild and precarious as the
savages around him; exposed to the severities of a northern winter,
often suffering from a scarcity of food, and sometimes destitute for a
long time of both bread and salt. When his apprenticeship had expired,
he received a salary according to his deserts, varying from eighty to
one hundred and sixty pounds sterling, and was now eligible to the great
object of his ambition, a partnership in the company; though years might
yet elapse before he attained to that enviable station.

Most of the clerks were young men of good families, from the Highlands
of Scotland, characterized by the perseverance, thrift, and fidelity
of their country, and fitted by their native hardihood to encounter the
rigorous climate of the North, and to endure the trials and privations
of their lot; though it must not be concealed that the constitutions
of many of them became impaired by the hardships of the wilderness, and
their stomachs injured by occasional famishing, and especially by the
want of bread and salt. Now and then, at an interval of years, they were
permitted to come down on a visit to the establishment at Montreal, to
recruit their health, and to have a taste of civilized life; and these
were brilliant spots in their existence.

As to the principal partners, or agents, who resided in Montreal and
Quebec, they formed a kind of commercial aristocracy, living in
lordly and hospitable style. Their posts, and the pleasures, dangers,
adventures, and mishaps which they had shared together in their wild
wood life, had linked them heartily to each other, so that they formed
a convivial fraternity. Few travellers that have visited Canada some
thirty years since, in the days of the M'Tavishes, the M'Gillivrays, the
M'Kenzies, the Frobishers, and the other magnates of the Northwest,
when the company was in all its glory, but must remember the round of
feasting and revelry kept up among these hyperborean nabobs.

Sometimes one or two partners, recently from the interior posts, would
make their appearance in New York, in the course of a tour of pleasure
and curiosity. On these occasions there was a degree of magnificence of
the purse about them, and a peculiar propensity to expenditure at
the goldsmith's and jeweler's for rings, chains, brooches, necklaces,
jeweled watches, and other rich trinkets, partly for their own
wear, partly for presents to their female acquaintances; a gorgeous
prodigality, such as was often to be noticed in former times in Southern
planters and West India creoles, when flush with the profits of their

To behold the Northwest Company in all its state and grandeur, however,
it was necessary to witness an annual gathering at the great interior
place of conference established at Fort William, near what is called
the Grand Portage, on Lake Superior. Here two or three of the leading
partners from Montreal proceeded once a year to meet the partners from
the various trading posts of the wilderness, to discuss the affairs
of the company during the preceding year, and to arrange plans for the

On these occasions might be seen the change since the unceremonious
times of the old French traders; now the aristocratic character of the
Briton shone forth magnificently, or rather the feudal spirit of the
Highlander. Every partner who had charge of an interior post, and a
score of retainers at his Command, felt like the chieftain of a Highland
clan, and was almost as important in the eyes of his dependents as of
himself. To him a visit to the grand conference at Fort William was
a most important event, and he repaired there as to a meeting of

The partners from Montreal, however, were the lords of the ascendant;
coming from the midst of luxurious and ostentatious life, they quite
eclipsed their compeers from the woods, whose forms and faces had
been battered and hardened by hard living and hard service, and whose
garments and equipments were all the worse for wear. Indeed, the
partners from below considered the whole dignity of the company as
represented in their persons, and conducted themselves in suitable
style. They ascended the rivers in great state, like sovereigns making
a progress: or rather like Highland chieftains navigating their subject
lakes. They were wrapped in rich furs, their huge canoes freighted
with every convenience and luxury, and manned by Canadian voyageurs,
as obedient as Highland clansmen. They carried up with them cooks and
bakers, together with delicacies of every kind, and abundance of choice
wines for the banquets which attended this great convocation. Happy were
they, too, if they could meet with some distinguished stranger; above
all, some titled member of the British nobility, to accompany them on
this stately occasion, and grace their high solemnities.

Fort William, the scene of this important annual meeting, was a
considerable village on the banks of Lake Superior. Here, in an immense
wooden building, was the great council hall, as also the banqueting
chamber, decorated with Indian arms and accoutrements, and the trophies
of the fur trade. The house swarmed at this time with traders and
voyageurs, some from Montreal, bound to the interior posts; some from
the interior posts, bound to Montreal. The councils were held in great
state, for every member felt as if sitting in parliament, and every
retainer and dependent looked up to the assemblage with awe, as to the
House of Lords. There was a vast deal of solemn deliberation, and hard
Scottish reasoning, with an occasional swell of pompous declamation.

These grave and weighty councils were alternated by huge feasts and
revels, like some of the old feasts described in Highland castles. The
tables in the great banqueting room groaned under the weight of game
of all kinds; of venison from the woods, and fish from the lakes, with
hunters' delicacies, such as buffalos' tongues, and beavers' tails,
and various luxuries from Montreal, all served up by experienced cooks
brought for the purpose. There was no stint of generous wine, for it was
a hard-drinking period, a time of loyal toasts, and bacchanalian songs,
and brimming bumpers.

While the chiefs thus revelled in hall, and made the rafters resound
with bursts of loyalty and old Scottish songs, chanted in voices cracked
and sharpened by the northern blast, their merriment was echoed
and prolonged by a mongrel legion of retainers, Canadian voyageurs,
half-breeds, Indian hunters, and vagabond hangers-on who feasted
sumptuously without on the crumbs that fell from their table, and made
the welkin ring with old French ditties, mingled with Indian yelps and

Such was the Northwest Company in its powerful and prosperous days, when
it held a kind of feudal sway over a vast domain of lake and forest. We
are dwelling too long, perhaps, upon these individual pictures, endeared
to us by the associations of early life, when, as yet a stripling youth,
we have sat at the hospitable boards of the "mighty Northwesters,"
the lords of the ascendant at Montreal, and gazed with wondering
and inexperienced eye at the baronial wassailing, and listened with
astonished ear to their tales of hardship and adventures. It is one
object of our task, however, to present scenes of the rough life of the
wilderness, and we are tempted to fix these few memorials of a transient
state of things fast passing into oblivion; for the feudal state of Fort
William is at an end, its council chamber is silent and deserted; its
banquet hall no longer echoes to the burst of loyalty, or the "auld
world" ditty; the lords of the lakes and forests have passed away; and
the hospitable magnates of Montreal where are they?


     Rise of the Mackinaw Company.--Attempt of the American
     Government to Counteract Foreign Influence Over the Indian
     Tribes.--John Jacob Astor.--His Birth-Place.--His Arrival in
     the United States.--What First Turned His Attention to the
     Fur Trade.--His Character, Enterprises, and Success.--His
     Communications With the American Government.--Origin of the
     American Fur Company

THE success of the Northwest Company stimulated further enterprise in
this opening and apparently boundless field of profit. The traffic of
that company lay principally in the high northern latitudes, while
there were immense regions to the south and west, known to abound with
valuable peltries; but which, as yet, had been but little explored by
the fur trader. A new association of British merchants was therefore
formed, to prosecute the trade in this direction. The chief factory was
established at the old emporium of Michilimackinac, from which place the
association took its name, and was commonly called the Mackinaw Company.

While the Northwesters continued to push their enterprises into the
hyperborean regions from their stronghold at Fort William, and to hold
almost sovereign sway over the tribes of the upper lakes and rivers,
the Mackinaw Company sent forth their light perogues and barks, by Green
Bay, Fox River, and the Wisconsin, to that areas artery of the West, the
Mississippi; and down that stream to all its tributary rivers. In this
way they hoped soon to monopolize the trade with all the tribes on
the southern and western waters, and of those vast tracts comprised in
ancient Louisiana.

The government of the United States began to view with a wary eye the
growing influence thus acquired by combinations of foreigners, over
the aboriginal tribes inhabiting its territories, and endeavored to
counteract it. For this purpose, as early as 1796, the government sent
out agents to establish rival trading houses on the frontier, so as to
supply the wants of the Indians, to link their interests and feelings
with those of the people of the United States, and to divert this
important branch of trade into national channels.

The expedition, however, was unsuccessful, as most commercial expedients
are prone to be, where the dull patronage of government is counted
upon to outvie the keen activity of private enterprise. What government
failed to effect, however, with all its patronage and all its agents,
was at length brought about by the enterprise and perseverance of a
single merchant, one of its adopted citizens; and this brings us to
speak of the individual whose enterprise is the especial subject of
the following pages; a man whose name and character are worthy of being
enrolled in the history of commerce, as illustrating its noblest aims
and soundest maxims. A few brief anecdotes of his early life, and of the
circumstances which first determined him to the branch of commerce of
which we are treating, cannot be but interesting.

John Jacob Astor, the individual in question, was born in the honest
little German village of Waldorf, near Heidelberg, on the banks of the
Rhine. He was brought up in the simplicity of rural life, but, while
yet a mere stripling, left his home, and launched himself amid the
busy scenes of London, having had, from his very boyhood, a singular
presentiment that he would ultimately arrive at great fortune.

At the close of the American Revolution he was still in London, and
scarce on the threshold of active life. An elder brother had been for
some few years resident in the United States, and Mr. Astor determined
to follow him, and to seek his fortunes in the rising country. Investing
a small sum which he had amassed since leaving his native village, in
merchandise suited to the American market, he embarked, in the month
of November, 1783, in a ship bound to Baltimore, and arrived in Hampton
Roads in the month of January. The winter was extremely severe, and the
ship, with many others, was detained by the ice in and about Chesapeake
Bay for nearly three months.

During this period, the passengers of the various ships used
occasionally to go on shore, and mingle sociably together. In this
way Mr. Astor became acquainted with a countryman of his, a furrier by
trade. Having had a previous impression that this might be a lucrative
trade in the New World, he made many inquiries of his new acquaintance
on the subject, who cheerfully gave him all the information in his power
as to the quality and value of different furs, and the mode of carrying
on the traffic. He subsequently accompanied him to New York, and, by his
advice, Mr. Astor was induced to invest the proceeds of his merchandise
in furs. With these he sailed from New York to London in 1784, disposed
of them advantageously, made himself further acquainted with the course
of the trade, and returned the same year to New York, with a view to
settle in the United States.

He now devoted himself to the branch of commerce with which he had thus
casually been made acquainted. He began his career, of course, on the
narrowest scale; but he brought to the task a persevering industry,
rigid economy, and strict integrity. To these were added an aspiring
spirit that always looked upwards; a genius bold, fertile, and
expansive; a sagacity quick to grasp and convert every circumstance to
its advantage, and a singular and never wavering confidence of signal

As yet, trade in peltries was not organized in the United States, and
could not be said to form a regular line of business. Furs and skins
were casually collected by the country traders in their dealings with
the Indians or the white hunters, but the main supply was derived
from Canada. As Mr. Astor's means increased, he made annual visits to
Montreal, where he purchased furs from the houses at that place engaged
in the trade. These he shipped from Canada to London, no direct trade
being allowed from that colony to any but the mother country.

In 1794 or '95, a treaty with Great Britain removed the restrictions
imposed upon the trade with the colonies, and opened a direct commercial
intercourse between Canada and the United States. Mr. Astor was in
London at the time, and immediately made a contract with the agents of
the Northwest Company for furs. He was now enabled to import them from
Montreal into the United States for the home supply, and to be shipped
thence to different parts of Europe, as well as to China, which has ever
been the best market for the richest and finest kinds of peltry.

The treaty in question provided, likewise, that the military posts
occupied by the British within the territorial limits of the United
States, should be surrendered. Accordingly, Oswego, Niagara, Detroit,
Michilimackinac, and other posts on the American side of the lakes, were
given up. An opening was thus made for the American merchant to trade on
the confines of Canada, and within the territories of the United States.
After an interval of some years, about 1807, Mr. Astor embarked in this
trade on his own account. His capital and resources had by this time
greatly augmented, and he had risen from small beginnings to take his
place among the first merchants and financiers of the country. His
genius had ever been in advance of his circumstances, prompting him
to new and wide fields of enterprise beyond the scope of ordinary
merchants. With all his enterprise and resources however, he soon found
the power and influence of the Michilimackinac (or Mackinaw) Company too
great for him, having engrossed most of the trade within the American

A plan had to be devised to enable him to enter into successful
competition. He was aware of the wish of the American government,
already stated, that the fur trade within its boundaries should be in
the hands of American citizens, and of the ineffectual measures it had
taken to accomplish that object. He now offered, if aided and protected
by government, to turn the whole of that trade into American channels.
He was invited to unfold his plans to government, and they were warmly
approved, though the executive could give no direct aid.

Thus countenanced, however, he obtained, in 1809, a charter from the
legislature of the State of New York, incorporating a company under the
name of "The American Fur Company," with a capital of one million
of dollars, with the privilege of increasing it to two millions. The
capital was furnished by himself he, in fact, constituted the company;
for, though he had a board of directors, they were merely nominal; the
whole business was conducted on his plans and with his resources, but
he preferred to do so under the imposing and formidable aspect of a
corporation, rather than in his individual name, and his policy was
sagacious and effective.

As the Mackinaw Company still continued its rivalry, and as the fur
trade would not advantageously admit of competition, he made a new
arrangement in 1811, by which, in conjunction with certain partners of
the Northwest Company, and other persons engaged in the fur trade, he
bought out the Mackinaw Company, and merged that and the American Fur
Company into a new association, to be called the "Southwest Company."
This he likewise did with the privity and approbation of the American

By this arrangement Mr. Astor became proprietor of one half of the
Indian establishments and goods which the Mackinaw Company had within
the territory of the Indian country in the United States, and it was
understood that the whole was to be surrendered into his hands at the
expiration of five years, on condition that the American Company would
not trade within the British dominions.

Unluckily, the war which broke out in 1812 between Great Britain and
the United States suspended the association; and, after the war, it was
entirely dissolved; Congress having passed a law prohibiting the British
fur traders from prosecuting their enterprises within the territories of
the United States.


     Fur Trade in the Pacific--American Coasting Voyages--Russian
     Enterprises.--Discovery of the Columbia River.--Carver's
     Project to Found a Settlement There.--Mackenzie's
     Expedition.--Lewis and Clarke's Journey Across the Rocky
     Mountains--Mr. Astor's Grand Commercial Scheme.--His
     Correspondence on the Subject With Mr. Jefferson.--His
     Negotiations With the Northwest Company.--His Steps to Carry
     His Scheme Into Effect.

WHILE the various companies we have noticed were pushing their
enterprises far and wide in the wilds of Canada, and along the course of
the great western waters, other adventurers, intent on the same objects,
were traversing the watery wastes of the Pacific and skirting the
northwest coast of America. The last voyage of that renowned but
unfortunate discoverer, Captain Cook, had made known the vast quantities
of the sea-otter to be found along that coast, and the immense prices to
be obtained for its fur in China. It was as if a new gold coast had
been discovered. Individuals from various countries dashed into this
lucrative traffic, so that in the year 1792, there were twenty-one
vessels under different flags, plying along the coast and trading with
the natives. The greater part of them were American, and owned by Boston
merchants. They generally remained on the coast and about the adjacent
seas, for two years, carrying on as wandering and adventurous a commerce
on the water as did the traders and trappers on land. Their trade
extended along the whole coast from California to the high northern
latitudes. They would run in near shore, anchor, and wait for the
natives to come off in their canoes with peltries. The trade exhausted
at one place, they would up anchor and off to another. In this way they
would consume the summer, and when autumn came on, would run down to the
Sandwich Islands and winter in some friendly and plentiful harbor. In
the following year they would resume their summer trade, commencing at
California and proceeding north: and, having in the course of the two
seasons collected a sufficient cargo of peltries, would make the best
of their way to China. Here they would sell their furs, take in teas,
nankeens, and other merchandise, and return to Boston, after an absence
of two or three years.

The people, however, who entered most extensively and effectively in the
fur trade of the Pacific, were the Russians. Instead of making casual
voyages, in transient ships, they established regular trading houses in
the high latitudes, along the northwest coast of America, and upon the
chain of the Aleutian Islands between Kamtschatka and the promontory of

To promote and protect these enterprises, a company was incorporated by
the Russian government with exclusive privileges, and a capital of two
hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling; and the sovereignty of that
part of the American continent, along the coast of which the posts had
been established, was claimed by the Russian crown, on the plea that the
land had been discovered and occupied by its subjects.

As China was the grand mart for the furs collected in these quarters,
the Russians had the advantage over their competitors in the trade. The
latter had to take their peltries to Canton, which, however, was a mere
receiving mart, from whence they had to be distributed over the interior
of the empire and sent to the northern parts, where there was the chief
consumption. The Russians, on the contrary, carried their furs, by a
shorter voyage, directly to the northern parts of the Chinese empire;
thus being able to afford them in the market without the additional cost
of internal transportation.

We come now to the immediate field of operation of the great enterprise
we have undertaken to illustrate.

Among the American ships which traded along the northwest coast in 1792,
was the Columbia, Captain Gray, of Boston. In the course of her voyage
she discovered the mouth of a large river in lat. 46 19' north. Entering
it with some difficulty, on account of sand-bars and breakers, she came
to anchor in a spacious bay. A boat was well manned, and sent on shore
to a village on the beach, but all the inhabitants fled excepting the
aged and infirm. The kind manner in which these were treated, and the
presents given them, gradually lured back the others, and a friendly
intercourse took place. They had never seen a ship or a white man. When
they had first descried the Columbia, they had supposed it a floating
island; then some monster of the deep; but when they saw the boat
putting for shore with human beings on board, they considered them
cannibals sent by the Great Spirit to ravage the country and devour the
inhabitants. Captain Gray did not ascend the river farther than the bay
in question, which continues to bear his name. After putting to sea, he
fell in with the celebrated discoverer, Vancouver, and informed him
of his discovery, furnished him with a chart which he had made of the
river. Vancouver visited the river, and his lieutenant, Broughton,
explored it by the aid of Captain Gray's chart; ascending it upwards of
one hundred miles, until within view of a snowy mountain, to which he
gave the name of Mt. Hood, which it still retains.

The existence of this river, however, was known long before the visits
of Gray and Vancouver, but the information concerning it was vague and
indefinite, being gathered from the reports of Indians. It was spoken
of by travellers as the Oregon, and as the Great River of the West. A
Spanish ship is said to have been wrecked at the mouth, several of the
crew of which lived for some time among the natives. The Columbia,
however, is believed to be the first ship that made a regular discovery
and anchored within its waters, and it has since generally borne the
name of that vessel. As early as 1763, shortly after the acquisition of
the Canadas by Great Britain, Captain Jonathan Carver, who had been in
the British provincial army, projected a journey across the continent
between the forty-third and forty-sixth degrees of northern latitude
to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. His objects were to ascertain the
breadth of the continent at its broadest part, and to determine on some
place on the shores of the Pacific, where government might establish
a post to facilitate the discovery of a northwest passage, or a
communication between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. This place he
presumed would be somewhere about the Straits of Annian, at which point
he supposed the Oregon disembogued itself. It was his opinion, also,
that a settlement on this extremity of America would disclose new
sources of trade, promote many useful discoveries, and open a more
direct communication with China and the English settlements in the East
Indies, than that by the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan. *
This enterprising and intrepid traveller was twice baffled in individual
efforts to accomplish this great journey. In 1774, he was joined in
the scheme by Richard Whitworth, a member of Parliament, and a man of
wealth. Their enterprise was projected on a broad and bold plan. They
were to take with them fifty or sixty men, artificers and mariners.
With these they were to make their way up one of the branches of the
Missouri, explore the mountains for the source of the Oregon, or River
of the West, and sail down that river to its supposed exit, near the
Straits of Annian. Here they were to erect a fort, and build the vessels
necessary to carry their discoveries by sea into effect. Their plan had
the sanction of the British government, and grants and other requisites
were nearly completed, when the breaking out of the American Revolution
once more defeated the undertaking. **

The expedition of Sir Alexander Mackenzie in 1793, across the continent
to the Pacific Ocean, which he reached in lat. 52 20' 48", again
suggested the possibility of linking together the trade of both sides of
the continent. In lat. 52 30' he had descended a river for some distance
which flowed towards the south, and wag called by the natives Tacoutche
Tesse, and which he erroneously supposed to be the Columbia. It was
afterwards ascertained that it emptied itself in lat. 49 degrees,
whereas the mouth of the Columbia is about three degrees further south.

When Mackenzie some years subsequently published an account of his
expeditions, he suggested the policy of opening an intercourse between
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and forming regular establishments
through the interior and at both extremes, as well as along the coasts
and islands. By this means, he observed, the entire command of the fur
trade of North America might be obtained from lat. 48 north to the pole,
excepting that portion held by the Russians, for as to the American
adventurers who had hitherto enjoyed the traffic along the northwest
coast, they would instantly disappear, he added, before a well regulated

A scheme of this kind, however, was too vast and hazardous for
individual enterprise; it could only be undertaken by a company under
the sanction and protection of a government; and as there might be a
clashing of claims between the Hudson's Bay and Northwest Company, the
one holding by right of charter, the other by right of possession,
he proposed that the two comparties should coalesce in this great
undertaking. The long-cherished jealousies of these two companies,
however, were too deep and strong to allow them to listen to such

In the meantime the attention of the American government was attracted
to the subject, and the memorable expedition under Messrs. Lewis and
Clarke fitted out. These gentlemen, in 1804, accomplished the enterprise
which had been projected by Carver and Whitworth in 1774. They
ascended the Missouri, passed through the stupendous gates of the Rocky
Mountains, hitherto unknown to white men; discovered and explored the
upper waters of the Columbia, and followed that river down to its
mouth, where their countryman, Gray, had anchored about twelve years
previously. Here they passed the winter, and returned across the
mountains in the following spring. The reports published by them of
their expedition demonstrated the practicability of establishing a line
of communication across the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific

It was then that the idea presented itself to the mind of Mr. Astor, of
grasping with his individual hand this great enterprise, which for years
had been dubiously yet desirously contemplated by powerful associations
and maternal governments. For some time he revolved the idea in his
mind, gradually extending and maturing his plans as his means of
executing them augmented. The main feature of his scheme was to
establish a line of trading posts along the Missouri and the Columbia,
to the mouth of the latter, where was to be founded the chief trading
house or mart. Inferior posts would be established in the interior, and
on all the tributary streams of the Columbia, to trade with the Indians;
these posts would draw their supplies from the main establishment, and
bring to it the peltries they collected. Coasting craft would be
built and fitted out, also at the mouth of the Columbia, to trade, at
favorable seasons, all along the northwest coast, and return, with the
proceeds of their voyages, to this place of deposit. Thus all the Indian
trade, both of the interior and the coast, would converge to this point,
and thence derive its sustenance.

A ship was to be sent annually from New York to this main establishment
with reinforcements and supplies, and with merchandise suited to the
trade. It would take on board the furs collected during the preceding
year, carry them to Canton, invest the proceeds in the rich merchandise
of China, and return thus freighted to New York. As, in extending the
American trade along the coast to the northward, it might be brought
into the vicinity of the Russian Fur Company, and produce a hostile
rivalry, it was part of the plan of Mr. Astor to conciliate the
good-will of that company by the most amicable and beneficial
arrangements. The Russian establishment was chiefly dependent for its
supplies upon transient trading vessels from the United States. These
vessels, however, were often of more harm than advantage. Being owned
by private adventurers, or casual voyagers, who cared only for present
profit, and had no interest in the permanent prosperity of the trade,
they were reckless in their dealings with the natives, and made no
scruple of supplying them with fire-arms. In this way several fierce
tribes in the vicinity of the Russian posts, or within the range of
their trading excursions, were furnished with deadly means of warfare,
and rendered troublesome and dangerous neighbors.

The Russian government had made representations to that of the United
States of these malpractices on the part of its citizens, and urged to
have this traffic in arms prohibited; but, as it did not infringe
any municipal law, our government could not interfere. Yet, still it
regarded, with solicitude, a traffic which, if persisted in, might give
offence to Russia, at that time almost the only friendly power to us. In
this dilemma the government had applied to Mr. Astor, as one conversant
in this branch of trade, for information that might point out a way
to remedy the evil. This circumstance had suggested to him the idea of
supplying the Russian establishment regularly by means of the annual
ship that should visit the settlement at the mouth of the Columbia (or
Oregon); by this means the casual trading vessels would be excluded
from those parts of the coast where their malpractices were so injurious
to the Russians.

Such is a brief outline of the enterprise projected by Mr. Astor, but
which continually expanded in his mind. Indeed it is due to him to say
that he was not actuated by mere motives of individual profit. He was
already wealthy beyond the ordinary desires of man, but he now aspired
to that honorable fame which is awarded to men of similar scope of mind,
who by their great commercial enterprises have enriched nations, peopled
wildernesses, and extended the bounds of empire. He considered his
projected establishment at the mouth of the Columbia as the emporium
to an immense commerce; as a colony that would form the germ of a wide
civilization; that would, in fact, carry the American population across
the Rocky Mountains and spread it along the shores of the Pacific, as
it already animated the shores of the Atlantic. As Mr. Astor, by the
magnitude of his commercial and financial relations, and the vigor
and scope of his self-taught mind, had elevated himself into the
consideration of government and the communion and correspondence with
leading statesmen, he, at an early period, communicated his schemes
to President Jefferson, soliciting the countenance of government. How
highly they were esteemed by that eminent man, we may judge by the
following passage, written by him some time afterwards.

"I remember well having invited your proposition on this subject,*** and
encouraged it with the assurance of every facility and protection which
the government could properly afford. I considered, as a great public
acquisition, the commencement of a settlement on that point of the
western coast of America, and looked forward with gratification to the
time when its descendants should have spread themselves through the
whole length of that coast, covering it with free and independent
Americans, unconnected with us but by the ties of blood and interest,
and enjoying like us the rights of self-government."

The cabinet joined with Mr. Jefferson in warm approbation of the plan,
and held out assurance of every protection that could, consistently with
general policy, be afforded. Mr. Astor now prepared to carry his scheme
into prompt execution. He had some competition, however, to apprehend
and guard against. The Northwest Company, acting feebly and partially
upon the suggestions of its former agent, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, had
pushed one or two advanced trading posts across the Rocky Mountains,
into a tract of country visited by that enterprising traveller, and
since named New Caledonia. This tract lay about two degrees north of the
Columbia, and intervened between the territories of the United States
and those of Russia. Its length was about five hundred and fifty miles,
and its breadth, from the mountains to the Pacific, from three hundred
to three hundred and fifty geographic miles.

Should the Northwest Company persist in extending their trade in that
quarter, their competition might be of serious detriment to the plans
of Mr. Astor. It is true they would contend with him to a vast
disadvantage, from the checks and restrictions to which they were
subjected. They were straitened on one side by the rivalry of the
Hudson's Bay Company; then they had no good post on the Pacific where
they could receive supplies by sea for their establishments beyond the
mountains; nor, if they had one, could they ship their furs thence to
China, that great mart for peltries; the Chinese trade being comprised
in the monopoly of the East India Company. Their posts beyond the
mountains had to be supplied in yearly expeditions, like caravans,
from Montreal, and the furs conveyed back in the same way, by long,
precarious, and expensive routes, across the continent. Mr. Astor, on
the contrary, would be able to supply his proposed establishment at
the mouth of the Columbia by sea, and to ship the furs collected there
directly to China, so as to undersell the Northwest Company in the great
Chinese market.

Still, the competition of two rival companies west of the Rocky
Mountains could not but prove detrimental to both, and fraught with
those evils, both to the trade and to the Indians, that had attended
similar rivalries in the Canadas. To prevent any contest of the kind,
therefore, he made known his plan to the agents of the Northwest
Company, and proposed to interest them, to the extent of one third, in
the trade thus to be opened. Some correspondence and negotiation ensued.
The company were aware of the advantages which would be possessed by
Mr. Astor should he be able to carry his scheme into effect; but they
anticipated a monopoly of the trade beyond the mountains by their
establishments in New Caledonia, and were loth to share it with an
individual who had already proved a formidable competitor in the
Atlantic trade. They hoped, too, by a timely move, to secure the mouth
of the Columbia before Mr. Astor would be able to put his plans into
operation; and, that key to the internal trade once in their possession,
the whole country would be at their command. After some negotiation and
delay, therefore, they declined the proposition that had been made to
them, but subsequently despatched a party for the mouth of the Columbia,
to establish a post there before any expedition sent out by Mr. Astor
might arrive.

In the meantime Mr. Astor, finding his overtures rejected, proceeded
fearlessly to execute his enterprise in face of the whole power of the
Northwest Company. His main establishment once planted at the mouth of
the Columbia, he looked with confidence to ultimate success. Being able
to reinforce and supply it amply by sea, he would push his interior
posts in every direction up the rivers and along the coast; supplying
the natives at a lower rate, and thus gradually obliging the Northwest
Company to give up the competition, relinquish New Caledonia, and retire
to the other side of the mountains. He would then have possession of
the trade, not merely of the Columbia and its tributaries, but of the
regions farther north, quite to the Russian possessions. Such was a part
of his brilliant and comprehensive plan.

He now proceeded, with all diligence, to procure proper agents and
coadjutors, habituated to the Indian trade and to the life of the
wilderness. Among the clerks of the Northwest Company were several of
great capacity and experience, who had served out their probationary
terms, but who, either through lack of interest and influence, or a
want of vacancies, had not been promoted. They were consequently much
dissatisfied, and ready for any employment in which their talents and
acquirements might be turned to better account.

Mr. Astor made his overtures to several of these persons, and three
of them entered into his views. One of these, Mr. Alexander M'Kay, had
accompanied Sir Alexander Mackenzie in both of his expeditions to the
northwest coast of America in 1789 and 1793. The other two were Duncan
M'Dougal and Donald M'Kenzie. To these were subsequently added Mr.
Wilson Price Hunt, of New Jersey. As this gentleman was a native born
citizen of the United States, a person of great probity and worth, he
was selected by Mr. Astor to be his chief agent, and to represent him in
the contemplated establishment.

On the 23d of June, 1810, articles of agreement were entered into
between Mr. Astor and those four gentlemen, acting for themselves and
for the several persons who had already agreed to become, or should
thereafter become, associated under the firm of "The Pacific Fur

According to these articles, Mr. Astor was to be at the head of the
company, and to manage its affairs in New York. He was to furnish
vessels, goods, provisions, arms, ammunition, and all other requisites
for the enterprise at first cost and charges, provided that they did
not, at any time, involve an advance of more than four hundred thousand

The stock of the company was to be divided into a hundred equal shares,
with the profits accruing thereon. Fifty shares were to be at the
disposition of Mr. Astor, and the other fifty to be divided among the
partners and their associates.

Mr. Astor was to have the privilege of introducing other persons into
the connection as partners, two of whom, at least, should be conversant
with the Indian trade, and none of them entitled to more than three

A general meeting of the company was to be held annually at Columbia
River, for the investigation and regulation of its affairs; at which
absent members might be represented, and might vote by proxy under
certain specified conditions.

The association, if successful, was to continue for twenty years; but
the parties had full power to abandon and dissolve it within the first
five years, should it be found unprofitable. For this term Mr. Astor
covenanted to bear all the loss that might be incurred; after which it
was to be borne by all the partners, in proportion to their respective

The parties of the second part were to execute faithfully such duties as
might be assigned to them by a majority of the company on the northwest
coast, and to repair to such place or places as the majority might

An agent, appointed for the term of five years, was to reside at the
principal establishment on the northwest coast, and Wilson Price Hunt
was the one chosen for the first term. Should the interests of the
concern at any time require his absence, a person was to be appointed,
in general meeting, to take his place.

Such were the leading conditions of this association; we shall now
proceed to relate the various hardy and eventful expeditions, by sea and
land, to which it gave rise.

     * Carver's Travels, Introd. b. iii. Philad. 1796.

     **Carver's Travels, p. 360.

     *** On this point Mr. Jefferson's memory was in error. The
     proposition alluded to was the one, already mentioned, for
     the establishment of an American Fur Company in the Atlantic
     States. The great enterprise beyond the mountains, that was
     to sweep the shores of the Pacific, originated in the mind
     of Mr. Astor, and was proposed by him to the government.


     Two Expeditions Set on Foot.--The Tonquin and Her Crew.--
     Captain Thorn, His Character.--The Partners and Clerks--
     Canadian Voyageurs, Their Habits, Employments, Dress,
     Character, Songs--Expedition of a Canadian Boat and Its Crew
     by Land and Water.--Arrival at New York.--Preparations for a
     Sea Voyage.--Northwest Braggarts.--Underhand Precautions--
     Letter of Instructions.

IN prosecuting his great scheme of commerce and colonization, two
expeditions were devised by Mr. Astor, one by sea, the other by
land. The former was to carry out the people, stores, ammunition, and
merchandise, requisite for establishing a fortified trading post at
the mouth of Columbia River. The latter, conducted by Mr. Hunt, was to
proceed up the Missouri, and across the Rocky Mountains, to the same
point; exploring a line of communication across the continent and
noting the places where interior trading posts might be established. The
expedition by sea is the one which comes first under consideration.

A fine ship was provided called the Tonquin, of two hundred and ninety
tons burden, mounting ten guns, with a crew of twenty men. She carried
an assortment of merchandise for trading with the natives of the
seaboard and of the interior, together with the frame of a schooner,
to be employed in the coasting trade. Seeds also were provided for the
cultivation of the soil, and nothing was neglected for the necessary
supply of the establishment. The command of the ship was intrusted to
Jonathan Thorn, of New York, a lieutenant in the United States navy,
on leave of absence. He was a man of courage and firmness, who had
distinguished himself in our Tripolitan war, and, from being accustomed
to naval discipline, was considered by Mr. Astor as well fitted to take
charge of an expedition of the kind. Four of the partners were to embark
in the ship, namely, Messrs. M'Kay, M'Dougal, David Stuart, and his
nephew, Robert Stuart. Mr. M'Dougal was empowered by Mr. Astor to act as
his proxy in the absence of Mr. Hunt, to vote for him and in his name,
on any question that might come before any meeting of the persons
interested in the voyage.

Besides the partners, there were twelve clerks to go out in the ship,
several of them natives of Canada, who had some experience in the Indian
trade. They were bound to the service of the company for five years, at
the rate of one hundred dollars a year, payable at the expiration of
the term, and an annual equipment of clothing to the amount of forty
dollars. In case of ill conduct they were liable to forfeit their wages
and be dismissed; but, should they acquit themselves well, the confident
expectation was held out to them of promotion, and partnership. Their
interests were thus, to some extent, identified with those of the

Several artisans were likewise to sail in the ship, for the supply of
the colony; but the most peculiar and characteristic part of this motley
embarkation consisted of thirteen Canadian "voyageurs," who had enlisted
for five years. As this class of functionaries will continually recur
in the course of the following narrations, and as they form one of those
distinct and strongly marked castes or orders of people, springing up
in this vast continent out of geographical circumstances, or the varied
pursuits, habitudes, and origins of its population, we shall sketch a
few of their characteristics for the information of the reader.

The "voyageurs" form a kind of confraternity in the Canadas, like the
arrieros, or carriers of Spain, and, like them, are employed in long
internal expeditions of travel and traffic: with this difference, that
the arrieros travel by land, the voyageurs by water; the former with
mules and horses, the latter with batteaux and canoes. The voyageurs may
be said to have sprung up out of the fur trade, having originally been
employed by the early French merchants in their trading expeditions
through the labyrinth of rivers and lakes of the boundless interior.
They were coeval with the coureurs des bois, or rangers of the woods,
already noticed, and, like them, in the intervals of their long,
arduous, and laborious expeditions, were prone to pass their time in
idleness and revelry about the trading posts or settlements; squandering
their hard earnings in heedless conviviality, and rivaling their
neighbors, the Indians, in indolent indulgence and an imprudent
disregard of the morrow.

When Canada passed under British domination, and the old French trading
houses were broken up, the voyageurs, like the coureurs des bois, were
for a time disheartened and disconsolate, and with difficulty could
reconcile themselves to the service of the new-comers, so different in
habits, manners, and language from their former employers. By degrees,
however, they became accustomed to the change, and at length came to
consider the British fur traders, and especially the members of the
Northwest Company, as the legitimate lords of creation.

The dress of these people is generally half civilized, half savage.
They wear a capot or surcoat, made of a blanket, a striped cotton shirt,
cloth trousers, or leathern leggins, moccasins of deer-skin, and a
belt of variegated worsted, from which are suspended the knife,
tobacco-pouch, and other implements. Their language is of the same
piebald character, being a French patois, embroidered with Indian and
English words and phrases.

The lives of the voyageurs are passed in wild and extensive rovings, in
the service of individuals, but more especially of the fur traders.
They are generally of French descent, and inherit much of the gayety and
lightness of heart of their ancestors, being full of anecdote and song,
and ever ready for the dance. They inherit, too, a fund of civility and
complaisance; and, instead of that hardness and grossness which men in
laborious life are apt to indulge towards each other, they are mutually
obliging and accommodating; interchanging kind offices, yielding each
other assistance and comfort in every emergency, and using the familiar
appellations of "cousin" and "brother" when there is in fact no
relationship. Their natural good-will is probably heightened by a
community of adventure and hardship in their precarious and wandering

No men are more submissive to their leaders and employers, more capable
of enduring hardship, or more good-humored under privations. Never are
they so happy as when on long and rough expeditions, toiling up rivers
or coasting lakes; encamping at night on the borders, gossiping round
their fires, and bivouacking in the open air. They are dextrous boatmen,
vigorous and adroit with the oar and paddle, and will row from
morning until night without a murmur. The steersman often sings an old
traditionary French song, with some regular burden in which they all
join, keeping time with their oars; if at any time they flag in spirits
or relax in exertion, it is but necessary to strike up a song of the
kind to put them all in fresh spirits and activity. The Canadian waters
are vocal with these little French chansons, that have been echoed from
mouth to mouth and transmitted from father to son, from the earliest
days of the colony; and it has a pleasing effect, in a still golden
summer evening, to see a batteau gliding across the bosom of a lake and
dipping its oars to the cadence of these quaint old ditties, or sweeping
along in full chorus on a bright sunny morning, down the transparent
current of one of the Canada rivers.

But we are talking of things that are fast fading away! The march of
mechanical invention is driving everything poetical before it. The
steamboats, which are fast dispelling the wildness and romance of our
lakes and rivers, and aiding to subdue the world into commonplace, are
proving as fatal to the race of the Canadian voyageurs as they have been
to that of the boatmen of the Mississippi. Their glory is departed. They
are no longer the lords of our internal seas, and the great navigators
of the wilderness. Some of them may still occasionally be seen coasting
the lower lakes with their frail barks, and pitching their camps
and lighting their fires upon the shores; but their range is fast
contracting to those remote waters and shallow and obstructed rivers
unvisited by the steamboat. In the course of years they will gradually
disappear; their songs will die away like the echoes they once awakened,
and the Canadian voyageurs will become a forgotten race, or remembered,
like their associates, the Indians, among the poetical images of past
times, and as themes for local and romantic associations.

An instance of the buoyant temperament and the professional pride of
these people was furnished in the gay and braggart style in which they
arrived at New York to join the enterprise. They were determined to
regale and astonish the people of the "States" with the sight of a
Canadian boat and a Canadian crew. They accordingly fitted up a large
but light bark canoe, such as is used in the fur trade; transported
it in a wagon from the banks of the St. Lawrence to the shores of Lake
Champlain; traversed the lake in it, from end to end; hoisted it again
in a wagon and wheeled it off to Lansingburgh, and there launched it
upon the waters of the Hudson. Down this river they plied their course
merrily on a fine summer's day, making its banks resound for the first
time with their old French boat songs; passing by the villages with
whoop and halloo, so as to make the honest Dutch farmers mistake them
for a crew of savages. In this way they swept, in full song and with
regular flourish of the paddle, round New York, in a still summer
evening, to the wonder and admiration of its inhabitants, who had never
before witnessed on their waters, a nautical apparition of the kind.

Such was the variegated band of adventurers about to embark in the
Tonquin on this ardous and doubtful enterprise. While yet in port and
on dry land, in the bustle of preparation and the excitement of novelty,
all was sunshine and promise. The Canadians, especially, who, with their
constitutional vivacity, have a considerable dash of the gascon, were
buoyant and boastful, and great brag arts as to the future; while all
those who had been in the service of the Northwest Company, and engaged
in the Indian trade, plumed themselves upon their hardihood and their
capacity to endure privations. If Mr. Astor ventured to hint at the
difficulties they might have to encounter, they treated them with scorn.
They were "northwesters;" men seasoned to hardships, who cared for
neither wind nor weather. They could live hard, lie hard, sleep hard,
eat dogs!--in a word they were ready to do and suffer anything for the
good of the enterprise. With all this profession of zeal and devotion,
Mr. Astor was not overconfident of the stability and firm faith of these
mercurial beings. He had received information, also, that an armed brig
from Halifax, probably at the instigation of the Northwest Company, was
hovering on the coast, watching for the Tonquin, with the purpose of
impressing the Canadians on board of her, as British subjects, and thus
interrupting the voyage. It was a time of doubt and anxiety, when
the relations between the United States and Great Britain were daily
assuming a more precarious aspect and verging towards that war which
shortly ensued. As a precautionary measure, therefore, he required
that the voyageurs, as they were about to enter into the service of
an American association, and to reside within the limits of the United
States, should take the oaths of naturalization as American citizens.
To this they readily agreed, and shortly afterward assured him that they
had actually done so. It was not until after they had sailed that he
discovered that they had entirely deceived him in the matter.

The confidence of Mr. Astor was abused in another quarter. Two of the
partners, both of them Scotchmen, and recently in the service of the
Northwest Company, had misgivings as to an enterprise which might clash
with the interests and establishments protected by the British flag.
They privately waited upon the British minister, Mr. Jackson, then
in New York, laid open to him the whole scheme of Mr. Astor, though
intrusted to them in confidence, and dependent, in a great measure, upon
secrecy at the outset for its success, and inquired whether they, as
British subjects, could lawfully engage in it. The reply satisfied their
scruples, while the information they imparted excited the surprise
and admiration of Mr. Jackson, that a private individual should have
conceived and set on foot at his own risk and expense so great an

This step on the part of those gentlemen was not known to Mr. Astor
until some time afterwards, or it might have modified the trust and
confidence reposed in them.

To guard against any interruption to the voyage by the armed brig, said
to be off the harbor, Mr. Astor applied to Commodore Rodgers, at that
time commanding at New York, to give the Tonquin safe convoy off
the coast. The commodore having received from a high official source
assurance of the deep interest which the government took in the
enterprise, sent directions to Captain Hull, at that time cruising
off the harbor, in the frigate Constitution, to afford the Tonquin the
required protection when she should put to sea.

Before the day of embarkation, Mr. Astor addressed a letter of
instruction to the four partners who were to sail in the ship. In this
he enjoined them, in the most earnest manner, to cultivate harmony and
unanimity, and recommended that all differences of opinions on points
connected with the objects and interests of the voyage should be
discussed by the whole, and decided by a majority of votes. He,
moreover, gave them especial caution as to their conduct on arriving at
their destined port; exhorting them to be careful to make a favorable
impression upon the wild people among whom their lot and the fortunes
of the enterprise would be cast. "If you find them kind," said he, "as
I hope you will, be so to them. If otherwise, act with caution and
forebearance, and convince them that you come as friends."

With the same anxious forethought he wrote a letter of instructions to
Captain Thorn, in which he urged the strictest attention to the health
of himself and his crew, and to the promotion of good-humor and harmony
on board his ship. "To prevent any misunderstanding," added he, "will
require your particular good management." His letter closed with an
injunction of wariness in his intercourse with the natives, a subject on
which Mr. Astor was justly sensible he could not be too earnest. "I must
recommend you," said he, "to be particularly careful on the coast, and
not to rely too much on the friendly disposition of the natives.
All accidents which have as yet happened there arose from too much
confidence in the Indians."

The reader will bear these instructions in mind, as events will
prove their wisdom and importance, and the disasters which ensued in
consequence of the neglect of them.


     Sailing of the Tonquin.--A Rigid Commander and a Reckless
     Crew.--Landsmen on Shipboard.--Fresh-Water Sailors at Sea.--
     Lubber Nests.--Ship Fare.--A Labrador Veteran--Literary
     Clerks.-Curious Travellers.--Robinson Crusoe's Island.--
     Quarter-Deck Quarrels.--Falkland Islands.--A Wild-Goose
     Chase.--Port Egmont.-Epitaph Hunting.--Old Mortality--
     Penguin Shooting.--Sportsmen Left in the Lurch.--A Hard
     Pull.--Further Altercations.--Arrival at Owyhee.

ON the eighth of September, 1810, the Tonquin put to sea, where she was
soon joined by the frigate Constitution. The wind was fresh and fair
from the southwest, and the ship was soon out of sight of land and free
from the apprehended danger of interruption. The frigate, therefore,
gave her "God speed," and left her to her course.

The harmony so earnestly enjoined by Mr. Astor on this heterogeneous
crew, and which had been so confidently promised in the buoyant moments
of preparation, was doomed to meet with a check at the very outset.

Captain Thorn was an honest, straighforward, but somewhat dry and
dictatorial commander, who, having been nurtured in the system and
discipline of a ship of war, and in a sacred opinion of the supremacy of
the quarter-deck, was disposed to be absolute lord and master on board
of his ship. He appears, moreover, to have had no great opinion, from
the first, of the persons embarked with him--He had stood by with surly
contempt while they vaunted so bravely to Mr. Astor of all they could
do and all they could undergo; how they could face all weathers, put up
with all kinds of fare, and even eat dogs with a relish, when no better
food was to be had. He had set them down as a set of landlubbers and
braggadocios, and was disposed to treat them accordingly. Mr. Astor was,
in his eyes, his only real employer, being the father of the enterprise,
who furnished all funds and bore all losses. The others were mere agents
and subordinates, who lived at his expense. He evidently had but a
narrow idea of the scope and nature of the enterprise, limiting his
views merely to his part of it; everything beyond the concerns of
his ship was out of his sphere; and anything that interfered with the
routine of his nautical duties put him in a passion.

The partners, on the other hand, had been brought up in the service
of the Northwest Company, and in a profound idea of the importance,
dignity, and authority of a partner. They already began to consider
themselves on a par with the M'Tavishes, the M'Gillivrays, the
Frobishers, and the other magnates of the Northwest, whom they had been
accustomed to look up to as the great ones of the earth; and they were
a little disposed, perhaps, to wear their suddenly-acquired honors with
some air of pretension. Mr. Astor, too, had put them on their mettle
with respect to the captain, describing him as a gunpowder fellow who
would command his ship in fine style, and, if there was any fighting to
do, would "blow all out of the water."

Thus prepared to regard each other with no very cordial eye, it is not
to be wondered at that the parties soon came into collision. On the very
first night Captain Thorn began his man-of-war discipline by ordering
the lights in the cabin to be extinguished at eight o'clock.

The pride of the partners was immediately in arms. This was an invasion
of their rights and dignities not to be borne. They were on board
of their own ship, and entitled to consult their ease and enjoyment.
M'Dougal was the champion of their cause. He was an active, irritable,
fuming, vainglorious little man, and elevated in his own opinion, by
being the proxy of Mr. Astor. A violent altercation ensued, in the
course of which Thorn threatened to put the partners in irons should
they prove refractory; upon which M'Dougal seized a pistol and swore to
be the death of the captain should he ever offer such an indignity. It
was some time before the irritated parties could be pacified by the more
temperate bystanders.

Such was the captain's outset with the partners. Nor did the clerks
stand much higher in his good graces; indeed, he seems to have regarded
all the landsmen on board his ship as a kind of live lumber, continually
in the way. The poor voyageurs, too, continually irritated his spleen by
their "lubberly" and unseemly habits, so abhorrent to one accustomed
to the cleanliness of a man-of-war. These poor fresh-water sailors, so
vainglorious on shore, and almost amphibious when on lakes and rivers,
lost all heart and stomach the moment they were at sea. For days they
suffered the doleful rigors and retchings of sea-sickness, lurking below
in their berths in squalid state, or emerging now and then like spectres
from the hatchways, in capotes and blankets, with dirty nightcaps,
grizzly beard, lantern visage and unhappy eye, shivering about the deck,
and ever and anon crawling to the sides of the vessel, and offering up
their tributes to the windward, to infinite annoyance of the captain.

His letters to Mr. Astor, wherein he pours forth the bitterness of his
soul, and his seamanlike impatience of what he considers the "lubberly"
character and conduct of those around him, are before us, and are
amusingly characteristic. The honest captain is full of vexation on his
own account, and solicitude on account of Mr. Astor, whose property he
considers at the mercy of a most heterogeneous and wasteful crew.

As to the clerks, he pronounced them mere pretenders, not one of whom
had ever been among the Indians, nor farther to the northwest than
Montreal, nor of higher rank than barkeeper of a tavern or marker of a
billiard-table, excepting one, who had been a school-master, and whom he
emphatically sets down for "as foolish a pedant as ever lived."

Then as to the artisans and laborers who had been brought from Canada
and shipped at such expense, the three most respectable, according
to the captain's account, were culprits, who had fled from Canada on
account of their misdeeds; the rest had figured in Montreal as draymen,
barbers, waiters, and carriole drivers, and were the most helpless,
worthless beings "that ever broke sea-biscuit."

It may easily be imagined what a series of misunderstandings and
cross-purposes would be likely to take place between such a crew
and such a commander. The captain, in his zeal for the health and
cleanliness of his ship, would make sweeping visitations to the "lubber
nests" of the unlucky "voyageurs" and their companions in misery, ferret
them out of their berths, make them air and wash themselves and their
accoutrements, and oblige them to stir about briskly and take exercise.

Nor did his disgust and vexation cease when all hands had recovered from
sea-sickness, and become accustomed to the ship, for now broke out an
alarming keenness of appetite that threatened havoc to the provisions.
What especially irritated the captain was the daintiness of some of his
cabin passengers. They were loud in their complaints of the ship's fare,
though their table was served with fresh pork, hams, tongues, smoked
beef, and puddings. "When thwarted in their cravings for delicacies,"
Said he, "they would exclaim it was d-d hard they could not live as
they pleased upon their own property, being on board of their own ship,
freighted with their own merchandise. And these," added he, "are the
fine fellows who made such boast that they could 'eat dogs.'"

In his indignation at what he termed their effeminacy, he would swear
that he would never take them to sea again "without having Fly-market on
the forecastle, Covent-garden on the poop, and a cool spring from Canada
in the maintop."

As they proceeded on their voyage and got into the smooth seas and
pleasant weather of the tropics, other annoyances occurred to vex the
spirit of the captain. He had been crossed by the irritable mood of one
of the partners; he was now excessively annoyed by the good-humor of
another. This was the elder Stuart, who was an easy soul, and of a
social disposition. He had seen life in Canada, and on the coast of
Labrador; had been a fur trader in the former, and a fisherman on
the latter; and, in the course of his experience, had made various
expeditions with voyageurs. He was accustomed, therefore, to the
familiarity which prevails between that class and their superiors, and
the gossipings which take place among them when seated round a fire
at their encampments. Stuart was never so happy as when he could seat
himself on the deck with a number of these men round him, in camping
style, smoke together, passing the pipe from mouth to mouth, after the
manner of the Indians, sing old Canadian boat-songs, and tell stories
about their hardships and adventures, in the course of which he rivaled
Sinbad in his long tales of the sea, about his fishing exploits on the
coast of Labrador.

This gossiping familiarity shocked the captain's notions of rank and
subordination, and nothing was so abhorrent to him as the community
of pipe between master and man, and their mingling in chorus in the
outlandish boat-songs.

Then there was another whimsical source of annoyance to him. Some of the
young clerks, who were making their first voyage, and to whom everything
was new and strange, were, very rationally, in the habit of taking notes
and keeping journals. This was a sore abomination to the honest captain,
who held their literary pretensions in great contempt. "The collecting
of materials for long histories of their voyages and travels," said
he, in his letter to Mr. Astor, "appears to engross most of their
attention." We can conceive what must have been the crusty impatience of
the worthy navigator, when, on any trifling occurrence in the course of
the voyage, quite commonplace in his eyes, he saw these young landsmen
running to record it in their journals; and what indignant glances he
must have cast to right and left, as he worried about the deck, giving
out his orders for the management of the ship, surrounded by singing,
smoking, gossiping, scribbling groups, all, as he thought, intent upon
the amusement of the passing hour, instead of the great purposes and
interests of the voyage.

It is possible the captain was in some degree right in his notions.
Though some of the passengers had much to gain by the voyage, none of
them had anything positively to lose. They were mostly young men, in the
heyday of life; and having got into fine latitudes, upon smooth seas,
with a well-stored ship under them, and a fair wind in the shoulder
of the sail, they seemed to have got into a holiday world, and were
disposed to enjoy it. That craving desire, natural to untravelled men of
fresh and lively minds, to see strange lands, and to visit scenes famous
in history or fable, was expressed by some of the partners and clerks,
with respect to some of the storied coasts and islands that lay within
their route. The captain, however, who regarded every coast and island
with a matter-of-fact eye, and had no more associations connected
with them than those laid down in his sea-chart, considered all this
curiosity as exceedingly idle and childish. "In the first part of the
voyage," says he in his letter, "they were determined to have it said
they had been in Africa, and therefore insisted on stopping at the
Cape de Verdes. Next they said the ship should stop on the coast of
Patagonia, for they must see the large and uncommon inhabitants of that
place. Then they must go to the island where Robinson Crusoe had so long
lived. And lastly, they were determined to see the handsome inhabitants
of Easter Island."

To all these resolves, the captain opposed his peremptory veto, as
"contrary to instructions." Then would break forth an unavailing
explosion of wrath on the part of certain of the partners, in the course
of which they did not even spare Mr. Astor for his act of supererogation
in furnishing orders for the control of the ship while they were on
board, instead of leaving them to be the judges where it would be best
for her to touch, and how long to remain. The choleric M'Dougal took the
lead in these railings, being, as has been observed, a little puffed up
with the idea of being Mr. Astor's proxy.

The captain, however, became only so much the more crusty and dogged in
his adherence to his orders, and touchy and harsh in his dealings with
the passengers, and frequent altercations ensued. He may in some measure
have been influenced by his seamanlike impatience of the interference
of landsmen, and his high notions of naval etiquette and quarter-deck
authority; but he evidently had an honest, trusty concern for the
interests of his employer. He pictured to himself the anxious projector
of the enterprise, who had disbursed so munificently in its outfit,
calculating on the zeal, fidelity, and singleness of purpose of his
associates and agents; while they, on the other hand, having a good ship
at their disposal and a deep pocket at home to bear them out, seemed
ready to loiter on every coast, and amuse themselves in every port.

On the fourth of December they came in sight of the Falkland Islands.
Having been for some time on an allowance of water, it was resolved to
anchor here and obtain a supply. A boat was sent into a small bay to
take soundings. Mr. M'Dougal and Mr. M'Kay took this occasion to go on
shore, but with a request from the captain that they would not detain
the ship. Once on shore, however, they were in no haste to obey his
orders, but rambled about in search of curiosities. The anchorage
proving unsafe, and water difficult to be procured, the captain stood
out to sea, and made repeated signals for those on shore to rejoin the
ship, but it was not until nine at night that they came on board.

The wind being adverse, the boat was again sent on shore on the
following morning, and the same gentlemen again landed, but promised to
come off at a moment's warning; they again forgot their promise in their
eager pursuit of wild geese and seawolves. After a time the wind hauled
fair, and signals were made for the boat. Half an hour elapsed but no
boat put off. The captain reconnoitered the shore with his glass, and,
to his infinite vexation, saw the loiterers in the full enjoyment of
their "wildgoose-chase." Nettled to the quick, he immediately made sail.
When those on shore saw the ship actually under way, they embarked with
all speed, but had a hard pull of eight miles before they got on board,
and then experienced but a grim reception, notwithstanding that they
came well laden with the spoils of the chase.

Two days afterwards, on the seventh of December, they anchored at Fort
Egmont, in the same island, where they remained four days taking in
water and making repairs. This was a joyous time for the landsmen. They
pitched a tent on shore, had a boat at their command, and passed their
time merrily in rambling about the island, and coasting along the
shores, shooting sealions, seals, foxes, geese, ducks, and penguins.
None were keener in pursuit of this kind of game than M'Dougal and
David Stuart; the latter was reminded of aquatic sports on the coast of
Labrador, and his hunting exploits in the Northwest.

In the meantime the captain addressed himself steadily to the business
of his ship, scorning the holiday spirit and useless pursuits of his
emancipated messmates, and warning them, from time to time, not to
wander away nor be out of hail. They promised, as usual, that the ship
should never experience a moment's detention on their account, but, as
usual, forgot their promise.

On the morning of the 11th, the repairs being all finished, and the
water casks replenished, the signal was given to embark, and the ship
began to weigh anchor. At this time several of the passengers were
dispersed about the island, amusing themselves in various ways. Some of
the young men had found two inscriptions, in English, over a place where
two unfortunate mariners had been buried in this desert island. As the
inscriptions were worn out by the time and weather, they were playing
the part of "Old Mortality," and piously renewing them. The signal from
the ship summoned them from their labors; they saw the sails unfurled,
and that she was getting under way. The two sporting partners, however,
Mr. M'Dougal and David Stuart, had strolled away to the south of the
island in pursuit of penguins. It would never do to put off without
them, as there was but one boat to convey the whole.

While this delay took place on shore, the captain was storming on board.
This was the third time his orders had been treated with contempt, and
the ship wantonly detained, and it should be the last; so he spread all
sail and put to sea, swearing he would leave the laggards to shift for
themselves. It was in vain that those on board made remonstrances and
entreaties, and represented the horrors of abandoning men upon a sterile
and uninhabited island; the sturdy captain was inflexible.

In the meantime the penguin hunters had joined the engravers of
tombstones, but not before the ship was already out at sea. They all, to
the number of eight, threw themselves into their boat, which was about
twenty feet in length, and rowed with might and main. For three hours
and a half did they tug anxiously and severely at the oar, swashed
occasionally by the surging waves of the open sea, while the ship
inexorably kept on her course, and seemed determined to leave them

On board the ship was the nephew of David Stuart, a young man of spirit
and resolution. Seeing, as he thought, the captain obstinately bent
upon abandoning his uncle and the others, he seized a pistol, and in a
paroxysm of wrath swore he would blow out the captain's brains, unless
he put about or shortened sail.

Fortunately for all parties, the wind just then came ahead, and the boat
was enabled to reach the ship; otherwise, disastrous circumstances might
have ensued. We can hardly believe that the captain really intended to
carry his threat into full effect, and rather think he meant to let the
laggards off for a long pull and a hearty fright. He declared, however,
in his letter to Mr. Astor, that he was serious in his threats, and
there is no knowing how far such an iron man may push his notions of

"Had the wind," writes he, "(unfortunately) not hauled ahead soon after
leaving the harbor's mouth, I should positively have left them; and,
indeed, I cannot but think it an unfortunate circumstance for you
that it so happened, for the first loss in this instance would, in my
opinion, have proved the best, as they seem to have no idea of the
value of property, nor any apparent regard for your interest, although
interwoven with their own."

This, it must be confessed, was acting with a high hand, and carrying
a regard to the owner's property to a dangerous length. Various petty
feuds occurred also between him and the partners in respect to the goods
on board ship, some articles of which they wished to distribute
for clothing among the men, or for other purposes which they deemed
essential. The captain, however, kept a mastiff watch upon the cargo,
and growled and snapped if they but offered to touch box or bale. "It
was contrary to orders; it would forfeit his insurance; it was out of
all rule." It was in vain they insisted upon their right to do so, as
part owners, and as acting for the good of the enterprise; the captain
only stuck to his point the more stanchly. They consoled themselves,
therefore, by declaring, that as soon as they made land, they would
assert their rights, and do with ship and cargo as they pleased.

Beside these feuds between the captain and the partners, there were
feuds between the partners themselves, occasioned, in some measure, by
jealousy of rank. M'Dougal and M'Kay began to draw plans for the fort,
and other buildings of the intended establishment. They agreed very well
as to the outline and dimensions, which were on a sufficiently grand
scale; but when they came to arrange the details, fierce disputes arose,
and they would quarrel by the hour about the distribution of the doors
and windows. Many were the hard words and hard names bandied between
them on these occasions, according to the captain's account. Each
accused the other of endeavoring to assume unwarrantable power, and take
the lead; upon which Mr. M'Dougal would vauntingly lay down Mr. Astor's
letter, constituting him his representative and proxy, a document not to
be disputed.

These wordy contests, though violent, were brief; "and within fifteen
minutes," says the captain, "they would be caressing each other like

While all this petty anarchy was agitating the little world within the
Tonquin, the good ship prosperously pursued her course, doubled Cape
Horn on the 25th of December, careered across the bosom of the Pacific,
until, on the 11th of February, the snowy peaks of Owyhee were seen
brightening above the horizon.


     Owyhee.--Sandwich Islanders--Their Nautical Talents.--
     Tamaahmaah.--His Navy.--His Negotiations.--Views of Mr.
     Astor With Respect to the Sandwich Islands--Karakakooa.--
     Royal Monopoly of Pork.-Description of the Islanders--
     Gayeties on Shore.--Chronicler of the Island.--Place
     Where Captain Cook was Killed.--John Young, a Nautical
     Governor.--His Story.--Waititi--A Royal Residence.--A Royal
     Visit--Grand Ceremonials.--Close Dealing--A Royal Pork
     Merchant--Grievances of a Matter-of-Fact Man.

OWYHEE, or Hawaii, as it is written by more exact orthographers, is the
largest of the cluster, ten in number, of the Sandwich Islands. It is
about ninety-seven miles in length, and seventy-eight in breadth, rising
gradually into three pyramidal summits or cones; the highest, Mouna
Roa, being eighteen thousand feet above the level of the sea, so as to
domineer over the whole archipelago, and to be a landmark over a wide
extent of ocean. It remains a lasting monument of the enterprising
and unfortunate Captain Cook, who was murdered by the natives of this

The Sandwich Islanders, when first discovered, evinced a character
superior to most of the savages of the Pacific isles. They were frank
and open in their deportment, friendly and liberal in their dealings,
with an apt ingenuity apparent in all their rude inventions.

The tragical fate of the discoverer, which, for a time, brought them
under the charge of ferocity, was, in fact, the result of sudden
exasperation, caused by the seizure of their chief.

At the time of the visit of the Tonquin, the islanders had profited, in
many respects, by occasional intercourse with white men; and had shown a
quickness to observe and cultivate those arts important to their mode
of living. Originally they had no means of navigating the seas by which
they were surrounded, superior to light pirogues, which were little
competent to contend with the storms of the broad ocean. As the
islanders are not in sight of each other, there could, therefore, be but
casual intercourse between them. The traffic with white men had put
them in possession of vessels of superior description; they had made
themselves acquainted with their management, and had even made rude
advances in the art of ship-building.

These improvements had been promoted, in a great measure, by the energy
and sagacity of one man, the famous Tamaahmaah. He had originally been
a petty eri, or chief; but, being of an intrepid and aspiring nature, he
had risen in rank, and, availing himself of the superior advantages now
afforded in navigation, had brought the whole archipelago in subjection
to his arms. At the time of the arrival of the Tonquin he had about
forty schooners, of from twenty to thirty tons burden, and one old
American ship. With these he held undisputed sway over his insular
domains, and carried on intercourse with the chiefs or governors whom he
had placed in command of the several islands.

The situation of this group of islands, far in the bosom of the
vast Pacific, and their abundant fertility, render them important
stopping-places on the highway to China, or to the northwest coast
of America. Here the vessels engaged in the fur trade touched to make
repairs and procure provisions; and here they often sheltered themselves
during the winters that occurred in their long coasting expeditions.

The British navigators were, from the first, aware of the value of these
islands to the purposes of commerce; and Tamaahmaah, not long after
he had attained the sovereign sway, was persuaded by Vancouver, the
celebrated discoverer, to acknowledge, on behalf of himself, and
subjects, allegiance to the king of Great Britain. The reader cannot but
call to mind the visit which the royal family and court of the Sandwich
Islands was, in late years, induced to make to the court of St. James;
and the serio-comic ceremonials and mock parade which attended that
singular travesty of monarchal style.

It was a part of the wide and comprehensive plan of Mr. Astor to
establish a friendly intercourse between these islands and his intended
colony, which might, for a time, have occasion to draw supplies thence;
and he even had a vague idea of, some time or other, getting possession
of one of their islands as a rendezvous for his ships, and a link in the
chain of his commercial establishments.

On the evening of the 12th of February, the Tonquin anchored in the bay
of Karakakooa, in the island of Owyhee. The surrounding shores were wild
and broken, with overhanging cliffs and precipices of black volcanic
rock. Beyond these, however, the country was fertile and well
cultivated, with inclosures of yams, plantains, sweet potatoes,
sugar-canes, and other productions of warm climates and teeming soils;
and the numerous habitations of the natives were pleasantly sheltered
beneath clumps of cocoanut and bread-fruit trees, which afforded both
food and shade. This mingled variety of garden and grove swept gradually
up the sides of the mountains, until succeeded by dense forests, which
in turn gave place to naked and craggy rocks, until the summits rose
into the regions of perpetual snow.

The royal residence of Tamaahmaah was at this time at another island
named Woahoo. The island of Owyhee was under the command of one of his
eris, or chiefs, who resided at the village of Tocaigh, situated on a
different part of the coast from the bay of Karakakooa.

On the morning after her arrival, the ship was surrounded by canoes and
pirogues, filled with the islanders of both sexes, bringing off supplies
of fruits and vegetables, bananas, plantains, watermelons, yams,
cabbages and taro. The captain was desirous, however, of purchasing a
number of hogs, but there were none to be had--The trade in pork was a
royal monopoly, and no subject of the great Tamaahmaah dared to meddle
with it. Such provisions as they could furnish, however, were brought
by the natives in abundance, and a lively intercourse was kept up during
the day, in which the women mingled in the kindest manner.

The islanders are a comely race, of a copper complexion. The men are
tall and well made, with forms indicating strength and activity; the
women with regular and occasionally handsome features, and a lascivious
expression, characteristic of their temperament. Their style of dress
was nearly the same as in the days of Captain Cook. The men wore the
maro, a band one foot in width and several feet in length, swathed round
the loins, and formed of tappa, or cloth of bark; the kihei, or mantle,
about six feet square, tied in a knot over one shoulder, passed under
the opposite arm, so as to leave it bare, and falling in graceful folds
before and behind, to the knee, so as to bear some resemblance to a
Roman toga.

The female dress consisted of the pau, a garment formed of a piece
of tappa, several yards in length and one in width, wrapped round the
waist, and reaching like a petticoat, to the knees. Over this kihei, or
mantle, larger than that of the men, sometimes worn over both shoulders,
like a shawl, sometimes over one only. These mantles were seldom worn
by either sex during the heat of the day, when the exposure of their
persons was at first very revolting to a civilized eye.

Towards evening several of the partners and clerks went on shore,
where they were well received and hospitably entertained. A dance was
performed for their amusement, in which nineteen young women and one man
figured very gracefully, singing in concert, and moving to the cadence
of their song.

All this, however, was nothing to the purpose in the eyes of Captain
Thorn, who, being disappointed in his hope of obtaining a supply of
pork, or finding good water, was anxious to be off. This it was not so
easy to effect. The passengers, once on shore, were disposed, as usual,
to profit by the occasion. The partners had many inquiries to make
relative to the island, with a view to business; while the young clerks
were delighted with the charms and graces of the dancing damsels.

To add to their gratifications, an old man offered to conduct them to
the spot where Captain Cook was massacred. The proposition was eagerly
accepted, and all hands set out on a pilgrimage to the place. The
veteran islander performed his promise faithfully, and pointed out
the very spot where the unfortunate discoverer fell. The rocks and
cocoa-trees around bore record of the fact, in the marks of the balls
fired from the boats upon the savages. The pilgrims gathered round
the old man, and drew from him all the particulars he had to relate
respecting this memorable event; while the honest captain stood by and
bit his nails with impatience. To add to his vexation, they employed
themselves in knocking off pieces of the rocks, and cutting off the bark
of the trees marked by the balls, which they conveyed back to the ship
as precious relics.

Right glad, therefore, was he to get them and their treasures fairly on
board, when he made sail from this unprofitable place, and steered
for the Bay of Tocaigh, the residence of the chief or governor of the
island, where he hoped to be more successful in obtaining supplies. On
coming to anchor the captain went on shore, accompanied by Mr. M'Dougal
and Mr. M'Kay, and paid a visit to the governor. This dignitary proved
to be an old sailor, by the name of John Young; who, after being tossed
about the seas like another Sinbad, had, by one of the whimsical freaks
of fortune, been elevated to the government of a savage island. He
received his visitors with more hearty familiarity than personages in
his high station are apt to indulge, but soon gave them to understand
that provisions were scanty at Tocaigh, and that there was no good
water, no rain having fallen in the neighborhood in three years.

The captain was immediately for breaking up the conference and
departing, but the partners were not so willing to part with the
nautical governor, who seemed disposed to be extremely communicative,
and from whom they might be able to procure some useful information. A
long conversation accordingly ensued, in the course of which they
made many inquiries about the affairs of the islands, their natural
productions, and the possibility of turning them to advantage in the way
of trade; nor did they fail to inquire into the individual history of
John Young, and how he came to be governor. This he gave with great
condescension, running through the whole course of his fortunes "even
from his boyish days."

He was a native of Liverpool, in England, and had followed the sea from
boyhood, until, by dint of good conduct, he had risen so far in his
profession as to be boatswain of an American ship called the Eleanor,
commanded by Captain Metcalf. In this vessel he had sailed in 1789,
on one of those casual expeditions to the northwest coast, in quest of
furs. In the course of the voyage, the captain left a small schooner,
named the Fair American, at Nootka, with a crew of five men, commanded
by his son, a youth of eighteen. She was to follow on in the track of
the Eleanor.

In February, 1790, Captain Metcalf touched at the island of Mowee, one
of the Sandwich group. While anchored here, a boat which was astern
of the Eleanor was stolen, and a seaman who was in it was killed. The
natives, generally, disclaimed the outrage, and brought the shattered
remains of the boat and the dead body of the seaman to the ship.
Supposing that they had thus appeased the anger of the captain, they
thronged, as usual, in great numbers about the vessel, to trade. Captain
Metcalf, however, determined on a bloody revenge. The Eleanor mounted
ten guns. All these he ordered to be loaded with musket-balls, nails,
and pieces of old iron, and then fired them, and the small arms of the
ship, among the natives. The havoc was dreadful; more than a hundred,
according to Young's account, were slain.

After this signal act of vengeance, Captain Metcalf sailed from Mowee,
and made for the island of Owyhee, where he was well received by
Tamaahmaah. The fortunes of this warlike chief were at that time on the
rise. He had originally been of inferior rank, ruling over only one or
two districts of Owyhee, but had gradually made himself sovereign of his
native island.

The Eleanor remained some few days at anchor here, and an apparently
friendly intercourse was kept up with the inhabitants. On the 17th
March, John Young obtained permission to pass the night on shore. On the
following morning a signal-gun summoned him to return on board.

He went to the shore to embark, but found all the canoes hauled up on
the beach and rigorously tabooed, or interdicted. He would have launched
one himself, but was informed by Tamaahmaah that if he presumed to do so
he would be put to death.

Young was obliged to submit, and remained all day in great perplexity to
account for this mysterious taboo, and fearful that some hostility was
intended. In the evening he learned the cause of it, and his uneasiness
was increased. It appeared that the vindictive act of Captain Metcalf
had recoiled upon his own head. The schooner Fair American, commanded
by his son, following in his track, had fallen into the hands of the
natives to the southward of Tocaigh Bay, and young Metcalf and four of
the crew had been massacred.

On receiving intelligence of this event, Tamaahmaah had immediately
tabooed all the canoes, and interdicted all intercourse with the ship,
lest the captain should learn the fate of the schooner, and take his
revenge upon the island. For the same reason he prevented Young from
rejoining his countrymen. The Eleanor continued to fire signals from
time to time for two days, and then sailed; concluding, no doubt, that
the boatswain had deserted.

John Young was in despair when he saw the ship make sail; and found
himself abandoned among savages;-and savages, too, sanguinary in
their character, and inflamed by acts of hostility. He was agreeably
disappointed, however, in experiencing nothing but kind treatment from
Tamaahmaah and his people. It is true, he was narrowly watched whenever
a vessel came in sight, lest he should escape and relate what had
passed; but at other times he was treated with entire confidence and
great distinction. He became a prime favorite, cabinet counsellor, and
active coadjutor of Tamaahmaah, attending him in all his excursions,
whether of business or pleasure, and aiding in his warlike and ambitious
enterprises. By degrees he rose to the rank of a chief, espoused one of
the beauties of the island, and became habituated and reconciled to his
new way of life; thinking it better, perhaps, to rule among savages
than serve among white men; to be a feathered chief than a tarpaulin
boatswain. His favor with Tamahmaah, never declined; and when that
sagacious, intrepid, and aspiring chieftain had made himself sovereign
over the whole group of islands, and removed his residence to Woahoo, he
left his faithful adherent John Young in command of Owyhee.

Such is an outline of the history of Governor Young, as furnished by
himself; and we regret that we are not able to give any account of the
state maintained by this seafaring worthy, and the manner in which he
discharged his high functions; though it is evident he had more of
the hearty familiarity of the forecastle than the dignity of the
gubernatorial office.

These long conferences were bitter trials to the patience of the
captain, who had no respect either for the governor or his island, and
was anxious to push on in quest of provisions and water. As soon as
he could get his inquisitive partners once more on board, he weighed
anchor, and made sail for the island of Woahoo, the royal residence of

This is the most beautiful island of the Sandwich group. It is forty-six
miles in length and twenty-three in breadth. A ridge of volcanic
mountains extends through the centre, rising into lofty peaks, and
skirted by undulating hills and rich plains, where the cabins of the
natives peep out from beneath groves of cocoanut and other luxuriant

On the 21st of February the Tonquin cast anchor in the beautiful bay
before the village of Waititi, (pronounced Whyteetee.) the abode of
Tamaahmaah. This village contained about two hundred habitations,
composed of poles set in the ground, tied together at the ends, and
thatched with grass, and was situated in an open grove of cocoanuts. The
royal palace of Tamaahmaah was a large house of two stories; the lower
of stone, the upper of wood. Round this his body-guard kept watch,
composed of twenty-four men in long blue cassocks, turned up with
yellow, and each armed with a musket.

While at anchor at this place, much ceremonious visiting and long
conferences took place between the potentate of the islands and the
partners of the company. Tamaahmaah came on board of the ship in royal
style, in his double pirogue. He was between fifty and sixty years
of age, above the middle size, large and well made, though somewhat
corpulent. He was dressed in an old suit of regimentals, with a sword
by his side, and seemed somewhat embarrassed by his magnificent attire.
Three of his wives accompanied him. They were almost as tall, and quite
as corpulent as himself; but by no means to be compared with him in
grandeur of habiliments, wearing no other garb than the pan. With him,
also, came his great favorite and confidential counseller, Kraimaker;
who, from holding a post equivalent to that of prime minister, had been
familiarly named Billy Pitt by the British visitors to the islands.

The sovereign was received with befitting ceremonial. The American
flag was displayed, four guns were fired, and the partners appeared
in scarlet coats, and conducted their illustrious guests to the cabin,
where they were regaled with wine. In this interview the partners
endeavored to impress the monarch with a sense of their importance, and
of the importance of the association to which they belonged. They let
him know that they were eris, or chiefs, of a great company about to
be established on the northwest coast, and talked of the probability
of opening a trade with his islands, and of sending ships there
occasionally. All this was gratifying and interesting to him, for he
was aware of the advantages of trade, and desirous of promoting frequent
intercourse with white men. He encouraged Europeans and Americans to
settle in his islands and intermarry with his subjects. There were
between twenty and thirty white men at that time resident in the island,
but many of them were mere vagabonds, who remained there in hopes
of leading a lazy and an easy life. For such Tamaahmaah had a great
contempt; those only had his esteem and countenance who knew some trade
or mechanic art, and were sober and industrious.

On the day subsequent to the monarch's visit, the partners landed and
waited upon him in return. Knowing the effect of show and dress upon men
in savage life, and wishing to make a favorable impression as the eris,
or chiefs, of the great American Fur Company, some of them appeared in
Highland plaids and kilts to the great admiration of the natives.

While visits of ceremony and grand diplomatic conferences were going
on between the partners and the king, the captain, in his plain,
matter-of-fact way, was pushing what he considered a far more important
negotiation; the purchase of a supply of hogs. He found that the king
had profited in more ways than one by his intercourse with white men.
Above all other arts he had learned the art of driving a bargain. He was
a magnanimous monarch, but a shrewd pork merchant; and perhaps thought
he could not do better with his future allies, the American Fur Company,
than to begin by close dealing. Several interviews were requisite, and
much bargaining, before he could be brought to part with a bristle of
his bacon, and then he insisted upon being paid in hard Spanish dollars;
giving as a reason that he wanted money to purchase a frigate from his
brother George, as he affectionately termed the king of England. *

At length the royal bargain was concluded; the necessary supply of hogs
obtained, besides several goats, two sheep, a quantity of poultry, and
vegetables in abundance. The partners now urged to recruit their forces
from the natives of this island. They declared they had never seen
watermen equal to them, even among the voyageurs of the Northwest; and,
indeed, they are remarkable for their skill in managing their light
craft, and can swim and dive like waterfowl. The partners were inclined,
therefore, to take thirty or forty with them to the Columbia, to be
employed in the service of the company. The captain, however, objected
that there was not room in his vessel for the accommodation of such a
number. Twelve, only, were therefore enlisted for the company, and as
many more for the service of the ship. The former engaged to serve for
the term of three years, during which they were to be fed and clothed;
and at the expiration of the time were to receive one hundred dollars in

And now, having embarked his live-stock, fruits, vegetables, and water,
the captain made ready to set sail. How much the honest man had
suffered in spirit by what he considered the freaks and vagaries of
his passengers, and how little he had understood their humors and
intentions, is amusingly shown in a letter written to Mr. Astor from
Woahoo, which contains his comments on the scenes we have described.

"It would be difficult," he writes, "to imagine the frantic gambols
that are daily played off here; sometimes dressing in red coats, and
otherwise very fantastically, and collecting a number of ignorant
natives around them, telling them that they are the great eris of the
Northwest, and making arrangements for sending three or four vessels
yearly to them from the coast with spars, &c.; while those very natives
cannot even furnish a hog to the ship. Then dressing in Highland plaids
and kilts, and making similar arrangements, with presents of rum, wine,
or anything that is at hand. Then taking a number of clerks and men
on shore to the very spot on which Captain Cook was killed, and each
fetching off a piece of the rock or tree that was touched by the shot.
Then sitting down with some white man or some native who can be a little
understood, and collecting the history of those islands, of Tamaahmaah's
wars, the curiosities of the islands, &c., preparatory to the
histories of their voyages; and the collection is indeed ridiculously
contemptible. To enumerate the thousand instances of ignorance, filth,
&c.,--or to particularize all the frantic gambols that are daily
practiced, would require Volumes."

Before embarking, the great eris of the American Fur Company took leave
of their illustrious ally in due style, with many professions of lasting
friendship and promises of future intercourse; while the matter-of-fact
captain anathematized him in his heart for a grasping, trafficking
savage; as shrewd and sordid in his dealings as a white man. As one of
the vessels of the company will, in the course of events, have to appeal
to the justice and magnanimity of this island potentate, we shall see
how far the honest captain was right in his opinion.

     * It appears, from the accounts of subsequent voyagers, that
     Tamaahmaah afterwards succeeded in his wish of purchasing a
     large ship. In this he sent a cargo of sandal-wood to
     Canton, having discovered that the foreign merchants trading
     with him made large profits on this wood, shipped by them
     from the islands to the Chinese markets. The ship was manned
     by natives, but the officers were Englishmen. She
     accomplished her voyage, and returned in safety to the
     islands, with the Hawaiian flag floating gloriously in the
     breeze. The king hastened on board, expecting to find his
     sandal-wood converted into crapes and damasks, and other
     rich stuffs of China, but found, to his astonishment, by the
     legerdemain of traffic, his cargo had all disappeared, and,
     in place of it, remained a bill of charges amounting to
     three thousand dollars. It was some time before he could be
     made to comprehend certain of the most important items of
     the bill, such as pilotage, anchorage, and custom-house
     fees; but when he discovered that maritime states in other
     countries derived large revenues in this manner, to the
     great cost of the merchant, "Well," cried he, "then I will
     have harbor fees also." He established them accordingly.
     Pilotage a dollar a foot on the draft of each vessel.
     Anchorage from sixty to seventy dollars. In this way he
     greatly increased the royal revenue, and turned his China
     speculation to account.


     Departure From the Sandwich Islands.--Misunderstandings--
     Miseries of a Suspicious Man.--Arrival at the Columbia--
     Dangerous Service.--Gloomy Apprehensions--Bars and
     Breakers.--Perils of the Ship. Disasters of a Boat's Crew.--
     Burial of a Sandwich Islander.

IT was on the 28th of February that the Tonquin set sail from the
Sandwich Islands. For two days the wind was contrary, and the vessel was
detained in their neighborhood; at length a favorable breeze sprang up,
and in a little while the rich groves, green hills, and snowy peaks of
those happy islands one after another sank from sight, or melted into
the blue distance, and the Tonquin ploughed her course towards the
sterner regions of the Pacific.

The misunderstandings between the captain and his passengers still
continued; or rather, increased in gravity. By his altercations and his
moody humors, he had cut himself off from all community of thought, or
freedom of conversation with them. He disdained to ask questions as
to their proceedings, and could only guess at the meaning of their
movements, and in so doing indulged in conjectures and suspicions, which
produced the most whimsical self-torment.

Thus, in one of his disputes with them, relative to the goods on board,
some of the packages of which they wished to open, to take out articles
of clothing for the men or presents for the natives, he was so harsh and
peremptory that they lost all patience, and hinted that they were the
strongest party, and might reduce him to a very ridiculous dilemma, by
taking from him the command.

A thought now flashed across the captain's mind that they really had
a plan to depose him, and that, having picked up some information at
Owyhee, possibly of war between the United States and England, they
meant to alter the destination of the voyage; perhaps to seize upon ship
and cargo for their own use.

Once having conceived this suspicion, everything went to foster it. They
had distributed fire-arms among some of their men, a common precaution
among the fur traders when mingling with the natives. This, however,
looked like preparation. Then several of the partners and clerks and
some of the men, being Scotsmen, were acquainted with the Gaelic, and
held long conversations together in that language. These conversations
were considered by the captain of a "mysterious and unwarranted nature,"
and related, no doubt, to some foul conspiracy that was brewing among
them. He frankly avows such suspicions, in his letter to Mr. Astor, but
intimates that he stood ready to resist any treasonous outbreak; and
seems to think that the evidence of preparation on his part had an
effect in overawing the conspirators.

The fact is, as we have since been informed by one of the parties, it
was a mischievous pleasure with some of the partners and clerks, who
were young men, to play upon the suspicious temper and splenetic humors
of the captain. To this we may ascribe many of their whimsical pranks
and absurd propositions, and, above all, their mysterious colloquies in

In this sore and irritable mood did the captain pursue his course,
keeping a wary eye on every movement, and bristling up whenever the
detested sound of the Gaelic language grated upon his ear. Nothing
occurred, however, materially to disturb the residue of the voyage
excepting a violent storm; and on the twenty-second of March, the
Tonquin arrived at the mouth of the Oregon, or Columbia River.

The aspect of the river and the adjacent coast was wild and dangerous.
The mouth of the Columbia is upwards of four miles wide with a peninsula
and promontory on one side, and a long low spit of land on the other;
between which a sand bar and chain of breakers almost block the
entrance. The interior of the country rises into successive ranges
of mountains, which, at the time of the arrival of the Tonquin, were
covered with snow.

A fresh wind from the northwest sent a rough tumbling sea upon the
coast, which broke upon the bar in furious surges, and extended a sheet
of foam almost across the mouth of the river. Under these circumstances
the captain did not think it prudent to approach within three leagues,
until the bar should be sounded and the channel ascertained. Mr.
Fox, the chief mate, was ordered to this service in the whaleboat,
accompanied by John Martin, an old seaman, who had formerly visited the
river, and by three Canadians. Fox requested to have regular sailors to
man the boat, but the captain would not spare them from the service of
the ship, and supposed the Canadians, being expert boatmen on lakes
and rivers, were competent to the service, especially when directed and
aided by Fox and Martin. Fox seems to have lost all firmness of spirit
on the occasion, and to have regarded the service with a misgiving
heart. He came to the partners for sympathy, knowing their differences
with the captain, and the tears were in his eyes as he represented
his case. "I am sent off," said he, "without seamen to man my boat,
in boisterous weather, and on the most dangerous part of the northwest
coast. My uncle was lost a few years ago on this same bar, and I am now
going to lay my bones alongside of his." The partners sympathized in his
apprehensions, and remonstrated with the captain. The latter, however,
was not to be moved. He had been displeased with Mr. Fox in the earlier
part of the voyage, considering him indolent and inactive; and probably
thought his present repugnance arose from a want of true nautical
spirit. The interference of the partners in the business of the ship,
also, was not calculated to have a favorable effect on a stickler
for authority like himself, especially in his actual state of feeling
towards them.

At one o'clock, P.M., therefore, Fox and his comrades set off in
the whaleboat, which is represented as small in size, and crazy in
condition. All eyes were strained after the little bark as it pulled for
shore, rising and sinking with the huge rolling waves, until it entered,
a mere speck, among the foaming breakers, and was soon lost to view.
Evening set in, night succeeded and passed away, and morning returned,
but without the return of the boat.

As the wind had moderated, the ship stood near to the land, so as to
command a view of the river's mouth. Nothing was to be seen but a wild
chaos of tumbling waves breaking upon the bar, and apparently forming a
foaming barrier from shore to shore. Towards night the ship again stood
out to gain sea-room, and a gloom was visible in every countenance. The
captain himself shared in the general anxiety, and probably repented
of his peremptory orders. Another weary and watchful night succeeded,
during which the wind subsided, and the weather became serene.

On the following day, the ship having drifted near the land, anchored
in fourteen fathoms water, to the northward of the long peninsula or
promontory which forms the north side of the entrance, and is called
Cape Disappointment. The pinnace was then manned, and two of the
partners, Mr. David Stuart and Mr. M'Kay, set off in the hope of
learning something of the fate of the whaleboat. The surf, however,
broke with such violence along the shore that they could find no landing
place. Several of the natives appeared on the beach and made signs to
them to row round the cape, but they thought it most prudent to return
to the ship.

The wind now springing up, the Tonquin got under way, and stood in to
seek the channel; but was again deterred by the frightful aspect of
the breakers, from venturing within a league. Here she hove to; and
Mr. Mumford, the second mate, was despatched with four hands, in the
pinnace, to sound across the channel until he should find four fathoms
depth. The pinnace entered among the breakers, but was near being lost,
and with difficulty got back to the ship. The captain insisted that
Mr. Mumford had steered too much to the southward. He now turned to Mr.
Aiken, an able mariner, destined to command the schooner intended
for the coasting trade, and ordered him, together with John Coles,
sail-maker, Stephen Weekes, armorer, and two Sandwich Islanders, to
proceed ahead and take soundings, while the ship should follow under
easy sail. In this way they proceeded until Aiken had ascertained the
channel, when signal was given from the ship for him to return on board.
He was then within pistol shot, but so furious was the current, and
tumultuous the breakers, that the boat became unmanageable, and was
hurried away, the crew crying out piteously for assistance. In a
few moments she could not be seen from the ship's deck. Some of the
passengers climbed to the mizzen top, and beheld her still struggling to
reach the ship; but shortly after she broached broadside to the waves,
and her case seemed desperate. The attention of those on board of the
ship was now called to their own safety. They were in shallow water; the
vessel struck repeatedly, the waves broke over her, and there was danger
of her foundering. At length she got into seven fathoms water, and the
wind lulling, and the night coming on, cast anchor. With the darkness
their anxieties increased. The wind whistled, the sea roared, the gloom
was only broken by the ghastly glare of the foaming breakers, the
minds of the seamen were full of dreary apprehensions, and some of them
fancied they heard the cries of their lost comrades mingling with
the uproar of the elements. For a time, too, the rapidly ebbing tide
threatened to sweep them from their precarious anchorage. At length the
reflux of the tide, and the springing up of the wind, enabled them to
quit their dangerous situation and take shelter in a small bay within
Cape Disappointment, where they rode in safety during the residue of a
stormy night, and enjoyed a brief interval of refreshing sleep.

With the light of day returned their cares and anxieties. They looked
out from the mast-head over a wild coast, and wilder sea, but could
discover no trace of the two boats and their crews that were missing.
Several of the natives came on board with peltries, but there was no
disposition to trade. They were interrogated by signs after the lost
boats, but could not understand the inquiries.

Parties now Went on shore and scoured the neighborhood. One of these
was headed by the captain. They had not proceeded far when they beheld a
person at a distance in civilized garb. As he drew near he proved to
be Weekes, the armorer. There was a burst of joy, for it was hoped his
comrades were near at hand. His story, however, was one of disaster. He
and his companions had found it impossible to govern their boat, having
no rudder, and being beset by rapid and whirling currents and boisterous
surges. After long struggling they had let her go at the mercy of
the waves, tossing about, sometimes with her bow, sometimes with her
broadside to the surges, threatened each instant with destruction, yet
repeatedly escaping, until a huge sea broke over and swamped her. Weekes
was overwhelmed by the broiling waves, but emerging above the surface,
looked round for his companions. Aiken and Coles were not to be seen;
near him were the two Sandwich Islanders, stripping themselves of their
clothing that they might swim more freely. He did the same, and the boat
floating near to him he seized hold of it. The two islanders joined him,
and, uniting their forces, they succeeded in turning the boat upon her
keel; then bearing down her stern and rocking her, they forced out
so much water that she was able to bear the weight of a man without
sinking. One of the islanders now got in, and in a little while bailed
out the water with his hands. The other swam about and collected the
oars, and they all three got once more on board.

By this time the tide had swept them beyond the breakers, and Weekes
called on his companions to row for land. They were so chilled and
benumbed by the cold, however, that they lost all heart, and absolutely
refused. Weekes was equally chilled, but had superior sagacity and
self-command. He counteracted the tendency to drowsiness and stupor
which cold produces by keeping himself in constant exercise; and
seeing that the vessel was advancing, and that everything depended upon
himself, he set to work to scull the boat clear of the bar, and into
quiet water.

Toward midnight one of the poor islanders expired; his companion threw
himself on his corpse and could not be persuaded to leave him. The
dismal night wore away amidst these horrors: as the day dawned, Weekes
found himself near the land. He steered directly for it, and at length,
with the aid of the surf, ran his boat high upon a sandy beach.

Finding that one of the Sandwich Islanders yet gave signs of life, he
aided him to leave the boat, and set out with him towards the adjacent
woods. The poor fellow, however, was too feeble to follow him, and
Weekes was soon obliged to abandon him to his fate and provide for his
own safety. Falling upon a beaten path, he pursued it, and after a few
hours came to a part of the coast, where, to his surprise and joy, he
beheld the ship at anchor and was met by the captain and his party.

After Weekes had related his adventures, three parties were despatched
to beat up the coast in search of the unfortunate islander. They
returned at night without success, though they had used the utmost
diligence. On the following day the search was resumed, and the poor
fellow was at length discovered lying beneath a group of rocks, his
legs swollen, his feet torn and bloody from walking through bushes and
briars, and himself half-dead with cold, hunger, and fatigue. Weekes and
this islander were the only survivors of the crew of the jolly-boat, and
no trace was ever discovered of Fox and his party. Thus eight men were
lost on the first approach to the coast; a commencement that cast a
gloom over the spirits of the whole party, and was regarded by some of
the superstitious as an omen that boded no good to the enterprise.

Towards night the Sandwich Islanders went on shore, to bury the body of
their unfortunate countryman who had perished in the boat. On arriving
at the place where it had been left, they dug a grave in the sand, in
which they deposited the corpse, with a biscuit under one of the arms,
some lard under the chin, and a small quantity of tobacco, as provisions
for its journey in the land of spirits. Having covered the body with
sand and flints, they kneeled along the grave in a double row, with
their faces turned to the east, while one who officiated as a priest
sprinkled them with water from a hat. In so doing he recited a kind of
prayer or invocation, to which, at intervals, the others made responses.
Such were the simple rites performed by these poor savages at the grave
of their comrade on the shores of a strange land; and when these were
done, they rose and returned in silence to the ship, without once
casting a look behind.


