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Title: Crossing the Plains, Days of '57 - A Narrative of Early Emigrant Travel to California by the Ox-team Method
Author: Maxwell, Wm. Audley (William Audley), -1921
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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              DAYS OF '57

             OX-TEAM METHOD



         COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY


[Illustration: "They started flight" (See page 119.)]



  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS                                             VI

  FOREWORD                                                         VII

  CHAPTER I. Forsaking the Old, in Quest of the New. First
           Camp. Fording the Platte                                  1

  CHAPTER II. Laramie Fashions and Sioux Etiquette. A Trophy.
           Chimney Rock. A Solitary Emigrant. Jests and Jingles     13

  CHAPTER III. Lost in the Black Hills. Devil's Gate. Why a
           Mountain Sheep Did Not Wink. Green River Ferry           31

  CHAPTER IV. Disquieting Rumors of Redmen. Consolidation for
           Safety. The Poisonous Humboldt                           49

  CHAPTER V. The Holloway Massacre                                  62

  CHAPTER VI. Origin of "Piker." Before the Era of Canned Good
           and Kodaks. Morning Routine. Typical Bivouac.
           Sociability Entrained. The Flooded Camp. Hope Sustains
           Patience                                                 76

  CHAPTER VII. Tangled by a Tornado. Lost the Pace but Kept the
           Cow. Human Oddities. Night Guards. Wolf Serenades.
           Awe of the Wilderness. A Stampede                        97

  CHAPTER VIII. Disaster Overtakes the Wood Family                 116

  CHAPTER IX. Mysterious Visitors. Extra Sentinels. An Anxious
           Night                                                   123

  CHAPTER X. Challenge to Battle                                   133

  CHAPTER XI. Sagebrush Justice                                    144

  CHAPTER XII. Night Travel. Arid Wastes to Limpid Waters          160

  CHAPTER XIII. Into the Settlements. Halt                         170



  "They started flight"                                   Frontispiece

  "Fording the Platte consumed one entire day"                      11

  "Wo-haw-Buck"                                                     14

  "From our coign of vantage we continued to shoot"                 21

  Chimney Rock                                                      22

  "One melody that he sang from the heart"                          27

  "Hauled the delinquent out"                                       30

  "The wagons were lowered through the crevice"                     38

  Bone-writing                                                      57

  "With hand upraised in supplication, yielded to the impulse
  to flee"                                                          67

  Jerry Bush, 1914                                                  72

  Nancy Holloway, 1857                                              74

  The Author, twenty years after                                   100

  A Coyote Serenade                                                109

  "Van Diveer's advantage was slight but sufficient"               136

  "A sip from the barrel cost fifty cents"                         146

  "'Stop,' shouted the Judge"                                      156

  "'Melican man dig gold"                                          173

  Pack-mule route to placer diggings                               175


Diligent inquiry has failed to disclose the existence of an authentic
and comprehensive narrative of a _pioneer_ journey across the plains.
With the exception of some improbable yarns and disconnected incidents
relating to the earlier experiences, the subject has been treated
mainly from the standpoint of people who traveled westward at a time
when the real hardships and perils of the trip were much less than
those encountered in the fifties.

A very large proportion of the people now residing in the Far West are
descendants of emigrants who came by the precarious means afforded by
ox-team conveyances. For some three-score years the younger
generations have heard from the lips of their ancestors enough of
that wonderful pilgrimage to create among them a widespread demand for
a complete and typical narrative.

This story consists of facts, with the real names of the actors in the
drama. The events, gay, grave and tragic, are according to indelible
recollections of eye-witnesses, including those of

                                                 THE AUTHOR.

  W. A. M.,

    _Ukiah, California, 1915._





We left the west bank of the Missouri River on May 17, 1857. Our
objective point was Sonoma County, California.

The company consisted of thirty-seven persons, including several
families, and some others; the individuals ranging in years from
middle age to babies: eleven men, ten women and sixteen minors; the
eldest of the party forty-nine, the most youthful, a boy two months
old the day we started. Most of these were persons who had resided for
a time at least not far from the starting point, but not all were
natives of that section, some having emigrated from Indiana, Kentucky,
Tennessee and Virginia.

We were outfitted with eight wagons, about thirty yoke of oxen, fifty
head of extra steers and cows, and ten or twelve saddle ponies and

The vehicles were light, well-built farm wagons, arranged and fitted
for economy of space and weight. Most of the wagons were without
brakes, seats or springs. The axles were of wood, which, in case of
their breaking, could be repaired en route. Chains were used for
deadlocking the wheels while moving down steep places.

No lines or halters of any kind were used on the oxen for guiding
them, these animals being managed entirely by use of the ox-whip and
the "ox-word." The whip was a braided leathern lash, six to eight feet
long, the most approved stock for which was a hickory sapling, as long
as the lash, and on the extremity of the lash was a strip of
buckskin, for a "cracker," which, when snapped by a practiced driver,
produced a sound like the report of a pistol. The purpose of the whip
was well understood by the trained oxen, and that implement enabled a
skillful driver to regulate the course of a wagon almost as accurately
as if the team were of horses, with the reins in the hands of an
expert jehu.

An emigrant wagon such as described, provided with an oval top cover
of white ducking, with "flaps" in front and a "puckering-string" at
the rear, came to be known in those days as a "prairie schooner;" and
a string of them, drawn out in single file in the daily travel, was a
"train." Trains following one another along the same new pathway were
sometimes strung out for hundreds of miles, with spaces of a few
hundred yards to several miles between, and were many weeks passing a
given point.

Our commissary wagon was supplied with flour, bacon, coffee, tea,
sugar, rice, salt, and so forth; rations estimated to last for five or
six months, if necessary; also medical supplies, and whatever else we
could carry to meet the probable necessities and the possible
casualties of the journey; with the view of traveling tediously but
patiently over a country of roadless plains and mountains, crossing
deserts and fording rivers; meanwhile cooking, eating and sleeping on
the ground as we should find it from day to day.

The culinary implements occupied a compartment of their own in a
wagon, consisting of such kettles, long-handled frying-pans and
sheet-iron coffee pots as could be used on a camp-fire, with table
articles almost all of tin. Those who attempted to carry the more
friable articles, owing to the thumps and falls to which these were
subjected, found themselves short in supply of utensils long before
the journey ended. I have seen a man and wife drinking coffee from
one small tin pan, their china and delftware having been left in
fragments to decorate the desert wayside.

We had some tents, but they were little used, after we learned how to
do without them, excepting in cases of inclement weather, of which
there was very little, especially in the latter part of the trip.

During the great rush of immigration into California subsequent to
1849, from soon after the discovery of gold until this time, the usual
date at which the annual emigrants started from the settlement borders
along the Missouri River was April 15th to May 1st. The Spring of 1857
was late, and we did not pull out until May 17th, when the prairie
grass was grown sufficiently to afford feed for the stock, and summer
weather was assured.

At that time the boundary line between the "States" and the "Plains"
was the Missouri River. We crossed that river at a point about
half-way between St. Joseph and Council Bluffs, where the village of
Brownville was the nucleus of a first settlement of white people on
the Nebraska side. There the river was a half-mile wide. The crossing
was effected by means of an old-fashioned ferryboat or scow, propelled
by a small, stern-wheeled steamer. Two days were consumed in
transporting our party and equipment across the stream; but one wagon
and a few of the people and animals being taken at each trip of the
ferryboat and steamer.

From the landing we passed up the west shore twenty miles, seeing
occasionally a rude cabin or a foundation of logs, indicating the
intention of pre-empters. This brought us to the town of Nebraska
City, then a beginning of a dozen or twenty houses, on the west bank.
Omaha was not yet on the map; although where that thriving city now
stands there existed then a settlement of something over one hundred

From Nebraska City we bore off northwesterly, separating ourselves
from civilization, and thereafter saw no more evidence of the white
man's purpose to occupy the country over which we traveled.

There was before us the sky-bound stretch of undulating prairie,
spreading far and wide, like a vast field of young, growing grain, its
monotony relieved only by occasional clumps of small trees, indicating
the presence of springs or small water-courses.

Other companies or trains, from many parts of the country, especially
the Middle States, were crossing the Missouri at various points
between St. Louis and Council Bluffs; most of them converging
eventually into one general route, as they got out on the journey.

It is perhaps impossible to convey a clear understanding of the
emotions experienced by one starting on such a trip; leaving friends
and the familiar surroundings of what had been home, to face a siege
of travel over thousands of miles of wilderness, so little known and
fraught with so much of hardship and peril.

The earlier emigrants, gold-hunters, men only--men of such stuff as
pioneers usually are made of--carried visions of picking up fortunes
in the California gold mines and soon returning to their former
haunts. But those who were going now felt that they were burning all
bridges behind them; that all they had was with them, and they were
going to stay.

Formerly we had heard that California was good only for its gold
mines; that it was a country of rocks, crags and deserts; where it
rained ceaselessly during half of the year and not at all in the other
half.[1] But later we had been told that in the valleys there was land
on which crops of wheat could be grown, and that cattle raising was
good, on the broad acres of wild oats everywhere in the "cow
counties." It was told us also that there were strips of redwood
forest along the coast, and these trees, a hundred to several hundred
feet in height, could be split into boards ten to twenty feet long,
for building purposes; and that this material was to be had by anybody
for the taking. Some said that the Spanish padres, at their missions
in several localities near the Pacific shore, had planted small
vineyards of what had come to be known as the "Mission" grape, which
produced enormous crops. Another report told us that other fruits,
including the orange and lemon varieties, so far as tried, gave
promise of being valuable products of the valley and foothill soils.
Such stories gave rise to a malady called "California fever." It was
contagious, and carried off many people.

Our first camp was on the open prairie, where grass grew about four
inches high, and a small spring furnished an ample supply of water.
Firewood we had brought with us for that night. The weather was very
fine, and all were joyous at the novelty of "camping out."

On or about the eighth day we came to the Platte River; broad, muddy
stream, at some points a mile or more in width; shallow, but running
rapidly, between low banks; its many small islands wholly covered by
growths of cottonwood trees and small willows. From these islands we
obtained from time to time the fuel needed for the camp, as we took
our course along the river's southerly shore; and occasionally added
to the contents of the "grub" wagon by capturing an elk or deer that
had sought covert in the cool shade of these island groves. Antelope
also were there, but too wary for our huntsmen.

[Illustration: "Fording the Platte consumed one entire day"]

We forded the Platte at a point something like one hundred and fifty
miles westward from its confluence with the Missouri. There was no
road leading into the river, nor any evidence of its having been
crossed by any one, at that place. We were informed that the bottom
was of quicksand, and fording, therefore, dangerous. We tested it, by
riding horses across. Contrary to our expectations, the bottom was
found to be a surface of smooth sand, packed hard enough to bear up
the wagons, when the movement was quick and continuous. A cut was made
in the bank, to form a runway for passage of the wagons to the water's
edge; and the whole train crossed the stream safely, with no further
mishap than the wetting of a driver and the dipping of a wagon into a
place deep enough to let water into the box. Fording the Platte
consumed one entire day. We camped that night on the north shore.

The train continued along the general course of the river about four
hundred miles, as far as Fort Laramie, through open country, in which
there was an abundance of feed for the animals, but where wood for
fuel was scarce.


[1] As late as March, 1850, Daniel Webster said in the United States
Senate: "California is Asiatic in formation and scenery; composed of
vast mountains of enormous height, with broken ridges and deep
valleys. The sides of these mountains are barren--entirely
barren--their tops capped by perennial snow."



The Laramie and Sioux Indians were in those days the lords of that
portion of the plains over which we traveled during the first several

They were fine specimens of physical manhood. Tall, erect, well
proportioned, they carried themselves with a distinct air of personal
importance and dignity. They had not taken to the white man's mode of
dress. Each had, in addition to his buckskin breeches and moccasins, a
five-point Mackinaw blanket, these comprising for him a complete suit.
The blanket he used as an outer garment, when needed, and for his
cover at night. Many of the more important "big injins" owned also a
buffalo robe. This was the whole hide of the buffalo, with the hair on
it, the inner side tanned to a soft, pliable leather, and the
irregularities of its natural shape neatly cut away. It furnished the
owner an excellent storm robe, sufficient protection, head to foot,
in the severest weather.

[Illustration: "Wo-haw-Buck"]

The Indians of these tribes that we met were friendly, even to
familiarity. One of them would approach an emigrant with a
"glad-to-meet-you" air, extending a hand in what was intended to be
"white-man" fashion. But "Mr. Lo" was a novice in the art of
handshaking, and his awkwardness and mimicking attempts in the effort
were as amusing to us as satisfactory, apparently, to him. His vocal
greeting, with slight variation from time to time, was in such
words--with little regard for their meaning--as he had caught from the
ox-driving dialect of the passing emigrants: "Wo-haw-buck," "Hello,
John, got tobac?" If he added "Gimme biskit," and "Pappoose heap
sick," he had about reached the limit of his English vocabulary.

Large game was common along some parts of the way: buffalo, elk,
antelope, deer, on the plains and hills; bear, mountain lions,
wildcats and other species in the mountainous sections. They were shy
and not easy to take, but we captured a few of some varieties. Some
members of the party demonstrated that fishing was good in the Rocky
Mountain streams. Naturally the men were hopeful of securing specimens
of the larger game, but our lack of experience and scarcity of proper
equipment for the purpose were against the chance, though not to the
extent of our entire disappointment.

Only persons of much experience on the plains could form even an
approximate estimate of the great number of buffaloes sometimes seen
together. It has been stated that there were herds numbering more than
fifty thousand. Such an aggregation would consume days in passing a
given point, and in case of a stampede, all other animals in its path
were doomed to destruction. A herd of buffaloes quietly grazing was
sometimes difficult to distinguish, when viewed from a considerable
distance, from a low forest; their rounded bodies and the neutral tint
of their shaggy coats giving them the appearance of bushes.

When the train was nearing the fork of the Platte River a herd of
buffaloes was seen, quietly grazing on the plain, a mile or more to
the right, beyond a small water-course.

Deciding we would try our prowess, Captain Maxwell and this narrator
rode to the creek, at a point some distance below the position of the
herd, where we tied our horses, then crept along, under cover of the
creek bank, till we had gone as near as possible, without being seen
by the herd, distant from us not much more than a hundred yards.

Cautiously peering above the edge of the bank, we selected a choice
buffalo among those nearest us, and both fired. The entire herd
galloped wildly away, continuing till all passed from view over a
hill some miles northward. Not one showed sign of having been hit.

As we were about to leave the place, what should we see but a lonely
buffalo, coming down the slope toward where we were, moving with
leisurely tread and manner perfectly unconcerned. Notwithstanding our
recent firing, this animal evidently had no suspicion of our presence.
We remained and awaited his coming.

He walked a few steps, then browsed a little, as if in no hurry about
anything. Captain John and I felt our hope rise; we laid our plans and
waited patiently.

