By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail
Author: Meeker, Ezra, 1830-1928, Driggs, Howard R. (Howard Roscoe), 1873-1963
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail

[Illustration: Ezra Meeker.]

[Illustration: Signature: Ezra Meeker]

_Pioneer Life Series_

       *       *       *       *       *

Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail

_Ezra Meeker_

          in collaboration with
          _Howard R. Driggs_

          Professor of Education in English
          University of Utah


          _Illustrated with drawings
           by F. N. Wilson
           and with photographs_

          Yonkers-on-Hudson, New York

          _World Book Company_




          Established 1905 by Caspar W. Hodgson

The Oregon Trail--what suggestion the name carries of the heroic toil of
pioneers! Yet a few years' ago the route of the trail was only vaguely
known. Then public interest was awakened by the report that one of the
very men who had made the trip to Oregon in the old days was traversing
the trail once more, moving with ox team and covered wagon from his home
in the state of Washington, and marking the old route as he went. The
man with the ox team was Ezra Meeker. He went on to the capital, where
Mr. Roosevelt, then President, met him with joy. Then he traversed the
long trail once more with team and wagon--back to that Northwest which
he had so long made his home. This book gives Mr. Meeker's story of his
experiences on the Oregon Trail when it was new, and again when,
advanced in years, he retraced the journey of his youth that Americans
might ever know where led the footsteps of the pioneers. The publication
of this book in its Pioneer Life Series carries forward one of the
cherished purposes of World Book Company--to supply as a background to
the study of American history interesting and authentic narratives based
on the personal experiences of brave men and women who helped to push
the frontier of our country across the continent.



          Copyright 1922 by World Book Company
          Copyright in Great Britain
          _All rights reserved_
          PRINTED IN U. S. A.


OUT in the state of Washington recently, a veteran of more than ninety
years stepped into an aëroplane with the mail pilot and flew from
Seattle to Victoria in British Columbia, and back again. The aged
pioneer took the trip with all the zest of youth and returned
enthusiastic over the adventure.

This youthful veteran was Ezra Meeker, of Oregon Trail fame, who
throughout his long, courageous, useful life has ever kept in the
vanguard of progress. Seventy years ago he became one of the
trail-blazers of the Farther West. In 1852, with his young wife and
child, he made the hazardous journey over plains and mountains all the
way from Iowa to Oregon by ox team. Then, after fifty-four years of
struggle in helping to develop the country beyond the Cascades, this
undaunted pioneer decided to reblaze the almost lost Oregon Trail.

An old "prairie schooner" was rebuilt, and a yoke of sturdy oxen was
trained to make the trip. With one companion and a faithful dog, the
veteran started out. It took nearly two years, but the ox-team journey
from Washington, the state, to Washington, our national capital, was
finally accomplished.

The chief purpose of Mr. Meeker in this enterprise was to induce people
to mark the famous old highway. To him it represented a great battle
ground in our nation's struggle to win and hold the West. The story of
the Oregon Trail, he rightly felt, is an American epic which must be
preserved. Through his energy and inspiration and the help of thousands
of loyal men and women, school boys and school girls, substantial
monuments have now been placed along the greater part of the old pioneer

Two years ago it was my privilege to meet the author in his home city.
Our mutual interest in pioneer stories brought us together in an effort
to preserve some of them, and several days were spent in talking over
the old times and visiting historic spots.

Everywhere we went there was a glowing welcome for "Father Meeker," as
he was called by some of his home folks, while "Uncle Ezra" was the name
used affectionately by others. The ovation given him when he arose to
speak to the teachers and students of the high school in Puyallup--the
city he founded--was evidence of the high regard in which he is held by
those who know him best.

Other boys and girls and older folk all over the country would enjoy
meeting Ezra Meeker and hearing of his experiences. Since this is not
possible, the record of what he has seen and done is given to us in this
little volume.

The book makes the story of the Oregon Trail live again. This famous old
way to the West was traced in the beginning by wild animals--the bear,
the elk, the buffalo, the soft-footed wolf, and the coyote. Trailing
after these animals in quest of food and skins, came the Indians. Then
followed the fur-trading mountaineers, the home-seeking pioneers, the
gold seekers, the soldiers, and the cowboys. Now railroad trains,
automobiles, and even aëroplanes go whizzing along over parts of the old

Every turn in the Trail holds some tale of danger and daring or romance.
Most of the stories have been forever lost in the passing away of those
who took part in this ox-team migration across our continent. For that
reason the accounts that have been saved are the more precious.

Ezra Meeker has done a signal service for our country in reblazing the
Oregon Trail. He has accomplished an even greater work in helping to
humanize our history and vitalize the geography of our land, by giving
to us, through this little volume, a vivid picture of the heroic
pioneering of the Farther West.

                                               HOWARD R. DRIGGS


   INTRODUCTION TO THE AUTHOR                      v


   1. BACK TO BEGINNINGS                           1

   2. BOYHOOD DAYS IN OLD INDIANA                  9

   3. LEAVING THE HOME NEST FOR IOWA              15

   4. TAKING THE TRAIL FOR OREGON                 21

   5. THE WESTWARD RUSH                           33

   6. THE PIONEER ARMY OF THE PLAINS              38



   9. REACHING THE END OF THE TRAIL               57



  11. HUNTING FOR ANOTHER HOME SITE               78

  12. CRUISING ABOUT ON PUGET SOUND               86


  14. MESSAGES AND MESSENGERS                    106



  17. FINDING MY PEOPLE                          128

  18. INDIAN WAR DAYS                            135



  21. FINDING AND LOSING A FORTUNE               154

  22. TRYING FOR A FORTUNE IN ALASKA             160



  24. ON THE OVERLAND TRAIL AGAIN                177

  25. TRAILING ON TO THE SOUTH PASS              185


  27. A BIT OF BAD LUCK                          204

  28. DRIVING ON TO THE CAPITAL                  212

  29. THE END OF THE LONG TRAIL                  219


WORN deep and wide by the migration of three hundred thousand people,
lined by the graves of twenty thousand dead, witness of romance and
tragedy, the Oregon Trail is unique in history and will always be sacred
to the memories of the pioneers. Reaching the summit of the Rockies upon
an evenly distributed grade of eight feet to the mile, following the
watercourse of the River Platte and tributaries to within two miles of
the summit of the South Pass, through the Rocky Mountain barrier,
descending to the tidewaters of the Pacific, through the Valleys of the
Snake and the Columbia, the route of the Oregon Trail points the way for
a great National Highway from the Missouri River to Puget Sound: a
roadway of greatest commercial importance, a highway of military
preparedness, a route for a lasting memorial to the pioneers, thus
combining utility and sentiment.

[Illustration: Signature: Ezra Meeker]



[Illustration: NORTH AMERICA IN 1830]

This map shows the main divisions of North America as they were when
Ezra Meeker was born. The shading in the Arctic region shows how much
there was still for the explorers to discover.

The Oregon Country is shown as part of the United States, although the
whole region was in dispute between the United States and Great Britain.
In the United States itself the settled part of the country was east of
the dotted line that runs from Lake Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico. West
of this line was the Indian country, with only a few forts as outposts
of settlement. Several territories had been organized, but Oregon,
Missouri, and Nebraska were little more than names for vast undetermined

[Illustration: The old Meeker homestead near Elizabeth, New Jersey.]



I WAS born in Huntsville, Butler County, Ohio, on December 29, 1830.
That was, at this writing, more than ninety years ago.

My father's ancestors came from England in 1637. In 1665 they settled
near Elizabeth City, New Jersey, building there a very substantial house
which stood till almost 1910. More than a score of hardy soldiers from
this family fought for the Colonies in the War of Independence. They
were noted for their stalwart strength, steady habits, and patriotic

Both my parents were sincere, though not austere, Christian people.
Father inherited to the full the sturdy traits of his ancestors. I well
remember that for three years, during our life in Indiana, he worked
eighteen hours a day as a miller. For this hard service he received only
twenty dollars a month and bran for the cow. Yet out of the ordeal he
came seemingly as strong and healthy as when he entered it.

My mother's maiden name was Phoebe Baker. English and Welsh strains of
blood ran in her veins. Her father settled in Butler County, Ohio, in
the year 1804, or thereabouts. My mother, like my father, could and did
endure continuous long hours of severe labor without much discomfort. I
have known her frequently to patch and mend our clothing until very late
at night, and yet she would invariably be up in the morning by four to
resume her labors.

Small wonder that with such parents and with such early surroundings I
am able to say that for fifty-eight years I was never sick in bed a
single day. I, too, have endured long hours of labor during my whole
life, and I can truthfully say that I have always liked to do my work
and that I never watched for the sun to go down to relieve me from the
burden of labor. My mother said I was "always the busiest young 'un" she
ever saw, by which she meant that I was restless from the
beginning--born so.

According to the best information obtainable, I was born in a log cabin,
where the fireplace was nearly as wide as the cabin. The two doors on
opposite sides permitted the horse, dragging the backlog, to enter at
one and then to go out at the other. Of course, the solid floor of split
logs defied injury from such treatment.

The skillet and the Dutch oven were used instead of the cook stove to
bake the pone or johnny cake, to parch the corn, or to fry the venison
which was then obtainable in the wilds of Ohio.

A curtain at the farther end of the cabin marked the confines of a
bedchamber for the "old folks." The older children climbed the ladder
nailed to the wall to get to the loft floored with loose clapboards that
rattled when trodden upon. The straw beds were so near the roof that
the patter of the rain made music to the ear, and the spray of the
falling water would often baptize the "tow-heads" left uncovered.

[Illustration: Bringing in the backlog.]

Our diet was simple, and the mush pot was a great factor in our home
life. A large, heavy iron pot was hung on the crane in the chimney
corner, where the mush would slowly bubble and sputter over or near a
bed of oak coals for half the afternoon. And such mush!--always made
from yellow corn meal and cooked three hours or more. This, eaten with
plenty of fresh, rich milk, furnished the supper for the children. Tea?
Not to be thought of. Sugar? It was too expensive--cost fifteen to
eighteen cents a pound, and at a time when it took a week's labor to
earn as much money as a day's labor would earn now. Cheap molasses we
had sometimes, but not often, meat not more than once a day, but eggs in

Everything father had to sell was low-priced, while everything mother
must buy at the store was high. Wheat brought twenty-five cents a
bushel; corn, fifteen cents; pork, two and two and a half cents a pound,
with bacon sometimes used as fuel by reckless, racing steamboat
captains of the Ohio and Mississippi.

My earliest recollection, curiously enough, is of my schoolboy days,
although I had so few. I was certainly not five years old when a
drunken, brutal teacher undertook to spank me because I did not speak a
word plainly. That is the first fight of which I have any recollection.
I could hardly remember that but for the witnesses, one of them my
oldest brother, who saw the struggle. My teeth, he said, did excellent
work and drew blood quite freely.

What a spectacle--a half-drunken teacher maltreating his pupils! But
then, that was the time before a free school system. It was the time
when even the parson would not hesitate to take a "wee drop," and when,
if the decanter was not on the sideboard, the jug and gourd served as
well in the field or in the house. In our neighborhood, to harvest
without whisky in the field was not to be thought of; nobody ever heard
of a log-rolling or barn-raising without whisky. Be it said to the
everlasting honor of my father, that he set himself firmly against the
practice. He said his grain should rot in the field before he would
supply whisky to his harvest hands. I have only one recollection of ever
tasting any alcoholic liquor in my boyhood days.

I did, however, learn to smoke when very young. It came about in this
way. My mother always smoked, as far back as I can remember. Women
smoked in those days, as well as men, and nothing was thought of it.
Well, that was before the time of matches,--leastwise, it was a time
when it was necessary to economize in their use,--and mother, who was a
corpulent woman, would send me to put a coal in her pipe. I would take a
whiff or two, just to get it started, you know, and this soon developed
into the habit of lingering to keep it going. But let me be just to
myself. More than forty years ago I threw away my pipe and have never
smoked since, and never will smoke again.

My next recollection of school days was after father had moved to
Lockland, Ohio, then ten miles north of Cincinnati. It is now, I
presume, a suburb of that city. I played hooky instead of going to
school; but one day, while I was under the canal bridge, the noise of
passing teams so frightened me that I ran home and betrayed myself. Did
my mother whip me? Bless her dear soul, no! Whipping of children, both
at home and in the school-room, was then about as common as eating one's
breakfast; but the family government of my parents was exceptional for
that time, for they did not think it was necessary to rule by the rod.

Because my mind did not run to school work and because my disposition
was restless, my mother allowed me to work at odd jobs for pay instead
of compelling me to attend school. This cut down my actual school days
to less than six months. It was, to say the least, a dangerous
experiment, and one to be undertaken only by a mother who knew her child
better than any other person could. I do not by any means advise other
mothers to adopt such a course.

In those days apprenticeship was quite common. It was not thought to be
a disgrace for a boy to be "bound out" until he was twenty-one,
especially if he was to be learning a trade. Father took a notion he
would bind me out to a Mr. Arthens, the mill owner at Lockland, who was
childless, and one day he took me with him to talk it over. When asked,
finally, how I should like the change, I promptly replied that it would
be all right if Mrs. Arthens would "do up my sore toes," whereupon
there was such an outburst of merriment that I never forgot it. We must
remember that boys in those days did not wear shoes in summer, and quite
often not in winter either. But mother put an end to the whole matter by
saying that the family must not be divided, and it was not.

Our pioneer home was full of love and helpfulness. My mother expected
each child to work as well as to play. We were trained to take our part
at home. The labor was light, to be sure, but it was service, and it
brought happiness into our lives. For, after all, that home is happiest
where every one helps.

Our move to Indiana was a very important event in my boyhood days. This
move was made during the autumn of 1839, when I was nine years old. I
vividly remember the trip, for I walked every step of the way from
Lockland, Ohio, to Attica, Indiana, about two hundred miles.

There was no room in the heavily laden wagon for me or for my brother
Oliver, aged eleven. It was piled so high with household goods that
little space was left even for mother and the two babies, one yet in
arms. But we lads did not mind riding on "Shank's ponies."

The horses walked so briskly that we had to stick to business to keep up
with them. We did find time, though, to throw a few stones at the frisky
squirrels, or to kill a garter snake, or to gather some flowers for
mother and the little ones, or to watch the redheaded woodpeckers
hammering at the trees. The journey was full of interest for two lively

Our appearance was what might well be called primitive, for we went
barefooted and wore "tow pants" and checkered "linsey-woolsey" shirts,
with a strip of cloth for "galluses," as suspenders were at that time
called. Little did we think or care about appearance, bent as we were
on having a good time--and that we surely had.

[Illustration: On the corduroy road.]

One dreary stretch of swamp that kept us on the corduroy road behind the
jolting wagon I remember well; this was near Crawfordsville, Indiana. It
is now gone, the corduroy and the timber as well. In their places great
barns and comfortable houses dot the landscape as far as the eye can

One habit that we boys acquired on that trip stuck to us all our lives,
until the brother was lost at sea. When we followed behind the wagon, as
we did part of the time, each took the name of the horse on his side of
the road. I was "Tip," on the off side; while brother was "Top," on the
near side. Tip and Top, a span of big, fat, gray horses that would run
away "at the drop of the hat," were something to be proud of. This habit
of Oliver's walking on the near side and my walking on the off continued
for years and through many a mile of travel.

[Illustration: Plowing through the oak grubs on the Wabash.]



WHEN we reached Indiana we settled down on a rented farm. Times were
hard with us, and for a season all the members of the household were
called upon to contribute their mite. I drove four yoke of oxen for
twenty-five cents a day, and during part of the time boarded at home at
that. This was on the Wabash, where oak grubs grew, my father often
said, "as thick as hair on a dog's back;" but they were really not so
thick as that.

We used to force the big plowshare through and cut grubs as big as my
wrist. When we saw a patch of them ahead, I would halloo and shout at
the poor oxen and lay on the whip; but father wouldn't let me swear at
them. Let me say here that I later discontinued this foolish fashion of
driving, and always talked to my oxen in a conversational tone and used
the whip sparingly.

That reminds me of an experience I had later, in the summer when I was
nineteen. Uncle John Kinworthy--a good soul he was, and an ardent
Quaker--lived neighbor to us in Bridgeport, Indiana. One day I went to
his house with three yoke of oxen to haul into place a heavy beam for a
cider-press. The oxen had to be driven through the front dooryard in
full sight and hearing of Uncle John's wife and three buxom Quaker
girls, who either stood in the door or poked their heads out of the

The cattle would not go through the front yard past those girls. They
kept doubling back, first on one side and then on the other. Uncle
Johnny, noticing that I did not swear at the cattle, and attributing the
absence of oaths to the presence of ladies, or maybe thinking, like a
good many others, that oxen could not be driven without swearing at
them, sought an opportunity, when the mistress of the house could not
hear him, to say in a low tone, "If thee can do any better, thee had
better let out the word."

My father, though a miller by trade, early taught me some valuable
lessons about farming that I never forgot. We--I say "we" advisedly, as
father continued to work in the mill and left me in charge of the
farm--soon brought the run-down farm to the point where it produced
twenty-three bushels of wheat to the acre instead of ten, by the
rotation of corn and clover and then wheat. But there was no money in
farming at the prices then prevailing, and the land for which father
paid ten dollars an acre would not yield a rental equal to the interest
on the money. The same land has recently sold for six hundred dollars an

For a time I worked in the _Journal_ printing office for S. V. B. Noel,
who published a Free Soil paper. A part of my duty was to deliver the
papers to subscribers. They treated me civilly, but when I was caught in
the streets of Indianapolis with the Free Soil papers in my hand I was
sure of abuse from some one, and a number of times narrowly escaped
personal violence from the pro-slavery people.

In the office I was known as the "devil," a term that annoyed me not a
little. I worked with Wood, the pressman, as a roller boy, and in the
same room was a power press, the power being a stalwart negro who turned
a crank. Wood and I used to race with the power press, and then I would
fly the sheets,--that is, take them off, when printed, with one hand and
roll the type with the other. This so pleased Noel that he advanced my
wages to a dollar and a half a week.

One of the subscribers to whom I delivered that anti-slavery paper was
Henry Ward Beecher, then pastor of the Congregational Church that faced
the Governor's Circle. At that time he had not attained the fame that
came to him later in life. I became attached to him because of his kind
manner and the gentle words he always found time to give me.

[Illustration: Carrying papers to Henry Ward Beecher.]

One episode of my life at this time I remember because I thought my
parents were in the wrong. Vocal music was taught in singing school,
which was conducted almost as regularly as were the day schools. I was
passionately fond of music. Before the change of my voice came I had a
fine alto voice and was a leader in my part of the class. This fact
coming to the notice of the trustees of Beecher's church, an effort was
made to have me join the choir. Mother first objected, because my
clothes were not good enough. Then an offer was made to clothe me
suitably and pay me something besides. And now father objected, because
he did not want me to listen to preaching of a sect other than that to
which he belonged. The incident set me to thinking, and finally drove
me, young as I was, into a more liberal faith, though I dared not openly
espouse it.

Another incident that occurred while I was working in the printing
office I have remembered vividly all these years. During the campaign of
1844, the Whigs held a gathering on the Tippecanoe battle ground. It
could hardly be called a convention; a better name for it would be a
political camp meeting. The people came in wagons, on horseback,
afoot--any way to get there--and camped, just as people used to do at
religious camp meetings.

The journeymen printers of the _Journal_ office planned to go in a
covered wagon, and they offered to make a place for the "devil" if his
parents would let him go along. This was speedily arranged with mother,
who always took charge of such matters. When the proposition came to
Noel's ears, he asked the men to print me some campaign songs. This they
did with a will, Wood running them off the press after the day's work
while I rolled the type for him.

My, wasn't I the proudest boy that ever walked the earth! Visions of a
pocketful of money haunted me almost day and night until we arrived on
the battle field. But lo and behold, nobody would pay any attention to
me! Bands were playing here and there; glee clubs would sing and march,
first on one side of the ground and then on the other; processions were
parading and crowds surging, making it necessary to look out lest one be
run over. Although the rain would pour down in torrents, the marching
and countermarching went on all the same and continued for a week.

An elderly journeyman printer named May, who in a way stood sponsor for
our party, told me that if I would get up on the fence and sing the
songs, the people would buy them. Sure enough, when I stood up and sang
the crowds came, and I sold every copy I had. I went home with eleven
dollars in my pocket, the richest boy on earth.

In the year 1845 a letter came from Grandfather Baker in Ohio to my
mother, saying that he would give her a thousand dollars with which to
buy a farm. The burning question with my father and mother was how to
get the money out from Ohio to Indiana. They actually went in a covered
wagon to Ohio for it and hauled it home, all silver, in a box. This
silver was nearly all foreign coin. Prior to that time but a few million
dollars had been coined by the United States Government.

Grandfather Baker had accumulated his money by marketing small things in
Cincinnati, twenty-five miles distant. I have heard my mother tell of
going to market on horseback with grandfather many times, carrying eggs,
butter, and even live chickens on the horse she rode. Grandfather would
not go into debt, so he lived on his farm a long time without a wagon.
He finally became so wealthy that he was reputed to have a barrel of
money--silver, of course. Out of this store came the thousand dollars
that he gave mother. It took nearly a whole day to count the money. At
least one of nearly every coin from every nation on earth seemed to be
there, and the "tables" had to be consulted in computing the value.

I was working on the _Journal_ at the time when the farm was bought, but
it seemed that I was not cut out for a printer. My inclinations ran more
to open-air life, so father placed me on the farm as soon as the
purchase was made and left me in full charge of the work there, while he
gave his time to milling. Be it said that I early turned my attention to
the girls as well as to the farm and married young, before I reached the
age of twenty-one. This truly was a fortunate venture, for my wife and I
lived happily together for fifty-eight years.


[Illustration: The first railroad in Indiana.]



IN the early '50's there lived near Indianapolis two young people. Their
fathers were old-time farmers, keeping no "hired man" and buying very
little "store goods." The girl could spin and weave, make delicious
butter, knit soft, well-shaped socks, and cook as good a meal as any
other country girl around. She was, withal, as buxom a lass as ever grew
in Indiana. The young man was a little uncouth in appearance,
round-faced, rather stout in build--almost fat. He loved to hunt possums
and coons in the woods round about. He was a little boisterous, always
restless, and not especially polished in manners. Yet he had at least
one redeeming trait of character: he loved to work and was known to be
as industrious a lad as any in the neighborhood.

These two young people grew up to the age of manhood and womanhood,
knowing but little of the world outside their home sphere. Who can say
that they were not as happy as if they had seen the whole world? Had
they not experienced the joys of the sugar camp while "stirring off"
the lively, creeping maple sugar? Both had been thumped upon the bare
head by the falling hickory nuts in windy weather; had hunted the black
walnuts half hidden in the leaves; had scraped the ground for the
elusive beechnuts. They had ventured to apple parings together when not
yet out of their 'teens.

"I'm going to be a farmer when I get married," the lad quite abruptly
said to the lass one day, without any previous conversation to lead up
to the statement.

His companion showed by her confusion that she had not mistaken what was
in his mind. After a while she remarked, "Yes, I want to be a farmer
too. But I want to be a farmer on our own land."

Two bargains were confirmed then and there when the lad said, "We will
go West and not live on pap's farm," and she responded, "Nor in the old
cabin, nor any cabin unless it's our own."

So the resolution was made that they would go to Iowa, get some land,
and grow up with the country.

About the first week of October, in 1851, a covered wagon drew up in
front of Thomas Sumner's house, then but four miles out from
Indianapolis on the National Road. It was ready to be loaded for the

Eliza Jane, Thomas Sumner's second daughter, the lass already described,
was now the wife of the young man mentioned (the author). She also was
ready for the journey. She had prepared supplies enough to last all the
way,--cake and butter and pumpkin pies, jellies and the like, with
plenty of substantials besides. The two young people had plenty of
blankets, a good-sized Dutch oven, an extra pair of shoes apiece, cloth
for two dresses for the wife, and an extra pair of trousers for the

Tears could not be restrained as the loading progressed and the
realization faced the parents of both that the young people were about
to leave them.

"Why, mother, we are only going to Iowa, you know, where we can get a
home that shall be our own. It's not so far away--only about five
hundred miles."

[Illustration: A Dutch oven.]

"Yes, I know, but suppose you get sick in that uninhabited country; who
will take care of you?"

Notwithstanding this motherly solicitude, the young people could not
fail to know that there was a secret feeling of approval in the good
woman's breast. After a few miles' travel the reluctant final parting
came. We could not then know that this loved parent would lay down her
life a few years later in a heroic attempt to follow the wanderers to
Oregon. She rests in an unknown and unmarked grave in the Platte valley.

What shall I say of that October drive from the home near Indianapolis
to Eddyville, Iowa, in the delightful atmosphere of Indian summer? It
was an atmosphere of hope and content. We had the wide world before us;
we had good health; and above all we had each other.

At this time but one railroad entered Indianapolis--it would be called a
tramway now--from Madison on the Ohio River. When we cut loose from that
embryo city we left railroads behind us, except where rails were laid
crosswise in the wagon track to keep the wagon out of the mud. No matter
if the road was rough--we could go a little slower, and shouldn't we
have a better appetite for supper because of the jolting, and sleep the
sounder? Everything in the world looked bright.

The great Mississippi was crossed at Burlington. After a few days of
further driving, we arrived at Eddyville, in Iowa. Though we did not
realize it at the time, this was destined to be only a place to winter,
a way station on our route to Oregon.

My first introduction to an Iowa winter was in a surveyor's camp on the
western borders of the state. This was a little north of Kanesville, now
Council Bluffs. I began as cook for the camp, but very soon changed this
position for that of flagman.

If there are any settlers now left of the Iowa of that day, they will
remember that the winter was bitter cold. On the way back from the
surveying party to Eddyville, just before Christmas, I encountered one
of the bitterest of those bitter days.

A companion named Vance rested with me overnight in a cabin. We had
scant food for ourselves or for the mare we led. It was thirty-five
miles to the next cabin; we must reach that place or lie out in the
snow. So a very early start was made before daybreak, while the wind
lay. The good woman of the cabin baked us some biscuits for a noon
lunch, but they were frozen solid in our pockets before we had been out
two hours. The wind rose with the sun, and with the sun two bright sun
dogs--a beautiful sight to behold, but arising from conditions
intolerable to bear. Vance came near freezing to death, and would have
done so had I not succeeded in arousing him to anger and getting him off
the mare.

[Illustration: NORTH AMERICA IN 1850

By 1850 the general divisions of the continent had taken the shape that
they have today. The states of Texas and California and the territories
of Utah and New Mexico had been added to the United States, all as a
result of the war with Mexico. The dispute with Great Britain over the
Oregon Country had been settled by a compromise. The region just west of
the Missouri, known as the Nebraska Territory, was still beyond the

I vowed then and there that I did not like the Iowa climate, and the
Oregon fever that had already seized me was heightened. The settlement
of the northern boundary by treaty in 1846 had ended the dispute between
the United States and Great Britain for ownership of the region north of
the Columbia. As a consequence, American settlers were beginning to
cross the Columbia in numbers, and stories were coming back of the
wonderful climate, the rich soil, and the wealth of lumber. The Oregon
Country of that day included the present states of Oregon, Washington,
and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming.

It was a special consideration for us that if we went to Oregon the
government would give us three hundred and twenty acres of land, whereas
in Iowa we should have to purchase it. The price would be low, to be
sure, but the land must be bought and paid for on the spot. There were
no preëmption laws or beneficial homestead laws in force then, nor did
they come until many years later.

But what about going to Oregon when springtime came? An event was
pending that rendered a positive decision impossible for the moment. It
was not until the first week of April, 1852, when our first-born baby
boy was a month old, that we could say we were going to Oregon in 1852.
It would be a long, hard journey for such a little fellow, but as it
turned out, he stood it like a young hero.


[Illustration: Crossing the muddy Missouri.]



WHEN we drove out of Eddyville, headed for the Oregon Country, our train
consisted of but one wagon, two yoke of four-year old steers, and one
yoke of cows. We also had one extra cow. This cow was the only animal we
lost on the whole journey; she strayed away in the river bottom before
we crossed the Missouri.

Now as to the members of our little party. William Buck, who had joined
us as partner for the expedition, was a man six years my senior. He had
had some experience on the Plains, and he knew what outfit was needed;
but he had little knowledge in regard to a team of cattle. He was an
impulsive man, and to some extent excitable; yet withal a man of
excellent judgment and honest as God makes men. No lazy bones occupied a
place in Buck's body. He was scrupulously neat and cleanly in all his
ways; courteous to every one; always in good humor and always looking
upon the bright side of things. A better trail mate could not have been

Buck's skill in camp work and his lack of ability to handle the team
naturally settled the division of the work between us. It was he who
selected the outfit to go into the wagon, while I fitted up the wagon
and bought the team. We had butter packed in the center of the flour,
which was in double sacks; eggs packed in corn meal or flour, enough to
last us nearly five hundred miles; fruit in abundance, and dried
pumpkins; a little jerked beef, not too salt. Last though not least,
there was a demijohn of brandy "for medicinal purposes only," as Buck
said, with a merry twinkle of the eye.

The little wife had prepared the homemade yeast cake which she knew so
well how to make and dry, and we had light bread to eat all the way
across. We baked the bread in a tin reflector instead of the heavy Dutch
oven so much in use on the Plains.

The butter in part melted and mingled with the flour, yet it did not
matter much, as the "shortcake" that resulted made us almost glad the
mishap had occurred. Besides, did we not have plenty of fresh butter,
from the milk of our own cows, churned every day in the can by the
jostling of the wagon? Then the buttermilk! What a luxury! I shall
never, as long as I live, forget the shortcake and corn bread, the
puddings and pumpkin pies, and above all the buttermilk.