     Mouth of the Columbia.--The Native Tribes.--Their Fishing.--
     Their Canoes.--Bold Navigators--Equestrian Indians and
     Piscatory Indians, Difference in Their Physical
     Organization.--Search for a Trading Site.--Expedition of
     M'Dougal and David Stuart-Comcomly, the One-Eyed Chieftain.--
     Influence of Wealth in Savage Life.--Slavery Among the
     Natives.-An Aristocracy of Flatheads.-Hospitality Among the
     Chinooks--Comcomly's Daughter.--Her Conquest.

THE Columbia, or Oregon, for the distance of thirty or forty miles
from its entrance into the sea, is, properly speaking, a mere estuary,
indented by deep bays so as to vary from three to seven miles in width;
and is rendered extremely intricate and dangerous by shoals reaching
nearly from shore to shore, on which, at times, the winds and currents
produce foaming and tumultuous breakers. The mouth of the river proper
is but about half a mile wide, formed by the contracting shores of the
estuary. The entrance from the sea, as we have already observed, is
bounded on the south side by a flat sandy spit of land, stretching in
to the ocean. This is commonly called Point Adams. The opposite, or
northern side, is Cape Disappointment; a kind of peninsula, terminating
in a steep knoll or promontory crowned with a forest of pine-trees, and
connected with the mainland by a low and narrow neck. Immediately within
this cape is a wide, open bay, terminating at Chinook Point, so called
from a neighboring tribe of Indians. This was called Baker's Bay, and
here the Tonquin was anchored.

The natives inhabiting the lower part of the river, and with whom the
company was likely to have the most frequent intercourse, were divided
at this time into four tribes, the Chinooks, Clatsops, Wahkiacums, and
Cathlamahs. They resembled each other in person, dress, language, and
manner; and were probably from the same stock, but broken into tribes,
or rather hordes, by those feuds and schisms frequent among Indians.

These people generally live by fishing. It is true they occasionally
hunt the elk and deer, and ensnare the water-fowl of their ponds and
rivers, but these are casual luxuries. Their chief subsistence is
derived from the salmon and other fish which abound in the Columbia
and its tributary streams, aided by roots and herbs, especially the
wappatoo, which is found on the islands of the river.

As the Indians of the plains who depend upon the chase are bold
and expert riders, and pride themselves upon their horses, so these
piscatory tribes of the coast excel in the management of canoes, and are
never more at home than when riding upon the waves. Their canoes vary in
form and size. Some are upwards of fifty feet long, cut out of a single
tree, either fir or white cedar, and capable of carrying thirty persons.
They have thwart pieces from side to side about three inches thick,
and their gunwales flare outwards, so as to cast off the surges of the
waves. The bow and stern are decorated with grotesque figures of men and
animals, sometimes five feet in height.

In managing their canoes they kneel two and two along the bottom,
sitting on their heels, and wielding paddles from four to five feet
long, while one sits on the stern and steers with a paddle of the same
kind. The women are equally expert with the men in managing the canoe,
and generally take the helm.

It is surprising to see with what fearless unconcern these savages
venture in their light barks upon the roughest and most tempestuous
seas. They seem to ride upon the waves like sea-fowl. Should a surge
throw the canoe upon its side and endanger its overturn, those to
windward lean over the upper gunwale, thrust their paddles deep into the
wave, apparently catch the water and force it under the canoe, and by
this action not merely regain III an equilibrium, but give their bark a
vigorous impulse forward.

The effect of different modes of life upon the human frame and human
character is strikingly instanced in the contrast between the hunting
Indians of the prairies, and the piscatory Indians of the sea-coast. The
former, continually on horseback scouring the plains, gaining their food
by hardy exercise, and subsisting chiefly on flesh, are generally tall,
sinewy, meagre, but well formed, and of bold and fierce deportment: the
latter, lounging about the river banks, or squatting and curved up in
their canoes, are generally low in stature, ill-shaped, with crooked
legs, thick ankles, and broad flat feet. They are inferior also in
muscular power and activity, and in game qualities and appearance, to
their hard-riding brethren of the prairies.

Having premised these few particulars concerning the neighboring
Indians, we will return to the immediate concerns of the Tonquin and her

Further search was made for Mr. Fox and his party, but with no better
success, and they were at length given up as lost. In the meantime, the
captain and some of the partners explored the river for some distance in
a large boat, to select a suitable place for the trading post. Their old
jealousies and differences continued; they never could coincide in their
choice, and the captain objected altogether to any site so high up the
river. They all returned, therefore, to Baker's Bay in no very good
humor. The partners proposed to examine the opposite shore, but the
captain was impatient of any further delay. His eagerness to "get on"
had increased upon him. He thought all these excursions a sheer loss
of time, and was resolved to land at once, build a shelter for the
reception of that part of his cargo destined for the use of the
settlement, and, having cleared his ship of it and of his irksome
shipmates, to depart upon the prosecution of his coasting voyage,
according to orders.

On the following day, therefore, without troubling himself to consult
the partners, he landed in Baker's Bay, and proceeded to erect a shed
for the reception of the rigging, equipments, and stores of the schooner
that was to be built for the use of the settlement.

This dogged determination on the part of the sturdy captain gave high
offense to 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.

Having mentioned slaves, we would observe that slavery exists among
several of the tribes beyond the Rocky Mountains. The slaves are well
treated while in good health, but occupied in all kinds of drudgery.
Should they become useless, however, by sickness or old age, they are
totally neglected, and left to perish; nor is any respect paid to their
bodies after death.

A singular custom prevails, not merely among the Chinooks, but among
most of the tribes about this part of the coast, which is the flattening
of the forehead. The process by which this deformity is effected
commences immediately after birth. The infant is laid in a wooden
trough, by way of cradle. The end on which the head reposes is higher
than the rest. A padding is placed on the forehead of the infant, with a
piece of bark above it, and is pressed down by cords, which pass through
holes on each side of the trough. As the tightening of the padding and
the pressing of the head to the board is gradual, the process is
said not to be attended with much pain. The appearance of the infant,
however, while in this state of compression, is whimsically hideous, and
"its little black eyes," we are told, "being forced out by the tightness
of the bandages, resemble those of a mouse choked in a trap."

About a year's pressure is sufficient to produce the desired effect,
at the end of which time the child emerges from its bandages a complete
flathead, and continues so through life. It must be noted that
this flattening of the head has something in it of aristocratical
significancy, like the crippling of the feet among the Chinese ladies of
quality. At any rate, it is a sign of freedom. No slave is permitted
to bestow this enviable deformity upon his child; all the slaves,
therefore, are roundheads.

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.

When the weather had moderated and the sea became tranquil, the one-eyed
chief of the Chinooks manned his state canoe, and conducted his
guests in safety to the ship, where they were welcomed with joy, for
apprehensions had been felt for their safety. Comcomly and his people
were then entertained on board of the Tonquin, and liberally rewarded
for their hospitality and services. They returned home highly satisfied,
promising to remain faithful friends and allies of the white men.


     Point George--Founding of Astoria--Indian Visitors.--Their
     Reception.--The Captain Taboos the Ship.--Departure of the
     Tonquin.--Comments on the Conduct of Captain Thorn.

FROM the report made by the two exploring partners, it was determined
that Point George should be the site of the trading house. These
gentlemen, it is true, were not perfectly satisfied with the place,
and were desirous of continuing their search; but Captain Thorn was
impatient to land his cargo and continue his voyage, and protested
against any more of what he termed "sporting excursions."

Accordingly, on the 12th of April the launch was freighted with all
things necessary for the purpose, and sixteen persons departed in her to
commence the establishment, leaving the Tonquin to follow as soon as the
harbor could be sounded.

Crossing the wide mouth of the river, the party landed, and encamped at
the bottom of a small bay within Point George. The situation chosen for
the fortified post was on an elevation facing to the north, with the
wide estuary, its sand bars and tumultuous breakers spread out before
it, and the promontory of Cape Disappointment, fifteen miles distant,
closing the prospect to the left. The surrounding country was in all the
freshness of spring; the trees were in the young leaf, the weather was
superb, and everything looked delightful to men just emancipated from a
long confinement on shipboard. The Tonquin shortly afterwards made her
way through the intricate channel, an came to anchor in the little bay,
and was saluted from the encampment with three volleys of musketry and
three cheers. She returned the salute with three cheers and three guns.

All hands now set to work cutting down trees, clearing away thickets,
and marking out the place for the residence, storehouse, and powder
magazine, which were to be built of logs and covered with bark. Others
landed the timbers intended for the frame of the coasting vessel, and
proceeded to put them together, while others prepared a garden spot, and
sowed the seeds of various vegetables.

The next thought was to give a name to the embryo metropolis: the one
that naturally presented itself was that of the projector and supporter
of the whole enterprise. It was accordingly named ASTORIA.

The neighboring Indians now swarmed about the place. Some brought a few
land-otter and sea-otter skins to barter, but in very scanty parcels;
the greater number came prying about to gratify their curiosity, for
they are said to be impertinently inquisitive; while not a few came
with no other design than to pilfer; the laws of meum and tuum being
but slightly respected among them. Some of them beset the ship in
their canoes, among whom was the Chinook chief Comcomly, and his liege
subjects. These were well received by Mr. M'Dougal, who was delighted
with an opportunity of entering upon his functions, and acquiring
importance in the eyes of his future neighbors. The confusion thus
produced on board, and the derangement of the cargo caused by this petty
trade, stirred the spleen of the captain, who had a sovereign contempt
for the one-eyed chieftain and all his crew. He complained loudly of
having his ship lumbered by a host of "Indian ragamuffins," who had not
a skin to dispose of, and at length put his positive interdict upon
all trafficking on board. Upon this Mr. M'Dougal was fain to land, and
establish his quarters at the encampment, where he could exercise his
rights and enjoy his dignities without control.

The feud, however, between these rival powers still continued, but was
chiefly carried on by letter. Day after day and week after week elapsed,
yet the store-house requisite for the reception of the cargo was not
completed, and the ship was detained in port; while the captain was
teased by frequent requisitions for various articles for the use of the
establishment, or the trade with the natives. An angry correspondence
took place, in which he complained bitterly of the time wasted in
"smoking and sporting parties," as he termed the reconnoitering
expeditions, and in clearing and preparing meadow ground and turnip
patches, instead of despatching his ship. At length all these jarring
matters were adjusted, if not to the satisfaction, at least to the
acquiescence of all parties. The part of the cargo destined for the use
of Astoria was landed, and the ship left free to proceed on her voyage.

As the Tonquin was to coast to the north, to trade for peltries at the
different harbors, and to touch at Astoria on her return in the autumn,
it was unanimously determined that Mr. M'Kay should go in her as
supercargo, taking with him Mr. Lewis as ship's clerk. On the first of
June the ship got under way, and dropped down to Baker's Bay, where she
was detained for a few days by a head wind; but early in the morning of
the fifth stood out to sea with a fine breeze and swelling canvas, and
swept off gaily on her fatal voyage, from which she was never to return!

On reviewing the conduct of Captain Thorn, and examining his peevish and
somewhat whimsical correspondence, the impression left upon our mind is,
upon the whole, decidedly in his favor. While we smile at the simplicity
of his heart and the narrowness of his views, which made him regard
everything out of the direct path of his daily duty, and the rigid
exigencies of the service, as trivial and impertinent, which inspired
him with contempt for the swelling vanity of some of his coadjutors, and
the literary exercises and curious researches of others, we cannot but
applaud that strict and conscientious devotion to the interests of his
employer, and to what he considered the true objects of the enterprise
in which he was engaged. He certainly was to blame occasionally for the
asperity of his manners, and the arbitrary nature of his measures, yet
much that is exceptionable in this part of his conduct may be traced to
rigid notions of duty acquired in that tyrannical school, a ship of war,
and to the construction given by his companions to the orders of Mr.
Astor, so little in conformity with his own. His mind, too, appears to
have become almost diseased by the suspicions he had formed as to the
loyalty of his associates, and the nature of their ultimate designs; yet
on this point there were circumstances to, in some measure, justify him.
The relations between the United States and Great Britain were at that
time in a critical state; in fact, the two countries were on the eve of
a war. Several of the partners were British subjects, and might be ready
to desert the flag under which they acted, should a war take place.
Their application to the British minister at New York shows the dubious
feeling with which they had embarked in the present enterprise. They had
been in the employ of the Northwest Company, and might be disposed
to rally again under that association, should events threaten the
prosperity of this embryo establishment of Mr. Astor. Besides, we have
the fact, averred to us by one of the partners, that some of them, who
were young and heedless, took a mischievous and unwarrantable pleasure
in playing upon the jealous temper of the captain, and affecting
mysterious consultations and sinister movements.

These circumstances are cited in palliation of the doubts and surmises
of Captain Thorn, which might otherwise appear strange and unreasonable.
That most of the partners were perfectly upright and faithful in the
discharge of the trust reposed in them we are fully satisfied; still the
honest captain was not invariably wrong in his suspicions; and that
he formed a pretty just opinion of the integrity of that aspiring
personage, Mr. M'Dougal, will be substantially proved in the sequel.


     Disquieting Rumors From the Interior.--Reconnoitring Party--
     Preparations for a Trading Post.--An Unexpected Arrival--A
     Spy in the Camp.--Expedition Into the Interior--Shores of
     the Columbia--Mount Coffin.--Indian Sepulchre.--The Land of
     Spirits--Columbian Valley--Vancouver's Point.-Falls and
     Rapids.--A Great Fishing Mart.--The Village of Wishram.--
     Difference Between Fishing Indians and Hunting Indians--
     Effects of Habits of Trade on the Indian Character.--Post
     Established at the Oakinagan.

WHILE the Astorians were busily occupied in completing their factory and
fort, a report was brought to them by an Indian from the upper part of
the river, that a party of thirty white men had appeared on the banks
of the Columbia, and were actually building houses at the second rapids.
This information caused much disquiet. We have already mentioned that
the Northwest Company had established posts to the west of the Rocky
Mountains, in a district called by them New Caledonia, which extended
from lat. 52 to 55 deg north, being within the British territories. It
was now apprehended that they were advancing within the American limits,
and were endeavoring to seize upon the upper part of the river and
forestall the American Fur Company in the surrounding trade; in which
case bloody feuds might be anticipated, such as had prevailed between
the rival fur companies in former days.

A reconnoitring party was sent up the river to ascertain the truth of
the report. They ascended to the foot of the first rapid, about two
hundred miles, but could hear nothing of any white men being in the

Not long after their return, however, further accounts were received,
by two wandering Indians, which established the fact that the Northwest
Company had actually erected a trading house on the Spokane River, which
falls into the north branch of the Columbia.

What rendered this intelligence the more disquieting was the inability
of the Astorians, in their present reduced state as to numbers, and
the exigencies of their new establishment, to furnish detachments
to penetrate the country in different directions, and fix the posts
necessary to secure the interior trade.

It was resolved, however, at any rate, to advance a countercheck to this
post on the Spokan, and one of the partners, Mr. David Stuart, prepared
to set out for the purpose with eight men and a small assortment of
goods. He was to be guided by the two Indians, who knew the country and
promised to take him to a place not far from the Spokan River, and in a
neighborhood abounding with beaver. Here he was to establish himself and
to remain for a time, provided he found the situation advantageous and
the natives friendly.

On the 15th of July, when Mr. Stuart was nearly ready to embark, a canoe
made its appearance, standing for the harbor, and manned by nine white
men. Much speculation took place who these strangers could be, for it
was too soon to expect their own people, under Mr. Hunt, who were to
cross the continent. As the canoe drew near, the British standard was
distinguished: on coming to land, one of the crew stepped on shore, and
announced himself as Mr. David Thompson, astronomer, and partner of
the Northwest Company. According to his account, he had set out in the
preceding year with a tolerably strong party, and a supply of Indian
goods, to cross the Rocky Mountains. A part of his people, however, had
deserted him on the eastern side, and returned with the goods to the
nearest Northwest post. He had persisted in crossing the mountains
with eight men, who remained true to him. They had traversed the higher
regions, and ventured near the source of the Columbia, where, in the
spring, they had constructed a cedar canoe, the same in which they had
reached Astoria.

This, in fact, was the party despatched by the Northwest Company to
anticipate Mr. Astor in his intention of effecting a settlement at the
mouth of the Columbia River. It appears, from information subsequently
derived from other sources, that Mr. Thompson had pushed on his course
with great haste, calling at all the Indian villages in his march,
presenting them with British flags, and even planting them at the forks
of the rivers, proclaiming formally that he took possession of the
country in the name of the king of Great Britain for the Northwest
Company. As his original plan was defeated by the desertion of
his people, it is probable that he descended the river simply to
reconnoitre, and ascertain whether an American settlement had been

Mr. Thompson was, no doubt, the first white man who descended the
northern branch of the Columbia from so near its source. Lewis and
Clarke struck the main body of the river at the forks, about four
hundred miles from its mouth. They entered it from Lewis River, its
southern branch, and thence descended.

Though Mr. Thompson could be considered as little better than a spy in
the camp, he was received with great cordiality by Mr. M'Dougal, who
had a lurking feeling of companionship and good-will for all of the
Northwest Company. He invited him to head-quarters, where he and his
people were hospitably entertained. Nay, further, being somewhat in
extremity, he was furnished by Mr. M'Dougal with goods and provisions
for his journey back across the mountains, much against the wishes Of
Mr. David Stuart, who did not think the object of his visit entitled him
to any favor.

On the 23rd of July, Mr. Stuart set out upon his expedition to the
interior. His party consisted of four of the clerks, Messrs. Pillet,
Ross, M'Lennon, and Montigny, two Canadian voyageurs, and two natives of
the Sandwich Islands. They had three canoes well laden with provisions,
and with goods and necessities for a trading establishment.

Mr. Thompson and his party set out in company with them, it being
his intention to proceed direct to Montreal. The partners at Astoria
forwarded by him a short letter to Mr. Astor, informing him of their
safe arrival at the mouth of the Columbia, and that they had not
yet heard of Mr. Hunt. The little squadron of canoes set sail with a
favorable breeze, and soon passed Tongue Point, a long, high, and rocky
promontory, covered with trees, and stretching far into the river.
Opposite to this, on the northern shore, is a deep bay, where the
Columbia anchored at the time of the discovery, and which is still
called Gray's Bay, from the name of her commander.

From hence, the general course of the river for about seventy miles
was nearly southeast; varying in breadth according to its bays and
indentations, and navigable for vessels of three hundred tons. The
shores were in some places high and rocky, with low marshy islands at
their feet, subject to inundation, and covered with willows, poplars,
and other trees that love an alluvial soil. Sometimes the mountains
receded, and gave place to beautiful plains and noble forests. While
the river margin was richly fringed with trees of deciduous foliage, the
rough uplands were crowned by majestic pines, and firs of gigantic size,
some towering to the height of between two and three hundred feet, with
proportionate circumference. Out of these the Indians wrought their
great canoes and pirogues.

At one part of the river, they passed, on the northern side, an isolated
rock, about one hundred and fifty feet high, rising from a low marshy
soil, and totally disconnected with the adjacent mountains. This was
held in great reverence by the neighboring Indians, being one of their
principal places of sepulture. The same provident care for the deceased
that prevails among the hunting tribes of the prairies is observable
among the piscatory tribes of the rivers and sea-coast. Among the
former, the favorite horse of the hunter is buried with him in the same
funereal mound, and his bow and arrows are laid by his side, that he
may be perfectly equipped for the "happy hunting grounds" of the land of
spirits. Among the latter, the Indian is wrapped in his mantle of
skins, laid in his canoe, with his paddle, his fishing spear, and other
implements beside him, and placed aloft on some rock or other eminence
overlooking the river, or bay, or lake, that he has frequented. He is
thus fitted out to launch away upon those placid streams and sunny lakes
stocked with all kinds of fish and waterfowl, which are prepared in the
next world for those who have acquitted themselves as good sons, good
fathers, good husbands, and, above all, good fishermen, during their
mortal sojourn.

The isolated rock in question presented a spectacle of the kind,
numerous dead bodies being deposited in canoes on its summit; while on
poles around were trophies, or, rather, funeral offerings of trinkets,
garments, baskets of roots, and other articles for the use of the
deceased. A reverential feeling protects these sacred spots from robbery
or insult. The friends of the deceased, especially the women, repair
here at sunrise and sunset for some time after his death, singing his
funeral dirge, and uttering loud wailings and lamentations.

From the number of dead bodies in canoes observed upon this rock by
the first explorers of the river, it received the name of Mount Coffin,
which it continues to bear.

Beyond this rock they passed the mouth of a river on the right bank
of the Columbia, which appeared to take its rise in a distant mountain
covered with snow. The Indian name of this river was the Cowleskee. Some
miles further on they came to the great Columbian Valley, so called by
Lewis and Clarke. It is sixty miles in width, and extends far to the
southeast between parallel ridges of mountains, which bound it on the
east and west. Through the centre of this valley flowed a large and
beautiful stream, called the Wallamot, which came wandering for several
miles, through a yet unexplored wilderness. The sheltered situation of
this immense valley had an obvious effect upon the climate. It was a
region of great beauty and luxuriance, with lakes and pools, and green
meadows shaded by noble groves. Various tribes were said to reside in
this valley, and along the banks of the Wallamot.

About eight miles above the mouth of the Wallamot the little squadron
arrived at Vancouver's Point, so called in honor of that celebrated
voyager by his lieutenant (Broughton) when he explored the river.
This point is said to present one of the most beautiful scenes on the
Columbia; a lovely meadow, with a silver sheet of limpid water in the
center, enlivened by wild-fowl, a range of hills crowned by forests,
while the prospect is closed by Mount Hood, a magnificent mountain
rising into a lofty peak, and covered with snow; the ultimate landmark
of the first explorers of the river.

Point Vancouver is about one hundred miles from Astoria. Here the reflux
of the tide ceases to be perceptible. To this place vessels of two and
three hundred tons burden may ascend. The party under the command of
Mr. Stuart had been three or four days in reaching it, though we have
forborne to notice their daily progress and nightly encampments.

From Point Vancouver the river turned towards the northeast, and
became more contracted and rapid, with occasional islands and frequent
sand-banks. These islands are furnished with a number of ponds, and
at certain seasons abound with swans, geese, brandts, cranes, gulls,
plover, and other wild-fowl. The shores, too, are low and closely
wooded, with such an undergrowth of vines and rushes as to be almost

About thirty miles above Point Vancouver the mountains again approach
on both sides of the river, which is bordered by stupendous precipices,
covered with the fir and the white cedar, and enlivened occasionally by
beautiful cascades leaping from a great height, and sending up wreaths
of vapor. One of these precipices, or cliffs, is curiously worn by time
and weather so as to have the appearance of a ruined fortress, with
towers and battlements, beetling high above the river, while two small
cascades, one hundred and fifty feet in height, pitch down from the
fissures of the rocks.

The turbulence and rapidity of the current continually augmenting as
they advanced, gave the voyagers intimation that they were approaching
the great obstructions of the river, and at length they arrived at
Strawberry Island, so called by Lewis and Clarke, which lies at the
foot of the first rapid. As this part of the Columbia will be repeatedly
mentioned in the course of this work, being the scene of some of its
incidents, we shall give a general description of it in this place.

The falls or rapids of the Columbia are situated about one hundred and
eighty miles above the mouth of the river. The first is a perpendicular
cascade of twenty feet, after which there is a swift descent for a
mile, between islands of hard black rock, to another pitch of eight feet
divided by two rocks. About two and a half miles below this the river
expands into a wide basin, seemingly dammed up by a perpendicular ridge
of black rock. A current, however, sets diagonally to the left of this
rocky barrier, where there is a chasm forty-five yards in width. Through
this the whole body of the river roars along, swelling and whirling
and boiling for some distance in the wildest confusion. Through this
tremendous channel the intrepid explorers of the river, Lewis and
Clarke, passed in their boats; the danger being, not from the rocks, but
from the great surges and whirlpools.

At the distance of a mile and a half from the foot of this narrow
channel is a rapid, formed by two rocky islands; and two miles beyond is
a second great fall, over a ledge of rocks twenty feet high, extending
nearly from shore to shore. The river is again compressed into a channel
from fifty to a hundred feet wide, worn through a rough bed of hard
black rock, along which it boils and roars with great fury for the
distance of three miles. This is called "The Long Narrows."

Here is the great fishing place of the Columbia. In the spring of the
year, when the water is high, the salmon ascend the river in incredible
numbers. As they pass through this narrow strait, the Indians, standing
on the rocks, or on the end of wooden stages projecting from the banks,
scoop them up with small nets distended on hoops and attached to long
handles, and cast them on the shore.

They are then cured and packed in a peculiar manner. After having
been opened and disemboweled, they are exposed to the sun on scaffolds
erected on the river banks. When sufficiently dry, they are pounded fine
between two stones, pressed into the smallest compass, and packed
in baskets or bales of grass matting, about two feet long and one in
diameter, lined with the cured skin of a salmon. The top is likewise
covered with fish skins, secured by cords passing through holes in the
edge of the basket. Packages are then made, each containing twelve of
these bales, seven at bottom, five at top, pressed close to each other,
with the corded side upward, wrapped in mats and corded. These are
placed in dry situations, and again covered with matting. Each of these
packages contains from ninety to a hundred pounds of dried fish, which
in this state will keep sound for several years.**

     **(Lewis and Clarke, vol. ii. p. 32.)

We have given this process at some length, as furnished by the first
explorers, because it marks a practiced ingenuity in preparing articles
of traffic for a market, seldom seen among our aboriginals. For like
reason we would make especial mention of the village of Wishram, at the
head of the Long Narrows, as being a solitary instance of an aboriginal
trading mart, or emporium. Here the salmon caught in the neighboring
rapids were "warehoused," to await customers. Hither the tribes from
the mouth of the Columbia repaired with the fish of the sea-coast, the
roots, berries, and especially the wappatoo, gathered in the lower parts
of the river, together with goods and trinkets obtained from the ships
which casually visit the coast. Hither also the tribes from the
Rocky Mountains brought down horses, bear-grass, quamash, and other
commodities of the interior. The merchant fishermen at the falls acted
as middlemen or factors, and passed the objects of traffic, as it were,
cross-handed; trading away part of the wares received from the mountain
tribes to those of the rivers and plains, and vice versa: their packages
of pounded salmon entered largely into the system of barter, and being
carried off in opposite directions, found their way to the savage
hunting camps far in the interior, and to the casual white traders who
touched upon the coast.

We have already noticed certain contrarieties of character between the
Indian tribes, produced by their diet and mode of life; and nowhere are
they more apparent than about the falls of the Columbia. The Indians
of this great fishing mart are represented by the earliest explorers as
sleeker and fatter, but less hardy and active, than the tribes of the
mountains and prairies, who live by hunting, or of the upper parts of
the river, where fish is scanty, and the inhabitants must eke out their
subsistence by digging roots or chasing the deer. Indeed, whenever an
Indian of the upper country is too lazy to hunt, yet is fond of good
living, he repairs to the falls, to live in abundance without labor.

"By such worthless dogs as these," says an honest trader in his journal,
which now lies before us, "by such worthless dogs as these are these
noted fishing-places peopled, which, like our great cities, may with
propriety be called the headquarters of vitiated principles."

The habits of trade and the avidity of gain have their corrupting
effects even in the wilderness, as may be instanced in the members of
this aboriginal emporium; for the same journalist denounces them as
"saucy, impudent rascals, who will steal when they can, and pillage
whenever a weak party falls in their power."

That he does not belie them will be evidenced hereafter, when we have
occasion again to touch at Wishram and navigate the rapids. In the
present instance the travellers effected the laborious ascent of this
part of the river, with all its various portages, without molestation,
and once more launched away in smooth water above the high falls.

The two parties continued together, without material impediment, for
three or four hundred miles further up the Columbia; Mr. Thompson
appearing to take great interest in the success of Mr. Stuart, and
pointing out places favorable, as he said, to the establishment of his
contemplated trading post.

Mr. Stuart, who distrusted his sincerity, at length pretended to adopt
his advice, and, taking leave of him, remained as if to establish
himself, while the other proceeded on his course towards the mountains.
No sooner, however, had he fairly departed than Mr. Stuart again pushed
forward, under guidance of the two Indians, nor did he stop until he had
arrived within about one hundred and forty miles of the Spokan River,
which he considered near enough to keep the rival establishment in
check. The place which he pitched upon for his trading post was a point
of land about three miles in length and two in breadth, formed by the
junction of the Oakinagan with the Columbia. The former is a river which
has its source in a considerable lake about one hundred and fifty miles
west of the point of junction. The two rivers, about the place of their
confluence, are bordered by immense prairies covered with herbage, but
destitute of trees. The point itself was ornamented with wild flowers
of every hue, in which innumerable humming-birds were "banqueting nearly
the livelong day."

The situation of this point appeared to be well adapted for a trading
post. The climate was salubrious, the soil fertile, the rivers well
stocked with fish, the natives peaceable and friendly. There were easy
communications with the interior by the upper waters of the Columbia and
the lateral stream of the Oakinagan, while the downward current of the
Columbia furnished a highway to Astoria.

Availing himself, therefore, of the driftwood which had collected in
quantities in the neighboring bends of the river, Mr. Stuart and his men
set to work to erect a house, which in a little while was sufficiently
completed for their residence; and thus was established the first
interior post of the company. We will now return to notice the progress
of affairs at the mouth of the Columbia.


     Alarm at Astoria.--Rumor of Indian Hostilities.--
     Preparations for Defense.--Tragic Fate of the Tonquin.

THE sailing of the Tonquin, and the departure of Mr. David Stuart and
his detachment, had produced a striking effect on affairs at Astoria.
The natives who had swarmed about the place began immediately to drop
off, until at length not an Indian was to be seen. This, at first, was
attributed to the want of peltries with which to trade; but in a little
while the mystery was explained in a more alarming manner. A conspiracy
was said to be on foot among the neighboring tribes to make a combined
attack upon the white men, now that they were so reduced in number. For
this purpose there had been a gathering of warriors in a neighboring
bay, under pretext of fishing for sturgeon; and fleets of canoes were
expected to join them from the north and South. Even Comcomly, the
one-eyed chief, notwithstanding his professed friendship for Mr.
M'Dougal, was strongly suspected of being concerned in this general

Alarmed at rumors of this impending danger, the Astorians suspended
their regular labor, and set to work, with all haste, to throw up
temporary works for refuge and defense. In the course of a few days they
surrounded their dwelling-house and magazines with a picket fence
ninety feet square, flanked by two bastions, on which were mounted four
four-pounders. Every day they exercised themselves in the use of their
weapons, so as to qualify themselves for military duty, and at night
ensconced themselves in their fortress and posted sentinels, to guard
against surprise. In this way they hoped, even in case of attack, to be
able to hold out until the arrival of the party to be conducted by Mr.
Hunt across the Rocky Mountains, or until the return of the Tonquin. The
latter dependence, however, was doomed soon to be destroyed. Early in
August, a wandering band of savages from the Strait of Juan de Fuca made
their appearance at the mouth of the Columbia, where they came to fish
for sturgeon. They brought disastrous accounts of the Tonquin, which
were at first treated as fables, but which were too sadly confirmed by
a different tribe that arrived a few days subsequently. We shall relate
the circumstances of this melancholy affair as correctly as the casual
discrepancies in the statements that have reached us will permit.

We have already stated that the Tonquin set sail from the mouth of
the river on the fifth of June. The whole number of persons on board
amounted to twenty-three. In one of the outer bays they picked up,
from a fishing canoe, an Indian named Lamazee, who had already made
two voyages along the coast and knew something of the language of the
various tribes. He agreed to accompany them as interpreter.

Steering to the north, Captain Thorn arrived in a few days at
Vancouver's Island, and anchored in the harbor of Neweetee, very much
against the advice of his Indian interpreter, who warned him against the
perfidious character of the natives of this part of the coast. Numbers
of canoes soon came off, bringing sea-otter skins to sell. It was too
late in the day to commence a traffic, but Mr. M'Kay, accompanied by a
few of the men, went on shore to a large village to visit Wicananish,
the chief of the surrounding territory, six of the natives remaining on
board as hostages. He was received with great professions of friendship,
entertained hospitably, and a couch of sea-otter skins prepared for him
in the dwelling of the chieftain, where he was prevailed upon to pass
the night.

In the morning, before Mr. M'Kay had returned to the ship, great numbers
of the natives came off in their canoes to trade, headed by two sons of
Wicananish. As they brought abundance of sea-otter skins, and there was
every appearance of a brisk trade, Captain Thorn did not wait for
the return of Mr. M'Kay, but spread his wares upon the deck, making a
tempting display of blankets, cloths, knives, beads, and fish-hooks,
expecting a prompt and profitable sale. The Indians, however, were
not so eager and simple as he had supposed, having learned the art of
bargaining and the value of merchandise from the casual traders along
the coast. They were guided, too, by a shrewd old chief named Nookamis,
who had grown gray in traffic with New England skippers, and prided
himself upon his acuteness. His opinion seemed to regulate the market.
When Captain Thorn made what he considered a liberal offer for an
otter-skin, the wily old Indian treated it with scorn, and asked more
than double. His comrades all took their cue from him, and not an
otter-skin was to be had at a reasonable rate.

The old fellow, however, overshot his mark, and mistook the character of
the man he was treating with. Thorn was a plain, straightforward sailor,
who never had two minds nor two prices in his dealings, was deficient in
patience and pliancy, and totally wanting in the chicanery of traffic.
He had a vast deal of stern but honest pride in his nature, and,
moreover, held the whole savage race in sovereign contempt. Abandoning
all further attempts, therefore, to bargain with his shuffling
customers, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and paced up and down
the deck in sullen silence. The cunning old Indian followed him to and
fro, holding out a sea-otter skin to him at every turn, and pestering
him to trade. Finding other means unavailing, he suddenly changed his
tone, and began to jeer and banter him upon the mean prices he offered.
This was too much for the patience of the captain, who was never
remarkable for relishing a joke, especially when at his own expense.
Turning suddenly upon his persecutor, he snatched the proffered
otter-skin from his hands, rubbed it in his face, and dismissed him
over the side of the ship with no very complimentary application to
accelerate his exit. He then kicked the peltries to the right and left
about the deck, and broke up the market in the most ignominious manner.
Old Nookamis made for shore in a furious passion, in which he was
joined by Shewish, one of the sons of Wicananish, who went off breathing
vengeance, and the ship was soon abandoned by the natives.

When Mr. M'Kay returned on board, the interpreter related what had
passed, and begged him to prevail upon the captain to make sail, as from
his knowledge of the temper and pride of the people of the place, he was
sure they would resent the indignity offered to one of their chiefs. Mr.
M'Kay, who himself possessed some experience of Indian character,
went to the captain, who was still pacing the deck in moody humor,
represented the danger to which his hasty act had exposed the vessel,
and urged him to weigh anchor. The captain made light of his counsels,
and pointed to his cannon and fire-arms as sufficient safeguard against
naked savages. Further remonstrances only provoked taunting replies and
sharp altercations. The day passed away without any signs of hostility,
and at night the captain retired as usual to his cabin, taking no more
than the usual precautions.

On the following morning, at daybreak, while the captain and Mr. M'Kay
were yet asleep, a canoe came alongside in which were twenty Indians,
commanded by young Shewish. They were unarmed, their aspect and demeanor
friendly, and they held up otter-skins, and made signs indicative of
a wish to trade. The caution enjoined by Mr. Astor, in respect to the
admission of Indians on board of the ship, had been neglected for some
time past, and the officer of the watch, perceiving those in the canoe
to be without weapons, and having received no orders to the contrary,
readily permitted them to mount the deck. Another canoe soon succeeded,
the crew of which was likewise admitted. In a little while other canoes
came off, and Indians were soon clambering into the vessel on all sides.

The officer of the watch now felt alarmed, and called to Captain Thorn
and Mr. M'Kay. By the time they came on deck, it was thronged with
Indians. The interpreter noticed to Mr. M'Kay that many of the natives
wore short mantles of skins, and intimated a suspicion that they were
secretly armed. Mr. M'Kay urged the captain to clear the ship and get
under way. He again made light of the advice; but the augmented swarm of
canoes about the ship, and the numbers still putting off from shore, at
length awakened his distrust, and he ordered some of the crew to weigh
anchor, while some were sent aloft to make sail.

The Indians now offered to trade with the captain on his own terms,
prompted, apparently, by the approaching departure of the ship.
Accordingly, a hurried trade was commenced. The main articles sought by
the savages in barter were knives; as fast as some were supplied they
moved off, and others succeeded. By degrees they were thus distributed
about the deck, and all with weapons.

The anchor was now nearly up, the sails were loose, and the captain,
in a loud and peremptory tone, ordered the ship to be cleared. In an
instant, a signal yell was given; it was echoed on every side, knives
and war-clubs were brandished in every direction, and the savages rushed
upon their marked victims.

The first that fell was Mr. Lewis, the ship's clerk. He was leaning,
with folded arms, over a bale of blankets, engaged in bargaining, when
he received a deadly stab in the back, and fell down the companion-way.

Mr. M'Kay, who was seated on the taffrail, sprang on his feet, but was
instantly knocked down with a war-club and flung backwards into the sea,
where he was despatched by the women in the canoes.

In the meantime Captain Thorn made desperate fight against fearful odds.
He was a powerful as well as a resolute man, but he had come upon
deck without weapons. Shewish, the young chief singled him out as his
peculiar prey, and rushed upon him at the first outbreak. The captain
had barely time to draw a clasp-knife with one blow of which he laid
the young savage dead at his feet. Several of the stoutest followers
of Shewish now set upon him. He defended himself vigorously, dealing
crippling blows to right and left, and strewing the quarter-deck with
the slain and wounded. His object was to fight his way to the cabin,
where there were fire-arms; but he was hemmed in with foes, covered with
wounds, and faint with loss of blood. For an instant he leaned upon the
tiller wheel, when a blow from behind, with a war-club, felled him to
the deck, where he was despatched with knives and thrown overboard.

While this was transacting upon the quarter-deck, a chance-medley fight
was going on throughout the ship. The crew fought desperately with
knives, handspikes, and whatever weapon they could seize upon in the
moment of surprise. They were soon, however, overpowered by numbers, and
mercilessly butchered.

As to the seven who had been sent aloft to make sail, they contemplated
with horror the carnage that was going on below. Being destitute of
weapons, they let themselves down by the running rigging, in hopes
of getting between decks. One fell in the attempt, and was instantly
despatched; another received a death-blow in the back as he was
descending; a third, Stephen Weekes, the armorer, was mortally wounded
as he was getting down the hatchway.

The remaining four made good their retreat into the cabin, where they
found Mr. Lewis, still alive, though mortally wounded. Barricading the
cabin door, they broke holes through the companion-way, and, with the
muskets and ammunition which were at hand, opened a brisk fire that soon
cleared the deck.

Thus far the Indian interpreter, from whom these particulars are
derived, had been an eye-witness to the deadly conflict. He had taken no
part in it, and had been spared by the natives as being of their race.
In the confusion of the moment he took refuge with the rest, in the
canoes. The survivors of the crew now sallied forth, and discharged some
of the deck-guns, which did great execution among the canoes, and drove
all the savages to shore.

For the remainder of the day no one ventured to put off to the ship,
deterred by the effects of the fire-arms. The night passed away without
any further attempts on the part of the natives. When the day dawned,
the Tonquin still lay at anchor in the bay, her sails all loose and
flapping in the wind, and no one apparently on board of her. After a
time, some of the canoes ventured forth to reconnoitre, taking with them
the interpreter.

They paddled about her, keeping cautiously at a distance, but growing
more and more emboldened at seeing her quiet and lifeless. One man
at length made his appearance on the deck, and was recognized by the
interpreter as Mr. Lewis. He made friendly signs, and invited them on
board. It was long before they ventured to comply. Those who mounted
the deck met with no opposition; no one was to be seen on board; for Mr.
Lewis, after inviting them, had disappeared. Other canoes now pressed
forward to board the prize; the decks were soon crowded, and the sides
covered with clambering savages, all intent on plunder. In the midst
of their eagerness and exultation, the ship blew up with a tremendous
explosion. Arms, legs, and mutilated bodies were blown into the air, and
dreadful havoc was made in the surrounding canoes. The interpreter was
in the main-chains at the time of the explosion, and was thrown unhurt
into the water, where he succeeded in getting into one of the canoes.
According to his statement, the bay presented an awful spectacle after
the catastrophe. The ship had disappeared, but the bay was covered with
fragments of the wreck, with shattered canoes, and Indians swimming for
their lives, or struggling in the agonies of death; while those who had
escaped the danger remained aghast and stupefied, or made with frantic
panic for the shore. Upwards of a hundred savages were destroyed by the
explosion, many more were shockingly mutilated, and for days afterwards
the limbs and bodies of the slain were thrown upon the beach.

The inhabitants of Neweetee were overwhelmed with consternation at this
astounding calamity, which had burst upon them in the very moment of
triumph. The warriors sat mute and mournful, while the women filled
the air with loud lamentations. Their weeping and walling, however, was
suddenly changed into yells of fury at the sight of four unfortunate
white men, brought captive into the village. They had been driven on
shore in one of the ship's boats, and taken at some distance along the

The interpreter was permitted to converse with them. They proved to
be the four brave fellows who had made such desperate defense from
the cabin. The interpreter gathered from them some of the particulars
already related. They told him further, that after they had beaten off
the enemy and cleared the ship, Lewis advised that they should slip
the cable and endeavor to get to sea. They declined to take his advice,
alleging that the wind set too strongly into the bay and would drive
them on shore. They resolved, as soon as it was dark, to put off quietly
in the ship's boat, which they would be able to do unperceived, and to
coast along back to Astoria. They put their resolution into effect; but
Lewis refused to accompany them, being disabled by his wound, hopeless
of escape, and determined on a terrible revenge. On the voyage out, he
had repeatedly expressed a presentiment that he should die by his own
hands; thinking it highly probable that he should be engaged in some
contest with the natives, and being resolved, in case of extremity,
to commit suicide rather than be made a prisoner. He now declared his
intention to remain on board of the ship until daylight, to decoy as
many of the savages on board as possible, then to set fire to the powder
magazine, and terminate his life by a signal of vengeance. How well he
succeeded has been shown. His companions bade him a melancholy adieu,
and set off on their precarious expedition. They strove with might and
main to get out of the bay, but found it impossible to weather a point
of land, and were at length compelled to take shelter in a small cove,
where they hoped to remain concealed until the wind should be more
favorable. Exhausted by fatigue and watching, they fell into a sound
sleep, and in that state were surprised by the savages. Better had it
been for those unfortunate men had they remained with Lewis, and
shared his heroic death: as it was, they perished in a more painful and
protracted manner, being sacrificed by the natives to the manes of their
friends with all the lingering tortures of savage cruelty. Some time
after their death, the interpreter, who had remained a kind of prisoner
at large, effected his escape, and brought the tragical tidings to

Such is the melancholy story of the Tonquin, and such was the fate of
her brave but headstrong commander, and her adventurous crew. It is a
catastrophe that shows the importance, in all enterprises of moment,
to keep in mind the general instructions of the sagacious heads which
devise them. Mr. Astor was well aware of the perils to which ships
were exposed on this coast from quarrels with the natives, and from
perfidious attempts of the latter to surprise and capture them in
unguarded moments. He had repeatedly enjoined it upon Captain Thorn,
in conversation, and at parting, in his letter of instructions, to be
courteous and kind in his dealings with the savages, but by no means to
confide in their apparent friendship, nor to admit more than a few on
board of his ship at a time.

Had the deportment of Captain Thorn been properly regulated, the insult
so wounding to savage pride would never have been given. Had he enforced
the rule to admit but a few at a time, the savages would not have been
able to get the mastery. He was too irritable, however, to practice the
necessary self-command, and, having been nurtured in a proud contempt of
danger, thought it beneath him to manifest any fear of a crew of unarmed

With all his faults and foibles, we cannot but speak of him with esteem,
and deplore his untimely fate; for we remember him well in early life,
as a companion in pleasant scenes and joyous hours. When on shore, among
his friends, he was a frank, manly, sound-hearted sailor. On board
ship he evidently assumed the hardness of deportment and sternness of
demeanor which many deem essential to naval service. Throughout
the whole of the expedition, however, he showed himself loyal,
single-minded, straightforward, and fearless; and if the fate of
his vessel may be charged to his harshness and imprudence, we should
recollect that he paid for his error with his life.

The loss of the Tonquin was a grievous blow to the infant establishment
of Astoria, and one that threatened to bring after it a train of
disasters. The intelligence of it did not reach Mr. Astor until many
months afterwards. He felt it in all its force, and was aware that it
must cripple, if not entirely defeat, the great scheme of his ambition.
In his letters, written at the time, he speaks of it as "a calamity, the
length of which he could not foresee." He indulged, however, in no
weak and vain lamentation, but sought to devise a prompt and efficient
remedy. The very same evening he appeared at the theatre with his usual
serenity of countenance. A friend, who knew the disastrous intelligence
he had received, expressed his astonishment that he could have calmness
of spirit sufficient for such a scene of light amusement. "What would
you have me do?" was his characteristic reply; "would you have me stay
at home and weep for what I cannot help?"


     Gloom at Astoria--An Ingenious Stratagem.--The Small-Pox
     Chief.--Launching of the Dolly.-An Arrival.--A Canadian
     Trapper.-A Freeman of the Forest--An Iroquois Hunter.--
     Winter on the Columbia.-Festivities of New Year.

THE tidings of the loss of the Tonquin, and the massacre of her crew,
struck dismay into the hearts of the Astorians. They found themselves
a mere handful of men, on a savage coast, surrounded by hostile tribes,
who would doubtless be incited and encouraged to deeds of violence by
the late fearful catastrophe. In this juncture Mr. M'Dougal, we are
told, had recourse to a stratagem by which to avail himself of the
ignorance and credulity of the savages, and which certainly does credit
to his ingenuity.

The natives of the coast, and, indeed, of all the regions west of the
mountains, had an extreme dread of the small-pox; that terrific scourge
having, a few years previously, appeared among them, and almost swept
off entire tribes. Its origin and nature were wrapped in mystery, and
they conceived it an evil inflicted upon them by the Great Spirit, or
brought among them by the white men. The last idea was seized upon by
Mr. M'Dougal. He assembled several of the chieftains whom he believed to
be in the conspiracy. When they were all seated around, he informed them
that he had heard of the treachery of some of their northern brethren
towards the Tonquin, and was determined on vengeance. "The white men
among you," said he, "are few in number, it is true, but they are mighty
in medicine. See here," continued he, drawing forth a small bottle and
holding it before their eyes, "in this bottle I hold the small-pox,
safely corked up; I have but to draw the cork, and let loose the
pestilence, to sweep man, woman, and child from the face of the earth."

The chiefs were struck with horror and alarm. They implored him not to
uncork the bottle, since they and all their people were firm friends of
the white men, and would always remain so; but, should the small-pox
be once let out, it would run like wildfire throughout the country,
sweeping off the good as well as the bad; and surely he would not be so
unjust as to punish his friends for crimes committed by his enemies.

Mr. M'Dougal pretended to be convinced by their reasoning, and assured
them that, so long as the white people should be unmolested, and the
conduct of their Indian neighbors friendly and hospitable, the phial of
wrath should remain sealed up; but, on the least hostility, the fatal
cork should be drawn.

From this time, it is added, he was much dreaded by the natives, as one
who held their fate in his hands, and was called, by way of preeminence,
"the Great Small-pox Chief."

All this while, the labors at the infant settlement went on with
unremitting assiduity, and, by the 26th of September, a commodious
mansion, spacious enough to accommodate all hands, was completed. It
was built of stone and clay, there being no calcarcous stone in the
neighborhood from which lime for mortar could be procured. The schooner
was also finished, and launched, with the accustomed ceremony, on the
second of October, and took her station below the fort. She was named
the Dolly, and was the first American vessel launched on this coast.

On the 5th of October, in the evening, the little community at Astoria
was enlivened by the unexpected arrival of a detachment from Mr. David
Stuart's post on the Oakinagan. It consisted of two of the clerks
and two of the privates. They brought favorable accounts of the new
establishment, but reported that, as Mr. Stuart was apprehensive there
might be a difficulty of subsisting his whole party throughout the
winter, he had sent one half back to Astoria, retaining with him only
Ross, Montigny, and two others. Such is the hardihood of the Indian
trader. In the heart of a savage and unknown country, seven hundred
miles from the main body of his fellow-adventurers, Stuart had dismissed
half of his little number, and was prepared with the residue to brave
all the perils of the wilderness, and the rigors of a long and dreary

With the return party came a Canadian creole named Regis Brugiere and an
Iroquois hunter, with his wife and two children. As these two
personages belong to certain classes which have derived their peculiar
characteristics from the fur trade, we deem some few particulars
concerning them pertinent to the nature of this work.

Brugiere was of a class of beaver trappers and hunters technically
called "Freemen," in the language of the traders. They are generally
Canadians by birth, and of French descent, who have been employed for
a term of years by some fur company, but, their term being expired,
continue to hunt and trap on their own account, trading with the company
like the Indians. Hence they derive their appellation of Freemen, to
distinguish them from the trappers who are bound for a number of years,
and receive wages, or hunt on shares.

Having passed their early youth in the wilderness, separated almost
entirely from civilized man, and in frequent intercourse with the
Indians, they relapse, with a facility common to human nature, into
the habitudes of savage life. Though no longer bound by engagements to
continue in the interior, they have become so accustomed to the freedom
of the forest and the prairie, that they look back with repugnance
upon the restraints of civilization. Most of them intermarry with
the natives, and, like the latter, have often a plurality of wives.
Wanderers of the wilderness, according to the vicissitudes of the
seasons, the migrations of animals, and the plenty or scarcity of game,
they lead a precarious and unsettled existence; exposed to sun and
storm, and all kinds of hardships, until they resemble Indians in
complexion as well as in tastes and habits. From time to time, they
bring the peltries they have collected to the trading houses of the
company in whose employ they have been brought up. Here they traffic
them away for such articles of merchandise or ammunition as they may
stand in need of. At the time when Montreal was the great emporium of
the fur trader, one of these freemen of the wilderness would suddenly
return, after an absence of many years, among his old friends and
comrades. He would be greeted as one risen from the dead; and with the
greater welcome, as he returned flush of money. A short time, however,
spent in revelry, would be sufficient to drain his purse and sate
him with civilized life, and he would return with new relish to the
unshackled freedom of the forest.

Numbers of men of this class were scattered throughout the northwest
territories. Some of them retained a little of the thrift and
forethought of the civilized man, and became wealthy among their
improvident neighbors; their wealth being chiefly displayed in large
bands of horses, which covered the prairies in the vicinity of their
abodes. Most of them, however, were prone to assimilate to the red man
in their heedlessness of the future.

Such was Regis Brugiere, a freeman and rover of the wilderness. Having
been brought up in the service of the Northwest Company, he had followed
in the train of one of its expeditions across the Rocky Mountains, and
undertaken to trap for the trading post established on the Spokan River.
In the course of his hunting excursions he had either accidentally,
or designedly, found his way to the post of Mr. Stuart, and had been
prevailed upon to ascend the Columbia, and "try his luck" at Astoria.

Ignace Shonowane, the Iroquois hunter, was a specimen of a different
class. He was one of those aboriginals of Canada who had partially
conformed to the habits of civilization and the doctrines of
Christianity, under the influence of the French colonists and the
Catholic priests; who seem generally to have been more successful in
conciliating, taming, and converting the savages, than their English
and Protestant rivals. These half-civilized Indians retained some of the
good, and many of the evil qualities of their original stock. They were
first-rate hunters, and dexterous in the management of the canoe. They
could undergo great privations, and were admirable for the service of
the rivers, lakes, and forests, provided they could be kept sober, and
in proper subordination; but once inflamed with liquor, to which they
were madly addicted, all the dormant passions inherent in their nature
were prone to break forth, and to hurry them into the most vindictive
and bloody acts of violence.

Though they generally professed the Roman Catholic religion, yet it was
mixed, occasionally, with some of their ancient superstitions; and they
retained much of the Indian belief in charms and omens. Numbers of these
men were employed by the Northwest Company as trappers, hunters, and
canoe men, but on lower terms than were allowed to white men. Ignace
Shonowane had, in this way, followed the enterprise of the company to
the banks of the Spokan, being, probably, one of the first of his tribe
that had traversed the Rocky Mountains.

Such were some of the motley populace of the wilderness, incident to
the fur trade, who were gradually attracted to the new settlement of

The month of October now began to give indications of approaching
winter. Hitherto, the colonists had been well pleased with the climate.
The summer had been temperate, the mercury never rising above eighty
degrees. Westerly winds had prevailed during the spring and the early
part of the summer, and been succeeded by fresh breezes from the
northwest. In the month of October the southerly winds set in, bringing
with them frequent rain.

The Indians now began to quit the borders of the ocean, and to retire
to their winter quarters in the sheltered bosom of the forests, or
along the small rivers and brooks. The rainy season, which commences in
October, continues, with little intermission, until April; and though
the winters are generally mild, the mercury seldom sinking below the
freezing point, yet the tempests of wind and rain are terrible. The sun
is sometimes obscured for weeks, the brooks swell into roaring torrents,
and the country is threatened with a deluge.

The departure of the Indians to their winter quarters gradually rendered
provisions scanty, and obliged the colonists to send out foraging
expeditions in the Dolly. Still the little handful of adventurers kept
up their spirits in their lonely fort at Astoria, looking forward to the
time when they should be animated and reinforced by the party under Mr.
Hunt, that was to come to them across the Rocky Mountains.

The year gradually wore way. The rain, which had poured down almost
incessantly since the first of October, cleared up towards the evening
of the 31st of December, and the morning of the first of January ushered
in a day of sunshine.

The hereditary French holiday spirit of the French voyageurs is hardly
to be depressed by any adversities; and they can manage to get up a
fete in the most squalid situations, and under the most untoward
circumstances. An extra allowance of rum, and a little flour to make
cakes and puddings, constitute a "regale;" and they forget all their
toils and troubles in the song and dance.

On the present occasion, the partners endeavored to celebrate the new
year with some effect. At sunrise the drums beat to arms, the colors
were hoisted, with three rounds of small arms and three discharges of
cannon. The day was devoted to games of agility and strength, and other
amusements; and grog was temperately distributed, together with bread,
butter, and cheese. The best dinner their circumstances could afford
was served up at midday. At sunset the colors were lowered, with another
discharge of artillery. The night was spent in dancing; and, though
there was a lack of female partners to excite their gallantry, the
voyageurs kept up the ball with true French spirit, until three o'clock
in the morning. So passed the new year festival of 1812 at the infant
colony of Astoria.


     Expedition by Land.--Wilson P. Hunt.--His Character.--Donald
     M'Kenzie.--Recruiting Service Among the Voyageurs.--A Bark
     Canoe.--Chapel of St. Anne.-Votive Offerings.--Pious
     Carousals,--A Ragged Regiment.-Mackinaw.--Picture of a
     Trading Post.--Frolicking Voyageurs.--Swells and Swaggerers.--
     Indian Coxcombs.--A Man of the North.--Jockeyship of
     Voyageurs--Inefficacy of Gold.-Weight of a Feather--Mr.
     Ramsay Crooks--His Character.--His Risks Among the Indians.--
     His Warning Concerning Sioux and Blackfeet.--Embarkation of
     Recruits.--Parting Scenes Between Brothers, Cousins, Wives,
     Sweethearts, and Pot Companions.

WE have followed up the fortunes of the maritime part of this enterprise
to the shores of the Pacific, and have conducted the affairs of the
embryo establishment to the opening of the new year; let us now turn
back to the adventurous band to whom was intrusted the land expedition,
and who were to make their way to the mouth of the Columbia, up vast
rivers, across trackless plains, and over the rugged barriers of the
Rocky Mountains.

The conduct of this expedition, as has been already mentioned, was
assigned to Mr. Wilson Price Hunt, of Trenton, New Jersey, one of the
partners of the company, who was ultimately to be at the head of the
establishment at the mouth of the Columbia. He is represented as a
man scrupulously upright and faithful his dealings, amicable in his
disposition, and of most accommodating manners; and his whole conduct
will be found in unison with such a character. He was not practically
experienced in the Indian trade; that is to say, he had never made any
expeditions of traffic into the heart of the wilderness, but he had
been engaged in commerce at St. Louis, then a frontier settlement on
the Mississippi, where the chief branch of his business had consisted in
furnishing Indian traders with goods and equipments. In this way, he had
acquired much knowledge of the trade at second hand, and of the various
tribes, and the interior country over which it extended.

Another of the partners, Mr. Donald M'Kenzie, was associated with Mr.
Hunt in the expedition, and excelled on those points in which the other
was deficient; for he had been ten years in the interior, in the
service of the Northwest Company, and valued himself on his knowledge of
"woodcraft," and the strategy of Indian trade and Indian warfare. He had
a frame seasoned to toils and hardships; a spirit not to be intimidated,
and was reputed to be a "remarkable shot;" which of itself was
sufficient to give him renown upon the frontier.

Mr. Hunt and his coadjutor repaired, about the latter part of July,
1810, to Montreal, the ancient emporium of the fur trade where
everything requisite for the expedition could be procured. One of the
first objects was to recruit a complement of Canadian voyageurs from the
disbanded herd usually to be found loitering about the place. A degree
of jockeyship, however, is required for this service, for a Canadian
voyageur is as full of latent tricks and vice as a horse; and when he
makes the greatest external promise, is prone to prove the greatest
"take in." Besides, the Northwest Company, who maintained a long
established control at Montreal, and knew the qualities of every
voyageur, secretly interdicted the prime hands from engaging in this
new service; so that, although liberal terms were offered, few presented
themselves but such as were not worth having.

From these Mr. Hunt engaged a number sufficient, as he supposed,
for present purposes; and, having laid in a supply of ammunition,
provisions, and Indian goods, embarked all on board one of those great
canoes at that time universally used by the fur traders for navigating
the intricate and often-obstructed rivers. The canoe was between thirty
and forty feet long, and several feet in width; constructed of birch
bark, sewed with fibres of the roots of the spruce tree, and daubed with
resin of the pine, instead of tar. The cargo was made up in packages,
weighing from ninety to one hundred pounds each, for the facility of
loading and unloading, and of transportation at portages. The canoe
itself, though capable of sustaining a freight of upwards of four tons,
could readily be carried on men's shoulders. Canoes of this size are
generally managed by eight or ten men, two of whom are picked veterans,
who receive double wages, and are stationed, one at the bow and the
other at the stern, to keep a look-out and to steer. They are termed
the foreman and the steersman. The rest, who ply the paddles, are called
middle men. When there is a favorable breeze, the canoe is occasionally
navigated with a sail.

The expedition took its regular departure, as usual, from St. Anne's,
near the extremity of the island of Montreal, the great starting-place
of the traders to the interior. Here stood the ancient chapel of
St. Anne, the patroness of the Canadian voyageurs; where they made
confession, and offered up their vows, previous to departing on any
hazardous expedition. The shrine of the saint was decorated with relics
and votive offerings hung up by these superstitious beings, either to
propitiate her favor, or in gratitude for some signal deliverance in
the wilderness. It was the custom, too, of these devout vagabonds, after
leaving the chapel, to have a grand carouse, in honor of the saint and
for the prosperity of the voyage. In this part of their devotions, the
crew of Mr. Hunt proved themselves by no means deficient. Indeed, he
soon discovered that his recruits, enlisted at Montreal, were fit to
vie with the ragged regiment of Falstaff. Some were able-bodied, but
inexpert; others were expert, but lazy; while a third class were expert
and willing, but totally worn out, being broken-down veterans, incapable
of toil.

With this inefficient crew he made his way up the Ottawa River, and by
the ancient route of the fur traders, along a succession of small lakes
and rivers, to Michilimackinac. Their progress was slow and tedious. Mr.
Hunt was not accustomed to the management of "voyageurs," and he had a
crew admirably disposed to play the old soldier, and balk their work;
and ever ready to come to a halt, land, make a fire, put on the great
pot, and smoke, and gossip, and sing by the hour.

It was not until the 22d of July that they arrived at Mackinaw, situated
on the island of the same name, at the confluence of--lakes Huron and
Michigan. This famous old French trading post continued to be a rallying
point for a multifarious and motley population. The inhabitants were
amphibious in their habits, most of them being, or having been voyageurs
or canoe men. It was the great place of arrival and departure of the
southwest fur trade. Here the Mackinaw Company had established its
principal post, from whence it communicated with the interior and with
Montreal. Hence its various traders and trappers set out for their
respective destinations about Lake Superior and its tributary waters, or
for the Mississippi, the Arkansas, the Missouri, and the other regions
of the west. Here, after the absence of a year, or more, they returned
with their peltries, and settled their accounts; the furs rendered in by
them being transmitted in canoes from hence to Montreal. Mackinaw was,
therefore, for a great part of the year, very scantily peopled; but at
certain seasons the traders arrived from all points, with their crews of
voyageurs, and the place swarmed like a hive.

Mackinaw, at that time, was a mere village, stretching along a small
bay, with a fine broad beach in front of its principal row of houses,
and dominated by the old fort, which crowned an impending height.
The beach was a kind of public promenade where were displayed all the
vagaries of a seaport on the arrival of a fleet from a long cruise. Here
voyageurs frolicked away their wages, fiddling and dancing in the booths
and cabins, buying all kinds of knick-knacks, dressing themselves out
finely, and parading up and down, like arrant braggarts and coxcombs.
Sometimes they met with rival coxcombs in the young Indians from the
opposite shore, who would appear on the beach painted and decorated
in fantastic style, and would saunter up and down, to be gazed at
and admired, perfectly satisfied that they eclipsed their pale-faced

Now and then a chance party of "Northwesters" appeared at Mackinaw from
the rendezvous at Fort William. These held themselves up as the chivalry
of the fur trade. They were men of iron; proof against cold weather,
hard fare, and perils of all kinds. Some would wear the Northwest
button, and a formidable dirk, and assume something of a military air.
They generally wore feathers in their hats, and affected the "brave."
"Je suis un homme du nord!"-"I am a man of the north,"-one of these
swelling fellows would exclaim, sticking his arms akimbo and ruffling by
the Southwesters, whom he regarded with great contempt, as men softened
by mild climates and the luxurious fare of bread and bacon, and whom
he stigmatized with the inglorious name of pork-eaters. The superiority
assumed by these vainglorious swaggerers was, in general, tacitly
admitted. Indeed, some of them had acquired great notoriety for deeds
of hardihood and courage; for the fur trade had Its heroes, whose names
resounded throughout the wilderness.

Such was Mackinaw at the time of which we are treating. It now,
doubtless, presents a totally different aspect. The fur companies no
longer assemble there; the navigation of the lake is carried on by
steamboats and various shipping, and the race of traders, and trappers,
and voyageurs, and Indian dandies, have vapored out their brief hour and
disappeared. Such changes does the lapse of a handful of years make in
this ever-changing country.

At this place Mr. Hunt remained for some time, to complete his
assortment of Indian goods, and to increase his number of voyageurs, as
well as to engage some of a more efficient character than those enlisted
at Montreal.

And now commenced another game of Jockeyship. There were able and
efficient men in abundance at Mackinaw, but for several days not one
presented himself. If offers were made to any, they were listened to
with a shake of the head. Should any one seem inclined to enlist, there
were officious idlers and busybodies, of that class who are ever ready
to dissuade others from any enterprise in which they themselves have no
concern. These would pull him by the sleeve, take him on one side, and
murmur in his ear, or would suggest difficulties outright.

It was objected that the expedition would have to navigate unknown
rivers, and pass through howling wildernesses infested by savage tribes,
who had already cut off the unfortunate voyageurs that had ventured
among them; that it was to climb the Rocky Mountains and descend into
desolate and famished regions, where the traveller was often obliged to
subsist on grasshoppers and crickets, or to kill his own horse for food.

At length one man was hardy enough to engage, and he was used like a
"stool-pigeon," to decoy others; but several days elapsed before any
more could be prevailed upon to join him. A few then came to terms. It
was desirable to engage them for five years, but some refused to engage
for more than three. Then they must have part of their pay in advance,
which was readily granted. When they had pocketed the amount, and
squandered it in regales or in outfits, they began to talk of pecuniary
obligations at Mackinaw, which must be discharged before they would be
free to depart; or engagements with other persons, which were only to
be canceled by a "reasonable consideration." It was in vain to argue or
remonstrate. The money advanced had already been sacked and spent, and
must be lost and the recruits left behind, unless they could be freed
from their debts and engagements. Accordingly, a fine was paid for one;
a judgment for another; a tavern bill for a third, and almost all had to
be bought off from some prior engagement, either real or pretended.

Mr. Hunt groaned in spirit at the incessant and unreasonable demands of
these worthies upon his purse; yet with all this outlay of funds, the
number recruited was but scanty, and many of the most desirable still
held themselves aloof, and were not to be caught by a golden bait. With
these he tried another temptation. Among the recruits who had enlisted
he distributed feathers and ostrich plumes. These they put in their
hats, and thus figured about Mackinaw, assuming airs of vast importance,
as "voyageurs" in a new company, that was to eclipse the Northwest. The
effect was complete. A French Canadian is too vain and mercurial a
being to withstand the finery and ostentation of the feather. Numbers
immediately pressed into the service. One must have an ostrich plume;
another, a white feather with a red end; a third, a bunch of cock's
tails. Thus all paraded about, in vainglorious style, more delighted
with the feathers in their hats than with the money in their pockets;
and considering themselves fully equal to the boastful "men of the

While thus recruiting the number of rank and file, Mr. Hunt was joined
by a person whom he had invited, by letter, to engage as a partner in
the expedition. This was Mr. Ramsay Crooks, a young man, a native of
Scotland, who had served under the Northwest Company, and been engaged
in trading expeditions upon his individual account, among the tribes of
the Missouri. Mr. Hunt knew him personally, and had conceived a high
and merited opinion of his judgment, enterprise, and integrity; he was
rejoiced, therefore, when the latter consented to accompany him. Mr.
Crooks, however, drew from experience a picture of the dangers to
which they would be subjected, and urged the importance of going with a
considerable force. In ascending the upper Missouri they would have
to pass through the country of the Sioux Indians, who had manifested
repeated hostility to the white traders, and rendered their expeditions
extremely perilous; firing upon them from the river banks as they passed
beneath in their boats, and attacking them in their encampments. Mr.
Crooks himself, when voyaging in company with another trader of the name
of M'Lellan, had been interrupted by these marauders, and had considered
himself fortunate in escaping down the river without loss of life or
property, but with a total abandonment of his trading voyage.

Should they be fortunate enough to pass through the country of the Sioux
without molestation, they would have another tribe still more savage and
warlike beyond, and deadly foes of white men.

These were the Blackfeet Indians, who ranged over a wide extent
of country which they would have to traverse. Under all these
circumstances, it was thought advisable to augment the party
considerably. It already exceeded the number of thirty, to which it
had originally been limited; but it was determined, on arriving at St.
Louis, to increase it to the number of sixty.

These matters being arranged, they prepared to embark; but the
embarkation of a crew of Canadian voyageurs, on a distant expedition, is
not so easy a matter as might be imagined; especially of such a set of
vainglorious fellows with money in both pockets, and cocks' tails in
their hats. Like sailors, the Canadian voyageurs generally preface a
long cruise with a carouse. They have their cronies, their brothers,
their cousins, their wives, their sweethearts, all to be entertained
at their expense. They feast, they fiddle, they drink, they sing, they
dance, they frolic and fight, until they are all as mad as so many
drunken Indians. The publicans are all obedience to their commands,
never hesitating to let them run up scores without limit, knowing that,
when their own money is expended, the purses of their employers must
answer for the bill, or the voyage must be delayed. Neither was it
possible, at that time, to remedy the matter at Mackinaw. In that
amphibious community there was always a propensity to wrest the laws in
favor of riotous or mutinous boatmen. It was necessary, also, to keep
the recruits in good humor, seeing the novelty and danger of the service
into which they were entering, and the ease with which they might at
anytime escape it by jumping into a canoe and going downstream.

Such were the scenes that beset Mr. Hunt, and gave him a foretaste of
the difficulties of his command. The little cabarets and sutlers' shops
along the bay resounded with the scraping of fiddles, with snatches of
old French songs, with Indian whoops and yells, while every plumed and
feathered vagabond had his troop of loving cousins and comrades at his
heels. It was with the utmost difficulty they could be extricated from
the clutches of the publicans and the embraces of their pot companions,
who followed them to the water's edge with many a hug, a kiss on each
cheek, and a maudlin benediction in Canadian French.

It was about the 12th of August that they left Mackinaw, and pursued the
usual route by Green Bay, Fox and Wisconsin rivers, to Prairie du Chien,
and thence down the Mississippi to St. Louis, where they landed on the
3d of September.


     St. Louis.--Its Situation.--Motley Population.--French
     Creole Traders and Their Dependants.--Missouri Fur Company--
     Mr. Manuel Lisa.--Mississippi Boatmen.--Vagrant Indians.
     --Kentucky Hunters--Old French Mansion--Fiddling--Billiards
     --Mr. Joseph Miller--His Character--Recruits--Voyage Up the
     Missouri.--Difficulties of the River.--Merits of Canadian
     Voyageurs.-Arrival at the Nodowa.--Mr. Robert M'Lellan joins
     the Party--John Day, a Virginia Hunter. Description of Him.
     --Mr. Hunt Returns to St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS, which is situated on the right bank of the Mississippi
River, a few miles below the mouth of the Missouri, was, at that time, a
frontier settlement, and the last fitting-out place for the Indian trade
of the Southwest. It possessed a motley population, composed of the
creole descendants of the original French colonists; the keen traders
from the Atlantic States; the backwoodsmen of Kentucky and Tennessee;
the Indians and half-breeds of the prairies; together with a singular
aquatic race that had grown up from the navigation of the rivers--the
"boatmen of the Mississippi"--who possessed habits, manners, and almost
a language, peculiarly their own, and strongly technical. They, at that
time, were extremely numerous, and conducted the chief navigation and
commerce of the Ohio and the Mississippi, as the voyageurs did of the
Canadian waters; but, like them, their consequence and characteristics
are rapidly vanishing before the all-pervading intrusion of steamboats.

The old French houses engaged in the Indian trade had gathered round
them a train of dependents, mongrel Indians, and mongrel Frenchmen,
who had intermarried with Indians. These they employed in their various
expeditions by land and water. Various individuals of other countries
had, of late years, pushed the trade further into the interior, to
the upper waters of the Missouri, and had swelled the number of these
hangers-on. Several of these traders had, two or three years previously,
formed themselves into a company, composed of twelve partners, with
a capital of about forty thousand dollars, called the Missouri Fur
Company; the object of which was, to establish posts along the upper
part of that river, and monopolize the trade. The leading partner of
this company was Mr. Manuel Lisa, a Spaniard by birth, and a man of bold
and enterprising character, who had ascended the Missouri almost to its
source, and made himself well acquainted and popular with several of its
tribes. By his exertions, trading posts had been established, in 1808,
in the Sioux country, and among the Aricara and Mandan tribes; and a
principal one, under Mr. Henry, one of the partners, at the forks of
the Missouri. This company had in its employ about two hundred and fifty
men, partly American and partly creole voyageurs.

All these circumstances combined to produce a population at St. Louis
even still more motley than that at Mackinaw. Here were to be seen,
about the river banks, the hectoring, extravagant bragging boatmen of
the Mississippi, with the gay, grimacing, singing, good-humored Canadian
voyageurs. Vagrant Indians, of various tribes, loitered about
the streets. Now and then a stark Kentucky hunter, in leathern
hunting-dress, with rifle on shoulder and knife in belt, strode along.
Here and there were new brick houses and shops, just set up by bustling,
driving, and eager men of traffic from the Atlantic States; while, on
the other hand, the old French mansions, with open casements, still
retained the easy, indolent air of the original colonists; and now and
then the scraping of a fiddle, a strain of an ancient French song,
or the sound of billiard balls, showed that the happy Gallic turn for
gayety and amusement still lingered about the place.

Such was St. Louis at the time of Mr. Hunt's arrival there, and the
appearance of a new fur company, with ample funds at its command,
produced a strong sensation among the I traders of the place, and
awakened keen jealousy and opposition on the part of the Missouri
Company. Mr. Hunt proceeded to strengthen himself against all
competition. For this purpose, he secured to the interests of the
association another of those enterprising men, who had been engaged
in individual traffic with the tribes of the Missouri. This was a Mr.
Joseph Miller, a gentleman well educated and well informed, and of a
respectable family of Baltimore. He had been an officer in the army
of the United States, but had resigned in disgust, on being refused
a furlough, and had taken to trapping beaver and trading among the
Indians. He was easily induced by Mr. Hunt to join as a partner, and was
considered by him, on account of his education and acquirements, and his
experience in Indian trade, a valuable addition to the company.

Several additional men were likewise enlisted at St. Louis, some as
boatmen, and others as hunters. These last were engaged, not merely to
kill game for provisions, but also, and indeed chiefly, to trap beaver
and other animals of rich furs, valuable in the trade. They enlisted
on different terms. Some were to have a fixed salary of three hundred
dollars; others were to be fitted out and maintained at the expense of
the company, and were to hunt and trap on shares.

As Mr. Hunt met with much opposition on the part of rival traders,
especially the Missouri Fur Company, it took him some weeks to complete
his preparations. The delays which he had previously experienced at
Montreal, Mackinaw, and on the way, added to those at St. Louis, had
thrown him much behind his original calculations, so that it would be
impossible to effect his voyage up the Missouri in the present year.
This river, flowing from high and cold latitudes, and through wide and
open plains, exposed to chilling blasts, freezes early. The winter
may be dated from the first of November; there was every prospect,
therefore, that it would be closed with ice long before Mr. Hunt could
reach its upper waters. To avoid, however, the expense of wintering at
St. Louis, he determined to push up the river as far as possible, to
some point above the settlements, where game was plenty, and where his
whole party could be subsisted by hunting, until the breaking up of the
ice in the spring should permit them to resume their voyage.

Accordingly on the twenty-first of October he took his departure from
St. Louis. His party was distributed in three boats. One was the barge
which he had brought from Mackinaw; another was of a larger size, such
as was formerly used in navigating the Mohawk River, and known by the
generic name of the Schenectady barge; the other was a large keel boat,
at that time the grand conveyance on the Mississippi.

In this way they set out from St. Louis, in buoyant spirits, and soon
arrived at the mouth of the Missouri. This vast river, three thousand
miles in length, and which, with its tributary streams, drains such
an immense extent of country, was as yet but casually and imperfectly
navigated by the adventurous bark of the fur trader. A steamboat had
never yet stemmed its turbulent current. Sails were but of casual
assistance, for it required a strong wind to conquer the force of the
stream. The main dependence was on bodily strength and manual dexterity.
The boats, in general, had to be propelled by oars and setting poles,
or drawn by the hand and by grappling hooks from one root or overhanging
tree to another; or towed by the long cordelle, or towing line, where
the shores were sufficiently clear of woods and thickets to permit the
men to pass along the banks.

During this slow and tedious progress the boat would be exposed to
frequent danger from floating trees and great masses of drift-wood,
or to be impaled upon snags and sawyers; that is to say, sunken trees,
presenting a jagged or pointed end above the surface of the water. As
the channel of the river frequently shifted from side to side according
to the bends and sand-banks, the boat had, in the same way, to advance
in a zigzag course. Often a part of the crew would have to leap into the
water at the shallows, and wade along with the towing line, while
their comrades on board toilfully assisted with oar and setting
pole. Sometimes the boat would seem to be retained motionless, as
if spell-bound, opposite some point round which the current set with
violence, and where the utmost labor scarce effected any visible

On these occasions it was that the merits of the Canadian voyageurs came
into full action. Patient of toil, not to be disheartened by impediments
and disappointments, fertile in expedients, and versed in every mode
of humoring and conquering the wayward current, they would ply every
exertion, sometimes in the boat, sometimes on shore, sometimes in the
water, however cold; always alert, always in good humor; and, should
they at any time flag or grow weary, one of their popular songs,
chanted by a veteran oarsman, and responded to in chorus, acted as a
never-failing restorative.

By such assiduous and persevering labor they made their way about four
hundred and fifty miles up the Missouri, by the 16th of November, to
the mouth of the Nodowa. As this was a good hunting country, and as the
season was rapidly advancing, they determined to establish their winter
quarters at this place; and, in fact, two days after they had come to a
halt, the river closed just above their encampment.

The party had not been long at this place when they were joined by Mr.
Robert M'Lellan, another trader of the Missouri; the same who had been
associated with Mr. Crooks in the unfortunate expedition in which they
had been intercepted by the Sioux Indians, and obliged to make a rapid
retreat down the river.

M'Lellan was a remarkable man. He had been a partisan under General
Wayne, in his Indian wars, where he had distinguished himself by his
fiery spirit and reckless daring, and marvelous stories were told of
his exploits. His appearance answered to his character. His frame was
meagre, but muscular; showing strength, activity, and iron firmness. His
eyes were dark, deep-set, and piercing. He was restless, fearless, but
of impetuous and sometimes ungovernable temper. He had been invited by
Mr. Hunt to enroll himself as a partner, and gladly consented; being
pleased with the thoughts of passing with a powerful force through the
country of the Sioux, and perhaps having an opportunity of revenging
himself upon that lawless tribe for their past offenses.

Another recruit that joined the camp at Nodowa deserves equal mention.
This was John Day, a hunter from the backwoods of Virginia, who had been
several years on the Missouri in the service of Mr. Crooks, and of other
traders. He was about forty years of age, six feet two inches high,
straight as an Indian; with an elastic step as if he trod on springs,
and a handsome, open, manly countenance. It was his boast that, in his
younger days, nothing could hurt or daunt him; but he had "lived too
fast," and injured his constitution by his excesses. Still he was strong
of hand, bold of heart, a prime woodman, and an almost unerring shot. He
had the frank spirit of a Virginian, and the rough heroism of a pioneer
of the west.

The party were now brought to a halt for several months. They were in a
country abounding with deer and wild turkeys, so that there was no stint
of provisions, and every one appeared cheerful and contented. Mr. Hunt
determined to avail himself of this interval to return to St. Louis and
obtain a reinforcement.

He wished to procure an interpreter, acquainted with the language of
the Sioux, as, from all accounts, he apprehended difficulties in passing
through the country of that nation. He felt the necessity, also, of
having a greater number of hunters, not merely to keep up a supply of
provisions throughout their long and arduous expedition, but also as a
protection and defense, in case of Indian hostilities. For such service
the Canadian voyageurs were little to be depended upon, fighting not
being a part of their profession. The proper kind of men were American
hunters, experienced in savage life and savage warfare, and possessed of
the true game spirit of the west.

Leaving, therefore, the encampment in charge of the other partners, Mr.
Hunt set off on foot on the first of January (1810), for St. Louis. He
was accompanied by eight men as far as Fort Osage, about one hundred
and fifty miles below Nodowa. Here he procured a couple of horses, and
proceeded on the remainder of his journey with two men, sending the
other six back to the encampment. He arrived at St. Louis on the 20th of


     Opposition of the Missouri Fur Company.-Blackfeet Indians.--
     Pierre Dorion, a Half-Breed Interpreter.--Old Dorion and His
     Hybrid Progeny--Family Quarrels.--Cross Purposes Between
     Dorion and Lisa.--Renegadoes From Nodowa.--Perplexities of
     a Commander.--Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttall Join the
     Expedition.-Legal Embarrassments of Pierre Dorion.--
     Departure From St. Louis.--Conjugal Discipline of a Half-
     Breed.--Annual Swelling of the Rivers.-Daniel Boone, the
     Patriarch of Kentucky.-John Colter.-His Adventures Among the
     Indians.-Rumors of Danger Ahead.-Fort Osage.-An Indian War-
     Feast.-Troubles in the Dorion Family.--Buffaloes and Turkey-

ON this his second visit to St. Louis, Mr. Hunt was again impeded in his
plans by the opposition of the Missouri Fur Company. The affairs of
that company were, at this time, in a very dubious state. During the
preceding year, their principal establishment at the forks of the
Missouri had been so much harassed by the Blackfeet Indians, that its
commander, Mr. Henry, one of the partners, had been compelled to abandon
the post and cross the Rocky Mountains, with the intention of fixing
himself upon one of the upper branches of the Columbia. What had become
of him and his party was unknown. The most intense anxiety was felt
concerning them, and apprehensions that they might have been cut off
by the savages. At the time of Mr. Hunt's arrival at St. Louis, the
Missouri Company were fitting out an expedition to go in quest of Mr.
Henry. It was to be conducted by Mr. Manuel Lisa, the partner already

There being thus two expeditions on foot at the same moment, an unusual
demand was occasioned for hunters and voyageurs, who accordingly
profited by the circumstance, and stipulated for high terms. Mr. Hunt
found a keen and subtle competitor in Lisa, and was obliged to secure
his recruits by liberal advances of pay, and by other pecuniary

The greatest difficulty was to procure the Sioux interpreter. There was
but one man to be met with at St. Louis who was fitted for the purpose,
but to secure him would require much management. The individual in
question was a half-breed, named Pierre Dorion; and, as he figures
hereafter in this narrative, and is, withal, a striking specimen of the
hybrid race on the frontier, we shall give a few particulars concerning
him. Pierre was the son of Dorion, the French interpreter, who
accompanied Messrs. Lewis and Clark in their famous exploring expedition
across the Rocky Mountains. Old Dorion was one of those French creoles,
descendants of the ancient Canadian stock, who abound on the western
frontier, and amalgamate or cohabit with the savages. He had sojourned
among various tribes, and perhaps left progeny among them all; but his
regular, or habitual wife, was a Sioux squaw. By her he had a hopeful
brood of half-breed sons, of whom Pierre was one. The domestic affairs
of old Dorion were conducted on the true Indian plan. Father and sons
would occasionally get drunk together, and then the cabin was a scene of
ruffian brawl and fighting, in the course of which the old Frenchman
was apt to get soundly belabored by his mongrel offspring. In a furious
scuffle of the kind, one of the sons got the old man upon the ground,
and was upon the point of scalping him. "Hold! my son," cried the old
fellow, in imploring accents, "you are too brave, too honorable to
scalp your father!" This last appeal touched the French side of the
half-breed's heart, so he suffered the old man to wear his scalp

Of this hopeful stock was Pierre Dorion, the man whom it was now the
desire of Mr. Hunt to engage as an interpreter. He had been employed in
that capacity by the Missouri Fur Company during the preceding year, and
conducted their traders in safety through the different tribes of the
Sioux. He had proved himself faithful and serviceable while sober; but
the love of liquor, in which he had been nurtured and brought up, would
occasionally break out, and with it the savage side of his character.

It was his love of liquor which had embroiled him with the Missouri
Company. While in their service at Fort Mandan, on the frontier, he had
been seized with a whiskey mania; and, as the beverage was only to be
procured at the company's store, it had been charged in his account at
the rate of ten dollars a quart. This item had ever remained unsettled,
and a matter of furious dispute, the mere mention of which was
sufficient to put him in a passion.

The moment it was discovered by Mr. Lisa that Pierre Dorion was in
treaty with the new and rival association, he endeavored, by threats as
well as promises, to prevent his engaging in their service. His promises
might, perhaps, have prevailed; but his threats, which related to the
whiskey debt, only served to drive Pierre into the opposite ranks. Still
he took advantage of this competition for his services to stand out with
Mr. Hunt on the most advantageous terms, and, after a negotiation of
nearly two weeks, capitulated to serve in the expedition, as hunter and
interpreter, at the rate of three hundred dollars a year, two hundred of
which were to be paid in advance.

When Mr. Hunt had got everything ready for leaving St. Louis, new
difficulties arose. Five of the American hunters from the encampment at
Nodowa, suddenly made their appearance. They alleged that they had
been ill treated by the partners at the encampment, and had come off
clandestinely, in consequence of a dispute. It was useless at the
present moment, and under present circumstances, to attempt any
compulsory measures with these deserters. Two of them Mr. Hunt prevailed
upon, by mild means, to return with him. The rest refused; nay, what
was worse, they spread such reports of the hardships and dangers to be
apprehended in the course of the expedition, that they struck a panic
into those hunters who had recently engaged at St. Louis, and, when the
hour of departure arrived, all but one refused to embark. It was in vain
to plead or remonstrate; they shouldered their rifles and turned their
backs upon the expedition, and Mr. Hunt was fain to put off from shore
with the single hunter and a number of voyageurs whom he had engaged.
Even Pierre Dorion, at the last moment, refused to enter the boat until
Mr. Hunt consented to take his squaw and two children on board also. But
the tissue of perplexities, on account of this worthy individual, did
not end here.

Among the various persons who were about to proceed up the Missouri with
Mr. Hunt, were two scientific gentlemen; one Mr. John Bradbury, a man
of mature age, but great enterprise and personal activity, who had
been sent out by Linnaean Society of Liverpool to make a collection
of American plants; the other, a Mr. Nuttall, likewise an Englishman,
younger in years, who has since made himself known as the author of
Travels in Arkansas, and a work on the Genera of American Plants. Mr.
Hunt had offered them the protection and facilities of his party, in
their scientific research up the Missouri River. As they were not ready
to depart at the moment of embarkation, they put their trunks on board
of the boat, but remained at St. Louis until the next day, for the
arrival of the post, intending to join the expedition at St. Charles, a
short distance above the mouth of the Missouri.

The same evening, however, they learned that a writ had been issued
against Pierre Dorion for his whiskey debt, by Mr. Lisa, as agent of the
Missouri Company, and that it was the intention to entrap the mongrel
linguist on his arrival at St. Charles.

Upon hearing this, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Nuttall set off a little
after midnight, by land, got ahead of the boat as it was ascending the
Missouri, before its arrival at St. Charles, and gave Pierre Dorion
warning of the legal toil prepared to ensnare him.

The knowing Pierre immediately landed and took to the woods, followed by
his squaw laden with their papooses, and a large bundle containing their
most precious effects, promising to rejoin the party some distance
above St. Charles. There seemed little dependence to be placed upon the
promises of a loose adventurer of the kind, who was at the very time
playing an evasive game with his former employers; who had already
received two-thirds of his year's pay, and his rifle on his shoulder,
his family and worldly fortunes at his heels, and the wild woods before
him. There was no alternative, however, and it was hoped his pique
against his old employers would render him faithful to his new ones.

The party reached St. Charles in the afternoon, but the harpies of the
law looked in vain for their expected prey. The boats resumed their
course on the following morning, and had not proceeded far when Pierre
Dorion made his appearance on the shore. He was gladly taken on board,
but he came without his squaw. They had quarreled in the night; Pierre
had administered the Indian discipline of the cudgel, whereupon she had
taken to the woods, with their children and all their worldly goods.
Pierre evidently was deeply grieved and disconcerted at the loss of his
wife and his knapsack, whereupon Mr. Hunt despatched one of the
Canadian voyageurs in search of the fugitive; and the whole party,
after proceeding a few miles further, encamped on an island to wait
his return. The Canadian rejoined the party, but without the squaw; and
Pierre Dorion passed a solitary and anxious night, bitterly regretting
his indiscretion in having exercised his conjugal authority so near
home. Before daybreak, however, a well-known voice reached his ears from
the opposite shore. It was his repentant spouse, who had been wandering
the woods all night in quest of the party, and had at length descried it
by its fires. A boat was despatched for her, the interesting family
was once more united, and Mr. Hunt now flattered himself that his
perplexities with Pierre Dorion were at an end.

Bad weather, very heavy rains, and an unusually early rise in the
Missouri, rendered the ascent of the river toilsome, slow, and
dangerous. The rise of the Missouri does not generally take place until
the month of May or June: the present swelling of the river must have
been caused by a freshet in some of its more southern branches. It could
not have been the great annual flood, as the higher branches must still
have been ice-bound.

And here we cannot but pause, to notice the admirable arrangement of
nature, by which the annual swellings of the various great rivers which
empty themselves into the Mississippi, have been made to precede each
other at considerable intervals. Thus, the flood of the Red River
precedes that of the Arkansas by a month. The Arkansas, also, rising in
a much more southern latitude than the Missouri, takes the lead of it
in its annual excess, and its superabundant waters are disgorged and
disposed of long before the breaking up of the icy barriers of the
north; otherwise, did all these mighty streams rise simultaneously, and
discharge their vernal floods into the Mississippi, an inundation would
be the consequence, that would submerge and devastate all the lower

On the afternoon of the third day, January, 17th, the boats touched
at Charette, one of the old villages founded by the original French
colonists. Here they met with Daniel Boone, the renowned patriarch
of Kentucky, who had kept in the advance of civilization, and on the
borders of the wilderness, still leading a hunter's life, though now in
his eighty-fifth year. He had but recently returned from a hunting
and trapping expedition, and had brought nearly sixty beaver skins as
trophies of his skill. The old man was still erect in form, strong in
limb, and unflinching in spirit, and as he stood on the river bank,
watching the departure of an expedition destined to traverse the
wilderness to the very shores of the Pacific, very probably felt a throb
of his old pioneer spirit, impelling him to shoulder his rifle and join
the adventurous band. Boone flourished several years after this meeting,
in a vigorous old age, the Nestor of hunters and backwoodsmen; and died,
full of sylvan honor and renown, in 1818, in his ninety-second year.

The next morning early, as the party were yet encamped at the mouth of
a small stream, they were visited by another of these heroes of the
wilderness, one John Colter, who had accompanied Lewis and Clarke in
their memorable expedition. He had recently made one of those vast
internal voyages so characteristic of this fearless class of men, and of
the immense regions over which they hold their lonely wanderings; having
come from the head waters of the Missouri to St. Louis in a small canoe.
This distance of three thousand miles he had accomplished in thirty
days. Colter kept with the party all the morning. He had many
particulars to give them concerning the Blackfeet Indians, a restless
and predatory tribe, who had conceived an implacable hostility to the
white men, in consequence of one of their warriors having been killed
by Captain Lewis, while attempting to steal horses. Through the country
infested by these savages the expedition would have to proceed, and
Colter was urgent in reiterating the precautions that ought to be
observed respecting them. He had himself experienced their vindictive
cruelty, and his story deserves particular citation, as showing the
hairbreadth adventures to which these solitary rovers of the wilderness
are exposed.

Colter, with the hardihood of a regular trapper, had cast himself loose
from the party of Lewis and Clarke in the very heart of the wilderness,
and had remained to trap beaver alone on the head waters of the
Missouri. Here he fell in with another lonely trapper, like himself,
named Potts, and they agreed to keep together. They were in the very
region of the terrible Blackfeet, at that time thirsting to revenge the
death of their companion, and knew that they had to expect no mercy at
their hands. They were obliged to keep concealed all day in the woody
margins of the rivers, setting their traps after nightfall and taking
them up before daybreak. It was running a fearful risk for the sake of a
few beaver skins; but such is the life of the trapper.

They were on a branch of the Missouri called Jefferson Fork, and had set
their traps at night, about six miles up a small river that emptied into
the fork. Early in the morning they ascended the river in a canoe, to
examine the traps. The banks on each side were high and perpendicular,
and cast a shade over the stream. As they were softly paddling along,
they heard the trampling of many feet upon the banks. Colter immediately
gave the alarm of "Indians!" and was for instant retreat. Potts scoffed
at him for being frightened by the trampling of a herd of buffaloes.
Colter checked his uneasiness and paddled forward. They had not gone
much further when frightful whoops and yells burst forth from each side
of the river, and several hundred Indians appeared on either bank.
Signs were made to the unfortunate trappers to come on shore. They were
obliged to comply. Before they could get out of their canoe, a savage
seized the rifle belonging to Potts. Colter sprang on shore, wrestled
the weapon from the hands of the Indian, and restored it to his
companion, who was still in the canoe, and immediately pushed into the
stream. There was the sharp twang of a bow, and Potts cried out that he
was wounded. Colter urged him to come on shore and submit, as his only
chance for life; but the other knew there was no prospect of mercy, and
determined to die game. Leveling his rifle, he shot one of the savages
dead on the spot. The next moment he fell himself, pierced with
innumerable arrows.

