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Title: Early Western Travels 1748-1846, v. 27
Author: Various
Language: English
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                         Early Western Travels


                              Volume XXVII

[Illustration: A View of the Rocky Mountains]

                         Early Western Travels


           A Series of Annotated Reprints of some of the best
         and rarest contemporary volumes of travel, descriptive
                    of the Aborigines and Social and
                   Economic Conditions in the Middle
                    and Far West, during the Period
                      of Early American Settlement

           Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by

                      Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL.D.

    Editor of "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents," "Original
        Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Hennepin's
                          New Discovery," etc.

                              Volume XXVII

            Part II of Flagg's The Far West, 1836-1837; and
               De Smet's Letters and Sketches, 1841-1842


                            Cleveland, Ohio
                      The Arthur H. Clark Company

                           COPYRIGHT 1906, BY
                      THE ARTHUR H. CLARK COMPANY

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                          =The Lakeside Press=

                     R. R. DONNELLEY & SONS COMPANY

                        CONTENTS OF VOLUME XXVII


    Western Life and Scenery; Sketches of the Prairies, Rivers, Ancient
    Mounds, Early Settlements of the French, etc., etc. (Chapters
    xxxiii-xli of Vol. II, completing the publication). _Edmund Flagg_

  Author's Table of Contents                                   15

  Text                                                         19


    LETTERS AND SKETCHES: with a Narrative of a Year's Residence among
    the Indian Tribes of the Rocky Mountains. _Pierre Jean de Smet, S.

  Author's Preface                                            129

      BOOK I: Letters I-XII, February 4-December 30, 1841     133

      BOOK II: Narrative of a Year's Residence
        among the Indian Tribes of the Rocky
        Mountains (comprised in Letters XIII-XVI,
        August 15-November 1, 1842)                           321

     Explanation of the Indian Symbolical Catechism           405


  "A View of the Rocky Mountains." From De Smet's _Letters
      and Sketches_                                    _Frontispiece_

  Allegorical sketch                                              126

  Facsimile of title-page, De Smet's _Letters and Sketches_       127

  "Worship in the Desert"                                         139

  "Kanza Village"                                                 195

  "Interior of a Kanza Lodge"                                     203

  "Chimney"                                                       217

  "Devil's Gate"                                                  239

  "Soda Springs"                                                  245

  "Fording the River Platte"                                      271

  "Sheyenne Warriors"                                             275

  "Indian Mode of Travelling"                                     325

  "Apparition"                                                    345

  "Indian Symbolical Catechism"--folding plate                    403

               PART II OF FLAGG'S THE FAR WEST, 1836-1837

    Reprint of chapters xxxiii-xli of Volume II of original edition:
                             New York, 1838



    Blackness of Darkness--Fall of a Forest-tree--A sublime
    Incident--Musings--A Moral--A Wolf--A Meal--A Mistake--A broiling
    Sun--The "Heights of Chester"--A noble View--An Island--A
    "Bend"--A Steamer--Chester--Site and Anticipations--A romantic
    Pathway--The Sycamores--The Undergrowth--The Bluffs--Forest
    Quietude--The wild-grape Vines--Size, Tortuosity, and Tenacity--A
    Juliet-bower--A Prediction--Kaskaskia Bottom--An elegant Farm and
    Mansion--The Outhouses--The Harvest-fields and Grounds--The
    Bluffs--The Village                                         19


    Antiqueness--A Proposition and Corollary--"All is New"--Freshness of
    Natural Scenery--The immigrant Inhabitants--An Exception--A serious
    Duty--A laudable Resolution--A gay Bevy--A Hawser-ferry--A Scene on
    the Kaskaskia--"Old Kaskaskia"--Structure of Dwellings--Aspect of
    Antiquity--A Contrast--"City of the Pilgrims"--The Scenes of a
    Century--Lane-like Streets--Old Customs--"The Parallel ceases"--The
    same Fact with the Spaniards--The Cause--The French Villagers--The
    Inn-gallery--A civil Landlord--The _Table d'Hôte_--A Moonlight
    Ramble--The old Church--The Courthouse--The fresh Laugh--The
    Piano--The Brunettes                                        26


    The Explorers of the West--The French Jesuits--Cause of the
    Undertaking--The Tale of the Hunters--Marquette and Joliet
    [viii]--Their Exploration--The Natives--The Illini--A
    Village--_Manito_ of the Missouri--The Illinois--Amazed
    Delight--Joliet's Narrative--Marquette--Name to the
    River--Joliet's Reward--Lapse of Years--M. Robert, Cavalier de la
    Salle--His Talent, Ambition, and Enterprise--Visit to
    Canada--Success at Paris--Tonti and Hennepin--Exploration--The
    Illinois--An Indian Village--The Hoard of Corn--Peoria
    Lake--Treatment by the Natives--Loss of the Supply-boat--Fort
    "_Creve Cœur_"--Its Site--"Spring Bay"--The Indian War--Danger of
    La Salle--The Mutiny--The Poison--Exploration of the
    Mississippi--The Falls--Captivity--Hennepin's Travels--Character
    of these early Writers--"Fort St. Louis"--Second Expedition of La
    Salle--The _Osage_--A Village of Natives--The _Oubachi_--Fort
    _Prudhomme_--Formal Possession--_Louisiana_--Ceremonies at the
    Gulf--River "St. Louis"--Villages founded--Fate of La
    Salle--Retributive Justice--Fate of Marquette--Decease and
    Burial--Canadian Colonies--Their Design--Mining Expeditions--M. de
    Seur--Disappointment--_Couriers du bois_--_Petits Paysans_--Merry
    Mortals--Origin of Kaskaskia--Name--Depôt of Fur-trade--De Soto
    and the Tradition--His Death and Burial--Original Extent of
    Kaskaskia--The "Common Field"--The Grant--Policy of French and
    Spanish Governments--"Common Fields" and
    "Commons"--Regulations--Congress-grants--Harmony with the
    Savages--The Cause--Exaggeration--Early Peace and
    Prosperity--Jesuit College--Law's Scheme--The Design--_Les
    Illinois_--The Failure--The "South Sea Bubble"--Prosperity of
    Kaskaskia--Luxuriance of Agriculture--A chimerical Design--Cession
    and Recession--An unwelcome Change--Removal and the Causes  34


    Portraiture of Character--The Difficulty--The French Villager of
    the Mississippi--His ordinary Deportment--Hospitality--Laws and
    Courts--Scholastic Proficiency--Affairs of the Nation--"A
    Burden!"--Their Virtues--The Helpmate--Religious
    Faith--Festivals--Their Property--The Change--Their
    Avocations--Their Idiom--A Contrast--The
    Peculiarities--Costume--Amusements--Slaves--Early Government--An
    unwelcome Change--"Improvement!"--A hateful [ix] Term--The
    Steam-engine--The old Edifices--The Streets--Advantages of the
    Change--The Contrast--The poorer Class--Evils of the
    Change--Superior Enterprise                                 52


    Delay on an interesting Subject--Peculiarities of French and
    Spanish Villages similar--Social Intercourse--Old Legends--Dreamy
    Seclusion--Commercial Advantages of Kaskaskia--The Trade--The
    River--The Land-office--Population--Fort Gage--Clarke's
    Expedition--The Catholic Church--Erection--Its Exterior--The
    Interior--The Altar-lamp--Structure of the Roof--Surprise of the
    Villagers--Interdict on the Architect--The Belfry--The Bell--View
    from the Tower--The Churchyard--The first Record--Old
    Chronicles--The Nunnery--The Seminary--Departure from
    Kaskaskia--Farms of the French--A Reminiscence--"Indian Old
    Point"--Extermination of the Norridgewocks--Details--The Obelisk
    to Father Rasle--Route to _Prairie du
    Rocher_--_Aubuchon_--Profusion of wild Fruit--Nuts--Grapes--A Wine
    Story--Mode of Manufacture--The Cliffs of _Prairie du
    Rocher_--"Common Field"--Productions--The _Bayou_--A Scene of
    Blood--A Century Slumber--Peculiarities--View from the
    Cliffs--Petrifactions--Simplicity and Ignorance--Characteristics
    of the French Villager--The Catholic Church--Unhealthy Site--Cause
    of a Phenomenon                                             59


    The Western Valley--Early Conception of its Extent inadequate--The
    French _Cordon_ of Fortification--Origin of the Policy--Stations
    of Posts erected--Fort Chartres--Groves of wild Fruit--The
    Dark-browed Villager--His direction to the Ruins--Desertion and
    Dreariness of the Spot--Solemn Effect of the old Pile in the
    Forest--_Coup d'œil_--The Mississippi _Slough_--Erection of Fort
    Chartres--The Design--Expense--Material--Rebuilding--Village
    Cession, Recession, and the Results--Seat of Power--Form and
    Extent--Preservation of the Masonry--French Engineering--Original
    Structure of the Fortress--The Pride of its Prime--Its Scenes--The
    "Golden Age"--The "old Residenters"--The Pomp of War--A Shelter
    for the Night                                               73

                               [x] XXXIX

    Fort Chartres--A romantic Scene--Legendary Lore--Erection of Fort
    Chartres--Enormous Expenditure--Needless Strength--The
    Engineer--His Fate--The "Buried Treasure"--The
    Money-diggers--Their Success--The "Western Hannibal"--Expedition
    against Vincennes--Capture of the French Villages--Siege of Fort
    Chartres--A successful _Ruse du Guerre_--A Scrap of History--The
    Capture of Fort Vincent--The Stratagem--Fort Du Quesne--Erection
    and History--Useless Strength--A Morning Scene--Philippe Francis
    Renault--His Mining Operations--The Village St. Philippe--The
    Cottonwood Forest--The Mississippi!--A Mistake--A weary Plod--An
    Atmosphere of Pestilence--Causes of Disease--Salubrious Site for a
    Cabin--Precautions for the Emigrant--Diseases of the
    West--Fevers--Sickly Months--"Milk Sickness"--Its Cause and
    Effects--Fever and Ague--An Escape--A sick Family--The
    Consumptive--Refreshment--An early Settler                  85


    The "Squatter"--His Character and Person--A View from the
    Bluffs--The ancient Indian Village--Reliques--The Squatter's
    Reflections--His Wanderings--A Discovery--The Grave of a
    Chief--The Ancient Burial-grounds--Human Remains--A Coffin of
    Stone--The "Pigmy Race"--An Investigation--Ancient Pottery--The
    _Turtle_--The _Sink-holes_--Waterloo--Its Windmill and
    Courthouse--Bellefontaine--An evening Ride--"Hail Columbia!"--An
    _immortal_ Name--A very poor Pun--A miserable Night--A pleasant
    Dawn--The American Bottom--Its
    Name--Extent--Boundaries--Bluffs--Lakes, their Cause and
    Consequence--Disease an Obstacle to Settlement--The Remedy--The
    _Grand Marais_--The Soil--Its Fertility--The appropriate
    Production                                                  97


    The American Bottom--Its alluvial Character--An interesting
    Query--The Ancient Lake--The Southern Limit--The Parapet of
    Stone--Alluvial Action on the Cliffs--A similar Expansion--The
    Eastern Limit and the Western--The "Mamelle [xi]
    Prairie"--Elevation of Country North--Cause of the Draining--The
    Rocks at "Grand Tower"--Abrasion of Waters--Volcanic Action--A
    Tide-spring--The "Blockhouse"--Geology of the Region--Volcanic
    Convulsions--Impress of Omnipotence--Reflections
    suggested--Ignorance and Indifference on the Subject--Remarks of
    Dr. Buckland and Cuvier--A very _ancient_ Revolution--Huge
    Remains--Theory of Cuvier--Productions of the American Bottom--The
    Farms--Prairie-flowers--Mounds--_Prairie du Pont_--Refreshment--A
    novel Churn--A disagreeable Village--_Cahokia_--The Indian
    Tribe--The Settlement--The Mississippi--The Creek--Harmonious
    Intercourse--A Contrast--Early Inhabitants of
    Cahokia--Peculiarities of the Village--The "Common Field"--Grant
    of Congress--Cahokia at the present Time--Route to St.
    Louis--Sunset on the Water--View of the City--Moonlight--Arrival
    at St. Louis--A Farewell!                                  108

                              THE FAR WEST

                               [PART II]


          "Stranger, if thou hast learn'd a truth which needs
           Experience more than reason, that the world
           Is full of guilt and misery, and hast known
           Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares
           To tire thee of it; enter this wild wood,
           And view the haunts of Nature."

The moon had gone down; the last star had burned out in the firmament;
and that deep darkness which precedes the dawn was brooding over the
earth as the traveller turned away from the little inn at the village
of Pinkneyville. Fortunately he had, the previous evening, while
surveying the face of the region from the door of the hostelrie,
gained some general idea of the route to [CXXVII] Kaskaskia; and now,
dropping the reins upon his horse's neck, he began floundering along
through a blackness of darkness perfectly Cimmerian. It was, indeed, a
gloomy night. The early mists were rising, damp and chill, from the
soil saturated with the showers of the preceding day; and the darkness
had become of a density almost palpable to the sense. Crossing a
narrow arm of the prairie in the direction presumed to be correct, my
horse carried me into a dense wood, and, if possible, the darkness
increased. I had penetrated some miles into the heart of the forest,
and was advancing slowly upon my way, when my attention was suddenly
arrested by a low, whispering, rustling sound in the depths of the
wood at my right; this gradually increasing, was almost immediately
succeeded by a crashing, thundering, rushing report, till every echo
far and wide in that dark old wood was wakened, and the whole forest
for miles around resounded with the roar. My horse, terrified at the
noise, leaped and plunged like a mad creature. An enormous forest-tree
had fallen within a dozen rods of the spot on which I stood. As I left
the noble ruin and resumed my lonely way, my mind brooded over the
event, and I thought I could perceive in the occurrence a powerful
feature of the sublime. The fall of an aged tree in the noiseless
lapse of time is ever an event not unworthy of notice; but, at a
moment like this, it was surely so in an eminent degree. Ages
since--long ere the first white man had pressed the soil of this
Western world, and while the untamed denizens of the wilderness
[CXXVIII] roamed in the freedom of primitive creation--ages since had
seen the germe of that mighty tree lifting up its young, green leaf
from the sod, beneath the genial warmth of the sunlight and the summer
wind. An age passed away. The tender stem had reared itself into a
gigantic pillar, and proudly tossed its green head amid the upper
skies: that young leaf, expanded and developed, had spread itself
abroad, until, at length, the beasts of the earth had sought out its
shade, and the tree stood up the monarch of the forest. Another age is
gone, and the hoary moss of time is flaunting to the winds from its
venerable branches. Long ago the thunderbolt had consecrated its lofty
top with the baptismal of fire, and, sere and rifted, the storm-cloud
now sings through its naked limbs. Like an aged man, its head is
bleached with years, while the strength and verdure of ripened
maturity yet girdle its trunk. But the worm is at the root: rottenness
at the heart is doing its work. Its day and its hour are appointed,
and their bounds it may not pass. That hour, that moment is come! and
in the deep, pulseless stillness of the night-time, when slumber
falleth upon man and Nature pauses in her working, the offspring of
centuries is laid low, and bows himself along the earth. Yet another
age is gone; but the traveller comes not to muse over the relics of
the once-glorious ruin. Long ago has each been mouldering away, and
their dust has mingled with the common mother of us all. Ah! there is
a _moral_ in the falling of an aged tree!

[CXXIX] I was dwelling with rather melancholy reflections upon this
casual occurrence, when a quick panting close at my side attracted my
attention; a large, gaunt-looking prairie-wolf had just turned on his
_heel_ and was trotting off into the shade. The gray dawn had now
begun to flicker along the sky, and, crossing a beautiful prairie and
grove, I found myself at the pleasant farmhouse of a settler of some
twenty or thirty years' standing; and dismounting, after a ride of
eighteen miles, I partook, with little reluctance or ceremony, of an
early breakfast. Thus much for the _night adventures of a traveller_
in the woods and wilds of Illinois! My host, the old gentleman to whom
I have referred, very sagely mistook his guest for a physician, owing
to a peculiarly convenient structure of those indispensables ycleped
saddle-bags; and was just about consulting his fancied man of
medicines respecting the ailings of his "woman," who was reclining on
a bed, when, to his admiration, he was undeceived.

Passing through an inconsiderable village on the north side of the
Little Vermillion called Georgetown, my route lay through an extended
range of hills and _barrens_.[2] Among the former were some most
intolerably tedious, especially to a horseman beneath a broiling sun,
who had passed a sleepless night: but the sweep of scenery from their
summits was beautiful and extensive. At length the traveller stood
upon the "heights of Chester," and the broad Mississippi was rolling
on its turbid floods a hundred yards beneath. The view is here a noble
[CXXX] one, not unlike that from the Alton or Grafton bluffs at the
other extremity of the "American Bottom," though less extensive.
Directly at the feet of the spectator, scattered along a low, narrow
interval, lies the village of Chester. Upon the opposite bank the
forest rolls away to the horizon in unbroken magnificence, excepting
that here and there along the bottom the hand of cultivation is
betrayed by the dark luxuriance of waving maize-fields. A beautiful
island, with lofty trees and green smiling meadows, stretches itself
along in the middle of the stream before the town, adding not a little
to the picturesqueness of the scene, and, in all probability, destined
to add something more to the future importance of the place. To the
right, at a short distance, come in the soft-flowing waters of the
Kaskaskia through deeply-wooded banks; and nearly in the same
direction winds away the mirror-surface of the Mississippi for twenty
miles, to accomplish a direct passage of but four, an occurrence by
no means unusual in its course. As I stood gazing upon the scene, a
steamer appeared sweeping around the bend, and, puffing lazily along
with the current past the town, soon disappeared in the distance. From
the heights an exceedingly precipitous pathway leads down to the
village. Chester is one of the new places of Illinois, and, of course,
can boast but little to interest the stranger apart from the highly
scenic beauty of its situation.[3] It has been mostly erected within
the few years past; and, for its extent, is a flourishing business
place. Its landing is excellent, location healthy, [CXXXI] adjacent
region fertile, and, for aught I know to the contrary, may, in course
of years, rival even the far-famed Alton. Its landing, I was informed,
is the only one for many miles upon the river, above or below,
suitable for a place of extensive commerce.

From Chester, in a direction not far from north, a narrow pathway winds
along beneath the bluffs, among the tall cane-brakes of the bottom.
Leaving the Mississippi at the mouth of the Kaskaskia, it runs along the
low banks of the latter stream, and begins to assume an aspect truly
delightful. Upon either side rise the shafts of enormous sycamores to
the altitude of an hundred feet, and then, flinging abroad and
interlacing their long branches, form a living arch of exquisite beauty,
stretching away in unbroken luxuriance for miles. Beneath springs from
the rich loam a dense undergrowth of canes; a profusion of wild vines
and bushes clustering with fruit serving effectually to exclude the
sunbeams, except a few checkered spots here and there playing upon the
foliage, while at intervals through the dark verdure is caught the
flashing sheen of the moving waters. Upon the right, at the distance of
only a few yards, go up the bluffs to the sheer height of some hundred
feet, densely clothed with woods. The path, though exceedingly narrow
and serpentine, is for the most part a hard-trodden, smooth, and
excellent one when dry. The coolness and fragrance of these deep, old,
shadowy woodlands has always for me a resistless charm. There is so much
of quiet seclusion from the feverish turmoil of ordinary life within
[CXXXII] their peaceful avenues, that, to one not wedded to the world,
they are ever inexpressibly grateful.

                                              "The calm shade
          Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze,
          That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
          To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
          Of all that pain'd thee in the haunts of men,
          And made thee loathe thy life."

In the wild, fierce glaring of a summer noontide, when amid "the
haunts of men" all is parched up, and dusty, and scathed, how
refreshingly cool are the still depths of the forest! The clear
crystal streamlet gushes forth with perennial laughter from the rock,
seeming to exult in its happy existence; the bright enamelled mosses
of a century creep along the gnarled old roots, and life in all its
fairy forms trips forth to greet the eremite heart and charm it from
the world. But there was one feature of the scene through which I was
passing that struck me as peculiarly imposing, and to which I have not
yet referred. I allude to the enormous, almost preternatural magnitude
of the wild-grape vine, and its tortuosity. I have more than once, in
the course of my wanderings, remarked the peculiarities of these vast
parasites; but such is the unrivalled fertility, and the depth of soil
of the Kaskaskia bottom, that vegetation of every kind there attains a
size and proportion elsewhere almost unknown. Six or seven of these
vast vegetable serpents are usually beheld leaping forth with a broad
whirl from the mould at the root of a tree, and then, writhing, and
twining, and twisting [CXXXIII] among themselves into all imaginable
forms, at length away they start, all at once and together, in
different directions for the summit, around which they immediately
clasp their bodies, one over the other, and swing depending in
festoons on every side. Some of these vines, when old and dried up by
the elements, are amazingly strong; more so, perhaps, than a hempen
hawser of the same diameter.

Having but a short ride before me the evening I left Chester, I
alighted from my horse, and leisurely strolled along through this
beautiful bower I have been attempting to describe. What a charming
spot, thought I, for a Romeo and Juliet!--pardon my roving fancy,
sober reader--but really, with all my own sobriety, I could not but
imagine this a delightful scene for a "Meet me by moonlight alone," or
any other _improper_ thing of the kind, whether or not a trip to
Gretna Green subsequently ensued. And if, in coming years, when the
little city of Chester shall have become all that it now seems to
promise, and the venerable Kaskaskia, having cast her slough, having
rejuvenated her withered energies, and recalled the days of her
pristine _traditionary_ glory; if then, I say, the young men and
maidens make not this the consecrated spot of the long summer-evening
ramble and the trysting-place of the heart, reader, believe us not; in
the dignified _parlance_ of the _corps editorial_, believe _us_ not.

Some portions of the Kaskaskia bottom have formerly, at different
times, been cleared and cultivated; but nothing now remains but the
ruins of [CXXXIV] tenements to acquaint one with the circumstance. The
spot must have been exceedingly unhealthy in its wild state. There is,
however, one beautiful and extensive farm under high cultivation
nearly opposite Kaskaskia, which no traveller can fail to observe and
admire. It is the residence of Colonel M----, a French gentleman of
wealth, who has done everything a cultivated taste could dictate to
render it a delightful spot.[4] A fine, airy farmhouse stands beneath
the bluffs, built after the French style, with heavy roof, broad
balconies, and with a rare luxury in this region--green Venetian
blinds. The outhouses, most of them substantially constructed of
stone, are surpassed in beauty and extent only by the residence
itself. Fields yellow with golden harvest, orchards loaded with fruit,
and groves, and parks, and pastures sprinkled with grazing cattle,
spread out themselves on every side. In the back-ground rise the
wooded bluffs, gracefully rounded to their summits, while in front
roams the gentle Kaskaskia, beyond which, peacefully reposing in the
sunlight, lay the place of my destination.

_Kaskaskia, Ill._


[1] Volume xxvii of our series begins with chapter xxxiii of the
original New York edition (1838) of Flagg's _The Far West_. The author
is here describing the part of his journey made in the late summer or
early autumn of 1836.--ED.

[2] The Vermilion River (which Flagg incorrectly wrote Little
Vermilion) rises, with several branches, in the western and southern
portions of La Salle County, and flows north and west, entering
Illinois River at Rock Island, in Livingston County.

Steelesville (formerly Georgetown) is about fifteen miles east of
Kaskaskia, on the road between Pinkneyville and Chester; the site was
settled on by George Steele in 1810. A block-house fort erected there
in 1812 protected the settlers against attacks from the Kickapoo
Indians. In 1825 a tread-mill was built, and two years later a store
and post-office were erected. The latter was named Steele's Mills. The
settlement was originally called Georgetown and later changed by an
act of state legislature to Steelesville, being surveyed in 1832.--ED.

[3] Chester is on the Mississippi River, in Randolph County, just
below the mouth of Kaskaskia River. In the summer of 1829, Samuel
Smith built the first house there, and two years later he, together
with Mather, Lamb and Company, platted the town site. It was named by
Jane Smith from her native town, Chester, England, and was made the
seat of justice for Randolph in 1848.--ED.

[4] Flagg is probably referring to Colonel Pierre Menard. See our
volume xxvi, p. 165, note 116.--ED.


    "Protected by the divinity they adored, supported by the earth
    which they cultivated, and at peace with themselves, they enjoyed
    the sweets of life without dreading or desiring
    dissolution."--NUMA POMPILIUS.

          "A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
           Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye."
                                              _Castle of Indolence._

In a country like our own, where everything is fresh and recent, and
where nothing has yet been swept by the mellowing touch of departed
time, any object which can lay but the most indifferent claim to
antiquity fails not to be hailed with delighted attention. "You have,"
say they of the other hemisphere, "no ivy-mantled towers; no
moss-grown, castellated ruins; no donjon-keeps rearing in dark sublimity
their massive walls and age-bleached battlements; nothing to span the
mighty chasm of bygone years, and to lead down the fancy into the
shadowy realms of the past; and, _therefore_, your country is steril in
moral interest." Now, though this _corollary_ is undoubtedly false, I
yet believe the proposition in the main to be _true_: especially is this
the case with regard to that region which lies west of the Alleghany
range. Little as there may be in the elder sections of our Atlantic
states to demand veneration for the past, no sooner does the traveller
find himself gliding along the silvery wave [CXXXVI] of the "beautiful
river," than at the same moment he finds himself forsaking all that the
fairy creations of genius have ever consecrated, or the roll of the
historian chronicled for coming time. All is NEW. The very soil on which
he treads, fertile beyond comparison, and festering beneath the
undisturbed vegetation of centuries; the rolling forests, bright,
luxuriant, gorgeous as on the dawn of creation; the endless streams
pouring onward in their fresh magnificence to the ocean, all seem new.
The inhabitants are emigrants late from other lands, and every operation
of human skill on which the eye may rest betrays a recent origin. There
is but a single exception to these remarks--those mysterious monuments
of a race whom we know not of!

In consideration, therefore, of the circumstance that antiquities in
this blessed land of ours are, indeed, very few and far between, I deem
it the serious duty of every traveller, be he virtuoso or be he not,
whenever once so happy as to lay his grasp upon an antique "in any form,
in any shape," just to hold fast to the best of his ability! Such,
reader, be it known, was my own praiseworthy determination when drawing
nigh to the eastern shore of the stream opposite the ancient French
village Kaskaskia. The sun was going down, and as I approached the sandy
edge of the sea-green water, a gay bevy of young folks were whirling the
long, narrow, skiff-like ferry-boat like a bird across the stream, by
means of a hawser to which it was attached, and which extended from
shore to shore. In my own turn I stepped into the boat, and in a few
moments the old French [CXXXVII] negro had forced it half across the
river, at this spot about three or four hundred yards in width. For one
who has ever visited Kaskaskia in the last beautiful days of summer, a
pen like my own need hardly be employed to delineate the loveliness of
the scene which now opened upon the view. For miles the gleamy surface
of the gentle Kaskaskia might be seen retreating from the eye, till lost
at length in its windings through the forests of its banks, resting
their deep shadows on the stream in all the calm magnificence of
inanimate nature. The shore I was leaving swelled gracefully up from the
water's edge, clothed in forests until it reached the bluffs, which
towered abrupt and loftily; while here and there along the landscape the
low roof of a log cabin could be caught peeping forth from the dark
shrubbery. The bank of the stream I was approaching presented an aspect
entirely the reverse; less lovely, but more picturesque. A low sandy
beach stretched itself more than a mile along the river, destitute of
trees, and rounding itself gently away into a broad green plain. Upon
this plain--a portion of the American Bottom--at the distance of a few
hundred yards from the water, is situated all that now remains of "old
Kaskaskia." From the centre rises a tall Gothic spire, hoary with time,
surmounted by an iron cross; and around this nucleus are clustered
irregularly, at various intervals, the heavy-roofed, time-stained
cottages of the French inhabitants. These houses are usually like those
of the West India planters--but a single story in height--and the
surface which they occupy is, [CXXXVIII] of course, in the larger class,
proportionably increased. They are constructed, some of rough limestone,
some of timber, framed in every variety of position--horizontal,
perpendicular, oblique, or all united--thus retaining their shape till
they rot to the ground, with the interstices stuffed with the fragments
of stone, and the external surface stuccoed with mortar; others--a few
only--are framed, boarded, etc., in modern style. Nearly all have
galleries in front, some of them spacious, running around the whole
building, and all have garden-plats enclosed by stone walls or
stoccades. Some of these curious-looking structures are old, having
bided the storm-winds of more than a century. It is this circumstance
which throws over the place that antiquated, venerable aspect to which I
have alluded, and which equally applies to all the other villages of
this peculiar people I have yet spoken of. The city of Philadelphia and
this neglected village of Kaskaskia are, as regards age, the same to a
year;[5] but while every object which, in the one, meets the eye, looks
fresh as if but yesterday touched by the last chiselling of the
architect, in the latter the thoughts are carried back at least to
Noah's ark! Two centuries have rolled by since the "city of the
Pilgrims" ceased to be a "cornfield;" but where will you now look for a
solitary relic of that olden time? "State-street," the scene where
American blood was first poured out by British soldiery; "Old
Cornhill;" the site of the "Liberty-tree;" and the wharf from which the
tea was poured into the dock, are indeed pointed out to you as spots
memorable [CXXXIX] in the history of the "Leaguer of Boston;" and yonder
frowns the proud height of Bunker's Hill; _there_ lay the British
battle-ships, and _there_ was "burning Charlestown:" but, with almost
the solitary exception of the "Old South" Church, with the cannon-ball
imbedded in its tower, where shall we look for an _object_ around which
our associations may cluster? This is not the case with these old
villages. A century has looked down upon the same objects, in the same
situations and under the same relations, with a change scarcely
appreciable. Yon aged church-tower has thrown its venerable shadow alike
over the Indian _corn-dance_, the rude _cotillon_ of the French
villager, the Spanish _fandango_, the Virginia _reel_, and the Yankee
_frolic_. Thus, then, when I speak of these places with reference to
antiquity, I refer not so much to the actual lapse of years as to the
present aspect and age of the individual objects. In this view there are
few spots in our country which may lay more undisputed claim to
antiquity than these early French settlements in the Western Valley.

There is one feature of these little villages to which I have not at
this time alluded, but which is equally amusing and characteristic,
and which never fails to arrest the stranger's observation. I refer to
the narrowness of those avenues _intended_ for streets. It is no very
strange thing that in aged Paris structure should be piled upon
structure on either side even to the clouds, while hardly a footpath
exists between; but that in this vast Western world a custom, in all
respects the same, should have prevailed, [CXL] surpasseth
understanding. This must have resulted not surely from lack of
_elbow-room_, but from the marvellous sociality of the race, or from
that attachment to the customs of their own fatherland which the
Frenchman ever betrays. In agriculture and the mechanic arts they are
now about as well skilled, notwithstanding the improvements which they
must perceive have been going on around them, as on the day their
fathers first planted foot on this broad land. The same implements of
husbandry and the arts which a century since were seen in France, are
now seen here; the very vehicle they drive is the vineyard-car, which
is presented us in representations of rustic life in the older
provinces of the same land. The same characteristics of feeling and
action are here displayed as there, and the Gallic tongue is sacredly
transmitted from father to son. But here the parallel ceases. We can
trace but little resemblance between the staid, simple-hearted French
villager of the Mississippi Valley, and the gay, frivolous, dissolute
cotemporary of the fifteenth Louis; still less to the countryman of a
Marat or a Robespierre, rocked upon the bloody billow of the "Reign of
Terror;" and less than either to the high-minded, polished Frenchman
of the nineteenth century. The same fact has been remarked of the
Spanish population of Florida and Mexico; their resemblance to their
ancestors, who have been slumbering for more than three centuries in
their graves, is far more striking than to their present brethren of
"Old Castile." The cause of this is not difficult to detect. The
customs, the [CXLI] manners, the very idioms of nations never remain
for any considerable period of time invariably the same: other men,
other times, other circumstances, when assisted by civil or religious
revolutions, produce surprising changes in the parent land, while the
scanty colony, separated by mountains and seas, not more from the roar
and commotion than from the influenced sphere of these events,
slumbers quietly on from century to century, handing down from father
to son those peculiarities, unaltered, which migrated with them.
Climate, soil, location, though far from exclusive, are by no means
inconsiderable agents in affecting character in all its relations of
intellect, temperament, and physical feature. And thus has it chanced
that we now look upon a race of men separated but a few centuries from
the parent stock, yet exhibiting characteristics in which there are
few traits common to both.

It was through one of those long, narrow, lane-like streets to which I
have alluded, and, withal, a most unconscionably filthy one, that I
rode from the landing of the ferry to the inn. The low-roofed,
broad-galleried cottages on either side seemed well stocked with a
race of dark-eyed, dark-haired, swarthy-looking people, all, from the
least unto the tallest, luxuriating in the mellow atmosphere of
evening; all, as if by the same right, staring most unceremoniously at
the stranger; and all apparently summing up, but in the uncouthest
style imaginable, their divers surmises respecting his country,
lineage, occupation, etc., etc. The forms and features of these French
villagers are perfectly unique, at least in our [CXLII] country, and
one can hardly fail distinguishing them at first sight, even among a
crowd, once having seen them. Their peculiarities are far more
striking than those of our German or Irish population. A few
well-dressed, _genteel_ gentlemen were lounging about the piazza of
the inn as I drew nigh, and a polite landlord, courteously pressing
forward, held the stirrup of the traveller and requested him to
alight. Something of a contrast, this, to the attention a stranger
usually is blessed with from not more than nine tenths of the worthy
publicans of Illinois. Alas! for the aristocracy of the nineteenth
century! But _n'importe_. With the easy air of gentility and taste
which seemed to pervade the inn at Kaskaskia in all its departments,
few could have failed to be pleased. For myself, I was also
surprised. Everything about the establishment was in the French style,
and here was spread the handsomest _table d'hôte_ it has been my
fortune to witness in Illinois.

The moon was pouring gloriously down in misty mellowness upon the
low-roofed tenements of this antiquated village, when, leaving my
chamber, I stepped from the inn for a leisure stroll through its streets
and lanes. Passing the gray old church,[6] bathed in the dim, melting
moonlight of a summer night, such as for more than a century had smiled
upon its consecrated walls as one year had chased away another, the next
considerable structure which arrested my attention was a huge, ungainly
edifice of brick, like Joseph's coat, _of many colours_, forsooth, and,
withal, sadly ruinous as regards the item of windows. This latter
circumstance, aside from [CXLIII] every other, agreeable to all observed
precedent, would have notified me of the fact that this was neither more
nor less than a western courthouse. Continuing my careless ramble among
the cottages, I passed several whose piazzas were thronged with young
people; and at intervals from the midst rang out, on the mild evening
air, the gay fresh laugh, and the sweet, soft tones of woman. A stately
structure of stone, buried in foliage, next stood beside me, and from
its open doors and windows issued the tumultuous melody of the piano. A
few steps, and the innocent merriment of two young girls hanging upon a
gentleman's arms struck my ear. They passed me. Both were young; and
one, a gazelle-eyed brunette, in the pale moonlight, was beautiful. The
blithe creatures were full of frolic and fun, and the light Gallic
tongue seemed strangely musical from those bright lips. But
enough--enough of my evening's ramble--nay, more than enough: I am
waxing sentimental. It was at a late hour, after encountering divers
untold adventures, that I found myself once more at my hotel. The
gallery was thronged with French gentlemen, and it was some hours before
the laugh and chatter had died away, and the old village was buried in

_Kaskaskia, Ill._


[5] Philadelphia was founded in 1682. There has been much discussion
about the exact date of the founding of Kaskaskia. E. G. Mason was of
the opinion that this uncertainty had arisen in the confounding of
Kaskaskia with an earlier Indian settlement of the same name on the
Illinois River. It seems probable that Kaskaskia on the Mississippi
was started in 1699. Consult E. G. Mason, "Kaskaskia and its Parish
Records," in _Magazine of American History_ (New York, 1881), vi, pp.
161-182, and _Chapters from Illinois History_ (Chicago, 1901); also C.
W. Alvord, _The Old Kaskaskia Records_ (Chicago Historical Society,
1906). See also A. Michaux's _Travels_, in our volume iii, p. 69, note

[6] The church of the Immaculate Conception, the first permanent
structure of its kind west of the Alleghany Mountains, was built in
1720. It was torn down in 1838 and a large brick church built. For a
more detailed description of the former, see _post_, pp. 62-64.--ED.


          "Glanced many a light caïque along the foam,
           Danced on the shore the daughters of the land."

          "How changed the scene since merry Jean Baptiste
             Paddled his pirouge on La Belle Rivière,
           And from its banks some lone Loyola priest
             Echoed the night song of the voyageur."

It is now more than a century and a half since the sturdy Canadian
voyageurs, treading in the footsteps of the adventurous Sieur la
Salle, forsaking the bleak shores and wintry skies of the St.
Lawrence, first planted themselves upon the beautiful hunting-grounds
of the peaceful Illini. Long before the Pilgrim Fathers of
New-England, or the distressed exiles of Jamestown, scattered along
the steril shores of the Atlantic, had formed even a conception of the
beautiful valley beyond the mountains--while this vast North American
continent was yet but a wilderness, and the nations of Christendom,
ignorant of its character or of its extent, knew not by whom of right
it should be appropriated--a few French Jesuit priests had ascended in
their bark canoes a distance of three thousand miles from the mouth of
the "endless river," and had explored its tributaries to their
fountains. It is with admiration almost bordering on astonishment
that we view the bold adventures of these daring men.[7] [CXLV] The
cause of their fearless undertaking was, we are told, to investigate
the truth of an idea which at that era was prevalent among the
Canadian French, that a western passage through the American continent
existed to the Pacific Ocean. The Indian hunters had spoken of a vast
stream far away to the west, which on their long excursions they had
seen, but of whose source, course, or termination they could tell
nothing. This river was supposed to disgorge itself into the Pacific
Seas; and, to prosecute the inquiry, Father Marquette, a recollet
monk, and Sieur Joliet, an Indian trader of Quebec, by authority of M.
Talon, Intendant of New France, a man of singular enterprise, entered
upon the expedition. Thridding the great chain of the Northern Lakes
in their slender skiffs, and pursuing the Ouisconsin River, on the
17th of June, 1673, the first Europeans descended the "Father of
Waters."[8] By the natives whom they met they were kindly received,
and entertained with a deference due only to superior beings. Among
these Indians, the Illini, then residing on both sides of the
Mississippi, were chief, and their nation was made up of seven
distinct tribes: the Miamies, Michigamies, Mascotins, Kaskaskias,
Kahokias, Peorias, and Taumarwaus, a peaceful, benevolent, unwarlike
race.[9] A village was found at the mouth of the Illinois. Descending
the Mississippi, the French voyageurs were dissuaded from their design
of exploring the Missouri by a tradition of the natives that near its
mouth dwelt a _Manito_, whose residence no human being could pass with
life: nor did the Indians fail to tell the legend of [CXLVI] the
_Piasa_ cliff above. Turning up the Illinois, therefore, they glided
with amazement through the green woodlands and over the silvery wave
of that beautiful stream. It is, perhaps, at this distant day, and in
the present era of "speculators and economists," hardly possible to
conceive the delighted emotions which must then have swelled the
bosoms of those simple-hearted men. Sieur Joliet, on his return to
Canada, published an account of his adventures, in which narrative
language seems almost too meager for description of the golden land he
had seen.[10] Father Marquette remained a missionary among the
peaceful Indians. To the river partially explored was given the name
of the celebrated Colbert, Minister of Marine, by Count de Frontenac;
and to the trader Joliet, as a reward, was granted the island of
Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.[11]

Years passed away, and no enterprising spirit rose up to prosecute the
discoveries already made. The missionary Marquette died among the
Indians two years after, and Joliet took possession of his island. At
length appears M. Robert, Cavalier de la Salle, a native of Rouen in
Normandy, celebrated as the birthplace of Fontenelle and the two
Corneilles, and for the martyrdom of the heroic Maid of Orleans more
than two centuries before. La Salle was a man of bold talents and
dauntless enterprise. Ambitious of fame and wealth, he emigrated to
Canada; listened to the wonderful tales of the _endless river_;
conceived the idea of a Northwest Passage to the East Indies;
communicated his views to the commandant of Fort Frontenac on Lake
Ontario, [CXLVII] and was advised to lay his plan before the Court of
St. Cloud. On his arrival at Paris, under the patronage of the Prince
de Conti, La Salle received letters of nobility and extensive grants
of land in America. Associating with himself the Chevalier de Tonti,
an Italian officer, who had the peculiarity of a copper hand as
substitute to one lost in the wars of Sicily, and Father Lewis
Hennepin, a Franciscan friar, as historian and missionary, together
with about thirty others, the enterprise was immediately entered upon,
under special sanction of Louis XIV., king of France. After a variety
of fortune, prosperous and adverse, they reached the Illinois, and
having descended that beautiful river some distance, discovered an
Indian village consisting of five hundred cabins completely deserted.
Here, having found a large quantity of corn concealed in the earth
under each of the wigwams, the party remained six days. Descending
ninety miles, they came to Peoria Lake, where they found two
encampments of the natives. At first hostility was manifested, but
soon they were on most amicable terms with the voyageurs, and a
feasting, and dancing, and rejoicing was kept up for three days. Not
long after this the boat containing supplies was lost upon "_Le Baie
des Puants_," or Green Bay; and La Salle was forced to erect a fort,
which received the appropriate name of "_Creve Cœur_"--broken heart.
The site of this fortification is supposed to have been a spot now
called "Spring Bay," not far from Peoria, on the Illinois. This is a
singular place. It is a broad sand basin, some hundred feet [CXLVIII]
in diameter, opening upon the river, the waters of which, in the
higher stages, fill it to the brim, but when low they retire, and a
number of large springs gush copiously forth from three sides of the
ridge, and form a stream. "Blue Creek" empties itself just below,
crossed by a bridge of earth, while yet farther down is seen a large
mound, which has been opened, and found to contain human remains
twenty feet from the summit.[12]

At the time of the erection of Fort _Creve Cœur_ the Illini were at
war with the warlike Iroquois Indians; and the former, anticipating
assistance from their friends the French, and receiving none, resolved
to destroy La Salle. His boldness and eloquence alone saved him and
restored amity. No sooner was this disturbance quelled than a mutiny
arose among his own men. On Christmas-day his dinner was poisoned, and
powerful medicine alone saved his life.

Preparations were now made to explore the Mississippi. Father
Hennepin, with four Frenchmen, two Indians, and M. Dacan, commander,
ascended the river to the falls, and named them, in honour of their
patron saint, _St. Anthony_. They were here taken prisoners by a party
of Sioux, carried one hundred and sixty miles into the interior to
their villages, and detained several months, when they regained their
liberty. Father Hennepin returned to Canada, and subsequently to
France, where he published his travels in splendid style, dedicating
the book to the celebrated Colbert. These early writings, though
deeply imbued with a spirit of superstition [CXLIX] and exaggeration,
are yet valuable as the _only_ records of the time.[13] The chief of
these historians were Hennepin, Tonti, and Charlevoix.[14]
Difficulties arising with the Indians, La Salle resolved to erect
another fort, which, after infinite difficulty, was completed. The
site is described as "a rock, very high, the top of which was even and
of convenient space, so that it commanded the river and country round
about." This description applies to no place on the Illinois so well
as to the "Starved Rock." The fort was called "St. Louis."

La Salle visited Canada, and a crowd of adventurers returned with him.
Descending the Illinois and Mississippi, the company stopped for some
time at the mouth of the Missouri, then the _Osage_ River, and found a
village of the Taumarwaus, which was deserted, the natives being on a
hunting expedition. In three days they were at the _Oubachi_ or Ohio. At
the Chicasaw Bluffs a fort called _Prudhomme_ was erected, and formal
possession of the country first taken, and, in honour of the reigning
monarch, named _Louisiana_. Several other forts were erected, and one
of them, the ruins of which yet remain, is supposed to have stood
between St. Louis and Carondelet. Descending the river on the 7th of
April, 1683, La Salle reached the Gulf of Mexico, where a _Te Deum_ was
sung; a cross, with the arms of France, was suspended from the summit of
a lofty tree; and the river, which had occupied three months in its
exploration of about one thousand miles, was named "St. [CL] Louis." On
his return, the associates of La Salle founded the villages of Kaskaskia
and Cahokia on the American Bottom, while he hastened on to Canada and
thence to France, to obtain a colony for the country at the mouth of the
Mississippi. Losing his route on returning with this expedition, he
commenced a journey over land to Illinois; but, while on his way, was
treacherously assassinated by two of his followers.[15] It is a
remarkable fact in the history of retributive justice, that these men
soon after dealt death to each other; and two priests of the mutineers
became penitent, and confessed all the circumstances of the crime. The
burial spot of the noble La Salle is unknown to this day. Marquette,
"the apostle of the wilderness," died under circumstances of touching
interest on the lonely shores of Lake Michigan while upon his mission.
Charlevoix, the historian, throws an interest of melancholy romance over
the fate of this venerable man. According to this writer, Father Joseph
Marquette was a native of Laon, in Picardy, and of distinguished family.
About two years after his discovery of the Mississippi, while engaged in
his missionary labours among the savages, he was journeying from Chicago
to Michillimackinac, and on the 8th of May, 1675, entered the mouth of a
small river emptying into Lake Michigan upon its eastern side, which now
bears his name. Here he landed, erected an altar, and said mass. After
this ceremony he retired a short distance, and requested the two
voyageurs who conducted his canoe to leave him alone for half an hour,
while in private [CLI] he returned thanks. The period having expired,
they went to seek him, and found him dead in the attitude of
devotion:[16] the circumstance then recurred to them, that, on entering
the river, he had dropped an intimation that he should there end his
days. The distance was too great to Michillimackinac to convey there his
remains, and the voyageurs accordingly buried them near the bank of the
stream, which they called by his name. From that time the river, as if
from reverence for the missionary's relics, has continued to retire, and
his grave is yet pointed out to the traveller. Thus did the venerable
Marquette, at an advanced age, alone with his God, yield up his
blameless life to its giver, while engaged in his holy errand of peace
to the savage, and amid the magnificent solitudes of the land of his

Subsequent to these explorations, colonies from Lower Canada rapidly
settled the recent villages of Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Peoria.[17] But
their designs seem not to have been those of the speculators of our own
day. Their sole anticipation was to amass opulence by mining in a
country then supposed incalculably rich in the precious metals, from its
resemblance to the silver region of South America; and we find exclusive
grants of extensive tracts bearing this date to Cruzat, Renault, and
other individuals.[18] In pursuit of this golden chimera, many
expeditions were fitted out at vast expense. In 1699 M. de Seur, an
enterprising traveller, with ninety men, descended the Mississippi to a
spot six hundred miles above the Illinois, and erected a fort [CLII]
upon the present site of Fort Armstrong for the purpose of exploring a
mine of _terre verte_, said to have been discovered in that beautiful
region.[19] It need hardly be said that all these adventurers were
disappointed: but the buoyant hilarity of the race did not forsake them,
and as boatmen, hunters, _couriers du bois_, Indian traders, and small
farmers,[20] they gained a comfortable subsistence, and merrily did they
enjoy it. Most of their lives were passed upon the broad prairies, and
in penetrating every section of this vast valley in their birch pirogues
wherever a stream presented to them its bosom; and yet with the violin,
the grape-juice, and a short pipe, they seemed the blithest mortals on
the face of the earth. It was by men such as these that the village of
Kaskaskia, in old French chronicles styled "_Notre dame de
Cascasquias_," originating in the name and residence of an Indian tribe,
first was settled; and in a few years it had become an extensive depôt
for the trade in furs. It was probably by the same Indian tribe which
originally possessed the site of Kaskaskia that a party of the
unfortunate expedition of Ferdinand de Soto, by whom Florida was
partially conquered, was almost destroyed about the year 1539. Indeed,
there was a tradition still extant upon the arrival of the French, of
their having exterminated the first _white faces_ they had ever seen.
For three years did the chivalrous De Soto, with his nine hundred
steel-clad warriors, scour the land in search of the reality of his
golden dreams: at length he died; he was an object of hatred and terror
to the Indians; and to conceal his death, or to [CLIII] preserve from
violation his remains, his followers enclosed them in a coffin
constructed from the section of a hollow tree, and sunk them beneath the
floods of the _eternal river_. His followers, reduced to only two
hundred and fifty, returned to Spain. And so the burial-places of the
first explorers of the Mississippi are unknown.[21]

The extent of the territory of Kaskaskia was originally very great,
stretching from the Kaskaskia River to the Mississippi, a breadth of
about two miles, and comprising the area from the confluence of the
streams, seven miles below, to the present site of the place. The
tract below the town is incalculably fertile, abounding in the plum,
the persimmon, the cherry, the delicate _pecan_, the hickory, and the
hazel-nut; and for the most part was comprised in one vast "common
field," over which herds of wild horses, introduced by the emigrants,
long roamed in undisturbed possession. This _common_, consisting of
seven thousand acres, was granted "to Kaskaskia and inhabitants for
ever" by Vaudreuil, governor of the Province of Louisiana, as early as
1743.[22] In this arrangement we observe a striking feature in the
policy both of the French and Spanish governments, in their early
settlements on the Mississippi. The items of door-yards, gardens,
stable-yards, etc., and of settling colonies in the compact form of
towns and villages, as a protection from the savages and to promote
social intercourse, were all matters of special requisition and
enactment; while to each [CLIV] settlement was granted two tracts of
land for "_common fields_" and "_commons_." This distinction was not,
however, invariably observed. The former consisted of several hundred
acres, conveniently divided among the individual families, and the
whole enclosed by the labour of all the villagers in common. If the
enclosure opposite any plat was suffered to become ruinous, the right
to the common was forfeited by the offending individual. The seasons,
also, for ploughing, sowing, reaping, etc., were by public ordinance
simultaneous: yet with these restrictions, each individual, so long as
he complied with the necessary regulations, possessed his lot in
_franc allieu_--fee simple, subject to sale and transfer. The
"_common_" was a far more extended tract, embracing in some instances
several thousand acres without enclosure, and reserved for the purpose
of wood and pasturage. Here there was no grant of severalty, and no
individual portion could be appropriated without the special and
unanimous consent of the whole village. To the indigent who came to
settle among them, and to young married pairs, donations from this
tract were often made by the villagers, and, if conveniently situated,
might subsequently become a portion of the "_common field_."[23] That
such an arrangement, under all the circumstances of the period when
instituted, and with such a people as the early French settlers, was
the best that could have been made, no one can doubt. But how such a
regulation would suit a race of _enterprising_ Yankees, fidgeting
eternally for _improvements_, or a squad of long-sided Kentuckians,
grumbling about elbow-room, is problematical.

[CLV] The proceedings of our national government towards these ancient
villages have been characterized by generosity, whatever may be said
of the conduct of individuals. In 1788, an extensive tract lying along
the Mississippi was by act of Congress granted to the French
inhabitants east of that river; and to those of Kaskaskia was secured
for a common field twenty thousand acres. It is under direction of the
trustees of the town by provision of the state legislature.[24]

Unlike the policy of all other Europeans who have planted themselves
upon the Western continent, that of the French emigrants towards the
aborigines, with the single exception of the extermination of the
Natchez in the South, has invariably been conciliatory, peaceable, and
friendly.[25] This has been the effect rather of debasing themselves
than of elevating the natives. Surrounded by everything which could
fascinate the eye or delight the fancy, we find these inoffensive
foreigners, therefore, unlike the English settlers along the Atlantic
and in the elder Western states, at peace with all their savage
neighbours; unambitious, contented, and happy, increasing and
flourishing; and in a few years, they tell us, Kaskaskia, "the
terrestrial paradise," numbered a population of eight thousand
souls![26] Blessed with a soil of boundless fertility, and prolific in
all Nature's luxurious stores to a degree of which less-favoured climes
can form no conception: subsisting solely by culture of the little
homesteads around their own thresholds, by hunting [CLVI] the wild
denizens of their noble forests, or angling upon the calm bosom of their
beautiful stream: simple-hearted and peaceful, almost without the
_terms_ of law, gently ruled by the restraints of a religion they
venerated and a priesthood they loved: without commerce, the arts, or
the elegances of life; a thousand miles from a community of civilized
men; from year to year they went on, and from generation to generation
they flourished, until, in that of our own age and our own day, they are
found still treading in the steps in which their fathers trod! So long
as the peaceful French villager retained the beautiful land of his
adoption in undisputed possession, all was flourishing and prosperous. A
little more than half a century from its origin, Kaskaskia was capital
of Illinois; and on the visit of Charlevoix in 1721, a monastery and
Jesuit college was in successful operation, the ruins of the edifice
remaining extant even at the present day.[27] This institution was
successful in converting a number of the aborigines to its peculiar
tenets, and at one period _is said_ to have "embraced twenty-five
hundred catechumens!!" A most preposterous assertion, most assuredly.

It was in the early part of this century that the scheme of that
celebrated projector, John Law, of Edinburgh, on the strength of which
he elevated himself to the dignity of Comptroller-general of the
Finance of France, was first set on foot with reference to the Valley
of the Mississippi. The design, so far as it is now known, was to
establish a bank, an East India, and a Mississippi Company, from
[CLVII] the anticipated enormous revenue of which was to be liquidated
the national debt of France.[28] The territory of Louisiana had
already acquired a reputation abroad for the boundlessness of the
wealth and fertility of its soil; and, to foster the delusion of Law's
scheme, descriptions of this beautiful region, tinted with all the
rainbow hues of romance, were scattered throughout Europe, until the
distant wilderness of _les Illinois_ became the paradise of the
slumberer's vision. "The Illinois" was the fairyland of fancy
realized. A few years, the vast fabric of fictitious credit crumbled,
almost annihilating the finance of France, and burying thousands of
families in its ruins. Law was exiled and retired to Venice, where in
poverty he soon died. It is a coincidence not a little remarkable,
that the same year, 1720, witnessed the same desperate game enacted by
the South Sea directors in England. But the attention of France was
now directed towards her remote colony in North America; and
notwithstanding the failure of Law's scheme, old Kaskaskia continued
to flourish beyond all compare. Other villages sprang into existence
around; a lucrative fur-trade was carried on by the Canadian
voyageurs, and agriculture became the peculiar province of the French
villager. The extent and luxuriance of the agriculture at this period
may be [CLVIII] gathered from the fact, that in the single year 1746,
eight hundred thousand weight of flour was sent to New Orleans from
these settlements.[29] At this period there was not a solitary village
west of the Mississippi, though the lead-mines then known and worked
were resorted to by traders.[30] Twenty years after the failure of
Law's scheme, the French government formed the design, almost as
chimerical, of securing her immense possessions in the Mississippi
Valley by a continuous line of military posts, connecting them with
Canada; and vast were the sums of money expended in the undertaking.

A century, and the whole region was ceded to England, thence to our
own government in 1783, and now old Kaskaskia is but the wreck of its
former prosperity. It makes one almost sad to wander about among these
ruinous, deserted habitations, venerable with departed years, and
reflect that once they were thronged with population, the seat of
hospitality, and the home of kindly feeling. The quiet villagers have
been not a little annoyed by the steady and rapid influx of
immigration on every side of them, dissimilar in customs, language,
religion, and temperament, while the bustling enterprise has fretted
and displeased them. Long accustomed, also, to the arbitrary but
parental authority of their military commandants and priesthood, they
deemed the introduction of the common law among them exceedingly
burdensome, and the duties of a citizen of a republic, of which we are
so [CLIX] proud, intolerable drudgery. Many, therefore, of the wealthy
and respectable, on cession of their territory to our government,
removed to Louisiana, where civil law yet bears sway; others crossed
the river and established Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis;[31] while the
foreigners returning to the lands from which they had emigrated, few
but natives of the country remained behind. The ordinance of 1787,[32]
prohibiting involuntary servitude in the region then called the
Northwestern Territory, induced many who were desirous of preserving
their blacks to remove to the new villages west of the Mississippi,
then under Spanish rule. From these and a variety of similar causes,
this peaceful, kind-hearted people have within the last thirty years
been more than once disturbed in the dwellings of their fathers.

_Kaskaskia, Ill._


[7] Hall.--FLAGG.

[8] Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit missionary, not a Recollect.
Consult R. G. Thwaites, _Father Marquette_ (New York, 1902). On
Jolliet see Francis Parkman, _La Salle_ (Boston, 1869); and the latest
authority, Ernest Gagnon, _Louis Jolliet_ (Quebec, 1902).--ED.

[9] For a short note on the Illinois Indians, consult our volume xxvi,
p. 123, note 86.--ED.

[10] Flagg errs in saying that Jolliet published an account of his
adventures. His journal was lost in the St. Lawrence River on the
return journey. Father Marquette, however, wrote a journal of his
travels. See Thwaites, _Jesuit Relations_, lix, which also contains
Jolliet's map of North America (1674).--ED.

[11] The Island of Anticosti, in the estuary of St. Lawrence River,
contains about 3,900 square miles, and is not only of importance as a
centre of hunting and fishing interests, but is rich in undeveloped
mineral resources. The population of a few hundred souls is chiefly
concerned in fishing. The island is now the property of M. Henri
Menier, a Parisian chocolate manufacturer, who personally rules his
seigniory with benevolent despotism.--ED.

[12] Concerning La Salle's discoveries, see Ogden's _Letters from the
West_, in our volume xix, pp. 44-53, and accompanying notes.--ED.

[13] Concerning Hennepin's expedition from Crêvecœur to the Falls of St.
Anthony, Flagg is in error. Hennepin was accompanied by two Frenchmen,
Michel Accault and Antoine Auguel, and probably went merely as their
spiritual companion. His publications were: _Description de la
Louisiane_ (Paris, 1683); _Nouvelle Découverte d'un tres grand Pays
Situé dans l'Amérique_ (Utrecht, 1697); _Nouveau Voyage d'un Pais plus
grand que l'Europe_ (Utrecht, 1698). The first was dedicated to Louis
XIV, the last two to William III, king of England. For bibliography of
Hennepin, see Victor Hugo Paltsits, "Bibliographical Data," in Thwaites,
_Hennepin's New Discovery_ (Chicago, 1903), pp. xlv-lxiv.--ED.

[14] M. Tonti, among other writers, speaking of the country, according
to Mr. Peck's translation, says:

"The soil is, generally speaking, so fertile, that it produces
naturally, without culture, those fruits that nature and art together
have much ado to bring forth in Europe. They have two crops every year
without any great fatigue. The vines bring extraordinary grapes,
without the care of the husbandman, and the fruit-trees need no
gardeners to look after them. The air is everywhere temperate. The
country is watered with navigable rivers, and delicious brooks and
rivulets. It is stocked with all sorts of beasts, as bulls,
_orignacs_, wolves, lions, wild asses, stags, goats, sheep, foxes,
hares, beavers, otters, dogs, and all sorts of fowl, which afford a
plentiful game for the inhabitants."

In another place, this writer gives an amusing account of hunting "wild
bulls," which "go always by droves of three or four hundred each." This
description answers well for the buffalo, but it is not so easy to
determine what animals they mistook for "wild asses, goats, and sheep."

Passing down the Mississippi, Tonti mentions the same animals, and
describes the forest-trees with tolerable accuracy, had he not added,
"one sees there whole plains covered with pomegranate-trees,
orange-trees, and lemon-trees; and, in one word, with all kinds of
fruit-trees." Goats are frequently mentioned by different writers.
Hennepin, while narrating the account of an embassy from Fort
Frontenac to the Iroquois nation, and the reception the party met
with, says: "The younger savages washed our feet, and rubbed them with
grease of deer, _wild goats_, and oil of bears." When upset in their
boat and cast on the western shore of Lake Michigan, an Indian of
their company "killed several stags and wild goats."

Wild goats are named so frequently, and in so many connexions, as
hardly to admit of an intentional misrepresentation.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ For sketches of Charlevoix and Tonty, see Nuttall's
_Journal_, in our volume xiii, pp. 116 and 117, notes 81 and 85

[15] For a recent work on La Salle, consult P. Chesnel, _Histoire de
Cavelier de La Salle_ (Paris, 1901). With the exception of Crêvecœur,
Prudhomme, and St. Louis, we have no definite proof that La Salle
established any other forts in the Mississippi Valley. He erected a
monument at the mouth of the Mississippi on April 9, 1682, on taking
possession of the country in the name of Louis XIV. Kaskaskia and
Cahokia were not founded by the associates of La Salle on the latter's
return. For historical sketches of these towns, see A. Michaux's
_Travels_, in our volume iii, p. 69, note 132, and p. 70, note 135,
respectively. La Salle was assassinated March 19, 1687, on a branch of
the Trinity River, in the present state of Texas.--ED.

[16] Father Marquette died May 18, 1675, on the present site of
Ludington, Michigan.--ED.

[17] For the settlement of Peoria, see our volume xxvi, p. 133, note

[18] Owing to the exhaustion of France following the War of the Spanish
Succession, Louis XIV, determined to develop the resources of the vast
Louisiana territory, granted (September 14, 1712) to Antoine Crozat, a
wealthy merchant, the exclusive right of trade in Louisiana for a term
of fifteen years. Among other privileges, Crozat was permitted to send
one ship a year to Africa for a cargo of negroes; to possess and operate
all mines of precious metals in the territory, on the condition that a
fourth of the metal be turned over to the king; and to possess in
perpetuity all buildings and manufactories erected by him in the colony.
On the other hand, Crozat was obliged to import two shiploads of
colonists each year, and after nine years to assume all the expenses of
the government. In the meantime the king was to furnish fifty thousand
livres annually. Crozat did all in his power to develop the resources of
the country; but owing to discord among the subordinate officials, in
despair he surrendered the charter to the prince regent (August 13,
1717). See Charles Gayarré, _History of Louisiana_ (New Orleans, 1903).
After Crozat's surrender, Louisiana territory was turned over to the
Mississippi (or Western) Company, directed by John Law; see _post_, p.
49, note 28. Philip François Renault was made the principal agent for a
French company, whose purpose was the development of the mines of the
territory. In 1719 he sailed from France with more than two hundred
mechanics, stopped at the West Indies, and secured a cargo of five
hundred negro slaves, and in due course arrived at Fort Chartres in the
Illinois (1721). Large grants of land for mining purposes were made to
Renault--an extensive tract west of the Mississippi River; another,
fifteen leagues square, near the site of Peoria; and still another above
Fort Chartres, one league along the river and two leagues deep. He
founded St. Philippe, near the fort, and built what was probably the
first smelting furnace in the Mississippi Valley. In 1743 he returned to
France, where he died.--ED.

[19] Pierre Charles le Sueur went to Canada when a young man, and
engaged in the fur-trade. In 1693, while commandant at Chequamegon, he
erected two forts--one on Madelaine Island, in Chequamegon Bay (Lake
Superior), and another on an island in the Mississippi, near Red Wing,
Minnesota. Later he discovered lead mines along the upper Mississippi.
In 1699 he returned from a visit to France, and under Iberville's
directions searched for copper mines in the Sioux country, where Le
Sueur had earlier found green earth. Le Sueur reached the mouth of
Missouri River (July 13, 1700) with nineteen men, according to Bénard
de la Harpe's manuscript, compiled from Le Sueur's Journal--with
twenty-nine men, as related by Pénicaut, a member of the expedition.
The company was later increased to perhaps thirty or forty, but not
ninety, as Flagg says. Le Sueur ascended the Mississippi, and its
tributary the Minnesota, and erected a fort in August, 1700, one
league above the point where the Blue Earth River (St. Peter's River,
until 1852) empties into the Minnesota. This fort he named l'Huillier,
in honor of his patron in France. Flagg has confused this site with
that of Fort Armstrong at Rock Island, Illinois. In May, 1701, Le
Sueur left the fort in care of d'Eraque, who remained in charge until
1703, when he abandoned the place. For extracts from original
documents relating to Le Sueur's activities, consult: "Le Sueur's
Mines on the Mississippi," "Le Sueur's Voyage up the Mississippi," and
"Le Sueur's Fort on the Mississippi," in _Wisconsin Historical
Collections_, xvi, pp. 173, 174, 177-200.--ED.

[20] "_Petits paysans._"--FLAGG.

[21] The battle of Mauilla, to which Flagg is referring, was fought in
October, 1540, between De Soto's men and the Mobilian Indians, near
the present site of Mobile. Our author is mistaken in supposing that
these Indians were the Kaskaskia. De Soto reached the Mississippi in
May, 1541, and died May 21, 1542. He started on the expedition with
less than seven hundred men, instead of one thousand. According to
Herrera, his body was laid in a hollow live-oak log, and lowered into
the Mississippi; but it seems more probable that the corpse was
wrapped in mantles made heavy by a ballast of sand, and thus lowered
into the water. See John G. Shea, "Ancient Florida," in Justin Winsor,
_Narrative and Critical History of America_ (Boston and New York,
1886), ii, pp. 231-283; also E. G. Bourne (ed.) _Narratives of the
Career of Hernando de Soto_ (New York, 1904).--ED.

[22] Annexed is a copy of the grant of the celebrated _commons_
attached to the village of Kaskaskia. It is the earliest title the
citizens hold to seven thousand acres of the most fertile land in the
West--perhaps in the world.

Commissary orderer of the Province of Louisiana, seen the petition to
us presented on the sixteenth day of June of this present year by the
Inhabitants of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of Kaskaskia
dependence of the Illinois, tending to be confirmed in the possession
of a common which they have had a long time for the pasturage of their
cattle in the Point called _La point de bois_, which runs to the
entrance of the River Kaskaskia. We, by virtue of the power to us
granted by his Majesty have confirmed and do confirm to the said
Inhabitants the possession of the said common on the following

"First, That the concessions heretofore granted either by the India
Company either by our predecessors or by us in the prairie of
Kaskaskia on the side of the point which runs to the entrance of the
river, shall terminate at the land granted to a man named _Cavalier_,
and in consequence, that all concessions that may have been made on
the said point from the land of the said Cavalier forward, on the side
of the entrance of the said river shall be null and void and of no
effect. In consequence of which, the said Point, as it is above
designated, shall remain in common without altering its nature,
nevertheless, reserving to us the power whenever the case may require
it, of granting the said commons to the inhabitants established and
who may establish, and this, on the representations which may be made
to us by the commandants and sub-delegates in the said places.

"Secondly, on the road vulgarly called the _Square Line_ between the
large and small line shall be rendered practicable and maintained for
the passage of the Carts and Cattle going into the Common, and this by
lack of the proprietors as well of the great as of the small line
whose lands border on the roads of the _Square line_. And as to the
places which ought to run along the side of the village from the said
road of the Square line unto the river, as also the one on the side of
the point running to the Mississippi and to the Kaskaskia river, they
shall be made and maintained at the expense of the community, to the
end that the cultivated lands be not injured by the cattle.

"Thirdly, To facilitate to the inhabitants the means of making their
autumnal harvest, and prevent its being damaged by the cattle, we
forbid all persons to leave their cattle range upon cultivated
lands--they are, notwithstanding, permitted to graze upon their own
proper lands on having them diligently watched.

"Fourthly, Willing that the wood which is on the land granted belong
to the proprietors of the said lands, we forbid all persons to cut
down any elsewhere than on their own lands, and as to the wood which
may be found in the commons to cut down for their own use, either for
building or for fire wood, and this shall be the present regulation.

"Read, published and affixed to the end that no person may be ignorant
thereof. Given at New-Orleans the fourteenth day of August, 1743.



[23] "Under the old management all the inhabitants had equal access to
the commons for pasturage and fuel. By an act of the legislature
passed in 1854, the citizens were authorized to elect five trustees
every two years, who should exercise the charge of the commons, lease
portions thereof, and apply the proceeds to church and school purposes
only. The common fields were also originally owned jointly by the
villagers, though each resident was assigned an individual portion.
The United States commissioners, in 1809, determined the rights of
each citizen, and the lots have since been held in fee simple." See
_Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois_
(Philadelphia, 1883), p. 308.--ED.

[24] For the memorial of George Morgan, upon these lands along the
Mississippi River, the report of the committee to which the above had
been referred, and the resolutions of Congress thereon (August 28, 29,
1788), see _Laws of the United States, etc._ (Bioren edition,
Philadelphia, 1815), i, pp. 580-585.--ED.

[25] For an account of the extermination of the Natchez, see F. A.
Michaux's _Travels_, in our volume iii, p. 254, note 53.--ED.

[26] Doubtless an exaggeration.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ "From 1810 to 1820 the town (Kaskaskia) probably
contained more people than at any other period of its history. A
census taken at that time showed a population of seven thousand." See
_History of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties_, p. 307.

[27] A monastery and accompanying college, liberally endowed from
Europe, was founded at Kaskaskia by Jesuit missionaries in the first
quarter of the eighteenth century.--ED.

[28] "The idea," says Adam Smith, "of the possibility of multiplying
paper money to almost any extent, was the real foundation of what is
called the _Mississippi scheme_, the most extravagant project, both of
banking and stock-jobbing, that perhaps the world ever saw."--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ John Law died at Venice, March 21, 1729. Concerning
his financial methods, see Émile Levasseur, _Recherches historique sur
le system de Law_ (Paris, 1854). Ample and accurate is Andrew M.
Davis's _A Historical Study of Law's System_ (Boston, 1887), reprinted
from _Quarterly Journal of Economics_ (Boston, 1887), i, pp. 289-318,

[29] Breckenridge.--FLAGG.

[30] For an account of the early lead-mines, see Flagg's _Far West_,
in our volume xxvi, p. 95, note 60.--ED.

[31] For an historical sketch of Ste. Genevieve, see Cuming's _Tour_,
in our volume iv, p. 266, note 174.--ED.

[32] The French civil law still prevails in Louisiana.

For a good monograph on the Ordinance of 1787, and the text of the
same, see Jay Amos Barrett, _Evolution of the Ordinance of 1787, with
an Account of the earlie Plans for the Government of the Northwest
Territory_ (New York, 1891).--ED.


    "If my readers should at any time remark that I am particularly
    dull, they may rest assured there is a design under it."--_British

          "Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
             Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
           Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
             The short and simple annals of the poor."
                                        GRAY'S _Elegy_.

Few things are more difficult, and, consequently, more rarely met,
than correct portraiture of character, whether of the individual or of
a community. It is easy enough, indeed, to trace out the prominent
outlines in the picture; and with a degree of accuracy which shall
render it easily recognised, while yet the more delicate shading and
lighting is false; just as the artist may have transferred every
feature in exact form, size, and proportion to his canvass, while the
expression thrown over the whole may be incorrect. This has more than
once been the case in descriptions hastily drawn of that singular
being, _the French villager of the Mississippi_. One distinguished
writer has given an absolute caricature of the race. My own design has
been, therefore, merely to throw before the reader those
characteristic traits which not even the most careless observer could
have failed to detect.

[CLXI] Though betraying but little of that fiery restlessness which
distinguishes the Parisian, these men are yet Frenchmen in more respects
than mere origin. In their ordinary deportment we view, indeed, rather
the calm gravity, the saturnine severity of the Spaniard; and yet in
their _fêtes_ and amusements, which were formerly far more frequent than
at present, they exhibit all the gayety of the native of La Belle
France. The calm, quiet tenour of their lives presenting but few objects
for enterprise, none for the strivings of ambition, and but little
occasion of any kind to elicit the loftier energies of our nature, has
imparted to their character, their feelings, their manners, to the very
language they speak, a languid softness strongly contrasted by the
unquiet restlessness of the emigrant who is succeeding them. Hospitality
was formerly, with them, hardly a virtue: it was a matter of course,
arising from their peculiarity of situation; and the swinging sign of
the tavern is a recent usurpation. The statute-book, the judiciary,
courts of law, and the penitentiary, were things little recognised among
these simple-hearted people; for where the inequalities of life were
unknown, what was the inducement to crime demanding this enginery of
punishment? Learning and science, too, were terms scarcely comprehended,
their technicalities not at all; for schools were few, and _learned men_
still more so; and thus reading, writing, and ciphering are, and ever
have been, the acme of scholastic proficiency with the French villager.
How many of the honest fellows can do even this, [CLXII] is not for me
to estimate. As to politics and the _affairs of the nation_, which their
countrymen on the other side of the water ever seem to think no
inconsiderable object of their being, they are too tame, and too lazy,
and too quiet to think of the subject. Indeed, the worthy villagers very
wisely look upon "earthly dignities" and the like much with the stoicism
of Cardinal Wolsey in disgrace,

          "Oh, 'tis a burden, Cromwell, 'tis a burden,
           Too heavy for a man that hopes for heaven."

The virtues of these people are said to be many: punctuality and
honesty in their dealings; politeness and hospitality to strangers;
though, it must be confessed, the manifold impositions practised upon
their simplicity of late years has tended to substitute for the latter
virtue not a little of coolness and distrust. There is much
friendship and warmth of feeling between neighbours and kindred, and
the women make affectionate wives, though by no means prone to
consider themselves in the light of goods and chattels of their
liege-lords, as is not unfrequently the case in more enlightened
communities. Indeed, as touching this matter, the Mississippi French
villager invariably reverses the sage maxim of the poet,

          "In things of moment on _yourself_ depend;"

for he never presumes to depend upon any one but his faithful helpmate,
whether things are of moment or not. As to religious faith, all are
Catholics; and formerly, more than of late years, were punctilious in
observance of the ceremony and discipline [CLXIII] of their church,
permitting but few festivals of the calendar to pass unobserved. Their
wealth consisted chiefly of personal property, slaves, merchandise,
etc.; land being deemed an item of secondary consideration, while lead
and peltry constituted the ordinary circulating medium. Rent for houses
was a thing hardly known. All this changed long ago, of course; and
while real estate has augmented in value many hundred per cent.,
personal property has somewhat proportionally depreciated.

In the ordinary avocations of the villagers, there is but little
variety or distinction even at the present day, and formerly this
uniformity of pursuit was yet more observable. The wealthier and more
enterprising _habitans_ were traders, often with peculiar and
exclusive privileges; and they kept a heterogeneous stock of goods in
the largest room of their dwelling-houses, by way of being merchants.
There are but few who practice the mechanic arts for a livelihood:
carpenters, smiths, tailors, shoemakers, etc., as _artisans_, were
formerly almost unknown, and there is now in this respect but little
change. Now, as then, the mass of the population are agriculturists,
while many of the young and enterprising men embrace with pride, as
offering a broad field for generous emulation, the occupations of
boatmen, traders to the Rocky Mountains--in the vicinity of which most
of their lives are passed--_engagés_ of the American Fur Company, or
hunters and trappers upon the prairies. The bold recklessness of this
class has long been notorious.

[CLXIV] The _idiom_ of these villages, though by no means as pure as
it might be, is yet much more so, all things considered, than could be
expected. It requires no very close observation or proficiency in the
language to detect a difference, especially in pronunciation, from the
European French. There is not that nervous, animated _brilliancy_ of
dialect which distinguishes the latter; and the nasal, lengthened,
drawling sound of words, gives their conversation a languid, though by
no means a disagreeable movement. It is said to be more soft and
euphonious than the vernacular, though very different from the Creole
dialect of the West India Islands. There are some provincialisms, and
some words which a century ago might have been recognized in some
provinces of France, though not now.

As to the item of _costume_, it is still somewhat unique, though
formerly, we are told, much more so: that of the men was a course
blanket-coat, with a cap attached behind in lieu of a cape; and which,
from the circumstance of drawing over the head, gave the garment the
name of _capote_. Around the head was wreathed a blue handkerchief in
place of a hat, and on the feet moccasins instead of shoes and
stockings. All this, however, has pretty generally given place to the
American garb, though some of the very aged villagers may still be seen
in their ancient habiliments, the _capote_, moccasins, blue handkerchief
on the head, and an endless queue lengthened out behind. Their chief
_amusement_ ever has been, and, probably, ever will be, the DANCE, in
which all, even from the least to the greatest, [CLXV] bond and free,
unite. Their _slaves_ are treated well, if we may judge from
appearances; for nowhere in the West have I seen a sleeker, fleshier,
happier-looking set of mortals than the blacks of these old villages.