Just where the buffalo trail led down the bank of the creek, there
were, as in many places near the stream, some scattered cottonwood and
other trees. One of these that once stood on the brink had fallen till
its top caught in the fork of another tree, and rested at a gentle
incline upward from where it had grown. At the roots of this fallen
tree we concealed ourselves, to wait, hoping that the big animal would
come down to the water, but a few yards from us; for we guessed that
he was one that had not yet had his drink from the brook that day, and
was determined not to leave until he slaked his thirst.

It was an anxious while of waiting, but not long. I was fearful that
my hard-thumping heart-beats would be audible and frighten him away.
Could it be true that I had an attack of "buck-ague"? Perish the

Finally his bovine majesty came lazily over the top of the bank, with
a heavy, slow motion; grunting and puffing, as if he were almost too
heavy for his legs. When he got to the bottom of the bank and was
about to drink, Captain John whispered our agreed signal: "One, two,
three;" we fired, simultaneously, and repeated. The big fellow stood
still for a moment after the shots and looked about, with a slow
movement and stolid gaze, turning his head questioningly from side to
side, as if he would say, "I thought I heard something pop."

Somehow we knew we had hit him, and we wondered why he did not fall.
His little, black eyes rolled and glinted under his shaggy foretop.
Then he seemed to swell; crouching slightly, as does a beast of prey
when about to spring; lowered his head, pawed the earth and shook his
mane. His whole body became vibrant with the obvious desire to
fight,--and no antagonist in sight. Uttering a tremendous grunt, he
arched his back again, stamping with all four feet, somewhat like the
capers of a Mexican "broncho" when preparing to buck"; then he snorted
once more, with such explosive force as seemed to shake the tree
beside which we were hidden, as he looked about for something to pitch

[Illustration: "From our coign of vantage we continued to shoot"]

By this time we thought we understood why a kind Providence had
caused that cottonwood tree to lodge at such an angle that a buffalo
could not climb it, but we could--and we did. Getting ourselves safely
into the fork of the tree, we continued to shoot from our coign of
vantage till the big fellow dropped. When he ceased to kick or give
any sign of belligerency, we came down and approached him, carefully.
Then we dressed him, or as much of him as we could carry in two bags
that we had strapped behind our saddles, and rejoined the train after
our people had gone into camp for the night.

[Illustration: Chimney Rock]

We had our first buffalo steak for supper that night. We also had the
satisfaction of observing signs of jealousy on the part of the other
men who had never killed a buffalo.

One of the first natural curiosities we saw was Chimney Rock; a
vertical column of sandstone something like forty feet high, with a
rugged stone bluff rising abruptly near it. Its appearance, from our
distant view, resembled a stone chimney from which the building had
been burned away, as it stood, solitary on the flat earth at the south
side of the Platte River, we traveling up the north shore. Such a
time-chiseled monument was a novelty to us then. To the early
emigrants it was the first notable landmark.

While some distance farther west, as we scaled the higher slopes, we
could see to the southward the snow-capped peaks of that region which
long afterward was taken from western Nebraska to become the Territory
of Colorado, and later still, the State of that name. Looking over and
past the locality where, more than a year thereafter, the town of
Denver was laid out, we saw, during several weeks, the summit of
Pike's Peak, hundreds of miles away.

One evening when we were going into camp we were overtaken by a man
trundling a push-cart. This vehicle had between its wheels a box
containing the man's supplies of food and camp articles, with the
blankets, which were in a roll, placed on top; all strapped down under
an oilcloth cover.

With this simple outfit, pushed in front of him, this man was making
his way from one of the Eastern States to California, a distance of
more than three thousand miles. He was of medium size, athletic
appearance, with a cheerful face. He visited us overnight. The next
morning he was invited to tie his cart behind one of our wagons and
ride with us. He replied that he would be pleased to do so, but was
anxious to make all possible speed, and felt that he could not wait on
the progress of our train, which was somewhat slower than the pace he
maintained. It was said that he was the first man who made the entire
trip on foot and alone, from coast to coast, as we were afterwards
informed he succeeded in doing.

From time to time the tedium was dispelled by varied incidents; many
that were entertaining and instructive, some ludicrous, some pathetic,
and others profoundly tragic. Agreeable happenings predominated
largely during the early stages, and those involving difficulties and
of grave import were mainly a part of our experiences toward the close
of the long pilgrimage. Such an order of events might be presumed as a
natural sequence, as the route led first over a territory not
generally difficult to travel, but farther and farther from
established civilization, into rougher lands, and toward those regions
where outlawry, common to all pioneer conditions, was prevalent.

With our company were four or five boys and young men, eighteen to
twenty-one years of age, also a kindly and unpretentious but droll
young fellow, named John C. Aston, whose age was about twenty-five.
This younger element was responsible for most of the occurrences of
lighter vein, which became a feature of our daily progress.

Aston's intimate friends called him "Jack," and some of the more
facetious ones shortened the cognomen "Jack Aston" by dropping the
"ton," inconsiderately declaring that the briefer appellation fitted
the man, even better than did his coat, which always was loose about
the shoulders and too long in the sleeves. But all knew "Jack" to be
an excellent fellow. His principal fault, if it could be so termed,
was a superabundance of good-nature, a willingness at all times to
joke and be joked. He had a fund of stories--in some of which he
pictured himself the hero--with which he was wont to relieve the
tedium of the evening hours. A violin was among his effects, which he
played to accompany his singing of entertaining countryside songs.
Most of these were melodious, and highly descriptive. "Jack" had much
music in his soul, and sang with good effect.

[Illustration: "One melody that he sang from the heart"]

There was one melody that he sang oftenest, and sang from the
heart--one that was rendered nightly, regardless of any variation in
the program; a composition that embraced seventeen verses, each
followed by a soothing lullaby refrain; a song which, every time he
sang it, carried "Jack" again to his old home in the Sunny South, and
seemed to give him surcease from all the ills of life. Of that song a
single verse is here reproduced, with deep regret that the other
sixteen are lost, with all except a small fraction of the tune. Yet,
cold, inanimate music notes on the paper would convey, to one who
never heard him sing them, only the skeleton; the life, sympathy and
soul of the song would be lacking. We needed no other soporific. Here
it is:

    Oh, the days of bygone joys,
      They never will come back to me;
    When I was with the girls and boys,
      A-courting, down in Tennessee.
        Ulee, ilee, aloo, ee--
      Courting, down in Tennessee.

It was "Jack's" habit to allow his head to hang to the left, due,
presumably, to much practice in holding down the large end of his
violin with his chin. He was prone to sleep a great deal, and even as
he sat in the driver's seat of a "prairie-schoner," or astride a mule,
the attitude described often resulted in his being accused of napping
while on duty. The climatic conditions peculiar to the plains, and the
slow, steady movement of the conveyances, were conducive to
drowsiness, in consequence of which everybody was all the time sleepy.
But "Jack" was born that way, and the very frequent evidences of it in
his case led to a general understanding that, whenever he was not in
sight, he was hidden away somewhere asleep.

"Jack's" amiability, too, was a permanent condition. Apparently no one
could make him angry or resentful. For this reason, he was the target
for many pranks perpetrated by the boys. Like this:

One evening "Jack" took his blanket and located for the night at a
spot apart from the others of the company, under a convenient sage
bush. The next morning he was overlooked until after breakfast. When
the time came for hitching the teams, he was not at his post. A
search finally revealed him, still rolled in his bedding, fast asleep.
When several calls failed to arouse him, one of the boys tied an end
of a rope around "Jack's" feet, hitched a pair of oxen to the other
end, and hauled the delinquent out some distance on the sand. "Jack"
sat up, unconcernedly rubbed his eyes, then began untying the rope
that bound his feet, his only comment being--

    "Ulee, ilee, aloo, ee;
    Courting, down in Tennessee."

[Illustration: "Hauled the delinquent out"]



At Fort Laramie we left the Platte River, and, bearing northwesterly,
entered the Black Hills, a region of low, rolling uplands, sparsely
grown with scrubby pine trees; the soil black, very dry; where little
animal life was visible, excepting prairie dogs.

There may be readers who, at the mention of prairie dogs, see mentally
a wolf or other specimen of the _genus canis_, of ordinary kind and
size. The prairie dog, however, is not of the dog species. It bears
some resemblance to a squirrel and a rat, but is larger than either.
It may be likened to the canine only in that it barks, somewhat as do
small dogs. Prairie dogs live in holes, dug by themselves. Twenty to
fifty of these holes may be seen within a radius of a few yards, and
such communities are known to plains people as "towns." On the
approach of anything they fear the little fellows sit erect, look
defiant and chatter saucily. If the intruder comes too near, the
commanding individual of the group, the mayor of the town, so to
speak, gives an alarm, plainly interpreted as, "Beware; make safe;
each man for himself;" and instantly each one turns an exquisite
somersault and disappears, as he drops, head downward, into the hole
beside him.

John L. Maxwell had made the trip over the plains from the Missouri
River to California in 1854, returning, via Panama, in 1856, to take
his family to the West, accompanying the train of his elder brother,
Dr. Kennedy Maxwell. He was of great service to us now, by reason of
his experience and consequent knowledge of the country traversed. He
was therefore elected to act as pilot of the company, with the title
"Captain John," which clung to him for many years.

The emigrant trail in some parts of the way was well marked. In other
places there was none, and we had to find our way as best we could,
not always without difficulty. Often Captain John and others would
ride ahead of the train a considerable distance, select routes for
passage through places where travel was hard or risky, choose
camp-sites, and, returning, pilot the train accordingly.

At various times, despite every care in selecting the route, the train
went on a wrong course, and at least once was completely astray. This
was one morning as the company was passing out of the Black Hills
country. Information had been received that at this place a short-cut
could be made which would save fifteen or twenty miles. There were no
marks on the ground indicating that any train ahead had gone that way,
but the leaders decided to try it. This venture led the company into a
situation not unlike the proverbial "jumping-off place."

Directly in our course was a declivity which dropped an estimated
depth of sixty to one hundred feet below the narrow, stony flat on
which we stood, down into a depressed valley. Abrupt ridges of broken
stone formation were on our right and left, inclosing us in a small
space of barren, waste earth. The elements had crumbled the rocks down
for ages, until what perhaps had been once a deep canyon was now a
narrow flat, a mass of debris, terminating at the top of the steep,
ragged cliff that pitched downward before us. The high, rocky ridges
on both sides were wholly impassable, at least for the teams. A search
finally disclosed, at the base of the ridge on our right, a single
possible passage. It was narrow, slightly wider than a wagon, and led
downward at a steep incline, into the valley below, with rocks
protruding from both its side walls, its bottom strewn with stones
such as our vehicles could not pass over in an ordinary way.

We were confronted with the problem how to get the wagons down that
yawning fissure; the alternative being to retrace our steps many

At the bottom of this cliff or wall that barred our way could be seen
a beautiful valley, stretching far and wide away to the northwest; a
scene of enchanting loveliness, a refreshing contrast to the dry and
nearly barren hills over which we had traveled during the many days
last past. A short distance from the foot of the wall was a small
stream of clear water, running over the meadow-flat. Rich pasture
extended along the line of trees that marked the serpentine course of
the brook which zigzagged its way toward the southwest. Every man,
woman and child of our company expressed in some way the declaration,
"We _must_ get into that beautiful oasis." It looked like field, park
and orchard, in one landscape; all fenced off from the desolate
surroundings by this wall of stone. Like Moses viewing Canaan from
Nebo's top, we looked down and yearned to be amidst its freshness.

It was not decreed that we should not enter in. A little distance to
the south, near the other ridge, we discovered another opening,
through which the animals could be driven down, but through which the
wagons could not pass. This was a narrow, crooked ravine, and very
steep; running diagonally down through the cliff; a sort of dry
water-way, entirely bridged over in one part by an arch of stone,
making it there a natural tunnel or open-ended cave; terminating at
the base of the cliff in an immense doorway, opening into the valley.

The teams were unhitched from the wagons, the yokes taken off the
oxen, and all the cattle, horses and mules were driven through the
inclined tunnel into the coveted valley. The women and children
clambered down, taking with them what they could of the camp things,
for immediate use, and soon were quite "at home" in the valley, making
free use of the little creek, for whatever purposes a little creek of
pure, cold, fresh water is good, for a lot of thirsty, dust-covered

The puzzle of getting the wagons down next engrossed the attention of
our best engineers. The proposition to unpack the lading, take the
wagons apart, and carry all down by hand, appeared for a time to be
the only feasible plan. Captain John, however, suggested procuring
rope or chain about one hundred feet in length, for use in lowering
the wagons, one at a time, through the first-mentioned passage.
Sufficient rope was brought, one end fastened to the rear axle of a
wagon, the other end turned around a dwarf pine tree at the top of the
bluff; two men managed the rope, preventing too rapid descent at the
steeper places, while others guided the wheels over the stones, and
the wagon was lowered through the crevice, with little damage. Thus,
one by one, all the wagons were taken into the valley before the sun

[Illustration: "The wagons were lowered through the crevice"]

It was a happy camp we had that night; though every man was tired.
There was wood for fire, and a supply of good water and pasture
sufficient for dozens of camps. Some one ventured the opinion that the
Mormon pioneers had overlooked that spot when seeking a new location
for Zion.

Except that it was very pleasant to inhabit, we knew little of the
place we had ventured into, or its location. How we were to get out
did not appear, nor for the time being did this greatly concern us;
and soon after supper the camp was wrapped in slumber, undisturbed by
any coyote duet, or, on this occasion, even the twitter of a night

We did not hurry the next morning, the inclination being to linger
awhile in the shady grove by the brookside. With a late start, the
day's travel took us some twelve miles, through and out of the
valley, to a point where we made the best of a poor camping place, on
a rough, rocky hillside. The following day there was no road to
follow, nor even a buffalo trail or bear path; but by evening we
somehow found our way back into the course usually followed by
emigrants, not knowing whether the recent detour had lessened or
increased the miles of travel, but delighted with the comfort and
diversion afforded by the side-ride. Thinking that others, seeing our
tracks, might be led into similar difficulties, and be less fortunate
perhaps in overcoming them, two of our young men rode back to the
place of divergence, and erected a notice to all comers, advising them
to "Keep to the right."

Another freak of Nature in which we were much interested was the
"Devil's Gate," or "Independence Rock," where we first came to the
Sweetwater River, in Wyoming. This is a granite ridge, some two
hundred feet in length, irregular in formation and height, resembling
a huge molehill, extending down from the Rocky Mountain heights and
being across the river's course; the "Gate" being a vertical section,
the width of the stream, cut out of a spur of Rattlesnake Mountain. If
his Satanic majesty, whose name it bears, had charge of the
construction, apparently he intended it only as a passage-way for the
river, the cut being the exact width of the river as it flows through.
The greater part of the two walls stand two hundred and fifty feet
high, above the river level, perpendicular to the earth's plane,
facing each other, the river between them at the base. Many names had
been cut in the surface of the rock, by passing emigrants.