The vengeance of the savages now turned upon Colter. He was stripped
naked, and, having some knowledge of the Blackfoot language, overheard
a consultation as to the mode of despatching him, so as to derive the
greatest amusement from his death. Some were for setting him up as a
mark, and having a trial of skill at his expense. The chief, however,
was for nobler sport. He seized Colter by the shoulder, and demanded if
he could run fast. The unfortunate trapper was too well acquainted with
Indian customs not to comprehend the drift of the question. He knew
he was to run for his life, to furnish a kind of human hunt to his
persecutors. Though in reality he was noted among his brother hunters
for swiftness of foot, he assured the chief that he was a very bad
runner. His stratagem gained him some vantage ground. He was led by the
chief into the prairie, about four hundred yards from the main body of
savages, and then turned loose to save himself if he could. A tremendous
yell let him know that the whole pack of bloodhounds were off in full
cry. Colter flew rather than ran; he was astonished at his own speed;
but he had six miles of prairie to traverse before he should reach the
Jefferson Fork of the Missouri; how could he hope to hold out such a
distance with the fearful odds of several hundred to one against him!
The plain, too, abounded with the prickly pear, which wounded his naked
feet. Still he fled on, dreading each moment to hear the twang of a bow,
and to feel an arrow quivering at his heart. He did not even dare to
look round, lest he should lose an inch of that distance on which his
life depended. He had run nearly half way across the plain when the
sound of pursuit grew somewhat fainter, and he ventured to turn his
head. The main body of his pursuers were a considerable distance behind;
several of the fastest runners were scattered in the advance; while a
swift-footed warrior, armed with a spear, was not more than a hundred
yards behind him.

Inspired with new hope, Colter redoubled his exertions, but strained
himself to such a degree, that the blood gushed from his mouth and
nostrils, and streamed down his breast. He arrived within a mile of the
river. The sound of footsteps gathered upon him. A glance behind showed
his pursuer within twenty yards, and preparing to launch his spear.
Stopping short he turned round and spread out his arms. The savage,
confounded by this sudden action, attempted to stop and hurl his spear,
but fell in the very act. His spear stuck in the ground, and the shaft
broke in his hand. Colter plucked up the pointed part, pinned the savage
to the earth, and continued his flight. The Indians, as they arrived at
their slaughtered companion, stopped to howl over him. Colter made the
most of this precious delay, gained the skirt of cotton-wood bordering
the river, dashed through it, and plunged into the stream. He swam to
a neighboring island, against the upper end of which the driftwood
had lodged in such quantities as to form a natural raft; under this he
dived, and swam below water until he succeeded in getting a breathing
place between the floating trunks of trees, whose branches and bushes
formed a covert several feet above the level of the water. He had
scarcely drawn breath after all his toils, when he heard his pursuers on
the river bank, whooping and yelling like so many fiends. They plunged
in the river, and swam to the raft. The heart of Colter almost died
within him as he saw them, through the chinks of his concealment,
passing and repassing, and seeking for him in all directions. They at
length gave up the search, and he began to rejoice in his escape, when
the idea presented itself that they might set the raft on fire. Here
was a new source of horrible apprehension, in which he remained until
nightfall. Fortunately the idea did not suggest itself to the Indians.
As soon as it was dark, finding by the silence around that his pursuers
had departed, Colter dived again and came up beyond the raft. He then
swam silently down the river for a considerable distance, when he
landed, and kept on all night, to get as far as possible from this
dangerous neighborhood.

By daybreak he had gained sufficient distance to relieve him from the
terrors of his savage foes; but now new sources of inquietude presented
themselves. He was naked and alone, in the midst of an unbounded
wilderness; his only chance was to reach a trading post of the Missouri
Company, situated on a branch of the Yellowstone River. Even should he
elude his pursuers, days must elapse before he could reach this post,
during which he must traverse immense prairies destitute of shade, his
naked body exposed to the burning heat of the sun by day, and the dews
and chills of the night season, and his feet lacerated by the thorns of
the prickly pear. Though he might see game in abundance around him, he
had no means of killing any for his sustenance, and must depend for food
upon the roots of the earth. In defiance of these difficulties he pushed
resolutely forward, guiding himself in his trackless course by those
signs and indications known only to Indians and backwoodsmen; and after
braving dangers and hardships enough to break down any spirit but that
of a western pioneer, arrived safe at the solitary post in question. *

     (* Bradbury, Travels in America, p. 17.)

Such is a sample of the rugged experience which Colter had to relate
of savage life; yet, with all these perils and terrors fresh in his
recollection, he could not see the present band on their way to those
regions of danger and adventure, without feeling a vehement impulse
to join them. A western trapper is like a sailor; past hazards only
stimulate him to further risks. The vast prairie is to the one what
the ocean is to the other, a boundless field of enterprise and exploit.
However he may have suffered in his last cruise, he is always ready to
join a new expedition; and the more adventurous its nature, the more
attractive is it to his vagrant spirit.

Nothing seems to have kept Colter from continuing with the party to
the shores of the Pacific but the circumstances of his having recently
married. All the morning he kept with them, balancing in his mind the
charms of his bride against those of the Rocky Mountains; the former,
however, prevailed, and after a march of several miles, he took a
reluctant leave of the travellers, and turned his face homeward.

Continuing their progress up the Missouri, the party encamped on the
evening of the 21st of March, in the neighborhood of a little frontier
village of French creoles. Here Pierre Dorion met with some of his old
comrades, with whom he had a long gossip, and returned to the camp with
rumors of bloody feuds between the Osages and the loways, or Ayaways,
Potowatomies, Sioux, and Sawkees. Blood had already been shed, and
scalps been taken. A war party, three hundred strong, were prowling
in the neighborhood; others might be met with higher up the river;
it behooved the travellers, therefore, to be upon their guard against
robbery or surprise, for an Indian war-party on the march is prone to
acts of outrage.

In consequence of this report, which was subsequently confirmed by
further intelligence, a guard was kept up at night round the encampment,
and they all slept on their arms. As they were sixteen in number, and
well supplied with weapons and ammunition, they trusted to be able to
give any marauding party a warm reception. Nothing occurred, however, to
molest them on their voyage, and on the 8th of April they came in sight
of Fort Osage. On their approach the flag was hoisted on the fort, and
they saluted it by a discharge of fire-arms. Within a short distance of
the fort was an Osage village, the inhabitants of which, men, women, and
children, thronged down to the water side to witness their landing. One
of the first persons they met on the river bank was Mr. Crooks, who
had come down in a boat, with nine men, from their winter encampment at
Nodowa to meet them.

They remained at Fort Osage a part of three days, during which they were
hospitably entertained at the garrison by Lieutenant Brownson, who held
a temporary command. They were regaled also with a war-feast at the
village; the Osage warriors having returned from a successful foray
against the loways, in which they had taken seven scalps. They were
paraded on poles about the village, followed by the warriors decked out
in all their savage ornaments, and hideously painted as if for battle.

By the Osage warriors, Mr. Hunt and his companions were again warned to
be on their guard in ascending the river, as the Sioux tribe meant to
lay in wait and attack them.

On the 10th of April they again embarked their party, being now
augmented to twenty-six, by the addition of Mr. Crooks and his boat's
crew. They had not proceeded far, however, when there was a great outcry
from one of the boats; it was occasioned by a little domestic discipline
in the Dorion family. The squaw of the worthy interpreter, it appeared,
had been so delighted with the scalp-dance, and other festivities of the
Osage village, that she had taken a strong inclination to remain there.
This had been as strongly opposed by her liege lord, who had compelled
her to embark. The good dame had remained sulky ever since, whereupon
Pierre, seeing no other mode of exorcising the evil spirit out of her,
and being, perhaps, a little inspired by whiskey, had resorted to the
Indian remedy of the cudgel, and before his neighbors could interfere,
had belabored her so soundly, that there is no record of her having
shown any refractory symptoms throughout the remainder of the

For a week they continued their voyage, exposed to almost incessant
rains. The bodies of drowned buffaloes floated past them in vast
numbers; many had drifted upon the shore, or against the upper ends
of the rafts and islands. These had attracted great flights of
turkey-buzzards; some were banqueting on the carcasses, others were
soaring far aloft in the sky, and others were perched on the trees, with
their backs to the sun, and their wings stretched out to dry, like so
many vessels in harbor, spreading their sails after a shower.

The turkey-buzzard (vultur aura, or golden vulture), when on the wing,
is one of the most specious and imposing of birds. Its flight in the
upper regions of the air is really sublime, extending its immense wings,
and wheeling slowly and majestically to and fro, seemingly without
exerting a muscle or fluttering a feather, but moving by mere volition,
and sailing on the bosom of the air, as a ship upon the ocean. Usurping
the empyreal realm of the eagle, he assumes for a time the port and
dignity of that majestic bird, and often is mistaken for him by ignorant
crawlers upon the earth. It is only when he descends from the clouds to
pounce upon carrion that he betrays his low propensities, and reveals
his caitiff character. Near at hand he is a disgusting bird, ragged in
plumage, base in aspect, and of loathsome odor.

On the 17th of April Mr. Hunt arrived with his party at the station
near the Nodowa River, where the main body had been quartered during the


     Return of Spring.--Appearance of Snakes.--Great Flights of
     Wild Pigeons.--Renewal of the Voyage.--Night Encampments.--
     Platte River.--Ceremonials on Passing It.--Signs of Indian
     War Parties.--Magnificent Prospect at Papillion Creek.--
     Desertion of Two Hunters.--An Irruption Into the Camp of
     Indian Desperadoes.--Village of the Omahas.--Anecdotes of the
     Tribe.--Feudal Wars of the Indians.--Story of Blackbird, the
     Famous Omaha Chief.

THE weather continued rainy and ungenial for some days after Mr. Hunt's
return to Nodowa; yet spring was rapidly advancing and vegetation was
putting forth with all its early freshness and beauty. The snakes
began to recover from their torpor and crawl forth into day; and the
neighborhood of the wintering house seems to have been much infested
with them. Mr. Bradbury, in the course of his botanical researches,
found a surprising number in a half torpid state, under flat stones
upon the banks which overhung the cantonment, and narrowly escaped being
struck by a rattlesnake, which darted at him from a cleft in the rock,
but fortunately gave him warning by his rattle.

The pigeons, too, were filling the woods in vast migratory flocks. It is
almost incredible to describe the prodigious flights of these birds in
the western wildernesses. They appear absolutely in clouds, and move
with astonishing velocity, their wings making a whistling sound as they
fly. The rapid evolutions of these flocks wheeling and shifting suddenly
as if with one mind and one impulse; the flashing changes of color they
present, as their backs their breasts, or the under part of their wings
are turned to the spectator, are singularly pleasing. When they alight,
if on the ground, they cover whole acres at a time; if upon trees, the
branches often break beneath their weight. If suddenly startled while
feeding in the midst of a forest, the noise they make in getting on the
wing is like the roar of a cataract or the sound of distant thunder.

A flight of this kind, like an Egyptian flight of locusts, devours
everything that serves for its food as it passes along. So great were
the numbers in the vicinity of the camp that Mr. Bradbury, in the
course of a morning's excursion, shot nearly three hundred with a
fowling-piece. He gives a curious, though apparently a faithful, account
of the kind of discipline observed in these immense flocks, so that each
may have a chance of picking up food. As the front ranks must meet with
the greatest abundance, and the rear ranks must have scanty pickings,
the instant a rank finds itself the hindmost, it rises in the air, flies
over the whole flock and takes its place in the advance. The next rank
follows in its course, and thus the last is continually becoming first
and all by turns have a front place at the banquet.

The rains having at length subsided, Mr. Hunt broke up the encampment
and resumed his course up the Missouri.

The party now consisted of nearly sixty persons, of whom five were
partners, one, John Reed, was a clerk; forty were Canadian "voyageurs,"
or "engages," and there were several hunters. They embarked in four
boats, one of which was of a large size, mounting a swivel, and two
howitzers. All were furnished with masts and sails, to be used when the
wind was sufficiently favorable and strong to overpower the current of
the river. Such was the case for the first four or five days, when they
were wafted steadily up the stream by a strong southeaster.

Their encampments at night were often pleasant and picturesque: on some
beautiful bank, beneath spreading trees, which afforded them shelter and
fuel. The tents were pitched, the fires made, and the meals prepared by
the voyageurs, and many a story was told, and joke passed, and song sung
round the evening fire. All, however, were asleep at an early hour. Some
under the tents, others wrapped in blankets before the fire, or beneath
the trees; and some few in the boats and canoes.

On the 28th, they breakfasted on one of the islands which lie at the
mouth of the Nebraska or Platte River--the largest tributary of the
Missouri, and about six hundred miles above its confluence with the
Mississippi. This broad but shallow stream flows for an immense distance
through a wide and verdant valley scooped out of boundless prairies. It
draws its main supplies, by several forks or branches, from the Rocky
Mountains. The mouth of this river is established as the dividing point
between the upper and lower Missouri; and the earlier voyagers, in
their toilsome ascent, before the introduction of steamboats, considered
one-half of their labors accomplished when they reached this place. The
passing of the mouth of the Nebraska, therefore, was equivalent among
boatmen to the crossing of the line among sailors, and was celebrated
with like ceremonials of a rough and waggish nature, practiced upon the
uninitiated; among which was the old nautical joke of shaving. The river
deities, however, like those of the sea, were to be propitiated by a
bribe, and the infliction of these rude honors to be parried by a treat
to the adepts.

At the mouth of the Nebraska new signs were met with of war parties
which had recently been in the vicinity. There was the frame of a skin
canoe, in which the warriors had traversed the river. At night, also,
the lurid reflection of immense fires hung in the sky, showing the
conflagration of great tracts of the prairies. Such fires not being made
by hunters so late in the season, it was supposed they were caused by
some wandering war parties. These often take the precaution to set the
prairies on fire behind them to conceal their traces from their enemies.
This is chiefly done when the party has been unsuccessful, and is on the
retreat and apprehensive of pursuit. At such time it is not safe even
for friends to fall in with them, as they are apt to be in savage humor,
and disposed to vent their spleen in capricious outrage. These signs,
therefore, of a band of marauders on the prowl, called for some degree
of vigilance on the part of the travellers.

After passing the Nebraska, the party halted for part of two days on the
bank of the river, a little above Papillion Creek, to supply themselves
with a stock of oars and poles from the tough wood of the ash, which
is not met with higher up the Missouri. While the voyagers were thus
occupied, the naturalists rambled over the adjacent country to collect
plants. From the summit of a range of bluffs on the opposite side of the
river, about two hundred and fifty feet high, they had one of those vast
and magnificent prospects which sometimes unfold themselves in those
boundless regions. Below them was the Valley of the Missouri, about
seven miles in breadth, clad in the fresh verdure of spring; enameled
with flowers and interspersed with clumps and groves of noble trees,
between which the mighty river poured its turbulent and turbid stream.
The interior of the country presented a singular scene; the immense
waste being broken up by innumerable green hills, not above eight feet
in height, but extremely steep, and actually pointed at their summits. A
long line of bluffs extended for upwards of thirty miles parallel to
the Missouri, with a shallow lake stretching along their base, which had
evidently once formed a bed of the river. The surface of this lake was
covered with aquatic plants, on the broad leaves of which numbers of
water-snakes, drawn forth by the genial warmth of spring, were basking
in the sunshine.

On the 2d day of May, at the usual hour of embarking, the camp was
thrown into some confusion by two of the hunters, named Harrington,
expressing their intention to abandon the expedition and return home.
One of these had joined the party in the preceding autumn, having been
hunting for two years on the Missouri; the other had engaged at St.
Louis, in the following March, and had come up from thence with Mr.
Hunt. He now declared that he had enlisted merely for the purpose
of following his brother, and persuading him to return; having been
enjoined to do so by his mother, whose anxiety had been awakened by the
idea of his going on such a wild and distant expedition.

The loss of two stark hunters and prime riflemen was a serious affair to
the party, for they were approaching the region where they might expect
hostilities from the Sioux; indeed, throughout the whole of their
perilous journey, the services of such men would be all important, for
little reliance was to be placed upon the valor of the Canadians in
case of attack. Mr. Hunt endeavored by arguments, expostulations,
and entreaties, to shake the determination of the two brothers. He
represented to them that they were between six and seven hundred miles
above the mouth of the Missouri; that they would have four hundred miles
to go before they could reach the habitation of a white man, throughout
which they would be exposed to all kinds of risks; since, he declared,
if they persisted in abandoning him and breaking their faith, he would
not furnish them with a single round of ammunition. All was in vain;
they obstinately persisted in their resolution; whereupon, Mr. Hunt,
partly incited by indignation, partly by the policy of deterring others
from desertion, put his threat into execution, and left them to find
their way back to the settlements without, as he supposed, a single
bullet or charge of powder.

The boats now continued their slow and toilsome course for several days,
against the current of the river. The late signs of roaming war parties
caused a vigilant watch to be kept up at night when the crews encamped
on shore; nor was this vigilance superfluous; for on the night of the
seventh instant, there was a wild and fearful yell, and eleven Sioux
warriors, stark naked, with tomahawks in their hands, rushed into the
camp. They were instantly surrounded and seized, whereupon their leader
called out to his followers to desist from any violence, and pretended
to be perfectly pacific in his intentions. It proved, however, that they
were a part of the war party, the skeleton of whose canoe had been seen
at the mouth of the river Platte, and the reflection of whose fires had
been descried in the air. They had been disappointed or defeated in the
foray, and in their rage and mortification these eleven warriors had
"devoted their clothes to the medicine." This is a desperate act of
Indian braves when foiled in war, and in dread of scoffs and sneers. In
such case they sometimes threw off their clothes and ornaments, devote
themselves to the Great Spirit, and attempt some reckless exploit with
which to cover their disgrace. Woe to any defenseless party of white men
that may then fall in their way!

Such was the explanation given by Pierre Dorion, the half-breed
interpreter, of this wild intrusion into the camp; and the party were
so exasperated when appraised of the sanguinary intentions of the
prisoners, that they were for shooting them on the spot. Mr. Hunt,
however, exerted his usual moderation and humanity, and ordered
that they should be conveyed across the river in one of the boats,
threatening them however, with certain death if again caught in any
hostile act.

On the 10th of May the party arrived at the Omaha (pronounced Omawhaw)
village, about eight hundred and thirty miles above the mouth of the
Missouri, and encamped in its neighborhood. The village was situated
under a hill on the bank of the river, and consisted of about eighty
lodges. These were of a circular and conical form, and about sixteen
feet in diameter; being mere tents of dressed buffalo skins, sewed
together and stretched on long poles, inclined towards each other so as
to cross at about half their height. Thus the naked tops of the poles
diverge in such a manner that, if they were covered with skins like the
lower ends, the tent would be shaped like an hour-glass, and present the
appearance of one cone inverted on the apex of another.

The forms of Indian lodges are worthy of attention, each tribe having
a different mode of shaping and arranging them, so that it is easy to
tell, on seeing a lodge or an encampment at a distance, to what tribe
the inhabitants belong. The exterior of the Omaha lodges have often a
gay and fanciful appearance, being painted with undulating bands of
red or yellow, or decorated with rude figures of horses, deer, and
buffaloes, and with human faces, painted like full moons, four and five
feet broad.

The Omahas were once one of the numerous and powerful tribes of the
prairies, vying in warlike might and prowess with the Sioux, the
Pawnees, the Sauks, the Konsas, and the Iatans. Their wars with the
Sioux, however, had thinned their ranks, and the small-pox in 1802 had
swept off two thirds of their number. At the time of Mr. Hunt's visit
they still boasted about two hundred warriors and hunters, but they are
now fast melting away, and before long, will be numbered among those
extinguished nations of the west that exist but in tradition.

In his correspondence with Mr. Astor, from this point of his journey,
Mr. Hunt gives a sad account of the Indian tribes bordering on the
river. They were in continual war with each other, and their wars were
of the most harassing kind; consisting, not merely of main conflicts and
expeditions of moment, involving the sackings, burnings, and massacres
of towns and villages, but of individual acts of treachery, murder, and
cold-blooded cruelty; or of vaunting and foolhardy exploits of single
warriors, either to avenge some personal wrong, or gain the vainglorious
trophy of a scalp. The lonely hunter, the wandering wayfarer, the poor
squaw cutting wood or gathering corn, was liable to be surprised and
slaughtered. In this way tribes were either swept away at once, or
gradually thinned out, and savage life was surrounded with constant
horrors and alarms. That the race of red men should diminish from
year to year, and so few should survive of the numerous nations
which evidently once peopled the vast regions of the west, is nothing
surprising; it is rather matter of surprise that so many should survive;
for the existence of a savage in these parts seems little better than a
prolonged and all-besetting death. It is, in fact, a caricature of the
boasted romance of feudal times; chivalry in its native and uncultured
state, and knight-errantry run wild.

In their most prosperous days, the Omahas looked upon themselves as the
most powerful and perfect of human beings, and considered all created
things as made for their peculiar use and benefit. It is this tribe of
whose chief, the famous Wash-ing-guhsah-ba, or Blackbird, such savage
and romantic stories are told. He had died about ten years previous to
the arrival of Mr. Hunt's party, but his name was still mentioned with
awe by his people. He was one of the first among the Indian chiefs on
the Missouri to deal with the white traders, and showed great sagacity
in levying his royal dues. When a trader arrived in his village, he
caused all his goods to be brought into his lodge and opened. From these
he selected whatever suited his sovereign pleasure; blankets, tobacco,
whiskey, powder, ball, beads, and red paint; and laid the articles on
one side, without deigning to give any compensation. Then calling to him
his herald or crier, he would order him to mount on top of the lodge
and summon all the tribe to bring in their peltries, and trade with the
white man. The lodge would soon be crowded with Indians bringing bear,
beaver, otter, and other skins. No one was allowed to dispute the prices
fixed by the white trader upon his articles; who took care to indemnify
himself five times over for the goods set apart by the chief. In this
way the Blackbird enriched himself, and enriched the white men, and
became exceedingly popular among the traders of the Missouri. His
people, however, were not equally satisfied by a regulation of trade
which worked so manifestly against them, and began to show signs of
discontent. Upon this a crafty and unprincipled trader revealed a secret
to the Blackbird, by which he might acquire unbounded sway over his
ignorant and superstitious subjects. He instructed him in the poisonous
qualities of arsenic, and furnished him with an ample supply of
that baneful drug. From this time the Blackbird seemed endowed with
supernatural powers, to possess the gift of prophecy, and to hold
the disposal of life and death within his hands. Woe to any one who
questioned his authority or dared to dispute his commands! The Blackbird
prophesied his death within a certain time, and he had the secret means
of verifying his prophecy. Within the fated period the offender was
smitten with strange and sudden disease, and perished from the face of
the earth. Every one stood aghast at these multiplied examples of his
superhuman might, and dreaded to displease so omnipotent and vindictive
a being; and the Blackbird enjoyed a wide and undisputed sway.

It was not, however, by terror alone that he ruled his people; he was a
warrior of the first order, and his exploits in arms were the theme
of young and old. His career had begun by hardships, having been taken
prisoner by the Sioux, in early youth. Under his command, the Omahas
obtained great character for military prowess, nor did he permit an
insult or an injury to one of his tribe to pass unrevenged. The
Pawnee republicans had inflicted a gross indignity on a favorite and
distinguished Omaha brave. The Blackbird assembled his warriors, led
them against the Pawnee town, attacked it with irresistible fury,
slaughtered a great number of its inhabitants, and burnt it to the
ground. He waged fierce and bloody war against the Ottoes for many
years, until peace was effected between them by the mediation of the
whites. Fearless in battle, and fond of signalizing himself, he dazzled
his followers by daring acts. In attacking a Kanza village, he rode
singly round it, loading and discharging his rifle at the inhabitants as
he galloped past them. He kept up in war the same idea of mysterious
and supernatural power. At one time, when pursuing a war party by their
tracks across the prairies, he repeatedly discharged his rifle into the
prints made by their feet and by the hoofs of their horses, assuring
his followers that he would thereby cripple the fugitives, so that they
would easily be overtaken. He in fact did overtake them, and destroyed
them almost to a man; and his victory was considered miraculous, both
by friends and foe. By these and similar exploits, he made himself
the pride and boast of his people, and became popular among them,
notwithstanding his death-denouncing fiat.

With all his savage and terrific qualities, he was sensible of the power
of female beauty, and capable of love. A war party of the Poncas had
made a foray into the lands of the Omahas, and carried off a number of
women and horses. The Blackbird was roused to fury, and took the field
with all his braves, swearing to "eat up the Ponca nation"--the Indian
threat of exterminating war. The Poncas, sorely pressed, took refuge
behind a rude bulwark of earth; but the Blackbird kept up so galling a
fire, that he seemed likely to execute his menace. In their extremity
they sent forth a herald, bearing the calumet or pipe of peace, but he
was shot down by order of the Blackbird. Another herald was sent forth
in similar guise, but he shared a like fate. The Ponca chief then, as a
last hope, arrayed his beautiful daughter in her finest ornaments,
and sent her forth with a calumet, to sue for peace. The charms of the
Indian maid touched the stern heart of the Blackbird; he accepted the
pipe at her hand, smoked it, and from that time a peace took place
between the Poncas and the Omahas.

This beautiful damsel, in all probability, was the favorite wife whose
fate makes so tragic an incident in the story of the Blackbird. Her
youth and beauty had gained an absolute sway over his rugged heart, so
that he distinguished her above all of his other wives. The habitual
gratification of his vindictive impulses, however, had taken away from
him all mastery over his passions, and rendered him liable to the most
furious transports of rage. In one of these his beautiful wife had the
misfortune to offend him, when suddenly drawing his knife, he laid her
dead at his feet with a single blow.

In an instant his frenzy was at an end. He gazed for a time in mute
bewilderment upon his victim; then drawing his buffalo robe over his
head, he sat down beside the corpse, and remained brooding over his
crime and his loss. Three days elapsed, yet the chief continued silent
and motionless; tasting no food, and apparently sleepless. It was
apprehended that he intended to starve himself to death; his people
approached him in trembling awe, and entreated him once more to uncover
his face and be comforted; but he remained unmoved. At length one of his
warriors brought in a small child, and laying it on the ground, placed
the foot of the Blackbird upon its neck. The heart of the gloomy savage
was touched by this appeal; he threw aside his robe; made an harangue
upon what he had done; and from that time forward seemed to have thrown
the load of grief and remorse from his mind.

He still retained his fatal and mysterious secret, and with it his
terrific power; but, though able to deal death to his enemies, he could
not avert it from himself or his friends. In 1802 the small-pox, that
dreadful pestilence, which swept over the land like a fire over the
prairie, made its appearance in the village of the Omahas. The poor
savages saw with dismay the ravages of a malady, loathsome and agonizing
in its details, and which set the skill and experience of their
conjurors and medicine men at defiance. In a little while, two thirds
of the population were swept from the face of the earth, and the doom of
the rest seemed sealed. The stoicism of the warriors was at an end; they
became wild and desperate; some set fire to the village as a last means
of checking the pestilence; others, in a frenzy of despair, put their
wives and children to death, that they might be spared the agonies of an
inevitable disease, and that they might all go to some better country.

When the general horror and dismay was at its height, the Blackbird
himself was struck down with the malady. The poor savages, when they
saw their chief in danger, forgot their own miseries, and surrounded
his dying bed. His dominant spirit, and his love for the white men,
were evinced in his latest breath, with which he designated his place of
sepulture. It was to be on a hill or promontory, upwards of four hundred
feet in height, overlooking a great extent of the Missouri, from whence
he had been accustomed to watch for the barks of the white men. The
Missouri washes the base of the promontory, and after winding and
doubling in many links and mazes in the plain below, returns to within
nine hundred yards of its starting-place; so that for thirty miles
navigating with sail and oar the voyager finds himself continually near
to this singular promontory as if spell-bound.

It was the dying command of the Blackbird that his tomb should be on
the summit of this hill, in which he should be interred, seated on his
favorite horse, that he might overlook his ancient domain, and behold
the barks of the white men as they came up the river to trade with his

His dying orders were faithfully obeyed. His corpse was placed astride
of his war-steed and a mound raised over them on the summit of the hill.
On top of the mound was erected a staff, from which fluttered the banner
of the chieftain, and the scalps that he had taken in battle. When the
expedition under Mr. Hunt visited that part of the country, the staff
still remained, with the fragments of the banner; and the superstitious
rite of placing food from time to time on the mound, for the use of the
deceased, was still observed by the Omahas. That rite has since fallen
into disuse, for the tribe itself is almost extinct. Yet the hill of the
Blackbird continues an object of veneration to the wandering savage,
and a landmark to the voyager of the Missouri; and as the civilized
traveller comes within sight of its spell-bound crest, the mound is
pointed out to him from afar, which still incloses the grim skeletons of
the Indian warrior and his horse.


     Rumors of Danger From the Sioux Tetons.--Ruthless Character
     of Those Savages.--Pirates of the Missouri.--Their Affair
     with Crooks and M'Lellan.--A Trading Expedition Broken Up.--
     M'Lellan's Vow of Vengeance.--Uneasiness in the Camp.--
     Desertions.-Departure From the Omaha Village.--Meeting With
     Jones and Carson, two Adventurous Trappers.--Scientific
     Pursuits of Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttall.--Zeal of a
     Botanist.--Adventure of Mr. Bradbury with a Ponca Indian.--
     Expedient of the Pocket Compass and Microscope.--A Messenger
     From Lisa.--Motives for Pressing Forward.

WHILE Mr. Hunt and his party were sojourning at the village of the
Omahas, three Sioux Indians of the Yankton Alma tribe arrived, bringing
unpleasant intelligence. They reported that certain bands of the Sioux
Tetons, who inhabited a region many leagues further up the Missouri,
were near at hand, awaiting the approach of the party, with the avowed
intention of opposing their progress.

The Sioux Tetons were at that time a sort of pirates of the Missouri,
who considered the well freighted bark of the American trader fair game.
They had their own traffic with the British merchants of the Northwest,
who brought them regular supplies of merchandise by way of the river
St. Peter. Being thus independent of the Missouri traders for their
supplies, they kept no terms with them, but plundered them whenever they
had an opportunity. It has been insinuated that they were prompted to
these outrages by the British merchants, who wished to keep off all
rivals in the Indian trade; but others allege another motive, and one
savoring of a deeper policy. The Sioux, by their intercourse with the
British traders, had acquired the use of firearms, which had given them
vast superiority over other tribes higher up the Missouri. They had made
themselves also, in a manner, factors for the upper tribes, supplying
them at second hand, and at greatly advanced prices, with goods derived
from the white men. The Sioux, therefore, saw with jealousy the American
traders pushing their way up the Missouri; foreseeing that the upper
tribes would thus be relieved from all dependence on them for supplies;
nay, what was worse, would be furnished with fire-arms, and elevated
into formidable rivals.

We have already alluded to a case in which Mr. Crooks and Mr. M'Lellan
had been interrupted in a trading voyage by these ruffians of the river,
and, as it is in some degree connected with circumstances hereafter to
be related, we shall specify it more particularly.

About two years before the time of which we are treating, Crooks and
M'Lellan were ascending the river in boats with a party of about forty
men, bound on one of their trading expeditions to the upper tribes. In
one of the bends of the river, where the channel made a deep curve under
impending banks, they suddenly heard yells and shouts above them, and
beheld the cliffs overhead covered with armed savages. It was a band
of Sioux warriors, upwards of six hundred strong. They brandished their
weapons in a menacing manner, and ordered the boats to turn back and
land lower down the river. There was no disputing these commands, for
they had the power to shower destruction upon the white men, without
risk to themselves. Crooks and M'Lellan, therefore, turned back with
feigned alacrity, and, landing, had an interview with the Sioux.
The latter forbade them, under pain of exterminating hostility, from
attempting to proceed up the river, but offered to trade peacefully with
them if they would halt where they were. The party, being principally
composed of voyageurs, was too weak to contend with so superior a
force, and one so easily augmented; they pretended, therefore, to comply
cheerfully with their arbitrary dictation, and immediately proceeded to
cut down trees and erect a trading house. The warrior band departed for
their village, which was about twenty miles distant, to collect objects
of traffic; they left six or eight of their number, however, to keep
watch upon the white men, and scouts were continually passing to and fro
with intelligence.

Mr. Crooks saw that it would be impossible to prosecute his voyage
without the danger of having his boats plundered, and a great part of
his men massacred; he determined, however, not to be entirely frustrated
in the objects of his expedition. While he continued, therefore, with
great apparent earnestness and assiduity, the construction of the
trading house, he despatched the hunters and trappers of his party in
a canoe, to make their way up the river to the original place of
destination, there to busy themselves in trapping and collecting
peltries, and to await his arrival at some future period.

As soon as the detachment had had sufficient time to ascend beyond the
hostile country of the Sioux, Mr. Crooks suddenly broke up his feigned
trading establishment, embarked his men and effects, and, after giving
the astonished rear-guard of savages a galling and indignant message to
take to their countrymen, pushed down the river with all speed, sparing
neither oar nor paddle, day nor night, until fairly beyond the swoop of
these river hawks.

What increased the irritation of Messrs. Crooks and M'Lellan, at this
mortifying check to their gainful enterprise, was the information that a
rival trader was at the bottom of it; the Sioux, it is said, having been
instigated to this outrage by Mr. Manuel Lisa, the leading partner and
agent of the Missouri Fur Company, already mentioned. This intelligence,
whether true or false, so roused the fiery temper of M'Lellan, that
he swore, if ever he fell in with Lisa in the Indian country, he would
shoot him on the spot; a mode of redress perfectly in unison with
the character of the man, and the code of honor prevalent beyond the

If Crooks and M'Lellan had been exasperated by the insolent conduct
of the Sioux Tetons, and the loss which it had occasioned, those
freebooters had been no less indignant at being outwitted by the white
men, and disappointed of their anticipated gains, and it was apprehended
they would be particularly hostile against the present expedition, when
they should learn that these gentlemen were engaged in it.

All these causes of uneasiness were concealed as much as possible from
the Canadian voyageurs, lest they should become intimidated; it was
impossible, however, to prevent the rumors brought by the Indians from
leaking out, and they became subjects of gossiping and exaggeration.
The chief of the Omahas, too, on returning from a hunting excursion,
reported that two men had been killed some distance above, by a band
of Sioux. This added to the fears that already began to be excited.
The voyageurs pictured to themselves bands of fierce warriors stationed
along each bank of the river, by whom they would be exposed to be shot
down in their boats: or lurking hordes, who would set on them at night,
and massacre them in their encampments. Some lost heart, and proposed to
return, rather than fight their way, and, in a manner, run the gauntlet
through the country of these piratical marauders. In fact, three men
deserted while at this village. Luckily, their place was supplied by
three others who happened to be there, and who were prevailed on to join
the expedition by promises of liberal pay, and by being fitted out and
equipped in complete style.

The irresolution and discontent visible among some of his people,
arising at times almost to mutiny, and the occasional desertions which
took place while thus among friendly tribes, and within reach of the
frontiers, added greatly to the anxieties of Mr. Hunt, and rendered him
eager to press forward and leave a hostile tract behind him, so that it
would be as perilous to return as to keep on, and no one would dare to

Accordingly, on the 15th of May he departed from the village of the
Omahas, and set forward towards the country of the formidable Sioux
Tetons. For the first five days they had a fair and fresh breeze, and
the boats made good progress. The wind then came ahead, and the
river beginning to rise, and to increase in rapidity, betokened the
commencement of the annual flood, caused by the melting of the snow on
the Rocky Mountains, and the vernal rains of the upper prairies.

As they were now entering a region where foes might be lying in wait
on either bank, it was determined, in hunting for game, to confine
themselves principally to the islands, which sometimes extend to
considerable length, and are beautifully wooded, affording abundant
pasturage and shade. On one of these they killed three buffaloes and two
elks, and halting on the edge of a beautiful prairie, made a sumptuous
hunter's repast. They had not long resumed their boats and pulled along
the river banks when they descried a canoe approaching, navigated by
two men, whom, to their surprise, they ascertained to be white men.
They proved to be two of those strange and fearless wanderers of the
wilderness, the trappers. Their names were Benjamin Jones and Alexander
Carson. They had been for two years past hunting and trapping near the
head of the Missouri, and were thus floating for thousands of miles in
a cockle-shell, down a turbulent stream, through regions infested by
savage tribes, yet apparently as easy and unconcerned as if navigating
securely in the midst of civilization.

The acquisition of two such hardy, experienced, and dauntless hunters
was peculiarly desirable at the present moment. They needed but little
persuasion. The wilderness is the home of the trapper; like the sailor,
he cares but little to which point of the compass he steers; and Jones
and Carson readily abandoned their voyage to St. Louis, and turned their
faces towards the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific.

The two naturalists, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Nuttall, who had joined
the expedition at St. Louis, still accompanied it, and pursued their
researches on all occasions. Mr. Nuttall seems to have been exclusively
devoted to his scientific pursuits. He was a zealous botanist, and
all his enthusiasm was awakened at beholding a new world, as it were,
opening upon him in the boundless prairies, clad in the vernal and
variegated robe of unknown flowers. Whenever the boats landed at meal
times, or for any temporary purpose, he would spring on shore, and set
out on a hunt for new specimens. Every plant or flower of a rare or
unknown species was eagerly seized as a prize. Delighted with the
treasures spreading themselves out before him, he went groping and
stumbling along among the wilderness of sweets, forgetful of everything
but his immediate pursuit, and had often to be sought after when the
boats were about to resume their course. At such times he would be found
far off in the prairies, or up the course of some petty stream, laden
with plants of all kinds.

The Canadian voyageurs, who are a class of people that know nothing out
of their immediate line, and with constitutional levity make a jest of
anything they cannot understand, were extremely puzzled by this passion
for collecting what they considered mere useless weeds. When they saw
the worthy botanist coming back heavy laden with his specimens, and
treasuring them up as carefully as a miser would his hoard, they used
to make merry among themselves at his expense, regarding him as some
whimsical kind of madman.

Mr. Bradbury was less exclusive in his tastes and habits, and combined
the hunter and sportsman with the naturalist. He took his rifle or his
fowling-piece with him in his geological researches, conformed to the
hardy and rugged habits of the men around him, and of course gained
favor in their eyes. He had a strong relish for incident and adventure,
was curious in observing savage manners, and savage life, and ready to
join any hunting or other excursion. Even now, that the expedition was
proceeding through a dangerous neighborhood, he could not check his
propensity to ramble. Having observed, on the evening of the 22d of
May, that the river ahead made a great bend which would take up
the navigation of the following day, he determined to profit by
the circumstance. On the morning of the 23d, therefore, instead of
embarking, he filled his shot-pouch with parched corn, for provisions,
and set off to cross the neck on foot and meet the boats in the
afternoon at the opposite side of the bend. Mr. Hunt felt uneasy at
his venturing thus alone, and reminded him that he was in an enemy's
country; but Mr. Bradbury made light of the danger, and started off
cheerily upon his ramble. His day was passed pleasantly in traversing
a beautiful tract, making botanical and geological researches, and
observing the habits of an extensive village of prairie dogs, at which
he made several ineffectual shots, without considering the risk he ran
of attracting the attention of any savages that might be lurking in the
neighborhood. In fact he had totally forgotten the Sioux Tetons, and
all the other perils of the country, when, about the middle of the
afternoon, as he stood near the river bank, and was looking out for the
boat, he suddenly felt a hand laid on his shoulder. Starting and turning
round, he beheld a naked savage with a bow bent, and the arrow pointed
at his breast. In an instant his gun was leveled and his hand upon the
lock. The Indian drew his bow still further, but forbore to launch the
shaft. Mr. Bradbury, with admirable presence of mind, reflected that the
savage, if hostile in his intents, would have shot him without giving
him a chance of defense; he paused, therefore, and held out his hand.
The other took it in sign of friendship, and demanded in the Osage
language whether he was a Big Knife, or American. He answered in the
affirmative, and inquired whether the other were a Sioux. To his great
relief he found that he was a Ponca. By his time two other Indians came
running up, and all three laid hold of Mr. Bradbury and seemed disposed
to compel him to go off with them among the hills. He resisted, and
sitting down on a sand hill contrived to amuse them with a pocket
compass. When the novelty of this was exhausted they again seized him,
but he now produced a small microscope. This new wonder again fixed the
attention of the savages, who have more curiosity than it has been the
custom to allow them. While thus engaged, one of them suddenly leaped up
and gave a war-whoop. The hand of the hardy naturalist was again on his
gun, and he was prepared to make battle, when the Indian pointed down
the river and revealed the true cause of his yell. It was the mast of
one of the boats appearing above the low willows which bordered the
stream. Mr. Bradbury felt infinitely relieved by the sight. The Indians
on their part now showed signs of apprehension, and were disposed to run
away; but he assured them of good treatment and something to drink if
they would accompany him on board of the boats. They lingered for a
time, but disappeared before the boats came to land.

On the following morning they appeared at camp accompanied by several of
their tribe. With them came also a white man, who announced himself as
a messenger bearing missives for Mr. Hunt. In fact he brought a letter
from Mr. Manuel Lisa, partner and agent of the Missouri Fur Company. As
has already been mentioned, this gentleman was going in search of
Mr. Henry and his party, who had been dislodged from the forks of the
Missouri by the Blackfeet Indians, and had shifted his post somewhere
beyond the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Lisa had left St. Louis three weeks
after Mr. Hunt, and having heard of the hostile intentions of the Sioux,
had made the greatest exertions to overtake him, that they might pass
through the dangerous part of the river together. He had twenty stout
oarsmen in his service and they plied their oars so vigorously, that he
had reached the Omaha village just four days after the departure of Mr.
Hunt. From this place he despatched the messenger in question, trusting
to his overtaking the barges as they toiled up against the stream, and
were delayed by the windings of the river. The purport of his letter was
to entreat Mr. Hunt to wait until he could come up with him, that they
might unite their forces and be a protection to each other in their
perilous course through the country of the Sioux. In fact, as it was
afterwards ascertained, Lisa was apprehensive that Mr. Hunt would do him
some ill office with the Sioux band, securing his own passage through
their country by pretending that he, with whom they were accustomed
to trade, was on his way to them with a plentiful supply of goods. He
feared, too, that Crooks and M'Lellan would take this opportunity to
retort upon him the perfidy which they accused him of having used, two
years previously, among these very Sioux. In this respect, however, he
did them signal injustice. There was no such thing as court design or
treachery in their thought; but M'Lellan, when he heard that Lisa was on
his way up the river, renewed his open threat of shooting him the moment
he met him on Indian land.

The representations made by Crooks and M'Lellan of the treachery they
had experienced, or fancied, on the part of Lisa, had great weight with
Mr. Hunt, especially when he recollected the obstacles that had been
thrown in his way by that gentleman at St. Louis. He doubted, therefore,
the fair dealing of Lisa, and feared that, should they enter the Sioux
country together, the latter might make use of his influence with that
tribe, as he had in the case of Crooks and M'Lellan, and instigate them
to oppose his progress up the river.

He sent back, therefore, an answer calculated to beguile Lisa, assuring
him that he would wait for him at the Poncas village, which was but a
little distance in advance; but, no sooner had the messenger departed,
than he pushed forward with all diligence, barely stopping at the
village to procure a supply of dried buffalo meat, and hastened to leave
the other party as far behind as possible, thinking there was less to be
apprehended from the open hostility of Indian foes than from the quiet
strategy of an Indian trader.


     Camp Gossip.--Deserters.--Recruits.--Kentucky Hunters.--A
     Veteran Woodman.--Tidings of Mr. Henry.-Danger From the
     Blackfeet.--Alteration of Plans.--Scenery of the River.--
     Buffalo Roads.--Iron Ore.--Country of the Sioux.--A Land of
     Danger.-apprehensions of the Voyageurs.--Indian Scouts.--
     Threatened Hostilities.--A Council of War.--An Array of
     Battle.--A Parley.--The Pipe of Peace.--Speech-Making.

IT was about noon when the party left the Poncas village, about a league
beyond which they passed the mouth of the Quicourt, or Rapid River
(called, in the original French, l'Eau Qui Court). After having
proceeded some distance further, they landed, and encamped for the
night. In the evening camp, the voyageurs gossiped, as usual, over the
events of the day; and especially over intelligence picked up among the
Poncas. These Indians had confirmed the previous reports of the hostile
intentions of the Sioux, and had assured them that five tribes, or
bands, of that fierce nation were actually assembled higher up the
river, and waiting to cut them off. This evening gossip, and the
terrific stories of Indian warfare to which it gave rise, produced a
strong effect upon the imagination of the irresolute; and in the morning
it was discovered that the two men, who had joined the party at the
Omaha village, and been so bounteously fitted out, had deserted in the
course of the night, carrying with them all their equipments. As it was
known that one of them could not swim, it was hoped that the banks of
the Quicourt River would bring them to a halt. A general pursuit was
therefore instituted, but without success.

On the following morning (May 26th), as they were all on shore,
breakfasting on one of the beautiful banks of the river, they
observed two canoes descending along the opposite side. By the aid of
spy-glasses, they ascertained that there were two white men in one of
the canoes, and one in the other. A gun was discharged, which called the
attention of the voyagers, who crossed over. They proved to be the three
Kentucky hunters, of the true "dreadnought" stamp. Their names were
Edward Robinson, John Hoback, and Jacob Rizner. Robinson was a veteran
backwoodsman, sixty-six years of age. He had been one of the first
settlers of Kentucky, and engaged in many of the conflicts of the
Indians on "the Bloody Ground." In one of these battles he had been
scalped, and he still wore a handkerchief bound round his head to
protect the part. These men had passed several years in the upper
wilderness. They had been in the service of the Missouri Company under
Mr. Henry, and had crossed the Rocky Mountains with him in the preceding
year, when driven from his post on the Missouri by the hostilities of
the Blackfeet. After crossing the mountains, Mr. Henry had established
himself on one of the head branches of the Columbia River. There they
had remained with him some months, hunting and trapping, until, having
satisfied their wandering propensities, they felt disposed to return to
the families and comfortable homes which they had left in Kentucky. They
had accordingly made their way back across the mountains, and down
the rivers, and were in full career for St. Louis, when thus suddenly
interrupted. The sight of a powerful party of traders, trappers,
hunters, and voyageurs, well armed and equipped, furnished at all
points, in high health and spirits, and banqueting lustily on the
green margin of the river, was a spectacle equally stimulating to these
veteran backwoodsmen with the glorious array of a campaigning army to
an old soldier; but when they learned the grand scope and extent of the
enterprise in hand, it was irresistible; homes and families and all the
charms of green Kentucky vanished from their thoughts; they cast loose
their canoes to drift down the stream, and joyfully enlisted in the band
of adventurers. They engaged on similar terms with some of the other
hunters. The company was to fit them out, and keep them supplied with
the requisite equipments and munitions, and they were to yield one half
of the produce of their hunting and trapping.

The addition of three such staunch recruits was extremely acceptable
at this dangerous part of the river. The knowledge of the country which
they had acquired, also, in their journeys and hunting excursions along
the rivers and among the Rocky Mountains was all important; in fact,
the information derived from them induced Mr. Hunt to alter his future
course. He had hitherto intended to proceed by the route taken by Lewis
and Clarke in their famous exploring expedition, ascending he Missouri
to its forks, and thence going, by land, across the mountains. These men
informed him, however, that, on taking that course he would have to pass
through the country invested by the savage tribe of the Blackfeet, and
would be exposed to their hostilities; they being, as has already been
observed, exasperated to deadly animosity against the whites, on account
of the death of one of their tribe by the hand of Captain Lewis. They
advised him rather to pursue a route more to the southward, being
the same by which they had returned. This would carry them over the
mountains about where the head-waters of the Platte and the Yellowstone
take their rise, at a place much more easy and practicable than that
where Lewis and Clarke had crossed. In pursuing this course, also, he
would pass through a country abounding with game, where he would have a
better chance of procuring a constant supply of provisions than by the
other route, and would run less risk of molestation from the Blackfeet.
Should he adopt this advice, it would be better for him to abandon the
river at the Arickara town, at which he would arrive in the course of a
few days. As the Indians at that town possessed horses in abundance,
he might purchase a sufficient number of them for his great journey
overland, which would commence at that place.

After reflecting on this advice, and consulting with his associates, Mr.
Hunt came to the determination to follow the route thus pointed out, to
which the hunters engaged to pilot him.

The party continued their voyage with delightful May weather. The
prairies bordering on the river were gayly painted with innumerable
flowers, exhibiting the motley confusion of colors of a Turkey carpet.
The beautiful islands, also, on which they occasionally halted,
presented the appearance of mingled grove and garden. The trees were
often covered with clambering grapevines in blossom, which perfumed
the air. Between the stately masses of the groves were grassy lawns and
glades, studded with flowers, or interspersed with rose-bushes in full
bloom. These islands were often the resort of the buffalo, the elk,
and the antelope, who had made innumerable paths among the trees and
thickets, which had the effect of the mazy walks and alleys of parks and
shrubberies. Sometimes, where the river passed between high banks and
bluffs, the roads made by the tramp of buffaloes for many ages along
the face of the heights, looked like so many well-travelled highways.
At other places the banks were banded with great veins of iron ore, laid
bare by the abrasion of the river. At one place the course of the river
was nearly in a straight line for about fifteen miles. The banks sloped
gently to its margin, without a single tree, but bordered with grass and
herbage of a vivid green. Along each bank, for the whole fifteen miles,
extended a stripe, one hundred yards in breadth, of a deep rusty brown,
indicating an inexhaustible bed of iron, through the center of which the
Missouri had worn its way. Indications of the continuance of this bed
were afterwards observed higher up the river. It is, in fact, one of the
mineral magazines which nature has provided in the heart of this vast
realm of fertility, and which, in connection with the immense beds of
coal on the same river, seem garnered up as the elements of the future
wealth and power of the mighty West.

The sight of these mineral treasures greatly excited the curiosity
of Mr. Bradbury, and it was tantalizing to him to be checked in his
scientific researches, and obliged to forego his usual rambles on shore;
but they were now entering the fated country of the Sioux Tetons, in
which it was dangerous to wander about unguarded.

This country extends for some days' journey along the river, and
consists of vast prairies, here and there diversified by swelling hills,
and cut up by ravines, the channels of turbid streams in the rainy
seasons, but almost destitute of water during the heats of summer. Here
and there on the sides of the hills, or along the alluvial borders and
bottoms of the ravines, are groves and skirts of forest: but for the
most part the country presented to the eye a boundless waste, covered
with herbage, but without trees.

The soil of this immense region is strongly impregnated with sulphur,
copperas, alum, and glauber salts; its various earths impart a deep
tinge to the streams which drain it, and these, with the crumbling of
the banks along the Missouri, give to the waters of that river much of
the coloring matter with which they are clouded.

Over this vast tract the roving bands of the Sioux Tetons hold their
vagrant sway, subsisting by the chase of the buffalo, the elk, the
deer, and the antelope, and waging ruthless warfare with other wandering

As the boats made their way up the stream bordered by this land of
danger, many of the Canadian voyageurs, whose fears had been awakened,
would regard with a distrustful eye the boundless waste extending on
each side. All, however, was silent, and apparently untenanted by
a human being. Now and then a herd of deer would be seen feeding
tranquilly among the flowery herbage, or a line of buffaloes, like a
caravan on its march, moving across the distant profile of the prairie.
The Canadians, however, began to apprehend an ambush in every thicket,
and to regard the broad, tranquil plain as a sailor eyes some shallow
and perfidious sea, which, though smooth and safe to the eye, conceals
the lurking rock or treacherous shoal. The very name of a Sioux became
a watchword of terror. Not an elk, a wolf, or any other animal, could
appear on the hills, but the boats resounded with exclamations from stem
to stern, "voila les Sioux! voila les Sioux!" (there are the Sioux! there
are the Sioux!) Whenever it was practicable, the night encampment was on
some island in the center of the stream.

On the morning of the 31st of May, as the travellers were breakfasting
on the right bank of the river, the usual alarm was given, but with more
reason, as two Indians actually made their appearance on a bluff on the
opposite or northern side, and harangued them in a loud voice. As it
was impossible at that distance to distinguish what they said, Mr. Hunt,
after breakfast, crossed the river with Pierre Dorion, the interpreter,
and advanced boldly to converse with them, while the rest remained
watching in mute suspense the movements of the parties. As soon as Mr.
Hunt landed, one of the Indians disappeared behind the hill, but shortly
reappeared on horseback, and went scouring off across the heights. Mr.
Hunt held some conference with the remaining savage, and then recrossed
the river to his party.

These two Indians proved to be spies or scouts of a large war party
encamped about a league off, and numbering two hundred and eighty
lodges, or about six hundred warriors, of three different tribes
of Sioux; the Yangtons Ahna, the Tetons Bois-brule, and the Tetons
Min-na-kine-azzo. They expected daily to be reinforced by two other
tribes, and had been waiting eleven days for the arrival of Mr. Hunt's
party, with a determination to oppose their progress up the river; being
resolved to prevent all trade of the white men with their enemies the
Arickaras, Mandans, and Minatarees. The Indian who had galloped off on
horseback had gone to give notice of the approach of the party, so that
they might now look out for some fierce scenes with those piratical
savages, of whom they had received so many formidable accounts.

The party braced up their spirits to the encounter, and reembarking,
pulled resolutely up the stream. An island for some time intervened
between them and the opposite side of the river; but on clearing the
upper end, they came in full view of the hostile shore. There was a
ridge of hills down which the savages were pouring in great numbers,
some on horseback, and some on foot. Reconnoitering them with the aid of
glasses, they perceived that they were all in warlike array, painted
and decorated for battle. Their weapons were bows and arrows, and a few
short carbines, and most of them had round shields. Altogether they had
a wild and gallant appearance, and, taking possession of a point which
commanded the river, ranged themselves along the bank as if prepared to
dispute their passage.

At sight of this formidable front of war, Mr. Hunt and his companions
held counsel together. It was plain that the rumors they had heard were
correct, and the Sioux were determined to oppose their progress by force
of arms. To attempt to elude them and continue along the river was out
of the question. The strength of the mid-current was too violent to be
withstood, and the boats were obliged to ascend along the river banks.
These banks were often high and perpendicular, affording the savages
frequent stations, from whence, safe themselves, and almost unseen, they
might shower down their missiles upon the boats below, and retreat
at will, without danger from pursuit. Nothing apparently remained,
therefore, but to fight or turn back. The Sioux far outnumbered them,
it is true, but their own party was about sixty strong, well armed and
supplied with ammunition; and, beside their guns and rifles, they had
a swivel and two howitzers mounted in the boats. Should they succeed in
breaking this Indian force by one vigorous assault, it was likely they
would be deterred from making any future attack of consequence. The
fighting alternative was, therefore, instantly adopted, and the boats
pulled to shore nearly opposite to the hostile force. Here the arms were
all examined and put in order. The swivel and howitzers were then loaded
with powder and discharged, to let the savages know by the report how
formidably they were provided. The noise echoed along the shores of the
river, and must have startled the warriors who were only accustomed to
sharp reports of rifles. The same pieces were then loaded with as
many bullets as they would probably bear; after which the whole party
embarked, and pulled across the river. The Indians remained watching
them in silence, their painted forms and visages glaring in the sun, and
their feathers fluttering in the breeze. The poor Canadians eyed them
with rueful glances, and now and then a fearful ejaculation escaped
them. "Parbleu! this is a sad scrape we are in, brother!" one would
mutter to the next oarsman. "Aye, aye!" the other would reply, "we are
not going to a wedding, my friend!"

When the boats arrived within rifle-shot, the hunters and other fighting
personages on board seized their weapons, and prepared for action.
As they rose to fire, a confusion took place among the savages. They
displayed their buffalo robes, raised them with both hands above their
heads, and then spread them before them on the ground. At sight of
this, Pierre Dorion eagerly cried out to the party not to fire, as
this movement was a peaceful signal, and an invitation to a parley.
Immediately about a dozen of the principal warriors, separating from
the rest, descended to the edge of the river, lighted a fire, seated
themselves in a semicircle round it, and, displaying the calumet,
invited the party to land. Mr. Hunt now called a council of the partners
on board of his boat. The question was, whether to trust to the
amicable overtures of these ferocious people? It was determined in the
affirmative; for, otherwise, there was no alternative but to fight them.
The main body of the party were ordered to remain on board of the
boats, keeping within shot and prepared to fire in case of any signs
of treachery; while Mr. Hunt and the other partners (M'Kenzie, Crooks,
Miller, and M'Lellan) proceeded to land, accompanied by the interpreter
and Mr. Bradbury. The chiefs, who awaited them on the margin of the
river, remained seated in their semicircle, without stirring a limb
or moving a muscle, motionless as so many statues. Mr. Hunt and his
companions advanced without hesitation, and took their seats on the sand
so as to complete the circle. The band of warriors who lined the
banks above stood looking down in silent groups and clusters, some
ostentatiously equipped and decorated, others entirely naked but
fantastically painted, and all variously armed.

The pipe of peace was now brought forward with due ceremony. The bowl
was of a species of red stone resembling porphyry; the stem was six feet
in length, decorated with tufts of horse-hair dyed red. The pipe-bearer
stepped within the circle, lighted the pipe, held it towards the sun,
then towards the different points of the compass, after which he handed
it to the principal chief. The latter smoked a few whiffs, then, holding
the head of the pipe in his hand, offered the other end to Mr. Hunt,
and to each one successively in the circle. When all had smoked, it
was considered that an assurance of good faith and amity had been
interchanged. Mr. Hunt now made a speech in French, which was
interpreted as he proceeded by Pierre Dorion. He informed the Sioux of
the real object of the expedition of himself and his companions, which
was, not to trade with any of the tribes up the river, but to cross the
mountains to the great salt lake in the west, in search of some of their
brothers, whom they had not seen for eleven months. That he had heard of
the intention of the Sioux to oppose his passage, and was prepared, as
they might see, to effect it at all hazards; nevertheless, his feelings
towards the Sioux were friendly, in proof of which he had brought them
a present of tobacco and corn. So saying, he ordered about fifteen
carottes of tobacco, and as many bags of corn, to be brought from the
boat and laid in a heap near the council fire.

The sight of these presents mollified the chieftain, who had, doubtless,
been previously rendered considerate by the resolute conduct of the
white men, the judicious disposition of their little armament, the
completeness of their equipments, and the compact array of battle which
they presented. He made a speech in reply, in which he stated the object
of their hostile assemblage, which had been merely to prevent supplies
of arms and ammunition from going to the Arickaras, Mandans, and
Minatarees, with whom they were at war; but being now convinced that the
party were carrying no supplies of the kind, but merely proceeding in
quest of their brothers beyond the mountains, they would not impede them
in their voyage. He concluded by thanking them for their present, and
advising them to encamp on the opposite side of the river, as he had
some young men among his warriors for whose discretion he could not be
answerable, and who might be troublesome.

Here ended the conference: they all arose, shook hands, and parted. Mr.
Hunt and his companions re-embarked, and the boats proceeded on their
course unmolested.


     The Great Bend of the Missouri--Crooks and M'Lellan Meet
     With Two of Their Indian Opponents--Wanton Outrage of a
     White Man the Cause of Indian Hostility--Dangers and
     Precautions.-An Indian War Party.--Dangerous Situation of
     Mr. Hunt.--A Friendly Encampment.--Feasting and Dancing.--
     Approach of Manuel Lisa and His Party--.A Grim Meeting
     Between Old Rivals.--Pierre Dorion in a Fury.--A Burst of

ON the afternoon of the following day (June 1st) they arrived at
the great bend, where the river winds for about thirty miles round a
circular peninsula, the neck of which is not above two thousand yards
across. On the succeeding morning, at an early hour, they descried two
Indians standing on a high bank of the river, waving and spreading their
buffalo robes in signs of amity. They immediately pulled to shore and
landed. On approaching the savages, however, the latter showed evident
symptoms of alarm, spreading out their arms horizontally, according to
their mode of supplicating clemency. The reason was soon explained. They
proved to be two chiefs of the very war party that had brought Messrs.
Crooks and M'Lellan to a stand two years before, and obliged them
to escape down the river. They ran to embrace these gentlemen, as if
delighted to meet with them; yet they evidently feared some retaliation
of their past misconduct, nor were they quite at ease until the pipe of
peace had been smoked.

Mr. Hunt having been informed that the tribe to which these men belonged
had killed three white men during the preceding summer, reproached them
with the crime, and demanded their reasons for such savage hostility.
"We kill white men," replied one of the chiefs, "because white men
kill us. That very man," added he, pointing to Carson, one of the new
recruits, "killed one of our brothers last summer. The three white men
were slain to avenge his death."

Their chief was correct in his reply. Carson admitted that, being with a
party of Arickaras on the banks of the Missouri, and seeing a war party
of Sioux on the opposite side, he had fired with his rifle across. It
was a random shot, made without much expectation of effect, for the
river was full half a mile in breadth. Unluckily it brought down a
Sioux warrior, for whose wanton destruction threefold vengeance had been
taken, as has been stated. In this way outrages are frequently committed
on the natives by thoughtless or mischievous white men; the Indians
retaliate according to a law of their code, which requires blood
for blood; their act, of what with them is pious vengeance, resounds
throughout the land, and is represented as wanton and unprovoked;
the neighborhood is roused to arms; a war ensues, which ends in the
destruction of half the tribe, the ruin of the rest, and their expulsion
from their hereditary homes. Such is too often the real history of
Indian warfare, which in general is traced up only to some vindictive
act of a savage; while the outrage of the scoundrel white man that
provoked it is sunk in silence.

The two chiefs, having smoked their pipe of peace and received a few
presents, departed well satisfied. In a little while two others appeared
on horseback, and rode up abreast of the boats. They had seen the
presents given to their comrades, but were dissatisfied with them, and
came after the boats to ask for more. Being somewhat peremptory and
insolent in their demands, Mr. Hunt gave them a flat refusal, and
threatened, if they or any of their tribes followed him with similar
demands, to treat them as enemies. They turned and rode off in a furious
passion. As he was ignorant what force these chiefs might have behind
the hills, and as it was very possible they might take advantage of some
pass of the river to attack the boats, Mr. Hunt called all stragglers on
board and prepared for such emergency. It was agreed that the large
boat commanded by Mr. Hunt should ascend along the northeast side of
the river, and the three smaller boats along the south side. By this
arrangement each party would command a view of the opposite heights
above the heads and out of sight of their companions, and could give
the alarm should they perceive any Indians lurking there. The signal of
alarm was to be two shots fired in quick succession.

The boats proceeded for the greater part of the day without seeing any
signs of an enemy. About four o'clock in the afternoon the large boat,
commanded by Mr. Hunt, came to where the river was divided by a long
sand-bar, which apparently, however, left a sufficient channel between
it and the shore along which they were advancing. He kept up this
channel, therefore, for some distance, until the water proved too
shallow for the boat. It was necessary, therefore, to put about, return
down the channel, and pull round the lower end of the sand-bar into the
main stream. Just as he had given orders to this effect to his men, two
signal guns were fired from the boats on the opposite side of the river.
At the same moment, a file of savage warriors was observed pouring down
from the impending bank, and gathering on the shore at the lower end
of the bar. They were evidently a war party, being armed with bows and
arrows, battle clubs and carbines, and round bucklers of buffalo hide,
and their naked bodies were painted with black and white stripes. The
natural inference was, that they belonged to the two tribes of Sioux
which had been expected by the great war party, and that they had been
incited to hostility by the two chiefs who had been enraged by the
refusal and the menace of Mr. Hunt. Here then was a fearful predicament.
Mr. Hunt and his crew seemed caught, as it were, in a trap. The Indians,
to a number of about a hundred, had already taken possession of a point
near which the boat would have to pass: others kept pouring down the
bank, and it was probable that some would remain posted on the top of
the height.

The hazardous situation of Mr. Hunt was perceived by those in the other
boats, and they hastened to his assistance. They were at some distance
above the sand-bar, however, and on the opposite side of the river, and
saw, with intense anxiety, the number of savages continually augmenting,
at the lower end of the channel, so that the boat would be exposed to a
fearful attack before they could render it any assistance. Their anxiety
increased, as they saw Mr. Hunt and his party descending the channel
and dauntlessly approaching the point of danger; but it suddenly changed
into surprise on beholding the boat pass close by the savage horde
unmolested, and steer out safely into the broad river.

The next moment the whole band of warriors was in motion. They ran along
the bank until they were opposite to the boats, then throwing by their
weapons and buffalo robes, plunged into the river, waded and swam off
to the boats and surrounded them in crowds, seeking to shake hands with
every individual on board; for the Indians have long since found this to
be the white man's token of amity, and they carried it to an extreme.

All uneasiness was now at an end. The Indians proved to be a war party
of Arickaras, Mandans, and Minatarees, consisting of three hundred
warriors, and bound on a foray against the Sioux. Their war plans were
abandoned for the present, and they determined to return to the Arickara
town, where they hoped to obtain from the white men arms and ammunition
that would enable them to take the field with advantage over their

The boats now sought the first convenient place for encamping. The tents
were pitched; the warriors fixed their camp at about a hundred yards
distant; provisions were furnished from the boats sufficient for all
parties; there was hearty though rude feasting in both camps, and in the
evening the red warriors entertained their white friends with dances and
songs, that lasted until after midnight.

On the following morning (July 3) the travellers re-embarked, and took
a temporary leave of their Indian friends, who intended to proceed
immediately for the Arickara town, where they expected to arrive in
three days, long before the boats could reach there. Mr. Hunt had not
proceeded far before the chief came galloping along the shore and made
signs for a parley. He said, his people could not go home satisfied
unless they had something to take with them to prove that they had met
with the white men. Mr. Hunt understood the drift of the speech, and
made the chief a present of a cask of powder, a bag of balls, and three
dozen of knives, with which he was highly pleased. While the chief was
receiving these presents an Indian came running along the shore, and
announced that a boat, filled with white men, was coming up the river.
This was by no means agreeable tidings to Mr. Hunt, who correctly
concluded it to be the boat of Mr. Manuel Lisa; and he was vexed to find
that alert and adventurous trader upon his heels, whom he hoped to
have out-maneuvered, and left far behind. Lisa, however, was too much
experienced in the wiles of Indian trade to be lulled by the promise of
waiting for him at the Poncas village; on the contrary, he had allowed
himself no repose, and had strained every nerve to overtake the rival
party, and availing himself of the moonlight, had even sailed during a
considerable part of the night. In this he was partly prompted by his
apprehensions of the Sioux, having met a boat which had probably passed
Mr. Hunt's party in the night, and which had been fired into by these

On hearing that Lisa was so near at hand, Mr. Hunt perceived that it was
useless to attempt any longer to evade him; after proceeding a few miles
further, therefore, he came to a halt and waited for him to come up. In
a little while the barge of Lisa made its appearance. It came sweeping
gently up the river, manned by its twenty stout oarsmen, and armed by
a swivel mounted at the bow. The whole number on board amounted to
twenty-six men: among whom was Mr. Henry Breckenridge, then a young,
enterprising man; who was a mere passenger, tempted by notions of
curiosity to accompany Mr. Lisa. He has since made himself known by
various writings, among which may be noted a narrative of this very

The approach of Lisa, while it was regarded with uneasiness by Mr. Hunt,
roused the ire of M'Lellan; who, calling to mind old grievances, began
to look round for his rifle, as if he really intended to carry his
threat into execution and shoot him on the spot; and it was with some
difficulty that Mr. Hunt was enabled to restrain his ire, and prevent a
scene of outraged confusion.

The meeting between the two leaders, thus mutually distrustful, could
not be very cordial: and as to Messrs. Crooks and M'Lellan, though they
refrained from any outbreak, yet they regarded in grim defiance their
old rival and underplotter. In truth a general distrust prevailed
throughout the party concerning Lisa and his intentions. They considered
him artful and slippery, and secretly anxious for the failure of their
expedition. There being now nothing more to be apprehended from the
Sioux, they suspected that Lisa would take advantage of his twenty-oared
barge to leave them and get first among the Arickaras. As he had traded
with those people and possessed great influence over them, it was feared
he might make use of it to impede the business of Mr. Hunt and his
party. It was resolved, therefore, to keep a sharp look-out upon his
movements; and M'Lellan swore that if he saw the least sign of treachery
on his part, he would instantly put his old threat into execution.

Notwithstanding these secret jealousies and heart-burnings, the two
parties maintained an outward appearance of civility, and for two days
continued forward in company with some degree of harmony. On the third
day, however, an explosion took place, and it was produced by no less
a personage than Pierre Dorion, the half-breed interpreter. It will be
recollected that this worthy had been obliged to steal a march from St.
Louis, to avoid being arrested for an old whiskey debt which he owed to
the Missouri Fur Company, and by which Mr. Lisa had hoped to prevent his
enlisting in Mr. Hunt's expedition. Dorion, since the arrival of Lisa,
had kept aloof and regarded him with a sullen and dogged aspect. On the
fifth of July the two parties were brought to a halt by a heavy rain,
and remained encamped about a hundred yards apart. In the course of
the day Lisa undertook to tamper with the faith of Pierre Dorion,
and, inviting him on board of his boat, regaled him with his favorite
whiskey. When he thought him sufficiently mellowed, he proposed to
him to quit the service of his new employers and return to his old
allegiance. Finding him not to be moved by soft words, he called to mind
his old debt to the company, and threatened to carry him off by force,
in payment of it. The mention of this debt always stirred up the gall
of Pierre Dorion, bringing with it the remembrance of the whiskey
extortion. A violent quarrel arose between him and Lisa, and he left the
boat in high dudgeon. His first step was to repair to the tent of Mr.
Hunt and reveal the attempt that had been made to shake his faith. While
he was yet talking Lisa entered the tent, under the pretext of coming
to borrow a towing line. High words instantly ensued between him and
Dorion, which ended by the half-breed's dealing him a blow. A quarrel
in the "Indian country", however, is not to be settled with fisticuffs.
Lisa immediately rushed to his boat for a weapon. Dorion snatched up
a pair of pistols belonging to Mr. Hunt, and placed himself in battle
array. The noise had roused the camp, and every one pressed to know
the cause. Lisa now reappeared upon the field with a knife stuck in
his girdle. Mr. Breckenridge, who had tried in vain to mollify his ire,
accompanied him to the scene of action. Pierre Dorion's pistols gave
him the advantage, and he maintained a most warlike attitude. In the
meantime, Crooks and M'Lellan had learnt the cause of the affray, and
were each eager to take the quarrel into their own hands. A scene of
uproar and hubbub ensued that defies description. M'Lellan would have
brought his rifle into play and settled all old and new grudges by
a pull of the trigger, had he not been restrained by Mr. Hunt. That
gentleman acted as moderator, endeavoring to prevent a general melee; in
the midst of the brawl, however, an expression was made use of by Lisa
derogatory to his own honor. In an instant the tranquil spirit of Mr.
Hunt was in a flame. He now became as eager for the fight as any one on
the ground, and challenged Lisa to settle the dispute on the spot with
pistols. Lisa repaired to his boat to arm himself for the deadly feud.
He was followed by Messrs. Bradbury and Breckenridge, who, novices in
Indian life and the "chivalry" of the frontier, had no relish for scenes
of blood and brawl. By their earnest mediation the quarrel was brought
to a close without bloodshed; but the two leaders of the rival camps
separated in anger, and all personal intercourse ceased between them.


     Features of the Wilderness--Herds of Buffalo.--Antelopes--
     Their Varieties and Habits.--John Day.--His Hunting
     Strategy--Interview with Three Arickaras--Negotiations
     Between the Rival Parties--The Left-Handed and the Big Man,
     two Arickara Chiefs.--Arickara Village--Its Inhabitants--
     Ceremonials on Landing--A Council Lodge.--Grand Conference--
     Speech of Lisa.--Negotiation for Horses.--Shrewd Suggestion
     of Gray Eyes, an Arickara Chief--Encampment of the Trading

THE rival parties now coasted along the opposite sides of the river,
within sight of each other; the barges of Mr. Hunt always keeping some
distance in the advance, lest Lisa should push on and get first to
the Arickara village. The scenery and objects, as they proceeded, gave
evidence that they were advancing deeper and deeper into the domains of
savage nature. Boundless wastes kept extending to the eye, more and more
animated by herds of buffalo. Sometimes these unwieldy animals were seen
moving in long procession across the silent landscape; at other times
they were scattered about, singly or in groups, on the broad, enameled
prairies and green acclivities, some cropping the rich pasturage, others
reclining amidst the flowery herbage; the whole scene realizing in a
manner the old Scriptural descriptions of the vast pastoral countries of
the Orient, with "cattle upon a thousand hills."

At one place the shores seemed absolutely lined with buffaloes; many
were making their way across the stream, snorting, and blowing, and
floundering. Numbers, in spite of every effort, were borne by the rapid
current within shot of the boats, and several were killed. At another
place a number were descried on the beach of a small island, under the
shade of the trees, or standing in the water, like cattle, to avoid the
flies and the heat of the day.

Several of the best marksmen stationed themselves in the bow of a barge
which advanced slowly and silently, stemming the current with the aid
of a broad sail and a fair breeze. The buffaloes stood gazing quietly at
the barge as it approached, perfectly unconscious of their danger. The
fattest of the herd was selected by the hunters, who all fired together
and brought down their victim.

Besides the buffaloes they saw abundance of deer, and frequent gangs
of stately elks, together with light troops of sprightly antelopes, the
fleetest and most beautiful inhabitants of the prairies.

There are two kinds of antelopes in these regions, one nearly the size
of the common deer, the other not much larger than a goat. Their color
is a light gray, or rather dun, slightly spotted with white; and they
have small horns like those of the deer, which they never shed. Nothing
can surpass the delicate and elegant finish of their limbs, in which
lightness, elasticity, and strength are wonderfully combined. All
the attitudes and movements of this beautiful animal are graceful and
picturesque; and it is altogether as fit a subject for the fanciful uses
of the poet as the oft-sung gazelle of the East.

Their habits are shy and capricious; they keep on the open plains, are
quick to take the alarm, and bound away with a fleetness that defies
pursuit. When thus skimming across a prairie in the autumn, their light
gray or dun color blends with the hue of the withered herbage, the
swiftness of their motion baffles the eye, and they almost seem
unsubstantial forms, driven like gossamer before the wind.

While they thus keep to the open plain and trust to their speed, they
are safe; but they have a prurient curiosity that sometimes betrays
them to their ruin. When they have scud for some distance and left their
pursuer behind, they will suddenly stop and turn to gaze at the object
of their alarm. If the pursuit is not followed up they will, after a
time, yield to their inquisitive hankering, and return to the place from
whence they have been frightened.

John Day, the veteran hunter already mentioned, displayed his experience
and skill in entrapping one of these beautiful animals. Taking advantage
of its well known curiosity, he laid down flat among the grass, and
putting his handkerchief on the end of his ramrod, waved it gently
in the air. This had the effect of the fabled fascination of the
rattlesnake. The antelope approached timidly, pausing and reconnoitering
with increased curiosity; moving round the point of attraction in a
circle, but still drawing nearer and nearer, until being within range of
the deadly rifle, he fell a victim to his curiosity.

On the 10th of June, as the party were making brisk progress with a fine
breeze, they met a canoe with three Indians descending the river. They
came to a parley, and brought news from the Arickara village. The war
party, which had caused such alarm at the sand-bar, had reached the
village some days previously, announced the approach of a party of
traders, and displayed with great ostentation the presents they had
received from them. On further conversation with these three Indians,
Mr. Hunt learnt the real danger which he had run, when hemmed up within
the sand-bar. The Mandans who were of the war party, when they saw the
boat so completely entrapped and apparently within their power, had been
eager for attacking it, and securing so rich a prize. The Minatarees,
also, were nothing loath, feeling in some measure committed in hostility
to the whites, in consequence of their tribe having killed two white men
above the fort of the Missouri Fur Company. Fortunately, the Arickaras,
who formed the majority of the war party, proved true in their
friendship to the whites, and prevented any hostile act, otherwise a
bloody affray, and perhaps a horrible massacre might have ensued.

On the 11th of June, Mr. Hunt and his companions encamped near an island
about six miles below the Arickara village. Mr. Lisa encamped, as
usual, at no great distance; but the same sullen jealous reserve and
non-intercourse continued between them. Shortly after pitching the
tents, Mr. Breckenridge made his appearance as an ambassador from the
rival camp. He came on behalf of his companions, to arrange the manner
of making their entrance into the village and of receiving the chiefs;
for everything of the kind is a matter of grave ceremonial among the

The partners now expressed frankly their deep distrust of the intentions
of Mr. Lisa, and their apprehensions, that, out of the jealousy of
trade, and resentment of recent disputes, he might seek to instigate
the Arickaras against them. Mr. Breckenridge assured them that their
suspicions were entirely groundless, and pledged himself that nothing
of the kind should take place. He found it difficult, however, to remove
their distrust; the conference, therefore, ended without producing
any cordial understanding; and M'Lellan recurred to his old threat of
shooting Lisa the instant he discovered anything like treachery in his

That night the rain fell in torrents, accompanied by thunder and
lightning. The camp was deluged, and the bedding and baggage drenched.
All hands embarked at an early hour, and set forward for the village.
About nine o'clock, when half way, they met a canoe, on board of which
were two Arickara dignitaries. One, a fine-looking man, much above the
common size, was hereditary chief of the village; he was called
the Left-handed, on account of a personal peculiarity. The other, a
ferocious-looking savage, was the war chief, or generalissimo; he was
known by the name of the Big Man, an appellation he well deserved from
his size, for he was of a gigantic frame. Both were of fairer complexion
than is usual with savages.

They were accompanied by an interpreter; a French creole, one of those
haphazard wights of Gallic origin who abound upon our frontiers, living
among the Indians like one of their own race. He had been twenty years
among the Arickaras, had a squaw and troop of piebald children, and
officiated as interpreter to the chiefs. Through this worthy organ
the two dignitaries signified to Mr. Hunt their sovereign intention to
oppose the further progress of the expedition up the river unless a boat
were left to trade with them. Mr. Hunt, in reply, explained the object
of his voyage, and his intention of debarking at their village and
proceeding thence by land; and that he would willingly trade with them
for a supply of horses for his journey. With this explanation they were
perfectly satisfied, and putting about, steered for their village to
make preparations for the reception of the strangers.

The village of the Rikaras, Arickaras, or Ricarees, for the name is
thus variously written, is between the 46th and 47th parallels of north
latitude, and fourteen hundred and thirty miles above the mouth of the
Missouri. The party reached it about ten o'clock in the morning, but
landed on the opposite side of the river, where they spread out their
baggage and effects to dry. From hence they commanded an excellent view
of the village. It was divided into two portions, about eighty yards
apart, being inhabited by two distinct bands. The whole extended about
three-quarters of a mile along the river bank, and was composed of
conical lodges, that looked like so many small hillocks, being wooden
frames intertwined with osier, and covered with earth. The plain beyond
the village swept up into hills of considerable height, but the whole
country was nearly destitute of trees. While they were regarding
the village, they beheld a singular fleet coming down the river. It
consisted of a number of canoes, each made of a single buffalo hide
stretched on sticks, so as to form a kind of circular trough. Each one
was navigated by a single squaw, who knelt in the bottom and paddled;
towing after her frail bark a bundle of floating wood intended for
firing. This kind of canoe is in frequent use among the Indians; the
buffalo hide being readily made up into a bundle and transported on
horseback; it is very serviceable in conveying baggage across the

The great number of horses grazing around the village, and scattered
over the neighboring hills and valleys, bespoke the equestrian habit of
the Arickaras, who are admirable horsemen. Indeed, in the number of his
horses consists the wealth of an Indian of the prairies; who resembles
an Arab in his passion for this noble animal, and in his adroitness in
the management of it.

After a time, the voice of the sovereign chief, "the Left-handed," was
heard across the river, announcing that the council lodge was preparing,
and inviting the white men to come over. The river was half a mile in
width, yet every word uttered by the chieftain was heard; this may be
partly attributed to the distinct manner in which every syllable of the
compound words in the Indian language is articulated and accented; but
in truth, a savage warrior might often rival Achilles himself for force
of lungs. *

     (* Bradbury, p. 110.)

Now came the delicate point of management--how the two rival parties
were to conduct their visit to the village with proper circumspection
and due decorum. Neither of the leaders had spoken to each other since
their quarrel. All communication had been by ambassadors. Seeing the
jealousy entertained of Lisa, Mr. Breckenridge, in his negotiation, had
arranged that a deputation from each party should cross the river at the
same time, so that neither would have the first access to the ear of the

The distrust of Lisa, however, had increased in proportion as they
approached the sphere of action; and M'Lellan, in particular, kept a
vigilant eye upon his motions, swearing to shoot him if he attempted to
cross the river first.

About two o'clock the large boat of Mr. Hunt was manned, and he stepped
on board, accompanied by Messrs. M'Kenzie and M'Lellan; Lisa at the
same time embarked in his barge; the two deputations amounted in all
to fourteen persons, and never was any movement of rival potentates
conducted with more wary exactness.

They landed amidst a rabble crowd, and were received on the bank by
the left-handed chief, who conducted them into the village with grave
courtesy; driving to the right and left the swarms of old squaws,
imp-like boys, and vagabond dogs, with which the place abounded. They
wound their way between the cabins, which looked like dirt-heaps huddled
together without any plan, and surrounded by old palisades; all filthy
in the extreme, and redolent of villainous smells.

At length they arrived at the council lodge. It was somewhat spacious,
and formed of four forked trunks of trees placed upright, supporting
cross-beams and a frame of poles interwoven with osiers, and the whole
covered with earth. A hole sunken in the center formed the fireplace,
and immediately above was a circular hole in the apex of the lodge,
to let out the smoke and let in the daylight. Around the lodge were
recesses for sleeping, like the berths on board ships, screened from
view by curtains of dressed skins. At the upper end of the lodge was
a kind of hunting and warlike trophy, consisting of two buffalo heads
garishly painted, surmounted by shields, bows, quivers of arrows, and
other weapons.

On entering the lodge the chief pointed to mats or cushions which
had been placed around for the strangers, and on which they seated
themselves, while he placed himself on a kind of stool. An old man then
came forward with the pipe of peace or good-fellowship, lighted and
handed it to the chief, and then falling back, squatted himself near the
door. The pipe was passed from mouth to mouth, each one taking a whiff,
which is equivalent to the inviolable pledge of faith, of taking salt
together among the ancient Britons. The chief then made a sign to the
old pipe-bearer, who seemed to fill, likewise, the station of herald,
seneschal, and public crier, for he ascended to the top of the lodge
to make proclamation. Here he took his post beside the aperture for the
emission of smoke and the admission of light; the chief dictated from
within what he was to proclaim, and he bawled it forth with a force of
lungs that resounded over all the village. In this way he summoned the
warriors and great men to council; every now and then reporting progress
to his chief through the hole in the roof.

In a little while the braves and sages began to enter one by one, as
their names were called or announced, emerging from under the buffalo
robe suspended over the entrance instead of a door, stalking across the
lodge to the skins placed on the floor, and crouching down on them in
silence. In this way twenty entered and took their seats, forming an
assemblage worthy of the pencil: for the Arickaras are a noble race of
men, large and well formed, and maintain a savage grandeur and gravity
of demeanor in their solemn ceremonials.

All being seated, the old seneschal prepared the pipe of ceremony or
council, and having lit it, handed it to the chief. He inhaled the
sacred smoke, gave a puff upward to the heaven, then downward to the
earth, then towards the east; after this it was as usual passed from
mouth to mouth, each holding it respectfully until his neighbor had
taken several whiffs; and now the grand council was considered as opened
in due form.

The chief made an harangue welcoming the white men to his village, and
expressing his happiness in taking them by the hand as friends; but at
the same time complaining of the poverty of himself and his people; the
usual prelude among Indians to begging or hard bargaining.

Lisa rose to reply, and the eyes of Hunt and his companions were eagerly
turned upon him, those of M'Lellan glaring like a basilisk's. He began
by the usual expressions of friendship, and then proceeded to explain
the object of his own party. Those persons, however, said he, pointing
to Mr. Hunt and his companions, are of a different party, and are quite
distinct in their views; but, added he, though we are separate parties,
we make but one common cause when the safety of either is concerned. Any
injury or insult offered to them I shall consider as done to myself, and
will resent it accordingly. I trust, therefore, that you will treat them
with the same friendship that you have always manifested for me, doing
everything in your power to serve them and to help them on their way.
The speech of Lisa, delivered with an air of frankness and sincerity,
agreeably surprised and disappointed the rival party.

Mr. Hunt then spoke, declaring the object of his journey to the great
Salt Lake beyond the mountains, and that he should want horses for the
purpose, for which he was ready to trade, having brought with him plenty
of goods. Both he and Lisa concluded their speeches by making presents
of tobacco.

The left-handed chieftain in reply promised his friendship and aid to
the new comers, and welcomed them to his village. He added that they had
not the number of horses to spare that Mr. Hunt required, and expressed
a doubt whether they should be able to part with any. Upon this, another
chieftain, called Gray Eyes, made a speech, and declared that they could
readily supply Mr. Hunt with all the horses he might want, since, if
they had not enough in the village, they could easily steal more. This
honest expedient immediately removed the main difficulty; but the chief
deferred all trading for a day or two; until he should have time
to consult with his subordinate chiefs as to market rates; for the
principal chief of a village, in conjunction with his council, usually
fixes the prices at which articles shall be bought and sold, and to them
the village must conform.

The council now broke up. Mr. Hunt transferred his camp across the river
at a little distance below the village, and the left-handed chief placed
some of his warriors as a guard to prevent the intrusion of any of his
people. The camp was pitched on the river bank just above the boats. The
tents, and the men wrapped in their blankets and bivouacking on skins in
the open air, surrounded the baggage at night. Four sentinels also kept
watch within sight of each other outside of the camp until midnight,
when they were relieved by four others who mounted guard until daylight.
Mr. Lisa encamped near to Mr. Hunt, between him and the village.

The speech of Mr. Lisa in the council had produced a pacific effect in
the encampment. Though the sincerity of his friendship and good-will
towards the new company still remained matter of doubt, he was no longer
suspected of an intention to play false. The intercourse between the two
leaders was therefore resumed, and the affairs of both parties went on


     An Indian Horse Fair.--Love of the Indians for Horses--
     Scenes in the Arickara Village.--Indian Hospitality.--Duties
     of Indian Women.  Game Habits of the Men.--Their  Indolence.
     --Love of Gossiping.--Rumors of Lurking Enemies.--Scouts.--
     An Alarm.--A Sallying Forth.--Indian Dogs.--Return of a Horse
     --Stealing Party.--An Indian Deputation.--Fresh Alarms.--Return
     of a Successful War Party.--Dress of the Arickaras.--Indian
     Toilet.--Triumphal Entry of the War Party.--Meetings of
     Relations and Friends.--Indian Sensibility.--Meeting of a
     Wounded Warrior and His Mother.--Festivities and

A TRADE now commenced with the Arickaras under the regulation and
supervision of their two chieftains. Lisa sent a part of his goods to
the lodge of the left-handed dignitary, and Mr. Hunt established
his mart in the lodge of the Big Man. The village soon presented the
appearance of a busy fair; and as horses were in demand, the purlieus
and the adjacent plain were like the vicinity of a Tartar encampment;
horses were put through all their paces, and horsemen were careering
about with that dexterity and grace for which the Arickaras are noted.
As soon as a horse was purchased, his tail was cropped, a sure mode of
distinguishing him from the horses of the tribe; for the Indians disdain
to practice this absurd, barbarous, and indecent mutilation, invented
by some mean and vulgar mind, insensible to the merit and perfections of
the animal. On the contrary, the Indian horses are suffered to remain in
every respect the superb and beautiful animals which nature formed them.

The wealth of an Indian of the far west consists principally in his
horses, of which each chief and warrior possesses a great number, so
that the plains about an Indian village or encampment are covered with
them. These form objects of traffic, or objects of depredation, and
in this way pass from tribe to tribe over great tracts of country. The
horses owned by the Arickaras are, for the most part, of the wild stock
of the prairies; some, however, had been obtained from the Poncas,
Pawnees, and other tribes to the southwest, who had stolen them from
the Spaniards in the course of horse-stealing expeditions into Mexican
territories. These were to be known by being branded; a Spanish mode of
marking horses not practiced by the Indians.

As the Arickaras were meditating another expedition against their
enemies the Sioux, the articles of traffic most in demand were guns,
tomahawks, scalping-knives, powder, ball, and other munitions of war.
The price of a horse, as regulated by the chiefs, was commonly ten
dollars' worth of goods at first cost. To supply the demand thus
suddenly created, parties of young men and braves had sallied forth
on expeditions to steal horses; a species of service among the Indians
which takes precedence of hunting, and is considered a department of
honorable warfare.

While the leaders of the expedition were actively engaged in preparing
for the approaching journey, those who had accompanied it for curiosity
or amusement, found ample matter for observation in the village and its
inhabitants. Wherever they went they were kindly entertained. If they
entered a lodge, the buffalo robe was spread before the fire for them
to sit down; the pipe was brought, and while the master of the lodge
conversed with his guests, the squaw put the earthen vessel over the
fire well filled with dried buffalo-meat and pounded corn; for the
Indian in his native state, before he has mingled much with white men,
and acquired their sordid habits, has the hospitality of the Arab: never
does a stranger enter his door without having food placed before him;
and never is the food thus furnished made a matter of traffic.

The life of an Indian when at home in his village is a life of indolence
and amusement. To the woman is consigned the labors of the household
and the field; she arranges the lodge; brings wood for the fire; cooks;
jerks venison and buffalo meat; dresses the skins of the animals killed
in the chase; cultivates the little patch of maize, pumpkins, and pulse,
which furnishes a great part of their provisions. Their time for repose
and recreation is at sunset, when the labors of the day being ended,
they gather together to amuse themselves with petty games, or to hold
gossiping convocations on the tops of their lodges.

As to the Indian, he is a game animal, not to be degraded by useful or
menial toil. It is enough that he exposes himself to the hardships
of the chase and the perils of war; that he brings home food for his
family, and watches and fights for its protection. Everything else is
beneath his attention. When at home, he attends only to his weapons and
his horses, preparing the means of future exploit. Or he engages with
his comrades in games of dexterity, agility and strength; or in gambling
games in which everything is put at hazard with a recklessness seldom
witnessed in civilized life.

A great part of the idle leisure of the Indians when at home is passed
in groups, squatted together on the bank of a river, on the top of
a mound on the prairie, or on the roof of one of their earth-covered
lodges, talking over the news of the day, the affairs of the tribe, the
events and exploits of their last hunting or fighting expedition; or
listening to the stories of old times told by some veteran chronicler;
resembling a group of our village quidnuncs and politicians, listening
to the prosings of some superannuated oracle, or discussing the contents
of an ancient newspaper.

As to the Indian women, they are far from complaining of their lot. On
the contrary, they would despise their husbands could they stoop to any
menial office, and would think it conveyed an imputation upon their own
conduct. It is the worst insult one virago can cast upon another in a
moment of altercation. "Infamous woman!" will she cry, "I have seen your
husband carrying wood into his lodge to make the fire. Where was his
squaw, that he should be obliged to make a woman of himself!"

Mr. Hunt and his fellow-travellers had not been many days at the
Arickara village, when rumors began to circulate that the Sioux had
followed them up, and that a war party, four or five hundred in number,
were lurking somewhere in the neighborhood. These rumors produced
much embarrassment in the camp. The white hunters were deterred from
venturing forth in quest of game, neither did the leaders think it
proper to expose them to such a risk. The Arickaras, too, who had
suffered greatly in their wars with this cruel and ferocious tribe, were
roused to increased vigilance, and stationed mounted scouts upon the
neighboring hills. This, however, is a general precaution among the
tribes of the prairies. Those immense plains present a horizon like
the ocean, so that any object of importance can be descried afar, and
information communicated to a great distance. The scouts are stationed
on the hills, therefore, to look out both for game and for enemies,
and are, in a manner, living telegraphs conveying their intelligence by
concerted signs. If they wish to give notice of a herd of buffalo in the
plain beyond, they gallop backwards and forwards abreast, on the summit
of the hill. If they perceive an enemy at hand, they gallop to and fro,
crossing each other; at sight of which the whole village flies to arms.

Such an alarm was given in the afternoon of the 15th. Four scouts were
seen crossing and recrossing each other at full gallop, on the summit of
a hill about two miles distant down the river. The cry was up that the
Sioux were coming. In an instant the village was in an uproar. Men,
women, and children were all brawling and shouting; dogs barking,
yelping, and howling. Some of the warriors ran for the horses to gather
and drive them in from the prairie, some for their weapons. As fast as
they could arm and equip they sallied forth; some on horseback, some
on foot. Some hastily arrayed in their war dress, with coronets of
fluttering feathers, and their bodies smeared with paint; others naked
and only furnished with the weapons they had snatched up. The women and
children gathered on the tops of the lodges and heightened the confusion
of the scene by their vociferation. Old men who could no longer bear
arms took similar stations, and harangued the warriors as they passed,
exhorting them to valorous deeds. Some of the veterans took arms
themselves, and sallied forth with tottering steps. In this way, the
savage chivalry of the village to the number of five hundred, poured
forth, helter-skelter, riding and running, with hideous yells and
war-whoops, like so many bedlamites or demoniacs let loose.