Previous to the cession of Louisiana to our government, the _Laws_ of
Spain were pretty generally in force throughout the province, so far
as related to municipal arrangement and real estate, while the common
law of France--_Coutume de Paris_--governed all contracts of a social
nature, modified by and interwoven with the customs of the people.[33]
Each district had its commandant, and each village its syndic, besides
judges in civil affairs for the province, and officers of the
_militia_, a small body of which was stationed in every district,
though too inconsiderable to afford much protection to the
inhabitants. These rulers were appointed by the governor at
New-Orleans, to whom there was an appeal; and the lieutenant-governor,
who resided at St. Louis, was commander of the troops. Thus the
government was a mixture of civil and military; and, though arbitrary
to the last degree, yet we are told the rod of domination was so
slight as scarcely to be felt.[34] However this may be, it is pretty
certain they did not well relish at first the change in the
administration of justice when they came under the jurisdiction of our
laws. The delay and uncertainty attendant on trial by jury, and the
multifarious technicalities of our jurisprudence, they [CLXVI] could
not well comprehend, either as to import, importance, or utility; and
it is not strange they should have preferred the prompt despatch of
arbitrary power. Nor is the modern administration of justice the
_only_ change with which the simple-hearted villager is dissatisfied.
On every side of him _improvement_, the watchword of the age, is
incessantly ringing in his ears; and if there be one term in all our
vocabulary he abhors more than all others, it is this same: and,
reader, there is much wisdom in his folly. In 1811 the invention of
Fulton's mighty genius was first beheld walking upon the Western
waters; and from that hour "the occupation" of the daring, reckless,
chivalrous French voyageur "was gone." Again the spirit of improvement
declared that the venerable old cottage, gray with a century's years,
must give place to the style and material of a more modern date; and
lo! the aged dwelling where his fathers lived, and where his eyes
opened on the light, is swept away, and its very site is known no
more. And then the streets and thoroughfares where his boyhood has
frolicked, as the village increases to a city, must be widened, and
straightened, and paved, and all for no earthly reason, to his
comprehension, but to prevent familiar chat with his opposite
neighbour, when sitting on his balcony of a long summer night, and to
wear out his poor pony's unshodden hoofs! It is very true that their
landed property, where they have managed to retain it from the iron
grasp of speculation, has increased in value almost beyond calculation
by the change; but they now refuse to [CLXVII] profit by selling.
Merchandise, the comforts and luxuries of life, have become cheaper
and more easily obtained, and the reward of industrious enterprise is
greater. But what is all this to men of their peculiar habits and
feelings? Once they were far better contented, even in comparative
poverty. There was then a harmony, and cordiality, and unanimity of
feeling pervading their society which it never can know again. They
were as one family in every village; nearly all were connected either
by ties of affinity, consanguinity, propinquity, or friendship:
distinction of rank or wealth was little known, and individuals of
every class were dressed alike, and met upon equal and familiar
footing in the same ballroom. It is needless to say, that now "_Nous
avons changé tout cela._"[35]

As to the poorer class of these villagers, it is more than doubtful
whether they have _at all_ been benefited by the change of the past
twenty years. We must not forget that, as a race, they are peculiar in
character, habits, and feeling; and so utterly distinct from ourselves,
that they can with hardly more facility associate in customs with us
than can our red brother of the prairie. Formerly the poorest, and the
laziest, and the most reckless class was fearless of want or beggary;
but now a more enterprising race has seized upon the lands with which
they have imprudently parted, perhaps with little remuneration, and they
find themselves abridged in many of their former immunities. Their
cattle may no longer range at will, nor have they the liberty [CLXVIII]
of appropriating wood for fuel wherever it seemeth good. It cannot be
denied, that many a one gains now a precarious subsistence, where
formerly he would have lived in comfort. Nearly every one possesses a
little cart, two or three diminutive ponies, a few cattle, a cottage,
and garden. But in agriculture, the superior industry of the new
immigrant can afford them for lease-rent double the result of their
toil, while as draymen, labourers, or workmen of any kind, it is not
difficult for foreigners to surpass them. In a few years the steamer
will have driven the keel-boat from the Western waters, and with it the
_voyageur_, the _patron_, and the _courier du bois_; but the occupation
of the hunter, trapper, and _engagé_, in which the French villager can
never be excelled, must continue so long as the American Fur Company
find it profitable to deal in buffalo robes, or enterprising men think
proper to go to Santa Fé for gold dust. Nor will the farmer, however
lazy, lose the reward of his labour so long as the market of St. Louis
is as little _over_stocked as at present. Nathless, it is pretty certain
"_times ain't now as they used to was_" to the French villager, all this
to the contrary notwithstanding.

_Kaskaskia, Ill._


[33] Under the feudal régime in France, the local or customary laws of
the more important centres of population came gradually to extend
their sway over larger and larger districts. With the rising
importance of Paris, the _coutume de Paris_ (common law of Paris),
reformed in 1580 by order of the parliament, in time displaced all
others; it breathed the national spirit. Codified, it was in a sense
the forerunner of the Code Napoleon.--ED.

[34] Breckenridge--to whom the author is indebted for other facts
relative to these early settlements.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Henry Marie Brackenridge (not Breckenridge), _Views
of Louisiana_ (Pittsburgh, 1814).

[35] Sganarelle.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Sganarelle is a character in Molière's plays, notably
in "Le Médicin malgré lui."


                                    "All things have an end.
           Churches and cities, that have diseases like to man,
           Must have like death that we have."

          "Birth has gladden'd it: Death has sanctified it."

          "The roof-tree sinks, but moulders on the wall
           In massy hoariness."
                                            _Childe Harold._

In remarking upon the history of the French in the West, and the
peculiarities which still continue to characterize them, I am aware I
have lingered longer than could have been anticipated; much longer,
certainly, than was my original intention. The circumstances which have
induced this delay have been somewhat various. The subject _itself_ is
an interesting one. Apart from the delight we all experience in musing
upon the events of bygone time, and that gratification, so singularly
exquisite, of treading amid the scenes of "things departed," there is an
interest which every individual who has cast his lot in the great Valley
cannot fail to feel in every item, even the most minute, which may
pertain to its history. In dwelling, too, upon the features of "old
Kaskaskia," my design has been to exemplify the distinguishing
characteristics of all these early settlements, both French and Spanish,
in the Valley of the Mississippi. The peculiarities of all are the same,
as were the circumstances [CLXX] which first conduced to them. The same
customs, the same religion, the same amusements, and the same form of
government prevailed among all; and though dissimilar in dialect, and
separated by the broad Mississippi, yet, cut off from all the rest of
mankind, both the French and the Spanish villagers were glad to smother
differences, and to bind themselves to each other in their dependant
situation by the tendrils of mutually kind offices and social
intercourse. Thus, several of the villages stand opposite each other
upon the banks of the Mississippi. Ste. Genevieve is only across the
stream from Kaskaskia, and many fine old traditionary legends of these
early times are yet extant, and should be treasured up before too late.

But another circumstance which has been not unfavourable to that
prolixity into which I have suffered my pen to glide, and without which
other inducements might have proved ineffectual, has been the quiet,
dreamy seclusion of this old hamlet, so congenial to the workings of the
brain. Yesterday was like to-day, and to-morrow will be the transcript
of yesterday; and so time's current slips lazily along, like

          "The liquid lapse of a murmuring stream."

As to objects of interest, one could hardly have lingered so long as
I have within the precincts of this "sleepy hollow" without having met
with some incidents worthy of regard for their _novelty_, if for
naught else.

There are few situations in Illinois which can [CLXXI] boast
advantages for mercantile transaction superior to Kaskaskia. But the
villagers are not a commercial, enterprising, money-making people, and
the trade of the place is, therefore, very small. The river is said to
be navigable for fifty miles from its mouth; the current is gentle,
and an inconsiderable expense in clearing the channel of fallen timber
would enable small boats to penetrate nearly two hundred miles higher,
by the meanderings of the stream, to Vandalia. Measures for this
purpose have been entered upon. A land-office for the district is here
established.[36] The number of families is seventy or eighty, nearly
all French and all Catholics, besides considerable transient
population--boatmen, hunters, trappers, who traverse the great rivers
and broad prairies of the valley.

Opposite Kaskaskia, on the summit of a lofty crag overlooking the
river, once stood a large fortress of massive timber, named Fort Gage.
Its form was an oblong quadrangle, the exterior polygon being several
hundred yards in circumference. It was burnt to the ground in 1766.
About twelve years subsequent to this event, the place was taken by
the American troops under Colonel George Rogers Clarke, "Hannibal of
the West." After most incredible exertions in the march from Virginia,
he arrived before Kaskaskia in the night; and, though fortified, so
bewildering was the surprise of the villagers, that not a blow was
struck, and the town was taken.[37]

The aged Catholic church at Kaskaskia, among [CLXXII] other relics of
the olden time, is well worthy a stranger's visit. It was erected more
than a century since upon the ruins of a former structure of similar
character, but is still in decent condition, and the only church in
the place. It is a huge old pile, extremely awkward and ungainly, with
its projecting eaves, its walls of hewn timber perpendicularly
planted, and the interstices stuffed with mortar, with its quaint,
old-fashioned spire, and its dark, storm-beaten casements. The
interior of the edifice is somewhat imposing, notwithstanding the
sombre hue of its walls; these are rudely plastered with lime, and
decorated with a few dingy paintings. The floor is of loose, rough
boards, and the ceiling arched with oaken panels. The altar and the
lamp suspended above are very antique, I was informed by the
officiating priest, having been used in the former church. The lamp is
a singular specimen of superstition illustrated by the arts. But the
structure of the _roof_ is the most remarkable feature of this
venerable edifice. This I discovered in a visit to the belfry of the
tower, accomplished at no little expenditure of sinew and muscle, for
stairs are an appliance quite unknown to this primitive building.
There are frames of two distinct roofs, of massive workmanship, neatly
united, comprising a vast number of rafters, buttresses, and braces,
crossing each other at every angle, and so ingeniously and accurately
arranged by the architect, that it is mathematically impossible that
any portion of the structure shall sink until time with a single blow
shall level the entire [CLXXIII] edifice.[38] It is related, that when
this church was about being erected, the simple villagers, astonished
at the immense quantities of timber required for the frame, called a
meeting of the citizens, and for a time laid an interdict upon
operations, until inquiry respecting the matter should be made. It was
with difficulty the architect at length obtained permission to
proceed; but, when all was completed, and the material had
disappeared, they knew not where, their astonishment surpassed all
bounds. The belfry reminded me of one of those ancient monuments of
the Druids called _Rocking-stones_; for though it tottered to and fro
beneath my weight, and always swings with the bell when it is struck,
perhaps the united force of an hundred men could hardly hurl it from
its seat. The bell is consecrated by the crucifix cast in its surface,
and bears the inscription "_Pour Leglise des Illinois. Normand A.
Parachelle_, 1741." The view from this elevation was extremely
beautiful: the settlement scattered for miles around, with the quaint
little cottages and farms all smiling in the merry sunlight, could
hardly fail of the lovely and picturesque. [CLXXIV] The churchyard
attached to the building is not extensive, but crowded with tenants.
It is into this receptacle that for four generations Kaskaskia has
poured her entire population. I saw but a few monuments and a pile of
stones. The first record on the register belonging to this church is,
I was informed by the priest, to the following effect, in French:
"1741, _June_ 7. _This morning were brought to the fort three bodies
from without, killed by the Renards, to whom we gave sepulture._"
There is here also a baptismal record, embracing the genealogies of
the French settlers since 1690, and other choice old chronicles.[39]
Some land deeds still remain extant, bearing date as early as 1712,
and a memorial also from the villagers to Louis XV., dated 1725,
petitioning a grant of "_commons_," etc., in consequence of disasters
from the flood of the preceding year, in which their all had been
swept away, and they had been forced themselves to flee for life to
the bluffs opposite the village.

The Nunnery at Kaskaskia is a large wooden structure, black with age,
and formerly a public house. With this institution is connected a
female seminary, in high repute throughout this region, and under
superintendence of ten of the sisters. A new nunnery of stone is about
being erected.[40]

It was a glorious morning, and, with many a lingering step, I left
behind me the village of old Kaskaskia. As I rode leisurely along the
banks of that placid stream, and among the beautiful farms of the
French settlers, I was more than once reminded forcibly of similar
scenery high up the Kennebeck, [CLXXV] in a distant section of Maine,
known by the name of "_Indian Old Point_," where I once took a ramble
with a college classmate during an autumn vacation. The landscape is
one of singular beauty; yet, were it otherwise, there is a charm
thrown around this distant and lonely spot by its association with an
interesting passage in the earliest history of the country. In the
expressive language of an eloquent writer, who has made the place the
scene of an Indian tale, _the soil is fertilized by the blood of a
murdered tribe_. Here, one hundred years ago, stood the village of the
Norridgewocks, a tribe of the powerful Abnaquis, who then held
undisputed domination over the extensive wilds of the far East. Though
possessing not the fierce valour of the Pequods, the sinewy vigour of
the Delawares, the serpent-like subtlety of the Penobscots, the
bell-toned idiom of the Iroquois, we are yet told they were a powerful
tribe for their intelligence and their numbers. The Jesuit
missionaries of Canada, while at this era they were gliding upon the
beautiful rivers of the distant West, had not neglected the steril
rocks of the equally remote East: and the hamlet of the Norridgewocks
had early been subjected to the influences of the fascinating ceremony
and the lofty ritual of the Catholic faith. Under the guidance of the
devoted Sebastian Rasle, a rude church was erected by the natives, and
its gray, cross-crowned spire reared up itself among the low-roofed
wigwams. Beloved by his savage flock, the venerable Father Rasle lived
on in peacefulness and quietude for thirty years in the home of his
adoption. During [CLXXVI] the troubled period of the "French and
Indian War" which ensued, suspicions arose that the Norridgewocks
were influenced by their missionary to many of their acts of lawless
violence upon a village of English settlers but a few miles distant.
In the autumn of 1724 this distrust had augmented to a conviction that
the Abnaquis had resolved on the extermination of the white race, and
a detachment of soldiers ascended the Kennebeck. It was a bright,
beautiful morning of the Sabbath when they approached the Indian
hamlet. The sweet-toned bell of the little chapel awoke the echoes
with its clear peal, and announced the hour of mass just as the early
sunlight was tinting the far-off hill-tops. A few moments, and every
living soul in the village was within the church, and had bowed in
humbleness before the "Great Spirit." The deep tones of the venerable
Rasle were supplicating, "_Ora, ora pro nobis_," when the soldiers
rushed in. Terrible and indiscriminate was the massacre that ensued.
Not one was spared; not _one_! The pious Rasle poured out his heart's
blood upon the altar of his devotion. Those of the natives who escaped
from the chapel were either shot down or perished miserably in the
river, their bark canoes having been previously perforated by the
treachery of their foes.[41] The drowsy beams of that day's setting
sun dreamed beautifully as ever among the fragrant pine-tops and the
feathery hemlocks of the river-bank; but his slanting rays smiled upon
the ancient hamlet beneath [CLXXVII] whose ashes its exterminated
dwellers were slumbering the last sleep!

The grave of Father Rasle, a green mound overlooking the stream, was
pointed out to us. A granite obelisk to his memory was erected by
Bishop Fenwick, of Boston, a few years since, but was demolished by a
party of miscreants soon after its completion. My object in this
lengthened episode upon the Norridgewocks, so casually introduced, has
been twofold: to illustrate the peaceful policy of the French towards
the Indian all over the continent, and to contrast it with that of
other Europeans.

The ride from Kaskaskia to Prairie du Rocher in early autumn is truly
delightful. Crossing _Aubuchon_, formerly called St. Philippe--a
passage from the Mississippi to the Kaskaskia, about four miles above
the town, and through which, in high floods, a rapid current passes
from one river to the other--the path lay through a tract of
astonishing fertility, where the wild fruit flourishes with a
luxuriance known to no other soil. Endless thickets of the wild
plum[42] and the blackberry, interlaced and matted together by the
young grape-vines streaming with gorgeous clusters, were to be seen
stretching for miles along the plain. Such boundless profusion of wild
fruit I had never seen before. Vast groves of the ruby crab-apple, the
golden persimmon,[43] the black and white mulberry,[44] and the wild
cherry,[45] were [CLXXVIII] sprinkled with their rainbow hues in
isolated masses over the prairie, or extended themselves in long
luxurious streaks glowing in the sun. The pawpaw,[46] too, with its
luscious, pulpy fruit; the peach, the pear, and the quince, all thrive
in wild luxuriance here; while of the nuts, the pecan or Choctaw nut,
the hickory, and the black walnut, are chief. As for grapes, the
indigenous vines are prolific; and the fruit is _said_ to be so
excellent, that wine might be, and even has been, made from them, and
has been exported by the early French in such quantities to France,
that the trade was prohibited lest the sale of a staple of that
kingdom should be injured! But all this is undoubtedly exaggeration,
if no more. Although the grape and the wine of southern Illinois have
long been the theme of the traveller through that delightful region,
from the worthy Father Hennepin, who tells us of the purple clusters
lending their rich hues to the gliding wave, to the tourist of the
present day, yet from personal observation I am confident they are
_now_ by no means of much importance, and from good authority am
inclined to think they _never_ were so. As to the manufacture of wine
becoming a matter interesting to commerce, there is no probability of
that. A kind of liquor was formerly made in some quantities from what
is called the _winter grape_, common to the same latitude in many
portions of the United States, but it is said to have been a very
indifferent beverage. It was made in the following simple manner: the
clusters were heaped in broad, shallow [CLXXIX] vessels of wood, and,
after being crushed, the juice was expressed through perforations for
the purpose in the sides and bottom, by the application of heavy
weights, into vessels prepared for its reception. Slight fermentation
then completed the process.[47]

A ride of some hours through this delightful region brought me to the
bluffs, which, at this point extending into the plain, confine the
bottom to a narrow strip, bounded on the one side by the Mississippi,
and on the other by the battlement of the cliffs, upward of an hundred
feet in height. Beneath lies the French village of _Prairie du Rocher_,
so called from its situation.[48] It is thirteen miles from Kaskaskia,
and its low cottages scattered along, like the tents of a nomadic tribe,
for miles, are completely overhung by the huge, beetling crags above.
From the deep alluvion along the river's verge rises an enormous growth
of cottonwood-trees and sycamores, concealing the stream from the view.
From the bluffs to this belt of forest stretches away the vast _common
field_, rustling with maize. The castor-bean and tobacco-plant are also
often seen carpeting the ground with emerald. Around each tenement, as
usual, is a plat of cultivated land, and the luxuriance of vegetation is
unrivalled. Passing these outskirts, I at length arrived at the body of
the village, lying upon a creek or _bayou_ of the same name, which winds
through its centre, and empties into the Mississippi. This quiet stream
was once the scene of a very bloody tragedy. When Illinois first came
under territorial government, and courts of civil judicature [CLXXX]
were established, the functionaries of the law, in passing one day from
Cahokia to Kaskaskia, to hold at the latter place a session, stopped a
few moments at this creek to water their horses. The animals had
scarcely begun to drink, when a shower of balls from an adjoining
thicket laid three of the party weltering in their blood.[49] They had
neglected the usual precaution to disguise themselves in the garb of the
French villagers; and such was the hostility of the Indian tribes,
especially that of the Kickapoos, to our countrymen at the time, that to
travel in American costume was almost inevitable death. The Indians at
that day had the ascendency in point of population, and the Kaskaskia
tribe, as well as others, was powerful.

At Prairie du Rocher, as everywhere else where these ancient villages
remain as yet undisturbed in their century slumbers, the peculiarities
to which I have so frequently alluded stand forth to the traveller's
eye. The narrow lanes, the steep-roofed houses, the picketed
enclosures, the piazza, the peculiar dress, manners, and amusements
of the villagers, all point back to a former age. At this place I
tarried for dinner, and while my olive-browed hostess, a trim, buxom
little matron, was "making ready," I strolled forth to the bluffs,
having first received most positive injunctions to make my
reappearance when the _horn sounded_; and, scrambling up a ravine,
soon stood upon the smooth round summit. The whole tract of country
over which my route had led was spread out like a map before me; and
the little village lay so directly at my feet [CLXXXI] I could almost
look down its chimneys. Among the crags I obtained some fine
petrifactions, which I exhibited to my simple host, much to his
astonishment, on my return. Forty years had this man dwelt upon the
very spot he then inhabited, the scene of his birth; and almost every
day of his life had he ascended the cliffs among which I had been
clambering; and yet, though the seashells were standing out in every
direction from the surface of the ledge, not the slightest peculiarity
of structure had he ever dreamed of. That the great ocean had rolled
among these rocks, he could have formed no conception. Experience had
told him that when burned they were lime, and he neither knew nor
cared to know anything farther of their character or history. This
slight incident well exemplifies the simplicity of this singular
people. Content to live where his father lived; content to cultivate
the spot he tilled; to tread in the steps which he trod; to speak the
language he spake, and revere the faith he observed, the French
villager is a stranger to the restless cravings of ambition, and
acknowledges no inclination to change. At Prairie du Rocher is a
little, dark-looking, ancient Catholic church, dedicated to St.
Sulpice, formerly "Chapel of Ease" to Fort Chartres, but at present it
has no resident priest. The population of the village is about two
hundred. Its site is low, and, buried as it is in such enormous
vegetation, the spot must be unhealthy: yet, year after year, and
generation after generation, have its present inhabitants continued to
dwell where death almost inevitable must have awaited an [CLXXXII]
American. But where will you search for a fleshier, sleeker,
swarthier-looking race than these French villagers? Some attribute
this phenomenon to diet; some to natural idiosyncrasy; and other some
do not attribute at all, but merely stand amazed. The truth of the
matter is--and the fact is one well ascertained--that, give a
Frenchman a fiddle, a pipe, a glass of claret, and room enough to
shake his heels, and, like a mushroom, he'll vegetate on any soil!

_La Prairie du Rocher, Ill._


[36] A land-office was established at Kaskaskia by act of Congress
approved March 26, 1804, "for so much of the lands included within the
boundaries fixed by the treaty of the thirteenth of August, one
thousand eight hundred and three, with the Kaskaskia tribe of Indians,
as is not claimed by any other Indian tribe;" this was discontinued by
order of the president, November 12, 1855. The records were
transferred to Springfield the following February.--ED.

[37] During the Indian troubles a fort was erected in 1736 on an
eminence, later known as Garrison Hill, opposite Kaskaskia. It was
repaired and occupied by a French garrison at the opening of the French
and Indian War. In 1766 the fort was burned, but another soon afterward
built, was occupied by the English (1772) and named Fort Gage, in honor
of the British commander-in-chief. On the night of July 4, 1778, Colonel
George Rogers Clark captured the fort and made it his headquarters while
in Illinois. It was abandoned at the close of the Revolution, but was
re-occupied for a short time by American troops in 1801. Colonel Pike's
regiment was stationed there for a short period. See R. G. Thwaites,
_How George Rogers Clark Won the Northwest_ (Chicago, 1903).--ED.

[38] The reader will recollect that these notes were sketched two
years ago. Since that time some changes in this old edifice have taken
place; the whole southwest angle has fallen to the ground, and,
agreeable to the text, the entire roof would have followed but for the
extraordinary strength of one solitary piece of timber. High mass was
in celebration at the time, and the church was crowded, but no
accident occurred. The old building has been since dismantled,
however; its bell removed from the tower, and the whole structure will
soon, probably, be prostrated by "decay's effacing finger."--FLAGG.

[39] The earliest "extract from the baptismal records of the mission
among the Illinois, under the title of the Immaculate conception of Our
Lady," bears date March 20, 1692. The first ceremony recorded after the
removal of the mission to Kaskaskia, was performed April 17, 1701. See
"Kaskaskia Church Records," in Illinois State Historical Library
_Publications_ (Springfield, 1904), pp. 394-413; Edward G. Mason,
"Kaskaskia and its Parish Records," in _Fergus Historical Series_, No.
12 (Chicago, 1881), pp. 1-22; C. W. Alvord, _The Old Kaskaskia Records_
(Chicago Historical Society, 1906); _Magazine of American History_, vi,
pp. 161-182; _Michigan Pioneer Collections_, v, pp. 94-109.--ED.

[40] A convent of the Visitation was established at Kaskaskia in May,
1833, by a colony from the parent house at Georgetown, District of
Columbia. It was patronized by Pierre Menard, and connected with the
academy named in his honor. A large building was erected and opened
for pupils in 1836. The institution enjoyed a high reputation until
the flood of 1844 forced its abandonment. See _History of Randolph,
Monroe, and Perry Counties_, p. 308.--ED.

[41] I give the tradition of the farmers now resident upon the spot.
History differs somewhat.

Most of the historical facts relative to the extermination of the
Abnaquis will be found condensed in the subjoined extract from a late
valuable work.

"Determined on destroying this assemblage of Indians, which was the
headquarters of the whole eastern country at this time, the English,
in 1724, sent out a force, consisting of 208 men and three Mohawk
Indians, under Captains _Moulton_, _Harman_, and _Bourne_, to humble
them. They came upon the village the 23d August, when there was not a
man in arms to oppose them. They had left 40 of their men at Teconet
Falls, which is now within the town of Winslow, upon the Kennebeck,
and about two miles below Waterville College, upon the opposite side
of the river. The English had divided themselves into three squadrons:
80, under _Harman_, proceeded by a circuitous route, thinking to
surprise some in their cornfields, while _Moulton_, with 80 more,
proceeded directly for the village, which, being surrounded by trees,
could not be seen until they were close upon it. All were in their
wigwams, and the English advanced slowly and in perfect silence. When
pretty near, an Indian came out of his wigwam, and, accidentally
discovering the English, ran in and seized his gun, and giving the
warwhoop, in a few minutes the warriors were all in arms, and
advancing to meet them. _Moulton_ ordered his men not to fire until
the Indians had made the first discharge. This order was obeyed, and,
as he expected, they overshot the English, who then fired upon them in
their turn, and did great execution. When the Indians had given
another volley, they fled with great precipitation to the river,
whither the chief of their women and children had also fled during the
fight. Some of the English pursued and killed many of them in the
river, and others fell to pillaging and burning the village. _Mogg_,
their chief, disdained to fly with the rest, but kept possession of a
wigwam, from which he fired upon the pillagers. In one of his
discharges he killed a Mohawk, whose brother, observing it, rushed
upon and killed him; and thus ended the strife. There were about 60
warriors in the place, about one half of whom were killed.

"The famous _Rasle_ shut himself up in his house, from which he fired
upon the English; and, having wounded one, Lieutenant _Jaques_, of
Newbury, burst open the door, and shot him through the head, although
_Moulton_ had given orders that none should kill him. He had an English
boy with him, about 14 years old, who had been taken some time before
from the frontiers, and whom the English reported _Rasle_ was about to
kill. Great brutality and ferocity are chargeable to the English in this
affair, according to their own account; such as killing women and
children, and scalping and mangling the body of Father _Rasle_.

"There was here a handsome church, with a bell, on which the English
committed a double sacrilege, first robbing it, then setting it on
fire; herein surpassing the act of the first English circumnavigator
in his depredations upon the Spaniards in South America; for he only
took away the gold and silver vessels of a church, and its crucifix,
because it was of massy gold, set about with diamonds, and that, too,
upon the advice of his chaplain. 'This might pass,' says a reverend
author, 'for sea divinity, but justice is quite another thing.'
Perhaps it will be as well not to inquire here what kind of _divinity_
would authorize the acts recorded in these wars, or, indeed, any wars.

"Upon this memorable event in our early annals, Father _Charlevoix_
should be heard. There were not, says he, at the time the attack was
made, above 50 warriors at Neridgewok; these seized their arms, and
run in disorder, not to defend the place against an enemy who was
already in it, but to favour the flight of the women, the old men, and
the children, and to give them time to gain the side of the river,
which was not yet in possession of the English. Father RASLE, warned
by the clamours and tumult, and the danger in which he found his
proselytes, ran to present himself to the assailants, hoping to draw
all their fury upon him, that thereby he might prove the salvation of
his flock. His hope was vain; for hardly had he discovered himself,
when the English raised a great shout, which was followed by a shower
of shot, by which he fell dead near to the cross which he had erected
in the centre of the village: seven Indians who attended him, and who
endeavoured to shield him with their own bodies, fell dead at his
side. Thus died this charitable pastor, giving his life for his sheep,
after 37 years of painful labours.

"Although the English shot near 2000 muskets, they killed but 30 and
wounded 40. They spared not the church, which, after they had
indignantly profaned its sacred vases and the adorable body of Jesus
Christ, they set on fire. They then retired with precipitation, having
been seized with a sudden panic. The Indians returned immediately into
the village; and their first care, while the women sought plants and
herbs proper to heal the wounded, was to shed tears upon the body of
their holy missionary. They found him pierced with a thousand shot,
his scalp taken off, his skull fractured with hatchets, his mouth and
eyes filled with dirt, the bones of his legs broken, and all his
members mutilated in a hundred different ways.

"Such is the account of the fall of _Rasle_, by a brother of the
faith; a deplorable picture, by whomsoever related! Of the truth of
its main particulars there can be no doubt, as will be seen by a
comparison of the above translation with the account preceding it.
There were, besides _Mogg_, other chief Indians who fell that day:
son-in-law, all famous warriors.' The inhumanity of the English on
this occasion, especially to the women and children, cannot be
excused. It greatly eclipses the lustre of the victory." _Drake's Book
of the Indians_, b. iii., c. 9.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Instead of the French and Indian War (1754-1763),
Flagg is doubtless referring to Queen Anne's War (1702-1713).

A large amount of valuable but scattered documentary and secondary
information concerning this massacre and the causes leading to it may
be found under captions "Norridgewock" and "Rasle" in indexes to Maine
Historical Society _Collections_, and _Documents relative to Colonial
History of State of New York_ (Albany, 1854-61). See also William
Allen, _History of Norridgewock_ (Norridgewock, 1849).

[42] _Prunus Americana._--FLAGG.

[43] Indian Date, by the French called Placminier, _Diosporus

[44] _Morus Rubra_ and _Alba_.--FLAGG.

[45] _Prunus Cerasus Virginia._--FLAGG.

[46] Custard apple, _Annona glabra_.--FLAGG.

[47] Breckenridge.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Henry Marie Brackenridge, _Views of Louisiana_, p. 60.

[48] For a sketch of Prairie du Rocher, see A. Michaux's _Travels_, in
our volume iii, p. 70, note 133.--ED.

[49] This tradition does not appear to have been noticed in the local
histories of the region.--ED.


    "I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The
    thistle shook there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the
    wind. The fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass of the
    wall waved round his head."--OSSIAN.

              "We do love these ancient ruins:
          We never tread upon them but we set
          Our foot upon some reverend history."

To those of the present day who are in some degree acquainted with the
extent of the vast Western Valley, it is not a little surprising to
observe how inadequate the conception with which, by its early
proprietors, it was regarded, and the singular measures which their
mistaken estimates originated. It is but within a very few years that
the extent and resources of this country have become sufficiently
developed to be at all appreciated. That the French government was
wholly unaware of its [CLXXXIII] true character in the cession of old
Louisiana to Mr. Jefferson in the early part of the present century,
and that our own people were at that time little less ignorant of the
same fact, need hardly be suggested to one acquainted with the
diplomatic negotiations of the day, or with the views and the feelings
of the respective powers then expressed.

But there are few circumstances which more definitely betray the
exceedingly inadequate idea entertained by France respecting her
possessions in North America, than that early article of her policy, of
uniting her Canadian colonies, by a continuous chain of military posts,
with those upon the Gulf of Mexico. That any ministry should seriously
have entertained the idea of a line of fortifications _four thousand
miles_ in extent, through a waste, howling wilderness such as this
valley then was, and along the banks of streams such as the Ohio and
Mississippi yet continue to be; and that the design should not only have
been projected, but that measures should actually have been entered upon
for its accomplishment, seems, at the present day, almost incredible.
And yet, from the very discovery of the country, was this scheme
designed, and ever afterward was steadily pursued by the government of
France. La Salle, in his last visit to Paris, suggested the policy of a
_cordon_ of posts from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico, and urged
the measure upon Colbert as affording a complete line of defence to the
French settlements against those of the English along the Atlantic
shore. In furtherance of this design, he sailed to establish a [CLXXXIV]
colony at the mouth of the Mississippi, in prosecution of which
expedition he lost his life. A line of fortifications was, however,
commenced, and gradually extended along the southern shore of Lake Erie:
one stood on the present site of the village of that name; another
between that point and the Ohio; a third on the present site of
Pittsburgh, named Du Quesne; a fourth at the mouth of the Kentucky
River; a fifth on the south bank of the Ohio below; a sixth on the
northern bank at the mouth of the Wabash; a seventh at the confluence
with the Mississippi; half a dozen others on the latter stream below the
junction, and several above upon its banks and along those of the
Illinois. Among these last, and the most extensive of the fortifications
then erected, was FORT CHARTRES, long the most celebrated military post
in North America, now a pile of ruins.[50]

It was a beautiful afternoon, when, leaving the little French hamlet
_La Prairie du Rocher_, after a delightful ride of three or four miles
through rich groves of the persimmon, the wild apple, and the
Chickasaw plum,[51] I began to believe myself not far from the ruins
of this famous old fort. Accosting a French villager whom I chanced to
meet, I inquired the site of the ruins. He turned on me his glittering
dark eye for a moment, and, pointing away to the dense belt of forest
upon the left in a direct line with an enormous black-locust on the
right of the pathway, passed on. Not the slightest indication of the
object of my inquiry was to be [CLXXXV] seen; but deeming it fruitless
to attempt gathering farther information from the dark-browed
villager, who was now some distance on his way, I turned my horse's
head from the path, and, after labouring several rods through the
deep, heavy grass of the prairie, entered the wood. The dense
undergrowth of bushes and matted vines was undisturbed, and there was
not an indication of visiters at the spot for months. All seemed
deserted, and silent, and drear. The ruins were completely shrouded in
foliage, and gigantic trees were rearing their huge shafts from amid
the crumbling heaps of rubbish. Wild grape-vines and other parasites
were creeping in all directions over the trembling structures; or,
drooping forth in pensile gracefulness from the disjointed walls,
seemed striving to bind up the shattered fragments, and to conceal the
pitiless ravage of time. The effect of this noble old pile of
architecture, reposing thus in ruins, and shrouded in the cathedral
duskiness of the forest, was singularly solemn.

          "The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
           O'ercome with moss and baleful mistletoe.
           Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds
           Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven."

Securing my horse to the trunk of a young sapling rearing up itself
beneath the walls, I at length succeeded, by dint of struggling
through the rough thickets and the enormous vegetation, in placing
myself at a point from which most of the ruins could be taken at a
_coup d'œil_. Some portions of the exterior wall are yet in good
preservation, and [CLXXXVI] the whole line of fortification may be
easily traced out; but all the structures within the quadrangle are
quite dilapidated, and trees of a large size are springing from the
ruins: an extensive powder-magazine, however, in a gorge of one of the
bastions, yet retains its original form and solidity. The western
angle of the fort and an entire bastion was, about fifty years since,
undermined and thrown down by a slough from the Mississippi; but the
channel is now changed, and is yearly receding, while a young belt of
trees has sprung up between the ruins and the water's edge. The
prairie in front of the fort was in cultivation not many years since,
and was celebrated for its blue grass.

Fort Chartres was erected by the French in 1720, as a link in the
chain of posts which I have mentioned, uniting New-Orleans with
Quebec; and as a defence for the neighbouring villages against the
Spaniards, who were then taking possession of the country on the
opposite side of the Mississippi, as well as against the incursion of
hostile Indian tribes. The expense of its erection is said to have
been enormous, and it was considered the strongest fortification in
North America. The material was brought from the bluffs, some four or
five miles distant over the bottom by boats across a considerable
intervening sheet of water, and from the opposite side of the
Mississippi. In 1756 it was rebuilt; and in 1763, when France ceded
her possessions east of the Mississippi to England, the adjoining
village embraced about forty families, and a church dedicated to St.
Anne.[52] [CLXXXVII] When the English troops took possession of the
country, the villagers all removed to the hamlets across the river,
then under the French government, having been previously ceded, in the
treaty of St. Ildefonso, by Spain to France. The fort was not
evacuated, however, until July, 1765, when its commandant, _M. de St.
Ange de belle rive_, proceeded to St. Louis with his forces.[53]

While Fort Chartres belonged to France, it was the seat of government
for all the neighbouring region; and in 1765, when taken possession of
by Captain Sterling, of the Royal Highlanders, it continued to retain
its arbitrary character. It was here that the first court of justice,
established by Lieutenant-colonel Wilkins, held its sessions.[54] Seven
judges were appointed, who came together monthly at the fortress; but
their decisions were very ill received by a people who, until then, had
been released from all but _arbitrary_ restriction.[55]

The original form of Fort Chartres was an irregular quadrangle, with
four bastions; the sides of the exterior polygon being about five
hundred feet in extent. The ditch and scarp were commenced, but left
uncompleted. The walls, massively constructed of stone, and stuccoed
with lime, were upward of two feet in thickness and fifteen feet in
height. They still retain this altitude in some portions which are
uninjured; and many of the loopholes and the ports for cannon, in the
face of the wall and in the flanks of the bastions, are yet to be
seen entire. The elegantly dressed freestone, however, which
[CLXXXVIII] was employed about them, as well as for the cornices and
casements of the gate and buildings, has long since been removed.
Specimens are to be seen incorporated in some of the elegant
structures which have since gone up in the neighbouring city.[58]

The military engineering of the early French fortifications in North
America was of the school of Vauban; and the massive structures then
erected are now monuments, not less of the skill of their founders
than of departed time. The almost indestructible character of their
masonry has long been a subject of surprise. The walls of Fort
Chartres, though half a century has seen them abandoned to the ravages
of the elements and of time, yet remain so imperishable, that in some
instances it is not easy to distinguish the limestone from the cement;
and the neighbouring villagers, in removing the materials for the
purposes of building, have found it almost impossible to separate them
one from the other.

The buildings which occupied the square area of Fort Chartres were of
the same massive masonry as the walls. They consisted of a
commandant's and commissary's residence, both noble structures of
stone, and of equal size: two extensive lines of barracks, the
magazine of stores, with vaulted cellars, and the _corps de guarde_.
Within the gorges of the eastern bastions were the powder-magazine and
a bakehouse; in the western, a prison, with dungeons and some smaller
buildings. There were two sally-ports to the fortification in the
middle of opposite faces of the wall; and a broad avenue passed from
one to the other, directly through the square, [CLXXXIX] along the
sides of which were ranged the buildings. A small banquette a few feet
in height ran parallel to the loopholes, for the purpose of elevating
the troops when discharging musketry at an enemy without.

Such was Fort Chartres in the pride of its early prime; the seat of
power, festivity, and taste; the gathering-spot of all the rank, and
beauty, and fashion the province could then boast. Many a time,
doubtless, have the walls of this stern old citadel rung to the note
of revelry; and the light, twinkling footstep of the dark-eyed creole
has beat in unison with a heart throbbing in fuller gush from the
presence of the young, martial figure at her side! Fort Chartres, in
its early years, was doubtless not more the headquarters of
arbitration and rule than of gentility and etiquette. The settlers of
the early French villages, though many of them indigent, were not all
of them rude and illiterate. Induced by anticipations of untold
wealth, such as had crowned the adventurers of Spain in the southern
section of the Western Continent, grants and charters of immense
tracts of territory in these remote regions had been made by the crown
of France to responsible individuals; and thus the leaders in these
golden enterprises were generally gentlemen of education and talent,
whose manners had been formed within the precincts of St. Cloud, then
the most elegant court in Europe. Many of these enthusiastic
adventurers, it is true, returned to France in disappointment and
disgust; and many of them removed to the more genial latitude of Lower
Louisiana: [CXC] yet a few, astonished at the fertility and extent of
a country of which they had never dreamed before; delighted with the
variety and delicacy of its fruits, and reminded by the mildness of
the climate of the sweetest portions of their own beautiful France,
preferred to remain. By the present degenerate race of villagers,
those early days are referred to as a "golden age" in their history,
and the "old residenters" as _wonderful_ beings. Consider the singular
situation of these men--a thousand miles from the Atlantic shores,
surrounded by savages and by their own countrymen scarce less
ignorant, and separated by pathless mountains from a community of
civilized man. The higher stations in the French army were at that
era, too, more than at present, occupied by men of genius and
information, while the Catholic priesthood was equally distinguished
for literary attainment. Under circumstances like these, was it other
than natural that reciprocity of feeling and congeniality of taste
should have sought their gratification by mutual and frequent
intercourse? Fort Chartres must, therefore, have been the seat of
hospitality, religious celebration, and kindly feeling. Here the
fleshy old _habitans_ of the neighbouring villages dozed away many an
hour of sober jovialness with their "droughty cronies" over the pipe
and the claret of their own vineyards; while their dark-haired
daughters tripped away on the green sward before them in the balmy
moonlit summer eve with the graceful officers of the fortress.

Here, too, has been witnessed something of "the pride, and pomp, and
circumstance of glorious war." [CXCI] The _fleur-de-lis_ of the
Fifteenth Louis has rolled out its heavy folds above these stern old
towers; the crimson Lion of England has succeeded; and the stripes and
stars of our own republic have floated over both in triumph. The
morning gun of the fortress has boomed across the broad prairie, and
been reverberated from yonder cliffs: the merry reveille has rose upon
the early breeze, and wakened the slumbering echoes of the forest; and
the evening bugle from the walls has wailed its long-drawn, melancholy
note along those sunset waters of the _Eternal River_!

Such, I repeat, was Fort Chartres in its better days, but such is Fort
Chartres no more. I lingered for hours with saddened interest around
the old ruins, until the long misty beams of the setting sun,
streaming through the forest, reminded me that I had not yet secured a
shelter for the coming night. Remounting my horse, I left the spot at
a brisk pace, and a ride of a few miles brought me to a dwelling
situated upon a mound somewhat elevated from the low, flat bottom-land
around, about one mile from the Mississippi, and commanding a view of
the distant lake and bluffs to the north. Here, then, I affix the name
by which is known all the surrounding region.

_Fort Chartres, Ill._


[50] For sketches of Forts Presqu' Isle (present site of Erie),
Machault (on Allegheny River), Duquesne (present site of Pittsburg),
Le Bœuf (near the present town of Waterford, Pennsylvania), St. Joseph
(Michigan), and Ouiatonon (on the Wabash), Detroit, and the fort on
the Maumee River, see Croghan's _Journals_, in our volume i, p. 101,
note 62; p. 102, note 64; p. 85, note 45; p. 102, note 65; p. 117,
note 85; p. 55, note 18; and p. 122, note 87, respectively. On Forts
Chartres (on the Mississippi) and Massac (on the Ohio), see A.
Michaux's _Travels_, in our volume iii, p. 71, note 136, and p. 73,
note 139, respectively. Fort Massac was the only one upon the Ohio.
Juchereau's post was erected (1702) at the confluence of the Ohio and
the Mississippi, but was soon abandoned.--ED.

[51] _Prunus Angustifolia._--FLAGG.

[52] Immediately after the erection of Fort Chartres (1720), a village
sprang up and the Jesuits established there the parish of Ste. Anne de
Fort Chartres. The earliest records of this parish now extant, bear
the date 1721.--ED.

[53] Philip Pittman, who visited Fort Chartres in 1766, says in his
_Present State of the European Settlements on the Missisippi_ (London,
1770), p. 46, concerning Fort Chartres: "In the year 1764 there were
about forty families in the village near the fort, and a parish
church, served by a Franciscan friar, dedicated to St. Anne. In the
following year, when the English took possession of the country, they
abandoned their houses, except three or four poor families, and
settled at the villages on the west side of the Missisippi, chusing to
continue under the French government."

In a personal letter dated November 3, 1762, Louis XV deeded to
Charles III of Spain all of the French territory in North America
lying to the west of Mississippi River; see Shepherd, "Cession of
Louisiana to Spain," in _Political Science Quarterly_, xix, pp.
439-458; also Thwaites, _France in America_ (New York, 1905), pp.
272-275. Napoleon coerced Charles IV to retrocede Louisiana to France,
by the secret treaty of St. Ildefonso, signed October 1, 1800. Three
years later (April 30, 1803), Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United
States for $15,000,000.

Captain Louis St. Ange de Bellerive formally surrendered Fort Chartres
to Captain Sir Thomas Sterling on October 10 (not July), 1765, went to
St. Louis, and entering the Spanish service was placed in command of the
little garrison there, composed almost wholly of his French compatriots
who had removed thither from the Illinois. For a sketch of St. Ange, see
Croghan's _Journals_, in our volume i, p. 138, note 109.--ED.

[54] Sir Thomas Sterling (1733-1808), commissioned captain of the 42nd
Highlanders (1757), served with his men in the conquest of Canada, and
the capture of Martinique (1759) and Havanna (1762). Having taken
command of Fort Chartres in October, 1765, he was relieved of this
unpleasant duty, December 4 of the same year, by Major Robert Farmer,
heading a detachment of British foot from Mobile. Sterling and his
regiment set sail from America (1767), but returned (1776) and served
with distinction at the storming of Fort Washington (1776) and of
Elizabethtown (1779). He was wounded at Springfield (Massachusetts) in
June, 1780. Promoted through the various ranks, he was made a royal
aide-de-camp of the king and in turn a colonel (February 19, 1779),
major-general (November 20, 1782), and general (January 1, 1801). He
became baronet of Andoch on his brother's death, July 26, 1799.
Several Illinois historians strangely persist in killing Sterling in
1765, shortly after he took command at Fort Chartres. See _Dictionary
of National Biography_; and _Documents relative to Colonial History of
New York_, vii, p. 786.

Lieutenant-Colonel John Wilkins, appointed captain of the 55th foot
(1755) and then major (1762), commanded at Niagara. In 1763, while
marching to relieve Detroit, he was attacked by Indians and forced
after heavy losses to retreat to Fort Schlosser. Later, he made an
unsuccessful attempt by water, but was caught in a disastrous storm.
In August, 1764, Wilkins was promoted to the majorship of the 60th,
and in the following January was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the
18th Royal Irish with seven companies. In May, 1768, he was ordered
from Philadelphia to Fort Pitt, and thence to Fort Chartres. His
administration was unpopular, and grave charges--notably
misappropriation of land and funds--were brought against him. He was
suspended in 1771, set sail for Europe the following year, and either
died or left the army (1775). See _Historical Magazine_, viii, p. 260;
and _Documents relative to Colonial History of New York_, viii, p.

[55] Subjoined is a copy of the preliminary proceedings of the first
regular court of justice held in Illinois while under the British
government. It purports to be transcribed from the state records, and
first appeared in a Western newspaper. It lays before the reader a view
of the subject, which the most graphic description would fail to

"At a Court held at CHARTRES Village, in the Illinois, this sixth day
of November, in the eighth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord,
George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and
Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c., &c., &c., in the year of
our Lord Christ one thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight, 1768.

"Present, George Morgan, James Remsey, James Campbell, James M'Millar,
Jean Baptist Barbeau, and Peter Girardot, Esqrs., Justices.
Commissions of the peace granted by John Wilkins, Esqr., Governor and
Commandant of the said country, and directed to the gentlemen named,
were produced and read.

"Whereupon the said Justices took the several _oaths_ of allegiance to
his Majesty's person and government, and also the oaths of Justices of
the peace; which oaths were administered to them by the Governor and
Commandant aforesaid.

"A commission from the said Governor to Dennis M'Croghan, Esq., to be
Sheriff of the country aforesaid, was produced by the said Dennis
M'Croghan, Esq., and read, who took and subscribed the usual oaths of
allegiance to his Majesty's person and government, and also the oath
of sheriff for said country.

"The Governor and Commandant aforesaid entered into a recognizance in
the sum of five hundred pounds lawful money of Great Britain for the
said Sheriff's due performance of his office."

It would appear from the following deed, made by a _military
sergeant_, executing the office of sheriff under the style of Provost
under Commandant Hugh Lord, in 1772, that the government in Illinois
was then purely _military_.

"Be it remembered that on this nineteenth day of December, in the year
of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-two, by virtue of a
writ unto me directed, I, Andrew Hoy, Provost, did seize, levy, and
distrain upon the dwelling-house and lot of John Baptist Hubardeau,
situated in the village of Kaskaskia, for a debt due as _per_ note of
hand, of the signature of the aforesaid Hubardeau, for the sum of two
thousand and forty _livres,_ with interest and _damages._ Now, know
ye, that the aforesaid writ of _Fieri Facias_ was issued by Hugh Lord,
Esq., Captain in his Majesty's 18th or Royal Regiment of Ireland, in
manner and form following:

    "George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France,
    and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.

    "To Sergeant Hoy, Provost.

    "We command you that you cause to be made of the (goods) and
    chattels of John Baptist Hubardeau, in your bailiwick, two
    thousand and forty _livres,_ which Franks & Company, lately, in
    our court, before us, at Kaskaskia, recovered against him by
    virtue of a power of attorney, for a debt, with lawful interest,
    and damages which they have sustained, occasioned as well by the
    detaining of the said debt, as for their expenses and costs by
    them laid out in and about their suit in that behalf, whereof the
    said Hubardeau is convicted, and have you the money before us at
    Kaskaskia as soon as the sale of said effects shall admit, to
    render to the said Franks & Company their debt and damages
    aforesaid, and have then there this writ.

    "Given at Fort Gage, this 19th day of December, 1772.

                      "HUGH LORD, Commandant of Illinois.

  "ANDREW HOY, Provost.

    "Moreover, that in consequence of further orders from the
    commandant aforesaid, I did give general notice of the sale
    thereof by the following advertisement, which was publicly placed
    for perusal and knowledge of the inhabitants in general, both here
    and at the village of CAHO.[56]

                             "PAR AUTORITE.

    "Vendredi, à onse heur du Matin le 29th du mois prochain, sera
    vendu au porte de L'Eglise, la Maison et Terrain du Sieur Jean
    Baptist Hubardeau, qui est puis en exêcution, payable en
    Pèlletrie, Bon Argent, lettres de change, ou la bon esclaves, dans
    le moi de Mai qui vient.

    "Au Kas,[57] Decembre 29 [19] th, 1772.

  "ANDREW HOY, Provost."

    Making allowances for bad French, the following is a translation
    of this notice:

                             "BY AUTHORITY.

    "Wednesday, at eleven o'clock in the morning of the 29th of next
    month, I shall sell at the gate of the church, the House and lot
    of Mr. Jean Baptist Hubardeau, which is taken in execution,
    payable in peltry, good silver, bills of exchange, or in good
    slaves, in the month of May coming.

    "Kaskaskia, Dec. 19th, 1772."

    "At the expiration of which time, the aforesaid house was,
    agreeable to law, justice, and equity, exposed to sale, first at
    the church gate, and afterwards at different parts of the village,
    to prevent as much as possible, any persons pleading ignorance of
    the sale thereof. Now, know ye, in discharge of the duty of my
    office and the trust reposed, after having kept up the said house
    and lot from the hours of ten to two at the sum of 3200 _livres_,
    and no person bidding higher, or likely so to do, that the same
    was struck off to James Remsey, inhabitant of Kaskaskia, who, by
    these presents, is invested with full right and title thereto, to
    have and to hold the said messuage and tenements, and all and
    singular of the premises above mentioned and every part and parcel
    thereof, with the appurtenances unto the said James Remsey, his
    heirs and assigns forever: and I, the said Andrew Hoy, Provost,
    from myself my heirs, the said messuage and tenement and premises
    and every part thereof against him and his heirs, and against all
    and every other person and persons whatever, to the said James
    Remsey, his heirs and assigns shall and will warrant and forever
    defend by these presents. In witness whereof I have hereunto set
    my hand and seal.

  "ANDREW HOY, Provost. (L.S.)

  "Fort Gage, 29th Dec., 1772.
  "Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of

                                             "WILLIAM DUNBAR,
                                             "ISAAC JOHNSON."

    "By virtue of the power and authority in me invested, I do hereby
    grant unto Mr. James Remsey, late Lieut. of his Majesty's 34th
    Regiment, a certain tract of land containing--acres in part from
    the river Kaskaskia to the Mississippi, once the property of one
    La Bacchou, whereon formerly did stand a water mill, the remains
    of which are now to be seen. The whole being agreeable to his
    Majesty's proclamation, confiscated to the King, and is hereby
    given to said James Remsey, in consideration of His Excellency
    Gen. Gage's recommendation and for the speedy settlement of his
    majesty's colony, as likewise the frame of a house with a lot of
    land thereunto appertaining, opposite the Jesuit's College in the
    village of Kaskaskia.

    "Given under my hand, at Fort Chartres, Nov. 12th, 1767.

  "Capt. 34th regiment."

This grant of land where the _old mill_ stood, is now the site of a
speculative _city_ called "_Decoigne_," and is about five miles from
Kaskaskia on the road to St. Louis.--FLAGG.

[56] Cahokia.

[57] Kaskaskia.

[58] Flagg's description agrees in the main with that given by Philip
Pittman (see _ante_, p. 77, note 53), save that the latter is more
detailed. Judging from the phraseology, Flagg must have read Pittman's


          "I know not how the truth may be,
           I tell the tale as told to me."

          "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war."

Fort Chartres has already detained me longer than was my design. My
pen has been unconsciously led on from item to item, and from one
topic to another; and now, in leaving this celebrated fortress, I
cannot forbear alluding to a few incidents connected with its origin
and early history, which have casually presented themselves to my
notice. Selection is made from many of a similar character, which at
another time and in a different form may employ the writer's pen. The
conclusion of my last number attempted a description of the spot from
which it was dated; and, reader, a beautiful spot it was, beneath the
soft, gentle radiance of a summer evening. Not soon, I ween, shall I
forget the wild romance of that moonlit scene as I reclined upon the
gray old bench at the door of the farmhouse after the evening meal was
over, and listened to the singular events of which that region had
been the theatre in other days. More than forty years had seen mine
host a resident of the spot, and no one, with diligence more exemplary
[CXCIII] than his own, had gathered up the curious legends of the
place, many of them from aged men who had themselves been witnesses of
the events they chronicled. By these traditions, whatever may be our
inclination to yield them credence at this late period, the origin and
history of the fortification of Fort Chartres is by no means devoid of
interest. In 1720, when it was resolved on by the crown of France to
erect a fortress at this point upon the Mississippi, in continuation
of her line of posts uniting Quebec with New-Orleans, and for the
defence of her colonies, a military engineer of the school of the
celebrated Sebastian Vauban was sent over to project and accomplish
the design.[59] To his own discretion, within prescribed limits--so
goes the story--was confided the whole undertaking. Far and wide
throughout the province resounded the note of preparation. The
peaceful villager was summoned from his pipe and his plough; the din
of steel and stone broke in upon the solitudes; and at length, at the
enormous expenditure of nine millions of livres, arose Fort Chartres;
and its battlements frowned over the forests and cast their shadows
along the waters of the _Eternal River_! The work was completed, and
fondly believed its architect that he had reared for his memory a
monument for the generations of coming time. A powerful battery of
iron ordnance protruded from the ports, and every department of the
fortress was supplied with the most extensive munitions of war. A
large number of cannon for many years were laying beneath the walls of
the fort, in the early part [CXCIV] of the present century, buried in
matted vines and underbrush. The fortress was completed, and the
_silver lilies_ floated over the walls; but the engineer had far
exceeded the limits prescribed in erecting a work of such massive and
needless strength, and a missive royal summoned him to St. Cloud. The
miserable man, aware that little was to be hoped from the clemency of
the warlike Louis XV., poisoned himself upon arriving in his native
land, to escape the indignation of his sovereign. Previously, however,
to his departure for France, immense sums in gold for defraying the
expenses of the fortress had been forwarded him to New Orleans and
sent up the river, but, owing to his subsequent arrest, were never
distributed to the labourers. Tradition averreth these vast treasures
to have been buried beneath the foundations of the fort. However the
truth may be, the number of those who have believed and searched has
not been inconsiderable: but unhappily, as is ever the case with these
"hidden treasures," the light has gone out just at the critical
moment, or some luckless wight, in his zeal, has thought proper to
_speak_ just as the barrel of money has been struck by the mattock, or
some other untoward event has occurred to dissolve the charm of the
witch-hazel, and to stir up the wrath of those notable spirits which
are always known to stand guard over buried gold! And thus has it
happened that the treasure yet reposes in primeval peace; and the big
family Bible, always conveyed to the spot on such inquisitorial
occasions, has alone prevented consequences most [CXCV] fatal! Whether
the good people of the vicinity in the present unbelieving generation
have faith to dig, I know not; but, when I visited the spot, the earth
of the powder-magazine to which I have alluded exhibited marvellous
indication of having been disturbed at no distant period previous. So
much for the origin of Fort Chartres. The story _may_ be true, it may
_not_. At all events, it will be remembered I do not endorse it.

There is also a tradition yet extant of a stratagem of war by which Fort
Chartres was once captured, worthy the genius of Fabius Maximus, and
partaking, moreover, somewhat of history in character. The name of
George Rogers Clarke is familiar to every one who can claim even
indifferent acquaintance with the early border warfare of the West. This
extraordinary man, having satisfied himself, like Hannibal of Carthage,
that the only way decisively to conquer a crafty and powerful foe was by
carrying the war to his own altars and hearths, placed himself at the
head of a few hundred of the Virginia militia in 1778, and set forth
upon one of the most daring enterprises ever chronicled on the page of
military history--the celebrated expedition against the distant post of
Fort Vincent, now Vincennes. Our country was then at war with Great
Britain, and this fort, together with those upon the lakes and the
Mississippi, were in possession of the enemy and their savage allies.
Colonel Clarke crossed the mountains with his little band; descended the
Monongahela and the Ohio to within sixty miles of the mouth of [CXCVI]
the latter, and there concealing his boats, he plunged with his
followers through swamps, and creeks, and marshes almost impassable, a
distance of one hundred and thirty miles, and in a space of time
incredibly short, arrived at night opposite the village of Kaskaskia. So
overwhelming was the surprise, that the town, though fortified, was
taken without a blow. History goes on to tell us that a detachment of
troops, mounted on the horses of the country, was immediately pushed
forward to surprise the villages of Fort Chartres and Cahokia, higher up
the Mississippi; and that they were all taken without resistance, and
the British power in that quarter completely destroyed.[60] So much for
History, now for Tradition. When the little band arrived beneath the
walls of Fort Chartres, the numbers of the garrison far exceeding those
of the besiegers, the latter, as if in despair of success, shortly took
up the line of march and disappeared behind the distant bluffs. Days
passed on; diligent examination of the heights was kept up with glasses
from the walls, but no enemy returned. At length, when apprehension had
begun to die away, early one morning a troop of cavalry appeared winding
over the bluffs, their arms glittering in the sunlight, and descended
from view apparently into the plain beneath. Hour after hour the march
continued; troop after troop, battalion upon battalion, regiment after
regiment, with their various ensigns and habiliments of warfare,
appeared in lengthened files, wound over the bluffs, and disappeared.
Alarmed [CXCVII] and astonished at the countless swarms of the invaders,
the garrison hastily evacuated the fortress, and for dear life and
liberty, soon placed the broad Mississippi between themselves and the
cloud of locusts! Hardly was this precipitate manœuvre well
accomplished, when the alarum of drum and fife was heard, and the
identical force which but a few days before had raised the siege, and in
despair had retreated from beneath the walls, now paraded through the
open sally-ports, their rags and tatters fluttering by way of "pomp and
circumstance" in the evening breeze. This fortunate _ruse du guerre_ had
been accomplished through the favourable nature of the ground, a few
extra stand of colours manufactured for the occasion, and a variety of
uniforms and arms of like character. After winding over the bluffs into
the plain beneath, they again ascended through a defile unobserved by
the garrison, and once more appeared in different guise and order in
rear of their comrades. "Distance," too, cast doubtless not a little
"enchantment" over "the view;" and then the fear and trepidation of the
worthy garrison probably sharpened their optics to detect all the peril
in store for them, and, perchance, somewhat more. Now, reader, you can
do as you choose touching belief of all this. And while you are making
up a decision on the point, permit me to furnish yet another scrap of
_History_, which may, peradventure, assist.

For sixteen days was Col. Clarke employed in his march from Kaskaskia to
Vincennes, after the [CXCVIII] capture of the military posts upon the
Mississippi. At length, after toils incredible, he reached the Wabash.
High upon the eastern bank, its base swept by the rolling flood, stood
Fort Vincent, the British fortress, at that period garrisoned by a
superior corps of soldiery, with an auxiliary force of six hundred
Indian warriors, and under the command of a skilful officer, Gov.
Hamilton. On the western bank was spread out a broad sheet of alluvion
five miles in breadth, completely inundated by the swollen stream. After
five days of toil this wilderness of waters was passed; the rolling
current of the Wabash was crossed in the night, and the morning sun
beheld these daring men before Vincennes. As they approached the
town--history goes on to relate--over the broad and beautiful prairie
upon which it stands, at the moment his troops were discovered by the
enemy, Clarke found himself near a small ancient mound, which concealed
part of his force from the foe. Under this covert he countermarched his
men in so skilful a manner, that the leading files, which had been seen
from the town, were transferred undiscovered to the rear, and made to
pass again and again in sight of the enemy, until his whole force had
several times been displayed, and his little detachment of jaded troops
assumed the appearance of an extended column greatly superior to its
actual strength. The garrison was promptly summoned to surrender, and,
after a brief defence, Gov. Hamilton struck his flag to a body of men
not half as powerful as his own.[61]

[CXCIX] Next in importance to Fort Chartres, of that chain of military
posts commenced by the French in the Valley of the Mississippi, was
FORT DU QUESNE;[62] and of this celebrated fortress, so notorious in
the bloody annals of border warfare, it may not be irrelevant, in
concluding the present subject, to add a few sentences. This post was
erected on that low tongue of land, at the head of the Ohio and
confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers, where Pittsburgh
now stands, commanded on all sides by lofty bluffs. It was built by M.
de la Jonquier, at command of the Marquis du Quesne, governor of
Canada. In 1754 the bold Contrecœur came down the Alleghany, with a
thousand Frenchmen in canoes, and eighteen pieces of artillery; and,
dispersing the small colonial force, intrenched himself upon the spot.
This was the prologue to that bloody drama, the catastrophe of which
deprived France of all her possessions east of the Mississippi. In
1758 Fort du Quesne was taken by Gen. Forbes; a more scientific and
extensive fortress was erected on the spot, at an expense of sixty
thousand pounds sterling, and, in honour of William Pitt, then
Premier of England, named Fort Pitt. It is difficult to conceive what
could have been the design of these commanders in erecting such a
massive fortress on such a spot, unless to impress the minds of their
savage but simple neighbours; for resistance to artillery planted upon
the neighbouring heights would have been quite as vain as any attack
of the Indians upon its walls with their primitive weapons. The same
may be said of [CC] nearly all the early fortifications in the West,
and of some of more modern date upon our frontier. Subsequently Fort
Pitt came into the possession of our government as part of the estate
of the Penn family, and is now only a heap of rubbish. Thus much for
early military posts in the Valley of the Mississippi.

So deeply interested was I in listening to the "legendary lore"
associated with the spot upon which I was sitting, that hours glided
unobserved away, and the full moon was culminating in cloudless
splendour from the zenith when we retired.

Early the following morning I was in the saddle. The heavy night-mists
lay wavering, like a silvery mantle, all over the surface of that
broad plain; and the crimson clouds, rolling up the eastern sky,
proclaimed the rising sun. After a short ride I reached the former
site of St. Philippe, a settlement of the French, since called _Little
Village_. Its "common field" is now comprised in the single plantation
of Mr. M'David. It was at this point that Philippe Francis
Renault--from whom the village received its name, as well as a large
section of the neighbouring region, known to this day as "Renault's
Tract"--established himself in 1719, with two hundred miners from
France, in anticipation of discovering gold and silver.[63] He was
disappointed; but is said to have obtained large quantities of lead
from the region along the opposite bank of the Mississippi, in the
vicinity of Ste. Genevieve; and to have discovered, moreover, a copper
mine near Peoria. St. Philippe was once a considerable village.
Previous to 1765--when possession of the country was claimed [CCI] by
the English government, and, like the other French settlements, it was
abandoned by the villagers--it is said to have comprised twenty or
thirty families, a Catholic church, and a water-mill; while the
surrounding meadow afforded pasturage for extensive herds of cattle.

Leaving St. Philippe, the winding pathway in a few miles had conducted
me into the depths of a forest of gigantic cotton-trees upon the left,
encircled by enormous grape-vines, and the ground beneath entangled by
a wilderness of underbrush and thickets of wild fruit. In a few
moments the forest opened unexpectedly before me, and at my feet
rolled on the turbid floods of the Mississippi, beyond which went up
the towering cliffs of limestone, hoar and ragged, to the sheer height
of some hundred feet from the water's edge. They were the cliffs of
Herculaneum, with their shot-towers.[64] For the first time I
discovered that I had mistaken my way. Perceiving the low log-cabin of
a woodcutter among the trees, I had soon obtained the requisite
information, and was retracing my steps; but a weary plod through the
deep black loam, and the tall grass weltering in the night-dews, and
the thickets of the dripping meadows, was anything but agreeable.
There were but few farms along my route, and the tenants of those with
whom I chanced to meet betrayed too plainly, by their ghastly visages,
and their withered, ague-racked limbs, the deadly influences of the
atmosphere they inhaled. As I wandered through this region, where
vegetation, towering in all its rank [CCII] and monstrous forms, gave
evidence of a soil too unnaturally fertile for culture by man, whose
bread must be bought by "the sweat of his brow," I thought I could
perceive a deadly nausea stealing over my frame, and that every
respiration was a draught of the floating pestilence. I urged onward
my horse, as if by flight to leave behind me the fatal contagion which
seemed hovering on every side; as if to burst through the poisonous
vapours which seemed distilling from every giant upas along my path.
That this region should be subject to disease and death is a
circumstance by no means singular. Indeed, it seems only unaccountable
to the traveller that it may be inhabited at all. A soil of such
astonishing depth and fertility, veiled from the purifying influences
of the sun by the rank luxuriance of its vegetation, in the stifling
sultriness of midsummer sends forth vast quantities of mephitic vapour
fatal to life; while the decay of the enormous vegetables poisons the
atmosphere with putrid exhalations. Cultivation and settlement will,
of course, as in the older states, remedy this evil to some extent in
time. It is said that the southern border of a lake in this region is
less unhealthy than the northern, on account of the prevalence of
winds from the former quarter during the summer months; and that the
immediate margin of a river, though buried in vegetation, is less
liable to disease than the neighbouring bluffs, upon which hang the
night and morning vapours. A dry and somewhat elevated spot is
preferable to either for a cabin; and it should be well ventilated,
and never closely surrounded by [CCIII] cornfields. The rank and
massive foliage shields the earth from the sunbeams, which exhale its
poisonous damps; and in its rapid growth, the plant abstracts from the
surrounding atmosphere one of its vital ingredients. Indeed, most of
the diseases peculiar to the West are superinduced by imprudence,
ignorance, or negligence in nursing. Let the recent emigrant avoid the
chill, heavy night-dews and the sickening sultriness of the noontide
sun; provide a close dwelling, well situated and ventilated, and
invariably wear thicker clothing at night than in the day, and he may
live on as long and as healthily in the West as in his native village.
Bilious intermittents are the most prevalent and fatal diseases in the
sickly months of August, September, and October; and in the winter and
spring pleurisies are frequent. The genuine phthisic, or pulmonary
consumption of New-England, is rarely met. A mysterious disease,
called the "_milk_ sickness"--because it was supposed to be
communicated by that liquid--was once alarmingly prevalent in certain
isolated districts of Illinois.[65] Whole villages were depopulated;
and though the mystery was often and thoroughly investigated, the
cause of the disease was never discovered. By some it was ascribed to
the milk or to the flesh of cows feeding upon a certain unknown
poisonous plant, found only in certain districts; by others, to
certain springs of water, or to the exhalations of certain marshes.
The mystery attending its operations and its terrible fatality at one
period created a perfect panic in the settlers; nor was this at all
wonderful. The disease appears [CCIV] now to be vanishing. But, of all
other epidemics, the "fever and ague" is the scourge of the West. Not
that it often terminates fatally, except by superinducing a species of
consumption; but, when severe and protracted, it completely shatters
the constitution; and, like Mezentius, the victim ever after bears
about him a living death. In its lighter form, most of the settlers at
some time or other experience it, as it is brought on by exposure: and
when I consider that, during my ramble in the West, I have subjected
myself to every variety of climate and circumstance; have been
drenched by night-dews and morning-dews; by the vapours of marshes and
forests, and by the torrents of summer showers; have wandered day
after day over the endless prairies beneath a scorching sun, and at
its close have laid myself anywhere or nowhere to rest; when I
consider this, I cannot but wonder at the escape of a constitution
naturally feeble from complete prostration. Yet never was it more
vigorous than during this tour on the prairies.

At length, after a ride which seemed interminable, I found myself at
the foot of the bluffs; and, drawing up my horse, applied at a cabin
attached to an extensive farm for refreshment. A farmer of
respectable garb and mien came tottering towards the gateway; and, to
my request, informed me that every individual of his family was ill of
the "fever and ague." I inquired for the state of his own health,
remarking his _shattered_ appearance. "Yes, I am shattered," he
replied, leaning heavily against the rails for support; "the agues and
fevers have terribly [CCV] racked me; but I am better, I am _better_
now." Ah, thought I, as, returning his kind good-morning, I resumed my
route, you think, poor man, that health will revisit your shattered
frame; but that pallidness of brow, and those sunken temples, tell me
that you must die. Consumption's funeral fires were already kindling
up in the depths of his piercing eye. At the next cabin, where I was
so fortunate as to succeed in obtaining refreshment, I was informed
that the poor fellow was in the last stages of a decline brought on by
undue exposure to the chill, poisonous night-dews of the bottom. The
individual from whom this information was received was himself far
from enjoying uninterrupted health, though thirty-five years had seen
him a tenant of the spot upon which I met him.

_Monroe County, Ill._


[59] Relative to Fort Chartres, see _ante_, p. 75, note 50.--ED.

[60] Hall.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Flagg's authority is James Hall, _Sketches of
History, Life, and Manners in the West_ (Philadelphia, 1835).

Owing to the encroachments by the Mississippi, Fort Chartres was
abandoned in 1772, and was never again used as a garrison. The legend
given by Flagg is somewhat exaggerated. The French settlements
adjacent to Kaskaskia readily accepted the situation on being invited
by Clark's representatives, who were accompanied by Kaskaskians as
friendly interpreters.

[61] Hall.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ Compare with R. G. Thwaites, _How George Rogers Clark
won the Northwest_, pp. 52-62.

[62] A fort was begun by Charles Trent, with a few Virginia troops, in
February, 1754. On April 17, Contrecœur took the place, completed the
fort, and named it Duquesne in honor of the then governor of New France.
See Croghan's _Journals_, in our volume i, p. 85, note 45; also F. A.
Michaux's _Travels_, in our volume iii, p. 156, note 20.--ED.

[63] Renault sailed from France in 1719, but did not reach Illinois
until 1721. For a short sketch of Renault, see _ante_, p. 42, note 18.

St. Philippe, five miles from Fort Chartres on the road to Cahokia, was
founded about 1725 by Renault, on a tract granted to him in 1723. Philip
Pittman, who visited the place in 1766, wrote that there were about
sixteen houses and a small church left standing, although all the
inhabitants save the captain of the militia had crossed the Mississippi
the preceding year. In 1803, John Everett was the sole inhabitant.--ED.

[64] For location and settlement of Herculaneum, see Maximilian's
_Travels_, in our volume xxii, p. 212, note 122; for the shot-towers
there, see our volume xxvi, p. 103, note 66.--ED.

[65] Milk-sickness, no longer so diagnosed by medical authorities, is
described by early writers in the Middle West as a malignant disease
attacking both men and stock. It was supposed that the disease was
contracted by eating the flesh or dairy products of animals that had
grazed on a certain weed. In the case of the human being the symptoms
were intolerable thirst, absolute constipation, low temperature, an
extreme nervous agitation, but with an absence of chills and
headaches. Recovery seemed to be the exception. Although no specific
remedy was used, the best results were thought to be obtained by
judicious stimulation and careful nursing. The same disease among
stock was usually known as "trembles." The symptoms were the same as
with men, and death followed, generally within eight or ten days. A
farm where this dreaded disease had come was called a "milk-sick
farm," and was rendered almost unsalable. For a later and more
detailed account, see Thomas L. M'Kenney, _Memoirs, official and
personal, with Sketches of Travels among the Northern and Southern
Indians_, etc. (New York, 1846), p. 141. Dr. William M. Beach, a
pioneer physician in Ohio, who had had much experience with milk
sickness, wrote an article for Albert H. Buck, _Reference Handbook of
Medical Science_ (New York, 1884-87), volume v. An abstract of the
above article by Beach is given in the edition for 1902.--ED.


          "'Tis many moons ago--a long--long time."
                                               R. H. WILDE.

          "Rich, silent, deep, they stand; for not a gale
           Rolls its light billows o'er the bending plain:
           A calm of plenty! till the ruffled air
           Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow."
                                                 _The Seasons._

In the course of my journeying in the regions of the "FAR WEST," it
has more than once chanced to me to encounter individuals of that
singular class commonly termed "Squatters;" those sturdy pioneers who
formed the earliest American settlements along our western frontier.
And, in my casual intercourse with them, I have remarked, with not a
little surprise, a decision of character, an acuteness of penetration,
and a depth and originality of thought betrayed in their observations,
strangely enough contrasting with the rude solitude of their life. For
more than half a century, mayhap, Nature

          "Had been to them a more familiar face
             Than that of man;"

and whether, in the present exhibition of intellectual energy, we are
to claim an argument for the influence of natural scenery upon
character, or may find a corroboration of the theory of diversity of
mental ability; or to whatever circumstance it may be attributed,
[CCVII] very assuredly it owes not its origin to the improvements of
education or the advantages of society. There is also remarked in
these rude men a susceptibility and refinement of feeling, and a
delicacy of sentiment, which one would suppose hardly compatible with
a protracted continuance of their semi-savage life.

It was at the frugal, though well-spread board of an individual of
this class that I was pleased to find myself seated, after my tedious
morning ramble of several hours through the weltering vegetation of
the prairie. Mine host was a man of apparently forty, though in
reality some eight or ten years in advance of that age: his form, of
medium stature, was symmetrical, erect, and closely knit, betraying
considerable capability of endurance, though but little of muscular
strength: his countenance, at first sight, was by no means
prepossessing; indeed, the features, while in repose, presented an
aspect harsh--almost forbidding; but, when lighted up by animation,
there was discoverable in their rapid play a mildness which well
compared with the benevolent expression of a soft blue eye. Such was
the _physique_ of my backwoods pioneer, who for forty years had been a
wanderer on the outskirts of civilization, and had at length been
overtaken by its rapid march.

As I had before me but an easy ride for the day, I proposed to mine
host, when our repast was over, that he should accompany me to the
summit of the range of bluffs which rose behind his cabin, towering to
the height of several hundred feet above the roof. To this he readily
assented, and well did [CCVIII] the magnificent view commanded from
the top compensate for the toil of the ascent. The scene was grand.
"Yonder," said my companion, seating himself on the earth at my side,
and stretching out his arm to the southeast, "yonder lies the village
of old Kaskaskia, with the bluffs of the river beyond, rising against
the sky; while a little to the left you catch the white cliffs of
Prairie du Rocher. In that heavy timber to the south are the ruins of
Fort Chartres, and to the right, across the lake, fifty years ago
stood St. Philippe. The Mississippi is concealed from us, but its
windings can be traced by the irregular strip of forest which skirts
its margin. Beyond the stream, stretching away to the northwest, the
range of heights you view are the celebrated _cornice-cliffs_[66]
above Herculaneum; and at intervals you catch a glimpse of a
shot-tower, resting like a cloud against the sky, upon the tallest
pinnacles. The plain at our feet, which is now sprinkled with
cornfields, was once the site of an Indian village. Forty years ago,
the ruins of the wigwams and the dancing circle surrounding the
war-post could be distinctly traced out: and even now my ploughshare
every spring turns up articles of pottery which constituted their
domestic utensils, together with axes and mallets of stone, spear and
arrow heads and knives of flint, and all their rude instruments of
war. Often of a fine evening," continued my companion, after a pause,
"when my work for the day is over, and the sun is going down [CCIX] in
the west, I climb up to this spot and look out over this grand
prospect; and it almost makes me sad to think how the tribes that once
possessed this beautiful region have faded away. Nearly forty years
ago, when I came with my father from old Virginia, this whole state,
with its prairies, and forests, and rich bottoms, was the
hunting-ground of the Indians. On this spot we built our cabin; and
though I have since lived far off on the outskirts of the Missouri
frontier, I always had an affection for this old bottom and these
bluffs, and have come back to spend here the rest of my days. But the
Indians are gone. The round top of every bluff in yonder range is the
grave of an Indian chief."