As we gradually crept out on the Plains and saw the sickness due to
improper food, or in some cases to its improper preparation, it was
borne in upon me how blessed I was, with such a trail partner as Buck
and such a life partner as my wife. Some trains were without fruit, and
most of them depended upon saleratus for raising their bread. Many had
only fat bacon for meat until the buffalo supplied a change; and no
doubt much of the sickness attributed to the cholera was caused by bad

I am willing to claim credit to myself for the team, every hoof of which
reached the Coast in safety. Four steers and two cows were sufficient
for our light wagon and the light outfit, not a pound of which but was
useful (except the brandy) and necessary for our comfort. I had chosen
steers that had never been under the yoke, though plenty of broken-in
oxen could have been had, generally of that class that had been broken
in spirit as well as to the yoke.

The ox has had much to do with the settlement of the country. The
pioneers could take care of an ox team in a new settlement so much
cheaper than a horse team that this fact alone would have been
conclusive; but aside from this, oxen were better for the work in the
clearings or for breaking up the vast stretches of wild prairie sod. We
used to work four or five yoke to the plow, and when dark came we
unhitched and turned them on the unbroken sod to pasture for the night.

I have often been asked how old an ox will live to be. I never knew of a
yoke over fourteen years old, but I once heard of one that lived to be

On the Plains, oxen were better than horses for getting their feed and
fording streams. There was another advantage, and a very important one,
to oxen: the Indians could not run them off at night as easily as they
could horses.

[Illustration: The tin reflector used for baking.]

The first day's drive out from Eddyville was a short one. When we got to
plodding along over the Plains, we made from fifteen to twenty miles a
day. That was counted a good day's drive, without unusual accidents or

As I now remember, this was the only day on the entire trip when the
cattle were allowed to stand in the yoke at noontime, while the owners
lunched and rested. When it was near nightfall we made our first camp.
Buck excitedly insisted that we must not unyoke the cattle.

"What shall we do?" I asked. "They can't live in the yoke always."

"Yes, but if you unyoke here you will never catch them again," he said.

One word brought on another until we were almost in a dispute, when a
stranger, Thomas McAuley, who was camped near by, stepped in. He said
his own cattle were gentle; there were three men of his party, and they
would help us yoke up in the morning. I gratefully accepted his offer
and unyoked, and we had no trouble in starting off the next morning.
After that, never a word with the least semblance of contention to it
passed between Buck and me.

Scanning McAuley's outfit in the morning, I was quite troubled to start
out with him. His teams, principally cows, were light, and they were
thin in flesh; his wagons were apparently light and as frail as the
teams. But I soon found that his outfit, like ours, carried no extra
weight, and he knew how to care for a team. He was, besides, an obliging
neighbor, which was fully demonstrated on many trying occasions, as we
traveled in company for more than a thousand miles, until his road to
California parted from ours at the big bend of the Bear River.

Of the trip through Iowa little remains to be said further than that the
grass was thin and washy, the roads muddy and slippery, and the weather
execrable, although May had been ushered in long before we reached the
little Mormon town of Kanesville (now Council Bluffs), a few miles
above the place where we were to cross the Missouri River. Here my
brother Oliver joined us, having come from Indianapolis with old-time
comrades and friends. Now, with the McAuleys and Oliver's party, we
mustered a train of five wagons.

[Illustration: A yoke of oxen.]

It was here at Kanesville that the last purchases were made, the last
letter sent back to anxious friends. Once across the Missouri and headed
westward, we should have to cross the Rocky Mountains to find a town

We had now come to the beginning of the second stage of our long
journey. We had reached the Missouri River. From the western bank of the
river we should strike out across the Plains, through what is now
Nebraska and Wyoming, to the crest of the continent. We should follow
the ox-team trail along the north bank of the Platte, and then up the
north fork of the Platte to the mountains. But first we must get across
the Missouri.

"What on earth is that?" exclaimed one of the women, as we approached
the landing for the ferry which crossed the river to a point a few miles
below where Omaha now stands.

"It looks for all the world like a big white flatiron," answered

[Illustration: On this page and the following are shown the main trails
that stretched across the continent, west of the Missouri, in the years
before the building of railroads. The Oregon Trail from Kanesville to
Portland is marked with the heaviest line. The lighter line from
Huntsville to Kanesville shows Ezra Meeker's early travels; this marks
not a trail but a main-traveled road. People starting out from St. Louis
for the Oregon Country went by way of the Santa Fé Trail about as far as
Fort Leavenworth, then northwest to Fort Kearney on the Platte River,
where they joined the trail from Kanesville. The Santa Fé Trail was the
earliest trail to be made; trading expeditions had gone from St. Louis
to Santa Fé since the early 1800's. The California Trail and the Oregon
Trail are the same as far as the big bend of the Bear River, at which
point the California Trail goes off to the southwest.]


We drivers had little time for looking and for making comparisons. All
our attention had to be given to our teams, for as we neared the
landing we found the roads terribly cut up on account of the
concentrated travel.

It was indeed a sight long to be remembered. The "white flatiron" proved
to be wagons with their tongues pointing to the landing. A center train
with other parallel trains extended back in the rear, gradually covering
a wider range the farther back from the river it went. Several hundred
wagons were thus closely interlocked, completely blocking the approach
to the landing.

All about were camps of every kind, some without any covering at all,
others with comfortable tents. Nearly everybody appeared to be intent on
merrymaking, and the fiddlers and dancers were busy; but here and there
were small groups engaged in devotional services. These camps contained
the outfits, in great part, of the wagons in line; some of them had been
there for two weeks with still no prospect of securing an early
crossing. Two scows only were engaged in crossing the wagons and teams.

The muddy waters of the Missouri had already swallowed up two victims.
On the first day we were there, I saw a third victim go under the drift
of a small island within sight of his shrieking wife. The stock had
rushed to one side of the boat, submerging the gunwale, and had
precipitated the whole load into the dangerous river. One yoke of oxen
that had reached the farther shore deliberately reëntered the river with
a heavy yoke on, and swam to the Iowa side; there they were finally
saved by the helping hands of the assembled emigrants.

"What shall we do?" was the question passed around in our party, without
answer. Tom McAuley was not yet looked upon as a leader, as was the case

"Build a boat," said his sister Margaret, a most determined maiden lady,
the oldest of the party and as resolute and brave as the bravest.

But of what should we build it? While a search for material was being
made, one of our party, who had got across the river in search of
timber, discovered a scow, almost completely buried, on the sandpit
opposite the landing. The report seemed too good to be true.

The next thing to do was to find the owner. We discovered him eleven
miles down the river.

"Yes, if you will agree to deliver the boat safely to me after crossing
your five wagons and teams, you may have it," said he.

[Illustration: Digging out the scow.]

The bargain was closed then and there. My, but that night didn't we make
the sand fly from the boat! By morning we could begin to see the end of
the job. Then, while busy hands began to cut a landing on the
perpendicular sandy bank of the Iowa side, others were preparing sweeps.
All was bustle and stir.

Meanwhile it had become noised around that another boat would be put on
to ferry people over, and we were besieged with applications from
detained emigrants. Finally, the word coming to the ears of the
ferrymen, they were foolish enough to undertake to prevent us from
crossing without their help. A writ of replevin or some other process
was issued,--I never knew exactly what,--directing the sheriff to take
possession of the boat when it landed. This he attempted to do.

I never before or since attempted to resist an officer of the law; but
when that sheriff put in an appearance and we realized what his coming
meant, there wasn't a man in our party that did not run to the nearby
camp for his gun. It is needless to add that we did not need to use the
guns. As if by magic a hundred other guns came in sight. The sheriff
withdrew, and the crossing went on peaceably till all our wagons were
safely landed.

We had still another danger to face. We learned that an attempt would be
made to take the boat from us, the action being not against us, but
against the owner. Thanks to the adroit management of McAuley and my
brother Oliver, we were able to fulfill our engagement to deliver the
boat safely to the owner.

We were now across the river, and it might almost be said that we had
left the United States. When we set foot upon the right bank of the
Missouri River we were outside the pale of law. We were within the
Indian country, where no organized civil government existed.

Some people and some writers have assumed that on the Plains each man
was "a law unto himself" and free to do his own will,--dependent, of
course, upon his physical ability to enforce it. Nothing could be
farther from the facts than this assumption, as evil-doers soon found
out to their discomfort.

It is true that no general organization for law and order was effected
on the western side of the river. But the American instinct for fair
play and a hearing for everybody prevailed, so that while there was no
mob law, the law of self-preservation asserted itself, and the counsels
of the level-headed older men prevailed. When an occasion called for
action, a "high court" was convened, and woe betide the man that would
undertake to defy its mandates after its deliberations were made public!

An incident that occurred in what is now Wyoming, well up on the
Sweetwater River, will illustrate the spirit of determination of the
sturdy men of the Plains. A murder had been committed, and it was clear
that the motive was robbery. The suspected man and his family were
traveling along with the moving column. Men who had volunteered to
search for the missing man finally found evidence proving the guilt of
the person suspected. A council of twelve men was called, and it
deliberated until the second day, meanwhile holding the murderer safely.

What were they to do? Here were a wife and four little children
depending upon this man for their lives. What would become of his family
if justice was meted out to him? Soon there developed an undercurrent of
opinion that it was probably better to waive punishment than to endanger
the lives of the family; but the council would not be swerved from its
resolution. At sundown of the third day the criminal was hanged in the
presence of the whole camp. This was not done until ample provision had
been made to insure the safety of the family by providing a driver to
finish the journey. I came so near to seeing the hanging that I did see
the ends of the wagon tongues in the air and the rope dangling

From necessity, murder was punishable with death. The penalty for
stealing was whipping, which, when inflicted by one of those long ox
lashes in the hands of an expert, would bring the blood from the
victim's back at every stroke. Minor offenses, or differences generally,
were arbitrated. Each party would abide by the decision as if it had
come from a court of law. Lawlessness was not common on the Plains. It
was less common, indeed, than in the communities from which the great
body of the emigrants had been drawn, for punishment was swift and

The greater body of the emigrants formed themselves into large companies
and elected captains. These combinations soon began to dissolve and
re-form, only to dissolve again, with a steady accompaniment of
contentions. I would not enter into any organized company, but neither
could I travel alone. By tacit agreement our party and the McAuleys
travelled together, the outfit consisting of four wagons and thirteen
persons--nine men, three women, and the baby. Yet although we kept apart
as a separate unit, we were all the while in one great train, never out
of sight and hearing of others. In fact, at times the road would be so
full of wagons that all could not travel in one track, and this fact
accounts for the double roadbeds seen in so many places on the trail.

[Illustration: Giving chase to the buffaloes.]



WE crossed the Missouri on the seventeenth and eighteenth of May. The
next day we made a short drive, and camped within hearing of the shrill
steamboat whistle that resounded far over the prairie.

The whistle announced the arrival of a steamer. This meant that a dozen
or more wagons could be carried across the river at a time, and that a
dozen or more trips could be made during the day, with as many more at
night. Very soon we were overtaken by this throng of wagons. They gave
us some troubles, and much discomfort.

The rush for the West was then at its height. The plan of action was to
push ahead and make as big a day's drive as possible; hence it is not to
be wondered at that nearly all the thousand wagons that crossed the
river after we did soon passed us.

"Now, fellers, jist let 'em rush on. If we keep cool, we'll overcatch
'em afore long," said McAuley.

And we did. We passed many a team, broken down as a result of those
first few days of rush. People often brought these and other ills upon
themselves by their own indiscretion.

The traveling had not progressed far until there came a general outcry
against the heavy loads and unnecessary articles. Soon we began to see
abandoned property. First it might be a table or a cupboard, or perhaps
a bedstead or a cast-iron cookstove. Then feather beds, blankets,
quilts, and pillows were seen. Very soon, here and there would be an
abandoned wagon; then provisions, stacks of flour and bacon being the
most abundant--all left as common property.

It was a case of help yourself if you would; no one would interfere. In
some places such a sign was posted,--"Help yourself." Hundreds of wagons
were left and hundreds of tons of goods. People seemed to vie with each
other in giving away their property. There was no chance to sell, and
they disliked to destroy their goods.

Long after the end of the mania for getting rid of goods to lighten
loads, the abandonment of wagons continued, as the teams became weaker
and the ravages of cholera among the emigrants began to tell. It was
then that many lost their heads and ruined their teams by furious
driving, by lack of care, and by abuse. There came a veritable
stampede--a strife for possession of the road, to see who should get
ahead. It was against the rule to attempt to pass a team ahead; a wagon
that had withdrawn from the line and stopped beside the trail could get
into the line again, but on the march it could not cut ahead of the
wagon in front of it. Yet now whole trains would strive, often with bad
blood, for the mastery of the trail, one attempting to pass the other.
Frequently there were drivers on both sides of the team to urge the
poor, suffering brutes forward.

[Illustration: _United States Geological Survey_

The Platte River. Along this old stream the Oregon Trail wound its way
for nearly five hundred miles.]

We were on the trail along the north side of the Platte River. The
cholera epidemic struck our moving column where the throng from the
south side of the Platte began crossing. This, as I recollect, was near
where the city of Kearney now stands, about two hundred miles west of
the Missouri River.

"What shall we do?" passed from one to another in our little family

"Now, fellers," said McAuley, "don't lose your heads, but do jist as
you've been doing. You gals, jist make your bread as light as ever, and
we'll take river water the same as ever, even if it is most as thick as
mud, and boil it."

We had all along refused to dig little wells near the banks of the
Platte, as many others did; for we had soon learned that the water
obtained was strongly charged with alkali, while the river water was
comparatively pure, except for the sediment, so fine as seemingly to be
held in solution.

"Keep cool," McAuley continued. "Maybe we'll have to lay down, and maybe
not. Anyway, it's no use frettin'. What's to be will be, 'specially if
we but help things along."

This homely yet wise counsel fell upon willing ears, as most of us were
already of the same mind. We did just as we had been doing, and all but
one of our party escaped unharmed.

We had then been in the buffalo country for several days. Some of the
young men, keen for hunting, had made themselves sick by getting
overheated and drinking impure water. Such was the experience of my
brother Oliver. Being of an adventurous spirit, he could not restrain
his ardor, gave chase to the buffaloes, and fell sick almost to death.

This occurred just at the time when we encountered the cholera panic. It
must be the cholera that had taken hold of him, his companions argued.
Some of his party could not delay.

"It is certain death," I said, "to take him along in that condition."

They admitted this to be true.

"Divide the outfit, then," it was suggested.

Two of Oliver's companions, the Davenport brothers, would not leave him;
so their portion of the outfit was set aside with his. This gave the
three a wagon and a team.

Turning to Buck, I said, "I can't ask you to stay with me."

The answer came back as quick as a flash, "I'm going to stay with you
without asking."

And he did, too, though my brother was almost a total stranger to him.

We nursed the sick man for four days amidst scenes of death and
excitement such as I hope never again to see. On the fifth day we were
able to proceed and to take the convalescent man with us.

The experience of our camp was the experience of hundreds of others:
there were countless incidents of friends parting; of desertion; of
noble sacrifice; of the revelation of the best and the worst in man.

In a diary of one of these pioneers, I find the following: "Found a
family consisting of husband, wife, and four small children, whose
cattle we supposed had given out and died. They were here all alone, and
no wagon or cattle in sight." They had been thrown out by the owner of a
wagon and left on the road to die.

From a nearby page of the same diary, I read: "Here we met Mr. Lot
Whitcom, direct from Oregon. Told me a great deal about Oregon. He has
provisions, but none to sell; but gives to all he finds in want, and who
are unable to buy."


[Illustration: Pioneers on the march.]



DURING the ox-team days a mighty army of pioneers went West. In the year
that we crossed (1852), when the migration was at its height, this army
made an unbroken column fully five hundred miles long. We knew by the
inscribed dates found on Independence Rock and elsewhere that there were
wagons three hundred miles ahead of us, and the throng continued
crossing the river for more than a month after we had crossed it.

How many people this army comprised cannot be known; the roll was never
called. History has no record of a greater number of emigrants ever
making so long a journey as did these pioneers. There must have been
three hundred and fifty thousand in the years of the great rush
overland, from 1843 to 1857. Careful estimates of the total migration
westward from 1843 to 1869, when the first railroad across the continent
was completed, make the number nearly half a million.

The animals driven over the Plains during these years were legion.
Besides those that labored under the yoke, in harness, and under saddle,
there was a vast herd of loose stock. A conservative estimate would be
not less than six animals to the wagon, and surely there were three
loose animals to each one in the teams. Sixteen hundred wagons passed us
while we waited for Oliver to recover. With these teams must have been
nearly ten thousand beasts of burden and thirty thousand head of loose

Is it any wonder that the old trail was worn so deep that even now in
places it looks like a great canal? At one point near Split Rock,
Wyoming, I found the road cut so deep in the solid sandstone that the
kingbolt of my wagon dragged on the high center.

The pioneer army was a moving mass of human beings and dumb brutes, at
times mixed in inextricable confusion, a hundred feet wide or more.
Sometimes two columns of wagons, traveling on parallel lines and near
each other, would serve as a barrier to prevent loose stock from
crossing; but usually there would be a confused mass of cows, young
cattle, horses, and men afoot moving along the outskirts. Here and there
would be the drivers of loose stock, some on foot and some on horseback:
a young girl, maybe, riding astride and with a younger child behind her,
going here and there after an intractable cow, while the mother could be
seen in the confusion lending a helping hand. As in a thronged city
street, no one seemed to look to the right or to the left, or to pay
much attention, if any, to others, all being bent only on accomplishing
the task in hand.

The dust was intolerable. In calm weather it would rise so thick at
times that the lead team of oxen could not be seen from the wagon. Like
a London fog, it seemed thick enough to cut. Then again, the steady flow
of wind through the South Pass would hurl the dust and sand like fine
hail, sometimes with force enough to sting the face and hands.

Sometimes we had trying storms that would wet us to the skin in no time.
One such I remember well, being caught in it while out on watch. The
cattle traveled so fast that it was difficult to keep up with them. I
could do nothing but follow, as it would have been impossible to turn
them. I have always thought of this storm as a cloudburst. Anyhow, in an
incredibly short time there was not a dry thread left on me. My boots
were as full of water as if I had been wading over boot-top depth, and
the water ran through my hat as though it were a sieve. I was almost
blinded in the fury of the wind and water. Many tents were leveled by
this storm. One of our neighboring trains suffered great loss by the
sheets of water on the ground floating away camp equipage, ox yokes, and
all loose articles; and they narrowly escaped having a wagon engulfed in
the raging torrent that came so unexpectedly upon them.

Fording a river was usually tiresome, and sometimes dangerous. I
remember fording the Loup fork of the Platte with a large number of
wagons fastened together with ropes or chains, so that if a wagon got
into trouble the teams in front would help to pull it out. The quicksand
would cease to sustain the wheels so suddenly that the wagon would drop
a few inches with a jolt, and up again the wheel would come as new sand
was struck; then down again it would go, up and down, precisely as if
the wagons were passing over a rough corduroy road that "nearly jolted
the life out of us," as the women folks said after it was over, and no
wonder, for the river at this point was half a mile wide.

Many of the pioneers crossed rivers in their wagon boxes and very few
lost their lives in doing so. The difference between one of these
prairie-schooner wagon boxes and that of a scow-shaped, flat-bottomed
boat is that the wagon box has the ribs on the outside, while in a boat
they are on the inside.

The number of casualties in that army of emigrants I hesitate to guess
at. Shall we say that ten per cent fell on the way? Many old plainsmen
would think that estimate too low; yet ten per cent would give us five
thousand lives as one year's toll paid for the peopling of the Oregon
Country. Mrs. Cecilia McMillen Adams, late of Hillsboro, Oregon, kept a
painstaking diary when she crossed the Plains in 1852. She counted the
graves passed and noted down the number. In this diary, published in
full by the Oregon Pioneer Association, I find the following entries:

  June 14. Passed seven new-made graves.
  June 16. Passed eleven new graves.
  June 17. Passed six new graves.
  June 18. We have passed twenty-one new graves today.
  June 19. Passed thirteen graves today.
  June 20. Passed ten graves.
  June 21. No report.
  June 22. Passed seven graves. If we should go by the camping grounds,
           we should see five times as many graves as we do.

This report of Mrs. Adams's, coupled with the facts that a parallel
column from which we have no report was traveling up the south side of
the river, and that the outbreak of cholera had taken place originally
in this column coming from the southeast, fully confirms the estimate of
five thousand deaths on the Plains in 1852. It is probably under rather
than over the actual number.

To the emigrants the fact that all the graves were new-made brought an
added touch of sadness. The graves of previous years had disappeared,
leveled by the storms of wind or rain, by the hoofs of the stock, or
possibly by ravages of the hungry wolf. Many believed that the Indians
had robbed the graves for the clothing on the bodies. Whatever the
cause, all, or nearly all, graves of previous years were lost, and we
knew that the last resting places of those that we might leave behind
would also be lost by the next year.

One of the incidents that made a profound impression upon the minds of
all was the meeting with eleven wagons returning, and not a man left in
the entire train. All the men had died and had been buried on the way,
and the women and children were returning to their homes alone from a
point well up on the Platte, below Fort Laramie. The difficulties of the
return trip were multiplied on account of the throng moving westward.
How those women succeeded in their attempt, or what became of them, we
never knew.


[Illustration: In an instant each Indian had dropped to the side of his



OUR trail led straight across the Indian lands most of the way. The
redmen naturally resented this intrusion into their territory; but they
did not at this time fight against it. Their attitude was rather one of
expecting pay for the privilege of using their land, their grass, and
their game.

As soon as a part of our outfits were landed on the right bank of the
Missouri River, our trouble with the Indians began, not in open
hostilities, but in robbery under the guise of beggary. The word had
been passed around in our little party that not a cent's worth of
provisions would we give up to the Indians. We believed this policy to
be our only safeguard from spoliation, and in that we were right.

Our women folks had been taken over the river with the first wagon and
had gone on to a convenient camp site nearby. The first show of weapons
came from that side of our little community, when some of the bolder
Pawnees attempted to pilfer around the wagons. No blood was shed,
however, and indeed there was none shed by any of our party during the
entire journey.

[Illustration: Demanding pay for crossing.]

Soon after we had left the Missouri River we came to a small bridge over
a washout across the road, evidently constructed by some train just
ahead of us. The Indians had taken possession and were demanding pay for
crossing. Some parties ahead of us had paid, while others were
hesitating; but with a few there was a determined resolution not to pay.
When our party came up it remained for that fearless man, McAuley, to
clear the way in short order, though the Indians were there in
considerable numbers.

"You fellers come right on," said McAuley. "I'm goin' across that bridge
if I have to run right over that Injen settin' there."

And he did almost run over the Indian, who at the last moment got out of
the way of his team. Other teams followed in such quick succession and
with such a show of guns that the Indians withdrew and left the road

Once I came very near to getting into serious trouble with three Indians
on horseback. We had hauled my wagon away from the road to get water, I
think, and had become separated from the passing throng. We were
almost, but not quite, out of sight of any wagons or camps.

The Indians came up ostensibly to beg, but really to rob. They began
first to solicit, and afterwards to threaten. I started to drive on, not
thinking they would use actual violence, as there were other wagons
certainly within a half mile. I thought they were merely trying to
frighten me into giving up at least a part of my outfit. Finally one of
the Indians whipped out his knife and cut loose the cow that I was
leading behind the wagon.

I did not have to ask for my gun. My wife, who had been watching from
within the wagon, saw that the time had come to fight and handed my
rifle to me from under the cover. Before the savages had time to do
anything further they saw the gun. They were near enough to make it
certain that one shot would take deadly effect; but instead of shooting
one Indian, I trained the gun so that I might quickly choose among the
three. In an instant each Indian had dropped to the side of his horse
and was speeding away in great haste. The old saying that "almost any
one will fight when cornered" was exemplified in this incident; but I
did not want any more such experiences, and consequently thereafter
became more careful not to be separated from the other wagons.

On the whole, we did not have much trouble with the Indians in 1852. The
great numbers of the emigrants, coupled with the superiority of their
arms, made them comparatively safe. It must be remembered, also, that
this was before the treaty-making period, and the Indians of the Plains
were not yet incensed against white men in general.

Herds of buffalo were more often seen than bands of Indians. The buffalo
trails generally followed the water courses or paralleled them. But
sometimes they would lead across the country with scarcely any
deviation from a direct course. When on the road a herd would
persistently follow their leader, whether in the wild tumult of a
stampede or in leisurely grazing as they traveled.

A story is told, and it is doubtless true, of a chase in the upper
regions of the Missouri, where the leaders of the buffalo herd, either
voluntarily or by pressure from the mass behind, leaped to their death
over a perpendicular bluff a hundred feet high, overlooking the river.
The herd followed blindly until not only hundreds but thousands lay
struggling at the foot of the bluff. They piled one upon another till
the space between the river and the bluff was bridged, and the last of
the victims plunged headlong into the river.

Well up on the Platte, but below Fort Laramie, we had the experience of
a night stampede that struck terror to the heart of man and beast. It so
happened that we had brought our cattle into camp that evening, a thing
we did not usually do. We had driven the wagons into a circle, with the
tongue of each wagon chained to the hind axletree of the wagon ahead.
The cattle were led inside the circle and the tents were pitched

[Illustration: A night out on the range.]

Usually I would be out on the range with the oxen at night, and if I
slept at all, snuggled up close to the back of my good ox, Dandy; but
that night, with the oxen safe inside the enclosure, I slept in the

William Buck and my brother Oliver were in a tent near by, sleeping on
the ground.

[Illustration: _L. A. Huffman_

A remnant of the buffalo herds that once roamed the Plains.]

Suddenly there was a sound like an approaching storm. Almost instantly
every animal in the corral was on its feet. The alarm was given and all
hands turned out, not yet knowing what caused the general commotion. The
roar we heard was like that of a heavy railroad train passing at no
great distance on a still night. As by instinct all seemed to know
suddenly that it was a buffalo stampede. The tents were emptied of their
inmates, the weak parts of the corral guarded, the frightened cattle
looked after, and every one in the camp was on the alert to watch what
was coming.

In the darkness of the night we could see first the forms of the
leaders, and then such dense masses that we could not distinguish one
buffalo from the other. How long they were in passing we forgot to note;
it seemed like an age. When daylight came the few stragglers yet to be
seen fell under the unerring aim of the frontiersman's rifle.

We were lucky, but our neighbors in camp did not escape loss. Some were
detained for days, gathering up their scattered stock, while others were
unable to find their teams. Some of the animals never were recovered.

When not on the road, the buffalo were shy, difficult to approach, and
hard to bag, even with the long-range rifles of the pioneers. But for
over six hundred miles along the trail, a goodly supply of fresh meat
was obtainable.

[Illustration: The prairie wagon used as a boat.]



AS the column of wagons passed up the Platte in what is now western
Nebraska, there was some relief from the dust. The throng was visibly
thinned out; some had pushed on beyond the congested district, while
others had lagged behind. The dead, too, had left room upon the road.

When we reached the higher lands of Wyoming, our traveling became still
more pleasant. The nights were cooler, and we had clearer, purer water.
As we gradually ascended the Sweetwater, life grew more tolerable and
discomfort less acute.

We were now nearing the crest of the continent. The climb was so
gradual, however, as to be hardly observable. The summit of the Rocky
Mountains, through the South Pass, presents a wide, open, undulating
country. The Pass offers, therefore, an easy gateway to the West.

Passing Pacific Springs at the summit, we rolled over to Big Sandy
Creek. At this point we left the Salt Lake Trail (known also as the
Mormon Trail) and took the Sublette Cut-off over to Bear River. This
was a shorter trail to the Oregon Country, made by William Sublette, one
of the American fur traders of the early days. The earlier emigrants to
Oregon went on to Fort Bridger before leaving the Salt Lake route.

[Illustration: _Howard R. Driggs_

The big bend of the Bear River in Idaho.]

The most attractive natural phenomenon encountered on the whole trip was
found at the Soda Springs, near Bear River in Idaho. Some of the
springs, in fact, are right in the bed of the river. One of them,
Steamboat Spring, was spouting at regular intervals as we passed.

Just after leaving Soda Springs our little company of friends separated.
The McAuleys and William Buck took the trail to California, while with
Oliver and the Davenport brothers we went northwest to Oregon. Jacob,
the younger of the brothers, fell sick and gradually grew worse as the
journey grew harder. Shortly after reaching Portland the poor boy died.

Thomas McAuley settled in the Hobart hills in California and became a
respected citizen of that state. When last I heard of him he was
eighty-eight years old.

William Buck has long since lain down to rest. A few years after we had
parted on the big bend of the Bear River, I heard from William in a way
that was characteristic of the man. He had been back to "the States," as
we then called the eastern part of our country, and returning to
California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, he had brought fifty swarms
of bees. Three of these swarms he sent up to me in Washington. As far as
I know these were the first honey bees in that state. William Buck was a
man who was always doing a good turn for his friends.

When Snake River was reached, and in fact even before that, the heat
again became oppressive, the dust stifling, and the thirst at times
almost maddening. In some places we could see the water of the Snake
winding through the lava gorges; but we could not reach it, as the river
ran in the inaccessible depths of the canyon. Sickness again became
prevalent, and another outbreak of cholera claimed many victims.

There were but few ferries, and none at all in many places where
crossings were to be made. Even where there was a ferry, the charges
were so high that they were out of reach of most of the emigrants. As
for me, all my funds had been absorbed in procuring my outfit at
Eddyville, in Iowa. We had not dreamed that there would be use for money
on the Plains, where there were neither supplies nor people. But we soon
found out our mistake.

The crossing of the Snake River, although late in the journey, gave us
the opportunity to mend matters. About thirty miles below Salmon Falls
the dilemma confronted us of either crossing the Snake River or having
our teams starve on the trip down the river on the south bank. We found
that some emigrants had calked two wagon beds and lashed them together,
and were using this craft for crossing. But they would not help others
across for less than three to five dollars a wagon, the party swimming
their own stock.