After a while the tide of war rolled back, but with far less uproar.
Either it had been a false alarm, or the enemy had retreated on finding
themselves discovered, and quiet was restored to the village. The white
hunters continuing to be fearful of ranging this dangerous neighborhood,
fresh provisions began to be scarce in the camp. As a substitute,
therefore, for venison and buffalo meat, the travellers had to purchase
a number of dogs to be shot and cooked for the supply of the camp.
Fortunately, however chary the Indians might be of their horses, they
were liberal of their dogs. In fact, these animals swarm about an Indian
village as they do about a Turkish town. Not a family but has two or
three dozen belonging to it, of all sizes and colors; some of a superior
breed are used for hunting; others, to draw the sledge, while others, of
a mongrel breed, and idle vagabond nature, are fattened for food. They
are supposed to be descendant from the wolf, and retain something of his
savage but cowardly temper, howling rather than barking; showing their
teeth and snarling on the slightest provocation, but sneaking away on
the least attack.

The excitement of the village continued from day to day. On the day
following the alarm just mentioned, several parties arrived from
different directions, and were met and conducted by some of the braves
to the council lodge, where they reported the events and success of
their expeditions, whether of war or hunting; which news was afterwards
promulgated throughout the village, by certain old men who acted as
heralds or town criers. Among the parties which arrived was one that had
been among the Snake nation stealing horses, and returned crowned with
success. As they passed in triumph through the village they were cheered
by the men, women, and children, collected as usual on the tops of the
lodges, and were exhorted by the Nesters of the village to be generous
in their dealings with the white men.

The evening was spent in feasting and rejoicing among the relations of
the successful warriors; but the sounds of grief and wailing were heard
from the hills adjacent to the village--the lamentations of women who
had lost some relative in the foray.

An Indian village is subject to continual agitations and excitements.
The next day arrived a deputation of braves from the Cheyenne or Shienne
nation; a broken tribe, cut up, like the Arickaras, by wars with the
Sioux, and driven to take refuge among the Black Hills, near the sources
of the Cheyenne River, from which they derive their name. One of these
deputies was magnificently arrayed in a buffalo robe, on which various
figures were fancifully embroidered with split quills dyed red and
yellow; and the whole was fringed with the slender hoofs of young fawns,
that rattled as he walked.

The arrival of this deputation was the signal for another of those
ceremonials which occupy so much of Indian life; for no being is more
courtly and punctilious, and more observing of etiquette and formality
than an American savage.

The object of the deputation was to give notice of an intended visit of
the Shienne (or Cheyenne) tribe to the Arickara village in the course
of fifteen days. To this visit Mr. Hunt looked forward to procure
additional horses for his journey; all his bargaining being ineffectual
in obtaining a sufficient supply from the Arickaras. Indeed, nothing
could prevail upon the latter to part with their prime horses, which had
been trained to buffalo hunting.

As Mr. Hunt would have to abandon his boats at this place, Mr. Lisa
now offered to purchase them, and such of his merchandise as was
superfluous, and to pay him in horses to be obtained at a fort belonging
to the Missouri Fur Company, situated at the Mandan villages, about a
hundred and fifty miles further up the river. A bargain was promptly
made, and Mr. Lisa and Mr. Crooks, with several companions, set out
for the fort to procure the horses. They returned, after upwards of a
fortnight's absence, bringing with them the stipulated number of horses.
Still the cavalry was not sufficiently numerous to convey the party and
baggage and merchandise, and a few days more were required to complete
the arrangements for the journey.

On the 9th of July, just before daybreak, a great noise and vociferation
was heard in the village. This being the usual Indian hour of attack and
surprise, and the Sioux being known to be in the neighborhood, the camp
was instantly on the alert. As the day broke Indians were descried in
considerable number on the bluffs, three or four miles down the river.
The noise and agitation in the village continued. The tops of the lodges
were crowded with the inhabitants, all earnestly looking towards the
hills, and keeping up a vehement chattering. Presently an Indian warrior
galloped past the camp towards the village, and in a little while the
legions began to pour forth.

The truth of the matter was now ascertained. The Indians upon the
distant hills were three hundred Arickara braves, returning home from a
foray. They had met the war party of Sioux who had been so long hovering
about the neighborhood, had fought them the day before, killed several,
and defeated the rest with the loss of but two or three of their own men
and about a dozen wounded; and they were now halting at a distance until
their comrades in the village should come forth to meet them, and swell
the parade of their triumphal entry. The warrior who had galloped past
the camp was the leader of the party hastening home to give tidings of
his victory.

Preparations were now made for this great martial ceremony. All the
finery and equipments of the warriors were sent forth to them, that they
might appear to the greatest advantage. Those, too, who had remained at
home, tasked their wardrobes and toilets to do honor to the procession.

The Arickaras generally go naked, but, like all savages, they have their
gala dress, of which they are not a little vain. This usually consists
of a gray surcoat and leggins of the dressed skin of the antelope,
resembling chamois leather, and embroidered with porcupine quills
brilliantly dyed. A buffalo robe is thrown over the right shoulder, and
across the left is slung a quiver of arrows. They wear gay coronets of
plumes, particularly those of the swan; but the feathers of the black
eagle are considered the most worthy, being a sacred bird among the
Indian warriors.

He who has killed an enemy in his own land, is entitled to drag at
his heels a fox-skin attached to each moccasin; and he who has slain a
grizzly bear, wears a necklace of his claws, the most glorious trophy
that a hunter can exhibit.

An Indian toilet is an operation of some toil and trouble; the
warrior often has to paint himself from head to foot, and is extremely
capricious and difficult to please, as to the hideous distribution of
streaks and colors. A great part of the morning, therefore, passed away
before there were any signs of the distant pageant. In the meantime a
profound stillness reigned over the village. Most of the inhabitants
had gone forth; others remained in mute expectation. All sports and
occupations were suspended, excepting that in the lodges the painstaking
squaws were silently busied in preparing the repasts for the warriors.

It was near noon that a mingled sound of voices and rude music, faintly
heard from a distance, gave notice that the procession was on the march.
The old men and such of the squaws as could leave their employments
hastened forth to meet it. In a little while it emerged from behind a
hill, and had a wild and picturesque appearance as it came moving over
the summit in measured step, and to the cadence of songs and savage
instruments; the warlike standards and trophies flaunting aloft, and the
feathers, and paint, and silver ornaments of the warriors glaring and
glittering in the sunshine.

The pageant had really something chivalrous in its arrangement. The
Arickaras are divided into several bands, each bearing the name of some
animal or bird, as the buffalo, the bear, the dog, the pheasant. The
present party consisted of four of these bands, one of which was the
dog, the most esteemed in war, being composed of young men under thirty,
and noted for prowess. It is engaged in the most desperate occasions.
The bands marched in separate bodies under their several leaders. The
warriors on foot came first, in platoons of ten or twelve abreast; then
the horsemen. Each band bore as an ensign a spear or bow decorated with
beads, porcupine quills, and painted feathers. Each bore its trophies of
scalps, elevated on poles, their long black locks streaming in the wind.
Each was accompanied by its rude music and minstrelsy. In this way
the procession extended nearly a quarter of a mile. The warriors were
variously armed, some few with guns, others with bows and arrows, and
war clubs; all had shields of buffalo hide, a kind of defense generally
used by the Indians of the open prairies, who have not the covert of
trees and forests to protect them. They were painted in the most savage
style. Some had the stamp of a red hand across their mouths, a sign that
they had drunk the life-blood of a foe!

As they drew near to the village the old men and the women began to meet
them, and now a scene ensued that proved the fallacy of the old fable
of Indian apathy and stoicism. Parents and children, husbands and wives,
brothers and sisters met with the most rapturous expressions of joy;
while wailings and lamentations were heard from the relatives of the
killed and wounded. The procession, however, continued on with slow
and measured step, in cadence to the solemn chant, and the warriors
maintained their fixed and stern demeanor.

Between two of the principal chiefs rode a young warrior who had
distinguished himself in the battle. He was severely wounded, so as with
difficulty to keep on his horse; but he preserved a serene and steadfast
countenance, as if perfectly unharmed. His mother had heard of his
condition. She broke through the throng, and rushing up, threw her
arms around him and wept aloud. He kept up the spirit and demeanor of a
warrior to the last, but expired shortly after he had reached his home.

The village was now a scene of the utmost festivity and triumph. The
banners, and trophies, and scalps, and painted shields were elevated
on poles near the lodges. There were warfeasts, and scalp-dances, with
warlike songs and savage music; all the inhabitants were arrayed in
their festal dresses; while the old heralds went round from lodge to
lodge, promulgating with loud voices the events of the battle and the
exploits of the various warriors.

Such was the boisterous revelry of the village; but sounds of another
kind were heard on the surrounding hills; piteous wailings of the women,
who had retired thither to mourn in darkness and solitude for those who
had fallen in battle. There the poor mother of the youthful warrior who
had returned home in triumph but to die, gave full vent to the anguish
of a mother's heart. How much does this custom among the Indian woman of
repairing to the hilltops in the night, and pouring forth their wailings
for the dead, call to mind the beautiful and affecting passage of
Scripture, "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping,
and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be
comforted, because they are not."


     Wilderness of the Far West.--Great American Desert--Parched
     Seasons.--Black Hills.--Rocky Mountains.--Wandering and
     Predatory Hordes.--Speculations on What May Be the Future
     Population.--Apprehended Dangers.-A Plot to Desert.--Rose the
     Interpreter.--His Sinister Character--Departure From the
     Arickara Village.

WHILE Mr. Hunt was diligently preparing for his arduous journey, some
of his men began to lose heart at the perilous prospect before them; but
before we accuse them of want of spirit, it is proper to consider the
nature of the wilderness into which they were about to adventure. It was
a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean, and, at the time of
which we treat, but little known, excepting through the vague accounts
of Indian hunters. A part of their route would lay across an immense
tract, stretching north and south for hundreds of miles along the foot
of the Rocky Mountains, and drained by the tributary streams of the
Missouri and the Mississippi. This region, which resembles one of the
immeasurable steppes of Asia, has not inaptly been termed "the great
American desert." It spreads forth into undulating and treeless plains,
and desolate sandy wastes wearisome to the eye from their extent and
monotony, and which are supposed by geologists to have formed the
ancient floor of the ocean, countless ages since, when its primeval
waves beat against the granite bases of the Rocky Mountains.

It is a land where no man permanently abides; for, in certain seasons
of the year there is no food either for the hunter or his steed. The
herbage is parched and withered; the brooks and streams are dried
up; the buffalo, the elk and the deer have wandered to distant parts,
keeping within the verge of expiring verdure, and leaving behind them
a vast uninhabited solitude, seamed by ravines, the beds of former
torrents, but now serving only to tantalize and increase the thirst of
the traveller.

Occasionally the monotony of this vast wilderness is interrupted by
mountainous belts of sand and limestone, broken into confused masses;
with precipitous cliffs and yawning ravines, looking like the ruins of
a world; or is traversed by lofty and barren ridges of rock, almost
impassable, like those denominated the Black Hills. Beyond these rise
the stern barriers of the Rocky Mountains, the limits, as it were, of
the Atlantic world. The rugged defiles and deep valleys of this vast
chain form sheltering places for restless and ferocious bands of
savages, many of them the remnants of tribes, once inhabitants of the
prairies, but broken up by war and violence, and who carry into their
mountain haunts the fierce passions and reckless habits of desperadoes.

Such is the nature of this immense wilderness of the far West; which
apparently defies cultivation, and the habitation of civilized life.
Some portions of it along the rivers may partially be subdued by
agriculture, others may form vast pastoral tracts, like those of the
East; but it is to be feared that a great part of it will form a lawless
interval between the abodes of civilized man, like the wastes of the
ocean or the deserts of Arabia; and, like them, be subject to the
depredations of the marauder. Here may spring up new and mongrel races,
like new formations in geology, the amalgamation of the "debris" and
"abrasions" of former races, civilized and savage; the remains of broken
and almost extinguished tribes; the descendants of wandering hunters
and trappers; of fugitives from the Spanish and American frontiers; of
adventurers and desperadoes of every class and country, yearly ejected
from the bosom of society into the wilderness. We are contributing
incessantly to swell this singular and heterogeneous cloud of wild
population that is to hang about our frontier, by the transfer of whole
tribes from the east of the Mississippi to the great wastes of the
far West. Many of these bear with them the smart of real or fancied
injuries; many consider themselves expatriated beings, wrongfully exiled
from their hereditary homes, and the sepulchres of their fathers,
and cherish a deep and abiding animosity against the race that has
dispossessed them. Some may gradually become pastoral hordes, like those
rude and migratory people, half shepherd, half warrior, who, with their
flocks and herds, roam the plains of upper Asia; but others, it is to be
apprehended, will become predatory bands, mounted on the fleet steeds of
the prairies, with the open plains for their marauding grounds, and the
mountains for their retreats and lurking-places. Here they may resemble
those great hordes of the North, "Gog and Magog with their bands," that
haunted the gloomy imaginations of the prophets. "A great company and
a mighty host, all riding upon horses, and warring upon those nations
which were at rest, and dwelt peaceably, and had gotten cattle and

The Spaniards changed the whole character and habits of the Indians when
they brought the horse among them. In Chili, Tucuman, and other parts,
it has converted them, we are told, into Tartar-like tribes, and enabled
them to keep the Spaniards out of their country, and even to make it
dangerous for them to venture far from their towns and settlements. Are
we not in danger of producing some such state of things in the
boundless regions of the far West? That these are not mere fanciful and
extravagant suggestions we have sufficient proofs in the dangers already
experienced by the traders to the Spanish mart of Santa Fe, and to the
distant posts of the fur companies. These are obliged to proceed in
armed caravans, and are subject to murderous attacks from bands of
Pawnees, Camanches, and Blackfeet, that come scouring upon them in their
weary march across the plains, or lie in wait for them among the passes
of the mountains.

We are wandering, however, into excursive speculations, when our
intention was merely to give an idea of the nature of the wilderness
which Mr. Hunt was about to traverse; and which at that time was far
less known than at present; though it still remains in a great measure
an unknown land. We cannot be surprised, therefore, that some of the
resolute of his party should feel dismay at the thoughts of adventuring
into this perilous wilderness under the uncertain guidance of three
hunters, who had merely passed once through the country and might have
forgotten the landmarks. Their apprehensions were aggravated by some
of Lisa's followers, who, not being engaged in the expedition, took a
mischievous pleasure in exaggerating its dangers. They painted in strong
colors, to the poor Canadian voyageurs, the risk they would run of
perishing with hunger and thirst; of being cut off by war-parties of
the Sioux who scoured the plains; of having their horses stolen by the
Upsarokas or Crows, who infested the skirts of the Rocky Mountains; or
of being butchered by the Blackfeet, who lurked among the defiles. In
a word, there was little chance of their getting alive across the
mountains; and even if they did, those three guides knew nothing of the
howling wilderness that lay beyond.

The apprehensions thus awakened in the minds of some of the men came
well-nigh proving detrimental to the expedition. Some of them determined
to desert, and to make their way back to St. Louis. They accordingly
purloined several weapons and a barrel of gunpowder, as ammunition for
their enterprise, and buried them in the river bank, intending to seize
one of the boats, and make off in the night. Fortunately their plot was
overheard by John Day, the Kentuckian, and communicated to the partners,
who took quiet and effectual means to frustrate it.

The dangers to be apprehended from the Crow Indians had not been
overrated by the camp gossips. These savages, through whose mountain
haunts the party would have to pass, were noted for daring and excursive
habits, and great dexterity in horse stealing. Mr. Hunt, therefore,
considered himself fortunate in having met with a man who might be of
great use to him in any intercourse he might have with the tribe. This
was a wandering individual named Edward Rose, whom he had picked up
somewhere on the Missouri--one of those anomalous beings found on the
frontier, who seem to have neither kin nor country. He had lived some
time among the Crows, so as to become acquainted with their language
and customs; and was, withal, a dogged, sullen, silent fellow, with a
sinister aspect, and more of the savage than the civilized man in his
appearance. He was engaged to serve in general as a hunter, but as guide
and interpreter when they should reach the country of the Crows.

On the 18th of July, Mr. Hunt took up his line of march by land from
the Arickara village, leaving Mr. Lisa and Mr. Nuttall there, where
they intended to await the expected arrival of Mr. Henry from the Rocky
Mountains. As to Messrs. Bradbury and Breckenridge, they had departed
some days previously, on a voyage down the river to St. Louis, with a
detachment from Mr. Lisa's party. With all his exertions, Mr. Hunt
had been unable to obtain a sufficient number of horses for the
accommodation of all his people. His cavalcade consisted of eighty-two
horses, most of them heavily laden with Indian goods, beaver traps,
ammunition, Indian corn, corn meal and other necessaries. Each of the
partners was mounted, and a horse was allotted to the interpreter,
Pierre Dorion, for the transportation of his luggage and his two
children. His squaw, for the most part of the time, trudged on foot,
like the residue of the party; nor did any of the men show more patience
and fortitude than this resolute woman in enduring fatigue and hardship.

The veteran trappers and voyageurs of Lisa's party shook their heads
as their comrades set out, and took leave of them as of doomed men;
and even Lisa himself gave it as his opinion, after the travellers had
departed, they would never reach the shores of the Pacific, but would
either perish with hunger in the wilderness, or be cut off by the


     Summer Weather of the Prairies.--Purity of the Atmosphere--
     Canadians on the March.--Sickness in the Camp.--Big River.--
     Vulgar Nomenclature.--Suggestions About the Original Indian
     Names.--Camp of Cheyennes.--Trade for Horses.--Character of
     the Cheyennes.--Their Horsemanship.--Historical Anecdotes of
     the Tribe.

THE course taken by Mr. Hunt was at first to the northwest, but soon
turned and kept generally to the southwest, to avoid the country
infested by the Blackfeet. His route took him across some of the
tributary streams of the Missouri, and over immense prairies, bounded
only by the horizon, and destitute of trees. It was now the height of
summer, and these naked plains would be intolerable to the traveller
were it not for the breezes which swept over them during the fervor of
the day, bringing with them tempering airs from the distant mountains.
To the prevalence of these breezes, and to the want of all leafy covert,
may we also attribute the freedom from those flies and other insects
so tormenting to man and beast during the summer months, in the lower
plains, which are bordered and interspersed with woodland.

The monotony of these immense landscapes, also, would be as wearisome as
that of the ocean, were it not relieved in some degree by the purity and
elasticity of the atmosphere, and the beauty of the heavens. The sky
has that delicious blue for which the sky of Italy is renowned; the sun
shines with a splendor unobscured by any cloud or vapor, and a starlight
night on the prairies is glorious. This purity and elasticity of
atmosphere increases as the traveller approaches the mountains and
gradually rises into more elevated prairies.

On the second day of the journey, Mr. Hunt arranged the party into small
and convenient messes, distributing among them the camp kettles. The
encampments at night were as before; some sleeping under tents, and
others bivouacking in the open air. The Canadians proved as patient of
toll and hardship on the land as on the water; indeed, nothing could
surpass the patience and good-humor of these men upon the march. They
were the cheerful drudges of the party, loading and unloading the
horses, pitching the tents, making the fires, cooking; in short,
performing all those household and menial offices which the Indians
usually assign to the squaws; and, like the squaws, they left all the
hunting and fighting to others. A Canadian has but little affection for
the exercise of the rifle.

The progress of the party was but slow for the first few days. Some of
the men were indisposed; Mr. Crooks, especially, was so unwell that
he could not keep on his horse. A rude kind of litter was, therefore,
prepared for him, consisting of two long poles, fixed, one on each side
of two horses, with a matting between them, on which he reclined at full
length, and was protected from the sun by a canopy of boughs.

On the evening of the 23d (July) they encamped on the banks of what
they term Big River; and here we cannot but pause to lament the stupid,
commonplace, and often ribald names entailed upon the rivers and other
features of the great West, by traders and settlers. As the aboriginal
tribes of these magnificent regions are yet in existence, the Indian
names might easily be recovered; which, besides being in general more
sonorous and musical, would remain mementoes of the primitive lords
of the soil, of whom in a little while scarce any traces will be left.
Indeed, it is to be wished that the whole of our country could be
rescued, as much as possible, from the wretched nomenclature inflicted
upon it, by ignorant and vulgar minds; and this might be done, in a
great degree, by restoring the Indian names, wherever significant
and euphonious. As there appears to be a spirit of research abroad in
respect to our aboriginal antiquities, we would suggest, as a worthy
object of enterprise, a map, or maps, of every part of our country,
giving the Indian names wherever they could be ascertained. Whoever
achieves such an object worthily, will leave a monument to his own

To return from this digression. As the travellers were now in a country
abounding with buffalo, they remained for several days encamped upon the
banks of Big River, to obtain a supply of provisions, and to give the
invalids time to recruit.

On the second day of their sojourn, as Ben Jones, John Day, and others
of the hunters were in pursuit of game, they came upon an Indian camp on
the open prairie, near to a small stream which ran through a ravine.
The tents or lodges were of dressed buffalo skins, sewn together and
stretched on tapering pine poles, joined at top, but radiating at
bottom, so as to form a circle capable of admitting fifty persons.
Numbers of horses were grazing in the neighborhood of the camp, or
straying at large in the prairie; a sight most acceptable to the
hunters. After reconnoitering the camp for some time, they ascertained
it to belong to a band of Cheyenne Indians, the same that had sent
a deputation to the Arickaras. They received the hunters in the most
friendly manner; invited them to their lodges, which were more cleanly
than Indian lodges are prone to be, and set food before them with true
uncivilized hospitality. Several of them accompanied the hunters back
to the camp, when a trade was immediately opened. The Cheyennes were
astonished and delighted to find a convoy of goods and trinkets thus
brought into the very heart of the prairie; while Mr. Hunt and his
companions were overjoyed to have an opportunity of obtaining a further
supply of horses from these equestrian savages.

During a fortnight that the travellers lingered at this place, their
encampment was continually thronged by the Cheyennes. They were a civil,
well-behaved people, cleanly in their persons, and decorous in their
habits. The men were tall, straight and vigorous, with aquiline noses,
and high cheek bones. Some were almost as naked as ancient statues,
and might have stood as models for a statuary; others had leggins and
moccasins of deer skin, and buffalo robes, which they threw gracefully
over their shoulders. In a little while, however, they began to appear
in more gorgeous array, tricked out in the finery obtained from the
white men; bright cloths, brass rings, beads of various colors; and
happy was he who could render himself hideous with vermilion.

The travellers had frequent occasions to admire the skill and grace with
which these Indians managed their horses. Some of them made a striking
display when mounted; themselves and their steeds decorated in gala
style; for the Indians often bestow more finery upon their horses than
upon themselves. Some would hang around the necks, or rather on the
breasts of their horses, the most precious ornaments they had obtained
from the white men; others interwove feathers in their manes and tails.
The Indian horses, too, appear to have an attachment to their wild
riders, and indeed, it is said that the horses of the prairies readily
distinguish an Indian from a white man by the smell, and give a
preference to the former. Yet the Indians, in general, are hard
riders, and, however they may value their horses, treat them with great
roughness and neglect. Occasionally the Cheyennes joined the white
hunters in pursuit of the elk and buffalo; and when in the ardor of the
chase, spared neither themselves nor their steeds, scouring the prairies
at full speed, and plunging down precipices and frightful ravines that
threatened the necks of both horse and horseman. The Indian steed, well
trained to the chase, seems as mad as the rider, and pursues the game as
eagerly as if it were his natural prey, on the flesh of which he was to

The history of the Cheyennes is that of many of those wandering tribes
of the prairies. They were the remnant of a once powerful people called
the Shaways, inhabiting a branch of the Red River which flows into Lake
Winnipeg. Every Indian tribe has some rival tribe with which it wages
implacable hostility. The deadly enemies of the Shaways were the Sioux,
who, after a long course of warfare, proved too powerful for them, and
drove them across the Missouri. They again took root near the Warricanne
Creek, and established themselves there in a fortified village.

The Sioux still followed with deadly animosity; dislodged them from
their village, and compelled them to take refuge in the Black Hills,
near the upper waters of the Sheyenne or Cheyenne River. Here they lost
even their name, and became known among the French colonists by that of
the river they frequented.

The heart of the tribe was now broken; its numbers were greatly
thinned by their harassing wars. They no longer attempted to establish
themselves in any permanent abode that might be an object of attack
to their cruel foes. They gave up the cultivation of the fruits of
the earth, and became a wandering tribe, subsisting by the chase, and
following the buffalo in its migrations.

Their only possessions were horses, which they caught on the prairies,
or reared, or captured on predatory incursions into the Mexican
territories, as has already been mentioned. With some of these they
repaired once a year to the Arickara villages, exchanged them for corn,
beans, pumpkins, and articles of European merchandise, and then returned
into the heart of the prairies.

Such are the fluctuating fortunes of these savage nations. War, famine,
pestilence, together or singly, bring down their strength and thin their
numbers. Whole tribes are rooted up from their native places, wander
for a time about these immense regions, become amalgamated with other
tribes, or disappear from the face of the earth. There appears to be a
tendency to extinction among all the savage nations; and this tendency
would seem to have been in operation among the aboriginals of this
country long before the advent of the white men, if we may judge from
the traces and traditions of ancient populousness in regions which
were silent and deserted at the time of the discovery; and from the
mysterious and perplexing vestiges of unknown races, predecessors of
those found in actual possession, and who must long since have become
gradually extinguished or been destroyed. The whole history of the
aboriginal population of this country, however, is an enigma, and a
grand one--will it ever be solved?


     New Distribution of Horses--Secret Information of Treason in
     the Camp.--Rose the Interpreter--His Perfidious Character--
     His Plots.--Anecdotes of the Crow Indians.--Notorious Horse
     Stealers.--Some Account of Rose.--A Desperado of the

ON the sixth of August the travellers bade farewell to the friendly band
of Cheyennes, and resumed their journey. As they had obtained thirty-six
additional horses by their recent traffic, Mr. Hunt made a new
arrangement. The baggage was made up in smaller loads. A horse was
allotted to each of the six prime hunters, and others were distributed
among the voyageurs, a horse for every two, so that they could ride and
walk alternately. Mr. Crooks being still too feeble to mount the saddle,
was carried on a litter.

Their march this day lay among singular hills and knolls of an indurated
red earth, resembling brick, about the bases of which were scattered
pumice stones and cinders, the whole bearing traces of the action of
fire. In the evening they encamped on a branch of Big River.

They were now out of the tract of country infested by the Sioux, and had
advanced such a distance into the interior that Mr. Hunt no longer felt
apprehensive of the desertion of any of his men. He was doomed, however,
to experience new cause of anxiety. As he was seated in his tent after
nightfall, one of the men came to him privately, and informed him that
there was mischief brewing in the camp. Edward Rose, the interpreter,
whose sinister looks we have already mentioned, was denounced by this
secret informer as a designing, treacherous scoundrel, who was tampering
with the fidelity of certain of the men, and instigating them to a
flagrant piece of treason. In the course of a few days they would arrive
at the mountainous district infested by the Upsarokas or Crows, the
tribe among which Rose was to officiate as interpreter. His plan was
that several of the men should join with him, when in that neighborhood,
in carrying off a number of the horses with their packages of goods, and
deserting to those savages. He assured them of good treatment among the
Crows, the principal chiefs and warriors of whom he knew; they would
soon become great men among them, and have the finest women, and the
daughters of the chiefs for wives; and the horses and goods they carried
off would make them rich for life.

The intelligence of this treachery on the part of Rose gave much
disquiet to Mr. Hunt, for he knew not how far it might be effective
among his men. He had already had proofs that several of them were
disaffected to the enterprise, and loath to cross the mountains. He
knew also that savage life had charms for many of them, especially the
Canadians, who were prone to intermarry and domesticate themselves among
the Indians.

And here a word or two concerning the Crows may be of service to the
reader, as they will figure occasionally in the succeeding narration.

The tribe consists of four bands, which have their nestling-places
in fertile, well-wooded valleys, lying among the Rocky Mountains, and
watered by the Big Horse River and its tributary streams; but, though
these are properly their homes, where they shelter their old people,
their wives, and their children, the men of the tribe are almost
continually on the foray and the scamper. They are, in fact, notorious
marauders and horse-stealers; crossing and re-crossing the mountains,
robbing on the one side, and conveying their spoils to the other. Hence,
we are told, is derived their name, given to them on account of their
unsettled and predatory habits; winging their flight, like the crows,
from one side of the mountains to the other, and making free booty of
everything that lies in their way. Horses, however, are the especial
objects of their depredations, and their skill and audacity in stealing
them are said to be astonishing. This is their glory and delight; an
accomplished horse-stealer fills up their idea of a hero. Many horses
are obtained by them, also, in barter from tribes in and beyond the
mountains. They have an absolute passion for this noble animal; besides
which he is with them an important object of traffic. Once a year
they make a visit to the Mandans, Minatarees, and other tribes of the
Missouri, taking with them droves of horses which they exchange for
guns, ammunition, trinkets, vermilion, cloths of bright colors, and
various other articles of European manufacture. With these they supply
their own wants and caprices, and carry on the internal trade for horses
already mentioned.

The plot of Rose to rob and abandon his countrymen when in the heart
of the wilderness, and to throw himself into the hands of savages, may
appear strange and improbable to those unacquainted with the singular
and anomalous characters that are to be found about the borders. This
fellow, it appears, was one of those desperadoes of the frontiers,
outlawed by their crimes, who combine the vices of civilized and savage
life, and are ten times more barbarous than the Indians with whom they
consort. Rose had formerly belonged to one of the gangs of pirates who
infested the islands of the Mississippi, plundering boats as they went
up and down the river, and who sometimes shifted the scene of their
robberies to the shore, waylaying travellers as they returned by land
from New Orleans with the proceeds of their downward voyage, plundering
them of their money and effects, and often perpetrating the most
atrocious murders.

These hordes of villains being broken up and dispersed, Rose had betaken
himself to the wilderness, and associated himself with the Crows, whose
predatory habits were congenial with his own, had married a woman of the
tribe, and, in short, had identified himself with those vagrant savages.

Such was the worthy guide and interpreter, Edward Rose. We give his
story, however, not as it was known to Mr. Hunt and his companions at
the time, but as it has been subsequently ascertained. Enough was known
of the fellow and his dark and perfidious character to put Mr. Hunt upon
his guard: still, as there was no knowing how far his plans might have
succeeded, and as any rash act might blow the mere smouldering sparks of
treason into a sudden blaze, it was thought advisable by those with
whom Mr. Hunt consulted, to conceal all knowledge or suspicion of the
meditated treachery, but to keep up a vigilant watch upon the movements
of Rose, and a strict guard upon the horses at night.


     Substitute for Fuel on the Prairies.--Fossil Trees.--
     Fierceness of the Buffaloes When in Heat.--Three Hunters
     Missing.--Signal Fires and Smokes.--Uneasiness Concerning
     the Lost Men.--A Plan to Forestall a Rogue.--New Arrangement
     With Rose.--Return of the Wanderers.

THE plains over which the travellers were journeying continued to be
destitute of trees or even shrubs; insomuch that they had to use the
dung of the buffalo for fuel, as the Arabs of the desert use that of the
camel. This substitute for fuel is universal among the Indians of these
upper prairies, and is said to make a fire equal to that of turf. If a
few chips are added, it throws out a cheerful and kindly blaze.

These plains, however, had not always been equally destitute of wood, as
was evident from the trunks of the trees which the travellers repeatedly
met with, some still standing, others lying about in broken fragments,
but all in a fossil state, having flourished in times long past. In
these singular remains, the original grain of the wood was still so
distinct that they could be ascertained to be the ruins of oak trees.
Several pieces of the fossil wood were selected by the men to serve as

In this part of the journey there was no lack of provisions, for the
prairies were covered with immense herds of buffalo. These, in general,
are animals of peaceful demeanor, grazing quietly like domestic cattle;
but this was the season when they are in heat, and when the bulls
are usually fierce and pugnacious. There was accordingly a universal
restlessness and commotion throughout the plain; and the amorous herds
gave utterance to their feelings in low bellowings that resounded like
distant thunder. Here and there fierce duellos took place between rival
enamorados; butting their huge shagged fronts together, goring each
other with their short black horns, and tearing up the earth with their
feet in perfect fury.

In one of the evening halts, Pierre Dorion, the interpreter, together
with Carson and Gardpie, two of the hunters, were missing, nor had
they returned by morning. As it was supposed they had wandered away in
pursuit of buffalo, and would readily find the track of the party, no
solicitude was felt on their account. A fire was left burning, to guide
them by its column of smoke, and the travellers proceeded on their
march. In the evening a signal fire was made on a hill adjacent to the
camp, and in the morning it was replenished with fuel so as to last
throughout the day. These signals are usual among the Indians, to give
warnings to each other, or to call home straggling hunters; and such
is the transparency of the atmosphere in those elevated plains, that
a slight column of smoke can be discerned from a great distance,
particularly in the evenings. Two or three days elapsed, however,
without the reappearance of the three hunters; and Mr. Hunt slackened
his march to give them time to overtake him.

A vigilant watch continued to be kept upon the movements of Rose, and
of such of the men as were considered doubtful in their loyalty; but
nothing occurred to excite immediate apprehensions. Rose evidently was
not a favorite among his comrades, and it was hoped that he had not been
able to make any real partisans.

On the 10th of August they encamped among hills, on the highest peak of
which Mr. Hunt caused a huge pyre of pine wood to be made, which soon
sent up a great column of flame that might be seen far and wide over
the prairies. This fire blazed all night, and was amply replenished at
daybreak; so that the towering pillar of smoke could not but be descried
by the wanderers if within the distance of a day's journey.

It is a common occurrence in these regions, where the features of the
country so much resemble each other, for hunters to lose themselves and
wander for many days, before they can find their way back to the main
body of their party. In the present instance, however, a more than
common solicitude was felt, in consequence of the distrust awakened by
the sinister designs of Rose.

The route now became excessively toilsome, over a ridge of steep
rocky hills, covered with loose stones. These were intersected by deep
valleys, formed by two branches of Big River, coming from the south
of west, both of which they crossed. These streams were bordered by
meadows, well stocked with buffaloes. Loads of meat were brought in by
the hunters; but the travellers were rendered dainty by profusion, and
would cook only the choice pieces.

They had now travelled for several days at a very slow rate, and had
made signal-fires and left traces of their route at every stage, yet
nothing was heard or seen of the lost men. It began to be feared that
they might have fallen into the hands of some lurking band of savages.
A party numerous as that of Mr. Hunt, with a long train of pack horses,
moving across plains or naked hills, is discoverable at a great distance
by Indian scouts, who spread the intelligence rapidly to various points,
and assemble their friends to hang about the skirts of the travellers,
steal their horses, or cut off any stragglers from the main body.

Mr. Hunt and his companions were more and more sensible how much it
would be in the power of this sullen and daring vagabond Rose, to do
them mischief, when they should become entangled in the defiles of the
mountains, with the passes of which they were wholly unacquainted, and
which were infested by his freebooting friends, the Crows. There, should
he succeed in seducing some of the party into his plans, he might carry
off the best horses and effects, throw himself among his savage allies,
and set all pursuit at defiance. Mr. Hunt resolved, therefore, to
frustrate the knave, divert him, by management, from his plans, and make
it sufficiently advantageous for him to remain honest.

He took occasion, accordingly, in the course of conversation, to inform
Rose that, having engaged him chiefly as a guide and interpreter through
the country of the Crows, they would not stand in need of his services
beyond. Knowing, therefore, his connection by marriage with that tribe,
and his predilection for a residence among them, they would put no
restraint upon his will, but, whenever they met with a party of that
people, would leave him at liberty to remain among his adopted brethren.
Furthermore, that, in thus parting with him, they would pay him a half a
year's wages in consideration of his past services, and would give him
a horse, three beaver traps, and sundry other articles calculated to set
him up in the world.

This unexpected liberality, which made it nearly as profitable and
infinitely less hazardous for Rose to remain honest than to play the
rogue, completely disarmed him. From that time his whole deportment
underwent a change. His brow cleared up and appeared more cheerful; he
left off his sullen, skulking habits, and made no further attempts to
tamper with the faith of his comrades.

On the 13th of August Mr. Hunt varied his course, and inclined westward,
in hopes of falling in with the three lost hunters; who, it was now
thought, might have kept to the right hand of Big River. This course
soon brought him to a fork of the Little Missouri, about a hundred yards
wide, and resembling the great river of the same name in the strength
of its current, its turbid water, and the frequency of drift-wood and
sunken trees.

Rugged mountains appeared ahead, crowding down to the water edge, and
offering a barrier to further progress on the side they were ascending.
Crossing the river, therefore, they encamped on its northwest bank,
where they found good pasturage and buffalo in abundance. The weather
was overcast and rainy, and a general gloom pervaded the camp; the
voyageurs sat smoking in groups, with their shoulders as high as their
heads, croaking their foreboding, when suddenly towards evening a
shout of joy gave notice that the lost men were found. They came slowly
lagging into camp, with weary looks, and horses jaded and wayworn. They
had, in fact, been for several days incessantly on the move. In their
hunting excursion on the prairies they had pushed so far in pursuit of
buffalo, as to find it impossible to retrace their steps over plains
trampled by innumerable herds; and were baffled by the monotony of the
landscape in their attempts to recall landmarks. They had ridden to and
fro until they had almost lost the points of the compass, and became
totally bewildered; nor did they ever perceive any of the signal fires
and columns of smoke made by their comrades. At length, about two days
previously, when almost spent by anxiety and hard riding, they came,
to their great joy, upon the "trail" of the party, which they had since
followed up steadily.

Those only who have experienced the warm cordiality that grows up
between comrades in wild and adventurous expeditions of the kind, can
picture to themselves the hearty cheering with which the stragglers were
welcomed to the camp. Every one crowded round them to ask questions,
and to hear the story of their mishaps; and even the squaw of the moody
half-breed, Pierre Dorion, forgot the sternness of his domestic rule,
and the conjugal discipline of the cudgel, in her joy at his safe


     The Black Mountains.--Haunts of Predatory Indians.--Their
     Wild and Broken Appearance.--Superstitions Concerning Them--
     Thunder Spirits.--Singular Noises in the Mountains--Secret
     Mines.-Hidden Treasures.--Mountains in Labor.--Scientific
     Explanation.-Impassable Defiles.--Black-Tailed Deer.-The
     Bighorn or Ahsahta.-Prospect From a Lofty Height.--Plain
     With Herds of Buffalo.-Distant Peaks of the Rocky
     Mountains.--Alarms in the Camp.-Tracks of Grizzly Bears.--
     Dangerous Nature of This Animal.-Adventures of William
     Cannon and John Day With Grizzly Bears.

MR. Hunt and his party were now on the skirts of the Black Hills, or
Black Mountains, as they are sometimes called; an extensive chain, lying
about a hundred miles east of the Rocky Mountains, and stretching in
a northeast direction from the south fork of the Nebraska, or Platte
River, to the great north bend of the Missouri. The Sierra or ridge of
the Black Hills, in fact, forms the dividing line between the waters of
the Missouri and those of the Arkansas and the Mississippi, and gives
rise to the Cheyenne, the Little Missouri, and several tributary streams
of the Yellowstone.

The wild recesses of these hills, like those of the Rocky Mountains, are
retreats and lurking-places for broken and predatory tribes, and it was
among them that the remnants of the Cheyenne tribe took refuge, as has
been stated, from their conquering enemies, the Sioux.

The Black Hills are chiefly composed of sandstone, and in many places
are broken into savage cliffs and precipices, and present the most
singular and fantastic forms; sometimes resembling towns and castellated
fortresses. The ignorant inhabitants of plains are prone to clothe
the mountains that bound their horizon with fanciful and superstitious
attributes. Thus the wandering tribes of the prairies, who often
behold clouds gathering round the summits of these hills, and lightning
flashing, and thunder pealing from them, when all the neighboring
plains are serene and sunny, consider them the abode of the genii or
thunder-spirits who fabricate storms and tempests. On entering their
defiles, therefore, they often hang offerings on the trees, or place
them on the rocks, to propitiate the invisible "lords of the mountains,"
and procure good weather and successful hunting; and they attach unusual
significance to the echoes which haunt the precipices. This superstition
may also have arisen, in part, from a natural phenomenon of a singular
nature. In the most calm and serene weather, and at all times of the
day or night, successive reports are now and then heard among these
mountains, resembling the discharge of several pieces of artillery.
Similar reports were heard by Messrs. Lewis and Clarke in the Rocky
Mountains, which they say were attributed by the Indians to the bursting
of the rich mines of silver contained in the bosom of the mountains.

In fact, these singular explosions have received fanciful explanations
from learned men, and have not been satisfactorily accounted for even by
philosophers. They are said to occur frequently in Brazil. Vasconcelles,
Jesuit father, describes one which he heard in the Sierra, or mountain
region of Piratininga, and which he compares to the discharges of a park
of artillery. The Indians told him that it was an explosion of stones.
The worthy father had soon a satisfactory proof of the truth of their
information, for the very place was found where a rock had burst and
exploded from its entrails a stony mass, like a bomb-shell, and of the
size of a bull's heart. This mass was broken either in its ejection or
its fall, and wonderful was the internal organization revealed. It had a
shell harder even than iron; within which were arranged, like the
seeds of a pomegranate, jewels of various colors; some transparent
as crystals; others of a fine red, and others of mixed hues. The same
phenomenon is said to occur occasionally in the adjacent province of
Guayra, where stones of the bigness of a man's hand are exploded, with
a loud noise, from the bosom of the earth, and scatter about glittering
and beautiful fragments that look like precious gems, but are of no

The Indians of the Orellanna, also, tell of horrible noises heard
occasionally in the Paraguaxo, which they consider the throes and groans
of the mountains, endeavoring to cast forth the precious stones hidden
within its entrails. Others have endeavored to account for these
discharges of "mountain artillery" on humbler principles; attributing
them to the loud reports made by the disruption and fall of great
masses of rock, reverberated and prolonged by the echoes; others, to the
disengagement of hydrogen, produced by subterraneous beds of coal in
a state of ignition. In whatever way this singular phenomenon may be
accounted for, the existence of it appears to be well established. It
remains one of the lingering mysteries of nature which throw something
of a supernatural charm over her wild mountain solitudes; and we doubt
whether the imaginative reader will not rather join with the poor Indian
in attributing it to the thunderspirits, or the guardian genii of unseen
treasures, than to any commonplace physical cause.

Whatever might be the supernatural influences among these mountains,
the travellers found their physical difficulties hard to cope with. They
made repeated attempts to find a passage through or over the chain, but
were as often turned back by impassable barriers. Sometimes a defile
seemed to open a practicable path, but it would terminate in some wild
chaos of rocks and cliffs, which it was impossible to climb. The animals
of these solitary regions were different from those they had been
accustomed to. The black-tailed deer would bound up the ravines on their
approach, and the bighorn would gaze fearlessly down upon them from some
impending precipice, or skip playfully from rock to rock. These animals
are only to be met with in mountainous regions. The former is larger
than the common deer, but its flesh is not equally esteemed by hunters.
It has very large ears, and the tip of the tail is black, from which it
derives its name.

The bighorn is so named from its horns; which are of a great size, and
twisted like those of a ram. It is called by some the argali, by others
the ibex, though differing from both of these animals. The Mandans call
it the ahsahta, a name much better than the clumsy appellation which it
generally bears. It is of the size of a small elk, or large deer, and of
a dun color, excepting the belly and round the tail, where it is white.
In its habits it resembles the goat, frequenting the rudest precipices;
cropping the herbage from their edges; and like the chamois, bounding
lightly and securely among dizzy heights, where the hunter dares not
venture. It is difficult, therefore, to get within shot of it. Ben Jones
the hunter, however, in one of the passes of the Black Hills, succeeded
in bringing down a bighorn from the verge of a precipice, the flesh of
which was pronounced by the gormands of the camp to have the flavor of
excellent mutton.

Baffled in his attempts to traverse this mountain chain, Mr. Hunt
skirted along it to the southwest, keeping it on the right; and still in
hopes of finding an opening. At an early hour one day, he encamped in
a narrow valley on the banks of a beautifully clear but rushy pool;
surrounded by thickets bearing abundance of wild cherries, currants, and
yellow and purple gooseberries.

While the afternoon's meal was in preparation, Mr. Hunt and Mr. M'Kenzie
ascended to the summit of the nearest hill, from whence, aided by the
purity and transparency of the evening atmosphere, they commanded a
vast prospect on all sides. Below them extended a plain, dotted with
innumerable herds of buffalo. Some were lying among the herbage, others
roaming in their unbounded pastures, while many were engaged in fierce
contests like those already described, their low bellowings reaching the
ear like the hoarse murmurs of the surf on a distant shore.

Far off in the west they descried a range of lofty mountains printing
the clear horizon, some of them evidently capped with snow. These they
supposed to be the Bighorn Mountains, so called from the animal of that
name, with which they abound. They are a spur of the great Rocky chain.
The hill from whence Mr. Hunt had this prospect was, according to
his computation, about two hundred and fifty miles from the Arickara

On returning to the camp, Mr. Hunt found some uneasiness prevailing
among the Canadian voyageurs. In straying among the thickets they had
beheld tracks of grizzly bears in every direction, doubtless attracted
thither by the fruit. To their dismay, they now found that they had
encamped in one of the favorite resorts of this dreaded animal. The
idea marred all the comfort of the encampment. As night closed, the
surrounding thickets were peopled with terrors; insomuch that, according
to Mr. Hunt, they could not help starting at every little breeze that
stirred the bushes.

The grizzly bear is the only really formidable quadruped of our
continent. He is the favorite theme of the hunters of the far West,
who describe him as equal in size to a common cow and of prodigious
strength. He makes battle if assailed, and often, if pressed by hunger,
is the assailant. If wounded, he becomes furious and will pursue the
hunter. His speed exceeds that of a man but is inferior to that of a
horse. In attacking he rears himself on his hind legs, and springs the
length of his body. Woe to horse or rider that comes within the sweep of
his terrific claws, which are sometimes nine inches in length, and tear
everything before them.

At the time we are treating of, the grizzly bear was still frequent
on the Missouri and in the lower country, but, like some of the broken
tribes of the prairie, he has gradually fallen back before his enemies,
and is now chiefly to be found in the upland regions, in rugged
fastnesses like those of the Black Hills and the Rocky Mountains. Here
he lurks in caverns, or holes which he has digged in the sides of hills,
or under the roots and trunks of fallen trees. Like the common bear, he
is fond of fruits, and mast, and roots, the latter of which he will dig
up with his foreclaws. He is carnivorous also, and will even attack
and conquer the lordly buffalo, dragging his huge carcass to the
neighborhood of his den, that he may prey upon it at his leisure.

The hunters, both white and red men, consider this the most heroic
game. They prefer to hunt him on horseback, and will venture so near as
sometimes to singe his hair with the flash of the rifle. The hunter of
the grizzly bear, however, must be an experienced hand, and know where
to aim at a vital part; for of all quadrupeds, he is the most difficult
to be killed. He will receive repeated wounds without flinching, and
rarely is a shot mortal unless through the head or heart.

That the dangers apprehended from the grizzly bear, at this night
encampment, were not imaginary, was proved on the following morning.
Among the hired men of the party was one William Cannon, who had been a
soldier at one of the frontier posts, and entered into the employ of Mr.
Hunt at Mackinaw. He was an inexperienced hunter and a poor shot, for
which he was much bantered by his more adroit comrades. Piqued at
their raillery, he had been practicing ever since he had joined the
expedition, but without success. In the course of the present afternoon,
he went forth by himself to take a lesson in venerie and, to his
great delight, had the good fortune to kill a buffalo. As he was a
considerable distance from the camp, he cut out the tongue and some
of the choice bits, made them into a parcel, and slinging them on his
shoulders by a strap passed round his forehead, as the voyageurs carry
packages of goods, set out all glorious for the camp, anticipating a
triumph over his brother hunters. In passing through a narrow ravine,
he heard a noise behind him, and looking round beheld, to his dismay, a
grizzly bear in full pursuit, apparently attracted by the scent of the
meat. Cannon had heard so much of the invulnerability of this tremendous
animal, that he never attempted to fire, but, slipping the strap from
his forehead, let go the buffalo meat and ran for his life. The bear did
not stop to regale himself with the game, but kept on after the hunter.
He had nearly overtaken him when Cannon reached a tree, and, throwing
down his rifle scrambled up it. The next instant Bruin was at the foot
of the tree; but, as this species of bear does not climb, he contented
himself with turning the chase into a blockade. Night came on. In the
darkness Cannon could not perceive whether or not the enemy maintained
his station; but his fears pictured him rigorously mounting guard. He
passed the night, therefore, in the tree, a prey to dismal fancies.
In the morning the bear was gone. Cannon warily descended the tree,
gathered up his gun, and made the best of his way back to the camp,
without venturing to look after his buffalo meat.

While on this theme we will add another anecdote of an adventure with a
grizzly bear, told of John Day, the Kentucky hunter, but which happened
at a different period of the expedition. Day was hunting in company with
one of the clerks of the company, a lively youngster, who was a great
favorite with the veteran, but whose vivacity he had continually to keep
in check. They were in search of deer, when suddenly a huge grizzly bear
emerged from a thicket about thirty yards distant, rearing himself upon
his hind legs with a terrific growl, and displaying a hideous array of
teeth and claws. The rifle of the young man was leveled in an instant,
but John Day's iron hand was as quickly upon his arm. "Be quiet, boy!
be quiet!" exclaimed the hunter between his clenched teeth, and without
turning his eyes from the bear. They remained motionless. The monster
regarded them for a time, then, lowering himself on his fore paws,
slowly withdrew. He had not gone many paces, before he again returned,
reared himself on his hind legs, and repeated his menace. Day's hand was
still on the arm of his young companion; he again pressed it hard, and
kept repeating between his teeth, "Quiet, boy!--keep quiet!--keep
quiet!"--though the latter had not made a move since his first
prohibition. The bear again lowered himself on all fours, retreated some
twenty yards further, and again turned, reared, showed his teeth, and
growled. This third menace was too much for the game spirit of John Day.
"By Jove!" exclaimed he, "I can stand this no longer," and in an instant
a ball from his rifle whizzed into his foe. The wound was not mortal;
but, luckily, it dismayed instead of enraged the animal, and he
retreated into the thicket.

Day's companion reproached him for not practicing the caution which
he enjoined upon others. "Why, boy," replied the veteran, "caution is
caution, but one must not put up with too much, even from a bear. Would
you have me suffer myself to be bullied all day by a varmint?"


     Indian Trail.--Rough Mountain Travelling.--Sufferings From
     Hunger and Thirst--Powder River.--Game in Abundance.-A
     Hunter's Paradise.--Mountain Peak Seen at a Great Distance.--
     One of the Bighorn Chain.--Rocky Mountains.--Extent.--
     Appearance.--Height.-The Great American Desert.--Various
     Characteristics of the Mountains.--Indian Superstitions
     Concerning Them.--Land of Souls.--Towns of the Free and
     Generous Spirits--Happy Hunting Grounds.

FOR the two following days, the travellers pursued a westerly course for
thirty-four miles along a ridge of country dividing the tributary waters
of the Missouri and the Yellowstone. As landmarks they guided themselves
by the summits of the far distant mountains, which they supposed to
belong to the Bighorn chain. They were gradually rising into a higher
temperature, for the weather was cold for the season, with a sharp frost
in the night, and ice of an eighth of an inch in thickness.

On the twenty-second of August, early in the day, they came upon the
trail of a numerous band. Rose and the other hunters examined the
foot-prints with great attention, and determined it to be the trail of
a party of Crows, returning from an annual trading visit to the Mandans.
As this trail afforded more commodious travelling, they immediately
struck into it, and followed it for two days. It led them over rough
hills, and through broken gullies, during which time they suffered great
fatigue from the ruggedness of the country. The weather, too, which had
recently been frosty, was now oppressively warm, and there was a
great scarcity of water, insomuch that a valuable dog belonging to Mr.
M'Kenzie died of thirst.

At one time they had twenty-five miles of painful travel, without a
drop of water, until they arrived at a small running stream. Here they
eagerly slaked their thirst; but, this being allayed, the calls of
hunger became equally importunate. Ever since they had got among these
barren and arid hills where there was a deficiency of grass, they had
met with no buffaloes; those animals keeping in the grassy meadows near
the streams. They were obliged, therefore, to have recourse to their
corn meal, which they reserved for such emergencies. Some, however,
were lucky enough to kill a wolf, which they cooked for supper, and
pronounced excellent food.

The next morning they resumed their wayfaring, hungry and jaded, and had
a dogged march of eighteen miles among the same kind of hills. At length
they emerged upon a stream of clear water, one of the forks of Powder
River, and to their great joy beheld once more wide grassy meadows,
stocked with herds of buffalo. For several days they kept along the
banks of the river, ascending it about eighteen miles. It was a hunter's
paradise; the buffaloes were in such abundance that they were enabled
to kill as many as they pleased, and to jerk a sufficient supply of meat
for several days' journeying. Here, then, they reveled and reposed after
their hungry and weary travel, hunting and feasting, and reclining upon
the grass. Their quiet, however, was a little marred by coming upon
traces of Indians, who, they concluded, must be Crows: they were
therefore obliged to keep a more vigilant watch than ever upon their
horses. For several days they had been directing their march towards
the lofty mountain descried by Mr. Hunt and Mr. M'Kenzie on the 17th of
August, the height of which rendered it a landmark over a vast extent of
country. At first it had appeared to them solitary and detached; but
as they advanced towards it, it proved to be the principal summit of a
chain of mountains. Day by day it varied in form, or rather its lower
peaks, and the summits of others of the chain emerged above the clear
horizon, and finally the inferior line of hills which connected most of
them rose to view. So far, however, are objects discernible in the pure
atmosphere of these elevated plains, that, from the place where they
first descried the main mountain, they had to travel a hundred and fifty
miles before they reached its base. Here they encamped on the 30th of
August, having come nearly four hundred miles since leaving the Arickara

The mountain which now towered above them was one of the Bighorn chain,
bordered by a river, of the same name, and extending for a long distance
rather east of north and west of south. It was a part of the great
system of granite mountains which forms one of the most important and
striking features of North America, stretching parallel to the coast of
the Pacific from the Isthmus of Panama almost to the Arctic Ocean; and
presenting a corresponding chain to that of the Andes in the southern
hemisphere. This vast range has acquired, from its rugged and broken
character and its summits of naked granite, the appellation of the Rocky
Mountains, a name by no means distinctive, as all elevated ranges are
rocky. Among the early explorers it was known as the range of Chippewyan
Mountains, and this Indian name is the one it is likely to retain
in poetic usage. Rising from the midst of vast plains and prairies,
traversing several degrees of latitude, dividing the waters of the
Atlantic and the Pacific, and seeming to bind with diverging ridges
the level regions on its flanks, it has been figuratively termed the
backbone of the northern continent.

The Rocky Mountains do not present a range of uniform elevation, but
rather groups and occasionally detached peaks. Though some of these rise
to the region of perpetual snows, and are upwards of eleven thousand
feet in real altitude, yet their height from their immediate basis
is not so great as might be imagined, as they swell up from elevated
plains, several thousand feet above the level of the ocean. These plains
are often of a desolate sterility; mere sandy wastes, formed of the
detritus of the granite heights, destitute of trees and herbage,
scorched by the ardent and reflected rays of the summer's sun, and in
winter swept by chilling blasts from the snow-clad mountains. Such is
a great part of that vast region extending north and south along the
mountains, several hundred miles in width, which has not improperly been
termed the Great American Desert. It is a region that almost discourages
all hope of cultivation, and can only be traversed with safety by
keeping near the streams which intersect it. Extensive plains likewise
occur among the higher regions of the mountains, of considerable
fertility. Indeed, these lofty plats of table-land seem to form a
peculiar feature in the American continents. Some occur among the
Cordilleras of the Andes, where cities, and towns, and cultivated farms
are to be seen eight thousand feet above the level of the sea.

The Rocky Mountains, as we have already observed, occur sometimes singly
or in groups, and occasionally in collateral ridges. Between these are
deep valleys, with small streams winding through them, which find their
way into the lower plains, augmenting as they proceed, and ultimately
discharging themselves into those vast rivers, which traverse the
prairies like great arteries, and drain the continent.

While the granitic summits of the Rocky Mountains are bleak and bare,
many of the inferior ridges are scantily clothed with scrubbed pines,
oaks, cedar, and furze. Various parts of the mountains also bear traces
of volcanic action. Some of the interior valleys are strewed with scoria
and broken stones, evidently of volcanic origin; the surrounding rocks
bear the like character, and vestiges of extinguished craters are to be
seen on the elevated heights.

We have already noticed the superstitious feelings with which the
Indians regard the Black Hills; but this immense range of mountains,
which divides all that they know of the world, and gives birth to such
mighty rivers, is still more an object of awe and veneration. They call
it "the crest of the world," and think that Wacondah, or the master of
life, as they designate the Supreme Being, has his residence among
these aerial heights. The tribes on the eastern prairies call them
the mountains of the setting sun. Some of them place the "happy
hunting-grounds," their ideal paradise, among the recesses of these
mountains; but say that they are invisible to living men. Here also is
the "Land of Souls," in which are the "towns of the free and generous
spirits," where those who have pleased the master of life while living,
enjoy after death all manner of delights.

Wonders are told of these mountains by the distant tribes, whose
warriors or hunters have ever wandered in their neighborhood. It is
thought by some that, after death, they will have to travel to these
mountains and ascend one of their highest and most rugged peaks, among
rocks and snows and tumbling torrents. After many moons of painful toil
they will reach the summit, from whence they will have a view over the
land of souls. There they will see the happy hunting-grounds, with the
souls of the brave and good living in tents in green meadows, by bright
running streams, or hunting the herds of buffalo, and elk, and deer,
which have been slain on earth. There, too, they will see the villages
or towns of the free and generous spirits brightening in the midst of
delicious prairies. If they have acquitted themselves well while living,
they will be permitted to descend and enjoy this happy country; if
otherwise they will but be tantalized with this prospect of it, and
then hurled back from the mountain to wander about the sandy plains, and
endure the eternal pangs of unsatisfied thirst and hunger.


     Region of the Crow Indians--Scouts on the Lookout--Visit
     From a Crew of Hard Riders.--A Crow Camp.--Presents to the
     Crow Chief.-Bargaining.-Crow Bullies.-Rose Among His Indian
     Friends.-Parting With the Crows.--Perplexities Among the
     Mountains.--More of the Crows.--Equestrian Children.--Search
     After Stragglers.

THE travellers had now arrived in the vicinity of the mountain regions
infested by the Crow Indians. These restless marauders, as has already
been observed, are apt to be continually on the prowl about the skirts
of the mountains; and even when encamped in some deep and secluded
glen, they keep scouts upon the cliffs and promontories, who, unseen
themselves, can discern every living thing that moves over the subjacent
plains and valleys. It was not to be expected that our travellers could
pass unseen through a region thus vigilantly sentineled; accordingly, in
the edge of the evening, not long after they had encamped at the foot
of the Bighorn Sierra, a couple of wild-looking beings, scantily clad
in skins, but well armed, and mounted on horses as wild-looking as
themselves, were seen approaching with great caution from among the
rocks. They might have been mistaken for two of the evil spirits of the
mountains so formidable in Indian fable.

Rose was immediately sent out to hold a parley with them, and invite
them to the camp. They proved to be two scouts from the same band that
had been tracked for some days past, and which was now encamped at some
distance in the folds of the mountain. They were easily prevailed upon
to come to the camp, where they were well received, and, after remaining
there until late in the evening, departed to make a report of all they
had seen and experienced to their companions.

The following day had scarce dawned, when a troop of these wild mountain
scamperers came galloping with whoops and yells into the camp, bringing
an invitation from their chief for the white men to visit him. The tents
were accordingly struck, the horses laden, and the party were soon on
the march. The Crow horsemen, as they escorted them, appeared to take
pride in showing off their equestrian skill and hardihood; careering
at full speed on their half-savage steeds, and dashing among rocks and
crags, and up and down the most rugged and dangerous places with perfect
ease and unconcern.

A ride of sixteen miles brought them, in the afternoon, in sight of the
Crow camp. It was composed of leathern tents, pitched in a meadow on
the border of a small clear stream at the foot of the mountain. A great
number of horses were grazing in the vicinity, many of them doubtless
captured in marauding excursions.

The Crow chieftain came forth to meet his guests with great professions
of friendship, and conducted them to his tents, pointing out, by the
way, a convenient place where they might fix their camp. No sooner had
they done so, than Mr. Hunt opened some of the packages and made the
chief a present of a scarlet blanket and a quantity of powder and ball;
he gave him also some knives, trinkets, and tobacco to be distributed
among his warriors, with all which the grim potentate seemed, for the
time, well pleased. As the Crows, however, were reputed to be perfidious
in the extreme, and as errant freebooters as the bird after which they
were so worthily named; and as their general feelings towards the whites
were known to be by no means friendly, the intercourse with them was
conducted with great circumspection.

The following day was passed in trading with the Crows for buffalo robes
and skins, and in bartering galled and jaded horses for others that were
in good condition. Some of the men, also, purchased horses on their own
account, so that the number now amounted to one hundred and twenty-one,
most of them sound and active, and fit for mountain service.

Their wants being supplied, they ceased all further traffic, much to the
dissatisfaction of the Crows, who became extremely urgent to continue
the trade, and, finding their importunities of no avail, assumed an
insolent and menacing tone. All this was attributed by Mr. Hunt and his
associates to the perfidious instigations of Rose the interpreter, whom
they suspected of the desire to foment ill-will between them and the
savages, for the promotion of his nefarious plans. M'Lellan, with his
usual tranchant mode of dealing out justice, resolved to shoot the
desperado on the spot in case of any outbreak. Nothing of the kind,
however, occurred. The Crows were probably daunted by the resolute,
though quiet demeanor of the white men, and the constant vigilance and
armed preparations which they maintained; and Rose, if he really
still harbored his knavish designs, must have perceived that they were
suspected, and, if attempted to be carried into effect, might bring ruin
on his own head.

The next morning, bright and early, Mr. Hunt proposed to resume his
journeying. He took a ceremonious leave of the Crow chieftain, and his
vagabond warriors, and according to previous arrangements, consigned
to their cherishing friendship and fraternal adoption, their worthy
confederate Rose; who, having figured among the water pirates of the
Mississippi, was well fitted to rise to distinction among the land
pirates of the Rocky Mountains.

It is proper to add, that the ruffian was well received among the tribe,
and appeared to be perfectly satisfied with the compromise he had made;
feeling much more at his ease among savages than among white men. It is
outcasts from justice, and heartless desperadoes of this kind who sow
the seeds of enmity and bitterness among the unfortunate tribes of
the frontier. There is no enemy so implacable against a country or a
community as one of its own people who has rendered himself an alien by
his crimes.

Right glad to be delivered from this treacherous companion, Mr. Hunt
pursued his course along the skirts of the mountain, in a southern
direction, seeking for some practicable defile by which he might pass
through it; none such presented, however, in the course of fifteen
miles, and he encamped on a small stream, still on the outskirts. The
green meadows which border these mountain streams are generally well
stocked with game, and the hunters killed several fat elks, which
supplied the camp with fresh meat. In the evening the travellers were
surprised by an unwelcome visit from several Crows belonging to a
different band from that which they recently left, and who said their
camp was among the mountains. The consciousness of being environed by
such dangerous neighbors, and of being still within the range of Rose
and his fellow ruffians, obliged the party to be continually on the
alert, and to maintain weary vigils throughout the night, lest they
should be robbed of their horses.

On the third of September, finding that the mountain still stretched
onwards, presenting a continued barrier, they endeavored to force a
passage to the westward, but soon became entangled among rocks and
precipices which set all their efforts at defiance. The mountain seemed,
for the most part, rugged, bare, and sterile; yet here and there it was
clothed with pines, and with shrubs and flowering plants, some of which
were in bloom. In tolling among these weary places, their thirst became
excessive, for no water was to be met with. Numbers of the men wandered
off into rocky dells and ravines in hopes of finding some brook or
fountain; some of whom lost their way and did not rejoin the main party.

After a day of painful and fruitless scrambling, Mr. Hunt gave up the
attempt to penetrate in this direction, and, returning to the little
stream on the skirts of the mountain, pitched his tents within six miles
of his encampment of the preceding night. He now ordered that signals
should be made for the stragglers in quest of water; but the night
passed away without their return.

The next morning, to their surprise, Rose made his appearance at the
camp, accompanied by some of his Crow associates. His unwelcome visit
revived their suspicions; but he announced himself as a messenger of
good-will from the chief, who, finding they had taken the wrong road,
had sent Rose and his companions to guide them to a nearer and better
one across the mountain.

Having no choice, being themselves utterly at fault, they set out under
this questionable escort. They had not gone far before they fell in with
the whole party of Crows, who, they now found, were going the same road
with themselves. The two cavalcades of white and red men, therefore,
pushed on together, and presented a wild and picturesque spectacle,
as, equipped with various weapons and in various garbs, with trains of
pack-horses, they wound in long lines through the rugged defiles, and up
and down the crags and steeps of the mountain.

The travellers had again an opportunity to see and admire the equestrian
habitudes and address of this hard-riding tribe. They were all mounted,
man, woman, and child, for the Crows have horses in abundance, so that
no one goes on foot. The children are perfect imps on horseback. Among
them was one so young that he could not yet speak. He was tied on a colt
of two years old, but managed the reins as if by instinct, and plied
the whip with true Indian prodigality. Mr. Hunt inquired the age of this
infant jockey, and was answered that "he had seen two winters."

This is almost realizing the fable of the centaurs; nor can we wonder
at the equestrian adroitness of these savages, who are thus in a manner
cradled in the saddle, and become in infancy almost identified with the
animal they bestride.

The mountain defiles were exceedingly rough and broken, and the
travelling painful to the burdened horses. The party, therefore,
proceeded but slowly, and were gradually left behind by the band of
Crows, who had taken the lead. It is more than probable that Mr. Hunt
loitered in his course, to get rid of such doubtful fellow-travellers.
Certain it is that he felt a sensation of relief as he saw the whole
crew, the renegade Rose and all, disappear among the windings of
the mountain, and heard the last yelp of the savages die away in the

When they were fairly out of sight, and out of hearing, he encamped on
the head waters of the little stream of the preceding day, having come
about sixteen miles. Here he remained all the succeeding day, as well
to give time for the Crows to get in the advance, as for the stragglers,
who had wandered away in quest of water two days previously, to rejoin
the camp. Indeed, considerable uneasiness began to be felt concerning
these men, lest they should become utterly bewildered in the defiles of
the mountains, or should fall into the hands of some marauding band of
savages. Some of the most experienced hunters were sent in search of
them; others, in the meantime, employed themselves in hunting. The
narrow valley in which they encamped being watered by a running
stream, yielded fresh pasturage, and though in the heart of the Bighorn
Mountains, was well stocked with buffalo. Several of these were killed,
as also a grizzly bear. In the evening, to the satisfaction of all
parties, the stragglers made their appearance, and provisions being in
abundance, there was hearty good cheer in the camp.


     Mountain Glens.--Wandering Band of Savages--Anecdotes of
     Shoshonies and Flatheads.--Root Diggers--Their Solitary
     Lurking Habits.--Gnomes of the Mountains.--Wind River.--
     Scarcity of Food.--Alteration of Route.--The Pilot Knobs or
     Tetons.--Branch of the Colorado.--Hunting Camp.

RESUMING their course on the following morning, Mr. Hunt and his
companions continued on westward through a rugged region of hills and
rocks, but diversified in many places by grassy little glens, with
springs of water, bright sparkling brooks, clumps of pine trees, and a
profusion of flowering plants, which were in bloom, although the weather
was frosty. These beautiful and verdant recesses, running through and
softening the rugged mountains, were cheering and refreshing to the
wayworn travellers.

In the course of the morning, as they were entangled in a defile, they
beheld a small band of savages, as wild-looking as the surrounding
scenery, who reconnoitred them warily from the rocks before they
ventured to advance. Some of them were mounted on horses rudely
caparisoned with bridles or halters of buffalo hide, one end trailing
after them on the ground. They proved to be a mixed party of Flatheads
and Shoshonies, or Snakes; and as these tribes will be frequently
mentioned in the course of this work, we shall give a few introductory
particulars concerning them.

The Flatheads in question are not to be confounded with those of the
name who dwell about the lower waters of the Columbia; neither do they
flatten their heads, as the others do. They inhabit the banks of a river
on the west side of the mountains, and are described as simple, honest,
and hospitable. Like all people of similar character, whether civilized
or savage, they are prone to be imposed upon; and are especially
maltreated by the ruthless Blackfeet, who harass them in their villages,
steal their horses by night, or openly carry them off in the face of
day, without provoking pursuit or retaliation.

The Shoshonies are a branch of the once powerful and prosperous tribe
of the Snakes, who possessed a glorious hunting country about the upper
forks of the Missouri, abounding in beaver and buffalo. Their hunting
ground was occasionally invaded by the Blackfeet, but the Snakes battled
bravely for their domains, and a long and bloody feud existed, with
variable success. At length the Hudson's Bay Company, extending their
trade into the interior, had dealings with the Blackfeet, who were
nearest to them, and supplied them with fire-arms. The Snakes, who
occasionally traded with the Spaniards, endeavored, but in vain, to
obtain similar weapons; the Spanish traders wisely refused to arm
them so formidably. The Blackfeet had now a vast advantage, and soon
dispossessed the poor Snakes of their favorite hunting grounds, their
land of plenty, and drove them from place to place, until they were fain
to take refuge in the wildest and most desolate recesses of the Rocky
Mountains. Even here they are subject to occasional visits from their
implacable foes, as long as they have horses, or any other property to
tempt the plunderer. Thus by degrees the Snakes have become a scattered,
broken-spirited, impoverished people; keeping about lonely rivers and
mountain streams, and subsisting chiefly upon fish. Such of them as
still possess horses, and occasionally figure as hunters, are called
Shoshonies; but there is another class, the most abject and forlorn, who
are called Shuckers, or more commonly Diggers and Root Eaters. These are
a shy, secret, solitary race, who keep in the most retired parts of the
mountains, lurking like gnomes in caverns and clefts of the rocks, and
subsisting in a great measure on the roots of the earth. Sometimes,
in passing through a solitary mountain valley, the traveller comes
perchance upon the bleeding carcass of a deer or buffalo that has just
been slain. He looks round in vain for the hunter; the whole landscape
is lifeless and deserted: at length he perceives a thread of smoke,
curling up from among the crags and cliffs, and scrambling to the place,
finds some forlorn and skulking brood of Diggers, terrified at being

The Shoshonies, however, who, as has been observed, have still "horse to
ride and weapon to wear," are somewhat bolder in their spirit, and more
open and wide in their wanderings. In the autumn, when salmon disappear
from the rivers, and hunger begins to pinch, they even venture down into
their ancient hunting grounds, to make a foray among the buffaloes. In
this perilous enterprise they are occasionally joined by the Flatheads,
the persecutions of the Blackfeet having produced a close alliance
and cooperation between these luckless and maltreated tribes. Still,
notwithstanding their united force, every step they take within the
debatable ground is taken in fear and trembling, and with the utmost
precaution: and an Indian trader assures us that he has seen at least
five hundred of them, armed and equipped for action, and keeping watch
upon the hill tops, while about fifty were hunting in the prairie. Their
excursions are brief and hurried; as soon as they have collected and
jerked sufficient buffalo meat for winter provisions, they pack their
horses, abandon the dangerous hunting grounds, and hasten back to the
mountains, happy if they have not the terrible Blackfeet rattling after

Such a confederate band of Shoshonies and Flatheads was the one met
by our travellers. It was bound on a visit to the Arrapahoes, a tribe
inhabiting the banks of the Nebraska. They were armed to the best of
their scanty means, and some of the Shoshonies had bucklers of buffalo
hide, adorned with feathers and leathern fringes, and which have a
charmed virtue in their eyes, from having been prepared, with mystic
ceremonies, by their conjurers.

In company with this wandering band our travellers proceeded all day.
In the evening they encamped near to each other in a defile of the
mountains, on the borders of a stream running north, and falling into
Bighorn River. In the vicinity of the camp, they found gooseberries,
strawberries, and currants in great abundance. The defile bore traces of
having been a thoroughfare for countless herds of buffaloes, though not
one was to be seen. The hunters succeeded in killing an elk and several
black-tailed deer.

They were now in the bosom of the second Bighorn ridge, with another
lofty and snow-crowned mountain full in view to the west. Fifteen miles
of western course brought them, on the following day, down into an
intervening plain, well stocked with buffalo. Here the Snakes and
Flatheads joined with the white hunters in a successful hunt, that soon
filled the camp with provisions.

On the morning of the 9th of September, the travellers parted company
with their Indian friends, and continued on their course to the west.
A march of thirty miles brought them, in the evening, to the banks of a
rapid and beautifully clear stream about a hundred yards wide. It is the
north fork or branch of the Bighorn River, but bears its peculiar
name of the Wind River, from being subject in the winter season to a
continued blast which sweeps its banks and prevents the snow from lying
on them. This blast is said to be caused by a narrow gap or funnel
in the mountains, through which the river forces its way between
perpendicular precipices, resembling cut rocks.

This river gives its name to a whole range of mountains consisting
of three parallel chains, eighty miles in length, and about twenty or
twenty-five broad. One of its peaks is probably fifteen thousand feet
above the level of the sea, being one of the highest of the Rocky
Sierra. These mountains give rise, not merely to the Wind or Bighorn
River, but to several branches of the Yellowstone and the Missouri on
the east, and of the Columbia and Colorado on the west; thus dividing
the sources of these mighty streams.

For five succeeding days, Mr. Hunt and his party continued up the course
of the Wind River, to the distance of about eighty miles, crossing and
recrossing it, according to its windings, and the nature of its banks;
sometimes passing through valleys, at other times scrambling over rocks
and hills. The country in general was destitute of trees, but they
passed through groves of wormwood, eight and ten feet in height, which
they used occasionally for fuel, and they met with large quantities of
wild flax.

The mountains were destitute of game; they came in sight of two grizzly
bears, but could not get near enough for a shot; provisions, therefore,
began to be scanty. They saw large flights of the kind of thrush
commonly called the robin, and many smaller birds of migratory species;
but the hills in general appeared lonely and with few signs of animal
life. On the evening of the 14th September, they encamped on the forks
of the Wind or Bighorn River. The largest of these forks came from the
range of Wind River Mountains.

The hunters who served as guides to the party in this part of their
route, had assured Mr. Hunt that, by following up Wind River, and
crossing a single mountain ridge, he would come upon the head waters
of the Columbia. This scarcity of game, however, which already had been
felt to a pinching degree, and which threatened them with famine among
the sterile heights which lay before them, admonished them to change
their course. It was determined, therefore, to make for a stream, which
they were informed passed the neighboring mountains, to the south of
west, on the grassy banks of which it was probable they would meet with
buffalo. Accordingly, about three o'clock on the following day, meeting
with a beaten Indian road which led in the proper direction, they struck
into it, turning their backs upon Wind River.

In the course of the day, they came to a height that commanded an
almost boundless prospect. Here one of the guides paused, and, after
considering the vast landscape attentively, pointed to three mountain
peaks glistening with snow, which rose, he said, above a fork of
Columbia River. They were hailed by the travellers with that joy with
which a beacon on a seashore is hailed by mariners after a long and
dangerous voyage.

It is true there was many a weary league to be traversed before they
should reach these landmarks, for, allowing for their evident height and
the extreme transparency of the atmosphere, they could not be much less
than a hundred miles distant. Even after reaching them, there would yet
remain hundreds of miles of their journey to be accomplished. All these
matters were forgotten in the joy at seeing the first landmarks of the
Columbia, that river which formed the bourne of the expedition. These
remarkable peaks were known as the Tetons; as guiding points for many
days, to Mr. Hunt, he gave them the names of the Pilot Knobs.

The travellers continued their course to the south of west for about
forty miles, through a region so elevated that patches of snow lay on
the highest summits and on the northern declivities. At length they came
to the desired stream, the object of their search, the waters of which
flowed to the west. It was, in fact, a branch of the Colorado, which
falls into the Gulf of California, and had received from the hunters
the name of Spanish River, from information given by the Indians that
Spaniards resided upon its lower waters.

The aspect of this river and its vicinity was cheering to the wayworn
and hungry travellers. Its banks were green, and there were grassy
valleys running from it various directions, into the heart of the rugged
mountains, with herds of buffalo quietly grazing. The hunters sallied
forth with keen alacrity, and soon returned laden with provisions.

In this part of the mountains Mr. Hunt met with three different kinds of
gooseberries. The common purple, on a low and very thorny bush; a yellow
kind, of an excellent flavor, growing on a stock free from thorns; and
a deep purple, of the size and taste of our winter grape, with a thorny
stalk. There were also three kinds of currants, one very large and well
tasted, of a purple color, and growing on a bush eight or nine feet
high. Another of a yellow color, and of the size and taste of the large
red currant, the bush four or five feet high; and the third a beautiful
scarlet, resembling the strawberry in sweetness, though rather insipid,
and growing on a low bush.

On the 17th they continued down the course of the river, making fifteen
miles to the southwest. The river abounded with geese and ducks, and
there were signs of its being inhabited by beaver and otters: indeed
they were now approaching regions where these animals, the great objects
of the fur trade, are said to abound. They encamped for the night
opposite the end of a mountain in the west, which was probably the last
chain of the Rocky Mountains. On the following morning they abandoned
the main course of the Spanish River, and taking a northwest direction
for eight miles, came upon one of its little tributaries, issuing out of
the bosom of the mountains, and running through green meadows, yielding
pasturage to herds of buffalo. As these were probably the last of that
animal they would meet with, they encamped on the grassy banks of the
river, determined to spend several days in hunting, so as to be able to
jerk sufficient meat to supply them until they should reach the waters
of the Columbia, where they trusted to find fish enough for their
support. A little repose, too, was necessary for both men and horses,
after their rugged and incessant marching; having in the course of the
last seventeen days traversed two hundred and sixty miles of rough, and
in many parts sterile, mountain country.


     A Plentiful Hunting Camp.-Shoshonie Hunters--Hoback's River
     --Mad River--Encampment Near the Pilot Knobs.--A
     Consultation.--Preparations for a Perilous Voyage.

FIVE days were passed by Mr. Hunt and his companions in the fresh
meadows watered by the bright little mountain stream. The hunters made
great havoc among the buffaloes, and brought in quantities of meat; the
voyageurs busied themselves about the fires, roasting and stewing for
present purposes, or drying provisions for the journey; the pack-horses,
eased of their burdens, rolled on the grass, or grazed at large about
the ample pasture; those of the party who had no call upon their
services, indulged in the luxury of perfect relaxation, and the camp
presented a picture of rude feasting and revelry, of mingled bustle
and repose, characteristic of a halt in a fine hunting country. In the
course of one of their excursions, some of the men came in sight of
a small party of Indians, who instantly fled in great apparent
consternation. They immediately retreated to camp with the intelligence:
upon which Mr. Hunt and four others flung themselves upon their horses,
and sallied forth to reconnoitre. After riding for about eight miles,
they came upon a wild mountain scene. A lonely green valley stretched
before them, surrounded by rugged heights. A herd of buffalo were
careering madly through it, with a troop of savage horsemen in full
chase, plying them with their bows and arrows. The appearance of Mr.
Hunt and his companions put an abrupt end to the hunt; the buffalo
scuttled off in one direction, while the Indians plied their lashes and
galloped off in another, as fast as their steeds could carry them. Mr.
Hunt gave chase; there was a sharp scamper, though of short continuance.
Two young Indians, who were indifferently mounted, were soon overtaken.
They were terribly frightened, and evidently gave themselves up for
lost. By degrees their fears were allayed by kind treatment; but they
continued to regard the strangers with a mixture of awe and wonder, for
it was the first time in their lives they had ever seen a white man.

They belonged to a party of Snakes who had come across the mountains on
their autumnal hunting excursion to provide buffalo meat for the
winter. Being persuaded of the peaceful intentions of Mr. Hunt and his
companions, they willingly conducted them to their camp. It was pitched
in a narrow valley on the margin of a stream. The tents were of dressed
skins, some of them fantastically painted; with horses grazing about
them. The approach of the party caused a transient alarm in the camp,
for these poor Indians were ever on the look-out for cruel foes. No
sooner, however, did they recognize the garb and complexion of their
visitors, than their apprehensions were changed into Joy; for some of
them had dealt with white men, and knew them to be friendly, and to
abound with articles of singular value. They welcomed them, therefore,
to their tents, set food before them; and entertained them to the best
of their power.

They had been successful in their hunt, and their camp was full of
jerked buffalo meat, all of the choicest kind, and extremely fat. Mr.
Hunt purchased enough of them, in addition to what had been killed
and cured by his own hunters, to load all the horses excepting those
reserved for the partners and the wife of Pierre Dorion. He found, also,
a few beaver skins in their camp, for which he paid liberally, as an
inducement to them to hunt for more; informing them that some of his
party intended to live among the mountains, and trade with the native
hunters for their peltries. The poor Snakes soon comprehended the
advantages thus held out to them, and promised to exert themselves to
procure a quantity of beaver skins for future traffic. Being now well
supplied with provisions, Mr. Hunt broke up his encampment on the 24th
of September, and continued on to the west. A march of fifteen miles,
over a mountain ridge, brought them to a stream about fifty feet in
width, which Hoback, one of their guides, who had trapped about the
neighborhood when in the service of Mr. Henry, recognized for one of the
head waters of the Columbia. The travellers hailed it with delight,
as the first stream they had encountered tending toward their point of
destination. They kept along it for two days, during which, from the
contribution of many rills and brooks, it gradually swelled into a small
river. As it meandered among rocks and precipices, they were frequently
obliged to ford it, and such was its rapidity that the men were often in
danger of being swept away. Sometimes the banks advanced so close upon
the river that they were obliged to scramble up and down their rugged
promontories, or to skirt along their bases where there was scarce a
foothold. Their horses had dangerous falls in some of these passes. One
of them rolled, with his load, nearly two hundred feet down hill into
the river, but without receiving any injury. At length they emerged from
these stupendous defiles, and continued for several miles along the bank
of Hoback's River, through one of the stern mountain valleys. Here it
was joined by a river of greater magnitude and swifter current, and
their united waters swept off through the valley in one impetuous
stream, which, from its rapidity and turbulence, had received the name
of the Mad River. At the confluence of these streams the travellers
encamped. An important point in their arduous journey had been attained;
a few miles from their camp rose the three vast snowy peaks called the
Tetons, or the Pilot Knobs, the great landmarks of the Columbia, by
which they had shaped their course through this mountain wilderness. By
their feet flowed the rapid current of Mad River, a stream ample enough
to admit of the navigation of canoes, and down which they might possibly
be able to steer their course to the main body of the Columbia.
The Canadian voyageurs rejoiced at the idea of once more launching
themselves upon their favorite element; of exchanging their horses for
canoes, and of gliding down the bosoms of rivers, instead of scrambling
over the backs of mountains. Others of the party, also, inexperienced in
this kind of travelling, considered their toils and troubles as drawing
to a close. They had conquered the chief difficulties of this great
rocky barrier, and now flattered themselves with the hope of an easy
downward course for the rest of their journey. Little did they dream
of the hardships and perils by land and water, which were yet to be
encountered in the frightful wilderness that intervened between them and
the shores of the Pacific!


     A Consultation Whether to Proceed by Land or Water--
     Preparations for Boat-Building.--An Exploring Party.--A
     Party of Trappers Detached.--Two Snake Visitors.--Their
     Report Concerning the River.--Confirmed by the Exploring
     Party.--Mad River Abandoned.--Arrival at Henry's Fort.--
     Detachment of Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner to Trap.--Mr.
     Miller Resolves to Accompany Them.--Their Departure.

ON the banks of Mad River Mr. Hunt held a consultation with the other
partners as to their future movements. The wild and impetuous current
of the river rendered him doubtful whether it might not abound with
impediments lower down, sufficient to render the navigation of it slow
and perilous, if not impracticable. The hunters who had acted as guides
knew nothing of the character of the river below; what rocks, and
shoals, and rapids might obstruct it, or through what mountains and
deserts it might pass. Should they then abandon their horses, cast
themselves loose in fragile barks upon this wild, doubtful, and unknown
river; or should they continue their more toilsome and tedious, but
perhaps more certain wayfaring by land?

The vote, as might have been expected, was almost unanimous for
embarkation; for when men are in difficulties every change seems to be
for the better. The difficulty now was to find timber of sufficient size
for the construction of canoes, the trees in these high mountain regions
being chiefly a scrubbed growth of pines and cedars, aspens, haws, and
service-berries, and a small kind of cotton-tree, with a leaf resembling
that of the willow. There was a species of large fir, but so full of
knots as to endanger the axe in hewing it. After searching for some
time, a growth of timber, of sufficient size, was found lower down the
river, whereupon the encampment was moved to the vicinity.

The men were now set to work to fell trees, and the mountains echoed to
the unwonted sound of their axes. While preparations were thus going on
for a voyage down the river, Mr. Hunt, who still entertained doubts of
its practicability, despatched an exploring party, consisting of
John Reed, the clerk, John Day, the hunter, and Pierre Dorion, the
interpreter, with orders to proceed several days' march along the
stream, and notice its course and character.

After their departure, Mr. Hunt turned his thoughts to another object of
importance. He had now arrived at the head waters of the Columbia, which
were among the main points embraced by the enterprise of Mr. Astor.
These upper streams were reputed to abound in beaver, and had as yet
been unmolested by the white trapper. The numerous signs of beaver
met with during the recent search for timber gave evidence that the
neighborhood was a good "trapping ground." Here, then, it was proper to
begin to cast loose those leashes of hardy trappers, that are detached
from trading parties, in the very heart of the wilderness. The men
detached in the present instance were Alexander Carson, Louis St.
Michel, Pierre Detaye, and Pierre Delaunay. Trappers generally go in
pairs, that they may assist, protect, and comfort each other in their
lonely and perilous occupations. Thus Carson and St. Michel formed
one couple, and Detaye and Delaunay another. They were fitted out with
traps, arms, ammunition, horses, and every other requisite, and were to
trap upon the upper part of Mad River, and upon the neighboring streams
of the mountains. This would probably occupy them for some months; and,
when they should have collected a sufficient quantity of peltries, they
were to pack them upon their horses and make the best of their way to
the mouth of Columbia River, or to any intermediate post which might
be established by the company. They took leave of their comrades and
started off on their several courses with stout hearts and cheerful
countenances; though these lonely cruisings into a wild and hostile
wilderness seem to the uninitiated equivalent to being cast adrift in
the ship's yawl in the midst of the ocean.

Of the perils that attend the lonely trapper, the reader will have
sufficient proof, when he comes, in the after part of this work, to
learn the hard fortunes of these poor fellows in the course of their
wild peregrinations.

The trappers had not long departed, when two Snake Indians wandered
into the camp. When they perceived that the strangers were fabricating
canoes, they shook their heads and gave them to understand that the
river was not navigable. Their information, however, was scoffed at by
some of the party, who were obstinately bent on embarkation, but was
confirmed by the exploring party, who returned after several days'
absence. They had kept along the river with great difficulty for two
days, and found it a narrow, crooked, turbulent stream, confined in
a rocky channel, with many rapids, and occasionally overhung with
precipices. From the summit of one of these they had caught a bird's-eye
view of its boisterous career for a great distance through the heart of
the mountain, with impending rocks and cliffs. Satisfied from this view
that it was useless to follow its course, either by land or water, they
had given up all further investigation.

These concurring reports determined Mr. Hunt to abandon Mad River, and
seek some more navigable stream. This determination was concurred in by
all his associates excepting Mr. Miller, who had become impatient of
the fatigue of land travel, and was for immediate embarkation at all
hazards. This gentleman had been in a gloomy and irritated state of mind
for some time past, being troubled with a bodily malady that rendered
travelling on horseback extremely irksome to him, and being, moreover,
discontented with having a smaller share in the expedition than his
comrades. His unreasonable objections to a further march by land were
overruled, and the party prepared to decamp.

Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner, the three hunters who had hitherto served
as guides among the mountains, now stepped forward, and advised Mr. Hunt
to make for the post established during the preceding year by Mr. Henry,
of the Missouri Fur Company. They had been with Mr. Henry, and, as far
as they could judge by the neighboring landmarks, his post could not be
very far off. They presumed there could be but one intervening ridge of
mountains, which might be passed without any great difficulty. Henry's
post, or fort, was on an upper branch of the Columbia, down which they
made no doubt it would be easy to navigate in canoes.

The two Snake Indians being questioned in the matter, showed a perfect
knowledge of the situation of the post, and offered, with great
alacrity, to guide them to the place. Their offer was accepted, greatly
to the displeasure of Mr. Miller, who seemed obstinately bent upon
braving the perils of Mad River.

The weather for a few days past had been stormy, with rain and sleet.
The Rocky Mountains are subject to tempestuous winds from the west;
these sometimes come in flaws or currents, making a path through the
forests many yards in width, and whirling off trunks and branches to
a great distance. The present storm subsided on the third of October,
leaving all the surrounding heights covered with snow; for while rain
had fallen in the valley, it had snowed on the hill tops.

On the 4th, they broke up their encampment, and crossed the river, the
water coming up to the girths of their horses. After travelling four
miles, they encamped at the foot of the mountain, the last, as they
hoped, which they should have to traverse. Four days more took them
across it, and over several plains, watered by beautiful little streams,
tributaries of Mad River. Near one of their encampments there was a hot
spring continually emitting a cloud of vapor. These elevated plains,
which give a peculiar character to the mountains, are frequented by
large gangs of antelopes, fleet as the wind.

On the evening of the 8th of October, after a cold wintry day, with
gusts of westerly wind and flurries of snow, they arrived at the
sought-for post of Mr. Henry. Here he had fixed himself, after being
compelled by the hostilities of the Blackfeet, to abandon the upper
waters of the Missouri. The post, however, was deserted, for Mr. Henry
had left it in the course of the preceding spring, and, as it afterwards
appeared, had fallen in with Mr. Lisa, at the Arickara village on the
Missouri, some time after the separation of Mr. Hunt and his party.

The weary travellers gladly took possession of the deserted log huts
which had formed the post, and which stood on the bank of a stream
upwards of a hundred yards wide, on which they intended to embark.
There being plenty of suitable timber in the neighborhood, Mr. Hunt
immediately proceeded to construct canoes. As he would have to leave
his horses and their accoutrements here, he determined to make this a
trading post, where the trappers and hunters, to be distributed about
the country, might repair; and where the traders might touch on their
way through the mountains to and from the establishment at the mouth of
the Columbia. He informed the two Snake Indians of this determination,
and engaged them to remain in that neighborhood and take care of the
horses until the white men should return, promising them ample rewards
for their fidelity. It may seem a desperate chance to trust to the faith
and honesty of two such vagabonds; but, as the horses would have, at all
events, to be abandoned, and would otherwise become the property of the
first vagrant horde that should encounter them, it was one chance in
favor of their being regained.

At this place another detachment of hunters prepared to separate from
the party for the purpose of trapping beaver. Three of these had
already been in this neighborhood, being the veteran Robinson and his
companions, Hoback and Rezner, who had accompanied Mr. Henry across the
mountains, and who had been picked up by Mr. Hunt on the Missouri, on
their way home to Kentucky. According to agreement they were fitted
out with horses, traps, ammunition, and everything requisite for their
undertaking, and were to bring in all the peltries they should collect,
either to this trading post, or to the establishment at the mouth of
Columbia River. Another hunter, of the name of Cass, was associated with
them in their enterprise. It is in this way that small knots of trappers
and hunters are distributed about the wilderness by the fur companies,
and like cranes and bitterns, haunt its solitary streams. Robinson, the
Kentuckian, the veteran of the "bloody ground," who, as has already
been noted, had been scalped by the Indians in his younger days, was the
leader of this little band. When they were about to depart, Mr. Miller
called the partners together and threw up his share in the company,
declaring his intention of joining the party of trappers.