While my singular companion was making these observations, somewhat in
the language I have attempted to give, interrupted from time to time
by my inquiries, I had myself been abstractedly employed in thrusting
a knife which was in my hand into the yielding mould of the mound upon
which we sat, when, suddenly, the blade, striking upon a substance
somewhat harder than the soil, snapped into fragments. Hastily
scraping away the loose mould to the depth of some inches, the _femur_
of a human skeleton protruding from the soil was disinterred, and, in
a few minutes, with the aid of my companion, the remnants of an entire
skeleton were laid bare. Compared with our own limbs, the bones seemed
of a size almost gigantic; and from this circumstance, if from no
other, it was evident that our melancholy moralizing upon the
destinies of the Indians had been indulged upon a very fitting
spot--[CCX] the grave of one of its chieftains. Originally, the body
had no doubt been covered to the depth of many feet, and the
shallowness of soil at the present time indicates a lapse of
centuries. Still these graves of the bluffs, which doubtless belonged
to the ancestors of the present aborigines, will neither be confounded
nor compared with the gigantic earth-heaps of the prairies. Strangely
enough, this _has_ been the case, though a moment's reflection must
convince one that they are the monuments of a far later race.

Descending the bluffs by an ancient path in a ravine, _said_ to have
been made in conveying oak timber to Fort Chartres at the period of its
erection, my host conducted me into one of the enclosures of his farm, a
spot which had evidently once been the ordinary burial-place of the
ancient Indian village. Graves, sufficient, apparently, for hundreds of
individuals, were yet to be seen upon every side. They were arranged
parallel to each other in uniform ranges, and were each formed by a
rough slab of limestone upon either side, and two at the extremities,
terminating in an obtuse angle. From several of these old sepulchres we
threw out the sand, and, at the depth of about four feet, exhumed
fragments of human remains in various stages of preservation, deposited
upon a broad slab of limestone at the bottom. When taken together, these
slabs form a complete coffin of stone, in which the body originally
reposed; and this arrangement, with the silicious nature of the soil,
has probably preserved the remains a longer period than would otherwise
have been the case. But the circumstance respecting [CCXI] these ancient
graves which chiefly excited my astonishment was their marvellous
littleness, none of them exceeding a length of four feet; and the
wondrous tales of a "pigmy race of aborigines" once inhabiting the West,
which I had often listened to, recurred with considerable force to my
memory. Resolved to decide this long-mooted question to my own
satisfaction, if possible, the earth from one of the graves, the most
perfect to be found, was excavated with care, and upon the bottom were
discovered the _femur_ and _tibia_ of a skeleton in a state of tolerable
preservation, being parallel to each other and in immediate proximity.
Proof incontestible, this, that the remains were those of no Lilliputian
race four feet in stature, and affording a fair presumption that the
limbs were forcibly bent in this position at the time of burial,
occupying their stone coffin much as the subject for scientific
dissection occupies a beef-barrel. In this manner may we satisfactorily
account for the ancient "pigmy cemetery" near the town of Fenton, on the
Merrimack in Missouri, as well as that on the _Rivière des Pères_, in
the same vicinity, already referred to, and those reported to exist in
various other sections of the West, in which, owing to the dampness of
the soil, the remains have been long resolved to dust, and only the
dimensions of the grave have remained.[67]

Among the articles which my host had procured from these old graves, and
deemed worthy of preservation, was a singular species of pottery,
composed, as appeared from its fracture, of shells calcined and
pulverized, mixed with an equal quantity [CCXII] of clay, and baked in
the sun. The clay is of that fine quality with which the waters of the
Missouri are charged. The vessels are found moulded into a variety of
forms and sizes, capable of containing from a quart to a gallon.[68] One
of these, which my host insisted upon hanging upon the bow of my
Spanish saddle as I mounted, was fashioned in the shape of a _turtle,_
with the form and features very accurately marked. The handle of the
vessel, which was broken off, once formed a tapering tail to the animal,
presenting a _rare_ specimen of a turtle with that elegant appendage.

Ascending the bluffs by a tortuous though toilsome pathway through
the ravines, my route for some miles wound away through a sparse
growth of oaks, and over a region which seemed completely excavated
into _sink-holes_. Some of these tunnel-shaped hollows were several
hundred feet in diameter, and of frightful depth, though of regular
outline, as if formed by the whirl of waters subsiding to the level of
the plain beneath. They were hundreds in number, yet each was as
uniformly circular as if excavated by scientific skill. I have met
with none so regular in outline, though I have seen many in the course
of my journeyings.

The puissant little village of Waterloo furnished me a very excellent
dinner, at a very excellent tavern. The town appeared, from a hasty view
in passing through its streets, remarkable for nothing so much as for
the warlike _soubriquet_ attached to it, if we except a huge _windmill_,
which, [CCXIII] like a living thing, flings abroad its gigantic arms,
and flaunts its ungainly pinions in the midst thereof. The place,
moreover, can boast a courthouse, indicative of its judicial character
as seat of justice for the county of Monroe; and, withal, is rather
pleasantly located than otherwise. About five miles north of the village
is situated a large spring, and a settlement called Bellefontaine. This
spot is celebrated as the scene of some of the bloodiest atrocities of
the Kickapoo Indians and predatory bands of other tribes some fifty
years since. Many of the settlers were killed, and others carried into a
captivity scarce to be preferred.[69]

An evening ride of a dozen miles, interesting for nothing but a
drenching shower, succeeded by a glare of scorching sunshine, which,
for a time, threatened perfect fusion to the traveller, or, more
properly, an unconditional resolution into fluidity; such an evening
ride, under circumstances aforesaid, brought me at sunset to the town
of Columbia, a place, as its name denotes, redolent of patriotism.[70]
"Hail Columbia!" was the exhilarated expression of my feelings, if not
of my lips, as I strode across the threshold of a log-cabin, the
appurtenance of a certain worthy man with one leg and the moiety of
another, who united in his calling the professions of cobbler and
publican, as intimated by the sign-board over his door. Hail Columbia!
All that it is possible to record touching this patriotic village
seems to be that it adds one more to the five hundred previous
villages of the selfsame appellation scattered over the land, whose
chief [CCXIV] consequence, like that of a Spanish grandee, is
concentrated and consists in a title. Every county of almost every
state of the Union, it is verily believed, can boast a Columbia.
Indeed, the name of the Genoese seems in a fair way of being honoured
as much as is that of George Washington; a distinction we are sure to
find bestowed upon every bullet-pated, tow-haired little rascal, who,
knowing not who his father was, can claim no patronymic less general,
having been smuggled into the world nobody can tell when or how:
George Washington, "_Father_ of his _country_," indeed, if the
perpetration of a very poor pun on a venerated name may be pardoned.

The earliest peep of dawn lighted me into the saddle; for, with the
unhappy Clarence, _feelingly_ could I ejaculate,

          "Oh, I have pass'd a miserable night!"

In sober sadness, sleep, gentle sleep, had visited not my eyes, nor
slumber mine eyelids; though, with the faith of a saint and the
perseverance of a martyr, I had alternated from _bed_ to board and
from _board_ to bed. And throughout that livelong night, be it
recorded, even until the morning dawned, did a concert of
whippoorwills and catydids keep up their infernal oratorio, seemingly
for no other reason than for my own especial torment; until, sinner as
I am, I could not but believe myself assoilzed of half the
peccadilloes of a foregone life. Happy enough to find myself once more
in the saddle, the morning breeze, as I cantered through the forest,
fanned [CCXV] freshly a brow fevered by sleeplessness and vexation.
The early beams of the day-god were flinging themselves in lengthened
masses far athwart the plains at my feet as I stood upon the bluffs.
Descending, I was once more upon the AMERICAN BOTTOM.[71] This name,
as already stated, was a distinction appropriated to that celebrated
tract so long since as when it constituted the extreme limit in this
direction of the Northwestern Territory. Extending northwardly from
the embouchure of the Kaskaskia to the confluence of the great rivers,
a distance of about one hundred miles, and embracing three hundred
thousand acres of land, of fertility unrivalled, it presents, perhaps,
second only to the Delta of Egypt, the most remarkable tract of
country known. Its breadth varies from three miles to seven. Upon one
side it is bounded by a heavy strip of forest a mile or two deep,
skirting the Mississippi; and upon the other by an extended range of
bluffs, now rising from the plain in a mural escarpment of several
hundred feet, as at the village of Prairie du Rocher, and again, as
opposite St. Louis, swelling gracefully away into rounded sand-heaps,
surmounted by Indian graves. At the base of the latter are exhaustless
beds of bituminous coal, lying between parallel strata of
limestone.[72] The area between the timber-belt and the bluffs is
comprised in one extended meadow, heaving in alternate waves like the
ocean after a storm, and interspersed with island-groves, sloughs,
bayous, lagoons, and shallow lakes. These expansions of water are
numerous, and owe their origin [CCXVI] to that geological feature
invariable to the Western rivers--the superior elevation of the
immediate bank of the stream to that of the interior plain. The
subsidence of the spring-floods is thus precluded; and, as the season
advances, some of the ponds, which are more shallow, become entirely
dry by evaporation, while others, converted into marshes, stagnate,
and exhale _malaria_ exceedingly deleterious to health. The poisonous
night-dews caused by these marshes, and the miasm of their decomposing
and putrefying vegetation, occasion, with the sultriness of the
climate, bilious intermittents, and the far-famed, far-dreaded "_fever
and ague_," not unfrequently terminating in consumption. This
circumstance, indeed, presents the grand obstacle to the settlement of
the American Bottom. It is one, however, not impracticable to obviate
at slight expense, by the construction of sluices and canals
communicating with the rivers, and by the clearing up and cultivation
of the soil. The salubrious influence of the latter expedient upon the
climate has, indeed, been satisfactorily tested during the ten or
twelve years past; and this celebrated alluvion now bids fair, in
time, to become the garden of North America. A few of its lakes are
beautiful water-sheets, with pebbly shores and sparkling waves,
abounding with fish. Among these is one appropriately named "Clear
Lake," or the _Grand Marais_, as the French call it, which may be seen
from St. Louis of a bright morning, when the sunbeams are playing upon
its surface, or at night when the moon is at her full. The [CCXVII]
earliest settlements of the Western Valley were planted upon the
American Bottom, and the French villagers have continued to live on in
health among the sloughs and marshes, where Americans would most
assuredly have perished. Geologically analyzed, the soil consists of a
silicious or argillaceous loam, as sand or clay forms the
predominating constituent. Its fertility seems exhaustless, having
continued to produce corn at an average of seventy-five bushels to the
acre for more than a hundred years in succession, in the neighbourhood
of the old French villages, and without deterioration. Maize seems the
appropriate production for the soil; all of the smaller grains, on
account of the rank luxuriance of their growth, being liable to
_blast_ before the harvesting.

_Cahokia, Ill._


[66] Two ranges of cliffs are known by this name. One is below Ste.

[67] For further information on the pigmy cemetery in the Meramec, see
our volume xxvi, p. 105.--ED.

[68] Mr. Flint's remarks respecting the Ancient Pottery found in the
West coincides so well with the result of my own more limited
observation, that I subjoin them in preference to extended description
myself. Preceding these remarks is an interesting notice of the
Lilliputian graves on the Merrimac, to which allusion has several
times been made.

"At the time the Lilliputian graves were found on the Merrimac, in the
county of St. Louis, many people went from that town to satisfy their
curiosity by inspecting them. It appears from Mr. Peck that the graves
were numerous; that the coffins were of stone; that the bones in some
instances were nearly entire; that the length of the bodies was
determined by that of the coffins which they filled, and that the
bodies in general could not have been more than from three feet and a
half to four feet in length. Thus it should seem that the generations
of the past in this region were mammoths and pigmies.

"I have examined the pottery, of which I have spoken above, with some
attention. It is unbaked, and the glazing very incomplete, since oil
will soak through it. It is evident, from slight departure from
regularity in the surface, that it was moulded by the hand and not by
anything like our lathe. The composition, when fractured, shows many
white floccules in the clay that resemble fine snow, and this I judge
to be pulverized shells. The basis of the composition appears to be
the alluvial clay carried along in the waters of the Mississippi, and
called by the French 'terre grasse,' from its greasy feel. Samples of
this pottery, more or less perfect, are shown everywhere on the river.
Some of the most perfect have been dug from what are called the
'chalk-banks,' below the mouth of the Ohio. The most perfect that I
have seen, being, in fact, as entire as when first formed, was a
vessel in my possession. It was a drinking jug, like the 'scyphus' of
the ancients. It was dug from the chalk-bank. It was smooth,
well-moulded, and of the colour of common gray stoneware. It had been
rounded with great care, and yet, from slight indentations on the
surface, it was manifest that it had been so wrought in the palm of
the hand. The model of the form was a simple and obvious one--the
bottle-gourd--and it would contain about two quarts. This vessel had
been used to hold animal oil; for it had soaked through, and varnished
the external surface. Its neck was that of a squaw, known by the
clubbing of the hair, after the Indian fashion. The moulder was not an
accurate copyist, and had learned neither statuary nor anatomy; for,
although the finish was fine, the head was monstrous. There seemed to
have been an intention of wit in the outlet. It was the horrible and
distorted mouth of a savage, and in drinking you would be obliged to
place your lips in contact with those of madam the squaw."--_Flint's
Recollections_, p. 173-4.--FLAGG.

COMMENT BY ED. For bibliography on Indian antiquities, see our volume
xxvi, p. 69, note 33; p. 159, note 111; and p. 184, note 128.

[69] Waterloo, in Monroe County, about thirty miles northwest of
Kaskaskia, was incorporated in 1848. In 1818 George Forquer purchased
the land on which the village now stands, and in the same year he and
Daniel P. Cook (later a member of Congress) laid out and named the
town. In 1825 the county seat was changed from Harrisonville to
Waterloo. About 1830, John Coleman erected a large wind-mill, later
changed to an ox-mill (1837).

Bellefontaine is the name applied by the early French to a large
spring a mile south of the present site of Waterloo. In 1782 Captain
James Moore, who had served under George Rogers Clark, settled at this
spring, and in accordance with orders from the Virginia government
built a blockhouse fort as a protection against the Indians. Owing to
his tact and good judgment, amicable relations with the Indians were
maintained until 1786, when serious trouble really began. During the
next decade the Indians killed several whites.--ED.

[70] Columbia, eight miles north of Waterloo, and fifteen miles south of
St. Louis, was laid out in 1820 on land belonging to Louis Nolan.--ED.

[71] With reference to the American Bottom, see Ogden's _Letters from
the West_, in our volume xix, p. 62, note 48.--ED.

[72] See our volume xxvi, p. 263, note 163.--ED.


    "Gramercy, Sir Traveller, it marvels me how you can carry between
    one pair of shoulders the weight of your heavy wisdom. Alack, now!
    would you but discourse me of the wonders you saw ayont the

    "Peace, ignoramus! 'tis too good for thy ass's ears to listen to.
    The world shall get it, caxtonized in a GREAT BOOK."--_Traveller
    and Simpleton._

          "Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been;
           A sound which makes us linger--yet--farewell!"
                                     _Childe Harold's Pilgrimage._

Of the alluvial character of the celebrated American Bottom there can
exist no doubt. Logs, shells, fragments of coal, and pebbles, which
have been subjected to the abrasion of moving water, are found at a
depth of thirty feet from the surface; and the soil throughout seems of
unvarying fecundity. Whether this alluvial deposition is to be
considered the result of annual floods of the river for ages, or whether
the entire bottom once formed the bed of a vast lake, in which the
waters of the Mississippi and Missouri mingled on their passage to the
Gulf, is a question of some considerable interest. The latter seems the
more plausible theory. Indeed, the ancient existence of an immense lake,
where now lies the American Bottom, upon the east side of the
Mississippi, and the Mamelle Prairie upon the west side, extending
seventy [CCXIX] miles northwardly from the mouth of the Missouri where
the Bottom ends, appears geologically demonstrable. The southern limit
of this vast body of water seems to have been at that remarkable cliff,
rising from the bed of the Mississippi about twenty miles below the
outlet of the Kaskaskia, and known as the "Grand Tower." There is every
indication from the torn and shattered aspect of the cliffs upon either
side, and the accumulation of debris, that a grand parapet of limestone
at this point once presented a barrier to the heaped-up waters, and
formed a cataract scarcely less formidable than that of Niagara. The
elevation of the river by this obstacle is estimated at one hundred and
thirty feet above the present ordinary water-mark. For more than an
hundred miles before reaching this point, the Mississippi now rolls
through a broad, deep valley, bounded by an escarpment of cliffs upon
either side; and, wherever these present a bold façade to the stream,
they are grooved, as at the _cornice-rocks_, by a series of parallel
lines, distinctly traced and strikingly uniform. As the river descends,
these water-grooves gradually rise along the heights, until, at the
Grand Tower, they attain an altitude of more than an hundred feet;
below this point the phenomenon is not observed.[73] This circumstance,
and the disruption of the cliffs at the same elevation, clearly indicate
the former surface of the lake. Organic remains, petrifactions of
madrepores, corallines, concholites, and other fossil testacea, are
found imbedded in a stratum [CCXX] nearly at the base. Similar phenomena
of the water-lines exist upon the cliffs of the Ohio, and a barrier is
thought once to have obstructed the stream at a point called _the
Narrows_, sixty miles below Louisville, with the same result as upon the
Mississippi. The eastern boundary of the expansion of the latter stream
must have been the chain of bluffs now confining the American Bottom in
that direction, and considered a spur of the Ozark Mountains. This
extends northeasterly to the "confluence;" thence, bending away to the
northwest, it reaches the Illinois, and forms the eastern bank of that
river. Upon the western side, the hills along the Missouri are
sufficiently elevated to present a barrier to the lake until they reach
the confluence of the rivers. At this point spreads out the Mamelle
Prairie, sixty or seventy miles in length, and, upon an average, five
or six in breadth. West of this plain, the lake was bounded by the range
of bluffs commencing with the celebrated "Mamelles," and stretching
north until they strike the river; while the gradual elevation of the
country, ascending the Upper Mississippi, presented a limit in that

The event by which this great lake was drained appears to have been of
a character either convulsive or volcanic, or to have been the result
of the long-continued abrasion of the waters, as at Niagara. The rocks
at the Grand Tower are limestone of secondary formation--the stratum
being several hundred feet in depth, and imbedding hornstone and
marine petrifactions throughout. They [CCXXI] everywhere exhibit
indications of having once been subjected to the attrition of rushing
water, as do the cliffs bounding the Northern lakes, which have long
been chafed by the waves. The evidence of volcanic action, or violent
subterranean convulsion of some kind, caused by heat, seems hardly
less evident. The former workings of a divulsive power of terrific
energy is betrayed, indeed, all over this region. In the immediate
vicinity of the Grand Tower, which may be considered the scene of its
most fearful operations, huge masses of shattered rock, dipping in
every direction, are scattered about; and the whole stratum for twenty
miles around lies completely broken up. At the point in the range of
bluffs where this confusion is observed to cease, the mural cliff
rises abruptly to the altitude of several hundred feet, exhibiting
along the façade of its summit deep water-lines and other evidence of
having once constituted the boundary of a lake. At the base issues a
large spring of fresh water, remarkable for a regular ebb and flow,
like the tides of the ocean, once in twenty-four hours.[74] At this
spot, also, situated in the southeastern extremity of St. Clair
county, exists an old American settlement, commenced a century since,
and called the "_Block-house_," from the circumstance of a stoccade
fort for defence against the [CCXXII] Indians.[75] By a late
geological _reconnoissance_, we learn that, from this remarkable
_tide-spring_ until we reach the Grand Tower, the face of the country
has a depressed and sunken aspect, as if once the bed of standing
water; and was evidently overlaid by an immense stratum of calcareous
rock. A hundred square miles of this massive ledge have, by some
tremendous convulsion of Nature, been thrown up and shattered in
fragments. The confused accumulation of debris is now sunken and
covered with repeated strata of alluvial deposite. Evidence of all
this is adduced from the circumstance that huge blocks of limestone
are yet frequently to be encountered in this region, some of them
protruding twenty or thirty feet above the surface. As we approach the
Grand Tower--that focus, around which the convulsed throes of Nature
seem to have concentrated their tremendous energy--the number and the
magnitude of these massive blocks constantly increase, until, at that
point, we behold them piled up in mountain-masses as if by the hand of
Omnipotent might. Upon all this vast Valley of the West the terrible
impress of Almighty power seems planted in characters too deep to be
swept away by the effacing finger of time. We trace them not more
palpably in these fearful results of the convulsions of Nature,
agonized by the tread of Deity, than in the eternal flow of those
gigantic rivers which roll their floods over this wreck of elements,
or in those ocean-plains which, upon either side, in billowy grandeur
heave away, wave after wave, till lost in the magnificence of
[CCXXIII] boundless extent. And is there nothing in those vast
accumulations of organic fossils--spoils of the sea and the land--the
collected wealth of the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds,
entombed in the heart of the everlasting hills--is there naught in all
this to arouse within the reflecting mind a sentiment of wonder, and
elicit an acknowledgment to the grandeur of Deity? Whence came these
varied productions of the land and sea, so incongruous in character
and so diverse in origin? By what fearful anarchy of elements were
they imbedded in these massive cliffs? How many ages have rolled away
since they were entombed in these adamantine sepulchres, from which
Nature's convulsive throes in later times have caused the
resurrection? To such inquiries we receive no answer. The secrecy of
untold cycles veils the reply in mystery. The _effect_ is before us,
but the _cause_ rests alone with Omniscience.

How wonderful are the phenomena betrayed in the geological structure of
our earth! And scarcely less so are the ignorance and the indifference
respecting them manifested by most of our race. "It is marvellous," says
the celebrated Buckland,[76] "that mankind should have gone on for so
many centuries in ignorance of the fact, which is now so fully
demonstrated, that so small a part of the present surface of the earth
is derived from the remains of animals that constituted the population
of ancient seas. Many extensive plains and massive mountains form, as it
were, the great charnel-houses of preceding generations, in which the
petrified exuviæ [CCXXIV] of extinct races of animals and vegetables are
piled into stupendous monuments of the operations of life and death
during almost immeasurable periods of past time." "At the sight of a
spectacle," says Cuvier,[77] "so imposing, so terrible as that of the
wreck of animal life, forming almost the entire soil on which we tread,
it is difficult to restrain the imagination from hazarding some
conjectures as to the cause by which such great effects have been
produced." The deeper we descend into the strata of the earth, the
higher do we ascend into the archæological history of past ages of
creation. We find successive stages marked by varying forms of animal
and vegetable life, and these generally differ more and more widely from
existing species as we go farther downward into the receptacle of the
wreck of more ancient creations.

That centuries have elapsed since that war of elements by which the
great lake of the Mississippi was drained of its waters, the aged
forests rearing themselves from its ancient bed, and the venerable
monuments resting upon the surface, satisfactorily demonstrate.
Remains, also, of a huge animal of graminivorous habits, but differing
from the mastodon, have, within a few years, been disinterred from the
soil. The theory of the Baron Cuvier, that our earth is but the wreck
of other worlds, meets with ample confirmation in the geological
character of the Western Valley.

As to agricultural productions, besides those of the more ordinary
species, the soil of the American Bottom, in its southern sections,
seems eminently [CCXXV] adapted to the cultivation of cotton, hemp,
and tobacco, not to mention the castor-bean and the Carolina potato.
The tobacco-plant, one of the most sensitively delicate members of the
vegetable family, has been cultivated with more than ordinary success;
and a quantity inspected at New-Orleans a few years since was
pronounced superior to any ever offered at that market.

As I journeyed leisurely onward over this celebrated tract, extensive
and beautiful farms spread out themselves around me, waving in all the
gorgeous garniture of early autumn. The prairie was carpeted with the
luxuriant richness of the _golden rod_, and all the gaudy varieties of
the _heliotrope_ and _asters_, and the crimson-dyed leaves of the
dwarf-sumach; while here and there upon the extended plain stood out in
loneliness, like a landmark of centuries, one of those mysterious tombs
of a departed race of which I have already said so much. Some of them
were to be seen rearing up their summits from the hearts of extensive
maize-fields, crowned with an exuberance of vegetation; and upon one of
larger magnitude stood a white farmhouse, visible in the distance for
miles down the prairie. The number of these ancient mounds upon the
American Bottom is estimated at _three hundred_; far more than are to be
found upon any other tract of equal extent.

At the old French village of _Prairie du Pont_,[78] situated upon a
creek of the same name, I made the necessary tarry for some refreshment,
upon which breakfast or dinner might have laid nearly equal [CCXXVI]
claim to bestow a name. The most striking circumstance which came under
my observation during my delay at this place was a very novel mode of
producing the metamorphosis of cream into butter pursued by these
villagers; a manœuvre executed by beating the cream with a spoon in a
shallow basin. This operation I beheld carried on by the dark-browed
landlord, much to my ignorance and wonder, with not an idea of its
nature, until the substance produced was placed upon the board before
me, and called _butter_. Prairie du Pont is one of the dampest,
filthiest, most disagreeably ruinous of all the old villages I have ever
visited. A few miles to the north is situated Cahokia,[79] one of the
earliest settlements in the state, and the ancient residence of the
_Caoquias,_ one of the tribes of the Illini Indians. The place is
supposed to have been settled by the followers of La Salle during his
second expedition to the West in 1683, on his return from the mouth of
the Mississippi. More than a century and a half has since elapsed; and
the river, which then washed the foot of the village, is now more than a
mile distant. This removal commenced, we are told, shortly after the
first settlement, and well exemplifies the arbitrary character of the
Western waters. Formerly, also, a considerable creek, which yet retains
the name of the village, passed through its midst, discharging itself
into the Mississippi not far below. The outlet is now several miles
higher up; and tradition attributes the change to the pique of an
irritated villager, who, out of sheer spite to the old place and its
inhabitants, [CCXXVII] cut a channel from the creek to the river, and
turned the waters from their ancient course.

As French immigration at Cahokia increased, the Indian tribe receded,
until the last remnant has long since disappeared. Yet it is a
singular fact in the history of this settlement, that, notwithstanding
the savages were forced to abandon a spot endeared to them by
protracted residence and the abundance of game in the neighbouring
prairies and lakes, they have ever regarded their successors with
feelings of unchanging friendliness. How different, under the same
circumstances, was the fate of the settlements of Plymouth and
Jamestown; and even here, no sooner did the American race appear
among the French, than hostilities commenced.

For many years Cahokia, like old Kaskaskia, was the gathering-spot of
a nomadic race of trappers, hunters, miners, voyageurs, engagés,
_couriers du bois_, and adventurers, carrying on an extensive and
valuable fur-trade with the Indian tribes of the Upper Mississippi.
This traffic has long since been transferred to St. Louis, and the
village seems now remarkable for nothing but the venerableness of age
and decay. All the peculiarities of these old settlements, however,
are here to be seen in perfection. The broad-roofed, whitewashed, and
galleried cottage; the picketed enclosure; the kitchen garden; the
peculiar costumes, customs, poverty, ignorance, and indolence of the
race, are here met, precisely as has more than once already been
described in these volumes. Here, too, is the gray old Catholic
church, in which service is still regularly [CCXXVIII] performed by
the officiating priest. Connected with it is now a nunnery and a
seminary of education for young ladies. The villagers still retain
their ancient activity of heel and suppleness of elbow; and not a week
is suffered to pass without a merry-making and a dance. The old
"common field" is still under cultivation; and, uncurtailed of its
fair proportions, stretches away up the bottom to the village opposite
St. Louis. This valuable tract, held in common by the villagers of
Cahokia and Prairie du Pont, has been confirmed to them by act of
Congress; and, so long since as fifty years, four hundred acres
adjoining the former village were, by special act, granted to each
family.[80] The number of families is now, as has been the case this
century past, about fifty, neither diminishing nor increasing. Very
few of the inhabitants are of American origin, and these are liable to
annual attacks of fever, owing to the damp site of the place and the
noxious effluvia of the numerous marshes in the vicinity. Upon the
French villagers these causes of disease exert no effect, favourable
or unfavourable. A few acres of corn; a log cabin; a few swarthy
responsibilities, and a few cattle; a cracked fiddle, and a few
cartloads of prairie-grass-hay in autumn, seems the very ultimatum of
his heart to covet or his industry to obtain.

The road from Cahokia to the city, inasmuch as it is not often
conscious of a more dignified equipage than the rude market-cart of
the French villager, is of no wonderful celebrity for breadth, or
uniformity of track, or excellence of structure. It extends [CCXXIX]
along the bank of the Mississippi, and is shaded on either side by the
strip of forest which skirts the margin. After a tarry of several
hours at Cahokia, and an excursion among the mounds of the
neighbouring prairie, near sunset I found myself approaching
"Illinois-town," opposite St. Louis.[81] It was the calm, soft evening
hour; and, as I now advanced briskly over the prairie, the cool breeze
was whispering among the perfumed grass-tops, and "night's silvery
veil" was slowly gathering along the retreating landscape. The sun
went down like a monarch, robed in purple, and the fleecy clouds which
had formed his throne rolled themselves in rich luxuriance along the
horizon, suffused in the beautiful carmine of the heavens. At
intervals an opening in the forest laid bare the scene of splendour as
I hastened onward, and then all was dusk again. Winding among the
group of mounds reposing in the deepening twilight, and penetrating
the grove of pecans, the moon was just beginning to gild the gliding
wave at my feet as my horse stood out upon the bank of the stream.
Clear and distinct beyond, against the crimson back-ground of the
evening sky, were cut the towers, and cupolas, and lofty roofs of the
city; while in front, the lengthened line of white warehouses gleamed
from the shade along the curving shore: and the eye, as it glanced up
the far-retreating vistas of the streets, caught a glimpse of deeper
glories along the narrow zone of horizon beyond. The broad sheet which
I was now crossing seemed, with the oily gliding of its ripples,
completely died in the tender roseate of the [CCXXX] sunset sky. As
the shades of evening deepened into night, one after another these
delicate hues faded gently away: and the moonlight streamed in full
floods of misty magnificence far over the distant forests; the
evening-bells of the city pealed out merrily over the waters; the many
lights of the steamers cheerfully twinkled along the landing; and, as
the last faint glimmer of day had gone out, and night had resumed her
sable reign, I found myself once more amid the "crowd and shock of
men," threading the long, dusty streets of St. Louis....

       *       *       *       *       *

GENTLE READER, the tale is told--our task is ended--

                "And what is writ, is writ;
          Would it were worthier!"

Our pilgrimage is over, fellow-wanderer. Full many a bright day have
we trod together the green prairies, and glided over the far-winding
waters of the fair Valley. Together have we paused and pondered beside
the mysterious mausoleum of a race departed. We have lingered among
the time-stained dwellings of an ancient and peculiar people, and with
kindling interest have dwelt upon the early chronicles and the wild
legends of the "far off," beautiful West. But autumn is upon
us--shadowy autumn, dark on the mountain-brow. Her purple mistiness is
deepening over the distant landscape; and the chill rustle of her
evening wind, in melancholy whisperings, wanders among the pennoned
[CCXXXI] grass-tops. Our pilgrimage ceases, yet with no unmingled
emotions do I say to thee "_pax vobiscum_!"

          "Ye! who have traced the Pilgrim to the scene
           Which is his last, if in your memories dwell
           A _thought_ which once was his, if on ye swell
           A _single_ recollection, not in vain
           He wore his sandal-shoon and scallop-shell:

_St. Louis, Oct._, 1837.


[73] The passage subjoined relative to the _Geological Transformations_
which have taken place in the Mississippi Valley, is extracted from
"Schoolcraft's Travels in its central portions," and will be found
abundantly to corroborate my own observations upon the subject.

"It seems manifest, from various appearances, that the country we have
under consideration has been subjected to the influence of water at a
comparatively recent period; and it is evident that its peculiar
alluvial aspect is the distinct and natural result of the time and the
mode in which these waters were exhausted. One striking fact, which
appears to have escaped general observation, is, that at some former
period there has been an obstruction in the channel of the Mississippi
at or near Grand Tower, producing a stagnation of the current at an
elevation of about one hundred and thirty feet above the present
ordinary water-mark. This appears evident from the general elevation
and direction of the hills, which, for several hundred miles above,
are separated by a valley from twenty to twenty-five miles wide, which
now deeply imbosoms the current of the Mississippi. Wherever these
hills disclose rocky and precipitous fronts, a series of
distinctly-marked antique water-lines are to be observed. These
water-lines preserve a parallelism which is very remarkable, and, what
we should expect to find, constantly present their greatest depression
towards the sources of the river. At Grand Tower they are elevated
about one hundred and thirty feet above the summit level, at which
elevation we observe petrifactions of madrepores and various other
fossil organic remains which belong to this peculiar era. Here the
rocks of dark-coloured limestone, which pervade the country to so
great an extent, project towards each other as if they had once
united; but, by some convulsion of nature, or, what is still more
probable, by the continued action of the water upon a secondary rock,
the Mississippi has effected a passage through this barrier, and thus
producing an exhaustion of the stagnant waters from the level prairie
lands above."--_Schoolcraft's Travels_, p. 218, 219.--FLAGG.

_Comment by Ed._ This hypothesis, in the main formulated by H. R.
Schoolcraft, is still in its general features accepted by many
geologists. See also Elisée Reclus, _The Earth and its Inhabitants_
(New York, 1893), article "North America," iii, pp. 224, 225.

[74] A similar spring is said to issue from _debris_ at the foot of
the cliffs on the Ohio, in the vicinity of Battery Rock. Its stream is
copious, clear, and cold, ebbing and flowing regularly once in six
hours. This phenomenon is explained on the principle of the syphon.
Similar springs are found among the Alps.--FLAGG.

[75] Flagg is somewhat mistaken concerning the age of the block-house
settlement. Previous to 1800, the only American settlement in St.
Clair County was Turkey Hill, which at that date numbered twenty
souls. William Scott, the first settler, moved thither with his family
from Kentucky in 1797, and became a permanent resident. About 1810,
Nathaniel Hill, Joshua Perkins, Reuben Stubblefield, James and Reuben
Lively, and Richard Bearley settled in the southeastern corner of St.
Clair County, and for protection against the Indians built a
block-house near the present city of Hillstown on Dosa Creek (a
tributary of the Kaskaskia). The fort was later abandoned, and the
settlers moved to other parts of the state. For a description of the
fort, see _History of St. Clair County, Illinois_ (Philadelphia,
1881), pp. 261, 262.--ED.

[76] William Buckland (1784-1856), a distinguished English geologist,
who was as well canon of Christ College, Oxford (1825), and dean of
Westminster Abbey (1845), contributed many valuable papers to
geological publications. The Royal Society's _Catalogue of Scientific
Papers_ shows that Buckland was the author of fifty-three memoirs. His
most important publication, _Geology and Mineralogy Considered with
Reference to Natural Theology_ (a Bridgewater thesis, 1836), attempts
to prove by aid of science, "the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God,
as manifested in the Creation."--ED.

[77] George Leopold Crétien Frédéric Dagobert, baron de Cuvier
(1769-1832), a French naturalist, was founder of the science of
comparative anatomy. He was chosen as one of the original members of
the Institute, organized in 1795. After holding various administrative
offices under Napoleon, he was appointed (1814) a councilor of state,
which position he held under Louis XVIII. In 1819 he was made
president of the committee of the interior, and chancellor of the
University of Paris. Louis Phillipe made him a peer of France.
Cuvier's scientific work falls into three divisions--paleontology,
systematic zoology, and comparative anatomy. He wrote extensively in
all these fields, and in each achieved high recognition. Consult:
Sarah Lee, _Memoirs of Baron Cuvier_ (London, 1833), and Ducrotay de
Blainville, _Cuvier et Geoffrey Saint Hilaire_ (Paris, 1890).--ED.

[78] Prairie du Pont (Prairie Bridge), located upon a creek of the
same name, was so christened for a log bridge which in early times
crossed the creek at this point. The settlement was first made about
1760 by people from Cahokia who, according to tradition, fled thither
from the floods; the site is ten or twelve feet higher than that of
Cahokia. The Sulpician missionaries had built a mill there in 1754. In
1844 the place was nearly destroyed by floods.--ED.

[79] For a short historical sketch of Cahokia, see A. Michaux's
_Travels,_ in our volume iii, p. 70, note 135. Flagg, in common with
the earlier writers, places the date of Cahokia too early.--ED.

[80] By act of Congress approved March 1, 1791, "a tract of land
including the villages of Cohos [Cahokia], and Prairie du Pont, and
heretofore used by the inhabitants of the said village as a common,"
was, "appropriated to the use of the inhabitants ... to be used by
them as a common, until otherwise disposed of by law." By the same
act, four hundred acres were ordered to be laid out, and "given to
each of those persons who in the year one thousand seven hundred and
eighty-three were heads of families at Vincennes, or in the Illinois
country, on the Mississippi, and who, since that time, have moved from
one of the said places to the other."--ED.

[81] In 1815 Etienne Pinçoneau (now spelled Pensoneau) laid out a town
on the present site of East St. Louis, and named it Jacksonville. His
efforts proving unsuccessful, he sold the land to McKnight and Brady,
who in May, 1818, platted the site and named it Illinoistown. During
the succeeding autumn, the citizens of Cahokia appointed five agents
to lay out a town site on the Cahokia commons. Illinois City thus came
into existence, and the action of the citizens was legalized by
Congress (May 1, 1820). Illinoistown, Illinois City, and other small
villages were later united to form East St. Louis, which was
incorporated in 1861 and chartered four years later.--ED.

               DE SMET'S LETTERS AND SKETCHES, 1841-1842

        Reprint of original English edition: Philadelphia, 1843

[Illustration: Allegorical Sketch]

                         LETTERS AND SKETCHES:




                           THE INDIAN TRIBES


                         =The Rocky Mountains.=


                          P. J. DE SMET, S. J.




To those who love their country, and their fellow men, we present this
interesting Narrative, with the hope, we might say, the certainty,
that its perusal will afford them some moments of the purest
gratification. We have seldom met any thing more entertaining. Its
simple, manly eloquence enchants the attention. The facts it makes
known to us of the "far, far West," the dispositions and habits of the
Indian Tribes who roam over the vast region of the Oregon, their
present state and future prospects, are such as cannot fail to awaken
lively interest in all who love to look around them beyond the narrow
horizon of every-day scenes, and learn what the holy servants of God
are doing for His sake and in His name in distant parts of the world.
We have conversed with the apostolic man from whose pen we receive
this narrative; and as we listened we felt at once honoured and
delighted to be so near one who in our days and in his own person
brings before us that lofty spirit of missionary devotedness--those
thrilling scenes of Indian life and adventure which we so much admire
in the pages of Charlevoix and Bancroft.

[vi] Truly our country is full of interest to those who watch its
progress, and compare it with the past. Who, for example, could have
dreamt that the Iroquois, the savage Mohawk,--under which name we best
know the tribe, and whose startling yell so often made our forefathers
tremble,--would have been chosen to kindle the first faint sparks of
civilization and Christianity among a large portion of the Indian
tribes beyond the Rocky Mountains? This is one of the singular facts
which these pages present to us. They abound in others not less
singular and interesting. Many of these Indian nations actually thirst
after the waters of life--sigh for the day when the real "Long Gown"
is to appear among them, and even send messengers thousands of miles
to hasten his coming. Such longing after God's holy truth, while it
shames our colder piety, should also enflame every heart to pray
fervently that laborers may be found for this vast vineyard--and open
every hand to aid the holy, self-devoted men, who, leaving home and
friends and country, have buried themselves in these wilds with their
beloved Indians, to live for them and God. One of their favourite
plans at this moment is to introduce among them a taste for
agriculture, with the means to pursue it. They believe it to be the
speediest, perhaps the only way by which the Indians may be won from
the wandering life they now [vii] in general lead and from the idle
habits it engenders. To aid them in this philanthropic object is our
sacred duty as men, as Americans, as Christians. It is at least one
method of atonement for the countless wrongs which these unfortunate
races have received from the whites. We should be grateful to have
such an opportunity of doing good: let none suffer the occasion to
pass unhonoured by some tribute to the noble cause--some evidence of
their love for God, their country and their fellow man.

The frontispiece is from the pencil of one of the Indian Missionaries.

It blends the skill of the artist with the fancy of the poet, and will
hardly be understood without a word of explanation. In the foreground
we see several of the gigantic trees of the Oregon forests, fallen and
crossing each other. On these repose two wolves, a squirrel and
several serpents. Above, two Indian chiefs, surnamed in baptism after
the great Apostles of the Gentiles, Peter and Paul, are supporting a
large basket of hearts,--an offering to heaven from the grateful
wilderness. On the right are the emblems of Indian life and warfare:
the bow and arrows, battle-axe and shield. Below and above these are
seen some of the most remarkable animals of the country--the bear, the
[viii] wild horse, the badger, the graceful antelope, intermingled
with the plover, the pigeon, the wood-cock, the bittern, and other
birds of the region. On the left are the peaceful symbols of
Christianity--the Bible and the Cross, the chalice and altar
lights--the anchor, symbol of faith and hope--the trumpet, to proclaim
the word of God and bid the desert bless His holy name. Here too we
behold several of the noble animals of the territory--the buffalo, the
deer and elk, the mountain sheep and different birds. In the distance
are seen on the right, Indian mounds, and a water-spout rising from
the river Platte, and on the left, the Rocky Mountains surmounted by
the Cross. Festoons, composed of the various flowers the Fathers have
met on their way over mountains and prairies and through lonely
vallies, complete the picture--the whole supported at the extremities
by different birds of the country, and in the centre by the American
eagle,--fit emblem, we may say, of their own dauntless faith, as well
as of the heroic spirit of the nation within whose borders they have
their principal station, and from whose genuine piety they have
received the most consoling assurances of final success, viz: the Flat
Head Indians and the Pends-d'oreilles, who are styled, even by their
foes, the "nation of chiefs."

[ix] Once more we earnestly commend the noble cause of these devoted
Missionaries to the charity of every sincere Christian. The short
time allowed to prepare the work for the press must be our apology for
several imperfections or errors which may meet the eye of the reader.

                                 BOOK I

          Dies venit, dies tua
          In qua reflorent omnia,
          Lætemur et nos in viam,
          Tua reducti dex-tera.

          The days of spring are drawing near
          When all thy flowers will re-appear,
          And we redeemed by thy right hand,
          Shall walk in gladness thro' the land.

                                LETTER I

                            St. Louis University, Feb. 4, 1841.

                    TO THE REV. F. J. B.

Rev. and Dear Sir:

I presume you are aware, that in the beginning of last Spring, I was
sent by the Right Rev. Bishop of St. Louis,[82] and my Provincial, on
an exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in order to ascertain
the dispositions of the Indians, and the prospects of success we might
have if we were to establish a mission among them. It is truly
gratifying to me to have so favorable a report to make.--My
occupations do not allow me to enter into all the details; I shall
therefore be satisfied at present with giving you a brief sketch of my
journey and its result.

I started from Westport on the 30th of April, in company with the
Annual Expedition of the American Fur Company, which for this year had
appointed the rendezvous on Green River, a tributary of the Rio
Colorado of the West.[83] Captain Dripps, who commanded the caravan,
treated me on all occasions with the most polite attention.[84] On the
6th day of our journey I was seized with the fever and ague, and have
been subject to it for nearly five months. Nothing particularly worth
noticing, occurred during the journey, except, when we halted in the
village of the Sheyennes.[85] I was introduced to the Chiefs as a
minister of the Great [XIV] Spirit: they showed me great deference,
and I was invited to a feast. I had to pass at first through all the
ceremonies of the calumet; the great chief approached me to shake
hands, and gave me a heartfelt "How do you do."--"Blackgown," said he,
"my heart was filled with joy when I learned who you were. My lodge
never received a visitor for whom I feel a greater esteem. As soon as
I was apprised of your coming, I ordered my great kettle to be filled,
and in your honor, I commanded that my three fattest dogs should be
served up." The bravest warriors of the nation partook of the repast,
and I availed myself of the opportunity to explain to them the most
important tenets of Christianity. I told them the object of my visit,
and enquired whether they would not be satisfied to have also
Black-gowns among them, who would teach them to love and serve the
Great Spirit, as he wished. "Oh yes," they eagerly answered, "we will
gladly provide for every thing that they stand in need of; they will
not die of hunger amongst us." I have no doubt but a zealous
missionary would do a great deal of good among them. They are about
two thousand in number. Their language, it is said, is very difficult.
On the 30th of June we arrived at the rendezvous.[86] An escort of
warriors had been provided for me by the Flat-heads. Our meeting was
that of children who come to meet their parent, and in the effusion of
their heart, they bestowed upon me the fondest names with a simplicity
truly patriarchal. They told me of all the interesting particulars of
their nation, and of the wonderful preservation of sixty of their men,
in a battle against two hundred Black-feet, which lasted five whole
days, and in which they killed fifty of their enemies, without losing
a single man of their number. "The Great Spirit watched over them;"
they said, "he knew that we were to guide you to [XV] our camp, and he
wanted to clear the road of all the obstacles that you might have
found on your way. We trust we will not be annoyed any more by the
Black-feet; they went off weeping like women." We thanked heaven for
the signal preservation, and implored its assistance for the new and
perilous journey we were on the point of undertaking. The Indians of
different nations and the trappers, had assembled at the rendezvous in
great numbers, for the sake of the trade. On Sunday, the fifth of
July, I had the consolation of celebrating the holy sacrifice of Mass
_sub dio_. The altar was placed on an elevation, and surrounded with
boughs and garlands of flowers; I addressed the congregation in French
and in English, and spoke also by an interpreter to the Flat-head and
Snake Indians. It was a spectacle truly moving for the heart of a
Missionary, to behold an assembly composed of so many different
nations, who all assisted at our holy mysteries with great
satisfaction.--The Canadians sung hymns in French and Latin, and the
Indians in their native tongue. It was truly a Catholic worship....
This place has been called since that time, by the French Canadians,
_la prairie de la Messe_.

About thirty of the principal chiefs of the Snake Indians invited me
to a council.[87] I explained to them the Christian doctrine in a
compendious manner--they were all very attentive--they then
deliberated among themselves for about half an hour, and one of the
chiefs, addressing me in the name of the others, said: "Black-gown,
the words of thy mouth have found their way to our hearts; they never
will be forgotten. Our country is open for thee; come to teach us what
we have to do, to please the Great Spirit, and we will do according to
thy words." I advised them to select among themselves a wise and
prudent man, who, every morning and evening, should assemble them to
offer [XVI] to Almighty God their prayers and supplications; that
there the good chiefs should have an opportunity of exhorting their
warriors to behave as they ought. The meeting was held the very same
evening, and the great chief promulgated a law, that for the future,
the one who would be guilty of theft, or of any other disorderly act,
should receive a public castigation. On Monday, 6th, we proceeded on
our journey.[88] A dozen Canadians wished to accompany me, to have an
opportunity, as they said, to practise their religion. Eight days
afterwards we arrived safely in the camp of the Flat-heads, and
Ponderas, or Pends d'oreilles.[89]

[Illustration: Worship in the Desert]

Immediately the whole village was in commotion; men, women and
children, all came to meet me, and shake hands, and I was conducted in
triumph to the lodge of the great chief Tjolizhitzay, (the Big face.)
He has the appearance of an old patriarch. Surrounded by the principal
chiefs of the two tribes, and the most renowned warriors, he thus
addressed me: "This day Kaikolinzosten (the Great Spirit) has
accomplished our wishes, and our hearts are swelled with joy. Our
desire to be instructed was so great, that three times had we deputed
our people to the Great Black-gown[90] in St. Louis, to obtain a
father. Now, Father, speak, and we will comply with all you will tell
us. Show us the road we have to follow, to come to the place where the
Great Spirit resides." Then he resigned his authority to me; but I
replied that he mistook the object of my coming among them; that I had
no other object in view, but their spiritual welfare; that with
respect to temporal affairs, they should remain as they were, till
circumstances should allow them to settle in a permanent
spot.--Afterwards we deliberated on the hours proper for their [XVII]
spiritual exercises and instructions. One of the chiefs brought me a
bell, with which I might give the signal.

The same evening about 2,000 persons were assembled before my lodge to
recite night prayers in common. I told them the result of my
conference with the chiefs; of the plan of instructions which I
intended to pursue; and with what disposition they ought to assist at
them, etc. Night prayers having been said, a solemn canticle of praise
of their own composition, was sung by these children of the mountains,
to the Author of their being. It would be impossible for me to
describe the emotions I felt at this moment; I wept for joy, and
admired the marvellous ways of that kind Providence, who, in his
infinite mercy, had deigned to depute me to this poor people, to
announce to them the glad tidings of salvation. The next day I
assembled the council, and with the assistance of an intelligent
interpreter, I translated into their language the Lord's Prayer, the
Hail Mary, the Apostles' Creed, the ten Commandments, and four Acts.
As I was in the habit of reciting these prayers, morning and evening,
and before instructions, about a fortnight after, I promised a
beautiful silver medal to the one who would recite them first. One of
the chiefs rising immediately, "Father," said he, smiling, "that medal
is mine," and he recited all the prayers without missing a word. I
embraced him, praised the eagerness which he had evinced of being
instructed, and appointed him my Cathecist. This good Indian set to
work with so much zeal and perseverance, that in less than a fortnight
all knew their prayers.

Every morning, at the break of day, the old chief is the first on
horseback, and goes round the camp from lodge to lodge. "Now my
children," he exclaims, "it is time to rise; let the first thoughts of
your hearts be for the Great [XVIII] Spirit; say that you love him, and
beg of him to be merciful unto you. Make haste, our Father will soon
ring the bell, open your ears to listen, and your hearts to receive the
words of his mouth." Then, if he has perceived any disorderly act on the
preceding day, or if he has received unfavorable reports from the other
chiefs, he gives them a fatherly admonition. Who would not think, that
this could only be found in a well ordered and religious community, and
yet it is among Indians in the defiles and vallies of the Rocky
Mountains!!! You have no idea of the eagerness they showed to receive
religious instruction. I explained the Christian doctrine four times a
day, and nevertheless my lodge was filled, the whole day, with people
eager to hear more. At night I related those histories of the Holy
Scriptures that were best calculated to promote their piety and
edification, and as I happened to observe, that I was afraid of tiring
them, "oh no," they replied, "if we were not afraid of tiring you, we
would gladly spend here the whole night."

I conferred the holy sacrament of Baptism on six hundred of them, and
if I thought it prudent to postpone the baptism of others till my
return, it was not for want of desire on their part, but chiefly to
impress upon their minds a greater idea of the holiness of the
sacrament, and of the dispositions that are required to receive it
worthily. Among those baptised, were the two great chiefs of the
Flat-heads and of the Ponderas. As I excited the catechumens to a
heartfelt contrition of their sins, the _Walking Bear_, chief of the
Ponderas, answered: "Father, I have been plunged for a number of years
in profound ignorance of good and evil, and no doubt, during that
time, I have often greatly displeased the Great Spirit, and therefore
I must humbly beseech his pardon. But when I afterwards conceived
[XIX] that a thing was bad, I banished it from my heart, and I do not
recollect to have since deliberately offended the Great Spirit."
Truly, where such dispositions are found, we may well conclude that a
rich harvest is to be gathered.

I remained two months among these good people, and every day they were
adding to my consolations, by their fervor in prayer, by their
assiduity in coming to my instructions, and by their docility in
putting into practice what they had been taught.

The season being far advanced, and as I had waited in vain for a safe
opportunity to return to St. Louis, I resolved to commit myself entirely
to Providence, and on the 7th of August,[91] I took leave of my dear
Neophytes. I appointed one of the chiefs to replace me during my
absence, who should preside in their evening and morning devotions, and
on the Sabbath exhort them to virtue, baptize the little children, and
those who were dangerously ill. Grief was depicted on the features of
all, and tears were glistening in every eye. The old chief addressed me,
saying, "Father, the Great Spirit accompany thee in thy long and
dangerous voyage; every day, morning and evening, we will address to him
our humble supplications, that thou mayest arrive safely among thy
brethren. And we will continue to do so, till thou be again among thy
children of the mountains. We are now like the trees that have been
spoiled of their verdure by winter's blast. When the snow will have
disappeared from these vallies, and the grass begins to grow, our hearts
will begin to rejoice; when the plants will spring forth our joy will
increase; when they blossom, it will still be greater, and then we will
set out to meet you. Farewell, Father, farewell."

The Chiefs would not suffer me to depart by myself--[XX] thirty of the
bravest warriors were deputed as a safeguard to traverse the country
of the Black-feet, who are very hostile to the whites, and they were
instructed to accompany me, as far as need would be of their
assistance. I resolved to take on my return a different route from the
one I had taken in coming. I was induced to do so, in order to visit
the Forts of the American Fur Company on the Missouri, and on the
Yellow Stone, to baptize the children. After five or six days
travelling, we fell in with a war party of the Crow Indians, who
received us very kindly, and we travelled together for two days. Then
we directed our course to the Big Horn,[92] the most considerable of
the tributary streams of the Yellow Stone. There we met another party
of the same nation, who were also amicably disposed towards us. As
there was question about religion, I availed myself of the opportunity
to express to them the main articles of the Christian faith, and as I
was depicting in lively colors the torments of hell, and had told them
that the Great Spirit had kindled this fire of his wrath, for those
who did not keep the commandments I had explained to them, one of the
Chiefs uttered a horrid shriek. "If this be the case," said he, "then
I believe there are but two in the whole nation who will not go to
that place; it is the Beaver and the Mink; they are the only Crows who
never stole, who never killed, nor committed all the excesses which
your law prohibits. Perhaps I am deceived, and then we must all go
together." When I left them on the next day, the Chief put a fine bell
on my horse's neck, and invited me to take a turn round the village.
Next, he accompanied me for six miles.

After several days of a painful journey over rocks and cliffs, we
arrived at last at the fort of the Crows.[93] It is the first the
American Fur Company possessed in that country. [XXI] My dear
Flat-heads edified all the inhabitants by their fervor and their
piety. As well in the fort, as on the road, we never missed performing
in common, our evening and morning devotions, and singing canticles in
honor of the Almighty. Frequently, during my stay with them, they had
given me abundant proofs of their trust in Providence. I cannot
forbear mentioning one instance that occurred during my travels in
this place. One day as dinner was preparing and provisions scarce, a
countryman of mine, who accompanied me, suggested the propriety of
keeping something in reserve for supper. "Be not uneasy," said the
chief, called Ensyla,[94] "I never missed my supper in my life. I
trust in the mercy of the Great Spirit, he will provide for all our
wants." We had just camped at night, when the chief killed two stags.
"Did I not tell you right?" he remarked, smilingly, to my companion.
"You see the Great Spirit does not only provide for our wants of this
evening, but he gives us also a supply for to-morrow."

Now began the most difficult and most perilous part of our journey. I
had to pass through a country supposed to be overrun by war parties, of
the Black-feet, Assineboins, Gros Ventres, Arikaras, and Scioux.[95] All
these nations entertained the most hostile dispositions towards the
Flat-heads. I therefore dispensed with their services any farther. I
again excited them to continue the good work they had begun; to be
steadfast in their faith; regular in their devotions; charitable towards
one another. I embraced them all and took my leave. Mr. John de
Velder,[96] a native of Ghent in Belgium, had volunteered his services
to me at the Rendezvous. In consideration of the bad state of my health,
I deemed myself very happy to accept of them; he has never left me
since. He was now to be my only travelling companion. As there is no
road, we followed the direction of the river; at intervals we were
[XXII] obliged to make immense circuits to avoid the steep and craggy
hills that defied our passage. For two hundred miles, we had continually
death before our eyes. On the second day, I discovered before daylight a
large smoke at a distance of about a quarter of a mile. We hastily
saddled our horses and following up a ravine we gained a high bluff
unperceived. At night we did not dare to make fire for fear of
attracting notice. Again about dinner time, we found on the road the
carcase of a Buffalo, killed only two hours before; the tongue and the
marrow bones with some other dainty pieces had been taken away. Thus the
kind providence of our God took care to supply our wants.

We took a direction contrary to the tracks of the Indians, and spent a
safe night in the cliffs of the rocks. The next day we struck upon a
spot where forty lodges had been encamped, the fires were yet in full

Finally, we crossed the Missouri at the same place where, only an
hour before, a hundred lodges of ill-minded Assineboins had passed,
and we arrived safe and unmolested at Fort Union, situated a few miles
above the mouth of the Yellow Stone. In all these Forts great harmony
and union prevail; Mr. Kipps, the present administrator of them, is a
gentleman well worthy of his station.[97] Every where I was treated by
these gentlemen with the greatest politeness and kindness, and all my
wants were liberally supplied. As I was relating the particulars of
this dangerous trip to an Indian Chief, he answered: "The Great Spirit
has his Manitoos; he has sent them to take care of your steps and to
trouble the enemies that would have been a nuisance to you." A
Christian would have said: Angelis suis mandavit de te, ut custodiant
te in omnibus viis tuis.[98] [XXIII] On 23d of September we set out
for the village of the Mandans, in company with three men of the fort,
who had the same destination. We met on the road a party of 19
Assineboins, who were returning to their country from an unsuccessful
expedition against the Gros Ventres. Their looks indicated their bad
intentions: although we were but five in number, we showed a
determined countenance, and we passed unmolested. Next day we crossed
a forest, the winter quarters of the Gros Ventres, and Arikaras, in
1835. It was there that those unfortunate tribes were nearly
exterminated by the small pox. We saw their bodies wrapped up in
Buffalo robes, tied to the branches of the largest trees. It was truly
a sad and mournful spectacle. Two days later we met the miserable
survivors of these unhappy tribes. Only ten families of the Mandans,
once such a powerful nation, now remain. They have united with the
Gros Ventres and Arikaras. They received me with great demonstrations
of friendship; I spent that night in their camp, and the next day
crossed the Missouri in their canoe, made of a buffalo skin.[99] The
next day we came to the first village of the Arikaras, and on the
following day to their great village, consisting of about a hundred
earthen wigwams.[100] This tribe also received me very kindly. On the
6th of October we started from the Mandan village, for Fort Pierre, on
the little Missouri;[101] a Canadian, whose destination lay in the
same direction, accompanied us. The Commandant of the Fort had
recommended to us in a special manner to be on our guard against the
Jantonnois, the Santees, Jantous, Ankepatines, Ampapas, Ogallallas,
and Black-feet Scioux, who have often proved very troublesome to white
strangers.[102] On the third day of our journey we fell in with an
ambuscade of the Jantonnois and Santees; they did not do us any harm,
but on the contrary [XXIV] treated us very kindly, and at our
departure loaded us with provisions. The next day we fell in with
several other parties, who showed us much kindness. On the ninth day
we were on the lands of the Black-feet Scioux; this country is
undulating and intersected with numberless little streams. For greater
caution we travelled in ravines. Towards dinner time, a fine
landscape, near a delicious spring, seemed to invite us to take some
repose. We had scarcely alighted, when all on a sudden a tremendous
yell alarmed us, and from the top of the hill under which we were, the
Black-feet darted upon us like lightning. "Why do you hide
yourselves?" asked the Chief, in a stern voice. "Are you afraid of
us?" Dressed in my cassock with a crucifix on my breast,--a costume I
always wear in the Indian country,--it appeared to me that I was the
subject of his particular enquiry. He asked the Canadian what kind of
a man I was. The Frenchman said I was a Chief, a Black-gown, the man
who spoke to the Great Spirit. He assumed immediately a milder
countenance, ordered his men to lay down their arms, and we performed
the ceremonies of shaking hands and smoking the calumet of peace. He
then invited me to accompany them to the village, situated only at a
short distance. It consisted of about a thousand souls. I pitched my
tent at some distance, in a beautiful pasture, on the margin of a fine
stream, and invited the great chief to partake of a supper with me. As
I said grace before meal, he enquired of the Canadian what I was
about. He is addressing the Great Spirit, was the reply, in gratitude
for the food he has granted us. The chief nodded a sign of
approbation. Shortly after, twelve warriors, in full costume,
stretched a large buffalo robe before the place where I sat. The
chief, taking me by the arm, invited me to sit down. I was under the
impression that there was [XXV] question again of smoking the calumet.
Judge of my astonishment, when the twelve warriors, seizing each a
piece of the robe, took me up, and headed by their chief, carried me
in triumph to their village. In the lodge of the great chief the most
conspicuous place was assigned me, and he addressed me thus: "This day
is the happiest of my life. For the first time do we behold among us a
man who is so closely united with the Great Spirit. Black-gown, you
see before you the chief warriors of my tribe; I have invited them to
this feast, in order that they may keep the remembrance of your coming
among us as long as they shall live." Then he invited me to speak
again to the Great Spirit, (to say grace), I began in the name of the
Father and of the Son, etc., and immediately all present lifted up
their hands towards heaven; when I had concluded they all struck the
ground. I asked the chief what they meant by this ceremony. "When we
lift up our hands," said he, "we signify that all our dependence is on
the Great Spirit, and that he in his fatherly care provides for all
our wants: we strike the ground to signify that we are only worms and
miserable creeping beings in his sight." He asked me in his turn, what
I had told to the Great Spirit. Unhappily, the Canadian was a poor
interpreter, still I endeavored to make them understand, as well as I
could, the Lord's Prayer. The chief showed great eagerness to know
what I said.--He ordered his son and two other very intelligent young
men to accompany me to the fort, in order to learn the principles of
the Christian doctrine, and to be at the same time a safeguard against
the Indians who might be inimically disposed towards us. Two days
afterwards we met an Indian, whose horse was bending under a load of
buffalo meat. Seeing us without provisions, he requested us to accept
what we might stand in need of, advising us to take [XXVI] the whole,
for, said he, in the vicinity of the fort, game is very scarce. Five
days afterwards we arrived at Fort Pierre. Thence I travelled through
prairies for nineteen days successively. We were often obliged to cook
our victuals with dried herbs--not a stick was to be found. When I
arrived at Fort Vermillion,[103] I was apprised that the Santees had
been on a warlike expedition against the Pottawatomies, of the Council
Bluffs, among whom I had labored the two preceding years.[104]

I invited them to a council, and gave them a severe reprimand for
violating the solemn promise they had made me the preceding year, of
living with their neighbors on amicable terms. I showed them the
injustice of attacking a peaceable nation without being provoked; the
dreadful consequences of the Pottawatomies' revenge, that might end in
the extinction of their tribe. I was requested to be once more the
mediator, and they told me that they had resolved to bury the tomahawk

I had lost two horses on the road; the one I was riding could hardly
support me any longer, and I was yet three hundred miles distance from
the Council Bluffs. I resolved of course to embark on the Missouri,
and engaged a native Iroquois to be my pilot. At first we were favored
with fine weather, but this lasted only a few days. Very soon
inclement weather set in with frost and snow; and several times as we
drifted down the rapid stream, our frail canoe was on the point of
being dashed to pieces against the numberless snags that obstruct its
navigation. This dangerous trip lasted ten days. We generally spent
the night on a sand bar. We had only a few frozen potatoes left when
we perceived a beautiful deer gazing at us, and apparently waiting to
receive its mortal blow. We shot at it. [XXVII] At last we arrived
safe at the bluffs, and on the same night the river was closed by ice.

So many escapes from the midst of so many dangers thoroughly convinced
me that this undertaking is the work of God--omnia disponens fortiter
et ad finem suam conducens suaviter. (Who reacheth from end to end
mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly.) I am now preparing for my
return, and will start early in Spring, accompanied by three Fathers
and as many Brothers. You are aware such expeditions cannot be
undertaken without the necessary means, and the fact is, I have no
other reliance than Providence and the kindness of my friends. I hope
they will not be wanting. I know that you must feel deeply interested
in this meritorious good work, I therefore take the liberty of
recommending it to your generosity, and that of your friends--every
little contribution will help. I will be very grateful to you, if you
have the kindness to forward to my address at the St. Louis
University, Mo., before the end of March, or middle of April, the
amount you have collected.

I recommend myself and my dear Neophytes to your good prayers and holy
sacrifices, and rest assured that we shall not forget our benefactors.

                                             P. J. DE SMET, S. J.


[82] Father de Smet was sent on the mission to the Flathead Indians by
Joseph Rosati. For an account of the latter, see Flagg's _Far West_,
in our volume xxvi, p. 164, note 115.--ED.

[83] In 1821, Pierre Chouteau, Jr., of the American Fur Company,
established a general agency in the bottom opposite Randolph Bluffs,
about three miles below the present site of Kansas City. His buildings
having been destroyed by a flood in 1826, he erected others on higher
ground, in the present Guinott addition, near the foot of Walnut
street. The place was called Chouteau's Warehouse, and soon became a
favorite shipping point for the Indian trade. In 1831 John McCoy built
a trading house at the crossing of the roads from Chouteau's Warehouse
and Independence. Two years later he platted a town at this point and
named it Westport. Westport first used Chouteau's Warehouse as a
landing place, but later built a wharf on the high rocky bank of the
river, at the present foot of Grand Avenue, Walnut, Main, and Delaware
streets. Because of superior natural advantages, this latter place
soon became the principal landing, and in 1838 a company purchased the
site, platted a town, and named it Kansas City. Westport thus became
the starting point for the caravans to the Western country.

Prior to 1822, the overland expeditions seem to have been composed of
men on foot carrying their wares in packs. Later, pack horses were
substituted, and by 1830 wagons were used almost exclusively. Owing to
the dangers from hostile Indians, the traders going to Santa Fé or
points in the Rocky Mountains formed themselves into caravans for
mutual protection, with an organized system of guards and camps. See
Gregg's _Commerce of the Prairies_, in our volume xix, pp. 198-201,
for a description of these caravans.--ED.

[84] Andrew Drips was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
(1789), went west, and with eight other St. Louis men formed the
Missouri Fur Company (1820). He was later a member of the independent
firm of Fontenelle and Drips. When the American Fur Company began
their westward expansion, Drips entered into their employ, having
charge after 1836 of annual expeditions to the mountains. In 1842, the
company having encountered strong opposition, the federal government
was prevailed upon to revive the office of Indian agent. Drips served
four years as agent to the Sioux of the upper Missouri, with an annual
salary of $1500. In this capacity, Drips rendered valuable service to
the company. Upon the expiration of his term of office, he re-entered
the company's employment, in which he continued until his death at
Kansas City, Missouri (1860). He married a woman of the Oto Indian
nation. Their daughter, Mrs. William Mulkey of Kansas City, has in her
possession many of her father's valuable papers. See H. M. Chittenden,
_American Fur-Trade of the Far West_ (New York, 1902).--ED.

[85] For a sketch of the Cheyenne, see Bradbury's _Travels_, in our
volume v, p. 140, note 88.--ED.

[86] The rendezvous in 1840 was held in the upper valley of Green
River, near Fort Bonneville, in western Wyoming. Near the headwaters
of the Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado rivers, this place was a
natural and well-known meeting point. For a description of Green
River, see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume xxi, p. 60, note 38; for
the rendezvous at this place in 1834, see Townsend's _Narrative_, in
the same volume, p. 192, note 40.--ED.

[87] For a sketch of the Snake Indians, see Bradbury's _Travels_, in
our volume v, p. 227, note 123.--ED.

[88] In the _Voyages aux Montagnes Rocheuses_, De Smet says, "on the
4th of July, I resumed my travels, with my Flatheads."--ED.

[89] Flathead was a term applied to various tribes of Indians who were
supposed to practice the custom of flattening the heads of their
infants. A division of the Choctaw was known by this name. The tribe
here referred to belonged to the Salishan stock; see Franchère's
_Narrative_, in our volume vi, p. 340, note 145. They were not in the
habit of flattening the head, and the origin of their cognomen is
unknown. The specific tribe visited by De Smet dwelt along the lake
and river which bear their name, with their chief centre in the
Bitterroot Valley. By the treaty of 1855 they ceded to the government
an extensive tract of land in this region, being nearly two degrees in
width and extending from near the forty-second parallel to the British
line. In November, 1871, the president issued an order for their
removal from Bitterroot Valley to the Jocko reservation. Arrangements
were further completed by the article of agreement of August 27, 1872.
After considerable delay they removed thither, and together with the
Pend d'Oreille and Kutenai, kindred tribes, still inhabit the
reservation. See Peter Ronan, _Historical Sketch of the Flathead
Indian Nation_ (Helena, 1890).

The Pend d'Oreille (Ear-ring) Indians, whose native name was Kalispel,
were kindred to the Flathead, speaking a similar dialect. Their
habitat lay northwest of the Flathead proper, upon the Idaho lake and
its tributary river bearing their name.--ED.

[90] The Bishop.--DE SMET.

[91] Evidently a misprint for 27th of August. Consult the succeeding

[92] For sketches of the Blackfeet and the Crows, see Bradbury's
_Travels_, in our volume v, pp. 225 and 226, notes 120, 121
respectively. In _Voyages aux Montagnes Rocheuses_, De Smet says that
this camp of Crows consisted of one thousand souls.

The Big Horn River, so called from the Rocky Mountain sheep, rises in
the Wind River range, near the centre of Wyoming, flows north through
the Big Horn Mountains into Montana, and bending toward the northeast
joins the Yellowstone as its principal tributary. South of the Big
Horn Mountains, the stream is usually called Wind River. The Big Horn
Valley, the home of the Crows, was a rich fur-bearing region and
frequently visited by trappers and traders.--ED.

[93] The post visited by Father de Smet was Fort Van Buren, located on
the south bank of the Yellowstone, at the mouth of the Rosebud. It was
built in 1835 by A. J. Tulloch for the American Fur Company, and stood
until 1842, when it was burned by instructions from Charles J.
Larpenteur, who at once ordered the erection of Fort Alexander, on the
north side of the Yellowstone, twenty miles higher up. De Smet was
mistaken when he said that Fort Van Buren was the first fort of the
Yellowstone erected by the American Fur Company. Fort Cass was built
by A. J. Tulloch in 1832 at the mouth of the Big Horn, but three years
later was abandoned. The fourth and last fort erected in this region
by the American Fur Company was Fort Sarpy, on the south side of this
river, twenty-five miles below the old site of Fort Cass. Consult
Major Frederick T. Wilson, "Old Fort Pierre and its Neighbors," with
editorial notes by Charles E. De Land, in _South Dakota Hist. Colls._
(Aberdeen, S. D., 1902), i, pp. 259-379.--ED.

[94] Ensyla (Insula), sometimes called Little Chief because of his
station, also named Red Feather from his official emblem, and christened
Michael because of his faithfulness, was one of the most influential of
the Flathead chiefs, and figures prominently in De Smet's work among the
Indians of his tribe. In 1835 he had visited the rendezvous in Green
River Valley, in the hope of securing missionary aid, and there met
Samuel Parker and Marcus Whitman. See Samuel Parker, _Journal of an
Exploring Tour among the Rocky Mountains_ (Ithaca, 1838), p. 77.
According to L. B. Palladino, _Indian and White in the Northwest_
(Baltimore, 1894), Insula was disappointed not to find a "black robe,"
and preserved his tribe for Catholic missionaries. His integrity,
judgment, and bravery made him highly esteemed.--ED.

[95] For sketches of the Arikara and Sioux, see Bradbury's _Travels_,
in our volume v, pp. 113 and 90, notes 76 and 55 respectively; for the
Assiniboin, see Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume xxii, p. 370,
note 346; for the Gros Ventres, see Bradbury's _Travels_, in our
volume v, p. 114, note 76.--ED.

[96] For a more complete account of John de Velder, see succeeding

[97] For sketches of Fort Union and James Kipp (not Kipps), see
Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume xxii, pp. 373, 345, notes 349,
319 respectively.--ED.

[98] "He has given his angels charge of thee, that they guard thee in
all thy ways."--DE SMET.

[99] For a sketch of the Mandan Indians, see Bradbury's _Travels_, in
our volume v, p. 114, note 76; for an account of their burial customs,
see p. 160, in the same volume; and for the location of their
villages, see Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume xxiii, p. 234,
note 192. The smallpox scourge occurred in 1837.

In reference to buffalo-boats or skin-boats, see Maximilian's
_Travels_, in our volume xxiii, p. 279, note 246.--ED.

[100] For the original location of the Arikara villages, see our volume
xxii, pp. 335, 336, notes 299, 300. At the time of the great small-pox
scourge (1837), the Arikara were encamped near the Mandan village. The
latter tribe abandoned their villages, and the small remnant moved some
three miles up the Missouri, where they erected fifteen or twenty new
huts; while the Arikara took possession of their old villages, where De
Smet found them. For their location see our volume xxiii, pp. 254, 255.
When the missionary in the succeeding sentence speaks of starting from
the "Mandan village," he means the former Mandan village, now inhabited
by the Arikara. The latter tribe remained at this site until their
removal to Fort Berthold, about 1862.--ED.

[101] In reference to Fort Pierre, see Maximilian's _Travels_, in our
volume xxii, p. 315, note 277. For a description of the Little
Missouri River, more frequently known as Teton or Bad, see our volume
xxiii, p. 94, note 81.--ED.

[102] The reference is to the various divisions of the Dakota or
Sioux; but the classification is unsatisfactory. For recent
classification, see J. W. Powell, U. S. Bureau of Ethnology _Report_,
1885-86, pp. 111-113; also Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume xxii,
p. 326, note 287. By the "Jantonnais" and "Jantons," De Smet intends
the modern Yanktonai and Yankton.--ED.

[103] Vermillion Post, established for trading with the lower Sioux
tribes, was located on the east bank of the Missouri, ten miles below
the mouth of the Vermillion. The shifting of the stream has since 1881
rendered difficult the locating of the old post, which was described
by Audubon, who passed there in 1843; see M. R. Audubon, _Audubon and
his Journals_ (New York, 1897), i, pp. 493, 494. Also consult _South
Dakota Historical Collections_, i, pp. 376, 377. Dickson's post, also
called Fort Vermillion, was some miles above the river of that name.
See our volume xxiv, p. 97, note 73. It is uncertain which post is

[104] By the treaty made at Chicago in September, 1833, the
Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa ceded to the United States government
about five million acres of land, whereupon the Potawatomi were
assigned to a reservation between the western borders of the state of
Missouri and the Missouri River, in what was later known as the Platte
purchase. This tract was incorporated with Missouri in 1836, and the
Indian tribe was transferred to a reservation in southwestern Iowa,
with Council Bluffs as their chief village. Here in 1838 Father
Verreydt, with Father de Smet and two lay brothers, laid the
foundation of a mission dedicated to the "Blessed Virgin and St.
Joseph," where De Smet served until his departure for the Flathead
country (1840). Father Christian Hoecken succeeded him. By the treaty
of 1846 the Potawatomi were transferred from Iowa to Kansas, where
another Catholic mission was begun among them, frequently visited by
De Smet in his later life.--ED.

[105] In 1839 Father de Smet undertook a journey from St. Joseph's
mission, at Council Bluffs, into the Sioux territory for the purpose
of effecting a treaty between these tribes and the Potawatomi. He
ascended the Missouri in the steamer of the American Fur Company, on
which J. N. Nicollet, the famous geographer, was likewise a passenger.
See Chittenden and Richardson, _De Smet_, i, pp. 179-192.--ED.

                               LETTER II

                          SOCIETY OF JESUS[106]

                      University of St. Louis, 7th Feb. 1841.