If others could cross in wagon beds, why couldn't we do likewise?
Without more ado all the old clothing that could possibly be spared was
assembled, and tar buckets were scraped. Old chisels and broken knives
were hunted up, and a boat repairing and calking campaign began. Very
soon the wagon box rode placidly, even if not gracefully, on the waters
of the Snake River.

My boyhood experience at playing with logs and leaky old skiffs in the
waters of White River now served me well; I could row a boat. My first
venture across the Snake River was with the wagon gear run over the
wagon box, the whole being gradually worked out into deep water. The
load was so heavy that a very small margin was left to prevent the water
from breaking over the sides, and some water did enter as light ripples
on the surface struck the _Mary Jane_--for we had duly named our craft.
I got over safely, but after that I took lighter loads, and I really
enjoyed the work, with the change from the intolerable dust to the clear
atmosphere of the river.

Some people were so infatuated with the idea of floating on the water
that they were easily persuaded by an unprincipled trader at the lower
crossing to dispose of their teams for a song and to embark in their
wagon beds for a voyage down the river. A number of people thus lost
everything they had, and some even lost their lives. After terrible
hardships, the survivors reached the road again, to become objects of
charity. I knew one survivor who was out seven days without food other
than a scant supply of berries and vegetable growth and "a few
crickets, but not many."

We had no trouble to get the cattle across, although the river was wide.
Dandy would do almost anything I asked of him; so, leading him to the
water's edge, with a little coaxing I got him into swimming water and
guided him across with the wagon bed. The others all followed, having
been driven into deep water after the leader. It seems almost incredible
how passively obedient cattle will become after long training on such a
journey. Indeed, the ox is always patient, and usually quite obedient;
but when oxen get heated and thirsty, they become headstrong and
reckless, and won't obey. I have known them to take off the road to a
water hole, when apparently nothing could stop them till they had gone
so far into the mud and water that it was a hard job for them to get out

We had not finished crossing when tempting offers came from others to
cross them; but all our party said, "No, we must travel." The rule had
been adopted to travel some distance every day that it was possible.
"Travel, travel, travel," was the watchword, and nothing could divert us
from that resolution. On the third day we were ready to pull out from
the river, with the cattle rested by the enforced wait.

Now the question was, what about the lower crossing? Those who had
crossed over the river must somehow get back. It was less than a hundred
and fifty miles to the place where we must again cross to the south side
(the left bank) of the river. I could walk that distance in three days,
while it would take our teams ten. Could I go on ahead, procure a wagon
box, and start a ferry of my own? The thought brought an affirmative
answer at once.

With only food and a small blanket for load, I walked to the lower
crossing. It may be ludicrous, but it is true, that the most I remember
about that tramp is the jack rabbits. Such swarms, as I traveled down
the Boise valley, I had never seen before and I never saw again.

I soon obtained a wagon bed, and all day long for several days I was at
work crossing people. I continued at this till our teams came up, and
for a few days after that. I left the river with a hundred and ten
dollars in my pocket. All but two dollars and seventy-five cents of this
was gone before I arrived in Portland.

But we could not delay longer, even to make money. I thought I could see
signs of failing strength in my young wife and the baby. Not for
mountains of gold would we jeopardize their lives.

All along the way the baby and the little mother had been tenderly cared
for. We used to clear away a space in the wagon bed for them to take a
nap together. The slow swaying of the wagon over smooth, sandy stretches
made a rock-a-by movement that would lull them off to dreamland and make
them forget the weary way.

When we left the lower crossing, the mother and baby were placed in a
small wagon. A sprightly yoke of oxen was hitched to it that they might
get an early start and keep out of the dust. What few delicacies the
pioneers had were given to them. By this tender care the mother and
child were enabled to continue to the end of the long journey, though
the brave little mother was frail and weak from the wearisome struggle
before we reached a resting place at last.

[Illustration: A nap in the wagon.]

What became of that baby? He thrived and grew to manhood and he is now
living, sixty-nine years of age, in California. Some of his
grandchildren are almost grown to manhood and womanhood.

[Illustration: _Myers, Boise, Idaho_

Thousand Springs of the Snake River, Idaho.]

[Illustration: The travel-worn wanderers sing "Home, Sweet Home."]



AFTER leaving the Snake River we had one of the worst stretches of the
trying journey. From the lower crossing of the Snake River at old Fort
Boise to The Dalles is approximately three hundred and fifty miles over
mountains and deserts. It became a serious question with many travelers
whether there would be enough provisions left to keep them from
starvation and whether their teams could muster strength to take the
wagons in. Many wagons were left by the wayside. Everything that could
possibly be spared shared the same fate. Provisions, and provisions
only, were religiously cared for. Considering the weakened condition of
both man and beast, it was small wonder that some ill-advised persons
should take to the river in their wagon beds, many thus going to their

[Illustration: _Benj. A. Gifford_

The cataract of the Columbia.]

The dust got deeper every day. Going through it was like wading in water
as to resistance. Often it would lie in the road fully six inches deep,
so fine that a person wading through it would scarcely leave a track.
And when disturbed, such clouds! No words can describe it.

[Illustration: _Benj. A. Gifford_

Shifting sands of eastern Oregon.]

At length, after we had endured five long months of soul-trying travel
and had covered about eighteen hundred miles, counting from the crossing
of the Missouri, we dragged ourselves on to the end of the Overland
Trail at The Dalles on the Columbia River. From here my wife and I, with
the baby, went by boat down the river, while Oliver took the ox team on
to Portland by the land way.

The Dalles is a name given to the peculiar lava rock formation that
strikes across the Columbia, nearly two hundred miles from the mouth.
These rocks throw the great stream into a fury of foaming rapids. An
Indian legend says that the Bridge of the Gods was once near The Dalles,
but that the bridge broke and fell.

On the September day in 1852 when we reached The Dalles, we found there
a great crowd of travel-worn people. This assemblage was constantly
changing. It was a coming-and-going congregation.

[Illustration: _Gifford & Prentiss_

Where the Columbia cuts through the Cascades.]

The appearance of this crowd of emigrants beggars description. Their
dress was as varied as pieces in a crazy quilt. Here was a matronly dame
in clean apparel, but without shoes; her husband perhaps lacked both
shoes and hat. Youngsters of all sizes were running about with scarcely
enough clothing to cover their nakedness. Some suits and dresses were so
patched that it was impossible to tell what was the original cloth. The
color of practically everybody's clothing was that of desert dust.

Every little while other sweat-streaked, motley-dressed homeseekers
would straggle up to this end of the long trail. Their thoughts went
back to their old homes, or to the loved ones that they had laid away
tenderly in the shifting sands of the Plains. Most of them faced the
future with fortitude; the difficulties they had met and mastered had
but steeled them to meet the difficulties ahead. There was an
undercurrent of gladness in their souls with the thought that they had
achieved the end of the Overland Trail. They were ready now to go on
down the Columbia to find their new homes in this great, unknown Land of

Almost every nationality was represented among them. All traces of race
peculiarity and race prejudice, however, had been ground away in the
mill of adversity. The trying times through which these pioneers had
just passed had brought all to a kinship of feeling such as only trail
and danger can beget.

Friendships, sincere and lasting, came as one of the sweet rewards of
those days of common struggle and adversity. Few of the pioneers are now
left to talk over the old days; when any of them do meet, the greeting
is one of brotherhood indeed.

We camped but two days on the bank of the Columbia River. When I say
"we," let it be understood that I mean myself, my young wife, and the
baby boy who was but seven weeks old when the start was made from

[Illustration: _Kiser Bros._

St. Peter's Dome--one of the sentinels of the Columbia.]

I do not remember the embarking on the great scow for our trip down
the Columbia to the Cascades. But incidents of the voyage come to me as
vividly as if they had happened but yesterday.

Those who took passage felt that the journey was ended. The cattle had
been unyoked for the last time; the wagons had been rolled to the last
bivouac; the embers of the last camp fire had died out. We were entering
now upon a new field with new present experiences, and with new
expectancy for the morrow.

The scow, or lighter, upon which we took passage was decked over, but
without railing, offering a smooth surface upon which to pile our
belongings. These, in the majority of cases, made but a very small
showing. The whole deck surface of the scow was covered with the
remnants of the homeseekers' outfits, which in turn were covered by the
owners, either sitting or reclining upon their possessions, with but
scant room to change position or move about in any way. There must have
been a dozen families or more on the boat, or about sixty persons. These
were principally women and children; the young men and some of the older
ones were still struggling on the mountain trail to get the teams
through to the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

As we went floating down that wonderful old river, the deep depression
of spirits that, for lack of a better name, we call "the blues," seized
upon us. Do you wonder why? We were like an army that had burned the
bridges behind it. We had scant knowledge of what lay in the track
before us. Here we were, more than two thousand miles from
home,--separated from it by a trackless, uninhabited waste of country.
It was impossible for us to retrace our steps. Go ahead we must, no
matter what we were to encounter.

Then, too, we had for months borne the burden of duties that could not
be avoided or delayed, until many were on the verge of collapse from
strain and overwork. Some were sick, and all were reduced in flesh from
the urgent toil at camp duty and from lack of variety of food. Such was
the condition of the motley crowd of sixty persons as we slowly neared
that wonderful channel through which the great Columbia flows while
passing the Cascade range.

For myself, I can truly say that the journey had not drawn on my
vitality as it had with so many. True, I had been worked down in flesh,
having lost nearly twenty pounds; but what weight I had left was the
bone and sinew of my system. The good body my parents had given me
carried me then and afterwards through many hardships without great

[Illustration: _Benj. A. Gifford_

Multnomah Falls along the Columbia; named after a famous Indian chief.]

In our company, a party of three, a young married couple and an
unmarried sister, lounged on their belongings, listlessly watching the
ripples on the water, as did also others of the party. But little
conversation was passing. Each seemed to be communing with himself or
herself, but it was easy to see what were the thoughts occupying the
minds of all. The young husband, it was plain to be seen, would soon
complete that greater journey to the unknown beyond, a condition that
weighed so heavily upon the ladies of the party that they could ill
conceal their solicitude and sorrow. Finally, to cheer up the sick
husband and brother, the ladies began in sweet, subdued voices to sing
the old familiar song of "Home, Sweet Home," whereupon others of the
party joined in the chorus with increased volume of sound. As the echo
died away, at the moment of gliding under the shadow of the high
mountain, the second verse was begun, but was never finished. If an
electric shock had startled every individual of the party, there could
have been no more simultaneous effect than when the second line of the
second verse was reached, when instead of song, sobs and outcries of
grief poured forth from all lips. It seemed as if there were a tumult of
despair mingled with prayer. The rugged boatmen rested upon their oars
in awe, and gave way in sympathy with the scene before them, until it
could be truly said no dry eyes were left nor aching heart but was
relieved. Like the downpour of a summer shower that suddenly clears the
atmosphere to welcome the bright shining sun that follows, so this
sudden outburst of grief cleared away the despondency, to be replaced by
an exalted, exhilarating feeling of buoyancy and hopefulness. The tears
were not dried till mirth took possession--a real hysterical
manifestation of the whole party, ending all depression for the rest of
the trip.

On this last stage of the journey other parties had much more trying
experiences than ours. John Whitacre, afterward governor of Oregon, was
the head of a party of nine that constructed a raft at The Dalles out of
dry poles hauled from the adjacent country. While their stock was
started out over the trail, their two wagons were put upon the raft.
With the women and children in the wagons, perched on the provisions and
bedding, the start was made to float down the river to the Cascades.

They had hardly begun the journey when the waves swept over the raft. It
was like a submerged foundation upon which their wagons stood. A landing
a few miles out of The Dalles averted a total wreck, and afforded
opportunity to strengthen the buoyancy of the raft with extra timber
carried upon the backs of the men for long distances.

Then the question arose, how should they know when they would reach the
falls? Would they be able to discover the falls in time to make a
landing? Their fears finally got the better of them and a line was run
ashore; but instead of making a landing, they found themselves hard
aground out of reach of land, except by wading a long distance. This
occurred while they were many miles above the falls, or Cascades. At
last they gave up the raft and procured a scow. In this they reached the
head of the Cascades in safety.

As we neared Portland we felt that a long task had been completed. Yet
reaching the end of the Overland Trail did not mean that our pioneer
struggles were over. Before us lay still another task--the conquest of
the new land. And it was no easy work, we were to learn, to find a home
or make one in the western wilderness.



[Illustration: This is the region in which Ezra Meeker settled in 1852,
when it was all known as the Oregon Country and had not been divided
into Washington and Oregon. The journey from Portland to Kalama, where
the first cabin was built, is shown by line 1. The line marked 2 shows
the route followed in the journey to explore the Puget Sound region. The
brothers went as far as Port Townsend, but turned back to make the
second home at Steilacoom. Line 3 is the trail through the Natchess
Pass, the trail that Ezra Meeker followed to meet his father's party
coming up through the Blue Mountains.]

[Illustration: Looking for work on the good ship _Mary Melville_.]



ON the first day of October, 1852, at about nine o'clock at night, with
a bright moon shining, we reached Portland. Oliver met us; he had come
ahead by the trail and had found a place for us to lodge.

I carried my wife, who had fallen ill, in my arms up the steep bank of
the Willamette River and three blocks away to the lodging house, which
was kept by a colored man.

"Why, suh, I didn't think yuse could do that, yuse don't look it," said
my colored friend, as I placed my wife on the clean bed in a cozy little

This was the first house we had been in for five months. From April
until October we had been on the move. Never a roof had been over our
heads other than the wagon cover or tent, and no softer bed had we known
than the ground or the bottom of the wagon.

We had found a little steamer to carry us from the Cascades to Portland,
along with most of the company that had floated in the scow down the
river from The Dalles. The great Oregon Country, then including the
Puget Sound region, was large enough to swallow up a thousand such

Portland was no paradise at that time. It would be difficult to imagine
a sorrier-looking place than the one that confronted us upon arrival.
Some rain had fallen, and more soon followed. With the stumps and logs
and mud and the uneven stretches of ground, it was no easy matter to
find a resting place.

The tented city was continually enlarging. People seemed to be dazed; it
was hard to find paying work; there was insufficient shelter to house
all. The country looked a great field of forests and mountains.

Oliver and I had between us a cash capital of about three dollars. It
was clear that we must find work at once, so at earliest dawn next day
Oliver took the trail leading down the river, to search for something to
do. I had a possible opportunity for work and wages already in mind.

As we were passing up the Willamette, a few miles below Portland, on the
evening of our arrival, a bark lay seemingly right in our path as we
steamed by. This vessel looked to our inexperienced eyes like a
veritable monster, with hull towering high above our heads and masts
reaching to the sky. Probably not one of that whole party of
frontiersmen had ever before seen a deep-sea vessel.

The word went around that the bark was bound for Portland with a cargo
of merchandise and was to take a return cargo of lumber. As we passed
her there flashed through my mind the thought that there might be
opportunity for work on that vessel next day. Sure enough, when morning
came, the staunch bark _Mary Melville_ lay quietly in front of the

Without loss of time my inquiry was made: "Do you want any men on board
this ship?"

A gruff-looking fellow eyed me all over as much as to say, "Not you
anyhow." But he answered, "Yes. Go below and get your breakfast."

I fairly stammered out, "I must go and see my wife first, and let her
know where I am."

Thereupon came back a growl: "Of course, that will be the last of you!
That's the way with these newcomers, always hunting for work and never
wanting it." This last aside to a companion, in my hearing.

I swallowed my indignation, assured him that I would be back in five
minutes, and went post-haste to impart the good news.

Put yourself in my place, you who have never come under the domination
of a surly mate on a sailing vessel of seventy years ago. My ears fairly
tingled with anger at the harshness of the orders, but I stuck to the
work, smothering my rage at being berated while doing my very best. As
the day went on I realized that the man was not angry; he had merely
fallen into that way of talking. The sailors paid slight heed to what he
said. Before night the fellow seemed to let up on me, while increasing
his tirades at the regular men. The second and third day wore off. I had
blistered hands, but never a word about wages or pay.

"Say, boss, I'se got to pay my rent, and we'se always gits our pay in
advance. I doan' like to ask you, but can't you git the old boss to put
up somethin' on your work?"

I could plainly see that my landlord was serving notice to pay or move.
What should I do? Suppose the old skipper should discharge me for asking
for wages before the end of the week? But when I told him what I wanted
the money for, the old man's eyes moistened. Without a word he gave me
more money than I had asked for, and that night the steward handed me a
bottle of wine for the "missus." I knew that it came from the old

The baby's Sunday visit to the ship, the Sunday dinner in the cabin, the
presents of delicacies that followed, even from the gruff mate, made me
feel that under all this roughness lay a tender humanity. Away out here,
three thousand miles from home, the same sort of people lived as those I
had left behind me.

Then came this message:

                                   St. Helens, October 7th, 1852.

          Dear Brother: Come as soon as you can. Have rented
          a house, sixty boarders. This is going to be the
          place. Shall I send you money?

                                                OLIVER P. MEEKER.

The mate importuned me to stay until the cargo was on board. I did stay
until the last stick of lumber was stowed, the last pig in the pen, and
the ship swinging off, bound on her outward voyage. I felt as if I had
an interest in her.

Sure enough, I found St. Helens to be the place. Here was to be the
terminus of the steamship line from San Francisco. "Wasn't the company
building this wharf?" "They wouldn't set sixty men to work on the dock
unless they meant business." "Ships can't get up the Willamette--that's
nothing but a creek. The big city is going to be here."

This was the talk that greeted my ears as I went looking about. We had
carried my wife, this time in a chair, to our hotel--yes, our
hotel!--and there we had placed her, and the baby too, of course, in the
best room the house afforded.

One January morning in 1853, our sixty men boarders did not go to work
at the dock building as usual. Orders had come to suspend work. Nobody
knew why, or for how long. We soon learned that the steamship company
had given up the fight against Portland and would thenceforward run its
steamers to that port. The dock was never finished and was allowed to
fall into decay. With our boarders scattered, our occupation was gone,
and our supplies were in great part rendered worthless to us by the

Meantime, snow had fallen to a great depth. The price of forage for
cattle rose by leaps and bounds, and we found that we must part with
half of our stock to save the rest. It might be necessary to provide
feed for a month, or for three months; we could not tell. The last cow
was given up that we might keep one yoke of oxen, so necessary for the
work on a new place.

The search for a claim began at once. After one day's struggle against
the current of the Lewis River, and a night standing in a snow and sleet
storm around a camp fire of green wood, Oliver and I found our ardor
cooled a little. Two hours sufficed to take us back home next morning.

Claims we must have, though. That was what we had come to Oregon for. We
were going to be farmers; wife and I had made that bargain before we
closed the other more important contract. We were still of one mind as
to both contracts.

Early in January of 1853 the snow began disappearing rapidly, and the
search for claims became more earnest. Finally, about the twentieth of
January, I drove my stake for a claim. It included the site where the
city of Kalama now stands.

With my mind's eye I can see our first cabin as vividly as on the day
it was finished. It was placed among the trees on a hillside, with the
door in the end facing the beautiful river. The rocky nature of the site
permitted little grading, but it added to the picturesqueness.

The great river, the Columbia, was a mile wide at the point where our
house stood. Once a day at least it seemed to tire from its ceaseless
flow and to take a nooning spell. This was when the tides from the ocean
held back the waters of the river. Immediately in front of our landing
lay a small island of a few acres, covered with heavy timber and
driftwood. This has long since been washed away, and ships now pass over
the place in safety.

The cabin was built of small, straight logs. The ribs projected a few
feet to provide an open front porch--not for ornament, but for storage
of dry wood and kindling. The walls were but a scant five feet high; the
roof was not very steep; and there was a large stone fireplace and a

The cabin was not large nor did it contain much in the way of
furnishings; but it was home--our home.

Our home! What a thrill of joy that thought brought to us! It was the
first home we had ever had. We had been married nearly two years, yet
this was really our first abiding place, for all other dwellings had
been merely way stations on our march from Indianapolis to this cabin.
The thought brought not only happiness but health to us. The glow
returned to my wife's cheek, the dimple to the baby's. And such a baby!
In the innocence of our souls we honestly thought we had the smartest,
cutest baby on earth.

Scarcely had we settled in our new home before there came a mighty flood
that covered the waters of the river with wrecks of property. Oliver and
I, with one of our neighbors, began to secure the logs that came
floating down in great numbers. In a very short time we had a raft that
was worth a good sum of money, could we but get it to market.

[Illustration: Our first cabin home.]

Encouraged by this find, we immediately turned our attention to some
fine timber standing close to the bank near by, and began hand-logging
to supplement what we had already secured afloat. This work soon gave us
ample means to buy our winter supplies, even though flour was fifty
dollars a barrel. And yet, because of that same hand-logging work, my
wife came very near becoming a widow one morning before breakfast; but
she did not know of it until long afterwards.

It occurred in this way. We did not then know how to scaffold up above
the tough, swelled bases of the large trees, and this made it very
difficult to chop them down. So we burned through them. We bored two
holes at an angle to meet inside the inner bark, and when we got a fire
started there the heart of the tree would burn through, leaving an outer
shell of bark.

One morning, as usual, I was up early. After lighting the fire in the
stove and putting on the kettle, I hastened to the burning timber to
start the logging fires afresh. As I neared a clump of three giants, two
hundred and fifty feet tall, one began toppling over toward me. In my
confusion I ran across the path where it fell. This tree had scarcely
reached the ground when a second started to fall almost parallel to it,
the two tops barely thirty feet apart and the limbs flying in several
directions. I was between the two trees. If I had not become entangled
in some brush, I should have been crushed by the second falling tree. It
was an escape so marvelous as almost to lead one to think that there is
such a thing as a charmed life.

[Illustration: A narrow escape.]

In rafting our precious accumulations of timber down the Columbia River
to Oak Point, we were carried by the current past the place where we had
expected to sell our logs at six dollars a thousand feet. Following the
raft to the larger waters, we finally reached Astoria, where we sold the
logs for eight dollars a thousand instead of six, thus profiting by our

But this final success had meant an involuntary plunge off the raft into
the river with my boots on, for me, and three days and nights of
ceaseless toil and watching for all of us. We voted unanimously that we
would have no more such work.

The flour sack was nearly empty when I left home. We were expecting to
be absent but one night, and we had been gone a week. There were no
neighbors nearer our cabin than four miles, and no roads--scarcely a
trail. The only communication was by the river. What about the wife and
baby alone in the cabin, with the deep timber at the rear and a heavy
jungle of brush in front? Happily we found them all right upon our

[Illustration: A lesson in the art of clam baking.]



OUR enjoyment of this first home did not last long. Hardly were we
fairly settled, when news came that unsettled us again.

In April of 1853, the word had begun to pass around that we were to have
a new Territory to embrace the country north of the Columbia River. Its
capital was to be on Puget Sound. Here on the Columbia we should be away
off to one side, out of touch with the people who would shortly become a
great separate commonwealth.

It seemed advisable to look about a little, before making the move; so
leaving the little wife and baby in the cabin home one bright morning in
May, Oliver and I each made a pack of forty pounds and took the trail,
bound for Puget Sound. We camped where night overtook us, sleeping in
the open air without shelter or cover other than that afforded by some
friendly tree with drooping limbs.

Our trail first led us down near the right bank of the Columbia to the
Cowlitz, thence up the latter river thirty miles or more, and then
across the country nearly sixty miles to Olympia.

At this time there might have been, about Puget Sound, two thousand
white people all told, while now there are nearer a million. But these
people were so scattered we did not realize there were even that number,
for the Puget Sound country is a big place--more than two hundred miles
long and seventy-five miles wide--between two mountain ranges, with the
Cascades on the east and the Olympics on the west. The waters of the
Sound, including all the channels and bays and inlets and shores of
forty islands, make more than sixteen hundred miles of shore
line--nearly as many miles as the Oregon Trail is long; that is, almost
as many miles as we had the previous year traversed from the Missouri
River to the Sound.

Our expectations had been raised high by the glowing accounts of Puget
Sound. But a feeling of deep disappointment fell upon us when we could
see in the foreground only bare, dismal mud flats, and beyond these a
channel scarcely twice as wide as that of the great river we had left,
bounded on either side by high, heavily timbered land. We wished
ourselves back at our cabin on the Columbia.

Should we turn around and go back? No; we had never done that since
leaving our Indiana home. But what was the use of stopping here? We
wanted a place to make a farm, and we could not do it on such forbidding
land as this. The dense forest stretching out before us was interesting
enough to the lumberman, and for aught I knew there were channels for
the ships; but I wanted to be neither lumberman nor sailor. My first
camp on Puget Sound was not cheerful.

Olympia at the time contained about one hundred inhabitants. It had
three stores, a hotel, a livery stable, a saloon, and one weekly
newspaper. A glance at the advertising columns of this paper, _The
Columbian_ (the name which was expected to be that of the new
territory), disclosed but a few local advertisers. "Everybody knows
everybody here," a resident remarked to me, "so what's the use of

We could not stay at Olympia. We had pushed on past some good locations
on the Chehalis, and farther south, without locating. Should we now
retrace our steps? Oliver said no, and my better judgment also said no,
though I was sorely pressed with a feeling of homesickness.

The decision was quickly made to see more of this Puget Sound. But how
were we to see these--to us--unexplored waters? I declared that I would
not go in one of those Indian canoes, that we should upset it before we
were out half an hour. I had to admit that the Indians navigated the
whole Sound in these canoes and were safe, but I would not trust myself
in a craft that would tip as easily as a Siwash canoe. When I came to
know the Indians better and saw their performances in these frail craft,
my admiration for the canoes was even greater than my distrust had been.

Neither Oliver nor I had much experience in boating, and we had none in
boat building. However, when we had discarded the idea of taking a
canoe, we set to work with a hearty good will to build us a skiff. We
made it out of light lumber, then easily obtained at Tumwater. We
determined to have the skiff broad enough not to upset easily, and long
enough to carry us and our light cargo of food and bedding.

As in the trip across the Plains, we must provide our own
transportation. Here and there might be a vessel loading piles and
square timber for the San Francisco market, but not a steamer was then
plying on the Sound; there was not even a sailing craft that essayed to
carry passengers.

As the tide drew us off on the placid waters of the bay at Olympia, with
just a breath of air stirring, our little eighteen-foot craft behaved
splendidly. The slight ripples jostling against the bow brought dreams
of a pleasure trip, to make amends for the tiresome pack across the

[Illustration: A Siwash Indian in his canoe.]

We floated lazily with the tide, sometimes taking a few strokes with the
oars, and at other times whistling for the wind. The little town of
Olympia to the south became dimmed by distance. But we were no sooner
fairly out of sight of the little village than the question came up
which way to go. What channel should we take?

"Let the tide decide; that will carry us out toward the ocean."

"No, we are drifting into another bay; that cannot be where we want to

"Why, we are drifting right back almost in the same direction from which
we came, but into another bay! We'll pull this way to that point to the

"But there seems a greater opening of water to the northwest."

"Yes, but I do not see any way out there."

So we talked and pulled and puzzled, until finally it dawned upon us
that the tide had turned and we were being carried back into South Bay,
to almost the very spot whence we had come.

"The best thing we can do is to camp," said Oliver.

I readily assented. So our first night's camp was scarcely twelve miles
from where we had started in the morning. It was a fine camping place. A
beautiful pebbly beach extended almost to the water's edge even at low
tide. There was a grassy level spit, a background of evergreen giant-fir
timber, and clear, cool water gushing out from the bank near by. And
such fuel for the camp fire!--broken limbs with just enough pitch to
make a cheerful blaze and yet body enough to last well. We felt so happy
that we were almost glad the journey had been interrupted.

Oliver was the carpenter of the party, the tent-builder, wood-getter,
and general roustabout, while I, the junior, was "chief cook and

An encampment of Indians being near, a party of them soon visited our
camp and began making signs for trade.

"_Mika tik eh_[1] clams?" said one of the matrons of the party.

"What does she say, Oliver?"

"I'm blessed if I know, but it looks as if she wanted to sell some

After considerable dickering, with signs and gestures and words many
times repeated, we were able to impart the information that we wanted a
lesson in cookery. If she would show us how to cook the clams, we would
buy some. This brought some merriment in the camp. The idea that there
lived a person who did not know how to cook clams! Without saying by
your leave or anything else, the motherly looking native woman began
tearing down our camp fire.

[Illustration: _Edward S. Curtis_

Indians gathering clams on the beach.]

"Let her alone, and see what she's up to," said Oliver, noticing that I
was disturbed at such interference with my well-laid plans for

She covered the hot pebbles and sand where the fire had been with a
lighter layer of pebbles. Upon these the clams were deposited. They were
covered with fine twigs, and upon the twigs earth was placed.

"_Kloshe_,"[2] she said.

"_Hyas kloshe_,"[3] said her husband, who squatted near by, watching the
proceedings with evident approval.

"What did they say?" I asked.

"I know what they said, but I don't know what they meant," responded
Oliver, "unless it was she had done a good job; and I think she has."

Thus began and ended our first lesson in the Chinook jargon, and our
first experience with a clam bake.

This first clam bake gave us great encouragement. We soon learned that
the bivalves were to be found in almost unlimited quantity and were
widely distributed. The harvest was ready twice a day, when the tide was
out, and we need have no fear of a famine even if cast away in some
unfrequented place.

"_Ya-ka kloshe al-ta_,"[4] said the Indian woman, uncovering the
steaming mass and placing the clams on a sliver found near by. "_De-late
kloshe muck a muck alta._"[5]

Without understanding her words, but knowing well what she meant, we
fell to disposing of this, our first clam dinner. We divided with the
Indians the bread that had been baked and some potatoes that had been
boiled. The natives soon withdrew to their own camp.