We stopped for half a day to view this extraordinary scene. Some of
the boys went to the apex, to see if the downward view made the rock
walls appear as high as did the upward view: and naturally they found
the distance viewed downward seemed much greater. Our intention was to
stand on the brink and experience the sensation of looking down from
that great height at the river. The face of the wall where it
terminates at the top forms an almost square corner, as if hewn stone.
A few bushes grew a short distance from the edge, and as we approached
the brink there was a sense of greater safety in holding onto these
bushes. But while holding on we could not see quite over to the water
below. We formed a chain of three persons, by joining hands, one
grasping a large bush, that the outer man might look over the edge--if
he would. But he felt shaky. He was not quite sure that the bush would
not pull up by the roots, or one of the other fellows let go. For
sometime no one was willing to make a real effort to look over the
edge, but finally "Jack" said he would save the party's reputation
for bravery, by assuming the role of end-man. He made several bold
approaches toward the edge, but each time recoiled, and soon admitted
defeat. "Boys," said he, "I'm dizzy. I know that 'distance lends
enchantment'; I'll get back farther, take the best view I can get, and
preserve the enchantment." To cover his discomfiture, he started for
camp, whistling:

    "Ulee, ilee, aloo, ee."

The next excursion off the route in search of novelty was on a clear
afternoon a few days after passing the "Devil's Gate," when three
young fellows decided to take a tramp to the rock ridge lying to our
right. We hoped to find some mountain sheep. From the Sweetwater River
to the ridge was apparently half a mile, across a grassy flat. We knew
that the rare atmosphere of that high altitude often made distances
deceiving, and determined to make due allowances. Having crossed the
river and being ready for a sprint, each made a guess of the distance
to the foot of the rock ridge. The estimates varied from two hundred
yards to three hundred. Off we went, counting paces. At the end of
three hundred we appeared to be no nearer the goal than when we
started. The guesses were repeated, and when we were about completing
the second course of stepping, making nearly six hundred yards in all,
one of the boys espied a mountain sheep on the top of the ridge,
keeping lookout, probably, for the benefit of his fellows, feeding on
the other side, as is the habit of these wary creatures.

With head and great horns clearly outlined on the background of blue
sky, he was a tempting target. Without a word, the three of us leveled
guns and fired. Mr. Mountain Sheep stood perfectly still, looking down
at us. We could not see so much as the winking of an eye. Making ready
for another volley, we thought best to get nearer; but as we started
the head and horns and sheep disappeared behind the top of the ridge.
Further stepping proved that we had shot at the animal from a distance
of at least half a mile. Our guns were good for a range of two hundred
yards, at most.

Much of the time, especially while in the higher mountains, we were in
possession of little knowledge of our position. There were no marks
that we observed to indicate geographical divisions, and we had no
means for determining many exact locations, though some important
rivers and prominent mountain peaks and ridges were identified. We
knew little, if anything, then of territorial boundaries, and thought
of the country traversed as being so remote from centers of
civilization--at that time but little explored, even--that we could
not conceive any object in attempting to determine our location with
reference to geographical lines; nor could we have done so except on
rare occasions. Our chief concern was to know that we were on the best
route to California.

We crossed the summit of the Rocky Mountains by the South Pass. Though
it was July, the jagged peaks of the Wind River Mountains bore a thick
blanket of snow. Sometime after leaving the "Devil's Gate" we passed
Pacific Springs. There we gained first knowledge that we had passed
the summit, on observing that the streams flowed westerly. Patient
plodding had now taken us a distance of actual travel amounting to
much more than one thousand miles and, from time to time, into very
high altitudes. About four miles west of Pacific Springs we passed the
junction of the California and Oregon trails, at the Big Bend of the
Bear River.

Green River, where we first came to it, was in a level bit of country.
There this stream was about sixty yards wide; the water clear and
deep, flowing in a gentle current. For the accommodation of emigrants,
three men were there, operating a ferry. Whence they came I do not
remember, if they told us. We saw no signs of a habitation in which
they might have lived. The ferrying was done with what was really a
raft of logs, rather than a boat. It was sustained against the current
by means of a tackle attached to a block, rove on a large rope that
was drawn taut, from bank to bank, and was propelled by a windlass on
each bank. When a wagon had been taken aboard this cable ferry, the
windlass on the farther side was turned by one of the men, drawing the
raft across. After unloading, the raft was drawn back, by operation of
the windlass on the opposite shore, where it took on another load. The
third man acted as conductor, collecting a toll of three dollars per
wagon. All the horses, mules and cattle were driven into the river,
and swam across.

The company passed along the shore of the Green River, down the Big
Sandy River and Slate Creek, over Bear River Divide, then
southwestward into Utah Territory.



Soon after passing the summit of the Rocky Mountains there were rumors
of a hostile attitude toward emigrants on the part of certain Indian
tribes farther west. For a time such information seemed vague as to
origin and reliability, but in time the rumors became persistent, and
there developed a feeling of much concern, first for the safety of our
stock, later for our own protection.

Measures of precaution were discussed. Men of our train visited those
of others, ahead and behind us, and exchanged views regarding the
probability of danger and the best means for protection and defense.
We were forced to the conclusion that the situation was grave; and
the interests of the several trains were mutual. As the members of the
different parties, most of whom previously had been strangers to one
another, met and talked of the peril which all believed to be
imminent, they became as brothers; and mutual protection was the theme
that came up oftenest and was listened to with the most absorbing

By the time we had crossed the Green River these consultations had
matured into a plan for consolidation of trains, for greater
concentration of strength. A. J. Drennan's company of four or five
wagons, immediately ahead of us, and the Dr. Kidd train, of three
wagons, next behind us, closed up the space between, and all three
traveled as one train. Thus combined, a considerable number of
able-bodied men were brought together, making a rather formidable
array for an ordinary band of Indians to attack. Every man primed his
gun and thenceforth took care to see that his powder was dry.

Still the youthful element occasionally managed to extract some humor
out of the very circumstances which the older and more serious members
held to be grounds for forebodings of evil. One morning after we had
left camp, a favorite cow was missing from the drove. "Jack" Aston and
Major Crewdson, both young fellows, rode back in search of the stray.
From a little hill-top they saw, in a ravine below, some half dozen
Indians busily engaged in skinning the cow. "Jack" and the Major
returned and merely reported what they had seen. They were asked why
they had not demanded of those "rascally" Indians that they explain
why they were skinning a cow that did not belong to them. "Jack"
promptly answered that, as for himself, he had never been introduced
to this particular party of Indians, and was not on speaking terms
with them; furthermore, neither he nor the Major had sufficient
knowledge of the Indian language properly to discuss the matter with

The route pursued led to the north of Great Salt Lake, thence
northwesterly. Our line of travel did not therefore bring us within
view of the Mormon settlements which had already been established at
the southerly end of the great inland sea.

We camped one night approximately where the city of Ogden now stands,
then a desolate expanse of sand-dunes. A group of our men sat around
the camp-fire that evening, discussing the probability of a railroad
ever being constructed over the route we were traveling. All of them
were natives or recent residents of the Middle West, and it is
probable that not one had ever seen a railroad. The unanimous opinion
was that such a project as the building of a railroad through
territory like that over which we had thus far traveled would be a
task so stupendous as to baffle all human ingenuity and skill. Yet,
some twelve years later, the ceremony of driving the famous "last
spike," completing the railroad connection between the Atlantic and
Pacific, was performed on a sand flat very near the spot where we
camped that night. The intervening period saw the establishment of the
"pony express," which greatly facilitated the mail service
(incidentally reducing letter postage to Pacific Coast points from
twenty-five to ten cents). That service continued from the early
sixties until through railroad connection was made.

After the consolidation of trains as described, our next neighbor to
the rear was Smith Holloway, whose "outfit" consisted of three wagons,
with a complement of yokewise oxen and some horses and mules; also a
large drove of stock cattle, intended for the market in California,
where it was known they would be salable at high prices. He had with
him his wife, a little daughter, and Jerry Bush, Mrs. Holloway's
brother, a young man of twenty-one years; also two hired men, Joe
Blevens and Bird Lawles. Holloway kept his party some distance behind
us, he having declined to join the consolidation of trains in order to
avoid the inconvenience that the mingling of his stock with ours would
entail, with reference to pasture, and camping facilities.

A mile or two behind Holloway were the trains of Captain Rountree, the
Giles company, Simpson Fennell, Mr. Russell, and others, equipped with
several wagons each, and accompanied by some loose stock.

All these were traveling along, a sort of moving neighborhood;
incidentally getting acquainted with one another, visiting on the road
by day and in the camp at evening time; talking of the journey, of
the country for which we were en route, and our hopes of prosperity
and happiness in the new El Dorado--but most of all, just then, of the
probable danger of attack by savage tribes.

More than ever rumors of impending trouble were flying from train to
train. Some of these were to the effect that white bandits were in
league with Indians in robbing and murdering emigrants. The well-known
treachery of the savages, and the stories we heard of emigrants having
been slaughtered also by whites--the real facts of which we knew
little of--were quite enough to beget fear and suggest the need of
plans for the best possible resistance.

Up to this time there was frequent communication between trains, a
considerable distance ahead and behind. As at home, neighbor would
visit neighbor, and discuss the topics of the day; so, from time to
time we met persons in other trains who gave out information obtained
before leaving home, or from mountaineers, trappers or explorers,
occasionally met while we were yet on the eastern slope of the
Rockies; men who were familiar with Indian dialects and at peace with
the tribes, enabling them to learn much that was of importance to the

Dissemination of news among the people of the various trains near us
was accomplished not only during visits by members of one train to
those of another, but sometimes by other methods. One of these, which
was frequently employed in communicating generally or in signaling
individuals known to be somewhere in the line behind us, was by a
system of "_bone-writing_."

[Illustration: Bone-writing]

There were along the line of travel many bare, bleached bones of
animals that had died in previous years, many of them doubtless the
animals of earlier emigrants. Some of these, as for example, the
frontal or the jaw-bone, whitened by the elements, and having some
plain, smooth surface, were excellent tablets for pencil writing. An
emigrant desiring to communicate with another, or with a company, to
the rear, would write the message on one of these bones and place the
relic on a heap of stones by the roadside, or suspend it in the
branches of a sage bush, so conspicuously displayed that all coming
after would see it and read. Those for general information, intended
for all comers, were allowed to remain; others, after being read by
the person addressed, were usually removed. Sometimes when passing
such messages, placed by those ahead of us, we added postscripts to
the bulletins, giving names and dates, for the edification of whomever
might care to read them. It was in this way that some of the
developments regarding the Indian situation were made known by one
train to another.

Thus we progressed, counting off the average of about eighteen miles a
day from the long part of the journey that still lay before us, when
we reached Thousand Springs, adjacent to the present boundary line
between Utah and Nevada. This, we were told, was the source of the
Humboldt River. We were told, too, that the four hundred miles down
the course of that peculiar stream--which we could not hope to
traverse in much less than one month--we would find to be the most
desert-like portion of the entire trip, the most disagreeable and
arduous, for man and beast. Such was to be expected by reason of the
character of that region and the greater danger there of Indian
depredations; also because the passage through that section was to be
undertaken after our teams had become greatly worn, therefore more
likely to fail under hard conditions. Furthermore, scarcity of feed
for the stock was predicted, and, along much of the way, uncertainty
as to water supply, other than that from the Humboldt River, which
was, especially at that time of the year, so strongly impregnated with
alkali as to be dangerous to life.

Nearly all the face of the country was covered with alkali dust,
which, in a light, pulverulent state, rose and filled the air at the
slightest breeze or other disturbance. It was impossible to avoid
inhaling this powder to some extent, and it created intense thirst,
tending toward exhaustion and great suffering. We knew that sometimes
delirium was induced by this cause, and even death resulted from it in
cases of very long exposure under the worst conditions.

Sometimes for miles the only vegetable growth we found along the river
was a string of willow bushes, fringing its course, and scattered,
stunted sagebrush, growing feebly in gravel and dry sand, the leaves
of which were partly withered and of a pale, ashy tint. Feed for the
animals was very scarce. It was not possible, over much of the way, to
get sufficient fresh water for the stock, therefore difficult to
restrain them from drinking the river water. Some did drink from that
stream, despite all efforts to prevent it, the result being that many
of them died while we made our way along the sluggish Humboldt.



It was decided that while in this region we would, whenever possible,
make our camp some distance from the river, in order that the stock
might be prevented from drinking the dangerous river water, also for
the reason that the clumps of willows by the stream could be used as a
cover by Indians bent on mischief: and they, we now believed, were
watching for a favorable opportunity to surprise us.

It transpired that the Holloway party neglected this precaution, at
least on one occasion, sometime after passing the head of the Humboldt
River. Their train was next behind ours when, on the evening of August
13th, after rounding up their stock for the night, a short distance
from the wagons, they stopped near the willows by the river and made
what proved to be their last camp.

Behind them, but not within sight, were several emigrant camps at
points varying from a few rods to half a mile apart.

The Holloway party retired as usual for the night; Mr. and Mrs.
Holloway and their child, a girl of two years, in a small tent near
the wagons; Jerry Bush, Mrs. Holloway's brother, and one of the hired
men, Joe Blevens, in their blankets on the ground; while Bird Lawles,
the other hired man, being ill with a fever, slept in a wagon.

There were others with this party that night; Mr. and Mrs. Callum, Mr.
Hattlebaugh, and a man whose name is now unknown. These four had been
traveling near the Holloway party, and joined it for camping on that

The following morning Mr. Holloway was the first to arise. While
making the camp-fire, he called to the others to get up, saying

"Well, we've got through one more night without a call from the

"Bang, bang," rang out a volley of rifle shots, fired from the willows
along the river, less than a hundred yards away.

Mr. Holloway fell, fatally shot, and died without a word or a
struggle. As other members of the emigrant party sprang to their feet
and came within view of the assailants, the firing continued, killing
Joe Blevens, Mrs. Callum, and the man whose name is not recalled;
while Bird Lawles, being discovered on his sick bed in a wagon, was
instantly put to death.

Meanwhile Jerry Bush grasped his rifle and joined battle against the
assassins. Thus far the savages remained hidden in the bushes, and
Jerry's shots were fired merely at places where he saw the tall weeds
and willows shaken by the motions of the Indians, therefore he has
never known whether his bullets struck one of the enemy.

While thus fighting alone, for his life and that of his people, he
received a gunshot in his side and fell. Knowing that he was unable to
continue the fight, and, though doubting that he could rise, he
endeavored to shield himself from the bullets and arrows of the Indian
band. He succeeded in dragging himself to the river bank, when,
seizing a willow branch, he lowered himself to the foot of the steep
cliff, some ten feet, reaching the water's edge. He then attempted to
swim to the opposite shore. The effort caused him to lose his gun, in
deep water. Owing to weakness due to his wound, he was unable to cross
the stream.