  Very Rev. Father:

In a letter, which I suppose has been communicated to you, I informed
the Bishop of St. Louis of the results, as far as they bear on
religion, of my journey to the _Rocky Mountains_. But that letter,
though lengthy, could give you but a very imperfect idea of the desert
which I passed six months in traversing, and of the tribes who make it
the scene of their perpetual and sanguinary rivalship. It will,
therefore, I think, be useful to resume the history of my mission; and
I repeat it the more willingly, since I am called to penetrate again
into those deep solitudes, from which, I may, perhaps, never return.
To my brethren, who take an interest in my dear Indians, I owe an
account of all my observations upon their character and customs, upon
the aspect and resources of the country they inhabit, and upon their
dispositions, that they may know how far they are favorable to the
propagation of the Gospel.[107]

We arrived the 18th of May upon the banks of the _Nebraska_, or _Big
Horn_, which is called by the French by the less suitable name of the
_Flat River_.[108] It is one of the most magnificent rivers of North
America. From its source, which is hidden among the remotest mountains
of this vast continent, to the river Missouri, of which it is a
tributary, it receives a number of torrents descending from the [XXIX]
Rocky Mountains; it refreshes and fertilizes immense vallies, and
forms at its mouth the two great geographical divisions of the upper
and lower Missouri. As we proceeded up this river, scenes more or
less picturesque opened upon our view. In the middle of the Nebraska,
thousands of islands, under various aspects, presented nearly every
form of lovely scenery. I have seen some of those isles, which, at a
distance, might be taken for flotillas, mingling their full sails with
verdant garlands, or festoons of flowers; and as the current flowed
rapidly around them, they seemed, as it were, flying on the waters,
thus completing the charming illusion, by this apparent motion. The
tree which the soil of these islands produces in the greatest
abundance, is a species of white poplar, called cotton tree; the
savages cut it in winter, and make of the bark, which appears to have
a good taste, food for their horses.

Along the banks of the river, vast plains extend, where we saw, from
time to time, innumerable herds of wild Antelopes. Further on, we met
with a quantity of buffaloes' skulls and bones, regularly arranged in
a semicircular form, and painted in different colors. It was a
monument raised by superstition, for the Pawnees never undertake an
expedition against the savages who may be hostile to their tribe, or
against the wild beasts of the forest, without commencing the chase,
or war, by some religious ceremony, performed amidst these heaps of
bones. At the sight of them our huntsmen raised a cry of joy; they
well knew that the plain of the buffaloes was not far off, and they
expressed by these shouts the anticipated pleasure of spreading havoc
among the peaceful herds.

Wishing to obtain a commanding view of the hunt, I got up early in the
morning and quitted the camp alone, in order to ascend a hillock near
our tents, from which I might [XXX] fully view the widely extended
pasturages. After crossing some ravines, I reached an eminence, whence
I descried a plain, whose radius was about twelve miles, entirely
covered with wild oxen. You could not form, from any thing in your
European markets, an idea of their movement and multitude. Just as I
was beginning to view them, I heard shouts near me; it was our
huntsmen, who rapidly rushed down upon the affrighted herd--the
buffalos fell in great numbers beneath their weapons. When they were
tired with killing them, each cut up his prey, put behind him his
favorite part, and retired, leaving the rest for the voracity of the
wolves, which are exceedingly numerous in these places, and they did
not fail to enjoy the repast. On the following night I was awakened by
a confused noise, which, in the fear of the moment, I mistook for
impending danger. I imagined, in my first terror, that the Pawnees,
conspiring to dispute with us the passage over their lands, had
assembled around our camp, and that these lugubrious cries were their
signal of attack.--"Where are we," said I, abruptly, to my guide.
"Hark ye!--Rest easy," he replied, laying down again in his bed; "we
have nothing to fear; it is the wolves that are howling with joy,
after their long winter's hunger: they are making a great meal
to-night on the carcasses of the buffalos, which our huntsmen have
left after them on the plain."

On the 28th, we forded the southern arm of the river Platte.[109] All
the land lying between this river and the great mountains is only a
heath, almost universally covered with lava and other volcanic
substances. This sterile country, says a modern traveller,[110]
resembles, in nakedness and the monotonous undulations of its soil, the
sandy deserts of Asia. Here no permanent dwelling has ever been erected,
and even the huntsman seldom appears in the best seasons of the year. At
all other times the grass is withered, the [XXXI] streams dried up; the
buffalo, the stag, and the antelope, desert these dreary plains, and
retire with the expiring verdure, leaving behind them a vast solitude
completely uninhabited. Deep ravines formerly the beds of impetuous
torrents, intersect it in every direction, but now-a-days the sight of
them only adds to the painful thirst which tortures the traveller. Here
and there are heaps of stones, piled confusedly like ruins; ridges of
rock, which rise up before you like impassible barriers, and which
interrupt, without embellishing, the wearisome sameness of these
solitudes. Such are the Black Hills; beyond these rise the Rocky
Mountains, the imposing land-marks of the Atlantic world. The passes and
vallies of this vast chain of mountains afford an asylum to a great
number of savage tribes, many of whom are only the miserable remnants of
different people, who were formerly in the peaceable possession of the
land, but are now driven back by war into almost inaccessible defiles,
where spoliation can pursue them no further.

This desert of the West, such as I have just described it, seems to
defy the industry of civilized man. Some lands, more advantageously
situated upon the banks of rivers, might, perhaps, be successfully
reduced to cultivation; others might be turned into pastures as
fertile as those of the East--but it is to be feared that this immense
region forms a limit between civilization and barbarism, and that
bands of malefactors, organised like the Caravans of the Arabs, may
here practise their depredations with impunity. This country will,
perhaps, one day, be the cradle of a new people, composed of the
ancient savage races, and of that class of adventurers, fugitives and
exiles, that society has cast forth from its bosom--a heterogeneous
and dangerous population, which the American Union has collected like
a [XXXII] portentous cloud upon its frontiers, and whose force and
irritation it is constantly increasing, by transporting entire tribes
of Indians from the banks of the Mississippi, where they were born,
into the solitudes of the West, which are assigned as their place of
exile. These savages carry with them an implacable hatred towards the
whites, for having, they say, unjustly driven them from their country,
far from the tombs of their fathers, in order to take possession of
their inheritance. Should some of these tribes hereafter form
themselves into hordes, similar to the wandering people, partly
shepherds, and partly warriors, who traverse with their flocks the
plains of Upper Asia, is there not reason to fear, that in process of
time, they with others, may organize themselves into bands of
pillagers and assassins, having the fleet horses of the prairies to
carry them; with the desert as the scene of their outrages, and
inaccessible rocks to secure their lives and plunder?

On the 4th of June we crossed the Ramee, a tributary river of the
Platte.[111] About forty tents erected on its banks, served as
dwellings for a part of the tribe of the Sheyennes. These Indians are
distinguishable for their civility, their cleanly and decent habits.
The men, in general, are of good stature, and of great strength; their
nose is aquiline, and their chin strongly developed. The neighboring
nations consider them the most courageous warriors of the prairies.
Their history is the same as that of all the savages who have been
driven back into the West--they are only the shadow of the once
powerful nation of the Shaways, who formerly lived upon the banks of
the Red River. The Scioux, their irreconcilable enemies, forced them,
after a dreadful war, to pass over the Missouri, and to retreat behind
the Warrican, where they fortified themselves; but the conquerors
again attacked them, and drove them from [XXXIII] post to post, into
the midst of the Black Coasts, situate upon the waters of the Great
Sheyenne River.[112] In consequence of these reverses, their tribe,
reduced to two thousand souls, has lost even its name, being now
called Sheyennes, from the name of the river that protects the remnant
of the tribe. The Sheyennes have not since sought to form any fixed
establishment, lest the Scioux should come again to dispute with them
the lands which they might have chosen for their country. They live by
hunting, and follow the buffalo in his various migrations.

The principal warriors of the nation invited me to a solemn banquet,
in which three of the great chief's best dogs were served up to do me
honor. I had half a one for my share. You may judge of my
embarrassment, when I tell you that I attended one of those feasts at
which every one is to eat all that is offered to him. Fortunately, one
may call to his aid another guest, provided that the request to
perform the kind office be accompanied by a present of tobacco.

In our way from Ramee, the sojourn of the Sheyennes, to the Green
River, where the Flat Heads were waiting for me, we successively
passed the Black Hills, which owe this name not to the color of the
soil and rocks that form them, but to the sombre verdure of the cedars
and pines that shadow their sides; the Red Bute,[113] a central point
by which the savages are continually crossing, when emigrating to the
West, or going up towards the North; and the famous rock,
Independence, which is detached, like an outwork, from the immense
chain of mountains that divide North America. It might be called the
great registry of the desert, for on it may be read in large
characters the names of the several travellers who have visited the
Rocky Mountains. My name figures amongst so many others, as [XXXIV]
that of the first priest who has visited these solitary regions.[114]
These mountains have been designated the _back-bone_ of the world. In
fact a fitter appellation could not be given to these enormous masses
of granite, whose summit is elevated nearly twenty-four thousand feet
above the level of the sea; they are but rocks piled upon rocks. One
might think that he beheld the ruins of a world covered, if I may so
speak, with a winding-sheet of everlasting snow.

I shall here interrupt the recital of my journey, to give a short
account of the different tribes of the mountains, and of the territory
they inhabit. I will join with my own personal observations the most
correct information that I could possibly obtain.

The Soshonees, or Root-diggers, appeared in great numbers at the
common rendezvous, where the deputations from all the tribes assemble
every year, to exchange the products of their rude industry. They
inhabit the southern part of the Oregon, in the vicinity of
California. Their population, consisting of about ten thousand souls,
is divided into several parties, scattered up and down in the most
uncultivated quarter of the West. They are called Snakes, because in
their indigence they are reduced, like such reptiles, to burrow in the
earth and live upon roots. They would have no other food if some
hunting parties did not occasionally pass beyond the mountains in
pursuit of the buffalo, while a part of the tribe proceeds along the
banks of the Salmon River, to make provision for the winter, at the
season when the fish come up from the sea.[115] Three hundred of their
warriors wished, in honor of the whites, to go through a sort of
military parade: they were hideously painted, armed with their clubs,
and covered over with feathers, pearls, wolves' tails, the teeth and
claws of animals and similar strange ornaments, with which each of
them [XXXV] had decked himself, according to his caprice. Such as had
received wounds in battle, or slain the enemies of their tribe, showed
ostentatiously their scars, and had floating, in the form of a
standard, the scalps which they won from the conquered. After having
rushed in good order, and at full gallop, upon our camp, as if to take
it by assault, they went several times round it, uttering at
intervals cries of joy. They at length dismounted, and came and gave
their hands to all the whites in token of union and friendship.

Whilst I was at the rendezvous, the Snakes were preparing for an
expedition against the Black-Feet. When a chief is about to wage war,
he announces his intention to his young warriors in the following
manner. On the evening before his departure, he makes his farewell
dance before each cabin; and everywhere receives tobacco, or some
other present. His friends wish him great success, scalps, horses, and
a speedy return. If he brings back women as prisoners, he delivers
them as a prey to the wives, mothers, and sisters of his soldiers, who
kill them with the hatchet or knife, after having vented against their
unhappy captives the most outrageous insults: "Why are we unable,"
howl these furies, "to devour the heart of thy children, and bathe in
the blood of thy nation!"

At the death of a chief, or other warrior, renowned for his bravery,
his wives, children, and relatives cut off their hair: this is a great
mourning with the savages. The loss of a parent would seem but little
felt, if it only caused his family to shed tears; it must be deplored
with blood; and the deeper the incisions, the more sincere is the
affection for the deceased. "An overwhelming sorrow," they say,
"cannot be vented unless through large wounds." I know not how to
reconcile these sentiments respecting the dead with their conduct
towards the living. Would you believe [XXXVI] that these men, so
inconsolable in their mourning, abandon, without pity, to the
ferocious beasts of the desert, the old men, the sick, and all those
whose existence would be a burden to them?

The funeral of a Snake warrior is always performed by the destruction of
whatever he possessed; nothing, it seems, should survive him but the
recollection of his exploits. After piling up in his hut all the
articles he made use of, they cut away the props of the cabin, and set
the whole on fire. The Youts, who form a separate people, although they
belong to the tribe of the Soshonees,[116] throw the body of the
deceased upon the funeral pile, together with a hecatomb of his best
horses. The moment that the smoke rises in thick clouds, they think that
the soul of the savage is flying towards the region of spirits, borne by
the _manes_ of his faithful coursers; and, in order to quicken their
flight, they, all together, raise up frightful yells. But in general,
instead of burning the body, they fasten it upon his favourite charger,
as on a day of battle; the animal is then led to the edge of a
neighboring river, the warriors are drawn up in a semicircular form, in
order to prevent his escape; and then, with a shower of arrows, and a
universal hurra, they force him to plunge into the current which is to
engulf him. They next, with redoubled shouts, recommend him to transport
his master without delay to the land of spirits.[117]

[XXXVII] The Sampeetches are the next neighbours of the Snakes.[118]
There is not, perhaps, in the whole world, a people in a [XXXVIII]
deeper state of wretchedness and corruption; the French commonly
designate them "_the people deserving of pity_," and this appellation is
most appropriate.[119] Their lands are uncultivated heaths; their
habitations are holes in the rocks, or the natural crevices of the
ground, and their only arms, arrows and sharp-pointed sticks. Two,
three, or at most four of them may be seen in company, roving over their
sterile plains in quest of ants and grasshoppers, on which they feed.
When they find some insipid root, or a few nauseous seeds, they make, as
they imagine, a delicious repast. They are so timid, that it is
difficult to get near them; the appearance of a stranger alarms them;
and conventional signs quickly spread the news amongst them. Every one,
thereupon, hides himself in a hole; and in an instant this miserable
people disappear and vanish like a shadow. Sometimes, however, they
venture out of their hiding places, and offer their newly born infants
to the whites in exchange for some trifling articles.

I have had the consolation of baptizing some of these unfortunate
beings, who have related to me the sad circumstances which I have just
mentioned. It would be easy to find guides among these new converts,
and be introduced [XXXIX] by them to their fellow countrymen, to
announce to them the Gospel, and thus to render their condition, if
not happy, at least supportable through the hope of a better futurity.
If God allows me to return to the Rocky Mountains, and my superiors
approve of it, I shall feel happy to devote myself to the instruction
of these _pitiable people_.

The country of the Utaws is situated to the east and south east of the
Soshonees, at the sources of the Rio Colorado. The population consists
of about 4,000 souls. Mildness, affability, simplicity of manners,
hospitality towards strangers, constant union amongst themselves, form
the happy traits in their character. They subsist by hunting and
fishing, and on fruits and roots; the climate is warm, and the land
very fit for cultivation.

I shall join to this account a brief exposition of the belief of the
savages.[120] Their religious tenets are composed of a few primitive
truths and of gross errors: they believe in the existence of a Supreme
Being, the source of every good, and consequently that he alone is
adorable; they believe that he created whatever exists, and that his
providence over-rules the principal events of life, and that the
calamities which befall the human race are chastisements inflicted by
his justice on our perversity. They suppose, that with this, their
God, whom they call the _Great Spirit_, there exists an evil genius,
who so far abuses his power as to oppress the innocent with
calamities. They also believe in a future life, where every one shall
be treated according to his works; that the happiness reserved for the
virtuous will consist in the enjoyment of such goods as they most
anxiously desired upon earth; and that the wicked shall be punished by
suffering, without consolation, the torments invented by the spirit of
evil. According to their opinion, [XL] the soul, upon its entry into
the other world, resumes the form which our bodies have had in the
present life.[121]

[XLI] What I am going to add applies chiefly to the tribe that I have
been lately instructing. Besides my escort of Flat Heads, I had also
with me an intrepid Fleming, John Baptist de Velder, who formerly
served as a grenadier under Napoleon. From the battle fields of Europe
he betook himself to the forests of the New World, where he has passed
thirty years of his life in pursuit of beavers and bears. During the
Missionary's journey, he was his devoted friend, and the faithful
companion of his dangers. He has now taken the resolution to traverse
the desert only as a guide to the apostles of the Gospel. He had
almost forgotten his native language, except his prayers, and a hymn
in honour of Mary, which his mother taught him when a child, and which
he daily recited, when engaged in the adventurous chase.

I found the Flat Heads and the Ponderas assembled, to the number of
sixteen hundred, in the beautiful Peters' Valley. You know already the
reception they gave me, and I shall never forget it. The enthusiastic
joy with which they welcomed my arrival--the exulting shouts of the
young warriors--the tears of the aged, returning thanks to the Great
Spirit, for having granted them the favour to see and hear a
Black-Gown before their death--that scene, I repeat it, I can never
forget. I shall not recount the religious exercises of my mission, as
the consoling results of them have been already communicated to you.
You will, [XLII] perhaps, take an interest in reading the notes I have
collected regarding the character and habits of my neophytes, during a
sojourn of three months amongst them; living like them, by the chase
and on roots, having only a buffalo's hide for my bed, passing my
nights under the canopy of heaven, when the weather was calm, or
taking shelter under a small tent against the fury of the tempest.

With regard to the character of these Indians, it is entirely pacific.
They never fight, except in circumstances of lawful defence; but they
are, unfortunately, often reduced to this said necessity, in consequence
of the warlike temper of the Black Feet tribe, who are their neighbours
and implacable enemies. That marauding people appear to live only for
murder and pillage.[122] They are the terror of the savages of the
west, who endeavour, as much as possible, to avoid their fatal
encounter. But should the Flat Heads, notwithstanding such precaution,
be forced to fight, their courage is as conspicuous as their love of
peace; for they rush impetuously on their adversaries, whom they prevent
from escaping, and generally make them pay dear for their cruel attacks.

It is a truth which has become proverbial in the mountains, that one
Flat Head, or one of the Ear Rings, is worth four Black Feet. If the
band of the latter meets a detachment of Flat Heads, of equal or
superior numbers, they forthwith appear disposed for peace, unfurl a
standard, and present a pipe, in token of friendship. The Flat Heads
always accept these tokens of amity; but they take care to make their
enemies sensible that the motives which influence their conduct on
such occasions are fully understood. "Black Foot," they say, "I take
your pipe, but be assured that I am aware that your heart is disposed
for war, and that your hands are stained with murder. Let us smoke
[XLIII] together, as you desire it, though I am convinced that blood
will soon be made to flow."

The greatest reproach that could be made to the Flat Heads was their
excessive love for games of chance, in which they often risked all
they possessed. The Indians of Colombia carried this passion to an
almost inconceivable degree; for, after losing their goods, they would
stake their own persons, at first playing for one hand, then for the
other; and if the game continued unfavorable to them, they played
successively for every one of their limbs, and, lastly, for their
head, which, if they lost, they, together with their wives and
children, became slaves for life.

The government of the nation is confided to chiefs, who have merited
this title by their experience and exploits, and who possess more or
less influence, according to the degree of wisdom and courage they have
displayed in council or battle. The chief does not command, but seeks to
persuade; no tribute is paid to him, but, on the contrary, it is one of
the appendages of his dignity to contribute more than any other to the
public expense. He is generally one of the poorest in the village, in
consequence of giving away his goods for the relief of his indigent
brethren, or for the general interests of his tribe. Although his power
has nothing imperious in it, his authority is not the less absolute; and
it may, without exaggeration, be asserted, that his wishes are complied
with as soon as known. Should any mutinous individual be deaf to his
personal command, the public voice would soon call him to account for
his obstinacy. I know not of any government where so much personal
liberty is united with greater subordination and devotedness.

All the mountain tribes differ somewhat from each other in their
dress. The men wear a long robe, made of the [XLIV] skins of the
antelope or sheep, with shoes and gaiters of doe or dog's skin, and a
buffalo hide cloak, covered with woollen cloth, painted in various
colours. The Indian loves to add ornament to ornament: his long hair
is decked with various kinds of feathers, and a great number of
ribbands, rings, and shells. In order to give suppleness to his limbs,
he rubs his body with bear's grease, over which he spreads a thick
layer of vermillion. Children under seven years of age are scarcely
ever clothed, except in winter; they are afterwards dressed in a sort
of tunic, made of skins, which is open under the arms. They spend
whole days amusing themselves in the water, and sometimes even in the
mire. The women wear a large pelerine, adorned with elks' teeth and
several rows of pearls. Amongst the Arikaras, their grand dress
consists of a fine chemise, with doe-skin shoes and gaiters,
embroidered in brilliant colours. A quiver filled with arrows is
suspended from the left shoulder; and a cap of eagles' feathers adorns
the brow of warriors and huntsmen. He that has killed an enemy on his
own land is distinguished by having the tails of wolves tied on his
legs; the bear-killer wears, for a trophy, the claws of that animal as
a necklace; the privilege of a savage who has taken in battle one or
more scalps, is to have a red hand painted on his mouth, to show that
he has drunk the blood of his enemies. The Indian is not less proud of
his horse, the companion of all his excursions and of all his dangers,
and the friend to which he becomes extremely attached. The head,
breast, and the flanks of the noble animal are covered with scarlet
cloth, adorned with pearls and fringes, to which are attached a
multitude of little round bells. Cleanliness is a quality not
possessed by the savage, nor are the women more particular in this
respect than the men; for they never wash their pots or saucepans; and
at [XLV] their meals they often make use of their straw hats, which
have no leaf, instead of bowls.[123]

As I before mentioned, the only prevailing vice that I found amongst
the Flat Heads was a passion for games of chance--it has since been
unanimously abolished. On the other hand, they are scrupulously honest
in buying and selling. They have never been accused of stealing.
Whenever any lost article is found, it is immediately given to the
chief, who informs the tribe of the fact, and restores it to the
lawful owner. Detraction is a vice unknown even amongst the women; and
falsehood is particularly odious to them. A forked-tongued (a liar)
they say, is the scourge of a people. Quarrels and violent anger are
severely punished. Whenever any one happens to fall into trouble, his
neighbors hasten to his aid. The gaiety of their disposition adds a
charm to their union. Even the stranger is received as a friend; every
tent is open to him, and that which he prefers is considered the most
honored. In the Rocky Mountains they know not the use of locks or

In looking at this picture, which is in nowise overdrawn, you will
perhaps ask, are these the people whom civilized men call barbarians?
We have been too long erroneously accustomed to judge of all the
savages by the Indians on the frontiers, who have learned the vices of
the whites. And even with respect to the latter, instead of treating
them with disdain, it would perhaps be more just not to reproach them
with a degradation, of which the example has been given them, and
which has been promoted by selfish and deplorable cupidity.

The country inhabited by the Flat Heads is as picturesque as their lives
are innocent. We often met in the neighborhood of the several
encampments of the tribe, majestic torrents, forests with trees that
have been growing for ages, [XLVI] and pastures covered with the
_traveller's tea_, which, although trampled by numberless horses,
embalms the air with its delightful fragrance.[125] We continually
beheld a grand succession of lofty mountains; some delighted the sight
by their blooming verdure and the imposing appearance of the woods that
crowned their summits, while others, as red as brick, bore the
impressions of some great convulsion of nature. At the base of the
latter may be seen piled up layers of lava, and at their tops the
ancient craters are easily distinguished. One day, as the tribe was
proceeding towards the banks of the lake Henry,[126] I felt a desire to
ascend to the top of a mountain, situate between the waters of the
Colombia and the Missouri, in the hope of discovering the exact place
where those two great rivers rise, and the distance between them. I
succeeded in finding one of their sources: they form two torrents,
which, being divided where they rise, by the distance of scarce a
hundred paces, continually diverge as they descend towards the
plain.[127] Their course over the rocks presents an enchanting sight:
they do not flow along, but roll from cascade to cascade; and nothing is
comparable to the beauty of their bounding waters, except the distant
noise of their fall, repeated by the echoes of the solitary mountains.

Finding it impossible to get to the highest top of the mountain that
overlooks these sources, I stopped when I had reached an elevation of
5,000 feet.[128] I then cast my eyes upon the immense region that lay
extended at my feet; I contemplated to myself all the tribes upon the
banks of the Missouri, as far as Council Bluffs: I thought on my dear
colleagues, who are sent by Providence, like angels of salvation,
amongst these savages hordes; and I considered, with mixed feelings of
joy and grief, their labors, consolations, and hopes, and how
disproportionate is their number [XLVII] to the people requiring the
aid of their ministry. Kind people, what futurity awaits thee? Holy
Missioners, what recompense is reserved for your self-devotion? I
remembered that they and I have in heaven a powerful intercessor, in
the illustrious founder of our Society; and in order to interest him
in our dear missions, from the summit of that mountain from which I
could nearly view them all, I placed them under his protection. I
would fain persuade myself that he will not prove forgetful of his
followers, who are endeavoring to plant the Gospel in these countries
where it has hitherto been unknown. Additional apostolic teachers will
come hither to assist us by their zeal, before the vices of
civilization and the proselytism of error have multiplied the
obstacles to the propagation of that faith which all the savages so
anxiously desire to know, and which, like the Flat Heads and the
Ponderas, they would practise with gratitude and fidelity.

The 27th of August was the day I fixed upon for my departure.[129]
Seventeen warriors, chosen from amongst the bravest of the two
nations, and under the command of three chiefs, arrived early in the
morning, before the entrance of my cabin.[130] The council of the
ancients appointed them to [XLVIII] serve as my escort while I should
be in the country of the Black Feet and of the Crows.[131] Of these
two tribes, so hostile to the whites, the former never gives them
quarter, and the latter will sometimes spare their lives only to leave
them, after having robbed them of every thing, to die of hunger in the
desert. As we were liable, every instant, to fall into some ambush, we
had scouts sent in all directions to reconnoitre the place and examine
the defiles; and the smallest trace of a man having passed before us,
was minutely examined. And here we cannot sufficiently admire the
wonderful sagacity with which Providence has endowed the savage: he
will tell you, from the mere footmarks, the exact day on which the
Indian had erected his tent on the spot, and how many men and horses
had been there; whether it was a detachment of warriors or a company
of hunters, and the nation to which they belong. We selected, every
evening, a favorable site for our camp, and raised around it a little
fort with the trunks of dry trees, in order to protect ourselves
against any surprise during the night.

[XLIX] This region is the retreat of grizzly bears, the most terrible
animals of the desert, whose strength equals their daring and
voracity. I have been assured that by a single stroke of his paw, one
of these animals tore away four ribs of a buffalo, which fell dead at
his feet. He seldom attacks man, unless when he has been surprised and
wounded.--An Indian, however, belonging to my escort, in passing by a
thick wood of sallow trees, was assailed by one of these ferocious
beasts, that sprung furiously upon his horse, fixed his formidable
claws in his back, and brought him to the ground. The horseman
fortunately was not mounted at the time, and having his gun in his
hand, the bear instantly disappeared in the depths of the forest.

On the 5th of September we crossed a defile, which had been passed
shortly before by a numerous troop of horsemen. Whether they were
allies or enemies, we had no means to discover. I will here observe,
that in these immense solitudes, although the howling of wolves, the
hissing of venomous serpents, the roaring of the tiger and the bear be
calculated to affright, yet this terror is nothing in comparison with
the dread excited in the traveller's soul, upon seeing the fresh
tracks of men and horses, or columns of smoke rising in the
neighborhood. At such a sight, the escort at once assembles and
deliberates; each one examines his fire-arms, sharpens his knife and
the point of his arrow, and makes, in a word, every preparation for a
resistance, even to death; for, to surrender, in such circumstances,
would be to expose one's-self to perish in the most frightful
torments. The path that we were following led us to a heap of stones,
piled upon a small eminence; they were stained with blood, lately
spilt; my escort examined them with a mournful attention. The
principal chief, a man possessed of much sense, said to me, in a
solemn [L] tone, "Father, I think I ought to give you an explanation
of what we are looking at. The Crows are not far off: in two hours we
shall see them. If I be not mistaken, we are upon one of their fields
of battle; and here their nation must have met with some great loss.
This monument has been erected to the memory of the warriors, who fell
beneath the blows of their enemies. Here the mothers, wives and
daughters of them that died, have been weeping over their tombs. It is
customary for the women to tear their faces, to make deep cuts in
their legs and arms, and to water these tumulary piles with streams of
blood. Had we arrived sooner, we should have heard their cries and
funeral lamentations." He was not mistaken, as we immediately
perceived a considerable troop of savages at a league's distance. They
were the Crows, who were returning to their camp, after having paid
the tribute of blood to forty of their warriors, who were massacred
two years before by the tribe of the Black Feet. Being at present the
allies of the Flat Heads, they received us with transports of joy.
There were groups of women with them, and so disfigured as to excite
both pity and horror. This scene of grief is renewed every year, when
they pass near the tombs of their relations.[132]

The chiefs of the Crows wished to cement, by a great feast, their
alliance with the tribe of our neophytes. As the language of the two
nations is very different, the conversation was made by signs.[133] I
shall endeavor to describe this dumb language, by mentioning to you
how a bargain, at which I was present, was concluded. A young Crow, of
gigantic size, and clad in his best garments, advanced into the midst
of the assembly, leading his horse by the bridle, and placed him
before the Flat Head, with whose horse he offered to make an exchange.
The Flat Head took no notice of him, and kept in an immovable
attitude. The [LI] Crow then placed, successively, at the feet of the
seller, his gun, his scarlet mantle, his ornaments, his gaiters, and,
lastly, his shoes. The Flat Head then took the horse by the bridle,
picked up the clothes, &c., and the sale was concluded without saying
a word. The Crow, though so divested, joyfully mounted his new
courser, and rode several times round the camp, shouting in triumph,
and putting his horse through all his paces.

The principal wealth of the savages of the west consists in horses, of
which each chief and warrior possesses a great number, that may be
seen grazing about their camp. The horses of the Crows are principally
of the Maroon race of the prairies.[134] They have also many horses
which they have stolen from the Scioux, the Sheyennes, and other
Indians of the south-west, which they had in their turn stolen from
the Spaniards of Mexico. The Crows are considered the most
indefatigable marauders of the desert; they traverse the mountains in
all directions, bringing to one side what they have taken at the
other. The name of Atsharoke, or Crow, has been given to them on
account of their robberies.[135] They are practised from their
infancy in this sort of larceny, and they acquire a surprising
dexterity in it; their glory augments with the number of their
captures, so that a finished robber is in their eyes a hero. I
accompanied for two days, these savages, who, I think, were the finest
Indians I had met in all my travels. They passed the whole time in
rejoicings and feasting. You will not be scandalized, I trust, when I
tell you that I was present at twenty different banquets. I was
scarcely seated in one cabin, when I was called to partake of the
festive entertainment in another.

We arrived, at last, at the first fort belonging to the Fur Company.
The Americans, who have here a trading post, received us most
cordially. At this place I was to part with [LII] my faithful Flat
Heads. I therefore told them, that, having before me a country still
more exposed to the incursions of the Black Feet, the Assiniboins, the
Big Bellies, the Arikaras, and Scioux, all of whom are declared
enemies of their tribe, I would no longer peril their lives, on
account of my personal safety; that as for my life, I placed it in the
hands of God, and that I felt a persuasion it would be preserved, in
order that, accompanied by new Missionaries, I might immediately
return to them. I exhorted them for the last time to remain faithful
to the Great Spirit. We embraced each other, wishing, mutually, a
happy return; and shortly after, accompanied by my faithful Fleming, I
disappeared from their sight amidst the solitary defiles. We were to
pass over several hundred miles of country, where no road is yet
traced, and, like the navigator on the boundless ocean, with no other
guide than the compass. For a long time we followed the course of the
Yellow Stone, except when perpendicular rocks arrested our progress
and obliged us to take a circuit. In many places we discovered forts
which the savages are in the habit of raising for defence, or for
concealing themselves, when they are at war, or waiting for their
prey. Perhaps, at the moment of our passing, they were not without
enemies. What a solitude, with its horrors and dangers! but it
possesses one real advantage: with death constantly before our eyes,
we irresistibly feel, without the possibility of illusion, that we are
entirely in the hands of God, without any support but Him, without any
other refuge than his paternal providence; it is then easy to make to
Him the sacrifice of a life which belongs less to us than to the first
savage who wishes to take it, and to form the most generous
resolutions of which man is capable. It was really the best spiritual
retreat that I made in my life.

The second day of the journey, on awaking, I perceived, at the
distance of a quarter of a mile, the smoke of a great [LIII] fire--a
point of a rock was all that separated us from a detachment of
Indians. Without a moment's delay we saddled our horses and set off,
galloping with all speed along the ravines and beds of dried up
torrents. We rode that day, without resting, more than fifteen
leagues, and we did not encamp until two hours after sunset, lest the
savages, having observed our track, should think of pursuing us.--The
same fear prevented us from lighting a fire, which obliged us to
dispense with supper. I wrapped myself in my blanket, stretched myself
on the grass beside my companion, and having recommended myself to
God, I endeavored to beguile hunger by sleep. My grenadier, more
courageous than I, soon snored like a steam engine in full play.

The next morning we were on our way at day-break; we advanced with
caution, for the country appeared full of danger. Towards mid-day we
met a new subject of alarm--we found a buffalo, which had been killed
about two hours previously. We thrilled at the sight, when we thought
that the enemy was not far off; and yet we had reason to thank the
Lord for having prepared the food for our evening meal. The following
night we encamped among rocks, which are the retreat of tigers and
bears. I have already said that the dens of the wild beasts inspire
incomparably less terror to the traveller than the hut of the savage.
I this time slept heavily and well. We always commenced our journey
early in the morning, and each day had new dangers to face, and to
meet occasionally the fresh traces of men and horses. One day we had
to cross a field of tents, which had been recently abandoned; the
fires were not quite extinguished; but happily we met no one. At
length we saw again the Missouri at the very place, where an hour
before, a hundred families of the Assiniboins had passed over it. The
foregoing is only a sketch of the [LIV] long and perilous journey
which we made from the fort of the Crows to fort Union, situated at
the mouth of the Yellow Stone river.[136]

All the country watered by this river abounds in game; I do not think
that there is in all America another place better suited for hunting:
we were continually amidst vast herds of buffalos; we frequently
discovered groups of majestic elks bounding over the plains, whilst
clouds, if I may say so, of antelopes were flying before us with the
swiftness of the wind. The Ashata, or Big Horn, alone appeared not to
be disturbed at our presence: we saw them in groups, reposing on the
edges of the precipices, or sporting on the points of the steep rocks.
The black-tailed roebuck, so richly dressed in its brown coat,
frequently excited our admiration, by its elegant shape, and abrupt,
animated movements, in which it appears scarcely to touch the earth
with its feet.[137] I have already spoken of the grizzly bears, which
are here to be met with in abundance, as well as the wolves, panthers,
badgers and wild cats. Often the traveller sees the prairie hen and
the cock of the mountain start up from the midst of the heath. The
lakes and rivers are covered with swans, geese and ducks: the
industrious beaver, the otter, and the muskrat, together with the
fishes, are in peaceable possession of their solitary waters.

The Arikaras and the Big Bellies, who had been described to us as most
dangerous, received us as friends, whenever we met them on our way.
Before setting out for war, they observe a strict fast, or rather they
abstain from all food for four days. During this interval their
imagination is excited to madness; and, either from the effect of
weakness, or the warlike projects which fill their minds, they pretend
that they have extraordinary visions. The elders and sages of the tribe
are called upon to interpret these reveries; [LV] and they pronounce
them to be more or less favorable to the undertaking. Their explanations
are received as oracles, according to which the expedition is
scrupulously regulated. Whilst the preparatory fast endures, the
warriors make incisions in their bodies, and bury in the flesh, under
the shoulder-blade, pieces of wood, to which they attach leather thongs,
by which they are suspended from a stake, fixed horizontally over the
brink of a chasm a hundred and fifty feet deep. They even sometimes cut
off one or two fingers, which they offer as a sacrifice to the Great
Spirit, in order that they may return loaded with scalps.[138]

In a recent expedition against the Scioux, the Arikaras killed twenty
warriors of the hostile tribe, and piled up the corpses in the middle
of their village. The solemn dance of victory then commenced, at which
men, women, the aged, and children assisted. After having celebrated,
at length, the exploits of the brave, they rushed, like wild beasts,
upon the mangled and bloody bodies of the Scioux, parcelled them
amongst themselves, and fixed the hideous trophies to the end of long
poles, which they carried in proud triumph around the village.

It is impossible to form an idea of the cruelty that presides over the
barbarous revenge of those tribes, who are constantly occupied in
mutual destruction. As soon as the savages learn that the warriors of
a rival nation have set out for the chase, they unexpectedly attack
the enemy's defenceless camp, and massacre the women, old men, and
children in the cradle. Wo to the men who are spared; their agony is
deferred in order to render it more terrible. At other times they lie
in wait in their enemy's path, and allow the detachment to pass on,
until they have in their power such a portion of it as must infallibly
become their [LVI] prey; whereupon they raise the death cry, and pour
upon the enemy a shower of balls, arrows, and pieces of rock; this
movement is the signal of extermination: the battle becomes a
massacre: the sights of horror which would freeze the heart of any
civilized man, serve only to inflame the fury of the savage: he
outrages his prostrate rival, tramples on his mangled carcass, tears
off his hair, wallows in his blood with the delight of a tiger, and
often devours the quivering limbs of the fallen, while they have
scarcely ceased to exist.

Such of the vanquished as have not fallen in the combat are reserved to
adorn the triumph, and are conducted prisoners to the village of the
conquerors. The women come to meet the returning warriors, amongst whom
they seek with anxious looks their husbands and brothers: if they
discover them not, they express their grief by terrific howling. One of
the warriors soon commands silence; he then gives the details of the
fortunate expedition; describes the place selected for the ambuscade,
the consternation of the waylaid tribe, the bravery of the assailants,
and recounts the number of the dead and of the captives. To this
recital, which is made with all the intoxication of victory, succeeds
the calling over the names of the warriors: their absence tells they are
no more. The piercing cries of the women are then renewed; and their
despair presents a scene of frenzy and grief, which exceeds all
imagination. The last ceremony is the proclaiming of victory. Every one
instantly forgets his own misfortunes; the glory of the nation becomes
the happiness of all; by an inconceivable transition, they pass in a
moment from frantic grief to the most extravagant joy.

I know not what terms to use in order to describe the torments which
they inflict on the wretched prisoners: one [LVII] plucks off their
nails, another tears away their flesh; red hot irons are applied to
every part of their bodies; they are flayed alive, and their palpitating
flesh is devoured as food.[139] The women, who, in other nations, are
more accessible to the feelings of pity than the men, here shew
themselves more thirsty for revenge, and more ingenious in the barbarous
refinement of cruelty. Whilst this horrible drama goes on, the chiefs
are gravely seated about the stake at which the victim is writhing. The
latter appears to be only intent on conquering his anguish: often has
the prisoner been seen to brave his executioners, and with a stoic
coolness exclaim, "I fear not death; those who are afraid of your
torments are cowards; a woman of my tribe would despise them. Shame upon
my enemies; they have not even the power to force from me a tear. In
order to take me, they supplied their weakness by strategy; and now, to
revenge themselves, they have assembled an entire people against one
man, and they are unable to triumph over him--the cowards! Oh, if they
were in my place, how I would devour them, how I would sip from their
accursed skulls the last drop of their blood!"

The great village of the Arikaras is only ten miles distant from that of
the Mandans. I was surprised to see around their habitations large and
well cultivated fields of maiz. The latter Indians still manufacture
earthen vases,[140] similar to those which are found in the ancient
tombs of the savages of the United States, and which, according to
antiquaries, are presumed to have belonged to a race much more ancient
than that which now peoples the desert of the west. The jugglers of the
Arikaras enjoy a good reputation, and exercise considerable influence
over their credulous countrymen; they pretend to have communication with
the spirit [LVIII] of darkness.[141] They will fearlessly plunge their
arm into boiling water, having previously rubbed it with a certain root;
they also swallow, without any ill effect, substances on fire, as well
as shoot arrows against themselves. The following is one of the most
singular of their tricks, and one which the Indian sorcerer was
unwilling to perform in my presence, because _my medicine_ (meaning my
religion) _was superior to his_. He had his hands, arms, legs, and feet,
tied with well-knotted cords; he was then enclosed in a net, and again
in a buffalo's skin. The person who tied him had promised him a horse if
he extricated himself from his bonds. In a minute after, the savage, to
the amazement of the spectators, stood before him perfectly free. The
commandant of the neighbouring fort offered him another horse, if he
would reveal to him his secret. The sorcerer consented, saying, "Have
thyself tied; I have at my command ten invisible spirits: I will detach
three of them and put them at thy service: fear them not, they will
accompany thee everywhere, and be thy tutelary genii." The commandant
was disconcerted, or unwilling to make the trial, and thus the matter

The last observation which I have to make concerns the redoubtable
tribe of the Scioux. Whoever, amongst these savages, dies in a quarrel
provoked by drunkenness, or as [LIX] the victim of the revenge of a
fellow countryman, receives not the ordinary honours of burial; he is
interred without ceremony and without provisions. The most glorious
death for them is to expire in fighting the enemies of their nation.
Their bodies are, in that case, rolled in buffaloes' skins and placed
upon a raised platform, near their camps or highways.[143] From some
conversations I have had with the chiefs of this tribe, I have every
reason to believe that a mission would produce amongst them the most
consoling effects.

I arrived, at length, at Council Bluffs. It would be vain for me to
attempt to express what I felt, on finding myself again in the midst of
my brethren: I had travelled two thousand Flemish leagues amongst the
most barbarous nations, where I had no sooner escaped one danger than I
met with another. From Council Bluffs to Westport, a frontier city of
the Missouri, I pursued my journey without obstacle or accident. At
Independence,[144] I took the public conveyance, and on the eve of the
new year, I embraced my dear Fathers of the University of St. Louis.

Recommending myself to your prayers,

                      I am yours, &c.

                                P. J. DE SMET.


[106] Jean Philip von Roothan, born in Amsterdam (1785) of Catholic
parents, entered a Jesuit novitiate in Russia (1804) and was educated at
the college of Polotsk. He conducted a mission in Switzerland, and was
the first superior of the province of Turin, when in 1829 he was elected
twenty-first general of the order of Jesuits, an office in which he
continued until his death in 1853. He was much interested in the
over-seas missions, in 1833 issuing an encyclical on their behalf.--ED.

[107] The reader will note that this letter concerns itself with the
same journey as that described in the previous epistle--the first
visit to the Flatheads and return (1840). De Smet wrote several
descriptions of this journey; that contained in his _Voyages aux
Montagnes Rocheuses_ is more detailed than either presented herein. A
translation of the latter is given in Chittenden and Richardson, who
do not reprint this letter to Roothan.--ED.

[108] For a brief description of Nebraska or Platte (flat or shallow)
River, see our volume xiv, p. 219, note 170. It is the common belief
that Nebraska is the aboriginal term for Platte, signifying "Shallow."
De Smet's alternative, "Bighorn," is not found elsewhere. See also
Nebraska Historical Society _Transactions_, i, p. 73--ED.

[109] For the route of the first portion of the Oregon trail, over which
De Smet went out, see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume xxi, p. 49, note
30. There were several fording places for the South Platte, depending
upon the state of the river. In subsequent pages, De Smet gives a vivid
description of the difficulties and dangers of crossing this stream. See
also Frémont's account in _Senate Docs._, 28 Cong., 2 sess., ii.--ED.

[110] See Washington Irving, _Astoria_ (Philadelphia, 1841), chapter

[111] Laramie River, one of the principal tributaries of the North
Platte, rises in northern Colorado, flows north through Alba County,
Wyoming, and breaking through the Laramie Mountains turns northeast
into the Platte. The name is derived from a French Canadian trapper,
Jacques Laramie, who about 1820 was killed upon its upper waters, by
the Arapaho.--ED.

[112] This information as to the origin of the Cheyenne is derived from
Lewis's _Statistical View_ (London, 1807). See _Original Journals of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition_, vi, p. 100. It is now conceded that the
Cheyenne, with their kindred tribe the Arapaho, probably once dwelt
about the waters of the St. Croix River, in Wisconsin. Their tribal name
(according to Lewis) was Sharha (Shaway), possibly a variant of the
Sioux form Shaiela or Shaiena, whence their present name. Apparently
they were driven northwestward from their Wisconsin habitat, and first
settled upon Cheyenne River, North Dakota--a tributary of Red River of
the North. It is conjectured that they were forced southwest by the
Sioux. The Warreconne, where they made their final stand, is the present
Big Beaver, in Emmons County, North Dakota. According to Cheyenne
tradition, they were formerly an agricultural people, forced into
nomadic habits by these various removals.

The term "Black Coasts" is an incorrect translation of "Côtes Noirs,"
Black Hills. See our volume xxiii, p. 244, note 204.--ED.

[113] For Red Buttes see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p.
183, including note 31.--ED.

[114] For Independence Rock see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume xxi,
p. 53, note 34.--ED.

[115] For a sketch of this river see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume
xxi, p. 69, note 45.--ED.

[116] The Ute belong, as De Smet says, to the Shoshonean stock, and
originally occupied the country directly south of the habitat of the
Snake Indians, or Shoshoni proper, which extended from the Rocky
Mountains to California. The Ute were divided into numerous bands,
differently classified by various authorities, and when first known to
the whites numbered about four thousand souls. There are now over two
thousand on two reservations--the Southern Ute in southwestern Colorado,
and the other bands on the Unita reservation, in northeastern Utah.--ED.

[117] Although this mode of funeral exists amongst the Snakes, it is
not, however, common to all the Indian tribes. Amongst the people who
live on the borders of lake Abbitibbi, in Lower Canada, as soon as a
warrior happens to die, they wrap the body in a shroud, lower it into
a grave about a foot and a half deep, and place alongside it a pot, a
knife, a gun, and such other articles as are of prime necessity to the
savages. Some days after the burial, the relations of the deceased
assemble to smoke over his grave. They then hang presents upon the
nearest tree, particularly tobacco for the soul of the deceased, which
is to come occasionally and smoke upon the grave, where the body is
laid. They suppose that the poor soul is wandering not far from
thence, until the body becomes putrified; after which it flies up to
heaven. The body of a wicked man, they say, takes a longer time to
corrupt than that of a good man; which prolongs his punishment. Such,
in their opinion, is the only punishment of a bad life.

In Columbia we find that a different custom prevails. There, so soon
as the person expires, his eyes are bound with a necklace of glass
beads; his nostrils filled with aiqua (a shell used by the Indians in
place of money), and he is clothed in his best suit and wrapped in a
winding-sheet. Four posts, fixed in the ground, and joined by cross
beams, support the ærial tomb of the savage: the tomb itself is a
canoe, placed at a certain height from the ground, upon the beams I
have just mentioned. The body is deposited therein, with the face
downwards, and the head turned in the same direction as the course of
the river. Some mats thrown upon the canoe finish the ceremony.
Offerings, of which the value varies with the rank of the deceased,
are next presented to him; and his gun, powder-horn and shot-bag are
placed at his sides.

Articles of less value, such as a wooden bowl, a large pot, a hatchet,
arrows, &c. are hung upon poles fixed around the canoe. Next comes the
tribute of wailing, which husbands and wives owe to each other, and to
their deceased parents, and also to their children: for a month, and
often longer, they continually shed, night and day, tears, accompanied
with cries and groans, that are heard at a great distance. If the
canoe happen to fall down in course of time, the remains of the
deceased are collected, covered again with a winding-sheet, and
deposited in another canoe.--_Extract of a letter from M. Demers,
Missionary among the Savages._

Some individuals of other tribes, seen by Father de Smet on his tour,
are the following: The Kootenays and the Carriers, with a population
of 4,000 souls, the Savages of the Lake, who are computed at about
500, the Cauldrons 600, the Okinaganes 1,100, the Jantons and Santees
300, the Jantonnees 4,500, the Black-Feet Scioux 1,500, the
Two-Cauldrons 800, the Ampapas 2,000, the Burned 2,500, the Lack-Bows
1,000, the Minikomjoos 2,000, the Ogallallees 1,500, the Saoynes
2,000, the Unkepatines 2,000, the Mandans, Big-Bellies, and Arikaras,
who have formed of their remnants one tribe, 3,000, the Pierced-Noses,
2,500, the Kayuses 2,000, the Walla-Wallas 500, the Palooses 300, the
Spokanes 800, the Pointed-Hearts 700, the Crows, the Assinboins, the
Ottos, the Pawnees, the Santees, the Renards, the Aonays, the
Kikapoux, the Delawares, and the Shawanons, whose numbers are unknown.
The following are the names of the principal chiefs, who received the
Missionary in their tents: The Big-Face and Walking-Bear, the
Patriarchs of the Flat-Heads and Ponderas; the Iron-Crow, the
Good-Heart, the Dog's-Hand, the Black-Eyes, the Man that does not eat
cow's flesh, and the Warrior who walks barefooted; the last named is
chief of the Black-Feet Scioux.--DE SMET.

[118] "Sampeetch" was a term applied to a small band of Ute dwelling in
central Utah along the river now known as San Pitch, with a valley and
mountain ranges of the same designation. The name was frequently used in
descriptions of Ute bands until about 1870, when these Indians, reduced
in number to less than two hundred, were segregated upon the Unita
reservation and lost their distinctive appellation.--ED.

[119] In _Voyages aux Montagnes Rocheuses_, containing the French
original of this letter, Father de Smet classes the Paiute and Yampah
Ute with the Sampeetches as the tribes called by the French _les
Dignes de pitié_.--ED.

[120] The following account of the religious beliefs relates to the
mountain tribes with whom De Smet was most familiar, chiefly those of
the Salishan stock.--ED.

[121] A Canadian Missionary, who lived for a long time among the
savages, gives the following account of the popular tradition of the
Indians respecting the creation of the world:--"Water, they say, was
every where formerly; and Wiskain, a spirit, or subordinate deity,
commanded the castor to dive into it, in order to procure some earth.
The castor obeyed the order, but he was so fat that he could not
possibly descend to the bottom, and he had to return without any
earth. Wiskain, nothing discouraged, charged the musk-rat with the
commission which the castor was unable to perform. The new messenger
having remained a long while under water, and with as little success
as the castor, returned almost drowned. The rat expected that he
should not be required a second time, as he had already nearly lost
his life. But Wiskain, who was not discouraged by obstacles, directed
the rat to dive again, promising him, that if he should happen to be
drowned, he (Wiskain) would restore him to life. The rat dived a
second time, and made the greatest efforts to comply with Wiskain's
orders. After remaining a considerable while under the water, he arose
to the surface, but so exhausted by fatigue that he was insensible.
Wiskain, upon a careful and minute examination, finds at length in the
claws of the poor animal a little earth, upon which he breathes with
such effect, that it begins to augment rapidly. When he had thus blown
for a long time, feeling anxious to know if the earth was large
enough, he ordered the crow, which at that period was as white as the
swan, to fly round it, and take its dimensions. The crow did
accordingly, and returned, saying that the work was too small. Wiskain
set about blowing upon the earth with renewed ardour, and directed the
crow to make a second tour round it, cautioning him, at the same time,
not to feed upon any carcass that he might see on the way. The crow
set off again without complaint, and found, at the place which had
been pointed out, the carcass which he was forbidden to touch. But,
having grown hungry on the way, and being also, perhaps, excited by
gluttony, he filled himself with the infected meat, and on his return
to Wiskain, informed him that the earth was large enough, and that he
need not, therefore, resume his work. But the unfaithful messenger, at
his return, found himself as black as he had been white at his setting
out, and was thus punished for his disobedience, and the black colour
communicated to his descendants." The above tradition, which bears
some striking vestiges of the tradition respecting original sin, and
several circumstances of the deluge, makes no mention whatever of the
creation of man and woman; and, however illogical it may be, it is,
perhaps, not more ridiculous than the systems of certain pretended
philosophers of the last century, who, in hatred of revelation, have
endeavoured to explain the formation of the earth, by substituting
their extravagant reveries for the Mosaic account.--DE SMET.

[122] For Pierre's Hole (Peter's Valley) see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our
volume xxi, p. 63, note 41. Concerning the hostile and implacable
character of the Blackfeet tribes consult Bradbury's _Travels_, in our
volume v, p. 220, note 120; also Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume
xxiii, pp. 90-92.--ED.

[123] For a description of these hats, woven chiefly by the Pacific
coast Indians, and an article of traffic with the interior, see
_Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition_, iii, pp. 294,
296, 359-361.--ED.

[124] Compare with this the description of the Flatheads given in 1814
by Ross Cox, _Adventures on the Columbia River_ (New York, 1832), pp.

[125] Probably our author here refers to the sage-brush of the Western
plains, _Artemisia tridentata_.--ED.

[126] De Smet had accompanied the Indians in their journey from
Pierre's Hole westward and then northward along the Teton River to its
junction with the Henry; thence they proceeded up that stream to its
source in Henry Lake, the northeastern corner of Idaho. As the source
of a chief fork of the Snake, this is one of the mountain origins of
the Columbia. It was named for Andrew Henry, an adventurous trader,
for whom see our volume xv, p. 246, note 107.--ED.

[127] Probably the stream that runs into Red Rock Lake, in
southwestern Montana, the source of Jefferson River, the main branch
of the Missouri.--ED.

[128] This was the main chain of the Rockies, on the boundary between
Idaho and Montana, just above the present Reynolds Pass.--ED.

[129] In this letter, Father de Smet does not describe his movements
with the Flatheads, who having crossed to Red Rock Lake advanced
slowly down the Jefferson until August 21, where they camped at the
Three Forks of Missouri, and prepared to lay in their winter's supply
of buffalo meat. There he left them for his return to St. Louis.--ED.

[130] As a beautiful specimen of an affecting farewell address, we take
from the journal of a Canadian Missionary the following discourse spoken
by one of the savages of the Red River, to the Black-Gown who had
converted them, when he was about leaving them. After expressing, in the
name of all the Indians of his locality, the grief which they felt at
the Missionary's departure, he added the following words, which prove
their gratitude to the worthy Priest, who had brought to them the truths
of salvation, and to the members of the Society for the Propagation of
the Faith, whose charity had procured them so great a benefit:--

"Dear Father, you are going to leave us, but we hope to see you again.
We are quite sensible that you naturally wish to see your relations
and friends, your towns and country--we shall find the time of your
absence very long, but the winter is soon over.--We conceived it to be
our duty to assemble before your departure, and to express our
feelings. We shall only say these few words: we formerly led very
wicked lives, and we know this day to what destruction we were
hastening. There was a thick cloud before our eyes; you have dispersed
it; we see the sun. We shall never forget what you have done and
suffered for us.--Go now, go and tell the Prayers, those kind Prayers,
who take pity on us; who love us without knowing us; and who send us
priests; go and tell them that savages know how to remember a benefit;
go and tell them that we also pray for them, in the desire which we
feel to know them, one day, in the abode of our common Father. Set
out, but return and instruct those whom you have baptized: leave us
not forever in affliction; depart, and in the meanwhile remember that
we are counting the days."--DE SMET.

[131] De Smet thus describes his route: "For two days we were going up
the Gallatin, the southern fork of the Missouri; thence we crossed by a
narrow pass (Bozeman's) thirty miles in length to the Yellowstone river,
the second of the great tributaries of the Missouri."--Chittenden and
Richardson, _De Smet_, i, p. 234.--ED.

[132] On the mourning habits of the Western Indians, see our volume
xxiii, p. 362, note 331.--ED.

[133] For references on the Indian sign language see our volume xix,
p. 221, note 56 (Gregg); also our volume xxiv, pp. 300-312.--ED.

[134] In prehistoric times, the horse was indigenous in America.
Evidence thereof was collected by Professor O. C. Marsh, and has
recently been corroborated by the results of the Whitney Exploring
Expedition; see H. F. Osborn, "Evolution of the Horse in America," in
_Century Magazine_, lxix, pp. 3-17. Why this animal became extinct on
the western continent is unknown; but it seems certain that the Spanish
discoverers found no trace thereof among the American Indians, and that
the horses of the plains Indians were derived from those lost or
abandoned by or stolen from the Spanish conquerors of Mexico. These soon
reverted to a wild state and became what De Smet calls "the Maroon race
of the prairies." Upon the changes in the economy of life among American
aborigines, brought about by their possession of the horse, consult A.
F. Bandelier, "Investigations in the Southwest," in Archæological
Institute of America _Papers_, American Series, iii, p. 211.--ED.

[135] Absaroka (Upsahroku) is the name by which the Crows know
themselves, although according to Lewis and Clark it designated but one
band of the tribe. Its significance is uncertain, although usually
thought to be a certain species of hawk. The name "Crow"--literally
raven, but translated "Corbeaux" by the French--is an Anglicized form of
the name given to this tribe by the surrounding Indians, and may refer
to their pilfering tendencies. See our volume v, p. 226, note 121.--ED.

[136] For a sketch of this fort see Maximilian's _Travels_, in our
volume xxii, p. 373, note 349.--ED.

[137] For these two animals, the latter of which is commonly known as
the black-tailed or mule deer, see our volume xix, p. 327, note 137

[138] On these ceremonies, see our volume xxiii, p. 324, note 292, and
p. 378, note 350.--ED.

[139] On the subject of cannibalism see our volume xxiii, p. 278, note

[140] Consult references cited in our volume xxiii, p. 279, note

[141] See the brief account of Arikara jugglers in Maximilian's
_Travels_, our volume xxiii, pp. 393, 394--ED.

[142] Juggleries are much practised among the savages, although many
of them consider them as so many impostures. Mr. Belcourt, who
witnessed a great many of them, always succeeded in discovering the
deception. One of the most celebrated jugglers acknowledged, after his
conversion to Christianity, that all their delusion consists in their
cleverness in preparing certain tricks, and in the assurance with
which they predict to others what they themselves know not, and, above
all, in the silly credulity of their admirers. They are like our own
calculators of horoscopes.--_Extract from the Journal of a Missionary
in Canada._--DE SMET.

[143] For references on burial customs among the Indians of the
Missouri, see Maximillian's _Travels_, in our volume xxiii, p. 360,
note 329.--ED.

[144] For a sketch of Independence, Missouri, see Gregg's _Commerce of
the Prairies_ in our volume xix, p. 189, note 34.--ED.

                               LETTER III

                            Banks of the Platte, 2d June, 1841.

  Rev. and Very Dear Father Provincial:

Behold us at last on our way towards the long wished for "Rocky
Mountains," already inured to the fatigues of the journey and full of
the brightest hopes. It is now afternoon and we are sitting on the
banks of a river, which, it is said, has not its equal in the world.
The Indians call it Nebraska or Big Horn; the Canadians give it the
name of la Platte, and Irving designates it as the most wonderful and
useless of rivers. The sequel will show that it deserves these various
affixes. It was to enjoy the freshness and beauty of its scenery that
we travelled more than twenty miles this morning, without breaking
our fast, through a wilderness without a single rivulet to water our
jaded horses, who must therefore rest where they are till to-morrow. I
am far from regretting the delay as it will give me an opportunity of
commencing a letter which, I know, will interest you.

Like all the works of God, our humble beginnings have not been
unattended with trials: our journey had even well nigh been indefinitely
postponed by the unexpected non-arrival of two caravans on which we had
confidently relied; one of hunters, for the American Fur Company; the
other an exploring expedition belonging to the United States, at the
head of which we expected to see the celebrated M. Nicolet.[145] Happily
God inspired two estimable travellers, [LXI] of whom more hereafter, and
afterwards sixty others, to take the same route as ourselves, some for
health, others for science, or pleasure; but the greater number to seek
their fortune in the too highly boasted land of California. This caravan
formed an extraordinary mixture of different nations, every country of
Europe having in it a representative, my own little band of eleven
persons hailing from eight.[146]

The difficulties of setting out once overcome, many others followed
in succession. We had need of provisions, fire-arms, implements of
every kind, waggons, guides, a good hunter, an experienced
captain,--in a word, whatever becomes necessary when one has to
traverse a desert of eight hundred leagues, and expects nothing but
formidable obstacles to surmount, and thieving, and sometimes
murderous, enemies to combat,--and swamps, ravines and rivers to
cross, and mountains to climb, whose craggy and precipitous sides
suddenly arrest our progress, compelling us to drag our beasts of
burden up their steep ascents. These things are not done without toil
and money, but thanks to the generous charity of our friends in
Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Kentucky, St. Louis and New Orleans,[147]
which place I visited in person and which is always at the head of the
others when there is a question of relieving the necessities of the
poor, or showing compassion and munificence to any who may be in need
of assistance, we were enabled by the resources thence supplied, and
by a portion of the funds allowed by the Lyons Association in behalf
of the Indian Missions, to undertake this long journey.

You have already learned from my letters of the past year, that I was
specially sent among the Flat Heads to ascertain their dispositions
towards the "Black Robes," whom they had so long desired. I therefore
started from [LXII] St. Louis in April, 1840, and arrived on the banks
of the Colorado precisely at the moment when a band of Flat Heads
reached that point on their way to meet me. It was the rendezvous I had
given them. Besides the Flat Heads I visited during that journey, many
other tribes, such as the Pends-d'oreilles (Ear Rings), Nez Perces
(Pierced Noses), Cheyennes, Serpents, Crows, Gros ventres or Minatarees,
Ricaras, Mandans, Kanzas, the numerous nations of the Scioux, &c.
Finding every where such good dispositions, I resolved, notwithstanding
the approach of winter and frequent attacks of fever, in order to second
the visible designs of the divine mercy in favor of so many souls, to
commence my journey across the immense ocean of mountains and prairies.
I have travelled without any other guide than a compass, without any
protection from nations hostile to the whites, but a veteran from Ghent,
formerly a grenadier of the Empire, any other provisions in an arid
desert, than what powder and ball and a strong confidence in God might
procure us. I shall not here repeat what I have already communicated to
you, of my adventures and the result of this mission. It will suffice to
say, that the unexpected quickness of my return to St. Louis, the
excellent health I enjoyed, even though it was the midst of winter, and
the consoling accounts I had to give of my reception by the Flat Heads,
&c. &c., all contributed to make the most lively impression on the
hearts of our brethren. Almost every one thought himself called to share
the labors of a mission which offered so many attractions to their zeal.
After due deliberation, the fellow-laborers allotted me were five in
number, namely two Fathers, Rev. Mr. Point[148] of La Vendee, as zealous
and courageous for the salvation of souls as his compatriot, La Roche
Jacquelin[149] was in the service of his lawful sovereign; Rev. Mr.
Mengarini, recently from [LXIII] Rome, specially selected by the Father
General himself, for this mission, on account of his age, his virtues,
his great facility for languages and his knowledge of medicine and
music;[150] and three lay-brothers, two Belgians, Claessens and Huet,
and one German, of whom the first is a blacksmith, the second a
carpenter, and the third a tinner, or a sort of _factotum_;[151] all
three industrious, devoted to the Missions and full of good will. They
had long ardently desired to be employed on these missions and I thank
God that had the choice been left to myself, I could have made none
better. Thus launched into the midst of this interminable Far West, how
often did I repeat these beautiful lines of Racine:

          O Dieu, par quelles routes inconnues aux mortels
          Ta Sagesse conduit tes desseins eternels!

In seven days from my departure from St. Louis, namely, on the 30th of
April, I arrived at Westport, a frontier town on the West of the
United States. It took us seven days, on board a steamboat,[152] to
perform this journey of 900 miles, no unfair average of the time
required to travel such a distance on the Missouri, at the breaking up
of the winter, when, though the ice is melted, the water is still so
low, the sand banks so close together and the snags so numerous that
boats cannot make greater headway.... We landed on the right bank of
the river, and took refuge in an abandoned little cabin, where a poor
Indian woman had died a few days before, and in this retreat, so like
to that which once merited the preference of the Saviour and for which
was thenceforth to be substituted only the shelter of a tent in the
wilderness, we took up our abode until the 10th May--occupied as well
we might be in supplying the wants created by the burning of our
baggage waggon on board the steamboat, the sickness of one of our
horses [LXIV] which we were compelled to leave after us, and the loss
of another that escaped from us at the moment of landing.

We started, then, from Westport, on the 10th of May, and after having
passed by the lands of the Shawnees and Delawares, where we saw
nothing remarkable but the college of the Methodists,[153] built, it
is easy to divine for what, where the soil is richest; we arrived
after five day's march on the banks of the Kanzas river, where we
found those of our companions, who had travelled by water, with a part
of our baggage.[154] Two of the relatives of the grand chief had come
twenty miles from that place to meet us, one of whom helped our horses
to pass the river in safety, by swimming before them, and the other
announced our arrival to the principal men of the tribe who waited for
us on the opposite bank. Our baggage, waggons and men crossed in a
pirogue, which, at a distance, looked like one of those gondolas that
glide through the streets of Venice. As soon as the Kanzas understood
that we were going to encamp on the banks of the Soldier's River,[155]
which is only six miles from the village, they galloped rapidly away
from our Caravan, disappearing in a cloud of dust, so that we had
scarcely pitched our tents when the great Chief presented himself with
six of his bravest warriors, to bid us welcome. After having made me
sit down on a mat spread on the ground, he, with much solemnity, took
from his pocket a Portfolio containing the honorable titles that gave
him a right to our friendship and placed them in my hands. I read
them, and having, with the tact of a man accustomed to the etiquette
of savage life, furnished him the means of smoking the Calumet, he
made us accept for our guard the two braves who had come to meet us.
Both were armed like warriors, one carrying a lance and a buckler, and
the other a bow and arrows, with a naked sword and a collar [LXV]
made of the claws of four bears which he had killed with his own hand.
These two braves remained faithful at their post during the three days
and three nights that we had to wait the coming up of the stragglers
of the caravan. A small present which we made them at our departure,
secured us their friendship.

[Illustration: Kanza Village]

On the 19th we continued our journey to the number of seventy souls,
fifty of whom were capable of managing the rifle--a force more than
sufficient to undertake with prudence the long march we had to make.
Whilst the rest of our company inclined to the West, Father Point, a
young Englishman and myself turned to the left, to visit the nearest
village of our hosts.[156] At the first sight of their wigwams, we
were struck at the resemblance they bore to the large stacks of wheat
which cover our fields in harvest-time. There were of these in all no
more than about twenty, grouped together without order, but each
covering a space of about one hundred and twenty feet in
circumference, and sufficient to shelter from thirty to forty persons.
The entire village appeared to us to consist of from seven to eight
hundred souls--an approximation which is justified by the fact that
the total population of the tribe is confined to two villages,
together numbering 1900 inhabitants. These cabins, however humble they
may appear, are solidly built and convenient. From the top of the
wall, which is about six feet in height, rise inclined poles, which
terminate round an opening above, serving at once for chimney and
window. The door of the edifice consists of an undressed hide on the
most sheltered side, the hearth occupies the centre and is in the
midst of four upright posts destined to support the _rotunda_; the
beds are ranged round the wall and the space between the beds and the
hearth is occupied by the members [LXVI] of the family, some standing,
others sitting or lying on skins, or yellow colored mats. It would
seem that this last named article is regarded as a piece of extra
finery, for the lodge assigned to us had one of them.[157]

It would be difficult to describe all the curiosities we beheld during
the hour we passed among these truly strange beings; a Teniers would
have envied us. What most excited our attention was the peculiar
physiognomy of the greater number of these personages, their vivacity
of expression, singular costume, diversity of amusement and fantastic
attitudes and gestures. The women alone were occupied, and in order to
attend to their various duties with less distraction, they had placed
those of their papooses who were unable to walk, on beds or on the
floor, or at their feet, each tightly swathed and fastened to a board,
to preserve it from being injured by surrounding objects. This
machine, which I shall not call either cradle or chair, is carried,
when they travel, either on the back, after the fashion of the gypsies
and fortune-tellers in Europe, or at their side, or more frequently,
suspended from the pummel of the saddle, while they lead or drive
their ponies, laden with the rest of their goods and chattels. With
such encumbrances they manage to keep pace with their husbands, who
generally keep their horses at a gallop. But let us return to our
wigwam. How were the men occupied? When we entered, some were
preparing to eat, (this is their great occupation when they are not
asleep) others were smoking, discharging the fumes of the tobacco by
their mouths and nostrils, reminding one of the funnels of a
steamboat; they talked, they plucked out their beard and the hair of
their eye-brows, they made their toilette; the head receiving
particular attention. Contrary to the custom of the other tribes, who
let the hair on their heads grow, (one of [LXVII] the Crows has hair
eleven feet long) the Kanzas shave theirs, with the exception of a
well curled tuft on the crown, destined to be wreathed with the
warrior's plume of eagle's feathers, the proudest ornament with which
the human head can be adorned.[158] While we were smoking I could not
help watching the motions of a young savage, a sort of dandy, who
ceased not to arrange, over and over again, his bunch of feathers
before a looking glass, apparently unable to give it the graceful
finish he intended.--Father Point, having suffered his beard to grow,
soon became an object of curiosity and laughter, to the children--a
beardless chin and well picked brows and eye-lashes being, among them,
indispensable to beauty. Next come the Plume and Slit-ears, with their
pendants of beads and other trinkets. This is but a part of their
finery, and the pains thus taken to reach the _beau-ideal_ of personal
decorations, are but a faint specimen of their vanity. Do you wish to
have an idea of a Kanza satisfied with himself in the highest degree?
Picture him to yourself with rings of vermillion encircling his eyes,
with white, black, or red streaks running down his face, a fantastic
necklace, adorned in the center with a large medal of silver or
copper, dangling on his breast; bracelets of tin, copper, or brass, on
his arms and wrists; a cincture of white around his waist, a cutlass
and scabbard, embroidered shoes or mocasins on his feet; and, to crown
all, a mantle, it matters not for the color, thrown over the
shoulders and falling around the body in such folds or drapery as the
wants or caprice of the wearer may direct, and the individual stands
before you as he exhibited himself to us.

As for dress, manners, religion, modes of making war, &c., the Kanzas
are like the savages of their neighborhood, with whom they have
preserved peaceful and friendly relations [LXVIII] from time immemorial.
In stature, they are generally tall and well made. Their physiognomy is
manly, their language is guttural, and remarkable for the length and
strong accentuation of the final syllables. Their style of singing is
monotonous, whence it may be inferred that the enchanting music heard on
the rivers of Paraguay, never cheers the voyager on the otherwise
beautiful streams of the country of the Kanzas.

With regard to the qualities which distinguish man from the brute,
they are far from being deficient. To bodily strength and courage they
unite a shrewdness and address superior to other savages, and in their
wars or the chase, they make a dexterous use of fire arms, which gives
them a decided advantage over their enemies.

Among the chiefs of this tribe are found men really distinguished in
many respects. The most celebrated was "White Plume," whom the author
of the Conquest of Grenada represents as a man of great powers of mind
and chivalrous character.[159] He was endowed with uncommon
intelligence, frankness, generosity and courage. He had been
particularly acquainted with Rev. Mr. De la Croix, one of the first
Catholic Missionaries that visited that part of the West, and
conceived for him and his colleagues, the "Black Robes" profound
esteem.[160] His feelings towards the Protestant Missionaries were
far different. He had neither esteem nor veneration for them or their
reformation. When on a certain occasion one of them spoke to him of
conversion; "conversion," said the unsophisticated savage, "is a good
thing when the change is made for something good. For my part, I know
none such but what is taught and practised by the Black Robes. If then
you desire me to change, you must first quit your wife and then put on
the habit I shall show you, and then we shall [LXIX] see further."
This habit was a priest's cassock, which a missionary had left him
with the memory of his virtues.--We presume we need not add that these
hard conditions were not complied with by the preacher.

It is not to be inferred from the apparent pleasantry of this remark
that the chief spoke lightly of Religion; on the contrary, the Kanzas,
like all the Indian tribes, never speak on the subject without becoming
solemnity. The more they are observed the more evident does it become
that the religious sentiment is deeply implanted in their souls, and is,
of all others, that which is most frequently expressed by their words
and actions. Thus, for instance, they never take the calumet, without
first rendering some homage to the Great Spirit. In the midst of their
most infuriate passions they address him certain prayers, and even in
assassinating a defenceless child, or a woman, they invoke the Master of
life. To be enabled to take many a scalp from their enemies, or to rob
them of many horses, becomes the object of their most fervid prayers,
to which they sometimes add fasts, macerations and sacrifices. What did
they not do last spring, to render the heavens propitious? And for what?
To obtain the power, in the absence of their warriors, to massacre all
the women and children of the Pawnees! And in effect they carried off
the scalps of ninety victims, and made prisoners of all whom they did
not think proper to kill. In their eyes, revenge, far from being a
horrible vice, is the first of virtues, the distinctive mark of great
souls, and a complete vindication of the most atrocious cruelty. It
would be time lost to attempt to persuade them that there can be neither
merit, nor glory, in the murder of a disarmed and helpless foe. There is
but one exception to this barbarous code, it is when an enemy
voluntarily seeks a refuge in one of their villages. As long as [LXX] he
remains in it, his asylum is inviolable--his life is more safe than it
would be in his own wigwam. But wo to him if he attempt to fly--scarcely
has he taken a single step, before he restores to his hosts all the
imaginary rights which the spirit of vengeance had given them to his
life! However cruel they may be to their foes, the Kanzas are no
strangers to the tenderest sentiments of piety, friendship and
compassion. They are often inconsolable for the death of their
relations, and leave nothing undone to give proof of their sorrow. Then
only do they suffer their hair to grow--long hair being a sign of long
mourning. The principal chief apologised for the length of his hair,
informing us, of what we could have divined from the sadness of his
countenance, that he had lost his son. I wish I could represent to you
the respect, astonishment and compassion, expressed on the countenances
of three others, when they visited our little Chapel for the first
time.[161] When we showed them an "Ecce Homo" and a statue of our Lady
of the seven Dolours, and the interpreter explained to them that that
head crowned with thorns, and that countenance defiled with insults,
were the true and real image of a God who had died for the love of us,
and that the heart they saw pierced with seven swords, was the heart of
his mother, we beheld an affecting illustration of the beautiful thought
of Tertullian, that the soul of man is naturally Christian! On such
occasions, it is surely not difficult, after a short instruction on true
faith and the love of God, to excite feelings of pity for their fellow
creatures in the most ferocious bosoms. What were the Iroquois before
their conversions, and what have they not since become? Why do the
Kanzas and so many other tribes on the confines of civilization, still
retain that savage ferocity of manners? Why have the great sums expended
in their behalf by Protestant philanthropy [LXXI] produced no
satisfactory results? Why are the germs of civilization so thickly
scattered among these tribes, as it were, stricken with sterility? Ah!
it is doubtless, because something more than human policy and zeal of
Protestantism is necessary to civilize the savages and make them
Christians. May the God of Mercies, in whom we alone place all our
trust, bless our undertaking and enable us to predict that our sweat,
mixed with the fertilizing dew of heaven, will fall auspiciously on this
long barren earth, and make it produce something else besides briars and
thorns! When we took leave of our hospitable hosts, two of their
warriors, to one of whom they gave the title of Captain, escorted us a
short distance on the road, which lay through a vast field which had
been cleared and planted for them by the United States, but which had
been ravaged before the harvest home--sad proof of what we have stated

[Illustration: Interior of a Kanza Lodge]

Our escort continued with us until the day following, and would have
remained with us still longer, did they not fear the terrible
reprisals of the Pawnees, for the massacre committed some months
previously. Having therefore received our thanks and a portion of
tobacco, they resumed the road to their village, just in time to
escape the vengeance of a party of Pawnees, whom we met two days
later, in quest of the Kanzas!

The Pawnees are divided into four tribes, scattered over the fertile
borders of the Platte River.[162] Though six times more numerous than
the Kanzas, they have almost on every occasion been conquered by the
latter, because they are far inferior to them in the use of arms, and in
strength and courage. Yet as the party just mentioned seemed to have
adopted decisive measures, and as their thirst of revenge had been
stimulated to the highest degree by the still fresh recollection of what
their mothers, their wives and children [LXXII] had suffered, we had
reason to fear for the Kanzas. Already we fancied that we saw the blood
streaming on all sides, when, two days after we had passed them, we saw
them return to meet us. The two first who approached us, excited our
attention, the one by a human scalp, which hung suspended from the neck
of his horse, the other by an American flag, which he had wrapped around
his body, in the form of a cloak. This kind of attire made us tremble
for the fate of our hosts; but the captain of the caravan having asked
them by signs concerning the result of their expedition, they informed
us that they had not even seen the enemy, and that they suffered much
from the cravings of hunger. We gave to them, and to about fifteen
others who followed them, both victuals and tobacco. They devoured the
victuals, but did not smoke; and, contrary to the custom of the
Indians, who generally expect to get a second meal after the first, they
left us in a manner which indicated that they were dissatisfied. The
suddenness of their departure, their refusal to smoke the calumet, the
unexpected return of their party, the neighborhood of their villages,
and their well known love of plunder--in short, every thing induced us
to fear that they had some design to make an attempt, if not upon our
persons, at least upon the baggage; but, God be praised, not one
re-appeared after the departure of the party.