Before retiring for the night, we repaid the visit. To see the little
fellows of the camp scud behind their mother when the strangers entered,
and shyly peep out from their retreat, while the mother lovingly
reassured them with kind and affectionate caresses, and finally coaxed
them out from under cover, revealed something of the character of the
natives that neither of us had realized before. We had been in Indian
country for nearly a year, but with guns by our side, if not in our
hands, during nearly half the time. We had not stopped to study the
Indian character. We took it for granted that the Indians were our
enemies and watched them suspiciously; but here seemed to be a
disposition to be neighborly and helpful.

We took a lesson in Chinook, and by signs and words held conversation
until a late hour. When we were ready to leave they gave us a slice of
venison, enough for several meals. Upon offering to pay for it we were
met with a shake of the head, and with the words, "_Wake, wake, kul-tus
pot-latch_," which we understood by their actions to mean they made us a
present of it.

We had made the Indians a present first, it is true; but we did not
expect any return, except perhaps goodwill. From that time on during the
trip,--I may say, for all time since,--I found the Indians of Puget
Sound always ready to reciprocate acts of kindness. They hold in high
esteem a favor granted, if it is not accompanied by acts showing it to
be designed simply to gain an advantage.


[1] You want.

[2] Good.

[3] Very good.

[4] Good now; ready to serve now.

[5] Exceedingly good to eat.

[Illustration: A fleet of Siwash canoes.]



OUR second day's cruise about the Sound took us past historic grounds.
We went by old Fort Nisqually, one of the earliest posts of the Hudson's
Bay Company on Puget Sound. Some houses had been built on the spot in
1829 or 1830, though the fort, one fourth of a mile back from water, was
not constructed until 1833, just twenty years before our visit.

As the tide and wind favored us, we did not stop. Soon we came in sight
of a fleet of seven vessels lying at anchor in a large bay, several
miles in extent. The sight of those seven vessels lying in the offing
made a profound impression upon our minds. We had never before seen so
many ships at one place. Curiously enough, among them was the good bark
_Mary Melville_, with her gruff mate and big-hearted master, Captain

Upon the eastern slope of the shores of this bay lay the two towns, Port
Steilacoom, and Steilacoom City, both established in 1851. A far larger
trade centered here than at any other point on Puget Sound, and we
decided on a halt to make ourselves acquainted with the surroundings. A
mile and a half from the shore we found also Fort Steilacoom. It was
simply the camp of a company of United States soldiers, quartered in
wooden shells of houses and log cabins.

Intense rivalry ran between the two towns, upper and lower Steilacoom,
at this time. As a result things were booming. We were sorely tempted to
accept the flattering offer of four dollars a day for common labor in a
timber camp, but concluded not to be swerved from the search for a new

During this visit we began seeing Indians in considerable numbers. They
seemed to be a listless lot, with no thought for the future, or even for
the immediate present. The Indians in those days seemed to work or play
by spurts and spells. Here and there we saw a family industriously
pursuing some object; but as a class they seemed to me the laziest set
of people on earth.

That opinion was materially modified later, as I became better
acquainted with their habits. I have found just as industrious people,
both men and women, among the Indians as among the whites. The workers,
it may be said, are less numerous among the men; the women are all

Should we camp here and spy out the land, or should we go forward and
see what lay before us? After a sober second thought, we realized that
we had nothing to trade but labor; and we had not come as far as this to
be laborers for hire. We had come to find a place to make a farm, and a
farm we were going to have. Again we set about searching for claims, and
the more we searched the less we liked the look of things.

Finally, on the fourth day, after a long, wearisome tramp, we cast off
at high tide, and in a dead calm, to continue our cruise. Oliver soon
dropped into a comfortable afternoon nap, leaving me in full command. As
the sun shone warm and the tide was taking us rapidly in the direction
we wanted to go, why shouldn't I doze a little too, even if we did miss
some of the sightseeing?

I was aroused from my nap by Oliver's exclaiming, "What is that?" Then,
half to himself, "As I live, it's a deer swimming out here in the bay!"

"It surely can't be," I responded, three quarters asleep.

"That's what it is!" he asserted.

We were wide awake now and gave chase. Very soon we caught up with the
animal and succeeded in throwing a rope over its horns. By this time we
had drifted into the Narrows, and we soon found we had something more
important to do than to tow a deer.

We were among the tide rips of the Sound. Turning the deer loose, we
pulled our best for the shore, and found shelter in an eddy. A
perpendicular bluff rose from the highwater mark, leaving no place for
camp fire or bed.

The tide seemed to roll in waves and with contending forces of currents
and counter currents, yet all moving in a general direction. It was our
first introduction to a genuine tide rip. The waters boiled as if in a
veritable caldron, swelling up here and there in centers and whirling
with dizzy velocity. A flat-bottomed boat like our little skiff, we
thought, could not stay afloat there very long.

Just then some Indian canoes came along, moving with the tide. We
expected to see them swamped as they encountered the troubled waters;
but to our astonishment they passed right through without taking a drop
of water Then there came two well-manned canoes creeping alongshore
against the tide. I have said well-manned, but half the paddles, in
fact, were wielded by women, and the post of honor, or that where most
dexterity was required, was occupied by a woman.

[Illustration: _Edward S. Curtis_

Sunset on the Pacific.]

"_Me-si-ka-kwass kopa s'kookum chuck?_"[6] said the maiden in the bow of
the first canoe, as it drew alongside our boat, in which we were

Since our evening's experience at the clambake camp, we had been
industriously studying the Chinook language, and we could understand
that she was asking if we were afraid of the rough waters. We responded,
partly in English and partly in Chinook, that we were, and besides that
it was impossible for us to proceed against the strong current.

"_Ne-si-ka mit-lite_,"[7] she replied; that is to say, she told us that
the Indians were going to camp with us and wait for the turn of the
tide, and accordingly they landed near by.

[Illustration: _Asahel Curtis_

Mt. Rainier.]

By the time the tide had turned, night had come. We hardly knew
whether to camp in our boat or to start out on unknown waters in the
dark. Our Indian visitors made preparations to proceed on their journey,
and assured us it was all right ahead. They offered to show us to good
camping grounds in a big bay where the current was not strong.

Sure enough, a short pull with a favorable current brought us to the
Narrows and into Commencement Bay, in sight of numerous camp fires in
the distance. I remember that camp quite vividly; though I cannot locate
it exactly, I know that it was on the water front within the present
limits of the large and thriving city of Tacoma.

I well remember our supper of fresh salmon. Of all the delicious fish
known, give me the salmon caught by trolling in early summer in the deep
waters of Puget Sound, the fish so fat that the excess of oil must be
turned out of the pan while cooking. We had scarcely got our camp fire
started before a salmon was offered us; I cannot recall what we paid,
but I know it was not a high price, else we could not have purchased.

The following day we could see Mt. Rainier, with its reflection in the
placid waters of the bay. Theodore Winthrop, the observant traveler who
came into these same waters a few months later and wrote of it as Mt.
Tacoma, described it as "a giant mountain dome of snow, seeming to fill
the aerial spaces as the image displaced the blue deeps of tranquil
water." A wondrous sight it was and is, whatever the name.

Next day we entered the mouth of the Puyallup River. We had not
proceeded far up this stream before we were interrupted by a solid drift
of monster trees and logs, extending from bank to bank up the river for
a quarter of a mile or more. The Indians told us that there were two
other like obstructions a few miles farther up the river, and that the
current was very strong.

We secured the services of an Indian and his canoe to help us up the
river, and left our boat at the Indians' camp near the mouth. It took a
tugging of two days to go six miles. We had to unload our outfit three
times to pack it over cut-off trails, and drag our canoe around the
drifts. It was a story of constant toil with consequent discouragement,
not ending until we camped on the bank of the river within the present
limits of the thriving little city of Puyallup.

The Puyallup valley at that time was a solitude. No white settlers were
found, though it was known that two men had staked claims and had made
some slight improvements. An Indian trail led up the river from
Commencement Bay, and another led westward to the Nisqually plains. Over
these pack animals could pass, but wagon roads there were none; and
whether a feasible route for one could be found, only time and labor
could determine.

We retraced our steps, and in the evening landed again at the mouth of
the river after a severe day's toil. We were in no cheerful mood. Oliver
did not sing as usual while preparing for camp. Neither did I have much
to say; but I fell to work, mechanically preparing the much-needed meal.
We ate in silence and then went to sleep.

We had crossed the two great states of Illinois and Iowa, over hundreds
of miles of unoccupied prairie land as rich as anything that ever "lay
out of doors," on our way from Indiana to Oregon in search of land on
which to make a home. Here, at what we might call the end of our rope,
we had found the land, but with conditions that seemed almost too
adverse to overcome.

It was a discouraging outlook, even if there had been roads. Such
timber! It seemed an appalling undertaking to clear this land, the
greater part of it being covered with a heavy growth of balm and alder
trees and a thick tangle of underbrush besides. When we fell asleep that
night, it was without visions of new-found wealth. And yet later I did
tackle a quarter-section of that heaviest timber land, and never let up
until the last tree, log, stump, and root had disappeared, though of
course, not all cleared off by my own hands.

If we could have known what was coming four months later, we would have
remained, in spite of our discouragement, and searched the valley
diligently for the choicest locations. For in October following there
came the first immigrants over the Natchess Pass Trail into Washington.
They located in a body over nearly the whole valley, and before the year
was ended had made a rough wagon road out to the prairies and to
Steilacoom, the county seat.

We lingered at the mouth of the river in doubt as to what best to do. My
thoughts went back to wife and baby in the lonely cabin on the Columbia
River, and again to that bargain we had made before marriage, that we
were going to be farmers. How could we be farmers if we did not have
land? Under the donation act we could hold three hundred and twenty
acres, but we must live on it for four years; it behooved us to look out
and secure our location before the act expired, which would occur the
following year.

With misgivings and doubts, on the fourth day Oliver and I loaded our
outfit into our skiff and floated out on the receding tide, whither, we
did not know.

As we drew off from the mouth of the Puyallup River, numerous parties of
Indians were in sight. Some were trolling for salmon, with a lone Indian
in the bow of each canoe; others with poles were fishing for smelt;
still others with nets seemed waiting for fisherman's luck.

Other parties were passing, those in each canoe singing a plaintive
chant in minor key, accompanied by heavy strokes of the paddle handles
against the sides of the canoe, as if to keep time. There were some fine
voices to be heard, and though there were but slight variations in the
sounds or words, the Indians seemed never to tire in repeating, and I
must confess we never tired of listening.

During the afternoon, after we had traveled some twenty miles, we saw
ahead of us larger waters, into which we entered, finding ourselves in a
bay five or six miles wide, with no very certain prospect of a camping
place. Just then we espied a cluster of cabins and houses on a point to
the east. There we made a landing, at what is now known as Alki Point,
though it then bore the pretentious name of New York.

We soon pushed on to the east shore, where the steam from a sawmill
served as a guide, and landed at a point that cannot be far from the
western limit of the present Pioneer Place, in Seattle, near where the
totem pole now stands.

As we were not looking for a mill site or town site, we pushed on next
day. We had gone but a few miles when a favorable breeze sprang up,
bringing with it visions of a happy time sailing; but behind us lay a
long stretch of open waters several miles wide, and ahead we could see
no visible shelter and no lessening of width; consequently the breeze
was not entirely welcome. In a short time the breeze stiffened, and we
began to realize that we were in danger. We were afraid to attempt a
landing on the surf-beaten shore; but finally, the wind increasing, the
clouds lowering, and the rain coming down in torrents, we had to take
the risk. Letting down the sail, we headed our frail craft towards the
shore. Fortune favored us, for we found a good sandy beach upon which to
land, though we got a thorough drenching while so doing.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

A rich haul of salmon.]

Here we were compelled to remain two or three days in a dismal camp,
until the weather became more favorable. Then launching our boat, we
pulled for the head of Whidbey's Island, a few miles to the northwest.

Now I have a fish story to tell. I have always been shy about telling
it, lest some smart fellow should up and say I was drawing on my
imagination: I am not.

When we had broken camp and were sailing along, we heard a dull sound
like that often heard from the tide rips. As we rested on our oars, we
could see that there was a disturbance in the water and that it was
moving toward us. It extended as far as we could see, in the direction
we were going. The sound increased and became like the roar of a heavy
fall of rain or hail on water, and we became aware that it was a vast
school of fish moving south, while millions were seemingly dancing on
the surface of the water or leaping in the air.

We could feel the fish striking against the boat in such vast numbers
that they fairly moved it. The leap in the air was so high that we tried
tipping the boat to catch some as they fell back, and sure enough, here
and there one would drop into the boat. We soon discovered some Indians
following the school. They quickly loaded their canoes by using the
barbed pole and throwing the impaled fish into their canoes. With an
improvised net we too soon obtained all we wanted.

When we began to go on we were embarrassed by the mass of fish moving in
the water. As far as we could see there was no end to the school ahead
of us; but we finally got clear of the moving mass and reached the
island shore in safety, only to become weather-bound in the wilds once

This camp did not prove so dreary as the last one, although it was more
exposed to the swell of the big waters and the sweep of the wind. To the
north we had a view of thirty miles or more, to where horizon and water
blended, leaving it doubtful whether land was in sight or not. As we
afterwards ascertained, we could see the famous San Juan Island, later
the bone of contention between our government and Great Britain, when
the northern boundary of the United States was settled.

Port Townsend lay some ten miles from our camp, but was shut out from
view by an intervening headland. We did not know the exact location of
the town. Like the lost hunters, "we knew where we were, but we didn't
know where any place else was." Not lost ourselves, the world was lost
from us.

Three ships passed us while we were at this camp, one coming from out of
space, as it seemed, a mere speck, and growing to a full-fledged
deep-sea vessel, with all sails set, scudding before the wind. The other
two were gracefully beating their way out against the stiff breeze to
the open waters beyond. What prettier sight is there than a full-rigged
vessel with all sails spread! The enthusiasm that rose as we gazed at
the ships, coupled with a spirit of adventure, prompted us to go

[Illustration: A deep-sea vessel sailing before the wind.]

It was a calm, beautiful day when we reached Port Townsend. Distance
lends enchantment, the old adage says; but in this case the nearer we
approached to the place, the greater our admiration. The shining, pebbly
beach in front, the clear, level spot adjoining, with the beautiful open
and comparatively level plateau in the background, and two or three
vessels at anchor in the foreground, made a picture of a perfect city

Upon closer examination of the little town we found that the first
impression, gained from a distance, was illusory. Many shacks and
camps, at first mistaken for the white men's houses, were found to be
occupied by natives. They were a drunken, rascally rabble, spending
their gains from the sale of fish and oil in a debauch that would last
as long as their money held out.

This seemed to be a more stalwart race of Indians than those to the
south, doubtless from the buffeting received in the larger waters. They
would often go out even to the open sea on their fishing excursions in
canoes manned by thirty men or more.

After spending two or three days exploring the country, we turned back
to the bay where lay the seven ships we had seen near Steilacoom. We
remembered the timber camps, the bustle and stir of the little new
village, and the activity that we saw there, greater than anywhere else
on the waters of the Sound. Most of all, my thoughts would go on to the
little cabin on the Columbia River.

Three days sufficed to land us back in the bay we sought, but the ships
were gone. Not a sailing craft of any kind was in sight of the little
town, though the building activity was going on as before.

The memory of those ships, however, remained with us and determined our
minds on the important question where the trade center was to be. We
decided therefore that our new home should be near Steilacoom, and we
finally staked out a claim on an island not far from that place.

Once the claim had been decided upon, my next desire naturally was to
get home to my family. The expedition had taken thirty days, and of
course there had been no news from my wife, nor had I been able to send
back any word to her.


[6] Are you afraid of the rapid water?

[7] I will stay with you.

[Illustration: On the trail again with Buck and Dandy.]



"CAN I get home tonight?" I asked myself.

It was an afternoon of the last week of June, in 1853, and the sun was
yet high. I was well up the left bank of the Cowlitz River; how far I
could not tell, for there were no milestones on the crooked,
half-obstructed trail leading downstream. At best it would be a race
with the sun, but the days were long, and the twilight was long, and I
would camp that much nearer home if I made haste.

My pack had been discarded on the Sound. I had neither coat nor blanket.
I wore a heavy woolen shirt, a slouch hat, and worn shoes; both hat and
shoes gave ample ventilation. Socks I had none; neither had I
suspenders, an improvised belt taking their place. I was dressed for the
race and was eager for the trial. At Olympia I had parted with my
brother, who had returned to stay at the claims we had taken, while I
was to go home for the wife and baby, to remove them to our new home.

I did not particularly mind the camping, but I did not fancy the idea
of lying out so near home if by extra exertion I could reach the cabin
before night. There was no friendly ox to snug up to for warmth, as in
so many of the bivouacs on the plains; but I had matches, and there were
many mossy places for a bed under the friendly shelter of drooping
cedars. We never thought of catching cold from lying on the ground or on
cedar boughs, or from getting a good drenching.

After all, the cabin could not be reached, as the trail could not be
followed at night. Slackening pace at nightfall to cool my system
gradually, I finally made my camp and slept as soundly as if on a bed of
down. My consolation was that the night was short and I could see to
travel by three o'clock.

I do not look upon those years of camp and cabin life as years of
hardship. To be sure, our food was plain as well as our dress; our hours
of labor were long and the labor itself was frequently severe; the
pioneers appeared rough and uncouth. Yet underlying all this there ran a
vein of good cheer, of hopefulness. We never watched for the sun to go
down, or for the seven o'clock whistle, or for the boss to quicken our
steps. The days were always too short, and interest in our work was
always unabated.

The cabin could not be seen until the trail came quite near it. When I
caught sight of a curl of smoke I knew I was almost there. Then I saw
the cabin and a little lady in almost bloomer dress milking the cow. She
never finished milking that cow, nor did she ever milk any cow when her
husband was at home.

There were so many things to talk about that we could scarcely tell
where to begin or when to stop. Much of the conversation naturally
centered on the question of our moving to a new home.

"Why, at Olympia, eggs were a dollar a dozen. I saw them selling at
that. The butter you have there would bring you a dollar a pound as fast
as you could weigh it out. I saw stuff they called butter sell for that.
Potatoes are selling for three dollars a bushel and onions at four.
Everything the farmer raises sells high."

"Who buys?"

"Oh, almost everybody has to buy. There are ships and timber camps and
the hotels, and--"

"Where do they get the money?"

"Everybody seems to have money. Some take it there with them. Men
working in the timber camps get four dollars a day and their board. At
one place they paid four dollars a cord for wood to ship to San
Francisco, and a man can sell all the shingles he can make at four
dollars a thousand. I was offered five cents a foot for piles. If we had
Buck and Dandy over there we could make twenty dollars a day putting in

"Where could you get the piles?"

"Off the government land, of course. All help themselves to what they
want. Then there are the fish and the clams and oysters, and--"

"But what about the land for the claim?"

That question was a stumper. The little wife never lost sight of that
bargain made before we were married. Now I found myself praising a
country for the agricultural qualities of which I could not say much.
But if we could sell produce higher, might we not well lower our
standard of an ideal farm? The claim I had taken was described with a
touch of apology, in quality falling so far below what we had hoped to
acquire. However, we decided to move, and began to prepare for the

The wife, baby, bedding, ox yoke, and log chain were sent up the Cowlitz
in a canoe. Buck and Dandy and I took the trail. On this occasion I was
ill prepared for a cool night camp, having neither blanket nor coat. I
had expected to reach Hard Bread's Hotel, where the people in the canoe
would stop overnight. But I could not make it, so again I lay out on the
trail. "Hard Bread's," an odd name for a hotel, was so called because
the old widower that kept the place fed his patrons on hardtack three
times a day.

I found that my wife had not fared any better than I had on the trail,
and in fact not so well. The floor of the cabin--that is, the hotel--was
a great deal harder than the sand spit where I had passed the night. I
had plenty of pure, fresh air, while she, in a closed cabin and in the
same room with many others, had neither fresh air nor freedom from
creeping things that make life miserable. With her shoes for a pillow, a
shawl for covering, small wonder that she reported, "I did not sleep a
wink last night."

We soon arrived at the Cowlitz landing, the end of the canoe journey.
Striking the tent that had served us so well on the Plains and making a
cheerful camp fire, we speedily forgot the hard experiences of the

Fifty miles more of travel lay before us. And such a road! However, we
had one consolation,--it would be worse in winter than at that time.

Our wagon had been left at The Dalles and we had never seen or heard of
it again. Our cows were gone--given for provender to save the lives of
the oxen during the deep December snow. So when we took account of
stock, we had the baby, Buck and Dandy, a tent, an ox yoke and chain,
enough clothing and bedding to keep us comfortable, a very little food,
and no money. The money had all been expended on the canoe passage.

Should we pack the oxen and walk, and carry the baby, or should we build
a sled and drag our things over to the Sound, or should I make an effort
to get a wagon? This last proposition was the most attractive, and so
next morning, driving my oxen before me and leaving wife and baby to
take care of the camp, I began the search for a wagon.

That great-hearted pioneer, John R. Jackson, did not hesitate a moment,
stranger though I was, to say, "Yes, you can have two if you need them."

Jackson had settled there eight years before, ten miles out from the
landing, and now had an abundance around him. Like all the earlier
pioneers, he took a pride in helping others who came later. He would not
listen to our proceeding any farther before the next day. He insisted on
entertaining us in his comfortable cabin, and sent us on our way in the
morning, rejoicing in plenty.

Without special incident we in due time arrived at the falls of the
Deschutes (Tumwater) and on the shore of Puget Sound. Here a camp must
be established again. The wife and baby were left there while I drove
the wagon back over the tedious road to Jackson's and then returned with
the oxen to tidewater.

[Illustration: A cat-and-clay chimney, made of small split sticks
embedded in layers of clay mortar.]

My feelings may well be imagined when, upon returning, I found wife,
baby, and tent all gone. I knew that smallpox was raging among the
Indians, and that a camp where it was prevalent was less than a quarter
of a mile away. The dread disease had terrors then that it does not now
possess. Could it be possible my folks had been taken sick and had been


The question was soon solved. It appeared that I had scarcely got out of
sight on my trip back with the oxen before one of those royal pioneer
matrons had come to the camp. She pleaded and insisted, and finally
almost frightened the little wife into going with her and sharing her
house, which was near by, but out of danger from the smallpox. God bless
those earlier pioneers! They were all good to us, sometimes to the point
of embarrassment, in their generous hospitality.

Oliver was to have had the cabin ready by the time I returned. He not
only had not done that, but had taken the boat and had left no sign to
tell us where either brother or boat could be found. Not knowing what
else to do, I paddled over to the town of Steilacoom. There I found out
where the boat and the provisions had been left, and after an earnest
parley succeeded in getting possession. With my canoe in tow I soon made
my way back to where my little flock was, and speedily transferred all
to the spot that was to be our island dwelling. We set up our tent, and
felt at home once more.

[Illustration: Crows breaking clams by dropping them on boulders.]

Steilacoom, three miles across the bay, had grown during my absence, and
in the distance it looked like a city in fact as well as in name. Mt.
Rainier looked bigger and taller than ever. Even the songs of the
Indians sounded better; the canoes looked more graceful, and the paddles
seemed to be wielded more expertly. Everything looked cheerful;
everything interested us, especially the crows, with their trick of
breaking clams by rising in the air and dropping them on the boulders.
There were so many new things to observe that for a time we almost
forgot that we were nearly out of provisions and money and did not know
what had happened to Oliver.

Next morning Oliver returned to the village. Finding that the boat and
provisions had been taken and seeing smoke in the bight, he surmised
what had happened and came paddling across to the tent. He had received
a tempting offer to help load a ship and had just completed his
contract. As a result of this work, he was able to exhibit a slug of
California gold and other money that looked precious indeed in our eyes.

The building of our second cabin with its stone fireplace, cat-and-clay
chimney, lumber floor, real window with glass in it, together with the
high-post bedstead made out of tapering cedar saplings, the table
fastened to the wall, the rustic chairs, seemed but like a play spell.
No eight-hour day there--eighteen would be nearer the mark; we never

It was in this same year, 1853, that Congress cut off from Oregon the
region that now comprises the state of Washington and all of Idaho north
of the Snake River. The new district was called Washington Territory, so
we who had moved out to the Oregon Country found ourselves living in

[Illustration: Bobby carried me safely over the sixty crossings and



AT last we were really settled and could begin the business for which we
had come West; henceforth the quiet life of the farmer was to be ours,
we thought. But again we had not reckoned with the unexpected.

While we were working on our new cabin, we received a letter from
father, saying: "Boys, if Oliver will come back to cross with us, we
will go to Oregon next year." The letter was nearly three months old
when we received it.

Our answer was immediate: "Oliver will be with you next spring."

Then came the question of money. Would Davenport, who had bought the
Columbia River claims, pay in the fall? Could he? We decided that we
must go to the timber camp to earn the money to pay the expenses of
Oliver's journey, that we must not depend altogether on the Columbia
River asset.

"What shall we do with the things?" asked my wife.

"Lock them up in the cabin," suggested Oliver.

"And you go and stay with the Dofflemires," I added.

"Not I," she returned. "I'm going along to cook."

All our well-laid plans were thus suddenly changed. Our clearing of the
land was deferred; the chicken house, the inmates of which were to make
us rich, was not built; the pigs were not bought to fatten on the clams,
and many other pet schemes were dropped that Oliver might go back East
to bring father and mother across the Plains.

We struck awkward but rapid and heavy strokes in the timber camp
established on the bluff overlooking the falls at Tumwater. The little
cook supplied the huckleberry pudding for dinner, with plenty of the
lightest, whitest bread, and vegetables, meat, and fish served in style
good enough for kings. Such appetites! No coaxing was required to get us
to eat a hearty meal. Such sound sleep, such satisfaction! Talk about
hardships--it was all pleasure as we counted the eleven dollars a day
that the Tullis brothers paid us for cutting logs, at one dollar and
seventy cents a thousand. We earned this every day. Yes, we should be
able to make money enough together to pay Oliver's passage to Iowa.

It was to be a long journey--over to the Columbia River, out from there
by steamer to San Francisco, then to the Isthmus, then to New York.
After that, by rail as far west as there was a railroad, then on foot to
Eddyville, Iowa, where the start was again to be made. It would take
Oliver two months to reach Eddyville, and then at least seven more to
lead the newcomers over the trail from Iowa to Puget Sound.

Oliver was soon speeding on his way, and again my wife and I were left
without money and with but a scant supply of provisions. How we made out
through the winter I can hardly remember, but we managed somehow and
kept well and happy. Soon after Oliver's departure our second baby was

In the latter part of August, 1854, eight months after Oliver had left
us, James K. Hurd, of Olympia, sent me word that he had been out on the
immigrant trail and had heard that some of my relatives were on the
road, but that they were belated and short of provisions. He advised me
to go to their assistance, to make sure of their coming directly over
the Cascade Mountains, and not down the Columbia River.

How my people, with Oliver's experience to guide them, should be in the
condition described, was past my comprehension. However, I accepted the
statement as true. I felt the particular importance of their having
certain knowledge as to prevailing conditions of an over-mountain trip
through the Natchess Pass. The immigrants of the previous year had
encountered formidable difficulties in the mountains, narrowly escaping
the loss of everything, if not facing actual starvation. I could not
help feeling that possibly the same conditions still prevailed. The only
way to determine the question was to go and see for myself, to meet my
father's party and pilot them through the pass.

[Illustration: We struck awkward but rapid and heavy strokes.]

But how could I go and leave wife and two babies on our island home?
The summer had been spent in clearing land and planting crops, and my
money was very low. To remove my family would cost something in cash,
besides the abandonment of the season's work to almost certain
destruction. Without a moment's hesitation my wife said to go; she and
Mrs. Darrow, who was with us as nurse and companion, would stay right
where they were until I got back.

I was not so confident of the outcome as she. At best the trip was
hazardous, even when undertaken well-prepared and with company. As far
as I could see, I might have to go on foot and pack my food and blanket
on my back. I knew that I should have to go alone. Some work had been
done on the road during the summer, but I was unable to learn definitely
whether any camps were yet in the mountains.

At Steilacoom there was a certain character, a doctor, then understood
by few, and I may say not by many even to the end. Yet, somehow, I had
implicit confidence in him, though between him and me there would seem
to have been a gulf that could not be closed. Our habits of life were
diametrically opposite. I would never touch a drop, while the doctor was
always drinking--never sober, neither ever drunk.

It was to this man that I entrusted the safe keeping of my little
family. I knew my wife had such an aversion to people of his kind that I
did not even tell her with whom I would arrange to look out for her
welfare, but suggested another person to whom she might apply in case of

When I spoke to the doctor about what I wanted, he seemed pleased to be
able to do a kind act. To reassure me, he got out his field glasses and
turned them on the cabin across the water, three miles distant. Looking
through them intently for a moment he said, "I can see everything going
on over there. You need have no uneasiness about your folks while you
are gone."

And I did not need to have any concern. Twice a week during all the time
I was away an Indian woman visited the cabin on the island, always with
some little presents. She would ask about the babies and whether there
was anything needed. Then with the parting "_Alki nika keelapie_,"[8]
she would leave.

With a fifty-pound flour sack filled with hard bread, or navy biscuit, a
small piece of dried venison, a couple of pounds of cheese, a tin cup,
and half of a three-point blanket, all made into a pack of less than
forty pounds, I climbed the hill at Steilacoom and took the road leading
to Puyallup. The first night was spent with Jonathan McCarty, whose
cabin was near where the town of Sumner now stands.

McCarty said: "You can't cross the streams on foot; I'll let you have a
pony. He's small, but sure-footed and hardy, and he'll carry you across
the rivers anyhow." McCarty also said: "Tell your folks this is the
greatest grass country on earth. Why, I am sure I harvested five tons of
timothy to the acre this year."

[Illustration: Twice a week the Indian woman visited the cabin.]

The next day found me on the road with my blanket under the saddle, my
sack of hard bread strapped on behind. I was mounted to ride on level
stretches of the road, or across streams, of which I had fully sixty
crossings to make.