Jerry Bush's parting view of the camp had revealed the apparent
destruction of his entire party, except himself. Observing the body of
at least one woman, among the victims on the ground, he believed that
his sister also had been slain.

But Mrs. Holloway and the little girl were still in the tent, for the
time unhurt, and just awakened from their morning slumber. Having
realized that the camp was being attacked, Mrs. Holloway emerged from
the tent to find no living member of her party in sight, other than
herself and her child. For a moment she was partially shielded by the
wagons. The first object that drew her attention was her husband's
form, lying still in death, near the fire he had just kindled. Next
beyond was the dead body of Blevens, and a little farther away were
the remains of the others who had been slain. Her brother she did not
see, but supposed he had met the same fate as the others whom she saw
on the ground. Jerry was an experienced hunter; she knew that he
always owned a fine gun, and had full confidence that, if he were
alive and not disabled, he would defend his people to the last.

[Illustration: "With hand upraised, in supplication, yielded to the
impulse to flee"]

She saw some of the Indians coming from their ambush by the river.
They approached for a time with caution, looking furtively about, as
if to be sure there was no man left to defend the camp. As they drew
nearer Mrs. Holloway realized that she and her child were facing an
awful fate--death or captivity. On came the savages, now more boldly,
and in greater numbers.

The terrified woman, clothed only in her night robe, barefooted; not
knowing whether to take flight or stand and plead for mercy; with the
child on one arm, one hand raised in supplication, yielded finally to
the impulse to flee. As she started the attacking band resumed firing;
she was struck, by arrows and at least one bullet, and dropped
headlong to the ground.

Though conscious, she remained motionless, in the hope that, by
feigning death she might escape further wounds and torture. But the
Indians came, and taking the arrows from her body, punctured her flesh
with the jagged instruments, as a test whether physical sensation
would disclose a sign of life remaining. She lay with eyes closed; not
a muscle twitched nor a finger moved, while those demons proceeded, in
no delicate manner, to cut the skin around the head at the edge of the
hair, then tear the scalp from the skull, leaving the bare and
bleeding head on the ground.

Horrible as all this was, it did not prove to be the last nor the most
revolting exhibition of wanton lust for blood.

The little girl, who it is hoped had been rendered insensible at sight
of the cruelties perpetrated upon her mother, was taken by the feet
and her brains dashed out on the wheels of a wagon. To this last act
in the fiendish drama there was probably no witness other than the
actors in it; but the child's body, mangled too terribly for
description, and the bloody marks on the wagon, gave evidence so
convincing that there could not be a moment's doubt of what had

The marauders now began a general looting of the wagons. Some of their
number were rounding up the stock, preparing to drive the cattle away,
when the trains of emigrants next in the rear appeared, less than half
a mile distant. This caused the Indian band to retreat. They crossed
the river, and then placing themselves behind the willows, hurried
away, making their escape into the mountain fastnesses. Owing to their
precipitous departure, much of the plunder they were preparing to take
was left behind them. Among the articles thus dropped by them was the
scalp of Mrs. Holloway, and the rescuing party found and took
possession of it.

Those emigrants who first came upon the scene found Mrs. Holloway
apparently dead; but, on taking her up, they saw that she was alive.
Though returning to semi-consciousness some time later, her condition
was such that she was unable to tell the story then; but there were
evidences showing plainer than words could have told of the awful
events of that morning, which had converted the quiet camp of this
happy, hopeful company into a scene of death and destruction.

Before noon a large number of people of the great emigrant procession
had arrived. They united in giving to the dead the best interment that
the circumstances permitted. Then the broken and scattered effects of
the Holloway company were gathered up, and the now mournful trains
took position in the line of pilgrimage and again moved forward
towards the Pacific.

Mr. Fennell, aided by Captain Rountree's company and others, attempted
to save such of the Holloway property as had not been carried off or
destroyed. They were successful in recovering about one hundred of the
one hundred and fifty head of stock which the Indians had endeavored
to drive away. Two mules that were being led off by ropes broke away
from the savage band and returned, but the emigrants did not recover
any of the stolen horses.

Jerry Bush found his way back to the scene. His injury, though
apparently of a dangerous character, did not delay the relief parties
more than a day after the attack, and the wound healed within a few
weeks. It was reported that Callum and Hattlebaugh had escaped, but
their further whereabouts was not known.

Captain Rountree took charge of Mrs. Holloway and her brother and
brought them, with such of their stock and other belongings as
remained, to The Meadows, on the Feather River. After partially
recuperating there, an uncle, Mr. Perry Durban, came to their aid, and
they were taken to Suisun. After full recovery from his wound, Jerry
Bush located in Ukiah, and resided there some years. He still
survives, now a resident of Hulett, Wyoming, at the ripe age of eighty

The slaughter of the Holloway party occurred at a point on the
Humboldt River some thirty miles east of where Winnemucca is located,
a few miles west of Battle Mountain. This becomes apparent by careful
estimates of distance traveled per day, rather than by landmarks noted
at the time, there being no settlements there, nor elsewhere along the
route, at that time.

[Illustration: Jerry Bush, 1914]

It was perhaps a year later when I went to a camp-meeting one Sunday,
at Mark West Creek, in Sonoma County, California. The people attending
a service were in a small opening among trees. Standing back of
those who were seated, I saw among them a woman whose profile seemed
familiar, and later I recognized her as Mrs. Holloway.

My interest in her career, due to her extraordinary part in the Indian
massacre on the plains, was heightened by the fact that I had known
her previously, as the daughter of Mr. Bush, a prosperous farmer, and
had been present when she married Mr. Holloway, in a little
schoolhouse, near Rockport, Atchison County, Missouri. It seemed a
natural impulse which prompted me to ask her for particulars of the
tragedy, so disastrous to herself and her family; though later there
were misgivings regarding the propriety of doing so.

Mrs. Holloway appeared at that time to be in good health, and was
cheerful, possessing perfect control of her faculties. Her head was
covered by a wig, made of her own hair, taken from the scalp that was
recovered at the scene of the massacre.

All the heartrending experiences that she had endured were imprinted
upon her mind in minutest detail, and she related them in the exact
order of their occurrence. The recalling of the terrible ordeal,
however, so wrought upon her emotions that she wept, to the limit of
mild hysteria, which brought our conversation to a close, and soon
thereafter she left the place.

I saw her no more; but learned sometime afterwards that her health
failed, then of the giving away of her mental powers, and still later
of her death, at Napa City; caused primarily by shock, and brooding
over the misfortunes she had met on the bank of the Humboldt River.

[Illustration: Mrs. Nancy Holloway, 1857]

It is difficult to believe that a woman, any woman--or any man--could,
in a state of consciousness, endure such torture as was inflicted upon
Mrs. Holloway, and refrain from disclosing to her tormentors that
she was alive. But that she did so endure was her positive statement,
and this was indisputably corroborated by evidences found by those who
arrived at the scene less than an hour after the event.

Through the kindness of Mr. William Holloway, of Fairfax, Missouri,
there is presented here a picture of Mrs. Nancy Holloway, wife of
Smith Holloway. The photograph was taken in California, shortly after
the attack described.



The appellation "Piker," much used in the West in early days,
synonymous of "Missourian," had its origin on these plains. At first
it was applied to a particular type of Missourian, but later came to
be used generally.

There was among the emigrants a considerable number of persons from
Pike County, Missouri. Some of these had the sign, "From Pike Co.,
Mo.," painted on their wagon covers. Others, when asked whence they
came, promptly answered, "From Pike County, Missouri, by gosh, sir;"
often said with a shrug implying that the speaker arrogated to himself
much superiority by reason of the fact stated. The display of such
signs, and announcements like that just mentioned, were of such
frequent occurrence that the substance was soon abbreviated to
"Piker," and became a by-word. It was often, perhaps always, spoken
with a tinge of odium. Possibly this was due to the fact that many of
the people referred to were of a "backwoods" class, rather short in
culture, and in personal makeup, manner and language, bearing a
general air of the extremely rural.

Though only persons of that description hailing from Pike County were
those who at first had to bear the opprobrium generally implied by
"Piker," later it was applied to all persons of that type in the Far
West, regardless of their origin. Many years' of mingling of
California's cosmopolitan population has changed all that; producing
her present homogeneous, sterling, virile, and somewhat distinct type
of "Californian"; so the "Piker," as such, is no longer in the land. A
later application of the same word, descriptive of a person who does
business in a small way, has nothing in common with the "Piker" of
early days.

Fifty-eight years ago, the time of the events here narrated, was
before the era of canned goods. Nearly all of the foodstuffs carried
by the emigrants were in crude form, and bulky; but substantial, pure,
and such as would keep in any climate.

During the first few weeks of the trip we milked some of the cows, and
also made butter, the churning operation being effected mainly by the
motion of the wagons, in the regular course. That this did not last
long was due to reduction of milk supply. After a time there was not
sufficient even for use in the coffee, or for making gravy, that
convenient substitute for butter.

Such delicacies as may now be found in first-class canned meats,
vegetables and milk would have filled an often-felt want. The
occasional supply that we had en route of fresh meat and fish were
obtained largely by chance; we having no knowledge of localities where
hunting and fishing were likely to be successful, and it being deemed
unsafe for members of the party to wander far or remain long away
from the train. It seems regrettable that the invention of
hermetically-sealed and easily portable foods, and the inducement to
cross the plains to California, did not occur in reversed sequence.

Neither had the kodak arrived. Had it been with us then, this
narrative might be illustrated with snap-shots of camp scenes,
characteristic roadside views, and incidents of travel generally,
which would do more for realism than can any word-picture. We often
see specimens of artists' work purporting to represent a "'49er"
emigrant train on the overland journey--some of them very clever; but
seldom are they at all realistic to the man who was there.

The man with a camera could have perpetuated, for example, the
striking scene presented to us one day of a party, consisting of two
men and their wives, with two or three children, sitting on a rocky
hillside, woefully scanning their team of done-out oxen and one wagon
with a broken axle; no means at hand for recuperation and repair. In
the scorching sun of a July day they waited, utterly helpless,
hopeless, forlorn, confused; and a thousand miles from "anywhere."
Such a grouping would not have made a cheerful picture, but would have
assisted immensely in recording a historical fact.

But no emigrant ever found another in distress and "passed by on the
other side."

We were early risers, and the camp was each morning a scene of life
with the rising of the sun. By sunset all were sufficiently fatigued
to wish for making camp again. Therefore, from the morning start till
the evening stop was usually about twelve hours, with variations from
time to time, according to necessity or exceptional conditions.

Breaking camp in the morning became routine, and proceeded like
clockwork. Each patient ox voluntarily drew near, and stood, waiting
to be yoked with his fellow and chained to his daily task. So well did
each know his place by the side of his mate that the driver had only
to place one end of the yoke on the neck of the "off" ox, known, for
example, as "Bright," and hold the other end toward the "nigh" ox,
saying, "Come under here, Buck," and the obedient fellow placed
himself in position. Then the bows were placed and keyed, and
"Bright" and "Buck" were hitched for duty. It required but a few
minutes to put three or four yoke of oxen in working order.

As the result of much repetition, the packing of the camp articles
onto the wagons was done dexterously and quickly. Each box, roll and
bundle had a designated place; all being arranged usually to
facilitate sitting or reclining positions for those who rode in the
"schooners," that they might be as comfortable as possible, and read,
sleep, or, as the women often did, sew and knit, or play games. During
some parts of the trip such means of whiling away the hours was very
desirable, if not a necessity. If there ever was a time or condition
in which it could be pardonable to "kill time," these circumstances
were there, during many long days.

The bivouac was always a scene of bustle and orderly disorder,
especially if the camp-site was a good one: wood, water and grass
being the desiderata. Obedient to habit, every person and animal
dropped into place and action. With the wagons drawn to position for
the night's sojourn, teams were quickly unhitched, the yokes, chains,
harness and saddles falling to the ground where the animals stood.

Relieved of their trappings, the oxen, horses and mules were turned to
pasture, plentiful or scant. Cooking utensils came rattling from
boxes; rolls of bedding tumbled out and were spread on the smoothest
spots of sand or grass. Eager hands gathered such fuel as was
available, and the camp-fire blazed. Buckets of water were brought
from the spring or stream; and in an incredibly short time the scene
of animation had wrought full preparation for the night, while the
odor of steaming coffee and frying bacon rendered the astonished air
redolent of appetizing cookery.

Some families used a folding table, on which to serve meals; but more
spread an oilcloth on the ground and gathered around that; or
individuals, taking a plate and a portion, sat on a wagon-tongue or a
convenient stone. Camp-stools and "split-bottomed" chairs were among
the luxuries that some carried, in limited numbers; but these were not
useful especially as seats while partaking of a meal spread on the

Appetites were seldom at fault; and the meals, though plain and of
little variety, were never slighted. It is hardly necessary to add
that bacon and coffee were easy staples. Bread was mainly in the form
of quick-fire biscuits, baked in a skillet or similar utensil, or the
ever-ready and always-welcome "flap-jack," sometimes supplemented with
soda-crackers, as a delicacy.

Nearly all the nights were pleasant--mild temperature, and very little
dew. This gave much relief, the daytime heat being generally irksome
and often distressingly hot. Many of the men came to prefer sleeping
wholly in the open, with the heavens unobscured; often requiring no
more than a pair of blankets and a small pillow.

Early evening was devoted to social gatherings. If the night was
pleasant groups would assemble, for conversation, singing and
story-telling; varied with dancing by the young people of some
companies. The more religious sang hymns and read the Bible sometimes,
in lieu of attendance at any church service. When wood was plentiful,
a bonfire added to the cheerfulness and comfort of the occasion. Often
neighboring trains camped quite near, when much enjoyment was found in
visits by the members of one company among those of another. In such
ways many agreeable acquaintances were met and even lasting
friendships formed, some of which have endured throughout the nearly
three-score years since passed.

But we were not always favored with clear and pleasant weather. No one
who was there can have forgotten one night at the Platte River, when
we had a most dismal experience. Rain began falling in the afternoon,
and for that reason we made camp early.

The tents were set up on a bit of flat ground near the river bank.
There were some large trees, but little dry wood available for fuel
for the camp fire except on an island, which was separated from us by
a branch of the river, about twenty yards wide and a foot deep. Some
of us waded over, getting our clothes soaked; others crossed on
horseback, and carried back from the island enough wood to make a
fire. But, time after time, the fire was quenched by the rain, which
now was falling in torrents; so we had much difficulty in preparing
our supper.

The people huddled into the tents and wagons, half hungry, more than
half wet, and uncomfortable altogether. With the exception of one or
two cots, the bedding was spread on the ground in the tents, and all
turned in--but not for long. Some one said, "water is running under my
bed." Then another and another made the same complaint. Soon we
learned the deplorable fact that the large tent had been pitched in a
basin-like place, and that the water, as the rain increased, was
coming in from all sides, the volume growing rapidly greater.