This resolution struck every one with astonishment, Mr. Miller being
a man of education and of cultivated habits, and little fitted for
the rude life of a hunter. Besides, the precarious and slender profits
arising from such a life were beneath the prospects of one who held a
share in the general enterprise. Mr. Hunt was especially concerned
and mortified at his determination, as it was through his advice and
influence he had entered into the concern. He endeavored, therefore, to
dissuade him from this sudden resolution; representing its rashness,
and the hardships and perils to which it would expose him. He earnestly
advised him, however he might feel dissatisfied with the enterprise,
still to continue on in company until they should reach the mouth of
Columbia River. There they would meet the expedition that was to come by
sea; when, should he still feel disposed to relinquish the undertaking,
Mr. Hunt pledged himself to furnish him a passage home in one of the
vessels belonging to the company.

To all this Miller replied abruptly, that it was useless to argue with
him, as his mind was made up. They might furnish him, or not, as they
pleased, with the necessary supplies, but he was determined to part
company here, and set off with the trappers. So saying, he flung out of
their presence without vouchsafing any further conversation.

Much as this wayward conduct gave them anxiety, the partners saw it was
in vain to remonstrate. Every attention was paid to fit him out for his
headstrong undertaking. He was provided with four horses, and all the
articles he required. The two Snakes undertook to conduct him and
his companions to an encampment of their tribe, lower down among the
mountains, from whom they would receive information as to the trapping
grounds. After thus guiding them, the Snakes were to return to Fort
Henry, as the new trading post was called, and take charge of the horses
which the party would leave there, of which, after all the hunters
were supplied, there remained seventy-seven. These matters being all
arranged, Mr. Miller set out with his companions, under guidance of the
two Snakes, on the 10th of October; and much did it grieve the friends
of that gentleman to see him thus wantonly casting himself loose upon
savage life. How he and his comrades fared in the wilderness, and how
the Snakes acquitted themselves of their trust respecting the horses,
will hereafter appear in the course of these rambling anecdotes.


     Scanty Fare.--A Mendicant Snake.--Embarkation on Henry
     River--Joy of the Voyageurs.-Arrival at Snake River.--Rapids
     and Breakers.--Beginning of Misfortunes.--Snake
     Encampments.--Parley With a Savage.--A Second Disaster.--
     Loss of a Boatman.--The Caldron Linn.

WHILE the canoes were in preparation, the hunters ranged about the
neighborhood, but with little success. Tracks of buffaloes were to be
seen in all directions, but none of a fresh date. There were some elk,
but extremely wild; two only were killed. Antelopes were likewise seen,
but too shy and fleet to be approached. A few beavers were taken
every night, and salmon trout of a small size, so that the camp had
principally to subsist upon dried buffalo meat.

On the 14th, a poor, half-naked Snake Indian, one of that forlorn caste
called the Shuckers, or Diggers, made his appearance at the camp. He
came from some lurking-place among the rocks and cliffs, and presented
a picture of that famishing wretchedness to which these lonely fugitives
among the mountains are sometimes reduced. Having received wherewithal
to allay his hunger, he disappeared, but in the course of a day or two
returned to the camp, bringing with him his son, a miserable boy,
still more naked and forlorn than himself. Food was given to both;
they skulked about the camp like hungry hounds, seeking what they might
devour, and having gathered up the feet and entrails of some beavers
that were lying about, slunk off with them to their den among the rocks.

By the 18th of October, fifteen canoes were completed, and on the
following day the party embarked with their effects; leaving their
horses grazing about the banks, and trusting to the honesty of the two
Snakes, and some special turn of good luck for their future recovery.

The current bore them along at a rapid rate; the light spirits of the
Canadian voyageurs, which had occasionally flagged upon land, rose to
their accustomed buoyancy on finding themselves again upon the water.
They wielded their paddles with their wonted dexterity, and for the
first time made the mountains echo with their favorite boat songs.

In the course of the day the little squadron arrived at the confluence
of Henry and Mad Rivers, which, thus united, swelled into a beautiful
stream of a light pea-green color, navigable for boats of any size,
and which, from the place of junction, took the name of Snake River, a
stream doomed to be the scene of much disaster to the travellers.
The banks were here and there fringed with willow thickets and small
cotton-wood trees. The weather was cold, and it snowed all day, and
great flocks of ducks and geese, sporting in the water or streaming
through the air, gave token that winter was at hand; yet the hearts of
the travellers were light, and, as they glided down the little river,
they flattered themselves with the hope of soon reaching the Columbia.
After making thirty miles in a southerly direction, they encamped for
the night in a neighborhood which required some little vigilance, as
there were recent traces of grizzly bears among the thickets.

On the following day the river increased in width and beauty; flowing
parallel to a range of mountains on the left, which at times were finely
reflected in its light green waters. The three snowy summits of the
Pilot Knobs or Tetons were still seen towering in the distance. After
pursuing a swift but placid course for twenty miles, the current began
to foam and brawl, and assume the wild and broken character common to
the streams west of the Rocky Mountains. In fact the rivers which flow
from those mountains to the Pacific are essentially different from those
which traverse the prairies on their eastern declivities. The latter,
though sometimes boisterous, are generally free from obstructions, and
easily navigated; but the rivers to the west of the mountains descend
more steeply and impetuously, and are continually liable to cascades
and rapids. The latter abounded in the part of the river which the
travellers were now descending. Two of the canoes filled among the
breakers; the crews were saved, but much of the lading was lost or
damaged, and one of the canoes drifted down the stream and was broken
among the rocks.

On the following day, October 21st, they made but a short distance when
they came to a dangerous strait, where the river was compressed for
nearly half a mile between perpendicular rocks, reducing it to the width
of twenty yards, and increasing its violence. Here they were obliged to
pass the canoes down cautiously by a line from the impending banks. This
consumed a great part of a day; and after they had reembarked they were
soon again impeded by rapids, when they had to unload their canoes and
carry them and their cargoes for some distance by land. It is at these
places, called "portages," that the Canadian voyageur exhibits his most
valuable qualities; carrying heavy burdens, and toiling to and fro,
on land and in the water, over rocks and precipices, among brakes and
brambles, not only without a murmur, but with the greatest cheerfulness
and alacrity, joking and laughing and singing scraps of old French

The spirits of the party, however, which had been elated on first
varying their journeying from land to water, had now lost some of their
buoyancy. Everything ahead was wrapped in uncertainty. They knew nothing
of the river on which they were floating. It had never been navigated
by a white man, nor could they meet with an Indian to give them
any information concerning it. It kept on its course through a vast
wilderness of silent and apparently uninhabited mountains, without a
savage wigwam upon its banks, or bark upon its waters. The difficulties
and perils they had already passed made them apprehend others before
them, that might effectually bar their progress. As they glided onward,
however, they regained heart and hope. The current continued to be
strong; but it was steady, and though they met with frequent rapids,
none of them were bad. Mountains were constantly to be seen in different
directions, but sometimes the swift river glided through prairies, and
was bordered by small cotton-wood trees and willows. These prairies
at certain seasons are ranged by migratory herds of the wide-wandering
buffalo, the tracks of which, though not of recent date, were frequently
to be seen. Here, too, were to be found the prickly pear or Indian fig,
a plant which loves a more southern climate. On the land were large
flights of magpies and American robins; whole fleets of ducks and geese
navigated the river, or flew off in long streaming files at the approach
of the canoes; while the frequent establishments of the painstaking and
quiet-loving beaver showed that the solitude of these waters was rarely
disturbed, even by the all-pervading savage.

They had now come near two hundred and eighty miles since leaving Fort
Henry, yet without seeing a human being, or a human habitation; a wild
and desert solitude extended on either side of the river, apparently
almost destitute of animal life. At length, on the 24th of October, they
were gladdened by the sight of some savage tents, and hastened to land
and visit them, for they were anxious to procure information to guide
them on their route. On their approach, however, the savages fled in
consternation. They proved to be a wandering band of Shoshonies. In
their tents were great quantities of small fish about two inches long,
together with roots and seeds, or grain, which they were drying for
winter provisions. They appeared to be destitute of tools of any kind,
yet there were bows and arrows very well made; the former were formed of
pine, cedar, or bone, strengthened by sinews, and the latter of the wood
of rosebushes, and other crooked plants, but carefully straightened, and
tipped with stone of a bottle-green color.

There were also vessels of willow and grass, so closely wrought as to
hold water, and a seine neatly made with meshes, in the ordinary manner,
of the fibres of wild flax or nettle. The humble effects of the poor
savages remained unmolested by their visitors, and a few small articles,
with a knife or two, were left in the camp, and were no doubt regarded
as invaluable prizes.

Shortly after leaving this deserted camp, and reembarking in the canoes,
the travellers met with three of the Snakes on a triangular raft made of
flags or reeds; such was their rude mode of navigating the river. They
were entirely naked excepting small mantles of hare skins over their
shoulders. The canoes approached near enough to gain a full view of
them, but they were not to be brought to a parley.

All further progress for the day was barred by a fall in the river of
about thirty feet perpendicular; at the head of which the party encamped
for the night.

The next day was one of excessive toil and but little progress: the
river winding through a wild rocky country, and being interrupted by
frequent rapids, among which the canoes were in great peril. On the
succeeding day they again visited a camp of wandering Snakes, but the
inhabitants fled with terror at the sight of a fleet of canoes, filled
with white men, coming down their solitary river.

As Mr. Hunt was extremely anxious to gain information concerning his
route, he endeavored by all kinds of friendly signs to entice back the
fugitives. At length one, who was on horseback, ventured back with fear
and trembling. He was better clad, and in better condition, than most
of his vagrant tribe that Mr. Hunt had yet seen. The chief object of
his return appeared to be to intercede for a quantity of dried meat and
salmon trout, which he had left behind; on which, probably, he
depended for his winter's subsistence. The poor wretch approached with
hesitation, the alternate dread of famine and of white men operating
upon his mind. He made the most abject signs, imploring Mr. Hunt not to
carry off his food. The latter tried in every way to reassure him, and
offered him knives in exchange for his provisions; great as was the
temptation, the poor Snake could only prevail upon himself to spare a
part; keeping a feverish watch over the rest, lest it should be taken
away. It was in vain Mr. Hunt made inquiries of him concerning his
route, and the course of the river. The Indian was too much frightened
and bewildered to comprehend him or to reply; he did nothing but
alternately commend himself to the protection of the Good Spirit, and
supplicate Mr. Hunt not to take away his fish and buffalo meat; and in
this state they left him, trembling about his treasures.

In the course of that and the next day they made nearly eight miles;
the river inclined to the south of west, and being clear and beautiful,
nearly half a mile in width, with many populous communities of the
beaver along its banks. The 28th of October, however, was a day of
disaster. The river again became rough and impetuous, and was chafed and
broken by numerous rapids. These grew more and more dangerous, and the
utmost skill was required to steer among them. Mr. Crooks was seated in
the second canoe of the squadron, and had an old experienced Canadian
for steersman, named Antoine Clappine, one of the most valuable of the
voyageurs. The leading canoe had glided safely among the turbulent and
roaring surges, but in following it, Mr. Crooks perceived that his canoe
was bearing towards a rock. He called out to the steersman, but his
warning voice was either unheard or unheeded. In the next moment they
struck upon the rock. The canoe was split and overturned. There were
five persons on board. Mr. Crooks and one of his companions were thrown
amidst roaring breakers and a whirling current, but succeeded, by strong
swimming, to reach the shore. Clappine and two others clung to the
shattered bark, and drifted with it to a rock. The wreck struck the
rock with one end, and swinging round, flung poor Clappine off into
the raging stream, which swept him away, and he perished. His comrades
succeeded in getting upon the rock, from whence they were afterwards
taken off.

This disastrous event brought the whole squadron to a halt, and struck
a chill into every bosom. Indeed they had arrived at a terrific strait,
that forbade all further progress in the canoes, and dismayed the most
experienced voyageur. The whole body of the river was compressed into
a space of less than thirty feet in width, between two ledges of rocks,
upwards of two hundred feet high, and formed a whirling and tumultuous
vortex, so frightfully agitated as to receive the name of "The Caldron
Linn." Beyond this fearful abyss, the river kept raging and roaring on,
until lost to sight among impending precipices.


     Gloomy Council.--Exploring Parties--Discouraging Reports--
     Disastrous Experiment.--Detachments in Quest of Succor.--
     Caches, How Made.--Return of One of the Detachments--
     Unsuccessful.--Further Disappointments--The Devil's

MR. HUNT and his companions encamped upon the borders of the Caldron
Linn, and held gloomy counsel as to their future course. The recent
wreck had dismayed even the voyageurs, and the fate of their popular
comrade, Clappine, one of the most adroit and experienced of their
fraternity, had struck sorrow to their hearts, for with all their
levity, these thoughtless beings have great kindness towards each other.

The whole distance they had navigated since leaving Henry's Fort was
computed to be about three hundred and forty miles; strong apprehensions
were now entertained that the tremendous impediments before them would
oblige them to abandon their canoes. It was determined to send exploring
parties on each side of the river to ascertain whether it was possible
to navigate it further. Accordingly, on the following morning, three men
were despatched along the south bank, while Mr. Hunt and three others
proceeded along the north. The two parties returned after a
weary scramble among swamps, rocks, and precipices, and with very
disheartening accounts. For nearly forty miles that they had explored,
the river foamed and roared along through a deep and narrow channel,
from twenty to thirty yards wide, which it had worn, in the course of
ages, through the heart of a barren, rocky country. The precipices
on each side were often two and three hundred feet high, sometimes
perpendicular, and sometimes overhanging, so that it was impossible,
excepting in one or two places, to get down to the margin of the stream.
This dreary strait was rendered the more dangerous by frequent rapids,
and occasionally perpendicular falls from ten to forty feet in height;
so that it seemed almost hopeless to attempt to pass the canoes down it.
The party, however, who had explored the south side of the river, had
found a place, about six miles from the camp, where they thought it
possible the canoes might be carried down the bank and launched upon
the stream, and from whence they might make their way with the aid of
occasional portages. Four of the best canoes were accordingly selected
for the experiment, and were transported to the place on the shoulders
of sixteen of the men. At the same time Mr. Reed, the clerk, and three
men were detached to explore the river still further down than the
previous scouting parties had been, and at the same time to look out for
Indians, from whom provisions might be obtained, and a supply of horses,
should it be found necessary to proceed by land.

The party who had been sent with the canoes returned on the following
day, weary and dejected. One of the canoes had been swept away with all
the weapons and effects of four of the voyageurs, in attempting to pass
it down a rapid by means of a line. The other three had stuck fast among
the rocks, so that it was impossible to move them; the men returned,
therefore, in despair, and declared the river unnavigable.

The situation of the unfortunate travellers was now gloomy in the
extreme. They were in the heart of an unknown wilderness, untraversed as
yet by a white man. They were at a loss what route to take, and how far
they were from the ultimate place of their destination, nor could
they meet in these uninhabited wilds with any human being to give them
information. The repeated accidents to their canoes had reduced their
stock of provisions to five days' allowance, and there was now every
appearance of soon having famine added to their other sufferings.

This last circumstance rendered it more perilous to keep together than
to separate. Accordingly, after a little anxious but bewildered counsel,
it was determined that several small detachments should start off in
different directions, headed by the several partners. Should any of
them succeed in falling in with friendly Indians, within a reasonable
distance, and obtaining a supply of provisions and horses, they were
to return to the aid of the main body: otherwise they were to shift for
themselves, and shape their course according to circumstances;
keeping the mouth of the Columbia River as the ultimate point of their
wayfaring. Accordingly, three several parties set off from the camp at
Caldron Linn, in opposite directions. Mr. M'Lellan, with three men, kept
down along the bank of the river. Mr. Crooks, with five others, turned
their steps up it; retracing by land the weary course they had made by
water, intending, should they not find relief nearer at hand, to keep
on until they should reach Henry's Fort, where they hoped to find the
horses they had left there, and to return with them to the main body.

The third party, composed of five men, was headed by Mr. M'Kenzie, who
struck to the northward, across the desert plains, in hopes of coming
upon the main stream of the Columbia.

Having seen these three adventurous bands depart upon their forlorn
expeditions, Mr. Hunt turned his thoughts to provide for the subsistence
of the main body left to his charge, and to prepare for their future
march. There remained with him thirty-one men, besides the squaw and
two children of Pierre Dorion. There was no game to be met with in the
neighborhood; but beavers were occasionally trapped about the river
banks, which afforded a scanty supply of food; in the meantime they
comforted themselves that some one or other of the foraging detachments
would be successful, and return with relief.

Mr. Hunt now set to work with all diligence, to prepare caches, in which
to deposit the baggage and merchandise, of which it would be necessary
to disburden themselves, preparatory to their weary march by land: and
here we shall give a brief description of those contrivances, so noted
in the wilderness.

A cache is a term common among traders and hunters, to designate a
hiding-place for provisions and effects. It is derived from the French
word "cacher", to conceal, and originated among the early colonists of
Canada and Louisiana; but the secret depository which it designates was
in use among the aboriginals long before the intrusion of the white men.
It is, in fact, the only mode that migratory hordes have of preserving
their valuables from robbery, during their long absences from their
villages or accustomed haunts, on hunting expeditions, or during the
vicissitudes of war. The utmost skill and caution are required to render
these places of concealment invisible to the lynx eye of an Indian. The
first care is to seek out a proper situation, which is generally some
dry, low, bank of clay, on the margin of a water-course. As soon as
the precise spot is pitched upon, blankets, saddle-cloths, and other
coverings are spread over the surrounding grass and bushes, to prevent
foot-tracks, or any other derangement; and as few hands as possible are
employed. A circle of about two feet in diameter is then nicely cut in
the sod, which is carefully removed, with the loose soil immediately
beneath it, and laid aside in a place where it will be safe from
anything that may change its appearance. The uncovered area is then
digged perpendicularly to the depth of about three feet, and is then
gradually widened so as to form a conical chamber six or seven feet
deep. The whole of the earth displaced by this process, being of a
different color from that an the surface, is handed up in a vessel, and
heaped into a skin or cloth, in which it is conveyed to the stream and
thrown into the midst of the current, that it may be entirely carried
off. Should the cache not be formed in the vicinity of a stream, the
earth thus thrown up is carried to a distance, and scattered in such
manner as not to leave the minutest trace. The cave, being formed, is
well lined with dry grass, bark, sticks, and poles, and occasionally a
dried hide. The property intended to be hidden is then laid in, after
having been well aired: a hide is spread over it, and dried grass,
brush, and stones thrown in, and trampled down until the pit is filled
to the neck. The loose soil which had been put aside is then brought
and rammed down firmly, to prevent its caving in, and is frequently
sprinkled with water, to destroy the scent, lest the wolves and bears
should be attracted to the place, and root up the concealed treasure.
When the neck of the cache is nearly level with the surrounding surface,
the sod is again fitted in with the utmost exactness, and any bushes,
stocks, or stones, that may have originally been about the spot, are
restored to their former places. The blankets and other coverings are
then removed from the surrounding herbage; all tracks are obliterated;
the grass is gently raised by the hand to its natural position, and the
minutest chip or straw is scrupulously gleaned up and thrown into the
stream. After all this is done, the place is abandoned for the night,
and, if all be right next morning, is not visited again, until there be
a necessity for reopening the cache. Four men are sufficient, in this
way, to conceal the amount of three tons weight of merchandise in the
course of two days. Nine caches were required to contain the goods and
baggage which Mr. Hunt found it necessary to leave at this place.

Three days had been thus employed since the departure of the several
detachments, when that of Mr. Crooks unexpectedly made its appearance. A
momentary joy was diffused through the camp, for they supposed succor
to be at hand. It was soon dispelled. Mr. Crooks and his companions had
been completely disheartened by this retrograde march through a bleak
and barren country; and had found, computing from their progress and
the accumulating difficulties besetting every step, that it would be
impossible to reach Henry's Fort and return to the main body in the
course of the winter. They had determined, therefore, to rejoin their
comrades, and share their lot.

One avenue of hope was thus closed upon the anxious sojourners at the
Caldron Linn; their main expectation of relief was now from the two
parties under Reed and M'Lellan, which had proceeded down the river;
for, as to Mr. M'Kenzie's detachment, which had struck across the
plains, they thought it would have sufficient difficulty in struggling
forward through the trackless wilderness. For five days they continued
to support themselves by trapping and fishing. Some fish of tolerable
size were speared at night by the light of cedar torches; others, that
were very small, were caught in nets with fine meshes. The product
of their fishing, however, was very scanty. Their trapping was also
precarious; and the tails and bellies of the beavers were dried and put
by for the journey.

At length two of the companions of Mr. Reed returned, and were hailed
with the most anxious eagerness. Their report served but to increase the
general despondency. They had followed Mr. Reed for some distance below
the point to which Mr. Hunt had explored, but had met with no Indians
from whom to obtain information and relief. The river still presented
the same furious aspect, brawling and boiling along a narrow and rugged
channel, between rocks that rose like walls.

A lingering hope, which had been indulged by some of the party, of
proceeding by water, was now finally given up: the long and terrific
strait of the river set all further progress at defiance, and in their
disgust at the place, and their vexation at the disasters sustained
there, they gave it the indignant, though not very decorous, appellation
of the Devil's Scuttle Hole.


     Determination of the Party to Proceed on Foot.--Dreary
     Deserts Between Snake River and the Columbia.--Distribution
     of Effects Preparatory to a March--Division of the Party.--
     Rugged March Along the River.--Wild and Broken Scenery.--
     Shoshonies.--Alarm of a Snake Encampment--Intercourse with
     the Snakes.--Horse Dealing.--Value of a Tin Kettle.--
     Sufferings From Thirst--A Horse Reclaimed.--Fortitude of an
     Indian Woman.--Scarcity of Food.--Dog's Flesh a Dainty.--News
     of Mr. Crooks and His Party.--Painful Travelling Among the
     Mountains.--Snow Storms.--A Dreary Mountain Prospect.--A
     Bivouac During a Wintry Night.--Return to the River Bank.

THE resolution of Mr. Hunt and his companions was now taken to set out
immediately on foot. As to the other detachments that had in a manner
gone forth to seek their fortunes, there was little chance of their
return; they would probably make their own way through the wilderness.
At any rate, to linger in the vague hope of relief from them would be to
run the risk of perishing with hunger. Besides, the winter was rapidly
advancing, and they had a long journey to make through an unknown
country, where all kinds of perils might await them. They were yet, in
fact, a thousand miles from Astoria, but the distance was unknown
to them at the time: everything before and around them was vague and
conjectural, and wore an aspect calculated to inspire despondency.

In abandoning the river, they would have to launch forth upon vast
trackless plains destitute of all means of subsistence, where they might
perish of hunger and thirst. A dreary desert of sand and gravel extends
from Snake River almost to the Columbia. Here and there is a thin and
scanty herbage, insufficient for the pasturage of horse or buffalo.
Indeed, these treeless wastes between the Rocky Mountains and the
Pacific are even more desolate and barren than the naked, upper prairies
on the Atlantic side; they present vast desert tracts that must ever
defy cultivation, and interpose dreary and thirsty wilds between the
habitations of man, in traversing which the wanderer will often be in
danger of perishing.

Seeing the hopeless character of these wastes, Mr. Hunt and his
companions determined to keep along the course of the river, where
they would always have water at hand, and would be able occasionally
to procure fish and beaver, and might perchance meet with Indians, from
whom they could obtain provisions.

They now made their final preparations for the march. All their
remaining stock of provisions consisted of forty pounds of Indian corn,
twenty pounds of grease, about five pounds of portable soup, and a
sufficient quantity of dried meat to allow each man a pittance of
five pounds and a quarter, to be reserved for emergencies. This being
properly distributed, they deposited all their goods and superfluous
articles in the caches, taking nothing with them but what was
indispensable to the journey. With all their management, each man had to
carry twenty pounds' weight besides his own articles and equipments.

That they might have the better chance of procuring subsistence in the
scanty region they were to traverse, they divided their party into
two bands. Mr. Hunt, with eighteen men, besides Pierre Dorion and his
family, was to proceed down the north side of the river, while Mr.
Crooks, with eighteen men, kept along the south side.

On the morning of the 9th of October, the two parties separated and set
forth on their several courses. Mr. Hunt and his companions followed
along the right bank of the river, which made its way far below them,
brawling at the foot of perpendicular precipices of solid rock, two and
three hundred feet high. For twenty-eight miles that they travelled this
day, they found it impossible to get down to the margin of the stream.
At the end of this distance they encamped for the night at a place which
admitted a scrambling descent. It was with the greatest difficulty,
however, that they succeeded in getting up a kettle of water from the
river for the use of the camp. As some rain had fallen in the afternoon,
they passed the night under the shelter of the rocks.

The next day they continued thirty-two miles to the northwest, keeping
along the river, which still ran in its deep-cut channel. Here and there
a shady beach or a narrow strip of soil, fringed with dwarf willows,
would extend for a little distance along the foot of the cliffs, and
sometimes a reach of still water would intervene like a smooth mirror
between the foaming rapids.

As through the preceding day, they journeyed on without finding, except
in one instance, any place where they could get down to the river's
edge, and they were fain to allay the thirst caused by hard travelling,
with the water collected in the hollow of the rocks.

In the course of their march on the following morning, they fell into a
beaten horse path leading along the river, which showed that they were
in the neighborhood of some Indian village or encampment. They had not
proceeded far along it, when they met with two Shoshonies, or Snakes.
They approached with some appearance of uneasiness, and accosting
Mr. Hunt, held up a knife, which by signs they let him know they had
received from some of the white men of the advance parties. It was with
some difficulties that Mr. Hunt prevailed upon one of the savages to
conduct him to the lodges of his people. Striking into a trail or path
which led up from the river, he guided them for some distance in the
prairie, until they came in sight of a number of lodges made of straw,
and shaped like hay-stacks. Their approach, as on former occasions,
caused the wildest affright among the inhabitants. The women hid such
of their children as were too large to be carried, and too small to take
care of themselves, under straw, and, clasping their infants to their
breasts, fled across the prairie. The men awaited the approach of the
strangers, but evidently in great alarm.

Mr. Hunt entered the lodges, and, as he was looking about, observed
where the children were concealed; their black eyes glistening like
those of snakes, from beneath the straw. He lifted up the covering to
look at them; the poor little beings were horribly frightened, and their
fathers stood trembling, as if a beast of prey were about to pounce upon
their brood.

The friendly manner of Mr. Hunt soon dispelled these apprehensions;
he succeeded in purchasing some excellent dried salmon, and a dog, an
animal much esteemed as food by the natives; and when he returned to
the river one of the Indians accompanied him. He now came to where the
lodges were frequent along the banks, and, after a day's journey of
twenty-six miles to the northwest, encamped in a populous neighborhood.
Forty or fifty of the natives soon visited the camp, conducting
themselves in a very amicable manner. They were well clad, and all had
buffalo robes, which they procured from some of the hunting tribes in
exchange for salmon. Their habitations were very comfortable; each had
its pile of wormwood at the door for fuel, and within was abundance
of salmon, some fresh, but the greater part cured. When the white men
visited the lodges, however, the women and children hid themselves
through fear. Among the supplies obtained here were two dogs, on
which our travellers breakfasted, and found them to be very excellent,
well-flavored, and hearty food.

In the course of the three following days they made about sixty-three
miles, generally in a northwest direction. They met with many of the
natives in their straw-built cabins, who received them without alarm.
About their dwellings were immense quantities of the heads and skins of
salmon, the best part of which had been cured, and hidden in the ground.
The women were badly clad; the children worse; their garments were
buffalo robes, or the skins of foxes, hares, and badgers, and sometimes
the skins of ducks, sewed together, with the plumage on. Most of the
skins must have been procured by traffic with other tribes, or in
distant hunting excursions, for the naked prairies in the neighborhood
afforded few animals, excepting horses, which were abundant. There were
signs of buffaloes having been there, but a long time before.

On the 15th of November they made twenty-eight miles along the river,
which was entirely free from rapids. The shores were lined with dead
salmon, which tainted the whole atmosphere. The natives whom they met
spoke of Mr. Reed's party having passed through that neighborhood. In
the course of the day Mr. Hunt saw a few horses, but the owners of them
took care to hurry them out of the way. All the provisions they were
able to procure were two dogs and a salmon. On the following day they
were still worse off, having to subsist on parched corn and the remains
of their dried meat. The river this day had resumed its turbulent
character, forcing its way through a narrow channel between steep rocks
and down violent rapids. They made twenty miles over a rugged road,
gradually approaching a mountain in the northwest, covered with snow,
which had been in sight for three days past.

On the 17th they met with several Indians, one of whom had a horse. Mr.
Hunt was extremely desirous of obtaining it as a pack-horse; for the
men, worn down by fatigue and hunger, found the loads of twenty pounds'
weight which they had to carry, daily growing heavier and more galling.
The Indians, however, along this river, were never willing to part with
their horses, having none to spare. The owner of the steed in question
seemed proof against all temptation; article after article of great
value in Indian eyes was offered and refused. The charms of an old
tin-kettle, however, were irresistible, and a bargain was concluded.

A great part of the following morning was consumed in lightening the
packages of the men and arranging the load for the horse. At this
encampment there was no wood for fuel, even the wormwood on which they
had frequently depended having disappeared. For the two last days they
had made thirty miles to the northwest.

On the 19th of November, Mr. Hunt was lucky enough to purchase another
horse for his own use, giving in exchange a tomahawk, a knife, a fire
steel, and some beads and gartering. In an evil hour, however, he took
the advice of the Indians to abandon the river, and follow a road or
trail leading into the prairies. He soon had cause to regret the change.
The road led across a dreary waste, without verdure; and where there
was neither fountain, nor pool, nor running stream. The men now began
to experience the torments of thirst, aggravated by their diet of dried
fish. The thirst of the Canadian voyageurs became so insupportable as to
drive them to the most revolting means of allaying it. For twenty-five
miles did they toll on across this dismal desert, and laid themselves
down at night, parched and disconsolate, beside their wormwood fires;
looking forward to still greater sufferings on the following day.
Fortunately it began to rain in the night, to their infinite relief; the
water soon collected in puddles and afforded them delicious draughts.

Refreshed in this manner, they resumed their wayfaring as soon as the
first streaks of dawn gave light enough for them to see their path. The
rain continued all day, so that they no longer suffered from thirst, but
hunger took its place, for after travelling thirty-three miles they had
nothing to sup on but a little parched corn.

The next day brought them to the banks of a beautiful little stream,
running to the west, and fringed with groves of cottonwood and willow.
On its borders was an Indian camp, with a great many horses grazing
around it. The inhabitants, too, appeared to be better clad than usual.
The scene was altogether a cheering one to the poor half-famished
wanderers. They hastened to their lodges, but on arriving at them
met with a check that at first dampened their cheerfulness. An Indian
immediately laid claim to the horse of Mr. Hunt, saying that it had been
stolen from him. There was no disproving a fact supported by numerous
bystanders, and which the horse stealing habits of the Indians rendered
but too probable; so Mr. Hunt relinquished his steed to the claimant;
not being able to retain him by a second purchase.

At this place they encamped for the night, and made a sumptuous repast
upon fish and a couple of dogs, procured from their Indian neighbors.
The next day they kept along the river, but came to a halt after ten
miles' march, on account of the rain. Here they again got a supply of
fish and dogs from the natives; and two of the men were fortunate enough
each to get a horse in exchange for a buffalo robe. One of these men was
Pierre Dorion, the half-breed interpreter, to whose suffering family
the horse was a timely acquisition. And here we cannot but notice the
wonderful patience, perseverance, and hardihood of the Indian women, as
exemplified in the conduct of the poor squaw of the interpreter. She was
now far advanced in her pregnancy, and had two children to take care of;
one four, and the other two years of age. The latter of course she
had frequently to carry on her back, in addition to the burden usually
imposed upon the squaw, yet she had borne all her hardships without a
murmur, and throughout this weary and painful journey had kept pace with
the best of the pedestrians. Indeed on various occasions in the course
of this enterprise, she displayed a force of character that won the
respect and applause of the white men.

Mr. Hunt endeavored to gather some information from these Indians
concerning the country and the course of the rivers. His communications
with them had to be by signs, and a few words which he had learnt, and
of course were extremely vague. All that he could learn from them was
that the great river, the Columbia, was still far distant, but he could
ascertain nothing as to the route he ought to take to arrive at it. For
the two following days they continued westward upwards of forty miles
along the little stream, until they crossed it just before its junction
with Snake River, which they found still running to the north. Before
them was a wintry-looking mountain covered with snow on all sides.

In three days more they made about seventy miles; fording two small
rivers, the waters of which were very cold. Provisions were extremely
scarce; their chief sustenance was portable soup; a meagre diet for
weary pedestrians.

On the 27th of November the river led them into the mountains through a
rocky defile where there was scarcely room to pass. They were frequently
obliged to unload the horses to get them by the narrow places; and
sometimes to wade through the water in getting round rocks and butting
cliffs. All their food this day was a beaver which they had caught the
night before; by evening, the cravings of hunger were so sharp, and the
prospect of any supply among the mountains so faint, that they had to
kill one of the horses. "The men," says Mr. Hunt in his journal, "find
the meat very good, and, indeed, so should I, were it not for the
attachment I have to the animal."

Early the following day, after proceeding ten miles to the north,
they came to two lodges of Shoshonies, who seemed in nearly as great
extremity as themselves, having just killed two horses for food. They
had no other provisions excepting the seed of a weed which they gather
in great quantities, and pound fine. It resembles hemp-seed. Mr. Hunt
purchased a bag of it, and also some small pieces of horse flesh, which
he began to relish, pronouncing them "fat and tender."

From these Indians he received information that several white men had
gone down the river, some one side, and a good many on the other; these
last he concluded to be Mr. Crooks and his party. He was thus released
from much anxiety about their safety, especially as the Indians spoke
about Mr. Crooks having one of his dogs yet, which showed that he and
his men had not been reduced to extremity of hunger.

As Mr. Hunt feared that he might be several days in passing through
this mountain defile, and run the risk of famine, he encamped in the
neighborhood of the Indians, for the purpose of bartering with them for
a horse. The evening was expended in ineffectual trials. He offered a
gun, a buffalo robe, and various other articles. The poor fellows had,
probably, like himself, the fear of starvation before their eyes. At
length the women, learning the object of his pressing solicitations and
tempting offers, set up such a terrible hue and cry that he was fairly
howled and scolded from the ground.

The next morning early, the Indians seemed very desirous to get rid of
their visitors, fearing, probably, for the safety of their horses. In
reply to Mr. Hunt's inquiries about the mountains, they told him that he
would have to sleep but three nights more among them; and that six days'
travelling would take him to the falls of the Columbia; information in
which he put no faith, believing it was only given to induce him to set
forward. These, he was told, were the last Snakes he would meet with,
and that he would soon come to a nation called Sciatogas.

Forward then did he proceed on his tedious journey, which, at every
step, grew more painful. The road continued for two days through narrow
defiles, where they were repeatedly obliged to unload the horses.
Sometimes the river passed through such rocky chasms and under such
steep precipices that they had to leave it, and make their way, with
excessive labor, over immense hills, almost impassable for horses.
On some of these hills were a few pine trees, and their summits were
covered with snow. On the second day of this scramble one of the hunters
killed a black-tailed deer, which afforded the half-starved travellers a
sumptuous repast. Their progress these two days was twenty-eight miles,
a little to the northward of east.

The month of December set in drearily, with rain in the valleys and snow
upon the hills. They had to climb a mountain with snow to the midleg,
which increased their painful toil. A small beaver supplied them with
a scanty meal, which they eked out with frozen blackberries, haws, and
choke-cherries, which they found in the course of their scramble. Their
journey this day, though excessively fatiguing, was but thirteen miles;
and all the next day they had to remain encamped, not being able to see
half a mile ahead, on account of a snow-storm. Having nothing else to
eat, they were compelled to kill another of their horses. The next day
they resumed their march in snow and rain, but with all their efforts
could only get forward nine miles, having for a part of the distance
to unload the horses and carry the packs themselves. On the succeeding
morning they were obliged to leave the river and scramble up the hills.
From the summit of these, they got a wide view of the surrounding
country, and it was a prospect almost sufficient to make them despair.
In every direction they beheld snowy mountains, partially sprinkled with
pines and other evergreens, and spreading a desert and toilsome world
around them. The wind howled over the bleak and wintry landscape, and
seemed to penetrate to the marrow of their bones. They waded on through
the snow, which at every step was more than knee deep.

After tolling in this way all day, they had the mortification to
find that they were but four miles distant from the encampment of the
preceding night, such was the meandering of the river among these
dismal hills. Pinched with famine, exhausted with fatigue, with evening
approaching, and a wintry wild still lengthening as they advanced, they
began to look forward with sad forebodings to the night's exposure upon
this frightful waste. Fortunately they succeeded in reaching a cluster
of pines about sunset. Their axes were immediately at work; they cut
down trees, piled them in great heaps, and soon had huge fires "to cheer
their cold and hungry hearts."

About three o'clock in the morning it again began to snow, and at
daybreak they found themselves, as it were, in a cloud, scarcely being
able to distinguish objects at the distance of a hundred yards. Guarding
themselves by the sound of running water, they set out for the river,
and by slipping and sliding contrived to get down to its bank. One of
the horses, missing his footing, rolled down several hundred yards with
his load, but sustained no injury. The weather in the valley was less
rigorous than on the hills. The snow lay but ankle deep, and there was
a quiet rain now falling. After creeping along for six miles, they
encamped on the border of the river. Being utterly destitute of
provisions, they were again compelled to kill one of their horses to
appease their famishing hunger.


     An Unexpected Meeting.--Navigation in a Skin Canoe.-Strange
     Fears of Suffering Men.-Hardships of Mr. Crooks and His
     Comrades.--Tidings of M'Lellan.--A Retrograde March.--A Willow
     Raft.--Extreme Suffering of Some of the Party--Illness of
     Mr. Crooks.--Impatience of Some of the Men.--Necessity of
     Leaving the Laggards Behind.

THE wanderers had now accomplished four hundred and seventy-two miles
of their dreary journey since leaving the Caldron Linn; how much further
they had yet to travel, and what hardships to encounter, no one knew.

On the morning of the 6th of December, they left their dismal
encampment, but had scarcely begun their march when, to their surprise,
they beheld a party of white men coming up along the opposite bank of
the river. As they drew nearer, they were recognized for Mr. Crooks and
his companions. When they came opposite, and could make themselves heard
across the murmuring of the river, their first cry was for food; in
fact, they were almost starved. Mr. Hunt immediately returned to the
camp, and had a kind of canoe made out of the skin of the horse killed
on the preceding night. This was done after the Indian fashion, by
drawing up the edges of the skin with thongs, and keeping them distended
by sticks or thwart pieces. In this frail bark, Sardepie, one of the
Canadians, carried over a portion of the flesh of the horse to the
famishing party on the opposite side of the river, and brought back with
him Mr. Crooks and the Canadian, Le Clerc. The forlorn and wasted looks
and starving condition of these two men struck dismay to the hearts
of Mr. Hunt's followers. They had been accustomed to each other's
appearance, and to the gradual operation of hunger and hardship upon
their frames, but the change in the looks of these men, since last they
parted, was a type of the famine and desolation of the land; and they
now began to indulge the horrible presentiment that they would all
starve together, or be reduced to the direful alternative of casting

When Mr. Crooks had appeased his hunger, he gave Mr. Hunt some account
of his wayfaring. On the side of the river along which he had kept, he
had met with but few Indians, and those were too miserably poor to yield
much assistance. For the first eighteen days after leaving the Caldron
Linn, he and his men had been confined to half a meal in twenty-four
hours; for three days following, they had subsisted on a single beaver,
a few wild cherries, and the soles of old moccasins; and for the last
six days their only animal food had been the carcass of a dog. They had
been three days' journey further down the river than Mr. Hunt, always
keeping as near to its banks as possible, and frequently climbing over
sharp and rocky ridges that projected into the stream. At length they
had arrived to where the mountains increased in height, and came
closer to the river, with perpendicular precipices, which rendered
it impossible to keep along the stream. The river here rushed with
incredible velocity through a defile not more than thirty yards
wide, where cascades and rapids succeeded each other almost without
intermission. Even had the opposite banks, therefore, been such as to
permit a continuance of their journey, it would have been madness to
attempt to pass the tumultuous current either on rafts or otherwise.
Still bent, however, on pushing forward, they attempted to climb the
opposing mountains; and struggled on through the snow for half a day
until, coming to where they could command a prospect, they found that
they were not half way to the summit, and that mountain upon mountain
lay piled beyond them, in wintry desolation. Famished and emaciated as
they were, to continue forward would be to perish; their only chance
seemed to be to regain the river, and retrace their steps up its banks.
It was in this forlorn and retrograde march that they had met Mr. Hunt
and his party.

Mr. Crooks also gave information of some others of their fellow
adventurers. He had spoken several days previously with Mr. Reed and
Mr. M'Kenzie, who with their men were on the opposite side of the river,
where it was impossible to get over to them. They informed him that Mr.
M'Lellan had struck across from the little river above the mountains, in
the hope of falling in with some of the tribe of Flatheads, who inhabit
the western skirts of the Rocky range. As the companions of Reed and
M'Kenzie were picked men, and had found provisions more abundant on
their side of the river, they were in better condition, and more fitted
to contend with the difficulties of the country, than those of Mr.
Crooks, and when he lost sight of them, were pushing onward, down the
course of the river.

Mr. Hunt took a night to revolve over his critical situation, and to
determine what was to be done. No time was to be lost; he had twenty men
and more in his own party, to provide for, and Mr. Crooks and his men to
relieve. To linger would be to starve. The idea of retracing his steps
was intolerable, and, notwithstanding all the discouraging accounts of
the ruggedness of the mountains lower down the river, he would have been
disposed to attempt them, but the depth of the snow with which they were
covered deterred him; having already experienced the impossibility of
forcing his way against such an impediment.

The only alternative, therefore, appeared to be, return and seek the
Indian bands scattered along the small rivers above the mountains.
Perhaps, from some of these he might procure horses enough to support
him until he could reach the Columbia; for he still cherished the hope
of arriving at that river in the course of the winter, though he was
apprehensive that few of Mr. Crooks's party would be sufficiently strong
to follow him. Even in adopting this course, he had to make up his mind
to the certainty of several days of famine at the outset, for it would
take that time to reach the last Indian lodges from which he had parted,
and until they should arrive there, his people would have nothing to
subsist upon but haws and wild berries, excepting one miserable horse,
which was little better than skin and bone.

After a night of sleepless cogitation, Mr. Hunt announced to his men the
dreary alternative he had adopted, and preparations were made to take
Mr. Crooks and Le Clerc across the river, with the remainder of the
meat, as the other party were to keep up along the opposite bank.
The skin canoe had unfortunately been lost in the night; a raft was
constructed therefore, after the manner of the natives, of bundles of
willows, but it could not be floated across the impetuous current.
The men were directed, in consequence, to keep on along the river by
themselves, while Mr. Crooks and Le Clerc would proceed with Mr. Hunt.
They all, then, took up their retrograde march with drooping spirits.

In a little while, it was found that Mr. Crooks and Le Clerc were so
feeble as to walk with difficulty, so that Mr. Hunt was obliged
to retard his pace, that they might keep up with him. His men grew
impatient at the delay. They murmured that they had a long and desolate
region to traverse, before they could arrive at the point where they
might expect to find horses; that it was impossible for Crooks and Le
Clerc, in their feeble condition, to get over it; that to remain with
them would only be to starve in their company. They importuned Mr. Hunt,
therefore, to leave these unfortunate men to their fate, and think only
of the safety of himself and his party. Finding him not to be moved
either by entreaties or their clamors, they began to proceed without
him, singly and in parties. Among those who thus went off was Pierre
Dorion, the interpreter. Pierre owned the only remaining horse; which
was now a mere skeleton. Mr. Hunt had suggested, in their present
extremity, that it should be killed for food; to which the half-breed
flatly refused his assent, and cudgeling the miserable animal forward,
pushed on sullenly, with the air of a man doggedly determined to quarrel
for his right. In this way Mr. Hunt saw his men, one after another,
break away, until but five remained to bear him company.

On the following morning another raft was made, on which Mr. Crooks and
Le Clerc again attempted to ferry themselves across the river, but after
repeated trials had to give up in despair. This caused additional delay;
after which they continued to crawl forward at a snail's pace. Some of
the men who had remained with Mr. Hunt now became impatient of these
incumbrances, and urged him clamorously to push forward, crying out that
they should all starve. The night which succeeded was intensely cold,
so that one of the men was severely frost-bitten. In the course of
the night, Mr. Crooks was taken ill, and in the morning was still more
incompetent to travel. Their situation was now desperate, for their
stock of provisions was reduced to three beaver skins. Mr. Hunt,
therefore, resolved to push on, overtake his people, and insist upon
having the horse of Pierre Dorion sacrificed for the relief of all
hands. Accordingly, he left two of his men to help Crooks and Le Clerc
on their way, giving them two of the beaver skins for their support; the
remaining skin he retained, as provision for himself and the three other
men who struck forward with him.


     Mr. Hunt Overtakes the Advance Party.--Pierre Dorion, and
     His Skeleton Horse.--A Shoshonie Camp.--A Justifiable
     Outrage.--Feasting on Horse Flesh.--Mr. Crooks Brought to
     the Camp.--Undertakes to Relieve His Men.--The Skin Ferry-
     Boat.--Frenzy of Prevost.--His Melancholy Fate.-Enfeebled
     State of John Day.-Mr. Crooks Again Left Behind.-The Party
     Emerge From Among the Mountains.--Interview With Shoshonies.--
     A Guide Procured to Conduct the Party Across a Mountain.--
     Ferriage Across Snake River.--Reunion With Mr Crook's Men.--
     Final Departure From the River.

ALL that day, Mr. Hunt and his three comrades travelled without eating.
At night they made a tantalizing supper on their beaver skin, and were
nearly exhausted by hunger and cold. The next day, December 10th, they
overtook the advance party, who were all as much famished as themselves,
some of them not having eaten since the morning of the seventh. Mr. Hunt
now proposed the sacrifice of Pierre Dorion's skeleton horse. Here he
again met with positive and vehement opposition from the half-breed, who
was too sullen and vindictive a fellow to be easily dealt with. What was
singular, the men, though suffering such pinching hunger, interfered in
favor of the horse.

They represented that it was better to keep on as long as pos-sible
without resorting to this last resource. Possibly the Indians, of whom
they were in quest, might have shifted their encampment, in which case
it would be time enough to kill the horse to escape starvation. Mr.
Hunt, therefore, was prevailed upon to grant Pierre Dorion's horse a

Fortunately, they had not proceeded much further, when, towards evening,
they came in sight of a lodge of Shoshonies, with a number of horses
grazing around it. The sight was as unexpected as it was joyous. Having
seen no Indians in this neighborhood as they passed down the river, they
must have subsequently come out from among the mountains. Mr. Hunt, who
first descried them, checked the eagerness of his companions, knowing
the unwillingness of these Indians to part with their horses, and their
aptness to hurry them off and conceal them, in case of an alarm. This
was no time to risk such a disappointment. Approaching, therefore,
stealthily and silently, they came upon the savages by surprise, who
fled in terror. Five of their horses were eagerly seized, and one was
despatched upon the spot. The carcass was immediately cut up, and a
part of it hastily cooked and ravenously devoured. A man was now sent on
horseback with a supply of the flesh to Mr. Crooks and his companions.
He reached them in the night; they were so famished that the supply sent
them seemed but to aggravate their hunger, and they were almost tempted
to kill and eat the horse that had brought the messenger. Availing
themselves of the assistance of the animal, they reached the camp early
in the morning.

On arriving there, Mr. Crooks was shocked to find that, while the people
on this side of the river were amply supplied with provisions, none had
been sent to his own forlorn and famishing men on the opposite bank. He
immediately caused a skin canoe to be constructed, and called out to his
men to fill their camp-kettles with water and hang them over the fire,
that no time might be lost in cooking the meat the moment it should be
received. The river was so narrow, though deep, that everything could
be distinctly heard and seen across it. The kettles were placed on the
fire, and the water was boiling by the time the canoe was completed.
When all was ready, however, no one would undertake to ferry the meat
across. A vague and almost superstitious terror had infected the minds
of Mr. Hunt's followers, enfeebled and rendered imaginative of horrors
by the dismal scenes and sufferings through which they had passed.
They regarded the haggard crew, hovering like spectres of famine on the
opposite bank, with indefinite feelings of awe and apprehension: as if
something desperate and dangerous was to be feared from them.

Mr. Crooks tried in vain to reason or shame them out of this singular
state of mind. He then attempted to navigate the canoe himself, but
found his strength incompetent to brave the impetuous current. The good
feelings of Ben Jones, the Kentuckian, at length overcame his fears,
and he ventured over. The supply he brought was received with trembling
avidity. A poor Canadian, however, named Jean Baptiste Prevost, whom
famine had rendered wild and desperate, ran frantically about the bank,
after Jones had returned, crying out to Mr. Hunt to send the canoe for
him, and take him from that horrible region of famine, declaring that
otherwise he would never march another step, but would lie down there
and die.

The canoe was shortly sent over again, under the management of Joseph
Delaunay, with further supplies. Prevost immediately pressed forward to
embark. Delaunay refused to admit him, telling him that there was now a
sufficient supply of meat on his side of the river. He replied that it
was not cooked, and he should starve before it was ready; he implored,
therefore, to be taken where he could get something to appease his
hunger immediately. Finding the canoe putting off without him, he forced
himself aboard. As he drew near the opposite shore, and beheld meat
roasting before the fire, he jumped up, shouted, clapped his hands, and
danced in a delirium of joy, until he upset the canoe. The poor wretch
was swept away by the current and drowned, and it was with extreme
difficulty that Delaunay reached the shore.

Mr. Hunt now sent all his men forward excepting two or three. In the
evening he caused another horse to be killed, and a canoe to be made
out of the skin, in which he sent over a further supply of meat to the
opposite party. The canoe brought back John Day, the Kentucky hunter,
who came to join his former employer and commander, Mr. Crooks. Poor
Day, once so active and vigorous, was now reduced to a condition even
more feeble and emaciated than his companions. Mr. Crooks had such
a value for the man, on account of his past services and faithful
character, that he determined not to quit him; he exhorted Mr. Hunt,
however, to proceed forward, and join the party, as his presence was all
important to the conduct of the expedition. One of the Canadians, Jean
Baptiste Dubreuil, likewise remained with Mr. Crooks.

Mr. Hunt left two horses with them, and a part of the carcass of the
last that had been killed. This, he hoped, would be sufficient to
sustain them until they should reach the Indian encampment.

One of the chief dangers attending the enfeebled condition of Mr. Crooks
and his companions was their being overtaken by the Indians whose horses
had been seized, though Mr. Hunt hoped that he had guarded against any
resentment on the part of the savages, by leaving various articles in
their lodge, more than sufficient to compensate for the outrage he had
been compelled to commit.

Resuming his onward course, Mr. Hunt came up with his people in the
evening. The next day, December 13th, he beheld several Indians, with
three horses, on the opposite side of the river, and after a time came
to the two lodges which he had seen on going down. Here he endeavored in
vain to barter a rifle for a horse, but again succeeded in effecting the
purchase with an old tin kettle, aided by a few beads.

The two succeeding days were cold and stormy; the snow was augmenting,
and there was a good deal of ice running in the river. Their road,
however, was becoming easier; they were getting out of the hills, and
finally emerged into the open country, after twenty days of fatigue,
famine, and hardship of every kind, in the ineffectual attempt to find a
passage down the river.

They now encamped on a little willowed stream, running from the east,
which they had crossed on the 26th of November. Here they found a dozen
lodges of Shoshonies, recently arrived, who informed them that had they
persevered along the river, they would have found their difficulties
augment until they became absolutely insurmountable. This intelligence
added to the anxiety of Mr. Hunt for the fate of Mr. M'Kenzie and his
people, who had kept on.

Mr. Hunt now followed up the little river, and encamped at some lodges
of Shoshonies, from whom he procured a couple of horses, a dog, a few
dried fish, and some roots and dried cherries. Two or three days were
exhausted in obtaining information about the route, and what time it
would take to get to the Sciatogas, a hospitable tribe on the west
of the mountains, represented as having many horses. The replies were
various, but concurred in saying that the distance was great, and would
occupy from seventeen to twenty-one nights. Mr. Hunt then tried to
procure a guide; but though he sent to various lodges up and down the
river, offering articles of great value in Indian estimation, no one
would venture. The snow, they said, was waist deep in the mountains; and
to all his offers they shook their heads, gave a shiver, and replied,
"we shall freeze! we shall freeze!" at the same time they urged him to
remain and pass the winter among them.

Mr. Hunt was in a dismal dilemma. To attempt the mountains without a
guide would be certain death to him and all his people; to remain there,
after having already been so long on the journey, and at such great
expense, was worse to him, he said, than two "deaths." He now changed
his tone with the Indians, charged them with deceiving him in respect to
the mountains, and talking with a "forked tongue," or, in other words,
with lying. He upbraided them with their want of courage, and told them
they were women, to shrink from the perils of such a journey. At length
one of them, piqued by his taunts, or tempted by his offers, agreed to
be his guide; for which he was to receive a gun, a pistol, three knives,
two horses, and a little of every article in possession of the party;
a reward sufficient to make him one of the wealthiest of his vagabond

Once more, then, on the 21st of December, they set out upon their
wayfaring, with newly excited spirits. Two other Indians accompanied
their guide, who led them immediately back to Snake River, which they
followed down for a short distance, in search of some Indian rafts made
of reeds, on which they might cross. Finding none, Mr. Hunt caused a
horse to be killed, and a canoe to be made out of its skin. Here, on the
opposite bank, they saw the thirteen men of Mr. Crooks's party, who had
continued up along the river. They told Mr. Hunt, across the stream,
that they had not seen Mr. Crooks, and the two men who had remained with
him, since the day that he had separated from them.

The canoe proving too small, another horse was killed, and the skin of
it joined to that of the first. Night came on before the little bark had
made more than two voyages. Being badly made it was taken apart and put
together again, by the light of the fire. The night was cold; the men
were weary and disheartened with such varied and incessant toil and
hardship. They crouched, dull and drooping, around their fires; many of
them began to express a wish to remain where they were for the winter.
The very necessity of crossing the river dismayed some of them in their
present enfeebled and dejected state. It was rapid and turbulent, and
filled with floating ice, and they remembered that two of their
comrades had already perished in its waters. Others looked forward with
misgivings to the long and dismal journey through lonesome regions that
awaited them, when they should have passed this dreary flood.

At an early hour of the morning, December 23d, they began to cross the
river. Much ice had formed during the night, and they were obliged to
break it for some distance on each shore. At length they all got over in
safety to the west side; and their spirits rose on having achieved this
perilous passage. Here they were rejoined by the people of Mr. Crooks,
who had with them a horse and a dog, which they had recently procured.
The poor fellows were in the most squalid and emaciated state. Three
of them were so completely prostrated in strength and spirits that they
expressed a wish to remain among the Snakes. Mr. Hunt, therefore, gave
them the canoe, that they might cross the river, and a few articles,
with which to procure necessities, until they should meet with Mr.
Crooks. There was another man, named Michael Carriere, who was almost
equally reduced, but he determined to proceed with his comrades, who
were now incorporated with the party of Mr. Hunt. After the day's
exertions they encamped together on the banks of the river. This was the
last night they were to spend upon its borders. More than eight hundred
miles of hard travelling, and many weary days, had it cost them; and the
sufferings connected with it rendered it hateful in their remembrance,
so that the Canadian voyageurs always spoke of it as "La maudite riviere
enragee"--the accursed mad river--thus coupling a malediction with its


     Departure From Snake River--Mountains to the North.--Wayworn
     Travellers--An Increase of the Dorion Family.--A Camp of
     Shoshonies.--A New-Year Festival Among the Snakes.--A Wintry
     March Through the Mountains.--A Sunny Prospect, and Milder
     Climate.--Indian Horse-Tracks.--Grassy Valleys.--A Camp of
     Sciatogas.--Joy of the Travellers.-Dangers of Abundance.--
     Habits of the Sciatogas.--Fate of Carriere.--The Umatilla.--
     Arrival at the Banks of the Columbia.--Tidings of the
     Scattered Members of the Expedition.--Scenery on the
     Columbia.--Tidings of Astoria-Arrival at the Falls.

ON the 24th of December, all things being arranged, Mr. Hunt turned his
back upon the disastrous banks of Snake River, and struck his course
westward for the mountains. His party, being augmented by the late
followers of Mr. Crooks, amounted now to thirty-two white men, three
Indians, and the squaw and two children of Pierre Dorion. Five jaded,
half-starved horses were laden with their luggage, and, in case of need,
were to furnish them with provisions. They travelled painfully about
fourteen miles a day, over plains and among hills, rendered dreary by
occasional falls of snow and rain. Their only sustenance was a scanty
meal of horse flesh once in four-and-twenty hours.

On the third day the poor Canadian, Carriere, one of the famished party
of Mr. Crooks, gave up in despair, and laying down upon the ground
declared he could go no further. Efforts were made to cheer him up, but
it was found that the poor fellow was absolutely exhausted and could
not keep on his legs. He was mounted, therefore, upon one of the horses,
though the forlorn animal was in little better plight than himself.

On the 28th, they came upon a small stream winding to the north, through
a fine level valley; the mountains receding on each side. Here their
Indian friends pointed out a chain of woody mountains to the left,
running north and south, and covered with snow, over which they would
have to pass. They kept along the valley for twenty-one miles on the
29th, suffering much from a continued fall of snow and rain, and being
twice obliged to ford the icy stream. Early in the following morning the
squaw of Pierre Dorion, who had hitherto kept on without murmuring or
flinching, was suddenly taken in labor, and enriched her husband with
another child. As the fortitude and good conduct of the poor woman had
gained for her the goodwill of the party, her situation caused concern
and perplexity. Pierre, however, treated the matter as an occurrence
that could soon be arranged and need cause no delay. He remained by his
wife in the camp, with his other children and his horse, and promised
soon to rejoin the main body, who proceeded on their march.

Finding that the little river entered the mountains, they abandoned it,
and turned off for a few miles among hills. Here another Canadian, named
La Bonte, gave out, and had to be helped on horseback. As the horse was
too weak to bear both him and his pack, Mr. Hunt took the latter upon
his own shoulders. Thus, with difficulties augmenting at every step,
they urged their toilsome way among the hills, half famished and faint
at heart, when they came to where a fair valley spread out before them,
of great extent and several leagues in width, with a beautiful stream
meandering through it. A genial climate seemed to prevail here, for
though the snow lay upon all the mountains within sight, there was none
to be seen in the valley. The travellers gazed with delight upon this
serene, sunny landscape, but their joy was complete on beholding six
lodges of Shoshonies pitched upon the borders of the stream, with a
number of horses and dogs about them. They all pressed forward with
eagerness and soon reached the camp. Here their first attention was to
obtain provisions. A rifle, an old musket, a tomahawk, a tin kettle,
and a small quantity of ammunition soon procured them four horses, three
dogs, and some roots. Part of the live stock was immediately killed,
cooked with all expedition, and as promptly devoured. A hearty meal
restored every one to good spirits. In the course of the following
morning the Dorion family made its reappearance. Pierre came trudging in
the advance, followed by his valued, though skeleton steed, on which was
mounted his squaw with her new-born infant in her arms, and her boy of
two years old wrapped in a blanket and slung at her side. The mother
looked as unconcerned as if nothing had happened to her; so easy
is nature in her operations in the wilderness, when free from the
enfeebling refinements of luxury, and the tamperings and appliances of

The next morning ushered in the new year (1812). Mr. Hunt was about to
resume his march, when his men requested permission to celebrate the
day. This was particularly urged by the Canadian voyageurs, with whom
New-Year's day is a favorite festival; and who never willingly give up
a holiday, under any circumstances. There was no resisting such an
application; so the day was passed in repose and revelry; the poor
Canadians contrived to sing and dance in defiance of all their
hardships; and there was a sumptuous New-Year's banquet of dog's meat
and horse flesh.

After two days of welcome rest, the travellers addressed themselves once
more to the painful journey. The Indians of the lodges pointed out a
distant gap through which they must pass in traversing the ridge of
mountains. They assured them that they would be but little incommoded
by snow, and in three days would arrive among the Sciatogas. Mr. Hunt,
however, had been so frequently deceived by Indian accounts of routes
and distances, that he gave but little faith to this information.

The travellers continued their course due west for five days, crossing
the valley and entering the mountains. Here the travelling became
excessively toilsome, across rough stony ridges, and amidst fallen
trees. They were often knee deep in snow, and sometimes in the hollows
between the ridges sank up to their waists. The weather was extremely
cold; the sky covered with clouds so that for days they had not a
glimpse of the sun. In traversing the highest ridge they had a wide but
chilling prospect over a wilderness of snowy mountains.

On the 6th of January, however, they had crossed the dividing summit of
the chain, and were evidently under the influence of a milder climate.
The snow began to decrease; the sun once more emerged from the thick
canopy of clouds, and shone cheeringly upon them, and they caught a
sight of what appeared to be a plain, stretching out in the west.
They hailed it as the poor Israelites hailed the first glimpse of the
promised land, for they flattered themselves that this might be the
great plain of the Columbia, and that their painful pilgrimage might be
drawing to a close.

It was now five days since they had left the lodges of the Shoshonies,
during which they had come about sixty miles, and their guide assured
them that in the course of the next day they would see the Sciatogas.

On the following morning, therefore, they pushed forward with eagerness,
and soon fell upon a stream which led them through a deep narrow defile,
between stupendous ridges. Here among the rocks and precipices they saw
gangs of that mountain-loving animal, the black-tailed deer, and came to
where great tracks of horses were to be seen in all directions, made by
the Indian hunters.

The snow had entirely disappeared, and the hopes of soon coming upon
some Indian encampment induced Mr. Hunt to press on. Many of the men,
however, were so enfeebled that they could not keep up with the main
body, but lagged at intervals behind; and some of them did not arrive
at the night encampment. In the course of this day's march the
recently-born child of Pierre Dorion died.

The march was resumed early the next morning, without waiting for the
stragglers. The stream which they had followed throughout the preceding
day was now swollen by the influx of another river; the declivities of
the hills were green and the valleys were clothed with grass. At
length the jovial cry was given of "an Indian camp!" It was yet in the
distance, In the bosom of the green valley, but they could perceive
that it consisted of numerous lodges, and that hundreds of horses were
grazing the grassy meadows around it. The prospect of abundance of
horse flesh diffused universal joy, for by this time the whole stock
of travelling provisions was reduced to the skeleton steed of Pierre
Dorion, and another wretched animal, equally emaciated, that had been
repeatedly reprieved during the journey.

A forced march soon brought the weary and hungry travellers to the camp.
It proved to be a strong party of Sciatogas and Tusche-pas. There were
thirty-four lodges, comfortably constructed of mats; the Indians, too,
were better clothed than any of the wandering bands they had hitherto
met on this side of the Rocky Mountains. Indeed, they were as well clad
as the generality of the wild hunter tribes. Each had a good buffalo or
deer skin robe; and a deer skin hunting shirt and leggins. Upwards of
two thousand horses were ranging the pastures around their encampment;
but what delighted Mr. Hunt was, on entering the lodges, to behold
brass kettles, axes, copper tea-kettles, and various other articles of
civilized manufacture, which showed that these Indians had an indirect
communication with the people of the sea-coast who traded with the
whites. He made eager inquiries of the Sciatogas, and gathered from them
that the great river (the Columbia) was but two days' march distant, and
that several white people had recently descended it; who he hoped might
prove to be M'Lellan, M'Kenzie, and their companions.

It was with the utmost joy and the most profound gratitude to heaven,
that Mr. Hunt found himself and his band of weary and famishing
wanderers thus safely extricated from the most perilous part of their
long journey, and within the prospect of a termination of their tolls.
All the stragglers who had lagged behind arrived, one after another,
excepting the poor Canadian voyageur, Carriere. He had been seen late in
the preceding afternoon, riding behind a Snake Indian, near some lodges
of that nation, a few miles distant from the last night's encampment;
and it was expected that he would soon make his appearance. The first
object of Mr. Hunt was to obtain provisions for his men. A little
venison, of an indifferent quality, and some roots were all that could
be procured that evening; but the next day he succeeded in purchasing
a mare and colt, which were immediately killed, and the cravings of the
half-starved people in some degree appeased.

For several days they remained in the neighborhood of these Indians,
reposing after all their hardships, and feasting upon horse flesh and
roots, obtained in subsequent traffic. Many of the people ate to such
excess as to render themselves sick, others were lame from their past
journey; but all gradually recruited in the repose and abundance of the
valley. Horses were obtained here much more readily, and at a cheaper
rate, than among the Snakes. A blanket, a knife, or a half pound of blue
beads would purchase a steed, and at this rate many of the men bought
horses for their individual use.

This tribe of Indians, who are represented as a proud-spirited race, and
uncommonly cleanly, never eat horses or dogs, nor would they permit
the raw flesh of either to be brought into their huts. They had a small
quantity of venison in each lodge, but set so high a price upon it that
the white men, in their impoverished state could not afford to purchase
it. They hunted the deer on horseback, "ringing," or surrounding them,
and running them down in a circle. They were admirable horsemen, and
their weapons were bows and arrows, which they managed with great
dexterity. They were altogether primitive in their habits, and seemed to
cling to the usages of savage life, even when possessed of the aids of
civilization. They had axes among them, yet they generally made use of a
stone mallet wrought into the shape of a bottle, and wedges of elk
horn, in splitting their wood. Though they might have two or three brass
kettles hanging, in their lodges, yet they would frequently use vessels
made of willow, for carrying water, and would even boll their meat in
them, by means of hot stones. Their women wore caps of willow neatly
worked and figured.

As Carriere, the Canadian straggler, did not make his appearance for two
or three days after the encampment in the valley two men were sent out
on horseback in search of him. They returned, however, without success.
The lodges of the Snake Indians near which he had been seen were
removed, and the could find no trace of him. Several days more elapsed,
yet nothing was seen or heard of him, or the Snake horseman, behind whom
he had been last observed. It was feared, therefore, that he had either
perished through hunger and fatigue; had been murdered by the Indians;
or, being left to himself, had mistaken some hunting tracks for the
trail of the party, and been led astray and lost.

The river on the banks of which they were encamped, emptied into the
Columbia, was called by the natives the Eu-o-tal-la, or Umatilla, and
abounded with beaver. In the course of their sojourn in the valley which
it watered, they twice shifted their camp, proceeding about thirty miles
down its course, which was to the west. A heavy fall of rain caused the
river to overflow its banks, dislodged them from their encampment, and
drowned three of their horses which were tethered in the low ground.

Further conversation with the Indians satisfied them that they were in
the neighborhood of the Columbia. The number of the white men who they
said had passed down the river, agreed with that of M'Lellan, M'Kenzie,
and their companions, and increased the hope of Mr. Hunt that they might
have passed through the wilderness with safety.

These Indians had a vague story that white men were coming to trade
among them; and they often spoke of two great men named Ke-Koosh and
Jacquean, who gave them tobacco, and smoked with them. Jacquean, they
said, had a house somewhere upon the great river. Some of the Canadians
supposed they were speaking of one Jacquean Finlay, a clerk of the
Northwest Company, and inferred that the house must be some trading
post on one of the tributary streams of the Columbia. The Indians were
overjoyed when they found this band of white men intended to return
and trade with them. They promised to use all diligence in collecting
quantities of beaver skins, and no doubt proceeded to make deadly war
upon that sagacious, but ill-fated animal, who, in general, lived in
peaceful insignificance among his Indian neighbors, before the intrusion
of the white trader. On the 20th of January, Mr. Hunt took leave of
these friendly Indians, and of the river on which they encamped, and
continued westward.

At length, on the following day, the wayworn travellers lifted up their
eyes and beheld before them the long-sought waters of the Columbia. The
sight was hailed with as much transport as if they had already reached
the end of their pilgrimage; nor can we wonder at their joy. Two hundred
and forty miles had they marched, through wintry wastes and rugged
mountains, since leaving Snake River; and six months of perilous
wayfaring had they experienced since their departure from the Arickara
village on the Missouri. Their whole route by land and water from that
point had been, according to their computation, seventeen hundred and
fifty-one miles, in the course of which they had endured all kinds of
hardships. In fact, the necessity of avoiding the dangerous country of
the Blackfeet had obliged them to make a bend to the south and traverse
a great additional extent of unknown wilderness.

The place where they struck the Columbia was some distance below the
junction of its two great branches, Lewis and Clarke rivers, and not
far from the influx of the Wallah-Wallah. It was a beautiful stream,
three-quarters of a mile wide, totally free from trees; bordered in some
places with steep rocks, in others with pebbled shores.

On the banks of the Columbia they found a miserable horde of Indians,
called Akai-chies, with no clothing but a scanty mantle of the skins of
animals, and sometimes a pair of sleeves of wolf's skin. Their lodges
were shaped like a tent, and very light and warm, being covered with
mats and rushes; besides which they had excavations in the ground, lined
with mats, and occupied by the women, who were even more slightly clad
than the men. These people subsisted chiefly by fishing; having canoes
of a rude construction, being merely the trunks of pine trees split and
hollowed out by fire. Their lodges were well stored with dried salmon,
and they had great quantities of fresh salmon trout of an excellent
flavor, taken at the mouth of the Umatilla; of which the travellers
obtained a most acceptable supply.

Finding that the road was on the north side of the river, Mr. Hunt
crossed, and continued five or six days travelling rather slowly down
along its banks, being much delayed by the straying of the horses, and
the attempts made by the Indians to steal them. They frequently passed
lodges, where they obtained fish and dogs. At one place the natives had
just returned from hunting, and had brought back a large quantity of
elk and deer meat, but asked so high a price for it as to be beyond the
funds of the travellers, so they had to content themselves with dog's
flesh. They had by this time, however, come to consider it very choice
food, superior to horse flesh, and the minutes of the expedition speak
rather exultingly now and then, of their having made a famous "repast,"
where this viand happened to be unusually plenty.

They again learnt tidings of some of the scattered members of the
expedition, supposed to be M'Kenzie, M'Lellan, and their men, who had
preceded them down the river, and had overturned one of their canoes, by
which they lost many articles. All these floating pieces of intelligence
of their fellow adventurers, who had separated from them in the heart of
the wilderness, they received with eager interest.

The weather continued to be temperate, marking the superior softness of
the climate on this side of the mountains. For a great part of the
time, the days were delightfully mild and clear, like the serene days
of October on the Atlantic borders. The country in general, in the
neighborhood of the river, was a continual plain, low near the water,
but rising gradually; destitute of trees, and almost without shrubs
or plants of any kind, excepting a few willow bushes. After travelling
about sixty miles, they came to where the country became very hilly and
the river made its way between rocky banks and down numerous rapids.
The Indians in this vicinity were better clad and altogether in more
prosperous condition than those above, and, as Mr. Hunt thought, showed
their consciousness of ease by something like sauciness of manner. Thus
prosperity is apt to produce arrogance in savage as well as in civilized
life. In both conditions, man is an animal that will not bear pampering.

From these people Mr. Hunt for the first time received vague but deeply
interesting intelligence of that part of the enterprise which had
proceeded by sea to the mouth of the Columbia. The Indians spoke of
a number of white men who had built a large house at the mouth of the
great river, and surrounded it with palisades. None of them had been
down to Astoria themselves; but rumors spread widely and rapidly from
mouth to mouth among the Indian tribes, and are carried to the heart of
the interior by hunting parties and migratory hordes.

The establishment of a trading emporium at such a point, also, was
calculated to cause a sensation to the most remote parts of the vast
wilderness beyond the mountains. It in a manner struck the pulse of the
great vital river, and vibrated up all its tributary streams.

It is surprising to notice how well this remote tribe of savages had
learnt, through intermediate gossips, the private feelings of the
colonists at Astoria; it shows that Indians are not the incurious and
indifferent observers that they have been represented. They told Mr.
Hunt that the white people at the large house had been looking anxiously
for many of their friends, whom they had expected to descend the great
river; and had been in much affliction, fearing that they were lost.
Now, however, the arrival of him and his party would wipe away all their
tears, and they would dance and sing for joy.

On the 31st of January, Mr. Hunt arrived at the falls of the Columbia,
and encamped at the village of the Wish-ram, situated at the head of
that dangerous pass of the river called "the Long Narrows".


     The Village of Wish-ram.--Roguery of the Inhabitants.--Their
     Habitations.--Tidings of Astoria.--Of the Tonquin Massacre.
     --Thieves About the Camp.--A Band of Braggarts--Embarkation.--
     Arrival at Astoria.--A Joyful Reception.--Old Comrade.--
     Adventures of Reed, M'Lellan, and M'Kenzie Among the Snake
     River Mountains.--Rejoicing at Astoria.

OF the village of Wish-ram, the aborigines' fishing mart of the
Columbia, we have given some account in an early chapter of this work.
The inhabitants held a traffic in the productions of the fisheries of
the falls, and their village was the trading resort of the tribes
from the coast and from the mountains. Mr. Hunt found the inhabitants
shrewder and more intelligent than any Indians he had met with. Trade
had sharpened their wits, though it had not improved their honesty;
for they were a community of arrant rogues and freebooters. Their
habitations comported with their circumstances, and were superior to any
the travellers had yet seen west of the Rocky Mountains. In general, the
dwellings of the savages on the Pacific side of that great barrier were
mere tents and cabins of mats, or skins, or straw, the country being
destitute of timber. In Wish-ram, on the contrary, the houses were built
of wood, with long sloping roofs. The floor was sunk about six feet
below the surface of the ground, with a low door at the gable end,
extremely narrow, and partly sunk. Through this it was necessary to
crawl and then to descend a short ladder. This inconvenient entrance was
probably for the purpose of defense; there were loop-holes also under
the eaves, apparently for the discharge of arrows. The houses were
large, generally containing two or three families. Immediately within
the door were sleeping places, ranged along the walls, like berths in
a ship; and furnished with pallets of matting. These extended along one
half of the building; the remaining half was appropriated to the storing
of dried fish.

The trading operations of the inhabitants of Wish-ram had given them
a wider scope of information, and rendered their village a kind of
headquarters of intelligence. Mr. Hunt was able, therefore, to collect
more distinct tidings concerning the settlement of Astoria and its
affairs. One of the inhabitants had been at the trading post established
by David Stuart on the Oakinagan, and had picked up a few words of
English there. From him, Mr. Hunt gleaned various particulars about that
establishment, as well as about the general concerns of the enterprise.
Others repeated the name of Mr. M'Kay, the partner who perished in
the massacre on board of the Tonquin, and gave some account of that
melancholy affair. They said Mr. M'Kay was a chief among the white men,
and had built a great house at the mouth of the river, but had left
it and sailed away in a large ship to the northward where he had
been attacked by bad Indians in canoes. Mr. Hunt was startled by this
intelligence, and made further inquiries. They informed him that the
Indians had lashed their canoes to the ship, and fought until they
killed him and all his people. This is another instance of the clearness
with which intelligence is transmitted from mouth to mouth among the
Indian tribes. These tidings, though but partially credited by Mr. Hunt,
filled his mind with anxious forebodings. He now endeavored to procure
canoes, in which to descend the Columbia, but none suitable for
the purpose were to be obtained above the Narrows; he continued on,
therefore, the distance of twelve miles, and encamped on the bank of
the river. The camp was soon surrounded by loitering savages, who went
prowling about seeking what they might pilfer. Being baffled by the
vigilance of the guard, they endeavored to compass their ends by
other means. Towards evening, a number of warriors entered the camp in
ruffling style; painted and dressed out as if for battle, and armed with
lances, bows and arrows, and scalping knives. They informed Mr. Hunt
that a party of thirty or forty braves were coming up from a village
below to attack the camp and carry off the horses, but that they were
determined to stay with him and defend him. Mr. Hunt received them with
great coldness, and, when they had finished their story, gave them
a pipe to smoke. He then called up all hands, stationed sentinels in
different quarters, but told them to keep as vigilant an eye within the
camp as without.

The warriors were evidently baffled by these precautions, and, having
smoked their pipe, and vapored off their valor, took their departure.
The farce, however, did not end here. After a little while the warriors
returned, ushering in another savage, still more heroically arrayed.
This they announced as the chief of the belligerent village, but as a
great pacificator. His people had been furiously bent upon the attack,
and would have doubtless carried it into effect, but this gallant chief
had stood forth as the friend of white men, and had dispersed the throng
by his own authority and prowess. Having vaunted this signal piece of
service, there was a significant pause; all evidently expecting some
adequate reward. Mr. Hunt again produced the pipe, smoked with the
chieftain and his worthy compeers; but made no further demonstrations
of gratitude. They remained about the camp all night, but at daylight
returned, baffled and crestfallen, to their homes, with nothing but
smoke for their pains.

Mr. Hunt now endeavored to procure canoes, of which he saw several about
the neighborhood, extremely well made, with elevated stems and sterns,
some of them capable of carrying three thousand pounds weight. He found
it extremely difficult, however, to deal with these slippery people,
who seemed much more inclined to pilfer. Notwithstanding a strict guard
maintained round the camp, various implements were stolen, and
several horses carried off. Among the latter, we have to include the
long-cherished steed of Pierre Dorion. From some wilful caprice,
that worthy pitched his tent at some distance from the main body, and
tethered his invaluable steed beside it, from whence it was abstracted
in the night, to the infinite chagrin and mortification of the hybrid

Having, after several days' negotiation, procured the requisite number
of canoes, Mr. Hunt would gladly have left this thievish neighborhood,
but was detained until the 5th of February by violent head winds,
accompanied by snow and rain. Even after he was enabled to get under
way, he had still to struggle against contrary winds and tempestuous
weather. The current of the river, however, was in his favor; having
made a portage at the grand rapid, the canoes met with no further
obstruction, and, on the afternoon of the 15th of February, swept round
an intervening cape, and came in sight of the infant settlement of
Astoria. After eleven months wandering in the wilderness, a great part
of the time over trackless wastes, where the sight of a savage wigwam
was a rarity, we may imagine the delight of the poor weatherbeaten
travellers, at beholding the embryo establishment, with its magazines,
habitations, and picketed bulwarks, seated on a high point of land,
dominating a beautiful little bay, in which was a trim-built shallop
riding quietly at anchor. A shout of joy burst from each canoe at the
long-wished-for sight. They urged their canoes across the bay, and
pulled with eagerness for shore, where all hands poured down from the
settlement to receive and welcome them. Among the first to greet them
on their landing, were some of their old comrades and fellow-sufferers,
who, under the conduct of Reed, M'Lellan, and M'Kenzie, had parted
from them at the Caldron Linn. These had reached Astoria nearly a month
previously, and, judging from their own narrow escape from starvation,
had given up Mr. Hunt and his followers as lost. Their greeting was
the more warm and cordial. As to the Canadian voyageurs, their mutual
felicitations, as usual, were loud and vociferous, and it was almost
ludicrous to behold these ancient "comrades" and "confreres," hugging
and kissing each other on the river bank.

When the first greetings were over, the different bands interchanged
accounts of their several wanderings, after separating at Snake River;
we shall briefly notice a few of the leading particulars. It will
be recollected by the reader, that a small exploring detachment had
proceeded down the river, under the conduct of Mr. John Reed, a clerk of
the company; that another had set off under M'Lellan, and a third in a
different direction, under M'Kenzie. After wandering for several days
without meeting with Indians, or obtaining any supplies, they came
together fortuitously among the Snake River mountains, some distance
below that disastrous pass or strait which had received the appellation
of the Devil's Scuttle Hole.

When thus united, their party consisted of M'Kenzie, M'Lellan, Reed, and
eight men, chiefly Canadians. Being all in the same predicament, without
horses, provisions, or information of any kind, they all agreed that it
would be worse than useless to return to Mr. Hunt and encumber him
with so many starving men, and that their only course was to extricate
themselves as soon as possible from this land of famine and misery and
make the best of their way for the Columbia. They accordingly continued
to follow the downward course of Snake River; clambering rocks and
mountains, and defying all the difficulties and dangers of that rugged
defile, which subsequently, when the snows had fallen, was found
impassable by Messrs. Hunt and Crooks.

Though constantly near to the borders of the river, and for a great
part of the time within sight of its current, one of their greatest
sufferings was thirst. The river had worn its way in a deep channel
through rocky mountains, destitute of brooks or springs. Its banks
were so high and precipitous, that there was rarely any place where
the travellers could get down to drink of its waters. Frequently they
suffered for miles the torments of Tantalus; water continually within
sight, yet fevered with the most parching thirst. Here and there they
met with rainwater collected in the hollows of the rocks, but more than
once they were reduced to the utmost extremity; and some of the men had
recourse to the last expedient to avoid perishing.

Their sufferings from hunger were equally severe. They could meet with
no game, and subsisted for a time on strips of beaver skin, broiled on
the coals. These were doled out in scanty allowances, barely sufficient
to keep up existence, and at length failed them altogether. Still they
crept feebly on, scarce dragging one limb after another, until a severe
snow-storm brought them to a pause. To struggle against it, in their
exhausted condition, was impossible, so cowering under an impending
rock at the foot of a steep mountain, they prepared themselves for that
wretched fate which seemed inevitable.

At this critical juncture, when famine stared them in the face, M'Lellan
casting up his eyes, beheld an ahsahta, or bighorn, sheltering itself
under a shelving rock on the side of the hill above them. Being in a
more active plight than any of his comrades, and an excellent marksman,
he set off to get within shot of the animal. His companions watched his
movements with breathless anxiety, for their lives depended upon his
success. He made a cautious circuit; scrambled up the hill with the
utmost silence, and at length arrived, unperceived, within a proper
distance. Here leveling his rifle he took so sure an aim, that the
bighorn fell dead on the spot; a fortunate circumstance, for, to pursue
it, if merely wounded, would have been impossible in his emaciated
state. The declivity of the hill enabled him to roll the carcass down
to his companions, who were too feeble to climb the rocks. They fell to
work to cut it up; yet exerted a remarkable self-denial for men in their
starving condition, for they contented themselves for the present with
a soup made from the bones, reserving the flesh for future repasts. This
providential relief gave them strength to pursue their journey, but they
were frequently reduced to almost equal straits, and it was only the
smallness of their party, requiring a small supply of provisions, that
enabled them to get through this desolate region with their lives.

At length, after twenty-one days of to 11 and suffering, they got
through these mountains, and arrived at a tributary stream of that
branch of the Columbia called Lewis River, of which Snake River forms
the southern fork. In this neighborhood they met with wild horses, the
first they had seen west of the Rocky Mountains. From hence they made
their way to Lewis River, where they fell in with a friendly tribe of
Indians, who freely administered to their necessities. On this river
they procured two canoes, in which they dropped down the stream to its
confluence with the Columbia, and then down that river to Astoria, where
they arrived haggard and emaciated, and perfectly in rags.

Thus, all the leading persons of Mr. Hunt's expedition were once
more gathered together, excepting Mr. Crooks, of whose safety they
entertained but little hope, considering the feeble condition in which
they had been compelled to leave him in the heart of the wilderness.

A day was now given up to jubilee, to celebrate the arrival of Mr. Hunt
and his companions, and the joyful meeting of the various scattered
bands of adventurers at Astoria. The colors were hoisted; the guns,
great and small, were fired; there was a feast of fish, of beaver, and
venison, which relished well with men who had so long been glad to revel
on horse flesh and dogs' meat; a genial allowance of grog was issued, to
increase the general animation, and the festivities wound up, as usual,
with a grand dance at night, by the Canadian voyageurs. *

     *The distance from St. Louis to Astoria, by the route
     travelled by Hunt and M'Kenzie, was upwards of thirty-five
     hundred miles, though in a direct line it does not exceed
     eighteen hundred.


     Scanty Fare During the Winter.--A Poor Hunting Ground.--The
     Return of the Fishing Season.--The Uthlecan or Smelt.--Its
     Qualities.--Vast Shoals of it.--Sturgeon.--Indian Modes of
     Taking It.--The Salmon--Different Species.--Nature of the
     Country About the Coast.--Forests and Forest Trees.--A
     Remarkable Flowering Vine.--Animals.--Birds.--Reptiles--
     Climate West of the Mountains--Mildness of the
     Temperature.--Soil of the Coast and the Interior.

THE winter passed away tranquilly at Astoria. The apprehensions of
hostility from the natives had subsided; indeed, as the season advanced,
the Indians for the most part had disappeared from the neighborhood, and
abandoned the sea-coast, so that, for want of their aid, the colonists
had at times suffered considerably for want of provisions. The hunters
belonging to the establishment made frequent and wide excursions, but
with very moderate success. There were some deer and a few bears to be
found in the vicinity, and elk in great numbers; the country, however,
was so rough, and the woods so close and entangled that it was almost
impossible to beat up the game. The prevalent rains of winter, also,
rendered it difficult for the hunter to keep his arms in order. The
quantity of game, therefore, brought in by the hunters was extremely
scanty, and it was frequently necessary to put all hands on very
moderate allowance. Towards spring, however, the fishing season
commenced--the season of plenty on the Columbia. About the beginning
of February, a small kind of fish, about six inches long, called by the
natives the uthlecan, and resembling the smelt, made its appearance at
the mouth of the river. It is said to be of delicious flavor, and so fat
as to burn like a candle, for which it is often used by the natives. It
enters the river in immense shoals, like solid columns, often extending
to the depth of five or more feet, and is scooped up by the natives with
small nets at the end of poles. In this way they will soon fill a canoe,
or form a great heap upon the river banks. These fish constitute a
principal article of their food; the women drying them and stringing
them on cords. As the uthlecan is only found in the lower part of the
river, the arrival of it soon brought back the natives to the coast;
who again resorted to the factory to trade, and from that time furnished
plentiful supplies of fish.

The sturgeon makes its appearance in the river shortly after the
uthlecan, and is taken in different ways by the natives: sometimes
they spear it; but oftener they use the hook and line, and the net.
Occasionally, they sink a cord in the river by a heavy weight, with a
buoy at the upper end, to keep floating. To this cord several hooks are
attached by short lines, a few feet distant from each other, and baited
with small fish. This apparatus is often set towards night, and by the
next morning several sturgeon will be found hooked by it; for though a
large and strong fish, it makes but little resistance when ensnared.

The salmon, which are the prime fish of the Columbia, and as important
to the piscatory tribes as are the buffaloes to the hunters of the
prairies, do not enter the river until towards the latter part of May,
from which time, until the middle of August, they abound and are taken
in vast quantities, either with the spear or seine, and mostly in
shallow water. An inferior species succeeds, and continues from August
to December. It is remarkable for having a double row of teeth, half an
inch long and extremely sharp, from whence it has received the name of
the dog-toothed salmon. It is generally killed with the spear in small
rivulets, and smoked for winter provision. We have noticed in a former
chapter the mode in which the salmon are taken and cured at the falls
of the Columbia; and put tip in parcels for exportation. From these
different fisheries of the river tribes, the establishment at Astoria
had to derive much of its precarious supplies of provisions.

A year's residence at the mouth of the Columbia, and various expeditions
in the interior, had now given the Astorians some idea of the country.
The whole coast is described as remarkably rugged and mountainous; with
dense forests of hemlock, spruce, white and red cedar, cotton-wood,
white oak, white and swamp ash, willow, and a few walnut. There is
likewise an undergrowth of aromatic shrubs, creepers, and clambering
vines, that render the forests almost impenetrable; together with
berries of various kinds, such as gooseberries, strawberries,
raspberries, both red and yellow, very large and finely flavored
whortleberries, cranberries, serviceberries, blackberries, currants,
sloes, and wild and choke cherries.

Among the flowering vines is one deserving of particular notice. Each
flower is composed of six leaves or petals, about three inches in
length, of a beautiful crimson, the inside spotted with white. Its
leaves, of a fine green, are oval, and disposed by threes. This plant
climbs upon the trees without attaching itself to them; when it has
reached the topmost branches, it descends perpendicularly, and as it
continues to grow, extends from tree to tree, until its various stalks
interlace the grove like the rigging of a ship. The stems or trunks of
this vine are tougher and more flexible than willow, and are from
fifty to one hundred fathoms in length. From the fibres, the Indians
manufacture baskets of such close texture as to hold water.

The principal quadrupeds that had been seen by the colonists in their
various expeditions were the stag, fallow deer, hart, black and grizzly
bear, antelope, ahsahta or bighorn, beaver, sea and river otter,
muskrat, fox, wolf, and panther, the latter extremely rare. The only
domestic animals among the natives were horses and dogs.

The country abounded with aquatic and land birds, such as swans, wild
geese, brant, ducks of almost every description, pelicans, herons,
gulls, snipes, curlews, eagles, vultures, crows, ravens, magpies,
woodpeckers, pigeons, partridges, pheasants, grouse, and a great variety
of singing birds.

There were few reptiles; the only dangerous kinds were the rattlesnake,
and one striped with black, yellow, and white, about four feet long.
Among the lizard kind was one about nine or ten inches in length,
exclusive of the tall, and three inches in circumference. The tail was
round, and of the same length as the body. The head was triangular,
covered with small square scales. The upper part of the body was
likewise covered with small scales, green, yellow, black, and blue. Each
foot had five toes, furnished with strong nails, probably to aid it in
burrowing, as it usually lived under ground on the plains.

A remarkable fact, characteristic of the country west of the Rocky
Mountains, is the mildness and equability of the climate. The great
mountain barrier seems to divide the continent into different climates,
even in the same degrees of latitude. The rigorous winters and sultry
summers, and all the capricious inequalities of temperature prevalent on
the Atlantic side of the mountains, are but little felt on their western
declivities. The countries between them and the Pacific are blessed with
milder and steadier temperature, resembling the climates of parallel
latitudes in Europe. In the plains and valleys but little snow falls
throughout the winter, and usually melts while falling. It rarely lies
on the ground more than two days at a time, except on the summits of the
mountains. The winters are rainy rather than cold. The rains for five
months, from the middle of October to the middle of March, are almost
incessant, and often accompanied by tremendous thunder and lightning.
The winds prevalent at this season are from the south and southeast,
which usually bring rain. Those from the north to the southwest are the
harbingers of fair weather and a clear sky. The residue of the year,
from the middle of March to the middle of October, an interval of seven
months, is serene and delightful. There is scarcely any rain throughout
this time, yet the face of the country is kept fresh and verdant by
nightly dews, and occasionally by humid fogs in the mornings. These are
not considered prejudicial to health, since both the natives and the
whites sleep in the open air with perfect impunity. While this equable
and bland temperature prevails throughout the lower country, the peaks
and ridges of the vast mountains by which it is dominated, are covered
with perpetual snow. This renders them discernible at a great distance,
shining at times like bright summer clouds, at other times assuming the
most aerial tints, and always forming brilliant and striking features
in the vast landscape. The mild temperature prevalent throughout the
country is attributed by some to the succession of winds from the
Pacific Ocean, extending from latitude twenty degrees to at least fifty
degrees north. These temper the heat of summer, so that in the shade
no one is incommoded by perspiration; they also soften the rigors
of winter, and produce such a moderation in the climate, that the
inhabitants can wear the same dress throughout the year.

The soil in the neighborhood of the sea-coast is of a brown color,
inclining to red, and generally poor; being a mixture of clay and
gravel. In the interior, and especially in the valleys of the Rocky
Mountains, the soil is generally blackish, though sometimes yellow. It
is frequently mixed with marl, and with marine substances in a state of
decomposition. This kind of soil extends to a considerable depth, as
may be perceived in the deep cuts made by ravines, and by the beds of
rivers. The vegetation in these valleys is much more abundant than near
the coast; in fact, it is these fertile intervals, locked up between
rocky sierras, or scooped out from barren wastes, that population must
extend itself, as it were, in veins and ramifications, if ever the
regions beyond the mountains should become civilized.


     Natives in the Neighborhood of Astoria--Their Persons and
     Characteristics.--Causes of Deformity--Their Dress.--
     Their Contempt of Beards--Ornaments--Armor and Weapons.-Mode
     of Flattening the Head.--Extent of the Custom.--Religious
     Belief.-The Two Great Spirits of the Air and of the Fire.--
     Priests or Medicine Men.--The Rival Idols.--Polygamy a Cause
     of Greatness-Petty Warfare.--Music, Dancing, Gambling.--
     Thieving a Virtue.--Keen Traders--Intrusive Habits--
     Abhorrence of Drunkenness--Anecdote of Comcomly.