White River on the upper reaches is a roaring torrent; the rush of
waters can be heard for a mile or more from the high bluff overlooking
the narrow valley. The river is not fordable except in low water, and
then in but few places. The river bed is full of stones worn rounded and
smooth and slippery, from the size of a man's head to large boulders,
thus making footing for animals uncertain. After my first experience, I
dreaded the crossings to come more than all else on the trip, for a
misstep of the pony's might be fatal.

The little fellow, Bobby, seemed to be equal to the occasion. If the
footing became too uncertain, he would stop stock still and pound the
water with one foot, then reach out carefully until he could find secure
footing, and finally move up a step or two. The water of the river is so
charged with sediment that the bottom cannot be seen; hence the
necessity of feeling the way. I soon learned that my pony could be
trusted on the fords better than I. Thereafter I held only a supporting,
not a guiding, rein and he carried me safely over all the crossings on
my way out.

Allan Porter lived near the first crossing. As he was the last settler I
should see and his the last place where I could get feed for my pony,
other than grass or browse, I put up for the night under his roof.

He said I was going on a "Tom Fool's errand," for my folks could take
care of themselves, and he tried to dissuade me from proceeding on my
journey. But I would not be turned back. The following morning I cut
loose from the settlements and plunged into the deep forest of the

The road, if it could be called a road, lay in the narrow valley of
White River or on the mountains adjacent. In some places, as at Mud
Mountain, it reached more than a thousand feet above the river bed.
There were stretches where the forest was so dense that one could
scarcely see to read at midday, while elsewhere large burned areas gave
an opening for daylight.

During the forenoon of this day, in one of those deepest of deep
forests, Bobby stopped short, his ears pricked up. Just then I caught an
indistinct sight of a movement ahead, and thought I heard voices; the
pony made an effort to turn and bolt in the opposite direction. Soon
there appeared three women and eight children on foot, coming down the
road in complete ignorance of the presence of any one but themselves in
the forest.

"Why, stranger! Where on earth did you come from? Where are you going,
and what are you here for?" asked the foremost woman of the party.

Mutual explanations followed. I learned that their teams had become
exhausted and all the wagons but one had been abandoned, and that this
one was on the road a few miles behind. They were entirely out of
provisions and had had nothing to eat for twenty hours except what
natural food they had gathered, and that was not much. They eagerly
inquired the distance to food, which I thought they might possibly reach
that night. Meanwhile I had opened my sack of hard bread and had given
each a cracker, at the eating of which the sound resembled pigs cracking
dry, hard corn.

Neither they nor I had time to parley long. The women with their
children, barefoot and ragged, bareheaded and unkempt, started down the
mountain, intent on reaching food, while I went up the road wondering
how often this scene was to be repeated as I advanced on my journey.

[Illustration: _Edward S. Curtis_

White River in the upper reaches is a roaring torrent.]

A dozen biscuits of bread is usually a very small matter, but with me it
might mean a great deal. How far should I have to go? When could I find
out? What would be the plight of my people when found? Or should I find
them at all? Might they not pass by and be on the way down the Columbia
River before I could reach the main immigrant trail? These and kindred
questions weighed on my mind as I slowly ascended the mountain.



[8] By and by I will return.

[Illustration: The boy led his mother across the log.]



THE Natchess Pass Trail, along which I must make my way, had been blazed
by a party of intrepid pioneers during the summer of 1853. Fifteen
thousand dollars had been appropriated by Congress to be expended for a
military road through the pass. I saw some of the work, but do not
remember seeing any of the men who were improving the road.

I stuck close to the old trail, making my first camp alone, just west of
the summit. I had reached an altitude where the night chill was keenly
felt, and with only my light blanket missed the friendly contact of the
faithful ox that had served me so well on the Plains. My pony had
nothing but browse for supper, and he was restless. Nevertheless I slept
soundly and was up early, refreshed and ready to resume the journey.

Such a road as I found is difficult to imagine. How the pioneer
trail-blazers had made their way through it is a marvel. It seemed
incredible that forests so tall and so dense could have existed
anywhere on earth. Curiously enough, the heavier the standing timber,
the easier it had been to slip through with wagons, there being but
little undecayed timber or down timber. In the ancient days, however,
great giants had been uprooted, lifting considerable earth with the
upturned roots. As time went on the roots decayed, making mounds two,
three, or four feet high and leaving a corresponding hollow into which
one would plunge; for the whole was covered by a dense, short evergreen
growth that completely hid from view the unevenness of the ground. Over
these hillocks and hollows and over great roots on top of the ground,
they had rolled their wagons.

All sorts of devices had been tried to overcome obstructions. In many
places, where the roots were not too large, cuts had been taken out. In
other places the large timber had been bridged by piling up smaller
logs, rotten chunks, brush, or earth, so that the wheels of the wagon
could be rolled over the body of the tree. Usually three notches would
be cut on the top of the log, two for the wheels and one for the reach,
or coupling pole, to pass through.

In such places the oxen would be taken to the opposite side, and a chain
or rope would be run to the end of the wagon tongue. One man drove, one
or two guided the tongue, others helped at the wheels. In this way, with
infinite labor and great care, the wagons would gradually be worked over
all obstacles and down the mountain in the direction of the settlements.

But the more numerous the difficulties, the more determined I became to
push through at all hazards, for the greater was the necessity of
acquainting myself with the obstacles to be encountered and of reaching
my friends to encourage and help them.

[Illustration: _Edward S. Curtis_

In the heart of a Cascade forest.]

Before me lay the summit of the great range, the pass, at five thousand
feet above sea level. At this summit, about twenty miles north of Mt.
Rainier in the Cascade range, is a small stretch of picturesque open
country known as Summit Prairie, in the Natchess Pass.

In this prairie, during the autumn of 1853, a camp of immigrants had
encountered grave difficulties. A short way out from the camp, a steep
mountain declivity lay squarely across their track. One of the women of
the party exclaimed, when she first saw it, "Have we come to the
jumping-off place at last?" It was no exclamation for effect, but a
fervent prayer for deliverance. They could not go back; they must either
go ahead or starve in the mountains.

Stout hearts in the party were not to be deterred from making the effort
to proceed. Go around this hill they could not. Go down it with logs
trailed to the wagons, as they had done at other places, they dared not,
for the hill was so steep the logs would go end over end and would be a
danger instead of a help. The rope they had was run down the hill and
turned out to be too short to reach the bottom.

James Biles, one of the leaders, commanded, "Kill a steer." They killed
a steer, cut his hide into strips, and spliced the strips to the rope.
It was found to be still too short to reach to the bottom.

The order went out: "Kill two more steers!" And two more steers were
killed, their hides cut into strips and the strips spliced to the rope,
which then reached to the bottom of the hill.

By the aid of that rope and the strips of the hides of those three
steers, twenty-nine wagons were lowered down the mountain side to the
bottom of the steep hill. Only one broke away; it crashed down the
mountain and was smashed into splinters.

The feat of bringing that train of wagons in, with the loss of only one
out of twenty-nine, is the greatest I ever knew or heard of in the way
of pioneer travel.

[Illustration: By the aid of one short rope and the strips of the hides
of three steers, twenty-nine wagons were lowered down the mountain

Nor were the trials ended when the wagons had been brought down to the
bottom of that hill. With snail-like movements, the cattle and men
becoming weaker and weaker, the train crept along, making less progress
each day, until finally it seemed that the oxen could do no more. It
became necessary to send them forward on the trail ten miles, to a place
where it was known that plenty of grass could be had. Meanwhile the work
on the road continued until the third day, when the last particle of
food was gone. Then the teams were brought back, the trip over the whole
ten miles was made, and Connell's Prairie was reached at dark.

In the struggle over that ten miles the women and children had largely
to take care of themselves while the men tugged at the wagons. One
mother and her children, a ten-year old boy, a child of four years, and
a babe of eight months, in some way were passed by the wagons. These
four were left on the right bank of the river when the others had

A large fallen tree reached across the river, but the top on the farther
side lay so close to the water that a constant trembling and swaying
made it a dangerous bridge to cross on. None of the four had eaten
anything since the day before, and but a scant supply then; but the boy
resolutely shouldered the four-year-old child and deposited him safely
on the other side. Then came the little tot, the baby, to be carried
across in his arms. Last came the mother.

"I can't go!" she exclaimed. "It makes me so dizzy!"

"Put one hand over your eyes, mother, and take hold of me with the
other," said the boy. They began to move out sidewise on the log, half a
step at a time.

"Hold steady, mother; we are nearly over."

"Oh, I am gone!" she cried, as she lost her balance and fell into the
river. Happily, they were so near the farther bank that the little boy
was able to catch with one hand a branch that hung over the bank while
he held on to his mother with the other hand, and so she was saved.

It was then nearly dark, and without knowing how far it was to camp, the
little party started on the road, tarrying on the bank of the river only
long enough for the mother to wring the water out of her skirts. The boy
carried the baby, while the four-year-old child walked beside his
mother. After nearly two miles of travel and the ascent of a very steep
hill, they caught the glimmer of camp lights; the mother fell senseless,
utterly prostrated.

The boy hurried his two little brothers into camp, calling for help to
rescue his mother. The appeal was promptly responded to; she was carried
into camp and tenderly cared for until she revived.

There were one hundred and twenty-eight people in that train. Among
them, as a boy, was George Himes, who for many years has been Secretary
of the Oregon Historical Society. To him we are indebted for most of
this story of pioneer heroism.

[Illustration: Bobby and I went up the mountain in a zig-zag course.]



UP through the Natchess Pass Bobby and I took our lonely way, to reach
and bring over this same difficult trail the party in which were my
parents and my brothers and sisters.

From the first chill night, following the sweat due to the climb of the
day before, my muscles were a bit stiffened; but I was ready for the
climb to the summit. Bobby was of a different mind. As I have said, he
had been restless during the night. I had just strapped the roll of
blankets and hard bread securely behind the saddle, when he suddenly
turned his face homeward and trotted off gaily, down the mountain.

I could do nothing but follow him. The narrow cut of the road and
impenetrable obstructions on either side prevented my heading off his
rascally maneuvers. Finally, on finding a nip of grass by the roadside,
he slackened his gait, and after several futile attempts I managed to
get a firm hold of his tail. After this we went down the mountain
together, much more rapidly than we had come up the evening before.

Bobby forgot to use his heels, else he might for a longer time have been
master of the situation. The fact was he did not want to hurt me, but
was determined to go no farther into mountains where he could not get a
supper. The contest was finally settled in my favor when I managed to
catch hold of the rein. Did I chastise him? Not a bit. I did not blame
him; we were partners, but it was a one-sided partnership, as he had no
interest in the enterprise other than to get enough to eat as we went
along, and when he saw no prospect of food, he rebelled.

We were soon past our camping ground of the night before, and on our way
up the mountain. Bobby would not be led; if I tried to lead him, he
would hold back for a while, then, making a rush up the steep ascent, he
would be on my heels or toes before I could get out of the way. I would
seize his tail with a firm grasp and follow. When he moved rapidly, I
was helped up the mountain. When he slackened his pace, then came the
resting spell. The engineering instinct of the horse tells him how to
reduce grades by angles, and Bobby led me up the mountains in zig-zag
courses, I following always with the firm grasp of the tail that meant
we would not part company, and we did not.

By noon we had surmounted all obstacles and stood upon the summit
prairie--one of them, for there are several. Here Bobby feasted to his
heart's content, while for me it was the same old story--hardtack and
cheese, with a small allotment of dried venison.

To the south, apparently but a few miles distant, the old mountain,
Rainier, loomed up into the clouds fully ten thousand feet higher than
where I stood, a grand scene to behold, worthy of all the effort
expended to reach this point. But I was not attuned to view with
ecstasy the grandeur of what lay before me; rather I scanned the horizon
to ascertain, if I could, what the morrow might bring forth.

This mountain served the pioneer as a huge barometer to forecast the
weather. "How is the mountain this morning?" the farmer asked in harvest
time. "Has the mountain got his nightcap on?" the housewife inquired
before her wash was hung on the line. The Indian would watch the
mountain with intent to determine whether he might expect _snass_
(rain), or _kull snass_ (hail), or _t'kope snass_ (snow), and seldom
failed in his conclusions. So that day I scanned the mountain top,
partially hid in the clouds, with forebodings verified at nightfall.

A light snow came on just before night, which, with the high mountains
on either side of the river, spread darkness rapidly. I was loath to
camp. If I could safely have found my way, I would have traveled all
night. The trail in places was very indistinct and the canyon was but a
few hundred yards wide, with the tortuous river striking first one bluff
and then the other, making numerous crossings necessary.

Finally I saw that I must camp. I crossed the river to an opening where
the bear tracks were so thick that the spot seemed a playground for all
these animals roundabout. The black bears on the western slope were
timid and not dangerous; but I did not know about this species of the
eastern slope.

I found two good-sized trees that had fallen obliquely across each
other. With my pony tethered as a sentinel, and my fire as an advance
post, I went to bed, nearly supperless. I felt lonesome; but I kept my
fire burning all night, and I slept soundly.

Early next morning found Bobby and me on the trail. We were a little
chilled by the cold mountain air and very willing to travel. Towards
nightfall I heard the welcome tinkling of a bell, and soon saw first the
smoke of camp fires, and then a village of tents and grime-covered
wagons. How I tugged at Bobby's halter to make him go faster and then
mounted him, without getting much more speed, can better be imagined
than told.

[Illustration: A night camp in the mountains with a fire to keep off the

Could it be the camp I was searching for? It had about the number of
wagons and tents that I expected to meet. No; I was doomed to
disappointment. Yet I rejoiced to find some one to camp with and talk to
other than the pony.

The greeting given me by those tired and almost discouraged travelers
could not have been more cordial had they been my relatives. They had
been toiling for nearly five months on the road across the Plains, and
now there loomed up before them this great mountain range to cross.
Could they do it? If they could not get over with their wagons, could
they get the women and children through safely? I was able to lift a
load of doubt and fear from their jaded minds.

Before I knew what was happening, I caught the fragrance of boiling
coffee and fresh meat cooking. The good matrons knew without telling
that I was hungry and had set to work to prepare me a meal, a sumptuous
meal at that, taking into account the whetted appetite incident to a
diet of hard bread straight, and not much of that either, for two days.

We had met on the Yakima River, at the place where the old trail crosses
that river near the site of the present flourishing city of North

[Illustration: Mountain wolves.]

In this party were some of the people who next year lost their lives in
the White River massacre. They were Harvey H. Jones, his wife, and three
children, and George E. King, his wife, and one child. One of the little
boys of the camp, John I. King, lived to write a graphic account of the
tragedy in which his mother and stepfather and their neighbors lost
their lives. Another boy, a five-year-old child, was taken off, and
after being held captive for nearly four months was then safely
delivered over by the Indians to the military authorities at Fort

I never think of those people but with sadness. Their struggle,
doubtless the supreme effort of their lives, was only to go to their
death. I had pointed out to them where to go to get good claims, and
they had lost no time, but had gone straight to the locality recommended
and had set immediately to work preparing shelter for the winter.

"Are you going out on those plains alone?" Mrs. Jones asked me

When I told her that I would have the pony with me, she insisted, "Well,
I don't think it is safe."

Mr. Jones explained that his wife was thinking of the danger from the
ravenous wolves that infested the open country. The party had lost
weakened stock from their forages right close to the camp. He advised me
not to camp near the watering places, but to go up on the high ridge. I
followed his advice with the result, as we shall see, of missing my road
and losing considerable time, which meant not a little trouble and

[Illustration: To dig under was the only way to pass the obstruction.]



ON leaving my newly found friends I faced a discouraging prospect. The
start for the high, arid table-lands bordering the Yakima valley cut me
loose from all communication. No more immigrants were met until I
reached the main-traveled route beyond the Columbia River.

The road lay through a forbidding sage plain, or rather an undulating
country, covered by shifting sands and dead grass of comparatively scant
growth. As the sun rose, the heat became intolerable. The dust, in
places, brought vivid memories of the trip across the Plains.

Strive against it as I might, my eyes would strain at the horizon to
catch a glimpse of the expected train. Then an intolerable thirst seized
upon me and compelled me to leave the road and descend into the valley
for water.

I dared not linger off the trail and take chances of missing the
expected train. So I went through another stretch of travel, of heat,
and of thirst, that lasted until during the afternoon, when I found
water on the trail. Tethering my pony for his much-needed dinner, I
opened my sack of hard bread to count the contents; my store was half
gone. I lay down in the shade of a small tree near the spring to take an
afternoon nap. Rousing before sundown, refreshed, Bobby and I took the
trail with new courage.

When night came, I could not find it in my heart to camp. The cool of
the evening invigorated the pony, and we pushed on. Finding that the
road could be followed, though but dimly seen, I kept on the trail until
a late hour, when I unsaddled and hobbled the pony. The saddle blanket
was brought into use, and I was soon off in dreamland forgetting all
about the dust, the trail, or the morrow.

In the morning I awoke to find that the pony had wandered far off on the
hillside, so far, in fact, that it required close scanning to discover
him. To make matters worse, his hobbles had become loosened, giving him
free use of all his feet, and he was in no mood to take the trail again.
Coaxing was of no avail, driving would do no good. Taking an opportunity
to seize his tail, I followed him around about over the plain and
through the sage brush at a rapid gait; finally he slackened pace and I
again became master.

[Illustration: Hobbling the pony.]

For the life of me I could not be sure of the direction of the trail
after all this roaming over the plain at Bobby's heels, but I happened
to take the right course. When the trail was found, there was the saddle
to look for, and this was located with some difficulty.

The sun was high when we started on our journey. A few hundred yards of
travel brought uneasiness, as it was evident that we were not on the
regular trail. Not knowing but this was some cut-off, I went on until
the Columbia River bluff was reached and the great river was in sight,
half a mile distant and several hundred feet lower. Taking a trail down
the bluff that seemed more promising than the wagon tracks, I began to
search for the road at the foot of the bluff, only to find every
semblance of a road gone. I lost more than a half-day's precious time,
and again was thrown into anxiety lest I had missed the long-sought

The next incident that I remember vividly was my attempt to cross the
Columbia, just below the mouth of the Snake River. I had seen but few
Indians on the whole trip and, in fact, the camp I found there on the
bank of the great river was the first I distinctly remember coming upon.
I could not induce the Indians to cross me over; they seemed surly and
unfriendly. Their behavior was so in contrast to that of the Indians on
the Sound that I could not help wondering what it meant. No one, to my
knowledge, lost his life at the hands of the Indians that season, but
the next summer all or nearly all the travelers who ventured into that
country unprotected were murdered.

That night I camped late, opposite Wallula (old Fort Walla Walla), in a
sand storm of great fury. I tethered my pony this time, and rolled
myself up in the blanket, only to find myself fairly buried in the
drifting sand in the morning. It required a great effort to creep out of
the blanket, and an even greater effort to free the blanket from the
accumulated sand. By this time the wind had gone down and comparative
calm prevailed.

[Illustration: I spent two hours calling across the river at the top of
my voice.]

Then came the attempt to make myself heard across the wide river by the
people of the fort. I traveled up and down the river bank for half a
mile or so, in the hope of catching a favorable breeze to carry my voice
to the fort, yet all to no avail. I sat upon the bank hopelessly
discouraged, not knowing what to do. I must have been two hours
hallooing at the top of my voice, until I was hoarse from the violent

Finally, while sitting there wondering what to do, I spied a blue smoke
arising from a cabin on the other side. Soon after I saw a man; he
immediately responded to my renewed efforts to attract attention. The
trouble had been that the people were all asleep, while I was there in
the early morning expending my breath for nothing.

The man was Shirley Ensign, of Olympia, who had established a ferry
across the Columbia River and had lingered to set over belated
immigrants, if any should come along. He came across the river and gave
me glad tidings. He had been out on the trail fifty miles or more and
had met my people. They were camped some thirty miles away, he thought,
and they would reach the ferry on the following day.

But I could not wait there for them. Procuring a fresh horse, I started
out in a cheerful mood, determined to reach camp that night if I could
possibly do so. Sundown came, and there were no signs of camp. Dusk came
on, and still no signs. Then I spied some cattle grazing on the upland,
and soon came upon the camp in a ravine that had shut it from view.

Rejoicing and outbursts of grief followed. I inquired for my mother the
first thing. She was not there. Months before she had been buried in the
sands of the Platte valley. My younger brother also lay buried on the
Plains, near Independence Rock. The scene that followed is of too sacred
memory to write about.

When we came to consider how the party should proceed, I advised the
over-mountain trip. But I cautioned them to expect some snow and much
hard work.

"How long will it take?" they asked.

"About three weeks."

This brought disappointment; they had thought they were about through
with the journey.

"You came to stay with us, didn't you?"

"I want to; but what about my wife and the two babies, at the island?"

Father said some one must go and look after them. So Oliver was sent
ahead, while I was to take his place and help the immigrants through the
Natchess Pass.

In our train were fifty or more head of stock, seven wagons, and
seventeen people. We made the trip across the divide in twenty-two days
without serious mishap or loss. This was good time, considering the
difficulties that beset our way at every step. Every man literally "put
his shoulder to the wheel." We were compelled often to take hold of the
wheels to boost the wagons over the logs or to ease them down steep
places. Our force was divided into three groups,--one man to each wagon
to drive; four to act as wheelmen; father and the women, on foot or
horseback, to drive the stock. God bless the women folks of the Plains!
Nobler, braver, more uncomplaining souls were never known. I have often
thought that some one ought to write a just tribute to their valor and
patience, a book of their heroic deeds.

One day we encountered a newly fallen tree, cocked up on its own
upturned roots, four feet from the ground. Go around it we could not; to
cut it out with our dulled, flimsy saw seemed an endless task.

"Dig down, boys," said father, and in short order every available shovel
was out of the wagons. Very soon the way was open fully four feet deep,
and oxen and wagons passed under the obstruction.

Do you say that we endured great hardships? That depends upon the point
of view. As to this return trip, I can truly say for myself that it was
not one of hardship. I enjoyed overcoming the difficulties, and so did
the greater number of the company. Many of them, it is true, were
weakened by the long trip across the Plains; but better food was
obtainable, and the goal was near at hand. It was a positive pleasure,
therefore, to pass over the miles, one by one, assured that final
success was a matter of only a very short time.

When our little train at last emerged from the forests and came out
into the Nisqually plains, it was almost as if we had come into a
noonday sun from a dungeon, so marked was the contrast. Hundreds of
cattle, sheep, and horses were quietly grazing, scattered over the
landscape as far as one could see. The spirits of the tired party rose
as they looked upon this scene, indicating a contentment and prosperity
in which they might participate if they so desired.

Our cabin, eighteen feet square, could not hold all the visitors.
However, it was an easy matter to set up the three tents they had
brought with them, and for several days we held a true reunion. Great
was the feasting, with clam bakes, huckleberry pies and puddings,
venison for meat, and fresh vegetables from our garden, at which the
newcomers could not cease from marveling. The row of sweet peas that my
wife had planted near the cabin helped to put heart into those
travel-weary pioneers; where flowers could be planted, a home could be

For a short time the little party halted to take breath and to look over
the new country. This rest, however, could not last long. Preparations
must be made without delay for shelter from the coming storms of winter;
the stock must be cared for, and other beginnings made for a new life of

After surveying the situation, father said the island home would not do.
He had come two thousand miles to live neighbors; I must give up my
claim and take up another near his, on the mainland. Abandoning the
results of more than a year's hard work, I acted upon his request, and
across the bay we built our third cabin.

[Illustration: The night ride to the fort.]



ONE of the saddest chapters in the early history of Washington Territory
was the trouble with the Indians, which led finally to open war.

On October 28, 1855, word came that all the settlers living on White
River had been killed by the Indians and that the next day those in the
Puyallup valley would be massacred. At the risk of his life a friendly
Indian brought this news to us in the dead hours of the night.

The massacre had occurred less than twenty miles from where we lived.
For all we knew the Indians might be on us at any moment. There were
three men of us, and each had a gun.

The first thing we did was to harness and hitch the team to the wagon.
Then we opened the gates to let the calves get to their mothers, turned
the pigs loose, and opened the chicken-house door--all this without
light. Then the drive for our lives began, the women and babies lying
close to the bottom of the wagon, the men with guns ready for action.

We reached Fort Steilacoom unmolested. But we could not in safety stop
there. The place was really no fort at all, only an encampment, and it
was already filled with refugees from the surrounding settlements. So we
pushed on into the town and stayed there until a blockhouse was built.

This building was about fifty feet wide and nearly a hundred feet long.
It was bullet-proof, without windows, and two stories high. A heavy door
swung at the front entrance to the lower story, while an inclined walk
from higher ground in the rear enabled us to reach the upper story;
inside, a ladder served the purpose of a stairway between the two

The blockhouse proved a haven of safety during the Indian trouble, not
only to our own family but to many of our neighbors besides.
Seventy-five such houses were built during these troublous times.
Numbers of settlers did not go back to their homes for several years.

The Indians finally came in force just across the Sound and defied the
troops. They also prevented the soldiers from landing from the steamer
sent against them. A few days later we heard the guns from Fort
Nisqually, which, however, I have always thought was a false alarm. It
was when a captive child was brought in that we began to feel the
gravity of the situation.

Yet many of our fears turned out to be baseless. For instance, one day
Johnny Boatman, a little boy not quite four years old, was lost. His
mother was almost crazed, for word went out that the Indians had stolen
him. A day later the lad was found under a tree, asleep. He had simply
wandered away.

A perplexing feature of the whole affair came from the fact that there
were two warring camps among the forces of both the Indians and the
whites. Some of the Indians were friendly; we had ample proof of that
fact. Some of the whites were against the harsh measures taken by those
in charge. This dissension led to much unnecessary trouble and

[Illustration: The blockhouse, a haven of safety.]

The war was brought on by the fact that the Indians had been wronged.
This seems certain. They had been robbed of their lands, by the treaties
made in 1854, and there had been atrocious murders of Indians by
irresponsible white men. The result was suffering and trouble for all of

The war brought troops, many of whom were reckless men; the army then
was not up to the standard of today. Besides, there came in the wake of
the soldiers a trail of gamblers and other disreputable people to vex
and perplex us. In the blockhouses could be seen bullet marks which we
knew did not come from Indians.

I remember a little drummer boy, known as Scotty, who used frequently to
come over to our home. He was a bright little fellow, and the Colonel,
finding it was agreeable to us, encouraged him to make these visits,
perhaps to get him away a little from the rough life of the post. Scotty
had been living with a soldier there who, as report had it, used to get
drunk and beat his wife. When my wife asked Scotty one day if the
soldier abused his wife, he replied, "Well, I can't say exactly that he
abuses her. He only cuffs and kicks her around the house sometimes."
Poor boy! he had seen so much rough living that he didn't know what
abuse meant.

Not all the soldiers were of this drunken cast, of course. Many brave
and noble men were among the military forces. The Indians, naturally,
did not discriminate between good and bad soldiers. They hated and
fought the troops, while at the same time they would often protect the
pioneers, with whom they had been generally friendly.

I had lived in peace with these Indians and they had gained my
confidence. As events subsequently showed, I held their friendship and
confidence. At one time, during the war, a party of Indians held me
harmless within their power. They had said they would not harm those who
had advocated their cause at the time the treaties were made.

[Illustration: The lost child.]

Soon after the outbreak noted, I disregarded the earnest entreaties of
many persons and went back to my stock and to the cabin to care for the
abandoned dairy and young cattle.

I did not believe the Indians would molest me, but took the precaution
of having my rifle in a convenient place. I did not need to use it. When
nightfall came I did withdraw from my cabin, not from fear of war
parties, but of individual outlaws.

The sole military experience of my life consisted in an expedition to
the Puyallup valley with a company of seventeen settlers soon after the
outbreak described. The settlers of Puyallup had left their homes the
day after the massacre in such haste that they were almost destitute of
clothing, bedding, and food, as well as shelter. A strong military force
had penetrated the Indian country--the upper Puyallup valley and beyond.
We knew of this, but did not know that the soldiers had retreated by
another road, virtually driven out, the very day we went in armed with
all sorts of guns and with scarcely any organization.

We had gone into the Indian stronghold not to fight Indians, but to
recover property. Nevertheless, there would have been hot work if we had
been attacked. The settlers knew the country as well as did the Indians
and were prepared to meet them on their own ground and in their own way.

The Indians were in great force but a few miles distant. They had scouts
on our tracks, but did not molest us. We visited every settler's cabin
and secured the belongings not destroyed. On the sixth day we came away
with great loads of "plunder." All the while we were in blissful
ignorance that the troops had been withdrawn, and that no protection lay
between us and the Indian forces.

After this outbreak, Indians and settlers about our neighborhood lived
in peace, on the whole. To anyone who treated them fairly, the Indians
became loyal friends.

Mowich Man, an Indian whom I was to know during many years, was one of
our neighbors. He frequently passed our cabin with his canoe and
people. He was a great hunter, a crack shot, and an all-round Indian of
good parts. Many is the saddle of venison that he brought me in the
course of years. Other pioneers likewise had special friends among the

Some of Mowich Man's people were fine singers. His camp, or his canoe if
he was traveling, was always the center for song and merriment. It is a
curious fact that one seldom can get the Indian music by asking for it,
but rather must wait for its spontaneous outburst. Indian songs in those
days came from nearly every nook and corner and seemed to pervade the
whole country. We often could hear the songs and accompanying stroke of
the paddle long before we saw the floating canoes.

[Illustration: Carrying a dairy to the new mining town.]



HARDLY had we got fairly over the Indian War when another wave of
excitement broke up our pioneer plans again. On March 21, 1858, the
schooner _Wild Pigeon_ arrived at Steilacoom with the news that the
Indians had discovered gold on Fraser River, that they had traded
several pounds of the precious metal with the Hudson's Bay Company, and
that three hundred people had left Victoria and its vicinity for the new
land of El Dorado. Furthermore, the report ran, the mines were
exceedingly rich.