We succeeded then in lighting one lantern, when the water was found to
be something like two inches deep over nearly all parts of the large
tent's floor. The beds were taken up and placed in soaked heaps, on
camp stools and boxes; and the rain continued pouring in steady,
relentless disregard of our misery. Except where lighted by the single
lantern the darkness was, of course, absolute. Relief was impossible.
There appearing to be nothing else to do, everybody abandoned the
tents and huddled in the wagons; the lantern was blown out, and there
was little sleep, while we waited and wished for daylight.

Some of the days were warm and some hot. Some were very hot.
Discomforts were common; and yet not much was said, and apparently
little thought, of them. Having become inured to the conditions as we
found them from time to time, discomforts, such as under other
circumstances would have been considered intolerable, were passed
without comment. There were times and situations in which hardships
were unavoidable, some of them almost unendurable; but these, having
been anticipated, were perhaps less poignant in the enduring than in
the expectation.

Let us for a moment raise the curtain of more than half a
century, while we look back on one of those ox-drawn trains of
"prairie-schooners," as it appeared to an observer on the ground at
the time; about the middle of August, and beyond the middle of the
journey. Permit the imagination to place the scene alongside that of
the present-day modes of traversing the same territory, when the
distance is covered in a less number of days than it required of
months then. Perhaps such a comparison may help to form some faint
conception of what the overland pioneers did, and what they felt, and
saw, and were.

There they are as we see them, on a long stretch of sage-brush
plateau. The surface of the plain is only sand and gravel, as far as
the eye can reach. The atmosphere is hazy, with dust and vibrating
waves of heat arising from the ground. Far away to the northwest is
the outline of some mountains, just visible in the dim distance. In
the opposite direction, whence we have come, there is nothing above
the ground but hot space, and dust. Not a living thing in sight but
ourselves and ours.

The animals appear fatigued, jaded. The people appear--well, as to
physical condition, like the animals: generally all look alike. Yet
the people seem hopeful. And why hopeful? The inherent and indomitable
trait of the race which makes it possible for humanity to look over
and past present difficulties, however great, and see some good
beyond. That is why the world "do move." Often, as it was with us,
progress may be slow, but every day counts for a little.

Just here twelve or fifteen miles a day is doing well--very well. From
a slight eminence at one side of the way we may stand and see the
slowly creeping line of wagons and stock, for many miles fore and aft,
as they bend their way in and out, around and over the surface of
knolls and flats, hillocks and gullies. From a distant view they seem
not to be moving at all.

The hour of mid-day arrives, and they stop for the "nooning." There is
nothing growing in the vicinity that the horses and cattle can eat,
and no water except the little in the keg and canteens; so the
carrying animals stand in their yokes and harness, or under saddles,
and the loose stock wait in groups, their thirst unslaked.

As the people come out of the wagons and go about the business of the
hour we see the marks of the elements upon them. The women wear "poke"
bonnets and gingham dresses. The men are unshaven. All are sunburnt to
a rich, leathern brown. Some are thin, and at this particular time,
wearing a serious expression. They are not as unhappy as they look,
their principal trouble of the moment being merely anxiety to satisfy
prodigious and healthy appetites.

There, under the stress of the midsummer sun, now in the zenith, no
shade, no protection from the flying dust, they proceed cheerfully to
build a fire, of sticks and dry weeds; they fry bacon and bake
biscuits, prepare large pots of coffee, and they eat, from tin plates,
and drink from tin cups.

No one says, "This is awful!" They laugh as they eat, saying, "Good;
ain't it?"

This is not a cheerful view altogether of the retrospective; but a
sketch true to life, as life was there. It was not all like that. A
good deal of it was.

Some will say that these overland travelers were over-zealous, even
foolhardy. One of the earliest pioneers, Mr. Daniel B. Miller, who
reached Oregon by the plains route in 1852, wrote later to relatives
in Illinois, "I would not bring a family across for all that is
contained in Oregon and California." Himself single, he had come with
a train composed almost wholly of men, but learned incidentally what
risks there were in escorting women and children through the wilds.

But the enduring of all this toil, exposure and hardship had for its
inspiration the buoyant hope of something good just beyond, something
that was believed to be worthy of the privation and effort it was
costing. The ardor of that hope was too intense to be discouraged by
anything that human strength could overcome. The memories of those
strenuous experiences are held as all but sacred, and you never meet
one of these early overland emigrants who does not like to sit by your
fireside and tell you about it. He forgets, for the moment, how hard
it was, and dwells upon it, telling it over and over again, with the
same pride and sense of noble achievement that the old soldier feels
when recounting the battles and the camp life and the hard marches of
the war, when he was young, away back in the sixties. One crossing
this country by present-day conveyances, in richly appointed railroad
trains, with all the comforts obtainable in modern sleeping, dining
and parlor cars, can hardly be expected to conceive what it was to
cover the same course under the conditions described; when there was
not even a poor wagon road, and the utmost speed did not equal in a
day the distance traveled in half an hour by the present mode. Any
person who rides in a cumbrous and heavily laden wagon, behind a team
whose pace never exceeds a slow walk; over dusty ground, in hot
weather, will, before one day is passed, feel that endurance requires
utmost fortitude. Consider what patience must be his if the journey
continues for four, five or six long months!

It is worthy of mention that there was no dissension among our people,
nor even unpleasantness, during the entire trip, nor did we observe
any among others. We were fortunate in having no "grouches" among us.
Harmony, cheerfulness, a disposition to be jolly, even to the degree
of hilarity, was the prevailing spirit. That, too, under circumstances
often so trying that they might have thrown a sensitive disposition
out of balance. All this in the wilds of an unorganized territory,
where there was no law to govern, other than the character and natural
bent of individuals. Such lack of established authority we had thought
might lead to recklessness or aggressive conduct, but it did not.

Present residents in the fields and valleys, and the prosperous towns
along much of the line of travel described, will find it difficult to
reconcile the accounts here given with conditions as they see them
now. Leagues of territory now bearing a network of railroads and
splendid highways, which carry rich harvests from the well-tilled
farms, and connect numerous cities, was thought of ordinarily by the
emigrants in early days only as it appeared to them, and then was,
the stamping ground of savage tribes and the home of wild beasts,
untouched by the transforming hand of civilization. To the keen
observer, however, it was evident that we were passing through a great
deal of fine country. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that part
of that journey was through lands naturally barren, some desert
wastes, much of which is still unreclaimed, some unreclaimable.



Few readers need peruse these pages to learn what a thunder-storm is
like, but many may not know what it is to encounter a fierce
electrical disturbance while surrounded by a herd of uncontrollable
cattle on the prairie.

On an occasion after having stopped for a "nooning," there loomed up
suddenly in the northwest a black, ominous cloud, revolving swiftly
and threateningly, as might the vapors from some gigantic cauldron;
variegated in black, blue and green, bespangled with red streaks of

This display of the angry elements was making a broadening sweep
onward directly towards where we were. The air turned black and murky,
and was vibrant with electric tension. Flocks of buzzards flew low to
the earth about us, as if to be ready for the carrion of the impending
catastrophe. The fear instinct of the brute seized the cattle, and
they hovered together, bellowing, distraught with apprehension of

The whirlpool of atmospheric chaos grew more intense and rapidly
larger as it approached. Globules of water began to "spat! spat!" on
the ground, here and there, as the storm-cloud opened its batteries of
liquid balls. There was only such protection as the wagons afforded.
Whatever preparation we could make must be effected at once.

Knowing that if the cattle should take fright and run, it would be
better that they leave the wagons, I dropped the wagon-tongue to which
I was hitching a team, and called to a boy who was hooking up the
next wagon, telling him not to do so. He had, however, already
attached to that wagon the team consisting of three yoke of oxen.

The big drops of water were in a moment followed by hailstones, at
first very large and scattering, striking the ground each with a
vicious thud--a subdued "whack"; growing more frequent and presently
mingled with lesser ones; until, in the shortest moment, there was a
cloud-burst of hail and rain pouring upon us, a storm such as none of
us had ever witnessed.

The oxen, chained together in strings of three and four pairs, pelted
by the hail, were mutinous and altogether uncontrollable. My own
string, having turned crosswise of the front end of the wagon, were
pushing it backward, down the hillside. The team in charge of the boy,
being attached to their wagon and heading away from the storm, were
turning the wagon over. Knowing that the boy's mother was in the
"schooner," on a sick bed, I left my wagon and ran to that. As the
oxen, in trying to shield themselves from the hail, were forcing the
front wheels around under the wagon-box, I was fortunate enough to get
a shoulder under one corner of the box and exert sufficient force to
prevent the wagon upsetting. All this took little more than a minute.
The storm passed away as suddenly as it had come. Then I saw the wagon
which was my special charge lying on its side, at the bottom of the
slope; the bows of the cover fitting snugly into a sort of natural
gutter, with a swift current of muddy water and hailstones flowing
through the cover, as if it were a sluice-pipe. Everything in the
wagon was topsy-turvy; and, half buried in the heap were two little
girls, who had been riding in the vehicle. They were more frightened
than hurt, but complained loudly at being placed in a cold-storage
of hailstones.

[Illustration: The Author--Twenty years after]

Meantime, the sun beamed again, clear and hot, and we saw the
storm-cloud pursuing its course over the plain to the southeast,
leaving in its wake a wet path a few rods wide.

The other men had their hands full in caring for endangered members of
the party and the equipment. The loose stock had stampeded and were
far away, with some of the mounted men in desperate pursuit. They
eventually brought the cattle to a halt, about five miles away, where
the wagons overtook them when it was time to make camp.

Continuous travel over rough ground and through deep sand, and
ascending steep mountains, proved too great a strain for the endurance
of some outfits. From time to time we were obliged to witness
instances of extreme privation and hardship, usually the result of
inadequate preparation for the arduous journey. Some started with
only enough oxen to carry them in case all should remain serviceable;
and carried provisions for no more than the shortest limit of time
estimated; so that the mishap of losing an ox or two, or any delay,
worked a calamity. Some trains started so late, or were so much
delayed, that they were compelled to negotiate passage of the higher
mountains after the time when enormous snow-drifts had to be
encountered; further delay resulting, with exhaustion of strength and
depletion of supplies, in consequence of which many members of some
trains failed to reach their destination. A notable experience of this
kind was that of the Donner party, in 1846.

It was in one of the higher mountain regions that we overtook one Eben
Darby and his family. Darby had been with one of the trains in advance
of us, but being unable to keep the pace, he was obliged to fall
behind. He had one small wagon, two yoke of oxen, and a cow; the
latter led by a rope behind the wagon. His wife, with a young baby,
and the wife's brother, Danny Worley, were the only persons with
Darby. The wife was a weak, inexperienced girl; the child sickly. Mrs.
Darby's brother was a large, fat youth of nineteen, whose
distinguishing and inconvenient characteristic was an abnormal
appetite. Their provisions were nearly exhausted. The cow was to them
the real fountain of life. She was doing nobly--supplying them a quart
of milk a day, which was wonderful, considering the circumstances.
This milk fed the baby, and afforded a good substitute for butter, in
the form of milk gravy--on which Danny fared sumptuously every day.

Later their oxen drank of the alkali water of the Humboldt River, and
three of the four died in one night. Then the cow was yoked with the
remaining ox, two steers were loaned them by "good Samaritans" in our
company, and they were with us to the Sink of the Humboldt.

Meantime the milk supply grew less, and Mrs. Darby was compelled to
substitute water for milk in the gravy. This sop was not satisfactory
to Danny. One evening at meal time he was overheard by some of our
boys, saying, "I want milk in my gravy." Though reminded there was
only enough milk for the baby, he of the phenomenal appetite
reiterated, "I don't care, I want milk in my gravy." Thereafter
"Gravy" was the name by which he was known, so long as he traveled
with us.

This narrative would not do justice to the variety of individuals and
events without mention of another singular personage, a young fellow
who was "working his passage"; a sort of disconnected unit, whose
place became everywhere in the train, and who belonged to nobody. How
he got smuggled into the company no one has since been able to
recall. He was a sort of desert stowaway; tolerated because, though
eccentric and quite alarming in appearance, he was always in good
humor, and often useful, having a willingness to do as many of the
chores as others would trust him to perform. He was notable as a
physical curiosity, though not actually deformed. Low of stature, he
came to be known as "Shorty," the only name we ever had for him. As he
stood, his abnormally long arms enabled him to take his hat from the
ground without stooping. His legs were not mates in length, causing
him as he moved, with a quick, rocking gait, to create the impression
that he might topple backward; but somehow the longer leg always got
underneath at the critical instant, and restored the balance. His head
was large, and perfectly round; hair porcupinesque, each bristle
standing nearly perpendicular to the plane on which it grew. He had
no neck. Mouth small, and so round that it opened not unlike a bored
hole in a flesh-colored pumpkin.

"Shorty" asserted that he was a singer. He and "Jack" never sang
together, however--that is, they never did so any more, after trying
it once. "Shorty" and "Gravy" Worley became chums inseparable, except
on one occasion, when their friendship was temporarily ruptured by a
dispute over the ownership of a fishing hook. Anger grew hot, but when
they were about to come to blows, "Shorty" suddenly dropped on
"all-fours" and essayed to butt his adversary with his head, which
surprising mode of combat so disconcerted "Gravy" that he ran for his
quarters, wildly yelling, "Take him off, take him off."

For a time during the early part of the journey the horses and mules
were picketed at night, on the best pasture available; and before we
retired, all the animals were brought near the wagons, the loose
cattle bunched with them, and guards were placed, to prevent straying
of the stock or surprise by Indians. Later, for awhile, these
precautions were deemed unnecessary, though still later they had to be
resumed. The stock became accustomed to the daily routine, and after
the all-day travel, were quite willing, when they had finished their
evening grazing, to assemble near the camp and lie down for the night,
usually remaining comparatively quiet till morning. As if having some
realization of the lonely nature of the surroundings, the animals were
not disposed to stray off, except on rare occasions; but rather to
keep within sight of the people and the wagons.

There was proof of the theory that in some circumstances domestic
animals acquire some of that feeling that human creatures know, when
far from the habitations of man. There is a peculiar sensation in the
great and boundless contiguity of empty silence which works the senses
up to a feeling that is somewhat alike in man and beast--that there is
most comfort and protection near the center of the settlement or camp.
In this stillness of the night--and night on these plains was often
very still--any slight noise outside the camp startled and thrilled
the taut nerves. Not only was the night still; usually it was silent,

But occasionally, when the silence was absolute, a couple or more of
prairie-wolves lurking in the vicinity, without the faintest note of
prelude, would startle the calm of night with their peculiar
commingling of barks, howls and wails,--a racket all their own. It was
the habit of these night prowlers of the desert to come as near to the
camp as their acute sense of safety permitted, and there, sitting on
their haunches, their noses pointed to the moon, render a serenade
that was truly thrilling. Two prairie-wolves, in a fugued duet, can
emit more disquieting noise, with a less proportion of harmony, than
any aggregation of several times their equal in numbers, not excepting
Indians on the war-path or a "gutter" band.