Though addicted to the practice of lying and stealing, yet, what must
appear wonderful, the Pawnees are in some respects true believers,
with regard to the certainty of a future life, and display a
pharisaical punctuality in the observance of their superstitious
rites. Dancing and music, as well as fasting, prayer and sacrifice,
form an essential part of their worship. The most common worship among
them is that which they offer to a stuffed bird, filled with [LXXIII]
herbs and roots, to which they attribute a supernatural virtue.[163]
They protest that this Manitoo had been sent to their ancestors by the
Morning Star, to be their mediator when they should stand in need of
some particular favor.--Hence, whenever they enter upon some important
undertaking, or wish to avert some great evil, they expose the
Mediator-bird to public veneration; and in order to render both him
and the Great Manitoo (or Spirit) by whom he is sent, propitious to
them, they smoke the calumet, and blow the first smoke that issues
from it towards the part of the sky where shines their protectress.

On the most solemn occasions the Pawnees add a bloody sacrifice to
the oblation of the calumet; and according to what they pretend to
have learned from the bird and the Star, the sacrifice most agreeable
to the Great Spirit is that of an enemy immolated in the most cruel
manner. It is impossible to listen without horror to the recital of
the circumstances that attended the sacrifice of a young female, of
the Scioux tribe, in the course of the year 1837. It was about seed
time, and they thus sought to obtain a plentiful harvest. I shall here
give the substance of the detailed account, which I have given of it
in a former letter. This young girl, was only aged fifteen; after
having been well treated and fed for six months, under pretence that a
feast would be prepared for her at the opening of the summer season,
felt rejoiced when she saw the last days of winter roll by. The day
fixed upon for the feast having dawned, she passed through all the
preparatory ceremonies, and was then arrayed in her finest attire,
after which she was placed in a circle of warriors, who seemed to
escort her for the purpose of showing her deference. Besides their
wonted arms, each one of these warriors had two pieces of wood, which
he had received at the hands of the maiden. The [LXXIV] latter had on
the preceding day carried three posts, which she had helped to fell in
the neighboring forest: but supposing that she was walking to a
triumph, and her mind being filled with the most pleasing ideas, the
victim advanced towards the place of her sacrifice with those mingled
feelings of joy and timidity, which, under similar circumstances, are
naturally excited in the bosom of a girl of her age.

During their march, which was rather long, the silence was interrupted
only by religious songs and invocations to the Master of life, so that
whatever affected the senses, tended to keep up the deceitful delusion
under which she had been till that moment. But as soon as she had
reached the place of sacrifice, where nothing was seen but fires,
torches, and instruments of torture, the delusion began to vanish and
her eyes were opened to the fate that awaited her. How great must have
been the surprise, and soon after the terror which she felt, when she
found it no longer possible to doubt of their intentions? Who could
describe her poignant anguish? She burst into tears; she raised loud
cries to heaven--she begged, entreated, conjured her executioners to
have pity on her youth, her innocence, her parents, but all in vain:
neither tears, nor cries, nor the promises of a trader who happened to
be present, softened the hearts of these monsters. She was tied with
ropes to the trunk and branches of two trees, and the most sensitive
parts of her body were burnt with torches made of the wood which she
had with her own hands distributed to the warriors.--When her
sufferings lasted long enough to weary the fanatical fury of her
ferocious tormentors, the great chief shot an arrow into her heart;
and in an instant this arrow was followed by a thousand others, which,
after having been violently turned and twisted in the wounds, were
torn from them in such a manner that her whole body presented but
[LXXV] one shapeless mass of mangled flesh, from which the blood
streamed on all sides. When the blood had ceased to flow, the greater
sacrificator approached the expiring victim, and to crown so many
atrocious acts, tore out her heart with his own hands, and after
uttering the most frightful imprecations against the Scioux nation,
devoured the bleeding flesh, amid the acclamations of his whole tribe.
The mangled remains were then left to be preyed upon by wild beasts,
and when the blood had been sprinkled on the seed, to render it
fertile, all retired to their cabins, cheered with the hope of
obtaining a copious harvest.[164]

Such horrid cruelties could not but draw down the wrath of heaven upon
their nation. And in fact, as soon as the report of the sacrifice
reached the Scioux, they burned with the desire to avenge their honor,
and swore to a man that they would not rest satisfied till they should
have killed as many Pawnees as the young victim had bones in her
fingers and joints in her body. More than a hundred Pawnees have at
length fallen beneath their tomahawks, and their fury was afterwards
more increased by the massacre of their wives and children, of which I
have spoken before.

At the sight of so much cruelty, who could mistake the agency of the
enemy of mankind, and who would refuse to exert himself for the
purpose of bringing these benighted nations to the knowledge of the
true Mediator, and of the only true sacrifice, without which, it is
impossible to appease the divine justice.

                      Rev. and dear Father, yours,

                                          P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[145] De Smet had been associated with Nicollet in his exploration of
the Missouri River in 1839. Nicollet intended another expedition
westward, but was detained in Washington by business connected with
the publication of his hydrographical map, and the report to Congress,
and was never again in the Western country. See his letter in
Chittenden and Richardson, _De Smet_, iv, pp. 1552, 1553.

Jean Nicolas Nicollet was born in Savoy in 1786. After being educated
in Switzerland, he was for a time assistant professor of mathematics
at Chambery, and later librarian and secretary at the Paris
observatory under the celebrated La Place. In 1832 he came to America,
and occupied himself in scientific exploration of the Arkansas and Red
rivers. In 1836 he made his well-known voyage to the sources of the
Mississippi, and in 1839 explored the Missouri, crossing over to the
Red River Valley, being accompanied on this expedition by John C.
Frémont. The following years, until his death in 1843, he was employed
in government service at Washington.--ED.

[146] This was the first overland emigrant train to California, composed
of members of the Western Emigration Society, organized in the winter of
1840-41 in Platte County, Missouri, under the stimulus of reports of the
fertility and beauty of California, brought back by one of the Roubidoux
brothers. Discouraged by contrary accounts, most of the members of the
society withdrew, leaving John Bidwell to organize the caravan, which
finally consisted of sixty-nine persons, exclusive of De Smet's party.
See Bidwell's account in _Century Magazine_, xix, pp. 106-120. De Smet's
party of eleven consisted of the priests and brothers, one guide, one
hunter, and three French Canadian drivers.--ED.

[147] See De Smet's letter on securing funds, and preparations, in
Chittenden and Richardson, _De Smet_, i, pp. 272-275.--ED.

[148] Father Nicolas Point was sojourning at Westport when De Smet
returned from his first mission to the Flatheads. Selected to accompany
the new mission, Father Point served at St. Mary's until 1842, when
after a summer with the Indians on a buffalo hunt, he founded in the
autumn of that year the Cœur d'Alène mission. This he made the seat of
his work until his recall in 1846. On his return journey he spent some
months among the Blackfeet, laying the foundation for the work that
later ripened into St. Peter's mission. He baptized over six hundred
persons, chiefly children, and turned to much advantage his talent for
drawing, whereby he attracted the indifferent tribesmen. He passed the
ensuing winter at Fort Union, where he exercised a salutary restraint
over the lawless traders and half-breeds. See Historical Society of
Montana _Contributions_, iii, pp. 246-248. The next spring he was sent
to Upper Canada, and died at Quebec in 1868.--ED.

[149] Henri de Verger, count de La Rochejacquelein (1772-94), was one of
the most popular generals of the Vendéan peasants, during their revolt
against the republic of the French Revolution. He had been a member of
the king's guard, but after the famous Tenth of August retreated to his
ancestral home, and there put himself at the head of the uprising, and
although but twenty-one years of age was chosen general-in-chief (1793).
His courage and military daring made him the favorite hero of the
royalists. He was killed by a republican soldier.--ED.

[150] Father Gregory Mengarini remained in charge of the Flathead
mission at St. Mary's until 1850. He was an accomplished linguist, and
so mastered the Indian dialect that by means of his speech he could
pass for a Flathead. He printed a Salishan grammar (1861), and
prepared a Salishan-English dictionary. In 1850 it was decided to
abandon St. Mary's for a time, whereupon Father Mengarini retired to
the newly-established Jesuit college at Santa Clara, California, where
he died in 1886. For his portrait see Palladino, _Indian and White in
the Northwest_, p. 31.--ED.

[151] William Claessens lived at the Flathead mission until near the
close of his life. Ordered to Santa Clara, California, to rest, he
died there (October 11, 1891), just after celebrating the fiftieth
anniversary of his entrance upon missionary work. For his portrait see
_ibid._, p. 62.

Joseph Specht never permanently left the Flathead mission, dying at
St. Ignatius in 1884, one of the oldest white inhabitants of Montana.
For his portrait see _ibid._, p. 60.

Charles Huet joined Father Point in establishing the Cœur d'Alène
mission. See _ante_, note 67.--ED.

[152] De Smet went up to Westport by the "Oceana," a steamboat of
about 300 tons, built in 1836.--ED.

[153] A mission school was established among the Shawnee in 1829 by
Reverend Thomas Johnson of the Missouri conference of the Methodist
church, and was conducted by that missionary and his wife, and
Reverend and Mrs. William Johnson. In 1839 the school was removed to a
location about two miles southwest of Westport, where a grant of land
was secured, and an industrial school maintained for Indian children
until 1862.--ED.

[154] For the early stretch of the Oregon Trail see Wyeth's _Oregon_,
in our volume xxi, p. 49, note 30. The California emigrants were met
at Sapling Grove.

For the Kansa Indians see our volume v, p. 67, note 37.--ED.

[155] Soldier's Creek, a northern tributary of the Kansas, entering the
latter just below Topeka, near the Kansas River fording place.--ED.

[156] The Englishman's name was Romaine. He had come up from New
Orleans on a hunting trip, and accompanied the caravan as far as Green
River. De Smet testifies to his engaging qualities, his skill as a
hunter, and his courtesy in camp.

The Kansa village here visited was near the mouth of Vermillion Creek,
in Pottawatomie County (not to be confused with the Black Vermillion,
tributary of the Big Blue). When Frémont passed this way in 1842, the
village was deserted, having the preceding spring suffered a Pawnee

[157] For an earlier visit to a Kansa village see our volume xiv, pp.
184-200. See also illustration of the interior of a Kansa lodge,
_ibid._, p. 208.--ED.

[158] See more detailed description in our volume xiv, pp. 196,

[159] For this noted chief see our volume xiv, p. 177, note 144.
Washington Irving's semi-humorous description of him occurs in _The
Rocky Mountains_ (Captain Bonneville's Journal), chapter ii.--ED.

[160] Charles de la Croix, born at Hoorebeke, Belgium, 1792, was
impressed into the imperial guards; but escaping with difficulty from
Paris in 1814, was ordained for the American mission. He arrived in
the United States in 1817, at first being made pastor at Barrens,
Missouri. In 1820 he became curé at Florissant, whence he made two
visits (1821-22) to the territory of the Osage, but was compelled by
illness to return. Upon the coming of the Jesuits to Florissant (1823)
he resigned his charge to them, becoming pastor of St. Michael's
parish, Louisiana, where he remained until failing health made
necessary his return to Europe (1834). He served as canon of the
cathedral at Ghent until his death in 1869.--ED.

[161] De Smet probably intends the chapel at Westport, where Father
Point was stationed before his departure for the Flathead

[162] For the Pawnee bands see our volume xiv, p. 233, note 179. Their
depredations were nearly as much dreaded by the traders on the
southern routes, as those of the Blackfeet were in northern

[163] De Smet refers here to the medicine bundle. One of these
belonged to each family of importance, and a still more sacred one to
each band of the tribe. Its contents were various, frequently
containing skins of sacred birds, although not exclusively so
composed. See John B. Dunbar, "Pawnee Indians," in _Magazine of
American History_, viii, pp. 738-741.--ED.

[164] This custom of human sacrifice appears to have been confined to
the Skidi or Loup band of Pawnee, and to have been abolished only with
much difficulty. James's _Long's Expedition_, in our volume xv, pp.
151-155, relates the rescue of one such captive in 1817, and the
apparent abolition of the custom. John T. Irving, Jr., _Indian
Sketches_ (Philadelphia, 1835), ii, pp. 146-153, describes an
ineffectual attempt in 1831 to rescue a captive designed for this
fate. The account given by De Smet of the sacrifice of 1837 appears to
be authentic. Dunbar (_op. cit._ in preceding note) says that the last
known instance occurred in April, 1838; but probably it has been
repeated since. See also George B. Grinnell, _Pawnee Hero Stories and
Folk Tales_ (New York, 1893), pp. 363-369; and George A. Dorsey,
"Traditions of the Skidi Pawnee," in American Folk Lore Society
_Publications_ (Boston, 1904), viii.--ED.

                               LETTER IV

                            Eau Sucree,[165] 14th July, 1841.

  Very Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

Already two long months have elapsed since we began our journey; but
we are at length in sight of those dear mountains that have so long
been the object of our desires.[166] They are called Rocky, because
they are almost entirely formed of granite and silex, or flint stone.
The length, position, and elevation of this truly wonderful chain of
mountains, have induced geographers to give to it the appellation of
"the back-bone of the western hemisphere." Traversing almost the whole
of North America, from north to south, containing the sources of some
of the largest streams of the world, this chain has for its branches,
towards the west, "the spur of the Cordilleras," which divide the
Empire of Mexico, and towards the east the less known but not less
wonderful mountains of the Wind River, where are found the sources of
the large streams that empty themselves into the Pacific and Atlantic
Oceans. The Black Hills and the table lands called Prairie hills,
which separate the sources of the upper Missouri from those of the
Mississippi, the Ozark and the Masserne ridges may all be considered
as so many collateral chains of the Rocky Mountains.

According to trigonometrical calculations, and observations, made by
means of the barometer, Mr. Boneville,[167] [LXXVII] in his Memoirs,
asserts that the summits of some of these mountains are 25,000 feet
high.[168] This height would appear much exaggerated, if we consulted
only the testimony of the eyes, but it is well known that the mountains
which are found in immense plains, are not unlike ships seen on the
ocean; they appear much less elevated than they are in reality. Whatever
may be the height of these colossal mountains, it was at their base that
we hoped to meet our dear neophytes. But a messenger we had sent to
acquaint them with our arrival, has just returned, and informed us that
the Indians who lay encamped there, about a fortnight ago, went in a
southerly direction to hunt the buffalo. We know not whether those
Indians were Flat Heads or belong to another nation, and it is to obtain
information on this subject, that we are going to despatch a second
messenger. In the mean time, I shall continue my journal. The numerous
notes, which, on account of our slow progress, we have been enabled to
take on the spot, will warrant that exactness of description, which is
the more desirable, as it is a quality frequently wanting in the
accounts given of these distant regions. Not to exceed the bounds of a
lengthy letter, I shall say but little concerning perspectives, flowers,
birds, animals, Indians, and adventures.

With the exception of the mounds which run parallel to each other on
both sides of the Platte river, and after passing under the Black
Hills, disappear at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the whole plain
which we traversed for 1500 miles after we had left Westport, might be
called the Prairie Ocean. In fact, nearly the whole of this territory
is of an undulating form, and the undulations resemble the billows of
the sea when agitated by the storm. On the tops of some of these
elevations we have seen shells and petrifactions, such as are found on
several mountains in [LXXVIII] Europe. No doubt, some impartial
geologists may discover here, as they have done elsewhere,
incontestible proofs of the deluge. A petrified fragment which I have
in my possession, seems to contain a number of these shells.

In proportion as one removes from the banks of the Missouri or
penetrates into the Western regions, the forests lose much in height,
density and depth, in consequence of the scarcity of water. Soon after,
only the rivers are lined with narrow skirts of wood, in which are
seldom seen any lofty creeks. In the neighborhood of creeks and rivulets
we generally find willow bushes, and where there is no water it would be
vain to look for any thing but grass, and even this grass is only found
in the fertile plains that lie between Westport and the Platte river.

This intimate connexion between rivers and forests is so striking to
the eye, that our beasts of burden had not journeyed more than eight
days through this desert, when we saw them in some manner exult and
double their pace at the sight of the trees that appeared at a
distance. This was chiefly observable when the day's journey had been
rather long. This scarcity of wood in the western regions, so much at
variance with what is seen in other parts of North America, proceeds
from two principal causes. In the plains on this side of Platte river,
from the custom which the Indians who live here have adopted, to fire
their prairies towards the end of autumn, in order to have better
pasture at the return of spring; but in the Far West, where the
Indians do not follow this practice, (because they fear to drive away
the animals that are necessary for their subsistence, or to expose
themselves to be discovered by the strolling parties of their
enemies,) it proceeds from the nature of the soil, which being a
mixture of sand and light earth, is every where so very barren that
with the exception [LXXIX] of the absynth[169] that covers the plains,
and the gloomy verdure that shades the mountains, vegetation is
confined to the vicinity of rivers,--a circumstance which renders a
journey through the Far West extremely long and tedious.

At considerable distances, chiefly between the Kants [Kansas] and the
Platte rivers, are found blocks of granite of different sizes and
colors. The reddish is the most common. In some of the stony parts of
the Black Hills are also seen numberless quantities of small pebbles
of all shades. I have seen some that were united into solid masses. If
these were well polished they would present the appearance of fine
mosaics. The columns of the House of Representatives in Washington are
deemed very handsome, and are made of similar concretions.

On the feast of St. Peter a remarkable occurrence took place. We
discovered an equally curious quarry, which, at first, we took for
white marble, but we soon found it something more valuable. Astonished
at the facility with which we could fashion this kind of stone into
any shape, most of the travellers made calumets of it. I had several
made myself, with the intention of offering them as presents to the
Indians, so that for the space of forty-eight hours our camp was
filled with lapidaries. But the greater number of these calumets could
not withstand the action of the fire, and broke. It was alabaster.

The first rock which we saw, and which truly deserves the name, was the
famous Rock Independence. It is of the same nature as the Rocky
Mountains. At first I was led to believe that it had received this
pompous name from its isolated situation and the solidity of its basis;
but I was afterwards told that it was called so because the first
travellers who thought of giving it a name, arrived at it on the very
day when the people of the United States celebrate the [LXXX]
anniversary of their emancipation from Great Britain. We reached this
spot on the day that immediately succeeds this celebration. We had in
our company a young Englishman, as jealous of the honor of his nation as
the Americans; hence we had a double reason not to cry hurra for
Independence. Still, on the following day, lest it might be said that we
passed this lofty monument of the desert with indifference, we cut our
names on the south side of the rock, under initials (I. H. S.) which we
would wish to see engraved on every spot. On account of all these names,
and of the dates that accompany them, as well as of the hieroglyphics of
Indian warriors, I have surnamed this Rock "the Great Record of the
Desert." I shall add a few remarks about the mounds that are seen in the
vicinity of the Platte river. The most remarkable of all, at least that
which is best known to the generality of travellers, is the mound to
which they have given the name of "chimney." It is called so on account
of its extraordinary form; but instead of applying to it an appellation
which is rather unworthy this wonder of nature, just because it bears
some resemblance to the object after which it is named, it would have
been more proper to call it "the inverted funnel," as there is no object
which it resembles more. Its whole height, including the base, body and
column, is scarce less than four or five hundred feet; the column or
chimney is only about one hundred and thirty feet high, so that there is
nothing striking in the loftiness of its dimensions. But what excites
our astonishment, is the manner in which this remnant of a mountain,
composed of sand and clay, has been so shaped, and how it has for such a
length of time preserved this form, in spite of the winds that are so
violent in these parts. It is true that this mound, and all those that
are found near it, is composed of a successive number [LXXXI] of
horizontal and perpendicular strata, and has about the middle a zone or
belt, consisting of a vein of petrified clay. If from these two facts it
would be inferred that at a certain height the substance of which the
horizontal and perpendicular strata are formed, is susceptible of being
hardened so as to approach the nature of stone, then we might perhaps
account in some manner for the wonderful formation of this curious
ornament. Yet the main difficulty would still remain, and we would at
last be compelled to have recourse to the system of occult qualities.
The existence of the chimney is therefore a problem, and if any
scientific person should wish to solve it, I would advise him to repair
to this monument without delay, as a cleft which is seen at the top, and
which in all probability will soon extend to the base, threatens to
leave nothing of it but the remembrance of its existence.[170]

[Illustration: Chimney]

The chimney is not the only remarkable mound to be met with in this vast
solitude. There are many others of various forms. One is called "the
House," another "the Castle," a third "the Fort," &c. And, in fact, if a
traveller was not convinced that he journeys through a desert, where no
other dwellings exist but the tents put up at night and removed in the
morning, he would be induced to believe them so many ancient fortresses
or Gothic castles and with a little imagination, based upon some
historical knowledge, he might think himself transported amid the
ancient mansions of Knight errantry. On one side are seen large ditches,
and high walls; on the other, avenues, gardens and orchards; farther on,
parks, ponds, and lofty trees. Sometimes the fancy presents a castle of
the middle ages, and even conjures up the lord of the manor; but instead
of all these magnificent remains of antiquity, we find only barren
mounds on all sides, filled with cliffs formed by the falling [LXXXII]
of the waters, and serving as dens to an infinite number of rattle
snakes and other venomous reptiles.[171]

After the Missouri, which in the Far West is what the Mississippi is
in the North, the finest rivers are the Kanzas, the Platte, and the
Eau Sucree. The first of these falls into the Missouri, and receives
the waters of a great number of tributary streams. Of these
tributaries we counted as many as eighteen before we reached the
Platte. Hence we may infer that the country abounds in springs, and
that the soil is compact and covered with verdure. The reverse may be
said of the neighborhood of the Platte, where springs and verdure are
seldom seen. Even on the mounds that run parallel to its banks, the
waters that fall from the clouds, upon a sandy and porous soil, run
down into the vallies. But the prairies that receive the overflowing
waters of the river are extremely fertile, and appear beautiful in
spring, being enamelled with a great variety of flowers. The sight of
the river itself is still more pleasing; though in spite of all its
beauties, it has, like the most remarkable of its mounds, received a
vulgar name. This proceeds from the custom which some travellers have
of applying to objects the names of things with which they are well
acquainted. They have called it _Platte_ or Flat river, on account of
its width and shallowness; the former often extending six thousand
feet, whilst its depth is but from three to five feet, and sometimes
less. This want of proportion destroys its utility. Canoes cannot be
used to ascend it, and if barges sometimes come down from Fort La
Ramee to the mouth, it is because they are so constructed that they
may be converted into sledges and pushed on by the hands of men. The
author of Astoria has properly defined it "the most magnificent and
most useless of rivers." Abstraction made of its defects, nothing can
be more pleasing [LXXXIII] than the perspective which it presents to
the eye; though besides the prairie flowers and the ranunculus, its
banks bear only the eglantine and the wild vine; for on account of the
fires made in the autumn the lofty vegetation is entirely confined to
the islands that stud its surface. These islands are so numerous that
they have the appearance of a labyrinth of groves floating on the
waters. Their extraordinary position gives an air of youth and beauty
to the whole scene. If to this be added the undulations of the river,
the waving of the verdure, the alternations of light and shade, the
succession of these islands varying in form and beauty, and the purity
of the atmosphere, some idea may be formed of the pleasing sensations
which the traveller experiences on beholding a scene that seems to
have started into existence fresh from the hands of the creator. Fine
weather is common in this temperate climate. However, it happens
sometimes, though but seldom, that the clouds floating with great
rapidity open currents of air so violent, as suddenly to chill the
atmosphere and produce the most destructive hail storms. I have seen
some hailstones of the size of an egg. It is dangerous to be abroad
during these storms. A Sheyenne Indian was lately struck by a
hailstone, and remained senseless for an hour. Once as the storm was
raging near us, we witnessed a sublime sight. A spiral abyss seemed to
be suddenly formed in the air. The clouds followed each other into it
with such velocity, that they attracted all objects around them,
whilst such clouds as were too large and too far distant to feel its
influence turned in an opposite direction. The noise we heard in the
air was like that of a tempest. On beholding the conflict we fancied
that all the winds had been let loose from the four points of the
compass. It is very probable that if it had approached much nearer,
the whole caravan [LXXXIV] would have made an ascension into the
clouds, but the Power that confines the sea to its boundaries and
said--"Hitherto shalt thou come," watched over our preservation. The
spiral column moved majestically towards the North, and alighted on
the surface of the Platte. Then, another scene was exhibited to our
view. The waters, agitated by its powerful action, began to turn round
with frightful noise, and were suddenly drawn up to the clouds in a
spiral form. The column appeared to measure a mile in height; and such
was the violence of the winds which came down in a perpendicular
direction, that in the twinkling of an eye the trees were torn and
uprooted, and their boughs scattered in every direction.[172] But what
is violent does not last. After a few minutes, the frightful
visitation ceased. The column, not being able to sustain the weight at
its base was dissolved almost as quickly as it had been formed. Soon
after the sun re-appeared: all was calm and we pursued our journey. In
proportion as we proceeded towards the sources of this wonderful
river, the shades of vegetation became more gloomy, and the brows of
the mountains more cragged. Every thing seemed to wear the aspect, not
of decay, but of age, or rather of venerable antiquity. Our joy was
extatic as we sung the following Ode composed for the occasion:

          Non ce n'est plus une ombre vaine,
          Mes yeux ont vu, j'en suis certain,
          Dans l'azur d'un brilliant lointain,
          Des Monts Rocheux la haute chaine, &c.

          O! no--it is no shadow vain,
          That greets my sight--yon lofty chain
          That pierces the ethereal blue;
          The Rocky Mounts appear in view.

          I've seen the spotless, virgin snow,
          Glist'ning like gems upon their brow--
          And o'er yon giant peak now streams
          The golden light of day's first beams.

          How from their ice-clad summits, steep,
          The living waters joyous leap!
          And gently on thro' vallies gay,
          Sweeter than honey wend their way.

          It is because on yon proud height,
          The standard floats of life and light:
          It is, that there th' Omnipotent
          Hath pitched His everlasting tent--
          The God whose love no tongue can tell,
          Among his children deigns to dwell.

          All hail! majestic Rock--the home
          Where many a wand'rer yet shall come;
          Where God himself, from His own heart
          Shall health and peace and joy impart.

          Sorrow adieu--farewell to fear,--
          The sweet-voiced hymn of peace I hear;
          Its tone hath touched the red-man's soul:
          Lo! o'er his dark breast tear-drops roll.

          O! soon the silent wilderness
          Shall echo with his song of praise;
          And infant lips, from morn till ev'n,
          Shall chaunt thy love--great King of heav'n.

          Father and God! how far above
          All human thought, Thy wondrous love!
          How strange the path by which Thy hand
          Would lead the Tribes of this bleak land,
          From darkness, crime and misery,
          To live and reign in bliss with Thee!

As I have been speaking of rivers I shall give (you) a short
geographical description of the Missouri, which I am [LXXXVI] inclined
to call my river, as I have so often ascended and descended it during
the last four years, travelled along its banks, and crossed almost all
its tributaries from the mouth of the Yellow Stone to the place where
the mighty river mingles its turbid stream with that of the peaceful
Mississippi. I have drunk the limpid waters of its sources, and the
muddy waters at its mouth, distant more than three thousand miles from
each other. The prodigious length of its course, the wildness and
impetuosity of its current have induced the Scioux to call it "the
_furious_." Whenever I crossed this magnificent river the sensations
which I experienced bordered on the sublime, and my imagination
transported me through the world of prairies which it fertilises, to
the colossal mountains whence it issues. It is in the heart of the
Rocky Mountains that the Missouri takes its rise, together with many
other magnificent streams; such as "the Father of Waters," into whose
bosom it flows, after having fertilised its own borders to a vast
extent,--the Arkansas, and the Red river, both, like itself, majestic
tributaries; the Columbia, which becomes the reservoir of all the
waters of the Oregon territory, and the Rio Colorado which after
winding its course through a gloomy and rocky desert, invigorates the
most beautiful part of California. The Missouri, properly so called,
is formed by three considerable forks that unite their waters at the
entrance of one of the passes of the Rocky mountains. The North fork
is called "the Jackson," the South "the Gallatin," and the one between
them "the Madison."[173] Each one of these is subdivided into several
small arms that flow from the mountains, and almost mingle their
waters with those of the upper forks of the Columbia on the western
side. I have drunk of both, distant only about fifty yards from each
other; for the same field of snow supplies both the Atlantic [LXXXVII]
and Pacific oceans. After the junction of the forks, the Missouri for
a considerable distance, becomes an impetuous and foaming torrent.
Below this, its bed is more spacious, and its course more tranquil.
Steep rocks of a black hue jut and rise above its current to a height
of nearly a thousand feet. The mountains, along whose base it runs,
are shaded by pines, cedars, fir and turpentine trees. Some of these
mountains present a solitary aspect, and wear a look of unspeakable
grandeur. The river, for the space of seventeen miles, is seen raging
and foaming, rolling from cataract to cataract with a roaring noise
that is repeated by all the neighboring echoes. The first of these
cataracts measures ninety-eight feet in height; the second, nineteen;
the third, forty-seven, and the fourth, twenty-six. Below the Falls,
the beautiful river of Mary,[174] flowing from the North, adds its
peaceful waters to those of the rapid and impetuous stream. Still
lower, but on the opposite side, the Dearborn and the Fancy disembogue
themselves through mouths respectively 150 feet in width.[175] After
many other rivers of considerable width and extent, we come to the
Yellow Stone, the largest but one of all the tributaries of the
Missouri, and resembling the latter in many respects. This river too
has its source in the Rocky Mountains, and is 850 yards wide at its
mouth; its bed is spacious, its current rapid; its length is about
1600 miles, and at its confluence with the Missouri it appears to be
the larger of the two. For a considerable distance above the mouth its
banks are well wooded, and its bottom lands are extensive and very
fertile.[176] The grey and black bear, the big horn, the antelope, the
stag and the common deer frequent these regions, whilst coal and iron
mines are in such abundance that for 50 years they might supply fuel
and materials to a countless number of steam engines.

[LXXXVIII] After the Missouri has received the Yellow Stone river, its
bottom lands become more extensive; yet as little or no wood is found
on them, it may be long before attempts will be made to cultivate
them. The White Earth river coming from the North, and the Goose river
from the South, are not very considerable. The width of each at the
mouth is 300 yards. The Little Missouri, though shallow, has a rapid
current, and has its sources in the South, as also the following
streams:[177] Cane river, near the village of the Mandans; Cannon Ball
river, Winnipenhu, Sewarzena and Sheyenne river, which is navigable
for 400 miles; a rapid and muddy stream, 400 yards at the mouth;[178]
Teton river and White river, so called on account of the color of its
waters, which are unwholesome. It is navigable for 300 miles, has a
rapid current, and measures about 300 yards at its mouth. The lands
which it waters in the upper country are barren, and abound in animal
and vegetable petrifactions, whilst its banks have every where a
fantastic appearance.[179] Next and on the same side we meet the
Poncas and Running Water river, the latter of which has a fine
current. Medicine and Jacques rivers enter the Missouri from the
opposite side; the latter is also called the rendezvous of the beaver
hunters and runs nearly parallel with the Missouri.[180] After the
White Stone and the Vermillion, we find the Big Scioux river, on which
is found the fine red stone quarry explored by the Indians to make
their calumets. The Floyd and the Roger, the Maringoin, the
Nishnebatlana and the Nedowa fall into the Missouri on the Northern
side.[181] Its chief tributary, the Platte, rises like itself in the
Rocky Mountains and extends its course nearly two thousand miles.
Though it be a mile wide at the mouth yet it is shallow, as its name
indicates, and is not navigable, the two Nemahas flow from the South
and the Little [LXXXIX] Platte from the North.[182] The Kanzas, on the
South side, is about a thousand miles long, and is navigable to a
great distance. Grand river, from the North, is a wide, deep and
navigable stream. The two Charetons are found on the same side, whilst
the Osage and Gasconade rivers enter from the South. The former is an
important stream, navigable for 600 miles, and having its sources near
the waters of the Arkansas; whilst the latter, though navigable only
for 66 miles, is equally important, on account of the fine large pine
forests that supply St. Louis and the adjacent country with lumber. I
shall say nothing of the many other less remarkable tributaries of the
Missouri, such as the Blue Water, the Mine, the Bonne Femme, the
Manitoo, the Muddy, the Loutre, the Cedar, the Buffalo, the St. Johns,
the Wood river, the Charette, Bonhomme, Femme Osage, &c.[183] The
length of the Missouri, from its sources to the Yellow Stone, is 880
miles, from the Yellow Stone to its junction with the Mississippi, is
about 2200. I subjoin a list of the Forks of its great tributaries
which I have seen and crossed.

Beaver Head, Big Hole Fork, Stinking Water, Forks of the Jefferson,
Powder River, Tongue River, Rose-bud River, Big Horn River, Clarke
River, Rocky River, Traverse River, Loutre River, 25 Yard River,
Gallatin River, Wind River, Forks of the Yellow Stone. Horn River,
Wolf River, Bigwood River, North Fork River, South Fork River, Cabin
Pole River, Horse River, La Ramee, Eau Sucree, Forks of the Platte.
Grande Sableuse, Horse Shoe River, St. Peter's River, Red River,
Kennion River, Deer River, The Torrent, Branches of the North Fork of
the Platte. Soldier's River, Ouaggerehoosse River, Vermillion River,
Black Vermillion River, Sick River, Knife River, Blue Waters, Forks of
the Kanzas. Mary's River, [XC] Big Bone, Yungar River, Potatoes River,
Grand Fork, Forks of the Osage.

I left off my narrative on Sugar River, otherwise called Eau Sucree; I
must interrupt it to listen to the good tidings that are brought from
the mountains.

                      I remain, Rev. and Dear Father,
                               Your dutiful Son in Christ,
                                   P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[165] Sweetwater River, for which see Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume
xxi, p. 53, note 33.--ED.

[166] The route followed from the point where the trail reached the
Platte, was along the river to its forks, thence up the South Fork to
its ford, across to the North Fork at Ash Creek, along the south bank
of the former stream to the junction of the Laramie, thence continuing
by the North Fork to its crossing, near the present Caspar, Wyoming,
and along the north bank, across country to the Sweetwater, to avoid
the cañon of the North Platte.--ED.

[167] For a brief sketch of Captain Bonneville, see our volume xx, p.
267, note 167.--ED.

[168] The highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and of the whole
Cordilleran system within the boundaries of the United States, do not
much exceed fourteen thousand feet.--ED.

[169] The sage-brush (_Artemisia tridentata_), the European species of
which is known as wormwood or absinth (_A. absinthium_). See _ante_,
p. 174, note 44.--ED.

[170] Bidwell thus describes this landmark: "A noted landmark on the
North Fork, which we sighted fifty miles away, was Chimney Rock. It
was then nearly square, and I think it must have been fifty feet
higher than now, though after we passed it a portion fell off."
_Century Magazine_, xix, p. 118.--ED.

[171] See engravings of these fantastically cut rocks in _Century
Magazine_, _op. cit._, p. 121.--ED.

[172] Bidwell mentions both the cyclone with its destructive hail, and
the water-spout which passed a quarter of a mile behind the camp.--ED.

[173] The three forks of the Missouri were named by Lewis and Clark
(1805) in honor of the president of the United States and his chief
advisers, the secretaries of state and of the treasury.--ED.

[174] Maria's River, for which see our volume xxiii, p. 84, note

[175] Dearborn River, named by Lewis and Clark (1805) for the secretary
of war, was in reality a western affluent above, not below, the Great
Falls. By "Fancy," De Smet probably intends the stream named by Lewis
and Clark "Tansy," but now known as Teton River--a tributary, however,
of Maria's River, although approaching very near the Missouri.--ED.

[176] For the "Yellowstone" see our volume xxii, p. 375, note 351.--ED.

[177] On these streams see Maximilian's _Travels_, in our volume xxii,
pp. 367, 368, 369, notes 342, 344, 345.--ED.

[178] For these rivers consult the following: Cane (Knife), our volume
xxii, p. 357, note 333; Cannonball, _ibid._, p. 338, note 306;
Winnipenhu (Grand), our volume xxiv, p. 87, note 59; Sewarzena (Moreau),
our volume v, p. 127, note 82; Cheyenne, _ibid._, p. 126, note 81.--ED.

[179] For Teton River, South Dakota, see our volume xxiv, p. 45, note
26; for White River and its "bad lands," _ibid._, p. 90, note 64.--ED.

[180] For Ponca Creek see our volume xxii, p. 291, note 253; the
Niobrara (Running Water) is noted in our volume v, p. 90, note 54; the
James (Jacques), in volume xxii, p. 282, note 238. Medicine is a small
creek in northeastern Nebraska.--ED.

[181] Whitestone is the name given by Lewis and Clark to the stream
afterwards known as the Vermilion--see our volume vi, p. 87, note 31;
for the Big Sioux see _ibid._, p. 85, note 30; Floyd's Creek comes in
just below the bluff of the same name, where Sergeant Charles Floyd of
the Lewis and Clark expedition was buried--see our volume v, p. 91, note
56; the Boyer (Roger) is noted in our volume xxiv, p. 105, note 83; the
Maringoin is probably intended for the Moingoina (Des Moines), a western
tributary of the Mississippi; see our volume vi, p. 73, note 24, for the
Nishnabotna; and v, p. 37, note 5, for the Nodaway (Nedowa).--ED.

[182] For the Nemaha see our volume vi, p. 72, note 23; the Little
Platte rises in Union County, southern Iowa, and flows southward
through that part of Missouri known as the Platte purchase.--ED.

[183] These are all Missouri streams, mentioned for the most part by
Lewis and Clark (see _Original Journals_, index). Upon Wood River (Du
Bois) the expedition rendezvoused during the winter of 1803-04.--ED.

                                LETTER V

                                   Fort Hall, August 16th, 1841.

  Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

It was on the eve of the beautiful festival of the assumption that we
met the vanguard of the Flat Heads. We met under the happiest
auspices, and our joy was proportionate. The joy of the savage is not
openly manifested--that of our dear neophytes was tranquil; but from
the beaming serenity of their looks, and the feeling manner in which
they pressed our hands, it was easy to perceive that, like the joy
which has its source in virtue, theirs was heartfelt and profound.
What had they not done to obtain a mission of "Black Gowns?" For
twenty years they had not ceased to supplicate the Father of mercies;
for twenty years, in compliance with the counsels of the poor
Iroquois, who had established [XCI] themselves in their tribe, they
had conformed, as nearly as they could, to our creed, our manners, and
even to our religious practices. In what Catholic parish was the
Sunday, for example, ever more religiously observed?--During the ten
years just elapsed, four deputations, each starting from the banks of
the Bitter Root, on which they usually assembled, had courageously
ventured to St. Louis, over a space of 3,000 miles,--over mountains
and vallies, infested by Black Feet and other hostile tribes.

Of the first deputation, which started in 1831, three died of diseases
produced by the change of climate.[184] The second embassy reached its
destination; but owing to the great want of missionaries in the Diocess
of St. Louis, received nothing but promises. The third, which set out
in 1837, consisted of five members, all of whom were unmercifully
massacred by the Scioux.[185] All these crosses, however, were
insufficient to abate their zeal. In 1839, they sent two Iroquois
deputies, one of whom was named Peter, and the other "Young
Ignatius,"[186] to distinguish him from another called "Old Ignatius."
These they earnestly advised to make still more pressing entreaties to
obtain the long sought blessing, a "Black Gown, to conduct them to
heaven." Their prayers were, at length, heard, even beyond their hopes.
One Black Gown was granted, together with a promise of more, if
necessary for their greater good. While Peter returned in haste to the
tribe to acquaint them with the complete success of their mission,
Ignatius remained at Westport, to accompany the promised missionary. I
had the happiness to be that missionary; I visited the nation, and
became acquainted, in person, with their wants, their dispositions, and
the necessities of the neighboring tribes. After an absence of a year,
I was now returning to them no longer alone, but with two Fathers,
[XCII] three brothers, laborers and all that was essential to the
success of the expedition. They themselves had travelled upwards of 800
miles to meet us, and now, that we were together, both parties were full
of vigor and hope. What joy must not these good Indians, at that moment,
have experienced. Being unable, however, to express their happiness,
they were silent; their silence surely could not be ascribed to a
deficiency of intelligence or a want of sentiment, for the Flat Heads
are full of feeling, and many are truly intelligent. These, too, were
the _elite_ of the nation. Judge of it by what follows.

The chief of this little embassy portrayed himself in the following
address to his companions, a few days subsequently on viewing the plan
of the first hamlet: "My dear children," said he, "I am but an ignorant
and wicked man, yet I thank the Great Spirit for the favors which he has
conferred on us,--(and entering here into an admirable detail, he
concluded thus:) Yes, my dear friends, my heart has found content;
notwithstanding my wickedness I despair not of the goodness of God.
Henceforth, I wish to live only that I may pray; I will never abandon
prayer; (religion) I will pray until the end of my life, and when I die
I will commit myself into the hands of the Author of life; if he condemn
me, I shall submit to his will, for I have deserved punishment; if he
save me, I shall bless him forever. Once more, then, my heart has found
content.--What shall we do to evince the love we bear our fathers?" Here
he made practical resolutions, but I must hasten to commemorate the zeal
of each of those who formed the embassy.

Simon, who had been baptised the preceding year, was the oldest of the
nation, and was so burdened with the weight of years, that even when
seated, he needed a stick [XCIII] for his support. Yet, he had no
sooner ascertained that we were on our route to join the tribe, than
mounting his horse and mingling with the young warriors who were
prepared to go forth to meet us, he said: "My children, I shall
accompany you; if I die on the way, our Fathers, at least, will know
the cause of my death." During the course of the journey, he
repeatedly exhorted his companions: "courage, my children," he would
say, "remember that we are going to the presence of our Fathers;" and
urging his steed forward, whip in hand, he led on his youthful
followers, at the rate of fifty miles per day.

Francis, a boy from six to seven years old, grandson of Simon, was an
orphan from the very cradle. Having served at the altar, the preceding
year, he would not be refused permission to accompany his grandfather:
his heart told him that he was about to recover father and mother, and
enjoy all the happiness that loving parents can bestow.

Ignatius, who had advised the fourth deputation, and had been a member
of it,--who had succeeded in his mission, and introduced the first
Black Gown into the tribe,--who had just recently exposed himself to
new dangers, in order to introduce others, had crowned his zealous
exertions by running for days without eating or drinking, solely that
he might reach us the sooner.

Pilchimo, his companion and brother to one of the martyrs of the third
deputation, was a young warrior, already reputed brave among the
brave. The preceding year, his presence of mind and his courage had
saved seventy of his brethren in arms from the fury of nearly nineteen
hundred Black Feet.[187]

Francis Xavier was the son of old Ignatius, who had been the leader of
the second and third deputation, and had [XCIV] fallen a victim to his
devotion to the cause of religion and of his brethren. Francis Xavier
had gone to St. Louis at the age of ten, in the company of his
courageous father, solely that he might have the happiness of receiving
baptism. He had finally attached himself without reserve to the service
of the mission, and supplied our table with a daily mess of fish.[188]

Gabriel, who was of mixed blood, but an adopted child of the nation,
was interpreter for the missionaries. Being the first to join us on
the banks of the Green river, he merited the title of precursor of the
Flat Heads. His bravery and zeal had four times induced him to travel,
for our sakes, over a space of 400 miles, which separated us from the
great camp.

Such were they who now greeted us. Let them tell their own story.

They had prayed daily to obtain for me a happy journey and a speedy
return. Their brethren continued in the same good disposition; almost
all, even children and old men, knew by heart the prayers which I had
taught them the preceding year. Twice on every week day, and three
times on each Sunday, the assembled tribe recited prayers in common.
Whenever they moved their camp, they carried with them, as an ark of
safety, the box of ornaments left in their custody. Five or six
children, whom I had baptised went to heaven during my absence; the
very morrow of my departure, a young warrior whom I had baptised the
day previous, died in consequence of a wound received from the Black
Feet about three months before.--Another, who had accompanied me as
far as the fort of the Crows, and was as yet but a catechumen, died
of sickness in returning to the tribe, but in such happy dispositions
that his mother was perfectly consoled for his loss by the conviction
[XCV] that his soul was in heaven. A girl, about twelve years of age,
seeing herself on the point of dying, had solicited baptism with such
earnestness that she was baptised by Peter the Iroquois, and received
the name of Mary.--After having sung a canticle in a stronger voice
than usual, she died, saying: "Oh how beautiful! I see Mary, my
mother." So many favors from heaven were calculated to instigate the
malice of hell. The enemies of salvation had accordingly attempted to
sow the cockle among the good grain, by suggesting to the chiefs of
the tribe that my conduct would be like that of so many others, who,
"once gone, had never returned." But the great chief had invariably
replied: "You wrong our father; he is not double-tongued, like so many
others. He has said: 'I will return,' and he will return, I am sure."
The interpreter added that it was this conviction which had impelled
the venerable old man, notwithstanding his advanced age, to place
himself at the head of the detachment bound for Green river; that they
had arrived at the rendezvous on the 1st of July, which was the
appointed day; that they had remained there till the 16th, and would
have continued to occupy the same position, had not the scarcity of
provisions obliged them to depart. He stated also that the whole tribe
had determined to fix upon some spot as a site for a permanent
village; that, with this view, they had already chosen two places
which they believed to be suitable; that nothing but our presence was
required to confirm their determination; and they relied with such
implicit confidence on our speedy arrival, that the great chief, on
starting from Green river, had left there three men to await us,
advising them to hold that position until no longer tenable.

Here, I have much to relate that is not less edifying than serious;
but before I enter upon the chapter of noble actions, [XCVI] I must
conclude what I had commenced in my preceding letter. But I feel
bound, before all, to pay Mr. Ermatinger, the captain of Fort Hall,
the tribute of gratitude which we owe him.[189]

Although a protestant by birth, this noble Englishman gave us a most
friendly reception. Not only did he repeatedly invite us to his table,
and sell us, at first cost, or at one-third of its value, in a country
so remote, whatever we required; but he also added, as pure gifts,
many articles which he believed would be particularly acceptable. He
did more: he promised to recommend us to the good will of the Governor
of the honorable English Company, who was already prepossessed in our
favor; and, what is still more deserving of praise, he assured us that
he would second our ministry among the populous nation of the Snakes,
with whom he has frequent intercourse. So much zeal and generosity
give him a claim to our esteem and gratitude. May heaven return to him
a hundred fold the benefits he has conferred on us. It was at Fort
Hall that we took our final leave of the American Colony, with which
we had, till then, pursued the same route.[190] It was previously to
this, while we were yet at Green river, that those who came to that
wild region, merely for information or pleasure, had turned back,
with some fewer illusions than when they started out upon the journey.
They were five or six in number.[191] Among them was a young
Englishman, who had been our messmate from St. Louis. In taking leave
of us, this young man, who was in many respects estimable, assured us
that, if providence should ever again throw us together, the meeting
would give him the highest satisfaction, and that he would always be
happy to do us all the service in his power. He was of a good English
family, and like most of his countrymen, fond of travel: he had
[XCVII] already seen the four quarters of the globe; but _qui multum
peregrinantur_.... He cherished so many prejudices, however, against
the Catholic religion, that, despite all our good wishes, we were of
no service to him in the most essential relation. We recommended him
to our friends. I have treasured up one of his beautiful reflections:
"We must travel in the desert to witness the watchful care of
Providence over the wants of man."

They who had started, purely with the design of seeking their fortune in
California, and were pursuing their enterprise with the constancy which
is characteristic of Americans, had left us, but a few days before our
arrival at the fort, in the vicinity of the boiling springs which empty
into Bear river.[192] There now remained with us but a few of the party,
who had come to the fort in order to revictual. Among the latter were
the leader of the Colony and a reputed deacon of the Methodist
sect.[193] Both were of a peaceable disposition, and manifested for us
the highest regard; but the former, like so many others, being very
indifferent as to religious matters, held as a maxim, "that it was best
to have no religion, or else to adopt that of the country in which we
live;" and wishing to display his great Bible erudition, he in proof of
his paradox, cited as a text of St. Paul the ancient proverb: _Si fueris
Romæ, Romano vivite more_. The minister was of the same opinion, but yet
he wished some religion, it being well understood that his was the best.
I say _his_, because he was neither _a_ Methodist, _a_ Protestant, nor
_a_ Catholic--not even a Christian; he maintained that a Jew, a Turk, or
an Idolatar may be as agreeable as any other in the sight of God. For
the proof of his doctrine, he relied (strange to say) on the authority
of St. Paul, and particularly on this text: _Unus Dominus una fides_. In
fact, these were the very words with which he [XCVIII] greeted us, the
first time we saw him, and which formed the subject of a long
valedictory discourse that he delivered in one of the meeting houses of
Westport, previous to his departure for his western mission. By whom was
he sent? We have never ascertained. His zeal frequently induced him to
dispute with us; it was not difficult to show him that his ideas, with
the exception of one, were vague and fluctuating. He acknowledged it
himself; but after having wandered from point to point, he always
returned to his favorite tenet, which, according to him, was the
fundamental principle of all true belief: "that the love of God is the
first of duties, and that to inculcate it we must be tolerant." This was
his strongest point of support, the foundation of all his reasoning, and
the stimulus of his zeal. The term Catholic, according to him, was but
another word for "love and philanthropy." He carried his absurdities
and contradictions so far, that he excited the hilarity of the whole
camp. His ingenuous simplicity was even greater than his tolerance. For
example, he once said to me: "Yesterday one of the members of my
persuasion returned to me a book which I had lent him, stating that it
contained an exposition of the Roman creed." When I asked him his
opinion of it, he replied, "that the book was full of errors;" yet it
was an exposition of Methodist principles that I had given him.
"Witness," said he, with emphasis, "the blinding influence of

I had daily conversations with someone of the caravan, and frequently
with several. And although Americans are slow to change their creed,
we had the consolation to relieve our travelling companions of a heavy
load of prejudice against our holy religion. They parted from us,
exhibiting signs of respect and veneration; nay, even of preference
for Catholicity. These controversies so completely [XCIX] engrossed my
mind, my heart and my senses, that I arrived almost unconsciously on
the banks of Snake river. Here a great danger and a profitable lesson
awaited us; but before speaking of the adventures of our journey, I
shall conclude what remains to be related of the country we traversed.

We halted with our narrative upon the shore of the Sweet-water. This
stream is one of the most beautiful tributaries of the Platte. It owes
its name, indeed, to the purity of its waters. It is distinguished from
its fellow tributaries by the numerous wanderings of its current--a
proof that the fall of its bed is but slight. But suddenly changing its
course, we see or rather hear it rushing impetuously through a long
cleft in a chain of mountains. These mountains, which harmonize well
with the torrent, exhibit the most picturesque scenes; travellers
have named this spot the Devil's Entrance.[194] In my opinion, they
should have rather called it Heaven's Avenue, for if it resembles hell
on account of the frightful disorder which frowns around it, it is still
a mere passage, and it should rather be compared to the way of heaven on
account of the scene to which it leads. Imagine, in short, two rows of
rocks, rising perpendicularly to a wonderful height, and, at the foot of
these shapeless walls, a winding bed, broken, encumbered with trunks of
trees, with rubbish, and with timber of all dimensions; while, in the
midst of this chaos of obstacles, the roaring waves force a passage, now
rushing with fury, then swelling with majesty, and anon spreading with
gentleness, according as they find in their course a wider or more
straitened passage. Above these moving and noisy scenes, the eye
discerns masses of shadow, here relieved by a glance of day, there
deepening in their gloom by the foliage of a cedar or pine, till
finally, as the sight travels [C] through the long vista of lofty
galleries, it is greeted by a distant perspective of such mild beauty,
that a sentiment of placid happiness steals upon the mind. Such is the
spectacle we admired at the distance of nine or ten miles from the Rock
Independence, on the morning of 6th July. I doubt whether the solitude
of the Carthusian monastery, called La Grande Chartreuse, of which so
many wonders are related, can, at least at first sight, offer greater
attractions to him whom divine grace has called to a contemplative life.
As for me, who am not called to such a state, at least exclusively,
after an hour of raptures, I began to understand the expression of the
Carthusian friar, _pulchrum transeuntibus_; and I hasten to proceed.

[Illustration: Devil's Gate]

Hence we directed our course more and more towards the heights of the
Far West, ascending, some times clambering, until we reached the
summit, from which we discovered another world.[195] On the 7th of
July we were in sight of the immense Oregon Territory. I will not
presume to add to the many pompous descriptions which have been given
of the spectacle now before us. I shall say nothing either of the
height, the number, or the variety of those peaks, covered with
eternal snows, which rear their heads, with menacing aspect, to the
heavens. Nor will I speak of the many streams descending from them and
changing their course, with unexpected suddenness; nor of the extreme
rarification of the air with the consequent effect upon objects
susceptible of contraction, at so great an elevation. All this is
common; but to the glory of the Lord, I must commemorate the imperious
necessity I experienced, of tracing his holy name upon a rock, which
towered pre-eminent amid the grandeur around. May that ever adorable
name be to travellers a monument of our gratitude, and a pledge of
salvation. Henceforth we descended [CI] towards the Pacific--first, by
following, then by crossing the Little and the Great Sandy
Rivers.[196] In the vicinity of the latter, as the Captain had
mistaken one road for another, the caravan wandered for three days at
random. I, myself, on a fine evening, strayed from the rest. I thought
myself entirely lost; how was I to act? I did what every sincere
believer would have done in the same circumstances, I prayed; and then
urging on my horse, I travelled several miles, when it struck me that
it would be prudent to retrace my steps. I did so instantly, and it
was fortunate, for the caravan was far behind. I found it encamped;
still ignorant however of its position, and on a soil so arid that our
jaded beasts were necessitated to fast for the night. Days follow, but
resemble not each other; two days subsequently, we were surrounded
with abundance, filled with joy, all once more united, and on the
banks of a river not less celebrated among the hunters of the west,
than the shores of the Platte. This river loses itself not far below,
in clefts of rocks said to be no less than two hundred miles in
extent, among which there are countless swarms of beavers, although
the trapper has never ventured to hunt them, on account of the extreme
peril of the enterprise. At a certain period of the year, both
trappers and Indians flock to this spot, for the purpose of bartering
all kinds of merchandise. It was here, but eight years ago, the wagons
that first undertook to cross the Rocky Mountains,[197] found the
Pillars of Hercules, and it was here too that we found the messenger
of the Flat Heads, to whom I have already alluded. This river is the
Rio Colorado of the West.[198] ... We rested two days upon its banks,
with the company of Captain F., who had just returned from
California.[199] What they told us concerning that distant country
dissipated many illusions, and caused [CII] some of our companions,
who travelled for amusement, to return.

On the 20th of July we seriously thought of continuing our journey. To
a company like ours, it was not an easy matter. The remembrance of the
expedition of Bonneville was still fresh in the minds of all; but our
object was not the same; we had no articles but such as were
necessary.--They could be transported conveniently only by wagons. We
placed all our confidence in God. We soon crossed the river, and our
equipage was seen coming in all directions, over vallies and
mountains. We were compelled to clear a passage, some times in the
middle of a ravine, some times on the declivity of a rock, and
frequently through bushes. We travelled in this manner for ten days,
to reach Bear river, which flows through a wide and beautiful valley,
surrounded by lofty mountains and often intersected by inaccessible
rocks. We continued our march through it during eight successive days.
The river resembles in its course the form of a horse shoe, and falls
into the great Salt lake, which has no communication with the sea. On
our way, we met several families of Soshonees or Snake Indians, and
Soshocos or Uprooters. They speak the same language, and are both
friends to the whites. The only difference we could observe between
them, was that the latter were by far the poorer.[200] They formed a
grotesque group, such as is not to be seen in any other part of the
Indian territory. Represent to yourself a band of wretched horses,
disproportionate in all their outlines, loaded with bags and boxes
to a height equal to their own, and these surmounted by rational
beings young and old, male and female, in a variety of figures and
costumes, to which the pencil of a Hogarth or a Breugel could scarcely
do justice, and you will have an idea of the scene we witnessed. One
[CIII] of these animals, scarcely four feet high, had for its load
four large sacks of dried meat, two on each side, above which were
tied several other objects, terminating in a kind of platform on the
back of the living beast; and, on the summit of the whole
construction, at a very high elevation, was seated cross-legged on a
bear skin a very old person smoking his calumet. At his side, on
another Rosinante,[201] was mounted an old Goody, probably his wife,
seated in the same manner on the top of sacks and bags, that contained
all sorts of roots, dried beans and fruits, grains and berries; in
short, all such comestibles as the barren mountains and the beautiful
vallies afford. These they carried to their winter encampment. Some
times we have seen a whole family on the same animal, each according
to his age, the children in front, the women next, and the men behind.
On two occasions I saw thus mounted, five persons, of whom two at
least had the appearance of being as able to carry the poor horse as
the horse was to support the weight of these two Soshocos gentlemen.

[Illustration: Soda Springs]

Some places on the Bear river exhibit great natural curiosities. A
square plain of a few acres in extent presents an even surface of
fuller's earth of pure whiteness, like that of marble, and resembling
a field covered with dazzling snow. Situated near this plain are a
great many springs, differing in size and temperature. Several of them
have a slight taste of soda, and the temperature of these, is cold.
The others are of a milk warm temperature, and must be wholesome;
perhaps they are not inferior to the celebrated waters of the Spa, or
of the lime springs in Belgium. I am inclined to believe so, though I
am not firm in the opinion; at all events, they are surrounded by the
mountains over which our wagons found it so difficult to pass. I
therefore invite neither sick nor sound to test them. In the same
[CIV] locality there is a hole in the ground, out of which air and
water escape alternately. The earth for some distance around resounds
like an immense vault, and is apt to frighten the solitary traveller
as he passes along.[202]

It was here that we left Bear River. On the 14th of August our wagons
having proceeded ten hours without intermission, arrived at the outlet
of a defile which seemed to us the end of the world. On our right and
left were frightful mountains; in our rear a road which we were by no
means tempted to retrace; in front a passage through which rushed a
torrent; but so small that the torrent itself seemed with difficulty, to
force its way.[203] Our beasts of burthen were, for the first time,
exhausted. Murmurs arose against the captain, who, however, was
imperturbable, and as he never shrunk from difficulties, advanced to
reconnoitre the ground.[204] In a few moments he made us a sign to
approach; one hour after we had surmounted every obstacle, for we had
traversed the highest chain of the Rocky Mountains and were nearly in
sight of Fort Hall. On the evening previous to the departure of the
camp from the Soda Springs, I directed my course towards the fort, to
make a few necessary arrangements. The young F. Xavier was my only
companion. We were soon involved in a labyrinth of mountains, and about
midnight, we were on the summit of the highest chain. My poor guide,
being able to see nothing through the darkness but frightful precipices,
was so pitifully embarrassed that after veering about for a while, like
a weather-cock, he confessed himself lost. That was not a place, nor was
it a time, to wander at random; I, therefore, took, what I considered,
the only alternative, that of waiting for the morning sun to extricate
us from our embarrassment. Wrapped up in my blanket and with my saddle
for a pillow, I stretched myself upon the rock, and [CV] immediately
fell into a sound sleep. Early the next morning, we descended by a small
cleft in the rocks, which the obscurity of the night had concealed and
arrived on a plain watered by the New Port, one of the tributaries of
Snake River. We trotted or gallopped over fifty miles in the course of
the day. The whole way presented evident remains of volcanic eruptions;
piles and veins of lava were visible in all directions, and the rocks
bore marks of having been in a state of fusion. The river, in its whole
length, exhibits a succession of beaver ponds, emptying into each other
by a narrow opening in each dike, thus forming a fall of between three
and six feet. All these dikes are of stone, evidently the work of the
water and of the same character and substance as the stalactites found
in some caverns.[205]

We arrived late in the evening, within half a mile of the Fort, but
being unable to see our way in the darkness, and not knowing where we
were, we encamped for the night among the bushes, near the margin of a
small brook.

I have the honor to be

                       Rev. Father Provincial,
            Your most humble and obedient servant and son,
                                       P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[184] For this first deputation see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our
volume xxi, p. 138, note 13. The deputies apparently arrived in the
autumn of 1831 and passed the winter in or near the city, where two of
their number died. See Chittenden and Richardson, _De Smet_, i, pp.
21, 22.--ED.

[185] Both the second and third embassies were headed by the Iroquois
Indian known as "Old Ignace," otherwise Ignace la Mousse, who was
educated at the mission of Caughnawaga, and had gone to the Rocky
Mountains between 1812 and 1820. The Iroquois were much employed by
the North West Company and later by the Hudson's Bay Company, to
assist fur-trading parties in the Far West. Ignace settled among the
Flatheads, where he married, and taught the tribe the rudiments of the
religion he had learned at the Canadian mission. Townsend (see our
volume xxi) notes their observance of Sunday, and forms of worship.
The delegation which Ignace undertook for the purpose of securing a
"black robe," set out in 1835. His first intention was to visit
Canada, but learning that Jesuits were at St. Louis he journeyed
thither, taking with him his two sons to be baptized. See Palladino,
_Indian and White in the Northwest_, pp. 19, 20, where a record of
this baptism is given. Again in 1837, Ignace headed a second
delegation. Upon the South Platte they were overtaken by a band of
Sioux, who at first dismissed Ignace, for he was dressed as a white
man. Unwilling to abandon his companions, he declared himself an
Indian, whereupon all were killed after a brave defense.--ED.

[186] Young Ignace, who accompanied Father de Smet on his first visit
(1840) to the Flatheads, became a zealous convert, and lived at St.
Ignatius mission until his death in the winter of 1875-76.--ED.

[187] For further details of this exploit of Pilchimo see letter ix,

[188] This Indian was known as Francis Saxa, and as late as 1903 was
living on his own ranch in Missoula County. See his portrait in
Palladino, _Indian and White in the Northwest_, p. 20.--ED.

[189] Francis Ermatinger, one of the chief factors for the Hudson's Bay
Company, came to the Columbia region about 1824; two years later he was
in command of Fort Kamloops when Governor Simpson passed that way. In
1828, he appears to have been stationed at Fort Okinagan on the upper
Columbia, while Wyeth met him in the Snake River country in 1832-34. He
married a niece of Madame McLoughlin, wife of the governor of Vancouver,
and held various important stations. In the autumn of the year in which
De Smet encountered him, he led the brigade into California as far as
Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Upon the establishment of the provincial
government in Oregon, he was elected (1845) treasurer. He is thought to
have ultimately retired to Canada.--ED.

[190] For Fort Hall see our volume xxi, p. 210, note 51

[191] Bidwell (_Century Magazine_, xix, p. 120) gives the names of
three in addition to Romaine, the Englishman--Peyton, Rodgers, and
Amos E. Frye. Thirty-two of the California party went on to Fort Hall
with the missionaries, while the remainder, among them Bidwell,
branched off to the west from Soda Springs.--ED.

[192] For Bear River and Soda Springs see Townsend's _Narrative_, in
our volume xxi, pp. 199, 200, notes 44, 45.--ED.

[193] According to Bidwell (_op. cit._, p. 120), these two men were
Bartleson, from Jackson County, Missouri, and "a Methodist Episcopal
preacher, whose name I think was also Williams."--ED.

[194] This cañon of the Sweetwater is about five miles above
Independence Rock. It is a cut about three hundred yards long, and
thirty-five wide through a spur of the mountains in Natrona County,
Wyoming. See illustration of cañon in Frémont's "Exploring Tour,"
_Senate Docs._, 28 Cong., 2 sess., 174, p. 57.--ED.

[195] The ascent of the South Pass is so gradual that without
instruments it is difficult to know when one attains the summit. See
Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume xxi, p. 58, note 37.--ED.

[196] For Little and Big Sandy, see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our
volume xxi, p. 187, note 36. The former was the beginning of
Sublette's Cut Off, sometimes called the "Dry Drive," because of
scarcity of water on the route. This crossed directly to Bear River,
without passing southward by Fort Bridger. Such would seem to have
been the route taken by De Smet's company. The regular trail went down
the Big Sandy, forded Green River near its forks, and proceeded across
to the site of Fort Bridger, founded two years later.--ED.

[197] Captain Bonneville's expedition of 1832 was the first to cross
the Green River in wagons. See Irving, _Rocky Mountains_, chapter

[198] They were in reality upon Green River, a tributary of the
Colorado. See Wyeth's _Oregon_, in our volume xxi, p. 60, note

[199] Captain Henry Fraeb (Frapp), who was one of the partners of the
Rocky Mountain Fur Company (1830-34). He was well known in the
mountain fur-trade, frequently being associated therein with
Fitzpatrick, De Smet's guide. According to Bidwell, he was killed the
night after leaving this party; Frémont says--_Exploring Expedition_,
p. 40--that this occurred the latter part of August, 1841, in a battle
with Sioux and Cheyenne.--ED.

[200] This tribe is often classified with the Digger Indians, for whom
see _ante_, p. 167, note 38; but the latter possessed no horses. The
Soshocoes (Shoshocoes) appear to be a band of the Shoshoni
proper--closely allied, as De Smet notes, but with less property, and
less virile in character. They were the branch of Shoshoni which had
their roving habitat along the banks of the Green River; whereas the
Shoshoni (or Snake) roved chiefly on Lewis River.--ED.

[201] The name of Don Quixote's steed, a charger all skin and

[202] For these springs see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi,
p. 200, note 45.--ED.

[203] This was the route by which the trail crossed from the waters of
the Colorado to those of the Lewis, a difficult mountain path in
Bannock County, Idaho, approximating the route of the Oregon Short
Line Railway.--ED.

[204] The captain and guide of this expedition was Thomas Fitzpatrick,
for whom see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p. 192, note
40. See De Smet's letter recommending his services, in Chittenden and
Richardson, _De Smet_, iv, p. 1465.--ED.

[205] The Portneuf River, for which see our volume xxi, p. 209, note
49 (Townsend). This characteristic of the Portneuf--a series of dams
of mineral deposit--make it a beautiful succession of still, dark
pools and foaming cascades, and may now be noted from the windows of
trains on the Oregon Short Line Railway.--ED.

                               LETTER VI

                        Camp of the Big-Face, 1st Sept. 1841.

  Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

Nearly four months had elapsed since our departure from Westport, when
we met the main body of the nation to which we had been sent. Here we
found the principal chiefs, four of whom had advanced a day's journey
to welcome us. They met us at one of the sources of the Missouri
called Beaver-Head, where we had encamped.[206] Having crossed the
small river under the direction of these new guides we came to an
extensive plain, at the western part of which the Flat Heads lay
encamped. This was on the 30th of August, and it was only towards
night that we could distinctly discern the camp. A number of runners
who rapidly succeeded each other, informed us that the camp was not
far distant. Contentment and joy were depicted on their countenances.
Long before the Flat Head warrior, who is surnamed the Bravest of the
Brave, sent me his finest horse to Fort Hall, having strongly
recommended that no one should mount him before he was presented to
me. Soon after the warrior himself appeared, distinguished by his
superior skill in horsemanship, and by a large red scarf, which he
wore after the fashion of the Marshals of France. He is the handsomest
Indian warrior of my acquaintance. He came with a numerous retinue. We
proceeded at a brisk trot, and were now but two or three miles from
the camp, when at a distance we decried a warrior of [CVII] lofty
stature. A number of voices shouted Paul! Paul! and indeed it was
Paul, the great chief, who had just arrived after a long absence, as
if by special permission of God, to afford him the satisfaction of
introducing me personally to his people.[207] After mutual and very
cordial demonstrations of friendship, the good old chief insisted upon
returning to announce our arrival. In less than half an hour all
hearts were united and moved by the same sentiments. The tribe had the
appearance of a flock crowding with eagerness around their shepherd.
The mothers offered us their little children, and so moving was the
scene that we could scarcely refrain from tears. This evening was
certainly one of the happiest of our lives. We could truly say that we
had reached the peaceful goal. All previous dangers, toils and trials,
were at an end and forgotten. The hopeful thought that we would soon
behold the happy days of the primitive Christians revive among these
Indians, filled our minds, and the main subject of our conversations
became the question: "What shall we do to comply with the requisitions
of our signal vocation?"

I engaged Father Point, who is skilled in drawing and architecture,
to trace the plan of the Missionary Stations. In my mind, and still
more in my heart, the material was essentially connected with the
moral and religious plan. Nothing appeared to us more beautiful than
the _Narrative of Muratori_.[208] We had made it our Vade Mecum. It is
chiefly to these subjects that we shall devote our attention for the
future, bidding farewell to all fine perspectives, animals, trees and
flowers, or favoring them only with an occasional and hasty glance.

From Fort Hall we ascended the Snake River, also called Lewis' Fork,
as far as the mouth of Henry's Fort. This is unquestionably the most
barren of all the mountain [CVIII] deserts. It abounds in absynth,
cactus, and all such plants and herbs as are chiefly found on arid
lands.[209] We had to resort to fishing for the support of life, and
our beasts of burden were compelled to fast and pine; for scarcely a
mouthful of grass could be found during the eight days which it took
us to traverse this wilderness. At a distance we beheld the colossal
summits of the Rocky Mountains. The three Tetons were about fifty
miles to our right, and to the left we had the three mounds at a
distance of thirty miles.[210]

From the mouth of Henry's Fork we steered our course towards the
mountains over a sandy plain furrowed by deep ravines, and covered
with blocks of granite. We spent a day and night without water. On the
following day we came to a small brook, but so arid is this porous
soil, that its waters are soon lost in the sand. On the third day of
this truly fatiguing journey we entered into a beautiful defile, where
the verdure was both pleasing and abundant, as it is watered by a
copious rivulet. We gave to this passage the name of "the Father's
Defile," and to the rivulet that of St. Francis Xavier.[211] From the
Father's Defile, to the place of our destination, the country is well
watered, for it abounds with small lakes and rivulets, and is
surrounded by mountains, at whose base are found numberless springs.
In no part of the world is the water more limpid or pure, for whatever
may be the depth of the rivers, the bottom is seen as if there were
nothing to intercept the view. The most remarkable spring which we
have seen in the mountains, is called the Deer's lodge. It is found on
the bank of the main Fork of the Bitter Root or St. Mary's River; to
this Fork I have given the name of St. Ignatius.[212] This spring is
situated on the top of a mound thirty feet high, in the middle of a
marsh. It is accessible [CIX] on one side only. The water bubbles up,
and escapes through a number of openings at the base of the mound, the
circumference of which appears to be about sixty feet. The waters at
the base are of different temperatures: hot, lukewarm and cold, though
but a few steps distant from each other. Some are indeed so hot that
meat may be boiled in them. We actually tried the experiment.

                  I remain, Rev. Father Provincial,
                             Yours, &c.
                                 P. J. DE SMET, S.J.

                               LETTER VII

                         St. Ignatius' River, 10th Sept. 1841.

  Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

I informed your Reverence that flowers are found in abundance near the
rock called the Chimney. Whilst we were there Father Point culled one
flower of every kind, and made a fine nosegay in honor of the Sacred
heart of Jesus, on the day of the Feast. As we proceeded towards the
Black Hills, the flowers diminished in number, but now and then we
found some which we had not seen any where. I have taken notice of
many of them, for the amusement of amateurs. Among such as are double,
the most common and those that are chiefly characterised by the soil
on which they grow, are to be found on this side the Platte River.
The rose-colored lupine flourishes in the plain contiguous to the
Platte, as far as the Chimney. Beyond it grows a medicinal plant,
bearing a yellow flower with five petals, called the prairie epinette;
and still farther on, where the soil is extremely barren, are seen
three kinds of the prickly-pear; the flowers of these are beautiful,
and known among Botanists by the name of _Cactus Americana_. They have
already been naturalized in the flower gardens of Europe. The colors
of the handsomest roses are less pure and lively than the carnation of
this beautiful flower. The exterior of the chalice is adorned with all
the shades of red and green. The petals are evasated like those of the
lily. It is better [CXI] adapted than the rose to serve as an emblem
of the vain pleasures of this nether world, for the thorns that
surround it are more numerous, and it almost touches the ground. Among
the Simples, the most elegant is the blue-bell of our gardens, which
however, far surpasses it by the beauty of its form, and the nicety of
its shades, varying from the white to the deepest azure. Adam's
Needle, found only on the most barren elevation, is the finest of all
pyramidals. About the middle of its stem, which is generally about
three feet high, begins a pyramid of flowers, growing close to each
other, highly shaded with red, and diminishing in size as they
approach the summit, which terminates in a point. Its foot is
protected by a number of hard, oblong, ribbed, and sharp leaves, which
have given it the name of Adam's Needle. The root is commonly of the
thickness of a man's arm, its color white, and its form resembling
that of the carrot. The Indians eat it occasionally and the Mexicans
use it to manufacture soap.[213] There are many other varieties of
flowers some of them very remarkable and rare even in America, which
are still without a name even among travellers. To one of the
principal, distinguished by having its bronzed leaves disposed in such
a manner as to imitate the chapter of a Corinthian column, we have
given the name of Corinthian. Another, a kind of straw color, by the
form of its stem, and its division into twelve branches, brought to
our minds the famous dream of the Patriarch Joseph, and we have called
it the Josephine. A third, the handsomest of all the daisies (Reines
Marguerites) that I have ever seen, having a yellow disk, with black
and red shades, and seven or eight rays, any of which would form a
fine flower, has been named by us the Dominical, not only because it
appeared like the Lady and Mistress of all the flowers around, but
also because we discovered it on Sunday.

[CXII] SHRUBS. The shrubs that bear fruit are few. The most common are
the currant and gooseberry of various sizes and colors, the hawthorn,
the rasberry, the wild cherry and the service-berry. Currants, white,
red, black and yellow, grow every where along the mountains. The best
are found on the plains, where they are exposed to be ripened by the
sun. I have classed the wild cherry and the service-berry among shrubs,
because they are generally of low growth and do not deserve the name of
trees. The service-berry (_cornier_) grows on a real shrub, and is a
delicious fruit, called by travellers the mountain pear, though it bears
no resemblance to the pear, its size being that of a common cherry. The
mountain cherry differs much from the European cherry. The fruit hangs
in clusters around the branches, and is smaller than the wild cherry,
whilst its taste and color, and the form of the leaves are nearly the
same as those of the latter. Cherries and service-berries constitute a
great portion of the Indians' food whilst the season lasts, and they are
dried by them to serve for food in the winter. I may perhaps mention
other fruits, plants and roots, that grow spontaneously in different
parts of the Far West, and are used as food by the Indians for want of
better sustenance.

Flax is very common in the valleys between the mountains. What must
appear singular is that the root of it is so fruitful that it will
produce new stems for a number of years--we examined one of them, and
found attached to it about 30 stems, which had sprung from it in
former years. Hemp is also found, but in very small quantities.

TREES. There are but few species of trees in the regions which we
lately passed. Scarcely any forests are found on the banks of rivers,
for which I have already assigned a reason. On the plains we find
bushes, and now and then [CXIII] the willow, the alder, the wax tree,
the cotton tree, or white poplar whose bark is used for horse feed in
winter, and the aspen whose leaves are always trembling. Some
Canadians have conceived a very superstitious idea of this tree. They
say that of its wood the Cross was made on which our Saviour was
nailed, and that since the time of the crucifixion, its leaves have
not ceased to tremble! The only lofty trees found on the mountains are
the pine and the cedar which is either white or red. The latter is
chiefly used for furniture, as it is the most resistible wood of the
West. There are several species of the pine: the Norwegian, the
resinous, the white, and the elastic, so called because the Indians
use it to make bows.

So great is the violence of the winds in the vicinity of the Black
Hills, that the cotton wood, which is almost the only tree that grows
there, displays the most fantastic shapes. I have seen some whose
branches had been so violently twisted that they became incorporated
with the trunk, and after this, grew in such strange forms and
directions that at a distance it was impossible to distinguish what
part of the tree was immediately connected with the roots.

BIRDS. I shall say but little of the birds. They are various in form,
color and size; from the pelican and the swan to the wren and the
humming bird. Muratori, speaking of the last, compares him to the
nightingale, and is astonished that such shrill and loud sounds should
proceed from so small a body. The celebrated author must have been
mistaken, unless the humming bird of South America be different from
that of the Rocky Mountains. The latter does not sing but makes a
humming noise with his wings as he flies from flower to flower.

REPTILES. With respect to reptiles, they have been frequently
described, and I mention them only to give thanks [CXIV] to God, by
whose Providence we have been delivered from all such as are venomous,
chiefly from the rattle snake. Neither men nor beasts belonging to our
caravan have suffered from them, though they were so numerous in
places that our wagoners killed as many as twelve in one day.