The wave of excitement that went through the little settlement upon the
receipt of this news was repeated in every town and hamlet of the whole
Pacific Coast. It continued even around the world, summoning adventurous
spirits from all civilized countries of the earth.

Everybody, women folk and all, wanted to go, and would have started pell
mell had there not been that restraining influence of the second
thought, especially powerful with people who had just gone through the
mill of adversity. My family was still in the blockhouse that we had
built in the town of Steilacoom during the Indian War. Our cattle were
peacefully grazing on the plains a few miles away.

One of the local merchants, Samuel McCaw, bundled up a few goods, made a
flying trip up Fraser River, and came back with fifty ounces of gold
dust and the news that the mines were all that had been reported and
more, too. This of course, added fuel to the flame. We all believed a
new era had dawned upon us, similar to that of ten years before in
California, which changed the world's history. High hopes were built,
most of them to end in disappointment.

Not but that there were extensive mines, and that they were rich, and
that they were easily worked; how to get to them was the puzzling
question. The early voyagers had slipped up the Fraser before the
freshets came down from the melting snows to swell the torrents of that
river. Those going later either failed altogether and gave up the
unequal contest, or lost an average of one canoe or boat out of three in
the persistent attempt. How many lives were lost never will be known.

Contingents began to arrive in Steilacoom from Oregon, from California,
and finally from "the States." Steamers great and small began to appear,
with little cargo but with passenger lists that were said to be nothing
compared to those of ships coming in less than a hundred miles to the
north of us. These people landing in Whatcom in such great numbers must
be fed, we agreed. If the multitude would not come to us to drink the
milk of our cows and eat their butter, what better could we do than to
take our cows to the place where we were told the multitude did not
hesitate to pay a dollar a gallon for milk and any price one might ask
for fresh butter!

But how to get even to Whatcom was the rub. All space on the steamers
was taken from week to week for freight and passengers, and no room was
left for cattle. In fact, the run on provisions for the gold rush was so
great that at one time we were almost threatened with famine. Finally
our cattle, mostly cows, were loaded in an open scow and taken in tow
alongside the steamer, the _Sea Bird_, I think it was.

[Illustration: A "shaker" used to wash out gold.]

All went well enough until we arrived off the head of Whidby Island.
Here a choppy sea from a light wind began slopping over the scow and
evidently would sink us despite our utmost efforts at bailing. When the
captain would slow down the speed of his steamer, all was well; but the
moment greater power was applied, over the gunwales would come the

The dialogue that ensued between the captain and me was more emphatic
than elegant. He dared not risk letting go of us, however, or of running
us under, for fear of incurring the risk of heavy damages. I would not
consent to be landed. So about the twentieth of June we were set adrift
in Bellingham Bay and, tired and sleepy, landed on the beach.

Our cows must have feed, they must be milked, the milk must be marketed.
There was no rest for us during another thirty-six hours. In fact, there
was but little sleep for anybody on that beach at the time. Several
ocean steamers had just dumped three thousand people on the beach, and
there was still a scramble to find a place to build a house or stretch
a tent, or even to spread a blanket, for there were great numbers
already there, landed by previous steamers. The staking of lots on the
tide flats at night, when the tide was out, seemed to be a staple

A few days after my arrival four steamers came with an aggregate of more
than two thousand passengers. Many of these, however, did not leave the
steamer; they took passage either to their port of departure--San
Francisco or Victoria--or to points on the Sound. The ebb tide had set
in, and although many steamers came later and landed passengers, their
return lists soon became large and the population began to diminish.

Taking my little dory that we had with us on the scow, I rowed to the
largest steamer lying at anchor. So many small boats surrounded the
steamer that I could not get within a hundred feet of it. All sorts of
craft filled the intervening space, from the smallest Indian canoe to
large barges, the owner of each craft striving to secure customers.

The great difficulty was to find a trail to the gold fields. This pass
and that pass was tried without success. I saw sixty men with heavy
packs on their backs start out in one company. Every one of these had to
come back after floundering in the mountains for weeks. The Indians,
among whom the spirit of war still smouldered, headed off some of the
parties. The snows kept back others; and finally the British, watching
their own interests, blocked the way through their land. As a result the
boom burst, and people resought their old homes.

It is doubtful if another stampede of such dimensions as that to the
Fraser in 1858 ever occurred where the suffering was so great, the
prizes so few, and the loss of life proportionately so great. Probably
not one in ten that made the effort reached the mines, and of those who
did the usual percentage drew the blanks inevitable in such stampedes.
And yet the mines were immensely rich; many millions of dollars of gold
came from the find in the lapse of years, and gold is still coming,
though now more than sixty years have passed.

While the losses of the people of the Puget Sound country were great,
nevertheless good came out of the great stampede in the large accession
of population that remained after the return tide was over. Many people
had become stranded and could not leave the country, but went to work
with a will to make a living there. Of these not a few are still honored
citizens of the state that has been carved out of the territory of that


[Illustration: Carrie sees "a big cat" sharpening its claws.]



THE days that followed our venture in the gold field were more peaceful
and prosperous. Soon after the Indian War we had moved to a new claim.
We began now to realize to the full our dream of earlier days, to settle
on a farm and build a home.

Three neighbors were all we had, and the nearest lived nearly two miles
away. Two of them kept bachelor's hall. The thick, high timber made it
impossible for us to see any of our neighbors' houses. We could reach
only one by a road; to the others we might go by a trail. Under such
conditions we could not have a public school. This, however, did not
keep us from having a school of our own.

One day one of our farther-off neighbors, who lived more than four miles
away, came to visit us. Naturally the children flocked around him to
hear his stories in broad Scotch and to ply him with questions. In his
turn, he began to ask them questions. One of these was, "When do you
expect to go to school?"

"Oh, we have school now," responded the children. "We have school every

"And pray, who is your teacher, and where is your schoolhouse?"

"Father teaches us at home every morning before breakfast. He hears the
lessons then, and mother helps us too."

"Your father told me a while ago that you had your breakfast at six
o'clock. What time do you get up?"

"Why, father sets the clock for half-past four, and that gives us an
hour while mother gets breakfast, you know."

Boys and girls of today may pity those poor pioneer children who had to
get up so early. They may as well dismiss such feelings from their
hearts. The children were cheerful and healthy; they did some work
during the day in addition to studying their lessons; and besides they
went to bed earlier than some boys and girls do these days.

In January 1861 the wreck of the steamer _Northerner_ brought great
sorrow to us, for my brother Oliver was among those lost. The ship
struck on an uncharted rock.

During the stay at Steilacoom in the time of the Indian troubles, we had
begun a trading venture, in a small way. The venture having proved
successful, we invested all our savings in a new stock of merchandise,
and this stock, not all paid for, went down with the ship. Again we must
start in life, and we moved to a new location, a homestead in the
Puyallup valley. Here we lived and farmed for forty-one years, seeing
the town of Puyallup grow up on and around the homestead.

In the Puyallup valley there were more neighbors--two families to the
square mile. Yet no neighbors were in sight, because the timber and
underbrush were so thick we could scarcely see two rods from the edge of
our clearing. But the neighbors were near enough for us to provide a
public school and build a schoolhouse.

Some of the neighbors took their axes to cut the logs, some their oxen
to drag them, others their saws and cleaving tools to make clapboards
for the roof. Others again, more handy with tools, made the benches out
of split logs, or, as we called them, puncheons. With willing hands to
help, the schoolhouse soon received the finishing touches.

The side walls were scarcely high enough for the doorway, so one was cut
in the end. The door hung on wooden hinges, which squeaked a good deal
when the door was opened or shut; but the children did not mind that.
The roof answered well enough for the ceiling overhead, and a cut in one
of the logs on each side made two long, narrow windows for light. The
children sat with their faces to the walls, with long shelves in front
of them, while the smaller tots sat on low benches near the middle of
the room. When the weather would permit, the teacher left the door open
to admit more light. There was no need to let in more fresh air, as the
roof was quite open and the cracks between the logs let in plenty of it.

Sometimes we had a woman for teacher, and then the salary was smaller,
as she boarded around. That meant some discomfort for her during part of
the time, where the surroundings were not pleasant.

One day little Carrie, my daughter, started to go to school, but soon
came running back out of breath.

"Mamma! Mamma! I saw a great big cat sharpening his claws on a great big
tree, just the way pussy does!" she said as soon as she could catch her

Sure enough, upon examination, there were the marks of a cougar as high
up on the tree as I could reach. It must have been a big one to reach so
far up the tree. But the incident soon dropped out of mind and the
children went to school on the trail as if nothing had happened.

Afterwards I met a cougar on a lonely trail in the woods near where
Auburn now stands. I had been attempting to drive some wild cattle home,
but they were so unruly that they scattered through the timber and I was
obliged to go on without them late in the day. The forest was so dense
that it was hard to see the road even when the sun was shining; on a
cloudy day it seemed almost like night, though I could see well enough
to keep on the crooked trail.

Just before I got to Stuck River crossing I came to a turn in the trail
where it crossed the top of a big fir that had been turned up by the
roots and had fallen nearly parallel with the trail. The big roots held
the butt of the tree up from the ground. I think the tree was four feet
in diameter a hundred feet from the butt, and the whole body, from root
to top, was eighty-four steps long, or about two hundred and fifty feet.

I didn't stop to step it then. But you may be sure I took some pretty
long strides about that time; for just as I stepped over the fallen tree
near the top, I saw something move on the big body near the roots. The
thing was coming right towards me. In an instant I realized that it was
a great cougar. He was pretty, but he did not look especially pleasing
to me.

I didn't know what to do. I had no gun with me, and I knew perfectly
well there was no use to run. Was I scared, did you say? Did you ever
have creepers run up your back and right to the roots of your hair, and
nearly to the top of your head?

Did the cougar hurt me? If I had been hurt I shouldn't have been here to
tell you this story. The fun of it was that the cougar hadn't seen me
yet, but as soon as he did he scampered off as if the Old Harry himself
were after him, while I sped off down the trail as if old Beelzebub were
after me.

But no wild animals ever harmed us, and we did not die for want of
food, clothing, or shelter, although we did have some experiences that
were trying. Before the clearings were large we sometimes were pinched
for both food and clothing. I will not say we suffered much for either,
though I know that some families at times lived on potatoes, straight.
Usually fish could be had in abundance, and there was considerable
game--some bear and plenty of deer.

[Illustration: The Christmas tree with its homemade gifts.]

The clothing gave us more trouble, as but little money came to us for
the small quantity of produce we had to spare. I remember one winter
when we were at our wits' ends for shoes. We just could not get money to
buy shoes enough to go around, but we managed to get leather to make
each member of the family one pair. We killed a pig to get bristles for
the wax-ends, cut the pegs from alder log and seasoned them in the oven,
and made the lasts out of the same timber. Those shoes were clumsy, to
be sure; but they kept our feet dry and warm, and we felt thankful for
them and sorry for some neighbors' children, who had to go barefooted
even in quite cold weather. Carrie once had a pair of nice white shoes
"for best," I remember, that one of her brothers made for her, with
buckskin uppers and light tan-colored soles.

You must not think that we had no recreation and that we were a
sorrowful set. There was never a happier lot of people than these same
hard-working pioneers and their families. We had joy in our home life,
and amusements as well as labor.

Music was our greatest pleasure. We never tired of it. "Uncle John," as
every one called him, the old teacher, was constantly teaching the
children music; so it soon came about they could read their music as
readily as they could their school books.

No Christmas ever went by without a Christmas tree, at which the whole
neighborhood joined. The Fourth of July was never passed without a
celebration. We made the presents for the tree if we could not buy them,
and supplied the musicians, reader, and orator for the celebration.
Everybody had something to do and a voice in saying what should be done,
and that very fact made all happy.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

A dairy farm in Washington, where once the forest stood.]

It was sixteen miles to our market town, Steilacoom, over the roughest
kind of road. Nobody had horse teams at the start; we had to go with ox
teams. We could not make the trip out and back in one day, and we did
not have money to pay hotel bills. We managed in this way: we would
drive out part of the way and camp; the next morning we would drive into
town very early, do our trading, and if possible, drive back home the
same day. If not able to do this, we camped on the road again. But if
the night was not too dark we would reach home that night. And oh, what
an appetite we would have, and how bright the fire would be, and how
joyous the welcome in the cabin home!

The trees and stumps are all gone now and brick buildings and other good
houses occupy much of the land. As many people now live in that school
district as lived both east and west of the mountains when the Territory
was created in March of 1853. Instead of going in ox teams, or even
sleds, the people have carriages or automobiles; they can travel on any
of the eighteen passenger trains that pass daily through Puyallup, or on
street cars to Tacoma, and also on some of the twenty to twenty-four
freight trains, some of which are a third of a mile long. Such are some
of the changes wrought in fifty years since pioneer life began in the
Puyallup valley.

[Illustration: A hop field with the hops ready for picking.]



OUR youthful dream of becoming farmers was now realized in fullest
measure. The clearing was gradually enlarged, and abundant crops came to
reward our efforts. The comfort and plenty we had hoped and struggled
for was attained. Next came a development in the family fortunes that we
had not dreamed of. Never had we thought to see the Meeker family
conducting a business that would require a London office.

This unexpected prosperity came to us through the hop-growing industry,
upon which we entered with all our force. The business was well started
by the time of my father's death in 1869, and in the fifteen years
following the acreage planted to hops was increased until the crop-yield
of 1882, a yield of more than seventy-one tons, gave the Puyallup valley
the banner crop, as to quantity, of the United States--and, some
persons asserted, of the world.

The public, generally, gave me the credit of introducing hop culture
into the Northwest. Therefore it seems fitting to tell here the story of
the beginnings of an industry that came to have great importance.

In March of 1865, Charles Wood of Olympia sent about three pecks of hop
roots to Steilacoom for my father, Jacob R. Meeker, who then lived on
his claim in the Puyallup valley. John V. Meeker, my brother, passed by
my cabin when he carried the sack of roots on his back from Steilacoom
to my father's home, a distance of about twenty miles, and from the sack
I took roots enough to plant six hills of hops. As far as I know those
were the first hops planted in the Puyallup valley. My father planted
the remainder, and in the following September harvested the equivalent
of one bale of hops, 180 pounds. This was sold for eighty-five cents a
pound, or a little more than a hundred and fifty dollars for the bale.

This sum was more money than had been received by any of the settlers in
the Puyallup valley, except perhaps two, from the products of their
farms for that year. My father's near neighbors obtained a barrel of hop
roots from California the next year, and planted them the following
spring--four acres. I obtained what roots I could get that year, but not
enough to plant an acre. The following year (1867) I planted four acres,
and for twenty-six successive years thereafter we added to the area
planted, until our holdings reached past the five-hundred-acre mark and
our production was more than four hundred tons a year.

None of us knew anything about the hop business, and it was entirely by
accident that we engaged in it. But seeing that there were possibilities
of great gain, I took pains to study hop culture, and found that by
allowing our hops to mature thoroughly, curing them at a low
temperature, and baling them while hot, we could produce hops that would
compete with any product in the world. Others of my neighbors planted
them, and so did many people in Oregon, until soon there came to be a
field for purchasing and shipping hops. But the fluctuations in price
were so great that in a few years many growers became discouraged and
lost their holdings.

[Illustration: The site of the cabin home in Puyallup is now Pioneer
Park, Ezra Meeker's gift to the city that he founded. In it still stands
the ivy vine that for fifty years grew over the cabin.]

Finally, during the failure of the world's hop crop in the year 1882,
there came to be unheard-of prices for hops, and fully one third of the
crop of the Puyallup valley was sold for a dollar a pound. I had that
year nearly one hundred thousand pounds, which brought an average of
seventy cents a pound.

My first hop house was built in 1868--a log house. It still stands in
Pioneer Park in Puyallup. We frequently employed more than a thousand
people during harvest time. Many of these were Indians, some of whom
would come for a thousand miles down the coast from British Columbia
and even the confines of Alaska; they came in the great cedar-log canoes
manned with twenty paddlers or more. For the most part I managed my
Indian workers very easily. Once I had to tie up two of them to a tree
for getting drunk; their friends came and stole away the
prisoners--which was what I intended they should do.

It was in 1870, eighteen years after my arrival from across the Plains,
that I made my first return journey to the States. I had to go through
the mud to the Columbia River, then out over the bar to the Pacific
Ocean, and down to San Francisco. Then there was the seven days' journey
over the Central and Union Pacific and connecting lines; this meant
sitting bolt upright all the way, for there were no sleeping cars then,
and no diners either.

About 1882 I had come to realize that the important market for hops was
in England, and E. Meeker & Co. began sending trial shipments, first
seven bales, then the following year five hundred bales, then fifteen
hundred. Finally our annual shipments reached eleven thousand bales a
year, or the equivalent in value of half a million dollars--said at that
time to be the largest export hop business of any one concern in the
United States. At one time I had two full trainloads between the Pacific
and the Atlantic, on their way to London. I spent four winters in London
dealing in the hop market.

Little as I had thought ever to handle an international business, still
less had I thought ever to write a book. My first publication was an
eighty-page pamphlet descriptive of Washington Territory, printed in
1870. My first real book, _Hop Culture in the United States_, was
published in 1883. I mention this fact simply as one instance out of the
many that could be given of the unexpected lines of development that
life in the new land opened out to the pioneers.

The hop business could not be called a venture; it was simply a growth.
The conditions were favorable to us in that we could produce hops for
the world's market at the lowest prices. We actually pressed the English
growers so closely that more than fifteen thousand acres of hops were
destroyed in that country.

Our great prosperity was not to last. One evening in 1892, as I stepped
out of my office and cast my eyes toward one group of hop houses, it
struck me that the hop foliage of a field near by was off color--did not
look natural. One of my clerks from the office said the same thing--the
vines did not look natural. I walked down to the yards, a quarter of a
mile away, and there first saw the hop louse. The yard was literally
alive with lice, and they were destroying at least the quality of the
hops. I issued a hop circular, sending it to more than six hundred
correspondents all along the coast in California, Oregon, Washington,
and British Columbia, and before the week was out I began to receive
samples from them, and letters asking what was the matter with the hops.

It appeared that the attack of lice was simultaneous in Oregon,
Washington, and British Columbia, extending over a distance coastwise of
more than five hundred miles, and even inland up the Skagit River, where
there was an isolated yard. This plague was like a clap of thunder out
of a clear sky to us.

I sent my second son, Fred Meeker, to London to learn the English
methods of fighting the pest and to import some spraying machinery. We
found to our cost, however, in the course of time, that the English
methods did not suit our different conditions; for while we could kill
the lice, we had to use so much spraying material on the dense foliage
that, in killing them, we virtually destroyed the hops. Instead of being
able to sell our hops at the top price of the market, we saw our product
fall to the foot of the list. The last crop I raised cost me eleven
cents a pound and sold for three under the hammer at sheriff's sale.

At that time I had advanced to my neighbors and others upon their hop
crops more than a hundred thousand dollars, which was lost. These people
simply could not pay, and I forgave the debt, taking no judgments
against them, and I have never regretted the action. All my
accumulations were swept away, and I quit the business--or, rather, the
business quit me.

After a long struggle with the hop plague, nearly all the hops were
plowed up and the land in the Puyallup valley and elsewhere was used for
dairy farming, fruit growing, and general crops. It is actually of a
higher value now than when it was bearing hops.

[Illustration: _United States Forest Service_

Going up the Chilkoot Pass.]



AFTER the failure of the hop business, I was left more or less at sea
for some years. I tried various other projects--among them the raising
of sugar beets. The country, we soon found, was not adapted to this
industry. Then I tried banking, likewise with little success. Finally I
decided to strike out for the mines of Alaska. This adventure, taken
when I was nearly three score and ten years of age, was full of exciting
experiences. Indeed, it left me richer only in experience.

I had lived in the old Oregon country forty-four years and had never
seen a mine. Mining had had no attraction for me. But when my
accumulations had all been swallowed up, I decided to take a chance. In
the spring of 1898 I made my first trip over the Chilkoot Pass, went
down the Yukon river to Dawson in a flatboat, and ran the famous White
Horse Rapids with my load of vegetables for the Klondike miners.

One may read most graphic descriptions of Chilkoot Pass; but the
difficulties met by those earlier fortune-seekers who tried it were
worse than the wildest fancy can picture. I started in with fifteen tons
of freight and got through with nine. On one stretch of two thousand
feet, I paid forty dollars a ton. Some others paid even more.

The trip part of the way reminded me of the scenes on the Plains in
1852, when the people and teams crowded each other on the several
parallel trails. At the pass, most of the travel came upon one track,
and that so steep the ascent could be made only by cutting steps in the
ice and snow--fifteen hundred steps in all. Frequently every step would
be full, while crowds jostled each other at the foot of the ascent to
get into the single file, each man carrying a hundred-pound pack on his

After all sorts of trying experiences, I finally arrived in Dawson,
where I sold my fresh potatoes at thirty-six dollars a bushel and other
things at proportionate prices. In two weeks I started up the river,
homeward bound, with two hundred ounces of Klondike gold in my belt. But
four round trips in two years satisfied me that I did not want any more
of such experiences.

Once, fortunately, I was detained for a couple of days, and thereby
escaped an avalanche that buried fifty-two other people in the snow. I
passed by the morgue the second day after the catastrophe on my way to
the summit, doubtless over the bodies of many unknown dead, embedded so
deeply in the snow that it was utterly impossible to recover them.

The good ducking I received in my first passage through the White Horse
Rapids made me resolve I would not go through there again. But I did it
on the very next trip that same year, and came out of it dry. Again,
when going down the Thirty-Mile River, it did seem that we could not
escape being dashed upon the rocks. But somehow or other we got through
safely, though the bank was strewn with wrecks and the waters had
swallowed up many victims.

When the Yukon proper was reached, the current was less swift, but the
shoals were numerous. More than once we were "hung up" on the bar, each
time uncertain how we should get off. No mishap resulted, except once
when a hole was jammed into the scow, and we thought we were "goners"
for sure; but we effected a landing so quickly that we unloaded our
cargo dry.

While I now blame myself for taking such risks, I must admit that I
enjoyed it. I was sustained, no doubt, by high hopes of coming out with
my "pile." But fate or something else was against me, for mining
ventures swept all my gains away "slick as a mitten," as the old phrase
goes. I came out over the rotten ice of the Yukon in April of 1901 to
stay, and to vow I never wanted to see another mine or visit another
mining country.

In two weeks after my arrival home my wife and I celebrated our golden
wedding. There was nothing but a golden welcome home, even if I had not
returned with my pockets filled with gold.

Since I was then past my allotted three score years and ten, it
naturally seemed that my ventures were at an end. But for many of these
years I had been cherishing a dream that I felt must come true to round
out my days most satisfactorily. I longed to go back over the old Oregon
Trail and mark it for all time for the children of the pioneers who
blazed it, and for the world. How that dream was made to come true is
the story to be told in the succeeding part of this book of pioneer



[Illustration: With the development of railroad construction it was
thought that roads would go out of use except for local communication.
But since the advent of motor vehicles, transcontinental highways have
again become of great importance. For many reasons it is highly
desirable that there should be good roads clear across the continent.
Two have been proposed, and in sections meet the requirements of a great
transcontinental highway; but neither is yet completed. One is the
Oregon Highway, which follows the old Oregon Trail. This is the route
over which Ezra Meeker traveled by ox-team in 1906 and on which many
monuments have been erected to commemorate the pioneers of the 1840's
and '50's. The other is the Lincoln Highway, shown by the lighter line
on this map.]

[Illustration: Out on the trail again.]



THE ox is passing--in fact, has passed. The old-time spinning wheel and
the hand loom, the quaint old cobbler's bench with its handmade lasts
and shoe pegs, the heavy iron mush pot on the crane in the chimney
corner,--all have gone. The men and women of sixty years or more ago are
passing, too. All are laid aside for what is new in the drama of life.
While these old-time ways and scenes and actors have had their day, yet
the experiences and the lessons they taught are not lost to the world.

The difference between a civilized and an untutored people lies in the
application of experiences. The civilized man builds upon the
foundations of the past, with hope and ambition for the future. The
savage has neither past nor aspiration for the future. To keep the flame
of patriotism alive, we must keep the memory of the past vividly before

It was with these thoughts in mind that the expedition to mark the old
Oregon Trail was undertaken. There was this further thought, that on
this trail heroic men and women had fought a veritable battle--a battle
that wrested half a continent from the native race and from another
mighty nation contending for mastery in unknown regions of the West. To
mark the field of that battle for future generations was a duty waiting
for some one; I determined to be the one to fulfill it.

The journey back over the old Oregon Trail by ox team was made during my
seventy-seventh year. On January 29, 1906, I left my home in Puyallup,
Washington, and on November 29, 1907, just twenty-two months later to
the day, I reached Washington, our national capital, with my cattle and
my old prairie schooner. Not all of this time was spent in travel, of
course; a good deal of it was taken up in furthering the purpose of the
trip by arranging for the erection and dedication of monuments to mark
the Trail.

To accomplish the purpose of marking the trail would have been enough to
make the journey worth while to me, besides all the interest of
freshening my recollections of old times and reviving old memories.
There is not space in this book to dwell on all the contrasts that came
to my mind constantly,--of the uncleared forests with the farms and
orchards of today, of the unbroken prairie lands with the ranches and
farms and cities that now border the old trail from the Rockies to the
Mississippi. There is nothing like an ox-team journey, I maintain, to
make a person realize this country, realize its size, the number of its
people, and the variety of conditions in which they live and of
occupations by which they live. I wish I could share with every boy and
girl in the country the panorama view that unrolled itself before me in
this journey from tidewater to tidewater.

The ox team was chosen as a typical reminder of pioneer days. The Oregon
Trail, it must be remembered, is essentially an ox-team trail. No more
effective instrument, therefore, could have been chosen to attract
attention, arouse enthusiasm, and secure aid in forwarding the work,
than this living symbol of the old days.

Indeed, too much attention, in one sense, was attracted. I had scarcely
driven the outfit away from my own dooryard before the wagon and wagon
cover, and even the map of the old trail on the sides of the cover,
began to be defaced. First I noticed a name or two written on the wagon
bed, then a dozen or more, all stealthily placed there, until the whole
was so closely covered that there was no room for more. Finally the
vandals began carving initials on the wagon bed and cutting off pieces
to carry away. Eventually I put a stop to such vandalism by employing
special police, posting notices, and nabbing some offenders in the very

Give me Indians on the Plains to contend with; give me fleas or even the
detested sage-brush ticks to burrow into the flesh; but deliver me from
cheap notoriety seekers!

I had decided to take along one helper, and a man by the name of Herman
Goebel went as far as The Dalles with the outfit. There William Marden
joined me for the journey across the Plains. Marden stayed with me for
three years, and proved to be faithful and helpful.

And now a word as to my oxen. The first team consisted of one
seven-year-old ox, Twist, and one unbroken five-year-old range steer,
Dave. When we were ready to start, Twist weighed 1,470 pounds and Dave
1,560. This order of weight was soon changed. In three months' time
Twist gained 130 pounds and Dave lost 80. All this time I fed them with
a lavish hand all the rolled barley I dared give and all the hay they
would eat.

[Illustration: Preparing to cross a river; unyoking the oxen.]

Dave would hook and kick and perform every other mean trick. Besides, he
would stick his tongue out from the smallest kind of exertion. He had
just been shipped in off the Montana cattle range and had never had a
rope on him, unless it was when he was branded. Like a great over-grown
booby of a boy, he was flabby in flesh, and he could not endure any sort
of exertion without discomfort. At one time I became very nearly
discouraged with him.

Yet this was the ox that made the round trip. He bore his end of the
yoke from the tidewaters of the Pacific to the tidewaters of the
Atlantic, at the Battery, New York City, and on to Washington City to
meet the President. He finally became subdued, though not conquered. At
times he became threatening with his horns, and I never did trust his

[Illustration: Taking off the wagon box.]

The other ox, Twist, died suddenly on August 9, 1906, and was buried
within a few rods of the trail. It was two months to a day after his
death before I could find a mate for the Dave ox, and then I had to take
another five-year-old steer off the cattle range of Nebraska. This
steer, Dandy, evidently had never been handled; but he came of good
stock and, with the exception of awkwardness, gave me no serious
trouble. Dandy was purchased out of the stockyard at Omaha. He then
weighed 1,470 pounds, and the day before he went to see the President he
tipped the scales at the 1,760-pound notch. Dandy proved to be a
faithful, serviceable ox.

On the journey Dave had to be shod fourteen times, I think, and he
always struggled to get away. Once, on the summit of the Rocky
Mountains, we had to throw Dave and tie him hard and fast before we
could shoe him. It takes two shoes to one foot for an ox, instead of one
as for a horse, though the fastening is the same; that is, by nailing
into the hoof. At one time Dandy's hoofs became so worn that I could not
fasten a shoe on him, and so I had what we called leather boots put on,
that left a track like an elephant's; but he could not pull well with
them on.

[Illustration: Calking the wagon box to turn it into a boat.]

Besides the oxen we had a dog, Jim. More will be told of him later.

An authentic prairie schooner, a true veteran of the Plains, was out of
the question. In building the new one, use was made of parts of three
old wagons. The woodwork of the wagon had to be new throughout except
for one hub, which had done service across the Plains in 1853. This hub
and the bands, boxes, and other iron parts were from two old-time wagons
that had crossed the Plains in 1853. They differed somewhat in size and
shape; hence the hubs of the fore and hind wheels did not match.

[Illustration: Launching the schooner to cross the river.]

The axles were of wood, with the old-time linchpins and steel skeins,
which called for the use of tar and the tar bucket instead of axle
grease. Why? Because if grease were used, the spokes would work loose,
and soon the whole wheel would collapse. The bed was of the old
prairie-schooner style, with the bottom boat-shaped and the ribs on the

My first camp for the return journey over the old trail was made in my
own dooryard at Puyallup. This was maintained for several days to give
the wagon and team a trial. After the weak points had been strengthened
and everything pronounced to be in order, I left home for the long

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Great changes had taken place along the old trail through
Washington and Oregon; here are strawberries growing where the forest
stood in 1852.]