[Illustration: A coyote serenade]

That awe of the wilderness to which reference has been made, and its
effect on the nerves, may explain the stampede of cattle, often not
otherwise accounted for; which occurs sometimes in these hollow
solitudes. It occurs nowhere else that I have known.

Several times we experienced this strange exhibition of sudden panic;
the snapping, as it were, of the nerves, from undue tension, when,
instantly, from cause then to us unknown and unguessed, the whole band
of cattle, teams as well as loose stock, made a sudden, wild, furious
dash, in a compact mass; seeming instinctively to follow in whatever
direction the leader's impulse led him; drifting together and forward
as naturally as water flows to the current; with heads and tails high
in air; blindly trampling to the earth whatever chanced to be in their

These were not in any sense wild stock. The cattle, horses and mules
were all animals that had been raised on the quiet farms of the Middle
West, well domesticated.

In the light of certain modern theories it might be said by some that
these otherwise docile animals stampeded on the unpeopled plains
because they heard the "call of the wild." There were, however,
occasions when the cause could be readily assigned for this temporary
casting off of restraint.

In one instance, already mentioned, a sudden, pelting hailstorm was
the undoubted cause; when, taking the stampede temper, they ran five
or six miles before the man, mounted on one of our fleetest
saddle-horses, got in front of the foremost of them and checked their

On all such occasions control could be regained in only one way.
Speeding his horse till he overtook and passed the leader of the drove
the rider made his horse the leader; and as each loose animal always
followed whatever was in front, the horseman, by making a circuit and
gradually slackening the pace, led the drove around and back to place
in the line of travel.

Naturally one source of uneasiness was the thought of what our
situation would be if, on one of these occasions, we should fail to
regain control of these animals, so necessary to us in continuing the
westward journey. A stampede when some of the oxen were yoked to the
wagons was, of course, more serious in its immediate consequences than
when it happened while all were detached from the equipment.

A stampede occurred one day in a level stretch of country, open in
every direction; nothing in sight to cause alarm. There the emigrant
road showed plainly before us. The wagons were in open single file,
the loose stock drawn out in line at the rear. Men on horseback, hats
over their eyes, some of them with one leg curled over the pommel of
the saddle; lazily droning away the slow hours and the humdrum miles.
The women and children were stowed away on bundles of baggage and camp
stuff in the wagons, some of them asleep perhaps, rocked in their
"schooner" cradles. A few of the men and boys perchance were
strolling off the way, in the hope of starting a sage grouse or
rabbit from some sheltering clump of brush. During a specially quiet
routine like this; the cattle lolling behind the wagons, mostly
unattended, keeping the snail pace set by the patient teams; a steer
now and again turning aside to appropriate a tuft of bunch-grass;
their white horns rising and falling in the brilliant sunlight, with
the swaying motion of their bodies as they walked, shimmered like
waves of a lake at noonday before a gentle breeze: quickly as a clap
of the hands, every loose beast in the band, in the wildest fashion of
terror, started, straight in the course of the moving line--pell-mell,
they went, veering for nothing that they could run over; sweeping on,
with a roaring tramp, like muffled thunder, they passed along both
sides of the train. The teams, catching the frenzy, took up the race,
as best they could with their heavy impedimenta; all beyond control
of their drivers or the herders, who, startled from the reverie of
the moment, could do no better than dodge to such place of safety as
they found, and stand aghast at the spectacle. Fortunately the draft
oxen usually were forced to stop running before they went far, owing
to the weight of the wagons they hauled and their inability to break
the yokes.

In this particular instance the most serious casualty was the death of
a boy, about eight years of age, the son of Dr. Kidd. The child was
probably asleep in a wagon, and being aroused by the unusual
commotion, may have attempted to look out, when a jolt of the wagon
threw him to the ground, and he was trampled to death. The body was
kept in camp overnight, and the next morning wrapped in a sheet and
buried by the roadside.

This was in a vast stretch of lonely plain. As we journeyed through
it, viewing the trackless hills and rockribbed mountains not far away
on either side, mostly barren and uninviting, it was difficult to
conceive of that territory ever becoming the permanent homes of men.
Yet it is possible, and probable, that the grave of Dr. Kidd's little
boy is today within the limits of a populous community, or even
beneath a noisy thoroughfare of some busy town.



Our consolidated train continued its creeping pace down the meandering
Humboldt; crossing the stream occasionally, to gain the advantage of a
shorter or better road.

Soon again there were other proofs of the wisdom we had shown in
taking every possible precaution against attack.

Next ahead of us was a family from England, a Mr. Wood, his wife and
one child, with two men employed as drivers. They were outfitted with
three vehicles, two of them drawn by ox teams, in charge of the hired
men, and a lighter, spring-wagon, drawn by four mules, the family
conveyance, driven by Mr. Wood. We had not known them before.

One very hot day in the latter part of August, after having moved
along for a time with no train in sight ahead of us, we came upon Mr.
Wood in a most pitiable plight, the result of an attack and slaughter,
not differing greatly from the Holloway case, and its parallel in

Mr. Wood's party had spent the preceding night undisturbed, and were
up early in the morning, preparing to resume their journey. The ox
teams had been made ready and moved on, while Mr. Wood proceeded in a
leisurely way with harnessing the four mules and attaching them to the
smaller wagon. All the articles of their equipment had been gathered
up and placed in proper order in the wagon.

When Mr. Wood had nearly completed hitching the team, Mrs. Wood and
the baby being already in the wagon, some men, apparently all Indians,
twenty or more of them, were seen coming on horseback, galloping
rapidly from the hills to the northward, about half a mile away.

Mr. Wood, fearing that he and his family were about to be attacked, in
this lonely situation, hurriedly sprang to the wagon seat and whipped
up the mules, hoping that before the attack they could come within
sight of the ox wagons, which had rounded the point of a hill but a
few minutes before, and have such aid as his hired men could give.

He had no more than got the team under way when a wheel came off the
wagon--he having probably overlooked replacing the nut after oiling
the axle. Notwithstanding this he lost no time in making the best of
the circumstances. Jumping to the ground, he hurriedly placed Mrs.
Wood on one of the mules, cutting the harness to release the animal
from the wagon; then, with the baby in his arms, he mounted another
mule, and they started flight.

But the Indians had by this time come within gun-shot range and fired
upon them. Mrs. Wood fell from the mule, fatally shot. Mr. Wood's mule
was shot under him, and dropped; next Mr. Wood received a bullet in
the right arm, that opened the flesh from wrist to elbow. That or
another shot killed the child. Amidst a shower of bullets, Mr. Wood
ran in the direction taken by his ox wagons. Getting past the point of
the low hill that lay just before him without being struck again, he
was then beyond range of the firing, and soon overtook his wagons. His
men, with all the guns they had, returned, to find the woman and child
dead on the ground. One of the mules was dead, one wounded, the other
two gone. The wagon had been ransacked of its contents, and the band
of assassins were making their way back into the hills whence they
had come.

This small wagon, Mr. Wood said, had contained the family effects; and
among them were several articles of considerable value, all of which
had been taken. Among his property were pieces of English gold coin,
the equivalent of fifteen hundred dollars. It had been concealed in
the bottom of the wagon-box, and he had supposed the band would
overlook it; but that, too, was gone.

Such was the plight in which our company found the man, soon after
this tragedy was so swiftly enacted, and which so effectually bereft
him of all, his family and his property, leaving him wounded, and
dependent on the mercy of strangers.

The dead were placed in mummy-form wrappings and buried, mother and
child in one, unmarked grave.

When the manuscript of this narrative was first made ready for the
printer, the description of the calamity which befell Mr. Wood and his
family ended here. There were other details, as clearly recalled as
those already recited, but so atrocious and devoid of motive, that it
was a matter of grave doubt whether the facts should be given. It
seemed too deplorable that such an occurrence could be recorded as the
act of human beings; furthermore, would it be credible? It has been
intimated that the present endeavor is to give a complete history of
events as they occurred: no material item suppressed, nothing
imaginary included; therefore the remaining details are given.

Incredible as it may sound to civilized ears, after the bodies of Mrs.
Wood and her child had been interred, hardly had those who performed
this service gone from the spot when a part of the savage band that
had murdered those innocent victims, rushed wildly back to the place,
disinterred the bodies from the shallow grave, taking the sheets in
which the bodies had been wrapped, and which were their only covering,
and carrying those articles away. When the Indians had gone a second
time, the grief-stricken Mr. Wood returned and reinterred the remains
of his wife and child.

Mr. Wood's wounded arm was dressed by Dr. Maxwell and Dr. Kidd, his
wagons were placed in the lead of our train, and again we moved



The next following day, as we wended our way among the sand dunes,
alkali flats and faded sagebrush, there came to us--whence we knew
not--three men, equipped with a small wagon, covered with white
ducking, arched over bows, similar to the covering on most of the
emigrant wagons; drawn by two large, handsome, well-harnessed horses;
all having a well-to-do appearance, that made our dusty, travel-worn
outfits look very cheap and inferior.

They told us that they were mountaineers, of long experience on the
plains; well acquainted with the Indians and familiar with their
habits and savage proclivities. They said that the Shoshone Indians
were very angry at the white people who were passing through their
lands; that this hostility recently had been further aroused by
certain alleged acts of the whites along the emigrant road; and that
the feeling was now so intense that even they, our informants, were
alarmed, notwithstanding their long, intimate and friendly intercourse
with these Indians; and, believing themselves no longer safe among the
tribe, they were anxious to get out of the Shoshone country; therefore
they requested the privilege of placing themselves under the
protection of our large train until we should have passed out of the
Shoshone lands and into those of the Pah-Utes, which tribe they said
was known to be friendly toward the white race.

One of these men was a specially picturesque figure; weighty, with
large, square shoulders; well-formed head; full, brown beard, cropped
short. He wore a deer-skin blouse, leathern breeches; broad,
stiff-brimmed hat, low crown, flat top, decorated with a tasseled
leather band; a fully-loaded ammunition belt--a combination make-up of
cowboy, mountaineer and highwayman.

The three men spoke plain English, with a free use of "frontier

Having received permission to take temporary protection by traveling
near us, they placed themselves at the rear of our train, and that
night pitched camp slightly apart from our circle of wagons.

Some of our men visited them during the evening, eager to hear their
tales of adventure; and listened, open-mouthed, to descriptions of
life among savage associations, in the mountain wilds, jungles and the
desert plains.

The visitors dwelt with emphasis on the threatening attitude of the
Shoshone Indians towards the emigrants; warning us that our position
was hazardous, with caution that there was special risk incurred by
individuals who wandered away from the train, thus inviting a chance
of being shot by Redskins, ambushed among the bunches of sagebrush.
They were especially earnest as they assured us of the peril there
would be in loitering away from the body of the company, as they had
noticed some of our boys doing, that day, while hunting for sage

After awhile, he of the big hat inquired--and seemed almost to tremble
with solicitude as he spoke:

"Are you prepared to defend yourselves, in case of an attack?"

Here unpleasant surmises gave place to distinct suspicions in the
minds of some of our older men. They regarded that question as a
"Give-away." All the day, since these three joined us, we had felt
that they might be spies, and in league with the Indians. So now not a
few of us were giving closest attention, both with ears and eyes.

An answer was ready: That we were prepared, and waiting for the
encounter; with a hundred and twenty-five shots for the first round;
that we could reload as rapidly as could the Indians; and had
ammunition in store for a long siege.

The actual fact was that, although every man of us had some sort of a
"shooting-iron," they were not formidable. In kind, these varied well
through the entire range of infantry, from a four-inch six-shooter to
a four-foot muzzle-loader, and from a single-barreled shotgun on up to
a Sharp's repeating rifle. The weapon last mentioned carried a
rotating cylinder, for five shells, and was the latest thing in
quick-fire repeating arms of that time: but there was only one of that
class in the train. Had we been seen on muster, standing at "present
arms," the array would have been less terrifying than comical.

Just how our visitors received our bluff with reference to
preparedness for battle we could not know. The next morning these
mysterious strangers took position in the rear of our train once more,
carrying a small white flag, mounted on a pole fastened to their
wagon. Upon being asked the purpose of the flag they replied that it
served as a signal to any one of their number who might go beyond
view, enabling him to determine the location of the wagon.

Captain John reminded them that, according to their statements,
wandering out of sight was too hazardous to be done or considered;
adding that therefore there did not seem to be any need of the flag,
and he wanted it to be taken down.

It came down.

During the noon-hour stop that day, while the doctors were dressing
Mr. Wood's wounded arm, he obtained a first look at our three
protegés. He at once indicated the man wearing the big, brown hat,
and stated, excitedly but confidentially, to those of our company who
were near him:

"I believe that man was with the Indians who killed my wife and

That statement naturally created a much greater feeling of uneasiness
among us. The assertion was whispered around; and every man of us
became a detective. The leading men of our party put their heads
together in council. The situation was more than ever grave and the
suspense distinctly painful. We feared something tragic would happen
any hour.

Mr. Wood was asked to obtain another view of the man and endeavor to
make his statement more definite, if he could. His wound, and the
terrible shock he had sustained two days previously, had so prostrated
him that he was unable to make haste. Arrangements were made to
disguise him and have him go where he could obtain a good view of the
three men, but his condition prevented it.

Later in the afternoon the three-men-afraid-of-Indians announced that
we had passed out of the territory of the savage Shoshones; they felt
it would be safe for them to dispense with our kind escort, therefore,
after camping near us that night, they would withdraw and bid us a
thankful good-bye.

We camped that night on a level place, where there was sage-brush
three or four feet high, and thick enough to make good cover for an
enemy. Our people, having become thoroughly distrustful of the three
men who had made themselves appendages of our train, feared an attack
would be made on our camp that night. Suspicion had developed into a
fixed belief that the trio were confederates of the Shoshones, and had
come to us under a pretense of fear on their part, in order to spy out
the fighting strength of our company.

The place where they halted their wagon and prepared to spend the
night was not more than a hundred yards from where our vehicles were
arranged, in the usual hollow circle, with the camp-fire and the
people inclosed.

When darkness set in, guards of our best men, armed with the most
effective guns we had, were quietly distributed about the camp, the
chosen men crawling on their hands and knees to their allotted
positions, in order that the three strangers should not know our
arrangements. There was an understanding that, if there should be an
attack during the night, the first thing to do was, if possible, to
shoot those three men; for, under the circumstances, any attack
occurring that night would be deemed completion of proof that they
were responsible for it and for any atrocity that might follow or be

The night passed without notable happening--except that at the break
of day the three men and their wagon silently stole away.

There was a feeling of great relief on being rid of them; but there
remained some apprehension of their turning up at some unguarded
moment and unpleasant place, to make us trouble; for their absence did
not remove the impression that they had come among us to gauge our
desirability as prey and the feasibility of overpowering our entire



We divided our long train into two parts, leaving a short space
between the sections. Mr. Wood's two wagons headed the forward part.
Toward the close of the day on which this change of arrangement was
made, the forward section turned off the road a short distance before
stopping to make camp, and the rear section passed slightly beyond the
first, left the road and halted, so that a double camp was formed,
with the two sections thus placed for the night in relative positions
the reverse of the order they had maintained during the day.