A BRIEF mention has already been made of the tribes or hordes existing
about the lower part of the Columbia at the time of the settlement; a
few more particulars concerning them may be acceptable. The four tribes
nearest to Astoria, and with whom the traders had most intercourse,
were, as has heretofore been observed, the Chinooks, the Clatsops, the
Wahkiacums, and the Cathlamets. The Chinooks reside chiefly along the
banks of a river of the same name, running parallel to the sea-coast,
through a low country studded with stagnant pools, and emptying itself
into Baker's Bay, a few miles from Cape Disappointment. This was the
tribe over which Comcomly, the one-eyed chieftain, held sway; it boasted
two hundred and fourteen fighting men. Their chief subsistence was on
fish, with an occasional regale of the flesh of elk and deer, and of
wild-fowl from the neighboring ponds.

The Clatsops resided on both sides of Point Adams; they were the mere
relics of a tribe which had been nearly swept off by the small-pox, and
did not number more than one hundred and eighty fighting men.

The Wahkiacums, or Waak-i-cums, inhabited the north side of the
Columbia, and numbered sixty-six warriors. They and the Chinooks
were originally the same; but a dispute arising about two generations
previous to the time of the settlement, between the ruling chief and his
brother Wahkiacum, the latter seceded, and with his adherents formed the
present horde which continues to go by his name. In this way new tribes
or clans are formed, and lurking causes of hostility engendered.

The Cathlamets lived opposite to the lower village of the Wahkiacums,
and numbered ninety-four warriors.

These four tribes, or rather clans, have every appearance of springing
from the same origin, resembling each other in person, dress, language,
and manners. They are rather a diminutive race, generally below five
feet five inches, with crooked legs and thick ankles--a deformity
caused by their passing so much of their time sitting or squatting
upon the calves of their legs and their heels, in the bottom of their
canoes--a favorite position, which they retain, even when on shore. The
women increase the deformity by wearing tight bandages round the ankles,
which prevent the circulation of the blood, and cause a swelling of the
muscles of the leg.

Neither sex can boast of personal beauty. Their faces are round, with
small but animated eyes. Their noses are broad and flat at top, and
fleshy at the end, with large nostrils. They have wide mouths, thick
lips, and short, irregular and dirty teeth. Indeed good teeth are seldom
to be seen among the tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, who live simply
on fish.

In the early stages of their intercourse with white men, these savages
were but scantily clad. In summer time the men went entirely naked; in
the winter and in bad weather the men wore a small robe, reaching to the
middle of the thigh, made of the skins of animals, or of the wool of the
mountain sheep. Occasionally, they wore a kind of mantle of matting,
to keep off the rain but, having thus protected the back and shoulders,
they left the rest of the body naked.

The women wore similar robes, though shorter, not reaching below the
waist; besides which, they had a kind of petticoat, or fringe, reaching
from the waist to the knee, formed of the fibres of cedar bark, broken
into strands, or a tissue of silk grass twisted and knotted at the ends.
This was the usual dress of the women in summer; should the weather be
inclement, they added a vest of skins, similar to the robe.

The men carefully eradicated every vestige of a beard, considering it
a great deformity. They looked with disgust at the whiskers and
well-furnished chins of the white men, and in derision called them
Long-beards. Both sexes, on the other hand, cherished the hair of the
head, which with them is generally black and rather coarse. They allowed
it to grow to a great length and were very proud and careful of it,
sometimes wearing it plaited, sometimes wound round the head in fanciful
tresses. No greater affront could be offered to them than to cut off
their treasured locks.

They had conical hats with narrow rims, neatly woven of bear grass or of
the fibres of cedar bark, interwoven with designs of various shapes
and colors; sometimes merely squares and triangles, at other times rude
representations of canoes, with men fishing and harpooning. These hats
were nearly waterproof, and extremely durable.

The favorite ornaments of the men were collars of bears' claws, the
proud trophies of hunting exploits; while the women and children wore
similar decorations of elks' tusks. An intercourse with the white
traders, however, soon effected a change in the toilets of both sexes.
They became fond of arraying themselves in any article of civilized
dress which they could procure, and often made a most grotesque
appearance. They adapted many articles of finery, also, to their own
previous tastes. Both sexes were fond of adorning themselves with
bracelets of iron, brass, or copper. They were delighted, also, with
blue and white beads, particularly the former, and wore broad tight
bands of them round the waist and ankles, large rolls of them round
the neck, and pendants of them in the ears. The men, especially, who
in savage life carry a passion for personal decoration further than the
females, did not think their gala equipments complete unless they had
a jewel of hiaqua, or wampum, dangling at the nose. Thus arrayed, their
hair besmeared with fish oil, and their bodies bedaubed with red clay,
they considered themselves irresistible.

When on warlike expeditions, they painted their faces and bodies in the
most hideous and grotesque manner, according to the universal practice
of American savages. Their arms were bows and arrows, spears, and war
clubs. Some wore a corselet of pieces of hard wood laced together with
bear grass, so as to form a light coat of mail, pliant to the body; and
a kind of casque of cedar bark, leather, and bear grass, sufficient to
protect the head from an arrow or war club. A more complete article of
defensive armor was a buff jerkin or shirt of great thickness, made of
doublings of elk skin, and reaching to the feet, holes being left for
the head and arms. This was perfectly arrowproof; add to which, it was
often endowed with charmed virtues, by the spells and mystic ceremonials
of the medicine man, or conjurer.

Of the peculiar custom, prevalent among these people, of flattening
the head, we have already spoken. It is one of those instances of human
caprice, like the crippling of the feet of females in China, which
are quite incomprehensible. This custom prevails principally among the
tribes on the sea-coast, and about the lower parts of the rivers. How
far it extends along the coast we are not able to ascertain. Some of the
tribes, both north and south of the Columbia, practice it; but they all
speak the Chinook language, and probably originated from the same stock.
As far as we can learn, the remoter tribes, which speak an entirely
different language, do not flatten the head. This absurd custom
declines, also, in receding from the shores of the Pacific; few traces
of it are to be found among the tribes of the Rocky Mountains, and
after crossing the mountains it disappears altogether. Those Indians,
therefore, about the head waters of the Columbia, and in the solitary
mountain regions, who are often called Flatheads, must not be supposed
to be characterized by this deformity. It is an appellation often given
by the hunters east of the mountain chain, to all western Indians,
excepting the Snakes.

The religious belief of these people was extremely limited and confined;
or rather, in all probability, their explanations were but little
understood by their visitors. They had an idea of a benevolent and
omnipotent spirit, the creator of all things. They represent him as
assuming various shapes at pleasure, but generally that of an immense
bird. He usually inhabits the sun, but occasionally wings his way
through the aerial regions, and sees all that is doing upon earth.
Should anything displease him, he vents his wrath in terrific storms and
tempests, the lightning being the flashes of his eyes, and the thunder
the clapping of his wings. To propitiate his favor they offer to him
annual sacrifices of salmon and venison, the first fruits of their
fishing and hunting.

Besides this aerial spirit they believe in an inferior one, who inhabits
the fire, and of whom they are in perpetual dread, as, though he
possesses equally the power of good and evil, the evil is apt to
predominate. They endeavor, therefore, to keep him in good humor by
frequent offerings. He is supposed also to have great influence with the
winged spirit, their sovereign protector and benefactor. They implore
him, therefore, to act as their interpreter, and procure them all
desirable things, such as success in fishing and hunting, abundance of
game, fleet horses, obedient wives, and male children.

These Indians have likewise their priests, or conjurers, or medicine
men, who pretend to be in the confidence of the deities, and the
expounders and enforcers of their will. Each of these medicine men has
his idols carved in wood, representing the spirits of the air and of the
fire, under some rude and grotesque form of a horse, a bear, a beaver,
or other quadruped, or that of bird or fish. These idols are hung round
with amulets and votive offerings, such as beavers' teeth, and bears'
and eagles' claws.

When any chief personage is on his death-bed, or dangerously ill, the
medicine men are sent for. Each brings with him his idols, with which
he retires into a canoe to hold a consultation. As doctors are prone to
disagree, so these medicine men have now and then a violent altercation
as to the malady of the patient, or the treatment of it. To settle this
they beat their idols soundly against each other; whichever first loses
a tooth or a claw is considered as confuted, and his votary retires from
the field. Polygamy is not only allowed, but considered honorable, and
the greater number of wives a man can maintain, the more important is he
in the eyes of the tribe. The first wife, however, takes rank of all
the others, and is considered mistress of the house. Still the domestic
establishment is liable to jealousies and cabals, and the lord and
master has much difficulty in maintaining harmony in his jangling

In the manuscript from which we draw many of these particulars, it is
stated that he who exceeds his neighbors in the number of his wives,
male children, and slaves, is elected chief of the village; a title to
office which we do not recollect ever before to have met with.

Feuds are frequent among these tribes, but are not very deadly. They
have occasionally pitched battles, fought on appointed days, and at
specific places, which are generally the banks of a rivulet. The adverse
parties post themselves on the opposite sides of the stream, and at such
distances that the battles often last a long while before any blood
is shed. The number of killed and wounded seldom exceed half a dozen.
Should the damage be equal on each side, the war is considered as
honorably concluded; should one party lose more than the other, it
is entitled to a compensation in slaves or other property, otherwise
hostilities are liable to be renewed at a future day. They are also
given to predatory inroads into the territories of their enemies, and
sometimes of their friendly neighbors. Should they fall upon a band of
inferior force, or upon a village, weakly defended, they act with the
ferocity of true poltroons, slaying all the men, and carrying off the
women and children as slaves. As to the property, it is packed upon
horses which they bring with them for the purpose. They are mean and
paltry as warriors, and altogether inferior in heroic qualities to the
savages of the buffalo plains on the east side of the mountains.

A great portion of their time is passed in revelry, music, dancing, and
gambling. Their music scarcely deserves the name; the instruments being
of the rudest kind. Their singing is harsh and discordant; the songs
are chiefly extempore, relating to passing circumstances, the persons
present, or any trifling object that strikes the attention of the
singer. They have several kinds of dances, some of them lively and
pleasing. The women are rarely permitted to dance with the men, but form
groups apart, dancing to the same instrument and song.

They have a great passion for play, and a variety of games. To such a
pitch of excitement are they sometimes roused, that they gamble away
everything they possess, even to their wives and children. They are
notorious thieves, also, and proud of their dexterity. He who is
frequently successful, gains much applause and popularity; but the
clumsy thief, who is detected in some bungling attempt, is scoffed at
and despised, and sometimes severely punished.

Such are a few leading characteristics of the natives in the
neighborhood of Astoria. They appear to us inferior in many respects to
the tribes east of the mountains, the bold rovers of the prairies; and
to partake much of Esquimaux character; elevated in some degree by a
more genial climate and more varied living style.

The habits of traffic engendered at the cataracts of the Columbia, have
had their influence along the coast. The Chinooks and other Indians
at the mouth of the river, soon proved themselves keen traders, and in
their early dealings with the Astorians never hesitated to ask three
times what they considered the real value of an article. They were
inquisitive, also, in the extreme, and impertinently intrusive; and
were prone to indulge in scoffing and ridicule at the expense of the

In one thing, however, they showed superior judgment and self-command to
most of their race; this was, in their abstinence from ardent spirits,
and the abhorrence and disgust with which they regarded a drunkard. On
one occasion a son of Comcomly had been induced to drink freely at the
factory, and went home in a state of intoxication, playing all kinds of
mad pranks, until he sank into a stupor, in which he remained for
two days. The old chieftain repaired to his friend, M'Dougal, with
indignation flaming in his countenance, and bitterly reproached him for
having permitted his son to degrade himself into a beast, and to render
himself an object of scorn and laughter to his slave.


     Spring Arrangements at Astoria.--Various Expeditions Set
     Out.-The Long Narrows.--Pilfering Indians.--Thievish Tribe
     at Wish-ram.--Portage at the Falls--Portage by Moonlight.--
     An Attack, a Route, and a Robbery.--Indian Cure for
     Cowardice.--A Parley and Compromise.--The Despatch Party
     Turn Back.--Meet Crooks and John Day.--Their Sufferings.--
     Indian Perfidy.--Arrival at Astoria.

AS the spring opened, the little settlement of Astoria was in agitation,
and prepared to send forth various expeditions. Several important things
were to be done. It was necessary to send a supply of goods to the
trading post of Mr. David Stuart, established in the preceding autumn
on the Oakinagan. The cache, or secret deposit, made by Mr. Hunt at the
Caldron Linn, was likewise to be visited, and the merchandise and other
effects left there, to be brought to Astoria. A third object of moment
was to send despatches overland to Mr. Astor at New York, informing
him of the state of affairs at the settlement, and the fortunes of the
several expeditions.

The task of carrying supplies to Oakinagan was assigned to Mr. Robert
Stuart, a spirited and enterprising young man, nephew to the one who
had established the post. The cache was to be sought out by two of the
clerks, named Russell Farnham and Donald M'Gilles, conducted by a guide,
and accompanied by eight men, to assist in bringing home the goods.

As to the despatches, they were confided to Mr. John Reed, the clerk,
the same who had conducted one of the exploring detachments of Snake
River. He was now to trace back his way across the mountains by the same
route by which he had come, with no other companions or escort than Ben
Jones, the Kentucky hunter, and two Canadians. As it was still hoped
that Mr. Crooks might be in existence, and that Mr. Reed and his party
might meet with him in the course of their route, they were charged with
a small supply of goods and provisions, to aid that gentleman on his way
to Astoria.

When the expedition of Reed was made known, Mr. M'Lellan announced his
determination to accompany it. He had long been dissatisfied with the
smallness of his interest in the copartnership, and had requested an
additional number of shares; his request not being complied with, he
resolved to abandon the company. M'Lellan was a man of a singularly
self-willed and decided character, with whom persuasion was useless; he
was permitted, therefore, to take his own course without opposition.

As to Reed, he set about preparing for his hazardous journey with the
zeal of a true Irishman. He had a tin case made, in which the letters
and papers addressed to Mr. Astor were carefully soldered up. This case
he intended to strap upon his shoulders, so as to bear it about with
him, sleeping and waking, in all changes and chances, by land or by
water, and never to part with it but with his life!

As the route of these several parties would be the same for nearly
four hundred miles up the Columbia, and within that distance would lie
through the piratical pass of the rapids, and among the freebooting
tribes of the river, it was thought advisable to start about the same
time, and to keep together. Accordingly, on the 22d of March, they all
set off, to the number of seventeen men, in two canoes--and here we
cannot but pause to notice the hardihood of these several expeditions,
so insignificant in point of force, and severally destined to traverse
immense wildernesses where larger parties had experienced so much danger
and distress. When recruits were sought in the preceding year among
experienced hunters and voyageurs at Montreal and St. Louis, it was
considered dangerous to attempt to cross the Rocky Mountains with less
than sixty men; and yet here we find Reed ready to push his way across
those barriers with merely three companions. Such is the fearlessness,
the insensibility to danger, which men acquire by the habitude of
constant risk. The mind, like the body, becomes callous by exposure.

The little associated band proceeded up the river, under the command of
Mr. Robert Stuart, and arrived early in the month of April at the Long
Narrows, that notorious plundering place. Here it was necessary to
unload the canoes, and to transport both them and their cargoes to the
head of the Narrows by land. Their party was too few in number for the
purpose. They were obliged, therefore, to seek the assistance of the
Cathlasco Indians, who undertook to carry the goods on their horses.
Forward then they set, the Indians with their horses well freighted, and
the first load convoyed by Reed and five men, well armed; the gallant
Irishman striding along at the head, with his tin case of despatches
glittering on his back. In passing, however, through a rocky and
intricate defile, some of the freebooting vagrants turned their horses
up a narrow path and galloped off, carrying with them two bales of
goods, and a number of smaller articles. To follow them was useless;
indeed, it was with much ado that the convoy got into port with the
residue of the cargoes; for some of the guards were pillaged of their
knives and pocket handkerchiefs, and the lustrous tin case of Mr. John
Reed was in imminent jeopardy.

Mr. Stuart heard of these depredations, and hastened forward to the
relief of the convoy, but could not reach them before dusk, by which
time they had arrived at the village of Wish-ram, already noted for its
great fishery, and the knavish propensities of its inhabitants. Here
they found themselves benighted in a strange place, and surrounded by
savages bent on pilfering, if not upon open robbery. Not knowing what
active course to take, they remained under arms all night, without
closing an eye, and at the very first peep of dawn, when objects were
yet scarce visible, everything was hastily embarked, and, without
seeking to recover the stolen effects, they pushed off from shore, "glad
to bid adieu," as they said, "to this abominable nest of miscreants."

The worthies of Wish-ram, however, were not disposed to part so easily
with their visitors. Their cupidity had been quickened by the plunder
which they had already taken, and their confidence increased by the
impunity with which their outrage had passed. They resolved, therefore,
to take further toll of the travellers, and, if possible, to capture the
tin case of despatches; which shining conspicuously from afar, and being
guarded by John Reed with such especial care, must, as they supposed, be
"a great medicine."

Accordingly, Mr. Stuart and his comrades had not proceeded far in the
canoes, when they beheld the whole rabble of Wishram stringing in
groups along the bank, whooping and yelling, and gibbering in their wild
jargon, and when they landed below the falls, they were surrounded by
upwards of four hundred of these river ruffians, armed with bows and
arrows, war clubs, and other savage weapons. These now pressed forward,
with offers to carry the canoes and effects up the portage. Mr Stuart
declined forwarding the goods, alleging the lateness of the hour; but,
to keep them in good humor, informed them, that, if they conducted
themselves well, their offered services might probably be accepted in
the morning; in the meanwhile, he suggested that they might carry up the
canoes. They accordingly set off with the two canoes on their shoulders,
accompanied by a guard of eight men well armed.

When arrived at the head of the falls, the mischievous spirit of the
savages broke out, and they were on the point of destroying the canoes,
doubtless with a view to impede the white men from carrying forward
their goods, and laying them open to further pilfering. They were
with some difficulty prevented from committing this outrage by the
interference of an old man, who appeared to have authority among them;
and, in consequence of his harangue, the whole of the hostile band, with
the exception of about fifty, crossed to the north side of the river,
where they lay in wait, ready for further mischief.

In the meantime, Mr. Stuart, who had remained at the foot of the falls
with the goods, and who knew that the proffered assistance of the
savages was only for the purpose of having an opportunity to plunder,
determined, if possible, to steal a march upon them, and defeat their
machinations. In the dead of the night, therefore, about one o'clock,
the moon shining brightly, he roused his party, and proposed that they
should endeavor to transport the goods themselves, above the falls,
before the sleeping savages could be aware of their operations. All
hands sprang to the work with zeal, and hurried it on in the hope of
getting all over before daylight. Mr. Stuart went forward with the first
loads, and took his station at the head of the portage, while Mr. Reed
and Mr. M'Lellan remained at the foot to forward the remainder.

The day dawned before the transportation was completed. Some of the
fifty Indians who had remained on the south side of the river, perceived
what was going on, and, feeling themselves too weak for an attack, gave
the alarm to those on the opposite side, upwards of a hundred of whom
embarked in several large canoes. Two loads of goods yet remained to
be brought up. Mr. Stuart despatched some of the people for one of the
loads, with a request to Mr. Reed to retain with him as many of the men
as he thought necessary to guard the remaining load, as he suspected
hostile intentions on the part of the Indians. Mr. Reed, however,
refused to retain any of them, saying that M'Lellan and himself
were sufficient to protect the small quantity that remained. The
men accordingly departed with the load, while Mr. Reed and M'Lellan
continued to mount guard over the residue. By this time, a number of the
canoes had arrived from the opposite side. As they approached the shore,
the unlucky tin box of John Reed, shining afar like the brilliant helmet
of Euryalus, caught their eyes. No sooner did the canoes touch the
shore, than they leaped forward on the rocks, set up a war-whoop, and
sprang forward to secure the glittering prize. Mr. M'Lellan, who was at
the river bank, advanced to guard the goods, when one of the savages at
tempted to hoodwink him with his buffalo robe with one hand, and to stab
him with the other. M'Lellan sprang back just far enough to avoid the
blow, and raising his rifle, shot the ruffian through the heart.

In the meantime, Reed, who with the want of forethought of an Irishman,
had neglected to remove the leathern cover from the lock of his rifle,
was fumbling at the fastenings, when he received a blow on the head with
a war club that laid him senseless on the ground. In a twinkling he was
stripped of his rifle and pistols, and the tin box, the cause of all
this onslaught, was borne off in triumph.

At this critical juncture, Mr. Stuart, who had heard the war-whoop,
hastened to the scene of action with Ben Jones, and seven others of the
men. When he arrived, Reed was weltering in his blood, and an Indian
standing over him and about to despatch him with a tomahawk. Stuart gave
the word, when Ben Jones leveled his rifle, and shot the miscreant on
the spot. The men then gave a cheer, and charged upon the main body of
the savages, who took to instant flight. Reed was now raised from
the ground, and borne senseless and bleeding to the upper end of the
portage. Preparations were made to launch the canoes and embark in
all haste, when it was found that they were too leaky to be put in the
water, and that the oars had been left at the foot of the falls. A scene
of confusion now ensued. The Indians were whooping and yelling, and
running about like fiends. A panic seized upon the men, at being thus
suddenly checked, the hearts of some of the Canadians died within them,
and two young men actually fainted away. The moment they recovered their
senses, Mr. Stuart ordered that they should be deprived of their arms,
their under garments taken off, and that a piece of cloth should be tied
round their waists, in imitation of a squaw; an Indian punishment for
cowardice. Thus equipped, they were stowed away among the goods in one
of the canoes. This ludicrous affair excited the mirth of the bolder
spirits, even in the midst of their perils, and roused the pride of the
wavering. The Indians having crossed back again to the north side, order
was restored, some of the hands were sent back for the oars, others set
to work to calk and launch the canoes, and in a little while all were
embarked and were continuing their voyage along the southern shore.

No sooner had they departed, than the Indians returned to the scene of
action, bore off their two comrades who had been shot, one of whom
was still living, and returned to their village. Here they killed two
horses; and drank the hot blood to give fierceness to their courage.
They painted and arrayed themselves hideously for battle; performed the
dead dance round the slain, and raised the war song of vengeance. Then
mounting their horses to the number of four hundred and fifty men, and
brandishing their weapons, they set off along the northern bank of the
river, to get ahead of the canoes, lie in wait for them, and take a
terrible revenge on the white men.

They succeeded in getting some distance above the canoes without being
discovered, and were crossing the river to post themselves on the side
along which the white men were coasting, when they were fortunately
descried. Mr. Stuart and his companions were immediately on the alert.
As they drew near to the place where the savages had crossed, they
observed them posted among steep and overhanging rocks, close along
which, the canoes would have to pass. Finding that the enemy had the
advantage of the ground, the whites stopped short when within five
hundred yards of them, and discharged and reloaded their pieces. They
then made a fire, and dressed the wounds of Mr. Reed, who had received
five severe gashes in the head. This being done, they lashed the canoes
together, fastened them to a rock at a small distance from the shore,
and there awaited the menaced attack.

They had not been long posted in this manner, when they saw a canoe
approaching. It contained the war-chief of the tribe, and three of his
principal warriors. He drew near, and made a long harangue, in which
he informed them that they had killed one and wounded another of his
nation; that the relations of the slain cried out for vengeance, and
he had been compelled to lead them to fight. Still he wished to spare
unnecessary bloodshed; he proposed, therefore, that Mr. Reed, who, he
observed, was little better than a dead man, might be given up to be
sacrificed to the manes of the deceased warrior. This would appease
the fury of his friends; the hatchet would then be buried, and all
thenceforward would be friends. The answer was a stern refusal and a
defiance, and the war-chief saw that the canoes were well prepared for a
vigorous defense. He withdrew, therefore, and returning to his warriors
among the rocks held long deliberations. Blood for blood is a principle
in Indian equity and Indian honor; but though the inhabitants of
Wish-ram were men of war, they were likewise men of traffic, and it was
suggested that honor for once might give way to profit. A negotiation
was accordingly opened with the white men, and after some diplomacy, the
matter was compromised for a blanket to cover the dead, and some tobacco
to be smoked by the living. This being granted, the heroes of Wish-ram
crossed the river once more, returned to their villages to feast
upon the horses whose blood they had so vaingloriously drunk, and the
travellers pursued their voyage without further molestation.

The tin case, however, containing the important despatches for New
York, was irretrievably lost; the very precaution taken by the worthy
Hibernian to secure his missives, had, by rendering them conspicuous,
produced their robbery. The object of his overland journey, therefore,
being defeated, he gave up the expedition. The whole party repaired
with Mr. Robert Stuart to the establishment of Mr. David Stuart, on the
Oakinagan River. After remaining here two or three days, they all set
out on their return to Astoria accompanied by Mr. David Stuart. This
gentleman had a large quantity of beaver skins at his establishment,
but did not think it prudent to take them with him fearing the levy of
"black mail" at the falls.

On their way down, when below the forks of the Columbia, they were
hailed one day from the shore in English. Looking around, they descried
two wretched men, entirely naked. They pulled to shore; the men came up
and made themselves known. They proved to be Mr. Crooks and his faithful
follower, John Day.

The reader will recollect that Mr. Crooks, with Day and four Canadians,
had been so reduced by famine and fatigue, that Mr. Hunt was obliged to
leave them, in the month of December, on the banks of the Snake River.
Their situation was the more critical, as they were in the neighborhood
of a band of Shoshonies, whose horses had been forcibly seized by Mr.
Hunt's party for provisions. Mr. Crooks remained here twenty days,
detained by the extremely reduced state of John Day, who was utterly
unable to travel, and whom he would not abandon, as Day had been in his
employ on the Missouri, and had always proved himself most faithful.
Fortunately the Shoshonies did not offer to molest them. They had never
before seen white men, and seemed to entertain some superstitions with
regard to them, for though they would encamp near them in the daytime,
they would move off with their tents in the night; and finally
disappeared, without taking leave.

When Day was sufficiently recovered to travel, they kept feebly on,
sustaining themselves as well as they could, until in the month of
February, when three of the Canadians, fearful of perishing with want,
left Mr. Crooks on a small river, on the road by which Mr Hunt had
passed in quest of Indians. Mr. Crooks followed Mr. Hunt's track in the
snow for several days, sleeping as usual in the open air, and suffering
all kinds of hardships. At length, coming to a low prairie, he lost
every appearance Of the "trail," and wandered during the remainder
of the winter in the mountains, subsisting sometimes on horse meat,
sometimes on beavers and their skins, and a part of the time on roots.

About the last of March, the other Canadian gave out and was left with
a lodge of Shoshonies; but Mr. Crooks and John Day still kept on,
and finding the snow sufficiently diminished, undertook, from Indian
information, to cross the last mountain ridge. They happily succeeded,
and afterwards fell in with the Wallah-Wallahs, a tribe of Indians
inhabiting the banks of a river of the same name, and reputed as being
frank, hospitable, and sincere. They proved worthy of the character, for
they received the poor wanderers kindly, killed a horse for them to eat,
and directed them on their way to the Columbia. They struck the river
about the middle of April, and advanced down it one hundred miles, until
they came within about twenty miles of the falls.

Here they met with some of the "chivalry" of that noted pass, who
received them in a friendly way, and set food before them; but, while
they were satisfying their hunger, perfidiously seized their rifles.
They then stripped them naked, and drove them off, refusing the
entreaties of Mr. Crooks for a flint and steel of which they had robbed
him; and threatening his life if he did not instantly depart.

In this forlorn plight, still worse off than before, they renewed their
wanderings. They now sought to find their way back to the hospitable
Wallah-Wallahs, and had advanced eighty miles along the river, when
fortunately, on the very morning that they were going to leave the
Columbia and strike inland, the canoes of Mr. Stuart hove in sight.

It is needless to describe the joy of these poor men at once more
finding themselves among countrymen and friends, or of the honest
and hearty welcome with which they were received by their fellow
adventurers. The whole party now continued down the river, passed all
the dangerous places without interruption, and arrived safely at Astoria
on the 11th of May.


     Comprehensive Views.--To Supply the Russian Fur
     Establishment.--An Agent Sent to Russia.--Project of an
     Annual Ship.--The Beaver Fitted Out.--Her Equipment and
     Crew.--Instructions to the Captain.--The Sandwich
     Islands.--Rumors of the Fate of the Tonquin.--Precautions on
     Reaching the Mouth of the Columbia.

HAVING traced the fortunes of the two expeditions by sea and land to the
mouth of the Columbia, and presented a view of affairs at Astoria, we
will return for a moment to the master spirit of the enterprise, who
regulated the springs of Astoria, at his residence in New York.

It will be remembered, that a part of the plan of Mr. Astor was to
furnish the Russian fur establishment on the northwest coast with
regular supplies, so as to render it independent of those casual vessels
which cut up the trade and supplied the natives with arms. This plan had
been countenanced by our own government, and likewise by Count Pahlen,
the Russian minister at Washington. As its views, however, were
important and extensive, and might eventually affect a wide course of
commerce, Mr Astor was desirous of establishing a complete arrangement
on the subject with the Russian American Fur Company, under the
sanction of the Russian government. For this purpose, in March 1811,
he despatched a confidential agent to St. Petersburg, full empowered
to enter into the requisite negotiations. A passage was given to this
gentleman by the government of the United States in the John Adams, an
armed vessel, bound for Europe.

The next step of Mr. Astor was, to despatch the annual ship contemplated
on his general plan. He had as yet heard nothing of the success of
the previous expeditions, and had to proceed upon the presumption
that everything had been effected according to his instructions. He
accordingly fitted out a fine ship of four hundred and ninety tons,
called the Beaver, and freighted her with a valuable cargo destined for
the factory at the mouth of the Columbia, the trade along the coast,
and the supply of the Russian establishment. In this ship embarked a
reinforcement, consisting of a partner, five clerks, fifteen American
laborers, and six Canadian voyageurs. In choosing his agents for his
first expedition, Mr. Astor had been obliged to have recourse to British
subjects experienced in the Canadian fur trade; henceforth it was his
intention, as much as possible, to select Americans, so as to secure an
ascendency of American influence in the management of the company, and
to make it decidedly national.

Accordingly, Mr. John Clarke, the partner who took the lead in the
present expedition, was a native of the United States, though he had
passed much of his life in the northwest, having been employed in the
trade since the age of sixteen. Most of the clerks were young gentlemen
of good connections in the American cities, some of whom embarked in the
hope of gain, others through the mere spirit of adventure incident to

The instructions given by Mr. Astor to Captain Sowle, the commander of
the Beaver, were, in some respects, hypothetical, in consequence of the
uncertainty resting upon the previous steps of the enterprise.

He was to touch at the Sandwich Islands, inquire about the fortunes of
the Tonquin, and whether an establishment had been formed at the mouth
of the Columbia. If so, he was to take as many Sandwich Islanders as his
ship could accommodate, and proceed thither. On arriving at the river,
he was to observe great caution, for even if an establishment should
have been formed, it might have fallen into hostile hands. He was,
therefore, to put in as if by casualty or distress, to give himself out
as a coasting trader, and to say nothing about his ship being owned by
Mr. Astor, until he had ascertained that everything was right. In that
case, he was to land such part of his cargo as was intended for the
establishment, and to proceed to New Archangel with the supplies
intended for the Russian post at that place, where he could receive
peltries in payment. With these he was to return to Astoria; take in the
furs collected there, and, having completed his cargo by trading along
the coast, was to proceed to Canton. The captain received the same
injunctions that had been given to Captain Thorn of the Tonquin, of
great caution and circumspection in his intercourse with the natives,
and that he should not permit more than one or two to be on board at a

The Beaver sailed from New York on the 10th of October, 1811, and
reached the Sandwich Islands without any occurrence of moment. Here a
rumor was heard of the disastrous fate of the Tonquin. Deep solicitude
was felt by every one on board for the fate of both expeditions, by sea
and land. Doubts were entertained whether any establishment had been
formed at the mouth of the Columbia, or whether any of the company
would be found there. After much deliberation, the Captain took twelve
Sandwich Islanders on board, for the service of the factory, should
there be one in existence, and proceeded on his voyage.

On the 6th of May, he arrived off the mouth of the Columbia and running
as near as possible, fired two signal guns. No answer was returned, nor
was there any signal to be descried. Nigh coming on, the ship stood out
to sea, and every heart drooped as the land faded away. On the following
morning they again ran in within four miles of shore, and fired other
signal guns, but still without reply. A boat was then despatched, to
sound the channel, and attempt an entrance; but returned without success
there being a tremendous swell, and breakers. Signal guns were fired
again in the evening, but equally in vain, and once more the ship stood
off to sea for the night. The captain now gave up all hope of finding
any establishment at the place, and indulged in the most gloomy
apprehensions. He feared his predecessor had been massacred before they
had reached their place of destination; or if they should have erected a
factory, that it had been surprised and destroyed by the natives.

In this moment of doubt and uncertainty, Mr. Clarke announced his
determination, in case of the worst, to found an establishment with
the present party, and all hands bravely engaged to stand by him in the
undertaking. The next morning the ship stood in for the third time, and
fired three signal guns, but with little hope of reply. To the great joy
of the crew, three distinct guns were heard in answer. The apprehensions
of all but Captain Sowle were now at rest. That cautious commander
recollected the instructions given him by Mr. Astor, and determined to
proceed with great circumspection. He was well aware of Indian treachery
and cunning. It was not impossible, he observed, that these cannon might
have been fired by the savages themselves. They might have surprised the
fort, massacred its inmates; and these signal guns might only be decoys
to lure him across the bar, that they might have a chance of cutting him
off, and seizing his vessel.

At length a white flag was descried hoisted as a signal on Cape
Disappointment. The passengers pointed to it in triumph, but the captain
did not yet dismiss his doubts. A beacon fire blazed through the night
on the same place, but the captain observed that all these signals might
be treacherous.

On the following morning, May 9th, the vessel came to anchor off Cape
Disappointment, outside of the bar. Towards noon an Indian canoe was
seen making for the ship and all hands were ordered to be on the alert.
A few moments afterwards, a barge was perceived following the canoe.
The hopes and fears of those on board of the ship were in tumultuous
agitation, as the boat drew nigh that was to let them know the fortunes
of the enterprise, and the fate of their predecessors. The captain,
who was haunted with the idea of possible treachery, did not suffer his
curiosity to get the better of his caution, but ordered a party of his
men under arms, to receive the visitors. The canoe came first alongside,
in which were Comcomly and six Indians; in the barge were M'Dougal,
M'Lellan, and eight Canadians. A little conversation with these
gentlemen dispelled all the captain's fears, and the Beaver crossing the
bar under their pilotage, anchored safely in Baker's Bay.


     Active Operations at Astoria--Various Expeditions Fitted
     Out.--Robert Stuart and a Party Destined for New York--
     Singular Conduct of John Day.--His Fate.--Piratical Pass and
     Hazardous Portage.-Rattlesnakes.--Their Abhorrence of
     Tobacco.--Arrival Among the Wallah-Wallahs.--Purchase of
     Horses--Departure of Stuart and His Band for the Mountains.

THE arrival of the Beaver with a reinforcement and supplies, gave new
life and vigor to affairs at Astoria. These were means for extending the
operations of the establishment, and founding interior trading posts.
Two parties were immediately set on foot to proceed severally under the
command of Messrs. M'Kenzie and Clarke, and establish posts above the
forks of the Columbia, at points where most rivalry and opposition were
apprehended from the Northwest Company.

A third party, headed by Mr. David Stuart, was to repair with supplies
to the post of that gentleman on the Oakinagan. In addition to these
expeditions, a fourth was necessary to convey despatches to Mr. Astor,
at New York, in place of those unfortunately lost by John Reed. The
safe conveyance of these despatches was highly important, as by them Mr.
Astor would receive an account of the state of the factory, and regulate
his reinforcements and supplies accordingly. The mission was one
of peril and hardship and required a man of nerve and vigor. It was
confided to Robert Stuart, who, though he had never been across the
mountains, and a very young man, had given proofs of his competency to
the task. Four trusty and well-tried men, who had come overland in Mr.
Hunt's expedition, were given as his guides and hunters. These were Ben
Jones and John Day, the Kentuckians, and Andri Vallar and Francis Le
Clerc, Canadians. Mr. M'Lellan again expressed his determination to take
this opportunity of returning to the Atlantic States. In this he was
joined by Mr. Crooks,--who, notwithstanding all that he had suffered
in the dismal journey of the preceding winter, was ready to retrace
his steps and brave every danger and hardship, rather than remain at
Astoria. This little handful of adventurous men we propose to accompany
in its long and perilous peregrinations.

The several parties we have mentioned all set off in company on the
29th of June, under a salute of cannon from the fort. They were to
keep together for mutual protection through the piratical passes of the
river, and to separate, on their different destinations, at the forks of
the Columbia. Their number, collectively, was nearly sixty, consisting
of partners and clerks, Canadian voyageurs, Sandwich Islanders, and
American hunters; and they embarked in two barges and ten canoes.

They had scarcely got under way, when John Day, the Kentucky hunter,
became restless and uneasy, and extremely wayward in his deportment.
This caused surprise, for in general he was remarkable for his cheerful,
manly deportment. It was supposed that the recollection of past
sufferings might harass his mind in undertaking to retrace the scenes
where they had been experienced. As the expedition advanced, however,
his agitation increased. He began to talk wildly and incoherently, and
to show manifest symptoms of derangement.

Mr. Crooks now informed his companions that in his desolate wanderings
through the Snake River country during the preceding winter, in which
he had been accompanied by John Day, the poor fellow's wits had been
partially unsettled by the sufferings and horrors through which they had
passed, and he doubted whether they had ever been restored to perfect
sanity. It was still hoped that this agitation of spirits might pass
away as they proceeded; but, on the contrary, it grew more and more
violent. His comrades endeavored to divert his mind and to draw him into
rational conversation, but he only became the more exasperated, uttering
wild and incoherent ravings. The sight of any of the natives put him
in an absolute fury, and he would heap on them the most opprobrious
epithets; recollecting, no doubt, what he had suffered from Indian

On the evening of the 2d of July he became absolutely frantic, and
attempted to destroy himself. Being disarmed, he sank into quietude, and
professed the greatest remorse for the crime he had meditated. He then
pretended to sleep, and having thus lulled suspicion, suddenly
sprang up, just before daylight, seized a pair of loaded pistols, and
endeavored to blow out his brains. In his hurry he fired too high, and
the balls passed over his head. He was instantly secured and placed
under a guard in one of the boats. How to dispose of him was now
the question, as it was impossible to keep him with the expedition.
Fortunately Mr. Stuart met with some Indians accustomed to trade with
Astoria. These undertook to conduct John Day back to the factory, and
deliver him there in safety. It was with the utmost concern that his
comrades saw the poor fellow depart; for, independent of his invaluable
services as a first-rate hunter, his frank and loyal qualities had made
him a universal favorite. It may be as well to add that the Indians
executed their task faithfully, and landed John Day among his friends at
Astoria; but his constitution was completely broken by the hardships he
had undergone, and he died within a year.

On the evening of the 6th of July the party arrived at the piratical
pass of the river, and encamped at the foot of the first rapid. The next
day, before the commencement of the portage, the greatest precautions
were taken to guard against lurking treachery, or open attack.
The weapons of every man were put in order, and his cartridge-box
replenished. Each one wore a kind of surcoat made of the skin of the
elk, reaching from his neck to his knees, and answering the purpose of
a shirt of mail, for it was arrow proof, and could even resist a musket
ball at the distance of ninety yards. Thus armed and equipped, they
posted their forces in military style. Five of the officers took their
stations at each end of the portage, which was between three and four
miles in length; a number of men mounted guard at short distances along
the heights immediately overlooking the river, while the residue, thus
protected from surprise, employed themselves below in dragging up the
barges and canoes, and carrying up the goods along the narrow margin of
the rapids. With these precautions they all passed unmolested. The only
accident that happened was the upsetting of one of the canoes, by
which some of the goods sunk, and others floated down the stream. The
alertness and rapacity of the hordes which infest these rapids, were
immediately apparent. They pounced upon the floating merchandise with
the keenness of regular wreckers. A bale of goods which landed upon one
of the islands was immediately ripped open, one half of its contents
divided among the captors, and the other half secreted in a lonely hut
in a deep ravine. Mr. Robert Stuart, however, set out in a canoe with
five men and an interpreter, ferreted out the wreckers in their retreat,
and succeeded in wrestling from them their booty.

Similar precautions to those already mentioned, and to a still greater
extent, were observed in passing the Long Narrows, and the falls, where
they would be exposed to the depredations of the chivalry of Wish-ram,
and its freebooting neighborhood. In fact, they had scarcely set their
first watch one night, when an alarm of "Indians!" was given. "To arms"
was the cry, and every man was at his post in an instant. The alarm
was explained; a war party of Shoshonies had surprised a canoe of the
natives just below the encampment, had murdered four men and two women,
and it was apprehended they would attack the camp. The boats and canoes
were immediately hauled up, a breastwork was made of them and the
packages, forming three sides of a square, with the river in the rear,
and thus the party remained fortified throughout the night.

The dawn, however, dispelled the alarm; the portage was conducted in
peace; the vagabond warriors of the vicinity hovered about them while
at work, but were kept at a wary distance. They regarded the loads
of merchandise with wistful eyes, but seeing the "long-beards" so
formidable in number, and so well prepared for action, they made no
attempt either by open force or sly pilfering to collect their usual
toll, but maintained a peaceful demeanor, and were afterwards rewarded
for their good conduct with presents of tobacco.

Fifteen days were consumed in ascending from the foot of the first rapid
to the head of the falls, a distance of about eighty miles, but full of
all kinds of obstructions. Having happily accomplished these difficult
portages, the party, on the 19th of July, arrived at a smoother part of
the river, and pursued their way up the stream with greater speed and

They were now in the neighborhood where Mr. Crooks and John Day had
been so perfidiously robbed and stripped a few months previously, when
confiding in the proffered hospitality of a ruffian band. On landing at
night, therefore, a vigilant guard was maintained about the camp. On the
following morning a number of Indians made their appearance, and came
prowling round the party while at breakfast. To his great delight, Mr.
Crooks recognized among them two of the miscreants by whom he had been
robbed. They were instantly seized, bound hand and foot, and thrown into
one of the canoes. Here they lay in doleful fright, expecting summary
execution. Mr. Crooks, however, was not of a revengeful disposition, and
agreed to release the culprits as soon as the pillaged property should
be restored. Several savages immediately started off in different
directions, and before night the rifles of Crooks and Day were produced;
several of the smaller articles pilfered from them, however, could not
be recovered.

The bands of the culprits were then removed, and they lost no time in
taking their departure, still under the influence of abject terror,
and scarcely crediting their senses that they had escaped the merited
punishment of their offenses.

The country on each side of the river now began to assume a different
character. The hills, and cliffs, and forests disappeared; vast sandy
plains, scantily clothed here and there with short tufts of grass,
parched by the summer sun, stretched far away to the north and south.
The river was occasionally obstructed with rocks and rapids, but often
there were smooth, placid intervals, where the current was gentle, and
the boatmen were enabled to lighten their labors with the assistance of
the sail.

The natives in this part of the river resided entirely on the northern
side. They were hunters, as well as fishermen, and had horses in plenty.
Some of these were purchased by the party, as provisions, and killed on
the spot, though they occasionally found a difficulty in procuring
fuel wherewith to cook them. One of the greatest dangers that beset
the travellers in this part of their expedition, was the vast number of
rattlesnakes which infested the rocks about the rapids and portages, and
on which the men were in danger of treading. They were often found, too,
in quantities about the encampments. In one place, a nest of them lay
coiled together, basking in the sun. Several guns loaded with shot were
discharged at them, and thirty-seven killed and wounded. To prevent
any unwelcome visits from them in the night, tobacco was occasionally
strewed around the tents, a weed for which they have a very proper

On the 28th of July the travellers arrived at the mouth of the
Wallah-Wallah, a bright, clear stream, about six feet deep, and
fifty-five yards wide, which flows rapidly over a bed of sand and
gravel, and throws itself into the Columbia, a few miles below Lewis
River. Here the combined parties that had thus far voyaged together were
to separate, each for its particular destination.

On the banks of the Wallah-Wallah lived the hospitable tribe of the
same name who had succored Mr. Crooks and John Day in the time of their
extremity. No sooner did they hear of the arrival of the party, than
they hastened to greet them. They built a great bonfire on the bank of
the river, before the camp, and men and women danced round it to the
cadence of their songs, in which they sang the praises of the white men,
and welcomed them to their country.

On the following day a traffic was commenced, to procure horses for such
of the party as intended to proceed by land. The Wallah-Wallahs are
an equestrian tribe. The equipments of their horses were rude and
inconvenient. High saddles, roughly made of deer skin, stuffed with
hair, which chafe the horse's back and leave it raw; wooden stirrups,
with a thong of raw hide wrapped round them; and for bridles they have
cords of twisted horse-hair, which they tie round the under jaw. They
are, like most Indians, bold but hard riders, and when on horseback
gallop about the most dangerous places, without fear for themselves, or
pity for their steeds.

From these people Mr. Stuart purchased twenty horses for his party; some
for the saddle, and others to transport the baggage. He was fortunate
in procuring a noble animal for his own use, which was praised by the
Indians for its great speed and bottom, and a high price set upon it.
No people understand better the value of a horse than these equestrian
tribes; and nowhere is speed a greater requisite, as they frequently
engage in the chase of the antelope, one of the fleetest of animals.
Even after the Indian who sold this boasted horse to Mr. Stuart had
concluded his bargain, he lingered about the animal, seeming loth to
part from him, and to be sorry for what he had done.

A day or two were employed by Mr. Stuart in arranging packages and
pack-saddles, and making other preparations for his long and arduous
journey. His party, by the loss of John Day, was now reduced to six, a
small number for such an expedition. They were young men, however,
full of courage, health, and good spirits, and stimulated rather than
appalled by danger.

On the morning of the 31st of July, all preparations being concluded,
Mr. Stuart and his little band mounted their steeds and took a farewell
of their fellow-travellers, who gave them three hearty cheers as they
set out on their dangerous journey. The course they took was to the
southeast, towards the fated region of the Snake River. At an immense
distance rose a chain of craggy mountains, which they would have to
traverse; they were the same among which the travellers had experienced
such sufferings from cold during the preceding winter, and from their
azure tints, when seen at a distance, had received the name of the Blue


     Route of Mr. Stuart--Dreary Wilds.--Thirsty Travelling.-A
     Grove and Streamlet.--The Blue Mountains.--A Fertile Plain
     With Rivulets.--Sulphur Spring--Route Along Snake River--
     Rumors of White Men.--The Snake and His Horse.--A Snake
     Guide.-A Midnight Decampment.--Unexpected Meeting With Old
     Comrades--Story of Trappers' Hardships--Salmon Falls--A
     Great Fishery.--Mode of Spearing Salmon.--Arrival at the
     Caldron Linn.--State of the Caches.--New Resolution of the
     Three Kentucky Trappers.

IN retracing the route which had proved so disastrous to Mr. Hunt's
party during the preceding winter, Mr. Stuart had trusted, in the
present more favorable season, to find easy travelling and abundant
supplies. On these great wastes and wilds, however, each season has its
peculiar hardships. The travellers had not proceeded far, before they
found themselves among naked and arid hills, with a soil composed of
sand and clay, baked and brittle, that to all appearance had never been
visited by the dews of heaven.

Not a spring, or pool, or running stream was to be seen; the sunburnt
country was seamed and cut up by dry ravines, the beds of winter
torrents, serving only to balk the hopes of man and beast with the sight
of dusty channels, where water had once poured along in floods.

For a long summer day they continued onward without halting, a burning
sky above their heads, a parched desert beneath their feet, with just
wind enough to raise the light sand from the knolls, and envelop them in
stifling clouds. The sufferings from thirst became intense; a fine young
dog, their only companion of the kind, gave out, and expired. Evening
drew on without any prospect of relief, and they were almost reduced
to despair, when they descried something that looked like a fringe of
forest along the horizon. All were inspired with new hope, for they knew
that on these arid wastes, in the neighborhood of trees, there is always

They now quickened their pace; the horses seemed to understand their
motives, and to partake of their anticipations; for, though before
almost ready to give out, they now required neither whip nor spur. With
all their exertions, it was late in the night before they drew near to
the trees. As they approached, they heard, with transport, the rippling
of a shallow stream. No sooner did the refreshing sound reach the ears
of the horse, than the poor animals snuffed the air, rushed forward with
ungovernable eagerness, and plunging their muzzles into the water, drank
until they seemed in danger of bursting. Their riders had but little
more discretion, and required repeated draughts to quench their
excessive thirst. Their weary march that day had been forty-five miles,
over a tract that might rival the deserts of Africa for aridity. Indeed,
the sufferings of the traveller on these American deserts is frequently
more severe than in the wastes of Africa or Asia, from being less
habituated and prepared to cope with them.

On the banks of this blessed stream the travellers encamped for the
night; and so great had been their fatigue, and so sound and sweet was
their sleep, that it was a late hour the next morning before they awoke.
They now recognized the little river to be the Umatilla, the same on
the banks of which Mr. Hunt and his followers had arrived after their
painful struggle through the Blue Mountains, and experienced such a kind
relief in the friendly camp of the Sciatogas.

That range of Blue Mountains now extended in the distance before them;
they were the same among which poor Michael Carriere had perished. They
form the southeast boundary of the great plains along the Columbia,
dividing the waters of its main stream from those of Lewis River. They
are, in fact, a part of a long chain, which stretches over a great
extent of country, and includes in its links the Snake River Mountains.

The day was somewhat advanced before the travellers left the shady
banks of the Umatilla. Their route gradually took them among the Blue
Mountains, which assumed the most rugged aspect on a near approach.
They were shagged with dense and gloomy forests, and cut up by deep and
precipitous ravines, extremely toilsome to the horses. Sometimes the
travellers had to follow the course of some brawling stream, with a
broken, rocky bed, which the shouldering cliffs and promontories on
either side obliged them frequently to cross and recross. For some miles
they struggled forward through these savage and darkly wooded defiles,
when all at once the whole landscape changed, as if by magic. The
rude mountains and rugged ravines softened into beautiful hills, and
intervening meadows, with rivulets winding through fresh herbage, and
sparkling and murmuring over gravelly beds, the whole forming a verdant
and pastoral scene, which derived additional charms from being locked up
in the bosom of such a hard-hearted region.

Emerging from the chain of Blue Mountains, they descended upon a vast
plain, almost a dead level, sixty miles in circumference, Of excellent
soil, with fine streams meandering through it in every direction,
their courses marked out in the wide landscape by serpentine lines of
cotton-wood trees, and willows, which fringed their banks, and afforded
sustenance to great numbers of beavers and otters.

In traversing this plain, they passed, close to the skirts of the hills,
a great pool of water, three hundred yards in circumference, fed by a
sulphur spring, about ten feet in diameter, boiling up in one corner.
The vapor from this pool was extremely noisome, and tainted the air for
a considerable distance. The place was much frequented by elk, which
were found in considerable numbers in the adjacent mountains, and their
horns, shed in the spring-time, were strewed in every direction around
the pond.

On the 10th of August, they reached the main body of Woodvile Creek, the
same stream which Mr. Hunt had ascended in the preceding year, shortly
after his separation from Mr. Crooks.

On the banks of this stream they saw a herd of nineteen antelopes; a
sight so unusual in that part of the country, that at first they doubted
the evidence of their senses. They tried by every means to get within
shot of them, but they were too shy and fleet, and after alternately
bounding to a distance, and then stopping to gaze with capricious
curiosity at the hunter, they at length scampered out of sight.

On the 12th of August, the travellers arrived on the banks of Snake
River, the scene of so many trials and mishaps to all of the present
party excepting Mr. Stuart. They struck the river just above the place
where it entered the mountains, through which Messrs. Stuart and Crooks
had vainly endeavored to find a passage. The river was here a rapid
stream, four hundred yards in width, with high sandy banks, and here and
there a scanty growth of willow. Up the southern side of the river they
now bent their course, intending to visit the caches made by Mr. Hunt at
the Caldron Linn.

On the second evening, a solitary Snake Indian visited their camp, at a
late hour, and informed them that there was a white man residing at one
of the cantonments of his tribe, about a day's journey higher up the
river. It was immediately concluded that he must be one of the poor
fellows of Mr. Hunt's party, who had given out, exhausted by hunger and
fatigue, in the wretched journey of the preceding winter. All present
who had borne a part in the sufferings of that journey, were eager now
to press forward, and bring relief to a lost comrade. Early the next
morning, therefore, they pushed forward with unusual alacrity. For two
days, however, did they travel without being able to find any trace of
such a straggler.

On the evening of the second day, they arrived at a place where a large
river came in from the east, which was renowned among all the wandering
hordes of the Snake nation for its salmon fishery, that fish being taken
in incredible quantities in this neighborhood. Here, therefore, during
the fishing season, the Snake Indians resort from far and near, to
lay in their stock of salmon, which, with esculent roots, forms the
principal food of the inhabitants of these barren regions.

On the bank of a small stream emptying into Snake River at this place,
Mr. Stuart found an encampment of Shoshonies. He made the usual inquiry
of them concerning the white man of whom he had received intelligence.
No such person was dwelling among them, but they said there were white
men residing with some of their nation on the opposite side of the
river. This was still more animating information. Mr. Crooks now hoped
that these might be the men of his party, who, disheartened by perils
and hardships, had preferred to remain among the Indians. Others thought
they might be Mr. Miller and the hunters who had left the main body at
Henry's Fort, to trap among the mountain streams. Mr. Stuart halted,
therefore, in the neighborhood of the Shoshonie lodges, and sent an
Indian across the river to seek out the white men in question, and bring
them to his camp.

The travellers passed a restless, miserable night. The place swarmed
with myriads of mosquitoes, which, with their stings and their music,
set all sleep at defiance. The morning dawn found them in a feverish,
irritable mood, and their spleen was completely aroused by the return
of the Indian without any intelligence of the white men. They now
considered themselves the dupes of Indian falsehoods, and resolved
to put no more confidence in Snakes. They soon, however, forgot this
resolution. In the course of the morning, an Indian came galloping after
them; Mr. Stuart waited to receive him; no sooner had he come up, than,
dismounting and throwing his arms around the neck of Mr. Stuart's horse,
he began to kiss and caress the animal, who, on his part, seemed by
no means surprised or displeased with his salutation. Mr. Stuart, who
valued his horse highly, was somewhat annoyed by these transports; the
cause of them was soon explained. The Snake said the horse had belonged
to him, and been the best in his possession, and that it had been stolen
by the Wallah-Wallahs. Mr. Stuart was by no means pleased with this
recognition of his steed, nor disposed to admit any claim on the part of
its ancient owner. In fact, it was a noble animal, admirably shaped,
of free and generous spirit, graceful in movement, and fleet as an
antelope. It was his intention, if possible, to take the horse to New
York, and present him to Mr. Astor.

In the meantime, some of the party came up, and immediately recognized
in the Snake an old friend and ally. He was, in fact, one of the two
guides who had conducted Mr. Hunt's party, in the preceding autumn,
across Mad River Mountain to Fort Henry, and who subsequently departed
with Mr. Miller and his fellow trappers, to conduct them to a good
trapping ground. The reader may recollect that these two trusty Snakes
were engaged by Mr. Hunt to return and take charge of the horses which
the party intended to leave at Fort Henry, when they should embark in

The party now crowded round the Snake, and began to question him
with eagerness. His replies were somewhat vague, and but partially
understood. He told a long story about the horses, from which it
appeared that they had been stolen by various wandering bands, and
scattered in different directions. The cache, too, had been plundered,
and the saddles and other equipments carried off. His information
concerning Mr. Miller and his comrades was not more satisfactory. They
had trapped for some time about the upper streams, but had fallen into
the hands of a marauding party of Crows, who had robbed them of horses,
weapons, and everything.

Further questioning brought forth further intelligence, but all of a
disastrous kind. About ten days previously, he had met with three other
white men, in very miserable plight, having one horse each, and but one
rifle among them. They also had been plundered and maltreated by the
Crows, those universal freebooters. The Snake endeavored to pronounce
the names of these three men, and as far as his imperfect sounds could
be understood, they were supposed to be three of the party of four
hunters, namely, Carson, St. Michael, Detaye, and Delaunay, who were
detached from Mr. Hunt's party on the 28th of September, to trap beaver
on the head waters of the Columbia.

In the course of conversation, the Indian informed them that the route
by which Mr. Hunt had crossed the Rocky Mountains was very bad and
circuitous, and that he knew one much shorter and easier. Mr. Stuart
urged him to accompany them as guide, promising to reward him with
a pistol with powder and ball, a knife, an awl, some blue beads,
a blanket, and a looking-glass. Such a catalogue of riches was too
tempting to be resisted; besides the poor Snake languished after the
prairies; he was tired, he said, of salmon, and longed for buffalo meat,
and to have a grand buffalo hunt beyond the mountains. He departed,
therefore, with all speed, to get his arms and equipments for the
journey, promising to rejoin the party the next day. He kept his word,
and, as he no longer said anything to Mr. Stuart on the subject of the
pet horse, they journeyed very harmoniously together; though now and
then, the Snake would regard his quondam steed with a wistful eye.

They had not travelled many miles, when they came to a great bend in the
river. Here the Snake informed them that, by cutting across the hills
they would save many miles of distance. The route across, however, would
be a good day's journey. He advised them, therefore, to encamp here
for the night, and set off early in the morning. They took his advice,
though they had come but nine miles that day.

On the following morning they rose, bright and early, to ascend the
hills. On mustering their little party, the guide was missing. They
supposed him to be somewhere in the neighborhood, and proceeded to
collect the horses. The vaunted steed of Mr. Stuart was not to be found.
A suspicion flashed upon his mind. Search for the horse of the Snake! He
likewise was gone--the tracks of two horses, one after the other, were
found, making off from the camp. They appeared as if one horse had been
mounted, and the other led. They were traced for a few miles above the
camp, until they both crossed the river. It was plain the Snake had
taken an Indian mode of recovering his horse, having quietly decamped
with him in the night.

New vows were made never more to trust in Snakes, or any other Indians.
It was determined, also, to maintain, hereafter, the strictest vigilance
over their horses, dividing the night into three watches, and one person
mounting guard at a time. They resolved, also, to keep along the river,
instead of taking the short cut recommended by the fugitive Snake, whom
they now set down for a thorough deceiver. The heat of the weather was
oppressive, and their horses were, at times, rendered almost frantic by
the stings of the prairie flies. The nights were suffocating, and it was
almost impossible to sleep, from the swarms of mosquitoes.

On the 20th of August they resumed their march, keeping along the
prairie parallel to Snake River. The day was sultry, and some of the
party, being parched with thirst, left the line of march, and scrambled
down the bank of the river to drink. The bank was overhung with willows,
beneath which, to their surprise, they beheld a man fishing. No sooner
did he see them, than he uttered an exclamation of joy. It proved to
be John Hoback, one of their lost comrades. They had scarcely exchanged
greetings, when three other men came out from among the willows. They
were Joseph Miller, Jacob Rezner, and Robinson, the scalped Kentuckian,
the veteran of the Bloody Ground.

The reader will perhaps recollect the abrupt and willful manner in
which Mr. Miller threw up his interest as a partner of the company, and
departed from Fort Henry, in company with these three trappers, and a
fourth, named Cass. He may likewise recognize in Robinson, Rezner, and
Hoback, the trio of Kentucky hunters who had originally been in
the service of Mr. Henry, and whom Mr. Hunt found floating down the
Missouri, on their way homeward; and prevailed upon, once more, to cross
the mountains. The haggard looks and naked condition of these men proved
how much they had suffered. After leaving Mr. Hunt's party, they had
made their way about two hundred miles to the southward, where they
trapped beaver on a river which, according to their account, discharged
itself into the ocean to the south of the Columbia, but which we
apprehend to be Bear River, a stream emptying itself into Lake
Bonneville, an immense body of salt water, west of the Rocky Mountains.

Having collected a considerable quantity of beaver skins, they made them
into packs, loaded their horses, and steered two hundred miles due
east. Here they came upon an encampment of sixty lodges of Arapahays, an
outlawed band of the Arrapahoes, and notorious robbers. These fell
upon the poor trappers; robbed them of their peltries, most of their
clothing, and several of their horses. They were glad to escape with
their lives, and without being entirely stripped, and after proceeding
about fifty miles further, made their halt for the winter.

Early in the spring they resumed their wayfaring, but were unluckily
overtaken by the same ruffian horde, who levied still further
contributions, and carried off the remainder of their horses, excepting
two. With these they continued on, suffering the greatest hardships.
They still retained rifles and ammunition, but were in a desert country,
where neither bird nor beast was to be found. Their only chance was to
keep along the rivers, and subsist by fishing; but at times no fish
were to be taken, and then their sufferings were horrible. One of their
horses was stolen among the mountains by the Snake Indians; the other,
they said, was carried off by Cass, who, according to their account,
"villainously left them in their extremities." Certain dark doubts and
surmises were afterwards circulated concerning the fate of that poor
fellow, which, if true, showed to what a desperate state of famine his
comrades had been reduced.

Being now completely unhorsed, Mr. Miller and his three companions
wandered on foot for several hundred miles, enduring hunger, thirst,
and fatigue, while traversing the barren wastes which abound beyond the
Rocky Mountains. At the time they were discovered by Mr. Stuart's party,
they were almost famished, and were fishing for a precarious meal. Had
Mr. Stuart made the short cut across the hills, avoiding this bend of
the river, or had not some of his party accidentally gone down to the
margin of the stream to drink, these poor wanderers might have remained
undiscovered, and have perished in the wilderness. Nothing could exceed
their joy on thus meeting with their old comrades, or the heartiness
with which they were welcomed. All hands immediately encamped; and the
slender stores of the party were ransacked to furnish out a suitable

The next morning they all set out together; Mr. Miller and his comrades
being resolved to give up the life of a trapper, and accompany Mr.
Stuart back to St. Louis.

For several days they kept along the course of Snake River, occasionally
making short cuts across hills and promontories, where there were bends
in the stream. In their way they passed several camps of Shoshonies,
from some of whom they procured salmon, but in general they were too
wretchedly poor to furnish anything. It was the wish of Mr. Stuart to
purchase horses for the recent recruits of his party; but the Indians
could not be prevailed upon to part with any, alleging that they had not
enough for their own use.

On the 25th of August they reached a great fishing place, to which they
gave the name of the Salmon Falls. Here there is a perpendicular fall
of twenty feet on the north side of the river, while on the south side
there is a succession of rapids. The salmon are taken here in incredible
quantities, as they attempt to shoot the falls. It was now a favorable
season, and there were about one hundred lodges of Shoshonies busily
engaged killing and drying fish. The salmon begin to leap shortly after
sunrise. At this time the Indians swim to the centre of the falls, where
some station themselves on rocks, and others stand to their waists in
the water, all armed with spears, with which they assail the salmon
as they attempt to leap, or fall back exhausted. It is an incessant
slaughter, so great is the throng of the fish.

The construction of the spears thus used is peculiar. The head is a
straight piece of elk horn, about seven inches long, on the point of
which an artificial barb is made fast, with twine well gummed. The head
is stuck on the end of the shaft, a very long pole of willow, to which
it is likewise connected by a strong cord, a few inches in length. When
the spearsman makes a sure blow, he often strikes the head of the spear
through the body of the fish. It comes off easily, and leaves the salmon
struggling with the string through its body, while the pole is still
held by the spearsman. Were it not for the precaution of the string,
the willow shaft would be snapped by the struggles and the weight of
the fish. Mr. Miller, in the course of his wanderings, had been at these
falls, and had seen several thousand salmon taken in the course of one
afternoon. He declared that he had seen a salmon leap a distance of
about thirty feet, from the commencement of the foam at the foot of the
falls, completely to the top.

Having purchased a good supply of salmon from the fishermen, the party
resumed their journey, and on the twenty-ninth, arrived at the Caldron
Linn, the eventful scene of the preceding autumn. Here, the first thing
that met their eyes was a memento of the perplexities of that period;
the wreck of a canoe lodged between two ledges of rocks. They endeavored
to get down to it, but the river banks were too high and precipitous.

They now proceeded to that part of the neighborhood where Mr. Hunt and
his party had made the caches, intending to take from them such articles
as belonged to Mr. Crooks, M'Lellan, and the Canadians. On reaching
the spot, they found, to their astonishment, six of the caches open
and rifled of their contents, excepting a few books which lay scattered
about the vicinity. They had the appearance of having been plundered
in the course of the summer. There were tracks of wolves in every
direction, to and from the holes, from which Mr. Stuart concluded that
these animals had first been attracted to the place by the smell of the
skins contained in the caches, which they had probably torn up, and that
their tracks had betrayed the secret to the Indians.

The three remaining caches had not been molested; they contained a few
dry goods, some ammunition, and a number of beaver traps. From these
Mr. Stuart took whatever was requisite for his party; he then deposited
within them all his superfluous baggage, and all the books and papers
scattered around; the holes were then carefully closed up, and all
traces of them effaced. And here we have to record another instance of
the indomitable spirit of the western trappers. No sooner did the trio
of Kentucky hunters, Robinson, Rezner, and Hoback, find that they could
once more be fitted out for a campaign of beaver-trapping, than they
forgot all that they had suffered, and determined upon another trial
of their fortunes; preferring to take their chance in the wilderness,
rather than return home ragged and penniless. As to Mr. Miller, he
declared his curiosity and his desire of travelling through the Indian
countries fully satisfied; he adhered to his determination, therefore,
to keep on with the party to St. Louis, and to return to the bosom of
civilized society.

The three hunters, therefore, Robinson, Rezner, and Hoback, were
furnished, as far as the caches and the means of Mr. Stuart's party
afforded, with the requisite munitions and equipments for a "two years'
hunt;" but as their fitting out was yet incomplete, they resolved to
wait in this neighborhood until Mr. Reed should arrive; whose arrival
might soon be expected, as he was to set out for the caches about twenty
days after Mr. Stuart parted with him at the Wallah-Wallah River.

Mr. Stuart gave in charge to Robinson a letter to Mr. Reed, reporting
his safe journey thus far, and the state in which he had found the
caches. A duplicate of this letter he elevated on a pole, and set it up
near the place of deposit.

All things being thus arranged, Mr. Stuart and his little band, now
seven in number, took leave of the three hardy trappers, wishing
them all possible success in their lonely and perilous sojourn in the
wilderness; and we, in like manner, shall leave them to their fortunes,
promising to take them up again at some future page, and to close the
story of their persevering and ill-fated enterprise.


     The Snake River Deserts.--Scanty Fare.--Bewildered
     Travellers--Prowling Indians--A Giant Crow Chief.--A Bully
     Rebuked--Indian Signals.--Smoke on the Mountains.--Mad
     River.--An Alarm.--An Indian Foray--A Scamper.--A Rude
     Indian joke.--A Sharp-Shooter Balked of His Shot.

ON the 1st of September, Mr. Stuart and his companions resumed their
journey, bending their course eastward, along the course of Snake River.
As they advanced the country opened. The hills which had hemmed in the
river receded on either hand, and great sandy and dusty plains extended
before them. Occasionally there were intervals of pasturage, and the
banks of the river were fringed with willows and cottonwood, so that its
course might be traced from the hilltops, winding under an umbrageous
covert, through a wide sunburnt landscape. The soil, however, was
generally poor; there was in some places a miserable growth of wormwood,
and a plant called saltweed, resembling pennyroyal; but the summer had
parched the plains, and left but little pasturage. The game, too, had
disappeared. The hunter looked in vain over the lifeless landscape;
now and then a few antelope might be seen, but not within reach of the
rifle. We forbear to follow the travellers in a week's wandering over
these barren wastes, where they suffered much from hunger, having to
depend upon a few fish from the streams, and now and then a little dried
salmon, or a dog, procured from some forlorn lodge of Shoshonies.

Tired of these cheerless wastes, they left the banks of Snake River on
the 7th of September, under guidance of Mr. Miller, who having acquired
some knowledge of the country during his trapping campaign, undertook
to conduct them across the mountains by a better route than that by
Fort Henry, and one more out of the range of the Blackfeet. He proved,
however, but an indifferent guide, and they soon became bewildered among
rugged hills and unknown streams, and burnt and barren prairies.

At length they came to a river on which Mr. Miller had trapped, and to
which they gave his name; though, as before observed, we presume it
to be the same called Bear River, which empties itself into Lake
Bonneville. Up this river and its branches they kept for two or three
days, supporting themselves precariously upon fish. They soon found that
they were in a dangerous neighborhood. On the 12th of September, having
encamped early, they sallied forth with their rods to angle for their
supper. On returning, they beheld a number of Indians prowling about
their camp, whom, to their infinite disquiet, they soon perceived to be
Upsarokas, or Crows. Their chief came forward with a confident air. He
was a dark herculean fellow, full six feet four inches in height, with
a mingled air of the ruffian and the rogue. He conducted himself
peaceably, however, and despatched some of his people to their camp,
which was somewhere in the neighborhood, from whence they returned with
a most acceptable supply of buffalo meat. He now signified to Mr. Stuart
that he was going to trade with the Snakes who reside on the west base
of the mountains, below Henry's Fort. Here they cultivate a delicate
kind of tobacco, much esteemed and sought after by the mountain tribes.
There was something sinister, however, in the look of this Indian,
that inspired distrust. By degrees, the number of his people increased,
until, by midnight, there were twenty-one of them about the camp, who
began to be impudent and troublesome. The greatest uneasiness was
now felt for the safety of the horses and effects, and every one kept
vigilant watch throughout the night.

The morning dawned, however, without any unpleasant occurrence, and
Mr. Stuart, having purchased all the buffalo meat that the Crows had
to spare, prepared to depart. His Indian acquaintances, however, were
disposed for further dealings; and above all, anxious for a supply
of gunpowder, for which they offered horses in exchange. Mr. Stuart
declined to furnish them with the dangerous commodity. They became more
importunate in their solicitations, until they met with a flat refusal.

The gigantic chief now stepped forward, assumed a swelling air, and,
slapping himself upon the breast, gave Mr. Crooks to understand that he
was a chief of great power and importance. He signified, further, that
it was customary for great chiefs when they met, to make each other
presents. He requested, therefore, that Mr. Stuart would alight, and
give him the horse upon which he was mounted. This was a noble animal,
of one of the wild races of the prairies; on which Mr. Stuart set
great value; he, of course, shook his head at the request of the Crow
dignitary. Upon this the latter strode up to him, and taking hold of
him, moved him backwards and forwards in his saddle, as if to make him
feel that he was a mere child within his grasp. Mr. Stuart preserved his
calmness, and still shook his head. The chief then seized the bridle,
and gave it a jerk that startled the horse, and nearly brought the rider
to the ground. Mr. Stuart instantly drew forth a pistol, and presented
it at the head of the bully-ruffian. In a twinkling his swaggering was
at an end, and he dodged behind his horse to escape the expected shot.
As his subject Crows gazed on the affray from a little distance, Mr.
Stuart ordered his men to level their rifles at them, but not to fire.
The whole crew scampered among the bushes, and throwing themselves upon
the ground, vanished from sight.

The chieftain thus left alone was confounded for an instant; but,
recovering himself with true Indian shrewdness, burst into a loud laugh,
and affected to turn off the whole matter as a piece of pleasantry. Mr.
Stuart by no means relished such equivocal joking, but it was not his
policy to get into a quarrel; so he joined with the best grace he could
assume in the merriment of the jocular giant; and, to console the latter
for the refusal of the horse, made him a present of twenty charges of
powder. They parted, according to all outward professions, the best
friends in the world; it was evident, however, that nothing but the
smallness of his own force, and the martial array and alertness of the
white men, had prevented the Crow chief from proceeding to open outrage.
As it was, his worthy followers, in the course of their brief interview,
had contrived to purloin a bag containing almost all the culinary
utensils of the party.

The travellers kept on their way due east, over a chain of hills. The
recent rencontre showed them that they were now in a land of danger,
subject to the wide roamings of a predacious tribe; nor, in fact, had
they gone many miles before they beheld sights calculated to inspire
anxiety and alarm. From the summits of some of the loftiest mountains,
in different directions, columns of smoke be-an to rise. These they
concluded to be signals made by the runners of the Crow chieftain, to
summon the stragglers of his band, so as to pursue them with greater
force. Signals of this kind, made by outrunners from one central point,
will rouse a wide circuit of the mountains in a wonderfully short space
of time; and bring the straggling hunters and warriors to the standard
of their chieftain.

To keep as much as possible out of the way of these freebooters, Mr.
Stuart altered his course to the north, and, quitting the main stream of
Miller's River, kept up a large branch that came in from the mountains.
Here they encamped, after a fatiguing march of twenty-five miles. As the
night drew on, the horses were hobbled or fettered, and tethered close
to the camp; a vigilant watch was maintained until morning, and every
one slept with his rifle on his arm.

At sunrise, they were again on the march, still keeping to the north.
They soon began to ascend the mountains, and occasionally had wide
prospects over the surrounding country. Not a sign of a Crow was to be
seen; but this did not assure them of their security, well knowing the
perseverance of these savages in dogging any party they intend to rob,
and the stealthy way in which they can conceal their movements, keeping
along ravines and defiles. After a mountain scramble of twenty-one
miles, they encamped on the margin of a stream running to the north.

In the evening there was an alarm of Indians, and everyone was instantly
on the alert. They proved to be three miserable Snakes, who were no
sooner informed that a band of Crows was prowling in the neighborhood
than they made off with great signs of consternation.

A couple more of weary days and watchful nights brought them to a strong
and rapid stream, running due north, which they concluded to be one of
the upper branches of Snake River. It was probably the same since called
Salt River.

They determined to bend their course down this river, as it would take
them still further out of the dangerous neighborhood of the Crows. They
then would strike upon Mr. Hunt's track of the preceding autumn, and
retrace it across the mountains. The attempt to find a better route
under guidance of Mr. Miller had cost them a large bend to the south;
in resuming Mr. Hunt's track, they would at least be sure of their road.
They accordingly turned down along the course of this stream, and at
the end of three days' journey came to where it was joined by a larger
river, and assumed a more impetuous character, raging and roaring among
rocks and precipices. It proved, in fact, to be Mad River, already noted
in the expedition of Mr. Hunt. On the banks of this river, they encamped
on the 18th of September, at an early hour.

Six days had now elapsed since their interview with the Crows; during
that time they had come nearly a hundred and fifty miles to the north
and west, without seeing any signs of those marauders. They considered
themselves, therefore, beyond the reach of molestation, and began to
relax in their vigilance, lingering occasionally for part of a day,
where there was good pasturage. The poor horses needed repose.

They had been urged on, by forced marches, over rugged heights, among
rocks and fallen timber, or over low swampy valleys, inundated by the
labors of the beaver. These industrious animals abounded in all the
mountain streams and watercourses, wherever there were willows for
their subsistence. Many of them they had so completely dammed up as to
inundate the low grounds, making shallow pools or lakes, and extensive
quagmires; by which the route of the travellers was often impeded.

On the 19th of September, they rose at early dawn; some began to prepare
breakfast, and others to arrange the packs preparatory to a march. The
horses had been hobbled, but left at large to graze upon the adjacent
pasture. Mr. Stuart was on the bank of a river, at a short distance from
the camp, when he heard the alarm cry--"Indians! Indians!--to arms! to

A mounted Crow galloped past the camp, bearing a red flag. He reined
his steed on the summit of a neighboring knoll, and waved his flaring
banner. A diabolical yell now broke forth on the opposite side of the
camp, beyond where the horses were grazing, and a small troop of savages
came galloping up, whooping and making a terrific clamor. The horses
took fright, and dashed across the camp in the direction of the
standard-bearer, attracted by his waving flag. He instantly put spurs
to his steed, and scoured off followed by the panic-stricken herd, their
fright being increased by the yells of the savages in their rear.

At the first alarm, Mr. Stuart and his comrades had seized their rifles,
and attempted to cut off the Indians who were pursuing the horses. Their
attention was instantly distracted by whoops and yells in an opposite

They now apprehended that a reserve party was about to carry off their
baggage. They ran to secure it. The reserve party, however, galloped by,
whooping and yelling in triumph and derision. The last of them proved to
be their commander, the identical giant joker already mentioned. He was
not cast in the stern poetical mold of fashionable Indian heroism, but
on the contrary, was grievously given to vulgar jocularity. As he passed
Mr. Stuart and his companions, he checked his horse, raised himself
in his saddle, and clapping his hand on the most insulting part of his
body, uttered some jeering words, which, fortunately for their delicacy,
they could not understand. The rifle of Ben Jones was leveled in an
instant, and he was on the point of whizzing a bullet into the target so
tauntingly displayed. "Not for your life! not for your life!" exclaimed
Mr. Stuart, "you will bring destruction on us all!"

It was hard to restrain honest Ben, when the mark was so fair and the
insult so foul. "O, Mr. Stuart," exclaimed he, "only let me have one
crack at the infernal rascal, and you may keep all the pay that is due
to me."

"By heaven, if you fire," cried Mr. Stuart, "I'll blow your brains out."

By this time the Indian was far out of reach, and had rejoined his men,
and the whole dare-devil band, with the captured horses, scuttled off
along the defiles, their red flag flaunting overhead, and the rocks
echoing to their whoops and yells, and demoniac laughter.

The unhorsed travellers gazed after them in silent mortification and
despair; yet Mr. Stuart could not but admire the style and spirit with
which the whole exploit had been managed, and pronounced it one of the
most daring and intrepid actions he had ever heard of among Indians.
The whole number of the Crows did not exceed twenty. In this way a small
gang of lurkers will hurry off the cavalry of a large war party, for
when once a drove of horses are seized with panic, they become frantic,
and nothing short of broken necks can stop them.

No one was more annoyed by this unfortunate occurrence than Ben Jones.
He declared he would actually have given his whole arrears of pay,
amounting to upwards of a year's wages, rather than be balked of such a
capital shot. Mr. Stuart, however, represented what might have been the
consequence of so rash an act. Life for life is the Indian maxim. The
whole tribe would have made common cause in avenging the death of a
warrior. The party were but seven dismounted men, with a wide mountain
region to traverse, infested by these people, and which might all be
roused by signal fires. In fact, the conduct of the band of marauders in
question, showed the perseverance of savages when once they have fixed
their minds upon a project. These fellows had evidently been silent and
secretly dogging the party for a week past, and a distance of a
hundred and fifty miles, keeping out of sight by day, lurking about the
encampment at night, watching all their movements, and waiting for a
favorable moment when they should be off their guard. The menace of
Mr. Stuart, in their first interview, to shoot the giant chief with
his pistol, and the fright caused among the warriors by presenting
the rifles, had probably added the stimulus of pique to their usual
horse-stealing propensities. And in this mood of mind they would
doubtless have followed the party throughout their whole course over the
Rocky Mountains, rather than be disappointed in their scheme.


     Travellers Unhorsed--Pedestrian Preparations--Prying Spies.
     --Bonfires of Baggage--A March on Foot.--Rafting a River--The
     Wounded Elk.--Indian Trails.--Willful Conduct of Mr.
     M'Lellan.--Grand Prospect From a Mountain.--Distant Craters
     of Volcanoes--Illness of Mr. Crooks.

FEW reverses in this changeful world are more complete and disheartening
than that of a traveller, suddenly unhorsed, in the midst of the
wilderness. Our unfortunate travellers contemplated their situation,
for a time, in perfect dismay. A long journey over rugged mountains and
immeasurable plains lay before them, which they must painfully perform
on foot, and everything necessary for subsistence or defense must be
carried on their shoulders. Their dismay, however, was but transient,
and they immediately set to work, with that prompt expediency produced
by the exigencies of the wilderness, to fit themselves for the change in
their condition.

Their first attention was to select from their baggage such articles
as were indispensable to their journey; to make them up into convenient
packs, and to deposit the residue in caches. The whole day was consumed
in these occupations; at night, they made a scanty meal of their
remaining provisions, and lay down to sleep with heavy hearts. In the
morning, they were up and about at an early hour, and began to prepare
their knapsacks for a march, while Ben Jones repaired to an old beaver
trap which he had set in the river bank at some little distance from the
camp. He was rejoiced to find a middle-sized beaver there, sufficient
for a morning's meal to his hungry comrades. On his way back with his
prize, he observed two heads peering over the edge of an impending
cliff, several hundred feet high, which he supposed to be a couple of
wolves. As he continued on, he now and then cast his eye up; heads were
still there, looking down with fixed and watchful gaze. A suspicion now
flashed across his mind that they might be Indian scouts; and, had they
not been far above the reach of his rifle, he would undoubtedly have
regaled them with a shot.

On arriving at the camp, he directed the attention of his comrades to
these aerial observers. The same idea was at first entertained, that
they were wolves; but their immovable watchfulness soon satisfied every
one that they were Indians. It was concluded that they were watching the
movements of the party, to discover their place of concealment of
such articles as they would be compelled to leave behind. There was no
likelihood that the caches would escape the search of such keen eyes and
experienced rummagers, and the idea was intolerable that any more
booty should fall into their hands. To disappoint them, therefore, the
travellers stripped the caches of the articles deposited there, and
collecting together everything that they could not carry away with
them, made a bonfire of all that would burn, and threw the rest into the
river. There was a forlorn satisfaction in thus balking the Crows, by
the destruction of their own property; and, having thus gratified their
pique, they shouldered their packs, about ten o'clock in the morning,
and set out on their pedestrian wayfaring.

The route they took was down along the banks of Mad River. This stream
makes its way through the defiles of the mountains, into the plain below
Fort Henry, where it terminates in Snake River. Mr. Stuart was in hopes
of meeting with Snake encampments in the plain, where he might procure a
couple of horses to transport the baggage. In such case, he intended to
resume his eastern course across the mountains, and endeavor to reach
the Cheyenne River before winter. Should he fail, however, of obtaining
horses, he would probably be compelled to winter on the Pacific side of
the mountains, somewhere on the head waters of the Spanish or Colorado

With all the care that had been observed in taking nothing with them
that was not absolutely necessary, the poor pedestrians were heavily
laden, and their burdens added to the fatigues of their rugged road.
They suffered much, too, from hunger. The trout they caught were too
poor to yield much nourishment; their main dependence, therefore,
was upon an old beaver trap, which they had providentially retained.
Whenever they were fortunate enough to entrap a beaver, it was cut up
immediately and distributed, that each man might carry his share.

After two days of toilsome travel, during which they made but eighteen
miles, they stopped on the 21st, to build two rafts on which to cross
to the north side of the river. On these they embarked on the following
morning, four on one raft, and three on the other, and pushed boldly
from shore. Finding the rafts sufficiently firm and steady to withstand
the rough and rapid water, they changed their minds, and instead of
crossing, ventured to float down with the current. The river was, in
general, very rapid, and from one to two hundred yards in width, winding
in every direction through mountains of hard black rock, covered with
pines and cedars. The mountains to the east of the river were spurs of
the Rocky range, and of great magnitude; those on the west were little
better than hills, bleak and barren, or scantily clothed with stunted

Mad River, though deserving its name from the impetuosity of its
current, was free from rapids and cascades, and flowed on in a single
channel between gravel banks, often fringed with cotton-wood and dwarf
willows in abundance. These gave sustenance to immense quantities of
beaver, so that the voyagers found no difficulty in procuring food.
Ben Jones, also, killed a fallow deer and a wolverine, and as they were
enabled to carry the carcasses on their rafts, their larder was well
supplied. Indeed, they might have occasionally shot beavers that were
swimming in the river as they floated by, but they humanely spared their
lives, being in no want of meat at the time. In this way, they kept down
the river for three days, drifting with the current and encamping on
land at night, when they drew up their rafts on shore. Towards the
evening of the third day, they came to a little island on which they
descried a gang of elk. Ben Jones landed, and was fortunate enough to
wound one, which immediately took to the water, but, being unable to
stem the current, drifted above a mile, when it was overtaken and drawn
to shore. As a storm was gathering, they now encamped on the margin of
the river, where they remained all the next day, sheltering themselves
as well as they could from the rain and snow--a sharp foretaste of the
impending winter. During their encampment, they employed themselves in
jerking a part of the elk for future supply. In cutting up the carcass,
they found that the animal had been wounded by hunters, about a week
previously, an arrow head and a musket ball remaining in the wounds.
In the wilderness, every trivial circumstance is a matter of anxious
speculation. The Snake Indians have no guns; the elk, therefore, could
not have been wounded by one of them. They were on the borders of
the country infested by the Blackfeet, who carry fire-arms. It was
concluded, therefore, that the elk had been hunted by some of
that wandering and hostile tribe, who, of course, must be in the
neighborhood. The idea put an end to the transient solace they had
enjoyed in the comparative repose and abundance of the river.

For three days longer they continued to navigate with their rafts.
The recent storm had rendered the weather extremely cold. They had
now floated down the river about ninety-one miles, when finding the
mountains on the right diminished to moderate sized hills, they landed,
and prepared to resume their journey on foot. Accordingly, having spent
a day in preparations, making moccasins, and parceling out their jerked
meat in packs of twenty pounds to each man, they turned their backs
upon the river on the 29th of September and struck off to the northeast,
keeping along the southern skirt of the mountain on which Henry's Fort
was situated.

Their march was slow and toilsome; part of the time through an alluvial
bottom, thickly grown with cotton-wood, hawthorn, and willows, and part
of the time over rough hills. Three antelopes came within shot, but they
dared not fire at them, lest the report of their rifles should betray
them to the Blackfeet. In the course of the day, they came upon a
large horse-track, apparently about three weeks old, and in the evening
encamped on the banks of a small stream, on a spot which had been the
camping place of this same band.

On the following morning they still observed the Indian track, but after
a time they came to where it separated in every direction, and was lost.
This showed that the band had dispersed in various hunting parties, and
was, in all probability, still in the neighborhood; it was necessary,
therefore, to proceed with the utmost caution. They kept a vigilant eye
as they marched, upon every height where a scout might be posted, and
scanned the solitary landscapes and the distant ravines, to observe
any column of smoke; but nothing of the kind was to be seen; all was
indescribably stern and lifeless.

Towards evening they came to where there were several hot springs,
strongly impregnated with iron and sulphur, and sending up a volume of
vapor that tainted the surrounding atmosphere, and might be seen at the
distance of a couple of miles.

Near to these they encamped in a deep gully, which afforded some
concealment. To their great concern, Mr. Crooks, who had been indisposed
for the two preceding days, had a violent fever in the night.

Shortly after daybreak they resumed their march. On emerging from the
glen, a consultation was held as to their course. Should they continue
round the skirt of the mountain, they would be in danger of falling in
with the scattered parties of Blackfeet, who were probably hunting in
the plain. It was thought most advisable, therefore, to strike directly
across the mountain, since the route, though rugged and difficult, would
be most secure. This counsel was indignantly derided by M'Lellan as
pusillanimous. Hot-headed and impatient at all times, he had been
rendered irascible by the fatigues of the journey, and the condition of
his feet, which were chafed and sore. He could not endure the idea of
encountering the difficulties of the mountain, and swore he would rather
face all the Blackfeet in the country. He was overruled, however, and
the party began to ascend the mountain, striving, with the ardor and
emulation of young men, who should be first up. M'Lellan, who was double
the age of some of his companions, soon began to lose breath, and fall
in the rear. In the distribution of burdens, it was his turn to carry
the old beaver trap. Piqued and irritated, he suddenly came to a halt,
swore he would carry it no further, and jerked it half-way down the
hill. He was offered in place of it a package of dried meat, but this
he scornfully threw upon the ground. They might carry it, he said,
who needed it; for his part, he could provide his daily bread with his
rifle. He concluded by flinging off from the party, and keeping along
the skirts of the mountain, leaving those, he said, to climb rocks, who
were afraid to face Indians. It was in vain that Mr. Stuart represented
to him the rashness of his conduct, and the dangers to which he exposed
himself: he rejected such counsel as craven. It was equally useless to
represent the dangers to which he subjected his companions; as he
could be discovered at a great distance on those naked plains, and
the Indians, seeing him, would know that there must be other white men
within reach. M'Lellan turned a deaf ear to every remonstrance, and kept
on his wilful way.

It seemed a strange instance of perverseness in this man thus to fling
himself off alone, in a savage region, where solitude itself was dismal,
and every encounter with his fellow-man full of peril. Such, however, is
the hardness of spirit, and the insensibility to danger that grow
upon men in the wilderness. M'Lellan, moreover, was a man of peculiar
temperament, ungovernable in his will, of a courage that absolutely knew
no fear, and somewhat of a braggart spirit, that took a pride in doing
desperate and hair-brained things.

Mr. Stuart and his party found the passages of the mountain somewhat
difficult, on account of the snow, which in many places was of
considerable depth, though it was but the 1st of October. They crossed
the summit early in the afternoon, and beheld below them, a plain
about twenty miles wide, bounded on the opposite side by their old
acquaintances, the Pilot Knobs, those towering mountains which had
served Mr. Hunt as landmarks in part of his route of the preceding year.
Through the intermediate plain wandered a river about fifty yards wide,
sometimes gleaming in open day, but oftener running through willowed
banks, which marked its serpentine course.

Those of the party who had been across these mountains, pointed out much
of the bearings of the country to Mr. Stuart. They showed him in what
direction must lie the deserted post called Henry's Fort, where they
had abandoned their horses and embarked in canoes, and they informed him
that the stream which wandered through the plain below them, fell into
Henry River, half way between the fort and the mouth of Mad or Snake
River. The character of all this mountain region was decidedly volcanic;
and to the northwest, between Henry's Fort and the source of the
Missouri, Mr. Stuart observed several very high peaks covered with snow,
from two of which smoke ascended in considerable volumes, apparently
from craters in a state of eruption.

On their way down the mountain, when they had reached the skirts, they
descried M'Lellan at a distance, in the advance, traversing the plain.
Whether he saw them or not, he showed no disposition to rejoin them, but
pursued his sullen and solitary way.

After descending into the plain, they kept on about six miles, until
they reached the little river, which was here about knee deep, and
richly fringed with willow. Here they encamped for the night. At this
encampment the fever of Mr. Crooks increased to such a degree that it
was impossible for him to travel. Some of the men were strenuous for
Mr. Stuart to proceed without him, urging the imminent danger they were
exposed to by delay in that unknown and barren region, infested by the
most treacherous and inveterate foes. They represented that the season
was rapidly advancing; the weather for some days had been extremely
cold; the mountains were already almost impassable from snow, and would
soon present effectual barriers. Their provisions were exhausted; there
was no game to be seen, and they did not dare to use their rifles,
through fear of drawing upon them the Blackfeet.

The picture thus presented was too true to be contradicted, and made a
deep impression on the mind of Mr. Stuart; but the idea of abandoning
a fellow being, and a comrade, in such a forlorn situation, was too
repugnant to his feelings to be admitted for an instant. He represented
to the men that the malady of Mr. Crooks could not be of long duration,
and that, in all probability, he would be able to travel in the course
of a few days. It was with great difficulty, however, that he prevailed
upon them to abide the event.


     Ben Jones and a Grizzly Bear.--Rocky Heights--Mountain
     Torrents.--Traces of M'Lellan.--Volcanic Remains--Mineral
     Earths.--Peculiar Clay for Pottery.--Dismal Plight of
     M'Lellan.--Starvation.--Shocking Proposition of a Desperate
     Man.--A Broken-Down Bull.--A Ravenous Meal.--Indian Graves--
     Hospitable Snakes.-A Forlorn Alliance.

AS the travellers were now in a dangerous neighborhood, where the report
of a rifle might bring the savages upon them, they had to depend upon
their old beaver-trap for subsistence. The little river on which
they were encamped gave many "beaver signs," and Ben Jones set off at
daybreak, along the willowed banks, to find a proper trapping-place. As
he was making his way among the thickets, with his trap on his shoulder
and his rifle in his hand, he heard a crushing sound, and turning,
beheld a huge grizzly bear advancing upon him, with terrific growl. The
sturdy Kentuckian was not to be intimidated by man or monster. Leveling
his rifle, he pulled the trigger. The bear was wounded, but not
mortally: instead, however, of rushing upon his assailant, as is
generally the case with this kind of bear, he retreated into the bushes.
Jones followed him for some distance, but with suitable caution, and
Bruin effected his escape.

As there was every prospect of a detention of some days in this place,
and as the supplies of the beaver-trap were too precarious to be
depended upon, it became absolutely necessary to run some risk of
discovery by hunting in the neighborhood. Ben Jones, therefore, obtained
permission to range with his rifle some distance from the camp, and set
off to beat up the river banks, in defiance of bear or Blackfeet.