The first drive was to Seattle through the towns of Sumner, Auburn, and
Kent. In Seattle I had a host of friends and acquaintances, and I
thought that there I could arouse interest in my plan and secure some
aid for it. Nothing came of the effort. My closest friends, on the
contrary, tried to dissuade me from going; and, I may say, actually
tried to convince others that it would be an act of friendship not to
lend any aid to the enterprise. I knew, or thought I knew, that my
strength would warrant undertaking the ordeal; I felt sure I could make
the trip successfully. But my friends remained unconvinced; so after
spending two weeks in Seattle I shipped my outfit by steamer to Tacoma,
only to meet the same spirit there.

One pleasant incident broke the monotony. Henry Hewitt, of Tacoma,
drove up alongside my team and said, "Meeker, if you get broke out there
on the Plains, just telegraph me for money to come back on."

"No," I said, "I'd rather hear you say to telegraph for money to go on

"All right," came the response, "have it that way, then."

Henry drove off, perhaps not giving the conversation a second thought
until he received my telegram two months later, telling him that I had
lost an ox and wanted him to send me two hundred dollars. The money was
immediately wired to me.

Somehow no serious thought of turning back ever entered my mind. When I
had once resolved to make the trip, nothing but utter physical
disability could deter me. I felt on this point just as I did when I
first crossed the Plains in 1852.

From Tacoma I shipped again by steamer to Olympia. The end of the old
trail is but two miles distant from Olympia at Tumwater, the extreme
southern point of Puget Sound. Here the first American party of
homeseekers to Washington rested and settled in 1845. At this point I
set a post, and afterwards arranged for a stone to be placed to mark the

On the twentieth of February I went to Tenino, south of Olympia, on the
train. My outfit was drawn to this place by a horse team, the oxen being
taken along under yoke. Dave was still not an ox, but an unruly steer. I
dared not intrust driving him to other hands, yet I had to go ahead to
arrange for the monument and the lecture.

The twenty-first of February was a red-letter day. At Tenino I had the
satisfaction of helping to dedicate the first monument erected to mark
the old trail. The stores were closed, and the school children in a
body came over to the dedication. The monument was donated by the Tenino
Quarry Company; it is inscribed "Old Oregon Trail: 1843-57."

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

A prosperous fruit farm along the trail.]

In the evening I addressed a good-sized audience, and sixteen dollars
was received to help on the good work. The spirit of the people, more
than the money, was encouraging.

At Chehalis, Washington, the Commercial Club undertook to erect and
dedicate a monument. John R. Jackson was the first American citizen to
settle north of the Columbia River. One of the daughters, Mrs. Ware,
accompanied by her husband, indicated the spot where the monument should
be erected, and a post was planted. A touching incident was that Mrs.
Ware was requested to put the post in place and hold it while her
husband tamped the earth around it.

At Toledo, the place where the pioneers left the Cowlitz River on the
trail to the Sound, another marker was placed by the citizens.

[Illustration: The first boulder marked on the old trail; near The
Dalles of the Columbia.]

From Toledo I shipped the whole outfit by steamer down the Cowlitz
River, and took passage with my assistants to Portland, thus reversing
the order of travel in 1853. We used steam instead of the brawn of
stalwart pioneers and Indians to propel the boat. On the evening of
March the first I pitched my tent in the heart of the city of Portland,
on a grassy vacant lot.

On the morning of the tenth of March I took steamer with my outfit,
bound up the Columbia for The Dalles. How wondrous the change!
Fifty-four years before, I had come floating down this same stream in a
flatboat with a party of poor, heartsick pioneers; now I made the trip
enjoying cushioned chairs, delicious foods, fine linens, magazines and
books--every luxury of civilized life.

That night I arrived at The Dalles, and drove nearly three quarters of a
mile to a camping ground near the park. The streets were muddy, and the
cattle were impatient and walked very fast, which made it necessary for
me to tramp through the mud at their heads. We had no supper or even
tea, as we did not build a fire. It was clear that night, but raining in
the morning.

Prior to leaving home I had written to the ladies of the Landmark
Committee at The Dalles. What should they do but provide a monument
already inscribed and in place, and notify me that I had been selected
to deliver the dedicatory address!

The weather of the next day treated us to some hardships that I had
missed on the first overland journey. Ice formed in the camp half an
inch thick, and the high wind joined forces with the damper of our
stove, which had got out of order, to fill the tent with smoke and make
life miserable.

The fierce, cold wind also made it necessary to postpone the dedication
for a day and finally to carry it out with less ceremony than had been
planned. Nevertheless, I felt that the expedition was now fairly
started. We had reached the point where the real journey would begin,
and the interest shown in the plan by the towns along the way had been
most encouraging.

[Illustration: The Dalles, on the Columbia River.]



IT was the fourteenth of March when I drove out of The Dalles to make
the long overland journey. By rail, it is 1734 miles from The Dalles to
Omaha, where our work of marking the old trail was to end. By wagon road
the distance is greater, but not much greater--probably 1800 miles.

The load was very heavy, and so were the roads. With a team untrained to
the road and one of the oxen unbroken, with no experienced ox driver to
assist me, and the grades heavy, small wonder if a feeling of depression
crept over me. On some long hills we could move only a few rods at a
time, and on level roads, with the least warm sun, the unbroken ox would
poke out his tongue.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

An apple orchard in Washington.]

We were passing now through the great farming district of eastern
Oregon. The desert over which we had dragged ourselves in those long-ago
days has been largely turned into great wheat fields. As we drew into
camp one night a young man approached, driving eight harnessed horses.
He told me that he had harrowed in thirty-five acres of wheat that day,
and that it was just a common day's work to plow seven acres of land.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Where a wheat farm of today has taken the place of the unbroken prairie
in eastern Oregon.]

I recalled my boyhood days when father spoke approvingly if I plowed two
acres a day, and when to harrow ten acres was the biggest kind of a
day's work. I also recalled the time when we cut the wheat with a
sickle, or maybe with a hand cradle, and threshed it out with horses on
the barn floor. Sometimes we had a fanning mill, and how it would make
my arms ache to turn the crank! At other times, if a stiff breeze sprang
up, the wheat and chaff would be shaken loose and the chaff would be
blown away. If all other means failed, two stout arms at either end of a
blanket or a sheet would move the sheet as a fan to clean the wheat. Now
we see the great combination harvester garner thirty acres a day, and
thresh it as well and sack it ready for the mill or warehouse. There
is no shocking, no stacking or housing: all in one operation, the grain
is made ready for market.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

In spite of the wide-spreading farms and fruit orchards, there are still
forests in Washington and Oregon, and lumbering is still a great

As we journeyed eastward, the Blue Mountains came into distant view.
Half a day's brisk travel brought us well up toward the snow line. The
country became less broken, the soil seemed better, the rainfall had
been greater. We began to see red barns and comfortable farmhouses,
still set wide apart, though, for the farms are large.

In the Walla Walla valley the scene is different. Smaller farms are the
rule and orchards are to be seen everywhere. We now passed the historic
spot where the Whitman massacre occurred in 1847. Soon afterward we were
in camp in the very heart of the thriving city of Walla Walla. It was
near here that I had met my father when I crossed by the Natchess Pass
Trail in 1854.

Another day's travel brought us to Pendleton, Oregon. Here the
Commercial Club took hold with a will and provided funds for a stone
monument. On the last day of March it was dedicated with appropriate

That evening I drove out to the Indian school in a fierce rainstorm to
talk to the teachers and pupils about the Oregon Trail. A night in the
wagon without fire and with only a scant supper sent my spirits down to
zero. Nor did they rise when I learned next morning that the snow had
fallen eighteen inches deep in the mountains. However, with this news
came a warm invitation from the school authorities to use a room they
had allotted to us, with a stove, and to help ourselves to fuel. That
cheered us up greatly.

There was doubt whether we could cross the Blue Mountains in all this
snow. I decided to investigate; so I took the train. About midnight I
was landed in the snow at Meacham, with no visible light in the hotel
and no track beaten to it.

Morning confirmed the report of the storm; twenty inches of snow had
fallen in the mountains.

An old mountaineer told me, "Yes, it is possible to cross, but I warn
you it will be a hard job."

It was at once arranged that the second morning thereafter his team
should leave Meacham on the way to meet me.

"But what about a monument, Mr. Burns?" I said. "Meacham is a historic
place, with Lee's encampment in sight." (It was in 1834 that the
Reverend Jason Lee had crossed the continent with Wyeth's second

"We have no money," came the quick reply, "but we've got plenty of
muscle. Send us a stone and I'll warrant you the foundation will be
built and the monument put in place."

A belated train gave opportunity to return at once to Pendleton, where
an appeal for aid to provide an inscribed stone for Meacham was
responded to with alacrity. The stone was ordered, and a sound night's
sleep followed.

I quote from my journal. "Camp No. 31, April 4, 1906. We are now on the
snow line of Blue Mountains (8 P.M.), and am writing this by our first
really out-of-doors camp fire, under the spreading boughs of a friendly
pine tree. We estimate we have driven twelve miles; started from the
school at 7 A.M. The first three or four miles over a beautiful farming
country; then we began climbing the foothills, up, up, up, four miles,
reaching first snow at three o'clock."

True to promise, the mountaineer's team met us on the way to Meacham,
but not till we had reached the snow. We were axle-deep in it and had
the shovel in use to clear the way, when Burns came upon us. By night we
were safely encamped at Meacham, with the cheering news that the
monument had arrived and could be dedicated the next day.

The summit of the mountain had not been reached, and the worst tug lay
ahead of us. But casting thoughts of this from mind, all hands turned to
the monument, which by eleven o'clock was in place. Twist and Dave stood
near it, hitched up, and ready for the start as soon as the order was
given. Everybody in town was there, the little school coming in a body.
After the speech we moved on to battle with the snow, and finally won
our way over the summit.

[Illustration: A monument to the old trail, on the high school grounds
at Baker City, Oregon.]

The sunshine that was let into our hearts at La Grande was also
refreshing. "Yes, we will have a monument," the people responded. And
they got one, too, dedicating it while I tarried.

We had taken with us an inscribed stone to set up at an intersection
near the mouth of Ladd's Canyon, eight miles out of La Grande. The
school near by came in a body. The children sang "Columbia, the Gem of
the Ocean," after which I talked to the assemblage for a few moments,
and the exercises closed with all singing "America." Each child brought
a stone and cast it upon the pile surrounding the base of the monument.

The citizens of Baker City lent a willing ear to the suggestion to erect
a monument on the high-school grounds, although the trail is six miles
off to the north, and a fine granite shaft was provided for the
high-school grounds and was dedicated. A marker was set on the trail.
Eight hundred school children contributed an aggregate of sixty dollars
to place a children's bronze tablet on this shaft. Two thousand people
participated in the ceremony of dedication.

News of these events was now beginning to pass along the line ahead. As
a result the citizens in other places began to take hold of the work
with a will. Old Mount Pleasant, Durkee, Huntington, and Vale were other
Oregon towns that followed the good lead and erected monuments to mark
the old trail. A most gratifying feature of the work was the hearty
participation in it of the school children.

[Illustration: _Howard R. Driggs_

A sheep herder's wagon in the sage-covered hills of Wyoming near the
Oregon Trail.]



THE Snake River was crossed just below the mouth of the Boise, about
where, almost fifty-four years before, we had made our second crossing
of the river.

We were landed on the historic site of old Fort Boise, established by
the Hudson's Bay Company in September, 1834. This fort was established
for the purpose of preventing the success of the American venture at
Fort Hall, a post established earlier in 1834 by Nathaniel J. Wyeth.
Wyeth's venture proved a failure, and the fort soon passed to his rival,
the Hudson's Bay Company. Thus for the time being the British had rule
of the whole of that vast region known as the Inland Empire, then the
Oregon Country.

Some relics of the old fort at Boise were secured. Arrangements were
made for planting a doubly inscribed stone to mark the trail and the
site of the fort, and afterwards, through the liberality of the
citizens of Boise City, a stone was ordered and put in place.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Sheep ready for shipment at Caldwell, Idaho.]

At Boise, the capital of Idaho, there were nearly twelve hundred
contributions to the monument fund by the pupils of the public schools.
The monument stands on the State House grounds and is inscribed as the
children's offering to the memory of the pioneers. More than three
thousand people attended the dedication service.

The spirit of coöperation and good will towards the enterprise that was
manifested at the capital city prevailed all through Idaho. From Parma,
the first town we came to on the western edge, to Montpelier, near the
eastern boundary, the people of Idaho seemed anxious to do their part in
marking the old trail. Besides the places already named, Twin Falls,
American Falls, Pocatello, and Soda Springs all responded to the appeal
by erecting monuments to mark the Old Trail.

One rather exciting incident happened near Montpelier. A vicious bull
attacked my ox team, first from one side and then the other. Then he
got in between the oxen and caused them nearly to upset the wagon. I was
thrown down in the mix-up, but fortunately escaped unharmed.

[Illustration: The monument to the trail at Boise, Idaho.]

This incident reminded me of a scrape one of our neighboring trains got
into on the Platte in 1852, with a wounded buffalo. The train had
encountered a large herd of these animals, feeding and traveling at
right angles to the road. The older heads of the party, fearing a
stampede of their teams, had ordered the men not to molest the
buffaloes, but to give their whole attention to the care of the teams.
One impulsive young fellow would not be restrained; he fired into the
herd and wounded a large bull. The maddened bull charged upon a wagon
filled with women and children and drawn by a team of mules. He became
entangled in the harness and was caught on the wagon-tongue between the
mules. The air was full of excitement for a while. The women screamed,
the children cried, and the men began to shout. But the practical
question was how to dispatch the bull without shooting the mules as
well. Trainmen forgot their own teams and rushed to the wagon in
trouble. The guns began to pop and the buffalo was finally killed. The
wonder is that nobody was harmed.

From Cokeville to Pacific Springs, just west of the summit of the Rocky
Mountains at South Pass, by the road and trail we traveled, is one
hundred and fifty-eight miles. Ninety miles of this stretch is away from
the sound of the locomotive, the click of the telegraph, or the voice of
the "hello girl." The mountains here are from six to seven thousand feet
above sea level, with scanty vegetable growth. The country is still
almost a solitude, save as here and there a sheep herder or his wagon
may be discerned. The sly coyote, the simple antelope, and the cunning
sage hen still hold sway as they did when I first traversed the country.
The old trail is there in all its grandeur.

[Illustration: Monument at Pocatello, Idaho.]

"Why mark that trail!" I exclaimed. Miles and miles of it are worn so
deep that centuries of storm will not efface it; generations may pass
and the origin of the trail may become a legend, but these marks will

We wondered to see the trail worn fifty feet wide and three feet deep,
and we hastened to photograph it. But after we were over the crest of
the mountain, we saw it a hundred feet wide and fifteen feet deep. The
tramp of thousands upon thousands of men and women, the hoofs of
millions of animals, and the wheels of untold numbers of vehicles had
loosened the soil, and the fierce winds had carried it away. In one
place we found ruts worn a foot deep into the solid rock.

The mountain region was as wild as it had been when I first saw it. One
day, while we were still west of the Rocky Mountains, in Wyoming, two
antelopes crossed the road about a hundred yards ahead of us, a buck and
a doe. The doe soon disappeared, but the buck came near the road and
stood gazing at us in wonderment, as if to ask, "Who the mischief are

[Illustration: Deep ruts had been worn in the solid rock of the trail
through the mountain country.]

Our dog Jim soon scented him, and away they went up the mountain side
until Jim got tired and came back to the wagon. Then the antelope
stopped on a little eminence on the mountain, and for a long distance we
could see him plainly against a background of sky.

At another time we actually got near enough to get a shot with our
kodaks at two antelopes; but they were too far off to make good
pictures. Our road was leading us obliquely up a gentle hill, gradually
approaching nearer to one of the antelopes. I noticed that he would come
toward us for a while and then turn around and look the other way for a
while. Then we saw what at first we took to be a kid, or young antelope;
but soon we discovered that it was a coyote wolf, prowling on the track
of the antelope, and watching both of us. Just after the wagon had
stopped, I saw six big, fat sage hens feeding not more than twice the
length of the wagon away, just as I had seen them in 1852.

[Illustration: Jim, the collie that made the journey from Washington to

The dog, Jim, had several other adventures with animals on the way.
First of all, he and Dave did not get along very well. Once Dave caught
Jim under the ribs with his right horn, which was bent forward and stood
out nearly straight, and tossed him over some sage brush near by.
Sometimes, if the yoke prevented him from getting a chance at Jim with
his horn, he would throw out his nose and snort, just like a horse that
has been running at play and stops for a moment's rest. But Jim would
manage to get even with him. Sometimes we put loose hay under the wagon
to keep it out of the storm, and Jim would make a bed on it. Then woe
betide Dave if he tried to get any of that hay! I saw Jim one day catch
the ox by the nose and draw blood. You may readily imagine that the war
was renewed between them with greater rancor than ever. They never did
become friends.

One day Jim got his foot under the wheel of our wagon, and I was sure it
was broken, but it was not; yet he nursed it for a week by riding in the
wagon. He never liked to ride in the wagon except during a thunderstorm.
Once a sharp clap of thunder frightened Jim so that he jumped from the
ground clear into the wagon while it was in motion and landed at my
feet. How in the world he could do it I never could tell.

Jim had some exciting experiences with wild animals, too. He was always
chasing birds, jack rabbits, squirrels, or anything in the world that
could get into motion. One day a coyote crossed the road just a few rods
behind the wagon, and Jim took after him. It looked as if Jim would
overtake him, and, being dubious of the result of a tussle between them,
I called Jim back. No sooner had he turned than the coyote turned, too,
and made chase, and there they came, nip and tuck, to see who could run
the faster. I think the coyote could, but he did not catch up until they
got so near the wagon that he became frightened and scampered away up
the slope of a hill.

At another time a young coyote came along, and Jim played with him
awhile. But by and by the little fellow snapped at Jim and made Jim
angry, and he bounced on the coyote and gave him a good trouncing.

Before we sheared him, Jim would get very warm when the weather was hot.
Whenever the wagon stopped he would dig off the top earth or sand that
was hot, to have a cool bed to lie in; but he was always ready to go
when the wagon started.

Cokeville was the first town reached in Wyoming. It stands on Smith's
Fork, near where that stream empties into Bear River. It is also at the
western end of the Sublette Cut-off Trail from Bear River to Big Sandy
Creek, the cut-off that we had taken in 1852.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Coal mining is one of the industries that have grown up in Wyoming.]

The people of the locality resolved to have a monument at this fork in
the old trail, and arrangements were made to erect one out of stone from
a local quarry. This good beginning made in the state, we went on,
climbing first over the rim of the Great Basin, then up and across the

I quote again from my journal: "Pacific Springs, Wyoming, Camp No. 79,
June 20, 1906. Odometer, 958. [Miles registered from The Dalles,
Oregon.] Arrived at 6 P.M., and camped near Halter's store and the post
office. Ice found in camp during the night."

On June 22 we were still camped at Pacific Springs. I had searched for a
suitable stone for a monument to be placed on the summit of the range,
and, after almost despairing of finding one, had come upon exactly what
was wanted. The stone lay alone on the mountain side; it is granite, I
think, but mixed with quartz, and is a monument hewed by the hand of

[Illustration: _Chas. S. Hill_

Wyoming oil wells.]

Immediately after dinner we hitched the oxen to Mr. Halter's wagon. With
the help of four men we loaded the stone, after having dragged it on the
ground and over the rocks a hundred yards or so down the mountain side.
We estimated its weight at a thousand pounds.

There being no stonecutter at Pacific Springs to inscribe the monument,
the clerk at the store formed the letters on stiff pasteboard. He then
cut them out to make a paper stencil, through which the shape of the
letters was transferred to the stone by crayon marks. The letters were
then cut out with a cold chisel, deep enough to make a permanent
inscription. The stone was so hard that it required steady work all day
to cut the twenty letters and figures: THE OREGON TRAIL, 1843-57.

We drove out of Pacific Springs at a little after noon and stopped at
the summit to dedicate the monument. Then we left the summit and drove
twelve miles to the point called Oregon Slough, where we put up the tent
after dark.

The reader may think of the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains as a
precipitous defile through narrow canyons and deep gorges. Nothing is
farther from the fact. One can drive through this Pass for several miles
without realizing that the dividing line between the waters of the
Pacific and those of the Atlantic has been passed. The road is over a
broad, open, undulating prairie, the approach is by easy grades, and the
descent, going east, is scarcely noticeable.

All who were toiling west in the old days looked upon this spot as the
turning point of their journey. There they felt that they had left the
worst of the trip behind them. Poor souls that we were! We did not know
that our worst mountain climbing lay beyond the summit of the Rockies,
over the rugged Western ranges.


[Illustration: Nooning beside the prairie schooner.]



THE sight of Sweetwater River, twenty miles out from South Pass, revived
many pleasant memories and some that were sad. I could remember the
sparkling, clear water, the green skirt of undergrowth along the banks,
and the restful camps, as we trudged along up the stream so many years
ago. And now I saw the same channel, the same hills, and apparently the
same waters swiftly passing. But where were the camp fires? Where was
the herd of gaunt cattle? Where the sound of the din of bells? The
hallooing for lost children? Or the little groups off on the hillside to
bury the dead? All were gone.

An oppressive silence prevailed as we drove to the river and pitched our
camp within a few feet of the bank, where we could hear the rippling
waters passing and see the fish leaping in the eddies. We had our choice
of a camping place just by the skirt of a refreshing green brush with
an opening to give full view of the river. It had not been so fifty-four
years before, with hundreds of camps ahead of you. The traveler then had
to take what he could get, and in many cases that was a place far back
from the water and removed from other conveniences.

[Illustration: _United States Geological Survey_

Devil's Gate, on the Sweetwater River, one of the many beautiful streams
in the uplands of Wyoming. The pioneer trail followed the course of this

The sight and smell of carrion, so common in camping places during that
first journey, also were gone. No bleached bones, even, showed where the
exhausted dumb brute had died. The graves of the dead pioneers had all
been leveled by the hoofs of stock and the lapse of time.

The country remains as it was in '52. There the trail is to be seen
miles and miles ahead, worn bare and deep, with but one narrow track
where there used to be a dozen, and with the beaten path that vegetation
has not yet recovered from the scourge of passing hoofs and tires of
wagons years ago.

As in 1852, when the summit was passed I felt that my task was much
more than half done, though half the distance was scarcely compassed.

On June 30, at about ten o'clock, we encountered a large number of big
flies that ran the cattle nearly wild. I stood on the wagon tongue for
miles to reach them with the whipstock. The cattle were so excited that
we did not stop at noon, but drove on. By half-past two we camped at a
farmhouse, the Split Rock post office, the first we had found in a
hundred miles of travel since leaving Pacific Springs.

The Devil's Gate, a few miles distant, is one of the two best-known
landmarks on the trail. Here, as at Split Rock, the mountain seems to
have been split apart, leaving an opening a few rods wide, through which
the Sweetwater River pours in a veritable torrent. The river first
approaches to within a few hundred feet of the gap, then suddenly curves
away from it, and after winding through the valley for half a mile or
so, a quarter of a mile away, it takes a straight shoot and makes the
plunge through the canyon. Those who have had the impression that the
emigrants drove their teams through this gap are mistaken, for it's a
feat no mortal man has done or can do, any more than he could drive up
the falls of the Niagara.

This year, on my 1906 trip, I did clamber through on the left bank, over
boulders head high, under shelving rocks. I ate some ripe gooseberries
from the bushes growing on the border of the river, and plucked some
beautiful wild roses, wondering the while why those wild roses grew
where nobody would see them.

The gap through the mountains looked familiar as I spied it from the
distance, but the roadbed to the right I had forgotten. I longed to see
this place; for here, somewhere under the sands, lies all that was
mortal of my brother, Clark Meeker, drowned in the Sweetwater in 1854.

[Illustration: _United States Geological Survey_

Devil's Gate, on the Sweetwater River, one of the famous landmarks on
the old trail.]

Independence Rock is the other most famous landmark. We drove over to
the Rock, a distance of six miles from the Devil's Gate, and camped at
ten o'clock for the day. This famous boulder covers about thirty acres.
We groped our way among the inscriptions, to find some of them nearly
obliterated and many legible only in part. We walked all the way around
the stone, nearly a mile. The huge rock is of irregular shape, and it is
more than a hundred feet high, the walls being so precipitous that
ascent to the top is possible in only two places.

Unfortunately, we could not find Fremont's inscription. Of this
inscription Fremont writes in his journal of the year 1842: "August 23.
Yesterday evening we reached our encampment at Rock Independence, where
I took some astronomical observations. Here, not unmindful of the custom
of early travelers and explorers in our country, I engraved on this rock
of the Far West a symbol of the Christian faith. Among the thickly
inscribed names, I made on the hard granite the impression of a large
cross. It stands amidst the names of many who have long since found
their way to the grave and for whom the huge rock is a giant

On Independence Day, 1906, we left Independence Rock. Our noon stop was
on Fish Creek, eleven miles away. The next night we camped on the North
Platte River. Fifty-four years before, I had left the old stream about
fifteen miles below here on my way to the West.

Next day, while nooning several miles out from Casper, we heard the
whistle of a locomotive. It was the first we had heard for nearly three
hundred miles. As soon as lunch was over, I left the wagon and walked to
Casper ahead of the team to select a camping ground, secure feed, and
get the mail.

A special meeting of the Commercial Club of Casper was held that
evening, and I laid the matter of building a monument before the
members. They resolved to build one, opened the subscription at once,
and appointed a committee to carry the work forward. Since then a
monument twenty-five feet high has been erected at a cost of fifteen
hundred dollars.

Glen Rock is a small village, but the ladies there met and resolved they
would have "as nice a monument as Casper's." One enthusiastic lady said,
"We will inscribe it ourselves, if no stonecutter can be had."

At Douglas also an earnest, well-organized effort to erect the monument
was well in hand before we drove out of town.

As we journeyed on down the Platte, we passed thrifty ranches and
thriving little towns. It was haying time, and the mowers were busy
cutting alfalfa. The hay was being stacked. Generous ranchers invited us
to help ourselves to their garden stuff. All along the way was a spirit
of good cheer and hearty welcome.

Fort Laramie brings a flood of reminiscences to the western pioneer and
his children. This old post, first a trappers' stockade, then in 1849 a
soldiers' encampment, stood at the end of the Black Hills and at the
edge of the Plains. Here the Laramie River and the Platte meet.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

The desert before irrigation.]

The fort was a halfway station on the trail. From the time we crossed
the Missouri in May, 1852, until we reached the old fort, no place name
was so constantly in the minds of the emigrants as that of Fort Laramie.
Here, in '52, we eagerly looked for letters that never came. Perhaps our
friends and relatives had not written; perhaps they had written, but the
letters were lost or sidetracked somewhere in "the States." As for
hearing from home, for that we had to wait patiently until the long
journey should end; then a missive might reach us by way of the Isthmus,
or maybe by sailing vessel around Cape Horn.

There is no vestige of the old traders' camp or the first United States
fort left. The new fort--not a fort, but an encampment--covers a space
of thirty or forty acres, with all sorts of buildings and ruins. One of
the old barracks, three hundred feet long, was in good preservation in
1906, being utilized by the owner, Joseph Wilde, for a store, post
office, hotel, and residence. The guard house with its grim iron door
and twenty-inch concrete walls is also fairly well preserved. One frame
building of two stories, we were told, was transported by ox team from
Kansas City at a cost of one hundred dollars a ton. The old place is
crumbling away, slowly disappearing with the memories of the past.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

The desert after irrigation.]

From Fort Laramie onward into western Nebraska we passed through a
succession of thriving cities. The Platte has been turned to splendid
service through the process of irrigation. Great canals lead its
life-giving waters out to the thirsty plains that now "blossom as the
rose." Rich fields of grain and hay and beets cover the valley. Great
sugar factories, railroads, business blocks, and fine homes tell of the
prosperity that has leaped out of the parched plains we trailed across.

Scott's Bluff, however, is one of the old landmarks that has not
changed. It still looms up as of old on the south side of the river
about eight hundred feet above the trail. The origin of the name,
Scott's Bluff, is not definitely known. Tradition says: "A trapper named
Scott, while returning to the States, was robbed and stripped by the
Indians. He crawled to these Bluffs and there famished. His bones were
afterwards found and buried." These quoted words were written by a
passing emigrant on the spot, June 11, 1852. Another version of the tale
is that Scott fell sick and was abandoned by his traveling companions.
After having crawled almost forty miles, he finally died near the bluff
that bears his name. This occurred prior to 1830.

From the bluff we drove as directly as possible to a historic grave, two
miles out from the town and on the railroad right of way. In this grave
lies a pioneer mother who died August 15, 1852, nearly six weeks after I
had passed over the ground. Some thoughtful friend had marked her grave
by standing a wagon tire upright in it. But for this, the grave, like
thousands and thousands of others, would have passed out of sight and

The tire bore this simple inscription: "Rebecca Winters, aged 50 years."
The hoofs of stock tramped the sunken grave and trod it into dust, but
the arch of the tire remained to defy the strength of thoughtless hands
that would have removed it.

Finally the railroad surveyors came along. They might have run the track
over the lonely grave but for the thoughtfulness of the man who wielded
the compass. He changed the line, that the resting place of the pioneer
mother should not be disturbed, and the grave was protected and

The railroad officials did more. They telegraphed word of the finding of
this grave to their representative in Salt Lake City. He gave the story
to the press; the descendants of the pioneer mother read it, and they
provided a monument, lovingly inscribed, to mark the spot.

[Illustration: _United States Geological Survey_

Chimney Rock, an old sentinel on the trail in western Nebraska.]