At night-fall, when supper was over and everything at rest, we saw
three horsemen going westward on the emigrant road. When they were
opposite the Maxwell, or forward, camp, as the train sections had
been placed, these men turned from the road and came toward us. We
soon recognized them as our late guests on the way: he of the big hat
and his two companions.

Riding into our camp, one of them remarked that they now observed the
change made in arrangement of our train, explaining that they had
intended to call on the Englishman, whose place had been in the lead.
They apologized for their mistake. The first speaker added that they
had heard it stated that this English gentleman had charged one of
their number with being in company with the Indians who killed his
wife, at the time of the tragedy, a few days before.

He of the big, brown hat then assumed the role of spokesman, and said:

"I understand that he indicated me, by description; and if that man
says I was with the Indians who killed his wife, I will kill him. Let
him say it, and I will shoot him down like a dog, that he is. I am
here to demand of him if he said it."

Another of the three said, in a tone of conciliation:

"We are honest men. We came out here from Stockton, California, where
we live, to meet the emigrants as they come over from the States. We
buy their weak and disabled stock, such as cannot finish the trip to
the Coast; take the animals onto range that we know of, and in the
fall, when they are recuperated, we drive them in for the California

The man under the large hat resumed:

"My name is James Tooly. My partners here, are two brothers, named
Hawes. And now, if that Englishman, or any one among you, says I was
with the Indians who killed his wife, I will shoot him who says it,
right here before you all."

This was said with much vehemence, and punctuated with many oaths.

[Illustration: Van Diveer's advantage was slight, but sufficient]

Mr. Drennan, of our combined company, replied:

"If you want to talk like that, go where the man is. We don't want
that kind of language used here, in the presence of our women and

Tooly, standing erect, high in his stirrups, drew a large pistol from
its holster and swung it above his head.

"I will say what I please, where I please; and I don't care who likes
it," roared Tooly, waving his pistol in air.

W. J. Van Diveer, a young man of the Drennan company, who had been
sitting on a wagon-tongue near the speaker, leaped to his feet, with a
pistol leveled at the big horseman's head, and with a manner that left
no doubt that he meant what he said, shouted:

"I'll be damned if you can do that here. Now, you put down your gun,
and go."

The muzzle of Van Diveer's pistol was within an arm's-length of Tooly,
aiming steadily at his head. Tooly was yet with pistol in hand but not
quite in position for use of it on his adversary. Van Diveer's
advantage was slight, but sufficient for the occasion. Tooly's
companions did not act, appearing to await his orders, and, in the
suddenness of this phase of the scene, Tooly found no voice for
commands. Others of our men made ready on the instant, believing that
a battle was on.

It was averted, however. Tooly replaced his pistol in the holster,

"Well, of course--as you say, my pie is over yonder. I don't want to
kill _you_ fellows."

And he didn't. The three rode over to the other group of our men,
among whom was Mr. Wood. All of these had overheard what had just been
said, and felt sure they knew what was coming.

Mr. Wood, grief-stricken, disabled, stood, pale and fearful, amongst
the party of timid emigrants, all strangers to him; he the only man
probably in the camp without a weapon on his person, his torn arm in
a sling across his chest.

The big fellow made his statement again, as he had made it to us; with
the same emphatic threat to kill, if he could induce Wood or any one
to speak out and affirm the charge of Tooly's complicity with the

Tooly got off his horse and, pistol in hand, walked among the party;
many of whom surely did tremble in their boots. He declared again, as
he stalked about, that he would shoot the hapless Wood, "like a dog",
or any one who would repeat the charge.

There were but a few men in that part of the camp when Tooly commenced
this second tirade, in the presence of Wood; but soon more came from
the other part of the train.

Mr. Wood, in a condition as helpless as if with hands and feet bound,
realizing his situation, and his responsibility, maintained silence: a
silence more eloquent than speech, since a single word from him in
confirmation of the charge he had made would have precipitated a
battle, in which he, most certainly, and probably others, including
some of his benefactors, would have been killed.

Then Tooly saw that a goodly number of men had arrived from the other
section of the camp, and were watching to see what would happen; some
of these viewing the scene with attitude and looks that boded no good
for the man who held the center of the arena.

Tooly's threatening talk ceased. Still Wood said nothing. In silence,
Tooly mounted his horse, and with his fellows rode away, leaving the
party of emigrants--most of them terror-stricken, some angry--standing
dumb, looking at one another, and at the retreating three until they
went out of sight, in the dusk of the desert night-fall: stood there
on the sage-brush sward, a tableau of silent dumbfoundedness; for how
long none knew; each waiting for something to break the spell.

"I feel like a fool," exclaimed Van Diveer.

"But," spoke Drennan, the older and more conservative leader of their
party, "we couldn't start an open battle with those fellows without
some of us being killed. They are gone; we should be glad that they
are. It is better to bear the insult than have even one of our people

    "I'm glad they left no bullets in me--
    Ulee, ilee, aloo, ee;
    Courting, down in Tennessee."

This paraphrasing of his favorite ditty was, of course, perpetrated by

But we all wished we knew. Was it true that these men were
conspirators with the Indians who had been ravaging the emigrant
trains? If so, doubtless they would be concerned in other and
possibly much more disastrous assaults, and perhaps soon. If so, who
would be the next victims?

But Mr. Wood was still too indefinite in his identification of the man
Tooly--at least in his statement of it--to clear away all doubt, or
even, as yet, to induce the majority of our men to act on the judgment
of some: that we should follow these plainsmen, learn more, and have
it out with them.

There were many circumstances pointing not only to the connection of
these men with the assault on Mr. Wood's family, but to the
probability of their having been responsible for the slaughter of the
Holloway party. It seemed improbable that there were two bands of
Indians operating along that part of the Humboldt River in the looting
of emigrant trains. If it could be proved that white men co-operated
with the savages in the Wood case, the inference would be strong that
the same white men had been accessories in the Holloway massacre. The
use of guns in those attacks, and the evident abundance of ammunition
in the hands of the Indians, went far toward proving the connection of
white men with both these cases.



The Sink of the Humboldt is a lake of strong, brackish water, where
the river empties into the natural basin, formed by the slant of the
surrounding district of mountains, plain and desert, and where some of
the water sinks into the ground and much of it evaporates, there being
no surface outlet. In the latter part of the summer the water is at a
very low stage, and stronger in mineral constituents. There we found
the daytime heat most intense.

The land that is exposed by the receding water during the hottest
period of the fall season becomes a dry, crackling waste of incrusted
slime, curling up in the fierce sunshine, and readily crushed under
foot, like frozen snow. The yellowish-white scales reflect the
sunlight, producing a painful effect on the eyes. Not many feet wander
to this forbidding sea of desolation.

At the border of this desert lake, a few feet higher than the water,
is a plateau of sand, covered with sage-brush and stones. We were
there in the last week of August. Fresh water was not to be had except
at a place a half-mile from our camp, where there was a seepage
spring. There we filled our canteens and buckets with enough for
supper and breakfast. The animals had to endure the night without

Not far from the spring was situated a rude shack, known as "Black's
Trading Post." This establishment was constructed of scraps of rough
lumber, sticks, stones and cow-hides. With Mr. Black were two men,
said to be his helpers--helpers in what, did not appear. The principal
stock in trade was a barrel of whisky--reported to be of very bad
quality--some plug tobacco, and--not much else. Black's prices were
high. A sip from the barrel cost fifty cents. It was said to be an
antidote for alkali poisoning.

[Illustration: "A sip from the barrel cost fifty cents"]

Some of our men visited this emporium of the desert, and there they
found "Jim" Tooly. The barrel had been tapped in his behalf, and he
was loquacious; appearing also to be quite "at home" about the Post.
His two companions of our recent acquaintance were not there. The
"antidote" was working; Tooly was in good spirits, and eloquent. He
did not appear to recognize those of our people who were visiting the
place; but they knew him. There were other persons present from the
camps of two or three companies of emigrants, but strangers to us, who
were also stopping for the night at the margin of the Sink.

Tooly assumed an air of comradeship toward all, addressing various
individuals as "Partner" and "Neighbor"; but his obvious willingness
to hold the center of the stage made it clear that he deemed himself
the important personage of the community.

Some things he said were self-incriminating. He boasted of having
"done up a lot of Pikers, up the creek," declaring his intention to
"look up another lot of suckers" the following day.

When our men thought that they had heard enough they returned to camp
and reported.

Recollections of the last time we had seen Mr. Tooly made the present
occasion seem opportune. An impromptu "court" was organized: judge,
sheriff and deputies; and these, with a few chosen men of the company,
went to the trading post to convene an afternoon session. The members
of this "court" dropped in quietly, one or two at a time, looked over
the place, asked questions--about the country; the prices of Mr.
Black's "goods"; how far it might be to Sacramento; anything to be
sociable: but none offered to tap the barrel.

The stranger emigrants had heard of the Indian raids up the river.
Seeming to have inferred something of pending events, they had gone to
the trading post in considerable numbers. Tooly was still there. Black
and his two men seemed to be persons who ordinarily would be classed
as honest. Still, they appeared to listen to Tooly's tales of prowess
in the looting of emigrant trains as if they regarded such proceedings
as acts of exceptional valor; exhibiting as much interest in the
recital as did the "tenderfoot" emigrants--who held a different
opinion regarding those adventures.

When enough had been heard to warrant the finding of an indictment,
the newly-appointed judge issued a verbal order of arrest, and the
sheriff and his deputies quickly surrounded the accused, before he
suspected anything inimical to his personal welfare. With revolver in
hand, the sheriff commanded, "Hands up, 'Jim' Tooly!" To the
astonishment of all, the big man raised both hands, without protest;
this, however, in mock obedience, as was evident by his laughing at
the supposed fun.

"This is not a joke, sir," came in harsh tones from the judge. "When
we saw you last, about sixteen days ago, you came to our camp to deny
a charge made against you by a man of our company. You overawed,
browbeat and insulted the man and those who were assisting and
protecting him in his distress. You denied the accusation made against
you, with vehemence and much profanity. Giving you the benefit of a
doubt, we permitted you to go. Now we are here to take the full
statement of the prosecuting witness, and examine such other evidence
as there may be. We will clear you if we can, or find you guilty if we

In whatever direction the culprit looked he gazed into the open end of
a gun or pistol. The sheriff said:

"Now, Tooly, any motion of resistance will cost you your life."

A disinterested onlooker at the moment would have cringed, lest the
unaccustomed duty of some deputy should so unnerve his hand that he
would inadvertently and prematurely pull the trigger of his weapon.
But all held sufficiently steady, as they looked through the sights.

The prisoner slowly grasped the situation, and knew that temporary
safety lay in obedience. The sheriff's demand for Tooly's weapons
created more surprise, when it was revealed that, in his feeling of
security while at the Post, he had relieved himself of those
encumbering articles and deposited them with the landlord, that he
might have freedom from their weight while enjoying the hospitality of
the place.

Thus his captors had him as a tiger with teeth and claws drawn. His
weapons, when brought out from the hut for examination, were found to
be two pistols, of the largest size and most dangerous appearance, in
a leathern holster, the latter made to carry on the pommel of a
saddle, in front of the rider. These, also his saddle and other
trappings, were searched for evidence; but, except the pistols,
nothing was found that tended to throw any further light on the
question of his guilt or innocence.

Tooly was then taken, under a heavy guard, to a spot some distance
from the Post, where the court reconvened, for the purpose of
completing the trial.

His captors had, with good reason, reckoned Tooly as like a beast of
the jungle, who, when put at bay, would resort to desperate fighting;
but, having been caught thus unawares and unarmed, violence on his
part or resistance of any kind, was useless. He was doubtless feigning
meekness, hoping for an opportunity to escape.

A jury was selected, mostly from the stranger emigrants.

The improvised court sat on an alkali flat near the margin of the
lake, where there were some large stones and clumps of sage-brush.
There Tooly was confronted by Mr. Wood, still with bandaged arm. Tooly
declared he had never before seen the Englishman, but Wood said he had
seen Tooly, and now reaffirmed his belief that the prisoner was one of
the persons who, some weeks previously, had ridden with the Indians
who killed Mrs. Wood and the child, also wounded and robbed the

Still the evidence was not deemed sufficiently positive or complete,
the identity being in some doubt. The jury would not convict without
conclusive proof. With the view of procuring further evidence, the
judge ordered that the person of the prisoner be searched.

Hearing this mandate, Tooly first made some sign of an intention to
resist--only a slight start, as if possibly contemplating an effort to
break through the cordon of untrained guards.

"Gentlemen," ordered the sheriff, "keep, every man, his eye on this
fellow, and his finger on the trigger." Then to the prisoner,

"Stand, sir, or you will be reduced to the condition of a 'good

Escape as yet appeared impossible, and Tooly must have finally come to
a definite realization that he was in the hands of men who meant
business, most earnestly. Bravado had ceased to figure in his conduct.
It was apparent that the search for evidence was narrowing its field;
the erstwhile minions of frontier justice were on the right scent.
Tooly grew pallid of feature and his cheeks hollowed perceptibly, in a
moment. There was a wild glare in his eyes, as they turned from side
to side; fear, hatred, viciousness, mingled in every glance. He
crouched, not designedly, but as if an involuntary action of the
muscles drew him together. His fists were clenched; his mouth partly
opened, as if he would speak, but could not.

Thus he stood, half erect, while the officer searched his clothing.
The examination disclosed that, secured in a buckskin belt, worn under
his outer garments, there was English gold coin, to the value of five
hundred dollars; just one-third of the amount that Mr. Wood declared
he had lost at the time of the robbery. What became of the other
two-thirds of Mr. Wood's money was readily inferred, but full proof of
it was not necessary to this case.

Tooly's trial was closed. The only instruction the court gave the jury
was, "Gentlemen, you have heard the testimony and seen the evidence;
what is your verdict?"

The answer came, as the voice of one man, "Guilty."

During the entire proceeding, at the post and down by the lake, the
judge sat astride his mule. Addressing the prisoner once more from his
elevated "bench," he said:

"Mr. Tooly, you are found guilty of the murder of Mrs. Wood and her
child, the wounding of Mr. Wood, and robbery of his wagon. Mr. Wood
has from the first stated his belief that you were with, and the
leader of, the band of Indians which attacked his party. You
afterwards denied it; but now, in addition to his almost positive
identification, and many circumstances pointing to your guilt, you are
found with the fruits of that robbery on your person. Have you
anything to say?"

[Illustration: "'Stop,' shouted the Judge"]

Tooly was ashy pale, and speechless. Absolute silence reigned for a
time, as the court awaited the prisoner's reply, if by any means he
could offer some explanation, some possible extenuating circumstance,
that might affect the judgment to be pronounced. None came, and the
judge continued:

"You can have your choice, to be shot, or hanged to the uplifted
tongue of a wagon. Which do you choose?"