INSECTS abound in these regions. The ant has often attracted the notice
of naturalists. Some have seemed to doubt whether the wheat stored up by
this little insect serves for winter provisions or for the construction
of its dwelling. No wheat grows in this country. Yet the ant stores up
small pebbles of the size and form of grains of wheat, which inclines me
to believe that they use both for the construction of their cells. In
either case the paternal Providence of God is manifest. They display as
much foresight in providing dwellings that are out of the reach of
humidity and inundations, as in laying up food for future wants. It is
probable, however, that here they find food of another kind, and this
might easily be ascertained. Fleas are not known in the mountains, but
there is another sort of vermin nearly allied to it, to which I have
alluded in one of my former letters. And what shall I say of musquitoes?
I have suffered so much from them, that I cannot leave them unnoticed.
In the heart of the prairie they do not trouble the traveller, if he
keep aloof from the shade, and walk in the burning sun. But at nightfall
they light on him, and hang on him till morning, like leeches sucking
his blood. There is no defence against their darts, but to hide under a
buffalo skin, or wrap oneself up in some stuff which they cannot pierce,
and run the risk of being smothered.--When green or rotten wood can be
procured, they may be driven away by smoke, but in such case the
traveller himself is smoked, and in spite of all he can do, his eyes are
filled with tears. As soon as the smoke ceases, they [CXV] return to the
charge till other wood is provided and thrown on the fire, so that the
traveller's sleep is frequently interrupted, which proves very annoying
after the fatigue of a troublesome journey. Another species of insects,
called brulots, are found by myriads in the desert, and are not less
troublesome than the musquito. They are so small that they are scarcely
perceptible, and light on any part of the body that is uncovered,
penetrating even into the eyes, ears and nostrils. To guard against
them, the traveller, even in the warmest weather, wears gloves, ties a
handkerchief over his forehead, neck and ears, and smokes a short pipe
or a cigar to drive them from his eyes and nostrils. The fire-fly is a
harmless insect. When they are seen in great numbers, darting their
phosphoric light through the darkness, it is a sure sign that rain is
at hand. The light which they emit is very brilliant, and appears as if
it proceeded from wandering meteors. It is a favorite amusement with the
Indians to catch these insects, and after rubbing the phosphoric matter
over their faces, to walk around the camp, for the purpose of
frightening children and exciting mirth.

As our hunters were scarcely ever disappointed in finding game, we
have seldom had recourse to fishing; hence our acquaintance with the
finny race is rather limited.--On some occasions, when provisions were
becoming scarce, the line had to supply the place of the gun. The fish
which we generally caught were the mullet, two kinds of trout, and a
species of carps. Once, whilst we lay encamped on the banks of Snake
river, I caught more than a hundred of these carps in the space of an
hour. The anchovy, the sturgeon, and the salmon, abound in the rivers
of the Oregon Territory. There are six species of salmon.[214] They
come up the rivers towards the end of April, and [CXVI] after
spawning, never return; but the young ones go down to the sea in
September, and it is supposed that they re-enter the rivers the fourth
year after they have left them.

QUADRUPEDS. The Beaver seems to have chosen this country for his own.
Every one knows how they work, and what use they make of their teeth and
tail. What we were told by the trappers is probably unknown to
many.--When they are about constructing a dam, they examine all the
trees on the bank, and choose the one that is most bent over the water
on the side where they want to erect their fort. If they find no tree of
this kind they repair to another place, or patiently wait till a violent
wind gives the requisite inclination to some of the trees. Some of the
Indian tribes believe that the beavers are a degraded race of human
beings, whose vices and crimes have induced the Great Spirit to punish
them by changing them into their present form; and they think, after the
lapse of a number of years, their punishment will cease, and they will
be restored to their original shape. They even believe that these
animals use a kind of language to communicate their thoughts to each
other, to consult, deliberate, pass sentence on delinquents, &c. The
Trappers assured us that such beavers as are unwilling to work, are
unanimously proscribed, and exiled from the Republic, and that they are
obliged to seek some abandoned hole, at a distance from the rest, where
they spend the winter in a state of starvation.[215] These are easily
caught, but their skin is far inferior to that of the more industrious
neighbors, whose foresight and perseverance have procured them abundant
provisions, and a shelter against the severity of the winter season. The
flesh of the beaver is fat and savory. The feet are deemed the most
dainty parts. The tail affords a substitute for butter. The skin is sold
for nine or ten dollars' [CXVII] worth of provisions or merchandise, the
value of which does not amount to a single silver dollar. For a gill of
whiskey, which has not cost the trader more than three or four cents, is
sometimes sold for three or four dollars, though the chief virtue which
it possesses is to kill the body and soul of the buyer. We need not
wonder then when we see that wholesale dealers in this poisonous article
realize large fortunes in a very short time, and that the retailers, of
whom some received as much as eight hundred dollars per annum, often
present a most miserable appearance before the year expires. The
Honorable Hudson Bay Company does not belong to this class of traders.
By them the sale of all sorts of liquors is strictly forbidden.

The Otter is an inhabitant of the mountain rivers. His color is dark
brown or black. Like the beaver, he is incessantly pursued by the
hunters, and the number of both these animals is yearly diminished.
Among other amphibious animals we find two species of the frog. One does
not differ from the European, but the other offers scarcely any
resemblance. It has a tail and horns and is only found on the most arid
soil. By some of our travellers it was called the Salamander.[216]

Opossums are common here. They are generally found near marshes and
ponds that abound in small crawfish, of which they are extremely fond.
To catch them he places himself on the bank, and lets his long
hairless tail hang down in the water. The crawfish are allured by the
bait, and as soon as they put their claws to it, the opossum throws
them up, seizes them sideways between his teeth, and carries them to
some distance from the water, where he greedily but cautiously devours
his prey.

The Badger inhabits the whole extent of the desert; he is seldom seen,
as he retires to his hole at the least approach [CXVIII] of danger.
Some naturalists refer this animal to the genuine Ursus. Its size is
that of the Dormouse; its color silver grey; its paws are short, and
its strength prodigious. A Canadian having seized one as he entered
the hole, he required the assistance of another man to pull him out.

The Prairie Dog, in shape, color and agility, more resembles the
squirrel than the animal from which it has taken its name. They live
together in separate lodges, to the number of several thousands. The
earth which they throw up to construct their lodges, forms a kind of
slope which prevents the rain from entering the holes. At the
approach of man, this little animal runs into its lodge, uttering a
piercing cry, which puts the whole tribe on their guard. After some
minutes, the boldest show a part of their heads, as if to spy the
enemy, and this is the moment which the hunter chooses to kill them.
The Indians informed us that they sometimes issue in a body,
apparently to hold a council, and that wisdom presides over their
deliberations. They admit to their dwellings the bird of Minerva, the
striped squirrel, and the rattlesnake, and it is impossible to
determine what is the cause of this wonderful sympathy. It is said too
that they live only on the dew of the grass root, a remark founded
upon the position of their village, which is always found where the
ground is waterless and barren.

The Polecat or Memphitis Americana, is a beautifully speckled animal.
When pursued, it raises its tail, and discharges a large quantity of
fluid, which nature has intended for its defence. It repeats these
discharges in proportion as the pursuer comes near it. So strong is the
fœtid odor of this liquid that neither man nor beast can bear it. It
happened once that Rev. Father Van Quickenborne[217] [CXIX] saw two of
these cats. He took them for young cubs, and pleased with the discovery,
he alighted from his horse, and wished to catch them. He approached them
cautiously, and was just ready to put his large hat over one of them,
when all at once a discharge was made that covered him all over. It was
impossible to go near him--all around him was infected. His clothes
could no longer be used, and the poor man, though, rather late, resolved
never again to attempt to catch young bears!

The Cabri (Antelope) resembles the deer in form and size, the antlers
are smaller and have but two branches; the color of the animal resembles
that of the stag; the eyes are large and piercing; and its gait in the
wilderness is a kind of elegant gallop. Sometimes the Antelope stops
short and rears his head to observe his pursuer; this is the most
favorable moment to kill him. When started or shot at and missed, he
darts forward with incredible swiftness, but curiosity induces him to
halt and look back. The hunter tries to amuse his curiosity, by holding
up and waving some bright colored object: the animal approaches, and
curiosity becomes the cause of his death. The flesh is wholesome, and
easily digested, but it is used only where deer and buffalo meat are
wanting. The Antelope hunt is a favorite sport with the Indians. They
choose a spot of ground from fifty to eighty feet square, and enclose it
with posts and boughs, leaving a small opening or entrance, two or three
feet wide. From this entrance they construct two wings or hedges, which
they extend for several miles.--After this they form a large semicircle,
and drive the Antelopes before them till they enter between the hedges,
where they press so hard upon them that they force them into the square
enclosure, in which they kill them with clubs. I have been told that the
number of Antelopes thus driven [CXX] into the enclosure, often amounts
to more than two hundred. The meat of the buffalo cow is the most
wholesome and the most common in the west. It may be called the _daily
bread_ of the traveller, for he never loses his relish for it.--It is
more easily procured than any other, and it is good throughout. Though
some prefer the tongue, others the hump, or some other favorite piece,
all the parts are excellent food. To preserve the meat it is cut in
slices, thin enough to be dried in the sun; sometimes a kind of a hash
is made of it, and this is mixed with the marrow taken from the largest
bones. This kind of mixture is called Bull or Cheese, and is generally
served up and eaten raw, but when boiled or baked it is of more easy
digestion, and has a more savory taste to a civilized palate. The form
and size of the buffalo are sufficiently known. It is a gregarious
animal, and is seldom seen alone. Several hundreds herd together, the
males on one side, the females on the other, except at a certain season
of the year. In the month of June we saw an immense herd of them on the
Platte.--The chase of this animal is very interesting. The hunters are
all mounted; at the signal given, they fall upon the herd, which is soon
dispersed; each one chooses his own animal, for he who slays the first
is looked upon as the king of the chase--his aim must be sure and
mortal, for the animal, when wounded, becomes furious, turns upon his
hunter and pursues him in his turn. We once witnessed a scene of this
kind. A young American had the imprudence to swim over a river and
pursue a wounded buffalo with no other weapon but his knife. The animal
turned back upon him, and had it not been for the young Englishman, whom
I have already mentioned, his imprudence would have cost him his life.
The greatest feat of a hunter is to drive the wounded animal to any
place he thinks proper. We had a [CXXI] hunter named John Gray,[218]
reputed one of the best marksmen of the mountains; he had frequently
given proofs of extraordinary courage and dexterity, especially when on
one occasion he dared to attack five bears at once. Wishing to give us
another sample of his valor, he drove an enormous buffalo he had
wounded, into the midst of the caravan. The animal had stood about fifty
shots, and been pierced by more than twenty balls; three times he had
fallen, but fury increasing his strength, he had risen, after each fall,
and with his horns threatened all who dared to approach him. At last the
hunter took a decisive aim, and the buffalo fell to rise no more.

The small chase is carried on without horses. An experienced hunter,
though on foot, may attack a whole herd of buffalos; but he must be
skilful and cautious. He must approach them against the wind, for fear
of starting the game, for so acute is the scent of the buffalo that he
smells his enemy at a very considerable distance. Next, he must approach
them as much as possible without being seen or suspected. If he cannot
avoid being seen, he draws a skin over his head, or a kind of hood,
surmounted by a pair of horns, and thus deceives the herd. When within
gun shot, he must hide himself behind a bank or any other object. There
he waits till he can take sure aim. The report of the gun, and the noise
made by the fall of the wounded buffalo, astound, but do not drive away
the rest. In the meantime, the hunter re-loads his gun, and shoots
again, repeating the manœuvre, till five or six, and sometime more
buffalos have fallen, before he finds it necessary to abandon his place
of concealment.--The Indians say that the buffalos live together as the
bees, under the direction of a queen, and that when the queen is
wounded, all the others surround and deplore her. [CXXII] If this were
the case, the hunter who had the good fortune to kill the queen, would
have fine sport in despatching the rest. After death, the animal is
dressed, that is, he is stripped of his robe, quartered and divided;
the best pieces are chosen and carried off by the hunter, who, when the
chase has been successful, is sometimes satisfied with the tongue alone.
The rest is left for the wolves. These voracious prowlers soon come to
the banquet, except when the scene of slaughter is near the camp. In
such cases they remain at bay till night, when all is still. Then they
come to the charge, and set up such howling that they frighten the
inexperienced traveller. But their yells and howlings, however
frightful, have little or no effect upon those whose ears have become
accustomed to such music. These sleep with as little concern as if there
were not a wolf in the country.

Of wolves we have seen four varieties, the grey, the white, the black,
and the bluish. The grey seems to be the most common, as they are the
most frequently seen.--The black wolves are large and ferocious
animals. They sometimes mingle with a herd of buffalos, and at first
appear quite harmless, but when they find a young calf strayed from
its dam, or an old cow on the brink of a precipice, they are sure to
attack and kill the former, and to harass the latter till they succeed
in pushing it down the precipice. The wolves are very numerous in
these regions--the plains are full of holes, which are generally deep,
and into which they retire when hunger does not compel them to prowl
about, or when they are pursued by the huntsman. There is a small
sized wolf, called the medicine wolf, regarded by the Indians as a
sort of Manitou. They watch its yelpings during the night, and the
superstitious conjurers pretend to understand and [CXXIII] interpret
them. According to the loudness, frequency, and other modifications of
these yelpings, they interpret that either friends or foes approach
the camp, &c., and if it happens that on some other occasion they
conjecture right, the prediction is never forgotten, and the
conjurers take care to mention it on every emergency.

There are also four kinds of bears, distinguished by the colors:
white, black, brown and grey. The white and grey bears are what the
lion is in Asia, the kings of the mountains: they are scarcely
inferior to the lion in form and courage. I have sometimes joined in
the chase of this animal, but I was in good company--safe from
danger.--Four Indian hunters ran around the bear and stunned him with
their cries--they soon despatched him. In less than a quarter of an
hour after this, another fell beneath their blows. This chase is
perhaps the most dangerous; for the bear, when wounded, becomes
furious, and unless he be disabled, as was the case in the two
instances mentioned, he attacks and not unfrequently kills his
pursuers. Messrs. Lewis and Clarke, in their expedition to the sources
of the Missouri, adduce a striking proof of the physical strength of
this animal, which shows that he is a most formidable enemy. One
evening, the men who were in the hindmost canoe, discovered a bear,
crouched in the prairie, at a distance of about three hundred yards
from the river. Six of them, all skilful hunters, left the canoe, and
advanced to attack him. Protected by a little eminence, they
approached without being perceived, till they were but forty steps
from the animal. Four of the men discharged their guns, and each one
lodged a ball in his body--two of the balls had pierced the lungs. The
bear, frantic with rage, starts up and rushes upon his enemies, with
wide extended jaws. As he approached, the two hunters who had kept
[CXXIV] their fire, inflicted two wounds on him; one of the balls
broke his shoulder, which for a few moments retarded his progress, but
before they could re-load their guns, he was so close upon them that
they had to run with the greatest speed to the river. Here he was at
the point of seizing them--two of the men threw themselves into the
canoe, the four others scattered and hid themselves among the willows,
where they loaded and fired with the greatest expedition. They wounded
him several times, which only served to increase his fury; at last he
pursued two of them so closely, that they were compelled to provide
for their safety by leaping into the river from a perpendicular bank
nearly twenty feet high. The bear followed them, and was but a few
feet from them, when one of the hunters who had come from his lurking
place, sent a ball through his head and killed him. They dragged him
to the shore, and there ascertained that not less than eight balls
passed through his body.[219]

I remain, Rev. and dear Father Provincial,

                      Yours, &c.
                           P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[206] Beaverhead River is the main branch of the Jefferson, one of the
three great sources of the Missouri. It runs through a mountainous
valley in a county of the same name, in which is located Dillon, the
chief town of southwestern Montana. The valley is named for a rocky
point that bears a resemblance to the head of a beaver. Lewis and
Clark were the first white men known to have visited this locality.
The cliff they called "Beaverhead" is now known as "Point of Rocks,"
about eighteen miles north of Dillon. See _Original Journals of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition_, ii, p. 321.--ED.

[207] The principal chief of the Flathead tribe was an hereditary
officer. This chief, whose Indian name was Tjolzhitsay, the equivalent
of Big or Long Face, was the first of the nation to be baptized in
1840. For a further account of his life see letter ix, _post_.--ED.

[208] Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750) was by many accounted the
foremost scholar and antiquarian of his time. Born near Modena, he was
appointed keeper of public archives at that place, and seldom left the
city. His chief work was in the classics, publishing _Anecdota Græca_
and _Anecdota Latina_, valuable collections of hitherto unedited
fragments. Through a fellow-townsman who went as missionary to the
Jesuit community in Paraguay, Father Muratori became interested in that
land and wrote in Italian _Il Christianesimo Felice nelle Missione dei
Padri della Compagnia di Jesu nel Paraguai_ (Venice, 1743). He states in
the preface that his information was derived from the memoirs of the
Jesuits, and from conversations and correspondence with those who had
lived in Paraguay. This work was translated into several languages, the
English version having been published at London in 1759. Muratori
represents the Jesuit community of converted Indians as a veritable
earthly paradise. De Smet's reference to this work shows his ambition to
establish a Paraguayan régime in the continent of America.--ED.

[209] With his party, De Smet advanced up the Snake or Lewis River to
its forks, of which Henry's is the most northern, rising in Henry's
Lake (see _ante_, p. 175, note 45). This arid valley, of which the
missionary speaks, has been proved fertile under the influence of
irrigation. Several millions of dollars have in recent years been
invested in irrigation canals, along the valley of the upper Lewis,
through which runs a spur of the Oregon Short Line Railway.--ED.

[210] For the Three Buttes and Three Tetons see Townsend's
_Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p. 209, note 49.--ED.

[211] The travellers passed by Beaverhead Valley, where the main body
of the Flathead met them, by the well-known trace along the Big Hole
and across the divide into Deer Lodge Valley--the route now followed
substantially by the Oregon Short Line Railway. "Father's Defile" must
have been near the Deer Lodge divide.--ED.

[212] Deer Lodge takes its name from a spring around which many
white-tailed deer were wont to assemble. The mineral deposit had piled
in a conical heap, forming the shape of an Indian lodge. These are now
called Warm Springs, and used for medicinal purposes. The name Deer
Lodge is now applied to the river and its valley, to a Montana county,
and to the seat of that county. The valley is fertile. In its lower
course the river called Hell Gate united with Bitterroot (or St.
Mary's) at Missoula.--ED.

[213] For a description of this plant see our volume xv, pp. 232, 233.
It is allied to the _Yucca filamentosa_ of the Southern states, whence
its name of "Adam's needle." It is more commonly called silk or bear
grass, and its filaments were used for weaving by the Indians of the
Columbia, whence it became an article of intertribal trade. See
_Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition_, index.--ED.

[214] For the scientific names of these species, see _ibid._,

[215] Stories of this sort are numerous; the discarded beaver is,
however, the victim of disease, being attacked by a parasite. Consult
Martin, _Castorologia, or the Canadian Beaver_ (London and Montreal,
1892), pp. 159, 168, 233.--ED.

[216] See our volume xix, p. 328, note 138 (Gregg).--ED.

[217] Father Charles Felix Van Quickenborne was a Belgian, born in Ghent
in 1788. Coming to America he was made master of novices at Whitemarsh,
and in 1823 removed to Florissant, Missouri, being made superior of his
order in the West. He was zealous for Indian missions, in 1827-28
visiting in person the Osage; and in 1836 founding the Kickapoo mission.
He died at Portage des Sioux, August 17, 1836, having revived the
missions of his order to the North American aborigines.--ED.

[218] John Gray was an old mountaineer, probably acting on this
journey as guide to the Englishman who was out for big game. See an
account of a trapper of this name in Alexander Ross, _Fur Hunters of
the Far West_ (London, 1855), ii, chapter x.--ED.

[219] It is now accepted that there are but two species of bears in
the United States; the black (_Ursus americanus_), of which the
cinnamon bear is a variety, and the grizzly (_Ursus horribilis_),
known as the white, grey, and brown bear. The episode here related by
De Smet may be found in _Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition_, ii, pp. 33, 34.--ED.

                              LETTER VIII

                                 Hell Gate,[220] 21st Sept. 1841.

  Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

It is on a journey through the desert that we see how attentive
Providence is to the wants of man. I repeat with pleasure this remark
of my young Protestant friend, because the truth of it appears through
the narrative which I have commenced, and will appear still more
evidently in what is to follow. Were I to speak of rivers, the account
would be long and tedious, for in five days we crossed as many as
eighteen, and crossed one of them five times in the space of a few
hours. I shall only mention the most dangerous among them. The first,
which we found it very difficult to cross, was the South Fork of the
Platte. But as we had been long apprised of the difficulty, we took
our precautions before hand, and some of our Canadians had explored it
with so much care, that we forded it, not without great difficulty,
but without any serious accident. The greatest distress was felt by
the dogs of the caravan. Left on the bank, when all had crossed,
nothing but fidelity towards their masters could have induced them to
swim over a river but little less than a mile wide, and having so
rapid a current that it would have carried away wagons and carts, had
they not been supported on all sides, while the mules exerted all
their strength to pull them onward. The poor dogs did not attempt to
cross till they found that there was no medium left between
encountering the danger and [CXXVI] losing their masters. The passage
over these rivers is generally effected by means of a bull boat, the
name given to a kind of boat, constructed on the spot with buffalo
hides. They are indispensable when the current is impetuous, and no
ford can be found. Thanks to our Canadians, we wanted them neither on
this nor any other occasion.[221]

[Illustration: Fording the river Platte]

The second difficult passage was over the North Fork, which is less
wide, but deeper and more rapid than the Southern. We had crossed the
latter in carts. Having mustered a little more courage, we determined
to cross the North Fork on horseback. We were induced to do so, on
seeing our hunter drive before him a horse on which his wife was
mounted, whilst at the same time he was pulling a colt that carried a
little girl but one year old. To hold back under such circumstances
would have been a disgrace for Indian Missionaries. We therefore
resolved to go forward. It is said that we were observed to grow pale,
and I am inclined to believe we did; yet, after our horses had for
some time battled against the current, we reached the opposite shore
in safety, though our clothes were dripping wet. Here we witnessed a
scene, which, had it been less serious, might have excited laughter.
The largest wagon was carried off by the force of the current, in
spite of all the efforts, shouts and cries of the men, who did all
they could to keep themselves from being drowned. Another wagon was
literally turned over. One of the mules showed only his four feet on
the surface of the water, and the others went adrift entangled in the
gears. On one side appeared the American captain, with extended arms,
crying for help. On the other, a young German traveller was seen
diving with his beast, and soon after both appearing above water at a
distance from each other. Here a horse reached the shore without a
rider; further on, two [CXXVII] riders appeared on the same horse;
finally, the good brother Joseph dancing up and down with his horse,
and Father Mengarini clinging to the neck of his, and looking as if he
formed an indivisible part of the animal. After all our difficulties,
we found that only one of the mules was drowned. As the mule belonged
to a man who had been the foremost in endeavoring to save both men and
horses, the members of the caravan agreed to make him a present of a
horse, as a reward for his services. We offered thanks to God for our
escape from danger. I mentioned before that great dangers awaited us
on Snake river. This stream being much less deep and wide than the
other two, and having such limpid waters that the bottom can every
where be seen, could only be dangerous to incautious persons. It
sufficed to keep our eyes open, for any obstacle could easily be
distinguished and avoided. But whether it were owing to want of
thought or attention, or to the stubborn disposition of the team,
Brother Charles Huet found himself all at once on the border of a deep
precipice, too far advanced to return. Down went mules, driver and
vehicle, and so deep was the place, that there scarcely appeared any
chance to save them. Our hunter, at the risk of his life, threw
himself into the river, to dive after the poor brother, whom he had to
pull out of the carriage. All the Flat Heads who were with us, tried
to save the vehicle, the mules and the baggage. The baggage, with the
exception of a few articles, was saved; the carriage was raised by the
united efforts of all the Indians, and set afloat; but after this
operation it was held by but one of them, he found that his strength
was inadequate to the task, and crying that he was being drowned, let
go his hold. The hunter plunged in after him, and was himself at the
point of losing his life, on account of the efforts [CXXVIII] which
the Indian made to save his own. Finally, after prodigies of valor,
exhibited by all the Flat Heads, men, women and children, who all
strove to give us a proof of their attachment, we lost what we
considered the most safe, the team of the carriage. The gears had been
cut to enable the mules to reach the shore, but it is said that these
animals always perish when once they have had their ears under water.
Thus we lost our three finest mules. This loss was to us very
considerable, and would have been irreparable, had it not been for the
kindness of Captain Ermatinger. Whilst the people of the caravan were
drying our baggage, I returned to the Fort, where the generous Captain
repaired our loss for a sum truly inconsiderable, when compared
with what must be paid on such occasions to those who wish to avail
themselves of the misfortunes of others. We had escaped the danger,
and were besides taught a very useful lesson, for it was remarked that
it was the first day since we began our journey, on which, by reason
of the bustle occasioned by our departure from the Fort, we had
omitted to say the prayers of the itinerary.

[Illustration: Sheyenne Warriors]

We had dangers of another description to encounter, from which we were
also delivered by the aid of God's grace. Once as we travelled along
the banks of the Platte, several members of the caravan separated from
the main body, contrary to the expressed orders of the Captain, who,
together with Father Point and myself, had started a little ahead to
look out for a place of encampment. We succeeded in finding a proper
site, and we had already unsaddled our horses, when all at once we
heard the alarm cry: _the Indians! the Indians!_ And in fact, a body
of Indians, appearing much larger than it really was, was seen in the
distance, first assembling together, and then coming full [CXXIX]
gallop towards our camp. In the mean time a young American, unhorsed
and unarmed, makes his appearance, complaining of the loss he had
sustained, and indignant at the blows he had received. He seizes the
loaded rifle of one of his friends, and rushes forward to take signal
vengeance on the offender. The whole camp is roused; the American
youth is determined to fight; the Colonel orders the wagons to be
drawn up in double file, and places between them whatever may be
exposed to plunder. All preparations are made for a regular defence.
On the other hand, the Indian squadron, much increased, advances and
presents a formidable front. They manœuvre as if they intend to hem in
our phalanx, but at sight of our firm position, and of the assurance
of the Captain who advanced towards them, they checked their march,
finally halted, and came to a parley, of which the result was that
they should return to the American whatever they had taken from him,
but that the blows which he had received should not be returned. After
this, both parties united in smoking the calumet. This band consisted
of 80 Sheyenne warriors, armed for battle. The Sheyennes are looked
upon as the bravest Indians in the prairie. They followed our camp for
two or three days. As the chiefs were admitted to our meals, both
parties separated with mutual satisfaction.[222]

On another occasion we were in company with the vanguard of the Flat
Heads, and had penetrated into an impassible defile between the
mountains, so that after having travelled the whole day, we were
forced to retrace our steps. At night the rumor was spread that a
party of Banac Indians lay encamped in the neighborhood.[223] The
Banacs had this very year killed several white men; but it soon
appeared that they were more frightened than ourselves, for before day
break they had removed from the place.

[CXXX] Without being aware of it, we had escaped a much greater danger
on the banks of Green River. We did not know the particulars of this
danger till after we had arrived at Fort Hall. There we heard that
almost immediately after our separation from the travellers who were
on their way to California, and with whom we had till then lived as
brothers, they divided themselves into two bands, and each band again
subdivided into two parties, one to attend to the chase, the other to
guard the horses. The hunter's camp was guarded only by five or six
men and some women, who had also to keep watch over the horses and
baggage of the others. A booty so rich and so much exposed could not
but tempt the Indians who roamed in the neighborhood, and waited, as
is their custom, till a seasonable opportunity should offer to
commence the attack. When least expected, they fell first upon the
horses, and then upon the tents, and though the guardians made a
courageous defence, and sold their lives dearly, yet they burned and
pillaged the camp, taking away whatever might be serviceable to them;
thus giving a terrible lesson to such as expose themselves to lose
all, by not remaining united to withstand the common enemy.[224]

But a few days after we had received this sad intelligence we
ourselves were much alarmed. We apprehended lest we should have to
defend our lives against a large body of Black Feet Indians, whose
warriors continually infest the country through which we were then
travelling. It was reported that they were behind the mountain, and
soon [CXXXI] after that they were in sight. But our brave Indians,
glowing with the desire to introduce us to their tribe, were
undaunted, and would have attacked them, had they been a hundred times
more numerous. Pilchimo, brandishing his musket in the air, started
off with the greatest rapidity, and was followed by three or four
others. They crossed the mountain and disappeared, and the whole camp
made ready to repel the assailants. The horses were hitched and the
men under arms, when we saw our brave Indians return over the
mountain, followed by a dozen others. The latter were Banacs, who had
united rather with a mind to fly than to attack us. Among them was a
chief, who showed the most favorable dispositions. I had a long
conference with him on the subject of religion, and he promised that
he would use all his endeavors to engage his men to adopt religious
sentiments. Both he and his retinue left us the day after the arrival
of the Flat Heads, who came to wish us joy for the happy issue of our
long journey. We here remarked how the power of reason acts upon the
heart of the savage. The Banac chief was brother to an Indian of the
tribe who had been killed by one of the Flat Head chiefs present on
this occasion. They saluted each other in our presence and separated
as truly Christian warriors would have done, who show enmity to each
other only on the field of battle. Yet as the Flat Heads had more than
once, been basely betrayed by the Banacs, the former did not offer to
smoke the calumet. I hope that we shall have no difficulty to bring on
a reconciliation. The Flat Heads will undoubtedly follow the advice we
shall give them, and I feel confident that the Banacs will be
satisfied with the conditions.

                 I have the honor to be
                     Rev. and dear Father Provincial,
                         Your devoted servant and son,
                                          P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[220] Hell Gate is the defile just east of Missoula, Montana, on a
river of that name. It is said to have acquired its name (French,
_porte d'enfer_) because the Blackfeet so often lay in wait along its
cliffs, and to pass through was as dangerous as entering hell. In the
early days of the territory there was a settlement known as Hell Gate,
about five miles up the river, from its mouth.--ED.

[221] For a further description of these bull-boats see our volume
xxiii, p. 279, note 246.--ED.

[222] Compare Bidwell's account in _Century Magazine_, xix, p. 116.
According to his report, it was a war party of but forty well-mounted
Cheyenne. The young American had been unduly excited by their
appearance, and was thereafter known as Cheyenne Dawson. His baptismal
name was James. Reaching California with the Bidwell party, he was
later drowned in Columbia River.--ED.

[223] For the Bannock Indians see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our
volume xxi, p. 192, note 41.--ED.

[224] The massacre of these travellers gave rise to several vague
reports. As we had started together it was supposed by many that we
had not yet separated when this unfortunate accident took place. Hence
it was circulated in the United States, and even in some parts of
Europe, that the Catholic Missionaries had all been killed by the
Indians.--DE SMET.

                               LETTER IX

                           St. Mary's, 18th October, 1841.

  Rev. and Dear Father:

After a journey of four months and a half on horseback through the
desert, and in spite of our actual want of bread, wine, sugar, fruit,
and all such things as are called the conveniences of life, we find
our strength and courage increased, and are better prepared than ever
to work at the conversion of the souls that Providence entrusts to our
care. Next to the Author of all good things, we returned thanks to her
whom the church reveres as the Mother of her Divine Spouse, since it
has pleased the Divine goodness to send us the greatest consolations
on several days consecrated to her honor. On the feast of her glorious
Assumption we met the vanguard of our dear neophytes. On the Sunday
within the Octave, we, for the first time since my return, celebrated
the Holy Mysteries among them. On the following Sunday our good
Indians placed themselves and their children under the Immaculate
Heart of Mary, of which we then celebrated the feast. This act of
devotion was renewed by the great chief in the name of his whole
tribe, on the feast of her Holy Name. On the 24th of September, the
feast of our Lady of Mercy, we arrived at the river called Bitter
Root, on the banks of which we have chosen the site for our principal
missionary station.[225] On the first Sunday of October, feast of the
Rosary, we took possession of the promised land, by planting a cross
on the spot which [CXXXIII] we had chosen for our first residence.
What motives of encouragement does not the Gospel of the present
Sunday add to all these mentioned before. To-day too we celebrate the
Divine Maternity, and what may we not expect from the Virgin Mother
who brought forth her Son for the salvation of the world. On the feast
of her Patronage we shall offer by her mediation to her Divine Son,
twenty-five young Indians, who are to be baptized on that day. So many
favors have induced us unanimously to proclaim Mary the protectress of
our mission, and give her name to our new residence.[226]

These remarks may appear silly to such as attribute every thing to
chance or necessity, but to such as believe in the wise dispensations
of the Providence of God, by which all things are governed and
directed, all these circumstances, together with the wonderful manner
in which we have been called, sent and led to this new mission; and
still more the good dispositions manifested by the Indians, will
appear very proper motives to inspire us with fresh courage, and with
the hope of establishing here, on a small scale, the order and
regularity which once distinguished our missions in Paraguay. This
hope is not founded on imagination, for whilst I am writing these
lines, I hear the joyful voices of the carpenters, re-echoing to the
blows on the smith's anvil, and I see them engaged in raising the
_house of prayer_. Besides, three Indians, belonging to the tribe
called Pointed Hearts,[227] having been informed of our arrival among
the Flat Heads, have just come to entreat us to have pity on them.
"Father," said one of them to me, "we are truly deserving your pity.
We wish to serve the Great Spirit, but we know not how. We want some
one to teach us. For this reason we make application to you." O had
some of my brethren, now so far distant from us, been present here
last Sunday, when towards night we raised the [CXXXIV] august sign of
salvation, the standard of the cross, in this small but zealous tribe;
how their hearts would have been moved on seeing the pious joy of
these children of the forest! What sentiments of faith and love did
they exhibit on this occasion, when headed by their chief, they came
to kiss the foot of the cross, and then prostrate on their knees, made
a sacred promise, rather to suffer death a thousand times, than to
forsake the religion of Jesus Christ! Who knows how many of this
chosen band may be destined to become apostles and martyrs of our holy
religion! Were we more numerous, I feel confident that many other
tribes would become members of the kingdom of God; perhaps more than
two hundred thousand might be converted to Christ.[228] The Flat Heads
and the Pointed Hearts, it is true are not numerous tribes, but they
are surrounded by many others who evince the best dispositions. The
Ponderas or Pends-d'oreilles are very numerous, and live at a distance
of four or five days journey from our present establishment. The
chief who governed them last year and who has been baptized and called
Peter, is a true apostle.[229] In my first visit to them I baptized
two hundred and fifty of their children. Many other tribes have the
same origin, and though differing in name, their languages are nearly
allied. Next to these are found the Spokans,[230] who would soon
follow the example of the neighboring tribes; the Pierced Noses, who
are disgusted at the conduct of the Protestant ministers that have
settled among them; the Snakes, the Crows and the Banacs whose chief
we have seen. Last year I visited the Sheyennes, whom I twice met on
the banks of the Platte; the numerous nation of the Scioux, and the
three allied tribes called Mandans, Arickarees and Minatarees, who all
have given me so many proofs of respect and friendship; the Omahas,
with whom I have had so many conferences on [CXXXV] the subject of
religion, and many others who seem inclined to embrace the truth.

The Black Feet are the only Indians of whose salvation we would have
reason to despair, if the ways of God were the same as those of man,
for they are murderers, thieves, traitors, and all that is wicked. But
were not the Chiquitos, the Chiriquans,[231] the Hurons, and the
Iroquois equally wicked before their conversion, which required much
time and great help from above? And is it not to the last, that, under
God, the Flat Heads owe their desire of becoming members of his
church, and the first germs of the copious fruit that has been
produced among them? What is more, the Black Feet are not hostile to
Black Gowns. We have been assured by other Indians that we would have
nothing to fear, if we presented ourselves amongst them as ministers
of religion. When last year I fell into the hands of one of their
divisions, and it was ascertained that I was an interpreter of the
Great Spirit, they carried me in triumph on a buffalo robe to their
village, and invited me to a banquet, at which all the great men of
the tribe assisted. It was on this occasion, that, whilst I said
grace, I was astonished to see that they struck the earth with one
hand and raised the other towards heaven, to signify that the earth
produces nothing but evil, whilst all that is good comes from above.
From all this you will easily conclude that the harvest is great,
whilst the laborers are few.

It is the opinion of the Missionaries who accompany me, and of the
travellers I have seen in the Far West, in short, of all those who
have become acquainted with the Flat Heads, that they are
characterised by the greatest simplicity, docility and uprightness.
Yet, to the simplicity of children is joined the courage of heroes.
They never begin the attack, but wo to such as provoke them or treat
[CXXXVI] them unjustly. A handful of their warriors will not shrink
from an enemy twenty times more numerous than they; they will stand
and repel the assault, and at last put them to flight, and make them
repent their rashness. Not long before my first arrival among them,
seventy men of the tribe, finding themselves forced to come to an
engagement with a thousand Black Feet warriors, determined to sustain
the attack, and rather to die than retreat. Before the engagement they
prostrated themselves and addressed such prayers as they had learned
to the Great Spirit. They rose full of courage, sustained the first
shock, and soon rendered the victory doubtful. The fight, with
several interruptions, was continued five successive days, till at
last the Black Feet, astounded at the boldness of their antagonists,
were panic struck, and retreated from the scene of action, leaving
many killed and wounded on the field of battle, whilst not one warrior
of the Flat Heads was killed. But one died of the wounds he had
received, and his death happened several months after the engagement,
on the day succeeding his baptism--(though the point of an arrow had
pierced his skull.) It was on the same occasion that Pilchimo, whom I
have already mentioned, gave remarkable proofs of valor and attachment
to his fellow warriors. All the horses were on the point of falling
into the enemy's hand. Pilchimo was on foot. Not far off was a squaw
on horseback; to see the danger, to take the squaw from her horse and
mount it himself, to gallop to the other horses, and bring them
together, and drive them into the camp, was the affair of a few
minutes. Another warrior, named Sechelmeld, saw a Black Foot separated
from his company, and armed with a musket.[232] The Black Foot, taking
the warrior for one of his own tribe, asked the Flat Head to let him
mount behind him. The latter wishing to [CXXXVII] make himself master
of the musket, agreed to the proposal. They advance on the plain, till
Sechelmeld seeing that the place favored his design, seizes his fellow
rider's weapon, exclaiming; "Black Foot! I am a Flat Head, let go your
musket." He wrests it from his hands, despatches him, remounts the
horse, and gallops off in pursuit of the enemy.

The following feat equally deserves to be recorded: A Black Foot warrior
was taken and wounded whilst in the act of stealing a horse. The night
was dark and the wound had rendered him furious. He held his loaded gun,
and threatened death to any one that should approach him. Peter, one of
the chiefs already mentioned, though diminutive in size, and far
advanced in years, felt his courage revived; he runs up to the enemy,
and with one blow fells him to the ground. This done he throws himself
on his knees, and raising his eyes towards heaven, he is reported to
have said: "Great Spirit! thou knowest that I did not kill this Black
Foot from a desire of revenge, but because I was forced to it; be
merciful to him in the other world. I forgive him from the bottom of my
heart all the evils which he has wished to inflict upon us, and to prove
the sincerity of my words I will cover him with my garments." This Peter
was baptized last year, and became the apostle of his tribe. Even before
baptism, his simplicity and sincerity prompted him to give this
testimony of himself: "If ever I have done evil it was through
ignorance, for I have always done what I considered good." It would be
tedious to give an account of his zealous endeavors. Every morning, at
an early hour, he rides through the whole village, stops at every hut,
speaks a few words of encouragement and reproof, as circumstances
require, and exhorts all to be faithful in the performance of their
religious and social duties.

[CXXXVIII] I have spoken of the simplicity and the courage of the Flat
Heads; I shall make some other remarks concerning their character. They
little resemble the majority of the Indians, who are, generally
speaking, uncouth, importunate, improvident, insolent, stubborn and
cruel.--The Flat Heads are disinterested, generous, devoted to their
brethren and friends; irreproachable, and even exemplary, as regards
probity and morality. Among them, dissensions, quarrels, injuries and
enmities are unknown. During my stay in the tribe last year, I have
never remarked any thing that was contrary to modesty and decorum in
the manners and conversation of the men and women. It is true that the
children, whilst very young, are entirely without covering, but this is
a general custom among the Indians, and seems to have no bad effect upon
them; we are determined, however, to abolish this custom as soon as we
shall be able to do it. With respect to religion, the Flat Heads are
distinguished by the firmness of their faith, and the ardor of their
zeal. Not a vestige of their former superstitions can be discovered.
Their confidence in us is unlimited. They believe without any difficulty
the most profound mysteries of our holy religion, as soon as they are
proposed to them, and they do not even suspect that we might be
deceived, or even could wish to deceive them. I have already mentioned
what exertions they have made to obtain Black-gowns for their tribe; the
journeys, undertakings, the dangers incurred, the misfortunes suffered
to attain their object. Their conduct during my absence from them has
been truly regular and edifying. They attend divine service with the
greatest punctuality, and pay the most serious attention to the
explanation of the Catechism. What modesty and fervent piety do they not
exhibit in [CXXXIX] their prayers, and with what humble simplicity they
speak of their former blindness, and of such things as tend to reflect
honor upon their present conduct. On this last subject their simplicity
is truly admirable: "Father," some will say, with down cast eyes, "what
I tell you now I have never mentioned to any one, nor shall I ever
mention it to others; and if I speak of it to you, it is because you
wish and have a right to know it."

The chiefs, who might be more properly called the fathers of the
tribe, having only to express their will, and are obeyed, are always
listened to, and are not less remarkable for their docility in our
regard than for the ascendancy they possess over their people. The
most influential among them, surnamed "The Little Chief," from the
smallness of his stature, whether considered as a Christian or a
warrior, might stand a comparison with the most renowned character of
ancient chivalry.[233] On one occasion, he sustained the assaults of a
whole village, which, contrary to all justice, attacked his people. On
another occasion, when the Banacs had been guilty of the blackest
treason, he marched against them with a party of warriors not
one-tenth the number of their aggressors. But, under such a leader,
his little band believed themselves invincible, and invoking the
protection of heaven, rushed upon the enemy, and took signal vengeance
of the traitors, killing nine of their number. More would have been
killed, had not the voice of Little Chief arrested them in the very
heat of the pursuit, announcing that it was the Sabbath, and the hour
of prayer. Upon this signal, they gave over the pursuit, and returned
to their camp. Arrived there, they immediately, without thinking of
dressing their wounds, fell upon their knees in the dust, to render to
the Lord of Hosts the honor of the victory. Little Chief had received
a ball [CXL] through the right hand, which had entirely deprived him
of its use; but seeing two of his comrades more severely wounded than
himself, he with his other hand rendered them every succor in his
power, remaining the whole night in attendance upon them. On several
other occasions, he acted with equal courage, prudence and humanity,
so that his reputation became widely spread. The Nez-perces, a nation
far more numerous than the Flat Heads, came to offer him the dignity
of being their Great Chief. He might have accepted it without
detriment to the rights of any one, as every Indian is free to leave
his chief, and place himself under any other head he may think
proper, and, of course, to accept any higher grade that may be offered
to him. But Little Chief, content with the post assigned him by
Providence, refused the offer, however honorable to him, with this
simple remark, "By the will of the Great Master of life I was born
among the Flat Heads, and if such be His will, among the Flat Heads I
am determined to die;"--a patriotic feeling, highly honorable to him.
As a warrior, still more honorable to his character are the mildness
and humility manifested by him. He said to me, once: "Till we came to
know the true God, alas, how blinded were we! We prayed, it is
true--but to whom did we address our prayers? In truth, I know not how
the Great Spirit could have borne with us so long." At present his
zeal is most exemplary; not content with being the foremost in all the
offices at chapel, he is always the first and last at the family
prayers, and even before break of day he is heard singing the praises
of his Maker. His characteristic trait is mildness; and yet he can
assume due firmness, not to say severity of manner, when he sees it
necessary to exercise more rigorous discipline. Some days before our
arrival, one of the young [CXLI] women had absented herself from
prayer, without a sufficient reason. He sent for her, and after
reading her a lecture before all the household, enforced his motives
for greater attention in future, by a smart application of the cane.
And how did the young offender receive the correction? With the most
humble and praiseworthy submission.

The Flat Heads are fond of praying. After the regular evening prayer,
they will assemble in their tents to pray or sing canticles. These
pious exercises will frequently be prolonged till a late hour; and if
any wake during the night, they begin to pray. Before making his
prayer, the good old Simeon gets up and rakes out the live coals upon
his hearth, and when his prayer is done, which is always preceded and
followed by the sign of the cross, he smokes his calumet and then
turns in again. This he will do three or four times during the night.
There was a time, also, when these more watchful spirits of the
household, not content with praying themselves, would awaken the
sleepers, anxious to make them partakers of the good work.--These
pious excesses had sprung from a little piece of advice I had given
them on my first visit, that "on waking at night it was commendable to
raise the heart to God." It has since been explained to them how they
are to understand the advice. This night, between the 25th and 26th,
the prayers and canticles have not ceased. Yesterday, a young woman
having died who had received baptism four days previously, we
recommended them to pray for the repose of her soul. Her remains were
deposited at the foot of the Calvary, erected in the midst of the
camp. On the cross upon her grave might confidently be inscribed the
words: _In spem Resurrectionis_--In hope of a glorious Resurrection.
We shall shortly have to celebrate the commemoration [CXLII] of the
faithful departed; this will afford us an opportunity of establishing
the very Christian and standing custom of praying for the dead in
their place of interment.

On Sundays, the exercises of devotion are longer and more numerous,
and yet they are never fatigued with the pious duty. They feel that
the happiness of the little and of the humble is to speak with their
Heavenly Father, and that no house presents so many attractions as the
house of the Lord. Indeed, so religiously is the Sunday observed here,
that on this day of rest, even before our coming, the most timorous
deer might wander unmolested in the midst of the tribe, even though
they were reduced by want of provisions to the most rigorous fast.
For, in the eyes of this people, to use the bow and arrow on this
day, would not have appeared less culpable than did the gathering of
wood to the scrupulous fidelity of the people of God.--Since they have
conceived a juster idea of the law of grace, they are less slaves to
"the letter that killeth;" but still desirous to be faithful to the
very letter, they are studious to do their best, and when any doubt
arises, they hasten to be enlightened thereon, soliciting in a spirit
of faith and humility that permission of which they may think
themselves to stand in need.

The principal chief is named "Big Face," on account of the somewhat
elongated form of his visage; he might more nobly and more
appropriately be named The Nestor of the Desert, for as well in years
as in stature and sagacity he has all the essentials of greatness.
From his earliest infancy, nay, even before he could know his parents,
he had been the child of distress. Being left a helpless orphan, by
the death of his mother, with no one to protect him, it was proposed
to bury him with her in the same grave--a circumstance that may serve
to give some idea of the ignorance and brutality of his tribe. But the
Almighty, who had [CXLIII] other purposes in his regard, moved the
heart of a young woman to compassionate his helpless condition, and
offer to become a mother to him. Her humanity was abundantly
recompensed by seeing her adopted son distinguished above all his
fellows by intelligence, gentleness, and every good disposition. He
was grateful, docile, charitable, and naturally so disposed to piety,
that, from a want of knowing the true God, he more than once was led
to place his trust in that which was but the work of his own
hands.--Being one day lost in a forest, and reduced to extremity, he
began to embrace the trunk of a fallen tree, and to conjure it to have
pity upon him. Nor is it above two months since a serious loss befell
him; indeed one of the most serious that could happen to an
Indian--the loss of three calumets at the same time. He spent no time
in retracing his steps, and to interest heaven in his favor, he put up
the following prayer: "Oh Great Spirit, you who see all things and
undo all things, grant, I entreat you, that I may find what I am
looking for; and yet let thy will be done." This prayer should have
been addressed to God. He did not find the calumets, but in their
place he received what was of more incomparable value--simplicity,
piety, wisdom, patience, courage, and cool intrepidity in the hour of
danger. More favored in one respect than Moses, this new guide of
another people to God, after a longer sojournment in the wilderness,
was at length successful in introducing his children into the land of
promise. He was the first of his tribe who received baptism, and took
the name of Paul, and like his patron, the great Apostle, he has
labored assiduously to gain over his numerous children to the
friendship and love of his Lord and Master.

                  I remain, Rev. Father Provincial,
                              Yours, &c.
                               P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[225] The Bitterroot River rises in two forks in the main chain of the
Rockies, on the northern slope of the divide between Montana and
Idaho, and flows almost directly north through a beautiful, fertile
valley, until at Fort Missoula it unites with the Hell Gate to form
Missoula River. The name is derived from the plant _Lewisia rediviva_
(French, _racine amère_), which was occasionally used by the Indians
as food. The name St. Mary's River, assigned by Father de Smet, is
frequently found on early maps.--ED.

[226] The site of St. Mary's mission was on the east bank of the
Bitterroot, about eighteen miles above its mouth, near old Fort Owen and
the modern Stevensville. For the further history of St. Mary's mission
see Palladino, _Indian and White in the Northwest_, pp. 32-67.--ED.

[227] The Cœur d'Alène (awl-hearted) Indians are a branch of the
Salishan family, whose tribal name is Skitswish (Lewis and Clark,
Skeetsomish). Many unauthenticated traditions are afloat in regard to
the origin of this term, which seems to be allied to some form of
parsimony. The habitat of this tribe, near the lake of that name in
northern Idaho, is still the seat of their reservation, which was set
off in 1867, but not occupied until after the treaty of 1873. The
tribal population has been almost stationary since first known,
numbering nearly five hundred. Their language is quite similar to the
Spokan. The Cœur d'Alène are agriculturists, wear civilized dress, and
are now receiving their lands by allotment.--ED.

[228] This was the estimated number of Indians under Jesuit control in
Paraguay, at the time of greatest prosperity.--ED.

[229] This Pend d'Oreille's native name was Chalax, and he is said to
have been before his baptism a famous medicine man.--ED.

[230] For the Spokan see Franchère's _Narrative_, in our volume vi, p.
341, note 146.--ED.

[231] Two South American tribes of eastern Bolivia, who long resisted
the Spaniards, but yielded finally to Jesuit missionaries. The mission
to the Chiquito was begun in 1691; they were gathered into two
villages, and easily civilized.--ED.

[232] Baptized as Ambrose, and one of the most faithful converts. He
was living in 1859. See Chittenden and Richardson, _De Smet_,

[233] Another title for Michael, or Insula; see _ante_, p. 147, note

                                LETTER X

            St. Mary's, Rocky Mountains, 26th Oct. 1842.[234]

  Rev. and Dear Father Provincial:

This last letter will contain the practical conclusions of what has
been stated in the preceding. I am confident that these conclusions
will be very agreeable and consoling to all persons who feel
interested in the progress of our holy religion, and who very
prudently refuse to form a decided opinion, unless they can found it
on well attested facts.

From what has hitherto been said, we may draw this conclusion, that
the nation of the Flat Heads appear to be a chosen people--"the elect
of God;" that it would be easy to make this tribe a model for other
tribes,--the seed of two hundred thousand Christians, who would be as
fervent as were the converted Indians of Paraguay; and that the
conversion of the former would be effected with more facility than
that of the latter. The Flat Heads have no communication with corrupt
tribes; they hold all sects in aversion; they have a horror of
idolatry; they cherish much sympathy for the whites, but chiefly for
the Black Gowns, (Catholic Priests) a name, which, in consequence of
the prepossessions and favorable impressions, which they have received
from the Iroquois, is synonymous with goodness, learning, and
Catholicity. Their position is central.--Their territory sufficiently
extensive to contain several missions; the land is fertile, the
country surrounded by [CXLV] high mountains. They are independent of
all authority except that of God, and those who represent him. They
have no tribute to pay but that of prayer; they have already acquired
practical experience of the advantages of a civilized over a barbarous
state of life; and in fine, they are fully convinced and firmly
persuaded that without the religion that is announced to them, they
can be happy neither in this world nor in the next.

From all these considerations, we may again draw the conclusions, that
the best end which we can propose to ourselves is that which our
Fathers of Paraguay had in view when they commenced their missionary
labors; and that the means to attain this end should be the same,
chiefly because these means have been approved by the most
respectable authorities, crowned with perfect success, and admired
even by the enemies of our religion.

The principle being admitted, it only remains to form a correct idea
of the method employed by our Fathers in Paraguay to improve the minds
and hearts of their Neophytes, and to bring them to that degree of
perfection of which they conceived them susceptible. After having
seriously reflected on what Muratori relates of the establishments in
Paraguay, we have concluded that the following points should be laid
down, as rules to direct the conduct of our converts.

1. _With regard to God._--Simple, firm, and lively faith with respect
to all the truths of religion, and chiefly such as are to be believed
as Theologians express it, _necessitate medii et necessitate
præcepti_. Profound respect for the only true religion; perfect
submission to the church of God, in all that regards faith and
morality, discipline, &c. Tender and solid piety towards the Blessed
Virgin [CXLVI] and the Saints. Desire of the conversion of others.
Courage and fortitude of the Martyrs.

2. _With regard to our neighbor._--Respect for those in authority, for
parents, the aged, &c. Justice, charity, and generosity towards all.

3. _With regard to one's self._--Humility, modesty, meekness,
discretion, temperance, irreproachable behavior, industry or love of
labor, &c.

We shall strenuously recommend the desire of the conversion of others,
because Providence seems to have great designs with respect to our
small tribe. In one of our instructions given in a little chapel,
constructed of boughs, not less than twenty-four nations were
represented, including ourselves. Next, the courage and fortitude of
the Martyrs, because in the neighborhood of the Black Feet there is
continual danger of losing either the life of the soul, or that of
the body. Also, industry or the love of labor, because idleness is the
predominant vice of Indians; and even the Flat Heads, if they are not
addicted to idleness, at least, manifest a striking inaptitude to
manual labor, and it will be absolutely necessary to conquer this.--To
ensure success, much time and patience will be required. Finally and
chiefly, profound respect for the true religion, to counteract the
manœuvres of various sectaries, who, desirous as it would seem, to
wipe away the reproach formerly made by Muratori, and in our days by
the celebrated Dr. Wiseman,[235] use all their efforts to make
proselytes, and to appear disinterested, and even zealous in the
propagation of their errors.

4. _With regard to the means._--Flight from all contaminating influence;
not only from the corruption of the age, but from what the gospel calls
the world. Caution against [CXLVII] all immediate intercourse with the
whites, even with the workmen, whom necessity compels us to employ, for
though these are not wicked, still they are far from possessing the
qualities necessary to serve as models to men who are humble enough to
think they are more or less perfect, in proportion as their conduct
corresponds with that of the whites. We shall confine them to the
knowledge of their own language, erect schools among them, and teach
them reading, writing, arithmetic and singing. Should any exception be
made to this general rule, it will be in favor of a small number, and
only when their good dispositions will induce us to hope that we may
employ them as auxiliaries in religion. A more extensive course of
instruction would undoubtedly prove prejudicial to these good Indians,
whose simplicity is such that they might easily be imposed upon, if they
were to come in contact with error, whilst it is the source of all truth
and virtue when enlightened by the flambeau of faith. La Harpe himself,
speaking of the Apostolic laborers of our society, says that the
perfection of our ministry consists in illumining by faith the ignorance
of the savage.[236]

To facilitate the attainment of the end in view, we have chosen the
place of the first missionary station, formed the plan of the village,
made a division of the lands, determined the form of the various
buildings, &c. The buildings deemed most necessary and useful at present
are, a church, schools, work houses, store houses, &c. Next, we have
made regulations respecting public worship, religious exercises,
instructions, catechisms, confraternities, the administration of the
Sacraments, singing, music, &c. All this is to be executed in conformity
with the plan formerly adopted in the Missions of Paraguay.

Such are the resolutions which we have adopted, and [CXLVIII] which we
submit to be approved, amended or modified, by those who have the
greater glory of God at heart, and who, by their position and the
graces of their state of life, are designed by the Most High to
communicate to us the true spirit of our Society.

                 Believe me to be,
                        Rev. and dear Father Provincial,
                                     Your devoted son in Christ,
                                           P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[234] The context proves this to be a misprint for 1841.--ED.

[235] Nicholas Patrick Stephen Wiseman (1802-65), born in Seville of
Irish parents, was inducted into holy orders at Rome in 1824. He was a
noted scholar and controversialist, well known to the English-speaking
world, and closely connected with the Oxford movement. In 1848 he was
made cardinal-archbishop of Westminster, whereupon he issued an
_Appeal to Reason and Good Feeling_, which won him many friends among
the English people.--ED.

[236] Probably Jean François de La Harpe (1739-1803), a French critic
and satirist, who from being a Voltairean became an ardent Christian
in the latter years of his life.--ED.

                               LETTER XI

                                 St. Mary's, December --, 1841.

  Reverend Father:

I shall here give you the remarks and observations I have made, and
the information I have gathered, during this last journey, concerning
some customs and practices of the savages.

In speaking of the animals, I inquired of seven Flat Heads, who were
present, how many cows they had killed between them in their last
hunt? The number amounted to one hundred and eighty-nine--one alone
had killed fifty-nine. One of the Flat Heads told me of three
remarkable _hits_ which had distinguished him in that chase. He
pursued a cow, armed merely with a stone, and killed her by striking
her while running, between the horns; he afterwards killed a second
with his knife; and finished his exploits by spearing and strangling a
large ox. The young warriors frequently exercise themselves in this
manner, to show their agility, dexterity and strength. He who spoke
looked like a Hercules. They then, (a rare favor, for they are not
boasters,) kindly showed me the scars left by the balls and arrows of
the Black Feet in their different encounters. One of them bore the
scars of four balls which had pierced his thigh; the only consequence
of which was a little stiffness of the leg, scarcely perceptible.
Another had his arm and breast pierced by a ball. A third, beside some
wounds from a knife and spear, had an arrow, five inches [CL] deep, in
his belly. A fourth had still two balls in his body. One among them, a
cripple, had his leg broken by a ball sent by an enemy concealed in a
hole; leaping on one leg he fell upon the Black Foot, and the hiding
place of the foe became his grave. "These Black Feet," I remarked,
"are terrible people." The Indian who last spoke replied in the sense
of the words of Napoleon's grenadier, "Oui, mais ils meurent vite
apres." I expressed a desire to know the medicines which they use in
such cases; they, much surprised at my question, replied, laughing,
"we apply nothing to our wounds, they close of themselves." This
recalled to me the reply of Captain Bridger in the past year. He had
had, within four years, two quivers-full of arrows in his body. Being
asked if the wounds had been long suppurating, he answered in a
comical manner, "among the mountains nothing corrupts."[237]

The Indians who live on Clarke river are of the middle size.[238] The
women are very filthy. Their faces, hands and feet are black and
stiff with dirt. They rub them every morning with a composition of red
and brown earth mixed up with fish oil. Their hair, always long and
dishevelled, serves them for a towel to wipe their hands on. Their
garment is generally tattered, and stiff and shining with dust and
grease. They seem to be less subjected to slavish labor than the
squaws that live East of the Mountains, still they have to toil hard,
and to do whatever is most difficult. They are obliged to carry all
the household furniture or to row the canoe when they move from one
place to another at home, they fetch the wood and the water, clean the
fish, prepare the meals, gather the roots and fruits of the season,
and when any leisure time is left, they spend it in making mats,
baskets and hats of bull-rushes. What must appear rather singular is,
[CLI] that the men more frequently handle the needle than the squaws.
Their chief occupations, however, are fishing and hunting. These
Indians suffer much from ophthalmic affections. Scarcely a cabin is to
be found on Clarke river, in which there is not a blind or one eyed
person, or some one laboring under some disease of the eye. This
probably proceeds from two causes--first, because they are frequently
on the water and exposed from morning till night to the direct and
reflected rays of the sun, and next, because living in low cabins made
of bull-rushes, the large fire they make in the centre fills it with
smoke, which must gradually injure their eyes.

Conjurers are found here as well as in some parts of Europe. They are
a kind of physicians. Whatever may be the complaint of the patient
these gentlemen have him stretched out on his back, and his friends
and relatives are ordered to stand round him, each one armed with two
sticks of unequal length. The doctor or conjurer neither feels the
pulse nor looks at the tongue, but with a solemn countenance commences
to sing some mournful strain, whilst those present accompany him with
their voices and beat time with the sticks. During the singing the
doctor operates on the patient, he kneels before him, and placing his
closed fists on the stomach, leans on him with all his might.
Excessive pain makes the patient roar, but his roarings are lost in
the noise, for the doctor and the bystanders raise their voices higher
in proportion as the sick man gives utterance to his sufferings. At
the end of each stanza the doctor joins his hands, applies them to the
patient's lips, and blows with all his strength. This operation is
repeated till at last the doctor takes from the patient's mouth,
either a little white stone, or the claw of some bird or animal, which
he exhibits to the bystanders, protesting that he has [CLII] removed
the cause of the disease, and that the patient will soon recover. But
whether he recover or die, the quack is here as elsewhere rewarded for
his exertions. _Mundus vult decipi_, is the watchword of quacks,
jugglers and mountebanks; and it seems that the Indian conjurers are
not unacquainted with it. I received this description of their method
of curing diseases from a clerk of the Hudson Bay Company. I shall
subjoin another anecdote concerning the religious ideas entertained by
the Tchenooks.[239] All men, they say, were created by a divinity
called _Etalapasse_, but they were created imperfect or unfinished.
Their mouths were not cleft, their eyes were closed, and their hands
and feet were immovable; so that they were rather living lumps of
flesh than men. Another divinity, whom they call _Ecannum_
(resembling the _Nanaboojoo_ of the Potowattamies,) less powerful, but
more benevolent than the former, seeing the imperfect state of these
men, took a sharp stone and with it opened their mouths and eyes. He
also gave motion to their hands and feet. This merciful divinity did
not rest satisfied with conferring these first favors on the human
race. He taught them to make canoes and paddles, nets and all the
implements now used by the Indians. He threw large rocks into the
rivers to obstruct their courses, and confine the fish in order that
the Indians might catch them in larger quantities.

When I speak of the Indian character, I do not mean to include the
Indians that live in the neighborhood of civilized man, and have
intercourse with him. It is acknowledged in the United States, that
the whites who trade with those Indians, not only demoralize them by
the sale of spirituous liquors, but communicate to them their own
vices, of which some are shocking and revolting to nature. The Indian
left to himself, is circumspect and discreet in his [CLIII] words and
actions. He seldom gives way to passion; except against the hereditary
enemies of his nation. When there is question of them, his words
breathe hatred and vengeance. He seeks revenge, because he firmly
believes that it is the only means by which he can retrieve his honor
when he has been insulted or defeated; because he thinks that only low
and vulgar minds can forget an injury, and he fosters rancor because
he deems it a virtue. With respect to others, the Indian is cool and
dispassionate, checking the least violent emotion of his heart. Thus
should he know that one of his friends is in danger of being attacked
by an enemy lying in wait for him, he will not openly tell him so,
(for he would deem this an act of fear,) but will ask him where he
intends to go that day, and after having received an answer, will add
with the same indifference, that a wild beast lies hidden on the way.
This figurative remark will render his friend as cautious as if he
were acquainted with all the designs and movements of the enemy. Thus
again, if an Indian has been hunting without success, he will go to
the cabin of one of his friends, taking care not to show the least
sign of disappointment or impatience, nor to speak of the hunger which
he suffers. He will sit down and smoke the calumet with as much
indifference as if he had been successful in the chase. He acts in the
same manner when he is among strangers. To give signs of
disappointment or impatience, is looked upon by the Indians as a mark
of cowardice, and would earn for them the appellation of "old woman,"
which is the most injurious and degrading epithet that can be applied
to an Indian. If an Indian be told that his children have
distinguished themselves in battle,--that they have taken several
scalps, and have carried off many enemies and horses, without giving
the least sign of joy, he will answer: "They have done [CLIV] well."
If he be informed that they have been killed or made prisoners, he
will utter no complaint, but will simply say: "It is unfortunate." He
will make no inquiries into the circumstances; several days must
elapse before he asks for further information.

The Indian is endowed with extraordinary sagacity, and easily learns
whatever demands attention. Experience and observation render him
conversant with things that are unknown to the civilized man. Thus, he
will traverse a plain or forest one or two hundred miles in extent,
and will arrive at a particular place with as much precision as the
mariner by the aid of the compass. Unless prevented by obstacles, he,
without any material deviation, always travels in a straight line,
regardless of path or road. In the same manner he will point out the
exact place of the sun, when it is hidden by mists or clouds. Thus,
too, he follows with the greatest accuracy, the traces of men or
animals, though these should have passed over the leaves or the grass,
and nothing be perceptible to the eye of the white man. He acquires
this knowledge from a constant application of the intellectual
faculties, and much time and experience are required to perfect this
perceptive quality. Generally speaking, he has an excellent
memory.--He recollects all the articles that have been concluded upon
in their councils and treaties, and the exact time when such councils
were held or such treaties ratified.

Some writers have supposed that the Indians are guided by instinct,
and have even ventured to assert that their children would find their
way through the forests as well as those further advanced in age. I
have consulted some of the most intelligent Indians on this subject,
and they have uniformly told me that they acquire this practical
knowledge by long and close attention to the growth of [CLV] plants
and trees, and to the sun and stars. It is known that the north side
of a tree is covered with a greater quantity of moss than any other,
and that the boughs and foliage on the south side are more abundant
and luxuriant. Similar observations tend to direct them, and I have
more than once found their reflections useful to myself in the
excursions I have made through the forests. Parents teach their
children to remark such things, and these in their turn sometimes add
new discoveries to those of their fathers. They measure distances by a
day's journey. When an Indian travels alone, his day's journey will be
about 50 or 60 English miles, but only 15 or 20 when he moves with the
camp. They divide their journeys, as we do the hours, into halves and
quarters; and when in their councils they decide on war or on distant
excursions, they lay off these journeys with astonishing accuracy on a
kind of map, which they trace on bark or skins. Though they have no
knowledge of geography, nor of any science that relates to it, yet
they form with sufficient accuracy maps of the countries which they
know; nothing but the degrees of longitude and latitude are wanting in
some to make them exact.

I remember to have read in Fr. Charlevoix' journal that the Indians are
remarkably superstitious with respect to dreams.[240] This is still the
case, though they interpret them in various ways. Some maintain that
during sleep the rational part of the soul travels about, whilst the
sensitive continues to animate the body. Others say that the good
Manitoo or familiar spirit gives salutary advice concerning the future,
whilst others hold that in sleep the soul visits the objects about which
she dreams. But all look upon dreams as sacred, and as the ordinary
channels through which the Great Spirit and the Manitoos communicate
[CLVI] their designs to man. Impressed with this idea, the Indian is at
a loss to conceive why we disregard them. As they look upon dreams as
representations of the desires of some unearthly genius, or of the
commands of the Great Spirit, they deem themselves bound to observe and
obey them. Charlevoix tells us somewhere, and I have seen instances of a
similar kind, that an Indian who had dreamed that he had cut off his
finger, actually cut it, and prepared himself for the act by a fast.
Another having dreamed that he was a prisoner among a hostile nation,
not knowing how to act, consulted the jugglers, and according to their
decision, had himself bound to a stake, and fire applied to several
parts of his body. I doubt whether the quotation is correct, as I have
not the work of Charlevoix to consult, but I know that I have described
a superstitious belief which is generally held by the Indians of the
present day.

When the Pottowatomies or any of the northern nations make or renew a
treaty of peace, they present a wampum, sash or collar. The wampum is
made of a shell called baceinum, and shaped into small beads in the
form of pearls. When they conclude an alliance, offensive or
defensive, with other tribes, they send them a wampum, sash and
tomahawk dipped in blood, inviting them to come and drink of the blood
of their enemies. This figurative expression often becomes a reality.
Among the nations of the West the calumet is looked upon with equal
reverence, whether in peace or war. They smoke the calumet to confirm
their treaties and alliances. This smoking is considered a solemn
engagement, and he who should violate it, would be deemed unworthy of
confidence, infamous, and an object of divine vengeance. In time of
war, the calumet and all its ornaments are red. Sometimes it is partly
red, and partly of some other color. By the color and the manner
[CLVII] of disposing the feathers, a person acquainted with their
practices, knows at first sight what are the designs or intentions of
the nation that presents the calumet.

The smoking of the calumet forms a part of all their religious
ceremonies. It is a kind of sacred rite which they perform when they
prepare themselves to invoke the Great Spirit, and take the sun and
moon, the earth and the water as witnesses of the sincerity of their
intentions, and the fidelity with which they promise to comply with
their engagements. However ridiculous this custom of smoking may appear
to some, it has a good effect among the Indians. Experience has taught
them that the smoke of the calumet dispels the vapors of the brain, aids
them to think and judge with greater accuracy and precision, and excites
their courage. This seems to be the principal reason why they have
introduced it into their councils, where it is looked upon as the seal
of their decisions. It is also sent as a pledge of fidelity to those
whom they wish to consult, or with whom they desire to form an alliance.
I know that the opinions of the Indians concerning the beneficial
effects of smoking the calumet will be sanctioned by few persons,
because it is demonstrated from experience that the smoke of tobacco
acts as a powerful narcotic upon the nervous system, and produces
soporific and debilitating effects; but it should be remembered that
such effects are not produced when the smoke is inhaled into the lungs,
as is the universal practice of the Indians.

The funeral ceremonies of the Calkobins, who inhabit New Caledonia,
west of the mountains, are fantastic and revolting. Mr. Cox, in his
journal, tells us that the body of the deceased is exposed in his
lodge for nine days, and on the tenth is burned.[241] They choose for
this purpose an elevated place, and there erect a funeral
pile.--[CLVIII] In the meanwhile, they invite their neighbors from all
sides, entreating them to repair to the ceremony. All the preparations
being completed, the corpse is placed on the pile, which they light,
while the spectators manifest the greatest joy. All that the deceased
possessed is placed around the body; and if he be a person of
distinction, his friends purchase for him a cloak, a shirt, and a
pair of breeches: these are laid beside him. The medicine man must be
present, and, for the last time, has recourse to his enchantments, to
recall the departed to life. Not succeeding, he covers the dead
body--that is, he makes a present of a piece of cloth, or leather, and
thus appeases the anger of the relatives, and escapes the vengeance
they have a right to inflict upon him. During the nine days on which
the corpse is exposed, the widow is obliged to remain near it from the
rising to the setting of the sun; and, notwithstanding the excessive
heats of summer, no relaxation is allowed from this barbarous custom.
While the doctor is occupied in his last operation, the widow must lie
down beside the corpse, until he orders her to withdraw from the pile;
and this order is not given until the unfortunate being is covered
with blisters. She then is made to pass and repass her hands through
the flames, to collect the fat, which flows from the body: with this
she rubs her person. When the friends of the deceased observe that the
sinews of the legs and arms begin to contract, they force the
miserable widow to return to the pile, and straighten the limbs.

If, during the lifetime of the husband, the woman had been unfaithful
to him, or had neglected to provide for his wants, his relations then
revenge themselves upon her; they throw her upon the pile, from whence
she is dragged by her own relations. She is again cast upon it, and
again withdrawn, until she falls into a state of insensibility.

[CLIX] The body being consumed, the widow gathers together the largest
bones; these she encloses in a birch box, which she is forced to carry
for many years. She is looked upon while in this state as a slave; the
hardest and most laborious work falls to her lot; she must obey every
order of the women, and even of the children; and the least
disobedience or repugnance draws down upon her severe chastisement.
The ashes of her husband are deposited in a tomb, and it is her duty
to remove from thence the weeds. These unhappy women frequently
destroy themselves to avoid so many cruelties. At the end of three or
four years the relatives agree to put an end to her mourning. They
prepare a great feast for this occasion, and invite all the neighbors.
The widow is then introduced, still carrying the bones of the husband;
these are taken from her, and shut up in a coffin, which is fastened
at the end by a stake about twelve feet long. All the guests extol her
painful widowhood; one of whom pours upon her head a vessel of oil,
whilst another covers her with down. It is only after this ceremony
that the widow can marry again; but, as may be readily supposed, the
number of those who hazard a second marriage is very small.

                 I have the honor to be
                         Rev. and dear Father Provincial,
                                 Your devoted servant and son,
                                        P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[237] James Bridger was for nearly fifty years well known as a trapper,
hunter, and guide throughout the Rocky Mountains. De Smet speaks of him
as "one of the truest specimens of a real trapper and Rocky Mountain
man." Born in Virginia in 1804, his parents removed to Missouri before
the War of 1812-15. He was first apprenticed to a St. Louis blacksmith,
but as early as 1822 went to the mountains with Andrew Henry. Becoming
one of Ashley's band, he explored Great Salt Lake in 1824-25, and by
1830 had visited Yellowstone Park. He afterwards entered the American
Fur Company, in whose service he was retained until he built Fort
Bridger in 1843. There he lived for many years with his Indian
(Shoshoni) wife, greatly aiding Western emigration. His ability as a
topographer was remarkable, and he knew the trans-Mississippi country as
did few others. His services as a guide were, therefore, in great demand
for all government and large private expeditions, General Sheridan
consulting him in reference to an Indian campaign as late as 1868. As
the West became civilized, and lost its distinctive frontier features,
Bridger retired to a farm near Kansas City, where he died in 1881. His
name is attached to several Western regions, notably Bridger's Peak, in
southwestern Montana. For his portrait (taken about 1865) see Montana
Historical Society _Contributions_, iii, p. 181; the figure of the
"Trapper" in the dome of the Montana State capitol at Helena, is also
said to be a portrait of this picturesque character. Bridger was so
noted for his remarkable tales of Western adventures and wonders that
his descriptions of Yellowstone Park were long uncredited, being
contemptuously referred to as "Jim Bridger's lies." Apropos of this tale
of arrow-wounds, it may be noted that in 1835 Dr. Marcus Whitman
extracted from Bridger's shoulder an iron arrowhead that had been
embedded therein for several years.--ED.

[238] Clark's River (or more exactly, Clark's Fork of Columbia) was
named by the explorers Lewis and Clark September 6, 1805, upon reaching
the upper forks of its tributary the Bitterroot. It takes the name of
Missoula from the junction of Bitterroot and Hell Gate rivers, but
becomes distinctly Clark's Fork after receiving its great tributary from
the northeast, the Flathead River. Its general course is north from the
southern border of Montana, until turning slightly northwest it crosses
into Idaho and broadens out into Pend d'Oreille Lake, running thence in
a northwest course until it empties into the Columbia just on the
boundary line between Washington and British Columbia. The bands
referred to as "Clarke River" tribes are chiefly of Salishan stock--the
Flatheads, Cœur d'Alène, and Pend d'Oreille.--ED.

[239] For the Chinook (Tchenook) Indians see our volume vi, p. 240,
note 40.--ED.

[240] For Charlevoix see our volume xiii, p. 116, notes 81, 82.--ED.

[241] The following description is taken almost verbatim from the book
of Ross Cox, _Adventures on the Columbia River_ (New York, 1832), pp.
328-330. By the Calkobins is intended the Talkotins, a poor rendering
of the Indian tribal name Lhtho'ten, or people of Fraser River. This
was a tribe of Carrier (Taculli) Indians of the Tinneh stock, who
inhabited the region around the fur-trade post of Alexandria, on
Fraser River. By a census of about 1825 they numbered but 166; the
revolting customs relative to the disposal of the dead were, however,
common to all the Carrier Indians, whose name is said by some to have
been given because of the burden of their husband's ashes, worn by the
widows of the tribe. More probably, the name was derived from their
function of aiding in "carries" or portages across the upper Rockies.

New Caledonia was discovered by Alexander Mackenzie in 1793; its posts
were begun under Simon Fraser (1805-06). During the fur-trading
period, it was an important division of the Hudson's Bay Company's
Pacific provinces; but was dependent upon the Columbia district, with
headquarters at Vancouver. The chief posts of New Caledonia were St.
James, Stuart Lake, and Alexandria. For its boundaries, etc., consult
Ross's _Oregon Settlers_, in our volume vii, p. 194, note 61.--ED.

                               LETTER XII

                                 St. Marie, Dec. 30th, 1841.

  Reverend Father:

I have given you the happy and consoling result of my journey in
November. Before the close of the year I have yet to make you
acquainted with what has passed during my absence, and since my
return, among the Flat Heads; all goes to prove what I have advanced
in my preceding letters.

The Rev. Fathers Mengarini and Point were not idle during my absence.
The following will give you some idea of the state of affairs on my
return, both in regard to material and spiritual matters, as well as
the practices and usages established, which could not but tend to
strengthen, more and more, our good neophytes.