About twenty miles from Scott's Bluff stands old Chimney Rock. It is a
curious freak of nature, and a famous landmark on the trail. It covers
perhaps twelve acres, and rises coneshaped for two hundred feet to the
base of the spire-like rock, the "chimney," that rests upon it and rises
a full hundred feet more.

A local story runs that an army officer trained a cannon on this spire,
shot off about thirty feet from the top, and for this was
court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the army. I could get
no definite confirmation of the story, though it was repeated again and
again. It seems incredible that an intelligent man would do such an act,
and if he did it, he deserved severe punishment.

It is saddening to think of the many places where equally stupid things
have been done to natural wonders. Coming through Idaho, I had noticed
that at Soda Springs the hand of the vandal had been at work. That
interesting phenomenon, Steamboat Spring, the wonderment of all of us in
1852, with its intermittent spouting, had been tampered with and had
ceased to act.

[Illustration: Going up the steep, rocky sides of Little Canyon.]



"OLD Oregon Trail Monument Expedition, Brady Island, Nebraska, August 9,
1906, Camp No. 120. Odometer, 1,536 5/8. Yesterday morning Twist ate his
breakfast as usual and showed no signs of sickness until we were on the
road two or three miles, when he began to put his tongue out and his
breathing became heavy. But he leaned on the yoke more heavily than
usual and determined to pull the whole load. I finally stopped, put him
on the off side, gave him the long end of the yoke, and tied his head
back with the halter strap to the chain; but to no purpose, for he
pulled by the head very heavily. I finally unyoked, gave him a quart of
lard, a gill of vinegar, and a handful of sugar, but all to no purpose,
for he soon fell down and in two hours was dead."

Such is the record in my journal of this noble animal's death. I think
he died from eating some poisonous plant.

When we started, Twist weighed 1470 pounds. After we had crossed two
ranges of mountains, had wallowed in the snows of the Blue Mountains,
followed the tortuous, rocky canyon of Burnt River, and gone through the
deep sands of the Snake, this ox had gained 137 pounds, and weighed 1607
pounds. While laboring under the short end of the yoke that gave him
fifty-five per cent of the draft and an increased burden, he would keep
his end of the yoke a little ahead, no matter how much the mate might be
urged to keep up.

There are pronounced individualities in animals as well as in men. I
might have said virtues, too--and why not? If an animal always does his
duty and is faithful and industrious, why not recognize this character,
even if he is "nothing but an ox"?

To understand the achievements of this ox it is necessary to know the
burden that he carried. The wagon weighed 1430 pounds, had wooden axles
and wide track, and carried an average load of 800 pounds. Along with an
unbroken four-year old steer, a natural-born shirk, Twist had hauled the
wagon 1776 miles, and he was in better working trim just before he died
than when the trip began. And yet, am I sure that at some points I did
not abuse him? What about coming up out of Little Canyon, or rather up
the steep, rocky steps of stones like stairs, when I used the goad, and
he pulled a shoe off his feet? Was I merciful then, or did I exact more
than I ought?

I can see him yet, in my mind, on his knees, holding the wagon from
rolling into the canyon till the wheel could be blocked and the brakes
set. Then, when bidden to start the load, he did not flinch. He was the
best ox I ever saw, without exception, and his loss nearly broke up the
expedition. His like I could not find again. He had a decent burial. A
headboard marks his grave and tells of the aid he rendered in this
expedition to perpetuate the memory of the old Oregon Trail.

[Illustration: Twist, a noble animal.]

What should I do--abandon the work? No. But I could not go on with one
ox. So a horse team was hired to take us to the next town, Gothenburg,
thirteen miles distant. The lone ox was led behind the wagon.

Again I hired a horse team to haul the wagon to Lexington. At Lexington
I thought the loss of the ox could be repaired by buying a pair of heavy
cows and breaking them in to work, so I purchased two out of a band of
two hundred cattle.

"Why, yes, of course they will work," I said, in reply to a bystander's
question. "I have seen whole teams of cows on the Plains in '52. Yes, we
will soon have a team," I declared with all the confidence in the world,
"only we can't go very far in a day with a raw team, especially in this
hot weather."

But one cow would not go at all! We could neither lead her nor drive
her. Put her in the yoke, and she would stand stock still, just like a
stubborn mule. Hitch the yoke by a strong rope behind the wagon with a
horse team to pull, and she would brace her feet and actually slide
along, but would not lift a foot. I never saw such a brute before, and
hope I never shall again. I have broken wild, fighting, kicking steers
to the yoke and enjoyed the sport, but from a sullen, tame cow, deliver

"Won't you take her back and give me another?" I asked the seller.

"Yes, I will give you that red cow,"--one I had rejected as unfit,--"but
not one of the others."

"What is this cow worth to you?"

"Thirty dollars."

So I dropped ten dollars, having paid forty for the first cow. Besides,
I had lost the better part of a day and experienced a good deal of
vexation. If I could only have had Twist back again!

The fact gradually became apparent that the loss of that fine ox was
almost irreparable. I could not get track of an ox anywhere, nor even of
a steer large enough to mate the Dave ox. Besides, Dave always was a
fool. Twist would watch my every motion, and mind by the wave of the
hand, but Dave never minded anything except to shirk hard work. Twist
seemed to love his work and would go freely all day. It was brought home
to me more forcibly than ever that in the loss of the Twist ox I had
almost lost the whole team.

When I drove out from Lexington behind a hired horse team that day, with
the Dave ox tagging on behind and sometimes pulling on his halter, and
with an unbroken cow in leading, it may easily be guessed that the pride
of anticipated success died out, and deep discouragement seized upon me.
I had two yokes, one a heavy ox yoke, the other a light cow's yoke; but
the cow, I thought, could not be worked alongside the ox in the ox yoke,
nor the ox with the cow in the cow yoke. I was without a team, but with
a double encumbrance.

Yes, the ox has passed, for in all Nebraska I was unable to find even
one yoke.

I trudged along, sometimes behind the led cattle, wondering in my mind
whether or not I had been foolish to undertake this expedition to
perpetuate the memory of the old Oregon Trail. Had I not been rebuffed
at the first by a number of business men who pushed the subject aside
with, "I have no time to look into it"? Hadn't I been compelled to pass
several towns where not even three persons could be found to act on the
committee? And then there was the experience of the constant suspicion
that there was some graft to be discovered, some lurking speculation.
All this could be borne in patience; but when coupled with it came the
virtual loss of the team, is it strange that my spirits went down below
a normal point?

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

The railroad bridge at Omaha, crossing the Missouri where in 1853 we
went over by ferry.]

Then came the compensatory thought of what had been accomplished. Four
states had responded cordially. Back along the line of more than fifteen
hundred miles already stood many sentinels, mostly granite, to mark the
trail and keep alive the memory of the pioneers. Moreover, I recalled
the enthusiastic reception in so many places, the outpouring of
contributions from thousands of school children, the willing hands of
the people that built these monuments, and the more than twenty
thousand people attending the dedication ceremonies. These heartening
recollections made me forget the loss of Twist, the recalcitrant cow,
and the dilemma that confronted me. I awakened from my reverie in a more
cheerful mood.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Sugar-beet factories were seen when we left behind us the open ranges of
the Wyoming country and came into the sugar-beet section in Nebraska.]

"Do the best you can," I said to myself, "and don't be cast down." My
spirits rose almost to the point of exultation again.

We soon reached the beautiful city of Kearney, named after old Fort
Kearney, which stood across the river, and were given a fine camping
place in the center of the town. It was under the shade trees that line
the streets, and we had a fresh-cut greensward upon which to pitch our
tents. People came in great numbers to visit the camp and express their
appreciation of our enterprise. Later a monument was erected in this

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

In the corn lands of Nebraska.]

At Grand Island I found public sentiment in favor of taking action. It
was decided, however, that the best time for the dedication would be in
the following year, upon the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the
settlement. I was a little disappointed in the delay, but felt that good
seed was sown.

Grand Island, with its stately rows of shade trees, its modest, tasteful
homes, the bustle and stir on its business streets, with the constant
passing of trains, shrieking of whistles, and ringing of bells,
presented a striking contrast to the scene I saw that June day in 1852
when I passed over the ground near where the city stands. Vast herds of
buffalo then grazed on the hills or leisurely crossed our track and at
times obstructed our way, and herds of antelope watched from vantage

But now the buffalo and antelope have disappeared; the Indian likewise
is gone. Instead of the parched plain of 1852, with its fierce clouds of
dust rolling up the valley and engulfing whole trains, we saw a
landscape of smiling, fruitful fields, inviting groves of trees, and
contented homes.

From Grand Island I went to Fremont, Nebraska, to head the procession in
the semi-centennial celebration in honor of the founding of that city.
In the procession I worked the ox and cow together. From Fremont I went
on to Lincoln.

All the while I was searching for an ox or a steer large enough to mate
the Dave ox, but without avail. Finally, after looking over a thousand
head of cattle in the stockyards of Omaha, I found a five-year-old
steer, Dandy, which I broke in on the way to Indianapolis. This ox
proved to be very satisfactory. He never kicked or hooked, and was
always in good humor. Dave and Dandy made good team-mates.

"As dumb as an ox" is a very common expression, dating back as far as my
memory goes. In fact, the ox is not so "dumb" as a casual observer might
think. Dave and Dandy knew me as far as they could see; sometimes when I
went to them in the morning, Dave would lift his head, bow his neck,
stretch out his body, and perhaps extend a foot, as if to say, "Good
morning to you; glad to see you." Dandy was driven on the streets of a
hundred cities and towns, and I never knew him to be at a loss to find
his way to the stable or watering-trough, once he had been there and was
started on a return trip.

I arrived at Indianapolis on January 5, 1907, eleven months and seven
days from the date of departure from my home at Puyallup, twenty-six
hundred miles away.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

Along the Erie Canal, part of the National Highway to the West.]



AFTER passing the Missouri, and leaving the trail behind me, I somehow
had a foreboding that I might be mistaken for a faker and looked upon as
an adventurer, and I shrank from the ordeal. My hair had grown long on
the trip across; my boots were somewhat the worse for wear, and my
old-fashioned clothes (understood well enough by pioneers along the
trail) were dilapidated. I was not the most presentable specimen for
every sort of company. Already I had been compelled to say that I was
not a "corn doctor" or any kind of doctor; that I did not have patent
medicine to sell; and that I was not soliciting contributions to support
the expedition.

The first of March, 1907, found me on the road going eastward from
Indianapolis. I had made up my mind that Washington should be the
objective point. For my main purpose--to secure the building of a
memorial highway--Congress, I felt, would be a better field to work in
than out on the hopelessly long stretch of the trail, where one man's
span of life would certainly pass before the work could be accomplished.
But I thought it well to make a campaign of education to get the work
before the general public so that Congress might know about it.
Therefore a route was laid out to occupy the time until the first of
December, just before Congress would again assemble. The route lay
through Indianapolis, Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo, Albany, New
York, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, to Washington.

For the most part I received a warm welcome all along the route. Dayton
treated me generously. Mayor Badger of Columbus wrote giving me the
freedom of the city; and Mayor Tom Johnson wrote to his chief of police
to "treat Mr. Meeker as the guest of the city of Cleveland," which was

At Buffalo, a benefit performance for one of the hospitals, in the shape
of a circus, was in preparation. A part of the elaborate program was an
attack by Indians on an emigrant train, the "Indians" being
representative young men of the city. At this juncture I arrived in the
city, and was besought to go and represent the train, for which they
would pay me.

"No, not for pay," I said, "but I will go."

So there was quite a realistic show in the ring that afternoon and
evening, and the hospital received more than a thousand dollars'

Near Oneida some one said that I had better take to the towpath on the
canal to save distance and to avoid going over the hill. It was against
the law, he added, but everybody did it and no one would object. So,
when we came to the forks of the road, I followed the best-beaten track
and was soon traveling along on the level, hard, but narrow way, the
towpath. All went well that day.

We were not so fortunate the next day, however, when a boat with three
men, two women, and three long-eared mules was squarely met, the mules
being on the towpath. The mules took fright, got into a regular mixup,
broke the harness, and went up the towpath at a two-forty gait.

As I had walked into Oneida the night before, I did not see the sight or
hear the war of words that followed. The men ordered Marden to "take
that outfit off the towpath." His answer was that he could not do it
without upsetting the wagon. The men said if he couldn't they would do
it quick enough. They started toward the wagon, evidently intent upon
executing their threat, meanwhile swearing at the top of their voices
while the women scolded in chorus, one of them fairly shrieking.

My old muzzle-loading rifle that we had carried across the Plains lay
handy. When the men started toward him, Marden picked up the rifle to
show fight and called on the dog Jim to take hold of the men. As he
raised the gun to use it as a club, one of the boatmen threw up his
hands, bawling at the top of his voice, "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" He
forgot to mix in oaths and slunk out of sight behind the wagon. The
others also drew back. Jim showed his teeth, and a truce followed. With
but little inconvenience the mules were taken off the path, and the ox
team was driven past.

The fun of it was that the gun that had spread such consternation hadn't
been loaded for more than twenty-five years. The sight of it alone was
enough for the three stalwart braves of the canal.

It took New York to cap the climax--to bring me all sorts of
experiences, sometimes with the police, sometimes with the gaping
crowds, and sometimes at the City Hall.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

In the great automobile factory near Cleveland, Ohio, the old prairie
schooner came into vivid contrast with the new means of following the

Mayor McClellan was not in the city when I arrived; but the acting mayor
said that while he could not grant me a permit to come in, he would have
the police commissioner instruct his men not to molest me. Either the
instructions were not general enough, or else the men paid no attention;
for when I got down as far as 161st Street on Amsterdam Avenue, a
policeman interfered and ordered my driver to take the team to the
police station, which he very properly refused to do.

It was after dark and I had just gone around the corner to engage
quarters for the night when this occurred. Returning, I saw the young
policeman attempt to move the team, but as he didn't know how, they
wouldn't budge a peg, whereupon he arrested my driver and took him away.

Another policeman tried to coax me to drive the team down to the police
station. I said, "No, sir, I will not." He couldn't drive the team to
the station, and I wouldn't, and so there we were. To arrest me would
make matters worse, for the team would be left on the street without
any one to care for it. Finally the officer got out of the way, and I
drove the team to the stable. He followed, with a large crowd tagging
after him. Soon the captain of the precinct arrived, called his man off,
and ordered my driver released.

It appeared that there was an ordinance against allowing cattle to be
driven on the streets of New York. Of course, this was intended to apply
to loose cattle, but the policemen interpreted it to mean any cattle,
and they had the clubs to enforce their interpretation. I was in the
city and couldn't get out without subjecting myself to arrest, according
to their view of the law; and in fact I didn't want to get out. I wanted
to drive down Broadway from one end to the other, and I did, a month

All hands said nothing short of an ordinance by the board of aldermen
would clear the way; so I tackled the aldermen. The _New York Tribune_
sent a man over to the City Hall to intercede for me; the _New York
Herald_ did the same thing. And so it came about that the aldermen
passed an ordinance granting me the right of way for thirty days, and
also endorsed my work. I thought my trouble was over when that ordinance
was passed. Not so; the mayor was absent, and the acting mayor could not
sign an ordinance until after ten days had elapsed. The city attorney
came in and said the aldermen had exceeded their authority, as they
could not legally grant a special privilege.

Then the acting mayor said he would not sign the ordinance; but if I
would wait until the next meeting of the aldermen, if they did not
rescind the ordinance, it would be certified, as he would not veto it.
Considering that no one was likely to test the legality of the
ordinance, he thought I would be safe in acting as though it were
legal. Just thirty days from the time I had the bother with the
policemen, and having incurred two hundred and fifty dollars of extra
expense, I drove down Broadway from 161st Street to the Battery, without
getting into any serious scrape, except with one automobilist who became
angered, but afterwards was "as good as pie."

Thirty days satisfied me with New York. The crowds were so great that
congestion of traffic always followed my presence, and I would be
compelled to move. One day when I went to City Hall Park to have my team
photographed with the Greeley statue, I got away only by the help of the
police, and even then with great difficulty.

[Illustration: In Wall Street, New York City.]

A trip across Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn was also made, and then, two
days before leaving the city, I came near to meeting a heavy loss.
Somehow I got sandwiched in on the East Side of New York in the
congested district of the foreign quarter and at nightfall drove into a
stable, put the oxen in the stalls and, as usual, the dog Jim in the
wagon. The next morning Jim was gone. The stableman said he had left the
wagon a few moments after I had and had been stolen. The police accused
the stablemen of being parties to the theft, in which I think they were

Money could not buy that dog. He was an integral part of the expedition:
always on the alert; always watchful of the wagon during my absence, and
always willing to mind what I bade him do. He had had more adventures on
this trip than any other member of the outfit. First he was tossed over
a high brush by the ox Dave; then, shortly after, he was pitched
headlong over a barbed wire fence by an irate cow. Next came a fight
with a wolf; following this, came a narrow escape from a rattlesnake in
the road. Also, a trolley car ran on to him, rolling him over and over
again until he came out as dizzy as a drunken man. I thought he was a
"goner" that time for sure, but he soon straightened up. Finally, in the
streets of Kansas City, he was run over by a heavy truck while fighting
with another dog. The other dog was killed outright, while Jim came near
to having his neck broken. He lost one of his best fighting teeth and
had several others broken. I sent him to a veterinary surgeon, and
curiously enough he made no protest while having the broken teeth
repaired or extracted.

There was no other way to find Jim than to offer a reward. I did this,
and feel sure I paid twenty dollars to one of the parties to the theft.
The fellow was brazen enough, also, to demand pay for keeping him. That
was the time when I got up and talked pointedly.

But I had my faithful dog back, and I kept him more closely by me while
I was making the rest of my tour. Six years later it chanced that I lost
Jim. While we were waiting at a station, I let him out of the car for a
few minutes. The train started unexpectedly and Jim was left behind. A
good reward was offered for him, but nobody ever came to collect it.

[Illustration: Welcomed by President Roosevelt at the Capitol.]



I WAS glad enough to get out of the crowds of New York. It had given me
some rich experiences, but that big city is no place for ox teams. It
was good to get away from the jam and the hurry out on to the country

On the way to Philadelphia, between Newark and Elizabeth City, New
Jersey, at a point known as Lyon's Farm, the old Meeker homestead stood,
built in the year 1676. Here the Meeker Tribe, as we call ourselves,
came out to greet me, nearly forty strong.

On the way through Maryland we saw a good many oxen, some of them driven
on the road. The funny part of it was to have the owners try to trade
their scrawny teams for Dave and Dandy, offering money to boot, or two
yoke for one. They had never before seen such large oxen as Dave and
Dandy, and for that matter I never had myself. Dandy was of unusual
size, and Dave was probably the largest trained ox in the United States
then; he was sixteen hands high and eight feet in girth.

I reached Washington, the capital, just twenty-two months to the day
from the time I left home in Washington, the state. As soon as
arrangements could be made I went to see President Roosevelt. Senator
Piles and Representative Cushman, of the Washington Congressional
delegation, introduced me to the President in the cabinet room.

Mr. Roosevelt manifested a lively interest in the work of marking the
trail. He did not need to be told that the trail was a battlefield, or
that the Oregon pioneers who moved out and occupied the Oregon Country
while it was yet in dispute between Great Britain and the United States
were heroes. When I suggested that they were "the winners of the Farther
West," he fairly snatched these words from my lips. He went even further
than I had dreamed of or hoped for, in invoking Government aid to carry
on the work. Addressing Senator Piles, the President said with emphasis:
"I am in favor of this work to mark this trail. If you will bring before
Congress a measure to accomplish it, I am with you and will give my
support to do it thoroughly."

Mr. Roosevelt thought the suggestion of a memorial highway should first
come from the states through which the trail runs. However, it would be
possible to get Congressional aid to mark the trail. In any event, he
felt it ought to be done speedily.

Unexpectedly the President asked, "Where is your team? I want to see

Upon being told that it was nearby, without ceremony, and without his
hat, he was soon alongside, asking questions faster than they could be
answered, not idle questions, but such as showed his intense desire to
get real information, bottom facts.

President Roosevelt was a man who loved the pioneers and who understood
the true West. His warm welcome remains in my heart as one of the
richest rewards of the many that have come as compensation for my
struggle to carry out my dream.

On the eighth of January, 1908, I left Washington, shipping my outfit
over the Allegheny Mountains to McKeesport, Pennsylvania. From
McKeesport I drove to Pittsburgh, and there put the team into winter
quarters to remain until the fifth of March. Thence I shipped by boat on
the Ohio River to Cincinnati, stopping in that city but one day, and
from there I shipped by rail to St. Louis, Missouri.

My object now was to retrace the original trail from its beginnings to
where it joined the Oregon Trail, over which I had traveled. This trail
properly ran by water from St. Louis to Independence, thence westward
along the Platte to Fort Laramie.

At Pittsburgh and adjacent cities I was received cordially and
encouraged to believe that the movement to make a great national highway
had taken a deep hold in the minds of the people.

I was not so much encouraged in St. Louis. The city officers were
unwilling to do anything to further the movement, but before I left the
city, the Automobile Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution
did take formal action indorsing the work. St. Louis had really been the
head and center of the movement that finally established the original
Oregon Trail. It was from here that Lewis and Clark started on the
famous expedition of 1804-05 that opened up the Northwest. Here was
where Wyeth, Bonneville, and others of the early travelers on the trail
had outfitted.

[Illustration: _Brown Bros._

The homeward trip took us through the great industrial cities of the
Middle states, among them Pittsburgh.]

The drive from St. Louis to Jefferson City, the capital of the State of
Missouri, was tedious and without result other than that of reaching the
point where actual driving began in early days. Governor Folk signified
his approval of the work, and I was given a cordial hearing by the

On the fourth of April I arrived at Independence, Missouri, which is
generally understood to be the eastern terminus of the Santa Fé Trail. I
found, however, that many of the pioneers had shipped farther up the
Missouri, some driving from Atchison, some from Leavenworth, others from
St. Joseph. At a little later period, multitudes had set out from
Kanesville (now Council Bluffs), where Whitman and Parker made their
final break with civilization and boldly turned their faces westward
for the unknown land of Oregon.

The Santa Fé and Oregon trails from Independence and Kansas City were
identical for forty miles or thereabouts, out to the town of Gardner,
Kansas. From there the Santa Fé Trail bore on to the west and finally to
the southwest, while the Oregon Trail bore steadily on to the northwest
and encountered the Platte valley below Grand Island in what is now
Nebraska. At the forks of the road, the historian Chittenden says, "a
simple signboard was seen which carried the words 'Road to Oregon,' thus
pointing the way for two thousand miles. No such signboard ever before
pointed the road for so long a distance, and probably another such never

I determined to make an effort to find the spot where this historic sign
once stood, and if possible to plant a marker there. Friends in Kansas
City, one of whom I had not met for sixty years, took me by automobile
to Gardner, where, after a search of a couple of hours, two old
residents were found who were able to point out the spot. These men were
Mr. V. R. Ellis and Mr. William J. Ott, aged respectively seventy-seven
and eighty-two years, whose residence in the near vicinity dated back
nearly fifty years. The point is at the intersection of Washington
Street and Central Street in the town of Gardner.

I planned to drive up the Missouri and investigate the remaining five
prongs of the trail--Leavenworth, Atchison, St. Joseph, Kanesville, and
Independence. I drove to Topeka, the capital city of Kansas, where I
arrived the eleventh of May (1908). There the trail crosses the Kansas
River under the very shadow of the State House, not three blocks away;
yet only a few knew of it.

On the twenty-third of May the team arrived at St. Joseph, Missouri, a
point where many pioneers had outfitted in early days. While public
sentiment there was in hearty accord with the work of marking the trail,
yet plainly it would be a hard tug to get the people together on a plan
to erect a monument. "Times were very tight to undertake such a work,"
came the response from so many that no organized effort was made.

[Illustration: The ox-team pioneer of 1852 tries the airplane trail in

The committee of Congress in charge of the bill appropriating fifty
thousand dollars to mark the trail, by this time had taken action and
had made a favorable report. Such a report was held to be almost
equivalent to the passage of a bill. So, all things considered, the
conclusion was reached to suspend operations, ship the team home, and
for the time being take a rest from the work. I had been out from home
twenty-eight months, lacking but five days; hence it is small wonder
that I concluded to listen to the inner longings to get back to home and
home life. On the twenty-sixth of May I shipped the outfit by rail from
St. Joseph to Portland, Oregon, where I arrived on the sixth day of
June, 1908, and went into camp on the same grounds I had used in March,
1906, on my outward trip.

As I returned home over the Oregon Short Line I crossed the old trail in
many places. This time, however, it was with Dave and Dandy quietly
chewing their cud in the car, while I enjoyed all the luxuries of an
overland train.

I began vividly to realize the wide expanse of country covered, as we
passed first one and then another of the camping places. I was led to
wonder whether or not I should have undertaken the work if I could have
seen the trail stretched out, as I saw it like a panorama from the car
window. I sometimes think not. All of us at times undertake things that
look bigger after completion than they did in our vision of them. We go
into ventures without fully counting the cost. Perhaps that was the
case, to a certain extent, in this venture; the work did look larger
from the car window than from the camp.

Nevertheless, I have no regrets to express or exultation to proclaim.
The trail has not yet been fully or properly marked. We have made a good
beginning, however, and let us hope the end will soon become an
accomplished fact. Monumenting the old Oregon Trail means more than the
mere preservation in memory of that great highway; it means the building
up of loyalty, of patriotism, as well as the teaching of our history in
a form never to be forgotten.

Words can not express my deep feeling of gratitude for the royal welcome
given me by the citizens of Portland. I was privileged to attend the
reunion of the two thousand pioneers who had just assembled for their
annual meeting.

The drive from Portland to Seattle is also one long to be remembered; my
friends and neighbors met me with kindliest welcome. On the eighteenth
day of July, 1908, I drove into the city of Seattle and the long journey
was ended. My dream of retracing the way over the Old Trail had come




_In collaboration with Howard R. Driggs_

EVERYONE who knew "Uncle Nick" Wilson was always begging him to tell
about pioneer days in the Northwest. When "Uncle Nick" was eight years
old, the Wilson family crossed the plains by ox team. When he was only
twelve, he slipped away from home to travel north with a band of
Shoshones with whom he wandered about for two years, sharing all the
experiences of Indian life. Later, after he had returned home, he was a
pony express rider, he drove a stage on the Overland route, and he acted
as guide in an expedition against the Gosiute Indians.

"Uncle Nick" knew pioneer life and he knew the heart of the Indian. So
Mr. Driggs persuaded him to write his recollections and helped him to
make his story into a book that is a true record of pioneering and of
Indian life with its hardships and adventures.

_The White Indian Boy_ is an exciting, true story that has interested
many boys and girls and contributed to their understanding of the early
history of the West.

          _Cloth. xii + 222 pages. Illustrated. Price $1.20_






_Edited by Howard R. Driggs_

BULLWHACKING is an occupation about which most persons know little in
these days, but one that demanded courage out in Wyoming territory fifty
years ago. The bullwhacker drove ox teams to outlying army posts and
Indian reservations far from railroads, when the pioneers were pushing
our frontier west of the Missouri.

Mr. Hooker was one of these bullwhackers and his book is a true account
of his adventures while driving frontier freighters. He tells one of the
choice stories of America's making and in a way that makes the old West,
with the Indian, the cowboy, and the outlaw, live again.

Pioneer adventures are here recounted in an entertaining way, and they
are convincing because the author is one of the few surviving men who
whacked bulls and he knows of what he is writing. Used as an historical
reader, this book will make vivid to pupils of the upper grades an
adventurous period of our history.

          _Cloth. xvi + 167 pages. Illustrated. Price $1.00_






_In collaboration with Howard R. Driggs_

THE restoring of law and order on our western frontier in the sixties
was the work of courageous men with firm hands. It was one of the
stirring periods in the evolution of our government. Mr. McConnell, who
was first a captain of a band of Vigilantes before he was senator and
then governor, gives in this book his own experiences in bringing the
control of territorial affairs into the hands of law-abiding citizens.

In straight-forward fashion he tells of his journey from Michigan to the
coast, of mining in California, of homesteading in Oregon, of
prospecting in Idaho. Most unusual and interesting is his account of the
struggle against outlawry and the establishment of orderly government.

Through this life story of a real American boy rings a clear note of
Americanism with love of liberty, respect for law, and a willingness to
face squarely the issues of life. It is one of the very few first-hand
accounts of the Vigilantes and it will bring the events of those days,
with the great lessons that they teach, nearer to the young student of
our history.

          _Cloth. xii + 233 pages. Illustrated. Price $1.20_






_In collaboration with Howard R. Driggs_

THE life and work of the pioneer miners who opened up the golden
treasures of the Black Hills form a stirring chapter in the history of
the winning of the West. The story as told in this book is a vivid one,
made more valuable and interesting because Colonel Stokes writes of his
own experiences. He was one of the first to reach the new gold diggings
in the seventies, and he saw the whole development from the early
exciting days, on during the mad rush to Deadwood, to the discovery of
some of the greatest gold mines in the world.

There is in this volume much historical and geographical information.
Especially does the book give a realistic picture of many aspects of the
gold mining process and of the activities associated with the great gold
rushes of all times. Serving as a supplementary reader in intermediate
grades, this true story of American adventure will hold the interest of
boys and girls.

          _Cloth. xii + 163 pages. Illustrated. Price $1.00_


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Page vii, "189" changed to "185."

Page 86, "eatablished" changed to "established" (established in 1851)

Page 220, "Britian" changed to "Britain" (between Great Britain and the)

Page 222, "Fe" changed to "Fé" (of the Santa Fé Trail)

Page 223, "Sante Fe" changed to "Santa Fé" (The Santa Fé and Oregon

Page 223, "Fe" changed to "Fé" (Santa Fé Trail bore)

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.