Tooly took the risk of immediate death, in seeking one last, desperate
chance for life. Instantly he turned half around, crouched for a
spring, and, seemingly by one single leap, went nearly past the
rock-pile, so that it partly covered his retreat. Quick as his
movements were, they were not swifter than those of the men whose duty
was to prevent his escape.

"Stop, Tooly," shouted the judge, sitting astride his mule, as his
long right arm went out to a level, aiming his big Colt's revolver at
the fleeing man.

"Shoot, boys," commanded the sheriff at the same instant; a chorus of
shots sounded, and the court's sentence was executed.

Complying with the request of the judge, the sheriff had a hole dug
near where the body lay, and the dead man was buried, _sans

The court returned to the trading post and requested the proprietor to
state what he knew of Tooly. Mr. Black declared he only knew that the
accused plainsman came to the post that day; that he bought and drank
a considerable quantity of whisky, and offered to treat several
passing emigrants, all of whom declined.

The English gold found upon the prisoner was returned to Mr. Wood, and
the incident was closed.

The trial had been as orderly and impartial as the proceedings in any
court established by constitutional authority. All those concerned in
it realized that they were performing a duty of grave importance.
There was nothing of vindictiveness, nothing of rashness. It was
without "due process," and it was swift; a proceeding without the
delays commonly due to technicalities observed in a legal tribunal;
but it was justice conscientiously administered, without law--an
action necessary under the circumstances. Its justification was fully
equal to that of similar services performed by the Vigilance
Committee, in San Francisco, within a year preceding. It was a matter
the necessity of which was deplorable, but the execution of which was
imposed upon those who were on the spot and uncovered the convincing



From the Sink of the Humboldt the little Darby party wished to
complete the trip by the Carson Route, thus separating from the
majority, but their supplies were exhausted and they had now but one
ox and one cow to draw their wagon. A suggestion, that those who could
spare articles of food should divide with the needy, was no sooner
made than acted upon. Sides of bacon, sacks of flour and other
substantials were piled into their little vehicle, and the owners of
the two oxen which had been loaned Darby simply said, "Take them
along; you need them more than we do." Danny, alias "Gravy" Worley,
being of that party, showed his delight, by sparkling eyes and
beaming fat face, when he saw the abundance of edibles turned over to
his people. Mr. Darby shed genuine tears of gratitude, as we bade them
good-bye and drove away by another route.

The combination train was further divided, each party shaping its
farther course according to the location of its final stop. The
Drennans took the Carson Route, the Maxwell train proceeding by the
more northerly, Truckee, trail. The associations of the plains, closer
cemented by the sharing of many hardships and some pleasures, had
created feelings almost equal to kinship, more binding than those of
many a life-long neighborhood relation. So there were deep regrets at

On leaving the Sink of the Humboldt there was before us a wholly
desert section, forty miles wide. The course led southwesterly, over
flat, barren lands, with a line of low hills, absolutely devoid of
vegetation, on our right. This was known to be one of the hard drives
of our long journey; but hearsay knowledge was also to the effect
that, at its farther border, we would reach the Truckee River, and
soon thereafter ascend the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The prospect of
seeing again a river of _pure_ water, and fresh, green trees, had a
buoyant effect on our lagging hopes; and these were further stimulated
by the information that not long after entering these forest shades we
would cross the State line into California.

While crossing the forty miles of desert, the sun-baked silt, at the
beginning, and later the deep, dry sand, made heavy going. To avoid
the almost intolerable heat of day as much as possible, and it being
known that water was not obtainable, during this much-dreaded bit of
travel, we deferred the start until mid-afternoon, and traveled all

The impressions of that night ride were most extraordinary. As the
sun sank, and twilight shaded into night, the atmosphere was filled
with a hazy dimness; not merely fog, nor smoke, nor yet a pall of
suspended dust, but rather what one might expect in a blending of
those three. Only a tinge of moonlight from above softened the dull
hue. It was not darkness as night usually is dark. It was an
impenetrable, opaque narrowing of the horizon, and closing in of the
heavens above us; which, as we advanced, constantly shifted its
boundary, retaining us still in the center of the great amphitheater
of half-night. We could see one another, but beyond or above the
encompassing veil all was mystery, even greater mystery than mere
darkness. No moon nor stars visible; nothing visible but just part of
ourselves, and ours.

As the night merged into morning, the sunlight gradually dispelled the
mantle of gloom from our immediate presence; but still we could not
see out. As if inclosed in a great moving pavilion, on we went,
guided only by the tracks of those who had gone before.

In the after part of the night the loose cattle, having been for two
nights and a day without water, and instinctively expecting an
opportunity to drink, quickened their pace, passing the wagons; the
stronger ones outgoing the weaker, till the drove was strung out two
or three miles in length along the sandy trail.

Some of the wise-heads in the company were fearful that the cattle, on
reaching the Truckee River, would drink too much. They detailed Luke
Kidd and me to ride on our mules ahead of the foremost of the stock,
and on reaching the river, permit none of the animals to drink more
than a little water at a time.

We went ahead during all that long morning, following what was surely,
to us, the longest night that ever happened, before or since. Most of
the other members of our party were in the wagons, and they, except
the drivers, slept soundly; rocked gently, very gently, by the slow
grinding of the wheels in the soft, deep sand. But Luke and I, on our
little mules, must keep awake, and alert as possible, in readiness to
hold back the cattle from taking too much water.

From midnight to daybreak seemed a period amounting to entire days and
nights; from dawn till sunrise, an epoch; and from sunrise to the time
of reaching the river, as a period that would have no end.

As the sun finally rose behind us, the faintest adumbration of the
nearest ridges of the Sierras was discerned, in a dim, blue scroll
across the western horizon, far ahead--how far it was useless to
guess; and later, patches of snow about the peaks.

The minutes were as hours; and their passing tantalized us: noting how
the dim view grew so very slowly into hazy outlines of mountains, and
finally of tree-tops.

On we labored, overcoming distance inch by inch; nodding in our
saddles; occasionally dismounting, to shake off the almost
overpowering grasp of sleep.

Half awake, we dreamed of water, green trees, and fragrant flowers.
Rising hope, anon, took the place of long-deferred fruition, and we
forgot for a moment how hard the pull was; till, with returning
consciousness of thirst and painful drowsiness, we saw the landscape
ahead presented still another, and another line of sand-dunes yet to
be overcome.

Luke and I reached the Truckee at nine o'clock in the forenoon, just
ahead of the vanguard of cattle, and about three miles in advance of
the foremost wagon.

We tried to regulate the cattle's consumption of water, but did not
prevent their drinking all they could hold. Ten men, on ten mules,
could not have stopped one cow from plunging into that river, once
she got sight of it, and remaining as long as she desired. We could
not even prevent the mules we rode from rushing into it--that cold,
rippling Truckee. Yet our elders had sent us two boys to hold back a
hundred cattle, and make them drink in installments--in homeopathic
doses, for their stomachs' sake.

They dashed into the stream _en masse_; and seeing the futility of
interfering, we gladly joined the cattle, in the first good, long,
cool swallow of clear, clean water, within a period of six weeks.

Our little mules did not stop till they reached the middle of the
river, and stuck their heads, ears and all, under the water. Luke's
diminutive, snuff-colored beast was so overcome by the sight and feel
of water that she lay down in it, with him astride, giving herself and
her master the first real bath since the time that she did the same
thing, in the Platte River, some three months previously.

To us, the long-time sun-dried, thirsty emigrants; covered from head
to foot with dust from the Black Hills, overlaid with alkali powder
from the Humboldt, veneered with ashes of the desert; all ingrained by
weeks of dermatic absorption, rubbed in by the wear of travel,
polished by the friction of the wind--to us said the Truckee, flowing
a hundred feet wide, transparent, deep, cool; rattling and singing and
splashing over the rocks; and the sparkle of its crystal purity, the
music of its flow and the joy of its song, repeated, "Come and take a

We filled our canteens and went back to meet the others. We found them
in a line three miles long; and it was well into the afternoon when
the last wagon reached the river.

The train crossed to the farther shore, into the grateful shade of the
pine forest and there made camp.

What an enchanting spectacle was that scene of wooded hills, with its
varying lights and shades, all about us! From as far as we could see,
up the heights and down to the river bank, where their roots were
washed in the cool water, the great trees grew.

We were still within the confines of Nevada, but two men were there
with a wagon-load of fresh garden stuff, brought over from the
foothills of California to sell to the emigrants: potatoes, at fifty
cents a pound, pickles, eight dollars a keg, and so on. We bought, and

The camp that night by the Truckee River was the happiest of all. We
had reached a place where green things grew in limitless profusion,
where water flowed pure and free; and we were out of the desert and
beyond the reach of the savage Redman.



Having begun the ascent of the lofty and precipitous east slope of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains, one night about the first of September the
camp-site selected was at a spot said to be directly on the boundary
line between Nevada and California.

Lounging after supper about a huge bonfire of balsam pine, the
travelers debated the question whether we were really at last within
the limits of the Mecca toward which we had journeyed so patiently
throughout the summer. While so engaged, the stillness, theretofore
disturbed only by the murmur of our voices and occasional popping of
the burning logs, was further dispelled for a few seconds by sounds
as of shifting pebbles on the adjacent banks, accompanied by rustling
of the foliage, waving of tall branches and tree-tops, and a gentle
oscillation of the ground on which we rested. These manifestations
were new to our experience; but we had heard and read enough about the
western country to hazard a guess as to the significance of the

"Jack," aroused from his first early slumber of that particular
evening, raised himself on an elbow, and asserted, confidently:

"That settles it; we _are_ in California: that was an earthquake."

Appearing already to have caught the universal feeling of western
people regarding the matter of "quakes," he chuckled, in contemplation
of his own perspicacity, and calmly resumed his recumbent attitude,
and his nap.

The summit of the Sierras was reached within about two days from the
commencement of the ascent. We met no people in these mountains until
we had proceeded some distance down the westerly slope, and reached a
mining camp, near a small, gushing stream, that poured itself over and
between rocks in a tortuous gorge.

The camp was a small cluster of rough shacks, built of logs, split
boards and shakes. As if dropped there by accident, they were located
without regard for any sort of uniformity. These were the bunk cabins
of the miners; some of the diminutive structures being only of size
sufficient to accommodate a cot, a camp-stool and a wash-basin. A
larger cabin stood at about the center of the group, the joint kitchen
and dining-room.

As we drove into the "town," the only person within view was a
Chinaman, standing at the door. For most of us this was a first
introduction to one of the yellow race. He was evidently the camp

Major Crewdson approached the Celestial with the salutation: "Hello,

"Belly good," was the reply.

[Illustration: "'Melican man dig gold"]

Having already heard it said that the invariable result of an
untutored Chinaman's effort to pronounce any word containing an "r"
produced the sound of "l" instead, we thought little of that error in
the attempt of this one to say "Very," but believed that his
substitution for the initial letter of that word was inexcusable.

"What is the name of this place?" continued Crewdson.

"'Melican man dig gold."

"Yes, I know that; but, this town, what do you call it?"

"Yu-ba Dam," the Chinaman answered.

This response was intended to be civil. Near by the Yuba River was
spanned by a dam, for mining purposes, known as Yuba Dam, which gave
the mining camp its name.

Further on we came to the first house that we saw in California; and
it was the first real house within our view since the few primitive
structures at Nebraska City, on the west shore of the Missouri River,
faded from our sight, the preceding spring. During a period of about
four months our company had traveled thousands of miles, through
varying wilds, in all of which not one habitation, in form common to
civilization, had been encountered. Seldom has civilized man journeyed
a greater distance elsewhere, even in darkest Africa, without passing
the conventional domicile of some member of his own race. Long ago
such an experience became impossible in the United States.

[Illustration: Pack-mule route to placer diggings]

This house was a small wayside inn, situated where a miners' trail
crossed the emigrant route; a roughly-made, two-story, frame building,
with a corral adjoining; at which mule pack-trains stopped overnight,
when carrying supplies from Sacramento and Marysville for miners
working the gold placer diggings along the American and Yuba rivers.
We camped beside the little hotel, and the next morning were for the
first time permitted to enjoy a sample of the proverbially generous
California hospitality, when the landlord invited our entire company
into his hostelry for breakfast.

Our entrance into California was in Nevada County, thence through
Placer, Sacramento, Solano and Napa, and into Sonoma.

Over the last one hundred miles we saw evidences that the valleys,
great and small, were rapidly filling with settlers.

The last stream forded was the Russian River, flowing southwesterly
through Alexander Valley, to the sea. Having crossed to the western
shore, our motley throng found itself in the settlement embracing the
village of Healdsburg, an aggregation of perhaps a dozen or twenty
houses. There our worn and weather-stained troop made its final halt;
and the jaded oxen, on whose endurance and patient service so
much--even our lives--had depended, were unyoked the last time, on
September seventeenth, just four months after the departure from the
Missouri River.

Considering all the circumstances of the journey, through two thousand
miles of diversified wilderness, during which we rested each night in
a different spot; it seems providential that, on every occasion when
the time came for making camp, a supply of water and fuel was
obtainable. Without these essentials there would have been much
additional suffering. Sometimes the supply was limited or inferior,
sometimes both; especially during those trying times in the westerly
portion of the Humboldt region; but we were never without potable
water nor fire, at least for the preparation of our evening meal.
Nature had prepared the country for this great overland exodus from
the populous East; a most important factor in the upbuilding of the
rich western empire, theretofore so little known, but whose
development of resources and accession of inhabitants since have been
the world's greatest marvel for more than half a hundred years.

As I look back, through the lapse of nearly sixty years, upon that
toilsome and perilous journey, notwithstanding its numerous harrowing
events, memory presents it to me as an itinerary of almost continuous
excitement and wholesome enjoyment; a panorama that never grows stale;
many of the incidents standing out to view on recollection's landscape
as clear and sharp as the things of yesterday. That which was worst
seems to have softened and lapsed into the half-forgotten, while the
good and happy features have grown brighter and better with the
passing of the years.

Whether pioneers in the most technical sense, we were early
Californians, who learned full well what was meant by "Crossing the


[Transcriber's Notes:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other

The transcriber made changes as indicated to the text to correct
obvious errors:

  1. p. 15, awkardness --> awkwardness
  2. p. 44, we though best --> we thought best
  3. p. 45, knowldege --> knowledge
  4. p. 68, maner --> manner
  5. p. 74, consciouses --> consciousness
  6. p. 103, characteristc --> characteristic
  7. p. 114, unusal --> unusual
  8. p. 149, "tenderfoot' --> "tenderfoot"
  9. p. 153, "good Indian' --> 'good Indian'

Several occurrences of mismatched quotes remain as published. Also,
some illustrations have been repositioned to appear between paragraphs,
causing some to move to a different page, but page numbers in the
Contents remain as published.

End of Transcriber's Notes]

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