He returned in great spirits in the course of a few hours, having come
upon a gang of elk about six miles off, and killed five. This was
joyful news, and the party immediately moved forward to the place where
he had left the carcasses. They were obliged to support Mr. Crooks the
whole distance, for he was unable to walk. Here they remained for two
or three days, feasting heartily on elk meat, and drying as much as they
would be able to carry away with them.

By the 5th of October, some simple prescriptions, together with an
"Indian sweat," had so far benefited Mr. Crooks, that he was enabled
to move about; they therefore set forward slowly, dividing his pack and
accoutrements among them, and made a creeping day's progress of eight
miles south. Their route for the most part lay through swamps caused by
the industrious labors of the beaver; for this little animal had dammed
up numerous small streams, issuing from the Pilot Knob Mountains, so
that the low grounds on their borders were completely inundated. In the
course of their march they killed a grizzly bear, with fat on its flanks
upwards of three inches in thickness. This was an acceptable addition
to their stock of elk meat. The next day Mr. Crooks was sufficiently
recruited in strength to be able to carry his rifle and pistols, and
they made a march of seventeen miles along the borders of the plain.

Their journey daily became more toilsome, and their sufferings more
severe, as they advanced. Keeping up the channel of a river, they
traversed the rugged summit of the Pilot Knob Mountain, covered with
snow nine inches deep. For several days they continued, bending their
course as much as possible to the east, over a succession of rocky
heights, deep valleys, and rapid streams. Sometimes their dizzy path lay
along the margin of perpendicular precipices, several hundred feet in
height, where a single false step might precipitate them into the rocky
bed of a torrent which roared below. Not the least part of their weary
task was the fording of the numerous windings and branchings of the
mountain rivers, all boisterous in their currents, and icy cold.

Hunger was added to their other sufferings, and soon became the keenest.
The small supply of bear and elk meat which they had been able to carry,
in addition to their previous burdens, served but for a short time. In
their anxiety to struggle forward, they had but little time to hunt, and
scarce any game in their path. For three days they had nothing to eat
but a small duck, and a few poor trout. They occasionally saw numbers
of the antelopes, and tried every art to get within shot; but the timid
animals were more than commonly wild, and after tantalizing the hungry
hunters for a time, bounded away beyond all chance of pursuit. At length
they were fortunate enough to kill one: it was extremely meagre, and
yielded but a scanty supply; but on this they subsisted for several

On the 11th, they encamped on a small stream, near the foot of the
Spanish River Mountain. Here they met with traces of that wayward and
solitary being, M'Lellan, who was still keeping on ahead of them through
these lonely mountains. He had encamped the night before on this stream;
they found the embers of the fire by which he had slept, and the remains
of a miserable wolf on which he had supped. It was evident he had
suffered, like themselves, the pangs of hunger, though he had fared
better at this encampment; for they had not a mouthful to eat.

The next day, they rose hungry and alert, and set out with the dawn to
climb the mountain, which was steep and difficult. Traces of volcanic
eruptions were to be seen in various directions. There was a species of
clay also to be met with, out of which the Indians manufactured pots and
jars, and dishes. It is very fine and light, of an agreeable smell,
and of a brown color spotted with yellow, and dissolves readily in the
mouth. Vessels manufactured of it are said to impart a pleasant smell
and flavor to any liquids. These mountains abound also with mineral
earths, or chalks of various colors; especially two kinds of ochre,
one a pale, the other a bright red, like vermilion; much used by the
Indians, in painting their bodies.

About noon, the travellers reached the "drains" and brooks that formed
the head waters of the river, and later in the day, descended to where
the main body, a shallow stream, about a hundred and sixty yards wide,
poured through its mountain valley.

Here the poor famishing wanderers had expected to find buffalo in
abundance, and had fed their hungry hopes during their scrambling toll,
with the thoughts of roasted ribs, juicy humps, and broiled marrow
bones. To their great disappointment, the river banks were deserted--a
few old tracks showed where a herd of bulls had some time before passed
along, but not a horn nor hump was to be seen in the sterile landscape.
A few antelopes looked down upon them from the brow of a crag, but
flitted away out of sight at the least approach of the hunter.

In the most starving mood they kept for several miles further along
the bank of the river, seeking for "beaver signs." Finding some, they
encamped in the vicinity, and Ben Jones immediately proceeded to set the
trap. They had scarce come to a halt, when they perceived a large smoke
at some distance to the southwest. The sight was hailed with joy, for
they trusted it might rise from some Indian camp, where they could
procure something to eat, and the dread of starvation had now overcome
even the terror of the Blackfeet. Le Clerc, one of the Canadians, was
instantly despatched by Mr. Stuart, to reconnoitre; and the travellers
sat up till a late hour, watching and listening for his return, hoping
he might bring them food. Midnight arrived, but Le Clerc did not make
his appearance, and they laid down once more supperless to sleep,
comforting themselves with the hopes that their old beaver trap might
furnish them with a breakfast.

At daybreak they hastened with famished eagerness to the trap. They
found in it the forepaw of a beaver, the sight of which tantalized their
hunger, and added to their dejection. They resumed their journey with
flagging spirits, but had not gone far when they perceived Le Clerc
approaching at a distance. They hastened to meet him, in hopes of
tidings of good cheer. He had none to give them; but news of that
strange wanderer, M'Lellan. The smoke had risen from his encampment
which took fire while he was at a little distance from it fishing. Le
Clerc found him in forlorn condition. His fishing had been unsuccessful.
During twelve days that he had been wandering alone through these
savage mountains, he had found scarce anything to eat. He had been ill,
wayworn, sick at heart, still he had kept forward; but now his strength
and his stubbornness were exhausted. He expressed his satisfaction at
hearing that Mr. Stuart and his party were near, and said he would wait
at his camp for their arrival, in hopes they would give him something to
eat, for without food he declared he should not be able to proceed much

When the party reached the place, they found the poor fellow lying on
a parcel of withered grass, wasted to a perfect skeleton, and so feeble
that he could scarce raise his head or speak. The presence of his old
comrades seemed to revive him, but they had no food to give him,
for they themselves were almost starving. They urged him to rise and
accompany them, but he shook his head. It was all in vain, he said;
there was no prospect of their getting speedy relief, and without it
he should perish by the way; he might as well, therefore, stay and die
where he was. At length, after much persuasion, they got him upon his
legs; his rifle and other effects were shared among them, and he was
cheered and aided forward. In this way they proceeded for seventeen
miles, over a level plain of sand, until seeing a few antelopes in the
distance, they encamped on the margin of a small stream. All now that
were capable of the exertion, turned out to hunt for a meal. Their
efforts were fruitless, and after dark they returned to their camp,
famished almost to desperation.

As they were preparing for the third time to lay down to sleep without
a mouthful to eat, Le Clerc, one of the Canadians, gaunt and wild with
hunger, approached Mr. Stuart with his gun in his hand. "It was all in
vain," he said, "to attempt to proceed any further without food. They
had a barren plain before them, three or four days' journey in extent,
on which nothing was to be procured. They must all perish before they
could get to the end of it. It was better, therefore, that one should
die to save the rest." He proposed, therefore, that they should
cast lots; adding, as an inducement for Mr. Stuart to assent to the
proposition, that he, as leader of the party, should be exempted.

Mr. Stuart shuddered at the horrible proposition, and endeavored to
reason with the man, but his words were unavailing. At length, snatching
up his rifle, he threatened to shoot him on the spot if he persisted.
The famished wretch dropped on his knees, begged pardon in the most
abject terms, and promised never again to offend him with such a

Quiet being restored to the forlorn encampment, each one sought repose.
Mr. Stuart, however, was so exhausted by the agitation of the past
scene, acting upon his emaciated frame, that he could scarce crawl to
his miserable couch; where, notwithstanding his fatigues, he passed
a sleepless night, revolving upon their dreary situation, and the
desperate prospect before them.

Before daylight the next morning, they were up and on their way; they
had nothing to detain them; no breakfast to prepare, and to linger was
to perish. They proceeded, however, but slowly, for all were faint and
weak. Here and there they passed the skulls and bones of buffaloes,
which showed that these animals must have been hunted here during the
past season; the sight of these bones served only to mock their misery.
After travelling about nine miles along the plain, they ascended a range
of hills, and had scarcely gone two miles further, when, to their
great joy, they discovered "an old run-down buffalo bull;" the laggard
probably of some herd that had been hunted and harassed through the
mountains. They now all stretched themselves out to encompass and
make sure of this solitary animal, for their lives depended upon their
success. After considerable trouble and infinite anxiety, they at length
succeeded in killing him. He was instantly flayed and cut up, and so
ravenous was their hunger, that they devoured some of the flesh raw.
The residue they carried to a brook near by, where they encamped, lit a
fire, and began to cook.

Mr. Stuart was fearful that in their famished state they would eat to
excess and injure themselves. He caused a soup to be made of some of
the meat, and that each should take a quantity of it as a prelude to his
supper. This may have had a beneficial effect, for though they sat up
the greater part of the night, cooking and cramming, no one suffered any

The next morning the feasting was resumed, and about midday, feeling
somewhat recruited and refreshed, they set out on their journey with
renovated spirits, shaping their course towards a mountain, the summit
of which they saw towering in the east, and near to which they expected
to find the head waters of the Missouri.

As they proceeded, they continued to see the skeletons of buffaloes
scattered about the plain in every direction, which showed that there
had been much hunting here by the Indians in the recent season. Further
on they crossed a large Indian trail forming a deep path, about fifteen
days old, which went in a north direction. They concluded it to have
been made by some numerous band of Crows, who had hunted in this country
for the greater part of the summer.

On the following day they forded a stream of considerable magnitude,
with banks clothed with pine trees. Among these they found the traces
of a large Indian camp, which had evidently been the headquarters of a
hunting expedition, from the great quantities of buffalo bones strewed
about the neighborhood. The camp had apparently been abandoned about a

In the centre was a singular lodge one hundred and fifty feet in
circumference, supported by the trunks of twenty trees, about twelve
inches in diameter and forty-four feet long. Across these were laid
branches of pine and willow trees, so as to yield a tolerable shade.
At the west end, immediately opposite to the door, three bodies lay
interred with their feet towards the east. At the head of each was a
branch of red cedar firmly planted in the ground. At the foot was a
large buffalo's skull, painted black. Savage ornaments were suspended
in various parts of the edifice, and a great number of children's
moccasins. From the magnitude of this building, and the time and
labor that must have been expended in erecting it, the bodies which it
contained were probably those of noted warriors and hunters.

The next day, October 17th, they passed two large tributary streams of
the Spanish River. They took their rise in the Wind River Mountains,
which ranged along to the east, stupendously high and rugged, composed
of vast masses of black rock, almost destitute of wood, and covered in
many places with snow. This day they saw a few buffalo bulls, and some
antelopes, but could not kill any; and their stock of provisions began
to grow scanty as well as poor.

On the 18th, after crossing a mountain ridge, and traversing a plain,
they waded one of the branches of Spanish River, and on ascending its
bank, met with about a hundred and thirty Snake Indians. They were
friendly in their demeanor, and conducted them to their encampment,
which was about three miles distant. It consisted of about forty
wigwams, constructed principally of pine branches. The Snakes, like
most of their nation, were very poor; the marauding Crows, in their late
excursion through the country, had picked this unlucky band to the very
bone, carrying off their horses, several of their squaws, and most of
their effects. In spite of their poverty, they were hospitable in the
extreme, and made the hungry strangers welcome to their cabins. A few
trinkets procured from them a supply of buffalo meat, and of leather for
moccasins, of which the party were greatly in need. The most valuable
prize obtained from them, however, was a horse; it was a sorry old
animal in truth, but it was the only one that remained to the poor
fellows, after the fell swoop of the Crows; yet this they were prevailed
upon to part with to their guests for a pistol, an axe, a knife, and a
few other trifling articles.

They had doleful stories to tell of the Crows, who were encamped on a
river at no great distance to the east, and were in such force that they
dared not venture to seek any satisfaction for their outrages, or to
get back a horse or squaw. They endeavored to excite the indignation of
their visitors by accounts of robberies and murders committed on lonely
white hunters and trappers by Crows and Blackfeet. Some of these were
exaggerations of the outrages already mentioned, sustained by some
of the scattered members of Mr. Hunt's expedition; others were in all
probability sheer fabrications, to which the Snakes seem to have been a
little prone. Mr. Stuart assured them that the day was not far distant
when the whites would make their power to be felt throughout that
country, and take signal vengeance on the perpetrators of these
misdeeds. The Snakes expressed great joy at the intelligence, and
offered their services to aid the righteous cause, brightening at the
thoughts of taking the field with such potent allies, and doubtless
anticipating their turn at stealing horses and abducting squaws. Their
offers, of course, were accepted; the calumet of peace was produced, and
the two forlorn powers smoked eternal friendship between themselves, and
vengeance upon their common spoilers, the Crows.


     Spanish River Scenery.--Trail of Crow Indians.--A Snow-
     Storm.--A Rousing Fire and a Buffalo Feast.--A Plain of
     Salt.--Climbing a Mountain.--Volcanic Summit.--Extinguished
     Crater.--Marine Shells.--Encampment on a Prairie.--
     Successful Hunting.--Good Cheer.--Romantic Scenery--Rocky
     Defile.--Foaming Rapids.--The Fiery Narrows.

BY sunrise on the following morning (October 19th), the travellers
had loaded their old horse with buffalo meat, sufficient for five
days' provisions, and, taking leave of their new allies, the poor, but
hospitable Snakes, set forth in somewhat better spirits, though the
increasing cold of the weather, and the sight of the snowy mountains
which they had yet to traverse, were enough to chill their very hearts.
The country along this branch of the Spanish River, as far as they could
see, was perfectly level, bounded by ranges of lofty mountains, both to
the east and west. They proceeded about three miles to the south, where
they came again upon the large trail of Crow Indians, which they had
crossed four days previously, made, no doubt, by the same marauding band
that had plundered the Snakes; and which, according to the account of
the latter, was now encamped on a stream to the eastward. The trail kept
on to the southeast, and was so well beaten by horse and foot, that they
supposed at least a hundred lodges had passed along it. As it formed,
therefore, a convenient highway, and ran in a proper direction, they
turned into it, and determined to keep along it as far as safety would
permit: as the Crow encampment must be some distance off, and it was
not likely those savages would return upon their steps. They travelled
forward, therefore, all that day, in the track of their dangerous
predecessors, which led them across mountain streams, and long ridges,
and through narrow valleys, all tending generally towards the southeast.
The wind blew coldly from the northeast, with occasional flurries of
snow, which made them encamp early, on the sheltered banks of a brook.
The two Canadians, Vallee and Le Clerc, killed a young buffalo bull in
the evening, which was in good condition, and afforded them a plentiful
supply of fresh beef. They loaded their spits, therefore, and crammed
their camp kettle with meat, and while the wind whistled, and the snow
whirled around them, huddled round a rousing fire, basked in its warmth,
and comforted both soul and body with a hearty and invigorating meal. No
enjoyments have greater zest than these, snatched in the very midst
of difficulty and danger; and it is probable the poor wayworn and
weather-beaten travellers relished these creature comforts the more
highly from the surrounding desolation, and the dangerous proximity of
the Crows.

The snow which had fallen in the night made it late in the morning
before the party loaded their solitary packhorse, and resumed their
march. They had not gone far before the Crow trace which they were
following changed its direction, and bore to the north of east. They had
already begun to feel themselves on dangerous ground in keeping along
it, as they might be descried by some scouts and spies of that race of
Ishmaelites, whose predatory life required them to be constantly on the
alert. On seeing the trace turn so much to the north, therefore, they
abandoned it, and kept on their course to the southeast for eighteen
miles, through a beautifully undulating country, having the main chain
of mountains on the left, and a considerably elevated ridge on the
right. Here the mountain ridge which divides Wind River from the head
waters of the Columbia and Spanish Rivers, ends abruptly, and winding to
the north of east, becomes the dividing barrier between a branch of the
Big Horn and Cheyenne Rivers, and those head waters which flow into the
Missouri below the Sioux country.

The ridge which lay on the right of the travellers having now become
very low, they passed over it, and came into a level plain, about ten
miles in circumference, and incrusted to the depth of a foot or eighteen
inches with salt as white as snow. This is furnished by numerous salt
springs of limpid water, which are continually welling up, overflowing
their borders, and forming beautiful crystallizations. The Indian tribes
of the interior are excessively fond of this salt, and repair to the
valley to collect it, but it is held in distaste by the tribes of the
sea-coast, who will eat nothing that has been cured or seasoned by it.

This evening they encamped on the banks of a small stream, in the open
prairie. The northeast wind was keen and cutting; they had nothing
wherewith to make a fire, but a scanty growth of sage, or wormwood, and
were fain to wrap themselves up in their blankets, and huddle themselves
in their "nests," at an early hour. In the course of the evening, Mr.
M'Lellan, who had now regained his strength, killed a buffalo, but it
was some distance from the camp, and they postponed supplying themselves
from the carcass until the following morning.

The next day (October 21st), the cold continued, accompanied by snow.
They set forward on their bleak and toilsome way, keeping to the
east northeast, towards the lofty summit of a mountain, which it was
necessary for them to cross. Before they reached its base they passed
another large trail, steering a little to the right of the point of the
mountain. This they presumed to have been made by another band of Crows,
who had probably been hunting lower down on the Spanish River.

The severity of the weather compelled them to encamp at the end
of fifteen miles, on the skirts of the mountain, where they found
sufficient dry aspen trees to supply them with fire, but they sought in
vain about the neighborhood for a spring or rill of water.

At daybreak they were up and on the march, scrambling up the mountain
side for the distance of eight painful miles. From the casual hints
given in the travelling memoranda of Mr. Stuart, this mountain would
seem to offer a rich field of speculation for the geologist. Here was
a plain three miles in diameter, strewed with pumice stones and other
volcanic reliques, with a lake in the centre, occupying what had
probably been the crater. Here were also, in some places, deposits of
marine shells, indicating that this mountain crest had at some remote
period been below the waves.

After pausing to repose, and to enjoy these grand but savage and awful
scenes, they began to descend the eastern side of the mountain. The
descent was rugged and romantic, along deep ravines and defiles,
overhung with crags and cliffs, among which they beheld numbers of the
ahsahta or bighorn, skipping fearlessly from rock to rock. Two of
them they succeeded in bringing down with their rifles, as they peered
fearlessly from the brow of their airy precipices.

Arrived at the foot of the mountain, the travellers found a rill of
water oozing out of the earth, and resembling in look and taste, the
water of the Missouri. Here they encamped for the night, and supped
sumptuously upon their mountain mutton, which they found in good
condition, and extremely well tasted.

The morning was bright, and intensely cold. Early in the day they came
upon a stream running to the east, between low hills of bluish earth,
strongly impregnated with copperas. Mr. Stuart supposed this to be one
of the head waters of the Missouri, and determined to follow its banks.
After a march of twenty-six miles, however, he arrived at the summit
of a hill, the prospect of which induced him to alter his intention. He
beheld, in every direction south of east, a vast plain, bounded only
by the horizon, through which wandered the stream in question, in a
south-south-east direction. It could not, therefore, be a branch of the
Missouri. He now gave up all idea of taking the stream for his guide,
and shaped his course towards a range of mountains in the east, about
sixty miles distant, near which he hoped to find another stream.

The weather was now so severe, and the hardships of travelling so great,
that he resolved to halt for the winter, at the first eligible place.
That night they had to encamp on the open prairie, near a scanty pool
of water, and without any wood to make a fire. The northeast wind blew
keenly across the naked waste, and they were fain to decamp from their
inhospitable bivouac before the dawn.

For two days they kept on in an eastward direction, against wintry
blasts and occasional snow storms. They suffered, also, from scarcity
of water, having occasionally to use melted snow; this, with the want of
pasturage, reduced their old pack-horse sadly. They saw many tracks of
buffalo, and some few bulls, which, however, got the wind of them, and
scampered off.

On the 26th of October, they steered east-northeast, for a wooded ravine
in a mountain, at a small distance from the base of which, to their
great joy, they discovered an abundant stream, running between willowed
banks. Here they halted for the night, and Ben Jones having luckily
trapped a beaver, and killed two buffalo bulls, they remained all the
next day encamped, feasting and reposing, and allowing their jaded horse
to rest from his labors.

The little stream on which they were encamped, was one of the head
waters of the Platte River, which flows into the Missouri; it was,
in fact, the northern fork, or branch of that river, though this the
travellers did not discover until long afterwards. Pursuing the course
of this stream for about twenty miles, they came to where it forced
a passage through a range of high hills, covered with cedars, into an
extensive low country, affording excellent pasture to numerous herds of
buffalo. Here they killed three cows, which were the first they had been
able to get, having hitherto had to content themselves with bull beef,
which at this season of the year is very poor. The hump meat afforded
them a repast fit for an epicure.

Late on the afternoon of the 30th, they came to where the stream, now
increased to a considerable size, poured along in a ravine between
precipices of red stone, two hundred feet in height. For some distance
it dashed along, over huge masses of rock, with foaming violence, as if
exasperated by being compressed into so narrow a channel, and at length
leaped down a chasm that looked dark and frightful in the gathering

For a part of the next day, the wild river, in its capricious
wanderings, led them through a variety of striking scenes. At one time
they were upon high plains, like platforms among the mountains, with
herds of buffaloes roaming about them; at another among rude rocky
defiles, broken into cliffs and precipices, where the blacktailed deer
bounded off among the crags, and the bighorn basked in the sunny brow of
the precipice.

In the after part of the day, they came to another scene, surpassing in
savage grandeur those already described. They had been travelling for
some distance through a pass of the mountains, keeping parallel with
the river, as it roared along, out of sight, through a deep ravine.
Sometimes their devious path approached the margin of cliffs below which
the river foamed, and boiled, and whirled among the masses of rock that
had fallen into its channel. As they crept cautiously on, leading their
solitary pack-horse along these giddy heights, they all at once came to
where the river thundered down a succession of precipices, throwing up
clouds of spray, and making a prodigious din and uproar. The travellers
remained, for a time, gazing with mingled awe and delight, at this
furious cataract, to which Mr. Stuart gave, from the color of the
impending rocks, the name of "The Fiery Narrows."


     Wintry Storms.--A Halt and Council.--Cantonment for the
     Winter.--Fine Hunting Country.--Game of the Mountains and
     Plains.-Successful Hunting--Mr. Crooks and a Grizzly Bear.--
     The Wigwam.--Bighorn and Black-Tails.--Beef and Venison.--
     Good Quarters and Good Cheer.--An Alarm.--An Intrusion.--
     Unwelcome Guests.-Desolation of the Larder.--Gormandizing
     Exploits of Hungry Savages.--Good Quarters Abandoned.

THE travellers encamped for the night on the banks of the river below
the cataract. The night was cold, with partial showers of rain and
sleet. The morning dawned gloomily, the skies were sullen and overcast,
and threatened further storms; but the little band resumed their
journey, in defiance of the weather. The increasing rigor of the season,
however, which makes itself felt early in these mountainous regions,
and on these naked and elevated plains, brought them to a pause, and
a serious deliberation, after they had descended about thirty miles
further along the course of the river.

All were convinced that it was in vain to attempt to accomplish their
journey, on foot, at this inclement season. They had still many hundred
miles to traverse before they should reach the main course of the
Missouri, and their route would lay over immense prairies, naked and
bleak, and destitute of fuel. The question then was, where to choose
their wintering place, and whether or not to proceed further down the
river. They had at first imagined it to be one of the head waters, or
tributary streams, of the Missouri. Afterwards they had believed it
to be the Rapid, or Quicourt River, in which opinion they had not come
nearer to the truth; they now, however, were persuaded, with equal
fallacy, by its inclining somewhat to the north of east, that it was
the Cheyenne. If so, by continuing down it much further they must arrive
among the Indians, from whom the river takes its name. Among these they
would be sure to meet some of the Sioux tribe. These would appraise
their relatives, the piratical Sioux of the Missouri, of the approach
of a band of white traders; so that, in the spring time, they would be
likely to be waylaid and robbed on their way down the river, by some
party in ambush upon its banks.

Even should this prove to be the Quicourt or Rapid River, it would not
be prudent to winter much further down upon its banks, as, though
they might be out of the range of the Sioux, they would be in the
neighborhood of the Poncas, a tribe nearly as dangerous. It was
resolved, therefore, since they must winter somewhere on this side of
the Missouri, to descend no lower, but to keep up in these solitary
regions, where they would be in no danger of molestation.

They were brought the more promptly and unanimously to this decision,
by coming upon an excellent wintering place, that promised everything
requisite for their comfort. It was on a fine bend of the river, just
below where it issued out from among a ridge of mountains, and bent
towards the northeast. Here was a beautiful low point of land, covered
by cotton-wood, and surrounded by a thick growth of willow, so as to
yield both shelter and fuel, as well as materials for building. The
river swept by in a strong current, about a hundred and fifty yards
wide. To the southeast were mountains of moderate height, the nearest
about two miles off, but the whole chain ranging to the east, south,
and southwest, as far as the eye could reach. Their summits were crowned
with extensive tracts of pitch pine, checkered with small patches of the
quivering aspen. Lower down were thick forests of firs and red cedars,
growing out in many places from the very fissures of the rocks. The
mountains were broken and precipitous, with huge bluffs protruding from
among the forests.

Their rocky recesses and beetling cliffs afforded retreats to
innumerable flocks of the bighorn, while their woody summits and ravines
abounded with bears and black-tailed deer. These, with the numerous
herds of buffalo that ranged the lower grounds along the river, promised
the travellers abundant cheer in their winter quarters.

On the 2d of November, therefore, they pitched their camp for the
winter, on the woody point, and their first thought was to obtain
a supply of provisions. Ben Jones and the two Canadians accordingly
sallied forth, accompanied by two others of the party, leaving but
one to watch the camp. Their hunting was uncommonly successful. In the
course of two days, they killed thirty-two buffaloes, and collected
their meat on the margin of a small brook, about a mile distant.
Fortunately, a severe frost froze the river, so that the meat was easily
transported to the encampment. On a succeeding day, a herd of buffalo
came trampling through the woody bottom on the river banks, and fifteen
more were killed.

It was soon discovered, however, that there was game of a more dangerous
nature in the neighborhood. On one occasion, Mr. Crooks had wandered
about a mile from the camp, and had ascended a small hill commanding a
view of the river. He was without his rifle, a rare circumstance, for
in these wild regions, where one may put up a wild animal, or a wild
Indian, at every turn, it is customary never to stir from the camp-fire
unarmed. The hill where he stood overlooked the place where the
massacre of the buffalo had taken place. As he was looking around on the
prospect, his eye was caught by an object below, moving directly towards
him. To his dismay, he discovered it to be a grizzly bear, with two
cubs. There was no tree at hand into which he could climb; to run, would
only be to provoke pursuit, and he should soon be overtaken. He threw
himself on the ground, therefore, and lay motionless, watching the
movements of the animal with intense anxiety. It continued to advance
until at the foot of the hill, when it turned, and made into the woods,
having probably gorged itself with buffalo flesh. Mr. Crooks made all
haste back to the camp, rejoicing at his escape, and determining never
to stir out again without his rifle. A few days after this circumstance,
a grizzly bear was shot in the neighborhood by Mr. Miller.

As the slaughter of so many buffaloes had provided the party with beef
for the winter, in case they met with no further supply, they now set to
work, heart and hand, to build a comfortable wigwam. In a little while
the woody promontory rang with the unwonted sound of the axe. Some of
its lofty trees were laid low, and by the second evening the cabin was
complete. It was eight feet wide, and eighteen feet long. The walls
were six feet high, and the whole was covered with buffalo skins. The
fireplace was in the centre, and the smoke found its way out by a hole
in the roof.

The hunters were next sent out to procure deer-skins for garments,
moccasins, and other purposes. They made the mountains echo with their
rifles, and, in the course of two days' hunting, killed twenty-eight
bighorns and black-tailed deer.

The party now reveled in abundance. After all that they had suffered
from hunger, cold, fatigue and watchfulness; after all their perils from
treacherous and savage men, they exulted in the snugness and security of
their isolated cabin, hidden, as they thought, even from the prying eyes
of Indian scouts, and stored with creature comforts; and they looked
forward to a winter of peace and quietness, of roasting, and boiling,
and broiling, and feasting upon venison, and mountain mutton, and bear's
meat, and marrow bones, and buffalo humps, and other hunter's dainties,
and of dozing and reposing round their fire, and gossiping over past
dangers and adventures, and telling long hunting stories, until spring
should return; when they would make canoes of buffalo skins and float
themselves down the river.

From such halcyon dreams, they were startled one morning, at daybreak,
by a savage yell. They started tip and seized their rifles. The yell was
repeated by two or three voices. Cautiously peeping out, they beheld,
to their dismay, several Indian warriors among the trees, all armed and
painted in warlike style; being evidently bent on some hostile purpose.

Miller changed countenance as he regarded them. "We are in trouble,"
said he, "these are some of the rascally Arapahays that robbed me
last year." Not a word was uttered by the rest of the party, but they
silently slung their powder horns and ball pouches, and prepared for
battle. M'Lellan, who had taken his gun to pieces the evening before,
put it together in all haste. He proposed that they should break out the
clay from between the logs, so as to be able to fire upon the enemy.

"Not yet," replied Stuart; "it will not do to show fear or distrust;
we must first hold a parley. Some one must go out and meet them as a

Who was to undertake the task! It was full of peril, as the envoy might
be shot down at the threshold.

"The leader of a party," said Miller, "always takes the advance."

"Good!" replied Stuart; "I am ready." He immediately went forth; one
of the Canadians followed him; the rest of the party remained in the
garrison, to keep the savages in check.

Stuart advanced holding his rifle in one hand, and extending the other
to the savage that appeared to be the chief. The latter stepped forward
and took it; his men followed his example, and all shook hands with
Stuart, in token of friendship. They now explained their errand. They
were a war party of Arapahay braves. Their village lay on a stream
several days' journey to the eastward. It had been attacked and ravaged
during their absence, by a band of Crows, who had carried off several of
their women, and most of their horses. They were in quest of vengeance.
For sixteen days they had been tracking the Crows about the mountains,
but had not yet come upon them. In the meantime, they had met with
scarcely any game, and were half famished. About two days previously,
they had heard the report of fire-arms among the mountains, and on
searching in the direction of the sound, had come to a place where a
deer had been killed. They had immediately put themselves upon the track
of the hunters, and by following it up, had arrived at the cabin.

Mr. Stuart now invited the chief and another, who appeared to be his
lieutenant, into the hut, but made signs that no one else was to enter.
The rest halted at the door; others came straggling up, until the whole
party, to the number of twenty-three, were gathered before the hut.
They were armed with bows and arrows, tomahawks and scalping knives, and
some few with guns. All were painted and dressed for war, and had a wild
and fierce appearance. Mr. Miller recognized among them some of the very
fellows who had robbed him in the preceding year; and put his comrades
upon their guard. Every man stood ready to resist the first act of
hostility; the savages, however, conducted themselves peaceably, and
showed none of that swaggering arrogance which a war party is apt to

On entering the hut the chief and his lieutenant cast a wistful look
at the rafters, laden with venison and buffalo meat. Mr. Stuart made a
merit of necessity, and invited them to help themselves. They did not
wait to be pressed. The rafters were soon eased of their burden; venison
and beef were passed out to the crew before the door, and a scene of
gormandizing commenced, of which few can have an idea, who have not
witnessed the gastronomic powers of an Indian, after an interval of
fasting. This was kept up throughout the day; they paused now and then,
it is true, for a brief interval, but only to return to the charge with
renewed ardor. The chief and the lieutenant surpassed all the rest in
the vigor and perseverance of their attacks; as if from their station
they were bound to signalize themselves in all onslaughts. Mr. Stuart
kept them well supplied with choice bits, for it was his policy to
overfeed them, and keep them from leaving the hut, where they served
as hostages for the good conduct of their followers. Once, only, in the
course of the day, did the chief sally forth. Mr. Stuart and one of his
men accompanied him, armed with their rifles, but without betraying any
distrust. The chieftain soon returned, and renewed his attack upon the
larder. In a word, he and his worthy coadjutor, the lieutenant, ate
until they were both stupefied.

Towards evening the Indians made their preparations for the night
according to the practice of war parties. Those outside of the hut threw
up two breastworks, into which they retired at a tolerably early hour,
and slept like overfed hounds. As to the chief and his lieutenant, they
passed the night in the hut, in the course of which, they, two or three
times, got up to eat. The travellers took turns, one at a time, to mount
guard until the morning.

Scarce had the day dawned, when the gormandizing was renewed by the
whole band, and carried on with surprising vigor until ten o'clock, when
all prepared to depart. They had six days' journey yet to make, they
said, before they should come up with the Crows, who, they understood,
were encamped on a river to the northward. Their way lay through a
hungry country, where there was no game; they would, moreover, have
but little time to hunt; they, therefore, craved a small supply of
provisions for their journey. Mr. Stuart again invited them to help
themselves. They did so with keen forethought, loading themselves with
the choicest parts of the meat, and leaving the late plenteous larder
far gone in a consumption. Their next request was for a supply of
ammunition, having guns, but no powder and ball. They promised to pay
magnificently out of the spoils of their foray. "We are poor now," said
they, "and are obliged to go on foot, but we shall soon come back laden
with booty, and all mounted on horseback, with scalps hanging at our
bridles. We will then give each of you a horse to keep you from being
tired on your journey."

"Well," said Mr. Stuart, "when you bring the horses, you shall have the
ammunition, but not before." The Indians saw by his determined tone,
that all further entreaty would be unavailing, so they desisted, with a
good-humored laugh, and went off exceedingly well freighted, both within
and without, promising to be back again in the course of a fortnight.

No sooner were they out of hearing, than the luckless travellers held
another council. The security of their cabin was at an end and with
it all their dreams of a quiet and cozy winter. They were between two
fires. On one side were their old enemies, the Crows; on the other side,
the Arapahays, no less dangerous freebooters. As to the moderation of
this war party, they considered it assumed, to put them off their
guard against some more favorable opportunity for a surprisal. It was
determined, therefore, not to await their return, but to abandon, with
all speed, this dangerous neighborhood. From the accounts of their
recent visitors, they were led to believe, though erroneously, that they
were upon the Quicourt, or Rapid River. They proposed now to keep along
it to its confluence with the Missouri; but, should they be prevented
by the rigors of the season from proceeding so far, at least to reach
a part of the river where they might be able to construct canoes of
greater strength and durability than those of buffalo skins.

Accordingly, on the 13th of December, they bade adieu, with many a
regret, to their comfortable quarters where for five weeks they had been
indulging the sweets of repose, of plenty, and of fancied security. They
were still accompanied by their veteran pack-horse, which the Arapahays
had omitted to steal, either because they intended to steal him on their
return, or because they thought him not worth stealing.


     Rough Wintry Travelling--Hills and Plains.--Snow and Ice.--
     Disappearance of Game.--A Vast Dreary Plain.--A. Second Halt
     for the Winter.--Another Wigwam.--New Year's Feast.--Buffalo
     Humps, Tongues, and Marrow-Bones.--Return of Spring.--Launch
     of Canoes.--Bad Navigation.--Pedestrian March.--Vast
     Prairies.--Deserted Camps.--Pawnee Squaws.--An Otto
     Indian.--News of War.--Voyage Down the Platte and the
     Missouri.--Reception at Fort Osage.--Arrival at St. Louis.

THE interval of comfort and repose which the party had enjoyed in their
wigwam, rendered the renewal of their fatigues intolerable for the first
two or three days. The snow lay deep, and was slightly frozen on the
surface, but not sufficiently to bear their weight. Their feet became
sore by breaking through the crust, and their limbs weary by floundering
on without firm foothold. So exhausted and dispirited were they, that
they began to think it would be better to remain and run the risk of
being killed by the Indians, than to drag on thus painfully, with the
probability of perishing by the way. Their miserable horse fared no
better than themselves, having for the first day or two no other fodder
than the ends of willow twigs, and the bark of the cotton-wood tree.

They all, however, appeared to gain patience and hardihood as they
proceeded, and for fourteen days kept steadily on, making a distance
of about three hundred and thirty miles. For some days, the range of
mountains which had been near to their wigwam kept parallel to the river
at no great distance, but at length subsided into hills. Sometimes
they found the river bordered with alluvial bottoms, and groves with
cotton-wood and willows; sometimes the adjacent country was naked and
barren. In one place it ran for a considerable distance between rocky
hills and promontories covered with cedar and pitch pines, and peopled
with the bighorn and the mountain deer; at other places it wandered
through prairies well stocked with buffaloes and antelopes. As they
descended the course of the river, they began to perceive the ash and
white oak here and there among the cotton-wood and willow; and at length
caught a sight of some wild horses on the distant prairies.

The weather was various; at one time the snow lay deep; then they had
a genial day or two, with the mildness and serenity of autumn; then,
again, the frost was so severe that the river was sufficiently frozen to
bear them upon the ice.

During the last three days of their fortnight's travel, however, the
face of the country changed. The timber gradually diminished, until they
could scarcely find fuel sufficient for culinary purposes. The game
grew more and more scanty, and, finally, none were to be seen but a few
miserable broken-down buffalo bulls, not worth killing. The snow lay
fifteen inches deep, and made the travelling grievously painful and
toilsome. At length they came to an immense plain, where no vestige of
timber was to be seen; nor a single quadruped to enliven the desolate
landscape. Here, then, their hearts failed them, and they held another
consultation. The width of the river, which was upwards of a mile, its
extreme shallowness, the frequency of quicksands, and various other
characteristics, had at length made them sensible of their errors with
respect to it, and they now came to the correct conclusion, that they
were on the banks of the Platte or Shallow River. What were they to do?
Pursue its course to the Missouri? To go on at this season of the year
seemed dangerous in the extreme. There was no prospect of obtaining
either food or firing. The country was destitute of trees, and though
there might be drift-wood along the river, it lay too deep beneath the
snow for them to find it.

The weather was threatening a change, and a snowstorm on these boundless
wastes might prove as fatal as a whirlwind of sand on an Arabian desert.
After much dreary deliberation, it was at length determined to retrace
their three last days' journey of seventy-seven miles, to a place which
they had remarked where there was a sheltering growth of forest trees,
and a country abundant in game. Here they would once more set up their
winter quarters, and await the opening of the navigation to launch
themselves in canoes.

Accordingly, on the 27th of December, they faced about, retraced their
steps, and on the 30th, regained the part of the river in question. Here
the alluvial bottom was from one to two miles wide, and thickly
covered with a forest of cotton-wood trees; while herds of buffalo were
scattered about the neighboring prairie, several of which soon fell
beneath their rifles.

They encamped on the margin of the river, in a grove where there were
trees large enough for canoes. Here they put up a shed for immediate
shelter, and immediately proceeded to erect a hut. New Year's day dawned
when, as yet, but one wall of their cabin was completed; the genial and
jovial day, however, was not permitted to pass uncelebrated, even by
this weatherbeaten crew of wanderers. All work was suspended, except
that of roasting and boiling. The choicest of the buffalo meat, with
tongues, and humps, and marrow-bones, were devoured in quantities that
would astonish any one that has not lived among hunters or Indians; and
as an extra regale, having no tobacco left, they cut up an old tobacco
pouch, still redolent with the potent herb, and smoked it in honor of
the day. Thus for a time, in present revelry, however uncouth, they
forgot all past troubles and all anxieties about the future, and their
forlorn wigwam echoed to the sound of gayety.

The next day they resumed their labors, and by the 6th of the month it
was complete. They soon killed abundance of buffalo, and again laid in a
stock of winter provisions. The party were more fortunate in this, their
second cantonment. The winter passed away without any Indian visitors,
and the game continued to be plenty in the neighborhood. They felled two
large trees, and shaped them into canoes; and, as the spring opened, and
a thaw of several days' continuance melted the ice in the river, they
made every preparation for embarking. On the 8th of March they launched
forth in their canoes, but soon found that the river had not depth
sufficient even for such slender barks. It expanded into a wide but
extremely shallow stream, with many sand-bars, and occasionally various
channels. They got one of their canoes a few miles down it, with extreme
difficulty, sometimes wading and dragging it over the shoals; at length
they had to abandon the attempt, and to resume their journey on foot,
aided by their faithful old pack-horse, who had recruited strength
during the repose of the winter.

The weather delayed them for a few days, having suddenly become more
rigorous than it had been at any time during the winter; but on the 20th
of March they were again on their journey.

In two days they arrived at the vast naked prairie, the wintry aspect of
which had caused them, in December, to pause and turn back. It was now
clothed in the early verdure of spring, and plentifully stocked with
game. Still, when obliged to bivouac on its bare surface, without any
shelter, and by a scanty fire of dry buffalo dung, they found the night
blasts piercing cold. On one occasion, a herd of buffalo straying near
their evening camp, they killed three of them merely for their hides,
wherewith to make a shelter for the night.

They continued on for upwards of a hundred miles; with vast prairies
extending before them as they advanced; sometimes diversified by
undulating hills, but destitute of trees. In one place they saw a
gang of sixty-five wild horses, but as to the buffaloes, they seemed
absolutely to cover the country. Wild geese abounded, and they passed
extensive swamps that were alive with innumerable flocks of water-fowl,
among which were a few swans, but an endless variety of ducks.

The river continued a winding course to the east-north-east, nearly a
mile in width, but too shallow to float even an empty canoe. The country
spread out into a vast level plain, bounded by the horizon alone,
excepting to the north, where a line of hills seemed like a long
promontory stretching into the bosom of the ocean. The dreary sameness
of the prairie wastes began to grow extremely irksome. The travellers
longed for the sight of a forest, or grove, or single tree, to break the
level uniformity, and began to notice every object that gave reason to
hope they were drawing towards the end of this weary wilderness. Thus
the occurrence of a particular kind of grass was hailed as a proof that
they could not be far from the bottoms of the Missouri; and they were
rejoiced at putting up several prairie hens, a kind of grouse seldom
found far in the interior. In picking up driftwood for fuel, also, they
found on some pieces the mark of an axe, which caused much speculation
as to the time when and the persons by whom the trees had been felled.
Thus they went on, like sailors at sea, who perceive in every floating
weed and wandering bird, harbingers of the wished-for land.

By the close of the month the weather became very mild, and, heavily
burdened as they were, they found the noontide temperature uncomfortably
warm. On the 30th, they came to three deserted hunting camps, either of
Pawnees or Ottoes, about which were buffalo skulls in all directions;
and the frames on which the hides had been stretched and cured. They had
apparently been occupied the preceding autumn.

For several days they kept patiently on, watching every sign that might
give them an idea as to where they were, and how near to the banks of
the Missouri.

Though there were numerous traces of hunting parties and encampments,
they were not of recent date. The country seemed deserted. The only
human beings they met with were three Pawnee squaws, in a hut in the
midst of a deserted camp. Their people had all gone to the south, in
pursuit of the buffalo, and had left these poor women behind, being too
sick and infirm to travel.

It is a common practice with the Pawnees, and probably with other roving
tribes, when departing on a distant expedition, which will not admit of
incumbrance or delay, to leave their aged and infirm with a supply
of provisions sufficient for a temporary subsistence. When this is
exhausted, they must perish; though sometimes their sufferings are
abridged by hostile prowlers who may visit the deserted camp.

The poor squaws in question expected some such fate at the hands of
the white strangers, and though the latter accosted them in the kindest
manner, and made them presents of dried buffalo meat, it was impossible
to soothe their alarm, or get any information from them.

The first landmark by which the travellers were enabled to conjecture
their position with any degree of confidence, was an island about
seventy miles in length, which they presumed to be Grand Isle. If so,
they were within one hundred and forty miles of the Missouri. They kept
on, therefore, With renewed spirit, and at the end of three days met
with an Otto Indian, by whom they were confirmed in their conjecture.
They learnt at the same time another piece of information, of an
uncomfortable nature. According to his account, there was war between
the United States and England, and in fact it had existed for a whole
year, during which time they had been beyond the reach of all knowledge
of the affairs of the civilized world.

The Otto conducted the travellers to his village, situated a short
distance from the banks of the Platte. Here they were delighted to meet
with two white men, Messrs. Dornin and Roi, Indian traders recently from
St. Louis. Of these they had a thousand inquiries to make concerning
all affairs, foreign and domestic, during their year of sepulture in the
wilderness; and especially about the events of the existing war.

They now prepared to abandon their weary travel by land, and to embark
upon the water. A bargain was made with Mr. Dornin, who engaged to
furnish them with a canoe and provisions for the voyage, in exchange for
their venerable and well-tried fellow traveller, the old Snake horse.

Accordingly, in a couple of days, the Indians employed by that gentleman
constructed for them a canoe twenty feet long, four feet wide, and
eighteen inches deep. The frame was of poles and willow twigs, on which
were stretched five elk and buffalo hides, sewed together with sinews,
and the seams payed with unctuous mud. In this they embarked at an early
hour on the 16th of April, and drifted down ten miles with the stream,
when the wind being high they encamped, and set to work to make oars,
which they had not been able to procure at the Indian village.

Once more afloat, they went merrily down the stream, and after making
thirty-five miles, emerged into the broad turbid current of the
Missouri. Here they were borne along briskly by the rapid stream;
though, by the time their fragile bark had floated a couple of hundred
miles, its frame began to show the effects of the voyage. Luckily they
came to the deserted wintering place of some hunting party, where they
found two old wooden canoes. Taking possession of the largest, they
again committed themselves to the current, and after dropping down
fifty-five miles further, arrived safely at Fort Osage.

Here they found Lieutenant Brownson still in command; the officer who
had given the expedition a hospitable reception on its way up the river,
eighteen months previously. He received this remnant of the party with
a cordial welcome, and endeavored in every way to promote their comfort
and enjoyment during their sojourn at the fort. The greatest luxury they
met with on their return to the abode of civilized man, was bread, not
having tasted any for nearly a year.

Their stay at Fort Osage was but short. On re-embarking they were
furnished with an ample supply of provisions by the kindness of
Lieutenant Brownson, and performed the rest of their voyage without
adverse circumstance. On the 30th of April they arrived in perfect
health and fine spirits at St. Louis, having been ten months in
performing this perilous expedition from Astoria. Their return caused
quite a sensation at the place, bringing the first intelligence of the
fortune of Mr. Hunt and his party in their adventurous route across
the Rocky Mountains, and of the new establishment on the shores of the


     Agreement Between Mr. Astor and the Russian Fur Company--War
     Between the United States and Great Britain.--Instructions
     to Captain Sowle of the Beaver--Fitting Out of the Lark.--
     News of the Arrival of Mr. Stuart.

IT is now necessary, in linking together the parts of this excursive
narrative, that we notice the proceedings of Mr. Astor in support of
his great undertaking. His project with respect to the Russian
establishments along the northwest coast had been diligently prosecuted.
The agent sent by him to St. Petersburg, to negotiate in his name
as president of the American Fur Company, had, under sanction of the
Russian government, made a provisional agreement with the Russian

By this agreement, which was ratified by Mr. Astor in 1813, the two
companies bound themselves not to interfere with each other's trading
and hunting grounds, nor to furnish arms and ammunition to the Indians.
They were to act in concert, also, against all interlopers, and to
succor each other in case of danger. The American company was to have
the exclusive right of supplying the Russian posts with goods and
necessaries, receiving peltries in payment at stated prices. They were
also, if so requested by the Russian governor, to convey the furs of the
Russian company to Canton, sell them on commission, and bring back
the proceeds, at such freight as might be agreed on at the time. This
agreement was to continue in operation four years, and to be renewable
for a similar term, unless some unforeseen contingency should render a
modification necessary.

It was calculated to be of great service to the infant establishment
at Astoria; dispelling the fears of hostile rivalry on the part of the
foreign companies in its neighborhood, and giving a formidable blow to
the irregular trade along the coast. It was also the intention of Mr.
Astor to have coasting vessels of his own, at Astoria, of small tonnage
and draft of water, fitted for coasting service. These, having a place
of shelter and deposit, could ply about the coast in short voyages,
in favorable weather, and would have vast advantage over chance ships,
which must make long voyages, maintain numerous crews, and could only
approach the coast at certain seasons of the year. He hoped, therefore,
gradually to make Astoria the great emporium of the American fur
trade in the Pacific, and the nucleus of a powerful American state.
Unfortunately for these sanguine anticipations, before Mr. Astor had
ratified the agreement, as above stated, war broke out between the
United States and Great Britain. He perceived at once the peril of
the case. The harbor of New York would doubtless be blockaded, and the
departure of the annual supply ship in the autumn prevented; or, if
she should succeed in getting out to sea, she might be captured on her

In this emergency, he wrote to Captain Sowle, commander of the Beaver.
The letter, which was addressed to him at Canton, directed him to
proceed to the factory at the mouth of the Columbia, with such articles
as the establishment might need; and to remain there, subject to the
orders of Mr. Hunt, should that gentleman be in command there.

The war continued. No tidings had yet been received from Astoria; the
despatches having been delayed by the misadventure of Mr. Reed at the
falls of the Columbia, and the unhorsing of Mr. Stuart by the Crows
among the mountains. A painful uncertainty, also, prevailed about Mr.
Hunt and his party. Nothing had been heard of them since their departure
from the Arickara village; Lisa, who parted from them there, had
predicted their destruction; and some of the traders of the Northwest
Company had actually spread a rumor of their having been cut off by the

It was a hard trial of the courage and means of an individual to have
to fit out another costly expedition, where so much had already been
expended, so much uncertainty prevailed, and where the risk of loss was
so greatly enhanced, that no insurance could be effected.

In spite of all these discouragements, Mr. Astor determined to send
another ship to the relief of the settlement. He selected for this
purpose a vessel called the Lark, remarkable for her fast sailing.
The disordered state of the times, however, caused such a delay, that
February arrived, while the vessel was yet lingering in port.

At this juncture, Mr. Astor learnt that the Northwest Company were
preparing to send out an armed ship of twenty guns, called the Isaac
Todd, to form an establishment at the mouth of the Columbia. These
tidings gave him great uneasiness. A considerable proportion of the
persons in his employ were Scotchmen and Canadians, and several of them
had been in the service of the Northwest Company. Should Mr. Hunt have
failed to arrive at Astoria, the whole establishment would be under
the control of Mr. M'Dougal, of whose fidelity he had received very
disparaging accounts from Captain Thorn. The British government, also,
might deem it worth while to send a force against the establishment,
having been urged to do so some time previously by the Northwest

Under all these circumstances, Mr. Astor wrote to Mr. Monroe, then
secretary of state, requesting protection from the government of the
United States. He represented the importance of his settlement, in
a commercial point of view, and the shelter it might afford to the
American vessels in those seas. All he asked was that the American
government would throw forty or fifty men into the fort at his
establishment, which would be sufficient for its defense until he could
send reinforcements over land.

He waited in vain for a reply to this letter, the government, no doubt,
being engrossed at the time by an overwhelming crowd of affairs. The
month of March arrived, and the Lark was ordered by Mr. Astor to put to
sea. The officer who was to command her shrunk from his engagement, and
in the exigency of the moment, she was given in charge to Mr. Northrup,
the mate. Mr. Nicholas G. Ogden, a gentleman on whose talents and
integrity the highest reliance could be placed, sailed as supercargo.
The Lark put to sea in the beginning of March, 1813.

By this opportunity, Mr. Astor wrote to Mr. Hunt, as head of the
establishment at the mouth of the Columbia, for he would not allow
himself to doubt of his welfare. "I always think you are well," said he,
"and that I shall see you again, which Heaven, I hope, will grant."

He warned him to be on his guard against any attempts to surprise the
post; suggesting the probability of armed hostility on the part of the
Northwest Company, and expressing his indignation at the ungrateful
returns made by that association for his frank and open conduct, and
advantageous overtures. "Were I on the spot," said he, "and had the
management of affairs, I would defy them all; but, as it is, everything
depends upon you and your friends about you. Our enterprise is grand,
and deserves success, and I hope in God it will meet it. If my object
was merely gain of money, I should say, think whether it is best to save
what we can, and abandon the place; but the very idea is like a dagger
to my heart." This extract is sufficient to show the spirit and the
views which actuated Mr. Astor in this great undertaking.

Week after week and month after month elapsed, without anything to
dispel the painful incertitude that hung over every part of this
enterprise. Though a man of resolute spirit, and not easily cast down,
the dangers impending over this darling scheme of his ambition, had a
gradual effect upon the spirits of Mr. Astor. He was sitting one gloomy
evening by his window, revolving over the loss of the Tonquin and the
fate of her unfortunate crew, and fearing that some equally tragical
calamity might have befallen the adventurers across the mountains,
when the evening newspaper was brought to him. The first paragraph that
caught his eye, announced the arrival of Mr. Stuart and his party at St.
Louis, with intelligence that Mr. Hunt and his companions had effected
their perilous expedition to the mouth of the Columbia. This was a gleam
of sunshine that for a time dispelled every cloud, and he now looked
forward with sanguine hope to the accomplishment of all his plans.


     Banks of the Wallah-Wallah.--Departure of David Stuart for
     the Oakinagan.--Mr. Clarke's Route Up Lewis River.--
     Chipunnish, or Pierced-Nose Indians--Their Character,
     Appearance, and Habits.-Thievish Habits.--Laying Up of the
     Boats.--Post at Pointed Heart and Spokan Rivers.--M'Kenzie,
     His Route Up the Camoenum.-Bands of Travelling Indians.--
     Expedition of Reed to the Caches.--Adventures of Wandering
     Voyageurs and Trappers.

THE course of our narrative now takes us back to the regions beyond
the mountains, to dispose of the parties that set out from Astoria, in
company with Mr. Robert Stuart, and whom he left on the banks of the
Wallah-Wallah. Those parties likewise separated from each other shortly
after his departure, proceeding to their respective destinations, but
agreeing to meet at the mouth of the Wallah-Wallah about the beginning
of June in the following year, with such peltries as they should
have collected in the winter, so as to convoy each other through the
dangerous passes of the Columbia.

Mr. David Stuart, one of the partners, proceeded with his men to the
post already established by him at the mouth of the Oakinagan; having
furnished this with goods and ammunition, he proceeded three hundred
miles up that river, where he established another post in a good trading

Mr. Clarke, another partner, conducted his little band up Lewis River
to the mouth of a small stream coming in from the north, to which
the Canadians gave the name of the Pavion. Here he found a village or
encampment of forty huts or tents, covered with mats, and inhabited by
Nez Perces, or Pierced-nose Indians, as they are called by the traders;
but Chipunnish, as they are called by themselves. They are a hardy,
laborious, and somewhat knavish race, who lead a precarious life,
fishing and digging roots during the summer and autumn, hunting the deer
on snow-shoes during the winter, and traversing the Rocky Mountains in
the spring, to trade for buffalo skins with the hunting tribes of the
Missouri. In these migrations they are liable to be waylaid and attacked
by the Blackfeet, and other warlike and predatory tribes, and driven
back across the mountains with the loss of their horses, and of many of
their comrades.

A life of this unsettled and precarious kind is apt to render man
selfish, and such Mr. Clarke found the inhabitants of this village,
who were deficient in the usual hospitality of Indians; parting with
everything with extreme reluctance, and showing no sensibility to any
act of kindness. At the time of his arrival, they were all occupied in
catching and curing salmon. The men were stout, robust, active, and good
looking, and the women handsomer than those of the tribes nearer to the

It was the plan of Mr. Clarke to lay up his boats here, and proceed by
land to his place of destination, which was among the Spokan tribe
of Indians, about a hundred and fifty miles distant. He accordingly
endeavored to purchase horses for the journey, but in this he had to
contend with the sordid disposition of these people. They asked high
prices for their horses, and were so difficult to deal with, that Mr.
Clarke was detained seven days among them before he could procure
a sufficient number. During that time he was annoyed by repeated
pilferings, for which he could get no redress. The chief promised to
recover the stolen articles; but failed to do so, alleging that the
thieves belonged to a distant tribe, and had made off with their booty.
With this excuse Mr. Clarke was fain to content himself, though he laid
up in his heart a bitter grudge against the whole Pierced-nose race,
which it will be found he took occasion subsequently to gratify in a
signal manner.

Having made arrangements for his departure, Mr. Clarke laid up his barge
and canoes in a sheltered place, on the banks of a small bay, overgrown
with shrubs and willows, confiding them to the care of the Nez Perce
chief, who, on being promised an ample compensation, engaged to have a
guardian eye upon them; then mounting his steed, and putting himself
at the head of his little caravan, he shook the dust off his feet as he
turned his back upon this village of rogues and hard dealers. We shall
not follow him minutely in his journey; which lay at times over steep
and rocky hills, and among crags and precipices; at other times
over vast naked and sunburnt plains, abounding with rattlesnakes, in
traversing which, both men and horses suffered intolerably from heat and
thirst. The place on which he fixed for a trading post, was a fine point
of land, at the junction of the Pointed Heart and Spokan Rivers.
His establishment was intended to compete with a trading post of the
Northwest Company, situated at no great distance, and to rival it in
the trade with the Spokan Indians; as well as with the Cootonais and
Flatheads. In this neighborhood we shall leave him for the present.

Mr. M'Kenzie, who conducted the third party from the Wallah-Wallah,
navigated for several days up the south branch of the Columbia, named
the Camoenum by the natives, but commonly called Lewis River, in honor
of the first explorer. Wandering bands of various tribes were seen along
this river, travelling in various directions; for the Indians generally
are restless, roving beings, continually intent on enterprises of war,
traffic, and hunting. Some of these people were driving large gangs of
horses, as if to a distant market. Having arrived at the mouth of the
Shahaptan, he ascended some distance up that river, and established his
trading post upon its banks. This appeared to be a great thoroughfare
for the tribes from the neighborhood of the Falls of the Columbia, in
their expeditions to make war upon the tribes of the Rocky Mountains; to
hunt buffalo on the plains beyond, or to traffic for roots and buffalo
robes. It was the season of migration, and the Indians from various
distant parts were passing and repassing in great numbers.

Mr. M'Kenzie now detached a small band, under the conduct of Mr. John
Reed, to visit the caches made by Mr. Hunt at the Caldron Linn, and to
bring the contents to his post; as he depended, in some measure, on them
for his supplies of goods and ammunition. They had not been gone a week,
when two Indians arrived of the Pallatapalla tribe, who live upon a
river of the same name. These communicated the unwelcome intelligence
that the caches had been robbed. They said that some of their tribe had,
in the course of the preceding spring, been across the mountains, which
separated them from Snake River, and had traded horses with the Snakes
in exchange for blankets, robes and goods of various descriptions. These
articles the Snakes had procured from caches to which they were guided
by some white men who resided among them, and who afterwards accompanied
them across the Rocky Mountains. This intelligence was extremely
perplexing to Mr. M'Kenzie, but the truth of part of it was confirmed
by the two Indians, who brought them an English saddle and bridle, which
was recognized as having belonged to Mr. Crooks. The perfidy of the
white men who revealed the secret of the caches, was, however, perfectly
inexplicable. We shall presently account for it in narrating the
expedition of Mr. Reed.

That worthy Hibernian proceeded on his mission with his usual alacrity.
His forlorn travels of the preceding winter had made him acquainted with
the topography of the country, and he reached Snake River without any
material difficulty. Here, in an encampment of the natives, he met with
six white men, wanderers from the main expedition of Mr. Hunt, who,
after having had their respective shares of adventures and mishaps,
had fortunately come together at this place. Three of these men were
Turcotte, La Chapelle, and Francis Landry; the three Canadian voyageurs
who, it may be recollected, had left Mr. Crooks in February, in the
neighborhood of Snake River, being dismayed by the increasing hardships
of the journey, and fearful of perishing of hunger. They had returned to
a Snake encampment, where they passed the residue of the winter.

Early in the spring, being utterly destitute, and in great extremity,
and having worn out the hospitality of the Snakes, they determined to
avail themselves of the buried treasures within their knowledge. They
accordingly informed the Snake chieftains that they knew where a great
quantity of goods had been left in caches, enough to enrich the whole
tribe; and offered to conduct them to the place, on condition of being
rewarded with horses and provisions. The chieftains pledged their faith
and honor as great men and Snakes, and the three Canadians conducted
them to the place of deposit at the Caldron Linn. This is the way that
the savages got knowledge of the caches, and not by following the tracks
of wolves, as Mr. Stuart had supposed. Never did money diggers turn up a
miser's hoard with more eager delight, than did the savages lay open
the treasures of the caches. Blankets and robes, brass trinkets and blue
beads were drawn forth with chuckling exultation, and long strips of
scarlet cloth produced yells of ecstasy.

The rifling of the caches effected a change in the fortunes and
deportment of the whole party. The Snakes were better clad and equipped
than ever were Snakes before, and the three Canadians, suddenly finding
themselves with horse to ride and weapon to wear, were like beggars
on horseback, ready to ride on any wild scamper. An opportunity soon
presented. The Snakes determined on a hunting match on the buffalo
prairies, to lay in a supply of beef, that they might live in plenty,
as became men of their improved condition. The three newly mounted
cavaliers, must fain accompany them. They all traversed the Rocky
Mountains in safety, descended to the head waters of the Missouri, and
made great havoc among the buffaloes.

Their hunting camp was full of meat; they were gorging themselves,
like true Indians, with present plenty, and drying and jerking great
quantities for a winter's supply. In the midst of their revelry and good
cheer, the camp was surprised by the Blackfeet. Several of the Snakes
were slain on the spot; the residue, with their three Canadian allies,
fled to the mountains, stripped of horses, buffalo meat, everything; and
made their way back to the old encampment on Snake River, poorer than
ever, but esteeming themselves fortunate in having escaped with their
lives. They had not been long there when the Canadians were cheered by
the sight of a companion in misfortune, Dubreull, the poor voyageur who
had left Mr. Crooks in March, being too much exhausted to keep on with
him. Not long afterwards, three other straggling members of the main
expedition made their appearance. These were Carson, St. Michael, and
Pierre Delaunay, three of the trappers who, in company with Pierre
Detaye, had been left among the mountains by Mr. Hunt, to trap beaver,
in the preceding month of September. They had departed from the main
body well armed and provided, with horses to ride, and horses to carry
the peltries they were to collect. They came wandering into the Snake
camp as ragged and destitute as their predecessors. It appears that they
had finished their trapping, and were making their way in the spring to
the Missouri, when they were met and attacked by a powerful band of the
all-pervading Crows. They made a desperate resistance, and killed seven
of the savages, but were overpowered by numbers. Pierre Detaye was
slain, the rest were robbed of horses and effects, and obliged to turn
back, when they fell in with their old companions as already mentioned.

We should observe, that at the heels of Pierre Delaunay came draggling
an Indian wife, whom he had picked up in his wanderings; having grown
weary of celibacy among the savages.

The whole seven of this forlorn fraternity of adventurers, thus
accidentally congregated on the banks of Snake River, were making
arrangements once more to cross the mountains, when some Indian scouts
brought word of the approach of the little band headed by John Reed.

The latter, having heard the several stories of these wanderers, took
them all into his party, and set out for the Caldron Linn, to clear out
two or three of the caches which had not been revealed to the Indians.

At that place he met with Robinson, the Kentucky veteran, who, with his
two comrades, Rezner and Hoback, had remained there when Mr. Stuart went
on. This adventurous trio had been trapping higher up the river, but
Robinson had come down in a canoe, to await the expected arrival of the
party, and obtain horses and equipments. He told Reed the story of
the robbery of his party by the Arapahays, but it differed, in some
particulars, from the account given by him to Mr. Stuart. In that, he
had represented Cass as having shamefully deserted his companions in
their extremity, carrying off with him a horse; in the one now given,
he spoke of him as having been killed in the affray with the Arapahays.
This discrepancy, of which, of course, Reed could have had no knowledge
at the time, concurred with other circumstances, to occasion afterwards
some mysterious speculations and dark surmises as to the real fate
of Cass; but as no substantial grounds were ever adduced for them, we
forbear to throw any deeper shades into this story of sufferings in the

Mr. Reed, having gathered the remainder of the goods from the caches,
put himself at the head of his party, now augmented by the seven men
thus casually picked up, and the squaw of Pierre Delaunay, and made his
way successfully to M'Kenzie's Post, on the waters of the Shahaptan.


     Departure of Mr. Hunt in the Beaver--Precautions at the
     Factory.-Detachment to the Wollamut.--Gloomy Apprehensions.--
     Arrival of M'Kenzie.--Affairs at the Shahaptan.--News of
     War.--Dismay of M'Dougal.-Determination to Abandon Astoria.--
     Departure of M'Kenzie for the Interior.--Adventure at the
     Rapids.--Visit to the Ruffians of Wish-ram.--A Perilous
     Situation.--Meeting With M'Tavish and His Party.--Arrival at
     the Shahaptan.--Plundered Caches.-Determination of the
     Wintering Partners Not to Leave the Country.--Arrival of
     Clarke Among the Nez Perces.--The Affair of the Silver
     Goblet.--Hanging of An Indian.--Arrival of the Wintering
     Partners at Astoria.

AFTER the departure of the different detachments, or brigades, as they
are called by the fur traders, the Beaver prepared for her voyage along
the coast, and her visit to the Russian establishment, at New Archangel,
where she was to carry supplies. It had been determined in the council
of partners at Astoria, that Mr. Hunt should embark in this vessel,
for the purpose of acquainting himself with the coasting trade, and of
making arrangements with the commander of the Russian post, and that he
should be re-landed in October, at Astoria, by the Beaver, on her way to
the Sandwich Islands and Canton.

The Beaver put to sea in the month of August. Her departure and that
of the various brigades, left the fortress of Astoria but slightly
garrisoned. This was soon perceived by some of the Indian tribes, and
the consequence was increased insolence of deportment, and a disposition
to hostility. It was now the fishing season, when the tribes from the
northern coast drew into the neighborhood of the Columbia. These were
warlike and perfidious in their dispositions; and noted for their
attempts to surprise trading ships. Among them were numbers of the
Neweetees, the ferocious tribe that massacred the crew of the Tonquin.

Great precautions, therefore, were taken at the factory, to guard
against surprise while these dangerous intruders were in the vicinity.
Galleries were constructed inside of the palisades; the bastions were
heightened, and sentinels were posted day and night. Fortunately, the
Chinooks and other tribes resident in the vicinity manifested the most
pacific disposition. Old Comcomly, who held sway over them, was a shrewd
calculator. He was aware of the advantages of having the whites as
neighbors and allies, and of the consequence derived to himself and his
people from acting as intermediate traders between them and the distant
tribes. He had, therefore, by this time, become a firm friend of the
Astorians, and formed a kind of barrier between them and the hostile
intruders from the north.

The summer of 1812 passed away without any of the hostilities that had
been apprehended; the Neweetees, and other dangerous visitors to the
neighborhood, finished their fishing and returned home, and the inmates
of the factory once more felt secure from attack.

It now became necessary to guard against other evils. The season of
scarcity arrived, which commences in October, and lasts until the end
of January. To provide for the support of the garrison, the shallop was
employed to forage about the shores of the river. A number of the men,
also, under the command of some of the clerks, were sent to quarter
themselves on the banks of the Wollamut (the Multnomah of Lewis and
Clarke), a fine river which disembogues itself into the Columbia, about
sixty miles above Astoria. The country bordering on the river is finely
diversified with prairies and hills, and forests of oak, ash, maple,
and cedar. It abounded, at that time, with elk and deer, and the streams
were well stocked with beaver. Here the party, after supplying their own
wants, were enabled to pack up quantities of dried meat, and send it by
canoes to Astoria.

The month of October elapsed without the return of the Beaver. November,
December, January, passed away, and still nothing was seen or heard of
her. Gloomy apprehensions now began to be entertained: she might have
been wrecked in the course of her coasting voyage, or surprised, like
the Tonquin, by some of the treacherous tribes of the north.

No one indulged more in these apprehensions than M'Dougal, who had
now the charge of the establishment. He no longer evinced the bustling
confidence and buoyancy which once characterized him. Command seemed to
have lost its charms for him, or rather, he gave way to the most abject
despondency, decrying the whole enterprise, magnifying every untoward
circumstance, and foreboding nothing but evil.

While in this moody state, he was surprised, on the 16th of January, by
the sudden appearance of M'Kenzie, wayworn and weather-beaten by a long
wintry journey from his post on the Shahaptan, and with a face the very
frontispiece for a volume of misfortune. M'Kenzie had been heartily
disgusted and disappointed at his post. It was in the midst of the
Tushepaws, a powerful and warlike nation, divided into many tribes,
under different chiefs, who possessed innumerable horses, but, not
having turned their attention to beaver trapping, had no furs to offer.
According to M'Kenzie, they were but a "rascally tribe;" from which we
may infer that they were prone to consult their own interests more than
comported with the interests of a greedy Indian trader.

Game being scarce, he was obliged to rely, for the most part,
on horse-flesh for subsistence, and the Indians discovering his
necessities, adopted a policy usual in civilized trade, and raised the
price of horses to an exorbitant rate, knowing that he and his men must
eat or die. In this way, the goods he had brought to trade for beaver
skins, were likely to be bartered for horseflesh, and all the proceeds
devoured upon the spot.

He had despatched trappers in various directions, but the country around
did not offer more beaver than his own station. In this emergency he
began to think of abandoning his unprofitable post, sending his goods
to the posts of Clarke and David Stuart, who could make a better use
of them, as they were in a good beaver country, and returning with his
party to Astoria, to seek some better destination. With this view he
repaired to the post of Mr. Clarke, to hold a consultation. While the
two partners were in conference in Mr. Clarke's wigwam, an unexpected
visitor came bustling in upon them.

This was Mr. John George M'Tavish, a partner of the Northwest
Company, who had charge of the rival trading posts established in that
neighborhood. Mr. M'Tavish was the delighted messenger of bad news. He
had been to Lake Winnipeg, where he received an express from Canada,
containing the declaration of war, and President Madison's proclamation,
which he handed with the most officious complaisance to Messrs. Clarke
and M'Kenzie. He moreover told them that he had received a fresh
supply of goods from the Northwest posts on the other side of the Rocky
Mountains, and was prepared for vigorous opposition to the establishment
of the American Company. He capped the climax of this obliging but
belligerent intelligence, by informing them that the armed ship, Isaac
Todd, was to be at the mouth of the Columbia about the beginning of
March, to get possession of the trade of the river, and that he was
ordered to join her there at that time.

The receipt of this news determined M'Kenzie. He immediately returned to
the Shahaptan, broke up his establishment, deposited his goods in cache,
and hastened with all his people to Astoria.

The intelligence thus brought, completed the dismay of M'Dougal, and
seemed to produce a complete confusion of mind. He held a council of war
with M'Kenzie, at which some of the clerks were present, but of course
had no votes. They gave up all hope of maintaining their post at
Astoria. The Beaver had probably been lost; they could receive no
aid from the United States, as all the ports would be blockaded. From
England nothing could be expected but hostility. It was determined,
therefore, to abandon the establishment in the course of the following
spring, and return across the Rocky Mountains. In pursuance of this
resolution, they suspended all trade with the natives, except for
provisions, having already more peltries than they could carry away, and
having need of all the goods for the clothing and subsistence of their
people, during the remainder of their sojourn, and on their journey
across the mountains, This intention of abandoning Astoria was, however,
kept secret from the men, lest they should at once give up all labor,
and become restless and insubordinate.

In the meantime, M'Kenzie set off for his post at the Shahaptan, to get
his goods from the caches, and buy horses and provisions with them for
the caravan across the mountains. He was charged with despatches from
M'Dougal to Messrs. Stuart and Clarke, appraising them of the intended
migration, that they might make timely preparations.

M'Kenzie was accompanied by two of the clerks, Mr. John Reed, the
Irishman, and Mr. Alfred Seton, of New York. They embarked in two
canoes, manned by seventeen men, and ascended the river without any
incident of importance, until they arrived in the eventful neighborhood
of the rapids. They made the portage of the narrows and the falls early
in the afternoon, and, having partaken of a scanty meal, had now a long
evening on their hands.

On the opposite side of the river lay the village of Wish-ram, of
freebooting renown. Here lived the savages who had robbed and maltreated
Reed, when bearing his tin box of despatches. It was known that the
rifle of which he was despoiled was retained as a trophy at the village.
M'Kenzie offered to cross the river, and demand the rifle, if any one
would accompany him. It was a hare-brained project, for these villages
were noted for the ruffian character of their inhabitants; yet two
volunteers promptly stepped forward; Alfred Seton, the clerk, and Joe
de la Pierre, the cook. The trio soon reached the opposite side of the
river. On landing, they freshly primed their rifles and pistols. A path
winding for about a hundred yards among rocks and crags, led to the
village. No notice seemed to be taken of their approach. Not a solitary
being, man, woman, or child, greeted them.

The very dogs, those noisy pests of an Indian town, kept silence. On
entering the village, a boy made his appearance, and pointed to a house
of larger dimensions than the rest. They had to stoop to enter it; as
soon as they had passed the threshold, the narrow passage behind them
was filled up by a sudden rush of Indians, who had before kept out of

M'Kenzie and his companions found themselves in a rude chamber of about
twenty-five feet long and twenty wide. A bright fire was blazing at one
end, near which sat the chief, about sixty years old. A large number of
Indians, wrapped in buffalo robes, were squatted in rows, three deep,
forming a semicircle round three sides of the room. A single glance
around sufficed to show them the grim and dangerous assembly into which
they had intruded, and that all retreat was cut off by the mass which
blocked up the entrance.

The chief pointed to the vacant side of the room opposite to the door,
and motioned for them to take their seats. They complied. A dead pause
ensued. The grim warriors around sat like statues; each muffled in his
robe, with his fierce eyes bent on the intruders. The latter felt they
were in a perilous predicament.

"Keep your eyes on the chief while I am addressing him," said M'Kenzie
to his companions. "Should he give any sign to his band, shoot him, and
make for the door."

M'Kenzie advanced, and offered the pipe of peace to the chief, but it
was refused. He then made a regular speech, explaining the object
of their visit, and proposing to give in exchange for the rifle two
blankets, an axe, some beads and tobacco.

When he had done, the chief rose, began to address him in a low voice,
but soon became loud and violent, and ended by working himself up into a
furious passion. He upbraided the white men for their sordid conduct in
passing and repassing through their neighborhood, without giving them a
blanket or any other article of goods, merely because they had no furs
to barter in exchange, and he alluded, with menaces of vengeance, to the
death of the Indian killed by the whites in the skirmish at the falls.

Matters were verging to a crisis. It was evident the surrounding savages
were only waiting a signal from the chief to spring upon their prey.
M'Kenzie and his companions had gradually risen on their feet during
the speech, and had brought their rifles to a horizontal position, the
barrels resting in their left hands; the muzzle of M'Kenzie's piece was
within three feet of the speaker's heart. They cocked their rifles; the
click of the locks for a moment suffused the dark cheek of the savage,
and there was a pause. They coolly, but promptly, advanced to the door;
the Indians fell back in awe, and suffered them to pass. The sun was
just setting, as they emerged from this dangerous den. They took the
precaution to keep along the tops of the rocks as much as possible
on their way back to the canoe, and reached their camp in safety,
congratulating themselves on their escape, and feeling no desire to make
a second visit to the grim warriors of Wish-ram.

M'Kenzie and his party resumed their journey the next morning. At some
distance above the falls of the Columbia, they observed two bark canoes,
filled with white men, coming down the river, to the full chant of a
set of Canadian voyageurs. A parley ensued. It was a detachment of
Northwesters, under the command of Mr. John George M'Tavish, bound, full
of song and spirit, to the mouth of the Columbia, to await the arrival
of the Isaac Todd.

Mr. M'Kenzie and M'Tavish came to a halt, and landing, encamped for the
night. The voyageurs of either party hailed each other as brothers, and
old "comrades," and they mingled together as if united by one common
interest, instead of belonging to rival companies, and trading under
hostile flags.

In the morning they proceeded on their different ways, in style
corresponding to their different fortunes: the one toiling painfully
against the stream, the other sweeping down gayly with the Current.

M'Kenzie arrived safely at his deserted post on the Shahaptan, but
found, to his chagrin, that his caches had been discovered and rifled by
the Indians. Here was a dilemma, for on the stolen goods he had depended
to purchase horses of the Indians. He sent out men in all directions to
endeavor to discover the thieves, and despatched Mr. Reed to the posts
of Messrs. Clarke and David Stuart, with the letters of Mr. M'Dougal.

The resolution announced in these letters, to break up and depart from
Astoria, was condemned by both Clarke and Stuart. These two gentlemen
had been very successful at their posts, and considered it rash and
pusillanimous to abandon, on the first difficulty, an enterprise of such
great cost and ample promise. They made no arrangements, therefore, for
leaving the country, but acted with a view to the maintenance of their
new and prosperous establishments.

The regular time approached, when the partners of the interior--posts
were to rendezvous at the mouth of the Wallah-Wallah, on their way to
Astoria, with the peltries they had collected. Mr. Clarke accordingly
packed all his furs on twenty-eight horses, and, leaving a clerk and
four men to take charge of the post, departed on the 25th of May with
the residue of his force.

On the 30th, he arrived at the confluence of the Pavion and Lewis
rivers, where he had left his barge and canoes, in the guardianship of
the old Pierced-nosed chieftain. That dignitary had acquitted himself
more faithfully to his charge than Mr. Clarke had expected, and the
canoes were found in very tolerable order. Some repairs were necessary,
and, while they were making, the party encamped close by the village.
Having had repeated and vexatious proofs of the pilfering propensities
of this tribe during his former visit, Mr. Clarke ordered that a wary
eye should be kept upon them.

He was a tall, good-looking man, and somewhat given to pomp and
circumstance, which made him an object of note in the eyes of the
wondering savages. He was stately, too, in his appointments, and had
a silver goblet or drinking cup, out of which he would drink with
a magnificent air, and then lock it up in a large garde vin, which
accompanied him in his travels, and stood in his tent. This goblet
had originally been sent as a present from Mr. Astor to Mr. M'Kay,
the partner who had unfortunately been blown up in the Tonquin. As it
reached Astoria after the departure of that gentleman, it had remained
in the possession of Mr. Clarke.

A silver goblet was too glittering a prize not to catch the eye of a
Pierced-nose. It was like the shining tin case of John Reed. Such a
wonder had never been seen in the land before. The Indians talked about
it to one another. They marked the care with which it was deposited in
the garde vin, like a relic in its shrine, and concluded that it must
be a "great medicine." That night Mr. Clarke neglected to lock up his
treasure; in the morning the sacred casket was open--the precious relic

Clarke was now outrageous. All the past vexations that he had suffered
from this pilfering community rose to mind, and he threatened that,
unless the goblet was promptly returned, he would hang the thief, should
he eventually discover him. The day passed away, however, without the
restoration of the cup. At night sentinels were secretly posted about
the camp. With all their vigilance, a Pierced-nose contrived to get into
the camp unperceived, and to load himself with booty; it was only on his
retreat that he was discovered and taken.

At daybreak the culprit was brought to trial, and promptly convicted.
He stood responsible for all the spoliations of the camp, the precious
goblet among the number, and Mr. Clarke passed sentence of death upon

A gibbet was accordingly constructed of oars; the chief of the village
and his people were assembled, and the culprit was produced, with his
legs and arms pinioned. Clarke then made a harangue. He reminded the
tribe of the benefits he had bestowed upon them during his former
visits, and the many thefts and other misdeeds which he had overlooked.
The prisoner, especially, had always been peculiarly well treated by
the white men, but had repeatedly been guilty of pilfering. He was to be
punished for his own misdeeds, and as a warning to his tribe.

The Indians now gathered round Mr. Clarke, and interceded for the
culprit. They were willing he should be punished severely, but implored
that his life might be spared. The companions, too, of Mr. Clarke,
considered the sentence too severe, and advised him to mitigate it; but
he was inexorable. He was not naturally a stern or cruel man; but from
his boyhood he had lived in the Indian country among Indian traders,
and held the life of a savage extremely cheap. He was, moreover, a firm
believer in the doctrine of intimidation.

Farnham, a clerk, a tall "Green Mountain boy" from Vermont, who had been
robbed of a pistol, acted as executioner. The signal was given, and
the poor Pierced-nose resisting, struggling, and screaming, in the most
frightful manner, was launched into eternity. The Indians stood round
gazing in silence and mute awe, but made no attempt to oppose the
execution, nor testified any emotion when it was over. They locked up
their feelings within their bosoms until an opportunity should arrive to
gratify them with a bloody act of vengeance.

To say nothing of the needless severity of this act, its impolicy was
glaringly obvious. Mr. M'Lennan and three men were to return to the post
with the horses, their loads having been transferred to the canoes. They
would have to pass through a tract of country infested by this tribe,
who were all horsemen and hard riders, and might pursue them to take
vengeance for the death of their comrade. M'Lennan, however, was a
resolute fellow, and made light of all dangers. He and his three men
were present at the execution, and set off as soon as life was extinct
in the victim; but, to use the words of one of their comrades, "they
did not let the grass grow under the heels of their horses, as they
clattered out of the Pierced-nose country," and were glad to find
themselves in safety at the post.

Mr. Clarke and his party embarked about the same time in their canoes,
and early on the following day reached the mouth of the Wallah-Wallah,
where they found Messrs. Stuart and M'Kenzie awaiting them; the latter
having recovered part of the goods stolen from his cache. Clarke
informed them of the signal punishment he had inflicted on the
Pierced-nose, evidently expecting to excite their admiration by such a
hardy act of justice, performed in the very midst of the Indian
country, but was mortified at finding it strongly censured as inhuman,
unnecessary, and likely to provoke hostilities.

The parties thus united formed a squadron of two boats and six canoes,
with which they performed their voyage in safety down the river, and
arrived at Astoria on the 12th of June, bringing with them a valuable
stock of peltries.

About ten days previously, the brigade which had been quartered on the
banks of the Wollamut, had arrived with numerous packs of beaver, the
result of a few months' sojourn on that river. These were the first
fruits of the enterprise, gathered by men as yet mere strangers in the
land; but they were such as to give substantial grounds for sanguine
anticipations of profit, when the country should be more completely
explored, and the trade established.


     The Partners Displeased With M'Dougal.--Equivocal Conduct of
     That Gentleman--Partners Agree to Abandon Astoria.--Sale of
     Goods to M'Tavish.--Arrangements for the Year.--Manifesto
     Signed by the Partners--Departure of M'Tavish for the

THE partners found Mr. M'Dougal in all the bustle of preparation; having
about nine days previously announced at the factory, his intention of
breaking up the establishment, and fixed upon the 1st of July for the
time of departure. Messrs. Stuart and Clarke felt highly displeased at
his taking so precipitate a step, without waiting for their concurrence,
when he must have known that their arrival could not be far distant.

Indeed, the whole conduct of Mr. M'Dougal was such as to awaken strong
doubts as to his loyal devotion to the cause. His old sympathies with
the Northwest Company seem to have revived. He had received M'Tavish and
his party with uncalled for hospitality, as though they were friends and
allies, instead of being a party of observation, come to reconnoitre the
state of affairs at Astoria, and to await the arrival of a hostile ship.
Had they been left to themselves, they would have been starved off for
want of provisions, or driven away by the Chinooks, who only wanted
a signal from the factory to treat them as intruders and enemies.
M'Dougal, on the contrary, had supplied them from the stores of the
garrison, and had gained them the favor of the Indians, by treating them
as friends.

Having set his mind fixedly on the project of breaking up the
establishment at Astoria, in the current year, M'Dougal was sorely
disappointed at finding that Messrs. Stuart and Clarke had omitted
to comply with his request to purchase horses and provisions for the
caravan across the mountains. It was now too late to make the necessary
preparations in time for traversing the mountains before winter, and the
project had to be postponed.

In the meantime, the non-arrival of the annual ship, and the
apprehensions entertained of the loss of the Beaver and of Mr. Hunt, had
their effect upon the minds of Messrs. Stuart and Clarke. They began
to listen to the desponding representations of M'Dougal, seconded
by M'Kenzie, who inveighed against their situation as desperate and
forlorn; left to shift for themselves, or perish upon a barbarous coast;
neglected by those who sent them there; and threatened with dangers
of every kind. In this way they were brought to consent to the plan of
abandoning the country in the ensuing year.

About this time, M'Tavish applied at the factory to purchase a small
supply of goods wherewith to trade his way back to his post on the upper
waters of the Columbia, having waited in vain for the arrival of the
Isaac Todd. His request brought on a consultation among the partners.
M'Dougal urged that it should be complied with. He furthermore proposed,
that they should give up to M'Tavish, for a proper consideration, the
post on the Spokan, and all its dependencies, as they had not sufficient
goods on hand to supply that post themselves, and to keep up a
competition with the Northwest Company in the trade with the neighboring
Indians. This last representation has since been proved incorrect. By
inventories, it appears that their stock in hand for the supply of the
interior posts, was superior to that of the Northwest Company; so that
they had nothing to fear from competition.

Through the influence of Messrs. M'Dougal and M'Kenzie, this proposition
was adopted, and was promptly accepted by M'Tavish. The merchandise sold
to him amounted to eight hundred and fifty-eight dollars, to be paid
for, in the following spring, in horses, or in any other manner most
acceptable to the partners at that period.

This agreement being concluded, the partners formed their plans for
the year that they would yet have to pass in the country. Their objects
were, chiefly, present subsistence, and the purchase of horses for
the contemplated journey, though they were likewise to collect as much
peltries as their diminished means would command. Accordingly, it was
arranged that David Stuart should return to his former post on the
Oakinagan, and Mr. Clarke should make his sojourn among the Flatheads.
John Reed, the sturdy Hibernian, was to undertake the Snake River
country, accompanied by Pierre Dorion and Pierre Delaunay, as hunters,
and Francis Landry, Jean Baptiste Turcotte, Andre la Chapelle, and
Gilles le Clerc, Canadian voyageurs.

Astoria, however, was the post about which they felt the greatest
solicitude, and on which they all more or less depended. The maintenance
of this in safety throughout the coming year, was, therefore, their
grand consideration. Mr. M'Dougal was to continue in command of it,
with a party of forty men. They would have to depend chiefly upon the
neighboring savages for their subsistence. These, at present, were
friendly, but it was to be feared that, when they should discover the
exigencies of the post, and its real weakness, they might proceed
to hostilities; or, at any rate, might cease to furnish their
usual supplies. It was important, therefore, to render the place as
independent as possible, of the surrounding tribes for its support; and
it was accordingly resolved that M'Kenzie, with four hunters, and eight
common men, should winter in the abundant country of Wollamut, from
whence they might be enabled to furnish a constant supply of provisions
to Astoria.

As there was too great a proportion of clerks for the number of privates
in the service, the engagements of three of them, Ross Cox, Ross,
and M'Lennan, were surrendered to them, and they immediately enrolled
themselves in the service of the Northwest Company; glad, no doubt, to
escape from what they considered a sinking ship.

Having made all these arrangements, the four partners, on the first of
July, signed a formal manifesto, stating the alarming state of their
affairs, from the non-arrival of the annual ship, and the absence and
apprehended loss of the Beaver, their want of goods, their despair of
receiving any further supply, their ignorance of the coast, and their
disappointment as to the interior trade, which they pronounced unequal
to the expenses incurred, and incompetent to stand against the powerful
opposition of the Northwest Company. And as by the 16th article of the
company's agreement, they were authorized to abandon this undertaking,
and dissolve the concern, if before the period of five years it should
be found unprofitable, they now formally announced their intention to
do so on the 1st day of June, of the ensuing year, unless in the interim
they should receive the necessary support and supplies from Mr. Astor,
or the stockholders, with orders to continue.

This instrument, accompanied by private letters of similar import, was
delivered to Mr. M'Tavish, who departed on the 5th of July. He engaged
to forward the despatches to Mr. Astor, by the usual winter express sent
overland by the Northwest Company.

The manifesto was signed with great reluctance by Messrs. Clarke and D.
Stuart, whose experience by no means justified the discouraging
account given in it of the internal trade, and who considered the
main difficulties of exploring an unknown and savage country, and of
ascertaining the best trading and trapping grounds, in a great measure
overcome. They were overruled, however, by the urgent instances
of M'Dougal and M'Kenzie, who, having resolved upon abandoning the
enterprise, were desirous of making as strong a case as possible to
excuse their conduct to Mr. Astor and to the world.


     Anxieties of Mr. Astor.--Memorial of the Northwest Company--
     Tidings of a British Naval Expedition Against Astoria.--Mr.
     Astor Applies to Government for Protection.--The Frigate
     Adams Ordered to be Fitted Out.--Bright News From Astoria.--
     Sunshine Suddenly Overclouded.

WHILE difficulties and disasters had been gathering about the infant
settlement of Astoria, the mind of its projector at New York was a prey
to great anxiety. The ship Lark, despatched by him with supplies for
the establishment, sailed on the 6th of March, 1813. Within a
fortnight afterwards, he received intelligence which justified all his
apprehensions of hostility on the part of the British. The Northwest
Company had made a second memorial to that government, representing
Astoria as an American establishment, stating the vast scope of its
contemplated operations, magnifying the strength of its fortifications,
and expressing their fears that, unless crushed in the bud, it would
effect the downfall of their trade.

Influenced by these representations, the British government ordered
the frigate Phoebe to be detached as a convoy for the armed ship, Isaac
Todd, which was ready to sail with men and munitions for forming a
new establishment. They were to proceed together to the mouth of the
Columbia, capture or destroy whatever American fortress they should find
there, and plant the British flag on its ruins.

Informed of these movements, Mr. Astor lost no time in addressing
a second letter to the secretary of state, communicating this
intelligence, and requesting it might be laid before the President; as
no notice, however, had been taken of his previous letter, he contented
himself with this simple communication, and made no further application
for aid.

Awakened now to the danger that menaced the establishment at Astoria,
and aware of the importance of protecting this foothold of American
commerce and empire on the shores of the Pacific, the government
determined to send the frigate Adams, Captain Crane, upon this service.
On hearing of this determination, Mr. Astor immediately proceeded to
fit out a ship called the Enterprise, to sail in company with the Adams,
freighted with additional supplies and reinforcements for Astoria.

About the middle of June, while in the midst of these preparations, Mr.
Astor received a letter from Mr. R. Stuart, dated St. Louis, May
1st, confirming the intelligence already received through the public
newspapers, of his safe return, and of the arrival of Mr. Hunt and
his party at Astoria, and giving the most flattering accounts of the
prosperity of the enterprise.

So deep had been the anxiety of Mr. Astor, for the success of this
object of his ambition, that this gleam of good news was almost
overpowering. "I felt ready," said he, "to fall upon my knees in a
transport of gratitude."

At the same time he heard that the Beaver had made good her voyage from
New York to the Columbia. This was additional ground of hope for
the welfare of the little colony. The post being thus relieved and
strengthened, with an American at its head, and a ship of war about
to sail for its protection, the prospect for the future seemed full of
encouragement, and Mr. Astor proceeded with fresh vigor to fit out his
merchant ship.

Unfortunately for Astoria, this bright gleam of sunshine was soon
overclouded. Just as the Adams had received her complement of men, and
the two vessels were ready for sea, news came from Commodore Chauncey,
commanding on Lake Ontario, that a reinforcement of seamen was wanted
in that quarter. The demand was urgent, the crew of the Adams was
immediately transferred to that service, and the ship was laid up.

This was a most ill-timed and discouraging blow, but Mr. Astor would not
yet allow himself to pause in his undertaking. He determined to send
the Enterprise to sea alone, and let her take the chance of making her
unprotected way across the ocean. Just at this time, however, a British
force made its appearance off the Hook; and the port of New York was
effectually blockaded. To send a ship to sea under these circumstances,
would be to expose her to almost certain capture. The Enterprise was,
therefore, unloaded and dismantled, and Mr. Astor was obliged to comfort
himself with the hope that the Lark might reach Astoria in safety and,
that, aided by her supplies, and by the good management of Mr. Hunt and
his associates, the little colony might be able to maintain itself until
the return of peace.


     Affairs of State at Astoria.--M'Dougal Proposes for the Hand
     of An Indian Princess--Matrimonial Embassy to Comcomly.--
     Matrimonial Notions Among the Chinooks.--Settlements and
     Pin-Money.--The Bringing Home of the Bride.--A Managing
     Father-in-Law.--Arrival of Mr. Hunt at Astoria.

WE have hitherto had so much to relate of a gloomy and disastrous
nature, that it is with a feeling of momentary relief we turn to
something of a more pleasing complexion, and record the first, and
indeed only nuptials in high life that took place in the infant
settlement of Astoria.