The plan mentioned in my letters, and unanimously approved, and which we
were urged to carry into execution, was, to commence with what appeared
to be the most urgent. We enclosed the field destined to become God's
portion of the settlement. We started the buildings intended to be
hereafter dependencies of the farm, but serving temporarily for a church
and residence, on account of the approach of winter, and our wish to
unite the whole colony. These works were indispensable, and were carried
on with such spirit that in the space of a month the new buildings could
shelter from four to five hundred souls.

The Flat Heads, assisting us with their whole heart and [CLXI]
strength, had, in a short time, cut from two to three thousand stakes;
and the three brothers, with no other tools than the axe, saw and
auger, constructed a chapel with pediment, colonade and gallery,
balustrade, choir, seats, &c. by St. Martin's day; when they assembled
in the little chapel all the catechumens, and continued the
instructions which were to end on the third of December, the day fixed
for their baptism. In the interval between these two remarkable
epochs, there was, on each day, one instruction more than usual. This
last instruction, intended chiefly for grown persons, was given at 8
o'clock in the evening, and lasted about an hour and a quarter. These
good savages, whose ears and hearts are alike open when the word of
God is addressed to them, appeared still better disposed in the
evening; the silence being unbroken by the cries of infants or
children. Our heavenly Father so graciously heard their prayers, that
on St. Francis Xavier's day the good Fathers had the consolation of
baptising two hundred and two adults.

So many souls wrested from the demons was more than enough to excite
their rage,--seeds of distrust, hindrances occasioned by the best
intentioned, the sickness of the interpreter and sexton, at the very
moment their assistance was most required; a kind of hurricane, which
took place the evening before the baptism, and which overturned three
lodges in the camp, the trees torn from their roots, and every thing in
appearance about to be uprooted, even to the foundations of the
church--the organ unintentionally broken by the savages, on the eve of
being applied to so beautiful a purpose--all seemed to conspire against
them; but the day for baptism arrives, and every cloud disappears.

The Fathers had intended to solemnize the marriages of [CLXII] the
husbands and wives on the same day as their baptism. They had even
announced that the ceremony would take place after baptism; but the
sacred rite having occupied a much longer time than they supposed, on
account of the necessity of interpreting all that was said, they were
obliged to defer this sacrament until the next day, trusting to God and
the new Christians, for the preservation of their baptismal innocence.

As our former Missionaries have left nothing in writing on the conduct
we should observe with regard to marriage, it may, perhaps, be useful
to relate here what has been our course, in order that our conduct may
be rectified if it has not been judicious.

We hold the principle, that, generally speaking, there are no valid
marriages among the savages of these countries; and for this reason; we
have not found one, even among the best disposed, who, after marriage
had been contracted in their own fashion, did not believe himself
justified in sending away his first wife, whenever he thought fit, and
taking another. Many even have several wives in the same lodge. It is,
however, true, that many when entering the marriage state, promise that
nothing but death will ever separate them; that they will never give
their hand to another. But what impassioned man or woman has not said as
much? Can we infer from this that the contract is valid, when it is
universally received, that even after such promises they have not the
less right to do as they please, when they become disgusted with each
other? We are then agreed on this principle, that among them, even to
the present time, there has been no marriage, because they have never
known well in what its essence and obligation consisted. To adopt an
opposite view would be to involve oneself in a labyrinth of
difficulties, from which it would be [CLXIII] very difficult to escape.
This was, if I am not mistaken, the conduct of St. Francis Xavier in the
Indies, since it is said in his Life, that he praised before the married
those whom he supposed to be dearest to them, that they might be more
easily induced to keep to one alone. Secondly, supposing then that there
were material faults in their marriages, the necessity of a renewal was
not spoken of but for the time which followed baptism, and this took
place the day following that happy occasion.

After the Fathers had gained the necessary information respecting the
degrees of relationship, and had given the necessary dispensations, the
marriage ceremony, preceded by a short instruction, was performed, and
contributed greatly to give the people a high idea of our holy religion.

The twenty-four marriages then contracted presented that mixture of
simplicity, of respectful affection, and profound joy, which are the
sure indications of a good conscience. There were among the couples,
good old men and women; but their presence only rendered the ceremony
more respectable in the eyes of those assembled; for among the Flat
Heads all that relates to religion is sacred; unhappy he who would so
express himself before them, as to lead them to believe that he
thought otherwise. They left the chapel, their hearts filled with
sentiments purified by that grace which constitutes the charm of every
state of life, and especially of those in wedlock.

The only thing that appeared strange to them was, when the Fathers
spoke of taking the names of witnesses; but when they were told that
this was only done because the church so ordained, to give more
authority and dignity to the marriage contract, they no longer saw in
it any thing but what was reasonable, and the question was, who should
be witness for the others?

[CLXIV] The same astonishment was manifested with regard to
god-fathers. The interpreter had translated the word god-father, a
term which is not in their language, by second father. The poor
savages not knowing what this meant, or what consequences this title
would imply, were not eager to make a choice. To be a god-father
moreover offered no great attraction. As soon as we made them
understand it, their difficulties vanished, and the more easily; for
not to multiply spiritual affinities, a god-father only was given to
the men, and a god-mother to the women; and as to the obligations
attached to the honour of being sponsors, they were much less here
than elsewhere, the Black Gowns promising to take upon themselves the
greatest part of the burden. For the first baptisms our choice of
sponsors was very limited; only thirteen grown persons were qualified
to act in this capacity,--but the most aged persons being baptised
before the others, they, without laying aside the lighted candle, (the
symbol of faith) were chosen for the second division; and so in like
manner with the rest.

The day preceding the baptism, the Fathers, on account of their
labors, were only able to collect the colony twice; besides, F.
Mengarini was indisposed. In the evening, however, he assembled the
people, and great was their astonishment on beholding the decorations
of the chapel. Some days previously the Fathers had engaged all who
were willing, to make matts of rushes or straws. All the women, girls
and children, assembled eagerly for this good work, so that they had
enough to cover the floor and ceiling, and hang round the walls. These
matts, ornamented with festoons of green, made a pretty drapery around
the altar. On a canopy was inscribed the holy name of Jesus. Among the
ornaments they placed a picture of the Blessed Virgin over the
tabernacle; on the door of the tabernacle a [CLXV] representation of
the heart of Jesus. The pictures of the way of the Cross, in red
frames; the lights, the silence of night, the approach of the
important day, the calm after the hurricane, which had burst on them
only a few moments before--all these circumstances united, had, with
the grace of God, so well disposed the minds and hearts of our
Indians, that it would have been scarcely possible to find on earth an
assembly of savages more resembling a company of saints. This was the
beautiful bouquet which the Fathers were permitted to present to Saint
Francis Xavier. The next day they were engaged from eight o'clock in
the morning until half past ten at night, in the church, excepting
only one hour and a half, which they gave to repose. The following was
the order followed. First, they baptized the chiefs and married men.
These were chosen as god-fathers for the young men and little boys;
then the married women, whose husbands were living with them;
afterwards the widows and wives who had been cast off; and, lastly,
the young women and girls.

It was gratifying to hear with what intelligence these good savages
replied to all the questions addressed to them, and to see them praying
at the moment of receiving baptism. At the end, each received a taper
whose blended light beautifully illuminated our humble chapel.

But let us come to something still more edifying. I shall not speak of
their assiduous attendance at the instructions,--of their eagerness to
hear our words,--of the evident profit they received from them; all
this is common in the course of a mission; but rarely do we witness
the heroic sacrifices which these Indians have made. Many, who had two
wives, have retained her whose children were most numerous, and with
all possible respect dismissed the other. One evening, a savage came
to seek the [CLXVI] Fathers at the lodge, which was filled with
Indians, and unabashed by any merely human consideration, asked what
he should do in his present circumstances? On the instant he acted
according to the instructions given him; he dismissed his youngest
wife, giving her what he would have wished another to give to his
sister, if in the same situation, and was re-united to his first wife,
whom he had forsaken. After an instruction, a young woman, asking to
speak, said that "she desired very much to receive baptism, but that
she had been so wicked she dared not make the request." Each one would
have made a public confession. A great number of young mothers,
married according to the mode of the savages, but abandoned by their
husbands, who were of some other tribe, renounced them most willingly,
to have the happiness of being baptised.

The ordinary regulations observed in the village are as follows: when
the _Angelus_ rings, the Indians rise from sleep; half an hour after,
the morning prayers are said in common; all assist at Mass and at the
instruction. A second instruction is given at evening, towards sun
set, and lasts about an hour and a quarter. At two o'clock in the
afternoon we have the regular catechism for the children, at which
grown persons may assist if they think proper. The children are formed
into two divisions: the first is composed exclusively of those who
know the first prayers; the second of the smaller children. One of
the Fathers each morning visits the sick, to furnish them with
medicines, and give them such assistance as their wants may require.

We have adopted the system of instruction and bestowing rewards, in
usage in the schools of the brothers of the Christian doctrine. During
catechism, which lasts about an hour, we have recitations and
explanations, intermingled [CLXVII] with canticles. Every day, for
each good answer, tickets of approbation are given; one or more,
according to the difficulty of the question proposed. Experience has
proved that these tickets given at once, are less embarrassing than
when we mark their names on a list; the former plan takes less time,
and interests the children more, rendering them, besides, more
assiduous and careful. These tickets serve, at the same time, as
certificates of attendance at catechism, and as tokens of intelligence
and good will, they please the parent not less than their children.
The former are incited to make their children repeat what has been
said at catechism, to render them capable of answering better the
following day; and also with a desire of improving themselves. The
wish to see their children distinguish themselves, has attracted
almost the whole colony to catechism: none of the chiefs who have
children fail to be there; and there is not less emulation among the
parents than among the children themselves. A still greater value is
attached to the tickets, from the exactitude and justice with which
the deserving are rewarded. They who have obtained good tickets during
the week, are rewarded on Sunday with crosses, medals, or ribbons,
publicly distributed. On the first Sunday of every month they
distribute to those who have received the most good tickets in the
course of the month, medals or pictures, which become their private
property. These pictures, preserved with care, are great stimulants,
not only to the study of their catechism but also to the practice of
piety. They are monuments of victory, examples of virtue, exhortations
to piety, and models of perfection. Their rarity, and the efforts
necessary to obtain them, also enhance their worth. As we desire to
inspire the savages, who are naturally inclined to idleness, with a
love for work, it has been judged suitable to reward [CLXVIII] their
little efforts in the same manner as we recompense their improvement
in, and knowledge of their catechism.

To maintain order, and promote emulation among them, the catechism
children are divided into seven or eight sections, of six each; the
boys on one side, the girls on the other. At the head of each section
there is a chief, who must assist the children placed under him to
learn their catechism; that thus every child may indulge the hope of
meriting a reward at the end of the week or month. They are so divided
that the competitors, to the number of five or six in each section,
may be of nearly equal capacity.

Father Point, who was, immediately after Christmas, to accompany the
assembled camps of Flat Heads, Pends-d'oreilles, Nez-perces, &c.
prepared for his new campaign by a retreat of eight days. Twenty-four
marriages, as I have already said, had been celebrated during my
absence, and two hundred and two adults, with little boys and girls
from eight to fourteen years of age, had been baptised. There were
still, thirty-four couples, who awaited my return, to receive the
sacraments of baptism and marriage, or to renew their marriage vows.
The Nez-perces had not yet presented their children for baptism. There
was an old chief of the Black Feet nation, in the camp, with his son
and his little family, five in all, who had been hitherto very
assiduous in their attendance at prayers and catechism. The day
succeeding my arrival I commenced giving three instructions daily,
besides the catechism, which was taught by the other Fathers. They
profited so well, that with the grace of God, a hundred and fifteen
Flat Heads, with three chiefs at their head, thirty Nez-perces with
their chief, and the Black Foot chief and his family, presented
themselves at the baptismal font on Christmas day. I began my Masses
at seven o'clock in the morning; at five o'clock, P. M. I [CLXIX]
still found myself in the chapel: The heart can conceive, but the
tongue cannot express the emotions which such a consoling spectacle
may well awaken. The following day I celebrated a solemn Mass of
Thanksgiving for the signal favours with which our Lord had deigned to
visit his people. From six to seven hundred new Christians, with bands
of little children, baptised in the past year,--all assembled in a
poor little chapel, covered with rushes--in the midst of a desert,
where but lately, the name of God was scarcely known; offering to the
Creator their regenerated hearts, protesting that they would persevere
in His holy service even to death, was an offering, without doubt,
most agreeable to God, and which, we trust, will draw down the dews of
heaven upon the Flat Head nation and the neighbouring tribes.

On the 29th the large camp, accompanied by the Fathers, left us for
the great buffalo hunt, and joined the Pends-d'oreilles, who awaited
them at two day's journey hence; there will be above two hundred
lodges. I am filled with hope for the success and fresh victories,
with which, I trust, God will deign to reward the zeal of his servant.
In the mean time we occupy ourselves (Father Mengarini and myself) in
translating the catechism into the Flat Head tongue; and in preparing
one hundred and fifty persons for their first communion.

Our good brothers and the Canadians are engaged at the same time in
erecting around our establishment a strong palisade, fortified with
bastions, to shelter us from the incursions of the Black Feet, whom we
daily expect to visit us. Our confidence in God is not weakened; we
take the precautions which prudence dictates, and remain without fear
at our post.

A young Sinpoil has just arrived in our camp, and these [CLXX] are his
words: "I am a Sinpoil, my nation is compassionate. I have been sent
to hear your words, and learn the prayer you teach the Flat Heads. The
Sinpoils desire also to know it, and to imitate their example."[242]
This young man proposes to pass the winter in our camp, and return in
the spring to his own nation, to sow among them the seeds of the

The whole Flat Head nation converted--four hundred Kalispels
baptised--eighty Nez-perces, several Cœurs-d'aliene, many Kooetenays,
Black Feet, Serpents and Banacs,--the Sinpoils, the Chaudieres,[243]
who open their arms to us, and eagerly ask for Fathers to instruct
them; the earnest demands from Fort Vancouver on the part of the
Governor,[244] and of the Rev. Mr. Blanchette, assuring us of the
good desires and dispositions of a great number of nations, ready to
receive the gospel,--in a word, a vast country, which only awaits the
arrival of true ministers of God, to rally round the standard of the
Cross--behold the beautiful bouquet, Rev. Father, which we have the
happiness of presenting you at the close of 1841.[245] It is at the
foot of the crucifix that you are accustomed to ask counsel of heaven
for the welfare of the nations entrusted to your children. Our number
is very far from sufficient for the pressing and real wants of this
people. The Protestants are on the _qui vive_. Send us then some
Fathers and Brothers to assist us, and thousands of souls will bless
you at the throne of God for all eternity.

Recommending myself to your holy prayers,

            I have the honour to be, with the most profound
                    respect and esteem,
                          Rev. Father, Yours, &c.
                                   P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[242] Sanpoil has been variously interpreted as a French word (meaning
"without hairs") or as the English rendering of a native word. They
were a tribe of Salishan stock, resident upon the upper Columbia, near
a river in northeastern Washington called from their name. The Sanpoil
did not prove amenable to missionary effort. The governor of
Washington Territory in 1870 represents them as the least civilized
and most independent aborigines of the territory, clinging to their
native religion and customs. Since then, they have been located on the
Colville reservation, where their reputation for honesty and industry
is not high. With their near kindred the Nespelin, they number about
four hundred.--ED.

[243] The Chaudière (or Kettle) Indians were so named from their
habitat near Kettle Falls of the Columbia. Their native name was
Shwoyelpi (Skoyelpi), rendered Wheelpoo by Lewis and Clark. They were
early brought under Catholic influence, becoming satisfactory
neophytes. The original tribe became extinct about 1854; but their
place was supplied by natives of the vicinity, of similar origin. They
are now known as Colville Indians, and to the number of about three
hundred live on the reservation of that name, where the majority are
Catholic communicants.--ED.

[244] For Fort Vancouver and its governor, Dr. John McLoughlin, see
Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, pp. 296, 297, notes 81,

[245] Francis Norbert Blanchet had been a parish priest in the diocese
of Montreal. In 1838, when a call came from the Canadians in the
valley of the Willamette for a priest to minister to their settlement,
Blanchet was sent out with the Hudson's Bay brigade, arriving at Fort
Vancouver in the autumn of that year. Early in January, 1840, St.
Paul's parish, in Willamette Valley, was established by Blanchet, and
the church erected therefor in 1836 was occupied. In 1843 Blanchet was
appointed vicar apostolic of the territory of the British crown west
of the Rockies. Going to Montreal for consecration, he afterwards
visited Europe, where he was created archbishop of Oregon, with a seat
at Oregon City. For his portrait see Lyman, _Oregon_ (New York, 1903),
iii, p. 422. His _Historical Sketches of the Catholic church in Oregon
during the past forty years_ was published at Portland in 1878.--ED.

                                BOOK II

                       AMONG THE INDIAN TRIBES OF
                          THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

                       Madison Forks,[246] 15th August, 1842.

  Rev. and dear Father:

After a journey of four months and a half across an ocean of prairies
and mountains, where we met many an obstacle, we arrived this day a
year ago, under the auspices of the Queen of Heaven, at one of the
Forts of the honorable company of Hudson Bay, called Fort Hall. Mr.
Ermantiger, the estimable commander of this Fort, received us in the
most friendly manner, and loaded us with favours. At this place we
found the vanguard of our dear neophytes awaiting us. How joyful and
happy was this meeting. What had they not done to obtain Black Gowns
to visit them? Four times had their deputations crossed the Western
desert--eight of their people had perished on the road, three from
sickness, and five fell victims to the Scioux tribe. Twice from the
Bitter Root river almost all their people had transported themselves
to the Green river, a distance of more than five hundred miles from
their usual encampment. In fine, those who then joined us had at the
first news of our approach again traversed the half of that space to
meet us; nor could they, on [CLXXIV] first seeing us, express their
feelings but by their silence. Very soon, however, they gave vent to
the grateful sentiments of their hearts, in such a manner as to
astonish us. "I am very ignorant and wicked," exclaimed the chief
Wistelpo to his companions, "nevertheless I am grateful to the Great
Spirit for all he has done for us." Detailing all the benefits he had
received he terminated his discourse in the following manner: "Yes, my
dear friends, my heart is filled with contentment, notwithstanding its
wickedness. I do not despair of the goodness of God, I only wish for
life to employ it in prayer; never will I give up praying; I will
continue to pray until my death, and when that hour comes I will throw
myself into the arms of the Master of Life. If it be His will that I
should be lost I will submit to his decree. Should he wish to save me
I will bless him forever. Once more I repeat, my heart is happy. What
can we do to prove to our Fathers that we love them."--Here the chief
made some practical reflections.

They informed us that since I left them in 1840 their brothers had
always remained in the same dispositions; that according to the plan I
had laid out for them, all the people met twice every day, and three
times on Sundays, to recite in common the prayers I had taught them.
They also told us that the chest containing the sacred ornaments and
vases, which we had left in their charge, was carried about as the ark
of salvation, wherever they went; that five or six children, dying
after having received the sacrament of baptism, had taken their flight
to heaven; that a young warrior, the day after his baptism, had died
from the effects of a wound, which, without the aid of a miracle,
would have carried him off long before; and finally, that a young
child, finding herself at the point of death, solicited baptism with
the greatest earnestness, and after having received [CLXXV] this
favour from the hands of Peter, an Iroquois, she repeated three times
to the witnesses of her happiness: "pray for me--pray for me--pray for
me;" then she prayed herself and sang canticles with a stronger
voice than any of the others, and upon drawing her last breath, she
exclaimed, pointing towards heaven: "Oh! what a beautiful sight! I
behold Mary, my mother, happiness does not belong to earth, in heaven
alone must you seek it. Listen to what the Black Gowns tell you,
because they profess the truth;" and immediately afterwards expired.

[Illustration: Indian Mode of Travelling]

We left Fort Hall on the 19th of the month, conducted by our new
guides, who were not long in giving us striking proof of their
devotion towards us. At the crossing of a very rapid river, called the
Lewis' Fork or Snake River, from the savages who people its borders,
one of our brothers, not being able to guide the mules of his cart,
was dragged into a place so deep that his whole equipage was plunged
under the water; immediately the good savages threw themselves into
the river, raised the cart out of the water, employed their hands and
feet so usefully, that only three mules were drowned and some bags of
provisions lost.

The 29th we met near the source of the Missouri, called the Beaver Head,
a detachment of Flat Heads, having as their leader Ensyla, called the
Little Chief, who has since received in baptism the name of Michael, on
account of his fidelity and courage. A few days previous, a party of
Indians having been discovered on the adjacent heights, a cry was raised
of "the Black Feet! the Black Feet!" Instantly the little camp put
itself on the defensive. Two of the bravest Flat Heads, lifting up their
muskets in the air, started off at full gallop to reconnoitre the enemy.
Already they had disappeared from our view, leaving us somewhat anxious,
but they soon returned, at the head of about ten [CLXXVI] strangers.
They were not the Black Feet, but a party of the Banac tribe, a species
of men half inimical and half friendly to the Flat Heads, who for that
very reason, as we shall see later, were more to be feared than open
enemies. When Michael joined us, the camp of these people was already
united with ours. Their chief and Michael knew each other but too well,
from having once been engaged in an affair in which Michael, finding
himself shamefully betrayed and attacked by a whole Banac village, had
only been able to save himself and six men, who accompanied him, by
killing the brother of the Banac chief, with eight of his people. They
nevertheless shook hands with each other, and separated the next day,
without appearing to entertain any unpleasant recollections. I had a
conversation with the Banac chief on the subject of prayer. He listened
attentively to what I told him, and promised to do amongst his people
what the Flat Heads did amongst theirs. The 30th, after having wound
through a mountain pass, to which we gave the name of the Fathers'
Defile, we advanced as far as a large plain, on the western verge of
which the Flat Heads were encamped. As we drew near, runners approached
us constantly. Already, Stiettiet Loodzo, surnamed the bravest of the
brave, and distinguished from the others by a large red ribbon, had
presented himself. Soon after, we perceived at a distance another
savage, of tall stature, hastening towards us with rapid strides. At the
same time, many cried out--"Paul," "Paul;" and indeed it was Paul,
surnamed "Big Face," the great chief of the nation; Paul, who, owing to
his virtue and his great age, had been baptized the preceding
year--Paul, whom they thought absent, but who had just arrived, as
though by God's special permission, that he might have the satisfaction
of presenting us himself to his [CLXXVII] people. At sun-set we were in
the midst of a most affecting scene. The Missionaries were surrounded by
their neophytes--men, women, young people, and children in their
mothers' arms, all anxious to be among the first to shake hands with us.
Every heart was moved. That evening was certainly beautiful. On the
feast of the holy name of Mary, the whole camp renewed the consecration
of themselves to their future Patroness, which had been previously made
by the vanguard of the first settlement.

About the time the Church celebrates the feast of Mary's pure heart, it
seemed as though the God of the Christians wished to give to _her_ new
children the consolation of seeing the principal eras in their lives
coincide, and in some manner become identified with those happy days
consecrated especially to her honor. It was on the feast which the
Church celebrates in memory of her triumph, that we first met with the
Flat Heads; it will be on the 24th of September, also one of the
festivals, that we shall arrive on the borders of our little Paraguay,
and on the feast of the Holy Rosary we shall select a beautiful spot for
our first settlement, and call it by the holy name of Mary. It is again
remarkable that the nomination took place on another feast called the
Patrocinium, or Patronage of the Blessed Virgin; and thus, Mary, chosen
patroness of the settlement, was hailed for the first time on this spot
with the angelical salutation, accompanied by the ringing of bells. It
was a great consolation for us to speak of her goodness, in the presence
of the representatives of twenty-six different nations. I forgot to
mention that on the day we took possession of the Blessed Mary's new
demesne, we set up a large cross in the middle of the camp, a
circumstance rendered more striking, from having, as they assured me,
been predicted [CLXXVIII] by the young girl, called Mary, of whom I
spoke to you before. How much I wished that all those who take a sincere
interest in the progress of our holy religion, could have been present.
How their hearts would have glowed within them on beholding all the good
Flat Heads, from the great chief to the smallest child, piously coming
up to press their lips to the wood which was the instrument of the
world's salvation, and on their bended knees taking the solemn promise
of dying a thousand times rather than abandon prayer, (religion.) I
started the 28th October for Fort Colville, which is situated on the
Columbia river, to procure provisions.[247] Ours had become so scanty,
and we entertained such slight hopes of obtaining them, that we had
already thought of converting into fishermen the carpenters of our
settlement. In case of their not being successful, and thereby unable to
supply our wants, we intended accompanying the savages on their hunting
expeditions. Our only building as yet was a wooden house, without a
roof, and the winter had already set in. We began by recommending our
wants to God, and with God's assistance we found ourselves, on St.
Martin's day, in possession of a temporary chapel, large enough to
contain all the colony, with about one hundred of the Pierced Nose
tribe, whom curiosity had attracted to the neighborhood. Since that
period they have been so careful in avoiding sin, so exact in attending
our instructions, and the fruit of the divine word has been so visible
in our settlement, that on the 3d of December two hundred and two
catechumens were ranged in our chapel, waiting for baptism. This was
too beautiful an offering to St. Francis Xavier, apostle of the Indians,
not to excite the fury of man's great enemy.--Accordingly, for a few
days previously we encountered multiplied trials. To speak only of the
most visible, the prefect, [CLXXIX] interpreter and sexton fell sick.
The very eve of the great day the environs were laid waste by a sort of
hurricane--the church windows were broken, large trees were rooted up,
and three huts were thrown down; but these obstacles, far from
prejudicing the triumph of religion, served only to render it still more

The catechumens having assembled in the chapel, which had been adorned
with its most beautiful ornaments, and where they had been conducted
for the more immediate preparations of their hearts prior to receiving
the great sacrament of baptism, were so struck by the imposing
appearance of the chapel, and the melodious sounds of the organ, now
heard for the first time in the wilderness, that they were not able to
express their admiration. The next day, with the exception of the time
the Fathers took for their dinner, they were in church from eight
o'clock in the morning until half past ten in the evening. How
delightful it was to listen to the intelligent answers of the good
savages to all the questions proposed to them. Never will those who
were present forget the pious spirit of their replies. The
rehabilitations of their marriages succeeded baptism, but not without
great sacrifices on their part, because, until that time, the poor
Indians had been ignorant of the unity and indissolubility of the
conjugal tie. We could not help admiring the mighty effects of the
sacrament of baptism in their souls. One poor husband hesitated as to
which of his wives he should select. The oldest of them, perceiving
his irresolution, said to him: "You know how much I love you, and I am
also certain that you love me, but you cherish another more; she is
younger than I am. Well, remain with her; leave me our children, and
in that manner we can all be baptized." I could cite many such traits.

[CLXXX] I will here begin the narrative of my journey to Colville. On
the eve of my departure I informed the Flat Heads of my intentions. I
requested them to procure some horses, and a small escort, in case I
should meet with any of their enemies, the Black Feet. They brought to
me seventeen horses, the number I had asked them; and ten young and
brave warriors, who had already been often pierced with balls and
arrows in different skirmishes, presented themselves to accompany me
on my journey. With pleasure I bear testimony to their devotedness,
their child-like simplicity and docility, politeness, complaisance and
rare hilarity; but, above all, to their exemplary piety.

These good Flat Heads endeavored in every manner to divine and
anticipate all my wants. On the afternoon of the 28th October, as I
have already said, we commenced our march, and encamped at a distance
of ten miles from St. Mary's. That day we met no one but a solitary
hunter, who was carrying a buck, the half of which he offered to us,
with great eagerness. This furnished us with an excellent supper, and
a good breakfast for the next morning. The 29th, snow fell in large
flakes, notwithstanding which we continued our march. We crossed, in
the course of the day, a fine stream, without a name--the same one
which the famous travellers, Lewis and Clarke, ascended in 1806, on
their way to the section of country occupied by the tribe of the
Pierced Noses, (or Sapetans.) I will call it the river of St. Francis
Borgia.[248] Six miles further south we crossed the beautiful river of
St. Ignatius. It enters the plain of the Bitter Root,--which we shall
henceforward call St. Mary's,--by a beautiful defile, commonly called,
by the mountaineers or Canadian hunters, the Devil's Gate;[249] for
what reason, however, I know not. These gentlemen have frequently on
their lips the words [CLXXXI] devil and hell; and it is perhaps on
this account that we heard so often these appellations. Be not then
alarmed when I tell you that I examined the Devil's pass, went through
the Devil's gate, rowed on Satan's stream, and jumped from the Devil's
horns. The "rake," one of the passes, the horns, and the stream,
really deserve names that express something horrible--all three are
exceedingly dangerous. The first and second, on account of the
innumerable snags which fill their beds, as there are entire forests
swallowed up by the river. The third pass of which I spoke, adds to
the difficulties of the others a current still stronger. A canoe
launched into this torrent flies over it with the speed of an arrow,
and the most experienced pilot trembles in spite of himself. Twice did
the brave Iroquois, who conducted our light canoe, exclaim: "Father,
we are lost;" but a loud cry of "courage--take courage, John, confide
in God, keep steady to the oar," saved us in that dangerous stream,
drew us out from between the horns and threatening teeth of this awful
"rake." But let us return to our account of the journey to Colville.
We spread our skins on the borders of a little river at the foot of a
high mountain, which we were to cross the next day, having traversed
St. Mary's valley, a distance of about forty miles. This valley is
from four to seven miles wide, and above two hundred long. It has but
one fine defile, already mentioned, and which serves as the entrance
to, and issue from, the valley. The mountains which terminate it on
both sides appear to be inaccessible; they are piles of jagged rocks,
the base of which presents nothing but fragments of the same
description, while the Norwegian pine grows on those that are covered
with earth, giving them a very sombre appearance, particularly in the
autumn, in which season the snow begins to fall. They abound in
[CLXXXII] bucks, buffalos, and sheep, whose wool is as white as snow,
and as fine as silk; also in all kinds of bears, wolves, panthers,
carcasiux,[250] tiger cats, wild cats, and whistlers, a species of
mountain rat. The moose is found here, but is very seldom caught, on
account of its extraordinary vigilance, for, on the slightest rustling
of a branch it leaves off eating, and will not return to its food for
a long time afterwards. The soil of the valley is, with some few
exceptions, very light; it contains, however, some good pastures. The
whole course of the river is well lined with trees; especially with
the pine, the fir, cotton, and willow trees.

Amongst the most remarkable birds we distinguished the Nun's eagle, (so
called by travellers on account of the color of its head, which is
white, whilst the other parts of the body are black,) the black eagle,
buzzard, waterfowl, heron, crane, pheasant and quail. On the 30th we
ascended a gap in the mountain. The two sides were very lofty, and
studded with large pines, all the branches of which were covered with a
black and very fine moss, that hung in festoons, or in the shape of
mourning garlands, and added to the already funereal appearance of this
pass. We here filed off by a little path, scarce worthy however of the
name, for a distance of six miles. The road was filled with large blocks
of stone and trunks of trees, placed as if it were on purpose to render
the pass difficult and impracticable. The summit once attained, we
proceeded to cross a smiling little plain, called the Camash Prairies,
where the Flat Heads come every spring to dig up that nourishing root,
which, together with the game they are able to procure, forms their
chief nourishment. We very soon descended the mountain in a zigzag
direction, and reached a beautiful plain, which is watered by two
rivers, the St. [CLXXXIII] Aloysius and St. Stanislaus.[251] They unite
in this plain, whence they go to join the forks at Clark's, otherwise
called the Flat Head river. This valley extends about ten miles. I
perceived in this place one of those formidable Black Foot Indians in
the act of hiding himself. I did not speak of it to my young companions,
fearing that I might not be able to prevent a bloody struggle between
them. I however took the precaution of having a good watch kept over our
horses. The next day was Sunday, a day of rest. I celebrated the Holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, and baptized three little children of the Pointed
Hearts' tribe, whose parents had joined us on the road. The rest of the
day was spent in prayer and instructions. The chief of our band twice
addressed his companions, and spoke with much force and precision on the
different portions of our religion, which he already had heard
explained. The 1st of November--All Saints' Day--after having celebrated
the Holy Sacrifice under a large poplar tree, we proceeded on our
journey through a defile of about six miles. At the ford of the Great
Clark's Fork, we met two encampments of the Kalispel tribe, who, having
heard of our approach, had come thither to see us.[252] Men, women and
children, ran to meet us, and pressed our hands with every demonstration
of sincere joy. The chief of the first camp was called Chalax. I
baptized twenty-four children in his little village, and one young
woman, a Koetenaise, who was dying. The chief of the second camp was
named Hoytelpo; his band occupied thirty huts. I spent the night amongst
them; and, although they had never seen me before, they knew all the
prayers that I had taught the Flat Heads on my first journey. The fact
is, on hearing of my arrival in the mountains, they deputed an
intelligent young man to meet me, and who was also gifted with a good
[CLXXXIV] memory. Having learned the prayers and canticles, and such
points as were most essential for salvation, he repeated to the village
all that he had heard and seen. He had acquitted himself of his
commission so well, and with so much zeal, that he gave instructions to
his people during the course of the winter. The same desire for
information concerning religion, had communicated itself to the other
small camps, and with the same cheering success. It was, as you can
easily imagine, a great consolation for me to hear prayers addressed to
the great God, and his praises sung in a desert of about three hundred
miles extent, where a Catholic priest had never been before. They were
overjoyed when they heard that I hoped before long to be able to leave a
Missionary amongst them. I cannot pass over in silence, a beautiful
custom that is observed by these good people: Every evening, after
prayers, the chief instructs his people, or gives them some salutary
advice, to which they all listen with most profound attention, respect
and modesty. To see them at their devotions one would be more apt to
mistake them for perfectly religious men than savages. The next day,
before my departure, I baptised twenty-seven children of the tribe. On
that evening we alighted amongst fifteen huts of the same nation, who
received us with equal kindness.[253] Their chief had come several miles
to meet me. He acknowledged frankly that having become acquainted with
some American ministers, in the course of the summer--he had been told
by them that my prayer (religion) was not a good one. "My heart is
divided," said he, "and I do not know what to adhere to." I had no
trouble in making him understand the difference between those gentlemen
and priests, and the cause of their calumnious attacks against the only
true church of Christ, which their ancestors [CLXXXV] had abandoned. On
the 3d of November, after prayers and instructions to the savages, we
continued our march. We were on the borders of the Clarke Forks, to
which we were obliged to keep close during eight days, whilst we
descended the country bordering the stream. The river is at this place
of a greenish blue, very transparent, caused probably by the deposit of
a great quantity of oxigen of iron.[254] Our path during a great part of
the day was on the declivity of a lofty, rocky mountain; we were here
obliged to climb a steep rough pass from 400 to 600 feet high. I had
before seen landscapes of awful grandeur, but this one certainly
surpassed all others in horror. My courage failed at the first sight; it
was impossible to remain on horseback, and on foot my weight of two
hundred and eleven pounds, was no trifle. This, therefore, was the
expedient to which I resorted: My mule Lizette was sufficiently docile
and kind to allow me to grasp her tail, to which I held on firmly:
crying at one moment aloud, and at other times making use of the whip to
excite her courage, until the good beast conducted me safely to the very
top of the mountain.--There I breathed freely for awhile, and
contemplated the magnificent prospect that presented itself to my sight.

The windings of the river with the scenery on its banks were before
me, on one side hung over our heads, rocks piled on rocks in the most
precipitous manner, and on the other stood lofty peaks crowned with
snow and pine trees: mountains of every shape and feature reared their
towering forms before us. It really was a fine view and one which was
well worth the effort we had made. On descending from this elevation I
had to take new precautions. I preceded the mule, holding her by the
bridle, while she moved cautiously down to the foot of the "Bad Rock,"
(as it is called by the savages,) as though she feared stumbling
[CLXXXVI] and rolling with her master into the river which flowed
beneath us. At this place Clarke's Fork runs through a narrow defile
of rocky mountains; at times the soft murmurings of the waters charm
the traveller, at others it spreads out and presents a calm surface
clear as crystal. Wherever it is narrowed or intercepted by rocks it
forms rapids, with falls and cascades; the noise of which, like that
caused by a storm in the forest, is heard at a great distance. Nothing
can be more diversified than this fine river.[255] There is in this
vicinity a great variety of trees, bushes and different species of the
tamarisk tree. The lichnis, a medicinal plant mentioned by Charlevoix
in his history of Canada, grows here abundantly. We met in the course
of that day with only one family, and that was of the Kalispel tribe.
Whilst the women were rowing up the river their light canoe, made of
the fir tree bark, which contained their children and all the
baggage, the men followed along the bank with their rifles or bows in
their hands in pursuit of game.

On the 4th we entered a cedar and pine forest so dense that in its
whole length we could scarcely see beyond the distance of twenty feet.
Our beasts of burden suffered a great deal in it from the want of
grass. We scarcely got through it after three day's march. It was a
real labyrinth; from morning till night we did nothing but wind about
to avoid thousands of trees, fallen either from fire, storms or age.
On issuing from this forest we were charmed by an interesting
prospect: Our view extended over the whole surface of the lake called
"Pends-d'oreilles," studded with small islands covered with woods:
over its inlets and the hills which overlook them, and which have for
the most part their base on the borders of the lake and rise by
gradual terraces or elevations until they reach the adjoining
mountains, which are covered with perpetual snow. The [CLXXXVII] lake
is about 30 miles long and from 4 to 7 wide.[256] At the head of it we
traversed a forest, which is certainly a wonder of its kind; there is
probably nothing similar to it in America. The savages speak of it as
the finest in Oregon, and really every tree which it contains is
enormous in its kind. The birch, elm and beech, generally small
elsewhere, like the toad of La Fontaine, that aimed at being as large
as the ox, swell out here to twice their size. They would fain rival
the cedar, the Goliath of the forest, who, however, looking down with
contempt upon his pitiful companions,

                  "Eleve aux cieux
                   Son front audacieux."

          "Rears to heaven his audacious head."

The birch and beech at its side, resemble large candelabras placed
around a massive column. Cedars, of four and five fathoms in
circumference, are here very common; we saw some six, and I measured
one forty-two feet in circumference. A cedar of four fathoms, lying on
the ground, measured more than two hundred feet in length.[257] The
delicate branches of these noble trees entwine themselves above the
beech and elm; their fine, dense and ever-green foliage, forming an
arch through which the sun's rays never penetrate; and this lofty
vault, supported by thousands of columns, brought to the mind's eye,
the idea of an immense, glorious temple, carpeted with the hardy
ever-greens that live and flourish best in the shade.

Before entering the forest we crossed a high mountain by a wild
winding path. Its sides are covered with fine cedars and pines, which
are, however, of smaller dimensions than those in the forest. Several
times whilst ascending the mountain I found myself on parapets of
rocks, whence, thanks to my safe-footed mule, I retired in safety.
Once I [CLXXXVIII] thought my career at an end. I had wandered from my
companions, and following the path, I all at once came to a rocky
projection which terminated in a point about two feet wide; before me
was a perpendicular descent of three feet; on my left stood a rock as
straight as a wall, and on my right yawned a precipice of about a
thousand feet.--You can conceive that my situation was anything but
pleasant. The slightest false step would have plunged the mule and his
rider into the abyss beneath. To descend was impossible, as on one
side I was closed in by the rock, and suspended over a dreadful chasm
on the other. My mule had stopped at the commencement of the descent,
and not having any time to lose, I recommended myself to God, and as a
last expedient sunk my spurs deeply into the sides of my poor beast;
she made one bold leap and safely landed me on another parapet much
larger than that I had left.

The history of the fine forest, and my leap from the dangerous rock,
will be treated with incredulity by many of your acquaintance. If so,
tell them that I invite them to visit both these places: "Venite et
videte." I promise them before hand that they will admire with me the
wonders of nature. They will have, like me, their moments of
admiration and of fear. I cannot pass over in silence the pleasant
meeting I had in the depth of the forest. I discovered a little hut of
rushes, situated on the banks of the river. Raising my voice to its
highest pitch, I tried to make its inhabitants hear me, but received
no answer. I felt an irresistible desire to visit it, and accordingly
made my interpreter accompany me. We found it occupied by a poor old
woman, who was blind, and very ill. I spoke to her of the Great
Spirit, of the most essential dogmas of our faith, and of baptism. The
example of the Apostle St. [CLXXXIX] Philip teaches us that there are
cases when all the requisite dispositions may entirely consist in an
act of faith, and in the sincere desire to enter Heaven by the right
path. All the answers of the poor old woman were respectful, and
breathing the love of God. "Yes," she would say, "I love the Great
Spirit with my whole heart; all my life he has been very kind to me.
Yes, I wish to be His child, I want to be His forever." And
immediately she fell on her knees, and begged me to give her baptism.
I named her Mary, and placed around her neck the miraculous medal of
the Blessed Virgin. After leaving her, I overheard her thanking God
for this fortunate adventure. I had scarcely regained the path, when I
met her husband, almost bent to the earth by age and infirmity; he
could hardly drag himself along. He had been setting a trap in the
forest for the bucks. The Flat Heads who had preceded me, had told him
of my arrival. As soon, therefore, as he perceived me, he began to cry
out, with a trembling voice: "Oh how delighted I am to see our Father
before I die. The Great Spirit is good--oh how happy my heart is." And
the venerable old man pressed my hand most affectionately, repeating
again and again the same expressions. Tears fell from my eyes on
witnessing such affection. I told him that I had just left his hut,
and had baptized his wife. "I heard," said he, "of your arrival in our
mountains, and of your baptizing many of our people. I am poor and
old; I had hardly dared to hope for the happiness of seeing you.
Black-gown, make me as happy as you have made my wife. I wish also to
belong to God, and we will always love Him." I conducted him to the
borders of a stream that flowed near us, and after a brief
instruction, I administered to him the Holy Sacrament of Baptism,
naming him Simon. On seeing me depart, he repeated, impressively:
[CXC] "Oh how good is the Great Spirit. I thank you, Skylax,
(Black-gown) for the favor you have conferred on me. Oh how happy is
my heart. Yes, I will always love the Great Spirit. Oh how good the
Great Spirit is; how good He is." During that same journey, I
discovered in a little hut of bulrushes, five old men, who appeared to
be fourscore years old. Three of them were blind, and the other two
had but one eye each; they were almost naked, and offered a real
personification of human misery. I spoke to them for a considerable
time on the means of salvation, and on the bliss of another world.
Their answers edified me much, and affected me even to tears; they
were replete with the love of God, a desire of doing right, and of
dying well. You might have heard these good old men crying out from
different parts of the hut, forming together a touching chorus, to
which I sincerely wished that all the children of St. Ignatius could
have listened. "Oh Great Spirit, what a happiness is coming to us in
our old days! We will love you, O Great Spirit. _Le-mele
Kaikolinzoeten; one le-mele eltelill._ We will love you, O Great
Spirit. Yes, we will love you until death." When we explained to them
the necessity of baptism, they demanded it earnestly, and knelt down
to receive it. I have not found as yet amongst these Indians, I will
not say opposition, but not even coldness or indifference. These
little adventures are our great consolation. I would not have
exchanged my situation, at that moment, for any other on earth. I was
convinced that such incidents alone were worth a journey to the
mountains. Ah, good and dear Fathers, who may read these lines, I
conjure you, through the mercy of our Divine Redeemer, not to hesitate
entering this vineyard; its harvest is ripe and abundant. Does not our
Saviour tell us: "Ignem veni mittere in terram et quid volo nisi ut
accendatur." [CXCI] It is amidst the poor tribes of these isolated
mountains that the fire of divine grace burns with ardor.
Superstitious practices have disappeared; nor have they amongst them
the castes of East India. Speak to these Savages of heavenly things;
at once their hearts are inflamed with divine love; and immediately
they go seriously about the great affair of their salvation. Day and
night they are at our sides, insatiable for the "Bread of Life."
Often, on retiring, we hear them say, "Our sins, no doubt, rendered us
so long unworthy to hear these consoling words." As to privations and
dangers, the Oregon Missionaries must expect them, for they will
certainly meet them, but in a good cause. Sometimes they will be
obliged to fast, but a better appetite will be their reward. Their
escapes from the many dangers of the road, or from enemies always on
the alert, teach them to confide in God alone, and ever to keep their
accounts in order. I here feel the full application of that consoling
text of the Scripture: "My yoke is sweet, and my burden is light." At
the last day it will be manifest that the holy name of Jesus has
performed wonders amongst these poor people. Their eagerness to hear
the glad tidings of salvation is certainly at its height. They came
from all parts, and from great distances, to meet me on my way, and
presented all their young children and dying relatives for baptism.
Many followed me for whole days, with the sole desire of receiving
instructions. Really our hearts bled at the sight of so many souls who
are lost for the want of religion's divine and saving assistance. Here
again may we cry out with the Scripture: "The harvest indeed is great,
but the laborers are few." What Father is there in the Society whose
zeal will not be enkindled on hearing these details? And where is the
Christian who would refuse his mite to such [CXCII] a work as that of
the "Propagation of the Faith?" that precious pearl of the Church,
which procures salvation to so many souls, who otherwise would perish
unaided and forever. During my journey, which lasted forty-two days, I
baptized 190 persons, of whom 26 were adults, sick, or in extreme old
age; I preached to more than two thousand Indians; who thus evidently
conducted into my way by Providence, will not, I trust, tarry long in
ranging themselves under the banner of Jesus Christ. With the
assistance of my catechists, the Flat Heads, who were as yet but
catechumens, the conversion of the Kalispel tribe was so far advanced
that when the time came round for the winter's hunting, the Rev.
Father Point enjoyed the consolation of seeing them join the Flat Head
tribe, with the sole desire of profiting by the Missionary's presence.
This gave him an opportunity to instruct and baptise a great number on
the Purification and on the Feasts of the Canonization of St. Ignatius
and St. Francis Xavier. On my return, the 8th of December,[258] I
continued instructing those of the Flat Heads who had not been
baptized. On Christmas day I added 150 new baptisms to those of the 3d
of December, and 32 rehabilitations of marriage; so that the Flat
Heads, some sooner and others later, but all, with very few
exceptions, had, in the space of three months, complied with every
thing necessary to merit the glorious title of true children of God.
Accordingly on Christmas eve, a few hours before the midnight Mass,
the village of St. Mary was deemed worthy of a special mark of
heaven's favour: The Blessed Virgin appeared to a little orphan boy
named Paul, in the hut of an aged and truly pious woman.--The youth,
piety and sincerity of this child, joined to the nature of the fact
which he related, forbade us to doubt the truth of his statement. The
following is what he recounted [CXCIII] to me with his own innocent
lips: "Upon entering John's hut, whither I had gone to learn my
prayers, which I did not know, I saw some one who was very
beautiful--her feet did not touch the earth, her garments were as
white as snow; she had a star over her head, a serpent under her feet;
and near the serpent was a fruit which I did not recognise. I could
see her heart, from which rays of light burst forth and shone upon me.
When I first beheld all this I was frightened, but afterwards my fear
left me; my heart was warmed, my mind clear, and I do not know how it
happened, but all at once I knew my prayers." (To be brief I omit
several circumstances.) He ended his account by saying that several
times the same person had appeared to him whilst he was sleeping; and
that once she had told him she was pleased, that the first village of
the Flat Heads should be called "St. Mary." The child had never seen
or heard before any thing of the kind; he did not even know if the
person was a man or woman, because the appearance of the dress which
she wore was entirely unknown to him. Several persons having
interrogated the child on this subject, have found him unvarying in
his answers. He continues by his conduct to be the angel of his tribe.

[Illustration: Apparition]

On the 23d of December, Father Point, at the head of the inhabitants
of forty lodges, started for the buffalo hunt.--On the road they met
with huntsmen of five or six different tribes, some of whom followed
him to the termination of the chase, from the desire of learning their
prayers. The Flat Heads having prolonged their stay at St. Mary's as
long as they possibly could, so as not to depart without receiving
baptism, experienced such a famine, the first weeks of January, that
their poor dogs, having not even a bone to gnaw, devoured the very
straps of leather with which they tied their horses during the night.
The cold moreover was [CXCIV] so uninterruptedly severe that during
the hunting season, which lasted three months, such a quantity of snow
fell that many were attacked with a painful blindness, vulgarly called
"snow disease." One day when the wind was very high, and the snow
falling and freezing harder than usual, Father Point became suddenly
very pale, and would no doubt have been frozen to death, in the midst
of the plain, had not some travellers, perceiving the change in his
countenance, kindled a large fire. But neither the wind, ice, or
famine, prevented the zealous Flat Heads from performing on this
journey all they were accustomed to do at St. Mary's. Every morning
and evening they assembled around the Missionary's lodge, and more
than three-fourths of them without any shelter than the sky, after
having recited their prayers, listened to an instruction, preceded and
followed by hymns. At day-break and sunset the bell was tolled three
times for the Angelical Salutation. The Sunday was religiously kept;
an observance which was so acceptable to God, that once especially it
was recompensed in a very visible manner. The following is what I read
in the Journal kept by Father Point during the winter's hunt.

_Sixth February._--To-day, Sunday, a very high wind, the sky greyish,
and the thermometer at the freezing point; no grass for the horses; the
buffalos driven off by the Pierced Noses. The 7th, the cold more
piercing--food for our horses still scarcer--the snow increasing; but
yesterday was a time of perfect rest, and the fruits of it show
themselves to-day in perfect resignation and confidence. At noon we
reached the summit of a mountain, and what a change awaits us. The sun
shines, the cold has lost its intensity; we have in view an immense
plain, and in that plain good pasturages, which are clouded with
buffalos. The encampment stops, the hunters assemble, and before [CXCV]
sunset 155 buffalos have fallen by their arrows. One must confess that
if this hunt were _not_ miraculous, it bears a great resemblance to the
draught of fishes made by Peter when casting his net at the word of the
Lord, he drew up 153 fishes.--St. John, xxi. 11. The Flat Heads confided
in the Lord, and were equally successful in killing 153 buffalos. What a
fine draught of fishes! but what a glorious hunt of buffalos! Represent
to yourself an immense amphitheatre of mountains, the least of which
exceeds in height Mont Martre,[259] and in the midst of this majestic
enclosure a plain more extensive than that of Paris, and on this
magnificent plain a multitude of animals, the least of which surpasses
in size the largest ox in Europe. Such was the park in which our Indians
hunted. Wishing to pursue them, continues Father Point, in his journal,
I urged on my horse to a herd of fugitives, and as he was fresh, I had
no difficulty in getting up to them. I even succeeded in compelling the
foremost to abandon his post, but enraged, he stopped short, and
presented such a terrible front, that I thought it more prudent to open
a passage and let him escape. I acted wisely, as on the same day, one of
these animals, in his fall, overturned a horse and his rider.
Fortunately, however, the latter was more dexterous than I should have
been in such a perilous situation; he aimed his blows so promptly and
well, that of the three who were thrown, only two arose. On another
occasion, a hunter who had been also dismounted, had no other means to
avoid being torn to pieces than to seize hold of the animal by the horns
just at the time he was about to trample him to death. A third hunter,
fleeing at all speed, felt himself stopped by the plaited tail of his
horse hooked on the buffalo's horn; but both fearing a trap, made every
effort to disengage themselves. The buffalo hunt is attended with
[CXCVI] dangers, but the greatest of these does not consist in the mere
pursuit of the animal, but proceeds rather from the bands of Black Feet
who constantly lurk in these regions, especially when there is some
prospect of meeting with the larger game, or stealing a number of
horses. Of all the mountain savages the Black Feet are the most
numerous, wicked, and the greatest thieves. Happily, however, from
having been often beaten by the smaller tribes, they have become so
dastardly, that unless they are twenty to one, they confine their
attacks to the horses, which, thanks to the carelessness of their
courageous enemies, they go about with so much dexterity and success,
that this year, while our good Flat Heads were asleep, they discovered
their animals as often as twenty times, and carried off more than one
hundred of them. During the winter, about twenty of these gentlemen
visited the Flat Heads in the day time, and without stealing any thing,
but in this manner. There resided in the camp an old chief of the Black
Feet tribe, who had been baptised on Christmas day, and named Nicholas;
this good savage, knowing that the Missionary would willingly hold an
interview with his brethren, undertook himself to harangue them during
the night, and so well did he acquit himself, that upon the calumet's
being planted on the limits of the camp, and the messenger being
admitted to an audience, singing was heard in the neighboring mountains,
and soon after a band of these brigands issued, armed as warriors, from
the gloomy defile. They were received as friends, and four of the
principals were ushered into the Missionary's lodge; they smoked the
calumet and discussed the news of the day. The Missionary spoke of the
necessity of prayer, to which subject they listened most attentively;
nor did they manifest either surprise or repugnance. They told him that
there had arrived [CXCVII] recently in one of their forests a man who
was not married, and who wore on his breast a large crucifix, read every
day in a big book, and made the sign of the cross before eating any
thing; and in fine, that he was dressed exactly like the Black-gowns at
St. Mary's. The Father did every thing in his power to gain their good
will--after which, they were conducted to the best lodge in the
encampment. It certainly would seem that such hosts were worthy of
better guests. However, towards the middle of the night, the explosion
of fire arms was heard. It was soon discovered that a Flat Head was
firing at a Black Foot, just as the latter was leaving the camp, taking
with him four horses.--Fortunately, the robber was not one of the band
that had been received within the encampment, which, upon being proved,
far from creating any suspicion, on the contrary, had the effect of
their kindly offering them a grave for the unfortunate man. But whether
they wished to appear to disapprove of the deed, or that they
anticipated dangers from reprisals, they left the wolves to bury the
body, and took their departure. Good Nicholas, the orator, joined them,
in order to render the same services to the others that he had to these.
He went off, promising to return soon with the evidences of his success.
He has not been seen as yet, but we are informed, he and his companions
have spoken so favorably of prayer, and the Black-gowns, that already
the Sunday is religiously observed in the camp where Nicholas resides,
and that a great chief, with the people of sixty lodges, intend shortly
to make our acquaintance, and attach themselves to the Flat Heads. In
the meanwhile, divine justice is punishing rigorously a number of their
robbers. This year, the Pierced Noses caught twelve of them in flagrant
faults, and killed them. About the time that the Black Foot above
mentioned met his fate at [CXCVIII] the hands of a Flat Head, thirty
others Were receiving the reward due to their crimes, from the
Pends-d'oreilles tribe. A very remarkable fact in this last encounter
is, that of the four who commenced, and the others who finished it, not
one fell; although, in order to break in on the delinquents, who were
retrenched behind a kind of rampart, they were obliged to expose
themselves to a brisk fire. I saw the field of combat some time
afterwards. Of the thirty robbers who had been slain, only five or six
heads remained, and those so disfigured as to lead one to think that an
age had already elapsed since their death.

Two years before, the same tribe, (Pends-d'oreilles) assisted by the
Flat Heads, making in all a band of seventy men, stood an attack of
fifteen hundred Black Feet, whom they defeated, killing in five days,
during which time the battle lasted, fifty of their foes, without
losing a single man on their side. They would not commence the attack
until they had recited their prayers on their knees. A few days ago,
the spot was pointed out to me where six Flat Heads withstood 160
Black Feet with so much resolution, that with a handful of their men
who came to their aid, they gained the victory. The most perfidious
nation, after the Black Feet, is the Banac tribe; they also bear the
Flat Heads much ill will. It has happened more than once that at the
very moment the Banac tribe were receiving the greatest proofs of
friendship from the Flat Heads, the former were plotting their ruin.
Of this you have already had one proof, but here is another. One day a
detachment of two hundred Banacs visited the camp of the Flat Heads,
and after smoking with them returned to their encampment. The small
number of the Flat Heads had not, however, escaped their notice, and
they determined to take advantage of their apparent weakness.
Accordingly, they [CXCIX] retraced their steps that very night to
execute their base designs. But the chief, named Michael, having been
advised of their intention, assembled in haste his twenty warriors,
and after entreating them to confide in God, he rushed on these
traitors so happily and vigorously, that at the first shock they were
routed. Already nine of the fugitives had fallen, and most of the
others would have shared the same fate if Michael, in the very heat of
the pursuit, had not recollected that it was Sunday, and on that
account stopped his brave companions, saying: "My friends, it is now
the time for prayer; we must retire to our camp." It is by these and
similar exploits, wherein the finger of God is visible, that the Flat
Heads have acquired such a reputation for valor, that notwithstanding
their inferior numbers, they are feared much more than they on their
side dread their bitterest enemies. These victories however cannot but
be fatal even to the conquerors; hence we will strive to inspire all
with the love of peace, which may be accomplished if each party
remains at home. For this purpose we must create among them a greater
taste for agriculture than for hunting. But how can we compass this
unless the same measures are employed for the missions of the Rocky
Mountains that were so happily adopted for Paraguay. If the true
friends of Religion only knew of what the Indians who surround us are
capable when once converted, I can not doubt but that they would
assist us in our efforts to accomplish so beautiful, so advantageous a
project. It is, moreover, through the Iroquois of the North, whose
cruelty formerly exceeded that of the Black Feet, that the knowledge
of the true God came to the Flat Heads, and awakened amongst them the
desire of possessing the Black-gowns. We have seen to what dangers the
good Flat Heads exposed themselves to obtain Missionaries, [CC] and
what sacrifices they have made to merit the title of children of God;
and now what is their actual progress? In their village, enmities,
quarrels and calumnies, are unknown; they are sincere and upright
amongst themselves, and full of confidence in their Missionaries. They
carry this to such a degree that they place implicit reliance on their
veracity, and cannot suppose that they have any thing else in view but
their happiness; they have no difficulty in believing the mysteries of
our faith, or in approaching the tribunal of penance: difficulties
which appear insurmountable to the pride and cowardice of many
civilized Christians. The first time they were asked if they believed
firmly in all that was contained in the Apostles' creed, they
answered, "Yes--very much." When they were spoken to about confession,
some wished it to be public.--This will explain to you how it
happened that before we resided three months amongst them we were
enabled to baptize all the adults, and four months later to admit a
large number to frequent communion. There are whole families who never
let a Sunday go by without approaching the holy table. Often twenty
confessions are heard consecutively without their being matter for
absolution. This year we performed the devotion of the month of Mary,
and I can flatter myself that the exercises were attended with as much
piety and edification as in the most devout parishes of Europe. At the
end of the month a statue was borne in triumph to the very place where
our Blessed Mother designed to honor us with the aforementioned
apparition.--Since that day a sort of pilgrimage has been established
there, under the name of "Our Lady of Prayer." None pass the pious
monument without stopping to pray on their knees; the more devout come
regularly twice a day to speak to their Mother and her divine Son, and
the children [CCI] add to their prayers the most beautiful flowers
they can cull in the prairies.

On the Feast of the Sacred Heart we made use of this monument,
decorated with garlands of flowers, as a repository, and our people
received for the first time, the benediction of the blessed sacrament;
a happiness which they now enjoy every Sunday after vespers. Some of
them already understand the nature of the devotion of the Sacred
Heart. To propagate it we have laid the foundations of several
societies, of which all the most virtuous men, women and young people
have become members. Victor, the great chief, is prefect of one of
these associations, and Agnes his wife is president of another. They
were not elected through any deference for their dignity or birth, but
solely on account of their great personal merits.[260] A fact which
proves that the _Flat Heads_ regard merit more than rank, is, that the
place of great chief becoming vacant by the death of Peter, they chose
for his successor the chief of the men's society, and for no other
reason did he obtain this high dignity than for the noble qualities,
both of heart and head, which they all thought he possessed. Every
night and morning, when all is quiet in the camp, he harangues the
people; the subject of his discourse being principally a repetition of
what the Black Gowns have said before. This good chief walks
faithfully in the footsteps of his predecessor, which is no slight
praise. This last, who was baptized at the age of 80, and admitted to
communion in his 82d year, was the first to deserve this double
favour, more on account of his virtue than his years. The day of his
baptism he said to me, "If during my life I have committed faults they
were those of ignorance; it appears to me that I never did any thing,
knowing it to be wrong." At the time of his first communion, which
preceded his death but [CCII] a few days, having been asked if he had
not some faults with which to reproach himself since his
baptism--"Faults," he replied, with surprise, "how could I ever commit
any, I whose duty it is to teach others how to do good?" He was buried
in the red drapery he was accustomed to hang out on Sunday to announce
that it was the day of the Lord. Alphonsus, in the prime of youth,
soon followed him. He said to me on the day of his baptism: "I dread
so much offending again the Great Spirit, that I beg of him to grant
me the grace to die soon." He fell sick a few days afterwards and
expired with the most Christian dispositions, thanking God for having
granted his prayer. In the hope of their glorious resurrection, their
mortal remains have been deposited at the foot of the large cross.

Of twenty persons who died within the year, we have no reason to fear
for the salvation of one.

Not having been able this year to obtain either provisions or
sufficient clothes to supply the wants of our mission, I started for
Fort Vancouver, the great mart of the honorable Hudson Bay Company,
and distant about one thousand miles from our establishment. The
continuation of this narrative will show you that this necessary
journey was providential. I found myself during this trip a second
time amongst the Kalispel tribe.

They continue with much fervour to assemble every morning and evening to
recite prayers in common, and manifest the same attention and assiduity
in listening to our instructions. The chiefs on their side are incessant
in exhorting the people to the practice of every good work. The two
principal obstacles that prevent a great number from receiving baptism,
are--first, the plurality of wives; many have not the courage to
separate themselves from those, by whom they have children. The second
is their [CCIII] fondness for gambling, in which they risk every thing.
I baptized 60 adults amongst them during this last journey.

Crossing a beautiful plain near the Clarke or Flat Head river, called
the Horse prairie, I heard that there were 30 lodges of the Skalzy or
Kœtenay tribe, at about two day's journey from us.[261] I determined
whilst awaiting the descent of the skiff, which could only start six
days later, to pay them a visit, for they had never seen a priest in
their lands before. Two half breeds served as my guides and escorts on
this occasion. We gallopped and trotted all the day, travelling a
distance of 60 miles. We spent a quiet night in a deep defile,
stretched near a good fire, but in the open air. The next day, (April
14) after having traversed several mountains and valleys, where our
horses were up to their knees in snow, we arrived about 3 o'clock in
sight of the Kœtenay camp. They assembled immediately on my approach;
when I was about twenty yards from them, the warriors presented their
arms, which they had hidden until then under their buffalo robes. They
fired a general salute which frightened my mule and made her rear and
prance to the great amusement of the savages. They then defiled before
me, giving their hands in token of friendship and congratulation. I
observed that each one lifted his hand to his forehead after having
presented it to me. I soon convoked the council in order to inform
them of the object of my visit. They unanimously declared themselves
in favour of my religion, and adopted the beautiful custom of their
neighbours, the Flat Heads, to meet night and morning for prayers in
common. I assembled them that very evening for this object and gave
them a long instruction on the principal dogmas of our faith. The next
day, I baptized all their little children and nine of their adults,
previously instructed, amongst whom was the wife of an Iroquois,
[CCIV] who had resided for thirty years with this tribe. The Iroquois
and a Canadian occupy themselves in the absence of a priest in
instructing them. My visit could not be long. I left the Kœtenay
village about 12 o'clock, accompanied by twelve of these warriors and
some half-blood Crees, whom I had baptized in 1840. They wished to
escort me to the entrance of the large Flat Head lake,[262] with the
desire of giving me a farewell feast; a real banquet of all the good
things their country produced. The warriors had gone on ahead and
dispersed in every direction, some to hunt and others to fish. The
latter only succeeded in catching a single trout. The warriors
returned in the evening with a bear, goose, and six swan's eggs. "Sed
quid hoc inter tantos." The fish and goose were roasted before a good
fire, and the whole mess was soon presented to me. Most of my
companions preferring to fast, I expressed my regret at it, consoling
them however by telling them that God would certainly reward their
kindness to me. A moment after we heard the last hunter returning,
whom we thought had gone back to the camp. Hope shone on every
countenance. The warrior soon appeared laden with a large elk, and
hunger that night was banished from the camp. Each one began to occupy
himself; some cut up the animal, others heaped fuel on the fire, and
prepared sticks and spits to roast the meat. The feast which had
commenced under such poor auspices continued a great part of the
night. The whole animal, excepting a small piece that was reserved for
my breakfast, had disappeared before they retired to sleep. This is a
sample of savage life. The Indian when he has nothing to eat does not
complain, but in the midst of abundance he knows no moderation. The
stomach of a savage has always been to me a riddle.

The plain that commands a view of the lake is one of the [CCV] most
fertile in the mountainous regions. The Flat Head river runs through
it and extends more than 200 miles to the North East. It is wide and
deep, abounding with fish and lined with wood, principally with the
cotton, aspen, pine and birch. There are beautiful sites for villages,
but the vicinity of the Black Feet must delay for a long while the
good work, as they are only at two day's march from the great district
occupied by these brigands, from whence they often issue to pay their
neighbours predatory visits. A second obstacle would be the great
distance from any post of the Hudson Bay Company; consequently the
difficulty of procuring what is strictly necessary. The lake is highly
romantic, and is from 40 to 50 miles long. Mountainous and rocky
islands of all sizes are scattered over its bosom, which present an
enchanting prospect. These islands are filled with wild horses. Lofty
mountains surround the lake and rise from its very brink.

On the 16th of April, after bidding adieu to my travelling companions,
I started early in the morning, accompanied by two Canadians and two
savages. That evening we encamped close to a delightful spring, which
was warm and sulphurous;[263] having travelled a distance of about
fifty miles. When the savages reach this spring they generally bathe
in it. They told me that after the fatigues of a long journey they
find that bathing in this water greatly refreshes them. I found here
ten lodges of the Kalispel tribe; the chief, who was by birth of the
Pierced Nose tribe, invited me to spend the night in his wigwam, where
he treated me most hospitably. This was the only small Kalispel camp
that I had as yet met in my journeys. I here established, as I have
done wherever I stopped, the custom of morning and evening prayers.
During the evening the chief who had looked very gloomy, made a public
exposition of [CCVI] his whole life. "Black Gown," said he, "you find
yourself in the lodge of a most wicked and unhappy man; all the evil
that a man could do on earth, I believe I have been guilty of: I have
even assassinated several of my near relations; since then, there is
nought in my heart but trouble, bitterness and remorse. Why does not
the Great Spirit annihilate me? I still possess life, but there will
be neither pardon nor mercy for me after death." These words and the
feeling manner with which they were addressed to me drew tears of
compassion from my eyes. "Poor, unfortunate man," I replied, "you are
really to be pitied, but you increase your misery by thinking that you
cannot obtain pardon. The devil, man's evil spirit, is the author of
this bad thought. Do not listen to him, for he would wish to
precipitate you into that bad place (hell). The Great Spirit who
created you is a Father infinitely good and merciful. He does not
desire the death of the sinner, but rather that he should be converted
and live. He receives us into his favour and forgets our crimes,
notwithstanding their number and enormity, the moment we return to Him
contrite and repentant. He will also forgive you if you walk in the
path which His only Son, Jesus Christ, came on earth to trace for us."
I then recounted the instance of the good thief and the parable of the
prodigal son. I made him sensible of the proof of God's goodness in
sending me to him. I added that perhaps his life was drawing to a
close, and that he might be in danger of falling into the bad place on
account of his sins; that I would show him the right path, which if he
followed he would certainly reach Heaven. These few words were as balm
poured on his wounded spirit. He became calmer, and joy and hope
appeared on his countenance. "Black Gown," said he, "your words
re-animate me: I see, I understand better now, you have [CCVII]
consoled me, you have relieved me from a burden that was crushing me
with its weight, for I thought myself lost. I will follow your
directions; I will learn how to pray. Yes, I feel convinced that the
Great Spirit will have pity on me." There was fortunately in the camp
a young man who knew all the prayers, and was willing to serve as his
catechist. His baptism was deferred until the autumn or winter.

The results of my visit to the Pointed Hearts were very consoling.
They form a small but interesting tribe, animated with much fervour.

As soon as they were certain of my visit, they deputed couriers in
every direction to inform the savages of the approach of the
Black-gown; and all, without exception, assembled at the outlet of the
great lake which bears their name, and which was the place I had
indicated.[264] An ingenuous joy, joined to wonder and contentment,
shone on every face when they saw me arrive in the midst of them.
Every one hastened to greet me. It was the first visit of the kind
they had received, and the following is the order they observed. Their
chiefs and old men marched at the head; next came the young men and
boys; then followed the women--mothers, young girls, and little
children. I was conducted in triumph by this multitude to the lodge of
the great chief. Here, as every where else in the Indian country, the
everlasting calumet was first produced, which went round two or three
times in the most profound silence. The chief then addressed me,
saying: "Black-gown you are most welcome amongst us. We thank you for
your charity towards us. For a long time we have wished to see you,
and hear the words which will give us understanding. Our fathers
invoked the sun and earth. I recollect very well when the knowledge
of the true and one God came amongst them; since which time we have
offered [CCVIII] to Him our prayers and vows. We are however to be
pitied. We do not know the word of the Great Spirit. All is darkness
as yet to us, but to-day I hope we shall see the light shine. Speak,
Black-gown, I have done--every one is anxious to hear you." I spoke to
them for two hours on salvation and end of man's creation, and not one
person stirred from his place the whole time of the instruction. As it
was almost sunset, I recited the prayers that I had translated into
their language a few days before. After which I took some
refreshments, consisting of fragments of dried meat, and a piece of
cooked moss, tasting like soap, and as black as pitch. All this
however was as grateful to my palate as though it had been honey and
sugar, not having eaten a mouthful since day-break. At their own
request I then continued instructing the chiefs and their people until
the night was far advanced. About every half hour I paused, and then
the pipes would pass around to refresh the listeners and give time for
reflection. It was during these intervals that the chiefs conversed on
what they had heard, and instructed and advised their followers. On
awakening the next morning, I was surprised to find my lodge already
filled with people. They had entered so quietly that I had not heard
them. It was hardly day-break when I arose, and they all following my
example, placed themselves on their knees, and we made together the
offering of our hearts to God, with that of the actions of the day.
After this the Chief said: "Black-gown, we come here very early to
observe you--we wish to imitate what you do. Your prayer is good; we
wish to adopt it. But you will leave us after two nights more, and we
have no one to teach us in your absence." I had the bell rung for
morning prayers, promising him at the same time that the prayers
should be known before I left them. [CCIX] After a long instruction
on the most important truths of religion, I collected around me all
the little children, with the young boys and girls; I chose two from
among the latter, to whom I taught the Hail Mary, assigning to each
one his own particular part; then seven for the Our Father; ten others
for the Commandments, and twelve for the Apostles' Creed. This method,
which was my first trial of it, succeeded admirably. I repeated to
each one his part until he knew it perfectly; I then made him repeat
it five or six times. These little Indians, forming a triangle,
resembled a choir of angels, and recited their prayers, to the great
astonishment and satisfaction of the savages. They continued in this
manner morning and night, until one of the chiefs learned all the
prayers, which he then repeated in public. I spent three days in
instructing them. I would have remained longer, but the savages were
without provisions. There was scarcely enough for one person in the
whole camp. My own provisions were nearly out, and I was still four
days' journey from Fort Colville. The second day of my stay among
them, I baptized all their small children, and then twenty-four
adults, who were infirm and very old. It appeared as though God had
retained these good old people on earth to grant them the
inexpressible happiness of receiving the sacrament of baptism before
their death. They seemed by their transports of joy and gratitude at
this moment, to express that sentiment of the Scripture: "My soul is
ready, O God, my soul is ready." Never did I experience in my visits
to the savages so much satisfaction as on this occasion, not even when
I visited the Flat Heads in 1840; nor have I elsewhere seen more
convincing proofs of sincere conversion to God. May He grant them to
persevere in their virtuous resolutions. Rev. Father Point intends
passing the winter [CCX] with them to confirm them in their
faith.[265] After some advice and salutary regulations, I left this
interesting colony, and I must acknowledge, with heartfelt regret. The
great chief allowed himself scarcely a moment's repose for three
nights I spent amongst them; he would rise from time to time to
harangue the people, and repeat to them all he was able to remember of
the instructions of the day. During the whole time of my mission, he
continued at my side, so anxious was he not to lose a single word. The
old chief, now in his eightieth year, was baptized by the name of
Jesse. In the spring the territory of this tribe enchants the
traveller who may happen to traverse it. It is so diversified with
noble plains, and enamelled with flowers, whose various forms and
colors offer to experienced botanists an interesting _parterre_. These
plains are surrounded by magnificent forests of pine, fir and cedar.
To the west their country is open, and the view extends over several
days' journey. To the south, east and north, you see towering
mountains, ridge rising above ridge, robed with snow, and mingling
their summits with the clouds, from which, at a distance, you can
hardly distinguish them. The lake forms a striking feature in this
beautiful prospect, and is about thirty miles in circumference. It is
deep, and abounds in fish, particularly in salmon trout, common trout,
carp, and a small, oily fish, very delicious, and tasting like the
smelt. The Spokan river rises in the lake, and crosses the whole plain
of the Cœur d'Alènes. The valley that borders above the lake is from
four to five miles wide, exceedingly fertile, and the soil from ten to
fifteen feet deep. Every spring, at the melting of the snow, it is
subject to inundations, which scarcely ever last longer than four or
five days; at the same time augmenting, as in Egypt, the fertility of
the soil. The potatoe grows here very well, and in great abundance.
[CCXI] The Spokan river is wide, swift and deep in the spring, and
contains, like all the rivers of Oregon, many rapid falls and
cascades.[266] The navigation of the waters of this immense territory
is generally dangerous, and few risk themselves on them without being
accompanied by experienced pilots. In descending Clark's river, we
passed by some truly perilous and remarkable places, where the pilots
have full opportunity to exhibit their dexterity and prudence. The
rapids are numerous, and the roar of the waters incessant, the current
sweeping on at the rate of ten or twelve miles an hour; the rugged
banks and projecting rocks creating waves resembling those of the
troubled sea. The skilful pilot mounts the waves, which seem ready to
engulf us, the canoe speeds over the agitated waters, and with the aid
of the paddle, skilfully plied, bears us unharmed through numberless
dangers. The most remarkable spot on this river is called the
_cabinets_; it consists of four apartments, which you have hardly time
to examine, as you are scarcely half a minute passing by them.[267]
Represent to yourself chasms between two rocky mountains of a
stupendous height, the river pent in between them in a bed of thirty
or forty feet, precipitating itself down its rocky channel with
irresistible fury, roaring against its jagged sides, and whitening
with foam all around it. In a short space it winds in four different
directions, resembling very much, forked lightning. It requires very
great skill, activity, and presence of mind, to extricate yourself
from this difficult pass. The Spokan lands are sandy, gravelly, and
badly calculated for agriculture. The section over which I travelled
consisted of immense plains of light, dry, and sandy soil, and thin
forests of gum pines. We saw nothing in this noiseless solitude but a
buck, running quickly from us, and disappearing [CCXII] almost
immediately. From time to time, the melancholy and piercing cry of the
wood snipe increased the gloomy thoughts which this sad spot
occasioned. Here, on a gay and smiling little plain, two ministers
have settled themselves, with their wives, who had consented to share
their husbands' soi-disant apostolical labors.[268] During the four
years they have spent here, they have baptized several of their own
children. They cultivate a small farm, large enough, however, for
their own maintenance and the support of their animals and fowls. It
appears they are fearful that, should they cultivate more, they might
have too frequent visits from the savages. They even try to prevent
their encampment in their immediate neighborhood, and therefore they
see and converse but seldom with the heathens, whom they have come so
far to seek. A band of Spokans received me with every demonstration of
friendship, and were enchanted to hear that the right kind of
Black-gowns intended soon to form an establishment in the vicinity. I
baptized one of their little children who was dying.

It was in these parts that in 1836 a modern Iconoclast, named Parker,
broke down a cross erected over the grave of a child by some Catholic
Iroquois, telling us emphatically, in the narrative of his journey, that
he did not wish to leave in that country an emblem of idolatry.[269]

Poor man!--not to know better in this enlightened age! Were he to
return to these mountains, he would hear the praises of the Holy Name
of Jesus resounding among them; he would hear the Catholics chaunting
the love and mercies of God from the rivers, lakes, mountains,
prairies, forests and coasts of the Columbia. He would behold the
Cross planted from shore to shore for the space of a thousand
miles--on the loftiest height of the Pointed Heart territory, [CCXIII]
on the towering chain which separates the waters of the Missouri from
the Columbia rivers; in the plains of the Wallamette, Cowlitz and
Bitter Root--and, whilst I am writing to you, the Rev. Mr. Demers is
occupied in planting this same sacred symbol amongst the different
tribes of New Caledonia.[270] The words of Him who said that this holy
sign _would draw all men to Himself_, begin to be verified with regard
to the poor destitute sheep of this vast continent. Were he who
destroyed that solitary, humble Cross now to return, he would find the
image of Jesus Christ crucified, borne on the breast of more than 4000
Indians; and the smallest child would say to him: "Mr. Parker, we do
not adore the cross; do not break it, because it reminds us of Jesus
Christ who died on the cross to save us--we adore God alone."