M'Dougal, who appears to have been a man of a thousand projects, and of
great, though somewhat irregular ambition, suddenly conceived the idea
of seeking the hand of one of the native princesses, a daughter of the
one-eyed potentate Comcomly, who held sway over the fishing tribe of the
Chinooks, and had long supplied the factory with smelts and sturgeons.

Some accounts give rather a romantic origin to this affair, tracing
it to the stormy night when M'Dougal, in the course of an exploring
expedition, was driven by stress of weather to seek shelter in the royal
abode of Comcomly. Then and there he was first struck with the charms of
the piscatory princess, as she exerted herself to entertain her father's

The "journal of Astoria," however, which was kept under his own eye,
records this union as a high state alliance, and great stroke of policy.
The factory had to depend, in a great measure, on the Chinooks for
provisions. They were at present friendly, but it was to be feared
they would prove otherwise, should they discover the weakness and the
exigencies of the post, and the intention to leave the country. This
alliance, therefore, would infallibly rivet Comcomly to the interests of
the Astorians, and with him the powerful tribe of the Chinooks. Be this
as it may, and it is hard to fathom the real policy of governors
and princes, M'Dougal despatched two of the clerks as ambassadors
extraordinary, to wait upon the one-eyed chieftain, and make overtures
for the hand of his daughter.

The Chinooks, though not a very refined nation, have notions of
matrimonial arrangements that would not disgrace the most refined
sticklers for settlements and pin-money. The suitor repairs not to the
bower of his mistress, but to her father's lodge, and throws down a
present at his feet. His wishes are then disclosed by some discreet
friend employed by him for the purpose. If the suitor and his present
find favor in the eyes of the father, he breaks the matter to his
daughter, and inquires into the state of her inclinations. Should her
answer be favorable, the suit is accepted and the lover has to make
further presents to the father, of horses, canoes, and other valuables,
according to the beauty and merits of the bride; looking forward to a
return in kind whenever they shall go to housekeeping.

We have more than once had occasion to speak of the shrewdness, of
Comcomly; but never was it exerted more adroitly than on this occasion.
He was a great friend of M'Dougal, and pleased with the idea of having
so distinguished a son-in-law; but so favorable an opportunity of
benefiting his own fortune was not likely to occur a second time, and
he determined to make the most of it. Accordingly, the negotiation was
protracted with true diplomatic skill. Conference after conference was
held with the two ambassadors. Comcomly was extravagant in his terms;
rating the charms of his daughter at the highest price, and indeed she
is represented as having one of the flattest and most aristocratical
heads in the tribe. At length the preliminaries were all happily
adjusted. On the 20th of July, early in the afternoon, a squadron of
canoes crossed over from the village of the Chinooks, bearing the royal
family of Comcomly, and all his court.

That worthy sachem landed in princely state, arrayed in a bright blue
blanket and red breech clout, with an extra quantity of paint and
feathers, attended by a train of half-naked warriors and nobles. A horse
was in waiting to receive the princess, who was mounted behind one of
the clerks, and thus conveyed, coy but compliant, to the fortress.
Here she was received with devout, though decent joy, by her expecting

Her bridal adornments, it is true, at first caused some little dismay,
having painted and anointed herself for the occasion according to the
Chinook toilet; by dint, however, of copious ablutions, she was freed
from all adventitious tint and fragrance, and entered into the nuptial
state, the cleanest princess that had ever been known, of the somewhat
unctuous tribe of the Chinooks.

From that time forward, Comcomly was a daily visitor at the fort, and
was admitted into the most intimate councils of his son-in-law. He took
an interest in everything that was going forward, but was particularly
frequent in his visits to the blacksmith's shop; tasking the labors
of the artificer in iron for every state, insomuch that the necessary
business of the factory was often postponed to attend to his

The honey-moon had scarce passed away, and M'Dougal was seated with
his bride in the fortress of Astoria, when, about noon of the 20th of
August, Gassacop, the son of Comcomly, hurried into his presence with
great agitation, and announced a ship at the mouth of the river. The
news produced a vast sensation. Was it a ship of peace or war? Was
it American or British? Was it the Beaver or the Isaac Todd? M'Dougal
hurried to the waterside, threw himself into a boat, and ordered the
hands to pull with all speed for the mouth of the harbor. Those in
the fort remained watching the entrance of the river, anxious to know
whether they were to prepare for greeting a friend or fighting an enemy.
At length the ship was descried crossing the bar, and bending her course
towards Astoria. Every gaze was fixed upon her in silent scrutiny,
until the American flag was recognized. A general shout was the first
expression of joy, and next a salutation was thundered from the cannon
of the fort.

The vessel came to anchor on the opposite side of the river, and
returned the salute. The boat of Mr. M'Dougal went on board, and was
seen returning late in the afternoon. The Astorians watched her with
straining eyes, to discover who were on board, but the sun went down,
and the evening closed in, before she was sufficiently near. At length
she reached the land, and Mr. Hunt stepped on shore. He was hailed
as one risen from the dead, and his return was a signal for merriment
almost equal to that which prevailed at the nuptials of M'Dougal.

We must now explain the cause of this gentleman's long absence, which
had given rise to such gloomy and dispiriting surmises.


     Voyage of the Beaver to New Archangel.--A Russian Governor.--
     Roystering Rule.--The Tyranny of the Table--Hard Drinking
     Bargainings.--Voyage to Kamtschatka.--Seal Catching
     Establishment at St. Paul's.--Storms at Sea.--Mr. Hunt Left
     at the Sandwich Islands.--Transactions of the Beaver at
     Canton.--Return of Mr. Hunt to Astoria.

IT will be recollected that the destination of the Boston, when she
sailed from Astoria on the 4th of August in 1812, was to proceed
northwardly along the coast to Sheetka, or New Archangel, there to
dispose of that part of her cargo intended for the supply of the Russian
establishment at that place, and then to return to Astoria, where it was
expected she would arrive in October.

New Archangel is situated in Norfolk Sound, lat. 57deg 2' N., long.
135deg 50' W. It was the head-quarters of the different colonies of the
Russian Fur Company, and the common rendezvous of the American vessels
trading along the coast.

The Beaver met with nothing worthy of particular mention in her voyage,
and arrived at New Archangel on the 19th of August. The place at that
time was the residence of Count Baranoff, the governor of the different
colonies; a rough, rugged, hospitable, hard-drinking old Russian;
somewhat of a soldier; somewhat of a trader; above all, a boon companion
of the old roystering school, with a strong cross of the bear.

Mr. Hunt found this hyperborean veteran ensconced in a fort which
crested the whole of a rocky promontory. It mounted one hundred guns,
large and small, and was impregnable to Indian attack, unaided by
artillery. Here the old governor lorded it over sixty Russians, who
formed the corps of the trading establishment, besides an indefinite
number of Indian hunters of the Kodiak tribe, who were continually
coming and going, or lounging and loitering about the fort like so many
hounds round a sportsman's hunting quarters. Though a loose liver among
his guests, the governor was a strict disciplinarian among his men;
keeping them in perfect subjection, and having seven on guard night and

Besides those immediate serfs and dependents just mentioned, the old
Russian potentate exerted a considerable sway over a numerous and
irregular class of maritime traders, who looked to him for aid and
munitions, and through whom he may be said to have, in some degree,
extended his power along the whole northwest coast. These were American
captains of vessels engaged in a particular department of the trade.
One of these captains would come, in a manner, empty-handed to New
Archangel. Here his ship would be furnished with about fifty canoes and
a hundred Kodiak hunters, and fitted out with provisions, and everything
necessary for hunting the sea-otter on the coast of California, where
the Russians have another establishment. The ship would ply along the
California coast from place to place, dropping parties of otter hunters
in their canoes, furnishing them only with water, and leaving them to
depend upon their own dexterity for a maintenance. When a sufficient
cargo was collected, she would gather up her canoes and hunters, and
return with them to Archangel; where the captain would render in the
returns of his voyage, and receive one half of the skins for his share.

Over these coasting captains, as we have hinted, the veteran governor
exerted some sort of sway, but it was of a peculiar and characteristic
kind; it was the tyranny of the table. They were obliged to join him in
his "prosnics" or carousals, and to drink "potations pottle deep." His
carousals, too, were not of the most quiet kind, nor were his potations
as mild as nectar. "He is continually," said Mr. Hunt, "giving
entertainments by way of parade, and if you do not drink raw rum, and
boiling punch as strong as sulphur, he will insult you as soon as he
gets drunk, which is very shortly after sitting down to table."

As to any "temperance captain" who stood fast to his faith, and refused
to give up his sobriety, he might go elsewhere for a market, for he
stood no chance with the governor. Rarely, however, did any cold-water
caitiff of the kind darken the doors of old Baranoff; the coasting
captains knew too well his humor and their own interests; they joined in
his revels, they drank, and sang, and whooped, and hiccuped, until they
all got "half seas over," and then affairs went on swimmingly.

An awful warning to all "flinchers" occurred shortly before Mr. Hunt's
arrival. A young naval officer had recently been sent out by the emperor
to take command of one of the company's vessels. The governor, as usual,
had him at his "prosnics," and plied him with fiery potations. The young
man stood on the defensive until the old count's ire was completely
kindled; he carried his point, and made the greenhorn tipsy, willy
nilly. In proportion as they grew fuddled they grew noisy, they
quarrelled in their cups; the youngster paid old Baranoff in his own
coin by rating him soundly; in reward for which, when sober, he was
taken the rounds of four pickets, and received seventy-nine lashes,
taled out with Russian punctuality of punishment.

Such was the old grizzled bear with whom Mr. Hunt had to do his
business. How he managed to cope with his humor; whether he pledged
himself in raw rum and blazing punch, and "clinked the can" with him as
they made their bargains, does not appear upon record; we must infer,
however, from his general observations on the absolute sway of this
hard-drinking potentate, that he had to conform to the customs of his
court, and that their business transactions presented a maudlin mixture
of punch and peltry.

The greatest annoyance to Mr. Hunt, however, was the delay to which he
was subjected, in disposing of the cargo of the ship, and getting the
requisite returns. With all the governor's devotions to the bottle,
he never obfuscated his faculties sufficiently to lose sight of his
interest, and is represented by Mr. Hunt as keen, not to say crafty,
at a bargain, as the most arrant waterdrinker. A long time was expended
negotiating with him, and by the time the bargain was concluded, the
month of October had arrived. To add to the delay he was to be paid for
his cargo in seal skins. Now it so happened that there was none of this
kind of peltry at the fort of old Baranoff. It was necessary, therefore,
for Mr. Hunt to proceed to a seal-catching establishment, which
the Russian company had at the island of St. Paul, in the Sea of
Kamtschatka. He accordingly set sail on the 4th of October, after having
spent forty-five days at New Archangel boosing and bargaining with its
roystering commander, and right glad was he to escape from the clutches
of "this old man of the sea."

The Beaver arrived at St. Paul's on the 31st of October; by which time,
according to arrangement, he ought to have been back at Astoria. The
island of St. Paul is in latitude 57deg N., longitude 170deg or 171deg
W. Its shores, in certain places, and at certain seasons, are covered
with seals, while others are playing about in the water. Of these, the
Russians take only the small ones, from seven to ten months old, and
carefully select the males, giving the females their freedom, that the
breed may not be diminished. The islanders, however, kill the large
ones for provisions, and for skins wherewith to cover their canoes. They
drive them from the shore over the rocks, until within a short distance
of their habitations, where they kill them. By this means, they save
themselves the trouble of carrying the skins and have the flesh at hand.
This is thrown in heaps, and when the season for skinning is over,
they take out the entrails and make one heap of the blubber. This, with
drift-wood, serves for fuel, for the island is entirely destitute of
trees. They make another heap of the flesh, which, with the eggs of
sea-fowls, preserved in oil, an occasional sea-lion, a few ducks in
winter, and some wild roots, compose their food.

Mr. Hunt found several Russians at the island, and one hundred hunters,
natives of Oonalaska, with their families. They lived in cabins that
looked like canoes; being, for the most part formed of the jaw-bone of
a whale, put up as rafters, across which were laid pieces of driftwood
covered over with long grass, the skins of large sea animals, and earth;
so as to be quite comfortable, in despite of the rigors of the climate;
though we are told they had as ancient and fish-like an odor, "as had
the quarters of Jonah, when he lodged within the whale."

In one of these odoriferous mansions, Mr. Hunt occasionally took up his
abode, that he might be at hand to hasten the loading of the ship. The
operation, however, was somewhat slow, for it was necessary to overhaul
and inspect every pack to prevent imposition, and the peltries had then
to be conveyed in large boats, made of skins, to the ship, which was
some little distance from the shore, standing off and on.

One night, while Mr. Hunt was on shore, with some others of the crew,
there arose a terrible gale. When the day broke, the ship was not to be
seen. He watched for her with anxious eyes until night, but in vain. Day
after day of boisterous storms, and howling wintry weather, were passed
in watchfulness and solicitude. Nothing was to be seen but a dark and
angry sea, and a scowling northern sky; and at night he retired within
the jaws of the whale, and nestled disconsolately among seal skins.

At length, on the 13th of November, the Beaver made her appearance;
much the worse for the stormy conflicts which she had sustained in those
hyperborean seas. She had been obliged to carry a press of sail in heavy
gales to be able to hold her ground, and had consequently sustained
great damage in her canvas and rigging. Mr. Hunt lost no time in
hurrying the residue of the cargo on board of her; then, bidding adieu
to his seal-fishing friends, and his whalebone habitation, he put forth
once more to sea.

He was now for making the best of his way to Astoria, and fortunate
would it have been for the interests of that place, and the interests of
Mr. Astor, had he done so; but, unluckily, a perplexing question rose
in his mind. The sails and rigging of the Beaver had been much rent and
shattered in the late storm; would she be able to stand the hard gales
to be expected in making Columbia River at this season? Was it prudent,
also, at this boisterous time of the year to risk the valuable cargo
which she now had on board, by crossing and recrossing the dangerous
bar of that river? These doubts were probably suggested or enforced by
Captain Sowle, who, it has already been seen, was an over-cautious, or
rather, a timid seaman, and they may have had some weight with Mr. Hunt;
but there were other considerations, which more strongly swayed his
mind. The lateness of the season, and the unforeseen delays the ship
had encountered at New Archangel, and by being obliged to proceed to St.
Paul's, had put her so much back in her calculated time, that there was
a risk of her arriving so late at Canton, as to come to a bad market,
both for the sale of her peltries, and the purchase of a return cargo.
He considered it to the interest of the company, therefore, that he
should proceed at once to the Sandwich Islands; there wait the arrival
of the annual vessel from New York, take passage in her to Astoria, and
suffer the Beaver to continue on to Canton.

On the other hand, he was urged to the other course by his engagements;
by the plan of the voyage marked out for the Beaver, by Mr. Astor; by
his inclination, and the possibility that the establishment might need
his presence, and by the recollection that there must already be a large
amount of peltries collected at Astoria, and waiting for the return of
the Beaver, to convey them to market.

These conflicting questions perplexed and agitated his mind and gave
rise to much anxious reflection, for he was a conscientious man that
seems ever to have aimed at a faithful discharge of his duties, and to
have had the interests of his employers earnestly at heart. His decision
in the present instance was injudicious, and proved unfortunate. It was,
to bear away for the Sandwich Islands. He persuaded himself that it was
a matter of necessity, and that the distressed condition of the ship
left him no other alternative; but we rather suspect he was so persuaded
by the representations of the timid captain. They accordingly stood for
the Sandwich Islands, arrived at Woahoo, where the ship underwent the
necessary repairs, and again put to sea on the 1st of January, 1813;
leaving Mr. Hunt on the island.

We will follow the Beaver to Canton, as her fortunes, in some measure,
exemplify the evil of commanders of ships acting contrary to orders;
and as they form a part of the tissue of cross purposes that marred the
great commercial enterprise we have undertaken to record.

The Beaver arrived safe at Canton, where Captain Sowle found the letter
of Mr. Astor, giving him information of the war and directing him to
convey the intelligence to Astoria. He wrote a reply, dictated either by
timidity or obstinacy, in which he declined complying with the orders of
Mr. Astor, but said he would wait for the return of peace, and then come
home. The other proceedings of Captain Sowle were equally wrongheaded
and unlucky. He was offered one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for
the fur he had taken on board at St. Paul's. The goods for which it had
been procured cost but twenty-five thousand dollars in New York. Had he
accepted this offer, and re-invested the amount in nankeens, which at
that time, in consequence of the interruption to commerce by the war,
were at two thirds of their usual price, the whole would have brought
three hundred thousand dollars in New York. It is true, the war would
have rendered it unsafe to attempt the homeward voyage, but he might
have put the goods in store at Canton, until after the peace, and have
sailed without risk of capture to Astoria; bringing to the partners at
that place tidings of the great profits realized on the outward cargo,
and the still greater to be expected from the returns. The news of such
a brilliant commencement to their undertaking would have counterbalanced
the gloomy tidings of the war; it would have infused new spirit into
them all, and given them courage and constancy to persevere in the
enterprise. Captain Sowle, however, refused the offer of one hundred
and fifty thousand dollars, and stood wavering and chaffering for
higher terms. The furs began to fall in value; this only increased
his irresolution; they sunk so much that he feared to sell at all; he
borrowed money on Mr. Astor's account at an interest of eighteen per
cent., and laid up his ship to await the return of peace.

In the meanwhile, Mr. Hunt soon saw reason to repent the resolution he
had adopted in altering the destination of the ship. His stay at the
Sandwich Islands was prolonged far beyond expectation. He looked in
vain for the annual ship in the spring. Month after month passed by,
and still she did not make her appearance. He, too, proved the danger of
departing from orders. Had he returned from St. Paul's to Astoria, all
the anxiety and despondency about his fate, and about the whole course
of the undertaking, would have been obviated. The Beaver would have
received the furs collected at the factory and taken them to Canton, and
great gains, instead of great losses, would have been the result. The
greatest blunder, however, was that committed by Captain Sowle.

At length, about the 20th of June, the ship Albatross, Captain Smith,
arrived from China, and brought the first tidings of the war to the
Sandwich Islands. Mr. Hunt was no longer in doubt and perplexity as to
the reason of the non-appearance of the annual ship. His first thoughts
were for the welfare of Astoria, and, concluding that the inhabitants
would probably be in want of provisions, he chartered the Albatross for
two thousand dollars, to land him, with some supplies, at the mouth of
the Columbia, where he arrived, as we have seen, on the 20th of August,
after a year's seafaring that might have furnished a chapter in the
wanderings of Sinbad.


     Arrangements Among the Partners--Mr. Hunt Sails in the
     Albatross.--Arrives at the Marquesas--News of the Frigate
     Phoebe.--Mr. Hunt Proceeds to the Sandwich Islands.--Voyage
     of the Lark.--Her Shipwreck.--Transactions With the Natives
     of the Sandwich Islands--Conduct of Tamaahmaah.

MR. HUNT was overwhelmed with surprise when he learnt the resolution
taken by the partners to abandon Astoria. He soon found, however, that
matters had gone too far, and the minds of his colleagues had become too
firmly bent upon the measure, to render any opposition of avail. He was
beset, too, with the same disparaging accounts of the interior trade,
and of the whole concerns and prospects of the company that had been
rendered to Mr. Astor. His own experience had been full of perplexities
and discouragements. He had a conscientious anxiety for the interests of
Mr. Astor, and, not comprehending the extended views of that gentleman,
and his habit of operating with great amounts, he had from the
first been daunted by the enormous expenses required, and had become
disheartened by the subsequent losses sustained, which appeared to him
to be ruinous in their magnitude. By degrees, therefore, he was brought
to acquiesce in the step taken by his colleagues, as perhaps advisable
in the exigencies of the case; his only care was to wind up the business
with as little further loss as possible to Mr. Astor.

A large stock of valuable furs was collected at the factory, which
it was necessary to get to a market. There were twenty-five Sandwich
Islanders also in the employ of the company, whom they were bound,
by express agreement, to restore to their native country. For these
purposes a ship was necessary.

The Albatross was bound to the Marquesas, and thence to the Sandwich
Islands. It was resolved that Mr. Hunt should sail in her in quest of a
vessel, and should return, if possible, by the 1st of January, bringing
with him a supply of provisions. Should anything occur, however, to
prevent his return, an arrangement was to be proposed to Mr. M'Tavish,
to transfer such of the men as were so disposed, from the service of
the American Fur Company into that of the Northwest, the latter becoming
responsible for the wages due them, on receiving an equivalent in goods
from the store-house of the factory. As a means of facilitating the
despatch of business, Mr. M'Dougal proposed, that in case Mr. Hunt
should not return, the whole arrangement with Mr. M'Tavish should
be left solely to him. This was assented to; the contingency being
considered possible, but not probable.

It is proper to note, that, on the first announcement by Mr. M'Dougal
of his intention to break up the establishment, three of the clerks,
British subjects, had, with his consent, passed into the service of the
Northwest Company, and departed with Mr. M'Tavish for his post in the

Having arranged all these matters during a sojourn of six days at
Astoria, Mr. Hunt set sail in the Albatross on the 26th of August, and
arrived without accident at the Marquesas. He had not been there long,
when Porter arrived in the frigate Essex, bringing in a number of stout
London whalers as prizes, having made a sweeping cruise in the Pacific.
From Commodore Porter he received the alarming intelligence that the
British frigate Phoebe, with a store-ship mounted with battering pieces,
calculated to attack forts, had arrived at Rio Janeiro, where she had
been joined by the sloops of war Cherub and Raccoon, and that they had
all sailed in company on the 6th of July for the Pacific, bound, as it
was supposed, to Columbia River.

Here, then, was the death-warrant of unfortunate Astoria! The anxious
mind of Mr. Hunt was in greater perplexity than ever. He had been eager
to extricate the property of Mr. Astor from a failing concern with as
little loss as possible; there was now danger that the whole would be
swallowed up. How was it to be snatched from the gulf? It was impossible
to charter a ship for the purpose, now that a British squadron was on
its way to the river. He applied to purchase one of the whale ships
brought in by Commodore Porter. The commodore demanded twenty-five
thousand dollars for her. The price appeared exorbitant, and no bargain
could be made. Mr. Hunt then urged the commodore to fit out one of his
prizes, and send her to Astoria, to bring off the property and part of
the people, but he declined, "from want of authority." He assured Mr.
Hunt, however, that he would endeavor to fall in with the enemy, or
should he hear of their having certainly gone to the Columbia, he would
either follow or anticipate them, should his circumstances warrant such
a step.

In this tantalizing state of suspense, Mr. Hunt was detained at the
Marquesas until November 23d, when he proceeded in the Albatross to the
Sandwich Islands. He still cherished a faint hope that, notwithstanding
the war, and all other discouraging circumstances, the annual ship might
have been sent by Mr. Astor, and might have touched at the islands, and
proceeded to the Columbia. He knew the pride and interest taken by that
gentleman in his great enterprise, and that he would not be deterred by
dangers and difficulties from prosecuting it; much less would he leave
the infant establishment without succor and support in the time of
trouble. In this, we have seen, he did but justice to Mr. Astor; and we
must now turn to notice the cause of the non-arrival of the vessel which
he had despatched with reinforcements and supplies. Her voyage forms
another chapter of accidents in this eventful story.

The Lark sailed from New York on the 6th of March, 1813, and proceeded
prosperously on her voyage, until within a few degrees of the Sandwich
Islands. Here a gale sprang up that soon blew with tremendous violence.
The Lark was a staunch and noble ship, and for a time buffeted bravely
with the storm. Unluckily, however, she "broached to," and was struck by
a heavy sea, that hove her on her beam-ends. The helm, too, was knocked
to leeward, all command of the vessel was lost, and another mountain
wave completely overset her. Orders were given to cut away the masts. In
the hurry and confusion, the boats also were unfortunately cut adrift.
The wreck then righted, but was a mere hulk, full of water, with a heavy
sea washing over it, and all the hatches off. On mustering the crew, one
man was missing, who was discovered below in the forecastle, drowned.

In cutting away the masts, it had been utterly impossible to observe
the necessary precaution of commencing with the lee rigging, that being,
from the position of the ship, completely under water. The masts and
spars, therefore, being linked to the wreck by the shrouds and the
rigging, remained alongside for four days. During all this time the ship
lay rolling in the trough of the sea, the heavy surges breaking
over her, and the spars heaving and banging to and fro, bruising the
half-drowned sailors that clung to the bowsprit and the stumps of the
masts. The sufferings of these poor fellows were intolerable. They stood
to their waists in water, in imminent peril of being washed off by every
surge. In this position they dared not sleep, lest they should let go
their hold and be swept away. The only dry place on the wreck was the
bowsprit. Here they took turns to be tied on, for half an hour at a
time, and in this way gained short snatches of sleep.

On the 14th, the first mate died at his post, and was swept off by
the surges. On the 17th, two seamen, faint and exhausted, were washed
overboard. The next wave threw their bodies back upon the deck, where
they remained, swashing backward and forward, ghastly objects to the
almost perishing survivors. Mr. Ogden, the supercargo, who was at the
bowsprit, called to the men nearest to the bodies, to fasten them to the
wreck; as a last horrible resource in case of being driven to extremity
by famine!

On the 17th the gale gradually subsided, and the sea became calm. The
sailors now crawled feebly about the wreck, and began to relieve it from
the main incumbrances. The spars were cleared away, the anchors and guns
heaved overboard; the sprit-sail yard was rigged for a jury-mast, and
a mizzen topsail set upon it. A sort of stage was made of a few broken
spars, on which the crew were raised above the surface of the water, so
as to be enabled to keep themselves dry, and to sleep comfortably. Still
their sufferings from hunger and thirst were great; but there was a
Sandwich Islander on board, an expert swimmer, who found his way into
the cabin, and occasionally brought up a few bottles of wine and porter,
and at length got into the rum, and secured a quarter cask of wine.
A little raw pork was likewise procured, and dealt out with a sparing
hand. The horrors of their situation were increased by the sight of
numerous sharks prowling about the wreck, as if waiting for their prey.
On the 24th, the cook, a black man, died, and was cast into the sea,
when he was instantly seized on by these ravenous monsters.

They had been several days making slow headway under their scanty sail,
when, on the 25th, they came in sight of land. It was about fifteen
leagues distant, and they remained two or three days drifting along in
sight of it. On the 28th, they descried, to their great transport, a
canoe approaching, managed by natives. They came alongside, and brought
a most welcome supply of potatoes. They informed them that the land they
had made was one of the Sandwich Islands. The second mate and one of
the seamen went on shore in the canoe for water and provisions, and to
procure aid from the islanders, in towing the wreck into a harbor.

Neither of the men returned, nor was any assistance sent from shore.
The next day, ten or twelve canoes came alongside, but roamed round
the wreck like so many sharks, and would render no aid in towing her to

The sea continued to break over the vessel with such violence, that it
was impossible to stand at the helm without the assistance of lashings.
The crew were now so worn down by famine and thirst, that the captain
saw it would be impossible for them to withstand the breaking of the
sea, when the ship should ground; he deemed the only chance for their
lives, therefore, was to get to land in the canoes, and stand ready to
receive and protect the wreck when she should drift ashore. Accordingly,
they all got safe to land, but had scarcely touched the beach when they
were surrounded by the natives, who stripped them almost naked. The name
of this inhospitable island was Tahoorowa.

In the course of the night, the wreck came drifting to the strand, with
the surf thundering around her, and shortly afterwards bilged. On the
following morning, numerous casks of provisions floated on shore. The
natives staved them for the sake of the iron hoops, but would not allow
the crew to help themselves to the contents, or to go on board of the

As the crew were in want of everything, and as it might be a long time
before any opportunity occurred for them to get away from these islands,
Mr. Ogden, as soon as he could get a chance, made his way to the island
of Owyhee, and endeavored to make some arrangement with the king for the
relief of his companions in misfortune.

The illustrious Tamaahmaah, as we have shown on a former occasion, was
a shrewd bargainer, and in the present instance proved himself an
experienced wrecker. His negotiations with M'Dougal, and the other "Eris
of the great American Fur Company," had but little effect on present
circumstances, and he proceeded to avail himself of their misfortunes.
He agreed to furnish the crew with provisions during their stay in his
territories, and to return to them all their clothing that could be
found, but he stipulated that the wreck should be abandoned to him as a
waif cast by fortune on his shores. With these conditions Mr. Ogden was
fain to comply. Upon this the great Tamaahmaah deputed his favorite,
John Young, the tarpaulin governor of Owyhee, to proceed with a number
of royal guards, and take possession of the wreck on behalf of the
crown. This was done accordingly, and the property and crew were removed
to Owyhee. The royal bounty appears to have been but scanty in its
dispensations. The crew fared but meagerly; though, on reading the
journal of the voyage, it is singular to find them, after all the
hardships they had suffered, so sensitive about petty inconveniences, as
to exclaim against the king as a "savage monster," for refusing them
a "pot to cook in," and denying Mr. Ogden the use of a knife and fork
which had been saved from the wreck.

Such was the unfortunate catastrophe of the Lark; had she reached her
destination in safety, affairs at Astoria might have taken a different
course. A strange fatality seems to have attended all the expeditions by
sea, nor were those by land much less disastrous.

Captain Northrop was still at the Sandwich Islands, on December 20th,
when Mr. Hunt arrived. The latter immediately purchased, for ten
thousand dollars, a brig called the Pedler, and put Captain Northrop in
command of her. They set sail for Astoria on the 22d January, intending
to remove the property from thence as speedily as possible to the
Russian settlements on the northwest coast, to prevent it from falling
into the hands of the British. Such were the orders of Mr. Astor, sent
out by the Lark.

We will now leave Mr. Hunt on his voyage, and return to see what has
taken place at Astoria during his absence.


     Arrival of M'Tavish at Astoria.--Conduct of His Followers.--
     Negotiations of M'Dougal and M'Tavish.--Bargain for the
     Transfer of Astoria--Doubts Entertained of the Loyalty of

ON the 2d of October, about five weeks after Mr. Hunt had sailed in the
Albatross from Astoria, Mr. M'Kenzie set off with two canoes, and twelve
men, for the posts of Messrs. Stuart and Clarke, to appraise them of
the new arrangements determined upon in the recent conference of the
partners at the factory.

He had not ascended the river a hundred miles, when he met a squadron
of ten canoes, sweeping merrily down under British colors, the Canadian
oarsmen, as usual, in full song.

It was an armament fitted out by M'Tavish, who had with him Mr. J.
Stuart, another partner of the Northwest Company, together with some
clerks, and sixty-eight men--seventy-five souls in all. They had heard
of the frigate Phoebe and the Isaac Todd being on the high seas, and
were on their way down to await their arrival. In one of the canoes Mr.
Clarke came as a passenger, the alarming intelligence having brought him
down from his post on the Spokan. Mr. M'Kenzie immediately determined to
return with him to Astoria, and, veering about, the two parties encamped
together for the night. The leaders, of course, observed a due
decorum, but some of the subalterns could not restrain their chuckling
exultation, boasting that they would soon plant the British standard on
the walls of Astoria, and drive the Americans out of the country.

In the course of the evening, Mr. M'Kenzie had a secret conference with
Mr. Clarke, in which they agreed to set off privately before daylight,
and get down in time to appraise M'Dougal of the approach of these
Northwesters. The latter, however, were completely on the alert; just as
M'Kenzie's canoes were about to push off, they were joined by a couple
from the Northwest squadron, in which was M'Tavish, with two clerks,
and eleven men. With these, he intended to push forward and make
arrangements, leaving the rest of the convoy, in which was a large
quantity of furs, to await his orders.

The two parties arrived at Astoria on the 7th of October. The
Northwesters encamped under the guns of the fort, and displayed the
British colors. The young men in the fort, natives of the United States,
were on the point of hoisting the American flag, but were forbidden
by Mr. M'Dougal. They were astonished at such a prohibition, and were
exceedingly galled by the tone and manner assumed by the clerks and
retainers of the Northwest Company, who ruffled about in that swelling
and braggart style which grows up among these heroes of the wilderness;
they, in fact, considered themselves lords of the ascendant and regarded
the hampered and harassed Astorians as a conquered people.

On the following day M'Dougal convened the clerks, and read to them
an extract from a letter from his uncle, Mr. Angus Shaw, one of the
principal partners of the Northwest Company, announcing the coming of
the Phoebe and Isaac Todd, "to take and destroy everything American on
the northwest coast."

This intelligence was received without dismay by such of the clerks as
were natives of the United States. They had felt indignant at seeing
their national flag struck by a Canadian commander, and the British flag
flowed, as it were, in their faces. They had been stung to the quick,
also, by the vaunting airs assumed by the Northwesters. In this mood of
mind, they would willingly have nailed their colors to the staff, and
defied the frigate. She could not come within many miles of the fort,
they observed, and any boats she might send could be destroyed by their

There were cooler and more calculating spirits, however, who had
the control of affairs, and felt nothing of the patriotic pride and
indignation of these youths. The extract of the letter had, apparently,
been read by M'Dougal, merely to prepare the way for a preconcerted
stroke of management. On the same day Mr. M'Tavish proposed to purchase
the whole stock of goods and furs belonging to the company, both at
Astoria and in the interior, at cost and charges. Mr. M'Dougal undertook
to comply; assuming the whole management of the negotiation in virtue
of the power vested in him, in case of the non-arrival of Mr. Hunt.
That power, however, was limited and specific, and did not extend to an
operation of this nature and extent; no objection, however, was made to
his assumption, and he and M'Tavish soon made a preliminary arrangement,
perfectly satisfactory to the latter.

Mr. Stuart, and the reserve party of Northwesters, arrived shortly
afterwards, and encamped with M'Tavish. The former exclaimed loudly
against the terms of the arrangement, and insisted upon a reduction of
the prices. New negotiations had now to be entered into. The demands
of the Northwesters were made in a peremptory tone, and they seemed
disposed to dictate like conquerors. The Americans looked on with
indignation and impatience. They considered M'Dougal as acting, if not a
perfidious, certainly a craven part. He was continually repairing to
the camp to negotiate, instead of keeping within his walls and receiving
overtures in his fortress. His case, they observed, was not so desperate
as to excuse such crouching. He might, in fact, hold out for his own
terms. The Northwest party had lost their ammunition; they had no goods
to trade with the natives for provisions; and they were so destitute
that M'Dougal had absolutely to feed them, while he negotiated with
them. He, on the contrary, was well lodged and victualled; had sixty
men, with arms, ammunition, boats, and everything requisite either for
defense or retreat. The party, beneath the guns of his fort, were at his
mercy; should an enemy appear in the offing, he could pack up the most
valuable part of the property and retire to some place of concealment,
or make off for the interior.

These considerations, however, had no weight with Mr. M'Dougal, or were
overruled by other motives. The terms of sale were lowered by him to the
standard fixed by Mr. Stuart, and an agreement executed on the 16th of
October, by which the furs and merchandise of all kinds in the country,
belonging to Mr. Astor, passed into the possession of the Northwest
Company at about a third of their value. * A safe passage through the
Northwest posts was guaranteed to such as did not choose to enter into
the service of that Company, and the amount of wages due to them was to
be deducted from the price paid for Astoria.

The conduct and motives of Mr. M'Dougal, throughout the whole of this
proceeding, have been strongly questioned by the other partners. He
has been accused of availing himself of a wrong construction of powers
vested in him at his own request, and of sacrificing the interests
of Mr. Astor to the Northwest Company, under the promise or hope of
advantage to himself.

He always insisted, however, that he made the best bargain for Mr. Astor
that circumstances would permit; the frigate being hourly expected,
in which case the whole property of that gentleman would be liable to
capture. That the return of Mr. Hunt was problematical; the frigate
intending to cruise along the coast for two years, and clear it of all
American vessels. He moreover averred, and M'Tavish corroborated
his averment by certificate, that he proposed an arrangement to that
gentleman, by which the furs were to be sent to Canton, and sold there
at Mr. Astor's risk, and for his account; but the proposition was not
acceded to.

Notwithstanding all his representations, several of the persons present
at the transaction, and acquainted with the whole course of the affair,
and among the number Mr. M'Kenzie himself, his occasional coadjutor,
remained firm in the belief that he had acted a hollow part. Neither
did he succeed in exculpating himself to Mr. Astor; that gentleman
declaring, in a letter written some time afterwards, to Mr. Hunt, that
he considered the property virtually given away. "Had our place and our
property," he adds, "been fairly captured, I should have preferred it; I
should not feel as if I were disgraced."

All these may be unmerited suspicions; but it certainly is a
circumstance strongly corroborative of them, that Mr. M'Dougal, shortly
after concluding this agreement, became a member of the Northwest
Company, and received a share productive of a handsome income.

     * Not quite $40,000 were allowed for furs worth upwards of
     $100,000. Beaver was valued at two dollars per skin, though
     worth five dollars. Land otter at fifty cents, though worth
     five dollars. Sea-otter at twelve dollars, worth from forty-
     five to sixty dollars; and for several kinds of furs nothing
     was allowed. Moreover, the goods and merchandise for the
     Indian trade ought to have brought three times the amount
     for which they were sold.

The following estimate has been made of the articles on hand, and the

     17,705 lbs. beaver parchment, valued at $2.00 worth  $5.00
     465 old coat beaver, valued at 1.66 worth 3.50

     907 land otter,  valued at.50 worth  5.00
     68 sea-otter,  valued at 12.00 worth  45 to 60.00
     30 sea-otter, valued at 5.00 worth  25.00

     Nothing was allowed for
     179 mink skins, worth each.40
     22 raccoon, worth each.40
     28 lynx, worth each 2.00
     18 fox, worth each 1.00
     106 fox, worth each 1.50
     71 black bear, worth each  4.00
     16 grizzly bear, worth each 10.00


     Arrival of a Strange Sail.--Agitation at Astoria.--Warlike
     Offer of Comcomly.--Astoria Taken Possession of by the
     British.--Indignation of Comcomly at the Conduct of His Son-

ON the morning of the 30th of November, a sail was descried doubling
Cape Disappointment. It came to anchor in Baker's Bay, and proved to be
a ship of war. Of what nation? was now the anxious inquiry. If English,
why did it come alone? where was the merchant vessel that was to have
accompanied it? If American, what was to become of the newly acquired
possession of the Northwest Company?

In this dilemma, M'Tavish, in all haste, loaded two barges with all the
packages of furs bearing the mark of the Northwest Company, and made
off for Tongue Point, three miles up the river. There he was to await a
preconcerted signal from M'Dougal, on ascertaining the character of the
ship. If it should prove American, M'Tavish would have a fair start, and
could bear off his rich cargo to the interior. It is singular that this
prompt mode of conveying valuable, but easily transportable effects
beyond the reach of a hostile ship should not have suggested itself
while the property belonged to Mr. Astor.

In the meantime, M'Dougal, who still remained nominal chief at the fort,
launched a canoe, manned by men recently in the employ of the American
Fur Company, and steered for the ship. On the way, he instructed his
men to pass themselves for Americans or Englishmen, according to the
exigencies of the case.

The vessel proved to be the British sloop of war Raccoon, of twenty-six
guns, and one hundred and twenty men, commanded by Captain Black.
According to the account of that officer, the frigate Phoebe, and two
sloops of war Cherub and Raccoon, had sailed in convoy of the Isaac Todd
from Rio Janeiro. On board of the Phoebe, Mr. John M'Donald, a partner
of the Northwest Company, embarked as passenger, to profit by the
anticipated catastrophe at Astoria. The convoy was separated by stress
of weather off Cape Horn. The three ships of war came together again at
the island of Juan Fernandez, their appointed rendezvous, but waited in
vain for the Isaac Todd.

In the meantime, intelligence was received of the mischief that
Commodore Porter was doing among the British whale ships. Commodore
Hillyer immediately set sail in quest of him with the Phoebe and the
Cherub, transferring Mr. M'Donald to the Raccoon, and ordered that
vessel to proceed to the Columbia.

The officers of the Raccoon were in high spirits. The agents of the
Northwest Company, in instigating the expedition, had talked of immense
booty to be made by the fortunate captors of Astoria. Mr. M'Donald had
kept up the excitement during the voyage, so that not a midshipman but
revelled in dreams of ample prize-money, nor a lieutenant that would
have sold his chance for a thousand pounds. Their disappointment,
therefore, may easily be conceived, when they learned that their
warlike attack upon Astoria had been forestalled by a snug commercial
arrangement; that their anticipated booty had become British property
in the regular course of traffic, and that all this had been effected
by the very Company which had been instrumental in getting them sent on
what they now stigmatized as a fool's errand. They felt as if they had
been duped and made tools of, by a set of shrewd men of traffic, who had
employed them to crack the nut, while they carried off the kernel. In a
word, M'Dougal found himself so ungraciously received by his countrymen
on board of the ship, that he was glad to cut short his visit, and
return to shore. He was busy at the fort, making preparations for
the reception of the captain of the Raccoon, when his one-eyed Indian
father-in-law made his appearance, with a train of Chinook warriors, all
painted and equipped in warlike style.

Old Comcomly had beheld, with dismay, the arrival of a "big war canoe"
displaying the British flag. The shrewd old savage had become something
of a politician in the course of his daily visits at the fort. He
knew of the war existing between the nations, but knew nothing of the
arrangement between M'Dougal and M'Tavish. He trembled, therefore, for
the power of his white son-in-law, and the new-fledged grandeur of his
daughter, and assembled his warriors in all haste. "King George," said
he, "has sent his great canoe to destroy the fort, and make slaves of
all the inhabitants. Shall we suffer it? The Americans are the first
white men that have fixed themselves in the land. They have treated us
like brothers. Their great chief has taken my daughter to be his squaw:
we are, therefore, as one people."

His warriors all determined to stand by the Americans to the last, and
to this effect they came painted and armed for battle. Comcomly made a
spirited war-speech to his son-in-law. He offered to kill every one of
King George's men that should attempt to land. It was an easy matter.
The ship could not approach within six miles of the fort; the crew could
only land in boats. The woods reached to the water's edge; in these, he
and his warriors would conceal themselves, and shoot down the enemy as
fast as they put foot on shore.

M'Dougal was, doubtless, properly sensible of this parental devotion on
the part of his savage father-in-law, and perhaps a little rebuked by
the game spirit, so opposite to his own. He assured Comcomly, however,
that his solicitude for the safety of himself and the princess was
superfluous; as, though the ship belonged to King George, her crew would
not injure the Americans, or their Indian allies. He advised him and his
warriors, therefore, to lay aside their weapons and war shirts, wash off
the paint from their faces and bodies, and appear like clean and civil
savages, to receive the strangers courteously.

Comcomly was sorely puzzled at this advice, which accorded so little
with his Indian notions of receiving a hostile nation, and it was only
after repeated and positive assurances of the amicable intentions of
the strangers that he was induced to lower his fighting tone. He said
something to his warriors explanatory of this singular posture of
affairs, and in vindication, perhaps, of the pacific temper of his
son-in-law. They all gave a shrug and an Indian grunt of acquiescence,
and went off sulkily to their village, to lay aside their weapons for
the present.

The proper arrangements being made for the reception of Captain Black,
that officer caused his ship's boats to be manned, and landed with
befitting state at Astoria. From the talk that had been made by the
Northwest Company of the strength of the place, and the armament they
had required to assist in its reduction, he expected to find a fortress
of some importance. When he beheld nothing but stockades and bastions,
calculated for defense against naked savages, he felt an emotion of
indignant surprise, mingled with something of the ludicrous. "Is this
the fort," cried he, "about which I have heard so much talking? D-n me,
but I'd batter it down in two hours with a four pounder!"

When he learned, however, the amount of rich furs that had been passed
into the hands of the Northwesters, he was outrageous, and insisted
that an inventory should be taken of all the property purchased of
the Americans, "with a view to ulterior measures in England, for the
recovery of the value from the Northwest Company."

As he grew cool, however, he gave over all idea of preferring such
a claim, and reconciled himself, as well as he could, to the idea of
having been forestalled by his bargaining coadjutors.

On the 12th of December, the fate of Astoria was consummated by a
regular ceremonial. Captain Black, attended by his officers, entered the
fort, caused the British standard to be erected, broke a bottle of
wine and declared, in a loud voice, that he took possession of the
establishment and of the country, in the name of his Britannic Majesty,
changing the name of Astoria to that of Fort George.

The Indian warriors, who had offered their services to repel the
strangers, were present on this occasion. It was explained to them as
being a friendly arrangement and transfer, but they shook their heads
grimly, and considered it an act of subjugation of their ancient allies.
They regretted that they had complied with M'Dougal's wishes, in laying
aside their arms, and remarked, that, however the Americans might
conceal the fact, they were undoubtedly all slaves; nor could they be
persuaded of the contrary, until they beheld the Raccoon depart without
taking away any prisoners.

As to Comcomly, he no longer prided himself upon his white son-in-law,
but, whenever he was asked about him, shook his head, and replied, that
his daughter had made a mistake, and, instead of getting a great warrior
for a husband, had married herself to a squaw.


     Arrival of the Brig Pedler at Astoria.--Breaking Up of the
     Establishment.--Departure of Several of the Company.--
     Tragical Story Told by the Squaw of Pierre Dorion.--Fate of
     Reed and His Companions.--Attempts of Mr. Astor to Renew
     His Enterprise.-Disappointment.--Concluding Observations
     and Reflection.

HAVING given the catastrophe at the Fort of Astoria, it remains now but
to gather up a few loose ends of this widely excursive narrative and
conclude. On the 28th of February the brig Pedler anchored in Columbia
River. It will be recollected that Mr. Hunt had purchased this vessel at
the Sandwich Islands, to take off the furs collected at the factory, and
to restore the Sandwich Islanders to their homes. When that gentleman
learned, however, the precipitate and summary manner in which the
property had been bargained away by M'Dougal, he expressed his
indignation in the strongest terms, and determined to make an effort
to get back the furs. As soon as his wishes were known in this
respect, M'Dougal came to sound him on behalf of the Northwest Company,
intimating that he had no doubt the peltries might be repurchased at an
advance of fifty per cent. This overture was not calculated to soothe
the angry feelings of Mr. Hunt, and his indignation was complete,
when he discovered that M'Dougal had become a partner of the Northwest
Company, and had actually been so since the 23d of December. He had
kept his partnership a secret, however; had retained the papers of the
Pacific Fur Company in his possession; and had continued to act as Mr.
Astor's agent, though two of the partners of the other company, Mr.
M'Kenzie and Mr. Clarke, were present. He had, moreover, divulged to his
new associates all that he knew as to Mr. Astor's plans and affairs, and
had made copies of his business letters for their perusal.

Mr. Hunt now considered the whole conduct of M'Dougal hollow and
collusive. His only thought was, therefore, to get all the papers of
the concern out of his hands, and bring the business to a close; for the
interests of Mr. Astor were yet completely at stake; the drafts of the
Northwest Company in his favor, for the purchase money, not having yet
been obtained. With some difficulty he succeeded in getting possession
of the papers. The bills or drafts were delivered without hesitation.
The latter he remitted to Mr. Astor by some of his associates, who were
about to cross the continent to New York. This done, he embarked on
board the Pedler, on the 3d of April, accompanied by two of the clerks,
Mr. Seton and Mr. Halsey, and bade a final adieu to Astoria.

The next day, April 4th, Messrs. Clarke, M'Kenzie, David Stuart,
and such of the Astorians as had not entered into the service of the
Northwest Company, set out to cross the Rocky Mountains. It is not
our intention to take the reader another journey across those rugged
barriers; but we will step forward with the travellers to a distance
on their way, merely to relate their interview with a character already
noted in this work.

As the party were proceeding up the Columbia, near the mouth of the
Wallah-Wallah River, several Indian canoes put off from the shore to
overtake them, and a voice called upon them in French and requested them
to stop. They accordingly put to shore, and were joined by those in the
canoes. To their surprise, they recognized in the person who had hailed
them the Indian wife of Pierre Dorion, accompanied by her two
children. She had a story to tell, involving the fate of several of our
unfortunate adventurers.

Mr. John Reed, the Hibernian, it will be remembered, had been detached
during the summer to the Snake River. His party consisted of four
Canadians, Giles Le Clerc, Francois Landry, Jean Baptiste Turcot, and
Andre La Chapelle, together with two hunters, Pierre Dorion and Pierre
Delaunay; Dorion, as usual, being accompanied by his wife and children.
The objects of this expedition were twofold: to trap beaver, and to
search for the three hunters, Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner.

In the course of the autumn, Reed lost one man, Landry, by death;
another one, Pierre Delaunay, who was of a sullen, perverse disposition,
left him in a moody fit, and was never heard of afterwards. The number
of his party was not, however, reduced by these losses, as the three
hunters, Robinson, Hoback, and Rezner, had joined it.

Reed now built a house on the Snake River, for their winter quarters;
which being completed, the party set about trapping. Rezner, Le Clerc,
and Pierre Dorion went about five days' journey from the wintering
house, to a part of the country well stocked with beaver. Here they put
up a hut, and proceeded to trap with great success. While the men were
out hunting, Pierre Dorion's wife remained at home to dress the skins
and prepare the meals. She was thus employed one evening about the
beginning of January, cooking the supper of the hunters, when she heard
footsteps, and Le Clerc staggered, pale and bleeding, into the hut. He
informed her that a party of savages had surprised them, while at their
traps, and had killed Rezner and her husband. He had barely strength
left to give this information, when he sank upon the ground.

The poor woman saw that the only chance for life was instant flight,
but, in this exigency, showed that presence of mind and force
of character for which she had frequently been noted. With great
difficulty, she caught two of the horses belonging to the party. Then
collecting her clothes and a small quantity of beaver meat and dried
salmon, she packed them upon one of the horses, and helped the wounded
man to mount upon it. On the other horse she mounted with her two
children, and hurried away from this dangerous neighborhood, directing
her flight to Mr. Reed's establishment. On the third day, she descried a
number of Indians on horseback proceeding in an easterly direction. She
immediately dismounted with her children, and helped Le Clerc likewise
to dismount, and all concealed themselves. Fortunately they escaped the
sharp eyes of the savages, but had to proceed with the utmost caution.
That night they slept without fire or water; she managed to keep her
children warm in her arms; but before morning, poor Le Clerc died.

With the dawn of day the resolute woman resumed her course, and, on
the fourth day, reached the house of Mr. Reed. It was deserted, and all
round were marks of blood and signs of a furious massacre. Not doubting
that Mr. Reed and his party had all fallen victims, she turned in fresh
horror from the spot. For two days she continued hurrying forward, ready
to sink for want of food, but more solicitous about her children than
herself. At length she reached a range of the Rocky Mountains, near
the upper part of the Wallah-Wallah River. Here she chose a wild lonely
ravine, as her place of winter refuge.

She had fortunately a buffalo robe and three deer-skins; of these, and
of pine bark and cedar branches, she constructed a rude wigwam, which
she pitched beside a mountain spring. Having no other food, she killed
the two horses, and smoked their flesh. The skins aided to cover her
hut. Here she dragged out the winter, with no other company than her
two children. Towards the middle of March her provisions were nearly
exhausted. She therefore packed up the remainder, slung it on her back,
and, with her helpless little ones, set out again on her wanderings.
Crossing the ridge of mountains, she descended to the banks of the
Wallah-Wallah, and kept along them until she arrived where that river
throws itself into the Columbia. She was hospitably received and
entertained by the Wallah-Wallahs, and had been nearly two weeks among
them when the two canoes passed.

On being interrogated, she could assign no reason for this murderous
attack of the savages; it appeared to be perfectly wanton and
unprovoked. Some of the Astorians supposed it an act of butchery by a
roving band of Blackfeet; others, however, and with greater probability
of correctness, have ascribed it to the tribe of Pierced-nose Indians,
in revenge for the death of their comrade hanged by order of Mr. Clarke.
If so, it shows that these sudden and apparently wanton outbreakings of
sanguinary violence on the part of the savages have often some previous,
though perhaps remote, provocation.

The narrative of the Indian woman closes the checkered adventures
of some of the personages of this motley story; such as the honest
Hibernian Reed, and Dorion the hybrid interpreter. Turcot and La
Chapelle were two of the men who fell off from Mr. Crooks in the course
of his wintry journey, and had subsequently such disastrous times among
the Indians. We cannot but feel some sympathy with that persevering trio
of Kentuckians, Robinson, Rezner, and Hoback, who twice turned back when
on their way homeward, and lingered in the wilderness to perish by the
hands of savages.

The return parties from Astoria, both by sea and land, experienced on
the way as many adventures, vicissitudes, and mishaps, as the far-famed
heroes of the Odyssey; they reached their destination at different
times, bearing tidings to Mr. Astor of the unfortunate termination of
his enterprise.

That gentleman, however, was not disposed, even yet, to give the matter
up as lost. On the contrary, his spirit was roused by what he considered
ungenerous and unmerited conduct on the part of the Northwest Company.
"After their treatment of me," said he, in a letter to Mr. Hunt, "I have
no idea of remaining quiet and idle." He determined, therefore, as soon
as circumstances would permit, to resume his enterprise.

At the return of peace, Astoria, with the adjacent country, reverted
to the United States by the treaty of Ghent, on the principle of status
ante bellum, and Captain Biddle was despatched in the sloop of war,
Ontario, to take formal possession.

In the winter of 1815, a law was passed by Congress prohibiting all
traffic of British traders within the territories of the United States.

The favorable moment seemed now to Mr. Astor to have arrived for the
revival of his favorite enterprise, but new difficulties had grown up to
impede it. The Northwest Company were now in complete occupation of the
Columbia River, and its chief tributary streams, holding the posts which
he had established, and carrying on a trade throughout the neighboring
region, in defiance of the prohibitory law of Congress, which, in
effect, was a dead letter beyond the mountains.

To dispossess them would be an undertaking of almost a belligerent
nature; for their agents and retainers were well armed, and skilled in
the use of weapons, as is usual with Indian traders. The ferocious and
bloody contests which had taken place between the rival trading parties
of the Northwest and Hudson's Bay Companies had shown what might be
expected from commercial feuds in the lawless depths of the wilderness.
Mr. Astor did not think it advisable, therefore, to attempt the matter
without the protection of the American flag; under which his people
might rally in case of need. He accordingly made an informal overture to
the President of the United States, Mr. Madison, through Mr. Gallatin,
offering to renew his enterprise, and to reestablish Astoria, provided
it would be protected by the American flag, and made a military post;
stating that the whole force required would not exceed a lieutenant's

The application, approved and recommended by Mr. Gallatin, one of the
most enlightened statesmen of our country, was favorably received, but
no step was taken in consequence; the President not being disposed, in
all probability, to commit himself by any direct countenance or overt
act. Discouraged by this supineness on the part of the government, Mr.
Astor did not think fit to renew his overtures in a more formal manner,
and the favorable moment for the re-occupation of Astoria was suffered
to pass unimproved.

The British trading establishments were thus enabled, without
molestation, to strike deep their roots, and extend their ramifications,
in despite of the prohibition of Congress, until they had spread
themselves over the rich field of enterprise opened by Mr. Astor. The
British government soon began to perceive the importance of this region,
and to desire to include it within their territorial domains. A question
has consequently risen as to the right to the soil, and has become one
of the most perplexing now open between the United States and Great
Britain. In the first treaty relative to it, under date of October
20th, 1818, the question was left unsettled, and it was agreed that
the country on the northwest coast of America, westward of the Rocky
Mountains, claimed by either nation, should be open to the inhabitants
of both for ten years, for the purpose of trade, with the equal right
of navigating all its rivers. When these ten years had expired, a
subsequent treaty, in 1828, extended the arrangement to ten additional
years. So the matter stands at present.

On casting back our eyes over the series of events we have recorded,
we see no reason to attribute the failure of this great commercial
undertaking to any fault in the scheme, or omission in the execution of
it, on the part of the projector. It was a magnificent enterprise; well
concerted and carried on, without regard to difficulties or expense. A
succession of adverse circumstances and cross purposes, however, beset
it almost from the outset; some of them, in fact, arising from neglect
of the orders and instructions of Mr. Astor. The first crippling blow
was the loss of the Tonquin, which clearly would not have happened, had
Mr. Astor's earnest injunctions with regard to the natives been attended
to. Had this ship performed her voyage prosperously, and revisited
Astoria in due time, the trade of the establishment would have taken its
preconcerted course, and the spirits of all concerned been kept up by
a confident prospect of success. Her dismal catastrophe struck a chill
into every heart, and prepared the way for subsequent despondency.

Another cause of embarrassment and loss was the departure from the plan
of Mr. Astor, as to the voyage of the Beaver, subsequent to her visiting
Astoria. The variation from this plan produced a series of cross
purposes, disastrous to the establishment, and detained Mr. Hunt absent
from his post, when his presence there was of vital importance to
the enterprise; so essential is it for an agent, in any great and
complicated undertaking, to execute faithfully, and to the letter,
the part marked out for him by the master mind which has concerted the

The breaking out of the war between the United States and Great Britain
multiplied the hazards and embarrassments of the enterprise.
The disappointment as to convoy rendered it difficult to keep up
reinforcements and supplies; and the loss of the Lark added to the
tissue of misadventures.

That Mr. Astor battled resolutely against every difficulty, and pursued
his course in defiance of every loss, has been sufficiently shown.
Had he been seconded by suitable agents, and properly protected by
government, the ultimate failure of his plan might yet have been
averted. It was his great misfortune that his agents were not imbued
with his own spirit. Some had not capacity sufficient to comprehend the
real nature and extent of his scheme; others were alien in feeling and
interest, and had been brought up in the service of a rival company.
Whatever sympathies they might originally have had with him, were
impaired, if not destroyed, by the war. They looked upon his cause as
desperate, and only considered how they might make interest to regain
a situation under their former employers. The absence of Mr. Hunt, the
only real representative of Mr. Astor, at the time of the capitulation
with the Northwest Company, completed the series of cross purposes. Had
that gentleman been present, the transfer, in all probability, would not
have taken place.

It is painful, at all times, to see a grand and beneficial stroke of
genius fall of its aim: but we regret the failure of this enterprise
in a national point of view; for, had it been crowned with success,
it would have redounded greatly to the advantage and extension of our
commerce. The profits drawn from the country in question by the British
Fur Company, though of ample amount, form no criterion by which to judge
of the advantages that would have arisen had it been entirely in the
hands of the citizens of the United States. That company, as has been
shown, is limited in the nature and scope of its operations, and can
make but little use of the maritime facilities held out by an emporium
and a harbor on that coast. In our hands, besides the roving bands of
trappers and traders, the country would have been explored and settled
by industrious husbandmen; and the fertile valleys bordering its rivers,
and shut up among its mountains, would have been made to pour forth
their agricultural treasures to contribute to the general wealth.

In respect to commerce, we should have had a line of trading posts from
the Mississippi and the Missouri across the Rocky Mountains, forming
a high road from the great regions of the west to the shores of the
Pacific. We should have had a fortified post and port at the mouth of
the Columbia, commanding the trade of that river and its tributaries,
and of a wide extent of country and sea-coast; carrying on an active and
profitable commerce with the Sandwich Islands, and a direct and frequent
communication with China. In a word, Astoria might have realized the
anticipations of Mr. Astor, so well understood and appreciated by
Mr. Jefferson, in gradually becoming a commercial empire beyond the
mountains, peopled by "free and independent Americans, and linked with
us by ties of blood and interest."

We repeat, therefore, our sincere regret that our government should have
neglected the overture of Mr. Astor, and suffered the moment to pass by,
when full possession of this region might have been taken quietly, as a
matter of course, and a military post established, without dispute,
at Astoria. Our statesmen have become sensible, when too late, of the
importance of this measure. Bills have repeatedly been brought into
Congress for the purpose, but without success; and our rightful
possessions on that coast, as well as our trade on the Pacific, have no
rallying point protected by the national flag, and by a military force.

In the meantime, the second period of ten years is fast elapsing. In
1838, the question of title will again come up, and most probably, in
the present amicable state of our relations with Great Britain, will be
again postponed. Every year, however, the litigated claim is growing in
importance. There is no pride so jealous and irritable as the pride of
territory. As one wave of emigration after another rolls into the vast
regions of the west, and our settlements stretch towards the Rocky
Mountains, the eager eyes of our pioneers will pry beyond, and they will
become impatient of any barrier or impediment in the way of what
they consider a grand outlet of our empire. Should any circumstance,
therefore, unfortunately occur to disturb the present harmony of the
two nations, this ill-adjusted question, which now lies dormant, may
suddenly start up into one of belligerent import, and Astoria become the
watchword in a contest for dominion on the shores of the Pacific.

Since the above was written, the question of dominion over the vast
territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, which for a time threatened to
disturb the peaceful relations with our transatlantic kindred, has been
finally settled in a spirit of mutual concession, and the venerable
projector whose early enterprise forms the subject of this work had the
satisfaction of knowing, ere his eyes closed upon the world, that the
flag of his country again waved over "ASTORIA."


Draught of a Petition to Congress, sent by Mr. Astor in 1812.

To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States, in Congress assembled,

The petition of the American Fur Company respectfully showeth:

THAT the trade with the several Indian tribes of North America has, for
many years past, been almost exclusively carried on by the merchants of
Canada; who, having formed powerful and extensive associations for that
purpose, being aided by British capital, and being encouraged by the
favor and protection of the British government, could not be opposed,
with any prospect of success by individuals of the United States.

That by means of the above trade, thus systematically pursued, not only
the inhabitants of the United States have been deprived of commercial
profits and advantages, to which they appear to have just and natural
pretensions, but a great and dangerous influence has been established
over the Indian tribes, difficult to be counteracted, and capable of
being exerted at critical periods, to the great injury and annoyance of
our frontier settlements.

That in order to obtain at least a part of the above trade, and more
particularly that which is within the boundaries of the United States,
your petitioners, in the year 1808, obtained an act of incorporation
from the State of New York, whereby they are enabled, with a competent
capital, to carry on the said trade with the Indians in such a manner as
may be conformable to the laws and regulations of the United States, in
relation to such a commerce.

That the capital mentioned in the said act, amounting to one million of
dollars, having been duly formed, your petitioners entered with zeal
and alacrity into those large and important arrangements, which were
necessary for, or conducive to the object of their incorporation; and,
among other things, purchased a great part of the stock in trade, and
trading establishments, of the Michilimackinac Company of Canada. Your
petitioners also, with the expectation of great public and private
advantages from the use of the said establishments, ordered, during the
spring and summer of 1810, an assortment of goods from England,
suitable for the Indian trade; which, in consequence of the President's
proclamation of November of that year, were shipped to Canada instead
of New York, and have been transported, under a very heavy expense, into
the interior of the country. But as they could not legally be brought
into the Indian country within the boundaries of the United States, they
have been stored on the Island of St. Joseph, in Lake Huron, where they
now remain.

Your petitioners, with great deference and implicit submission to
the wisdom of the national legislature, beg leave to suggest for
consideration, whether they have not some claim to national attention
and encouragement, from the nature and importance of their undertaking;
which though hazardous and uncertain as concerns their private
emolument, must, at any rate, redound to the public security and
advantage. If their undertaking shall appear to be of the description
given, they would further suggest to your honorable bodies, that unless
they can procure a regular supply for the trade in which they are
engaged, it may languish, and be finally abandoned by American citizens;
when it will revert to its former channel, with additional, and perhaps
with irresistible, power.

Under these circumstances, and upon all those considerations of public
policy which will present themselves to your honorable bodies, in
connection with those already mentioned, your petitioners respectfully
pray that a law may be passed to enable the President, or any of the
heads of departments acting under his authority, to grant permits for
the introduction of goods necessary for the supply of the Indians, into
the Indian country that is within the boundaries of the United States,
under such regulations, and with such restrictions, as may secure the
public revenue and promote the public welfare.

And your petitioners shall ever pray, &c.

In witness whereof, the common seal of the American Fur Company is

hereunto affixed, the day of March, 1812.

By order of the Corporation.

AN ACT to enable the American Fur Company,

and other citizens, to introduce goods necessary for the Indian trade
into the territories within the boundaries of the United State.

WHEREAS, the public peace and welfare require that the native Indian
tribes, residing within the boundaries of the United States, should
receive their necessary supplies under the authority and from the
citizens of the United States: Therefore, be it enacted by the
Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress
assembled, that it shall be lawful for the President of the United
States, or any of the heads of departments thereunto by him duly
authorized, from time to time to grant permits to the American Fur
Company, their agents or factors, or any other citizens of the United
States engaged in the Indian trade, to introduce into the Indian
country, within the boundaries of the United States, such goods, wares,
and merchandise, as may be necessary for the said trade, under
such regulations and restrictions as the said President or heads of
departments may judge proper; any law or regulation to the contrary, in
anywise, notwithstanding.

Letter from Mr. Gallatin to Mr. Astor

New York, August 5, 1835.

DEAR SIR,--In compliance with your request, I will state such facts as I
recollect touching the subjects mentioned in your letter of 28th ult.
I may be mistaken respecting dates and details, and will only relate
general facts, which I well remember.

In conformity with the treaty of 1794 with Great Britain, the citizens
and subjects of each country were permitted to trade with the Indians
residing in the territories of the other party. The reciprocity was
altogether nominal. Since the conquest of Canada, the British had
inherited from the French the whole fur trade, through the great lakes
and their communications, with all the western Indians, whether residing
in the British dominions or the United States. They kept the important
western posts on those lakes till about the year 1797. And the defensive
Indian war, which the United States had to sustain from 1776 to 1795,
had still more alienated the Indians, and secured to the British their
exclusive trade, carried through the lakes, wherever the Indians in that
quarter lived. No American could, without imminent danger of property
and life, carry on that trade, even within the United States, by the way
of either Michilimackinac or St. Mary's. And independent of the loss
of commerce, Great Britain was enabled to preserve a most dangerous
influence over our Indians.

It was under these circumstances that you communicated to our government
the prospect you had to be able, and your intention, to purchase one
half of the interest of the Canadian Fur Company, engaged in trade by
the way of Michilimackinac with our own Indians. You wished to know
whether the plan met with the approbation of government, and how far
you could rely on its protection and encouragement. This overture
was received with great satisfaction by the administration, and
Mr. Jefferson, then President, wrote you to that effect. I was also
directed, as Secretary of the Treasury, to write to you an official
letter to the same purpose. On investigating the subject, it was found
that the Executive had no authority to give you any direct aid; and I
believe you received nothing more than an entire approbation of your
plan, and general assurances of the protection due to every citizen
engaged in lawful and useful pursuits.

You did effect the contemplated purchase, but in what year I do not
recollect. Immediately before the war, you represented that a large
quantity of merchandise, intended for the Indian trade, and including
arms and munitions of war, belonging to that concern of which you owned
one half, was deposited at a post on Lake Huron, within the British
dominions; that, in order to prevent their ultimately falling into the
hands of Indians who might prove hostile, you were desirous to try to
have them conveyed into the United States; but that you were prevented
by the then existing law of non-intercourse with the British dominions.

The Executive could not annul the provisions of that law. But I was
directed to instruct the collectors on the lakes, in case you and your
agents should voluntarily bring in and deliver to them any part of the
goods above mentioned, to receive and keep them in their guard, and not
to commence prosecutions until further instructions: the intention
being then to apply to Congress for an act remitting the forfeiture and
penalties. I wrote accordingly, to that effect, to the collectors of
Detroit and Michilimackinac.

The attempt to obtain the goods did not, however, succeed; and I cannot
say how far the failure injured you. But the war proved fatal to another
much more extensive and important enterprise.

Previous to that time, but I also forget the year, you had undertaken
to carry on a trade on your own account, though I believe under the New
York charter of the American Fur Company, with the Indians west of the
Rocky Mountains. This project was also communicated to government, and
met, of course, with its full approbation, and best wishes, for your
success. You carried it on, on the most extensive scale, sending several
ships to the mouth of the Columbia River, and a large party by land
across the mountains, and finally founding the establishment of Astoria.

This unfortunately fell into the hands of the enemy during the war, from
circumstances with which I am but imperfectly acquainted--being then
absent on a foreign mission. I returned in September, 1815, and sailed
again on a mission to France in June, 1816. During that period I visited
Washington twice--in October or November, 1815, and in March, 1816. On
one of these occasions, and I believe on the last, you mentioned to
me that you were disposed once more to renew the attempt, and to
reestablish Astoria, provided you had the protection of the American
flag; for which purpose, a lieutenant's command would be sufficient to
you. You requested me to mention this to the President, which I did.
Mr. Madison said he would consider the subject, and, although he did not
commit himself, I thought that he received the proposal favorably. The
message was verbal, and I do not know whether the application was ever
renewed in a more formal manner. I sailed soon after for Europe, and
was seven years absent. I never had the pleasure, since 1816, to see
Mr. Madison, and never heard again anything concerning the subject in

I remain, dear sir, most respectfully, Your obedient servant,


John Jacob Astor, Esq., New York.

Notices of the Present State of the Fur Trade,

chiefly extracted from an article published in Silliman's Magazine
for January, 1834.

THE Northwest Company did not long enjoy the sway they had acquired
over the trading regions of the Columbia. A competition, ruinous in
its expenses, which had long existed between them and the Hudson's Bay
Company, ended in their downfall and the ruin of most of the partners.
The relict of the company became merged in the rival association, and
the whole business was conducted under the name of the Hudson's Bay

This coalition took place in 1821. They then abandoned Astoria, and
built a large establishment sixty miles up the river, on the right
bank, which they called Fort Vancouver. This was in a neighborhood where
provisions could be more readily procured, and where there was less
danger from molestation by any naval force. The company are said to
carry on an active and prosperous trade, and to give great encouragement
to settlers. They are extremely jealous, however, of any interference
or participation in their trade, and monopolize it from the coast of the
Pacific to the mountains, and for a considerable extent north and south.
The American traders and trappers who venture across the mountains,
instead of enjoying the participation in the trade of the river and its
tributaries, that had been stipulated by treaty, are obliged to keep to
the south, out of the track of the Hudson's Bay parties.

Mr. Astor has withdrawn entirely from the American Fur Company, as he
has, in fact, from active business of every kind. That company is
now headed by Mr. Ramsay Crooks; its principal establishment is at
Michilimackinac, and it receives its furs from the posts depending on
that station, and from those on the Mississippi, Missouri, and Yellow
Stone Rivers, and the great range of country extending thence to the
Rocky Mountains. This company has steamboats in its employ, with which
it ascends the rivers, and penetrates to a vast distance into the
bosom of those regions formerly so painfully explored in keel-boats
and barges, or by weary parties on horseback and on foot. The first
irruption of steamboats in the heart of these vast wildernesses is said
to have caused the utmost astonishment and affright among their savage

In addition to the main companies already mentioned, minor associations
have been formed, which push their way in the most intrepid manner to
the remote parts of the far West, and beyond the mountain barriers. One
of the most noted of these is Ashley's company, from St. Louis, who
trap for themselves, and drive an extensive trade with the Indians. The
spirit, enterprise, and hardihood of Ashley are themes of the highest
eulogy in the far West, and his adventures and exploits furnish
abundance of frontier stories.

Another company of one hundred and fifty persons from New York, formed
in 1831, and headed by Captain Bonneville of the United States army,
has pushed its enterprise into tracts before but little known, and has
brought considerable quantities of furs from the region between the
Rocky Mountains and the coasts of Monterey and Upper California, on the
Buenaventura and Timpanogos rivers.

The fur countries, from the Pacific, east to the Rocky Mountains, are
now occupied (exclusive of private combinations and individual trappers
and traders) by the Russians; and on the northwest from Behring's Strait
to Queen Charlotte's Island, in north latitude fifty-three degrees, and
by the Hudson's Bay Company thence, south of the Columbia River; while
Ashley's company, and that under Captain Bonneville, take the remainder
of the region to California. Indeed, the whole compass from the
Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean is traversed in every direction. The
mountains and forests, from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, are
threaded through every maze, by the hunter. Every river and tributary
stream, from the Columbia to the mouth of the Rio del Norte, and from
the M'Kenzie to the Colorado of the West, from their head springs to
their junction, are searched and trapped for beaver. Almost all the
American furs, which do not belong to the Hudson's Bay Company, find
their way to New York, and are either distributed thence for home
consumption, or sent to foreign markets.

The Hudson's Bay Company ship their furs from their factories of York
Fort and from Moose River, on Hudson's Bay; their collection from Grand
River, &c., they ship from Canada; and the collection from Columbia goes
to London. None of their furs come to the United States, except through
the London market.

The export trade of furs from the United States is chiefly to London.
Some quantities have been sent to Canton, and some few to Hamburg; and
an increasing export trade in beaver, otter, nutria, and vicunia wool,
prepared for the hatter's use, is carried on in Mexico. Some furs are
exported from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston; but the principal
shipments from the United States are from New York to London, from
whence they are sent to Leipsic, a well-known mart for furs, where they
are disposed of during the great fair in that city, and distributed to
every part of the continent.

The United States import from South America, nutria, vicunia,
chinchilla, and a few deer-skins; also fur seals from the Lobos Islands,
off the river Plate. A quantity of beaver, otter, &c., are brought
annually from Santa Fe. Dressed furs for edgings, linings, caps,
muffs, &c., such as squirrel, genet, fitch-skins, and blue rabbit, are
received from the north of Europe; also cony and hare's fur; but the
largest importations are from London, where is concentrated nearly the
whole of the North American fur trade.

Such is the present state of the fur trade, by which it will appear that
the extended sway of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the monopoly of
the region of which Astoria was the key, has operated to turn the main
current of this opulent trade into the coffers of Great Britain, and
to render London the emporium instead of New York, as Mr. Astor had

We will subjoin a few observations on the animals sought after in this
traffic, extracted from the same intelligent source with the preceding

Of the fur-bearing animals, "the precious ermine," so called by way of
preeminence, is found, of the best quality, only in the cold regions of
Europe and Asia. * Its fur is of the most perfect whiteness, except the
tip of its tail, which is of a brilliant shining black. With these back
tips tacked on the skins, they are beautifully spotted, producing an
effect often imitated, but never equalled in other furs. The ermine is
of the genus mustela (weasel), and resembles the common weasel in its
form, is from fourteen to sixteen inches from the tip of the nose to the
end of the tail. The body is from ten to twelve inches long. It lives
in hollow trees, river banks, and especially in beech forests; preys
on small birds, is very shy, sleeping during the day, and employing the
night in search of food. The fur of the older animals is preferred to
the younger. It is taken by snares and traps, and sometimes shot with
blunt arrows. Attempts have been made to domesticate it; but it is
extremely wild and has been found untameable.

The sable can scarcely be called second to the ermine. It is a native
of Northern Europe and Siberia, and is also of the genus mustela. In
Samoieda, Yakutsk, Kamtschatka, and Russian Lapland, it is found of
the richest quality, and darkest color. In its habits, it resembles the
ermine. It preys on small squirrels and birds, sleeps by day, and prowls
for food during the night. It is so like the marten in every particular
except its size, and the dark shade of its color, that naturalists have
not decided whether it is the richest and finest of the marten tribe,
or a variety of that species: It varies in dimensions from eighteen to
twenty inches.

The rich dark shades of the sable, and the snowy whiteness of the
ermine, the great depth, and the peculiar, almost flowing softness of
their skins and fur, have combined to gain them a preference in all
countries, and in all ages of the world. In this age, they maintain the
same relative estimate in regard to other furs, as when they marked the
rank of the proud crusader, and were emblazoned in heraldry: but in most
European nations, they are now worn promiscuously by the opulent.

The martens from Northern Asia and the Mountains of Kamtschatka are much
superior to the American, though in every pack of American marten skins
there are a certain number which are beautifully shaded, and of a dark
brown olive color, of great depth and richness.

Next these in value, for ornament and utility, are the sea-otter, the
mink, and the fiery fox.

The fiery fox is the bright red of Asia; is more brilliantly colored and
of finer fur than any other of the genus. It is highly valued for
the splendor of its red color and the fineness of its fur. It is the
standard of value on the northeastern coast of Asia.

The sea-otter which was first introduced into commerce in 1725, from the
Aleutian and Kurile Islands, is an exceedingly fine, soft, close fur,
jet black in winter, with a silken gloss. The fur of the young animal
is of a beautiful brown color. It is met with in great abundance in
Behring's Island, Kamtschatka, Aleutian and Fox Islands, and is also
taken on the opposite coasts of North America. It is sometimes taken
with nets, but more frequently with clubs and spears. Their food is
principally lobster and other shell-fish.

In 1780 furs had become so scarce in Siberia that the supply was
insufficient for the demand in the Asiatic countries. It was at this
time that the sea-otter was introduced into the markets for China.
The skins brought such incredible prices, as to originate immediately
several American and British expeditions to the northern islands of the
Pacific, to Nootka Sound, and the northwest coast of America; but the
Russians already had possession of the tract which they now hold, and
had arranged a trade for the sea-otter with the Koudek tribes. They do
not engross the trade, however; the American northwest trading ships
procure them, all along the coast, from the Indians.

At one period, the fur seals formed no inconsiderable item in the trade.
South Georgia, in south latitude fifty-five degrees, discovered in
1675, was explored by Captain Cook in 1771. The Americans immediately
commenced carrying seal skins thence to China, where they obtained the
most exorbitant prices. One million two hundred thousand skins have been
taken from that island alone, and nearly an equal number from the Island
of Desolation, since they were first resorted to for the purpose of

The discovery of the South Shetlands, sixty-three degrees south
latitude, in 1818, added surprisingly to the trade in fur seals. The
number taken from the South Shetlands in 1821 and 1822 amounted to three
hundred and twenty thousand. This valuable animal is now almost extinct
in all these islands, owing to the exterminating system adopted by the
hunters. They are still taken on the Lobos Islands, where the provident
government of Montevideo restrict the fishery, or hunting, within
certain limits, which insures an annual return of the seals. At certain
seasons, these amphibia, for the purpose of renewing their coat, come up
on the dark frowning rocks and precipices, where there is not a trace of
vegetation. In the middle of January, the islands are partially cleared
of snow, where a few patches of short straggling grass spring up in
favorable situations; but the seals do not resort to it for food. They
remain on the rocks not less than two months, without any sustenance,
when they return much emaciated to the sea.

Bears of various species and colors, many varieties of the fox, the
wolf, the beaver, the otter, the marten, the raccoon, the badger, the
wolverine, the mink, the lynx, the muskrat, the woodchuck, the rabbit,
the hare, and the squirrel, are natives of North America.

The beaver, otter, lynx fisher, hare, and raccoon, are used principally
for hats; while the bears of several varieties furnish an excellent
material for sleigh linings, for cavalry caps, and other military
equipments. The fur of the black fox is the most valuable of any of the
American varieties; and next to that the red, which is exported to China
and Smyrna. In China, the red is employed for trimmings, linings, and
robes; the latter being variegated by adding the black fur of the paws,
in spots or waves. There are many other varieties of American fox, such
as the gray, the white, the cross, the silver, and the dun-colored. The
silver fox is a rare animal, a native of the woody country below the
falls of the Columbia River. It has a long, thick, deep lead-colored
fur, intermingled with long hairs, invariably white at the top, forming
a bright lustrous silver gray, esteemed by some more beautiful than any
other kind of fox.

The skins of the buffalo, of the Rocky Mountain sheep, of various deer
and of the antelope, are included in the fur trade with the Indians and
trappers of the north and west.

Fox and seal skins are sent from Greenland to Denmark. The white fur of
the arctic fox and polar bear is sometimes found in the packs brought
to the traders by the most northern tribes of Indians, but is not
particularly valuable. The silver-tipped rabbit is peculiar to England,
and is sent thence to Russia and China.

Other furs are employed and valued according to the caprices of fashion,
as well in those countries where they are needed for defenses against
the severity of the seasons, as among the inhabitants of milder
climates, who, severely of Tartar or Sclavonian descent, are said to
inherit an attachment to furred clothing. Such are the inhabitants of
Poland, of Southern Russia, of China, of Persia, of Turkey, and all
the nations of Gothic origin in the middle and western parts of Europe.
Under the burning suns of Syria and Egypt, and the mild climes of
Bucharia and Independent Tartary, there is also a constant demand, and a
great consumption, where there exists no physical necessity. In our own
temperate latitudes, besides their use in the arts, they are in request
for ornament and warmth during the winter, and large quantities are
annually consumed for both purposes in the United States.

From the foregoing statements, it appears that the fur trade must
henceforward decline. The advanced state of geographical science shows
that no new countries remain to be explored. In North America the
animals are slowly decreasing, from the persevering efforts and
the indiscriminate slaughter practiced by the hunters, and by the
appropriation to the uses of man of those forests and rivers which have
afforded them food and protection. They recede with the aborigines,
before the tide of civilization; but a diminished supply will remain in
the mountains and uncultivated tracts of this and other countries, if
the avidity of the hunter can be restrained within proper limitations.

     * An animal called the stoat, a kind of ermine, is said to
     be found in North America, but very inferior to the European
     and Asiatic.

     * * The finest fur and the darkest color are most esteemed;
     and whether the difference arises from the age of the
     animal, or from some peculiarity of location, is not known.
     They do not vary more from the common marten than the
     Arabian horse from the shaggy Canadian.

Height of the Rocky Mountains.

VARIOUS estimates have been made of the height of the Rocky Mountains,
but it is doubtful whether any have, as yet, done justice to their
real altitude, which promises to place them only second to the highest
mountains of the known world. Their height has been diminished to the
eye by the great elevation of the plains from which they rise. They
consist, according to Long, of ridges, knobs, and peaks, variously
disposed. The more elevated parts are covered with perpetual snows,
which contribute to give them a luminous, and, at a great distance,
even a brilliant appearance; whence they derive, among some of the first
discoverers, the name of the Shining Mountains.

James's Peak has generally been cited as the highest of the chain;
and its elevation above the common level has been ascertained, by a
trigonometrical measurement, to be about eight thousand five hundred
feet. Mr. Long, however, judged, from the position of the snow near the
summits of other peaks and ridges at no great distance from it, that
they were much higher. Having heard Professor Renwick, of New York,
express an opinion of the altitude of these mountains far beyond what
had usually been ascribed to them, we applied to him for the authority
on which he grounded his observation, and here subjoin his reply:

Columbia College, New York, February 23, 1836.

Dear Sir,--In compliance with your request, I have to communicate some
facts in relation to the heights of the Rocky Mountains, and the sources
whence I obtained the information.

In conversation with Simon M'Gillivray, Esq., a partner of the Northwest
Company, he stated to me his impression, that the mountains in the
vicinity of the route pursued by the traders of that company were nearly
as high as the Himalayas. He had himself crossed by this route, seen
the snowy summits of the peaks, and experienced a degree of cold which
required a spirit thermometer to indicate it. His authority for the
estimate of the heights was a gentleman who had been employed for
several years as surveyor of that company. This conversation occurred
about sixteen years since.

A year or two afterwards, I had the pleasure of dining, at Major
Delafield's with Mr. Thompson, the gentleman referred to by Mr.
M'Gillivray. I inquired of him in relation to the circumstances
mentioned by Mr. M'Gillivray, and he stated that, by the joint means
of the barometric and trigonometric measurement, he had ascertained the
height of one of the peaks to be about twenty-five thousand feet, and
there were others of nearly the same height in the vicinity.

I am, dear sir, To W. Irving, Esq. Yours truly, JAMES RENWICK.

Suggestions with respect to the Indian tribes,

and the protection of our Trade.

IN the course of this work, a few general remarks have been hazarded
respecting the Indian tribes of the prairies, and the dangers to be
apprehended from them in future times to our trade beyond the Rocky
Mountains and with the Spanish frontiers. Since writing those remarks,
we have met with some excellent observations and suggestions, in
manuscript, on the same subject, written by Captain Bonneville, of the
United States army, who had lately returned from a long residence among
the tribes of the Rocky Mountains. Captain B. approves highly of
the plan recently adopted by the United States government for the
organization of a regiment of dragoons for the protection of our western
frontier, and the trade across the prairies. "No other species of
military force," he observes, "is at all competent to cope with these
restless and wandering hordes, who require to be opposed with swiftness
quite as much as with strength; and the consciousness that a troop,
uniting these qualifications, is always on the alert to avenge their
outrages upon the settlers and traders, will go very far towards
restraining them from the perpetration of those thefts and murders which
they have heretofore committed with impunity, whenever stratagem or
superiority of force has given them the advantage. Their interest
already has done something towards their pacification with our
countrymen. From the traders among them, they receive their supplies in
the greatest abundance, and upon very equitable terms; and when it
is remembered that a very considerable amount of property is yearly
distributed among them by the government, as presents, it will readily
be perceived that they are greatly dependent upon us for their most
valued resources. If, superadded to this inducement, a frequent display
of military power be made in their territories, there can be little
doubt that the desired security and peace will be speedily afforded
to our own people. But the idea of establishing a permanent amity and
concord amongst the various east and west tribes themselves, seems to
me, if not wholly impracticable, at least infinitely more difficult than
many excellent philanthropists have hoped and believed. Those nations
which have so lately emigrated from the midst of our settlements to live
upon our western borders, and have made some progress in agriculture and
the arts of civilization, have, in the property they have acquired,
and the protection and aid extended to them, too many advantages to be
induced readily to take up arms against us, particularly if they can be
brought to the full conviction that their new homes will be permanent
and undisturbed; and there is every reason and motive, in policy as well
as humanity, for our ameliorating their condition by every means in
our power. But the case is far different with regard to the Osages, the
Kanzas, the Pawnees, and other roving hordes beyond the frontiers of the
settlements. Wild and restless in their character and habits, they are
by no means so susceptible of control or civilization; and they are
urged by strong, and, to them, irresistible causes in their situation
and necessities, to the daily perpetuation of violence and fraud. Their
permanent subsistence, for example, is derived from the buffalo hunting
grounds, which lie a great distance from their towns. Twice a year
they are obliged to make long and dangerous expeditions, to procure the
necessary provisions for themselves and their families. For this purpose
horses are absolutely requisite, for their own comfort and safety, as
well as for the transportation of their food, and their little stock
of valuables; and without them they would be reduced, during a great
portion of the year, to a state of abject misery and privation. They
have no brood mares, nor any trade sufficiently valuable to supply their
yearly losses, and endeavor to keep up their stock by stealing horses
from the other tribes to the west and southwest. Our own people, and the
tribes immediately upon our borders, may indeed be protected from
their depredations; and the Kanzas, Osages, Pawnees, and others, may
be induced to remain at peace among themselves, so long as they are
permitted to pursue the old custom of levying upon the Camanches and
other remote nations for their complement of steeds for the warriors,
and pack-horses for their transportation to and from the hunting ground.
But the instant they are forced to maintain a peaceful and inoffensive
demeanor towards the tribes along the Mexican border, and find that
every violation of their rights is followed by the avenging arm of our
government, the result must be, that, reduced to a wretchedness and want
which they can ill brook, and feeling the certainty of punishment for
every attempt to ameliorate their condition in the only way they as yet
comprehend, they will abandon their unfruitful territory and remove to
the neighborhood of the Mexican lands, and there carry on a vigorous
predatory warfare indiscriminately upon the Mexicans and our own people
trading or travelling in that quarter.

"The Indians of the prairies are almost innumerable. Their superior
horsemanship, which in my opinion, far exceeds that of any other people
on the face of the earth, their daring bravery, their cunning and skill
in the warfare of the wilderness, and the astonishing rapidity and
secrecy with which they are accustomed to move in their martial
expeditions, will always render them most dangerous and vexatious
neighbors, when their necessities or their discontents may drive them to
hostility with our frontiers. Their mode and principles of warfare will
always protect them from final and irretrievable defeat, and secure
their families from participating in any blow, however severe, which our
retribution might deal out to them.

"The Camanches lay the Mexicans under contribution for horses and
mules, which they are always engaged in stealing from them in incredible
numbers; and from the Camanches, all the roving tribes of the far West,
by a similar exertion of skill and daring, supply themselves in turn. It
seems to me, therefore, under all these circumstances, that the apparent
futility of any philanthropic schemes for the benefit of these nations,
and a regard for our own protection, concur in recommending that we
remain satisfied with maintaining peace upon our own immediate borders,
and leave the Mexicans and the Camanches, and all the tribes hostile to
these last, to settle their differences and difficulties in their own

"In order to give full security and protection to our trading parties
circulating in all directions through the great prairies, I am under the
impression that a few judicious measures on the part of the government,
involving a very limited expense, would be sufficient. And, in attaining
this end, which of itself has already become an object of public
interest and import, another, of much greater consequence, might be
brought about, namely, the securing to the States a most valuable and
increasing trade, now carried on by caravans directly to Santa Fe.

"As to the first desideratum: the Indians can only be made to respect
the lives and property of the American parties, by rendering them
dependent upon us for their supplies; which alone can be done with
complete effect by the establishment of a trading post, with resident
traders, at some point which will unite a sufficient number of
advantages to attract the several tribes to itself, in preference to
their present places of resort for that purpose; for it is a well-known
fact that the Indians will always protect their trader, and those in
whom he is interested, so long as they derive benefits from him. The
alternative presented to those at the north, by the residence of the
agents of the Hudson's Bay Company amongst them, renders the condition
of our people in that quarter less secure; but I think it will appear at
once, upon the most cursory examination, that no such opposition further
south could be maintained, so as to weaken the benefits of such an
establishment as is here suggested.

"In considering this matter, the first question which presents itself
is, where do these tribes now make their exchanges, and obtain their
necessary supplies. They resort almost exclusively to the Mexicans, who,
themselves, purchase from us whatever the Indians most seek for. In this
point of view, therefore, coeteris paribus, it would be an easy matter
for us to monopolize the whole traffic. All that is wanted is some
location more convenient for the natives than that offered by the
Mexicans, to give us the undisputed superiority; and the selection of
such a point requires but a knowledge of the single fact, that these
nations invariably winter upon the head waters of the Arkansas, and
there prepare all their buffalo robes for trade. These robes are heavy,
and, to the Indian, very difficult of transportation. Nothing
but necessity induces them to travel any great distance with such
inconvenient baggage. A post, therefore, established upon the head
waters of the Arkansas, must infallibly secure an uncontested preference
over that of the Mexicans; even at their prices and rates of barter.
Then let the dragoons occasionally move about among these people in
large parties, impressing them with the proper estimate of our power to
protect and to punish, and at once we have complete and assured security
for all citizens whose enterprise may lead them beyond the border, and
an end to the outrages and depredations which now dog the footsteps
of the traveller, in the prairies, and arrest and depress the most
advantageous commerce. Such a post need not be stronger than fifty men;
twenty-five to be employed as hunters, to supply the garrison, and the
residue as a defense against any hostility. Situated here upon the good
lands of the Arkansas, in the midst of abundance of timber, while it
might be kept up at a most inconsiderable expense, such an establishment
within ninety miles of Santa Fe or Taos would be more than justified by
the other and more important advantages before alluded to, leaving the
protection of the traders with the Indian tribes entirely out of the

"This great trade, carried on by caravans to Santa Fe, annually loads
one hundred wagons with merchandise, which is bartered in the northern
provinces or Mexico for cash and for beaver furs. The numerous articles
excluded as contraband, and the exorbitant duties laid upon all those
that are admitted by the Mexican government, present so many obstacles
to commerce, that I am well persuaded, that if a post, such as is here
suggested, should be established on the Arkansas, it would become the
place of deposit, not only for the present trade, but for one infinitely
more extended. Here the Mexicans might purchase their supplies, and
might well afford to sell them at prices which would silence all
competition from any other quarter.

"These two trades, with the Mexicans and the Indians, centring at this
post, would give rise to a large village of traders and laborers,
and would undoubtedly be hailed, by all that section of country, as a
permanent and invaluable advantage. A few pack-horses would carry all
the clothing and ammunition necessary for the post during the first
year, and two light field-pieces would be all the artillery required
for its defense. Afterwards, all the horses required for the use of the
establishment might be purchased from the Mexicans at the low price
of ten dollars each; and, at the same time, whatever animals might
be needed to supply the losses among the dragoons traversing the
neighborhood, could be readily procured. The Upper Missouri Indians can
furnish horses, at very cheap rates, to any number of the same troops
who might be detailed for the defense of the northern frontier; and, in
other respects, a very limited outlay of money would suffice to maintain
a post in that section of the country.

"From these considerations, and my own personal observations, I am,
therefore, disposed to believe that two posts established by the
government, one at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, and one on the
Arkansas, would completely protect all our people in every section of
the great wilderness of the West; while other advantages, at least with
regard to one of them, confirm and urge the suggestion. A fort at the
mouth of the Yellowstone, garrisoned by fifty men would be perfectly
safe. The establishment might be constructed simply with a view to the
stores, stables for the dragoons' horses, and quarters for the regular
garrison; the rest being provided with sheds or lodges, erected in the
vicinity, for their residence during the winter months."

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains" ***

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