In the beginning of May I arrived at Fort Colville on the Colville
river; this year the snow melted away very early. The mountain torrents
had overflowed, and the small rivers that usually moved quietly along in
the month of April, had suddenly left their beds and assumed the
appearance of large rivers and lakes, completely flooding all the
lowlands. This rendered my journey to Vancouver by land impossible, and
induced me to wait, nolens volens, at the Fort, for the construction of
the barges which were not ready until the 30th of the same month, when I
was again able to pursue my journey on the river. On the same day that I
arrived among the Shuyelpi or Chaudiere tribe, who resided near the
Fort, I undertook to translate our prayers into their language. This
kept me only one day as their language is nearly the same as that of the
Flat Heads and Kalispels, having the same origin. They were all very
attentive in attending my instructions, and the old, as well as the
young, tried assiduously to learn their prayers. I [CCXIV] baptized all
the younger children who had not received the sacrament before, for Mr.
Demers had already made two excursions amongst them, with the most
gratifying success. The great chief and his wife had long sighed for
baptism, which holy sacrament I administered to them, naming them Martin
and Mary. This chief is one of the most intelligent and pious I have
become acquainted with.

The work of God does not, however, proceed without contradictions; it
is necessary to prepare oneself for them beforehand when undertaking
any enterprise amongst the tribes. I have had some hard trials in all
my visits. I expected them, when on the 13th of May, I started to see
the Okinakane tribe, who were desirous to meet a priest.[271] The
interpreter, Charles, and the chief of the Shuyelpi, wished to
accompany me. In crossing the Columbia river my mule returned to the
shore, and ran at full speed into the forest; Charles pursued her,
and two hours afterwards I was told that he had been found dead in the
prairie. I hastened immediately, and perceived from a distance a great
gathering of people. I soon reached the spot where he was lying, and,
to my great joy, perceived that he gave signs of life. He was however,
senseless, and in a most pitiful state. A copious bleeding and some
days of rest restored him and we resumed our journey. This time the
mule had a large rope tied around her neck, and we crossed the river
without any accidents; we took a narrow path that led us by mountains,
valleys, forests and prairies, following the course of the river
Sharameep.[272] Towards evening we were on the borders of a deep
impetuous torrent, having no other bridge than a tree which was rather
slight and in constant motion from the rushing of the waters. It
reminded me of the bridge of souls spoken of in the Potowattamie
legends. These savages believe that souls must traverse this bridge
[CCXV] before they reach their elysium in the west. The good, they
say, pass over it without danger; the bad, on the contrary, are unable
to hold on, but stumble, stagger and fall into the torrent below,
which sweeps them off into a labyrinth of lakes and marshes; here they
drag out their existence; wretched, tormented by famine and in great
agony, the living prey of all sorts of venomous reptiles and ferocious
animals, wandering to and fro without ever being able to escape. We
were fortunate enough to cross the trembling bridge without accident.
We soon pitched our camp on the other side, and in spite of the
warring waves which in falls and cascades thundered all night by our
side, we enjoyed a refreshing sleep. The greater part of the next day
the path conducted us through a thick and hilly forest of fir trees;
the country then became more undulating and open. From time to time we
perceived an Indian burial ground, remarkable only for the posts
erected on the graves, and hung with kettles, wooden plates, guns,
bows and arrows, left there by the nearest relatives of the
deceased--humble tokens of their grief and friendship.

We encamped on the shore of a small lake called the Sharrameep,[273]
where was a Shuyelpi village; I gave these savages several
instructions and baptized their infants. At my departure the whole
village accompanied me. The country over which we travelled is open;
the soil, sterile and sandy, and the different chains of mountains
that traverse it seem to be nothing but sharp pointed rocks, thinly
covered with cedars and pines. Towards evening we came up with the men
of the first Okinakane encampment, who received us with the greatest
cordiality and joy. The chief who came out to meet us was quite
conspicuous, being arrayed in his court dress--a shirt made of a horse
skin, the hair of which was outside, the mane partly on his [CCXVI]
chest and back, giving him a truly fantastic and savage appearance.
The camp also joined us, and the fact of my arrival having been soon
noised abroad in every direction, we saw, issuing from the defiles and
narrow passes of the mountains, bands of Indians who had gone forth to
gather their harvest of roots. Many sick were presented to me for
baptism, of which rite they already knew the importance. Before
reaching the rendezvous assigned us, on the borders of the Okinakane
lake, I was surrounded by more than 200 horsemen, and more than 200
others were already in waiting.[274] We recited together night
prayers, and all listened with edifying attention to the instruction I
gave them. The interpreter and Martin continued the religious
conversation until the night was far advanced; they manifested the
same anxiety to hear the word of God that the Stiel Shoi had
shown.[275] All the next day was spent in prayer, instructions and
hymns--I baptized 106 children and some old people, and in conclusion
named the plain where these consoling scenes occurred, the "plain of
prayer." It would be impossible for me to give you an idea of the
piety, the happiness of these men, who are thirsting for the
life-giving waters of the Divine word. How much good a missionary
could do, who would reside in the midst of a people who are so
desirous of receiving instruction, and correspond so faithfully with
the grace of God. After some regulations and advice, I left this
interesting people, and pursuing my journey for three days over
mountains and through dense forests, arrived safely at Fort Colville.

Amongst the innumerable rivers that traverse the American continent,
and afford means of communication between its most distant portions,
the Columbia river is one of the most remarkable, not only on account
of its great importance, [CCXVII] west of the mountains, but also from
the dangers that attend its navigation. At some distance from the
Pacific ocean, crossing a territory which exhibits, in several
localities, evident marks of former volcanic eruptions, its course is
frequently impeded by rapids, by chains of volcanic rocks, and immense
detached masses of the same substance which, in many places, obstruct
the bed of the river.[276]

I embarked on this river, on the 30th of May, in one of the barges of
the Hudson Bay Company; Mr. Ogden, one of the principal proprietors,
offered me a place in his. I shall never forget the kindness and
friendly manner with which this gentleman treated me throughout the
journey, nor the many agreeable hours I spent in his company. I found
his conversation instructive, his anecdotes and bon mots entertaining
and timely; it was with great regret that I parted from him.[277] I will
not detain you with a description of the rapids, falls and cascades,
which I saw on this celebrated river; for, from its source in the
mountains to the cascades it is but a succession of dangers. I will
endeavour, however, to give you some idea of one of its largest rapids,
called by the Canadian travellers, "great dalles."[278] A dalle is a
place where the current is confined to a channel between two steep
rocks, forming a prolonged narrow torrent, but of extraordinary force
and swiftness. Here the river is divided into several channels separated
from one another by masses of rocks, which rise abruptly above its
surface. Some of these channels are navigable at certain seasons of the
year, although with very great risk, even to the most experienced pilot.
But when, after the melting of the snow, the river rises above its usual
level, the waters in most of these channels make but one body, and the
whole mass of these united streams descend with irresistible fury. At
this season the most courageous dare not encounter [CCXVIII] such
dangers, and all navigation is discontinued. In this state the river
flows with an imposing grandeur and majesty, which no language can
describe. It seems at one moment to stay its progress; then leaps
forward with resistless impetuosity, and then rebounds against the
rock-girt islands of which I have already spoken, but which present only
vain obstructions to its headlong course. If arrested for a moment, its
accumulated waters proudly swell and mount as though instinct with life,
and the next moment dash triumphantly on, enveloping the half smothered
waves that preceded them as if impatient of their sluggish course, and
wild to speed them on their way. Along the shore, on every projecting
point, the Indian fisherman takes his stand, spreading in the eddies his
ingeniously worked net, and in a short time procures for himself an
abundant supply of fine fish. Attracted by the shoals of fish that come
up the river, the seals gambol amid the eddying waves--now floating with
their heads above the river's breast, and anon darting in the twinkling
of an eye from side to side, in sportive joy or in swift pursuit of
their scaly prey. But this noble river has far other recollections
associated with it. Never shall I forget the sad and fatal accident
which occurred on the second day of our voyage, at a spot called the
"little dalles." I had gone ashore and was walking along the bank,
scarcely thinking what might happen; for my breviary, papers, bed, in a
word, my little all, had been left in the barge.[279] I had proceeded
about a quarter of a mile, when seeing the bargemen push off from the
bank and glide down the stream with an easy, careless air, I began to
repent having preferred a path along the river's side, so strewn with
fragments of rocks that I was compelled at every instant to turn aside
or clamber over them. I still held on my course, when all at once, the
barge [CCXIX] is so abruptly stopped that the rowers can hardly keep
their seats. Regaining, however, their equilibrium, they ply the oars
with redoubled vigour, but without any effect upon the barge. They are
already within the power of the angry vortex: the waters are crested
with foam; a deep sound is heard which I distinguish as the voice of the
pilot encouraging his men to hold to their oars--to row bravely. The
danger increases every minute, and in a moment more all hope of safety
has vanished. The barge--the sport of the vortex, spins like a top upon
the whirling waters--the oars are useless--the bow rises--the stern
descends, and the next instant all have disappeared. A death-like chill
shot through my frame--a dimness came over my sight, as the cry "we are
lost!" rung in my ears, and told but too plainly that my companions were
buried beneath the waves. Overwhelmed with grief and utterly unable to
afford them the slightest assistance, I stood a motionless spectator of
this tragic scene. All were gone, and yet upon the river's breast there
was not the faintest trace of their melancholy fate. Soon after the
whirlpool threw up, in various directions, the oars, poles, the barge
capsized, and every lighter article it had contained. Here and there I
beheld the unhappy bargemen vainly struggling in the midst of the
vortex. Five of them sunk never to rise again. My interpreter had twice
touched bottom and after a short prayer was thrown upon the bank. An
Iroquois saved himself by means of my bed; and a third was so fortunate
as to seize the handle of an empty trunk, which helped him to sustain
himself above water until he reached land. The rest of our journey was
more fortunate. We stopped at Forts Okinakane and Wallawalla,[280] where
I baptized several children.

The savages who principally frequent the borders of the Columbia river
are from the lakes; the chief of whom, with [CCXX] several of the
nation, have been baptized; also the Shuyelpi or Chaudieres, the
Okinakanes, Cingpoils, Walla-wallas, Pierced Noses, Kayuses, Attayes,
Spokanes, the Indians from the falls and cascades, and the Schinouks
and Classops.[281]

We arrived at Fort Vancouver on the morning of the 8th June. I enjoyed
the happiness and great consolation of meeting in these distant parts,
two respectable Canadian priests--the Rev. Mr. Blanchet, grand vicar
of all the countries west of the mountains claimed by the British
crown, and the Rev. Mr. Demers. They are laboring in these regions for
the same object that we are trying to accomplish in the Rocky
Mountains. The kindness and benevolence with which these Reverend
gentlemen received me are proofs of the pure zeal which actuates them
for the salvation of these savages. They assured me that immense good
might be done in the extensive regions that border on the Pacific, if
a greater number of Missionaries, with means at their command, were
stationed in these regions; and they urged me very strongly to obtain
from my Superiors some of our Fathers. I will try to give you in my
next some extracts from the letters of these Missionaries, which will
make the country known to you, its extent, and the progress of their
mission. The Governor of the Honorable Company of Hudson Bay, Dr.
McLaughlin, who resides at Fort Vancouver, after having given me every
possible proof of interest, as a good Catholic, advised me to do every
thing in my power to gratify the wishes of the Canadian Missionaries.
His principal reason is, that if Catholicity was rapidly planted in
these tracts where civilization begins to dawn, it would be more
quickly introduced thence into the interior. Already a host of
ministers have overrun a part of the country, and have settled
wherever they may derive [CCXXI] some advantages for the privations
their philanthropy imposes on them. Such is the state of these regions
of the new world, as yet so little known: you perceive that our
prospects are by no means discouraging. Permit me therefore to repeat
the great principle you have so often recommended to me, and which I
have not forgotten: "Courage and confidence in God!" With the mercy of
God, the church of Jesus Christ may soon have the consolation of
seeing her standard planted in these distant lands on the ruins of
idolatry and of the darkest superstition. Pray then that the Lord of
such a rich harvest may send us numerous fellow laborers; for in so
extensive a field we are but five, and beset with so many dangers,
that at the dawn of day we have often reason to doubt whether we will
live to see the sun go down. It is not that we have any thing to fear
from the climate; far from it--for, if here death came only by
sickness, we might indeed count upon many years, but water, fire, and
the bow, often hurry their victims off when least expected. Of a
hundred men who inhabit this country, there are not ten who do not die
by some or other fatal accident. The afternoon of the 30th June I
resumed my place in one of the barges of the English Company, and took
my leave of the worthy and respectable Governor.--To my great joy I
found that the Rev. Mr. Demers was one of the passengers, being about
to undertake an apostolic excursion among the different tribes of New
Caledonia, who, according to the accounts of several Canadian
travellers, were most anxious to see a Blackgown, and hear the word of
God. The wind being favorable, the sails of the barge were unfurled
and the sailors plying their oars at the same time, the 11th of July
saw us landed safely at Fort Wallawalla. The next day I parted, with
many regrets, from my esteemed friends, Rev. Mr. Demers, and Mr.
[CCXXII] Ogden. Accompanied only by my interpreter, we continued our
land route to the 19th, through woods and immense plains. The high
plains which separate the waters of the Snake river from those of the
Spokan, offer some natural curiosities. I fancied myself in the
vicinity of several fortified cities, surrounded by walls and small
forts, scattered in different directions. The pillars are regular
pentagons, from two to four feet in diameter, erect, joined together,
forming a wall from forty to eighty feet high, and extending several
miles in the form of squares and triangles, detached from one another,
and in different directions.[282] On our road we met some Pierced
Noses, and a small band of Spokanes, who accosted us with many
demonstrations of friendship, and although very poor, offered us more
salmon than we could carry. The Pointed Hearts (a tribe which shall
ever be dear to me) came to meet us, and great was the joy on both
sides, on beholding one another again. They had strictly observed all
the rules I had laid down for them at my first visit. They accompanied
me for three days, to the very limits of their territory. We then
planted a cross on the summit of a high mountain, covered with snow,
and after the example of the Flat Heads, all the people consecrated
themselves inviolably to the service of God. We remained there that
night. The next morning, after reciting our prayers in common, and
giving them a long exhortation, we bade them farewell. The 20th I
continued my journey over terrific mountains, steep rocks, and through
apparently impenetrable forests. I could scarcely believe that any
human being had ever preceded us over such a road. At the end of four
days' journey, replete with fatigue and difficulties, we reached the
borders of the Bitter Root river, and on the evening of the 27th I had
the happiness of arriving safely at St. [CCXXIII] Mary's, and of
finding my dear brethren in good health.--The Flat Heads, accompanied
by Father Point, had left the village ten days before, to procure
provisions. A few had remained to guard the camp, and their families
awaited my return. The 29th, I started to rejoin the Flat Heads on the
Missouri river. We ascended the Bitter Root to its source, and the 1st
of August, having clambered up a high mountain, we planted a cross on
its very summit, near a beautiful spring, one of the sources of the
Missouri.[283] The next day, after a forced march, we joined the camp
where we had such a budget of news to open, so many interesting facts
to communicate to each other, that we sat up a greater part of the
night. The Rev. Father Point and myself, accompanied our dear
neophytes, who to obtain their daily bread, are obliged to hunt the
buffalo, even over the lands of their most inveterate enemies, the
Black Feet. On the 15th of August, the feast of the Assumption, (the
same on which this letter is dated) I offered up the sacrifice of the
Mass, in a noble plain, watered by one of the three streams that form
the head waters of the Missouri, to thank God for all the blessings He
had bestowed on us during this last year. I had the consolation of
seeing fifty Flat Heads approach the holy table in so humble, modest
and devout a manner, that to my, perhaps partial eye, they resembled
angels more than men. On the same day I determined, for the interest
of this mission, which seems so absolutely to require it, to traverse
for the fourth time the dangerous American desert. If heaven preserves
me, (for I have to travel through a region infested by thousands of
hostile savages) I will send you the account of this last
journey.--You see then, Rev. Father, that in these deserts we must
more than ever keep our souls prepared to render the fearful account,
in consequence of the perils that surround us; and [CCXXIV] as it
would be desirable that we could be replaced immediately, in case of
any accident occurring--again I say to you, pray that the Lord may
send us fellow laborers. "Rogate ergo Dominum messis ut mittat
operarios in messem suam." And thousands of souls, who would otherwise
be lost, will bless you one day in eternity. Rev. Father Point has
expressed a desire to be sent amongst the Blackfeet. Until they are
willing to listen to the word of God, which I think will be before
long, he intends to preach the gospel to the Pointed Hearts and the
neighboring tribes. I trust we shall be able to make as cheering a
report of these as we have already done of our first neophytes. I have
found them all in the best dispositions. The Rev. Father Mengarini
remains with the Flatheads and Pends d'oreilles. On my first journey,
in the autumn of 1841, which ended at Fort Colville, I baptized 190
persons of the Kalispel tribe. On my visit, last spring, to the
various distant tribes, (of which I have just finished giving you the
account) I had the consolation of baptizing 418 persons, 60 of whom
were of the Pends d'oreille tribe of the great lake; 82 of the Kœtnays
or Skalzi; 100 of the Pointed Hearts; 56 of the Shuyelpi; 106 of the
Okenakanes, and 14 in the Okenakanes and Wallawalla Forts.--These,
with 500 baptized last year, in different parts of the country, mostly
amongst the Flat Heads and Kalispels, and 196 that I baptized on
Christmas day, at St. Mary's, with the 350 baptized by Rev. Fathers
Mengarini and Point, make a total of 1654 souls, wrested from the
power of the devil. For what the Scripture calls the "spirit of the
world" has not wherewith to introduce itself amongst them. These poor
people find their happiness even in this world in the constant
practice of their Christian duties. We may almost say of them, that
all who are baptized are saved.--[CCXXV] Since God has inspired you
with a zealous desire to second the views of the Association for the
Propagation of the Faith, entreat those pious persons to whom you may
communicate your designs, to redouble their prayers in our behalf. I
conclude by beseeching you earnestly to remember me frequently and
fervently in the Holy Sacrifice.

I remain, very Rev. and dear Father,

                 Your affectionate servant
                          and brother in Christ,
                              P. J. DE SMET, S.J.


[246] Madison River is one of the three upper branches of the
Missouri. Rising in Yellowstone Park, it is formed by the junction of
Gibbon and Firehole rivers, and at first flows north through a
mountainous and rocky country; but in its lower reaches courses
through a fertile valley.--ED.

[247] Fort Colville was a Hudson's Bay Company post, built in 1825 to
supersede the fort at Spokane, which was too far inland for convenient
access. The site was at Kettle Falls on the east bank of the stream
(see Alexander Ross, _Fur Hunters_, ii, p. 162), the post being named
for the London governor of the company, Eden Colville. The fort became
an important station on the route of the Columbia brigade; here
accounts for the district were made up, and the dignitaries of the
company entertained. Gov. George Simpson had been at Fort Colville in
the summer before De Smet's visit, when Archibald Macdonald was the
factor in charge. This post was maintained some time after the
Americans acquired the Oregon Territory, but about 1857 it was removed
north of the international boundary line. In 1859 the United States
government built a military post called Fort Colville some miles east
of the old fur-trading stockade, near the present town of Colville,
Washington. The neighboring Indians having become peaceful, the fort
is no longer garrisoned.--ED.

[248] This affluent of the Bitterroot from the west was the one
followed by the Lewis and Clark expedition, in their route across the
Bitterroot mountain divide. Those explorers named it Traveller's Rest
Creek; it is now known as the Lolo Fork of the Bitterroot. An affluent
of Missoula River, some distance further down, has now taken the name
that De Smet first applied to the Lolo Fork.--ED.

[249] Hell Gate, for which see _ante_, p. 269, note 139.--ED.

[250] The carcajou or wolverine (_Gulo luscus_).--ED.

[251] The route usually taken by the Indians did not follow the main
branch of the river, but crossed the divide between the Missoula and
Jocko rivers, coming down into the valley of the Flathead, and
proceeding along that to its outlet into Clark's Fork. The two streams
named for the saints were the main Flathead and Jocko rivers, which
unite in the prairie described by De Smet. There were a number of small
prairies in the vicinity, known as Camas from the abundance of that root
(_Camas esculenta_). The better-known Camas Prairie was twenty miles
below the mouth of the Jocko; the one mentioned by De Smet was
apparently higher up, near the divide of the two rivers. These should
all be distinguished from the Camas Prairie (Quamash Flats) of Lewis and
Clark, which lay west of the Bitterroot Mountains.--ED.

[252] The Kalispel are the same tribe as the Pend d'Oreille, see
_ante_, p. 141, note 8.--ED.

[253] During the day (as described in Chittenden and Richardson, _De
Smet_, i, p. 347), the father had passed Camas Prairie and advanced
through Horse Plain at the junction of Flathead and Clark's Fork.--ED.

[254] Doubtless intended for oxide of iron.--ED.

[255] In _Explorations for a Pacific Railway, 1853-53_ (_Senate Ex.
Docs._, 35 Cong., 2 sess., vol. xviii, p. 91) the valley is thus
described: "The next sixty-five miles along the valley of Clark's Fork
is over a difficult trail, there being places where the sharp rocks
injured the animals;" again, "The valley is wide, arable, and inviting
for settlement, although rather heavily wooded."--ED.

[256] Lake Pend d'Oreille, in Kootenai County, Idaho, is one of the
most picturesque bodies of fresh water in the Western states. It is
irregular in shape, about sixty miles long, and from three to fifteen
in breadth, with a shore line of nearly five hundred miles. It was
probably, first of white men, visited by trappers and traders of the
Hudson's Bay Company. It is now crossed by the Northern Pacific
Railway, and steamers ply upon its waters.--ED.

[257] This is the Oregon cedar (_Thuya gigantea_), which attains great
size and is widely diffused on the trans-Rocky region.--ED.

[258] The original French text of the letter describing this journey
will be found in _Voyages aux Montagnes Rocheuses_ (Chittenden and
Richardson, _De Smet_, i, pp. 354-358); it gives additional
information regarding the remainder of the journey. Having arrived at
Lake Pend d'Oreille on November 1, the traveller was three days
passing the traverse; November 13 a high mountain was crossed, and by
pushing ahead, one more long day's journey brought him to Fort
Colville, where he was hospitably entertained by the Hudson's Bay
factor. The return journey was without incident.--ED.

[259] Montmartre is the highest point in the city of Paris, three
hundred and thirty feet above the Seine, and dominates the entire city.
In recent years a large church has been built upon its summit.--ED.

[260] Victor, hereditary chief of the Flatheads, succeeded Paul (or Big
Face) in that office, which he retained with dignity and ability until
his death in 1870, when he was in turn succeeded by his son Charlot. He
was a consistent friend of the whites, many of the early pioneers of
Montana testifying to his kindness and integrity. His wife Agnes
remembered the coming of Lewis and Clark to their country; see O. D.
Wheeler, _On the Trail of Lewis and Clark_ (New York), ii, p. 65.--ED.

[261] For Horse Prairie (plain) see _ante_, p. 336, note 172. For the
Kutenai see Ross's _Oregon Settlers_, in our volume vii, p. 211, note
73. In addition, note that the Kutenai (also called Skalzi) are a
distinct linguistic stock, known as Kitunahan. Their habitat was
chiefly in British territory; but because of alliance with the
Flathead and other Salishan tribes they frequently wandered southward.
A few are still on the Flathead reservation in Montana; but about five
hundred and fifty frequent the Kutenai agency in British Columbia.
They are nearly all Catholics.--ED.

[262] Flathead Lake is a broadening of the river of that name, and
lies northeast of the present Flathead reservation. It is about
twenty-eight miles long, with an average breadth of ten, and is
studded with beautiful islands.--ED.

[263] This hot spring is in the eastern part of the Flathead
reservation, and by a small creek discharges into the Little
Bitterroot River, an affluent of the Flathead.--ED.

[264] For this lake see our volume vii, p. 211, note 75. Father de Smet
crossed the mountains from Missoula Valley by the route now followed by
the Northern Pacific Railway along the stream which he had christened
St. Regis Borgia, through St. Regis Pass, coming out upon the headwaters
of Cœur d'Alène River, which he followed to the lake of that name.--ED.

[265] The mission founded by Father Point in November, 1842, known as
the Sacred Heart, was successful. The site was first upon St. Joseph
River, a feeder of Cœur d'Alène Lake; but in 1846 it was removed to Cœur
d'Alène River, at the present Cataldo. There the first church was built
by the neophytes in 1853, after designs by Father Ravalli; it is still a
landmark of the region. The tribesmen had been taught agriculture, and
lived chiefly in log houses; but the soil being sterile, the mission was
again removed to the upper waters of Haugman's Creek, in Idaho, where
the Cœur d'Alène still reside upon their reservation.--ED.

[266] Spokane River rises in Cœur d'Alène Lake and flows almost directly
to the Falls, thence northwest to its embouchment into the Columbia. It
is about two hundred feet wide at the mouth and throughout its entire
length is broken by falls and rapids, furnishing water power of great
value, its total decline being a hundred and thirty feet. An early
fur-trade fort known as Spokane Post stood near the present city of that
name, but about 1824 was abandoned for Colville. See Franchère's
_Narrative_, in our volume vi, p. 277, note 85.--ED.

[267] Father de Smet here refers to the cliffs and rapids on Clark's
Fork, about fifteen miles above Lake Pend d'Oreille; they are still
known as "The Cabinets." The water rushes through a gorge, between
cliffs over a hundred feet high.--ED.

[268] This mission was located at the mouth of Chamokane (Tskimakain)
Creek, on what is known as Walker's Prairie about forty miles
northwest of Spokane, and the borders of the present Spokane
reservation. It was a station of the American Commissioners founded
March 20, 1839, by two missionaries who had visited the spot the
previous autumn and erected log-huts on the site.

Rev. Elkanah Walker was born in Maine in 1805. Educated at Bangor
Theological Seminary he had first intended to go as a missionary to
Africa; but recruits being needed for the Oregon mission, he
volunteered, and in 1838 came out with his wife, Mary Richardson
Walker. They labored among the Spokan with considerable success--in
1841 printing a primer in that language--until the Whitman massacre
(1847). Their Indians requested them to stay and promised them
protection; but the government sent a military escort to take them to
the settlements. There Walker bought land at Forest Grove, in the
Willamette Valley, where he died in 1877.

Rev. Cushing Eells was born in Massachusetts in 1810. Graduated at
Williams College, he married Myra Fairbank in the spring of 1838, and
with her left immediately for the Oregon mission. Living to old age,
the pioneer missionary was known throughout the West, his character
revered by all. He gave over fifty years of his life to missionary
service, in his later years being known as Father Eells. He was
instrumental in founding both Pacific University and Whitman College,
and travelled extensively in the work of building churches and
preaching. He frequently re-visited his Spokan protégés, the larger
portion of whom are now members of the Presbyterian church.--ED.

[269] For Rev. Samuel Parker see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume
xxi, p. 335, note 112. Parker thus describes this incident in his
_Journal of an Exploring Tour beyond the Rocky Mountains_ (Ithaca, N.
Y., 1838), pp. 275, 276: "One grave in the same village had a cross
standing over it, which was the only relic of the kind I saw, together
with this just named, during my travels in this country. But as I
viewed the cross of wood made by men's hands of no avail, to benefit
either the dead or the living, and far more likely to operate as a
salvo to a guilty conscience, or a stepping-stone to idolatry, than to
be understood in its spiritual sense to refer to a crucifixion of our
sins, I took this, which the Indians had prepared, and broke it to
pieces. I then told them we place a stone at the head and foot of the
grave only to mark the place; and without a murmur they cheerfully
acquiesced, and adopted our custom."--ED.

[270] Modeste Demers was born near Quebec in 1808; educated at Quebec
Seminary he was ordained in 1836, and the same year started for Red
River. Thence he went overland with the Hudson's Bay brigade in 1838,
arriving in Vancouver in the autumn of that year with Father Blanchet.
In 1839 he visited New Caledonia, and in 1842 was detailed to found
missions among the tribesmen, and to instruct the half-breeds at the
forts. He labored chiefly in New Caledonia until 1847, then being
consecrated bishop of Vancouver. He continued in this field of labor
until his death at Victoria in 1871.--ED.

[271] The Okinagan Indians are of the Salishan family, although some
authorities class them with the Shushwaps of British Columbia. They
formed a considerable confederacy of allied tribes, extending along
the river valley of their name, and including the bands of the
Similkameen River. A trading post was early erected among them, for
which see Franchère's _Narrative_, in our volume vi, p. 260, note 71.
Alexander Ross, who married an Okinagan woman, and lived among them
for many years, is the chief authority upon their manners and customs.
See Ross's _Oregon Settlers_, in our volume vii, chapters xviii to
xxi. The Okinagan are now tributary to Colville agency, and number
about five hundred and fifty, most of whom are Catholics.--ED.

[272] The country between Fort Colville and Okanagan has been but
imperfectly charted. It is about sixty miles in a direct line through
the Colville Indian reservation.--ED.

[273] A small lake called Karamip is found on modern maps near the
head of Sanpoil River.--ED.

[274] Lake Okanagan in British Columbia is about sixty miles in length
and the source of the river of that name. It would be a long and
difficult journey to return thence to Fort Colville in three days; so
that De Smet's rendezvous with the Indians was possibly at some
smaller interior lake, entitled by him Lake Okanagan because he met
that tribe upon its shores.--ED.

[275] The Cœur d'Alène.--ED.

[276] See Thomas W. Symons, "Report of an Examination of the Upper
Columbia River," _Senate Ex. Docs._, 47 Cong., 1 sess., No. 186.--ED.

[277] See brief biographical sketch of Ogden in Townsend's
_Narrative_, our volume xxi, p. 314, note 99.--ED.

[278] For detailed descriptions of the Great Dalles of the Columbia,
see _Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition_, iii, pp.
151-159; Franchère's _Narrative_, in our volume vi, p. 337; and Ross's
_Oregon Settlers_, our volume vii, pp. 130, 131--ED.

[279] What are technically known as the Little Dalles of the Columbia
lie above Fort Colville. The description would appear to apply to the
present Whirlpool Rapids, just below Kalichen Falls, about twenty
miles above Okanagan River. The entire stretch from the Nespelin River
west, is a long series of difficult rapids and riffles. See "Report"
cited _ante_, p. 373, note 195.--ED.

[280] For Fort Walla Walla, a Hudson's Bay post, see Townsend's
_Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p. 278, note 73.--ED.

[281] Of these Indian tribes the Chaudière, Okinagan, Sanpoil
(Cingpoils), have been described _ante_, in notes 162, 190, 161; for
the Walla Walla and Cayuse see our volume vii, p. 137, note 37; for
the Nez Percés (Pierced Noses), volume vi, p. 340, note 145; for the
Indians of the Dalles, volume vii, p. 129, note 31; the Chinook
(Schinooks), volume vi, p. 240, note 40; for Clatsop (Classops),
volume vi, p. 239, note 39. The Attayes were probably the Yakima, an
important Shahaptian tribe in the valley of that river; one branch of
the tribe was called Atanum, and a Catholic mission by that name was
in later years established among them.--ED.

[282] Part of the Great Plain of the Columbia, broken by many fantastic
shapes of the volcanic underlying rock. Most notable of these is the
Grand Coulée, which, however, De Smet did not cross, for it lies north
of Spokane River. He probably took the trail afterwards developed into a
part of the Mullan road, from Great Falls of Missouri to Walla Walla.
From the land of the Cœur d'Alène he returned along the route by which
he had come out--the St. Regis Pass and river St. Regis Borgia.--ED.

[283] This was the route followed by Clark on his return journey in
1806--through Gibbon's Pass, and down the upper waters of Big Hole (or
Wisdom) River, an affluent of the Jefferson.--ED.

                               LETTER XIV

                                    St. Mary, June 28th, 1842.

  Rev. Father:

Thanks be to God, our hopes have at length begun to be realized; the
tender blossom has been succeeded by precious fruit, daily more and
more visible in our colony; the chief and people, by their truly
edifying conduct, give us already the sweetest consolation. Pentecost
was for us and for our beloved neophytes a day of blessings, of holy
exultation. Eighty of them enjoyed the happiness of partaking for the
first time of the bread of Angels. Their assiduity in assisting during
a month at the instructions we gave them, three times a day, had
assured us of their zeal and favor; but a retreat of three days,
which served as a more immediate preparation, contributed still more
to convince us of their sincerity. From an early hour in the morning
repeated discharges of musketry announced afar the arrival of the
great, the glorious day. At the first sound of the bell a crowd of
savages hurried towards our church. One of our Fathers, in a surplice
and stole, preceded by three choristers, one of whom bore aloft the
banner of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, went out to receive them, and
conduct them in procession, and to the sound of joyous canticles, into
the Temple of the Lord. What piety--what religious recollection,
amidst that throng! They observed a strict silence, but at the same
time the joy and gladness that filled their hearts, shone on their
happy countenances. The ardent love which already animated [CCXXVII]
these innocent hearts, was inflamed afresh by the fervent aspirations
to the adorable Sacrament, which were recited aloud by one of our
Fathers, who also intermingled occasionally some stanzas of canticles.
The tender devotion, and the profound faith with which these Indians
received their God, really edified and affected us. That morning at 11
o'clock they renewed their baptismal vows, and in the afternoon they
made the solemn consecration of their hearts to the Blessed Virgin,
the tutelar patroness of this place.--May these pious sentiments which
the true religion alone could inspire, be preserved amongst our dear
children. We hope for their continuance, and what increases our hope
is, that at the time of this solemnity, about one hundred and twenty
persons approached the tribunal of penance, and since that truly
memorable occasion, we have from thirty to forty communions, and from
fifty to sixty confessions every Sunday.

The feast of Corpus Christi was solemnized by another ceremony not less
touching, and calculated to perpetuate the gratitude and devotion of our
pious Indians towards our amiable Queen. This was the solemn erection
of a statue to the Blessed Virgin, in memory of her apparition to little
Paul. The following is a brief account of the ceremony. From the
entrance of our chapel to the spot where little Paul received such a
special favor--the avenue was simply the green sward, the length of
which on both sides was bordered by garlands, hung in
festoons--triumphal arches, gracefully arranged, arose at regular
distances. At the end of the avenue, and in the middle of a kind of
repository, stood the pedestal, which was destined to receive the
statue. The hour specified having struck, the procession issued from the
chapel in this order. At the head was borne aloft the banner of the
Sacred Heart [CCXXVIII] followed closely by little Paul carrying the
statue and accompanied by two choristers, who profusely strewed the way
with flowers. Then came the two Fathers, one vested in a cope, and the
other in a surplice.--Finally the march was closed by the chiefs and all
the members of the colony emulating each other in their zeal to pay
their tribute of thanksgiving and praise to their blessed Mother. When
they reached the spot one of our Fathers, in a short exhortation, in
which he reminded them of the signal prodigy and assistance of the Queen
of Heaven, encouraged our dear neophytes to sentiments of confidence in
the protection of Mary. After this address and the singing of the Litany
of the Blessed Virgin, the procession returned in the same order to the
church. Oh! how ardently we desired that all the friends of our holy
religion could have witnessed the devotion and recollection of these new
children of Mary. It was also our intention not to dismiss them until we
had given them the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, but
unfortunately not possessing a Remonstrance we were obliged to defer
this beautiful ceremony until the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At
that time the Sacred Host was carried in solemn procession, and since
then each Sunday after Vespers, the faithful enjoy the happiness of
receiving the Benediction.

May the blessing of God really descend upon us and our colony. We hope
for it through the assistance of your prayers and those of all our

                 I remain, Rev. Father,
                            Your very humble friend and servant,
                                       GREG. MENGARINI, S.J.

                               LETTER XV

                     Fort Vancouver, 28th September, 1841.

  Reverend Father:

Blessed be the Divine Providence of the all-powerful God who has
protected, preserved and restored you safely to your dear neophytes.

I congratulate the country upon the inestimable treasure it possesses by
the arrival and establishment therein of the members of the Society of
Jesus. Be so kind as to express to the Reverend Fathers and Brothers my
profound veneration and respect for them. I beg of God to bless your
labours and to continue your successful efforts. In a few years you will
enjoy the glory and consolation of beholding through your means all the
savages residing on the head waters of the Columbia, ranging themselves
under the standard of the Cross. I do not doubt but that our excellent
governor, Dr. McLaughlin, will give you all the assistance in his power.
It is very fortunate for our holy religion, that this noble-hearted man
should be at the head of the affairs of the honorable Hudson Bay
Company, west of the Rocky Mountains. He protected it before our arrival
in these regions. He still gives it his support by word and example, and
many favors. As we are in the same country, aiming at the same end,
namely, the triumph of the holy Catholic faith throughout this vast
territory, the Rev. Mr. Demers and myself will always take the most
lively interest in your welfare and progress, and we are [CCXXX]
convinced that, whatever concerns us will equally interest you. The
following is an account of our present situation:

The Catholic establishment of Wallamette consists of nearly 80
families. The one at Cowlitz of only five,--twenty-two at Nez-quale on
Puget-sound, which is from 25 to 30 leagues above Cowlitz.[284]
Besides these stations we visit from time to time, the nearest Forts
where the Catholics in the service of the Hudson Bay Company reside.
This is what takes up almost all our time. We are much in want of lay
brothers and nuns, of school masters and mistresses. We have to attend
to every spiritual as well as temporal affair, which is a great burden
to us. The wives of the Canadians, taken from every quarter of the
country, cause throughout the families a diversity of languages. They
speak almost generally a rude jargon of which we can scarcely make any
use in our public instructions--hence proceed the obstacles to our
progress,--we go along slowly. We are obliged to teach them French and
their catechism together, which occasions much delay. We are really
overwhelmed with business. The savages apply to us from all sides.
Some of them are indifferent, and we have not time to instruct them.
We make them, occasionally, hasty visits, and baptize the children and
the adults who happen to be in danger of death. But we have no time to
learn their languages, and until now have been without an interpreter
to translate the prayers we wish them to learn. It is only lately that
I have succeeded in translating them into the Tchinoux language. Our
difficulties are greatly increased by this variety of languages; each
of the following tribes has a different dialect: The Kalapouyas,
towards the head waters of the Wallamette,[285] the Tchinoux of the
Columbia river; the Kaijous from Walla-walla; the Pierced Noses,
Okanakanes, Flat Heads, Snakes, Cowlitz, the [CCXXXI] Klickatates from
the interior, north of Vancouver;[286] the Tcheheles, to the north of
the mouth of the Columbia river; the Nezquales,[287] and those from
the interior or of the Puget sound Bay, those of the Travers river,
the Khalams[288] of the above mentioned bay, those of Vancouver
Island, and those from the northern posts on the sea shore, and from
the interior of the part of the country watered by the tributary
streams of the Travers river, all have their different languages.

Such are the difficulties we have daily to overcome. Our hearts bleed
at the sight of so many souls who are lost under our eyes, without our
being able to carry to them the word of Life. Moreover, our temporal
resources are limited. We are but two, and our trunks did not arrive
last spring by the vessel belonging to the honorable Hudson Bay
Company. We have exhausted our means. The savages, women and children,
ask us in vain for Rosaries. We have no more Catechisms of the diocese
left to distribute among them; no English Prayer Books for the
Catholic Irish; no controversial books to lend. Heaven appears to be
deaf to our prayers, supplications and most ardent wishes. You can
judge of our situation and how much we are to be pitied. We are in the
mean time surrounded by sects who are using all their efforts to
scatter every where the poisonous seeds of error, and who try to
paralyze the little good we may effect.

The Methodists are, first, at Wallamette, which is about eight miles
from my establishment; second, near the Klatraps, south of the mouth
of the Columbia river; third, at Nez Quali, or Puget-sound; fourth, at
the Great Dalles, south of Walla walla; and fifth, at the Wallamette
Falls.[289] The Presbyterian Missions are at Wallawalla, as you
approach Colville.[290] In the midst of so many adversaries we try to
keep our ground firmly; to increase our numbers, [CCXXXII] and to
visit various parts, particularly where the danger is most pressing.
We also endeavor to anticipate the others, and to inculcate the
Catholic principles in those places where error has not as yet found a
footing, or even to arrest the progress of evil, to dry it up at its
source. The conflict has been violent, but the savages now begin to
open their eyes as to who are the real ministers of Jesus Christ.
Heaven declares itself in our favor. If we had a priest to hold a
permanent station amongst the savages, the country would be ours in
two years. The Methodist Missions are failing rapidly; they are losing
their credit and the little influence they possessed. By the grace of
God, our cause has prevailed at Wallamette. This spring, Mr. Demers
withdrew from the Methodists a whole village of savages, situate at
the foot of the Wallamette Falls. Mr. Demers also visited the
Schinouks [Chinook], below the Columbia river. They are well disposed
towards Catholicity. I have just arrived from Cascades, which is
eighteen leagues from Vancouver. The savages at this place had
resisted all the insinuations of a pretended Minister.[291] It was my
first mission, and only lasted ten days. They learned in that time
the sign of the cross, the offering of their hearts to God, the Lord's
Prayer, the Angelical Salutation, the Apostles' Creed, the ten
Commandments, and those of the Church. I intend to revisit them soon,
near Vancouver, and to baptize a considerable number. Rev. Mr. Demers
has been absent these two months, on a visit to the savages at the Bay
of Puget-sound, who have long since besought him to come amongst them.
I have not been able to visit since the month of May, my catechumens
at Flackimar, a village whose people were converted last spring, and
who had turned a deaf ear to a Mr. Waller,[292] who is established at
Wallamette. Judge then, sir, how great are our labors, and how much it
would advance our [CCXXXIII] mutual interest, were you to send hither
one of your Rev. Fathers, with one of the three lay brothers. In my
opinion, it is on this spot that we must seek to establish our holy
religion. It is here that we should have a college, convent, and
schools. It is here that one day a successor of the Apostles will come
from some part of the world to settle, and provide for the spiritual
necessities of this vast region, which, moreover, promises such an
abundant harvest.--Here is the field of battle, where we must in the
first place gain the victory. It is here that we must establish a
beautiful mission. From the lower stations the Missionaries and Rev.
Fathers could go forth in all directions to supply the distant
stations, and announce the word of God to the infidels still plunged
in darkness and the shadows of death. If your plans should not permit
you to change the place of your establishment, at least take into
consideration the need in which we stand of a Rev. Father, and of a
lay brother, to succor us in our necessities. By the latest dates from
the Sandwich Islands, I am informed that the Rev. Mr. Chochure had
arrived there, accompanied by three priests, the Rev. Mr. Walsh making
the fourth.[293] A large Catholic Church it was hoped would have been
ready last autumn for the celebration of the Holy Mysteries. The
natives were embracing our everlasting faith in great numbers, and the
meeting houses were almost abandoned.

The Bishop of Juliopolis, stationed at Red River,[294] writes to me
that the savages dwelling near the base of the eastern part of the
Rocky Mountains have deputed to him a half blood who resides amongst
them, to obtain from his Grace a priest to instruct them. Rev. Mr.
Thibault is destined for this mission.

                 I remain, Rev. Father, yours,
                                           F. N. BLANCHET.


[284] It was not the policy of the Hudson's Bay Company to encourage
settlements. Dr. McLoughlin, however, permitted some of the retired
servants of the company to settle at French Prairie (or Chemayway) in
the Willamette Valley. There, by 1830, a considerable group of farmers
were found, mostly of French-Canadian origin. Among the earliest
settlers were Louis Labonte, Etienne Lucier, and Joseph Gervais.

Fort Nisqually, on Puget Sound, four miles northeast of the mouth of
Nisqually River, was founded in 1833 as a fur-trading post. In 1838
the Puget Sound Agricultural Company was formed in London, most of its
members being Hudson's Bay Company men, in order to exploit the region
of the sound; consequently a considerable settlement grew up near the

In 1837 Simon Plomondeau was advised by Dr. McLoughlin to settle on
Cowlitz Prairie, in the valley of the river of that name. Soon one
Faincaut settled near him. In 1839 a large farm was surveyed by
Charles Ross, John Work, and James Douglas as a company settlement. It
grew but little until the advent of Americans in 1853-54.--ED.

[285] For the Kalapuya see our volume vii, p. 230, note 80.--ED.

[286] The Cowlitz were a numerous and powerful tribe of Salishan
stock, in the valley of the river of that name. They have now lost
their tribal identity, the remnant (there were about a hundred and
twenty-five in 1882) having lands allotted in severalty.

For the Klikatat, see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p.
302, note 88. On their later history it may be noted that they
participated in the Yakima treaty of 1855, and are now one of the
consolidated tribes on Yakima reservation; a few, however, maintaining
themselves on White Salmon River.--ED.

[287] For the Chehalis consult our volume vi, p. 256, note 65.

The Nisqualli are a Salishan tribe on and in the vicinity of Nisqually
River. There are now but about a hundred and fifty of this tribe
surviving on the Puyallup reservation, Washington.--ED.

[288] The Skallam (Clallam), a tribe of Salishan origin, were first
met by whites along Admiralty Inlet. There are now about seven hundred
and fifty of these Indians extant, having allotments in severalty both
at Jamestown and Port Gamble.--ED.

[289] Methodist missions in Oregon were founded by Rev. Jason Lee, for
whom see Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p. 138, note 13. The
establishment in the Willamette Valley was the central one, and
consisted largely of an agricultural settlement with a school for Indian
children, that afterwards developed into Willamette University. It was
situated about eighteen miles above Champoeg, not far from Salem. The
second station at Clatsop (not Klatraps) Plains, south of Point Adams,
was founded by J. H. Frost, accompanied by Solomon Smith and Calvin
Tibbits, who had married Clatsop women. The families removed to this
point in February, 1841. Two years later Frost returned to the United
States, and J. L. Parrish took up the work. Little attempt was made at
this point to reach the Indians. The mission at Nisqually was begun in
1839. The following year, J. P. Richmond was stationed here; he returned
home after two years, whereupon the Nisqually mission was abandoned. The
Indian mission at the Dalles was begun in March, 1838, by Daniel Lee and
H. K. W. Perkins. It was conducted with varying success until 1845, when
the property was disposed of to the Presbyterians. The settlement at
Willamette Falls, made in 1840 by A. F. Waller, was chiefly a colonizing
experiment. In 1844 there were forty Methodists at this place.--ED.

[290] Father Blanchet here refers to the missions of Dr. Whitman at
Waiilatpu for the Cayuse, and that of H. H. Spaulding at Lapwai for
the Nez Percés. See Townsend's _Narrative_, in our volume xxi, p. 352,
note 125.--ED.

[291] Perkins at the Dalles mission (see _ante_, note 208) had attempted
to reach the Indians gathered at the Cascades. But Blanchet gained more
influence over these nations than the Protestant missionary, for the
natives were better pleased with the Catholic ceremonials.--ED.

[292] Probably intended for Clackamas, the name of a tribe upon the
river of the same designation, which empties into the Willamette at
the Falls.

A. F. Waller came to reinforce the Methodist mission in 1840, and was
sent to Willamette Falls. He had a legal controversy with Dr.
McLoughlin in relation to the title to land at this place. Waller
became a citizen of Oregon, acquired considerable property, and died
in Willamette Valley in 1872.--ED.

[293] A long struggle had occurred to secure the entrance of Catholic
missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands. The first priests, who came out in
1827, were soon expelled. Returning in 1836, after a long struggle all
were obliged to depart save Robert Walsh, an Irish priest, who was
permitted to remain, provided he would agree not to teach the natives.
In 1839 a French man-of-war threatened the government with a bombardment
and succeeded in wresting from them the promise of toleration for
Catholics; thereupon Etienne Rouchouse (Chochure), bishop of Nilopolis,
arrived in May, 1838, accompanied by two priests. The next year the
bishop returned to France for reinforcements; when on the outward voyage
the vessel foundered off Cape Horn, all on board perishing.--ED.

[294] In 1818 J. N. Provencher was dispatched from Quebec to minister
to the Red River settlers, and established a station at St. Boniface.
In 1822, he was consecrated bishop of Juliopolis, and remained at St.
Boniface until his death in 1853. His jurisdiction included Rupert's
Land and all the Northwest provinces, whither he sent out many
missionaries during his long episcopate.--ED.

                               LETTER XVI

                       University of St. Louis, 1st Nov. 1842.

  Very Rev. Father:

In my last letter of August, I promised to write to you from St.
Louis, should I arrive safely in that city. Heaven has preserved me,
and here I am about to fulfil my promise. Leaving Rev. Father Point
and the Flat Head camp on the river Madison, I was accompanied by
twelve of our Indians. We travelled in three days, a distance of 150
miles, crossing two chains of mountains,[295] in a section of country
frequently visited by the Black Feet warriors, without, however,
meeting with any of these scalping savages. At the mouth of the
Twenty-five Yard River, a branch of the Yellow Stone, we found 250
huts, belonging to several nations, all friendly to us--the Flat
Heads, Kalispels, Pierced Noses, Kayuses, and Snakes. I spent three
days amongst them to exhort them to perseverance, and to make some
preparations for my long journey. The day of my departure, ten
neophytes presented themselves at my lodge to serve as my escort, and
to introduce me to the Crow tribe. On the evening of the second day we
were in the midst of this large and interesting tribe. The Crows had
perceived us from a distance; as we approached, some of them
recognised me, and at the cry of "the Blackgown! the Blackgown!" the
Crows, young and old, to the number of three thousand, came out of
their wigwams. On entering the village, a comical scene occurred, of
which they suddenly made me the principal personage. All the chiefs,
and [CCXXXV] about fifty of their warriors, hastened around me, and I
was literally assailed by them. Holding me by the gown, they drew me
in every direction, whilst a robust savage of gigantic stature,
seemed resolved to carry me off by main force. All spoke at the same
time, and appeared to be quarrelling, whilst I, the sole object of all
this contention, could not conceive what they were about. I remained
passive, not knowing whether I should laugh or be serious. The
interpreter soon came to my relief, and said that all this uproar was
but an excess of politeness and kindness towards me, as every one
wished to have the honor of lodging and entertaining the Blackgown.
With his advice I selected my host, upon which the others immediately
loosed their hold, and I followed the chief to his lodge, which was
the largest and best in the camp. The Crows did not tarry long before
they all gathered around me, and loaded me with marks of kindness. The
social calumet, emblem of savage brotherhood and union, went round
that evening so frequently, that it was scarcely ever extinguished. It
was accompanied with all the antics for which the Crows are so famous,
when they offer the calumet to the Great Spirit, to the four winds, to
the sun, fire, earth and water. These Indians are unquestionably the
most anxious to learn; the most inquisitive, ingenious, and polished
of all the savage tribes east of the mountains. They profess great
friendship and admiration for the whites. They asked me innumerable
questions; among others, they wished to know the number of the whites.
Count, I replied, the blades of grass upon your immense plains, and
you will know pretty nearly the number of the whites. They all smiled,
saying that the thing was impossible, but they understood my meaning.
And when I explained to them the vast extent of the "villages"
inhabited by white men (viz. New York, [CCXXXVI] Philadelphia, London,
Paris) the grand lodges (houses) built as near each other as the
fingers of my hand, and four or five piled up, one above the
other--(meaning the different stories of our dwellings;) when I told
them that some of these lodges (speaking of churches and towers) were
as high as mountains, and large enough to contain all the Crows
together; that in the grand lodge of the national council (the Capitol
at Washington) all the great chiefs of the whole world could smoke the
calumet at their ease; that the roads in these great villages were
always filled with passengers, who came and went more thickly than the
vast herds of buffalos that sometimes cover their beautiful plains;
when I explained to them the extraordinary celerity of those moving
lodges (the cars on the rail road) that leave far behind them the
swiftest horse, and which are drawn along by frightful machines, whose
repeated groanings re-echo far and wide, as they belch forth immense
volumes of fire and smoke; and next, those fire canoes, (steamboats)
which transport whole villages, with provisions, arms and baggage, in
a few days, from one country to another, crossing large lakes, (the
seas) ascending and descending the great rivers and streams; when I
told them that I had seen white men mounting up into the air (in
balloons) and flying with as much agility as the warrior eagle of
their mountains, then their astonishment was at its height; and all
placing their hands upon their mouths, sent forth at the same time,
one general cry of wonder. "The Master of life is great," said the
chief, "and the white men are His favorites." But what appeared to
interest them more than aught else, was prayer (religion;) to this
subject they listened with the strictest, undivided attention. They
told me that they had already heard of it, and they knew that this
prayer made men good and wise on earth, and insured [CCXXXVII] their
happiness in the future life. They begged me to permit the whole camp
to assemble, that they might hear for themselves the words of the
Great Spirit, of whom they had been told such wonders. Immediately
three United States flags were erected on the field, in the midst of
the camp, and three thousand savages, including the sick, who were
carried in skins, gathered around me. I knelt beneath the banner of
our country, my ten Flat Head neophytes by my side, and surrounded by
this multitude, eager to hear the glad tidings of the gospel of peace.
We began by intoning two canticles, after which I recited all the
prayers, which we interpreted to them: then again we sang canticles,
and I finished by explaining to them the Apostles' Creed and the ten
Commandments. They all appeared to be filled with joy, and declared it
was the happiest day of their lives. They begged me to have pity on
them--to remain among them and instruct them and their little children
in the knowledge, love and service of the Great Spirit. I promised
that a Blackgown should visit them, but on condition that the chiefs
would engage themselves to put a stop to the thievish practices so
common amongst them, and to oppose vigorously the corrupt morals of
their tribe. Believing me to be endowed with supernatural powers, they
had entreated me from the very commencement of our conversation, to
free them from the sickness that then desolated the camp, and to
supply them with plenty. I repeated to them on this occasion that the
Great Spirit alone could remove these evils--God, I said, listens to
the supplications of the good and pure of heart; of those who detest
their sins, and wish to devote themselves to His service--but He shuts
his ears to the prayers of those who violate His holy law. In His
anger, God had destroyed by fire, five infamous "villages" (Sodom,
Gomorrah, [CCXXXVIII] etc.) in consequence of their horrid
abominations--that the Crows walked in the ways of these wicked men,
consequently they could not complain if the Great Spirit seemed to
punish them by sickness, war and famine. They were themselves the
authors of all their calamities--and if they did not change their mode
of life very soon, they might expect to see their misfortunes increase
from day to day--while the most awful torments awaited them, and all
wicked men after their death. I assured them in fine that heaven would
be the reward of those who would repent of their evil deeds and
practice the religion of the Great Spirit.

The grand orator of the camp was the first to reply: "Black Gown,"
said he, "I understand you. You have said what is true. Your words
have passed from my ears into my heart--I wish all could comprehend
them." Whereon, addressing himself to the Crows, he repeated forcibly,
"Yes, Crows, the Black Gown has said what is true. We are dogs, for we
live like dogs. Let us change our lives and our children will live." I
then held long conferences with all the chiefs assembled in council. I
proposed to them the example of the Flat Heads, and Pends-d'oreilles,
whose chiefs made it their duty to exhort their people to the practice
of virtue, and who knew how to punish as they deserved all the
prevarications against God's holy law. They promised to follow my
advice, and assured me that I would find them in better dispositions
on my return. I flatter myself with the hope, that this visit, the
good example of my neophytes, but principally the prayers of the Flat
Heads will gradually produce a favourable change among the Crows. A
good point in their character, and one that inspires me with almost
the certainty of their amendment, is, that they have hitherto resisted
courageously all attempts [CCXXXIX] to introduce spirituous liquors
among them. "For what is this fire-water good?" said the chief to a
white man who tried to bring it into their country, "it burns the
throat and stomach; it makes a man like a bear who has lost his
senses. He bites, he growls, he scratches and he howls, he falls down
as if he were dead. Your fire-water does nothing but harm--take it to
our enemies, and they will kill each other, and their wives and
children will be worthy of pity. As for us we do not want it, we are
fools enough without it." A very touching scene occurred during the
council. Several of the savages wished to examine my Missionary Cross;
I thence took occasion to explain to them the sufferings of our
Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the cause of His death on the Cross--I then
placed my Cross in the hands of the great chief; he kissed it in the
most respectful manner; raising his eyes to heaven, and pressing the
Cross with both his hands to his heart, he exclaimed, "O Great Spirit,
take pity on me and be merciful to Thy poor children." And his people
followed his example. I was in the village of the Crows when news was
brought that two of their most distinguished warriors had fallen
victims to the rage and cruelty of the Black Feet. The heralds or
orators went round the camp, proclaiming in a loud voice the
circumstances of the combat and the tragic end of the two brave men. A
gloomy silence prevailed every where, only interrupted by a band of
mourners, whose appearance alone was enough to make the most
insensible heart bleed, and rouse to vengeance the entire nation. This
band was composed of the mothers of the two unfortunate warriors who
had fallen, their wives carrying their new born infants in their arms,
their sisters, and all their little children. The unhappy creatures
had their heads shaven and cut in every direction; they were gashed
with numerous [CCXL] wounds, whence the blood constantly trickled. In
this pitiable state they rent the air with their lamentations and
cries, imploring the warriors of their nation to have compassion on
them--to have compassion on their desolate children--to grant them one
last favour, the only cure for their affliction, and that was, to go
at once and inflict signal vengeance on the murderers. They led by the
bridle all the horses that belonged to the deceased. A Crow chief
mounting immediately the best of these steeds, brandished his tomahawk
in the air, proclaiming that he was ready to avenge the deed. Several
young men rallied about him. They sung together the war-song, and
started the same day, declaring that they would not return
empty-handed (viz: without scalps).

On these occasions the near relations of the one who has fallen,
distribute every thing that they possess, retaining nothing but some
old rags wherewith to clothe themselves. The mourning ceases as soon
as the deed is avenged. The warriors cast at the feet of the widows
and orphans the trophies torn away from the enemies. Then passing from
extreme grief to exultation, they cast aside their tattered garments,
wash their bodies, besmear themselves with all sorts of colours, deck
themselves off in their best robes, and with the scalps affixed to the
end of poles, march in triumph round the camp, shouting and dancing,
accompanied at the same time by the whole village.

On the 29th I bade adieu to my faithful companions, the Flat Heads,
and the Crows. Accompanied by Ignatius, Gabriel, and by two brave
Americans, who, although Protestants, wished to serve as guides to a
Catholic Missionary, I once more plunged into the arid plains of the
Yellow Stone. Having already described this region, I have nothing new
to add concerning it. This desert is undoubtedly [CCXLI] dangerous,
and has been the scene of more tragic deeds, combats, stratagems, and
savage cruelties, than any other region. At each step, the Crow
interpreter, Mr. V. C., who had sojourned eleven years in the country,
recounted different transactions; pointing, meanwhile, to the spots
where they had occurred, which, in our situation, made our blood run
cold, and our hair stand erect. It is the battle ground where the
Crows, the Black Feet, Scioux, Sheyennes, Assiniboins, Arikaras, and
Minatares, fight out their interminable quarrels, avenging and
revenging, without respite, their mutual wrongs. After six days'
march, we found ourselves upon the very spot where a combat had
recently taken place. The bloody remains of ten Assiniboins, who had
been slain, were scattered here and there--almost all the flesh eaten
off by the wolves and carniverous birds. At the sight of these mangled
limbs--of the vultures that soared above our heads, after having
satiated themselves with the unclean repast, and the region round me,
which had so lately resounded with the savage cries of more savage
men, engaged in mutual carnage--I own that the little courage I
thought I possessed, seemed to fail me entirely, and give place to a
secret terror, which I sought in vain to stifle or conceal from my
companions. We observed in several places the fresh tracks of men and
horses, leaving no doubt in our minds as to the proximity of hostile
parties; our guide even assured me that he thought we were already
discovered, but by continuing our precautions he hoped we might
perhaps elude their craftiness and malicious designs, for the savages
very seldom make their attacks in open day. The following is the
description of our regular march until the 10th of September. At
day-break we saddled our horses and pursued our journey; at 10 A. M.
we breakfasted in a suitable place, that would offer [CCXLII] some
advantage in case of an attack. After an hour and a half, or two
hours' rest, we resumed our march a second time, always trotting our
horses, until sunset, when we unsaddled them to dine and sup; we then
lighted a good fire, hastily raised a little cabin of branches, to
induce our ever watchful foes, in case they pursue us, to suppose that
we had encamped for the night; for, as soon as the inimical videttes
discover any thing of the kind, they make it known by a signal to the
whole party. They then immediately assemble, and concert the plan of
attack. In the meantime, favored by the darkness, we pursued our
journey quietly until 10 or 12 o'clock at night, and then, without
fire or even shelter, each one disposed himself as well as he might,
for sleep. It appears to me that I hear you ask: But what did you eat
for your breakfast and supper? Examine the notes of my journal, and
you will acknowledge that our fare was such as would excite the envy
of the most fastidious gastronome. From the 25th of August to the 10th
of September, 1842, we killed, to supply our wants, as we journeyed
on, three fine buffalo cows, and two large bulls; (only to obtain the
tongue and marrow bones) two large deer, as fat as we could have
wished; three goats, two black-tail deer, a big-horn or mountain
sheep, two fine grey bears, and a swan--to say nothing of the
pheasants, fowls, snipes, ducks and geese.

In the midst of so much game, we scarcely felt the want of bread,
sugar or coffee. The haunches, tongues and ribs replaced these. And
the bed? It is soon arranged. We were in a country where you lose no
time in taking off your shoes; your wrap your buffalo robe around you,
the saddle serves as a pillow, and thanks to the fatigues of a long
journey of about forty miles, under a burning sun, you have scarcely
laid your head upon it before you are asleep. [CCXLIII] The gentlemen
of Fort Union, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone, received me with
great politeness and kindness. I rested there during three days. A
journey so long and continuous, through regions where the drought had
been so great that every sign of vegetation had disappeared, had very
much exhausted our poor horses. The 1800 miles that we had yet to
travel, were not to be undertaken lightly. After having well
considered every thing, I resolved to leave my horses at the Fort, and
to trust myself to the impetuous waters of the Missouri in a skiff,
accompanied by Ignatius and Gabriel. The result was most fortunate,
for, on the third day of our descent, to our great surprise and joy,
we heard the puffing of a steamboat. It was a real God-send to us;
accordingly, our first thought was to thank God, in all the sincerity
of our hearts. We soon beheld her majestically ascending the stream.
It was the first boat that had ever attempted to ascend the river in
that season of the year, laden with merchandize for the Fur Trade
Company. Four gentlemen from New York, proprietors of the boat,
invited me to enter and remain on board.[296] I accepted with
unfeigned gratitude their kind offer of hospitality; the more so, as
they assured me that several parties of warriors were lying in ambush
along the river. On entering the boat I was an object of great
curiosity--my blackgown, my missionary cross, my long hair, attracted
attention. I had thousands of questions to answer, and many long
stories to relate about my journey.

I have but a few words to add. The waters were low, the sand-banks and
snags everywhere numerous; the boat consequently encountered many
obstacles in her passage. We were frequently in great danger of
perishing. Her keel was pierced by pointed rocks, her sides rent by
the snags. Twenty times the wheels had been broken to [CCXLIV] pieces.
The pilot's house had been carried away in the tempest; the whole
cabin would have followed if it had not been made fast by a large
cable. Our boat appeared to be little more than a mere wreck, and in
this wreck, after forty-six days' navigation from the Yellow Stone, we
arrived safely at St. Louis.

On the last Sunday of October, at 12 o'clock, I was kneeling at the
foot of St. Mary's Altar, in the Cathedral, offering up my
thanksgiving to God for the signal protection He had extended to his
poor, unworthy servant. From the beginning of April I had travelled
five thousand miles. I had descended and ascended the dangerous
Columbia river. I had seen five of my companions perish in one of
those life-destroying whirlpools, so justly dreaded by those who
navigate that stream. I had traversed the Wallamette, crossed the
Rocky Mountains, passed through the country of the Black Feet, the
desert of the Yellow Stone, and descended the Missouri; and in all
these journeys I had not received the slightest injury. "Dominus memor
fuit nostri et benedixit nobis." I recommend myself to your good
prayers, and have the honor to remain.

                 Your very humble and obedient
                                   son in Jesus Christ,
                                           P. J. DE SMET, S.J.

[Illustration: Indian Symbolical Catechism]


[295] Passing from Madison to Gallatin rivers, crossing the divide
that separates them, and then from Gallatin to the Yellowstone,
probably by way of Bozeman's Pass, the nearest and most frequented
route. This would bring the travellers out upon the Yellowstone at
about the present Livingston, Montana.--ED.

[296] One of the proprietors was Pierre Chouteau, whom Father de Smet
had doubtless known in St. Louis. Larpenteur relates this meeting
(Coues, _Larpenteur's Journal_, i, p. 174), and states that the
opposition of a new firm had brought the American Fur Company partners
to the upper river to concert plans.--ED.

                       EXPLANATION OF THE INDIAN
                          SYMBOLICAL CATECHISM

1. Four thousand years from the creation of the world to the coming of
the Messiah. 1843 years from the birth of Jesus Christ to our times. (On
the map, each blank line represents a century.) _Instruction._--There is
but one God; God is a spirit; He has no body; He is everywhere; He
hears, sees and understands every thing; He cannot be seen, because he
is a spirit. If we are good we shall see Him after our death, but the
wicked shall never behold Him; He has had no beginning, and will never
have an end; He is eternal; He does not grow old; He loves the good,
whom he recompenses; He hates the wicked, whom he punishes. There are
three persons in God; each of the three is God--they are equal in all
things, &c.

2. The heavens, the earth, Adam and Eve, the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, the serpent, the sun, moon, stars, the angels, and
hell. _Instruction._--God is all powerful; He made the heavens and
earth in six days. The first day he created matter, light, the angels.
The fidelity of some and the revolt of others. Hell. The second day,
the firmament, which is called heavens; the third day, the seas,
plants, and trees of the earth; fourth day, the sun, [CCXLVI] moon,
and stars; fifth day, the birds and fishes; sixth day, the animals,
Adam and Eve, the terrestrial paradise, and the tree of the knowledge
of good and evil. The seventh day was one of rest. A short time after
the seventh day, the serpent tempted Eve. The fall of Adam, original
sin; its consequences. Adam driven from Paradise, the joy of the
Devil. The promise given of a future Saviour, the Son of God. He did
not come immediately, but 4000 years afterwards.

N. B. It is not well to interrupt too frequently the explanation of
the figures on the chart. The necessary remarks on the history of
religion in general may be made more advantageously apart, and in a
continuous manner. Pass at once to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ,
the mystery of Redemption, &c.

3. Death of Adam.

4. Enoch taken up into heaven; he will return at the end of the world.

5. Noah's Ark, in which four men and four women are saved; all the
others perish in the deluge. _Instruction._--The history of the
deluge. The preaching of Noah. The ark was 450 feet long, 75 wide, and
45 high. Deluge lasts 12 months. The Rainbow. Sem, Cham and Japhet.

6. The Tower of Babel, built by Noah's descendants.
_Instruction._--About 150 years after the deluge; 15 stories high.
Confusion of languages.

7. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh.
_Instruction._--The history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. His
dreams. He is sold at the age of 16. Jacob passes over to Egypt about
22 years after his son. The Israelites reside in that country 205
years. The history of Moses, the ten plagues of Egypt. The Passover.
[CCXLVII] The Israelites leaving Egypt. The passage of the Red Sea.
Pharaoh's army.

8. Sodom, Gomorrah, five cities destroyed by fire from heaven. Lot
saved by two angels. _Instruction._--Three angels visit Abraham. Two
angels go to Sodom. The wife of Lot changed into a pillar of salt.

9. The ten commandments of God given to Moses alone on Mount Sinai.
_Instruction._--Fifty days after the Israelites have crossed the Red
Sea. The promulgation of the Commandments on two tables. First fast of
Moses, idolatry of the people, prayer of Moses, golden calf, &c. Second
fast of Moses. Second tables of the law, 40 years in the desert, the
manna, the water issuing from the rock, the brazen serpent. Caleb and
Josua. Moses prays with his arms extended. Josua. The passage of the
Jordan. Fall of the walls of Jericho. The twelve Tribes. Government of
God by means of Judges for the space of three to four hundred years.
Josua, Debora, Gideon, Jephte, Samson, Heli, Samuel, Saul, David,
Solomon, Roboam. _Instruction._--The kingdom of Israel formed of ten
tribes; it subsisted for 253 years, under 18 kings. That of Juda, formed
of two tribes, subsisted 386 years, under 19 kings.

10. The Temple of Solomon. _Instruction._--It was built in 7 years.
Its dedication. What it contained. It was burned about the 16th year
of the 34th age. It was rebuilt at the end of the captivity. This last
building was very inferior, and it was at last destroyed forty years
after the death of Jesus Christ. Julian, the apostate, was
instrumental in accomplishing the prediction of our Saviour.

11. The four great and the twelve minor prophets.

12. Elias taken up into heaven; will return at the end of the world.
Eliseus his disciple. Jonas three days in a whale's belly.

[CCXLVIII] 13. The captivity of Babylon. _Instruction._--This
captivity lasted for 70 years. It commenced on the 16th of the 34th
age, and terminated about 86th of the 35th.

14. History of Susana, Tobias, Judith, Esther. Nabuchodonozer reduced
for the space of 7 years to the condition of a brute. The three
children in the furnace.

15. The Old Testament. _Instruction._--The history of the book of the
law, destroyed in the commencement of the captivity. Re-placed at the
end of this time by the care of Esdras. Destroyed again under the
persecution of Antiochas.

16. The holy man Eleazar. The seven Machabees and their mother;
Antiochus, St. Joachim, and St. Anne.

17. Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph. The apparition of the angel
Gabriel to Zacharias. Birth of St. John the Baptist. The angel Gabriel
appears to Mary. Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. Fear of
Joseph. The visitation. Mary and Joseph leave for Bethlehem. Jerusalem
is 30 leagues from Nazareth, Bethlehem is 2 leagues from Jerusalem,
Emmaus 3 leagues.

18. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made man for us. The history of the

19. Jesus Christ is born on Christmas day, at Bethlehem. The history
of His birth; the angels and shepherds. The circumcision at the end of
eight days. The name of Jesus.

20. The star of Jesus Christ seen in the East, predicted by Balaam.

21. The three kings (Magi.) Gaspard, Balthazar and Melchior, having seen
the star, come to adore the infant Jesus. _Instruction._--The star
disappears. The Magi visit Herod. King Herod consults the priests. They
point out Bethlehem. The star re-appears. The [CCXLIX] adoration and
presents of the Magi twelve days after our Saviour's birth.

22. Herod wishes to kill the infant Jesus. Herod's fears; his
hypocrisy; his recommendation to the Magi.

23. An angel orders the three kings not to return by Herod's
dominions, but by another road. The infant Jesus is carried to the
temple of Jerusalem forty days after his birth. The holy man Simeon,
and the holy widow Anne acknowledge Him as God. This fact comes to
Herod's ears; his anger; his strange resolution with regard to the
children of Bethlehem, where he thought the infant Jesus had returned.

24. An angel orders Joseph to fly into Egypt with the infant Jesus and
Mary his mother. _Instruction._--What happened the night after the
presentation in the Temple. By the command of Herod all the little
children in the town and environs of Bethlehem are put to death.

26. He falls sick and dies at the end of a month, devoured by worms.
(Croiset, 18 vol. page 17.)

27. An angel orders St. Joseph to carry the infant Jesus, and Mary his
mother, back into their own country. They return to Nazareth.

28. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, go up every year to the temple to
celebrate the Passover.

29. Mary and Joseph lose the infant Jesus at the age of twelve years,
and find him at the end of three days, in the temple, in the midst of
the doctors of the law. _Instruction._--Fear of Joseph and Mary. Words
of his mother. Answer of Jesus.

30. Jesus Christ dwelt visibly on earth for more than 33 years.

31. He taught men the manner of living holily. He [CCL] gave them the
example, and obtained for them the grace to follow it, by his
sufferings and death.

32. St. John baptizes Jesus Christ. _Instruction._--The birth of the
precursor; his life and fasting; his disciples. He declares he is not
the Messiah. He points Him out as the Lamb of God. His death. The
heavens open at the baptism of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost descends.
The Eternal Father speaks. Jesus Christ goes into the desert. He
fasted for forty days. He is tempted by the devil. The preaching of
Christ during three years. His life, His doctrine, His miracles.

33. The twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ--Peter, Andrew, James, John,
Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Jude, Simon, Judas.

34. St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on
earth, and the first Pope.

35. The Apostles the first Bishops.

36. Judas sells his master for thirty pieces of money. Hatred of the
Jews. The treason of Judas.

37. Mount Calvary. The cross of Jesus Christ. The other crosses and
the robbers.

38. Jesus Christ died on Good Friday. History of the Passion of Jesus
Christ. Crucified at 12 o'clock and died at 3. Darkness over the
earth. Miracles. Repentance of the executioners. His soul descends
into hell. His body is embalmed and laid in the sepulchre, and guarded
by Roman soldiers.

39. Jesus Christ rises from the dead on Easter day. History of the
Resurrection. He appears to Mary, to St. Peter, to the two disciples
going to Emmaus, to the Apostles. Incredulity of St. Thomas. Christ's
apparition eight days after. Then also at the lake of Tiberias. The
[CCLI] confession of St. Peter. The mission of the Apostles.

40. Jesus Christ ascends into heaven on Ascension day, 40 days after
His resurrection. He sends the Holy Ghost to His Church 10 days after
His ascension. Wonders and mysteries of the day.

41. He will return to the earth at the end of the world for the
general judgment.

42. The seven Sacraments, instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for our
sanctification. The three Sacraments that can be received but once.
The five Sacraments of the living. The two of the dead.

43. Prayer in order to obtain the assistance of the grace of God. St.
Paul and St. Matthias.

44. Our duties for every day, every week, every month, every year.

45. The six Commandments of the Church.

46. The Church of Constantine the great.

47. The cross of Jesus Christ found on Calvary by St. Helen, after
having sought it for three years. The miraculous cross of
Constantine. The invention of the Holy Cross. The cross carried by
Heraclius in the seventh century. Julian the Apostate.

48. The New Testament. The arrangement of the Canon. The discipline
ordained by the Council of Nice.

50. St. Augustine converts the English and teaches them the religion
of Christ or the Catholic religion.

51. The English follow the religion of Christ, or the Catholic
religion, for 900 years.

52. Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII. wander from the way of Christ, reject
His religion, that is, the Catholic church. The by-road and its forks
represent the Reformation, with its divisions or variations for the
last 300 years. The straight road of Jesus Christ existed a long time
before. [CCLII] Lucifer or Satan, the first to take a wrong road--he
seduces Adam and Eve and their descendants to accompany him. Jesus
Christ comes to conduct us into the right road, and enable us to keep
it by the grace of redemption. The devil is enraged at the loss he
suffers; but he succeeded in the following ages, by inducing men to
walk in a new, bad road, that of the pretended Reformation.

53. Arius, Macedonius, Pelagius, Nestorius, Eutyches, Monothelites.

54. Mahomet, Iconoclasts, Berenger, Albigenses, Photius, Wicleff.

55. The four great schisms--of the Donatists, the Greeks, the West,
and of England.

56. Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII.

57. Baius, Jansenius, Wesley.

58. The sacred phalanx of the Œcumenical councils.

59. The priests came into the Indian country to teach the Indians the
right road or the religion of Jesus Christ, to make them the children
of the Catholic church.

60. History of the Catholic missions now flourishing throughout the

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation and spelling errors have been fixed throughout.

Original page numbers have been distinguished from footnotes by
placing them in square brackets in roman numerals. If the original
page number was already a roman numeral then it is lower case,
otherwise they are upper case.

Inconsistent hyphenation left as in the original text.

Page 126: A caption was added to the illustration.

Page 403: A caption was added to the illustration.

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